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The Hand Off: Portobello Cap Pizza

2011 June 9

By Erin Pagaduan & Gina Sturgeon Portabella-Pizza-ingredientsWe left you on Tuesday having completed our shopping adventures with a list of items to fulfill our Relay recipe and two kids in tow. Once we successfully rounded up all of our ingredients we knew that the fun had just begun. One of the reasons we wanted to join the Relay is that we thought it would be nice to share our “mom’s perspective” on buying local and seasonal food to create healthy meals for our families. We chose to make pizza because it’s easy and fun – and kids love it!  However, my daughter is sensitive to gluten, so we’re getting creative about the crust. We’ll be using upside down portobello mushroom caps in place of a dough crust.  Meeting challenges like this can be a daunting task at times, depending on what’s happening with the kids, family, work and of course the food market.

CLICK HERE for the full post and recipe.

We were disappointed by the lack of available organic produce at our local farmers market, and we started thinking… Why there are so few farms in the area that grow their produce organically? There are several stands that present their goods as “spray free” but who knows what that really means? If the process of becoming certified organic is too costly or time consuming for small farmers, then where does that leave farmers who use best practices but cannot afford the certification? Where does that leave the consumer seeking to make educated shopping choices? This got us thinking about how nice it would be if farmers markets had their own merchant certification so that consumers could feel confident about what is available at their market while giving small farmers the chance to compete. We’d love to know if any markets have a program like this in place – leave a comment if you know of any!

Beyond the struggles of accessing organic local food in one stop, the hardest part of our journey was finding the time to prepare a healthy home cooked dinner. It is so frustrating when you have an amazing recipe that you would love to prepare, but when you start prepping all craziness breaks loose: kids running amok, husband asking when dinner is ready, and realizing that you forgot to buy one of the special ingredients from the store because your kid was screaming down the aisles. Sometimes being a mother can really challenge your level of patience. The night that Gina and I prepared our lovely portobello cap pizza was one of those nights.  In hindsight, skipping the kids’ naps to get a head start on the food prep was not ideal!

With hungry sleepy children wanting to be held and entertained, measuring of ingredients became a difficult task. If we had videotaped the process we would have looked a little crazy and frazzled. During our cooking extravaganza, there were only a couple of sillies that happened, like thinking we had put the finished pizza in the oven to cook while we bathed the kiddos – only to find out we hadn’t… oops. Once all was said and done we enjoyed our time together cooking and laughing.

Since it can be hard to juggle so many things at once I have come up with some helpful strategies to preserve my sanity:

  • Keep dinners healthy but simple.
  • Use no more than 5-10 ingredients to make a meal.
  • If you need some help, just ask for it, like saying “Hey babe, can you take the kids outside?” or “Hey babe, can you cut up the zucchini for me?”
  • Have the kids help in the kitchen.  Food in many cultures is a time of eating but also a time of enjoying one another’s company.  I sometimes allow more time to prep and cook with the whole family.
  • Have fun – enjoy the process, bloopers and all!  Many good memories are made in the kitchen building meals with family and good friends.

Portobello Cap Pizza

Prep Time: 15 minutes with out kids, 30 minutes with kids

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 4 servings


  • 4 large portobello mushrooms
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 yellow squash
  • 1 bunch of basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups of canned crushed tomatoes (ours was flavored with basil)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine (then a cup for yourself too, if you like)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Cooking Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Mince garlic, chop zucchini and yellow squash into 1/4″ half rounds. Slice onion in half and chop one half for sauté-ing, thinly slice other half for topping pizza, set aside.
  3. For the sauce base add garlic, onion, salt, pepper  and olive oil in a pan, saute for about 2-3 minutes over low heat.
  4. Add zucchini and squash, sauté 5 mins.
  5. Add chopped tomato, sauté 2 mins.
  6. Add 1 Tbs goat cheese to make sauce a little creamy
  7. While sauce mixture simmers, remove stems from mushrooms, rinse and pat dry.
  8. Roll up 4 basil leaves and slice. Reserve half for topping pizzas and add remainder to the sauce, then add canned tomatoes, and red wine. Cover and simmer over low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  9. Place mushroom caps with their bellies up on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil. Spoon some sauce on to each mushroom cap, then layer each with tomato, onion, torn up basil, and top with crumbled  goat cheese. Put in oven for about 15-20 minutes, juices should appear and the mushroom should look nice and soft.
  10. Remove from oven, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and enjoy!

Gina is the mother of an amazing son Ryder Jai and married to her husband Mike. Beyond taking care of her 1 year old and spending time with her family, she is a women of many talents: a florist, a ceramic teacher and also works at a tasty fish restaurant.

Erin is the mother to two fabulous kids, Asher and Leuca and a wife to husband Neiko. She spends most of her days working at a salon that she owns with some friends. The rest of her time is spent traveling and playing in the great outdoors with her family.