Back in November I showcased what I’d made from the first half of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s latest tome, The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook. And here’s what I made from the second half!
10.Cinco de Mayo
Unsurprisingly, this is another celebration we don’t really have in the UK. Still, it was a fantastic chapter in the book – everything looked delicious, and I made a fair few of the dishes.
I knew as soon as I saw the picture that I had to make the burrito potato salad, and it certainly didn’t let me down! I made a couple of changes: kidney beans instead of black ones, because that’s what’s available here, and crushed Pom Bears instead of tortilla chips on top because I forgot to put the latter on my shopping list. It was a great salad – we had it for lunch rather than as a side. The dressing was fantastic, with the creamy avocado and zingy lime and coriander. Definitely recommended!
The tomatillo posole with pintos and avocado was also heavily adapted. Tomatillos aren’t really a thing here, nor is hominy, so I used regular tomatoes and chickpeas instead. And the less said about pinto beans, the better. My finished product may not have had much in common with Isa’s vision, but it was a nice spicy, hearty soup I’d have again.
I hadn’t been planning on making the spinach-mushroom quesadillas, but the inviting picture lured me in and I couldn’t resist giving them a try. The cheese sauce I made was a bit too solid, so it wasn’t oozing as temptingly as in Isa’s photo, but it was delicious – there were a lot of good flavours in this dish.
I had high hopes for the seitan de mayo carnitas, but it wasn’t quite as exciting as I’d hoped. It was quite reminiscent of some vegan kebabs I’ve had, but not quite as good as them, so perhaps it was just suffering in comparison. It was nice, but not spectacular – the potato salad and quesadillas above were much better.
I played things a bit too safe with the spicy chocolate cupcakes with hot candied pecans – I didn’t put enough chilli/cayenne in to give it a good kick. Still, they were delicious cakes. At first I was worried that the glaze was too thin and runny, but it had such a great texture when set. The candied pecans were excellent too, of course.
11.Mother’s & Father’s Day
The theme here didn’t work that well for me, because I don’t know what makes these dishes match these occasions, but there were a few things I was keen to try regardless.
I’m not crazy about sandwiches, but I wanted to try the pan bagnat. I was too lazy to go and buy nice bread buns, but this wasn’t actually for a special occasion so I think I got away with it. Dr HH really enjoyed it, and I liked it as much as it is possible for me to like a sloppy sandwich!
I didn’t have any truffle oil for the truffled almond alfredo with really garlicky broccoli, but even just with regular old olive oil it was really nice. The sauce was so good and creamy, and the excess of garlic really worked well with it. It was really quick and easy to make too, so this definitely gets the thumbs up from me.
Bouillabaisse is fun to say and fun to eat! It’s meant to be garnished with roasted half moons of yellow squash, but I just threw some roasted butternut squash chunks into the stew, and I was quite happy with that. It’s an easy stew, though personally I’d tone down the grated orange zest – a little goes a very long way! I found this to be pretty standard vegetable stew fare, not really special occasion-worthy.
I made the Elvis cupcakes for Dr HH’s birthday. The banana sponge was easy to make, though I had to add extra milk to the peanut butter icing to get it spreadable. The coconut bacon cooked in ten minutes, rather than the 25 suggested in the book, and it had already started to burn a little, so I almost chickened out of adding it to the cakes. I’m so glad I stuck with it though – it was a great addition in terms of both taste and texture. Although these seemed a little time consuming because there were various elements, I would definitely make them again.
12.Fourth of July
Most of the recipes in this chapter either didn’t appeal to me so much (so many chilled soups!) or were impossible to make as we don’t have a grill. But I made two things!
The bow tie and butter bean salad with fresh dill was surprisingly bland in my opinion. It was an unremarkable pasta salad. I ditched the cucumber because I hate cucumber, but I wish I’d replaced it with something else green for a nice splash of colour. You can’t win ’em all though!
The spicy tempeh-stuffed avocado was much more like it! There was so much flavour packed in the tempeh: sesame oil (the greatest oil of them all, surely), soy sauce, hot sauce…it was delicious. And obviously heaping it into an avocado wasn’t a bad idea either. We’ll certainly revisit this one.
13.Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
This is another section that was full of unfamiliar recipes for me. But any celebration that involves fancy bread is alright by me!
I was really keen to try the challah, despite the fact that I’m the world’s worst breadmaker. Fortunately, Dr HH is an expert in this field, so we worked together and produced a masterpiece! I prepared the ingredients, Dr HH did all the kneading, and I plaited and glazed the finished loaves. They had a lovely sweet flavour from the banana, and while I usually hate the crusty parts this time they had some beautiful sweetness from the maple glaze. I could eat one of these loaves every day – but apparently Dr HH found it a bit more exhausting than I did, so he’s not keen on making it quite so often.
Naturally, we also had to make the challah French toast. Again, Dr HH was at the helm for this one, and as you can see by that delicious golden brown colour, he knows how to make French toast! He was a little worried that there was no sweetener in the batter, but I reminded him that the bread was banana-based and we’d pour on some maple syrup, and all was right with the world!
Dr HH even surprised me with challah French toast stuffed with chocolate spread. I feel like Isa would approve.
Making the chocolate babka was quite the saga. I’d never even heard of babka before, so I wasn’t really sure what I was aiming for. As such, the assembly instructions made little sense, and I truly feel that the lack of images here was a mistake – a series of step-by-step pictures would have been very beneficial! And for any Brits considering this recipe, please be aware that “chocolate wafer cookies” have absolutely nothing to do with wafers. At a bit of a loss, I got a packet of Oreos and scraped off the cream. I didn’t finely grind them either, and I think doing so would have definitely improved the texture of the filling. Honestly, there was so much filling and it was so runny, it just oozed out everywhere while we were trying to roll and slice. Again – photos would have helped! One other point on ingredients: the recipe calls for coconut oil at “room temperature”. In Central Europe in December, room temperature coconut oil is solid and you can’t exactly knead it into a dough, so we had to melt it to make it workable.
Also a note on timing – this book is great for giving you the total recipe time, along with total active time. However, this recipe timing misses out the two hours of the third and final prove, so bear that in mind if you try it – there’s a total of four hours proving time.
After all the time and effort we put into it, I would have cried if it turned out terribly – fortunately, it was delicious! It doesn’t look too different from what I saw on Google Images, so I think we’ll call it a success. And we actually made it again two weeks later, just using shop-bought chocolate spread for the filling. This was much easier and cleaner, and is also recommended!
There were some really creative, visually appealing dishes in this section, but I just didn’t have time to make them. I’ll revisit this section next Halloween, but for now I’m happy with the one I tried.
I couldn’t resist this monster mash shepherd’s pie! It’s a pretty standard Isa shepherd’s pie, which is to say it’s delicious, but this time it’s topped with a coriandery mash. I wasn’t convinced coriander would work with the more traditional filling ingredients, but it was a very exciting combination and definitely worth trying! After serving these monster portions, I used the rest of the filling and mash to make a normal shepherd’s pie to be warmed in the oven, which was also delicious, if less fun visually.
As a Brit, this is another occasion that I don’t celebrate – I used this chapter as a practice run for Christmas. It was one of my favourites from the book. I love the fact that a lot of the side dishes are completely alien to me, it was really fun to try some new things.
This cream of porcini mushroom soup was a huge hit! The dried porcini were blitzed to a powder and blended with a cashew cream, which gives the soup both it’s wonderful texture and it’s incredible earthy flavour. There were some sliced mushrooms in there too. It was so flavoursome and filling, and made me feel quite fancy.
Isa described this caramelised onion and cauliflower casserole as like a quiche but without the pastry, and this was definitely true. I really loved it, and I think the tahini was a great addition, flavour-wise. However, I’m not sure it’s a good side dish for a roast dinner. I’ll definitely have it again, but I’m not sure what it would go with – maybe just in quiche form then!
The super traditional stuffing was much better than expected, as I grew up absolutely hating the smell of Paxo boxed stuffing. Appearance-wise, this doesn’t resemble any stuffing I’ve seen before, but it was packed with flavour. This was one of the big hits of the book.
The fancy/not fancy mushroom gravy is so-called because you can choose which kind of mushrooms to use and they will determine the fanciness of the gravy. I went for non-fancy, and I was very impressed. I love a good, mushroomy gravy, so this was bound to be a success. If you’re not keen on slices of mushroom, I reckon straining or blitzing would work.
The creamy whipped potatoes were quite a bit more work (and washing up) than regular mash, and not really worth it in my opinion. It was fun having super creamy mash for a change (there’s cashew cream in there!), but this approach didn’t really elevate the potatoes for me. I’ll stick to smashed.
Green bean casserole isn’t really a thing in the UK, and Dr HH and I agreed that this would have been better without the green beans! The beans were fine, but the casserole was so creamy and the mushrooms were so delicious that the beans were basically an afterthought. It was a really good dish, so thanks to everyone who posted a picture of it at Thanksgiving and inspired me to give it a try!
The stuffed Thanksgiving burgers were easy to make, and I froze them before cooking. They cooked perfectly from frozen, and we both loved them. They had a really good, strong flavour from the mushrooms and held together very well. We agreed that we would skip the cranberries next time – I’m not a fan of cranberry sauce, so I found the berries a slightly weird addition.
I was quite worried about the chocolate pecan pie, which I made for Christmas Day dessert. When I was making it, the caramel hardened before I could blitz the silken tofu, so I had to call in backup to keep mixing it – I’d recommend getting the blitzed ingredients ready before the chocolate caramel. Then I was worried that the pie filling was going to be rock hard after setting. We got it out of the fridge first thing on Christmas morning, so that by 4pm it was comfortably room temp, and really soft and delicious. It was very decadent, and I heartily recommend trying it. Ignore the gigantic pastry crust,the tin didn’t quite work out – also, I used shop-bought pastry for ease.
This is essentially the deep-fried section, which is no bad thing! There were a few delicious-sounding latkes that I wanted to try but just didn’t get around to. Still, I tried a few things and enjoyed them.
The superyum baked potato pancakes were really good! After mashing the potato I popped it in the fridge for a few hours, because I have a bad track record when it comes to this kind of dish completely falling apart. They held together perfectly. They were really simple (just potato, spring onion, breadcrumbs, oil and seasoning), and I liked the fact that they were baked rather than fried. I was worried that the crumbs weren’t going to hold on the outside, but they were terrific!
Dr HH is a big believer that falafel should be full of herby green flecks, so I had to try the green falafel. I wasn’t very satisfied with the texture, as I had to use an immersion blender which doesn’t really give you much of a pulsing option – some bits were pureed, some still had huge chickpea chunks. No complaints about the flavour though, all that green was definitely a good addition!
The cholent was a nice, easy one-pot dish – something that’s in short supply in this book, unsurpisingly. It was pleasant but unremarkable, for me.
Christmas is my favourite holiday, and I was really excited about trying some of the dishes from this section. There were plenty of sweet things, which is always good, and some quite impressive-looking dishes. I would have liked a great roast potato recipe, because every Brit has roasties at Christmas, but I’ll forgive the American slant!
I think Dr HH had already made these gingerbread waffles, assuming it’s the same recipe from Vegan Brunch. This time I made them, and of course I made them in pancake form – no adjustments to the ingredients were required. As with all Isa panacake/waffle recipes, they were easy to make, thick and delicious! The flavours were great, you can’t go wrong with gingerbread.
I added seitan to the bean bourguignon because I feel like I’ve had that before and love it. It certainly didn’t hurt! This was comfortably the best of the one-pot dishes I tried here (bouillabaisse and cholent being the others) – lovely flavours, and super comforting.
I made the sorta classic pot pie for Christmas dinner, and it was a great hit! I used a mixture of seitan and smoked tempeh for the meat, rather than just seitan as suggested, and I used a vegan chicken stock cube, which had a lovely flavour. And I used shop-bought, accidentally vegan puff pastry. It was easy to make and suitably impressive.
I had to defer to Dr HH when it came to this epic eggplant lasagna, because lasagna is a Christmas staple in his family. They don’t celebrate this holiday, but the closest thing they have to a festive tradition is devouring his homemade vegetable lasagna. As usual, he did a fantastic job. Next time we would double the seasoning in every element of it, but it was still tasty. The aubergine slices were especially good, and I liked the white sauce on top too.
Obviously I didn’t make the gingerbread people at Christmas – I’m sure Superfun Times Vol. II will have a chapter on Star Wars Day! I’ve been using Isa’s gingerbread recipe since before I went vegan, so I knew it was going to work a treat. I bought Dr HH some Star Wars cookie cutters for Christmas 2014, surprised him with a batch of cookies on May 4th 2016, and this year he was expecting another batch. He did the cutting and stamping this year and had a whale of a time!
Isa described the big, soft chocolate chip cookies as the kind you see in a kid’s cartoon thought bubble. A picture really would have been useful here, as these did not look at all like I was expecting. They tasted just right though! I think I prefer Ms Cupcake’s flatter, perfectly chewy cookies, but I certainly wouldn’t say no to these.
The peanut butter chocolate chip cookies were delicious! I made them with normal spread instead of coconut oil, because that was all I had in when I got the cookie craving, so they may be even more delicious if you use the correct ingredients. The texture was great too.
I couldn’t find any candy canes for these candy cane fudge cookies, so they look a little barren – but thanks to the mint chocolate bar I used, they still have that festive taste! They were really good soft cookies, and I loved the minty taste.
The first time I made these cranberry spice oatmeal cookies they oozed and burned around the edges. The second time they turned out much better, but still didn’t really resemble the picture in the book. I wonder if there’s a mistake in the recipe, or if I just keep doing something wrong? Anyway, the flavours are festive and comforting, and that’s what really matters.
So, there we have it. This book is an absolute masterpiece! Besides my complaint about lack of pictures (or smarter choices about which recipes require pictures), there’s nothing I’d change about this book. Although I generally prefer my books organised by meal type, I found the chapters here really fun.
What recipes have you tried and loved? Which dish would most likely convince you to buy this book?