Break the Pepperoni Habit – Eat Your Vegetables Pizza

Last Thursday was National Eat Your Vegetables Day. Now even for a veggie lover like me, there is no better way to eat your vegetables than pizza! No, I don’t mean the local chain’s “Vegetarian” special- usually canned mushrooms and generic onions covered with enough cheese to obliterate all other flavor. The best pizza is made at home. So, I started with a personal sized pizza crust from my freezer (how-to directions follow this post), and covered it with our first veggie – homemade pizza sauce.

To me, the best part of any pizza is the sauce. The key is to make a really simple sauce, not one that is full of unneeded spices and extraneous ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. My pizza sauce is usually a combination of unsalted pureed tomatoes and a can of low-salt diced tomatoes. Sometimes I add dried leeks for sweetness, or you can saute minced onions or shallots for the same result. Then I add a dash of crushed red pepper and cook the whole thing just long enough to warm it up. Spoon a good portion onto the dough and you have your first veggie. (Tomatoes are an excellent source of Vitamin A and are full of anti-oxidants, including lycopene.)

Completely cover the sauce with some greens. Spinach is the usual choice, but here I used red leaf lettuce. I know, most people don’t think of cooking lettuce, but it is a green and the garden was over run with the stuff! I topped it with chopped red bell pepper, canned artichoke hearts, and sliced black olives, giving us another 2 servings of vegetables. I also added some chopped walnuts which are excellent on pizza. (Leaf lettuce and walnuts provide healthy plant sterols and antioxidants, red bell pepper is a good source of Vitamin C, artichokes, walnuts and olives are good sources of monounsaturated fat and Vitam E. Walnuts also provide added protein.)

Now add the cheese. It looks like a lot, but it isn’t. I added some sliced pepperjack cheese and then topped it all with shredded asiago. The shredded cheese gives you the effect of lots of cheese, without actually adding lots of cheese. The key is to use flavorful cheeses, then you can use less. Pizza chains that only use mozzarella use TONS of cheese, because mozzarella doesn’t have much flavor. (Note – I often make this a vegan pizza with almond pepperjack and shredded soy cheddar – still yummy and full of tangy flavor.)

Place the whole thing into the oven (preheated to 425 degrees) and bake for about 15 minutes.

Let sit for a few minutes before cutting.

Pat yourself on the back, then call your friends and tell them how brilliant you are. Some people get their veggies by eating mounds of salad – but we got ours with pizza, and a healthy pizza at that.  Now really – who needs pepperoni!

Pizza Dough – One cup each: bread flour, semolina flour, white whole wheat flour. Add 1 tsp yeast, 2 Tbsp olive oil, and about 1 cup of water. Mix together and knead for about 5 minutes in a stand mixer, 8-10 minutes by hand. Cover and let rise for an hour. Gently deflate and form into pizza crusts. Makes 2 large pizzas or 4-5 personal pizzas. Bake at 425 degrees for 3 minutes. Then either freeze for later use or top with veggies and follow the above directions.

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at SeedToPantry.com and HestiasKitchen.com.

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