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Vegan for the Holidays

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All the world is nuts about

    What's in The Nut Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Vegetarians in Paradise

Erin Go Bragh and That's No Blarney!

Includes Recipes Below

Historical figures such as St. Patrick are often credited with deeds bigger than life when history and legend become entwined. The origin of St. Patrick's Day unfolds a tale of grand adventure and colorful myths that feature shamrocks and possibly naughty little leprechauns. Think of St. Patrick's Day, and suddenly everything turns green, providing celebrants with enough pageantry for a day of feasting and merriment.

There's an Irish expression, "The older the fiddle, the sweeter the tune," that alludes to the fact that experience brings wisdom. St. Patrick's life was filled with vivid, intense experiences that strengthened his religious commitment and molded him into a man recognized as worthy of canonization.

Saint Patrick Born about 390 CE near Dumbarton, Scotland, a boy named Maewyn Succat grew up with close ties to the Catholic Church. His father was a deacon, his grandfather, a priest. In the early years of Catholicism, before celibacy became the standard, priests could marry.

At age 16 Maewyn's life changed dramatically when he was kidnapped from his home by Irish pirates and taken off to Ireland where he was sold more than once into slavery. A Druid priest, who was also a tribal chieftain, held him captive tending sheep for about six years. Though his religion had left little impression on young Maewyn, it became his solace during the lonely years as a shepherd in the Slemish Mountains. He prayed often, as much as 100 times a day and as frequently at night. When the vision of an angel urged him to escape, he ran away during the night, and after escaping another capture, finally traveled home by ship.

A deep religious calling led him to France where he was ordained into the priesthood and chose the name Patricius. While at the monastery he had many visions that urged him to return to Ireland to spread Christianity throughout the pagan land. In 430 CE, Pope Celestine I dispatched him, along with other missionaries, to Ireland where they spent many years traveling the country preaching to often hostile Druids. He recognized the country was deeply rooted in idolatry and pagan tradition, and its people had not even heard of Jesus until he preached to them.

The mission was often so dangerous he and his group were held in captivity twelve times and once were almost put to death. But each time they were released and sent on their way. He was said to have an engaging manner and often brought gifts to the chieftains, many of whom he converted to Christianity.

By the time he died at the age of 77, he had baptized thousands and established churches, schools, monasteries, dioceses, and church councils throughout the country. He died on March 17 possibly in the year 454 CE, though other historical records note various dates of his death as 460, 461, 462, and 463 CE.

Leprachaun Associated with many miracles, St. Patrick was attributed with driving poisonous snakes into the sea where they drowned. Though poisonous snakes are native to many countries, they do not exist in Ireland. Snakes were a well-recognized symbol to the Druid pagans. Perhaps poisonous snakes never existed in Ireland at all, but when Christianity replaced paganism, the snake symbolism also disappeared, and St. Patrick received the credit.

Some said St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the holy trinity to the pagans. Today, the shamrock has become a symbol of St. Patrick's Day along with leprechauns and talk of kissing the Blarney Stone.

When Irish immigrants came to the U.S., they introduced their traditions, celebrations, and foods to America. The first St. Patrick's Day celebration was held in Boston in 1737. Because Ireland is known as the country of 40 shades of green, St. Patrick's Day is celebrated with an abundance of green symbols including shamrocks and leprechauns.

School children established the practice of pinching anyone who isn't wearing green on St. Patrick's Day. The Chicago River turns green for several hours with the help of 40 pounds of green food coloring, a tradition that began in 1962 when 100 pounds of green food color kept the river green for a whole week.

Colorful parades in honor of St. Patrick take place in cities throughout the U.S. and feature Irish step dancers, bagpipe bands, marching bands, and even a Queen Colleen contest. St. Patrick's Day parades and the wearing of the green also occur in the UK, Japan, Denmark, and Canada.

In Ireland, the holiday has become a tourist attraction with Dublin's city center closed to traffic for five days of spectacular events like fireworks, a gigantic parade, dance exhibitions, Irish bands, and much merrymaking. Other cities in Ireland hold barbecues, carnivals, parades, treasure hunts, storytelling and Irish poetry events. Some Irish pubs even color their beer green.

Blarney Stone For a delightful St. Patrick's Day celebration at home, dress the table in green, hang shamrocks and leprechauns on the walls, and begin the event with a sip of Sean O'Reilly's Cocktail, a delightful beverage dressed for the holiday in Irish green. Though kiwis are certainly not Irish, they provide the ideal base for a delicious thirst quencher. Spiked with a touch of lemon juice and ginger, the cocktail whets the appetite for the traditional meal ahead. Play some Irish music, sing Irish songs, and, of course, tell an Irish joke or two. As the Irish say, "Be Irish for a day!"

Warm up with a flavorful Potato, Onion, and Leek Soup that boasts a creamy base of rich soymilk. The heart of the meal is a delectable vegan version of traditional Irish Stew with a robust combination of seitan, barley, carrots, and potatoes.

Accompanying the entreée is a thick ragout of Peas Porridge, an historical dish that centers on simply seasoned green split peas. And, no Irish celebration would be complete without Irish Soda Bread, especially one made more wholesome with whole-wheat pastry flour to give it rugged body.

hamrock Colcannon, an Irish favorite, combines feather-light and creamy mashed potatoes with steamed cabbage, two vegetables in abundance in Ireland.

Bring the joyous celebration to a close with a scrumptious Apple Orange Bread Pudding, a dessert that features citrus zest and spices to bring out the best flavors and toothy textures of apples, walnuts, and pine nuts. Dress the pudding with a choice of Irish Whiskey Sauce or a Cinnamon Orange Sauce that just may lighten your heart and give you a touch of the Blarney!


Raise your glass high and toast St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, who makes our world a little merrier on this day.

Kiwi Cocktail


(Kiwi Fruit Beverage)

Yield: 6 servings

    8 kiwis, peeled and quartered
    1 3/4 cup (420 ml) water
    1/2 cup (120 ml) plus 1 tablespoon organic sugar
    1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
    1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger

    6 green onions, trimmed

Combine all the ingredients, except the green onions, in the blender and process until the contents become liquefied. Pour the cocktail into short 6-ounce glasses or long-stemmed glasses and place a green onion into each glass to use as a stirrer.

Mention Ireland, and invariably the subject of potatoes comes up. Not surprising, since potatoes have been grown in that country since the 16th century. Many of Ireland's traditional dishes include potatoes as the centerpiece. And sure 'n begorrah, a potato soup is certain to appear at the table, whether it's a home-cooked meal or a restaurant dinner.


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    3 small leeks, white part only

    1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups {360 ml})
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    2 pounds (1 kilo) Russet potatoes, unpeeled, diced
    5 cups (1.25 liters) vegetable stock
    1 stalk celery, sliced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped fresh parsley

    2 cups (480 ml) unsweetened soymilk
    1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
    Salt and pepper

    3 green onions, sliced

  1. Have ready a 10 to 12-quart (10 to 12 liter) stockpot. Cut off and discard the root end of the leeks and cut the leeks in half lengthwise. Separate the layers and wash them thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt that clings between the layers. Thinly slice the leeks and put them into the stockpot.
  2. Add the onion, water, and olive oil and cook and stir over high heat for about 5 to 8 minutes or until softened, adding a small amount of water, if needed, to prevent burning the vegetables.
  3. Add the diced potatoes, vegetable stock, celery, and parsley and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the soymilk and nutritional yeast flakes and season with salt and pepper. Put half of the soup into the blender in batches and puree until smooth, or use an immersion blender to partially blend the soup right in the stockpot. Just before serving add the sliced green onions.

A variation on an old theme, this soda bread is dairy-free and employs soymilk and vinegar to create the same results as buttermilk in bringing lightness to the batter. Made healthier with whole wheat pastry flour, the bread is tastier as well.


Yield: 8 to 10 servings

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened soymilk
    1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar

    4 cups (960 ml) whole-wheat pastry flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (Gas Mark 3) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the soymilk and vinegar in a small bowl and set it aside.
  3. Sift the pastry flour, baking soda, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Form a well in the center, and add the soured soymilk, stirring with a large spoon until the mixture forms a dough firm enough to shape into a ball.
  4. Place the dough on the parchment paper and form into a circle 8 inches in diameter and about 1 1/2 inches (3.5 cm) thick. Using a knife, make 3 vertical cuts into the top, 1/2-inch (1 cm) deep and about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Then, crisscross with 3 horizontal cuts abut 2 inches (5 cm) apart. These cuts will make it easier to break the baked bread into portions.
  5. Bake the bread 40 to 45 minutes or until the bread forms a golden brown, firm top and bottom crust. Serve immediately or warm gently to serve later.

The old Irish saying, "An empty sack won't stand," alludes to the difficulty one has when trying to work on an empty stomach. After supping on a hearty bowl of stew brimming with barley, carrots, and potatoes, any Irishmen with a full belly would become the "full sack" that stands tall. And he just might leave the table with a smile on his face. To give the stew a robust base, we've added chunks of seitan that soak up the homey flavors and lend a pleasant, chewy texture.


Yield: 4 servings

    2 1/2 cups (600 ml) water
    2 medium onions quartered
    1/2 cup (120 ml) barley
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) chunks
    1/2 pound (225g) seitan (wheat gluten) cut into bite-size pieces
    1 cup water
    1 stalk celery, sliced
    2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

    1 1/4 pounds (565g) potatoes, unpeeled and cut into bite-size chunks

Irish Dinner

  1. Combine the water, onions, barley, and salt in a 6-quart (6 liter) stockpot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the carrots, seitan, water, celery, and soy sauce and simmer 10 minutes.
  3. Add the potatoes and up to 1/4 cup (60 ml) water if needed. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer, or until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Adjust the seasoning, if needed, and serve.

A centuries-old standard throughout the British Isles, pease porridge is basically a dish of cooked split peas mashed or pureed and lightly seasoned. Consider the porridge an excellent side dish for any meal. For a special St. Patrick's Day presentation, spoon the peas porridge onto a serving dish and work with your hands and the back of a spoon to form the porridge into the shape of a shamrock (a three-leaf clover with a stem).


Yield: 4 servings

    2 cups (480 ml) water
    1 cup (240 ml) green split peas

    2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
    1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
    1/4 teaspoon pepper

  1. Combine the water and peas in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover the saucepan, and cook for 45 minutes or until the peas are soft enough to mash and all the water is absorbed. Check the water content occasionally during the cooking and add more if needed. The mixture will be very thick.
  2. Transfer the peas to the food processor and add the olive oil, soy sauce, and pepper. Process the peas until they are smooth and fully pureed. Transfer the Peas Porridge to an attractive serving bowl or spoon it onto a serving platter and shape it into a shamrock.

If you've noticed the cuisine of Ireland seems a bit heavy on potatoes, blame it on the climate. Ireland's damp, cool weather provides the ideal conditions for growing an abundance of potatoes, cabbage, and onions. Recognizing the versatility of these vegetables, Irish cooks incorporated them into soups, steamed them for side dishes, boiled them, sautéed them, mashed them, and included them in everything but dessert. A national favorite, Colcannon combines potatoes, cabbage, and onions in a simple, peasant-style dish. To provide a touch of color and nutritional boost, we've added the purple cabbage.



Yield: 5 to 6 servings

    2 pounds (1 kilo) boiling potatoes (white or red rose or Yukon gold)

    4 cups (960 ml) finely shredded purple cabbage
    3 cups (720 ml) finely shredded green cabbage
    1/4 cup (60 ml) water
    2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

    3/4 to 1 cup (180 to 240 ml) unsweetened soymilk
    1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
    Salt and pepper to taste
    4 green onions, sliced

  1. Scrub the potatoes, but don't peel them. Cut them into quarters or eighths if they are very large. Put the potatoes into a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan with enough water to cover by 1-inch (2.5 cm). Cover the saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-high and boil gently for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.
  2. Meanwhile, put 3 cups of the purple cabbage, all the green cabbage, and the water into a large, deep skillet. Cover, and steam over high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender.
  3. Remove the cover, add the olive oil, and cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until the cabbage is thoroughly softened. Set aside.
  4. Transfer the cooked potatoes to a large bowl and mash them with enough soymilk to create a smooth, creamy consistency. Season with the nutritional yeast flakes, if using, along with salt and pepper. Add the mashed, seasoned potatoes to the cabbage along with half the green onions and mix together.
  5. Transfer the Colcannon to an attractive serving bowl or platter and garnish the top with the remaining green onions. Finish by garnishing the perimeter of the bowl or platter with the remaining purple cabbage.

Cead Mile Failte! Leave it to the Irish to make a guest feel "a hundred thousand welcomes" by bringing the meal to a heartwarming close with an old-fashioned bread pudding served warm, room temperature, or chilled. The pudding shines even brighter when gently warmed and topped with one of the sauce recipes below. Serve them both and make dessert a fun-tasting exploration. For convenience, make the dessert a day ahead. Just before serving, warm the pudding gently for 15 minutes starting in a cold oven set at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4).


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    Zest of 1 orange
    Zest of 1 lemon

    1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh orange juice
    1 1/2 pounds (340g) firm sweet apples (Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady, or Braeburn)

    1 cup (240 ml) plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    1 cup (240 ml) water
    2 (3-inch {7.5 cm}) sticks cinnamon

    1/2 cup (120 ml) raw walnuts
    1/4 cup (60 ml) raw pine nuts

    3/4 cup (180 ml) soymilk
    1/2 cup (120 ml) black raisins
    1/2 cup (120 ml) golden raisins
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    5 slices whole wheat bread

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) and lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch (33 x 23 cm) glass baking pan.
  2. Mince the orange and lemon zest and place it in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze the juice from the zested orange and add the juice of 1 or more oranges to measure 1/2 cup (120 ml). Add the juice to the bowl with the zest.
  3. Peel, core, and chop the apples and place them in the bowl with the orange juice and zest. Mix well to coat the apples.
  4. Combine the brown sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover the pan, lower the heat to medium, and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Add it to the apples.
  5. Toast the walnuts and pine nuts over high heat in a non-stick skillet, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes until the nuts just begin to turn golden. Quickly transfer them to a dish and allow them to cool completely before adding them to the apples.
  6. Add the soymilk, raisins, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and vanilla to the apples.
  7. Toast the bread until dry and cut it into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes. Add them to the apples and stir well to moisten the cubes and distribute the ingredients evenly.
  8. Transfer the pudding mixture to the prepared baking dish, cover with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake for 45 minutes. Carefully lift the aluminum foil and stir the pudding mixture to break down the bread cubes. Replace the aluminum foil cover and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the apples are softened. Serve warm or chilled with Irish Whiskey Sauce or Cinnamon Orange Sauce. Refrigerated the Apple Orange Bread Pudding will keep for 4 days.

Irish Whiskey Sauce

    2 cups (240 ml) vanilla flavored soymilk
    3/4 cup (180 ml) organic sugar
    2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup (60 ml) Irish whiskey
    1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    Pinch salt

    3 tablespoons cornstarch
    3 tablespoons water

  1. Combine the soymilk, organic sugar, whiskey to taste, lemon juice, vanilla, and salt in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer gently for 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Stir the cornstarch and water together in a small cup or bowl until well blended, and pour it into the bubbling sauce a little at a time. Stir constantly for about 1 minute until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately or chill and serve later. Makes about 3 cups (720 ml).

Cinnamon Orange Sauce

    1 1/3 cups (320 ml) fresh orange juice
    1 cup (240 ml) water
    1/2 cup (120 ml) plus 2 tablespoons organic sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

    3 tablespoons cornstarch
    3 tablespoons water

  1. Combine the orange juice, water, organic sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan and bring it to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and simmer gently about 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Stir the cornstarch and water together in a small cup or bowl until thoroughly blended and pour it into the bubbling sauce. Stir constantly for about 1 minute until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately or chill and serve later. Makes about 1 3/4 cups (415 ml).

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