Brussels Sprout, Walnut & Pesto Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust

Our first daytrip as a married couple went awry when we found ourselves sitting in an empty restaurant somewhere in the Croatian countryside, starving, and staring at an indecipherable menu.

The drive through the top corner of Croatia and neighbouring Slovenia had been beautiful, but about two hours past lunchtime, we were desperate. We hadn’t bothered to pack anything to eat from our villa back in Lake Balaton region of Hungary, planning to stop along the way and sample the local fare. After all, half the fun of spontaneous travel is tasting the regional cuisine; the only trouble was, we hadn’t seen anything other than the occasional farmhouse.

As our rented Opel Astra bumped along the absurdly narrow roads, I kept busy looking for a roadside restaurant or any sign of food. We finally pulled into a gravel parking lot where a low building flashed a neon Pizza sign in the window. Pizza? That was unexpected, but to us at the time it sounded glorious.

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How to Roast Sweet Bell Peppers (Recipe: Grilled Summer Vegetable Pizza)

I‘ll be completely honest and tell you that I don’t even bother with meat on my summer pizza. Forget the pepperoni, ham, and yes, even bacon, during June, July & August, pizza is ALL about the glorious vegetables.

And why would you want anything else? Silky, smokey grilled peppers and zucchini, firm young garlic, and sweet cherry tomatoes leave little to be desired for toppings. Winter pizza is another matter completely; for now, the vegetables deserve to shine.

Herbs also play a role in summer pizza toppings, as so Kalamata olives for some balance, and the whole pie is bound together by whatever cheese is hanging out in the crisper.

Two steps elevate a simple summer pizza from ho-hum to heavenly: the first is to grill the aforementioned sweet peppers before adding them to the pizza, and the second is to cook the crust directly on the grill.

In this post, we’ll look at how to do both.

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Winter Pizza Inspiration (recipe: Caramelized Onions)

Vine-ripened tomatoes and fresh basil are my absolute favorite pizza toppings. I slice the tomatoes thinly, tear the basil and marry them under a blanket of fresh mozzarella. A drizzle of olive oil and…heaven.

However, this deluxe pizza margherita is a summer-only treat, as local fresh tomatoes are but a memory of last August and – aww snap! – my basil plant got hit with frost months ago.  Now, tomatoes are tasteless rocks, a single bell pepper costs upwards of $3, and zucchinis are shriveled and soft. Not at all ideal garnish for my Friday night pizza.

So what is one to do during the winter months when the pizza cravings hit? I don’t love loading up pizza with meat – I prefer my ham glazed with a side of scalloped potatoes, thank you very much – and gravitate toward vegetarian toppings, no matter the season. Here are some of my favorites, plus my secret weapon recipe to great tasting pizza anytime.

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Warmer Weather Batch Cooking

For some, batch cooking tends to go out the window when the thermometer rises outside, because, well, most batch cooking is not ideally suited to hot weather. Who wants to simmer a stew on the stove all day when you’re trying to keep the kitchen cool? And while we’re asking questions, who wants to spend hours cooking when the kids are calling you to come out and play?

Still,  it’s nice to jump-start dinner with something from the freezer, especially after a hard day’s work in the garden. Batch cooking can still be done in the summer heat, but in my kitchen it changes from pot-roasts and lasagnas, to something more suited to summer.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes to double and triple for stashing away. While they are not entire meals unto themselves, they proffer a spring board to dinner (or dessert!), and provide the opportunity for a meal with substance. [Read more…]

Encourage Kids to Cook By Hosting a Cooking-Themed Birthday Party

There has been much discussion recently on the importance of teaching children to cook and instilling an interest in healthier food. In his acceptance speech, TED prize winner and renowned chef, Jamie Oliver had one wish: Teach every child about food. I agree with Jamie that children can help get families cooking again, and am excited to bring you today’s post in support of kids in the kitchen.

Does your child have a birthday approaching? This year, why not skip the Disney themes and host a cooking party instead? Children can learn how to bake from scratch, toss pizza dough and decorate cupcakes –all in a playful atmosphere of fun!

What better way to foster a love of the cooking? Extra bonus points for those who can squeeze in a garden tour as well… [Read more…]