vegansaurus!

01/22/2014

How-to, yo: Roast peppers!   »

It’s been awhile since I posted to my how-to series and I’m back, baby! One of the things I’ve been intimidated to do over the years is roast my peppers. Now, I know some of you are like, “I started roasting my vegetables right after I turned on an oven for the first time”, but one of things I like about this blog is that there is a little something here for everyone, from beginners to the most advanced lifestyle vegans! So let’s get this show on the road, because the Super Bowl is coming up and that means SNACKS GALORE! You can add roasted bell peppers to hummus, or even to liven up a marinara sauce. With spicy peppers, you’ve got chile rellenos or a salsa—done and done! Yeah, I totally snack like it’s Super Bowl Sunday every day of the year. 

Ingredients: 
Pepper(s) to roast 
Cooking spray or vegetable oil

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 425F*Wash and dry off whole peppers, leaving stems intact. Grease a baking dish, or cookie sheet (one preferably with edges that come up) add peppers, and lightly coat with spray or oil. Stick them in the oven, and wait for them to char! Seriously — this is the part that always makes me think I’m doing the whole roasting thing wrong because I am intentionally burning my food. And then because my fire alarm is ultra sensitive, I always need a pillow handy to wave the smoke away, so you may want to grab one as well. 

For me, the roasting process usually takes about 45 - 60 minutes. I check on my peppers a lot, and I turn the peppers in the dish (with tongs or a fork) about every 15 minutes, so that each side gets blackened. Be careful because as the peppers release water, it can spatter with the oil in the oven and onto your arm. 

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The first 15 minute turnover of my lone red bell pepper. 

Once all the sides of your pepper are nicely charred, pull your peppers out of the oven and let them cool. I like to remove them from the baking dish as soon as they come out of the oven and onto a plate, but it’s not completely necessary.

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Finished and cooling down! 

Wait for them to cool down enough to handle, remove skin and stem and seeds. Sometimes people will cover their peppers to allow them to steam, which makes the skins easier to remove. I don’t bother. My friend Andrea wears gloves when she deseeds spicy peppers—it is a great tip because if you touch your face or your eyes without scrubbing your hands down, it will be tear inducing. 

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Cooled, skinned and de-seeded. This bell pepper got minced and went into  hearts of palm crab cakes

Alright, let’s do this—I want a chile relleno casserole or enchiladas stuffed with fresh roasted jalapeños for dinner! Please, can you bring it over? THANKS! 

*I keep my oven temperature lowish for roasting because my oven gets very smokey and I feel like there is more leeway for me when it comes to the difference between gently charring my peppers and burning them to an unidentifiable crisp. You can definitely go up experiment here and go up to 450, even 475 degrees, just keep a closer eye on your peppers. There are a few different methods out there, including grilling, broiling and roasting peppers over the flame of a gas stove, but for me the baking method has proven tried and true, even if it takes a little bit longer. Plus, isn’t the broiler for storing pots and pans? I kid, I kid (nope, I’m not). 

06/04/2012

How to, yo: Make tofu noodles taste good!   »

I am a big fan pasta dishes and marinara sauce. I am not a fan of eating lots of grains, including wheat, because they hurt my stomach. So when it comes to noodles, I often choose tofu-style! I’ve come up with some tricks to make them extra-super delectable, as they are a little strange right out of the packaging.



First of all, I drain the water and rinse them off. Then, in a pan, I sauté them up with garlic, salt, pepper and a few drizzles of olive or vegetable oil. This helps them firm up a little. Usually I will caramelize an onion too, but if it’s already in my sauce, I’ll skip that step. If I do sauté up an onion, I do that first, then add the pasta, garlic, seasonings. Once the pasta is in the pan, with or without onion, the cook time is about 10 minutes on medium to medium high heat.



Now what are you gonna make!? Last time I made these noodles, my roommate and I made a sauce by sauteing up chopped tomatoes, zucchini, mushrooms, onion, more garlic, and kale! It was so good! Sometimes I’ll use them in my cheesy eggplant bake or to make macaroni and cheese with cashew cheddar sauce (minus the chili pepper).

05/16/2012

How to, yo: Mold the best pizza crust!   »

I just had a pizza party with my family! And I broke my mom’s pizza stone, the night before Mother’s Day. I’m a terrible person! I’m not sure the iTunes gift certificate, coconut wax candle and cock blocker I gave her will make up for slamming her stone in the oven and demolishing it. It was an accident! But since she is a great person, she didn’t even get mad at me. My mom is the best.

I want to give props to Chef Mitch at Source for giving me the inside scoop on molding pizza crust. I was a pretty good home cook before; however, working side by side with him every day has taught me so much. If you come into Source, tell him you love the hints on Vegansaurus. It might render him speechless, which is no easy feat—that guy loves to talk! But I love listening, so it is a match made in restaurant heaven.

Now, whether it’s homemade or store-bought pizza dough you are working with, it is the easiest and best to handle at room temperature, so let your dough sit out for an hour or so. That way when you stretch it, it will stay where you put it. Also, play with the outside edge, which will be the uncovered crust, as little as possible. If you can get away with not touching it at all, that is great: It will make for a wonderful, light, “eggshell” crust that will rise beautifully and impress everyone. Shape and stretch your crust from the inside out. However you do this, DON’T TOUCH THE VERY OUTSIDE PART! That’s it. That’s all I’m trying to say.

This outside crust here is a little extreme, as in, it’s HUGE. But the dough was cold and I had a hard time stretching it. You don’t have to go this big, but you know what they say: Go big or go home! The outside crust was so light and fluffy, I felt like a pro. Do you like how I made myself a half-cheese, half-veggie combo? I need options! And remember when some of you were like “Daiya is gross, it tastes like glue”? Well, I really like it. Follow Your Heart soy mozzarella is my numero uno, but Daiya is my mistress! They better not make me choose, because I love them both so much.

04/25/2012

How to, yo: Caramelized onions!  »

In my recipes, I talk about caramelizing onions a lot! I always do it, because I like the depth of flavor it adds to food. I remember when I first started hanging out in the kitchen,* learning how to cook, I was like, “Hey, what’s the difference between caramelizing onions and burning them?” No one could give me an answer I liked. I think it’s the difference between browning them to release the sugars and blackening them because the heat was too high. Does that work for you?

I’m also a visual person, so we’ll do this step by step. Pictures included!

Ingredients
2 Tbsp. oil (I’m using olive, but vegetable is more than fine!)
2 red onions

Instructions
For most recipes, you will probably only need one onion, but for the sake of this demonstration, I’ll be using two. Let’s say, one tablespoon of oil to one onion? I think that sounds good. Caramelizing onions can take up to an hour, so plan accordingly!

Another great thing about caramelizing onions is that you can keep them in the fridge to use later, though I’d say store them no more than five days. Then, when you want to use them for a recipe, heat and go.

Let’s get this onion party started! Heat oil on medium high heat. You will know it’s ready when you flick some cold water into the pan and it sizzles. Add your chopped onion and turn heat down to medium.


Chopped onions.


Chopped red onions in heated olive oil. Let the caramelizing begin!

Now is the part where you don’t have to do much, but stay close to your onions so you can keep an eye on them. You don’t have to constantly turn them with a spatula, maybe about every 7 to 10 minutes.

My onions took about 50 minutes to caramelize. I turned the heat down low; not only was I in the middle of watching Big Love, but my porcelain pan gets very hot in the middle and I didn’t want my onions to burn. I scooted them to the sides, where less heat was concentrated.


Scoot action.


The finished product.

The point at which your onions are done is kind of up to you. I stop cooking mine when they are nicely brown, through and through. You will reach this point anywhere between 20 and 60 minutes. Taste them during your cooking process to see if they’ve achieved a level of caramelization to your liking!

Another little thing I did, which is totally optional, was deglaze my pan with white wine. When I felt my onions were done, I added a healthy splash of wine into the pan, and let it cook into the onions for a minute or two before turning the heat off. This lifts all the caramelized bits off of your pan and back into the onions. Yum! If wine isn’t your thing, you can do this with vegetable stock.

I want to give a shout-out to Chef Fox at Source, because he has given me tons of tips on how to caramelize onions. Thanks, boss!

*Did you know I’ve worked at The Chicago Diner, Cafe Gratitude, and now Source? Well, now you do!

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