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Pesto Pizza + Vegan Mozzarella Cheese (gluten-free, grain-free)

May 12, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Oh yes I did. I made completely vegan and gluten-free pizza.

And it actually tastes like real pizza. Real cheesy, doughy, crispy pizza that you’d get at a pizza shop. I don’t tell lies, people. This pizza is AMAZING. Probably the best pizza I’ve ever made at home, regardless of gluten and dairy content.

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The dough stretches. The cheese stretches. The dough gets golden-brown. The cheese gets golden-brown. It’s incredible that there’s no gluten, dairy, or eggs to hold it all together. But it works.

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I was sitting around my kitchen one Wednesday evening, procrastinating on chemistry or writing an essay and instead thinking about food, like I usually do. Unexpectedly, a little birdie whispered in my ear, repeating one word over and over again: “Pizza. Pizza. Pizza.” And when I get an idea stuck in my head, I drop everything and hit my cookbooks and the internet. I wanted to create a crispy, chewy pizza, but one without dairy and more “authentic” than my Zucchini Pizza, which, while beloved by my family, is basically a thin, crispy frittata with lots and lots of cheese. After much research, I decided to go with adapting a recipe from Zenbelly, which I’ve heard rave reviews about. For the cheese, I gave this one a shot and was pleasantly surprised by the results; naturally, I again made a few adjustments of my own to create a very, very “cheese-like” final product. And who says eating vegan can’t be fun AND delicious?

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As you can see, the crust is very brown: a homage to my favorite pizza ever from Pepe’s, a Connecticut restaurant that’s famous across the state for its almost-blackened, wonderfully crunchy base for its pizzas.

Pepe’s pizza is amazing. It doesn’t look fancy–they don’t even slice their pies into even-sized pieces–but it tastes like heaven landed in your mouth. Let me elaborate: one time, when my camp took us there after going to a museum, three of my friends and I demolished an entire large pizza, which is ENORMOUS. (Mind you, we were only twelve years old at the time. That’s a lot of pizza for pre-teen girls.) It was that good. I think we all had stomach aches for the rest of the week, but it still  was worth it. That crust. That cheese. That sauce. Mmmm…

Of course, I haven’t had Pepe’s pizza in years–it would probably make me both psychologically and physically sick if I ate that amount of pizza now.

Not this pizza!

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What I love about this pizza is that it’s very satisfying but doesn’t make you feel gassy, give you heartburn, or leave an unpleasant feeling in your stomach. I attribute it to the cashews: while dairy often gives me an adverse reaction, nut-based non-dairy products don’t cause me any gastronomical stress.

Instead of the traditional tomato sauce, I decided to make a thick, flavorful pesto to both lighten up the pizza for the spring and summer months and get in some greens. By the way, did you know that just 1/2 cup of basil (about 1/4 of my pesto recipe) provides almost 100% of your daily vitamin K, which helps with both blood clotting and bone health? That’s a pretty awesome nutritional benefit from eating pizza, if I do say so myself.

In the summer months, I look forward to making this pizza with really fresh vegetables and herbs for an even more amazing flavor. (Nothing tastes quite like fresh-picked basil in August.) But for now, I’ll still enjoy this delicious circle of heaven with the produce I can find at Whole Foods.

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Are you ready to see how easy (and delicious) homemade gluten-free and vegan pizza can be? I hope so! Let’s get started.

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In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 2 tablespoons of yeast with 1/2 cup of warm (but not hot) water, and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (or your preferred liquid sweetener of choice). Whisk just to combine, then let everything sit and hang out for 10 minutes. If the yeast doesn’t get all bubbly (like the picture shown above), toss it out and start over again.

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Meanwhile, stir together 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon of blanched almond flour, 1 1/2 cups of tapioca powder, and 1 1/2 TEASPOONS of salt, breaking up big clumps of almond flour with your hands.

Please remember to use teaspoons instead of tablespoons. In my second trial of this recipe, I added 1 1/2 tablespoons, making for a very very salty crust. It was still delicious (my dad and I thought it tasted quite like a pretzel), but less salty is always better.

Pour the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl or the bowl of the stand mixer and also add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or melted coconut oil and 3/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Mix at low speed for 2 minutes until everything is just combined, scraping the bowl down once halfway through.

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Cover with a warm or slightly-damp kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the “mozzarella” cheese which, surprisingly, tastes exactly like the real thing. Scary and cool at the same time.

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In the blender, combine 1/4 cup of cashews (soaked overnight) with 1 cup of hot water, 3 tablespoons of tapioca powder, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Once everything is combined, transfer the cashew liquid to a small non-stick saucepan.

Stir the mixture continuously over medium-high heat. If it starts to vigorously bubble or burn, decrease the heat to medium or medium-low. Within a few minutes, the “cheese” should start to thicken and will become very hard to stir. Just keep going and eventually, the mixture will look quite a lot like melted cheese. (It will feel like it, too, if you touch it!)

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Look at that stretch. That’s the power of tapioca for you!

Set the “cheese” aside until pizza-making time comes around. Now is also a good time to make the pesto.

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In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups of fresh basil with 1/2 cup of pistachios (or your favorite nut), 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, the juice of 1 medium lemon, 1 clove of garlic, and 1/2 cup of olive oil. Pulse about 30-60 times to combine, then add salt and pepper to taste. This is obviously best with fresh, in-season basil; if you find your basil is very bitter, I recommend adding a little sugar or maple syrup to cut it a bit.

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At this point, your dough should be about ready to get rolling. That means you should preheat your oven to 500 degrees and put a pizza stone in there, if you have one.

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Pizza stones are wonderful tools to have around. As you can tell by this picture, we actually have two, but I took out the smaller one because the big one is a bit unwieldy for a person of five feet tall with short arms. My dad originally bought them for bread-baking, but we don’t do much of that nowadays.

But for this pizza, a pizza stone is your secret to getting a crispy, dark brown, restaurant-style crust. If you go to an old-school (good-quality) pizzeria, you’ll see that the pizzas are put directly on the floor of the oven which, if well-seasoned, imparts wonderful flavor and makes the crust a beautiful color and gives it a great texture. The pizza stone uses the same technique: that stone absorbs a LOT of heat, and that heat goes right to your pizza crust. That’s what you want.

Back to the crust itself.

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Doing the best you can, divide the ball of risen dough in the bowl into two pieces. Take one piece and put it on a large sheet of parchment paper. Using damp hands–water will prevent the dough from sticking to you–spread the dough into about a ten inch ball. If a hole appears, use a little water to smush it back together again.

Put the dough circle on the pizza stone WITH the parchment paper and bake until just beginning to turn color, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, take out another piece of parchment paper and shape the second half of dough. When the first crust comes out, put the second one in.

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Now, spread half of the pesto on the first crust. Using a small spoon or ice cream scooper, make the “cheese” you made earlier into balls and drop them all around the pizza to your liking. (This one was very cheesy–the other one I made only had a few dollops!)

Bake at 500 for another two minutes, then take the pizza out of the oven and turn it on broil. Slide the pizza off of the parchment paper and put it on a heavy cookie sheet. (Parchment will burn in the oven, as I learned the hard way.) Brush the top of the slightly-set “cheese” with a little olive oil, and broil until the cheese begins to turn golden brown, about three minutes. (It should bubble, too!) It’s OK if the crust gets a little burnt–it tastes better that way!

Repeat the same with the other crust and remaining pesto and cheese. Sprinkle with fresh basil and oregano before serving.

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I had forgot how much I love(d) pizza.

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What is your favorite pizza topping combination? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Zucchini Crusted Pizza with Caramelized Onions

November 14, 2013 Print this page

Simple yet full of flavor, this “pizza” is both fun to eat and super tasty! Feel free to mix and match your favorite toppings to make a unique pie.

Ingredients

Prep Time 35 min
Cooking Time 35 min
Total Time 1 hr 10 min
Yield 2 medium pizzas (3-4 servings)

2 zucchinis (yielding about 2 cups)

1 teaspoon of salt, plus a pinch more for the onions

2 eggs, beaten

2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder, plus more for dusting

2 tablespoons of coconut flour

1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, plus extra for sprinkling

1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling

1 teaspoon of dried basil, plus extra for sprinkling

1 teaspoon of dried oregano, plus extra for sprinkling

2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided

1 large onion, sliced

Directions

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line two pie pans with parchment paper. Dust each with a little arrowroot powder so the crust won’t stick.

In a food processor or with a hand-grater, grate the zucchinis until you yield two heaping cups of zucchini shreds. Toss them with the salt and let sit in a colander over the sink for half an hour so the salt can help the zucchini release some of its water.

Once the half an hour has elapsed, wrap the zucchini shreds up in a cheesecloth or thin dish towel, twist the top, and squeeze out as much water as you possibly can. Your goal is to have the zucchini as dry as possible!

Add the zucchini into a big bowl and mix with the eggs, arrowroot powder, coconut flour, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, dried basil, dried oregano, and olive oil.

Divide the dough in two and put each half in its own pie pan. Squish it down with your hands and spread to all of the corners, making sure there are no bumps or holes.

Bake until golden brown and bubbly on top, about 15 minutes, then flip over and let brown on the other side for another 10-15 minutes.

Remove the pizza crust from the oven and turn it up to broil.

This time, I used caramelized onions to top the pizza. To make them, simply heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the onion. Saute until golden brown and softened, about 10 minutes, sprinkling with salt to help release some of the water.

Top each of the crusts with the onions, extra cheese, and a sprinkle of basil and oregano.

Broil the pizza in the pan until the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 or so minutes, and then slice and serve with a simple green salad. Eat with a fork and a knife, or just go for it with your hands!


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Zucchini Crusted Pizza with Caramelized Onions

November 14, 2013 1 Comment Print this page

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I haven’t eaten a slice of pizza in over a year and a half.

I know what your reaction is.

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I am proof that yes, a teenager can survive without an IV drip of greasy, cheesy goodness. It’s not that I don’t like pizza–I LOVE a good slice–but more often than not, I feel tired and a little sick after I down a few pieces. I’d rather eat some meat, chicken, or fish with vegetables, because that way, I know I’m being nourished and can feel it in my body and mind.

Let me tell you something about real-food and “paleo” eating: a lion cannot be a tiger, even if he shaves his mane and paints himself orange with black stripes. “Paleo” pizza and “paleo” cake and “paleo” pasta will NEVER be the real thing, and that’s that. Sure, they might come close, but there is no feasible way to recreate an exact version of the dishes you miss so much. My attitude (which my mom taught me) is eat the real thing, but only have a little bit, and don’t have it too often. Really savor whatever it is because it’s good, and treat it like what it is: a treat. (Now, if you have allergies or food sensitivities, this is of course a different story. Don’t ever eat anything that will actually make you sick.)

This Zucchini Crusted Pizza is NOT just like real pizza. It tastes amazing and has a good texture, but it’s not a perfect replica: I’m merely calling it a pizza because that’s what it best resembles. It passed the picky eater test: my mom absolutely LOVED it and claimed the leftovers for herself. My dad and I really liked it, too: it was hard to stop eating! The ingredients are so simple–zucchini, cheese, onions–but each one is treated perfectly to have an incredible outcome. I will definitely be making this again…it was memorable.

Ready to make some “pizza” for yourself? Good. Let’s get started.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and line two pie pans with parchment paper. Dust each with a little arrowroot powder so the crust won’t stick.

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In a food processor or with a hand-grater, grate 2 zucchinis (mine were teeny tiny) until you yield two heaping cups of zucchini shreds. Toss them with about a teaspoon of salt and let sit in a colander over the sink for half an hour so the salt can help the zucchini release some of its water.

Once the half an hour has elapsed, wrap the zucchini shreds up in a cheesecloth or thin dish towel, twist the top, and squeeze out as much water as you possibly can. Your goal is to have the zucchini as dry as possible!

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Add the zucchini into a big bowl and mix with 2 eggs, beaten, 2 tablespoons of arrowroot powder, 2 tablespoons of coconut flour, 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. No, I don’t know if you could sub out the cheese for anything: I’ve seen it done with almond flour, but I haven’t tried it myself. And you definitely can’t skip the eggs: it’ll fall apart!

Divide the dough in two and put each half in its own pie pan. Squish it down with your hands and spread to all of the corners, making sure there are no bumps or holes.

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Bake until golden brown and bubbly on top, about 15 minutes…

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…then flip over and let brown on the other side for another 10-15 minutes.

Remove the pizza crust from the oven and turn it up to broil.

Top your crust with your favorite toppings before finishing it off under broil; I wouldn’t recommend a tomato sauce, though: it’ll make the crust soggy and icky. Your best bet is to slice tomatoes and put them on top or use a really thick tomato sauce–one made with mostly tomato paste, which has the least amount of water in the universe of tomato products. This time, I used caramelized onions (just a sliced onion sauteed with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt for ten minutes), a little extra cheese, and some more oregano and basil. You could also use…

  • Sauteed mushrooms
  • Sauteed or roasted bell peppers
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Broccoli florets
  • Pesto
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • Bacon
  • Sausage (preferably sweet Italian)
  • Pineapple (because hey, why not)
  • A handful of toasted nuts (I’d recommend hazelnuts, pistachios, or pine nuts)
  • Pieces of pre-cooked chicken
  • Leaves of fresh basil
  • Chocolate (no, sorry, just a joke…)

Broil the pizza in the pan until the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 or so minutes, and then slice and serve with a simple green salad. Eat with a fork and a knife, or just go for it with your hands!

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What are your favorite pizza toppings? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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Bolognese Sauce

November 5, 2013 Print this page

One of my fall and winter dinner staples. Serve over spaghetti squash or a roasted vegetable puree.

Ingredients

Prep Time 10 min
Cooking Time 1 hr 15 min
Total Time 1 hr 25 min
Yield 6-8 servings

2 tablespoons of ghee, butter, or coconut oil

2 chopped onions

3 chopped carrots

3 chopped celery stalks

A pinch of salt

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 tablespoon of dried oregano

1 tablespoon of dried basil

1/4 lb sliced and diced speck (can be substituted with prosciutto or bacon)

1 lb ground pork

1 lb ground veal (can be substituted with beef)

3/4 cup of red wine

3/4 cup of coconut milk

12 ounces of tomato paste

3 bay leaves

 

Directions

In a large pot or dutch oven, melt the ghee, butter, or coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, add the onions, carrots, and celery stalks. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, then saute until translucent and beginning to soften, about 7 to 8 minutes. It the veggies start browning, turn the heat down and add a little more salt so they’ll release some more water.

To the softened veggies, add the minced garlic, dried oregano, and dried basil, and saute for one or two minutes longer. Then, add in the sliced and diced speck.

After the speck has been hanging out with the veggies for a few minutes, crumble in the ground pork and ground veal. Saute until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, then add in the red wine, coconut milk,  tomato paste, and bay leaves.

Stir to combine, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to low. Let cook with the lid on until thickened, about an hour. After the hour mark, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook until you’re ready to serve over spaghetti squash or roasted root vegetable puree.


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Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

November 5, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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I was a pasta maniac.

Italian restaurant? I’d be ordering penne with red sauce. Chinese restaurant? Chicken lo mein for this girl. Thai restaurant? I’d shovel through at least three-quarters of a bowl of pad thai. French restaurant? I’d hope that boeuf bourguignon would be served over some form of noodle. At home, I’d eat Kraft macaroni and cheese for lunch, and for dinner, I’d request Melissa D’Arabian’s garlic pasta with Parmesan and broccoli. In short, my life basically revolved around pasta.

But now…pasta’s just for special occasions. Sure, it tastes fabulous (and no one will deny that), but it isn’t the healthiest thing in the world for you, even if you buy the gluten-free stuff. (Which is just as bad for you, in my opinion.) While many proudly claim that eating zucchini noodles is “just like pasta,” let’s get real, folks: pasta is pasta, and there is nothing exactly like it. Spiralized vegetables, although they are delicious and a ton of fun to make, will not completely satisfy your pasta craving, and that’s OK! We should appreciate foods for what they are, not what they aren’t. Instead of saying, “Aw, this tomato sauce is good, but it really needs some pasta,” say, “Yum, this tomato sauce is so good, and I’m getting in an extra serving of veggies with these tasty zucchini noodles, too!” It sounds like nothing, but your attitude can really make a difference in how something tastes. I swear.

Personally, my favorite veggie “pasta” is spaghetti squash. It’s a pain in the butt to open up the massive gourd, but once you roast it, it becomes sweet, slightly crunchy noodles that perfectly compliment heartier tomato sauces. Zucchini noodles are also good, but I feel they pair better with a lighter pesto than a sauce as dense as this bolognese. You should be able to find spaghetti squashes at your local supermarket or farmer’s market–they’re in season now–but if you can’t, I’d recommend serving this over parsnip or celery root puree. It sounds a little weird, but I promise it’s delicious!

My recipe for bolognese is adapted from this one, the first recipe my nutritionist friend Alison Held showed me to introduce me to the paleo lifestyle. Since then, it’s become a staple in my house, and I’ve tweaked the recipe to meet  my family’s personal tastes. It’s SUPER easy to make, yields a bunch of leftovers, and tastes like heaven on a fork (or spoon). I usually eat this for breakfast the few days after I make this so I won’t waste any.

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In a large pot or Dutch Oven, melt 2 tablespoons of ghee, butter, or coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is glistening, add 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped carrots, and 3 chopped celery stalks, sprinkle with a pinch of salt, then saute until translucent and beginning to soften, about 7 to 8 minutes. It the veggies start browning, turn the heat down and add a little more salt so they’ll release some more water.

To the softened veggies, add 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, and 1 tablespoon of dried basil, and saute for one or two minutes longer. Then, add in 1/4 lb of sliced and cubed speck (basically smoked proscuitto), proscuitto, or bacon.

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I’ve made bolognese with all three of the options above, and speck is by far my favorite. It’s smoky but not overpowering: I’ve found that proscuitto is good but doesn’t have as much flavor, and bacon makes the sauce a bit too greasy and salty. I get speck at my local butcher, but if you can’t find it, definitely use proscuitto over bacon.

After the speck has been hanging out with the veggies for a few minutes, crumble in 1 lb of ground pork and 1 lb of ground veal. You can also substitute regular old beef for the veal, but I prefer the veal’s lighter flavor in contrast with the pork’s porkiness. Saute until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes, then add in 3/4 cup of red wine, 3/4 cup of coconut milk (light or full-fat: your preference), 12 ounces (or about 2 cans) of tomato paste, and 3 bay leaves.

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Stir to combine, bring to a boil, and turn the heat down to low. Let cook with the lid on until thickened, about an hour. After the hour mark, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook until you’re ready to serve.

Want to make some spaghetti squash “noodles” to go along with your delicious sauce? You’re in luck, ’cause I’ll show you!

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Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using the biggest knife you can get your hands on, slice your spaghetti squash in half. These are tough little (or not so little) suckers, so proceed with strength and caution. Enlist the help of your father if this proves too arduous.

Sprinkle both halves of the spaghetti squash with a generous amount of salt and pepper, then place face-down on a cookie sheet with about a teaspoon of water. Bake until the squash’s skin is beginning to brown and the flesh is tender, but not mushy, about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the squash halves over, and let cool before scraping the squash with a fork to reveal the noodle-y magic inside.

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Put some squash in a bowl, top with a generous scoop of sauce, and garnish with some chopped fresh basil. Yummy!

What’s your favorite pasta dish? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!


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