Super Easy Plant-Based Pizza

Sometimes, we crave pizza. It just happens. Often, I see families compromise and end up out to dinner, with a full-on pepperoni and cheese pizza, when really the craving can easily be satiated at home with plants and without nearly as much harm to your health. Remember, according to the World Health Organization, processed meats have been categorized as Group 1 carcinogens, comparable to tobacco. Many of us take such care with the meals we prepare at home, but then throw a lot of our values out the window when we eat out. I want to encourage you to be more mindful.

It can be really helpful to have a quick and easy option for homemade that is a bit healthier than the plant-based pizza you could get at a restaurant, plus a lot less expensive. Try to find a whole wheat pizza dough. Either buy it from your local natural food store or make a couple batches at home and store some, uncooked, in the freezer. It’s super easy to make, but I haven’t made my own crust for a long time so I don’t have a tried and true recipe for you. I actually don’t eat pizza very often. I had a craving one evening recently, while living in Portland, and I am going to share the yumminess with you.

I have included the link to a vegan parmesan that is super simple to make. Keep a batch in the fridge and if you do decide to go out for pizza, order a simple crust with tomato sauce and veg. Then, sprinkle your own homemade vegan parmesan on top. It’s much healthier than any processed vegan cheese and better for your digestion, too.

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Super Easy Pizza

  • Store bought whole wheat pizza dough (or polenta, cooked and spread fairly thin in a shallow baking dish)
  • Tomato Sauce (store-bought sugar-free or homemade)( I love Sweet Creek Foods Kid’s Sauce! You can find it at natural food stores up and down the west coast. I also love their salsa.)
  • All of your favorite plant-based pizza toppings. I am a huge fan of broccoli on pizza. I pre-cook any heartier vegetables to crisp tender (like broccoli) first before putting on the pizza.
  • Vegan Parmesan (This recipe from Dana at Minimalist Baker is worth gold. Feel free to use sunflower seeds instead of cashews if desired. I haven’t tried it, but I am fairly certain it will work well.)
  1. Oven to 425°.
  2. Press as much of the dough as you want onto a large baking sheet. Be patient and keep pressing until you get it as thin as you want, making sure the thickness is even out to the edges so it will cook evenly. I don’t think I pre-baked my crust, but you can do that if the dough instructions recommend it. If using polenta, bring to room temperature if it has been in the refrigerator, and pre-bake for 10 minutes before adding the toppings.
  3. Spoon a liberal amount of tomato sauce onto the crust taking care to spread it evenly over the whole crust.
  4. Next, layer all your toppings on to the sauce. If you have some particularly moist toppings, try to drain them first, soak up the extra moisture with a towel, or just use less volume to prevent the crust from getting soggy.
  5. Sprinkle generously with the vegan parmesan.
  6. Bake until the crust is starting to get light brown on the bottom, sauce is a little bubbly and vegetables are nicely cooked.
  7. Sprinkle more vegan parmesan on top as desired at the table. If you want a bit more kick you can sprinkle some red chili flakes on as well.
  8. Enjoy!

Notes:
You can give each child their own ball of dough and they can make their own personal pizzas. This is a great way to get them engaged. Have a variety of topping choices out on the counter and require that each child choose three toppings (depending on your child you can even tell them they need to choose three different colors, or at least one topping needs to be green) to encourage variety.

 

 

 

Noodle Bowl

I have two main strategies for providing consistently healthy meals:  simplicity and creative use of leftovers. I don’t usually have time to spend an hour preparing a complicated, involved meal, especially when I try hard to make every single meal homemade and healthy. Instead, I have learned how to always make extra of everything and turn leftovers into the next interesting meal. Nothing dulls an appetite like having to stare at the same soup several nights in a row.

Noodle bowls are an excellent example of how these two concepts work in my life. I always have noodles and vegetables available and miso broth is easy. The only item that may take a bit of time is the fried tofu or tempeh. Often, I will make a batch of tofu or tempeh over the weekend and have it available for school lunches, either plain, added to sushi rolls or a grain salad. It also makes a lovely addition to this noodle bowl, and helps save time.

Pretty much any long noodle will work for this dish:  udon, gluten-free pasta, spaghetti, ramen. I start with fresh or use leftovers. You can rinse leftover noodles in warm water to soften them or just place them in the soup bowl and pour the warm broth over them.

Similar ingredients can easily be turned into minestrone soup, as well. Switch out the long noodles for shorter ones, leftover beans for the tofu and add a few chopped tomatoes along with a variety of vegetables. If you have some leftover pesto spoon some on top. Serve with a slice of hearty bread. See how it works? You now have two separate meals for dinner this week.

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Noodle Bowl
Serves 4

1 serving cooked noodles per person, I usually cook up the whole package
6 slices of firm tofu, pressed and pan fried, then cut into triangles or fingers (recipe below)
1 head broccoli, florets cut into bite size pieces and stem peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 carrot sliced into thin half moons or into carrot flowers
a handful of thinly sliced red cabbage
a couple of red radishes, cut into small matchstick
2 scallions, thinly sliced, for garnish
1 sheet nori cut into short, thin strips, for garnish

Broth
4 cups water
4” piece of wakame or alaria (sea vegetable)( don’t sweat this if you don’t have it, but if you can get some it’s a great way to add minerals)
3 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced (opt.)
2-6 tsp good quality miso, the amount depends on how strong your miso is and who you are serving, you want the broth to be strong enough to add flavor to the noodles and vegetables

Make the broth by placing the water, wakame and shiitake mushrooms in a medium size pot. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove the wakame and chop small then place back in pot. Place the miso in a small bowl and add some of the broth to it. Mix well and add back into the pot. Let simmer gently for a few minutes. Remove from heat.

In another medium size pot, add water about halfway. Bring to a boil and add a pinch of sea salt. While the water is at a low boil, blanch broccoli, broccoli stems, carrot, red cabbage and radish separately until crisp tender, about 10 seconds. Spread out on a plate to keep from cooking further.

Assemble the bowls:  Place a serving of noodles on the bottom. Add the vegetables and tofu on top. Pour broth over the top and garnish with scallions and nori strips.

Notes:
This recipe is very flexible depending on the preferences of different family members. Each member gets the base of noodles and broth and can then choose the toppings.
Any natural, low-sodium broth may be used. I frequently use miso with wakame because it adds beneficial probiotics and minerals.
Other kid-friendly vegetables that are great in this recipe:  green beans, blanched young turnips, kale, green peas/snow peas, bean sprouts, bok choy, nappa cabbage.
Tempeh can be made in a similar way as the pan-fried tofu, except that tempeh needs to be steamed for 20 minutes first to make it completely digestible.
About miso:  South River and Miso Master are both decent quality and not hard to find, both chickpea and sweet rice miso are lighter and probably make a good starting point, if you are already familiar with miso feel free to use any variety you like.

Pan Fried Tofu

1 package firm tofu
high heat oil, like grapeseed or avocado oil (can also be fried oil-free)
tamari

Wrap the tofu in a clean towel and place a weight on it for at least 20 minutes to help press the liquid out. This makes it easier to pan fry. After pressing, slice the tofu into half inch slices. Heat a cast iron skillet on medium heat and add a thin coating of high heat oil. As soon as the oil is hot enough (the tofu sizzles lightly when placed in the pan) add as many slices of tofu as will fit comfortably. Allow a little room between slices. Pan fry each side until it looks golden brown and lifts up easily. Let the tofu sit without touching it until it is ready to turn. If you try to move it too soon it is more likely to stick. When each side is golden brown, remove to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a small amount of tamari. When cool, slice into squares, triangles or fingers.

Snowball Soup

I woke up to snow this morning in Seattle. Snow is a rare event here and one that always makes me feel like something special is happening. During a long walk this morning, my creative juices got flowing and I created this snowball soup as soon as I returned home.

Both sweet white miso and chickpea miso add a light sweet flavor that will compliment the cauliflower, so feel free to use either one. Remember to go light on the miso for young children, whose bodies are strongly affected by too much salt. For adults, add a little more miso, or a spoonful of sauerkraut, after children have been served. For children, I use 1/2 tsp or less of miso per cup of water. Adults can use up to 1 tsp of miso per cup of water. South River Miso and Miso Master are decent brands that are made in the US and can be found in many natural food stores. I used South River Sweet White Miso for this soup and I also love their Chickpea Miso.

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables and it always reminds me of snowballs. When cutting the cauliflower, try to keep the round florets intact as much as possible to mimic a snowball shape. I cut the carrots into little snowman nose triangles. You may think of other snow themed vegetables to add as well. Use your imagination.20170206_12053220170206_121210

 

 

 

 

This soup is fabulous with a little added corn for sweetness and garnished with fried bread cubes or with my easy dumplings. I left the corn out this time because it didn’t quite fit my snow theme.

If you have a child who doesn’t mind eating wakame, remove it from the soup, chop into small pieces and then add it back in. Otherwise, leave it whole so it can be removed easily before serving.

Snowball Soup

6 cups water
3″ piece of wakame
2-3 Tbsp minced onion
1 1/2 cups small, bite-sized cauliflower snowballs
1/3 cup thin, carrot triangles, half of a small carrot cut into rounds and then 8 triangles per round
1 Tbsp sweet white or chickpea miso (unpasteurized is best)
chopped parsley or green onion for garnish (or other fresh garnish your child might like)

  1. In a medium size pot, bring the water, wakame and onion to a simmer.
  2. Add the cauliflower. Let simmer for a few minutes.
  3. Add the carrots. Let simmer for a few minutes more.
  4. Spoon a small amount of the liquid into a bowl. Add the miso and stir to dissolve. Add back into the soup and let simmer very lightly for a few minutes to activate the miso.
  5. Ladle into soup bowls and serve with garnish on top. This is also the time to add the dumplings or fried bread cubes if using.

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Maple Balsamic Glazed Garbanzo Beans

One of my strategies when cooking for busy families is to make dishes that can be eaten as is or added to other dishes. My style is kind of mix and match. I often create components rather than cooking full meals. I find this gives families greater flexibility in meeting the needs of a wide range of eaters.

These glazed garbanzo beans are a perfect example of my style.They can be part of a snack, thrown into a school lunch, tossed in a grain bowl, added to sauteed greens or sprinkled on top of a soup or salad.

Another thing I often do is make a big batch of beans and re-purpose it into several different dishes. Garbanzo beans, or pretty much any legume, can become hummus, grain and bean burgers, bean soup or my sauteed garbanzo beans. This recipe can be made with either 2 cups of home cooked beans or one 15 oz can of beans. Keep a few cans of Eden brand beans in your pantry and this can be one of your last minute go-to recipes. If you have never cooked your own garbanzo beans, the flavor and texture are outstanding. They are quite different from the canned version. Here are my instructions for Home Cooked Beans.

I have adapted the original recipe which can be found in Dreena Burton’s cookbook Plant-Powered Families. The link is for her website. I have reduced the sodium and the sweetness a bit. These garbanzo beans are meant to be served soft. I know there are a lot of recipes for crunchy garbanzo beans out there, but I think hard, dry foods are hard on the digestive system and contribute to cravings for sweet foods. So, I try to limit them.

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Maple Balsamic Glazed Garbanzo Beans
(adapted from Roasted Balsamic Chickpeas in Plant-Powered Families by Dreena Burton)

2 cups of garbanzo beans, drained (or 15 oz can Eden brand)
1 1/2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (I love Napa Valley Naturals Grand Reserve)
1 1/2 tsp shoyu or tamari (alcohol-free, unpasteurized if you can find it)
1 tsp maple syrup or to taste

1. Oven to 400°.

2. If the garbanzo beans were made from scratch and refrigerated in their liquid, you will need to re-heat them before draining. The liquid tends to congeal and won’t drain easily while cold.

2. Measure all the ingredients into a medium size bowl and mix well. Place in a single layer on a large, parchment or silicone lined baking sheet. There will be extra marinade in the bottom of the bowl. Just pour that onto the garbanzo beans and they will soak up the sauce while baking.

3. Bake the garbanzo beans just until they soak up the marinade and turn glossy. Stir once or twice during this process to prevent burning. The garbanzo beans should still be fairly soft when they are done. This process takes about 20-25 minutes depending on the oven.

4. Remove and serve immediately or let cool and store for later use.

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Fresh Ginger Apples

On a recent trip to Portland, a friend and I cooked together every day. It was so lovely to have a partner in the kitchen.

One evening we were both craving something sweet, but didn’t want to get totally sugared out. Fresh Ginger Apples is what we made. Super simple and just what we needed to satisfy the cravings.

Heat really brings out the sweetness in fruit. I encourage you to eat these apples while still warm. They would be delicious on top of pancakes or morning porridge.

Sometimes ginger can get spicy. This fresh ginger juice is added at the end, so if you have young children, or members of your household who aren’t that into spicy, you can add as little or as much as you want.

Fresh Ginger Apples

3 cooking apples (I like gala or cameo)
1 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice (preferably the thick, unfiltered organic kind)
pinch of sea salt
2″ knob of fresh ginger

1.  Core and slice the apples into about 3/4″ wedges. You can leave the peel on or remove it before slicing.

2.  Place apple slices in a medium pan. Add the apple juice and a small pinch of sea salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer until the apples are fairly soft. Remove lid and cook for longer if you want the liquid to reduce and thicken a bit. Remove from heat.

3.  Grate the knob of ginger on a ginger grater or fine microplane. Gather the grated ginger into a ball and squeeze a little or a lot of the juice onto the apples. Use moderation if you haven’t tried ginger this way. Then taste and add more if you desire. Discard the pulp.

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