The Versatility of Homemade Pizza

The Versatility of Homemade Pizza by Produce with Amy

Our house was always filled with dogs… They helped make our house a kennel, it is true, but the constant patter of their filthy paws and the dreadful results of their brainless activities have warmed me throughout the years. ~Helen Hayes

Lukas and Louie getting in some Saturday morning snuggles.

Lukas and Louie getting in some Saturday morning snuggles.

Ahhhhhhh, weekends – time to breathe and recharge! Though I think it is fair to say that we all have a bit of cabin fever in our house (yes, our four dogs and kitten too). The kids have been bickering and I have been short-tempered as I try to balance my reading for my college classes with household chores and planning out lessons for my own classroom. This weekend I did manage to organize my closet and the kids helped me fold and put away the mountain of clean laundry that always seems to sneak up. This afternoon I promised them that we would go to town so they can spend their Valentine money from Granny Barb and Grandma Karen and we will join John after he’s done with work for dinner at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants (a splurge since we do not eat out often). After dinner John has hockey practice for the Pigs-N-Heat Charity Hockey Game that he participates in each year. It’s a wonderful cause and we cannot wait to watch him take to the ice in March.

After school on Friday Avalon made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. The color nearly made my heart sink - not the healthiest thing to feed my family. Yet, the kids and John loved them. Next time we will experiment with a healthier alternative and share our recipe here!

After school on Friday Avalon made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. The color nearly made my heart sink – not the healthiest thing to feed my family. Yet, the kids and John loved them. Next time we will experiment with a healthier alternative and share our recipe here!

The kids and I started our morning with a green smoothie. Spinach, frozen bananas and strawberries, fresh pineapple, oranges, and water. I blended Greek Gods honey vanilla yogurt in their smoothies and added a large dollop of yogurt to each of their glasses. This makes up for the Pop Tart they ate yesterday and the red velvet cupcakes, right!?! 😦 Baby steps! It was a bit of project getting them to finish their smoothies – but I admit the Vitamix container was FULL and their glasses were huge. At least this way I know they are getting in some nutrients. (Avalon has the sniffles today and was complaining about a sore throat.)

I had a strong week health food wise and ate an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables (and I stayed away from the kids’ after school snacks that are lurking in my classroom). Last night was an indulgent dinner and I made one of our favorite meals – PIZZA! Yes, we love pizza in our house and we really do it up BIG. The truth is that homemade pizza really isn’t that complicated and I love how versatile it is. I make sure that I keep all of the items needed for the dough on hand and I always have cheese and pepperoni (for the kids and sometimes John) frozen in the freezer. The kids are not fond of vegetables on their pizza (remember, baby steps) though Lukas will eat mushrooms. John, however, has become quite the vegetarian pizza fan. At first it was just to appease me – but now he genuinely loves the combinations that I create (minus banana peppers, olives, and the tomatoes must be sun-dried, and not fresh, for him to enjoy).

Pizza for the kids with extra cheese.

Pepperoni for the kids with extra cheese.

Last week I made dough in our bread machine (I use the recipe that came with it – but sometimes I try other recipes on Pinterest). I made two pounds of dough and cut it in half, wrapped in plastic, and tossed it in the freezer. Yesterday morning I pulled it out and it was ready to go by dinner time.

Dough is so simple to make – flour, water, salt, sugar, and yeast (I buy a jar of yeast and keep it in the refrigerator). Sometimes I add seasonings right to the dough like basil, oregano, onion, and garlic powder. Freezing it makes for a convenient dinner. Trust me, after you start making your own you will never want to rely on frozen or takeout pizza again (though I confess that sometimes we succumb to both when in a pinch).
Frozen pizza doughYesterday I decided to create a pizza for John and I with what we had in the house. I decided to forgo the tomato sauce and instead slathered in the dough with olive oil infused with fresh garlic and dried oregano. I also caramelized onions (cook slowly on low heat until brown and soft – they become unbelievable sweet and delicious) and sautéed up a bunch of mushrooms and red bell peppers.

Often I will leave the vegetables raw and add to the pizza, but cooking them first allows them to sweeten and it helps the pizza from getting too runny from all the vegetable’s water content. I love the texture of canned mushrooms on pizza (better than fresh) and I’ve found that cooking them gives them a similar texture. Plus, when I used fresh I can cut thick slices and they give the pizza a “meaty” texture. I used real butter to saute up the vegetables but you can use your favorite cooking oil (I like to use coconut oil or a cooking grade olive oil).

Pizza Toppings

HOMEMADE PIZZA – AMY’S WAY

Pizza dough right out of the oven. After I removed it, I spread one with the infused olive oil and the other with pizza sauce.

Pizza dough right out of the oven. After I removed it, I spread one with the infused olive oil and the other with pizza sauce.

Spread the dough out on a pizza stone or pizza pan by adding olive oil to the pan and the top of the dough. Work the dough out (I pat with my hands – use olive oil to keep it from sticking) and bake for ten minutes in a 350 degree oven (before putting in the oven you can add seasonings to the dough if you would like – fresh garlic and/or garlic/onion salt or powder, basil, rosemary, oregano and even grated parmesan cheese). You can let the dough cool or add the toppings right away.

I love to experiment with different sauces. I buy pre-made pizza sauce and always have it on hand in the house – or I make my own with tomato sauce, tomato paste, and a variety of spices. Sometimes I use alfredo sauce (In the past I was known for my nearly world famous shrimp alfredo pizza), salsa, or BBQ sauce – or infused olive oil – depending on what kind of pizza we want. The nice thing about pizza is it’s easy to create a variety of combinations for one meal (make small individual pizzas or go half and half with toppings).

Once the pizza is topped I cook for approximately 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven and finish under the broiler so the cheese browns. If you’re plant-based Daiya makes non-dairy cheese that works well for pizza.

While pizza not be on the healthiest meals, if you load it up with vegetables and add a salad or broth based soup in the side – it is easier to eat in moderation. Not to mention that the leftovers are to-die-for! There’s nothing like a slice of pizza for lunch the next day (or even breakfast). Sometimes that is how I convince myself from putting that extra piece on my plate 😉

For this pizza I used the following:
*1/4 cup of olive oil with a couple teaspoons of minced garlic, dried oregano, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Olive oil infused with herbs*1 small caramelized onion
*1/2 container of mushrooms (sliced)
*1/4 cup of sun-dried tomatoes (I bought the ones in bags and “reconstituted” them by soaking in hot water for a few minutes – though some people like to add oil)
*1/4 of a large, red bell pepper (sauted. Roasted red peppers from the supermarket olive bar

are phenomenal on pizza as well)
*Feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan, and little bit of cheddar (honestly, I did not measure – just added a couple handfuls and about 1/4 up of feta)

 

Mushrooms are a great meat substitute.

Mushrooms are a great meat substitute.

Some of my other favorite pizza toppings are:
*banana pepper
*olives (Greek are my favorite)
*artichoke hearts
*broccoli (great with BBQ sauce)
*jalapenos (fresh or pickled)
*zucchini (sliced paper thin)
*fresh basil leaves
*spinach

If you do not make homemade pizza, I hope that my post encourages you to try it. I was intimidated at first but it’s extremely versatile and the kids love to help me create pizza masterpieces (one day I am convinced they will enjoy the vegetables). It is on John’s Honey-Do List to build us an outdoor pizza oven when he encloses our back deck. How cool will that be? I can envision the memories we will make with family and friends as we build the perfect pizza together!

What are your favorite pizza toppings and combinations? Please share – I would love some new ideas. I hope that you are enjoying your February and that you are keeping spring in your heart. Thank you for all the new follows on my Facebook page and all of the supportive and encouraging comments. Thanks to you I have my blogging mojo back. Take care, my friends and I wish you a healthy and productive week! ❤


Homemade Pizza by Produce with Amy

Advertisements

Luke’s Kiwisaurus Green Smoothie

Luke's Kiwisaurus Green Smoothie by Produce with Amy“Talking about abstract things is important. Having big, wild conversations about concepts like art, music, time travel, and dreams makes it much easier when you’ll eventually need to talk about things like anger, sadness, pain, and love.”
―Tom Burns

Trixie and LukasIn my past two posts I introduced you to my step-daughter Avalon and today I am introducing you to my step-son, Lukas. Luke is six and he is an extremely entertaining and intelligent little boy. He has his father’s witty personality and knack for storytelling. Every morning when I wake him up for school Lukas shares with me the dream he had the night before and it usually involves a dinosaur in some shape or form. Lukas loves to play with Legos and he is a natural artist. One of the first gifts that I gave the kids was a box filled with paper and art supplies and Luke has spent hours creating masterpieces. Without fail, Luke has the capacity to make me smile even when I am feeling sad or grumpy. It is a pleasure and honor to be able to share his sunshine with you.

Last weekend was quality Lukas and Aimster time (Aimster being Lukas’ latest term of endearment for me). Avalon had a friend over for an overnight on Friday and spent the night at her friend’s on Saturday and I figured it was the perfect time for Luke and I to spend some one-on-one time. On Friday we cuddled with our new kitty Trixie while we giggled, laughed, and Lukas told me silly stories.
Luke and Trixie

My friend Kay shared a photo from UPAWS on Facebook of a sweet little tortie named Suzy Q. I fell in love with her and the next day my husband John adopted her for us. We named her Trixie (my favorite books as a little girl were the Trixie Belden series).

My friend Kay shared a photo from UPAWS of a sweet little tortie named Suzy Q. I fell in love with her sweet face and unusual markings and the next day my husband John adopted her for us. We named her Trixie (my favorite books as a little girl were the Trixie Belden series). Trixie has quite a fiesty personality and we all love her so much.

Several weeks ago Lukas decided that he wanted his own smoothie blog post (especially since I posted two of Avalon’s recipes). “I want to be famous too,” he told me.  While I explain to him that I am far from famous, Avalon and Lukas are always in awe of how many people I know when we go shopping or dine at a local restaurant. I have explained to them that when you are teacher you make many lasting friendships with many of your students and parents. Aside from being a teacher, I have held quite a few jobs in the area that involved working with the public and on occasion I do run into someone who knows me from my blog. Avalon, Lukas, and I talk a lot about being friendly and about how being a kind person can speak volumes about you to others. We also talk about the importance of attendance (both to school and work) and how you should not just show up but that working hard is important too.IMG_5705

I have told both Avalon and Lukas a story that one of my former students, Tori Lauren, shared during a 10th grade final exam. My students were instructed to write and present a This I Believe essay and Tori wrote about how her parents taught her from an early age that every person or opportunity could be a potential job interview. While going into the grocery store in her hometown her parents would remind her behave because, “she may want to seek employment there one day”. I will never forget Tori’s eloquent essay and the wisdom passed on from her parents. Whether this insight is literal or metaphorical, as human beings I do not think that we should overlook our networking potential and the first impressions that we make (regardless of our age). Tori and her siblings are hardworking 4-H kids and some of the best students that I have had in my teaching career. Now I am passing her wisdom on to my stepchildren. How cool is that? While many people profess that teachers make a difference — I firmly believe that students make a difference too! My students help shape my lessons and my teaching practice and I am thankful to be a life-long-learner.

IMG_5671While I do try to be a guide for my step children in teaching them valuable life lessons, sometimes we just like to act silly. We love to cuddle up and watch television together (an adjustment for me since I have never been much of a tv watcher – and the Disney channel is a completely new experience for me). Sometimes we read together when I tuck them in at night and I always love the Lukasisms that result in our time together. Some of my personal favorites are as follows:

Lukas: “Amy, when you were a carnivore did you like to eat Spinosaurus?” (I suppose forty-four years old to a six year old does sound ancient. 😉 )

When we were at Red Lobster:
Amy: “Lukas are you going to eat your shrimp too?”
Lukas: “Amy, I like mystery. When I twirl my pasta I like to be surprised if I get a shrimp!”

When he helped me gather eggs from the chicken coop and clean them and put them in the refrigerator:
Lukas: “You know what, Aimster? I was built for this!”
Amy: “Built for what, Buddy? Farm chores?”
Lukas: “Yes, I should probably go mow the lawn now.”

Last week while waiting to hop on the school bus:
Lukas: “Kiss me now! My kisses are magic.”
Amy: “Okay, Luke. You are too cute!” *smooch*
Lukas: “Aimster, I love your fluffy hair!” *my heart melts*
It’s true, he does. He loves to snuggle up to me and he loves to nestle his face into my hair. He tells me that I smell like ice cream. Considering how much this little boy loves ice cream, I take that as a giant compliment.

Speaking of ice cream and sweets, as a new step-mom with a bit of a healthy food I try to keep a bowl of fruit in the house at all times. obsession, I am still trying to find balance between what my kids want to eat and what I think that they should eat. John and the kids love their sweets and I am always trying to find ways to health up their meals. As I have shared in my last two posts, they are wild about Greek Gods Yogurt and I always try to keep fruit in the house. Lukas LOVES cantaloupe and we go through a couple of bunches of bananas a week. This fall Avalon has been enjoying pears and Lukas will devour grapes. I do still buy ice cream and we often have cake and cookies in the house — but John and I also try to find balance and encourage the kids to try different fruit and vegetables.
Greek Gods Strawberry Honey Yogurt

For the smoothie that we are sharing today, Lukas was passionate about including kiwi. He also thought it should have bananas and strawberries. We decided to add a bit of yogurt to the mix and he agreed to even add some spinach. (Adding greens is a huge step – last year at this time he would not have even considered drinking a smoothie – not to mention adding spinach to it).
Ready to blend

If you have never had spinach in smoothies before – you have to try it. Spinach is naturally sweet and you (and your kids) will not even know it is in there. My best friend Heather had her daughter Mackenzie convinced for almost a year that the smoothies she made for her were green because of the kiwi she put in them. One day Mackenzie saw one of my posts on Facebook and said to Heather, “Mom, Amy puts spinach in her smoothies?” 😉

The following is how I made Luke’s smoothie. John and Lukas both thought it was too tart for them. Therefore, if I made it again for them I would add extra banana or raw honey (or even fruit juice) to sweeten it a bit. Lukas drank about half of his – which I consider a huge victory since it contained a lot of fruit and greens. Baby steps!

Lukas making his smoothie!

I bought Lukas two Jurassic Park vehicles this weekend for being such a good boy when he went shopping with me. He wanted them to part of his blog post.

I bought Lukas two Jurassic Park vehicles this weekend for being such a good boy when he went shopping with me. He wanted them to part of his blog post.

LUKE’S KIWISAURUS GREEN SMOOTHIE

*2 medium frozen bananas
*3 peeled kiwi
*1/2 cup of frozen strawberries
*1 cup of Greek Gods Honey Strawberry Yogurt
*2 cups of spinach
*1 cup of water or fruit juice (more or less depending how thick you want your Fresh mint from our herb garden.smoothie…I made Luke’s with water)
*Optional – sprig of fresh mint. (Even though it’s November I was surprised to find mint still growing in our herb garden. It has been a very mild fall in Upper Michigan)
*Top with whipped cream (This was a MUST HAVE for Luke’s smoothie)

*
This recipe made two green smoothies

It fills me with joy to know that I am able to positively influence my step kids and encourage them to eat more fruit and vegetables. They both had a spectacular first marking period in school and we are working hard to make sure that the rest of school year is the same.

Avalon's 4th grade school picture.

Avalon’s 4th grade school picture.

Lukas' 1st grade school picture.

Lukas’ 1st grade school picture.

I bought Lukas and Avalon rewards for their success in school this year. Avalon chose a journal and we picked out an art book for Lukas.

I bought Lukas and Avalon rewards for their success in school this year. Avalon chose a journal and we picked out an art book for Lukas.

Luke’s teachers all comment on what a kind and thoughtful little boy he is and that he has a heart of gold. We received an email from his teacher that he was observed giving his snack that we packed him to a new boy in their class because he didn’t have one. John, who is a police officer, always tries to teach the kids to be kind to others. Obviously, his lessons do not go unnoticed and we could not be prouder.

As you can see, Luke's green smoothie is dinosaur approved!

As you can see, Luke’s green smoothie is dinosaur approved!

Make sure you check out my smoothie tab for other smoothie recipes. As well as Avalon’s Kid Friendly Recipes.  Right now is the perfect time to gear up for my December Green Smoothie Challenge with 31 days of printable recipes and shopping lists.

I hope that you are having a wonderful autumn and stay tuned because my next post will be a new Mason jar salad recipe. It is John’s favorite salad and I have been meaning to share it for months. Thank you for reading and I would love to hear about some of your favorite kid friendly healthy recipes. As a new mom, I am finding that truly does take a village. Lukas was happy to share his smoothie recipe with you – we hope that you enjoy it!
Luke

Trixie and her rescuer, John. He might not always admit it, but he's a softie. John will probably be Trixie's favorite. She will remember who saved her. So will I.

Trixie and her rescuer, John. He might not always admit it, but he’s a softie. John will probably be Trixie’s favorite. She will remember who saved her. So will I. ❤

FullSizeRender (20)

Luke's Kiwisaurus Smoothie

This slideshow requires JavaScript.