Pizza night: 5 recipes to make with your kids

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with Professor Foster (his “Brown Mom” wife), and their daughter Viva, who doesn’t have a preference between deep dish and thin crust, but who knows that all pizza in New York tastes like wet garbage.

The two primary components to cooking are knives and fire. As such, it can seem counter-intuitive to cook with a child. Some cooking, however, like making pizza, is more “assemblage” than chopping and burning, and can provide a fantastic entree (no pun intended) for children into the world of the culinary arts. Cooking encourages creativity, broadens the palate, and can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your progeny. Making pizzas together is the perfect gateway into this experience, and if your child doesn’t love pizza, there’s no sense in bonding with them anyhow – it’s too late for them.

Before I share some pizza recipes my 3-year-old and I have made together, we should discuss crusts. Pre-made crusts (like Boboli), while overpriced and only okay, are readily available at most grocery stores. Less expensive crusts are available at Aldi if you enjoy eating a flat, round, salt lick. A better option is purchasing an uncooked dough ball: One pound dough balls are available for $3 each at your local Mariano’s or can be purchased directly from some pizza places, like South Suburban staple, Aurelio’s. If you hate your time and love vacuuming, you can make your own crust. Good luck with that, Giada de Laurentiis.

Fig, Brie and Prosciutto (Toddler mood: focused, happy)

Let your child spread olive tapenade on the crust, then together, top the pizza with prosciutto, sliced brie and sliced figs (available seasonally, which is to say rarely and at great cost, but I found some jarred whole figs at the Cermak Fresh Market in a jar with a label in the language of a people who eat more figs than we do. Probably Greek?). Bake and then top with black pepper and rosemary. Pair it with a scotch ale like Naperville’s Solemn Oath’s “The Telegraph,” or a fruit beer like New Glarus’s Belgian Red Cherry Ale. Don’t let the baby drink your beer, you monster.

Now you and your child are gourmet chefs and bonded forever.

Italian Sausage, Chocolate Chips and Cheddar Bunnies (Toddler mood: restless, experimental)

Start with coined Italian sausage, red sauce and cheese. Look down to check some texts. Discover that your daughter has gotten into the baking cupboard. Close the baking cupboard. Turn around to see that she has dumped chocolate chunks into the sauced pizza. Laugh. Lean down to pick up some errant chips from the floor. Note a crunching sound above you. Stop laughing. Stand up to see cheesy bunnies hopping around in the chocolate and tomato sauce. This pizza might actually be awesome.

Kitchen Carpet with Mozzarella and Apple Juice (Toddler mood: clumsy, resentful)

Explain that we must be slow and careful with the containers of ingredients. Get ignored. Watch the blizzard of cheese fall from the counter to the floor. Scold your child. Watch as they turn red and curse your name while shouting for juice. Get juice and a cup. Acquiesce to their request to poor their own choose. Tell them this will be a great chance to learn what went wrong with the cheese. Feel the juice splashing onto your socks. Realize you’ve just been fooled twice. Shame on you.

Dough, Disney Princesses and Screaming (Toddler mood: disinterested, belligerent)

Why are Belle and Tiana standing in our pizza dough? I know Tiana likes to cook, but why are her plastic feet in our food? But we’re not playing Princesses now, we’re cooking. No, Anna and Elsa can’t stand on the pizza, too. They need to go back to Arendelle. Mermaids don’t swim in tomato sauce, sweetie, please DO NOT … Now how are we going to get her out of the tomato sauce? Do you think we can still use that sauce? Get back on your stool honey, Princesses are for later. Come back! Come ba … Forget it.

Tears, Craft Beer and Loneliness (Toddler mood: full on tantrum)

Begin with the simple desire to make a lovely little pizza with your damned kid. Is that so much to ask? But, no, she doesn’t feel like it. Sure, you’ve been at work for days and haven’t gotten to spend any time with her, but why cook with Dad when you can show Mommy the picture you made today at preschool. Open your last bottle of Warrenville’s Two Brother’s Hopcentric Double IPA. Sit on the kitchen floor. Listen to the fun time everyone is having in the other end of the house.

There you have it – pizza recipes you can make with your child no matter their emotional state. Some of them in a pizza, none of them are forgettable.

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