The Crust
July 29, 2011, 1:54 am
Filed under: Breads, Food and Recipes | Tags: , , ,

Pizza is all about the crust, and this crust is top notch. It makes homemade pizza an awesome weeknight staple, can get the kids involved in helping with dinner by adding toppings, and makes enough to feed a large hungry family or enough for leftovers the next day.

My favorite breakfast?? Cold leftover pizza and coffee…

Jamie Oliver’s Pizza Dough
Recipe courtesy of The Wednesday Chef

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons table salt
1 packet (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water

1. Combine yeast, sugar, oil, and water in a bowl, stir, and let sit until it’s foamy. Mix together your flour and salt together in a large bowl, make a well in the middle, and pour in your liquid yeast mixture. Using a fork, stir your liquid mixture, bringing in small amounts of flour, until you have a shaggy kind of mess. Dump out onto a floured board and knead all together for about 5 minutes, until it comes together into a smooth dough.

2. Wash out your bowl you mixed the dough in, dry it, and drizzle in a little olive oil to coat the bowl. Place in the ball of dough, turning it over to coat it with oil as well, cover it with a towel, and stash it in a warm space in your kitchen. Let it rise an hour until doubled in size.

3. After the rising, turn the dough out onto a floured surface, slightly punching down the dough, or pushing some of the air out of it. Cut the dough into two equal portions. Each piece is enough to be stretched and pressed into a sheet pan that has been coated with nonstick spray. Will make 2 thin pizzas. If you prefer a thicker pizza dough, just use the whole ball of dough in one sheet pan instead of dividing it between two.

4. Cover with toppings of choice, crank your oven up to 500 degrees, and bake your pizza on the sheet pan until browned, bubbly, and delicious.


June 23, 2011, 4:33 pm
Filed under: Breads, Food and Recipes, Main Dishes | Tags: , , ,

Last night, in the cooler, but still sweltering humidity, my husband and I did a first. We grilled pizzas.

I thought it would be a perfect time to share these, since July 4th is right around the corner. They were delicious! Once again, weber grill recipes never disappoint, this pizza tasted like it was straight from a brick oven!

Grilled Pizza
Recipe slightly adapted from Weber Grill IPhone App

Dough recipe:
2 to 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup warm water
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 packet dry active yeast
3 tbsp olive oil

Pizza topping ideas:
Tomato sauce
Red pepper flakes
Dried oregano
Shredded mozzarella
Goat cheese
Chopped basil
Canadian bacon
Green bell pepper or roasted red peppers

1. In a large bowl, mix together yeast, sugar, and water. Stir, and allow to sit for 10 minutes until foamy. Add remaining salt, oil, and 2 cups flour. Stir until dough forms. If still slightly wet, add remaining 1/2 cup flour.

2. On a floured surface, knead dough for 5 minutes, or until it becomes smooth. Place in a greased bowl and allow to rise in a warm part of the room for 1 and 1/2 hours, or until doubled in size.

3. After rising, cut dough into 4 equal pieces. On a piece of parchment, press or roll each piece of dough into an 8 inch round.

4. Preheat your grill, either charcoal or gas. Take dough and grill each piece (without the parchment of course) over direct heat for a few minutes, until browned a crispy. Remove crust, placing grilled side up, onto a baking sheet. Cover with desired toppings (take care not to soak the pizzas with tomato sauce, you don’t want them soggy). Place back onto grill, lid on, and allow to cook a few more minutes for the other side of the dough to get brown and crisp, cheese to melt, and toppings to warm though.

5. Remove, slice, serve.



The No Knead Revolution, Take 2
May 16, 2011, 5:17 pm
Filed under: Breads, Food and Recipes | Tags: , , ,

Back in November, I shared a recipe with you to make beautifully crusty bread from your very own oven. Simplicity at it’s best, the recipe required very little effort, just a little amount of planning.

For my birthday this year, I received an early present from my dad: Jim Lahey’s bread cookbook, a bread oven, and a bread rising basket.

I’ve always been big into wheat breads. I feel like they are slightly more gentle on my waistline and I just love their flavor. So I’m back with another no-knead bread to share. The same base recipe is the same except the swap with a little whole wheat flour. The method is also the same. I used my new clay bread oven and a rising basket to achieve those cute little ridges, but armed with a Dutch oven and a plain bowl, you’ll be just fine.

So get into your kitchen. A little prep and some thinking in advance, and you too can have your crusty warm bread fix.

Jim Lahey’s Whole Wheat No Knead Bread
Recipe courtesy of My Bread by Jim Lahey

2 1/4 cup bread flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/3 cup cool water
Additional flour for dusting

1. The night before you want the bread, combine all ingredients together in a bowl and stir until well blended and a dough ball forms. Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and stash in your oven (with everything turned off, you just want a non-drafty place) overnight or for 12 to 18 hours.

2. The day of the bread, remove the bread from the bowl using a bowl scraper or spatula onto a well floured surface. Fold the bread over onto itself a couple times gently, lifting the edges over to the center. Turn so that bread is seam side down and tuck under edges to make a general rough round shape. Place dough seam side down into a well floured bowl or onto a well floured towel. Cover lightly with a towel and allow to rise another 1-2 hours.

3. 30 minutes before the dough is ready, take your bread oven or regular dutch oven and lid and place into your oven. Set the oven to 475 degrees and allow to preheat. After 30 minutes, remove the dutch oven from the oven, remove the lid, and carefully flip the bread into the hot dutch oven. If bread lands unevenly, give the pot a shake to allow it to settle. Place the lid back on and the dutch oven back into your oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for another 15 to 30, or until the bread is deeply golden.

4. Remove the dutch oven from the oven, allow the bread to cool slightly, and then using a spatula, transfer bread to a cooling rack. Allow to fully cool before slicing.

Bread is great sliced for sandwiches or served with dinner simply smeared with a pat of butter. Need more instruction? Reference the earlier post on no knead bread and you find a link to a video to watch Jim Lahey make the bread himself.

Tea Time Revamped
February 8, 2011, 6:14 pm
Filed under: Appetizers, Breads, Breakfast, Dessert, Drinks, Food and Recipes | Tags: , , ,

I have a friend that has recently blogged a whole month about tea and tea related themes. It’s been such a pleasure reading all those posts! I’d highly suggest you checking them out if you are looking for a fun read.

One of my favorite tea time treats is a scone. I’ve blogged about them before. Being on weight watchers, however, I’ve had to find a new, lighter base recipe.

After a recent trip to SAMs, I saw a container of pomegranate seeds, and remembered a recipe I had read some time ago on a blog called Gina’s Skinny Taste. Infamous for her easy, low fat recipes, I thought I would give them a shot. The result: a delicious, light, texturally pleasing scone. At only 5 WW points plus, I’d suggest having a stash on hand for those tea time cravings!

Pomegranate Scones
Recipe Courtesy of, and slightly adapted from, Gina’s Skinny Taste

1/2 cup fat free half and half, plus a splash more reserved for topping
1/4 cup vanilla sugar (see recipe below)
2 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsp chilled butter, cut into bits
1 cup pomegranate seeds
cooking spray

1. Preheat your oven to 375.

2. Combine AP flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to combine, set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together half and half, sugar, zest, vanilla, and egg until thoroughly combined, set aside.

3. Take your butter, and either using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut butter into the flour mixture until the butter is the size of small peas. Sprinkle in pomegranate seeds into the dry mixture and toss around. Make a well in the flour mixture, pour in the wet mixture, and stir until just combined. Be careful as to not burst the pomegranate seeds. The batter may look slightly shaggy and crumbly, that’s okay.

4. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until just combined. No more than 12 times (I swear by this; it makes the most tender scones). The dough will be very damp and sticky. Just flour your hands and board well.

5. Shape the dough into approximately an 8 inch circle. Cut into 10 triangles. Place your triangles on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush the tops with the reserved fat free half and half. Bake 18-20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve alongside your favorite tea or coffee.

Vanilla Sugar

Sugar, amount as desired
Vanilla Bean, amount as desired

In a large bowl, combine desired amount of sugar (2-3 cups) and a split vanilla bean. Place the lid on, shake to combine, and allow to sit in the pantry. The sugar will absorb the light vanilla flavor. Anytime you empty out a vanilla pod for a dessert, dry the pod, and throw into the sugar. When the sugar level gets low, simply add more! It’s simple. Uses? Sprinkled on strawberries, substitution for normal sugar in desserts, as a topping for creme brulee. The possibilites are endless!

January 10, 2011, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Breads, Food and Recipes, Main Dishes | Tags: , , , ,

Well, it officially snowed here in Memphis. Like officially. In fact, one week later, we still have snow sitting on the ground that has not melted. Here’s a few pictures I took the morning after the fall…

I spent a few days this past weekend going through my huge stack of recipes, reorganizing, sorting, throwing away the bad and keeping the old. I found a lot of recipes that were forgotten and a few that made me wonder why I ever set it back to be made, because after reading it the second go around, it definitely did not sound good.

One of the good recipes that I came across was a recipe for a Slow Cooker Chili. With the snow still sitting heavily on the ground, and temperatures forcasted in the teens, it seemed proper to have this simmering all day. I think the recipe (written on an index card) came from an older issue of Everyday Food from Martha Stewart. I had to modify the ingredients slighty to make it more Weight Watchers friendly and because there were a few ingredients I didn’t have in my pantry.

On the side, a nice cast iron skillet of cornbread. My grandmother would be proud. Hope you all enjoy!

Slow Cooker Chili
Recipe adapted from Everyday Food Magazine and Martha Stewart
8 WW Points Plus a serving, makes 6 large servings total

1 lb of 90/10 ground beef
1 can mild chili beans
1 can cannellini beans
1 can Rotel brand tomatoes, original style
1 can diced tomatoes
1 16 oz jar medium salsa
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, brown ground beef. Drain, add to the slow cooker.

2. In the same skillet, saute onions and bell pepper until soft and onions are translucent. Add to slow cooker.

3. Add beans, tomatoes, salsa, and spices to the skillet. Taste, season with salt as necessary. I had to add a couple teaspoons kosher salt. Give the whole big pot a stir. It will appear overly thick, but will thin out as it cooks and the juices mingle together from all the vegetables.

4. Cook on low for 10-12 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with cornbread (see following recipe).

Cast-Iron Buttermilk Cornbread
Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook, 4th edition
3 WW Points Plus per serving, serves 12

1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 tsp sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup, plus 2 tbsp skim milk
1 tsp lemon juice
1 large egg

1. Preheat your oven to 400. Set a 12 inch cast iron skillet over medium-high heat to be heating. Mix milk and lemon juice and set to the side (**hint, the recipe originally calls for low-fat buttermilk, but to decrease the fat further, I substituted skim milk. Also, I never have buttermilk in the fridge. So, to create faux buttermilk, you can always add 1 tsp lemon juice to any milk you have, stir, and allow to sit for about 5 minutes and, voila, buttermilk!)

2. Mix together dry ingredients, whisking to combine. Add milk and egg, and stir just until combined and moistened.

3. Check cast iron skillet to make sure it’s hot. If it is, proceed. If not, wait a couple minutes more.

4. Spray your cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Pour in cornbread batter and allow to sit in the skillet for 1-2 minutes (This method develops a SUPER crispy crust). Transfer to your pre-heated oven and allow to bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Slice and serve warm, alongside chili.

The No Knead Revolution
November 28, 2010, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Breads, Food and Recipes | Tags: , , ,

I’m quite aware that I have been bombarding you with recipes the past few days. This is partly due to the fact that I have been making so many good things lately and partly due to being sick on the couch and leaving me plenty of time for blogging.

I’m a little late on the trend, but I came across this recipe about a month ago, and have been wanting to make it ever since. I am now officially sorry that I have not made it sooner, and I am officially sorry that I have not shared it with until now.

I have been baking my own bread for quite some time. I find it relaxing, and I love the thought of my own bread coming from my own oven. I also feel as though bread is an artistic venture. Not one loaf from person to person is the same. That is to say that my bread, is my bread, and none other. It gives me a certain sense of pride in what I create. That said, I have been on the search for a rustic sourdough like loaf, wanting a yield of crisp crust, fluffy interior, and something of an artisan nature.

Folks, this is it. And, for the effort, you can’t beat it.

I have spent the past two days largely ignoring a bowl of fermenting yeast and it has given me the best bread that has ever exited my oven. This recipe originates from Jim Lahey, and is a recipe for a no knead bread. There’s no fuss to it, there’s hardly any ingredients, and by baking it in a dutch oven, you get bakery like results. It is amazing. Hey you…go bake this now. I’m serious. You’ll want to start it the night before you actually want it!

Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread
Recipe courtesy of Jim Lahey, of Sullivan Street Bakery, and Mark Bittman, New York Times food writer
Do better visually? Here’s a video of how to make the bread here.
Yield: One 1½-pound loaf.

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Nothing Like It

Nothing says that it’s the Holiday season to me like baked goods. Perhaps this is because of my childhood experiences. My grandmother loved Christmas. To say how much she loved it is almost an understatement in and of itself. She decorated every inch of the house, the outside was the most lighted on the block, and we had an annual sugar cookie decorating night. Everything I love about this season, cooking, and serving others through food is rooted in her.

My husband grew up having homemade cinnamon rolls around the holidays. I figured what better to combine our traditions than making some homemade cinnamon rolls and having brunch the day we decorated our Christmas tree.

I found this recipe via one of my favorite cooking magazines, Bon Appetit, and one of my favorite food writers, Molly Wizenberg. I’d highly recommend her book, A Homemade Life, to you.

Because Molly’s recipes are always spot on for me, I didn’t alter this recipe hardly at all. I only added a touch of milk to the icing to make it pourable consistency. The icing will get thicker as it sits on the cinnamon rolls and cools. You’ll need to plan these slightly in advance, as they do take some time to prepare. However, I promise your efforts will be highly rewarded.

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing
Recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine and Molly Wizenberg
Makes 18 servings (don’t even think about the weight watchers points on these; it’s a holiday)

1 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
1 teaspoon salt
Nonstick vegetable oil spray

3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tbsp milk

For dough:
Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 21/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling:
Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl.

Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool 10 minutes. Add glaze.

For glaze:
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, and milk in a medium bowl. Using electric mixer or whisk, beat until smooth. Should have a pourable consistency. If not, add a touch more milk. Pour glaze on rolls, spread over the rolls with a knife or offset spatula to make sure each area is covered. Serve warm or at room temperature.