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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Farfalle with Vodka-Cream Sauce

I don't just drink vodka- I eat it, too.  Nutritious and delicious.

Since I was less than thrilled with my B&G last week, I was on a mission this week to come up with a contest-worthy recipe.  The contest is being sponsored by So Delicious, a brand of non-dairy milks and ice cream.  So the contest rules are to use only 8 ingredients ( not including salt and pepper), at least one of which has to be a So Delicious product.  I absolutely love their ice cream, but I wanted to create an entree rather than a dessert.

I immediately started thinking about a cream-based soup or sauce.  The unfortunate thing is that So Delicious makes milk (almond and coconut) but not heavy cream.  That makes things a little more complicated.  But, you know, I'm stubborn, so I googled how to reduce non-dairy milk to make it thicker.  (I could have thickened it with cornstarch, but that would add another ingredient and I was limited.)  At this point I still wasn't sure what I was making, but I wanted to make sure I could, whenever I decided what that may be.

The recipe idea came to me in class Monday, when I was about ready to stab my eyes out with my pencil.  This particular class is horrifically boring, so to avoid incurring personal injury, I tend to space out.  I wanted a recipe that would look fancy, but would actually be fairly simple.  Maybe it should contain alcohol, like wine... or vodka...  Of course!  I made vodka cream sauce once, before I was vegetarian, and I've seen it on restaurant menus.  It just sounds sophisticated, doesn't it?  Super fancy, like it will impress the pants off people if you simply order it.  It's romantic, like something you would order while out on a hot date.

So that's it.  I made a sauce out of milk and vodka and other stuff.  The results?  I don't know.  I really liked it, and I will be submitting it to the contest as soon as I'm done here, but I still feel like it could have been better.  So consider this a rough draft.  If you decide to try this recipe at home, here are a few suggestions to really jazz it up:
  • Use heavy cream or non-dairy creamer instead of the milk for a richer sauce.  I would start with 1/2 cup and add more if you think you need to.  And if you choose to do this, you can just add it along with the tomatoes and sauce, no need to reduce.
  • Throw in some nutritional yeast. Seriously, that stuff is like crack made with love, there's no way it won't improve the flavor.
  • Be very generous with the salt and pepper.  Add other spices as you see fit.  I would probably toss in some oregano and a dash of cayenne.

2 cups diced onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vodka
1 1/2 cup non-dairy milk
15 oz can tomato sauce
28 oz can diced tomatoes, excess liquid drained
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp fresh basil, roughly chopped or torn
1 lb farfalle (bowtie) pasta
Salt and pepper

Fill up a large soup pot with water and put it on heat to boil the water for your pasta.  While you're waiting for the water to boil, in another large pot, saute the onions and garlic on medium-high heat for about 5 min.  When onions are soft, add the vodka and reduce to half.  This should take about 5 minutes.
 When the liquid has reduced, add the milk and lower heat to medium.  You don't want the milk to come to a boil, because it breaks up and gets gross looking.  Allow the milk to simmer and reduce by about half.  This will take 10-12 minutes.

At this point, your water is probably boiling, so throw in the pasta and cook according to the directions on the box.
When the milk has reduced, add the sauce, tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to mix well and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes or until pasta is done.
When pasta is cooked, drain it and return to the pot.  If you prefer chunky sauce, then you're done at this point.  You can pour your sauce onto the pasta and stir to incorporate.  If you prefer smooth sauce, then blend the sauce in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth.  Then you can add it to your pasta. 

                                                       Smooth ---->

Best of both worlds!

Garnish with additional basil and enjoy!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sausage and Peppers Biscuits n' Gravy

Because I'm still not off my comfort food kick...

It's fun to try to veganize dishes that are seemingly unveganizable.  Thanks to the fabulous variety of vegan products available these days, it's actually not much of a challenge to veganize biscuits and gravy.  Veggie sausage and non-dairy milk are easily found at your local grocery store.  However, vegan biscuits are not found quite so easily (at least not at the two stores I checked yesterday).  I used English muffins because I didn't have time/motivation to bake my own, but if you do have the time, biscuits are really better suited for this rich gravy.

A few years ago, I made biscuits and gravy similar to this, but I made my own sausage from a recipe I got off the Post Punk Kitchen website.  And I made the gravy out of pureed white beans, milk, nutritional yeast, assorted seasonings, and so on, which tasted great but was super heavy.  Evidently I had way too much time on my hands back then, because the whole ordeal probably took about 2 hours.  This S&P B&G only took about a half hour.  Boom.

I made this dish thinking that I would submit it to a new recipe contest, but it turns out I don't love love this dish.  I only medium love it.  The contest rules limited me to using only 8 ingredients (not including salt and pepper) so the gravy wasn't quite as awesome as it had the potential to be.  That being said, it's actually really tasty, and it quenched my craving for B&G.  I really like the addition of onions and peppers, they add a great deal of flavor to the gravy.  I'm just not so sure it screams "Contest Winner."  Stay tuned for more details about what recipe I end up using instead.

4 biscuits, store-bought or home-made
1 cup onion, sliced
1 small bell pepper, sliced
1 lb veggie sausage (I used GimmeLean ground 'sausage')
4 Tbsp unbleached all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/8 tsp cayenne
Salt and pepper, to taste

Spray a large skillet pan with cooking spray.  Throw in the onion, and saute for about a minute, over medium-high heat.  Add the peppers and saute 5 minutes.  Remove the veggies from the pan and cover to keep warm. 
Bring the pan back to the stove, give it another shot of cooking spray, and add the sausage, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula until it's crumbly.  Cook for 6 or 7 minutes, until cooked through.  Sprinkle the flour over the sausage, and stir to mix well.  Slowly whisk in the milk. 
Simmer the sauce over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the gravy is thick and bubbly.  Mix in the poultry seasoning, cayenne, and salt and pepper. 
Cut biscuits in half, spoon a generous amount of gravy goodness, and top off with onion and peppers.

Enjoy your B&G with a bloody Mary.  I did, anyway.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Creamy Potato & Eggplant Bake

Mary had a casserole, and it was full of peas...

I love casseroles.  They're the essence of comfort food.  And potatoes!  The King of comfort food!  It has literally snowed non-stop here in Michigan, pretty much for the last hundred days or so (OK, if you round up to the nearest hundred).  So comfort food is a necessity.  Clearly.

There's a contest going on at Taste of Home, and the theme is potatoes.  I created this casserole with my sister Mary in mind.  She loves potatoes, and I was going home for a visit anyway, so I figured I'd do a little recipe testing at her house.  When I told her I was making a potato dish, she requested that peas be involved.  Since I'm pretty much the awesomest sister ever, I obliged.  Also, I love peas.

I absolutely love the flavor of the potatoes.  If eggplant isn't your thing, these potatoes would make an excellent side dish to accompany dinner.  The ranch adds a unique creaminess, and it's easier that creating my own sauce.  I was able to get vegan ranch at Meijer (think Wal-mart, but less evil), and it was cheaper than if I had bought it at the health food store.  I doesn't taste exactly how I remember "real" ranch, but the flavor is lovely nonetheless.  I'm also really digging the addition of the veggies to the potatoes.  They transform it from a side dish to an entree.  Peas, potatoes, mushrooms, oh my!

The casserole will take about an hour to make, but it's worth it.  I didn't have a large enough casserole dish, so I used two 2-quart casserole dishes.  If you use a 4-quart or larger dish or Dutch oven, you may need to increase the cook time.  This made a truck-load of food!  For the contest, I said it made 8 servings, but it's really "8 servings if you're not serving it with anything else and your guests have been food-deprived for 24 hours."

Of course, after Mary, myself, and our folks had a go at it (over the span of 2 days), this is all that's left:

I'm trying to talk myself into saving it for tomorrow.  Will power.

 3 lbs red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed and cut into quarters
1 large eggplant, about 1 1/2 lb, cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz sliced mushrooms
1 tsp dried basil
15 oz. can sweet peas, drained and rinsed
1 cup ranch dressing (the brand I found was Organicville)
24 oz. jar prepared marinara sauce
8 oz. shredded mozzarella (I used Daiya- best vegan cheese ever!!!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place the cut potatoes in a large pot and cover with water.  Boil until potatoes are tender, about 25 min.
Meanwhile, saute onions and garlic in a medium skillet for 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and basil, and cook 5 minutes more.
When potatoes are cooked through, drain and move them to a large mixing bowl.  Roughly mash the potatoes, leaving some chunks.  Generously season with salt and pepper.  To the potatoes, add peas, ranch, and sauteed veggies.  Stir to mix well.
In a 4-quart casserole dish (or 2 2-quart casserole dishes), coat the bottom of the dish with half of the marinara sauce.  Arrange a layer of eggplant over the sauce.  Fill the casserole dish with the potato mixture.  Top the potatoes with the remaining eggplant.  Pour the remaining sauce over the eggplant, and top it all off with the mozzarella.
Bake for 30 minutes.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Oh, Fudge!!!

Because sometimes recipe testing doesn't go exactly as planned...

When I create new recipes, I make a real effort not to "copy" a recipe I've read before.  Part of the fun of creating new recipes is finishing it and being like, "Look what I did!  All by myself!"  And then taking a thousand pictures of it and posting it on your blog.

But sometimes, like when baking, I have to check out other recipes to make sure I don't totally screw it up.  Because science.

Anyhow, next week's recipe theme is chocolate, and I wanted to make a super amazing fudge.  But I've never made fudge before, so I checked out a few (hundred) different recipes to get an idea of how fudge actually comes together.

After deciding what ingredients to use, I got to work.  However, the recipe I was using as a guide called for 3 cups of chocolate chips, and due to circumstances beyond my control (poor planning), I only had 2.  Maybe 2 1/4.  But, ever the optimist, I decided to keep going.  I figured that, even being a cup-ish short on chips, I was adding enough other stuff that the fudge would still turn out.

But that's not how it ended.  In truth, I currently have an 8x8 pan filled with super thick, very sweet, espresso flavored pudding.  Kind of.

But I wanted to post the recipe anyway, because there's a good lesson to be learned here.  Besides planning ahead.

The flavor of this "fudge" is amazing (think chocolate-covered espresso beans. yum!), and I will definitely make it again, with more chocolate chips.  I'm thinking 3 cups or so.  So the recipe isn't a failure.  I just don't have the resources to make this fudge again now, because those chips are expensive!  Anyway, the moral of the story is, don't give up.  Just because this recipe didn't work the first time (they rarely do, trust me), doesn't mean that I suck at creating delicious food.  I just need to problem solve and try again.  And because screwing up a recipe makes for a good story.

The recipe below is what I will follow the next time I make this.  So it's a best guess.  I'll post an update to this page if/when I get around to making it again.  In the meantime, if any one out there makes it before I do, post a comment and let me know how it turned out.

Cranberry Espresso Fudge

3 cups vegan chocolate chips (I used the Enjoy Life brand)
14 oz can coconut milk (I used full fat because I wanted the fudge to have a milk chocolate creaminess)
3 Tbsp finely ground espresso beans
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried cranberries

Spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray.  Set it aside (but not too far away!).
In a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except cranberries.  Stir to combine, and turn the stove to medium heat.  You need to stir this stuff constantly so that the chocolate doesn't burn.  (Burnt chocolate smells and tastes awful.)  The chips should be totally melted in about 6 minutes or so.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cranberries.  Pour the chocolaty goodness into prepared pan.  Let it reach room temperature, then put it in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.

*Note:  I know the "technical" way to melt chocolate is to make a double boiler, but let's face it, I'm super lazy and don't want to deal with all that.  Also, I don't have glass mixing bowls.  If you prefer the double-boiler method, yay go you.  But if you choose to do it my way, never stop stirring.  Good luck.