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Tuesday
Jul202010

Got My Healthy Pizza

I recently posted about a summer Bertucci's pizza that wasn't as healthful as it appeared. Although I still wish for the convenience of a healthy restaurant pizza, I came up with a recipe that'll do until I find one! I used Bertucci's dough and their roasted tomato sauce to preserve a similar flavor but also added a few unusual ingredients: 1) Fiber One cereal ground fine and kneaded into the dough, which I promise you won't notice! (you could use whole wheat dough for fiber but I don't love its texture/taste as a pizza base) and 2) pumpkin puree added to the tomato sauce for a boost in nutrients and a thickened heartier sauce (thanks EatingWell for the great idea!). Brushing on olive oil instead of drizzling it on, and using reduced-fat cheese and sausage round out a really delicious restaurant-quality pizza. Without all the extra oil, you can taste the simple but wonderful flavors of each ingredient. This is by far my favorite homemade pizza recipe.

Ingredients

1 Bertucci's large pizza dough ($3.50 from their take-out)

1/3 cup Fiber One cereal ground in food processor until fine

1 T olive oil (optional)

*1 cup Bertucci's roasted tomato sauce (or your favorite pizza sauce)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned or fresh

2 cups regular or baby spinach

4 basil leaves, chiffonade

4 oz chicken smoked sausage or turkey polska kielbasa, sliced thin

1/2 cup reduced-fat grated mozzarella or pizza cheese blend

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 450 F.
  2. Knead Fiber One cereal into pizza dough on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough as thin as possible into a circular or rectanglar shape (it will rise and get puffy when baked). Line a pan with parchment paper and place dough on pan to bake for 8-10 minutes. (You can also use a pan sprayed with cooking spray but I like the easier cleanup with parchment.)
  3. Remove dough from oven and let rest a minute, and then brush top of dough with olive oil.
  4. Mix pumpkin puree into tomato sauce until well blended and spread evenly over dough.
  5. Layer baby spinach and basil evenly over dough. Then add turkey kielbasa and cheese.
  6. Bake pizza in oven for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted.

*The Bertucci's tomato sauce had at least an inch of oil sitting on top so I drained off some and didn't add extra olive oil to the dough. Not only was this sauce extremely oily but it's pricey at $4.99 for 1 1/2 cups; I'll use my own sauce next time. 

Tuesday
Jul132010

Superfruit or Superhype?

Darling of the moment: acai berriesIf someone asks me, "What's the best fruit to eat?" I respond with a most dull answer, "They're all good!" It's not what folks really want to hear. They're hoping to find a magic bite that will supply them with lifelong wellness and vitality, and since people have become more savvy to the dangers of supplements, food has come back into focus. Fruits and vegetables regularly pop up in news headlines with a link to preventing this disease or that ailment. Tufts University rated blueberries highest in antioxidant capacity out of 60 fruits and vegetables. The skins and seeds of red grapes with their dark pigments contain resveratrol, a powerful disease-fighting chemical. The Allium family of vegetables including onions and garlic contain odiferous plant compounds that have been found to play a role in supporting heart and stomach health as well as lowering blood sugar and preventing certain cancers. Maybe you've heard of ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity), which measures the antioxidant power of various foods, with spices and berries earning top scores. Antioxidants in theory are believed to stave off free radical damage. An excess of free radicals may promote certain diseases and quicken the aging process. However, it's important to know that this is only a theory that has been shown in laboratory research; it has yet to be demonstrated in humans.

What we do know is that fruits and vegetables contain not only antioxidants but thousands of types of phytochemicals (translation: plant chemicals). These chemicals occur naturally in plants to help protect them from diseases, insects and harsh climates. When we eat those plants, their phytochemicals appear to protect us from disease or even help fight existing disease. If you choose to eat only blueberries or acai juice or broccoli because they rank high on Top Ten lists, you miss out on thousands of other benefits in other plant foods. Good ole' oranges may not be as trendy as acai berries but they are a powerhouse of nutrients including vitamin C (an antioxidant), folic acid, potassium, magnesium, and at least five different kinds of phytochemicals. Like oranges, each fruit and vegetable has a unique architecture of nutrients that our bodies crave. This is why health experts recommend at least 3-5 servings of mixed produce a day, and more than 5 servings for even greater health benefits.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Fruits and Veggies Matter recipe page for great ideas on how to use an abundance of superfruits and superveggies every day.

Tuesday
Jul062010

Hankering for a Healthy(-er) Pizza

Bertucci's olive oil, which graces almost every menu itemPeople often ask me how to order a healthy pizza at a restaurant. I guess in theory it's possible: lots of vegetable toppings, a sprinkling of cheese, tomato sauce, a drizzle of olive oil, and a thin crust (preferably whole wheat)—a filling meal with a variety of nutrients. As I glanced at a Bertucci's flier for their summer menu, I saw a picture of what looked like my "healthy pizza." The Giardino Pizza with roasted red and yellow peppers, grape tomatoes, and mozzarella on a whole wheat pizza crust. A hefty coupon sealed the deal and off we went. Bertucci's has a distinctive scent that pervades the dining areas and all of their entrees; it's a fresh warm aroma that probably comes from the baking bread, olive oil and lots of garlic. Although I love Bertucci's pizzas, they tend to be slicked with oil as the toppings are often sauteed in oil and sometimes finished with an extra drizzle on the surface. So I asked for less cheese and no olive oil drizzle. The waiter mentioned that the pizza was covered with pesto, which wasn't listed in the menu description, but I ok'd it since I didn't want to strip out too much flavor.

The crust was thin but unfortunately burnt black on several edges. It tasted...dry. Not chewy, not pleasantly crackly, just tough and bland. Despite trying to order less grease, the pizza still had pools of oil cratered throughout from the pesto. The vegetables looked colorful but were shiny with more oil. Summer's Giardino PizzaOverall, the pizza tasted like all their others—very very rich but nothing too memorable. I was expecting a summer pizza with a "thin whole wheat crust" to be lighter and somewhat more healthful but I didn't taste this at all. I commend Bertucci's for being one of the few Italian restaurant chains to disclose their nutrition information. It said that the Giardino Pizza has 230 calories and 6 grams fat per slice, or 910 calories and 26 grams fat for an entire individual pizza. I'm skeptical because even a small amount of oil shoots up the fat calories; I'd guess my pizza contained at least double the fat grams. I've noticed that the same menu items taste slightly different at each Bertucci's chain, likely depending on the chef and his/her interpretation of the recipe. I doubt they're measuring exact amounts of oil to cook with and that can throw off the nutritional info.

So, I'm still searching for my "healthy" great-tasting restaurant pizza. Admittedly the best one I've found is from a local Domino's that I customize with less cheese, extra vegetables and no extra oil. It tastes really fresh and doesn't leave me bloated and aching for a nap afterwardsSleeping. If you've found your perfect healthier pizza, please let me know where!