Thursday, October 27, 2011

Perfect Pizza from Crust to Toppings

I should issue a word of caution to those who love deep dish, thick crust, manly man pizza - this recipe is not for you. This pizza is for all the real pizza lovers, those who prefer Italian style thin crust with fresh toppings. If that sounds like your kind of pizza you are in luck, this recipe is pizza perfection {in my clearly not so humble opinion}. It's taken me a long time to perfect the crust and I finally feel confident that this is the crust. A crust I am willing to share and hope you enjoy.
But we all know that the crust is only half of the symphony that is a slice of pizza. The toppings are also crucial - now I won't pretend to know what you like, but I will give you a few suggestions for great pizza combos. Hopefully you will create your own perfect pizza. And when you do, please share it. I'd love to hear what you come up with. Now on with the food!

The Pizza Crust Deets
1 1/2 Cup All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
1 packet Yeast
1 Cup Warm Water
1 1/2 TBS Olive Oil
Corn Meal for bottom of Crust
*For a twist you can add 1 tsp Rosemary and 1 tsp Crushed Basil

The Pizza Crust How To
You can Mix by Hand or in a Mixer with a Dough Hook - I use the mixer.
Add 1/2 of the Flour to mixing bowl (I like to mix my flour and add 1/2 of the mixture to start)
Add Salt, Sugar and Yeast
Mix Dry Ingredients
Add Warm Water and Olive Oil
Mix on low until dough is "wet"
Mix on medium for 1-2 minutes
Add remaining Flour
Mix until Dough until it holds together
Knead Dough on floured surface until elastic and smooth (Dough will feel smooth and the consistency will be medium-firm - don't kneed until hard or your crust will be tough. Kneading takes about 2-3 minutes.
Knead Dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Let rest for 20-30 minutes while dough rises - it should double in size.
Once Dough has risen, divide in two.
Pull Dough into Flat disk.
Sprinkle Corn Meal on Counter and Rollout the Dough nice and thin (about 1/4 inch thick or less if you like super crisp crust)
Place Crust on greased baking sheet, brush with olive oil
Bake @ 425 for 7-10 minutes depending on your oven
Take crust out of oven and add toppings
Return to Oven and Bake another 7-10 minutes until done.

Topping Suggestions

Classic Margarita 
Brush Crust with Olive Oil and add the following:
5-6 Slices of Fresh Mozzarella
1 Tomato thinly sliced (I prefer Roma Tomatoes)
1 Bunch Fresh Basil Leaves Finely Ribboned (Make a stack of basil leaves, roll them and thinly slice the roll - this will create ribbons)
Bake @425 for 7-10 minutes on 1/2 baked crust
Prosciutto Fig
Brush Crust with Olive Oil and add the following:
4-5 Slices of Fresh Mozzarella
4-5 Dried Figs thinly sliced
Bake @425 for 7-10 minutes on 1/2 baked crust
Add 6-8 slices of Prosciutto
Add a handful of Arugula
Artichoke Parmesan
Brush Crust with Artichoke Paste
8-10 Artichoke Hearts (I buy the quartered hearts and cut them in 1/2)
1 Roma Tomato thinly sliced
1/2 Cup Shredded Mozzarella
1/2 Cup Grated Parmesan
Bake @425 for 7-10 minutes on 1/2 baked crust
Classic Prosciutto
Brush Crust with Olive Oil and add the following:
5-6 Slices of Fresh Mozzarella
1 Tomato thinly sliced (I prefer Roma Tomatoes)
1 Bunch Fresh Basil Leaves Finely Ribboned (Make a stack of basil leaves, roll them and thinly slice the roll - this will create ribbons)
Bake @425 for 7-10 minutes on 1/2 baked crust
Add 6-8 slices of Prosciutto

I have a lot more topping ideas, but I think 4 is plenty to get you started!

Plate, Pray & Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fall into Fall: Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookies

Fall = Pumpkin. I'm a big fan of pumpkin in the fall, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin seeds. There are only two ways (I know of) that I don't like pumpkin: pumpkin pie (I know, I know, it's a classic - but I can't do it - in fact, I don't like pie at all) and pumpkin soup (sorry mom). Anyway back to the good pumpkin! Today we are whipping up some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies! This recipe is quick easy and yields about 5 dozen fluffy pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Yummy.

The Deets
1 Cup Butter (2 sticks) 
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Can Pumpkin Puree
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
3 Cups Flour (I use 2 Cups Regular, 1 Cup Wheat)
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon 
1 tsp Nutmeg 
1 Bag Chocolate Chips (Milk)

The How To
Cream Butter, Sugars and Eggs
Add Vanilla and Pumpkin
Add Flour, Baking Soda, Salt, Cinnamon and Nutmeg
Beat until Smooth
Add Chocolate Chips
Scoop onto cookie sheets (spray sheets with Pam first)
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 - 15 minutes (may take 20 minutes depending on oven)
Enjoy a cookie or two along with your beautiful fall weather!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

German Pancakes

Looking for a new twist for your Sunday Brunch? German Pancakes {also known as German Babies, Dutch Babies or Dutch Pancakes} are a simple, delicious and much overlooked breakfast pastry. German Pancakes are quick and simple to make and are always a hit. Here's the simple deets on this delicious Brunch Item.

The Deets
6 Eggs
4 TBS Melted Butter
1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Milk
1 1/4 Cup Sifted Flour
1 TBS Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
Lemon Juice
Powdered Sugar

The How To
Whip Eggs until Frothy Mellow Yellow
Add Butter, Vanilla, Milk, Flour, Sugar and Salt
Whip until ingredients are fully incorporated and smooth
PreHeat Oven to 425
Place a 9x13 Pan into the Oven for 5 Minutes to Warm
Spray Pan with nonstick spray (aka Pam)
Pour mixture into Pan
Bake at 425 for 20-25 Minutes
Remove from Oven sprinkle with lemon juice and Powdered Sugar

Plate, Pray and Enjoy!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Caprese Salad

One of my all time favorite foods is Caprese Salad. It's simple, fresh and to the point. Caprese Salad is simply sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a dash of sea salt. So Simple, but complete culinary magic. I'm pretty sure I ate Caprese Salad about 100 times this summer - that's how much I love it! And with all the basil growing in my garden, how could I not use it up. Here's the simple steps to a perfect Caprese Salad.

The Deets
1 Ripe Tomato - if you can grow them yourself even better
6 Slices Fresh Mozzarella - if you have a market near by that makes it fresh - buy it - so much better!
6 Leaves of Fresh Basil - again if you grow your own it's even tastier
1 TBS aged Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 TBS Olive Oil (I always use extra virgin)
Salt & Pepper to Taste

The How To
Layer Tomato, Mozzarella, Basil
Drizzle with Balsamic and Olive Oil
Add Salt and Pepper to Taste
Plate, Pray & Enjoy

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Acorn Squash with Bulgur Wheat Pilaf

Fall is in the Air! I love the comfort foods of Autumn, Squash, Pumpkin, Rich comforting, delicious and nutritious! Today's recipe combines my love of squash with my love of hearty whole grains. A beautiful hearty Bulgar Wheat Pilaf nestled into a beautiful rich and buttery acorn squash. This dish is hearty enough to be the main course or it makes a great side if you need a little more protein. Here are the Deets on this full on Fall Flavor.

The Deets
1 Cup Bulgur Wheat
1 1/2 Cup Water
1 TBS Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Roughly Chopped Mushrooms
1 Tomato Roughly Chopped
1/2 Shallot
4 Basil Leaves Finely Chopped
1 Acorn Squash
Salt & Pepper

The How To on the Pilaf
Add Olive Oil to 4 qt Sauce Pan over Medium Heat
Add Bulgur Wheat and brown until you hear crackling
Add 1 Cup Water
Cook over MediumLow for 20 Minutes
In a Fry Pan Add Shallots and Mushrooms and 1 tsp Olive Oil
Cook until brown
Add Tomatoes and continue cooking for about 5 minutes
Mix into Cooked Bulgur Wheat Pilaf
The How To on the Squash
PreHeat Oven at 400 degrees
Cut Squash in Half
Lightly Rub with Olive Oil
Lightly Season with Salt and Pepper
Place flesh side down on a baking sheet
Cook for 20 Minutes
Carefully flip right side up and cook for another 15-20 minutes

Fill Squash with Bulgur Pilaf

Plate, Pray & Enjoy!