When in Doubt…Pizza

Believe it or not, pizza is a speedy go-to meal when you’re short on time…And I’m not talking about delivery.  I have the luxury of being at home, and so I can make my favorite pizza dough and let it rise {and meanwhile read some chapters or edit a paper for a class}.  If you’re on the way home from work, though, swing by your grocery store and pick up some ready-made pizza dough.  The dough is the part that takes the longest, the rest is just food creativity.

The toppings are completely up to you.  You can go traditional margherita pizza with tomatoes, cheese, and basil, or make a veggie flatbread without cheese or sauce…or a hybrid of the two with veggies and cheese.  I love the potato and onion combo I had on focaccia when I was in Italy, and so love it as a flatbread topping–except I add mixed greens and caramelize the onions.  A new favorite is leeks and artichoke hearts.

Crank your oven to 450F while you prepare your toppings, assemble, and it’s a quick 20 minute bake until dinner time!


  • Servings: prepare as many toppings as you like!
  • Difficulty: easy
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I’m just going to list meatless toppings combination ideas to get your pizza juices flowing…have fun!

red sauce, fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil

very thinly sliced red potatoes, caramelized onions (thinly slice a yellow onion, sauté on low heat with olive oil, salt, and a tablespoon of sugar, stir and sauté until onions are cooked down and sweet), fresh mixed greens

thinly sliced leeks (sautéed in olive oil and butter), artichoke hearts (marinated from a jar), fresh mozzarella

red sauce, roasted acorn squash, mixed greens, caramelized onion, dollops of fresh ricotta, walnuts

red sauce, mixed greens, broccoli, thinly sliced red onion, red pepper flakes, fresh mozzarella

fresh arugula, olive oil, fresh Parmiggiano-Reggiano shavings (I ordered this pizza in the piazza in Siena almost 20 years ago, and still remember it to this day as the best pizza I’ve ever had–sharp and peppery from the arugula and sharp and rich from the cheese)



Fav Pizza Dough Recipe

Homemade pizza dough is a cinch with 6 simple ingredients and an hour of time on your hands.  The secret with any yeast dough is giving your yeast time to bloom, and not adding your salt too quickly.  Sugar lets yeast grow and bloom; salt deactivates the yeast’s chemical reaction.  If you want a fluffy, crispy, crunchy crust {yes, pizza dough can be all three at the same time!}, take your time and give it some love…like any good thing in life.

pizza dough

pizza dough helper


  • Servings: makes three 15-inch pizza pies (or lots and lots of little ones)
  • Difficulty: medium, for the time to let rise and bake
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Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking Cookbook


  • 5 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 cups very warm water (technically between 105-115 degrees Fahrenheit; too hot will kill the yeast, too cold won’t activate it)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Put yeast in a large mixing bowl and pour the warm water over top.  Sprinkle the sugar overtop and let it rest and “bloom”, about 5-7 minutes.  The yeast will be fully bloomed when it’s foamy and bubbly.
  2. Add the olive oil.  Add 3 cups of flour, then salt, and stir with a wooden spoon until a thick paste has formed.  Let rest for about 5 minutes, then add flour, half cup at a time, until the dough forms a rough ball.  Dump out on a floured surface, and continue adding flour, a spoonful at a time, while kneading, until a smooth, soft dough forms.  There is no exact measurement of flour to add; too much and your dough will be dry and non-pliable, too little and it’ll be too sticky.  Add just enough so the dough is soft and smooth, and slightly moist to the touch without sticking to and coming off on your fingers.  Knead the dough for about 7-10 minutes, and form into a ball.
  3. Coat your large mixing bowl with olive oil, gently place the dough ball in the bowl, and drizzle more olive oil overtop.  Cover with plastic wrap, or the lid to the bowl–just placed lightly on top, not sealed, and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled, about 45-60 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you are using a pizza stone, place it in the oven.  Divide the dough in thirds for large pizzas, or equal-sized smaller balls.  You can use a rolling pin or your hands to spread the pizza dough into a circle shape.  If you are using a pizza stone, prepare your pizza on a floured surface (semolina or all-purpose) you can use to transfer to the hot pizza stone.  Top with desired toppings and bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is crispy and brown.



There Are Some Things You Just Have To Do Yourself

There are some things you just have to do yourself.  You know, like when the cheapest hardscaping bid comes in three times over budget.  It’s in that moment that you and your husband look at each other,  shrug, and say, “Well, I guess we’re gonna do this.”  This is my apology and excuse for the blog-neglect.  We have been spending the last two weeks turning our backyard from a sandpit into a hardscaped wonder.  {See exhibits A and B, C, D}

20151029_112946 20151109_171314 20151113_173925 20151116_101440I’ve pretty much neglected everything.  {Except the dishes.  And throwing fruit snacks at my kids.  I have standards.}  We aren’t done yet…but we are thinking maybe one more weekend of hitting it hard.  And then we can go back to our normal routine.  {And I will cook again, instead of pulling frozen leftovers from the deep corners of the freezer.}

So back to other things you should do yourself…

I can count on one hand the number of times my mom bought pizza growing up.  Or bought any “store-bought” foodstuff, for that matter.  I remember once begging for chicken nuggets from a fast food place, and she went ahead and made her own batter-covered chicken breast chunks and fried them up for us for dinner.  “Store-bought” cookies and 2% milk were a treat only at a friend’s house–“Cookies?!  We can make those at home!”  My mom would always announce, walking us straight past the cookie aisle in the grocery store, and over to the 10 cent fruit roll-ups we were allowed as our treat.  And as far as milk was concerned, “Whisking milk” was on the monthly chore list…we grew up making and drinking the more cost-effective powder milk.

Is it any surprise that I have culinarily turned into my mom.  {Is it any daughter’s surprise, really?!}  Today, I would only go near a fast food place by necessity–and by necessity, I mean we’ve been hardscaping for hours on end and my boys are melting down; when my boys ask to buy a treat at the store, I turn my nose up and say, “Nah…we can make that at home!”  One difference is we drink almond milk, not powdered milk.

And pizza?  Pizza is best homemade.  Unless you are in Italy, of course.  Then always go out.  If you’re staying in, do my mom’s favorite toppings–she calls it Cupboard Pizza.  Unload whatever leftovers or cupboard surprises you have, throw on some cheese, and you’ve got a good dinner.  I don’t think I’m even going to post a recipe here, to be honest.  Use your fav pizza dough recipe, and fav red sauce, and top with your cupboard surprises…{I’ll post my fav pizza dough and red sauce recipes as other posts later.}

My leftovers?  Why, pumpkin, of course.  I had some leftover roasted pumpkin from pasta, and some leftover maple-roasted pumpkin from the salad.  I love these colors–very deep and autumn-ish.

pumpkin pizza 1

Before the bake

pumpkin pizza 2

After the bake

pumpkin pizza 4