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New Year's Eve Party Eats

My friend Suz always has the best small and intimate parties at her house in Santa Ana. Fire pits, champagne, intelligent artists and writers, and great conversation. Now, with her new roomie, they also have amazing food all the goddamn time. Of course, being the vegan and gluten-free person in the group, I had to bring some special treats and snacks for this amazing get together of awesome humans (and maybe try to remind people that they don't need dairy, meat or wheat in order to eat deliciously).

Because I am Southern, I had to include a lot of greens, and Hoppin' John. If you are unfamiliar, Hoppin' John is a classic Southern dish that, in my family, is made of rice, black-eyed peas (or field peas), smoked pork or bacon, and onions. Since I have not eaten meat in about a decade, I use veggie hot dogs to substitute for the meat, but still adds a smokey, hearty quality to the beans and rice. Of course, parties are not ideal for big plates of hearty meals, so, I sample-sized my Hoppin' John into arancini-type of rice balls, breaded and fried.

I also decided sriracha cauliflower bites might be nice, served with citrusy peanut sauce, inspired but altered slightly from Thug Kitchen's recipe, and I love making Vietnamese spring rolls, so that could be an easy place to add greens in to. And, since the peanut sauce is so easy and delicious, it could be used for the spring rolls as well as the cauliflower.

The Menu:

Hoppin' John Balls

Sriracha Cauliflower Bites

Bamboo Tofu Spring Rolls

The Ingredients:

Hoppin' John Balls

1 celery stalk, diced

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 small green pepper, diced

1/2 cup garlic-infused vegetable oil

2 cups cooked black-eyed peas (they sell them freshly cooked in little tubs in the produce area of most grocery stores)

2 teaspoons dried thyme, minced finely

1 heaping teaspoon Cajun seasoning (mix of salt, garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes)


2 cups long-grain rice

4 cups water (for rice)

Scallions or green onions

3 vegan, gluten-free hot dogs, diced into itty bitty pieces

1 package gluten-free panko crumbs

2 tablespoons Ener-G egg replacer

6 tablespoons water

1 cup potato starch

1 cup vegetable oil (I like peanut oil or soy bean oil for frying)

Sriracha Cauliflower Bites

2 heads of cauliflower

1/2 cup gluten-free flour (to stay away from grains, I prefer to make this with tapioca flour or potato starch)

1/2 cup water

2/3 cup of sriracha (I like the Rooster kind)

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Braggs liquid aminos

Bamboo Tofu Spring Rolls

1 package of Vietnamese rice paper wrappers

1 package of bamboo tofu (dried tofu skins, or yuba sticks)

1/2 a bunch of fresh cilantro

1 small bunch of fresh mint or basil (or both!)

1/4 cup Braggs liquid aminos

2 tablespoons of garlic-infused vegetable oil

6-8 cups of mixed greens (I prefer romaine for crunch and butter lettuce for flavor)

1 cucumber, cut into finger long sliced sticks

1 carrot, sliced into nearly julienne sized strips, finger long.

1-2 cups hot water (in a medium-to-large glass bowl)

Peanut Sauce

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons crunchy or creamy peanut butter (everybody has their particular preference)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 teaspoons minced fresh or dried ginger

1 teaspoon Braggs liquid aminos

1 teaspoon maple syrup

The Instructions:

Hoppin' John Balls

First, prep all your ingredients. Chop, cut, slice and dice everything as small as you can (celery, onions, pepper, hot dogs) and set aside. Start cooking the rice in a big pot -- 2 cups rice, 4 cups water. In a hot pan, saute the vegetables in 1/4 cup garlic-infused oil and add the thyme and Cajun seasoning, continue to saute until veggies are cooked, then remove from heat and set aside. Once the rice is done cooking, throw into a large pot on low heat and combine with sauteed vegetables, the remaining 1/4 cup garlic-infused oil, and the black-eyed peas. Stir on low heat until thoroughly combined. Set aside to cool.

Prepare your egg replacer wash (you can simply follow instructions on Ener-G box, but use my measurements, you may need more as you go, depending on how many balls you want to make. Combine egg replacer powder with water and whisk until egg wash type of consistency forms. Set aside. Put panko crumbs in a separate bowl, and the potato starch too -- create a breading station with the three bowls (potato starch, egg wash, and panko) side by side by side. Starch, then egg wash, then panko.

Once the rice and peas mixture has cooled enough to handle with your hands, form tennis ball sized balls of the mixture, and coat in starch, then in the Ener-g egg replacer wash, then cover in panko crumbs. Set aside until you have all your balls ready to fry.

Heat your frying oil (either soy bean oil or peanut oil) to high heat, then one by one, add your breaded Hoppin' John balls to the oil and fry on all sides til golden or bronzed brown, then set aside on paper towel-lined tray, to cool and dry.

Sriracha Cauliflower Bites

Preheat your oven at 50. Line 2 baking sheets with foil and set aside. Break apart your cauliflower heads, one floret at a time. Whisk together gluten-free flour and water to make a batter, with no lumps. Toss the cauliflower in the batter and spread battered cauliflower on baking sheets (Try not to let them touch). Roast cauliflower for 15 minutes or so, and rotate the florets halfway through roasting, so they evenly cook.

In a small saucepan, we're going to make the sriracha coating. Mix oil, sriracha, vinegar, and Braggs until thoroughly combined and warm but not boiling. turn off heat and leave alone until cauliflower is done.

When Cauliflower is done roasting, dump into a large bowl, and toss with the sriracha sauce you made on the stove, and coat evenly. Place the coated cauliflower back on the baking sheets, and put them back in the oven for another 3-5 minutes, take out and set aside.

To make the peanut sauce, you just whisk everything together in a medium glass bowl, until its all incorporated and tastes good. Then pour into mason jar and you're good to go!

Bamboo Tofu Spring Rolls

You have to first re-hydrate your bamboo tofu, so, in a large bowl, add warm but not boiling water, and submerge the bamboo tofu sticks. Leave in water until soft (like cooked bamboo) but does not fall apart. Place re-hydrated and paper towel dried bamboo tofu into pan and saute tofu with Braggs and garlic-infused oil (just to add some more flavor to the tofu).

Chop up your greens, carrots, cucumbers, basil, mint and cilantro into finger or palm-length bits, not diced or minced, as we want to keep them whole inside the wraps (so they don't fall all over you while eating). Set aside.

To assemble, you need to re-hydrate the rice paper wrappers. In a large bowl, with the hot water, place one spring roll wrapper in the water for 10-15 seconds until it becomes soft like a noodle. Let the extra water drip off and lay down on a plate. Fold the wrapper in half so that it looks like a half circle. Lay down the greens, herbs, and 1-2 pieces of the bamboo tofu down on closest-to-you third of the half circle wrapper. Roll the wrapper over tightly, away from you once, and then fold the bottom over, like a burrito. Continue rolling and press the end flap gently against the roll. Keep making rolls until you run out of filling. Finished rolls will keep in the fridge for about 2 days.

Drizzle the open end with peanut sauce before serving (dipping these bad boys in the sauce seems to get a little messy).

Happy New Year!

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