10-Step Black Bean Burger

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As a long-time vegetarian I have explored the many meat alternatives available in grocery store aisles. I like a good number of them for their flavor, but always have some concern about the contents of what I am eating. For instance, the fake soy bacon I consume many mornings is not something I would consider legitimate food. The main ingredient is egg whites followed closely by soybean oil with TBHQ and textured soybean protein concentrate. Tasty? Sure! Wholesome? Mmmm.. not so much. To this end, I’ve been looking for a good, homemade burger recipe so that I can have more control over the ingredients and processing.

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I have a NYT veggie burger recipe already posted on the site (here). It is a delicious burger, but it’s incredibly time consuming to make, and it requires a blender and a bunch of dishes, meaning more clean up. I have finally found a recipe that is still delicious and filled with protein, but it only takes an hour or so to make! It also requires far fewer ingredients- another bonus in my book, as many vegetarian recipes out there involve strange and esoteric ingredients or assume you’ve got things like coconut sugar lying around the house. I took all of that out and used only things an average kitchen will have or things that can be bought at a neighborhood supermarket. In fact, my husband and I made these for the 4th of July and discovered the only ingredient we didn’t already have in our pantry was canned black beans. Easy to shop for. Easy to make. Easy to clean up. Definitely easy to eat!

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I’ve broken the process down into ten steps to make the assembly even simpler. The most time-consuming part of the entire process is cooking rice. Not so bad, right?

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10-Step Black Bean Burgers
makes 4, large patties

Ingredients
1 cup brown rice
6-12 cups water
1 15oz can black beans (roughly 1 1/2 cups, we used a can of Bush’s)
3/4 cup diced white onion
avocado or canola oil
1 1/3 cups panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon each: paprika, cumin, bold taco seasoning (we used Penzey’s, but you could sub chili powder here)
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1 tablespoon honey
3-4 tablespoons BBQ sauce

Step 1: Rinse the rice and combine it in a small pot with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Keep boiling for 30 minutes, adding additional water and stirring as needed. The rice should be “swimming” for all 30 minutes. Take off heat and cover to steam for 10 more minutes. Finally, drain off excess water. [Note: this will make more cooked rice than you need for the burgers.]

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Step 2: Rinse the black beans well and mash them thoroughly with a slotted spoon in a large bowl.

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Step 3: Dice white onion (1/2 a large onion or roughly 3 baby onions). Pan fry 3/4 cup with 1/2 tablespoon of avocado or canola oil for 3-4 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Step 4: In a small bowl, mix the panko with the spices.

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Step 5: Add 1 cup of the rice to the beans and mix together. Then stir in the onions and panko mixture.

Step 6: Add in the honey and BBQ sauce. Check the texture. You want a moist, but thick mixture. You can adjust the texture by adding more BBQ sauce or panko accordingly.

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Step 7: Form patties using a hamburger press or by hand with plastic wrap. We were able to make 4 patties that were about 5 ounces each.

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Step 8: Brush a grill or skillet with oil. Cook patties for 3-4 minutes per side, covered if on the grill. Pack the patty with a spatula on the grill for better grill marks. For a crispier crust, leave on a bit longer (will result in less discernible grill marks).

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Step 9: Dress burger with bun and preferred toppings.

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Step 10: Enjoy! 🙂 [Yes, that is the 10th step!]

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Potato Galette with Mozzarella and Rosemary

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In a household with two working adults, a baby, needy pets, and a never-ending list of things to clean it is necessary to find simple dinner options. They need to be filling, yet fast. Extra points for little to no cleanup!

Ever since Ava started enjoying solid foods our family has begun to eat dinner together each evening. Our eight month old does not always make this easy, but it is so fun to eat alongside her and give her a bite of our food every now and then. A typical evening for us involves cleaning up Ava’s bottles from daycare, preparing our own dinner, choosing and preparing her meal, and keeping her entertained. Recently the cats have demanded to eat alongside their human servants, so we also feed them at the same time. In addition, Ava has a few budding allergies we are working to prevent by feeding her small, measured portions of allergens every day at dinner…. it is chaotic to say the least.

This galette tastes as if it takes much more time to make than it really does- cheesy, buttery, flaky, and savory. We have eaten it in combination with a salad [in which case this serves 4], but also as a stand alone meal [serving 2]. Cleanup is fairly straightforward, and the ingredient list is by no means exhaustive.

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Yes, there are nights as a working parent when you have the energy to make yourself an elaborate dish. There are nights when you just can’t– and it takes all you’ve got to drag yourself and your family to the nearest drive-thru. This dish is for the nights in between, when you want a home cooked meal and a night around the table without the hassle of much actual cooking.

Potato Galette
makes 4 galettes

Ingredients
5 golden potatoes, small
3 large sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
buffalo mozzarella [16-20 1/2″ slices]
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
4 tablespoons shaved parmesan cheese
1 puff pastry sheet [roughly 9×13″]
salt and pepper
red pepper flakes [optional, but highly recommended]

Preheat the oven to 425°F. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper and remove the puff pastry from the freezer to defrost.

Wash the potatoes and slice them into thin circles. Wash and mince the rosemary. This is the most time consuming part, but you don’t have to mince it too finely if you are okay with larger pieces of herbs in your galette. I pretty much always get sick of chopping before it’s completely minced!

Combine the rosemary and potatoes in a bowl with the olive oil. Add salt and pepper to this mixture, if you like. I recommend being generous with the spices!

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Using the same cutting board, slice the buffalo mozzarella into 1/2″ rounds.

When the puff pastry is defrosted and malleable enough to work with, unfold it and cut it into quarters. Take a paring knife and lightly trace a 1″ border around the edge of each square. Prick each piece with a fork.

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To assemble: layer first with the buffalo mozzarella [single layer of this works best to prevent melting over].

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Next, add the shredded mozzarella and shaved parmesan. Again, I recommend restraint with the cheeses to avoid a mess.

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Finally, place the potato mixture on top. I love the potato part of this galette, so I usually layer them on thickly- overlapping in a scalloped pattern or like shingles on a roof.

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Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the puff pastry is golden brown. While they are baking you can do most of the clean up [1 bowl and 1 cutting board]!

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Top with red pepper flakes and enjoy!

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Buttery Pecan Pie + Announcements

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William and I have been away from the blog for several months now- but for good reason!

We have moved back to Alabama and into a new home. Going from a tiny, city apartment to a house with a yard is a wonderful lesson in time management! As anyone with a home of their own can attest to, there is always always always something that needs to be cleaned or fixed or mowed or paid for… this is what I get for wanting the ‘charm’ of an older home! While we absolutely love having our own home, we are perhaps missing our California maintenance man, Mario, a little too much! 🙂

We are also just finishing a kitchen renovation (yay!). We spend so much time in our kitchen, we knew it would need a little makeover! For now, my vanity has been assuaged with the transition from dark oak cabinetry and yellow speckled counters to light greys and whites and a gorgeous, gigantic– errr, I mean functional– farmhouse sink!  Doesn’t the room look ten times larger??

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And last, but certainly not least, we recently welcomed our first child, a baby girl. Ava Marie is the most beautiful baby, the reason for many sleepless nights, and she is already brightening our days with her precious smile. She is the light of our lives, and we are so excited to one day share our joy of cooking with her!

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With so many changes it has been difficult to keep up with the blog. However, we are  cooking up a storm and have several new recipes to post.

Since moving back, for the first time in several years William and I had the pleasure of spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my family here in Alabama. We knew we had to bake something for the event, and because we have discovered a couple of prolific pecan trees in our backyard, we decided to gather, shell, toast them for a nice pecan pie.

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I found a recipe from one of my favorite cooking bloggers, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen. This pie is amazing, but not the easiest dessert to put together. However, it was so much fun and, despite being time consuming, so delicious that we will definitely be making it again–perhaps for the upcoming winter holidays!

My biggest pet peeve about pecan pies is how cloyingly sweet they can be. It’s too much and often overwhelms the delicate, buttery flavor of the pecans themselves. There are several things about this recipe that I think make it better than the standard, toothache-inducing pecan pie.

First, the homemade crust. I always use salted butter and actually add a bit of extra salt in my homemade pie crusts. Perhaps this stems from my obsession with the play off of salty and sweet flavors. Perhaps it comes from my surefire belief that in the battle of salty vs sweet, salty always wins. Who knows! Regardless, the homemade crust provides the perfect salty and buttery complement to the sweetness of the filling, while also highlighting the buttery nuttiness of freshly toasted pecans!

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Second, the filling itself has two components: the typical gooey pecan pie filling as well as a layer of semisweet chocolate ganache. The filling is made with a British cane sugar syrup instead of super processed Caro syrup, and it develops a wonderful, burnt caramel flavor. The bitterness of the chocolate provides an additional foil, allowing relief from the sugar!

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Chocolate Pecan Pie
makes one 9″ pie

Ingredients

for the crust
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick salted butter
1/4 cup cold water

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for the filling
2 cups pecans
4 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
6 tablespoons salted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup golden syrup [can be found on Amazon, if not at Whole Foods]
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon bourbon
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs

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First, make the crust. Sift together the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into chunks. Use a pastry blender or food processor to combine the flour mixture with the butter until a mealy consistency is achieved. Add the water [about 60mL] and work the dough to form a smooth ball. Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours.

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After the dough is done refrigerating, roll it out into a 13″ circle. Place it in a 9″ pie pan. Trim the edges and shape to your liking, or use the extra dough to decorate it! [I’m still getting the hang of making pretty, homemade pie crusts, but it’s a creative experience, so don’t expect Martha Stewart results the first time and just have fun with it!] Freeze the raw pie crust for 20 minutes.

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While the crust is freezing, toast your pecans. Spread them out on a pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake them for 12 minutes, stirring often. When the pecans are done being toasted, place them in a large bowl to cool off and increase the oven temperature to 400°F in preparation to par-bake your pie crust!

Take the crust out of the freezer and cover it with buttered tin foil (butter side down! 😉 ). Place rice or pie weights on top of the tin foil to keep the crust from shrinking and losing its shape. Bake at 400°F for 20 minutes. Turn off the oven.

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Freeze the partially baked crust for 15 minutes. While the par-baked crust is freezing again, prep the chocolate ganache. In a small pot, over medium heat, combine the chocolate and heavy whipping cream until a smooth texture is achieved. Pour the chocolate mixture onto the crust and freeze for another 20 minutes.

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Now it is time to prepare the filling. Melt together the butter, dark brown sugar, golden syrup, and salt in a small pot (you’re welcome to re-use the one from the ganache). Let this mixture simmer for several minutes until it thins out and darkens in color. Next, add in the bourbon, vinegar, and vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over the toasted pecans and stir it all together! Let it rest for 10 minutes before stirring in the eggs. [You need the eggs to hold the filling together, but you don’t want them to curdle by stirring them into a mixture that’s too hot.] Once your filling is completed, remove the crust from the freezer and pour it over the chocolate layer of the pie.

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Bake the pie at 350°F for 45-50 minutes. The center of the pie should still look gooey, but it will set during cooling time.

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Pecan pie can be served at any temperature really, but this one is best served warmed or at room temperature so the chocolate is easy to eat. We were also able to refrigerate it and it was still delicious a week later! It needs no accompaniments, so you can skip the ice cream or whipped cream, if you like!

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Enjoy!

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Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites

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There are two things I love about this recipe:

1) It can sort of be made all in one pot so there are fewer dishes for all my fellow chocolate-craving, backache-ridden mommas-to-be.
2) If you get tired halfway through and decide to quit, you still have delicious homemade salted caramel to snack on. I won’t lie, I will probably make just the caramel part of this recipe at some point and eat all of it. It’s that good.

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I was originally working from a Smitten Kitchen brownie recipe, but I decided to change all of the ratios of dry-to-wet ingredients (because we all know that’s a smart thing to do when baking) and I ended up making some awesome cake bites instead. I was careful to keep track of the exact measurements, but I will be testing these again in the near future to be sure that I didn’t just get lucky with some magical baking chemistry the first time around!

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I will be the first to admit that there are times when you crave the fudgy, richness of a brownie. I recently posted some caramel brownies that will do just the trick, but these aren’t going to satisfy that craving. These are for the times when you want something a bit lighter. These cake bites aren’t too rich or sweet, so they are an awesome option when you’re looking for a less decadent, less heavy dessert. The only downside to this is that, if you’re anything like me, you and your household (… or mostly just you) will destroy an entire pan in a matter of days. 🙂

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Salted Cocoa Caramel Cake Bites
(makes one 8×8 pan– i.e. probably more than a single human should eat in two days, whoops)

Ingredients

for the caramel:
4 tablespoons salted butter [I used good, European-style butter for this to give the caramel the creamiest flavor possible]
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt [I used a local, vanilla-infused sea salt]

for the cake batter:
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 stick salted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2/3 cup flour [warning: I used White Lily AP flour, which can sometimes behave differently than other AP flours]

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Begin by making the caramel. This process is surprisingly simple, but it can get dangerous so be careful! Caramel is notorious for giving people serious burns. As long as you are conscientious of this and stay mindful of the splattering, you will be fine.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter and sugar together over medium-high heat. The butter and sugar will likely stay somewhat separated, but you want to get them as mixed as possible while the sugar is melting. Once the sugar is largely integrated and simmering, watch for color changes. You are looking for a golden color if you prefer a mild butter flavor, and a light brown color for a richer, nuttier flavor.

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This process may take a few minutes. Just be sure not to let the butter get too dark. I like mine a bit burnt, but you don’t want it getting too brown in color, and when you begin to smell a nuttiness, you know you need to remove it from heat because it can quickly turn too burnt and become bitter. There is a sweet spot to butter-browning, and it can take some practice to know when that point comes. You’re better off leaving it a bit underdone rather than burning it. I mean- it’s butter and sugar, it’s going to taste great either way.

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While you’re waiting for the sugar to melt and the butter to darken, prepare a plate for the caramel. Cover it in parchment paper and butter the parchment paper.

When the sugar is well integrated and the butter has changed colors, take the mixture off of the heat and add in the salt and milk. When you add in the milk, be careful. The mixture will sputter a bit, but quickly begin to look like a beautiful, traditional caramel! Stir everything together with a rubber spatula and return to medium heat.

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Let the mixture simmer for several minutes. Stir your caramel until the last bits of sugar are melted. [Note: if you are planning to eat the caramel straight and forego the cake part, I would recommend leaving some whole sugar because it will give a beautiful, crunchy texture to your finished caramel.] Pour the mixture onto the parchment paper covered plate and place it in the freezer.

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If your freezer is kept very cold, like mine (0°F), it will not take much time for the caramel to cool, and you can begin making the batter. If you have a warmer temp freezer, you may want to wait twenty minutes or so before starting up on the batter.

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To make the batter- cover an 8×8 pan in parchment paper and butter! Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Set up a double boiler. I reused the caramel pot and filled a much larger pot with boiling water. Over the double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter- yes more butter! It helps to cut the butter and chocolate up beforehand. Stir with your rubber spatula until the mixture has melted completely.

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Take it off of the heat and add in the sugar, salt, and vanilla extract.

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Before you add in the eggs, you may want to crack them in a separate bowl and prepare yourself to quickly stir! The mixture won’t be boiling hot, but I’m always nervous about curdling eggs, so I try to add them in quickly. Finally, mix in the flour.

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Pour the batter into the prepared dish.

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Take the salted caramel from the freezer and chop it into bits. Mine was like a soft caramel and I could NOT resist snacking on some of it, I highly recommend doing so! Again- if you get tired and don’t feel like making the cake batter, these homemade soft caramels alone are good enough to satisfy a sweet tooth!

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At this point you can really do whatever you want- toss the pieces on top of the batter, mix them into the batter, do a little of both! It’s completely up to you. Next time I make these cake bites, I will probably mix the caramel in to make for prettier pictures, but it will be delicious either way. The caramel will melt in the oven and sink into the cake, so do be aware of that if you decide to put them all on top.

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Bake the cake at 350°F for 30 minutes.

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Enjoy!

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Homemade Mashed Potatoes + Vegetarian Brown Gravy

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People regularly assume that vegetarians need and want extra special meals to make up for the fact that they are missing meat. Often, I will be served absurd quantities of side dishes- oh you don’t want the chicken, here you must need twenty rolls instead. Sometimes, it comes in the form of some strikingly complex alternative- no pork chop for you, here’s a braised mushroom-leak-asparagus stew with fifty million herbs in it to make it taste good. There are even occasions when the appropriate substitute seems to be an entire farm’s worth of produce on a plate, the indemnifying salad, and while I am no fan of flesh, I am also not a ruminant. There are times when I, just like everyone else, crave and flock to traditional comfort foods.

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When I say traditional comfort foods, I mean traditional in the purest sense of the word. One beautiful example of this is mashed potatoes and brown gravy. Brown gravy… what is it even? It’s clearly just named after its appearance. Usually it does contain the broth or fat from some meat product- typically turkey or beef. It is the absolute perfect accompaniment to a pile of mashed potatoes. You prepare the mashed potatoes, southern-style, with cream and butter. The gravy should provide a pop of flavor, a salty component that completes the side dish. Most vegetarian alternatives have chunks of mushroom, thyme, parsley, and lord knows what else in there. Those options never provided me with the simplicity I was looking for. So, we made our own!

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I have to say, the first bite I took of these mashed potatoes with this gravy really transported me back to the days when I ate brown gravy at Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. They are so perfectly simple and gratifying, there is no need to spruce them up or make them fancy. As an added bonus, they are also incredibly easy to make.

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We love to have these as a side on our “southern nights” with peas, collards, chicken, and white sauce. I will admit, in the past we have made packaged mashed potatoes. Now, obviously those are not really mashed potatoes, or even actual food for that matter. But we always thought that it would be too difficult and time-consuming to make homemade mashed potatoes once a week. Wrong. These are so easy to make! They take about half an hour and although we use an immersion blender to mash them, you really can just as easily use a fork!

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For any vegetarians or health conscious omnivores, I hope this alternative provides you with the same satisfaction it did for me! It is simple in both its traditional flavor and cooking process!

Mashed Potatoes + Vegetarian Brown Gravy

serves 4

Ingredients

for the mashed potatoes
1/4 cup kosher salt (to be mixed with boiling water)
2 russet potatoes (about 1 3/4 lbs)
1/3 cup milk (we use 2%)
1 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
salt and pepper to taste (we use 1/4 tsp each)

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for the gravy
2 1/2 tablespoons salted butter
1/4 cup AP flour
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon pepper

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I’d recommend starting with your gravy, as it can be easily reheated and you will want your mashed potatoes fresh.

Start by making your vegetable broth if you are using bouillon. You’ll want to have that already prepped. We use 1 tablespoon of better than bouillon per cup of water.

Next, make a roux. In a large skillet or shallow pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Slowly whisk in the flour to create a thick roux.

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Add the broth very slowly while whisking. You want the roux to continue to thicken but to get darker in color, almost like a miso paste.

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Finally, whisk in the milk, soy sauce, and pepper! Let the gravy continue to cook over low heat. It will thicken while you make the mashed potatoes!

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Begin by washing and scrubbing the potatoes. We like the peel to be included so we leave them intact, but if you hate it- peel them!

Chop the potatoes into cubes, this will help them cook faster.

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Combine two quarts of water with 1/4 cup kosher salt in a heavy pot over high heat. Add in the chopped potatoes. Once the water reaches a rolling boil, it should take around 5 minutes for them to cook. They are ready to be drained when a fork slides easily through them.

Drain the potatoes and put them in a large bowl.

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Add the milk, butter, salt, and pepper. Mash with a fork or immersion blender until desired consistency is reached!

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If you are using an immersion blender, do be careful, or you’ll end up with potato soup!

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Top the mashed potatoes with brown gravy and enjoy!

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Tangelo Sweet Rolls

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It has been a very long time since I lasted posted, and (unsurprisingly) a lot has happened. My husband and I are expecting our first child in October!! It is a very exciting time for us, and the first trimester was a roller coaster of nausea for me. Our cooking has been minimal the past few months, as I have been living off of my cravings for subways sandwiches and mashed potatoes!

I have also been craving  citrus fruits way more often than I ever did before! Perhaps I need the calcium? Either way, we found a way to make citrus fruits unhealthy and sugary and delicious- put them in sweet rolls! These are essentially cinnamon rolls with a fruity filling instead of the more traditional nut and spice filling.

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Typically these kinds of sweet rolls are made with oranges, but we made them with tangelos (the zest and juice). I preferred the tangelo flavor because it is tangier. Also, the rind is much brighter in color, which makes for great photos when you add in the zest!

You can serve these for breakfast, dessert, or as a snack! It does make a large batch, and they don’t stay moist for too long- so I recommend making these when you’ve got lots of hungry mouths to feed!

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The recipe was inspired by an orange roll post from Lemon-Sugar, who uses traditional citrus and no zest! It was super easy to make, even in our small kitchen with no mixer. It is rather time consuming, but these tasty treats make the wait worth it!

Enjoy!

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Tangelo Sweet Rolls

(makes roughly two dozen rolls)

Ingredients

for the dough
2 1/4 tablespoons instant yeast
1 3/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
5 1/2 cups AP flour
2 tsp salt
2 eggs


for the filling
1 tablespoon tangelo zest (from about 1 tangelo)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1/2 cup salted butter at room temperature [especially if you don’t have a mixer, it’s best to take this out as early as possible so that it can completely soften]
1 cup sugar

for the icing
1 teaspoon orange extract
1/4 cup freshly squeezed tangelo juice
1 tablespoon tangelo zest
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream

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First, make your dough. Preheat the oven to 200° F and after it has preheated, turn it off. Combine the warm water with the yeast to proof your yeast- you may even wish to add a pinch of sugar for the yeast to feed off of. Let the yeast proof for about ten minutes. I usually proof yeast in the oven, but it was very reactive and I just left it on the counter this time around!

While the yeast is proofing, melt the butter in the microwave. I did probably one minute on 50% power, just enough to get it melted, but no more. Whisk the honey into the butter.

In a large bowl, measure out four cups of AP flour. Combine with the salt. Fold in the proofed yeast.

When the honey-butter mixture has cooled down a bit, whisk in the eggs. Then, add this to the larger flour mixture.

Fold it all together with a rubber spatula. In different environments dough will form in a unique way. My recommendation is to keep folding until it all comes together in one big heap. If you can stick your finger to it and pull away dough (meaning, it’s super sticky), add a bit more flour. Add 1/2 cup at a time, and do not go over 6 cups! We needed about 5 1/2 for ours, thus we added 1 1/2 cups to the original dough. Work it as little as possible in between additions. You do not want your dough to get tough and you don’t need it to lose all stickiness. It should be pretty sticky, but it should at least all stay together even when you put a finger on it.

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Butter the bowl well and cover it in plastic wrap. Place it somewhere warm- either your oven or maybe even a microwave! Let it rise for 1 hour.

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While the dough is rising you can make the filling, which takes like two minutes. With the remaining 58 minutes you could watch your favorite show or go to the gym to make up the the insane number of calories you will be consuming from these rolls. William and I chose the former. 🙂

To make the filling, start by washing and zesting a tangelo. We got one tablespoon of zest and 1/2 cup of juice from a single tangelo. Juice the tangelo and strain the juice into a bowl. Combine 1/4 of the juice with all of the zest in a bowl. Add in the sugar and room temperature butter. Blend them together until a paste is formed.

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When the dough has finished rising, and is about doubled, prepare a large work surface by covering it in parchment paper and sprinkling it with flour. Punch down the dough while it is still in the bowl. This gets all of the added air out and allows for the rolls to cook more evenly. Spread the dough carefully into a large rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.

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Take your filling and drop spoonfuls across the entire sheet of dough. You will then need to spread the filling with your hands. Your dough should be sticky and the filling is a bit granular from the sugar, so the process will take some time and patience. Spread the filling generously across the entire rectangle of dough.

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Next comes William’s favorite part! Rolling the dough. This is not an easy task, but it’s fun- don’t let yourself get frustrated with any mess you make, it will all be tasty and beautiful in the end! You need to roll the rectangle into a very long cylinder. Try to keep it as tight as possible, gently pressing down and squeezing the dough when necessary. If you need to stretch out the dough to help this process, you can, as long as you don’t poke too many holes in it!

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When all is said and done, hopefully you have a giant cylinder of dough snaking its way across your countertop!

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Butter several pans. [We really like using round glass or ceramic pans for rolls, it seems like they cook better in these and the heat more effectively reaches the center of the pan, fully baking all of the dough.] Using your sharpest knife, cut 2-inch slices and carefully place them in the pan. It helped having two people in the kitchen for this. When you move them, you do have to be pretty careful to keep them together and not let any filling fall out.

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When all of the rolls are cut and in their pans, let them rise for another half hour.

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Preheat your oven to 375°F. When you bake the rolls, be sure to bake them all on one rack, to insure even cooking. We did 20 minutes on the top rack, and 5 minutes on the bottom rack. During the last five minutes we also needed to cover them with tin foil so that the tops would not be too browned.

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I will say, the baking is always a little stressful for me. We do not have the best oven, and it doesn’t seem to heat things very thoroughly. This can be especially problematic with breads, and sometimes the center goes uncooked. This technique of moving our pans around worked very well for us and they were all perfectly cooked!

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While the rolls are baking, you can make the icing. It’s super easy! In a medium sized bow, whisk together another 1/4 cup of juice, and another tablespoon of zest, along with a bit of orange extract. We did need to zest one more tangelo for this, but if you have a really good plane grater, you might not find it necessary! Combine this with the powdered sugar and cream. You may need to add additional cream (1 tablespoon at a time) to get the consistency that you like.

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I prefer fairly thick icing, as it photographs better and coats the rolls a bit better.

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When the rolls come out they are ready to be glazed and served! [Do not skimp on the glaze, yes, you have enough to cover them!!]

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Enjoy!

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Caramel Fudge Brownies

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The term fudge in the title here is key. These are chewy brownies, not cakey brownies.

I don’t have any problems with boxed brownie mixes, I usually enjoy them. We didn’t have any boxed brownie mix around the house, but we did have the ingredients for these! To be completely honest, it didn’t take too much longer than boxed brownies, but the texture and flavor is much better!

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This makes one 9×9 pan, and for us that’s about 9 brownies (of course, many people cut them smaller, but we like big serving sizes 🙂 ).

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Caramel Fudge Brownies

Ingredients

1 1/4 cup sugar
11 tablespoons salted butter [yes, really. this is not a typo.]
1/2 cup cake flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup caramels (we used Werther’s soft caramels)
1/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks

Parchment paper

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First, melt the butter in the microwave for a minute or two. You want to get it fairly hot (we usually do 1:30- 2 minutes). Combine the sugar with the melted butter and stir. The sugar won’t dissolve completely, but it also shouldn’t separate out.

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In a medium bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

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Add the sugar-butter mixture to the flour mixture. Combine with the eggs and vanilla to create your batter base.

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If you are using larger caramels (like we did) chop them up. We also used a bittersweet chocolate bar and chopped that into chunks.

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Stir the caramel and chocolate chunks into the batter.

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Preheat the oven to 325° F.

Cut out a small, square piece of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the 9 x 9 pan.

Pour the batter into the pan. If necessary, you can use a rubber spatula to spread the batter out, allowing it to cook more evenly.

Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out clean!

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If you can resist, let them cool for a good 30 minutes and then enjoy! The caramel especially needs to cool before you really want to eat it!

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Winter Veggie Stew

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Apologies for the absence- a couple things have happened in the past month or so, including a wedding (yes, ours) and a honeymoon (also ours!). We are back to cooking and today we are pining for the long, lost seasons! In California everyone raves about the weather, but we miss having actual weather- and four, distinct seasons!

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Because the rest of the country is still sort of experiencing what some might call “winter,” we decided to make a stew with a few seasonal, winter veggies. To be fair, calling this a stew is a bit generous. It’s a fairly thin soup that isn’t chunky. However, it has all of the super comforting and cozy makings of a good stew, so we’re going with it!

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This recipe was inspired by a NYT recipe, you can find that here. I do love the NYT cooking section, however I often find their vagueness disconcerting. They leave much of the decision-making up to the reader, which is fine for experienced cooks who know all of their favorite flavors and combos, but not really useful for your average person who just wants to follow a recipe and get a tasty meal out of it.

We developed our own version that changes up the ratios to make this soup not only heartier and healthier, but also less wasteful. One notable thing we southerners tend to do is try to use every part of the veggies we are cooking with. That’s what we did here. No discarding of vitamin-rich greens, and very little peeling. (It also happens to be less work- yay!)

One caveat for this recipe- you will need a blender or food processor. You will also want some string for your bouquet garni. (Don’t be offput by the fanciful French. It’s just a bunch of yummy herbs for a “broth” base).

Winter Veggie Stew

8 servings (2 cups, 120 calories each!)

Ingredients

for the bouquet garni
3 bay leaves
2 tarragon stalks
4 sage stalks
3 thyme stalks
3 rosemary stalks
2 parsley bunches

4 carrots
2 celery stalks
3 leeks
3 garlic cloves
2 turnips
1 lb russet potatoes [yes, it’s possible you’ll only need one, giant potato for this!]

salt and pepper
1/4 cup crème fraîche + more to top [if you want to keep it vegan, skip the crème fraîche!]

optional to top
french bread
parmesan cheese

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Begin by creating your bouquet garni. Wash all the herbs and stack them in a giant pile. I recommend placing the bay leaves in the center to keep them from falling out. Tie them together with string like this:

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Place your bouquet garni in about 6 cups (1 1/2 quarts) of water. You will want the largest pot you have for this!

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Next, prepare your veggies. This is the most time intensive process of the entire meal, and it’s a great opportunity to get your family in the kitchen to help out! You need to: wash, peel, and dice the carrots; wash and dice the celery (please include the leaves, no need to waste them!); wash and clean the leeks, slicing all but the yellow portions on the innermost layers; mince the garlic; clean, peel, and dice the turnips; clean and dice the potatoes (or potato).

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After your veggies are prepped, you’re ready to begin the super easy cooking process!

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Throw all of the veggies into the pot of water along with 4 teaspoons salt and 4 teaspoons pepper. You’re making about 16 cups of soup, so don’t worry if this sounds like a ton of spice. Simmer all of this for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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After your soup is done with its initial cooking, carefully remove and discard your bouquet, I recommend even counting the bay leaves to ensure none of them escaped during cooking!

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In batches, blend your soup to a thick, but creamy consistency.

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Place it all back into the pot, and add in 1/4 cup of crème fraîche. If you are vegan, you can skip this part!

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Serve topped with parmesan, additional crème fraîche, or even some french bread!

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Enjoy!

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P.S. You can freeze this soup and it gets even better when you reheat it! Great for meal-preppers, who like to have go-to healthy meals in the freezer for a quick dinner on a busy weeknight!

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Mini Breakfast Casseroles

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The process of creating a miniature breakfast casserole was simple. We love breakfast, breakfast foods are delicious and easy to cook. We love miniature versions of things, they’re cute, this is just a fact. When these two ideas are joined together they yield a wonderful, flavor-packed, and easy-to-make breakfast delight.

An additionally exciting note is that with breakfast casseroles, you can truly tailor them to your own taste preferences. It’s honestly really hard to go wrong with flavor combinations when it comes to these. The final thing to keep in mind is, to have fun while making them because these little breakfast dishes aren’t just adorable, they’re delicious too!

 

Mini Breakfast Casseroles
(makes 4)

Ingredients
Two, thawed hash-brown patties (we love to use Trader Joe’s brand frozen patties)
2 tablespoons yellow cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons white cheddar cheese
8 strips Morningstar veggie bacon (this could be substituted with real bacon if desired)
4 eggs
splash of milk (we used around 2 tablespoons)
1 Serrano pepper
4 tomatoes
1/3 cippolini onion
salt and pepper to taste

To start, preheat your oven to 350° F.

We made these using four small to medium sized ramekins. Grease the bottom and sides of your ramekins with either butter or some type of cooking spray. Then, cut your hash-brown patties in half and squish them into the bottom of your ramekin. Dust them with a pinch of salt and pepper.

Place these in the oven for about 10-15 minutes, we want these to start getting crispy so they add a nice textural note to your little egg nests.

While the hash-browns are baking, this is a perfect time to start prepping your filling. Dice the tomatoes, the pepper, and the onion. You can either grate your cheese or just chop it into small cubes. Whisk your eggs together with the milk and set them aside in a bowl.

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Once your hash-brown filled ramekins have been taken out of the oven, you can start the assembly. First, place two strips of bacon in the shape of a cross on top of your ramekin and then push them in so that they are both touching the inside of the ramekin and the top of your hash-brown.

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All ramekins with bacon

Second, distribute your filling (tomatoes, pepper, and onion) evenly among your four ramekins.

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Third, pour your whisked eggs into each of the ramekins making sure to fill them evenly (that way they all cook at the same speed).

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Finally, top with your grated cheese!

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Place the ramekins back into the oven for another 20-22 minutes or until the egg is fully cooked. Take them out and enjoy!

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Vegetarian, Alabama-style Jackfruit BBQ

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I highly recommend trying this BBQ recipe, even if you are normally a meat-eater. Using jackfruit in lieu of pulled pork is nothing new in Asian cuisines, but we are bringing it down to the Deep South! We pair a braised jackfruit BBQ with traditional Alabama white sauce, and it is absolutely delicious!

This is a vegetarian spin on an old and classic BBQ sandwich. You can even make it vegan by leaving off the white sauce (or making vegan white sauce)!

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Jackfruit is a stringy, Asian fruit that can be eaten sweetened or in a brine. It can be bought fresh at supermarkets during certain times of the year- however it is difficult to find and doesn’t quite match the texture of BBQ, when cooked from the fresh fruit.

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That being said, you should try to look for canned jackfruit. Be very careful when you are looking for this product canned. Be sure that you find jackfruit in brine, NOT in syrup. You cannot use the syrup jackfruit for this recipe, so it’s a waste of your money (and personally, I think the syrupy jackfruit tastes awful). If you insist on finding it in a store- check an Asian supermarket. When my mom prepared this BBQ in Alabama, she was able to find it with ease at Birmingham’s Asian supermarket. Here in California, though we have multiple Asian markets, none of them carry canned jackfruit. All of that is simply to say: my recommendation is actually to just buy canned jackfruit from Amazon. You can be sure you are getting the right kind, it is reliable in terms of delivery dates, and you don’t have to drive anywhere!

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William and I had planned on making this months before we ever got around to it because we had the hardest time finding the right jackfruit. However, all of our efforts ended up being worth it because it is so yummy! It is also super easy!

Enjoy!

Alabama-Style Jackfruit BBQ

(makes 4-5 sandwiches)

Ingredients
1/2 Anaheim pepper
1 serrano pepper
1/2 large, yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 20 ounce cans jackfruit in brine
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup traditional, red BBQ sauce (make sure this is vegetarian friendly!)
salt and pepper to taste

traditional buns and any fixin’s including Alabama white BBQ sauce (a recipe for this unique and amazing vinegar-based sauce can be found here)

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First, clean and mince the peppers. Make sure you clear out all those seeds, and I’d recommend rubbing your fingers with a bit of olive oil beforehand to prevent that burning from occurring afterwards.

Chop the onion finely- you can dice it if you like, it can be in pieces a bit bigger than the peppers!

Mince the garlic.

Combine the peppers, onion, and garlic in a large, shallow pan with the olive oil. Let these cook on very low heat for about 5 minutes.

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Next, tackle this jackfruit! You will need to rinse it in water to clean off the brine. Then, carefully cut out any pieces of the core that you can see. It is the whitest, most solid, and almost spongy part of the fruit. This part of the jackfruit isn’t bad to the taste, but it will mess with the texture of your BBQ, and we don’t want that! Once you have your jackfruit cleaned and de-cored, you can set it aside.

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Turn back to your pot and turn the heat up just a bit to get a simmer. Stir your onion mixture. Add in the cumin, paprika, and liquid smoke.

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If you are using a pre-made vegetable broth, add it into your pot. We use a bouillon base and added that with water. Stir everything together and turn up the heat to a good simmer.

Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes before adding in the jackfruit and BBQ sauce.

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After adding in the BBQ sauce and jackfruit, let the mixture cook on lower heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you can season with salt and pepper. Do a taste test after 15 minutes and if it’s tender enough for you- you’re ready to build your sandwich! Let your own BBQ preferences be your guide to how long you should keep this on the stove!

Build a traditional sandwich using buttered, sesame seed buns, pickles, and Alabama white sauce!

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Make a mess and enjoy!

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