Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vegan, Organic, Good. Nu'tella Recipe

    Behold! Nutella, veganized.

    This is the stuff of legend. I can say with confidence that this new 'tella is decadent and delicious. Slathered on bread or eaten from a spoon, the flavor is indistinguishable from the real thing. Yet its glossy sheen and spreadable-caramel consistency set it apart - It is its own 'tella. Can it get any better?

    I think not.

Vegan, Organic, Good. Nu'tella 
Makes about 1/3 cup*

1c hazelnuts
2 T cocoa powder
1 T coconut oil, melted (or oil of choice)
sweetener, to taste* (agave, corn syrup, powdered sugar, maple syrup, etc)
pinch salt (optional)*

1. Shell and roast hazelnuts in single layer in baking pan at 375 F until skins are dark brown, about 10 to 15 minutes.
2. Remove the skins while hazelnuts are still warm by putting them in a kitchen towel and rubbing them together. If there's still some skins left on them don't fret - anywhere from about 60% of skins removed will suffice.
3. In a sturdy blender or food processor, blend completely cooled hazelnuts until you create nut butter, usually about 5 mins.* You will get chopped nuts first, then a gradually finer crumb. Soon the meal will begin to stick together, due to the oils released by the heat and friction. Scrape sides down with a spatula. Continue to process until it reaches a fairly smooth consistency.
4. To this nut butter, add cocoa powder, oil, salt and sweetener. Blend until combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Taste test and add more sweetener if desired. Blend until smooth.
5. Store in the fridge for 1-2 months. If more spreadable texture is desired when serving, heat in the microwave for 10-20 seconds.

    *This is me suggesting you make double the recipe (or quadruple...Life is short, right?)
    *I say "to taste" for the sweetener because I'm not sure what the devil I did. I meant to sample different sweeteners and see what was best, but I ended up just not measuring anything and throwing honey (this makes the title "vegan" debatable, but what the hey, you do what you gotta do) and agave nectar in pell-mell. The stuff is meant to be quite sweet, but of course it's up to you.
    *I plumb forgot the salt and it was glorious without it, so obviously an optional ingredient. I think maybe it would make it a little better, but to such an almost-imperceptible degree that it really doesn't matter.
    *I don't want to be responsible for any destroyed blenders or food processor motors out there. Allow your machine to rest a little bit, blend in pulses, whatever. Just don't murder the thing.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Baby Churros Recipe

    When I was about, oh... 10 or 11? my brother and I went with our good friends and stayed at Disneyland for a whole week. This was soon after the addition of California Adventures to the park and they had this massive, grand hotel that I can't remember the name of that we stayed in. We'd lather up with sunscreen every morning and head into the park, stand in line all day for a cumulative few minutes' time on rides, then watch Fantasmic and call it a night. We ate at all those ridiculously expensive Disneyland restaurants (my favorite being the one inside Pirates of the Caribbean, despite the fact that they served a very sorry excuse for clam chowder).

    This trip must have cost a fortune, in addition to being pure monotony for our friends' parents, but BY JOVE I had the best time ever! I hate to pull out the Harry Potter references again (I don't), but it was totally like Harry living at the Leaky Cauldron and spending his days in Diagon Alley. We knew the park very well by the end of it and scoffed at the "tourists" and their park maps. We lounged around by the pool of the hotel, stood about chatting with foreigners and punk kids (basically the same thing to us at the time and equally thrilling) in line for Indian Jones, ate tons of ice cream and churros, and lived rather richly in general.

    Oh, you see I've gotten to the point finally? Yes, those crispy, fried delights... Glorious churros! I'm sure I ate at least 3 churros a day while there, and this gross over-indulgence only fueled my passion for more of them. It was always an inevitable tragedy to lose any of that divine cinnamon and sugar coating to the ground. They really need to work on how to handle those things better so none of it goes to waste... (Rereading this I realize that it is a very small wonder indeed that I was such a fat little kid.)
    Anyway, the point is I was frankly devastated the day I realized I couldn't have churros if I ever went to Disneyland again. That land of pure decadence had been marred for me, despite my continued adoration of Splash Mountain, and for a long time I didn't know if it could ever been restored to its former glory. However, when I managed these successful and highly delicious gluten free and vegan churros, I saw a definite glimmer of hope.

    In fact, it was more like a torrent of hope. And after eating about ten of them, I knew for certain... Churros really are the happiest food on Earth. 

    I may not be able to say that with a straight face, but boy, I mean it!