Monday, May 19, 2008

Making our own pizza

We love thin-crust pizza. There's a great little place down the road from our house that makes the best (in our opinion) thin-crust pizza. Because of that, I've steered clear of trying to compete at home. But recently, I found a recipe for thin-crust pizza dough that I really wanted to try. It wasn't as thin as the great pizza crust they make down the road, but it was really good just the same.

I also did a search online for homemade pizza sauce and found a really good sauce recipe as well.

As usual, I made a few adjustments from the original recipes. Here is what I did in the kitchen for both the pizza crust and the sauce.

Pizza Crust Ingredients:
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3-1/2 cups bread flour (divided)
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large egg yolk

Lightly coat a large bowl with olive oil and set aside. Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in a measuring cup and set aside. Combine 3-1/4 cups of the flour with salt in a large bowl, stir in the yeast mixture, olive oil, and egg yolk, and mix until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead in the remaining 1/4 cup flour.Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to the prepared bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough doubles in volume (about 90 minutes). Punch the dough down and remove from the bowl. Use dough immediately or wrap in plastic and store refrigerated for up to 24 hours. To use immediately, divide the dough into desired number of pieces and roll out to desired shape. Pre-bake the crust for 10 minutes. Then top, and bake for another 10 minutes until golden brown and the cheese is bubbly.

Pizza Sauce Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup celery, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. tomato sauce
6 oz. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. garlic salt
½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 small bay leaf

In a large skillet, melt butter with the oil. Add the onion, celery, and garlic and sauté until soft and transparent. Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and bring to slow simmer for 30-60 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and spread the sauce on your prepared pizza dough.

Homemade Granola

I recently made a big batch of granola with walnuts, coconut, wheat germ, and dried cranberries. This is one of my favorite things to have on a weekday for breakfast, with soy milk and sometimes fresh strawberries or bananas sliced on top...Yum!


8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
2-3 cups seeds, nuts, or other add-ins (coconut, flax seeds, wheat germ, oat bran, walnuts, almonds, pecans, sunflower and sesame seeds, etc.)
1 cup honey
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large bowl, mix the oats with your other add-ins. In a small saucepan, heat oil and honey until blended and then add vanilla and salt. (Note: You could add a big spoonful of peanut butter, too, at this point, if you like.) Stir honey mixture into oats until everything is well coated. Spread into shallow roasting pan with sides. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes (until nicely browned), stirring every 5-10 minutes to ensure even cooking. After it's all baked and sitting on the counter to cool, you can mix in dried fruit.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Fresh Strawberry Pie

Spring is here! And we enjoyed having dinner guests on Tuesday night this week!

We have two nieces and two nephews, but only one nephew lives in the area. So we had him and his wife over for steaks on the grill, corn on the cob, fresh green beans, and homemade whole wheat rolls. And I made our favorite fresh strawberry pie for dessert.

There's really nothing like the taste of strawberries this time of the year. They're not local yet, but the ones from California are really sweet right now. And this pie is the best way that I know how to enjoy them, other than just eating them straight from the carton.

2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn starch
2 cups hot water
2 (3-oz.) pkgs. strawberry gelatin
1 9-inch baked pie crust
2 lbs. fresh strawberries, sliced

Combine sugar and corn starch in a medium-sized saucepan so that no lumps of corn starch remain. Add hot water and stir to combine. Then cook over medium heat until thickened. Turn off the heat and add the two packages of gelatin, stirring to combine until smooth. Set aside to cool to lukewarm temperature.

Meanwhile, arrange the sliced berries in the pie crust. Then, when the gelatin mixture is lukewarm, pour it evenly over the berries, making sure that each has a nice covering of filling and that you can start to see the filling on the sides of the pie crust. Refrigerate for a few hours to set. Serve chilled with whipped cream.

(Note: This recipe for the filling makes enough for 1-1/2 pies, I've found. Put the remainder into a covered container in the refrigerator. It keeps well for a quite some time, and when you're ready to have this pie again, make just half the filling recipe to fill another pie crust with berries. When that new recipe of filling is done but still hot, add the reserved leftover filling from the first batch to the new filling and stir over low heat to combine.)

(Note: If you'd rather use the leftover filling right away, I've also found that it's good just poured over fresh fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, and bananas and served in pretty dessert cups. It's kind of a jello dessert, but more rich tasting than ordinary gelatin.)