National Junk Food Day is July 21, and I’m excited to indulge in some greasy goodness! However, my young family very rarely eats takeout, because I love cooking and I like to know what my kids are eating. I decided it would be a great idea to create our own “Junk Food Day,” so I could make sure that it tasted amazing but is also as healthy as junk food can be (and cutting out unhealthy fats and additives by making it myself is an important start!).
I was a bit surprised to learn that pizza is America's most popular junk food, not burgers as I would have expected. Fortunately, pizza is very easy to make into a creative and healthy homemade dish.
The first thing you have to get right is the dough. You are looking for the base to be crispy and chewy, and it is important that you knead it well. It is a little harder with whole wheat flour but well worth it for the nutritional value. A few other tips:
- Work with your dough slightly wet. It is more difficult to work with (due to stickiness) but it will ensure no breakage when stretching.
- Add gluten. This will give your dough a lovely stretch and can be found in the bakery isle.
- A double rise gives a super crispy crust.
- Drizzle your base with olive oil to stop it from going soggy under your toppings.
Next, make your simple tomato sauce. It really couldn't be easier, just add ½ teaspoon of oregano and ½ teaspoon of garlic powder to a tin of tomato sauce. There’s no need to heat, just stir and you're done.
You've got your dough, you've got your sauce, now it's time for the toppings.
Really let your personality shine here! I like to provide a wide range of topping options and let everyone in the family design their own pizza or half-pizza. If I’m at the store with the kids I’ll even let them put a few toppings in the cart themselves: my kids are way more excited about eating vegetables when they’re the ones that chose them!
Or, you could make a couple of pizzas that everyone would like. Some great combinations are ham and pineapple; chicken, BBQ sauce and cherry tomatoes; seafood (prawns, anchovies, olives); or veggie basket, which includes peppers, tomatoes, onions and mushrooms.
Kid-Friendly and Nutritious Homemade Pizza
- 2 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
- a sprinkle Sugar
- 1 1/4 c Warm Water
- 3 c Whole Wheat Flour + some for kneading
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 T Wheat Gluten (optional)
- 2 T Extra Virgin Olive Oil + some for kneading
- 2 T Honey
- 1 tin Tomatoes/Tomato passata
- 1/2 tsp Oregano
- 1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 c Mozzarella, shredded
- 1 c Cheddar, shredded
- + Toppings of Choice
- Put ¼ cup warm water into a small bowl, add a sprinkle of sugar and gently stir in the yeast. After 10-15 minutes the yeast should foam and bubble slightly (if it doesn't then your yeast may not be active, and you will need to try again with yeast from a different source).
- In a large bowl mix flour, salt and gluten. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast mixture along with the honey, olive oil and remaining water. Stir the ingredients until combined.
- Knead for a few minutes and form into a ball, drizzle with a touch of olive oil, cover and leave to rise for up to 2 hours. After you’ve let it sit, punch the air out and leave to rise again for a further 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 425 F. Separate the pizza dough into 2 balls and roll or stretch to desired thickness and size, and lay it out on a flat baking surface. A pizza stone is a worthwhile investment if you intend on making this a regular menu item, but a baking sheet will also do.
- Drizzle the base with a touch of olive oil and add a nice layer of your tomato sauce.
- Heap cheese evenly across the pizza, then add your toppings. This is usually where I get the kids involved!
- Place the pizzas into the oven for approx 12 mins, until the crust is lightly browned and the cheese is bubbling.