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No Fail Crust for Family Pizza Night

In our house, dinner is a family affair. We gather to cook. We gather to eat. Still, kids are kids, and being kids, their likes and dislikes can change on a minute-by-minute basis. Foods that may interest them in one setting may be found repulsive in the next. It's a constant guessing game.

To keep them motivated to continue exploring their world and developing a healthy relationship with food, we get them involved at every corner and try to incorporate the ability to make their own choices into meals where appropriate as well. While they may not be able to choose everything about a given meal throughout the week, giving them control over certain aspects of what they eat has been very beneficial in staving off food struggles during family dinner.

One such example is to have a family pizza night. Pizza night has long been a favorite of mine. Pizza acts as a catchall for any leftover scraps from the week before, emptying the fridge for a big trip to the farmers' market, co-op and grocery store on the weekend. Leek and potato on a pizza? Why not? Bacon, scallions and Gruyere? Of course.

Put out bowls of all the leftover bits and pieces, fry up a bit of bacon and set out leftover ham and chicken and pizza night goes from ordinary pepperoni to works of art that help get the kids involved in the process of feeding themselves.

No Fail Pizza Crust

Don't have the time to let the pizza dough rise? No bother. This one works great even without the rise time . You'll get a chewier crust with a crisp bottom, more akin to a New York thin crust, which may be what you prefer anyway.

1 cup water at 110 degrees F

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons dried herbs (optional)

3 cups all-purpose flour (I use an unbleached white wheat blend)

In a medium bowl place warm water and sprinkle with yeast. Allow to rest for 5 minutes until the yeast is frothy and then stir it in along with the olive oil, salt and herbs. Star adding in the flour, a ½ cup at a time, mixing in with a fork thoroughly after each addition. When all the flour has been added, turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth.

Place the dough back into the bowl and cover, allowing it to rise in a warm place for about an hour. (See note above. You can skip this part when low on time or if you're looking for a different style crust.)

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. When the dough has risen, punch it down and split it into 8 equal balls (you can also roll out 2 larger pizzas). On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into ¼"-thick disks.

Sprinkle baking sheets with cornmeal and place the rolled dough on top. Have everyone top their circle with their favorite sauce and toppings. Bake at 475º F for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Makes (8) 6-7" pizzas or (2) 14-16" pizzas.


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