Comfort food to serve prodigal family


Although family members living at home won’t put it at the top of their list, those familiar faces that you only get to see during the holidays usually miss terribly their favorite foods prepared by family hands. Even college students and young adults out on their own come home not only to see family but to taste the distinct flavor of home.

They might get pancakes in the hash line or at the corner cafe, but not with a dash of vanilla, buttermilk and cinnamon. And those souls connected to us by blood or vows might, on occasion, dine on apple pie, but you can bet the apples were dumped from a can and a frozen shell in a disposable pan.

Some of our family serving in the military crave crispy bacon or any food that doesn’t require hot sauce to slam out some taste other than bland.

I like hot sauce, don’t get me wrong. And I use it almost every meal. However, sometimes, the palate longs for savory foods that come from the loving hands of home. In honor of those family members coming home for the holidays, I offer you a gift of a recipe that might make even the grumpiest Scrooge happy to be at the family dinner table.

With memories and food, it’s not what you put in it that matters, but that you took the time to make them. Thank you for serving homemade meals to your family. It is a special part of the memories they will carry with them in their backpacks or duffle bags as they wonder far and away and back again.

Merry Christmas!

Pizza is so much a part of American life, it’s a given, toss a tasty pie on the table and they will be giving you gifts for all the 12 Days of Christmas. Something to serve before the ball drops and everyone thinks of taking starch our of their diets.

Homemade Pizza (adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison)

for the pizza dough

3 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 cups warm, not hot, water

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 tablespoon olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

for the toppings

1 1/2 cups tomato sauce

1 lb. fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

1 small red onion, sliced thin

1 red bell pepper, roasted and sliced thin

your choice of cooked meats, pork sausage, italian sausage, beef, pepperoni, etc.

fresh vegetables such as black olives, green olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.

fresh thyme

olive oil


Proof the yeast by pouring 1/2 cup of the water into a bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast, give the bowl a gentle swirl, and set aside for 10 minutes. In the bowl of your stand mixer, or another large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, the rest of the water, olive oil and salt.

Using the paddle attachment with mixer on low, gradually add in the flours until the dough is cohesive but sticky. Switch to the dough hook attachment and knead the bread on low for 5 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and consistent. The dough will be sticky and wet – if you need to add a bit more flour, go ahead.You can also mix the flour with a spoon and then knead on a lightly floured surface by hand.

Pick the dough up, oil the bowl, put the dough back, and make sure the dough is coated with oil all the way around. Cover the bowl and set in a warm, still place while the dough rises for an hour.

Next, separate the dough into 3 mounds. Knead lightly, using more flour if needed, and set the mounds on a lightly floured surface. Cover the mounds with a towel and let them rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, preheat that too. Prepare your toppings.

Either on a lightly floured pizza peel or a baking pan, shape your pizza crust. It should be about ¼ inch thick with slightly thicker edges. If the dough gives you trouble, simply knead, form into a small disc and let the dough rest. When the dough is ready, brush the crust with olive oil, sprinkle on a little salt, spread the sauce lightly, add your choice of cooked meats, vegetables, the onions, peppers, thyme and cheese.

A good way to break the ice and get the old family stories flowing, set out the table with all different toppings. Roll the mounds into individual pizzas or have everyone contribute toppings. It makes for great fuel for love, nutrition and power to open all those gifts.

Bake on the top rack of the oven for 8-10 minutes. Repeat process for each pizza. Slice and serve immediately.


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