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Vegas Monsoon

We have wormsign the likes of which god has never seen

Rosemary Flatbread

After rummaging and finding absolutely nothing that sounded tasty in the fridge, I decided to make a nice crispy flatbread.  These are so unbelievably easy and the dough can be kept in the fridge for about a week, used for breadsticks, flatbread, pizza, dinner rolls.  My measurements are probably less than precise, I generally measure things in the palm of my hand and in pinches!

Rosemary Flatbread Dough

2c AP flour

1/2c warm water

1tbs raw sugar or honey

Fresh rosemary or dried, to taste.  I use a handful.

1tsp salt

1tsp dry yeast

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Optional:

1tbsp garlic paste

Balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Combine warm water and dry yeast in separate bowl or mug, set aside for a few minutes until it looks foamy.  Combine all dry ingredients, add the yeast mixture and knead until well combined and stretchy.  You can do this by hand, if you plan to do that I do recommend letting it rest once the ingredients are combined for at least five minutes before you start kneading … it’ll be way easier to deal with.  I just turn on my mixer and let it work for me.  Place in greased, large glass bowl and cover with a clean, slightly damp towel.  Put this somewhere warm to rest, I like to leave mine in the oven (while it’s off).  Check on it every 30 minutes or so, I’ve had unpredictable results with dry yeast before so am really not confident in giving a set time but it may be up to two hours.  Punch it down once it’s doubled (this part is always fun), turn onto a floured surface and tuck it into a ball-ish shape.  Turn the bowl upside down over it, leave it to rest 15-20 minutes while you preheat your oven to 400f.  Hey, I said this was easy, not quick.  :)  When you return your dough will be puffed once more, you can roll it out into a flatbread with a rolling pin or use your hands.  I like to cut it into four portions and make 4 smaller flatbreads, flattened with my hands.  By now your oven is nice and hot, toss cornmeal onto a large cookie sheet, pizza pan or anything else flat and oven safe. Place your flatbread, brush liberally with your olive oil and then bake until golden 10-15 minutes. 

Options: You can spread garlic paste on top of your bread after brushing your olive oil on for a deliciously garlicky bread.  I love having a drizzle of balsamic over the top right as it comes from the oven, it adds this wonderful tart note and enhances all of the flavors of yeast, rosemary and garlic!

Dairy Free Almond ‘Milk’ Chocolate Spread

I have a slight obsession with Nutella, which unfortunately has milk in it.  I’ve been playing with mixes and trying things out to see if I could make a spread that really satisfies the Nutella craving.  Today I made a spread with raw almonds that is actually sort of amazing, now if I ever manage to find some hazelnuts I’ll add those in and see what happens!

Almond ‘Milk’ Chocolate Spread:

1c raw almonds, soaked overnight then drained

1/4c raw sugar

1/4c natural cocoa powder

1/4c coconut oil

1tbsp soy lecitin(optional but helps emulsify)

pinch of sea salt

Pulse in blender or food processor until combined, then blend until smooth and creamy.  Refrigerate for best results.  You can roast your almonds if you prefer but I find roasted almonds don’t have that pronounced ‘milk’ flavor I like.

Do Chua - Quick Pickled Daikon

Continuing with the banh mi fixation - this is the stuff that is on the sandwich that gives it that sweet, sour, salty, crunchy awesomeness.  It is made from daikon, which is a large mild type of radish is very rich in vitamin C (excellent during cold season) and very low in calories.  And it is shockingly easy to make.  This is how I made mine:

1 medium sized daikon (you can use part of a large one but they seem to have a lot less flavor)

1 carrot

1/2c rice wine vinegar

1/2c lukewarm water

2 tbsp raw sugar

2 tsp sea salt, divided

reusable container that can hold 2 cups, anything will work but I used a mason jar

Chop daikon and carrot into matchsticks, they must be small and uniform to pickle quickly.  You should have about 1 1/2 - 2 cups.  Pour one teaspoon of salt over the daikon and carrot, work the salt into them well and then let sit for 10 minutes or until they are noticeably smaller and flexible, this happens fast.  Rinse well, place them into the container you’re going to keep them in.  In a bowl combine your vinegar, water, sugar and salt, mix until well combined then pour over your vegetables.  Put the lid on your container, shake it a bit then sit it in the fridge for an hour.  They’re ready to eat.  For some reason it reminds me a little of coleslaw, but they’re super light, tasty and make a great side dish(or topping on sandwiches, of course).  I’m still surprised at how simple and easy this is considering how amazing the flavor is!  They will keep in the fridge for at least a month … if they last that long :)

Mochi!

I wish mochi was more common here, because it really is the perfect answer to gummy candy cravings for meat and gluten free households.  

Mochi is, as best I can describe it, a sort of stretchy, chewy gummy dessert of Japanese ethnicity.  It’s ingredients are very simple; sweet rice, sugar and water.  Traditional mochi is an involved process that involves pounding rice and mortars and pestles and hours of work … modern mochi is much, much simpler.

Glutinous rice flour, or mochiko, is readily available at most U.S. grocery stores now, usually under the brand Koda.  One box of that will make you a lot of mochi, so don’t be disappointed by its small size.  Now grab your sugar of choice, my favorite is raw sugar and it gives a subtle caramel note to everything you use it in. 

The process is easy but it does require a microwave, and a glass container with a lid (or you can use plastic wrap).

The measurements are one to one, rice, water and sugar.  So one cup of rice flour, one cup sugar, one cup water but this is very flexible … if you don’t want really sweet just decrease your sugar.  I whisk the dry ingredients until well combined to prevent any clumps and then dribble water in a thin stream while whisking until everything is incorporated.  It will be very liquid.

Prepare your glass dish by lightly oiling the sides and pour your batter in, cover or wrap and microwave for anywhere from 4-8 minutes, once everything is one uniform color and firmed it’s done.  Don’t remove the lid, just sit it aside for 5 more minutes.  Then that’s it.  You can dust it with potato starch, corn starch, powdered sugar, cocoa powder … whatever keeps it from sticking to you like crazy :)  I like to turn mine out on a tray and just use a pizza wheel to cut bite sized pieces to eat, you can also cut larger pieces and put a filling in them.

This is one of the most flexible recipes there is, you can use juice instead of water, add any flavorings of fruits you like … and it’s delicious gummy candy in just a few minutes.  Without animal products, without gluten!  

mango mochi dipped in chili!

Vegan Tamales - They’re Easy

Tamales are a Christmas tradition for a lot of families, I know they are over here!  They are, however, usually made with lard and meat broth in the masa as well as meat fillings and often butter.  So this makes finding a vegan tamale troublesome.  They are, however, very easy to make!

3c instant masa (this is found in many super markets now, it may say nixtamalized masa, usually says para tamales)

1/2c vegan shortening or pure coconut oil

1tbs baking powder

few cups of your favorite broth (I honestly have no exact measurement, just until the consistency is right) and any flavor will work though i love mushroom and veggie

Whip up your shortening until it’s  bit fluffier and very soft.  Add the masa and baking powder and mix well … it will be very crumbly.  With your mixer on medium-low, begin dribbling in your broth 1/4 cup at a time.  Once your mixture looks like thick peanut butter it’s done.  I usually let it rest for at least an hour before making my tamales.  Fillings are limited only by imagination, you can put anything you like in there.

For sweet tamales, instead of broth use some juice. Pineapple juice and apple juice work great and your filling ingredients can just be mixed right into the masa.  Pineapple, walnuts and raisins is one of my favorites.  My dad made some with cocoa powder in the masa and strawberries inside that were amazing! **edit: I just made some sweet tamales with pineapples, pecans and coconut milk in the masa - super, super delicious.  So coconut milk makes a really nice, rich replacement for broth!

I’m not going to give tamale rolling instructions here, I figure you either know how to do that already or you can shuffle over to youtube and find some good video guides :)

Merry Christmas!

Vegan Nutella!

For those of us that can’t have dairy, the avoidance of Nutella is a sad fact of life(and in moments of weakness I still go for it, then regret it, hah!).  Even the Nutella-esque offbrand ones all contain milk.  My solution?  Make my own Nutella substitute.  And since I love dark chocolate I’ve totally fallen for this.

1c hazelnuts 

1/4c cocoa powder

1/2c powdered sugar(you can substitute with a syrup type sweetener and lessen your oil amount accordingly)

4tbsp coconut oil

1/4tsp salt

I like to roast my hazelnuts lightly first, I just put them into a dry nonstick skillet on medium heat until I smell them(this only takes a couple minutes), shake them a bit and then toss them into the food processor. Put the coconut oil in over the warm hazel nuts and add everything else.  Pulse until very well blended.  Depending on the nuts you use your mix may need a little adjusting, sometimes you’ll get nice fresh and oily hazelnuts and then sometimes get ones that just go to powder in an instant.  If mixture is too dry, add a couple drops of your oil of choice (I like sunflower) and blend well.  I recommend just a drop or two at a time because it’s very easy to over-do the oil, and impossible to go back.  I also like to add a teaspoon of soy lecitin to mine, it stabilizes it and keeps the oil from separating back out but it is not needed.

The stuff tastes like a wonderful, dark chocolate hazelnut truffle.  In fact should you want to make some truffles you can melt some dark chocolate and incorporate it into the mix, then chill to have a firmer texture that you can roll into balls.  Nom.

Homemade Hot Pockets with Turkey, Brie and Cranberry

Although that’s sort of an insult to these little pouches of awesome, I really don’t know what else to call them.  They had a wonderful, light crust and my daughter liked them so much she demanded I write down the recipe so we can make them again(I am bad about experimenting, then forgetting what I did).  It was a great way to use up a lot of leftovers!

So disappointed in my photo, not adjusting well to life without my favorite lens :(

The dough is super soft and easy to roll out, I made some breakfast ones with egg for my son’s breakfast tomorrow, broccoli and cheese for my daughter and for myself - turkey, brie and cranberry sauce with a thin layer of creamy horseradish.  I ended up cleaning out the fridge more or less, my roasted portabello leftovers went in a pocket, so did some deli meats … though now the fridge is full of pockets so mission maybe not so accomplished?  The kids loved them, especially Caira who packed away two of her broccoli ones.

Dough:

2c all purpose flour

1c potato starch

1 egg yolk (keep the egg white to brush on the outsides, makes em shiny!)

1/4c butter or oil

1 tablespoon dry yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

pinch of salt

1/4c warm water plus more to add while mixing(I never know how much I use, probably almost a cup)

Filling:

Whatever is in your fridge.  Really anything with a moderate moisture content will work, just don’t do anything too wet or your dough will turn to mush.  Don’t use any raw meats either, it wont have time to cook through.  All fillings should be precooked, even veggies since they tend to release a lot of water if you try to do this with fresh ones.  

Combine everything for your dough in a bowl, adding water a tablespoon or two at a time until you have a nice sticky ball of dough.  Turn it out into an oiled bowl then cover with a damp towel and put somewhere nice and warm, I like putting mine on the stovetop while I preheat the oven.  It should double fairly fast, once it does turn it onto a floured surface and knead it a bit with well floured hands.  I cut mine into handful sized balls and left them to rest for another ten minutes before I started rolling them out.  You don’t really want round, more oblong.  Place filling on one side, then use either water or egg was around the edge and pinch to seal.  Bake at 375 for 14 minutes or until browned.  

Best thanksgiving leftovers so far.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll stuff some of the sweet potatoes, dressing and turkey in a pouch … nom.

I found these adorable things at the market yesterday.  They are claimed to be miniature Pink Lady apples.  Whatever they are, they’re wonderfully sweet, crisp and just a little tart.  I’m so glad I didn’t just take them for crab apples and walk on by!

So of course, this called for some spicy cinnamon candy.  I use this for a lot of things, it’s really just water, sugar, cinnamon and food color.  Boiled until it reaches hard crack stage then sat aside for a few moments to settle.

After a thorough washing I put the itty bitty apples on bamboo skewers, dip once, swirl a little and then place on oiled tray.  

Leftover hard candy can be poured onto a silpat or lightly oiled surface, left to cool until you can semi-comfortably handle it with gloved hands.  The gloves are important unless you’ve got some serious hot-pad-hands.  Pulling sugar is what it sounds like, you pull it, fold it back over on itself, pull it some more, give it a twist and then snip it into bite sized pieces with kitchen scissors.  Yummy cinnamon hard candy.

Poor, neglected blog.

*pat pat*

I still love you.  I have just been up to my elbows in candy lately.  Not literally though, that’d be gross.  And yet delicious.  

A friend mentioned how amazing honeycomb candy is and I was shocked to see how friggin expensive the stuff is at the little candy store we were in.  It’s SO easy to make!  And tomorrow I plan to do just that, how about reading about how to do it and we can compare? ;)

This is seriously awesome.  Food the explodes to let you know it’s done is my favorite.

2 c sugar

1/4 c water

1/4 c honey 

1/2 tsp salt 

1 heaping tbsp baking soda

Combine all ingredients except the baking soda in a *large* pan that can comfortably hold at least 4 times the amount currently in there … this is important unless you really enjoy the scent of burning sugar (I do, incidentally, but don’t like cleaning burners, no).  Bring mixture to a nice rolling boil over med-high heat, do not mess with it and do not ever scrape the sides of a pot while making candy - bad things happen.  The most common complaints I see from people trying out candy recipes are caused by stirring and scraping, which totally messes up your candy by fussing with all of that super scientific sugar molecule crystal alignment hoodoo that’s going on in that pot.  So just leave it alone, but watch it closely.  Get a glass of cold water and when your mixture starts getting bigger, glossier bubbles and seems to be growing dribble a small amount of it in your ice water.  You want it to instantly harden into a thread, if you notice little ‘threads’ forming when you pull your spoon out to test the candy it’s ready but if it’s just making a lump that you can squish it needs a few more minutes.   Yank it off the heat and toss in the baking soda, give it a quick stir and marvel at the giant poof that looks an awful lot like foam insulation.  Pour it quickly onto the well-greased pan or sheet of your choosing that I totally forgot to mention earlier, any size or shape will work as long as it holds the candy.  I like to do mine in baking sheets so I get a big, thin sheet of crunchy candy.  Plus it’s just more fun to shatter that way.  This stuff rocks.  If anyone likes Cadbury’s Crunchie Bar … well this is how you make the insides.  You can dip this in chocolate as well, it actually keeps better and longer that way.  Any candy with honey in it has a tendency to go soft, because of the honey and the millions of bubbles this is a pretty perishable candy and usually only keeps for a week in a plastic container.  

Random Vegetable Roundup

Colorful food seems to taste better.  I have no idea what to call this, I just took all of these odds and ends that needed to be used up and threw them in a pan with garlic.  They were all typical Italian ingredients so I figured they would go together okay and not be horrible.  Then it tasted really awesome.  

1 c crimini mushrooms, stems removed (I freeze the stems and keep them to use in soup)

1 zucchini cubed

1 large eggplant, or 5 little bitty adorable Indian eggplants which is what I had on hand, also cubed

4 cloves garlic, minced

handful of grape tomatoes

Start with olive oil and your garlic in a pan over medium heat, you want to cook the garlic but not brown it.  Then throw in the mushroom caps and cook for 5 minutes or so, then add everything else and toss it a bit.  Raise pan to medium-high heat and brown everything a little … I just waited until the tomatoes popped and declared it done.  I threw parmesan on top.  Really surprisingly delicious, and the bright red, purple, green and brown were very festive :)

Brussel Sprouts

I love how it looks like a Chinese dragon in a parade.  Well, it does to me.  :)

To go with our big Sunday dinner, I’m preparing these simply.  They will be sliced in half then caramelized in my nice nonstick skillet with slices of apple.  Then tossed in a mixture of honey, dijon, black pepper and vinegar.  The amounts are open to interpretation to suit your palate.  I love vinegar and will probably use basalmic but any kind will work; if I had apple cider vinegar on hand I’d try that.  This would also be wonderful with the addition of crumbled bacon.  These are going to be so good with the dressing I’m making, I can’t wait.  Is it weird to be so much more enthused by the side dishes than the turkey?  

Lollipop Noms

One of my beautifully imperfect lollipops.  Sesame is my favorite, which probably sounds odd to a lot of people.  You should try it, though, it’s like concentrated peanut brittle but not and all sorts of awesome.   Photo link leads to etsy.

Lollipops are quite simple to make and just require a little patience followed by some fast action.  Bring 1 cup of sugar and 1/3 cup of water gently up to a full boil, and boil hard until a drop of the syrup turns into brittle threads on contact with water.  While your syrup is cooking grease a cookie sheet very well and lay out sticks at least 3” apart.  Add whatever you want in your lollipops, if you’re using any artificial/alcohol based extracts let it cool off the heat a few moments before adding those so you don’t lose all the flavor.  Carefully pour a thin stream over your sticks, making them as large or small as you wish.  Wait a few minutes, and it’s candy.  Ta-da.

Green Chili

I have mentioned before the awesome squash I got from Bountiful Baskets, this weekend I got *more*.  Nom nom.  So far I’ve had it roasted with some honey herb chicken, in pasta with shrimp and now tonight I made green chili with it sort of hidden in there.  

1/2 large brown onion or one normal sized one

8 big tomatillos give or take a couple if they’re puny like mine

2 mexican green onions

Handful of cilantro(I’m so precise, hah.  I have big hands so this is probably a handful and a half for normal human females)

4 cloves garlic minced

1 large mexican grey squash

1 green bell pepper

Approximately half a cooked chicken, whichever of it’s body parts you prefer.  This would translate well to a vegetarian recipe simple by adding another squash and no chicken

Chili powder, cumin, pepper, salt … in whatever quantities you like them.  I love the flavor of cumin and tend to use a lot more than most people do.

Dash of Worcestershire sauce

Cut up all of the vegetables into little bits except the squash which should be cubed, if you like to not see your veggies just run them through the blender before putting them in the pot with the seasonings. Simmer until everything is cooked through and toss in your chicken then simmer a little while longer until the chicken tastes good, re-season if needed.  You may have to add some water if you did like I did and wandered off too long … if you’re a more attentive cook there should be more than enough moisture in all the veggies to make it a good chili consistency.  

I served mine with rice and some pureed pinto beans that Caira made(that kid loves the blender), lets not kid our selves that they’re refried or even once-fried.  It was good, great fall weather food for sure.  The squash adds a little sweetness and is a wonderful addition.  Uh, it is supposed to be made with pork but it turns out I don’t have any … so it was chicken chili instead.  If you do go for pork just cut it into cubes and brown them before adding them to the veggies, add a cup of stock and simmer it longer to cook the pork through until tender(or use leftover carnitas which is perfect).  I think you could just put any meat you like, or no meat at all if you’d like to add more squash and perhaps some beans. Another win for the Bountiful Basket, I’m loving having fresh produce every day!

Okay so it isn’t exactly pretty food, but I’d rather have really good, ugly food than pretty food that sucks.  Sort of like men, I guess.