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.

Crispy Cornmeal Seitan

I met Bryant Terry while on a vegan health cruise last spring. I attended one of his cooking classes. I love his cooking style and his dedication to food justice. This is a take on one of his recipes. You can learn more about him and his projects on his website. Here is a Mother Jones article.

IMG_20140908_142500I cook for several families and I am always looking for new school lunch additions. With many schools going nut-free these days, the range of good options has narrowed a bit. But, these crispy seitan bites are gems. This is the type of food that is very satisfying and nourishing to high energy bodies, like children.

IMG_20140908_151916The only caution I would make is that if you are using store-bought seitan, which I did, it has a high salt content. So, that means moderation for your little ones. Their bodies just can’t handle much salt. I used Upton’s Naturals plain seitan.

You can find a recipe for these in Bryant Terry’s cookbook, Vegan Soul Kitchen. It’s called Cornmeal-Crusted Seitan. It’s so simple that I am giving you my “recipe-free” version.

Crispy Cornmeal Seitan

whole grain mustard (I like Eden brand)
ground cornmeal
white or black pepper
8 oz seitan (or more if you have a lot of mouths to feed!) (I used Upton’s Naturals)
grape seed oil or other high-heat oil

1.  Put a few spoonfuls of mustard in a small bowl. Put a few large tablespoons of cornmeal in another bowl and stir in some fresh ground white or black pepper.

2.  Slice the seitan about 1/2 inch thick. Seitan comes in funny shapes, though, so just do the best you can. Having random bite-size chunks is okay, too.

3.  Using your finger, spread a thin layer of mustard on a piece of seitan, then dip it in the cornmeal to coat. Set aside on a plate. Finish coating all the seitan. Set aside.

3.  In a large cast iron or stainless steel skillet, heat about 3-4 Tbsp high-heat oil to a low frying temperature. If it smokes, stop and start over with fresh oil. You know the oil is hot enough when it sizzles slightly when you add the seitan bits. Add seitan bits so they aren’t touching, but still fill the skillet. Fry on each side until light brown and remove to a plate covered with a paper bag or napkin to soak up the excess oil. Keep frying until all the seitan is done.

4.  Yum! Try them with a tahini sauce or in a tortilla with lettuce and other taco fixings.

Note:
If you use Westsoy seitan note that the package says 16 oz, but the amount of actual seitan is 8 oz. It’s hard to compare the salt content between Westsoy and Upton’s Naturals seitan because Westsoy is packaged with the liquid, but I think Upton’s is better quality.

You might also enjoy this post on Satisfying Cravings for Richness.

Brown Rice and Pinto Bean Patties

I believe that you can never have enough finger food recipes in your back pocket. Especially those ones that conveniently use up leftovers.

This recipe uses leftover pressure cooked rice and beans, so the texture is soft and the beans and rice are already cohesive. A shortcut to making a patty that holds together without egg. Yay!IMG_20121217_151310

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Simple Baked Burritos

I am sure most of you have a version of this baked burrito recipe. This is just to serve as a reminder. I recently unearthed it from my college potluck days so that I could feed two teens. Of course, they loved it.

Baked burritos are super easy, it just takes a little time getting all the fillings together. However, you will end up with a yummy burrito casserole that seems to satisfy just about everyone.  Keep a package of tortillas in your freezer to pull out when you have leftover beans and rice to make a super easy meal.

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