By Heather Tallmann, author of Basilmomma
This month for the Door to Wellness cooking class I decided to take a popular food, pizza, and give it a healthy facelift. We all probably like pizza, but it doesn’t like us! It can pack on the calories and before you know it, you have eaten the equivalent of two Big Macs!
But I like to have my “pie” and eat it too, so losing the excess calories makes this a meal I can sink my teeth into. Not to mention this is an easy and budget friendly meal- so what better recipe to share with the class?
The first change to the standard pizza was substituting mashed white beans, seasoned with fresh chopped garlic and Italian seasoning, for red sauce. Next, we used toppings like chopped fresh spinach and canned diced tomatoes infused with basil, garlic and oregano. Lastly, we dusted the top with only one cup of cheese – enough to melt over the toppings and provide a bit of healthy dairy protein.
You can treat this recipe almost like a blank slate. I chose fresh spinach for its boost of vitamin k and folic acid, tomatoes for their lycopene and white beans and a whole wheat crust for their fiber. An easy, nutrient rich meal with cancer fighting properties beats an empty calorie meal any day of the week!
The class and I shared a few things to make this recipe your own and save time and money. I used Great Northern Beans this time because they mash so well and have a mild taste. But if you want a south of the border flavor, use black beans, cumin or chili powder. You can add healthy toppings that match those flavors.
I really lucked out at the grocery because pre-washed bagged spinach was on a terrific sale along with the beans and cheese. But if you don’t get so lucky then using bulk bunches of spinach work as well. Only have frozen on hand? That will also work nicely. Be sure to thaw the leaves completely and drain of all excess liquid before adding to the pizza.
Get the fresh taste of tomatoes year round by using canned diced tomatoes. It is March and good tomatoes are hard to find.
We had a little fun mashing our beans using plastic storage bags, too! Don’t have a food processor, masher or blender? No problem. Rinse and drain the beans then add to a quart sized storage bag. Add the garlic and the Italian seasoning, then seal and mash until you get the consistency you are looking for. Once you are done simply snip off a corner of the bag and spread over the pre-baked crust. Smooth over with a spatula.
I used whole wheat, pre-baked crusts in class. They are easy to use, economical and healthier than a white variety. If you can’t find them in the store use whole grain tortillas, flatbreads or Naan. Just be sure to adjust the thickness of toppings accordingly.
We had a great time in class and it was really a collaboration of ideas, stories and some great fellowship. Learning how to prepare a meal together and sharing lunch together was the highlight of my week. I can’t wait until next month!
· 1 12-14 inch prepared whole wheat pizza crust
· 1 15 oz can of great northern beans, rinsed and drained
· 2 cloves garlic, minced
· 1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
· 1 small bag (10 oz size) of pre-washed baby spinach OR 2 packed cups, chopped
· 1 15 oz can of petite diced tomatoes (I used Red Gold Tomatoes basil, garlic and oregano variety) drained well
· 1 C of cheddar or Italian blend cheese
1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Place beans, garlic and Italian seasoning in a small food processor and pulse to combine.
3. Alternately, if you do not have a food processor you can mash these ingredients in a bowl with a potato masher.
4. Spread bean mixture over crust, evenly distribute the spinach and tomatoes, and dust with cheese.
5. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Cost Breakdown for ONE 12” pizza:
Prebaked crust: $1.49
Red Gold diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano: 89 cents
Bagged baby spinach: $2.49
Shredded cheese: $2.49 (you only use half) so $1.50
Kroger Great Northern Beans: 60 cents
Italian seasoning: $2.49 per container but you use 25 cents worth