Speedy Suppers: Pizza Gets a South-of-the-Border Makeover

By , SparkPeople Blogger
I love Spinning class. For me, it's a great workout--and 45-60 minutes of letting someone else tell me what to do. Compared with my other favorite form of fitness--yoga--Spinning requires less immediate focus and allows more time for contemplation. Through rolling hills, sprints and grueling jumps, I focus on the finish line--and quite often the delicious dinner I'll make once I get home.

I have been inspired to make plenty of new recipes while on a bike--both on the trail and in the Spinning studio. Sometimes they turn out so-so (a strange lasagna using root vegetables and collard greens in a vegan cream sauce--what?) and other times they rock my world!

The idea for this Mexican pizza came to me just a week ago, and my boyfriend is already asking when we'll be having it again.
When I was a kid, my parents were big fans of Chi-Chi's--the only thing resembling Mexican food we could get in southeastern Ohio. My palate wasn't quite as adventurous back then, so I'd always order the kids' Mexican pizza--ground beef and cheese baked on a tortilla and served with salsa. My tastes have changed--and so has my Mexican pizza.

I wanted a real pizza crust, something whole-grain and substantial enough to hold the plethora of produce I wanted to throw on top. Pizza crust is often dusted with cornmeal, so why not make a cornmeal crust?

I often struggle with dough. Too sticky, too dry, too chewy, too crispy--it's hard to achieve the proper balance. I hit gold with a variation of my mom's whole-wheat pizza dough. It's sturdy and chewy without being too doughy. It crisped up nicely, especially when I parbaked it in my cast-iron skillet. (The secret, I think, is plenty of fork holes to allow steam to escape the 3/4" crust.)

The crust, I realized, would make two pizzas. There would be food for tonight, tomorrow's lunch and snacks over the weekend!

The crusts rolled out and set to bake for a few minutes, I moved on to toppings. What would crown my Mexican masterpieces?

I had a can of fat-free refried black beans in the pantry. They would provide a great base--the thick, creamy beans would protect my now-slightly golden crusts from getting soggy from the other toppings. I spread a thick layer on with a spatula. (Note: If you leave off the beans, serve salsa on the side to prevent a soggy crust.)

On top went a cup of salsa, divided between the pair. On went slices of red peppers, onions, and extra sharp, low-fat cheddar cheese. About 2 tablespoons cumin, which gave the pizzas a rich, smoky, home-cooked taste, was the final touch.

A mere eight minutes later, my beauties were ready to come out. While they cooled slightly, I whipped up an avocado and some cilantro in the blender and stirred some lowfat sour cream to drizzle over the top.

I cut about 1/6 of the pizza (Fred had a quarter of a pizza), topped with a dollop of my creamy avocado, some cilantro and a drizzle of sour cream.

(a picture of Fred's plate, with liberal doses of sour cream and avocado)

We were happy to discover that they tasted as good as they looked. We restrained ourselves from having seconds, and we both eagerly awaited lunch the next day.

All together, it made 12 servings, which we served with salad a couple of times. It was a great food to have on hand for the weekend. The crust was crunchy and chewy, like cross between a tortilla and pizza dough. The toppings were a nice contrast of creamy and crunchy. Each slice had--get this!--204 calories and less than grams 6 of fat.

This recipe is a keeper! I'm already thinking of ways to alter it:
  • Toss on strips of grilled chicken breast (about 24 ounces totals)--add 62 calories, .7 g fat per slice.
  • Sprinkle on a pound of ground turkey (53 calories, 3 g fat per slice) or lean beef (88 calories, 6.4 g fat), seasoned with low-sodium taco flavorings.
  • Top with a handful of chopped lettuce.
  • Swap pepper jack, colby or Monterey jack cheese for the cheddar (use low fat to keep nutritional info about the same).
  • Use Greek yogurt instead of sour cream for added tang.
  • Dip in extra salsa.
  • Top with sliced tomatoes instead of salsa.
  • Throw on 1 cup defrosted frozen corn kernels.
  • Top with chopped green onions.
  • Use black beans (try mashing them first) instead of refried beans.
  • Chop 2 cups defrosted and well-drained frozen spinach and add to the pizzas.
  • Swap salsa verde or a cilantro "pesto" for the salsa.

The Mexican pizza of my childhood is a distant memory. This is the one I crave now!

That's 11 variations off the top of my head. This recipe is going to get a lot of use in the coming months, I think! It would a fun recipe to make when you have guests. Everyone could personalize their pizza, even kids.

Did you like this recipe? Would you try it? Would you like to see more like it?