Confessions of a Stay-At-Home Mom

January 15, 2016

Roasted Butternut Squash, Apple and Chorizo White Pizza with Ricotta Garlic Herb Spread

So it's been a while since I've posted about my homemade pizza adventures. We got away from our weekly grilled pizza routine due to...ahem...creative differences between me and Hubby.

But yesterday, I had one of those culinary inspirational moments where an idea pops into your head and you are so compelled to create it, you find yourself picking up ingredients at the grocery store with no knowledge of how you arrived there.

What? Only me?

Anyway. After safely arriving home, I got to work. My inspiration came from a butternut squash and container of Ricotta cheese I had sitting in my fridge.

"I can do something with this," I told myself. "There is a recipe here waiting to happen."

And this white pizza recipe was born.

Since several people asked for the recipe after I posted the picture, I'm writing this up now (also for myself, for future reference, as my mind is unfortunately not the most reliable database).

Now, I am usually a proponent of grilling my pizza. I like the brick oven effect it has. But Hubby does not feel the same. So, we're working out our differences, and the compromise was that I baked the pizza in our oven. 

A big note on this pizza (and all the pizzas I make): I go the thin crust route. So, I use a 1-lb ball of dough from the grocery store to make TWO pizzas, not one. In my instructions below, I share how I baked it in the oven. But if you want to grill your pizza, follow this tutorial.

Prepare for your tastebuds to be AMAZED.

  • 1 lb. raw Pizza Dough
  • 2 cups of butternut squash, diced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large apple, diced
  • 3 slices of chorizo lunch meat, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of Ricotta Cheese (I used fat free, but any Ricotta cheese will do)
  • 1/4 cup of shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (or 3 TBS of minced garlic)
  • 1 tsp of dried oregano
  • 1 tsp of dried basil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1. Let pizza dough rise according to instructions, and cut in half. Reserve second half for another pizza of your choose (here are a ton of ideas). Roll out your remaining pizza dough half on a floured board until 1/8 to 1/4 inch thin. Place on a greased baking sheet.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place squash and onions on a greased baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add apples, and roast another 10 minutes.This can be done a day ahead of time.

3. While veggies are roasting, combine Ricotta, garlic and herbs. Add more herbs or garlic to taste. The consistency should be that of a spread, not a sauce.

4. Once veggie mixture is done roasting, increase oven temperature to 450 degrees. Pre-cook the crust by putting the rolled pizza dough into the oven and cooking for 6-10 minutes. Watch closely: you do not want the crust to get brown. 

5. Once the dough is firm and on the verge of crispy, remove from oven. Smear the Ricotta Garlic Herb spread over the crust. Evenly spread the squash-onion-apple mixture over the Ricotta. Top with chorizo slices. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

6. Return pizza to oven for another 10 minutes. Pizza should be cooked through and golden, but not burnt. For extra tastiness, turn your oven to broil for 1-2 minutes, or until cheese and toppings are browned.


January 14, 2016

The Playdate Pledge

As a regular to playdates, there is an unspoken code to follow. 

Have you taken the pledge?

I solemnly swear to support any and all playdate events that I am invited to. If I am unable to make said playdate, I will still comment or like the invitation on social media, knowing Facebook will out me as having seen the post but not responding. I will make every effort to attend the playdates I am invited to, because I secretly cry and eat ice cream and question my friendships when people skip out on the playdates I plan.

I, having been appointed an invitee of a playdate, promise not to judge the host on the amount of toothpaste dried on the bathroom sink, and I will overlook dirty dishes in the kitchen, piles of unfolded laundry or areas of clutter in the home. We can attest that you most likely hyper-cleaned before we arrived but, hello, KIDS.

I take an oath to allow each playdate participant to vent, choosing from a variety of topics including (but not limited to): child-rearing, marriage, in-laws, grocery shopping, television binge-watching, spousal arguments, meal recipes, public education, private education, common child feeding practices, bedtime routines, shopping deals and where do you get the big bottles of that wine for so cheap?

When a playdate invitee is struggling - mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually - it is the job of remaining invitees to lift him or her up. Listen. Encourage. Advise. Speak positivity and truth into his or her life. Because some days are hard, bad and dark. And in those times, playdates are safe havens and silver linings, just to know you are not alone.

Above all, I vow to not judge my parental friends, while attending playdates or otherwise. Because we're all adults here and we're all struggling in this whole raising small humans thing together. Lord knows it is difficult. And while some people may choose to tackle parenting different than me, I know that we all need to do what we need to do to get through the day. And if that's co-sleeping for you, bottle feeding for you and going to a 9-5 for you, then WORK IT, GIRL. Different strokes for different folks, and we all could use a little support and encouragement.

Last but not least, it's generally agreed upon that coffee and/or wine are acceptable beverages for consumption at playdates.

I solemnly swear.

January 8, 2016

If You Give A Kid A Vision...

I was eagerly sifting through the clearance racks at Old Navy with a miniature Elsa trailing behind me. It was the battle I chose not to fight today. It was Friday. And I'm one of those work-in-progress parents who still has a lot to learn; learning to pick my battles is an ongoing lesson.

I had errands to run this morning, and we weren't leaving the house without Maggie being dressed in head-to-toe Elsa. This had been made clear to me from the moment she woke up

Maggie: "Mom? I'm going to wear my new Elsa dress today."

Me: "Well, we have a few stores to go to. So maybe you can put on the Elsa dress when we get home."

Maggie: ::staring::

It was a silent stand-off, and in the end, I decided it wasn't worth the fight. She was willing to wear a jacket, so what did it matter that she was boasting a princess outfit (complete with glittery cape) underneath it?

We stopped at a craft store, where the cashier, a middle-aged woman, noted, "Oh, don't we look fancy today?" She said it to me, rather than Maggie, in that chiding, indulgent way that we often speak to little kids, like, "nudge, nudge, wink, wink, we're all in on the joke." Maggie smiled politely and nodded.

After the craft store, we made our way over to Old Navy, whose enormous 75% window clings were too much temptation to bare. I was going through the clearance items when a deep voice from an aisle away said, "We have a princess in the store today!"

I immediately looked down at Maggie, who was looking up at me confused.

"He's talking about you, love," I informed her, smiling.

Maggie looked toward the aisle, where the Old Navy employee approached from. He was young, maybe college aged, with a shaved head and erring on the hipster side of fashion. He spoke directly to Maggie, crouching down so he was eye-level. 

"Your dress! It's beautiful! What's your name?" he asked.

She looked up at me shyly before answering him. "Elsa," she said.

"Oh, I'm so sorry. We don't have a princess in our store today. We have a queen!" he proclaimed exuberantly.

I watched Maggie take this in, her smile sheepish but proud. He spent another minute engaging her, complimenting her dress and thanking her for gracing him with her presence, before politely excusing himself.

We waved goodbye, and I continued looking around the store. Maggie-Elsa continued to walk behind me, but I couldn't help noticing the transformation that had taken place since our encounter. She stood taller, and looked in the mirror, assessing her dress.

"He really thinks I'm a real princess," she told me.

She looked people in the eye as we walked, nodding, and making jovial conversation with pretend kingdom visitors. Maggie acted like royalty because she believed the notion that she was royalty. Because someone else believed she was exactly who she thought she was, who she wanted to be. 

When I was a social worker, we often discussed self-fulfilling prophecies. In the field of child protective services, it was the phenomenon that a child, particularly in a situation of abuse and neglect, is told negative things over and over again from their caregiver. 

"You're stupid." 
"You'll never amount to anything." 
"You'll turn into a drunk just like your father."

And, in turn, the child takes these words to heart and they inadvertently come true. It's as though the parent believing these negative things about their own child wills them to become truths. I watched these situations become reality, with kids fulfilling these negative parental prophesies without even realizing they were doing it. It had become so engrained, it's all they knew to become.

Our words, our beliefs, have power.

We must wield them wisely.

I watched how a positive vision, believing that a little girl was a princess, made all the difference. We all want our kids to do well. We want them to thrive, to grow, to excel. I wonder, though, if we fall short of believing what they could be. Of believing in what they aren't yet, but could become

I realized from watching the princess encounter at Old Navy that there is a difference between encouraging our kids and giving them a vision. It's one thing to say, "I know you can write." And another to say, "You are a great writer." One supposes untapped potential; the other assumes the potential is realized.

What if we began believing in what our kids will become. Believing it, even if it isn't yet realized, but claiming the belief and believing it for our kids? 

How might that increase their confidence, their self-esteem? 

This morning, Maggie was, if even for a few minutes, truly a princess. And maybe princesses aren't your thing (they aren't particularly mine). But perhaps next time it's believing they are a teacher. A healer. A leader. An engineer. Believing that they not only have the potential to change the world, but that they will.  

That they already are.

If you give a kid a compliment, they'll feel good for a few minutes.

But if you give a kid a vision - a positive, uplifting, motivating vision - they might just prove you right.

To Pat from Old Navy in Exton: thank you. You gave both me and my daughter something to think on today.

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