Healthy toaster oven PIZZA pockets!

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Time to make: 15 ish minutes

Time to bake: 5-10 minutes

Skill level: Baby

Recipe and photos by:  Alex, The Hungry Wolfe*

If you've ever read the "Meet Alex" page on this site, then you already know I've been a veggie since the age of 7.  But not a healthy one, not even close.  In fact, I literally didn't eat my first real vegetable (for the purpose of this story, carrots and french fries are not vegetables) until I was about 20.  Friends were gobsmacked by the concept that I, a self-proclaimed NON-meat eater, was also a self-proclaimed veggie HATER.  Say what?  So what do you even eat?

Cheese.

Lotsandlotsandlotsa

C-H-E-E-S-E.

So much so that I had no idea it wasn't normal to need a nap after every meal.  But of course not until after I laid in a corner in the fetal position whining to no one in particular, whyyyyyy?  

I loved cheese.  No, I lived for cheese and my biggest fear when I agreed to eat a plant based diet for 90 days (after attending an all vegan wedding and being offered to watch an eye-opening documentary Forks Over Knives) was as much about giving up cheese as it was taking on veggies.  

I mean, we had zero relationship, me and veggies.  I was so awkward around veggies and veggies were all confident and robust and I felt like a 13 year old boy on a first date.  Where do I put my hands?  Should we just talk about our hobbies this first meeting and try mouth to mouth on the second date?  I was nervous, because tolerating veggies was the only way to survive these 90 days and I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  But I promised myself.

Of course, veggies and I are madly in love now.  I also know veggies have so much more to offer than they're given credit for.  Little miss veggie has so much more to her than her rough skin and tough crunch.  First off, I learned some of the basics, like roasting.  I would just cut up a bunch of colorful finds from the farmers market, massage them in olive oil, salt and pepper 'em, then roast a whole cookie (mmm cookies) sheet worth and be set for the next couple of days.  For the longest time roasted veggies and some grains (like quinoa or rice) were my go to.  I was like "look mom, I'm eating veggies, I'm basically Iron Man."  But I was getting capital B BORED.  That's when I began reading cookbooks (mostly vegan, but some others too, for inspiration) voraciously.  I learned how to cook tofu.  I learned how to cook beans and lentils.  (All of these are staples in any vegans kitchen, mine included).  

HOLD THE PHONE, who even cares about beans and lentils, still totally bored, aren't we?

Then one day I was reading Isa Moskowitz's Isa Does It and there's a section called ABS.  And I was all ewww ABS in a cookbook?  And then I was like, oh wait that's IBS.  What's ABS?  Turns out it's the best advice I ever got, and my whole vegan world changed forever: 

Always

Be

Soaking.

Soaking what?  NUTS, betch.  Cashews in particular.  Most homemade vegan healthy cheeses are made from blending soaked cashews with spices and things like...

Nooch!

What the fuck is Nooch?  Right, it's vegan for Nutritional Yeast, which can be found in the aisle where Bob's Red Mill products live (if you are shopping at a regular old grocery store and not a whole foods or other health food market - if you can't find it just ask.  Or, you can order it here).

My world was expanding and I was no longer limited to rice and beans and veggies (ironically, still one of my favorite go-to meal options.  Probably, because I also have other options now).  The 90 day challenge of being vegan is still going...six years and 41 days later, and I have never once looked back.  People ask me if I miss cheese, me the cheese-a-holic who literally ate nothing else but cheese, and the answer is HELL. FUCKING. NO. WAY.  I feel better, I look better, and most importantly I'm not contributing to the suffering of animals (PS. this is putting it so lightly it's almost animal cruelty).  Every day that I cook myself an elaborate vegan meal I marvel at what I've made and where it came from.  It just keeps blowing my mind in the best possible way.  I'm glad to be on, what I believe, is the right side of history.  Come have some "cheesy" pizza pockets with me and see if you're ready to make the change today.  And if you're already there, HOW GOOD ARE THESE VEGAN CHEESE POUCHES?  Comment below, like, and share so we can show people how easy, inexpensive and delicious this lifestyle is.

INGREDIENTS:

4 slices vegan Bread (White, Wheat, Sourdough, or Multigrain should work well here)

4-6 slices vegan cheese (I used Chao by Field Roast.  Other options include: Daiya, Kitehill, Violife, Follow Your Heart, Miyoko's, Go Veggie ... need more options?  Email me!)

Vegan pepperoni slices (or you can substitute grilled onions and peppers or mushrooms or other veggies).  For a gluten and soy free option I use Yeah Dawg Vegan sausages and cut them into pepperoni slices - If you live in a remote area, looks like you can order them in bulk on line!

2 heaping spoonfuls of pizza/marinara sauce

1 Tablespoon all purpose gluten free flour blend 

Water

DIRECTIONS:

I used a large circular cookie cutter to cut the 4 pieces of bread into rounds, but you can also use a regular kitchen knife to cut the crusts off.  Your pockets will just be rectangular instead.  Cool!  

Next, add a dollop of the marinara sauce and spread around the bread leaving a half inch space around the edges.

Add 1-2 slices of cheese (you may need to break it apart if you're not using shreds, to account for that 1/2 inch edge we need).

Lastly, put the pepperoni slices on top of the cheese.  So far your pizza should look like the first picture.

Now, in a small bowl mix the flour with just enough water to form a thick paste.  

Using your finger, take the paste and line that 1/2 inch edge all the way around.  Take your other piece of matching bread and gently place on top.  Again, using your fingers, pinch the edges so they lock shut.  

Sprinkle some oregano on top if you have it.

Your pizza pocket is now ready for:

A toaster (medium setting to start, making sure to check it periodically; you want to make sure the cheese doesn't melt into your toaster, so keep your peepers on it).

Toaster oven (350º for about 10 minutes, flip sides in the middle)

or a non-stick pan (same as toaster oven).

*Recipe inspired by @jungletwisted

Homemade Bagels

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It’s winter and my poor friends from LA are all skinny and tan and I’m over here all “Neener, neener, I live in New York and can eat delicious bagels and get chubby whenever I want.”  And they’re all “oh shit, we're too skinny and tan and can you please send me some delicious New York bagels?”  

And I'm all "well since I’m no monster I'm just gonna share this homemade Bagel recipe in the spirit that everyone world wide can break bread together in the most delicious New York Bagel kind of way, so you're welcome skinny betches."

But first, let me reflect on the spiritual concept of breaking bread for a moment.  

The expression has evolved over time, but its origins are, in fact, biblical; Jesus, when eating with His Disciples, would break the bread (which was much harder than typical bread today and required breaking rather than tearing) and pass out pieces to be shared among them as a group.  One likely reason the phrase lived on is due to the universal source of nourishment that bread supplies, and therefore with it also carries the implications of friendship and life.  If you haven't seen the Netflix Documentary series CookedI highly recommend that you do.*  There is an entire episode dedicated to the evolution of bread making and how it has been and continues to be an integral part of most societies.

In the words of Julia Child, cooking pioneer:

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like kleenex?

Excellent point, Ms. Child.  Furthermore, quoth the great Milton Berle:

Any time a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies.

Additionally, in modern times people use the phrase when talking about sharing an emotional experience along with their food.  The phrase to break bread with someone is to share a meaningful connection over a meal, often bringing together two people or groups who may have previously had reason to be disconnected.

When I first became an actor 12 years ago, I did it because I wanted to give voice to stories that may not otherwise get told.  I was an artist, and to me, storytelling and therefore acting seemed to me the most honorable way one could use their art to propel change in the world.  Chris Fisher, a talented writer/director/producer and now dear friend of mine, was the first person to give me a SAG TV job.  He likes to remind me that I got the part because of my distinct laugh.  He is one of the most passionate and dedicated storytellers I know.  And even though it’s twelve years later and I’m no longer acting professionally, we still both share a passion for beautiful things and telling stories by bringing people together to talk about what we’re feeling and experiencing (for him, cinematically and for me, culinarily).  Filmmaking has been the most obvious metaphor for my vegan baking, so it's no real surprise that the last two years of vegan baking and now blogging has proven to be a not-so-unlikely new storytelling device for me.  How can I share a story with you in order to propel greater change?  I can cook you some kind of vegan meal and together we can break bread.  For those of you just getting acquainted with my blog, please note:  I don't want to change your mind, I just want to cook you dinner.  

Like I mentioned, I met Chris at an audition over a decade ago, but our story doesn’t end there.  At a point he moved to NYC to work on a very successful TV show called Person of Interest.  In the season’s last year I found myself in NYC after a temporary job here made me realize I didn't want to go back to LA for the time being.  The job was ending and I remembered Fish (as Chris' friends affectionately call him) had moved here a few years prior.  I decided to reach out to him to see if he knew of any employment opportunities, cuz New York was all “Hi, I’m expensive as fuck, so don’t stay unemployed too long or I'll ruin you.  K thanks, bye.”  

Guess what?  His wife Blair was about to give birth to their first child.  She needed help and he did too, as he was averaging 16 hour days on set during episodes he both produced and directed simultaneously.  Serendipity or just good timing; either way, I was very happy to see where this would lead me.  Blair and I became fast friends, and Poppy was a dream babe.  She taught me so much while I got to love and care for her.  

Blair had similar eating habits as me, even though she wasn’t a strict vegan.  We got to cook and nourish this baby together and watch her as she grew to develop her own flavor palette.  It was a very special way to love two people, by cooking and meal prepping for them.  One thing we enjoyed doing as a “family” was spending time in their East Hampton home which rests beautifully in the middle of the woods. Speaking of storytelling, you should see the nine page welcome letter Fish wrote for guests, which is nothing short of poetic. And as such, these bagels are dedicated to them.  They live all the way in Ojai, CA now and I’d bet they haven’t had a decent bagel since they left NYC almost two years ago.

Here’s to you, Fish and Blair and Popsicle and Luv-duv…until we can break bread again soon!

Home Made Bagels* ~ 

Total Time: Like, forever.  At least until you get the hang of bread-making.  It's a skill.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of date sugar
  • 1.5 cups warm water (I needed some more...it's all about the consistency of dough)
  • 3.5 cups (500g) bread flour or high gluten flour (+ more for flouring your kneading surface)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1 Flax Egg

Toppings, because plain bagels are just a missed opportunity:
Onion flakes, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, garlic, etc...

DIRECTIONS:

In .5 cup /120ml of the warm water, add the date sugar and yeast. LET SIT for 5 or so minutes and then stir it all up until it's mostly dissolved and there are no obvious chunks.

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  • Mix flour and salt in a big bowl.  Making a well in the center, pour in the liquid yeast mixture.
  • Pour 1/3 cup of the rest of the water into the flour well.  Mix and stir in the rest of the water as needed. I had to add about 1/4 cup more water.  Don't let this concern you, Jill in Wisconsin may need more or less than Jack in Arizona.  You want a moist and firm dough after you mix it.
  • On a floured countertop, knead the dough for about 10 or 15 minutes until it's got some elasticity.  Again, we're looking for stiff and firm, if it's crumbly you need to add more water.  If it's a bit chunky you need to continue to knead that shit. 
  • Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and roll the dough around so it's fully coated. Cover the bowl with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down, and let it rest for another 20 minutes.  Classic dough making practice.  Don't be afraid to leave it to rise even longer if you're doing laundry or out living your best life somewhere.
  • Break pieces of dough off (larger than a golf ball and smaller than a tennis ball).  You can make classic bagel shapes if you're basic (no judgement) OR you can go wild and let your freak flag fly and make all kinds of shapes.  I'm somewhere in between, so I made twisted little knots.  
  • Place each inspired little bagel bread nugget onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet or cast iron skillet if you have one.  And then cover with that damp kitchen towel and let rest for another 10 or 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425ºF (some might argue 400.  I guess we'll see how well you know your oven?)
  • Scared yet?  D O N ' T  B E.  Be aggressive.  Be-be aggressive.  
  • NOW: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer.  Use a slotted spoon or if you don't have one try a handheld grater or metal spatula and lower each bagel into the water.  Newsflash, this step is so important.  While I don't want you to be intimidated, this is NOT the time to go change the laundry, because timing is everything here.  Boil as many as you are comfortable with boiling at a time.  The bagels will quickly float to the top once dropped in.   Let them sit there for like 20-30 seconds and NO MORE.  Any longer and your bagels will be so chewy they'll give you TMJ.  I know, because I've had lock-jaw for a week.
  • Flip and repeat on the other side (remember 20-30 seconds TOPS, yo).  All you need to understand is the longer you leave them in boiled water, the chewier they become.  And it is possible for them to become too chewy to chew kind of chewy, ya feel me?
  • If you want to top your bagels with stuff, now's the time before they get popped in the oven.  Place the lightly boiled bagels back on your cookie sheet.  Using a pastry brush, coat the tops of each bagel with your flax egg wash and sprinkle with desired toppings.  The flax egg is what allows them to stick. 
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the bottoms.  (Start checking at 15 minutes if you have a hot oven).
  •  Cool on a wire rack or burn the roof of your mouth like I did when you face dive the whole batch straight out the oven.  
  • Top with Vegan Cashew Butter Cream Cheese. 

*This documentary depicts cooking meat and other non-vegan foods for those who are opposed to viewing, please take note.  

**Inspired by the Sophisticated Gourmet, and veganized by moi.  

Puppy Chow

©Alex Wolfe Photography

INGREDIENTS:

1 box of Chex Mix Cereal (you can get rice, corn, or both!)

1 bag of semi-sweet vegan friendly chocolate chips

1/4 plus 1 heaping TBSP of Earth Balance vegan butter (or you can make your own!  Look under "Trusty Resources" tab and find out how!)

1 cup of peanut butter 

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

This is classic Puppy Chow.  No making it healthy, no fancy nut butters (though feel free to try it using almond or sunflower butter); like straight up 1999 party snack, heart attack in a brown paper bag.  You might remember this as the night you got diabetes.  So, just know that.  And if you feed this to your kids they will probably sleep again sometime around...never o'clock.  So know THAT, too.  This is great for a party, after a bad date, or just when your sweet tooth can't be satiated because you just smoked a fattie.  No joke, I've eaten so much of this I've puked. And I don't just meant that ONE time either.  

Part of the danger here is that it's just too easy to make.  So, let's promise each other something right now.  Repeat after me:

I, Alex (you, ________)

Solemnly swear

to only make this stoner stack

once a year

or as a gift for someone special

so long as there isn't too much time between the making of it and the delivering of it, otherwise I know I can't be trusted to be in the same room with it.

How to do?  Easy, peasy.  In a large bowl, gently dump the contents of one whole chex box. Put aside.

Next, in a medium size bowl add the peanut butter, chocolate and "butter."  Microwave for one minute and thirty seconds on high!  Then stir until melty and combined.  You can also do this on the stove top over medium heat; should take about two to three minutes (this would be preferable if this snack wasn't already designed to just kill you, so....)  Pour the chocolate mixture over the chex mix, tossing intermittently so that the cereal is evenly coated.  Don't be afraid to get your hands in there.  (That's what she said).

Lastly, dump the cereal mixture into a large brown paper bag (I used a Trader Joe's bag, and I think that might be gross?  But I wasn't sure, so I just did it.  I wasn't gonna tell you, but now I'm telling you and I feel a little vulnerable, so don't go shaming me or anything.  Please and thanks).  Once in the bag, pour about a whole box of powdered sugar (be sure to make sure it's vegan; non-organic sugars are often processed using animal bone char - blech!) . Close the bag and then shake it.  Shake it not so much like a polaroid picture, but rather like you're NOT supposed to shake a baby.  Hard and fast. (Oh, boy that's what HE said.  They are out of control, am I right?)

Transfer contents of bag to a baking dish and let cool.  

Eat SPARINGLY FOR THE LOVE OF GOD.  And don't forget our promise to each other ; )

Peanut Butter Banana Bon Bons

After a long day, and weeks of salads (an attempt at restoring my insides to sanity after all the crap I'd consumed on the road) I came back to my temporary home desperate for something sweet.  There's goddamn nothing in this kitchen.  But I knew that wasn't true.  There's always something, I just wasn't in the mood to have to think or invent.  But it turns out that wasn't true either.  All it took was spotting that jar of peanut butter which was next to the bananas which was next to the coconut flakes that got me really excited about the dessert my mouth was about to meet.  Dudes, this is my favorite new treat.  And pretty healthy to boot!  NOT TO MENTION SO EASY A CHILD COULD DO IT.  Seriously.  

INGREDIENTS:

Bananas

Peanut Butter

Vegan chocolate chips

Coconut oil

Agave

Vanilla extract

And if you've got 'em, coconut flakes.  

DIRECTIONS:

Cut the bananas into 1/4" slices, spread a healthy amount of peanut butter on one side, then sandwich together like this and place little sammies on some parchment paper, 'cause shit's about to get mess-ay:

©Alex Wolfe Photography

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over low heat, add the chocolate chips (about half a bag), 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, a small splash of vanilla extract, and a three second squeeze of agave.  I like to do it this way and taste as I go.  Too thick?  Add a tad more coconut oil.  Too watery?  More choco-chips!  Get it so it suits your buds...  Thickness should be just less than that of honey.  

Take the chocolate mixture and pour VERY LIBERALLY all over the 'nanner sammies so that they are completely covered.  Stick one coconut flake on top of each bite sized goody and then transfer to freezer. Set a timer for twenty minutes and check one.  They shouldn't be totally frozen as you want them to have that ice cream softness so they taste just like banana peanut butter coconut flavored klondike bars. Remember those?  Took me ten minutes.  I know you have ten minutes.  And I'd bet you have peanut butter.  

UPDATE:  Want a super easy "how-to-get-a-perfectly-dipped-nanner-sammich?"  You do?! First, get a piece of styrofoam.  Next, hold on to this guy and store with your other baking equipment.  Why?  Because styrofoam is TERRIBLE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, and you should not make a habit of using it.  In fact, if you know of any other materials that poke easily, PLEASE let me know : )  Where were we?  Oh yeah...once you make the peanut butter and banana sandwich: next stick it gently with a toothpick.  Transfer your chocolate from the sauce pan to a small cup so as to create a kind of swimming pool of chocolate with some depth. Take the toothpick and fully submerge pea-nana (peanut butter/banana) in the chocolate, swirl until excess dripping stops, then turn over and push open end of toothpick into the styrofoam.  Repeat until finished, then gently put the whole styrofoam board into fridge for easy, mess free storage while the dessert hardens.  

Mexican Chocolate Spice Cake

© Alex Wolfe Photography

This choco-cake with ancho chili powder was delicious and had the perfect kick to it.  Thin and light, I could have eaten the whole thing in one sitting (a crime I’m infamous for committing – next week we can all learn moderation together, this week?  We eat whole cakes for breakfast, and we ain’t scurred).

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
½ cup cocoa powder
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup soy milk
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup safflower oil (I used vegetable oil because it’s all I had in the pantry, whoops!)
¼ cup unrefined sugar
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

CHOCOLATE SAUCE:
1 cup soy milk
½ cup maple syrup
1 ½ cups vegan semisweet chocolate chips.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

When I cook, I like to get a couple of things straight in the kitchen first.

CLEAN!

I mean the dishes, the counter, no grocery bags hangin’ on the floor or table with no purpose – things must be orderly, or I go bananas (and not in the way that results in a dessert bread ; )

Next, I like to pull each of the ingredients that will be used in the recipe (as pictured above) – and if I’m really feeling Martha Stewart-y (and I pretty much always am) I even pre-measure them in my fancy kitchenware and put the giant bags of stuff back in their respective living quarters so all I have to do is dump and mix when the time comes.

The following instructions listed below come directly from the Candle*79 cookbook:

DIRECTIONS:

Makes two 9-inch cakes or 12 cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Brush two 9-inch round cake pans with safflower oil and set aside.  If making cupcakes, brush a 12-cup muffin pan with safflower oil or line with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, ancho powder, and baking soda and mix well.

Oh, hi Kitchenaid.  You are so sexy and I love you more than life itself.   

© Alex Wolfe Photography

In a separate bowl, combine the soy milk, maple syrup, safflower oil, sugar, and vinegar and mix well.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

© Alex Wolfe Photography

Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pans on wire racks.

S-N-A-C-K-B-R-E-A-K

Now, if you’re like me baking makes you hungry.  You know what they say about going to the grocery store when you’re hungry.  (For those of you who don’t, they say don’t do it).  Well the same applies to your baking.  Don’t bake a two layer chocolate cake and wait hungrily for it to finish and then make yourself a salad for dinner (or lunch or breakfast or whatever).  Why?  Because once the cake is finished the thought will arise: “I don’t really need to make dinner, I have this whole cake I can eat.”  So trust me, take a snack break and eat something healthy.  This way, your reasonably sized slice of delicious chocolate cake will satiate your sweet tooth without sending you over the edge.  And your body will thank you.

I made this salad pictured below.  It was yummy.  With massaged kale, brown rice and dill.  And guess what?  I only had 5 PIECES OF CAKE ANYWAY BECAUSE I HAVE A PROBLEM:

© Alex Wolfe Photography

Now where were we?  Oh right, the sauce!

Meanwhile, to make the sauce, heat the soy milk in a saucepan over medium heat until very warm but not boiling.  Transfer to a blender.  Add the maple syrup and chocolate chips and blend until smooth.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

© Alex Wolfe Photography

Cut the cakes into wedges, drizzle with sauce, and serve.

© Alex Wolfe Photography

A note from yours truly: the cake was a bit thinner than I expected, and so I decided to layer them for extra thickness.  Something you should know about me.  I am extremely detail oriented and wildly perfectionist (to a flaw) EXCEPT… when I’m not.  And that usually happens at random, for no good reason, usually out of laziness (a moment as I let the shame sink in).  So, alas.  Because I cooked these in a friend’s kitchen, using friend’s pans, I didn’t really bother to check the size of the cake pan.  Soooo, there’s a good chance those pans were bigger than 9” which would explain a lot.  Meaning, I hardly blame the recipe for flat cakes, delicious as they were, I can only blame myself for their consistency and shape.  But this is part of the fun of experimental baking.  When you were a kid and you accidentally drew with the red marker instead of the yellow (doh! How could you?!) you didn’t punish yourself – you rolled with it.  So I encourage you to do the same.