Thursday, January 21, 2021

Herb-alcious Pizza Surpise!

Herb-alicious Pizza Rx for Cabin Fever

By Cal Orey

The Tribune’s Recent Poll’s question hit home  “What are you fatigued by most during COVID shutdowns and stay at home orders?” The answer: Not being able to see friends or travel (80%). Both going to faraway places and socializing with people is a way to feel connected to humanity and the world. But you, like me, are likely feeling a bout of the winter blues or cabin fever. So, what is the home remedy?

Home cooking! Yep, it can whisk you away to favorite places and persons that we will be able to experience again. But for now – it’s time to think outside of the pizza box.

In December 2019, the last night in Anchorage I was nursing a sore throat. I ordered a Greek pizza. It had chunks of real garlic. Another herbal highlight of the Alaska adventure was finding an artisan chocolate shop. I bought a peri-cayenne pepper truffle, caramelized pear saffron chocolate, and a white square of chocolate with pink peppercorn. The cayenne and dark chocolate gave me the gift of those feel-good endorphins and soothed my raw throat that hurt when swallowing. Both garlic (it contains antiviral compounds) and cayenne (its capsaicin compound has pain-relieving qualities) made me feel better.

Did you know pizza is a superfood? It can be good for you (I didn’t catch a cold or flu from my journey) if you use whole grain crust, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and spinach. All of these nutrient-dense foods are in the popular heart-healthy, immune-boosting Mediterranean diet. So, this recipe is inspired by my past trip that I’ll never forget and tried to recreate.

Salad Pizza

1 store-bough pre-baked whole wheat or grain pizza crust

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ cup all-natural marinara sauce

1 cup feta cheese, crumbled or mozzarella, shredded

¼ cup mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

½ teaspoon oregano

1 tablespoon marjoram leaves

1 cup arugula, fresh

½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced

¼ cup store-bought Italian dressing or olive oil and red wine vinegar (ratio 3 for oil and 1 for vinegar)

Parmesan shavings for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place crust on a nonstick pan or foil. Spread with sauce. Sprinkle cheese over sauce. Top with mushrooms, garlic, oregano, marjoram. Bake for approximately 20 minutes until crust is light golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Do not over bake or the crust will be too hard. Remove from oven. Top with lettuce and tomatoes. Drizzle with dressing and top with Parm.

I wish it was eaten in Alaska – but next up Fairbanks -- to guarantee seeing a moose and the northern lights. Instead, I savored the oven-baked pizza, watched the film “Call of the Wild” chock-full of the colorful aurora borealis. I savored a mug of hot chocolate sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg. Sure, housebound, is not the same as flying away to the wild. But shut-in a cozy cabin amid towering trees, cuddled up with my Aussie and Siamese with a New Moon shining through the windows in the sierra sufficed.

-- Cal Orey, M.A. Is an author and journalist. Her books include the Healing Powers Series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, Coffee, Tea, Superfoods, Essential Oils, Herbs and Spices) published by Kensington. (The collection has been featured by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is

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