Thursday, March 31, 2011

Homemade Pizza

Homemade pizza is not as difficult as you would think.  And thanks to a fairly new product, it doesn’t take as long as it used to!  I’m talking about my favorite new product—Fleischmann’s Pizza Crust Yeast.  There’s almost no rising time (none if you follow their directions, 20-30 minutes if you follow mine, below) and it doesn’t spring back when you’re trying to roll it out!  There’s just a few minutes kneading instead of 15 or longer.  No bread machine is needed.  And you can get a little one to help if he/she is needing something constructive to do!  And…it’s delicious!  My recipe is basically the one on the package with some minor changes made.     

1 ¾ - 2 ½ cups bread flour (all-purpose is okay if that’s all you have but bread flour is best) 
1 envelope pizza crust yeast 
1 ½ teaspoon sugar 
¾ teaspoon salt 
2/3 cup very warm water (120 – 130 degrees) 
3 tablespoons oil  

Combine 1 cup flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.  Stir in water and oil.  Mix together until well blended (about 1 minute).   Gradually add ½ cup flour until soft dough ball is formed.  Add more flour if needed.    

Knead on a floured surface, adding more flour as needed until smooth & elastic (about 4 minutes).  Honestly, I just knead enough flour into it until it’s not so sticky.  It’s probably more like 2 or 3 minutes.   

Grease pizza pan (I swear by a stone but a regular pan is okay too).  Sprinkle some cornmeal on pan.  Press dough out to fill pan or roll dough to 12-inch circle (or desired size/thickness).  Top with desired sauce (I use spaghetti sauce) and toppings.  Let sit for 20-30 minutes.  You can skip this sitting time…it will still be great but not as thick and soft (which you might prefer!).   

Bake on bottom rack at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until done.      

Think outside the box when making pizza…   

Different meat ideas… 
Drizzle chopped chicken with some Italian dressing and sprinkle on pizza 
Use ham or cooked and drained bacon   

Different sauce ideas… 
Use some prepared ranch or Italian dressing (great for crust dipping too!) 
Use alfredo sauce   

Use different cheeses… 
Add some cheddar to the mozzarella 
Monterey Jack or Provolone (especially yummy with the ranch or alfredo sauce)   

To save some money and time, use pre-chopped frozen onions and peppers.  I found a bag on sale (85 cents for a pound!) that is a nice mix of green and red pepper and white onion (it’s a pepper stir-fry mix).  No chopping and a lot cheaper than fresh.  And it seemed to bake a bit softer, which we like.    

To encourage little ones to eat more than just cheese on theirs, make faces or other designs.  I’ve included a picture of the faces we made with red and green pepper.  We got the idea from High Five Magazine, where they suggested using black olives for eyes, a broccoli floret for the nose, and red pepper for the smile.  I used a large circle cookie cutter but anything would do.  You want it bigger than a biscuit.  So, a small bowl could be used or a wide-mouth jar or ring…anything!  Josie was so excited when it was time to eat her pizza!  And she sucked down the pepper without batting an eye (very surprising!).     

My Calzone Story…   

I had a friend (Delores Bailey) over for lunch one day and put together a beautiful pizza for us to eat.  I went to put it in the preheated oven when it slipped and fell face-down on the inside of the very-hot oven door.  I laughed and started scraping it off and was ready to throw it away when Delores said something like, “Couldn’t we still eat it?”  I said something like, “Well if you’re brave enough to eat it off my nasty oven door, sure!”  I couldn’t do a pizza because a lot of the cheese had to be thrown away (admittedly, much of it was stuck in my oven door!) and I didn’t have enough to cover the crust.  Naturally the crust wasn’t really a pizza shape anymore.  So I made a calzone out of it!  It was quite tasty and I started getting excited about all the things I could do with calzones! LOL  

Here’s one “recipe” I came up with…   

Meat Mixture: Ground beef (maybe 1-1 ½ cup), cooked 
Squirt of Italian Dressing 
Spaghetti Sauce (just enough to kind of make the beef a little saucey) 
Cheese (I like cheddar)   

Place on half of dough rolled out into a circle.  Cover with cheese.  Fold dough over and seal (just smush the dough together well).  

Bake on bottom rack at 375 for 20-30 minutes or until done.   

Some calzone ideas… 
Chicken, peppers, onions, ranch dressing 
Minute steak, peppers, onions, mayo 
Ham & cheese 
Breakfast:  scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, cheese, etc.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cucumber Sandwiches

This recipe came from Jeanie Sanders (or was her mom?) when we were doing tea parties together on a regular basis.  These are easy and cheap to make.  People usually rave over them.  Definitely not your typical cucumber sandwich!  

White loaf bread (for 50 sandwiches, you will need about 1 1/2 loaves, depending on how many roundsyou can cut out of each piece of bread--this is based on two per piece of bread)
2 cucumbers (regular, with seeds) 
Zesty Italian dressing 
1 block of cream cheese, softened 
1/3-1/2 cup sour cream 
garlic salt to taste (or garlic powder and salt)

Cut the loaf bread into circles using a cookie cutter (about the size of the cucumber), making 50 bread rounds.  This can be done the day before and placed in a ziplock bag.    

The night before: Slice the cucumbers as thinly as possible, making about 50 slices.  Place in a plastic or glass bowl (you will need a lid).  Pour dressing over the slices until well covered.  Marinate in the refrigerator overnight.  Cream the cream cheese and add enough sour cream to make a spreading consistency.  Add garlic salt to taste.

Soon before serving:  Place the cucumber slices in a single layer on a double layer of paper towels.  Place another double layer of paper towels on top and press to dry the cucumbers.  Spread the cream cheese/sour cream mixture onto the bread rounds.  Top with a cucumber slice.  Serve.  

You can prepare these a couple of hours ahead of time, placing plastic wrap between layers and over the top, then leave in the refrigerator until time to serve.  You can also color the cream cheese mixture with a little green food coloring, which is really pretty with the cucumber slice on top (the green shows through).  

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen Book Review

By Teri Edwards & Serena Thompson

In Country Living Magazine I kept seeing advertisements for The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen.  It looked like a fun book but since I don’t buy many books these days, I tried not to think about it.  On a rare trip to the library alone (it’s not rare that I go, just rare that I go alone!), I decided to look at the cookbook section.  I’m so glad I did!  Much to my delight, I discovered they had a copy of The Farm Chicks book!  I snatched it up and couldn’t get to the check-out counter quick enough!

What a delightful book!  It’s not just a cookbook.  There’s easy craft ideas.  Both of the authors wrote an autobiography with interesting tidbits about their growing-up lives (both grew up in the country, which I’m sure you could tell by the name of the book).  They also share stories about some of the people they’ve met on their travels of back-road-America.  And the recipes!  Oh my!  They aren’t really average but they’re not out-there either.  They are useful and unique.  I’ve already tried two recipes:  Big and Chewey Peanut Butter Cookies (they’re best with some milk chocolate chips stirred into them) and Elaine’s Farm Style Chicken Salad Sandwiches.  I have several others I’m definitely going to try.  It’s definitely a must-read!  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Easiest Biscuits I've Ever Made

I got this out of the Relish magazine that comes in our local paper.  They're so easy and really good!  They were a bit dry the first time I made them.  The second time I made them, I added a little milk (1-2 tablespoons) and I heated my iron skillet in the oven and let 1 tablespoon margarine melt in it.  Then I placed the biscuits in the pan and baked according to directions.

2 cups self-rising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt)
1 cup whipping cream (heavy cream)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine flour and cream in a mixing bowl, stirring just until blended. The dough will be a little stiff. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead 10 times. Roll to 1/2 inch thickness and cut with a 2-inch cutter. Place biscuits close together on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes. Makes 12 biscuits.  

Note:  I only ended up with 10 biscuits but I admit to giving Josie some dough to play with.  I would have had about 11 if I hadn't done that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lyn's Banana Nut Bread

This came from my friend Kat Garrett.  She gifted my family with a loaf last week and it was wonderful!  Of course with the icing, it's delectable.  However, the bread is so moist and yummy by itself!  I'm giving this to you like she sent it to me.

3 cups sugar
1 cup butter
4 eggs
3 TBSP buttermilk (i use regular milk)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 cups mashed, overly ripe bananas (about 6 bananas- i always freeze my overly ripe bananas and save them for bread...the frozen banana seems to help with moistness in the bread...i defrost them in a bowl and they mix up well in the batter)
1 cup pecans (i used walnuts)
1 TBSP vanilla

Cream butter, sugar, and eggs. Add buttermilk and dry ingredients. Blend well. Add bananas and nuts.

Bake in a greased and floured tube pan, or 2 loaves.

Bake loaves at 350 for 55 min.
Bake tube pan at 350 for 1 hour 10 min.
Adjust baking time according to your oven :)

Optional Cream cheese icing (looks pretty with tube pan, not as much with the loaf...i just started adding the icing but it's optional :P)
1 1/2 packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Dash of salt (maybe 1/8 tsp?)
chopped nuts

Add icing to bread once cooled and sprinkle additional nuts and cut bananas on top if you like. :) Hope you enjoy! :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Crunchy Bottomed Taco Pie

This was something I threw together tonight for supper.  I’ve had the traditional taco pie where the cornbread was on top.  I thought about doing that but then I remembered that my favorite part of cornbread is the crunchy bottom.  So a recipe was born.  

The cornbread in this is made the southern way (white cornmeal, no sugar) and is my “recipe” for cornbread.  You could probably do it the “other” or “northern” (or dare I say “Yankee”?) way if you wanted to (a Jiffy mix could probably be used as well).    I’d love to do with my Mother-In-Law’s cornbread (with cheese, onions, jalepenos, and cheese).    

The cornbread part was a bit thick, which I like but you may not.  So you could make less cornbread batter or add more meat.  It was also really cheesy (again, I liked it that way) so if you want to reduce the amount of cheese, you can.    

Cornbread Crust: 
1 ½ cups self-rising white cornmeal 
½ cup all-purpose flour 
¾ cup buttermilk (3/4 cup milk and ½ tablespoon lemon juice, let sit 10 minutes) 
1 large egg 
1-2 tablespoons oil   

Heat the oil in an iron skillet on 400 until skillet is hot (I was bad and used bacon grease).  Mix ingredients together.  Remove skillet from oven, pour hot oil into mixture and stir together quickly.  Pour mixture into skillet.   

Meat topping: 
¾ pound ground beef cooked and drained 
1 packet taco seasoning (for 1 pound meat) water needed as directed on the seasoning packet 
1 ½ cup shredded cheese (I had about ½ cup cheddar and 1 cup Monterey jack)   

Cook meat, seasoning, and water according to directions on packet.  You can add some onions and whatever other veggies you want to (I just didn’t have time to do this).   Sprinkle seasoned meat on top of cornbread mixture.  Sprinkle cheese over meat.    Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or until cornbread is done and bottom is nicely browned.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Homemade Playdough

I thought of this recipe this afternoon while my kids were happily playing with some.  It’s so easy and economical to make.  In my opinion, it’s much more fun to play with than the store-bought kind.  Plus, if my kids eat it then I don’t have to panic since I know exactly what’s in it.  The ingredients are very basic so I always have them on hand and we can mix up a batch when needed.  Let the kids help (they can at least help measure stuff out) and they’ll think it’s really neat that they helped make their own playdough (or at least Josie does!).   

1 cup flour 
½ cup salt 
2 tablespoons cream of tartar 
2 tablespoons oil 
1 cup water   

Mix flour, salt, and cream of tartar; add oil.  Slowly add water and stir together.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until dough becomes stiff.  Turn out onto wax paper and let cool.  Knead the playdough with your hands until proper consistency.    Add food coloring while kneading, if desired.   Store in a ziplock bag.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Low-Fat (but Yummy!!!) Strawberry Cake

This came from my friend Kim at Bible Study.  My mom and Richard have this pretty often.  It's so yummy you probably wouldn't know it was low-fat!
Strawberry Cake Mix, made with applesauce in place of oil and 3 egg whites.
Bake in 9x13 pan according to the directions. Poke holes in cake and pour about 1 cup pureed strawberries over cake.
For Frosting:
Mix 1 small box of sugar free vanilla pudding with one cup of fat free or light cool whip (8 oz.)
Spread on cooled cake.  We love the cream cheese flavor pudding also.  

Mexican Chicken

This is one of my mom’s recipes.  It’s great for pot-lucks or when you have company since it feeds several people.         

4 chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes (this is an old recipe—I feel like the size of breasts have gotten so big that two would likely be enough) 
10 flour tortillas (the smaller ones) 
1/3 cup green chili salsa 
1 can chili (no beans) 
1 can cream of chicken soup 
1 can cream of mushroom soup 
1 medium onion, chopped 
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese 
¾ cup shredded Monterey jack cheese   

Place cut up chicken in a 9x13 pan (spray with non-stick spray).  Tear tortillas into bite size pieces; place over chicken.  Mix salsa, chili, soups, and onion together.  Pour over tortillas.  Top with cheeses.  Bake at 350 for 1 hour. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

No-Bake Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

My dear friend Delores Bailey gave me this recipe years ago (I even remember the first time she made them for me). I have some wonderful memories of us making them together and hopefully we’ll do so again soon!  

1 stick margarine
2 cups sugar
½ cup milk

Bring to hard boil on medium, boil for 1 ½ minutes (be sure to time it!).

¾ cup creamy peanut butter
3 cups quick oats

Stir peanut butter into sugar mixture until well mixed.  Stir in oats and drop by teaspoonfuls on wax paper.

I must admit sometimes these don’t set up but they’re yummy even when they don’t! If they don't set up, try refrigerating them overnight. After stirring in the oats, resist the temptation to add more in order to make them thicker. It just makes them dry. Yick.  

Baked Chicken Leg Quarters

This chicken is super tender and easy.  You just need some patience to let it bake long enough.  You can do the same with chicken breasts on the bone but you might need to bake it longer.  I’m sure the amount of time seems excessive but I’ve found that it takes a long time to get the meat so tender it melts in your mouth.  Feel free to alter the baking time to your preference though!

4 chicken leg quarters 
lemon pepper seasoning or seasoning of choice 

Place leg quarters in a 9x13 pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Sprinkle chicken with seasoning of choice.  Cover with foil.  Bake at 325 for 1 ½  to 2 hours (until the meat on the leg starts pulling away from the bone).  Uncover and bake long enough to brown the skin of the chicken.  I usually turn it up to 375 to brown the top and it takes 10-20 minutes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The best biscuits I ever made

A friend challenged me months ago.  She mentioned she was looking for a really good biscuit recipe.  I had to admit that I may be able to make good scones and other baked goods but biscuits weren't on my top ten list.  Since Austin likes biscuits, I do make them but they're tolerable at best.  Then I got a brainstorm!  My scones usually turn out great and they have real butter in them (instead of shortening or oil).  So a new recipe was born.  I admit I've only made these once but they turned out so well, I feel the recipe is worth sharing.  I'm sorry there won't be a picture.  That's disappointing because they not only tasted yummy but they were pretty too (which is saying a lot since biscuits, in my opinion, aren't generally ''pretty").

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick real butter (cold, salted, not unsalted), cut into small chunks
1 cup buttermilk (I put 1 tablespoon lemon juice in a measuring cup and added enough whole milk to make 1 cup, let it rest 10 minutes and stir)
1 tablespoon real butter

Place iron skillet into oven, heat at 400 degrees. Mix dry ingredients, add butter and cut in. Add buttermilk and stir just until combined. Pat out on floured surface and cut into desired shape. Remove skillet and add 1 tablespoon butter. Let melt, tilting pan to coat bottom. Add biscuits. Bake until done (15-20 minutes?).

**NOTE: You can use self-rising flour in place of all-purpose, omit the baking powder and salt.  If you think it needs more milk, add some (if you made your own buttermilk, you can just use some plain milk).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

And here I go...

So I’ve started a blog.  I agonized over the name.  I wanted something catchy (no luck!) that would describe what I hope my blog will encompass.  The problem is I’m not sure yet what it will encompass.  If you know me, then you will know that recipes will be a part of my blog.  That’s a given.  Tea stuff.  Tips and tricks around the house.  Musings (or, more aptly, “mumblings”) of mommy-hood.  Lessons I’m learning.  There will probably be pictures.  I might start taking pictures of the recipes I make (but don’t expect step-by-step pictures since I’m on dial-up).  There will probably be a few garden pictures this summer and maybe even a picture of my very-special-made-by-my-wonderful-husband clothesline (likely loaded with diapers or sheets).  Let’s just say it’ll be my life.  In blog form.  For all to see.  Hmmm…kind of scary.  Let the blogging begin…