Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Flashback to Virginia

I am still trying to catch up with posting about my travels in December. Hopefully, some of you still have an appetite for reading holiday-themed blog entries!

After I returned from New York City, I had exactly two days to prepare before we were due to drive down to Virginia to visit my mom and family. And by "prepare" I basically mean an entire day of baking! Daiku and I tried to massively cut down on gift-giving this year (and asked both our families to also not give us too many things) but we did want to make some homemade treats for our families. (Also, selfishly, homemade baked goods meant I'd have something to eat, too!)

Here is what a day's baking yielded:

(From left to right)
Let me tell you, these cookies were all magnificent! I'd like to thank all the bloggers who have posted or brought my attention to these fabulous recipes. Who can resist? My personal favorite were the pumpkin oatmeal cookies- everyone raved about these on their blogs, and I am joining them! Daiku requested the Chloe cookies, and they were his favorite, along with the blondies, which everyone also raved over. My mom loves anything ginger, so the gingerbread people were her favorite. My cousin, Melissa requested the coconut-lime cookies and loved them. And my uncle just loved the decadent chocolate-chip cookies that were rich with a chocolate and coconut flavor. YUM!

I also used the gingerbread people to make the crust for...

Pumpkin chocolate cheesecake! (The recipe came from the blog What the Hell does a Vegan Eat, Anyway? which is always a fascinating and inspiring place to visit). This was my first vegan cheesecake, and the process was a bit complex (involving a water bath, etc.) but it was so worth it for a special occasion. This picture is the cheesecake just out of the pan, after traveling for a day- still looks good, huh?

My not-so-vegan family just loved it, and everyone thought the chocolate-ginger crust was the best part. I can't wait to experiment with other cheesecake flavors!

I'd been saving so many of these recipes to try for a special occasion, and am I ever glad that I did. This is the most holiday baking I've ever done, and I think I'll continue to expand on the tradition next year!

To add to the long list of winter holidays that people celebrate, Iranians have "Shab-e Yalda" which is an old pagan celebration of the longest night of the year, Winter Solstice, which fell on December 21. This night is celebrated by gathering with friends and family, and food!

Here's dinner at my aunt's house.

This is "kalam polo" or rice pilaf with cabbage, which usually has beef in it, but which my aunt had veganized for me by replacing the beef with lima beans, which I love. The crunchy bits of rice are called "tah digh" which is considered a delicacy, flavored with oil or butter and saffron.

One of my favorite aspects of Iranian cuisine is that every meal is served with a variety of fresh herbs and crunchy fresh and/or pickled vegetables. Above, you can see spicy pickled eggplant.

Of course, Shab-e Yalda would not be complete without the pomegranate, which symbolizes rebirth and luck. (And for me, it is also a reminder that spring and summer, with their vibrant colors, are not too far away!)

We were only in Virginia for a few days. We wanted to do so much (like go to Sunflower restaurant, a vegetarian place I've been wanting to try for a while now!) but the days before Christmas were so hectic, and the traffic in this part of the country (right outside of Washington D.C.) is so atrocious, that we didn't really get to do much. Before we knew it, we were saying goodbye to people and packing up our cookies for the long drive to St. Louis to visit Daiku's family.



Anonymous said...

How funny that I just asked you for a tah digh recipe and there it is, in all its glory, on your blog! I wish I could've tried your aunt's version. :-) Thanks for another fabulous post!


Emmy said...

Oh my, what luscious desserts!!!! I'm envious of the lucky recipients. That's awesome you tried the Peanutiest Blondies. Rob loves those. Thanks for the heads up about those other recipes. I think the only other one I've tried is the Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies.

Wow, the Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake looks amazing. That's awesome it withstood a day of traveling.

I really enjoyed reading about Shab-e Yalda. The Kalam Polo looks delish. How sweet your aunt veganized it for you :) Oh, and that spicy pickled eggplant looks fab!!! Yum!

Village Mama said...

Happy Belated Shab-e Yalda! Everything looks delicious. So sweet of your aunt to veganize for you.

I just had a delicious lunch, yet have room for dessert, right now I'd pay a pretty penny for a piece, even a small one of your gorgeous pumpkin chocolate cheesecake.

I've been meaning to post this question on my blog, but since we're on the topic of family and eating. How do you deal mentally, emotionally with the explanations, the gatherings, the inability to open your parent(s)' fridge and just eat? Do you always, always have to take food with you?

Caroline said...

Oh wow - all your desserts look so delicious! I made the pumpkin oatmeal cookies at least 3 times in December and handed them out all over the place:) I wanna try the peanuttiest blondies and the coconut lime cookies. The cheesecake has me drooling - it sounds and looks so decadent!
I went to the Sunflower when I visited my sister in DC over the summer. To tell you the truth, I was disappointed:( My food was just so-so. It was all just kind of taste-less, lacking flavor y'know? I ordered a dessert there, thinking they could redeem themselves with that but it was the same. No flavor, tasted like cardboard. I only ate 2 bites. I felt bad b/c I was with a bunch of non-vegs who were open to the idea of coming with me to a completely vegetarian restaurant (be careful - they do use some cheese) and really wanted them to be wowed. Oh well. Maybe I just went on a bad night? Or maybe I have high standards?
Wow, what a spread for Shab-e Yalda! I would like all the pickled treats:)

tofu said...

I'm glad the pumpkin cheesecake recipe worked out for you -- especially with all the traveling ;)

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Bazu !
I want to be part of your family :)))

springsandwells said...

I have been eyeing that pumpkin cheesecake for some time... it just looks so amazing! My family is a bunch of health freaks, and I don't think anyone would help me eat that. I'll have to have a special party just to make one!

Oh, it's so nice to read about Shab-e Yalda, and to see your amazing persian rice. I LOVE tah digh, but I haven't had much success making it. Maybe I should try again...

I'm already dreaming of NoRuz... I love the idea of using Lima beans instead of beef!! I've also started looking into travelling to Iran, have you ever been?


aTxVegn said...

I just love baking cookies and yours all look wonderful! I can't wait to bake the coconut lime cookies. I think I'll wait for key limes and springtime!

The cheesecake is amazing! Are sure that was your first one? I think pumpkin and chocolate is a great combination.

Your family dinner looks delicious and I'm sure it was lots of fun.

I'm with you - come on springtime!

Too Fond of Books said...

Everything looks amazing. The picture of the cheesecake is making me regret my decision to try and curb my sugar intake. I love the coconut lime cookies. No one else I bake for seems to like them much, which always means more for me!

Sunflower is amazing! They have these little fried "chicken" bites that are the best I have ever had. The only things I miss about the DC area are my favorite restaurants and my friends. I definitely don't miss the traffic, especially around the holidays!

Too Fond of Books said...

Everything looks amazing. The picture of the cheesecake is making me regret my decision to try and curb my sugar intake. I love the coconut lime cookies. No one else I bake for seems to like them much, which always means more for me!

Sunflower is amazing! They have these little fried "chicken" bites that are the best I have ever had. The only things I miss about the DC area are my favorite restaurants and my friends. I definitely don't miss the traffic, especially around the holidays!

Theresa said...

I had pomegranates on xmas too! They are really yummy over soy ice cream, but they turned my fingers all purple!

Candi said...

What a beautiful tray of cookies! I love how you tried so many different ones and from different recipe sources! :) They all look great! I'd go after the gingerbread guys first. :)

Thank you for the info on Shab-e Yalda. I found that interesting to read about. I love the foods you had at the celebration too! Wow. How nice to have some veganized for you!! :)

Sounds like you had a great time. :)

Anonymous said...

I love the cookie assortment and the cheesecake - unbelievable. It looks so tasty.

My sister is Iranian and just starting to learn more about her heritage and the culture. I think she would like the Shab-e Yalda celebration. I will share this post with her. Thanks Bazu.

theONLYtania said...

Hey! Mmm cookies! Those "peanuttiest blondies" caught my eye.. everything looks delicious! I'm not too sure about the pickled eggplant hehe, but I'm liking the look and sound of that "kalam polo".. might have to look into it!

Judy said...

That cheesecake looks delicious! I have never tried vegan cheesecake, but I am really interested to. Mm, the Iranian food looks good too.

Urban Vegan said...

The cheesecake looks insanely decadent.

I didn't know you were of Iranian ancestry. I love so many things Iranian--movies, Farsi (it sounds and looks so beautiful), Iranian bread--and most of all, your American-Iranian blog.

wheresmymind said...

Our friends gave us some vegan gingerbread and it was TOO good!

Nikki said...

I wish I were part of your family! :)

That cheesecake looks otherworldly!

Pixie said...

What wonderful food! I am loving arabic and persian dishes more and more these days. I have a great neighbor and friend who just moved to the US in August from Jordan and she has been sharing her love for food with my family. As a matter of fact twice the past few weeks she has shared some delicious food and snacks with us celebrating Eid.

Cheesecake was my absolute favorite dessert pre-vegan days and I miss it so much. I was very much like the golden girls and could eat so much of it in one sitting. I'll have to check out that site you mentioned to try my hand at a vegan version. Thanks for sharing!

Paulie said...

Loving the gingerbread 'people' - how very PC!

Gonna have to do some baking this weekend. Got myself into a bake-off with one of my colleagues, so our teams will decide whose is the best come Monday!


laura jesser said...

How wonderful! Those cookies look like a lot of fun, and the cheesecake looks to die for. I'm glad you had a wonderful celebration with your family--the Iranian food looks very intriguing.

meesh said...

Sounds like you have had quite the busy holiday season! Those cookies looked amazing! Very inspiring...where the heck are my cookie sheets? Hmmm....

My step-dad is an avid chef and he just gave me a cookbook of tradition Persian and Iranian dishes. Some of the things you mentioned in the second half of your post look look like things I saw in that book. I haven't tried any of the recepies yet. I'm a little intimidated by all the saffron. lol

Thanks for sharing your holiday experiences with us. I'm up for reading as many holiday posts as you feel like writing!

Vicki said...

hi bazu, what a fabulous post! for real. just look at that amazing cookie tray, and you even tried emmy's blondies! & just when i thought dessert was over, i see the cheesecake -- it looks so delicious and wowza on the crust. thanks so much for your restaurant suggestions in CA -- i took your advice on native foods and what a hot tip that was. thanks bazu! :o)

Brooke said...

I think I just gained 5 more pounds just looking at your food. :-)

Ruthie said...

What beautiful decadance! Thank you for sharing, I totally understand the detox, now! :) How could one not overindulge when faced with all that yumminess? Cookies and blondies and pie, oh my!

I wanted to tell you that your pictures/story of Persian food reminds me of my first semester of college when I had an Iranian roommate. I will always remember her food and her family, and her!

Unfortunately, I think what I will remember most about her is the way people looked at her and treated her right after September 11 (which happened that semester). I really hope you didn't experience any bad vibes during that time.

Anonymous said...

wonderful post! beautifull food!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the entry about Kalam Polo and all the other vegan yummies :)

Supreme Master Television ( will also be featuring a vegan version of the recipe next week on Thursday!

Indeed, it looks delish~