September 2009

So we may be eating organically and locally as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean all of our tastes have changed.  We still love pizza night – and since we started making it at home it’s become even more fun as we try to be a bit more adventurous than Papa John’s or Pizza Hut will allow.  This weekend we ate it twice in one day! (The freedom to eat pizza for lunch and dinner the same day is one of my favorite things about being an adult…)

We had our dear friends, Tim and Katie, over for our latest pizza experiment and they heartily approved, so I thought I’d share our discovery.  We adapted a butternut squash pasta sauce from Simply in Season to make the consistency more appropriate for pizza and moved the sausage from inside the pasta to the topping for our pizza.  The sauce takes a little time, but should make enough for several pizzas and freezes well.  The sweet and savory flavors ooze fall, in case you’re not feeling its presence yet.

If you’re skeptical or just don’t have time to make the sauce, we’ve also tried these toppings with basil pesto from the grocery store and it was extremely tasty, too!

First step is the dough – if you are intimidated by that, don’t be.  It takes 10 minutes and can be done anytime from the night before to one hour before you’re ready to cook your pizza.

Dough prep Stir 1 heaping TBSP yeast into 1 1/4 c warm water until dissolved.

1 c whole wheat flour
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

If you have a kitchen aid, use your dough hook on the lowest setting for 2-3 minutes, until the dough is in one big clump.  If you’re kneading by hand, it takes 8-10 minutes.  Use a touch of olive oil to lightly grease the ball of dough and leave it in a bowl with a damp towel over the top till it doubles in size.  About an hour.  If you’re not using the dough right away, let it rise, then pop it in the fridge till you’re ready.

To make the sauce:

Peel, chop, and saute one medium-sized butternut squash until tender.  Puree and set aside.

Saute 1 diced yellow onion and 4 minced cloves of garlic 3-5 minutes until soft.

1 bay leaf
2 chopped fresh sage
1 c dry white wine (or chicken or veggie broth)

Cook a few minutes until half the liquid evaporates.

Add 1 c chicken or veggie broth and the pureed squash.  Stir until the sauce starts to bubble and reduce heat.

1/2 c evaporated milk
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

Simmer for up to ten minutes until thickened.  If the consistency seems too chunky, puree the sauce and return to pot.  If you prefer, like we do, add a touch of heavy cream and cook until reduced to desired consistency.  We found that this recipe made four to five pizzas’ worth of sauce, and again, it freezes well for quick dinners later on.

To cook pizza:Butternut squash sauce

Roll out pizza dough on pizza stone or baking dish.  Bake in a preheated oven at 450 for 5-8 minutes and remove.

Spread sauce onto pizza dough.  Top with grated mozzarella and other desired toppings.  Our favorites are chopped sage, chopped walnuts or browned Italian sausage, and some fresh-grated Parmesan.  This is when I like to brush a little olive oil on the crust for extra flavor and crunch.

Return to oven at 450 for another 5-8, until cheese or crust is just starting to brown.  Serve immediately.  With an Oktoberfest beer or white wine.  🙂

Half Walnut Half Sausage


Jaron and I have watched a couple of movies recently that make you want to live in the northeast and have a dog.  We already have a dog.  He’s fantastic.

“It makes me want another dog.  A puppy.”

Those words rang out in the living room.  Our dog, Banjo, lifted his head.  I don’t even know whether it was me or Jaron who said it, but everything went silent, while we waited to see if we were about to be struck by lightning for such blasphemy.  Because here’s the thing.  You never want another dog.  Especially not a puppy.

We learned this the hard way, which brings me to my first little discussion of things we’ve done in the spirit of not simplifying life.

How to Complicate Your Life #1: Insisting on More of  Good Thing

In the winter of 2006 Jaron and I had been married for just six months.  We were definitely one of those couples on their way to a rough first year.  Fortunately for us, the care of my personal mentor, Dana, went a long way in shortening the rough patch, and the rest of the work was done by adopting a third member of the family, our puppy, Banjo.

Jaron and I both have a tendency to focus on ideas, dreams, hypothetical conversations, fears… anything that’s not tangible.  Banjo drew us in to the here and now like nothing had before.  Because here and now there was a dog peeing on the carpet, or eating the toggles on my sweater, or digging through the bathroom trash, or chasing a squirrel out the window and down the street.  Here and now there was a very fuzzy puppy who would like to play and have a belly rub, and blow bubbles in his water dish, and run in the breakers at the beach.

Banjo as a puppy

Initially Banjo made life more difficult for us and we definitely had some adopter’s remorse from time to time.  But he also added routine to our lives and got us out of the house and meeting our neighbors, who were now able to associate us with the very cute puppy and the dilapidated eyesore next to their $2 million home instead of just the latter.  He was exactly what we needed.

Two and half years later, out in Illinois with our first home and a huge yard, we found ourselves with a hankering to do it again.  So, for the next four months we spent time and money like never before, trying to make it work with our new puppy, Kona, an Alaskan malamute whose first home burned down.  Between September and December  we had countless potty-training nightmares along with monetary costs that were much easier to quantify: to the tune of $5,000.  We learned that Kona had a heart murmur and a misaligned bladder.  Her love for howling made it impossible for her to be an outdoor dog, and it wasn’t long before she had Banjo looking more like a chew toy than his normally chipper self.  Kona was very affectionate, a beautiful dog with, as we finally had to admit, no place in our home.

Sometimes, even with the things we love, we forget to be content.  Having a good thing, we think, means more of it will be better.  So we end up with a newer car, bigger home, better sound system, more prestigious job, longer vacation, second puppy.  We forget that this new addition is just as big a gamble the second time around as it was the first.  And the thing we loved in its previous form has now become a force of its own; instead of adding to our life, it dominates it.

Jaron and I still find ourselves tempted by more and better, even when we  already have our needs met by the previous version.  But no new puppies will be joining us this fall.  No new houses or additional volunteer hours.  Thanks, Kona, for teaching us to love what we have.

Jaron and Kona, September 2008

One of the biggest and least planned for changes we’ve experienced since moving to our smaller town is a household food revolution.  What started with reading Mireille Guiliano in a desperate attempt to lose some of the weight we’d gained in the last five years, has evolved into a firm commitment to eat seasonally, locally and organically whenever possible.  We are healthier and enjoy food more than ever before.  What used to be a task or routine has become our highest form of entertainment and social outlet.

Organic and local carrots, potatoes, celery, and brocolli

Organic and local carrots, potatoes, celery, and brocolli

For a quick example, here’s our first fall recipe this year, found in 10,000 VillagesSimply in Season.  (The vast majority of our eating is inspired by this extremely helpful and well-presented book.)

Hearty Broccoli Soup

Hearty Broccoli Soup

In one hour these veggies, along with a little milk, cheese, and a touch of flour became an extremely hearty bowl of soup, perfect for the first gray days of fall.  If we had a food processor, it would been done in half the time.  (Birthday hint, Mom…)

Shockingly, this comfort food adds up to only  400 nutrient-rich calories and one batch fed us three meals for two big eaters.

The "vegebone"

The "vegebone"

And Jaron saved me from wasting the broccoli stalks by inventing what he calls a “vegebone” for our dog, Banjo, who especially loves them frozen.

2 c diced potatoes
1 c chopped onion
1 c sliced carrots
1/2 c finely diced celery
1 c water

Cook above ingredients together for 5 minutes.

Add 2 c chopped broccoli and cook 5-10 more minutes.

3 c milk
2 veggie bouillon cubes
1 tsp worcestershire
salt and pepper

Heat to boil  and add:
1 c milk and 1/3 c flour, blended first

Cook until thickened.  Add 1 c shredded cheese of your choice.  (I like to puree about half the soup and leave the rest chunky, but you can do all or none if you like.)

Jaron and I had been married for just over two years.  We had an unheard of deal on rent for a large apartment in Cardiff by the Sea, a beach community in north county San Diego.  Our panoramic view of the ocean floored me every time I saw it.  How did we end up here?!  How did we get so lucky?  And how on earth would I be satisfied with living somewhere else in the inevitable future?  I was (believe it or not) stressed out by our good fortune.  It felt so impermanent.  And it was.

The less glorious part of the story is that Jaron and I, two college grads, were both working part time jobs.  And not our dream jobs.  I was a receptionist at a very cool design firm in Solana Beach.  I spent my short work days alone on the bottom floor of the building and had a terrible time staying productive.  Jaron was driving all over the county teaching guitar lessons for little more than it cost to pay for the gas, and was a part time worship leader at a sweet little church that was 45 minutes away.  We were spread too thin and drowning in debt.  Cars, credit cards, college loans… weren’t we supposed to be on some kind of track?  Hadn’t I quit my high-paying job as a financial analyst to have more time to enjoy my husband and our amazing beach community?  Actually, no.  I had quit my high-paying job because it was like sitting in a cubicle cell all day with no work to do.  Right…  New cell, shorter hours, still no actual work to do.

Something had to change.  Ocean view or not, our lifestyle was wearing us thin and making us fat.  And sick.  Jaron and I got sick, like really, truly, sick-as-a-dog ill more in our two years in that amazing beach town than the previous 25 years of our lives combined.  Something.  Had.  To.  Change.  Enter  More on that later.