In my last post, I talked a little bit about the comfort and security that we all (kids and adults alike) feel when something is repeated so often that it becomes expected and even anticipated. This includes the things in our life that makes us feel like all is right in the world as long as this one thing remains constant. For our family, one of those things is our family pizza night. That might sound a little overly dramatic but it has become a tradition for us and something that we look forward to and always brings us together in a joyful and playful mood. And, now that the kids are getting old enough to help out in the kitchen, they enjoy making their own personal pizzas and being able to choose which toppings (and how much of each) will adorn their little creations.
Our pizza night tradition started many years ago after I had read and internalized the wonderfully inspiring book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver, which is all about eating local and feeling connected to the food that you put on your family table. This book, along with Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, was the beginning of my education about organic and local food that has since become what some may call an obsession, but certainly a healthy one! In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver’s daughter, Camille Kingsolver, includes monthly meal plans and introduced me to the idea of planning our family meals in reverse of what I had been doing in the past. Up to that point, I would clip recipes out of my favorite foodie magazines – Food and Wine, Cooking Light, Everyday Food – and save them in a file where I would pull them out on a weekly basis and use the ingredient lists to create my grocery list for the week. Then I would go to the grocery store and buy what I needed for each of these gourmet recipes. This was all great (and usually delicious!) except for the fact that I inevitably ended up buying produce that was out of season, which means that it did not contain the optimum amount of nutrients, supported some economy other than the one where I lived, and contributed to increased fossil fuel usage by using trucks and boats and trains and airplanes to get to my grocery store. And, when it comes down to it – whether or not I believe in “global warming” – it just feels good and right to support someone who lives one town over from me and who I can physically TALK to at the local farmers’ market and who is supporting their family by providing organically-grown produce that tastes so much better, and is so much healthier than the organic food that I had previously been purchasing at the grocery store. So now I plan our weekly meals in reverse…I start with a list of what is in season that month (or a list of what we are picking up from our CSA that week) and come up with my own meals that include those ingredients. It’s been wonderfully liberating and allows me to be much more creative and inventive in our meals than I ever could have been while clipping recipes from magazines.
After that long diversion from the topic at hand…let’s get back to family pizza night. Long story short, I loved the idea of having a family pizza night as it was described in Kingsolver’s book long before we even had a “family” outside of Joe and I. But then I realized, why should we wait? Even though we did not yet have children, that was no reason that we could not choose Friday nights as our pizza nights and start making homemade pizza every Friday night. So we did. And it was fun! And delicious! Fast forward another seven years, and we now have three mini-chefs who love to be involved in making our homemade pizza.
So, here’s how we do it. First, we make our whole wheat pizza dough in a bread maker. This is the recipe that I use (it makes enough for two pizzas, which is hardly enough to feed all of our hungry monkeys these days!):
13 ounces warm whey (or water)
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons ground flax
1 tablespoon honey (plus more if you want the taste of a “honey wheat” crust)
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Here it is coming out of the bread maker:
Next, we split the dough into however many pizzas we are making that night.
Then, we knead the dough balls for about one minute.
Then we let the dough rest for 15-30 minutes. Next, we roll the dough out into the desired shape and let rest for another 30-45 minutes.
At this point, we also preheat the oven (with a pizza stone already inside) to 450°F so that the stone has about 30 minutes to heat up. Then we prebake the crust on the pizza stone for three minutes and remove from oven. Next, we add sauce and toppings to our crusts.
Return to the oven at 425°F for about 7 minutes. Remove and cut into slices and serve!
With that basic idea, we have been able to create many wonderful pizza creations. Here is a specific recipe that we made this spring for one of our pizza nights. We used local spinach, onions, bacon, honey, milk, and garlic. Even the kids will eat greens when they are on top of a pizza! Enjoy 🙂
- 6 bacon slices, chopped
- 10 ounces fresh spinach
- 2 cups sliced onion
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 cup whole milk
- 4 ounces grated fresh Parmesan cheese
- Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside, reserving drippings. Add spinach to pan with bacon fat and sauté 2 minutes or just until wilted. Place spinach in a colander, pressing until barely moist. Add onion and honey and a pinch of salt to the pan and cook for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool.
- Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add flour and pepper, stirring with a whisk, and cook for 30 seconds. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cook for 5 minutes or until thick and bubbly, still stirring constantly with the whisk.
- Spread the milk mixture evenly over the prebaked pizza crust and top with the spinach, caramelized onion, bacon, and Parmesan cheese. Bake for an additional 7 minutes at 425°F or until golden brown.