Monday, March 7, 2011

Easy Pizza Dough!

A few months ago one of my son's friends came over for a playdate. For lunch I thought we could all make pizza together. So, along with a base of flat bread I set our cheese, sauce and pepperonis. My son's friend refused to eat. To the evident embarrassment of his mother he pronounced the food 'yucky'.  Poor kid has never seen a pizza without the box....

We like to make our own dough when I have time. It's ridiculously easy!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 + extra cup unbleached white  flour
1 packet yeast
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp + extra for the bowl olive oil
warm water (sorry, I don't measure)

Place 2 tablespoons of flour  in a small bowl.  Add sugar and yeast and about a half cup hot/warm water. Mix well and place in a warm spot.  When the mixture has doubled in size and become bubbly add the starter mixture to the rest of the flour. Add olive oil, salt and more water as needed and knead into a nice, elastic, dough.  If it's too stiff you'll have trouble keeping it from retracting later. The ideal dough is not stiff and not too sticky. Add more flour if too sticky and more water if too stiff.  Knead for about 5 -7 minutes. It's therapeutic. Now pour a bit of olive oil into a good size bowl and  put your ball of dough into it.  Since you want the dough to double in size make sure the bowl will easily accommodate the growth. Swish to distribute the oil. Cover the bowl with cling wrap or a damp towel and place the dough in a warm, draft free place until doubled in place.  I like the oven. I turn it on at 170 degrees (my lowest setting) and once warm turn it off.  I open the door for a moment so it can cool a bit more and then pop the bowl with the dough in there and close the door. Voila.

Once the dough has nicely doubled punch it down and divide into two. Hand stretch each piece into a nice piece of pizza base. I make mine rectangular as you can see.  Let rest for 10-15 mins in a warm place. If you like your pizza crust crunchy by-pass this step. Now comes the fun part. Toppings. I like to use Contadina's pizza sauce in their squirt bottle. It keeps well in the fridge. Apply a base of sauce. Some like it saucy. Some don't. We like it on the lean side. The kids like their pizza simple. Just add sauce, cheese and pepperoni. I like mine with tons of veggies and no meat or pepperoni. I also like to use minimal cheese on the bottom (just enough to hold the veggies in place and instead use some left over Brie (I live for that stuff) on top. Sprinkle with Italian herbs and pop in the oven at 370F. Bake until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Now, if you use lots of toppings you may need to keep it in the oven longer than if you make a basic cheese and pepperoni version. The nice thing here is the flexibility. Use up old marinara or spaghetti sauce and veggies.  I've even added left over steak from a steakhouse on the pizzas.  Be creative. Click on the pictures to see a larger version of my pizzas. Then drool.

My raw uncooked pizza featuring zucchini, mushrooms, onions, olives and brie.
Divine, I tell you, DIVINE!

Once cooked this pizza practically begs you to devour it at record speed.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

We are addicted to these pancakes and they make a wonderful Saturday breakfast. We love them with ripe pears although applesauce works well too.

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Yield: 15 smallish pancakes

1¼ cups all-purpose flour (we use half unbleached all purpose flour and half whole wheat flour)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
2-3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice mix depending how strong you like it (the original recipe calls for separate spices but I am lazy even though I have all the spices mentioned)
1 cup milk  (if you use whole wheat flour you may need about a ½ cup more as the dough gets too thick otherwise)
½ cup pumpkin puree (we like to use a bit more than that)
1 large egg
2 tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter

Preheat the oven to 200˚F. Set aside a baking sheet or oven safe serving platter.
Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and spices in a medium bowl. Make sure to blot out any chunks of brown sugar. In a separate small bowl, combine the milk, pumpkin, egg and oil or butter. Stir into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. The batter may still be lumpy.
Heat a greased skillet or griddle over medium heat (325˚F for the griddle). Pour the batter on the griddle or skillet in 1/3 cup portions. Use the back of the spoon or measuring cup to smooth the batter into desired circle shape. When bubbles start forming on the top, carefully use a spatula to flip to the other side. Let cook for a few more minutes until golden brown. Transfer the pancakes to the baking sheet or oven safe platter; place in the oven to keep warm until serving. Repeat with the rest of the batter until it has all been cooked, regreasing the pan as needed. Serve with cinnamon sugar, honey or  maple syrup.

Adapted from a recipe found at

Droolworthy Mashed Potatoes

you'll need:
1 acorn squash or a butternut squash. Either will work fine. We prefer Acorn.
4-5 Idaho potatoes (good size
½ large yellow onion, diced
1 tbps packed brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

I don't have an exact recipe here for you, bear with me. The good news is that you practically CAN'T screw this up and it will taste heavenly!

This recipe yields a pot of gorgeous, steaming, orange hued, mashed potatoes with the most divine flavor ever. IT man would happily sit down with a bowl of this stuff just by itself and I can't cook this without stealing a lick now and then. OK, a small bowl worth.  But once you try this you'll understand.

Peel and cut up about 3 cups worth of butternut or acorn squash. What you want is approximately 1½ inch size cubes of organgey gorgeousness.  Toss these lovelies with a half, reasonably finely chopped yellow onion, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, and no less than 2 tablespoons of butter cut into pieces.   Come one, you know you want it, add another tablespoon, it's sooooo worth it. Now, toss all this together along with some pepper and salt to taste and spread out on an aluminum lined cookie sheet. Pop this into the oven at about 350 F and let it bake. Stir once in a while. You'll probably open the oven door more often than you need to just to smell that amazing, heavinly, aroma of caramelizing onions and squash. Meanwhile peel and cut potatoes. You'll want about 5 cups of potatoes cubes approximately 2 inches in size. Boil these with a pinch of salt until tender. Before you drain them retain 1 cup of the starchy liquid.
When the potatoes are cooked and drained, mash them well. Use some milk if you want, or the starchy liquid you reserved. Cook the squash until quite tender and the onions pleasingly browned. Pour the whole  mess into a bowl and mash. Add the mashed squash to the mashed potatoes and stirr.  This is fabulous with your turkey dinner or any dinner for that matter. If you want to fancy it up for a nice presentation top each serving with a dollop of black pepper crusted goat cheese.

By popular demand I'll be serving this again on Thanksgiving.

Before entering the oven. I had red onions on hand
and they work just fine. For this batch I used Acorn Squash

After coming out of the oven.
I should have added more onions but it's still yummy.