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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pizza Crust and Tomato Sauce

Thanks to the beautiful snow, we did not have church this morning.

Naturally, I decided to spend the day in the kitchen, methodically measuring, mixing, and cooking my stresses away.

I've had a rough few weeks at work. Last week, I cried. At work. It was embarrassing and unprofessional, but it happened. Luckily it was brief and in the secrecy of my office (aside from my more-than-understanding coworker). So I needed a day like today, where cooking was all I needed to care about.

And, what better comfort food is there than pizza? The correct answer, my friends, is nothing. It has bread, cheese, and tomatoes - practically the 3 best things known to mankind.

I found this pizza crust recipe somewhere in the depths of the Internet some time ago. I have since made it several times, trying to find the perfect balance of whole wheat flour. And this is what I came up with. It is a wonderful base recipe - perfect for adding anything your creative mind can think of. In the summer, I like to add lots of fresh basil to the dough. Yum. I've been thinking about using this recipe to try to make some type of honey wheat crust, but I haven't quite gotten there yet.

Pizza Crust
1 package active dry yeast (quick rise is fine)
1/4 c. warm water
1 c. whole wheat flour
3 c. all purpose flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 c. room temperature water

First, mix the yeast with the warm water, then let sit for about 5 minutes.

Mix the flour and the salt together. 

Add the olive oil, additional water, and yeast mixture.

Combine until a dough forms.

This looks pretty good. It will form a little better once you start to knead it:

Knead the dough for approximately 7 minutes. You might want to dust your hands with flour. Once you're done kneading, place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel, and let rise for a few hours. Or, if you use quick rise yeast, less than that.

Here is the dough after it is done rising:

I like individual size pizzas, so I divide this into six individual crusts. Roll out, then bake in the oven at 425* for about 5-6 minutes. You will have to check it and poke the dough bubbles as it pokes.

Once they are pre-baked, add your desired toppings, and heat at 425-450* until the cheese is melted.


You may notice that there are only 4 crusts here, when I said I divided it into 6. That's because this dough is perfect for freezing. So two of the crusts went into the freezer for later. 

Now, onto the sauce. 

This sauce is amazingly easy. It is literally 3 ingredients and it's so delicious. I found the idea here but I made a little extra. Part of the sauce is for the pizza, and the other part is for this eggplant dish I'm going to fix later this week.

Pizza Sauce
3 cans basil, garlic, and oregano tomatoes
6 tbsp. butter
2 small onions, peeled and halved
Salt to taste


Pretty much, you just mix everything together and let it simmer.

Add the tomatoes to a pan.

Add the onion and butter, and let simmer for approximately 45 minutes.

That is literally it. Stir occasionally while it is simmering, breaking up the tomatoes. Remove the onion, and then you are done! Oh, and add salt as needed.

However, I don't like terribly chunky tomatoes, so I took some of this and pureed it in the food processor. 

Yum.

The deliciousness of the tomatoes really shines in this sauce. It would be even better made with fresh, homegrown, tomatoes. But alas, it's not quite yet summertime. Until then, this will have to do.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vegetable Broth

I have wanted to start making my own broth for a pretty long time now. As in years. But I've never quite had the courage to try it. The thought was just too overwhelming.

Well, as it turns out, it's super easy.

I decided to start with vegetable broth, because vegetables are good for you and I try to eliminate meat where possible. After finally mustering some courage, I Googled around and found basically it is just water and vegetables.

I love this because it just uses the "extra" vegetable parts that you normally throw away. Good for the earth and good for you!

And it's super cheap. Instead of paying $1 for a can of broth, you can use something you would normally throw away, getting the broth at a very minimal cost.

And, the kicker for me: oodles less sodium. Due to some health issues I try not to eat too much sodium (plus excessive sodium is bad for everyone). Store-bought broth is packed full of sodium. In fact, over the past year I began buying only organic broth. And not just because it's organic. It has less sodium than even low-sodium non-organic broth. I love that I can control what I am putting into my food.

I think you can use any combination of vegetables that you like, but here's what I used:

Vegetable Broth:
16 c. water
1/2 head of cabbage
1 onion, cut in half
4 cloves garlic (I will probably increase that the next time)
3 carrots (don't even bother peeling them!)
1 potato, washed and cut in half
3-4 stalks celery, including leaves
1 broccoli stem
A few leftover mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried basil and parsley

Here it all is ready to be made into broth:

Measure your water into a (very large) crock pot. Add the vegetables:

Add salt and pepper to taste. You will probably need quite a bit of salt (but not as much as what's in store bought!):


Then add your herbs. You can use any herbs that your heart desires. I chose parsley and basil because that's what I wanted. You can use fresh if you want, which would probably be better. But I didn't have any of that, so I just used some herbs I had dried earlier this summer:

Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top:


That's it! Cook on low for however long you want. The longer you cook the more the flavors will blend. I think 8-10 hours is a good amount of time.

Once it's cooked, remove all the large pieces then strain the broth. A lot of recipes say to use a sieve to remove all the small pieces, but I don't have one of those. I just strained through a colander, and that worked fine.

See? Wasn't that easy?

I measured mine into 16 oz (which is a little more than a store bought can) servings and froze for use into later recipes! This made about 6 16-oz servings.


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Double Chocolate Pomegranate Cookies

These cookies are amazing.

If you don't believe me, you will be missing out. You will definitely want to try these soon. You better go get some pomegranates before they go out of season.

I got the recipe from here. I found the original recipe on Pinterest. I've been a bit obsessed with Pinterest lately, especially my food board. It's like having my own customized cook book online. Perfect.

I didn't really make any modifications to the original recipe, other than not using as many chocolate chips.

Double Chocolate Pomegranate Cookies
1 c pomegranate arils (1 pomegranate is enough)
2 c flour
3/4 c cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 c (2 sticks) butter (not margarine)
3/4 c white sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 bag chocolate chips

First, you will want to get your pomegranate arils separate from the pomegranate membrane. It's much easier than it sounds. Just cut the pomegranate in half, put it in a bowl of water, and separate the arils with your hands. The membrane will float to the top of the water and the arils will sink to the bottom. Easy peasy. Just a word of warning, pomegranate juice will stain like woah, so be careful/wear an apron/etc.

B-e-a-utiful:

Set that aside until later. 

Mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside:

Next, combine the butter, sugars, eggs, and vanilla in a bowl:

Mix with an electric mixer for three minutes:

Notice how lame I am with my hand mixer. Someday I will have a Kitchen Aid.

Anyway. 

The mixture should look a little like this after mixing:

Add the flour mixture in and stir to combine:

It will be kind of tough to mix at first:

But soon it will be a delicious, chocolatey dough!! 

Stir in the chocolate chips and pomegranate arils:

Be mesmerized by the beauty of the pomegranate. Mmmm.

Form the dough into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet:

Bake at 350* for approximately 10-12 mins or until done.

Yum.


Heavenly delight.







Monday, January 2, 2012

Mini Breakfast Casseroles

One thing in my life that I am missing is a healthy, filling, quick breakfast to go. I have been thinking about how to remedy this for awhile.

And I (still) have some ham leftover from Christmas.

So I decided to make some mini breakfast casseroles adapted from this recipe.

Mini Breakfast Casserole
1 bag shredded hash browns
1/2 c shredded cheddar, plus additional for topping
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 of a green bell pepper
1/4 of a red bell pepper
2 large eggs
1 tbsp milk
3/4 c cooked ham (shredded or diced)
Dried parsley

Preheat your oven to 425* (I did 400, but I think 425 would work better).

Mix olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and 1/2 c. cheese with the hash browns. I mixed mine all in the bag because I am lazy:


Spoon the mixture into a muffin tin (for 12 muffins). Try to make a little hole/well in the middle of each tin. That's kind of hard to see in this picture: 


Bake for about 15 mins or until the edges are starting to crisp.

While the hash browns are baking, prepare the eggs and vegetables. I used only 2 eggs because I'm not terribly fond of them:


Add about a tablespoon or so of milk and mix it together with the eggs. Chop up your peppers then add them to the egg mixture:


I really wanted to add some spinach to these too, but I couldn't find any at the grocery store except the bagged kind. I don't know what's up with that.

Anyway, here are my hash brown crusts after they have baked. I think mine should have baked for a little longer:


After you take the hash browns out of the oven, turn the oven down to 350*. Then spoon a little of the egg/pepper mixture into each hole. Top with the ham, cheese, and dried parsley if desired:


Pop those suckers back in the oven for about 15 more minutes.

Pull them out and enjoy (or freeze for later)!



These were pretty yummy. I added some ketchup to mine. It was disgustingly delicious. Mmmmm.

I don't have any pictures after I took them out of the muffin pans because they partially fell apart. It's because I didn't bake the hash browns by themselves for long enough (and I personally think I should have had the oven a bit hotter).

The purpose of making them in the muffin tins was to have individual servings. However, I think this would have been just as easy to make in a square casserole and then cut/freeze into individual servings. The pan certainly would have been easier to clean.

If you need an easy breakfast recipe to go, give this recipe a try. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

(Leftover Christmas) Ham and Bean Soup

Ok, I'll admit it. I've been a little obsessed with beans lately. It's only because they are so healthy and cheap.

So I decided to make some ham and bean soup with some leftover Christmas ham.

Step 1: Sweetly convince your mother-in-law to give you the ham bone. Her ham is the best ham ever, so this step is very important.

Once you've completed that step, the rest is pretty easy.

I don't have a lot of pictures of the process, mostly because I threw it all in the crock pot before work this morning.

Ham and Bean Soup
1 leftover ham bone
1 bag (1 lb) pinto beans
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper
1 cup cooked ham
10 cups water
Salt and Pepper to taste

First, rinse your beans and soak in several inches of water overnight.

In the morning, drain the water and add the beans to the crock pot. I had to break out my GIANT (as in, about 8 quarts) crock pot to fit this ham bone (and I still had to break part of it off).

Add the onions and garlic on top of the beans. I used some leftover ham into the soup too, so add that, along with the red pepper flakes.

Put the water on top, then add salt and pepper to taste. I know from experience of just cooking beans in the crock pot that it takes several inches of water just to cook beans. I wanted my beans to be broth-y, so I added a few more inches on top of that.

Turn the crock pot on low and let that cook for about 8-10 hours.

After it's been cooking, take the ham bone out. It will look a little like this:

Give that a few minutes to cool, then separate the ham from the bone. You will have to pick through the fat to get to the meat.

Mix that back into the soup and then it's all ready! 

Serve with a nice hunk of homemade bread from your mom and you are good to go!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pappasito's Pinto Bean Soup

I got this recipe from a friend on Pinterest. I love Pinterest.

Here is the link to the original recipe. However, I find the directions to be a bit confusing, so that is one reason to explain it in my blog.

I cut the recipe down a bit so I only had to use one bag of beans. And for once, I actually know exact ingredient amounts that I used. Enjoy that little treat while it lasts. Here is my altered recipe:

Pappasito's Pinto Bean Soup
1 lb pinto beans (dried)
3 quarts water, divided
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1/3 c. garlic, minced
4 tbsp cilantro, divided
2/3 c. onion, diced
2 1/8 tsp cumin
2 1/8 tsp onion powder
1 1/8 tbsp salt
1 1/2 c. diced tomatoes

Step one: the night before you want to make this, soak your beans in 2 quarts water overnight. This step is very IMPORTANT! Something bad will happen if you don't soak your beans. I don't know what, but it's not good news. So just soak your beans.

Step 2: In the morning, drain your beans and set aside.

Step 3: Cook your bacon:
Mmmm, bacon.

After your bacon is done, remove it from the pan, leaving the fat. Add the garlic, onion, and 2 tbsp. cilantro to the hot bacon grease. Just so your are prepared, the smell of onion, garlic, and cilantro cooking in bacon grease is probably what heaven smells like.

A small note about the garlic. I wasn't sure whether to use a 1/3 c. MINCED garlic, or 1/3 c. garlic and then mince it. I decided for the latter because 1/3 c. minced garlic seemed like a lot. Also, minced came after the garlic, which I believe indicates you measure and then mince. Nonetheless, I ended up using about 10-12 cloves garlic. It definitely was not too much, and I probably could have even used a little more and it would have still been good.

In case you are wondering, this is a clove of garlic:

When I first started cooking with garlic, I thought a clove of garlic was what is actually a HEAD of garlic (all the cloves together). And I wondered why my salsa never tasted right....

Lesson learned.

Moving on.

Onions are cooking and it looks and smells so delicious!

After your onion is translucent, add the onion mixture back in with the bacon. Mix with the remaining 1 quart (or 32 oz/4 cups) water, beans, cumin, onion powder, and salt. The directions say to cook on low until beans are fork tender.

I did mine in the crock pot because beans take a long time to cook. I cooked in the crock pot on high for 5 hours, but the beans could have stood to be cooked a little longer.

Just before serving, mix in tomatoes and remaining 2 tbsp cilantro.

Enjoy!


The verdict: Overall, I thought this soup was pretty good.

It was okay the first day.

The second day it was delicious! It probably didn't hurt that reheating it allowed me to cook the beans a little longer.

I really liked the addition of tomatoes to the soup. I'd never heard of that before, but I loved the flavor of it.

In conclusion, everyone should try this because it is tasty, healthy, cheap, and easy!