vegansaurus!

10/15/2013

Recipe! Nelson family shrimp creole, veganized!   »

It was when I lived in Chicago about six years ago that I decided to go vegan. On that note, April is the month I consider my ‘Veganiversary” — six and a half years have gone by! (Where did it go, how has all that time passed?) Some of the hardest things about living in Chicago were missing my family in California, missing California, and missing the food I grew up on. I have since vegan-ized many of my mom and grandma’s recipes, making my lifestyle choice feel a little more familiar. Now that I’m back in the Bay Area, I get to see my clan on the regular and they have been more than helpful in pitching in on the vegan front! Butter has been replaced with Earth Balance or olive oil when cooking; plus there is always a jar of Vegenaise waiting for me in the fridge or a pint of coconut ice cream in the freezer. My favorite part of all of this is eating the food that tastes like home with the people I love most. 
One of my mom’s main go-to recipes when the family comes over is shrimp creole, which is a dish I remember her making since forever.* Luckily for me, it is easily veganized! This means I get to eat it sans shrimp with my family, instead of making a completely different dinner when we sit down to eat. But when you make it, you can add faux shrimp, chicken, beef, seitan, tofu OR SOY CURLS, OMG! 

Ingredients:

1 chopped yellow onion
8 chopped ribs of celery
2 chopped green peppers
4 minced cloves garlic
1/3 cup Earth Balance (for flavor) or enough olive oil to sauté above ingredients
1 tsp of salt (you may need to add more depending on taste)
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Bay leaf
3 TBS flour
1 tsp sugar 
4 cans of 14.5oz diced tomatoes (try to find the ones with basil, oregano and garlic added for extra flavor!)
Up to 2 lbs protein of choice (this is completely optional, as I eat it without and it’s very tasty over rice)

Directions:

Make rice. 

Cook onions, celery, green pepper and onion, in oil or Earth Balance, until tender. Add garlic, salt, pepper, cayenne and Bay leaf. Stir in flour, sugar and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for  20 minutes. Smother over rice. 

If  you are adding protein, there is an extra step! After you cook for the first 20 minutes, add protein of choice, cover and cook on low until protein is appropriately heated, probably another 10 — 15 minutes.

Another thing I like about this recipe is that it is pretty mild, so you being the wild, creative chef you are, you can doctor it up in oh-so-many ways! Some hot sauce or cajun spice could really take this dish to the next level! Of course, I like it as is, I just gotta remember to bring home the soy shrimp next time I’m visiting my family. 

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*My sister, being a budding cook herself, recently asked where our family recipes came from. Turns out many of them are from a gas station cook book, dating back to the ‘70’s. 

05/03/2013

Vegan road trip: Phoenix! Check out Green restaurant and make your own Big Wac!   »

What’s a girl to do when a case of winter S.A.D, holiday fatigue, and the daily grind have got her down? Go to the Grand Canyon for Spring Break! Beat the blues by visiting one of the greatest natural wonders the Earth has to offer. Cautiously stand six feet away from the ledge, watch a group of men take a picture of their friend plank on the edge (thinking that surely you are going to watch a handsome Englishman plummet to his death right before your eyes, frozen in fear and experiencing vertigo just looking at him) and forget your own emotional baggage for a couple hours.

Sick of winter and worn out from the holidays, my bestie Britney and I began planning Spring Break 2013, or SXAZ, as it seemed everyone else was in Austin at the time. What was initially envisioned as a road trip from Vegas to Santa Fe quickly became reduced once travel time and expenses became a reality. Enter PHOENIX! VegNews just profiled Tempe and Phoenix vegan hotspot Green, Air BnB rentals* are plentiful, and for the four-hour drive to the Grand Canyon, Zipcars are available.

Now, if you should for any reason, find yourself in Phoenix, it is imperative that you eat at Green restaurant. Britney and I ate at Green three of the four days on that trip, we just COULD NOT get enough. By far, for both us, the most incredible item on the menu was their Big Wac, a vegan take on the (in)famous McDonald’s burger. We loved this sandwich so much, we stopped by for the third visit on our way to airport so we could eat our Big Wacs for dinner in San Francisco. Consider us obsessed.

Upon returning home, within four days I had to make my own.  So I present you with the Big JB.

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I like my junk food with a side of sautéed kale. Or chocolate cake, whatever is available.

Ingredients
Two imitation burgers of your choice (I used Whole Foods brand)
Vegan cheese (Daiya cheddar wedge)
Romaine lettuce
Buns (whole wheat if you are healthy, white flour if you love decadence like me)
Equal parts vegan mayo and ketchup (probably about 2 tablespoons of each)
Dill pickles
2 to 3 tablespoons diced white onion

Instructions
Cook your burgers as instructed on the box. I fried mine up in vegetable oil, in a saucepan on the stove, because if I’m making glorified fast food for dinner, I’m not going the healthy route. Melt your vegan cheese atop burgers as you see fit. I like to put it on the burgers when they are almost done in the frying pan, turn off the heat, and cover the pan till the cheese melts. Smear your buns with “special sauce” (i.e. ketchup and vegan mayo), add diced onions and a couple pickles. Add your romaine lettuce as desired for nutrient value. Design burger as pictured, because you need that extra bun layer, believe me.

*We stayed in a hippie house that put Berkeley to shame. TO SHAME. No matter my minor in hippie studies from Humboldt State; I broke pretty much every rule in that house with my mere existence.

06/08/2012

Recipe! Mostly raw, totally vegan, ranch dressing!   »

When I’ve turned to vegan ranch dressings in the past, I’ve always been disappointed. So I’ve taken it upon myself to make one that reminds me of Hidden Valley. What can I say? That is what my palate wants.

Let’s do this.

Ingredients
1 1/2 cup soaked cashews
3/4 to 1 cup water
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white rice vinegar
1 tsp pepper
1/2 Tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. agave nectar
The juice of half a lemon

Instructions
Blend all ingredients until you get the smoothest product you can! I use a Vita-Mix. I’m sure you can use a blender or food processor to pulverize these ingredients, but you may need a nut milk bag handy to strain any chunks. 

Taste. Make sure it’s a flavor profile you expect from ranch. Add more salt, pepper or vinegar to you liking. Remember, this is your base, and you are the star of this recipe.

After blending, add 1 tsp. Italian herbs and 1 tsp. dill, and mix by hand.

This is recipe that tastes best when it sits (in the fridge) for a couple hours, even better overnight. Perhaps you like your dressing a little more dill-ish? Add more! You are the chef! More salt and pepper? DO IT!

Serve and watch your party guests go crazy. I love to serve my ranch with a faux meat product (homemade seitan) because my friends are always like, “Hey, I think I could go vegan if everything tasted like this!” More potlucks, more dinner parties, because THIS IS WHAT VEGAN TASTES LIKE! 

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!

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