Whole Foods And Healthy Eating – Pizza!

In my last post I talked about whole foods and how eating food that is as natural as possible can be healthy and fun. This week I would like to talk about one of my favorite whole foods, and a favorite of many other people as well, pizza. This is a follow up to the first post I made about whole foods last week.

homemade pizza

homemade pizza

Pizza dough is fairly easy to make and uses basic ingredients. There is a blog out there called 100 Days of Real Food. And the author of that blog has a recipe for whole wheat pizza.

My pizza started off with my wife making the dough using our bread machine. The ingredients are basically yeast, water, flour, olive oil, and a little sugar for the yeast to consume. The sugar can be an organic cane sugar, regular white sugar, or even honey.

One of the best things about making your own pizza dough is you can spice it up a little bit. We frequently add dried herbs from our garden to the dough, such as basil or oregano. If you like a little spice in your life throw in some red pepper flakes or some dried chili peppers. Other things that be added are garlic, fresh or dried rosemary, or even shredded cheeses like parmesan. The sky is the limit and you can be as creative as you want.

For this pizza we used shredded mozzarella for our cheese. Mozzarella makes a great base cheese for pizza, and if you can find it fresh you can create the traditional Napoli style Margherita Pizza, which was created to honor Queen Margherita.

So, one thing you may ask is, what about toppings? How do I have a whole foods pizza? First we start off with the dough. Then if you have time grab some tomatoes for the sauce.

The sauce can vary according to your taste but they all start off the same. Vine ripened tomatoes are the best for taste and texture. Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water and then, once the skins start to crack, place them in ice water to stop the cooking process and remove the skins.

tomatoes

Next remove the core and seeds from the tomatoes. We want a little water as possible for the sauce. When you think you have enough, go get more, you’ll be amazed at how much the sauce will shrink down as it simmers and thickens. After peeling, coring, and deseeding your tomatoes place them into a saucepan large enough to hold them and turn the heat on low.

The goal here is to reduce the tomatoes down to a thick sauce. Once the sauce is near completion and is thick enough to spread on a pizza, but not thin enough to use for spaghetti, it’s time to add the seasonings. Fresh basil, thyme, oregano, or rosemary can be added. These also work as dry herbs as well. The sauce will help hydrate the herbs. Continue simmering and give the sauce a taste. Continue adding herbs until well seasoned. Add a touch of sea salt to add a little more flavor.

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So now the dough is done, the sauce is ready, and it’s time to make pizza! The best mozzarella is fresh mozzarella, but I frequently use the bagged version. Some day I want to make my own cheeses, but that’s for a later time. For now toss a little flour on the counter and place your dough on top. Sprinkle a little more flour on top and start rolling it out. If you’re adventurous you can always find a YouTube video on how to toss the dough into the air. I prefer not to do so since I figure cleaning dough off the ceiling, light fixtures, and cabinets would be a pain.

With the dough all ready it’s time to ladle on that delicious sauce. Again, this is all to taste, so if you’re like me dump a big ladle of sauce on that dough for a really saucy pizza.

Pizza Note: Pizza doesn’t have to have a red sauce if that’s not your thing. As a great alternative take extra virgin olive oil and spread it on the dough in place of the red sauce. Now just add the toppings on top of the oil.

The next thing after the is always the cheese. The cheese helps keep everything together and adds that melty goodness. If you’ve scored some fresh mozzarella slice it up and throw it on there. If you’re using shredded mozzarella layer it on.

And here comes one of the best parts. The toppings. Now to keep in with the whole foods goal these two pizzas contain toppings that are as natural as possible The Hawaiian style has home canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, and Canadian Bacon from Trader Joe’s.

homemade pizza

Next up we went for more of the Margherita Pizza style and sliced fresh tomatoes for the topping. Due to a lack of fresh basil in the garden currently I substituted with some basil that had previously been dehydrated. I’ve got to say, even with the dried basil, it was delicious.

homemade pizza

Now the pizza is ready, how do we heat up this yummy looking goodness? Well lets dive into some science real quick here. High heat and pizza dough. The two just go together to form the perfect combination. Heat your oven to at least 450 degrees Fahrenheit, (232 Celsius). If you are using a pizza stone, make sure to place it into the oven during the preheating stage to heat the stone up as well. If you plan on using a steel pizza sheet it does not need to be preheated.

The high heat helps steam form inside the crust and then expand evenly. Too low of temperatures and the steam inside will form pockets resulting in large bubbles in the crust. Wood fired pizza ovens will often achieve temperatures in excess of 600 degrees Fahrenheit, (315 Celsius).

A great way to keep the dough from sticking to either a pizza stone or metal sheet is to scatter some corn meal on the sheet before placing the pizza on it. If using a pizza stone that’s in the oven use a wooden or metal pizza peel to slide the pizza into the oven onto the stone. Use the corn meal on the pizza peel to let the pizza slide off.

homemade pizza

Let the pizza bake for at least 10 minutes before checking on it. The cheese will melt and start to bubble and the crust will turn golden. With a little practice you’ll end up with a nice crispy crust and hot  melted cheese.

Pizza Note: When using a lot of toppings, especially water heavy toppings like fruits and vegetables, it’s best to let the pizza rest a minute or two after removing it from the oven. This allows some of the moisture to return to the toppings and not leave the sauce very watery.

Slide that pizza off your stone or sheet on to a nice wooden cutting board. Slice the pizza and get ready to feast!

homemade pizza

homemade pizza

homemade pizza

Pizza can be a delicious whole food. And while making it from scratch may take awhile you can always take a page from my wife’s book. She made a large pot of pizza sauce and then frozen them using a silicon muffin tin so that we’d have serving sizes perfect for a pizza whenever we needed it.

One other thing to note. Many people like different meat toppings on their pizza. My advice is to read the ingredients and to find the Canadian Bacon, pepperoni, or Italian sausage, with the least amount of processing, and then use them sparingly. I never thought I’d enjoy a pizza without some kind of meat on it as a topping and then I discovered the Margherita Pizza and how much I enjoyed it.

Feel free to experiment or leave some of your favorite kind of pizzas in the comments below.

Buon Appetito!

– Jason Snell

 

 

Whole Foods and Healthy Eating

Eating healthy is always a challenge. There are an amazing array of foods out there that provide all kinds of temptation. Over the next couple of months I’m going to share in my effort to eat more healthy and strive for a diet closer to whole foods.

What is a whole foods diet?

When eating whole foods the goal is to limit the amount of processing that has gone into the food you are eating. A good example of a highly processed food is the Twinkie. The Twinkie has 37 different ingredients, including artificial colors, (yellow and red dye), artificial flavors, and partially hydrogenated oils, which contain trans fat.

Most of the time the goal is to have fewer then 5 ingredients in any food bought at the store. Now, that is more of a guideline then a hard and fast rule. Salsa for example has many ingredients, but very few highly processed ingredients. The most difficult thing is finding good tasting food, without having to food companies and food scientists artificially changing flavors to hide cheap or bad tasting ingredients.

My wife and I have started on this journey a few years ago, and have realized  one big thing. This is a lifestyle choice, and not just a diet to lose weight. This is a life long commitment. The reward though is a healthier life, a better feeling body, and the knowledge that eating foods that taste good and are actually good for you.

With any change in eating habits compromise is something we all need to live with. Even though I try to eat as healthy as possible I will on occasion have food from a fast food restaurant, or eat cake from a box at a birthday party, or even just enjoy myself at a work potluck and not worry about what all the ingredients are. This is part of goal to consume healthy foods for the majority of the time, and not worry or become anxious about the times when you indulge in something that tastes good, but isn’t good for you.

To start this series of posts I’m going to share one of my new favorite recipes that is easy to make, delicious to eat, and fairly quick to make. One of my favorite go to websites for recipes is Budget Bytes. This blog is written by a lady who not only knows that eating healthy shouldn’t be expensive, but should also taste good. I would encourage you to browse some of her recipes if you get a chance.

Parsley Pesto Pasta

This recipe is great in the fact that it’s highly flexible and can incorporate all kinds of additional ingredients.

whole foods parsley pesto pasta

One great thing is this recipe can me made vegetarian, vegan, or gluten free very easily.
We had some fresh cherry tomatoes and parsley from the garden and found this recipe would help us use up some of the garden bounty.

fresh cherry tomatoes

Ingredients you’ll need:

1 lb. of pasta. ( I used spaghetti noodles for this when I made it.)
1 bunch parsley
½ cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp lemon juice (a fresh lemon is great and you can use the lemon zest!)
2 cloves garlic
salt to taste
olive oil as needed

I started the water boiling for my pasta first and while that was starting to heat up I got the pesto sauce going. Now with the sauce you could add in sunflower seeds, pine nuts, or any other nut if you wanted a bit more of a true pesto taste. This would also increase the protein if you make the recipe vegetarian/vegan.

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Since the parsley I had wasn’t very much I added in some fresh basil as well.

fresh basil

Along with fresh garlic and lemon juice.

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And whiz it all up.

pasley pesto sauce

After the pesto sauce is done and the noodles are boiling it was time to heat the tomatoes up with a little sea salt and olive oil.

heating cherry tomatoes in a skillet

To top it all off I fried up some eggs and added it to the top of the finished product.

frying eggs

parsley pesto pasta

This was a delicious meal and the entire thing was made with real ingredients, some even straight from the garden. Eating whole foods can be fun, taste good, and healthy. It’s all about finding the right combinations.

Feel free to leave a comment below, or on the Facebook page about some of your favorite whole food recipes, or even some life stories of whole foods.

Enjoy!

– Jason Snell