Friday, October 4, 2013

The Perfect Vegg Omelette

Breakfast, again? Well, as my roommates like to point out, it's not exactly breakfast because I don't cook before 10 am. One way I can look at this is that by then I am absolutely famished, so at least all my "non" breakfasts are holiday-sized feasts and who can complain about that? It also means that unless I'm expecting potatoes and veggies in bed, I want to be finished cooking and elbows-deep in the scarfing down part of my first meal within thirty minutes. 

Enter, this wonder product:

I randomly bought this stuff online from Vegan Cuts, which is essentially an online Grouponesque marketplace for vegan products and deals. Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a "product" person; from my first few weeks of recipes, it's obvious I like creating from scratch as much as possible. Aside from vegan marshmallows, The Vegg is the only other special vegan thing I've purchased online and I will say I absolutely love having it on hand. It lasts forever, and is perfect for enhancing recipes and transforming tofu and other ingredients into eggs. I have yet to make straight eggs with it, because it requires some major science experiment skills and since the Breaking Bad finale have yet to ascend to Heisnberg, myself. 

Now, you don't totally need this product for the omelette, but I've done it both ways and using The Vegg is both easier, quicker, and just that much more authentic. My only complaint is that I have never really liked scrambled eggs in the first place, and the omelettes produced from this recipe are so similar in taste and texture I have to cram a ton of fillings into it. Oh, the travesty. Anyway, that's enough product review. Wait- can they pay me or something for that advertising spot?

The best part about making omelettes is basically going through your fridge and pulling out anything and everything that could possibly be stuffed into a giant breakfast egg-y quesedilla. This particular morning I analyzed my bounty and immediately thought: oh hell yeah, Mexican it is (I consequently put back the mozzarella cheese, eggplant, and after much begging by my boyfriend, the bacon bits). 

Also, if you are doing this Vegg-free, you'll need a few extra ingredients for the batter: cornstarch, nutritional yeast, and turmeric. 

note: before you do anything, drain your tofu and wrap it in paper towels. Set it on a plate, with a heavy pan or plate on top to extract some of the moisture out of the tofu. It really doesn't need to be done for very long, just while you are setting up and gathering ingredients and preparing your Vegg yolk. This will help to avoid your batter being too watery. Tofu liquid is not as tasty as almond milk, or so I'm told. 

First, make your Vegg yolk by blending 1 tbsp of the powder with 1/2 cup almond milk for about a minute. 

Crumble your tofu into the yolk mixture along with 1 tsp oil (or the alternative ingredients) another minute or so until nice and smooth. 

It should resemble batter, but you should already be able to smell a hint of egg- trust me, this stuff will totally freak you out. 

Heat a large skillet with a generous amount of coconut oil or earth balance butter (here I love my coconut oil spread) on medium heat. Use a decent pan or your omelette will be over-salted with tears of frustration. Pour the batter and spread as evenly as possible over the skillet with a spoon or spatula. Like any batter-based breakfast, this is a skill that may take mastering. Sprinkle some black lava salt on top. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the edges turn a golden color and begin to harden and set, exactly like a pancake does. 

Sidenote: you need black lava salt in your life. I love experimenting with different salts like seasonings (I know, it's kind of weird...I have a salt fetish). Anyway, this isn't weird- this is a staple. It has a deep sulfur scent and makes any egg-like dishes skyrocket to tasty authenticity. Mmmm salty goodness. 

In the meantime, chop up your veggies.

And cook up onions and garlic if your heart so desires. I like to have a mix of raw green onions and caramelized yellow onions, personally.  

Once your omelette is looking like its ready to marry the good stuff, sprinkle all your fillings on top. Technically, I think you are supposed to only cover half of it. But, there is a fat kid that lives in my head. His name is Roy, and he wanted to cover up the whole damn thing. This, by the way made my already extremely low omelette skills plummet to new records, as it made it ridiculously difficult to fold, flip, and make it to my plate. I can't say I won't over-fill it every time despite this, however. Fat kids always win food battles: fact. 

Fold the "empty" side of the omelette over the "filled" side (good freaking luck), and cook with the lid on a few more minutes until the cheese is melted and everything is cooked through, while keeping an eye on the bottom browning too much. If you are brave, flip halfway to evenly brown both the top and the bottom. This was hard for me. I was seconds from throwing my hands in the air and turning the whole damn skillet into a scramble. In my defense, this is literally the second omelette I've ever made in my entire life. And like crepes, omelette art takes practice. Stick with it. It's so worth it. I believe in you, Breakfast Master.

The Perfect Vegg Omelette 
Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 15-20 minutes 
Total time: 20-30 minutes
Makes 2 large omelettes 

1 package firm or extra firm tofu
1 tbsp The Vegg powder
1/2 cup almond milk
1 tsp olive oil 
black lava salt (to taste)

Alternative ingredients:
1 package firm or extra firm tofu
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp almond milk
1 tsp black lava salt
1/2 tsp turmeric 

Coconut oil or butter (for frying)

caramelized onion, green onion, bell pepper, avocado, baby spinach, jalapenos, mushrooms, tomatoes, asparagus, bacon bits, sausage crumbles, daiya cheese, etc. 


Drain tofu and wrap in paper towels on a plate to set. 

Prepare Vegg yolk by combining powder and almond milk into the blender for 1 minute. 

Add crumbled tofu into blender along with oil (or alternative ingredients). Blend until totally smooth. 

Heat skillet to medium heat with a liberal amount of coconut oil or butter. Pour batter all over skillet, spreading evenly across the pan. Sprinkle black salt on top. Cook until edges become slightly golden and begin to set, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare fillings. 

Add fillings of choice to half of omelette. Using a good spatula, fold the omelette in half. Cook on medium-low until cheese is melted and/or everything is cooked through to desired hardness.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Potato Taquitos with Salsa Verde

It's finally not in the triple digits here in sunny southern California, so I can finally start using the oven without causing the whole house to strip down to their chonies. And good thing, because I have been craving potato taquitos for weeks, and when I finally got around to it, I had no oil to fry them up. Which actually turned out great, because baked taquitos are astronomically healthier and we better try and avoid those holiday pounds to come while we still can (and make up for the calories in cheese). 

Here, I created a spicy, herby smashed potato filling, baked the little dudes and topped them with gooey Daiya pepperjack cheese and my favorite homemade salsa verde, made with roasted tomatillos. Dip them in fresh guacamole, and living in Southern California is suddenly worth 90 degree Octobers.

Start by preheating your oven to broil (for the tomatillos). Then, fill up a large pot of water to boil the potatoes. 

Now, peel 3-4 russet potatoes and go ahead and chop them into large chunks so they'll cook all the way through faster. 

Instead of watching the water boil for what will likely seem like all night, prepare the tomatillos. Around here, these are dirt cheap- I got the two pounds needed for this recipe for close to a dollar. Peel off the papery skins and wash.

Then slice in half like this. Freaking adorable little guys, huh. 

Place them face down on a baking sheet, along with your 4 peeled garlic cloves and chopped jalapenos. De-seed the jalapenos if you don't want as much heat. I used 2 1/2 jalapenos with the seeds for this batch and it was spicy as all hell for me, but as chola-bred as I am, I actually have no tolerance for chili heat. So it's all personal preference. 

By now, the oven should be preheated. Drizzle with olive oil and throw it in the broiler for 5-15 minutes until blackened. Like my mother, I always forget when I put things in the broiler, so setting the timer for every five minutes might be helpful. 

They should look beautiful and roasted like this once done. Let them cool enough to handle while you finish the potatoes. Also at this time, turn your oven down to 350 degrees.

If you timed it right, the potatoes would have been put in the boiling water about the same time as the peppers in the broiler. After being boiled for 15 minutes, drain the potatoes and put them back in the pot. 

Add 3 tbsp butter and smash them up a little. Add 3/4 cup almond milk and continue to smash them until you get the consistency you like. I like mine a bit chunky. 

Stir in chopped green onion, jalapeno, and salt and pepper. Remember this recipe for smashed potatoes for the future, because it is really damn good. 

By this time, the chili's and peppers should be cooled enough. Dump the whole pan of garlic, jalapeno and tomatillos in a blender, along with all the juices and seeds. Add 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro and 1/2 tsp or so of salt and blend away. You don't want it totally pureed, but salsa-like. Set aside while you assemble the taquitos. 

Now to assemble the goods. Microwave your corn tortillas and keep a warm towel over them while working with them to prevent them from cracking (note: as you will see soon, some of my last few tortillas still cracked when rolled, and as you can see in this picture, I didn't do a very good job at keeping them covered. Also, they were the end of the package of tortillas so I'm sure that didn't help).

Using your fingers, coat each tortilla with oil. You only need a tiny bit. Then scoop about 2 tbsp. of the potato filling into the tortilla. Roll, and stick with a toothpick and place on a baking sheet.

I made a dozen, but had some leftover fillings and plenty of salsa (but ran out of tortillas). All in all, you should be able to get about 20 taquitos.

Put in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes until they start to turn a nice golden brown color. 

Sprinkle Daiya pepperjack cheese allllll over. 1/2 cup went good for a dozen, but I probably would've used half the bag if I had enough. 

Pop back into the oven for another 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is perfectly melted and oozing all over the toasty, crunchy heaven-filled taquitos. At this point, I poured my salsa verde on top before I served them, to warm up the salsa a bit. But, they are just as scrumptious dipped in the salsa as well. 

Serve with guacamole and extra salsa. Sour cream would be divine, too. Voila!

Potato Taquitos with Salsa Verde
Prep time: 30 minutes Cook time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Makes 15-20 taquitos 

1 package corn tortillas
1/2-1 cup Daiya pepperjack cheese
2 tbsp olive oil

For the salsa verde:
2 lbs tomatillos (about a dozen)
2-3 jalepenos 
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp salt 

For the potato filling:
3-4 russet potatoes
2 green onions, sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup almond milk
salt and pepper (to taste)

For the salsa verde:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (to broil). 

Peel off skins of tomatillos and slice in half, horizontally. De-stem jalapenos and slice in half long-ways. De-seed if desired. Peel garlic cloves. Place all on a baking sheet face down, and drizzle with olive oil. 

Broil for 5-15 minutes, checking every so often, until blackened. Remove from oven and cool before handling.

Place all roasted veggies into a blender, including all juices and seeds from the baking sheet. Add salt and chopped cilantro. Blend until desired consistency. 

For the potato filling:
Bring a large pot of water to boil.

Peel potatoes and chop into large chunks. Boil in water for 15 minutes, until soft. Drain and put back into pot. 

Add butter and milk into pot and mash with a potato masher until desired consistency. Stir in sliced green onions and minced jalapeno. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Assembling the taquitos:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Microwave corn tortillas, wrapped with a moist paper towel a few seconds to soften (keep tortillas covered with paper towel while working to prevent cracking).

Place olive oil in shallow dish. Using your fingers, lightly coat each tortilla with oil. Scoop 1-2 tbsp of potato mixture into the center of tortilla and roll. Stick with a toothpick and place on baking sheet.

Bake 20-25 minutes, until the tortillas begin to develop a golden brown color. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake for an additional 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and the taquitos are brown and crunchy.

Serve with salsa verde, guacamole, sour cream, and any other toppings or dips of your choosing.

Monday, September 30, 2013

White Bean Spread

Vegan or not, hummus eventually gets kind of boring. Especially because it seems like the one vegetarian option on any menu is always hummus-based. I get it; wrap up some generic vegetables with lackluster hummus in a colored-tortilla and charge me $8. Whatever. The lack of imagination while eating out is mundane enough, the least I can do is switch it up when I'm at home. To support my boyfriend's meth-like hummus addiction, I  tend to whip up a batch at least once a week. To keep us from constant tahini stench, I've done my share of experimenting with hummus, adding every seasoning, herb or vegetable I could think of (I've even made pizza hummus!). But, no matter how many creative, interesting batches of hummus I've made, it's still just hummus. 

For some reason though, once you take the basic concept of hummus and switch up the beans, suddenly you've created hummus' sexy, carefree cousin. This is a recipe I made once for Big Girls Small Kitchen's delicious roasted eggplant sandwich last summer and just recently dug it back up. The best part about this spread? It goes with literally everything. Use it as a dip for fresh veggies, pitas, or in place of mayonnaise on any vegetable sandwich. Sometimes, I just eat it with a spoon. 

note: Cara's recipe is one of the best sandwiches I've ever had, by the way, so I highly recommend trying it as you harvest those eggplants from the garden!

You can use a can of any white bean (canellini, navy or great northern), but of all I've tried, I prefer cannelinni. Great northern beans are a little grainy and nutty, while cannelini's are perfectly creamy. 

Drain and rinse the beans, and toss them in your food processor or blender. 

You are also going to need 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, the juice from half a lemon, and some herbs. A few sprigs of fresh thyme will go perfect in this, otherwise a teaspoon of dried herbs, such as rosemary, works alright too. Feel free to play with your favorite herbs, and whatever you have on hand. I went ahead and used both fresh thyme and dried rosemary this time around. 

Add all ingredients, along with a tablespoon of olive oil and blend until smooth, adding salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. You may have to another tablespoon of olive oil if it is still coarse.

And that's it!

Serve with warmed pita, and you have a perfect snack in just a few minutes. 

White Bean Spread
total time: 5 minutes
makes 2 cups

1 can white beans
1 tbsp olive oil
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
1 garlic clove
juice of 1/2 a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Drain and rinse beans. 

Add all ingredients to food processor or blender and puree a few minutes until smooth. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

French Toast with Berry Syrup

Have you caught on how much I love breakfast? French toast was one of the first things I ever made vegan, and looking back, it doesn't even seem accurate distinguishing this as "vegan" because it's just french toast, minus an egg. Ridiculously easy, and a tad healthier... leaving room for extra powdered sugar.

Now, my family has been making batches of syrup from scratch during brunch my entire life. I'm pretty sure because most of the time we couldn't afford buying bottles of syrup, at least not at the rate my five brothers would find necessary to pour into their mouths for any given reason on a Tuesday afternoon. And eventually, I realized I never had the taste for pre-bought syrup anyway. But, there was one exception: Knott's boysenberry syrup. The slender bottles of purple gold my mother and I would tuck safely behind the condiments hidden from greedy sugar-raving children. Perfect for crepes, french toast, ice cream, nachos... (okay, really I actually tried that once so judge away). And then, one day not to long ago I realized I couldn't find any of my prized boysenberry syrup at the grocery store anymore. Apparently they decided to break my heart and sell the recipe to Smuckers. Well, I don't trust Smuckers. So what's a Hoff to do? 

Make it my damn self. All of it. 

And it is damn good. So, let's brew some coffee and go for it, already. 

I like to start with the syrup. Use 2-3 cups of whichever berries you prefer. I went with blueberries today, since I always have frozen blueberries on hand. Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, boysenberries...all of them equally delicious. Technically, you can use fresh or frozen, but since the berries will be cooked down and fresh are usually considerably more expensive, there really is no reason not to use frozen. In fact, take my advice and stock up on frozen berries each shopping trip. Berry season isn't an all-year privilege. 

First, lightly pulse the berries in a food processor (if you are using strawberries, chop them up a little bit first). You just want them a tad blended to boil down. Add 1/8 cup water and bring to boil, then simmer at medium low for 1-2 minutes with a lid. 

Strain the berry mixture through a metal strainer, using the spoon to ensure all the juicy goodness gets through. 

Pour the berry liquid back into the pot and combine 1/2 cup sugar. Cook on medium-high about 1-2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Bam! Perfect, easy, quick homemade berry syrup. Keep it to the side while you do the french toast, and warm it just before everything is ready. 

This is all you need for the batter (minus the coconut oil for frying). See? Not too different than what you are used to. 

Except for this. This egg replacer is a very useful item to have in your pantry, though it isn't totally necessary here. One banana will do for one batch, but I like adding a tablespoon of egg replacer to make the batter more creamer-like. All it is is a combination of flours and starches, so don't be afraid. 

Now, there are a ton of egg substitutes one can use- flax seed, applesauce, tapioca starch, flour etc.- but I've found bananas go best in french toast. And why not add a little more healthy fruit to the meal. Isn't that the point of omitting the egg after all?

Slice a loaf of bread into 1-2 inch slices, or however thick you like it. I used a putliese loaf, which is comparable to ciabatta. The extra crunch of the crust beside the moist french toast just makes me a happy fat kid. But, of course day-old sourdough or french loaf will do. This batter should be able to soak 8 thick slices. 

To create your eggless batter, start by mashing the banana into baby-food mush. That made it sound really tasty, right? Well, I happen to like banana baby food, so deal with it. 

Then pour in the almond milk, and mix in the egg replacer if you're using it, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla extract. Now, if you use vanilla almond milk, you probably don't need the extract as well, unless you're one of those people that chew on vanilla bean all the time. Exactly, there aren't those people.

Soak your slices for a bit on each side until the batter soaks up the bread all the way through. 

Heat up your griddle to 350 degrees (or medium high if you are on the stove top) and brush coconut oil onto it. 

Cook up five or seven or ten minutes or so on each side until golden brown. 

Is it just me or does french toast take FOREVER to cook??

Oh, but it is sooooo worth it. Top it off with warm berry syrup, powdered sugar, and fresh berries. Perfection is served. 

French Toast and Berry Syrup
Prep time: 5 mins Cook time: 20-30 minutes
Total time: about 30-40 minutes 
Makes 8 thick-cut slices

Berry Syrup:
2-3 cups frozen berries
1/8 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

French Toast:
loaf ciabatta bread
1 cup almond milk
1 ripe banana
1 tbsp egg replacer (optional)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract
coconut oil (for frying)

For syrup:
Lightly blend berries in food processor. Combine with water in a pot and bring to boil. Simmer on medium-low 1-2 minutes, covered. 

Strain berries in metal strainer. Combine liquid and sugar back into pot and cook on medium-high until sugar is dissolved for another 1-2 minutes. 

Serve warm. 

For toast:
Slice bread into thick slices. 

Mash banana into large bowl. Add egg replacer, milk, vanilla and spices and mix well. 

Brush coconut oil on heated griddle (350 degrees or medium-high). Soak each slice of bread in batter and fry on griddle 5-10 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked all the way through. 

Top with warmed syrup and other toppings. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Italian Herb Polenta Cakes

Yes, I'm finally going to give an easy, not-from-scratch meal. Even I don't feel like spending an hour or more in the kitchen all the time.

When grocery shopping, I usually pick up a few products to get me through those busy (or more often than not, lazy) days, and to prevent me from going all in and giving in to the black hole habit of take-out. 

So here are some not-so-cheating products I picked up: pesto paste (unintentionally vegan- love when that happens), and a tube of pre-seasoned polenta. I was able to find both at the "regular" grocery store, though I've also seen packaged polenta at other stores, including Sprouts. Both items are just a few bucks each, and will save you tons of time and dirty dishes by just having them on hand. 

Since my polenta is styled with Italian herb, I chose grape tomatoes, parsley, and green onions to accompany it. 

Annnnnnd pine nuts. I just love pine nuts. They are creamy, earthy, and go perfect with Italian herbs. Plus, since I don't have to make my own pesto for this, I have some extra to actually eat. This is going to be a good day. 

First start by slicing the polenta into 1/2 inch thick cakes. 

Heat up 1-2 tbsp of olive oil, and fry up the cakes for about 3-5 minutes on each side. They should have hints of golden brown, but remain spongy. Note: don't saute garlic in the oil prior to frying them like I did. Charred garlic = not tasty.

While the cakes are cooking, chop up the veggies. I like to slice my green onions diagonally and chop my grape tomatoes in fours to keep them thick and juicy. 

Once the polenta cakes are cooked, spread some yummy pesto on top. As much or as little as you like, but a tsp per cake should be sufficient. 

Then, start stacking the veggies!

There really is a science to throwing piles of vegetables on a plate. I should get paid for this. 

Finish off by squeezing some fresh lemon juice on top, and tada! Ten minutes, a few bucks, one pan and no stress. 

Italian Herb Polenta Cakes
Prep time: 3-5 minutes Cook time: 6-10 minutes
Total: 10-15 minutes
Makes about 12 cakes/4 servings

1 package pre-seasoned polenta
1+ cup chopped grape tomatoes
4+ sliced green onions
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/2 cup pine nuts
olive oil (for frying)
fresh lemon juice (for garnish)

Remove polenta from tube. Slice into 1/2 thick cakes. Heat olive oil in large frying pan and cook cakes for 3-5 minutes on each side until slightly golden brown.

Cut up veggies.

Once cooked, squeeze a dollop of pesto on each cake. Stack veggies on cakes, finishing with pine nuts and parsley  Squeeze fresh lemon on top to garnish.