Baba Ghanoush

We just finished a 30 day pescatarian diet with no dairy, carbohydrates, or sugar.  Oh.  My.  Word.  That was an incredibly hard challenge.  It was harder than our 30 day vegan challenge!  The no dairy thing wasn’t the issue.  It was the no carbohydrates or sugar that I had a hard time with.  We used fruit as a way to satiate our cravings for an after-dinner dessert, but that only lasted for a little while.  By the end of the second week, I was jonesing for bread and butter, frozen yogurt, cookies, and chocolate.  And do you know what was the worst tease?  My work place had a Strawberry Day event with all things strawberry desserts, and a few going away parties with the best cake from my favorite bakery, and I couldn’t have a lick of it.  Ugh.  I think I was drooling as I watched my coworkers eat cake, pies, tortes, strawberry punch, and cookies.  Such a tease.  Sigh.  The diet was worth it, I guess :)

To celebrate our first day of eating carbohydrates, I decided on a Middle Eastern and Greek meal centered around a filthy amount of pita bread.  Yes.  I said it.  I am a glutton for pita bread.  Okay.  So, honestly, we only ate one pita bread for the vegan seitan gyro sandwich, alongside a few wedges of pita dipped in some baba ghanoush.  But nonetheless, I still heart carbohydrates.

Baba Ghanoush

3 medium globe eggplants, cut lengthwise (about 2 pounds)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more to your liking
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush cut side of eggplants with extra virgin olive oil. Place eggplants cut-side down on baking sheet and roast until until very tender, about 40 minutes.

Scoop the eggplant flesh into a large bowl, and discard skin. Mash the eggplant with a fork until it is smooth, but still has some texture. Stir in the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve with pita, pita chips, vegetables, or however you fancy baby ghanoush :)

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!

Long overdue blog post, and homemade pomegranate jelly.

My apologies to my dear Hungry Foodies Pharmacy readers for it has been over a month since my last post. New life changes have kept me away from my kitchen. But I am now back in effect! I’m finished with my travels to Wisconsin for training, and I’m settling into my new job, new schedule, and new life.

I started my new job and I am loving every minute of it. I haven’t had an ounce of regret leaving my last job. Things have been extremely hectic with this new job because I was traveling to Wisconsin for three separate, week-long training classes every other week. This job requires that I become certified, which entails three exams and two projects that I must pass/complete before I can really delve into any major projects. So, I’ve been busily studying and working on projects for the last six weeks. I can happily report that I’ve passed two out of the three exams, and I am almost finished with my last project. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

One of the first things I wanted to make this weekend [that I had neglecting to do] was to remove the pomegranate arils from all the pomegranates off of our tree.  Our pomegranate tree did amazing this year!  In fact, it was almost a little overwhelming how many pomegranates we got this year.

What I was left with after removing all the arils, was bowls and bowls and b… you get the idea… of pomegranate arils.  But there also was what resembled a bloody murder scene with red pomegranate juice sprayed across the walls, window, countertop, and the floor.  It wasn’t pretty.

So I thought pomegranate jelly would be a great way to use/preserve the majority of our pomegranates. And not to toot my own horn… oh who am I kidding?  Of course I’m going to toot my own horn to say that this pomegranate jelly is to die for.  I’m just sayin’.

Stay tuned for a few other pomegranate recipes in the works!

Pomegranate Jelly

5 1/4 cups fresh pomegranate juice
1 packet plus 3 tablespoons less or no-sugar needed powdered pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar

Put a few small ceramic dish into the freezer.

In a non-reactive saucepan, heat pomegranate juice and lemon juice over high heat. Bring to a boil. Skim any of the white foam/impurities from the top. Reduce heat to medium-high, and add the powdered pectin. Whisk until all of the pectin has dissolved.  Add the sugar, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil while whisking until the sugar has dissolved.  [I prefer my jam/jelly a little more tart than sweet, so adjust the sweetness or tartness to your liking.]  Let it continue to boil for an additional two minutes.

Take out one of the ceramic dishes from the freezer.  Ladle a small teaspoonful of the jelly onto the cold dish and put it back into the freezer for one minute.  Remove the dish from the freezer and draw your finger through the jelly.  If the jelly does not close up the channel, then it’s ready.  [If you prefer your jelly a little more firmer, add a little more pectin.]

If processing, pour hot preserves mixture into a hot, sterile 1/2-pint glass canning jars, filling jar to within 1/4-inch from top; wipe rim and seal jar with lid. Put jar in water-bath canner or on rack set in a deep kettle and cover with hot water by 1 to 2 inches. Boil at 180 to 185 degrees F, and process, covered, 10 minutes. Transfer jar to a rack using tongs and let cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place, up to one year.

Makes five 1/2 pint jars.

Mango chutney with a hint of spicy… lather that onto something yummy!

I made mango chutney a while ago, and let it sit in the refrigerator.  In fact, it’s still there, but I’m afraid to eat it now that it’s been sitting there for a while.  We didn’t even get to use it!  I know.  Such a tragedy.  And such a waste, too!  Sigh.  I’m still kicking myself for it.  When I realized that we hadn’t touched the chutney, I had an epiphany that I was lacking skills in the food preservation area.  But I’ve been too afraid to learn with the numerous online instructions because the last thing I want is to misread the instructions (which I often do a lot of), and then die from botulism.

Luckily, a friend from work was talking about how he made a strawberry balsamic peppercorn jam (yum, right??) during his weekend off.  I immediately hugged him and said that I would pay him if he could teach me how to can.  We made a date, and I learned how to can just a few days ago!  It was a jammin’ (no pun intended; okay, maybe just a little) party.  It was such an exciting, yet somewhat scary process.  All I could think about while learning to can was botulism, botulism, and botulism.  Ugh.   But as the studious learner that I am, I took plenty of notes and transcribed them onto the computer as soon as I got home.

I was determined to can something the next day.  So as I peered into my refrigerator, I immediately took notice of the mango chutney that had been sitting in the refrigerator.  Unfortunately, guilt overtook my happy emotions as I poured the old chutney into the trash can.  So, in honor of my first batch of mango chutney, I decided to make it again, this time to preserve it so that we can use it at the pace we want without having any pressure of eating it right away!

And it couldn’t have been anymore perfect the second time around…

Mango chutney with a hint of spicy (adapted from Simply Recipes)

6 cups ripe mangoes (about 4 large mangoes), peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
2.5 cups sugar
1 cup white distilled vinegar
1 medium onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 whole small dried red chilis (optional)
1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods, cracked

Using a piece of thin muslin cloth, tie up the cinnamon stick, whole cloves, and cardamom pods into a bundle.

In a medium-sized stockpot over high heat, combine sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil, while stirring occasionally.

Add mangoes, onions, raisins, crystallized ginger, garlic, whole red chiles, and the muslin-tied spices to the vinegar-sugar solution. Reduce the heat to medium-high heat and cook, uncovered, until syrupy and slightly thickened, about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Pour into sterilized, hot jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace; close jars. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes.

Makes 5 (1/2 pint) jars.

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce

My partner has been on a quest to find the best falafels in town.  She’ll compare the falafels to this little Greek restaurant on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, CA, that she just loved.  But it all seems to disappoint in comparison.  I’ve found several recipes for homemade falafels, and all of them involve deep frying.  And although I know that’s how it should be done, I just can’t bring myself to deep fry at home.  I just don’t want the smell of fried oil lingering around our house for days, but also because I’m on a quest to continue keeping us on a healthy eating track.   So I was extremely happy when I came across this recipe, and had to give it a try!  Not only was it super easy to make, it was also a delicious healthy alternative.  My partner really enjoyed these baked falafels thoroughly, and said it was definitely a close second to the real thing :)

Baked Falafels Drizzled with Lemon-Tahini Sauce (adapted from Can You Stay For Dinner?)

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
6 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well blended. Taste the falafel mixture, and adjust seasoning to your liking. Scoop the bean mixture into a bowl and shape into 16 equal sized patties. Place on a greased baking sheet, brush each with olive oil and bake for 25, or until browned and crispy on the outside.

Serve as an appetizer, over a salad, or in a pita wrap with the lemon tahini sauce drizzled over the falafels.

Makes 16 falafels.

Calories per falafel: 35

Lemon Tahini Sauce

3 tablespoon tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons water
1 garlic clove, mashed into a paste

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, salt, water, and garlic paste. Adjust seasoning with salt and/or lemon juice.

Makes about a 1/3 cup.

Hummus

I laughed at my parents when they bought a small freezer for their garage.  In fact, I thought they were silly for needing extra freezer space.  I told them to just clean out their freezer and it’ll open up lots of space for them.  Well, I ate my words recently.  I seem to eat my words often :)

Our freezer in the house was filled to its capacity, from top to bottom.  I even cleaned out the freezer and tossed out foods that we were no longer going to eat.  But it was still full.  We were shoving things into every little nook and cranny that we could find.  So much so that one of our shelves toppled over because it was weighed down so heavily with meats/seafood.  It was also getting to a point where we would have to take out all the items from one of the shelves just to find one item we needed.  It was just ridiculous.  I finally broke down.  I, too, bought a small freezer for the garage.  We moved all of our meats and seafoods to the extra freezer.  It was liberating!  We can actually see what’s in our freezer in the house, and pull things out without everything tumbling onto our toes!

I was embarrassed to tell my parents about the purchase, but sucked it up and told them.  This time they laughed at me :)

Hummus

2 15-ounce cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), no sodium added
1/2 cups tahini sauce
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, mashed
2 1/2 lemons, juiced
1/4 cup water, plus extra if needed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Paprika (optional)
Toasted pine nuts (optional)
Parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Drain the chickpeas and rinse under cold water. Drain excess water.

In a food processor, combine the garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, water, and olive oil. Process until smooth. Add salt, starting at a half a teaspoon. Process. Adjust seasoning again with a half teaspoon of salt. Repeat until the seasoning is to your liking.  [If you like it creamier, add a little more water. If you like it more citrusy, add a little more lemon juice.]

Spoon hummus into a serving dish. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top of the hummus, and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.

Makes 3 cups.

Roasted Garlic, Bacon, and Onion Marmalade

For all the dog owners, if you didn’t already know, snail bait is EXTREMELY toxic to dogs (and cats).  Unfortunately, we found out the hard way, and one of our dogs ended up at the emergency vet the other night.  Bella, our pug, was tremoring and hyperactive, although she is always very hyper.  But this was unusual behavior for her.  She looked high.  I started to Google different search terms and found a hit for snail bait.  One website listed all the signs and symptoms of snail bait poisoning, and the first two matched what our pug was experiencing.  We called the emergency vet and immediately made our way there with our pug and the culprit… the box of snail bait.

The vet techs swooped up our pug from our arms and ran her back to the “hospital” without hesitation.  They put us in an exam room and we waited, and waited, and waited for the doctor.  It was only about 10 minutes before the doctor spoke with us, but it felt like an eternity.  We were extremely anxious, and wondering if *we* killed our dog.  It was the most nauseating feeling of not knowing what was happening or going to happen.  The doctor was very informative and patient with the number of questions we had.

With poisons and toxins, it is hard to predict the course of the illness, severity, and prognosis of the condition without knowing EXACTLY how much was taken.  At least with human ingestions, they can sometimes tell us exactly or at give us a close approximation of how much was taken, and we can predict (and I use that term loosely) the course of action with antidotes or supportive treatments.  Unfortunately, we had no idea how much of the snail bait Bella ingested.  So the doctor could not tell us what was going to happen, how long she was going to be sick, and if her clinical picture was going to deteriorate or improve.  The unknown scared the living hell out of us.  But the doctor reassured us that her and her team were going to do everything to stabilize her.

We waited around for about an hour until we got an update.  The vet said that Bella had calmed down with methocarbamol and diazepam, a muscle relaxant and anti-anxiety/sedative, respectively.  They provided her with fluids, oxygen, and diazepam as needed. They assured us that they were going to keep a close eye on her through the night.  They even let us say good night to Bella before we left the pet ER, since they had strict visitation hours from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

We left feeling comforted, at ease, and less anxious because we knew Bella was in good hands, if that makes any sense.  The staff were so friendly and informative, that we just knew they were going to provide excellent care for our little four-legged girl.  The vet called us the next morning and gave us an update that Bella was doing well, oxygenating, and less tremulous and anxious after a few more doses of medications.  She even told us that she might be ready to be picked up later that afternoon!  And we did!  I’m happy to report that Bella is back to her hyper and happy self :)

Fortunately and thankfully, I feel like we caught Bella’s signs and symptoms of snail bait toxicity early enough, albeit she was really sick and had to be hospitalized, has fully recovered.  The cost of the ER visit with medications, X-rays, oxygen, IV fluids, and etc costed us $2000, but well worth it to have our furry little girl back home with us!

We intentionally left our box of snail bait with the pet ER.  Never again are we going to buy that toxic stuff.  If you need snail bait, get the pet-friendly kind.  I hear there are home remedies, too, such as a pie tin filled with beer.  But we’ve decided to make friends with the snails and forego any kind bait, pet-friendly or not.

Roasted Garlic, Bacon, and Onion Marmalade

2 heads of garlic
3 slices bacon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 large yellow onions, sliced
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon red wine
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Cut off 1/4 to 1/2 inch of the top of the garlic bulbs using a knife, leaving the tops of the individual garlic cloves exposed. Place garlic bulb on top of a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to wrap the whole garlic bulb. Drizzle with two teaspoons of olive oil, sprinkle with a little salt, and wrap foil tightly. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until the feel soft when pressed.

Allow the garlic to cool enough so you can touch it without burning yourself. Use a fork or your fingers to pull or squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins. For large roasted garlic cloves, chop coarsely.

In a large, nonstick skillet, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon slices and cook until the fat has been rendered, and the bacon is crispy. Remove bacon and place onto a paper towel-lined plate. Once cool to handle, crumble the bacon into coarse crumbles.

In the same skillet with the bacon fat, add the onions and saute until the onions are tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to just medium to medium-low, add water, cover with a lid and cook until the onions turn an amber golden brown. You will need to stir occasionally, until done, about 45 minutes.

Add the crumbled bacon, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, thyme, roasted garlic cloves, salt and pepper, and deglaze the pan and cook until most of the moisture is gone. Once cooled, pour into a container and keep refrigerated.

Makes 1 1/2 cups of jam.

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