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Foods rich in carotenoids may help age-related vision loss.

As temperatures rise and the summer party season heats up, I’m always looking for fresh, healthy and of course, delicious, appetizer recipes. Today’s Salad-Topped Three Cheese Pizza Bites fit the bill.

We used baby spring greens in today’s recipe. Often called mesclun (MEHS-kluhn), mixed baby greens or gourmet salad mix, these dark leafy lettuce greens provide an ample supply of carotenoids. Foods rich in carotenoids may protect against chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, and may help fend off age-related vision loss, including cataracts and macular degeneration.
Another featured ingredient is summer-ripe tomatoes. Not only do they add a wonderful pop of color to this appetizer, they provide health benefits, as well. Eating a healthy diet that includes tomatoes is one step men can take to reduce prostate cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. That’s good news, because prostate cancer is the second most common cancer among American men.

One potential disease-fighting agent in tomatoes and tomato products is a phytonutrient (a beneficial compound in plants) called lycopene. It acts as an antioxidant, protecting against cancer by preventing cell damage in the body. Lycopene is the pigment that gives tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, guavas and papayas their red color.

Tomatoes also provide dietary fiber, iron, potassium and a hefty dose of vitamin C. Lycopene is fat-soluble, meaning you absorb more of it when you add a little fat. So the fat found in the cheese and olive oil in today’s pizza bites are helping your body absorb more of the lycopene found in the tomatoes.

SALAD-TOPPPED THREE CHEESE PIZZA BITES
Makes: 16, 2-bite servings / Preparation time: 20 minutes / Total time: 1 hour
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 pound pizza dough, thawed if frozen
3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, peeled, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh basil
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano
2 tablespoons golden (or white) balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups baby spring greens or baby kale, spinach or arugula
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion rings
2 tablespoons balsamic glaze reduction (such as Alessi Balsamic Reduction)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dust a jelly roll pan (15 1/2-by-10 1/2-by-1-inch) with the cornmeal to prevent dough from sticking. Stretch dough to cover as much of the pan as possible, being careful not to tear the dough. Allow dough to rest while preparing other ingredients. In a bowl, combine mozzarella, Parmesan and ricotta cheese, garlic, basil and oregano to form a crumbly cheese mix. Give dough one final stretch, then top evenly with cheese mix. Bake until golden brown, about 14-18 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the salad dressing by whisking together golden balsamic vinegar, oil, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Combine spring greens, tomatoes and onion. Top with salad dressing and toss to coat. Place salad on top of slightly cooled pizza and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Cut into 32 squares and serve.

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