Day 17–Family Pizza Challenge

The Green Machine before cheese

What to do with some delish, but somewhat random ingredients from the farmers market? I posed the question to my 11-year-old and got “pizza challenge!!” A great idea! We made our own whole wheat pizza dough, divided it into thirds and retreated to separate parts of the kitchen to prepare our secret masterpieces!

Here were our family challenge rules (yes, we needed rules!):

  1. Each person had to try each pizza (you don’t have to like it, you just have to try it).
  2. No putting inedible or otherwise objectionable ingredients in your pizza (yes, we needed this, too)
  3. Use what we have in the fridge or pantry; minimal outside additions allowed.

We all did well adhering to the rules and all our pizzas were completely different. There was a surprising amount of secrecy and competitiveness and a LOT of pizza smack talk, which was hilarious. Our pre-teen got into the reality TV side of it, creating video interviews with each contestant about their pizza and the other competitors. Next time, she would like a videographer and independent judges.

How were the pizzas? They were all really good! The whole wheat crust (recipe below) was not tough or dry–it was really good and very filling (we have lots of leftover pizza for lunch this week). Here is what we ended up with:

T's Pizza Bolognese (on a heart-shaped crust!)

T’s Pizza Bolognese (tomato sauce, ground beef, organic mushrooms, Italian cheese mix, organic Italian seasoning)

E’s Meat Lover’s Extreme (olive oil, country ham, artisan pepperoni, local red bell pepper, mozzarella cheese)

D’s Green Machine (olive oil, leftover roasted chicken, roasted local broccoli, organic local dino kale, local onion, sea salt, swiss and Gruyère cheese mix)

These were not all healthy pizzas, but all agreed that kale and broccoli on a pizza is actually good! So on our next try, we’ll have less meat and more vegetables. This will be really fun when we get our weekly Produce Box and have something specific to rally around!

What we learned:

  • Pizza dough is very easy to make and very forgiving to work with, even for non-cooks.
  • Dark green vegetables like greens and broccoli look great and taste great on a pizza.
  • We need to allow more time for cooking. Cooking all 3 pizzas, even though they were small, took more time than we thought (about 45 minutes). We will start earlier next time.
  • If you are competing, expect some smack talk (especially with kids who watch chef shows) and have a judging form to structure your family comments to reflect appearance, aroma, texture, taste and overall pizza success. We didn’t do this, but we agreed that we couldn’t decide on one winner–they really were all good.

I can see this quickly becoming a tradition in our house! If you want to try it, too, here is our pizza dough recipe:

  • 1 pckg. yeast
  • 1 3/4 c. warm water
  • 4 c. whole wheat all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 5 minutes until completely dissolved and a bit foamy.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (w/dough hook attached), combine flour, salt and olive oil.

While mixer is running on low/med low, add yeast water to the flour in a stream.

Allow mixer to knead dough for about 4 min.

Cover bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place for 1.5 hours or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough and divide into two pieces (we divided it into 3). Each ball will make a pizza. You can freeze half for another time or let each dough ball stand covered for 20 minutes.

Shape and make your pizzas!

We cooked our pizzas at 500 degrees for about 12-15 minutes each, depending on the thickness of the dough.

What are some healthy topping combinations you have found?


Day 16–Great Harvest Bread Company

Owner Paige Williams (right) and her staff LOVE to feed people good bread

I love fresh bread. I love kneading it, love the smell of yeast and baking bread in my house, and I LOVE to eat it. Back in the day, I used to make fresh bread every week, but with greater demands on my schedule, that isn’t always possible. I still love to make it, but when short on time, how does one find locally produced, sustainably produced healthy bread? One alternative for us is Great Harvest Bread Company in Cary. Although they are a chain of bakeries, their wheat comes from family owned farms in Montana that grown high protein, non GMO wheat. And the honey they use in almost all of their bread comes from a beekeeper named Heidi in Hillsborough, NC, just 15 minutes from here.

What is unique about Great Harvest is that they get the wheat from the farm and grind their own flour on site. Cary store owner Paige Williams and her staff grind the wheat and bake fresh bread, rolls, muffins and other tasty bakery items right there in the store. According to them, they use all flour within 48 hours of milling. I am fairly certain they are the only bakery in our town to grind their own wheat. Their bread has only natural ingredients (all bread has a base of 5 ingredients: whole wheat flour, honey, salt, yeast and water), no fillers, no egg, no milk and no high fructose corn syrup.

Whole wheat ready for milling at Great Harvest Bread Company Freshly ground whole wheat flour at Great Harvest Bread Co.

I sampled their high protein/low carb bread and expected it to be sort of like cardboard. But it wasn’t! It was actually moist and delicious. I’ve been eating it all week for breakfast with some homemade apple butter and it keeps me amazingly full all morning. Great Harvest offer tours, too, and ours was fascinating–especially seeing the milling room. Jennifer, our guide was hilarious and now we all know the magic of yeast is really the power of a single cell fungi burping. A lot. Something to think about over your morning toast!

Great Harvest does not offer any gluten-free products (we asked). Because the bakery itself is so small and because all grain is milled in one milling room, the opportunity for contamination of gluten-free products is too great. If you’re not in Cary, there are probably great local finds like this in your area. We are having fun learning about food production and seeking out local resources. Feel free to share your finds as well!

At $4.00 a loaf for honey whole wheat or farmhouse white (more for specialty flavored breads), these loaves are on not much more than average, but they are amazingly good and good quality. And, as we found out, when you eat whole wheat bread, you stay full longer and you don’t need as much to satisfy you. We’re trying our lunch sandwiches on honey whole wheat this week and we’ll let you know how we do with that. We also tried cinnamon chip (YUM) and the garlic cheddar, which is great with chili.

Great Harvest Bread Company is on the corner of Maynard and High House Roads in Cary and is only closed on Sundays.

Now, on to our family farmer’s market pizza challenge!