Sunday, January 27, 2013

How to make: Homemade Pizza

This is one of my favorite dinners!  Let me tell you, I love pizza sooo much.  I have been known to make statements such as "I could eat pizza every night and never get tired of it!"  Ok, that may be an overstatement, but that just shows how much I enjoy eating pizza!

Now, living in Chicago is rough for pizza eaters on a budget.  Back when I lived in Michigan, I was used to affordable pizza wherever you went.  Here, pizza is SOO much more expensive!  Because of this, I've been in the habit of periodically making my own pizzas at home.  It's much cheaper, you can put as many toppings on it as you want (none of this $2.50 per additional topping idiocy), and it's delicious!

I've adapted this recipe from over on the Food Network, and it works out great for me.  In this recipe I use all white bread flour, but you can use 1/2 white and 1/2 wheat to make wheat dough as well.  I'll post that sometime soon.

Gather your ingredients:

Pizza Dough
(Makes 6-8 medium thin pizzas or 3-4 large pizzas)

7 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons dry active yeast (or two packets)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
2 2/3 cup lukewarm water (~115 degrees)

Begin by sifting together your flour and salt in a large mixing bowl:

In a separate, medium sized bowl, add your sugar, olive oil, yeast, and warm water:

I don't trust myself to judge what "lukewarm" is, so I like to make sure with a thermometer.  About 115 degrees should do it.     

Once the wet mixture is together, give a light whisk, then let sit for 10 minutes to let the yeast "bloom"

Here's the yeast after 10 minutes, active and ready to go!

Make a well in your flour, and pour the wet mixture in all at once.

Using a fork, swirl and mix in the flour until all combined.  This process may take a while.

Keep mixing!

At a certain point, get your hands in there to start bringing the dough together.

When it's mostly combined, pour contents onto a floured working surface and start kneading to combine the rest of the flour.

Keep working, kneading...

Knead until you're left with a smooth, springy dough, about 5-7 minutes.

Now we need to let the dough rise.  Grease the inside of a bowl with olive oil:

And set your dough inside.  Cover with a damp towel and put in a warm place to rise.

My oven is relatively warm when it's off because of the pilot light.  I'm leaving my dough here to rise for one hour.

 Here's the dough after it has risen.  It's nearly doubled in size!

Here's the fun part:  PUNCH IT DOWN!  

Give the dough another quick knead to push the air out. You're ready to make pizza!  Cut off the portion that you want to use now.  I used about a 1/3 of this dough for my pizza tonight.

Roll out the dough and place in a pizza pan for baking.

Brush with olive oil:

Spread some sauce:

Add some mozzarella:

And any other toppings you want!  I have pepperoni and green pepper today.  Another fun addition (which I forgot to do, and wanted to try) would be to butter the crust and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  

Bake in a 450 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges start to brown slightly and the dough is cooked through.  And voila! You've got pizza!  

The rest of the dough can be cooked immediately or frozen for future pizza :)  Enjoy!

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Monday, January 21, 2013

I did something a little crazy today...

Hmm, something's new.

Can you tell what it is?

Let me see those guesses in the comments!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

How to make: Santa Fe Salad

New Year Resolution alert! Looking for something T-A-S-T-Y without feeling guilty?  I have just the thing.  You don't need butter for food to taste great, all you need are spices!  What a perfect way to use up the one pound of cumin I bought.  

yum yum yum:

Gather your ingredients...

Santa Fe Salad
2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes
4 cups chopped lettuce and spinach
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
the juice of one lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp chili powder
1 to 1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne (for your spice level)
1/4 tsp oregano 
pinch of salt and pepper
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup shredded cheese
chopped tomato, avocado, apple & cucumber for garnish
sour cream for garnish

To a large bowl, add garlic:

Lime Juice:


 All your spices, chili powder, cumin, chili flakes, cayenne, onion powder, salt, pepper & oregano

Add your chopped chicken and stir.  Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the chicken.

Cook and stir until the chicken is cooked.

In the meantime, prepare your salads by putting the lettuce/spinach mixture on your plates.

When the chicken is cooked, add to the salad.  Top with shredded cheese, sour cream, and all your chopped 'fixins'!

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Cumin Overload

Look what I got at the store today:

This is one pound of cumin. I will use it all. Now I won't run out for a LOOONG time!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Winter Gardening

There's nothing like greenery around you in the dead of winter.  Just because it's cold outside, doesn't mean the plants stop growing!  

During the summer I attempt to grow a few things outside in pots, such as tomatoes, basil, peppers, and other herbs.  Back when I lived in Michigan I had a GLORIOUS garden with zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, peas, pumpkins and green peppers.  My basil used to grow insanely well and get about waist high.  I unfortunately do not have "land" to grow things in here in Chicago, because I live in an apartment, so I try to make due with pots.  It's definitely not ideal, but it's better than nothing.  Usually I am successful with this stuff, aside from this past season when my tomatoes were infested and devoured by tomato worms.  I discovered this too late to do anything for my poor tomatoes.  There's always next summer...

HOWEVER, I started two pots of basil last summer that officially do not want to die.  Usually the basil will  start to look shabby and lose all it's leaves by the end of fall and beginning of winter, and then you start fresh next year.  But, when I brought my plants in at the end of last summer, I procrastinated cleaning out the pots and left the basil be.  Lo and behold!  THE BASIL REFUSES TO DIE:

It keeps growing new leaves and getting bigger again!  Granted, this second coming of basil is definitely not the strong, healthy basil that grows in the summer.  The leaves are a little droopy and it looks kind of sad.  However, I've decided to let it keep going and see what it does.  I really haven't even eaten much of it this winter.

Another thing I've been growing is some Sweet Oats (cat grass) for Oliver.  Have you ever noticed that your house cat likes to eat your plants?  Or that they will gorge on grass when you take them outside?  Well, cats have this urge because there may be a nutritional component they are craving/or need.  By supplying this with grass MEANT for cats, your cat will be less inclined to ruin your houseplants.

This type of grass is different from regular grass that grows outside.  These are sweet oats, and it's meant for cats!  Which means:  No throw up!  Well at least in my experience.  I'll let Oliver graze on the grass, and I make sure he doesn't have too much.  To this point, we haven't had any issues with throwing up, as a cat might have from eating regular grass.

And can I tell you?  He LOVES IT.  He's so spoiled.  I keep the grass up in the window by the kitchen sink and Oliver KNOWS it's there.  Whenever I am simply standing by the sink, whether it's washing dishes or doing something else, he'll come up to me and start "MRRROWING" for some cat grass.  I feel good giving it to him, because it's not like cat treats that might make him fat(ter) or something, it's an all natural treat!  See for yourself:

In addition to these plants, Andy and I own a multitude of Jade plants that are scattered throughout the apartment.  These are really easy to keep alive, especially in the winter months.  Jades do not need as much water in the winter, so they only really need to be watered every 2-3 weeks.

I also have some chives that I've been attempting to keep alive.  It's the middle plant above.  I stole this little chive plant from my mom's garden (HI MOM!) and so far it hasn't died.  Even though I really almost killed it numerous times.  (dropped it, repotted it late, forgot to water it, didn't change the soil)  Incidentally the soil at my mom's house is really weird, like clay.  When I water this thing the water runs right through it and hardly stays in the dirt.  It doesn't really work well for a plant in a pot.  I'll have to change the soil in the spring, I don't dare do it now, because then it might REALLY die!

I also have been growing this Thyme plant for about a year from a seed and it's really starting to fill out and  look great!  It really enjoys being in this window, even though it doesn't get much sunlight this time of year:

If you liked this or you have some of your own winter gardening stories, let me know in the comments!  And don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Friday, January 4, 2013

I turned 30 today.

I'm not sure how I feel about this.  I'd say I'm about halfway "don't care" and halfway "I'M OLLLD!"  Really, nothing has changed from yesterday to today other than the fact that I have now been on this earth for three decades.  However, looking at just the last decade in particular, I am wowed by how much of a different person I am today than when I was 20 and how much has changed:

Ten years ago, I was just beginning to find myself in college, after a few hiccups getting started.  I met some lifelong friends, decided on a new major and shed some of the "teenage angst" from the previous decade.  When I was 20 I began "seeing" Andy (we don't really have an anniversary) and our friendship grew to love. We were married in 2010!

Over the past ten years I moved many times, from California back to Michigan and now in Illinois.  After embarking on a failed career in my original major, I made the crazy decision to throw caution to the wind and pursue a PhD in Clinical Psychology, despite never having taken any psychology classes before.  I made that decision in 2007-2008, and now we're here, in 2012, against all odds, I am now in my 3rd year of this program and still going strong.  I can tell you, even though this seems crazy to all of you, I can say without a doubt, I made the right decision and this career makes me very happy.

The past 10 years have seen some big changes in my life, and although some of those times really sucked, other times were not so bad!  Although my life is no where close to where I "planned" it should be, I wouldn't change it for the world.  I'm excited about all the things the next decade will bring and the next stages in my life.  Graduation, career, family, etc, etc, etc!

Happy Birthday to Me!

PS:  I made this hat. Faaaaabulous!!!

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