Monthly Archives: February 2014

Jeff’s Dinner Inspiration: How to Host a “Make Your Own Pizza” Party

Make your own pizza party

It’s not always easy to come up with a dinner plan that accommodates a group of family or friends, especially if some of them have certain food allergies and/or restrictions. This why a “Make Your Own Pizza” party is an ideal solution! You can accommodate a large group or a small gathering. Got a food allergy? No problem. Your guest can choose what to put on their pizza. Lactose intolerant? Leave off the cheese and load up on the other goodies! Wheat intolerance? There are numerous gluten free pizza dough options out there! Your guests can customize their pizza any way they choose.

Not only are homemade pizzas delicious, making pizza allows your guests to get creative and is great conversation starter! In this post, we will guide you step by step on how to create a fun and delicious no-fuss dinner that will fit every just about any budget and taste.


Step 1: Start with pre-made dough.
If you do not have time to make your own dough (and many of us don’t) purchase some pre-made dough. Contact your local pizza parlor and ask if you can purchase pre-made dough (tell them the number of guests you are hosting so they can estimate how much). If this is not an option, many grocery stores will carry pre-made dough. Figure this out in advance so you are not scrambling the day of your party.  

Step Two: Prep your dough in advance of your party.
Follow these dough tips from (visit this page for more great pizza tips!)

  • Make more than you need: Have at least 1 1/2 times the number of dough balls or shells as you have expected guests. Everybody loves leftovers, and you’re inevitably going to have a botched pie or two that will need to be reworked.
  • Make your dough at least a day in advance. Dough that’s had a three to five day rest in the refrigerator will be tastier and easier to work with than freshly made dough. It also makes set up for you planning simple.
  • Cold dough is impossible to work with. Pull your dough out, portion it into individual size balls, then let them sit on a lightly floured cutting board covered with plastic wrap and a towel for at least a couple hours before your guests arrive so it’ll be in prime condition to stretch.

Step Three: Offer a simple tomato pizza sauce
Start with a basic  homemade pizza sauce If you are feeling adventurous, add in a couple of fun alternative sauces like BBQ Pizza Sauce, Bechamel (white sauce) or Pesto

Step Four: Set out a variety of toppings for your guests to choose from.
Prep these in advance. Start with the basics (cheese, pepperoni) and kick things up with some unexpected ingredients (see below). Let your imagination go wild!

Step Five: Let your guests assemble their pizzas.
Depending on the number of guests you have, you can stagger the number of people assembling the pizzas to accommodate your space and your oven.
Bake 2-3 pizzas at a time for 10-12 minutes at 425 degrees. Enjoy and Repeat as necessary!

photo credit: djwtwo via photopin cc

photo credit: ecospc via photopin cc

9 Simple Ways to Start a Mediterranean Diet and Lifestyle

pic_Italian-Summer-Palette-SaladIf your goal is to improve your overall health and lifestyle in 2014, we want to help! Last month, we shared five reasons to follow the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean lifestyle is not a fad nor does it have a catchy title. It is simply a common sense approach to eating and living that has been shown to improve well-being and quality of life. The best part is, the Mediterranean diet does not ban any major food groups and is not difficult or expensive to follow.

Health organizations like Oldways are a great place to begin. The organization provides resources to help consumers understand what the Mediterranean Diet is, why it is good for you, and how to shop for and cook healthy Mediterranean meals. For more information Download their 8 simple steps you can start following a Mediterranean Diet today.

Here are some additional suggestions on how to get to started. You may find these simple steps to be easier and more manageable than you thought.

1. Print out a copy of the Mediterranean diet pyramid and post in your kitchen.

It helps to visually to compare and contrast the Mediterranean diet pyramid to the USDA Food Pyramid we are all used to.  In a nutshell the Mediterranean diet pyramid emphasizes fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices; eating fish and seafood at least a couple of times a week; enjoying poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation.

Compared to the USDA, the Mediterranean Pyramid contains much smaller amounts of red meat, sweets (fruits are eaten as sweets) and dairy but allows for more in-take of healthy fats and oils.

Another difference is that the Mediterranean Food pyramid is structured to demonstrate what is recommended on a monthy, weekly and daily basis while the USDA just describes the daily intake.


2. Eat breakfast every day no matter how busy you are.

You have heard it before but breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The reasons to eat breakfast every day are seemingly endless. Studies have linked a healthy breakfast with lower rates of obesity, more energy throughout the day, and better productivity. A breakfast packed with fruits, whole grains, and other fiber-rich foods are a great way to start your day, just do it.

3. Understand the difference between healthy fats and unhealthy fats.

Monounsaturated fats found in ingredients such as extra-virgin olive oil, nuts, sunflower seeds, olives, and avocados and polyunsaturated fats found in sunflower, safflower, soybean, and corn oil are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health.

Overconsumption of saturated fats and trans fats can increase your risk of disease and elevate cholesterol, so consume these in moderation. Click here to learn more about the differences in fats.

Join the millions who have adopted “Meatless Mondays” into our weekly meal planning or simply pick a day where you build meals around beans, whole grains, and vegetables. Once you are comfortable with making vegetarian meals, try two nights a week. Don’t substitute cheese for meat- this defeats the purpose!

5. Pack in as many vegetables as possible into your meals.

Load up sandwiches, omelets, soups, pizza, etc with fresh herbs and vegetables. Look for recipes packed with vegetables like this Italian Farro Minestrone soup made with our Roasted Red Peppers and Caramelized Onions, or Indian Summer Palette Salad with mixed greens, red onion, basil, Kalamata Olives, Garlic Stuffed Olives, and Roma tomatoes.

6. Reduce your meat intake. 

Numerous reports have shown that Americans eat more meat than any other nation. In fact, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR)  says the average every America consumes nearly 200 pounds of meat each year.

We are not saying NO MEAT, but reducing the amount of saturated fats and trans fats found in meat products could have a positive impact on your health.  The Mediterranean diet allows you to have meat, but it encourages smaller amounts and leaner cuts. Save the red meat for special occasions.

7. Eat seafood twice a week.

Fish such as tuna, salmon, herring, and sardines are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and shellfish like mussels, oysters, and clams have similar benefits for brain and heart health. Try new fish recipes like this one for Encrusted Salmon with Olive Pesto using our Kalamata Olives.

8. Make it a goal to sit down at the family table for dinner on a consistent basis.

In most cultures, meal time is a pleasurable experience with good foods and drinks, well prepared and consumed with pleasure, in the company of family and friends.

For many of us, the demands of our schedule make it difficult if not impossible to enjoy regular family meals together.…however it is important for our health and the health of your children. In recent years, researchers have linked regular family dinners with lower the rates of obesity and eating disorders in children and adolescents, lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy and depression, as well as higher grade-point averages and self-esteem.   Visit for tips on how to bring your family  back to the table for dinner.


Go for a walk even if it just around the block.  Play with your kids, go dancing, do yoga, go for a run, do a zumba class, go hiking, ride a bicycle, lift weights…whatever your exercise preference is..DO IT!  Commit yourself to getting at least 20-30 minutes a day!  Get off the couch or the computer and move!

Mediterranean products that have been enjoyed for generations are now available in an all-natural line. We, at Jeff’s Naturals, have been working for years striving to perfect this product line and we finally have it. We are pleased to offer a line free of preservatives, stablilizers, artificial colors, flavors and sulfites. Browse our collection of recipes created exclusively to highlight our all natural line of products. Some are old family favorites and others are modern takes on Mediterranean classics. Jeff’s Naturals products are convenient and add color and loads of flavor to any meal.

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