Keeping them fed even after they leave the nest

My years of cooking in restaurant kitchens was all about learning the dishes and then slamming them out hour after hour, shift after shift, perfect every time.

Cooking for a family is more about quick and easy, cheap and filling.  That said, having a child, of any age, working with me in the kitchen doesn’t help with the former two requirements of daily meal creation.  I feel a bit guilty that I don’t generally have the kids help with dinner prep, but I also like my sanity and an extra few minutes to do just about anything other than get dinner on the table.

When I’m not in a rush I have them help, especially before they grow out of the ‘wanting to be with Mama and helpful’ phase.  Those experiences are the exception though and provoke regret.  Life in general, and motherhood especially, is about balancing the pain of regret with the reality of what one can jam into a single day.

I learned to cook out of necessity as a kid.  I like to eat on a regular basis, always have.  As a teenager I did it for a living because it was a job that paid well and there was always another kitchen willing to hire me when the one I was at didn’t work out for whatever reason.  The restaurant work trained me well for getting creative with odd ingredients and always keeping an eye on the bottom line.  It would be fantastic if making dinner for those I love most in this world was more of a pleasure but more days than not it’s just something to survive and I work best and fastest alone.

All of the above said, the kids must have absorbed something of my love of food and desire to prepare it well.  Cassie is away at school now and hates the food in the dining hall so for the past couple of years she’s had a dorm room with a kitchen,  She’s probably one of the few students who moves in with cases of home canned sauce and peaches as well as dried fruit of several varieties.  She’s also been asking for cookbooks as gifts and acquiring them when they turn up secondhand.  Somehow she knows how to use a knife and saute garlic and onions until they’re just right.  She follows directions much better than I ever have, so as long as she starts out with a good recipe, she’s golden.

Sometimes though King Arthur or the great gods of Google don’t have the answer she’s looking for and I get a text or email asking how to make a chicken stock or how long is Brie good for.  Who knows, maybe my fiercely independent daughter just wants an excuse to talk to her mother?

She sends me pictures of things she’s made like the braided sweetbread she served her boyfriend with homemade pierogies.

Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, dried raspberries and dried apples. What's not to like?
Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, dried raspberries and dried apples. What’s not to like?

Most recently she asked for the recipe for my pepperoni rolls.  I’ve been making them for many years as individual rolls but eventually realized that doing it cinnamon roll style would speed up the process.  And they look pretty cool done that way.

This dough works for both the aforementioned rolls as well as pizza.  I like multipurpose recipes.

1 1/4 c warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
Proof the yeast if using the kind that needs it.
Add a dollop of olive oil and chopped garlic to taste if making pizza rolls.
Stir in flour, generally 3-5 ish cups, depending on weather, till the dough comes together.
Knead till smooth.
Rise 1 hr or so in a bowl greased with olive oil and covered with a damp towel.
Knock down, let rest 15 minutes if you can be that patient.  I’m usually in a rush.
For pizza this is where I stretch it out on parchment paper, two pies, top as desired.
For pizza rolls you have a couple of forming options, you can make them individually like little stuffed pockets of yum, but they take time to make.  It’s faster to pat out the entire batch of dough in to a 12ish x 14ish rectangle, spread out the shredded mozzarella and pepperoni (chunks or slices work, whichever is cheaper or already in the fridge).  Roll it up like a jelly roll or cinnamon buns, lop off into 1 1/2″ rounds and put cut side up on a greased pan with a bit of room to spread.
Pop in a preheated oven, 425° for rolls, 450° for pie, till brown and bubbly.  If they cook too fast and look like they’re going to burn before they cook all the way, just turn the oven down 25° after the dough gets the initial blast of heat in the first ten minutes of baking which gives the dough that oven spring.

Side salad and dinner is done.  Yes, dough takes a while but the hands on time is minimal.  You can even start it in the morning and tuck in the fridge for the day till you’re ready for it.

And best of all those I love, love these rolls, no matter where they are.


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