Homemade. Dinner. Fast.

Homemade. Dinner. Fast. You don’t often see those three words standing so close together. But with a little preparation, it can be done–and done well.  The trick is to keep what you need in your freezer.

It involves three main ingredients:  pizza dough, grated cheese and sauce.

From the freezer: dough, grated cheese, pizza sauce.

From the freezer: dough, grated cheese, pizza sauce.

In the morning transfer them from freezer to refrigerator.  Keep them all in the fridge for most of the day to thaw slowly.  The dough came out a couple of hours before dinner to sit on the counter and finish thawing. I then removed the plastic wrap, set the dough on a plate and covered it with a clean tea towel to warm up and rise a bit.

The crust:  I’ve been using this particular recipe for the past year.  It makes a thin, extremely crispy crust that is absolutely delicious.  Find the recipe on another really great blog, Dinner a Love Story.  The only difference being that I substitute half the white flour with whole wheat.  Works perfectly.  I also am a fan of prepping the dough in my food processor. It’s quick and easy.  The recipe makes enough for two crusts.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and tuck them into a freezer bag.

Grated cheese:  Freezing grated cheese destined for melting works well.  I cut a pound of mozzarella into three equal pieces that would fit through the intake tube of my food processor.  Freeze the cheese for about 20 to 30 minutes in advance for easier grating. Use the grating blade attachment.

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The food processor will definitely save time, but hand grating works fine, especially if you have lots of eager helpers.  I packed the cheese equally into three pint size freezer bags. One bag works for one lightly cheesy pizza, but use two bags if you like yours rich and gooey.

Ready for bagging!

Ready for bagging!

The sauce:  If all you have is a large can of diced tomatoes (or a freezer full of frozen ones), you can whip up this pizza sauce in minutes with the addition of four more common ingredients.  There is no cooking required! The recipe comes from cookbook author, Amanda Haas.  It’s so easy your kids can make it while you prepare a green salad.  Use some and freeze the rest.  I prefer sturdy jars for freezing this sauce in.

Putting it all together:  Simply spread the dough in a large, very thin rectangle on a heavily oiled (olive oil–it does great things to the crust) cookie sheet.  Cover with sauce and sprinkle with grated cheese.  I brush olive oil on any exposed crust, but I try to take the toppings as close to the edge as possible. I also drizzle some good quality olive oil over the top as well.

Bake at 500 degrees.  Check after ten minutes.  The edges should be brown and the cheese bubbly.

The result?  Gourmet pizza at a fraction of the cost of take-out.

What pizza toppings do you prefer?

With the addition of black olives.

With the addition of black olives.

5 Surprising Foods to Keep in the Freezer

You’ll save money and waste less with the freezer as your friend.  These five foods are handy to have on hand:

1. Tomatoes  When you find a great source for tasty tomatoes (your garden?), and you want to preserve the flavor of summer, it’s a simple matter to pack them clean and whole in a freezer bag.  When needed, simply rinse under warm water, and the skin peels right off.  Core and chop to the desired size while still semi-frozen.  When thawed they will be comparable to canned tomatoes.  Use in soups, stews, casseroles and sauces.

All that's left from last summer's garden.

All that’s left from last summer’s garden.

2.  Avocados  Simply wash, slice in half and peel.  Pop them into a freezer bag just like this.  Alternatively you could mash them up with a little lemon juice and freeze.  The texture of this fruit does change from its fresh state, but previously frozen avocado makes a great guacamole.  I like to use mashed avocado on my sandwich as a replacement for mayo.

Peel and freeze!

Peel and freeze!

3.  Grains  When you have time, make an extra-large batch of your favorite grain.  Let them cool thoroughly, spread out on a baking sheet before freezing.  Then divide grains into small portions in freezer safe bags.  Squeeze out all extra air in bag to avoid ice crystals and freezer burn.  Keeps in freezer for two to three months.  Use as the basis for a quick dinner, an addition to casseroles or soups, or as a breakfast cereal.

Cook then freeze your favorite grains: bulgur, quinoa, farro, rice and more.

Cook then freeze your favorite grains: bulgur, quinoa, farro, rice and more.

4.  Milk  When I started buying organic milk on a regular basis, it was a shock to the pocketbook.  But then I found out that I could buy it on sale and stick the extra jugs in the deep freeze.  Yes, the texture does change.  It may be slightly “grainier” and needs to be shaken before use to blend the fat back into the milk.  Not great for drinking a glass with cookies but fine for cooking/baking, and I happily use it on my cereal.

5.  Ginger  We love cooking with ginger.  Unfortunately, it always seemed that we didn’t use it up before it went bad.  Then I stumbled on a tip in my Cook’s Illustrated magazine that changed my despair to, well, if not joy, then satisfaction…  Peel and freeze.  Easy.  Frozen ginger makes grating simple.  Also, check out this page from Lunch In A Box for more ideas about freezing ginger.

What do you find that works well coming out of the freezer?

Can I Offer You a Glass of…Fat?

Looking for another reason to think seriously about limiting your family’s sugar consumption?

New York City has enacted an anti-soda campaign to go along with a ban on super-size soda purchases.

I received this link from a fellow blogger who is not from New York.  Kind of graphic but a powerful message all the same.  No wonder it found its way to Australia. Thanks Little People Nutrition!  Click the You Tube link below if you have a strong stomach.

Man Drinking Fat. NYC Health Anti-Soda Ad. Are You Pouring on the Pounds?

www.youtube.com

After showing this to Sam, he looked a little green around the gills.  Mean mother that I am. Perhaps it really will work!

5 Best Family Nutrition Blogs of 2012

I spent the entire morning yesterday in Powell’s Bookstore in downtown Portland.  They claim an entire city block.  The place is gargantuan.  I hunkered down in the cookbook aisle to drool over some really fabulous books.

But mostly I can’t afford to fly to Portland to read books in a bookstore–even for the opportunity to browse books at the in store espresso bar–so I often turn to the internet.  There are plenty of really terrific blogs out there that provide lots of cooking and nutritional information which can accessed right from home.

They inspire me to raise the bar on family nutrition and give me plenty to think about.  I chose 5 of them for my end of the year favorites list.

They were chosen because they are readable, fun and informative.  From small to large written by informed individuals, food lovers and parents–these are the ones I come back to time and again.

See what you think.

Food For My Family     As a mother of four, home cook and photographer Shaina Olmanson knows something about feeding a family.  She features all kinds of nuggets: favorite recipes, of course, but also money-saving tips and time-saving secrets.  From indoor to outdoor, buying to growing–everything she shares is based on real food.  Check it out.

Fix Me A Snack     Cindy, a self-professed snack guru, has loads of fun creating healthy treats for her kids and passing along her ideas with plenty of snap and wit.  Her snack options include several categories: seasonal, personal favorites,10 minutes or less, and taste test (hands down my favorite). Plus she has 101 yogurt based snack ideas.  Beat that!

100 Days of Real Food     Lisa Leake details her family’s experience in cutting out processed foods.  And there’s plenty of support to help others do the same thing.  Besides lots of recipes and free meal plans, she’s not afraid to tackle controversial subjects and encourage meaningful dialogue.

Eating Rules     I wish Andrew Wilder was my next door neighbor.  I don’t know why…  I just like him.  His blog has great information on diet, nutrition and food.  It’s funny and smart.  There is lots of cool stuff here including Menu Mondays–his recommendations for healthier choices from lots of common chain restaurants.  What an inspiration!

Nutrition Over Easy     Monica Reinagel, presents intelligent, totally reasonable nutrition advice.  Plus she sings opera and has a great podcast, The Nutrition Diva.  As a licensed nutritionist, I trust what she has to say.

Care to share any of your favorites?