Well, hellllllo, everyone! Can you stand to read about one more Christmas post? Right after Christmas, we took off for a wedding in Atlanta, so I'm only just catching up on my blogging. Happy new year to us all!
This year's Christmas and New Year's holidays were absolutely great for me. They were quiet and peaceful and full of love. Except for those 15 minutes on Christmas Eve when I came back into the house and saw that Snoopy had eaten the top off of my beautiful pie. But, uh, other than that, they were great! ha ha.
Here's the deal. Last year, you may recall, my dad was really sick and he got out of the hospital just in time for Christmas - but everything was still a bit uncertain and off-center. This year felt like a proper "do over" - a big family dinner at my parents' house with both of my aunts and my cousin and her new baby and my brother's family and so on. It was a really lovely "the gang's all here" feeling.
Vegetarian Mince Pie, from Joy of Cooking
I even got to use my fancy little wavy roller tool
In my family, we always have our big family dinner on Christmas Eve. So, on Christmas Eve day, I was feeling quite pleased with myself. I was really cooking up a storm in the kitchen and even made the most beautiful lattice-top pie I've ever made. In fact, I was so pleased with myself that I called my mom to boast about my amazing culinary prowess. *Note to self: Pride cometh before the fall!*
So beautiful, so alluring.
alas, I was not the only one tempted by its charms
While Mr VE&T was out walking the dogs, I put the pie on the table near the window to take some pictures. Isn't it beautiful? I wanted to make a mince pie this year because my cousin's husband is British and his mother and brother had also come from England, and I know mince pie is a British xmas standard. I had stayed up until almost 2 in the morning the previous night, preparing the pie dough and cooking down the filling, so that I would only have to assemble and bake it on the 24th.
When I took this pie out of the oven, I was totally thrilled! The crust was perfectly beautiful, it smelled amazing, and I was eager to present this glorious accomplishment to my beloved family. The filling is made with apples and nuts and raisins and sweetener and loads of spices and it's rich and delicious.
happily wrapping our presents with hearts filled with Christmas cheer
Having photographed my America's Next Top Model Pie, as well as all my other culinary accomplishments, I saw that I actually had extra time before the dinner gathering. So, I headed back into my yoga studio room to get started on Christmas gift wrapping. I was feeling like such a happy little elf, bursting with holiday cheer... literally singing along to Christmas carols and feeling full of joy.
Mr. VE&T got home with the dogs from their walk and also disappeared into his workshop to do some Christmas wrapping. We were both so delighted and feeling quite on-top of this whole Christmas thing.
Neither one of us even thought about the pie on the table.
meanwhile, in the dining room,
doggie hearts and tummies filled with Christmas cheer
But, someone inside the house was definitely thinking about that pie.
We blame Snoopy because he is the only one we've ever actually seen jump up on the table, but truth be told, we may never know who was involved in this heinous crime against Christmas cheer.
hearts filled with holiday blackness
All I know is that I came inside, gifts all wrapped!, ready to get dressed up and transport my pride-and-joy pie to the dinner. But wait! What's this??? AAAAAAAAH!
Gentle readers, this was not my finest moment. I was SO sad. I mean, really. Look at that. There was a moment of acceptance, followed by a period of anger and great agitation, distress, anger at myself for leaving my beloved pie just sitting there... so many feelings. All the stages of grieving. And yet, here it was.
But here's the good thing about a super difficult year like the one my family had last year. It gives you some serious perspective. Within about 15 minutes or so, I got over the pie crime. At least my dad wasn't in the hospital. At least my whole family was together to celebrate Christmas. At least Snoopy is an excellently cute little dog. At least I had made two desserts.
Also, at least he hadn't eaten the whole thing. Yes, I lack dignity enough to admit that I tried a piece of the pie anyway. See how there's a whole side of the pie that didn't get doggie-eaten? Well, I'm grateful for that, because I did try a piece of it and it was a really good pie!
Seitan Stuffed Mushrooms from Vegan With a Vengeance
These are the beautiful stuffed mushrooms that were also on the table next to the pie. Looks like even in Doggie Land, pie crust wins out over just about everything else, as these were -- happily! -- left untouched. I'm not really a mushroom fan, but somehow, in the weeks leading up to Christmas I just couldn't stop thinking about making stuffed mushrooms. I wonder why!? I had made this recipe once years ago, and remembered that they were great. They came together really easily and were pretty and delicious. It was fun to make such a fancy and pretty finger food for our holiday party.
I also made a vegan Christmas Lasagna! I saw this colorful idea from my Instagram friend bethcooksvegan and knew I wanted to make my own version! This year's lasagna was super rich. I made a triple batch of tofu ricotta, mixed it with 2 lbs of sauteed mushrooms (cooked with salt, pepper, white wine, and a dash of olive oil), and 2 lbs of steamed and drained spinach. That stuff was the filling between layers (along with more tomato sauce). It was so creamy and delicious!
On top, I did alternating stripes of pine nut creme, pesto, and marinara sauce.
all tricked up and ready for a night out on the town
Then, I used a butter knife in alternating directions to make a pretty design on top. Thanks for such a lovely idea, bethcooksvegan. As you can see from the far end of the lasagna, I kinda messed it up at first, but I got the hang of it near the end there. I was really delighted with how beautifully it came out!
These pictures are - obviously - before I baked it, and I never got a good shot after the baking, but I was glad that the colors held up. Even though pine nut cream became more golden and the pesto darkened a bit, you could definitely appreciate the pattern even after the lasagna had been baked.
our savior! the Cranberry-Orange Tart from Voluptuous Vegan.
Happily, that doomed mince pie wasn't the only dessert I made. Thank goodness I made more than one pie, because this little beauty saved our holiday dessert! Before the holiday, I was looking through my old Christmas blog posts and saw this pie that I had made years ago and had raved about. It's the Cranberry Orange Tart from Voluptuous Vegan. Sakes alive, this is a true winner!
The flour for the crust is baked and toasted in the oven first, and then made into a simple press-in crust. Toasting the flour first like that gave the crust such a delicious flavor! There is a layer of almond butter on the crust, and that is topped with a cranberry-orange-walnuts-agar filling. It's actually a very easy pie to make and the result is amazing: tart from the cranberries, sweet and acidic from the orange, bitterness from the orange zest, rich from the almond butter, a gentle crunch from the walnuts, and toasty from the crust. Highly recommended indeed!
The whole gang! Clean Plate Club!
As you can see it was quite a festive evening and there were smiles all around.
Even Snoopy got his usual nightly snuggles, and all was forgiven.
All's well that ends well.