Down to the wire

Did you do it? Did you already figure out your Thanksgiving menu? Meal details were the first thing I thought of, but I realize not everyone is as food-focused as I.

 If you still need good vegetarian dish ideas, check it out:

Un-Turkey and Stuffing – My own adaptation of a recipe I found years ago and have been making ever since. Far better than that Tofurky crap.

Pumpkin Cookies – Cookies that I started making this year that have been a hit (try replacing some or all of the raisins with currents or dried cranberries.  You can also substitute butternut or acorn squash for the pumpkin).

More recipes – From another blogger who has collected all the great vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes I was too lazy to search for.

Gobble gobble!

Scary tasty


The light in the dining room was low that night, but we could see several dishes laid out on the table as the hostess bid us sit down. Centipedes thicker than my fingers perched atop the dish in front of me.”Brains,” explained the hostess. She added, apologetically, “I think I left them out a bit too long.”

A bowl of slimy eyeballs was passed around and I soon realized that the appetizers on another tray were encased in a kind of gooey ectoplasm. 

“I think that’s jello,” I assured the person next to me.

After a little more chit-chat, I was convinced that the denizens of Mother Irving had put on another great haunted house. I was ready to smile and be grossed out a little more.

The hostess asked us to stay for the main dish, indicating a cake-sized platter in the middle of the table. I imagined a realistic plastic body part or candy worms wriggling through a potroast. She removed the cover, revealing…

A human head! And it was real–and alive!

“Get out! Get out!” It screamed. “Get out while you can!!”

We shrieked and ran. It was even better than I’d expected.

The email I received had urged attendees to “bring friends, many delicious friends.” Now I could see the reason.

The haunted house also featured a room set up for Japanese tea.  A hunched figure in the corner slowly turned as we passed through, staring in a menacing and corpse-like way, saying nothing intelligible. At another point, we were shown into a kitchen where we were greeted by a knife-wielding skeleton chef looking for people on his “menu.” With the strobe light and “blood” flashing everywhere, he advanced toward us and before I knew it my hand shot out to protect me and push him away. A little sheepish at my own fear, I moved on.

The dining room was the highlight of the Mother Irving haunted house this year, I must say. But really everything in the food-themed adventure was awesome. Well done, Irvingites! You’ve done a foodie proud.

 And readers: Happy Halloween!

Halloween fare

If you’re like me, you think as much about what food to bring to the Halloween party as what to wear. Because of this presumed obsession with food, you have probably realized that Halloween fare can be so much more than brown and orange M&Ms. It can be sophisticated, scary, or delightfully gross. And, I shall argue, it doesn’t have to be loaded with sugar and artificial colors. Take that, Mars!

First of all, you should definitely check out this wealth of fun ideas. (One day I really want to try those eyeballs).

Here are a few slightly simpler ideas.

Polenta Fingers with Monstrous Marinara — Slice polenta to resemble disembodied fingers, fry, and serve with “bloody” marinara sauce. (Adding beet juice, or water that beets were simmered in, can achieve a more authentic blood hue)

Frightfully Good Cheesies – Start by making some wasabi mayo: thoroughly combine about 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1/4 cup softened cream cheese, a few teaspoons wasabi powder, and salt to taste. Quarter the slices of one loaf of dark pumpernickel bread and slice 12 oz. orange cheddar cheese (don’t worry – it’s usually colored with totally natural annatto). Assemble by slathering a little mayo on each slice and topping with cheese.

Brains on Toast – Combine 8 oz. softened cream cheese, 1-2 Tbs. miso paste, 1-2 Tbs. finely chopped onion, and 2 tsp. vegetarian Worcestershire sauce. Spread on melba toast or toasted baguette. Top with strips of roasted red pepper “entrails” if desired.

Chocolate Graveyards– Get yourself some chocolate cake batter, frosting, and chocolate cookies (organic and/or local, of course) and bake up a cake or a bunch of cupcakes. Frost the top(s) and cover with crumbled cookies (“dirt”) to create a graveyard. Position candy tombstones, gummy worms, green apple cut to look like tufts of grass, etc. along the top.

… and if you’ve ever channeled the ghosts of MIT grads past, you might have success with a Robot Hand. (It really moves! Eat it before it eats you!)

Or try any of these healthy, yummy ideas. What cute jack-Os!

Have fun!

Parve for the course

It’s always nice to have a parve* vegetarian recipe in your toolbox. That way, no matter what else is on the menu, the kosher-minded omnivores at a meal can sample your creation. I have one for vegetarian shepherd’s pie that I used for a Rosh Hashana dinner and passed along to a friend for the same purpose. It also happens to be vegan if you don’t use butter, and is gluten-, wheat-, nut-, and dairy-free.

If you’re not concerned about upsetting a dietary balance, go ahead and use butter instead of the olive or canola oil for the filling and/or ‘tater crust.

Oh, and you may notice something different about this recipe. It’s a PDF! Yes, I am finally using my Acrobat Professional to convert my recipe files to that more convenient and secure form. One recipe down and 495,000 to go…

Ok – now you may click for the Shepherd’s Pie recipe.

*Parve is a term for a food that contains neither dairy nor meat ingredients as defined by Jewish kosher law. Parve foods can be eaten with any other foods, whether meat or dairy.

Two shades of green

Two little somethings for the kiddies and the grown-ups, both to help you consume green.

1) Green buying and investing

A great resource for this is Co-op America. As part of your Earth Day celebration, check them out. You’ll find tips on social investment, the Green Pages directory of Earth-friendly businesses and products, and more.

Co-op America is good for the grown-ups because it gives practical ways to go about your normal business more sustainably. Want to paint your bedroom? The Green Pages will tell you where to buy environmentally-friendly paint. Want to invest in socially responsible companies, but not sure which will deliver with dividends? Check out their investing resources. It’s a very adult way to consume with integrity and preserve the environment for our kiddies.

2) Green food

green egg omelet-lg

Who hasn’t wondered what Dr. Seuss’s green eggs and ham tasted like? Well, here’s a way to find out. A kid-pleaser, for sure, but you could also think of it as a gourmet twist on omelets or scrambled eggs for the adults. When my dad used to make this, he was even more excited about it than the kids who were going to eat it. The scallions are my innovation. I don’t think he’d mind. Continue reading

A toast

It’s the 6th of March (at least for another hour or so), and I’d like to propose a toast.

To a place with waterfalls and highlife music, cities and tiny villages. To a place that, one day at the stroke of midnight soon after independence from British rule, started driving on the right side of the road instead of the left. To a place where mixed drinks are unheard of at most spots (neighborhood bars), so a gin and tonic consists of a shot of gin with a glass bottle of tonic water made the old fashioned way—with malaria-fighting quinine.


Since I’ve already moved onto food, here’s to a place that pounds cassava and plantain mercilessly to make fufu, offers a spectrum of fermented cornmeal treats and okra stew that stretches for a full meter without breaking its mucusy strings. To a place where chop bar customers pay for food by the ladleful and eat side-by-side without any silverware to get in the way of eating. It has oranges that are skinned down to the pith for three American cents and eaten in a way that would make California navels cringe. To the home of rice balls, peanut soup, teeny bananas, giant avocados…. Continue reading