Easy, Cheap, and Everybody-Friendly Meals
I love pizza, as so many of us do. Although it is convenient to have pizza delivered, the restaurant/pizzeria varieties are often costly and greasy.Moreover, the standard supermarket frozen varieties are chock full of calories and often lack the comfort-food feel that good pizza evokes. I wanted a pizza that I could make easily, that I could creatively customize, and that functioned as a complete, healthy meal without sacrificing the saucy, cheesy goodness inherent in all good pizza. I tried the premade pizza crusts and they fell below my expectations and above my budget. I looked for an alternative, and I stumbled upon whole wheat flatbreads that come 5 to a package for about $2.00. I freeze them, so they last for a month or more, and they only take about 10 minutes to defrost when they sit at room temperature. You can also use English muffins or bagels, but I prefer the flatbread. Not only is this recipe adaptable to whatever you have available in your kitchen, but it fulfills any pizza craving.
o Packaged non-pocket pita/flatbread
o Your favorite jarred pizza or pasta sauce (I prefer pizza sauce)
o Almost any cheese you have on hand—Mozzarella, Provolone, Parmesan, Colby Jack, and Cheddar-are all tasty varieties. I like to use the part-skim or low-fat varieties. There is a little to no difference in texture or flavor, so you may as well cut the fat calories.
o Vegetables of your choice. Frozen vegetables work well, too! I like red peppers, zucchini, spinach and red onion on mine.
o Salt and pepper, and any additional spices you enjoy.
o Spread about ¼ cup jarred tomato sauce on the flatbread of your choice. Whole wheat English muffins work well as a low calorie option, and if calories are not a concern, bagels are another alternative.
o I like to sprinkle a bit of salt and pepper over my sauced crust to add more flavor, because the flatbread lacks the butter and garlic salt usually added to standard pizza crust. I also often use a garlic and herb mixture (I like Mrs. Dash), some basil, and a tiny bit of crushed red pepper for a kick. I suggest leaving the red pepper off of a child’s pizza.
o Top with the mixture of cheese that you have available and follow with vegetables (or meat) toppings of your choice.
§ Tip: When using spinach, add it on top of the sauce and under the cheese so that it lays flat and wilts into the sauce. Use baby spinach instead of the frozen boxed varieties. This is also a good way to hide spinach from finicky kids! It has a very mild flavor that blends in nicely with the other pizza ingredients.
§ Tip: When adding vegetables that hold a lot of water, dab vegetables with a paper towel before topping your pizza to avoid water-soaked-cheese as the vegetables cook.
o Put your pizza masterpiece in a preheated oven (350˚F) on a baking sheet or a piece of foil for about 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is hot and bubbly and the flatbread is slightly crispy.
o Whole wheat flatbread—about 210 calories; English muffin—about 130 calories; Bagel—about 280 calories.
o Sauce- about 40 calories per ¼ cup
o Cheese (Averages about 100 calories per ¼ cup)
o Vegetables- less than 80 calories
o Total: You have just made a filling, nutritious, easy, and kid-friendly meal under 480 calories.
o When I make tacos for my family, everyone’s favorite day-after lunch or dinner is a mini-taco pizza. Add the sauce and spices to the flatbread as usual. Add some leftover meat, Spanish rice, and vegetables. Top with cheese and bake. I top mine with crushed hard taco shells or tortilla chips, salsa, and lettuce while it cools. Delicious!
o Using leftover chicken or pork as a topping is a great way to add protein and clean out the refrigerator. Add some barbecue sauce and you have easy and flavorful barbecue chicken/pork pizza.
For dessert, create a creamy, fruity, and delightfully good-for-you smoothie with nothing more than some yogurt, juice, frozen fruit, and a blender. The following recipe makes two servings. This smoothie is sweet enough to be dessert and filling and nutrient rich enough to function as a quick breakfast for anyone who hates hectic mornings.
o Add about ½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt into your blender. Regular yogurt works too, but Greek yogurt is thicker and creamier and contains more protein. Then, add your preferred frozen fruit. I use a banana, and a combination of frozen mango chunks, strawberries, and blueberries. Add about 6 ounces of fruit or vegetable juice. I like to use one can of pineapple juice because it adds a nice fresh-fruit-on-the-beach-flavor. Vegetable juices are easily disguised, however, so if you have some, it is a nice way to add nutrients without sacrificing flavor. Blend the mixture on high for about 30 seconds or until smooth. Add more fruit if it needs thickened up or more juice if it is too chunky.
o Tip: Add spinach and ground flax seed for additional nutrients.
o Greek Yogurt- about 120 calories
o Juice-about 100 calories
o Banana-about 100 calories
o Other fruit- about 100 calories.
o Total per serving: 210 calories.