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Cooking at Home: Stromboli

I grew up cooking with my Mom and I've loved it from a young age. I didn't even realize that not eating a sit down meal at least once a day was an option.

It honestly wasn't until recently when I was setting the table with all four kids underfoot and putting the baby in the highchair at noon, that I realized that this is probably why some people choose not to cook.

It is work. You have to love it to do it all the time and not have it feel like a chore.

I do it because I love it, and because I don't have a lot of choice. There is no way I can afford feeding a family of six eating out all the time.

We don't eat fancy meals, although I love cooking up a nice meal now and again, usually I am cooking with at least two of the kids underfoot, and I am just happy to get a home cooked meal on the table.

I serve my kids. At the table. From the pot. It goes on their plate. They eat it.

End of story.

My weeknight meals aren't going to end up in a photo spread in a magazine. They aren't fancy, or trying to impress, they are feeding the people.

In a world of food network shows and social media we are inundated with the idea of food needing to be beautiful and special. I like fancy, special meals, and I like to cook them, but that's not realistic for every night. So its casseroles and one pot dishes most nights; it's usually a meat, with a carb and a veggie.

I am cooking for a family of six, from an 8 month old to a handsome thirty-something man. I cook for efficiency and sustenance most nights. They don't get to be a picky eater in my house. They sit down and they eat. They finish their plates.

The key for getting the kids to try everything and eat it all gone, is that I do not give them very much. I always give them a little of everything to start with, because sometimes they don't love something, or maybe they're not that hungry, but they have to eat it. And if I have to fight with them to finish it, a serving is usually only a bite or two worth of food, they are not staring at half a plate of something they despise.

Usually they have seconds, sometimes thirds because I do the portions so small. On rare occasion, they fight me, but they know the rule is they have to clean up their plate, so they end up eating it.

One time my oldest dug in her heels, and there was a screaming match, and she sat for nearly an hour by herself at the table, but I proved to be more stubborn and eventually my daughter ate the food so that she could leave the table.

Every once in  awhile, I will want a date night meal of something special, and on those rare occasions, I will feed the kids first and after they go to bed I prepare something extra special. It usually involves drinking a glass of wine while I cook and just enjoying cooking and eating a slow meal for the two of us. But that is very rare and definitely the exception.

Otherwise whatever we are eating, they are eating, so if they don't like broccoli in their pasta, too bad, it's there, eat it.

A friend in college said her parents never let them NOT like a particular vegetable, for example, if the kids didn't like steamed carrots that was fine, next time the mom would roast them. So if your kids have just tried carrots one way and you listened when they said they didn't like them, you would have thought, "well they don't like carrots." Instead say, 'Ok you don't like carrots prepared this way, lets try them another way." So try vegetables raw, steamed, roasted, marinated, whatever until you find a way they like.

We have done this with every vegetable over and over. There are really only very few veggies my kids do not care for no matter how I prepare them, but they still have to eat it if I serve it. Regardless of what they tell you, it won't kill them. As they get older, there will be things they will eventually decide they don't like, but for now while they are young, I can make them eat what I want, and I will continue to do it so that they learn to explore different foods.

Our table isn't always happy, and it certainly is never quiet, but it is more often than not, worth the effort to get everybody sat down and looking each other in the eye and having a conversation.

I'm sure you have heard the statistics about families eating together and how it effects kids, so in the end I don't think it really matters as much what is on your table, as it does who is around it. Sure, a healthier meal is great, but if all you can manage is take-out around the dinner table, thats ok too. I know its hard, there is no judgement here.

In an effort to encourage you to gather around the table, I am trying to be better at writing down some of our most common meals and sharing them with you. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, I have been sharing some super simple ones there.

My recipes are most often pulled from cookbooks, magazines or family recipes, and I never follow them exactly. Perhaps someday I will have the time or the drive to measure it all out and test it and write it down for all of you, but for now, I am cooking to put a meal on the table. That means I work as efficiently as possible, and I focus on getting it done before someone is crying at my feet, near death from starvation.

My recipes are an approximation, they are not exact. I encourage you to use it as a starting point, and jump from there. Go crazy. Substitute turkey for ham, cheddar for mozzarella, live free people. Rules in cooking are meant to be broken... unless you are baking, then seriously follow the rules!

Today I'm sharing my recipe for stromboli. And I use that term 'stromboli' loosely, because it really is just pizza dough stuffed with whatever I have on hand. This is a recipe that I throw together regularly and its a favorite in our house.

This is a step above the weeknight meals, I usually make it on the weekends or for guests, because its great for a crowd. You can stuff it with whatever you like, fill it with your favorite ingredients! I'll put my recipe for pizza dough below, but feel free to use boughten pizza dough, whatever makes it easier on you!
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Pizza dough 
One cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1/2 tsp sugar 
Combine and set aside for five minutes. 
Then add 1/4 cup olive oil to yeast mixture. 
Combine 3 1/4 cups all purpose flour and 1 tsp salt in large bowl.
Add yeast mixture to flour mixture. Stir till lightly combined. 
Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the counter. 
Plop dough on counter. 
Knead dough on countertop till smooth and elastic. Don't you hate it when a recipe says that? What does that mean? 
Ok, I knead it till it is feels combined and soft in my hands and no longer sticks to the counter. Adding a little more flour if necessary. 
Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of dough bowl and roll dough ball in olive oil and cover bowl with plastic wrap. 
Set aside for at least an hour, recipe says 1 1/2 hours, but I tend to rush it and it works fine. 
Recipe adapted from this cook book.

Brown hamburger in a large pan with a little garlic salt and pepper. Let cool slightly.
Sliced ham or diced
Black Olives
Thinly sliced bell peppers
Sautéed onions
Shredded mozzarella cheese

Putting it together

I press the dough down in a oblong shape on a sheet pan. About a foot or so long. I lay down sliced ham first, then pile on all the other ingredients. To close it up I use kitchen scissors to cut slits on the long sides of the dough, making slits about two inches from eachother. Then criss-cross the dough over the filling, similar to this braid.  Relax, its not hard and we are not going for perfection!

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 mins, until dough is golden brown. Let cool for five minutes, before slicing. Serve with marinara, or pizza sauce for dipping! 

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Put food on the table, gather your people, and look them in the eye. Put down your phone, turn it on silent, and talk to the people you care about. Whether you bake something from scratch or a box or cookies out of a can or put take out on the table, it doesn't matter. Just let them know that you care enough to stop, sit down and be present with them.

With Love,


  1. LOVE!!! I agree that kids should try everything on their plate. Perhaps because we had some hearty folks in our family, I did not make kids clean the plate, but I made them try new things that were on the plate, and to this day, I believe it has helped them develop inventive palates! This is a great blog and I can attest to the yumminess of your stromboli!!


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