Thursday, October 13, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Agave Beer Pizza Crust

On Tuesday, I wrote about our and pizza, beer and wings night, but I didn't show the pizza.  Here it is! We often make our own pizza, and about half the time, we use this crust. I love the soft, bready-like texture, the quick, easy recipe, and the slightly sweet, yeasty flavor. We love making our own pizza, because it's economical, fun and each get make it just the way we like it.

For this pizza, I doused the crust in sauce, then I chopped up a few handfuls of spinach very thinly, topped that with some chopped Morningstar Farms/Gardein chick'n strips, finely sliced frozen artichoke hearts, thinly sliced kalamata olives and tons of Monterrey Jack flavored Follow Your Heart.

Before I covered it in FYH.

          Agave Wheat Pizza Crust
        Christina Terriquez
 In my hometown, there’s a local pizza chain that’s famous for their crusts. The standard crusts are wheat, semi-thick, bready and lightly sweetened with honey. Each pizza even comes with a small side of honey so that you can dip your crust and eat it for dessert. We didn’t go to that pizza chain often, but the crusts left a huge impression on me. This recipe is my answer to that crust. It’s soft, bready, and very flavorful. 
 1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour    
1 1/2 cups organic unbleached flour    
         1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt   
3 teaspoons baking powder     
1 tablespoon organic extra virgin olive oil,     
1 tablespoon organic agave nectar     
11 ounces your favorite beer, pale ale, hefewizen or light  lagers work well  
Preheat oven to 350° F.      
Sift dry ingredients together into a large bowl.  
In a small bowl, whisk together oil and agave nectar, then add beer and gently mix. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients and gently mix to incorporate. Batter will be slightly wet and sticky. Knead until dough comes together, adding more flour as needed.  
Cover two baking sheets with unbleached parchment. Divide dough in two, and lightly flour. Using flour as needed, roll dough out into a round approximately 10–12 inches in diameter.  
Bake crusts for 10–15 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and done in the center. Top as desired and bake.  
Try dividing dough into thirds or fourths for personal pizzas.  
Use 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup unbleached white for a heartier wheat flavor.              
Brush crust with olive oil prior to baking.  
The beer will flavor your crust quite a bit, so use a beer you enjoy drinking. Light to medium beers with heavy wheat or honey flavors work especially well here.  
         This crust is very bready, the texture is like a quick bread, not stretchy like regular pizza dough.

Finished product, covered in FYH.

What's your favorite pizza? Do you ever make your own crust?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Vegan MoFo Review: Gardein Buffalo Wings


I've never had buffalo wings. I became a vegetarian before I started enjoying spicy foods. So, I sort of understood the dynamic of buffalo wings, celery and blue cheese dressing, while still not really getting it. I  mean, rich creamy dressing; hot, tangy wings; crisp, crunchy, but sort of bland celery sticks? I get the concept of all the disparate parts coming together in glorious harmony, but I'm not a huge fan barbeque sauce or Worcestershire, or A1 or siracha, so didn't think I'd be a fan of buffalo sauce and I never liked blue cheese.

When JD and I saw the new line of Gardein products our local Target was carrying, I got excited for two reasons, first, Gardein is awesome, and I like the crispy tenders, which had not previously been available anywhere in my neighborhood, and second, specifically vegan foods items being readily available and easily accessible? THIS IS THE VEGAN REVOLUTION, PEOPLE. My Target also has two kinds of tofu, multiple brands and styles of non dairy milks including Silk's refrigerated soy, almond AND coconut milks, and Earth Balance, which they sell for about a dollar less than any of the health food stores in my area.

So, when I pointed them out to JD, he immediately went for buffalo wings, to my dismay. When I expressed my misgivings, he suggested I get the BBQ wings. Does he even know me?  I explained I wanted the crispy tenders, and, based on his past experience with Gardein, suggested we get all three. We didn't really have that much space in our freezer, and I didn't want to have that much processed (and BBQy) stuff taking up what little space we did have, so we settled for the buffalo and crispy tenders styles.

A few weeks ago we went to Wimberly and found a brewery that had some amazing hefeweizen, of which we promptly bought a growler. We had decided to have a beer and pizza night, so I suggested we add these wings to the menu.

I cooked them up according to the stove top directions, and like most of Gardein's products, they were very simple to prepare. I was a little worried, because the package said to saute and brown each side until crispy, but also warned against burning and mine didn't really seem to get crispy, since they didn't have any breading and weren't coated like the Mandarin Chick'n. I let some of them get crispy, but this made very dark, and I feared they were burnt and therefore ruined. With the heat turned off, and the sauce "setting" on the wings, I cut up some celery into sticks. I took a nibble of one celery stick and wondered if I wouldn't end up liking them more than the wings.

I told JD they were ready, and he replied, "You know the best thing about vegan wings?"

"What?" I asked, thinking to myself, no mechanically separated chicken? No battery cages full of hens?

" No bones or ligaments!" he said. I can get behind that answer, though I remember my first few vegetarian months, when I actually sort of missed the structure bones gave food.

So, onto the most important thing, how did they taste? I liked them! The texture was maybe a little too soft or not chewy enough for me, but I liked the sauce more than I thought I would. The sauce was a bit hot, but with the crisp, fresh, cook celery, and the bright, bubbly beer, it worked. And even though it seemed like there was not enough sauce included, and the wings didn't seem coated enough, I actually preferred, and found myself seeking out the wings that had less sauce. I also found myself looking for the crispiest wings. I still remember Morningstar Farms' Spicy Chick'n wings, which contain egg, and I used to love in my ovo lacto days, but these are good for fun, easy, fast finger food. If I watched football, these would be perfect football food.

JD liked them, and would eat them again, but said he'd doctor the sauce, since, while it had heat, it was not tangy or Tabasco-y enough to really compare to buffalo sauce. "It was more like spicy barbecue sauce."

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Sushi Bowl

I love sushi. There are endless combinations, flavors and textures to try, but sometimes, I just can't wait to for the rice to cool to make rolls, or the rice is leftover and not sticky, or I'm just feeling too lazy. In these cases, a sushi bowl is perfect. It's great for day the day after you make sushi, too, since you'll already have all of the ingredients prepared. 

Just place a bed of cooked rice (it can be hot, room temperature, or even cold, if that's your thing) in the bottom of large bowl, and top it with bite sized pieces of your favorite sushi additions. 

Some things I like:

steamed or blanched carrots, green beans, or asparagus
pan friend, baked, or marinated tofu or tempeh

fresh cucumber, green onion, and avocado
roasted red pepper
sauteed portobello or shiitake mushrooms

Don't forget to add strips of nori, toasted sesame seeds, and season with soy sauce to take this from "rice salad" to "sushi bowl".

Jeremy thinks it's gross, but I also sometimes add mustard to my sushi bowls (he insisted I not take a picture). If you aren't using vinegared rice and want more flavor, you could add wasabi, toasted sesame oil, a miso sauce, or whatever you like in your sushi.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Zombie Cakes

I posted about these last year when I took them to the VRA Halloween potluck. But I wanted to talk about them again since Halloween  is coming up. I will definitely make these again, since they were fun, tasty, and really cool looking. Last year, I made a raspberry cocoa custard for the brains, but I think it's be fun to experiment with different flavors. I'd like to try using fall flavors, like pumpkin cupcakes with vanilla bourbon icing, pumpkin custard "brains" and cranberry syrup "blood". Another combo that sounds delicious to me is vanilla cupcakes, peanut butter or almond butter custard "brains" and strawberry or raspberry "blood".

As far as making the brains stable on the icing, I found it important to make a concave dip in the icing for the "brains" and "blood" to sit in, so they didn't slide off and make a big, sticky mess. If you're going to be transporting them, I would also recommend adding the syrup at the last minute, after arriving at your destination. Don't worry about making sure it all stays in the divot, it looks better when it's running over the sides just a little bit.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vegan Mofo: Tempeh Sticks

I've written about tempeh  before. I love it. Sometimes I feel like I could eat it everyday and never tire of it.  These tempeh sticks are a great, fun way to prepare it. They're sort of like a vegan, whole foods version of chicken fingers.  You can even cut them into smaller sizes for tempeh nuggets.

One of my bosses taught me how to make tempeh sticks, which are really so simple and delicious you'll wonder why you never thought of them before. My former boss used a few different ingredients, though,my biggest change is that she used corn meal instead of masa harina. I enjoy the texture of masa harina better than that of cornmeal for this recipe, and I love that this simple change gives you huge boost in the b vitamin niacin, plus calcium and iron, among other nutrients.

Like I said, these remind me of chicken fingers, but I usually make them as a comfort food, with mashed potatoes or millet mash, and greens. They're equally great with agave mustard or gravy.

Tempeh Sticks
by Christina Terriquez

1 package tempeh
soy sauce or tamari
fresh grated ginger or garlic, if desired
masa harina flour
sea salt
seasonings like paprika or garlic powder, if desired
safflower or sunflower oil

Cut tempeh into slices or nuggets as desired. I think they are best when they are sliced 1/4"-1/3" thick.

Steam or blanch the tempeh for at least 15 minutes.

In a heat proof bowl, make your marinade using 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/4 cup water and ginger juice, crushed garlic, or your favorite seasoning and add tempeh. I often skip this step in favor of the lazy person's method: just sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons of soy sauce over the steamed tempeh.

Put 1/2 cup masa harina flour in a pie plate or wide bottomed bowl. Season it with salt and your favorite breading seasonings. I usually use paprika and garlic powder.

Dredge each piece of tempeh through the masa and lightly tap to remove excess flour.

Heat oil over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add tempeh and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Always cook tempeh for at least 20 minutes total. I often steam or blanch it to get rid of the bitter/sour flavor, and opens it's pores so it absorbs flavor better, but the cooking time is also important since the soybean use in tempeh production are only partially cooked. If tempeh is not properly prepared, it can be hard to digest and create upset stomach. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Lebanese-Inspired Green Beans

All the Vegan MoFo posts I've seen so far have been amazing! Have you seen the official round ups? I'm already beginning to feel overwhelmed by new ideas. I could barely decide on what to make. Waffles! No, tempeh marsala! But I have so much fresh produce just begging to be made into something delicious! I could make homemade nondairy cheese! I was beginning to get food fatigued, and JD suggested going to one of our usual haunts. I was hungry and the easy way out sounded good, but I really wanted to make something since I had the day off and the time, so we stayed in, and I made one of our favorite dishes. 

When I was growing up, my older brother worked at a Middle Eastern restaurant for one of his first jobs. He introduced me to Lebanese green beans. Unfortunately, I forgot all about them for many years. 

When I worked at the Natural Epicurean, one of my assignments was to study different cultures and their recipes and create flavor profiles. One of the regions I studied was Iran, and Persian food. I fell in love with the philosophies and flavors used in Persian food, and created a few vegan dishes inspired by them. Luckily, while doing my research, I came upon a recipe for Lebanese green beans, and have been making them ever since.

I make a Persian inspired yellow rice that I'm sure is nothing like actual Persian yellow rice, but which we love a great deal, and I serve it with these Lebanese style green beans and, on special occasions, Tempeh in Walnut and Pomegranate Sauce. The yellow rice is rich and savory and provides a perfect contrast for the tangy, sweet, garlicky, complex flavor of the green beans. On the few cold days we have in Austin, I make the green beans more like a soup, served in a bowl, and let the rice add bulk. The leftovers, if we have any, are especially fantastic, as the flavors are more developed.

When green beans are in season and inexpensive, I make this once a week or so. Filling and flavorful, the rice and veggies are usually all we need to make a meal. This week I was feeling like I hadn't really had much protein, so I cooked some up, but really, they faded into the background of this meal. When your vegetables are this delicious, who needs anything else?

Lebanese-style Green Beans
by Christina Terriquez

good extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
sea salt
3-6 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
2 lbs. fresh green beans, ends trimmed and cut in half
32 oz. can of stewed tomatoes, juice separated from tomatoes
advieh, optional
black pepper, optional

In a heavy pot, heat about 2 tablespoons olive oil gently over medium heat. Once it starts to shimmer, add the onions and a pinch of salt and saute until onions turn translucent.

Add 2/3 of the garlic and a pinch of salt and saute.

Add the green beans and a pinch of salt, and saute for two minutes.

Add liquid from canned tomatoes. If you're adding advieh, add it now.

Cut the stewed tomatoes up. I prefer them to be finely minced, but you can slice them or cut them into chunkier pieces. Add the tomatoes to the pot and simmer for at least twenty minutes. After ten minutes, the green beans will turn bright green, and you will want to turn off the heat and eat them immediately, resist this urge! They will be wonderfully tender and flavorful in ten more minutes.

After twenty minutes, taste the green beans and sauce and season. Sometimes it just needs salt, sometimes it needs more garlic.


I only use about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, but most recipes will call for 1/4-1/2 cup. More oil will give a richer feel, and fruitier flavor (if your oil is good), but I find it hard to enjoy the dish when I know there's that much oil in it.

Advieh is a spice mix used extensively in Persian food. It will vary greatly from home to home, but generally consists of dried roses, cumin, black pepper, cinnamon, and saffron. It is extremely fragrant and is a wonderful addition to this dish, but is not necessary. If you'd like to make some yourself, this is a nice recipe, although there are many others online. The most important thing is make sure you use food grade dried roses, which are available online and from most middle eastern groceries and some natural food stores (usually in the bulk bins).

Serve over your favorite rice, like jasmine or brown basmati.

To make this a soup, add about 4 cups of water or vegetable broth and season.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Vegan MoFo: Chickpea Frittata

Last week, when I was shopping, I noticed a new line of Italian convenience foods, Lucini Italia. I had never heard or the brand, but one item that caught my eye was their Tuscan Chickpea Frittata mix. It sounded delicious, but I vaguely recalled reading something by Mark Bittman about socca and chickpea fries last year, and thinking how simple those recipes seemed, since they were basically just chickpea flour, salt, water and olive oil.

Sure enough, I read the ingredients and the only thing the package contained was chickpea flour. I decided to simply buy chickpea flour instead of the Tuscan Chickpea Frittata mix, and hope I could find a suitable recipe, thinking that on the very small chance we didn't like the frittata, I could always find other ways to use the chickpea flour, and that the chickpea flour was more economical*.

I was already dreaming things to top the frittata with, or bake into it, before I had even paid for my groceries. Once I got home, I found a perfect recipe (though when I made it, I used a lower temperature).

The frittata baked up wonderfully and looked like the most gorgeous, perfect cornbread. While it was baking, it doubled in size, although it did sink back down as it cooled. When it cooled enough to cut, it sliced beautifully and looked like polenta. The first night we ate it, I had some fresh, gorgeous, super-flavorful vine ripened tomatoes, decided serve the frittata with tomatoes two ways; first, a raw tomato, basil, and garlic relish, as a topping and second as Lebanese-style green beans.

With the leftovers, I reheated the frittata in the toaster over, and topped with seared crimini mushrooms and spinach in a garlic white wine sauce.

The frittata was a little dry on the second day, so I would cook it a little bit less next time (I didn't time it, just watched it and cooked it until it seemed done, since I cooked it at a lower temperature). The hard, dry texture seemed perfect for frying, and since JD hate mushrooms and spinach, I pan fried his portion. He loved it, and it was much easier to fry than polenta, which always splatters for me.

*All the reviews of Lucini Italia's food that I've seen have been very positive, so I'm sure they're very good, and they apparently grind their chickpeas much finer than anyone else. I used Bob's Red Mill chickpea flour, which is stone ground and was about the same price for twice as much product. As I haven't tried both, I can't say how they compare, in terms or flavor or texture.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Vegan MoFo 2011: It's the Most Wonderful Vegan Time of the Year

Vegan MoFo 2011 has begun! Last year was great, and I'm so excited for this year's edition.

Since it's Sunday, I wanted to share one of my favorite lazy Sunday brunch dishes, Cheesy Spinach Grits. Grits are super easy to make, very comforting, you can do tons of things with them, and this dish is especially great because it can be made from your freezer/pantry.  This isn't really a recipe, more like a general guideline, since I make this when I'm a) sleepy or b) lazy, I never measure the ingredients.

Unfortunately, it's not very photogenic.

Cheesy Spinach Grits
by Christina Terriquez
If it's your first time making grits, follow the directions for serving sizes. I usually just eyeball it. I used white grits in these pictures, but yellow would also work, and might give more of a cheesy color.

You'll need:
white or yellow grits
fresh or frozen spinach
nutritional yeast
garlic powder

1. Make grits according to package directions. Once water is boiling, reduce heat to medium low so grits don't splatter on you or burn as they thicken.

2. Add chopped fresh or frozen spinach to taste (keep in mind that fresh spinach will wilt and cook down). I usually add about 1 cup fresh, half a cup frozen per person.

3. Add nutritional yeast and garlic powder to taste. I usually add around  1 1/2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast per person and about 1 1/2-2 teaspoons garlic powder per person. Mix well and taste. Reseason if neccessary.


Optional additions:

Tempeh bacon or tempeh sausage

Red pepper flakes

Black pepper

Green onions

A pat of Earth Balance or a drizzle of olive oil

I haven't tried it yet, but I think this would also be a great side dish for dinner, baked like a casserole, maybe with a bit of gooey cheese like Daiya or FYH either on top, or mixed in and melty.