Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Spicy Chorizo Calzones

Sometimes when Hubbs and I pass the pizza store on Church Avenue as we do our grocery shopping, he thinks he needs pizza suddenly, but costing $3 a slice (meaning just sauce and cheese - Hubbs is not vegan, remember), it can add up.  And what quality of ingredients to they really use anyway?  I am always telling him that I would much rather make it myself with quality ingredients and have him eat something made with love.  So he got the brilliant idea the other day to make calzones.  I'm not sure if he's even ever had them before, but saw them in the pizza store, got really excited and wanted them. 

I have definitely mastered the pizza thing, but I've never made a calzone before.  So, I of course went online and followed some instructions off of someone's blog (of course I can't remember which blog now).  I really liked how they weighed out the dough to keep things consistent.  They suggested using 4 oz. pieces of dough.  I've made the dough a thousand times before but have never weighed it, so that seemed like a decent number to me.  Now, however, thinking back, that was a HUGE piece of raw dough, because it still had to proof, then bake, which would make it about 2 times the size. 

So, using a double batch of pizza dough, I ended up making 8 incredibly giant calzones, 3 of which I ended up freezing, because once we ate them for several days straight, we didn't want to see them for a long time to come!  So here is the process I went through making them for the first time.  I will definitely make them smaller next time and not fill them as full, because several of them lost their delicious cheesy filling.  We'll just have to wait till next time to see how much better they will be.  They were crazy delicious though, especially when dipped in warm homemade marinara sauce!  Yum!

Spicy Chorizo Calzones:

Yes, I am a GIANT calzone, but made Hubbs happy!

Pizza Dough:
1 cup warm water, not too hot
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 teaspoon turbinado sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups unbleached flour

vegan cheese, shredded
sauteed green peppers and onions
homemade marinara sauce
vegan sausages, cooked and sliced

1.  To prepare the dough: place the water, yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine.  Allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes until bubbly.  If it does not bubble up, the yeast may be dead, so start over.
2.  Into the bubbled up mixture, add the olive oil and sea salt.  Mix again.  While the stand mixer is working, add the flour in 1/2 cup increments until it is all incorporated.  Mix for a couple minutes, until when the dough is touched, it springs back. 
3.  Place a towel over the dough, place it in a warm place and allow it to double in size, about 45-60 minutes. 
4.  In the meantime, prepare the rest of the ingredients: saute the veggies, prepare the marinara sauce, shred the cheese, saute and slice the sausages.
5.  Punch the dough back down and separate the dough into 2 ounce pieces.  Generously flour the countertop, roll the piece of dough in the flour and roll out into a nice sized circle. 
6.  Place the cheese, veggies, sausages and marinara in the very center of the circle.  Do not overfill.  Carefully place the top of the dough over the center, and using a fork, press the dough together to create a good seal. 
7.  Finish the rest of the calzones as above.  Once the calzones are filled, place on a oiled baking sheet and again cover with a towel.  Allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
8.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
9.  Once the calzones have risen again, place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the dough has cooked all the way through and the top is nice and golden.  Let cool for several minutes before serving.

The uncooked pizza dough with the "cheese" & sauteed veggies
& my flour bin in the background (didn't notice it there before)

Topping with the cooked vegan sausages

Homemade Marinara

Sealed the calzone

After the calzone baked, all the cheesy goodness
seeping out the side.

Fresh baked calzone sliced in half for the Hubbs
How freaking delicious does this look??



Homemade Marinara Sauce

I know there are a lot of people out there that always but their own marinara or pasta sauce, either because they think they are too busy or because they think marinara is difficult to make.  I don't think there should be an excuse to buy marinara ever again, because this recipe is so simple and so quick.  The only vegetables you actually have to cut/chop are the onions and the garlic.  And it only needs half an hour to cook, most of which is inactive time.  This means that you are free to do something else while the sauce is cooking itself.  Keep in mind that this is a very basic, but incredibly tasty marinara sauce.  Most of the time I make this exact recipe, but I have been know to add things to it depending on my mood.  I have added chiffonaded fresh basil at the very end of cooking, Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo to make a spicy marinara, as well as a vodka sauce - add vodka and a cream substitute (unsweetened soy or almond milk works well), and a marinara with red wine.  There are so many options, but start off by making this one.  And if you like your sauce smooth, simply use an immersion/hand blender and blend it right in the pot, or allow it to cool slightly and blend it in the blender.  So easy.  Another great idea is to at least double or triple the recipe.  Use what you need and freeze the rest in pint and quart containers.  The next time you need marinara in a hurry, you won't have to reach for that bottled sauce - simply place the frozen marinara in a small pot over medium heat, and you will have a hot homemade sauce in ten minutes. 


Large Bowl of Homemade Marinara!  Yummy!

Yields: 1-1 1/2 quarts

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, small diced, about 1 1/2 cups
8 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups of cooked tomatoes, crushed with your hands
2 tablespoons tomato paste, optional - makes sauce thicker
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crushed with fingers

1.  Place a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and allow it to become hot.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring periodically, for about 10 minutes, or until golden and fragrant.  Now add the spices: sea salt, black pepper, dried basil, oregano and thyme.  Stir to combine.  You could add the spices to the sauteed onions and garlic, or you could wait until after adding the tomatoes - whichever you prefer.  I prefer to add them to the sauteed veggies because I feel that it helps to evenly distribute the spices. 
2.  Now add both the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste, stirring until all the ingredients are well combined. 
3.  Allow the marinara to come to a simmer.  Once the mixture begins to simmer, turn the heat down to medium-low.  Allow the marinara to gently simmer for about half an hour, stirring periodically.  At the end of the half hour of simmering, taste the marinara and adjust spices or salt level. 
4.  The marinara is now ready to use.

Close Up of the Deliciousness!



Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vegan Takeout in Brooklyn: "Shrimp" Pad Thai & Sesame "Chicken"

Hubbs and I try not to eat out a lot.  Here in NY eating out can happen a lot and is so convenient that you're eating out before you even think about it.  Unfortunately, with our busy schedules, sometimes it's unavoidable.  Thankfully we have this place in the neighborhood that delivers right to our apartment.  It's called Zen Vegetarian House.  It's an Asian Fusion restaurant that has pretty tasty food, you just have to watch out for the overly fried stuff.  Hubbs being from a tropical place right on the water loves everything to do with fish.  Even vegetarian fish (I know it doesn't seem to make sense, but it tastes very realistic).  So he ordered the Shrimp Pad Thai and I ordered the Sesame Chicken.  I'ev used the vegan shrimp before in recipes I've made at home, so I know how tasty it is, and that was my suggestion for the Hubby to order.  He loved it!

I used to absolutely love the sesame chicken offered at Chinese restaurants back in Michigan when I wasn't vegetarian.  I've tried to make the sauce several times and serve it over seitan, but it isn't exactly the same thing.  However, when I ordered it for the first time at Zen, I was amazed that it tasted exactly like what I remembered it tasting all those years ago.  So, that's another challenge I think I should take on coming up - figuring out how to make sesame sauce so I can make my own vegan sesame chicken using the soy chicken I buy at May Wah in Chinatown.  The best place ever - check it out!

"Shrimp" Pad Thai

Sesame "Chicken" with Broccoli



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

8/31/2012: The Art of Baking & Decorating Vegan, Gluten Free, Soy Free Cakes Class

I have been very busy lately with teaching my vegan, gluten free, soy free baking classes at the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan these last few weeks.  I have had one class per week for the last three weeks, which doesn't seem like a lot, but that amounts to lots of organizing and planning and 16-18 hour days.  But I love teaching.  It has become such a great passion and excitement in my life and I only wish I could do it more.  I also love that I am always meeting new and interesting people from so many different walks of life.  I really enjoy this little part of the class I do in the beginning, where I ask all of the students to give a little introduction about themselves and why they are taking the class. I am always surprised by the wide range of answers.  Sometimes it is because of food allergies or sensitivities.  Other times because people want to learn to bake vegan or gluten free, or both.  Sometimes there is also a person in their lives that is following a certain diet that they need to accommodate; they have a business where customers are requesting gluten free and they want to learn to incorporate dishes into their business, etc.  I love to hear their stories!

As I have said in the past, with my schedule being pretty crazy with work, menu writing, recipe testing and business plan writing, it does not leave a lot of time for blogging.  However, I am still taking the same volume of pictures, maybe more as my husband claims (insert roll of eyes) and I have at least 200 blog posts half finished with the recipes written down and/or the pictures hanging around.  So I really want to get these recipes or pics out there for you guys to check out, so perhaps for a while I am going to be posting some with pictures, some with recipes, and some with a short blurb.  I'll see how that works and go from there. 

Until then, take a look at some of the cakes my students decorated in the gluten free cake and cake decorating class I taught on August 31st.  Until recently, I had been taking my own pictures of the cakes or pastries the students make, but I feel like that takes time away from the students, so lately I have been having one of the amazing assistants take the pictures throughout the class, and that has been a tremendous help.  I am so thankful for those ladies!  Couldn't do my classes without them, that is for sure!!

Cakes Decorated by my Students:

Pineapple Coconut Cake with Toasted Coconut Frosting

Demo Cake - I know it isn't pretty, but it shows the different
techniques we were practicing.

Strawberry Swirl Cake with Strawberry Creme Frosting,
Garnished with Hazelnuts

Strawberry Swirl Cake with Strawberry Creme Frosting

Hazelnut Cake with Maple Frosting & Chocolate
Frosting Decorations

Hazelnut Cake with Maple Caramel Frosting

Spiced Banana Cake with Creamy Chocolate Frosting