Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vegan Stuffed Peppers

Peppers are one of my all time favorite vegetables. I think I can seriously put them in everything. I'll chop them up raw and put them in salads. I'll mix them in pasta or risotto. I'll grill them on skewers. My favorite way to eat peppers is probably to dice them up and put them in an omelet for breakfast. I don't think I have ever made bell peppers the star of a recipe though. I think its time. I've always wanted to make stuffed peppers. One day, I'll become brave and make myself some stuffed jalapenos or some other spicy pepper, but for now I think I'll start with the basic bell pepper.

The thing about peppers is that you can stuff them with anything. How about Quinoa, or ground beef, or oats? I don't know about the oat thing. I've heard of it being done but it sounds a little strange to me. Anyway, I decided I would start with rice as my base. Brown risotto rice to be specific. Get creative though, use whatever you have on hand.

Vegan Stuffed Peppers
-2 cups cooked rice- if you have leftovers, go for it. If you're making the rice though, make it just a tad undercooked since it will cook more when you bake it
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes with their juice
- 1 medium red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 short turns on a pepper grinder, or just a little bit of pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 6 medium-sized bell peppers
- about 3/4 cup grated vegan cheese

To begin, coat the bottom of a pan with the olive oil and add in the chopped onion and mixed garlic. Saute until the onions start to brown. Set aside.

Next, mix together the rice tomatoes, salt, pepper, and basil. Add in the onions and garlic. Stir it all around really well. You can do this ahead of time if you want to! Just mix it all together, put in some tupperware and pop it in the fridge.

Now is when you are going to want to preheat your oven. I set mine, since I'm currently in the UK to 160 degrees C. That converts to 320 degrees F or somewhere around there.

While you're waiting for the oven to heat up, prepare the peppers for stuffing. Cut the top off of each pepper, cutting enough so that the stem comes off with it. Save the top, because you will put it back on before baking. Empty and rinse out the inside of the pepper making sure to dry afterward. Also, make sure that your peppers can stand on their own. You may have to shave a little off the bottom. Just make sure that you don't shave off so much that it makes a whole in your pepper. Then it will be a hot mess all over your pan oven, other peppers, etc. Last thing to get your pepper prepped is to rub it with a little olive oil, or really any vegetable oil, on both the hollowed out part of the pepper and the top.

Once the peppers are all cleared out and rubbed up, fill each one
with about 1/2 cup of the filling, depending on the size of your peppers, and place them on a baking tray. It should fill to evenly line up with the top edge. Now just put the tops on and place the tray in the oven. You will bake for a total of about 45 minutes, turning the tray 90 degrees halfway through. Also, 10 minutes before they're done, take them out, take off the tops and top with grated cheese. Keep the tops off and place them beside the pepper on the tray, stem side down, and place the tray back in the oven for the remaining time. They should look a little charred in places and they should taste wonderful!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Hello everyone! I am sorry that it has been awhile since my last post. As I have mentioned before, I am in London for the semester so I have been busy sight-seeing and traveling and pretending to study, etc. The truth is that although I have been cooking a bit since my last post, there haven't really been any new recipes coming from my kitchen and nothing really worth posting. But, alas, it is Valentine's Day tomorrow and I thought that called for a new post: a sweet post. Because what is Valentine's Day with a whole lot of sugar, right?

Last year I made these scones in a heart shape for me and my roommates for breakfast. The scones were followed by a heart shaped pizza and sparkling cider (because I was only 20 and I'm an angel) and probably loads of chocolate but I can't remember.

This year, two friends and I bought some sparkling strawberry wine and plan to pick up cupcakes from a local bakery to celebrate the occasion (as we are all in a new city and don't have dates) but I decided something homemade would be a nice addition. Why not meringues? They have the most beautiful giant meringues at pretty much every London market and seeing them all the time has made me want to try and make some of my own.

I have a confession though- they kind of failed. First, i didn't have parchment paper so i decided oiling the pan would be fine. Second, I think I overcooked them because I was working on a paper and not keeping track of time. When trying to get them off of the pan, I kind of massacred the whole thing. This goes to show that parchment paper or one of the non-stick sheets really is necessary. I ended up trying a couple that I actually could get off the pan and they actually did taste good. They didn't have the chewy texture on the inside like I wanted (due to over-baking them) but the flavor was right. So, all in all I don't think the recipe is the problem, I think it was my carelessness. So I am going to give you the recipe anyway and hopefully you will have better luck with it. It just wouldn't be Valentine's Day without a celebratory blog post.

Valentine's Day Classic Meringues
4 whole egg whites
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Before you begin, preheat the oven to 215 degrees F and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Start by separating all of your eggs and placing the egg whites into a mixing bowl (either metal or glass but not plastic). With a hand mixer, beat on medium until stiff peaks form.

Once stiff peaks form, start to add the granulated sugar in, a little bit at a time. It should take you about 5 or 6 additions to add all of the sugar in. Each time you add more sugar, beat the mixture for about 4 seconds before adding more.

Once all of the granulated sugar is incorporated, turn off the mixer. Now add 1/3 of the powdered sugar and fold it into the egg whites. Keep doing this, 1/3 at a time, until you have added all of the powdered sugar.

Next place spoonfuls of the mixture onto the parchment lined baking sheet, leaving a little room for the meringues to expand. Try, if you so desire, to swirl the drops so that the meringues turn out pretty. Now all that is left is to bake for about 75 minutes. The meringues should sound crisp when tapped on. The texture should be crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Let them cool either on the baking sheet or on a cooling rack before eating!

Yep, that's it. That's the basic recipe. To spice things up you could add an extract like vanilla, or almond, or maybe even peppermint for the holidays? Or maybe to make it pretty you could add some food coloring before baking when you are folding in the powdered sugar. I scattered multi-colored sprinkles on top before baking and they turned out really cute!

My Meringues- not beautiful but cute in their own quirky way. (Forgive my lack of a decent backdrop for pictures)

Meringues at Borough Market. This is what I aspire to be able to make!

They say (or someone says) the quickest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, so if any ladies have forgotten a Valentine's gift, last minute baking is always an option. And men... girls love a guy who can cook.

Happy Valentine's Day Everyone!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Citrus Polenta Cookies

Need a little sunshine in your winter? I know I do, especially here where its constantly cloudy and drizzly. What better way to bring sunshine than these golden yellow cookies infused with light citrus flavor?

They are kind of the perfect combination between cornbread and cookies.

I really just don't have too much to say except to give you this recipe. Warning: you can't very well sneak one of these without anyone noticing because they are really crumbly.

Citrus Polenta Cookies
1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup all-purpose, self-rising gluten free mix
1/4 teaspoon salt
grated rind of 1/2 a lemon
grated rind of 1/2 an orange
4 tablespoons vegan butter
1/2 cup raw cane sugar
1 large egg

*makes about 18 cookies*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

First, whisk together the polenta, flour, salt, and grated rind.

Then add in 4 tablespoons of softened vegan butter. Mix together as well as you can.

Add in the egg and continue to mix until you get a dough.

Roll into small/medium sized balls and place on a buttered pan.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Do you see the pretty little specs of orange? That's my favorite part. Oh and the tacky paper napkin? My second favorite part.