Pizza Power

 I am tired of pizza getting a bad rap.  There are lots of great things about pizza.  First of all, how many different kinds of   pizza are there?  There’s thin crust, thick crust, stuffed crust, coal-fired, handtossed, deep dish, pan, thin n’ crispy – I could go on forever.  The different toppings – there’s not enough time in the day to list these.  Is there anything you can’t put on top of  pizza that won’t taste good?   It’s readily available.  You can get pizza anywhere, anytime or it’s pretty easy to make yourself.  Have you ever said to yourself  “I wish there were more pizza places around here?”   Me neither.  Kids love it – no explanation necessary.  It’s relatively inexpensive.  It encompasses at least three food groups – protein, dairy, vegetable.  Depending on what you put on it, maybe more!  You’re probably thinking, isn’t it a little unhealthy??  I won’t argue a chicken breast, broccoli and brown rice may be a better choice.  However, sometimes, especially on a Friday night, that’s just not going to happen.  Unhealthy compared to what – other pizza or other food?  If you get the triple meat italiano pizza at Pizza Hut, it’s going to have a whopping 420 calories and 23 grams of fat (basically almost 50% of the calories come from fat AND remember that is 1/8 of a pie).  If you compare that to a  thin n’ crispy slice from Pizza Hut the calories  drop to 190 with 8 grams of fat (38% fat calories – better especially in the calorie department).  How about a chicken caesar salad?  Want a real shocker?  Caesar salad at Outback Steakhouse – 1045 calories, 74 grams of fat.  Wow, that is 64% of the calories coming from fat!!  My point I’m trying to make is don’t discount pizza because you think it is so “bad for you.”    Listed below are some fat and calorie values for various pizzas, all 1/8 of a pie.

Anthony’s Coal-Fired  (Plain Cheese)

425 calories      15 grams fat       32% fat calories

Bertucci’s  (Plain Cheese)                      

330 calories      15 grams fat      43% fat calories

Domino’s     

          Hand-Tossed                                 

          230 calories            4.5 grams fat           18% fat calories

          Thin Crust                                       

          170 calories             7 grams fat               37% fat calories

          Deep Dish                                         

          210 calories              7 grams fat              30% fat calories

Homemade Pizza

239 calories              5.6 grams fat           21% fat calories

Pizza also packs a great nutritional punch.  Tomato sauce contains lycopene, a powerful antioxidant thought to  help protect against cancer.  It is also high in vitamin C.  Cheese is an excellent source of protein and also contains vitamin B-12, calcium, and vitamin D.    Make a whole-wheat pizza crust and add some beneficial fiber.  Added lean meats such as ham and chicken can boost protein.  Vegetable toppings increase the nutritional value significantly by adding a variety of vitamins and minerals (and fiber). 

For takeout pizza, check out the fat and calorie content, if it’s available.  Try to pick venues where pizza is closer to authentic italian with thinner crust, more sauce and less cheese.  You probably know which pizza places have more greasy and/or breadier dough pizzas.  Avoid these.  Make homemade pizza with your child and let their imaginations run wild thinking of toppings!  Pizza on the grill is very popular now – there are a variety of cookbooks available with some great recipes.   Wegman’s makes it easy by having a section that includes sauce, cheese, and pizza dough all in the same place.   My daughter LOVES to make homemade pizza and thinks it tastes better than takeout.    It is a fun thing to make for kids of all ages.

Add to your to do list this week:  get pizza stone, pizza cutter, pizza cookbook.   Have fun!

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore.”  Jack Brooks

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Claire’s Chicken Soup – Healthy Comfort Food Kids Love!

My alarm clock this morning was a howling, screaming wind outside my window.   I got up to let my dog out and was happy to finally feel the December chill  in the air.  Good day for soup.  Good time to share one of my family’s favorite soup recipes.  I usually make it (or one of it’s many variations) once a week in the winter months.  The beauty of it is that my daughter enjoys helping me make it but loves to eat it!  It is a low calorie, low fat delicious comfort food that really fills your belly.  There are so many variations of  it, too.  Even if your child or teen doesn’t think they like veggies, it would be hard to not like this soup!

Claire’s Chicken Soup

2 large chicken breasts, with skin

16 oz. low sodium chicken broth or stock

1 1/2 cups sliced carrots (real carrots that you have to peel taste best!)

1 1/2 cups chopped cabbage

Handful of chopped  curly parsley

1 large onion, quartered

Boil chicken breasts and onion in 6-8 cups water.  Boil until cooked (approximately 30-40 minutes depending on size of chicken breasts).   Remove chicken breasts and set aside to cool.  Add carrots, cabbage and parsley (you may  need to add more water).  Boil until carrots are firm (not mushy).  Turn heat to simmer.   Shred chicken and add back into soup (discard skin).  Add chicken broth.  You may need to add more or less broth according to taste.  Salt and pepper to taste.

This recipe can be altered to your child’s preferences.  You can use any veggies you like:  corn, broccoli, green beans, edamame, peas, tomatoes.  You can also throw in a  1/2 cup of barley.  If your child really wants  noodles,  make sure to cook these separately so they don’t get soggy.   Add them sparingly at serving time.  If they prefer chicken to vegetables, go heavy on the chicken.

Have fun making this soup with your child!  This is a great way for them to get some kitchen skill experience (chopping, peeling, cutting – with your close supervision) and to experiment with different ingredients.  Keep warm and bon appetit!

“Cookery is not chemistry.  It is an art.  It requires instinct and taste rather than exact measurements.”

Marcel Boulestin