Friday, November 12, 2010

Make your Own Pizza, it's easy!

A few months ago one of my son's friends came over for a playdate. For lunch I thought we could all make pizza together. So, along with a base of flat bread I set our cheese, sauce and pepperonis. My son's friend refused to eat. To the evident embarrassment of his mother he pronounced the food 'yucky'.  Poor kid has never seen a pizza without the box....

We like to make our own dough when I have time. It's ridiculously easy!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 + extra cup unbleached white  flour
1 packet yeast
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tbsp + extra for the bowl olive oil
warm water (sorry, I don't measure)

Place 2 tablespoons of flour  in a small bowl.  Add sugar and yeast and about a half cup hot/warm water. Mix well and place in a warm spot.  When the mixture has doubled in size and become bubbly add the starter mixture to the rest of the flour. Add olive oil, salt and more water as needed and knead into a nice, elastic, dough.  If it's too stiff you'll have trouble keeping it from retracting later. The ideal dough is not stiff and not too sticky. Add more flour if too sticky and more water if too stiff.  Knead for about 5 -7 minutes. It's therapeutic. Now pour a bit of olive oil into a good size bowl and  put your ball of dough into it.  Since you want the dough to double in size make sure the bowl will easily accommodate the growth. Swish to distribute the oil. Cover the bowl with cling wrap or a damp towel and place the dough in a warm, draft free place until doubled in place.  I like the oven. I turn it on at 170 degrees (my lowest setting) and once warm turn it off.  I open the door for a moment so it can cool a bit more and then pop the bowl with the dough in there and close the door. Voila.

Once the dough has nicely doubled punch it down and divide into two. Hand stretch each piece into a nice piece of pizza base. I make mine rectangular as you can see.  Let rest for 10-15 mins in a warm place. If you like your pizza crust crunchy by-pass this step. Now comes the fun part. Toppings. I like to use Contadina's pizza sauce in their squirt bottle. It keeps well in the fridge. Apply a base of sauce. Some like it saucy. Some don't. We like it on the lean side. The kids like their pizza simple. Just add sauce, cheese and pepperoni. I like mine with tons of veggies and no meat or pepperoni. I also like to use minimal cheese on the bottom (just enough to hold the veggies in place and instead use some left over Brie (I live for that stuff) on top. Sprinkle with Italian herbs and pop in the oven at 370F. Bake until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown. Now, if you use lots of toppings you may need to keep it in the oven longer than if you make a basic cheese and pepperoni version. The nice thing here is the flexibility. Use up old marinara or spaghetti sauce and veggies.  I've even added left over steak from a steakhouse on the pizzas.  Be creative. Click on the pictures to see a larger version of my pizzas. Then drool.

My raw uncooked pizza featuring zucchini, mushrooms, onions, olives and brie.
Divine, I tell you, DIVINE!

Once cooked this pizza practically begs you to devour it at record speed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

St. Martin's Day

Laterne, Laterne
Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne!
Brenne auf mein Licht, brenne auf mein Licht,
aber nur meine liebe Laterne nicht.

Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne!
Sperrt ihn ein den Wind, sperrt ihn ein den Wind.
Er soll warten, bis wir zuhause sind.

Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne!
Bleibe hell mein Licht, bleibe hell mein Licht,
denn sonst strahlt meine liebe Laterne nicht.

St. Martin's is a day much enjoyed by German children. This evening they roamed about their towns, villages and neighborhoods carrying lanterns and singing songs such as the one posted above.  We would make lanterns and then carry these shining beacons of light with us in the dark as we went about singing. There was usually at least one mounted rider and his horse representing St. Martin and his mount. It is common to see this rider wearing a bishops miter, robes and carrying the staff. In our town we often had the entire equestrian club riding along with the designated St. Martin. It was beautiful. Imagine dozens of children walking together with colorful lanterns singing together in the dark of night.  The fact that we received treats in return for our signing was an added bonus. Today is incidentally also my mother's and IT man's birthday.
St. Martin was a bishop who shared all he had and when he had no more and he saw a beggar freezing and cold he took out his sword and cut his cloak in half. He gave half the cloak to the beggar to keep him warm.  According to legend he dreamed of the beggar that very night and in his dream the beggar was Jesus.
St Martin of Tours started out as a Roman soldier. He was baptized when he was grown up and became a monk. He was a very good and kind man, and eventually became the Bishop of Tours. As well as being kind, he was quiet and simple. He didn't want to become Bishop, but he didn't have much choice. There are many legends about his life. The most famous is when he cut his cloak in half to share with a beggar during a snowstorm, to save the beggar from dying of the cold. Another legend is about his trying to hide so as not to become Bishop. The story is that he hid in a stall in a barn, hoping to escape the people who were hunting for him. They had come to take him to be appointed Bishop. A flock of geese made a lot of noise and gave away his hiding place. The goose is the animal symbol of St Martin and a favorite food on Saint Martin's Day. (from

Monday, November 8, 2010

Droolworthy Mashed Potatoes - Different, I promise!

you'll need:
1 acorn squash or a butternut squash. Either will work fine.
4-5 potatoes (good size)
½ yellow onion
1 tbps packed brown sugar
2-3 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper to taste

I don't have an exact recipe here for you, bear with me. The good news is that you practically CAN'T screw this up and it will taste heavenly!

This recipe yields a pot of gorgeous, steaming, orange hued, mashed potatoes with the most divine flavor ever. IT man would happily sit down with a bowl of this stuff just by itself and I can't cook this without stealing a lick now and then. OK, a small bowl worth.  But once you try this you'll understand.

Peel and cut up about 3 cups worth of butternut or acorn squash. What you want is approximately 1½ inch size cubes of organgey gorgeousness.  Toss these lovelies with a half, reasonably finely chopped yellow onion, 1 tbsp. brown sugar, and no less than 2 tablespoons of butter cut into pieces.   Come one, you know you want it, add another tablespoon, it's sooooo worth it. Now, toss all this together along with some pepper and salt to taste and spread out on an aluminum lined cookie sheet. Pop this into the oven at about 350 F and let it bake. Stir once in a while. You'll probably open the oven door more often than you need to just to smell that amazing, heavinly, aroma of caramelizing onions and squash. Meanwhile peel and cut potatoes. You'll want about 5 cups of potatoes cubes approximately 2 inches in size. Boil these with a pinch of salt until tender. Before you drain them retain 1 cup of the starchy liquid.
When the potatoes are cooked and drained mash them nicely. Use some milk if you want, or the starchy liquid you reserved. Cook the squash until quite tender and the onions pleasingly browned. Pour the whole  mess into a bowl and mash. Add the mashed squash to the mashed potatoes and stirr.  This is fabulous with your turkey dinner or any dinner for that matter. If you want to fancy it up for a nice presentation top each serving with a dollop of black pepper crusted goat cheese.

By popular demand I'll be serving this again on Thanksgiving.

Before entering the oven. I had red onions on hand
and they work just fine. For this batch I used Acorn Squash

After coming out of the oven.
I should have added more onions but it's still yummy.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A totally Kidcentric Day.

We spent the entire day in an university town yesterday. Oh, what a day it was. Missy has been enrolled in a gifted program at the university and went to attend two 3 hour classes. The first was a math class  titled ' Multiplication Strategies to Amaze and Bewilder Your Parents & Teachers'  which was based on the teachings of Bill Handley, Australian Math Educator. The next class was titled 'Forensic Science'. She was was really lucky to get in to that class as it fills up fast and by the time we decided to spend the whole day doing this it was booked. Additionally it was meant for grades 6-8. Missy is '5th grade'. I simply called them and asked if they ever bend the rules on age range and if they would call me if a slot opened up. Well, they just fit her right in!  She had a great day except for the part in forensic science when they burned sheep's wool and other fibers to teach the students how to identify different fibers. Missy is horribly allergic to wool. Even without touching it. For her, just being in the same room is enough and when they burned it she obviously had a reaction. My first question when I saw her face after class was 'What did they have in the room?'  Two benadryl later and several puffs of her inhaler she was better. She clearly enjoyed both classes but was a bit frustrated with the second. She was familiar with a good many of the forensic tools and techniques (don't ask, we are weird) and being the youngest in the class nobody wanted her in their team. So, my (awesome, I might add) girl just walked up to a table with some kids and parked herself there. Missy wasn't taking avoidance for a cue or an answer.  She ended up doing most of the writing while the boys generally clowned around.

All in all, the two classes were a total success.

And what did Bear get to do all day? He had a blast! We spent pretty much most of the 6 hours with him at the local Children's Museum. Bear, IT Man, and I discovered, made a mask, played with the exhibits, made all  sorts of cool stuff and generally wore Bear out.  He even went on a carousel at the mall. Who would have thought that iridescent green horse-mer-dragons make  such great rides. After we picked his sister up from the classes we went back to that mall and goofed around at the Best Buy store until dinner time.  Yes, we are all horribly into anything with buttons. A dinner in our bellies crowned the day. Our discussion on the way home (Bear was asleep by then) was about the possibility of alien life on our planet, dimensions, singularities and wormholes , and other related stuff. Did I mention we are weird?