Monday, February 28, 2011

A Perfect Pizza

I have not always been a pizza lover. Growing up I didn't get it. When I was a kid, if you asked me what my favorite food was it wasn't pizza. As long as I can remember my favorite food was my daddy's fried rice, and steak. I didn't get the appeal of greasy pizza that came in a cardboard box. Or the pizza that you bought in the freezer aisle, which was always too crispy, or too artificial tasting.

But as I got older, I started to eat out on my own, and really tasted pizza. Like, good pizza. We have some great places that specialize in gourmet pizza around the Twin Cities. And I have had the pleasure of tasting a few. But, since my favorite place to get pizza doesn't deliver to my hood, and because most of the appeal of getting pizza is the convenience of delivery, I had to take matters into my own hands. And I am now a proud lover of homemade pizza.


The key to good homemade pizza is the crust. And for this I turn to Baking Illustrated. I first saw this on Annie's blog, and it is my absolute favorite pizza crust, and is extremely versatile. It is thick, and chewy, but also has a nice crusty crispiness when cooked on a pizza stone (which is also a crucial element to pizzeria quality pizza at home). But I don't always have bread flour on hand, so when that happens The Pioneer Woman's Favorite Pizza Crust, it comes in at a close second.


Usually pizza night at my house means defrosting and letting rise a dough ball that was frozen the last time a made a big batch, and throwing whatever I can find in the fridge in the crust. But last week was Blogger Tribute Week, and I made a lot of blogger recipes that didn't make the blog. This is one of them. And it was oh. so. good.

Traditional Pizza Crust

Makes: 2 large pizza crusts*

Lightly adapted from Baking Illustrated via Annie's Eats

1 3/4 cup warm water (about 110°)

1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting

1 ½ tsp. salt

olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

-Measure the water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup, stir in brown sugar.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  

-Add the oil and stir to combine.

-In a large bowl mix flour and salt, slowly add in yeast mixture and mix with a spoon until a cohesive mass forms.  

-Remove dough from bowl, and place on lightly floured surface. Knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes depending on how much muscle you use (this can also be done by stand mixer with a dough hook).

- Split the dough into 2 equal portions. If not using both wrap one in plastic wrap, and then place in a freezer bag, freeze until ready to use. If using right away, place a dough ball into a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Press the dough to deflate it.

-To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Form dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

-Shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal.  Top as desired.  Slide the dough onto the pizza stone. Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes.  

- When ready to use frozen dough, unwrap dough ball, coat in oil and place in a oiled bowl, cover with towel and allow to thaw/rise in a warm place until doubled in size, and follow the remaining directions

*For the purposes of pleasing my loved ones, and trying not to have leftovers because we would be out of town the following 4 days I took one crust, divided it into 2 and made 2 smaller pizzas, one white clam, one traditional (tomato sauce, sausage, onions, mushrooms, peppers). And I ended up rolling the crusts a little bit thinner than I usually do. They weren't as puffy and chewy as it is when I make one large crust, but it was still delicious, and slightly chewy, and crispy!

** And truth be told it is better for you to use a pizza stone. Your crust will undoubtedly be crispy on the outside and chewy in the middle. But I don't have one, so I dust a large cookie sheet with cornmeal, and bake close to the bottom of my oven.


White Clam Sauce

Makes: Approximately 2 cups sauce, enough for 1-12" pizza, or 1lb linguine

Lightly Adapted from Good Clean Fun

1 Tbsp.unsalted butter

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 Tbsp. flour

1/3 cup dry white wine

2 (6.5 oz) cans of minced clams, drained, juices reserved

1/4 cup reserved clam juice

1/4 cup cream or half and half

1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese (optional)

chopped fresh parsley for garnish

- Combine butter and olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. once butter has melted, add garlic and saute for 2 minutes.

- Add flour and stir for 1 minute. pour in wine and stir well until smooth.

- Add clam juice and simmer until reduced by half. stir in clams, cream, and parmesan and stir well until smooth.

- Spread on pizza crust, and sprinkle with mozzarella cheese (if using), and bake according to crust directions


-Toss with cooked linguine, and sprinkle with parmesan. sprinkle with fresh parsley and enjoy!

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Drive. The Debauchery. The Border. The Bear.

For the last 8 years a group of my friends goes up to Lutsen, MN for a long weekend of bonding, drinking, skiing, and debauchery. This is my second year of attendance, and while the group size can range from 10-30, it is always a good time. We play games, drinking and otherwise, tell stories, point an laugh at each others goofs, and get closer. But this year (since the majority of attendees are female) we also thought it would be a cool idea to do some sightseeing, and touristing.

Let's start at the beginning....

The drive...





The Debauchery...







(I kind of can't believe I'm posting this, possibly the most hideous face I have ever made.)



Karaoke may have been involved.

Then, breakfast with the girls at Blue Water...




Two eggs over easy, hashbrowns, whole wheat toast, and two sausage patties (that were HUGE). It was greasy, and delicious. It was exactly what I needed to start my day, and fight of a hangover.

After breakfast we hit up the Grand Portage Casino, for all of 30 minutes. We each gambled some money, I lost $5. :-( And then we were off to Canadia! Well not really we just looked at the border. You need a passport to cross that big white line these days, and we were not prepared.


See those trees back there? Those are Canadian trees! They wouldn't let us get any closer than this, and they wouldn't let me buy any maple syrup, fat back bacon, or hug a Mountie. Dreams... dashed.


And then we brought our butts back to Minnesota, and decided to be real cool, pull over in front of the border on the side of a freeway and run to the median to take a picture with a giant cut out sign of our home state! Aren't you glad you're my friend?!

"Minnesota (and Hannah) Welcomes You!"

On the way back to the house we stopped at Ryden's Border store. We found lots of knick knacks of the American and Canadian variety that cost an arm and a leg, and "100% Pure Canadian Maple Syrup" that was made in Minnesota, and cute souvenir clothing. I bought a sweatshirt. You will see photos of me and Miss Erin matching. It will be epic. We also found a friendly bear. I named him Fred.


In case you can't read the sign it says, "PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE BEAR. FONDLING DRIVES ME CRAZY."

Fondling drives me crazy to Fred.

Until tomorrow friends. Get ready for some more debauchery (with a capital D), in Canadian apparel!

Oh yeah, and I have no cell service and no internet (I said that already but I want you to know how upset that makes me), so Twitter will be silent. We're going old school, so if you wanna tweet me, smoke signals work.

Not really.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Strawberry Scones

The first time I made scones I was in 10th grade. I made them for Easter brunch with my family. Every holiday I brought a dish for the bunch, I loved to cook, and was good at it. But I couldn't bake unless it came from a box, or was my Famous Lemon Bars. I usually brought Lemon Bars to Easter, but I was burnt out after having made 6 batches that week for other people's families, and a bake sale. So when it came time to make my own batch I was over zesting, and squeezing lemons, and just wanted something easy. I had watched Ina make scones on the Food Network many a late night, and thought that making my own would be easy, impressive, and delicious. I heard her warnings about mixing gently, and how most people don't like scones because they're dry and hard, but I wasn't worried. I was a cooking goddess at the ripe age of 15.


Verdict? My scones were nast. Just like Ina said they'd be if I wasn't careful. Hard, dry, crumbly, and flavorless. Instead of lemons bars for dessert that Easter Sunday, I got a big ol' slice of humble pie.


I haven't made scones since.


That is, until yesterday.... I made Jacob's Famous Strawberry Shortcake Scones. And let me tell you, all the hype, about his scones, it's all true! These were amazing! Best scones I have EVER tasted! And I've eaten a lot! My own scone flop has sent me in a tizzy to find a flavorful, moist, tender scone, every coffee shop, bakery, cafe, "I'll take a donut, oh.. and a scone, please!" None stack up to these! A gentle lemon flavor, chewy strawberry bits, a slight crunch from strawberry seeds, buttery flaky dough, moist, tender crumb, thick luscious glaze! Oh. My. Lanta. Please, please, please make these. They may seem a little labor intensive but most of it is waiting time. They really are easy, and well worth forgetting every dry scone you have every tasted. I made half a batch (roughly 12 scones), and only baked off half of those (froze the rest), and they are gone. 6 fluffy, tender, buttery, sweet, delicious scone, gone. If I weren't going out of town tomorrow morning I would bake off the rest now. Instead, I will go into every coffee shop, bakery, cafe, and grocery store and tell them that their scones aren't as delicious as mine (er... Jacob's) and snicker


Strawberry Scones

Adapted From: Jacob's Kitchen

Makes 24 Scones

4 cups AP Flour

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 Tblsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

3 sticks cold butter, diced

1 cup cold heavy cream

4 eggs

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 tsp lemon zest

1 1/2 cup diced dried strawberries


3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

2 Tblsp lemon juice

-In a large measuring cup measure heavy cream, beat eggs into cream, and add zest, vanilla extract, and strawberries, combine, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes

- In a large mixing bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

- Cut the butter into the flour mixture, until the texture resembles coarse meal.

- Add wet mixture and very gently stir until just barely combined

- Dump out onto a floured board and shape into a rectangle, roll it out to 1/2 inch thickness and then fold over in thirds. Roll out again, and fold in thirds. Repeat this once more

- After the final fold roll the rectangle out to 1 inch thickness. And cut in desired shape, you can use a biscuit cutter, or cut into squares, then triangles, and then smaller triangles

- Place the cut scones on a parchment lined baking sheet and chill in fridge for 1 hour (in the meantime clean up)

-Preheat oven to 400*

- Brush the chilled scones with a beaten egg (if not using glaze sprinkle with turbinado sugar)

- Bake for 15-18 minutes, until golden brown, and when nudged move as a cohesive unit

- While the scones are baking mix your glaze. In a large bowl combine sugar, vanilla, lemon juice, and half the cream, whisk, slowly add more cream while mixing to achieve desired consistency

- While the scones are just warm enough to touch begin glazing. You can dunk the tops in the glaze to completely cover, drizzle glaze over scones, or spoon glaze on top

- Let stand for 30 minutes for the glaze to firm up, and enjoy!


Drown 'em in glaze. You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grapefruit Margaritas

I don't know if you know this, but yesterday was National Margarita Day!

That's right folks, the fifty nifty United States has dedicated a whole 24 hours to my favorite mixed drink. The Margarita. And you know what other holiday yesterday was? National Tortilla Chip Day! I mean, hand in hand or what?!

Now margs are my favorite, I don't drink them often because I only like good margaritas. I don't like sour mix, or pre-made margarita blends, I prefer fresh citrus, and fruit juice, and silver tequila. So, I'm usually not ordering them out because that bright green liquid in that blast bottle doesn't do it for me. I will say that there is a great pre-made margarita in a bottle made my Jose Cuervo that is delicious! So I am not a total snob, when I don't feel like going to the grocery store (never happens) and the liquor store, I just go to the liquor store and pick up a bottle of this.


But that is not what this post is about. This post is about the Grapefruit Margarita that I am currently sipping on at 9a.m. No, I am not an alcoholic. But by the time I got these mixed up in celebration last night the sun had gone down. If you follow me on twitter, you'll notice I tweeted my justification for drinking tequila before noon.

Screen shot 2011-02-23 at 9.24.11 AM

But to make a long story even longer I also, hereby proclaim this week "Blogger Tribute Week." This week you will not find any "original" recipes here. All of the recipes this week I have found on another blog, and loved, and wanted to remake for you (and myself). Most of these are recipes that I have had bookmarked for months, and some are very recent that have caught my eye! I'll probably tweak to suit my tastes but I really want to show you some of the awesome talent around the blogosphere, and what I've been up to this week! So without further adieu...

This recipe came to me after watching "The Best Thing I ever Ate" on the Food Network. The episode covered favorite beverages. And I saw the best looking Grapefruit Margarita I had ever seen. I vowed to create my own since I couldn't find the recipe for it. But Page beat me too it. Her recipe is a single serving. Mine is for a pitcher. Making a drink one at a time is a waste of time for me. She obviously has more control. And I'm not good at multiplication So I just winged it, and measured in 1/4 cup at a time until I had the perfect balance of sweet, and sour. Don't be ashamed to run to the store right now and mix one up when you get back. I'll wait, well, actually I've already started, but I'll be here... 10 a.m. is the new happy hour.


Grapefruit Margaritas

Inspired by: Good Clean Fun

Makes 4 Tall Servings

1 1/2 Cup Silver Tequila

3/4 cup Triple Sec

1 1/2 cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

zest from 1 grapefruit

zest from 1 lime

zest from 1 lemon

Additional sugar for rimming

- In a small saucepan combine water and sugar, bring to a simmer, cook until sugar is dissolved

- Remove from heat, and add in citrus zest, cover and let steep

- Once simple syrup is cool strain, and set aside

- In a large pitcher combine tequila, triple sec, juices, and 1 cup of the citrus syrup, stir

- Dip rim of serving glass in water, or run a grapefruit around the edges, and dip in sugar to coat rim

- Add ice to glasses, pour margarita over ice and serve with a grapefruit or lime wheel, and umbrella

- Serve, enjoy!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Citrus Berry Pancake Cake

You’re really going to like this.

At least I hope you really like it.

No... I’m sure you’re going to like it. Why?

Because it’s delicious.

This idea is stolen. I’ll admit it, I am a blogger stalker. And a huge percentage of the foods I make are based off of blogger recipes. Because let’s face it, all these bloggers out here are really smart cookies. And they have great ideas, and the cooking chops to back it up. So when I make their recipes I try to make it better (which, is not always possible, because it can’t get any better), or suit it to my tastes. So when I saw this in Peanut Butter Fingers, I knew Julie was on to something.

And so my quest for the Pancake Cake began. A baked pancake that is light and tender, with a crispy exterior, and lots of flavor! It took three attempts, and a lot of reading, but I got it. It’s perfect. Don’t change a thing. And I am usually an advocate for “make it your own” but really, make it as is first. And then add chocolate... I know I would.

Citrus Berry Pancake Cake

Serves 2

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

3 Tbls melted butter

Zest of 1/2 a medium size lemon (~ 1 tsp)

Juice of 1/2 medium size lemon (~ 1 tsp)

2 Tbls sugar

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 cup AP flour

1/4 Whole wheat flour

1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp salt


1/3 cup frozen mixed berries

1 Tbls sugar

- Preheat oven to 425*

- In a medium size bowl beat egg and milk with hand mixer (or stand mixer) for about 3 minutes, until light and foamy

- Beat in melted butter, lemon zest, juice, sugar and vanilla

- Mix in flours, baking powder and salt, stir until just incorporated, batter should be lumpy

- Spray 6X9 pan with non-stick spray, spread batter in to pan

- Sprinkle top with berries, pushing them down slightly (berries should not be covered with batter), and then sprinkle with sugar

- Bake at 425* for approximately 20 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean

-Serve with maple syrup, or powdered sugar, and sweetened whipped cream

MIYO (make it your own)

The toppings and mix-ins are endless. Here are a few combos that I plan on trying:

- Beat pumpkin into wet ingredients, with cinnamon, and nutmeg

- Beat a mashed banana (or melted peanut butter) into wet, and mix in chocolate chips

- Almond extract, sliced almond, and orange zest/juice

- Top it with maple syrup, powdered sugar, chocolate shavings, sweetened whipped cream, powdered sugar glaze, nuts, fruit coulis, sprinkles

Good to the last drop.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Rough Day

I'm trying really hard to not be whiny, or a downer debbie, and try to keep this a space for happy things like unicorns, bacon, and cheese, but some days I'm just not up for it.

Today is one of those days.

I don't have any pets. I had a dog, cats, and fish growing up but I personally have not owned a pet since 2003. Not for lack of trying, I begged and begged my mother to let me get a puppy but she wouldn't budge. But the summer of 2009, a couple of months after I moved out of my parent's house they got a puppy. I was bitter, and mad, and refused to meet him. And then I did, and I fell in love. And he in turn, fell in love right back.

Meet Pherroshus. He is a 22 month old Shih Tzu/Poodle mix. He loves ham bones, tearing pillows apart, and mounting a big, white, teddy bear holding a red heart.

He is my favorite animal. I love him a lot. And I am his favorite human. Ask anyone in the family. He can hear me coming up the walkway at my parent's house and always loses his mind when he does. Barking, jumping up an down, wagging his tail. He is the only person that happy to see me. My parents and sisters have a hard time taking care of him because they aren't animal people, they got him as a companion for their grandkids that live with them, and visit regularly, but they just aren't equipped to take care of him like he needs to be. I would take him but where I presently live doesn't allow dogs.

Anyway, the point of the story is he doesn't have enough supervision and lots of kids means lots of small toys that don't get put away, and a small puppy that chews on everything is trouble. Needless to say he started vomiting last night, and it continued into the morning. He wouldn't eat or drink anything, and was so weak he couldn't get up to go to the bathroom. My mom called my frantic this morning asking if I would take him to the vet. I did. They ran tests did some x-rays, and found something lodged in his intestine. So they did surgery, and he is doing fine now. They are keeping him overnight for observations, and I'll pick him up tomorrow.

Look at that face. My poor sick puppy.

Because I started my day with a scared, sick puppy, and 3 hours at the vet's office, and another 3 hours worrying about how he did in surgery I've had a rough day. A rough, unproductive, stressful day. Made worse by the fact that the people I've surrounded myself with seem to not have much sensitivity towards me, and the fact that I am so concerned for my boy. I had one person say to me that it would have just been cheaper to put him down. I'm not interested in that. Even if that is how you feel, keep it to yourself, when I am crying over my sick dog, don't tell me it's cheaper to put him down. I don't need that. And please understand that if I break
plans with you this weekend it's because I don't want to leave him alone while he is recovering. And please understand that.

I'm gonna sign off for the weekend, unless I am feeling extra cheerful tomorrow when I see him, and he is back to his rambunctious self. Otherwise, well wishes are appreciated! And we will talk on Monday!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

24 hours in Pictures

I'm still in the process of transferring files and setting up my new computer exactly how I want it, and I haven't gotten a new blogging application yet. I thinking Ecto, any suggestions for Macs?

Anyhoo. Yesterday got away from me, between babysitting, and cleaning up after babysitting, and getting my camera in the mail, reading the manual, going for walks to take pictures, and dinner with friends I got home late, exhausted, and instead of uploading 200+ pictures to blog, I went to bed.

If you follow me on Twitter, the last two mornings I've talked about the Pancake Cake. I tried a whole wheat version today... both recipes still need tweaking. I may have to try a half AP/half whole wheat approach. Hopefully I'll have a recipe for you tomorrow. For now, here is the last 24 hours in photos.