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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. Since 2009 Aunt Nettie has known people were struggling to stretch their dollars during the recession. So she focused her tasty recipes on low-cost ingredients that would still offer delicious, healthy, stick-to-the-ribs foods, yet were affordable.

With the economy improving and more people back at work, Aunt Nettie felt the time was right to ease up a bit on strict bargain-bin shopping and gussy up the menu with a few small splurges.

Aunt Nettie is still happy to answer questions that come her way, but what she loves most is offering seasonal fixin's that inspire her while shopping at the farm stand.

Howdy there darlin's,

My, my, my, how time does fly! Why jes a short time ago we was all whinin' an' complainin' 'bout the summer's heat, an' now I'm ponderin' on what ta fix fer the holidays. Them speshul times o' family celebratin' is almost here, an' now I'm itchin' fer them days ta git here in a hurry!

I don't mean ta be complainin'--I'm jes mighty tickled Santa will be comin' soon 'cause I jes love ta see the little ones git all gussied up ta sit on Santa''s lap. Them sweet smiles puts a smile on my face, too.

Now, 'bout them fixin's--somethin' mighty speshul is a-waitin' down yonder an' I'm mighty giddy 'bout this recipe. That's 'cause it's so deeeeelicious you'll even want ta tell Aunt Suzy an' Cousin Sarah 'bout it. They's kinfolk we ain't spoken to in years.

These fixin's is just full ta the brim with a heap o' mushrooms. All them folks that cain't git 'nuff mushrooms in their life, well, this recipe is jes fer y'all. Now, if I must say so myself, this dish does look mighty purty on the table, too. Yer gonna make a whole lotta folk happy with them fixin's.

Nice thing is this recipe is no trubble ta fix--not one bit. Now here's my secret to makin' this dish come out perfect every time--don't cook it ta death! Cook it for a really really, really short time an' be sure ta turn off the heat when addin' in the spinach.

That's all there is to it! Now, darlin's, I surely do hope y'all have a wonderful time at the family table this speshul month.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Those who adore the earthy flavor of mushrooms will definitely gravitate to this recipe because it zaps the mushrooms with a knockout sauce laced with hickory smoke flavor. With its hearty base of mushrooms, garbanzo beans, and walnuts, this dish makes an ideal centerpiece to any meal. Going to a potluck? Double the recipe. Bet there'll be no leftovers, and it might even be a conversation starter.

Smoky Mushroom Feast


Yield: 6 servings

    1 tablespoon cornstarch
    1 tablespoon water

    2 pounds (1 kilo) button, cremini, or king oyster mushrooms

    1 (15-ounce/424g) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
    1 large purple onion, cut into half-moon slices
    1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
    1 red bell pepper, chopped

    1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 2 tablespoons soy sauce, Bragg Liquid Aminos, or Tamari
    1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup
    1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
    1 1/4 teaspoons hickory smoke flavoring, divided
    1/8 teaspoon chipotle powder, or to taste

    4 cups (960 ml) baby spinach leaves

    1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
    2 tablespoons minced parsley, for garnish

  1. Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl to form a runny paste. Set it aside to add at the end.
  2. To Prepare the Vegetables, wash and dry the mushrooms. If they are quite large, cut them into quarters; otherwise, cut them in half and set aside in a large bowl, along with the prepared onion and bell peppers.
  3. To Make the Sauce, put the red wine vinegar, soy sauce, maple syrup, smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon of the smoke flavoring, and chipotle powder in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. As soon as the liquid begins to bubble, add the mushrooms, garbanzo beans, and vegetables.
  4. Using a wooden spoon, toss the mixture constantly to coat the mushrooms and vegetables on all sides with the sauce. Cook briefly, no more than 2 minutes, until the vegetables are crisp-tender.
  5. Add the cornstarch paste and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon hickory smoke flavoring and cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly until the liquid has thickened. Turn off the heat.
  6. Add the spinach leaves and toss the mixture briefly, just until the leaves are barely wilted.
  7. To Serve, spoon the mushroom feast into large bowl or platter. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and top with the minced parsley.

If You Haven't Met Aunt Nettie. . .

Our Aunt Nettie has a head like a hard disk. It's filled with megabytes 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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