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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Making Sneaky Pizza

Just a normal slice of pizza... or is it? Sneaky pizza #1.
Alternative titles:
How to use up leftovers, get your picky kids to eat foods, or lower the cost of your meals, and still have yummy food.


Pizza is one of my kids' favorite foods. Its the favorite food of most kids I know. In fact, make that most adults. I know few people who actually dislike pizza. There's just something about the combination of crust, sauce, and toppings that makes it a winner in so many people's eyes.

I remember that growing up, pizza would cost $1.25 per slice at the restaurant across the street from my school. Now, pizza costs closer to $2.50 or $3.00 per slice in the US, or so I've heard. And for me, one slice of pizza was never enough- it would take closer to 2 or 3 slices to satiate me. And when you add in the rest of your family, even if you buy pizza by the pie, it can be pretty darn expensive.
Even before I went gluten free, buying pizza rarely happened; pizza was something we made at home.

Of course, now that my whole family is gluten free and dairy free, its a no brainer that we don't buy pizza in a pizza shop, regardless of price.

I've put together some tricks to make homemade pizza as cheaply as possible and as healthy as possible without compromising on the taste (too much). I call it sneaky pizza, because what you see is NOT what you get. Its a good way to "trick" your kids into eating foods they might not be willing to eat otherwise, or use up leftovers so they don't spoil.

My older son, Lee, recently decided that he doesn't like lentils or beans. (Not that he actually dislikes the foods made with them, I think he dislikes the concept of eating them, and I think he picked this up from his very picky eater friend. If he doesn't know he's eating beans, he enjoys the dish.) This is a bit problematic for a gluten free dairy free frugal household, because we use a lot of beans and lentils as protein. Fortunately, sneaky pizza is a great way to get beans into him without him being aware.

Here's how you make "sneaky pizza":

Sneaky Pizza Crust:
To make the crust, you need some starchy or eggy something to be the base of the rest of the pizza.

There are plenty of recipes out there for pizza crust, both regular and gluten free pizza. But honestly, you don't need to follow an exact recipe for pizza, and in fact, I usually don't, either because I'm trying to increase the nutritional value of the pizza, or because I am trying to use up something that'll otherwise go to waste.
Whether you're making gluten free pizza or regular, you can sneak all sorts of goodies into the crust, generally without people even noticing the difference, or at least not too much.
The simplest way to notch up the nutritional value of your pizza is to use whole wheat flour in place of regular flour. You can also add ground flax seed or ground chia seeds or wheat germ to the crust.

I add all sorts of other ingredients to my pizza crust as well, usually when I have certain types of leftovers that I want to use up.
This could be:
Unsweetened porridge: leftover unsweetened oatmeal, polenta, or cream of wheat.
Cooked grains and pseudo grains: rice, corn, buckwheat, barley, quinoa, etc...
Cooked beans: chickpeas, navy beans, pinto beans, etc...
It could be any or all of the above. I usually use a combination of two or three different leftovers in each batch of pizza. Blend these up in a food processor or blender, then either add it to your regular pizza dough recipe.
Alternatively, once blended, add egg and/or ground flax and/or ground chia seeds, then add as much flour (whether all purpose gluten free flour mix, wheat flour, teff, chickpea flour, almond flour, corn flour, potato/tapioca/corn starch as necessary to get a workable dough). If you're making this gluten free, you'll need to add xanthan gum (the more you add, the more flexible your pizza will be), and your dough will usually be on the stickier side, but that's fine. Place it on the tray, then spread it with a wet rubber spatula or wet hands (the dough won't stick to wet surfaces). If using this method, bake until solidified before adding the sauce and toppings.

I've also taken flopped (gluten) bread recipes (where you realized that you forgot to add the yeast, or used too hot water and killed the yeast, or something else), and rolled them out very thinly to use as a crust. If you know the yeast won't be making the dough rise, make sure that the crust is especially thin, otherwise it may be rock hard and unpalatable.

Sneaky Pizza Sauce:
Simplest cheap way of all is to make homemade marinara/pasta/tomato sauce (or whatever you call it in your home).
But, if you want to add more nutrition to your sauce, or you're looking for a way to use up leftovers, its very easy to sneak foods into tomato sauce- you just need a blender, and enough tomato to camouflage the other foods and flavors inside.
Foods you can sneak into your tomato sauce:
Cooked carrots, cooked beets, zucchini, green beans, peppers, cauliflower, mushrooms, left over cooked red lentils, green lentils, black beans and kidney beans.
I've blended leftover lentil chili into my tomato sauce with no one being none the wiser. The best way for this trick to succeed is to use less fillers, more tomato paste, and lots of tomato sauce spices like oregano, basil, and garlic. Don't use too many legumes or your cover will be blown.

Sneaky Cheese:
Cheese is fairly simple, no way to sneak it. Right?
Wrong.
If using dairy, you can use a white sauce in place of the cheese entirely, made from milk, potato/corn/tapioca starch or wheat flour, onions, garlic, salt, nutmeg, and parsley. If you want a heavy cheesy taste, stretch the cheese by melting it into some milk with starch or flour, and cook until thickened.
If making yours dairy free, you can make vegan cheese sauce in place of non dairy purchased cheese.
Whether your cheese sauce is dairy or dairy free, you can add blended navy beans to your sauce- they have a mild, cheesy taste and are pretty much unnoticed in the cheese sauce.
Because this is a cheese sauce and not sprinkleable cheese, drizzle it onto your pizza on top of your tomato sauce.

Cheapo Pizza Toppings:
You can't really "sneak" things into your pizza toppings because it's obvious what they are, but if the people eating the pizza aren't picky, you can use up leftovers this way, if you have some leftover chicken or fish, or vegetables cooked in seasoning that complement the flavors in the pizza. Examples would be leftover cooked broccoli, eggplant, corn, peas, carrots, green beans, potatoes, spinach. You can also put sauted foraged greens onto your pizza.

So, what's a real life example of a sneaky pizza?

This is what we had for lunch today. (Sorry for the bad quality- pic taken with my phone.)



Crust made from cooked chickpeas and leftover buckwheat, ground chia seed, eggs, corn starch, corn flour, yeast, oil, apple juice, and xanthan gum. Tomato sauce made with leftover sprouted green lentil chili and green peppers blended into it. "Cheese" sauce made from refried beans (made with pinto beans, fried onions, cumin, and salt), nutritional yeast, potato starch, and dijon mustard.
My kids ate it and told me "I love pizza! This is the best pizza ever! Make it again, Mommy!" Yes, even my "Lee who doesn't like beans". Little does he know that his favorite pizza had not just one type of bean, but 2 types, one type of lentil, and the buckwheat that he also refused to eat when I made it for supper the other night.

As for the pizza pictured above, what was that made out of?

The crust was made out of blended cooked rice, ground chia seed, ground flax seeds, apple juice, teff flour, chickpea flour, corn flour, corn starch, brown rice flour, yeast, and salt. Tomato sauce has red lentils and carrots and beets blended into it, and I used my vegan cheese sauce recipe... Even my non gluten free, non dairy free friends thought it tasted better than restaurant pizza.

So, that's how you make sneaky pizza. Best way to make that favorite dish, but use up leftovers or make it more frugal or up the nutritional content.

As for the ethics of it.. Well, that's your call. I wouldn't lie to people about whats inside, just in case someone has a sensitivity to certain foods, and its not nice to trick your spouse either, but I'm totally cool with sneaking beans into meals where my kids aren't suspecting it. And my husband knows its sneaky pizza, but doesn't care, because it tastes good.

Have you ever made "sneaky pizza" or other "sneaky foods"? What's your reason for trying to sneak non typical ingredients into your pizza? What did you sneak in? How did it go over?
If you haven't made sneaky food or sneaky pizza, does this seem to you like something you'd try out? Why, or why not?
How much does it cost to buy pizza where you live, both a slice and a pie? 
Are you one of those rare souls who dislike pizza or do you know anyone who doesn't like pizza? Are your kids fans of pizza?
Are your kids picky eaters? What do you typically do when your kid all of a sudden decides that he doesn't like a certain food that he ate gladly until that point?

Linking up to Frugal Friday, Freaky Friday, Fresh Bites Friday, Fight Back Friday, Frugal Days, Sustainable WaysAllergy Free WednesdayReal Food Wednesday

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