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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Ask Aunt Nettie

We're delighted to share our Aunt Nettie with you. She's agreed to answer any questions you might ask about food, its preparation, and even clean-up tips. But we have to prepare you. She just might want to come right over to your house and help you fix dinner.

To send any questions to Ask Aunt Nettie an/or get her cooking advice, .

Editor's Note: Instead of Aunt Nettie answering individual questions, she has decided to address a number of requests from people who want to save money on the food budget and still enjoy healthy dining. This is one of a series of money-saving tips and recipes designed to stretch those slim dollars.

As an example of Aunt Nettie's impressive, penny-pinching ability to save, she still has some depression glass dishes and bowls in the cupboard--they're the real thing and she still treasures them.

In future issues of Vegetarians in Paradise, Aunt Nettie and her niece Zel will offer more money-saving recipes for the most extreme skinflints along with suggestions to help bargain-hunter foodies seek out cheap fare that still brings good cheer to the table.


Fifty-fourth in a series of articles


Howdy there darlins',

Well now, I knows February is the month fer romance an' that speshul day fer lovin' is a-comin' right soon. Yep, that's right-- it's Valentine's Day a-comin' soon enuff. It's been awhile since I done lived with such a thing as romance, but darlin's, I r'member it well an' it was mighty mighty speshul.

Now, y'all knows I'm not one fer fancy fixin's, but sure as God made l'il ole green apples, I kin make up a recipe that tastes speshul enough ta serve yer one an' only on Valentine's Day. An' you won't have ta spend a fortune on them fixin's so's you'll have plenty left over fer a nice l'il gift fer yer honey.

With Valentine's Day a'comin' I noticed there's sure a heap o' red ever'where I look. Why, it seems most ever'thing done turned red. There's even red napkins, red dishes, red cups, red tablecloths, an' red hearts ever'where I turn from here ta East Oshkosh.

So, I made sure there was plenty o' red in my fixin's fer romance. An' when you whomp down yer first bite, you'll think Aunt Nettie done turned Italian! Well, I didn't but I pretended I was, an' plunked down some nice bright red tomaters an' a heap o' other Italian fixin's.

So, now, y'all kin enjoy a nice romantic supper ta celebrate Valentine's Day with yer speshul one an' only. An' if'n ya really likes this mighty nice oven stew, why y'all kin eat it not jes fer Valentine's Day, but any time yer itchin' fer tasty fixin's.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Here's a simple oven stew that's so Italian you'll think you're dining in a Neopolitan tratoria. To accompany this savory tomato recipe, add a heaping tossed salad and a steamed green veggie to complete the meal. Although this is a year-round recipe, it takes full advantage of the tomato season when the ripe fruits are at their peak of flavor and bright red inside and out. You couldn't want for an easier preparation that can be ready to pop into the oven in about 10 minutes. The result is one beautiful medley of flavor that delivers happiness on a dish.

Tomato Cannellini Ragout


Yield: about 5 to 6 servings

    1 large sweet onion, chopped (about 2 cups/480 ml)

    2 large cloves garlic, finely minced
    1/4 cup (60 ml) water

    1 (14-ounce/396g) can cannellini beans, drained, liquid reserved
    1/4 cup (60 ml) minced fresh basil leaves or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
    2 tablespoons vegan Parmesan (see Homemade Parmesan in Recipe Index)
    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    4 tablespoons cornstarch

    3 large tomatoes, sliced or chopped
    2 cups (480 ml) fresh spinach leaves, firmly packed
    1/2 cup (120 ml) quartered water-packed artichoke hearts
    1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped green olives plus 1 tablespoon for garnish.

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (Gas Mark 4) and have ready an 8-inch-square (20 cm) baking pan.
  2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat combine the onion, garlic, and water. Cook and stir for about 7 or 8 minutes or until the onions are just beginning to brown. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the onions and prevent burning. Transfer the onions to a medium bowl.
  3. Add the beans, basil, 3 tablespoons of the reserved bean liquid, Parmesan, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper to the bowl, and stir well to distribute flavors evenly.
  4. Sprinkle the cornstarch into the bean mixture and stir it in thoroughly.
  5. Line the bottom of the baking pan with a layer of tomatoes and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper. Top with the spinach, artichoke hearts, and 1/4 cup (60 ml) of the green olives.
  6. Spoon the bean mixture over the tomatoes and layer the remaining tomatoes over the top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
  7. Bake, uncovered, for 50 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow it to stand 10 minutes. Garnish the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of green olives before serving.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with gigabytes of information about food and cooking. And she's just itchin' to share her learnin' with city folk who live in mortal fear of the stovetop.

Aunt Nettie grew up on the farm. She did not eat out of a can or reach into the freezer. There was no microwave to pop her food into. Everything she made was from scratch. All the food she ate was natural, without pesticides. It was grown right there on the family farm, and she had to cook to survive. At eighty-three years young she still leaps and bounds around the kitchen and can shake, rattle, and roll those pots and pans with the best of them.

Nowadays, Aunt Nettie just shakes her head and complains, "Nobody cooks anymore. They have no idea about puttin' a meal together." She's on a mission. She wants to help those younguns eat better so they can grow up healthy like her own eight kids.

Click here for past Ask Aunt Nettie Columns

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