Easy Vegan Caramel

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Caramel brings out the fat kid in me. It makes me want to cover everything in the sticky- sweet substance and lick the remnants off my fingers.

 Most people don’t know that carmel, or caramel, depending on your location, is made from cream, butter and sugar. That’s it. It’s so delicious because it’s made form some of the most addictive food substances on the planet. Mix it with chocolate ala anything dessert with the word “turtle” and my pupils dilate like a junkie on payday.

 

In fact, I often joke that the science to making caramel reminds me of a drug lab, and it can be just as dangerous sometimes. Certain variables will even cause the sugar to crystalize and rise to the top of the sanguine goo, I like to call them caramel crack rocks.

 

It’s very important while making caramel to have a bowl of ice water nearby, as sometimes it like to splatter molten sugar. In which case, dunk it in the ice water! For extra safety try wearing goggles or glasses, just in case. 

 

You must fear the caramel to enjoy the caramel.

 

Also, don’t burn it either. Constantly stir that bad mutha-fu……..

 

Shut Yo Mouth!

 

 

Vegan Caramel Sauce

 

-1 Can of full fat coconut milk, the light stuff does not apply. Refrigerate for 2 hours to make the cream separate to the top, skim off ½ cup cream and disregard the rest of the watery stuff. Make soup with it, make oatmeal with it, and take a bath in it. JUST DON’T PUT IT IN THE CARMEL!

 

-1 cup granulated sugar

 

-1/4 tsp  Himalayan sea salt, or ¾ tsp for salted caramel.  Try using fun infused salts like hickory smoke or chilli sea salt for a fun twist

 

 

Place the sugar and the salt in a medium sauce pan over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon. Carmel takes patience.

 

I said PATIENCE!

 

Keep stirring until all the clumps have dissolved and the mixture is about 340 degrees. Once it’s dissolved CAREFULLY add the coconut cream 1 OR 2 TABLESPOONS AT A TIME.

 

Keep stirring. If it splatters and hits you, immediately dunk the body part in ice water.

 

Keep stirring. It will start to bubble and will start to solidify, so KEEP STIRRING!

 

Once all the clumps are gone, you got caramel! Transfer to a heat proof container and keep it in the fridge…. If it lasts that long.Image

Keen-on-Quinoa Black Bean Burger

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In the words of Samuel L. Jackson,

 

“MMMMM MMMMM MMMM, that is a tasty burger!”

 

Who doesn’t love a good burger? If you hate burgers, you probably hate kittens and puppies, too.

 

These burgers are low in fat, high in plant protein and have flavor that even and omnivore can enjoy. In fact, I had an entire table of non-vegetarians going gaga over them! They were also very surprise at how good quinoa is for them.

 

Quinoa is an ancient grain rich in complete proteins, and a much healthier alternative to rice.

 Keen on Quinoa Burgers

 

-2 baked sweet potatoes

-1 cup cooked quiona

-1 can drained black beans

-1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

-1 medium onion

-1 T smoked paprika or chipotle

-1 knuckle length chopped ginger

-2 cloves garlic, chopped

-1 T sea salt

-1 T freshly cracked pepper

-1/3 cup oats (blended for coating the patties)

-1 cup oats (quick oats work best)

 

Cook the quinoa and sweet potatoes, chop the sweet potato and set place n blender or food processor. Place all ingredients except the blended oats, in the blender.

 By the way, it’s probably a good idea to grind the oats before you grind up the wet ingredients!

 Blend until it’s just mixed, not liquefied. Favor the “pulse” button to a running blade, as you still want the grainy quinoa and oat texture.

 Once the mixture is done, place in the fridge for 2 hours to let the mixture settle.

 Form into burger size patties and coat generously in the oat mixture.

 Place burgers into a very well oiled pan, I use coconut oil for a delicate flavor (these guys are thirsty, so you may need to re-oil!). I prefer cast iron to create a crispy crust. Cook well on both sides.

 

Serve as you would a burger. Or try it in a lettuce wrap! Perhaps this time you can make it quesadilla style. Maybe just jazz it up with some guacamole, make it your own!

 

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Vegan Coconut Oil Pie Crust

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mother-of-pie_o_248555Coconut oil is really starting to sweep the culinary world off it’s feet now that it’s delicate flavor and abundant health benefits are becoming more widely known.

It’s made by pressing the natural oil from coconut meat and is rich in medium chain link fatty acids. Coconut oil is one of the few foods that can be classified as a “superfood.” It’s unique combination of fatty acids can have profound positive effects on health. Most of the fatty acids in the diet are so-called long-chain fatty acids, but the medium-chain fatty acids in coconut oil are metabolized differently.They go straight to the liver from the digestive tract, where they are used as a quick source energy or turned into so-called ketone bodies, which can have therapeutic effects on brain disorders like epilepsy and Alzheimer’s.

The Lauric Acid in coconut oil can also kill bacteria, fungi and viruses. It’s also shown to help reduce abdominal fat and obesity, studies show that it can help you loose weight and metabolize sugars differently. Let’s see butter do that!

This makes enough for one 9 inch pie, double the recipe for a double crust.

-1 1/2 cups all purpose flour or Bob’s Mill brand gluten free all purpose flour
-1 tablespoon brown sugar or sucanat
-1 tsp himalayan sea salt
-1/2 cup coconut oil at room temperature
-5-8 tbl water

Whisk or sift together the dry ingredients in a bowl, making sure they are fully incorporated. Using your hands, slowly incorporate the coconut oil into the dry ingredients. Use your hands to press the ingredients together until they are about pea sized. Add the water in one table spoon at a time until the dough forms a large ball. Place dough in a covered bowl or wrap in saran wrap.

Place the dough ball in the fridge for one hour to let the gluten (or lack there of depending on your choice of flour) relax.

When it comes time to roll the dough out, let your dough ball stand at room temperature a little longer than normal pie dough, as the coconut oil is much harder when chilled than butter or shortening. This dough is sticky, so be sure to use lots of flour on your rolling pin and line your surface with parchment paper for an easy clean up.

Vegan Gluten-Free Raspberry Brownies

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To me, baking has always been a science. Change a few key ingredients or “variables” and achieve and completely different result. Attending culinary school to learn traditional baking techniques helped me to learn the science of baking. Knowing the traditional science to baking helped me to change around those “variables” to make tasty vegan or gluten free versions of my favorite foods.

My new roommate is allergic to dairy, eggs and gluten, so baking something for everyone has been a challenge. I am proud to announce my first vegan and gluten free recipe that I feel can rival any traditional recipe out there.

Vegan Gluten Free Raspberry Brownies.

-2oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped

-1/2 cup brown sugar or sucanat
-1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon almond extract

-1/4 cup teff flour
-1/2 cup rice flour
-3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt

-1 1/2 cup frozen raspberries mixed with 1/4 lukewarm water

Preheat oven to 300 F. Line an 8 inch pan with parchment paper and lightly mist with non-stick cooking spray.

Melt the chocolate in either a double boiler or the microwave. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, vigorously mix together the sweetener and apple sauce. Stir in the extracts and the melted chocolate.

Sift in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix very well until a stiff dough forms. Fold in the raspberries mixed with the water. Spread the mixture into the prepared pan. It will be very thick, you’ll probably need to use your hands to evenly spread the batter.

*For a fun twist, sprinkle with shredded unsweetened coconut or a handful of walnuts.

Bangin’ Vegan Bulgogi Cheesteak Recipe

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You heard of tex mex, right? Well, imagine a Korean baseball player Shin Soo Choo had a sandwich-love child on a lunch break at Gino’s in Philly, and there is the Bulgogi Cheesesteak. Fusion cuisine  goes beyond borders, it’s a little like the free-jazz of the food world. One must fully understand the rules of each cuisine in order to break them and create new and interesting flavors and textures. My challenge is to not only make a kick-ass vegan version of one of the top 10 american sandwiches, but to make it healthy, not too hard with a little research and some clever swaps. http://www.endlesssimmer.com/2011/01/20/americas-top-10-new-sandwiches/

So what about understanding both sides of the story?

The cheesesteak. I had one of the famous ones in Philly, waited 45 minutes in line for steak-ums on white bread with cheeze whiz at a premium of $7, needless to say I was disappointed.  The cheesesteak was developed in the early 20th century “by combining frizzled beef, onions, and cheese in a small loaf of bread,” according to a 1987 exhibition catalog published by the Library Company of Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. I find nothing appetizing about “frizzled beef”.  Most places will use cheeze whiz, provolone or white cheddar to hold together the globby mess.

I am not against Cheesteaks, in fact on a road trip through Connecticut, and friend brought me to Kruaszer’s, and I couldn’t seem to get enough. Who would know the best cheeseteak would be in CT?  Freshly baked bread, globs of sauce and heavy amounts of cheese…. not to mention the next day my pee would smell like garlic. Pure heaven, but looking back at these photos, I can see why my eating habits had me about 20 pounds heavier.

 

Bulgogi literally means “fire meat” in Korean, which refers to the cooking technique—over an open flame—rather than the dish’s spiciness. Usually made with beef, the term is also applied to variations such as dak bulgogi (made with chicken) or dwaeji bulgogi (made with pork), although the seasonings are different

Bulgogi is made from thin slices of prime beef marinaded with a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, pepper, sesame oil and sugar.  Possible add-ins are shitake mushrooms, button mushrooms, scallions and onions.  Some regions serve it over a bed of cellophane noodles and others over rice.

 

Cleveland, Ohio serves it up on a whole wheat hoagie, because we’re classy.

 

Let the fusion of late night comfort food between the east and west begin…

 

 

  • One block very dense extra firm tofu frozen, thawed and drained, or 2 handfuls shitake mushrooms and 1 package seitan
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 average sized onion, sliced
  • 1 heaping tsp fresh grated ginger (grate fine, otherwise you may end up with unpleasant chunks of ginger in your bulgogi.
  • 2/3 cup wheat free tamari or soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 6 tbsp organic sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup shredded pear, skin and all or 1/2 cup apple sauce

 

-Chop all your veggies and thinly slice your seitan, tofu, mushrooms or any combination of the aforementioned delicacies.

-Mix the last 8 ingredients (you know, for the marinade!) on the list in a shallow bowl or pan.

-Place your tofu, seitan or mushrooms in the bowl with the marinade and cover with the veggies. Make sure that everything is covered by the marinade.

-Cover and refrigerate overnight. 8-15 hours is best.

-Remove the goodies from the marinade with a slotted spoon and fry in a hot skillet or pan. Pour enough marinade to lightly cover the goodies. If you want to go the traditional route, you can BBQ them on a grill with some foil, but my iron skillet works just fine for creating a nice char and carmelization.

-Let cook until most of the marinade has reduced, and the bottoms of the goodies are a nice caramel brown. Flip over tofu strips and cook until other side turns brown. Continue to cook until all of you normal vegan goodies have transformed into delicious Korean bulgogi goodies!

 

Now for the cheesesteak part.

-1 whole wheat roll (I used sourdough because I am a bread snob)

-daiya mozzarella, or 1 slice low fat provolone if that’s your game.

-1 teaspoon reduced fat veganaise

– handful baby spinach

Cut the roll lengthwise and hollow out the center, creating a little boat to stuff all your goodies in. This not only reduces calories, but I think just makes the sandwich more aerodynamic. Lay cheese on the bread and place in a toaster oven until the cheese is slightly melted.  Spread the veganaise on the bread, spoon in some bulgogi and cover in spinach! I enjoyed mine with baked sweet potato fries!

 

 

Raw Pomodoro Sauce w/ Zucchini Spaghetti

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-2 cups  sundried tomatoes, soaked in water for 3 hours or more and then drained
-8 Roma tomatoes, the riper the better, quartered
-1/3 avocado
-1 large red pepper, seeded and quartered

-5 leaves of fresh basil

1 sprig oregano

-1/3 cup nutritional yeast

-Juice of 1 lemon
-2 Tbs. agave nectar (can substitute 3 pitted fresh dates)
-1 large zucchini

In a blender, combine soaked sundried tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, avocado, red pepper, basil, lemon juice, agave nectar (or dates), and salt, if using. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Using a Saladacca garnishing machine, create spaghetti noodles using the zucchini. If you don’t have a Saladacca, just shred the zucchini with a food processor or a hand grater.

Serve the sauce over a bed of zucchini “noodles.”  Try sprinkling a bit of chopped basil and kalamata olives for a little extra color and flavor.

Snobby Joes

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Sloppy Joe day always resulted in stained t-shirts and messy countertops because the food is well, sloppy. However, that does not mean it didn’t bring a tomato stained smile to American faces both young and old. The tradition beef dish is about as american as chared hot dogs and corn over an open grill, but where did it come from? Who is Joe? Is he really sloppy, or is it just the sandwich that is?

Well, the history is a bit more interesting than I had thought. Sloppy Joe’s is a bar located in Key West Flordia.  When it opened in 1933, the bar went through two name changes before they settled on “Sloppy Joes”. The final name was suggested by a regular customer, Ernest Hemingway.  The name was coined from a bar in Old Havana, on the corner of Zulueta and Anímas, that sold both liquor and iced seafood. In the Cuban heat, the ice melted and patrons taunted the owner José (Joe) García Río that he ran a “sloppy” place.

Here is a painting of sailors having a sloppy shindig at the place.

The exact story of how the sandwich came to be is unknown, but we can see how quickly became part of American culture. Women left their kitchens to for factory labor during WWII, and didn’t have much time to cook. Meat rations were low, and were often just ground beef. Sloppy Joes  made it both cheap and easy stretch 1 pound of ground beef to feed a family. Now with women still in the workplace, busy moms still cook the All-American Sloppy Joe. I hope this Vegan version is everything you remember of a sloppy joe, but with a bit more of a grown up appeal.

Ingredients
1 cup uncooked lentils
4 cups water

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
1 green pepper, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 tablespoons maple syrup

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon yellow mustard (wet mustard)

4 to 6 kaiser rolls or sesame buns (wheat free if it is a concern)

Directions
Put the lentils in a small sauce pot and pour in 4 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.

About 10 minutes before the lentils are done boiling, preheat a medium soup pot over medium heat. Saute the onion and pepper in the oil for about 7 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute a minute more.

Add the cooked lentils, the chili powder, oregano and salt and mix. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the maple syrup, brown sugar, nutritional yeast and mustard and heat through.

Turn the heat off and let sit for about 10 minutes, so that the flavors can meld, or go ahead and eat immediately if you can’t wait. I like to serve these open faced, with a scoop of snobby joe on each slice of the bun.