Common ground {AKA} Fresh pizza

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With three growing boys in the house it can be difficult to find something that all three enjoy eating, never mind something that is going to satisfy their bear-like hunger. They are certainly not picky eaters by any standards, they’ll pretty much eat anything (read: everything) I put in front of them, but when I offer up something like Tofu BLTs or Eggplant Lasagna, someone is bound to growl at me. Needless to say, planning my dinner menu for the week often takes longer than I should ever own up to.

Luckily, year in and year out there is one dinner that works for every ravenous and often times, veggie-adverse tummy in my house. Not surprisingly, it is Pizza, of the freshly-made persuasion. It must be something about the arrangement of the veg that makes pizza a much more appetizing way to enjoy portabellas, onions, spinach, artichokes, and tomatoes. Or perhaps it is that there is all that cheese.:) Either way, it makes them happy, so I’m happy.

Honestly though, the best part about this recipe and what makes it a great mid-week treat as well as a Friday Family Movie Night staple is that it is easy.  Like spur of the moment easy. So easy that you’ll never need delivery, or DeGiorno, again. I know that most, if not all, other pizza dough recipes require that you allow the dough to rest in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours. This one does not. It is a think it, make it, enjoy it kind of pizza dough. Which makes it absolutely awesome for those nights that you waited too long to feed the kidlets and they are starting to grow fangs.

But before I divulge this recipe I want to set your expectations in the right place. This is very good pizza dough. The results are consistent. It is easy to work with and can be rolled and shaped with ease. What this recipe is not is world-class pizzeria dough. For that you will still have to head to your favorite pizza joint or catch a last-minute flight to Italy.

Okay now that you have been prepped and ready to go, here is my not-so-secret-anymore recipe:

Easy Pizza Dough

"Did someone say PIZZA?!?!" (This cutie does not one of mine. A good friend of ours that we lovingly refer to as C$.)

“Did someone say PIZZA?!?!”
(This cutie, pizza-mouth and all, is not one of mine. A good friend of ours that we lovingly refer to as C$.)

Prep time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 20-25 minutes  Makes one large pizza

1C ………………. Water   110°F
1 TSBP ………… Yeast (1 standard size package)
1 TBSP ………… Sugar
2 1/2C …………. All-purpose flour
1 tsp ……………. Salt
1 tsp ……………. Italian seasoning/garlic powder (optional)
2 TBSP ………… Olive oil
dusting ……….. Cornmeal

 

1. Preheat oven to 375°-400°, depending on how you prefer your crust.

2. Dissolve the sugar into the water. Add in the yeast, and mix together. Set-aside and allow to proof (mixture will become frothy and creamy).

3. Whisk together dry ingredients.

4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the yeast mixture. Add in olive oil.

5. Mix gently with a fork until the dough starts to come together.

6. Knead in the bowl until completely combined, about 10-15 times.

7. Allow dough to rest while you gather all your toppings.

8. Roll-out by hand or with a rolling pin.

9. Bake pizza for 20-25 minutes on baking sheet dusted with cornmeal and/or lined with parchment paper.

 

{Tips} I use a pizza stone. I allow the stone to heat in the oven while the oven is pre-heating. I roll my dough out on parchment paper and then transfer the paper and pizza to the stone when the pizza is prepared. If you don’t have a pizza stone, that is fine. Simply put your baking sheet into the oven while it is pre-heating. Top and bottom of pizza will be cooked to perfection.

{I use this same recipe to make calzones.}

 

 

~ Mangiare! 

 

Sardines and Apple Bread

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No… not together. That, I would have to say is awful. This is not.

I’ve always had inklings that my boys were pack animals, like wolves. When the three of them are in the same space, they are golden. Remove one from the situation and their entire dynamic changes — this can often be a good thing, trust me. But somehow or another they *always* end up on top of each other, and, by extension, me.  I’ve grown accustomed to a lack of personal space. Some days it bothers me, and you’ll hear my saying, “I need a ten foot radius” — but for the most part I accept this as their way.

I don’t really know why my boys are like this. Perhaps it’s because the older two are twins and have been smack on top of each other since, well, nine months before Day One. Perhaps it’s because I work from home. Or maybe it’s that we homeschool now. It’s non-stop, all the time, all of us. Bam! You’ve got yourself a pack of wolves.

So last night the boys took their pack mentality to new heights. My youngest hopped into my bed for a bedtime story. Nothing out of the ordinary, this happens all the time. But a few pages into the book, the ‘middle’ kidlet comes in with his book, book light, blanket, and pillow. Um… okay. Sure. He gets comfy on the other side of my bed, next to the youngest. I continue the bedtime story without a word about it, and before I’m done, the last kidlet comes in and does the same. Book. Book light. Pillow. Blanket.

Have I missed something? Did I sign-up for a slumber party? Who knows, but needless to say, we ended up “sleeping” like a bunch of sardines last night. Even though we all started out in our own designated slit of the bed, the passing hours broke down all claims for space. And whether it was simply gravity pushing them to the well-slept side of the bed, a desire for warmth, or perhaps even some instinctive need to be as close to me as possible, I was pushed out of my own bed long before it was light out. So I’m up writing while they’re all warm and snoogly in my bed.

All this togetherness, and me being up *very* early got me thinking on what I could bake the pack of little ones for breakfast this cold, blustery morning. I’m going with their fave, Apple Bread.

I bake this in a springform pan, but you can use anything of a similar size. This recipe is easy, even though you’ve got two things going at once.

applebread

Apple Bread  ~  Total time: 60-70 minutes  /  Prep: 15 minutes   /  Baking: 45-55 minutes

Ingredients:

Bread
2 C           All-purpose flour
1 C           Sugar
3 tsp        Baking powder
1 tsp         Salt
1 tsp         Cinnamon
1/4 tsp     All spice
1/4 tsp     Nutmeg
1/3 C        Butter – softened
1C             Milk
1                Egg – room temperature

Filling/Topping
1 1/2 C     Peeled, chopped apples  (3-4 small/med, 2 large)
1/3 C        Packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp     Butter
1 Tbsp      All-purpose flour
1/4 tsp     Nutmeg
Dash        Salt

apples

1. Pre-heat oven to 350° – Grease pan (springform, round, square, whatever your heart desires)
I get started on the apples first so they can cook-down on the stove while I’m preparing the batter. I always peel my apples like Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle — it earns me cool points with the kidlets.
2. Topping/Filling: Peel and chop apples. Place in heavy-bottom pot over low/med heat. Add in sugar and butter. Allow to melt. Stir occasionally. Add in remaining ingredients, stir until combined. Leave to cook while you prepare the batter.
3. Batter: In a medium-sized bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Whisk together completely. (Flour should be practically flying at this point.) Make a well in the dry ingredients. Add in all of the remaining ingredients.
4. Mix together the batter. 30 seconds on low, two minutes on medium. The batter will be thick.
batter5. Decision time: Mixing and topping, or layering for filling. Your choice.
~ Mixing and topping: Take one large scoop of apples and add it into the batter. Mix well for about 10 seconds. Pour all of the batter into your prepared pan. Top the batter with the remaining apples, spread them out evenly. — this is what I do now
~ If layering the apples into the batter, pour half of the batter into the pan. Layer half of the apples evenly across. Pour in the remaining batter, and top with the rest of the apples.  — this is what I used to do
6. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes. – Allow to cool slightly before serving. I let it sit in the oven, with the door cracked, for about 10 minutes.
7. Make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy the smells coming from your oven.piece

And as I sit here in the quiet that comes from waking so early, I realize that even though we were squished together like sardines, there is a peace and comfort that comes from having all my boys within reach. Kind of like tea and apple bread.

Nana’s gift tags

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Handcut gift tags via my Nana.

Handcut gift tags via my Nana.

Isn’t there something about getting gifts from older relatives? The wrapping is done with such care. Bows, ribbons, gift tags, even. And the paper. Do they even sell wrapping paper that thick anymore?

The other night we opened gifts from distant relatives. Books from great-aunts and uncles. Pajamas and slippers from grandparents. There was even a Rated R movie in the mix! I don’t even know what they were thinking, but needless to say *that* is getting stored away for a few years. My Nana, father’s mother, always gives such thoughtful gifts to everyone. This year the kidlets got a set of hardcover books on the Civil War. They have absolutely no interest, yet, as they are currently obsessed with ancient cultures, but the books themselves are beautiful. A set of three books, one for each, although I doubt my youngest will be diving into that genre anytime soon.

There were two gifts from her to all of us, and on each and every gift there was a beautiful tag. An amazingly beautiful, unique gift tag. I kept thinking: She must have spent a fortune on these, and where in the world did she buy them? I had the kidlets save all their tags for me. I just couldn’t get over how nice they were. Finally I said something to everyone about them and my mother tells me that my Nana cuts up old greeting cards and has done this for years, as in like, forever.

HUH?!!? Greeting cards? How did I not ever notice this? Why didn’t I think of this? Ugh, now I’m going to have to break-down and buy those fancy edge-cutting scissors! And who buys such lovely greeting cards? Don’t they all just come sterilized in boxes of 20? How long has she had all of these? Mind = blown.

My Nana, she is amazing. A thrifty genius, she is. I’m telling you, there is definitely something about coming of age in the 20s,  30s, and 40s. Not surprisingly considering the circumstances back then, they learned to look twice at things to see if they could be reused and made purchasing decisions based on quality, not quantity.  The wrapping paper she used, for example, so thick it doesn’t tear. You could wrap it, unwrap it, and use it again. My mother’s father did that. Not a torn piece of wrapping paper in all his life (DOB: 1908 NYC).

But I digress, the quality v. quantity minimalist conversation (read: soap box) can be saved for another day. Back to the gift tags.

Don’t throw away your greeting cards. Don’t even send them off to recycling. Keep them. Cut them. Reuse them. Trust me, these beauties are worth the effort and the small storage space they will take up for the next eleven months.

Bonus: cut them the correct size and you’ve got yourself a beautiful postcard. Score!

Has it been so long?

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Alas, bloggers guilt. It all starts off so great. So many wonderful intentions, then BAM. Life happens.

The reasons are many, I suppose, but as to whether or not they constitute excuses, who knows? For me personally, writing has to happen when I can complete a thought. And completing a thought can only happen when I have a minute to myself. As a single parent to three homeschooled boys, I’m sure you can imagine how often that happens.

So there you have it. I haven’t blogged because I can’t write. And I can’t write because I can’t complete a thought. And I can’t complete a thought because I am outnumbered. <sigh> My entire existence in a nutshell.

But seriously, not writing anything, except tweets and work projects, since May? Where have all the months gone? I mustn’t have been that busy; Trust me, I’m borderline a hermit these days. So let’s think…

June – I got nothing… sorry.
July – Spent five kid-free weeks on the West Coast, had a birthday, a long relationship ended.
August – Started coaching two youth soccer teams. Wicked awesome, incredibly busy, insanely rewarding.
September – Soccer.
October – Soccer, and a few weeks of coaching youth Lacrosse.
November – A lot of nothing for a few weeks then Florida for a week for Thanksgiving.
December – Also known as Getting Ready for Christmas. Need I say more?

Well, all right. Fine. I suppose when you look at the accounting of time spent on the above and add it to the ins and outs of day-to-day life bit, then I guess we can derive that I’ve been busy.

However, going forward I would like to make this more of a habit. I’ve got to post my recipes somewhere, right?

I hope you’re all doing well and have had a pleasant six months since last we spoke.

~ Michelle

 

Great new book find

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I just started reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  My sister was the love that found it at the library and highly recommended that I read it. I can tell just from the first twenty pages that this is without a doubt the book for me. Not only does Ms. Kingsolver mirror my thoughts on the current state of our food system, this book is based on moving with her family to right here in southern Appalachia, which is, of course, exactly what I did just six months ago. She, however, moved to a farm, I did not. (I am, however, envious.)

Have any of you read it? I’d love to hear what you thought of it.

To compost, or not to compost?

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That is the question of the hour at my house. I’ve always loved the idea of composting but haven’t done enough research or purchasing (if required) to even get started. Plus I’ve never had much of a garden until now.

As a general rule we minimize waste and reuse countless items around here, but inevitably things get tossed that could most definitely be used again, or in this case, composted. I’ve got my little container garden growing briskly on the back porch and am getting ready to plant some veggies into the ground. What better time to get going on composting.

But I’m lost. Where do I begin? What do I need? Does it smell? Where can I keep my composting bin? Arghh… I’m pulling my hair out. I’ve got all these books gathering dusk on my side table (check the Goodreads list on the right —>) that explain gardening, organic gardening, urban gardening, container gardening, etc., but I just haven’t had a chance to get to them yet. But time excuses aside, I’ve got a pile of fresh broccoli trimmings sitting on the counter and they need a home and it is not going to be the garbage bin.

As chance would have it I came across this lovely link here. It’s not a complete how-to-compost article but breaks down what you certainly cannot toss in the compost bin, and personally knowing what I cannot do is the best place for me to start. And once you’ve got that pinned and are ready to get with the how-tos check out this step-by-step article or this video by The Sierra Club for the more visual learners among us.

I’m excited to get started and I’m certain the veggies growing out back will thank me.

Do you compost? Have you noticed a difference in your yard or garden. I’d love to get some feedback.