Friday, February 1, 2013

#YU30 Plant Powerful Challenge and Gluten Free Vegan Italian Sausage Pizza

Today is the beginning of the #YU30 Plant-Powerful Challenge, and my husband and I are both participating. We have already been eating plant-based diet since March of 2012, but we had only experimented with gluten-free living. At some point over the past year, we started to eat small amounts of gluten again in things like Ezekiel sprouted grain bread, wheat tortillas, and meals we ate while we were out. It was more about convenience for us. We thought we needed bread, and it seemed like a great snack for Liam. Ezekiel bread has about 4g of protein per slice with a handful of healthy sprouted grains and no extra garbage. I don't discount that it is a healthy part of anyone's diet that doesn't have any issues with gluten, but it was just one of the things that caused issues for us. After a short time, my husband had gained back 15 pounds of the near 80 he has lost since March last year. I gained back five, and since dropping gluten 2 weeks ago, we have both lost the additional weight we had put back on. While we haven't been clinically diagnosed as having gluten intolerance, it definitely seems best for us to avoid it for now. Not only had I gained some weight back, but my insomnia returned, I was bloated, cravings returned, etc. After 5 days gluten-free keeping a food diary, my insomnia subsided and my jeans fit again. I don't need a clinical diagnoses to tell me what my body is already telling me. :)

Anyway, all of that meant that the #YU30 Plant-Powerful Challenge came at the perfect time for us. Now, we could have a whole community of gluten-free, plant strong warriors to help us along! I was feeling pretty good about this, but then... the pizza craving hit. I had a boxed mix of gluten free pizza dough on hand that uses brown rice flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum and a few other ingredients. I knew I would be able to get that going, but what I really wanted was a chewy, crunchy, cheesy pepperoni pizza. Every now and then, that craving alone can still knock me back a week in all my progress, but this time, I was determined to beat it. :)

I remembered seeing a post about beet pepperoni on Ricki Heller's blog. I knew it would be time consuming, but I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was the mold on my beets. :( Ugh! It was getting later, and in that moment, I just about accepted defeat and a week's worth of insomnia just to have the taste of that pepperoni pizza. Just then, though, I remembered the Raw Taco Salad I tried a couple weeks ago with taco meat made from walnuts. I had tweaked that recipe a bit to use both walnuts and quinoa, and it had crumbled so well and tasted so good. So, this could work! I just needed to find out how to season it to taste like Italian Sausage. Leave it to Google.

I found this recipe for Italian Pork Sausage Seasoning, and it all came together so well from there. Last time we made a vegan pizza, I had found a pretty great vegan Mozarella recipe, but I tweaked that one this time as well. The cheese was inspired by both that recipe and the YU Dairy-Free Ricotta recipe. All together, this pizza recipe was like an, "Aha" moment. We finally had a gluten free crust we could pick up and eat. We had a delicious cheese that wasn't just a puddle of goo on top of a soft crust. We had a beautifully browned veggie meat made with whole foods and no creepy soy meats. And here, you can see for yourself just how pretty it was.

I used the leftover veggie sausage to create little sausage crumbles and 4 sausage patties. I froze them like this on wax paper and will transfer them to a storage container for future pizza use. After seeing how beautifully they browned on the pizza, I can't wait to see how the patties will brown with a little coconut oil in the skillet.

Gluten Free Vegan Italian Sausage Recipe
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup walnuts (I didn't soak mine because I didn't plan ahead, but you can soak them for a few hours.)
  • 1 to 1/2 tbsp Italian Sausage Seasoning
  • 2 tbsp water
Process all ingredients in a food processor until it forms a dough-like consistency. Form little crumbles like pork sausage and place as much as you would like on pizza. This makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups. I didn't measure the final amount. I figure it could make at least 8 sausage 2" sausage patties, and I believe it would be just as good if you browned the crumbles in a skillet with coconut oil and used them in a biscuits and gravy recipe. ;o) Enjoy!

And remember, a gluten-free, vegan diet is only as limited as you allow it to be. My biggest tip for any beginners is to cook in advance. So many times this past November/December especially because I was so busy making up Christmas orders, I wished that there was more healthy vegan convenience food, but I failed to realize that that convenience was right at my fingertips. Now, at the beginning of each week, usually on Sundays, we make up a large batch of oatmeal bars for quick and easy breakfast. Each of us, including Liam, eats 2 oatmeal bars for breakfast. I usually have some grapefruit and green tea with that as well. We make up a whole bag of TruRoots Organic Sprouted Quinoa that I am able to find at Meijer for $5.99. We use it for any meal. Quinoa is so versatile. I have eaten it as breakfast in the Cinnamon French Toast breakfast bowl from YU, for lunch mixed with beans, chopped spinach, garlic salsa and some seasonings to make a quick salad that is great with blue corn tortilla chips (baked and organic if you can find them), and mixed into nearly anything for supper. Quinoa is a complete protein and a good source of lysine that many vegans may not be getting enough of. I prefer it over brown rice for not only its convenience but for its protein and nutrients.

We also recently started making our own beans. I bought 2 or so pounds of pinto, kidney, black, and garbanzo because those are the most used in our house. I got about 9 cans worth or more out of each that I bought. One can is about 1 1/2 cups of beans, so I store them in quart bags in the freezer in that amount. I saved at least $10 per bean type over buying canned organic beans, and now my freezer is running even more efficiently having over 30 "cans" of beans in it. :) Plus, the flavor is so much better! I didn't know if this would be true, but we compared some leftover canned garbanzo to our own cooked garbanzo beans, and suddenly, all I could taste from the canned beans was aluminum. Yuck!

So, if this is your first day of the #YU30, how are you doing and what are your tips?

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