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Pizza Perfection – Re-post

Pizza Perfection – Re-post

I posted this previously, but a friend is wanting a good pizza crust recipe so I told her I would share mine (again)!

 

Pizza is another one of those things that I’ve grown up with. I can remember my dad making homemade pizza when I was a very young girl, and before homemade pizza was “cool”. At that age, my job was helping my mom make the sauce and getting to spread it on the pizza dough.

Pizza is still a very integral part of my family’s life and tradition. (No, I’m still not Italian). Our traditional Christmas dinner at my parents’ house is homemade pizza. Our pizza skills have grown considerably and so have our palates. I really like veggies on my pizza but don’t care for greasy meats. No pepperonis or sausages for me, please!

The older brother with the mad cooking skills actually makes homemade pizza weekly for his family. They love being able to whip up their favorite basic pizza and he loves being able to try new toppings for himself.

Pizza is so amazing for that reason. It lends itself to so many awesome toppings.

Yesterday was the last day of school for my girls this year. I made homemade pizza. They all love it, so even though it’s not an unusual occurrence, it’s still a treat for them. They like it with cheese and cheese – light on the sauce, but heavy on the cheese.

I have been trying out new pizza dough recipes lately. I just wasn’t thrilled with the one I had been making (for most of my life). It wasn’t as flavorful or as crisp as I like. I have tried several whole wheat crust recipes, thinking that would give me the flavor and crunch I wanted. They did not. So, I kept searching. I talked to my aforementioned brother about pizza dough, and he said the key is better flour. As I was looking at pizza dough recipes yesterday I came across one from Jamie Oliver, the naked chef. I liked it; well, most of it. I also read several different things about pizza making that had eluded my previously. So, with recipe in hand and tips to try out, I was excited to try it all out.

The results were phenomenal! The crust was thin and crisp with fantastic flavor. It was the perfect foundation for building a delicious pizza. Which I did. The hubs and I both agreed that the pizza I made for us (remember the girls just like cheese) was the best I have ever made. I even took a piece down to my mother, who seemed skeptical at the sight of it. She agreed that it was very good. On the grown up pizza I used a very, very light amount of pizza sauce followed by Ricotta Cheese and Mozzarella. I added some thinly sliced chicken breast that I had marinated and cooked in my grill pan. I followed that with caramelized onions and finished with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Other than the new recipe I did a couple of things differently. Even these slight differences were noticeable. First, I turned my oven to a hotter temperature. I cranked my oven up to between 450 and 500 degrees F. The next thing was the use of parchment paper. My usual style is to use my pizza stone dusted with corn meal. I came across a couple of suggestions to use parchment paper in the bottom of pizza pans and a discussion board talking about using parchment on the stone. The transfer of the pizza to the stone has always been a struggle for me. I don’t own a paddle, and even with a paddle (which I have used at my parents house) I struggle. I rolled out the dough on the parchment, topped the pizza, and scooted the parchment onto the back (upside down bottom) of a baking sheet, then carefully sliding the parchment onto the stone. Voila! It worked like a dream. It was just as simple to take off of the stone using the parchment onto the back of the baking sheet and then cooling a few minutes on that before removing to the cutting board.

Here is the recipe that I used, with the changes that I made. I also halved the recipe from its original. I got 4 crusts out of the recipe I made. It was perfect! I also used my Kitchen Aid with dough hook to make the dough. Mwah.

Pizza Crust

  • 3 ½ cups bread flour
  • 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1 ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water

Add the flour and salt to the bowl of the mixer, making a well in the middle. Heat the water to lukewarm in a large microwave proof measuring cup, add the yeast, sugar, and olive oil and leave for a few minutes. Gently mix the ingredients in the measuring cup with a fork, the pour gently into the middle of the flour. Mix at a slow speed until the liquid starts to incorporate into the flour. Increase the speed on the mixer gradually. Once all of the ingredients have become mixed, turn the speed up to medium and mix for 5-7 minutes. The dough will pull away from the sides and bottom of the bowl and become smooth and springy. Lightly oil the bottom of the bowl with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let it sit in a warm area until doubled in size.

When the dough has doubled in size, dump it onto a floured surface and punch down the dough. This is a quick kneading to get the air bubbles out of the dough. Form the dough into a large ball. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into fourths (I was able to get 4 good sized pizzas using this recipe). Make balls of the cut dough, placing 3 back into the bowl. Cover with the plastic wrap.

On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough to desired thickness. For yesterday’s pizzas I started on a well floured surface, then put down my parchment on the floured surface and finished rolling on the parchment.

Top your pizza dough with sauce, cheese, and any wonderful things that you desire. Bake at a very hot oven for 6-10 minutes, until the edges of the crust are lightly browned and the cheese is melty.

 

For a full description of the original recipe go to

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/jamie-oliver/pizza-dough-recipe/index.html.

 

Have fun with your pizza building and pizza EATING! Mangia!

 

 
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Posted by on July 26, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Clean Eating – Banana Muffins, Chicken Nuggets

Clean Eating – Banana Muffins, Chicken Nuggets

One of the recipes I came across during my week of clean eating a few months back was a banana muffin recipe. Last week, I made it again, and made some with the addition of blueberries. Not only were my children fans of these healthified muffins, but so did The Hubs. This muffin recipe is definitely going to make it into rotation!

http://www.thegraciouspantry.com/clean-eating-banana-muffins/

I used the above recipe the first go-round, and modified it only slightly for the 2nd batch of banana muffins and the banana-blueberry muffins. My changes include using one more muffin per batch than the recipe calls for, and using ½ cup of fresh blueberries, folded in gently.

As easy as baking the muffins was, the journey to baking them was not. Life Happens. Over the weekend, it happened to my years old oven. I was getting ready to start the baking, turned on the oven to preheat it, and heard a loud pop inside the oven. The element burst. No baking at my house. So, I loaded up all of my ingredients and muffin tins and headed the long three blocks to my mom’s house to use her oven. I think the girls and I had a much better time baking at G’s than she did! We did enjoy trying out the fun new way to separate eggs that one of my brothers had shown us. You may have seen it on Facebook…using a clean plastic water bottle. It worked for us and was quite entertaining!

egg separator

Another recipe that we have had twice now, is Cornmeal Crusted Chicken. It is a very easy, healthy way to make ‘chicken nuggets’. This is by far the easiest chicken nugget recipe I have made in my entire life, and the fact that it is healthy and clean makes it even better!

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/chicken_nuggets_blackberry_mustard.html

I did not make the blackberry mustard that went with this recipe, but rather made honey mustard using Dijon and honey. It was good, and am not sure the girls would have liked the blackberry version.

Whether I make clean eating my standard or not, I think eating healthy is a positive step for me and my family. Especially when the healthy recipes are as good as these two! Don’t just take my word for it, try these for yourself and see if you don’t add these easy, delicious recipe to your own recipe file!

 

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2014 in recipe

 

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Fresh Summer Sweet Corn

Fresh Summer Sweet Corn

If I could capture the smell in my house and share it right now, I would. It is the smell of summer. It is the smell of fresh sweet corn and butter.

This is our second delicious fresh corn experience this season. One of the best things about living in a town in rural Kansas is the fresh sweet corn. It epitomizes summer.

Our first cooking of corn this year we made on the grill while we were grilling chicken breast. I served a side dish of crispy potatoes with homemade ketchup. The potatoes reminded me of patatas bravas, my favorite Spanish dish.

Today I did something different with the corn. I made a Mexican dinner of pork tacos and thought the corn would be great sautéed with some red pepper. I was right. If I could bottle this smell and then open it on a snowy winter day. It was easy enough to make that I think I’ll make some more the next time I grab some fresh ears of sweet corn.

Sautéed Fresh Sweet Corn

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 ears fresh sweet corn
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh red pepper, diced
  • Salt and pepper

Shuck corn and remove silks. Wash thoroughly. Cut corn kernels from cobs. Melt butter in a large skillet. Toss red pepper into butter and cook for a minute. Add corn to the skillet and toss to coat with butter. Sauté corn and pepper over medium heat until the corn is tender, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning or sticking. Remove to serving dish and sprinkle with freshly ground salt and pepper.

Pork Tacos

  • 3 pound pork roast or pork butt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground red pepper
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable broth or chicken broth

Place pork in slow cooker. Sprinkle spices over the top of the pork, ending with cocoa powder. Drizzle tomato paste over the top of the spices. Pour broth gently over the top of the pork, careful not to wash off the spices or tomato paste. Cook on low for 6-10 hours, until pork is tender. Turn off and allow to cool. Remove the pork and shred. Serve in warmed tortillas with your favorite taco toppings.

I served mine with homemade guacamole, diced tomatoes, grated cheese, green onion, cilantro, and sour cream. I served a side of rice and the delicious Sautéed Corn. Did I mention it was delicious?

Now, I’ll share the recipe I got (thanks to Daughter Number Two for finding it) for the previous nights potatoes. I’m posting the link, as I followed it to the letter, except for swapping out 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil for safflower.

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/potatoes_spicy_tomato_sauce.html

I hope you enjoy these delightful recipes as much as I did!

I would love to know what your favorite summer corn recipe is. I have my order in for another dozen!

 

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in recipe

 

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Cherry Jam and Cherry Pudding

Cherry Jam and Cherry Pudding

The weekend was a continuation of cherry jubilation. With the help of my assistant daughters I made cherry jam and an old family favorite, Cherry Pudding.

I had never made jam or jelly before. I know my parents had made some jellies when I was young, but I don’t recall being a part of it. The Hubs made apricot and cherry jam last summer. The apricot was amazing, but the cherry did not set, or jell. I have used it as a glaze or marinade for pork all year!

The girls pitted the remainder of the cherries we had picked last weekend. I measured out the 4 cups of cherries called for in the jam recipe and was astonished at how many cherries were left! In fact, after making the jam and the pudding and sharing a cup of cherries with my mother to make her own pudding, I still have quite a large amount of cherries.

Since I had never made jam before I used a recipe from the Sure-Jell pectin website. I’m glad I did. It turned out great! The only adaptation I made to the recipe was I decreased the amount of sugar it called for by 1 cup. It is plenty sweet.

Fresh Cherry Jam

  • 4 cups fresh pitted cherries
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 1 box Sure-Jell Fruit pectin
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract, optional

Bring boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour water not quite but just prior to boiling over flat lids in a saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling. Chop washed, stemmed, and pitted cherries. (I used my food processor and chopped some fine and some a little more coarse) Measure exactly 4 cups of the prepared cherries into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot. Stir in lemon juice.Stir pectin into fruit mixture in saucepot. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn’t stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar and extract. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat; skim off any foam with metal spoon.Ladle immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/4 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

The other success of my first jam making experience is that it was also my first ‘canning’ experience without assistance of a more experienced person. I’m thrilled to announce that all four pints of my jam sealed.

This recipe is one that my mother has been making as long as I can remember. I didn’t check the copyright date in the little book that it came from, but I did snap a pic of the cover. It’s called “The Way to a Man’s Heart” it and it was put out by the Gas Service Company. Oh!Gas Service Cookbook

As I was putting this together with my assistants I had to explain that this was not the type of pudding they were used to. I reminded them about the pudding we had tried on our trip to Ireland, which was nothing like the puddings they were used to, and then quickly explained that this was not Black or White pudding and there was NO blood in this pudding. Except cherry blood. After I pulled the finished product out of the oven it was all I could do to keep their little fingers out of it. I didn’t want them to burn their fingers in the molten hot cherry goodness! We let it cool and then served with some vanilla bean ice cream. I think they were glad they waited! I had to keep their fingers out of it the rest of the day.

Cherry Pudding

  • 2 cups liquid (cherry juice and water)
  • 1 cup canned cherries (I used fresh)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons butter

Combine ingredients and cook 10-15 minutes. (I should have cooked a little longer than 15, since my cherries were fresh.)

Pudding Foundation

  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups sifted flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a casserole dish. Cream butter and add sugar gradually and mix until creamy. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together 3 times and add alternately with milk. Pour Pudding Foundation into greased pan and pour cherry syrup mixture over the top. Bake 30-35 minutes, until top is golden brown and set.

Cherry Pudding

As I said, this recipe was as big of a hit with my girls as it has always been with me. Daughter Number Two even liked it, and she is not a fan of cherries.

Stay tuned to see what other great things we make with the remainder of our fresh cherries during this summer’s Cherry Jubilation!

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2014 in recipe

 

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Fresh Cherry Pie

Fresh Cherry Pie

After making the brown sugar cakes from the first picking of cherries this year I did a second picking and we froze a couple of freezer bags full of pitted cherries.

I also wanted to make a cherry pie. The cherry tree is my dad’s and he had not had the tree long enough to get cherries when he had his stroke. This is the second summer of harvestable cherries. That’s just some backstory to why I wanted to make a cherry pie. Cherry pie is my dad’s favorite. I wanted to take some into the facility he lives in so he could eat it.

My mother didn’t have ‘a recipe’ for cherry pie that she always used so I went to the ‘net. I found a cherry pie filling that seemed easy and got to it. The recipe below is from http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/cherry-pie-recipe.html.

Cherry Pie

  • 4 cups fresh tart cherries
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • Pie Dough for a 2 crust pie
  • 1 ½ Tablespoons butter, to dot
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar, to sprinkle

Place cherries in medium saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot cherries and mix well. Add the almond extract, if desired, and mix. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more cornstarch. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use your favorite pie dough recipe. Prepare your crust. Divide in half. Roll out each piece large enough to fit into an 8 to 9-inch pan. Pour cooled cherry mixture into the crust. Dot with butter. Moisten edge of bottom crust. Place top crust on and flute the edge of the pie. Make a slit in the middle of the crust for steam to escape. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

I had, of course, enlisted the help of my daughters (and attempted to enlist a nephew) in the picking and pitting process. They were less enthusiastic about helping me make the filling after all of the pitting, so I did the rest mostly on my own.

The results were outstanding! I could have just eaten the pie filling without the crust it was wonderful. I do think I will cut the sugar by a little bit the next time, as the 1 ½ cups seemed a little too sweet. The daughters loved the pie, my co-workers loved the pie (and one of them doesn’t like pie), and most importantly my dad loved the pie. He ate every bit of the extra large slice I took him. That’s what it was all about it, seeing him enjoy the cherries from the tree he had planted and knowing that this was his favorite! I’m also delighted that no one judged my pie by its cover. Not the prettiest crust I’ve ever made.

This recipe is definitely a keeper for next summer when it’s time to pick cherries! If you have some cherries that you want to find whip into a pie, this is a great way to use them.

 
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Posted by on June 27, 2014 in recipe

 

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There’s a Leek on my Plate!

There’s a Leek on my Plate!

As a mother of four, I can tell you that I know a thing or two about leaks. I know about leaky diapers. I know about leaky bladders. I know about leaky plumbing in my house. I even know about leaky roofs. However, I did not know about leeky leeks.

I was the lucky recipient of some leeks after Brother Number One took a trip to the Farmer’s Market a couple of weekends ago. He offered me some leeks and being curious, I took them. When I told Daughter Number One about them, she said the only thing she knew about leeks she learned from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Two. Apparently there is a scene where someone announces “There’s a leek in the boat”. It was much funnier after I explained to her what a leek is.

I sat down and learned as much about leeks as I could from the piece of paper that my brother had picked up from the vendor, and online. I learned that leeks are dirty and need to be thoroughly washed. I learned that the darker parts are not to be eaten, but can be used to make stock. I learned that there is a specific way to cut them to clean and cook. Armed with that information I set out to use my leeks.

The first thing I did with some of the leeks was to use them on homemade pizza. The Hubs wanted to grill some, but not all of the pizzas I made for Father’s Day dinner. I’m so glad he did, because the first one we made was cream cheese, hamburger and leek. He got the first slice. He was thrilled to announce that it tasted like a Burger King Whopper. I had to try a bite myself. Sure enough the pizza did taste like a Whopper. I had it my way! I used the leeks on a number of other flavor combinations that evening, including a cream cheese, crab, and leek pizza. Wowza. That was another winner. I baked that one in the oven. I wasn’t sure I would like the grilled taste on the crab.

The next night I made meatloaf for dinner with baked potatoes. Isn’t that the standard? I wanted to use the leeks in a way that they were the centerpiece of a dish. I found a Steamed Leek with Vinaigrette recipe that sounded good to me. I whipped up the recipe, plated the dinner, and waited for reactions to the leek dish. Daughter Number Four said she just loved it! She finished her entire serving. Daughters Two and Three opted out. Flat. The Hubs asked how he should cut and eat his, so I showed him by example. He cut a little bite and put it in his mouth expectantly. The look on his face was not nearly as happy as the one I had seen moments earlier on D4’s. “This is an onion!” he exclaimed with his mouth still full of half chewed leek. I tried to explain that it was in the onion family, but not an onion. He removed the rest of the leek from his mouth. Apparently he was expecting a fresher, brighter flavor and certainly not expecting it to taste like an onion. He got an even bigger surprise when he discovered that the capers I had used in the vinaigrette were not (as he believed) shriveled up peas. The girls and I laughed and laughed as he drank water and mumbled something about peas and onions. He finished the meatloaf and potato and slid the rest of his leeks onto D4’s plate.

I loved the leeks in vinaigrette and definitely plan on making them again. This time The Hubs will know what it is, so he won’t be surprised (or put any on his plate).

Steamed Leeks with Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons capers, drained
  • ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 8 Leeks, white and light green part only, washed and trimmed

Bring 2 quarts water to boil over medium-high heat in stock pot or large pan with a steamer basket insert. In a small bowl, mix together vinegar, salt, mustard, and oil with a small whisk or fork until combined well. Gently stir in capers. Set aside. When water is at a rolling boil add leeks to steamer pan and steam for about 10 minutes until tender. Remove with tongs or a slotted spoon and lay on a platter or serving plate and cover with vinaigrette while hot. Serve warm.

Again, I thought this was a great leek dish and will definitely make it again. If you have not tried leeks before you might want to start with something not quite as ‘leeky’! Use them in a soup, in a casserole or other dish, or on a pizza or tart.

I’m looking forward to getting leeky more frequently now.

Leek Preparation Information:

Wash under water to remove visible dirt. Cut off the roots of the leeks. Slice leeks lengthwise. The white and light green parts are the mildest, the darker green parts are stronger and slightly bitter. The darker parts are best used in making stock. Make crosswise cuts along the leek that you intend to use. Place the chopped leeks in a bowl filled with cold water. Using your hands, agitate the leeks to dislodge dirt or sand. Use a slotted spoon to remove the leeks. Discard the water and repeat until the leeks are clean.

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2014 in recipe

 

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Brown Sugar Cakes with Cherries

Brown Sugar Cakes with Cherries

It’s cherry season again. Daughter Number One came home for a few days visit. She was so excited when I told her that my parents’ cherry tree was loaded that we went right down and started picking cherries. We got a nice first little picking. We took the cherries from my parents’ house back to mine and got to pitting. In all of our excitement we hadn’t even thought about what we were going to make. I I perused the web and found a recipe that sounded simple and delicious! It was a huge hit with everyone! We will definitely be making these again!

 

Brown Sugar Cakes with Cherries (adapted from Martha Stewart)

  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons dry milk reconstituted in 2 Tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 60 cherries
  • 2 Tablespoons Turbinado sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 cup muffin tin. In a small bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. With a mixer cream the shortening and brown sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. Scrape sides of bowl. Beat in milk and vanilla, then flour mixture. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling cups about 1/3 full. Place 5 cherries on top of each cake and sprinkle with Turbinado sugar. Bake until cakes are golden brown and a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Let cook 5 minutes in tin. Use a rubber spatula to run around the edge of each cake to loosen. Release cakes onto a wire rack, cherry side up. Cool slightly and serve with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

If you have a few fresh cherries, this is such a great way to use them! These orts are going to make it back onto our table very soon! I think Daughter Number One will make some at her house very soon, too. She took some fresh cherries home when she left!

 

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2014 in recipe

 

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