All the Small Things: Pupusas Stuffed w/ Vegan Chorizo & Platanos Maduros

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Sometimes in a small moment, I wonder if I am creating a lasting memory.  I did this upon my first visit to Chicago almost two years ago, standing with my little brother in his first apartment kitchen eating slices of deep dish pizza from around the corner.  I asked myself, will I remember this years from now?

Yesterday I sat at my brother’s table sharing a giant cinnamon bun we got from Whole Foods because the frigid day gave us a craving for one and Ann Sather’s was closed.  We listened to a Nina Simone record and he taught me about Wong Kar Wai’s films and sure enough I turned inward at one point not only to remember that time in the kitchen, but also to wonder if my brain would randomly call upon this current moment sometime in the far future.

Because of this strange self-awareness, I inevitably make memories out of many small moments.  These moments don’t really have much significance.  There’s really no reason for me to remember that the post office clerk yesterday answered my question of “How are you doing today?” with the cool, smooth enthusiasm of an old jazz radio DJ. “I’m supercalifragilistic!” And how he bid me a farewell as if signing off his show. “Have a great day, a great weekend, and a Happy New Year.  I’ll see you on the flip-side.”

There’s no reason for me to remember that on my personal brunch at 3rd Coast Cafe today, while enjoying my coffee and magazines, my thoughts were interrupted by the punching and ringing of an old-fashioned register I hadn’t noticed before.

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These are small moments with little significance, but pausing to ask myself if I will remember them, while makes me an observer of my own life for a second, forces me to appreciate the present.  And appreciation allows me to enjoy laid-back lovely weekends such as this one when I can just do whatever my whims call me to do without the pressure of what a fun weekend for a 20-something is supposed to be–whether that’s buying myself brunch and magazines, or making vegan chorizo and frying up the plantains that are finally ripe enough for maduros.

Because I’m trying to use up what’s in my fridge so I can start fresh for the new year, I had to get creative with dinner.  I fried ripe plantains in a little vegetable oil to make plátanos maduros and afterwards the vegan chorizo I made a couple days ago using Terry Romero‘s recipe from Viva Vegan.  Then I chopped it into smaller pieces and used them to stuff them into pupusas.

Pupusas, a traditional Salvadorean dish, are essentially fat corn tortillas stuffed with various fillings.  They’re simple to make since you just add water to Maseca (which is a maize flour you can usually find in the Latin foods section of the grocery store) until it forms a damp dough that you can shape into patties, stuff with whatever you want, and pan fry.  Shaping them is a little tricky, but this is a good step-by-step tutorial.

I haven’t made them in the traditional Salvadorean way quite yet; I have been opting to fill them with whatever I have on hand–in this case, chorizo and plantains!  Since I didn’t have the customary tomato salsa or slaw (curtido), I opted to blend a couple chipotle peppers in adobo sauce with a little vegan mayonnaise, slather it on top, and garnish them with some extra chorizo and plátanos maduros.

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It wasn’t the healthiest of meals, but it was pretty delicious for an iron-cheffed dinner.  I also made some hot chocolate with a bar of Olive & Sinclair (a Nashville-based artisan chocolate company) for dessert, just to make extra damn certain that I would spend the rest of the night in food coma.  Highly effective.

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Banana Coconut Oat Pancakes (vegan)

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I woke up this morning stressed.  For my entire dream, I was in an airport–which alone would be stressful–but the whole time I was constantly running to catch flights that I always missed.  Shortly before I woke up, I went to a vending machine to get a drink and it wouldn’t take my $5 (damn airport prices.)  When it finally did, it jammed and exploded into monopoly money.

Who wants to analyze that for me?

So I woke up annoyed, but also with an inexplicable craving for pancakes so I whipped up these vegan banana coconut oat pancakes with the stuff I had in my kitchen and pantry, which is how a lot of my experiments start.

These aren’t the fluffy kind of pancakes–they’re actually quite dense (with deliciousness), more like a moist quick bread.  They also happened to have a little protein boost from the garbanzo flour and if I would have thought to put slivered almonds on it (damn it) it would have been pushed over the top.  I gobbled down a plate of two of these and I really hope it don’t regret it when I go to the gym in 30 minutes.

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Banana Coconut Oat Pancakes

Ingredients:

2/3 cup of oats (you can use gluten-free oats)

1/3 cup garbanzo/chickpea flour

1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 ripe banana
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. coconut or olive oil
2 tsps. coconut nectar or maple syrup
2/3 cup coconut milk
Topping:
More maple syrup or coconut nectar
Grated or shredded coconut

In a food processor, grate the oats until they form a powder.  Pour into a bowl and mix with the garbanzo flour, baking soda, and salt.  In the food processor, blend the banana, vanilla, oil, syrup, and milk.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix.  Heat a little coconut oil in the skillet on medium low.  Pour 2-3 heaping spoonfuls of batter to form a pancake (spread it out with the spoon a little if you have to.)  Cook on low until the edges are cooked and the bottom is browned.  Flip and cook until the other side is browned.  Repeat for more pancakes!

While the skillet is still hot, pour in some shredded coconut.  Stir and toss until browned and crispy.  Top pancakes with the shredded coconut and maple syrup.

This makes probably around 4-5 medium pancakes.

Orange Food: Spicy Butternut Squash Risotto & Pumpkin Scones

Tis the season for orange food. Pumpkin, squash, and sweet potato flamboyantly make their yearly debut.  This started, of course, back in September, or whenever Starbucks started selling their pumpkin spice latte again.  I’m just a little late in the game.  In fact, I’ve barely been in the game when it comes to cooking.  My relationship with food has been attacked by the over-stimulation of diverse choices, inconsistent lifestyle resolutions, and a semi-nomadic profession.  I’ve been cooking less and eating out more.  I don’t eat meat, again.  I’ve been in and out of Chicago for weeks and weeks. I won’t say again that I’m re-committing to cooking more and writing about it because I always am.

In spite of all that, the past week has been a good week and one with the orange food.  Last Saturday morning, I baked–something I hadn’t done and a while and realized that I missed it (in addition to missing a normal sized stove that can fit a standard baking sheet.)  I made vegan pumpkin scones with a chai buttercream frosting.

Vegan Pumpkin Scones

I just played with this recipe, adding some cinnamon and nutmeg.  All I had was gluten-free flour, so I think that made them a bit softer but they turned out all right.  I’d like to try them with regular flour again, or a different basic vegan scone recipe. (Ideas?)  For the chai buttercream I just used a basic vegan buttercream frosting recipe and added chai powder that I got a while ago from the spice shop down the street.  It’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.

Today, because I was too lazy to brave the dark cold to go grocery shopping, I dug some pureed butternut squash out of the freezer and made a spicy butternut squash risotto.  I just used brown rice since I didn’t have arborio rice.  In fact, you could probably call it more of a savory rice pudding.

Spicy Butternut Squash Risotto

I’ll have to add the recipe later because I just iron-cheffed it from what I had so I don’t have exact measurements.  I essentially just made a basic risotto and stirred in the pureed butternut squash at the end with chili powder, cinnamon, pepper, a little bit of agave nectar then topped with crushed red pepper and pumpkin seeds.  It was a comforting delight eaten next to my radiator in my pjs. Winter hermit bliss.