How to Make Simple Vegan Pizza from Scratch (Plus a Big Announcement!)

For four straight days, my kitchen has been completely destroyed at the end of the day.

Food processor, Blendtec, Dutch oven, and every pot and pan we own completely filthy. The sink piled so high we started calling it Mount Dishmore.

And right now, every time you turn on the front left burner of our stove, it fills the house with toxic plastic fumes, thanks to my accidentally setting a Ziplock bag on it while it was hot.

The above can only be the result of an insane amount of recipe-testing, which is, of course, what my big announcement is all about: I signed a contract with a publisher to write the first No Meat Athlete print book!

I can’t share too many details yet (and likely won’t have many until spring), but of course it’s about the same topics No Meat Athlete is about, and with lots of recipes. Hence the kitchen that every night looks like a mad scientist’s laboratory that has been carpet-bombed.

Anyway, much more news on the book to come. Now, to the fruit of my labor …

Vegan pizza!

For several years, my dad and I have been on a quest to make the perfect homemade brick oven pizza — without a brick oven.

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10 Delicious Ways to Eat More Kale

I know: you know all about kale.

If you’ve been to a Whole Foods recently, you probably already know that kale scores a perfect 1000 on Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Aggregate Nutrition Density Index (ANDI).

And if you’re a fan of No Meat Athlete on Facebook and saw the infographic we shared a few weeks ago, then you know that per calorie, kale has more iron than red meat and more calcium than milk!

I’ll bet you’ve even heard about those great Eat More Kale shirts, and the fight with Chick-fil-A.

But here’s the real question: are you actually eating kale?

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The World’s Most Versatile Veggie Burger Recipe

After seeing how useful (and how popular) the Perfect Smoothie Formula and the Ultimate Energy Bar Formula were, my sister Christine and I set out to see what other foods could benefit from a good formula-izing. That’s a real word.

In case you haven’t seen our other formulas, the idea is simple: instead of creating just one recipe, to make just one smoothie or one energy bar (that your taste buds will surely tire of by next week), we come up with a template that can be used to create virtually limitless variations, leaving room for your ideas in the process.

Smoothies and energy bars were natural choices for formulas. These are foods we eat all the time, so we need endless variations. But what else would lend itself well to a formula?

Enter the veggie burger formula

It’s not that we eat veggie burgers every single day. Or even every week.

But what’s great about veggie burgers is that if you’ve got just a few standby recipes, on any given weeknight you’ve almost certainly got everything you need in your pantry or fridge to throw something edible together in 20 or 30 minutes.

They’re super healthy and a good protein source too. And most importantly, they’re substitution-friendly, making them a perfect fit for a formula — if you’ve got a can of beans and a few random veggies in the fridge, chances are you’ve got what you need.

About the formula

And so Christine got to work creating a new formula. What’s really interesting is that she started with the energy bar formula as the backbone, since the bars are based on beans as well and have a texture that’s befitting of a burger. Of course, she replaced sweet flavors with savory ones, and designed the burgers to be fried, not baked like the bars are.

These burgers work great for a weeknight meal, and they’re perfect for tucking into a pita for a lunch on the go. We like to make them slider-style, since smaller burgers tend to stay together better than large ones and have a better texture. You can also make a large batch on the weekend and freeze ahead of time, but keep in mind that they tend to defrost better in the refrigerator than in the microwave.

Alright, here we go! The master formula is below, and we’ve listed several options for each broad type of ingredient, which you can mix and match to come up with your perfect burger. We’ve also included, at the bottom, three of our favorite combinations in case you’re not in a creating mood.

Enjoy!

The veggie burger formula

Ingredients:

  • 1  pound can of beans, drained and rinsed, or 1.5 cups cooked beans (suggestions: your favorite bean!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups diced veggies (suggestions: carrots, celery, mushrooms, chopped spinach, chopped kale, corn, chopped artichokes, zucchini, squash, sweet potato)
  • 2 teaspoons + 2 tablespoons oil for frying (suggestions: olive, coconut, grapeseed)
  • 3 tablespoons liquid flavor (mix and match suggestions: mustard, ketchup, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, vegan worcestershire, buffalo sauce, balsamic vinegar, salsa, pasta sauce, marsala, water)
  • 4 teaspoons spice (we recommend combining at least two: smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, italian seasoning, poultry seasoning, montreal steak seasoning, black pepper, cayenne pepper, fennel, oregano, curry powder)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (omit or reduce if your liquid or spices contain salt)
  • 1 cup dry base ingredient (suggestions: buckwheat, unsweetened protein powder, bread crumbs, cornmeal, oatmeal)
  • 1/2 cup texture ingredient (suggestions: chopped walnuts, olives, avocado, sundried tomatoes, leftover cooked rice/quinoa/bulgur, parsley, cilantro, basil)

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a pan over medium heat. Fry the onion, veggies, and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a food processor and pulse with beans, liquid flavor, spice, salt until combined but still chunky. Pulse in the dry base and texture ingredient.

Form into golf ball size balls and flatten into patties.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Fry patties 2-3 minutes per side until browned and heated through.

Makes about 18 small patties.

Our favorite variations

Mexican Sliders

  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups of veggies: 1 cup canned yellow corn, 2/3 cup sweet red pepper, 1/3 cup packed spinach
  • 3 tablespoons liquid: 1 tablespoon lime juice (1/2 a lime), 2 tablespoons red prepared salsa
  • 4 teaspoons spice: 2 tsp cumin, 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup dry ingredient: cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup texture ingredients: 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup white rice

Classic Sliders

  • 1 can black beans
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups of veggies: 1 cup mushrooms, 1/2 cup celery, 1/2 cup green pepper
  • 3 tablespoons liquid: 1 tablespoon ketchup, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 teaspoon liquid smoke, 2 teaspoons soy sauce or vegan worcershire
  • 4 teaspoons spice: 3 teaspoons Montreal steak seasoning, 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • ½ tsp salt (omit salt)
  • 1 cup dry ingredient: panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup texture ingredients: 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Indian Patties

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 cups of veggies: 1 cup sweet potato, chopped fine, 1/2 cup sweet red pepper, 1/2 cup yellow corn
  • 3 tablespoons liquid: 1 tablespoon lime juice (1/2 a lime), 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 4 teaspoons spice: 3 tsp curry, 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup dry ingredient: oats
  • 1/2 cup texture ingredient: 1/4 cup cilantro, 1/4 cup chopped cashews

 

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24 Tasty, Healthy Vegetarian Snack Ideas

If you still haven't tried roasted chickpeas, do it now and thank us later.

Post written by Susan Lacke.

When I was a kid, I always swore that when I grew up my days would be filled with snack time and recess.

Twenty years later, though I still won’t admit to being a grown-up, I will say I’ve managed to make my childhood dream come true: life as a triathlete provides me with plenty of time playing in the water, riding my bike, or running around.

And the best part? The active lifestyle is one which definitely favors lots of snacking.

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The Super Vegan Protein Source You’re Probably Missing Out On

If I’d have put the name of this food in the title of the post, you probably wouldn’t have kept reading.

But I wanted to first be able to tell you that just a quarter cup of the mystery ingredient has 11 grams of protein in it.  (And that a single serving of soup made from it has 22 grams!)

And that it’s totally soy free, and it’s a whole, unprocessed food.  And that it’s used in a lot of vegan protein powders because it’s such a good source.  Alright, ready?

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My First Vegan Grocery List (and a Must-Make Recipe)

I can’t believe I’m actually going to post a  list of what I bought at the grocery store.

When my wife, Erin, suggested that we save the receipt in case people wanted to know what we bought, given that it was our first full-on vegan trip to the store, I told her no way.

“Are you serious?  Who gives a rat’s ass what we buy to eat?” I responded.  (Actually, I was nicer than that.  I may have even offered a foot massage in return for the suggestion.  Not really.)

I mean, I posted my grocery list and all sorts of other boring things about myself when my blog was new and nobody read it, but surely we’re past that now, right?

Nope.  As soon as I wrote something about my first vegan food-shopping trip on Twitter (my current repository for all things personal, petty and childish; follow me there if you want), people asked for the list.

You win, Erin.

So, with the hope that maybe it will help somebody realize that being vegan doesn’t mean just eating lettuce all day, here goes nothin’.

My first vegan shopping list

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The World’s Most Perfect Vegetarian Meal: A Grain, a Green, and a Bean

In my last post, I wrote about saving money on healthy vegetarian food.  You guys responded with perhaps the best batch of comments this site has seen, adding enough useful tips that, in theory, none of us should ever have to pay more than about thirty-eight cents for a week’s worth of groceries again.

One of the most important tips on my list was a simple, one-pot meal that happens to be cheap, filling, and nutritionally outstanding — what I like to call “a grain, a green, and a bean.” (AGAGAB?)

You really don’t need a recipe for the most basic version, but as I mentioned, it can stand to be jazzed up with other ingredients.  So that’s what today’s post is: A simple, just slightly fancied-up version of an AGAGAB that you can use with different combinations of ingredients, to eat for dirt cheap as often as you like.

Clean Start

The recipe is from CLEAN START, which is Terry Walters’ follow up to the simply amazing (in my opinion) CLEAN FOOD.  Terry happens to be a marathoner and cyclist as well, and in addition to letting me share a few recipes here, she was one of several authors, bloggers, and athletes who contributed a few tips to my new vegetarian first-marathon guide (which I *think* should be available next Wednesday, February 9!).

The recipe here is a good example of what you’ll find in CLEAN START, which follows the same basic blueprint of CLEAN FOOD: seasonal recipes that combine simple, fresh ingredients, turning them in just a few steps into something healthy, filling, and wonderful (and vegan).

This is not one of those vegan cookbooks that has you molding strange mixtures of beans and breadcrumbs into something that vaguely resembles a piece of meat in the way it looks but feels and tastes nothing like it.  Instead, CLEAN START is about appreciating ingredients for what they are and preparing them in the way that best showcases them without doing too much to change them.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I have a feeling NMA readers can dig that.

Here’s the recipe from CLEAN START, by Terry Walters, Sterling, 2010.  (By the way, “aduki” is not a typo; it’s an alternate spelling of adzuki or azuki.)  When I made this recipe, I added quite a bit of sea salt (since I’m a salt fiend and that’s what salt fiends do) and used hot sauce in place of the ume plum vinegar.  Partly because I don’t know what an ume plum is.

Millet in the Pot with Aduki Beans and Collards

  • 1 cup millet
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 2 carrots, sliced into 1/8-inch rounds
  • 1 cup cooked aduki beans
  • 1 bunch collard greens, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 dashes ume plum vinegar
  • 1/4 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

Place millet in fine-mesh strainer, rinse and drain.  Heat Dutch oven to medium, add millet to dry pot and stir 3-4 minutes to toast.  Add vegetable stock and bring to boil.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer carrots, beans, and collard greens on top of millet (do not stir).  Cover, increase heat to medium and continue cooking 20 minutes longer or until liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat, drizzle with olive oil and ume plum vinegar and fold to combine all ingredients.  Serve topped with pumpkin seeds.

SERVES 4.

Variation

Another favorite combination for this recipe is brown basmati rice, kidney beans, and a combination of kale and mustard greens.

Foodily launch!

One more quick thing today — there’s a new recipe site that just launched yesterday called Foodily.com.  It’s an innovative “recipe search engine” with tons of other features, including sharing and a community aspect.  I’ve fooled around on the site and it can do some really neat things.

Also, I’ve been working with Foodily and WebMD to include some NMA recipes in WebMD’s Daily Bite newsletter.  I even have my own biography on WebMD, which tells me that my devious plan to fool the world into thinking I am awesome is working.

That’s all for today.  Check out Foodily, try Terry’s recipe, and sign up to be notified as soon as the Marathon Roadmap is available next week!  And tomorrow Susan has a fun announcement, so make sure you check back then!

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What’s All the Fuss About Gluten-Free and Grain-Free?

Happy not-so-New Year!  Was my last post really in 2010?  Yes it was.  And 4-Hour Body author Tim Ferriss put it on his Facebook page and tweeted it, which was awesome.

If that’s how you found the site, great.  Maybe you can chime in and help me with something.

The unsexy gluten-free rage

Gluten-free and grain-free strike me as just about the most boring diet premises one could dream up.  Especially for vegetarians, for whom grain is one of the last bastions of comforting, cooked food, nixing it sounds terribly unappealing.

So the fact that everyone (including top endurance athletes) is talking about getting the grain out of their diets has left has me thinking that maybe there’s something to it.  Drastic improvements in endurance and recovery, perhaps?

Grain-free is a central premise of the Paleo diet, and one that requires no modification in my vegetarian version of Paleo.  Among the other credible sources in my universe who advocate low-gluten or low-grain: Brendan Brazier, Rich Roll, Tim Ferriss, and Brian MacKenzie of CrossFit Endurance.

In the case of gluten, a protein composite primarily found in wheat, the main rationale for avoiding it is that it’s difficult for our bodies to process it.  Wheat allergies and Celiac’s disease are the extreme cases, but proponents of a low-gluten diet say that wheat is an inflammatory in everyone, and it can slow us down and cause weight gain.

Why I’m not yet a No-Wheat Athlete

Only in the past few months have I really started listening to any of them.  I’ve reduced my wheat intake to the point where it’s a cheat food, something I’ll eat only on binge days.  (Spelt pasta is a nearly indiscernible alternative to whole wheat, spaghetti freaks. [UPDATE: Spelt is actually a form of wheat — so not gluten free, but I still think it’s healthier than most whole-wheat products.)

But I’m hesitant to give up other grains.  I mean, brown rice?  That’s an absolute staple for me.  (My latest snack/meal obsession: brown rice, avocado, Bragg’s amino acids, and lime juice.)  Even quinoa, not technically a grain but a seed, is banished under the strictest plans.

But that’s the not biggest problem.  When I get to the point where I’m convinced that my long-term health or performance as an ultrarunner can be improved with a diet change, I’m usually pretty good at exacting that change.  (Coffee being a notable blemish on my record.)  That’s why I went vegetarian, and why I’m tending recently towards vegan.

No, the problem isn’t that it’s too hard.  The problem is that I’m just not convinced.  I can’t truthfully say that I’ve noticed a single benefit since cutting out the wheat.  In fact, I’ve just found it harder to fill the plate with enough calories.

I’m hoping a few success stories will inspire me and others to stick with it, or that enough stories of failure will convince me that it’s not for everyone.  So that’s what I’d like to hear from you about.

Have you experienced significant changes in your energy levels, your endurance or strength, or y0ur recovery time since going gluten-free or grain-free?  And while I understand the idea that gluten is an inflammatory agent in our bodies, what’s the deal with gluten-free grains?  What’s the rationale for avoiding them?

Grain-free cannellini bean curry

While we’re talking grain-free, here’s a recipe for a fantastic dish I made for the second time last night.  It’s grain-free, not on purpose really, it just happens to be that way.  It can accompany rice or naan if you like, but I’ve served it alongside broccoli or spinach.

I’d classify it as non-spicy Indian, which is one reason it’s one of my wife’s favorite dishes we’ve had recently.  It’s from Anjum’s New Indian, and (sadly) it will be the last recipe I can post from that book.  But up next is Vegetarian Times’ Everything Vegan, so have no fear.

This curry uses cannellini beans, which is slightly odd-seeming since “cannellini” doesn’t exactly sound Indian.  But it works, and that’s sort of what makes Anjum’s book unique; for example, you might remember the black-eyed pea curry recipe I posted a while back.

A few other notes: If you don’t have asafoetida, Anjum says you can skip it.  It’s mainly a digestive aid.  And if you don’t have curry leaves, she often recommends substituting basil leaves, so that’s what I did here.  I also added a little bit of lemon juice before serving.

Give this one a try.  It has a very subtle, coconuty and lightly sweet flavor.  Which of course I had to lay waste to with a big pinch of cayenne pepper.  Just how I roll, I suppose.

From Anjum’s New Indian, Anjum Anand, John Wiley and Sons, 2008

Serves 4-6

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • good pinch of asafoetida (I skipped this)
  • 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 14 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 small-medium onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 5 large cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp pure red chile powder
  • 1 rounded tsp ground coriander
  • 2/3 cup coconut milk
  • 2 cups cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved if large or left whole if small
  • 1 tsp brown sugar or jaggery
  • 3/4-1 tsp tamarind paste, or to taste (some brands are really strong)
  • handful of fresh or frozen grated coconut, to garnish
  • handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan.  Add the asafoetida and, once it sizzles, add the mustard seeds.  Once they start to pop, add the curry leaves, then the onion and cook until these are soft and golden, around 8-10 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute over medium heat.  Add the salt and powdered spices and stir for 30 seconds.  Add the coconut milk and 3/4 cup water and bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the beans and tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes, allowing the flavors to marry.  Stir in the sugar and tamarind paste, then mash some beans against the side of the pan to thicken the curry a little.  Taste and adjust the tartness, sweetness and seasoning to taste.  Garnish with the grated coconut and fresh cilantro and serve.

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