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July 15, 2017

Food 52's Easy Bulk Bin Snack Bars

It used to be common to bring a baked good when visiting a friend or neighbor.  These days, its an unusual treat when someone puts thought into a hostess gift.  A friend brought me a wonderful homemade granola bar when she came to stay overnight for a charity fundraiser that I had set up.  And even better, she included the recipe!  I've finally gotten around to making it myself, with my own adaptations. 

These granola bars are no-bake, which is a huge bonus in Southern California's hot summers.  They are easy to substitute in whatever is in your pantry, following the basic ratio of nuts and seeds to dried fruit, with oats, peanut butter, honey, and applesauce as binders (to veganize, replace the honey with maple syrup).  Making them at home ensures control of the quality of ingredients, without any of the chemicals added to commercial snack bars.  Using tart pans makes them easy to remove and controls portions, though I could still cut my bars in half because I made them especially thick.  I love the flavor pairing of dried apricots, and keep them in my pantry, so that's what I used here.  I can't wait to incorporate other ingredients, like matcha or ground cacao powder, dried apples, cherries, and other nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts, pine's a great way to use up leftover ingredients!

Do you have a favorite bar or granola recipe?  Do share!

Bulk Bin Snack Bars

1 1/2 C. Oats
3/4 C. Whole Almonds
1/2 C. Dried Apricots
1/3 C. Chopped Pecans
1/3 C. Pepitas
1/2 C. Shredded Unsweetened Coconut
1/4 C. Sunflower Seeds
1/3 C. Flax Seed
1/3 C. Honey
1 C. Almond Butter
1/4 C. Unsweetened Applesauce

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add nut butter, applesauce, and honey.  Use hands to mix thoroughly to combine.  Use tart pans, or alternately line a baking tin or dish with wax paper.  Pack granola mixture into pan and push down with the back of a spoon.  Refrigerate or freeze overnight or until solid.  Store in the fridge in a tupperware between layers of wax paper. 

June 20, 2017

Pasadena Chalk Festival 2017


I took my little pup Caitie to explore the Pasadena Chalk Fest, which takes place annually over Father's Day weekend. Unfortunately the heat wave limited our stay so we weren't able to cover the whole event. For the good of the artists, there were lots of shade umbrellas, but they made photographing the work quite difficult.

This event is just so much more striking in person.  If you're in the area, make it a priority to go--and take your dad!

a tribute to Debbie Reynolds & Carrie Fisher.

Frida Kahlo as Rosie the Riveter
A little bit of fantasy

Caitie posing with our favorite of the year!

May 28, 2017

Peachy Chik'N

A friend of mine has a peach tree in her front yard that is so abundant she held a "Peach Party" to divest of its fruit.   It was the perfect Memorial Day backyard get-together.  The hostess requested everyone make or bring a peach dish.  Coincidentally I'd just noticed a recipe on the back of the malt vinegar I use on my french fries:  "Peachy Chicken."  I made some adaptations to the recipe to make it vegan and cooked it differently than specified on the bottle.  

The party was a great time, with a group of friends eating, visiting, and playing games.  I brought my five-pound Chihuahua mix, Caitie, along for some socialization.  She met the resident Rottweiler, and a guest pocket Pittie.  Small, medium, and large all got along nicely.  The noisy environment, animals, and people were all such great new experiences for Caitie, who tends to be a bit nervous.

all the pups at the Peachy party
I haven't cooked often with vegetarian meats, and this was the first time making this recipe, so to take it to a party was a risk.  Thankfully, it came out appetizing and flavorful.  I didn't have ground cloves, so I used whole cloves,  which made for a prettier presentation, and made sure diners knew not to bite into them.  In future, I may try to marinate the chik'n for several hours or overnight before cooking.  If making this as a main course, I might even try to pan fry the chik'n to make it browned and crispy.  However, this minimal-fuss prep method was easy, took little time, and it came out well for a summer side salad.  Below is the package I used as a vegan meat substitute. 

Peachy Chik'n

1 bag MorningStar Farms Meal Starters Chik'N Strips or other meat substitute
1 can peaches in juice (reserve liquid)
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup malt vinegar
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves (ground or whole)
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water

Add peach juice, lemon juice, vinegar, and spices to a bowl and whisk to combine.  Place chik'n strips and peaches into a crockpot.  Cover with marinade and stir.  Turn lidded crockpot on high for one to two hours.  Use ramekin or small bowl to make a slurry from the cornstarch and water.  Add slurry to the mixture and stir until well combined.  Put the lid back on crockpot and cook on high for another hour or until thickened into glaze.  Serve warm or cold, as a side salad, or over rice or quinoa as a main dish.   If you use whole cloves, be sure to let diners know they are there, so they don't bite into them. 

May 11, 2017

Pineapple-Mushroom BBQ Jackfruit

My favorite pizza at the choose-your-own-topping place lately has involved a ton of mushrooms, fresh pineapple, roasted garlic, sweet cherry tomatoes, and ricotta on top of mozzarella cheese.  So when I came across jackfruit at Trader Joe's, a novel ingredient to me, and had to come up with a barbecue sauce to simmer it in, I turned to those ingredients.   

This is what the raw canned jackfruit looks like.
The jackfruit is a species of tree that comes from Southeast Asia, in the same family as mulberry and fig.  It's been cultivated in India for thousands of years.  It's a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamins C & B6. 

I've had jackfruit tacos from Danny Trejo's taco joint when they catered to my film sets at work.  But I was afraid to try the commercial version as it was so similar to meat, when as a young vegetarian I had taught myself not to like meaty tastes.  Making this at home allowed me to control the flavor profile, to add a sweetness that would balance the smoke flavor.  That's where pineapple comes into play.  I also added a can of pears for additional texture and sweetness.

I have my grandma's potato masher.  It has one last flake of red paint left on the handle; otherwise all the finish has been rubbed away through use.  She raised nine children with this tool, and I think of all the holiday meals it was pressed into commission.  I rarely make mashed potatoes, so I was thrilled to have an occasion to use her beloved kitchen instrument.  

Lots of the recipes I saw online said they were able to mash the jackfruit immediately after rinsing it, but I found it to be pretty tough, so I allowed it to cook in the crockpot whole, and instead of stirring the pot, would use the potato masher to combine everything once an hour or so while cooking.  By the end, it was fairly well stripped to a bbq consistency.  I liked the chunkiness that remained, as it gave a full flavorful hit of this or that in a bite. 

the mashed jackfruit mixture before adding roasted mushrooms

Mushroom - Pineapple BBQ Jackfruit

2 20 Oz Cans Green Jackfruit in Brine
1 20 Oz Can Pineapple Chunks in Juice
1 15 Oz Can Sliced Pears in Juice
1/4 onion, minced
1 bag frozen mixed Mushrooms

3/4 c Ketchup
1/2 c packed Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 Tbsp Liquid Smoke
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp dried ground Mustard
1/8 tsp ground Cardamom
1/4 tsp minced Garlic
3/4 c water

1.  Rinse Jackfruit well to reduce sodium.  Drain Pineapple and Pears.  Place first four ingredients in crock pot with lid and turn on high.

2.  In a bowl, add all sauce ingredients and whisk together.  Pour sauce into crockpot over the fruit, stir, and cover.   

3.  Cook on high for approx 4 hours, mashing with a potato masher every hour or so.  

4.   Roast the mushrooms in an oven or toaster oven at 375 for 20-25 mins.  Mix into the crockpot mixture and serve on buns, toasted bread, or hearty crackers. 

Next time I make this I will use reserved pineapple juice instead of water for an extra fruity kick.  I reduced the liquid based on how soupy the sauce seemed to be.  And I reduced the amount of liquid smoke called for in my "inspiration" recipe that I found online and adapted.  That family clearly likes their smoke flavor!  I find I like it as an accent, but smoke flavor can get overwhelming very quickly.  This became my own adaption with the addition of more spices, mushrooms and pineapple, but the recipe I found was a great basis for a bbq sauce.  If I'd been able to mash the jackfruit before cooking, I would have cooked the mushrooms in the crockpot with the other ingredients.  Roasting the mushrooms in the oven allowed me to mash the other ingredients throughout the cooking process. 

What's the most novel meat-substitute you have experimented with?  What's your favorite barbecue sauce recipe?  Feel free to leave me some tips in the comments!

May 7, 2017

Crockpot Dulce de Leche Caramel Sauce

The latest restaurant trend in the southland is an empanada shop.  There's even a new one at the Original Farmer's Market at 3rd & Fairfax called Nonna's Empanadas.  My favorite for years has been a Dulce de Leche Empanada with apples from a little place in Burbank.  I had never heard of this magical Argentinian sauce until I tried it there.  Turns out it's simply a slow-caramelized version of sweetened condensed milk. 

Stirring Dulce de Leche into my morning coffee
Dulce de Leche is one of the most decadent treats you can have at home.  Making the caramel sauce could not be easier.  There's no need for a recipe, as there's really only one step to the process.  Buy canned sweetened condensed milk.  Place the entire can in your crock pot, and submerge in water, with at least an inch to cover the top.  Put the lid on the crockpot and turn on low for 9-10 hours.  I have a standard 2.5 quart slow cooker, and I have fit up to four cans of condensed milk in at one time.  The hardest part is actually opening the dulce de leche, as the heated cans may tend to pop when you peel back the top.  I then use a spatula to scoop the sauce into an airtight glass dish and store in the refrigerator.  If perhaps you forgot about the crockpot overnight (cough), you'll find you have an extra thick caramel.  Simply whisk in a little milk until you have a smooth consistency once again. 

Pumpkin Dulce de Leche Latte and the sauce itself
I took Dulce de Leche to a picnic recently with a plate of strawberries, bananas, and apples on the side to dip into the caramel.  It's great as a topping for ice cream or layered into baked goods.  But my favorite way to use it is to mix a tablespoonful into my morning pumpkin coffee, then make a latte. It's the perfect sweet treat to see me through morning traffic. 

Dulce de Leche sauce

April 27, 2017

"In My Kitchen" with Deborah Madison and Melissa's Produce

Turns out Deborah Madison and I have more in common than vegetarian cooking - she too is a dog lover! I had the pleasure of meeting the fourteen-time cookbook author and James Beard Foundation Hall of Fame inductee at Melissa's Produce, where she was touring for her latest book, "In My Kitchen:  a Collection of New and Favorite Vegetarian Recipes."

This press tour is one I could not have been more ecstatic about.  While I'm always interested to learn new things that widen my experience, it isn't often I get to meet someone who is concerned with my own interests.  Not only is "In My Kitchen" a reference tome for vegetarians, it's the best of Ms. Madison, updated to the way she cooks today, with prose that speaks to each choice.  I consider it similar to recipes from my grandmother, as they are time-tested.  I'll treasure this cookbook, and its inscription, for years to come. 

The author demonstrating Breakfast Bread with Rosemary and Lemon, pg 56

Ms. Madison spoke casually at her book signing, explaining how she'd culled the collection and updated each recipe.  Her Breakfast Bread on pg 56 is the Holiday Bread in "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," changed from a yeasted bread to a quick bread.  She complimented Melissa's corporate chefs on the beautifully prepared spread from her recipes, while remarking that the desserts looked nothing like hers.  Each chef cooks according to their experience, upbringing and culinary background, which leads the exact same recipe to look and taste slightly different from cook to cook.  

Baked Ricotta Infused with Thyme and Served on Crostini, pg 215-217
The whole concept of baking ricotta was new to me.  It made a creamy sponge-like consistency that soaks up spices.  This recipe is high on my list of experimentation! Deborah Madison also taught us to reuse leftovers by pointing out the baked ricotta can be made into croutons for soups and salads the next day. 

Close-up of Baked Ricotta

Caramelized Onion Fritatta with Sherry Vinegar pg 176-179
This Fritatta was my favorite item at the Melissa's event.  It was so meaty that I thought it contained mushrooms.  I could easily eat this served warm or cold, any day of the week.  Ms. Madison pointed out that the sherry makes the onions pop, and she was correct.  

Citrus & Avocado Salad with Shredded Greens, Ojai Pixie Tangerines & Kumquats
Dressing of Lime-Cumin Vinaigrette, pg 94-96
 I loved the look of the kumquats in the Citrus and Avocado salad.  I had a kumquat tree in my last apartment, and I made a chutney on a regular basis.  It was great to see the whole fruit used here fresh.  The dressing for the salad was so thick and inviting.  Whole segments of citrus were visible.  I almost expected the greens to be a mint, but the kick from the cumin was unmistakeable.     

Hearty Lentil Minestrone with Kale, pg 144-145
I'm not a fan of most savory flavor profiles, but this Minestrone soup was excellent.  I so enjoyed its warmth, and would make it at home, which is actually saying a lot.   It was served with a nice hard cheese shredded alongside - that alone makes a huge difference.

Potato & Chickpea Stew with Sauteed Spinach, pg 192-194
The Potato & Chickpea Stew was served with a Romesco Sauce alongside to swirl in, which made a lovely topping and complimented the chunkiness of the stew.  I would serve the sauce on top of a spaghetti squash, or as a stuffing for a portobello mushroom.  

Romesco Sauce, pg 218-219

Rhubarb-Raspberry Compote, pg 210-211, Served with Shortbread Cookies
We grew Rhubarb in our garden in the first house I grew up in, Chicago suburbs, till I was nine years old.   I remember the stalks, and huge leaves like elephant ears; my mom making pie.  This compote from Deborah Madison has all the flavor of rhubarb with the sweetness of raspberries. 

Walnut Nugget Cookies, pg 264-265
The Walnut Nugget Cookies are a wonderful treat for everyday, as well as special holiday occasions.  Easy substitutions can be swapped if you prefer a different nut or even dried fruit.  Ms. Madison reiterated that the cookies are crumbly when first out of the oven but set when cooled. 

My plate from the Melissa's buffet

To see all of Deborah Madison's work in one place is awe inspiring.  Of course the aubergine cover of "The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone" is familiar; at this event I discovered the rest of her catalog.   As I mentioned, the thing I like about this latest book, is that these are not only great recipes, but they have been time tested and updated for modern cooking. 

A well-loved copy of Ms. Madison's Vegetable Literacy.  The dog-eared pages are inspiring!

Ms. Madison listed several of the recipes in "In My Kitchen" as her personal favorites, one of which is the souffle.  She spoke of how traditional her recipe is, yet how flexible, and that it is so much easier to make than most expect.  I was amused, since my mom's cheese souffle is a staple that I grew up on, and was one of the first I put into my blog.  Revisiting my post for Tapiocha Cheese Souffle, I cringe at the food photography from my tiny dark apartment, but the flavor is exactly like my mom's comfort.  I'll have to update the post as Ms. Madison did in her book. 
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