Thursday, December 30, 2010

Family Pizza Night

Ahhhhh, the week between Christmas and New Year's brings something everyone's been craving:  down time.  The family celebrations were lovely and now it's time for celebrating with friends (aka the family we choose).  And so the Bowers were invited over for a bit of a reunion.  Our girls are the same ages and despite all of our moves, they've remained constant friends.  It's been a bit tricky during the high school and college years to coordinate schedules, so last night was probably the first time in three or four years that we were all together.  Good times.  Plenty of stories.  Lots of laughs.

candid photo of friends and family
please note the 9th plate in the corner, can't turn away a hungry boyfriend

Good night for a "simple" dinner.  Every winter I break out my deep dish pizza pan and someone has to come over to share the pizza;  I'm pretty sure the finished product weighs at least five pounds.  Since we were having 8 for dinner I decided to try a recipe for deep dish spinach pizza like Girodano's from Chicago in addition to my classic deep dish recipe.  Two pizzas.  One pizza pan.  The spinach pie was assembled and baked a day before.  The loaded pizza was a same day operation.  Both were served with a kitchen island salad bar.  

Let's open our discussion today with the classic deep dish recipe.  My younger brother gave us the deep dish pizza set (pan, cutter, recipe book and I believe peel which is long gone) over 20 years ago.  I checked the recipe booklet and it's dated 1978.  For the record, in 1978 I was either a freshman or sophomore in high school and my younger brother was either in third or fourth grade.  I am pretty sure he did not run out and buy me a pizza set in 1978.   I do remember walking little Keith into town almost every Saturday morning to go to the Bavarian Pastry Shop for bearclaws.  That would be our culinary history for 1978.  

I have used the recipes for cheese and onion dough and basic tomato sauce every year since the arrival of the pan.  Probably the only things that have changed are that I now freshly grate the Parmesan for the dough instead of using that fabulous green can from Kraft (classic), I use chicken italian sausage instead of pork and I use fresh mushrooms instead of canned mushrooms.   No need to reinvent the wheel.  (Okay, I say that a lot and this time it's a bit funny since college pizzas were always "death wheels" from Dominos and those did need reinvention).  

If you don't have a deep dish pizza pan, borrow mine!  If you aren't my neighbor then do a little research and find yourself a pan.  Mine is just a straight-sided massively deep metal pan.   This is all going to look supremely complicated, but just give yourself a Saturday or Sunday and take it in steps.  It's not terribly tricky, just a little time-consuming.  Something you hopefully have a little more of in the dead of winter than the rest of the year.  Your house will smell delicious!  

Cheese and Onion Pizza Dough 

4 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 T salt
1 T sugar
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
1/2 C melted butter
1/2 C dried minced onion
2/3 C grated Parmesan 
2 1/4 tsp yeast  (one packet)
2/3 C very warm water (hot to the touch, but not scalding)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar.  Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.  Pour in the yeast mixture into the flour mixture and stir thoroughly with a big wooden spoon.  If your dough is not coming together, don't panic yet.  Beat the egg and egg yolks together and add with the melted butter to the flour bowl.  Mix until dough forms a ball in the bowl.  Add extra water sparingly if needed to form the ball.  Add flour sparingly if the dough is too sticky.  Stir in the onions and cheese.  It's okay if they aren't fully incorporated yet.

Dust a dough cloth, silicone mat or other suitable surface with flour.  Dump out the dough mixture and knead it all together for 8 to 10 minutes.  Make sure you incorporate all of the cheese and onions (i.e., the good stuff).  This is not hard;  turn on some good music, have a little flour handy and work it out until your dough is nice and smooth.   Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into your dough bowl and coat the inside of the bowl with the oil.  Put your nice big ball of dough in the oiled bowl and turn it a few times to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel.  Set it in a warm and draft-free place to double in size for an hour or so (I usually turn my oven on for just a couple of minutes to take the chill off and then put the dough in the oven with the door closed making sure the oven is now off).  Make your sauce and prep your toppings while the dough rises.  

risen dough not in my dough bowl which is a funny story for another day

Basic Tomato Sauce

1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 T olive oil
1 28-ounce can of San Marzano plum tomatoes or any tomato you enjoy (I used diced Muir Glen brand)
1 8-ounce can of tomato sauce
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp oregano

In a large saucepan, saute onion in olive oil until translucent.  Add remaining ingredients (except oregano) and stir well.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes, uncovered.  Stir occasionally and keep the heat low.  Add oregano and cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bay leaf.  

basic tomato sauce, mine is a little chunky

Pizza "toppings" (deep dish toppings are under the sauce)

1 pound pork or chicken Italian sausage; browned, crumbled and drained
4 to 8 ounces sliced Pepperoni
green pepper, chopped
white onion, chopped
8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2 C shredded Mozzarella and or Provolone

Deep Dish Pizza Assembly

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  

Punch down the risen dough.  Lightly flour a rolling surface.  Roll out dough large enough to cover bottom and sides of pan.  I patted mine into a giant circle.  A rolling pin works too.  This time I rolled onto parchment because my silicone mat that fits this dough is no longer with me and needs to be replaced.  Lightly oil the pan (or do whatever your pan's directions tell you to do).  Flip the dough into the pan and press into the corners and up the sides.  

Sprinkle the bottom crust with the shredded cheese.

Evenly distribute the toppings.

Evenly spoon on the sauce.

Add additional freshly grated Parmesan.

Bake in middle of hot oven for 25 minutes until crust is golden brown.  

Share with friends!
break out the vintage photos from their early years :)

College football calls.  I love college football.  Any teams, any game.  The season is almost over so I'll post the spinach pizza recipe tomorrow.  

Friday, December 24, 2010

Snowball Cookies

It's Christmas Eve day!  My bread machine is kneading and rising dough for the much-requested cinnamon bun bread.  My oven just baked two sheets of snowball cookies because I had two egg whites left after making the cinnamon bun bread dough.  Now the delightful "stuffing bread" from Great Harvest is in the warm oven after being cut in rough cubes.  Note:  stuffing bread has onions, sage and all the seasonings you need for stuffing already baked in to a light wheat bread, how great is that?

So for a little stocking stuffer, here's a quick recipe for one last batch of cookies.  These cookies are almost guilt-free.   Our neighbors from the Saddleback Drive days, the Maryanskis passed this along to me probably 15 years ago.  We now live in the same neighborhood again, both of us moving here almost nine years ago.  We stopped in Michigan and Ohio first.  Kind of a nice little serendipity there.  They are the calmest, sweetest and rational people.  Perfect neighbors for when you have babies and toddlers in the house as we did then.  Now they are going to be grandparents this spring.  Awwww.....

Have a joyous and merry Christmas!

Snowball Cookies

1 C confectioner's sugar
1 C coarsely chopped pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (the box from Costco is fabulous, wider than the parchment from the grocery/Target).
Process the nuts and confectioner's sugar until finely ground (about 30 seconds to a minute).  Add the egg white and vanilla and process just until combined to a paste like consistency (alternately you can put the nut mixture in a bowl and just stir in the egg whites and vanilla).  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto the parchment lined sheets, placing 2-3 inches apart to allow the cookies to spread.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Let cool and harden before removing from sheets.

nuts, l0x sugar, egg whites and vanilla that's it!

make a paste

drop on cookie sheets

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Maybe you are all ready with a day to go, maybe you are so not ready and you are reading my blog when you should be wrapping or baking or, heaven forbid, shopping.  Take a deep breath.  Put on some Christmas music and either get to it, or let it go.  There is no way you haven't done enough already.  That is unless you just remembered you didn't buy your sister-in-law a present and you are in the van on the way to Cleveland and opening presents as soon as you get there.  This actually happened to me a few years ago.    Oops.  Unfortunately (or fortunately as most everyone in the know sees it), she's no longer part of our family.  Coincidence??

It's Christmas Eve, eve and finally I could pull the extra Christmas cookie dough out of the freezer and Kelly and Sara could continue the decorating tradition.  My girls create some very interesting cookies.  I just roll and re-roll dough to maximize the batch.  And, I take pictures.  This Christmas my babies are 18 and 20.  Honestly, tears spring to my eyes just writing those words.  I need to put on some cheerier Christmas music (so many of them are pretty depressing, why is that???).  As hard as it was to imagine when I was 18 or 20, apparently my reason for being is just to be "Mom".  Nothing else has ever worked out so well.  And if you know me, you know even the Mom-thing has had it's epic moments of failure along with all the little and big moments of absolute happiness.  It's true enough that marriage has worked out pretty well for me too.  Might have a bit to do with why motherhood has been so great.

Ahhh, the little ones want enchiladas and I want to get this post done so the pondering is going to have to come to end for today.  If you haven't baked your cut-out cookies, give this recipe from my excellent mother-in-law Becky, a try.  It's a Hallmark recipe.  My in-laws owned Hallmark stores for years which contributed greatly to our ornament collection and to their lovely condominiums in Florida.

action shot

Kelly's first tray of 2010

Hallmark Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
(1/2 tsp almond extract, optional)
1 egg
1 C unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda

Cream powered sugar, vanilla, (almond extract if using), butter and egg.  Mix in flour, baking soda and cream of tartar (I usually add a tiny pinch of salt too).  Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper and chill in the refrigerator at least 2 hours.
Heat oven to 375 degrees.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough about 1 C at a time to an even thickness (1/8 to 1/4 inch thick).  Dip cutters in flour (at least the first time you use them).  Cut and place on un-greased cookie sheet (parchment paper is a good touch if you hate to clean pans).  Dough scraps can be gathered and rolled out again.  Decorate with sprinkles and colored sugars.  Bake until very lightly brown on the edges (8 minutes or so).  Cool on pan for a couple of minutes then remove from pan and finish cooling on a cooling rack.

Save a few cookies for Santa!
Note:  I still put out cookies on the Santa plate and the girls think I am nuts.

action shot from 2006

Sara's tray from 2004

50 posts! Let's celebrate with some wine.

This is my 51st post.  Probably should have thrown the party on the occasion of my 50th, but sadly I didn't even notice until I logged in to write tonight's little missive.  My theme for the night is casual cooking with wine.  Please celebrate with me then, and cook with wine and have a little glass for me.  I have a little Sauvignon Blanc open which has been both delicious pan sauce and delightful glass with dinner.  Tonight I opened a Cabernet Sauvignon to make "sophisticated Joe's" and my husband will happily finish the bottle.  It's a win-win.

First let's discuss white wine pan sauce.  Buy some nice boneless, skinless chicken breasts and place one between two sheets of waxed paper.  Get out your pounder (mine is a pounder/tenderizer from Target that ran about $12).  Pound your chicken into a paillard (the current trendy way to say chicken breast pounded thin) about 1/4-inch thick.  Start at the center and work your way out.  Dust or dredge your chicken in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.  Heat olive oil in a heavy pan (enameled cast iron or stainless steel are better than non-stick for this).  Cook your floured chicken until golden brown on both sides (about 10 minutes total).  If you'd like garlic in your dish, add it now so it does not brown and cook it quickly for 30-60 seconds.  Turn your heat up to medium high and deglaze the pan with dry white wine.  All that means is you pour in your wine (1/2 to 1 cup) and scrape up the browned bits from the pan.  While the wine is boiling your sauce will thicken.  Feel free to use a little chicken broth to thin or extend the sauce.  Add some herbs of your choice, dried (Herbs de Provence is popular at my house) or fresh to season.

For a little variation, prepare the chicken and brown on both sides (no garlic) and deglaze your pan with dry white wine, a little broth and a freshly squeezed lemon.  Add a tablespoon or so of drained capers.  Voila!  A quick chicken piccata.

Now let's talk something a little heartier.  This is a recipe adapted from Epicurious, "Sophisto Joes".  Ground beef is hearty and savory in this dish.  If your family wants or needs a lightened version, use ground turkey or chicken as I have.  Just be sure to season your browned white meat well before you add the cooking liquids.  Ground turkey and especially ground chicken really need some help to be full of flavor.

Sloppy Joes with a little red wine

1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red pepper, finely diced
olive oil
1 medium carrot, finely chopped
1 celery rib, finely chopped
salt and pepper
1 1/2 lb. ground turkey, chicken or beef
1 T chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 C dry red wine
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 T packed brown sugar

In a large pan, warm a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Saute onion, red pepper and garlic until softened.  Add carrot, celery and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir now and then for 5-8 minutes until vegetables are softened.  Add ground meat and stir to break up lumps and brown meat, 8-10 minutes.  Add chili powder, cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3/4 tsp freshly ground pepper and stir to season for 2-3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, wine, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, until sauce has thickened, 6-8 minutes.

oooh, look I used yellow pepper and mushrooms too  feel free to improvise!

ground chicken being seasoned


Serve with rolls or buns of your choice.  Butter them and toast them on a grill or skillet pan, so good that way.

Note:  started this post exactly one week ago, too much Christmas and too little time to finish :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

In honor of my radio appearance.....Roasted Filet of Beef with Gorgonzoa Sauce

Yesterday afternoon I'm cruising down Meridian Street headed to Conseco Fieldhouse to pick up t-shirts and race packets for the family for Saturday's Arthritis Foundation "Jingle Bell Run" and I flip the radio to my favorite sports talk radio show.  Since I have the honor of driving our vintage van without satellite radio (and thankfully without a temperature display, who wanted to know it was in the 20's yesterday),  I will switch to AM radio when my favorite music station goes to commercial.  Actually, I will admit to liking sports talk radio when my favorite teams are playing well and there's something to talk about.  And truly, I don't talk to anyone other than my cat and my guinea pig most days, so it's a social thing too.  That is kind of sad, but true.  Anyway, it was the Dan Dakich Show and despite the fact that he played and coached at IU, I really like the guy.  We're the same age so we have some common ground.  Same with John Stewart, same vintage. I'd like them both regardless, but I get them both, we speak the same language.  Well, as much as a guy from "the Region", a New Yorker and a girl from a quaint waspy town in Northeastern Ohio can.  If you watch enough college basketball (love it), Dan's working games for ESPN.  You'll like him too.  You should already be watching John Stewart.

I'm driving and listening when Dan has a caller tell him he needs to check out Big Don's Deli in Zionsville.   The caller gets it wrong, it's Big Dave's Deli, and Dan asks for some help.  Bingo.  I can actually call in and have something relevant to say.  Dial up the show.  Get right through.  Tell the producer what I bring to the party and he puts me through.  Show time.  Thankfully I found a street parking spot by Conseco just in time for my shining moment.  What you probably don't know is that I am "The Official Carmel Housewife of the Dan Dakich Show".  You are jealous, I know.  I had to apply and be accepted and I've had a few bones tossed my way.  Dan read my e-mail about that wacky one end-zone situation for the Northwestern v Illinois game at Wrigley Field and wished Greg a happy 49th birthday on the air because I am The Official Carmel Housewife.  Awesome.

Back to my shining moment, what I have to offer is the recommendation that he should have Big Dave's Deli order him a beef tenderloin because they are delicious and reasonably priced.  If that wasn't reason enough, they will also grind the trimmings and you can make some killer burgers with them.  The Official Carmel Housewife of the Dan Dakich Show would know these things.  And that's pretty much exactly what I said on the air.  Dan thought it came roasted and I told him that indeed he would be receiving a fresh tenderloin that he could take home and have his wife roast.  He then questioned why he could not roast it himself and I told him to go ahead and do that, it's easy and delicious.   Which, in a very long and circuitous route leads me to today's recipe.  If you are having some company for the holidays, buy a nice beef tenderloin and follow my recipe from the Barefoot Contessa.  It is fool proof.  No matter the size of your tenderloin,  just do exactly as Ina and I say.  I've served this hot for dinner and room temperature for  party sandwiches.  Big hit every time.  Serve it with horseradish sauce too.  If you're really feeling festive, serve the Gorgonzola sauce.  I have served both sauces and let my guests choose.

Our delicious fresh turkey was $65 (worth it) so I don't have beef tenderloin in the budget this weekend.  Besides, roast tenderloin doesn't really take a pretty picture.  Here's something to warm you up:

ahhhhh, Fort Walton Beach, FL 10-10

Roasted Filet of Beef

1 whole filet of beef (tenderloin) 4 to 5 pounds, trimmed and tied
2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 T kosher salt
1 T freshly ground black pepper (coarse grind)

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

Place beef on a baking sheet and pat dry with a paper towel.  Spread the butter all over with your hands. Sprinkle roast evenly with salt and pepper.  Roast in the oven (middle rack) at 500 degrees for exactly 22 minutes for rare and 25 minutes for medium-rare (size of roast does not change the cooking time).

Remove beef from the oven, cover tightly with foil and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.  Remove strings (if used) and slice thickly.

Gorgonzola Sauce

4 C heavy cream
3 to 4 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola
3 T freshly grated Parmesan
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 T minced fresh Italian parsley

Bring the cream to a full boil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.  Continue to boil for 45-50 minutes until it's thickened, like a white sauce, stirring occasionally.

Remove pan from heat and add the Gorgonzola, Parmesan, salt, pepper and parsley.  Whisk until cheeses melt.  Serve warm.  If you need to reheat the sauce, reheat over low heat whisking until smooth.

Horseradish Sauce

1 1/2 C creme fraiche or sour cream (light sour cream is fine, fat free is not fine, ever)
1/2 C prepared horseradish
6 T chopped fresh chives
4 tsp fresh lemon juice

Whisk all ingredients together and season to taste with salt and pepper.  May be prepared a day ahead and chilled.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sara's Enchiladas

Holiday prep is filling my free time, but I'm going to sit down for a few minutes here and post a dinner idea for you today.  Over the weekend I served our version of burrito bowls.  That's not today's recipe, but it is another good dinner idea I'll share before the enchiladas recipe.  One kind of leads to the other (i.e., I had leftover guacamole and couldn't possibly waste it).

Buy a nice rotisserie chicken at Costco.  Shred the breast meat.  Heat up a medium saucepan, add one or two tablespoons canola or olive oil and saute half a chopped white/yellow/sweet onion.  Add two or three cloves of minced garlic and saute for a minute until fragrant.  Stir in a teaspoon of cumin and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt for another minute or so.  Don't brown your garlic (I can't remind you of this enough times).  Add the shredded chicken and stir until warmed through.  Juice one lime into the pan.  Toss and serve.  Other burrito bowl ingredients to serve on your table:  heated black beans or refried beans, heated rice (there are all kinds of good rice mixes out there:  cilantro/lime, brown rice/beans/peppers, spanish rice, etc.), guacamole, salsa (love the Margaritaville fresh salsa with Peppadew peppers from Meijer and the Garden Fresh salsas - please, do not serve salsa from a jar, I implore you to treat yourself to something better), chopped lettuce, cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream (go all out and add half a lime squeezed to a 1/2 cup of light sour cream) and shredded cheese.   Just let everyone do their own thing.  In the summer I make fresh mango salsa to lighten up the flavor (dice a mango, a little chopped sweet or white onion, chopped fresh jalepeno, diced red pepper, cilantro, 1/2 tsp or less of salt and juice of a lime).

Okay, so that was easy dinner idea number one.  If you were missing your other guacamole fan from dinner number one (at my house, that's Kelly and she's busy at Purdue studying for finals) and you have leftover guacamole you will want to serve another dish that enjoys a little guacamole on the side.  It is surely cold enough to heat up the oven for as long as possible, so I thought enchiladas would be a good thing to warm up in the oven.  My carnivorous husband is in Phoenix this week enjoying the lovely warm weather and working (not necessarily in that order, he is working and is not complaining about running outside in just shorts and a t-shirt at the end of his day).  This gives me free reign to serve a meal heavier on veggies.  So my new twist on enchiladas was to stuff them with roasted vegetables.  Besides, that gets the oven up to 450 degrees and Tuesday night I believe it was about 12 degrees outside.  And Sara will eat anything with roasted vegetables.  You can obviously fill your enchiladas however the spirit and your refrigerator/freezer/pantry moves you.  But you really should try this sauce.  It's easy and really delicious.

One more tip for freezing cold winter dinners:  warm your plates before you plate or serve food.  My cabinets are on the outside wall of my kitchen and my plates are very chilly to the touch.  I grab my plates and warm them in the oven if it's not too hot (preferably while cooling down after baking something comforting) or just microwave them in a stack for a minute or two.  

roasted vegetables

assembled enchiladas

sauced and ready to bake

ready to eat!

Sara's Enchiladas

one white/sweet/yellow onion, chopped
one zucchini squash, diced
one yellow summer squash, diced
one red/yellow/orange pepper, diced
olive oil
kosher salt

Enchilada Sauce
2 T canola oil
2 T flour
1/4 C chili powder
2 C chicken stock
10-0z. tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt

rotisserie chicken, shredded
corn tortillas (8-10)
shredded cheese (mexican blend, monterey jack, colby-jack, sharp cheddar or whatever you like)

Prepare and roast your vegetables:  toss diced/chopped vegetables with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and 1/2 tsp or so kosher salt, spread on a baking sheet and roast in a 450 degree oven, stirring once or twice for 10-12 minutes.

Make your sauce:  heat canola oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stir in flour to make a paste, keep heat medium-high and stir in chili powder for about a minute to season paste.  Add chicken stock and bring to a boil, whisking constantly until thickened (a few minutes).  Lower heat to medium and add tomato paste, oregano, cumin and salt; stirring until well-blended.  Simmer for 15 minutes to blend flavors.

Soften your tortillas:  heat a flat griddle pan or large non-stick fry pan over medium heat, sprinkle very lightly with kosher salt, warm tortillas (mine fits 3 tortillas at a time) for about 2-3 minutes on each side, place tortillas in a stack on a warm plate and cover until ready to assemble enchiladas.

Lower your oven heat to 375 degrees.

Assemble your enchilada casserole:  spray baking dish with non-stick spray,  spoon in about 1 cup of prepared sauce to cover the bottom of the dish.  Take a warm tortilla and place chicken down the middle along with a few roasted vegetables and a nice sprinkling of cheese.  Roll up tortilla overlapping sides and place seam down in the sauce in the dish.  When you've filled your dish with enchiladas, spoon remaining sauce over top of casserole dish.  Sprinkle with a little additional cheese if desired.  Cover dish with foil and bake 20-25 minutes until hot and bubbly.

Serve with shredded lettuce, cilantro, sour cream and guacamole if desired.