feeding a work party

this last weekend was our first work party *after* moving in to sunflower cottage. the lack of any type of kitchen had us spending $50 on pizza for lunch, and otherwise bringing down lots of snacks of dubious nutritional quality.

i appointed myself cook for the weekend, and made it my responsibility to feed everyone visiting us.

we had a steady stream of people all weekend, both for our work party and for a samhain celebration (the witches’ ball) saturday evening. there were a lot of mouths to feed!

i eat a largely vegan diet, and is allergic to wheat. when i first encountered the idea of doing glutenless vegan cooking, i briefly wondered what one would cook. a lot of my favorite dishes have wheat in them. it turns out most of these dishes are hiking food. stuff like couscous, empanadas, and burritos. a cuisine that occupies a lot of mental energy for me, but not something i eat frequently. now the idea of a weekend of vegan cooking that doesn’t use wheat (or soy, if i needed) is a breeze. there is plenty of yummy food in the world!

for breakfast saturday morning, there we three of us. i often make hash browns on the weekend, as they are too time intensive to make during the week. i supplemented them with fried tofu seasoned with wheatless soy sauce, cinnamon and coriander. i enjoy making these, as it all happens on a big two-burner skillet i’ve got. it’s the closest i get to regularly making tofu scramble.

things didn’t really get started until lunch. i was running errands earlier in the day, and i didn’t get back until mid afternoon. that meant that people were hungry *and* i had to make sure they had enough room for dinner after eating a late lunch. pinto beans had been soaking on the stove since last night, so i started steaming zucchini and opening cans of corn. corn is readily available right now, but i wasn’t up for cutting it from the cob in the quantity i needed. it turns out that is suspicious of canned corn, alas. :(

aside from the spices, i wanted this to be a local and in-season dish, and using corn as a grain meant people would be hungry again by dinner. ^_^ i was feeding eight, and didn’t cook enough zucchini for the amount of corn and beans. i used the extra food from lunch as a potluck for the party we were going to that night. despite that, i still have a few cups of beans sitting in the fridge for dinners this week.

since my pressure cooker was pressed into service for lunch, i didn’t leave any beans soaking for dinner. i decided to make lentil and split-pea enchiladas, since lentils require no soaking. i like cooking lentils and split peas together, since they need the same time to cook. i had forgotten that does not like peas, but she managed to eat an enchilada nonetheless. two strikes for me anyway. :( lentils are fairly plan by themselves, i always add chile or tomatoes when making them. it really brings out the flavour.

with this dish, i also really like to roll my own corn tortillas. they are thicker and fluffier than store-bought ones, and it’s an activity i find enjoyable. but i was feeding 8 again for dinner, and needed about 20 of them. store bought tortillas to the rescue! i also used a local canned chile. (505 chile) partly to control how spicy it is, and largely to save time. and others don’t like hot food, so having a truly mild and tasty chile made locally is really nice. they also use rice flour to thicken instead of wheat, which is essential!

enough people remembered that enchiladas can be made with cheese that cheese was passed around to those that wanted it. since i don’t eat cheese, i often forget to add it to dishes that it naturally goes with. had a sign in the kitchen at mulberry house that said “kat wants cheese” to help me remember to add it to her plate. otherwise it went bad. :/

we were going to a party that night, so i passed around homemade kahlua to everyone after dinner. my favorite drink is a “white vegan,” which is a white russian made with soy milk instead of cream. it was very well regarded, yay! a gallon costs me ~$30 to make, and drinks at the bar were $3-4 each. since there are 128 shots per gallon, this was a pretty fantastic way to save everyone money.

several people went their own way after the party, but we still woke up sunday morning with 5 people in the house. i’d left black beans soaking the night before, and cooked a variation of the cowboy bowl. we had some oyster mushrooms given to us by scott & gael, who grow them in the east mountains. i’m generally really fond of breakfast, and i love mushrooms. combined with boiled potatoes, canned tomatoes (tomatoes are still relatively inexpensive, i choose canned tomatoes for convenience) and the remaining chile, this dish was very popular.

overall, i didn’t get any complaints about feeding everyone vegan food all weekend. i’m happy for this, i didn’t want the meals to be repetitive, but i was also price conscious and cooking things i generally enjoy making. which amounts to stuff mixed together in a bowl kind of food. ^_^ i somehow managed to avoid using any of the grains i like cooking with, quinoa, millet, buckwheat. i guess that will be the next work party!

doing it again, i’d bake some cookies to munch on during the day. there was a lack of sweets in the house and i had people wandering around looking for a little something like that.

overall, i spent a lot of time in the kitchen. growing up, my house had an open floor plan including the living room, dining room, and kitchen. i really like this design, as you’re not hiding the cook. they can be doing work and be part of the conversation. we’ve discussed knocking a window in the wall between the kitchen and living room, and our strawbale house will include the kitchen as a central feature of our community space.

we probably didn’t spend $50 on all of these meals combined, and i think everyone was happier for it as well. what a difference a functional kitchen makes.

this saturday and i will be cooking for the appreciation party we are throwing in honor of everyone who has come out and helped. i’ll be making a vegan shepherd’s pie, (a favorite of mine, but time intensive to cook) apple cobbler, (apple pie being harder to do glutenless) and perhaps another dish or two. yum!