Monday, April 19, 2010

Vegan Cookie Experiment

Seven years ago I fed my sweet baby something that I had loved as a child. It was none other than Nutella, the fabulous chocolate & hazelnut spread from Europe. We use to eat it on bread or just off of a spoon. It was such a treat! So, when I gave my then 15 month old son a lick of the gooey spread he broke out in hives and started choking! I never thought of an allergy to nuts! He had eaten peanut butter before. I gave him benedryl and rushed him to the doctor. I then found out that there are TREE nuts and PEAnuts. Peanuts are not nuts, but legumes, and although a good percent of America is allergic to them there is an entire group who is allergic to tree nuts. In the past years of my little one growing up I have often thought of having a cookie business that was nut free; both peanut and tree nut. I also thought it would be nice if they were gluten free, and vegan as well. Starting with brand new equipment the little shop could be free and clear of the allergens. I still have not found a tasty alternative to all of those. Today, however, I found a vegan cookie dough in the cold section at Whole Foods; "Eat Pastry" out of California.
You'd think with my nasty sloppy joe results I would have never tried another mix again in my life. But alas, I could not resist. I love buying products from entrepreneurs. I am here to tell you that this one was good! VERY good. You can eat the dough right out of the jar because there are not any eggs! Yummm. The dough was great, and the cookie crunched on the outside but was slightly soft on the inside. I say, "Give it a try".

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Sloppy "Sloppy Joe"

I know better than to buy a mix of anything, but I just had a weak moment in Williams Sonoma yesterday. My son has been begging me for sloppy joes. When I lived where I could get tomatoes by the box load I would make chili sauce. The chili sauce would be the base for my sloppy joes! It was to die for. Since then I have been relying on good old ketchup, green peppers and brown sugar. So, in my weak moment I purchased this high end mix with the assurance of the check out lady (whom we know has years of experience in the food business) that it was the BEST sloppy joe mix EVER!

Well, let me tell you....Yucky Ducky! After I added it to my meat I took a taste expecting that sweet tangy sauce. Instead, however, I got....cumin? CUMIN! Who uses this spice in sloppy joes? I quickly looked at the ingredients list on the back. Here is what I found; corn syrup, caramel color, ANCHOVIES, tamarind, veal demi-glace, mushroom stock, lime juice, roasted garlic, jalapeno powder and the list goes on. Seriously Williams Sonoma? What are you thinking? What was I thinking?

I am hear to tell you that I plan to return the empty bottle to the store today, letting them know it was disgusting. Then I am going to buy some meat, ketchup, brown sugar and bell pepper so that my little sweet boy may have his sloppy joe tonight. But in the meantime, here is my recipe for the chili mix.

Chile Sauce

24 large red-ripe tomatoes
3 medium onions, chopped
4 medium red bell peppers, seeded & chopped
2 jalapeno chilies, seeded & finely chopped
1 cup sugar
3 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp celery seed
1 Tbsp mustard seed
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar

Combine the tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, sugar & salt in a large saucepan. Cook over a low flame for 45 minutes. Tie the spices in a cheesecloth bag & add to the tomato mixture. cook until the mixture is reduced by one-half, about 45 minutes. As the mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add vinegar and cook slowly until desired thickness. Remove spice bag. Pour into hot clean jars leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Cap, seal & water-bath process for 15 minutes, adjusting for elevation if more than 1,000 feet above sea level.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tonka....Not Just For Trucks!

Last week my sister returned from a fabulous trip to Paris. I was there, of course, to welcome her home with open arms. Well....really, open hands. I was SO excited to see what her trip would yield up for me in the way of a gift. I knew it would be rude to ask, so I waited and listened to her adventures. I love any conversation that involves Paris or traveling, so my ears hung on every word that came from her mouth. It was so delightful that I got lost in the story and forgot all about the possibility of a gift.

Then in mid-sentence she said, "Oh! get my purse! Your present!" Ahhhh. My attention was alerted, and my heart quickened. What was in that purse? My palms began to sweat as she dug deep into the black hole of what she calls....her purse. Rummaging and riffling, her hand swept and punched the inside of the bag. It looked as though she was fighting a small dog in there. What could it be? I had great visions of a scarf, a book, or even better some yummy french food item! That would be my pick....food. Suddenly her hand stopped moving, "Ahhh HA! TONKA" she exclaimed. Tonka? I grew flushed with irritation and confusion. Tonka? She brought me a little yellow truck? Who goes to Paris to get their sister a truck?

But a truck it was not. Out of her purse came a little clear bottle containing strange seeds. It was tonka, a bean from a tree that grows in South America. They were black and wrinkled, not appetizing at all. But, when I lifted the lid the most amazing smell of vanilla, almond and cinnamon all rolled into one wafted past my nose to fill the house. It was relaxing and intoxicating all at once.
My sister explained that she had taken a cooking class while in Paris where they made pistachio custard tarts. Tonka was a key ingredient in the dessert. I was so thrilled, but scared at the same time because my oldest son is allergic to nuts and some seeds. I immediately got online to check it out. Tonka is actually a seed that comes from a bean tree in the tropics. It has been used by many countries in desserts, tobacco products and perfume.

I was not fully convinced of its safety for my boy. Why had I never heard of this flavor enhancing bean/seed/spice? Why? It is actually banned from use in food in the United States! It is not even allowed to be sold. The little gourmet item contains an anticoagulant. Well, what do you know? Big sister brought me a fragrent anticoagulant all the way from Paris. It was the thought that counted. I felt very honored! I mean, how many Americans can say they have tonka in their spice collection? Although I fear I shall never use my unique gift, I will have the pleasure of opening the bottle from time to time to breath a little Paris into my life.