Arizona Qrunch: Guest Post by the Wine Monk!

Watch out, there’s a man in the kitchen today! I’m still catching up on Things I Should Have Posted Last Week! My friend Cody, aka the Wine Monk, sent this to me over a week ago while we were still in the Apostles’ Fast, and I shamefully neglected to post until….now. But the wonderful thing about good vegan food is that it can be enjoyed by anyone, vegan or not, at any time of year. Or in this case, when prickly pear pads are in season :)

I’ll hand you off to the Wine Monk now. At the end of his recipe, you’ll find a link to Cody’s review of the wine used here. Have fun!

Howdy everyone, I’m Cody the Wine Monk, and I’m doing a guest post for Katherine today. But you probably already realized that before I even said anything. Normally I’m a wine critic and blogger who lives in the old mining town of Jerome, Arizona, in the heart of Northern Arizona’s wine country (Yes, we have one–well, actually four major wine regions. Yes, the grapes do fine in the heat and dryness. No the entire state doesn’t all look like Phoenix, with cactus, I promise. Yes, seriously, I’m not kidding! Just do a google search for the Verde Valley. Not now. We’re talking about food now. Just.. do it later.)

However, it so happens that since I’m Eastern Orthodox, I dabble in vegan cooking for a good portion of the year… and therefore I seem to be the only wine critic out there who cares about vegan food pairings with wine.

A while back, Katherine posed a challenge courtesy of Qrunch Foods and Daiya Cheese (not the same challenge she posted about on June 10th, this was earlier), and I came up with the below recipe, complete with associated wine pairing. I’ve been meaning to cook it for a while, but things came up before Lent was over, and now since it’s fasting season again for me once more, I finally got a chance to cook it. The idea I had behind this meal was to make an homage to the local landscape in which I live. You can tweak it a little and use ingredients more local to where you live if you so choose.

This meal will produce four burgers, so it’s great for friends.

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Here’s what you need:

1 Toaster oven (or regular oven)
1 cooking pan
1 cookie sheet or other flat oven food-carrying thing
2 Nopales (prickly pear pads. You can also use more. Use as many as you’d like. If you live in the Great White North, check your local hispanic market. I got mine a mile from my house in the desert)
1 box Qrunch Burgers (don’t thaw out too much, otherwise it will be hard to glaze them)
1 thingy Daiya Cheese (I chose provolone, but cheddar would also work)
1 small can diced Hatch Green Chiles
Sprouted Wheat Burger Buns (Or whatever gluten free apparatus you use for a burger)
1 jar Prickly Pear Cactus Jelly (Make sure that it uses citrus pectin. If you want to be adventurous, make your own! I am not that adventurous.)
Olive Oil (or some other oil of your choice–I used some made from olives down at St. Anthony’s monastery)
Salt and Spice. I used a blend made from a local gentleman who mixes his own spices. I chose the spiciest, because in my mind, the spice must always flow.

1 Bottle of Arizona or New Mexico White wine. I chose a bottle of the Vino de la Familia Blanca, from Page Springs Cellars; a blend (you may replace with white wine from a region near you if wines from these regions are not available, and I’ll get into that more in a moment. You will want a wine that has some acidity; this makes a wine more flexible for food pairings. Don’t give me flack about there “not being a winery in your state.” Every state, and several Canadian provinces all have licensed and bonded wineries.)

So, why white wine? Well the main reason is that white wines will pair better with this meal, but there’s a secondary reason I suggest it. The fact is that white wine is far more likely to be vegan than reds, especially if you’re hunting in the supermarket. Why? Filtration and fining in whites is a different process known as bentonite filtration, or cold stabilization, which is essentially pouring the wine through a filter made of, well, bentonite, which is a volcanic clay, or bringing the wine close to its freezing point by sticking it in a very cold room. For reds, the process usually involves egg whites or isinglass, which are animal products. Avoid supermarket reds and go for the red wines made from small producers and boutique vineyards, and look for red wines that are unfined and unfiltered–those are your key words for finding vegan red wines. Now, don’t worry about sulfites because those are native to wines in quantities that are far below what you find in your glass of orange juice in the morning! Sulfites are NOT dangerous, unless you are actually allergic to them. Now let’s get on to cooking.

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Your first step is to prepare the Nopales–the prickly pear pads. You need to remove the glochlids. These are the areas where the thorns are, and you must, of course, be careful lest you get them lodged in your skin because they are super annoying. And you don’t want them stuck on your tongue! Use a knife to cut out the areas where the thorns are, and then cut the sides and top, and the bottom off, to make it square. This will make it easier to prepare.

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Cut the cactus pads into strips that are about ring-finger length. Prepare your pan! Crack open your bottle of white wine now, and pour a little into the pan along with some olive oil (enough to cover the whole bottom of the pan), and put the sliced pads in the pan on the burner. Add a dash or two of the spice collection you’ve decided on, and a pinch of salt. Let it sit at a low to medium heat for a time, while you’re working on the next step.
Also, pour yourself a glass of your wine of choice.

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Now begins a fun part; glazing the burgers with the prickly pear jelly. Use a butter knife to spread the jelly on both sides. This is why you are using a cookie sheet or some other flat surface. After you have coated the Qrunch burgers with jelly, then put the diced green chiles on the top part of the burger. It will be messy, but prickly pear jelly is delicious so if you get any on you…

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Just lick it off your fingers. It’s fine.

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Stick your glazed and peppered burgers into your toaster oven, or regular oven, at 450 Degrees Fahrenheit for about 18 minutes. Now, let’s attend to the nopales while your main dish is cooking.

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Raise the heat now to High, and stir fry! If you want, add a bit more of the spice and salt to taste. After all, these are going to be the equivalent to French fries for this dish. And, well….Stir fry. Do so for the next 15 minutes. The color will change and they will become a little wrinkly in appearance, and your oil will be almost gone. Leave them to rest in the pan while you attend to the next step…

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It’s time for the Daiya Cheese. Place them on the burgers, then slide them back into the oven or the toaster oven for another five minutes while the cheese melts. Then take them out…

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And arrange as you normally would for a burger. You’ll need a fork for the nopales–they won’t be as “dry” as normal French Fries would be. The Green Chili and Prickly Pear has mixed with the Daiya cheese on the burgers to create a sweet, and savory spicy combination. You won’t necessarily need extra sauce, but if you want to, use something that also has that same combination–I used a peach habanero BBQ sauce from a local saucemaker in Tuscon that worked brilliantly with this dish (I suppose you COULD use a local organic ketchup, but…why in this case?).

This, incidentally, is also why you want a wine with a high acidity and strong fruit notes–to cut through the spice and mesh with it. Yes, this may be a bit spicy for you, but it’s delicious, and in the summer climate of Arizona, you WANT something spicy–it will make you sweat, and therefore, it will cool you down.

Enjoy! And CLICK HERE to read my review of the Vino de la Familia Blanca.

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carrot curry soup for a cold (or *the* cold)

Once again it is freezing here in Michigan and everyone is getting sick. It snowed on the first day of spring. It snowed again yesterday. So, this seems like the perfect day for a guest post from my friend Elizabeth who made this lovely carrot soup to help get rid of her cold a couple weeks ago. And lucky for you, she actually uses measurements!

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Ingredients for Two Servings:
1 small white onion, chopped (yellow works too)
1 small carrot, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp canola oil (can be omitted on oil free days)
2 cups (16 oz) vegetable broth
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

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1. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, and oil to the bottom of the pot. (If using squeeze tube garlic, don’t add garlic until step 3.) Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, until carrot begins to soften.

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2. Add the vegetables to the blender with a splash of the broth and puree the mixture.

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3. Put the mixture back into the pot. Add the rest of the broth, curry powder, cayenne pepper, and salt. Stir.
Simmer for 5 minutes…

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4. Serve!

What is your favorite chicken noodle soup alternative for colds, or general winter malaise?

Abraham Lincoln Birthday Cake Submission!

Dear Friends,

Last week I received an email from a young woman who wanted to make an Abe Lincoln cake for her friend’s 16th birthday, similar to the one I posted a while ago. I gave her my cake recipe (this recipe is halved, you’ll need to double it) and a couple simple tips which I will now share with you.

Hopefully the person whose face you’d like to make a cake of is famous, that will make it much easier to get a picture. A basic line drawing works best, I used google to find a coloring page of our dear 16th president. I guess the next step is optional, but I think it looks really cool when the cake is kind of 3D.

So, if you want the face to stand out, do a 2 layer cake. Leave one layer whole. For the top layer, cut out your line drawing and place it over the cake, and just cut around it. If you’re really talented you could carve out the features, but I am not that talented. I can’t even ever remember to do a crumb coat.

The first time I made this cake, I thought I’d be clever and poke holes around the image with a toothpick, leaving an outline I could easily fill in with frosting. The cake was so moist and spongy, when I lifted the paper there were no holes! So you just have to do the best you can. I do recommend using my cake recipe because it’ll be nice and dense. Instead of the water and oil called for in the original recipe, use canned full fat coconut milk.

If you don’t want a 3D-type cake, well, just use the image for reference and you don’t have to cut or carve a thing.

Now let’s take a look at the pictures I received from Rachel:


OMG, it’s HIM!!! Did you know Abraham Lincoln was our first bearded president? It’s true.


I cannot help but feel a little proud. Good job, Rachel!


Obviously, the birthday girl is very pleased. Happy Birthday, Victoria!

It’s so neat to see stuff like this. Friends, if any of you attempt to make something on my blog, feel free to send me a picture and any details and I will happily share it with the world. Or if you just want to send me an email, the info is on my About Me page. I’d love to hear from you!

Look here for my Abraham Lincoln cake. I made it before I had a blog, so I didn’t think to take pictures of the process; however, you can check out my Sugar Skull Cake to get an idea.