Product Review: Amy’s Daiya Cheese Pizza

Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

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Shane and I decided to extend our Halloween junk food/horror movie marathon tradition to Valentine’s Day, since once a year is not enough. We got a later start than usual, and only managed to fit five movies in, instead of our usual six or seven: Citadel, The Returned, State of Emergency, The Awakening, and Fido. Thanks to a spring roll and lo mien-fueled carb overload, I started nodding off during Citadel, which actually wasn’t half bad (Aneurin Barnard, meow!); but of the five, The Returned proved my favorite by a long shot. But I digress.

In honor of the occasion, we finally broke out those Amy’s brand Daiya cheese pizzas that we scored from Natural Grocers waaaay back in November. You know what that means: frozen pizza review time!

When I first cracked it open, I have to admit that I was a little underwhelmed. More cheese, please!

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And then Shane gently and somewhat bemusedly reminded me that we tend to load up our pizzas with a ridic amount of cheese, and maybe this frozen pizza is being more reasonable than me? I begrudgingly agreed, and then proceeded to load it up with more cheese (mozzarella and cheddar), along with a heaping helping of veggies: onions, Kalamata olives, mushrooms, and red peppers.

I baked it as directed, and then five or ten minutes longer. I forget, because Bridesmaids was on and commanding my attention. Basically I let it go until the crust got nice and crispy and the cheese was bubbling like a Jacuzzi.

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Amy’s crust has always been my favorite – that is, up until I tried the Vegan Harvest pizza from American Flatbread. Now it’s first runner up, but with a very honorable mention. (I mean, flatbread. There’s just no beating that.)

So it’s tricky to accurately rate a pizza after altering it so drastically, but I’ll try. The crust, as we’ve already established, is aces. I would have liked to have seen more cheese, but it’s more or less (okay, slightly less) in line with other frozen pizzas. The pizza itself has a very strong basil taste – so much so that at first I thought they’d hidden a layer of pesto in there somewhere. But nope, it’s just basil. Potent like whoah. Not bad, but a little obtrusive maybe? Especially if you aren’t in the mood for it.

Size: 4/5. As per usual, the pizza is slightly smaller than the box. Still large enough that I was only able to finish 3/4 in one sitting.

Crust: 5/5. Like it, love it, gotta have it, wanna be it.

Sauce: 4/5. Enough to get the job done.

Cheese: 4/5. It’s a Daiya Cheese Pizza, y’all! Emphasis on Daiya. Load ‘er up!

Toppings: 3/5. Ease up on the basil, mkay?

Overall: 4/5. Daiya cheese + Amy’s crust = my OTP. Replace the basil with more cheese and you’ve got yourself a perfect 5-star rating.

And now, because we were talking movies earlier, this is usually how movie night goes down at the Garbato-Brady house:

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One bowl of popcorn for me, one bowl for the dogs. (They don’t really care for my salt and vinegar seasoning.) Shane? He’s on his own.

The Great CriFSMas Food Roundup, 2014 edition!

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015

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You guys, I baked so many cookies this year, I’m having trouble keeping track of them all! In addition to sending a basketful to our omni neighbors, I also mailed a giant box to my parents. They’re in the midst of a remodel, and the entire first floor of their house is pretty much unusable. Luckily my mom’s sis is conveniently located next door, so they’re been crashing at her house a lot.

(Fun story: I sent all their gifts to my aunt’s house – since they’d have to lug everything over there anyway – and Every. Single. Package. was delivered to my parents’ house instead. I.E. THE WRONG HOUSE. I expected that of USPS, but UPS? COME ON GUYS.)

Still, I thought cookies would be a nice gesture, seeing as they don’t have a kitchen of their own at the moment.

Plus we got to eat the extras our own bad selves, so bonus.

As per usual, most of the cookies were from The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur, which I pinky swear I’ll review this year. I had a few pretty epic fails, but overall I’m happy with my progress – I get better and better at cookies every year!

 

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Bacon Maple Biscuits for the dogs from Emma’s K9 Kitchen. With accidentally vegan bacon bits & lots of love! These smelled amazing when baking, but also lost their festive reddish hue. Not that the dogs much care. (The giant ones are for my mom’s big guy, Copper.)

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Candle Cafe’s Wheat Ball Heroes – and a Pita Pizza!

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

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I’m pretty sure I don’t eat enough sandwiches. Or at least not compared to my high school years. I used to have a sammie a day, like clockwork, and now I’m lucky if I make one or two a month. Adulthood, man. (On the plus side, I eat so much pizza and ice cream that my mom would be appalled if she knew. IF ONLY.)

I decided to rectify this oversight with the Wheat Ball Heroes from Vegan Holiday Cooking – one of the last recipes I’ll try before finally getting around to a review! (Just in time for the holidays, yay!) The recipe involves making both your own wheat balls and marinara sauce from scratch, but seeing as I had a bunch of homemade sauce in the freezer, I took a bit of a shortcut there. fwiw, the Candle Cafe’s marinara sauce recipe looks pretty solid; I’m sure it’s delish.

As for the wheat balls, they’re really tasty, but also rather troublesome. They’re made of seitan (homemade, using the Simple Simmered Seitan recipe from Vegan on the Cheap!),

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fried onions and garlic, bread crumbs, and assorted seasonings. After mixing the batter in the food processor, it turns into a crumbly mixture, which you’re supposed to form into little balls and bake. The dough didn’t hold together quite as well as I hoped, even after adding a little extra oil and a splash of water. Some balls took multiple tries, and still imploded while in the oven. To wit:

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Candle Cafe’s Potato Gratin

Saturday, November 29th, 2014

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I’d say that these Potatoes Gratin from Vegan Holiday Cooking are kickin’ it, but it’s hard to go wrong with potatoes and cheese. Like, next to impossible.

So this is a fairly standard recipe as far as Potato Gratin goes – though I guess it’s been awhile since I made it, so grain of salt. Thinly sliced potatoes are layered with mozzarella Daiya cheese, topped with breadcrumbs, and kept moist with soy milk seasoned with chives, parsley, salt, and pepper. During baking, the cheese melds with the soy milk to create a wonderfully creamy mozzarella sauce.

Since I wasn’t sure how many layers of potatoes I would end up with, it proved difficult to evenly distribute the two cups of cheese throughout the dish. In the end I underestimated and only used about a cup of cheese. Though I still think two full cups is maybe a little excessive (blasphemy!), my potatoes could’ve used more cheese. Maybe next time I’ll shoot for a cup and a half?

The only thing I didn’t like about this recipe were the breadcrumbs. Or rather, the bottom layer of breadcrumbs, which became gummy and adhered to the bottom of the pan during baking. Even Peedee, after an hour of frantic licking, couldn’t dislodge all the chunks. If you’re trying this recipe, definitely throw all the breadcrumbs on the top – and broil the dish before serving for extra golden crispy good measure!

Roasted Butternut Squash & Pesto Pizza

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

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C’mon, admit it: you KNEW this was coming. Every time I find myself with an abundance of produce, I invariably figure out a way to put it on a pizza (P.I.Z.Z.A.).

Before trying my hand at a butternut squash pizza, I did a little googling to see what others have done; this is kind of a mashup of some of the ideas I found. The roasted squash was heavily influenced by the Fall Harvest Butternut Squash with Almond-Pecan Parmesan from The Oh She Glows Cookbook – and the Farfalle with Zucchini, Mint, and Almonds from Vegan Italiano provided the inspiration for the pesto recipe, which is much more moist than usual. The liquidy pesto is insurance against the oven, which always dries my pesto pizzas out more than a little bit.

The result is hella tasty, and definitely one of my best uses of butternut squash to date.

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Greek Creamy Lemon Rice Soup with Yogurt Naan Griddle Bread

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

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One upside to the end of VeganMoFo? I can finally turn my attention back to the many other tasks I neglected throughout most of September. Like finally reviewing that copy of Vegan Eats World that Da Capo Press sent me all those months ago! (I’m so sorry you guys, really. The time just got away from me!)

Since the weather’s starting to turn chilly, I decided to concentrate on the soups: starting with this Creamy Lemon Rice Soup! Subtitled “‘No’ Govlemano,” this is a veganized version of the “zesty [Greek] classic egg-lemon chicken soup.” Which I’ve never had (I don’t think I ever tried an egg-based soup in my omni days!), so I can’t really comment on its authenticity vis-à-vis the original – but I can say that it’s delicious: thick and creamy, with pureed white beans and both orzo pasta and arborio rice, the pairing of which adds multiple textures to the dish. And the lemon is unexpectedly awesome.

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I decided to pair it with naan bread, mainly because I wanted to see if I could do it. I don’t have such a hot track record with breads, you see. But the naan turned out to be super-easy to make, even if baking it in the cast iron skillet did smoke up the house a little. (Worth it!) I couldn’t find any vegan yogurt locally – it seems to have plummeted in popularity lately – so I used this recipe at Oh She Glows to make my own. I know, right! How cool is that?

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The leftover naan is perfect for baking individual quickie pizzas, pita pizza styley. The bread is a little thinner than pita and results in a floppier crust, but no complaints here.

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Incidentally, the flexibility of the bread also makes it awesome for hummus wraps. (Or is this considered a sammie?) Naturally I overdid it with the fillings, so that the bread stood no chance of staying put when folded, but trust me when I say that it works even better for this purpose than the (thicker, less pliable) pita bread I normally use.

This is definitely a recipe that’ll be entering into regular rotation ’round these parts. Ditto: the soup.

Carbs & Rec: Salad & Other Disgusting Things

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

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SALAD. If there’s a food more universally reviled in Pawnee, I’d be hard-pressed to name it. (Dog laxative waffles, maybe?) From the manliest of meat-eaters to even those government employees who ought to know better, the cast of Parks & Rec never misses a moment to hate on leafy green meals.

First, we have the usual suspect: Ron Swanson, who refuses to eat the food that his food eats.

Chris: Ron, do you like some salad?
Ron: (giggling) Since I am a rabbit, no I do not.
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Mac & Cheese Monday: Deep Dish Mac & Cheese Pizza

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

You guys, this scene made me so happy – the reference is so random and unexpected, plus PIZZA. And not just any pizza; MAC & CHEESE PIZZA!

Leslie and Ben are officially my people.

Let’s see it again, in gif form:

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Yup, I kinda sorta do.

So there was no doubt that I’d have to make a mac & cheese pizza this mofo.

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Carbs & Rec: Peruvian Deja Food Pie

Monday, September 15th, 2014

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The latest meal on our Parks & Rec menu is, as you’ve no doubt already surmised, another Tom Haverfood! I’m pretty sure this particular phrase is fan-made as opposed to NBC canon, but that’s okay! If we’ve learned anything this month, it’s that our favorite shows are 1000 times better when enjoyed interactively.

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There’s one recipe in particular that seems like it was made just for this Haverfood: namely, the Peruvian Leftovers Pie from The HappyCow Cookbook. Basically you take your favorite leftovers, sandwich them between two layers of mashed potatoes, top it all off with a tofu cheese garnish, and voilà! – dinner is served. Bonus points for cleaning out the fridge.

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Carbs & Rec: French Fry Pizza-That-Is-Harder-To-Eat With a Side of Ranch Dressing

Friday, September 12th, 2014

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Ben Wyatt and calzones. If there’s one ship I ship harder than Leslie and waffles, this would be it. (I’m totes playing it cool here. BEN + CALZONES 5EVAH!)

Calzones first make a cameo in the episode “Ron & Tammy: Part Two.” In a last-ditch effort to make the Harvest Fest happen, the Parks & Rec crew resort to bribery a la a pizza party in order to convince the police department to provide free security for the event. Ben suggests calzones, thus leading to a running gag about calzones being disgusting and pointless (the worst food ever invented!), much to his chagrin. (Quoth the Police Chief: “What the hell is wrong with this guy?”)

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Mac & Cheese Monday: Five-Cheese Baked Pete-aroni and Cheese

Monday, September 8th, 2014

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This is a VeganMoFo special straight from the kitchen of Pete Oglini (of Pete’s Petezaria fame!), Pawnee’s own 3-star, Yelp-rated chef. The very best in “ethnic dining,” at least according to Leslie Knope’s definite guide, Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America.

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Because the residents of Pawnee love their cheese, this epic mac & cheese dish contains (count ’em!) one-two-three-four-five (five!) kinds of cheese:

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Happy Vegan Pizza Day!

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

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BEST HOLIDAY EVER!

Deep Dish Daiya Pizza!

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

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Shane lost his (okay, our) deep dish virginity this weekend with this uber-cheesy deep dish Daiya cheese pizza. Having never made a deep dish pizza before, this was a test run for a super-special, Parks & Rec-inspired pizza I have planned for this year’s VeganMoFo. (It’s in August, right? RIGHT!?! Cue: flailing panic and mass hysteria.) Luckily, Shane reports that it’s really easy to make. He used this crust recipe, halved and veganized.

In addition to copious amounts of melty mozzarella cheese, it’s got sauce, onions, garlic, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, mushrooms and basil. Soooo good, but one slice is hella filling.

In a move that can only be described as masochistic, I decided to have seconds, and am still feeling it this afternoon. I fear I might need to go on a raw liquid GF cleanse to reclaim my body, oy.

Updated to add: SEPTEMBER! VeganMoFo is in September this year. They just announced on twitter.

Enchilada Pie from Stuff I Eat

Friday, June 20th, 2014

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This oh-so-tasty contribution to The HappyCow Cookbook comes from Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, California. It’s kind of like a corny enchilada casserole, with layers of corn tortillas, polenta, corn, and corn chips. There’s also pasta sauce (though I cheated and used the canned variety!) and two kinds of cheese: vegan cheddar and a cheesy sauce made of silken tofu and nutritional yeast. After it’s backed, it kind of resembles an eggy vegan omelet.

The recipe calls for Follow Your Heart brand cheese, but I swapped it out for Daiya; in my experience, FYH just doesn’t melt at temps under 425F – and this one’s 350.

Also, I ended up with more than double the cheese sauce I needed. Weird, right? Normally I would have just dumped it all in there, but I just didn’t have the room – the dish calls for a four quart pan, and my biggest is only three! So I’m not really sure what to do with the leftovers – burritos, maybe? Or maybe I can oven bake a mini-omelet? We shall see.

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Tofu Omelet Sheets from the Cornbread Cafe

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

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Recipe #2 from The HappyCow Cookbook: Tofu Omelet Sheets from the Cornbread Cafe in Eugene, Oregon.

This one was definitely tougher than the Quinoa Patties. Unlike traditional tofu omelets, these are baked and then fried, the latter step being mostly to heat up the fillings and melt the cheese, which is added last.

Post-baking, the omelets were way too delicate to handle, let alone transfer into a frying pan. Huge mess! Instead I heaped my half of the six omelet squares onto a plate and layered them with the filling – mushrooms, onions, and red peppers – which I’d already sauteed separately. Very good, if not especially pretty.

I kind of wonder whether the recipe was written incorrectly; to bake the omelet, you line a greased jelly roll pan (or, in my case, a cookie sheet) with parchment paper, spread the tofu on top, and then top it off with another sheet of parchment paper, this one greased tofu-side down. It seems weird that only one piece of parchment would be greased on the side that comes into contact with the food, right? As it turned out, it was the bottom sheet to which the omelet clung. Further experimentation necessary.

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I had a little extra batter leftover, which I tried frying like a regular ole omelet. It was kind of messy, but I blame that on an inadequately sized spatula and my own impatience: I don’t think I waited long enough to flip it. Still tasty though, especially topped with all that gooey cheddar Daiya cheese!

Quinoa Burgers & Pizza Crumbles

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

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The good news: The Quinoa Burgers from Mayim’s Vegan Table are bangin’.

The bad news: The recipe requires a little finagling to make it work.

So I followed the recipe as directed – it’s pretty simple, with just seven ingredients – but my burger batter came out way too wet and sticky to handle. I ended up adding 1/4 cup of flour and between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of quick oats before I could shape it into patties without half the quinoa clinging to my phalanges.

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Then you’re supposed to fry the patties and bake ’em a little longer. Instead, I went right to the baking portion of the directions: 425F for 30 minutes (20 minutes on one side and then flip) on a lightly greased cookie sheet. I figured it’d be both easier and healthier, and I think I was right on both counts.

Also weird, but not necessarily in a bad way: I ended up with nearly double the burgers I was supposed to.

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Anyway, I could only fit five patties to a cookie sheet, so I had a little extra batter left over. The next day we had a mini pizza party for Easter (and because it was Sunday. And 4/20. Basically we don’t need a significant reason to enjoy pizza, is what I’m saying.), and I spooned some of the batter onto the Daiya mozzarella and onion pizza. Soooooo good, y’all! I think I like this even better as a pizza topping.

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We also took the pizza crust recipe from Mayim’s Vegan Table for another spin. The first time around, it didn’t bake all the way through; instead, it remained a little dense and doughy. Chalk it up to bad yeast or wacky weather, but the crust came out much better on our second try. Yay!

Creamy, Cheesy Nondairy Kugel

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

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When Peedee got a clean(ish) bill of health of Tuesday, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, or scarf down a giant bowl of mac & cheese. No surprise here: I did all three. As it turns out, the cookbook I’m currently reviewing has two (TWO!) recipes for vegan macaroni and cheese.

This one’s the Kugel which, while not technically mac & cheese, is close enough me for me. I mean, just look at it! (LOOK. AT. IT!) Creamy Daiya cheese sauce. Breadcrumbs browned on top. With just “a touch of sour cream for that classic and slightly tart kugel taste.” Sooooo good.

Since I knew this dish was to be baked – and baking mac & cheese often dries it out – I made a little extra sauce and thinned it out too, with an additional 1/2 cup of soy milk and handful of cheddar Daiya on top of what’s required. Worked like a charm: the sauce was still super-rich and creamy even after 25 minutes in the oven.

My only complaint? The onions tasted a bit raw for me. Next time I think I’ll sautee them in the same saucepan used to make the cheese sauce, rather than add them uncooked to the pasta. Baking just didn’t get ’em done, imho.

On another note, Shane used his portion as a burrito filling! Maybe I can has a burrito-themed VeganMoFo after all? (Burritos are like pizza: everything goes great in them!)

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Holy Leaning Tower of Eggplant Parmesan, Batman!

Friday, April 18th, 2014

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So I bought an eggplant and then promptly forgot why I bought said eggplant. Long story short, it started to get a little questionable, just hanging around in my fridge, so I decided to try the Eggplant Parmesan Stacks from Mark Reinfeld’s Taste of Europe. You know, since I couldn’t figure out which damn recipe I’d intended to make.

The result was…okay. I think I would have liked it better if I’d skinned the eggplant and sliced it thinner. The skin just didn’t soften up as much as I’d hoped, and the middle of the stack stayed a bit spongy even though the bottom pieces were perfectly tender; mushy, even. It’s a solid recipe though, and I bet I’d love it with green zucchini. The huge ones that spring up in my garden around July. (Mmmmm, summer.)

Anyway, I suspect I’m just not that into eggplant. IT’S SO HARD BEING A FUSSY EATER, Y’ALL.

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Pizza Pizza Pizza!

Saturday, March 29th, 2014

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Last Sunday was pizza night, and we took the opportunity to try out another recipe from Mayim’s Vegan Table – namely, the pizza crust. It’s almost identical to our go-to recipe, minus the sugar (there isn’t any). Consequently, the dough doesn’t rise quite as much, resulting in a thinner, denser crust. Shane was happy to report that it’s still plenty pliable.

Onto Miam’s pizza (top and bottom right) went mushrooms, red peppers, onions, and the pepperoni crumbles from Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza. (The extras made some pretty kickass burritos. Just saute with zucchini, red peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and a touch of salt and pepper and serve warm. So good I could cry. BECAUSE I’M OUT.) The other pizza (bottom left) has zucchini, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Of course there’s mozzarella Daiya on each. (OF COURSE.)

Neither of the pizzas cooked to the center, though. Possibly this is because of all the juicy toppings, but who knows? Our crust cooked through when reheated in the oven, but Mayim’s remained a little chewy on the inside. Definitely gonna try it again to see if we get different results.

Tasty either way.

Adventures in Gluten-Free Pizza: Episode 1

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

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So. The pizza on the left. It’s a mozzarella Daiya stuffed crust pizza with Lightlife pepperoni and black olives. Freaking delicious, but not really germane to today’s post.

The slice on the right represents our very first foray into the world of gluten-free pizza. Not because I don’t love gluten (wheat, yum!), but because I scooped up a copy of Daniel Nadav’s 101 Gluten Free Vegan Italian Recipes when it was just a buck on Amazon. Mostly I just wanted it for the pasta recipes – since they all call for store-bought GF noodles, I can just as easily use the gluten-filled stuff – but I thought it might be fun to experiment with some of the pizza crust and bread recipes anyway. My first attempt? Not very encouraging.

The dough came out perfectly runny, much like pancake batter and, rather than throw good GF flour after bad (it’s not like we have a whole lot to play around with), Shane decided to add some white wheat flour to thicken things up. Hence, this pizza isn’t really gluten-free. And after all that, the crust still came out a little dense and spongy. (Totally edible though. It’s pizza!)

I looked around online and found that Nadav’s ratio of flour-to-water is pretty standard, so I wonder whether the problem was with my flour: I bought a bag of Thai rice flour on Amazon, assuming it was the same as white rice flour, but it’s awfully fine. Maybe the bad was mine?

Anyway, further testing required. (Science!) On top are roasted peppers, sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, mozzarella Daiya, basil, oregano, and just a touch of lemon zest. Yum!