Sweet Cranberry Wine Sauce – gluten free + vegan

Ingredients:

1 bag cranberries (12-16 ounces)
1 750ml bottle of sweet wine (*See note*)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
pinch salt

Directions:

In a medium stock pot add your sugar. Turn your burner onto medium high. Wash your cranberries well under warm running water, shake most the water off. Add your cranberries to the pot and stir well to mix with the sugar. After about 60 seconds of stirring, lift your pot off the burner and away from the flame and slowly add some of your wine. Adding only a little at a time will help prevent boil over, when working with alcohol this is important as a boil over could produce flame (never good!). Once you get enough in the pan to coat the bottom of the pan with at-least a 1/4 inch or about a centimeter, you can return the pan to the stove and add the remaining wine. Save that wine bottle though as its a great way to serve your sauce that’ll have your guests wondering!

Bring to a boil while stirring. You want to stir your sauce mixture until all the sugar is dissolved and you no longer feel the sugar at the bottom of the pot.

Once the sauce is boiling, turn the heat down to a simmer or just a little higher. You will want to reduce your sauce down depending on how thick you want your final product. If you want something closer to a jelly or jam, reduce it down by half. If you want something more like a slightly thickened sauce, 1/3 – 1/4 will do just fine. (I reduced by 1/4) Just make a mental note where the sauce started, so you know when you get there. Let it cook uncovered until your desired thickness, make sure to stir every 2-5 minutes just in case, other than that it doesn’t require much effort.

After your sauce is your desired consistency, use an immersion blender or transfer tinto a blender continer. Blend on high until the sauce is a very fine puree, you can optionally strain the sauce if you want.

As this sauce cools down it will thicken up a good bit due to the pectin in the cranberries, so keep this in mind while making it. If kept in a tight fitting glass container this sauce will keep up to 2 – 3 weeks. (photo was taken after sauce was 2 weeks old!)

*NOTE* Make sure you ONLY use a wine you would drink plain. Cooking this wine concentrates the flavor, so if you don’t like the wine to start with, this won’t make it better. I suggest a sweet white wine like a moscato d’asti or a riesling. A sweet red like a rose wine would also go amazingly with this.

CAUTION: If you’re making this for someone who is gluten intolerant or a vegan. Please make sure that the wine you’re using is gluten free and contains no animal products. Most wines are finished with isinglass, this is a concentrated substance from the bladder of fish. Some wines are made with wheat and wheat like products. When it doubt call the producer of this wine or choose a different brand.

How to make: Vanilla Extract

 

How to make: Vanilla Extract
 
Have you ever wondered how they make vanilla extract, or been curious why they can taste so different from brand to brand? Well some brand actually use chemicals in the processing of their extracts, leading you ingesting poisons you would rather not have, but I have a solution for you! Just make you own like I do. Now that might sound confusing and borderline scary, but once you try this I promise you'll never buy the junky overpriced stuff in the store.
Author:
Serves: 2 cups
Ingredients
  • 10 long sized (6-7") vanilla beans (see notes)
  • 14-15 ounces clear and unflavored vodka
  • 16 ounce GLASS container , amber works best
  • scissors
Instructions
  1. If your beans are older you can snap them, otherwise, use your scissors and cut 10 beans into ½ inch - 1 inch pieces and put them inside a glass container that's at-least 16 ounces and has a tight fitting lid. Pour in 14 - 15 ounces of a clear unflavored vodka. I just use the cheapest vodka at the store, but if you want you can use the more expensive stuff. The important part is to not get flavored vodka or a mix vodka, this will ruin the final flavor and is a waste of good vanilla beans.
  2. After you add the vodka, put on the cap and shake gently to help the process along. You will notice that it will already turn a slightly browner color and you might see little black specs, this is normal and is what will make your homemade extract 100 times better than store-bought in the end. Put your extract in a darker place, away from direct sunlight. An amber bottle will help with this, but since they're hard to find, storing away from sunlight works best. For the first week, try to shake it once a day, I find this helps give the best results.
  3. Minimum time for soaking is 2 weeks, this will give a weaker flavor, but still comparable to something in the store. One month is best for a full flavored extract that is slightly stronger than double strength at the store.
  4. At this point you can strain out the vanilla pods in a coarse mesh strainer (you want the seeds to fall through) or you can leave them in there. After about 2 months time, the extract will not get any stronger. At this stage you will have something super flavorful that makes this more than worth your while. As seen in the video it bests VERY dark and wonderful. The smell is something that cannot be described and the taste is nothing like vanilla from a bottle in the super market.
Notes
Some of you might be saying to yourself that making homemade vanilla extract would cost a small fortune, and you very well could be right. If you go to buy vanilla pods in the store they're usually 2 pods for 10 dollars USD, however, I have been using vanilla beans purchased off the Internet for years now with no issues. I purchase mine on eBay from a VERY well known and respected seller,CLICK HERE, please note that I am NOT being paid to advertise these people, I just like their products. I use grade B or extract grade vanilla, planifolia aka Madagascar bourbon beans. You can use grade a but it does not yield any better results, I have tried it. You can also use Tahitian vanilla but they do tend to be more expensive. I always suggest buying a pound of beans, this saves you a lot of money on shipping and the final product. After shipping it only costs about 31 dollars and will last you many years. Over time they dry out and are only good for extract, but I am on 3 years and the beans still produce an amazing flavored extract. Store vanilla in a tight fitting container, like a quart sized wide mouth mason jar away from direct sunlight. If your vanilla gets white mold of them , obviously throw them away or compost them.
 

S.M.A.R.T : Tomatoes Week – Bruschetta

So for this weeks SMART meal we were given the topic of tomatoes, wonderful! Tomatoes are such a versatile fruit to use in just about everything from curry, to condiments. Let’s not forget the old stand-by of pasta sauce, but my favorite way to eat tomatoes is raw. About a month ago I did a recipe on bruschetta and I knew I had to make it again because it’s just that tasty.
In total this cost me about $6.00 to make and you could easily get 6 servings, making it only $1.00 a serving.

For the original recipe go to: HERE
The only variation between this and that is I didn’t have fresh parsley this time, so instead I used some dried oregano. Would have been better with some fresh basil or parsley, but sometimes we need to make due without.

S.M.A.R.T : Tacos Week (Faylina’s Vegan Tacos)

So for this weeks SMART meal we were given the topic of tacos. YAY! I love eating tacos, they’re a great way to full up on healthy carbs and tons of fresh vegetables. Although these aren’t my typical tacos, I found they were still super tasty and amazing.
Best of all, this WHOLE meal (including the leftovers) only cost me… you ready for it?…: $11.00! Sure that seems like a lot, but you must figure I’ll get probably 6 meals out of this for my husband and myself so that breaks down to only $1.83 per meal. Not bad at all.
I used:
A homemade multi-grain flour tortilla – click HERE for my recipe
homemade re-fried pinto beans
romaine lettuce
green bell pepper
spring onions
guacamole
medium spicy salsa

For two of these tacos I calculated 1220 calories. That may seem like alot however I skipped lunch, oops!

How could I have improved them? Well, nothing beats fresh tomatoes on a taco, unfortunately since its the end of the month I already ate most of my produce, and what was left (2 romas) went bad to the point I couldn’t trim the bad bits so we had to toss them. Never-fear, this is why I keep salsa in the fridge. I also really like olives on my tacos, I’m not sure why It was just something I was raised with. I know that’s not traditional, but I still like them. I think next time I have tacos I’ll get some from the olive bar at Whole Foods. All in all, this meal was freaking amazing. I was so full after two tacos and the cron-o-meter showed I received almost 100% of my vitamins and minerals. Oh yeah, talk about healthy and delicious!

Better yet, I had left-overs for my husband’s lunch. I packaged the vegetables and salsa in a seperate container than the tortilla shells and pinto beans. That way he can warm up the beans without cooking the veggies, and the shells stay fresh and not soggy.
Don’t know what smart is? Click HERE for my explanation of it.

Sesame Soy Asian Inspired Vinaigrette

This is my go to dressing. This recipe can be vegan friendly if maple syrup or another liquid sweetener like agave is used. It can also be a raw dressing depending on your ingredients. If making this for someone with gluten issues, please insure you use gluten free tamari/soy sauce, AND gluten free vinegar.

Ingredients:

1 cup grape-seed oil or extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sesame seed oil*
2 1/2 tablespoons whole sesame seeds
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 – 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground is best
2-4 tablespoons honey or liquid sweetener of choice**(see notes)
Ginger***(see notes)
Directions:

In a large bowl (high sided works best), add in your vinegar, soy sauce, and honey or other sweetener. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup of oil. This should take 1-2 minutes of vigorous whisking. The trick is to make a dressing and not oily vinegar, there is a difference. Once you have 1/2 cup of oil in, try your sauce and if desired add the rest of the oil. At this point if you’re using it, whisk in the sesame oil as well. Once all your oil is whisked in, add your extra flavors or extra sweetener if desired. I used whole sesame seeds and black peppers. Stir in and you are done!

To store this dressing use a mason jar or repurposed glass jar with a tight fitting lid OR use a VERY well cleaned salad dressing bottle, I like the ones with the caps on the lid that restricts the amount that comes out at one time. In the fridge this will last for weeks, maybe a month or so I have never tried it that long. Before using, shake really well to re-emulsify and you’re ready to go.

*If you do not want to use or don’t have access to sesame oil, you can substitute it with regular oil or leave out entirely.

**If you are vegan or simply do not use honey, feel free to use maple syrup or agave. If neither appeal to you, try making a simple syrup by boiling 1/4 cup water with 2 tablespoons sugar. Whisk well to ensure no grainy texture. Once cooled, substitute this in for honey. Start with 1 tablespoon and try it from there as this changes the flavor.

***If you want to add a ginger flare to this dish, use a microplane or fine tooth grater and grate some ginger into the bowl. I would suggest 1/2 – 1 tablespoon. Whisk this in with the sesame seeds. Optionally you can add other flavors such as fresh garlic or chili flakes to change the flavor.

PLEASE TAKE NOTE: If you are making this and/or cooking for someone with gluten allergies or celiacs disease. Make sure to purchase ingredients that are certified gluten free, and clean your utensils very well. Better safe than sorry.

Nutritional information is per tablespoon, Thanks!