Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mad Pizza Skillz

Living in Los Angeles is a vegan pizza lover's dream. There are so many places offering vegan pizzas and even one pizzeria that has gone totally vegan. Even with all these options I still find it necessary to make my own pies at home. Why? Besides having "mad pizza skillz" it's way more cost effective. Unfortunately vegan pizzeria's break my bank. It's easy to spend upwards of $30 on one pie. I can eat three to four times as much homemade pizza for that price! Although you may sweat a little (or a lot) making these this summer, they are totally worth the effort. Sure you can buy pre-made dough at Trader Joe's (I used to) but making your own pies from scratch will make you feel extra radtastic in the kitchen.

Basic Pizza Dough

  • 3 cups unbleached, bread flour 
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to coat
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons vegan sugar


Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water and let stand 10 minutes or so, until the mixture begins to froth up. In a large bowl mix bread flour, sugar and salt. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil, blend then mix with hands to form the dough. Knead for 7 - 10 minutes. This also doubles as a good arm workout so reap the rewards. If you have a buff significant other or roommate, let them do the dirty work. Also, kneading helps build up the gluten in the dough which makes for a nice chewy crust. So knead some more if you like. Form into a ball, lightly oil the surface, cover with plastic wrap or a clean, lightly dampened towel and allow to rest for 1 hour in a well oiled bowl.

While the dough rests get all your toppings prepped. After the dough has rested for an hour remove from the bowl, split into two balls for two medium thin crust pizzas or 1 extra large pizza. Stretch and roll out dough on a cold pizza stone or lightly oiled metal pan. Cover with your sauce and favorite toppings and bake in a 450 degree oven for 20-35 minutes depending on your oven and preferences. If you have a peel, slide that bad boy on a pre heated stone.


Invest in a pizza stone and peel if possible. You can probably find one under $10 at a discount retail shop (Ross, Big Lots, etc). Sometimes they even come in sets with a pizza cutter and serving tray.

Sometimes I use my favorite jar variety marinara sauce. It's great in a pinch, but tends to be too watery for pizza. Try making your own pizza sauce using tomato paste, a couple tablespoons of water, minced garlic, fresh and/or dried herbs, red pepper flakes, a pinch of sugar and salt and pepper to taste. I love having another reason to use fresh herbs from my garden. Try combining basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary.

To keep your dough from sticking to the stone sprinkle a thin layer of cornmeal.

For an extra crispy crust pre-heat your pizza stone, sprinkle with cornmeal, then roll out the dough on the stone and work quickly to get all the sauce and toppings placed.

If you want a slight crispiness with a soft and chewy crust, roll your dough on a room temperature stone.

For extra flavor brush the edges of your pizza crust with olive oil during the last 5 minutes of baking. Sprinkle on a little sesame seed while you're at it.

This dough can be used to make bread sticks or garlic bread twists. Just roll it out into long, skinny logs and twist together. Coat with vegan margarine, minced garlic, salt, nutrition yeast and fresh or dried herbs. Or try stuffing them with vegan cheese for cheesy bread. They are insanely tasty with marinara sauce. I've even made sweets with this dough using vegan margarine, diced apples, cinnamon and sugar. Just roll them up like cinnamon rolls.

Extra dough can be kept refrigerated up to 5 days. If using dough that has been refrigerated, place on counter and allow dough to come to room temperature before attempting to roll out and bake.

Here are some of my favorite pizza topping combinations:

Supreme style:
Daiya Italian blend vegan cheese, Field Roast Italian sausage, roasted garlic, black olives, baby bella mushrooms, green bell peppers, tomatoes and red onion with fresh basil

Garden blend: Daiya Italian blend vegan cheese, zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, garlic and spinach

BBQ Chicken: BBQ sauce base, Gardein chicken strips coated in BBQ sauce, red onions, tempeh bacon and Daiya Italian Blend vegan cheese topped with fresh cilantro

Gourmet style: Artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, spinach and roasted garlic with a bechamel sauce base.

Margherita: Lots of vegan cheese and fresh tomato slices. When removed from the oven, top with fresh basil. The heat from the pizza will lightly wilt the basil and release the aromatics. It's a classic combo with tons of flavor.

The possibilities are endless and there are tons of awesome mock meats and vegan cheeses (I'm a big fan of Teese and Daiya) on the market. Go crazy! Don't be surprised if you want to start lining your oven with bricks once you've mastered this recipe.

Monday, July 19, 2010

I love chickens. In a different way.

Being vegan doesn't mean I have to stop eating all the tasty Mexican food I enjoyed while growing up. Sure I can live on rice and beans alone, but I don't have to. Sometimes I like to revisit childhood favorites by giving them a vegan spin. There's nothing more satisfying than recreating something I thought I would never have again. In this dish I've simply switched the chicken for plant based protein and kept the rest all the same. This is a take on my aunt's recipe. Shh. For your eyes only.

Tia Argelia's Chickenless Fajitas

  • 1 package of Gardein (or Trader Joes) Chickenless Chicken Strips
  • 6 corn tortillas or 4 medium flour tortillas
  • 1/2 medium red bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 medium green bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 medium purple bell pepper, sliced into strips (optional)
  • 1/4 red onion, sliced
  • 1/4 white, yellow or brown onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil

The Marinade:

  • Juice of 1 large orange
  • Juice of 2 medium limes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/3 medium onion, sliced or minced
  • 1 handful of cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • few grinds of fresh pepper
  • salt to taste
  • Fresh Guacamole
  • Hot sauce or salsa
  • Vegan sour cream
  • Veganaise (My boyfriend's favorite)


Making the marinade

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a glass, non-metallic bowl or zip lock bag. Add in your Gardein strips and coat pieces evenly. Marinate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. If possible go longer and marinate at least overnight for maximum flavor potential!


Over medium-high heat add 1 tablespoon of oil in a hot skillet. Carefully add the chickenless chicken strips and cook until slightly charred and browned, about 7-10 minutes, stirring often. Once you get a nice crispy edge, pour about a 1/3 cup of the marinade on the strips to infuse more flavor and to de-glaze the pan. Keep stirring and scraping the pan. All those charred bits = flavor!

Once most of the liquid has evaporated add in your onions, garlic and bell peppers, stirring constantly to prevent sticking.

Taste for salt and add a little if necessary. Cook for another 4-6 minutes or until veggies are slightly charred, tender yet crisp. Try not to cook the veggies to death. Preserve their awesome nutrition!

Serve in piping hot tortillas with your favorite toppings. I like Hector's Fresh Guacamole and tapatio hot sauce. Serves 2-4 (if you're like me, it's more like 2)


If you want to take it to the limit try grilling these up on a well-greased BBQ grill.

Heat your tortillas on a hot, dry pan or comal over medium heat.

Use whatever awesome veggies are in season at your local farmer's market. I found cool looking purple bell peppers this Sunday. They taste like mild green bell peppers.

Far left: purple bell peppers

I'm sure this meal will make you shout out con un grito! Ajua!!!!

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Veggie Whisperer

Since making the switch from store bought produce to farmer's market produce I feel a serious connection to my food. Even more so since I started a container garden in my stairwell. Needless to say I find myself aspiring to become a veggie whisperer. Sometimes the veggies just tell me what they wish to become. Apparently a lot of my veggies like transforming into tofu quiches. That or my boyfriend has been playing a lot of music with subliminal messages demanding a quiche even on the hottest of days. Whatever the case I'm hooked on a feelin'! I've been making these bad boys every which way, but this so far has been my favorite.

Tofu Quiche with Asparagus, Leeks and Eryngii Mushrooms


  • 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 C vegetable shortening, chilled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 ts sea salt
  • 4-8 TB very cold water with ice


  • 1 1/3 packages of firm tofu, drained
  • 3 TB olive oil + 1 TB for sauteeing
  • 2 large garlic cloves + 1 clove, minced
  • 3 heaping TB nutritional yeast
  • 2 ts onion powder
  • 1 ts turmeric
  • 1 ts black salt
  • 1/2 ts sea salt + a few fresh grinds of pepper
  • 1 TB fresh oregano, chopped or 1/2 ts dried oregano
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh Thyme or 1/2 ts dried thyme
  • 1/2 TB fresh Italian flat parsley or 1/4 ts dried parsley
  • 1/3 C Daiya vegan cheddar (or your favorite shredded vegan cheddar)
  • 3/4 C Eryngii (King Oyster) mushrooms, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 C leeks, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 Asparagus spears, trimmed and sliced, tips reserved for topping


Preparing the crust

In a large bowl combine flour and salt, mix thoroughly. With fingers, forks or a pastry cutter work quickly to cut vegetable shortening into the flour salt mixture. If using hands, pinch shortening into flour. Resulting mixture will have fat chunks the size of a pea. Spoon in chilled water one tablespoon at a time, mixing gently with a fork after each addition. Use only as much water as you need to gently form the dough into a ball. Handle the dough as little as possible to avoid creaming the lumps of fat into the flour. There should be small balls of fat throughout the dough as this encourages a flaky crust. Overworking the dough will make it tough and dense. Split the dough into two equal amounts. Pat them into balls and wrap them in plastic wrap. Allow dough to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Dough can be made a day ahead.

Rolling out the dough

Remove one ball of dough from the refrigerator and place on a well floured, flat surface. Sprinkle a little flour on the ball and flatten gently with hands. Using a lightly dusted rolling pin, begin rolling at the center of the dough and work outwards. For easier clean up you can roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper. Working quickly, roll the dough into a circle ¼-inch thick or smaller. Be sure to make dough a few inches larger than your pie pan or dish.

Gently fold the dough in half, and then into quarters and carefully place it into a lightly oiled pie plate so the center of dough is in the center of the pan. Carefully unfold the dough and press into the pan. Trim any excess dough and feel free to pinch the edges to make a fancy edge around the crust. Cover gently with waxed paper and place in refrigerator while you prepare your filling.

Preparing the filling

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor add chunks of the tofu, two garlic cloves, nutritional yeast, onion powder, turmeric, pepper grinds, salt and black salt. Stream in the oil and process until smooth. Remove mixture from processor and pour into bowl using a spatula or scraper to get every last bit. Add in fresh herbs.

Meanwhile bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add in the asparagus. Cook for 1 minute, remove from hot water and place into a bowl of ice water to halt the cooking process. Remove from ice water, lightly pat dry and set aside.

In a large saute pan heat 1 TB of oil and saute the leeks and the minced garlic clove for about 6 minutes, add the chopped mushrooms and continue cooking until soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Remove chilled pie crust from refrigerator. With a fork make a few holes in the bottom of the crust. Place a sheet of parchment paper on the crust and add pie weights, dry beans or dry rice to help blind bake the dough. This keeps the dough from getting soggy from the filling and prevents air bubbles from forming. Bake for 10 minutes.

While the crust is blind baking, fold in the Daiya, leeks, mushrooms and asparagus to the tofu mixture and gently mix to combine. Reserve a few asparagus tips as a decorative topping for the quiche. Pour mixture into your pre-baked pie crust, arrange asparagus in an whatever formation you like (I like stars) and bake for 45 or until crust is golden and tofu is firm. Allow 10 minutes to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.


1.) Left over dough can be used for all kinds of deliciousness like pot pie casserole. Dough is also great for fruit pies. Fill with your favorite fruit or pie fillings, then brush with soymilk and sprinkle with sugar.

2.) Get adventurous. Check out your farmers market and purchase local, seasonal veggies for your quiche. My favorite combos so far: Kale, Leeks and Cheddar (see below); Spinach and Mushrooms; Spinach, Leeks and Zucchini. The possibilities are endless!

3.) Black salt can be found at most Indian spice stores or can be found online. It imparts an egg-y, sulfuric aroma that really fools the mind and ups the egginess to another level. Use it in tofu scrambles or any egg imitation you like. Use with caution -- it is salt after all.

4.) I almost always use Daiya cheddar cheese for my quiches. It makes things seem more egg-y.

Don't be surprised if you end up making this three times a month. It's a labor of love, but you will reap the rewards.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Meditate on this for a while.

Another cookie experiment gone awesome. Used PPK's Mexican Chocolate cookie recipe, subtracted cinnamon & cayenne, threw in coarsely chopped almonds and Chicago Soydairy Dandies marshmallows. Needless to say, these rule.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Never toss a perfectly rotten banana

We've all seen it happen, that shopping spree at the farmer's market or grocery store inevitably tossed out with the morning garbage. Wasted food. Wasted cash. Don't throw out your hard earned dollars! Make compost. Then make muffins!

Banana Muffins with Walnuts and Carob Chips

  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 5 over-ripened bananas, mashed (totally blackened bananas are perfectly fine)
  • 1 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water ( plus 2-3 tablespoons, if necessary)
  • 1/4 cup non dairy milk
  • 1 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup carob chips or your favorite vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C walnuts, coarsely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease your muffin tins or use liners.

In a large bowl mix all the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl mix the sugar and the oil until thoroughly combined. Add the mashed banana to the sugar and oil mixture and mix. Add in non-dairy milk, 1/4 cup of water and vanilla. Toss walnuts and chips into the flour mixture and coat pieces. Gradually add dry ingredients to wet and mix everything well. A few good scrapes and turns with a spatula should do. Avoid over mixing, you don't want rubbery muffins. Not all bananas are created equal. If mixture seems too thick, add in a little extra water a couple tablespoons at a time and gently mix to combine.

Evenly pour the batter into the muffin tins using an ice cream scooper or large spoon. Fill each cup about 3/4 of the way or slightly higher for a nice, puffy muffin top. Bake for about 30 - 35 minutes. Insert a toothpick or knife in the center of the muffins, if knife comes out clean they are done!

Now the next time you see your friends tossing out their rotten bananas, give 'em the stink eye. Then take their bananas and make these muffins or pour the batter into a loaf pan and make banana bread (bake for an extra 10-15 minutes). You can also mash up a rotting naner into your favorite pancake batter for banana pancakes. I suppose you could invite your produce tossin' friends too.