Friday, October 31, 2008

Homemade Pizza

I apologize in advance for not having a better recipe to post with these pics, but pizza is something I do by feel and look more than by measurement (Eventually I will stop apologizing for this, because this tends to be the way I cook nearly everything). Homemade pizza, now that I know the trick to making it WELL, has ruined delivery pizza for me forever.

First, the crust:

This recipe is my go-to recipe for pizza crust. It's delicious and cooks up with the crispy-chewy combo that's vitally important to a good neopolitan-style crust. Another option if you don't want to make your own crust is to pick up a ball of dough from your favorite local pizza place. Many will sell this to you for a few dollars at most.

The sauce:
I'm a purist in this regard. I like plain canned tomato sauce (Hunts or Muir Glenn are good) stirred with a little sugar and maybe some fresh garlic at most. The sauce shouldn't compete with the other ingredients.

The cheese:

Go with whole milk mozarella here, folks. It's a must. Slice into thin rounds or chop into little squares for sprinkling on top.

The toppings:

Here's where you can let your imagination go wild. That being said, I do think simple is best here as well. You could do some caramelized onion and a few slices of fresh pear, or maybe just sliced tomato and fresh basil for a pizza margherita. I love a drizzle of pesto with a sprinkling of pine nuts. Be creative!

The cooking method:

Preheat a pizza stone or baking stone in your oven on the highest temp setting available (This is usually about 550 or so), in about the middle of the oven or a tad higher. This preheating will take quite a while, maybe even 30-40 minutes. In the meanwhile, you can prepare your pie.

You want to stretch/toss/roll (whatever works best for you) the dough into about a 12" circle, with the edges being a bit thicker than the rest of the dough. Place onto a pizza peel or unrimmed cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with either cornmeal or semolina flour. These are better than regular flour because they will allow the dough to slide off onto the stone more easily. Spread with a scant amount of pizza sauce -- you want some for flavor but not so much that your cheese and toppings slide off the crust. Top with cheese and toppings. Give the pizza a wiggle to make sure it's loose enough to slide onto the pizza stone. When the oven is ready to go, slide your pizza onto the stone (good luck... this takes some practice). Using a forward and back rapid motion with your hand is the best way to get the pizza to slide off the pizza peel without sticking. If it sticks, you can try using a spatula to loosen the areas that are sticking. Your pizza will NOT be perfectly round. That's ok. We're going for rustic here.

Bake your pizza until the edges are blistered and the cheese is bubbly. This may be as quickly as 5-7 minutes, but it depends on a variety of factors (crust thickness, oven temp, distance from top of oven, etc.) Remove, let sit for about 3-4 minutes, then slice and eat.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

From the MySpace Archives: Chicken Potstickers

This is a post ripped from the archives of my old MySpace "blog"... I just don't have the patience for that site anymore, but I have a lot of posts there that I'd like to preserve. I figure I can give some of them new life here on blogger... this is one of my very favorite meals. It is VERY labor intensive, but it's worth it.

Ok, this is my first foray into the world of Asian dumplings... and they turned out amazingly good. I can't take credit for the recipe, though. Alton Brown gets the kudos for that. The only thing I really changed is that I used minced chicken breast instead of ground pork, and used pablano peppers instead of red. The flavor was still excellent. Might try the pork next time. I'm also toying with trying to come up with a beef potsticker with a peanut satay sauce... Below is a pic of how they turned out, as well as Alton's original recipe.

1/2 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons finely chopped red bell pepper
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons ketchup
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
35 to 40 small wonton wrappers
Water, for sealing wontons
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying
1 1/3 cups chicken stock, divided


Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Combine the first 11 ingredients in a medium-size mixing bowl (pork through cayenne). Set aside.

To form the dumplings, remove 1 wonton wrapper from the package, covering the others with a damp cloth. Brush 2 of the edges of the wrapper lightly with water. Place 1/2 rounded teaspoon of the pork mixture in the center of the wrapper. Fold over, seal edges, and shape as desired. Set on a sheet pan and cover with a damp cloth. Repeat procedure until all of the filling is gone.
Heat a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Brush with vegetable oil once hot. Add 8 to 10 potstickers at a time to the pan and cook for 2 minutes, without touching. Once the 2 minutes are up, gently add 1/3 cup chicken stock to the pan, turn the heat down to low, cover, and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove wontons to a heatproof platter and place in the warm oven. Clean the pan in between batches by pouring in water and allowing the pan to deglaze. Repeat until all the wontons are cooked. Serve immediately.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sweet Garlic Lasagna

Lasagna is one of those foods that I've always been a little "meh" about. It just never did much for me. It was heavy and full of meat and I dunno... kind of dull. A few months back Nathan asked me to make lasagna. I'd made it once before, but it was never on my dinner roation for the aforementioned reasons. So I figured I'd make MY kind of lasagna. Something lighter, brighter, fresher, and sans meat. Hubby was skeptical. I'd go so far as to say nervous. "What, no meat? No sausage? Not even a little hamburger?" Nope. No meat. Suck it up and eat it. And guess what? He did! And not only did he eat three large helpings, he took LEFTOVERS. *faint* And he proceeded to actually buy all of the ingredients (ok, most of the ingredients... he is a man, remember) a couple of weeks later so I'd make it again. This dish is now a monthly routine for us; Nathan makes a Trader Joe's stop on his way home from Naval Reserve drill, and I lovingly craft the lasagna on the following Tuesday (my weekday off). It's inadvertently become a little family tradition.


2-3 TBS olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
1 large can of tomato sauce (16 oz.)
1 TBS sugar
1/2 (or so) box of no-boil lasagna noodles
1 lb whole milk mozzarella cheese- sliced into thin rounds/slices (a piece of string works best for slicing)
1 12 oz. carton of cottage cheese
1 egg

For sauce, lightly brown garlic in hot olive oil. Add tomato sauce and sugar. Simmer for about 10 minutes, set aside.

Blend cottage cheese and egg together in blender or food processor, set aside

In a 8x8 inch pan, start your layers. They should go like this (after an initial layer of sauce on the bottom) -- pasta, sauce, mozzarella, THIN layer of cottage cheese mixture. Repeat. Build lasagna until it's about 1/2" from the top, and finish with a layer of sauce and mozzarella. I always use up all of the sauce and all of the mozzarella but have about half of the noodles and half of the cottage cheese stuff leftover.

Bake in 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes, uncovered until bubbly and browned on top. Take out and let sit for 10-15 min before slicing.

This is great in the summertime with fresh basil leaves placed every other layer, too. Try to avoid the temptation to spice up the tomato sauce with a bunch of dried herbs; I really think the beauty of this dish is the brightness of the simple sweet tomato sauce. Serve with a crisp green salad and bottle of wine, and you're on for a li'l Italia in the midwest. :)

Aparently 3:58 minutes wasn't enough

This was in the paper today. Really nice article by St. Cloud entertainment writer Adam Hammer...

Needless to say, the staff at my clinic are all having a field day over this. Sorry, guys. I'm not autographing a speculum for you.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

My 3:58 Minutes of Fame

Aparently the rough-looking dude at open mic on Tuesday wasn't taking pictures.... he was taking video. And aparently he uploaded to YouTube. And aparently one can post someone's ORIGINAL song on a national web site without the original artist's permission.

Oh well. *shrug* I'll just exploit my own exploitation. Does that make it... meta-exploitation?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Garlic Lemon Hummus

This is my go-to "recipe" for busy worknights. It's fast, easy, healthy, and I have 90% of the ingredients on hand at any given time. I put recipe in quotations because to be honest, I make this (like many of my recipes) more by taste than by measure. You may want to play with the amounts listed here to suit your own tastes.

A few notes: you really need to use FRESH lemon juice and good olive oil. **Now for my olive oil soapbox lecture** Many olive oils that you find in the typical grocery section are not of quality. They will have a bitter, almost rancid flavor. If you've never tasted truly excellent olive oil, you may not realize how great the "good" stuff is. In town here I've found that Byerly's has some excellent varieties for about $12/bottle. Also check out the local CoOp. Olive oil in hummus shouldn't be merely an ingredient, but should actually be a flavoring agent -- so for this recipe, spend a little extra. I promise it's worth it.

Garlic Lemon Hummus

  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of tahini (can substitute peanut butter in a pinch)
  • about 1/2 teaspoon of salt (may need to be adjusted to taste)
  • juice from one lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
In a food processor, chop garlic clove. Add chickpeas, tahini, some of the salt (reserve some just in case it's too much... you can always add more later), and lemon juice. Process until smooth. Drizzle in olive oil and process again. Add more salt and/or lemon juice to taste. Garnish with more olive oil and fresh chopped parsley or cilantro, if desired. Serve with crusty bread, veggies, olives, etc. Also thickens up in the fridge and makes a great sandwich or wrap spread.

Possible additions/substitutions: green chiles and a pinch of cayenne for a southwest twist, add some fried onions and curry for Indian-inspired hummus, or try a different citrus than lemon (lime and cilantro go great together).

Sunday, October 5, 2008

B, B, & B #1

Ok, updates (is it really an update if it's my first post on the subject??) on the "Big Three":


Had a really great week at work, for some reason... nothing specific happened, but I just really connected with my patients. There's something amazing about sending someone off from an appointment with a big smile on their face. I mean, come on... the annual exam is not something that most of us gals look forward to. I know that no one is going to enjoy that yearly visit with me, but my goal is to always try to make my patients feel as if they were listened to and respected. Sounds like a small thing, but I'm finding that it's not. Every patient who says, "Hey, thanks... you really made this comfortable" or "I like you... can I start seeing you every time?" warms my heart and helps to confirm to me that I made the right choice to become a midwife. And that's pretty damn priceless.


On tap -- American Apricot Wheat. It's going too slowly, so I'm having my second "Kill the Keg" party on Friday with some of the gals from work. The last one ended up with a Playstation and two six-year-olds yelling at a group of grown women to "shut the heck up". Hrm. Maybe we can kick it up a notch this time and get in trouble with people who are old enough to not have a scheduled bedtime.

In the carboy -- nothing. yeah, I know... in homebrewer circles, that's a sacrilege.

Up next -- I think I'm going to make a "Irish Coffee Porter"; basically a dark porter with some irish whiskey and coffee beans for added flavor. Might work, might not. Might simply keep me up all night. Also planning on my first buddy-brew -- a blueberry ale with my pal Lars. Just need to knock out a recipe and plan a brew date.

Baking: We attended the annual Cloudytown Brewers' (my homebrew club) Oktoberfest party last night, and I baked for the occasion. Made a basic apple pie, and then threw a twist into my pecan pie. I added a splash of bourbon (as usual), and threw in a handful of dark chocolate chips. It was a hit, especially when the beer munchies set in later on in the evening. With apple season in full swing here in MN, I'm sure there will be crisps and pies and sauces galore. I forgot to take pics of the pie, hence why my first post is without any visuals.

And with that, I'm off to the basement to work off the damn cod nuggets I just ate. Damn Schwanns. You bastards. *shakes fist*


This is my blog.


Stay awhile, comment, try out a recipe or two... if people like them, let 'em know where you got them. If they don't, then uh... tell them it was one of those dusty old Lutheran basement cookbooks that you inherited from your great Aunt Bev.