Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Vegetarian Christmas Dinner

Here's our Christmas dinner, which as usual is vegetarian and eggless. Most of the dishes can be converted to vegan by using non-dairy alternatives. I will be posting recipes over the next couple of days.

Chestnut Soup
Stuffed Cheese & Walnut Loaf
Sage Gravy
Cranberry Sauce
Stir-Fried Spinach with Sesame Seeds
Mince Pie

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

I must give my daughter credit for this recipe. For years I tried various recipes, producing many Irish soda bricks. Eventually she came up with this winner.


4 cups unbleached flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cold butter
1-3/4 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 deg. F.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Using a pastry blender, cut-in the butter.

Stir in the buttermilk (plain milk can be substituted) until the ingredients are combined and doughy. Knead dough a few times to form a non-crumbly mass. Pat into a ball-shape.

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten to form a 7” round loaf. With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top, about 1/4” deep.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until crust is golden-brown. Serve warm.

Serves 8-12

Irish Coffee (nonalcoholic)

What can I say? We don't drink alcohol, and at dinnertime I use a high-quality decaf coffee for this. It's really good. Try it with Hazelnut Shortbread.

IRISH COFFEE (nonalcoholic)

12 oz. strong black coffee
3/4 tsp. brandy flavoring (or rum flavoring)
1-1/2 tsp. sugar
dollop of sweetened whipped cream

Place sugar and brandy flavoring in the bottom of a large mug or Irish coffee cup. Add coffee, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

Add a dollop of whipped cream on top. Do not stir.

Makes 1 large serving. For an 8-oz. serving, use 1/2 tsp. flavoring and 1 tsp. sugar.

Here’s a toast:
Cream as rich as an Irish brogue
Coffee strong as a fighter’s arm
Sugar sweet as the tongue of a rogue
And whiskey smooth as the wit of the bard.
Good Health!

(still looking to see where I got that version)

Hearty Potato Soup

We love this chunky, flavorful soup. It's a super-comfort food.


2 lbs. potatoes, scrubbed or peeled* & chopped
8 Tbsp. (1 stick) butter
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 med. leeks, washed & chopped up to 1” above the white part
    or 1 med. onion, chopped
1-1/2 tsp. salt
8 cups vegetable stock
2/3 cups milk (non-dairy is okay)
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, ground in mortar & pestle

Melt butter with pepper in a large pan while preparing potatoes. Add chopped potatoes and cook on med-low heat, stirring often. Add leeks to potatoes, and continue to cook until leeks are soft.

Add salt, stock, milk, and rosemary. Simmer until potatoes are very soft. Mash with a potato masher. Some chunks will remain.

Serves 8

* Note: if using russet potatoes, peel them. The skins of red or white potatoes are fine in this soup, but russet skins are too tough.

Hazelnut Shortbread

This is a yummy shortbread, which turns out a little chewy from the oats. If you want a classic crisp shortbread, grind the nuts and oats in a food processor. You can substitute other nuts, but the hazelnuts give it a marvelous flavor.


1/4 cup whole, shelled hazelnuts
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/16 tsp. salt (couple of pinches)

Preheat oven to 325 deg. F.

Spread hazelnuts in a skillet, and heat on med-low until lightly toasted. Place nuts in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove the skins. If the skins don’t come off, give them more heating time in the skillet. While removing the hazelnut skins, lightly toast the oats in the skillet.

Chop the nuts finely, and combine with the oats.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars together until fluffy. Beat in the hazelnut mixture and vanilla. Blend in flour, cornstarch, and salt. Turn out onto a floured board and knead briefly until smooth.

Brush an 8” stoneware shortbread pan (or cake pan with removable base) with a light coating of vegetable oil. Press the dough into the pan firmly. Prick the entire surface with a fork, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for about 10 minutes.

Loosen the edges of the shortbread with a knife, and flip the shortbread pan over to turn out—you might have to tap one edge of the pan to help it come out. (Or remove sidewall from cake pan and slide shortbread off the base.)

Cut while still warm. Serves 8.

Adapted from a recipe in Mary Engelbreit’s book, “Christmas with Mary Engelbreit, vol.1."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Yuletide Mulled Wine

This is a great, warm start to a Yuletide meal. It's especially nice served with some good cheese before dinner.


1 bottle red wine (nonalcoholic is okay)
1-2 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
1/2” chunk of nutmeg (or 1/8 tsp. ground)
5 allspice berries (or 1/8 tsp. ground)
9 whole cloves (or 1/8 tsp. ground)
1/2 cup honey or vegan sweetener
cinnamon sticks, dried orange peel, etc. for garnish

Place spices in a spice infuser, tea ball, or cloth bag. If using ground spices, stir them into the lemon juice.

Combine lemon juice, wine, and spices in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 5-10 minutes. Turn off heat and stir in honey.

Serve with a ladle, and garnish with cinnamon stick, dried citrus peel, or your favorite powdered spice.

This can be transferred to a crock pot for serving and keeping warm. You can also serve it in a punch bowl with apple or citrus slices added.

Serves 4

Dinner for Yule

Our Winter Solstice dinner has become a family tradition. Consisting mainly of comfort foods, this meal is not as heavy as the vegetarian Thanksgiving and Christmas fare at our house.

Most of these recipes can be converted to vegan by using non-dairy alternatives instead of butter.

Mulled Wine
Potato Soup
Onion Pie
Irish Soda Bread
Hazelnut Shortbread
Irish Coffee

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Veneta Donaldson: "Time of Yule"

Veneta Donaldson with niece and husband, 1959

This is my aunt's Yuletide poem. She loved this time of year--her house was warm, her tree was draped with tinsel, and wonderful smells drifted from the kitchen. What a joy it was to visit her!

Time of Yule
by Veneta Donaldson

My heart rejoices with delight
In beauty glimpsed at time of Yule
When Heaven's wisdom reigns supreme
And fellowship and goodness rule.
The look upon a little face
At sound of merry tinkling bell,
The depth of faith in eyes grown dim
Through Christmases too sweet to tell,
The crunch of footsteps on the walk
When all the world is strangely quiet,
Heralding the approach of one
Who makes a cherished fireside bright,
The sound of carols, high and clear,
Borne upward by young voices sweet,
A wistful face in window framed
With gaze intent on snow-banked street,
The cheer of holly on a door,
And firelight's gleam like jewels spilled,
The glow of candles in the dusk–
Are mine until my heart is stilled.

This is part of a group of poems by Veneta Donaldson. A brief bio and the beginning of the series can be found here: Veneta Donaldson: A Poet in the Family.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Stockings

Just finished a set of stockings. They are all made the same, except each cuff is decorated with different trim for each person. Then a ribbon was added to the hanging loop with the name written in gold glitter-glue-paint-stuff. I also put the trim on both sides, so the stockings can be hung either left-pointing or right-pointing. Here's the set:

1. Fur for Dad-with-a-beard
2. Cuff link for Mr. Diplomat
3. Buttons for Ace-with-a-sewing-machine
4. Jingle bells for Wonderboy
5. Ruffle for Nana

(Ms. Diplomat and Grownup-Wonderboy still have their stockings from when they were little.)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Cooking

"Never trust a skinny cook." That's posted at the cafe up the road from us. But here I am, getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

This post is sort of a round-up of my holiday recipes for anyone who is interested. It's all vegetarian, and most can be converted to vegan by substituting olive oil for butter. There are no eggs in any of these recipes.

Black-Eyed Pea Soup
Butterscotch Bark
Chestnut Soup
Hazelnut Shortbread
Holiday Nut Loaf
Irish Coffee
Irish Soda Bread
Maple-Pecan Fried Slaw
Mince Pie
Mulled Wine
Onion Pie
Potato Soup
Pumpkin Pie
Pumpkin Soup
Sage Gravy
Spiced Pecans
Spiced Tea
Stir-Fried Spinach
Stuffed Cheese & Walnut Loaf
Whole Cranberry Sauce