Archive for October, 2008

“Well you play that Tarantella, all the hounds will start to roar…” Ah, Tom Waits is perfect in any Halloween playlist! These little spidey’s were so easy to make – as with the bats – I sketched out little round heads and little round bodies, used Wilton #1 tip and made little blobs and put them in the fridge to chill out. Then topped lightly frosted vanilla cupcakes, used melted chocolate with Wilton #1 tip again to make the legs..and voilà…Creepy crawly little spideycakes!

Happy Halloween everybody!!

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Not only is Candy Corn my quintessential Halloween candy, October 30th is designated National Candy Corn Day! And while I didn’t turn these puppies into kernel shapes of the traditional variety..I did take the liberty of using the Urban Housewife’s recipe to make Pumpkin shapes…

In addition to halving the recipe, I did make some minor changes..which were as follows:

1/2 C sugar
1 tsp brown sugar
1/3 C brown rice syrup
2.5 TBSP Earth Balance Vegan Butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.25 C powdered sugar
3 TBSP hemp protein powder (the hemp is what’s giving the pumpkins a speckled look, which I used because I didn’t have any powdered soy milk)
a pinch of sea salt

I used the same preparation steps Melisser (The Urban Housewife) used. Next time I’ll have to make green stems, and a brighter orange pumpkin, but I thought they turned out rather well…and they tasted great! All I did was roll out the dough, cut out rounds with the top of a shotglass which I then used my hands to roll them into a ball. I rolled out a long thing strip which ultimately became the stems, and to make the gourdy indentions I used the side of a fork!

Happy Halloween!

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“Well Miss Vale, Ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light? I always ask that of all my pray. I just like the sound of it… Batdance!” Don’t you just love Prince!?! I do, and I love Batman..especially Micheal Keaton, well..that’s not to say that I’m not totally in love with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne…

anyway… These cupcakes are, again, the vanilla cupcakes and basic unbuttercream as for the ghosts… For the bats, I drew freehand pencil sketches on parchment paper and then with melted chocolate and a Wilton #1 tip made the bats, placed them in the fridge to set up – about 30 minutes..then placed on top of the cupcakes. (side note: having them filled instead of just outlined seemed to help make them sturdier so they didn’t fall apart after being set on the cupcakes). Then I set the colony on flight to the dance-party….

Happy Halloween!

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays! I love the costumes, the goodies, and watching scary movies! So without getting into costumes and scary movies, let’s talk goodies! This week will be a full week of terrifying treats…without the tricks! Well..maybe a few tricks 😉 So to start off the week, who better than our friendly ghost, Casper.. For these cupcakes, I made the simple vanilla cupcake from VCTOTW (but any white cake recipe will do) and a basic unbuttercream. I didn’t add food coloring, just left it basic white! Then I went to town with my piping skills..and voilà! Ghosts!!

For the atmosphere I used the Wilton #233 multi-open tip for a hair-like or grass-like effect, and for Casper I used the Wilton #12 round tip and just swirled like I was making a soft-serve cone. Then I took some melted chocolate and used the Wilton #1 round tip to dot the eyes…

Happy Halloween!

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Shepherdess’ Pie

This is another kitchen sink recipe, (as in, you can throw in everything but the) like the Fried Rice. It’s very comforting in cold weather and works great as leftovers.


1 medium onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 C dried, crumbled bread (don’t add if you’re gluten free)

2 Tbs flaxseed meal

1 C chickpeas, or other bean

4 C chopped mixed veggies, such as: broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, squash, zucchini, bell pepper, green peas

2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 tsp sage

1 tsp thyme

3 C mashed potatoes, or more if you like a thicker layer of potatoes (you know who you are)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients, except mashed potatoes, in a large bowl. Transfer to a 9×13 baking pan. Spread the mashed potatoes over the veggies. Bake for 40 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving. I like to turn it upside down, so you get to the mashed potatoes last. 🙂

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I think one reason that when someone “tries” to go vegan (whether it’s for health, ethical, or environmental reasons), a big factor in the failure of most is a lack of information and education into what a vegan should be consuming to make sure they are getting everything they need to be the best vegan they can be! So to kick off IDA‘s ‘World Go Vegan Days‘ (Oct 25-31), I would like to give a crash course into what every vegan (or human in general) should and shouldn’t be eating (for those going vegan, and those who occasionally cook for or even just know a vegan, or if you’re a human being concerned about general health)…and I would like to dedicate this post to all those who don’t have time to read every vegan health book/resource out there but want to know how to be successful in getting all the nutrients one needs to have a healthy body while working their way through the information that’s out there. Jo and I do recommend a variety of books on our Links page, as well as discuss vegan health aspects here, which are good references for vegan nutrition and general information. I’ve also included links to some of our recipes that will help you eat from each food group, and as you’ll notice..a lot of them overlap in one recipe). This is a rather long post (by no means an exhaustive list), but I tried to make it as easily referenceable as possible – future post: I’m working on a cross-reference page of all the vitamins and minerals that I’ll randomly throw out in a post associated with specific foods! So I give you the Ins, the Outs, and the What-have-you’s of eating vegan!

(Side note from Jo here: a lot of people pass along information that is woefully inaccurate because they lack the most basic understanding of how the body works. For example, “milk builds strong bones.” That idea, like many of the erroneous beliefs about how bad veganism is for you, stems from the hugely successful marketing of the dairy industry. In fact, studies have shown that higher consumption of dairy products correlates with higher incidents of osteoporosis. Regular people, of course, don’t read scientific journals, but they do watch TV, so which piece of (mis)information do you think they believe? Sara is working on her PhD in physiology, so she knows a lot about how the body works and what it needs. I’m just saying that companies trying to sell you something are probably not a great source of reliable information, but scientists whose expertise allows them to sift the fact from fiction might have say something worth listening to.)

The Ins:

Vegans, as do all people, need to consume fats – good fats..not bad fats. Lipids (fats) are the body’s most concentrated source of food energy. However, lipids are only fully utilized if they are oxidized along with sugar. Without sufficient sugar, the body if forced to burn stored fat for energy. Sounds good in theory, but when only lipids are being metabolized, there is an excessive accumulation of the breakdown products (ketone bodies). Ketosis occurs frequently when a diet is low in carbohydrates, during starvation, and in uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. If ketones continue to build-up in the blood and interstitial fluids, blood pH can drop causing acidosis, leading to depression of the nervous system possibly causing serious brain damage, coma and death. Some lipids supply/aid the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E,K), while others promote and maintain healthy skin, normal growth, and reproductive ability. Quantity of fats also play as integral a role as the type of fats. Fats being less than 30% of total calorie intake in one day is recommended for optimal health. Eating 50% of your total calories as good fats is still bad for you – portion control people. Good fats include the following:

*Extra-Virgin Olive oil (obviously, sauté in Olive Oil over another oil is a good way to get this oil, as well as using it as a base for salad dressings and marinades)
*Coconut oil (good for baking and/or light fry – but watch the fried food intake)
*Safflower oil (also good for sauté in things like Vegetable Curry)

Veg curry

Vegetable curry

*Canola oil (excellent for baking and cooking alike, including as a base for marinades)
*Flaxseed oil is a rich source of vital omega-3 essential fatty acids (excellent for base as salad dressings; you can also add freshly ground flax to baked goods to get all the omega’s from the flax thereby getting it’s oils into things like banana bread)
*The best fats are from whole vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds that are unprocessed, polyunsaturated, and nonoxidized.

Bad fats include, besides the obvious animal fats, those from vegetable sources that are hydrogenated and found in most margarines, many brands of peanut butters (so look for the more natural nut butters), and hydrogenated cooking fats

Another thing vegans, and all people, need to consume is protein. However, people don’t need nearly as much protein as commonly believed (only about 0.8 kcal per kilogram of weight for adults). With a varied diet and adequate calorie intake, I don’t think vegans (or anyone) should really worry about protein deficiencies. And stop the presses…all plant food DOES contain protein! You don’t need to consume animal products to attain dietary protein. Just like animals, plants require protein for their basic molecular structure…so of course plants have protein! Dietary protein is most beneficial when it is balanced with many types of food to provide all the necessary amino acids. Excess protein is either used for energy or converted into saturated fat, so eating proper portions of the following foods, with variable combinations on a daily basis, will provide adequate amino acid requirements for the body to keep working like the machine it is:

*Beans and Peas (Check out these protein packed dishes: Baked Rice Casserole, Millet ‘Pea’laf, and Spicy Noodles)
*Whole Grains, cereals/breads/pastas (quinoa is a complete protein, i.e. it contains ALL 22 essential amino acids) – source of dietary fiber, minerals, and B-vitamins (Black bean Quinoa Salad, Red Beans and Rice, and Mexican Quinoa)
*Nuts and nut butters (but watch intake, as you could cross-over into excess fat consumption)
*Fruits (easily blended in fruit salads as well as various juices – blue, red)
*Meat-alternatives (though Jo and I aren’t personal fans; which just goes to show that you can be a healthy vegan without ever consuming a ounce of tofu or tempeh – and Jo and I both have the blood work to prove it)

One also needs to consume dietary carbohydrates, as they are another building block in that which we call life. Just like fats and proteins, there are good sources and bad sources of carbohydrates. Oh, and carbs aren’t the enemy – our good friend quantity is usually the enemy when it comes to carbs. All carbohydrates required for dietary health come from plant sources, with the exception of glycogen (which is made by our own liver). And by dietary carbohydrates, I’m referring to biological carbs, including starches, sugars, and fibers. Carbohydrates provide the most readily available energy source. Good sources of healthy carbs include:

*Vegetables which provide starch and some sugars
*Nectars, syrups, and ordinary table sugar provide glucose, fructose, maltose, and sucrose
*Grains and legumes are excellent sources of healthy starches (it’s the processed starches that become unhealthy)
*Plants also provide indigestible polysaccharides (aka dietary fiber), which assist in the passage of food through the large intestine and may help reduce the risk of colon cancer
*Some good recipes to experiment with using nectars are in fruit and nut-based icings and frosting instead of butter and sugar-based, as well as high-fiber fruit muffins/breads

Vitamins are another major topic of discussion amongst those who are concerned with a healthy dietary lifestyle. To keep this post as brief as possible, I will discuss vitamins in their own individual post for easy referencing of which vitamins do what, and where can you get them…

The Outs:

Obviously, the major out is animal products. This includes the fleshes of ALL animals (land, air, and sea), as well as the byproducts of those animals. Byproducts include:

*sour cream

Excessive calorie consumption is also out! Being aware of what you’re putting into your body by making sure it’s animal-free is a good step to being aware of how much you’re putting into your body. Obesity is a major problem these days, leading to issues like diabetes – so let’s stop blaming scapegoats and look at what you’re eating as well as how much of what you’re eating. A handful of nuts will give one an excellent source of good fats and proteins, but a jar of nuts is defeating the health benefits they provide. A vegan blueberry bran muffin will provide fiber and other nutrients, but 4 muffins in one day will overdose you with gluten and calories that are counterproductive to the goodness of the muffin.

The What-have-you’s:

Vegans avoid animal products not just in their food, but also in regular daily life – such as body products (lotions, soaps, etc) and clothing. Aside from the ethcial reasons to avoid products which contain animal products and those which test on animals, slathering animal products on the outside of your body while making sure that no animal products are going into your body is really only doing 50% of the animal-free job!

One thing you have to realize, for healthy eating in general (vegan or otherwise) – healthy portions are a must. If you’re eating 4 vegan cupcakes a day, everyday..that’s not healthy regardless of how much veg you stuff in your pie-hole (or cupcake-hole, as it were). Just because a vegan cupcake is vegan doesn’t make it automatically healthy. I know here at the Primate, we love our sweets – but it’s called moderation. Also, you need to be getting your share of veg everyday. You can’t live on pasta with marinara without veg and call yourself a vegan – well, I suppose technically if your pasta is eggless then you can, but you’re not going to be very healthy. Incorporating a variety of colors is the easiest way to ensure you’re getting a wide variety of nutrients. You don’t want to fill yourself with white and brown food without any color…that makes for very boring and malnourishing meals. If you notice, most of the dishes that Jo and I post (desserts included), they are 90% of the time extremely colorful! This ensures we get all our nutrients while having an aesthetically pleasing plate of food – it’s easy, you can do it too! Without meaning to sound like I just did a bunch of drugs, eat like a rainbow everyday… The colors in food are a good indication of what they can provide you. Those in the red/orange/yellow family (carrots, red bell pepper, yellow corn, cherries) provide goodies like beta-carotene. Those in the blue/purple family (blueberries, blue corn) provide antioxidants and calcium. Greens (do I really need to give examples) provide iron and calcium, as well as vitamin C. Browns/blacks (beans, whole grains) give that all important fiber and protein, among various vitamins and minerals. Making sure you get something of every color every day is a good way to make sure you are getting a wide range of nutrients that, in combination, will make for a healthy human being at the end of the day.

Another obvious is exercise! Just because someone is thin and eats vegan doesn’t mean their body is a lean, mean, healthy machine. Exercise has many more benefits than the size of your jeans….

Happy and Healthy Eating!

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Peanut Butter Ganache Cups

One temptation I have that seems stronger during the month of October is peanut butter cups. They were one of my favorite treats to have in my pregan days – not just at Halloween, but all year long. It’s just around Halloween, when candy is so blatantly in your face creating that lust for sweet chocolatey goodness, I feel weak. So this year, I decided to make my own vegan peanut butter cups. Temptation..Bring it on! I’m ready! One note that I will mention, in choosing your chocolate make sure it’s something you could eat alone. If it’s too bitter or not sweet enough, you’ll need to adjust it in the recipe – because it’ll taste the same once it’s been melted and then formed into these yummy PB cups. This recipe make 24 “mini-muffin” sized cups.


2 C vegan chocolate chips, or a chopped chocolate bar to 2 C (make sure you quality control your chocolate by tasting it prior to melting – if it needs to be sweetened add some sugar accordingly)
1 TBSP Earth Balance Vegan Butter *optional for a more ganachy consistency or leave it out if you don’t want the added fatty goodness
1/2 C PB, creamy or chunky – however your prefer your cups 🙂
1/4 C powdered sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla


1. In a small sauce pan, add about 1-inch of water and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer. In a dry, heat proof glass bowl, add chocolate chips, 1 TBSP vegan butter, and sugar (if necessary) and place over the simmering water. You want the heat contained and to remain at a gentle simmer, and you most certainly don’t want the water to be able to come in contact with the bottom of the bowl. One more thing to keep an eye on..make sure no steam or water droplets get into the water – this can cause the chocolate to seize..and well, nothing good comes from anything in life that seizes whether it be assets or chocolate. If your chocolate suddenly clumps up and looks gross and no longer shiny, it’s been seized – there’s no saving it, so toss and start over. The melting takes only about 5-10 minutes, so be patient. Now, as with almost everything in life – you start out cute as a button, go through an awkward-only see the inner beauty phase, then before you know it you only have a few lumps…

…and you blossom into smooth, luscious ganache!

2. Meanwhile, with a hand mixer, combine PB, sugar, salt, and vanilla until combined. Fill a pastry bag with the PB mixture, set aside. **When you’re ready for it, microwaving the PB mixture (before adding it to a plastic pastry bag) for about 30 seconds will help make the mixture easier to work with.

3. In a mini-muffin tin lined with foil wrappers, fill with about 1 tsp melted chocolate either with a spoon or chocolate in a pastry bag (which I find to make things more manageable, but feel free to get your fingers dirty. What a tragedy..licking chocolate-covered fingers.) Place a hefty dollop, about 2-3 tsp of the PB mixture (again a pastry bag seems to make things easier for me) and press down so it’s cozy in the chocolate. Top with remaining melted chocolate, about another tsp, to cover PB center.

Smooth out the tops of the cups with a knife or spoon, then place in fridge about 15-20 minutes for chocolate to set! Let cups sit at room temperature about 5-10 minutes before enjoying.

*Confectioner’s Notes: Your chocolate bowl needs to be 100% dry – not a speck of water. Don’t rush the melting of the chocolate. Stir occasionally with either a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Remember…good things come to those who wait, and those who rush get crappy chocolate. Keeping the heat low will also help prevent the burning of the chocolate – which is also not a good thing.

*Additions: Feel free to add a pinch of raspberry or orange liquor (maybe 1 tsp worth) – or if one is so bold, bourbon – to the bowl of melting chocolate. Add it before you begin the melting to prevent seizing…

Happy Melting!

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Tex-Mex Pizza Verde

Ok, in the combination of both Nikki and Jo inspiring this dish – I’d like to say a double thanks! It turned out so good and delicious…wow..a mexican-inspired pizza! I made the pizza dough with some minor changes – which I’ll out line. If it sounds too strange to try, you’re really missing out! I was shocked and pleased at how deliciously yummy this pizza came out! I wish I had made two, because I really wanted more the next day, and the next day! But I know I can always make more…another appetite is sure to follow, so no fear in ruining one with dessert first – oh wait, that’s a different matter. I can always make more pizza. So without further ado, Tex-Mex Pizza Verde!


roasted slivered red onion, slivered red bell pepper, and garlic (as in the Roasted or Marinated Veggies)
1 batch tomatillo salsa
1 batch pizza dough with addition of 1/4 C cornmeal, 1/4 tsp cayenne, and 1 tsp ground cumin
baby spinach
heirloom tomatoes, sliced thin


1. Roast onion, red bell pepper, and garlic (drizzled with a little canola oil) in a 450°F oven for 20 minutes. Make the Tomatillo Salsa, set aside to chill.
2. Make the pizza dough, and add in cornmeal and spices with the dry ingredients in step 1.
3. When dough is ready, top with tomatillo salsa, baby spinach, slices of heirloom tomatoes, and roasted veggies. Bake for 10 minutes (475°F, same as in pizza dough recipe). Let cool about 5 minutes before slicing..enjoy!

Happy Cooking!

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I realize we haven’t had a salsa lesson in a while, since the pico de gallo. So for our second salsa lesson, we’ll go green! Tomatillos are so wonderful! They encapsulate the very essence of lime and cilantro, to me. A major misconception is that they are a type of tomato – well, more accurately you could call them a distant cousin of tomatoes (in the same Family: Solanaceae, but different Genus). The family includes other foods such as eggplant, hot peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and interestingly petunias! When buying tomatillos, you want to peek inside the husk and look for the following qualities: (1) the inside tomatillo must be as big as the husk, as if it’s ready to burst free – it’s like shoes that you might think are better if you have a little room to grow, well it’s not..buy something that fits because everything else just causes blisters; (2) you want the skin of the tomatillo to be smooth, firm, and bright green – if it’s wrinkly or sallow-looking, put it back and move on.

D-level heat (but could up the heat factor by adding in more hot peppers)


1 1/2 lb fresh tomatillos
3-5 fresh serrano chiles [or whatever chilies you can find for which you can withstand the heat; S&J-level: add in an additional jalapeño or habanero]
3-6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1/2 C fresh chopped cilantro
1 large onion, sliced into slivers
2 tsp coarse salt


1. Preheat broiler.
2. Remove husks of the fresh tomatillos and rinse under warm water to remove stickiness. Broil chiles, garlic (unpeeled), onion slivers, and fresh tomatillos (whole) on rack of a broiler pan 1 to 2 inches from heat, turning once, until tomatillos are softened and slightly charred, about 7-10 minutes.

3. Peel garlic and pull off tops of chiles (to keep the heat at a minimum, remove most of the seeds as well). Let cool in a bowl, or go directly to puréeing all ingredients, including cilantro and salt, in a blender or food processor.

4. Let come to room temperature, then chill in the fridge. Of course, there must be some taste testing (aka quality control) for things like salt adjustment. Sometimes you can’t wait until it cools, and that’s fine – actually a warm tomatillo sauce smothering a homemade breakfast burrito is always a tasty option!

Happy Broiling!

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Bird’s Egg Beans

These beans are a farmer’s market gem.  I, of course, was drawn to the pink speckles, but discovered that they are absolutely delicious.  They have a rich taste similar to lima beans, but without the grainy texture that bothers some people.   I’m sure you could jazz these up with some spices, but there’s really no need.  They are full of flavor all on their own.  After cooking they take on a slightly unappealing grey color, but don’t be deterred.  If you can find any of these, pick out the bright pink ones, rather than pods that are mostly green.  Since they are fresh, not dried, you don’t need to soak them or cook them very long.


Shell beans, rinse and simmer over med/low heat for 30 minutes.  Add salt and enjoy!

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