Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Whipped Cocoa and Shea Body Butter

I first got the idea to make a whipped coconut moisturizer from Juliana (thanks for the inspiration!) then from a mashup of whipped coconut and/or shea butter recipes that I found hanging around the internet. Not that there was too much to modify, cause this recipe is so simple! If you're not feeling the shea butter, go ahead and try mango butter instead.

This recipe makes for a wonderfully light and airy body butter that soaks right into your skin. Kukui nut oil is rich in linoleic and alpha-linoleic essential fatty acids. It is used not only to moisturize and nourish dry skin but can also help ameliorate sunburns, eczema, and acne. Macadamia nut oil absorbs readily into the skin because it closely resembles the chemical makeup of sebum and is used to heal scars, minor wounds, and environmentally damaged skin. It also contributes a wonderful nutty aroma to the body butter, and combined with the cocoa butter and coconut oil, this stuff smells good enough to eat with a fork.

It's a body butter, so feel free to slather it on. You'll find that a little bit goes a long way. I've been using it as an all purpose moisturizer: lip balm, hand cream, night time facial moisturizer, and a sunburn soother. It's good at everything! If you would like to add some essential oils, add 10 to 30 drops halfway through the whipping process, but as I mentioned before it smells pretty delicious as is.

½ cup shea butter
½ cup cocoa butter or mango butter
½ cup coconut oil
¼ cup macadamia nut oil
¼  cup kukui nut oil (also known as candlenut oil)

1. Melt all the oils using a double boiler, making sure to stir as they heat up. When everything liquefies and blends together, remove from heat and let sit for about 15 minutes to cool.

2. Put the bowl of oils in the fridge and cool completely. This will take about an hour.

3. Remove from fridge and whip with a hand mixer until it's all nice and fluffy.

4. Put it back in the fridge for 15 minutes to set.

5. Transfer the whipped butter to glass jars for storage and enjoy. If you live in a warm climate you might need to keep it in the fridge to prevent melting and resulting negation of whipped goodness.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Butternut Squash and Tamari Roasted Pumpkin Seed Spring Rolls

I know it's a mouthful but I could have gone the even more descriptive route and called them Caramelized Butternut Squash and Tamari Roasted Pumpkin Seed Fresh Spring Rolls with Hot Chile and Sesame Dipping Sauce. Or just Squashy Seedy Rolls, but I think that's underselling them. Whatever you want to call them, they are a delicious and refreshing variation on traditional tofu and beansprout spring rolls. The roasted squash is sweet and smooth and the pumpkin seeds add a nice crunch, while the vermicelli and cilantro keep it recognizable as a spring roll. Plus, they are colorful and gorgeous! I made them for a masquerade ball birthday party last weekend and they were gobbled up, which part of me found disappointing. I was looking forward to enjoying the leftovers.

Note: I altered some things, but the original recipe is from Isa Chandra Moskovitz and Terry Hope Romero's Veganomicon: the Ultimate Vegan Cookbook. I like big fat spring rolls, so I increased the amounts of everything that goes in the rolls, the sauce recipe I left as is. Roasting your own raw seeds with tamari was my idea, but you can simply use roasted and salted pumpkin seeds if you like.

For the Rolls:
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
tamari or Bragg's Amino Acid to taste
1 small butternut squash (about 2 lbs)
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 round rice paper wrappers
12 ounces vermicelli rice noodles
1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed

For the dipping sauce:
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon hot chile oil
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons sugar

Preheat your oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the pumpkin seeds in a small bowl, drizzle with tamari and stir to coat all the seeds. You can use more or less tamari or Bragg's but I probably used a couple teaspoons. Sprinkle the seeds in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, stirring once to ensure they roast evenly. When they are beginning to brown remove them from the oven and set aside in a bowl to cool. Save the parchment paper to reuse for the butternut squash.

While the pumpkin seeds are in the oven, peel the squash and dice into ¼ inch cubes. Just don't get so caught up in dicing that you let the pumpkin seeds burn like I almost did! Place the diced squash in a bowl, drizzle with the olive oil and toss to coat. Lay the squash in a single layer on the baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, stir the squash, then bake for another 15 minutes or until it begins to caramelize. Remove from oven, and place in a bowl to cool.  

While the squash roasts, prepare the remaining ingredients and set up a work area. Cook the vermicelli noodles, then rinse in cold water to cool. Rinse the cilantro and remove the large stems and maybe the small ones too if you really don't like them. Fill a large pie pan or other dish big enough to hold the rice paper wrappers with hot tap water. Once everything is ready to go, arrange it all within reach and get ready to roll!

Place one or two wrappers in the pie pan of water and let sit for 30 seconds to a minute. The wrappers will soften and turn translucent when they are ready. Gently lift one out of the water and lay it down flat on a clean counter top or other work surface. Place about ¼ cup of noodles on the lower third of the wrapper, leaving about an inch and a half clear on the sides of the wrapper. Scoop the roasted squash above the noodles and top with cilantro and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds (use a spoon for the pumpkin seeds so that they don't annoyingly cling to your wet fingers). To roll them up just fold in the sides of the wrapper, then pull the bottom up over the filling and do your best to tuck it under the filling. Then firmly roll it up. Set aside and repeat until you run out of ingredients. You might end up with about a dozen, but it depends on how generous you are with the filling, I think I only had nine big ones.  

To make the sauce, just put all the ingredients in a jar and shake to combine and serve with the rolls.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Happy Mother's Day!

To all the strong, beautiful, brave, and loving mothers out there. But to my mom especially, I love you and am so lucky every day to have you as mine! Thank you for being an incredible and inspiring mom for 27 years and counting!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Pepper Crusted (Vegan) Maple Bacon

I know there are a lot of vegan bacon recipes floating around the internet, but I'll admit that they just don't do it for me. Things like bacon mushrooms or bacon coconut flakes are salty and smoky but they don't have the visual reference I'm looking for in my "B"LT or nestled up next to a breakfast scramble. My childhood definition of bacon is a particular brand of frozen vegetarian bacon that has an adorably exaggerated Bacon Appearance. It's like a cartoon version of bacon, perfectly rectangular with bright red and creamy white coloring. You'd never mistake it for actual pork, yet it is my gold standard of bacon-y-ness. What can I say, I was raised by a vegetarian.

This recipe is actually a bit more realistic looking than my nostalgic veggie bacon. Encrusting it in black pepper elevates it to Grown Up Bacon and its thick slices make it completely sandwich worthy. It's just a little more advanced than your standard homemade seitan recipe because it does require mixing up two different colors of dough. But the extra steps aren't difficult, they're just a little time consuming. As long as you've made seitan at least once before this should be a breeze. You bake it all together in one loaf then slice it into strips and fry to your heart's content. It stores well in the freezer, so I like to keep a batch stashed away for breakfasts or split pea soup or sprinkling over a baked potato.

Red dough

Adapted just a tiny bit from peacefultable.net

Red Seitan Ingredients
1 cup wheat gluten
1/4 cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2/3 cup water
3 tablespoons tamari
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons liquid smoke
2 tablespoons oil

White Seitan Ingredients
1/2 cup wheat gluten
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon oil

lots of freshly cracked black pepper

The first step is to separately mix together a red dough and a white dough. We'll start with the red one. In a medium mixing bowl combine the wheat gluten, chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, and spices. In a separate container, like a liquid measuring cup, stir together the water, tamari, maple syrup, tomato paste, liquid smoke and oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until well combined. It should form a ball and turn a nice red color due to all the paprika and the tomato paste.

White dough

Next, do the same thing with the ingredients for the white dough. Mix together the dry ingredients and the wet, then combine them and stir. It should look a little like the picture above. Sorry to be confusing and use a white bowl for the red seitan and a red bowl for the white, I was shooting for contrast!

Now you are going to divide up the dough and start assembling the layers of bacon. Separate the red dough into three equal pieces and the white dough into two, then shape them into balls. Use a rolling pin or your hands to flatten a red ball into a rectangle, roughly 4 by 6 inches. You don't need to be precise, in fact being less exact will give you more natural looking results. Flatten out a ball of white dough into a slab and place it on top of the red one, as pictured below. Repeat this process alternating between the red and white dough and stacking them on top of each other. You should start and end with a slab of red dough.

Assembling the bacon

Carefully transfer the dough to a piece of foil that is large enough to wrap the dough in. Don't wrap it yet, just place it in the middle of the foil. Cover the stacked seitan with a piece of plastic wrap and rest a large book on top of it. Let the dough rest under the pressure of the book for about 10 or 15 minutes. While it rests, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.

Pressing the stacked dough

Remove the book and plastic wrap and generously sprinkle the top of the dough with black pepper. Wrap the dough up in the foil, place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes.

Pressed and peppered

When the seitan is finished baking, let it rest in the foil to cool. The seitan will be a little soft and slightly under cooked, which is good because it will slice better and then be completely cooked after frying.
When it's cooled to room temperature just slice, fry and eat! You can slice and freeze the bacon to fry later too.

Slab o' bacon after baking. Ready to slice up and fry!