Family (meal) planning

Today’s post comes from fellow EAC staffer, Jennifer West.  You may remember Jen from this cooking workshop post last year.  This Groundwater Coordinator knows her way around a kitchen. 

I have to admit I am very organized.  I am also very cheap, and so find that the most cost effective way to make it through a few days without going to the grocery store is to make a menu for the week on Sunday and… here’s the key… stick to it.  I really look forward to planning my meals, and feeling like the week is under control based on my regular schedule and my husband’s unpredictable shift work.  We usually have one expensive meal, a few reasonable meals, and one or two really cheap meals.  Our fridge can look a little scary sometimes, with only two or three things in it, but those things will make a delicious meal if I have planned carefully.

One of our favorite easy meals is homemade pizza.  It’s my favorite because it’s healthy and better than takeout, and I get to share the work with my two-year-old, Rachel.  When my toddler and I are heading home in the evening, I love to tell her that we’re having pizza for dinner, and to talk about how we are going to put it together or cook it.  She loves the feeling of the dough, loves putting on the sauce and the toppings, and we have a game of her eating toppings when I’m not looking and me trying to catch her (if there is a better way to get your toddler to eat vegetables, I haven’t seen it yet).  Sure I have to wipe down a larger surface area when we are done, but we got to spend time together!  I would rather clean a kitchen than find crayon rainbows on the wall in her room that she did when I was cooking dinner and she was playing by herself.

Dough (from Looney Spoons, “There’s No Business Like Dough Business”)
2 1/2 tsp bread yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups white flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour

(You can find locally milled wheat from Speerville Mill.)

Put the yeast in a bowl.  Combine the warm water and honey in a measuring cup, and stir to dissolve.  Add the water-honey and oil to the yeast and leave it until it gets all frothy (a toddler can watch and let you know when this happens, while poking it occasionally).  Add salt, and then the flours.  Stir the flour and when it gets too thick, use your hands.  A small portion for the toddler will keep her busy.  Messy but busy.  Knead the dough until it is elastic and not sticky (add flour if it`s too sticky or pastey).  Slowly stretch it out and press it out with your fingers and hands.  If you have time to let it rise, then leave it for an hour, otherwise just form it into a pizza shape (depending on your pan shape).  Sprinkle the pan with flour and/or cornmeal to keep it from sticking without using oil.

Sauce
(I sometimes take a container of homemade sauce out of the freezer in the morning, or the night before.  Here is the recipe I will use on the weekend, and freeze in yogurt containers for the week)
1 onion
1 carrot
2 celery stalks
1 clove garlic
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Dice the vegetables finely, and saute in oil until they are soft.  Add garlic and stir for 1 minute.  Add the remaining ingredients, and cook until bubbly and the desired consistency.

Toppings
Some of our favorites include olives, leftover chicken, mushrooms, tomatoes, salami, peppers, and artichokes.  Obviously mozzarella, but feta and chedda make it betta.

Bake at 350 until the cheese is bubbly and golden, around 20 minutes.

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