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The Unprepared Feast by Miyoko Schinner


I am counting my lucky stars a lot lately. As a co-host of Vegan Mashup, I am the only one who has been able to see the show on television as it hit the air two weeks ago. Yes, KQED in Northern California has picked up the show, and it has been an absolute thrill to watch Toni, Terry, and the guests cooking up a storm in their kitchens (okay, so it’s not so bad to watch myself, either). My holiday wishes to Terry, Toni, and Betsy is that their local PBS stations will pick up the show in the coming weeks as well. Coupled with the release of my new cookbook, Artisan Vegan Cheese, just 3 months ago, I’ve been pre-occupied with cheese and shows, and have hardly thought about the festivities looming around the corner.

Already deep into this weekend, I know I have to start thinking about Thanksgiving, only a few days from now. Usually, I get a huge head start, planning my feast weeks ahead in the notebook by my bed, pondering each night what dish goes with what, and what to make ahead, or how many things I can cram into my oven on UnTurkey day. But now I only have a few days to the finish line, and I have barely begun.
This year, we’re having a relatively quiet Thanksgiving. My oldest daughter is away in France as a high school exchange student, and we have decided to get away to our little cabin in the mountains. This place truly fulfills the meaning of “getting away” – there’s no cell phone service and no internet, so it really flings people back to the good-old-days when people have to talk face-to-face, take long walks, and simply enjoy nature and each other’s company. My youngest daughter, 16, is an old soul with a love of contemplative activities, and revels in our trips there, but my college-age son is the opposite. A technology addict, he suffers withdrawal symptoms when separated from his iPhone and apps. It shall be interesting.
My days there are filled in a most meditative and relaxing state – cooking and baking. That’s one reason I’m not particularly worried about the lack of planning for Thursday’s menu. Sure, it will be a smaller crowd than usual – just my family and a couple of neighbors – but in the relaxing atmosphere of the trees, I find I can cook all day without feeling an ounce of stress. I cook with whatever I have, whatever I find lying in my pantry, and somehow, it all comes together.
But perhaps you’re not quite as relaxed. Perhaps you’re a little more stressed, wondering what to make or take. What if you could put together an entire Thanksgiving meal in less than 3 hours. Check out My Unbird on the Delicious TV podcast [2].
And perhaps for a tasty finish you might want to try my Pumpkin Bread Pudding A comforting and warm alternative to pumpkin pie – also lower in fat since it has no pie crust. Serve with Brandy Nog Crème Anglaise.

To make this, you’ll want slightly stale or lightly toasted bread so that it soaks up the custard. You can use any kind of bread you like, but I recommend something on the lighter and whiter side and not sourdough (this is not the dish to use the heartiest wholegrain bread).. Trim away the crust and cut into cubes. You can let it sit out overnight to dry, or toast it.

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Preparing the Bread:

You will need a total of 6 – 7 cups cubed bread. The less bread, the more custard-like it will be. Trim away the crust from about 1 pound of unsliced bread. Slice and cube. If the loaf is fresh, spread the bread on a sheet pan and toast at 350° for about 10 – 15 minutes until dry but not brown. Otherwise, you can just spread it out on a sheet pan and let it air dry overnight.

Preparing the Pumpkin Custard:

Preheat the oven to 350°. In a blender or food processor, combine all and blend until smooth:
1 lb. Pumpkin (canned is fine)
8 ounces medium tofu, mashed
¾ cup soy or almond milk
1 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoon Cinnamon
½ teaspoon Freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon Ginger
½ teaspoon Sea salt
2 Tablespoon Cornstarch or arrowroot
Lightly oil a baking dish big enough for the bread cubes to fill it half-way. Pour the Pumpkin Custard mixture over the bread and mix well with a spoon. If desired, mix in:
½ cup raisins
Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for about 40 minutes until the custard has set. Serve warm with Brandy Nog Crème Anglaise.

Brandy Nog Crème Anglaise

In a saucepan, combine the following:
1/2 cup raw cashews
1 cup water
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 Tablespoon Brandy
1 vanilla bean, split
pinch of salt
1 – 2 Tablespoon Sugar, optional
Combine the cashews and water in a blender and process until smooth and creamy. Bring to a gentle simmer over low heat while stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. As it heats, it will thicken. The sauce is ready when it is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon.