Pizza!

October 02, 2016

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Mary Beth Johnson is a wife and mum to four schooners, as she's dubbed her children. On a normal afternoon, you would find her in moccasins, skinny jeans and a comfortable tee, camera in hand. Recently moving to the suburbs of Atlanta, Mary Beth spends her days homeschooling, sneaking away to the bookstore, trying to act the part of a southerner, and sifting through recipes in The Vegetarian Times. Food is her love language.

I read recently that having family traditions creates stronger family ties and consequently, more secure children. I began mentally flipping through the files of our family memories and could not come up with any traditions we'd started and actually stuck with. We're not the type of people that like being bound to any hard and fast rules, which was always my excuse every time a holiday rolled around and I had that twinge of guilt over starting a tradition for the kids.

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But the more I look back at the times I have attempted to make something a tradition, I see that clearly my children love it. Knowing we will repeat a ritual again the next year, or the next month, or the next whenever gives them a comfortable routine and something to look forward to. So I decided to start small. Somebody suggested ice cream after the first day of school and the last day of school, and I figured we could handle a drive-thru moment and dollar cones. It was a huge success! Next, I began implementing a Friday night movie night with pizza. On our way home from school we pick it up for an early dinner, or I make the dough ahead of time and the kids get to help roll it out and layer the toppings. It has become one of their favorite things we do together as a family. I overhear them talking about it amongst themselves and it makes me so happy to think they will remember this and talk about it when they're grown adults.

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I have been stumped on a pizza dough recipe that seems fail-proof and everyone will love. I've tried several - wheat, gluten-free, the pre-packaged kind from Trader Joes (which is actually quite good!), but I could never get anything to turn out consistently and Trader Joes is far from my house. I finally found a dough that is super easy to throw together and everyone in my family loves it too!

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I add on anything and everything we might have in the fridge. That's the great thing about pizza night on Friday's. I can take whatever is left over from my Monday shopping trip and just throw it on top. These are a few of my favorites: roasted veggies, cold cut meats, pineapple, pesto, fresh mozzarella, corn, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, and fresh basil. You have to think about what will go together before you pile it on top. My absolute favorite is mushrooms with spinach and swiss cheese. I'm hungry just writing that out.

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So here's our favorite pizza dough recipe. I hope it brings many happy family traditions your way!!!

//OUR FAVORITE PIZZA

1 teaspoon Active Dry Or Instant Yeast
4 cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

FOR THE PIZZA:

Veggies, or pepperoni, or whatever you like
Kosher Salt, For Sprinkling
1 pint Grape Tomatoes
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
8 ounces, weight Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, Sliced Very Thin
1/2 cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
Extra Virgin Olive Oil For Drizzling
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

TO MAKE THE CRUST:
 Sprinkle yeast over 1 1/2 cups warm (not lukewarm) water. In a mixer, combine flour and salt. With the mixer running on low speed (with paddle attachment), drizzle in olive oil until combined with flour. Next, pour in yeast/water mixture and mix until just combined. Coat a separate mixing bowl with a light drizzle of olive oil, and form the dough into a ball. Toss to coat dough in olive oil, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and store in the fridge until you need it. ***It's best to make the dough at least 24 hours in advance, and 3 or 4 days is even better. TO

MAKE THE PIZZA:
 Preheat oven broiler. Cut up veggies (if using), and toss with olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and place 8 inches under the broiler. Broil for 3 minutes, then toss around and broil another 3 minutes. Remove pan from oven and add tomato/garlic mixture. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove and set aside. (May do this 1 hour in advance.) Slice grape tomatoes in half lengthwise and toss into a bowl with minced garlic. Slice mozzarella very thinly. Cut eggplant slices into fourths, and toss with olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and place 8 inches under the broiler. Broil for 3 minutes, then toss around and broil another 3 minutes. Remove pan from oven and add tomato/garlic mixture. Broil for 2 to 3 minutes, then remove and set aside. (May do this 1 hour in advance.) Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Drizzle olive oil on a large baking sheet and use fingers to coat thoroughly. Remove HALF the pizza dough from the bowl. Stretch pizza dough into a large rectangle, pressing with fingers to finish forming. Dough will be very thin. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil on the dough and use fingers to spread. Lay mozzarella slices over the surface of the dough. Spread toppings all over the surface of the cheese. Top with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Remove from pan and slice with a pizza cutter. Serve immediately!