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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Eat-Well Eating During the Holidays

The holidays are a time that we mostly think about eating well in a context that we don't typically mean it here at Eat Well, Eat Cheap. With all of the celebrations and parties and plates of treats, we all tend to eat well around the holidays. Maybe a little too well.

Like us, you probably have a love-hate relationship with holiday food. It's mostly love, of course. We have a great excuse: We're celebrating — and it's only once a year. Well, only one season, but it goes on from Thanksgiving to New Year's.

The hate part is that we all know we're eating things we shouldn't. And so we pledge in our New Year's resolutions that we'll clean up our act just as soon as the  champagne and chocolates are finished.

Because of our pantry-emptying project (post to come), we'd been thinking a lot about what we've been eating — with more than a little horror. So we decided to try to put together a healthy Christmas dinner that was in keeping with our year-round philosophy here at Eat Well, Eat Cheap.

We had a wonderful meal, which we did not intend to be vegan, but in a healthy, happy coincidence, it  turned out that way, much to everyone's surprise and astonishment. Here's what was on the table:

We roasted brussel sprouts: trimmed, cut in half, and cooked in a 400-degree oven with a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper for about 20 minutes. When they were hot out of the oven, we doused them with a  little balsamic vinaigrette. Nutty and delicious.

We boiled potatoes and mashed them with about 1/3 cup of soy milk and two tablespoons of Earth Balance butter substitute. We know that these butter-substitute things can range from awful to OK, but Earth Balance rarely lets us down when we use it in cooking.

We made a mushroom gravy that got lots of raves at the table. We'll follow this up with the recipe, along with some variations, depending on what you're having with this essential sauce. For the extreme skeptics at the table, who didn't believe that gravy could be good without meat, it was a revelation.

For a bit of relief from the warm, traditional servings, we served Laurie's Cranberry Conserve, which we'd made the day before.

But what about the main dish? you're wondering. We bought something from the Field Roast company called a Cranberry-Hazelnut Roast En Croute. It's sort of a paté or meat-like loaf in a pastry crust. It's only available at holiday time—we found ours in the freezer case at Whole Foods—but it is available online.

The roast will surprise you, as it did us. (Some skeptics will never buy it. But just tell them it's full of meaty goodness and they'll love it.) When we took stock of the meal with our guests, we all agreed it was one of the best, and certainly the healthiest, Christmas meals we'd had in a long time. And then we realized there wasn't even any dairy in it. A vegan Christmas. Who would have guessed?

But it really was delicious and satisfying.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Laurie's Cranberry Conserve: Start Your Own Holiday Tradition

The holidays are right for cranberries. They help cut through the typical celebratory turkey, gravy and spuds. The stores are full of cranberries, and if you time it right, you can get them pretty cheap.

Some people love the cranberry jell, right out of the can. Others prefer homemade cranberry sauce. It of tens depends on your family's tradition. The right cranberries will take you right back to mom's table and happy memories.

Want to start your own cranberry tradition with a cranberry conserve that most guests will rave about? Here's a recipe from our friend Laurie Sloan. It's not too sweet, and it's full of citrus, crystallized ginger and Grand Marnier liqueur.


3 cups cranberries (one bag)
1 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 small orange, cut in pieces and coarsely chopped in food processor (reserve juice)
1 small lemon, cut in pieces and coarsely chopped in food processor (reserve juice)
2 T coarsely chopped crystallized ginger
½ cups pecans, coarsely chopped
3 Tablespoons Grand Marnier (most of one mini-bottle)

1.     In large heavy pot, cook cranberries in water over medium high heat until they pop
2.     Stir in the sugar, oranges and juice, lemons and juice and ginger. Bring to a boil. Reduce eat to medium and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is thick and clear. Place a small amount of the syrup on a spoon and raise it from the pot; if large drops form on each side, the conserve is ready to remove from the heat.
3.     Stir in pecans and Grand Marnier
4.     Pour mixture into hot sterilized half-pint jars, seal and process in a boiling water bath according to manufacturer’s directions.
Makes 2 pints

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Cookie Ideas: Are These the 10 Best?

This is our favorite cookie all year around. Our version of the chocolate chip classic. But is suggesting 10 other cookies for the holidays. sent its daily eLetter to us this morning. Its topic was "The 10 Best Holiday Cookies." We would differ with its choices of cookies, but if you are looking for some quick ideas for cookies to make for the upcoming holidays, here are 10 you might want to try.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Will Food Be Like in 100 Years?

Michael Pollan, who has written three of the most important food books of the recent past — Omnivore's DilemmaFood Rules, and In Defense of Food — answered readers' questions in a New York Times Magazine special on Food and Drink.

One of the questions, and his answer, intrigued us enough to post it here. Good food for thought, as they say.

Q: What will our food system be like in 100 years?

A: My best guess is that the food system will look very different in 100 years, for  the simple reason that the present one is — in the precise sense of the word — unsustainable. It depends on fossil fuels that we can't depend on and exacts a steeper price in human and environmental health than we can afford. So it will change, whether we want it to or not.

We certainly won't be eating nine ounces of meat per person per day, as Americans do now — there won't be enough feed grain, worldwide, to continue that feast, and presumably we will have faced up to meat-eating's disastrous toll on the environment. If we haven't, we'll have much bigger problems on our plate than what to have for dinner.

What do you think? Crystal ball or ignorant negativism?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mashed (Sweet) Potatoes with Garlic

Few foods are better for you than sweet potatoes. Yet many people  associate the yellow spuds only with maple syrup and marshmallows at holiday meals.

We think that there are lots of ways to better appreciate the flavor and healthy goodness of sweet potatoes than the overly sweet, often gloppy Thanksgiving dish.

We came across an old Vegetarian Times sweet potato recipe for garlicky mashed sweet potatoes the other day in a VT eNewsletter. We had four of the tubers in our pantry and needed a side for dinner, so we, ahem, whipped some up. They tasted very good and were a great accompaniment to savory piece of protein.

With four peeled and diced sweets, along with two peeled and diced apples, and teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and two teaspoons of salt, you're almost ready to go.

First you cut the top off a head of garlic, drizzle it with olive oil and rosemary, and then roast it in the oven for an hour.

Meanwhile, put the diced sweet potatoes, apples and salt in a dutch oven, and bring it to a boil on top of the stove. Lower the heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are soft. About 10 minutes.

Drain the spuds, saving a cup of liquid. Squeeze the garlic out of its peel into the potatoes, add the teaspoon of balsamic and whip or mash the mixture. Add some cooking liquid if it is not creamy enough. Add some ground pepper and serve hot.

Here's the recipe on the VT website.