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Vegan comfort food: How make indulgent recipes without animal products

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If you’ve adopted a vegan diet, you might miss those experiences.

You’d think it would be hard to make “veganized” versions of traditional comfort foods taste just as good as those food items that are now but distant memories.

But the developments in the vegan food industry, growing acceptance of the diet and proliferation of talented vegan food bloggers in the last several years make indulgent vegan comfort food an achievable feat.

The dish reminds us of childhood, home cooking, loved ones or holidays. The food is soft and warm. It’s sweet, salty or umami. It addresses senses such as smell, taste and touch, or what it feels like in our mouths.

“I think, for most people, comfort food is nostalgic,” said Dee Pernell, a naturopathic physician and founder and CEO of First Batch Artisan Foods, an ice cream parlor in Atlanta. “It’s heavy; it’s warm; it’s comforting and it feels like a big hug.

“It can trigger pleasure sensors when we eat certain foods, and especially when [we] taste foods from times where we had no bills or responsibility or no Covid-19.”

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Every meal should be comforting “to make your experience of eating something joyous rather than sort of just out of utility,” said Lauren Toyota, author of the “Hot for Food Vegan Comfort Classics: 101 Recipes to Feed Your Face” cookbook, and content creator for a vegan food blog and YouTube channel Hot for Food.

“It’s extremely important right now because we’re feeling like we don’t have control over anything,” she added. “So much is unknown and food is really what grounds us.

“Comfort food plays to all [of our] senses at once, and I think that’s what you find pleasurable experiences do.”

To make delicious vegan comfort food, it’s important to understand the elements that make traditional common comfort foods so delicious — and to keep vegan versions as close to the original as possible, Toyota said.

When you need to satisfy those cravings, here’s what both professionals said you should know and have on hand. Below, we’ve also included some mouthwatering recipes to get you started.

Requirements for baking good vegan cookies and brownies

To make vegan cookies and brownies as soft, moist and chewy as non-vegan cookies, brown sugar and white sugar have to be at the right ratios, Pernell said.

Pernell's vegan cookies have a decadent balance of sugar and fat.

Brown sugar “creates that sort of chewy texture in a cookie, while the [white] sugar, when it melts, it gives the cookie more moisture,” she said. “The two of those together along with the [vegan] butter and the right amount of flour make the perfect cookie.”

Any store-bought vegan butter can replace dairy butter or boxed mixes that require oil, Toyota said. Ground flaxseed and water or aquafaba (chickpea brine) can substitute for eggs. Two tablespoons ground flax and one-third cup of water simulate the texture of one egg. Three tablespoons of aquafaba act as one egg, and it’s also good for making meringue, Toyota said.

Vegan brownies can be fudgy and chewy in the way people remember traditional brownies.

And don’t skimp on the quality of your ingredients for any of these foods, Pernell advised.

High-quality ingredients such as chocolate or cocoa with high fat content greatly contribute to the flavor and richness of the end product, she said. On the back of chocolate packaging, look for at least 20% to 24% fat — the higher, the better.

What you need to make delicious vegan cinnamon rolls and cobblers

For cinnamon rolls, mimic any non-vegan recipe. Plant-based milk can replace dairy. Aquafaba for eggs may be a better substitute as it wouldn’t darken the color. Use vegan butter for regular butter. Vegan cream cheese can be used for the frosting.

How to eat less meat and more plants

The star of peach cobbler is the crust, and you can still mimic a traditional recipe. Use cold vegan butter, cut into pieces from sticks, to fold into the batter and give the finished product that familiar bite, chew and crunch. For the peaches, mix your traditional spices first then adjust if needed. Then add vegan butter.

The fundamentals of cooking vegan soul food

Soul food, a cuisine associated with African Americans in the southern United States, includes black-eyed peas, collard or mustard greens, cornbread and mac and cheese, to name a few. All can be easily made vegan, with maybe the exception of smoked meat in greens.

“For the soul food, I literally use all the exact spices that [my grandmother, mother and aunts] would use to season their food,” Pernell said.

To achieve the same flavor as meat, smoke hickory wood chips in water on the stovetop and then use that pot to cook the peas and greens, Pernell suggested. You can also pour in a bit of liquid smoke, which is sold in the condiments section in many stores.

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For indulgent mac and cheese, reserve some of the pasta water. For the creamy, cheesy texture and flavor for a 1 pound box of pasta, Pernell recommended using 1 cup of pasta water; 2 cups of plain, unsweetened almond or soy milk; 1 cup of nondairy cheese; and the same seasonings (such as salt, pepper, granulated garlic and onion, and paprika).

For melt-in-your-mouth cornbread, use a traditional recipe with a few swaps: the flax mixture or aquafaba for eggs; soy, almond or oat milk for milk and vegan butter for regular butter.

Crucial elements of creamy vegan ice cream

Good vegan ice cream involves the “perfect combination of fat and sugar together that creates a specific mouthfeel and reminds people of what they’re accustomed to getting,” Pernell said.

Your dairy substitute should be higher in the ratio of fat to sugar, so the ice cream won’t feel dry and icy in your mouth. Pernell recommended using coconut cream. Oat milk and cashew milk are also good substitutes.

How to make vegan ‘chicken’ noodle soup

You’d think the flavor of chicken is essential to chicken noodle soup, but “a lot of the time the flavoring is coming from the plant-based ingredients like spices and garlic,” Toyota said.

While you can’t get the fat element that meat would provide, you can use vegan butter or oil to achieve the silky texture of the soup. Mirepoix, the combination of onions, celery and carrots sauteed in fat, forms the base. Bottled poultry seasoning, with sage, thyme and other herbs, does its part. You could use vegetable stock, or chicken-flavored bouillon cubes, to get closer to an authentic flavor.

Hot for Food's vegan chicken noodle soup is reminiscent of a longtime family favorite.

If you want, use vegan chicken alternatives.

Essentials of indulgent vegan pastas and lasagnas

Vegan pastas or lasagnas with rich sauces, cheesiness and meaty flavor are possible. To a traditional tomato sauce recipe, you could add balsamic vinegar for umami flavor, Toyota said.

Hot for Food's vegan bolognese is vegetable-based but hearty.

Use a mushroom mince or meat alternative to replace the ground beef. You can also find vegan cheese in the grocery store.

Building blocks of vegan nachos

One recipe Toyota is famous for is her vegan nacho cheese sauce.

“It’s so reminiscent of the nostalgic, pumped cheese you would get at the fair or movie theater all over the tortilla chips,” she said.

Hot for Food's nacho cheese is a favorite among some vegan food fans.

It’s made with vegetables. Under the cheese and other ingredients of your choice, you could use beans to replace the meat. Or cook up some veggie ground beef in taco seasonings — find it in the freezer section of your supermarket.

For sour cream, blend raw cashews with lemon juice or vinegar for acidity and brightness. Or use unsweetened plain coconut yogurt, since it’s sour.

Necessities for flavorful vegan gravy and biscuits

What’s good about gravy is the umami flavor, the savory taste of glutamates that we sometimes recognize as meat or fish flavor. The word has Japanese origins, Toyota said: Umami means “deliciousness,” and the discovery stems from kombu seaweed.

“It is just so satisfying,” she added. “It hits you on the whole tongue and it’s the thing that just makes you say, ‘Oh, that tastes good.’ And you don’t even know why.”

Mushroom- and tamari- or soy sauce-based gravies have that flavor because of their own glutamates. In either, you can use vegetable broth or bouillon cubes, miso paste, shallots and garlic sauteed in oil or vegan butter, and herbs like rosemary or thyme.

Hot for Food's vegan gravy is just as savory as a traditional recipe.

Use cold, hard vegan butter in biscuits to achieve flaky layers, Toyota recommended. For buttermilk, use any nondairy milk with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice for acidity and thickness. The acidity helps the rising agents (baking powder or soda) to react, and the finished product to be flaky.

Hot for Food's cheesy chive biscuits are as flaky as their non-vegan counterparts.

Time to experiment

These tips are some of the fundamentals of making good vegan comfort food, and they can apply to many other recipes.

“It’s a great time now with us having more time at home to just get in the kitchen and explore different things,” Pernell said. And, do your research about ingredients that work well or fall short and “don’t be disappointed if a recipe doesn’t turn out well,” she added.

“I’ve done tons and tons of things before I got it right.”

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Recipes

95-year-old Twin Falls woman wins national recipe contest ​ | Southern Idaho Community News

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TWIN FALLS — Beverly Hiatt, a 95-year-old resident of Syringa Place Senior Living in Twin Falls, was honored June 28 as a national winner of the Enlivant Senior Living Recipe Contest. She was recognized in a Zoom conference with other winners from the Northwest U.S. Division and honored in-person at Syringa Place by the administrator of the Twin Falls facility, Brandon Peterson.

Hiatt received an engraved plaque and a $250 gift certificate from Amazon which she immediately offered to her children for their help in preparing the dish. Her award-winning salad will be featured on the Enlivant fall/winter menu at their 220 facilities across the nation.

There were 12 categories open for entry and Hiatt’s family choose the salad category to feature her recipe for Ginger Pear Salad, using lime Jell-O, ginger ale, cream cheese and pecans.

The contest came at a difficult time. Her daughter had arrived for a month’s visit when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and residents at assisted living centers were being sheltered from exposure by isolating themselves from visitors. The Hiatts collaborated from a distance to prepare the dish and submit the recipe along with pictures of the Jell-O variation.

Hiatt has lived in the Magic Valley for more than 30 years and is no stranger to winning such contests. In 1990, she took home a $500 gift certificate won in the Weight Watchers Recipe Book contest for her Chili Rellenos.

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KFC Offers 30-Cent Secret Recipe Fries With Any Purchase On July 13, 2020

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KFC Offers 30-Cent Secret Recipe Fries With Any Purchase On July 13, 2020
KFC Offers 30-Cent Secret Recipe Fries With Any Purchase On July 13, 2020

KFC is turning back the clock 50 years to celebrate National French Fry Day by offering Secret Recipe Fries at the throwback price of 30-cents on Monday, July 30, 2020.

KFC’s 30-cent Secret Recipe Fries offer is valid for an individual order of Secret Recipe Fries at participating locations with any purchase, while supplies last. There’s a limit of one order per person at the discounted price. Unfortunately, the deal is not valid for delivery.

According to the company, the brand actually offered fries on the menu for 30-cents some 50 years ago.

KFC’s Secret Recipe Fries are seasoned with a secret blend of herbs and spices and fried up until crispy and golden, for signature KFC flavor.

Outside of the one day only National French Fry Day promotion, fans can enjoy an individual size of Secret Recipe Fries a la carte for a suggested price of $2.29, although prices may vary.

Image – KFC

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Flat iron steaks are great for grilling

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iStockphoto by Getty Images

Flat irons steaks, ready for the grill.

You who sear steer meat are acquainted with Chuck, but generally steer clear of him in favor of Sir Loin, or Madame Filet Mignon, or other, more tender cuts of beef. However, inside of Chuck was always a soft heart; it just took a crafty butcher to find it.

It’s called flat iron (because, not unlike our own, Chuck’s tender heart has the triangular shape of a clothes iron). Flat iron was always that part of Chuck called top blade (Chuck is very large and has many personalities). But because blade has a nasty seam of sinew and connective tissue running down his middle, he never did well alone over the dry heat of the grill or in a cast-iron skillet. Blade just was best for braising, that moist-heat cooking that could properly and profitably soften him up.

But one day, a crafty butcher skillfully sliced away at top blade’s sinew, separating steaks on both sides — and the grilling world had its first flat irons.

Some say, in fact, that flat iron is the second most tender cut of beef after filet mignon. Hence, it is woefully under-appreciated and, often, underpriced. However, because it does come from chuck, it sports much more intense beefy awesomeness than filet, more like that from New York strip. That’s a compliment that any searer of steer will appreciate.

Flat iron also has more names than pro wrestling’s roster. You’ll find it, in different parts of the country and from various butchers or grocers, under these names: boneless top chuck steak; oyster blade steak; book steak; butler steak; lifter steak; chuck clod; petite steak; triangle steak; shoulder top blade steak; and boneless top blade steak. (Note that it is not, however, one of these names, all of which are different cuts of beef: hangar, flank or skirt steak.)

The flat iron steak is very tender and well-marbled, therefore great for grilling. Some cooks reflexively marinate it because they marinate all beef. There is no need to tenderize flat iron, but be cautious not to overcook it, either.

Flat Iron Steaks

To serve 2

Ingredients

2 flat iron steaks, each 1 1/2 inches thick (total weight of each depends on your appetites)

Seasoning of your choice (kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper; dry prepared steak rub or seasoning; marinade)

Directions

For both methods of cooking here and to assure proper finishing temperatures, steaks should be thawed and at room temperature (out of the refrigerator and set on the counter 30-40 minutes before cooking). Season the steaks, however desired.

To grill: On charcoal, have both hot and medium-hot sections of the grill. Put steaks over the hotter section first, searing both sides for 2 minutes a side. Then move to the less hot part of the grill and cook to an internal temperature (read on an instant-read thermometer) of 130 degrees for medium-rare (12-14 minutes, with one flip). On gas, preheat to high, then proceed as with charcoal, lowering heat to medium after the 2-minute sear.

To sear in a skillet atop the stove: Heat a heavy or cast-iron skillet over high heat for 5 minutes, or until very hot. Add 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as canola, avocado or soybean; however, not olive oil or butter) and immediately add steaks to pan. Cook to an internal temperature, read on an instant-read thermometer, of 130 degrees for medium-rare (13-15 minutes, with one flip).

For both methods of cooking here, remove the steaks from the heat source and rest them on a counter, cutting board or warmed plate for 5 minutes before serving, tented loosely with foil. (The internal temperature will rise about 5 degrees, which is desired.) Resting the steaks allows the internal juices to redistribute themselves away from the surface of the steaks where they have traveled due to the heat of cooking and back into and throughout the meat.

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