How to Roast Peppers


It’s hard to beat the flavor of roasted peppers. They add a great dimension to salads, sandwiches, chili, breakfast cereals, etc. Plus, adding the words ‘Roasted Pepper’ to any recipe makes it sound like it has a higher skill level. Just a heads-up, though: this flavor can be overwhelming. While tooling around with my Baller-Ass Chili, I used some roasted poblano peppers and it was all I could taste. So, if you want to use roasted peppers, make sure to build the dish around this ingredient or use a very small amount.

The best part about roasted peppers: easy as hell to make. So easy, there’s no need to EVER buy them in a jar. If you own a grill, oven, or gas stove, you can save some money (and if you don’t own these things, what the hell are you doing on my blog?). My favorite method is the gas stove, but the others work just as well—albeit a little slower.

First of all, rub the pepper with oil

Second:

For a grill: Place over medium-high to high heat. Rotate and char on all sides.

For an oven: Place under the broiler on high as close to the heating unit as you can get while still avoiding direct contact. Rotate and char on all sides.

For a gas stove: Place directly over a high flame. Rotate and char on all sides.

It’s important to not let the pepper sit on the heat too long after it blackens; you just want to char the skin, not cook the pepper all the way through.

Once all sides are blackened, place the pepper into a container and cover. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Make sure to get cover the pepper as quickly as possible—you want the heat to steam it so the skin can peel right off. When the time is up, just use your hands and peel the skin. I don’t recommend leaving it on—it tastes like straight burn, not too good. You can go over to my Baked Chili Rellenos recipe to see these roasted poblanos put into action.

Welcome to flavor country.

Baked Chile Rellenos


Fried food is awesome. Cheesy food is awesome. Spicy food is awesome. Unfortunately, two of the three can he brutal to your health when consumed too often (whereas the third can just be every other kind of brutal). Hence my dilemma with chile rellenos: friggin’ awesome, but friggin’ brutal. Below is a baked version that manages to keep the crispiness, thanks to panko flakes, and cheesiness, thanks to sour cream and fat free cheese.

Here are the ingredients:

6 poblano peppers, as dark and firm as you can find (TWSS)

1 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1/2-cup sour cream

1-cup fat free cheddar cheese

1-cup panko breadcrumbs (possibly more, if needed)

1 pinch each salt, pepper, Adobo light seasoning

1 egg

1/2-cup skim milk

Makes 3-6 servings.

Roast the peppers. (I have a section on roasting peppers on another page.) When the peppers are done roasting and the skin is removed, cut a 2-3 inch slit in each—enough to get some stuffing in there. Here’s a really important step: extract as much of the veins and seeds as you can; this is where all of the heat is. I can handle spicy stuff so I only took out about 2/3 of the seeds. I was sweating by the end of my meal and looking for something to cool my mouth off. Any spicier and I probably wouldn’t have been able to finish my meal. So, if you don’t like spicy, be really anal about getting the innards out or use another kind of pepper.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the diced onions. Sprinkle on the salt, pepper, and Adobo light to add some flavor and help the sweating process. Heat the onions until they are soft and translucent. When they’re finished, take them off the heat and allow them to cool. When they’re at room temperature mix the onions, sour cream, and cheddar cheese in a bowl to make the filling. You want a pretty chunky mix, so use as much or as little sour cream as you think necessary (or tasty). All of these steps should be able to happen while the peppers are roasting.

Once the roasted peppers are gutted, gently stuff them with the filling. Seriously, be gentle—the peppers are pretty fragile and any extra tearing can make the whole process really obnoxious. Once they’re all stuffed, use toothpicks to close up the seams. Normally I would recommend a suture type closure, but since the peppers are so slippery and fragile I had to insert the toothpicks across the seam perpendicular to the pepper.

Now whisk the egg and milk in a large bowl. Spread the breadcrumbs on a plate. Cover the peppers in the egg wash and cover them with the panko. Place them in a baking sheet and bake for 15 – 20mins, or until the breadcrumbs are golden.

I served mine with some Goya sofrito lightly spread on top. Of course, you can include anything: limes, salsa rojo, salsa verde, chunky guacamole, etc. In fact, I have a mind to spoon-over some of my Baller-Ass Chili the next time I eat these. I’d even recommend some seasoned rice under the whole mess.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 5. This recipe is basically a healthified version of something any omnivore would be happy ordering at a restaurant or eating at a bar. It’s not even fair to have this rating in this case. But then again, omnivores can eat anything vegs eat, not vice versa. If anything, I should give a Non-Healthy Friendly Factor, which would probably be 3 or 3.5. Imitating fried food can be difficult, and anyone craving it probably will have a hard time settling for something less. But for those of us willing to compromise just a bit, this recipe is exactly what belongs on your plate.

Baller-Ass Chili


The finished product, which tastes better than it looks.

So it’s starting to get colder—I have the hood up on my hoodie and high basketball socks on right now—and it’s time to eat some chili. Think about it: it’s a mix of awesome nutrition, flavor, and ease—a trifecta for this veg virgin. And the meal is just as satisfying without meat, especially when you add mushrooms. I use normal white button mushrooms, but only because I’m allergic to portobellos, which I imagine would be awesome in here. Just make sure to have at least an hour once you throw all of the ingredients into the pot; I’d hate to be the reason your kitchen burns down because you weren’t minding the stove. Plus, burned kitchen almost always means burned chili.

Ingredients:

3 – 15.5oz. cans of Nature’s Promise beans (I like black, light kidney, and dark kidney)*

1 – 14.5oz. can of stewed tomatoes*

1 – 15.25oz. can of whole kernel corn*

1 box mushrooms, sliced

3 peppers, red and orange, diced (about 1/2” to 1”)

1 jalapeño pepper, diced

1 tbs. cilantro

1 tbs. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbs. cayenne pepper

1-2 tbs. garlic salt

1 tbs. cumin

1 tsp. paprika

1 tbs. black pepper

Makes 4-6 servings.

*A quick note about the canned goods: I always look for “low sodium” and “no salt added” varieties because, well, canned stuff is a salt bomb. I hear you can drain and rinse the canned stuff to drastically reduce sodium content, but for chili I keep the liquid (it gives flavor and acts as a thickener) and, for stuff like tomatoes, rinsing can over saturate the food. So, in short, go for low sodium options. I like Nature’s Promise (only at Giant food stores) for the beans. Most major brands have low sodium options. Buy them.

Now for the steps, which couldn’t be easier. Cover the bottom of a large pot with oil and heat it over medium-high heat. I recommend putting a piece of a pepper at the bottom and waiting for it to sizzle, which means the oil is ready. When that sizzle happens, add the peppers, mushrooms, and about 1/4 to 1/3 of each of all of the spices. Cover and stir until the peppers are somewhat soft and the mushrooms are brown. Make sure to get the seasonings around as much as you can.

Once all that is softened, everyone else into the pool: add the beans, tomatoes, corn, and the remainder of the spices. Stir it all up and jack the heat up to high until it all boils, then drop the heat to a simmer or low (you want somewhere at or below a slow, rolling boil with occasional bubbling) and leave uncovered. Let the whole thing sit over the low hear, stirring every 10 minutes or so, for at least an hour—more if you have the time. You want the liquid to reduce and flavors to concentrate, so the process takes time—but you’re only stirring every 10 minutes, so don’t complain.

To be honest, the chili comes out somewhat soupy, so feel free to simmer it longer or drain the corn before you add it (the less liquid means more stirring, so all ingredients are submerged for equal amounts of time). I say drain the corn because it’s a stronger flavor than the tomatoes and the thick liquid from the beans helps to thicken up the chili—you know, the whole point of draining the corn in the first place. Also, feel free to add some brown rice or, the real winner, place Jiffy cornbread at the bottom of the bowl. Hell, do the cornbread even if the chili comes out like paste because it’s awesome (I just didn’t have time to do it this time around). Oh, and feel free to add sour cream (disgusting, you pervert) and/ or fat-free or low-fat cheddar cheese right after you spoon it into your bowl for a creamy and gooey treat (which is also, incidentally, what she said). My next chili recipe will probably have a guacamole add-on option (not what she said, unless she cooks).

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 3.5. OK, so I know I hyped this chili because of the mushrooms took place of the meat but, truth be told, some omnivores are unable to think “chili” and not mean ‘meat’—perfectly understandable, considering chili was originally all-meat and the purest varieties have big pieces of cubed beef. Nonetheless, this veg option is great as a hearty side or an occasional dinner (especially with cheap and easy Jiffy cornbread!) when dealing with meat eaters.

Pasta Barillla PLUS: Do It.


I guess I should start this post by saying that I don’t receive any kickbacks from any company or product I endorse herein (LAME). I’ll often recommend various things—Sriracha hot sauce; low sodium Kikkoman soy sauce (mainly because other, cheaper brands suck)—but only with the most altruistic and tastiest intentions in mind. (Sidebar: I often find that altruism and taste go hand-in-hand.) Also, this post is really lame and a total nutrition geek-out; I promise to have my baller-ass chili recipe for you in just a few days. Oh, and maybe some healthy chile rellenos!

Since first reading about it years ago, I have not used any pasta except for Pasta Barilla PLUS for any cooking, omnivorous or vegetarian. Before that I used whole wheat pasta because, in all other starchy areas of my life, I use whole wheat or whole grain products—well, except for potatoes and post-workout meals, but that’s a whole other post. Anyway, the benefits of whole grains for regulating blood sugar and metabolism are endless and advertised in many other places. Consequently, I’ll only briefly outline them here.

Because whole grains—a kind of complex carb, as opposed to simple carbs: white bread; potatoes; processed grains—burn slower and require more energy to metabolize, you actually burn calories while digesting them. Also unlike simple carbs, complex carbs do not spike your blood sugar as sharply. Due to evolutionary things that I don’t really understand (I got C’s in biology class), spikes in blood sugar cause the body to store fat. However, your blood sugar doesn’t stay that high but quickly drops back to a base level with simple carbs. Looking long-term, these constant peaks and drops can lead to things like hypertension and diabetes. Whole grains and complex carbs, conversely, handle your blood sugar more gently, thereby keeping your metabolism more regulated.

Ok, enough with the scare tactics and protracted reflection on complex carbs. (I guess that was an obnoxious insight into how my brain works.) It’s time I get to the point: Pasta Barilla PLUS not only has the benefits outlined since it is made with whole grains but it also has protein. You hear that, veg-heads? PROTEIN. Now I am probably a little more concerned with protein-intake than other vegetarians—I must sound like every non-vegetarian with this obsession—but it is, after all, an incredibly necessary nutrient. PLUS gets its protein from two sources. The first is legumes: lentils; chickpeas; flaxseed. Hell, it gets bonus points for giving me some vegetable intake along with my pasta. Second is egg whites, which I know are anathema to some, if not most, vegetarians. Personally, I’m still not sure how I feel about consuming eggs while on a vegetarian diet and, admittedly, I didn’t know PLUS uses egg whites until my research about ten minutes ago. For now, though, I eat eggs, even if only on a limited basis.

Why the concern? Protein is not just for body-builders (although anyone involved in an active lifestyle should know about its benefits). For one, protein, because it metabolizes even slower than complex carbs, has all the aforementioned benefits of complex carbs. Secondly, proteins are necessary for an innumerable amount of the body’s functions. The problem for vegetarians isn’t just that they need to work harder to consume protein, but that even the quality of protein they’re consuming isn’t as good. The top three types of protein are animal, egg, and whey, with casein and soy coming in a more distant second (and possibly third, respectively). Somewhere after that comes protein from legumes. In short, not all protein is created equal. Because vegetarians typically have to fight for protein from lesser sources, it’s important to work them for all they’re worth. That being said, PLUS does have egg whites, which is something that veg people will have to work out for themselves.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 5. Like I said, I’ve been eating this for years. Also, I have served it to many dedicated non-vegetarians and non-health food eaters and no one has complained. Unlike typical whole wheat pastas, it doesn’t have the gummy consistency that turns off so many people. Oh, and IT HAS PROTEIN, something which can be lost in more spartan pasta dishes. Hell, simply PLUS with olive oil and salt carried me through some pretty tough times. In short, unless you’re against eating eggs, you should use PLUS whenever you make a pasta dish.

Silken Sun-dried Tomato Alfredo


Whoa, what a bad-ass title for my first post.

So I am discovering that I a firm (no pun intended) proponent of silken tofu because of its versatility. I’ll doubtlessly experiment with it in things like liquid-meal replacements and pies (yes, pies), but for now I’ll stick with the alfredo sauce. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 box Pasta Barilla Plus, like farfalle or penne (I can’t find linguine in this brand.)

1 spaghetti squash

1 lb Silken Tofu

1/2-cup  skim milk

2-3 oz fat free mozzarella cheese

2-3 tbs gouda

6 sun-dried tomatoes

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1-2 tsp. hot sauce

4 dashes hot pepper flakes

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp oregano

1-2 tsp basil

salt & pepper to taste (probably a fair amount of the latter)

Makes 4-5 servings

First, prepare the spaghetti squash. My preferred (and only) method is to cut it in half long ways and place it in a microwave-safe dish deep enough to hold the halved squash in one-inch of water. Cover and steam it in the microwave for 20-25mins, or until tender. I recommend stabbing it with a fork to check its doneness, like you do with steamed broccoli. While the squash is going, boil the pasta. I think you have this taken care of; if not, just follow the directions in the box or, better yet, get out of the kitchen before you hurt someone.

Now it’s time for the sauce. Add the milk, tofu, cheeses, seasonings, hot sauce, and sun-dried tomatoes in a blender or food processor. Next, toast the garlic in the oil over medium-high heat, about 3-4mins. Remove as soon as it browns and pour the mix, oil and garlic, into the blender or food processor along with the other ingredients. Mix then liquefy until everything combines and thickens. It should be very viscous but still able to flow (you know, like alfredo).

By this time the squash should be more-or-less done steaming. Take it out and CAREFULLY—it’s hotter than hell—remove it from the dish. Scoop out all of the seeds and, with a fork, scrape the insides out; you should see it begin to detach from the shell in strings. You can go all the way down to the shell. (I recommend checking out Google Images for pictures of this since, while simple, it makes a lot more sense visually. I promise to have more pictures in the future.)

After straining the pasta (duh), add the spaghetti squash scrapings and pour the sauce over the whole mix. Don’t worry about whether or not the sauce is cold—the spaghetti and squash will heat it up perfectly. Now stir the mother and serve.

The magic of the silken tofu is that it eliminates the need for overly fatty cream while still lending protein and nutrients. Indeed, with the cheeses involved this meal provides a pretty good nutritional profile in terms of carbs, fats, and proteins. Anyway, nutritional nerd stuff aside, I would (and will) definitely make this again. I love the mix of spice and earthy flavors in a creamy sauce. I wish I had more–I’d love to use it as a spread over a tomato sandwich.

Non-Veg Friendly Factor: 4.5. This is basically an everyday alfredo sauce; it loses 1/2-point because of the squash, which was added to get in more veg. Also, the reason there are so many spices is to mask the, albeit subtle, taste of the tofu, which they do wonderfully.

This recipe originally called for parmeean cheese, which apparently is made with rennet, gotten from extracted animal stomachs. Shit. So I changed the recipe a bit from the original version, substituting gouda for parmesan and changing out the part-skin mozzarella for fat free mozzarella to compensate for the jump in fat with the gouda. If you check out the link, you’ll find out why I’m REALLY heartbroken; I’ll miss you, Guinness.

UPDATE: Check out the above retraction’s retraction at Mushroom’s Cream Soup. Consider ‘Parmesan’ back on the menu!