Veggie of the Week Challenge: The Colors of Italy Pizza

pizza baked on a stone with pepper and zucchini length-wise slices, mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce and an Italian flag toothpick in the center.
Red pepper and zucchini pizza. © Jan Decher, 2018.

This summer, my brand-new middle grade book, TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS, took up the vegetable portion of my brain (I heard that) so dinner was often shoot-your-own-sandwich.

We interrupt our veggie challenge for a moment to bring you a word from our sponsor:

If you’d like to try TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS at your local library, you can recommend it on Overdrive. (See image below.) Thanks for the veggie boost!

screenshot of Trouble With Parsnips bookcover and Recommend button and Read a Sample button

Back to our regularly scheduled veggie: To celebrate (and thank the long-suffering locals), I bring you (TA-DAAA!):

*****************************************************

The Veggie of the Week Challenge

*****************************************************

No recipes will appear here in their entirety.

No holds barred. If the crew orders out for pizza, you’ll get the details here.

At least one inexpensive vegetable must appear in the meal. (Honor of an epidemiologist!)

Half-way healthy. An attempt at lower fat and whole grains will be made, but cream and cheese will inevitably appear. You’ve been warned.

Without further ado, this week’s vegetable is:

Ace Pepper

We grew a variety called “Liebesäpfel” (love apple) that were very small this year because of the drought. Small green peppers are on this pizza along with the red pepper from the store (on sale this week even though it’s November!) and zucchini. “Ace” is a favorite pepper variety that we grew both in Minnesota and in Vermont.

Pizza dough: our favorite recipe is from the KitchenAid mixer cookbook with 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of flour. If you have a good mixer, you can easily double the recipe. (We left our mixer behind when we changed countries and electrical systems. Even if you use a good mixer, DO let the dough take up all the flour before you add more. Stroll by the working mixer and put a little more in every once in a while. You and the dough will be happier.)

2 1/2 tsp dried yeast, 1 c water (the same temp as your hand–it should feel like nothing), 2 tsps olive oil (the freshest you can afford), 1 tsp salt.

If you mix up the first 2 cups of flour with a big spoon in a bowl, your fingers don’t get sticky. Dump it out on a floured board and add the rest, little by little, until you like the way the dough looks. German flour has more protein than American flour so the dough won’t take as much.

IMHO, the key to EASY home-made pizza dough is adding a LITTLE flour at a time.

Pour a little olive oil in the bowl, turn the dough all around in the bowl so it’s shiny. Cover it with a kitchen towel and leave it on the counter all afternoon to get nice and puffy while you do other stuff.

Treat it like a slow-cooker meal and make it in the morning. Or the day before. (If you refrigerate pizza dough overnight, it comes out even tastier. I cover it with plastic in the fridge.)

Half-way healthy: 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of white flour keeps the half-way healthy dough from being too heavy. Or add a little toasted wheat-germ for more B-vitamins. Fresh mozzarella is inexpensive here and lets you use a bit less cheese. Tomato puree (not sauce) keeps the salt reasonable and the pizza juicy.

To anchovy or not to anchovy? A friend of mine always puts anchovy paste in the dough, but I haven’t done that for a while. Not sure if it adds more protein than salt and fat. Does anyone know?

Cheap: Red peppers were on sale, maybe because it’s still quite warm weather for November. We used to buy a bushel of each color pepper at the end of the season from the Farmer’s Market in St. Paul (Minnesota) and then they were quite reasonable. If you freeze them ready to use (washed, seeded, and sliced), dinner is half-made.

Vote: Murmurs of mutiny! Oh no! The pizza stone method is too advanced for us. We have to wait between small pizzas because our pizza peel isn’t big. Making pizza on a huge cookie sheet makes it’s sturdy enough to pile on more veggies.

As people filled up with pizza . . . questions about possible pepperoni died away. A close call, but success!

I wish I knew how to make these pesto, tomato, mozzarella boats. We ate them in the Cinque Terre and they were marvelous:

baked boats of bread filled with pesto, tomato sauce and mozzarella.

______________

If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Veggie of the Week: Tendersweet Cabbage + Sausage Stir Fry

wok with sliced cabbage, carrots and kielbasa sausage next to a pot of brown rice and a flat variety cabbage cut in half
Germany is the land of sausage. Half-way healthy version. Photo ©Jan Decher

*****************************************************

The Veggie of the Week Challenge

*****************************************************

In case you missed last week, this’ll catch you up:

In short, cooking went on the back, back burner, while I published my first book, TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS, so dinner was unimaginative for a few months.

hardcover of TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS standing amidst cups on breakfast table.
Hardcover invades table set for breakfast. © Laurel Decher.
Mild-mannered hardcover disguised by breakfast dishes. © Laurel Decher

By the way, I got to see the hardcover for the first time today! Yippeeeee!

*cough* Writer folk are easily distracted from the important work of feeding people.

 

Hence the Challenge:

No recipes will appear here in their entirety.

No holds barred. If the crew orders out for pizza, you’ll get the details here.

At least one inexpensive vegetable must appear in the meal. (Honor of an epidemiologist!)

Half-way healthy. An attempt at lower fat and whole grains will be made, but cream and cheese will inevitably appear. You’ve been warned.

Without further ado, this week’s vegetable is:

Tendersweet Cabbage

The grocery store had a variety called “Jaroma” that’s supposed to have a less “cabbage-y” odor. Not sure we noticed the difference, but the shape was like the Tendersweet. Another milder variety of green cabbage is the “point-y” one. (“Murdoc” looks like a 1920’s skirt, very flirty for a cabbage.)

The stir fry is very simple: onion, a generous hunk of fresh ginger, chopped, a few garlic cloves with the center sprout removed, 3 sausages, sliced thin and 2 carrots. When that looks sautéed, I add 1/2 a cabbage, sliced and chopped through a few times in the other direction, turn the heat down and let the cabbage slowly melt into tenderness.

A little cornstarch dissolved in cold water with the healthiest bouillon cube I could find made the sauce. 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper added a bit of zip.

Half-way healthy: I like to “cancel out” the sausage with cabbage family vegetables and I slice the sausage as thin as possible to get the flavor. Brown rice balances this stir-fry nicely.

Cheap: The cabbage was on sale for under $2 and I only used half. If you were cooking for a mob, you could use the whole thing with another carrot and onion for balance. I froze the rest of the sausages in the package.

Vote: Thumbs up! “It would have been too sweet without the brown rice.”

______________

If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing, you can unsubscribe at any time.

The Veggie of the Week Challenge is Back: Ruby Chard

garden bed in early spring, no weeds, but red poppies blooming
My garden last May. © Laurel Decher.

*****************************************************

The Veggie of the Week Challenge

*****************************************************

And we’re back! In case you missed last week, this’ll catch you up:

My family endured, uh,  . . . minimalist cooking during the publishing of my first book, TROUBLE WITH PARSNIPS. But they need vitamins and writers can’t run on chocolate forever.

Hence the Challenge:

No recipes will appear here in their entirety.

No holds barred. If the crew orders out for pizza, you’ll get the details here.

At least one inexpensive vegetable must appear in the meal. (Honor of an epidemiologist!)

Half-way healthy. An attempt at lower fat and whole grains will be made, but cream and cheese will inevitably appear. You’ve been warned.

Without further ado, this week’s vegetable is:

Ruby Chard!

(Spinach would work here too, but Ruby Chard grows all season long. Healthy, cheap, and tasty.)

Mean Mac & Cheese adds a vegetable to a kid favorite. Purists can eat noodles from the middle. (Epidemiologists aren’t heartless.)

I fold ruby chard leaves in half, rip off the center rib and slice the stacked leaves nice and thin. The chiffonaded ruby chard gets tucked into the corners of a 9″ x 13″ pan or around the edges of my only big casserole dish.

pasta casserole with chiffonaded ruby chard on the edges on checked tablecloth
Mean Mac & Cheese with Ruby Chard. (Same dish, different veggie.)

Anna Thomas’s The Vegetarian Epicure* is the Béchamel sauce we use for Mean Mac & Cheese. (Sounds so much fancier than white sauce with thyme, bay leaf, cayenne pepper and salt. We’re all about the words.)

*We have the German translation of both Vegetarian Epicure volumes bound into one: Das große Buch der vegetarischen Küche.

Half-way healthy:

  • If you have people who balk at whole wheat pasta, try “hay and straw” (half “regular” pasta and half whole wheat.) Or try a different brand (or shape) of whole wheat pasta. (Some brands really do taste like cardboard. Persist! 🙂
  • Béchamel sauce can be lower in fat than whipping cream, if you use lowfat or skim milk and actually measure the butter. It helps to add extra milk to the sauce to make sure the ruby chard doesn’t dry out.
  • Sharp cheddar cheese has more flavor per serving of fat than mild cheddar so you can get away with a little less cheese. Adding a small amount to the top during the last few minutes of baking makes the whole thing seem cheesier (in the best possible way).

Cheap: I had a whole salad spinner full of ruby chard from the garden, so I didn’t buy my veggies. You can spend as much or as little as you like for whole wheat pasta and cheese.

The vote: Another thumbs up!

______________

If you’d like to stay in touch, sign up for my Reader’s List. Once a month, I share new middle grade fiction, story-related freebies, and/or related blog posts. If it’s not your thing–I know, you’re all about the veggies–you can unsubscribe at any time.