Cook with your kids: Homemade pizza

One of the best ways to get your kids to try new things is to get them involved in the process.  Let them see where their food comes from, or how it’s made, and I guarantee they’ll be excited about eating it.  My four-year-old got to help plant our family garden last summer, and he loved eating the veggies that came out of it as the summer went on.  Sugar snap peas were his absolute favorite (we almost couldn’t get them inside to the faucet to clean them before he was trying to eat them).

Kids of all ages can be engaged in the kitchen.  I have a friend who has two boys, one 8 and one 10.  They came over last night, and we were able to get all three of our boys involved in the process of making pizza.

There are a few things to keep in mind when cooking with kids.  First, you need to prep most of your ingredients ahead of time.  This way you don’t have to spend a lot of time wielding sharp implements while the kids stand around waiting.  As they get older, you can certainly get them involved in the chopping/slicing/prepping of ingredients, but at this age I thought it best to have it done ahead of time. I laid out artichoke hearts, fresh mushrooms, black olives, baby spinach, turkey peperoni, sauce (made with tomato puree and carrots) and mozzarella cheese.

Working with kids of varying ages can be a challenge, but if you pay attention to their interests, you should be able to get them involved in at least part of the process. 10-year old B-10 is very interested in science, and he was fascinated by the process of leavening bread with yeast.  He loved watching the yeast activate when you add water and sugar to it.  And learning that baking is like chemistry – you have to be precise with your measurements or it might not work just right – made his eyes light up.  When I explained that sometimes you have to add more or less water to a bread recipe depending on the weather (wet weather can mean less water, dry weather can mean more) or that altitude can affect baking times, he was truly engaged.

8 year-old CW is more mechanically inclined.  He really liked the process of kneading the dough, and then rolling it out into a perfect circle.  He watched me methodically rolling the dough from the center, making quarter turns as I went to ensure even thickness and a precise shape.  He carefully took his turn with the rolling pin, mimicking my actions to achieve a perfect base for his pizza.

4-year-old P wasn’t as engaged with this portion of the pizza making activities (although he did like the feel of the dough), but when it came to picking his toppings, he really got involved.  He chose black olives, spinach and cheese. Offering healthy choices and letting him make his own decision about his toppings really made him feel a part of the process. And when it came to eating, he cleaned his plate!

It’s so rewarding to watch your kids eat something that they’ve had a hand in creating. Even B10 and CW’s little sister got involved. She loves fresh mushrooms and spinach, and it was so cool to see a one-year-old getting such a healthy start.

Cooking with your kids is a great way to educate them about healthy food choices. The more involved they are in the preparation of their own food, the more likely they will be to try new things and to continue to make healthy choices as they grow.

Quick Food Processor Pizza Dough
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup warm water

1. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup water. Let sit for 8-10 minutes.
2. In the bowl of a food processor, place the flour, salt and sugar. Process for 5-10 seconds.
3. Add the yeast. Process for 10 seconds more.
4. Add the warm water through the feed tube while the food processor is running. You may not need to add all of the water (we only added 3/4 cup this time, but it was very wet outside). The dough is ready when it forms a ball in the bowl of the food processor.
5. Remove the dough from the processor bowl and knead it a few times on a floured surface. Divide it into six equal portions (for individual pizzas) or two equal portions (for two larger pizzas) and roll them into balls.
6. With a rolling pin, roll the balls into round 1/4 inch thick discs.
7. Place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray and let rise for 15 minutes.
8. Top with your favorite sauce and toppings and bake at 425F for 10-15 minutes.

Healthy, kid friendly pizza sauce
14 oz. tomato puree
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon oregano

Combine ingredients in a saucepan and simmer over low heat for 10-15 minutes. If a smoother texture is desired, puree in a blender or with a stick-blender.

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