Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pizza...semi-healthy style

Uh..Blogger went and totally reformatted things on me.  So if this post looks a little weird, it's because my whole posting screen looks a little weird!

My daughter asked me for pizza today.  "Sure!"  I said.  After all, we often pick up a take-and-bake on Sundays.  Then I remembered the crap I've been letting her eat the past few days.  On Thursday, I asked my coworker "does it make me a bad mom if I serve my kid hot dogs for dinner two nights in a row???"  "Nah, it just makes you realistic," was her reply.  This is how life has been lately.  Normally I'm all about getting my family a decent meal for dinner, but I've just been flat out exhausted the last few weeks, and they're lucky to get anything made at home at all (in my defense, we ALWAYS have our vegetables.  We're big salad people around here).

So I decided to make pizza at home.  That way I know I can dump a ton of veggies on it.  I also decided to seek out a new crust recipe.  I've been using the one from The Complete Tightwad Gazette for years, but lately I haven't been so enamored with it.  It's simple, and quick, and doesn't take a full yeast rising, which makes it appealing most days.  But today, I had time, so I decided to make a full-on yeast crust.  I pinned this recipe a while back, and decided to see if I could substitute some whole wheat flour and make it a success.  I was quite pleased - it was a good mix of chewy and crunchy, and my hubby didn't pick up on the fact that it was half whole wheat.  I'd call that a success!

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
Adapted from Sugar Cooking

1 3/4 cup warm water, divided
2 1/4 tsp. (1 envelope) active dry yeast
3 T. olive oil, divided
2 c. white whole wheat flour
2 c. bread flour
2 t. kosher salt
1/4 cup cornmeal

In a small bowl, sprinkle the yeast over 1/2 cup warm water.  Let stand five minutes, or until it "blooms".  Add remaining water and 2 T. of the olive oil.

Meanwhile, put the flour and salt in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  While running on low speed, slowly add the liquids.  Once it is mixed, switch out the paddle for the dough hook.  Knead on low speed for five minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Pour the remaining oil into a deep bowl.  Pull your dough out of the mixer, form it into a ball, and swirl it around in the oil until it is completely covered.  Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about two hours.

Once your dough has fully risen, preheat your oven to 475 degrees, making sure your rack is in the bottom third of the oven.  If you're using a pizza stone or cast iron pizza pan, make sure it's in when you turn the oven on.

Divide the dough into two pieces.  If you need two pizzas, work with them one at a time, keeping the other covered, or just freeze the second piece if you only want one pizza.  Form dough into balls and let rest 10 - 15 minutes.

After resting, spread the cornmeal on your pizza peel (if you're using a regular metal pizza pan, you can forgo this step and roll out your crust right onto the pan. Whatever you're used to doing).  Take one piece of the dough and press it out into a circle right on the peel, checking occasionally to make sure it doesn't become stuck to the peel (there's nothing more frustrating than trying to get a pizza from the peel to the pizza stone when it's stuck tight!).  Add your toppings, and bake until the crust is brown and the cheese is bubbly - about 10 - 14 minutes.  Remove from the oven, let rest a few minutes, slice and serve!

Now, usually when I make pizza at home, I make barbecue chicken pizza.  Today, I wanted something different.  So, our toppings were:

tomato sauce
Italian seasoning
sliced garlic
sweet Italian chicken sausage, cooked and crumbled
red bell peppers
Italian-blend cheese

Best pizza I've had in a long, long time.  I'll definitely be making it again!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Greek Chicken Pasta

Over the weekend, I suddenly got a bee in my bonnet to look up some Greek recipes.  I have no idea why - I like Greek food but it's never really occurred to me to cook it.  Anyway, I did a little googling and came across this recipe.  Is it really Greek? I have no idea.  It sounded good, though, so I made it for dinner tonight - with a few tweaks.

Next time I might try it with tuna - I think it would go really well.

Greek Chicken Pasta

1/2 pound uncooked pasta (I used cavatappi, just because I think it's cute)
2T olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove elephant garlic or four cloves regular garlic, chopped
6 chicken tenderloins, diced
1 14-ounce can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and halved
2 t. sherry vinegar
2 t. Italian seasoning
Juice of 1 large lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions, garlic, and chicken.  Saute until the chicken is cooked through.  Add remaining ingredients and cook until heated through.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and stir into the chicken mixture.  Serve with lemon wedges and extra feta sprinkled on top, if desired.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Garden Update

Better late than never, I suppose...I finally got back into the garden this weekend!

I planted:

  • lemon verbena
  • stevia
  • strawberries (we have two small strawberry beds, but last year we didn't get a whole lot so I supplemented them with six new plants)
  • onion starts (the ones I started didn't do much (old seeds) so I bought some starts at a local nursery)
  • leek starts (mine)
  • kohlrabi
  • more lettuce
  • more chard
  • more radishes
  • carrots
  • endive
  • beets
Tonight, in the house, I'll start from seed:
  • tomatoes
  • ground cherries
  • parsley (though it appears I have 50,000 self-starting parsley plants out in the garlic patch, so this might not be necessary)
  • basil
  • Thai basil
Love gardening season!

Do You Like Bento? - Link to a Giveaway

Meet the Dubiens is having an AMAZING giveaway of adorable bento supplies.  Go here for your chance to win!

Closes April 24, so don't delay!

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Eggs

We are on vacation this week.  We were supposed to go to the beach, but my daughter got sick, then my husband got sick, then the weather got crappy and we decided to cancel our reservations and just stay home.  We'll go later this spring, when the weather is better.

This has actually worked out pretty well.  We've had time to relax, done some "tourist at home" things, and made chocolate covered marshmallow eggs for Easter.  Not something we'd likely have time to do otherwise!  I adapted the recipe a smidge from the one at Houseful of Handmade, and it worked out swimmingly. 

Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Eggs
adapted from Houseful of Handmade
2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
3/4 cup warm water
1 c. corn syrup, divided
2 c. evaporated cane sugar (this gave the marshmallows a nice caramel flavor)
2 t. vanilla
Food coloring of choice (optional)

egg (real or plastic)

4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 T. shortening
Sprinkles (optional)

Mix the gelatin in the cold water. Set aside.

Combine warm water, 1/2 cup corn syrup, and sugar in a large saucepan (make sure you use one big enough to accommodate its expansion when it boils).  Using a candy thermometer, cook to soft ball stage.

Pour mixture into stand mixer bowl.  Beat in remaining corn syrup, then add gelatin mixture.  Beat over medium-low speed until it starts to thicken (2 - 3 minutes), then increase speed to high and beat an additional 7 minutes.  Add vanilla and food coloring, if desired.  Beat an additional two minutes.  It will go from this:

To thick and fluffy, like this:

While it is mixing, make your egg molds.  Just pour a thick layer of flour in a pan (don't worry, you'll be able to reuse it later in cooking), and dip an egg in it (real or a plastic Easter egg) to make your egg molds.  

I used a real egg and would have had around 34 or so, but I wanted to make some gluten free to take to one of our Easter gatherings.  I didn't have enough powdered sugar to make gluten free egg molds, so I just put some parchment in a small pan, put a layer of powdered sugar in it, and poured the rest of the mixture over it.

Using a small ladle, fill your egg molds.  Don't worry if they're not perfect - you can trim them later (I certainly did!).

Let them sit for several hours until set (I left them overnight). Once they are set, trim them if necessary.  I trimmed the edges off the eggs and cut the gluten-free ones into chunks.  This will be a lot easier if you keep a glass of powdered sugar on hand to dip your kitchen shears into.  They'll get awfully sticky!  Keep your hands sugared, too.  Trust me on this one. Powdered sugar is your friend.

To dip them, put your chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl (measuring chocolate chips is a good job for a small helper).

Microwave in one minute intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is thoroughly melted.  Mine took about three minutes, and I had to heat it an additional 30 seconds toward the end of the dipping because it was starting to get a little thick. 

Use a fork to dip the eggs, then set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to harden.  Don't worry, I dipped the gluten-free ones first so I wouldn't contaminate the chocolate!  Add sprinkles, if desired, once they're on the baking sheet (though wouldn't it be fun to completely cover them in sprinkles?  Or coconut?  Hmm...maybe next time).


 When you're all done dipping and you have chocolate left, dip your trimmings and enjoy the fruits of your labor!  :-)

 Truth be told, I was surprised how easy these were.  I've toyed with the idea of making my own marshmallows for years but hadn't taken the plunge.  I'll definitely make these again (maybe ornament shapes for Christmas?), and I'll probably make some actual marshmallows for the upcoming s'more season!