Also from the Vegan Slow Cooker: Creamy Polenta with Mushroom Ragu & Warm and Fudgy Bread Pudding

I started writing this in October and for some reason just realized it was still a draft so I finished it up :)

I finally broke away from the soups in Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.

This week I tried a main dish and a dessert.  I couldn’t find any links for the recipes for you, but they are both part of the Google preview if you haven’t worn out your privileges with this book yet.  If you have, maybe you should just buy it, eh?  (It happens to be on sale right now)

The one thing I found surprising about this book, is that the methods for everything aren’t what I would consider a traditional slow cooker meal.  You can’t just toss everything in, be gone for 8-10 hours (or in my case nearly 12) and come home to a complete meal.  Some are like that, but be aware that they aren’t all.  Neither of these are that way.  But they worked out nicely.

On Sunday morning before I started getting ready for church, I put in the polenta so it was timed perfectly with my return for lunch.  As a southern girl, these “grits” were the perfect consistency.  They weren’t stuck together, but you could get away with eating them with a fork.  I do fear though that using broth that they would have been way too salty if I had added the salt called for in the recipe.

The Mushroom Ragu sauce didn’t even hit the slow cooker so this was a half-n-half slow cooker meal. But, using the Trader Joe’s classic organic marinara, it was delish. I added some fresh arugula for a little extra nutrition and had a delicious comfort food lunch.

Creamy Polenta and Mushroom Ragu - Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker

 

And then there was the Fudgy Bread Pudding.  Oh my word.  The picture does more for this chocolatey goodness than words ever could:

Warm and Fudgy Slow Cooker Bread Pudding

I added about an extra 1/3 cup of non-dairy milk (almond in this case).  For the bread, I used the brown rice bread from Food for Life.  Since bread pudding is ideally made with stale bread, this heavier bread worked perfectly.  I cooked it for about 2.5 hours and we ate it warm.  It was decent cold, but the bread lost its softness.  Heating it back up in the microwave brought it back to it’s original texture.

Slow Cooker Meal: African Inspired Peanut Stew

Last Christmas, my sister gave me a copy of Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson.  I’ve stuck to soups so far just because I don’t have a big rotation of soup recipes I like and I want to add to it.  We had a grey misty day today so it seemed like the perfect day to have a nice heavy stew.

Enter African Inspired Peanut Stew.  Since the two of us eating have different tastes, I used an orange pepper instead of a green one, used a very light amount of ginger and only put a dash of cayenne.  Since my broth wasn’t really salty, it ended up a tiny bit bland with those changes.  So I added a little salt and more cayenne in my own bowl and it was great. I really enjoy the combination of sweet and hot.

I served it with millet, my favorite substitute for couscous.  Do take the extra step of toasting the millet before cooking it.  It’s worth the time to amp up the millet’s flavor.

African Inspired Peanut Stew

In my slow cooker, even on low, it only took about 4½ hours after everything made it’s way into the pot.  I checked it at 3½ because I had gotten a late start, and the sweet potatoes were already getting soft. So I added spinach and let it cook that last hour.

It has flavors that are different from what I’m used to, but it is warm, filling and delicious.  Because it’s not trying to be like any dish containing meat, I think it would be a great option for someone who is new to veganism or is just trying to add more veggie meals to their rotation.  While I wouldn’t want it in the middle of summer, it’s definitely a make again item for fall and winter.

Breakfast Bowls: Buckwheat Banana Almond Cereal

In case you don’t already know this, I love breakfast. I’m not always so set on it being traditional breakfast fare though. If I ate it for dinner yesterday, I’m ok with having it for breakfast this morning. Because of the nature of most traditional breakfast foods, that kind of attitude is especially helpful when you’re vegan and gluten & soy free.

Of course, I like traditional breakfast and brunch foods as much as the next person. Waffles, pancakes definitely happen on some weekends around here. But, during the week, I don’t have time for that. So when I want something more breakfast like but more nutritious than boxed cereal, I make my own breakfast bowl.

I think I first got the idea for using cold whole grains in place of cereal when I was reading Thrive by Brendan Brazier.

I use different combinations. Sometimes it’s warm, sometimes it’s cold. But the basic template is this: a grain (cold or warm) , a nut, a fruit & any other flavors you might want to add. Then, I top it all with unsweetened almond milk.

Because I typically eat mine cold (except for the very coldest mornings), I like to keep a grain or two (or three) in glass jars in the refrigerator. I cook enough for a few days and then they’re ready each morning before work.

I’ll try to post some of my other combinations, but this is a favorite:

Buckwheat Breakfast Bowl

Cold buckwheat, 1/2 banana, almond slices, coconut flakes, a sprinkle of cinnamon. Top with cold almond milk and enjoy!

Wrapping up: Apples in a Blanket and Vegan MoFo Comes to a Close

Wow!  It’s so hard to believe this month is over.

I didn’t get any questions from anyone on the blog the other day, but I’m still going to post this wrap-up interview style.  I’m just going to carry on both sides of the conversation.

What was your favorite sweet dish?
I liked all of them, and I can’t believe I’m not saying the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pillows, but I think my favorite was the Apple Butter Donut Holes

What was your favorite savory dish?
Easy.  The veggie calzone. It had that perfect Italian-y flavor that I miss most not being able to eat pizza, calzones, etc at most restaurants.

What new dishes are most likely to get added to the regular rotation?
The salad rolls are already in the rotation so they aren’t being added, but they’ll stay.  New things will probably be the Dragon Rolls (sans the tempura most of the time), the chickpea salad melt, MAT (mushroom, avocado, tomato) Lettuce Cups and Asian Style Jackfruit Lettuce Wraps.  Oh, and how could I almost forget the Breakfast Stuffed Apples?!

What did you learn that will be most helpful?
That I don’t always have to re-invent the wheel, or the dough in this case.  I made 3 different doughs this month with just little tiny tweeks of my standby pizza crust dough.

What did you learn that you probably didn’t need to know?
Frying isn’t as much trouble as I thought.

What dishes did you want to try that you just didn’t get to?
Eggrolls, stuffed pancakes and waffles, more sushi, more rice paper rolls, raw fajitas, zucchini boats… the list goes on.  And for some reason, I really wanted to try plum-rosemary hand pies.  Not sure why.  I’ve never heard of them.  They just sound good.

What kitchen failures did you encounter?
1. I tried to make ravioli 4 times. They looked lovely. They tasted awful.  I just couldn’t get the pasta dough right.  Even in my gluten filled days, I never made fresh pasta and don’t think I’d ever eaten fresh pasta.  So I just didn’t know what I was going for.  Sorry I forgot to take a picture.  The leftover green pea-kale pesto filling was pretty good, so I mixed it in some polenta and baked it in a cast iron pan.

2. Marshmallow for an attempt at s’more cookies.  I realized just as I put it on the stove that my thermometer didn’t go high enough to get the proper measurements and I apparently didn’t cook it quite long enough.

3. Onion Hushpuppy Crusted Hot Dogs.  Yep.  I attempted a soy-free, gluten-free vegan hot dog.   I realized after the fact that I had written the measurement of flours that I wanted to use down wrong and used way more than planned.  They looked and smelled fabulous.  They tasted…well…like flour.

Hushpuppy Crusted Hot Dog

But, if you already have a hot dog you can eat, the hushpuppy wrapping was great.  I used my regular hushpuppy recipe and patted it around the hot dogs. It works better if you wet your hands. 1 hushpuppy recipe was enough for about 4 hot dogs.  Fry it up until the batter is golden brown.  Onions are built in, so all I would need to do is have a little mustard for dipping.

4.  Cannoli.  The cream cheese chocolate chip filling tasted perfect, but was too thin.  I could have worked with that, but the dough was too heavy and dry.  Cannoli are supposed to be light and crispy.   I finally got the dough where I could roll and cut them out but then they continued to get drier and after the first 7 or 8, they were too dry to roll around the cannoli molds.  

Cannoli

5. Flour tortillas that are light and flexible.  Again, great flavor, too heavy a texture.  I’ll keep working on this one.

Where do you see your cooking and this blog going from here?
Well, I definitely need to lighten up on the frying and the dough.  Stuffed, wrapped and rolled food is good, but after a month it all starts to feel a bit heavy.  I’m looking forward to more soups, salads, fruits and vegetables.

I’m not really sure about the blog, but I’m thinking of a name change.  I also really want to see myself blog more regularly.  I’m thinking of a personal cookbook challenge, either using multiple cookbooks or cooking through a favorite giving gluten/soy subs.  Or a series of lighter, healthier dishes.

Any other closing thoughts as yet another Vegan MoFo wraps up?
MoFo was a lot more fun for me not expecting myself to do 7 posts a week.  I like the 5 posts a week goal.  Also, after having to quit last year with my dad’s cancer diagnosis and extended hospital stay, I had an emotional victory reaching my goal.  As always, I’m most thankful for the readers and your encouragement!

I just couldn’t wrap up the month without just one more little treat for Stuff, Wrap & Roll.  These Apples in a Blanket are lightly sweet with a little autumnal apple goodness

Apples in a Blanket

Apples in a Blanket

  • 1/2 cup garfava flour, plus more for working the dough
  • 6 Tbsp tapioca flour
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2  Tbsp gluten-free yeast
  • 2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup warm water (around 110F)
  • 3/4 tsp canola oil
  • 3/4  tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 small gala apple, washed, cored and thinly sliced
  • Soy Free Earth Balance for Brushing
  • Sugar and Cinnamon for topping

Lightly oil/flour a cookie sheet/roasting pan (or use parchment paper) and set aside.

Add all dry ingredients (except sugar/cinnamon for topping) in a kitchen stand mixer with a dough hook or food processor with S blade and combine well.  Add in liquids and mix until a stiff dough forms.  Using your hands, gather all the dough together.  (At this point, it will probably be a blob)  The dough is  sticky so put a very small amount of garfava flour on the outside as you form it into a ball.   Let the dough sit on a small piece of parchment or waxed paper for about 25 minutes to let the yeast work a little magic.  It will get fluffy, but still be sticky.

Preheat oven to 375.

Prepare a small work surface with waxed paper or parchment paper. This space doesn’t need to be very large, just enough to put one “blanket” down at a time.  Keep a little bowl of extra garfava flour handy for working with the sticky dough.  You don’t want to work in more flour, just have enough to coat the outside of each little ball of dough.

Core & slice apple.  I used one of the corers that cuts an apple into wedges and then sliced each wedge into 4 slices.

Toss a little garfava flour onto the work surface.  Tear off a piece of dough and pat it down lightly into the flour, turn it over and pat it down into the flour again.  You just want enough to coat the dough so you can work with it.  Pat the dough down into a circle about 2½” in diamater and a little less than 1/4″ thick.  Put the circle on the workspace, put 2 apple slices in the middle and wrap the dough around it, being careful to push the edges together to form a strong seam.  (Otherwise, they’ll open up when they bake.  They still taste good, but not quite as pretty).  Put on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough and apples.

Melt about 1 Tbsp of soy free Earth Balance.  Using a pastry brush, brush a thin layer on top of each apple in a blanket (including the apple that’s sticking out the ends).

Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes until edges and bottom are golden brown.

In a ziploc bag, add sugar and cinnamon (6 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon).  2-4 at a time depending on the size of your bag.  (I did 3 in a quart bag).  Shake bag to coat each apple in a blanket.  Repeat until all are coated.

And with that, goodbye Vegan MoFo 2013.

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Buffalo Chickpea Ranch Enchiladas

I don’t have a cute story or any kind of memory that goes along with this post. The truth is I haven’t had as much hot sauce this month as usual and I wanted some. After four (yes, four!) failed attempts at making homemade gluten-free ravioli, I decided to scrap the idea and go for something just because I wanted it.  Buffalo sauce was the answer. Here’s what I came up with.

And, because nothing with Buffalo Sauce is quite complete without a crunchy vegetable side, I made a broccoli ranch slaw to go with it.  Celery and carrot sticks would work too.

Buffalo Chickpea Ranch Enchiladas

Buffalo Chickpea Ranch Enchiladas

(makes 7)

This isn’t a saucy enchilada.  The tomato sauce actually cooks up to almost dry on the outside.  I didn’t want the tomato to overpower the Buffalo taste.  For me the filling and the ranch used for serving made it plenty moist. But, if you want more sauce, use it :)

I made this with Texas Pete Hot Sauce because it’s the one I always have in my kitchen. It just has a lovely flavor without being super hot.  The company that makes it gives it a 2 pepper (out of 5) heat rating.  Feel free to use others, but check for your desired amount of heat.

7 corn tortillas
1½ cups cooked chickpeas (equiv to a 15-16 oz can)
3 Tbsp soy-free Earth Balance
8 Tbsp Texas Pete hot sauce, divided
3 Tbsp tomato paste
3/8 cup water
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 tsp salt
Vegan ranch for serving (I used the Ranch here on the blog)
Sliced green onions for garnish

Preheat oven to 350F

In a small saucepan, melt Earth Balance and stir in  6 Tbsp Texas Pete Hot Sauce.  Remove from heat.

In a small mixing bowl, mix the chickpeas and the Earth Balance/Hot Sauce mixture.  Using a fork, mash about 1/2 the chickpeas.  Set aside.

In another small bowl, mix tomato paste, water, the remaining 2 Tbps Texas Pete, salt and garlic.

Put 1/4 cup of the tomato based sauce in the bottom of a 7×9 casserole dish and spread evenly.

If you’re using store bought tortillas or homemade that aren’t still warm, they’ll need to be warmed up to get some flexibility.  I used store bought tortillas so I put them in a damp kitchen towel in the microwave until they were flexible enough (45 seconds to a minute) Put some of the chickpea mixture on a tortilla (at a little closer to you than the middle of the tortilla).  Roll the tortilla and place in the casserole dish seam side down.  Repeat with remaining tortillas

Top with remaining tomato sauce and bake 25-30 minutes.

Place desired number of enchiladas on a plate and drizzle with ranch.  Top with green onions.  Serve immediately.  (because they aren’t real saucy, at least with the store bought tortillas, they started to crack when cooled.  Still in tact, just not as pretty)

Broccoli Ranch Slaw

3 cups Broccoli Slaw mix
4 Tbsp vegan ranch

Mix the slaw mix and the ranch together in a medium size mixing bowl until all the slaw is coated.  Chill until ready to serve.

If your grocery doesn’t carry broccoli slaw mix, it’s basically just shredded broccoli stalks and carrots.  I think even shredded cabbage would be good instead of broccoli.

 
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Preparing to Wrap Up Vegan MoFo

Hi all!  Can you believe it’s almost time for the end of another Vegan MoFo?  It went by so fast and I had so much fun.

There is another (or 2 or 3) food post coming your way before the end of the month, but I was thinking about wrap up.  At the end of mofo, I like to do a post about things that have stood out to me through the month, things I’ve learned, etc.

I’m still planning on doing that, but I want to open it up to you to participate in the planning of the post.

So, if you have any questions you want to ask me about my Stuff, Wrap and Roll adventures, post them here.  If you have any comments or things that stood out to you throughout the month, post those here too.

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Happy Birthday, John Chapman: Apple Butter Donut Holes

So, you don’t know who John Chapman is? If you’re from the US, you probably learned about him in school by the name of the folk hero Johnny Appleseed. Chapman was a practicing vegetarian who is credited with establishing many apple orchards as the American frontier expanded. You can read more about him on biography.com

Chapman’s planting wasn’t as random or goodhearted as the legendary character Johnny Appleseed. It was for profit and making of apple based alcoholic beverages rather than growing tasty apples for mamas baking pies or for kids to give to teachers. But, I’m still thankful that he planted orchards that would eventually lead to the orchards we have today that provide fujis, galas, jonagolds, granny smiths, and many other delicious varieties of apples.

I discovered the other day that I had a little jar of apple butter hiding in my pantry. It was the last of several I had gotten from a friend of mine. There was also a set of pastry bags/decorator tips that my sister gave me that had not been used yet. In that set was a bismarck tip (used for filling). I had been wanting donuts. All of those together led to the birth of the apple butter donut hole.

Although I’ve lived most of my life in the homeland of the yeasted Krispy Kreme Doughnut, my donut loyalty will always lie with the heavier cake donuts of my early childhood. Naturally, I thought of the lovely sugar covered mini donuts from the even lovelier Cara of Fork and Beans. She kindly granted me permission to repost with my changes.

The only change I made in the dough itself was I switched to canola from coconut oil. I figured why waste the more expensive coconut oil if I was just going to turn around and fry it in canola anyway.

While these are technically “filled” and not stuffed, I hope their sugary goodness will convince you that they belong in the Stuff, Wrap and Roll series. If not, just ignore me. I’ll be in the corner polishing them off.

Apple Butter Donut Holes

Apple Butter Donut Holes

(makes 16)

For Donuts:

    • 1/2 c. sorghum flour
    • 1/2 c. Brown rice flour
    • 1/4 c. potato starch (not flour!)
    • 1/4 c. arrowroot powder
    • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
    • 2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 c. brown sugar
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/2 c. buttermilk (1/2 Tb apple cider vinegar + 1/2 c. almond milk)
    • 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer + 2 Tbs warm water, mixed til frothy
    • 1/4 c. canola oil + more for frying
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For Filling:

    • 1/2 cup (+/-) apple butter

For Topping

  • 1/2 cup sugar (I used organic evaporated cane juice)
  • 1 Tbsp Cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Mix dry ingredients for donuts together until fully combined.
  2. Make a well in the center of the bowl. Add all the remainder of wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until just incorporated.
  3. Roll into 16 equal sized balls
  4. Heat about 1/2″ to 3/4″ oil in a large skillet to medium high heat (about 375F if you’re checking the temp)
  5. In small batches, fry donut holes until golden brown. Since that’s not enough oil to completely cover them, they’ll need to be turned halfway through. Total cooking time is about 2-2½ minutes.
  6. Remove from skillet and put on paper towel lined plate.
  7. After all donuts have been cooked and are cooled enough to handle, using a pastry bag with the apple butter in it and a bismarck tip (filling tip, I used Wilton 230), put a hole in one side of the donut and squeeze apple butter into the donut until it starts to come back out of the hole. I found this easier if I put the donut hole down on a plate. When it is properly filled, you will see the donut hole become a bit larger and will also probably see tiny oil droplets being pushed out of the sides of the donut. Wipe off any excess apple butter from the outside of the donut hole.
  8. After all have been filled, fill a large zipper bag with 1/2 cup sugar and 1 Tbsp cinnamon. Shake to mix. Then working in batches of 3 or 4, shake donut holes in the cinnamon-sugar mixture until well coated. Place on a plate and serve. Or eat them straight out of the bag ;)

Note: My apple butter was homemade and possibly not as thick as some store bought ones. If your apple butter is too thick to go through the tip easily, I suspect adding a bit of apple juice or water would take care of that.

Reality check: This was my first time filling any kind of baked goods. So they weren’t all as full as the one cut open in the picture. Some had more. Some had almost none. That one was about average. There’s a learning curve. Be patient with yourself :)

On this, the 239th anniversary of your birth, I appreciate you, Johnny Appleseed.

Happy Birthday, Johnny Appleseed

 

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Lemon Raspberry Crepes with Chocolate Almond Spread

I was going to try to come up with a clever name for this post then I decided, with a name like that who needs to be clever?

I remember going for my first crepe.  It was in this quaint little creperie in Marrakech.  I was there visiting friends, and this was one of their no-miss places for my visit.  In case you’re not familiar with the city of Marrakech, it’s the 4th largest city in Morocco.  So, no, I didn’t go to Europe for my first crepe.  I went to Africa.  Probably not something many Americans say. In fact, I still haven’t been to Europe, but I digress.

Morocco has heavy influences from both Spain and France.  In fact, her language of business is French.  So, it’s really not a big surprise that the French gentleman who owned La Creperie de Marrakech felt like it would be a good home for his restaurant. La Creperie is complete with a nautical theme and a resident parrot.

La Creperie De Marrakech

That was in 2006. I’ve tried to make a couple different versions of crepes over the years, and they were decent. But I had forgotten just how light they are supposed to be until I went to Bar Suzette on my trip to NYC this summer

So, I decided to rework my current crepe recipe to see if I could get the crepe to be lighter and have that little crispy edge.  These are exactly what I was going for.

Lemon Raspberry Crepe with Chocolate Almond Spread

I used the sweet lemon crepe recipe from Vegonomicon. (The basic crepe recipe is in Vegan Brunch too)  Thanks to Isa Chandra Moskowitz for granting me permission to include the whole recipe here with my changes.

If you don’t have or don’t like raspberries, strawberry slices would be a good alternative to raspberries.

Lemon Raspberry Crepes with Chocolate Almond Spread

(makes 6 crepes, 9.5-10″ in diameter)

  • 1½ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup chickpea flour (garbanzo bean flour, besan)
  • ¼ cup brown rice flour
  • ¼ cup sorghum flour
  • ¼ cup + 1 Tbsp tapioca starch/flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • Zest from one small lemon (approximately 1 tsp)
  • Juice from one small lemon (½ tsp for crepe batter, reserve the rest for serving)
  • Soy Free Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine), softened, for prepping the pan
  • 6 oz package of fresh raspberries
  • 3/4 cup (+/-) Chocolate Almond Spread (recipe below)
  • Powdered sugar, for garnish
  • 6 Enjoy Life Mega Chunks (or other vegan, soy-free, gluten-free chocolate), optional, for garnish

Combine the almond milk, water, flours, salt, sugar, lemon zest and 1/2 tsp lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Blend for a few seconds, scraping the sides of the blender once, until everything is smooth. The batter will be very thin.  Pour into an airtight container, cover, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.  When ready to cook the crepes, briefly stir the batter if the ingredients have separated.

Over medium heat (original recipe said medium-high, but using my cast iron griddle in place of a crepe pan, that was too hot and the crepes were sticking despite being well greased with the margarine…you’ll get the feel for what works for your pan/stove), heat a 9-10 inch crepe pan or heavy skillet.  The pan is ready when a few drops of water flicked into it sizzle.  Dab a silicone brush into softened margarine and brush along the bottom and sides of pan.

Ladle 1/3 cup of batter into the center of the pan. (Use more if you have a bigger pan.  This amount worked for my 10″ griddle pan).  The batter should sizzle when it hits the pan.  Holding the pan firmly by the handle, use your wrist to tilt the pan in a circular motion so that the batter spreads in a thin layer across the bottom.  Continue to tilt the pan until the batter is fully spread and then sets.

Cook until the top of the crepe is dry, the center is bubbly, and edges appear firm and lightly browned when gently lifted with the spatula, 1 to 1½ minutes. (Use a long thin metal spatula like you use for frosting cakes, not a “pancake turner” spatula).  Gently run the spatula under the crepe to loosen it, then carefully flip and cook on the other side for 30 seconds.  Gently slide the crepe onto a regular size dinner plate.

Brush a little more margarine onto the crepe pan for the next crepe.  If bits of batter collect on the pan, or the pan seems too oily, quickly swirl a crumpled paper towel across the surface of the pan to remove the crumbs.  Cook the rest of the crepes, stacking one on top of another (often it’s easiest just to slide the flipped crepe directly onto the stack).

Put approximately 2 Tbsp of the chocolate almond spread down the center of each crepe.  Top with a line of fresh raspberries.

Filling the crepe with Chocolate Almond Spread and Raspberries

Fold over on side of the crepe and then the other.  (I folded it a little tighter to serve than it looks in the picture.  I just did it like that so you could see the inside.)  Drizzle the top with some fresh lemon juice, then dust with powdered sugar (I use a fine mesh sieve to apply the sugar).  If desired, grate one of the mega chunks of chocolate over each crepe.

Garnished Crepe

Chocolate Almond Spread

(makes 1 cup)

  • 1 cup slivered almonds*
  • 4 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 3/8 cup sugar

Put everything in a food processor outfitted with an S-blade and process until you have a smooth nut butter consistency, about 10 minutes

*The almonds can be toasted or untoasted.  If they’re toasted, I taste more almond.  If they’re untoasted, I taste more chocolate.  So try it both ways and see how you like it.

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Just in case you want a little taste of Marrakech, here are a few photos from my trip:

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Plantain-Kale Empanadas

The first (and I think the last) time I had empanadas was about 10 years ago. They were made by a Venezuelan grandma.  It was after church on Sunday night, and she was in town visiting her family who were still relatively new in the community.  They invited about 20 of us over for empanadas.  It’s still amazing to me how she was able to just keep hot empanadas coming out.

I promise the fact that the family became dear friends has nothing to do with that empanada party.  But, it did make me want to learn to make them myself.  For some reason, I never tried until now.

empanadas

I used this empanada tutorial.  The recipe for the corn-based dough is on the pdf attached to the tutorial (at the bottom of her page).  It’s very similar to the dough and tutorial in Viva Vegan!  Be sure to use the Columbian/Venezuelan masarepa and not tortilla masa harina.

I opted for using my tortilla press instead of rolling out the dough.  I think either would work, but the tortilla press made it pretty easy work.   Also, the tip about using a bowl to seal off the edges of the empanada instead of doing it by hand/with a fork…brilliant!  Every empanada was perfectly sealed.  Plus it gave me enough extra dough to make up three extra empanadas which I filled with mozzarella style Daiya.  I ended up with a few ooey gooey cheesy empanadas that would be perfect with a bowl of tomato soup.

For frying, I put about 1/2-3/4″ in a large cast iron skillet.  It wasn’t enough to cover the empanadas, but since you turn them over anyway, it worked great.  They took about 3 minutes on the first side to reach golden and 1-2 minutes on the second side (each batch got a little shorter as the oil heated up).  The Daiya-only empanadas took about 1/2 the time.

For the main batch of empanadas, I made up my own filling of plantains and kale.  I’m posting it here, because it was good. But, I’d change it up some next time.  Without the dipping sauce it was a little bit dry.  I think I would like it better with more kale and onions and fewer plantains.  I would probably also cut the plantains into a finer dice.  (I’d also like to try a lightly spicy jackfruit version…yummmm)

I was pretty careful not to overfill so the empanadas didn’t tear open.  I used a scant tablespoon,  but I think they could have stood just a little more filling.  That would have been easier to do with the smaller diced plantains and more of the flexible kale.

Plantain-Kale Empanada Filling

2 tsp oil
1/4 cup finely diced onions
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
2 ripe plantains, diced
2 cups finely chopped kale (stems removed)
3/8 cup water

In a large skillet, on medium heat, saute the onions in the oil until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more until garlic starts to brown.  Add plantains.  Continue to saute, stirring regularly, until plantains are lightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Stir in kale and add water.  Cook just until water has cooked off and kale is wilted, 1-2 minutes.  When the water is gone, if the kale has not yet wilted, just add a little extra water and continue cooking until it is.

Dipping Sauce

I used a little maple syrup thinned out with water and Chipotle Tabasco sauce to taste.  It doesn’t take much of the sauce to make a great sweet-hot punch.

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If you’d like to see some more Latin food goodness, check out Newman Improved’s Vegan MoFo posts for this year and Cupcake Kitteh’s cooking through Viva Vegan!

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Asian Style Jackfruit Lettuce Wraps

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Check that out.  It looks just like those fancy chicken lettuce wraps at P.F. Chang’s, doesn’t it?  Don’t let the looks fool you.  That right there is a jackfruit lettuce wrap.

Back in my pre-vegan days, I did have the PF Chang’s wraps a few times.  I remember liking them, but I really don’t remember exactly what they tasted like.  If this isn’t it, they’re missing out.

My only complaints: The iceberg lettuce was a little too crispy and broke easily so I think I’d switch to romaine next time.  And the special sauce was a little thin, so I think I’d dip instead of pour.

Overall though, this was a complete success.

I followed this copycat recipe for the P.F. Chang’s wraps.

Here are a few notes on what I did differently:

  1. I cooked on medium high heat instead of high
  2. I used one can (1 lb, 4oz) of jackfruit* in place of the chicken. Be sure to rinse the jackfruit well to get all the brine taste out.  It comes out of the can in little wedges.  Leave them like that for now. The jackfruit pieces only had to cook 3-4 minutes per side.  They were golden brown and started to shrink up a little bit.  It was almost disturbingly chicken-like.
  3. I used coconut aminos anywhere soy sauce was called for.
  4. I used Sriracha in place of the red chile paste because I couldn’t find one without soybean oil.
  5. As suggested in the directions (but not clear in the ingredient list), I added the Sriracha and hot mustard to taste instead of the measurements given.
  6. I used green onions in place of the onions just because I wanted to.
  7. I didn’t bother measuring the mushrooms or water chestnuts.  I just chopped up the mushrooms I had (which was probably too much for the original recipe) and the whole small can of water chestnuts.
  8. The recipe didn’t specify what kind of oil to use.  I chose peanut oil because of its lovely taste and its tolerance to high temperature.
  9. The recipe wasn’t very clear at the beginning about whether it was 3 tablespoons of oil to start with and then add another Tbsp or if it was 2 and then add the third.  I started with 2 and added a third.  It was plenty.
  10. I don’t like leaving oil on the stove for very long without something in it, so I chopped up all the vegetables while the jackfruit was cooking and cut the jackfruit while still warm.

Just in case you couldn’t see the texture of that jackfruit well enough, check this out…

Jackfruit Mixture Upclose

If I hadn’t cooked this myself, I would be hesitant to believe it was meatless.

Despite the fact that I’d seen other uses of jackfruit flying around the internet over the last few years, for some reason I was nervous to use it.  I even bought a can long enough ago that it expired and had to be thrown out.

As it turns out, it is delicious and super easy to cook.  It may have been my first use, but it definitely won’t be my last.  I see an eastern NC style BBQ sandwich in my future.

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*In case you aren’t familiar with jackfruit, it’s an Asian fruit.  I found it canned at one of our bigger Asian markets in the area.  Just be sure for “meaty” applications you get the green (or young) jackfruit in brine instead of the jackfruit in syrup.  After it’s cooked, you can either cut it with a knife or pull it with a fork.  I used a knife so I could chop up the harder core pieces.  They’re totally edible too if they’re cut up.  Those ended up being little pieces and the rest shredded as i cut.

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