Friday, November 28, 2014

Making Pizza - Step by Step

How good does this look?! My husband and I were so proud when we finally sat down to devour it.

My father started making pizza from scratch a few years ago, and it never disappoints. He is so good at it, he has friends and family over specifically for pizza parties! And as you could imagine, no one ever goes home hungry. He shared his pizza dough and pizza sauce recipes with us, and the pizza came out awesome! Of course there is always room for improvement, but is homemade pizza ever really BAD?

My dad uses both recipes from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. For those who have never watched the show, it's actually a pretty fascinating concept. The chefs try hundreds of recipes in their test kitchen, to determine the best of the best - best mac & cheese recipe, best way to cook stew, the best bake ware, and so forth. As my mother would say "Why try a ton of different recipes to find the best one, when they've already done it for you?" So, this wonderful show spawned a couple of cookbooks, and my family uses them constantly!

Pizza Dough recipe (From America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)
Makes about 2 pounds of dough, enough for 3 (12 inch) pizzas

4 1/4 cups bread flour
1 envelope instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups warm water

We knead ours in our Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook and it works wonderfully. Others use a food processor. You can of course knead by hand, but be prepared for it to take a while. And for your arms to hurt!

Pizza Sauce Recipe (From America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper

Classic Cheese Pizza - How to
1 pizza dough (above)
pizza sauce to liking (above)
12 ounces mozzarella shredded (3 cups)
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
6 tablespoons torn fresh basil (we didn't add)

1. Heat up pizza or baking stone at 500 degrees (about 30 min). If you don't have one, I've seen people use a regular baking sheet as well.

2. Roll out pizza dough on a floured counter, and cut evenly into 3 pieces. Work with one piece, and cover the other 2 in plastic wrap. If you're only making one pizza, freeze the other two. They freeze well.

3. Shape and stretch the dough into a 12 inch round on parchment paper. Ours was NOT nice and round, just do the best you can. Add your sauce, cheeses, oil, as seen in our photos below. Make sure to leave some space for your crust.

4. Slide pizza and parchment paper onto pizza stone or baking sheet.

5. Bake 8-13 min, until crust edges are brown and until cheese is golden in spots.

6. Remove from oven, transfer pizza onto a cutting board and discard parchment paper.

7. Cut into slices.

8. Enjoy and make everyone jealous of your pizza!

Adding our pizza sauce and cheeses! I'll admit, I kinda overdid it with the cheese =)
Last time, we used parchment paper and it burned a little bit in our oven, yikes.
This time, we used the back of a baking sheet with some cornmeal.
The cornmeal helps slide the flimsy pizza onto the hot pizza stone. 

 My husband and I sitting on the floor, watching our pizza cook! 
We weren't sure how quickly our oven would cook, so we just sat and watched it =)

Ta DAAA!! We added some pepperoni to half our pizza. 
It came out delicious and we will be definitely trying it again. 

A few tips:

1. How long to leave the pizza in takes time to master, in my opinion. I thought the pizza was cooked well, whereas Greg thought it could have been cooked a little longer to crisp up the crust more. I guess it depends on your taste.

2. Getting a paddle peel (wooden paddle used to take pizza in and out of oven) might make sense if you are serious about making pizza. This was only our second time doing it ourselves, and could have definitely used one. As I mentioned before, it's kinda tough getting the raw dough into the oven since you can't really touch it without it ripping, folding, etc. 

3. Get creative with toppings! There are plenty of websites out there to get inspiration from - my dad has been on a bacon and pineapple pizza kick lately. It sounded disgusting when he first mentioned it, but now it's one of my favorites! You don't have to go crazy - add some pepperoni or try a white cheese pizza.

4. Experiment with different amounts of pizza sauce and cheese to get the mix just right. 

5. Practice rolling out your dough. This part doesn't come easy. We took a cooking class last year, and our instructor showed us how to make pasta dough (very similar). Getting the dough the right shape, thickness, consistency takes practice, so don't get discouraged. 

As we continue to improve our pizza making techniques, I will be sure to update you guys on any new tips and tricks we learn along the way. As always, thanks for reading!! 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Turkey Tacos - Easy Weekly Meal

What You'll Need:
1 pound ground turkey (we get the 93% lean)
A non-stick skillet
Sargento 4 Cheese Mexican shredded cheese
La Banderita Soft Tacos (we try to get the low carb ones - they taste the same!)
1 packet of Taco Seasoning mix
Hot sauce (optional)

*This makes about 8 tacos. We usually have 2 each and that's enough for us. We take half the ground turkey and freeze it (4 tacos for now, 4 tacos for another day after work). For four tacos, we use half a packet of taco seasoning, and cheese and hot sauce to our liking.

How to Make:
1. Heat up skillet on stove top. Press ground turkey in pan and flatten. Brown one side well then flip turkey over. Because we are using non-stick, we don't need any oil or butter in the pan.
2. Break up turkey into small taco-sized pieces using spatula or wooden spoon.
3. Add some water (about 1/2 cup) and taco seasoning, and reduce.
4. Add seasoned turkey into the soft tacos, add cheese and hot sauce, and roll up into taco shape.
5. EAT!

These tacos are SO easy. They are a great meal when you don't really feel like cooking. The turkey cooks pretty quickly and that's the only "cooking" part needed. Sometimes my husband makes his own taco mix vs. the pre-made mix. We like to heat up the soft tacos on the stove top or the microwave right before we put the turkey in - it keeps everything warm and helps to melt the cheese. You can definitely use a regular skillet vs. a non-stick, just make sure to add some oil to avoid sticking.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Homemade Italian Biscotti

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 Cups sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp of Anise OIL (not extract)
5 Cups flour (sift into a bowl along with baking powder)
6 tsp baking powder
Cream butter well, gradually adding sugar until fluffy!!

  1. Add: 1 egg at a time
  2. Add: anise oil
  3. Cream well, add flour and baking powder.
  4. Divide batter into 4 loaves -
  5. 1 loaf to a pan because loaf grows!!
  6. Rotate pans in oven midway through cooking process.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes
  8. Let cool on wire rack, then slice cookie on an angle.
  9. I do not double bake my cookie, but you can if you prefer your cookie that way. 
My aunt made these for my husband and I when we went to visit, and oh my god are they good! She generously let us take the leftovers home, and I brought them to work for my coworkers. We all had one with our morning coffee and they were a big hit! One person said "you can tell that these are homemade, they taste like an authentic Italian cookie." And there you have it! I fully intend on making these now that I have the recipe.  They are plain enough to be a crowd pleaser, which is nice for holidays or a party.

To mix it up a bit, my aunt suggested using dried sour cherries and orange oil instead of anise. Oils might be tough to find - check places like Michael's or a mom and pop baking store. Or of course, check online and get it from a reputable retailer.

Hope you guys enjoyed, bring out your inner Italian baker and try making these!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Rice Krispie Treat Pumpkins

Hi everyone! It's Monday and that really sucks. So let's look at cute things instead of being productive. Sound good?

So I had a Halloween party this weekend, and made these adorable little rice krispie treat pumpkins! I got the recipe from Pinterest (original recipe here) and went to work. Here's the original recipe, which I decided to double:

3 Tbsp. butter
½ tsp. vanilla extract
red and yellow food coloring or orange gel coloring
5-1/2 cups mini marshmallows
6 cups crispy rice cereal
mini tootsie rolls

  1. In a large saucepan, melt and slightly brown butter on medium heat. Add vanilla extract and marshmallows. Stir until marshmallows are completely melted. Add food coloring until desired orange color is reached. Add cereal and stir until completely combined. Turn off heat and let sit for a few minutes, until cool enough to handle.
  2. When mixture has cooled enough, spray your hands with cooking spray and mold cereal mix into circles. (I made nine medium sized pumpkins). Unwrap a tootsie roll and press into each pumpkin top. Add candy for the eyes and noses (we used a little frosting to adhere). Eat and enjoy!
Sounds easy enough, right? Um yeah, not really. So first of all, when I decided to double the recipe, it wasn't the brightest idea I've ever had. The mixture was huge and so hard to work with. Please consult photo below of enormous orange rice krispie treat mixture taking over my stove:

Yeah. So that happened. The original recipe said that it makes 9 pumpkins. So I figured hey, 18 pumpkins would be better. I guess the person who originally made them made them HUGE, because I kept rolling them into balls and had a TON. I ended up throwing half the mixture out which sucked. It was also tough rolling the mixture into balls to begin with - if you press too hard the cereal breaks. After I rolled them all, pushing the tootsie rolls in the top was also difficult. They wouldn't stay, and again, if you push too hard the cereal starts breaking off!

Needless to say, I don't think i'll be making these again. They looked cute, sure, but I was going for an easy, no bake recipe for a party and it was just a pain in the ass. Hope everyone had a fun Halloween!! =)