March 3, 2011

Veggie Monster Pizza

Sunny days, sweepin' the clouds away, on my way to where the air is sweet... Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?

Oh my goodness, were you all as obsessed with Sesame Street growing up as I was? I remember that every day, no matter what was going on, my mom would turn on Sesame Street and it held my complete attention for thirty minutes. Even the song takes me back to those happy memories and makes me want to go run through a field somewhere. Some of the characters - Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Telly - were recently featured on an episode of Top Chef Masters, and I was surprised at the effect that they still have on me! They made me laugh so much that I felt like a kid again!

But the whole thing got me to thinkin'... what if Cookie Monster had been Veggie Monster? I think Sesame Street does a great job in teaching kids about proper nutrition, but one of their most loved characters is a stark raving lunatic for one of the unhealthiest foods out there. I think the funny thing about Cookie Monster is his total lack of control when it comes to cookies, but if you replace the cookies with veggies or fruit, is the humor lost? I don't think it would be and the message we'd be sending our children would be invaluable.

Does this make you love him any less? DOES IT?!?
Growing up, my parents both worked full-time and we were always on a budget. Dinners weren't always the healthiest and we had a lot of Hamburger Helper and fast food. Goodness knows they did their best, but there wasn't a lot of focus placed on nutrition. I know so many families face the same challenge: you have to make your money stretch so you buy what you know will be filling and easy. But now that I'm older, I realize that I became addicted to certain foods - I was so used to the high fat, sodium, and sugar contents of restaurant and processed foods that whole, nutritious foods lost any appeal.

When I made the decision to go vegan, I really had no choice but to take my nutrition into my own hands and it has been a serious learning curve! I feel like I had to deprogram myself from craving those unhealthy foods and force myself to eat what is good for me. It took some time, but honestly I've come a long way. I literally crave vegetables now and I haven't eaten a hamburger in so long I think it would kill me to do so. Don't get me wrong, I totally understand the value and necessity of indulging sometimes (I still eat my fair share of potato chips and vegan ice cream!), but that should not be what we are eating three meals a day. I look back at even the school lunches that were provided in middle and high school and I'm shocked! Hamburgers, french fries, chimichangas, pizza... we're not even giving kids a chance when those are the foods we're offering them!

One of my all-time favorite comfort foods is pizza, but I haven't had a traditional piece of pizza since October. Instead, I visit one of the few restaurants in NYC that offer vegan pizza, or I make my own. I prefer to make my own because it's quick and easy and I'm in control of the ingredients. I never allow myself to use as much salt or fat as a restaurant would. And almost every grocery store carries pre-made pizza dough now, so there is really no excuse to not try making your own pizza sometime. I only buy whole wheat dough because the white dough is just too high in carbs, but I was thrilled to see that Whole Foods now makes multi-grain pizza dough with lots of iron and protein and very little fat! I used it to make this pizza, which I think my hypothetical Veggie Monster would totally dig and I think any kid would be pretty happy to have this for dinner, too!

Oh and Johnny was a big fan of this pizza! He said it was the best vegan pizza I've ever made, but I don't think he likes vegan cheese much as I saw him picking most of it off. If you don't like vegan cheese, try going totally cheeseless or use some part-skim mozzarella shreds - it'll still be way healthier than Pizza Hut.

"I want VEGGIES! Nomnomnomnomnom."

Veggie Monster Pizza

(Makes 8 big pieces)

Pre-made pizza dough
1/8 cup White whole wheat flour
Canola or Olive Oil spray

1/2 jar marinara sauce (check the ingredients and try to buy a low-sodium variety)
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, sliced into rings
1 Onion, sliced into rings
1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 zucchini, diced
1 cup shredded vegan mozzarella cheese (I like Daiya the best)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. On a clean surface, sprinkle your flour and roll out your pizza dough. I use a rectangular cookie sheet to cook my pizza, so I roll my dough out in this general shape. Use more flour if necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Spray your cookie sheet with a bit of oil and transfer the dough to the sheet. Spray the dough with a bit more oil. Bake for about ten minutes, remove from the oven, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Once the dough is cool, spread your marinara sauce in an even layer on the dough, leaving some room around the edges. Sprinkle on half of your vegan cheese and then arrange your vegetables on the pizza. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes before cutting into 8 pieces and serving.

Nutritional info per slice: Calories 296; Fat 5.5g; Saturated Fat 1.1g; Trans Fat 0g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 474 mg; Carbohydrate 50.1g; Dietary Fiber 13.4; Sugars 4.6g; Protein 9.4g; Vitamin A 9%; Vitamin C 83%; Calcium 2%; Iron 14%


  1. This pizza looks delish!

    I was thinking about all the bad food I ate growing up. To this day, I crave a bowl of Kraft "easy mac" when I'm not feeling well. Not even the good mac & cheese made with real dairy products, but the straight-from-the-box orange powder. SO gross (but I'm still addicted).

  2. Jen, I totally used to LOVE the "fancy" mac 'n cheese that had the cheesy sauce in a pouch! Cheese in a pouch that you can keep in a cabinet for years... gotta be good for you, right? lol

    The multigrain crust from Whole Foods is SO good, definitely give it a try!