This year, we were invited to share Christmas dinner at the home of my son Charlie’s Uncle Mark and Aunt Mary. Charlie’s grandparents, Dee and Joan had moved in with Mark and Mary. Mark and Mary’s children, Amy and Travis, Charlie’s closest cousins by age, would also be there, of course, as well as other members of the family.
Mary’s sister Sherry, and Sherry’s daughter Joy, a vegetarian and vegan respectively, were going to be joining us for Christmas dinner as well, and Mary asked me to cook a vegan dish for Christmas dinner.
20 years ago, I cooked a delicious vegetarian nut and carrot loaf for a potluck, at a time I was dating a vegetarian.
A google search found Sherry Barber from Whittier, California posted a recipe online that was nearly identical to the 20 year old potluck recipe. The recipe was well rated by users and had many positive comments.
A similar vegan recipe was rated very low, and the comments were damning.
I decided to modify the recipe, using ingredients bought at Ukiah’s hippie grocery, the co-op, including using all certified organic produce for the recipe.
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 cup chopped fresh mushrooms
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons butter
3 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
5 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower kernels
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 cups soft whole wheat bread crumbs
1. In a nonstick skillet, saute onions, mushrooms and green pepper in butter until tender. In a bowl, combine the mushroom mixture, carrots, celery, eggs, walnut, sunflower kernels, salt, basil, oregano and pepper. Stir in bread crumbs:
2. Coat a 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in. loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line with waxed paper. Transfer vegetable mixture to a prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees F Let stand for 10 min before slicing.
Butter, eggs, bread, and the non stick spray were a concern for me, as they either were clearly not appropriate for a vegan, or might not be – I am enormously ignorant where veganism is concerned.
I bought and used Buttery Spread, a vegan butter substitute, largely vegetable oil based, in place of both the butter and the non stick spray, sautéing the vegetables and coating the loaf pan with it.
Ener-G egg replacer is a vegan egg substitute, a powder that when mixed with water can be used for baking needs. I used it in place of the eggs to aid in binding.
Bread is trickier. I spent a ton for a dense, un-risen, loaf of gluten, egg, milk, butter, and preservative free quinoa-millet bread.
I am told subsequently that most bread is vegan, PETA famously claimed that Wonder bread is vegan, but saying it does not make it true. Many bread brands vegans eat include yeasts, and as vegans hate killing things to eat them, I was concerned about yeasts. Worse, most breads contain mono and diclycerides, which more often derive from animal rather than plant sources. Just as milk from cows is forbidden by vegans, the natural sweetener honey is similarly forbidden. Many larger commercial bakeries alternate vegan and non vegan bread making and the cross contamination that occurs means your vegan bread isn’t really vegan. There are so many hidden pitfalls to buying a vegan loaf of bread, that if it really matters to you, you will need to spend a premium for vegan identified bread from a vegan only specialty bakery, or make your own.
Okay, that is what I went through in making the vegan nut and carrot loaf, but the result was worth it. Sherry and Joy were able to enjoy a vegan safe and delicious holiday dish with family, and everyone who tried it was surprised to find the dish substantial and tasty.
I will make the dish again, but being comfortable consuming meat, I will go with Sherry’s vegetarian (much more relaxed than with the vegan substitutions) recipe. If you are a vegan, you have the ingredient substitutes in your kitchen already; but if you are new to the recipe, eggs cost less than egg replacer, commercial bread costs less than specialty bread, and either butter or ordinary margarine cost less than Buttery Spread. Bottom line: the dish is great, make it how you feel comfortable, with the ingredients you have on hand or can access easily, and enjoy.
I created a mushroom gravy in case the dish turned out dry. It was unnecessary, the loaf was wonderfully moist, but a nice accompaniment.
In addition to the vegan loaf, I brought two bottles of wine, a 2006 Salinia Pinot Noir W.E. Bottoms Vineyard $45 “Russian River Valley Occidental tree shaded vineyard below the fog line but protected from the afternoon sun’s intense heat. Gorgeously round, round, round. Nose: smooth, completely lacking any harsh notes, rose petal, cherry, spice. Many noted, integrated. Mouth: Oh, my God. Gorgeous flavors. Easily, one of the best Pinot Noir I’ve tasted this year. Beautiful, cherry, cranberry, herb, spice. Drinkable, accessible wine. (– my own review from 10/18/10 post)” and an Alaskan Chardonnay.
Yes, you read that right, an Alaskan Chardonnay. NV Bear Creek Winey Alaskan Chardonnay, made from 50% grape wine from concentrate bought from somewhere south of Alaska, and 50% rhubarb grown near the winery, $18. Bear Creek blends fruit wines made from local berries and fruit including raspberry, blueberry, strawberry and rhubarb, with grape wine made from concentrates of Shiraz, Chardonnay, and other varietals.
I received the Rhubarb/Chardonnay as a gift, and while thrilled to taste something new, different, novel, I was not expecting much – if anything, I expected the wine to suck.
I was pleasantly surprised. The wine was very much a Chardonnay. The rhubarb note was underneath a pile of typical Chardonnay notes, both in the nose and the mouth. I don’t love rhubarb, and it was most noticeable on the finish, remaining after the Chardonnay notes had faded away. This wouldn’t be the first wine I would reach for if it was on a shelf in my local market along with other, more familiar wines, but if I was anywhere near Homer, Alaska, I would make it an absolute priority to find the Bear Creek Winery tasting room to sample their fruit wines and other fruit/grape wine blends.
Mark cooked a perfect roast, delicious, and together we worked in the kitchen on side dishes like salad, potatoes, and green beans, while enjoying a nice Anchor Steam.
It was nice to spend time with family, and fun to cook a little bit. I hope you all had a nice Christmas dinner with friends and family too.