Easy Peasy Pizza Pie

I love homemade pizza. My husband got me a pizza stone awhile back, and I love it. I find more ways to use it almost every time I bake. Hands down though, my favorite way to use my pizza stone is to bake pizza. We love homemade pizza at our house. When we first started making pizza I would buy either the premade pizza crusts or the pizza dough packets (where you add water and stir). Both of these yielded good pizzas. Awhile back a Daring Bakers challenge was pizza dough. This was a great recipe, but it took planning, since the dough had to sit in the fridge for 24 hours.

I knew there had to be a pizza dough recipe that was instant. After all, those dough packets I got at the store called for only a 5-10 minute rise time. I wish I could take credit for developing this recipe that has become my “go-to” when we get the hankering for pizza. Erin from Lee Lou  Ann had the perfect recipe I had been searching for. It takes 10 minutes of knead time and 10 minutes of rise time. This allows you 20 minutes to shred your cheese, brown your meat, mix your sauce, preheat your oven, have a beer or a glass of wine, whatever you need to do to get ready for pizza time.

Easy Pizza Dough
(from Always in Season)
4 to 4 1/2 c. flour
2 envelopes fast-rising dry yeast
1 t. sugar
2 t. olive oil
1 3/4 c. warm water (110 degrees)
1 t. salt

Put water in mixer bowl. Add yeast and sugar, stir with fork and let sit until creamy. Add oil and half flour and mix with kneader hook. Add remaining flour and salt, knead for 8-10 minutes. Let rest, covered with towel for 10 minutes. The dough may be punched down, placed in a resealable plastic bag and stored in the refrigerator for 12 hours or frozen at this point; return to room temperature before proceeding.
Divide the dough into 8 portions for 6″ crusts or 2 portions for large crusts. Top with sauce, cheese and other toppings. Bake on pizza stone or cookie sheet at 450-500 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

TIPS FOR PERFECT PIZZA:
* Roll your crust thin and dock (poke wholes) with fork. Brush lightly with olive oil.
* Crank up the temp on your oven. I preheat my oven and pizza stone to 550 degrees F.
* Par-bake your crust for 5 minutes before topping.
* Limit your toppings to no more than four. Too many toppings will make your dough soggy.
* Use sauce lightly. I like to do cheese down first, then meat and veggies, sprinkle of Parmesan and pizza spices
* Once pizza is topped bake for another 8 minutes, or until cheese is melty and bubbly.

If you follow these tips you will have a delicious crispy crust pizza. My husband thinks that this is the best pizza ever! We are looking forward to giving it a try on my in-laws BGE!

Sausage and Spinach Lasagna Rolls with a Pesto Tomato Sauce

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WOW that title is a mouthful, at least it is a tasty one! My husband raved over these little lasagna rolls. In fact, he said if I ever openned a restaurant I would HAVE to have these on the menu. What a great compliment for a dinner I threw together with stuff in the fridge.

Those of you who know me and/or have been following my posts know that I LOVE pesto. I could honestly just eat it right off the spoon (and have). Yum! I hope to someday have a Cuisinart food processor where I can make all sorts of great pestos, right now the jarred-grocery store kind works wonderfully. I had a partially used jar of pesto in the fridge and could not let it go to waste. Pesto was the inspiration for these lasagna rolls. I also had a partial jar of marinara sauce and a couple handfuls of baby spinach in the fridge that needed to be used. A little spicy Italian sausage in the freezer and I had the workings for a tasty sounding lasagna.

Let me just say that adding pesto to your jarred tomato sauce really freshens it up. The garlic and basil really complement the tomatoey flavor of a marinara. Give it a try, you won’t regret it.

Sausage and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

1 lb spicy Italian sausage (casings removed)
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
3 c mozzarella cheese
1 10 oz jar Pesto
1 28 oz jar Marinara sauce
couple handfuls Baby Spinach
1 package “boil” Lasagna noodles
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degree F. Fill large pot with water, bring to boil. Salt water and add lasagna noodles, cook to package directions. Drain (reserving 1 c liquid), and rinse in cool water. Separate noodles on counter or cookie sheet, so they don’t stick together. Heat skillet over medium heat and brown sausage, breaking up large chunks, drain. Grease 9 x 9 baking dish.

Mix together pesto and marinara. Add 1/2 c sauce to bottom of baking dish. Mix ricotta, Parmesan, 1 c mozzarella, spinach, and reserved noodle liquid.

Assemble rolls:

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Spread ricotta mixture on lasagna noodle.

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Top with some browned sausage. Roll.

Place seam-side down in pan. Repeat until all ingredients are used. Top with remaining sauce mixture and mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil, bake 35-40 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5-10 minutes or until cheese browns.  ENJOY!

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Cottage Pie

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Have you ever heard of a Cottage Pie before? I hadn’t. I have always called this dish Shepherd’s Pie regardless of the meat used. Traditionally Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb, something I am not a fan of. I can say “I do not like lamb” because I have given it many tries. I think ground lamb (with spices and herbs mixed in) is tolerable, but the thought of lamb chops or leg or lamb make my stomach turn.

At Easter I ate at a brunch buffet with my in-laws. As I was eyeing all the lovely food options, I saw a man (actually a teenage boy) standing at the carving station with a beautiful piece of meat in front of him. I thought to myself “Wow that looks like some good  prime rib, I will have that for lunch.” I waited in line, and as I held my plate up to him I said “I will take a couple pieces of prime rib.” He slapped the meat on my plate without a word.  I returned to the table and eagerly cut into my “prime rib”.  I took one bite and almost regurgitated it all over the table. I leaned over to my husband and said “DO NOT get the prime rib, I think there is something wrong with it.” He took a bite of mine and agreed it had a funny flavor. After awhile we heard my husband’s uncle and cousin talking about the lamb –my stomach turned even more. That experience has tainted my perception of lamb, because lamb tastes nothing like prime rib.

I digress. Since I do not like lamb I could not called this dish Shepherd’s Pie, it most certainly is a Cottage Pie made with ground beef. It is tasty. I found my recipe on a really cool website called Cooking for Engineers. They lay out their recipes in a unique manner, for those who like to cook and have an analytical mind. Head over there and check out this recipe for Cottage Pie.

Great looking recipes from blogs I read:

Family Pleasin’ Shepherd’s Pie from Picky Palate

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie from Mennonite Girls Can Cook

Easy Shepherd’s Pie from Simply Recipes

Cottage Pie from What Geeks Eat

My recipes:

Rachael Ray’s Shepherd’s Pie Redo

Tamales

I have always wanted to try tamales, and to be honest I used to be so intimidated to order them off a menu somewhere because I was unsure if you ate the corn husk too. I certainly know a lot more about tamales now, in fact I have made them a few times from scratch. I got this great low-fat recipe from my friend Jessie over at Little Calorie. She talks about how they are a labor of love, how right she is. Making tamales from scratch are extremely time consuming, especially if you have a 2 1/2 year old and 11 month old who want to “help” you in the kitchen. These are definatly a “plan-ahead” kind of meal; plan to spend the majority of your day making them. But what a sweet, er-savory, reward.  Remember, you DO NOT eat the corn husk! 🙂

TIP FOR FREEZING: Once the tamales are done steaming, cool, the place in a zip top bag in the fridge. The next morning take the bag out and place it in the freezer. When tamale fever strikes, reheat (with husk on) in the microwave at half power for 2 minutes, or until warmed through. ENJOY!

A Naan-Traditional Meal

In July Alex and I traveled to Phoenix, while we were there we ate at a delicious Lebanese restaurant in Tempe, called Layalena. Before we ate there my middle eastern food experience was extremely limited; in fact I think the only thing I had previously eaten was hummus. Since neither of us knew what to order we decided to order a sampler mezza (appetizer) and the king’s feast for dinner and share it.  The appetizer included: Hummus, baba ganouj, falafel, labneh, m’hammara, and grape leaves. The king’s feast was huge and included: A skewer of kefta kabob, shish tawook, and shish kabob plus a lamb chop. It was a wonderful meal. Since we aren’t on vacation anymore, I had to figure out how to satisfy my craving for that meal at home.

My inspiration for this meal came after we took a trip to the library and I checked out several cookbooks; one was this beautiful book entitled “Home Baking: The Artful Mix of Flour and Tradition Around the World“. As I flipped through the book (several times) I saw a recipe for Silk Road Non; after reading it over and over I thought I could at least give it a try. What fun it would be to make handmade non (also spelled nan or naan), and a whole middle eastern meal to accompany it. I did a little research and completed my menu with muhammara and shish tawook.

Everything turned out so beautifully, in this case my hard work really paid off.  Alex was presently surprised with a delicious meal when he came home from work, and he requested it becomes part of the meal rotation. So shake up your recipe collection and try something naan-traditional!If you need inspiration, head to your local library. Many libraries are stocked with recipe books from around the world.

Silk Road Non
Makes 12 round breads
From: Home Baking

2 tsp active dry yeast
3 c warm water
7 to 9 c AP Flour (or 2 c whole wheat flour, plus 4-6 c AP flour)
1 T salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/4 c rendered lamb fat melted, (or 4 T unsalted butter, melted)

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. Add 3 cups of the flour (if using whole wheat flour, add it and 1 c AP), a cup at a time, stirring well until a smooth batter forms, then stir for another minute, always stirring in the same direction. If you have the time, cover your bowl with plastic wtap and let stand for 30 minutes, or as long as 3 hours, if more convenient.

Sprinkle on 1 T salt and stir in. Add 3 T of the lamb fat or butter and fold in. Continue to add the flour, a cup at a time, stirring and folding it in until dough becomes too stiff to stir.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes.

Place the dough in a clean blow, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until at least doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (For more flavor, set in a cool place to rise for 8 hours, or overnight.)

Place rack in upper third of oven and place a large baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles, if you have them, (or baking sheet) on it. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Cut it in half and set one half aside, covered. Cut the remaining dough into 6 equal pieces. Shape each into a ball and then flatten with the floured palm of your hand. With a rolling pin, begin rolling it out into thin rounds about 8 inches in diameter. The dough may resist stretching, so work with 2 rounds at once to give the gluten in the dough time to stretch and relax. Roll out 1 round as far as it will easily go, then work on a second before coming back to the first to roll it out a little more.  As you complete each round, set aside on a lightly floured surface, covered with a towel or with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes before baking.

To shape the breads for baking, warm the remaining 1 T lamb fat or butter until very liquid and place by your work surface, together with a pastry brush and salt. Lightly dust a peel with flour. Place a dough round on the peel, then stamp or prick with center of the round thoroughly and vigorously with a fork, leaving a 1 inch rim. Brush lightly all over with lamb fat or butter, then sprinkle the center with a generous pinch of salt. Transfer to the baking stone, placing it to one side to leave room for another bread. Prepare the next bread, and slide into the over beside the first.

Bake for 5 1/2 – 7 minutes, until well flecked with gold. Place on a rack to cool for 5 minutes or so, then wrap in a cotton cloth to keep warm.

As this post is already incredibly long I will just include links to the other recipes. Mahammara is a red pepper and walnut dip. It is delicious with naan. Mahammara link is here. Also I recommend you roast your own red peppers; I couldn’t believe how easy it was, click here for a how to roast your own peppers tutorial.

Shish Tawook is a marinated and grilled chicken. It is so easy to make and tastes wonderful with muhammara. I used a combination of recipes. The original recipes can be found here and here.

Shish Tawook

1/2 c Plain yogurt (I used sour cream)
1/4 c white vinegar
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
2 T ketchup
2 T yellow mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
2-3 lbs. boneless/skinless chicken breasts (cut into strips)

In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients. Stir in chicken pieces, coating all sides with marinade. Cover bowl, and refrigerate overnight. Skewer chicken onto kabobs, grill until cook through.

Fettuccini and Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

1 T EVOO (I used 1/2 T bacon grease and 1/2 T EVOO)
2 T shredded onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2-3/4 c dry white wine
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1/2 c chicken stock
1 pint roasted grape tomatoes
1/2 c cream
10-15 basil leaves julienne

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss tomatoes with EVOO and salt. Pour onto a flat baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes, or until tomatoes are shrunk and shriveled, but not dried out.  *If you are pinched for time you could do it quickly under the broiler… just make sure you keep your eyes on it.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Shred onion with a cheese grater. Add EVOO, onion and garlic to the pan, saute for 1-2 minutes. Do not let garlic get brown, it will have a bitter flavor if it does and you must start over. Add wine and allow to reduce to about half. Stir in chicken stock and vinegar. Simmer 3-5 minutes. Add roasted tomatoes, and stir in cream. Remove from heat, stir in basil leaves.

Toss with fettuccini. Top with crumbled bacon or pancetta and freshly shredded Parmesan cheese.

Pumped Up Mac & Cheese

Whenever I am in the kitchen, Sasha always asks me if I am cooking mac ‘n cheese. I am sure most toddlers could eat this meal morning, noon and night; Sasha would be tickled pink if I place a plate of mac ‘n cheese in front of her for breakfast. Although nothing beats homemade mac ‘n cheese, at times it is just easier to use the boxed variety. Now I know that mac ‘n cheese isn’t the healthiest lunch option, but it is quick and easy, and perfect for a mom with lots to do. I’ve tried to healthify (cut some calories) the boxed variety by adding a fraction of the requested butter and using low-fat or non-fat milk.

Awhile back I saw Jessica Seinfeld on Oprah, talking about her new cookbook Deceptively Delicious. I do not own nor have I read her cookbook, but the idea of getting kids to eat healthier foods is something I want my kids to do. Luckily I don’t have to be so deceptive with my cooking right now, my kids are excellent eaters and I hope they remain that way.  Mrs. Seinfeld “sneaks” vegetables into her recipes so her children get the added benefit of extra vitamins and nutrients.  I didn’t have to sneak any vegetables in to my mac ‘n cheese, I just stirred in a can of peas and carrots, and pumped up my mac ‘n cheese with additional Vitamins A, C, and K, along with additional fibre (which we could all use). My girls loved the chunks of veggies in their mac ‘n cheese and I was happy to know they were getting the additional vitamins and nutrients they wouldn’t have had with plain mac ‘n cheese.  So peas have another helping! 😉

Pumped Up Mac & Cheese

1 box Macaroni and Cheese
1 small can peas and carrots (drained and rinsed)
Milk
Butter or MArgarine

Prepare macaroni and cheese according to directions on box. A few minutes before the macaroni is tender stir in peas and carrots. Strain macaroni, peas and carrots. Stir in milk and butter. Enjoy!