Kabocha Squash Pizza Sauce

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Day 22: Make a dish using all seasonal produce.

What a perfect prompt for this autumnal day! I had a big ol’ kabocha squash sitting on my counter, and all day long I mused about how to use it. Simple roasted slices? This beautiful soy-braised preparation? A gingery soup?

And then, on the give-and-take bookshelf at work, I found a copy of Mark Sutton’s Heart Healthy Pizza cookbook up for grabs, and pizza sounded mighty appealing. I’ve seen butternut squash-based cheezy pizza toppings, so why not kabocha?! I decided to make a thick sauce to top a pizza, and it exceeded all my expectations. This sauce is creamy, complex, and perfectly flavored with roasted garlic.

kabocha

You can prepare the sauce ahead of time, but I did everything in one night. It’s a little time-consuming, but there’s downtime for each component that lets you prep the next component. I included my workflow in the steps below.

Kabocha Squash Pizza Sauce

  • One kabocha squash
  • One head garlic
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 T yellow or white miso
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • A few grinds black pepper

Toppings

  • Basil
  • Caramelized onions

One recipe of your favorite pizza dough

Preheat your oven to 400˚ and pour a little water into a rimmed baking tin. Leaving the rind on, roughly slice the kabocha squash into sixths; don’t worry about how even they are. Place the slices rind-down into the baking dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, and place in the oven. Next, prepare the garlic for roasting. Add the foil packet to the oven and bake both the squash and the garlic for about 45 minutes, or until the squash is fork-tender.

In the meantime, prepare the pizza dough, following your recipe’s instructions. Let it rise while the squash and garlic are in the oven. If you’re topping your pizza with caramelized onions, start caramelizing them now.

When the squash is ready, remove it (and the garlic) from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes while you roll out the pizza dough. Give the dough a brief second rise (after rolling it out) while you prepare the sauce. (If using onions, they should be done by now — just turn off the heat and leave them on the stove until ready to use.)

Preheat the oven to 450˚.

To make the sauce, carefully scoop the squash out of the rinds and add it to a food processor. Squeeze the garlic out of the papery skins into the processor. Be careful here too; it’ll be hot. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and process until it’s very smooth and creamy.

Spread the sauce as thick as you’d like on the dough. (Save any extra to use with pasta!) Top with caramelized onions and bake for 12 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with basil, and let cool for about 3 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Desert Island

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Day 21:  What three endless food supplies would you take if you were going to be stranded on an island?
(Imagine your nutritional needs have been met, these are a bonus!) 

SO MANY QUESTIONS! Are my nutritional needs met by a multivitamin or some sort of Soylent-esque meal replacement? Or is the island laden with a variety of nutrient-rich produce? If so, what’s there already? Are there peanuts to make peanut butter? Is there fruit? How can I choose bonus foods if I don’t know what the baseline/regular foods are?!

…clearly I’m overthinking this, but the parameters are unclear and I dislike ambiguity. I’m going to assume I’m eating some kind of boring nutrient-rich food and that most of the flavor I’m getting comes from my bonus foods. In that case, I would bring…

  • Unsweetened dried mangos. These are better than candy to me, particularly the ones from Trader Joe’s. I can go through a bag in a day. I don’t think I’d ever get tired of them!
  • Dark chocolate, because duh. A square a day keeps the doctor away… or something like that. Let’s go with 75% cacao so I can share with any fellow strandees who don’t love super-dark choc.
  • Barbecue kettle-cooked potato chips. These are a total guilty pleasure for me, but I make no apologies or excuses. If I were stranded on a desert island, I’d deserve a salty, crunchy snack to balance my uber-healthy mangos!

Unrelated, but — happy 60th birthday to my dad! Love you!

A Veganized Family Recipe: Pepper Steak

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Day 20: Veganize an old family recipe.

Full disclosure: This is going to be a quick and dirty (and kind of cheater-y!) post! This has been a super duper busy weekend visiting my family in RI, and I just haven’t had a chance to actually make this recipe. But I know exactly which recipe I would veganize: pepper steak. I haven’t eaten it for years, yet I can vividly remember many dinners that included this recipe alongside mashed potatoes. I have a particularly fond memory of eating it at my grandmother’s table, surrounded by family. And I have this recipe card, with my mom’s distinctive handwriting (albeit a version  from ~20 years ago!) and lots of stains from years of use.

peppersteak

Veganizing this recipe would be pretty simple — I’d just use steak-style “beef” strips (homemade via Miyoko?!), vegan Worcestershire sauce, veg “beef” broth, and a reduced cooking time. I’d serve it with mashed potatoes and some extra gravy, and I’d savor the cruelty-free version of a childhood favorite.

Lunch on the Go: Pizza Strips!

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Day 19: Lunch on the go.

Today’s prompt couldn’t be more appropriate! I’m in Rhode Island this weekend, here to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday and my nephew Charlie’s 1st birthday. Two days of big gatherings, bookended by days of chilling out with my immediate family. There will be lots of party foods and snacks, but I guarantee we’ll make time for one of the best on-the-go lunches: pizza strips!

Pizza strips; image from RIMonthly
Image from RIMonthly.com

Pizza strips (also called party pizza or bakery pizza) are a Rhode Island specialty. They’re incredibly simple — a focaccia-like dough topped with a thick tomato sauce — but they’re definitely more than the sum of their parts. They’re baked on sheets and cut into strips, which you can then slice into squares for smaller portions. I think they’re very similar to an Italian tomato pie, which makes sense — RI has a big Italian-American population, and you can find pizza strips at nearly any Italian bakery. My family has always served them at parties; they’re relatively inexpensive and are a great supplement to the typical chips and veggie trays served at these kinds of gatherings. And — bonus! — they’re typically vegan, although some bakeries add parmesan cheese. I’ve always preferred the corner pieces, since I love thick, crusty bread. When I was a kid, I didn’t like the tomato sauce topping — it was too thick for me, so I’d wipe some of it off. These days, I’m far less particular, and I’m always happy to grab a piece with a healthy amount of sauce!

My mom used to buy pizza strips at a bakery called the Italian Breadbox, which was just down the street from my family’s house. Sadly, they closed down years ago, so she now patronizes DePetrillo’s Bakery. She’s confirmed with the chefs that the recipe is indeed 100% vegan, so that’s my bakery of choice when Steven and I need to pick up a tray for the ride back to Maryland. Since they have no melty cheese and never have any toppings, they’re super easy to eat on the go!

Mmm… I can’t wait until my dad’s party starts later today. There will, in fact, be pizza strips. ;)

My Vegan Inspiration: Auntie Jae

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Day 18: Honor a human or non-human animal who inspires your veganism.

Truthfully, every non-human animal I meet reinforces my veganism. From the dogs who come to work with me to the rescued animals I meet at every sanctuary I visit, every animal reminds me that we are all alike and all equally deserving of compassion, respect, and humane treatment.

threeanimals

From left to right: 1. Our little adopted Luna, a tiny mutt with megaesophagus. She’s often aloof and enigmatic, and she requires special care, but when she deigns to give us a lick or a nuzzle, our hearts just melt. 2. Rescued piggies at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary. You can’t not smile when you see how much they enjoy wallowing. 3. My Moria, the sweetest girl in the world.

On the human front, so many people buoy my spirits and keep me going. Steven is, by far, my #1 supporter and my #1 champion. My parents, who are vegan and mostly vegan, make me proud every day. My compassionate friends are forever enthusiastic about vegan food and cute animals and saving the world. There’s a lot of inspiration in my life.

But today I’m thinking especially of my Auntie Jae. She was the first family member to go vegan, years ago, in an effort to address a few health problems. I think she was the first vegan I ever knew! She’d bounced around from diet to diet, but nothing stuck — except veganism. It’s a far cry from Atkins, but veganism has one big difference from all those fad diets: its base in ethics. As my aunt says, once you learn about the horrors of factory farming and what goes on behind closed doors, you can’t go back. And even if you become vegan for health reasons, the ethics behind it keep you going.

jae
My smart, compassionate, lovely aunt.

My aunt is one of my biggest fans. She’s an enthusiastic supporter of my blog and always likes to hint about a future cookbook, which is flattering and charming. When we get together (which is rare, because I’m in Maryland and she’s in Colorado), we chat about veganism and food and politics and all those topics that help you really get to know how someone else thinks and feels and believes. We’re very much on the same wavelength where it matters. I like to think it’s because she babysat me when I was an infant and my mom was wrapping up her last year of teaching — like she passed on her progressive values to my tiny self!

So here’s to you, Auntie Jae! Thank you for showing me that veganism is both simple and incredibly important. I can’t wait to share a meal with you soon!

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

VeganMoFo 2015 bannerDay 17: Make (or eat!) a traditional local dish.

Maryland is one of those states that’s pretty synonymous with a specific dish — crabcakes. Or anything with crab, really. As a child, years and years before I moved to Maryland, I visited cousins who lived here and went out crabbing with them. Even then, I remember feeling unhappy with the practice and very uncomfortable with the whole boiling-and-eating-them thing.

Now, thinking about my participation in the catching and killing of perhaps dozens of crustaceans makes me feel sad and guilty. Tonight’s dinner — the Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes from Vegan Brunch  — is my small way of offering up a little tribute to those crabs of my youth.

Chesapeake Tempeh Cakes

With a tempeh base, these cakes are quite filling. I didn’t have a red bell pepper in the house, so I substituted a yellow pepper instead. I also made one other big substitution: using Old Bay instead of the spice blend in the recipe. You can’t make crabcakes without Old Bay!

I did have a little trouble with this recipe. The cakes didn’t hold together well at all; I ended up adding some aquafaba as a binder. They’re also pan-fried in oil, making them a little heavy for me. That side of sliced peppers certainly helped!

Here’s to you, crabs of Maryland, and here’s to eating tempeh instead of flesh!

Spaghetti Squash and Peanut Sauce

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Day 16: What’s your favorite late summer food?

Forget April — September is the cruelest month. My beloved and most favorite season is coming to an end, and I have to soak up every last bit of sun before the cold sets in. Sigh.

At least there’s late-summer and early-fall produce to comfort me… like squash! Although some smaller squash are at their prime in the height of summer, most larger and more cold-resistant squash peak in the early fall. I think my favorite transition-season squash is the oh-so-fun spaghetti squash. Although I typically serve it with a traditional tomato-based marinara, Steven recently tried it with an unlikely alternative topping: a spicy peanut sauce.

Spaghetti Squash with Peanut Sauce

This is our go-to super-simple peanut sauce. It pairs perfectly with rice noodles, soba noodles… pretty much any noodle! So I shouldn’t have been surprised that it complements spaghetti squash nicely. I simply roasted my squash for about an hour, used a fork to separate the strands, and poured on a big ol’ dollop of sauce. Mmm.

Simple Peanut Sauce
Serves 2-3

  • 1/4 cup natural peanut butter, smooth or chunky
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 T soy sauce
  • 1-2 tsp sambal oelek
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (optional — use only if serving with regular noodles; squash is sweet enough!)

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until the sauce is emulsified. That’s it!

What’s your favorite way to eat spaghetti squash?