Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Easy as Pie

If you're thinking homemade pizza is too difficult to make for dinner, especially on a weekday night, you've got another thing coming. It's as easy as pie. (pu-dum-pum) Pizza Pie! (ok, I'll stop!)

Basic Pizza Dough Recipe:
*3 1/2 cups flour (I use a nice blend of unbleached white & whole wheat)
*1 cup warm water
*2 TB yeast
*2 TB honey
*1/4 cup olive oil
*1/2 tsp. salt

Two Big Personal Notes Here:
1) I use a bread maker, set for 'Dough'. The main reason I do this is because of Murphy's Law. When trying to make bread and having little kids under foot, someone will always need attention when you are hands-deep in mixing dough. This is just one of those time savers.
2) This recipe is enough for two "medium" sized pizzas and too much for one big pizza. But it is so yummy (as homemade pizza tends to be), you'll be glad you split the dough in half for the second pizza!

While the dough is rising a little in the bread machine I turn my oven on to 425 degrees, with my pizza stone in there. In fact, I keep my stone in there all the time. One, it makes the oven run more efficiently and two, finding somewhere else to store the stone would be a pain.

When you're ready to start, take your stone out & remember, it will be hot! Spread a little whole durum wheat flour (or just flour if you haven't got that) over it. The gritty texture is good. If you can toss your dough, go for it. If not, shape it into a decent ball-shape, put it on the stone, sprinkle it with some flour and get out your rolling pin. Roll it out across the stone. Let the edges start to hang a little off the stone. You'll fold them back up to make the edge of the crust (nice and simple is the key!).

~Not a bad looking pizza dough. You'll be surprised how thin you can roll it!~

When you've got yourself a decent looking pizza dough, put it back in the oven SANS toppings for about 10 minutes. This will help ensure that the dough actually cooks and gets nice & pizza crispy. Otherwise you run the risk of feeling like you're eating pizza on soft bread.

Now it is time for the toppings. You know what you like, so go for it. I will share with you what I ended up putting on our two pizzas from the other night.

~Pizza #1: homemade marinara sauce (made with homegrown tomatoes), ground beef (from Bright Farm in Floyd), mozzarella cheese, mild cheddar cheese, pepperoni, and Amish Bleu Cheese (found out the Co-op), all topped with a good sprinkling of organic garlic powder~

~Yup, that's real Bleu Cheese on there. Review - it was quite yummy!~

~Pizza #2: Made on a cookie sheet rather than a pizza stone (a good alternative). Topped with pesto sauce, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, and .... ~

~ .. lots of fresh mushrooms, mozzarella cheese, freshly grated Monterey jack cheese, and Parmesan & Romano cheese .. as well as some more organic garlic powder for good measure~

My apologies for the lack of "fresh out of the oven" pizza photos, but you can understand that by the time these were both done there was a family of hungry, salivating people demanding slices!!

And .. aside from the time the dough spends in the bread machine, I can get these pizzas made, cooked, and on the table in about 30 minutes. Even delivery places can't promise you that anymore!

What to Expect

There are lots and lots of food blogs out there. It gets quite confusing trying to sort them all out. With the start of a new year, I have found myself looking at other food blogs, looking back at this one, and trying to figure out my "mission statement," so to speak. What is this blog for? What is it about?

This is my Kitchen Blog as much, if not more than, it is my food blog. In fact, it isn't always going to be a "food" blog because a lot more goes on in the kitchen than just food for eating. There are Herbal Remedies being made. There are soaps being made. Food that is good for going places (insert silly joke about taking food out for a night on the town here). And so on.

But, most of all, this blog is written by a mom. Hence the friggin' name! :) This is a mama's kitchen. That means you're not going to find a lot of terribly fancy food on here. And if you do, it has to pass the "mom test" - which is something along the lines of being "easy" (quick?) to prepare and make, kid approved, and so on.
There are a lot of really fantastic blogs, that I love, that tackle some pretty high falutin' foods .... but this just ain't one of them folks. I'm a stay-at-home mom with two wild boys, who are being homeschooled. We're also urban homesteaders with gardens to tend to, animals to care for, and so on.

So, this blog is more simple, and that ain't bad. If you're new to the kitchen, you're often overwhelmed. Don't be here. This is about getting in the kitchen, making it accessible, making healthy, and making it homemade, even when you feel like you don't have time! I want to encourage more people to get into their own kitchens and get away from pre-made, processed, faux-foods. This is about REAL food!

Tonight I'm making pizza for dinner. I'll try and be good and take some photos of it, as I thought I had blogged about homemade pizza before and just realized I hadn't. Bear with me while I work out some changes on here to try and make things easier to find. It's gotta be easy, it's gotta be practical - some kitchen rules of sorts.

Now let's get cookin'..

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mashed Potatoes Gettin' Good

~Probably my favorite food in the whole wide world! But what is in these would surprise you.~

Mashed Potatoes. Ok, not the most shocking of all posts, but my favorite food so I'm writing about it. This particular batch is a little bit different though, even as far as my usual mashed potatoes go. This was one of the key "I'm not sure about this" recipes from my new Deceptively Delicious cookbook. Ok, well, this isn't exactly her recipe .. I make some rocking mashed potatoes on my own, but I did try her add in. So, here we go:

"New" Mashed Potatoes:
the title in the book is just "mashed potatoes" and you can find it on page 80

1) Get yourself some potatoes. I always use organic potatoes, locally grown when possible, grown ourselves is the best. Again, I make enough for seconds and leftovers, so I used a 2lb bag.
~ Wash your potatoes, peel if you'd like. I leave the skins on, more nutrients there (plus I'm allergic to peeling potatoes, no joke). Cut the potatoes into at least quarters, if not a little smaller.
~ From here you can toss them into your pot of water, OR you can add some extra nutrients by using some homemade chicken stock!
~ Boil 10-15 minutes till they're easily pierced with a fork. -- Eco-Note - put a lid on the pot when you set it to boil. You'll save energy that way and your potatoes will cook faster.

2) Add some Goodness. There are several things you can add to your mashed potatoes to increase the goodness but I'll start with the Deceptively Delicious add-in to be fair.
~ When you're ready to get mixin' add 1 cup pureed cauliflower. (The recipe calls for 1/2 c., I doubled the recipe, so there ya go). Like I said earlier, this is one recipe I wasn't sure about. To date, every time I've tried cauliflower I've HATED it!! Yes, like a little kid!! UGH!! But I was curious to try this out ... "let's see if she can make a believer out of me" kinda thing. I steamed the cauliflower like she said and have to admit it smelled pretty good. I was looking forward to making the potatoes!
~ I also LOVE garlic. Again, organic & local are the best. We planted a respectable sized garlic garden this year, yay!! Garlic is really good for you too. Roast a head of garlic and then put the cloves into the mixer. Yummy, and now a must-have with my potatoes.
~ Garbanzo Beans! I cheat here and use a store-bought can. Organic as often as possible. When adding these to mashed potatoes, toss them into the pot to boil with the potatoes!!! <-- NOTE THAT, cook these babies first! They'll soften up and mush into the potatoes perfectly when you get them all into the blender.
~ Some Dairy: You know to add some butter. Use real butter & don't be afraid of it. You also know to add milk, which you can substitute with buttermilk if you'd like. Add the milk last. If you want some "zest" add sour cream. If you like adding sour cream but want it to be a little healthier, add plain yogurt. You can't tell the difference, and you'll be adding B vitamins as well as saving some calories & fat by not using sour cream. This last batch I didn't add sour cream or yogurt to, and I used milk with. My final dairy add-in, which I did put in there was a package of cream cheese. Insanely delicious with mashed potatoes. Don't cheat yourself on flavor here by trying to get reduced or fat-free ... go for the real thing!

Mash It All Up:
~ Drain your potatoes and get them into your mixer. You can also mash by hand if you want and I will give you massive points for doing so!!
~ For these potatoes I added butter, 1 cup pureed cauliflower, 1 roasted garlic bulb (minus the cloves I couldn't resist eating first), and a package of cream cheese.
~ Get the mixin' going on and see how the consistency is. If it is how you like it, you don't need milk. I did decide to add some milk though.

The Result:
Oh MAMA!! These were some GOOD potatoes!! I didn't notice the cauliflower at all, so she convinced me there. Everyone else liked them as well. Definitely try this out. Don't be scared to add some stuff to your mashed potatoes. Make them healthier for you and your family. Comfort food just got even better.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Mama Taney's Hokie Ham Biscuits

~The Hokie Bird running onto the field at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, VA~

My apologies for the lack of food photos once again. These are ham biscuits that I first tried at a tailgating party at Lane Stadium before a Virginia Tech game. I've since adapted the recipe into a really kick-ass recipe. For those of you who don't know, we're avid Hokie fans. If you don't know what a Hokie is, or just need some team-spirit reminders, click here: Now, back to the recipe.

Mama Taney's Hokie Ham Biscuits:

1/4 cup butter
1 TB mustard
1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 TB garlic powder
pinch of dill
6 slices Swiss cheese, quartered
1 1/2 lb ham, sliced thinly
24 (approx. 2 packages) rolls, Parker-House style

To Make:
~Melt your butter. Add next 4 ingredients to melted butter and blend together well.
~In a greased 13x9 pan, place the bottom halves of the rolls (I find it best to completely separate the rolls from each other, but try to keep matching tops and bottoms). On each roll place a little bit of ham and a one of the quartered pieces of Swiss cheese. Put the tops back on. *If you want, you can add a little extra mustard here on the rolls, we personally don't though*
~Spoon/Pour the butter mixture over the biscuits. This is where it is nice to have the biscuits separated from each other, as it helps the mixture get in between each biscuit.

Cook at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. We don't tend to cover them when cooking them, but you can if you'd like.

The Result:
Prepare for these to go quickly. In fact, double the recipe and have more ready, because they will seriously disappear on you!! These are must haves at tailgating parties, but great for other gatherings (such as holiday parties). They're so good, that this is the reason I've posted the recipe - it's gotten that many rave reviews and requests for the recipe. Hence also the lack of photo.

Monday, January 4, 2010

"Burgers 1" ~ a review

I wrote about getting this new cookbook in my last post. Since I've decided to try it out, I thought I would review the recipes as I go. My apologies in not having a photo to match this recipe .. sometimes cooking dinner for a hungry family and taking photos just do not go hand in hand.

~My new cookbook, as I try to sneak more fruit & veggies into my/our diets~

In the interest of space, I'm going to type out how I made the dish, which may or may not follow the recipe in the book to the letter. Sometimes you run out of things, or inspiration calls me elsewhere. I will make sure to note the proper title of the recipe though, as well as the page it can be found on, for those who want to look it up themselves. Here we go.

Burgers 1 - page 111:

*1 lb ground beef
(pasture-raised & from Bright Farm in Floyd)
*1 cup breadcrumbs - at the suggestion of my sister-in-law, Gemma, I used fresh, homemade bread & crumbled it up. Our homemade bread is made with a mixture of local unbleached white & whole wheat flour, flax seed meal, and local honey.
*4 TB Ketchup - again, I used my homemade ketchup that was made with our own organically grown heirloom tomatoes.
*1 cup carrot puree - made with organic carrots
*4 cloves garlic, minced

~ Blend all ingredients well, and form into small patties. I tried to keep in mind that a serving size of meat is approximately the size of a deck of cards & made the burgers no larger. I got 9 patties of varying sizes.
~ Heat up your skillet, I used my trusty cast-iron one as it holds heat so well. I heated it up on high, then kept it somewhere around medium, adjusting higher or lower as needed. Pour a little olive oil in, no more than a tablespoon or two. Put your patties in the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes or so per side.
~ We served these with a slice of American cheese for the kids, and then for us a slice of American cheese, homemade zucchini relish, homemade ketchup, and mustard. All of the burgers were served on whole-wheat hamburger buns (store-bought) that I had open-face toasted in our little toaster oven.

The Substitutions & Changes:
*The recipe was actually for 1/2 the amount of meat, but since I had thawed a pound I decided to double the recipe and freeze the leftovers. *A good idea for a quick meal for a night where time is rushed!*
*The recipe also calls for using 1/4 cup (or in my case, 1/2 cup) skim milk. 1) We don't have skim milk and likely never will. 2) I was worried this would make things too moist, so decided to leave out the milk till the end to see if it was needed. Gemma, my Italian sister-in-law, swears that using fresh bread for breadcrumbs will increase the moisture, while using store-bought will make meat dry. I trusted her knowledge here (you gotta try her meatballs!). Our moisture content was fine.
*The recipe also called for using low-sodium soy sauce. We use tamari in place of soy sauce, but happened to be all out. Since I put carrots into my basic tomato sauce I made the decision to use some homemade ketchup in place of the soy sauce. 1) Ketchup & Burgers just go hand in hand. 2) I know the veggies that go into my ketchup and felt it was a healthy decision.

The Review:
These made themselves into patties quite nicely, and we only had minimal problems with crumbling - no more than we would usually have as we test out new burger recipes.
Justin got worried that these really were not cooking as quickly as the cookbook said they would. We decided to try grilling them, but it seems our grill doesn't like cold cold weather and wouldn't work right. The recipe says to finish them off in the oven, at 400 degrees. We were already baking some fries at about that temperature, so we tossed the first round of burgers on a pan and into the oven to finish off. The second round of burgers (can't cook them all at one time on the skillet!) seemed to cook with better timing. Perhaps it's just been a while since we've cooked burgers indoors on the skillet?? One thing we did notice was this: as the carrot cooked it seemed to darken a little, which gave the appearance of the meat not being done. All said and done though, this was only a minor hiccup.
Taste - actually very yummy!! The kids didn't notice that these burgers were any different than ones they've had before. They did have a slightly more "veggie" taste to them that I noticed, however I've also noticed a very intense beef flavor when we've made just straight-up hamburgers. I'm wondering if using the soy sauce wouldn't help give it more of a beefy flavor. However, it didn't taste like a veggie-burger, and was still really good. It was moist and delicious!!

I will definitely be making this one again. All four of us liked it, and that's good enough for me. I liked knowing there were extra veggies in my burger. I am eager to try it using soy sauce (or, more accurately, tamari) instead of ketchup. If the results are significantly different I will let you know. Otherwise, if you want to make your burgers a little more healthy for you, then I would definitely recommend making these!

~~A Follow-Up Review: ~~
Like I said, I made a double batch of these for freezing and serving again later. Leftovers rock, plain and simple. I heated the kids each up a burger for lunch one day this past week, zapping it in the microwave. They crumbled. <-- The burgers that is, not the kids.
Perhaps it was some of the substitutions? Would "true" bread crumbs have been better at keeping it a little drier? Was that the problem? Justin blames the carrots. I'm not certain. It wasn't necessarily a end-of-the-world, awful crumbling, but a crumbling none-the-less, which made lunch messy. Shannon didn't have such a hard time (he's almost 6), but it did take Tristan a bit to get the hang of how to eat it without it all falling out of the bun (he's 3 1/2).
Points deducted.
I'll still try the recipe again. But it is really a big thing to be able to have leftovers we can eat again. We'll see, and I'll let you know!