There’s a rhythm to the kitchen. After a few evenings of full-on home-cooked meals, the refrigerator holds leftovers that need to be eaten. This means cooking takes a back seat to “meal assembly” for the next few evenings. Instead of serving the same thing multiple nights in a row (meatloaf AGAIN?), I have a better shot at getting the family to eat things a second time around when the leftovers are re-assembled. Take tonight’s supper.

If that leftover meatloaf wasn’t eaten soon, it was headed for the trash. A half-loaf of mulitgrain French bread was leftover from the weekend and a small casserole dish of leftover pizza sauce was taking up freezer space. Sounded like the makings of pizza bread to me.

After slicing the bread horizontally in half, I brushed the cut sides with olive oil. The bread then toasted at 300°F for a few minutes while I quickly browned slices of the meatloaf. The bread was topped with thinly sliced fresh mozzarella and the meatloaf. This returned to the oven to melt the cheese and warm all ingredients.

While the pizza bread warmed in the oven, the (leftover) pizza sauce was stirred into a sauté of thinly sliced onion and colored bell peppers. I spooned this bell pepper-tomato sauce alongside the pizza breads and called it supper. (The sauce went on the side as I figured my girls would at least try the sauce if it was on the side. If it went over the pizza bread, they’d most likely turn their cute little noses up at the whole dish.)

Leftover (frozen) green beans added a bit more veggie to the meal and also ensured my girls would eat vegetables, seeing how they’d be passing on the bell pepper-tomato sauce after their token bite. Tonight’s meal will not go down in my family’s “greatest meals of all time” memories. Just the same, we enjoyed a fun–if basic–meal with good flavors. It had the whole-grain carb, protein, dairy, and lots of vegetable. And there’s now room in the refrigerator for when the kitchen rhythm picks up again.

family moments: popovers, pizza, frozen yogurt

Family time–while lovely in theory–can be rough in practice. I remember taking the girls to our community pjs and Santa event when they were 4ish and maybe just 9 months. By the time we got two pajama-clad girls into the car, everyone was mad at each other. It had been stressful getting the girls ready and I remember wondering if it was even worth it to go. No one was feeling festive–we were crabby and it probably would have been better to just stay home and put everyone (mom and dad included) to bed. But we had planned to see Santa with the girls that night and we were forging ahead. The night was mostly a disaster. Too crowded, too noisy, too late at night, and both girls cried just looking at Santa. Despite these disasters (and there have been many), we continue pursuing those perfect and ideal family moments.

Today, we hit the jackpot. A downtown library was showing a children’s film fest, so we took the girls. My husband, a library junkie, hit the stacks while the girls and I enjoyed five subtitled foreign film shorts. I took a quick walk through cookbooks and found entire shelves devoted to bourbon and other spirits (more about bourbon later). We bought a few books at the Friends of the Library bookstore, then walked over to Macy’s for a great lunch at the tony Oak Grill. We enjoyed a piece of history and some solidly good food: First, Oak Grill’s classic popovers. Then the girls slurped down their chicken veggie soup. I had the same soup with a Meditterranean-ish salad. My husband had a chicken stir-fry. Driving home, I realized we’d had a perfectly lovely morning. No one fought, we didn’t get lost, everyone was happy about the restaurant choice. Somehow we got that ideal family moment. It had just happened. When we left the house that morning, we had no plan outside of hitting the film fest. Everything else just followed.

Tonight I took my 9-year-old to the senior fashion show at a local University. She was wide-eyed as the models strutted the runway and it was fun to support one of her interests. Wandering to Dinkytown after the show, we had wonderfully greasy pizza at Mesa and then played Connect-4 after building frozen yogurt sundaes at Chilly Billy’s.

Will cherish today’s memories as they don’t come around often enough. Will also (try to) remember that forcing these family moments doesn’t make them happen; more often than not, it backfires. Expecting Norman Rockwell-worthy moments is overly optimistic and in the end, usually leads to disappointment and frustration. Tonight, my recipe for that perfect family moment is to pay attention so I can grab on and appreciate when things go right.

salad and pizza

Had a friend and her daughter over for lunch today. While the girls played paper dolls and build-a-bears, my friend and I caught up a bit. She brought a fun salad–chickpeas and thinly sliced apple, all a lovely shade of magenta thanks to the beets she had boiled, peeled, and chopped. A sweet-tart dressing of honey mustard, lemon juice, and olive oil flavored it up. The salad didn’t come from a package; she took the time to put it together.

Knowing the little girls would like pizza, I had rolled out a quick crust and topped it with a sauce of pureed cooked-down tomatoes (with a bit of olive oil, sugar, and Italian seasoning stirred in). Favorite pizza toppings finished it off. It didn’t take that much longer to make than it would have taken to purchase, unwrap, and bake a frozen pizza. And the results were so much better. (Then again, when my immersion blender landed on the floor, splattering tomato sauce on kitchen cupboards and cracking in half, that frozen pizza looked pretty good.) In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered what we ate as the afternoon was about catching up with a friend and watching our daughters play. There is certainly a time for frozen pizza and packaged salad. But if today’s food was that much better because it was homemade and done so with love, we shared more than a morning playdate. We shared a great meal as well.

Homemade Pizza Crust

  • 1/2 cup warm water (105°F-155°F)
  • 1 teaspoon dry active yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil

In small bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and honey; let stand 5 minutes or until bubbly.

In medium bowl, combine flours and salt. With wooden spoon, sir in yeast mixture and oil until combined. Transfer dough to floured surface. Grease bowl. Knead dough until smooth. roll dough into a ball; return it to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm place 20 minutes or until double in size.

Punch dough down; roll into 12-inch circle. Place on cornmeal-dusted pizza pan. Prebake 5 minutes at 425°F. Top as desired. Bake 10 minutes longer or until crust is lightly browned and toppings are heated through.