Dairy Free · Gluten Free · Pizza · What's for Dinner?

The Return of Pizza, and Easy Olive Oil Biscuit Crust

If I eat what is served to me, grateful to God for what is on the table, how can I worry about what someone will say? I thanked God for it and he blessed it!

1 Corinthians 10:30 (MSG)

Dear Joey,

Ah, pizza.

When Emery was first diagnosed with his dairy allergy, we let the girls eat the cheese-laden stuff around him all the time. He was an infant, after all, small and snuggly and on a liquid diet. But once the kid showed interest in what we were eating–and then when he started walking and reaching and climbing, we panicked. (The sippy cup incident taught us our lesson). Clearly, we ditched the dairy.

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But, pizza.

We missed the weekly appearance of those slices dripping with cheesy goodness. The Friday night staple sent a signal, telling us something fun was about to happen, and helped us switch gears from get it done to let it rest. Missing the stuff so terribly, we switched to frozen pizzas–the Daiya brand, specifically (because it’s gluten free, too), because it seemed to be the variety most dairy free folks like best. Emery cheered when we set a slice in front of him, so happy was he to be eating the same food as his sisters, but Mia scoffed, saying it smelled funny. Addie wasn’t so hard to please–she liked it ok-ish, she said, but admitted it didn’t taste like our homemade variety to which she was accustomed. She understood why we made the switch, she said, but Mia seemed nonplussed by it all. Somehow we managed to get her to try a tiny bite, after which she insisted, “I don’t like it. It’s TERRIBLE!” and proceeded to cry.

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Since this could not be pizza.

So the vegan pies disappeared from our table for awhile (even though, admittedly, we still indulged in a slice of gluten free pizza once in awhile after the Goobies were tucked snug in their beds.) We figured keeping real pizza away from the dinner table might retrain the girls’ taste buds, and met their requests for slices of it with, “not for awhile, kiddos.” Serving slices of regular cheesy pizza to the girls alongside Emery’s vegan variety seemed like an unfairness we couldn’t get on board with. It didn’t go over well with Mia, so we appealed to her deep-set sense of justice and asked her how it would feel if we all ate peanut butter sandwiches for lunch while she sat next to us eating a ham sandwich instead. “Not good,” she grumbled.

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So, no pizza.

Time went by and little by little the girls’ taste buds adjusted (or just simply forgot how glorious the real stuff tastes) and eventually we played around with other vegan cheeses that ended up producing food that duped even our toughest critic. So, when things turned chaotic again just a few months ago and I found myself wandering the aisles at Sprouts trying to find frozen convenience foods that were 1) foods safe for everyone in our family to eat and 2) foods that everyone in our family would willingly eat,  I wondered: might it be time to give Daiya frozen pizzas another shot? I grabbed a couple of boxes and tossed them into my cart, asking God to grant favor over this small little thing that really doesn’t matter much in the scheme of things, but would be a huge help to my stressed out self. “Please God, help them eat it without grumbling about it?”

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Because, pizza.

Friday night rolled around and I popped those things in the oven and didn’t give anyone a chance to protest. Out they came, and I sliced them up and stacked them on plates and handed the Goobies their dinner with a feigned look of confidence. After prayers, they ate, and I heard nothing but the warbled sound of voices filling each other in on the day’s events in between mouthfuls of pizza. I silently cheered as I went about my business, only to be shaken out of my silent celebration by Mia’s persnickity voice saying, “Ahem–uh, Mom–is this Daiya?”  I was caught.

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Daiya? Pizza?

Clearly, I couldn’t pass the stuff off as anything but what it actually was, so I claimed defeat and simply said, “Yep.”

“I like it.”

Silence, as all three Goobies continued to scarf the stuff down as if they hadn’t had pizza in months. (Which, of course, they hadn’t.) My simple prayer at that point? “Thank you thank you thank you thank you.”

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Finally, pizza.

And so, since that day I made it a habit to toss a pizza or two into my shopping cart so our freezer is always stocked with them. In theory, this is a great plan: frozen pizza laying in wait is a convenience almost as good as the freedom to call out for delivery. But goodness those pizzas aren’t friendly to my wallet. So once the debris of moving began to clear around here, I got back into the habit of making fresh dough, slathering on some sauce and sprinkling on some Daiya at home, trusting that the Goobies would be excited about them as they were about the frozen variety that Mia now claims she loves. (Praise God.) There may not be any in the freezer at the moment, but don’t worry not: I’ll keep the simple staples stocked so we can have pizza on a whim just about anytime–even at the last minute. Feel free to ask for it as often as you wish. I expect the Goobies will too.

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After all, pizza.

Love,

Scratch

Olive Oil Biscuit Crust Pizza

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My mom mentioned biscuit crust pizzas to me this past year when a yeast dough pizza crust mishap foiled our Friday night dinner plans. It was during the time when I was trying to pass off pizzas made with Daiya to Mia with no success. I spent hours trying on making these pizzas and they wound up in a miserable heap that Mia refused to eat. Biscuit crusts were my mom’s secret weapon during my growing up years–a quick, fuss-free way to make inexpensive pizzas us kids loved. Sheet pans layered with dough and cheese and hamburger happened all the time in our house, and while I hadn’t remembered the biscuit crust specifically until she mentioned them, I do remember those big ol’ pans of cheesy goodness with the sort of clarity only a chubby kid can claim. My mom used Bisquick as a short cut to quickly produce pizza at the last minute: stir together a few ingredients, press the dough onto a pan, pile it high with toppings and pop it into the oven. What follows is my rendition of her biscuit crust, modified to be gluten and dairy free, and as written is free of the top 8 allergens. The combination of vegan cheeses listed below are what we prefer and produce a pizza that really does taste like the frozen ones that inspired it, but if you like the Daiya cheddar shreds, us that instead of the Follow Your Heart brand. As always, if your family doesn’t have food allergies, swap out conventional ingredients for the modified ones below (all purpose flour for gluten free flour; milk for flax milk; mozzarella and cheddar for vegan substitutes). Add other toppings as you like, of course. 

Ingredients:

For the crust–

  • 3 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend
  • 1 1/2 cups plain unsweetened flax milk
  • 9 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar

For the pizza sauce–

  • 1-15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated garlic

For the toppings–

Method:

First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. Next, grease a jelly roll pan (use coconut oil cooking spray because it’s easy). Then, in a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the sauce and set it aside, keeping it close because you’ll need it soon. Toss together the two vegan cheeses in another small bowl and keep that one close by too.

Move on to the dough: whisk together the dry ingredients, then add the oil and mix well until the flour and oil have combined completely and looks a little bit like really wet sand. Pour in the flaxmilk and stir until a soft dough forms, and let it sit to absorb the liquid for about a minute. Next, dump the dough onto the greased jelly roll pan and press it out evenly until it covers the pan completely and goes about 1/2 inch up the side of the pan, like you would with a pie crust. Slip the crust into the oven and par-bake it for about 5-7 minutes.

After that, take it out and spread the sauce evenly across the top of the crust, as thick or thin as you prefer. Sprinkle the vegan cheese blend all over, and add any other toppings you want to add as well. Slip the pizza back into the oven for 15-18 more minutes, or until the vegan cheese shreds have melted and started to turn golden.

Slice. Serve. Smile.

Allergy Friendly · Gluten Free · Growing and Changing · Love & Marriage · Pizza

On Golden State Basketball, and Golden Flax Pizza Crust

Dear Joey,

The Golden State Warriors are in the Western Conference Finals again, which of course means lots of things to lots of folks. To you, it means you caught one of their winning games live and in person during a season when they ended up moving on to the post season. To me (a girl who declined date-after-box-seat-date from you just a few years ago), watching those games with you means two things: first, people change. Second: pizza.

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Before we were dating, shoot–before we moved to this house–basketball didn’t interest me at all. It didn’t even tempt me to flirt with the idea of caring. The promise of box seats in Oracle Arena was wasted on me. But just a few short seasons later, I found myself married to you–a proven sports fanatic–and facing box seats of a different kind: seats in my own home that made me feel boxed out and left struggling because sports stole my husband.

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I made a decision just like the one I made seven years ago during the summer before Addie was born, the same year the Giants won the first of the three World Series titles they’ve won over the past several years. I didn’t care much for baseball at the time–not enough to watch every game, at least–but you did. I quickly realized I had a choice: I could plunk myself down on the opposite side of the couch and pout, hoping my mopey behavior would make you pity me enough to change the channel; I could hide myself away in the other room, fuming at menfolk for loving ball games more than their wives; or I could snuggle up to you and ask you to teach me about the game, and then listen and learn.

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Happily, I chose to listen and learn, and the more I understood about the game, the more I enjoyed watching it. Knowing there was an end to the season helped; I knew we could move on to something a little more me by the time Addie was born (because the baseball season ends before November). I enjoyed a little bit of control over the remote again that November (and for a few more after it) until sports continued to dominate our nighttime line up well into November and beyond, all because someone named Curry was doing something worth watching (whatever that meant). I rolled my eyes and felt a little defeated–and not very excited to listen and learn again. But I did, and you patiently fielded my questions, answering when you could and digging a little deeper when you could not. Now, nearly four years later, not much evokes memories so splendid of date nights at home than the idea of Warriors basketball and pizza.

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Pizza poses a problem around here though. I mean, clearly. Pizza is bread and cheese–you know, two of the three no-no’s around here that collectively make eating out a nightmare. Toss in the cost of ordering over-priced gluten free and dairy free pizza (both the expense and the risk are prohibitive, in my opinion), along with the time it takes to shop for and make homemade gluten free and/or dairy free pizza, all while trying to keep our diet consistent with that whole Hot Mama Diet thing, and suddenly we’ve got a real problem got a meal most folks take for granted. Pizza felt inaccessible. Except it’s pizza, for crying out loud! Depriving my you of the stuff at game time just felt fundamentally wrong, so I set out to make things right.

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Difficult as it may be to negotiate the Hot Mama way of life with allergy and budget constraints, it definitely has its perks. Were I not gluten free, and were we low carb a lot of the time, I guarantee I would not have even thought to use golden flax meal as a pizza crust.  True: we will never brag that this is THE BEST pizza crust ever. It is made from golden flax meal and eggs, after all. But it is the best budget friendly, awesome cracker-turned-pizza crust that allows us to eat Hot Mama pizza on short notice. Prebake a crust or two, stash them in the freezer, then load it up with yummy toppings and bake it again until its golden and bubbly. Emery even likes it topped with his beloved Daiya dairy free Mozzarella Style Shreds.  (And ok, to be fair, the girls don’t love it the way they enjoy more traditional pizza crusts made out gluten free flour, but they eat it just the same, saying it’s sort of like eating pizza on a cracker. Touche.)

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This measly little pizza crust played a big role in bringing me around to basketball though because I used it to butter you up before I fired question after question at you. Somehow you didn’t seem to mind them as long as you had something good to snack on between answers. That’s why this golden pizza crust goes hand in hand with watching the Warriors play basketball. Not because it’s the best gluten free crust I’ve ever made. (It’s not.) Not because it gives me the freedom to plop down on the couch and make pizza appear magically, as if from nowhere. (It doesn’t.) It’s a big deal because it’s quick and easy, it’s inexpensive, it’s flexible for food allergies, and it makes a dynamite BBQ Chicken Pizza that makes you feel like you’re not missing anything by watching the game at home with me, and not in those fancy box seats at the arena.

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Tuesday night when we finally got all those Goobies settled into their beds after an evening of playing the role of proud and involved parents at her school Open House, I was just as anxious to click on Game 2 against the Spurs and munch on that BBQ Chicken Pizza as you were (who am I?) because there’s no better view of the game than the one from our own couch.

img_5944-e1495149087449.jpgGolden Flax Pizza Crust

This recipe is essentially a trimmed down version of the Trim Healthy Mama recipe for Golden Flax Bread, a bread-like alternative that I never quite got on board with. While their Golden Flax “bread” is sort of eggy in texture, this one is not at all. By rolling the dough out, it becomes something like a giant cracker, and everyone knows that cheese clearly goes hand in hand with crackers. The texture is … different. But it is good all the same. If you’re watching your carbohydrates and still want a budget (or nut-free!) friendly pizza crust, give this one a try.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups golden flax meal
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Method:

Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Then, spray a round pizza pan (or cookie sheet) with nonstick coconut oil spray.

Next, measure all ingredients together in a large bowl. Let the mixture sit for five minutes. The flax meal with absorb most of the liquid, thickening it into a spongy dough-like mass. At this point, plunk half the dough onto a greased cookie sheet. Lay a piece of wax paper on top of it and roll the dough out until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the wax paper (carefully peel back the wax paper–it sticks if you yank it off to quickly!) and put the crust in the oven. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are well set (golden and crisp, but not at all burned). Using a stainless steel spatula, carefully loosen the crust from the bottom of the pan, starting at the outside edge of the crust and working around the circle, gently lifting until the crust is completely separated from the pan. Place the crust on a wire rack and cool.

To top the pizza: Spread sauce, cheese, and all the pizza fixings your heart could desire on top and bake for another 8-10 minutes or so, until cheese is melted, bubbly, and golden.

To freeze the crust: Once the crust is cooled, wrap it well with plastic wrap, making sure each edge is sealed completely. Store in the freezer until ready to use.