PERSONAL PITA PIZZAS

I took an informal poll in my neighborhood with the question, “What do kids like to eat most?” I noted responses from both adults and kids, like mac and cheese, burgers, tacos and chicken fingers. But, to no surprise, pizza dominated. Maybe it’s because it offers something for all tastes.

  If pizza reigns in your house, throw an informal Halloween pizza party, or another get-together with family and friends this school year. Planning and hosting can be creative and easy to cater for all tastes when you keep it simple. 

  Instead of preparing and shaping pizza dough in advance, here’s the shortcut: Make personal pizzas together using pita bread available at a bakery or grocery store. Provide the toppings so guests can enjoy putting their pita pizzas together assembly-line fashion, letting everyone choose their favorites as they go for unique combos. It’s an ideal set-up for picky pizza eaters who prefer their favorite toppings.

  FAMILY-STYLE PERSONAL PITA PIZZAS 

  TOMATO SAUCE

  The pizza-making begins with a good tomato sauce. Purchase your favorite sauce, or make this homemade recipe that goes together in minutes. Enlist your school-age child to measure and stir the chunky sauce.

  For 2 1/2 cups, mix together in a bowl: a 14-ounce can diced tomatoes and a 6-ounce can tomato paste, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. (For a smooth sauce, whirl in a blender). 

  TOPPINGS

  Classic kid-pleasing toppings include bowls of shredded mozzarella cheese, sliced pepperoni, red onion thinly sliced into rings, sliced mushrooms, chopped bell pepper and pitted olives. For variety, and to accommodate adult tastes, you might include marinated artichoke hearts and drained oil-packed sun-dried tomato slices. 

  For a seasonal option, skip the tomato sauce and layer your pita pizza with Italian shredded cheeses, sauteed onion and slices of an apple or pear. Sprinkle with crumbled gorgonzola and fresh thyme.

  SET-UP 

  At one end of a counter or table, stack pita bread and small plates. Continue assembly-line fashion with the bowls of sauce, toppings and ending with baking sheets. 

  ASSEMBLE

  Invite guests to place a pita bread on a plate. Spread with sauce, if using, then add toppings according to taste. When complete, remove from plate and set on baking sheet. 

  BAKE

  Bake in a 400 F preheated oven for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and pita is crisp. 

MAKE “WORLDS BEST GRANOLA”


Homemade granola is tasty to eat any time of day, but in our family it’s a staple for  breakfasts with nonfat plain yogurt and fresh fruit. Not only is granola a nutritious start to the day, with its wholesome blend of heart-healthy oats and chopped nuts, but a handful makes a satisfying after-school treat with a glass of milk, and a few spoonfuls add crunch to a scoop of ice cream for an evening dessert.
Granola is so easy to prepare that you and your kids can make this recipe in a jiffy — just under an hour. While one child measures and stirs together the dry ingredients in a big bowl, another can measure, pour and stir the liquids in another. Combine all of the ingredients in the big bowl, and voila! The just-sweet-enough mixture is ready for you to spread on a baking sheet and place in the oven.
Give it a try and see why the fresh taste of this homemade granola rivals any packaged mixture.

“World’s Best Granola”
Yield: About 5 cups
Ingredients:
–3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
–1/2 cup brown sugar
–1 teaspoon cinnamon
–1/2 teaspoon baking powder
–1/2 teaspoon salt
–1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds
–1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
–1/4 cup canola oil
–1/2 teaspoon vanilla
–2 egg whites, slightly beaten
–1/2 cup raisins

Here’s the fun:
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.
Step 1: Combine the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and nuts in a large mixing bowl.
Step 2: Stir together the oil, vanilla and egg whites in a small bowl. Add to dry ingredients and toss well.
Step 3: Spread the mixture evenly on the baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely; stir in raisins and store in an airtight container.
Note: If you wish, substitute 1/4 cup pure maple syrup and 1/4 cup honey for the brown sugar, and combine with liquid ingredients before tossing with dry ingredients.
Creative tip: Let kids draw a label to tape or glue to the outside of a plastic storage container or glass jar. It might say “The Johnsons’ World’s Best Granola.”

“I MADE IT” GIFT FOR MOM ON MOTHERS DAY

mothersday
For Mother’s Day on May 8, nothing is more original or more cherished than a child-made gift. These two crafts are easy for a child to assemble with the help of dad, a caregiver or a teacher.
The paper basket is a stylish container a preschooler will have fun crafting and filling with a mini-bouquet of flowers, chocolate or a small present. School-age kids can show off their artistic talents when they paint a windowsill flowerpot and plant a hardy succulent or Mom’s favorite herbs. Here’s how:
Mother’s Day Gift Basket
(Preschooler craft)
What you’ll need:
–Round plate with even edges, approximately 7 inches in diameter (for a pattern)
–Two sheets of 8.5-by-11-inch heavy construction paper in contrasting colors
–Pencil
–Scissors
–Stapler
–Stickers or lightweight decorations
–Small bouquet of fresh or silk flowers or small gifts
1. An adult should help the child put the plate on a piece of construction paper and draw a circle around it. Cut out the circle. Repeat with the second sheet.
2. Fold both circles in half. Slide rounded edges together. Without folding, slide the bottom creases together to form the shape of a heart. Staple circles together to make a heart-shaped basket.
3. To make a handle, cut an 11-inch long strip of paper that’s 1 inch wide, and staple to basket.
4. Decorate with stickers or objects such as a paper butterfly, and arrange flowers or gifts inside.
Paint a Flowerpot
(Schoolage craft)
–One 4-inch clay pot and saucer
–Newspaper
–Acrylic paints
–Paper plates
–Paintbrush
–Potting soil and a succulent or herb plant
1. Place the pot and the saucer on a newspaper-covered work surface. Squeeze paint onto the plates.
2. Paint over the entire outside surface of the pot and saucer. Let dry. (For a natural look for the background, skip this step.)
3. Use a variety of contrasting colors to make designs around the plain or painted pot. Experiment with a splashy design of swirls, zigzags, stripes, dots and spots. (Dip an eraser of an old pencil in the paint to dab on spots). Let dry.
4. Fill with potting soil and plant a succulent or herb.
5. Add a card for Mom.

MAKE FRESH PASTA

pasta

Pasta is a favorite national food of Italy, where it is typically cut into a variety of shapes and eaten with a sauce, in a soup or incorporated into a baked dish. But not just in Italy! Kids everywhere love pasta. No wonder it regularly appears on our family table. Mysteriously, though, when the kids were young, they often claimed to love linguine but not spaghetti, or shells but not elbows. And no matter how many times I tried to explain that it’s all the same thing, they insisted, “No! It tastes different!”

Here’s your chance to check it out when you make fresh pasta with kids. They can cut this dough into a variety of shapes right before their eyes. When it’s cooked, they’ll discover one thing is certain — eating fresh pasta (pasta fresca) opens the taste buds to something quite different from the standard dry pasta from a package.  And if, while slurping the pasta into their mouths, you hear, “We like the squiggly shapes better!” you’ll have your answer. Maybe some forms are just a little more fun.

FRESH PASTA
Makes 2 servings
1 cup flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
To prepare dough:
Mound the flour on a work surface and make a deep “volcano” with your hands. Break the egg into the volcano.
Beat the egg lightly with a fork while adding water. Continue until smooth, being careful not to break down the volcano walls.
Gradually incorporate flour into the egg mixture from the inside walls of the volcano. (This is a good job for kids to exercise their motor skills and patience.)
Continue to stir in the flour until the dough is stiff. When it is too firm to mix with the fork, knead it with your hands. Incorporate just enough flour to make a ball. (You may not need all of the flour.)
Knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth and pliable. Place the dough on a floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
To make pasta shapes:
Roll the dough out on a floured board into a very thin rectangle. The thinner the better, as the noodles will plump up when cooked. Cut lengthwise into narrow strips with a pizza cutter. Of course, you don’t have to stick to standard forms. Using a small table knife, try different “kid” shapes like wiggly lines, little triangles or stars.
To cook pasta:
Boil the pasta in salted water for 4-5 minutes. Drain and serve with a pasta sauce and cheese. Or, toss into a pot of simmering chicken soup and boil until cooked.