Archive for the ‘Sauces’ Category

Quick and Easy Pasta Chunky TomatoI love pasta, but as a veggie-lover it seems weird to just have noodles and sauce (whereas, in a previous/non-vegan life that’s exactly how I liked it). But now, the meal just doesn’t feel complete unless there’s a little onion or red bell pepper, perhaps broccoli and nuts. I don’t buy jarred pasta sauces that often, so I usually just make olive oil pastas – like you’ve typically seen here at the Primate. Sometimes, however, you just crave that thick red sauce that can be sopped up with some garlic bread…mmmm..mmm. So here’s a recipe for a simple chunky tomato sauce, that’s as quick as it is to boil the noodles! Promise! This recipe makes enough sauce for about 4 servings (1 typical package of pasta), plus a little more for those who like it ‘heavy on the sauce’ 😉 And for the garlic lovers out there, you know who you are, there is a double-shot of garlic!


1 red onion, diced
1-2 red bell peppers, diced
3-6 cloves garlic, sliced (you can mince if you want, but I like a good slice from time to time)
1 jar strained tomatoes
1 TBSP dried basil, plus some fresh for garnish
1 TBSP + 1 tsp dried oregano
2-3 tsp garlic powder
1 TBSP salt, or to taste – plus more for salting the noodle water
fresh black pepper, to taste-
1 4-serving bag of noodles – spaghetti, fusilli, bowtie, rigatoni, any noodle that can hold up to a thick and hearty sauce; which means no angel hair or capellini..


1. Bring a pot of water to a boil – that will fit a bag of noodles. In a large deep-sided skillet, warm a little olive oil (maybe 1-2 TBSP) over medium heat. Meanwhile, dice the onion and red bell, and slice the garlic.
2. Add noodles and some salt to the water, and onion, red bell, and garlic to the skillet. Saute until onion becomes translucent, about 5 minutes. Add in a bit of the salt and some pepper, toss in the herbs, and continue to cook another 1-2 minutes. Add the sauce to the skillet o’veg, and adjust the salt and pepper content to your liking. Warm and stir until noodles are ready. At this point, before draining the noodles check thickness of the sauce – if too thick for your liking, thin it out with a little of the pasta cooking water.
3. Plate out noodles, or toss them in the sauce, garnish with fresh basil or oregano, serve and enjoy!

Quick and Easy Pasta Chunky Tomato2**Note: There’s no actual chunks of tomatoes in this recipe, but feel free to add them if that tickles your fancy! 🙂

Happy Cooking!

On This Day In History: Jimmy’s Vanilla Cupcakes

mini spinkled cupcakes


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Fresh salad dressing is an easy way to impress your dinner guests, and the clean, fresh flavors always taste better than store-bought dressing, at least to me.  Italian dressing tastes great on salad obviously, but also works well on pasta salad.  You can keep it in the fridge for a few days after making it, but take it out a few minutes before you want to use it, since the olive oil will solidify.


3/4 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/3 C lemon juice

2 TBS tahini

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp each:  dried rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage


1.  In small sauce pan, warm the olive oil and herbs over LOW heat for 5 minutes.  You don’t want the oil to get hot, just warm enough to bring the herbs to life.  Remove from heat and let sit for at least 10 minutes.

2.  Combine other ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk.  Whisk in the oil and herbs.

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This salad dressing is inspired by the big salads at Yaffa Cafe in the East Village. Back in college my friends and I would go out to a bar and then (in truly New York style) go have a salad at Yaffa in the middle of the night. The salad consisted of romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprouts and chickpeas and was dressed with the most divine carrot/tahini blend. This is my stab at it, and although it’s not an exact duplicate, it’s still very tasty. It’s pretty thick, so it won’t pour like most salad dressing. I suppose if that bothers you, you could strain it through some cheese cloth to filter out the carrot chunks. Or use fresh carrot juice instead of whole carrots. This would also work well as a dipping or sandwich sauce.


3 medium carrots

1/4 C tahini

5 Tbs lemon juice (1 large, or 2 small lemons)

1 Tbs Shoyu (soy sauce)

2 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Peel and chop carrots. Mince carrots in food processor. Add other ingredients and blend until smooth.



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Cranberry sauce is usually a standard at most holiday meals. Jo and I were never huge fans – probably because all were exposed to was out of a can…ick 😡 , so we never had that as part of the menu for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. This year, however, we decided to give it a go at Thanksgiving…for reasons unknown. It was definitely a success! It tasted great smothered over the green beans and mixed in with the cornbread dressing. cranberry sauceSo here is our first foray into the world of cranberry sauce. It did make quite more than was necessary for 6 people, but we managed just fine. It makes about 3 Cups.


3.5 C cranberries (one 12-oz bag)
3/4 C dried cherries
1/2 C finely chopped shallots
zest and juice (about 1/2 C) of 1 orange
2 tsp grated ginger, peeled *optional
3/4 C packed light brown sugar

cranberry sauce1


1. Combine the cranberries, cherries,cranberry sauce2 shallots, zest and juice, ginger, and brown sugar in a medium saucepan; cook over medium heat until the cranberries pop.
2. Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until cranberries release their juices, about 15 minutes. If sauce becomes too thick, add a little water until the desired consistency is reached. Transfer to a bowl to cool.


Happy Cooking!

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I used to love making my own dulce de leche – but then going vegan, what does one use in place of sweetened condensed milk? To be completely honest, I got lazy and was unconcerned with a vegan sub for condensed milk. Well, I had also made it with cow’s milk and sugar in a double boiler..which didn’t work well when I tried to make it using almond milk (before I discovered MimicCreme or hemp milk, and they were never tested). I stumbled across a praline recipe, and when I tried to make them, they didn’t set up like a praline would…however, they were the perfect dulce de leche/creamy caramel consistency! So I tinkered with the recipe a bit and here is my vegan version of dulce de leche, which in theory was supposed to be pralines..crazy how serendipity works! 🙂 This recipe makes the perfect amount for topping about 2.5 dozen small cookies. I also added in about 1/2 C chopped pecans since it was supposed to be pralines…just ignore them in the pictures..

Ingredients: *recipe can be doubled successfully if you want yummy extra sauce to top ice cream or any other dessert – or to just have on hand in case of emergency!

1/2 C hemp milk (or oat or almond, but these pics were taken when making with hemp milk)
1 tsp cornstarch
1/2 C brown sugar
2 TBSP Earth Balance vegan butter
1 TBSP brown rice syrup
1 TBSP bourbon *optional
pinch of salt
2 tsp confectioner’s sugar


1. Place hemp milk, cornstarch, sugar, vegan butter, brown rice syrup and bourbon (if using) in a small stainless steel pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Once it begins to simmer, turn down the heat to keep it simmering but so that it’s not to risky of boiling over..but still keep an eye and stir.
2. Cook gently for 15 minutes, stir in the pinch of salt and the confectioner’s sugar. Continue to cook gently until the mixture thickens enough so that a spoonful dropped on piece of parchment holds together, about an additional 15 to 20 minutes (so it’s a total of 30-40 minutes). You know you’ll be getting close when you can run a spoon through it and it doesn’t run back together immediately.

It will need to come to room temperature before it’s looking like caramel, but trust me – it’s much easier to top desserts with a warm caramel than a room temperature or chilled one.

*Store in the fridge, but warm on the stove-top before using – thus making it easier pouring onto yummy things like vanilla ice cream or cookies! 🙂

Who wants to see an example of the greatness that can be used with this caramel? Check this action…and not to fear, this recipe is coming soon….

And as you can see the caramel had about 5 or 10 minutes to set by the time I got to snap the pic after topping it. It doesn’t take long to set up at room temp once removed from heat.

Happy Baking!

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Señoritas and Señoras, I would like to welcome you to the Primate’s 100th post! (forgive my rusty latin in the title). Many worthy suggestions and ideas have been put forward to these two Innocent Primates – ‘Anything with Patron‘ from Dad, a Full Meal from the great ladies at work (which was meant to solely imply dessert in addition to main dish for which they would eventually get to be the taste-testers of), among others…. All great suggestions my peeps! So after toiling over ideas and suggestions as to what this post should be, we’ve decided this post will be a Mexican-inspired party filled with the who’s-who of Sara and Jo dishes, and everyone’s invited to have your fill of this food porn and even attempt making these dishes for your next spicy Fiesta!

And of course, with any Tex-Mex fiesta, a pitcher of margarita’s is in order…for appetizer, meal, AND dessert! So first up, we have the starters/appetizers to whet the appetite of the crowd:

Pico de gallo and homemade flour tortilla chips. Okay, so not technically 100% homemade, but if you want to make your own tortillas, go right ahead. I on the other hand, with this large endeavor, have opted to purchase my vegan flour tortillas to which I’ll magically turn into tortilla chips! These are not only delicious as an appetizer, but also delicious served with the meal for grazers such as us.

Homemade flour tortilla chips:

1 bag vegan flour and/or whole wheat tortillas (read the label to assure no lard, or other random animal product is used – I spied butter in one of the ‘homemade’ flour tortillas so I had to opt for a name brand tortilla instead, so read the ingredient list carefully folks)
canola or vegetable oil for frying
salt to taste

1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Slice tortillas into 6 wedges per tortilla (10 tortillas total would be enough to feed about 4-6 as an appetizer/munchie).
2. Fry the tortillas for a few minutes in the hot oil, just until the edges start to brown. This won’t take long, so keep an eye on these babies. Remove from pan and place on a towel-lined plate to drain off excess oil. Lightly salt while still hot. Continue with remaining wedges.

*You can opt to mix in some lime zest with the salt, or drizzle the cooked chips with fresh lime juice at the moment of serving for an extra lime kick!

For the main course, we have Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas, Papas Refritas, and Frijoles Borrachos. The enchiladas will feed 4-6 people, but can be halved and feed 2-3 without leftovers. The Papas Refritas will serve about 4, so increase or decrease as necessary – however, I will say this..they are super yummy and you WILL want leftovers. The Frijoles Borrachos will serve quite a few people, I’d say 6-8 plus leftovers. But they will be great for breakfast with some leftover papas refritas and salsa, wrapped in a tortilla.

Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas:

Roasted Veg: (makes the perfect amount for 10-12 enchiladas, at 2-3 per person; this can be halved and works well for 6 enchiladas)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 C frozen corn
4-6 whole garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 handful baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Thinly slice the onions and red bell pepper, place on lined baking sheet. Pour on 1 C frozen corn and the unpeeled garlic cloves.
2. Salt and pepper lightly, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Roast in oven about 20-25 minutes, until the onion starts to crisp on the edges.
3. Peel garlic cloves and place into a bowl and mash them up. Add remaining roasted veg.
4. Add in a handful of baby spinach, stir to combine, and set aside.

Enchilada Sauce: (this makes the perfect amount to feed 4-6 people @ ~12-14 enchiladas total; if you half the enchiladas you can choose to either half the sauce or make them super saucy and have a little sauce left over for future use or dipping of chips)
2 Tbs oil
1/2 large onion
4 garlic cloves
1 Tbs chili powder
1 Tbs AP flour
24 ounces strained tomatoes (1 jar precious Tuscan tomato)
1/2 C water
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp salt

1. Sauté onion in oil over med-high heat. When onions have begun to turn clear, add the garlic. Continue sautéing until onion is slightly browned.
2. Add chili powder and sauté another 1 minute.
3. Add flour, sauté 1 more minute.
4. By large spoonfuls add tomatoes and water, stirring thoroughly after each addition to incorporate (making a mixture similar to a roux). Add cumin, coriander and salt. Once mixture begins to simmer, reduce heat to medium.
5. Let simmer while you’re preparing the enchiladas.

Enchilada Assembly: For these enchiladas I used all corn, but feel free to play around with flour tortillas if that’s what you’re in to..
Roasted Veg
Enchilada Sauce
Corn tortillas (about 10-12) *of course, you could always make a surplus and have leftovers.

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Set up an assembly line: tortillas, sauce, enchilada pan. Gently dip a corn tortilla into the sauce. It is crucial this is done gently, otherwise you can tear the tortilla – of course, that leaves discarded saucy corn tortillas to eat.
2. Set dipped tortilla into pan. Fill with veg mixture, and gently roll up the tortilla.
3. Slide to the edge of the pan. Repeat until pan is filled.
4. Top with more enchilada sauce – until all used up or sufficiently saucy; extra sauce can be used for dipping of chips or for extra sauciness on the side, or even use for future dishes. Bake enchiladas for about 20, just to warm them through and let the sauce soak into the tortillas to where they become one!

Dip and Fill!

Roll and Repeat!

Since we’ve already posted the recipe for Papas Refritas, I’ll just give you a pictography of the joy of making these wonderful potatoes!

Mmm…almost ready!

Frijoles Borrachos: What are frijoles borrachos you ask? Well, they are drunken beans! Normally such a recipe would call for a bottle/can of beer. Since I don’t partake of beer, and am partial to tequila..my natural alteration is to use tequila in place of beer. Now…fear not, I did not substitute in a 1:1 ratio – but boy would those be some fun beans if I had! Instead I used a 3:1 dilution 12-oz tequila in place of the 12-oz of beer.

2 cups dried pinto beans (be sure to realize you’ll be soaking your beans overnight!)
4 cups water
1 12-oz can beer OR *4 oz Patron tequila + 8 oz water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Two large fresh tomatoes, diced (One 15-oz can diced tomatoes)
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1. The night before making the feast, sort the beans to remove any stones or grit. Rinse the beans in a colander and place in a large pan with enough water to cover. You could also include the booze in the overnight soaking – in that case, don’t pour off the water the following morning, just add the veg and get it boiling.
2. The following morning, drain the beans and add the water and booze. Add the garlic, onion, chile powder, cumin, tomatoes, and salt.
3. Boil the beans for an hour and then reduce to a simmer and cook over very low heat until soft, about an additional 45 minutes to an hour, keep warm until the feast is ready. Keep the level of the water/broth a good inch or so above the beans, and add more water as needed. Serve with broth in a bowl as a side dish.

I plated 3 enchiladas with beans and potatoes, alongside steamed green beans and topped with fresh chopped cilantro…but feel free to try broccoli or peas alongside this meal..even though there’s spinach in the enchiladas, and the lime in the margarita’s..I still feel like I need more green on the plate! 🙂

Finally for dessert, we have a Chili-Chocolate Cake with Spiced Almond-Cream smothered in Ganache. The cake was adapted from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. I took the basic chocolate cupcake recipe, turned it into a cake, and added a touch of spice! For the almond-cream frosting..I sort of did a cross-breed between Jo’s no-butter icing and a buttercream recipe. Super yummy, super almondy, super great!

Chili Chocolate Cake:

1 C almond milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 C turbinado sugar
1/3 C canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 C oat flour
1/3 C buckwheat flour
1/3 C cocoa powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease 3 (or 4) small springform pans (4 for thinner layers and more frosting per cake surface area).
2. Whisk together the almond milk and vinegar in a large bowl, and set aside for a few minutes to curdle. Add the sugar, oil, and extracts to the almond milk mixture and beat till foamy. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add in two batches to wet ingredients and beat till no large lumps remain (a few tiny lumps are okay).
3. Pour into greased springforms, filling three-quarters of the way. Bake 18 minutes at 350°F, then increase the heat to 375°F and bake an additional 8 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool completely.

Spiced Almond-Cream Frosting:

1/2 C slivered almonds
2-2.5 C confectioner’s sugar
1/2-1 tsp ancho chili powder
pinch of cayenne
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 C hemp milk (or almond milk)

1. In a food processor, grind almonds into a paste, about 5 minutes. Add in vanilla extract and hemp milk. Pulse to combine.
2. Move to a mixing bowl, and with an electric mixer, beat in the confectioner’s sugar – 1 C at a time – and spices until well combined.
3. Chill frosting at least 30 minutes. Transfer to a pastry bag and pipe onto layers, or take it old school and frost like a traditional frosting.

Chocolate Ganache:

1 C coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 oz. chocolate, finely chopped – whatever chocolate you prefer, bittersweet, dark, semisweet..whatever you like to eat

1. In a small saucepan, warm coconut milk and extract until it just begins to boil.
2. Once the milk begins to boil, remove from heat and pour over chopped chocolate in a glass bowl. Let sit a few minutes. Whisk until it becomes a beautiful, glossy, chocolatey emulsion. Let cool to room temperature. Transfer 1/4 of the ganache to a pastry bag, chill in the fridge for no more than 10 minutes, and pipe onto cake. Once the cake is assembled, rewarm the remaining ganache over low heat until it is a pouring consistency. Pour over cake, set on top of a cooling rack, with a plate or something to catch the poured ganache – for which to scrape and eat later 🙂 . Place cake in fridge to set. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Thanks for loving the Innocent Primate enough to bring us to 100 posts! And here’s to the next 100!!

Happy Cooking!

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