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Pizza - 5

For those of you who haven’t had to listen to me proselytize about the virtues of making your own bread, well, consider yourself lucky!  That also probably means you haven’t had to hear me go on and on about making your own pizza.  Seriously! It turns out that making your own pizza is easy pizzy, AND takes about as much time as running down to your local take-and-bake joint.

The beauty of this pizza is in the dough.  No-knead dough.  The same stuff we use to make gorgeous artisan breads and cinnamon rolls!

So get to it.  Stop wasting your money on cardboard crusts and less-than-fresh toppings….

Step 1:  roll it out

Pizza - 1

Step 2:  a good foundation – we like a nice garlic-olive oil glaze

Pizza - 2

Step 3:  Any toppings you please.  

Step 4:  Bake on the top shelf of a 425 deg. oven for 12-15 minutes, turning 180 deg. after 3-5 minutes

Step 5:  open a good bottle of vino…and enjoy!  Easy Pizzy….

pizza_6

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We had tired of paying $4/qt for our coop yogurt…the same price as a half gallon of coop raw milk…and I was minutes away from buying another gadget – a yogurt maker. Really, I was sure it would pay for itself…after the first 5 gallons of yogurt! 🙂

I researched, and polled, and studied, and finally identified the perfect maker. Then, I did a very strange thing. I didn’t buy one. Surely there was a non-gadgety way of making yogurt. How hard could it be? Ten minutes of googling taught me that all I had to do was heat up some milk, dump in some culture/starter, let it sit around in a warm place for a while….and yogurt would happen, just like it has for thousands of years!

That said, my first attempt worked (warm place = oven with a warm cast-iron skillet to keep the warmth coming over time), but the temperature wasn’t very even, and I worried over it the whole time it was culturing. There had to be a better way!

Finally, a little more research yielded the “bread machine” method. OK. It’s a gadget. But at least I am making a gadget I already own do double duty! It turns out that my bread machine has a “home cooked” setting, on which I can program 12 hours of “rise” at 82 deg. F. How perfect is that? Pretty darned perfect if you ask this family’s tummies!

Homemade Bread Machine Yogurt

1. SLOWLY heat 1 qt. milk (we prefer raw) to 110 deg. F
2. Add 1c. of the warmed milk to 2-3T yogurt (from your last batch) in a qt. mason jar and mix thoroughly.
3. Fill bread machine bucket with cool water (not cold and not warmer than ~80 degrees).
4. Place 1qt jar of milk/yogurt starter in bread bucket and keep at ~80 deg. F for 8-10 hours.

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Two weeks ago, Mark, Junior and I drove to Boone, CO to get a pig. No, we haven’t added pigs to our pet menagerie, but we did come home with about 100 pounds of frozen pork. Not just any pork, but free-range, 100% grass-fed pork, raised with utmost respect by Kim and Doug, the lovely couple who own Larga Vista Ranch. While I would prefer to find grass fed and finished pork closer to home, I feel no remorse in supporting the work that Kim and Doug are doing at Larga Vista.

So far, we’ve been pretty basic in our prep: ham steak stir-fried with cabbage, bacon and eggs, and the most delicious pork chop/apple/shallot recipe ever. I’m now on the lookout for pork recipes….if you’ve got any must-haves, send them my way!

Pork Chops with Apples and Shallots
— adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

* 3 T butter
* 3 medium shallots, quartered
* 2-3 large granny smith apples, peeled and cut into eights
* 3/4 cup white wine
* 4 1″ thick bone-in pork chops
* Salt and pepper

(While Martha calls for broiling these chops, my stove has no externally vented fan, and doing so meant opening every window in the house for about 1/2 hour to keep the smoke detector from constant alarm. Do yourself a favor and fire up the grill!)

1. Pre-heat your grill. Season the chops with salt and pepper.
2. In a large skillet (I prefer cast-iron), heat butter over med-high heat. Add shallots and cook (don’t forget to stir!) for about 5 minutes until brown. Cover, reduce heat to med., and cook another 5 minutes until tender.
3. Add apples and wine. Cover and cook for 5 more minutes. Uncover for 5 more, until a lot of the liquid has evaporated. (Martha says “most” of the liquid, but I would leave a little behind for a more saucy effect).
4. While the apples are cooking, grill the chops until they reach an internal temp of 160 deg F.
5. Spoon the apples and shallots over the chops and serve with brown rice and a green veggie of your choice. Prepare to Ooooh and Ahhhh. A lot!

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I don’t remember too many classic “family traditions” when I grew up. Of course, I have fond memories of certain favorite meals, and my mom’s homemade goodies, but no “every Christmas Eve we _______”.

When we had Junior, I vowed to have at least one tradition around the holidays, and my choice was one I had always wanted to do as a kid — Gingerbread Houses. The decadent kind, with lots of icing, and at least 20 kinds of candy.

We’re on our third year of Gingerbread Houses at the DINKs, and we’ve learned a few things along the way — like

  • DON’T STIR the caramelizing sugar after it starts to boil (you would think the chemist in me would have guessed that)
  • DON’T accidently drop hot caramelized sugar on your fingers (HOT!)
  • Be patient. Caramelized sugar takes a lot of time to, well, caramelize. Make sure it is good and dark.
  • Let the caramelized sugar cool quite a bit on the house parts before you try to stick them together. Hot caramel = slippery mess.
  • Don’t wait until the night before the party to try to make, bake, and assemble 6 houses.

    Can you tell that the hitch in all of this usually has to do with the caramelized sugar glue? That said, we finally worked out the sugar kinks and this year was the smoothest yet. Dough on Sunday. Rolled and baked on Tuesday. Assembled Thursday. Decorated Saturday.

    The Hows and What-Nots:

    Dough Recipe c/o Epicurious.com

    Keep in mind that I don’t normally cook with Crisco. And had I known that so many families would actually eat their houses, I woldn’t have chosen this recipe. That said, it is the easiest to make and roll. I should know, since I have made 18-20 houses over the last 3 years…..but look for a recipe change next year!

    * 6 3/4 cups all purpose flour
    * 4 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
    * 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    * 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    * 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    * 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
    * 1 1/2 cups solid vegetable shortening
    * 1 1/2 cups sugar
    * 3 large eggs
    * 3/4 cup robust (dark) molasses

    Sift flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and cardamom into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat shortening in large bowl until fluffy. Add sugar and beat to blend. Beat in eggs 1 at a time. Add molasses and beat on high speed until well blended. Add dry ingredients in 4 additions, beating at low speed until dough forms. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Flatten each piece into rectangle. Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate until firm enough to roll, at least 6 hours. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

    While Epicurious does give basic template instructions, this year we relied on our friend Sean….an architect…to provide us with some fancier models – a New England Saltbox, and a modern wonder. I’ll keep you posted on the book of Gingerbread House Plans we want him to publish in time for next season!

    If you want to get fancy, use a knife or cookie cutters to make doors, windows, and skylights. If you want to get really fancy, crush up some butterscotch candies (or assorted jolly ranchers for a stained glass effect) and put them in the windows after the cookies have baked. Return the cookies and candy (on parchment paper) to the oven until you see the candy melt. Remove it promptly, and you’ll have some pretty snappy windows!

    Rolling the Dough
    Years of Experience leads to these few pieces of gingerbread wisdom:

  • Ignore the instructions – ice cold is not best for rolling. Let it warm just a tad and you will have an easier time.
  • Roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap.
  • Replace the top sheet with parchment.
  • Flip the dough using a piece of cardboard wedged under the dough.
  • Place design cutout on top of plastic wrap, outline with knife of pizza cutter, remove plastic, and cut dough through. Use the bottom parchment paper to move cutout to cookie sheet.

    Caramelized Sugar Glue
    While a colleague of Mark’s confesses to pulling out her glue gun to assemble her Gingerbread Houses, I’ve spent too many years, and sacrificed too many fingertips, perfecting Caramelized Sugar to succumb to modern technology. To use sugar glue:
  • Place 3:1 Sugar:Water into a large sauce pan
  • Heat over low heat, stirring until all sugar is dissolved
  • Raise heat until sugar begins to boil. DO NOT STIR at this point, or the sugar will come out of solution and you will have a big mess on your hands.
  • Be patient….caramelization takes longer than you think!
  • Dip, or spoon, a stripe, of sugar glue on each edge to be glued to another. Let cool until touch-able and tacky. Hold respective edges together until reasonably stable.

    Decorate to your heart’s content. Each year, the kids get older and more creative and use candy in ways we adults could never imagine!

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    It’s not clear to me how any dual-income family, kids or no, functions without a crock pot. Ours is simply indispensable, and used so frequently, especially in cold months, that it ought to have a coveted “counter spot” in our kitchen. If I actually had counter space, it would.

    Sunday’s dinner was a classic — Pot Roast. Classic in the sense that a large hunk of inexpensive meat was cooked in a slow cooker for ~11 hours with onions, potatoes, and carrots. While this roast was a mainstay of my youth, I have made some distinct changes from my mother’s classic (I’m sure she’ll correct me on this if need be).

    First, I used a chuck roast from Rockin’ J Cattle, here in Colorado. Rockin’ J is located near Craig, CO, and takes great pride in raising their cattle the old fashioned way. On the pasture. Eating nothing but grass. No injections of man-made chemicals. It may take a little longer for these beeves to get to slaughter weight because they are not fattened up with Iowa corn, but the weight is worth the wait, so to speak.

    Next, I used an inexpensive Merlot as the crock-pot braising liquid. I’ve tried making this roast using only water. It was good, but not great. This wine-infused roast, on the other hand, was pure perfection. And the gravy from the wine and beef drippings (with a touch of added Windsor Dairy yogurt) paired with the Mile High biscuits, well, perfectly!

    Finally, tonight’s pot roast was paired with a not-so-inexpensive bottle of ’86 Bordeaux (Chateau Pichon Longueville), which happened to also pair (perfectly) with the Chocolate Toffee Cookies I made for breakfast this morning (seriously). In fact, the pairing with these cookies was so fine that Junior declared, upon tasting a wee sip of diluted wine after a bite of cookie, “That is TOO good!” That’s our boy.

    So, don’t delay. Get yourself a slow cooker, some beef, and some wine, and have a ball!

    — Gadget Girl

    Classic Pot Roast

    Ingredients
    1 Chuck roast, 2 1/2 – 3 pounds
    1/4 c. flour
    pepper
    1 large onion, wedged
    1-2 stalks of celery, cut in 1″ pieces
    4-6 cloves of garlic, smashed
    1-2 c. red wine
    spices (I chose rosemary and thyme from the garden)
    3-4 large carrots, cut in 1″ pieces
    2-3 potatoes, cut in 1″ pieces

    Directions
    Season flour with pepper and dredge each side of the roast in the seasoned flour.
    Brown all sides of the roast in a little Olive Oil, over medium-high heat
    Place onions, celery, spices, and garlic under and around the roast in a small crock pot.
    Pour enough wine to bring the liquid level to half way up the roast.
    Cook on low for about 8 hours.
    Add potatoes and carrots under and around the roast and cook for 2-3 more hours.

    A tip from Rockin J – use a meat thermometer to be sure that your roast reaches an internal temperature of over 210 F for at least an hour before serving. This ensures that all of the connective tissue in the roast is broken down, leaving a beautifully tender piece of meat.

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    We keep pretty traditional roles in this house — most things culinary are my domain (except for weekend breakfasts), and I maintain our social calendar (something that goes by the wayside too easily when you have kids). Car/house maintenance and finances are all Mark’s.

    Occasionally, though, planning skills fail me, and I find myself working late when the phone call comes from home: “Ummmm…What’s for dinner?”. The answer this week was “hamburger”. Having supplied a sketchy listing of potential ingredients for what to do with said hamburger, I left the details to Mark. Not surprisingly, if you know Mark, he added store-bought sundried tomatoes — in addition to my prized tomato confit, and much to my dismay. I needn’t have worried

    This week’s homemade version of “Hamburger Helper” was a hit all around!

    Ingredients:
    1 lb grass fed/finished ground beef
    2 leeks, sliced (white parts)
    1 bunch bok choy (greens only)
    dried onion
    tomato confit (equivalent to 5 romas)
    red wine
    sundried tomato (I’d omit if you use the confit)
    parsley
    basil
    oregano
    salt & pepper
    cream 1/4 c.

    Simply saute the beef until cooked nearly through. Drain, if necessary (I find that using a paper towel to sop up what little fat is produced by the grass-fed beef is sufficient), add and saute other ingredients except the cream. Add the cream just before serving. We ate this both on top of toast (no-knead bread), and over pasta.

    I think I will let Mark cook more often! “Oops….I forgot to plan tonight’s dinner, honey!”

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    Junior loves to cook. I’m not sure if it because he likes to spend time with me (and I can usually be found in the kitchen), he likes the ‘tastings’ on the way to making dinner, or he simply likes creating yummy-in-the-tummy-can’t-get-enough food.

    This weekend, I think it was “all of the above”.

    It turns out that the basic recipe for no-knead bread also makes a mean cinnamon roll. Of course, with enough butter, cinnamon, sugar, raisins, pecans, and LOVE, dog food could be transformed into a tasty treat…

    While I am sure that there is an official recipe for cinnamon rolls in the “Artisan Bread” book, that book is currently on loan to some friends, so we had to wing it.

    Pretty simple:

    Pre-heat oven to 375

    *Roll out 1-2 servings of no-knead bread basic dough
    *Brush dough with large amounts of melted butter
    *Sprinkle liberally with a cinnamon/brown sugar mix, lots of nuts, and lots of raisins
    *Roll dough jelly-roll style along the wide edge
    *Cut jelly-roll in 1/2″ slices
    *Place slices in prepared cast-iron skillet and let rise in a warm place, 1 hour

    Prepare cast iron skillet (thanks to Mark’s grandmother!):
    Coat generously with more of all of the ingredients listed above (minus the dough)

    Bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
    Cover skillet with cutting board, and invert.

    Enjoy….with those you love!

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