“Tradition!”: Part II

After waxing poetic a bit yesterday on traditional foods, I decided that today I should give you some recipes or at least ideas for traditional foods.

Shepherd's Pie with Parve Mashed Potatoes

Shepherd’s Pie with Parve Mashed Potatoes (thickened version of my beef stew topped with mashed potatoes and baked)

How can you get more traditional than mashed potatoes?  Want to make super-yummy ones that are either vegetarian or vegan?  Simple.  Boil and mash your potatoes (I mash mine rather than using a ricer because we like texture).  Add mayonnaise (or vegan mayonnaise), vegetable broth, salt, and pepper to taste.  There you have it.  Simple, delicious, and parve/vegetarian/vegan/awesome.  Serve with…

Meatloaf?  1lb ground beef, 1 box parve stuffing mix, 1 egg, and 1/3 cup vegetable or beef broth (perhaps more depending on how dry the stuffing mix is).  Smoosh with fingers, place in loaf pan, and bake at 375 degrees until no longer pink and edges pull away from pan (about 45 minutes).

Simple vegetarian chili with cornbread topping?  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and drain 2 cans of black beans and 2 cans of pinto beans. Add to glass casserole dish. Add 1 cup chunky salsa (mild, medium, or hot), 3/4 tsp. cinnamon (trust me), and 2 tsp. chili powder. Mix thoroughly. Mix one box corn muffin mix according to package instructions. Spread 1/4 cup shredded cheese over beans and then spread corn muffin mixture over the cheese. Bake for about 30 minutes or until cornbread is cooked through (if the top browns and the inside is still gooey, cover it with foil and bake a little longer).

Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread Topping

Vegetarian Chili with Cornbread Topping

Finally, I have to admit that I absolutely love sweet and savory together.  That is ultimate comfort food to me, and I love finding new ways to combine traditionally sweet ingredients or elements with savory dishes.  My most recent discovery is how incredibly awesome Indian Pudding is.  It’s a traditional dessert from New England with a pretty un-PC name which is essentially a cornbread pudding.  It also let me use some of my new favorite ingredient, blackstrap molasses.  I served it as a side dish to a savory dinner.  There is an excellent recipe for Indian Pudding at Yankee Magazine.  To keep milk and meat separate, you could either make this with dairy alternatives and serve with sauteed maple chicken sausage with shredded cabbage or you could use dairy in the pudding and use a meatless sausage.  Playing up the sweet/salty aspect of this combination makes it comforting and fulfilling.

Maple Chicken Sausage with Cabbage

Maple Chicken Sausage with Cabbage

Indian Pudding (It's not pretty, but it's a molten pan of sticky-sweet deliciousness!)

Indian Pudding (It’s not pretty, but it’s a molten pan of sticky-sweet deliciousness!)

And there you have it.  These are just a few ideas for hearty, ‘traditional’ winter dishes that are sure to please your taste buds.  Enjoy and look forward to me posting some more sweet/savory combo dishes soon!

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“Tradition!”: Some Thoughts on Traditional Foods

“Tradition!” Tevye the Milkman sings in Fiddler on the Roof.  What did he mean?  Mostly, he was referring to an adherence to the Orthodox traditions of his small Russian village, but I’d like to think he could have also been singing about food.  It seems like winter sort of just begs for traditional comfort foods, doesn’t it?

Traditional foods is a phrase with several meanings to me.  The historian in me recognizes traditional foods as those foods indigenous to a particular place or time.  The average person in me thinks of a wide assortment of foods from the many influences which make up my background and which at some point or another were considered ‘traditional’ in my childhood home.  We usually had cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning; family gatherings always included guacamole and probably enchiladas; summer meant grilled chicken (or BBQ since Californians aren’t so picky about what constitutes actual BBQ); and our mac’n’cheese used to come with cut up hot dogs in it.  Then we moved around…a lot.  I learned that it isn’t a party in Indiana without a slow cooker full of meatballs; sweet tea is not the default in eastern Missouri north of about Perryville; BBQ does not mean chicken on a grill in North or South Carolina; and I do not like collard greens (even though everyone swears I’d love them if only I had So-and-So’s collards).

Since embarking on my journeys into parenthood and Judaism, I’ve also learned even more about traditional foods.  I’ve learned that as a parent, there is always room for new traditions.  This is especially true when integrating you and your spouse/partner’s traditions into one family set of traditions.  I have also learned that taking traditional foods (such as traditional Jewish yom tov dishes) and making them your own can be one of the most rewarding and deep ways to connect to a new tradition.  So, I’ve made my own version of savory hamantaschen, kheema kreplach, and a savory onion kugel.  Sometimes it’s nice to stick to bubbe’s recipes, but sometimes your own spin on something can be even more delicious and meaningful.

Variety is the spice of life after all, isn’t it?  So maybe even more than “Tradition,” Tevye had food on his mind when he sang, “L’Chaim!  To Life!”

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