Customizing Dinner

On Sunday we had my husband’s brother and sister-in-law and nephew over for dinner. It was really fun to see them, and that is one of the great perks of this side of the state; We are so much closer to them! I wanted to have us eat something that universally everyone likes, and that is pizza. There is just something amazing about dough and sauce and cheese and other deliciousness that you can add. I figured it was a safe bet, especially since my poor sister-in-law is having a really rough time with morning sickness right now! Hopefully it will soon pass so that she can feel back to normal, or as normal as you feel when you are pregnant! We are so excited for them! We are also excited because about 2 weeks ago, all of my husbands brothers, had pregnant wives (one just recently delivered and both mother and baby are doing well: it’s kinda scary to think that I’m next). And I was worried, when we eventually had children, that they wouldn’t have any cousins their age! :) But back to the pizza! This is a great recipe from Kelsey Nixon, from the show Kelsey’s Essentials on Cooking Channel Tv, an excellent show to learn about the ins and outs of cooking, and not just how, but why you should do things a particular way! You can also check out the other things that she made in that episode on cookingchanneltv.com. Also a note, my husband made this dough while I was getting ready for church, with me coaching from the bathroom, if he had any questions and he did an excellent job! You can do it too!

Basic Pizza Dough

Enough dough for 2 pizzas or 8 individual servings

1-3/4 c warm water

2-1/4 tsp Active Dry Yeast

4 c Bread Flour (I only had 2 c Bread Flour, so we substituted 2 c All-Purpose Flour, it still worked out great)

2 tsp Sugar

2 tsp Salt

3 tbsp Olive Oil, plus more

1 tsp Italian Seasoning*

Non-Stick Cooking Spray

*Italian Seasoning is not required, nor is it in the original recipe, but I like how it flavors the dough

1. Mix together the warm water, sugar, and the Active Dry Yeast in a bowl, or large measuring cup. Allow the yeast to “bloom” or grow for 5 minutes. Meanwhile mix together the Bread Flour, Salt, and Italian Seasoning, in a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. It is important that the salt is fully incorporated into the flour. Sugar feeds yeast and helps it grow, while salt, especially in larger clumps kills yeast, basically meaning that your dough will not expand as it should.

2. After 5 minutes add the Olive Oil to the yeast mixture. This makes sure that all the liquid is added at the same, and is therefore incorporated equally. Add the Yeast-Olive Oil mixture to the Flour mixture and mix just until combined. When combined remove the paddle attachment and switch to the dough hook attachment.  Allow to knead for 1-3 minutes. Remove dough from standing mixer to a floured surface. Be sure that your hands are well floured when handling this wet dough, and hand knead it for about 2 minutes.

3. Put dough in a covered bowl sprayed with Non-Stick Cooking Spray, and allow to rest until the dough is double in size, around 2 to 3 hours.

4. To bake, preheat oven to 500 degrees, and apply sauce and toppings, and bake for 14 minutes each, whether individual or large pizza. To achieve a really crispy crust you can apply Olive Oil beneath the pan that you are baking your pizza on and it will crisp it up. Otherwise spray with Non-Stick Cooking Spray or apply a thin layer of cornmeal beneath the dough.

5. If you have any left over dough, like we did you can refrigerate it up to 48 hours and make more pizza or any other delicious creation that Kelsey made.

What we did was individual pizzas that everyone could put their own toppings on. We had a smorgasbord of items to choose from to create their own combinations. They included:

Tomato Sauce

Mozzarella cheese, the best and most generic cheese to use with pizzas, though any melty cheese would be delicious

Pepperoni Slices

Ham/Canadian Bacon

Pineapple

Fresh Tomatoes

Diced Peppers

Sliced Red Onions

Chicken, cooked in boiling water to help it be super moist to survive the hot oven temp

Bacon, not cooked too crispy, it will be cooked again in the oven

Ranch, this turns very creamy in the oven and is delicious, don’t be too stingy or you won’t have enough sauce

BBQ Sauce

All of the combinations created sounded, looked, and tasted delicious, but my favorite was the Chicken, Bacon, Cheese, and Ranch, with Red Onion that I made.

I hope that you are able to enjoy this easy, fun meal as much as we did! From my family to yours…

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Salmon for Dinner

Growing up we always had some kind of fish in our house that we were eating, my dad being a fisherman and all, and there was even some trips that I went out on with him in the last few years and caught some of my own fish.

What can I say, you don’t wear a dress and heels fishing. Theres actually a pretty funny story behind this picture that I won’t go into right now, because I’m assuming most of you reading this won’t understand the “fishing” humor, but if you would like to know the story, leave a comment and I will definitely explain. It was actually quite a shock for my dad when I married my hubby who has no, I repeat N-O boat or fishing time. My father has decided now that we need to fix that, preferably as soon as possible.

But back onto the topic of fish! Did you know that fish are extremely healthy for you, because they have lots of vitamins and minerals and they have high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids; which help combat high-blood cholesterol levels and also aid in prevent heart-disease

Well this is a recipe adapted from my father, and what I always grew up eating. It is delicious!

Cooked Salmon and Mixed Green and Gorgonzola Salad*

*I will share both the homemade vinaigrette and toasted Garlic Bread another time.

Salmon

Measurements in this recipe are dependant upon taste and size of fillet.

1 fillet of Salmon, cut into a meal-sized portion

1/2 to 1 tsp Lemon Pepper

1/2 to 1-1/2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 to 1-1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil Mayonnaise, Miracle Whip, or Dijon Mustard, optional (They all keep it moist, while Miracle Whip and Dijon Mustard both add a little tang.)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Place the salmon skin side down on the tinfoil, and blot off any excess moisture with a paper towel.

2. Add on the Lemon Pepper and Olive Oil. Then spread on the Mayonnaise, Miracle Whip or Dijon Mustard, if using.

3. Place in a preheated oven only, and cook 17 minutes for every inch of thickness, until the thickest section if fully cooked; meaning that the fish is no longer opaque, but a solid color.

Mixed Green and Gorgonzola Salad

Mixed Baby Greens

1/2 c Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled

1/2 c Craisins

1/2 c Whole or Sliced Almonds, toasted (toasting is optional)

Homemade vinaigrette

1. Toss greens with vinaigrette. Then sprinkle on the cheese, craisins, and almonds. Serve and enjoy!

 

These are both delicious recipes! We hope that you enjoy them as much as we do!

Plums are Purple, and Snickers are Sweet,

From my family to yours…

My Secret Weapon

This is something that I have debated for a long time about sharing, and I almost didn’t share this today. But I decided that it’s so good, I can not, not share it with my wonderful friends. So here it is my secret weapon, my secret recipe.

These cookies are delicious, no… beyond delicious. Truly mind-blowing.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 c Quick Oats, blended until fine

1 c Sugar

1 c Butter, room temperature (very important, completely melted runny butter or cold butter will not incorporate properly and the cookies will suffer, trust me on this: room temp.)

1 c Brown Sugar

2 Eggs

1 tsp Vanilla

2 c Flour

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

1 c Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips

3/4 c Milk Chocolate Chips

3/4 c Vanilla Chocolate Chips

Half of a 6.8 oz Hershey’s Symphony Bar with Almond and Toffee bits, broken into little pieces (the now not so Secret Ingredient)

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Blend the Quick Oats in the blender. Set aside. Add the butter, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Mix together until the consistency is smooth.

2. Mix together the flour, oats, soda, and salt in a separate bowl until combined. Add flour mixture, into the sugar mixture, 1/3 at a time, mixing each until incorporated. Add in the chocolate chips and the bits of the chocolate bar.

3. Measure out the cookie dough balls and bake for 8-12 minutes. Enjoy!

This recipe makes a lot and if you don’t feel like eating that many cookies at one time, you can make cookie dough balls and freeze them in a zippered plastic bag, for baking or for snacking on later (which is generally what I do, and when we go to make some actual cookies -same temperature and duration as above- there’s almost not enough to make a dozen… oops!).

Well there it is, I hope that you love it and that it brings you the joy we get when we eat them.

Plums are Purple, and Snickers are Sweet,

From my family to yours…

Cupcakes

Mmmmm. Cupcakes are so delicious! I have wanted to make Red Velvet Cake, ever since I saw Bobby Flay’s throwdown on the Food Network, however many years ago. I also have been wanting to make cupcakes for a while.  Then I found this recipe when I was searching for what a “true” Red Velvet Cake’s ingredients are. A perfect marriage of the two! And we really enjoyed the cupcakes, though Yellow Cake with chocolate frosting is still my absolute favorite.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

by: Paula Deen, 2007

2 1/2 c all-purpose flour

1 1/2 c sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 1/2 c vegetable oil (I used Canola oil – healthier for you)

1 c buttermilk, room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature

2 Tbsp red food coloring

1 tsp white distilled vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

For Frosting:

1 lb cream cheese, softened

2 sticks butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 c sifted confectioners sugar

Chopped pecans and/or fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake liners.

2. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl, or mixer bowl, gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla. (It is best not to do this by hand, you want to incorporate all the ingredients together as efficiently as possible, being careful not to over develop the gluten.) Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet, a little at a time, and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined, but not overmixing.

3. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in the oven for about 20-22 minutes, turning the pans once halfway through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from the oven and cool completely before frosting.

For Frosting:*

1. While the cupcakes are cooling, in a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar on low-speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

2. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife, offset spatula, or pipe it on with a big star tip.

3. Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry, or strawberry. Enjoy!

*Just as a side note this makes at least twice as much frosting as you will need for the cupcakes, I would recommend halving the recipe.

A Day Off

My husband did not have to work today and we celebrated his long-awaited weekend, by sleeping in.  We were able to do some organizing  and get our extra room ready for the company that will be passing through this weekend. It is always a treat when I get to spend a full day with my husband. To celebrate we made Baked Spinach and Chick Pea Manicotti.

Baked Manicotti

Baked Spinach and Chick Pea Manicotti

12 Manicotti pasta shells

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

One small Onion, small dice

One medium clove Garlic, sliced

12 oz fresh or 1 package frozen spinach

15 oz whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 cup Mozzarella cheese, shredded*

Small handful fresh Basil

1-15.5 oz can Garbanzo Beans, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano Cheese, shredded

Salt and Pepper to taste

     Cream Sauce

3/4 cup Milk

1/2 cup Heavy Cream

3 cups Gruyère Cheese, shredded*

2 Tbsp fresh Basil, finely chopped

2 Tbsp  Parmesan Reggiano Cheese, shredded

Pastry bag with wide plain tip, or gallon zip lock bag

1 1/2 cup Mozzarella, shredded*

*If you do not have the specified cheese, or if you want to experiment with another type of cheese, be sure to follow these guidelines and it will still turn out delicious and the right consistency.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly oil a casserole dish.

Cook the manicotti in slightly salted water. Be sure to follow the cooking time instructions, and watch carefully, otherwise they turn out over cooked and will split easily when you try to fill them. When manicotti is cooked drain it and roll it out onto a lightly oiled baking sheet to cool slightly.

In a large saucepan heat olive oil, enough to cover pan. Dice one small onion, and add to pan to saute. After two minutes add the sliced garlic. Wash and cut the fresh spinach, or add in package of frozen spinach. Salt and pepper to taste. Let fresh spinach wilt down, or place lid on pan and let frozen spinach thaw.

In a food processor, blender, or in a bowl with an immersion blender, add the ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, basil, chick peas,  parmesan reggiano, and salt and pepper to taste and blend until a paste like consistency. Add in the saucepan mixture and blend until combined. (Make sure to be careful when blending a hot mixture in the blender, it can expand quickly. Always check that you have the lid on, before blending.)

Add the mixture to a piping bag or into a gallon ziplock bag, with a small hole cut in the corner. Pipe the mixture into the slightly cooled manicotti, and place in the casserole dish. When they are all filled, if there is any left over mixture add it into the open spaces between the manicotti.

For the sauce add the milk, heavy cream, gruyère cheese,  basil, and parmesan reggiano to a sauce pot, cooking it over medium-low heat. You want to be careful not to scald the milk, but it has to be warm enough to melt the cheese, don’t rush this, the more time you allow it to melt, the creamier it will be. Once the cheese has fully melted pour the sauce over the stuffed manicotti. Top with the shredded Mozzarella and place on the center rack in the oven. Cook for 30-35 minutes. Allow to rest for five to ten minutes, as it will be very hot, and then enjoy!

We loved this dish and can’t wait to eat it again tomorrow, for leftovers!