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!

Getting Your Veggies In … Even on Super Bowl Sunday!

vegetables-1736170__340

So, it’s Super Bowl Sunday – an unofficial national holiday practically devoted to Americans gorging our faces with wings, nachos, burgers, chips and beer. At first glance, it’s probably not the most fitting day to run a blog post about adding more vegetables into our daily meals. On second thought, though, I think we can all benefit from sneaking in more vegetables daily – even on days like Super Bowl Sunday. So, here we go!

As many of you are aware, the standard American diet typically falls short of the recommended servings of fiber-rich vegetables. Vegetables not only contain fiber, which is super important for gut health, they are packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that help keep us healthy and ward off disease. Yet, many of us are skipping these healthy vegetables for tastier, empty calorie comfort foods. Let’s face it, we could all use more veggies in our lives.

One of my personal goals for 2017 is to try to eat a healthy serving of vegetables with each and every meal. Yes, even breakfast. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been tough to accomplish every day, especially with a brand new job and a lot going on since the beginning of the New Year. I have been pretty successful in meeting this goal thus far, though.

The good news is that I have found a lot of easy and crafty ways that you too can get your “veggies on” every day. Here are three suggestions to help you add more vegetables on the sly with minimum effort:

1. Make Vegetables the Focus of Your Smoothies

green-juice-769129__340

I’m all for juicing, but sometimes drinking cold pressed juices gives me a bit of a sugar rush. And the juicer is a giant pain in the neck to clean. These are just a few reasons why I usually blend vs. juice. One significant reason as to why I prefer smoothies to juices is because smoothies also contain fiber – which is lacking from most juices.

Smoothies are not always healthy. The biggest mistake that many people make is adding too much fruit to smoothies. I try to make vegetables the star of my smoothies and the fruit has much more of a supporting role.

The fabulous thing about smoothies is that you can really think out of the box when adding vegetables and make up recipes on the spot. I rarely make the same recipe twice. And my smoothie is always dependent on what I have in stock in my fridge or freezer at the time. Here are some vegetables that I regularly add to smoothies:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Arugula
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Beets (usually frozen)
  • Celery
  • Squash (whichever kind is in season)
  • Parsnip
  • Turnip

I usually add a bunch of vegetables from the list above to my blender, along with a 1/2 cup of coconut, almond or cashew milk. For a slight bit of sweetness, I add a small amount of wild frozen blueberries, pineapple or acai. To give my smoothies an added boost, I often add:

  • Fresh or powdered ginger (for a little spice)
  • Organic cacao powder (for a healthy chocolate kick)
  • Green Superfood powder (you can never have too many greens)
  • Cinnamon (for a warm flavor)
  • Fresh aloe (helps with digestion)
  • Collagen powder (helps with the gut, skin, hair and more)

As always, consult with your physician before incorporating any of the supplements above.

2. Consider Purchasing an Air Fryer for Quick, Healthy Vegetable Frying

th

If you don’t yet own an air fryer, you don’t know what you are missing.

This past Christmas, I was pleasantly surprised when I received an air fryer as a gift from my sister Katie. At first, I thought it might be a fun new appliance that I would tinker with only on occasion. It turns out, though, that I use my air fryer several times a week these days.

Like the name suggests, an air fryer uses air as opposed to oil to fry/cook foods. So, what results is healthy, flavorful fried vegetables. (You can use a smidgen of oil if you prefer in the air fryer, although none is required for most foods.) You can actually cook meats, fish and other foods in the air fryer as well – although I haven’t been that daring yet to test the air fryer with these kind of foods.

I have cooked a number of vegetables (kale, butternut squash cubes, carrots, etc.) and starchy foods (shredded potatoes, sweet potato chunks, etc.) in the air fryer. Most vegetables and potatoes take less than 15 minutes to cook in the air fryer. And the air fryer tray is super easy to clean and maintain.

I typically will put a large portion of vegetables in the air fryer in the evening, eat some with dinner and reserve the rest for lunches I prepare for the next few days. I pair the veggies/potatoes with some form of protein for healthy, nutrient-packed daily lunches.

The best news is that you can snag an air fryer for less than $100. The model I use, pictured, is available at Amazon for $81. Trust me, it will change the way you cook.

3. Substitute Carb-Heavy Sides with Vegetables

When you eat out at restaurants, entrees are most commonly served with sides such as white rice, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, pasta, fries and other heavy foods. These options are definitely comfort foods that you almost expect to see on your plates when eating out. Many folks think of sides in the same way when cooking meals at home. But these carb-heavy sides can make an otherwise healthy meal significantly less healthy very quickly.

On a positive note, many restaurants are offering healthier, less heavy side options that focus more on vegetables and herb ingredients rather than empty carbs. At home, you too can incorporate more tasty vegetable sides into your daily menus. One such substitute is cauliflower rice. Below is a tasty cauliflower rice recipe that incorporates turkey bacon and herbs that will make you forget about white rice (I’m serious).

Savory Cauliflower Rice with Turkey Bacon, Herbs and Balsamic Vinegar

img_1506

If orange is the new black, than cauliflower rice is the new kale. Cauliflower rice seems to be everywhere these days – even on the menus of fancy restaurants. For the longest time, you could only find riced cauliflower in stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes. Nowadays, even Walmart carries frozen cauliflower rice. And it is very affordable in all stores.

Back on Christmas day, I wanted to make a new, healthy vegetable side recipe to accompany the usual Christmas sides. So, I devised the recipe below. It is a very flexible recipe so you can use the herbs and seasonings that you have on hand at home.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower rice (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 strips of uncured turkey bacon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or avocado oil)
  • 2.5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water (if fresh cauliflower rice is used)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
  • Fresh herbs (In the past, I have used a couple of fresh basil leaves or some fresh rosemary. Use what you have on hand.)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Over medium heat, add saucepan with 1 tablespoon oil to stove.
  2. Stir in two cups of cauliflower rice (if using frozen cauliflower rice, add a tablespoon of water; if using fresh cauliflower rice, add 1/4 cup of water).
  3. Add balsamic vinegar to sauce pan. Add thyme, parsley, Cajun seasoning and rosemary. Add fresh herbs and salt and pepper. Stir regularly
  4. On a separate pan, cook two strips of turkey bacon until crisp. Add pieces of bacon to the cauliflower rice.
  5. Continue to cook over medium heat for 12-15 minutes and stir often – until cauliflower rice is tender.
  6. Add additional seasoning to your taste preferences

Enjoy and Happy Super Bowl!