Monday, May 31, 2010

Breadsticks With A Twist!

Is there anyone who doesn't like breadsticks, soft and warm from the oven? They're the perfect complement to almost any Italian meal, be it soup, salad or pasta. You could also serve these as appetizers or you could do as I did and make them the meal itself. My love affair with all things bread has gotten out of control, I fear.

This recipe is about as easy as it gets folks. I used my homemade pizza dough, but if you're not into that, just use this:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out your pizza dough into a 15 X 12 inch rectangle and spread pesto over one half of the dough, leaving a half inch border plain. I used jarred pesto from the supermarket.

Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on top of the pesto.

Top with finely diced sun-dried tomatoes. I used the kind packed in oil and herbs.

Fold the dough over the toppings and seal edges.

Beat one egg with a teaspoon or two of water until frothy. Brush egg on dough. Cut dough into 1 inch strips, twist into spirals and place on baking sheet that has been misted with cooking spray. Top with kosher salt, poppy seeds and/or sesame seeds if desired.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack to cool for a few minutes before eating.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tolerance (Weekend Whine)


Here's the setup and the scenario. You own a home in a subdivision. You have a huge back deck with a sound system and on rare occasions, you enjoy entertaining guests. Typically alcoholic beverages are served and while the music is playing and food is cooking on the grill, conversation is lively and can sometimes lead to controversial subjects that might make certain guests louder than normal in trying to get their point across. I enjoy that. That's summertime in the Indiana Hamptons, without the Hamptons. We pretend we're somebodies when we know we're nobodies, but amidst the depth of discussion, we're lively and animated.

Occasionally, a swear word slips out. Sh(It) happens. Bullsh(It) even happens when we discuss really controversial subjects, like the size of my head, or the relevance of Larry, Curly and Mo as they relate to our current day existence. It's family, and it can get heated at times, but the swear words are always spoken with love and respect.

The problem? The neighbors. God help me if they read my blog, but I'm totally p(isse)'d off that they'd have the gall to approach us and ask us to "tame it down." I've lived many places and have had many neighbors and have never been approached in this manner. Heck, if this were late night high jinx, I'd understand, but we're talking early evening here folks, and on a Saturday to boot.

I guess more than anything, my feelings were hurt. I practice tolerance and have accepted and put up with many neighborly transgressions through the years. Live and let live, I say. Love thy neighbor's potty mouth as thy own. It's an occasional thing, so live with it. Am I wrong?

Wishing you all a fantastic Memorial Day weekend and may your parties and cookouts be loud, boisterous and filled with fun.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Barley Risotto With Sopressata, Wild Mushrooms And Baby Spinach

Remember when I made baby poo topped with doggie barf awhile back? Well, I found the leftover sopressata from that recipe in the freezer and some mushrooms and baby spinach that looked like they weren't going to survive the holiday weekend without CPR, so I brainstormed until I came up with this recipe.

OK, I lied. Cooking Light (May 2010) had a recipe for bacon and wild mushroom risotto with baby spinach that I thought could use a makeover, so I used what I had on hand to do the deed. First of all, while I'm a HUGE fan of regular risotto made with Arborio rice, I felt like I could do better from a nutritional standpoint. I think I've mentioned before that hubby and I are both trying to fend off diabetes and as pre-diabetics I'm trying to do everything possible to make sure that we don't slide down that slippery slope and end up full-fledged Type 2 diabetics. That's why you see so many recipes on my blog that incorporate whole grains. I'm not just jumping on the trendy, whole-grain bandwagon here folks; this is real life for me and my guy and I mean to go down fighting, or even better yet, not go down at all.

Research shows that barley's fiber promotes healthy blood sugar by slowing glucose absorption and insulin response. And at the risk of repeating redundancy (can I even do that grammatically?) I'm going to remind you that any time you eat something that slows down your digestion and glucose absorption, your tummy stays full longer. (Think weight loss!)

Enough nutrition. Let's just focus on how tasty this dish was. The barley takes on the creaminess of traditional risotto, but is left with just a little tooth (think al dente pasta.) The sopressata lends crispy, crunchy saltiness, and the cremini and dried mushrooms add an earthy deepness that stands up to the slightly firm texture of the barley. Toss in the spinach (another freakin nutritional powerhouse) and some pungent Asiago cheese and you've got yourself a taste bud's fantasy.

Barley Risotto With Sopressata, Wild Mushrooms and Baby Spinach

1 oz dried wild mushroom mix (mine was from Trader Joe's and actually weighed ,88 ounce)
1 1/2 cup boiling water
4 cups chicken broth
4 ounces Sopressata, finely diced
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cup onions, diced
4 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pearl barley (not the instant kind) rinsed
1/3 cup white wine
4 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 ounces grated Asiago cheese
salt and pepper

In small bowl combine dried mushrooms and boiling water. Let sit for 15 minutes. Strain, reserving liquid. Chop mushrooms and set aside. Pour reserved liquid into a medium saucepan. Add the chicken broth and heat until hot, but not boiling. Keep broth warm on medium-low heat.
Heat a large sauce pan over medium heat and add diced sopressata. Stir and brown until crispy and meat has rendered its fat. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.

Add olive oil to pan. Add onions, season with salt and pepper and saute for 5-6 minutes or until onions become translucent. Add fresh mushrooms and thyme and saute until mushrooms have lost their moisture. Add garlic and reserved soaked and chopped wild mushrooms. Saute for another minute or two. Add rinsed barley and saute for another minute. Add wine and cook until wine has been absorbed. Add broth by the 1/2 cup and stir until absorbed before adding another 1/2 cup. Barley takes a full 45 minutes to cook, so you'll be adding broth and stirring for this entire time. At the end of 45 minutes, stir in the chopped spinach and cook for one minute. Remove pan from heat and stir in cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. To serve, spoon risotto into bowl and top with reserved sopressata.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Homemade Hot Dog Buns

Want to impress your neighbors and friends at your annual Memorial Day cookout? Show off your buns! Now I'm not suggesting that you wear your favorite pair of Daisy Dukes to accomplish this, of course. I'm talking about wowing the crowd with some homemade hotdog buns. You just go ahead and keep those "other buns" under cover. I know I will.

I used my Fake-Out White Bread recipe to make these soft and delicious buns, but you can use your own favorite bread dough recipe. After your bread dough has proofed for the appropriate length of time, punch it down and divide it into 2 1/2 ounce portions.

Form the dough into balls. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 5-10 minutes.

Roll out the dough into a six inch rectangle.

Starting from the long side, roll the dough while tucking in the sides.

Place the buns, seam side down, on a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking spray. (Notice I made a few burger buns along with my hotdog buns?)

Let rise for about an hour, or until nearly doubled in size. I purposely placed my hot dog buns that close together because I wanted them to be soft-sided like the ones you buy in a package.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake buns for 20-22 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on cooling rack.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Vanilla Pound Cake

I can be finicky when it comes to the "shortcake" I like to nestle my strawberries against. I hate to open up a can of worms here, but when it comes to strawberry shortcake, I want pound cake, vanilla ice cream and fresh sliced strawberries. That's it. I don't want some spongy preformed bowl as my base nor do I want whipped cream anywhere close by. It's strictly pound cake, ice cream and fresh strawberries, without a ton of sugar on them to turn them into a syrupy mess. Have I made myself clear? (I think they get the point Mags.)

Bigger battles have been fought and remain without resolution so I'm not about to ask you to burn your bras in joining me on this issue, but I'll admit that I am curious to find out how you like to eat your strawberry shortcake, especially since strawberry season is upon us. Are you one of those that prefer whipped cream? Do you like sponge cake or worse yet, a biscuit-type base for your strawberries? Do tell. I promise not to judge you too harshly.

As usual, I've sought out a recipe that includes whole grains. At the same time however, I was forced to put on blinders when I added the massive amount of butter called for in this recipe. Pound cake is pound cake people, and it isn't pound cake unless it includes butter. Ask your arteries to play well with others and accept that some whole grains does at least make this dessert a tiny bit more healthy than when using all white flour. (I have blinders for sale if you need them to accomplish this.)

I baked these pound cakes in my mini loaf pans but this recipe will also yield two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaves. Increase baking time by 20-25 minutes

Vanilla Pound Cake (from King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking)

1 cup (two sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup (4 ounces) powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
2 1/2 cups (8 3/8 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream (I used reduced-fat, although why bother, right?)
1 TBSP vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray pans with cooking spray.

To the bowl of your stand mixer add the butter, the sugars and the baking powder. Cream ingredients at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the beaters and bowl occasionally.

Whisk together the flours and salt in a medium bowl.

On slow speed, add the flour mixture to the batter alternately with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour. Stir in the vanilla.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes (for mini-loaves) or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake begins to pull back from the edges of the pan.

Remove cakes from oven and cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes before carefully removing the canes from the pans. Allow to cool on cooling rack completely.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Baked Chicken Chimichangas

Frugalicious. That's the "word" hubby used to describe me the other day as I was explaining to him that the chicken we were eating in these chimichangas was more or less free because in preparing the chicken, I also managed to get about 2 quarts of chicken stock out of the deal. If you've ever priced store-bought chicken stock you know that it's not exactly cheap. And making your own is so easy, especially if you cook your whole chicken in the crockpot as I did. Frugalicious and lazylicious. (He's not the only one who can make up words.)

I seasoned a whole (approximately 3 1/2 lbs.) chicken with salt and pepper and put it in the crockpot along with some sliced onions, celery, carrots, a couple of smashed garlic cloves and some fresh herbs. I added 3-4 cups water, slapped on the lid, set the cooker to low and forgot about it for about 8 hours. I came back to chicken falling off the bones, so moist and juicy. There was a little bit of work involved in shredding the chicken and separating skin and bones, but I ended up with about 5 cups of shredded chicken. I saved out two cups for this recipe and froze the rest. I then threw the bones back into the crockpot with the broth, veggies and herbs still present, added another 4 cups of water and cooked it on high for another 3 hours. I strained it, cooled it and defatted it, then froze the very rich and gelatinous stock in a gallon freezer bag for future use. Frugalicious, lazylicious and planaheadalicious. (OK, now I'm just being stupid.)

Baked Chicken Chimichangas (makes 4 chimichangas)

2 cups cooked,shredded chicken
1 can Ro-tel (diced tomatoes and green chilies) drained
1 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt and pepper
6-8 ounces of shredded cheese (I used a Mexican mix)
4 burrito-size tortillas
canola oil

Puree drained Ro-tel tomatoes and chilies in food processor or blender and pour into medium mixing bowl. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. Stir in the shredded chicken and taste, then season with salt and pepper if needed. At this point you can refrigerate the mixture until you're ready to make your chimichangas. We had some unexpected plans pop up on the day that I was planning on making these, so I let this sit in the fridge for two days before using.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Cover tortillas with a damp paper towel and microwave for 30-60 seconds to soften.

To build the chimichangas place a handful of cheese on the tortilla and top it with 1/4 of the chicken mixture.

Fold bottom up, then fold in sides.

Continue rolling/wrapping until your chimichanga is secure and looks like this.

Place chimichangas on prepared baking sheet and brush with canola oil. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until deeply golden. Remove from oven and top with your favorite garnishes. We used fat free sour cream, avocado, tomato and chives.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Strawberry Dessert Pizza (Treats For Co-Irkers)

There's a little restaurant in my town that the locals like to frequent not only for their delicious meals, but also for their spectacular desserts. I've eaten there a few times but always resisted ordering their strawberry dessert pizza, a favorite of the townspeople, including hubby's co-irkers. For the longest time the restaurant posted the recipe on their website, but this week when I finally decided to make this treat for hubby to take to work, the recipe was gone. I knew I should have copied it long ago. She who hesitates is lost, or at least left to her own resourcefulness.

Since I had never even tasted this delectable dessert, I had no idea what I was even up against, but when I came across some of my homemade cookie dough in the freezer, I decided to wing it and see how close I could come to the "legendary" strawberry pizza. The word got back to me that while the crust was different from what they were used to, the co-irkers actually liked my version better. (Or do you suppose they tell me these things so I'll continue to send in treats perhaps?)

If you're into Sandra Lee and want to semi-ho this recipe, feel free to use the store bought products below for your strawberry pizza, but since I am whole-ho or no-ho at all, I made both my sugar cookie dough and glaze from scratch.

Strawberry Dessert Pizza

1 pound sugar cookie dough
1 1/2 pounds of strawberries, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup light corn syrup
red food coloring, optional
1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll cookie dough into a 13 inch circle between two sheets of moderately floured parchment paper. Transfer cookie dough to ungreased 12 inch pizza pan. Trim any excess dough, if necessary. Bake cookie crust for 16-20 minutes or until the top is lightly browned. Let cool completely.

For the filling:

Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat well until light and fluffy.

For the glaze:

Puree about 1/2 pound of cleaned and hulled strawberries in food processor or blender. You'll want about two cups worth of puree. Place puree, sugar and corn starch in sauce pan, stir well and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir constantly for about two minutes, until glaze is thickened. Remove from heat and stir in corn syrup and a few drops of red food coloring, if using. Allow glaze to cool to room temperature.

To assemble the pizza:

Spread filling evenly over cookie crust. Take remaining strawberries and slice them, then lay them on the filling, covering the pizza completely. Pour or brush glaze over entire pizza. Refrigerate before serving.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Poilane-Style Miche (BBA Challenge)

All together now: Mags is a cheater, Mags is a cheater. Mags put yeast in her Poilane miche, now Mags is a cheater. (Please feel free to pull my pigtails and take my lunch money.)

What was I supposed to do? I let the sucker ferment for like 60 hundred hours and it didn't rise one iota. All I could think to do was toss it back in the mixer and throw in a teaspoon of yeast and re-knead it. Biddy (my starter) let me down big time on this one. She did her job in the firm starter the day before, making a nice bubbly mixture that I refrigerated overnight. But when I put the final dough together the next morning, she'd all but died on me. I kicked and screamed and called her every name in the book but I still couldn't get a rise out of her.

*sigh* I'm starting to think that I wasn't cut out for this sourdough business. I'm awfully glad that Mr. Reinhart waited to put these formulas toward the back of the book or I'd have bowed out of this Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge long ago.

Anyway, with the yeast mixed in, I did achieve that rise I was looking for and the final product was very tasty. Hubby claimed it one of his favorites from the book thus far. But.... does he know his wife's a cheater?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Twice-Baked Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

Ah, the sweet potato. That powerhouse of fiber, vitamins and minerals that makes my taste buds tingle with anticipation. Unless of course you top it with something sweet (then my taste buds curl up inside themselves and pout.) It's time to put away the bags of marshmallows, brown sugar and butter folks, and serve up the sweet potato in a more savory manner. These twice-baked sweet potatoes are just what the doctor ordered, literally. Not only are they filled with flavor, their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well as their ability to help maintain stable blood sugar levels make them one of the healthiest foods available today. Enjoy!

Twice-Baked Chipotle Sweet Potatoes

4 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed well
canola oil
2 oz grated smoked mozzarella cheese
1 TBSP chipotle in adobo puree (see NOTE below) may use less depending on your love of heat
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
1/4 cup heavy cream, half & half or milk
salt and pepper
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
smoked paprika
green onions or chives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line sheet pan with aluminum foil. Using fork, poke holes in sweet potatoes to allow steam to escape while baking. Rub each potato with a little bit of canola oil and place on prepared baking sheet. Baked for one hour (or more, depending on the size of your potatoes) until potatoes are fork tender when pierced. Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes.

Slice a small strip off of the top of the sweet potato and discard. Scoop out the flesh of the potato, being careful not to tear through skin. Place sweet potato pulp in food processor. Add the smoked mozzarella, the chipotle in adobo sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano and cumin. Pulse to combine and puree sweet potatoes. Drizzle in the heavy cream and pulse until potatoes are the desired creamy consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Stuff sweet potato shells with pureed sweet potatoes. Top with monterey jack cheese and return potatoes to oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until heated through and cheese has melted. Remove from oven and garnish with a dusting of smoked paprika, crumbled bacon and green onions or chives.

*NOTE* .When I open a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, I puree them in the food processor and then freeze them in an ice cube tray. When frozen, I remove them and place them in a baggie and keep them in the freezer. Each cube contains approximately one tablespoon of chipotle in adobo puree.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sourdough Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

This post is a day late and I apologize. You see, yesterday was National Chocolate Chip day and I let it pass without honoring it properly. (Would you be surprised to also find out that I buy more belated birthday cards than regular ones?)

From this day forward I will never again miss any national "food" day because I have found the mother load of national food day lists. With National Quiche Lorraine day approaching in just a few short days and National Wine Day close behind, I've got my work cut out for me.

Sourdough Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp buttery sweet dough flavor (optional)
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12-count cupcake pan with paper liners and spray lightly with cooking spray.

In large bowl whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

Using a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg, vanilla and buttery sweet dough flavor (if using) and beat well. Add the bananas and sourdough starter and mix until well combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until everything is moistened well. Do not overmix.
Stir in the chocolate chips.

Divide batter evenly among the cupcake liners. Bake in preheated oven for 23-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow muffins to cool in pan for 5 minutes before removing from pan to cool completely on cooling rack.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Amaretto Apple Streusel Cupcakes (Treats For Co-Irkers)

If I had a penny for every recipe I've torn out of magazines, I'd have, well let's just say I'd have enough money to buy a real cookbook. I tore this recipe out of Cooking Light last fall and added it to my ever growing stash. When I was cleaning out my cupboard today and found a couple of ounces left in an Amaretto bottle, I decided today was the day to make these as treats for the co-irkers.

The funny part? I tore out the picture (which also listed the ingredients,) but didn't tear out the instructions page. I had all my ingredients measured out but had no idea what to do with them. Now had this been a muffin recipe, I could have figured out what to do. I'm not as ignorant as I look. But cake batter is mixed entirely differently from muffin batter and I haven't made a cake in a coon's age. So Googling I went and came up with the recipe online. Know what else is funny? Since I can link directly to the recipe I'm going to go take a nap. That's freaking hilazious!

Amaretto Apple Streusel Cupcakes (from Cooking Light)

These are so moist and light, they'll melt in your mouth. Swears.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Focaccia

The real name for this delicious concoction of focaccia-like dough, apples and cinnamon is cinnamon-apple flatbread and all the credit for its brilliance goes to the gang at Baker's Banter, King Arthur Flour's blog. In fact, depending on when you read this blog post, their blog post about it could still be over on my side bar. That's how "hot off the press" this recipe is.

I wasn't planning on blogging about this or anything else today. I was actually going to take the day off, but when I saw their blog post yesterday, I just happened to be feeding my sourdough starter and was lamenting on how I hate throwing starter away every time it needs fed. I caught their post just in the nick of time as I was about to toss the extra down the drain and instead I saved it and made this delightful focaccia/flatbread.

I'm not going to repost the recipe here. First of all, I'm feeling lazy tonight (remember, I was supposed to be taking the day off) and secondly because their photos and instructions are inferior to none and everything you need to know to make this recipe is included in detailed format on their blog. Know what? You don't even have to peel the apples! To know me is to know that the only thing I hate more than peeling potatoes is peeling apples, so I was quite thrilled at the ease of this recipe if only for that reason!

The only change I made to the recipe was that instead of using all-purpose flour, I used half white whole wheat and half bread flour. I also was out of their Baker's cinnamon filling so I had to finagle my way around that and mix up something similar. Trust me folks, you're going to love this recipe.

Cinnamon-Apple Flatbread (by Baker's Banter)

Monday, May 10, 2010

White Pizza With Chicken, Broccoli And Mushrooms

Over the span of the past week I have made three double batches of pizza dough, a double batch of homemade egg noodles, a loaf of my fake-out white bread, and two pans of dinner rolls. If that doesn't qualify me for some serious frequent flour miles, I don't know what will. And when I woke up this morning and found that my Kitchen Aid mixer was missing and a hastily scribbled note that said "Gone Fishing" had been left for me on the counter,I knew it was time to take a dough break.

In my defense, all of this was done in preparation for my kids coming to visit for Mother's Day weekend. I like to send them home with homemade goodies and this time around it was packages of homemade pizza dough and noodles. I'm thinking of having my name permanently changed to Mother Theresa Betty Crocker and I'm going to throw a big party where we'll feast on baked goods as we get our rosary beads all sticky with flour and sugar. Sound good? Don't worry, I always keep a sink full of hot soapy holy water to clean up with afterward.

The noodles I've blogged about before, so nothing new there, but since my kids haven't gone completely whole grain yet, I came up with this pizza dough recipe to help bridge the gap. It's definitely lighter than my whole wheat version, but still incorporates some whole wheat flour for nutritional value.
I pinched off about 6 ounces out of that huge batch of dough to make this "personal pan pizza" which ended up being enough for both hubby and I for lunch. Sauteed mushrooms, broccoli and pre-cooked cubed chicken breast meat sit atop a white sauce that complements and adds to the total flavor of the pizza. This is some seriously good pizza crust folks, but like my whole wheat version, it requires an overnight rest in the fridge to fully develop its flavor. So plan ahead.

The crust: (This makes one pound of pizza dough, enough for one large 12-14 inch pizza, or two 8-10 inch pizzas)

1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp vital wheat gluten
1 TBSP pizza dough flavor (optional, but delicious)
2 tsp instant yeast
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cup warm water (90-100 degrees)

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flours, salt, sugar, wheat gluten, pizza dough flavor and instant yeast. Whisk together. Add the olive oil and the water. Using dough hook, mix and knead dough for 8-10 minutes, adding more water or flour as needed, until dough is smooth and elastic. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer dough to bowl, rolling it around to completely coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let proof at room temperature until doubled, about one hour. Gently punch dough down to degas, knead again for a few minutes and return to bowl. Cover bowl again with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove dough from fridge about an hour and a half before you want to bake the pizza. Spray some cooking spray on your counter top and transfer dough. Cover dough with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Let rest while you make your sauce and put the rest of your pizza ingredients together.

The white sauce: (enough for one 12-14 inch pizza)

1 TBSP olive oil
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
2 TBSP grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a saute pan heat olive oil over medium heat. Add crushed red pepper flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper and flour. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes than whisk in milk. Reduce heat and whisk and stir until sauce is smooth and has started to thicken. Remove pan from heat and whisk in the parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Set aside.

For the toppings: (enough for one 12-14 inch pizza)

1 TBSP olive oil
2 cups sliced button mushrooms
3 cups broccoli florets
salt and pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups cooked, diced chicken breast meat
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

In a skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add mushrooms and saute until they've given up most of their liquid, 5-6 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and season with salt and pepper. Saute for another minute or two then add minced garlic and saute for one more minute. Remove from heat and add chicken. Stir well to combine.

To assemble and bake:

Place pizza stone in oven and preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Spray parchment paper with cooking spray and lightly dust with cornmeal (optional.)

Place dough on prepared parchment paper and flatten. Working from the middle to the outside, press and stretch the pizza dough into a 12-14 inch round. If it resists, just let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then work with it again.

Transfer pizza crust and parchment paper to pizza stone. Bake for 5 minutes then remove crust from oven, leaving stone in oven. Spread white sauce evenly across crust, then top with the chicken, mushroom and broccoli mixture. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over all. Return crust to oven. You should be able to do this without the parchment paper at this point. Bake for an additional 8-10 minutes, or until crust is evenly browned and cheese is bubbly.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day Weekend, 2010

Those of you who are mothers who've either moved a distance away from your children or had them move away from you know how special and heartwarming it is to have them all with you for Mother's Day. And while my actual Mother's Day found my kids traveling back to their respective homes, I enjoyed them all day yesterday and my son Kellen even spent all day on Friday with me. Just me. All day.

We spent the day together as mother teaching son the basics of cooking. I didn't take any photos of the dishes we made together because I didn't want this blog post to be about the food or the recipes, but about my family and togetherness. My heart melted watching him chop his first onion, celery and green bell peppers as he learned about "the holy trinity of cooking." (so different from the Holy Trinity he learned about in Catholic school!)

In one short day he learned how to make a basic chicken noodle soup, chili, a tuna-pasta-vegetable salad, oven roasted vegetables, and homemade pizza. I was quite proud of him for sticking to the tasks at hand and resisting the urge to venture off and watch TV. I love you Kellen.

Late Friday night I was surprised when I heard the doorbell ring and found a baby on my doorstep. My oldest son Wes, his wife Heather and their new baby Gavin weren't supposed to arrive until Saturday around noon, but they faced the traffic jams of Friday night after a long day at work to get here earlier than expected. You can imagine how quickly I scooped up my little G-baby.

I love you Wes, Heather and Gavin.

(Edited on 6/8/12 because of the ending of a relationship. Picture removed, but "I love you Molly)

We spent the day and evening in our usual raucous manner, playing cards, drinking beer, and enjoying the good-natured lambasting that close families are known for. There was even a game of Hammer Horse played by the light of an outdoor fire while s'mores were consumed between beers. Gavin even tried his hand at Blind Man's Bluff.

There are always tears when they arrive and tears when they leave but aren't tears something we accept when we become mothers? Their tears, our tears, bad tears, good tears. This weekend was all about good tears. I love you Dave for giving me these three wonderful children.

Happy Mother's Day to all of you Moms out there!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Whole Grain Cranberry-Oatmeal Bars

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. In other words.... my bad, my bad, my really-bad bad. You see, these cranberry-oatmeal bars were slated to be treats for hubby's co-irkers today but instead they were mea gulpa'd, mea gulpa'd, mea maxima gulpa'd. I baked them. I gulped them down. And so did hubby (Et tu Brute?) Yes, we're both to blame. The house was devoid of sweet treats and as these bars rested on the counter, bits and pieces of them kept coming up missing and suddenly there were none left to send to work.

I need flogged. Tickled to within an inch of peeing myself. Fifty lashes with a wet noodle. SOMETHING to punish me for this most grievous offense. I apologize dear co-irkers, and promise to have something special for you next Friday.

I'm now going to go say three Our Father's and six Hail Mary's and run twenty miles as my penance.

Whole Grain Cranberry-Oatmeal Bars (adapted from Cooking Light)

Crust:

4.5 ounces spelt flour (about one cup)
1 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
6 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
3 TBSP orange juice

Filling:

1 1/3 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
3/4 cup sour cream (I used reduced-fat)
1/2 cup sugar (I used Splenda)
2 TBSP spelt flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To prepare crust:

In medium bowl, whisk together the spelt flour, oats, brown sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Pour melted butter and orange juice over mixture and stir to combine. Reserve 1/2 cup of mixture (for topping) and press the remaining mixture into the bottom of an 11X7 baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray.

To prepare filling:

Combine cranberries, sour cream, sugar and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Spread cranberry mixture over prepared crust. Evenly crumble reserved topping over filling.

Bake for 40 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool completely in pan on a cooling rack before serving.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Omelettes And Preventing Breakfast Boredom

You won't find many breakfast recipes on my blog because I'm usually up and have eaten breakfast before the sun rises, thus negating any natural light for photo taking. Yesterday morning however, I slept in late and decided to share with you my most common breakfast entree. I'm sure you've all been curious for a long time now regarding my first meal of the day, right? I suppose I could Tweet about it, share it on Facebook, or even call it in to the local newspaper, but I might as well just tell you right here on my very own blog.

For the past six or seven years I've tried to stick to a breakfast that consists mainly of protein. It keeps me fuller longer than one filled with carbs, even if those are good carbs, such as oatmeal. My body just seems to do better when I eat this way. So most mornings I make myself an Egg Beater omelette. So quick and so easy. Spray pan with cooking spray. Dump in Egg Beaters. Season with salt and pepper. Let eggs sit for a minute or two and then push them around and flip them. Done. Breakfast made and eaten in under 10 minutes. (Do you see now why I get frustrated with people who claim they don't have time for breakfast?)

Now let's talk about breakfast boredom and how to avoid it. Take the above Egg Beater omelette for example. Eating that day in and day out is going to get tiring very quickly so we have to find ways to make it more interesting without adding too much additional time to the preparation. I've become very creative in making my omelettes tastier and even more nutritious by the use of leftovers as toppings.

The omelette shown above is topped with the leftover black bean and avocado relish I made for the grilled mahi mahi we had earlier in the week. After I plated the eggs, I tossed on some of the relish and a sprinkling of Monterey jack cheese and microwaved it for 20- 30 seconds, and then sprinkled on a few diced tomatoes.

Last week my omelette toppings were leftover caramelized onions and sauteed baby spinach and the week before I used leftover refried beans and pepperjack cheese. I've even been known to top my eggs with chili and cheddar cheese or leftover oven roasted veggies.

My point is (and you know how I like to drive a point home) that a simple and healthy breakfast doesn't need to take a lot of time or require a lot of ingredients. Just look in your own fridge. I'm sure you've got omelette toppings in there that you weren't even aware of..... until now!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mahi Mahi With Black Bean And Avocado Relish

Hold onto your knickers, because Mags ate fish again. And it's not even Lent! And it didn't come out of a can! I'll give you a moment to go find the smelling salts in the event that you're feeling a case of the vapors coming on. Read on when you feel composed again.

Hubby and I made a trip through Trader Joe's frozen seafood section when we were there a month or so ago. I told him to pick out a couple of packages of different fish he'd like to try and then promptly put them in the freezer when we returned home and kind of forgot about them. (I tend to do that with food items I'm not too thrilled about.) I pulled out the package of mahi mahi yesterday morning and decided that I was going to find a way to make this and I was going to like it, come hell or high water. I found this very easy and very tasty recipe in a Better Homes and Gardens "Ultimate Mexican" magazine and decided to give it a whirl. I coaxed a couple of sprigs off of the little oregano plants I'd just put in the herb garden last week and snipped a bit off the new parsley plant and put the black bean and avocado relish together in world record time. Hubby grilled the fish when he got home from work and we had dinner on the table in under 30 minutes. Rachael Ray would have been proud.

Mahi Mahi With Black Bean And Avocado Relish

1 pound frozen skinless mahi mahi fillets, thawed
2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped (the original recipe called for cilantro but we all know how I feel about THAT)
2 TBSP fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 tsp lime zest
2 TBSP lime juice
1 TBSP olive oil
1/2 tsp garlic powder (original recipe called for 1-2 garlic cloves, minced, but I don't care for raw garlic)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp bottled hot pepper sauce
1 (15 oz) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, halved, seeded, peeled and chopped
salt and pepper

In a small bowl combine the parsley, oregano, lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, garlic powder, and hot pepper sauce.

Place rinse and drained black beans and avocado in a medium serving bowl and toss with half of the above herb mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve.

Rinse fish filets and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and brush on the remaining herb mixture. Grill on greased rack over medium heat for 4-6 minutes per 1/2 inch thickness or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, carefully turning halfway through grilling.

To serve, arrange fish on top of relish, if desired.

Speaking of grilling, Moogie's having a Memorial Day giveaway. She makes the most adorable aprons I've ever seen. Go check her out!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Crockpot Lima Beans

I need your help here. I can't figure out what the difference is between green lima beans (ewww) and dried lima beans (YUM!) Because as God is my witness, I shall never let green lima beans cross my lips and by His same witness, I shall love dried lima beans until the day I die and (hopefully) cross through the pearly gates into that big bean pot in the sky. I mean, are they the same thing, only one is the dried version of the other? Like grapes/raisins? Cement/concrete? Young Liz Taylor/Old Liz Taylor? Someone with some gardening knowledge, please help me here because curiosity is killing my cat.

To know me is to know that I'm a huge fan of foods high in fiber and a serving of this particular lima bean dish delivers a whopping seven grams and that's not even accounting for the additional fiber that is included in with the vegetables. With summer picnic/potluck season approaching, this would be a great take along dish and it's sweet and spicy flavors will complement almost any barbeque entree.

Crockpot Baby Lima Beans

1 pound dried baby lima beans, rinsed, soaked and cooked per package instructions
2 TBSP olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 bell pepper, seeded and diced
1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
salt and pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 (14 oz) can chicken or beef broth
1 (14 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 TBSP tomato paste
2 TBSP cumin
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (or more depending on your taste buds' heat preference)
2-3 TBSP brown sugar
2-3 TBSP maple syrup

Place cooked lima beans in crockpot.

In large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper and jalapeno pepper. Season with salt and pepper and saute until onions become translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add minced garlic and saute for another minute or two. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently, then add broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and stir until mixture is smooth. Add mixture to beans in crockpot. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover crockpot and simmer on low for 4-5 hours. Add additional salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with sour cream and chive garnish or with shredded Monterey jack or pepper jack cheese.