Week 22: VegeQ

If summer had one defining scent, it’d definitely be the smell of barbeque.

Katie Lee
BBQ Hawaiian Protein Pizza

As a lifelong vegetarian and longtime vegan, barbeque has not been a part of my life. In researching creative pizza ideas for this blog, I kept seeing recipes that involved BBQ sauce, so I decided to try it. I found a vegan BBQ sauce that doesn’t have sugar (woo hoo!) and adapted this week’s recipe from several I found on the web.

My partner is an omnivore, but not a fan of BBQ. He wasn’t wildly enthusiastic about trying this pizza. To sweeten the idea, I loaded it up with some of his favorite toppings- peppers, tomatoes, onions, and vegan mozzarella.

The sauce we used has a very delicate flavor, which was a good entry for us into the world of BBQ. I’m mostly familiar with the flavor of barbeque from eating potato chips. Incidentally, BBQ potato chips are Gwyneth Paltrow’s favorite splurge food. Go figure!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 medium onion, sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh or canned pineapple chunks
  • 2/3 can of garbanzo beans
  • handful cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 3 small sweet peppers or 1 medium bell pepper
  • vegan BBQ sauce
  • 1 cup vegan mozzarella
  • pizza dough of your choice
  • Avocado oil
  • salt, red pepper flakes, cinnamon (optional)

Instructions

  1. Turn your oven on to 450° and let it heat up for at least 35 minutes.
  2. Strain the garbanzo beans and rinse them under cold running water for at least 1 minute. Put the beans into a bowl and toss them with BBQ sauce to cover.
  3. Slice your pineapples and let the slices drain on a paper towel. For flavor, I recommend you can add a dash of cinnamon to the pineapple pieces.
  4. Heat your frying pan over medium heat. Add a glug of avocado oil. Fry the onions for 2-3 minutes, then add the sliced peppers and pineapple, stirring occasionally. Let fry for another 5 minutes.
  5. Slice the cherry tomatoes and sprinkle with sea salt. Set aside.

Assembly

  1. Roll out your dough to desired thickness.
  2. Spread a thin amount of BBQ sauce over the center of the pizza, leaving the edge bare.
    ~~ At this point, you could bake the pizza for about 3 minutes before adding toppings. This will ensure that the center of the crust is cooked through.
  3. Sprinkle with mozzarella.
  4. Top with the marinated garbanzo beans.
  5. Add the onion/pepper/pineapple mix over the top.
  6. Bake for 13-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your dough. If you pre-bake it for 3 minutes, reduce the overall baking time, using 14 minutes as your average baking time guide.

We enjoyed this pizza. It reminded us of our Hawaiian themed pizza during week 4. This pizza has the addition of marinated garbanzo beans. Adding beans to pizza is a great way to up the protein intake and make it feel like a more filling meal.

I still want to make one more pineapple pizza, this time with toasted macadamia nuts. It just sounds so good! After 2 years, I finally used the special pineapple peeler that I just had to have when we moved into this apartment. It was fun!

Now that I know how easy it is to use, I may be hollowing out some pineapples to make pina coladas or this recipe for healthy and delicious pineapple fried rice, inspired by a dish we ate in Thailand.

If there’s a pizza you’d like us to try, let us know. 52veganrecipes @ gmail.com.

Week 21: Creative Calzoni

Mushrooms can be very fancy. It’s the closest you can get to eating dirt.

Tom Colicchio

Realizing we are almost at the halfway point in our pizza journey (and in this crazy year!) we wanted to try something new. There’s a vegan restaurant we love a few hours from our home that serves an amazing mushroom and vegan cheese calzone.

Because of Covid-19 we haven’t been to a restaurant in 3 months. Today is our 3rd anniversary, so to celebrate, we wanted to try and recreate the calzone we love in our own kitchen.

I did a little research about the origins of this yummy food. Like its sister the pizza, calzone was invented in Naples in the 18th century. Pizza was considered a food you sat down to eat at a table with a knife and fork, like a civilized European. Italians are not big fans of eating on the run. But workers needed a meal they could grab and eat on the go.

Calzoni (plural for calzone) were known as “walking around pizza.” The name calzone is related to the Italian words for “trouser” and “pant leg.” Eighteenth century Italian calzoni were much smaller than the American versions we are familiar with today. The small half-moon shaped pockets were easy to eat with one hand.

Like many food items that Americans have embraced from abroad, we super size it and add our own twist. It’s customary in America to top calzoni with a brush of olive oil, a dash of salt, some crushed garlic, a sprinkle of parsley, and to serve it alongside marinara sauce for dipping. I think these are excellent additions to this culinary marvel.

three fresh baked calzoni

From my research it seems that most people use the same dough for pizza and calzoni. We used our favorite recipe and added a teaspoon of dried oregano that made the crust smell delicious as it was baking in the oven.

A few tips about this dough recipe… I’ve made it with both active dry and instant yeast and have not noticed a difference. I’ve run out of sugar (I usually buy organic brown coconut sugar) and substituted honey, which gave the crust a nice flavor. I’ve run out of EVOO and used avocado oil or walnut oil instead. All three of these oils work great. I wouldn’t use coconut oil for this recipe. If you don’t have pizza flour, all purpose or bread flour work too. Traditional pizza in Naples is made with 00 flour, which has a lower gluten content than either all purpose or bread flour.

Dough Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup hot water (about 110°)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2-2.5 cups pizza flour, plus extra for dusting

Dough Instructions

  1. Mix yeast, sugar, and hot water in a large bowl. Set timer for 3 minutes. Yeast should foam/ bloom.
  2. Add oil, salt, and oregano.
  3. Stir in 2 cups of flour. Use your hands (they will get sticky, but it’s nice to work directly with your dough) or the end of a wooden spoon or spatula.
  4. Take a look at your dough. If it is too wet to handle, add additional flour. Add a bit at a time and don’t overdo it. The dough should be sticky to the touch. I fill a 1/4 cup measuring cup, sprinkle in half that amount of flour, mix, see if that’s enough. If not, I add more, slowly. You may need to add up to 1/2 cup total to get the right consistency.
  5. Cover your dough with a damp tea towel and let it rest for 15 minutes, longer if you have time.

For the inside of your calzone, you can use any vegetables you like. If you are ambitious, you can make your own vegan cheese. Calzoni are frequently made with a blend of ricotta and mozzarella cheese. My partner and I are not big fans of ricotta, so we went with mozzarella only. The melted cheese really brings the dish together.

Calzone Ingredients

  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • large handful crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 small sweet peppers, sliced
  • 1/3 English cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 1 cup vegan mozzarella cheese
  • olive oil for frying veggies or vegetable stock
  • salt, pepper, cumin

Calzone Instructions

  1. Let frying pan heat up for 5 minutes while you finish chopping your veggies.
  2. Add a glug of oil. Add the onions. Stir occasionally for 3 minutes while the onions cook.
  3. Add garlic and stir.
  4. Add mushrooms and, if using, a few tablespoons of vegetable stock or coconut aminos.
  5. Add your veggies and stir in your spices.
  6. Let the veggies cook in the frying pan for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat while you roll out your dough.

Assembly

It’s up to you how big you want your calzoni. You can make a big family sized one or portion your dough into individual serving sizes. Using the dough recipe above, we made 3 calzoni (since it’s our 3rd anniversary) and saved one piece for the next day. As you can see in the photos below, ours were about the size of my hand.

I used about 1/3 cup of mozzarella and 2/3 cup of veggies to fill each calzone. Place the ingredients on one side of the dough, leave 1/2 inch of naked dough around the edge.

Fold the untopped side over the mound of veggies. Tuck the top edge of the dough into and around the bottom edge of the dough. Press down the edges with a fork.

Brush the top with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Cut two or more thin slits into the top of your pocket to let steam out while cooking. This is an important step, so don’t skip it.

our first calzone, brushed with EVOO, topped with salt, and waiting to go into the hot oven

As always, make sure your oven is super hot before baking. We preheat ours to 450° for 40 minutes, then turn it down to 425° once we put the calzoni into the oven. Ours took 14 minutes to bake to golden brown perfection. We could smell that they were done!

We really liked the calzoni and had fun making them. We used an extra piece of dough to make the same veggie medley as a flat pizza the next day. We liked the novelty of making calzoni but in general prefer pizza.

If you are a fan of Parks & Recreation, you may disagree. Calzones are, afterall, “a portable, delicious meal that is its own container.”

Whether you prefer pizza or calzone, we wish you buon appetito. Until next week…

Week 20: Viva la Mexico!

So how as a nation can we sit around and eat Mexican food, and drink beer and make friends? That’s the question. If we can do that on a broader scale, I think we’ll come out of it all right.

Sandra Day O’Connor
Vegan Mexican Pizza Topped with Ripe Avocado

For the next 7 weeks I am in a class on Friday afternoons. I asked my partner if he would make lunch on those days. We got our weekly food delivery on Monday so when Friday rolled around I was worried we wouldn’t have enough fresh produce for him to work with.

I was so wrong! He made the most amazing burrito I’ve ever tasted. One surprise ingredient I didn’t expect him to use was cucumber. We were out of zucchini so he used cucumber slices in the burrito. Seasoned with cumin, coconut aminos, and siracha, wrapped in a tortilla shell with melted cheddar cheese, it was truly an outstanding meal.

For this week’s pizza I wanted to see if I could recreate that delicious blend of flavors on a pizza. The answer is yes. What we loved in a burrito easily works well topped on a homemade thin crust pizza. We both rank it among our top three favorites so far this year (and we’ve been eating a LOT of pizza!).

Ingredients

  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half and sprinkled with salt
  • 1/2 a cucumber, sliced into thin rounds, then sliced in half
  • 1/4 of a small red onion, diced
  • 1/4 of a small red onion, sliced into rounds
  • 1/2 a can of black beans, rinsed
  • 2 large handfuls of spinach leaves
  • 1 cup vegan cheddar cheese shreds
  • 1/2 cup of red enchilada sauce
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • Salt, pepper, cumin
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons siracha
  • Pizza dough of your choice

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 450°.
  2. Make your pizza dough, if you haven’t already. Recipe for perfect every time 15 minute dough is below…
  3. Heat frying pan over medium high heat. After 3 minutes or so of heating the pan, add a glug of oil. We love avocado oil, olive and other vegetable oils also work.
  4. Stir fry the 1/4 cup of diced onions in the oil for about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add cucumber slices and beans. Stir for about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Season with salt, pepper, and cumin, to taste.
  7. Add the coconut aminos and siracha, to taste.
  8. Add spinach and gently stir to combine. (We used pre-washed, bagged spinach)
  9. When the spinach wilts, it’s time to turn off the heat and assemble your pizza.
Unbaked Vegan Mexican Pizza

Assembly

  1. On a piece of parchment paper, roll out your pizza dough to desired size. We used 2/3 of the recipe below and saved 1/3 for garlic knots the next day.
  2. Spoon 1/2-2/3 of a cup of red enchilada sauce on your dough. In the Italian tradition, and let’s face it, they’re the pizza masters, sauce should not be too thick. There should be areas of the pizza where the white dough shows through a thin layer of sauce.
  3. Sprinkle vegan cheese over the sauce.
  4. Layer with your pan fried veggies, leaving 1/2 inch of dough around the perimeter.
  5. Top with sliced tomatoes and the onion rounds.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes at 450°. (Baking time will vary depending on your pizza size and thickness, and your oven. If you smell the pizza, it’s probably time to take it out of the oven.)
  7. Let cool for 5 minutes. Top with slices of ripe avocado. Slice, serve, and enjoy!
Vegan Mexican Pizza

Notes & Tips

  • We love Violife brand vegan cheese. If it’s available where you live, I highly recommend you try it. Yes, you can make your own vegan cheese from cashews and other nuts. I have made a few vegan cheese sauces that were pretty good. For pizza, my “go to” cheeses are Violife’s mozzarella or cheddar cheese. It’s already shredded, which to me is another plus. If I am making a pizza, it’s nice to have some ingredients ready right from the fridge. (Note: We get no compensation from Violife, we just genuinely appreciate their products. And I ate artificial tasting, gritty vegan cheese for three decades of my life. No more!)
  • I ran out of sugar and made a conscious decision to wait a few weeks before buying more. When making the pizza dough, I remembered that yeast needs a sugar boost, so I used a tablespoon of honey instead. I know many vegans do not use honey. We buy honey from a family a mile away that has a backyard beekeeping project. If you don’t use honey, agave also works.
  • This is our “go to” pizza dough recipe. You can absolutely make it in 5 minutes, let it rest for 15, roll it out and bake it. I’ve used this recipe at least 15 times so far and it’s tasted great each time. It was a happy accident to discover that honey works well in the dough. It gave the pizza a slight sweetness which we both liked.
  • For this pizza, I rolled the dough as thin as I could without it tearing. It was still fairly thick because I am a home cook and not a pizzaiolo, but I tried! One tip is to bake the pizza for 2-3 minutes before topping it so that it will crisp up in the middle. We don’t mind a slightly doughy taste, especially with melted cheese and avocado.
  • If you don’t happen to have a jar of red enchilada sauce in your cupboard, don’t worry. You can use jarred pizza sauce or easily make your own red sauce from a can of tomatoes. If all you have on hand are ripe tomatoes, crush a few, add salt and oregano, and make that your base layer.
Vegan Mexican Pizza Topped with Lots of Avocado

This pizza goes especially well with margaritas, beer, or Trilogy kombucha. If you make this pizza or any other vegan pizza from this blog, we’d love to know. Provecho!

Week 19: It’s All Greek to Me

“…like that star of the waning summer who beyond all stars rises bathed in the ocean stream to glitter in brilliance.”

Homer, The Iliad
Vegan Greek Pizza

This week’s pizza was created to honor a new course of study I am embarking on next month. I’ve had a lifelong interest in astrology. Over the years I’ve picked up bits and pieces of information, taken classes, studied books, and read countless horoscopes. I’ve learned a lot of random information about astrology, but I haven’t yet had the tools to put it all together into a synthesized chart reading.

Next month I start year one of a three year program in Hellenistic astrology, exploring astrology’s ancient roots. I don’t know much about ancient Greek culture, so I am also taking this free Coursera class on the Ancient Greeks. I had to ask my partner to explain The Iliad to me because I found it very confusing!

The pottery, dress, and lifestyle of the time is very interesting to me. I don’t know a lot about Greek cuisine. When I think of Greek food, I think of the ubiquitous salad, pita bread with hummus and tzatziki sauce, dolmas, and baklava. Have you ever tried to bake with phyllo dough? I have and I swore never to try it again.

We decided this week’s pizza should be an honoring to the Greek gods. It’s based on a Greek salad, minus the lettuce and feta cheese. If you are a fan of feta, you can now buy vegan feta in grocery stores. We both dislike the taste of dairy feta so decided to make the base layer hummus instead. Beans are healthy, full of fiber and protein, and easy to flavor.

Chickpea hummus

Quick Hummus

  • 1 (15 oz.) can of garbanzo beans
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • salt, pepper, paprika to taste

Instructions

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the tahini and lemon juice. Process for 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl halfway through.
  2. Add the olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and salt. Process for 1 minute, scraping the sides of the bowl halfway through.
  3. Rinse your chickpeas until the water runs clear. (You can save the liquid the chickpeas were canned in and use it to make vegan aquafaba brownies. They are amazing! I made two batches in one week.)
  4. Add the rinsed chickpeas to the food processor. Process until smooth, adding about 2 tablespoons of water to thin as needed.

Homemade hummus is always better than store bought and it’s easy to make. You can spice it as you like and get the consistency just right. If you prefer smooth hummus, follow the recipe above and start by whipping the tahini before you add the beans. This nifty trick came from Inspired Taste.

Pizza Ingredients

  • Dough of choice- we use this recipe as our go to dough
  • Batch of hummus
  • 1 (15 oz.) can crushed or diced tomatoes- we used fire roasted for some added flavor
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 10 Kalamata olives, sliced in half
  • artichoke hearts- we used a small jar of water and herb marinated hearts
  • Olive oil

Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 425° for about 30 minutes.
  2. Roll out your pizza dough. Brush it with olive oil. Bake for about 15 minutes, depending on thickness.
  3. While the crust is baking, make your red sauce. Drain half of the liquid from the can of tomatoes. Heat on the stove in a small pot with a lid. (Traditionally, Italians hand crush whole, canned tomatoes. If that sounds fun, go for it!) If you are using unsalted and unspiced tomatoes, add salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and dried oregano, spicing it as you like. We used fire roasted tomatoes and added about a teaspoon of oregano.
  4. While the crust is baking and the sauce is simmering on the stove, slice the olives in half. Slice the artichoke hearts in thirds. You may want to drain the artichoke hearts on a paper towel if they seem wet.
  5. When the pizza crust is done baking, remove from oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes. Slather with hummus, then red sauce, then olives and artichoke hearts. If you prefer, you can bake the crust for 10 minutes, slather and layer the ingredients, and then bake for another 5 minutes so the hummus and veggies get hot.

We loved this pizza. It inspired us to create another variation using navy beans, sun dried tomatoes, and capers as the “hummus” base. That pizza was so delicious it needs a post of it’s own. I am sure this was not our last nod to Greek cuisine. There is so much more to explore.

If you are curious about other vegan Greek food recipes, The Greek Vegan has some great looking recipes. I want to try the chocolate date balls and the pumpkin bread. Until next week, Kalí óreksi! That’s Greek for bon appétit.

Week 18: Simplicity

Pizza is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

Confucius (translation inexact)
Freedom Pizza

Sometimes in life simplicity is needed. As much as we wanted to use the space of this blog to try creative vegan pizza recipes, who knew that Covid-19 would come along and change the way we buy food?

I used to love spending hours walking the aisles of grocery and speciality food stores and farmers markets, searching for the freshest produce and new ingredients to try. Now most of my food shopping is done online with a few clicks. I feel removed from the tactile and sensual process of seeing, touching, and personally picking out what goes into my mouth and nourishes my body.

I miss grocery shopping like it was January 2020. But that’s OK. Things have changed. Life has changed. It’s anyone’s guess what will unfold next. I am grateful every time the delivery company brings our weekly produce box. It’s always a bit of a surprise. What squash will I get? When will the avocados ripen? You never know, so I am learning to relax into the mystery.

While this has been a good practice overall for my life and even for day-to-day cooking, having to be more creative without being able to run to the store for “just one more thing”, it’s been more challenging for our vegan pizza creations.

I am thrilled now when I find a recipe that calls for ingredients I have on hand. I was wondering what to make this week and remembered a favorite pizza from when I lived on Maui. The cheese-free, vegan Freedom Pizza with nutritional yeast from VegOut in Haiku.

Freedom Pizza from VegOut in Haik’u, Maui

The Freedom Pizza is a mix of tomato, onion, peppers, garlic, mushroom, zucchini and nutritional yeast. VegOut adds tofu, but I have an aversion to the texture of tofu so I leave it off. I sadly did not have zucchini, so I substituted broccoli instead. (both green!)

To make this even simpler, I used a store bought pizza crust and jarred marinara. I have grown to really enjoy making our own crust. But, even with the fancy new rolling pin my partner bought for this project, we still cannot roll it out that thin. We also like making our own sauce, starting with canned marzano tomatoes, but we’ll save that post for June.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced and lightly salted
  • 1/2 red or green pepper, sliced into bite size pieces
  • 5 white button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 zucchini or 3/4 cup of broccoli florets, chopped into bite size pieces
  • Olive or avocado oil for frying veggies
  • salt and pepper, red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • Pizza crust- store bought or homemade, chef’s choice
  • Marinara sauce- store bought or homemade, chef’s choice

Simple Freedom Pizza Recipe

  1. Heat oven to 425°.
  2. Heat frying pan over medium heat for 5 minutes while chopping veggies.
  3. Add glug of oil to the pan. Add onions, stir to coat in oil. Stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes until onions become translucent.
  4. Add garlic. Stir. Give it 30 seconds for these two old friends to meet and their flavors to co-mingle.
  5. Add the mushrooms, peppers, zucchini or broccoli. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine in the pan. Stir every 15 seconds or so for about 5 minutes, until all veggies are heated through.
  6. Optional– While the veggies are cooking, you can put the pizza crust into the oven for 2 minutes. I have found that pizzas with a lot of veggies taste crispier in the middle if I take the time to do this optional step.
  7. Spread about 1/2 cup of marinara sauce over the crust. (If you do pre-heat it for 2 minutes, give your pizza a few minutes to cool down before spreading on the marinara and adding the veggies.)
  8. Top with slices of tomatoes. Layer with the veggie stir fry.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes if using prepared thin crust. Bake for 13-15 minutes if using homemade, medium thickness crust.
  10. Let the pizza cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. Sprinkle with a generous amount of nutritional yeast. This gives the pizza an umami taste, which rounds out the flavors of this dish.
Freedom Pizza with Nutritional Yeast

We loved this pizza, not only because it reminds me of being on Maui. It’s also super healthy and loaded with veggies. This is easy to adapt to veggies you have on hand. What makes it a Freedom Pizza is being vegan, free of cheese, and relying on nutritional yeast for added flavor.

If you make this pizza, we’d love to know. You could also go to Maui and try the original. Maui’s vegan food scene is underrated. I think they have some of the best veg food in the USA. Below are some photos from 2011-2012 when I was blessed to call Mother Maui my home.

Week 17: Green is Good

Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.

Pedro Calderon de la Barca
Kale pesto pizza with tomatoes, squash, and garlic

When shelter-in-place began we put our names on a waitlist for a local produce delivery service. This week we got our first box of Imperfect Produce. Inspired by our bounty, we decided to make a kale pesto thin crust pizza with squash and tomatoes. The delivery company even offered pre-made pizza crust.

This pesto recipe is super easy to make and full of healthy fats. I used an avocado for added creaminess and reduced the amount of oil and nuts typically found in vegan pesto recipes. We’ve made three pesto recipes so far and this one is by far our favorite.

If you have a nut allergy, you can simply omit the walnuts or add 1/8-1/4 cup additional oil.

Ingredients for Avocado, Kale, Nut pesto

  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 2 cups kale
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnuts (almonds, pecans, and cashews taste great too)
  • 1/4 cup avocado oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
kale, avocado, walnut pesto

Instructions

  1. Tear kale off stalks. Wash thoroughly and dry it in a salad spinner or thoroughly dry on a paper towel.
  2. To the base of a food processor, add avocado, garlic, hemp seeds, walnuts, and lemon juice.
  3. Sprinkle in some salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  4. Pulse a few times until the mix starts to combine. Scrape down the sides.
  5. While the food processor is on low speed, drizzle the olive oil in through the top of the machine.
  6. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as desired.

Toppings

One of the great things about pizza is that it is very forgiving. It’s a great way to use whatever veggies you have on hand. I always try to “eat the rainbow” and have a variety of colors on my plate.

For this recipe, I pan fried some chopped onions in a little avocado oil for about 3 minutes, then added garlic, thinly sliced squash, and diced red bell peppers. You can use whatever veggies you prefer. Keep in mind the kale pesto adds a nutty, earthy flavor and the avocado gives it a creaminess.

The photo above shows the actual amount of each vegetable I used. You don’t need a lot of veggies to cover a pizza, though certainly if you are trying to increase your veg intake, pizza is a great way to do so!

baked kale pesto pizza with veggies

Assemble & Bake

Preheat your oven to 425°.

  1. For a crispier crust, while you make the veggie stir fry, put the crust in the oven, directly on the oven rack, for 2 minutes.
  2. Allow the crust to cool a few minutes before slathering with pesto.
  3. Layer with sliced tomatoes seasoned with a dash of salt to bring out additional flavor.
  4. Layer with pan fried veggies.
  5. Your bake time will depend on your crust. For this thin, store bought crust, we baked it an additional 8 minutes and it was perfect. Bake longer for thicker crusts.
Kale pesto pizza with veggies, baked to perfection

We loved this pizza and hope you do too. If you make it, let us know. As the Italians say “alla vostra salute,” to your health. I hope you and your loved ones are doing well both physically and mentally during shelter-in-place and I hope you are eating well too.

Until next week…

Week 16: Bud of a Thistle

Okey dokey artichokey.

~ Graunya Holsen
Spinach, artichoke, and onions with white bean puree

When I first moved to California, I lived at a retreat center in Watsonville. It’s a short drive to the very cool beach town of Santa Cruz and near a large farming community that stretches south and east. Garlic, avocados, and artichokes are among the most popular crops grown in this region. I could live on these foods alone.

When my partner and I visited Rome two years ago we made a point of going to the Jewish quarter specifically to taste carciofi alla giudea– fried artichokes. We didn’t get a chance to sample them though because we had too much gelato and pizza along the way. We were also there in October and artichokes are best from February to May.

Returning to Italy for fried artichokes, delicate truffle pasta, and perfect pizza marinara is high on our travel wish list post-quarantine. In the meantime, we decided to bring a little taste of the Mediterranean home inspired by this recipe from Vegan Heaven for artichoke spinach pizza.

One thing I love about this recipe is that the base layer is made from white beans, which are high in protein. It’s also got a few cups of spinach, so Popeye would be proud.

Since the shelter-in-place order we have been limiting our grocery shopping trips to once every 7-10 days to minimize possible exposure to the Covid-19 virus. Baking has blossomed all over the country and flour has been hard to find.

During our last shopping trip the flour aisle looked empty, but when all the other shoppers moved their carts, I noticed this single bag of organic all-purpose flour just waiting for me in the back of the bottom shelf where no one else bothered to look.

I was thrilled to have flour again and made this simple 15 minute pizza dough recipe for our weekly pizza. If you have the time, give the dough a 30-60 minute rest to develop more flavor.

spinach, garlic, and onions

Spinach, garlic, and onions are a great start to many meals and have been easy to come by during the pandemic. I buy bagged, pre-washed spinach that I wash again in my salad spinner.

Canned artichokes have also been available in my area in abundant supply. I buy ones that are pre-cut into quarters and canned in their own juice (or water), not oil. It’s a good idea to drain them on a paper towel, otherwise they can make your pizza soggy.

artichokes draining on a paper towel

I made this recipe twice. The first time I had a half cup of leftover cashew, nut yeast, lemon juice and water mix from another recipe. I was glad to be able to use it to both flavor the beans and add additional creaminess.

The second time I made this recipe I was in a hurry and skipped the cashews altogether. The final result still tasted really good.

For some people, omitting the cashews is a better option. Combining two types of protein—beans and nuts—in the same dish does not work for everyone’s digestion. So, if you don’t happen to have cashews in your cabinet, you can still make this recipe and it will taste good.

Always wash your beans

Ingredients to Make 1 Medium Pizza

Bean puree

  • 1/2 can white beans
  • 1/3 cup raw cashews
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • scant 1/4 cup water- adjust as needed for your blender

    Toppings
  • glug of olive oil
  • 1/3 of an onion, diced
  • 3 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 can artichoke <3, drained
  • pinch salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes

    optional: vegan mozzarella cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°.
  2. Boil some water and soak your cashews in hot water for 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse and drain the canned white beans.
  4. Add all the bean purée ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Heat a glug of olive or avocado oil in a frying pan and sautée the onion for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic.
  6. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, about 3 minutes.

At this point you have two options. I tried them both and they both work.

Option 1, as written in the original recipe: Plop your bean mixture from your blender into the pan. Stir and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Spread evenly on the pizza, dot the pizza with artichoke hearts.

Option 2: Season both the bean mix and the veggies with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Spread the bean mix onto the prepared crust. Top with vegan mozzarella cheese, if desired, and then the veggies and artichoke hearts.

I preferred option 2 because it had a more classic crust, sauce, cheese, vegetable hierarchy. But adding the beans to the veggies works too. Neither method is easier to clean up, so it’s really up to you.

I made option 1 without cheese and option 2 with the last of our Violife mozzarella. There’s enough flavor from the beans, nut yeast, and artichokes that I don’t think you’ll miss the cheese if you don’t have any or want to cut your calorie count.

Option 1 spinach, artichoke, bean pizza, just before baking

My partner and I both really liked the flavor of this pizza. He’s never had spinach artichoke dip before! It’s been years since I’ve whipped one up for a potluck. I haven’t made it for years because the classic recipe uses both cream cheese and sour cream, which is calorie rich. It’s also really good.

This pizza recipe strikes a balance between incorporating the flavors of the traditional dip with far less calories. It also has the added bonus of protein, so it feels like a hearty meal.

Week 15: Something (Almost) Blue

Culinary tradition is not always based on fact. Sometimes it’s based on history, on habits that come out of a time when kitchens were fueled by charcoal.

– Alton Brown
Activated Charcoal Pizza with Vegan Parmesan Slices

We started this blog because we love Italian food, especially pizza. A few weeks before the start of this year, I picked up a pre-made corn crust pizza dough in the grocery store. One night after work, I topped it with a marinara sauce from a jar and a high quality vegan mozzarella. It was so good that my partner and I made a vow before eating our last bite that we would make a pizza a week in 2020. Thus, our blog was born.

I’ve always struggled with keeping my New Year’s resolutions. Typically by spring I tell myself I didn’t really want to do the thing anyway and let myself off the hook. Not this time! We are 15 weeks into this challenge and still excited to keep trying new things.

Unfortunately, it’s been really challenging to find flour in our local grocery stores or online. Sheltering-in-place has inspired a new generation of home cooks. Everyone’s baking bread.

Since flour has been hard to come by, I started looking for flour-free pizza doughs. I found this recipe for Charcoal Quinoa Pizza from Nest and Glow and decided to give it a try.

Last summer I had the great fortune to spend almost a month in Paris, living in my friend’s apartment before she sold it. Her flat is in the Republic, which has become the ultra hip foodie neighborhood. Almost everyday I walked two blocks to the fabulous Boulangerie Utopie for this little piece of sweet heaven.

It’s called a roule sesame, a round sesame pastry. It is so good, I waited in an unusually long line the morning of my departure to purchase two and bring them home in my bag to share with my partner.

a roule sesame pastry from Boulangerie Utopie in Paris

The dark color comes from activated charcoal, made from ground coconut shells. I first discovered this ingredient by purchasing a detox lemonade, which I picked up en route to the beach one day. I just wanted something packaged in glass, not plastic.

I liked the lemonade and noticed there were just 3 ingredients- lemon juice, stevia, and activated charcoal, plus water. I was paying $6.99 for one lemonade, which seemed really high.

I found that I could buy small amounts of activated charcoal inexpensively in the bulk spice aisle at my local health food store and make my own. I made this drink almost weekly for about 2 years, then my mom encouraged me to do some research into the effects of long-term use.

Activated charcoal is often marketed as a detox product because it binds to toxins in the body and flushes them away. For some, this may be just what you need, but it can also flush away your vitamins and minerals. This article from Eater magazine has some useful info to help you decide if it’s right for you.

You can absolutely make this quinoa crust recipe withouth the charcoal. It may even look more appetizing!

backside of our quinoa pizza after baking

I love that the recipe below is so uniform and easy to follow. It’s a strange recipe! You blend the ingredients and get a black, liquidy soup. You think it won’t work out, that it can’t possibly become a pizza. But, have faith. It works!

Odd? Yes! But packed with protein and flour-free.

Ingredients- Charcoal Quinoa Pizza Base

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°.
  2. Rinse the quinoa in running water for at least 1 minute, then soak it in clean water for between 15 minutes and one hour.
  3. Rinse the quinoa again at the end of soaking and discard the water.
  4. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Line an 8 inch pan with parchment paper. (This is very important, do not skip this step!) Pour the quinoa mix into the lined pan.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before taking it out of the pan.

You now have baked a quinoa pizza base. Congrats!

The Nest and Glow website has a recipe for cashew cheese. I tried it but it didn’t work for me. I think I added too much water. I have yet to find a reliable vegan cheese recipe. If you have a favorite one, please let me know.

quinoa dough with marinara and vegan parmesan

Since the crust is so unusual, I decided to play it safe with the toppings. I opened a jar of marinara sauce I know I like and topped it with slices of Violife vegan parmesan cheese.

I baked it for 10 minutes at 375°. I wasn’t sure if we would like it, so I also whipped up some pasta with cauliflower alfredo sauce. The quinoa pizza was surprisingly good and very filling.

Given the flour shortage, we may be making this again.

In case you’re thinking of visiting Paris when the pandemic is over, here are some shots from last summer to get you dreaming…

Week 14: Something Borrowed

Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.

– Jim Jarmusch
apple, caramelized onion, and potato pizza

We wanted to try a premade, store-bought pizza dough one week to see if it’s superior to the dough we’ve been making at home. Our local grocery stores and online retailers are all out of flour right now, so making lemonade out of lemons, we decided this would be the week to try out someone else’s dough.

Our Whole Foods had this NY style pizza dough. It has brown sugar in it so we decided to complement the carmely flavor by adding some caramelized onions. I had never tried caramelizing onions before and I was excited to try it.

I found two recipes in Chloe Coscarelli’s Vegan Italian Kitchen that both sounded good. One for White Pizza with Sweet Potato and Caramelized Onions, the other for Butternut Squash, Caramelized Onion, and Apple Pizza. The ingredient these recipes both have in common is the caramelized onion and after trying it, I agree, it’s an excellent pizza topping.

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that I’ve tried every cooking method to get frozen butternut squash to taste good, but it always tastes like mush. Since fresh butternut squash is out of season, we decided to use red new potatoes for our
Creamy Potato, Caramelized Onion, and Apple Pizza.

slicing the onion

Ingredients

  • 1 medium sweet or red onion, sliced
  • 1 apple, peeled and sliced
  • 2 medium red new potatoes
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • Base sauce- we used Kite Hill Chive cream cheese thinned with a few tablespoons of vegetable broth. You could also make this a “white pizza” and slather it with olive oil, and salt and pepper. A base layer of vegan mozzarella would also taste yummy with the potatoes layered on top.

Instructions

Heat your oven to 425° while you prepare the toppings. Ovens need about 30 minutes to get this hot, so turn it on when you start cooking.

  1. Bring approximately 2 cups of water to a boil in a small pot. Scrub your potatoes and place them in boiling water for approximately 15 minutes, or until a fork easily slides into the center without resistance. When your potatoes are done, place them in a colander or strainer or on a plate to cool.
  2. Put your frying pan on the stove on medium high heat for a five minutes to let it thoroughly warm up. Add the olive oil and wait a minute for it to warm up. Add the garlic and stir. Add the sliced onions, stirring to coat them with the oil. Stir every two to three minutes until they are done. You’ll know when they are done when they achieve a uniform golden color. This can take anywhere from 25-45 minutes. Be patient. Onions are naturally sweet and the longer they brown the more flavor will be released.

If you are new to caramelizing onions, as I was, here’s a step-by-step tutorial with a video. One quick tip- wait until the onions have sautéed for about 10 minutes before adding salt and pepper or any other spices.

3. After about 15-20 minutes, when the onions look like they are about 5-10 minutes from achieving golden perfection, add the apple slices. If you have not done so already, season with salt and pepper.

peel and slice your apples

Dough

Roll out your dough or if you are feeling brave, hand toss it like the pizzaiolo in this video.

Full confession, we really struggled with our dough. It was our first time buying premade dough. My theory is that I didn’t take it out of the fridge early enough. It was at room temp for about 45 minutes before we tried to make a pizza out of it. I think dough needs about 2 hours at room temp before handling it.

Our fancy, new sustainable wood rolling pin from Vermont was no match for this dough! I’d roll it out and it would contract into a ball again. My partner, who incidentally is a Master Tae Kwon Do, tired to roll it out with his mighty arms, and no luck! It just kept springing back into a thick lump.

Keeping with our “making lemonade out of lemons” theme for the week, I remembered a YouTube video about frying pizza dough on the stove. We decided to split the dough in half, stretching one half out as much as we could (which wasn’t very much) and making a traditional baked pizza.

We flattened the other dough ball as much as we could and we fried it. It came out like a pizza pancake!

My partner ate the pizza pancake version and said it was very good. For the pizza pancake, we topped it with Kite Hill Chive flavor vegan cream cheese thinned with a few tablespoons of vegetable broth. We layered slices of new potatoes over the cream cheese, then topped it with a generous amount of warm onion, garlic, and apple mix.

pizza pancake with vegan cream cheese, potatoe, apple, and caramelized onions

For the traditional baked version, we slathered it with the cream cheese, thinned with a few tablespoons of vegetable broth. We skinned some of the potatoes, left the skin on others, roughly sliced them, and layered them on top of the cream cheese.

We used a generous heap of caramelized onions and apples and baked at 425° for 15 minutes, per the instructions on the dough bag.

I’m not gonna lie, I was doubtful this pizza was going to work out. It was edging past my body’s normal lunchtime and I was getting hangry. We had a large scoop of onions and apples still left in the pan and quesadillas in the fridge, so I whipped up this yummy tostada with vegan mozzarella and the apple, onion mix.

When the pizza cooled enough to take a bite, I was sorry that I had been doubtful! It was delicious. The dough is sweet and perfectly complemented the caramelized onions.

The dough was really thick, since we could not get it to properly roll out. The quesadilla had a lot less calories, and was a yummy meal, but nothing compares to warm, homemade pizza.

We’d definitely try this recipe again. Caramelized onions and apples are a great flavor combo and easy, though a bit time consuming, to make. I’d like to try this with sweet potatoes on a spelt dough crust or use this same topping mix on a sweet potato pizza crust.

If you make this pizza or any variation, we’d love to know. Mangia bene.

Our finished baked pizza with caramelized onions, apples, and red new potatoes

Week 13: Something New

Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what kind of pizza is for lunch.

— Orson Welles
broccoli, shallot, onion, and garlic pizza on a cream cheese base

This week we wanted to try something radically new. We’re also sheltering in place so making just one quick trip to the grocery store each week. That limits our supply of fresh veggies and other ingredients. I ran across this recipe by The Savory Vegan and was excited to have most of the ingredients on hand.

The twist to this recipe is using vegan cream cheese as a base layer. It was surprisingly flavorful and we’re excited to try this recipe again with different veggie combinations. I stocked up on frozen broccoli when I saw crazy long lines at our local grocery store. Broccoli, corn, and edamame always seem to unfreeze well and keep their flavor, texture, and consistency.

I had a much harder time two weeks ago with using frozen butternut squash. If you have a secret to unfreezing it and making it taste good, let me know.

I had thought frozen foods would be the way to go during this Coronavirus pandemic. They are convenient, but I learned this week that other Coronaviruses have been found to live for up to 2 years in a freezer. That doesn’t mean you can’t use them, but you want to be safe. I found this video about how to clean your groceries helpful and informative.

I know many people don’t have the ingredients they’d like to have right now. Pizza is a great way to use what you’ve got and swap out what you don’t have. You don’t have to have it all and it can still taste really good. I hope you are well and happy and resting during this crazy time. On to the recipe…

The Base

We used our last store bought cornmeal crust for this pizza. It’s thick and doughy, with a crust similar to pie, flakey, delicious, and a bit decadent. I haven’t yet tried to recreate it at home because I’m not sure I could. Maybe by the end of the year!

Feel free to to use any dough you have. A simple 15 minute all purpose flour or bread dough works fine.

Flavor schmear

We used Kite Hill’s Chive flavor almond milk cream cheese. It’s delicious on its own and even more flavorful with a few things added. The Savory Vegan recipe calls for using the entire container, which is 8 oz. I found we only needed half of that to have a generous amount to schmear on our pizza.

The recipe also calls for vegetable broth. I used half of a bouillon cube and dissolved it in 1/2 a cup of hot water. That was more than enough for this recipe.

Delish schmear Ingredients

4 oz. vegan cream cheese (use Kite Hill Chive flavor if you can find it)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1-2 tablespoons vegetable broth

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, adding 1 tablespoon of vegetable broth at a time to thin the mixture until a smooth sauce forms. Set the mixture aside until your veggies are cooked. When you are ready, you’ll schmear your pizza base to your heart’s content, leaving a little crust showing all around the edge.

Veggies to the Rescue

My new Italian penpal Enrico checked out our blog and commented that our pizzas are very different than traditional Italian pizzas. He’s right! We plan to do a traditional pizza later this week and have great love and respect for the amazing pizzas of Italy. Traditional pizzas are harder to recreate in a home oven, though not impossible and we’ll be trying some later this year.

For now, with the Coronavirus scare, we are trying to add a generous helping of veggies to each pizza. Food is medicine and I’d much rather munch veggies than more vitamins.

Our favorite veggie to put on pizza is broccoli. It’s versatile, flavorful, and adds a nice burst of color.

Veggie Sauté

Heat a glug of olive oil in a hot frying pan. (I use about 1.5 tablespoons of oil and heat my pan on medium heat for 5 minutes before I add the oil.)

Give the oil a minute to heat in the pan then add:

1-2 shallots, thinly sliced (Shallots are more expensive than onions but they really do add a different flavor.)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1/4 sweet, yellow, or red onion diced (we had a yellow onion on hand, but red or sweet would be my preference)
dash salt
dash pepper
dash red pepper flakes

Sauté for 3-4 minutes until the onions look translucent.

Add broccoli and sauté for another 3-4 minutes. We used about 1.5 cups of frozen broccoli that was already cut into florets. We steamed it in a stainless steel steamer basket for 4 minutes before adding to the frying pan. If you are using fresh broccoli, you can skip this step and sauté for about 5 minutes.

broccoli, shallots, onions, and garlic sizzling in a hot pan

Assembly and Baking

I like to schmear my base after the veggies have cooked to give the veggies a minute to rest before leaping from the frying pan onto the pizza. I also think it’s a better to put the schmear on just before the veggie layer so it doesn’t get soggy.

Layer your veggie mix over your pizza, spreading the mix as evenly as possible.

Bake in a 425° oven for 15 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before cutting and serving. (Hard to do, I know! We’re actually super happy to have to take photos before we eat it or we’d burn our mouths. Pizza is that good!).

If you make this pizza or any variation of a pizza recipe we’ve offered, we’d love to know. Tag us @52veganpizzas on Twitter. We hope you and your loved ones are eating well during this stressful time and having some fun too. Virtual hugs from our house to yours.

broccoli, shallot, garlic, onion, and red pepper pizza about to go into the oven