Sunday, February 17, 2013

When the moon hits your eye lilke a big pizza pie....

 Now, THAT'S Amore !!!!!


  Okay, okay. Maybe I'm a little over the top here. Last night on the way home from  somewhere, the local Jazz station at the University was playing all Brat Pack stuff for a couple of hours. They played several by Dino and it has stuck in my head. I have been meaning to get this post written, as these pictures and pizzas were made on Thursday, Valentine's Day.

  Our discussion group at the La Vista Ecological Center was having a vegetarian potluck, and I opted to make pizzas. Heart shaped pizzas. (One looked vaguely heart shaped. The other- HAH!)  LOL, anyway, they turned out really good except that I didn't get any "out-of-the-oven" pictures because we were rushing off to the potluck and I waited until the very last minute to finish cooking them so they'd be hot or almost hot for supper.

  I started these in the morning on Thursday, got the dough made and put them together and partially cooked them. Then I had to leave for Physical Therapy. I didn't get home til 5:30 and so I put them back in the oven and finished them off so we could leave at  6:15.


  First, make the dough. I wanted to make a whole grain dough, which is a bit of a challenge when you like your pizza crust a little on the light and airy side.

  Here's how it looks.

 And here's how I made it :

3 cups white whole wheat  flour, (Eagle Mills) plus more for kneading
3 cups bread flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup wheat germ
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
2 1/2 teaspoons quick rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more to coat bowl
2 cup warm water

Add 3 cups  of flour, yeast, salt and sugar to a deep bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour in the water and olive oil. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine—dough will be very wet and sticky. Add enough of the remaining flour, stirring with a wooden spoon, until the dough is tacky, but no longer wet. Sprinkle the rest of the flour on a clean counter or board. Dump the dough onto the floured surface and knead in the remaining flour. The dough will be very soft and smooth, but should be not be tacky—add more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time if you need to.

Lightly coat a bowl with olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, cover and set aside in a warm area. Let rise until doubled in volume. This will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on the temperature in your kitchen.  This is enough dough for 3 large pizzas. If you only want to make one, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and place in fridge or freezer for another time.

  While the dough is rising, you can make your pizza sauce. You can use any number of sauces..home canned marinara is what I use. This time it was a carmelized onion and garlic marinara. You can use store bought pasta sauce if you want.  Set it aside a minute.

  Now, assemble your toppings. Once again, I went way overboard on these...but here are the toppings I had and used :

   Thin sliced onion
   Minced garlic
   Sliced mushrooms
   Dried tomatoes, soaked in a little olive oil
   Fresh spinach
   Artichoke Hearts
   Thinly sliced zucchini and yellow crookneck squash 
   Sliced black olives
   Red and yellow bell peppers, sliced into rounds 
  Cheese: I used mozzarella, and shredded colby/jack and shredded parmesan and romano

  Now----get your dough rolled out or patted out or however you like to do it. Using a small fork, stick a bunch of holes throughout the crust-this will keep it from bubbling up and making your toppings slid off into the pan!   I made enough for 3-4 pizzas here--2 to take, and one for my son's supper. Happy Valentine's Day, man-child of my heart!  lol

  Next, using a spoon or a brush, divide your sauce amongst your crusts. Some people like a light sauce. My Irishman likes a lot of sauce.  So, you do what you like best.

 Now...assemble your pizzas !!  A couple of thoughts (from my experience) --you want to put spinach and things that can scorch easily closer to the bottom and covered up with cheese. I put the squash down there too, so it would absorb more liquids as everything cooked. Mushrooms and onions near the top. I put the minced garlic under the mushrooms too, because it scorches easily, and you're going to be cooking this pizza at 500 degrees. Here's what mine looked like before going into the oven:

(oops--same picture as the top one)

  I also shook a little extra parmesan on top and then crunbled a small handfull of my organic dried basil from my garden over the top of it all.

   Place pizza stone on the center rack of your oven. Preheat to 500ºF. Divide the dough into 2 equal balls. Place a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper on top of a round pizza pan or the back of a baking sheet. On the parchment paper, shape each into a 16-inch round, top as desired. Slide pizza onto the pizza stone ( you can pull the parchment out after the crust sets in about 2 to 3 minutes, or just leave it under there and let it cook right on it--it's easier to transport if you're taking it somewhere.). Bake until crust is golden, at least 15-20 minutes and maybe longer.

  I think next time I won't put the sun dried tomatoes on top. They carmelized a little. Tasted REALLY good, but didn't look as great as I'd like.  Or maybe soak them in the olive oil longer might help, because I really like them on top. Might have to make pizza again soon, so I can keep experimenting.  lol

  Pizza is a fun way to eat a lot of vegetables at a time. I don't like a lot of meats on pizzas, though I am partial to a hard salami with onions and mushrooms...mmmm.  lol

Bon Apetit !

Sarah is hosting a Homemade Mondays bloghop. Check it out !!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Pound cake, anyone ?

  This is one of my favorite recipes. One of my favorite desserts. It's an all around, multi-purpose kind of cake that pairs well with home canned peaches, raspberry sauce and whipped cream,  strawberries and cream in a trifle, or even just all by itself. 

  This recipe is more like a Half a Pound it only has half a pound of butter in it and  "only" 5 eggs.  Not like the old pioneer recipes that actually used a pound of everything-- maybe they baked them in bigger pans?  All I know is a couple of secrets to a good pound cake are  1) Real butter and 2) the kind of pan you bake it in.  

 When I first got this recipe from my friend Donna (about 1973)  I had a cast iron, enameled bundt pan that I ALWAYS baked it in. That pan has gotten lost in my travels somehow, and I haven't been able to find another one. I  replaced the aluminum one I have a couple of years ago  (that I hate--I almost never would use it because I do not cook in aluminum.)  I bought a pricey Pampered Chef stoneware one and it works as good as the cast iron.  That's my beauty in the picture. 

Okay--back to the recipe!!

 This is a recipe for Aunt Edna's Pound Cake. I believe that is Aunt Edna Sawyer, but I can't remember for sure.  Here's the list of ingredients :

        1/2 cup vegetable shortening
        2 sticks real butter
        3 cups sugar
        3 cups flour
        1 cup milk
        5 eggs
        1/2 tsp salt
        1/2 tsp. vanilla
        1/2 tsp lemon extract

 Okay. In a large mixing bowl,  cream the shortening and butter.  Add the sugar and cream again.

Blend in half the flour and half the milk. Mix well.   Then add the eggs--1 at a time-- with the remaining four and milk. MIx well after each addition.  Mix in the salt and flavorings and pour into an ungreased Bundt pan. (The heavier your pan, the better).

(As you can see, it fills it pretty full, but that's okay.)

Put into a cold oven and then bake it one hour at 325 degrees.  Then turn the heat up to 350 degrees and bake  30 minutes more.  Cool  in pan and turn out onto a cake plate--beautiful !!!!

I have to admit, this one got a little more brown than usual, because I...uh...well...I forgot about it for a bit while I was blogging !!!!   lol  It's still one of the most incredibly moist  and rich pound cakes I've come across.  I made this for the Irishman's birthday Friday. I will probably finish it up on Tuesday and cut it up to make a trifle to take to a potluck I'm attending with some women friends. Trifles are usually made with angel food cake, but they're every bit as good with pound cake.

  Try this recipe--you'll be glad you did !!

Bon Apetit !

Thursday, February 7, 2013


There's so much talk in blogland about Prepping. About Preppers. About Survivalists.  It scares me AND it certainly makes me think. A lot of people talk like this is something new, and it's not. I'm pretty sure that when our ancestors stored food for the winter, they weren't doing it for any reason besides an effort to ward off starvation.  Most people, from the beginning of time, have opted to LIVE through the winter when there wasn't any food growing out there. lol  One of the things that humans have evolved into is a a big gasbag of ego.  I am stunned by folks that think they invented all this stuff.  And I mean ANY of it...the "prepping", the fear, the techniques.  And I am as bad as anyone--don't get me wrong. I'm not necessarily pointing fingers here...just making observations. 

  My own personal stand here: (like you care, right??) lol  is as much this as anything: We have abused this planet for such a long time and the abuses are getting more and more toxic by the minute.  I have an opportunity to make  a difference in not only my own life, but in the life of Mother Earth. I have the opportunity to do this by nurturing and learning and acting wisely.  

 I prefer homesteading to prepping.  Mostly because, when I look up the word "stead" I get this definition:

tr.v., stead·ed, stead·ing, steads.
To be of advantage or service to; benefit.

  I can be of service, I can benefit, I can be an advantage.  OR--I can hurt and harm and take, take, take.  It's as much a spiritual philosophy as anything, isn't it ?

  When I read  Prepper blogs (which I don't much), I read about extremists a lot, who are stockpiling guns and rations and  supplies.  When I read homestead blogs, I read about real people, growing and putting up real food.  People co-existing with animals, and using them for food, and accepting the responsibilities that go with that.  People learning to live in harmony, not in fear that somebody is coming to take what's yours. 

 Before you start to think that I'm some kind of Pollyanna...I recognize that people who are scared do drastic things. If indeed things got so bad that people started looting and doing whatever they could to feed themselves and their families,  I'm sure it would affect people like me, who do what they can to keep a stocked pantry so my family doesn't go hungry.  Violence might be inevitable. Nobody knows. But my point is that we are not in that situation right now, but constantly focusing on that scenario might bring it sooner rather than later.  It's called Fear Mongering.  That's the stuff that scares me.

 I have a seed vault on my pantry shelf. I make plans every year for more diverse things to grow. I experiment with what I think does well in our ever changing seasons here in the midwest. I inventory my pantries to see what we used more of, or less of, or ran out of too soon. I make lists and I consider all these things. What do we like more? Which lettuce stayed good later into the summer and how did things do in the drought?  I buy canning supplies a little at a time all winter long. I gratefully accept donations of jars and rings by people cleaning out their basements and finding a "stash of old stuff that was my moms, that I have no use for".   I am reading and learning to save seeds. I am getting better and better at raising my own seedlings for the garden instead of buying them...although I do still buy some from the early Farmer's Markets.  Sometimes I buy things there that I don't REALLY need, because I want to spread the wealth around a little.  (Not that I'm wealthy, by any stretch of the imagination, lol..but you know what I mean.)   Someone asked me once if I tithed at church. I said, well....I don't go to church, but I tithe at the farmers market all the time.  lol

  I'm not sure what got me started on this little rant today.  Maybe it's not really a rant, just part of the process of looking inside myself. People say to me all the tme "Why would you put yourself through all this work, when you can just buy this stuff at the store?"  They don't understand.  Some days, I don't understand either.  But that doesn't change anything for me. My heart is in this. I love good healthy organic food. I love getting my hands filthy dirty.  I love gathering eggs every morning.

 I love the feeling that I'm part of something bigger and better and healthier than the status quo.  I love my liuttle piece of dirt out here on Honeysuckle Hill and my fruit trees that I planted myself and my modest little cottage.  I love the blackberries that grow wild and the raspberries that didn't.  I love making peach jam every year and  eating it in the dead of winter...getting that feeling on my tongue of July in the middle of February.  I love making supper and going into the pantry and carrying out jars of green beans and tomatoes and pickled okra.  It feeds my soul.  

 It's a good life. One based on love and service and trust and hard work. And I think I'll keep doing it as long as possible.  We raise chickens and we eat the eggs and the straw and manure nourish the soil. We compost everythng we can and that goes into the soil as well.  We garden organically without the use of pesticides and chemicals, so we know exactly what we're eating.  We live and we learn and we give it all we've got. And most years we prosper and some years we don't. And it's all okay.  It's the circle of life.

  I wouldn't trade it for anything.

  Happy 'Steading, everyone !

Monday, February 4, 2013

Harvest Mondays

 Hmmm...not much harvesting going on this time of year, here in Illinois. This time of year the soil rests and the snow and rain and dying vegetation feeds everything.

  I am harvesting a good number of eggs still...I have a little mixed flock of 7 hens and so far this winter they are still doing a pretty good job of keeping me supplied with eggs. I have [preserved some eggs too...about 7 or 8 dozen back there, I think. You can keep eggs without refrigeration for a long time, as long as they haven't been washed and you coat them with shortening or an oil to keep the porous shells sealed. Anyway...

  So, the harvest for me today is eggs.  One of my favorite dishes to make when we have an abundance of this harvest (eggs) is:

A dish called  Trouchia.  It's basically a frittata, an unfolded omelet of sorts. But this one was so awesome, and I made Mary's scones to go with it, along with some country gravy.  The dish itself is almost (but not quite!) caramelized onions,  minced garlic, ribbon sliced chard (or kale, if your husband goes out to the garden for chard and comes in with a big bowl of kale...sigh....) 6 eggs, shredded parmesan and romano cheese (recipe called for gruyere and parmesan but I didn't have that, and this was a great taste anyway).  You cook the onions until translucent, then add the garlic and greens. I added about a teaspoon of honey, to sweeten the kale a little, since it wasn't chard (lol). Cook this until tender and then add fresh ground black pepper and sea salt.  I did all this in my big cast iron skillet, by the way.  It is a well seasoned skillet, so I wasn't too worried about the eggs sticking badly, even with all the cheese. I scrambled the eggs up nicely, added about a cup of the parm/romano mixture and then poured it into the skillet, over the top of the greens/onion mix.  I used EVOO to saute the stuff in, and added a little extra before pouring the eggs in. Give it a little stir to combine things nicely, then turn down the heat and let the eggs set. Top this with shredded parmesan cheese, and stick it under the broiler a few minutes. Oh. My. God.  I made some country gravy to go over the biscuits while this was cooking and the result was magnificent. The combination of those onions and the slightly sweetened kale was to die for. 

  I don't have a picture of it right now, I don't think...but it was as gorgeous as it was tasty.  I think I will make one again tonight, and definitely take a picture and come back and post that.....

And THAT, is my Harvest Monday declaration !

(PS--Hop over to Daphe's Dandelions to get the low down on Harvest Mondays!!)