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.

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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.

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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?

Caramelized Onion and Broccoli Quiche

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Day 15: OMG, Barack Obama is coming over because he knows you make awesome vegan food! What are you going to make?

In my most outlandish MoFo fantasy, I bake and decorate an elaborate cake fashioned to look like the GOP elephant symbol. Barack comes over and goes to town on it, a la one of those horrible first-birthday cake smash videos, to show what he thinks of the intransigent Republican congress that’s blocked his every move.

…but that would be a very un-presidential thing to do, so I opted for something a little less partisan.

According to the internet, the president once said his favorite food is broccoli. Okay then! I have my doubts about the veracity of that statement, especially since he said it to a group of elementary school children. He couldn’t very well have admitted that his favorite food was something super-duper unhealthy, right? Regardless of the truth, I decided to incorporate broccoli in my meal. I’m also assuming that Michelle is coming, and I’d want to impress her with a healthy yet delicious vegan meal. Enter quiche!

I hadn’t made a full-sized vegan quiche since Easter 2010. Needless to say, in the past five and a half years, various vegan innovations (vegovations?) have taken egg-replication into bold new frontiers. I was excited to use aquafaba in this quiche, alongside the traditional tofu base. I’m glad I did! It was so creamy and delicious. I opted to make it crustless, because I’m not a huge fan of a traditional pastry crust. Next time, though, I might have to try this hash brown crust (!) from Avocados and Ales. I topped my quiche with grated Follow Your Heart provolone, just because I had a little bit leftover and it was starting to harden. (The provolone, by the way, is surprisingly good! FYH has really stepped up their game.) It was the perfect flavor combination.

Caramelized Onion and Broccoli Quiche

Caramelized Onion and Broccoli Quiche
Serves four

  • One medium yellow onion, sliced into half moons
  • Two small heads broccoli, chopped into small florets
  • 14 oz firm tofu (not vacuum-packed), drained
  • 1/2 cup aquafaba
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 T cornstarch
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp kala namak (black salt)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese

Add a little oil or vegan butter to a nonstick pan and heat it on medium. Add the onions and a pinch each of sugar, salt, and baking soda. Turn the heat to low and caramelize the onions, stirring them occasionally to prevent burning. They should cook for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400˚ while the onions are on the stove. Prepare an 8” cake tin by oiling it liberally.

In the meantime, prepare the quiche mixture by combining the tofu, aquafaba (unwhipped), almond milk, nutritional yeast, cornstarch, soy sauce and spices in a blender or food processor. Blend for at least a minute to whip up the aquafaba.

When the onions are caramelized, move them to one side of the pan and add a splash of water (about 2-3 tablespoons) to deglaze the bottom of the pan. Add the broccoli, turn the heat back up to medium, and cook it for about 5 minutes, just until it softens and turns brighter green. Remove from heat and fold into the liquid quiche mixture.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan and sprinkle the vegan cheese on top, if using. Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Caramelized Onion and Broccoli Quiche

I’m confident that Barack, Michelle, Steven, and I would make great dinner party partners. I think we’d steer clear of politics for a while, instead talking about veganism and how healthy, environmentally friendly, and downright delicious it can be.

So, Mr. Obama, when are you coming to dinner?!

Muffins on Monday

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Day 14: Share something vegan (and delicious, duh!) with a non-vegan. 

I am infinitely fortunate to work with lots and lots of vegans. (I guess that’s what happens when you work in the animal protection field!) But not all of my coworkers are vegan or vegetarian, so I figured this prompt was the perfect opportunity to serve up some vegan treats to the masses, veg and non-veg alike. And what better time than during a Monday morning meeting?

LPS Muffins

Representatives from every section of our department attend a daily 10:00 AM meeting to discuss new and ongoing projects, so today I brought a container of mini lemon poppy seed muffins to share. I think this is one of my absolute favorite muffin flavors! I found this particular recipe on the aquafaba group Facebook page and knew I had to try it. With a whole tablespoon of baking powder and six tablespoons of aquafaba, these little muffins were super light and airy. My only complaint was the lack of lemon flavor; although they look gorgeously lemon-hued, they don’t have the characteristic tang I want in a lemony baked good. Next time I make them, I’ll add lots more lemon juice.

Everybody was so pleased at this surprise Monday-morning treat that I might have to start bringing in baked goods more often!

Kitchen Tour!

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Day 13: It’s kitchen tour time!

Steven and I consider ourselves lucky. In the notoriously expensive Montgomery County housing market, we snagged a low-priced rental when we moved here two years ago. We rent a condo, and our landlord is responsive, friendly, and fair — he hasn’t raised our rent the two times we’ve re-signed the lease. And we have a great kitchen!

Ktichen Panorama

Many of the units in our complex have a small kitchen and a small dining room, but ours has an open floor plan — you can see where the wall used to be in the photo below. We’ve got a huge island/eating area, and a massive amount of storage. See that big wall of cabinets? We have a coat closet, pantry, and all our dishes in there! And there’s Moria wondering what I’m doing.

I’ll start at the left in the panorama photo.

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My favorite part of my kitchen! We got this little piece for $5 at a yard sale — what a steal. Inside is our recycling bin and some random stuff.

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This radio doesn’t work, but it’s so pretty.

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Steven’s mom gave me those darling aperitif glasses; they’re from her side of the family. And I love the design on the Strega bottle.

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The other side of that shelf houses our spoils from Honeydukes (!) and a jar of doggie treats. I love the jar — Steven found it on the “free table” at work.

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My cookbooks and my KitchenAid — two essentials! My grandfather was an avid woodworker, and he made that little bookholder. I use it as a benchmark for my cookbook collection — if it starts overflowing, it’s time to donate a few items to the free table!

kitchen5

To the right of the fridge is a set of shelves where we keep some pantry staples and all our coffee- and tea-making implements! There are whole beans in the red tin, and coffee from Café du Monde too. My friend gave that to us as a thank-you for watching her pup. We use a Baratza grinder (bottom left), and it’s fantastic. Between that and the Chemex, you can make a great cup of coffee. I like to use the Moka pot when I want a smaller serving.

kitchen2

This piece belonged to Steven’s grandfather, who was a tailor. He stored his buttons in it! Now it houses our tea collection. :)

kitchen3

To the right of the sink is [some of] my beloved Pyrex collection (the little blue bowl is in the drying rack!), along with more pantry staples and our knives. You can see the butcher block counters, too. I don’t love them, especially near the sink where they get wet easily. They’re fine for the island, but impractical for most everywhere else.

kitchen4

To the right of the sink are more dry goods, spices, a few condiments, a scale, and the radio — because you have to listen to NPR while cooking or cleaning!

There you go! A short tour of my current* kitchen. I can’t wait to see yours!

*Steven and I are house-hunting! AHH!