When I make plans, I like them to happen as I expect them to — most people do, I think. But life doesn’t always follow our agendas. That’s something I’ve learned to accept more and more in recent years — especially because sometimes deviating from the plan means good things.
A few years ago, two of my daughter’s friends got their ears pierced for their seventh birthdays. At the time, Paige wasn’t interested in having hers done, and I was still planning to uphold a family tradition of waiting until she was older.
But, as the little jeweled flowers glistened in her friends’ ears, she got interested. She was still 6 — years younger than I was prepared for. I’d gotten mine pierced at 13; my sister’s were done at 10. Six years old felt too young — especially because I wanted Paige to both make the decision for herself and to be able to care for them.
But last Christmas, I decided to let Paige get hers done, too. She had turned 7, and still adamantly wanted them done.
Even though she was younger than I planned, Paige took responsibility for her ears, just as I had wanted. With some reminders, she learned to clean her ears well twice a day. And for months, she wore those same little flowers that her friends also had chosen.
But then, as the school year neared, her holes healed enough to change her earrings. So we did, trading the flowers for other whimsical post earrings a few times.
I thought she wasn’t ready to change her earrings herself. I thought her little hands weren’t ready to maneuver the earrings and tiny backs. I thought she needed me for that.
Except she didn’t. Determined to manage her own earring changes, Paige taught herself to change her earrings one morning. Now, she changes them at will, selecting the earrings she wants when she wants them.
As a mom, I had to accept that Paige was ready for the responsibility — not just caring for her own ears but determining what to wear in them. I had to step back, and let her be her own person.
There’s a metaphor here for cooking. When I cook, I like things a certain way. Veggies are stir-fried in olive oil. Meatballs are fried and then simmered in sauce. Pasta is cooked al dente.
But sometimes you have to be willing to do things a different way. Sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture of the meal and not get caught in the details — like when I make pizza at home.
Often when we make pizza at home, I begin with the dough. Flour, yeast, olive oil and other ingredients come together to produce a reliably flavorful and thin crust that reminds me of the pizzas of my childhood and young adulthood.
That’s what my kids and our friends did the night before school began (also known as “Sarah made dinner way too complicated on the night before school”). I made a triple batch of dough, rolled out individual pizza crusts for everyone and baked them one by one. Everyone got to make their own, and it was fun — except it took hours.
There isn’t always time for that. And if I learned one thing that night, it’s that sometimes it’s OK to take an easier route if it means that dinner happens on the schedule it needs to.
Some nights, for instance when soccer practice lets out at 7 p.m., dinner needs to get on the table fast. That’s when I have to make sacrifices in the name of eating sooner. On those nights, a premade flatbread pizza crust makes fast work of an otherwise fresh dinner.
So yes, I am going to encourage you to use a premade pizza crust for this recipe. Of course, if you prefer, it can also be made with your favorite homemade crust — if you have time for that.
For this recipe, I also encourage you to plan ahead. Put it on your calendar a few days before you decide to make it. Then roast your squash ahead of time, perhaps on the weekend. That squash will top this pizza and will also make enough to go on salads or in pastas throughout the week. With a little work on Sunday afternoon while the game is on, weeknight dinners get a little easier.
Also, having the remaining ingredients on hand makes quick work of this. For fans of meal planning, a magnetic wipe board calendar is great for organizing your dinner plans for the week. I have a seven-day calendar hanging on my fridge that I use to plan our dinners for the week, including which day my kids will be cooking. On that same calendar, my kids also note the days they plan to buy lunch at school.
And with that little bit of planning — and willingness to accept that sometimes it’s OK to employ a little convenience — we can dig into this flavorful pizza on the busiest of nights.
Sweet roasted butternut squash mingles with earthy kale, fresh garlic and two cheeses for a satisfying and still very fresh pizza dinner that’s ready in less than 15 minutes.
For that, I can accept not making my own crust.
Easy Roasted Squash: Peel 1 small squash. Slice and then cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking oil spray. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in an oven preheated to 375 degrees for 30-40 minutes until tender and golden in spots.
- 1 large flatbread pizza crust
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1 cup roasted diced squash
- 1 cup baby kale
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Set a flatbread pizza crust on a baking sheet or pizza peel.
- Top the pizza crust with the mozzarella, roasted squash, kale, garlic and parmesan. Slide into the oven -- for a crispier crust, cook directly on the grates. For a softer one, use a baking sheet. This can also be cooked on a pizza stone.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the edges are lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes before slicing and serving.