Monday, April 26, 2010

The Power of Pizza

I always feel like it's a cop out when I make pizza (I like a challenge, vegan mushroon stroganoff? Without using any soy or pre-made products? Bring it on!) But they can be an easy way to eat a variety of veggies, use up odds and ends of things, and make great easy leftovers to bring to school or work the next day.
Finding a vegan pizza dough hasn't been much of a challenge for me, some of the larger grocery stores pre-made pizza doughs, usually found in a bag in the deli section, are vegan. If that doesn't seem to be the case where you live, don't fear. You don't have to spend a ton of time on dough for it to turn out great, as proven time and time again by all the wonderful no-knead dough recipes out there. If even that seems like too much to take on, just put your ingredients on a pita, or some focaccia bread and heat it all up, you don't even really need a cheese-y ingredient to make it all come together. Told you it was easy!

Mexican-Explosion  Pizza

3 Tbs olive oil
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 1/2 Tbs minched garlic
1 bell pepper, sliced, your color of choice, I like yellow or red the best.
2 tsp chili  powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tomato, cubed
1 Tbs sliced jalapenos (I used canned)
1/2 14 oz can black beans (a little less than a cup)
1/2  14 oz can refried breans
1 avocado, cubed and sprinkled with 2 Tbs lime juice and a bit of salt
Pizza dough
Cilantro and red pepper flakes if you roll like that, add when you top the pizza
Other ideas: summer squash or zucchini (saute first,) vegan cheese, seitan

  1. Pre-heat your oven according to your pizza doughs instructions
  2. Saute the onion and garlic over medium until translucent
  3. Add the pepper, chili powder, and cumin and continue sauteing until the pepper's soft
  4. Shape your dough, and spread the refried beans on first, top with everything else except the avocados, again, do NOT cook the avocados!
  5. Cook the pizza according to your doughs directions
  6. Let it cool a few minutes and top with avocado before serving.

See how easy that was? Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner, and you're eating a really balanced meal even if you just eat the pizza without any salad or sides.

Roasted Veggie and Herb Pizza

Ingredients :
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 small eggplant, cubed, salted, drained and rinsed
3 Tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp salt
(the above makes enough topping for two, to save you from all those half-veggies, but you could pile it all on one if you wanted!)
olive oil
1 tbs dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp fresh rosemary
1 tbs dried chives
1/8 cup sun dried tomatoes (the kind that come in oil)
1/4 cup chickpeas
4 artichoke hearts, chopped
2 Tbs olives, sliced
Herbed pizza dough

  1. Preheat oven to 350 f
  2. Toss peppers, onion, garlic and eggplant with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, spread on one or two lined baking sheets in a thin layer.
  3. Roast veggies stirring every ten minutes for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how spaced out your veggies are. They're done when the eggplant is soft and the edges of the peppers are getting crisp.
  4. Set oven to temperature required for your dough
  5. Shape dough and drizzle with 2-3 tbs olive oil and top with basil, oregano, rosemary and chives, spread into an even coating
  6. Spread roasted veggies, sun dried tomatoes, chickpeas, artichoke hearts and olives on the pizza
  7. Cooking according to the doughs directions.
  8. Enjoy! 

If you find you have too many roasted veggies left over, use them to top salads, or do one of my favorite things and combine them with other leftovers like rice or quinoa and put them in a wrap.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chewy Chocolate Walnut Cookies

mmm, cookies!
I can usually down half a batch of these by myself, but I don't recommend any of you do that, these are best enjoyed when shared with loved ones, friends, and strangers alike.  You'll put a smile on their face, and your stomach will thank you later, I speak from experience.

Nutty Choco-Cookies
Adapted from PPK
These are great to make ice cream sandwiches with homemade ice cream or to dunk in your sunday morning coffee or almond milk. They're done when the edges start to look dry, be careful, vegan cookies are easy to over-bake, especially when they're dark to begin with so you can't really see them browning. I say err on the side of caution and under-bake when in doubt, after all there's no egg in them, and I for one love a good gooey cookie.

1 1/4 Tbs ground flax meal
1/2 cup almond milk
1 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
1 cup (packed) brown Sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups walnut pieces (or whatever nut you want, you could definitely use chocolate chips too, just reduce the amount to about a cup)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 f
  2. Mix flax meal and almond milk together, set aside
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt
  4. In a large bowl combine oil and sugars, mix until combined
  5. Add the almond milk mixture to the oil and sugar, mix well, add vanilla and almond extracts
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing as you go until a dough forms, it'll be a bit sticky, and you may have to use your hands near the end
  7. Add walnuts or addition of your choice, mix with your hands
  8. Form dough into 1 in balls, flatten into cookie shapes (they won't flatten much on their own like most cookies,) and place spaced apart a little on an ungreased baking sheet.
  9. Bake for 10-15 minutes, cool on a cookie rack.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Eat a Rainbow! Wait...What?

No, seriously;

Eat a Rainbow! 

If that sounds like an insult or a convoluted comment on Oz, check out
this site. Since a foods color (natural, whole foods; skittles and other dye laden concoctions don’t count) is generally indicative of the types of nutrients they have, the larger variety of colors you eat, the better.  While you can judge how broad a spectrum you’re getting just by looking at your plate, there are some great lists out there to help you analyze your diet, and make it easier to find foods that will fill in your color gaps. This site lists food in each color, and links to info on how to choose and store the fruit or vegetable in question, definitely a great resource for taking the fear factor out of trying new or unfamiliar produce.

The meal in the previous post has a lot of beige in it, but little in the way of simple refined carbohydrates. If you’ve ever heard people hating on beige foods (Jamie Oliver comes to mind) they’re usually talking about the fried foods, refined, processed flour and sugar that tend to make up a lot of the American diet, not beige whole foods. 

The beige refined carbohydrates are broken down by the body quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar and energy, followed by a crash in both. Over consumption of these carbs is "associated with a higher incidence of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even breast cancer. According to the World Health Organization, sugars and other simple carbohydrates are a leading factor in the worldwide obesity epidemic." (How To Think Thin) The refined simple carbohydrates we're talking about shouldn't be confused with good simple carbs though, which are naturally found in fruits and some vegetables. In this form, the simple carbs come with lots of fiber, which slows digestion, and all the nutrients (think vitamin C in oranges or potassium in bananas) found in the fruit.
Complex carbohydrates are mostly in whole grains, beans, seeds, nuts and starchy vegetables (they're also found in fruits and other vegetables along side their simpler sibling). They take longer for your body to break down which keeps blood sugars stable, they provide the energy your body and brain needs to function, and keep you feeling satisfied after you've eaten.

If you need even more persuading, here’s the nutritional shortlist for the main ingredients in Aloo Tikki with Nut Cream and Sweet & Sour Cabbage. 
Chickpeas pack copper, folate (vitamin B9), manganese, calcium, iron, and protein into each and every bean. 
Cabbage rocks vitamin C, vitamin K, folate (vitamin B9), potassium, manganese, vitamin A, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), thiamin (vitamin B1), calcium, iron and magnesium. 
Potatoes have vitamin C, pyridoxine (vitamin B6), iron, potassium, copper, and manganese. 
Almonds contribute protein, calcium, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), magnesium, manganese, and are a very good source of vitamin E. 
Cashews round out the bunch with protein, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and manganese. 
(It should be noted that, as plant-based foods, they all contribute dietary fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar, makes you feel fuller, lowers cholesterol, aids in the absorption of some vitamins and minerals, may reduce risk of colorectal cancer, and as we all know.... speeds foods passage through the colon keepin' you on schedule.)

This isn’t as well rounded a meal as it should be, or as I thought it was when I started looking all that up… had I thought this through I might have saved the rainbow rant for another meal, but it’s half written, too late! Now you probably see why eating by color makes sense, those beige foods share a lot of nutrients. While the idea dairy and meat are the only/best sources of calcium and iron (as well as protein, but that one's getting old and I'm sick of talking about it) is a common misconception*, it’s still important to be conscious of what you eat, and how balanced your diet is. This is where those beige foods shine. They're often rich sources of complex carbohydrates, iron, calcium, potassium, and allicin (the compound in garlic that has gotten all sorts of hype) making them an important part of your diet.

So really...

Eat a Rainbow (+ beige)

*So you know: broccoli has more calcium per calorie than milk, and none of the fat that can inhibit absorption, and a cup of cooked spinach has as much iron (or more if you’re a good vegan and cook in cast iron) as 3 oz of beef. Non-heme iron, the form found in vegetables isn’t as easy to absorb as heme iron, the kind in meat, so eat it along with foods rich in vitamin C to increase absorption.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Aloo Tikki with Nut Cream and Sweet & Sour Cabbage

Sometimes, weird food combinations work. Sometimes...they don't.

Learn from my mistakes and don't make these two dishes together. The Aloo Tikki would be better complimented by a leafy green dish (think kale or spinach), and the cabbage would work well with Chinese food, or something kind of heavy and savory. Together they're not awful, but the combo doesn't really do either justice.

Sweet & Sour Cabbage Wedges
(adapted from Everyday Food, March 2008)
olive oil
1/2 a head green cabbage
1/3 cup cider vinegar
3 Tbs sugar (or sugar substitute of your choice)
1 1/2-2 cups water
Salt and pepper

  1. Quarter the cabbage (so each wedge is 1/8 a head) keeping the core intact to hold the wedges together.
  2. Heat 2-3 Tbs olive oil in a medium skillet, over medium heat.
  3. Add the cabbage and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes a side.
  4. Add the vinegar, sugar, and 1 1/2 cups water.
  5. Bring the liquid to a boil, and turn down to a simmer, cover and cook 10-15 minutes, until cabbage is tender (test it with a fork or sharp knife) you may need to add a bit more water near the end.
  6. Remove from the liquid, salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

I'll admit it; I don't think I like cabbage. I’d never really had it before, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I make an effort to try everything once, and I'll try it a few more times prepared different ways, because I really want to like cabbage. It’s super cheap! It's so good for you! Seriously, I really REALLY want to like it, but it might not be in the cards for me. If you have a cabbage recipe that can change my mind, I would love to check it out.

Aloo Tikki 
These would also make a great appetizer if you don't mind greasy fingers.
(adapted from VegNews, February 2009)

1 russet or all purpose potato, baked
1 15 oz can of chickpeas or 1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas
1/8-1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, adjusted to your spice tolerance
3 tsp dried cilantro
1 Tbs grated ginger or ginger puree
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground if you've got it
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup all purpose flour (wheat should work fine, but I haven't tried it)
1/4 cup canola oil for frying

  1. Remove and discard the skin from the potato,  mash the chickpeas and potato together in a medium bowl.
  2. Add the red pepper flakes, cilantro, ginger, lemon juice, salt, pepper, coriander, cumin, and flour, mix well.
  3. Shape the mixture into small compressed patties.
  4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.
  5. Add the pattie and cook until golden brown, turning once. 
  6. Serve hot with nut cream or vegan yogurt and any chutneys or relishes you like.

Nut Cream

1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds (you could use whole almonds if you have a powerful blender)
1/4 cup cashews
1/4-1/2 cup almond milk (Almond Breeze original unsweetened works the best)
2 Tbs almond butter, salted (or add a dash of salt to the mixture)
agave syrup to taste
salt to taste
You can also add other spices or flavorings, like cayenne and cumin for a dip similar to spiced yogurt.
Note: I like the flavor of toasted nuts in this, but if you want it to be a more bland cream, or to use it as a base for something with subtle flavors, go for raw nuts.

  1. Combine the almonds, cashews, almond butter, and 1/4 cup almond milk in a blender or in the cup that goes with your immersion blender.
  2. Beginning on a low speed, run the blender for short bursts to break up the nuts. This step is more important if you're using a less powerful or immersion blender. If you rock out with a vita-mix, just go for it.
  3. Continue blending until smooth, adding almond milk if the mixture gets too thick. Add it sparingly, a tablespoon or two at a time.
  4. Once your cream is as thick/thin as you want it, add salt and a touch of agave to taste for something that would work well in place of a mayo, or just agave for something more reminiscent of yogurt.

This whole awful combo came about because I usually try to balance my meals, some protein, some carbs, some fats, that kind of thing. I figure the more variety, the more balanced your diet is, since every food has it's strengths and weaknesses. Not only did this end up being a super beige meal (in color department, not in the taste department) because, well, I didn't finish my cabbage, (I followed my moms three bite rule, but I just couldn't do it, sorry cabbage fans... Wait, are there cabbage fans out there? Does such a thing even exist?) but my balancing act didn't take into account how awesome the nut cream would be since I made it on the fly, more as an experiment to guide future trials than the perfect condiment for the Aloo Tikki, so I packed a double whammy in the fat department. Live and learn though, right? Right.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Roasted Broccoli and Beyond

There's something comforting about a traditional-looking plate, you know, the protein (in the non-veg world: meat) surrounded by sides, or topped with sauces, served up hot, by mom of course.
Well, mom lives a couple hundred miles away, and you won't find meat anywhere near my plate, but this roasted broccoli, chickpea cutlet and mushroom gravy dinner has me thinking I should ask to be excused from the table when I'm finished to go watch an hour of educational television before bed. Plus, I didn't even have to make it this time, my lovely roomie did all the work, and I got to sit back and enjoy the fruits (rather veggies and legumes) of her labor.

The chickpea cutlets and mushroom gravy are from Veganomicon, a brainchild of Isa and Terry over at the Post Punk Kitchen. If you haven't tried any of their recipes or books, you should. Seriously, these ladies know how to craft some delicious vegan eats.

That leaves us with the side to end all sides...
Roasted Broccoli

Broccoli (1 medium crown per person)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Optional: lemon juice, garlic, nutritional yeast


  1. Pre-heat oven to 425
  2. Cut the broccoli into bite size florets
  3. Put the broccoli on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil (you don’t HAVE to do this, but clean up from roasting broccoli can be a pretty tough task without it.) and drizzle with olive oil, tossing a little to distribute it.
  4. Add salt to taste (err on the side of caution here, you can always add more later, and well done broccoli is pretty flavorful and a little salty all on it’s own.)
  5. Spread out broccoli so it’s not crowded (if it’s packed into the sheet it’ll end up steaming more than roasting. Use more than one pan if you need to.)
  6. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, stir and roast an additional 15-20 minutes. It’s done when the edges are a little blackened. If you want a boost of B vitamins or a little bit of a cheezy taste toss with nutritional yeast when it’s done. Serve immediately.

Optional: After adding the olive oil, for lemony roasted broccoli sprinkle with lemon juice, for garlicy broccoli toss with minced garlic.

Be sure to let this cook all the way. You’re probably going to want to take it out when the edges just start to get golden but trust me, let them get pretty dark (figure ¼-1/3 should be dark brown or black) to really bring out the flavor. The broccoli in the picture probably could have used a bit more time in the oven, but we were hungry!
Even if you don’t think you like broccoli, if you haven’t had it roasted before try it, it may just change your mind.