Healthy Habits: Make Your Own Pizzas

Crusts from cauliflower?

I don’t know how many folks have eaten artichokes, but growing up in Korea and Japan, artichokes were not a food I had known even existed until my in-laws served it to me when I was dating my husband. The idea of using one’s teeth to scrape off tiny bits from the leaves and working your way down to the small “heart” in the center was strange to me. But then, to my husband, being served sauteed octopus for dinner by his future in-laws was a bit disturbing, to say the least.

Because we grow up in different parts of the world where certain foods are prevalent or because our family ethnicity favors specific types of food, often the variety of foods we choose to eat are limited. In this day and age, though, where food is shipped from everywhere and where companies are creating almost anything they can imagine, we can expand our food options in ways we could not before.

For folks with food allergies, this is a great thing, and an item I have come to appreciate recently is the cauliflower crust for pizzas. In the beginning, most contained cheese which was sad for someone with dairy allergies, but now companies are making them without the cheese, so folks who have gluten, dairy, and nut allergies are able to partake.

This has opened up wonderful possibilities for homemade pizza making. While companies are making gluten free pizza crusts, most of them are made with rice flour which has no nutritional value. The cauliflower crusts offer some value, and they are tasty if you prefer a thinner, crispier crust for your pizzas. By making pizza homemade, you control how healthy the pizza is. You can eliminate items like sugar (which is often in the sauces), reduce sodium and fat (which are often in the toppings), and increase the nutrients by adding vegetables other than just peppers and broccoli (which are the usual offerings from delivery places).

Here are some ideas if you want to make homemade pizzas:

The Crust:

  1. You can buy both regular and gluten free pizza crust in box versions where you add the necessary ingredients and make the crust yourself.
  2. You can go to the cold section of your grocery store and by pre-made regular and gluten free pizza dough which you just spread onto your pan.
  3. You can purchase already made, formed, partially cooked regular and gluten free pizza crusts. These usually are in the pasta-sauce-pizza sections of the grocery store and come wrapped in plastic. You just open the package and put the crust on your pan.
  4. You can find frozen regular and gluten free crusts in the freezer section of your grocery store. This is where I get the cauliflower crusts which I prefer to use.

Sauces:

  1. Traditionally folks use a pizza sauce made from tomatoes. You can find many on the market. Choose ones which have no sugar and are made with olive oil. You don’t necessarily need to use “pizza” sauce, though. You can use a marinara or spaghetti sauce which you like as well. I like Victoria’s brand which is made just with tomatoes, garlic, onions, olive oil, and herbs. You just spread the amount you prefer on the crust. You can also make your own by cooking down tomatoes with herbs until the sauce is nice and thick.
  2. If you prefer a white sauce, you can make your own in a couple of different ways: One is to heat over medium/low heat a tbsp of olive oil in a pan with garlic, onion and your favorite dried herbs. Then add two tbsp of a gluten free flour like oat or sorghum flour to the oil and stir until completely mixed. Add one cup of a favorite dairy free milk like oat or flax milk and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture has thickened.  Add fresh, chopped herbs of your choosing and spread it over the pizza crust. A second way is to cook over medium/low heat a cup of coconut cream in a pan with garlic, onions and dried herbs of your choosing, simmering until the cream thickens, and then adding a couple of tsp of nutritional yeast and fresh, chopped herbs before spreading it over your crust.
  3. If you prefer a non-saucy alternative for your pizza, you can simply slice ripe tomatoes, drain the juice in a colander, and then layer the tomato slices over the pizza crust. As well, if you have no nut allergies, you can consider putting a cashew nut cheese spread over the crust.

Topping Ideas:

  1. One type of pizza we like is to saute mushrooms, spinach, and butternut squash, diced into small pieces, with garlic, onions and herbs spread them onto the pizza.
  2. Another option is to saute diced zucchini with garlic, onions, and herbs, and mix it with diced pieces of a favorite turkey or vegan sausage and sprinkling them onto the pizza.
  3. A third way we like to eat our pizza is to saute broccoli, cut into small pieces, with garlic, onions and herbs, and mix it with small, leftover pieces of cooked chicken and spreading that onto the pizza.
  4. A fourth suggestion is simply using whatever vegetables and meats you have in the fridge and coming up with your own combinations.

For the “Cheese”:

  1. If you don’t have a dairy allergy, then using any combinations of mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, or romano cheeses works.
  2. For folks with dairy allergies, one option is to use dairy free cheeses like Daiya mozzarella. I find that flavoring the vegan cheeses with garlic, herbs and onions goes a long way to intensifying the taste, and I will add a tsp of olive oil and a couple of tsp of nutritional yeast to help the cheese melt better.
  3. Another option is to just dust the toppings with a vegan parmesan like Follow Your Heart parmesan.
  4. If you don’t want “cheese” altogether, you can drizzle the toppings with a glaze like a balsamic vinegar reduction where you simmer 1/4 to 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar until its reduced and thickened.
  5. You can also simply cover the toppings with freshly chopped herbs like basil or mint.

Cooking:

  1. For the best results you should always cook pizzas at a high heat. I use 500 degrees, but if you’re not comfortable with that, don’t go lower than 425.
  2. If you are using any type of pizza dough, you should oil the pan and sprinkle it with cornmeal or flour so it won’t stick. You should also cook the dough just as it is first until it’s almost done.  At 500 degrees, that’s just five to ten minutes. Then you add the sauce, toppings, and cheese and finish cooking the dough for another five minutes until the cheese is melted or the toppings are heated through.
  3. If you are using a pre-made crust, whether from the aisle or frozen section, you add the sauce, toppings, and “cheese” options and then cook the pizza for about ten minutes (if cooking at 500 degrees). Pre-made crusts usually don’t need you to do anything to the pan like oiling because they’re already mostly cooked and won’t stick.
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