Allow me to commence this post by wishing you all a very merry Christmas, or an incredibly enjoyable Tuesday for those of you who don’t celebrate December 25th as a holiday. My family, though composed of three of the least religious people on the planet, still engages in gift-giving, Christmas-television-special-watching (It’s A Wonderful Life and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, anyone?), and holiday-treat-baking on this late December day, and this year certainly proves no different. To my extreme joy, however, I did not have to settle for partaking in these traditional activities while visiting my paternal family in Vegan Wasteland, USA (aka Alabama), like last year; instead, my father headed down south by his lonesome while my mother and I happily remained in our progressive, liberal, vegan-friendly oasis of Madison, WI.
I started off Christmas Day with a big glass of homemade green juice—a treat I’ve missed immensely while at Vassar; this one consisted of apples, lemon, carrots, cucumber, parsley, and kale—accompanied by a bowlful of Pumpkin Caramel Cereal. My mother soon joined me downstairs and bestowed upon me the go-ahead to begin
tearing apart opening my presents. I didn’t request too much this year, as I consider college tuition as the ongoing and ultimate gift from my parents, and profusely thanked my mother for her lovely and quite useful presents. They include four cookbooks—Superfood Cuisine by Julie Morris, Let Them Eat Vegan! by Dreena Burton, Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook by Del Sroufe, and Gluten-Free and Vegan Bread by Jennifer Katzinger—, what I consider the two books that every animal rights proponent must read—Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows by Melanie Joy and Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer—, and donations to the organizations of three of the most inspirational women I’ve ever encountered—Our Hen House with Jasmin Singer and Mariann Sullivan, and The Compassionate Cook with Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.
Later this morning, I headed over to Inner Fire for a Christmas Day yoga class before retreating to the kitchen for the next five hours of the day, during which I prepared a couple more batches of Butter Pecan Rum Balls and a gorgeous, accidentally Italian-inspired holiday dinner for my mother and myself.
Our Christmas meal began with a festive green-and-red appetizer tray boasting Happy Crackers with sundried tomatoes and garlic powder from My New Roots, Oil-Free Pesto from Keepin’ it Kind, Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella from the September+October 2012 issue of VegNews magazine by Miyoko Schinner, author of Artisan Vegan Cheese (you can find the recipe online here), and a couple of cherry tomatoes to round out the array.
I’ve made the Happy Crackers before, flavoring them with caraway, to yield spectacularly crunchy, hearty, punch-you-in-the-face flavorful results, and my second encounter with the recipe turned out just as well. Sweet and deriving richness from three types of nuts and seeds—cashews, pistachios, and hemp seeds—rather than from oil, the pesto provided a mellow contrast to the bold crackers. Most excited about the buffalo mozzarella, I had dreamed of crafting the cheese since salivating over the photo of vegan caprese salad in VegNews four months ago. While the cheese did not harbor the same density of dairy-based mozzarella, it offered a deliciously creamy, tangy, and cruelty-free spread in the familiar spherical mozzarella shape.
Though my photos don’t do even a smidge of justice to this downright astounding recipe (as per usual), Sarah’s Butternut Squash Lasagna with celeriac noodles, white bean bechamel, butternut squash sauce, and wilted baby spinach comprised the main event of our modernized Italian vegan holiday meal. Every layer of the lasagna provided a unique flavor profile to form a veritable symphony of comforting gastronomic bliss: the celeriac, with its intriguing earthy-yet-clean taste, took on a more savory flavor from a quick braise in veggie stock; the silky smooth white bean bechamel offered a warming note of fresh nutmeg; the creamy butternut squash sauce packed a sharply sweet punch of garlic; and the rainbow chard, which I used instead of baby spinach, imparted that much-loved accent of green leafiness present in nearly all of my meals.
Meal Checklist: Protein—soy yogurt, cashews, white beans, pistachios, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds. Whole Grain—quinoa, brown rice. Vegetables—butternut squash, garlic, celeriac, sundried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, basil. Leafy Green—rainbow chard.
And thus concluded my immensely enjoyable Christmas. Of course, the most valuable gifts I’ve received both during this holiday season and the rest of the year include a loving network of friends and family who support me in all my endeavors, an inspiring and ever-expanding community of (com)passionate vegan/animal rights advocates, the enormous privilege of attending my idea of the most perfect institution of higher learning in America, and the ability to nourish my mind, body, and spirit through a healthy lifestyle. Thank you, dear readers, for contributing to this list of gifts. I wish you all the same. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must indulge in a little Grinchiness.
Much love and until next time, Ali.