This weekend was so slow and easy.  We got out for a family bike ride along the shore of the city resevior, soaking in all of the fall colors and feeling the crisp autumn breeze on our faces.  I sat in front of the fire place reading The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, a story that I loved.  To top it off we celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday.

It seems weird to me, celebrating it so early, and it is just not the same as being at home for U.S. Thanksgiving.  There was no turkey and dressing, no Cowboys game, and no talk of Black Friday deals.  The thing I felt was missing most was my family.  I really miss the way the house would buzz with chatter as the family prepared the traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

I do have so much to be thankful for though.  I have my own little family now.  I am thankful for them everyday.  We are starting our own traditions too.  The past few years we have celebrated Thanksgiving by making pizza.  Yesterday the pizza incorporated some of the traditional flavors of fall like roasted butternut squash and a pesto made from sage and pecans.  I served it with this pear and spinach salad, and for desert I made this pumpkin coffee cake with brown sugar-pecan struesel.  While none of these would have been on the menu at our traditional Thanksgiving dinner a few years back, I think that they all envoke a similar spirit.

Butternut Squash Pizza with Sage Pecan Pesto

1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Dash of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 whole wheat pizza crust (see below)

¼ cup sage pecan pesto (see below)

½ cup freshly grated mozzarella

1 shallot, thinly sliced

¼ cup crumbled goat cheese or feta

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place the diced squash on the baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss to combine.  Roast the squash for 25-30 minutes, until it is starting to brown around the edges.  Remove the squash from the oven and set aside.

Increase the oven temperature to 500° F.  If using a pizza stone, place it in the oven at this time.  On a pizza peel (or a pizza pan), sprinkle some cornmeal on a pizza peel and dust a rolling pin with flour.  Roll out the dough into about a 15 inch circle.

Spread the pesto evenly onto the pizza crust.  Top with the shredded mozzarella, roasted squash, shallot.  Crumble the goat cheese on top.  Bake in the oven 8-12 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the center cheese is bubbly.  Eat immediately, you deserve it after all the hard work

Whole Wheat Crust

2 ½  teaspoons yeast

1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

1 cup hot water

2 ½ cups whole wheat flour, plus extra if needed and for dusting

1 tablespoon olive oil plus more for greasing the bowl

½ teaspoon salt

Corn meal for dusting the pizza peel

In the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attachment, combine the yeast, molasses, and hot water.  Stir for a couple of seconds to combine and let sit until frothy (about 5 minutes).  Add the olive oil, flour, and salt.  Turn the mixer on to speed 2 and let mix for 2 minutes.  The dough should come together and clean the sides of the bowl, but if it is too wet at this time, slowly add flour until this happens.  Let the mixer knead the dough on speed 2 for 3 more minutes.  Remove the dough from the bowl.  Lightly grease the bowl and a sheet of plastic wrap large enough to cover the bowl.  Return the dough to the bowl and place in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.  I place a small sauce pan with boiling water in the oven, and then place my dough in there.  I find that this makes the perfect warm and moist environment for my dough to rise in.

Sage Pecan Pesto

1/3 cup pecan halves

1 packed cup baby spinach

1/3 cup fresh sage leaves

1 large clove garlic

1/3 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Put all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined.

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