Sunday 7 February 2010

Pizza for the Working Woman

Last week was my first week back at work for a year. This means huge changes to my eating habits. So I thought I would reflect on my meals, especially in the evening..

It is funny that we say we ‘return to work’ after being at home with children as though I have just been at home with lots of time to bake and blog without noticing the demands of a child. Ha ha, that is my little joke about how much I have got to blog while at home with Sylvia. Much more than I expected but I had to fit it around a lot of work that a baby requires, even if it is a labour of love.

Returning to the office was a challenge. I think I miss the time to prepare dinner but in reality, I often was busy with Sylvia and still not getting dinner ready till late. However, work in the office can exhaust me , especially when bookended by work at home looking after Sylvia. And I am lucky to have E to help out, unlike some mothers I know.

But E does not cook. We discussed meal preparation prior to last week. I need to keep it simple and not spend all night on extravagant meals inspired by blogging. So we have decided to try having loose themes for each night. Monday is pizza (or tortilla or bread), Tuesday is soup or salad, Wednesday I am not in the office and can make what I like, Thursday is pasta night and Friday is rice night. I hope these themes will also appeal to Sylvia, and help us make meals she can share with us. Of course we wont always stick to these but it might help me think about what to make when I am really tired.

So how did it go? On Sunday I did a large shopping expedition to make sure we had lots of fruit and veg, given that I couldn’t go for walks to the shops with Sylvia each day. We stuck fairly closely to the plan.

Monday is the day that E is home looking after Sylvia. I made pizza dough the night before and left it in the fridge overnight for a slow rise. When I got home from work the gluten looked quite stretchy but it tasted good. E helped with the toppings and Sylvia had a small taste but wasn’t keen. Both E and I loved it.

The recipe for pizza dough came from Maybelle’s Mom. It had wholemeal flour, wheat germ and mashed potato. I was keen to try the mashed potato as I love it in baking and this was no exception. We topped it with tomato pasta sauce, zucchini, mushroom, red capsicum, pineapple and cheese. I serve it with a simple rocket and tomato salad.

Tuesday was the day for soup or salad. I was inspired by Mangocheeks Thai Butternut Squash Soup to dig out my Thai curry paste. I wanted to follow her recipe but also wanted lots of veg and vermicelli noodles in it. It ended up looking nothing like it but tasted delicious.

Wednesday was the day I thought I would have lots of time for dinner but as usual was racing and ended up with an odd tofu scramble with creamed corn, peanuts, mushroom, tomato and rocket and Asian seasoning like san choy bau. It tasted good but I did look longingly at Sylvia’s noodles, tofu and veg.

Hence on Thursday for pasta night I made a veg, noodle and tofu dish. It was simply vegetables lightly fried in water, soy sauce, ketjup manis and lemon juice with some vermicelli and microwaved pumpkin thrown in at the last moment. It was even good for lunch the next day with a few chopped peanuts.

Finally on Friday I was too tired to cook. The rice night theme went out the window and I reheated some pasta stew from the freezer and put together a salad. I had intended to make dal but ddn’t have the energy. However as I had quite a few vegetables that I had intended to throw into it, I made it yesterday. It was handy when my sister Fran and her partner John came to babysit Sylvia last night and I could offer them dinner. We at at a 40th birthday party last night but will eat it tonight and another serve is in the freezer.

Not a bad week of eating. Less time is going into cooking and thinking about cooking but we are still eating decent meals. Below is the recipe for the pizza dough. I highly recommend it, even though I suspect my method is not quite orthodox. So it is going to Susan at Wild Yeast for Yeast Spotting. Now I am off to the shops for the coming week.

Wholemeal Mashed Potato Pizza Dough
Adapted from Maybelle’s Mom
Makes 4 medium pizzas or 2 large

2 cups mashed potatoes (just potatoes no salt or milk or butter)
1 tsp dried yeast in 1 cup warm water
3 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup wheat germ
1 tsp salt
Extra white or wholemeal flour for kneading

Mix together all ingredients except extra flour. It will be a very sticky dough. Maybelle’s Mom did this in a stand mixer but I did it with a spoon and mixing bowl. Knead and gradually add in white flour til the dough is smooth and no longer sticky. (I kept adding flour for about 10 minutes but the dough was still sticky. I was tired of kneading so I just went on to the next step..

You can let it rise for an hour, punch it down and then let rise another hour.
If you want to make it the night before using it, place in a greased bowl, cover with a damp teatowel and place in fridge overnight. In the morning punch it down and shape into a round ball. Cover again and return to the fridge until you are ready to make pizza at dinner time. My dough had very stretchy gluten strings by then but I think it was ok.

Punch down. Cut dough into 3 or 4 pieces. I only used one piece and put the other two in the freezer. Pull and push dough out into a round circle. Place on a greased pizza tray (or a warmed pizza stone sprinkled with cornmeal) and arrange toppings on the pizza. Bake in preheated oven for about 20 minutes at 240 C or until topping is golden and crispy and the dough is lightly browned.

On the stereo:
Winter Ruins: Shattered Hand & Strydwolf


  1. Congratulations on surviving your first week back at work outside the home (and blog)! I was really interested to read about your new meal planning strategy. That pizza looks terrific!

  2. That pizza looks sensational! I'll have to give the dough a try on Friday when we have pizza on the menu.

  3. Sounds like you are doing a pretty good job of juggling it all!

    I'm going to try a similar thing, to try maintain a variety of grains, like one night is rice night, one night is quinoa night etc

  4. What a milestone week! I'm really impressed with the cooking plan and it sounds as though you still managed some pretty exciting dishes. I had never thought of pizza dough with potato in it, so that's one to try :) I hope that you're enjoying being back in the office.

  5. Thanks Cindy - I am wondering how the meal planning strategy will go but hope it will help think about meals without feeling overwhelmed at all the recipes out there

    Thanks Kathleen - highly recommend doing the dough the night before unless you are around at home for a few hours beforehand - hope it is a hit

    Thanks Kristy - that sounds like a great idea to try new grains - it is so easy to get in a rut - I was aware that this could be a bit wheat heavy so hope I might try some other grains with the pasta and pizza nights

    Thanks Lysy - funny that you think these meals are exciting as they seem like some of my standard meals - but it seems more exciting if I can have a variety of these type dishes that are quite easy

  6. It sounds like you ate some delicious meals even with juggling so many things! The pizza looks so good.

  7. I'd say you did amazingly well-better cooking than I achieve most weeks without a baby at home! Hope you're adjusting to being back at work; that must be quite the difference in terms of energy and time to reflect at home. How is Sylvia taking it?

  8. Hi Johanna, I love the idea of pizza base made with potato and I had no idea you could leave it to rise in the fridge. I can just imagine how tired you are now. I do miss my work, but don't look forward to going back and looking after a baby. I only wish I could afford to go back part time.

  9. I like the idea of the pre-organised week. I've tried it once or twice, but somehow never managed to make it stick!

    Intrigued by the pizza dough recipe - definitely one to try. Thanks for the recipe!

  10. I love that your idea of having quick, easy dinners involved making your own pizza dough. You're kind of awesome, you know that?

  11. I just made some pizza recently and it was good, but I'd be really interested in trying out your recipe. Maybe next month. Also, that soup looks delicious. Everything does, now that I'm reviewing the post. ;-) I haven't had tofu in a way that I've liked yet, so I still need to venture into that territory more. Haven't given up on it!

    In any case, your week sounds yummy and I'm glad the transition has been pretty smooth.

  12. I love pizzas and this one is something I would like to make. It looks so loaded! And I am glad you are doing okay in your work.

  13. Very interesting recipe Johanna! I've heard of cold, mashed potatoes being used in bread but not pizza dough but I don't see why not, it's bread too! :)

  14. Welcome back to the working world (yippee, right?), looks like you are adjusting great so far :)

    I'm intrigued by this potato based pizza dough and will have to try it!

  15. You are so organised! I can barely organise myself. The pizza looks absolutely delicious - can almost smell it from here!

  16. Might just have to try that pizza dough recipe later on in the week.

  17. much, that all looks delicious! The pizza looks especially good!

    I wish I was as organised as you when it came to cooking, I decide what I'll make a few hours before it gets made - if I'm lucky.

  18. I cant believe you made the pizza base! You make me feel so lazy Id never even dream of making Pizza base and I dont have a young child to use as an excuse, I mean reason!!! :)
    Congrats on surviving your first week in the office

  19. Happy (very late!) Birthday, to you, m'dear.

    And pleased the first week back at work wasn't too awful. Good luck - look forward to seeing how you do each week.

  20. Thanks Nupur - juggling is the right word

    Thanks Ricki - Sylvia is doing well with all the change but is a little more clingy

    Thanks Jacqueline - it is a luxury to have a little time at home with Sylvia during the week - but pizza dough rising in the fridge overnight helps when I am working

    Thanks Aforkful - am not sure how we will go with the themes but don't imagine they will be followed every single night - esp as I couldn't even do it in the first week

    Aw thanks Hannah - I think E was a bit surprised to hear my quick easy meal of pizza included making the dough :-)

    Thanks Jaime - tofu is bland when alone but it is good with strong seasoning like curry paste - though Sylvia loves it with just a little soy mayo - but I think that is a bit plain

    Thanks Dining Set - I love well loaded pizzas

    Thanks Lorraine - actually the mashed potato was intended for bread but I felt too lazy and thought at least I can make pizza dough

    Thanks Sarah - yes try it - good pizza makes the re-entry to the working world far more pleasurable :-)

    Thanks Cakelaw - if you saw my house you wouldn't say I am organised - I just like to eat well :-)

    Thanks Scotsman - hope you love it like we did

    Thanks Taz - my weekly dining plan means I can get an idea only hours beforehand but I hope this will reign in my ambition a bit

    Thanks Fleur - hey you are not lazy - you do great craft projects but you should try some home made pizza dough - it is fun to stretch it out like a pizza meister!

    Thanks Lucy - I'd love to believe it will get easier but have my doubts - will keep you informed

  21. Potato and Wholewheat sounds very delicious. I will test it next time I bake pizza. I tend to place my pizza dough in the fridge, too. It makes cooking so much more relaxed when I come home exhausted from work.

  22. Congratulations on adding a second full time job to your life! lol!

    The pizza looks wonderful!

  23. Good for you for still doing home cooked meals every night with your busy life! I love the theme night idea.

  24. I hope you like what you were listening to at the time.


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