Friday, January 29, 2016

Jamaican Vegetarian Ackee Recipe

Well prepared Ackee is a dish that every Jamaican loves. Ackee is a yellow fruit that is eaten in many Caribbean countries. The raw fruit is very poisonous. The toxins in the unripe fruit are believed to be the cause of the Jamaican Vomiting Sickness. So, it is cooked and eaten as a savory dish.
Ackee is typically eaten for breakfast. Many traditional roots and starches are eaten with it including yam, boiled green bananas, coco, dashien, roast breadfruit, boiled dumplings and fried dumplings. Check out the recipe for my Jamaican Fried Dumplings here.

1/2 Red Onion, sliced
3-4 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Sweet pepper, sliced
1-2 small Roma Tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 can Ackee (There are many brands, however, my mother prefers the Grace brand)
2-3 fresh Thyme sprigs
1 teaspoons Vegetable bouillon
1 teaspoon Organic Adobo seasoning blend (like Simply Organic or Frontier)
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

  1. Boil a large pot of water. Drain the excess water out of the can of ackee and submerge the ackee in the boiling water for 30 seconds.*
  2. Drain the ackee in a colander and set aside.
  3. Preheat olive and coconut oils in a skillet over medium-low heat.
  4. First saute the sliced onions until they are beginning to soften.
  5. Add the chopped tomatoes next, and saute until most of the liquid is evaporated.
  6. Then add the roughly chopped peppers and all the seasonings, thyme, salt and pepper. Turn the heat up to high and begin to quickly stir the mixture.
  7. Lastly, carefully add the ackee. Here is where you should be careful. The trick to a good ackee dish is to not break up the ackee pieces. So the trick to stirring the ackee without breaking it up is to flip the ackee. Push the spoon under it and turn the spoon over. Wallah!
  8. And then enjoy! Plate the ackee on a pretty dish and eat with some roots or dumplings. Enjoy, ya mon!
  • Sometimes, ackee may have a slight sour aftertaste. This is sometimes due to the brand of ackee or the processing of a certain batch. Boiling the ackee quickly (blanching) will eliminate this taste.

Jamaican Fried Dunplings Recipe

Here is a recipe for an essential element to a classic Jamaican breakfast. Fried dumplings are the Jamaican equivalent of biscuits, although they are not eaten as frequently as the American biscuit. Jamaicans love to eat fried dumplings for a traditional Sunday morning breakfast, holiday breakfasts, or community socials. This recipe makes a large batch, approximately 16-18 Jamaican Fried Dumplings.
4 cups All Purpose Flour (King Arthur is great!)
2 teaspoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
1 cup Water, plus 4-6 additional Tablespoons as needed
Expeller pressed Safflower oil

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large sturdy bowl and make a well in the center.
  2. Pour the water into the well and slowly stir the mixture into a dough. add more water if necessary but try to maintain a thick, dense, solid, and smooth dough.
  3. Preheat 1/4 inch of Expeller pressed Safflower oil on low heat.
  4. Break off egg sized pieces of dough and shape them into flat discs.
  5. Fry on a large low flame. Dumplings are finished when they are a deep golden brown hue. Firmly tap the dumplings and listen for a hollow sound. This also indicates completeness. They take approximately 7-10 minutes on each side.
  6. Place the dumplings on a plate layered with paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
  7. Serve these with Ackee and Vegetables or Jamaican style cooked down cabbage. Enjoy, Ya mon!

St. Augustine and Dostoyevsky on Evil

The Depravity of Human Nature
St Augustine caravaggio - Copy
St. Augustine of Hippo
In his piece The Depravity of Human Nature, St. Augustine seeks to discover insight regarding the inner workings of the human soul in regards to evil. He opens his heart in inquiry to God, acknowledging God as the only source of goodness, truth, and safety. St Augustine defines evil according to the Biblical understanding as an act endeavoring to break God's holy law.  It is an endeavor because no finite can truly break or violate, in the literal sense of the word, the law of God but rather we act on pretense and experience an “illusion of liberty”, thinking we have broken the infallible law of God (135). This is one reason why man commits evil.
St. Augustine  attempts to identify and isolate the wrong itself, the sin, away from the exemplified action. He arrives at the conclusion that mankind craves and enjoys evil for evil’s sake, and that evil is inherent to man and man pursues and performs evil not primarily for the tangible benefit gained, but for the dark pleasure of experiencing evil alone.
He observes how every wrong tendency is the exact opposite of some pure characteristic of God and the manifestation of that evil tendency is the feeble attempt to become like God in one small way. For example: ambition is the opposite of God’s merited glory, cruelty is the attempt to make one fear another but really God is the only real One to be feared, lust is the faint attempt to express love but God alone is all possessing of true charity; he goes on with similar examples regarding inquisitiveness, ignorance, sloth, extravagance, covetousness, and fear.   

The Grand Inquisitor
Fyodor-Dostoevsky - Copy
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Grand Inquisitor is a work on religion and its role in forming and affecting worldview. It philosophically addresses how individuals perceive right from wrong, the existence of God, and the benevolence of God. It also explores the realm of faith and doubt. Ivan, the main orator is a rational, logical kind of skeptic. He asserts that free will is really a burden and that mankind had no choice in the reality of giving or receiving.  
The Grand Inquisitor himself, though a cardinal, is an evil being, speaking the thoughts and arguments of the Lucifer.The Grand Inquisitor frames Christ’s decisions in the wilderness of temptation as actually being evil because Christ chose freedom of choice over satisfying base passions, refusing to make a supernatural manifestation, and the refusal to accept and exercise the power that Satan offered him. Because of Christ's decisions the Grand Inquisitor contends that people are more evil and desire to satisfy their base passions to a greater extent. He also asserts that because Christ refused to accept the offer of power, the ecclesiastical church was justified in taking the role of ruling over the people in a authoritarian manner.
The Grand Inquisitor asserts that Christ chose freedom of choice to make men happy, but “Man is constituted as a mutineer; can mutineers ever be happy” (370)? He asserts that man is so sinful that the best option is for them to be subject to a higher earthly authority, allowing them to satisfy their base desires and inclinations, even if it means their ultimate damnation. He asserts that man is evil in a natural, almost inherent way. He describes the human nature as: deprave, lacking knowledge, ignorant, foolish followers, gullible converts, disloyal subjects of their own base inclinations.  Finally he assumes that man will be evil and that man can only be somewhat good as the consequent of some other evil.

The Western World Philosophy. Penguin Custom Editions. Print.

Vegan Goldfish Crackers

goldfish 1

Growing up, Goldfish were one of my favorite snacks. My mom never bought a whole box of goldfish for me and my brothers to snack on, she didn't buy much snacks at all for that matter. But sometimes, when I was a very good girl, my mom would treat me to something special. Through the bustle of a typical Manhattan street, we would enter the DUANEread on 72nd street, and take the escalator to the first level; at this point my mom and I would separate, I would walk a well known route to the snack isle, snatch a small waxed carton of goldfish off the shelf, and find my mom to purchase my treat parcel. As a girl, I took pride in possession. It was actually more like an issue... I savored the knowledge of all the things that I still had.
The following was a typical thought process:
" I still have those Hello Kitty stickers,
I still have that cookie,
I still have my brothers daily crime log,
 I still have my goldfish from this morning,"
girl laughing
So in the end, Goldfish meant a lot to me.
I have been working on this vegan goldfish crackers recipe for a while now, and it's still a work in progress. Each time I make them, I twerk and adjust the ingredients a little. But this recipe has the best proportions, at least so far. After doing a little research (picking up a box of goldfish) I discovered that there is more to that distinct goldfish flavor than just a cheesy taste. The Active dry yeast is included not only for its rising properties, but it actually has a distinct flavor: it's nutty and faintly umami. The Ascorbic Acid gives that subtle twang that is so familiar to cheesy products. Celery salt creates a faint bitter undertone that compliments the Nutritional Yeast well.
For the Crackers
2 3/4 cups Unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Nutritional yeast flakes
2 teaspoons Aluminum free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Paprika
Dash Cayenne pepper ( optional)
1 teaspoon Onion powder
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/4 teaspoon Active dry yeast
1/4 teaspoon Vitamin C powder (Ascorbic acid)
2 Tablespoons Lemon juice
1/2 cup Olive, grape seed, or safflower oil
1/2 cup Ice cold water
The Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix together all dry ingredients thoroughly. Make a well in the center leaving about 1/2" of flour on bottom of bowl, add oil water and lemon juice. Mix the liquids together in the well, then begin stirring in the surrounding flour. Mix and mix until it forms a dough, DO NOT KNEAD! Let it rest for 25 - 30 minutes.
  2. Flatten the dough into a disc then use a rolling pin to roll it out into a large irregular shape.
  3. Cut the dough with a knife (or use a pizza slicer to make the job easier on yourself) into squares or triangles or diamonds or any shape you like.
  4. ORRR... you can use a cookie cutter to cut out cutesy little shapes like fishes or little people. And then you might as well be bored because your going to get bored if your not. It takes forever to pick up those little crackers, that's why I don't make little crackers I make big chunky squares and irregular shapes, (cuz, ain't nobody got time for that...) But here is a link for cute little fish cookie cutters here.
  5. Place the crackers on an oiled baking sheet and bake them for about 15-25 minutes. Remove them from the pan and allow them to cool before to bite into these cheesy, crunchy bites! 
Tip: The perimeter around baking pans is hotter than the interior. So don't place any crackers too near to the edges of the pans to prevent them from burning.

goldfish 3

goldfish 2

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Vegan Greek Quinoa Salad

This Quinoa salad is one of my moms favorite dishes to prepare. She will prepare it a least once every two weeks.
First, what is quinoa? Quinoa is an old food. It's been around for thousands of years. Historically, the Incas, of what is today Peru, grew and cultivated quinoa. Did you know that quinoa is not a grain? Nope. It is actually a pseudo-cereal. Cereals like oats, millet, spelt, wheat, and rice come from grassy stalks, whereas psuedo-cerals are not memebers of the grass family. In addition to quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, and chia seed are also psuedo-cereals. There are hundreds of varieties of quinoa. But the most common types available for purchase are red, white, and black.
Quinoa is a super healthy food! It is a nutritionally compact, whole food and it has almost twice the amount of fiber than most other grains.
"Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and contains iron, B-vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, vitamin E and fiber. It is one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein and comprised of all [nine] essential amino acids. Quinoa also has a high protein to carbohydrate ratio when compared to other grain products. It was proposed by NASA to be an ideal food for long duration space flights." According to
In addition to being rich in vitamins, minerals and protein, Quinoa also contains high amounts of antioxidants and oleic acids.
The coating of the quinoa grain contains saponin. Saponin is a naturally occurring insect-repellent designed to prevent insects from biting into the grain by creating a bitter tasting coating. Unfortunately, insects aren't the only ones who taste the bitter saponin. To eliminate that unpleasant taste, simply wash the quinoa thoroughly several times until the water runs clear.
The Frugal Side: 
So, I know what you're thinking, "But quinoa is expensive!!" And you are right. Quinoa averages $4.50 to $8.00 per pound, depending on where you shop. But there are a few tricks to making quinoa frugal:
  • Buy in bulk - This can mean, buying from the bulk section, buying a larger bag, or buying from a wholesale club. Large bags of quinoa typically come in 4 pound sizes. A 4 pound bag of quinoa costs
  • Buy online 
  • Buy the white quinoa. Save the more exotic varieties for special occasions.
On top of getting a great deal, quinoa can be made cost effective by preparing it correctly and eating it with moderation. Make sure you use enough water when cooking quinoa so that each grain fully expands. Cooked quinoa should equal 2-3 times the raw equivalent. Even though quinoa can be expensive, the reason why I said that it is a great food for college students is because: 2 cups of raw quinoa that fed me for 12 times!
Calculated at $8 per pound, 2 cups of quinoa costed me $6.40, say the veggies and seasonings costed $3.60. So I only spent $.71 each morning for a full bowl of energy packed, super-healthy quinoa salad!

The Salad
2 Cups Quinoa, uncooked
1-2 small Tomatoes, Diced
1/2  a large Cucumber, chopped
Parsley, 6-7 stalks
1 medium sized Red or White onion, diced
The Dressing
2-3 tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1/2-1 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon Black Pepper
The Optional Additions
Black beans
Tofu feta
Kalamata olives
Green onions
Chopped walnuts
The Directions
  1. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper, and salt in a medium-sized bowl. Leave the dressing to rest while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
  2. Place the quinoa in a strainer and rinse under the tap until the water runs clear. Combine the quinoa, 3 1/2 water, and a pinch of salt in a medium sized saucepan, cover the pot,  and bring to a boil. Immediately after it comes to a boil, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until the water is absorb and the quinoa swells, approximately 20-30 minutes.Once the quinoa has finished cooking, uncover the pot, lightly fluff, and allow the quinoa to cool for 7-8 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, chop the tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and parsley into a large mixing bowl. Add the cooled quinoa and dressing, Toss everything together until well combined. At this point, the salad is complete, but if you let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours, it will be even better! Enjoy.