(Vegan) Pesto Pizza – Meatless Monday Recipe

Even though I wasn’t a big cheese-eater before going vegan, I did appreciate cheese integrated on specific foods, read: pizza and lasagna. These two just aren’t the same without it.

Frustrated thinking that I’m never going to enjoy pizza the same way again, I took the challenge to develop my own vegan take on pizza and today I proudly share the results. You can argue it’s never going to be as tasty without real cheese but this version comes pretty close and definitely satisfies my craving. It’s crunchy on the crust, juicy in the middle and 100% plant-based!

Tip: The cheesy touch on this recipe is provided by a creamy pesto that I’m using as a cheese replacement. I enhanced its flavor by adding some nutritional yeast (quite interesting ingredient right here). It is deactivated yeast in the form of flakes or powder; has a nutty, cheesy taste, reason why it’s used as a cheese replacement by vegans. What’s fascinating is that nutritional yeast provides a complete protein containing all 9 amino acids the body can’t produce which is tricky to find when you follow a plant-based diet.
Feel free to use the same pesto for other sandwich combinations, pasta or salad meals.
Source: Wiki – Nutritional Yeast

Thrilled to be joining the Meatless Monday recipe-sharing community once more with this idea.
Are you going meatless today? What’s cooking on your end?

Ingredients (enough for 2 pizzas):
For the pizza dough:
270g (Spelt) flour
70g semolina (flour)
1 teaspoon salt
7g yeast (one little package)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons olive oil
200ml warm water
For the pesto:
5 garlic cloves
70g cashews (or walnuts or your favorite nut or combination)
2 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
1 handful fresh basil leaves
14 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper to taste
+ Your favorite pizza toppings: I’m using some red onion, tomatoes and mushrooms this time.

1. Let’s start by preparing the pizza dough. In a deep bowl combine the flour, semolina and salt. Separately, mix the yeast, maple syrup, olive oil and warm water. Make a whole in the middle of the flour mix and throw in the wet ingredients. Start mixing and eventually kneading with your hands until you get a smooth dough. Cover with a clean towel and let rest for 1 hour.

2. While the dough is resting, let’s work on the pesto.Easy as just putting everything in a food processor until you get a creamy texture. Make sure to taste a little bit to determine if you need to add more salt or pepper.

3. After the hour has passed, knead the dough some more and divide into two parts (you can either refrigerate it covered with some plastic wrap for later use or roll it immediately).
Roll the dough over a floured surface and transfer to a baking tray lined with wax paper (it’s easier to add toppings, etc. once the pizza dough is already on the baking tray).
Cover the dough with a thick layer of pesto and add your favorite toppings. Since I’m not using any tomato sauce for this pizza, I made sure to add some tomato slices as a replacement.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and bake for 15 minutes.
Buen provecho!

Going Vegan (Part 2): Green Activism!

I’m not lying when I say that it has taken me months to put this post together (and gather the courage to publish it). Talking about vegetarianism or veganism can easily become a sensitive topic yet one I can’t avoid writing about.

Nobel Prize winner Alvin Roth says: “Instead of focusing on making people repugnant to meat, promote the positive aspects of vegan eating”.
I’m a big fan of this approach so instead of ranting about how inhumane the meat industry is (there are more than enough documentaries about this out there), I’ll share some information on how reducing meat in our diets can have a huge positive impact on major areas of our existence on this planet. Contrary to the first part of my Going Vegan series of posts (From Omnivore to Vegan), this second bit is more information loaded but I’ve managed to boil everything down to three main points, please read on.

“It’s about being more concerned for our climate, more ecologically friendly and also healthier.”

1. Livestock issues:
“Livestock farming is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting meat consumption, environmentalists argue, would help stem global warming and improve the environment…”
Raising livestock for consumption takes an incredible amount of resources: on land to maintain all the animals + land to grow crops to feed them, water, fuel, etc. This is all taking its toll on our planet with the toxic gas emissions from livestock being higher than those of transportation. Our meat demand is directly destroying our environment.

2. Food distribution:
“…ironically, more than nine thousand children die each day from causes related to hunger and under-nutrition. It is a painful realization that the grain and resources we use to raise livestock could be used more directly instead to feed the starving and malnourished children in the world.”
This is probably the piece of information that had the most impact on me. I’m someone who very actively supports efforts to raise funds for causes fighting hunger around the world (Save the Children to be more specific).
It was a shocking realization finding out that this world is producing more than enough food to end hunger but we choose to put those resources where it is more comfortable for us. I can’t justify a steak on my plate when I know the food used to raise that cow could have been given to a malnourished kid.

3. My health:
“The world’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, states that: vegetarian eating patterns have been associated with improved health outcomes, including lower levels of obesity, a reduced risk of heart disease and lower blood pressure.”
I have my personal experience to back me up on this one: ever since I started cutting down on meat my body has experienced the biggest positive change in my whole life. Even before fully quitting meat, when I was still eating it once or twice a week, I already noticed a difference. I naturally ended up losing quite some weight but what has surprised me the most is the incredible amount of energy I have now compared to the past. My body feels lighter, cleaner and healthier in general; I rarely fall sick and can keep up intense and long levels of activity without big struggle (will talk more elaborately about this point on part 3).

Let me close this post with this excerpt that wraps up and binds everything together nicely for me:
“Science informs us that when our diet is more plant based, and when we exercise regularly, our health will improve. By mindfully reducing meat consumption, you are also performing a miracle, because your change in diet indirectly helps make food more available to hungry children in underdeveloped countries as well as reduce global warming. When more of us practice mindfulness this way, we are creating transformation at not only the individual level but also the collective level. We are changing the world.”

Think about it and help me spread the word ~~

Peaceful Dumpling: Exclusive Interview: Nobel Prize Winner Alvin Roth On Future Of Food
- Daily Mail UK: Norwegian army goes vegetarian as it goes to war against climate change by cutting ‘ecologically unfriendly’ foods
- “Mindful Eating, Mindful Life” – Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung
- Irish Times: On the Menu: Why ‘Meatless Monday’ plan is good news all round