Tonight was pizza night. My kids know the drill. We each have a rolling pin, one blue, one red and one plain wood and as soon as the dough is ready out of the bread machine, we get to rolling our dough out on the kitchen table covered in flour. It is a very fun ritual. I think pizza dough is supposed to happen without rolling pins but I’m not so adept at the stretching, spinning and throwing method. Nor would I trust my children with that exercise at this age.
I made the mistake today of letting the kids know ahead of time what we were having for dinner. Excitement grew and soon I could no longer hold back the wild horses. An hour shy of the dough being ready, my daughter had rounded up the rolling pins and laid flour out across the table. My husband and I were in a separate room at the time. There was probably a good inch of flour on the whole table and inside the powdery mess lay a toy tractor, a skipping rope, and numerous other random figurines and toy dishes. In addition, the chairs were covered in white and so was the floor.
Did I mention that I like to buy expensive organic flours from a local baker who mills his own grains? The site of the wasted food made me feel sick.
Similarly, earlier in the day, the kids had decided to paint the inside of the van and their clothing with yogurt as we unpacked from market day and did the barn chores and watered the greenhouse. Inside the van was a very happy barn kitty lapping up what was probably a jackpot for him. Again, my heart sank at the mess.
The best one though was when I was about to head off to a health food store to deliver a crate of freshly picked organic raspberries from our field and found the kids in the van scotch taping raspberries to cardboard as a craft. My son was also squishing raspberries onto his cookie to make smiley faces. How could I be angry? Although, I was scared that my days work had all been for not and we wouldn’t have any left for the store. We did, but the site was a bit alarming at first.
At the day care my kids attend, children are encouraged to explore sensory activities such as playing in bins full of pasta, snow or oatmeal. They make necklaces out of dried food and glue pasta to various things. I’ve always loved that they are working with natural materials. Some parents had complained about the waste of food but I found myself supportive of it. Better than playing with plastic toys painted with toxic coatings from countries with scary environmental and health standards.
Yet here I stood, yelling so that everyone could get a good look at my tonsils, telling my children that food was not a toy. Further, I told them all about the children in other countries that were just like them, except they went to bed hungry night after night, and did not have the opportunity to eat food let alone play with it. From this complicated rant, I received complete and total blank stares. I topped my hairy fit off with a good dose of ‘I know you didn’t mean it and it makes sense because they let you play with these things at day care but we asked you not to do it here in these ways so please don’t’. If I were them I would have been utterly confused.
The reason why I do so much food processing in a year is very simple. I have a total inability to waste food. We have pigs now so this is helpful. And our chickens and cows have always been willing takers of whatever is on offer. Apparently our cat and dogs too. But if there is anyway to freeze, dry, blanch, marinate, mash, soak, pickle or ferment our extra food, I do it. It is possible that we save money on our winter grocery bill because of my efforts, but mostly I just can’t see perfectly good food go onto the compost pile if I can help it.
Now I have no witty conclusion here. I love that my children are willing participants in the preparation and processing of our bounty. But waste is waste and messes are messes and my children were definitely busy this week making wasteful messes. I want so badly to let their creative sides be explored. But there has to be limits, boundaries, rules or something. And I just don’t quite know how to explain it to them. How can I begrudge them this urge they have when I spend at least one whole day every week in the summer (excluding regular meal preparation) playing with food myself?
For now, I’ll give you the recipe for the pizza sauce I used tonight. At the end of last year I had buckets and buckets of red sweet peppers left over from the greenhouse that had ugly spots and were, therefore, unmarketable. In past years, I had frozen them or dried them but this year I simply roasted them on a high heat with olive oil on baking pans. Once they were supple with slightly black edges, I packed the peppers into jars and threw in three whole garlic cloves or so. If necessary I topped the jar with olive oil and left it for a few weeks in the fridge to ‘become’.
What resulted was an unbelievably tasty mass of garlic flavoured roasted red peppers that I could puree with humus, or cream cheese or put inside soups, pasta sauces or fajitas/burritos. There is no end to the uses for these little tasty jars. I did end up throwing them in the freezer afraid that they wouldn’t keep the winter long. I don’t think the acidity is high enough to live on a shelf. I had about 12 jars like this.
Today I took one of them and added it to some basil pesto and a bit of tomato sauce to spread over the pizza. Outstanding. On the pizza, I threw some of our kale, and then olives, feta cheese and pepperoni. It was tasty.
The pizza dough recipe is also something I’m glad to have come upon. I will share it here as it is a half healthy one and works wonderfully on the dough setting of the bread machine.
1.5 cups all purpose white flour
1.5 cups whole wheat or kamut or spelt flour
1.5 tsp salt
1.5 tsp sugar
3 tbsp oil
4 tsp yeast
1.25 cups water
After dough is finished, drop it out of the bread pan onto a floured surface (remove tractors and skipping rope first). If it is sticky, add a clump more flour until you can knead it out without getting it stuck on your hands or on the table. Form a flat circle with your fingers and then roll the edges out like pie crust until it is the size of your pizza pan. I use one of those pizza stones covered in cornmeal. This recipe can do two large thin pizzas, or one large fluffy one. I then dress up the pizzas and cook them at 425F for about 25 minutes or until golden brown underneath.
Pizza night. Fun with food. What are you gonna do?