Pizza on the Clock

A few weeks ago, I gave one of my little PowerPoints to some parents at a community center. It was the usual 30-minute presentation, “Eight Rules for Family Dinner,” distilling all the usual DALSian principles (Deconstruct, Shop Once a Week, Plead Ignorance, etc) alongside colorful photos of meatballs and detox soups. As I wrapped up, a woman in the second row who had been nodding and smiling during my talk, raised her hand.

“Have your kids started travel sports yet?”

Was I imagining that her eyes squinted as she asked? Was it weird that I felt like the swordsman in Indiana Jones, the one who confronts Indie with his fancy sword moves, only to be dispatched by Indie with a single gunshot?  Here at this talk, I had the distinct feeling that I was staring at a veteran who knew something I didn’t know, and was thinking to herself “Wow, this woman has no idea what she’s in for.”

The good news is that I could at least answer that my daughters had indeed started travel sports — in fact we were about two years into it. The bad news was that I had just started receiving the schedules for spring activities and it seemed as though every single one of them was conspiring to blow up family dinner as we knew it. It’s true what those parental sages warned: the older your kids get, the later their practices finish. It’s also true that more and more parenting seems to be happening in the Mazda in between ballet and lacrosse.

This spring, except for Fridays, we are not home from sports activities any earlier than 7:0o. Three nights a week, the girls are not home until 7:30. So in other words: Every day is now Tumultuous Tuesday, which means that if I want dinner to keep happening as religiously as it has been all these years, I have to be super-organized about things.

Or! If I have a pizza dough in the fridge,  I don’t have to think about dinner at all until the minute I walk in the house.

At 6:00 the other night, I dropped the girls off at a field that was 10 minutes away from my house. Once home, I spied the pizza dough then started weeding through the disparate ingredients populating our unorganized fridge. I laid everything out (see below) and made my decision: Half the pie would be Asparagus and Leek, Half the pie would be Tomato & Cheese, which was probably the side the girls would favor. I’d pile on the entire bunch of asparagus (even if the spears never became gooey-ed up in cheese) so they could have their asparagus on the side.

By the time the pizza was assembled, it had been decided over a flurry of texts that Andy would pick up the girls at 7:15, on his way home from work. But because part of me has never quite graduated from competitive sports myself, I looked at the clock: 6:30. I would’ve totally been able to bake that pizza (another 15-20 minutes), pull it out of the oven, pick up the girls in time, drop off their friend who needed a ride home, then arrive home with dinner ready to rock.

Only three more months of this to go.

Pizza: 1/2 Asparagus & Leek, 1/2 Tomato Cheese

1 22-ounce storebought pizza dough
olive oil
1 8-ounce ball fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup pizza sauce (I used 1/2 can of Don Pepino; if you have homemade, congrats!)
1 bunch fresh asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
1/2 leek, trimmed (see photo for reference) and chopped
salt and pepper
few shakes red pepper flakes, to taste
1-2 kumato tomato* (totally optional!), chopped
Freshly grated Parm to taste
chives, snipped

Preheat oven to 500°F. Press dough out to all corners of a large baking sheet that has been lightly brushed with olive oil. (FYI: It’s easier to stretch the dough when it’s room temperature, if at all possible.) Top one side with fresh mozzarella. Top the other half with pizza sauce under the mozzarella. In a medium bowl, toss asparagus and leeks with olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Pile vegetables on the side of pizza with the cheese only. (Again, I don’t mind asparagus overflow here because I just pick off those roasted spears and give them to the kids as a vegetable side.) Add fresh tomatoes wherever you think it won’t offend people. (I went right down the middle.)

Top the entire thing with freshly grated Parm.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly. Garnish with chives. Unless you aren’t crazy about chives on top of leeks. (I personally love the double onion effect.)

*I am too lazy to look up what this thing actually is, but Andy always throws them into the cart at Trader Joe’s and they taste really good for out-of-season tomatoes.

A note about pizza for kids: While I love a good fresh round of melted mozzarella on my pie, I find it’s easier for young kids to eat melted cheese when it’s been sliced and chopped into smaller pieces. That way, when it melts, it doesn’t slide off the pizza in one large piece, taking all the sauce with it. (Fascinating, right? What would you ever do without me?)

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Amanda @ DinnersintheFourOneFive

I truly fear the travel sports years and I have so many questions – How does homework get done? How do they get enough sleep? Well, at least the dinner question has been answered- plan, organize and plot. And also release the silly notion that pizza is Friday-only dinner.


Would you reheat that pizza after picking up the girls? If so, how (mozzarella over here isn’t very microwave-compatible …)



Travel sports and the hours they occupy seem incredibly wrong to me. They ask kids to keep longer than office hours, they intrude on family time (including dinner), they make it nearly impossible to work and have kids. I have vowed to try to refuse to let my kids do anything that interferes with a calm evening (regardless of what we have for dinner). No idea if I can stick to it, but I think the current schedule of school related events that end after 5:15 needs to be resisted.


You are superwoman! These pizzas look amazing.
I have to say at this time I don’t have children and am cooking moderately time consuming meals each night that my boyfriend and I leisurely consume… I realize this won’t be the way forever and it’s nice to see that you still get a hot meal on the table while juggling everything else!


No, the chopping of the cheese into smaller bits is a good tip. Much better than the blog I saw that demonstrated how to slice a banana (and I’m not talking about the Amazon banana slicer that went viral). And you’re are decidedly making ME look bad when you reference yourself with the word lazy. My son is lucky to get leftovers on sports nights.


Anne: No, I wouldn’t reheat. I think pizza like that is just as good room temperature, but if you don’t agree, you can put it in a 350° oven covered with foil for about 10-15 min and that should do the trick.
Susie: I share your outrage and your commitment to calm evenings! The only problem is that I am completely at a loss on how to hold a kid back when he/she takes to a sport. It’s just so fun to watch! (The sport itself and my daughters’ enthusiasm for the sport.) I’m totally willing to go rogue with dinner as long as that enthusiasm endures. Of course, you should totally ask me again next year and we’ll see where I stand!


Love the homemade pizza idea, but I”m curious if you have you heard of Jeff Herzberg’s and Zoe Francois’ concept of Artisan Pizza in 5 Minutes? Their idea is to have a tub of pizza dough in the fridge ready to go, so that you can scoop out a handful anytime you feel like or when you need a quick meal. And they mix it all up in this big tub, no kneading required. I think it sounds intriguing, but my friend Cheryl thinks it’s baloney. I’m curious if anyone has tried their method??


HA! I literally made pizza last night because we have several nights of cheer & dance and we get home between 7-8pm. I make my dough from scratch on Sundays (Every Day Food recipe) and put half in the freezer and one in the fridge for the crazy nights. Add a side salad or another veg and we’re golden.
*as for the traveling and late nights, my 7yr old was asked to move up to an older age group to compete and it would mean not getting home until 9pm and I finally just said ‘she’s 7, we will wait a year’ because I couldn’t imagine that routine every night yet. OH wait! I CAN imagine it and it made my hear the Psycho music soundtrack in my brain. sigh.


I create my entire meal plan for the week based on what time work ends and sports begin, and what time everyone comes home from sports on our very staggered schedule – 5:30, 7:30, 8:30. Some have to eat before they leave, some eat after – on those nights it’s things that are easy to reheat, or soup/crockpot based. We usually only get 1-2 meals a week with more than 2 of us at a time, but at least I know they are eating something good each night!! And I too said, they won’t do travel sports, it’s too crazy and disruptive – I resisted for a while but eventually caved and yes, I spend most nights from 5:30-8:30 in my car! And in high school even the games are during the week at night!


Jenny, you’ve given us so much help over the years, so I pounced at the chance to help you out: I looked up the kumato. (I’m not saying we’re even!) It’s a hybrid tomato grown in Spain that is owned by Syngenta. They were specifically designed to have higher levels of fructose, so they are sweeter than most other kinds of tomatoes. They’re grown in very specific greenhouses (that part gets complicated). Syngenta has said it will never make the seeds available for sale so you’re stuck buying (instead of growing your own), and being a GMO, the seeds in the tomatoes won’t grown identical plants (who knows if they’d even fruit).

Now you know. Also, I LOVE asparagus on pizza- good call! Good luck with the kid schedule craziness


Sports are wonderful for growing children. I have three teenaged sons who are active in sports year round. If you think travel sports are rough, just wait until high school sports. My boys have off just a few weeks a year and we cherish those weeks (practices are held all summer long). Plus, the homework load in high school is much heavier.

That being said, we still manage to have dinner as a family most nights. The days are LONG – school, practice, dinner, homework, bed. Good home cooked meals are what keep my student athletes going strong. I know you’re not a big fan of the crock pot but it’s a great thing to come home to a hot meal after a cold night spent at the track or field.

A Life From Scratch

I’ve always wondered what will be more challenging – cooking through those newborn/toddler years, the horrible witching hour, the baby on your hip, the toddler screaming at your leg to be picked up – OR the years in which you are running said kids around from sport to activity only to arrive home past dinnertime with homework still to do. Sigh. No one ever said it was easy!


I have used the Artisan bread/healthy bread/pizza books by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg all the time… Makes bread and pizza a snap.
Highly recommend it to all for quick easy fantastic pizzas!


@Jenny ” Of course, you should totally ask me again next year and we’ll see where I stand!”

Ha ha, you will have cut down on activities, limited to one evening per week. Wait and see!


Homemade pizza is my favorite easy to go to meal too. Your right it works so well on those busy weeknights. Plus you can add whatever vegetables you have around.


the best laid plans…. It does get harder as they get older and the hardest is when they’re in h.s. and have both school teams and travel teams, lessons, etc. We found that there was a night or two each week that we weren’t all together. But, after all the years of family dinner, and the continued emphasis on having dinner together the mights we could, the tradition survived, albeit in a slightly different way. There was still a family dinner, but maybe someone was missing here or there. We didn’t devolve into individual fridge foraging. Then the older one left for college and family dinner felt like a three legged dog. But still we persisted. Now that the younger one is about to go to college too, there’s still a pleasant expectation that when everyone is home, we’ll eat dinner together. It’s just sort of part of them. My older one, studying in Italy this semester, has begun cooking with his roomates and creating his own “family dinner”!


@Wendy: Yes, the rituals become ingrained. My older 2 are now at college, and, like yours, they prioritise sitting down to a cooked meal in the evening.


Hi Jenny! Talk about on the clock: I got home late last night but quickly whipped up some spicy oven fries and heated some leftover beef (not Tony’s — there was none left over). We ate a salad while the spuds roasted and had an easy delicious meal! Thanks for time-saving recipes 🙂 Also, we ate Tony’s steak last week and loved it.


After a year of travel sports, we are actually pulling back. Our kids love what we’re doing, but the season is just so painfully long, and the games/practices are too much of an impact on family time. It’s a tough balance between letting them do the sports they want (and that they excel at), and the needs of the family overall.

I do think it’s a bit easier for us, because our kids are such sports fanatics that we can put them in something else with an easier schedule, and they’ll still thrive. Seems harder for families where the kids show interest/aptitude in one main sport/activity.

Jill Palumbo

I am one who feels strongly about sports/activities – I’m all for them. Mine are grown and I feel that being involved in sports was instrumental in making them very involved and well rounded. It kept them out of trouble (mostly) and “forced” them to keep their grades up. We worked around their schedules – crock pot meals, make ahead meals, easy to throw
together meals. Organization and planning is the key. Of course, there were plenty of nights eating at the Little League field………….but at least we were all together. lol


Do you have any crockpot recipe you can share? I do have a handful of crockpot meals i make and all i have to do during my sons’ baseball games is to come home at 5:00, turn it on, go watch baseball and when we come back home at 8 its done. I have been reading about ‘once a month cooking/freezer meals” and did a few. Most recipes though i dont like. And since i like your taste in food, maybe you can come up with some good ones?


How do you get the dough to stay stretched out on an oiled plan? I nearly tossed mine out the window when making Stromboli w this direction! (It would stay and kept retracting/sliding around and it was room temperature!) ps I love you


I just commented on the wrong post, woops. Anyways, I grilled this pizza yesterday and it turned out great. Really quick and easy and I didn’t need to eat up the house with the oven! Have you ever tried it?


I just came back to reread this recipe after a few months to get the details again and now see the limes in the picture. What’s up with that? Errant G&T ingredients making their way in to the pizza post 😉 Love it.