Creamy Cauliflower Alfredo

When I first developed my creamy vegetable sauce formula, I had only tried it out with eggplant and wasn’t sure it how it would work with other veggies.  Since then, every vegetable I’ve used—butternut squash, pumpkin, and now cauliflower—has been a success.  Today’s version with one of my favorite cruciferous vegetables redefines alfredo sauce.

In addition to looking the part of a traditional alfredo, cauliflower makes for a super creamy puree when doctored up with some of my favorite flavors.  On another note, you learned about the health benefits of romanesco—brother to cauliflower—in my wonton post, so you already know that including this family of vegetables in your diet is a must.

Cauliflower

Make a batch of this sauce to throw over pasta or my ridiculously easy zucchini noodles, or get adventurous and trying serving cold as a veggie dip (maybe toss with some fresh dill?  I’ll have to try it out…).  Top with fresh veggies or herbs and serve.  Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: VEGETABLE PASTA SAUCE

Yields sauce for one box of pasta

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped raw vegetables –> I’m using cauliflower.
  • ½ cup cashew cream (soak raw cashews overnight, drain, and blend with just enough water to form a thick cream)
  • 2 tbsps nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp acid (i.e. vinegar, mustard, citrus juice, etc.) –> I’m using white whole grain mustard.
  • ¼-1 tsp seasoning (i.e. fresh/dried herbs, spices, etc.) –> I’m using ¼ tsp ground nutmeg.
  • Pink Himalayan sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste –> I’m using approximately ½ tsp salt and several turns of pepper.

Peel (if necessary) and chop your vegetables. Steam, roast, or boil (I’m steaming) to cook.

While your vegetables are cooking, bring a pot of water to a boil and prepare your pasta of choice. When the vegetables are finished, combine with all other ingredients (except the pasta, of course!) in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy.

Pour atop your pasta (or use in another application) and enjoy immediately for most desirable consistency. It will keep just fine in the fridge, but will dry out a bit.

Pasta

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Sweet and Tangy Barbecue Sauce

I love barbecue. I realize that seems awkward, coming from a mostly vegan. What use could I possibly have for BBQ sauce if I’m not slathering it on ribs or chicken? While I think that BBQ sauce has many applications, it is one of my favorite pizza sauces. Back in my meat-eating days, BBQ chicken pizza was one of my favs. Now, I sub tofu for chicken and forgo the cheese and am still completely satisfied…

…especially now that I’ve developed my own sauce! Store-bought BBQ sauces certainly promise flavor, but they are overloaded with sugar and salt. My version includes very little added sweetener and is so robust, doesn’t even need much salt.

The key to creating a sauce that outdoes the premade versions is using fresh ingredients. My BBQ sauce comes together with whole plump tomatoes and sweet golden pineapple. That’s right: pineapple is my not-so-secret-anymore ingredient. I’ve seen it used for natural sweetness in teriyaki, so I thought I’d give it a try in another sauce. Depending on how sweet, tangy, and/or spicy you like your BBQ sauce, you may not even need any added sweetener after the addition of the pineapple. Taste as you go!

(SIDE NOTE: If you don’t have one of these handy kitchen scales, I would highly recommend buying one.)

So, I realize that some of you are, in fact, going to use this deliciousness to coat an animal carcass. I’m happy to get you one step closer to living a healthier life by forgoing that bottle in the grocery store. No matter what, do, absolutely, use this sauce to make my pizza some time. 🙂 Enjoy!

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FORMULA BASE: BARBECUE SAUCE

  • 1 pound tomatoes –> I’m using romas.
  • ½ pound ripe pineapple
  • ½ of a small onion –> I’m using yellow.
  • 2-3 cloves garlic –> I’m using 2.
  • ¼ cup acid (citrus juice, vinegar, mustard, etc.) –> I’m using whole grain mustard.
  • ¼ cup + 1/8 cup sweetener –> I’m using ¼ cup unsulfured molasses and 1/8 cup agave syrup.
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste –> I’m using 4 grounds of fresh black pepper and a pinch of pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • Cayenne pepper or hot sauce to taste (optional) –> Definitely not for this wimp. 🙂

Coarsely chop your tomatoes, pineapple, and onion into large chunks. Place in a blender with your garlic cloves (peeled and whole). Puree until smooth.

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Pour into a sauce pan and add all other ingredients. Simmer on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes or until sauce has reached desired consistency. Use immediately or store in the fridge.

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New Formula: Simple Marinara Sauce

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On my mom’s side of the family, I grew up eating authentic Italian cuisine. Buying premade, jarred sauce was sacrilege, and I am not going to be the one to disappoint.

I have clear memories of my mom’s red sauce bubbling away on the stovetop for hours before topping a pasta or filling up a lasagna. Her traditional sauce includes ground beef and although it is delicious, even as a child, I remember picking out the meat.

Today, I have my own totally vegetarian marinara recipe. When I met my husband of nearly four years, he expressed to me that he prefers his Italian cuisine without meat, too. I knew we were meant to be. 🙂 While he likes a sauce that is tarter, I have come to enjoy it best on the sweet side, as my mother adds a little bit of sugar when she’s making hers.

I used to make this recipe with canned tomatoes, simply because it’s quicker and will yield a slightly smoother sauce. After reading an article about the most dangerous foods you can put in your body and seeing canned tomatoes on the list, I have since opted for the path of more resistance. What’s so bad about canned tomatoes? Cans are lined with BPA, and while some canned products do not contain enough acid to leach very much of this chemical into the food itself, tomatoes do and they will.

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So, I now puree my own tomatoes and the cooking process takes me a little longer. What’s the expression…Nothing that is worthwhile is easy? Something like that. Trust me, your sauce will be delicious and even though you are really really really starting from scratch, this recipe is still quite simple and will be ready in no time. Use this sauce with your favorite Italian dish or try it out with my vegan pizza. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: MARINARA SAUCE*

  • 1 ½ pounds tomatoes –> I’m using a combination of vine ripe and roma.
  • ½ of a small yellow or white onion –> I’m using yellow.
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp sweetener (optional) –> I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • 1 ½ tbsp dried fennel fronds (or a small handful of fresh) –> I’m using dried.
  • 1 tbsp dried basil (or a small handful of fresh) –> I’m using fresh.
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano (or a small handful of fresh) –> I’m using fresh.
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

*Today, I’m making a double recipe, so don’t be discouraged that the amounts listed above don’t match the pictures. I’m just doubling everything. 🙂

Thoroughly wash your vegetables so that you can save the scraps for homemade veggie stock. Coarsely chop your tomatoes and onion. Throw them into a blender with your garlic, herbs (not the bay leaf), and seasoning and puree until smooth.

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Pour into a pot on the stove, add your bay leaf, and simmer on medium low for 1-2 hours, or until your sauce reduces by approximately one third.

When I am just over the halfway mark, depending on what I’m going to be using the sauce for, I finely dice vegetables that I don’t anticipate my two-year-old being eager to eat and throw them in the pot. Today, I’m sneaking in some asparagus.

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I’ve pulled one over on Nolan a few times with great success. 🙂 You can skip this step if you want to keep this recipe extra simple.

Remove the bay leaf and your sauce is ready!

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If you’re feeling adventurous and like to plan ahead, quadruple the recipe and freeze in containers the perfect size for a box of pasta. When “there’s nothing to eat” strikes, you’re ready for a quick pasta dinner!

New (And Surely Long-Awaited) Formula: Pizza

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I’m excited to report that Travis and I have found a way to make cheese-less pizza totally delicious. We’ve always known it was damn good, but the proof was in my meat-and-dairy-loving father’s approval; when he comes to Phoenix to visit, he always requests that we make our vegan pizza.

What’s especially wonderful about pizza meets The Fresh Formula is that the creation of this American favorite is already formulaic in nature: dough + sauce + toppings in endless combinations. I’m here today to help you with ideas, quantity, and process…the rest is up to your taste buds and creativity.

Great news: If you’ve already mastered my yeast bread formula, you can make pizza dough! Woo! Below, you’ll see my bread formula with a few slight changes, suggestions, and optional ingredients that you may want to consider. The key is determining the type of crust you want—chewy or crunchy—and going from there.

Next, you’ll want to think about sauce. We most often use a homemade marinara (another post, another day), but have also made pizzas with barbeque sauce, pesto, and curry at the base. While I haven’t yet done a post about BBQ, I have written about how you can make pesto and curry, if you want to go an atypical route. I also have a formula for a “cheesy” sauce similar to an alfredo if you’re looking for what some restaurants call a “white” pizza.

Finally, toppings. Earlier this week, I made my first homemade vegan sausage (pictured below) and used that to top the pizza in this post. If you’re after a protein punch, you could use something similar (homemade, of course), or add tofu, tempeh, beans, nuts, or seeds. Wait…beans on a pizza?! Yessir, I wouldn’t make my BBQ “chicken” (tofu) pizza without black beans…

DSC_1857You might also consider adding fruits or vegetables. Most fruits don’t hold up to the high heat that pizza requires for baking, but a classic such as pineapple or a hearty fruit like pears will. Determining which vegetables to add comes down to preference of flavor and texture. Cooked vegetables will maintain fewer nutrients and be higher in calories, but will have a softer texture and richer flavor. Raw vegetables, will then, be higher in nutrients, lower in calories, crunchier, and a little less flavorful. Since I’m in the business of eating as many raw fruits and vegetables as possible, I do not typically pre-cook them before they top the pizza; they will par-cook a little in the fifteen or so minutes that the pizza is in the oven.

Here are a few combinations that we love:

  • “Sausage,” fennel, and leek atop marinara sauce (featured today)
  • Ground “chicken” (crumbled tofu), black beans, corn, onions, and bell peppers atop BBQ sauce
  • Zucchini, bell peppers, onions, pineapple, and cashews atop curry sauce
  • Pears (or apples), pistachios, and rosemary atop pesto

NOTE: Plan pizza night well in advance. 🙂 I always have yeast in my pantry, but you may not if you haven’t—until now!—made your own bread or dough. You also need a number of ingredients for a sauce and toppings, so don’t wait until you’re starving to start a pizza adventure.

Also, this is a formula best executed as a team. You can do it alone, but with a dough and sauce to make from scratch, a whole bunch of toppings to chop, and an intricate prep and baking process, having an extra set of hands would help. Man, I can’t wait until Nolan is old enough to pitch in!

FINALLY (imagine chorus singing): Pizza you can feel good about! No grease, no cholesterol, and tons of nutrients. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: PIZZA

For the dough*:

  • 3-4 cups of flour –> Travis recommends all whole wheat flour for a chewy crust, all bread flour for a crunchy crust, or half and half to achieve both textures.
  • ½ tsp salt –> We use pink Himalayan sea salt.
  • 1 packet rapid rise yeast
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 ¾ cups very warm water (hot, but touchable)
  • 1 tbsp sweetener (optional) –> Trav usually adds turbinado sugar to “feed” the yeast.
  • Spices or herbs to taste (optional)
  • Cornmeal and additional flour for dusting your workspace –> This prevents the dough from sticking to the pan later. Trav keeps cornmeal in a food storage container premixed with spices, flour, and a little salt to add even more flavor to the dough.

*If you need to see step-by-step pictures in making the dough, check out my bread post

For the sauce:

See my pesto, curry, or alfredo formulas for unique inspiration, or use your own recipe for BBQ or marinara sauce. If you’re concerned about biting off more than you can chew your first time making pizza, use a high quality premade jarred or bottle sauce (just this once!) or ask Mom to make a little extra of her secret recipe for you to take home in a food storage container. 🙂 No matter your decision, you’ll need about 2 cups. I’ll do a more extensive post about homemade marinara sauces at a later date, but if you want to try making mine, you’ll need:

  • 1 ½ pounds tomatoes –> I’m using about 7 medium to large romas.
  • ½ of a small yellow or white onion –> I’m using yellow.
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp sweetener –> I’m using turbinado sugar.
  • 1 ½ tbsp dried fennel fronds
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the toppings:

  • 1 tbsp oil (for rubbing on the crust) –> I’m using olive.
  • 2 cups chopped/sliced raw or cooked protein and/or produce –> I’m using 1 cup homemade vegan sausage and ½ cup each thinly sliced raw fennel and leek.
  • Approximately 1-2 tbsps nutritional yeast (nooch)
  • Homemade vegan cheese (optional) –> I’m new to this world, so I’m not using it today…another post, another day. 🙂
  • Spices, herbs*, salt, and pepper to taste (optional)

*If you want to use fresh herbs, use these to garnish the pizza after it is cooked.

If you are making a sauce from scratch, get that started first. To make a homemade marinara, for example, as I’m doing today, very coarsely chop the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and puree them together in a blender or food processor. Pour into a sauce pan, add the remaining ingredients, and simmer on medium-low heat for 1-2 hours, or until the sauce has reduced by at least one third. Remove the bay leaf at this point.

DSC_1862If you’re not making sauce from scratch, have it on standby to top your dough when it’s ready.

Next, attach a dough hook to your stand mixer. Thoroughly clean and dry your countertop and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Lightly oil a large bowl.

Combine 3 cups of flour, salt, and yeast in the mixer on low. Add the sugar and any additional spices or herbs, if using. Add the water and oil to the dry ingredients and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl before starting the mixer. Start on low speed and increase the speed as the dry ingredients become incorporated into the wet.

Add additional flour gradually until your dough forms a minimally sticky ball on high speed. I can tell that the dough is ready for kneading if it is still somewhat sticky to the touch, but does not stick to the mixing bowl itself when whipping around on a high speed.  (See my bread post for more pictures.)  Flour your hands, remove the dough, and place the dough onto your dusted countertop.

Knead the dough, adding small amounts of flour as necessary, until it makes a smooth ball.  Knead for 5-7 minutes total and then place the ball into your oiled bowl. Cover with a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes, punch down the dough, and separate into two smaller balls of dough.  Leave sitting uncovered on your workspace for about 15 minutes.  About 10 minutes into this second rise, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. In the time that it takes the oven to preheat, you will roll out and top your dough.

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Just to keep the pizzas simple, albeit not the prettiest, we roll each of our dough balls into oval-ish shapes that fit perfectly on the BACK side of a cookie sheet (don’t want the lip of the sheet interfering with sliding the pizza off later).  After you roll out each ball, make sure that the bottom has been freshly dusted with cornmeal and place the cornmealed side down on the back of your cookie sheet. Brush the crust with oil to keep some of the moisture in, sprinkle the entire middle with nutritional yeast, and top with sauce, etc. as you see fit.

DSC_1859 DSC_1861One at a time, your pizzas go into the oven atop the cookie sheet for 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes, gently slide the pizza onto a pizza stone for an additional 6.  The stone assists you in achieving a crunch to the bottom of the pizza, even if you are going for chewy inside.  If you don’t have a pizza stone, bake the pizza atop the cookie sheet for approximately 15 minutes total.  Either way, when the pizza is cooked, slide onto a large cutting board and slice.  This shape won’t give you typical pie-shaped pieces, but it doesn’t matter how they look as long as they taste fantastic!

DSC_1865Store in the fridge for 2-3 days, keeping in mind that without a thick layer of cheese on top to lock in moisture that the pizza will slowly dry out the longer that it sits.

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New Formula: Pesto

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Pesto is easy to make and super flavorful. While it is quite commonly a sauce for pasta dishes, it can also be used as a spread for sandwiches and wraps or a dip or marinade for vegetables. Depending on the application, pesto may be best used immediately as it will change in consistency once it goes into the fridge. This is a result of the oil within solidifying. If you’re looking for the pesto to be “pourable,” use it right away. Otherwise, it can easily keep in the fridge for up to a week.

There are endless combinations that make pesto delicious and versatile. The flavor depends largely on the herbs selected. Thus, I believe that pesto follows a basic formula and although often made with cheese, I’ve found a way to make it “cheesy” and vegan at the same time.

DSC_1806 The “cheesiness” comes from a couple of places. First of all, some nuts have flavors that mimic the nutty quality of cheeses like parmesan. My favorite parm substitute is cashews, which I grind finely and sprinkle on top of pasta often. The other cheesy element to this pesto is nutritional yeast, also known as “nooch.”

DSC_1808 Ummm…what is nooch (pictured above)?! Originally named “nutritional yeast,” it is a member of the fungi family and not the same as say, brewer’s yeast or baking yeast. This strain of yeast has a cheesy, nutty taste and adds a lot of flavor to dishes in small amounts. Most importantly, it is called nutritional yeast for a reason. Nooch is loaded with B-vitamins, protein, zinc, folic acid, and selenium. To sweeten the deal, some brands specifically contain the highly sought out vitamin B12.

Be creative in experimenting with my pesto formula. You could make a cilantro version to spread inside burritos or tacos, a basil version for Italian cooking, or even a mint version to use with falafel. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy!

FORMULA BASE: PESTO

Makes about 1 ¾ cups 

  • 1 ½ cups fresh herbs –> I’m using 1 cup parsley and ½ cup basil.
  • 1 cup raw nuts –> I’m using cashews
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 5 cloves raw garlic
  • ½ cup citrus juice –> I’m using the juice of two lemons.
  • Additional spices (optional) –> I’m using 1 tsp onion powder.
  • Water/oil as needed for smoothness –> I’m going for a thicker dip/spread, so I won’t need any extra liquid today.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth, adding water and/or oil as needed. The less oil used, the lower in fat the end product will be. 🙂 So flavorful, this pesto doesn’t even need salt!

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