Sides

Grandmother Phillips’ Fried Okra

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I remember my father’s paternal grandmother as a strong, Southern woman. She was a force. I only saw her on holidays but I will never forget her cooking, which we ate at home all throughout the year. She used to freeze her fresh-from-the-garden, hand-battered okra and we would take it home in bags every winter. That fried okra was a precious commodity, rationed carefully until the next Christmas.

Grandmother Phillips had a garden in her backyard. She grew everything in it. I remember describing her to friends as a farmer, though she did not sell her produce for a living. She canned and froze everything. She was an expert in preservation. Preservation of food and of tradition and of family.  The garage of her old home was lined with walls and walls of cans: cucumber, okra, squash, peas, peaches– you name it, she had it canned from her garden.

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At Christmas we would visit her home in (relatively) rural, northern Alabama and there would be an endless array of options. People would comment about how excessive the spread was, but Grandmother Phillips’ would never pare it down. Only after her death did I come to see how food is a love language for Southern folks, and I was (at least partially) descended from Southern folks, and my grandmother was showing her love for us by feeding us well.

After she died I remember looking into our freezer and seeing one last bag of her homemade fried okra. I don’t remember the last meal we ate with that one remaining batch of Grandmother Phillips’ okra, but I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe for most of my adult life.

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We recently joined a CSA program, which gives us plenty of fresh produce to consume weekly. Grandmother Phillips would probably call it lazy eating, but it gives us plenty of okra to experiment with and I have finally been able to get satisfactorily close to her fried okra.

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It has a ton of flavor and it freezes very well. It is easy to prep, as far as fried foods go, and it can be reheated in the oven, which I love for the easy clean-up.

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A single batch will serve five adults as a generous side portion, but we often dole out smaller portions and let half of it sit in the freezer for an easy side on another night.


Grandmother Phillips’ Fried Okra

(serves ~6)

Ingredients
1 cup whole milk*
1 tablespoon white vinegar*
2 pounds fresh okra
1 cup AP flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (just a dash if you don’t like spicy)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
canola or avocado oil
*OR 1 cup buttermilk


First, combine the milk and vinegar in a measuring cup. Let it sit for 15 minutes. (Alternatively: skip this step and use 1 cup buttermilk.)

Next, wash and slice the okra into 1/2″ – 1″ thick rounds.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix the okra and milk. Let this sit for at least 20 minutes.

Then, in a large bowl, mix the remaining, dry in ingredients.

When your okra is done “marinating”, drain the excess buttermilk and toss it in the cornmeal mixture. I find it best to toss the okra in batches as to avoid the pieces clumping together.*

Pan fry in a high-temp oil over medium heat. I find that this, too, works best in batches and there is no need to keep the okra on one side and tediously flip every piece halfway through cooking. It is fine to toss them in the pan and shake it around every now and then to evenly brown each piece.**

Drain the okra on paper towels and sprinkle with a fine, table salt. After cooling, it can be placed in a bag and frozen for later.

*If you have the time and patience, batter each okra circle one at a time. Try to keep them as separate as possible!

**One of the greatest things about this okra is that each bite is a little different. It is fully homemade and thus “rustic” in both texture and flavor. Do not concern yourself over perfect knife cuts or even browning, as this okra should be a delicious, low-stress side!

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Crispy Cauliflower + Homemade Ranch

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As a vegetarian, I have no appetite for a food like chicken. However, I’m not crazy. I like food, and I enjoy the enticing smell of fried chicken. I get a little hungry when the Publix fried chicken commercial comes on [let’s be honest– it’s borderline food porn, which you can view here].

It’s tough to find a vegetarian alternative that really satisfies that craving for something crispy and salty and fatty. This cauliflower recipe certainly does the trick!

When it comes to frying foods, I have always been a huge fan of what my husband and I call SBP (aka Standard Breading Procedure). Anytime we decide to fry something it has always been SBP- dredge in flour, soak in egg, coat in bread crumbs or panko.

This recipe uses a different breading technique, one that leaves you with a crunchy, flaky, and deliciously crisp snack. It is even easier, requiring only two bowls and NO raw egg!

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I am also adding my recipe for homemade ranch. I always keep a large jar of this in my fridge, and it is really easy to make. It’s also MUCH creamier and fresh-flavored than bottled varieties of ranch.

Crispy Cauliflower + Homemade Ranch

Ingredients

for the cauliflower
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder and paprika
1/4 teaspoon each: onion powder and turmeric
1 cup buttermilk
1 head of cauliflower
1 cup flour  (+1/4 teaspoon kosher salt)
vegetable oil

for the ranch
(makes about 1 cup of ranch dressing)
1/4 cup each: milk, sour cream, and mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon each: dried parsley, garlic powder, kosher salt, pepper, and Penzey’s mural of flavor*
1/8 teaspoon each: onion powder and dried dill

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To make the ranch dressing, whisk all ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. You can store this in a large mason jar in the fridge. Feel free to adjust the ratios to your taste! I enjoy the herbal quality that Penzey’s mural of flavor spice blend adds, but it isn’t necessary if you don’t have it already in your kitchen!

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For the cauliflower, begin by mixing all the herbs and spices in a large bowl or gallon plastic bag.* Add the buttermilk in and stir thoroughly.

*I used a plastic bread bowl that my grandmother gave to me. It has a top on it, so it is perfect for battering veggies (and rising bread dough).

Next, wash and chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Coat the florets in the buttermilk mixture. I put the lid on the bowl and shook it around, but you can accomplish this with your hands or a spatula. Be sure to generously coat each piece. Then, set this bowl aside, allowing the cauliflower to “marinate”.

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Prepare the oil in a small pot, about 2 inches deep, over medium heat.

In a second bowl, combine the flour with 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Measure out 3 tablespoons of the buttermilk-spice mixture and blend it into the flour until it has a crumbly texture.

Take each, buttermilk-soaked floret and coat it generously in the crumbly flour mixture.

Test if the oil is ready by dropping a bit of batter into the pot. If it sputters and bubbles, it’s time to fry!

Fry the coated florets in batches, replenishing the oil as needed. Give each batch about five minutes to cook the cauliflower and get golden and crispy! Set them aside to cool and drain on a paper towel.

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Serve with ranch as an appetizer, snack, or side. 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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4-Ingredient, Vegetarian Sausage Balls

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Growing up, my family ate a ton of breakfast foods. One of the things we commonly ate on special occasions were sausage balls. These are tiny bites of absolute heaven. Cheesy goodness and spicy sausage held together with a little breadiness from a Bisquik box. Little did I know at the time- those were basically the only ingredients in the entire snack!

Now that I no longer eat actual sausage, I still like to revisit recipes like this from my childhood. Recently, I began experimenting with the creation of a vegetarian sausage ball. I was looking for a super easy way to make these nostalgic treats for an only slightly healthier diet.

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Perhaps the most amazing thing about these is that they can be frozen! They can be frozen for long amounts of time and then, for long amounts of time, you have a stash of delicious sausage balls that you can reheat at any moment for a quick, but still tasty breakfast! Every time we make ours we make them a little bit bigger. If you make them about the size of a golf ball, you don’t get as many servings out of it, but you can truly have a single one for a solid breakfast on-the-go. It’s a great option for busy families who still like to do some meal prep and have food that feels more homemade!

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This is such an incredibly easy recipe- it only calls for 4 ingredients (one of which is water, I mean, does that even count?)!

4-Ingredient Soy Sausage Balls
(makes about 27, medium-sized balls)

Ingredients
1 lb soy sausage (I always use Morningstar’s regular brand, and simply use 12 patties)
3 1/2 cups Bisquik
1 lb extra-sharp cheddar cheese (I highly recommend shredding cheese off of a block for this, it makes the moisture content more accurate so you will not need to add as much water as you will if you use pre-shredded cheese)
1/4 cup water

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First, microwave all of the soy sausage patties on a plate for 4 minutes. You want them to be soft and easy to tear apart, but not to the point of being fully crisped or cooked. Chop the patties into a crumble. You can chop them as finely as you like. It really depends on your preference.

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Combine the cheese and Bisquik in a large bowl. Stir together carefully. I like to use my hands because it can be a messy process and I prefer to have complete control over it!

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Add in the sausage crumbles. Mix together entirely. It helps to have a very large bowl here, and to use your hands as you stir.

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Finally add in the water. It will not seem like enough water at first, but keep working the “dough” until it finally comes together. You should not need to add more than a 1/4 cup of water if you use freshly grated cheese. If you are using packaged, shredded cheese, it will be drier than the fresh kind. As a result, you will want to add additional water. I recommend doing this by the tablespoon until your dough comes together. You want to avoid adding too much water. The dough will be fairly dry, but still cohesive enough to keep shape.

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Cover a baking tray in parchment paper. Form the balls, trying to keep them as regularly shaped as you can. It’s up to you how large or small you make them. We have never done larger than roughly 1/4 cup sized. Arrange them on a baking tray. Rest the baking tray in your freezer for 15-20 minutes.

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Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Bake for 20 minutes! They do stick to parchment paper and aluminum foil, so you will just need to let them cool and then peel them off carefully!

Any balls that you would like to freeze, you can plop them all in a large plastic bag and put them in the freezer! When you are ready to eat them later, simply follow the baking instructions listed here!

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Enjoy!

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Bruschetta con Burrata

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Rich, Italian foods are always immensely satisfying and this is one of them. Savory olive oils, tart tomatoes, milky burrata cheese, and fresh basil– it all makes for one delicious bite! Pretty much anyone can make a good bruschetta with a variety of ingredients, but this particular combination has become our go-to. We have tried tons of different kinds of breads and different ingredients, but we landed on this recipe and we haven’t changed it in about a year. We make it probably once a month (it is incredibly delicious, but it’s not really very healthy).

Bruschetta is a fairly traditional Italian dish that has become popularized all over the world. In Italy, there are many, regional variations. The Toscana region often prepares a simplified version with salt, pepper, and olive oil. This fettunta is usually more of a vehicle for tasting the first batches of olive oil for the season. In the Campania region, the dish has been served for a very long time and, unsurprisingly, it has evolved. Often, you will see bruschetta here with mushrooms, squash, and even sausages. There are many other variations, but here in the States, we usually see it with basil, tomatoes, and olive oil. I’ve added burrata in the Campanian style to counter the acidity of the tomatoes, and I believe it works very well.

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You can eat these as a snack or a full meal. We usually opt for the full meal with a glass of white wine. It doesn’t take much time, and the full recipe makes about 24 pieces. Each slice is around 115 calories, as I said, it’s a treat! However, every piece does have 3 grams of protein (which is pretty good for a vegetarian bruschetta). Obviously, there are tons of changes you could make to this recipe to spice it up or simplify it!

Enjoy!

Burrata Bruschetta

Ingredients
1 Trader Joe’s herb loaf
1/2 cup olive oil (I use dark, flavorful varieties, but if you prefer a lighter oil, go for it!)
1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 lb cherry or grape tomatoes (I usually do half red cherry, half multi-colored, mini heirloom)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
fresh basil (several stems, enough to chiffonade about 2 tablespoons)
1 carton Trader Joe’s burrata (equivalent of 2 burrata balls, about 8oz total)
optional
truffle olive oil drizzle to finish (adds a nice, savory flavor that works especially well if this is to be an entree)

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First, prep a baking sheet. Cover it in tin foil and preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the herb loaf into 1″ strips and then cut each strip in half.

Mix the olive oil and garlic salt in a small dish. Brush each side of every slice with the garlic olive oil.

Next, begin chopping the tomatoes. You want to cut them into fairly small pieces that still retain their shape and some of their juices. Either quarter or sixth each one. Put them in a medium-sized bowl. Add in the salt and pepper and stir it all together. Next, chiffonade the basil. Mix it in with the tomatoes carefully. Taste the mixture to make sure it is to your liking, and make any adjustments necessary. I usually add in a bit more basil.

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Bake the olive oil bread for about 5 minutes. Watch it carefully, you want it just lightly toasted but not too crispy.

Next, slice the burrata carefully and arrange a little bit on each slice of bread. Some pieces will have more cheese than others, but that is okay! You can stretch the cheese by spreading some of the creamier inner part onto a few slices. Bake the cheese + bread for another few minutes. Do not wait for the cheese to melt, you just want it to warm up.

Finally, arrange about a spoonful of the tomato mixture onto each slice.

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You can also add extra basil and truffle oil to the top! Serve immediately and enjoy!

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Rosemary-Mozzarella Pretzels

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I am the biggest fan of huge, soft pretzels that ever existed. I know that is a hefty statement to make, but it’s true! These massive, buttery pretzels outrank their crunchy, baked cousins in every possible way… except maybe standards of healthiness. No, these are not clean-eating pretzels that you got in your lunchbox as an alternative to chips. These are big, fluffy, cheesy, salty pretzels- the kind you salivate over at ballparks and stadium events.

Truth be told, the existence of soft pretzels is really my only motivation for ever attending stadium sporting events or visiting overcrowded malls. These soft pretzels are a fabulously souped-up version of their ballpark counterparts. We stuff them with a deliciously cheesy filling and top them with butter and parmesan.

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This is based off of a great recipe by Baker by Nature! It includes a great explanation of yeast and the chemistry behind it, and why some people proof it and some do not. I proof yeast every time I bake with it. It is second nature to me, and I think it’s a good habit to get into. Because of this, I include the proofing process as part of the recipe here.

Growing up, my mom taught us very early how to bake bread from scratch, and she always proofed the yeast before making the dough. I have never had this method fail on me (unless, of course, the yeast is dead). It is super easy to follow, and it creates the fluffiest, moistest breads! If you’re totally confident working with yeast and breads, you don’t have to do this part, but I would certainly recommend it!

 

Rosemary-Mozzarella Pretzels

makes 8 large pretzels

for the dough
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons Rapid Rise yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/4 cups AP flour
3 tablespoons minced, fresh rosemary
6 tablespoons salted butter, softened
parchment paper

for the pretzel cooking liquid
10 cups water
3/4 cup baking soda

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for the filling
1 1/2 cups shredded, mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded, parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg + 1 tablespoon water for egg wash

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for the topping
4 tablespoons salted butter, melted
1/2 cup grated, Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

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Begin by proofing the yeast. Preheat an oven to 200°F. After it preheats, turn it off. Mix the sugar with the water in a small bowl (the water should be slightly warm to the touch, around 110°F). Pour in the yeast and agitate slightly to ensure that all of the yeast is moistened by the sugar-water. Place the bowl in the oven and leave the oven open. Let it sit in that warm environment for 10 minutes.

While the yeast is proofing, measure out the flour and salt into a large bowl. Mix them together. Add in the softened butter until it is completely mixed in with the flour (no big chunks).

pretzels

Wash, de-stem, and mince the rosemary.

Add the proofed yeast and rosemary to the dough. Use a rubber spatula to mix everything together by folding dough and scraping the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a warm, damp paper towel and place it back in the oven (with the oven door closed this time). Let the dough rise for about an hour (it should double in size).

While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Mix the mozzarella cheese with the parmesan, pepper, and salt.

When the dough has risen, remove it from the oven and roll it out in a ball onto a floured work surface. (I usually cover my counter with parchment paper and add a bit of flour on top for this process.)

Using your sharpest, unserrated knife, cut the dough into four equal pieces.
pretzels

Next, cut each of those slices into two, so that you have 8 pieces in all.

pretzels

 

To make each pretzel, roll one dough ball out into a long string. You want it to be about 1 1/2 feet long.

pretzels

Use your hands or a rolling pin to flatten it.

pretzels

Place about 2 tablespoons of the mozzarella filling on the dough, along one edge.

pretzels

Slowly and carefully, roll the dough back into a circular tube. Be sure to press down on the dough to create a seal around the filling!

Make the shape of the letter ‘U’ with the tube.

pretzels

Cross the two, top ends of the ‘U’.

pretzels

Flip the crossed ends down over the loop, and you’ve got a traditional pretzel!

pretzels

Do this with each dough ball, and in the meantime, set a large pot of water mixed with baking soda on the stove to boil.

As you are forming your pretzels, feel free to have some fun with it. You can even do a double twist, like so:

pretzels

After the pretzels are formed and the baking soda water is boiling, prepare two cookie sheets by covering them in parchment paper. Next, place the pretzels in the water one-at-a-time. Let it float there for about half a minute before carefully lifting it out of the water using slotted spoons.

Do this with each pretzel, until they are all partially cooked from the water. This might create a bit of a mess with baking soda residue on the range, but it is super easy to clean, so do not worry too much about it now!

Preheat the oven to 425°F. While the oven is preheating, do a quick egg wash on the pretzels to help them brown.

Whisk together 1 tablespoon of water with an egg. Using a brush, coat each pretzel generously in the egg wash. After the oven is preheated, let the pretzels bake for 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown on top!

Finally, prepare the topping!

Melt about 4 tablespoons of salted butter. Brush the top of each pretzel with the butter.

Measure out the extra parmesan and chop up another tablespoon of rosemary. Mix those two together in a small bowl along with the garlic salt and pepper. Sprinkle this on top of the pretzels!

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Enjoy with tomato sauce for dipping or by itself!

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Smashed Potatoes

smashed potatoes all dressed up

This was a dish that I had seen many times but had always been hesitant to attempt. One of the worries I had was that the potatoes would dry out and end up tasting chalky, this recipe solves that problem and in doing so imparts a spectacular flavor on these potatoes.

This dish was made vegetarian but you could easily make it either vegan or meaty with a few swapped ingredients.

DSC_0224

 

Ingredients
1 lb baby butter potatoes
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh sage
2 sprigs fresh oregano
1 Knorr veggie broth bouillon cube
4 tablespoons salted butter (divided into single tablespoons)
2 cups water
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Optional Ingredients
chopped rosemary (topping)
grated Parmesan cheese (topping)

smashed potato ingredients

To start, combine the water and the bouillon cube in a wide pot (be sure it’s large enough, this is where I made a mistake) over high heat until it begins to boil. Feel free to help the bouillon cube dissolve by crushing it with your spoon and stirring the pot. At this point, add in your herbs and two tablespoons butter to help season the broth and let it stew for about 5 minutes. It’s this delicious broth mixture that gives the smashed potatoes so much flavor and at the same time allows them to stay moist.

herbs, butter, veggie broth

After the butter has melted, gently add your potatoes, making sure they are partially covered with liquid and have enough space around them. As you can see in my picture, the pot I used was a bit too small and I ended up having to change to a larger one later. Making sure they have enough space is crucial, as they will need to spread out when you gently smash them.
potatoes in the broth

Let these cook, covered, until tender enough that a fork will somewhat easily pierce a potato (about 15 – 20 minutes). At this point remove the cover and gently press down on each potato until you feel the skin give way. Don’t push too hard or the potatoes will not hold together and you’ll have a mess on your hand!

squished potatoes

Cook these until the liquid has completely evaporated, and after for an extra 3 – 5 minutes to get a nice crispy edge. At this point, remove your pan from heat and gently remove the potatoes from the pan.

potatoes out of the pan

Scrape out the contents of your pan before returning it to the stove top.

scrape the pan

Upon returning the pan to the stove-top, add in the last two tablespoons of butter. This will help the other side of the potatoes get nice and crispy.

butter in the pan

After the butter melts, add the potatoes back in with the previously crisped side facing up.

second round potatoes

Cook these for another 3 – 5 minutes or until browned. Remove them from the pan and serve! We added extra chopped rosemary, some grated Parmesan, salt, and fresh black pepper to ours.

Bomb-Ass Potato Salad

potato salad

I call this bomb-ass potato salad, because I know that nobody will be interested in making or eating it if I title this post “vegan potatoes.” Bleh. Whenever people hear the word vegan, they walk the other way! Let’s just say that this is a dish that just so happens to be vegan, but you can easily sub regular mayo for the vegenaise and add bacon bits to make it carnivore-friendly! I think it’s nice to make available a sneaky vegan dish like this, because at picnics and other large gatherings there will always be friends and family with dietary restrictions- and we want everyone to enjoy the food together, so why not make it inclusive?

This is a great recipe that we discovered while on the Daniel Fast. It’s a vegan potato salad that is sooo tasty! The celery gives it a nice crunch, the potatoes a good creamy texture, and the dill and mustard provide bright flavors! It works well with veggies but can also be good on crackers. I have never put potato salad on a sandwich before, but I don’t see why you couldn’t! It is a great recipe for BBQ’s and picnics that is yummy, but also accessible because, as I said, anyone with dietary restrictions is likely to be able to enjoy it.

There are so many ways to get creative with this one; I would highly recommend that you taste it along the way to get the exact flavor you like! Plus, getting a little snack in makes the cooking process more fun!

potato salad

 

Potato Salad

(makes about 5 servings)

Ingredients
2 pounds red potatoes
2 stalks celery
1 tablespoon minced, fresh parsley
1/2 cup minced, fresh dill
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons vegan mayo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
kosher salt and pepper to taste

potato salad

 

First, scrub those potatoes clean and put them up in a pot of salted, boiling water. You want to boil them, skin-on, until a fork slides easily through (let’s call it 10 minutes, though it might take a bit longer).

Cube the potatoes and throw them into a large bowl. I like to keep the skin on because I love having potato skins in my potato salad, but if you’d rather lose them- peel the potatoes first!

potato salad

Wash and slice the celery, adding it into the potatoes.

potato salad

Wash and mince the parsley and dill. Throw those in with the potatoes.

potato salad

Juice the lemon and add the juice to the mix.

potato salad

 

Finally, mix in the mayo and mustard. You can also add salt and pepper to taste, I recommend about 1/2 a teaspoon of each (but you should taste test before you throw it all in there, unless you know that you like salty foods!).

potato salad

Serve with crackers, vegetables, or even bread!

potato salad

 

Enjoy!

potato salad

 

Vegan Spring Rolls

spring roll

Felice Pasqua a tutti! The Daniel Fast is coming to an end! One of the last recipes I will be posting as explicitly fast-friendly is for a delicious veggie spring roll! However, there will be more vegan recipes coming up in the future, because we have discovered several wonderful and healthy staples during our fast!

For this spring roll, we wanted something asian-inspired, but vegan. Sometimes that can be difficult to find! However, we put together a few recipes we found around the internet, and switched out the typical egg roll wrapper for the fast-friendly spring roll wrapper.

spring rolls

 

The result is a savory (yet still fresh) filling that lends itself to being dipped in soy sauce. I am obsessed with soy sauce- on everything, even though I know that usually you should have your spring rolls with the sweet and sour sauce, I always have mine with soy sauce!

 

That being said- if you do not like soy sauce you should definitely increase the salt in the filling a bit. We purposefully decreased the salt levels because we knew we wanted to dip in soy sauce and that would bring the salty flavor that we wanted. If you are planning to use a different dipping sauce, adjust the recipe accordingly (from effectively no salt to about 1/2 tsp would be my suggestion).

If you are also opposed to frying anything, you can easily eat these in the wrapper, without cooking them (as a more traditional spring roll). It’s delicious either fried or not, but we wanted the extra crunch that comes with sautéing them in a bit of olive oil!

spring roll

A final note before we begin- this recipe makes around 20 spring rolls! I say ‘about’ because my fiancé and I try to keep an accurate count but these are so delicious that we always munch on them as we are cooking, so I can’t promise exactly 20. Suffice to say, this recipe makes a large number of spring rolls! They are super healthy though, so you can eat tons of them and not feel bad! If you are absolutely positive you do not want to end up with twenty of these, you can cut the recipe in half easily, and it should cause no problems!

Vegan Spring Rolls

makes about 20 (but they can serve as few as two, because they are that yummy!)

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups spinach
2 cups de-stemmed cilantro
2 garlic cloves
1 medium yellow onion
2 green onions
2 cups silken tofu (1, 16 oz package)

spring roll wrappers (we were able to find these at our local safeway, I am assuming they are not too rare based off of that)

spring roll

 

First, sauté the spinach in olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper. We usually do about two tablespoons of olive oil, a few dashes of salt, and one crack of pepper!

spring roll

 

The spinach will turn bright green and then slowly begin getting darker. Ideally, you want to cook it until it is completely wilted but has not yet lost its color. This is sometimes a difficult balance to strike, but if you cook it a bit to long, it’s not a huge deal. If you’re really into it- you can set up a bath of ice water to blanche them! Drain the spinach really well and then place it in a large bowl.

Next, wash and de-stem two cups of cilantro. This part is a tedious task- I won’t lie. Picking all of the leaves off until you have two full cups takes some time, but it is so worth it for that deliciously fresh flavor that cilantro adds.

Mince the garlic and chop the onion and green onion.

spring roll

 

Mix the spinach, cilantro, garlic, onion, green onion, and tofu into a large bowl. With silken tofu, it will mash up very easily, but you don’t want to use any of the excess water that comes in the container.

spring roll

 

After everything has been mixed well, sauté the filling in a large pan.

spring roll

 

Cook the filling down over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until the moisture evaporates from the mixture and the onions are tender.  Place it back in the bowl to cool off.

To prepare your spring roll wrappers, you will need to arrange two plates- one filled with water, and one dry. The process of filling these will be done one a time. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do more than that, as the wrappers get hopelessly stuck together after they have been rehydrated.

First, soak a wrapper in the water, letting it sit for about 30 seconds, or until it becomes malleable and sticky.

spring rolls

 

 

Next, spread the rehydrated wrapper onto the dry plate. Spoon a small amount (at most 1 tablespoon) of filling onto the top of the wrapper.

spring rolls

 

 

Then, begin wrapping the filling by bringing the top of the wrapper over it and completely covering it once. Fold in the sides, almost as if you’re swaddling a baby.

spring roll

 

From this point you can roll all the way down.

spring roll

 

spring roll

 

Now, you have the option to eat these as they are! The filling will still be relatively warm and they are yummy, but, as I said, we decided to cook them in some olive oil to add a crunch. Olive oil, with its low smoking point, might not be the best for this process, and we did have some issues with smoke. I would recommend trying out a higher temp oil, like vegetable oil or canola oil.

 

To ‘fry’ these, we use only about 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Over medium-high heat, these will crisp up in about 10 minutes, but you want to flip them to get each side as crispy as possible!

spring roll

 

These spring rolls also stick together in the pan, so try to keep them separated as you’re cooking! We chose spring roll wrappers, because they are fast-friendly and vegan, but egg roll wrappers or won ton wrappers could work better for this!

 

spring rolls

 

The wrapping and cooking process does take some time, so you will probably be munching on them while you cook! They make great snacks, and they save very well in the fridge. I have even eaten them cold, dipped in soy sauce, and they’re still delicious!

Enjoy!

spring roll

 

spring roll

 

spring roll