A Search for Great Vegan Food in San Diego

Vegan Lab: Superfood Cacao Class

The Vegan Lab is always on the move.  This time around, the Lab set up shop at the Art Institute of San Diego to offer a vegan cooking class dedicated entirely to cacao recipes.  That’s right, an entire class dedicated to chocolate’s healthy relative.  (Raw cacao beans are roasted and ground to make cocoa powder.   And cocoa powder is a crucial ingredient for making chocolate!)  Notably, the class focused on how to incorporate cacao into savory entrees–because chocolate is not just for dessert!

With many impressive resumes on the docket, we broke into small groups to make the magic.  My assignment:  Vegan Spring Rolls with Chocolate Balsamic Reduction.  Yes, please.

 

[caption id="attachment_3182" align="alignnone" width="640"]Ingredients Chocolate and Veggie Spring Rolls Ingredients Chocolate and Veggie Spring Rolls[/caption]

 

I began chopping and dicing.  Notice the small pieces of cacao that will later be wrapped into the spring rolls!  YUM!

 

[caption id="attachment_3183" align="alignnone" width="640"]Ingredients in Bowl Ingredients in Bowl[/caption]

 

Time to toast the sesame seeds!

 

[caption id="attachment_3184" align="alignnone" width="640"]Toasting Sesame Seeds Toasting Sesame Seeds[/caption]

 

Next, the chocolate balsamic reduction.  It was easier to make than I thought!  Once the ingredients were on the stove, I just had to be patient to wait for the mixture to thicken.

 

[caption id="attachment_3185" align="alignnone" width="640"]Chocolate Balsamic Reduction Chocolate Balsamic Reduction[/caption]

 

And what spring roll would be complete without a rice wrapper?  Traditional Vietnamese wrappers are a versatile and easy way to wrap up delicious fillings–simply soak them in water for about 10 seconds and you are ready to wrap!

 

[caption id="attachment_3186" align="alignnone" width="640"]Rice Paper Rice Paper[/caption]

 

Once the I mixed up the filling, I was ready!

 

[caption id="attachment_3187" align="alignnone" width="640"]Spring Roll Ingredients Mixed Together Spring Roll Ingredients Mixed Together[/caption]

 

I admit that I am not the best at wrapping up spring rolls.  But the good news is that they tasted delicious.  They were fresh and light thanks to all of the fresh veggies and the cacao within the wraps coupled with the chocolate reduction ensured that every bite had the sweet hint of chocolate.  I can’t wait to make these again!

 

[caption id="attachment_3188" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Spring Rolls with Chocolate Balsamic Reduction Vegan Spring Rolls with Chocolate Balsamic Reduction[/caption]

Gina Sample, creator of the Vegan Lab, teaches a variety of classes around the county and focuses particularly on plant based nutrition for athletes.  If you have a chance to take one of her classes, I highly recommend it!

The Art Institute, home to the impressive kitchen seen in the pictures, offers a wide array of cooking classes.  Not all classes are vegan, but it’s nice they have some options!

Chocolate and Mango Veggie Spring Rolls
 
Ingredients
  • FILLING:
  • 1 carrot, julienne
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • ½ red pepper, julienne
  • ½ cucumber, julienne
  • ½ cup fresh mango, sliced
  • ⅓ cup shaved unsweetened or bittersweet chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thai basil, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons scallions, minced
  • 1 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced or grated
  • 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp tamari
  • ½ teaspoon lime zest
  • ¼ teaspoon chile flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 16 rice paper wrappers
  • CHOCOLATE BALSAMIC REDUCTION:
  • 1 cup Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 to 2 ounces Bittersweet or unsweetened chocolate, grated
Instructions
  1. FILLING:
  2. In a large bow, mix together all ingredients, except salt, pepper, and spring roll wrappers
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  4. Dip rice paper sheets into warm water so they soften and become pliable
  5. Place rice paper sheets on a paper towel and then arrange fillings in the middle
  6. Fold over the two ends, then wrap it up like a burrito, making it as tight as possible
  7. Serve with Chocolate Balsamic Reduction
  8. CHOCOLATE BALSAMIC REDUCTION:
  9. Heat the balsamic vinegar in a small pot until it begins to boil
  10. Reduce to a simmer and stir periodically
  11. When about ¼ of the liquid has evaporated, add the grated chocolate slowly over the next few minutes, stirring throughout
  12. When the liquid has been reduced by half, the reduction is complete

 

We made so many delicious recipes in class, I couldn’t help but also share this Smokey Black Bean Chocolate Chili!  Check out the recipe below!

 

[caption id="attachment_3189" align="alignnone" width="640"]Vegan Smokey Black Bean Chocolate Chili Vegan Smokey Black Bean Chocolate Chili[/caption]

 

Smokey Black Bean Chocolate Chili
 
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 1-2 chipotle pepers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2, 15 ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
  • ⅓ cup cacao powder (or 2-4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped), or to taste
  • agave nectar or sweetener of choice, to taste
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • salt and peper, to taste
Instructions
  1. heat oil in large stockpot over medium-high heat. add onion and garlic, and cook for 405 minutes, until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. add in chili powder and cumin cook for an additional 3 minutes until fragrant.
  2. add in the tomatoes, broth, vinegar, tamari, bell peppers, and carrots. bring to a boil. then reduce heat to medium-low and cover, leaving the lid slightly ajar. simmer for about 10 minutes or until carrots are soft but firm
  3. add beans, corn, cacao, agave nectar, cilantro, and the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (add a teaspoon at a time until it reaches your desired taste.) season with salt and pepper, and add an additional ½ cup or more of broth, if needed. then return to heat for a final 10 minutes or until beans and corn are heated through.
  4. serve with crushed cacao nibs, minced scallions, and diced avocado