Quick eats for holiday dinners

Here we are, staring down the barrel of another holiday season. Your list of things to do is only slightly shorter than the list of gifts left to buy. Your plans for making blankets for all your friends have disappeared in a cloud of fabric cuttings and half-sewn backing.

And now you’re hungry. More importantly, the kids are hungry. They’re making pointed suggestions involving trips to places with plastic seats and rubber food, where the ball jump has more nutritional value than the food.

So what’s a parent to do? Punt? Pack ’em up and head for the arches?

Well, probably at least once this season, yes. And for that sin you are forgiven in advance. I grant thee culinary absolution, o ye who commits one Whopper of a sin.

How about pizza? For less than $10, and in about the time it takes the pizza guy to show up at your door, you can have hot, fresh pizza coming from your oven. All it takes is a tiny bit of work ahead of time.

Now, I’m going to beg the indulgence of my Italian or pizza-purist friends out there. We’re going to use pizza crust mix. Remember: we’re talking about holiday-battered minds. The less steps we have to deal with, the better.

First, the shopping list:

2 packages pizza crust mix

1 jar pizza sauce

Deli meat of your choice

Fresh mushrooms (or whatever veggie topping you desire)

Shredded “pizza” cheese

Mix warm water with the crust mix as per directions in a glass bowl. Cover the bowl with a dishcloth and allow it to stand in at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes (this is that tiny bit of work ahead of time we were talking about).

Preheat the oven to the temperature specified on the crust mix package (usually 375° to 425° F.).

If you don’t have a pizza pan, spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray, then press the dough evenly into the pan, stretching it and rolling slightly on the edges to make a crust.

Spread the pizza sauce LIGHTLY over the crust. You do not have to use the entire jar. Sauce is an accent, not the major ingredient.

Scatter a moderate amount of cheese onto the sauce. Don’t go for a complete cover. Apply your meats and veggies in a fairly regular pattern. The idea is that any slice should get at least a taste of each topping. If using pepperoni, save it for the final step.

Cover the meats and veggies generously with cheese. If using pepperoni, place it on top of the cheese.

Bake until the edge crust is browned and cheese is bubbling all the way through the center, 12-16 minutes. Eat and resume wrapping my presents.