Beet and Lemon Shrub using canned beets

IMG_2079     Cheers and Happy New Year  to you!  This recipe was inspired by a mocktail I had at Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia.  On the menu, it was called Pickpocket Soda, and it was described as a Beet Sage Shrub with Lemon.  My recipe here is adapted from the Beet and Lemon Shrub Cocktail from Russ and Daughters delicatessen in New York City, and (after three tries) it tastes remarkably like the drink I liked so much at Vedge.  I found the Russ and Daughters recipe a bit too watery, so I’ve reduced the water by 20%.  I increased the vinegar to be closer to the normal shrub ratio, and I also switched to a white balsamic vinegar (rather than plain white vinegar) which gives a smoother flavor.  My big trick here is that I used canned beets, which might seem like blaspheme to some, but it came out delicious, and it makes this so quick and easy to throw together.  This is a cold-process sweet shrub, to give a bright and fresh flavor.  One reason for using canned or cooked fresh beets is that many people cannot eat raw beets or drink raw beet juice because it can cause an allergic reaction or a sore, swollen throat, which can be dangerous.  Of course, many people can enjoy raw beets, so you could try to eat a tiny sliver of raw beet and see if your throat reacts.  I tried eating a sliver of raw beet and had a sore throat all day.  Please see my post on growing beets for more of an explanation.  Back to the recipe–you can use this shrub in a variety of beverages, from sodas to cocktails.  I don’t drink alcohol, but Lars made a cocktail with about 4 oz. of shrub, a couple splashes of seltzer and a shot of fancy gin, and he says it’s really good.  The cookbook Shrubs by Michael Dietsch is a great little guide to this ancient and historic libation.  If you really want to go crazy, you can try this drink called The Hot Pink, but it only makes enough for one drink, unlike my base  which makes plenty!

BEET AND LEMON SHRUB

Makes somewhat less than two quarts, I think.

Special Equipment:  a juicer

INGREDIENTS
2 15 oz. cans whole or sliced beets, drained  (or equivalent amt. of fresh cooked beets)
1 Cup fresh lemon juice  (from about 5 large lemons,  or 6 medium lemons)
1/2 Cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 Cup vegan cane sugar
4 Cups filtered water
chilled seltzer water to add some fizz to individual drinks, if desired

DIRECTIONS
Squeeze lemons and set the fresh lemon juice aside.  Drain the beets and discard any liquid from the cans.  Juice the beets (you will end up with approximately 1/2 Cup of pure beet juice).  In a large glass (non-reactive) container, whisk together all ingredients until sugar is fully dissolved.  Refrigerate 48 hours before using.  Some people prefer to leave shrubs at room temperature for a day or two before refrigerating, to let more fermentation occur.  Some online sources say a shrub should last several months to a year in the refrigerator.

Notes:   I tried using Lakewood bottled lemon juice and the flavor was significantly better with the fresh lemon juice.  I also tried using the beet liquid from the cans, but it muddied up the flavor–don’t do it.  Chlorine and Chloramines interfere with fermentation, and a shrub is a fermented beverage.  If you cannot get filtered water, leave tap water out for a couple of days–long enough for any chlorine to evaporate.  You can check with your water supplier to find out if your tap water has chloramines in it, which do not evaporate and cannot be boiled off.  Filtered water is best.  Other beet posts on this site include Growing BeetsCinnamon Stick Quick Pickled BeetsRoasted Beet Salad, and Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion.

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IMG_2177  One of my essential old kitchen tools that really came in handy for this recipe.  Lemon squeezer by IMUSA.  Tip: cut the ends off the lemons to get the best squeeze.

100% Pure Vegan Cosmetics in Annapolis, MD

20141115_141926    I stumbled upon this  100% Pure  shop in the Annapolis Mall, in Maryland.  They sell vegan cosmetics and lines for skin care, hair and nails, and makeup brushes, and also baby and children’s products.  This shop has only been open a month or two, but I was told they have plans to open 20 more stores around the country.  I bought the Vanilla Bean Nourishing Body Cream for $17 and I do like it a lot.  They’ll give you a product sample if you ask, so that’s something to take advantage of.  They have lots of products and I’ll be trying more.  Be warned that various items do contain honey, but many of their other products are indeed vegan.  Please note there is also a very nice Lush store in this same mall, and that some vegan lines like Too Faced can be found at the Sephora store.  And all products can be had by mail order online.  You can listen to my podcasts on vegan makeup  and  vegan personal products on this site, or on ITunes, Stitcher, and other podcatchers.
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Vegan Food Gifts for The Holidays

Here are some ideas for vegan food gifts during the holidays, or any time.  This year, I made pints of Refrigerator Pickles and 8-ounce jars of Candied Peanuts to give away.  In the last couple of years, I gave away quarts of Spiced Cider, and Bloody Mary Mix, both of which can be made and given with or without alcohol.  All of these are super easy to make, and can be accomplished in under an hour.  Of course, any of the cookies on this site would make great gifts–I just mailed a bunch of Molasses Ginger Crisps to family members.  Last year, my friend Jan brought us these elegant Chewy Almond Macaroons, which are also easy to make and not too time consuming.  To decorate canning jars, you can simply stick a bow on top, or use recycled Christmas cards (see photo below).  I keep my eyes open after Christmas for flat rectangular tins on sale, sometimes at 75% off, and use these for bar cookies, such as the Nutty Buddy Bars, or Biscotti.  There’s a new cookbook called Vegan Food Gifts by Joni Marie Newman and it’s full of good ideas too.  Not just cookies and quick breads, but Sea Salt Caramels, Minty Doggie Biscuits, soup mixes, drink mixes, jams, chutneys, sauces and curds.  And in the front of the book are packaging ideas.  Homemade food gifts evoke a simpler time when we did not have so much stuff, when food was more real, when we used our time differently and had more time to do such things (less technological distractions).

I like to recycle Christmas cards that I’ve received.  Here, I’ve traced the canning jar lid onto the back of a card, cut it out, laid it on top of the lid, and then screwed the ring over the top.  No glue or tape, and a card from a friend gets a second life.

Cacahuates Garapinados or Candied Peanuts

Cacahuates Garapinados are a common treat in Mexico, or so I’ve read, because I’ve never been to Mexico.  The packaged candied peanuts in our local Latin market do not look nearly as good as these; they’re obviously commercially made and look a bit like those Boston Baked Beans candy.  So, I went to Plaza Latina in Easton, and purchased two 10 oz. bags of peanuts-in-the-shell, for $1.50 per bag, and these yielded a total of 3 Cups of usable shelled peanuts (some were duds).  At first, I thought the hardest part of making this recipe was shelling the peanuts.  But afterwards, I realized the most difficult part is not eating them all in one sitting.  These would be perfect to take to the movies if your theatre has nothing vegan.  Placed into paper cones or twists, they would be great filler for a vegan Easter basket, or delicious with after-dinner drinks instead of a heavy dessert.  In the interest of science, I made two batches of these Cacahuates Garapinados.  The first batch I made using Planters Cocktail Peanuts from a can, and it was just as good as, if not better than the raw peanuts with the skins on, believe it or not.  I know this is heresy, but it’s true.  Because the Planters Cocktail Peanuts are already roasted, you get an intensified roasted flavor by the time you make this recipe, because you’re not only cooking them on stovetop, but roasting them again.  I found two wonderful videos on YouTube; one using peanuts, and one using almonds.  The almond video really shows the transformation of the sugar.  Latin markets also have shelled raw peanuts, which would save a lot of time.  I’m guessing it took me about 45 minutes to shell the two bags of peanuts.  p.s.  Plaza Latina is a lovely store.
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Cacahuates Garapinados  or  Candied Peanuts

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups unsalted raw peanuts (preferably with skins on)
(or you can use Planters Cocktail Peanuts from a can)
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup water
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, and stir.
Stirring occasionally, bring to a boil.
Once boiling, stir often for 10 minutes and then stir constantly for another 5 minutes, just until sugar gets sandy.
Stir again to coat, and pour peanuts onto prepared baking sheet.
Using two forks or spoons, spread the peanuts out a little.
Bake for about 13 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool completely.
Peanuts will harden as they cool.
Keep in a glass jar for up to a month.  Believe me, they won’t last that long.

Tips:  The raw “redskin” peanuts are the most traditional, but they are time consuming to shell, so next time, I’ll try using the shelled, raw peanuts.  My favorite flavor, however, came from using Planters Cocktail Peanuts.  One good ratio is using a 12.5 ounce can of Planters Redskin Spanish Peanuts.