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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,

Ghost Pumpkin Well, wouldn't ya know, a brand new year jes come along an' it come on with some mighty chilly weather. Whew! I done nearly froze my l'il ole toes off goin' outside ta git the mail.

Soon's I came back inter the house, I decided it was the perfect weather fer cookin' up a hearty stew that warms up ever'thin' from the top o' yer head down to them sweet l'il toes.

Now, I had a great big white punkin' a-settin' on my countertop jes a-waitin' fer the purfect time ta cook it up. An' that punkin' just set my mind to thinkin' it would be mighty deeelicius ta add it right inter a nice winter stew.

First thing I did was put some foil on a great big bakin' pan an' start warmin' up the oven. An' when I put the punkin' on the pan, the oven was ready fer cookin'!

So out came the carrots an' yams an' 'taters, an' all sorts o' veggies in the fridge that was a'callin' me. An' by the time I was finished, why I had a stew fit fer a king an' half the kingdom, too. This stew makes a whoppin' big pot, so better invite some friends or family over fer the best darmed stew they ever et!

I surely hopes ya likes love it like I do.

Yer ever lovin' Aunt Nettie

Ghost Pumpkin Ragout


Ghost pumpkins, also called white pumpkins, stand apart from the familiar orange jack-o-lanterns in many ways. Their flesh is considerably thicker and shows off a gorgeous hue of brilliant golden orange. The texture is pleasantly firm and delightfully moist.

The white pumpkin's best-kept secret is its pleasantly sweet flavor, though not as sweet as butternut or kabocha, the Japanese pumpkin. White pumpkins are still less common than the jack-o-lanterns but are becoming more available at chain groceries and farm stands.

A perfect marriage, the white pumpkin is the ideal mate to enhance this celebratory ragout that needs little else to bring pleasure and satiety to a holiday meal. Serve the stew with plenty of hearty whole-grain bread to mop up any bits of delicious sauce that remains in the bowl.

Yield: 12 to 14 hearty servings

    1 medium or large ghost pumpkin or 2 large butternut squashes

    5 cups (1.25 liters) water
    2 cups (480 ml) dry red wine
    2 (6-ounce/169g) cans tomato paste
    1/2 cup (120 ml) low-sodium soy sauce
    4 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 sticks cinnamon
    2 teaspoons dried thyme
    2 bay leaves

    4 medium carrots, angle sliced
    2 to 3 medium leeks, white part only, cleaned and thickly sliced, or 2 medium onions, sliced thickly into half moons
    2 medium yams, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
    1 pound (453g) baby white rose potatoes, scrubbed
    1 small bunch kale, ribs discarded, leaves finely chopped
    1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
    1/2 small cauliflower, chopped, or 1 large crown broccoli, chopped
    2 small beets, diced
    1/2 pound (226g) green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch (3.8 cm) lengths
    1/2 pound (226g) button or cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced
    1 cup (240 ml) red lentils

    Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
    1/4 cup (60 ml) natural sesame seeds
    1 pound (453g) frozen peas, thawed and held at room temperature

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. (Gas Mark 8). Wash the pumpkin and dry it. Place the pumpkin on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until soft when gently pressed, yet still firm. Some large white pumpkins take up to 2 hours to cook. Test by pressing gently on the skin. It's ready when it feels soft when firmly pressed.
  2. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, cut it in half and discard the seeds. Cut into 2- or 3-inch (5.08 to 7.62 cm) wedges, peeling the skin as you go. Set the wedges aside.
  3. While the pumpkin is roasting, combine the water, red wine, tomato paste, soy sauce, garlic, cinnamon sticks, thyme, and bay leaves in a 12-quart (12 liter) stockpot.
  4. Add the carrots, leeks, yams, potatoes, kale, sweet onion, cauliflower, beets, green beans, mushrooms, and red lentils. Cover the stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are just softened.
  5. Before serving, add the lemon juice to taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
  6. To serve, spoon some of the pumpkin pieces into wide soup bowls. Spoon the ragout over the pumpkin and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. The finishing touch is a generous sprinkling of plump peas over the top or around the edge of the bowl.

Note #1:
Butternut squashes make the perfect stand-in if ghost pumpkin is unavailable. Bake them at 400 degrees F. (Gas Mark 8) until tender, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Note #2 Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
If you decided to roast the pumpkin seeds, use a firm knife to cut a 4 or 5-inch (10.16 or 12.7 cm) diameter hole in the top of the pumpkin. Scoop out the seeds. Clean the stringy flesh clinging to the seeds by rinsing them in a bowl of water. Put the seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Use your hands to mix the seeds and coat them with the oil. Sprinkle the tops lightly with salt and pepper and toss with a spatula. Put the pan in the oven and roast at 225 degrees (Gas Mark 1/4) for 8 to 10 hours. I let the seeds roast overnight.

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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