A Promise of Lo-Co Pizza?

A frozen pizza that’s lo-co and nutritionally balanced? Really?

On their Facebook page, Cuisinart linked to a Discovery Channel article entitled “Scientist Creates Healthy Pizza You Can Eat for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner.” I had to find out more.  Immediately.

The bad news: it’s not yet being sold. Worse, it’s being developed and will be first introduced in Scotland.  So it’ll probably be a long time before it’s available in the US.

But still, this is such an interesting idea – such a great way to solve the “ARGH – I have nothing planned for dinner dilemma” that I had to delve further. The Discovery Channel’s online article quotes nutritionist and co-creator Mike Lean (I kid you not) stating the secret ingredient is seaweed:

“Co-creator Mike Lean of Galsgow University explains: I researched the market and found that seaweed was an interesting new ingredient being used in artisan bread.

So we used that as a way of reducing the salt level. The sodium content of seaweed is about 3.5% compared to 40% in salt. There’s iodine in there, vitamin B12, all sorts of things. And the flavour is excellent as well.”

Very interesting… but will it be lo-co?  The answer, according to the founding company’s press release, is yes:

“The new pizzas, invented by a new company called Eat Balanced, contain the correct proportions of calories, proteins, carbohydrates, fats, salts, sugar, fibre, vitamins and minerals that humans need for a balanced meal. Each individual pizza has been designed to provide about 30 per cent of the guideline daily amounts for each of the main nutrients that we need.”

They also claim the pizzas will taste great. That said, the planned pizza variants are rather, um, British in flavor – besides the typical Cheese & Tomato, they are planning to offer Ham and Pineapple along with Spicy Chicken. But maybe they’ll find a way to do pepperoni and mushroom for the US market?

My fingers are crossed.



CSA Panic

Melina Hammer for NYT

As it was perfect, I bogarted Julia Moskin’s article title, “Raw Panic” from this week’s NYT Dining section for my blog post. In fact her subtitle, “Overwhelmed by summer’s bounty” exactly captures the weekly anxiety I feel when picking up the recyclable bag chock-full of farm-fresh veggies that is my CSA share.*

Reflecting on how I now feel about my CSA (overwhelmed…bordering on irritated) versus how I felt with my first CSA experience last summer (inspired) I scanned some old posts to understand what had changed. And laughed when I saw I’d used the term ‘overwhelmed’ in a post last summer too, CSA Inspired Roasted Kale.

Maybe next summer I shouldn’t do a CSA share.

But for now, I have to figure out how to use all this fresh produce.  And Julia Moskin’s Raw Panic article was fantastic because I learned a few valuable tricks:

  • “Remove any ties or rubber bands on vegetable bunches; the closer they are packed, the faster they will rot.
  • Trim off the leafy tops of vegetables like carrots and beets, but leave an inch of stem on to prevent them from drying out.
  • Don’t store any vegetables in airtight plastic bags: poke holes in the bags if necessary to keep air circulating.
  • Greens should be washed before storing in lots of water (not running water; fill the sink, swish the greens and let the dirt float away to the bottom).
  • Soft herbs like basil, and soft produce like berries and mushrooms shouldn’t be washed until just before they are used; the water will speed deterioration.
  • Vegetables and fruit should be stored separately because the ethylene emitted by ripening fruit can damage vegetables.
  • Some produce will continue to ripen if left out on the counter: stone fruit (not cherries), melons, mangoes, apples, pears, avocados and tomatoes. But some will not: bell peppers, grapes, citrus fruit and berries only deteriorate.
  • Bananas not only will ripen quickly, but their presence will speed the ripening of nearby fruits, so check the bowl often.”

Besides these tips – many of which were new to me – Ms. Moskin’s article had another fab suggestion: if you roast the veggies right away they become instant, healthy ingredients you can easily use (like tossing with pasta).  Here’s how:

“At her school, Purple Kale Kitchenworks, Ms. Welsh counsels her students to cook vegetables the day they come into the kitchen, peeling and roasting them separately in plain olive oil and salt. “If you mix them together, you’ll have a great side dish for one day, but it won’t be so appealing the second day, and on the third day you’ll hate it.”  Set the oven to 375, use large half-sheet pans and fill the racks of your oven to capacity.

Already-cooked vegetables are the key to a refrigerator filled with usable, tamed ingredients that can immediately be turned into other dishes: pasta sauces, pizza toppings and composed salads, to name just a few. Raw, they are just slouching toward rot; cooked, they are tools you can use.”

She doesn’t explain but it’s simple to roast veggies: just wash, dry, cut into bite-size pieces, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast about 30 minutes at 375-400, more or less. (See my recipe page for more info.) And yes, it’s a bummer to turn the oven on in the summer. But it’s a small price to pay for enabling easier, healthier meals…and avoiding using your fridge as a composter.

There were also recipes in the NYT article, and I was inspired enough to try the ‘Sauteed Corn, Greens, Bacon and Scallion,” recipe. Though very tasty, I do NOT recommend this recipe because in my humble opinion, it had the following flaws.

First, the recipe’s author, Katie Workman, totally lied: the recipe time said 20 minutes but in fact it was at least 1 HOUR with all the mise-en-place preparation.  If you like to chop veggies, go for it – this is a great recipe for you.  For me, not so much.

Second, the recipe calls for 4 strips of bacon (I used lo-co turkey bacon), “cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips.” This was lame – if you cut the bacon first, it’s a huge pain to turn while cooking.  Don’t do it – just put in the strips and crumble later.

The Final ResultLast and most important, though this recipe was tasty, in my opinion it involves FAR too much chopping/prep work for a dish not substantial enough to be a main. Or if you do use it as a main, make sure you  have bread or something.  We (my husband and I – our son did not try it) liked it, but a plate full of basically shredded, sauteed veggies did not deliver much (any) plate-appeal, as evidenced by my photo here.

So, if you have a lot of veggies from your CSA or garden or farmer’s market and like to chop, by all means try this recipe and serve it with some nice bread.  But if you’re like me and want a 20 minute quick dish, this is not your best bet recipe-wise.

* CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, aka a farm-share – you pay upfront to get fresh veggies all spring and summer from a local farm.



Pistachio Pasta Salad

After huge flight delays that caused multiple missed flight connections and lost luggage (not 1, not 2, but 3 lost pieces of luggage for our group of 4 – we will never fly Alitalia again!), we made it to Sicily & Rome and back.

As mentioned in my last post, I was pretty worried about biking in Sicily still coughing from the delightful pneumonia side effect of ‘reactive airways.’  But all was fantastic. I didn’t power up the hills (yes, like the ones in the background of this photo) the way I’d have liked, but I didn’t have to walk my bike (much) either

From a lo-co lifestyle perspective, it doesn’t get much better than a Backroads Bike Trip.  You bike for 30-40 miles a day (you can do more, but…) and then eat fantastic food that someone else prepares for you.  And on this particular Sicily bike trip, the food was spectacular – and healthy.  Lots of olive oil, freshly made pasta, and for this trip in particular there was an emphasis on ‘farm-to-table’ that meant we had unbelievably fresh eggplant and zucchini at nearly every meal.

I miss it.  And the gelato.  And the beer that we always had at the end of a hard day’s ride.  OK, OK, so this ride in particular we had a 7 mile dead downhill to Sicily’s southern coast – so it wasn’t the least bit strenuous.  But it was hot – like 95 degrees hot – so we needed that beer!

But it wasn’t all beer and wonderful Sicilian red wine.  The food was extraordinary. Lo-co wise, it was perfect – healthy food and a lot of exercise.  I asked the chef at a restaurant in Scicli to share his recipe for a stupendous eggplant caponata, which he generously gave me.  I’ll post it, but it’s in Italian so I have to find someone to translate it first.

Back home, I was determined to find a fresh pasta recipe I could make to help me stay on track, lo-co wise.  Happily, I discovered this Gemelli Salad with Green Beans, Pistachios and Lemon-Thyme Vinaigrette dish.  The recipe’s from Cooking Light and it was both easy to make and delicious.  And since it’s cold, it’s perfect for the summer.

I served it to a group of friends for lunch, who both demolished it and asked for the recipe.  So I’m making it again tonight and bringing it (with a green salad) to my cousin Stephen as he recovers from a diving board, um, incident that left him in surgery for a broken ankle and torn achilles tendon…

He won’t be biking soon, but I’m still spinning – and trying to eat healthy.  It’s a good thing gelato doesn’t exist here like it does in Sicily and Rome…