Monday, 28 April 2014

Easter Feast and Cleaning Up Traditional Recipes

The week following Easter was super busy and even with my best intentions, I could not get my blog posted before we had a little weekend get away. So here it is Monday, 2 weeks after Easter, and I am finally posting some tasty tidbits about the Easter Feast I promised a while back.

We got a lot of mileage out of our Easter dinner... and that is good for my budget!  We had "ditto" one night; the hubby and the kid had turkey while I reheated 2 of my meatless Salisbury steaks to serve with the mashed potatoes, dressing, and all the rest of the feast. YUM!  


Speaking of my Salisbury steaks, I had  2 left so I served them as hamburger patties with all the traditional fixings, homemade fries and a side spinach salad.  I a thrilled to have found a veggie based option for the upcoming BBQ season.  I will, however, be trying out a few other veggie burgers, including one from my favourite celebrity chef - Michael Smith.

So, as a promised, I was going to tell you about my Hot Cross Buns.  These buns have been a Good Friday tradition for the past 18 years.  My tried and true recipe is from the Better Homes and Gardens Desserts Collection circa 1967 with a few substitutions, namely butter for the salad oil, and adding some candied mixed fruit and peel to the currents or raisins (depending on what I have on hand).  Given my recent food journey, my tried and true recipe has undergone a few more transformations, and successfully I might add!
Traditional HC Buns        Cleaned Up HC Buns
White flour                      1 cup white flour substituted for whole wheat
White sugar                      substituted organic evaporated cane  juice 
Butter                              substituted butter for equal amount coconut oil
Next time, I am going to try a half and half ratio of white flour for whole wheat. If that works out well, the final recipe upgrade will be to try a flax seed egg!

Now on to my Easter Feast!
Pan Dressing
My dressing is made up of sautéed diced onion and celery, organic this time. Then a healthy teaspoon of thyme a tablespoon of sage and several grinds of pepper and a teaspoon of salt.  Then sliced dried apricots, Thompson's raisins and dried cranberries are sautéed with the onion/celery mix until everything is fragrant and heated through.  This wonderful mix was tossed with half a loaf whole wheat and a half loaf whole grain bread, cubed, 3 Macintosh apples, cubed and a little olive oil and mayonnaise.  I will have to work on a plant based option, but we will get there!  An oval roasting pan was lightly greased with some olive oil and covered with foil and then tossed into a 375 F oven for 45 minutes.

Cranberry Sauce
This year I substituted honey for the white sugar. Not a vegan option, but certainly a better option to the refined white sugar.  It was lovely.  Next time I am going to try the maple syrup sweetening. 

Sweet Potato Mash
When I first started making sweet potatoes to go with my celebration feasts, I used to gently simmer in a little orange juice or water.  Now I have opted for baking them at 350 F till soft.  When they cool enough to handle, I cut them open and scrape the flesh into a bowl.  Traditionally, I add a little butter, some whipping cream, the zest of an orange, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 teaspoon cinnamon.  This year I was going to sub out the butter for a little coconut oil and sub the cream out for some almond milk. This was not do-able because one of my guests has a nut allergy, so I will try these at Thanksgiving!

Jello Fruit Salad
My husband Randy grew up with a Jello fruit salad served with his celebration dinners, raspberry Jello is his favourite. Typically this salad was made with Jello and tinned fruit cocktail.  This year, I cleaned up the traditional recipe by using fresh fruit instead of the tinned stuff with BPA liners.  I chose green grapes, apples, and pears because these fruits are reminiscent to the fruit cocktail I have always used. Next time I want to try my hand at a home made jelly using homemade raspberry juice and agar, assuming I can find it!Then, it will be a totally cleaned up!  Ultimately, my main goal is to have a plant based alternative but to have a "jello" that is free from fake flavours and to cut back on the sugar is a definite PLUS!

Angel Food Cake
I had 11 egg whites left over from some egg yolk intensive recipes from Christmas.  I froze these in my mason jars and waited patiently to find a use for them.  Obviously, if you are egg free, there is not much that can be done to "clean up" Angel Food Cake.  The main thing for me is, that I am stretching my food budget by using up my saved leftovers.  Frozen, then thawed egg whites beat up perfectly for any egg white recipe - meringues, cakes, etc.  I even keep adding egg whites on top of others in the freezer and change my label as I go.  This way, I can save my egg whites till I have enough for the next Angel Food Cake I want to make.  Next time I make an Angel Food Cake, I plan on changing my white granulated sugar to organic evaporated cane juice to see if the results are the same.  I see no reason for there to be any problems!
Lemon Curd
This time, I made 2 kinds of lemon curd.  For my traditional one, I used egg yolks (saved the whites in the freezer), lemon juice from organic lemons, regular white sugar, and of course butter.  The result was a smooth and lemony spread. Very good.  Next time, I will see how Earth Balance Vegan Spread works, and organic cane juice, just to clean up the traditional version a little.
I also prepared a vegan lemon curd inspired by a recipe I found at lunchboxbunch with a few modifications and I was pleased with the end results!  I only use almond milk so I used that instead of the soy milk.  I didn't think the vegan curd was going to be as yellow as I would like (with the absence of egg yolks for colour), so I threw in a few pinches of Turmeric.  It was a smashing success!  Also, since I didn't have any Earth Balance Vegan Spread, I used coconut oil.  Finally, after I let the curd cool, I decided it was a little too thick for my personal liking so I heated it back up to whisk in a little water.  When it cooled for the second time, it was the perfect consistency.  All in all, it was a really tasty alternative to the traditional lemon curd, a little more tart perhaps, but a very good replacement.  You couldn't taste the coconut oil either because the bright taste of the lemons shone through.  Next time I make it, I will try making it with the Earth Balance which I think might smooth out the flavour a little, just like butter does in the traditional lemon curd.

For both versions of the curd, I didn't bother straining to remove the lemon zest.  I don't mind it, but if you are looking for a perfectly smooth product, press through a fine mesh strainer.

Vegan Lemon Curd On the LEFT; Traditional on the RIGHT
Vegan (Plant Based) Lemon Curd
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup organic evaporated cane juice 
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest                                                           
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 5 tbsp dairy free spread (I used coconut oil)
  • 3 to 6 pinches of turmeric for colour (optional) 

  • Dissolve the cornstarch in the water
  • Put almond milk into saucepan.
  • Whisk in the starch/water slurry and turmeric if using.
  • Cook on medium for around 2 minutes.
  • Add the lemon juice, lemon zest and sugar.
  • Stir constantly until the mixture starts to bubble.
  • Remove from heat and stir in non-dairy spread.
  • Cool in the fridge and enjoy.

Our yummy Easter dessert!


So as you can see, there are all kinds of baby steps to improving your every day diets.  Even the fancy feasts can still be mouthwatering AND still reflect better food choices.  It just takes a little planning and experimenting.

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