Tuesday, December 29, 2015

parties with panache: pizza recipes!

I've learned a great deal of things since finding out about my food allergies, and one of them is that social gatherings almost always include food of some sort! It was something I never really put much thought into before it became a matter of survival, and I think it's only when someone is put into that position that they realize how much of our sociality revolves around food. Holidays, birthdays, reunions, family gatherings, parties, end-of-week work gatherings, and even staff meetings include snacks, potlucks, meals, barbecues, and even restaurants. Because of this, those with food allergies have a lot more to think about and prepare for when it comes to being social.

Some venues are easier than others. Potluck picnics and beach barbecues are easy because the allergic person can simply bring their own food. When it involves work functions, friends' houses, and restaurants, though, things can get a bit more difficult.

There are definite social changes that happen when you develop food allergies. Those weekly meetups with friends at the local restaurant become awkward, either on the part of the allergy person who can't eat anything on the menu, or the friends who then feel sorry for them. I noticed this shift when I was finally diagnosed and suddenly had no safe restaurants. The invitations became few and far between in the name of not making me feel bad that I couldn't eat anything on the menu. Instead, it felt isolating to be constantly left out of fun events.

For this reason, we often hosted the parties and game nights at our house. We always had a "safe" area for my food and a potluck area for everyone else. It worked for a while and we loved being able to play host and hostess on special occasions and book clubs and get togethers. This became a nightmare though, when I realized that I was so sensitive that the food my friends brought over was causing cross contamination issues. Ben and I started experimenting with snacks and meals that could be made fairly easily and would feed several people so that having a get together didn't have to be food-less, but also wouldn't mean a Thanksgiving-like event with a whole day of cooking involved. It had to be something that adults would enjoy, but their kids would also eat. It had to be free of multiple allergens and something that could also be served for our vegetarian friends. We started with pizza: the quintessential and easily-customizable party food. After our first party serving the pizza, we had several friends requesting to come over again so they could partake again! Each time, we make a few favorites and try something new, so I thought I'd share some of our favorites in case you ever find yourself in a pizza rut!

The Basics:

For most of our pizzas, we prefer to use the Chebe flour mixes, because they are grain free and are pretty versatile. Many other blends are too watery or too starchy (or don't hold up well as leftovers). Each pizza also uses about a cup of sauce and 1.5-2 cups of mozzarella cheese (I use the Organic Valley brand).

The Sauce:

My favorite prepared sauce is the Organicville pizza sauce. It's got a nice flavor and thickness, and the vinegar is sourced from sugarcane and not corn like most other sauces. I purchase it from Vitacost, and for those of you in the states, I've seen it at Whole Foods, Sprouts, and Natural Grocers as well.

I often prepare my own sauce, which is great because I can adjust the thickness and spices as needed. Because we have typically lived in places where fresh, organic tomatoes were not always available, I had to search for a while to find a good substitute. I love the Bionaturae tomato paste, an organic product from Tuscany.

  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 1 cup water (adjust for preferred thickness)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp basil
  • 1/2 tbsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste


Mix all ingredients, adding the water last. Stir and add water to the thickness you prefer. For the best results, let the sauce rest for an hour to enrich the flavor. Then, spread it on the dough. Remember not to add too much sauce, as you don't want your dough to become soggy! I add my favorite spices to the following toppings and then bake the pizza at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

**Tip: If you're going for a more creamy sauce, substitute the water with a nice, thick coconut milk! These are the two I use most often: Native Forest and Aroy-D.

The Toppings:

There are several different topping variations we've used with the basic sauce and cheese combination.

  • Pepperoni and black olives. Before I was as corn sensitive as I am at this point, I was able to use pepperoni. This is no longer an option for me, but I still do have a safe brand of sausage, so we use sausage with black olives now.
  • Pineapple and peppers. This has been a favorite with our friends - simply dice some different colors of bell peppers along with some pineapple slices for a colorful and tasty combination!
  • Yakiniku meat. We make yakiniku pretty frequently (thinly sliced, grilled beef) and sometimes use the leftovers as a pizza topping. This tastes delicious with black olives, pineapple, and/or bell pepper slices!
  • Cream cheese. This is an idea we got from a Japanese pizza shop. After putting the sauce on, but before adding the cheese, drop some small dabs of cream cheese around the pizza (no need to spread!) I use the Organic Valley cream cheese, as it's the only one I don't seem to be allergic to. 
  • Cream cheese and kabocha. A bonus addition to the previous entry that we recently discovered is kabocha (Japanese winter squash). Slice the squash into quarters and then slice one of the quarters into thin slices. After layering the sauce, cream cheese, and mozzarella, add the squash slices and some garlic to the top before baking.

Stay tuned for some non-red sauce based pizzas, coming up soon!