Tuesday, September 1, 2015

What's my Family's Favorite Recipe?

What's my family's favorite recipe? I'd have to say "Homemade Pesto Pizza Bites." Everyone can customize their own pizza (meat-lover vs. veggie). And, dough + kids=FUN!

You only need 5 ingredients to make dough (flour, water, yeast, oil, and salt). One of our favorite kitchen appliances is the bread machine. I gave it to my husband as a Christmas present almost 20 years ago. Amazingly, it still works and makes great pizza dough. Adding fresh pesto gives the pizzas a "gourmet" touch. But, you can also make the pizzas with cheese, sauce, and traditional toppings.

To make the pesto, I usually enlist my girls to pick the basil from our garden. Basil is an easy plant to grow. It doesn't require much watering and tolerates full sun.  In mid-spring, we go downtown to Walter's and select the biggest basil plants. Usually, we buy 4 or 5 different types. The faster they grow, the sooner we can make our pesto. In early summer, we add 3/4 spinach with 1/4 basil to allow the plants to grow more.

We've not only experimented with different types of basil but also a variety of nuts: pine nuts, macademia nuts, pecans, walnuts, slivered almonds. All work well and give the pesto a distinct  "nutty" flavor. I'm proud to announce that every member of my family is an "expert" pesto maker!

My husband and I were "proficient" pizza makers before the girls were involved in the cooking. But their ideas raised our pizza skills to the next level. About three years ago, they decided to make pizza "bites." They artfully arranged the toppings and made 2-in circles of dough. Not only did the pizzas look better but they also baked better. Plus, they're easier to get off the pan.

1/8 cup Olive Oil
2 cup basil (and/or spinach mix)
1/4 cup nuts
1 TBS garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Grind in a mini-food processor

3 1/2 cup flour
1 cup water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
2 TBS oil
1/2 tsp salt
Set bread machine on dough mode for an hour
Some people use their Kitchen Aid mixer with the white blade to make dough, too.  

Place small circles of pizza dough on non-stick cookie sheet. I sometimes use parchment paper or aluminum foil to minimize clean up. Spread tomato sauce. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese, pesto, and whatever toppings you desire. Bake at 400 degrees for about 10-15 min.

A batch of the first ever "Homemade Pizza Bites"

Freezing tips: This year I was organized enough to harvest my "bumper crop" of basil and make several batches of pesto. I used small ziplock bags, pressed out all the air, and tossed in the freezer. I've also heard that ice cube trays work well. Now, we can have the "taste of summer" all winter long.

"Christmas Tree" Bites: Instead of small circles, cut dough into small triangles. Decorate with red sauce, pesto, and a variety of toppings. And "Voila"...a festive appetizer for your holiday party!

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