Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Making the Ordinary...Extraordinary

Good afternoon, Readers!
My daughter has been sick for the past 3 days with a terrible cold and low temperature, so we have been making the best of being at home. I need to grocery shop. Like bad. I know what you're thinking...couldn't I go to the store once my husband gets home from work? Sure. But, I'd much rather be at home with my family and I prefer to hit up Walmart in the morning hours before it gets crazy. Luckily, I keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer, so we've still been eating well. No worries.
Anyway, I really love to be at home. As much as I love shopping, traveling, being out with friends, etc., my favorite place of all is my home. Over 5 years ago when Jamie and I started getting serious about our budgeting and saving, we discovered that being at home was cheap! If you don't go anywhere, you don't spend any money. We began to create ways to make time at home even more enjoyable. Previously, we had gotten into the habit of going out for dinner every Friday night. While there is nothing wrong with that, we made the decision to break that habit in an effort to save on our food budget. It was hard at first. I didn't want to cook on Friday night. EVERYONE else was going out, blah, blah, blah. Well, I put on my big girl pants, and decided I would MAKE it fun to be at home on Friday night. I began planning special meals for Friday nights. Together, Jamie and I learned to make several delicious Asian dishes. We perfected our own egg-roll recipe, and now he is the master egg-roller-upper! Just ask him! ;) We enjoyed many nights playing Rummikub, he taught me how to really play Nerts, and we would often borrow movies from the library. Friday nights became our at-home date night.
Now, 5 years later, we are still enjoying our Friday nights at home. Occasionally we do go out to eat, but most Friday nights we can be found feasting on homemade pizza and playing Candy Land, Chutes and Ladders, or having Nerf-gun and light-saber wars with our 2 sweet-peas. Friday night pizza has become our family tradition, and I just LOVE it. Most Friday nights, Parker and Natalie help layer on the toppings. They love to spread the sauce, cover that with pepperoni and sausage, and then sprinkle as much mozzarella on top as I will allow them to. We eat like kings.
In addition to pizza, I often serve bottled cokes or root-beer to the fam. While we don't often drink cokes, Jamie and I do enjoy Coca-cola with our pizza and the kids love root-beer. They rarely get to have carbonated beverages, so an occasional root-beer is definitely extraordinary in their book.

Some Friday nights I will plan an extra special dessert to go along with our pizza. This past Friday we had chocolate molten lava cakes (which I will be sharing during our 14 Days of Valentines), and Parker thought he had died and gone to heaven. He was wowed by the molten middle. I must say I was wowed, too. And I've baked these cakes before. Molten chocolate packs a big punch. Seriously.

I hope this post will give you a little inspiration to make what could be another ordinary Friday night, waiting in a crowded restaurant with restless children and a hungry husband, and turn it into an extraordinary Friday night at home. This will not only help you save money, but more importantly it will help you build memories with your children. Get them in the kitchen with you and roll out some dough! Take pictures along the way. Play games with them, build blanket forts, watch "I Love Lucy", and read their favorite stories. You won't be sorry.

Below you will find the pizza dough recipe I've been using for a long time, given to me by my good friend, Joanna. It is SO easy, has no rise time, and has never failed me. Throw it together in a pinch, or freeze the dough and set out to thaw the morning you will be baking it. Enjoy!

Easiest Pizza Dough

1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. In the bowl of your heavy-duty electric mixer, dump all the remaining ingredients. Add in the yeast/water mixture. With your mixer on low speed, combine all ingredients. Using the hook attachment (or by hand), knead the dough in your mixer for approximately 5 minutes. Roll out onto a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a baking sheet or pizza stone. I like to first sprinkle my pizza stone with cornmeal, then place the dough on top. Add toppings and bake at 450 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the crust looks crispy and lightly browned. Enjoy!
~ Jennifer

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