Jackfruit Tacos

Last Friday night,  a few classmates and I celebrated the end of the week with a taco night and a few drinks. We have been curious throughout our beverage course about how some of the “drinks” we have been mixing tasted like, so why not combine that venture with tacos!

I originally planned on putting together typical vegetable tacos with marinated mushrooms or tofu but I was reminded of a jackfruit taco I had during a summer trip in Philly. I had to attempt to make a homemade version too.

Jackfruit is a commonly seen southeast Asian fruit found in a large green spiky shell. For the taco, I used young, unripen jackfruit but the ripen, sweetened version is a delicious snack.

RIpen, Sweet Jackfruit

Ripen, Sweet Jackfruit

Green Jackfruit

Young, Green Jackfruit

1. Drain and rinse the jackfruit, then allow to soak for 30 minutes in water

Marinade: 1 TBS molasses, 2 tsp cumin, pinch of red pepper flakes, & 1 cup vegetable broth

Marinade: 1 TBS molasses, 2 tsp cumin, pinch of red pepper flakes, & 1 cup vegetable broth

2. Drain the soaked jackfruit, and then marinate.

Sauteed 1/2 red onions with 4 cloves garlic, then caramelized with 1 TBS tomato paste

Sauteed 1/2 red onions with 4 cloves garlic, then caramelized with 1 TBS tomato paste

After sauteing, I added the marinated jackfruit mixture into the pan, then allowed to simmer for about 30 minutes. I did adjust the seasonings and ended up adding about 1/2 cup of water and a bit more tomato paste.

Using a fork, I separated the jackfruit, so it looked like a shredded chicken

Using a fork, I separated the jackfruit, so it looked like a shredded chicken

We had a can of black beans in the pantry, why not toss some of that in too?

Flour tortilla, chopped lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, and my Jackfruit + black bean filling

Flour tortilla, chopped lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, and my Jackfruit + black bean filling

The feast included fresh salsa and two other types of fillings. One was a bulgogi marinated beef, a type of Korean BBQ and a coffee-rub pork – seared then finished in the oven.

Did I mention we also had sweet plantains? They were delicious as a side dish but I also experimented with this:

Sweet Plantain Quesadilla

Sweet Plantain Quesadilla

Cheers to more fun, creative culinary nights!

-A

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Chocolate Fig Bites

I have the biggest sweet-tooth and moderation around anything with dark chocolate takes plenty of willpower. In a world of refined sugars, processed foods, and a never-ending Pinterest feed of delicious desserts and baked goods, feel good beginnings is not about restriction but trying healthier alternatives and minimizing added sugars!

These sweet bites were pretty easy to put together. I blended about half a container of black mission figs with (6 oz.) with 1 tbs of almond butter then rolled up 1 teaspoon scoop sizes into little bonbon-like balls. I dipped them into dark chocolate melted with some coconut oil. You can also make them vegan by using vegan chocolate chips. I also found that this treat is relatively inexpensive too. One 12oz container of dried figs from Trader Joe’s costs about $3.99,  I only used half the container and ended up with about 30 bites!

ChocolateFigBites_1

ChocolateFigBites

 

This is the recipe from Giada’s Feel Good Food

14 oz. dried Mission figs, stemmed and coarsely chopped ( about 3 cups)

2 tablespoons unsalted creamy almond butter

1 cup vegan chocolate chips (41% cocoa)

2 teaspoons coconut, safflower, or grapeseed oil

3/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt

1. Process the figs, almond butter, and 2 tablespoon water until smooth

2. Scoop out 1 teaspoon portion sizes and roll into 1-in balls*, place fig balls on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper to prevent sticking

3. Melt the chocolate chips and oil in a double boiler (heat-proof bowl set over simmering water)

4. Once chocolate is completely melted, using a fork dip the fig balls in the chocolate to coat, allowing the excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl

5. Return dipped fig bites onto parchment paper and sprinkle with the salt

6. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes for the chocolate to set,  store for about 1 week.

Makes 34-35 bites; Calories – 56 each

*I made mine a bit smaller, a good trick to satisfy the sweets craving yet not over do it.

-A

Homemade Thanksgiving: Apple and Fig Cornbread Dressing

I’m not talking about fashion. And I’m not talking about salads (though I will be posting some post-Thanksgiving detox salads next week!).

My favorite thing about Thanksgiving dressing or stuffing, if you like to “stuff” your bird cage with this savory, seasoned crumbly side, is the interchangeability of the flavors and products. For this year I made an Apple and Fig Cornbread Dressing and spontaneously, with a leftover batch of cornbread, I also made a sweet Cranberry Orange Pecan Dressing too.

1 yellow onion, diced 2 stalks celery, diced 3 small Granny Smith Apples, diced 1 tsp fresh rosemary 1 tsp fresh thyme 1/4 cup dried figs, diced

1 yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 small Granny Smith Apples, diced
1 tsp fresh rosemary
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/4 cup dried figs, diced

Saute onions first in 1 Tbs butter until translucent than apples and celery

Saute onions first in 1 Tbs butter until translucent than apples and celery

Saute until celery is fragrant, and onions and apples are slightly browned

Saute until celery is fragrant, and onions and apples are slightly browned

Make your cornbread (the day before preferred), cut into 1in cubes, and toast 15 mins at 350F

Make your cornbread (the day before preferred), cut into 1in cubes, and toast 15 mins at 350F

Toss cornbread cubes, apple mixture, herbs, and about 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth

Toss about 2/3 of a sheet pan filled of cornbread cubes, apple mixture, herbs, figs, some salt and pepper and about 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth, then add 2 whisked eggs

Apple & Fig Cornbread Dressing ready to bake tomorrow

Apple & Fig Cornbread Dressing ready to bake tomorrow

You want a slightly moist consistency but not mushy soup. Bake 350F about 25-30 minutes.

Here’s my spontaneous Cranberry Orange Pecan Cornbread Dressing...and apologizes for the lack of measurements..I eyeballed everything.

Heat handful of fresh cranberries with orange juice and some granulated sugar

Heat handful of fresh cranberries with orange juice and some granulated sugar

Let the cranberries burst their sweet tart goodness out

Let the cranberries burst their sweet tart goodness out

Add in roughly diced navel orange slices

Add in roughly diced navel orange slices and pecans

Toss in leftover cornbread and just enough spiced apple cider to re-moisten the cornbread but not create a cornbread soup mess

Toss in leftover cornbread and just enough spiced apple cider to re-moisten the cornbread but not create a cornbread soup mess

I fashioned this into another casserole dish to be baked tomorrow as well. Have fun in the kitchen this Thanksgiving eve!

-A

Homemade Thanksgiving: Sweet Potato Casserole

The million dollar question…is sweet potato casserole a dessert or a side item? No matter the answer, you will definitely find this gooey, sweetened dish settling somewhere in between the cornbread dressing and green bean casserole on my Thanksgiving plate. It’s my holiday weak spot. I love sweet potatoes in any form in general — fries, baked, roasted, latkes, mashed, raw (just kidding) — but oh, the casserole remains a prevailing favorite. I’m team pecan. Though the marshmallow topping is delicious, I prefer my marshmallows with my s’mores, the crunch of the pecans, and tasting the sweetness of the potatoes rather than the overpowering sweetness of melted marshmallows.

Peel, wash, and boil about 3lb sweet potatoes until fork-tender

Peel, wash, and boil about 3lb sweet potatoes until fork-tender

As the potatoes are boiling away…

Filling mixture: 1 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup honey, 1 Tbs molasses, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tbs cinnamon, 1 tsp pumpkin spice mix, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 egg

Filling mixture: 1 cup coconut milk, 1/4 cup honey, 1 Tbs molasses, 1/4 cup melted butter, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 tbs cinnamon, 1 tsp pumpkin spice mix, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 egg

Mash sweet potatoes -- I ended up with about 4 cups

Mash sweet potatoes — I ended up with about 4 cups

Mix in the filling

Mix in the filling

Pour into desired oven-ready casserole container

Pour into desired oven-ready casserole container

Since I am not baking these until Thanksgiving, just wrap and refrigerate.

Of course I didn’t forget the pecan topping!

1/2 cup AP flour, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup butter (diced)

1/2 cup AP flour, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 cup butter (diced)

"Cut" the cold butter into the mixture using a fork or using your hands

“Cut” the cold butter into the mixture using a fork or using your hands

Gently toss in the chopped pecans

Gently toss in 1 cup chopped pecans

Don’t add the topping until you are about to bake.

Bake at 350F for about 25-30 minutes.

-A

 

Homemade Thanksgiving: Green Bean Casserole

No holiday meal is without a serving of green beans tossed in creamy mushroom sauce and topped with crunchy caramelized onions. Perhaps we go for that second serving because we justify that it is a green vegetable dish. Green bean casserole was one of the first dishes I made for a family function once a upon a time ago when I began cooking. As you can imagine, celebrating American holidays in a bi-cultural household molds a unique blend of traditions and food. I can still remember my American Godmother’s face when my mom put both fried rice and a green bean casserole dish on the table during our families’ Thanksgiving feast years ago. That’s the beauty of the holiday season, of social gatherings, of the meddling of food and culture, new and old traditions — there aren’t any rules to how to do a “real” Thanksgiving, lest you want just roasted duck, shellfish, and sides of peas, roasted walnuts, and squash. I’m content with my quirky Vietnamese-American Thanksgiving traditions.

Saute 1/3 cup finely diced yellow onion in 1 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs olive oil till slightly caramelized

Saute 1/3 cup finely diced yellow onion in 1 Tbs butter and 1 Tbs olive oil till slightly caramelized

Add 8oz sliced mushrooms, about 2 tsp fresh, minced rosemary and thyme, 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 tsp olive oil

Add 8oz sliced mushrooms, about 2 tsp fresh, minced rosemary and thyme, 1/4 tsp salt, and 2 tsp olive oil, saute ~8 min.
Then cover with about 3 Tbs All-Purpose flour, cook 2 mins

Add 2 cups whole milk, stirring continuously while bringing mixture to a boil

Add 2 cups whole milk, stirring continuously while bringing mixture to a boil

Cook at a boil for 3 minutes, careful to not burn the sauce  Reduce to a simmer, notice how the sauce thickens

Cook at a boil for 3 minutes, careful to not burn the sauce
Reduce to a simmer, notice how the sauce thickens

Toss in 1.5 lb of trimmed, boiled (7 mins), then blanched green beans The green beans should have a tender but not mushy texture

Toss in 1.5 lb of trimmed, boiled (7 mins), then blanched green beans
The green beans should have a tender but not mushy texture

Pour into casserole dish and top with caramelized onions, bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes to warm up the day you serve it

Pour into casserole dish and top with caramelized onions, bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes to warm up the day you serve it

Homemade Thanksgiving: Cranberry Sauce

You might think there is some irony in my post’s title. When you picture that upcoming meal you are going to devour in three days, you think about the people — immediate family, family you saw last Thanksgiving, and close friends who have spent most of Thanksgiving eve and that holiday morning putting together a bountiful feast of traditional dishes.  It’s practically homemade right?

Since I have been in culinary school, I think my appreciation for truly made from scratch products has deepen. I’m not belittling those whose green bean casserole is a combination of canned green beans, canned cream of mushroom soup, with that extra special secret addition, and topped with store-brought fried onions. That’s the way I have been making green bean casserole for years, the recipe never fails, and only positive reviews abound. But now that I am beginning to build my own repertoire of sauces, soups, stocks, broths, marinates, brines, and even baked goods, it’s hard for me to turn back to store brought products. I would be cheating myself and wasting the time/money I have invested into my culinary arts education. I have challenged myself this Thanksgiving and throughout this holiday season to truly embody “homemade” into my dishes.

Tonight, I began with cranberry sauce. I always thought cranberry sauce could only be a bright red gelatinous tart-n-sweet log dumped from a can (leaving the attractive imprints of the can on the sides), placed on the table merely to add a pop of color within a orange/yellow/brown sea of roasted turkey, gravy, sweet potato casserole, and mashed potatoes. Few ventured to touch it. Its unattractive presentation aside, I enjoyed the tartness of the sauce paired with my cornbread stuffing or atop a roll or biscuit. It adds a sweet break in between all the savory. Last week, at my bible study’s Thanksgiving social, someone brought cranberry relish/sauce that was not in that canned form. I knew that was one thing on my list I need to make for this week, and it turned out to be quite simple. No more canned cranberry sauce for me!

Ingredients:

12 oz fresh cranberries (reserve 1/2 cup)

1/2 peel of orange

2 Tbs fresh orange juice

1 cup sugar

Combine fresh cranberries (set aside 1/2 cup),  orange peel, sugar, and orange juice

Combine fresh cranberries (set aside 1/2 cup), orange peel, sugar, and orange juice

Over low heat, stir combination together to dissolve the sugar

Over low heat, stir combination together to dissolve the sugar

Once, the sugar has dissolved, turn heat to medium

Once, the sugar has dissolved, turn heat to medium

Stir occasionally so that the sauce doesn't burn at the bottom, you want the cranberries to burst

Stir occasionally so that the sauce doesn’t burn at the bottom, you want the cranberries to burst

With the reserved cranberries, roughly chop and add into sauce, stir, then remove from heat

With the reserved cranberries, roughly chop and add into sauce, stir, then remove from heat

Pour into storage container, allow to cool before refrigerating

Pour into storage container, allow to cool before refrigerating

Cranberry sauce is ready for serving on Thursday!

-A

Ripen Banana Woes

Dilemma:

Overly ripped banana = Many healthy possibilities

Overly ripened banana = Many healthy possibilities

We can all remember those times when those bananas we brought two days ago have, in a blink of a eye, overly ripened. Well, don’t just toss them out! That’s money going down the drain.  When I spot these not so eye appealing bunches, I jump on utilizing them for banana ice cream, banana oat breakfast cookies, banana pancakes, frozen bananas tossed in a green smoothie and my favorite– banana quick bread.

Here’s the basic recipe:

1. Combine

3 cups mashed bananas

1/3 cup melted Earth Balance Butter (regular, unsalted butter is fine as well)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2. In a separate bowl combine

1.5 cups flour (I used whole white wheat)

1 tsp baking soda

pinch of salt

3. Slowly combine the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until all flour is incorporated and you have a slightly lumpy batter

4. Pour into desired, greased baking pans and bake in oven preheated to 350F. For a 9X5 loaf pan, baking time is from 50-60 minutes. I suggest setting your clock for at least 30 minutes, and checking out the bread.

Creative variations!

The additions to this banana is endless — chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, coconut flakes, nuts, dried fruits, blueberries, or a cinnamon pecan swirl (see below)

For the cinnamon swirl — combine 1/4 cup sugar with 1 Tbs ground cinnamon. Pour half of your batter into the pan then coat with about half of the cinnamon sugar mixture and toss in a few pecans because you feel spontaneous and like a little crunch complimenting this ultra moisture bread. Pour in the rest of the batter and cover top with cinnamon sugar (I didn’t end up using all the cinnamon sugar). With a clean knife, gently swirl your batter around creating a starry night-like twirl of the cinnamon sugar and the batter.

This morning I enjoyed two warmed slices of this sweet bread with a smear of creamy peanut butter (and maybe a drizzle of chocolate ganache) on top.

Solution:

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Cinnamon Swirl Banana Bread

Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

With Halloween around the corner, every Trader Joe’s screaming with pumpkin this and pumpkin that products, and (finally) the setting in of Fall weather — my favorite season,  here is a new cookie recipe I made for a mountain trip last weekend.

Fresh out of the oven Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fresh out of the oven Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

10 Tbs Earth Balance Spread (I used the olive oil version)

1/2 cup Granulated Sugar

1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar

6 Tbs. Pumpkin Puree

1.5 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp Pumpkin Spice (Trader Joe’s has large bottle for pretty cheap!)

3/4 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

2 cups White Whole Wheat Flour (All-purpose is fine too)

1 cup semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (be sure to check the labels if you want to keep the cookies vegan)

Direction:

1. Cream butter and sugars

2. Mix in pumpkin puree, vanilla, salt, and pumpkin spice

3. In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, baking soda, and flour

4. Mix the dry ingredients into the creamed butter mixture in three batches, dough will feel very soft and a bit crumbly

5. Fold in chocolate chips

6. Chill for a few hours or overnight for best results but you can also go ahead and spoon about about 1-2 Tbs scoops onto a lightly greased cookie sheet

7. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for about 8-10 minutes, until golden brown around the edges

8. Cool then consume.

Makes about 2 dozen

Happy Fall Y’all!

-A