Tag Archives: spinach

Whole Grain White Pizza with Carmelized Onions and Garlicky Spinach

For meal number 3 in the Cuizoo Arsenal, we are going to do a pizza. I feel sort of silly talking about pizza, because, come on, it’s pizza.  Crust, toppings, cheese.  Pretty straightforward stuff.  But yet, we still order it and pay $15 for something that (with a little forethought) can be made in about 30-40 minutes (of active cooking time) for half the cost of delivery.  And the end result will have completely controlled ingredients (organic produce, no preservatives, whole grain, etc.) and surely taste better.  The last time I checked, I don’t think Papa Johns offered caramelized onions as a topping.  And I don’t mean to look down my nose at Papa Johns, because there is a time and a place for delivery pizza and we all know that their garlic butter is pretty much made up of crack cocaine.  But, there is no massive conspiracy preventing you from trying to make it on your own. And kids absolutely love making their own pizzas for dinner.

So, let’s start with the crust.  This is the main reason I own a bread maker.  It is fantastic for this purpose because you can use it on the “Dough” setting, dump your ingredients in, turn it on, and in 90 minutes you have pizza crust ready to bake.  I like that I can use organic, whole grain flours and I can throw everything in after the kids get home from school and it just gets mixed and kneaded without having to think about it.  But you have other options here … many pizza shops will sell you a ball of dough and most grocery stores carry pre-made pizza dough as well.  And if you aren’t pressed for time or don’t have a breadmaker, you can certainly make pizza dough by hand too.  I should add that the key to whole grain pizza (in my opinion) is to roll the dough *very* thin, so it is not too dense and “whole wheaty.”

Next, we need to talk sauce.  Or in this case, the lack of sauce.  This is a white pizza and the more I eat it, the more I don’t like sauce on my pizza.  I usually let the kids make their own mini pizzas and they always want sauce, but this time they tried the white and were converts.  It is really delicious on its own or with the greens and onions.

And finally, toppings.  I really don’t need to provide instruction on pizza toppings, do I?  You know the things you like, so just use that stuff.  But I will put in a vote for the sauteed greens.  Spinach, chard, kale, beet greens, etc. all work very well on a white pizza and while kids may not love it at first, most will come around.  It’s a great way to get a super nutritious vegetable into a meal they really like.   Pizza is also a great way to use up leftovers for toppings … BBQ Chicken Pizza with Smoked Gouda which only requires a bit of shredded leftover chicken, Grilled Veggie Pizza with the vegetables left over from the previous night, Sauteed Mushroom Pizza with some Fontina Cheese, or just a plain old Cheese Pizza that uses up all the odds and end pieces of cheese sitting in your refrigerator.

Give it a try and you’ll start to realize that it’s a great middle of the week recipe.  It requires more “unactive” cooking time than some things, but it is still very easy and always a favorite with the kids.

Whole Grain White Pizza with Carmelized Onions and Garlicky Spinach

Serves 4

Crust:
1/2 t salt
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t yeast
1 cup warm water
2 T olive oil

1 large onion
1 T Sweet Marsala Wine
8 ounces fresh spinach
1/3 cup olive oil (plus extra for cooking)
2 large cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
16 ounces mozzarella cheese (pre-grated if you like)

1.  Mix crust ingredients in the pan of a breadmaker and set it to the “Dough” setting which typically takes 90 minutes.  (Alternatively, you can mix the dough by hand and do at least two cycles of kneading and rising.)

2.  While the pizza dough is doing its thing (or about 30-40 minutes before you are ready to eat), thinly slice the onion.  Wash the spinach to remove any sediment and set in colander to drain.  Finely chop the two garlic cloves.

3.  In a medium saute pan over medium high heat, heat a bit of olive oil and cook the onion until it begins to brown (about 4-5 minutes).  Add 1 T Marsala Wine, 2 T of water, and salt and pepper to taste.  Scrape up any browned bits and reduce heat to low.  Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding a bit more water if the onions begin to stick.  (This is a quick method for caramelized onions, if you like you can do a more traditional 30 minute method.)  Set the caramelized onions aside.

4.  Meanwhile, grate the mozzarella cheese if it is not pre-grated. (I should add that freshly grated always tastes better to me.)  Make the garlic oil by mixing 1/3 cup of olive oil with half of the chopped garlic, 1/8 t of salt, freshly ground pepper, and a few red pepper flakes.  Warm in the microwave for about 1 minute at 50% power and set aside.

5.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  In the same saute pan, heat a bit more olive oil with the remaining half of the chopped garlic. Roughly chop the spinach (it is OK if it still has water clinging to it) and saute for about 2 minutes until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

6.  When the dough is done in the breadmaker, split the ball roughly in half.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Roll out half of the dough directly on a parchment-lined sheet until it is very thin (about a 1/4 of an inch thick — at this thickness, this recipe usually makes two oblong pizzas that are roughly 10 inches by 13 inches).  Drizzle with a bit of the olive oil mixture, bake for about 8 minutes, and remove from oven.

7.  Top pre-baked crust with caramelized onions and spinach.  Season well with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle about half of the mozzarella cheese all over.  Generously drizzle all over with about half of the olive oil mixture.  Bake for an additional 13-15 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven until golden and crisp.  You can broil for a bit at the very end if you like.  (Because this makes two pizzas, you can either do two at at time on separate sheets, or you can make one and repeat the process for the second dough ball, using the remaining half of the cheese and oil mixture.)

Late Spring Couscous with Spinach, Zucchini, and Pumpkin Seeds

So the school year is wrapping up  and I am firmly planting my head in the sand related to how I am going to a) keep everyone entertained all summer, b) get my paid work done and deliver a large project at the end of August, c) maintain some sanity amidst the fighting siblings and wet bathing suits and towels on the floor, d) have a house that doesn’t look like it needs an intervention, e) keep the plants thriving outside given that hoses are quite possibly the most annoying thing to use ever, and f) do grocery shopping with an entourage who likes to find every possible piece of crap and put it in my cart.

And this all with cocktail time not starting until 5:00 PM?  Can’t we push that up a little?

Oh, but I kid.  I complain a good game, but I am actually looking forward to summer.  Just the idea of relaxing mornings where we aren’t rushing around to get out the door … or the idea of making a pot of coffee and actually being able to drink a few leisurely cups… and not having to think about getting homework done every night… or throwing dinner together at a seriously uncivilized time just to get to soccer practice.  We are all ready for a little vacation.

This dinner was put together on one of those rushed evenings where we were hurrying to get to an end of the school year concert, but I think it would also be a great aprés swimming dinner when you have to divide your energy between hanging up that wet stuff, making a meal, and unpacking the pool bag. To non-parents I know this sounds like a pathetically small task — but you are wrong. Unpacking the pool bag is a terrible task filled with wet stuff, soggy snacks, water bottles, leaky sunscreen, loose change, hats, visors, goggles, Spiderman diving toys, wallets, cell phones, floaties, allergy medicine, and reading material that rarely gets read.

Ahh.  Summer.

Late Spring Couscous with Spinach, Zucchini, and Pumpkin Seeds

Serves 4-6

2-3 cups of spinach, stemmed and chopped
1 small zucchini, trimmed and diced
1 clove garlic
Salt and pepper
Olive Oil
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup couscous
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1-2 large green onions, trimmed and finely chopped
4-5 sprigs of oregano (remove leaves from stem and chop)

Dressing:
2/3 cup canola or olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 large clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 t salt
Freshly ground pepper

1.  In a large sauté pan, heat a few teaspoons of olive oil with chopped (1 clove) garlic.  Sauté spinach until wilted.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove to a bowl.

2.  In same pan, heat a bit more oil and sauté diced zucchini until lightly browned and softened.  Season with salt and pepper.  Remove to a bowl.

3.  In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil.  Add one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Add cous cous, stir, and cover pan.  Immediately remove from heat and let stand for about five minutes.  Stir to fluff the cous cous and allow to cool a bit.

4.  Whisk together dressing ingredients.

5.  In a large bowl, combine cooked spinach and zucchini, cooked cous cous, toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped green onions, and chopped oregano.  Re-whisk dressing and pour about 2/3 of it over cous cous mixture, tossing well to combine all ingredients.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Salad can be served at room temperature or chilled.  Reserve remaining dressing and add to the salad before serving if necessary (if the cous cous sits in the fridge for a while it will soak up the dressing and may need more.)

Spinach-Laced Brownies

You know you are officially old when you are lacing your brownies with spinach.  And also a major nerd — because you have been contemplating how you feel about hiding vegetables in your children’s food.  And then writing about it.  How far I have fallen.

I generally don’t like the concept of hiding anything in food.  From the standpoint of my daughter’s severe food allergies, I first find it somewhat unsafe.  I happen to be allergic to carrots, so I wouldn’t be thrilled to find out that someone put carrots in my chocolate chip cookie.  It’s certainly fine when you are cooking for your own kids and are sure they can tolerate it, but I wouldn’t go around willy-nilly taking things like that to a bake sale.

dsc_8226

But the biggest reason I’m not a fan is that if children don’t get exposed to lots of different vegetables (and other foods) from the earliest ages, you will be hard pressed to get them eating a broad range of foods EVER.  In my opinion, they do have to learn that there are entire categories of food that don’t include Red #5 and sugar.

It’s tricky though… because at one point they hate everything, then they love one thing, then they hate that one thing with all their being, and then they love everything, and then they only eat yogurt.  You have to be persistent and keep trying everything with them (without getting desperate because kids love to control via food).  Put a bit of everything on their plate regardless of whether they will eat it.  We have the rule that you generally must try everything on your plate (unless it is unsafe because of allergies or too spicy).  And while it doesn’t always work with a strong-willed two year old, I can see my daughter (she’s 7 1/2 now) eating a full variety of foods and being very willing to eat her vegetables (even though she eats everything else first).

dsc_8227

Kids do come around and they will eat spinach on their own (even if they don’t love it) — but you cannot cave or give up and say “my kids just don’t eat vegetables.” And the parents have to be the best example by eating their own wide range of vegetables and talking up how much they enjoy them.  And one other thing … I think this is a huge reason why eating seasonally and locally is so important for your family.  As I have said before, I would hate tomatoes too if I were forced to eat tomatoes from the grocery store.  Let them try real, ripe summer tomatoes and you might be surprised with what they do or do not like (but don’t forget that persistence, because they may hate them the first 20 times).

So I disagree with the concept of hiding childrens’ vegetables in something else.  However, when kids are continuously being presented with vegetables in their “normal” state, I don’t see a problem with it.  And I certainly don’t see a problem with it when you have a ton of spinach or zucchini to use up and want to increase the nutritional value of their food.  As long as you are serving vegetables to them at other times…  And as long as you are honest about what is in the food with those around you — to ensure safety for those with allergies.

dsc_8266

This week, I had a ton of spinach to use … and I have heard about the whole spinach in the brownies thing.  So I gave it a try.  However, I didn’t want to make a shitty brownie and stuff spinach in it.  I wanted a real brownie with real chocolate and butter.  To make it a bit healthier, I did use whole wheat flour and cut back on the sugar though.  And my only complaint with these is that they aren’t as chewy as I usually like them, although they are very dense and fudge-like (if you don’t overbake them!).  And I bet if you used more sugar (say like 1 cup or 1 1/4 cups), they would be chewy and have a shinier crust.

But the spinach?  You would never know it was there.  And it started out as 4 cups of raw spinach.   My husband clued me in to his Grateful Dead/Culinary/Concert past when he asked, “so do you soak the spinach in the melted butter?”

Um, no, you don’t do that.

Spinach-Laced Brownies

(Loosely inspired by Cooks Illustrated’s Triple Chocolate Brownies)
Makes an 8 inch pan

4 cups of spinach, washed and stemmed
4-6 T water
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate (I used Scharffen Berger), chopped
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick)
4 T cocoa powder
3 eggs
3/4 cup of sugar
3 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt
1 cup of white whole wheat flour

1.  Make spinach puree:  Saute spinach lightly (or steam) until just wilted.  Put in blender or food processor with 4 T water and puree completely.  You may need a little extra water.  It should be smooth with no hunks of spinach remaining.

2.  Preheat oven to 350 F.  In a double boiler, or a glass bowl set over simmering water, melt chocolate and butter until completely smooth.  Remove from heat, stir in cocoa powder, and allow to cool for 10 minutes.

3.  In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, vanilla, sugar, and salt til smooth.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes (while chocolate cools) and whisk every few minutes to dissolve sugar.

4.  Lightly grease an 8 inch square glass baking dish with butter and dust with cocoa all over – tapping to remove excess cocoa (just like buttering and flouring, just use cocoa instead).

5.  Whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture to incorporate (go slowly at first so eggs don’t get cooked).  Stir in spinach puree and flour with a wooden spoon and make sure it is all well incorporated.

6.   Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes until just set.  Don’t overbake or they will get dried out and won’t be fudge-like in texture.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack.

dsc_8329-version-2-1

Spring Pasta Salad with Aparagus, Spinach, and Mint

One of the best things about belonging to your local Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) is how quickly the season gears up — and how big your box of veggies gets.   Our first few distributions of the summer season are teasers.  Just yesterday, we got eight sprigs of basil — yet the smell was enough to make me giddy thinking of the big bags that we will get in July and August.  Our smallish bunches of asparagus have given way to much bigger bunches and I’m already over my head in spinach and rhubarb.  And the radishes, how I love the radishes — they are eaten the minute they get in the house. (Given all this talk of wonderful produce, I should give a shout out to my fantastic CSA, Village Acres Farm.)

dsc_7654

You quickly start to plan meals based on what needs to be used, rather than what you are in the mood for.  But I find that it allows you to become much more creative in the kitchen — matching what you have with what sounds good.  This dish is a perfect example.  We were invited to a friend’s house for a party and I decided that morning to make a pasta salad.  A quick survey of the fridge revealed lots of spinach, a big bunch of asparagus, and some lovely green onions.  And the backyard mint patch was taking hold in a way that only mint knows how to do.  It definitely couldn’t be a vinegar-based dressing though — these ingredients called for lemons.

dsc_7678

And so I flew by the seat of my pants but it came together really nicely — in about 30 minutes flat.  It would make a great picnic side dish, but also a nice vegetarian main course on a summer night.  I think the asparagus could easily be swapped out for green beans once asparagus season ends.  Serve it to me with a nice Sauvignon Blanc and I might just give you a hug.  After I eat my radish and soft butter sandwiches and my rhubarb ice cream, of course.

Spring Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Spinach, and Mint

Serves 8

1 bunch of asparagus, stemmed and cut into one inch pieces
4 or 5 green onions
1 small bunch of mint
1 cup of spinach (packed), stemmed and chopped
2 lemons, zested and juiced
3/4 cup of olive oil
Sea Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of freshly grated parmesan
1 cup of sunflower seeds or pine nuts, toasted
1 lb. of whole wheat pasta (I used rigatoni, but penne or a similar type would be great)

1.  Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Prepare a medium bowl with an ice bath (just lots of ice and water, really).  Cook asparagus in boiling water for 2 minutes and remove quickly and place into the ice bath to stop the cooking.  When most of the ice has melted, remove asparagus with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels to dry.

2.  In the same pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions.

3.  Meanwhile, make the dressing.  In the food processor, combine 2 or 3 green onions (in chunks), zest of two lemons, juice of two lemons (about 1/4 cup), olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons of mint (packed), 2 teaspoons of salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste.  Process until smooth and place dressing in a large bowl.

4.  Drain pasta well and pour into bowl with dressing.  It is good to do this while the pasta is still hot because it will soak up the dressing.  Toss well and let cool slightly.

5.  Chop remaining 2 or 3 green onions, spinach, and 2 tablespoons of mint.  Mix into pasta and dressing.  Add cooked asparagus, 1/2 cup of parmesan, and toss well.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

6.  Chill for several hours (if possible) for flavors to mix and dressing to absorb into pasta.

7.  When ready to serve, give it a good stir and make sure there is enough dressing.  If not, add a little more olive oil.  Season more if necessary.  Mix in toasted sunflower seeds or pine nuts, and garnish top with additional chopped mint, green onions, and parmesan cheese if desired.

dsc_7726

Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, Ricotta Salata, and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

I have hit the point in the year where I am officially out of my summer tomatoes.  And my strawberry jam (which makes everyone very unhappy).  I never freeze enough because I am always limited to my meager amount of freezer space.  So I have to either learn to can or buy a deep freeze — both things that are on my to-do list.  Anyway, I had to buy canned tomatoes at the store the other day and it sort of pisses me off.  It’s not that they are terrible — there are some really excellent canned tomatoes; it just seems so unnecessary given the piles of tomatoes at the end of summer.  So, this year, I am officially promising to freeze more.  Maybe.  

So this dish was inspired by both my CSA box this week which was full of spinach, as well as the noticeably empty hole in my freezer that used to hold the tomatoes.  I make a version of this all summer long when tomatoes are plentiful and it is especially good with the heirlooms (if you are willing to part with them for sauce).  In a pinch, I just chop them up and don’t even peel them.  If you are using fresh tomatoes, feel free to cook the sauce less so it retains those bright tomato flavors.   

dsc_6593

And the other thing I love about this pasta dish (and really anything with a big pile of cooked greens in it) is that it is a one-bowl meal.  A salad is a great companion; but I always figure that I am eating my “salad” in a condensed form cooked right in the dish.  And my daughter loves the fact that she can eat about four bites of spinach and it equals one huge spinach salad.  

One ingredient note here… Ricotta Salata is a dried and salted form of ricotta.  It is hard cheese that crumbles very nicely and is very mild (similar in texture — but not flavor — to a firm feta cheese).  It is wonderful in salads and pasta.  If you cannot find it, I would substitute Parmesan or Romano, although it won’t be quite the same.

Pasta with Tomatoes, Spinach, Ricotta Salata, and Toasted Sunflower Seeds

Serves 4-6

2 T Olive Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
28 oz. can of chopped or crushed tomatoes (or fresh)
Salt and Pepper
Pinch of sugar (optional)
2 T fresh oregano, stems removed and chopped
1/2 cup of toasted sunflower seeds (or Pine Nuts if you don’t have allergy issues)
10-12 oz. of whole wheat pasta (we used Fusilli, but any kind will work)
5-6 oz. of Ricotta Salata
4 packed cups of spinach (washed, stemmed, and chopped)

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add garlic, onions, and a few red pepper flakes (optional) and saute for 3-5 minutes until softened a bit. 

2.  Add tomatoes, oregano, a pinch of sugar (if your tomatoes need it), and some salt and pepper to season.  Simmer sauce for 10-15 minutes. (Less if using fresh tomatoes.)

3.  Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.  Cook pasta according to package directions.

4.  Add chopped spinach to tomato sauce and stir it in.  Allow the spinach to wilt and cook down.  (It will seem like too much, but it will be fine.)  Remove sauce from heat.

5.  When pasta is done, drain and return to large pot.  (Don’t drain your pasta too thoroughly, a little of the pasta water helps the sauce stick.)  Add tomato/spinach sauce from saute pan and toss over the heat so the sauce “cooks” into the pasta a bit.  Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

6.  When ready to serve, crumble most of the Ricotta Salata into the pasta and add the sunflower seeds (or pine nuts).  Toss well and season more if necessary.  Serve the pasta with a bit of additional Ricotta Salata on top and some fresh oregano.  

dsc_6630

Make Your Own Asian Noodle Bowl

 “Make Your Own” anything is always a popular choice with kids.  And in my family of control freaks (the males) and perfectionists (the females), it is especially popular. (I should add that I am a perfectionist because a control freak sounds too negative.  Shut up.  I know they are essentially the same thing).  

Anyway, last night was a “Farmer’s Market” night as Tuesday is our CSA pickup day.  I basically figure out what we are having on the way home from our CSA.  The choices are getting a little more plentiful — radishes (both regular and daikon), greens, spinach, and herbs.  Soon there will be more than I know what to do with.  And because it was so cold here yesterday (we drove home in snow!), I was leaning toward soup.  I had leftover chicken broth and the daikon radishes were making me think about something Asian.  

dsc_5964

I came up with this noodle bowl and the kids really loved choosing their own garnishes.  I forced a few choices by putting the onions and spinach in for everyone — but you certainly don’t have to.  And it was a great, light and easy dinner that warmed up a family of Type A’s on a snowy April day.  

Make Your Own Asian Noodle Bowl

Serves 4-6

  • 1 pork tenderloin, sliced very thinly (or protein of your choice:  tofu, shrimp, chicken, etc.)
  • 4 cups of chicken broth (homemade is pretty essential, but experiment if you like)
  • 2 cups of water (or more broth if you have it)
  • 1/2 cup of sherry
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced 
  • 1 bunch of spinach, washed, stemmed, and chopped into thin shreds
  • 6 oz. pasta (we used whole wheat spaghetti, but soba or rice noodles would be great)
  • 1 t salt
  • Freshly Ground Pepper
Garnishes
  • Thinly sliced cabbage
  • Carrots, in ribbons (use your peeler to make ribbons)
  • Sliced or grated daikon radish
  • Chopped Green Onions
  • Sliced Fried Egg 
  • Chile Garlic Sauce/Spicy Asian Sauces
  • Soy Sauce
  • Sesame Oil
Prep
  1. Slice pork thinly.  Chop ginger and garlic.  Wash and chop vegetables/garnishes.
  2. Bring broth, water, sherry, soy, ginger, and garlic to a simmer in a stock pot over low heat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
Cooking
  1. Increase heat on broth to medium and add in pork slices to cook (or other protein — if using shrimp, however, save those until the end and cook until just done).
  2. After 2 or 3 minutes, add in pasta.
  3. When pasta and pork are done, reduce heat and add in chopped onions and cook for 2 minutes.  Stir in spinach and cook until wilted.
  4. Taste and season with salt and pepper and more soy sauce if needed.
To Serve

Arrange garnishes on plate and put on table with sauces or condiments.  Ladle out a bowl full of noodles, pork, and soup for everyone and allow them to add the garnishes that they enjoy.

dsc_5993

Making Pizza … Whole Grain Spicy Spinach White and Plain Old Cheese

I love making pizza with the kids.  Number one, they are always psyched to hear that pizza is on the dinner menu which means we can skip the overly dramatic groans.  Number two, they love to help — and  giving them the ability to make their own dinner is a skill that might come in handy moving forward.  Sure, it’s certainly easier to pick up the phone and order one, but I can assure you that what you make at home is just as good as delivery (if not better), considerably cheaper, and healthier.  And when the kids go to school the next day and say they made their own homemade pizza for dinner, a little vision of yourself as Martha Stewart crossed with Maria Montessori will light up your ego.

dsc_5637

I generally make my own crust.  And I know many of you are probably getting ready to click away at the thought of that — but don’t.  I do this because I have a breadmaker — which is a guilty pleasure for someone who loves to cook, not because it makes wonderful bread, but because it’s so damn easy.  They are super reasonable to purchase and you just need room to put it somewhere.  The food lover in me knows that the resulting bread is but a shadow of a real hand-kneaded and shaped loaf of bread, but the mother in me thinks it’s pretty wonderful to even get close to the real thing using my own ingredients.  No high fructose corn syrup in my bread.  And on the weekend it might be nice to make the dough from scratch and by hand … but during the week, I’ll take a machine to help me out while I’m trying to do first grade homework with a two year old hanging on my leg.

The great thing about using a breadmaker for pizza dough is that it simply does all the legwork (up to the baking point).  You dump the ingredients in, turn it to dough cycle, and it does all the mixing and kneading while you go on school runs, feed the baby, or hide in your closet with a good book.  And for those who work outside the home, most machines also have timers to auto start.  That all being said, however, you can also buy ready to make pizza dough from most grocery stores and even some pizza shops.

Whole Grain Pizza Dough (makes 2 lbs. — enough for two pretty large thin crust pizzas)

3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 t sea salt
1 package active dry yeast (a little over two teaspoons)
1 3/8 cups room temperature water
3 T olive oil

Combine all ingredients in breadmaker and set to “dough” setting (mine takes 90 minutes).  When the cycle is finished, remove dough to a bowl that has been coated with olive oil.  Rub oil onto dough and wrap tightly with plastic wrap and park in the fridge til your ready.  If you don’t have a breadmaker, you can certainly make it by hand — it would probably take about 5 minutes of kneading and then at least one rising cycle (of about an hour).  I haven’t done it with this recipe, so I am not positive how it would turn out.  Because of the whole wheat flour, this dough is best for very thin crust pizzas.

Portion out about half of the dough for one large pizza.  (You can alternatively take the entire recipe of dough and portion out 4-6 smaller pieces if everyone wants to make their own pie.)  I generally don’t use a pizza stone, but you can if you like.  I have read that you can preheat a pizza stone and then put your baking sheet right on top of it to get both a crispy crust with less risk of the pizza sticking.  I am going to try that next time.  What I generally do is take a half sheet pan (with edges), line it with parchment, and sprinkle with corn meal.  I then roll out the dough right on that so I don’t have to transfer it.  Half of a portion of the dough will fit a half sheet pan almost perfectly (very thin crust).  I have a small wooden rolling pin that is perfect for this job and the dough usually cooperates nicely.  It will just take a few minutes (maybe 5?) to get it really thin.  Preheat your oven to a very hot temperature — I usually do 450 F on convection.

Easy Plain Old Cheese Variation

Once crust is rolled out and very thin, spread with several tablespoons of your favorite pasta sauce and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella, parmesan, or other cheeses you might like.  We used to do soy cheese when my daughter had dairy allergies and that worked just fine too.  Season with Italian herbs and salt and freshly ground pepper.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and bake in the lowest portion of your oven for 10 minutes or so until it is very bubbly and the crust is brown and crispy.  Sprinkle with chopped fresh basil if your kids will tolerate the green. (mine love it…)

dsc_5647

Spicy Spinach White Variation (can also use kale, chard, or other dark leafy greens)

1/2 cup olive oil
Two cloves chopped garlic
Red Pepper Flakes
4 cups (packed) spinach
Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper

Mix about 1/2 cup of olive oil with salt and freshly ground pepper, two cloves of chopped garlic, and a teaspoon (or more) of hot pepper flakes.  Warm this gently in the microwave or on top of the stove.

Chop about four packed cups of washed and stemmed spinach.  Heat a saute pan with a couple of teaspoons of your olive oil/garlic/pepper flake mixture.  Saute spinach until wilted, adding a bit of water if it starts to stick.  Set aside.

Roll out second crust using same method in half sheet pan (with edges) lined with parchment.  This pizza should probably NOT be baked directly on a stone or flat sheet because the oil drips out and could make a nasty mess in your oven.  When rolled out very thinly, take half of remaining olive oil/garlic/pepper flake mixture and spread all over crust making sure to distribute garlic and pepper flakes somewhat evenly.  Sprinkle sauteed spinach all over pizza and cover with mozzarella and parmesan.  (other cheeses are great here too…)  Drizzle remaining olive oil/garlic/pepper flake mixture over cheese and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.    Bake in lowest portion of your oven for about ten minutes until cheese is bubbly and the crust is brown and crispy.  Sprinkle with freshly chopped basil.

dsc_5629