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Not a wasteland

I was looking up a recipe the other day and came across a blog that looked interesting. It was an old post, so I hit the home button to see recent articles by this blogger.

Lo and behold there were none. She’d up and left it to the wasteland. I immediately thought about how much I hate that, and realized that’s essentially what I’ve done.

I’ve just really lost my blogging passion and have thought about ending it here, and I might, but maybe not quite yet.

Anyway, there’s not much new to report. We did a super large garden this year and are getting a pretty good bounty of tomatoes. I decided to try canning for the first time. I was super nervous what with the fact that my daughter had botulism as a baby and not really wanting to poison us all again, but so far, I think it’s going OK.

I also made a whole bunch of pickles and was so excited to try them. Which I did today. Spoiler alert: they’re disgusting. I think it’s the apple cider vinegar. It’s back to the drawing board on that.

I’m bummed they didn’t turn out and I essentially wasted like 20 cucumbers, but these things happen. This is my first real year at trying to preserve our harvest, so I need to give myself credit.

On the upside, I made some delicious marinara sauce the other day. So good. Maybe I’ll post a recipe some day? It is me very own and very simple. I also got some whole tomatoes, plain tomato sauce and banana pepper rings canned.

That’s the update for now for anyone who stumbles upon this. I will try not to let the wasteland happen again.

 

Apparently, it takes a blizzard to get me to post something. That and the fact that I found myself in the rare position of only having to make lunch for myself today. Blue was out plowing snow for work and Floyd is recovering from a pretty nasty 48-hour virus. Floyd is not much of a hot sandwich eater and Blue needs some animal in there.

I had some broccoli, tomato, and an old roll to use up, so I had a moment of brilliance — veggie grinder! If you don’t know what a grinder is, it’s basically a hot sub/hoagie with melted cheese. This is a rare case where I created my own recipe, which is honestly not a recipe but rather a mishmash concoction with roundabout measurements. Tempting I know.

As if the below won’t be vague enough, keep in mind you should use this as a jumping off point. You can use whatever veggies, cheese, and bread-like product you have on-hand or desire. Mushrooms and black olives would have been awesome. Blue had gotten me some pepperoncini, which I forget about. That would have been divine. Of course, I’d recommend a nice crusty (or in my case, stale) roll.

Ingredients (note: this is for one sandwich)

  • 1/4 cuppish Broccoli (let’s be honest, I never measured anything)
  • Half a red pepper
  • A handful of sliced onion (nice, right!?)
  • One medium plum tomato
  • 1/2 cuppish shredded mozzarella cheese or mozz slices (any cheese would be good; except American, because that is not a cheese)
  • Olive oil or grapeseed oil (we should discuss the latter some time)
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Roll

Directions (Or more a loose guide)

  • Slice up the broccoli into florets. I did various sizes and threw in some thin slices of the stalk. The stalk is highly underrated. Cut the red pepper into slices and then cut those in half. For the onion, slice off two circles from the whole onion and then slice those in half. Cut the tomato into chunks. I like mine rough cut in bite-sized pieces.
  • Heat a coating of olive or grapeseed oil over medium in a pan. I used a cast iron skillet. If you have one, use it. If you don’t, buy one. Until it comes, use whatever skillet you have.
  • Once it’s hot, throw in the red pepper. Push it around and let it cook for a few minutes (3 or 4 should be good).
  • Toss in the broccoli. Push it around and let it cook with the pepper for a few minutes (another 3 or 4?).
  • Time for the onions. You want to stir those around, too, and let them cook for a minute or two.
  • Turn the oven onto broil. Cut your roll and put it on a baking sheet or aluminum foil.
  • If the red peppers are feeling a bit softened, toss in the tomatoes.
  • Throw salt and pepper on the whole lot and mix it around.
  • Now, the next part can be skipped if you’re one of those weird balsamic vinegar haters. For the rest of you normal people, listen up, because things are about to get super technical. Take the bottle and do a twisty turn over the vegetable mixture. It’s not a splash and it’s certainly not a pour. It’s like a spiral. Yes, do a spiral.
  • Toss it all together. More salt, if you please.
  • Pop the roll, cut side up into the oven. Keep an eye on it. you want it to get very lightly toasted, just so the bottom is a bit crisp.
  • Now, cook the veggies until the tomatoes are your desired consistency. I like when they get soft and runny like marinara sauce.
  • Remove the roll from the oven and scoop the veggie mixture on it. I did this open face style, the two sides completely separate.
  • Load on the cheese.
  • Put the whole thing back in the oven and pay attention. This is no time to text the bestie or make sure the kid is alive. You can do these things after you eat. You want the cheese melted, but the bread can burn easily so be careful. If the edges get burnt, that’s OK, but you don’t want the underside charred.
  • Pull it out, give it some breathing room for a minute or two, then smash both sides together.

And there you have her:

098

I’m terrible at food photography. I swear it was delicious. The only thing I wished I did better — and you know there’s something — was to get the bread a bit toastier. It tasted a little soft on the outside. But otherwise, perfecto!

Until, the next blizzard…which they say is the weekend coming up. Sigh.

This is a picture-less post. Sorry. Truth is, I’m terrible at food photography anyway. I’ll keep it brief, so we don’t all get bored.

The other week I made some chili (I’ll post this eventually) and I wanted to make something to go with it. I didn’t have any corn or corn-like product in the house and the store just wasn’t happening, so cornbread was out and I wasn’t feeling a traditional loaf of bread.

I wanted something crunchier and hearty, something flavorful that would be a good accompaniment to beef and chicken chili (I don’t eat cows, but Blue does). After a quick search on the food network site, I found a recipe for beer bread, and I thought “hmmm..go on,” but when I saw the recipe called for self-rising flour, which I didn’t have, I went in search for another recipe. That’s when I struck gold with this gem.

This beer bread is not only really easy, it’s amazingly good. My only complaint is, I nearly ate the entire loaf myself. And I wouldn’t change a thing. I think I went a little lighter on sugar, but other than that, I stuck to the recipe.

A few notes:

  1. I used Sam Adams Summer Ale, which isn’t available anymore (I’m saving our last two bottles for this recipe), and the bread had a delightful tangy flavor. In the comments section on the recipe page, people make some really great beer suggestions.
  2. You really pick up the beer taste, so if you really, truly hate beer, maybe this isn’t for you.
  3. Sift the flour. Find a way. It is a dense bread but when the flour is sifted, it’s a great consistency.
  4. Pour the butter on the top as directed. Trust me. It’s a great kind of crunch.

Not only was it delicious, it was a nice change from the traditional cornbread. It’d be perfect for other hearty soups or stews, and awesome with some dip! Spinach dip, crab dip, cheese dip, horseradish dip, vegetable dip…

You’re welcome!

Feels like a pizza night

Pizza was not going to be my first post. Then this happened:

folded pizza

And I thought, what a perfect demonstration of how I am in the kitchen – impatient, impetuous and messy. This new focus isn’t about me showing off my expert culinary skills (obviously); it’s about actually writing and maybe inspiring others to cook from scratch.

I promise the pizza turned out just fine.

The dough, yo

So, I make pizza a lot and I’m always willing to try a new dough. Last week, I went with Bobby Flay’s pizza dough because the Internet loves it, and the Internet is never wrong (3.5% of the time). I originally passed on this because I (shockingly) don’t have a proper mixer and that’s when I thought you needed a mixer for dough recipes that called for it (you don’t).

This dough pulled together easily and I followed the recipe almost to the T. A few notes:

  1. I use sea salt, which can appear to taste saltier and since dough is not something that can absorb a lot of salt without affecting taste, I dropped it in half to one teaspoon. Be mindful of the salt you’re using and if you’re sensitive to it, go less to start.
  2. I don’t temp my water. I throw the spigot on hot for a few seconds to get nice and warm (which as an added bonus drives Blue mad because clearly in those 30 seconds I’m going to deplete the well and raise the electric bill to shocking levels) and then I plop my finger in it and if I can keep it in there for a few seconds without winching in pain, it’s good to go.
  3. I wound up using 3 3/4 cup flour, but I should’ve gone more. Stickiness of dough can vary depending on climate and weather so keep a careful eye and if it’s sticking at all, add a bit more flour. Do not get all stubborn like me.
  4. Use bread flour. Trust me on this. I like King Arthur. I only wish they sold organic around here.
  5. If not using a mixer, wash your hands well and get a wooden spoon. If you have a kid or willing husband, have them pour in the water and oil while you mix. When it gets two thick, toss the spoon and get your hands in there. Beat the crap out of it until it’s properly combined.
  6. If you need it, this is a great kneading tutorial. Extra tip: If you stand straight, pull in your stomach, and twist a bit, it doubles as a great ab workout.
  7. For rising, you can warm the oven up to 200 F and then shut it off and throw the dough in there with the door cracked or if you have a nice wide window sill throw it on there (in a bowl, of course).

Sauce it to me

Here’s something startling: as much stuff as I make from scratch (noodles, condensed soups, salad dressing), I rarely make my own sauce. I know. I know. This week, though, I did. I used this recipe because I decided at the last minute and needed something easy. I was going to use fresh tomatoes, but then read the part about it being runnier and decided to pull out a bag of frozen tomatoes (blanched and peeled from my garden).

I mentioned I’m impetuous right? When I get it in my head to do something, I do it. Even if it means grinding still partially frozen tomatoes, while somewhere in my brain a voice screams “for the love of Pete woman, stop it!” Moral of the story: don’t use partially frozen tomatoes. I feel like this should be a given but…

A few notes on the sauce beyond the above:

  1. It is delicious.
  2. There is so much freaking garlic in here. Unless you are going to be fighting against a team of vampires that night, scale it back a tad, or at the very least, do not use 7 gigantic cloves of garlic (like me).
  3. It did not get as saucy as I would’ve liked, but this could’ve been the frozen tomatoes and also that I use the world’s smallest processor and it can only do so much.

Get it together

Once your dough is ready, you can roll or hand toss. I prefer rolling because it gets it the most even, unless you’re a skilled hand tosser then by all means. Ordinarily, I’d use my pizza stone but I broke it the other week so I thought I’d go baking sheet on this. I ran out of parchment paper so I was really flying without a net.

A few notes about preparation (before I show you how I broke all of them):

  1. Prep your pan or stone beforehand so you’re ready to go.
  2. Make sure your surface is well floured or your dough will stick. You can roll right on parchment paper if you’re using parchment paper.

Remember this:

folded pizza

That’s what happens when your pan isn’t prepared and your work surface isn’t properly floured. I started prepping it and then realized what I was doing and tried to get it on the pan. Whoops! But I rebounded:

undone pizza

We are pretty vanilla on toppings, l almost always do half pepperoni, but you can top with whatever floats your boat.

Cook, cook, cook it up

The key to a browned crust is a preheated oven. Show your electric company some love and preheat that baby for at least 30 minutes.  Now, I’m sure somewhere Bobby Flay has posted suggested cooking times for his dough. I was too busy grinding frozen tomatoes and performing surgery on uncooked dough to look. I went with 500F for the first three minutes. Then I kicked it down to 475F for the next 8 minutes. It did the job, but I would’ve liked it crisper.

Notes on cooking:

  1. Get that oven preheated. You can start high and kick it down. Also preheat whatever you’re putting the pizza on (stone, baking sheet). You can take it out as you prep the pizza.
  2. I need to play with times. It was a little too close to soggy on the bottom. I might try par baking with just the sauce next time.

The finished product

done pizza

If we can ignore the fact that it’s not perfectly round (my mother couldn’t), this was the closest to pizzeria style pizza I’ve ever gotten. Observations:

  1. I still have some sauce from the recipe I made but I want to try a heartier recipe, something that cooks longer. This sauce was so thin, the pizza came out almost white, and I added a lot. I think adding so much sauce is what made the crust a little soggy.
  2. I will need to find a better cooking time, so we can get a crisper bottom (after all, isn’t that what we’re all after?).
  3. I feel like it would perform better on a stone. For no real reason other than I found a ridiculously expensive pizza stone I want to purchase and need justification to get it.
  4. FYI: The dough divides in half and I used just the one half for three of us. It was plenty.

OK, well, there you go. Happy pizza night!

Edited: After playing around with cooking times, I’ve found that a parbake at 500 degrees with just the sauce for 4 minutes and then turn and do another 3 minutes works perfectly. Pull out of the oven and add the toppings then bake until cheese is melted.

Onward and upward

I’ve decided to clean out this blog in an effort to start anew. I will be writing about from-scratch/home cooking since that’s the most applicable to my life now and also has the most chance of me actually posting. It also gives me a place to record all my food experiments so I can remember recipes, what I made, and my family’s reaction, along with tweaks I need to make. I’ll pepper in some life commentary, don’t you worry about that, but we’re going mostly food. I am keeping the name and the site since I came up with it because I found a lump of cheese in my shoe while cooking. Perfecto! Please bear with me through the reconstruction.

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