Setting the Perfect Table

You’re hosting a holiday meal, but you are not exactly sure how to set the table for the evening? Our events experts lend their advice on creating a beautifully appointed table to set the tone for the evening:

  • You want the first impression when your guests see the dining room to be impeccable. Our best advice: set your table a day in advance.  It will save you time and you can avoid any last minute rush to get the “details” done that will make the setting perfect.

  • Create a canvas for your perfect table set with chargers or placemats.  Be creative- a store bought charger isn’t the only option.  Check out a local craft store for wooden discs with bark edges in tact to create a rustic but elegant backdrop to your fine china.

  • When setting the actual places, the order from left to right is: Napkin, fork, plate, knife, spoon. Bread plates and butter knives go in the upper left corner; Glasses go in the upper right corner. Also remember, the knife blade always faces the plate.
  • Make sure your center pieces are not too tall. Take a seat in one of the chairs, and make sure you can easily see across the table.
  • Extra guests and not enough of your favorite place settings?  Mix up your china by combining pieces from different sets.  An eclectic combination of plates and bowls can help you accommodate those extra guests and still use your favorite pieces.

‘Tis the Season for Holiday Brews

The last month of the year always brings in the beer that is made to be enjoyed during the colder season. John Groyance, our resident beer instructor, shares his favorite beer selections for the holiday season:

  • Sam Adams Winter Lager: This deep ruby colored lager brings out notes of cinnamon, ginger, and a touch of orange peel that brings out the sweetness of the various malts to produce a warm and spicy flavor and weighs in at 5.6% alcohol.
  • Delirium Noel:  I love this Trappist ale which is an extremely malty and hoppy balanced ale. The color is a deep amber and has traces of dark fruit, caramel and is brewed with Belgian candy sugar which brings in the weight of this beer at 10% alcohol which is very well hidden due to the complex flavors.
  • Sam Adams Merry Mischief Gingerbread Stout: Brewed with cinnamon, clove, nutmeg and ginger and a touch of wheat, this stout is not to be missed. Due to all the spices and dark roasted malts the 9% alcohol is very well hidden.

 

Holiday Side Dishes: Garlic Rubbed Roasted Cabbage

If you love cabbage, you are going to freak out about how good this is. If you are on the fence about cabbage, you need to try this because this might be the recipe that converts you to a cabbage lover!

This is a simple side dish worthy of a dinner party and couldn’t be easier to make: four ingredients, a couple of minutes to prepare and toss in the oven for an hour.

Ingredients

  • 1 (approx 2lb) head of organic green cabbage, cut into 1″ thick slices
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 to 3 large garlic cloves, smashed
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • spray olive oil OR non-stick cooking spray

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 400F and spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Pull outer leaf off cabbage (it’s usually dirty and nasty looking), cut cabbage from top to bottom (bottom being root) into 1″ thick slices.

2. Rub both sides of cabbage with smashed garlic.

3. Use a pastry brush to evenly spread the olive oil over both sides of the cabbage slices.

4. Finally, sprinkle each side with a bit of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

5. Roast on the middle rack for 30 minutes. Carefully flip the cabbage and roast for an additional 30 minutes until edges are brown and crispy. Serve hot and Enjoy!

Image Source: Foodista

Holiday Side Dishes: Sauté of Dinosaur Kale with Oyster & Shitake Mushrooms

Kale is a super food that Chef Marko recommends consuming daily. It’s loaded with tons of nutrients and tastes delicious. Actually called Lacinato Kale, this variety gets it’s name from the fact that it has a reptilian looking appearance. Dinosaur Kale is Chef’s  favorite variety, especially during the colder months of the year.

Preparation:

Note: You will need to remove the stems from the kale and mushrooms but instead of throwing them out hold on to them for my veggie stocks.

Cut kale and in thin strips and set aside.

Using a large wide pan, sauté 1 sliced red onions with 1 T. olive oil

Add:

¼ cup diced ginger

1 T.  diced garlic

Add 2 cups sliced mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes

Add kale and cook for 3 minutes

Add small amount of veggie stock

Finish with a splash of balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.

 

Holiday Dishes: Vegan Chocolate Mousse

The secret ingredient in this recipe that makes it healthy, delicious and vegan?! Avocado.

Melt 1 cup dark chocolate in a stainless steel bowl that fits on top of a saucepan with a little simmering water then set aside.

In a blender combine the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • zest from two oranges
  • juice from two oranges
  • ½ tsp. gluten free soy sauce
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 T. instant coffee granules or just some finely ground coffee.
  • a small dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup melted chocolate

Then add the secret ingredient: 6 avocados.

Add your avocados one at a time.  Watch to see when the mixture begins to look more like a pudding. If you want to thin it out just add: ½ cup coconut milk. If you want to thicken it just add another avocado.

Serve in parfait or martini glasses and garnish with raspberries.

 

Holiday Side Dishes: Spiced Quinoa with Butternut Squash

Quinoa is an ancient grain that is indigenous to South America and has become very popular because of its fast cooking time and complete protein profile. It contains all the amino acids including lysine and is gluten free.  Although it is often marketed as pre-rinsed it is advisable to rinse it if purchasing in bulk. This is because the plant produces a natural defense of Saponis that protect it as it grows but can leave a slightly bitter taste unless it is rinsed. Pour your quinoa into a fine mess strainer and submerge it into a mixing bowl of filtered water.  Mix it with you’re fingers and remove and drain.  Quite often good chefs will toast grains to build flavor and it just takes 3-4 minutes in a dry pan.  Fully cooked quinoa makes a wonderful salad and there are numerous choices that you can use to create a flavorful experience. Another effective technique in producing a batch of quinoa is to use vegetable stock instead of water. This also enhances the nutritional content.

Save your vegetable scraps so you can make your own vegetable stock.  The basic veggies in most stocks include:

  •  1 sliced onion
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 12 black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

You can use almost all of your other vegetable scraps with the exception of cruciferous veggies such as cauliflower or broccoli.

Place ingredients in a stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool and strain.

Rinse 2 cups quinoa in a strainer then drain and hold.

Dice:

  • 1 cup of onion
  • 1 cup of butternut squash
  • 1 cup of carrot

In a saucepan heat 1 T. of olive oil and start a sauté of diced onions, butternut squash and carrots. Cook for two minutes then add:

  • 1 tsp. curry
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 T. diced ginger
  • Toasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • ¼ tsp. good salt

Add your two cups of quinoa along with 1.75 cups of vegetable stock. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to a simmer add a touch of saffron and cover. Cook for around 15-20 minutes.

The low down on salt

Most commercial salt is blasted at 4000 degrees but if you look at a batch of good salt it often has an assortment of colors. These are actually trace minerals which you body needs.

Useful Equipment

  • Small stockpot
  • Mixing bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Mixing bowl
  • Whisk
  • Spatula
  • Cutting boards

Farm Fresh Table Decorations

This holiday season, look to your garden for fresh centerpiece ideas. We have tips for several unique creations that use the plants right in your own back yard! Check it out:

  • Purple Kale Flowers: These beauties have become a popular focal flower for table centerpieces.
  • Artichokes: This vegetable already has a unique look to it. Add it to any flower arrangement for additional texture.
  • Small Pumpkins & Gourds: These fall vegetables also make great table top decorations. They add a seasonal twist when incorporated into an otherwise traditional floral piece.
  • Cranberries: The bright little berry is a popular decoration during the holidays. Place a handful in the bottom of a vase and add flowers or a candle for a holiday feel.
  • Colorful Vegetables: Other vegetables like bright orange carrots or purple onions can also brighten up any centerpiece and add a seasonal touch.
  • Dried Tree Branches & Twigs: Branches add an elegant architectural element to a vase of flowers or the base of a centerpiece. Try painting the branches a bold or metallic color to add a modern touch.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Beer Pairings

As summer passes on by,  beer goes from lighter to darker in color and in strength. During the Thanksgiving season there are several wonderful and flavorful beers that hit the market that go very well with a feast.

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale: A delicious brown ale brewed with fresh pumpkin, cinnamon, and brown sugar and weighs in at 7% alcohol.

Sam Adams Octoberfest: Easily available anywhere in the states, this is a very drinkable amber ale made with 4 varieties of malt giving an aroma of sweet caramel and toffee and weighs in at a mere 5.3% alcohol.

Harpoon Imperial Pumpkin Stout: The second beer I would recommend is a little Stronger and darker, this beer is brewed with pumpkin, chocolate, molasses, nutmeg, allspice and ginger.  Save this for your last course and serve a dessert beer as it is a very thick frothy beer weiging in at 10.5% alcohol and is best enjoyed on a chilly fall night.

 

Holiday Side Dishes: Asian Sweet Potato Salad

We prefer to use Garnet yams for this recipe but conventional sweet potatoes will also work!

Preparation:

Peel about 5 potatoes, cut them up in 1/2 inch cubes and separately store in water.

Bring small amount of water to a boil and immerse potato cubes with a touch of salt. Cook at low heat until tender (4-5 minutes) but not soft. Drain into colander and let cool.

Make a vinaigrette with:

  • 1 cup fresh apple juice
  • 1 cup Bragg’s apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/4 fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. crushed pepper flakes
  • 1 T. crushed garlic
  • 1 T. agave nectar
  • 2 T. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup cranberries
  • 1 bunch scallions chopped
  • 1 diced red onion
  • 1/2 diced red bell pepper
  • 2 stalks chopped celery
  • fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. good salt

Process 1/2 inch cubes of the following and add to your vinaigrette:

  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup jicama

Toast 1 cup of pecan pieces and 1/ 4 cup sesame seeds

Gently fold ingredients together and let stand in your fridge for 30 minutes to absorb flavors. Test for salt depending on your preference. Garnish with few remaining sesame seeds and cut scallions.

(Photo Credit: Jennifer Chandler)

Holiday Side Dishes: Pecan Dressing

While this may not be the healthiest side dish, we just had to share this Texan tradition from Texas Monthly – because, well, it’s just delicious and it wouldn’t be a Texan Thanksgiving without it! (We did note a few healthy substitutions.)

Serves about 15

10 cups dried bread; half white bread and half, not sweet!, cornbread (try wheat bread for a healthier version)
3 cups pecan pieces
2 large sweet onions, minced
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
3 teaspoons dried sage
1 teaspoon paprika
4 cups whole milk (substitute chicken broth for a healthier version)
1 cup melted butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups celery, chopped

Tear bread into small pieces. Add pecans, onions, and seasonings. Stir in remaining ingredients in the order given. Bake in a casserole dish (or two) at 325 degrees until crispy and brown around the edges, about an hour.

Healthy Holiday Snacks: Kale Chips

This is a super easy snack you can do in twenty minutes. Don’t be surprised if the kids want some of these jewels. This is essentially like dehydrating the old fashion way before we had dehydrators. This technique concentrates the flavor profile of the kale to yield a surprising flavor. Enjoy!

  • Pre-heat your oven to 250 degrees.
  • Rinse, de-stem and dry one bunch of kale.
  • Tear into large pieces and place in a mixing bowl with a small amount of olive oil and soy sauce.
  • Place on a baking sheet or casserole dish and cook in the oven for around 15 minutes at 250 degrees.

(Photo Source: Vegan-In) 

Christmas Dinner Side Dishes: Rice Pilaf With Cranberries

Keeping recipes easy yet delicious this holiday season can be an often complicated task. The experts at Travaasa have a delicious recipe for Rice Pilaf With Cranberries that will surely solve your #HolidayProblems and make your holiday party interesting.
Directions

Cook 1 1/4 cups wild rice blend in chicken broth with 1/2 cinnamon stick, as the label directs. Cook 1/2 minced onion in a skillet with 3 tablespoons butter, 5 minutes. Add 1/3 cup sliced almonds and cook 2 minutes. Add 1/3 cup dried cranberries and cook 2 more minutes. Toss with the rice. Top with chopped parsley.

Christmas Dinner Side Dishes: Cheese-Crusted Squash

Keeping recipes easy yet delicious this holiday season can be an often complicated task. The experts at Travaasa have a delicious recipe for Cheese-Crusted Squash that will surely solve your #HolidayProblems and make your holiday party interesting.

Directions

Mix 2 minced garlic cloves, 8 minced sage leaves, the zest of 1 lemon, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 3 tablespoons each breadcrumbs and olive oil, and some salt and red pepper flakes. Pat onto thin wedges of acorn squash. Bake in a single layer at 450 degrees F, 15 to 20 minutes.

Christmas Dinner Side Dishes: Fresh Mushroom and Parsley Salad

Keeping recipes easy yet delicious this holiday season can be an often complicated task. The experts at Travaasa have a delicious recipe for Fresh Mushroom and Parsley Salad that will surely solve your #HolidayProblems and make your holiday party interesting.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound large button mushrooms, trimmed, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan

Directions

In a medium salad bowl, mix together the mushrooms and parsley.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil and lemon juice until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Add the oil mixture to the salad bowl and toss until all the ingredients are coated. Place parmasen on top and serve.

5 Tips to Cure a Holiday Hangover

Ah, hangovers. One minute, you’re having conversation over a few (too many) holiday cocktails, and the next, you’re waking up with a searing headache and a churning stomach. Not to fear,  just try one of these #HolidayProblems quick fixes, and hopefully you’ll be ready to tackle your next holiday party.

  1. Gatorade/Vitamin Water/Coconut Water – Low blood sugar paired with dehydration accounts for most of those nasty hangover symptoms (think headache, shakiness and thirst), so a beverage enhanced with vitamins, sugar and electrolytes are your best bet for a quick rebound. Meanwhile, if you’ve got an exceptionally wicked hangover, just go straight for the Pedialyte.
  2. Spa Day – If your hangover is mild to moderate, a massage might be just the thing to release toxins, ease achy muscles and relax an overworked nervous system. Afterward, spend some time in the steam room to sweat out any leftover toxins. Just make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day so you don’t get dehydrated. *Note: If your hangover has you feeling truly terrible, it’s best to skip the massage, since releasing any more toxins into your bloodstream can actually make you feel worse.
  3. Bitters and soda water – If nausea is your biggest hangover issue, this old-fashioned remedy is a well-known standby for quick stomach relief. Angostura Bitters was initially created nearly 200 years ago as a stomach medicine, but nowadays, it’s frequently used as a cocktail flavoring (or hangover remedy, whatever).
  4. Peppermint Tea – This warm, caffeine-free beverage helps hangovers in a number of ways. Peppermint is a well-known cure for headaches and migraines, and it also has anti-spasmodic properties, which can help alleviate stomach maladies. Not to mention, tea is mostly made of water, which is what you really need after a night of heavy drinking.

 

Anti-Inflammatory Recipe: Pumpkin Soup

Eating anti-inflammatory foods during the holidays can not only make you look better, but feel better as well. Our experts at Travaasa say that a great anti-inflammatory food to eat during the holidays is pumpkin (skip the sugar packed pumpkin treats, though). This healthy soup protects against inflammation, is low calorie, and tastes delicious!

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces of pumpkin or winter squash such as butternut (may be canned or freshly puréed
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup of light cream or whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger
  • Greek-style plain yogurt for topping
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Chopped pumpkin seeds

Preparation

  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil and gently sauté onion and carrots until soft.
  2. Optional: Put vegetables and broth into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Return to pot.
  4. Add pumpkin and light cream or milk.
  5. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
  6. Pour into soup crocks or soup bowls.
  7. Top with yogurt and chopped pumpkin seeds.

Healthy Dessert Recipes: Mini Pumpkin Pies

With only 148 calories per pie, these treats are sure to delight your taste buds without making you feel guilty.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 whole graham cracker, crushed
  • 2 lg eggs
  • 1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1 can (12 fl oz) can fat-free evaporated milk
  • 2/3 cups brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ cups pure maple syrup
  • ¾ cups 2% plain Greek-style yogurt

1. Heat oven to 375°F and coat 12-cup nonstick muffin pan with cooking spray.

2. Combine wheat germ, flaxseed, and crushed graham cracker in small bowl. Divide evenly among muffin cups.

3. Whisk eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract. Pour evenly into cups. Bake until sides are set and centers jiggle slightly, 30 to 35 minutes.

4. Stir maple syrup into yogurt in small bowl while pies bake. Chill until ready to serve.

5. Let pies stand 10 to 15 minutes before removing from pan with spatula. Top each with a dollop of the yogurt mixture.

Healthy Dessert Recipes: White Chocolate Holiday Bark

This heart-healthy treat is packed with antioxidants and tastes just as great!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup oven-toasted rice cereal
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 ½ lbs high-quality white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Spread the sliced almonds and the unsweetened coconut in an even layer on the baking sheet. Toast 5-8 minutes or until coconut just begins to brown. Remove baking sheet from the oven, and let cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine almonds, coconut, rice cereal, and dried cranberries. Reserve about ¼ cup of the mixture, and set aside.

4. Place chopped white chocolate and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a large heatproof bowl, and set over a medium saucepan of simmering water. Stir with a spatula until the chocolate is completely melted.

5. Remove the chocolate from heat, and fold in the almond mixture. Spread mixture evenly on parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle on the reserved ¼ cup topping. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until the chocolate has completely set. Break the bark into small pieces, and serve.

 

Adventurous Side Dishes to Serve This Holiday Season: Orange-Balsamic Cranberry Sauce with Dates

Looking to add to your recipe repertoire this holiday season? Spice up run-of-the-mill side dishes with this recipe for Orange-Balsamic Cranberry Sauce with Dates. A new interpretation on an old standby, this sauce combines the sweetness of dates with the tanginess of balsamic vinegar and orange.

Ingredients

1 cup water

½ cup sugar

Zest from one orange

1 cup fresh orange juice

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 cinnamon stick

1 cup chopped, pitted dates

2 (12 ounce) bags fresh cranberries

 

Directions

  1. Simmer water, sugar, zest, orange juice, vinegar and cinnamon stick in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring, 5 minutes.
  2. Add half of dates and half of cranberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries begin to burst, 7-10 minutes.
  3. Stir in remaining dates and cranberries and simmer until remaining cranberries begin to burst, 7-10 minutes more. Remove cinnamon stick and transfer to a serving dish. Serve at room temperature.

What to Do With Leftover Wine

Don’t get us wrong, we love it when guests arrive to our holiday parties with a bottle of alcohol in hand, but when half-finished wine bottles are left at the end of the night, it can feel like a bit of a waste. Make the most of leftover wine with these quick, easy tips.

 

Tip 1: Cook with it.

If you’re making a recipe that calls for vino, it’s the perfect opportunity to use leftover wine without opening  a fresh bottle. If you’re not planning to cook anytime soon, freeze wine in ice cube trays and throw it into soups, stews or other recipes at a later time.

 

Tip 2: Mull it.

If you have half a bottle left, breathe some new life into it by turning it into mulled wine (perfect for the holiday season). For half a bottle of red wine, add 2 cups of apple cider, 2 tablespoons of honey, 1 cinnamon stick, the juice and zest from half an orange, 2 whole cloves and 1 star anise. Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs and garnish with an orange peel or cinnamon stick.

Adventurous Side Dishes to Serve This Holiday Season: Ginger-Curry Pumpkin Mash

Looking to add to your recipe repertoire this holiday season? Spice up run-of-the-mill side dishes with this recipe for Ginger-Curry Pumpkin Mash. It’s delicious alterative to ordinary mashed potatoes and will add color, exotic flavor to your holiday side dish selection.

 

Ingredients

1 (2 ½ pound) baking or butternut pumpkin, trimmed, cleaned and cut into 2-inch wedges

1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp curry powder

1 tbl butter

¼ cup vegetable stock

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Place pumpkin wedges on baking sheet and bake in oven under tender, 40 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly.
  3. When pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop out flesh and transfer to a large bowl. Discard skin. Add ginger, curry and butter and vegetable stock; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Using a potato masher or handheld mixer, beat until smooth. Transfer to a serving dish.

Adventurous Cocktails for Your Holiday Party: A Taste of Texas

After attending a couple holiday parties, it’s easy to feel burned out on eggnog and hot buttered rum—but not to worry. When it comes to throwing your own seasonal soiree, these exciting cocktails are sure to spice things up for your guests and add a Texan flair to any tablescape.

 

Cucumber Ginger Gimlet

Recipe by Shawn, our bartender at Travaasa Austin

1 ½ oz. Hendricks’ gin

½ oz. St. Germain Elderflower liqueur

½ oz. fresh lemon juice

¼ oz. simple syrup

Fill a shaker tin halfway with ice. Add ingredients. Shake and strain into a chilled martini glass. Top with sparkling wine and garnish with a lemon twist.

 

Pear Nectar and Reposado Tequila Cocktail

Recipe from Cookie and Kate

1 ½ oz. reposado tequila

3-4 oz. pear nectar

Dash cinnamon

Drop vanilla extract

Light drizzle of honey

Juice from half a lemon

Cinnamon stick (optional garnish)

Fill a high ball glass with ice. Pour in tequila and pear nectar. Add cinnamon, vanilla and honey. Squeeze in lemon juice. Mix by pouring into a cocktail shaker or another glass. Shake or stir well, and pout into original glass. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

 

Tofurkey (Tofu Turkey) Recipe with Vegan Gravy

Thanksgiving is all about coming together with friends and family over a delicious meal, but what about when your guest list includes non-meat eaters? Even those on a vegetarian or vegan diet will feel welcome at your feast with these meat-free, dairy-free Thanksgiving recipes.

Tofurkey

5 (16 oz.) packages extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled

2 tablespoons sesame oil

1 red onion

1 1/3 cups celery, diced

1 cup chopped mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons Herbes de Provence

Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup soy sauce

3 cups prepared stuffing

½ cup sesame oil

¼ cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons miso paste

5 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 teaspoon mustard

½ teaspoon orange zest

3 sprigs of fresh rosemary

  1. Line a medium sized, round colander with a cheese cloth or a clean dish towel. Place the crumbled tofu in the colander. Place another cheese cloth over the top of the tofu. Place the colander over the top of a bowl to catch the liquid. Place a heavy weight on top of tofu. Refrigerate the colander, tofu and weight for 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Make the stuffing: In a large frying pan, sauté onion, celery and mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil until tender. Add the garlic, Herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and 1/4 cup of soy sauce. Stir well; cook for 5 minutes. Add prepared stuffing and mix well. Remove from heat.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet.
  4. Combine 1/2 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup soy sauce, miso, orange juice, mustard and orange zest in a small bowl; mix well.
  5. Remove the weight from the tofu. Hollow out the tofu so that there is one inch of tofu still lining the colander. Place the scooped out tofu in a separate bowl. Brush the tofu lining with a small amount of the miso seasoning. Scoop the stuffing into the center of the tofu shell. Place the leftover tofu on top of the stuffing and press down firmly. Turn the stuffed tofu onto the prepared cookie sheet. Putting the leftover tofu side of the Tofurkey (the flat side) down. Gently press on the sides of the Tofurkey to form a more oval shape. Brush the Tofurkey with 1/2 of the soy sauce-oil mixture. Place the sprigs of rosemary on top of the tofu. Cover the Tofurkey with foil.
  6. Bake for one hour. After one hour, remove Tofurkey from the oven and remove the foil. Baste the Tofurkey with the remaining soy sauce-oil sauce (reserving 4 tablespoons of sauce). Return Tofurkey to oven and bake another hour or until it is golden brown. Place the Tofurkey on a serving platter, brush with the remaining soy sauce-oil mixture and serve hot.

Gravy

Ingredients

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup chopped onion

5 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons nutritional yeast

4 tablespoons soy sauce

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon dried herbs, such as thyme or rosemary

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions: Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Sauté onion and garlic until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Stir in flour, nutritional yeast and soy sauce until a smooth paste forms. Gradually whisk in vegetable broth. Season with sage, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, for approximately 10 minutes, or until thickened.

(Photo Source: YumSugar)

Cooking a Turkey 101

With turkey being one of the most important Thanksgiving traditions, our holiday experts at Travaasa have put together some easy tips that are sure to have everyone coming back for seconds.

  1. Make sure you leave enough time for the turkey to defrost. In the fridge five pounds of turkey takes about a day to defrost on average, so make sure you plan ahead.
  2. A turkey will cook more evenly if it is not overstuffed. Place the remaining stuffing in an oven-safe dish and cook it separately.
  3. Be sure the stuffing inside of the turkey reaches at least 165 degrees before taking it out to ensure no holiday mishaps, such as salmonella.
  4. Use a meat thermometer!
  5. Continue basting the turkey every 30-60 minutes to keep it moist and give it more flavor.
  6. Let the turkey sit for at least 15 minutes before carving. Make sure the knife you’re using is sharp. Electric ones work well also.

Cure Your #HolidayProblems with an Escape to Travaasa

This holiday season Travaasa’s experts are making sure you don’t get stuck in a rut with the most common #HolidayProblems, but we’re also looking to take it a step further with our #HolidayProblems Sweepstakes.

  • GRAND PRIZE: A three-night stay (for two) Vitality package at Travaasa Austin for a fresh, healthy start to the New Year and two $300 American Express gift card to apply towards travel expenses.
  • Weekly giveaways of two $50 Travaasa gift cards.

Share your #HolidayProblems with us and enter to win!

Healthy Dessert Recipes for Thanksgiving: Maple Walnut Cake

This healthy delicious cake is high in omega-3s and has only 342 calories per serving.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup chopped pitted dates, (6 ounces)
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts, divided
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1 lg egg
  • ¾ cup pure maple syrup, preferably dark amber (Grade B)
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract

Glaze

  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
  • ¾ cup gently packed confectioners’ sugar
  • 1-2 tsp water, if needed

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Coat a 10-inch spring form pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place dates in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over them to soak. Let cool to room temperature.
  3. Process whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, 2/3 cup walnuts, baking soda and salt in a food processor until the walnuts are completely ground and the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a medium bowl; make a well in the center.
  4. Puree the dates and soaking water in the food processor until smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Add egg, ¾ cup syrup, oil, butter, 2 teaspoons vinegar and vanilla and process until smooth and creamy. Scrape the date mixture into the well in the dry ingredients and stir together gently until just combined. Transfer to the prepared pan.
  5. Bake the cake until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake, if necessary, and remove the sides of the pan.
  6. To glaze cake: Carefully lift the cake from the pan bottom and place on a cake stand or serving plate. Whisk maple syrup, vinegar and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl. Add water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if necessary to make a spreadable consistency. Spread the glaze evenly over the top of the cake, then decorate with the remaining 1/3 cup walnuts.

Healthy Holiday Tabletop Tips

Hungry for more ways to revamp your holiday menu? Try these tips to set a healthier table this holiday season:

  • Appetizers: Veggie trays make for a wholesome first course. Replace ranch dip with a hummus spread to keep the appetizer low-calorie.
  • Condiments: Condiments are sneaky calorie culprits. Manage your meal by keeping the condiment count under control. Cut down on butter, sour cream, brown sugar and other high-calorie garnishes.
  • Sauces: Cranberries are an excellent source of vitamin C. Create your cranberry sauce with fresh fruit in place of the canned variety to maximize the nutritional value while minimizing sugar content. Opt for artificial sweetener in place of sugar to really take your sauce to healthier heights.
  • Desserts: Sweet potatoes make for a nutritious (and delicious) dessert. These holiday favorites are full of nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, beta-carotene, potassium and fiber. Top with margarine and cinnamon in place of butter and brown sugar to keep your dessert on the lighter side.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Bake a lighter pumpkin pie.

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.
Bake a lighter pumpkin pie.
Pumpkin is rich in nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, beta-carotene and potassium. Enjoy this classic holiday dessert without the waistline worries by giving your ingredient list a switcheroo. Swap in evaporated skim milk for whole milk, egg whites in place of whole eggs and a low-fat graham cracker crust instead of traditional pie crust. Top your treat with fat-free whipped cream and savor every delicious bite.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Make more sensible stuffing

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.
Make more sensible stuffing.
Sacrifice holiday stuffing? Not a chance! Revamp your recipe by substituting margarine for butter and low-fat chicken broth for chicken stock. Ditch the giblets and replace with lean meats and dried fruit, such as raisins. Cut fat content by cooking your stuffing in a casserole dish instead of inside your turkey.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Simplify the green bean casserole

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.

Simplify the green bean casserole.
This classic holiday dish doesn’t have to be a diet doozy. The secret to slimming it down? Simplify. Combine canned green beans with low-sodium/low-fat cream of mushroom soup and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grease your baking dish with cooking spray. Bake for 30 minutes and then top with toasted almonds and bake 15 minutes more. This finishing touch offers fewer calories than the traditional fried onion topper — plus nutrients such as vitamin E, protein, fiber, potassium and calcium.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Slim the mashed potatoes

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.

Slim the mashed potatoes.
Potatoes are packed with potassium and other nutrients, most of which lie in the skin. Try mashing yours (skins included) with margarine and low-fat milk to retain the nutrients and reduce the fat. Slim down your gravy recipe by swapping turkey fat for low-fat broth. Feeling extra healthy? Forgo the gravy altogether and top your taters with veggies, such as corn or peas. If you want a sweeter alternative, try baked (not candied) yams.

Ways to make traditional holiday dishes healthy: Trim the turkey.

The holiday season can be a challenging time of year to make healthy choices. But healthy holiday eating is possible. The experts at Travaasa offer some tips to help guide you through healthy holiday eating options.

Trim the turkey.
Turkey is a staple at most holiday get-togethers. With a few simple tricks, you can pile your plate with protein without piling on the calories. Bake turkey on a rack inside your roasting pan so the fat can drip away (instead of soaking into the skin). Drain any excess fat before serving. When it comes time to fill your plate, pass up the dark meat. It has more saturated fat than white meat. Skimp on the skin to curb calories and fat.