The Aunt Donna Legacy: Making Pizza!

At the end of a long day, when I am too tired for creative meal preparation and too cheap for takeout, there is one perennial favorite recipe that resurfaces, coming to my rescue time and time again.

Aunt Donna’s Pizza CrustMy Recipe Book

Seriously, in my ever-growing Family Recipe Compilation Notebook, this is by far my most turned-to recipe. Take a closer look:

recipe 2Could this get any easier? I think not. Six ingredients, one of which is WATER. If you don’t have these in your cupboard, it’s time to go shopping. Once you follow the recipe process, the assembly is a cinch!

Step 1: Choose what you will use as toppings (think outside the box, here, people).

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Step 2: Prepare your work Area.

step 1

Step 3: Spread the dough onto your (greased) Pizza pan.

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Step 4: Select your sauce of choice. I’m obsessed with using barbecue sauce, and Trader Joe’s Carolina Gold is my hands-down favorite. When your dough is saucy, sprinkle it with onions, peppers cherry tomatoes, whatever you happen to have handy of the vegetable persuasion.

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Step 5: Add more than you think you want. Pizza with stuff is always better. Balance the amount of bread out with obscene amounts of vegetables.

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Step 6: Cheese.

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Step 7: Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from oven and resist the urge to eat immediately, as studies show that this will result in a burnt tongue.

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Step 8: Slice and ENJOY YOUR PIZZA!

sliced pizza

I’m a [VALEN-]tiny bit excited.

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When I say I love Valentine’s Day more than any other holiday, I get a multitude of reactions. Most frequently some version of this:

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Occasionally, I’ll get something more like this:

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But usually it’s more like this:

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I have ranted in the past about why I think people need to get over themselves with regards to Valentine’s Day, so I don’t want to get too much into it again. But I basically love Valentine’s Day like Buddy the Elf loves Christmas.

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Things You Should Consider Doing This Valentine’s Day:

1.) Give Unexpected Compliments to Unexpected People

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2.) Watch this Video, because THIS is a great example of LOVE!

3.) If you can’t think of somebody in your life to share the love with, then find somebody who needs a little extra love in their lives and DO SOMETHING about it!

Colin's Facebook Page

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There is a little boy in Minnesota whose birthday is coming up, but who doesn’t have friends at school . . . his mom made this facebook page, and you could always take a moment to write him a birthday card tomorrow!

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4.) Watch Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!

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This movie recently came up in conversation, and I remembered just how fantastically fun a chick-flick it really is. Plus, it’s not TOO goopy for a valentine’s day, even if you are single and feeling depress-y about the fact.

5.) Give somebody a valentine, for crying out loud! It doesn’t need to be a sappy one!

eyes for you

Whatever you do, please remember to share the love, even in the Valentiniest  of ways! There are so many shoddy reasons that people celebrate any holiday, but what a wonderful thing it is to have an entire holiday devoted to showing the people that we care about how much we love them. If that isn’t worth celebrating, I don’t know what is.

[if you want to read more about my love of Valentine's day, click here]

Bare it All: Taking the Mother Hubbard Challenge

One of my this-month’s-resolutions (year resolutions are just not my thing) is derived from a poem you may know. Have you read the first stanza of that old classic poem about Old Mother Hubbard and her zany pup?

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Well, I have no dog, and I don’t keep the cat food in the cupboard, so rest assured that this challenge has nothing to do with developing an inability to feed pets and everything to do with bare cupboards. Let me explain. Context: When I returned home from my Holiday at home in Ithaca, NY, old Mother Nature was kind enough to force me into hibernation with a serious nor’easter.

wicked slippery

(borrowed from a friend’s facebook wall – no other source available at this time!)

With nothing but snow-shoveling (which I avoided) and the season premier of BBC Sherlock Series 3 (ASLDFLKJS:LDKFJ!!!! I had to stop after the third time watching, just for a break from all the fangirling…) to distract me, I got down to cleaning the house . . . only to find that my kitchen cupboard situation has gotten majorly out of hand.

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That’s right.

I have too much food.

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Holy First World Problem, Batman, am I right?

So, in an effort to be thriftier, less wasteful, and also more appreciative of what I have  . . . not to mention in an attempt to begin to purge the cupboards (and the fridge and the freezer), I have decided not to buy any new groceries this month, with the exception of pet-related necessities and the occasional eggs/milk that may be required of me. I am going to try to:

(drumroll please)

BARE IT ALL!!!

. . . and by “it” I mean kitchen. 

Wish me luck!!!

Chocolate Truffle Tart . . .

I get nervous trying new recipes sometimes. I mean, who doesn’t? You never really know how it’s going to turn out – especially when it’s not posted by amateur bakers like yourself. Trying to mimic professional cooking conditions is not so easy when you rent an apartment with an electric stove and limited kitchen space. BUT, When I stumbled upon the recipe for Chocolate Truffle Tart on Gourmet.com, I knew it was not one I could just scroll on by. The pictures on Gourmet.com  are like food-porn, and I am a confirmed chocoholic. Just thinking about the chocolate decadence . . . I couldn’t resist! I pinned it onto my recipe board for a rainy day, and waited for the right occasion, which turned out to be just last week!

IMG_5716 I owed my senior class some tasty baked goods (I have a classroom rewards system that I call “delicious points”, which I award for outstanding group behavior/performance, and their class reached the goal of 15 delicious points). SO, I set about making the magic happen. . .

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When the chocolate had set, the tart was cooled, and serving time was upon us, I was really curious to see how the end result measured up to the delectable expectations. I dusted the tart with cocoa and sliced in!

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Although not as creamy-textured as Gourmet’s pictures looked (maybe I baked it a bit longer?) , the end result was pretty fantastic.

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Final Grade: 

A+. I would definitely make this again. It was NOT hard, and the results were DELICIOUS, not to mention well-received.

Things I would change?

1.) Given a do-over, knowing what I know now, I would NOT dust the cake with cocoa, because it didn’t enhance anything about the flavor, and I thought it kind of detracted from the texture, to be quite honest. Instead, I might do a smattering of chocolate shavings on top.

2.) Next time I will serve this with either fresh whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla-bean ice cream, because the density of the chocolate could’ve used a little something to cut the richness overload!

3.) If I didn’t serve it with something creamy and vanilla-y, I might serve it plain with coffee, because that would also be highly complementary and SCRUMPTIOUS.

Bring on the Cheesecake

Until this week, I had never made cheesecake before, but at student request I undertook my very first. I found this recipe and, after salivating (ridiculously) over the (ridiculously) delectable photos on Jennifer McHenry’s blog, I decided it would be my first foray into the land of cake and cheese. 

CHEESECAKE!!!

I’ll let you go to the source, the aforementioned Jennifer’s blog (called Bake or Break), for the recipe, because I followed it pretty darn faithfully, but although I won’t be reiterating the instructions I do want to recommend the original set! If I were giving this recipe a grade, it would ABSOLUTELY get an A+.

Caramelly cheesecake

I’m so impressed with the delicious results. I still have a crazy hard time making caramel (I blame the temperamental electric oven in my apartment), but CHECK OUT my decadent results:

gah cheesecakeThe cheesecake was light and fluffy and delicious, and I just added a little bit of my favorite vanilla bean paste in to replace the vanilla extract and add those perfect little flecks of vanilla-y goodness . . . Everything about the end result was scrumptious!!!

droolI highly recommend the making of this fabulous treat. If you’re on the fence about it, like I was, and haven’t made cheesecake before (like me), this is a fabulous place to start!

 

 

The Apples of My Eye. . .

I have been apple picking four different times in the past few weeks. In addition to a raging case of poison ivy (and potentially-but-hopefully NOT . . .  Lyme disease?), I have been given some remarkable opportunities to creatively use apples.

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By the time I had finished a small batch of apple sauce and some tasty apple crisp, I thought it might be the end of my apple season. . .

IMG_5696But then I went for a walk with my sister-in-law. After spending the exorbitant 15-25 dollars a bag at various farms around town, when we saw the bruised-but-perfectly-wonderful apples lying around the public park, admittedly a bit crappy-looking, but FREE, well . . . we couldn’t help ourselves.

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That’s right, we gathered up the crappy apples . . . or, as I like to call them now:

Crapples

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These bruised little freebies might not be the prettiest apples I’ve picked this season, but they have given me the motivation to not ONLY make more applesauce . . .

IMG_5705. . . but ALSO to make my very first solo batch of APPLE BUTTER!!!

apple butter

Anybody else doing some good old-fashioned canning out there? There’s nothing like the pop-pop-pop of the lids sealing off as they cool, is there?

Happy Fall!

 

Delicata: Squashing ALL the Competition

Delicata squash is basically God’s gift to squash. I know what you’re thinking . . . it looks so meek and unassuming. It’s a squash, for crying out loud. One run-in with a solid butternut and it’d be, well, squashed. But, no. I’m here to tell you that Delicata might be a little . . . delicata, but that soft exterior and sweet inner goodness only serve to make it the BEST SQUASH EVER.

delicata

Preparing delicata squash is also one of the simplest of tasks. You start by cutting it in half and scooping out the seeds (which you can save, but I always feel like this is more effort than it’s worth). Once scooped clean, trim off the stemmy bits.
delicata sliced

Sans stems, all that remains of the is to slice these babies up into ruffly little slivers of golden ambrosia. . .

Sliced Delicata

Take your sliced squash, toss it with 2 tbsp of olive oil, salt and pepper (fresh ground both) and fresh rosemary, minced finely. roasted delicata

Spread them on a pan, and then place them in an oven for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F. After 10ish minutes, flip these over and set the timer for another ten. When it goes off, prepare yourself for the magical delight that will soon meet your tastebuds.

roasted delicata goodness

You can eat this delicious treat hot or cold, whole, or in bites, alone or as a side dish. Basically, Delicata is a most miraculous of treats! Enjoy it!!!

PUMP[kin]ED About FALL!

I LOVE pumpkin flavored things. In fact, I am recently convinced that pumpkin beer is my gateway-drink to actual beer in the same way that iced coffee is the reason why I started drinking actual coffee so many years ago- there is something magical about that pumpkinny flavor! Bake it, brew it, bottle it, bedazzle it, or bathe in it, it’s all good.

Basically: Anything pumpkin flavored is worth a try, in my opinion . . . this philosophy has never steered me wrong. In light of my love of pumpkinny goodness, I am going to share my top pumpkin recipes, in hopes that you are as delighted with them as I!

#1: Pumpkin Bread to DIE for!

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Ingredients:

  •  1 and ½ c flour
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ c water
  • 1 c sugar (I think it is especially good with 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white!)
  • ½ t nutmeg
  • 1 t. soda    
  • ½ t allspice
  • 1 c pumpkin puree (see below!)
  • ½ t cinnamon
  • ½ c olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pumpkin Puree: Cut pumpkin in half. Scoop out guts. Place cut-side down on foiled baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees till soft about 45 minutes-1 hour. Cool, scoop out flesh and mash.

Sift together flour, salt, sugar and soda.

Mix pumpkin, oil, eggs, water, and spices. Combine with dry ingredients. Stir together gently. Add nuts.

Pour in buttered loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes or until skewer comes out clean. De-pan and cool on rack. And it’s so freaking’ good.

#2: Pumpkin Chili (yep, Pumpkin + Chili)

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 large yellow pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 – 16 oz cans pumpkin puree
  • 1 can Kidney beans
  • 1 can white beans
  • 1 can pink beans
  • 1 – 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 – 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 – 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 dash paprika
  • 1 dash chili powder
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried herbes de provence
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1-2 bottles of pumpkin beer (I used 1 Long Trail and most of a UFO)

 
Instructions:
1. Preheat a large soup pot. Drizzle with olive oil and add ground turkey. Add chopped onion, chopped peppers and pressed garlic. Add a little salt and pepper. Stir it all up and brown meat.

2. Add pumpkin purée, tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, chili beans and chipotle peppers. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add stock & beer.

3. Bring chili to boil over medium heat and turn to a simmer for at least an hour.

(I started with a base line recipe from here: http://blogs.babble.com/family-kitchen/2011/11/03/chipotle-pumpkin-chili/)

#3: Pumpkin Whip Pie

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of pumpkin (or Fresh, if you feel so inlined, although it’s a little more liquid)
  • 1 Container of Cool Whip (I used the light stuff)
  • 1 box (normal sized) of Fat-free, Sugar-free vanilla instant pudding
  • 1 graham cracker crust (easy to make or buy, so whichever works!)

Directions:

Mix the Pumpkin with the Whip and the instant pudding powder until it’s all even. Spoon the whippy goodness into a prepared graham cracker crust and refrigerate a few hours before serving for full flavor effects! I also think this whipped mixture would make an awesome layer in a pumpkin trifle – Think Lady-fingers, possibly drizzled with a little maple, some pumpkin bread layers perhaps, and regular whip, too. It would be layer upon layer of pumpkin magic!

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What’s your favorite Pumpkin flavored or Fall-tastic recipe???