vegansaurus!

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).

05/30/2012

Recipe: Wilted kale salad!   »

Are you sick of kale yet? I’m not! I just keep finding new ways to eat it that are better than the last. My new favorite is the wilted kale salad!

Call me late to the party, because I usually am, but my first experience with the mystical wilted kale salad happened on a trip to LA in January, at Mohawk Bend in Echo Park.

Very tasty! Spiced to perfection and topped with crisp jicama slices!

So, I’ve come up with my own version!

Ingredients:
1 bunch kale
1 tsp. olive oil
dash of salt and pepper
juice of one lemon
1 sliced avocado

Instructions
Clean, de-stem and roughly chop the kale. Heat up your pan to about medium-high, with the oil drizzled in. Once it’s hot, put in the kale and keep it constantly moving, cooking between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. You are not sauteing it, but lightly wilting it. The point is, you don’t want it fully cooked, but just heated enough to take some of the bitterness out.

Transfer to a bowl and toss with avocado, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Easy enough, right?


I personally think this salad pairs beautifully with pasta doused in vodka cream sauce!

How do you make your wilted kale salad? Next time, I think I will use strawberries instead of avocado, and balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice!

05/29/2012

Recipe: Hawaiian pasta salad!   »

Living in California is the best, because you can theoretically BBQ during all of the seasons, and BBQs are my favorite! Just put on a sweatshirt, it gets chilly at night. Once it starts warming up, nothing beats inviting all your pals over to drink some brewskies and grill some food. What’s not to love?

Actually, if I can be honest with you, I’m not having quite as much fun as I should, grilling my food these days. Tell me what you grill—I’m bored of veggies and faux meat.* My favorite part of BBQs has turned into making (and chowing down on) the side dishes! (There has to be more. Tell me there is more than this.)

Here’s my version of a Hawaiian pasta salad. People love this salad. It’s refreshing and creamy. I use penne in it, but I have a feeling most people prefer macaroni. I like to think penne adds an elegance to traditional macaroni dishes! Plus, wikipedia says the shape and design makes for more sauce absorption. See, I’m not completely out of my mind!

Ingredients
1 lb. macaroni noodles (or elegant penne!)**
2 cups cashew cream (I’m assuming you can sub unsweetened soy creamer, cup for cup. It’s very rich and creamy!)
2 cups vegan mayo
1 Tbsp. agave nectar
1/2 cup mild vinegar (I use white rice)
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1 large carrot, grated or chopped. I usually chop.
1 celery rib, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, diced small
salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
If you are making your cashew cream and mayo from scratch, do that ahead of time, to cut down prep. I never do, but it really is a great idea in theory!

Boil your pasta. Now, I love over-boiled, puffy pasta and everyone turns their nose up at it, but I’ve finally found a recipe that recommends you overcook the pasta, because it’s better able to absorb the dressing. Take that, haters!

Boil until super fat and puffy. Also, throw in some salt, because it flavors the pasta. My friend told me you want to salt it enough that the water tastes like the ocean. I usually toss in a small palmful.

Over-boiled pasta, a.k.a. DOING ME.

While your pasta is boiling, make your dressing. Whisk together 1 1/2 cup cashew cream, 1 cup mayo, 1 TBS agave nectar, 1 tsp salt and 2 tsp pepper in a bowl.

Whiskin’ up some dressing.

Once the pasta is boiled, turn off the heat and drain it. Then put it back in the pot. Add the vinegar and toss until completely absorbed. Now let it cool for about 10 minutes, then add the dressing. Transfer to a bowl and try to let cool completely. Since I am impatient, I wait about a half hour.

Ever so creamy, vegan style!

Add the rest of your cream, mayo, the veggies and mix together. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in fridge for at least an hour. Overnight is best, this is the kind of salad that gets more terrific as the flavors meld! I like to garnish it with some sliced green onions, but I bet a hodgepodge of green onions, thinly sliced celery, and red onion, plus slivered or grated carrot, would look really pretty!


Everyone’s favorite pasta salad, no joke!

*OK, kind of an exaggeration. I am having fun grilling homemade seitan. But even that is getting a little old. I need new ideas, and so I’m turning to you for help!
**You can make this salad gluten-free so easily! Just sub gluten-free pasta!

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.

05/08/2012

Recipe: Creamed Spinach!   »

I think that decadent, holiday fare is my forte. Living in San Francisco is great—with the weather being so mild, I can make it and eat it year round. Potluck to go to? Well, I know even in July the nights will be as cold as Chicago in the fall, so heavy vegan food it is!

For Easter at my family’s house, I made creamed spinach! My grandma loved it and I was pretty stoked with it as well. The rest of my fam—well, the whole eating vegan food thing is still a struggle, but they always make sure I have Vegenaise in the house! Gotta appreciate the support where I get it. Oh, and you can always lighten this recipe up by adding less cashew cream!

Ingredients:

For the cream:
1 1/2 cup cashew cream (I’m sure you can use the same amount unsweetened soy creamer instead)
2 cloves of garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

For the creamed spinach:
Aforementioned cream
2 TBS oil
1 chopped onion, any variety (I myself used red)
1 pound of fresh spinach
4 cloves of chopped or minced garlic
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
A dash of cayenne pepper (it won’t add heat, only a depth of flavor)
A dash of nutmeg

Directions:

Make your cream first! All you have to do is blend the cream ingredients together and you’re done. I made mine the night before putting this recipe together, because holidays can be a very stressful time in the kitchen, and I like as much prep work done beforehand as possible. Now, heat up a pan with the oil—you will know it’s ready when you flick water on it and it sizzles. Add your onion, and turn heat to medium. Cook until translucent or caramelized. Add garlic, making sure not to burn or brown it. Only cook until fragrant, about three minutes. Pour in the wine, as a means to deglaze your pan. Vegetable stock would work fine too, or you can leave out this step altogether. Now, it’s time for the spinach. I tore mine up, by hand, but you can chop it or leave it whole—totally up to you! Spinach doesn’t take very long to cook, also only a few minutes. So, put spinach in your pan, along with the salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and nutmeg. Once it’s cooked to your liking, add the cashew cream and cook until heated through and through!



04/26/2012

Recipe: Vodka cream sauce!   »

This recipe is inspired from watching Jersey Shore. I like what I like and I’m not going to apologize. If Snooki can make vodka cream sauce, from scratch, for her roommates without burning down the house, I imagined that I could very well make a vegan version! And you know what? I was right! We all benefit from my choice in television programs.

I have a version of this same recipe completely from scratch here. However, it has come to my recent attention, and real-life situation, that not everyone has time to make a three-hour sauce. So I give you, vegan vodka cream sauce for the busy, working, and socially active person on the go!

Ingredients
1 jar of marinara sauce (the plainer the better—no mushroom or red bell pepper varieties for this dish) OR 2 cans of diced tomatoes
1/2 cup vodka
1 cup unsweetened soy creamer (or 1 cup cashew cream!)
2 Tbsp. oil (I used olive)
1 red onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped or minced*
1/4 cup red wine (optional)

Instructions
Now, you can actually skip sauteing the onions and garlic, but I wanted to feel like I did some cooking for this dish. Heat up oil, in a pan on medium high heat and when hot, add chopped onion. Bring down heat to medium, cook  onion to your liking — until translucent or caramelized. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, which is only a few minutes. Be careful not to let the garlic brown.

At this point I add wine, which is not completely necessary, but I think of my vodka sauce as the jungle juice of marinara! I like the added flavor wine brings, and it deglazes the pan. Cook it off for another couple of minutes, to burn the alcohol out and to absorb into the onions and garlic.

Now add your jar of marinara or diced tomatoes to the onions and garlic, and then the vodka! Let it come to a light boil, turning up the heat if you must. Let it bubble for a couple of minutes, then add your cream. Stir it in, let it heat up in the sauce, and remove from heat.

This sauce must be smooth! Pulverize this baby in a food processor, blender, or Vita-Mix.

That’s it! I don’t need to tell you how to cook pasta, right? I like penne the best, so that is my pasta of choice when I make this sauce. I often like to used gluten-free pasta, which makes for an entirely gluten-free entree! 

*I used 8 cloves of garlic. Maybe more. Obviously, I am terrified of vampires coming for me in the middle of the night.

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!

04/19/2012

How to, yo: Cashew Cream!   »

In my recipes, I use cashew cream a lot! It’s soy and gluten-free, which I think is important when cooking and eating on a vegan diet. Gluten and soy are in EVERYTHING! I need a break. Plus, some of my friends have allergies—nobody gets left out when I’m cooking.

Here is my basic cashew cream recipe. We’ll come back to this one a lot in the future, when I post my recipes for green bean casserole, vodka cream sauce, ranch dressing, and Hawaiian macaroni salad! Those are intense, but if you got the cashew cream down, you’re golden!

First of all, let’s talk about the cashews:

  1. You want to use dry, unsalted, raw cashews. I usually buy mine from Trader Joe’s, but they are available at Safeway, Whole Foods, and most health food grocers.
  2. The cashews need to be soaked! 1/3 heaping cup dry cashews, when soaked, equals 1/2 cup of soaked cashews.
  3. How you get to the ‘soaked’ part is up to you! If you have the time, or are making a raw recipe, soak them in water for at least six hours at room temperature. Any longer and you will want to refrigerate them. Make sure the water covers them, plus extra for what the cashews absorb. However, if you don’t have the time, boil them on medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until soft.
  4. Always dump the water they were soaked or boiled in and then rinse the cashews off!

Now, to make the cream!

Ingredients
1/2 cup soaked cashews
3/4 cup water

Instructions
Blend!* This will equal about 1 cup cashew cream! If you add a little salt and vanilla extract, it makes a delicious coffee creamer.

*I use a Vita-Mix, which is one of the greatest kitchen tools ever invented. Of course, a blender or food processor will work too, but you may need to strain any chunks.


Homemade BBQ seitan wings and a dollop of cashew-based ranch dressing!

04/12/2012

Recipe: Sauteed green beans with mushrooms!  »


The springtime holidays are upon us! Did you be make anything special? I made  this green bean recipe, slightly modified from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s in Vegan with a Vengeance. This side dish is a huge hit with my family, which is a huge ego boost for me! It’s very exciting to make them dishes that they ask for, because it doesn’t happen often! (Let’s just say no one else in the Bradley clan is a huge tofu, tempeh or seitan fan.) I love this recipe because it’s relatively easy and extremely tasty.

Ingredients
2 Tbsp. olive or vegetable oil
1 medium onion (I use red), roughly chopped
4 to 8 garlic cloves, minced or finely chopped*
2 lbs. fresh green beans, washed with stems cut off
3/4 to 1 lb. of cremini mushrooms, chopped or sliced
1/4 cup coconut aminos, soy sauce, or Braggs
1/2 cup sherry
1 1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 Tbsp. pepper
1/2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

Instructions
Heat up your oil on medium high, in a pan or pot large enough to hold all of these ingredients! If it has a lid, that would be preferable, but I have been known to stick a baking sheet over my pots as a lid. No judgment here!

Once the oil is heated, add your chopped onion. You should cook them until they’re translucent, about 5 to 10 minutes, but I like to caramelize my onions, which can take up to a half hour or more! Whatever you’ve got time for, right? If they start to cook so fast they burn, turn down your heat.

Once your onions are cooked to your liking, add your garlic and saute about three minutes, or until fragrant. If you haven’t already, turn down your heat to medium and don’t let the garlic brown, as it will become bitter! Add your mushrooms and saute for about 10 to 15 minutes, until they’ve noticeably shrunk in size. Next put in your salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings; let them cook into the mushrooms and garlic for a couple minutes.

Time to add the sherry, soy sauce, and water! Let everything come to a light boil (you may need to increase the heat), then place your green beans into the pot or pan. 

Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let simmer until beans are fork-tender!


Done!

*I use a lot of garlic in my dishes, no joke. Whatever a recipe calls for, I usually double or quadruple the amount. I’ve given you a healthy spectrum in this recipe, so you can use at your discretion. Of course I use eight cloves (or more), but the average cook would probably use four.

03/30/2012

How to, yo: Steam tempeh!  »

I like tempeh all right. The first time I ever had it, my friend Krystle made TLTs—tempeh, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches with Veganaise. I wasn’t vegan yet, but after eating her sandwich, I decided it was time to seriously try. I have often told Krystle her TLT was what finally made it me go vegan. It was a gateway sandwich!

When I have tackled the TLT on my own, I noticed that the tempeh soaks up so much of the oil and soy sauce I sauté it in to make bacon. I decided one night, last year, to try steaming my tempeh first. I had skimmed many a recipe that suggested steaming, and it was time to try it.

Turns out it’s easy to do. Seriously, once I started steaming my tempeh first, I began enjoying it so much more. I’ve heard steaming takes some of the bitterness out, but I’ve never noticed a bitter bite to begin with. Plus, when steamed, it soaks up less oil when preparing it afterward.

Yes, steaming does add one extra step, but I’m doing it as I write this post! You can steam anything (vegetables, fermented soy), and do other stuff at the same time! Multitasking!

Ingredients
Tempeh
A steam basket
A pot with a lid
Water

Instructions
Cut up your tempeh into sizes that are desirable for you. Place your steam basket into your pot, and fill pot with water just until it reaches the bottom of the steam basket. Bring water to a boil, place tempeh in steam basket.

To boil the water, I set the stove burner to high, but once the tempeh is in the pot, with the lid on, I turn down the temperature to medium high/medium. Then I let it do its thing for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Lift the cover; your tempeh should be tender and ready for however you like to prepare it! 

Once you’ve steam your tempeh, you can then sautee it or bake it—whatever you usually do. I still like to make myself TLTs, with homemade mayo, of course! I am steaming tempeh today, because I am getting ready to write a battered tempeh taco recipe for you! With a gluten-free version included, of course.


My desire to play around with tempeh was brought on by a recent dinner at Millennium with my roommate, Crystal. We decided to share the Maple-Black Pepper Smoked Tempeh, as neither of us has been the biggest fans of tempeh. We were like, “If we are ever going to have tempeh at its most delectable, it’s going to be here.” We were not mistaken.

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