No news here, I still love pizza and having recently spent some time with my brother and sister-in-law who have a real outside wood fired pizza oven I just had to do one more pizza post (not the last I’m sure). Getting the oven ready is quite a process involving several hours of loving attention, special wood and lots and lots of smoke, but the result was worth it – especially since I wasn’t the one providing the loving attention!
Smokey Pizza Oven
Chef Tom hard at work
I like thin crust, thick crust and everything in between and have found this recipe to be even better than my original favorite (recipe here). The main difference is the high gluten flour that I don’t always have on hand so I still use the other recipe as an alternate. This dough is simple to make, easy to shape and can be rolled very thin almost like a cracker (popular with the designated taste tester – Husband).
Printable Recipe Pizza Dough
- 3 3/4 cups Hi-Gluten Four
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water, enough to make a smooth, soft dough
- 2 Tablespoons Italian Seasoning (optional)
Mix together all the ingredients except the water in a food processor, mixer or bread machine (or of course you could do it by hand) add water and process until it is well mixed and smooth (you may need a little more or less).
Allow to rise in a covered, oiled bowl for 1 hour or wrap in plastic and refrigerate for up to 2 days. If refrigerated, let it come to room temperature when you’re ready to use.
Shape the dough to the thickness you like. It makes a great thin, almost cracker like crust or flatbread.
Cover the dough while you preheat the oven and a pizza stone if you have one to the highest setting your oven allows.
Add your pizza toppings, or if making flatbread, brush it with plain, garlic or herb flavored oil and seeds or shredded cheese.
Bake for about 8-10 minutes until the crust is crisp and the toppings (for pizza) are cooked.
Spätzle with meatballs in cream sauce
This month’s challenge was to make noodles, with a suggestion for Spätzle. A long (long) time ago I lived in Germany for several years and became very fond of them but although I’ve made lots of other types of noodles, for some reason just never tried these. I know my choice of meatballs in cream sauce really isn’t traditional with them, there was the usual time crunch and I had some ready made meatballs on hand that could be made quickly. Thanks for the great idea and I will be making these more often (and with more traditional meals – maybe schnitzel) now that I know how quick and easy they are!
Steph from Stephfood was our Daring Cooks’ July hostess. Steph challenged us to make homemade noodles without the help of a motorized pasta machine. She provided us with recipes for Spätzle and Fresh Egg Pasta as well as a few delicious sauces to pair our noodles with!
I followed the recipe given by Steph for the Spätzle but instead of the sauce she provides, I made the weekday meal version – prefab meatballs with a simple cream sauce to serve with them.
Boiling the spätzle
Meatballs and Cream Sauce
1 lb fully cooked meatballs (purchased or your favorite recipe)
1 medium onion finely chopped
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
1 TBS Better than Bullion (or 1 teaspoon bullion granules)
2 cups milk or half and half
Heat and brown the meatballs in a large skillet adding a little oil if needed, then remove and set aside. Add the onion to the skillet and brown well (add a little more oil if there is not enough fat from the meatballs).
Saute the onions and meatballs
Add the butter and stir in the flour and cook until it is lightly browned.
Make the sauce
Stir in the Better than Boullion or bouillon granules then add the milk or half and half. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Return the meatballs to skillet and heat through, about 1 minute.
Pasta made into Ravioli
I’ve watched the little Italian ladies on TV make fresh pasta on a board by just putting down the flour, making a well for the egg, adding a little water and maybe some olive oil and gracefully mixing it up into a beautiful dough. Unfortunately my first few attempts were not nearly so successful. I ended up with either the flour dam breaking and egg all over the floor, a struggle to get the dough to form and then the pasta was either too wet or too dry and stubbornly refused to make anything resembling a proper shape either by hand or with the pasta machine. When I finally got something I could roll, apparently I didn’t do it enough and it was so thick it was like eating a wet sock. I readily admit that I love fresh pasta but I also admit that for the few cents it costs, I was willing to just buy it. Finally though, I have discovered this method that makes a great, easy to work with dough with very little effort. It works with just a rolling-pin, or a pasta machine and cooks up wonderfully. Of course, the use of the food processor is probably cheating, but that along with using the semolina flour makes all the difference in the texture.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 cup fresh herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme or whatever combination you prefer, this time I used lemon basil)
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons water (approx. add just enough to make the dough form a ball)
Add herbs to the food processor
Pulse several times until the herbs are finely chopped
Add the flour, salt and eggs
Pulse until well mixed
Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes, it shouldn't take long to become smooth and elastic since the food processor has done most of the work
Kneaded and ready to rest
Wrapped in plastic to rest - at least 10 minutes 30 is better
After the pasta has rested, you can roll it out with a rolling-pin or run it through a pasta machine and make whatever shapes you want.
Quinoa with Fresh Asparagus and Tomatoes
In my not so successful quest to be more healthy (since the very next day I made mac & cheese with bacon), I decided to try making Quinoa since I’ve read about its benefits so much lately. Here is a great article. While treated like a grain, it is actually a seed from the Chenopodium or Goosefoot plant related to beets, spinach, Swiss chard, and lamb’s quarters and is gluten-free for those who want or need to avoid that. It is cooked similarly to rice (and even better because it doesn’t stick to the pan) and can be used to replace grains or pasta in many recipes. It is high in complete protein, calcium and iron and has all 8 essential amino acids. Although I used chicken broth, and parmesan cheese you could easily use water or vegetable broth and leave out the cheese if you prefer vegetarian or vegan.
It was good, and I will definitely make it again. I thought it was interesting, especially the little “tails” that when cooked have a little crunch (you can see them in the picture). It kind of reminded me of the way corn pops, but the little parts are not nearly as hard as a popped corn shell, barely crunchy. It is basically pretty bland alone, so you need to add lots of flavor. This is really quick to make, less than 1/2 hour and you can serve it hot or cold as a salad.
Ingredients for 4 servings:
2 cups quinoa
3 cups chicken broth, water or vegetable broth
3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 lb grape tomatoes
1 lb asparagus spears cut into 1 inch pieces
3 cloves of garlic minced (I like a lot so you can cut that down if you prefer)
2 Tablespoons fresh basil (or 1 T dried)
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1 T dried)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (optional)
First rinse the quinoa well using a very fine strainer or cheesecloth. Although some brands are pre-rinsed, this is important not to skip as otherwise you could end up with a bitter taste.
Add the quinoa and broth to a large saucepan over medium heat up to a simmer, then lower the heat and maintain the simmer for about 15 minutes.
Asparagus and Grape Tomatoes
In a large skillet, add the olive oil and sauté over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, just until the asparagus is cooked but still crisp and most of the tomatoes are still intact. If the tomatoes start to break apart it is done. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. When the quinoa is cooked, add it to the vegetables, along with the basil and oregano and the shredded parmesan.
Tomato Basil and Bacon Tart
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup cold butter
- 4 to 5 tablespoons cold water
- 4 Roma tomatoes
- 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Italian four cheese blend (or mozzarella) cheese
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic peeled and sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 cup crisp bacon bits (real bacon please!)
- In a food processor, add the flour and butter, pulsing 5-6 times until the mixture is crumbly.
- Gradually add water, pulsing until the dough forms a ball.
- Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until it can be rolled easily.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry to fit a 9-in. tart pan with a removable bottom.
- Place the pastry in the pan and trim the edge.
- Bake at 350° for 13-15 minutes until lightly browned.
While the pastry is baking, thinly slice the tomatoes and place on paper towels, salt them and cover with another layer of paper towel. This will prevent the dough from getting soggy.
Sprinkle 2 cups cheese into the crust; top with basil and garlic slices.
Cheese and garlic
Arrange the tomato slices in a circular pattern around the edge of the tart leaving three for the middle.
Drizzle with oil, salt and pepper
Drizzle with the oil, salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle the rest of the cheese over the tomatoes in the center.
- Sprinkle the bacon bits around the tart.
Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes until the cheese melts.
Ready to Serve
Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham
Of course we had ham for Easter and with everyone gone home and just the two of us, there was a lot of leftover ham! There is always freezing, but first I pretty much use it until we can’t stand anymore. This week I’ve made ham and eggs of course, Ham and Lentil soup, which was delicious(and will be posted another time) and today I made White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham. I had some leftover cheese sauce but if you don’t happen to have some made, here is the recipe I use for my white cheese pasta sauce. I made it just a little differently, not baking it for as long to keep it more “saucy” and after taking it out of the oven I stirred it and added some steamed broccoli (or you can serve the broccoli on the side). This recipe is for 4-6 servings, I only made half for us so it will be more than it looks in the pictures.
Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham
White Five Cheese Sauce
1 lb pasta shells
1-2 cups cubed ham
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups broccoli
Make or heat the sauce in the microwave for about 1 minute just so it will pour while the pasta is cooking according to the package directions.
Brown the ham cubes
Fry the ham in a heavy skillet until nicely browned. You can skip this step, but I like the flavor it adds.
Ready to bake
Add the drained pasta, ham and sauce to a baking dish and mix well. Sprinkle the cheese on top.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, just until the cheese starts to melt. Remove from the oven and stir to mix well.
Cook the broccoli covered in the microwave for 3 minutes and mix into the pasta (or serve with broccoli on the side).
White Five Cheese Pasta Shells with Ham