Weekend Comfort Food – Healthy Pizza

A picture of healthy gluten free and dairy free pizza

Delicious Gluten Free, Dairy Free Pizza Recipe

Well, it’s finally the weekend after a seemingly never ending week. A stressful week coupled with chilly, damp weather outside is really making me crave good old comfort food. And not just any comfort food …. pizza to be more specific.

Pizza is probably the meal I’ve missed most since I changed my diet about 9 years ago. Back in the day, I probably ate pizza at least once a week, Having worked in NYC for many years, pizza was always the easiest to-go item to pick up during a quick lunch break or on the walk after work to the subway. After I removed gluten and dairy from my diet, finding the perfect gluten free crust and dairy free cheese alternative has been quite the challenge. Finding decent fake “cheese” has been the trickiest by far. But lately, there are more and more viable options to choose from at the supermarkets and big box stores.

Well, after much trial and error, I think I found the perfect crust and cheese combination to satisfy any pizza comfort food craving. Plus, the recipe below requires very little prep time and uses some ingredients that you already have in your kitchen. I picked up the other ingredients, such as the crust, “cheese” and sauce using Whole Food’s curbside pickup service – which has been my favorite way to shop during this pandemic. You simply order via the Amazon app, select a pickup time, and park in one of their grocery pick-up designated spots. An employee will pack your groceries in your trunk and you will be on your way. It’s completely free! (Delivery is also available if that is more your jam, but fewer slots are available and delivery charges apply.)

Finding the Best Crust & Cheese

The easy recipe below uses Cappello’s Naked Pizza Crust – a frozen grain free, gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, certified paleo, soy free and non-GMO ready-to-use pizza crust. The crust is made with an almond, arrowroot and cassava flour base. It also includes a few other clean ingredients such as cage-free eggs, organic coconut milk, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, psyllium husk, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and honey. It’s not only the cleanest gluten free crust that I could find, but also the tastiest. This crust retails for $6.99 at my Whole Foods. (Cappello’s also makes the best tasting gluten free fettucine. Check out there other products here.)

Capello's Naked Pizza Crust and Violife's  Just Like Mozarella Shreds

Like I mentioned earlier, finding good cheese alternatives has been quite the challenge. The simple recipe below features Violife’s Just Like Mozzarella Shreds, an excellent vegan alternative to shredded mozzarella cheese. It’s honestly the closest in taste and texture to cheese that I could find – without the odd aftertaste common with most dairy free cheeses. It also melts very similar to real cheese. Although it is not quite paleo because it contains some rice starch, it has a clean and simple list of ingredients. It’s not something that I would purchase often, but I give it a pass to use on occasion to satisfy a comfort food craving. It retails for $5.29 at my Whole Foods location.

Ingredients

All of the ingredients featured in this article

What you will need:

  • Cappello’s Naked Pizza Crust (frozen)
  • Violife Just Like Mozarella Shreds (a few handfuls)
  • Pizza sauce (I used a 1/2 of a small jar of Rao’s pizza sauce)
  • A few pinches of sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon of minced onion seasoning (or garlic or any other seasoning that your prefer)
  • A handful of arugula or basil for finishing

Steps

  1. Preheat over to 425 degrees. Per Cappello’s instructions, place the baking sheet in the middle rack while the oven preheats. (I sprayed the sheet with an olive oil cooking spray.)
  2. Remove Naked Pizza Crust from the plastic and cardboard tray. Place the crust on the preheated baking sheet.
  3. Add the pizza sauce and spread it to cover the pizza crust.
  4. Sprinkle salt on the sauce and add the minced onion or any preferred seasoning.
  5. Add a layer of the Violife Just Like Mozzarella Shreds. (Note: don’t pile on layers of cheese otherwise it won’t melt evenly.)
  6. Cook until the cheese is golden brown (13-20 minutes based on your oven speed).
  7. Remove from the oven and add the arugula or basil.
  8. Serve and enjoy!
The various stages of making the pizza - from bare crust to finished pizza with toppings

This is a once-in-a-while treat that will be sure to satisfy any pizza craving. Beyond indulging in the occasional comfort food like pizza, here are some tips for how to de-stress during stressful times. Here’s to a nice, relaxing weekend for us all!

One Last Pumpkin Recipe for the Season!

pumpkin-1679827_1280

Wow, Thanksgiving was already over a week ago! Tis the season that time truly does seem to fly.

Presumably like you, I spent the holiday weekend consuming heaps of Thanksgiving leftovers, spending time with loved ones and shopping up a storm. Also like many of you, I had a ton of ingredients left over from my holiday baking and cooking feats. So, I put on my thinking cap and began to concoct some new recipes to ensure the ingredients did not go to waste! Here is one recipe that I devised, which uses one of my favorite ingredients of all time – pumpkin:

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Beginning in September, manufacturers, coffee shops, juice joints and restaurants seem to add “pumpkin spice” to just about everything. It’s ubiquitous! As the calendar moves into December, most of the population seems to be “over” the pumpkin craze and already have moved on to December flavors like peppermint, cinnamon spice, gingerbread, etc.

Not me! I consume pumpkin all year round. It’s a staple ingredient in my smoothies, baking and other recipes. Pumpkin is actually one of the healthiest vegetables around. This exciting vegetable, which is part of the squash family, is low in calories and packed with fiber, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and flavonoids galore. These nutrients are why I try to use pumpkin as much as possible in my cooking/recipes. Click here to learn more about the amazing benefits of pumpkin.

The one recipe I’ve always wanted to tackle is a pumpkin pancake recipe. It’s been years since I’ve eaten pancakes, although I have often craved them. I have never been a fan of the pre-packaged, gluten-free pancake mixes due to some of the suspect ingredients added to the mixes. My only alternative to ever enjoying pancakes again was to make my own.

So, I experimented and came up with the recipe below. Since this recipe is a bit rich, I only suggest reserving it for special occasions, holidays or to satisfy a fierce craving. I also tend to make the pancakes on the smaller side – to prevent from over-indulging.

Pumpkin Spice Pancake Recipe with Toasted Pecans Recipe

What you’ll need:

  • Baking sheet
  • Mixing bowl
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Mixing spoon
  • Griddle/skillet

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/3 cup coconut or almond flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or coconut milk or cashew milk or blend)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 teaspoon real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (Trader Joe’s has an excellent one)
  • Pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Spread pecans on an ungreased baking/cookie sheet. Sprinkle olive oil over pecans and bake for 5 minutes. Remove from oven.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, add the almond milk, eggs, canned pumpkin, vanilla extract and maple syrup. Mix together.
  4. Stir in coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice and the pinch of sea salt. Mix until lumps have disappeared.
  5. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium-low heat. Add coconut oil to the skillet or griddle. Once coconut oil melts, add pumpkin pancake batter to the skillet or griddle at the size that you prefer.
  6. The first batch will take longer than subsequent batches. Watch the first batch closely, when the bottom appears to lightly brown (typically takes about 4 minutes with the first batch), flip the pancake until the second side is lightly browned. With subsequent batches, it should take about 2-3 minutes for each side to lightly brown. Add more coconut oil if needed.
  7. Once finished, sprinkle each pancake with a few toasted pecans and drizzle the pancake with real maple syrup.
  8. Enjoy!

I may be late to the Pumpkin Spice party this year, but this is a recipe that can be enjoyed all year round! The pumpkin transforms these pancakes into a recipe that packs a healthy dose of nutrients. Now, that my pumpkin pancake craving is satisfied, I am suddenly craving peppermint….hmmm.