family pizza night!

From Scratch – Family Pizza Night

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:

homemade pizza dough in bread maker


Next, we split the dough into however many pizzas we are making that night.


making homemade pizza - splitting the doughmaking homemade pizza with kids - dough ball



Then, we knead the dough balls for about one minute.


making pizza with kids - kneading the dough making pizza with kids - kneading the dough making pizza with kids - kneading the dough


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.


making pizza with kids - rolling the dough


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. 


making pizza with kids - putting on the toppings


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 🙂


Spinach, Caramelized Onion, and Bacon Pizza
a great recipe for family pizza night!
  1. 6 bacon slices, chopped
  2. 10 ounces fresh spinach
  3. 2 cups sliced onion
  4. 2 teaspoons honey
  5. 1 tablespoon butter
  6. 2 garlic cloves, minced
  7. 3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  8. 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  9. 1 cup whole milk
  10. 4 ounces grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
Life From Scratch
homemade spinach and sausage frittata with fresh eggs from our chickens

April showers bring…Spring Recipes!!

Spring is here!  While we nearly got washed away by about 3-4″ of rain this week, we are still so happy that spring has finally sprung.  I get so excited about the arrival of spring, even more so now that we try to eat seasonally and locally as much as possible.  Even with canning and freezing as many summer fruits and vegetables as we can, we are usually tired of winter soups and stews and the general lack of fresh foods by the time March rolls around, especially after the winter that we just had.  So once the weather turns warmer, I start counting the days until we will have fresh asparagus, spinach, leeks, rhubarb….mmmm!


One of my all-time favorite spring recipes (or just anytime recipe, really) is a frittata.  I think the idea of a frittata is too often overlooked or underused as a family dinner.  I love to make frittatas for three reasons:  I can use our fresh eggs, the recipe is fairly simple and quick to make on a weeknight, and the recipe is super flexible and I can always come up with a yummy version with whatever I have on hand that day.  The basic steps are as follows:


  1. Start by cooking the meat in the pan (bacon, sausage, ham…)
  2. Remove the meat and cook any garlic, onions, leeks, potatoes, or other vegetables in the same pan
  3. Add fresh greens on top and cook gently to wilt (spinach, chard, kale…)
  4. Pour your egg mixture on top (eggs, milk or cream, cheese, salt and pepper, fresh herbs…)
  5. Top with extra cheese, if desired, and cook/bake until set
  6. Enjoy!!


Below is a full recipe to follow if you want to give it a try. As you can see, this recipe can be made with ALL local ingredients, which I love!!


Sausage and Spinach Frittata
  1. *8 large eggs*
  2. *1/4 cup heavy cream*
  3. 2 tablespoons olive oil (or substitute *bacon fat* or *lard* from a local butcher or farmer!)
  4. *3/4 pound mild Italian sausages*
  5. *1/2 cup green onions (or leeks)*, minced
  6. *3/4 pound fresh spinach*, chopped
  7. *1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese*
  8. (*local ingredients*)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Beat eggs with heavy cream until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
  3. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat half of the olive oil over moderately high heat. Remove the sausage from its casing and cook, breaking the sausage up into small pieces, until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate.
  4. Add remaining olive oil (if necessary) and return skillet to moderate heat. Cook the onions for about 2 minutes and then add spinach, tossing constantly, until softened, about 2 more minutes. Stir the sausage back in the skillet. Pour egg mixture on top of sausage and spinach and cook over moderate heat for 1 minute. Gently lift the edge of the frittata and tilt the pan, allowing some of the uncooked egg to seep underneath. Cook until the bottom and sides are barely set, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Sprinkle with goat cheese and bake until the eggs are set and the top of the frittata is lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Slide the frittata onto a large plate, cut into wedges and serve hot or warm.
Life From Scratch


If you are like me, and love the fresh flavors that the new season brings, here are some other great ways to use seasonal ingredients or fire up the grill this spring. 

  •  Spring Abundance Bowl – again, this is another great basic recipe where you can substitute any seasonal ingredients that you have on hand that day – easy to make, super yummy, and can be different every time you make it! (By the way, the pickled radishes in Sarah’s post are also easy and delicious on their own. My 4-year old son helped me to make a batch for our family Easter dinner and we loved them!  Our kids have pretty diverse palettes, but even we never imagined our kids eating radishes, so you can imagine how tasty these are…)
  • Burgers on the grill – we love this simple recipe from the book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter, by Jennifer Reese: For every pound of ground chuck, add:
    • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
    • Pinch of cayenne pepper
    • 1/3 cup bread crumbs (more to come on how to make your own later…)
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • Pinch of black pepper
    • 1 large egg
  •  And of course there is a pizza recipe…we love homemade pizza!  Here is a great one for spring…

homemade pizza with spinach, caramelized onion, and bacon

Spinach, Caramelized Onion, and Bacon Pizza
  1. 1 batch of your favorite whole wheat dough recipe (I make mine in the bread maker)
  2. *6 bacon slices*, chopped
  3. *10 oz fresh spinach*
  4. *2 cups onion*, sliced
  5. pinch of salt
  6. *2 teaspoons honey*
  7. *1 Tablespoon butter*
  8. *2 garlic cloves*, minced
  9. 3 Tablespoons wheat flour
  10. 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  11. *1 cup whole milk*
  12. 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  13. (*local ingredients*)
  1. To prepare toppings, cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Add spinach leaves to bacon fat in pan and sauté 2 minutes or until wilted. Remove spinach from pan and try to remove any excess liquid by pressing in a strainer or squeezing in a towel, if necessary. Add onions, a pinch of salt, and honey to the pan and cook for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and cool.
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add flour and pepper and cook, stirring with a whisk, for about 30 seconds. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly with the whisk. Cook for 5 minutes more or until thick and bubbly, still stirring constantly with the whisk.
  3. Place pizza stone in oven (I highly recommend a pizza stone!) and preheat to 425°F about a half hour before you are ready to bake the pizza.
  4. Roll dough out on a floured surface to desired shape. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to make a crust, if desired. (Optional: I like to prebake my crust for 3 minutes before adding the toppings.)
  5. Spread milk mixture evenly over dough and top with cooked spinach and caramelized onion. Sprinkle evenly with bacon and cheese. Bake an additional 7 minutes or until golden brown.
  1. If you are not using a pizza stone, you will want to heat the oven to 475°F, spread the dough onto an oiled baking sheet, and bake for much longer, probably around 20 minutes. But seriously, the pizza stone is well worth the investment!
Life From Scratch

Every night at the dinner table, our family sings a short prayer that begins with these words: “Thank you, Lord, for happy hearts and rain and sunny weather.” In spring, I am especially thankful for each of those things. May you enjoy the spring weather and have happy hearts today and every day!