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"Build Your Own" Meals Kids Love: Pizza Please
One of the best ways to get your kids to eat is to involve them in the cooking process. With really little ones, this can be a challenge, especially when cutting and cooking on the hot stove are involved. One way to include them in the process, without risking bodily harm, is to create a meal that your kids can assemble themselves. You do the prep, they create the masterpiece!
Build Your Own nights have become a weekly tradition in our household. The kids love it, and it is a fantastic way to have them try new things. The basic idea is that I put out a buffet of different ingredients and let the kids pick and choose what they want to include in their meals. Try to see beyond the bounds of what you consider normal in terms of ingredients. Cranberries on pizza? Pineapples in a burrito? No problem! It’s entertaining to see what little people think will work and even more fun to see what they will actually enjoy eating. Who knows, they may be the next “Top Chef” and may even surprise you with a new combination you hadn’t considered.
By far my kids’ favorite Build Your Own meal is pizza. It’s simple and quick, and who knows, they might even add some veggies to their diets! See my posting, "Build Your Own" Meals Kids Love: Burrito Bar for more Build Your own night themes.
Here are the easy steps to having Build Your Own Pizza night.
Step 1: “Roll” the dough
There are many ways to create a pizza crust. My personal favorite is to buy fresh or frozen pizza dough at the store. The kids can watch or help as we roll out the dough into individual sizes. They love to pound the dough and watch it transform from a ball into a round disc. Of course, you may need to do a little patchwork afterwards to make sure there are no gaping holes. If you’re really adventurous, you can make your own dough as well (many recipes can be found online).
The other, super simple way is to buy commercially prepared individual crusts, such as Boboli, or whatever your local store sells. I usually keep a couple of these in the freezer for nights when I want a quick and fun meal. We’ve used tortillas, pita bread, and bagels as the “crust” and they all work pretty well.
Step 2: Prepare the toppings
The basic toppings, of course, include sauce and cheese. For the sauce, I often use a can of crushed tomatoes with basil. Or, you can use commercially prepared “pizza sauce” or a jar of pasta sauce. For cheese, we usually stick to mozzarella, but other varieties can work equally well. Lots of kids gobble up feta or goat cheese, so don’t be shy about trying other varieties.
Now for the fun: get together other toppings the kids can put on their pizza. Basically, the sky is the limit. Open your fridge and see what's there, and ask your kids what they want! Here are some of our favorite toppings:
- sauteed onions, mushrooms, broccoli, or zucchini
- grape tomatoes
- olives (can be easily used to make fun faces!)
- basil or other fresh herbs
- mozzarella balls
- different kinds of cheese (parmesan, feta, cheddar, gorgonzola)
- mini meatballs
Step 3: Assemble the pizza
This is the fun part. I give each child an individual size bowl of sauce and one with cheese with just the right amount. Then, I put the rest of the toppings out on the table in individual bowls with a spoon or fork. Let the kids have fun, try toppings, and experiment. If the first time they stick to sauce and cheese, that’s fine. Over time, they will try new, different toppings. Throw the leftovers on top of some lettuce for a salad!
Step 4: Cook and serve
Kids love to watch the pizza cook, checking in every few minutes and seeing the cheese melt and the crust rise.
What you cook the pizza on will depend on what kind of crust you’re using and what kind of cookware you have on hand. Of course, if using fresh dough, a pizza stone works great. But, you can pretty much cook all types of pizzas on a basic cookie sheet. Just brush it with a little oil and you're good to go.
More great kids meals
- "Build Your Own" Meals Kids Love: Burrito Bar
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