The Holiday Grinch

DSC01250This year, we didn’t put up the big tree – it was all the way in the back of the attic, and had a bajillion boxes in front of it because we thought we were already going to have moved by now, so had packed up half the house already. Anyway, we still needed something… Whole Foods had these little mini-trees for sale, of various kinds. The one we chose was the Grinch tree. 🙂 It’s a mini cypress that was curved over and had just one large ornament. Perfect!

We decided not to travel to our families this year… I’m not sure I could have handled it well. I’m not ready yet. To have to make an entirely separate meal for just M and me, while watching everybody else eat all the traditional things. It was better to just make our separate meal and eat it ourselves, by ourselves. It was actually a nice, peaceful holiday. Which is just what we needed.

I had a couple successes – I converted both the Czech potato salad and the Czech Christmas cookies to gluten-free/vegan and they still turned out delicious! The potato salad – you couldn’t even tell the difference. The cookies, though you could tell a slight difference (from my mom’s recipe, anyway), they were very tasty and didn’t taste gf/vegan at all; just different. I was excited about that! The recipes are below. I’ll keep working on some other things, and refining these two (namely the cookies). I found a product called the Vegg, and am very intrigued by it… Since originally the cookies rely on egg yolks, I think I’ll try it with the Vegg substitute next time. Maybe that will help give it that bit of richness that’s missing.

he's ready to eat.

he’s ready to eat.

The other item on the plate is just a breaded (with gluten free rice crumbs) and shallow-fried/sauteed bone-in rainbow trout, something very traditional as well (although growing up we always made wiener schnitzel instead).

Czech Potato Salad, Vegan Style
This is very traditional, and is often served on open-faced sandwiches. Unfortunately, the recipe is very taste specific, rather than exact measurements, as potatoes vary in size and your like of tartness varies person to person. So take this as a guideline and make any changes per your tastes. You can leave out the vegan mayo, also, to have a fat-free/soy-free version.

  • 6 large russet/baking potatoes
  • 1 yellow onion, grated (and drained – squeeze out all the excess onion juice)
  • 1 carrot, grated fine
  • 8 large dill pickles, grated
  • 1 C petite green peas
  • vinegar water (start with 3T sugar + 1/3 C white vinegar + ~2/3 C water)
  • ~1 C Vegenaise
  • salt, pepper
  • cherry or plum tomatoes, cut in half, for garnish

Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Set on the stove and bring to a boil, cooking the potatoes about 20-30 minutes, until a fork or knife inserted feels no more resistance.  Drain and let cool. Peel the potatoes, and then grate half of them, and chop the other half into about 1/2″ cubes. Put this in a large bowl.

Add the grated onion, carrot, and pickles. Season with salt and pepper, and pour about 1/2 of the vinegar water mixture. Stir well to combine. Taste – and add more salt/pepper/vinegar to get it just right and delicious. This is very vague… But sometimes the potatoes absorb a lot and don’t need as much seasoning, sometimes they do. The end goal is to have a potato salad that is almost creamy, with a nice sweet/tart zing.

Once the base is flavored just right, add the vegan mayo and stir to combine. Some like it creamier than others – add more! If not, add less. Again, this is to what you like. Finally, fold in the peas – you don’t want them to burst with all the stirring of the previous steps, so it’s saved here for last. Decorate with the cherry tomato halves or quarters.

The only difference between the original and this is that the original also has 1/2 lb grated bologna (the deli kind, not Oscar Meyer) and 6-8 hard boiled and chopped eggs. But surprisingly this vegan version doesn’t really miss those! We happily ate all of this over the week. Mmmmm…

DSC01221Czech Christmas Cookies
These are what everyone looks forward to during the holidays. All my friends always waited and asked for these cookies… They are similar to the German linzer cookies, but of course, better. 🙂 Sadly, they are basically egg yolks, flour, and butter. So I didn’t have much hope in veganizing them to still be tasty. Surprisingly, though, just doing the basic substitutions turned out pretty good for a first try! As I mentioned above, I’ll try adding the Vegg next time, and maybe modifying the amounts a touch to get it a little better. The first day, these were more on the crispy side – but after a day sitting out (we leave them on the table covered with a kitchen towel), they softened up, and by the second and third day, they were the perfect softness.

  • 1.5 C gf flour blend of your choice (I used Jules; if yours doesn’t contain xanthan gum, then don’t forget to add it in)
  • 1/2 lb COLD vegan butter (I used the homemade version, healthier with much less saturated fat), diced into small pieces (~1/2″ cubes)
  • 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1 T ground flax in 3 T warm water, left to set/gel for about 10 minutes (and whisked well)
  • 1 pinch lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350. In a food processor, pulse blend the ingredients until they’ve just started to come together into a ball (and make sure there are no chunks of butter left). Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead very gently to combine. Flatten into a disc (or I like to divide it into 2 pieces, as it’s easier to work with), cover with plastic wrap, and let firm up in the fridge or freezer.

DSC01219Roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4″ thick. Using cookie cutters, quickly cut out shapes – a solid piece for the bottom of the cookie, and one with a peek-hole cut in the top piece. Place the pieces on a cookie sheet and bake about 10 minutes until just turning golden. I noticed that without the egg, this version didn’t really turn colors; so I probably over-baked them. They’re thin, so don’t really need that much time. They just need to cook through. That could be why they were really crispy the first day… Anyway, so heed that – they may never turn golden. Gently remove from the pan and let cool. I just place these on the counter, and then once cool, stack them.

look at the layers (from the "butter")!

look at the layers (from the “butter”)!

To assemble, spread jam (raspberry, strawberry, and apricot) on the bottom piece, and gently place the top piece over it. Finish with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Almost like home… 🙂

6 thoughts on “The Holiday Grinch

  1. Veronica, I loved reading this post! So proud of you for making healthy choices and having a peaceful, low key veganized holiday meal. These versions of your traditional family favorites sound wonderful. I love reading about other people’s family traditions, and especially how they can be made healthier and still taste good. Looks like you succeeded at both! The potato salad sounds like–with the right dill pickles–it could be truly yummy. I might add a bit of plain almond yogurt instead of the veganaise for a little extra creaminess and to make it soy free. The cookies are gorgeous!! You’ve got my wheels spinning for next year. Thanks for sharing all this so we could sit down at your virtual table with you!!

    • Thanks, Maria! I could go on and on about the random (and some might say crazy) traditions, but I figure I’ll leak them just a little at a time… (For instance, on Xmas eve day, we aren’t allowed to eat anything all day – wait until dinner – because then we might see the golden pig of good luck.)
      And the pickles do make or break the salad – I know we hunted for just the right one. It’s amazing how different they all are! The yogurt addition is brilliant! I think that would definitely work. Cuts out the soy, as well as some extra fat. I just might try some with that, too. Thanks for thinking the cookies are gorgeous! It’s definitely a labor of love… We used to make about 5 batches every year, took about 2 days… I’m excited to hear what you (and I!) come up with next holiday!

  2. You are making me drool! I love both the salad and those cookies. I understand your wanting to stay home this holiday and know that we definately missed you. I must try them next weekend or at least the potato salad next weekend.
    Love, MIL

    • I’m glad you’ll be trying them out!! I hope you think they’re as good as you remember… So let me know! We missed you, too, and I’m glad we got to skype a couple times.

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