Vegan Recipes: Thai Autumn Squash Casserole

Thai Autumn SquashAt Thanksgiving this year, I set out to recreate my favorite holiday flavors as vegan dishes because I’d invited my sweetheart to join my family, and as far as I’m concerned, the way you love someone is to respect their personal choices in support of their health.  That being said, there is absolutely no reason that creative people must suffer through anything less than the yummiest of foods. You truly can have your vegan, gluten-free cake, and eat it too! Yes, we made a ham and deviled eggs for the omnivores, but on the side-dishes, going vegan was not only easy to do, but stunningly delicious! Necessity is the mother of invention!

I started this “Thai Autumn Squash” recipe as an answer to the age old “sweet potato casserole” requirement we seem to have in my family. I have never liked that dish, floating in marshmallows and cloyingly sweet. So, I began with the basic idea in my Autumn Harvest Bisque recipe, but rather than a soup, I aimed for a whipped and baked in a casserole dish idea. Plus, my sweetheart made some amazing tamari roasted pecans that I used as a topping!

Thai Autumn Squash Casserole (Vegan, gluten free)

3 acorn squash, prepared

1 butternut squash, prepared

1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1/2 cup diced onion

1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic

3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin organic coconut oil

3 teaspoons yellow curry powder

1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemongrass

1/3 cup mulled apple cider (mulled with clove, cinnamon, allspice and orange peel.)

1 cup coconut milk

6 tablespoons organic, gluten-free tamari sauce

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon berbere powder, or paprika

1/4 cup maple syrup (Organic,Grade B is best.)

1 cup chopped sweet tamari pecans

Pull out your electric mixer, if you have one.

Ahead of time you can mull some apple cider by slowing warming on the stove, or in a crock pot, a gallon of apple cider with 1 tablespoon each of whole clove, whole allspice, and an orange peel, with 1 cinnamon stick. Let soak for a few hours, then remove the spices and enjoy as a warming holiday beverage, but save out 1/3 cup for the squash! Prepare your Sweet Tamari Pecans ahead of time, according to this recipe over at Lipbone Redding’s blog, but try not to eat them all! Save about 1/2 cup for the squash.

Autumn squashes are notoriously tough and difficult to peel. I think it is easiest to just prick the skin of the butternut squash with a fork a bunch of times, then put in the microwave on a plate, and cook on high for 5 minutes, then give it a cold bath in ice water. After it has cooled enough to touch, the peeling should strip away with a vegetable peeler pretty easily. Cut in half, scoop out and discard the seeds/pulp, then dice up the remaining squash. IMG_8409To prepare the acorn squash, I quarter them, scoop out and discard the pulp/seeds, then place raw side up in a casserole dish with about a 1/4 inch of water in the bottom, cover with foil, then bake at 350 degrees for about half an hour. Remove from oven, let cool. I then use a spoon to scoop out the squashy goodness, discarding the peels. IMG_8411Go ahead and peel/chop the apple, garlic, onion, ginger and lemongrass. In a large, deep skillet, (I used my electric skillet) heat up the coconut oil over medium high heat and saute the onions until glossy, then add the acorn and butternut squash. Saute for about 5 more minutes, then add the apple, garlic, curry, ginger and lemongrass and the mulled apple cider. Reduce heat to medium, and stir frequently for 5-10 more minutes as the liquid reduces and it caramelizes a bit. It is done when the apples are mashable.Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl, get out the electric mixer, if you have one.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With the electric mixer, whip the vegetable mixture with the coconut milk, tamari sauce, black pepper and berbere powder (or paprika) until smooth and fluffy. Taste-test and adjust salt and pepper to suit your preference. Spoon into a casserole dish and smooth flat. Sprinkle the chopped sweet tamari pecans evenly over the top, then drizzle the maple syrup over the top. Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered, for about 30 minutes. VOILA! This recipe served 6-8 people with left-overs.

See also my Vegan Recipes: Marinated Collard Greens post.

Advertisements

Vegan Recipes: Marinated Collard Greens

When you invite someone you love over to dinner, it is only fair to try and accommodate their dietary needs and choices, yes? Well, I happen to love intrepid musician and vegan, Lipbone Redding, and preparing him delicious food is one of my favorite ways to show him how much I care about him. He is also a spectacular cook who keeps me fed with healthy, amazing meals all the time, so I decided to take my turn in the kitchen.

This Thanksgiving, I took on the challenge to create a feast fit for all the various omnivorous preferences of my family and friends, and I think I came up with some truly delicious and surprising vegan twists on traditional foods that, in my opinion, were better than anything I’ve made before, (delicious) animal products aside.  I’d like to share with you all the new recipes I’ve developed!

Over two days of feasts we served:

  • Spiral cut ham prepared by my friend Kari for the carnivores.
  • Deviled Eggs (Vegetarian)
  • Caprese Salad of grape tomatoes, mozzarella and fresh basil with a balsamic glaze (Vegetarian)
  • Marinated Collard Greens (Vegan)
  • Fusion Autumn Squash with Sweet Tamari Pecans (Vegan)
  • Mulled Fruit Compote (Vegan)
  • Whole Wheat Dressing with Mushroom Gravy (Vegan)
  • Beans and Barley (Vegan)
  • Baked Jack (Vegan)

Spicy Marinated Collard Greens

This recipe needs to be made at 24-48 hours prior to serving, as the collards are primarily “cooked” by the acid of the vinaigrette while refrigerating over-night.

Ingredients:

Two large bunches of fresh collard greens will make a LOT of cooked collards. I was serving 9 and intended to have left overs.

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, about 6 tablespoons
  • 2-3 Cloves of chopped garlic
  • 1/2 C. Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2 C. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 C. Organic, Gluten-free Tamari Sauce
  • 2 finely diced pickled Tabasco Peppers, plus 1/4 C. of the pepper vinegar
  • 3 Tbls. Whole Seed Mustard
  • 2-3 Tbls. Pure Maple Syrup (Start with 2, taste, and only add more if you like it sweeter, this depends on how hot your peppers are1)
  • 1 tsp. Berbere powder, a kind of smokey paprika from Ethiopia
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea salt

IMG_8406Directions:

Begin by washing the collard leaves thoroughly in a sink full of warm water and a healthy splash of white vinegar. Allow to mostly dry. Fold leaf in half along the thick spine, and cut the tough spine and stem away, discard. Stack three such leaves on top of each other, roll tightly and slice into thin ribbons, set aside in the largest mixing bowl you have, because there is going to be a lot of fresh leaves!
IMG_8407
After all leaves are prepared, heat a large wok, or frying pan, or in my case, an electric skillet, to medium high heat, and add about 1 tablespoon of Olive Oil, though I will admit that I just pour some into the pan without usually measuring. Add one pan worth of the greens, and with a pair of tongs, saute them, stirring constantly for about 3 minutes, then put a lid on the pan, and let steam for about 3 minutes more. Remove the cooked greens to a large, clean bowl. Repeat the process with another splash of olive oil, until all the greens are cooked and in the bowl. It took me 6 batches, so 6 splashes of Olive oil,  to cook them all. Stir all the batches together and allow to cool.

IMG_8405

I prepare the vinaigrette in a large, glass measuring cup, by adding all the remaining ingredients, then blending with a hand immersion blender, or you can add them all to a traditional blender, and puree them together. Pour about half the vinaigrette mixture over the greens, tossing to thoroughly spread the vinaigrette throughout.  Cover the greens tightly and refrigerate for at least 24 hours.  Occasionally, take them out and stir them up to redistribute the vinaigrette throughout the greens.  The acid in the vinegars will continue to “cook” the greens, and the next day you will find that their color has deepened. This actually protects the vital nutrients, while allowing them to become more digestible.
IMG_8408

Prior to serving, I place them in a large saute pan over low heat, and allow them to warm on the stove, or in a crock pot over low. I pour the remaining vinaigrette mixture into a bottle with pour-spout and serve that with the greens, so people can add more as they desire. Test for taste and add more sea salt or black pepper to suit your tastes.

Enjoy!

Stay tuned for posts on these recipes:

  • Fusion Autumn Squash with Sweet Tamari Pecans (Vegan)
  • Mulled Fruit Compote (Vegan)
  • Whole Wheat Dressing with Mushroom Gravy (Vegan)
  • Beans and Barley (Vegan)
  • Baked Jack (Vegan)

From Samhain Fires to Thanksgiving Feasts

IMG_8289The wheel of this year turns on, and I realize I haven’t properly blogged since the turning of Samhain-tides. Here we are a month past, as the seasons click forward to the American holiday of Thanksgiving. If you’ve been keeping up with this great work of mine, you will remember that this year I dedicated my spiritual pursuits to understanding better the meaning of “unconditional Divine love.”  What does “perfect love and trust” really mean? How do we practically apply that wisdom to human unions? I gave my service to Aphrodite/Venus and asked to be Her agent of love, beauty and grace in the world.

That is when everything went to shit.

To recap: I turned 40 and suddenly my health crapped out, as though the warranty suddenly ran out on this meat-suit, mostly concerning issues that challenged my sense of safety, beauty, sexiness, fertility–all the domains of Aphrodite were in an uproar. My hand-fasting was canceled and that relationships ended. For months I felt the thorns of what love is NOT, then as Litha turned, I was given the roses of what love SHOULD BE.

I’ve felt very strongly the loving presence of my maternal grandparents, Frances and Elmore, whose spirits visited me via a medium around Beltane, just as my former relationship was ending.  They were an amazing Pisces/Cancer couple, an inspiration to all who knew them. They were married as teenagers, and became a shining example of partnership until death they did part, over 50 years later. My grandma Frances only just crossed the veil to rejoin Elmore in May, and I couldn’t be happier for them now that they are reunited. I feel closer to them now more than ever!

IMG_8291 - Version 2

At Lammas, I participated in the Morrison Ritual, and finally remembered that “all acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals.” I was reminded that the point of life is to enjoy it and that is how we witches show devotion–how we worship–by making love to the world through our every word, thought and deed. I rededicated to life, and returned from mourning back into the land of the loving.

As Lammas turned to Mabon, in a mystical, magickal, synchronistic turn of fate, I reconnected with someone who, as it turns out, is the man of my dreams. And he was right here in my hometown THE WHOLE TIME. Go figure. This beautiful human being is a catalyst for a profound shift in my thinking, and my perspective on, well, everything. I’d known him as a distant acquaintance, and have been a fan of his music for years.   I have this *thing* for musicians <sigh.> We easily fell into time and step with each other, and so simply, so astonishingly, fell in love.  Despite everything, I will honestly say that I did not see that coming!  Yes, my dearies, it is true; I’ve enjoyed three life-changing months with the most nurturing, interesting, exciting, enlightening, inspiring, and encouraging man I’ve ever known–nay– that I’ve even dared to hope existed since my Grandad left this earth.  I am so proud of him I could just burst. 🙂 Did I mention that we, too, are a Pisces/Cancer couple, just like Frances and Elmore? Uh huh. Good stuff!

Moral of the story: when you dedicate your service to Aphrodite, when you ask to know what Divine Love it all about, she will deliver. First, she strips you bare of all detriment to Divine Love, then she shows you what is beneficial. Viva la difference!

IMG_8391

At Samhain, I released to the funeral fires many misconceptions I had about Love and some links to old relationships and old dreams, and a few old masks I’d allowed myself to wear but no longer served my highest good. I realized that I’d worn these masks crafted to cover the wounds of my previous heartbreaks, to shield fears of betrayal. There were masks I’d worn to appease others in hopes that they’d return my love and masks I’d worn to conform to societal norms, masks to obscure the horrors of my inner struggle from my children.

When I think about this “mask” metaphor, the images that come to mind are pretty amusing, like old fashioned theater masks. I have quite the collection, perhaps you have them, too, as they are all the rage this season: sarcastically happy face, sad but not beaten face, strong in the face of adversity face, still youthfully attractive despite her age face, got my shit together face, fearless business woman in denial about how she is clueless how to proceed face…not terrified about how to pay the bills face…proud to be out of the broom closet and not hurt by how people point and whisper in public face… OK with being single and alone in this life face. All of them obscure the squishy truth of who I truly am, and while masks are necessary to a certain degree, if I’m not aware of how I use these “tools” they begin to use me, and that is when I lose my power.

I was recently interviewed by a student for a religion class project and she asked me what was the ultimate point of my Witchcraft practice? I pulled out the canned “teacher” answer, “Salvation from the illusion of separateness from the Divine, to liberate me from fear, and equip me with the tools and skills to live beneficially, and with sovereignty, as a co-creator of my own experience.”

It was then that  I finally remembered that I’ve been neglecting those skills and tools, and that I could co-create, to don or not to don, the masks of my choosing, and many of them had to go. This blog I share with you, this story of my great work this year, is part of that stripping away, and choosing to reveal the inner truth–to shine brightly what is beneficial, rather than mask or obscure that light because it makes me feel vulnerable. Boy oh boy, do I feel vulnerable. So much so that after I first posted this thing yesterday, I became physically ill–root chakra kinds of ill. This morning, I began editing it, and I choose to reveal more, rather than obscure my meanings in poetry.

theater masks

Which brings me to this Thanksgiving, and my year to have my children at home for the long holiday.  I chose to make space for a “miracle.”  You see, being a divorced person with a custody agreement, these holidays alternate from year to year. What they say is true, time heals many wounds, and we are in our 6th year of amicable shared custody.  In recent years, my children’s immediate family expanded with their father’s re-marriage, and then with the birth of a new baby brother.

So I asked myself, what better expression of Divine love, beauty and grace than to share a meal around a Thanksgiving table, in triumphant victory over past heartbreak and selfishness? I needed to redefine a few traditions, to cook a meal for the people I love, to share what I have with family and friends, old and new. I can’t think of a better expression of gratitude, than by opening my home and heart to the people who share in the nurturing of my children.  I needed to completely FORGIVE, and live on.

What I’ve learned from the great work this year is that the only heart prepared to receive love, is the heart already opened from the sharing of love.

So, despite all previous odds, I invited my ex, his wife, their baby son, and my new boyfriend all over to dinner with us, and they accepted. Then, in a meaningful, magical twist, one of my oldest friends, a woman who’s known me since the dark days of my previous marriage, all the days of my divorce, and the rebuilding of our lives since then, who is, herself, currently living through the FIRST difficult Thanksgiving since her separation, accepted my invitation to join us with her two children. How perfect is that? I hope we were able to show that a glimmer of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel is possible.

10815612_1519641408286393_799907865_oIt was a smashing success, if I do say so myself. There was much feasting, laughing, bouncing of babies, and playing of music together that night (a handy benefit of my penchant for musicians. 🙂

As the wheel turns toward Yule, and I look back over the great work of this year to process and understand the lessons, to integrate what I’ve learned, I am struck by how I’ve arrived in a place vastly distant from where I thought I was going when I dedicated at Imbolc. Hell, I thought I was headed toward the hand-fasting altar in May, so that left turn at Albuquerque really got me lost for a while.

I’ve questioned my spiritual path, my sanity, my raison d’etre, even my desire to keep living.  But, I set my magickal intention, then allowed the flow of this life of love to move me, accepting that what was both leaving and entering my life were both in alignment with my Divine Will, because that was what I’d asked for, and I do have some say over what happens to me!  That is “grace” to me.  Grace allowed the relatively undramatic stripping away of what did not serve my life, and then grace delivered me back into love with myself, into a love of life. Through finding my way back to enjoying life again, I was able to rediscover what is beautiful, and it wasn’t the obvious things. The beautiful partnership I’m looking for is one where we can grow “ugly” together.  There is loveliness in the colors, smells and dimming light of the decays of autumn, as nature declines into the dearth and wisdom of winter. So to I feel that slow, steady pull into the dark night, and hibernation…to dream in the arms of the bear, and be healed of last season’s woundings.

Mysterious? Seek within yourselves, and ye shall find, my dearies. I do hope the road rises up to meet you the way it did for me. Happy Thanksgiving!