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Excelsior! As promised, I’ve finally got around to finishing up the first piece in a new series of cook-the-book style posts! First at-bat is Stan Lee Presents the Mighty Marvel Superheroes Cookbook. 

The book begins with a brief introduction and some basic tips on safety and kitchen cleanliness. Then, as any good morning would, delves into some breakfast.

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A wise man once said “There has never been a sadness that can’t be cured by breakfast food” and a trip to your local diner will prove that every time. While studies have more or less debunked the conventional wisdom that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, starting your morning with good food is a great way to set the tone for the rest of the day.

With Captain America’s Day Starters, we get a few different options for easy, healthy and delicious kick start.

‘Fresh fruit or fruit juice. Lots of vitamins C and A’

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I’ve wrote on here a few times about how great smoothies can be for breakfast. Blend up your favorite mix of fruits and veggies with some juice or milk (I also like to throw some type of sea vegetable in the mix) and you’re ready to go. Once you blend your mix, you can freeze it in an ice cube tray to make things even easier while you’re still groggy. This particular blend I threw together features banana, pineapple, orange, mango and sweet potato.

‘Milk is the best source of calcium. It’s need for strong bones and teeth. It also supplies protein – essential building blocks for our bodies’img_4825

Milk is certainly nutritious, if not a little bit weird as a concept, but yogurt has even more calcium and is loaded with beneficial bacteria. Mixed with granola and some fresh fruit, it makes for a hearty, protein-packed breakfast.

‘Bread or cereal, lots of variations in this department’

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For simplicity, flavor and customization, look no further than Avocado Toast, loaded with Omega 3 fats and complex carbohydrates. The only two things you need are in the name itself. Apart from avocado and toasted bread, the possibilities are near endless. The folks over that The Kitchn have a great piece to get your creative juices going; Here, I’ve got 12 grain bread with butter and sesame seeds, mashed avocado, and thinly sliced cucumber tossed with salt, pepper, chili flake and lime juice.

Now, for those looking for a more traditional American-style breakfast, look no further than Hulk’s Fried Potatoes with Bacon and Eggs

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This dish needs little explanation, if any at all. Bacon, eggs, toast, breakfast potatoes; Maybe some coffee, if you’re so inclined. I will give one little trick I recently picked  up while working mainly breakfast shifts: par-boil your potatoes with onions and garlic. This cooks them through, so when you fry ’em up they’ll be soft on the inside and crispy on the outside. It’s the same principle to making great French Fries.

In Our Next Exciting Issue…

The Thing’s Clobbered Omelet

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As I mentioned earlier in the year, failure can often be a great learning tool and is, in fact, always an option. This week is definitely one of those cases, so I’ll keep it short and sweet (pun intended, you just don’t know it yet).

The theme of the week is dehydrating. One of the oldest known methods of preserving food, dehydration is the process of removing water from foods to increase their longevity. Crucial to astronauts on the ISS, dehydrated foods are among the most common snacks we have around; Go to any gas station and I guarantee you’ll find at least 5 kinds of beefy jerky. and from grocery store kits to sit-down restaurants you’ll find any number of dried fruits accompanying your favorite greens.

Out of the bounty of dried fruits that are available nowadays, my favorite has always been pineapple. As a kid, whenever my mom would come back from the natural foods store with whatever diet craze was popular at the time, she’d always have a bag of crystallized pineapple for me.

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Crystallized pineapple is cooked in sugar before being dehydrated, making it rich and chewy. As it turns out though, the process isn’t as simple as it may appear. I followed this recipe (don’t judge) pretty much to the T. After oven-drying didn’t pan out, I threw together an Alton Brown-style box fan dehydrator, which still didn’t quite do the trick even after 36 hours. For whatever reason, these suckers just didn’t want to dry. The flavor and texture came out just as they should have, but the outside was still sticky and tacky. I think this is definitely one I’ll have to revisit. Being so close, yet so far is definitely going to eat at me.

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For whatever reason, this post has me at a loss for how to  begin. I think it’s partially due to to complexity of the region at hand: the Caribbean Islands. Depending on how you look at it, it can seem like a wide array of prospects. To many, the first thing that may come to mind the serene beaches and palm trees, utterly ruined by hoards of hoaky vacationers. To others, a certain swashbuckling movie franchise may conjure images of adventure on the high seas. I’ve been lucky enough to visit the Caribbean on several occasions in the past, largely from the boarding dock of a Carnival Cruise ship. Having spent my entire life in northern Vermont, it was a very otherworldly experience. Bright colors, ample sunshine, densely populated; It was almost entirely, but not completely, opposite of everything that I knew.

The first couple of trips, I was fairly young, I would say early teens. Whenever my dad got back from a tour in Afghanistan, we would take a cruise as a family for a week or so. Among the sights we saw, one thing that prevailed across every island we stopped at was the abundance of fruity, sweet, brightly colored liquor drinks. This is where my mom fell in love with Malibu coconut rum, and insisted that I loved it too (truthfully, even at 13 I thought it was nasty). On the islands, they were typically served in a short, clear plastic cup, but aboard the “Fun Ship”, they were served the way you imaging a fruity tropical drink to be served: a tall, curvy glass, with a little umbrella and a hunk of pineapple I’m pretty sure if you bought to cup the first time they would give you discount refills, probably so you’d forget how much money you blew in the casino. By and large, those are the kind of drinks you get in the Caribbean.

In a small shack on Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas, one of the most iconic of these drinks, although probably one of the least known, developed in the early 1960’s.

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Photo Courtesy UncommonCaribbean

New Plymouth, which makes up the better part of the island, was originally settled in the 1800’s by travellers from New England. Almost smack-dab in the center, sits Miss Emily’s Blue Bee Bar. Adorned with tattered flags, postcards, and well-worn shirts, Miss Emily’s is a Bahamian institution, drawing travelers from across the world. While I’m sure you can get a variety of generic fruity drinks there, the Blue Bee is know for one thing and one thing only: The Goombay Smash. As the story goes, the drink was concocted by Miss Emily during a game of dominos. Likely for religious reasons, Miss Emily didn’t actually drink alcohol, so she had friends taste it and collective adopted the name Goombay Smash, after the style of music popular in the Bahamas.

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Photo Courtesy Rum Therapy

While the drink was an instant hit, the recipe has remained a family secret. Even today at the Blue Bee, the drink is never prepared to order, rather poured from a large jug. Violet, Miss Emily’s daughter, remains sole heir to the secret recipe, and has vaguely hinted at some of the ingredients that go into the classic drink: Coconut rum, various other types of rum, and pineapple juice. To me, that describes probably 90% of the drinks you can get in the area. After a good bit of Googling , my suspicions were confirmed. But during that research, the Goombay Smash turned up again in the last place I expected it to: right here in Vermont.

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Photo Courtesy Tripadvisor

In a town renowned for its ski resort, tropical drinks seem a bit out of place. However, the Goombay Smash sits prominently on the menu at Chalet Killington, and other bars in the snowy mountain town. First introduced by Bernie Pierce, a former bartender at the Chalet, little else in known about how the drink made it’s way to Vermont. If I had to place a wager, I would guess it’s due to seasonal work migration: When ski resorts die down in the summer, many employees pack off to places with better tourism, like the Caribbean.

In Vermont, the recipes maintain the shape you’d expect: rum, fruit juice, more rum, something sweet. In all honesty, I’m not a huge fan of this style of drink. They tend to be overly sweet, unbalanced, and boozy. But the history and tradition that the Goombay Smash was steeped in was too good for me to pass up, and I set out to make my own version.

The obvious starting place is the rum. The obvious starting place is the rum itself. In one regard, not much has changed in the past 11 years, and I still really dislike Malibu rum. To combat that, I tried my hand at infusing the rum myself.

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Coconut. White Rum. Not too difficult here. Two ingredients and time is all you really need to make your own version of the requisite spirit, minus all the sugar and artificial flavor. Combine the two and let steep in a cool, dark place for a about a week and you’re good to go. However, if you’re impatient like me, hot steeping is a quick fix: I vacuum sealed the two and steeped sous vide for about 2 hours. In hindsight, I wish I had waited. The coconut actually absorbed about 60% of the rum that went into it, so I was left with more rum-infused coconut than coconut-infused rum. The rum that it did yield also had a slick of coconut oil across the top, which I didn’t realize until after I had rebottled and cooled it, essentially corking the rum into the bottom of the bottle.

While I was in the DIY mood, I also made spiced rum, to a much high degree of success.

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This one is open to a little more interpretation, and can be built to suit your taste. Using amber rum as a base, I steeped it (again, sous vide) with vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, clove, allspice, nutmeg, black pepper, orange peel and cardamom.

With our liquor in hand, we can start to build the cocktail.

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Among the various recipes online, a few ingredients appeared in nearly all of them: Pineapple, orange, apricot brandy. In the interest of making it more like a traditional Smash-style cocktail, I also added some thyme for a nice herbal flavor to contrast the fruit.

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In the bottom of a cocktail shaker. I muddle the pineapple and thyme with fresh apricot and molasses (another Caribbean staple, here standing in for dark rum). I went about 50-50 with the coconut rum and spiced rum, but this can again be adjusted for how you like your drink. Add a some orange juice, give it a good shake, and you’re ready to go.

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The result? My version of the Goombay Smash certainly looks the part of the fruity drinks tourists love to guzzle, but a little less sweet and a little more complex flavor profile. I could certainly see myself sitting beachside with a couple of these for the next 30 years and being totally fine with it.

Goombay Smash

makes 1 drink

  • Pineapple, chopped, about 1/4 cup
  • Apricot, chopped, about 1/4 cup
  • Fresh Thyme, 2 sprigs, plus more for garnish
  • Molasses, about 2 tablespoons
  • Coconut Rum, 2oz
  • Spiced Rum, 2oz
  • Orange Juice, 6oz
  • Ice, as needed

In the top of a cocktail shaker, muddle pineapple, apricot, thyme and molasses until juices are released. Add rums and juice, then fill the shaker with ice, then seal with the bottom shaker. Shake cocktail thoroughly, then strain into an iced glass. Garnish with thyme (optional).

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Vegan Food. Not exactly a phrase that makes many mouths water. Vegan food has gotten a bad rep in recent times, mostly because most vegans are assholes about the whole things. “Oh, YOU eat animal products? Well I guess you don’t care about the ENVIRONMENT. meh he he he.” What a jerk. In all actuality, some of your favorite foods are probably vegan without you even realizing it. Oreos. Oreos are vegan. Think about that.  My only main problem with veganism is cheaters. By cheaters, I mean those people who get soy-bacon and veggie cheese and, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, Tofurky. I actually saw Tofurky for the first time on an episode of Unwrapped on Food Network. The image of a tofu extrusion pipe, with a smaller pipe in the middle for stuffing, is probably one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen, and I’ve eaten the eyeball out of a braised goat head. I think that if you’re going to cut out animal products, you don’t get to cheat and get thinks flavored and shaped like animals. Tofurky? More like Tofu-ckyourself. Sorry, that was uncalled for. Anyway, for the 38th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge, I wanted something a little off the beaten path of veganism.

To stray away from the bad reputation of vegan food, my first thought was to make something incredibly unhealthy. Something like a big sloppy plate of nachos or poutine. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to recreate cheese in vegan form without it being totally gross. With that out of the question, I turned to another indulgent treat: Ice Cream. In 1904, the banana split was invented by David Strickler, a young apprentice pharmacist at Tassel Pharmacy in Pennsylvania. At the time, it was common for pharmacies for also offer sodas and tonics, which then evolved into the soda fountain and then into ice cream parlors. To draw in local college students, Strickler offered a new sundae with three different flavors of ice cream and a variety of sweet toppings. Clearly, the sundae caught on and now entered into the lexicon of classic American cuisine.  You may think, where is he going with this? Ice cream clearly isn’t vegan. You’re right, it’s not. But it turns out that it’s fairly easy to make a coconut based ice cream that’s totally vegan friendly.

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Sorry for the melty photo, it’s unseasonably warm out today.

Surprisingly, The ice cream itself was the only thing I had to swap out in order to make this classic dish vegan. Coconut milk, a little sugar, and whatever flavorings you want. If you have an ice cream maker, the rest is the same as the traditional method. If you don’t have an ice cream machine, like myself, it gets a little harder. The method that I have found to work the best is to make the base, freeze it for about an hour, blend it in a food processor or blender, and freeze for another hour. If you keep repeating this process, it breaks up the larger ice crystals that form in your base and gives it a much smoother texture once totally frozen. For my banana split, I went with the classic: Vanilla, Chocolate, and Strawberry. Traditionally, the vanilla ice cream is topped with chocolate sauce, the chocolate ice cream with strawberry sauce, and the strawberry ice cream with pineapple sauce. As long as you use organic cane sugar, your sauces can all be vegan as well (in fact, regular Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup is already vegan friendly).  I topped my sundae with whipped coconut cream, pecans, and a maraschino cherry. I hate using the expression “If you didn’t tell me it was [blank] I would never have guessed!”. I think food should taste like itself and not be hidden away under a bunch of other crap to disguise it. However, I really wouldn’t have guessed that the ice cream was coconut based if I hadn’t made it myself. The flavors added into the base cover up most of the coconuttiness, and makes the whole thing taste just how you would expect it to. Who says vegan food can’t be totally indulgent and bad for you?

Coconut Ice Cream Base

makes about 1 pint

  • Coconut Milk, whole fat, 1 can (about 13 oz)
  • Organic Cane Sugar*, 1/2 cup
  • For Vanilla: Vanilla Extract, 2 teaspoons
  • For Chocolate: Cocoa Powder, 1/4 cup
  • For Strawberry: Strawberries, chopped, 1 cup

Combine coconut milk with sugar and flavoring of choice. Blend until thoroughly combined. Freeze in an ice creamer maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Ice Cream Topping

  • Water, 1/4 cup
  • Organic Cane Sugar*, 1/4 cup
  • Cocoa powder, diced strawberries, or diced pineapple, 1/4 cup

Combine sugar, water, and flavoring. Bring to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

 

*Normal white sugar is filtered through bone, making it non-vegan. Check different brands at your local store, but more organic cane sugar is vegan.

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I, as I’m sure many of you can relate, do not live in a tropical area. In fact, northern Vermont is pretty much the least tropical you can get. But in recent years, even the smaller grocery stores have started carrying a variety of tropical fruits. While most people may think of tropical fruits as just pineapples, mangoes, papayas and the like, Wikipedia defines a tropical fruit as any fruit with an intolerance to frost. This definition would include things such as Cape Gooseberry, Honeydew Melon, Pistachios, Olives, and even allspice and nutmeg! As you may have guessed,  tropical fruit is the theme for the 28th week of Reddit’s 52 Weeks of Cooking Challenge!

What I think is great about tropical fruit is their natural colors and flavors. Fruits grown in tropical environments always seem to have brighter, more vivid colors and provide a great visual element to any dish. To highlight their great natural qualities, I picked a few tropical fruits that were available up here and made a fruit terrine, which is totally not just a fancy jello cup.

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 There really isn’t too much to say about this, since I didn’t really cook very much. Thinly sliced mangoes and avocados, pineapple and pomegranate seeds, all set in a lightly sweetened gelatin. Fresh pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, which breaks down proteins and is commonly used in meat tenderizers. This enzyme will also stop gelatin from setting properly, which is why I had to blanch the pineapple for a few minutes before adding the gelatin. A friend of mine runs Tea Rex Tea Co. and I was lucky enough to get a sample of their Ice Age blend: a great mix of black tea, orange and mint. I thought that these flavors would compliment the tropical fruits nicely, so I made a simple coulis infused with the tea and drizzled it over the fruit. Sweet, tart, creamy; this dessert was perfect finish to a nice summer evening.

Tropical Fruit Terrine

makes about 4 cups

  • Avocado, thinly sliced, 1 each
  • Mango, thinly sliced, 1 each
  • Pineapple, small diced, blanched, 2 cups
  • Pomegranate seeds, about 2 cups
  • Cold Water, 1 cup
  • Gelatin, 4 packets
  • Hot Water, 3 cups
  • Sugar, 1 cup

Line a cupcake pan with alternating slices of mango and avocado. Combine pineapple and pomegranate and fill cups with mixture. Bloom gelatin over cold water, let stand 5 minutes. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, add sugar and let dissolve. Dissolve bloomed gelatin into hot water. Fill fruit cups with gelatin and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours to set.

Black Tea Coulis

  • Tea Rex Tea Co. Ice Age Tea, about 9 grams
  • Water, 1 cup
  • Sugar, 2 cups

Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add tea. Allow to steep 4 minutes. Strain liquid into another pot . While still hot, add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Return to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and  allow to cool completely before serving.

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