Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Healthy Pizza Recipe

When Michael and I first switched to a plant-based diet, we thought we were going to crave meat. To our surprise, we never did crave meat again, but what we did have a strong craving for was cheese.

I remember the moment: we were at Radio Shack buying a new battery or something and it hit me: the sinfully delicious smell of pizza. Suddenly my mind was filled with images of Pizza Hut commercials. You know, where someone picks up a slice but the stretchy cheese is still stuck to its former slice neighbors? We were determined to have pizza again, but only healthy pizza.

We bought The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook and got to work creating a healthy pizza. But is an oil-free, dairy-free, and meat-free pizza even possible, let alone delicious? Well my friends, I can assure you that this one is. Although it will not have the same cheese stretchy qualities as a Pizza Hut commercial, it will be filling, sinfully delicious, and good for you. You can make this recipe and do what we we're doing this week: eating pizza for dinner every night!

Healthy Homemade Pizza
Dietary Needs: Gluten-free, oil-free, dairy-free, and meat-free
Yields: Two 12-inch pizzas every night for one week

Just to clarify about the quantities, we make the week's worth of sauces and dairy-free cheeses, and then make fresh pizza crust each night so that we end up with two 12-inch pizzas made fresh every night. We also like to make two kinds of pizza: a tomato sauced version and an alfredo version. The pizza crust recipe is shown last below.

Tomato-based Pizza
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Tomato Sauce (one week's worth):
  • 4 6-oz cans organic tomato paste
  • 2 15-oz cans organic tomato sauce
  • 2 12-oz pkg. silken firm tofu
  • 4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • Basil (dried) to taste
  • Ground oregano to taste
  • Pepper to taste
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Directions: Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.

"Mozzarella Cheese" Ingredients (altered from the Uncheese cookbook):
  • 3 cups plain unsweetened almond or soy milk
  • 3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 cup oats (we use GF oats)
  • 6 Tbsp sesame tahini
  • 4 Tbsp arrowroot (it's sold in the baking aisle)
  • 4.5-6 Tbsp lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 1.5 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt

"Mozzarella Cheese" Directions:
  • Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
  • Pour into saucepan, cook and stir over medium heat until until slightly thickened.
  • Pour into storage container, and cool, uncovered in refrigerator. You can cover it once it's completely cooled. You'll have to use a knife and spoon to spread gently over your pizza.

  • Prepared sauce and "cheese" above
  • Fresh parsley, oregano, and rosemary as desired
  • Chopped yellow onions
  • Broccoli florets
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Sliced red bell pepper
  • Sliced roma tomatoes

Alfredo-based Pizza
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Sauce Ingredients (altered from the Uncheese cookbook):
  • 4 cups plain unsweetened almond or soy milk
  • 2 12-oz pkg. silken extra firm tofu
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 bulb garlic, roasted (cover in foil, bake at 400 for about 30 minutes) and peeled
  • 1 large head cauliflower, steamed
  • 2 cups from the "Parmesan cheese" batch below

Sauce Directions:
  • Combine all ingredients, except "Parmesan cheese", in a blender and process until smooth.
  • Pour into large storage container and stir in "Parmesan cheese".
  • Cover and store in refrigerator.

"Parmesan Cheese" Ingredients (altered from the Uncheese cookbook) (Makes 6 cups):
  • 3 cups almonds
  • 3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 6 tsp mellow white miso (found at health food stores in refrigerated section)
  • 1.5 tsp sea salt

"Parmesan Cheese" Directions:
  • Put almonds in a saucepan and add enough water to cover almonds completely. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Drain completely (in a colander is best) and allow to cool either on its own or by running cold water over it.
  • Pinch each almond individually to remove the skin (it should easily pop off, but I admit, it's time consuming to do this to every single almond!) and place de-skinned almonds in a food processor container. Process until almonds are finely ground.
  • Add remaining ingredients and process until well incorporated. It should look like the Parmesan that comes from a shaker can. (Also makes a delicious topping for popcorn!)
  • You can store in airtight container in refrigerator for several weeks.
  • This recipe makes 6 cups, and you'll need 2 cups of that for the Alfredo sauce above.

  • Prepared sauce and "cheese" above
  • Fresh parsley, oregano, and rosemary as desired
  • Fresh chopped basil
  • Chopped yellow onions
  • Broccoli florets
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Spinach, sauteed in water until wilted

Homemade Gluten-free Pizza Crust

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees – a temperature between 105 and 115 is important for yeast to rise properly)
3 tsp granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
2 Tbsp ground flax seeds
6 Tbsp warm water (110 degrees)

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup millet flour
1/2 cup sorghum flour
1 cup tapioca starch/flour
1/2 cup arrowroot powder (Bob’s Red Mill is one brand that makes this, sold in the baking aisle)
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt

1. In a small bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups warm water, sugar, and yeast and whisk vigorously until dissolved. Cover with a towel and let stand for 10 minutes.

2. In another small bowl, combine 6 Tbsp warm water and ground flax seeds and mix well. Let stand until the yeast mixture is done.

3. Meanwhile, combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add wet to the dry and mix the dough well.

4. In the bowl, divide the dough in half, then let rise in non-drafty area for 20 minutes. (Preheat oven to 425 shortly before the timer is up.)

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5. Cover pizza pans with parchment paper. Place one half of the dough on each pan. Use wet hands to evenly spread dough out in circular motion. You’ll have to keep re-wetting your hand to keep from sticking.

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6. Bake, without toppings, for 7-9 minutes.

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7. Add sauce, "cheese", and toppings. Bake for 15-18 minutes.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Whole vs Processed

When I share that I eat a plant-based diet, people often assume one or more of the following:
1. That all I eat are vegetables (FALSE)
2. That must mean the same thing as juicing (FALSE)
3. *Weird look* That I'm a crazy hippie. (Ok, you got me with this one - TRUE!)

First things first, a plant-based diet is not restricted to vegetables only. As I've said previously, eating vegetables are wonderfully healthy, but eating only vegetables will result in an insufficiency of calories because a pound of vegetables have only 100-200 calories on average. It's very important to eat legumes, whole grains, potatoes, and starches in addition to fruits and vegetables.

Second, juicing continues to be very popular. First let me say that the idea of juicing several vegetables as a way to consume vegetables and all its healthy nutrients is fine in theory, but is not superior to eating whole vegetables. Allow me to elaborate...

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Whole, War-of-the-Worlds-looking carrots are superior to carrot juice

Juicing Removes Fiber
When you run vegetables or fruit through a juicer, it removes all the flesh and fiber, leaving only the juice behind. Though occasional vegetable/fruit juice is perfectly fine, juice should not replace a meal on a regular basis. Fiber is helpful for many reasons. It promotes a feeling of satiety. It helps you to feel full for a longer period of time than non-fiber foods. The two types of fiber (soluble and insoluble) help lower cholesterol and estrogen levels in the body and help regulate bowel movements, which helps protect against several chronic diseases. The more fiber you can consume from whole, plant foods, the better. Juicing does not help achieve that goal. (And recall that animal foods contain zero fiber.)

Concentrated Calories
Because the flesh and fiber are removed from fruits/vegetables when juicing, a person is likely to consume more calories overall and at a much faster rate than if he/she ate the fruits/vegetables as whole foods. A whole apple is more filling and satisfying as a meal or snack than eating a bowl of applesauce or drinking a glass of apple juice.

The Idea of Juicing is Based on the Idea of Nutrient Deficiency
One of the key selling points of the juicing world is that there is no easier way to consume the same amount of nutrients from vegetables/fruit if you were to try to eat them as whole foods. While that point is true, it is also misleading. This selling point implies that the people in this country are suffering from diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies. This simply is not true. The people in this country are suffering from diseases of excess, not deficiency. Too much fat, calories, sugar, cholesterol, and protein. So my big question to people who promote juicing is what about the rest of your meals each day? Are you consuming an excessive amount of animal foods, processed foods, or calorie-dilute foods? I say this often, but it is so important to look at the totality of your diet, not one single food item or meal.

Bottom Line: Do not be fooled into believing that juicing will save you from chronic diseases. You must consider all of the meals you eat each day. Focus on eating whole, plant-based foods most of the time, and then enjoy juicing as an occasional treat.