Garden Therapy & Digging a new Pizza

butterfly weed

butterfly weed

What makes creating a garden so therapeutic? A day spent in the yard is typically hard work that involves getting sweaty and now (at my age) a little achy. What is so great about clearing weeds or worse picking off icky intrusive insects and dropping them into a glass of soapy water? Why do I choose to dig my hands into the dirt rather than that soothing soak at the salon followed by choosing a trendy shade of nail color?

baby butternut squash..needs more time

baby butternut squash..needs more time

There is something healing about the interaction with nature. Much like cooking and baking, gardening is a bit of science, art and magic that result in a feast for the eyes, nose and taste buds. It is a wonder every single time a seed planted grows into something beautiful to decorate the living room or so delicious it sends me into a creative frenzy in the kitchen. Clearly, the garden is like a private grocery store, only better. More fragrant and fresh what’s just picked is what’s for dinner and totally worth digging dirt out from underneath those unpolished finger nails.

a good place to hide

a good place to hide

The garden also brings me back to simpler times with my kids. The lure of the internet and video games wasn’t there for them. Playing in the dirt or in the woods is where they’d be. Today, as I see my Caitlin designing her own gardens and planting her own seeds I am ever so grateful that she continues to find comfort among the beauty only Mother Nature can give. As we continue to share and grow our spaces together there is nothing better than the joy in her voice or the stars in her eyes as she marvels over fields of sunflowers or the tasty fragrance of fresh picked herbs. Yesterday, we discussed some new shrubs for fall planting. This is what makes gardening therapeutic.

yellow roses are her favorite

yellow roses are her favorite

Here is what I picked today:

fresh picked

fresh picked

And here is what I turned it into for dinner:

Vegetable pizza with caramelized BBQ onion sauce, bacon and basil

Vegetable pizza with caramelized BBQ onion sauce, bacon and basil

Checkout my new favorite pizza crust recipe from Jeff Hertzberg,M.D. and  Zoe Francois. Their story and book, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is inspiring. What seeds are you planting?

catching garden toads

catching garden toads

Happy Father’s Day Pizza Mattina

pizza mattina

pizza mattina

Some say my parents were the original recyclers. Nothing ever went to waste and when it came to food it meant preparing leftover spaghetti into a tasty frittata and vegetables into savory soups and stews. Much to my mother’s dismay my dad recycled day old Italian bread into bread crumbs sailing bits of hard bread all over the kitchen as the crusts pinged off the old box grater. He made a mean panzanella with that same old bread back in the day before this bread salad was ever cool and trendy.

Of all his delicious dishes, it is the memory of his homemade pizza that has me salivating. When the breadboard (handmade by his father) came out I knew we were all in for a treat. My dad, dusted with flour, gave the task of mashing the leftover baked potato to me. The “recycled” potato was the secret to making his yeasty dough bake up crisp and delicious on the outside and tender on the inside. I am among the few who know the secret of the potato. All were welcome to the table for pizza, but if you could not make it my dad would deliver.

My dad in Sicily

My dad in Sicily

My dad died at the ripe old age of 86. He was tired and ready to go. He had worked hard, lived the American dream and was proud of the business and family he had built. As an insulin dependant diabetic he pretty much defied the odds of living such a long and healthy life, but all along the way I felt like he was preparing me for the day he would eventually go. As I watched him push his insulin needle, yet, another time, through his clothing into his body I would scream in horror…..he would calmly respond, “What? You want me to live forever?” He was a character to say the least.

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my dad with young Will & Cait

I miss my dad, but I resolved my grief within a day of his death. My dad’s passing, unlike my son, was the natural order of things. My dad was done and ready to go. He went peacefully into the night and I was prepared for it. Just a completely different experience.

Happy Father’s Day to my biggest cheerleader. You continue to inspire me to “zig instead of zag”. Inspired by you and your name I remember how proud you were when a version of  this recipe won an award from King Arthur Flour.

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Sweet Pizza Mattina

2 cups King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat flour

1 cup King Arthur Flour Unbleached Flour

1 russett potato, roasted, peeled, grated

1- tablespoon sugar

1- teaspoon salt

1 (2 ¼ tsp.) packet instant dry yeast (quick-rise)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ¼ – cups lukewarm water

2 tablespoons butter

1 baking apple, peeled, cored, chopped

1/3- cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/3- cup orange marmalade

½ cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine flours, potato , sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil and water in a stand mixer. Mix and knead about 5 minutes or until a soft, smooth dough ball forms. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 ½ hours or place in refrigerator and let rise overnight. Just before the dough rising time is up heat oven to 425F. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add apples, cranberries and orange marmalade; cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes or until bubbly and apples are just tender.   Gently punch down dough. On a lightly buttered baking sheet, press down into a 9-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Use your fingers to gently dimple the dough all over. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch rim around the edge. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Slice into wedges. Serves 8.