Thursday, September 20, 2012

Baked Ziti Pizza and The Best Pancakes Ever.

9/20/12  Back in Boulder, CO

  So I've been a vegetarian for 20 years.  I always loved animals and decided to stop eating them at a young age.  I grew up in New Jersey, and ate an abundance of pasta and pizza.  It was great!  It was an easy transition for me.  I've always loved cooking for my family and getting creative in the kitchen.  I am 3/4 Italian, 1/4 Southern farm girl, which basically means I have no choice.  I want to feed you.  My absolute favorite pastime is cooking someone a meal.   
   I tried to go vegan as a teen, back in '96, but it only lasted a few days until I had an uncontrollable craving for pancakes and butter.  During those few days of being teen vegan Karen, I also worried about pizza.  How would I get my all consuming pizza fix?  Anyone that knows me will tell you that I NEED pizza.  I'm obsessive about it.  My soul depends on it. You just can't taste NJ shore pizza and then... just do without it for the rest of your life!  It can't be done.  This pizza obsession carried through my teens, twenties, and until recently, I had not even considered going vegan again because of it.       

  The more I got into creative cooking,  the better I got at it.  I learned about all kinds of new ingredients.  I cut out almost all foods that were processed, or had preservatives in them.  I started making everything from scratch.  I like knowing what is in my food.  If I read a packaging label and have no clue what the ingredient is, then I don't eat it.  Now I was never a big girl or anything, but the minute I started doing this, I lost 30 lbs.  I have maintained that weight for about 4 years now.   My eating habits have never really been about weight loss,  but it sure was a nice perk!

  The more natural, real foods I consume, the better I feel.  More energy, happier, feeling better.  I did eventually cut out almost all dairy except for mozzarella for my homemade pizzas and butter for my pancakes.  The more plant based my diet became, the less dairy I craved.  Then I started reading about how plant based diets can actually heal people's ailments.  A plant based diet can actually cure heart disease, reverse diabetes, and obesity.   One day it just clicked.  It makes sense that what you eat affects how you feel.  Food can heal you.  If you eat crap, you feel like crap.  I thought about veganism again.  100% plant based diet.  I experimented on making dairy free cheeses using different people's recipes and adding my own touch to some.  It took awhile but I got there....and here I am.  

Baked Ziti Pizza.  Why? Just trust me.

Vegan Baked Ziti Pizza

for the crust:
2/3 c. luke warm/hot water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tbsp active yeast
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt

-In a small bowl add sugar and pour water in.  Mix until sugar dissolves.  Sprinkle yeast over water and stir.  Let sit 5 min until yeast looks foamy.  Meanwhile in a separate large bowl, mix flours and salt.  When water mixture is foamy, slowly pour into flour mixture mix together, then knead for about 3 minutes.  Let rest in bowl, covered with a towel for at least 30 minutes. 

for the cheese:
1 c. firm tofu, crumbled  (Wait, don't go! I said trust me!)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1tbsp olive oil

-smash and mix all cheese ingredients with a fork

for the sauce:
14 oz can crushed tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp paprika
2 tbsp red wine
1/2 a jalepeno chopped (optional)

-in a small pot, saute garlic and olive oil over med heat until golden brown.  turn temp to low, add crushed tomato, oregano, parsley, salt, fennel, paprika, jalepeno, and wine.  Cook 20 min or so, until the dough is done

1/2 lb ziti or penne, cooked

- Preheat oven to 425.  Rub some olive oil over a 9x13" casserole dish...or the biggest that will fit in your teeny tiny RV oven.  When dough is ready it should have just about doubled in size.  Pick it up and stretch it a bit.  Pretend it's a steering wheel, and make a long left turn.  Lay it in the casserole dish and push it around, stretching it more and more, make it fit that casserole dish!  It will resist but eventually give in and fit that thing.
-Mix the cooked pasta and the sauce together.  Pour it on top of the dough.  Layer the top with the cheese mixture.

Bake at 425 for about 15 min or until crust looks golden brown.

The Best Pancakes Ever
makes 4-6 pancakes

1/2 c. All purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 c. water 
1/4 tsp cinnamon
handful chopped walnuts or pecans
2 dates, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp rosemary 
3 dried figs, chopped
1 tsp coconut oil

in a large bowl, mix everything except the water, vanilla, and coconut oil.  Slowly add water and vanilla to mixture and stir to combine.
-Heat frying pan med/high.  Add coconut oil.  When pan is good and hot, pour pancake batter about the size...of a pancake! onto the pan.  let it brown for 3-5 minutes before flipping to the other side.  3 min on the other side.  
I use Earth Balance organic buttery spread.  It tastes as close to butter as I've ever tasted, and it is totally vegan.  Serve hot!

If you happen to try any of my recipes, please post a comment and let me know what you think!


  1. just wondering if I can substitute gluten free flour and omit the sugar..

  2. Unfortunately, I haven't experimented much with gluten free flour. I would look for a tried and true gluten free pizza crust recipe, and then make the toppings according this recipe. Good luck! Let me know how it turns out!

  3. Omitting the sugar, however, would be no problem.