In this ongoing blog series, Christine, a budget-minded mom and Whole Foods Market® team member, explores ways to create healthy, organic foods that appeal to both her toddler and husband. Read the other posts in her ongoing series opens in a new tab.
My son was turning two and I was on a mission to create a special birthday meal that’s both healthy and fun. I asked my son what he would like to eat for his birthday dinner and his response was loud and clear: “Pizza!” At our house pizza is a treat. So, I started thinking about ways to make a healthier pizza that was loaded with good stuff.
To start, I decided to make my own whole wheat crust. It’s fresh, it’s tasty and it’s definitely worth the effort. Next up, the sauce. Shhhhhhhhh! Here’s my secret: load up the sauce with vegetables. That’s right; broccoli, spinach, cauliflower – the choice is yours.
Once you soften the vegetables and whirl them up in the blender your child will be none the wiser. This sneaky little trick makes me smile, which is how my next idea came about. I’d top the pizza with a vegetable smiley face! I was so excited about this pizza and my son reaching the milestone of turning two, that I knew it was going to be the perfect day.
We spent the day at the petting zoo, followed by a trip to my son’s favorite playground and then a late afternoon nap. While my son slept, I prepared the dinner.
Homemade Veggie Pizza
1 ½ cups of organic whole wheat flour
1 envelope of dry active yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons olive oil
Light cooking spray
1 small head organic broccoli
1 medium organic onion
2 large organic carrots
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large organic tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons organic tomato paste
6 ounces low-fat organic, shredded mozzarella
1 head organic broccoli
½ organic yellow pepper
Handful of organic cherry tomatoes
The base of a good pizza is a good crust. Here’s how I make mine: combine the flour, yeast and salt in a food processor. Add the warm water and use the pulse or dough setting until the mixture forms into a ball. If the dough seems too sticky, add extra flour. Likewise, if the dough seems too dry, add extra water.
Place the dough on a flat, floured surface and knead it for a couple of minutes. Then place it in a bowl that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it sit for 30 minutes in a warm place. I set my dough in the sunshine by the window.
Now, on to the sauce.
Chop the vegetables and place them in a hot, oiled saucepan. I chose to use broccoli, onion and carrots as my secret ingredients. Cook the vegetables for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes. Cook for another 5 minutes or until soft. Then add the tomato paste and cook on low heat for an additional 3-4 minutes. Seasonings are optional.
Let the cooked veggies cool for a bit and then puree the mixture in a blender until it turns into the consistency of standard pizza sauce. Although blender settings and times may vary, I blended mine for 30 seconds on the mix setting. I couldn’t resist tasting the sauce and it was delicious. It tasted like regular tomato sauce but with a zing. The color was more orange than red, but I doubt your child will notice the difference, especially once the sauce is covered with cheese.
At this point, it’s time to preheat the oven to 425°F (if you’re using a pizza stone, put it in the oven to preheat, too). Now to the toppings. They’re the best part of a pizza, after all. I stuck with the vegetable theme. Since my son prefers his vegetables to be soft, I chopped the broccoli and pepper and placed them in boiling water for 3-4 minutes to soften. I washed the cherry tomatoes and removed the cheese from the fridge. I like using low-fat organic mozzarella, but choose whatever cheese you like.
Now, back to the dough. Roll the dough out onto a floured surface. Flour your rolling pin and roll the dough to create a large circle. This may take a few tries (it did for me). The dough recipe above is enough dough for 2 medium-size pizzas (about 12- to 14-inch circles). Place the rolled out dough onto a greased baking sheet or onto a paddle to slide onto your pizza stone.
Add the sauce, cheese and other toppings and bake for 12-15 minutes. I placed the veggies on the pizza in the shape of a smiley face. The smell of baking pizzas wafting through the house woke up my son from his nap, and the entire family enjoyed homemade vegetable pizzas for dinner. Talk about a special treat!
The crust of the pizza turned out soft and airy. My son loved everything about his pizza slices, hidden veggies and all. And there you have it, birthday pizzas with a smile. What’s so fun about homemade pizza is that you can make it your own! The sauce, topping and cheese combinations are endless.
Have you ever made pizza at home? I’m interested to know what vegetables you use. Also, if anyone has a recipe for a crispier whole wheat crust, please share!