Monday, February 24, 2014

Homemade Pizza!

the before shot - haha ignore my mocs

I made this announcement to some of my coworkers recently yet none of them seemed as excited as I wanted them to, so I'll announce it here too: I conquered pizza dough!  The back story of this is pretty simple: we tend to order in pizza on the weekend, and I decided that one of my goals should be to make my own pizza dough.  Cue the movie reel of me making pizza after pizza (ok, maybe just two or three), all of them soggy in the middle or burnt to a crisp on top just to get the middle set.  I'm obviously a quitter, because after those few failures, I gave up entirely until right after the New Year.  Armed with a gifted new pizza cast iron pan and a fancy pizza cutter, I got to work.  The first recipe I tried did not give me the crispy thin crust I was after, but in that recipe's defense I did not spread it thin enough (resulting in thick, bready dough that required over-baking and resulted in browned cheese on top...meh).  I immediately abandoned that recipe and went back to google square one. 

This is what I found.  And it worked!  Worked like a charm.  The key, I think, is getting the stone hot and letting it stay that way for almost an hour.  I've started making a fresh batch on Sunday morning, then freezing half of it for the next week.  At the risk of sounding terrible domestic, there is nothing that makes me feel like super mom and super wife like pulling freshly made pizza dough out of the freezer and having a home-made pizza by dinner. 

For sauce, I use Mark Bittman's basic tomato sauce recipe - similar recipe here, although the one I use starts with browning smashed garlic cloves and then simmering with canned tomatoes.  A quick spin with the immersion blender and I've got smooth, homemade pizza sauce.  You could also add bay leaves, or chopped basil.  What I love about making the sauce and the pizza (aside from the fact that my husband loves - no, LOVES - pizza) is that I can use up what I have on hand.  Last night it was green peppers/red onion/pepperoni.  A few weeks ago it was olives/sweet onion.  My next goal is to make a cream pizza sauce, like this, and maybe add some poblanos as toppings.  Any other pizza ideas?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Pine Nut Meatballs with Lemon Yogurt Sauce and Pickled Vegetables

my toddler (when did that happen?)

I've baked and made many things since June or my last post.  There was a peach pie for Fourth of July.  There may have been some cookies somewhere in there.  I hosted a baby shower in mid-November that had a comfort food theme so I did chili, roasted apple soup, ginger apple sparklers, rolls, and gluten free cheesecake for the mamma to be, not to mention lots of appetizers (the baked salami with mustard dip was a hit!).  And most recently, I made pear bread topped with chocolate ganache for our Thanksgiving breakfast and old-fashioned ginger snaps for Thanksgiving snacking.  Because you need to snack during Thanksgiving, right?

A few Saturdays ago I ended up making a really great dinner and I wanted to come here and tell you about it.  It was one of those combinations that I sort of made up, and it turned out so well that I figured I should at least chronicle it here, if for nothing else so that I can reference it again when I can't think of an impressive yet easy dinner recipe.

I started with Molly Wizenberg's book (previously) and started thumbing through while little A ate his breakfast (boy, that kid can eat).  I found this meatball recipe and since it used some of my favorite ingredients - pine nuts, golden raisins, cilantro - plus I had most of it already, I figured it was fate.  The lemon yogurt dipping sauce also sounded wonderful, but I felt like I needed something spicy to pair with the cool dip and the warm, filling meatballs.  My husband gave me Rick Bayless' Authentic Mexican for my birthday and one of the first recipes I bookmarked was one for pickled chilies and vegetables and figured now was a great time to bring out that recipe (here is a similar one).

And, lo and behold, it was a success!  My only complaint with the meatballs (I used turkey) is that they tended to fall apart slightly when I cooked them, so I ended up having a pan full of mostly intact meatballs with some having fallen apart and weaped their contents all over the place.  No matter, really - they made for really great sticky cooked bits that we ate with a spoon along with the whole meatballs.  Everything played well together - the yogurt sauce helped cool off the spicy marinated peppers and was a nice smooth sauce to balance the wonderfully chunky meatballs.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween!

P.S. I'm the twin on the left

My other twin - almost a year old already!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Chickpea Piccata from Isa Chandra

tuuuurtle!  totally unrelated to this post, but really cute, no?

I'm not one to be excited about vegan dishes, usually.  We have several vegan restaurants in Memphis and I haven't tried any of them.  My husband and I both eat anything, so usually a (to me) more realistic option for us is somewhere that, you know, serves dairy and meat. 

However.  I also really love vegetables and could probably become vegetarian if the need arose.  I usually order meals that aren't very meat-centric, and we eat meat-free salads all week long (which helps us balance out our typical gluttonous weekends of eating out and my baking habits).  So, when I saw Appetite for Reduction in my suggested reads on my Amazon homepage, I was somewhat dubious but intrigued because, wow, if you take one look at the reviews it's pretty hard not to see that this is a promising book.  I bought it last year sometime, and of course am just now getting around to using it.

But poor me!  I could have been enjoying these recipes for an entire year.  Dang, people, these are good recipes.  Not only are they full of flavor, you have barely anything to feel guilty about - approximately 200 to 400 calories per serving and you're done.  Seriously, go try some of her recipes here.  And then buy her book.

And if you try just one recipe, try her Chickpea Piccata recipe.  I made it over the weekend and brought it to work for my lunches.  I added some chicken (not vegan, remember?), and ate it over arugula.  Oh. My. Goodness.  Seriously.  Somehow the flavors combine and give you rainbows in your mouth.  I read a lot of food blogs and become irritated when people get excited about a recipe online ("Try this!  OMG!") because then I have to wait hours until I can get home and try it myself, but at the risk of being annoying, I'll say it again - make this recipe NOW.  So good, so fast, so easy.  You could serve it over potatoes (or her Caulipots which I still have yet to try), or just eat it with arugula like I did.  Seriously.  Go now.  Then when you eat this for lunch (like I did today), you'll have extra calories that you can use up on the lemon meringue pie you baked over the weekend and will eat a slice of (like I will tonight).

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lately...

lazy Sunday

A roundup of food happenings at our house...

A few Saturdays ago I really wanted something crispy and crunchy, and something with shrimp.  I thought long and hard about this, and wrote a recipe in my head that involved breading shrimp with panko and then baking it.  As much as I would like to think that I'm the first one to think of it, a quick google search proved me wrong.  There are no more real, original ideas, right?

I settled on this recipe, and modified it back to reality by using a whole egg and 2% milk.  I knew going into it that the seasoning looked a little on the bland side, and yikes, I was right.  Next time I'll amp up the flavorings for sure.  If we had eaten this shrimp on its own, the lack of flavor would have been more of an issue, but I served it with homemade remoulade, which more than made up for the flavor deficiency in the shrimp.  I typically use the remoulade recipe from this book (gosh how I love this book.  Have I told you that before?  I bought this at an antique mall - at the much missed Bojo's in Memphis - after our honeymoon to New Orleans and I looove it.  Love!  His little stories alone about his mom and grandmother are worth the price of the book, but the recipes are great as well). 

Also:  Mother's Day.  Let me just say...my husband did so well.  As did the weather!  I told him I didn't want any gifts - just time with the two of them.  So that's exactly what we did.  We kicked off the weekend with brunch at Cafe Eclectic, and then we drove out to Shelby Farms to pick strawberries.  I told my husband that I want this to be just one of the many traditions that we start with A.  My grandmother took me to pick strawberries when I was young and I always remember that fondly.  After the berry picking (and A's first taste!), we had milkshakes at Wiles-Smith, and then we went home and I got to make jam while little A played in the kitchen with me.  That night, we grilled pork steaks and corn on the cob and enjoyed our deck and the nice weather.  On Sunday, my husband made me buttermilk waffle, bacon, and coffee.  Do you see a theme with this Mother's Day?

And then last weekend (yes, I'm still typing, I'm really sorry), there was a request put in for some homemade ice cream, so I made french vanilla ice cream using this recipe from my KitchenAid ice cream maker recipe booklet.  I know, way to branch out, right?  But I've made it before and it's so. so. good.  Does anyone else sort of gasp when they start pouring the custard into the mixer, like it won't all fit in there?  It always miraculously does, though.  And each time I make ice cream I think about the other recipes that I want to try, like this.  I'm also on the lookout for a pistachio ice cream (or gelato? custard?) recipe.  Any ideas out there?

Also, this is how I feel about coffee.  I wish every moment was a morning moment so I can just slowly sip good coffee and pick at a warm pastry.  Right?


Ok, one last link.  I made this brisket on Saturday night for some good friends (who are expecting!  Any day now, and our little boy will have a playmate!), and it turned out beautifully.  I didn't have any peach preserves on hand, but I did have canned peaches.  I tried to make them better by simmering them in butter and brown sugar for an hour.  It was a good stand in for the preserves, surprisingly!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March Miscellaneous


Mommy, why am I still wearing hats?  It's March!

I promised a report on those pink cookies that I made last week last month.  I'm afraid to say that I was a bit disappointed in them.  I think the cherry flavoring (the one thing that had intrigued me about that recipe!) really threw everything off...the flavor was subtle but I still felt like I was tasting icing mixed with cherry cough syrup.  I sent the majority of them to school with my husband (the students loved them of course, but what kids don't love cookies?), and the rest I have frozen: iced and ready to go, for the drop-in guest, since I doubt we'll eat them soon.  Not the worst cookies I've ever made, but...I don't think I'll be revisiting that recipe.  Sorry, Molly!

In other cooking news, I've really been interested in cooking more meat on the stovetop (as I've said before, I usually leave the meat to my grill-loving husband), so for the past few weekends, we've been indulging in some warm, fatty meals.  It's usually a combination of stewed/braised meat + grain/carb.  My recipes of choice have been:
  • Pork Vindaloo (Spicy Pork with Cinnamon), from How to Cook Everything (here is the original recipe, but I really like this adaptation - she added squash and raisins!) + rice
  • Beer Braised Short Ribs (here) + cheesy polenta

The spicy pork recipe is an absolute winner, which makes me glad that I ignored my inner cheapskate and shelled out the $10 for the cardamom spice.  A warning, though: the color of the final dish is a dismal, almost unappealing dark grey.  That's why I really liked the idea of adding squash (or onions?) to the mix for next time to add some color.

We did have one warm weekend somewhere near the end of February so I made Creamy Cabbage and Potatoes (here), and served it with Cheese Stuffed Grilled Flank Steak (you like how I capitalized that like it's an actual recipe?).  Whenever we put out sausage and cheese plates for dinner guests (or just ourselves, we love apps!), we'll sprinkle some Rendezvous seasoning on the sausage, so we thought why not adapt that for the steak?  We sprinkled the meat with the seasoning and then stuffed the steak with sharp cheddar.  Paired with the cabbage and potato dish, it was such a good combo!  We patted ourselves on the back for that one.

On the sweet side,  I made Spicy Date Bars from my absolute favorite cookbook (this one).  I've probably posted about it before, but every recipe I try out of it is a pure winner.  It seems like so many of the recipes  in the book involve dates, prunes, or raisins, so if those aren't your thing then you may not like it. 

I also made these Orange Chocolate Chip Ricotta muffins over the weekend.  The base batter was fantastic, and the orange flavor + chocolate was very good.  I think next time I'd use a combination of bittersweet or semi-sweet chips - milk chocolate was just too sweet, but I was trying to use up what's in my pantry (don't you love doing that?).  I also think another good combo would be to substitute walnuts for the chocolate chips.  I cut back on the sugar a bit and left off the glaze, and we didn't miss either.

P.S. Why is it still so cold??  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pink Cookies for Valentine's Day, and a Dutch Baby



We used to have the neatest bookstore here in Memphis.  It was about halfway between downtown and East Memphis and it was actually an old movie theatre that Elvis Presley used to frequent.  It had a big upper balcony that - from what I've heard - he used to rent out completely and then invite all of his buddies to watch movies with him.  Here is a neat link that suggests the term "Elvis has left the building" may have been shouted here for the first time.  Here's another link, if you're interested in the history.

So, back to the bookstore.  We loved frequenting this place because it was one of the few bookstores within the loosely defined midtown limits (read: less than a 10 minute drive from our house).  Plus, it was independently owned and my husband was always able to find great poetry there.  Considering our great love of this store, we were devastated when it was announced that it would be closing in late 2010.  Mad sales ensued, so we made sure to stop in every weekend or so to see what sort of deals we could grab.  Surprisingly, I found Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life in a discount pile by the door, marked at 50% off the already reduced price - down to $3.  Since I've been following her blog for awhile now, and was surely convinced that everyone around me did too and knew who she was, I was surprised that no one had snatched it up yet. 

That was in 2010.  I read the book cover to cover in about a day and a half - the writing is captivating, the stories are heartfelt and genuine, and she writes about food the way that I feel about it - that it's not just food; it's a link to our past, to our ancestry.  It's about building memories, and passing on traditions.  I feverishly bookmarked almost all of the recipes that she includes in the book, and...then I put it away.  And didn't actually make any of those recipes.  Until yesterday.

Because one of those recipes stuck with me.  Does that ever happen to you?  You have that one recipe that's been in the back of your mind, always hovering, whispering to be made.  For me, that recipe was Jimmy's Pink Cookies (and here).  The cookie dough recipe didn't strike me as anything particularly fancy, but the pink cream cheese icing, with hints of cherry or kirsch flavoring, is what sealed the deal.  I even went out and bought pure cherry extract a few weeks after reading the book, in anticipating of making the recipe soon.  I had good intentions, alright, but no follow through back then. 

These cookies also came about because I am stuck on the idea that now I have a son, I really need to make more of an effort to celebrate each holiday and these cookies seemed like the perfect treat for that.  (Don't worry, the baby didn't get any cookies this year.  I'm just gearing up for when he will!).  These cookies were made in small, drawn out, baby-friendly steps.  I mixed up the dough on Saturday, rolled and cut them out on Sunday morning, stuck them in the fridge on the baking sheets, and then baked them on Sunday night.  They are currently in my freezer, waiting to be iced.  (Side note: don't be like me and insist on using a barely 2" wide mini heart cookie cutter.  I ended up with, I don't know, 75 or more small hearts, and icing each one of them is going to be exhausting!.  I love mini cookies, but I don't love making them.  Hopefully their adorable-ness will be worth it).  I have yet to make the icing, but I will report back once I have them fully assembled and will let you know the result.  If any of you have small babies, you'll understand why this is a big undertaking.

Also of note: I ended up making Wizenberg's Dutch baby on Sunday morning.  Since I had pulled out her book to make the pink cookies, I found myself rereading the stories and recipes and was thrilled to see the Dutch baby one.  Weirdly enough, I had pulled another Dutch baby recipe to make that morning, but I didn't want to use my 10" cast iron skillet and the apples seemed like way too much work before 10 am.  This ended up being one of those ridiculously perfect recipes for that exact moment, because I had everything I needed, the Dutch baby batter came together in a matter of minutes, it fit into my 8" cast iron skillet, and the recipe was written for 2 servings.  Perfect for my husband and me (and baby - kidding!  No Dutch baby for him yet.  Can you tell that I just cannot wait for him to be able to eat real food with us?).  The recipe I linked to mentions using clarified butter for the topping, but you really don't need it.  I even skipped the lemon juice because I was lazy, but I'm sure it would be spectacular with that.  For us, all it needed was a liberal sprinkling of powdered sugar, and to be paired with a few pieces of salty bacon and a strong cup of coffee.  Sunday morning bliss, I tell you.