Pizza — laden with roasted golden beets, zucchini and vitamin-K-packed SPINACH.
I picked up my CSA delivery box this past week and guess what I found inside?
Whoa, how did you know?
Spinach, glorious deep-green spinach. And lots of it.
I’m not complaining because it’s the best spinach on the planet. It’s just that you have to get very creative with your recipe development when you’re in the deep-end of spinach season. Beet, zucchini and spinach pizza, anyone? Trust me, this was over-the-top delicious. But, before I launch into the recipe, please humor me (or skip this part) and let me wallow in my geek-ness.
I have a theory about hearty greens (like spinach and kale) and celiac disease and gluten-intolerance.
Celiac disease is a genetically predisposed autoimmune disease in which gluten (the main storage protein in wheat, barley and rye) wreaks havoc on the small intestine, inhibiting nutrient absorption. That’s the super-duper, shortened definition. If you want the unabridged version, leave me a comment and I’ll fill you in on anything and everything you might want to know about celiac disease and gluten-intolerance. But for now, my theory about spinach and it’s role in healing.
Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense (calorie for calorie) foods available. I bet the deep-green, leafy, organic stuff I get from Grant Family Farms is on the far-side of pharmaceutical grade. It’s packed with vitamin K – 1110% of the recommended daily value. It also contains a zillion other health-promoting nutrients, but to keep this post from becoming a thesis paper, I’m going to focus on vitamin K and celiac disease.
Without getting into the poopy (literally) details, unmanaged celiac disease can cause nutrient malabsorption. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), iron, folic acid and a large part of our calcium are absorbed in the proximal section (the top part) of the small intestine. That’s the area that receives the most damage when you have celiac disease. If you have a trashed small intestine and you’re not breaking down your food adequately or absorbing your nutrients efficiently, you won’t be absorbing your fats (to make a long story short). If you’re not absorbing your fats, you won’t be absorbing your fat soluble vitamins. If you’re not absorbing your fat soluble vitamins, you won’t get the full benefit of vitamin K.
This is a generality. Our bodies are amazing and we compensate in many different ways, but if you become deficient in vitamin K, your blood may not clot properly. Isn’t it interesting that our blood has this amazing ability to flow quickly throughout the body; up and down and all around? Think about it, it remains a flowing liquid. But if you cut yourself, it can become a solid within seconds. Whew, that’s a good thing. If blood didn’t clot, one pinprick could drain the entire body of all its blood. Imagine a water balloon with one tiny little hole in it. Eventually all the water would slowly drain from the balloon.
Does anyone out there bruise or bleed easily? Anyone with celiac disease? Hmmm?
Vitamin K also plays a role in the synthesis of bone proteins. Without adequate vitamin K, the bones produce a funky protein that can’t bind to the minerals that normally form bones. You see, it’s not just the calcium you need for strong bones, it’s also vitamin K (and a bunch of other things, including exercise).
Anyone with osteopenia or osteoporosis? And celiac disease? Hmmm?
One more geeky thing (maybe two) and I’ll get on to the pizza recipe. Vitamin K can also be obtained from a nonfood source. GI tract bacteria can synthesize vitamin K, but you need to have a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria for that to happen. Antibiotics also kill the vitamin K producing bacteria, so there are lots of ways to become deficient, especially if you have celiac disease.
Now, don’t go taking vitamin K supplements unless your doctor prescribes them. Fat-soluble vitamins aren’t excreted as easily as water-soluble vitamins, so the risk of toxicity is much greater. I’m a big fan of getting my nutrients from high-quality food. This kind of focus is called nutrition therapy – this is what I do and this is how I live (most of the time, anyway).
So, let thy food be thy medicine and go eat some spinach!
gluten-free, spinach, roasted beet and zucchini pizza
what you need
1 gluten-free pizza crust (I used an Udi’s pre-made thin crust on this pizza)
1 & 1/2 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
squeeze of honey (maybe 1-2 teaspoons)
2 small golden beets, scrubbed, trimmed and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes (no need to peel)
1 zucchini, washed and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes
2 cups spinach, washed, stemmed and chopped
grated cheese (I like a mix of shredded Parmesan, Romano and Asiago)
what you do
1. Because the beets and zucchini take longer to cook than the pizza itself, I like to roast them first. It also adds a nice taste to the pizza. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the prepared beets and zucchini in a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Gently mix to cover with oil. Spread out the veggies on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast on center rack of the oven for about 15 minutes. Watch closely and flip using a spatula to make sure they’re roasted evenly. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. While the veggies are roasting, melt the butter over low heat, add the garlic and honey and stir until blended.
3. Brush the melted butter-garlic-honey blend over the pizza crust. Add chopped spinach first, then beets and zucchini. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and cook in 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
4. Cut into 4 slices and enjoy! Serves 1 or 2, depending on how hungry you are.
* I’ve also made this pizza with red beets, but I kept the beets separate while preparing them so that everything else didn’t turn pink (not that it matters).
Udi’s is a local company. The pizza crusts are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, nut-free and delicious. Gluten-cootie-eaters don’t even know they’re gluten-free. No apologizing, no explaining needed!
Peace, love and vitamin K!