Food & Wine, Home & Family, Kid Friendly Foods, Main Courses

Happy Birthday…

…to me!

I used to dread birthdays, not because of the whole getting older thing…just because I’m not a real “fussy-fuss” kinda girl. I also grew up having to have the family parties where everyone made the dishes they liked right down to the cake. So we have a policy in my house…the birthday person gets to do whatever they want that day and they pick what they want for dinner. I don’t care if it is pickles and beer…if that’s what they want, that’s what they get. 🙂

Friday has always been a pizza night here, the long week is over and we like to hang out together in the kitchen and cook as a family. It is probably what we will tonight too. I may run to the store and splurge on some shrimp or scallops for a topping or maybe a gorgeous cheese, maybe a Mont Enebro or Majorero? Love both of those and they add a really nice flavor to the cheese blend. Decisions, decisions…

Let’s talk pizza and kids shall we?

I think pizza is one of the most perfect foods to make at home because you can really involve the kids. They can have their very own and top it with whatever makes them happy. I’ve never been a big fan of “kid food” I think it really does the children a disservice, so by favorite toppings I’m not talking mac n’cheese or hot dogs, but maybe a variety of veggies, even fruits. Please allow me a ramble for a moment if you will, and this is just a casual observation, but I have noticed that of the many hundreds of foodie friends I have all over the globe only a handful have had picky children. They are all like mine, and will eat literally anything we set in front of them. So I wonder, is it because the creation of the food is something they are involved with? Do they see us enjoying working with food and talking about it? Or maybe it is because it is interesting and always different? I dunno…but I’m not changing anything!

Back to pizza. Besides the pepperoni, sausage and plastic mozzarella, there is a whole world of pizza possibilities out there. Here are some of our favorites:

  • leftover garlic-y broccoli rabe topped with shavings of Peccorino Romano and a bit of spicy crushed red pepper.
  • homemade sausage with onion marmalade and cheddar
  • olive and red pepper tapanade with mozzarella

What are some tips to a really great pizza?

  • A super hot oven. Forget the recipes that say to cook your pizza for 25 minutes at 375. You’ll end up with a doughy crust and dried out cheese. Heat your oven to at least 450. Better yet, look to see how hot your oven gets. Mine goes to 575 so that is what I heat it to. The pizza cooks in about 5 minutes…usually a bit less than that.
  • Don’t over cook your cheese. I know the jury is out on this one but truthfully, if your mozzarella is brown…you killed it. It should be soft and creamy and wonderfully stringy with its beautiful milky taste still intact.
  • Use dry ingredients. By this I mean to squeeze your wet toppings to remove excess moisture. for example, the broccoli rabe I mentioned above. That has a good deal of moisture in it which will lead to a soggy crust, therefore I give it a good squeeze and pat with some paper towels before it goes onto the pie.
  • Use very little sauce. Too much sauce will lead to the soggies too. A loose, fresh sauce is best as the heat from the oven will cook and thicken it.
  • Use fresh mozzarella. It will cost more but the taste is so worth it. Be sure to let it drain overnight to remove the moisture.

For pizza dough, we love the recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, but there are hundred’s of tried and true delicious versions out there, and hopefully some of my readers will list their favorites here in the comments. The most important tip is to have fun. Enjoy hanging out in the kitchen with your family, and getting the kids involved. It costs less, gives you amazing opportunities to talk together and the memories you will make are priceless.

Have a great Friday!


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