Monthly Archives: March 2017

Is Eating Pizza Healthy?

Pizza is an easy go-to food loved by people of all ages. With frozen, delivery, take-out, bake at home and gourmet options, pizza fits just about any occasion. While an occasional indulgence in commercial pizza is okay, if it is a regular feature in your diet, you may want to reconsider your choices. Pizza can be a healthy option, if you avoid the greasy, refined-flour and processed meat versions.

Commercial pizza manufacturers, from chain restaurants to supermarket frozen versions, offer an almost infinite variety of crust, cheese and topping combinations. A typical slice from 14 inches of regular-crusted cheese pizza contains between 250 and 350 calories and 10 and 17 grams of fat. Add pepperoni, sausage and cheese-stuffed crust and increase your calorie and fat intake to almost 500 calories per slice with 26 grams of fat. “Gourmet” pizza restaurants that offer smaller, individual pizzas do not fare much better with pizzas that contain between 1,400 and 1,700 calories and 30 grams of fat each. Eating too many calories can cause weight gain. The high fat content in these pizzas comes largely from saturated fats, too much of which can raise your risk of developing heart disease.

Sodium Concerns

In addition to being high in calories and fat, commercial pizzas are high in sodium with 500 to 700 milligrams per slice. Frozen pizzas often contain over 900 milligrams of sodium per serving. The Institute of Medicine recommends keeping your sodium intake below 1,500 milligrams. Indulging in take-out or frozen pizza will cause you to exceed this target regularly, leading to water retention and increasing your risk of high blood pressure.

Healthier Options

To make your pizza-eating experience healthier, order less cheese on your pie. Also ask for a pizza with extra vegetable toppings and avoid meat toppings as much as possible. If you are committed to meat, ham or chicken are the healthiest options. If you can find a restaurant that offers whole grain crust, order it. Otherwise, stick to thin crust to minimize your intake of refined white flours, which offer little fiber and can spike your blood sugar levels, leading to cravings and overeating.

Homemade

Limiting your intake of commercial pizzas does not mean you have to skip pizza altogether. You can make homemade versions that satisfy your cravings and need to eat a healthier diet. In any pizza dough recipe, substitute whole-wheat flour for half of the white flour to make a more nutritious crust. Make your own low-sodium sauce using no-salt-added tomato puree, Italian seasoning, minced garlic and a pinch of sea salt. Top with part-skim mozzarella and roasted or grilled vegetables. Pop into a hot oven and cook until the crust is crispy and the cheese is melted. You can also make quickie versions of healthy pizza by using whole-wheat English muffins or pita bread as a crust. Top the crust with a few slices of fresh tomato, minced garlic and a dash of salt. Top with part-skim mozzarella and grated Parmesan cheese. Melt under the broiler and add fresh basil leaves before serving.

6 Vegetarian Pizza Toppings You Definitely Need To Try At Home

From traditional and authentic to modern and creative, there’s a lot more to pizza than meat-lovers and supreme. Here are our top picks for creative and delicious vegetarian pizzas.

If you’ve ever researched the history of the pizza (and why wouldn’t you), you’d know that the original pizza – the Marinara – is not only vegetarian, it’s vegan. A couple of centuries before we’d heard of ‘meat lovers’ and ‘supreme’, the villagers of Naples started adding tomato, olive oil and oregano to their flat bread and the humble pizza was born.

These days there are as many pizza toppings as there are hungry uni students ordering take away, but too often people assume pizza needs meat to be tasty. Last year, popular Sydney pizzeria Gigi caused a stir by launching a fully vegan menu, with many wondering whether the business would go under. Despite the massive change, the queues still go out the door and round the corner.

Too many vegetarian pizzas are covered in flavourless black olives, limp mushrooms and oily roasted vegetables. It needn’t be so! Get fresh with these vegetarian topping suggestions or create your own.

1. Margherita

We had to include the original and the best. For a truly authentic experience, try one of Sydney’s pizzerias awarded Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana certification (the credential which lets pizza eaters know they follow the Very Important Pizza Rules from Naples for legit pizza).

For home cooks, there are countless online recipes for making authentic Margherita but you don’t need authenticity for it to be delicious. Find a pizza dough recipe that works for you (or cheat with store-bought bases). Buy fresh basil, good quality passata or crushed tomatoes (don’t get pre-made pizza sauces, they’re always too sweet) and quality cheese (buy buffalo mozzarella if it’s pay day).

2. Vegetarian Hawaiian

The great debate – to pineapple or not to pineapple – can tear families apart. Far from authentic or even gourmet, many think fruit on pizza is a crime, but if you grew up loving the ubiquitous combination of ham and pineapple, use the following toppings to make this vego adaptation.

–Tomato base.
–Add oregano, chopped garlic, finely sliced onion, chilli flakes, salt & pepper.
–Top with sliced button mushrooms, red capsicum, green olives and pineapple (sweet corn kernels are also a great addition).
–Top with mozzarella.

3. Potato pizza

This carbohydrate fiesta is another traditional pizza that can be adapted a few ways. Many recipes are ‘cheese optional’ so perfect for vegans. If you want to pretend it’s healthy, add some mixed mushrooms.

–Potato pizza doesn’t use a tomato base. A combination of herbs, garlic and olive oil works a treat.
–Top with finely sliced potato. You don’t need to pre-cook it but do make sure you slice it finely with a mandolin or peeler so it’ll cook evenly and crisp up nicely.
–Add salt, pepper and rosemary; for extra decadence use truffle oil or truffle paste.
–Choose your cheese (mozzarella, blue cheese, parmesan – it’s all good).

4.  Zucchini, lemon, chili, feta and mint

I can’t remember where I first found the recipe for this delicious flavor combination but whoever you are, mystery chef, I thank you. Fresh and light, it almost makes pizza healthy.

–This recipe is tomato base optional. It works both ways, but leaving the tomato sauce off the pizza really lets the other flavours sing. Use a base of olive oil, a little lemon juice, a sprinkling of dried thyme and oregano, chopped garlic and sliced Spanish onion.
–Lightly grill or fry thin ribbons of zucchini (use a mandolin slicer or a vegetable peeler); a grill pan gives them pretty charred stripes.
–Put the slices on your pizza base and top with chili flakes and crumbled feta.
–Once cooked, squeeze a lemon wedge over the pizza and top with chopped fresh mint. Don’t cook the mint, it’ll wilt and go brown.

5. Ottolenghi’s egg, spinach and pecorino pizza

You need to try this Middle Eastern inspired pizza and if you’re into vegetarian cooking you should immediately purchase at least one Ottolenghi cookbook.

Another tomato-free option, you top individual portions of pizza dough with grated pecorino, followed by wilted spinach, olive oil, za’atar, sumac and black pepper, building the edges of the spinach up to create a little well for the egg. When it’s nearly cooked, you crack an egg into the well, spread around the whites (leaving the yolk whole) and sprinkle on salt. Cook for 5 more minutes. This one is fantastic for breakfast.

6. ‘What’s in the fridge’ pizza 

As the title suggests, this isn’t a recipe, it’s a pizza-loving philosophy. The pizza principle – bread + toppings + cheese – can be applied in so many ways, so you don’t need to stick to recipes or tradition when you’re craving that comfort food hit. Experiment with your pizza toppings and you’ll come up with amazing combinations of your own. Or you can start with these:

–Sliced kale (massage it with olive oil and salt before you put it on the pizza), cauliflower, broccoli, artichoke hearts, green pepper, cherry tomatoes, feta, mozzarella dill, parsley, lemon and mint.
–Roasted pumpkin and/or beetroot, chilli flakes, sage (dried or fresh), pine nuts, goats cheese and parmesan.
–Caramelised onion, pear, blue cheese and walnut.

Ultimate Guide to Plant-Based Pizza

A whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet avoiding added salt, oil, and sugar, offers a host of benefits, ranging from protection against many common diseases (including heart disease, some cancers, and Type II Diabetes), to enhancing the body’s remarkable ability to selectively mix and match ingested food at a biochemical level to maximize nutritional utilization and physical vitality.

In many ways, conventional pizza is the epitome of an “anti-WFPB” diet. Loaded with fat, saturated fat, sodium, and animal protein, it is difficult to imagine a more dietarily destructive food product, and yet for those wanting to embrace a purely plant-based diet, the word “pizza” generally invokes the fear of giving up gooey and fatty cheese forever.

This is probably the single most common anxiety when contemplating the transition to a healthy whole food, plant-based lifestyle and most common complaint among those who avoid eating cheese.

Many people turn to the current generation of faux non-dairy cheeses for taste and texture satisfaction. However, these are not a solution or substitute for all the health problems associated with consuming dairy. The current generation of non-dairy cheeses, quite remarkable in their gooeyness and melting capabilities, are often as high or higher than their dairy equivalents in added fat or oil, and contain very little nutrition.

Rethinking Pizza

Is it possible to “think outside the pizza box” and to make a whole food, plant-based pizza at home that is truly healthy and yet satisfying in taste, texture, and nutritional content?

Yes! Making your own WFPB pizza is easy and fun to make, as well as inexpensive and nutritious.

In this article I’m going to show you how to make a delicious whole wheat & black beans pizza crust, give some suggestions for a fine tomato-based “bottom” sauce, mention a few possible toppings, and provide three easy-to-make “cheese-like” sauces from various whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These sauces will “firm up” in texture when baked on top of a pizza and, depending upon the recipe selected, provide a custard to velvet-like “mouth feel.”

The Pizza Foundation

The easiest way to make your own pizza dough is by using a bread machine. Pre-made dough can be kept in a refrigerator for just under a week, and brought to room temperature when ready to make your pizza. However, one can always purchase plant-based pizza dough or a pre-made crust.
Many local and major grocery stores have pre-made pizza dough available, and most pizza restaurants will even sell you their dough. Note that some doughs may have a little bit of salt and oil in them. Gluten-free pre-made crusts are also common.

Once you’ve shaped your dough into the pizza shape desired (circular, amoeba, rectangular — there is no required geometry!), press your shaped pizza into a non-stick pizza pan or cookie sheet (parchment paper works particularly well underneath), and then pre-heat your oven 425 to 450 degrees F. Some parchment papers will get brown over 425o F., and Reynold’s makes an aluminum foil that is “non-stick” on one side, maintains at 450o F., and also has the benefit of being easy to “mold” into different pans.

The Sauce

There are many fine pizza sauces available in grocery stores that are very low in fat and sodium. In a hurry? Spread tomato paste or sliced/diced/crushed tomatoes on a shaped pizza dough and sprinkle with garlic powder and/or Italian spices. Leftover chili works well, so does any kind of salsa! I can also recommend Trader Joe’s inexpensive no oil or salt pizza sauce.

The Fillings

Vegetables should be cut to mouth-size, while even tender greens such as kale or chard can be chopped up and used (I like putting a layer of chopped greens on the dough 1st, then adding sliced tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and spices). Pressed for time? There are inexpensive diced 8 vegetable mixes available that you can sprinkle on top of your pizza sauce. Cooked legumes also make a great topping, adding more fiber and superb nutrition.

The “Cheese-Like” Topping Sauce

By using grains and beans, for example, a splendid no-fat “cheese-like” topping (or bottom!) sauce can be made that provides a delightful firmness when baked. Our goal is not to duplicate cheese per se, but instead, to provide a stimulating and delectable alternative. Those sauces with beans tend to be “thicker” from the wonderful fiber they bring to the game.

Firenza Pizza and Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria Announce Merger

Firenza Pizza & Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria – two restaurants known for their high quality and exceptional pizza product – are joining forces to become one! It’s the best of both worlds as the two merge together under the Firenza Pizza name in Spring of 2017.

At Firenza, the focus is on a unique, fast-casual dining experience where YOU get to create your own culinary masterpiece as your freshly made pizza moves down the line from the dough to the toppings to being cooked right in front of you.

The foundation for this delicious Firenza pizza starts with the best ingredients – artisan-crafted meats, locally sourced vegetables, Italian tomatoes and Caputo “00” flour; which is the finest ground on earth, imported from Naples, Italy. It’s a world of flavor at your fingertips.

“There is such a great excitement about these two companies coming together under the Firenza Pizza name. With an experienced leadership team, a high quality product, and incredible growth potential within this segment of the restaurant industry, we’re incredibly enthusiastic about the momentum that Firenza Pizza is cooking up!”

DAVE WOOD, CEO FIRENZA PIZZA

When your hand-crafted pizza is ready to cook, it’s put into a piping hot oven and after a few short minutes, your pizza comes out as a tasty creation cooked to perfection.

The Firenza team features an impressive collection of restaurant talent. Dave Wood, CEO, has over 35 years of industry experience, including award-winning work as a Domino’s franchisee. Dave Baer, President, has tallied over 25 years of industry experience, most of it with Domino’s Pizza Inc. and with an award-winning franchisee. The two founded Firenza Pizza in the summer of 2014, with goal of creating a fast-casual pizza chain that does it better than all the others – custom-made pizza with unlimited customer-chosen toppings.

Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria brings World Pizza Champion, Glenn Cybulski, running the show in the kitchen. Cybulski is a certified Italian Pizzaiolo and has a proven track record of owning and running successful restaurant establishments. Glenn founded Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria in 2014 and brings with him an impressive list of traditional and innovative mouth-watering pizza recipes to the Firenza team.

After the merger, Dave Wood will serve as CEO, Glenn Cybulski will serve as Executive Chef and Pizzaiolo and Dave Baer will serve as Chief Operating Officer.

Imagine the most delicious, freshly made pizza – built with the highest ingredients and cooked with rapid precision, right in front of you. With the merger of these two pizza greats; it will be coming to a city near you soon.

Firenza currently has six locations with several more scheduled to open in 2017. Persona Wood Fired Pizzeria has seven locations and will assume the Firenza name in the coming year.