Jerked Veggie Wraps

A delectable veggie wrap that’s jam-packed with a burst of spicy, delicious Caribbean-inspired flavor!

Yesterday, I had the wonderful opportunity to facilitate a cooking demonstration for the Second Annual Taste of Laura Street event, in Plant City, Florida. A Taste of Laura Street was hosted by The Improvement League of Plant City, CDC. As stated on Visit Tampa Bay “A Taste of Laura Street – Plant City is a reality food experience where participants can taste and judge samples of local cuisine while they enjoy the historical ambiance of the former Laura Street African American Business District adjacent to midtown. Awards will be presented for Best Entrée, Best Side, and Best Dessert Dish. There will also be a traveling art gallery exhibit, and live bands featuring jazz, and contemporary music. A Taste of Laura Street highlights the story of how economic development ignited and launch self-empowerment in the Lincoln Park neighborhood during the era spanning 1920 thru 1969.

Plant City Laura Street business district once thrived with restaurants, rooming houses (hotels), movie theaters, funeral homes, ice cream parlors and barbershops. The Bing Rooming House and Ms. Bing’s Seminole Restaurant anchored Laura Street aka “The Bottom” at the corner of South Allen and Laura Street. This is an opportunity to showcase one of Plant City’s most historic neighborhoods where residents can live, work, play and enjoy authentic heritage and character.”
Photo courtesy of the Plant City Observer
Let me take this moment to tell y’all that yesterday was poppin’. The food was incredible, the live music was beautiful, and the visual art on display was spectacular. The vibes were perfect: a welcoming, yet laid-back atmosphere.
The meal that I prepared during the cooking demo was a very delicious jerked veggie wrap.  One of the perks of this recipe is that there is ZERO added sugar, aside from the fruits listed in the ingredients. The main star of the dish is the cauliflower, as that veggie is flavor-neutral, and can absorb any seasoning. It’s also pretty low in carbs, as well! For those who have aversions to cauliflower, feel free to opt out of this ingredient, or replace with an alternative, such as mushroom, chicken, or anything else! For those with sensitivity to spicy flavors, feel free to do away with the pepper!  No worries.
Want to learn how to create this magic dish? Keep on reading!
Jerk Veggie Wraps!
Ingredients
·         Jerk Marinade:
o    1 lime
o    1 small onion, or ½ medium onion
o    6 cloves garlic
o    2 tsp. fresh thyme
o    1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper (optional)
o    1.5 tbsp. fresh ginger
o    Juice of 1 large, ripened orange-or juice of 2 tangerines
o    1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
o    1 tsp. kosher salt
o    1 tsp. black pepper
o    1 tsp. allspice
o    ½ tsp. cinnamon & ½ tsp. nutmeg
o    3 tbsp. coconut oil
o    1/3 cup water
·         1 head of finely diced cauliflower
·         1/3 cup water
·         1 bell pepper
·         1 ripened plantain (optional)
·         1 Florida avocado (or hass), mashed
·         1 cup of fresh pineapple
·         1 cup Fresh spinach
·         Five 10”-wide whole wheat flour tortillas
·         3 tbsp. cooking oil (i.e. coconut)
Jerk Marinade Directions:
1.       Take all of the ingredients for the marinade, and place in a food processor. Let the mixture puree for about 1-2 minutes, or until the marinade has liquefied. Use immediately or store in an airtight container, and use within three days.

Jerk Vegetable wrap directions:
1.       Preheat skillet to medium-high for a few seconds. Gradually add 1/3 cup of water and diced cauliflower and bell pepper.

2.       Gradually add in the marinade, and raise the heat to medium-high, and continue to let the veggie mixture cook down for another 4-5 minutes until the excess liquid evaporates, and the cauliflower becomes fork-tender and lightly caramelized.

3.       (Optional) While cauliflower mixture is cooking, slice ripened plantain into ½” slices and then place in a preheated skillet set to medium with 3 tbsp. melted oil. Gently add plantain slices in heated oil, then turn the heat down to medium, and allow each side to cook for 1-2 minutes, and then turn over. Repeat process about 2 more times, but slightly lower heat and continue to cook until each slice is golden brown on each side. Keep an eye on the slices, or they will burn! Once slices are finished cooking, turn off skillet, and immediately remove them from heat, patting down with napkin.

4.       Once cauliflower and plantains are finished cooking, begin assembling wraps in the following recommended order: 1 tablespoon mashed avocado, 1/5 cup fresh spinach, 1 large spoonful of jerk veggie mixture, 2-3 plantain slices, then 1 tablespoon of pineapple slices. Close the wrap tightly. Optional step: Press on griddled skillet or Panini press for about 2 minutes on each side, until grill marks appear. Enjoy!

5 servings | Per serving: 464 calories/ 8.14g protein/27g fat/53.7g carbs/ 11.5g fiber per serving

Empanadas, Soup & CBD! An Evening with Pacha

Disclaimer: Please consult with a medical physician when considering the use of any product containing CBD.

When cooking a meal, typical essentials often include marinades, seasonings, and a good cooking vessel. But did you know that CBD can also be added to the ingredient list?

So, what exactly is CBD? The acronym seems to have generated quite the buzz. CBD is now sold in the form of lotions, soaps, gummies, and even water . You name it! CBD, short for Cannabidiol, is a compound that is derived from the cannabis plant. Before you begin to hyperventilate, please allow me to elaborate:

Cannabis comes in the form of both the Marijuana (female) and Hemp (male) plants-Hemp being a cousin of the Marijuana plant. It is, however, important to note that while the CBD compound is found in both plants, there are a few differences. First, the CBD and the THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol ) compound differ from one another: First, CBD is primarily derived from the Hemp plant. Second, THC, a compound derived from Marijuana, is a psychoactive compound that often results in a mind-altering ‘high’-or-a state of euphoria when an individual smokes or consumes it in food (Johnson, 2018). CBD, on the other hand, differs, as it is not psychoactive, nor does it alter an individual’s state-of-mind when consumed (Johnson, 2018).

Why is CBD so popular, anyways? People utilize products with the compound for a myriad of reasons. Many consumers of the product claim that CBD can promote relaxation, and can help address medical issues, such as anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, and inflammation (Grinspoon, 2019).

With this being said, in the spirit of showcasing local food systems, I would like to highlight Heather and Tarzan, two local players within Tampa Bay’s CBD industry. Heather and Tarzan (further referred to as HT) are the owners and founders of Pacha. Pacha is a company that produces CBD products exclusively derived from the Hemp plant. When I asked HT about the origins behind the name Pacha, they explained that the term Pacha comes from Pachamama, meaning Mother Earth. Pacha’s products include topical balms, pet treats, oils, and CBD isolates. When producing their products, HT takes pride in delivering high quality deliverables-with an intentionality of honoring Mother Earth each step of the way.

Check out the video, above, if you would like to learn more about Pacha!

For the sake of good food and solidarity, Pacha and The Funky Spork have teamed up, in order to create two mouth-watering infused recipes that contain one of Pacha’s very own CBD oils. We created a two course vegetarian meal. The first dish is a savory baked empanada appetizer. The second dish-the entrée-consists of a spicy corn chowder. While both dishes are incredible stand-alone delicacies, the two go hand-in-hand. As a disclaimer, please feel free to reduce the CBD dosage for either recipe. You can even enjoy without the CBD. It’s completely up to you!

Here is a link to Pacha’s Spicy CBD Corn Chowder: https://www.pachadispensary.com/pages/cbd-recipes
Video tutorial on how to make a two-course CBD-infused Dinner

Want to learn how to make the Baked CBD Veggie Empanadas? Keep on scrolling!

Baked CBD Veggie Empanadas
Ingredients:
·         One 14oz. package of pre-made empanada discs, thawed
·         1 medium bell pepper
·         1 cup fresh spinach
·         1 small onion
·         8 oz. packet baby portabella mushrooms
·         3 cloves garlic, minced
·         2 tbsp. tomato paste
·         2 tbsp. cumin
·         25 mg. Pacha’s CBD oil
·         2 tbsp. cooking oil
·         ¼ tsp. salt
·         1 egg or 1-2 tbsp. melted coconut oil (if vegan)

Directions
1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is preheating, gently open the empanada disc package, and gently separate the discs, and lay them out on parchment paper, or on a lightly floured surface. Set aside.

2.    Dice the onion, bell pepper, and portabella mushrooms into cubes roughly about the size of an inch. Set aside.

3.    In a skillet, heat to medium high, and place cooking oil to let warm up for about 20-30 seconds. Gradually add the garlic, onion, bell pepper, and mushroom. Cover and let the veggie mixture sauté for about 7-10 minutes, or until the veggies lightly caramelize. Make sure to keep an eye on the veggies and stir frequently (about every two minutes).

4.    During the last two minutes of the veggies sautéing, add the spinach mixture and immediately cover and let it sit, until the spinach begins to wilt. Gradually stir in the spinach with the rest of veggie mixture.

5.    After the veggies have been mixed, gradually add in the tomato paste, cumin seasoning, and salt, until everything is well combined. Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool off for about 5 minutes, or until it is warm to the touch.

6.    IMPORTANT STEP: Once the veggie mixture has cooled, gradually add the 25mg CBD oil drops, and gradually stir until well-combined.

7.    Assembling the Empanadas!
a.    Place about two tablespoons of filling into the center of each empanada discs.
b.    Gently fold the bottom half over the mixture, until disc resembled a half-circle.
c.    Gently press the edges with your fingers of each empanada, then seal it by using a fork to make gently indents around the outer edges of each empanada-about a half centimeter from the surface of the dough. Gently pierce the middle of each empanada with a fork, to prevent stuffing from over-steaming the pastries.
[pic]
d.    Delicately place each raw empanada in a lightly greased cookie sheet, or over parchment paper. Repeat steps a-e for each empanada.
[pic]
e.    (Vegetarian step-if vegan, go to step g)Take your egg scramble into a bowl. Then brush that mixture over each of the empanadas.
f.     (Vegan step) Take your melted coconut oil and brush it over each pastry.
g.    Place your empanadas in the center rack of your oven and bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

8.    Enjoy! J

Makes 4 servings (2 empanadas each)

Nutritional Information per serving:
300 calories/ 10.4 grams protein/ 12.5 grams fat/ 38.6 grams carbohydrates/ 3.5 grams of fiber

To learn more about Pacha, visit them at:  https://www.pachadispensary.com/
Instagram: @pachadispensary
Citations:
Grinspoon, P. (2019, June 05). Cannabidiol (CBD) – what we know and what we don’t. Retrieved August 3, 2019, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/cannabidiol-cbd-what-we-know-and-what-we-dont-2018082414476
Johnson, J. (2018, July 27). CBD oil: Uses, health benefits, and risks. Retrieved August 3, 2019, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317221.php
Link, R. (2019, June 06). What Is CBD Water, and Should You Drink It? Retrieved August 3, 2019, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cbd-water
Thompson, D. (2018, May 07). CBD Oil: All the Rage, But Is It Really Safe and Effective? Retrieved August 3, 2019, from https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/news/20180507/cbd-oil-all-the-rage-but-is-it-safe-effective#1


Mango Nice Cream


This cooling summer dish is smooth, creamy, and has just the right amount of spice!

Click above, to watch my video tutorial

Since creating this blog, I have paused to introspect and determine why The Funky Spork platform matters. I created this platform for a couple important reasons, including the following:

1.    To share delicious and healthy plant-based recipes, that use attainable ingredients.

2.    To promote local & sustainable food systems.

This Mango Nice-cream recipe falls within both of these missions. The ingredients for this dish are very simple, as they only involve three ingredients: mangoes, bananas, and chile powder. That simple! This dish also incorporates local food systems, by utilizing mangoes that are locally grown, and in season (it’s currently summer time). If you’re not from Florida, mangoes are grown during Florida’s summertime and thrive between June through October. If you are looking for practical ways to practice sustainability, eating locally and seasonally are great strategies.

Just a couple tips, before you begin to create this dessert:

1.    I go for a 5:1 ratio, where I will utilize five ripened bananas for every mango used.
2.    The riper your bananas are, the sweeter, and tastier the dish will be. When I say ripe, I mean banana-but bread-worthy ripe.
3.The mango nice cream is gluten-free, vegan, and is minimally processed. You may be scratching your head, and wondering why I would be so crazy as to incorporate chile heat into this dish. You’ve got to trust me when I say that the spiciness of the chile with the sweetness of the mango and banana works. In fact, the incorporation of chile seasoning is inspired by the scrumptious Mexican Mangonada delicacy. This dessert is so delicious, and has so much flavor, that all I can do is allow the recipe to speak for itself. So…let’s move along, and learn how to create this nice cream!  

Ingredients:

·         5 frozen bananas, peeled
·         1 fresh mango
·         1 tbsp. chile powder  (optional)

Appliances:

·         Food processor high speed blender
·         Freezer-friendly container (minimum size 16 oz.)

Directions:

1.    Slice each banana into approximately one inch pieces. Set aside
2.    Slice your mangoes in half, peel the skin off, and dice each mango until the pieces are roughly 1” in size. Set aside.

3.    In your food processor, place your mango slices. Then place the diced bananas, and chile powder. Make sure that you first place the mango, because that will make the blending process much easier. Pulse the fruit mixture for about 3-4 minutes, or until the mixture resembles a smooth puree. Stir at least two minutes in to ensure smooth blending consistency.
4.    (Optional step) Take puree mixture and gently pour into freezer-friendly container, and spoon the top of the mixture until it is smooth on top. Place in freezer, and let it set for at least thirty minutes, or until the nice cream texture is at a firmer consistency to your liking. Otherwise, you can immediately consume the mixture.
5.    Enjoy with friends on a hot, summer afternoon!
Makes four servings.

Nutritional information per serving:
184 calories/ 2.3g protein/0.84g fat/46.7g carbs/ 5.3g fiber


Platano Relleno |Stuffed Plantain

This dish is fun, delicious, and a definite crowd-pleaser. I hope you enjoy creating (and eating) this as much as I do! 🙂



For those of you who may not know, my family comes from Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. Therefore, I am what you call a ‘Dominirican’. Both nations often intersected my household, through the collaborative sounds of salsa, bachata, and merengue filling the living room crevices. It was never a true Saturday, unless our Dominican Hair Stylist was playing an episode of Sabado Gigante on her large screen television. Family gatherings often consisted of dancing, and some fiercely competitive matches of Domino.

And…the food.

One of the joys of being a Dominirican is the rich and delicious array of cuisine our countries have to offer: We always enjoyed some crispy & flaky empanadas filled with piping hot goodness.  Yucca served with ajo (garlic) was always a delight. A party was never reallya party (fiesta), unless a giant calderon (rice pot) of arroz con gandules (seasoned rice with pigeon peas) was served.

One of my favorite dishes is what is known as platano relleno, also known as stuffed plantains, in English. Stuffed plantains usually came in the form of a few iterations. One version of platano relleno is known as mofongo, a Puerto Rican delicacy that uses deep-fried green plantain. The version of this particular recipe uses platano maduro, ripened plantain. While unripened green plantain has a more savory, bread-like flavor and firm consistency, platano maduro is much softer, and sweeter in flavor. Ripened maduros form black spots-don’t be intimidated by that, at all!  

This version of platano relleno is made with a very Funky Spork twist. To add additional mass with a lower carb intake, I incorporate cauliflower into this recipe. While most traditional recipes call for ground beef, this version is vegetarian (and with the utilization of textured vegetable protein in place of the Morning Star griller crumbles, this version can be veganized, as well!). To top things off, this baby gets baked, instead of deep fried-reducing both calories and fat!

This dish is fun, delicious, and a definite crowd-pleaser. I hope you enjoy creating (and eating) this as much as I do! 🙂

Ingredients:
·         4 ripe plantains
·         1 small head of cauliflower
·         12 oz. Morning star griller crumbles/ pre-soaked textured vegetable protein
·         1 small yellow onion
·         2 large peppers or four small peppers
·         1 tsp. adobo seasoning
·         4 cloves garlic/ ¼ tsp. garlic powder
·         2 tbsp. tomato paste
·         2 tbsp. Cooking oil
Directions:
1.    Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is preheating, preheat medium-large pot and allow water to boil. While water begins to heat, coarsely chop the cauliflower head. Once water begins boiling, gently place diced pieces into boiling water and allow to boil for 10-15 minutes, or until the cauliflower is tender with the touch of a fork. Drain and set aside.
2.    While waiting for the water to boil, coarsely chop the onion, and pepper until each piece is about ¼ inches in size. Afterwards, finely mince the garlic cloves until they form into very fine pieces, less than the size of corn kernels, but no smaller than the size of a grain of uncooked rice. Add to onion mixture, and then set aside.
3.    Take a wok or large skillet and add the cooking oil and let it heat up on medium-high for about 45 seconds. To test heat, add one piece of onion. If you see that it starts to bubble around the edge, it’s time to add in the garlic mixture. Sautee in the wok for about 1½ minutes, until the mixture becomes fragrant and becomes slightly more translucent. Gradually add and sir in the chopped onion and bell pepper mixture. Cover the mixture and let it steam for about two minutes, or until the onion begins to turn slightly translucent.
4.    Lift the lid from the sautéed onion, pepper, and garlic mixture and stir several times for about a minute, and let the veggies cook covered for about three minutes. During the last two minutes, gradually add in the plant-based meat crumbles and tomato paste, and liberally sprinkle in the adobo seasoning during this point. Once finished cooking, set aside.
5.       Un-peel the plantains and then slice them up. Afterwards, add cauliflower mixture and the diced plantain into a bowl, and mash the mixture until smooth, where most of clumps have disintegrated.
6.       Take a large flat baking sheet, and either grease the bottom or use parchment paper. Then split the plantain mixture into five sections, and take half of each section and form a flat 3 inch diameter patty. Afterwards, scoop 2-3 tbsp. of the protein mixture on top towards the center of each plantain patty. After forming and topping five patties, you will take the remaining five sections of the patty mixture and gently spoon over the entire protein mixture and patty, until they form turn into mounds: the stuffed plantains.
7.       Place the stuffed plantains in the oven to cook for 30 minutes, then allow them to broil on high for about 1-3 minutes, or until they are lightly golden brown on top. Enjoy with friends [or by yourself!]!
Makes five platano rellenos/stuffed plantains

Nutritional information per serving:
474 calories/ 19.8g protein/15.8g fat/70g carbs/ 7g fiber

Empa-Roses

These delicious morsels will be the star of your next party!

One night, I had some friends over for a small house party, and I had EVERY intention of making vegetarian empanadas for the occasion! I had my yummy filling made and had my dough prepared. I was ready to create some magic! Well, have you ever had something completely planned out, to then find out that that said plan did NOT go your way? Yep-that’s what happened to me.

Deliciously savory empa-rose filling!
I began filling each piece of dough with the filling, and found that the dough could not fold in the shape of an empanada. In fact, the dough was beginning to crumble apart! I allowed myself to freak out for two seconds. Then, being the creative out-of-the-box person I am, I was determined to figure out how to stuff my empanadas in a way without having them crumble. After a couple minutes, I looked at the filling and my dough, and thought to myself: ‘What if I folded the filling into the dough by rolling it into a pinwheel shape?‘ And you know what? It worked out beautifully! I took the filling, and gently wrapped the dough around the filling mixture, and found that the pastry resembled a rose. That’s how I deemed these babies as empa-roses! Not only did my beautiful savory pastry roses look pretty (after making them the second time), but they were incredibly delicious. These babies were also a huge hit with my guests!

Empa-roses are a GREAT & versatile dish to make: You can make them for your next party, or for your next Tuesday night supper. The options are really endless!

Some advice:

·         Be gentle when rolling the roses, as your dough may fall apart if you over-stuff.

·         I highly recommend not scooping more than two tablespoons TOPS (one heaping tablespoon per pastry should really do!)

·         Muffin or cupcake tins will be your best friend.

·         You DON’T have to use crescent roll dough-you can sub that for any other type of dough.

·         The filling can really be whatever you’d like! These can even serve as a sweet dessert!


Here’s my recipe!

Empa-roses
Ingredients
·         One 8oz. can crescent roll dough
·         1 medium bell pepper
·         1 cup fresh spinach
·         1 small onion
·         8 oz. packet baby portabella mushrooms
·         3 cloves garlic, minced
·         2 tbsp. tomato paste
·         2 tbsp. cumin or 2 tbsp. of favorite taco seasoning
·         2 tbsp. cooking oil
·         ¼ tsp. salt
·         1 egg or 1-2 tbsp. melted coconut oil (if vegan)
Directions
1.       Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. While oven is preheating, gently open the crescent roll dough can and separate the crescent roll dough pieces into the pre-cut triangles, and lay them out on parchment paper, or on a lightly floured surface. Set aside.

2.       Dice the onion, bell pepper, and portabella mushrooms into cubes roughly about the size of an inch. Set aside.

3.       In a skillet, heat to medium high, and place cooking oil to let warm up for about 20-30 seconds. Gradually add the garlic, onion, bell pepper, and mushroom. Cover and let the veggie mixture sauté for about 7-10 minutes, or until the veggies lightly caramelize. Make sure to keep an eye on the veggies and stir frequently (about every two minutes).

4.       During the last two minutes of the veggies sautéing, add the spinach mixture and immediately cover and let it sit, until the spinach begins to wilt. Gradually stir in the spinach with the rest of veggie mixture.

5.       After the veggies have been mixed, gradually add in the tomato paste and cumin/taco seasoning and salt, until everything is well combined. Remove the mixture from heat and let it cool off for about 5 minutes, or until it is warm to the touch.

6.       Assembling the Empa-roses!
a.       Place about one tablespoon of filling into the center of each crescent roll triangle (it’s the fattest part of the triangle).
step a
b.      Gently use the bottom portion of the triangle to fold over the mixture.
step b
c.       Fold the right corner over the mixture.
step c
d.      Once both the bottom and right triangle corner of the dough has been folded over the filling, gently take the longest corner and fold it over the dough, and wrap the dough around until the shape resembled something like a rose (or pinwheel/ roll).
step d
step d

e.      Delicately place each rose into an ungreased muffin tin hole. Repeat steps a-e for each empa-rose.
step e
f.        (Vegetarian step-if vegan, go to step g)Take your egg scramble into a bowl. Then brush that mixture over each of the empa-rose.
g.       (Vegan step) Take your melted coconut oil and brush it over each rose.
h.      Place your roses in the center rack of your oven and bake the pastries for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown.
7.       Enjoy! 🙂

Makes 4 servings (2 empa-roses each)

Nutritional Information per serving:
300 calories/ 10.4 grams protein/ 12.5 grams fat/ 38.6 grams carbohydrates/ 3.5 grams of fiber


Girls Night Out-With a ‘Rican Twist! (Vegan Jibaritos)

Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

One of my amazing girlfriends’s recently had me over for a ‘girl’s night in’, a couple Friday nights ago. It was one of the best times that I have had in a while. There was so much laughing, joking, dancing, and eating. More than that, we shared a beautiful moment of bonding. With the hustle and bustle of life, it can be really hard to for me to see my friends on a regular basis. So that particular night was really a sacred time and space for us ladies to let our hair loose, and have a good time!

Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

One of the highlights of our girl’s night in was getting to eat some damn good homemade Puerto Rican ‘street’ food. I wanted to show my friends how to make a classic Puerto Rican dish, called Jibaritos. Jibaritos (Hee-ba-ree-toes) is a Puerto Rican-style sandwich that uses tostones (fried green plantains) as the bread. Typical Jibaritos are simple, and traditionally contain skirt or flank steak, grilled onion, lettuce, tomato, and a ketchup-mayonnaise sauce (referred to known as ketcho-mayo).

Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

Since going plant-based, I showed my friends how to make these sandwiches with a healthy, vegan twist. Instead of steak, I used Lions Mane mushroom, and substituted ketcho-mayo with a garlic guacamole. To cut out on unnecessary fat and calories, I opted for baking my tostones, as opposed to frying them. And I must say that my remixed version of the Jibaritos sandwich was a delicious success!



You may be wondering what the heck Lions Mushrooms are. A good friend of mine who is launching a local gourmet mushroom farm gifted me with a couple pounds to try out for my recipes. When raw, they almost resemble miniature white fuzz balls (see photo below).

Fuzzy Lions Mane Mushrooms (left), green plantains (right). Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
When sliced and cooked, these fuzz balls have a resemblance akin to dark meat chicken, and emit a beautiful caramelized color and robust meaty flavor when cooked. Far from unpleasant, these delicious mushrooms make a great alternative for any recipe which calls for the use of sautéed chicken or pork (see pic, below).

Mouth-watering cooked Lions Mane mushrooms. Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms are not as common to find around, so if you don’t find any available nearby, you can always opt for fresh oyster mushrooms, which have a relatively similar flavor and will work just as well! If for SOME reason you cannot find oyster mushrooms, you can always use sliced portabella mushrooms. Just keep in mind that they won’t have the fibrous meaty-texture like the Lion’s Mane or oysters do. But the flavor will still be tasty!

Before I move onto the recipe, itself, I wanted to share a couple words of wisdom. Folks, no matter how busy your life schedule gets, please do yourselves a favor, and never forget to regularly carve time out to spend with your friends. Be intentional about cultivating the relationships you have with those around. Be purposeful in surrounding yourself with individuals who will uplift, inspire, challenge, motivate and accept you for YOU! We can either choose to allow the relationships around us lift us up, or tear us down. Make every moment and relationship count.

Photo courtesy Victoria Saunders
Photo Courtesy Victoria Saunders

Jibaritos Recipe

Ingredients:
  • Two large green plantains
  • Approximately 16 oz of fresh Lions Mane or Oyster mushrooms
  • Two ripe hass avocados
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 4 tbsp cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 tsp adobo seasoning
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup of fresh spinach leaves
  • 1 sliced tomato (optional)
  • 2 tbsp ketchup (optional)
  • 2 tbsp veganaise (optional)
Recommended Kitchen appliances:
  • 1-8.5”x10” baking tray
  • 1 tostonera (plantain smasher), or a plate flat enough for smashing
  • 1 skillet (minimum 10” diameter)
  • 1 set of tongs
  • 1 medium bowl
  • 1 large fork or smasher
  • 1 sharp cutting knife (one you like to use for chopping produce)
  • Parchment Paper
  • 1 cutting board
 Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. While the oven is pre-heating, take each of the green plantains and with your knife, slice off both ends of each plantain, and gently slice open the peel, lengthwise on each side. The skin peel is about 1/8”- 1/4” deep, so at this point, be able to have sliced the peel open and can take each plantain out of their tough exterior skin (images below). 

Photo Courtesy WikiHow.com

2. Take each plantain and split them directly in half. Then, take each half and carefully slice down the middle, until you get two halves from each piece. Those will serve as the ‘bread’ for your sandwiches (image of slices, below).

Photo Courtesy Carribbeanpot.com
3. Take two tablespoons of the cooking oil and gently massage each of the plantain halves with the oil until they are well-coasted. Take your baking tray, and line it with a sheet of parchment paper. Once the plantains are coated, line them individually on the parchment paper and let them bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

4. While the plantains are baking, this serves as a good opportunity to begin preparing your onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Take each garlic clove place each clove on the cutting board. Gently place your knife over the garlic clove with the blade resting parallel to the garlic clove (away from you), ball your fist, and smash the knife. Doing so breaks each clove down, while also cracking open the skin. Repeat until all the cloves have been mashed and skin completely unpeeled. Set the garlic aside.

5. Take your onion, and slice into approximately ¼” thick slices. Set aside.

6. Take your mushrooms and cut into ½” slices. If you are slicing the Lion’s Mane, slice with the grain. Set aside.

7. Take your plantains out of the oven and either place them on the cutting board or another flat surface. Take your tostonero or plate and gently smash each of the tostones until they are about ¼” thick. Place each of the smashed plantain pieces back into the tray and take the salt and season them during this time. Place tray back into the oven and allow them to bake for an additional 15 minutes.

8. While the tostones are baking the second time, heat your skillet on medium-high. Place the remaining two tablespoons of your cooking oil into the skillet. Place 1 ½ of the mashed garlic cloves into the skillet and allow them to sauté for one minute, until the smell becomes fragrant. Gradually add the mushrooms into the skillet by gently placing them down flat-wise with the tongs. Sprinkle the mushroom mixture with half of the adobo seasoning and then place the sliced onions around and on top of each mushroom. Let the mushrooms cook for about three minutes, and season the top halves with the rest of the adobo seasoning. After three minutes, gently flip each mushroom and onion piece over and allow to finish cooking for three minutes, until the other side also has a caramel brown coloring to it. If the tostones have not yet finished baking, turn the heat down to low, to keep the mushroom/garlic/onion mixture warm.

9. Slice each of the avocados in half. Place the avocado halves and remaining 1 ½ garlic clove chunks in the medium bowl and with a masher or fork, mash mixture until the avocado mixture is smooth-similarly to a guacamole. Lightly season with salt (optional). To prevent the avocados from turning brown, place the avocado seeds into avocado mixture.

10. (Optional step) in a small bowl, take your ketchup and veganaise mixture and mix well until the mixture turns into more of an orange hue. Then you have created a vegan ketch-mayo! 

11. Once the 15 minutes are up, check on the tostones (the mashed baked plantains). They should be golden brown. Take out of the oven and allow to cool down for a couple minutes. Take each long half, and layer with the mashed avocado, and then take the mushroom/onion mixture and gently pile on each ‘sandwich’. Layer with some spinach, tomato, and even the ketcho-mayo mixture.

12. Eat, and enjoy the hell out of this potentially messy sandwich eating experience!! 🙂

4 servings

Nutritional Information:

397 Calories/ 7 grams protein/ 24 grams of fat/ 46 grams of carbohydrates/ 9 grams fiber

Did you try this recipe? Did you do any substitutions?? Comment below! 

Funky-Fiesty Carnitas!

Oh my goodness. I just made some seriously DELICIOUS, mouth-watering tacos, using my carnitas recipe. The secret to these babies?
Young jackfruit. Yes. Jackfruit. Sick with me!! But the jackfruit MUST be un-ripened.
Unripened jackfruit has the texture of pulled pork or chicken, and that only becomes enhanced when it cooks, and the fruit ‘meat’ becomes tenderized. The beautiful thing about jackfruit is that you can flavor it however you want, since it’s neutral in flavor. It’s also pretty pretty high in fiber, while being low in  calories (if you’re counting!)
These carnitas had a smokey, bold, yet slightly sweet flavor, and were super tender. If you had not told me that we were eating jackfruit, I would have seriously thought that I was eating tacos with pulled dark meat chicken. No joke!
Also-If you’re wondering where on earth you can get canned jackfruit, you can typically get it at your nearest available Asian Market, Whole Foods, or just order some bulk cans on Amazon! And really, the price per 17 ounce can was less than $3, which makes this significantly cheaper than using chicken or pork.
Here’s the recipe:
Funky-Fiesty Carnitas!
Ingredients:
Two 17oz cans of young jackfruit (Make sure that it’s unsweetened)
3 tablespoons of your favorite fajita seasoning
3 tablespoons of cumin
Juice of one orange (or tangerine)
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tsp liquid smoke
2 tsp of smoked paprika
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 cup of water
1 small onion, diced
Directions:
1. Drain both cans of jackfruit and rinse in cold water for a couple minutes, in order to get rid of most of the salt brine. After rinsing, pull each piece of jackfruit ‘meat’ with your hands and break into chunky shreds. (Optional step: with a knife, remove the tough end-piece and finely chop that up to add into the shredded ‘meat’ mixture).
2. In a large bowl, combine all the other ingredients (except the oil & jack fruit). Mix well, until a marinade forms. Gradually stir in jackfruit, and let it marinade for at least 1 hour (I let mine marinate overnight).
3. In a large pot, heat up oil on medium high for a couple minutes, and then add in jackfruit, including the entire marinade. At this point, crank the heat on HIGH, and let this marinade cook down for about 20 minutes, until most of the marinade has reduced & the jackfruit begins to turn into a light golden brown. Make sure to stir periodically and keep an eye on the mixture!
4. Serve the carnitas on your tacos & fajitas with whatever toppings you like & enjoy! J
Makes 4 servings
Nutritional Information (Per serving):
207 cal/ 2.8g protein/ 8.5 g fat/ 27.8 g carbohydrates/ 3.9 g fiber