Hi Everyone! Winter Solstice has passed and now the days will begin to get longer. Within a month or so I will get home from work at night and it won’t be dark! So exciting.
Bookman and I had a wonderful celebration yesterday and so did the Dashwoods. The temperature was above freezing and quite comfortable outside. Nonetheless, we didn’t let them out into the snow covered garden. Instead, we gave them a treat. We hung a purple cabbage from the rafter of the run and let them go at it. Sorry for the weird angle on the video, I took it with my phone.
As you can see it was a great success. Elinor and Marianne (the brown one and the white-headed one) got right in there and went after it. Mrs. Dashwood was more cautious (the black and white one) and Margaret (the black one) tried a few pecks but mostly played dodge the cabbage. When one of them managed to tear off a bigger piece, they all went running after her because it is easier to chase a chicken than it is to grab a swinging cabbage. And, a most interesting discovery, purple cabbage makes chicken poo an especially vivid green color.
As many of you know, Bookman does all the cooking year-round except for on the Winter Solstice. This tradition began long ago when we were newly married and Bookman’s work schedule often meant he worked that day. My schedule always seemed to allow me to be off on the Solstice so, in order to have a celebration meal, I took up the cooking apron for the day. Of course, it being a special meal, it could never be anything we usually ate. Weeks ahead of time I would begin combing through our cookbooks and putting together a menu. Some meals are super elaborate, some simple and comforting, some have been such amazing successes they become a regular part of our menu, others have been disasters best forgotten. The best part though, no matter the results of my cooking, is setting aside the time for something special to share with Bookman.
These days Bookman gets to be home on Solstice. Sometimes this is a good thing — I make him chop onions! — sometimes it creates friction — do that this way he says and takes the knife from my hand. Most of the time it is nice to have him around and I laugh at how hard he tries to keep his mouth shut and not tell me what or how to do something.
Cooking in general stresses me out, I have never particularly enjoyed doing it, but on Solstice my stress is usually through the roof because I have to juggle so many different dishes at the same time and get them to be finished all at once. Bookman is a natural at this, he claims it is because of his ADD, the more there is to juggle, the more fun he has. So yesterday I took advantage of Bookman and as dinnertime drew closer and there were more things to chop and more pots on the stove, I called him in for help and of course everything worked out just fine.
However, as the time to set all the things in motion drew upon me, Bookman was on the phone saying hi to his parents and telling his mom the menu I was making. It was then I realized I had completely forgotten about making soup! The plan was a miso and udon noodle soup to start the meal and even though this is a simple soup, it was too late for me to figure it out and add it into the mix. So, we decided we’ll save the soup for the weekend when we get tired of leftovers and are ready for something different.The cooking began early, right after breakfast. The main course for dinner was to be this puff pastry wrapped lentil loaf. Unfortunately, we could not find any already made vegan puff pastry dough so I had to make it myself. I was pretty nervous about this because it involved lots of rolling and folding and time sitting in the refrigerator. But the recipe I used turned out to be not as hard as I thought it would be. Oh, it took all day, don’t get me wrong, but the actual work of making the dough was not hard, just precise and I am good at precise.
After I got the puff pastry started, it was time to begin making the vegan snickers cheesecake. This was really easy to make but, like the dough, had lots of parts and lots of sitting time.
When it came down to putting it all together, I was so tired that I didn’t manage to do the fancy weaving around the lentil loaf with the pastry dough. Instead I just rolled it into an unremarkable kind of loaf. I ended up putting too much lentil filling into it so it was a bit messy along the dough seams but those were on the bottom so virtually invisible.
The loaf baked up great and the pastry came out perfect! If I were to make puff pastry again, and given that there is over a pound of butter in the stuff making it again is not likely to happen any time soon, I would make the dough the day before instead of the day of. The lentil loaf itself was also delicious. I used green and yellow lentils thinking it would keep the whole thing from turning brown like it seems everything always does (didn’t work), but yellow lentils were not a good choice because they didn’t get quite as soft as they should have been. I substituted sunflower seeds for pecans because I was already using so many different kinds of nuts for other things I wanted something different. Plus, I didn’t have any pecans. The sunflower seeds were great!
In addition to the lentil loaf, there were spicy green beans made from beans we had picked from the garden and put in the freezer. Delicious! There were also mashed potatoes and a simple gravy. Yum!
The snickers cheesecake was wonderful. Bookman is not a cheesecake fan but even he liked it. This was part of my subtle ploy to make him realize he actually does like cheesecake since it is the second time I have made a cheesecake that he liked. Pretty soon he will be making them himself with no prompting from me! Did it taste like snickers? Since I haven’t had a Snickers bar in over 20 years I can’t say for sure, but I don’t think it did. It definitely had the snickers spirit though, but then again, what’s not to like about fresh dates, peanuts and chocolate?
I am calling it an all around success! Good thing too because the lentil loaf recipe makes two loaves. The second loaf I baked in a bread pan and it went straight into the freezer. The pastry wrapped loaf got cut in half right after dinner with half going into the freezer. And the cheesecake, that lives in the freezer anyway to keep it firm so thankfully we don’t have to eat all of it right away. We’ll have leftovers for weeks!