Once again we welcome Shannon Brooks to A Southern Discourse! This week, Shannon shares how she’s interested in giving her family something out of the ordinary this Valentine’s Day. (HINT: It’s more than just pizza!) To learn more about Shannon, see below!
While doing a little research about how Valentine’s Day got started, I learned that the word Valentine means “strength.” That’s pretty cool, don’t you think?
Remember when we were kids, we would ask our sweetie, “Would you be my Valentine?” What we were really asking was if they would be our strength? Ha! Who knew?
In my opinion, not only your sweetie, but also other family members or even your best friend can be your Valentine. After all, we go to our friends and family when we are in need of someone to lend an ear or give us a little encouragement. Sometimes we need their strength to help carry us through.
That’s why it’s important to do special things for those strong people whom we depend on anytime the mood strikes us, not just on Valentine’s Day. One of my favorite things to do for my someone(s) special is to cook them a meal. It makes me happy when the meal was a success and everyone talks about how good it was and asks when we are going to have it again.
I know this comes from my many fond memories of being in the kitchen while my mom cooked dinner. Of course, she often had to run me out because, being the big goofball I am, she couldn’t get dinner cooked for laughing at me.
Another thing that sticks out from those kitchen memories are the meals we shared around the table. Not just at the holidays with extended family, but every day with just our little family. My brothers, mom, dad and I most always ate our meals together at the kitchen table. We would talk about our days, laugh, tell stories and fight over that last piece of cornbread.
Now that my own girls are teenagers, it seems it’s harder and harder to sit down to a meal together. Our lives are packed full of things to do. Between work schedules, band practice, workouts at the gym and their social lives, it’s a rarity. But when we do get to share a meal together there is always teasing, lots of laughs and sometimes even tears. Moments that I will cherish forever.
This past Friday was one of those sweet moments. Both of my girls had their best buds over for dinner. We decided it was pizza night, and at our house that doesn’t mean delivery. It means Rob is firing up the primo grill and making homemade pizza. Making your own pizza at home is so easy and worth the little extra time spent doing it. You can put anything you want on a homemade pizza. We make all kinds!
This time, however, we kept it pretty simple, letting everyone make their own pizza.
For the kid’s pizzas, they just used a jarred pizza sauce from the grocery store and a variety of the toppings we had. Honestly, there were so many cooks in the kitchen at one time – I am not sure what all went on their pizzas, but they had a ball making them!
Rob and I like to finely chop rosemary, thyme, basil, & fresh garlic, add it to about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brush that mixture over our pizza dough (That’s the recipe I am sharing below!) instead of a classic red sauce.
We also bought a pre-made pizza dough in the deli department at our local grocery store. We sometimes make the dough from scratch, but the one we buy is just as good and way less of a hassle.
I have to tell you, normally I don’t like many people in the kitchen, getting in the way and slowing down the process. Because our lives are so very busy, I find myself just wanting to hurry and get it done and get it done right! But, last Friday night had to be one of the most memorable ones I’ve had in a long time… all because I chose not to be uptight about time or everything being perfect.
I also realized that if I’m not careful, I am going to mess around and raise 2 daughters who have no clue how to cook! I guess us mamas just want to take care of our Valentine’s. But let’s face it, at 13 and 17, they are perfectly capable of the job.
So to make sure my girls also have some wonderful kitchen memories of their own to carry into their lives, I have vowed to make time to get my girls more involved in cooking family meals. Call it my extra Valentine gift to them, if you will. Something a little extra to make my strong girls even stronger.
I’m already looking forward to the next pizza night!
- Pre-made ball of fresh pizza dough from the deli (We get ours at Publix)
- Flour for rolling out or pulling the dough
- 2 teaspoons Fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons Fresh Thyme, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons Fresh Basil, finely chopped (plus, a little extra roughly chopped to top the pizza once it’s done)
- 1 Garlic Clove, finely minced
- 1-2 Tablespoons Olive oil
- Salt/pepper to taste
- Whole Milk Mozzarella – We like to get the big block of it and either shred it or slice it ourselves
- 1/4 Cup Sliced Mushrooms - sautéed
- ¼ Cup Sweet Onion, thinly sliced and sautéed
- 2 Tablespoons Chopped Sundried Tomatoes (the ones packed in oil in a jar are best)
- ½ Can Black Olives, halved
- Prosciutto, sliced thin and pulled into pieces (put as much or little as you like!)
- Balsamic Glaze, optional
- Fresh Shaved Parmesan
- Preheat oven to 425-450 or fire up your grill to the same temp. The grill we use is a ceramic grill, so it cooks much like an oven. Build the fire on one side of the fire box so you can cook on indirect heat.
- In a small bowl, toss the rosemary, thyme, basil, garlic, olive oil and salt/pepper. Let it sit while you prepare the toppings.
- Sauté the onions and mushrooms together in a little olive oil just until tender.
- Slice and pull apart mozzarella and set aside.
- Once all of your toppings ready, roll or pull the pizza dough into a round or square shape.
- When using a fresh dough, pre-cook it just for a couple of minutes on each side before loading it up with toppings.
- To pre-grill the pizza dough, brush one side ever so lightly with oil that can take the high heat (like avocado or whatever you have on hand) to keep it from sticking to the grill grates. Then place it oiled side down on the grill to cook for 1-2 minutes.
- Lightly oil the other side, flip and let cook for a couple of minutes. Remove from the grill.
- Back in the house brush your herbed garlic oil over the entire crust. Then add your sautéed veggies, sundried tomatoes, and olives.
- Top with cheese. Use as much or as little as you like.
- Lastly, put the prosciutto on top so that it will crisp as it cooks.
- Put the pizza back on the grill. Keep a close eye on it – the cooking time almost always varies. But according to the grill master, it takes a good 10-12 minutes.
- Once the pizza comes off of the grill, add a drizzle of balsamic glaze, some fresh parmesan and more chopped fresh basil. If you like a little kick – add some crushed red pepper.
- Lightly sautéing any raw veggies before putting them on your pizza will prevent them from making your pizza soggy.
- Pre-shredded mozzarella is always an option. You really can’t mess up a pizza! Just have fun with it and do what you want.
- A pizza peel makes it easy to put the pizza onto the grill, flip it, and transport it from the house to your grill to your table.
- Balsamic glaze can be purchased on the same aisle as the vinegar/oil at your grocery store.
Shannon is a bona fide foodie, a singer, recently converted fitness buff, mom to 2 terrific kids, and wifey to Rob, her partner in all of this and who, among many things, is an amazingly talented photographer. Shannon, a true Southern gal, who fancies herself a “pretty good cook,” loves to be in the kitchen creating new recipes, refining her technique, and trying new things.