Monday, December 30, 2013

What's for Dinner?

What are you serving for Christmas dinner?  This question was asked before the table had barely been set for Thanksgiving dinner.  We are creatures of habit - turkey for Thanksgiving, ham for Christmas, something liquid for New Year's Eve and cleansing January 2nd.  However, this year I wanted to do something different than the traditional copycat dinner normally served for Christmas dinner.  Having been raised in a vegetarian household, the meals for Thanksgiving and Christmas look very similar, but this year it was time to break out of the mold.

I spoke to my mom about the possibility of making a vegetarian dish which is totally different from our usual vegetarian turkey casserole.  The dish is called "Almost Beef Wellington with Madeira Sauce" and features a staggering amount of mushrooms (the more the better!) and mouthwatering Madeira sauce.  My mom asked me to find a substitute for the Madeira and so I decided to use Balsamic Vinegar after doing some internet searching.  As the recipe does not make very many servings we had to make several of the pastries, but it was so worth the effort!  Turned out we actually made too many which resulted in many happy people taking leftover pastries home.

Since this recipe was created by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) it calls for vegan margarine and the use of Morningstar Farms faux steak strips.  While I am definitely for the ethical treatment of animals, I also believe in the ethical treatment of my body and eating good food.  Therefore, we used real butter from Tillamook.  Due to Morningstar Farms, owned by Kellog's, who does not want us to know what is in our food and supports the use of GMO's I wanted to find a substitute for the faux steak strips.  However, I was unable to find anything palatable or a company which supports labeling GMO’s and also makes a good steak substitute.  I went ahead a purchased the Loma Linda brand faux steak strips, but you could easily substitute with making your own gluten steaks, using Seitan or foregoing it altogether.  Once we had figured out all the ethical and good food options we were ready to begin cooking!

Here is where I would show you pictures of the mushrooms, onions, garlic and steak all sautéing together to create a rich, hearty filling.  Or perhaps images of the balsamic vinegar reducing and becoming this deep, velvety sauce.  However, we were having so much fun whipping potatoes, filling pans with rolls, cooking squash casserole, combining ingredients for cranberry salad… I completely forgot to start snapping shots along the way!  One tip if you are going non-alcoholic and using the balsamic vinegar, you should definitely cut the amount in half of what is called for compared to the Madeira wine.  I also used sweet onions for the filling instead of shallots due to how much I was making and trying to cut down on costs.  It turned out beautifully!
Example of what dish looked like
You will have to believe me when I say the dish was a great hit.  The filling was hearty and filled with flavors; the sauce was deep, rich and added the perfect tones to the dish; and the pastry was the perfect flaky, golden brown.  From the leftover filling we made stroganoff and from the leftover sauce I will be making beef bourguignon.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Campaign in Retrospect: Part 2

I'm mad.  I'm furious that Washington state residents stood up for the right to choose who you want to love and marry (

I'm enraged that Washington state residents felt we have the right to ingest the finest green whenever we wish (  

However, Washington state residents decided to give into the fear mongering that large corporations presented and chose to remain in the dark about what is in their food.  At this point I have to stop and scream - ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!  When you break it down logically, it does not make any sense. Why would people who believe everyone deserves the right to choose to marry whom they want and ingest pot turn and suddenly say, "No!  I don't want to know what you're putting in my food"?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Campaign in Retrospect: Part 1

The little blue flyer inviting people to a discussion on the upcoming Let Me Decide initiative showed up at our favorite coffee house one day and I recognized that a piece missing from my graduate school work was the political nature of food.  I decided to attend the meeting and see how I could become involved.  The meeting was dynamic, fun and definitely aligned with my goal of obtaining more exposure to food politics.

The initiative was referred to as I-522, Let Me Decide, and was created with the goal of requiring all genetically engineered (GE) food to be labeled.  It was a first tier labeling initiative and would only require foods containing genetically engineered ingredients, or those which had been genetically modified, to be labeled.  The people leading the charge months before the campaign group ever arrived on the scene was Food & Water Watch and numerous grassroots volunteers, coordinators and other advocacy groups.

"Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced. So we can all enjoy and trust in what we eat and drink, we help people take charge of where their food comes from, keep clean, affordable, public tap water flowing freely to our homes, protect the environmental quality of oceans, force government to do its job protecting citizens, and educate about the importance of keeping the global commons — our shared resources — under public control.  We envision a world where all people have access to enough affordable, healthy, and wholesome food and clean water to meet their basic needs — a world in which governments are accountable to their citizens and manage essential resources sustainably" (  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Campbell's Cream of Celery Soup: the Conundrum of Thanksgiving Traditions

The paper is beginning to look aged and food spotted; it contains the recipe for an amazing squash recipe shared with me by my lovely Tennessee 'mama'.  The ingredients are fairly simple, but the taste is comfort to the core and each time I eat it (only during the holidays) I can visualize sitting in the basement in Nashville, TN, crowded between friends, laughing, sharing and enjoying mounds of food and blissful company.

Cream of Celery Soup

This year as I stood in the grocery aisle and picked up the Campbell's Cream of Celery soup can I begin to question holiday traditional recipes and the ingredients we use for them.  If I alter the recipe will I be altering 'perfection'?  Will I be scoffing at tradition?

I read the ingredients...
  • Water
  • Celery
  • Chicken stock
  • Wheat flour
  • Modified food starch
  • Contains less than 2% of: vegetable oil (corn, cottonseed, canola, and/or soybean), salt, cream (milk), soy protein concentrate, monosodium glutamate, flavoring, potassium chloride, mustard flour, chicken fat, dehydrated onions, yeast extract, beta carotene for color, xantham gum, soy lecithin.