Project Kids In The Kitchen : Pizza Night


Food is such an important and amazing part of life.  I feel bad for those who are not truly enjoying their food, and think of it only as a necessary substance to fuel their bodies.  Of course it does that, but it is so much more.  Food brings people together, and makes memories that last a lifetime.  Food comforts you.  Food shows people you care.  It excites and impresses them.  Food can take you on a journey, or make you step out of your comfort zone.

Obviously I love food.  So it kills me that my own kids don’t share that appreciation of trying new things.  They are crazy picky, and each has a small list of foods they typically eat.  I do have hope that someday they will come around, since I was admittedly a bit on the picky side myself as a kid, but I just don’t want them to waste so much time getting around to it.

My mom was a great cook, and knew the recipes in her repertoire like the back of her hand, never using a recipe or measuring things.  She wasn’t one to deviate too far from her comfort zone though, and so I wasn’t exposed to many different foods as a kid.  My kids have the opportunity to try a lot of different things, but getting them to do so is often like pulling teeth.

I have thought long and hard on many occasion about ways to make my kids try food, and always come up empty handed.  Ideas I thought would work, failed miserably, and I am left feeling discouraged and annoyed.  It occurred to me that I wasn’t really adventurous in my food choices until I got out on my own and started having to cook for myself.  I know as you age your palate matures, and so they wouldn’t appreciate some of the dishes I typically make, but I began to think MAYBE, if I could get them involved with what I was making they would not only learn valuable lessons in the kitchen that would serve them their entire lives, but maybe they would also be a bit more adventurous in their food choices.

So with loads of ideas racing through my mind I decided to carve out a part of this blog to hopefully share with all of you their transformation into little foodies with a jumpstart on kitchen skills…. or at least more tolerable eaters lol.

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For our very first installment of what I am calling Project Kids In The Kitchen (or KITK) I decided to go with something that I knew would be fun to make, and also something I knew at least one of my kids was crazy about.  I am planning to ease them into the more adventurous stuff later on.  As I mentioned, KITK is not just about trying new foods, but also teaching them valuable kitchen skills that they will use the rest of their lives, and hopefully help them skip over that period of time when kids first start out on their own and their best friend becomes a microwave when they no longer have mom to cook for them.  So in honor of my oldest’s favorite food, it was PIZZA NIGHT!

It made me excited that the kids were so excited about KITK.  My youngest asked for days each morning when he got up if it was that day.  In order to make a lasting first impression I went all out.  We made everything from the sauce (well one of them anyway, let’s not get TOO ambitious on our first run lol), to the dough, and grating our own cheese (more to come on that).  It was definitely a success, but there was an added bonus I wasn’t really planning on of just some good quality family time spent together.

Probably the hardest part was trying to document the process at the same time through photographs.  Not only is the light dreadful in my kitchen, leaving me quite restricted in where and how I could set up, but it’s not easy running back and forth to take pics while trying to teach, so I enlisted the help of my husband as well.  I apologize in advance for what will probably be a lot of pictures….

Things we learned today :

  • How to properly measure flour
  • The importance of dry and wet measuring utensils
  • How to make White Sauce
  • Time management and planning ahead
  • How to use yeast
  • How to knead dough, and flour our surface
  • How to roll out dough
  • Stove safety, and they watched me fry some proscuitto, and wilt some spinach
  • How to use a cheese grater… and how not to.
  • The art of assembling a pizza
  • Following a recipe, and directions

We started off by making the white sauce for my youngest’s pizza.  Even with this option pizza is usually a hit or miss for him, so I wanted to make sure I gave him his best shot to succeed with this.  We made just a basic alfredo sauce with butter, cream, and parmesan cheese.  And very importantly… we each tasted it when we were done.  This is something I want to encourage when cooking so they are not only more mindful of what they are making and how flavors go together, but of course to trick them into trying new things lol. Here are two eager boys (though you won’t be able to tell from their cheesy and bored expressions in these photos lol) ready to get started! _MG_0964-1 And diving right in! _MG_0978-2 _MG_0982-4 Once that was done we moved on to the dough.  We made two batches so we’d have enough for 4 pizzas.  I decided the best way was to show them how with the first batch, and then let them do the second while I took pics.  While they waited for my yeast to activate I had them measure out their flour so we’d be ready. _MG_0986-1 Watching the yeast provided some excitement… though they weren’t much impressed by the smell lol. _MG_0988-1 Once our dough was mixed, it was time to knead.  This proved a bit difficult for them, but they gave it their best shot anyway before I finished them up. _MG_0993-1 _MG_0994-2 Dough is proofing in the oven while we clean up and get ready for the next step. _MG_0996-3 Time to master the cheese grater… or in my youngest’s case, learn some respect for it!  Even though he knicked himself a little, he was a great sport and didn’t let it keep him from trying again, and it’s good that he learned this lesson.  Heck, who hasn’t cut themselves with a knife, or knicked themselves with a grater or peeler before?  As you can see they took these tasks very seriously lol. _MG_0999-1 _MG_1002-2 _MG_1005-3 Our dough was ready to roll out, but first the kids thought it was hilarious that we had to punch it down…. it’s the little things lol. _MG_1009-1 _MG_1010-2 _MG_1014-3 _MG_1021-4 Now comes the fun part of assembling the pizzas!  We had a mini success before we even finished because both kids tried proscuitto and spinach, with the youngest even opting to make one slice of his strictly cheese and white sauce pizza have some torn up proscuitto on it (which he loved). _MG_1022-1 _MG_1024-2 _MG_1025-3 Masterpieces ready to go in the oven!  And of course a shot of the final product for good measure.  Also not shown, we made two other pizzas for my husband and I.  His was some meaty concoction of course, and mine was my attempt to copy-cat my favorite pizza from The Rock. _MG_1031-1 _MG_1034-2 _MG_1035-3 _MG_1037-4 When all was said and done… and it was sort of a long day in the kitchen for sure… we all had a great time, and everyone enjoyed the pizzas they made from scratch.  Thank you for making it through this long, and I suppose personal post.  I hope that our adventures in the kitchen inspire many of you to get your own children in there as well, and I would love to hear about it from you!  Time to start planning our next dish!

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Stromboli


Emeril Lagasse really knows what he’s doing!  This all comes from him, from the homemade dough to the finished product, and though it’s labor intensive it is SO worth it.  Not only is it beautiful to look at, and would certainly wow anybody you served this to, but it tastes amazing with all the peppers, onion, meats, olives and cheese!  Plus the dough is seriously awesome, and is a dream to work with.

If, like me, you have always been afraid to make your own pizza crust I strongly suggest you just take the plunge and try this recipe.  It was very simple to make, and as I mentioned it was absolutely amazing to work with when forming the stromboli and pizza.  I actually made two batches of the dough because I had first thought that I might have gotten it a bit dry as I was having to add flour to my surface during the kneading process.  So for the second time I reserved a little (about 1/4 cup) of the initial 3 cups and used that during the kneading instead.  They both turned out fantastic though, and I used half of the first batch on a pizza for my son and froze the rest.  It is nice and airy/soft, but gets a good crunch on the ends where it brown.  Seriously probably the best homemade pizza I have ever had as far as crust is concerned.  I usually use frozen store bought dough, or Pilsbury dough, or even a pre-made crust.  The frozen stuff usually results in a good enough crust, but not only do you have to remember to thaw it out first, but ones I have tried have been a bear to roll out and take forever to actually get to the point where they won’t just shrink back up on me.  This dough took 2 minutes tops each time.

You could certainly adjust the fillings to your tastes, but the combination Emeril creates for this recipe is perfect.  I used pepperoni because the salami I had was looking a bit turned, but I my original plan was to use half and half between the two.  As I mentioned before I don’t particularly like sausage, but again it was crumbled up small enough with the fat rendered out that it didn’t bother me… except for the fennel in the particular sausage I bought lol.  I especially liked the combination of mozzarella and provolone, as well as the crispy Italian cheese blend on the top.  It called for finely grated parmesan and had I read that far ahead I would have gotten a block and done it myself, but when I read grated I assumed they meant the powdery type as I equate shredded with the other.  I definitely don’t think that would have worked though so I used some of the 4 cheese Italian shred I had on hand.  I also put a bit of course salt and fresh ground pepper on the top of the stromboli after brushing on the egg wash which really makes a nice crust.  And one last tip… when rolling it up just go slowly press down on your fillings a bit to keep them flat so you have less chance of breaking your dough.  Also try not to roll it out too thin to begin with and stick with the measurements he suggests.  Oh and I guess one more little tip I found really helped… I lined my baking sheets with foil first and then sprayed that and it really made clean-up a breeze since some of the grease escapes out the bottom.

 

Stromboli

Makes : 2 stromboli               Time to make :  3.5  hours total

Ingredients:

Dough:

  • 1 C. warm water (110 degrees, important)
  • 1 (1/4 oz) envelope dry active yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 T. + 1 1/2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 C. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp.  salt

Stromboli:

  • pizza dough as directed
  • 1/2 lb. Italian sausage, crumbled and casings removed
  • 1/2 C. thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/2  C. thinly sliced green bell pepper
  • 2 T. thinly sliced jalapeno, seeded
  • 1 C. yellow onion sliced
  • 2 T. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 lb. sliced ham
  • 1/4 lb. sliced pepperoni or salami
  • 1/2 C. sliced black olives
  • 2 C. grated provolone
  • 2 C. grated mozzarella
  • 1 Lg. egg, beaten with 1 T. water to make an egg wash
  • 1 C. finely grated Parmesan
  • course salt and fresh ground pepper  (my addition)

Directions:

Dough:

  1. In a large bowl combine warm water (110 degrees), yeast, sugar, and 1 T. oil by stirring together.  Then let sit without touching it for about 5 minutes until it is foamy.
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth.  Continue adding flour 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition until all the flour is incorporated but the dough is still slightly sticky. (I reserved about 1/4 cup for the kneading the second time and that worked better) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured flat surface and knead until smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes.  (If you have never kneaded dough before I suggest a quick youtube search for technique)
  3. Place remaining 1 1/2 tsp. oil into a large bowl and roll the ball of dough around in it until covered on all sides.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm dry place with no drafts (I placed mine in the oven with the light on) and allow to rise until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Stromboli:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.   Grease a large baking sheet and coat with non-cooking spray. (I used two medium baking dishes that would fit side by side in my oven and lined with foil before spraying each.
  2. In a large skillet, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until browned and fat is rendered, about 5 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon onto paper towels to drain the grease off.  The recipe says next to remove about a Tablespoon of grease from the pan, but I didn’t have any from my sausage so I actually added a little bit of olive oil before the next part.  Throw in your onions, peppers, and jalapenos and cook stirring often until very soft.  Add in garlic and Italian seasoning and cook about 1 minute more stirring.  Remove from heat and allow to cool (add the sausage back in as well).
  3. Punch down the dough and divide in half.  On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough into a large rectangle, about 10×14 inches.  Spread half the cooled sausage mixture onto each rectangle leaving a 1-inch border all the way around.  Overlapping slightly, layer half of your ham next onto each stromboli, then your pepperoni or salami, olives and cheeses.  Using a pastry brush, pain the border of 1 long edge with some of your egg wash.  Starting on the opposite long side roll up your dough into a cylinder, pinching together the edges to seal.  You can sort of pinch and tuck the ends under.  Place on prepared baking sheet/s and allow to sit and rise for 20-30 minutes.
  4. Brush on your egg wash to the tops of each Stromboli and if you choose so, sprinkle a bit of course salt and fresh black pepper on top now.  Bake until nearly completely golden brown all over, about 20 minutes.  Sprinkle each stromboli with parmesan cheese and return to the oven for about another 5 minutes until cheese has melted and starts to brown. 
  5. Let stand 10 minutes out of the oven before slicing thickly and serving.

I couldn’t quite decide on one picture so I am going to share a few, including a quick snap from before I put the egg wash on of the assembled Stromboli.

stromboli
stromboli2

stromboli4

stromboli3