Saturday, December 7, 2013

Perfect Pizza Dough



Buddy the Elf has his sugar food groups.  Therefore, I find it perfectly appropriate to have my own carbohydrate food groups--dairy, bread, sugar, and wine.  After all, 'tis the season for (not so) guilt-free indulging.  I am fairly certain that pizza fits all of those food groups, except for wine, but there's a quick remedy for that.  No wonder it is one of my all-time favorite foods.

We've been eating some great food this fall.  So much so that I can't keep up with blog posts.  This pizza dough, however, needs to be shared.  Growing up, my mom would occasionally make homemade pizza.  I remember it being quite the production with lots of kneading, then rising, then some more kneading, then maybe some more rising, and maybe some more kneading...I lost track of the process.  Anyhow, she would then bake it in this massive cast iron skillet that is so heavy that as a small kid, I couldn't lift it.  (On a morbid side note: I remember thinking to myself as a kid that if I ever needed a weapon, this skillet would be a good one.)  By the time the pizza was finished, I would be nearly drooling.  The end result was always worth the wait--it was always perfect. 




With such fond memories of pizza as a kid, I still love the stuff.  This dough is not my mom's recipe, but is absolutely delicious (sorry mom, I like mine even better).  It is perfectly doughy, flaky, and soft all at the same time.  Also, the addition of Italian seasoning is quite magical.  What I love most about this pizza dough is that it is quick and easy.  There isn't the torturous cycle of kneading and rising--the whole thing is can be done and ready to be rolled out in 30 minutes!




And then for the toppings.........

Of course the options are endless and certainly up to you.  My favorite pizza though, has a mixture of tomato and pesto sauces, and is topped with caramelized onions, grilled chicken, fresh basil, and so much mozzarella cheese it should be illegal.  Sprinkle withe a little crushed red pepper and some more Italian seasoning, and my pie is perfect.  (It was so good that Quincy stole it off the counter and ate more than half of it....he had a basketball in his tiny dog belly for a week.)

Treat your friends and family to homemade pizza for a change.  You'll be shocked at how quick and easy it is.  Then in the future, you'll think twice about calling for delivery.  :)




Pizza Dough:
  • 3 cups of all-purpose flour (you can use 2 cups of all-purpose and 1 cup of wheat if you'd like)
  • 1 (.25 ounce) packet of rapid rise active yeast
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon of white sugar
  • 1 cup of warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
  1. Add the flour and salt to the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.
  2. Measure your warm water, then add the yeast, sugar, and olive oil.  Give a quick stir.  Let stand for 5 minutes to proof.
  3. Pour the water and yeast mixture into the bowl with the flour and salt.  Add the Italian seasoning.
  4. Knead on medium until a doughy ball forms.
  5. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  6. Let the dough rest for 20 or 30 minutes.  (I have skipped this part entirely and the dough has been equally delicious.)
  7. Roll out on a floured surface.  Transfer to a cookie sheet that has been liberally sprinkled with corn meal.
  8. Top with deliciousness.
  9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until your cheese is golden brown and the edges of the crust are golden brown too.
  10. Cool momentarily (if you can wait that long).
  11. Slice away.  
  12. ENJOY!
***Note:  I've also made grilled pizzas from this recipe and it worked perfectly!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lemon Risotto

I love the holiday season for two reasons--family and food.  I get equally excited to share and create new memories with family as I do to feed them.  I want all of us to remember the day for the fun that we had together and also for the great meal we shared.  Needless to say, I think long and hard about what to make for any holiday meal. 


This lemon risotto tops my list for any winter holiday feast.  It hits the comfort food mark, but is equally light and fresh.  The parmesan and arborio rice bring a nutty flavor that is perfectly contrasted by the tart sweetness of the lemon.  Add some asparagus for crunch and green veggie goodness and you have one heck of an incredible holiday meal.  For our past two Christmas dinners, we have made this exact risotto and topped it with seared scallops and king crab.  Honest to goodness, I look forward to it all year and save it as a special holiday dish. 

This year, we are going to serve this risotto as a side at our Thanksgiving dinner too--it's so good that just one holiday won't do.  Mashed potatoes and stuffing are certainly traditional and tasty as Turkey Day sides, however, if you're looking to shake things up a little without adding any additional effort to your feast, this risotto is for you.  In fact, we will be having mashed potatoes, stuffing, and this risotto.  Don't let all the hype about risotto being difficult to make dissuade you--it's not true.  It is very simple, has few ingredients, and is methodical.  You can easily add it to your holiday menu...and you'll be thankful you did.

I know that I will be enjoying family and food this holiday season.  I hope you do too.  :)


Lemon Risotto:
  • 1/2 of a sweet onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2ish tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 1/3 cup of dry white wine
  • between 5 and 6 cups of lower sodium chicken broth
  • 2ish tablespoons of fresh lemon zest
  • between 1/4 and 1/3 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice (for both the zest and the juice, use more or less depending on your taste preference)
  • about 2 cups of asparagus, loosely chopped
  • 1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1ish tablespoons of Italian seasoning
  • fresh ground black pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet.  Add the onions and saute over medium-high heat until the onions are tender and translucent.
  2. Add the arborio rice and stir until shiny, about one minute.  (Be careful not to burn!)
  3. Add the wine and stir until evaporated, about 30 seconds.  Stir continuously.
  4. Add 1 to 2 cups of chicken broth and simmer until the liquid is absorbed.  Stir frequently!
  5. In the meantime, heat the butter in a different skillet.  Add the asparagus and saute until just past al dente.  Set aside.
  6. Add the remaining chicken broth to the risotto 1/2 cup at a time.  Continue to allow the broth to be absorbed before adding more.  
  7. When the arborio rice has become noticeably fat, do a taste test for done-ness.  You want your risotto to be just past al dente--not crunchy, but not mushy, and not liquidy.  (I taste often.)  This should take about 30 minutes.
  8. When the the risotto has reached your desired consistency, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, cheese, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and cooked asparagus.  Stir to combine.  
  9. Taste and adjust any of the flavors.  I like my risotto to be both lemony and peppery.  :)
  10. Serve in a warm pasta bowl.  Top with more pepper and cheese.  
  11. ENJOY!  Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Buttermilk Cinnamon Bread

One of my favorite smells is cinnamon.  It can be straight out of the bottle, sauteing on the stove, or baking in the oven--I love it.  It smells of comfort, warmth, and love.  I really love cinnamon in the fall when all of the chaos of summer travel has come to an end, it's time to snuggle up with a blanket and a good book, and the appreciation for loved ones really comes to the forefront.  Cinnamon comes with memories. 


This buttermilk cinnamon bread is sure to cultivate fond memories.  It is extraordinarily easy to make and fills the entire house with a smell that is so decadent I can't describe it.  Seriously, if I could bottle this smell and sell it, I would be a millionaire.  A few times, I've just baked the bread so it will make the house smell good without particularly having any other reason in mind.

Not only does this bread smell good, but it also tastes fantastic as well.  The top is perfectly crusty with a hint of sweet, while the buttermilk provides a perfect tangy balance.  The ribbon of cinnamon-sugar in the middle is like a little nugget of heaven.  I don't know about you, but Cinnamon Toast Crunch was (is) one of my favorite cereals, and this bread is like a grown up sophisticated version of that in bread form...if that makes any sense.  I imagine that this bread would be incredible dipped in coffee with some Irish Creme.  In fact, I am going to try that next!







Buttermilk Cinnamon Bread:
  • 4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 cup of applesauce
  • 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 cups of buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of cinnamon
  • about 3/4 cup of sugar
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Use cooking spray to prepare two 8 x 4 loaf pans.
  3. In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the applesauce, oil, and 1 1/2 cups of sugar.  
  4. Add the buttermilk and eggs.  Mix well.
  5. Add the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Mix on low until just combined.
  6. Mix the tablespoon of cinnamon and the 3/4ish cups of sugar in a small bowl.
  7. Fill each of the loaf pans about half full.  
  8. Sprinkle about half of the cinnamon/sugar mixture over each of the pans.
  9. Top both pans with the remaining batter, then top with the rest of the cinnamon/sugar.
  10. Swirl with a butter knife.
  11. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  12. Cool before removing from pans.
  13. ENJOY!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Perfectly Poached Eggs

I don't know if a Sunday has ever gone by without my dad eating poached eggs.  His Sunday morning breakfast is as routine as brushing his teeth.  I've never really been one for traditional breakfast meals and much prefer cereal with berries and yogurt.  After 30 years though, I suppose it is time I get on the grown-up breakfast bandwagon.  I now eat poached eggs on Sundays.


Poached eggs are great because they are so light and fresh.  No bells and whistles in the form of peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese, smoked salmon, bacon, onions, salsa, sour cream, black beans, or whatever other fixing one often puts in egg dishes.  For perfectly poached eggs, all you need is some multi-grain toast and some salt and pepper.  That's it!  The other thing I love about poached eggs is that they fuel me up for the rest of the day.  High in protein, low in fat--yum.  Finally, they only take 4 minutes to make!

Thinking about switching up your weekend brunch routine?  These perfectly poached eggs are for you.

Heat up up your water.  Make sure to add about a tablespoon of white vinegar.  It will help your egg whites to stay together.
Get your eggs ready!
When the water is ready, you have to move quickly.  That's why each egg gets its own bowl so I can use both hands to set them in the water.

Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat, swirl the water with a spoon, add your eggs, and set the time for 4 minutes.  (Yes, we are eating breakfast at noon.)
Cover your eggs.  Meanwhile, pop your toast in the toaster.
After the timer goes off, use a slotted spoon to remove your perfectly poached eggs.



ENJOY!


Perfectly Poached Eggs:
  • a saucepan about half full with water + 1ish tablespoons of white vinegar
  • 2 eggs
  • two pieces of lightly buttered multi-grain toast
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  1. Heat the water and the vinegar on high and bring to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, crack the eggs into separate bowls, get out the toast and the toaster.  Things move quickly, people.
  3. As soon as the water reaches a boil, turn off the heat, stir the water to create a vortex, and carefully place the eggs in the water, then cover with a lid.
  4. Set the timer for 4 minutes--no more, no less!
  5. While cooking, pop your toast in the toaster and lightly butter.
  6. When the timer buzzes, use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the water and lightly shake to remove excess water.  Be careful not to break the yolks.
  7. Place each egg on a piece of toast.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  8. Happy Sunday breakfast!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Zoodles = Zucchini Noodles

I didn't believe them.  I really didn't.  I thought that all of the bloggers and foodies that gush about zucchini noodles and how amaaaaaazing and perfectly al dente and no one will ever know it's good for you were completely off their rockers.  Moment of humility here--they were right!!


These zoodles were a culinary surprise.  Perfectly dense, and certainly not mushy like I assumed they would be.  Their fresh flavor was perfectly complimented by a tasty ragu we put on top.  The best thing about the zoodles was that they were incredibly easy to make.  (Although, don't try to slice off your pinky finger in the mandolin slicer like I did.)  Slice, sautee, serve.  It's that simple.


I am looking forward to making them again.  Next time I would like to top the zoodles with a pesto, pea, and feta combination.  I also bet the zoodles would be great as a replacement for the pasta in a pasta salad. 

If you are a skeptic like I was, trust me.  The zoodles are worth making.  I promise.






Zoodles:

  • 4 zucchinis
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • a glug or two of olive oil
  • a dash each of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
  1. Use a mandolin slicer to carefully julienne all of the zucchini.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the minced garlic and stir.  Make sure not to burn the garlic.
  4. Add the zucchini and stir.  The zucchini will begin to emit water, thus preventing them sticking and burning, but you'll need to watch.  If you have to, add a splash of water.
  5. Add the salt and pepper.
  6. Let the zoodles cook for a few minutes, while stirring regularly.
  7. They are done when they have reached your desired tenderness.
  8. Top with something delicious.  ENJOY!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Granola Clusters

I don't even know how or where to begin to describe my life-long obsession with granola.  The endless combinations of oats, nuts, dried fruits, and different spices are nothing short of exhilarating).  I also love granola because it can be enjoyed dry, with milk, or with any kind of yogurt (which is also nothing short of exhilarating).  My favorite thing about granola, however, is the crunch.

Clusters of crunch is what leads me steadfastly affirm that this granola is the best in the universe.  Not just a little bit of crunch, but a-whole-lotta crunch--medium-sized nuggets of crunch, in fact.  The clusters aren't gooey, sticky, oily, or so hard that they break your teeth.  The secret is a perfect combination of maple syrup and egg whites, of all things.  The clusters are the absolute perfect texture.

Sadly, I take absolutely no credit for the clusters of crunch; Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen is the one to be honored, better yet, revered for this granola.  There is no doubt about the fact that the woman is a culinary genius.  What I love most about her though, is that she makes gourmet recipes easy and accessible to us common folk.  I am smitten with her kitchen.

Not only are the clusters in this granola incredible, but the hint of sweetness from the coconut as well as the wholesome nut taste from the almonds puts it over the top.  My favorite way to serve this little bit of heaven is on plain Greek yogurt topped with a large handful of fresh blueberries.  I also love it eat it plain.  I am sure it is equally delicious with dried cranberries or blueberries and served with milk.  So many options!!!  I better make it again to experiment.  :)

Make this granola now.  It is quick and easy.  It will change your granola life, I promise.




(Apparently I don't have any photos of the granola in the bowl....probably because I was too busy eating it.  Sorry folks.  It's that good.)

Granola Clusters:
Only slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen's "Big Cluster Maple Granola"
  • 3 cups of old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 generous cup of shredded coconut (add more or less to your liking)
  • 1 very generous cup of whole almonds (or any other nut or combination of nut you would like and/or you can chop them.  I very much prefer the whole almonds)
  • 1/4 wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt (a little less if you don't want to be able to taste any salt)
  • 1/2 cup of maple syrup
  • between 1/4 and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 large egg white
  • any sort of topping you would like--fresh fruit, dried fruit, etc.
  1. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except for the egg white and whatever you picked as toppings.  Toss evenly to coat. 
  3. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl until frothy.  Stir into the granola mixture, distributing it throughout. 
  4. Spread the granola onto the prepared baking sheet.  Pat down with a rubber spatula. 
  5. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes.  I found that if I use a dark pan, I have to cook closer to the 40 minute side of the range otherwise the edges almost burn.  Watch closely. 
  6. About halfway through the baking time, use a large spatula to turn over sections of the granola carefully, breaking them up as little as possible.  I pretend that I am flipping granola pancakes in their little spaces.  
  7. Rotate the pan and put back into the oven to finish baking. 
  8. When the is evenly browned and feels dry to the touch, transfer the pan to a cooling rack.
  9. Cool completely.  (This is important.) 
  10. Once cool, break the granola into your desired size clusters.  
  11. Top with whatever you want, if anything, and serve with milk, yogurt, or just plain.
  12. ENJOY!  This stuff is nuts.  (That was an attempt at a pun.)
  13. The granola keeps at room temperature in an airtight container for 2 weeks. It keeps even longer in the freezer, if you’re the stockpiling type.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dijon Vinaigrette

Aside from a really good Caesar, I kind of hate salad.  Well, I like most of the ingredients, I just hate all of the processed salad dressings that generally go on top of a homemade salad.  Why smother all of those fresh veggies, nutrients, and goodness with the chemicals found in a low-fat, zero flavor dressing? 


For these reasons, I went on a mission to start making healthy and homemade dressings.  This was my first attempt, and it was a great success!  No more chemicals, metallic taste, weird separations, or artificial flavors.  This vinaigrette takes approximately three minutes to put together and lasts for a two or three salads.  Of course, you could change the proportions to make more, but since it is so simple and easy to make, I think I'll stick to creating it frequently.  I am also looking forward to experimenting with different kinds of mustards and also adding different spices. 

This dressing will adorn the perfect green salad to accompany your bowl of chili, red curry soup, or squash and sweet potato soup on these colder fall evenings. 


Dijon Vinaigrette:
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of good quality dijon mustard
  • a pinch each of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of high quality extra virgin olive oil
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients except for the olive oil.
  2. Slowly add the olive oil and whisk together.
  3. Adjust for taste.
  4. Top your favorite green salad.
  5. ENJOY!


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sparkling Raspberry Wine Cooler

We had an incredible summer, that's for sure.  Not only was it 70 degrees or more for the vast majority of the summer in Anchorage (last summer, the average temperature was 48), but we also had great weather when we traveled to Michigan and California.  It's hard to leave Alaska in the summertime because it is so beautiful up here--20 hours of sunshine, wild flowers, hillsides of green, snow capped mountains, greenish blue glacial rivers, wildlife galore, and other sights that one can't find anywhere else.



We did leave for two weeks to go to a wedding on the banks of Lake Michigan, and then proceeded to circumnavigate nearly the entire lake with stops in small coastal towns along the way.  If we ever move, I am going to Petoskey, Michigan for sure.  We ended with a weekend in Lake Tahoe where my parents met us and we helped a close friend complete the Western States 100 Mile Trail Run (in 120+ degree temperatures).  This was one of my favorite vacations of all time and I saw parts of the country that I have never seen before.

With the rain pouring outside, I am sifting through pictures from our summer road trip.  On the final night in California, the sun was massive, the water of Lake Tahoe was bluer than ever, and time with family was much appreciated.  That night, I made this sparkling raspberry wine spritzer.  It only consisted of sparkling wine that we toted from Michigan and fresh raspberries, but it was a memorable drink because of the memories involved. 

On this cold and gloomy night, I am warmed inside thinking of all the friends, family, and loved ones we got to see this summer and all of the fun that we had.  Ahhh........now time to light the fire.  :)












Sparkling Raspberry Wine Cooler:
  1. Pour your favorite sparkling wine into your drinking vessel of choice.
  2. Add fresh raspberries.
  3. Be thankful for your loved ones.
  4. ENJOY!