Vegan Yukon Gold Potato Poppers for the Big Game Day!

We were invited to the big game day on Sunday and wanted to bring some vegan party food since we didn’t know if there would be vegan options for us.  When I think of party food, I immediately think of bacon in/on jalapeno poppers, pizza, potato skins, chicken wings, and nachos.  It was easy to rule out the chicken, pizza, and nachos.  So that left us with the options of bringing either jalapeno poppers or potato skins, and the latter just sounded tastier.

So as I got to making these, the potato skins morphed into twice-baked potato poppers.  They are a bit painful to make because the skins of a yukon gold potato is more delicate than that of a russet potato, but the outcomes are certainly worth it!   And ya know, it tastes just like the “real” thing, but better!

Vegan Yukon Gold Potato Poppers

14 small yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to season
4 slices of vegan bacon
3 tablespoons unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup plus vegan sour cream
1 tablespoon vegan butter, melted
2 stalks green onion, chopped
1/3 cup vegan shredded cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Toss potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place potatoes on a baking sheet, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until a fork can be inserted into the potato easily. Remove from heat, and allow them to cool for about 15 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooling, heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray the pan with a little cooking spray, and “brown” the vegan bacon until it has crisped. Remove from heat and set aside. Once cool enough to handle, crumble the bacon into small bacon bits with your hands.

When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the flesh and place into a small bowl. [Be careful not to break the skins especially since the skins are more delicate on yukon golds.] Place the skins back onto the roasting pan.

To the innards, add the almond milk, sour cream, butter, cheddar cheese, green onion, and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly using a fork, while mashing the potatoes. Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. [You might be wondering why I didn’t add the bacon bits to this mixture. I did this on purpose because I don’t like my “bacon” soggy. I’ve always liked crunchy bacon for its taste and texture. Feel free to add the bacon bits to the mixture if you’d like.]

Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Top the potato poppers with bacon bits and green onion. Arrange on platter, and serve immediately by itself or with vegan ranch dressing.

Vegan Ranch Dressing

1 cup vegan mayonaise
1/4 cup vegan buttermilk, plus more if needed (1 cup of unsweetened almond milk + 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar)
1/2 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
1 teaspoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chopped chives
Salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl using a whisk. If the dressing is too thick, add a little more vegan buttermilk to desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate. Use as necessary and enjoy!

Amuse Bouche This: Pork Wonton Soup Meets Japanese Braised Pork Belly and Kale

[I can’t believe I still haven’t blogged about this!… This post was sitting in my drafts folder for almost a year.  How did i miss this?! ]

My ultimate comfort food is pork wonton soup that my Mom used to make when I was growing up.  I could almost guarantee there would a big bowl of filling with two packets of wonton wrappers waiting for me to help her wrap wontons during the first day of winter.  We’d make a large batch to consume later that night, but she would also freeze baggies of wontons for Monday night dinners weeks ahead.

It’s raining and cold outside today.  I was craving something warm and soothing, but I realized that we had recently finished the wontons my Mom gave us.  What was my solution?  It was easy… make some more!

This is my kicked up version of the traditional pork wonton soup with slices of char shiu pork and bok choy…

Amuse Bouche This: Pork Wonton Soup Meets Japanese Braised Pork Belly and Kale

For the filling:

1 pound of ground pork
3 stalks of green onion, chopped
1 1/4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 cup of low-sodium chicken broth
Pinch of salt
Pinch of white pepper
1 packet of wonton wrappers

Combine all the ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing bowl.

Fill a small bowl with water and keep it next to you. Place one heaping teaspoonful of the filling in the center of a wonton wrapper. [Be sure not to put too much of the filling, otherwise it’ll leak out during the folding process.] Moisten all the edges of the wonton wrapper with water using your finger. Fold one edge of the wrapper over the filling like a triangle. Press the edges firmly together to make a seal, which will help eliminate any air pockets. Bring the left and right corners together above the filling. Overlap the tips of these corners, moisten with water and press together. Continue until all the wrappers are used.

Note: Wontons can be made a month ahead. Freeze in a layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Carefully lift the wontons and place them in a sealable plastic bag and keep frozen.

For the soup:

1 quart of chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and white pepper, to taste
1/2 bunch of kale, strip out the center core or stalk, tear kale into small pieces

Bring the chicken stock to a boil in a large pot. Add the kale and drop in the amount of wontons you want, and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes minutes.

Garnish serving spoon or miniature serving bowls with a little broth, kale, a wonton, and braised pork belly.

For the braised pork (adapted from No Recipes):

6 cloves of garlic crushed with a heavy object
1 cup water
1/4 cup mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
4 tablespoons sake
2 teaspoon soy sauce
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 pounds pork belly cut into 2″ strips

In a small dutch oven or heavy bottom pan with a tight-fitting lid, combine all the ingredients in the pot, and cover. Cook over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 hours or until the meat falls apart and the fat is silky smooth.

Remove from heat and allow the pork to rest in the broth overnight by putting it in the refrigerator after it cools. This will accomplish two things: 1) it gives the pork belly a chance to absorb more flavor and 2) it will be easier to skim off the rendered fat.

[Gently reheat the left over with some braising liquid and serve over white rice. You won’t regret it.]

Going Vegan for 30 Days and Grapefruit Brulee

After a week of gluttony in NYC during the week of Christmas [oh, who am I kidding, it was really a month of gluttony], we realized during the last few days of our trip that we never consumed anything “green.” We ate our way through Manhattan and had some of the most amazing foods ever, but it was all “brown” as my partner would say. It was true. We had yakitori meat skewers, steamed mussels, bagels and lox, Korean food, xiao long baos, roast duck over rice and roast duck noodle soup, Indian meat curries, Cuban food, pastrami reuben sandwich, and more. So before we left NYC, we made a pact to go vegan to detox from the Holidays for 30 days.

I’m happy to report that we are 16 days into it and still going strong. There are days where we are madly craving sushi or a cheeseburger [or both :)], but the urges haven’t been as bad as I thought they would be. I’ve been trolling the food porn websites and I’m queuing up all the meat recipes to try as soon as we’re done with this detox diet.

Before this diet, I was always interested in cooking with the vegan “meats,” but I made excuses that I would do it tomorrow, and that would get pushed to the next day, and so on and so forth. Well, I’ve been experimenting with different seitan recipes and it’s been really fun and challenging. We’ve incorporated plenty of “greens” to our diet since we started this. And let me just say, we feel so much lighter, less bloated, and more energetic. My partner who usually consumes 6-8 cups of coffee a day, has cut down her coffee intake to about 2 cups a day, which means more $$$ saved from the frequent trips to Starbucks in the middle of the day! Seriously though, we feel much healthier since starting this diet. And I think we’ve even lost some weight, which is always good news :)

As we are more than halfway into our veganism, we were discussing what we want to do after we finish this diet. Our first idea was to celebrate with a HUGE sushi/sashimi dinner, followed by a greasy cheeseburger. [Although, I do worry how that’s going to sit in our stomachs after not having meats for a month.] But I think we’d like to keep up this veganism on an every other week basis because we do feel better.

Anyway, I was really craving pancakes, bacon, and hash browns for breakfast this morning when I woke up. But I made grapefruit brulee instead because it was the right thing to do :)

Grapefruit Brulee

2 red grapefruits, halved crosswise
White sugar
Kitchen torch

Remove all the seeds from the grapefruit, and cut the segments with a knife so that it’s easier to scoop out. [I never knew to cut the segments with a knife until recently when my partner said that’s the way people eat grapefruit.  All this time up until now, I always struggled with eating grapefruits and actually gave up eating them because it was “too much work.”]

Sprinkle each half evenly with sugar. Melt the sugar with the blowtorch until the sugar becomes golden brown and crispy.

Grapefruit “broilee”

If you don’t have a kitchen torch, turn the oven to the broiler mode. Place the halved grapefruits with sugar under the broiler for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the sugar has melted to a golden brown crispy surface.

Sausage Spice Blend

Blah.  I’m still sick.  I’ve been pumped full of medicine and hot tea since Friday.  I’ve had very little energy, not even enough to stay up until midnight to celebrate New Year’s.   But I did manage to muster up some energy this afternoon to take a picture of my sausage spice blend.

I find that the Gimme Lean ground “sausage” is a little too bland for me.   It just needs a little more spice.  So why not add to it?

Sausage Spice Blend

2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons ground sage
1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 tablespoon brown sugar

In a small mixing bowl, incorporate all the spices and herbs together and mix thoroughly.

Use 1 teaspoon per 1 pound of vegan sausage, ground pork, or ground turkey.

Store in an air-tight container.

Happy New Year! (and Homemade Vanilla Extract)

Happy New Year!  This is my first post celebrating the beginnings of a new year, and also my first post in over a month.  I’m slacking in the blogging department.  But what a perfect segue to announce my first New Year’s resolution, which is to blog as frequently as I had been before transitioning to my new job.

I had been wondering what my New Year’s post was going to be, and then I realized that I had a picture of our holiday gift give-a-way for friends/family in my blogging queue.  I was supposed to blog about these cute apothecary-looking bottles before heading off to NYC for Christmas, but alas, life just got hectic.  [I hope that my dear Hungry Foodies Pharmacy “patients” (aka, fans) will forgive me for my lack of posts.]

Our “thing” for the Holidays is to make a HUGE batch of salted caramels and saltine toffees, which is always a big hit amongst our family/friends.  Instead, we were inspired to do something different this year.  Err, I mean, last year.  Actually, I think we were still experiencing some PTSD from the previous year of candy wrapping for the Holidays.  PTSD from candy wrapping, you ask?  Well, we stayed up to 2:00 a.m. to finish wrapping our caramels and toffees, while on the brink of breaking up because we were so cranky and tired.  So, to spare our relationship, it was better that we did something that didn’t involve strips of wax paper and anything sweet :)

We really wanted to do something that tied my first year of blogging in with our holiday gift give-a-ways, so what not a better way than with homemade vanilla extract in a “medicine” bottle?

Homemade Vanilla Extract

2 high-quality vanilla beans
1/2 cup vodka
4 ounce amber bottle

Using a sharp knife, cut the vanilla beans in half, and then lengthwise to split them open.

Put the vanilla beans into the amber bottle and add the vodka. Seal bottle with a tight fitting lid. Store in a cool, dark area for for two months. Shake the bottle every once in a while.

Top off with vodka after a few uses to extend the life of the vanilla extract. If you notice it start to weaken, add another split vanilla bean.

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