Monday, August 20, 2012

Pizza 2 Ways

I used to think that as a vegan I would never again get to eat pizza as I knew and loved it.

There weren't very many things I really felt as though I would be truly missing out on, but pizza was one of them.

Turns out, becoming vegan actually opened my world to the vast array of plant based pizza crusts, sauces and toppings that come together to create a plethora of delicious vegan pizza varieties.

In fact, when I decided to share the versatility of vegan pizza with a few of my girlfriends at a girls night I was hosting (to go along-side the wine, of course), it almost couldn't narrow it down to just two types! Finally, I decided on two unique and delicious pairings that deviate from the standard "cheese-pizza" model to show how satisfying, nutritious and diverse vegan pizza can be.

The first kind of pizza I decided on was a pesto/cashew cheese base with roasted corn and garden-fresh tomatoes on top.

I alternated large globs of the pesto and cashew cream sauce and then squished tomatoes over the top before sprinkling the corn over the whole bit.

Tasted bomb.


My favorite way to do pesto is to add about a quarter cup of peas to give it a creamy, spreadable texture without having to over-kill the oil.
  • 4 large handfuls fresh basil (I basically fill my food processor up with it)
  • 1 large handful fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup frozen petite peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp salt
Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Add more peas or more oil until you reach a desired consistency. Season to taste.

Cashew "Cheese" Base
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight
  • 1/3 cup Creamy Corn and Roasted Pepper Soup from Trader Joes
  • 2 tsp Celery Seed and 2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
Blend all ingredients in a food process until smooth.

To assemble the Pizza

I buy the fire roasted corn frozen from Trader Joes when I don't have time to roast my own and then bake it in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350.

Roll out pizza dough (again - Trader Joes - I'm taking the easy road here!) into desired shape and size. Alternate large globs of pesto and cashew cheese. Then place tomatoes evenly on top of the sauces, using the tomatoes to squish the sauce down. Finally, sprinkle the baked, fire roasted corn over the pizza and pop it in the oven for 20-25 at about 400 degrees (this will very based on the type of pan or pizza stone that you use. I used a pre-heated pizza stone and made two smaller pizzas so again, just watch it. When it looks brown around the edges, pull it out!)

The second type of pizza I ventured to make (again with help from pre-made items from Trader Joes :) was a roasted garden veggie pizza with a bruschetta sauce and topped with fresh arugula and basil.

I really wanted to utilize as many ingredients from my garden as possible to show off all of the hard work my mom and I have put into it this season (mostly my mom - she's a garden goddess).

So for this pizza I roasted up an assortment of veggies - most fresh from the ground- including:
  • Beets
  • Zucchini (green and yellow)
  • Carrots
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potato 
  • Garlic
To roast them, all I did was cut the veggies into relatively uniform sizes, toss them with some coconut oil, herb blend and some salt and toss them in the oven for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees.

Then, I rolled out my pizza dough and spread it evenly with Trader Joe's Bruschetta (the stuff that comes in the JAR - not the fresh, it will be too runny) and topped it with the roasted veggies.

Then, after baking the pizza for an additional 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees, I pulled it out and covered it with fresh basil and arugula from the garden before serving.

Isn't it pretty?

The best thing about these two pizzas is how incredibly different they are. Other than the dough, these pizzas had little it common AND neither of them used the traditional red-sauce and cheese model.

Both were so satisfying and fresh and healthy - I wonder why I ever in a million years thought I would be missing out on pizza! Vegan pizza is the BEST!

Speaking of which, I was stoked to find out that Pizzicato (Portland-based pizza chain) agrees with me!
They recently released 3 new vegan pizza varieties including a middle eastern and a thai-style. Between that and the acclaimed pies from Dove Vivi, Sizzle Pie and Portobello, I feel like I'm not the only Portlander who is a vegan-pizza convert!

So get out there and get (or MAKE) some!

Live long and prosper! And enjoy all of the vegan-pizza-goodness in the world!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Restaurant Review - Araya's Place

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting my aunt at her lovely apartment in the heart of Bellevue, Washington. I was absolutely thrilled to visit Bellevue and even more excited to try an adorable little vegan Thai restaurant called Araya's Place.

In Portland, decent Thai restaurants are a dime a dozen and almost all of them have vegan options, so I was a little skeptical that this strictly vegan eatery could be that impressive - but I'd heard race reviews so naturally I had to give it a try.

I was blown away.

Boasting a HUGE vegan menu, I was overwhelmed by the amount of delicious sounding options, fresh ingredients and perfectly paired little wine list. Not to mention the decor of the place is totally comfortable, warm and inviting.

After many bouts of picking up the menu, deciding on one thing, putting the menu down, only to pick it back up again and change my mind, my aunt and I decided on a few winning dishes:

To start: Veggie Satay.

I like to select simple appetizers in vegan restaurants because I figure, if you are really going to succeed as a vegan restaurant, you better be able to make a simple, vegetable based appetizer well. And Araya's gave me faith from the appetizer-get-go.

Paired with a light and perfectly seasoned little cucumber salad and a smooth, creamy peanut sauce, the vegetable satay was seasoned and grilled to absolute perfection. A perfect combo of garden veggies (broccoli, zucchini, carrots, onions, bell peppers, eggplant, mushrooms) laid over a bed of spinach, I was immediately impressed by the presentation, flavor and quality of our first dish.

And let me tell you, it only got better from there.

What first impressed me when they brought the entrees out was the rice. We selected brown rice and, normally in Asian food restaurants, I expect brown rice will simply be the slightly more fibrous (but still relatively flavorless and limp) sister to the white rice alternative and that I won't be particularly keen to fill my plate with it. Not at Araya's. When the rice arrived it was colorful, flavorful and perfectly fluffy.

The rice really just added to the whole experience of Araya's and was a perfect complement to the two lovely dishes we ordered to share.

First we decided the Avocado Curry after seeing a couple of our fellow diners try it (Avocado, seitan, soft & fried tofu, bell pepper and basil in green curry). The curry did NOT photograph nearly as well as I would have liked but it tasted and looked soooo good.

See? Doesn't look that pretty. But it was. Pretty and delicious.

This curry was one of the most unique and flavorful curries I have ever tried. I absolutely loved the texture of the avocado paired with the seitan - a sort of meaty, hearty flavor that can be difficult to find in vegan dishes. Plus I love that this dish packs in healthy oils and a punch of protein while still tasting healthy and fresh. 

Next we ordered "Araya's Asparagus" which consisted of seitan, ginger, asparagus, portobello + shiitake mushrooms. 

This was probably my favorite dish. Arayr's chefs really know how to cook vegetables (a lost art at many Thai restaurants) and the house made seitan was absolutely superb. Pair those two things with a wonderfully flavored sauce and beautiful presentation and it is easy to see why this dish is a house favorite.

Overall, the Araya's experience exceeded my expectations and is absolutely worth a visit if you are in the Seattle/Bellevue area (there are two locations!! One in Seattle and one in Bellevue!) I especially recommend bringing a meat-eating friend here because I am confident the flavors and textures will surpass any that they have come to expect from other Thai restaurants.

For the menu, info about the restaurant and directions to each of the locations, check out Araya's website:

Oh--two more things I forgot to mention. Araya's has an in-house vegan bakery that whips up delicious sounding baked goods like Salted Caramel Bars, Banana Chai Cake and Matcha Chocolate Chip Cookies.

We were far too full to indulge in any of these delights but they sounded and looked absolutely amazing. Something to look forward to next time!

Also - Araya's has a lunch buffet SEVEN DAYS A WEEK for $8.99 which would likely be far too overwhelming for me to handle if I lived near it so at this point I'm glad I have my distance.

This place is a GO so text time you are in Washington, make the trip. You won't be disappointed in Araya's.

Live long and prosper. And don't be afraid to judge a restaurant by the quality of their vegetables.