Healthy Eating: Make-your-own pizza a family meal

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Make it nutritious and fun: Let family members pick their own pizza toppings

School has already started for some families, and others will send their kids off after the Labor Day weekend.  Here’s a simple, nutritious family meal that brings everyone together: pizza.

This recipe makes a terrific “do-it-yourself” family meal –especially with all of the wonderful vegetables in the markets right now. All you do is make this simple dough and provide plenty of toppings and grated cheese. Your family will have fun doing the rest and they get to individualize their pizza.
This recipe makes three or four 12-inch pizzas (depending on how thick you like the crust). For a larger group, you can easily double this pizza dough recipe.
NOTE:  Remember to make the dough AHEAD…it requires time to rise!
Dough:  
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast or 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups  unbleached all-purpose flour–enough to make a soft, smooth dough  (you can use half whole wheat flour if you want)
Toppings: 
Up to you! Some possibilities include tomato sauce, Alfredo sauce, sliced pepperoni; sauteed zucchini, spinach, arugula or mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted peppers; cooked meats; olives; anchovies; artichokes and grated or shredded cheese. The possibilities are endless — use up whatever you have the refrigerator.

Directions:

  1. Dissolve the sugar, yeast, and salt in the lukewarm water and olive oil
  2. Add the flour starting with 5 1/2 cups flour and adding more as necessary to make a soft, smooth dough.
  3. Knead the dough (with your hands, a mixer, or your bread machine set on the dough cycle) until it’s smooth and elastic, about 7 to 10 minutes.
  4. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container, cover it, and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours, whatever fits your schedule.
  5. Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into four pieces, for medium-crust pizza; or three pieces, for thicker crusts. Roll each piece, on a floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, into a circle to fit a 12″ pizza pan. To roll, work from the center to the outside like pie dough. Let the dough rest several times to relax it and make it more cooperative. Turn it over from time to time and roll the reverse side.
  6. Place the rounds on pizza pans; on baking sheets; or, if you have a pizza stone in your oven, on parchment.
  7. Preheat your oven to 450°F. While it’s heating, get out your toppings, which you’ve prepared ahead. Some possibilities include sliced pepperoni; sauteed zucchini, spinach or mushrooms, caramelized onions, roasted peppers; cooked meats; olives; anchovies; artichokes and grated or shredded cheese.  The possibilities are endless–use up whatever you have the refrigerator.  
  8. Brush each crust with a bit of olive oil; spread pizza or spaghetti sauce lightly over the surface, and let your guests add their favorite toppings. Sprinkle the top with grated cheese.
  9. Bake the pizzas for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re golden brown, the toppings are hot and bubbly, and the cheese is melted. Remove the pizzas from the oven.
  10. Immediately transfer pizzas to a cooling rack, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. After about 10 minutes (to allow the toppings to set), slice and serve; a pair of scissors is a great cutting tool.
  11. Yield: three or four pizzas- 10 to 12 inches in diameter

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder is “dancing with N.E.D.” (no evidence of disease) after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She is a foodie who loves to cook from scratch and share here experiments with her family and friends. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and freelances around town for local chefs. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

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