Author Stella May’s Childhood and New Year’s Celebration in the USSR

from Stella May When I was a child, December 31st was the happiest and most anticipated day of the year. You see, in my old country, we didn’t celebrate Christmas. As a matter of fact, we didn’t even know what Christmas was. Instead, we celebrated New Year. How come? Well, I was born in the former USSR, the communist country, where Christmas as a religious holiday was banned since 1928. (I think they reinstated it in 1991, but I am not positive.) But, back to my story. As sad as it may seem to you, our New Years were festive, and happy. We decorated our flats with an abandon. A fresh pine tree was a must. I still remember how it smelled—fresh and green like hope. And, oh God, the decorations! Hand-made, or store bought, and the garlands… We had our own version of Santa Claus—Ded Moroz, who had his lovely granddaughter, Snegurochka. Oh, the New Years of my childhood! It was pure joy, and expectation of something wonderful, and magic rolled into one. The smell of tangerines permeated the air. Those little orange delights were an absolute necessary attribute of any New Year’s celebration–- even more than champagne. My mom slaved in the kitchen for days to put the biggest and most scrumptious meal on the table. And the most favorite dish of all? Olivier Salad, of course. (Look for the recipe in December on this blog.) It was, and still is, a synonym of New Year. Then, on the big day, we would put our best china and gather around the table for dinner. For children, it was the biggest thrill, because only on New Year’s Eve we were allowed to stay up all night, eat sweets, and watch TV until we dropped. And only the children received presents. Mostly, it was sweets, fruit, books, and an occasional toy— nothing the modern children would consider a ‘present’, especially a Christmas present. But we were waiting for those special presents all year and treasured them immensely. To us, they were precious. They represented something special–New Year. No one wrapped our presents simply because we didn’t have any wrapping paper. I remember my mom used cellophane and some ribbons to make our presents a little more festive. I remember how she would hide these funny-looking bundles from us, and how happy she was when she’d manage to transfer them in the middle of the night under the tree, and then looked surprised when we find them in the morning. But most of all, I remember the feeling of absolute and total happiness. Oh, what a joy it was, that magical New Year’s night! The exhilaration, anticipation, celebration! I remember everything so vividly like it was yesterday, and my heart breaks a little each and every time. In my family we keep the tradition and celebrate New Year’s in a big way. Now I am slaving in the kitchen, using my mother’s recipes to put on a celebratory dinner. And every year, there are tangerines, champagne, and Olivier Salad. And presents? There will be plenty of presents for everyone— not only for children. And they will be wrapped in a pretty paper, and adorned with festive ribbons and bows. Just in a little over a month, we will sit around the table, and raise our glasses to toast 2022, wishing for health and happiness, peace and prosperity. May this coming year be kind to everybody. Stay safe and healthy, love each other, care for your loved ones, and always keep a positive attitude. Happy New Year, or as we said in Russia, с Новым Годом! Stella Stella May is the penname for Marina Sardarova who has a fascinating history you should read on her website. Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of ‘Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors. When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean with her husband. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business. Follow Stella on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

A Vegan Thanksgiving

This year for Thanksgiving I am forgoing my usual vegetarian turkey roast from Quorn for a homemade vegan roast I saw on YouTube. There is nothing wrong with the Quorn meatless turkey other than it is made with milk and eggs, two ingredients I am trying dutifully to keep off my plate.

Since most of the pre-made vegan Thanksgiving turkeys out on the market have gluten in it, I am left with making my own “meat” this year.  I searched YouTube for vegan thanksgiving meals, aiming for the ones that didn’t include any gluten ingredients and found one that looked delicious and seemed pretty easy to make.

I usually like to do a practice run with new recipes before I make them for special occasions, but since I’ll probably be the only person eating my vegan dishes (no one else has expressed an eager wiliness to eat my vegan roast made of lentils and mushrooms), so I’m okay if things don’t come out perfectly.

If you’re interested in this dish, I’m posting the video below. The only thing I will need to alter is instead of layers of puff pastry, I had to buy a gluten-free pie crust mix. Hopefully it is just as delicious.

 

 

There are three other vegan dishes I’m making – garlic mashed potatoes, stuffing, and mac-n-cheese. The mashed potatoes and stuffing don’t taste too different from their non-vegan counterparts. With regards to the stuffing, I have to substitute for gluten-free and egg-free bread, which I found at Aldi. And for the potatoes, I bought unsweetened Almond milk and vegan butter. I may throw in some nutritional yeast otherwise known as, nooch, for the vegans out there down with the lingo.

I had found a good garlic mashed recipe on YouTube about a year ago. It’s a dual recipe that includes a lentil loaf. I have made the loaf many times, and my non-vegan family members love it. I would make the loaf tomorrow, but I’m kind of sick of it because I make it so much.  I want this meal to be food I don’t eat very often. My sister always takes home the leftovers for “meatloaf” sandwiches the next day, so she may be disappointed.

Sorry sista, next time.

Here is the recipe I am going to use for the garlic mashed potatoes, but you should really give the lentil loaf a try too.

 

My mom makes my gluten-free stuffing for me, so I don’t have a recipe. I think it’s the same as she makes for the regular, she just uses my bread, and it is delicious.

I’ve tried many different vegan mac n cheese recipes, but the one I am sharing is probably the best, but it will take some trial and error for you to figure what’s best for your taste buds. This recipe calls for cashews, but I don’t have any on hand and really don’t feel like going to the store to get some, so I will be making this dish without the nuts, but it should taste just as good.

The other thing I will be doing differently is baking this dish at the end after adding a package of dairy-free cheese to the top. I bought a package of Daiya shredded cheese. I am picky about the way I cook this cheese. I feel it tastes best when it is cooked slightly longer than it states. This goes for the Daiya frozen pizzas, too. I cook those for 17-18 minutes instead of the 10-15 minutes recommended. To me, the cheese consistency is better when cooked longer.

So I’ll put a package of cheese on top the macaroni and bake it at 400 degrees for maybe twenty minutes or so. I’ll keep an eye on it until I see the cheese at the texture I like.

Here is the recipe for the mac n cheese.

 

I was going to make vegan gluten-free brownies for dessert, but instead, decided on buying a Daiya dairy-free chocolate cheesecake. I’ve had their cheesecakes before, and they are delicious.

 

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There it is.  My Thanksgiving feast. No living beings were harmed or tortured for me to enjoy a nice meal, and for that, I am sure the animals are THANKFUL.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Let’s Get This Cookbook Party Started!

Let’s Get This Cookbook Party Started
Who doesn’t love the holidays? You get to bond with family and friends, shop till you drop for that perfect gift, decorate the house to your heart’s desire, plan a meal worthy of gracing your table, and attend all those fabulous parties. Wait…hope I didn’t exhaust you already? Yes, we ALL love holidays and celebrations, no matter what time of year they fall, but it can get a little (okay, a lot) overwhelming when it comes time to prepare for those holiday meals and parties when you’re working a full-time job, and taking care of your family’s needs.

How about some relief from the stress and pressure of figuring out what to serve your hungry guests during holiday get-togethers, events, or celebrations?

Cue a holiday-inspired cookbook written by the following thirteen busy authors, of various ages and genres: Carol Browne, HL Carpenter, Sara Daniel, Dominique Eastwick, Leigh Goff, C.D. Hersh, Vonnie Hughes, Alicia Joseph, Emma Lane, Sharon Ledwith, Anne Montgomery, Chris Pavesic, and Sloane Taylor. These wonderful writers have created recipes that will make your life easy and simple when it comes time to prepare tantalizing appetizers, tasty beverages, mouth-watering cookies, and decadent desserts.

The ABCDs of Cooking with Writers is your go-to recipe book for entertaining over the holiday seasons, hosting events, or celebrating that special day. Compiled by Sloane Taylor—a gourmet cook in her own right—and designed by mother-daughter duo HL Carpenter, the included recipes have been tested and approved of by the most finicky family members. Oh, and did I mention that it is FREE?

So why not have your cake and eat it too? Yes, pun intended. You’ve got nothing to lose, and time to gain when you download The ABCDs of Cooking with Writers. There’s a recipe for every holiday, celebration, or event in your life. Give yourself a gift this holiday season with a cookbook from thirteen writers who share their favorite recipes and tips to help relieve the stress in your busy life.

Download your FREE E-Pub cookbook at Smashwords.