Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Dinner: A Plate without a Face

Oh holiday dinners, how I do love you so. Holidays are a time for five course, extravagant, delicious, vegan meals. Holidays are a time to show peoples' taste buds that you can have a fabulous dinner without a face on your plate. Seriously. Ask any person at the dinner table if they missed that 8 ounce slab of meat on their plate, and I guarantee you it will be a unanimous "no!" You know what I was missing? Snow. Yep, that's right. I wanted the traditional White Christmas which I think I may have been so lucky as to experience once in the ten years I have lived in Colorado. Yes, you heard me correctly. That box in your living room lies to you when it shows you pictures of snow covered yards and children building snowmen and igloos on Christmas day. Perhaps in the mountains of Colorado this is a true rendering of what Christmas looks like but not to your Denverites. It was a balmy 60 degress on Christmas day with blaring sunshine in the city of Denver. We'll get 'em next year!

On to the fabulous vegan meal that was Christmas dinner:

Roasted Garlic Soup (thank you Jenninfer H.!)
Salad with Vegan Caesar Dressing
Garlic Bread with Homemade Garlic Butter
Vegan Stuffed Shells with Marinara Sauce

Makes about 5-6 cups
Total Time: 1 hour

1 cup            raw cashews
2 cups          water
3 heads        garlic
1                  yellow onion
4 tsp            olive oil
2 tsp            fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp dried
1 tsp            paprika
½ tsp           salt
½ tsp           white pepper (black pepper can also be used)
4 cups          vegan broth (prepare with bouillon, use homemade or buy premade)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place raw cashews in one cup of water and let soak.

Using a sharp knife, trim ½-inch off the stem end of the garlic heads revealing the cloves inside. Set the garlic in a large piece of aluminum foil. Drizzle the garlic with 3 teaspoons of olive oil and firmly seal the foil edges to form a package. Place the package on a cookie sheet. Next, cut the onion into quarters, place on the same baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Roast about 30 minutes, until tops of onion are golden. After roasting, set aside and allow to cool.

Rinse the cashews and blend them with 1 cup fresh water to create a cream. Squeeze the cooled roasted garlic cloves from their skins and add them and the onion to the cashew cream. Next add the thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, and about half of the broth. Blend until very smooth. Pour into a large pot. Pour the remaining broth in the pot and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

Vegan Caesar Dressing

Makes about ¾ of a cup

2 tbs blanched or slivered almonds (I use whole almonds in a pinch)
3 cloves garlic (less if you do not want serious garlic breath)
3 tbs nutritional yeast
3 tbs dijon mustard
2 tbs soy sauce or tamari
Juice of 1 lemon or 3 tbs lemon juice
1/4 c water
1 tbs olive oil or flax oil

Grind almonds in food processor. Add remaining ingredients and blend.

Garlic Butter
Makes enough for one boule of bread
Total Time:  5 minutes

1 cup Earth Balance Butter, softened to room temperature
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 handful fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
A dash of salt and fresh ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Slice boule leaving just the bottom piece of loaf intact. Use spatula or knife to spread butter between pieces of bread. Wrap boule in foil and put in oven while shells bake, approximately 30 minutes.

Stuffed Shells
1-pound package jumbo shells (this recipe will use about 18-22 shells depending on large you stuff them)
2 Recipes Marinara Sauce
1 Recipe Filling
1 Recipe Tofu Ricotta

Makes about 4 cups

1 medium zucchini, diced
1 medium yellow squash, diced
1 bunch spinach, thoroughly washed, dried, and roughly chopped
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp olive oil
Generous pinch of coarse salt
Generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper

*Bring a pot of water with a steamer basket to a boil. Preheat your favorite large skillet over medium heat. Add oil and onion. Saute onion for about 7 minutes until fragrant and translucent. Meanwhile, add the spinach to the basket and steam until wilted, approximately 3-5 minutes. While spinach is steaming, add the zucchini, squash and garlic to the onion. Saute approximately 3-5 minutes until tender. Remove from heat and add spinach, salt and pepper, and mix to combine.

Marinara Sauce
Makes about 5 cups

2 tbsp olive oil (I love olive oil, but if you want to cut the fat, use less)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 28-oz can Muir Glen Organic Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt (plus another small pinch or so to taste)

Preheat saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the oil and garlic, and saute for about a minute, until fragrant, being careful not to let it burn. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Feel free to cover if you like, I love the smell of it cooking so I never cover mine.

Tofu Ricotta
Makes 3 1/2 cups

1 tub extra-firm tofu, drained and pressed
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
Pinch of coarse salt
Pinch freshly ground black pepper
1 pkg fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2 tsp olive oil (optional)

In a large bowl, mush the tofu up with your hands until it is crumbly. Mush with hands again squeezing through your fingers until it reaches the consistency of ricotta cheese. This will take about 2-5 minutes. Add the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper, and basil. Mush until all ingredients are mixed. You want it lumpy but cohesive so if it is not sticking together, add a teaspoon of olive oil.

Bringing it all together:
Cook shells according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Have ready a 13x 9x3 glass baking dish. Ladle a bit of the marinara into baking dish, just enough to cover  the bottom of the dish. Combine the vegetable filling with the tofu ricotta mixture and mix until vegetables are incorporated. Using a spoon, spatula or your fingers, generously stuff shells with mixture. Place each shell in the glass baking dish. Ladle marinara over shells until completely covered with sauce. Cover with foil and bake approximately 30-45 minutes. If needed, ladle extra sauce over top of shells or serve on the side as a dipping sauce for the bread.

*In an effort to save yourself from having to clean another dish, you can use the water the shells were boiled in to wilt the spinach. Or, you can cook down the spinach with the vegetable mixture. It will, however, make the vegetable mixture watery and excess water will need to be drained off. 


  1. I so will be trying the shells... all my boys love Italian fare. Thanks!
    Oh, Jenn H gave me the Veganomicon the other day, pretty excited about that!

  2. I have already had the amazing privilege to try the shells, vegan ceasar and garlic bread. ALL ARE FANTASTIC! I just made the roasted garlic soup and it came out super yummy! I would definitely make it again, not too difficult, and has a warm and satisfy flavor and a creamy yummy texture! Go cashews!