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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

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