Sauceless Pizza Recipe

My good friend requested this recipePizza, and as it is absolutely amazing and I made it up, I’m going to share it with you. It’s also totally unacceptable for my family as my husband objects to vegetables on pizza and because for my daughter we have to substitute non-dairy cheese alternative for real dairy cheese.  Still, when we have pizza night this is what I choose to eat.

Best Pizza Dough

(Makes 1 large pizza, double it to make 3 mediums)

1.5 c. warm water (approximately 110F)
1 Tbsp Yeast (Or one packet if you don’t buy the stuff by the jar)
2 c. All purpose flour (plus extra for needing)
1.5 c. Whole wheat flour (Do not substitute this of white flour! It gives the crust a crunchier, better texture.)
2Tbsps (plus extra) olive oil
2 tsps salt
2 tsps sugar

  1. Proof your yeast. Combine water, yeast, sugar, and 1 cup of all-purpose flour in a large bowl. Set in a warm location for 10-20 minutes. It should form a frothy, bubbly mixture. (If it doesn’t check your water temp and make sure your yeast hasn’t expired.)
  2. Add the oil and salt, stir in the whole wheat flour and as much of the all purpose flour as you can.
  3. Empty the rest of the flour onto the (CLEAN!) counter, turn the dough out onto the flour and knead in remaining flour until it becomes a smooth, soft ball. This dough should be fairly soft and light. You want to work in just enough flour that it forms a ball and doesn’t stick to everything, but not enough to make the dough stiff.
  4. Once your dough reaches the right consistency, cover it with a dish cloth and let it double in size. (About an hour, two if your kitchen is cool.)
  5. Punch the dough back down and knead it again. The more you work the dough the stretchier the gluten get and the better texture your pizza crust will have.
  6. Preheat your oven to 450F with your pizza stone inside if you have one. (I don’t know how this turns out without a stone, sorry!)
  7. Carefully remove your hot pizza stone from the oven.
  8. Coat the outside of the dough with a thin layer of olive oil (pour about a tablespoon into your hands and smooth it around the dough. DON’T try to work it in.)
  9. Stretch the dough to fit your pan.
  10. Place the dough in the pan and bake in hot oven for 10 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and add layered toppings.  (Add about half the cheese directly to the crust, layer the vegetables starting with the basil and spinach, then top with more cheese)
  12. Return to oven for 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melty and the crust is golden.
  13. Remove from the oven and enjoy total pizza bliss.

Amazing Sauceless Toppings

Fresh basil leaves – washed, stems removed, patted dry
Fresh spinach – washed, stems removed, patted dry
Two Roma tomatoes – Sliced Thinly
Pickled Artichoke hearts –  Get the good kind in the glass jar
Onion – Sliced Thinly (optional)
Mushrooms – Sliced Thinly (optional)
Shaved Parmesan Cheese, Crumbled Feta Cheese, Shredded mozzarella Cheese

This is absolutely delish and totally not health food. It is possibly the yummiest stuff on earth.

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A Tangled Moment

I’Clippersm cheep.

Well, kind-of, I hate to pay for services that I feel that I could accomplish with relative ease. I especially hate to do this with things that repeat frequently. I’m not the sort to employ a cleaning service, or pay for repairs, or call the handyman service.

You’ll understand my frustration then, when every couple of weeks my husband headed off to spend twenty bucks on a haircut, and then came home and told me how horrible it was. I began to get annoyed. You have to understand. My husband has a very short haircut. I mean short. So, it is mind-boggling that any barber or hair-stylist wouldn’t be able to zoom a pair of clippers around his head and be done.

I began my campaign.

See, as much as I’m a Do-It-Yourself-er, my husband is not (unless it’s computers). So, I knew that if I wanted to cut his hair myself it was going to take a while to convince him.

After a few months, we went out to target and bought the necessary equipment. It cost $20. If everything went to plan the clippers would pay for themselves in one sitting. If it didn’t go to plan? Well, hair grows back.

Three weeks later and he was shaggy enough that he direly needed a haircut. He was stalling, but now that we owned clippers, it was hard to justify going to a salon where they would inevitably not give him what he wanted.  Finally he acquiesced with the words, “If it’s bad we’ll just buzz it.”

Such confidence! Such faith!

Saturday became the day. We pulled out the clippers and, with some trepidation, began.

As Fiona watched me cut, she asked, “Are you going to cut my hair, too, Mommy?”

“Sure am!” I responded. She’s been needing a haircut. I’m a firm believer that little girls should have hair that’s easy. Long ringlets are not easy. She was overdue for a trim as her curls were rapidly approaching difficult.

She looked at us dubiously, as I ran the clippers across her Daddy’s head. After a moment she said, “Mommy, I don’t want my hair that short, okay?”

I grinned, “No, Baby. I’ll use scissors on your hair.”

“Okay.” She agreed with relief, “I need to have curls ’cause I’m a curly-headed kid.”

After a short while, we were through.

I shouldn’t have worried. The results were fabulous. He looks great. It took a little longer than a professional, and we had to take a second pass at a little of it to get the fade just right on the sides, but he looks sharp as can be. What’s even better? He loves it. I asked if I could share a picture, but he asked me not to, so you don’t get to appreciate my handiwork in his case.

After that I trimmed Fiona’s hair. It never takes long to get her curls cut back, in part because I know precisely how they’ll bounce and what they do on the good and bad hair days. She looks, as expected, cute. HaircutFiona

Then I had a Tangled moment.

You’ve all seen the Disney Movie Tangled, right? Well, in it there is a point at which all of her long hair gets cropped off by a piece of broken mirror. Yeah. In one cut.  And she’s left with this perfect bouncy, modern short cut that would take an hour to achieve in a salon.  It’s also in that moment that she becomes free of both the physical and social burden of her long magical hair.

Anyhow, I’ve been feeling very trapped by my responsibilities lately. Which I think is probably just one of those normal parts of adulthood that no one talks about, because, hey avoidance.  But, regardless, I was feeling weighed down, and responsible, and honestly, a little staid and boring.

So, after a few minutes of considering. I took the scissors into the bathroom and cut my own hair.

My husband watched in a disconcerting combination of stunned horror and anxious amazement.

First I hacked off the bottom eight inches. Then I clipped a piece at the very front out of the way. Then I began to cut. Leaning this way and that, trying for a choppy, modern short look. Trying for something looser, and freer.  Trying to have a Rapunzel moment at 10:30 on a Saturday morning in my own bathroom.

By the time I was finished the shortest part was near the crown of my head and was only a couple of inches long,  a long lock fell across my face, and I felt giddy and shaky from relief and anxiety.

Who the heck cuts their own hair?

Nobody. That’s nuts.

It turned out great though.

Haircut - Me

I feel lighter and prettier. I feel free.  And my whole family looks great!

Minding Pavlov

We all know about Pavlov, yes? The dude with the drooly dogs.droolingdog

So, really, what happened was this: In the late 1890’s Pavlov was researching digestion and so he had a bunch of dogs and he was measuring their saliva to see how much they produced and at what point in eating. The dogs were doing something weird though. They would start producing saliva before they were fed. Weird.

Pavlov noticed that and said to himself, “Hm.” Here I imagine that he scratched his beard thoughtfully, because that is the gesture that accompanies discovery, “Perhaps they are only smelling the food.”

So, he sent in the lab technician who was feeding the dogs without any food for them. They still salivated.

Being a scientist, he said, “A-ha! Something strange is happening. We will investigate it in excruciating detail and build a life’s work around it.”

The rest is history involving drooling dogs and ringing bells.

Though his work Pavlov became the father of a school of psychology known as behaviorism, which holds that all behaviors are a response to stimuli that are reinforced by a reward. So, in practice, the pattern reduces to: Stimulus -> Response -> Reward. Which eventually will reduce to Stimulus -> Response in the anticipation of the reward.

Why do I care about a dude with a drooling dog?

Because I do things. Some of them are healthy; some of them are  not healthy, and some of them are totally inexplicable.

See, at the advice of a doctor, I’ve been investigating mindfulness meditation. The basic idea here is to let go of other thoughts and just really pay attention to just what is. Let go of the five trillion things that are stressing you out and just pay attention to exactly how your body feels in this second. You might be surprised what you uncover. Sitting here for a few seconds, listening to my body, it is telling me that I am slightly sore from yesterday’s work-out, I am stiff with tension because I’ve been pulled away from what I want to do (write this post) about a dozen times, and very slightly hungry.   So, with that in mind, I consciously relax my body, and think about what I might have to eat. And breath. There is a lot of breathing. And focusing on breathing.

Most of us rarely really breathe. Especially those of us with young, high intensity children. If you breathe they will ask you for something, so you hold your breath. Don’t, they ask you for things anyway.

Part of this mindfulness though, has been paying attention. To the food that I eat and how I feel when I eat it. To the things that I do and how I feel doing them. To my motivations. To my exhaustion.  To tension in my shoulders and back and jaw. To my habits and responses.

It was at that point in my mindfulness that I remembered Pavlov.

Mindfulness has been allowing me to pay attention and notice (without judgement against myself) my responses.

For instance, I frequently overeat.

Paying attention to the texture of the food, it’s colors, flavors and sensations has led me to pay attention to my body’s sensation of fullness. I noticed something. I frequently overeat. My body will begin to tell me it is full about half way through my average portion. Half-way. That means that I’m eating more than twice as much as I should.

After paying attention for a week, I noticed that I usually do this at dinner.  Stranger still, I wasn’t really enjoying the extra food. I didn’t really want to feel that full and, despite the fact that I cook delicious food, once my appetite was sated, I didn’t really like the taste enough to continue eating. So, why was I still eating?

Dinner is when all of the stress of the day has culminated. I’ve excercised willpower and self-control and patience all day. I am at my low ebb. It is also the witching hour. Fiona is at her lowest, her neediest, her most difficult. She is at this point:

And, the one exception I make to taking care of the dishes, and the bath, and the stories, and the everything, is that during dinner I get to sit and eat.  By paying attention, being mindful, I realized that I wasn’t eating because I want food. I was eating because I wanted to sit and not meet the needs and expectations of anyone other than myself.

Ah-ha! This is why I care about drooling dogs. I had a conditioned response.

Stimulus: Long stressful day.

Response: Overeat at dinner.

Reward: Longer patch of time where I could be still and not hold myself accountable to other people.

Now that I know I can begin to change my conditioning. What if I let myself have that extra time without the extra food? What if I give myself a quiet half-hour earlier in the day? What things can I do to break that cycle?

I’m beginning to pay attention to my conditioning. I’m minding Pavlov.

Parenting

It’s a balancing act, performed on one foot,
a thousand feet in the air
on a tight rope

We each carry a stack of plates
and we try to pass them back and forth
hopes, dreams, fears, needs

And then we added her

She enters the act with her own plates
that she throws to us
as she bounces across our rope

We frantically try to catch her,
her plates, a few of our plates spin
wildly.

Some fall.

And we all wobble
But we find our balance
A new balance

One that leaves me clinging
desparately holding to the rope
with my toes

With plates balanced on my nose
as I hold my arms to either side,
a wishful frame of safety around her

And he is wild-eyed
holding more plates
his, hers, and mine

But the music starts

And we smile
and begin to dance

because in the end,
you can dance,

or fall

Disposable

Everything breaks. The hope is always just that it breaks eventually and not all at once. That you get your money’s worth out of the things that you buy before you have to replace them.

This week that’s especially been on my mind. Replacing things. See, our car’s radiator broke, and a while back our TV broke, and recently our vacuum cleaner broke, and, all told, I’m feeling more than a little put out by how breakable the things in our modern life are. And the impulse in our society is that if it’s broken, you throw it out and get a new one. It’s my first impulse too.

Especially when the cost of taking an object to a repairman is as high as simply replacing the item altogether. This was the case with my vacuum. It would have cost $150 to repair or replace. That’s not a lot of money. But it’s enough. It’s a few pairs of jeans or a really nice date-night or a little less debt.

When I contrast this to the way that things used to be made, it makes me sad. Things used to be made to last. I have my mothers old sewing machine. She got it second-hand. It’s one of the first models of fully electric singer sewing machines. It does one straight stitch. It was made in 1948.  It still works perfectly. I want to know why we don’t make things like that anymore. I doubt that it’s really so much harder to make a worthwhile product now,with our computer assisted design programs and laser edging, than it was in the 1950s. So where did the quality go?

It went to cheaper parts, and cheaper labor, and lower prices and higher profit margins and larger market shares and the tendency of all businesses to want to grow, often faster than the population of people who buy their things. And so the lifetime warranty became the twenty-five year, became the 10 year, became the 5,2,1, manufacture assumes no liability.  The need to design a product that lasts forever simply became the need to design a product that lasts long enough. Long enough for people to forget the sting of the sticker price. Long enough for people to pay off their investment. Long enough so that they come back and buy another product with the same logo made to last an even shorter time.

We don’t fight it. We just throw out the old one and buy new, because repair is as much as replacement and, hey, the new one is shiny.

“A new vacuum is only a hundred fifty bucks,” I said to my husband.

He winced and looked around. “The floor isn’t that dirty.”

It was just enough. Just enough for me to actually stop and think. Wait a minute, if I’m just going to throw this thing out, then I don’t lose anything by taking it apart and trying to fix it. I can’t make it more useless!

With that internal vote of confidence, I disassembled my vacuum. I found inside it a small puppy’s worth of dog hair. (belong to the previous owner of said vacuum), an alarming amount of string, and two disconnected wires. After the wires were reconnected and all parts were de-furred and wiped down, I reassembled the vacuum. I only had three extra parts.

I took it apart again and put it back together. This time with zero remaining parts.

My floors are now wonderfully free of sand, and art project bits, and Cheerio crumbs. My vacuum back to it’s usually indisposable usefulness.

I kind of wonder what else we treat this way. How many things,  jobs, places, schools, relationships, people are we just throwing out because it costs the same and hey the new one is shiny. The car that would run fine with a total engine tune up, is replaced before it requires “too much maintenance”. The vacuum that breaks is pitched and replaced. The house in the not so great school district is sold.  The people are let go when the profit margin gets tight. And it’s all so incredibly disposable.

How much could we gain if we said to ourselves, “Hey, I can’t make it more broken!” and dove in?

I fixed my car and my vacuum. I’m not really that unique.

Could we maybe fix the broken TV’s, cellphones, cars, houses, neighborhoods? If we could what could we save ourselves? Could we save each other?

What could it hurt to try?

On the perils of aging with children

Fiona snuggled into me and petted my arms as we lay recovering on her bed from what was possibly her sixth tantrum of the day. It might have been seventh. It might have been fifth. Really there’s only so many times you can be shrieked at in a day, and pelted with tiny fists while deftly avoid being bitten, only to watch your temporarily feral child naw on her own arm, before you stop counting the tantrums and start counting the hours until bed. And considering therapy. For everyone.

“Mama,” She said, in a tremulous, frustrated voice, “When I grow up and I’m a mama,  then can I be in charge?”

“Well,” I replied, stroking her hair, “when you grow up and are a mama, then you’ll be in charge of your kids.”

“What about you?” She demanded.

I laugh just a little, “No, you won’t be in charge of me. By then I’ll be even older. I’ll be a grandma to your babies.”

“And will you be really, really, really old?” She asked in a shocked voice.

“Yes, Fiona,” I say, smiling, resigned to my rapidly approaching antiquity. “When I am a grandma, I will be really, really, really old.”

There was a short pause, during which time I am sure she had Thoughts. I have no idea what they were. I can only assume that they bothered her. Greatly.

“Noooo!” She wailed, bursting into uncontrollable sobs. “Mommy! You can’t! I don’t want you to get old!”

It took several minutes of comforting and reassuring and cuddling and repeating that I would not be aging all that quickly to get her to calm down. I’m still not sure why she was quite so distraught, but she sure didn’t like the idea. Maybe it’s best if I don’t tell her she’s giving me gray hairs any time soon though. Just for her peace of mind.

In light of our conversation, I might just invest in a good dye job. And a good face creme. And, truth be told, though I’ve never really worried over the idea of getting older, somehow her distress at the idea was contagious. I don’t, after all, feel like being old. I like the idea of youth. I like the possibility of it. The intense sense of freedom of choice. The idea that exists like the air around youth that one could become anything.

And I find myself wishing that I could have more time back to chase dreams. I find myself aching for enough time in the day to pursue the things that really make me question, and dream, and give me that sense of fierce accomplishment.

That wish is followed by a vague sick fear that I’ve already wasted too much time. That there are too many loads of laundry and too many dishes, and today is already mostly spent. And tomorrow will be eaten away by all the things that consumed today. And I feel almost frantic with the desire to grab back all of my time and energy and hoard it to myself.

Then the calmer me prevails. The wiser me. The me that has spent a little over thirty years learning how to be alive reminds me to breathe. Reminds me that life is about living. Creating is part of it. Pursuing is part of it. Laundry is part of it. All the triumphs and tragedies are no more or less important than all the trivia and mundane. It’s all just part of living. And that, really, if I’m so worried about it, then I should just get to living.

And, with that, my anxious self chimes in. Yes! Get to living! After all, early thirties just a hop skip and shuffle away from geriatric!