Last week, a young friend of mine came over to hang out for pizza night and a movie. (Cloudy with a Side of Meatballs, if you’re wondering). She loves to cook and is always thrilled to learn something new. Last time she came over, we made butter. Her Dad said she kept talking about that for days.
This time, we made pizza, including the dough. She was thrilled when kneading the dough suddenly made sense, and it started to “look like pizza dough!” as she put it. You can find our recipe for whole wheat pizza dough here.
When it came time to bake the pizzas, I set out a variety of toppings—caramelized onions, roasted tomatoes, roasted fennel, spinach, fresh basil, basil pesto, kalamata olives and two different kinds of cheeses—so she could make her own.
She was a little wary of the onions at first, until she tried them. “Those are delicious!” she said. It’s a good strategy if your kids don’t really like vegetables—cook them until they become sweet and caramelized. This means cooking onions for a very long time over low heat, until their sugars develop. Or with other vegetables, roast them in a hot oven until they become brown and delicious. Kids (and adults!) will eat them like candy.
You can’t beat pizza and a movie (or pizza and games) for spending time with kids. It’s an easy way to get them in the kitchen with you, and is sure to make dinner time a fun experience for everyone.
What are your favorite ways to get kids in the kitchen with you? We’d love to hear your ideas!
Here’s a basic recipe for caramelizing onions. You don’t actually need a lot of fat in the pan, just low heat and a long time, stirring occasionally. If you need a little help cutting the onions, McKenzie wrote a great tutorial here.
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Place a cast iron skillet (or heavy bottomed skillet) over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil to the pan and let it get hot. Add the onions, salt and red pepper flakes. Cook stirring occasionally, for about an hour, or until the onions are very soft and very brown and taste sweet. If the pan starts to get too dry, you can add a little water, chicken stock or wine. The onions will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days.
You can also add any other herbs you like. Thyme is delicious.
Basic Recipe for Roasting Vegetables
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Cut all vegetables to the same size. Toss with olive oil, salt and any spices, if you like. Spices like smoked paprika and cumin are delicious. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place seasoned and oiled vegetables on the baking sheet in a single layer. Don’t let them overlap or they will steam and not brown.
Roast for between 20 and 30 minutes, depending upon the type and size of the vegetables. Your nose will tell you when they are done, as they will start to smell sweet. Take them out of the oven when they are caramelized to your liking.
Something like broccoli might only take 20 minutes, while sweet potatoes may take 30 or more.
If you are roasting tomatoes, don’t put any other kind of vegetable on the baking sheet, as the juice from the tomatoes will prevent the other vegetables from browning.
Roasted vegetables will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 4 days. They are great for snacking, salads and side dishes!
Basic Recipe for Cooking the Pizza
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, place it in the oven to preheat for at least 30 minutes.
If you are making the dough from scratch, divide the dough into three equal pieces. Each of these dough balls will make one large pizza or two to three individual pizzas.
Stretch the dough to the desired thinness and size. Place the dough on a pizza peel that has been generously dusted with flour or cornmeal (so you can slide the pizza from the peel to the pizza stone).
Top your pizza with desired toppings. For this pizza, I topped it with caramelized onions, roasted fennel, roasted tomatoes, some spinach ribbons and goat feta cheese. Try not to add too many wet toppings, as this can make for a soggy pizza.
Slide the pizza from the pizza peel to your pizza stone. If you don’t have a pizza stone, just place the pizza on a baking sheet and put in the oven.
Bake the pizza for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until the crust is browned and the toppings are bubbling.
Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes.
Enjoy, preferably with people you love! And a movie is great, too.