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On the Lighter Side

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I find that my week goes a lot better if I have a favourite dish waiting for me at the end of it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving the stir fries and salads, but sometimes what I really want is a pizza. That’s why I’ve come up with what I think is an awesome pizza recipe that allows me to indulge, without too much guilt. The key to this, I feel, is to make your own base. This means that your base can be amazingly thin and you won’t be as conscious stricken!

Below I have the recipe I use for the pizza base, as well as some of the toppings I like to put on. The base recipe has come from a lot of experimentation. It is a moist dough, but that gives it a lot of stretch.

Pizza base

  • 400ml Bread flour (stoneground is best!!)
  • 1Tbsp salt
  • 180ml lukewarm water (+/- 45 degrees C)
  • 1Tbsp honey
  • 1 sachet dry active yeast
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (this adds a silkiness to the dough and helps keep it moist, but you don’t want to put too much in as the base will be hard rather than crispy – yes, there is a difference ;))
  • Flour for dusting
  1. Mix the water, honey and yeast together in a small bowl and set aside for +/- 5 min (this wakes the yeast up and gets it moving)
  2. Put your flour in a large mixing bowl (or make a well on your counter if you’re feeling bold!), mix in the salt and add your wet mixture steadily, stirring with a fork until it all comes together. (Note: as tempting as it may be, adding your salt to the yeast mixture could kill the yeast – and the rising action. Not desirable!)
  3. Dust your counter with flour and turn your dough out onto the flour.
  4. Knead to your hearts content. Really get in there! Kneading helps develop flavour and texture so give it all you’ve got for a good 10 minutes (fun fact: apparently this will burn +/- 30 calories)
  5. Once you have an elastic texture (you can poke it and it bounces back) and you no longer have dough hands, you’re done! Form into a ball, and place in a floured bowl to rise. The bigger the bowl, the better. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel to avoid the dough forming a crust.
  6. After about an hour, knock the air out of the dough (punch it baby!) and leave it to rise again for another 45 min.
  7. Divide the dough into four balls and roll out to +/- 28cm rounds.
  8. You now have your base and can add your toppings as desired
Note: The way I like to build a pizza is to heat a 28cm casserole dish in the oven (at 220 degrees C), remove it from the oven, turn it upside down and put the raw pizza base on top. This acts like a pizza stone (which I don’t have) and helps the base cook from the bottom as well. I then put all the toppings on and cook in the hot oven for 10 to 15 min until it’s super crispy.
My favourite toppings include: (not all on the same pizza)
  • Mozzarella (such a must!)
  • Simple basil tomato sauce (made by blitzing 1tin of tomatoes, a handful of basil and 3 garlic cloves in the food processor)
  • Roasted cherry tomatoes (in a 180 degree oven for 40 min)
  • Caramelised onion (onion, salt, garlic, a little honey and balsamic vinegar cooked on a low heat for 30 min – stir often to avoid burning. Top tip: Adding salt draws moisture out of the onion helping it to caramelise and stopping it from burning, putting a lid on also helps with this)
  • Olives (calamata are my favourite because they’re the easiest to de-pip and I find that olives that are already de-pipped are bitter)
  • Cremozola – amazingly creamy gorgonzola cheese!
  • Roasted garlic
  • Leaves: Baby spinach, Rocket, Basil and Watercress – all of which can either be added before or after cooking
  • Feta (Fairview’s anti-brine society rocks, so does Fruit and Veg’s Danish feta!!)
  • Avocado
  • Like-it-lean bacon
  • Pine nuts
These are just a few suggestions. Really, the options are endless! In my experience, the simpler the better. I don’t like overloading my pizza.
To help balance the pizza (life is about balance) I like to share a pizza and have a salad on the side. Yum!
Happy moving and munching!

Diet chocolate

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Picture, if you will, a world without chocolate.

It’s not something any of us want to do! And why would we, when there are so many reasons why we crave it in the first place?! Scientists have linked chocolate to increased serotonin levels (our pleasure producing neurotransmitter) and stress relief. Not only that, but women are apparently programmed to crave it, especially during “that time of the month”. We don’t stand a chance in the fight to cut it out of our lives! And studies say we shouldn’t (fight that is)! By telling ourselves we can’t have it, we only start wanting it more! Most of us want the things we can’t or don’t have… People with straight hair want curly, while those with curly want straight. White people tan to make their skin darker, people with dark skin use creams to make their skin lighter. Blondes dye their hair to go brunette, brunettes use peroxide to go blonde… It’s never ending!

Why should we cut it out anyway? After all, isn’t it healthy? Yes! Yes, it is! I’m not talking about the chocolate bars you find at the tills in Pick ‘n Pay, the Inside Stories and the Bar Ones and the like. No, I’m talking about the real deal. The genuine article. The real McCoy. Chocolate in it’s closest to pure form. Dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher) is actually quite good for you!

In an American study that measures the ORAC value (or anti-oxidant capacity) of foods, dark chocolate scores 5 times higher than blueberries! This means that chocolate is better at reducing free-radical damage and thus slowing the effects of aging, and age related illnesses and reducing blood pressure! What’s more is that 75% of the fats found in cocoa butter (the main source of fat in chocolate) are actually thought to lower cholesterol!

Am I suggesting that you eat a chocolate bar everyday? No. Sorry. There are still things in chocolate that are not good for you, like sugar and caffeine. All I’m saying is that one or two blocks of good quality dark chocolate every now and then, is not the end of the world and might actually be good for you. Not only are you not denying yourself chocolate (reducing the “want what you can’t have” craving) but you’re also providing your body with good anti-oxidants and fats. Just remember, the darker the chocolate, the higher the percentage of cocoa, the less space there is for the undesirables (like sugar, and the other fats).

If you really want to be good, and cut out the sugar, I suggest looking in the sugar replacement section of your local grocery store. Here you’ll find a multitude of things from 8cal per serving jelly, to sugar free chocolate and chocolate mousse. Just remember that artificial sweeteners can be bad for you for a whole different reason… But that’s a different story for a different day. Just don’t think that because it doesn’t have sugar in, it can’t be bad for you.

Bottom line: enjoy chocolate in moderation… But we knew that 🙂

Happy moving and munching!