Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pizza Party!

Growing up, my favorite birthday party was a make-your-own pizza party.  It's still as much fun to create the perfect pizza (such perfection seems to change with every pizza) and enjoy the company of good friends and family.  I bet you have a party in your pantry just waiting to happen, so go for it!


Pizza Party! Necessities:

Whole Wheat Dough

2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup hot water

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Use a wooden spoon to mix in the oil and water to create a dough.  Turn out dough and knead for about 2 minutes.  You should not need to add any more flour while kneading.  Return dough to a lightly greased bowl and let rise in a warm spot until double.  Punch down risen dough and let rise again.  You can repeat the rising/punching down cycle about three times to produce a really elastic dough.  Divide dough into eight pieces and set aside until ready to use.  If not using immediately, place dough in refrigerator and remove about a half hour before party time.

Cheese Blend

1 lb mozzarella, shredded
1 lb provolone, shredded


Bottled or canned pizza sauce or marinara sauce


pepperoni/salami, cooked bacon, Canadian bacon, cooked Italian sausage, cooked hamburger, olives, green chilies, sautéd mushrooms, caramelized onions, cooked peppers, pineapple tidbits, thinly sliced peeled potatoes, etc, etc, etc.

Set up for the pizza party: cheese blend, sautéd mushrooms, baking sheet, parchment paper, whole wheat dough, crisped bacon, salami, green chilies, olives, caramelized onions, paper-thin potato slices, tomato sauce, pesto

Heat the oven to 450º and place a baking sheet on an oven rack in the lower half of the oven in order.  Have a sheet of parchment paper for each person.  Place a dough ball on the parchment paper and use whatever method you'd like to flatten the ball into a pizza crust.

I like to challenge pizza makers to see who can get their dough the thinnest without tearing it.  Sometimes we have a pizza tossing contest as well.  The dough usually comes out in many different shapes and sizes.  It's all good!

Select a sauce and spread it to the edges.

Sprinkle on some cheese . . .

. . . then let the creativity begin! 

Place the pizza and parchment paper onto a baking sheet . . .

. . . or a pizza peel (they're awesome for pizza parties!)  Slide the pizza from the baking sheet or pizza peel onto the hot baking sheet in the oven.  You can probably get at least two pizzas, side by side, on the baking sheet.  Bake for about 10-12 minutes, checking periodically for the perfect pizza (the pizza creators usually hover around the oven making sure you're not burning their creations).  Use the pizza peel or baking sheet to remove pizza from the oven.  Stand back and watch them disappear!

Calzone Option:

Begin the same as for a pizza.

Spread sauce choice on half of the circle, making sure not to spread too close to the edge (you need to leave space for crimping the edges together).

Add your topping choices . . .

. . . then fold the dough over the toppings, pressing the edges together.

Roll the edge and pinch together with your fingers.  I like to cut slits in the top of the calzone to let steam escape during baking, but you don't have to.  Bake the calzone as you would the pizza, except you'll have to bake it longer, maybe an extra 3-5 minutes.

3-Seed Crackers

3-Seed Crackers

We have a favorite cracker that I buy at the local natural grocer.  They are amazingly good and quite expensive, as most organic whole grain foods are.  Today I decided to develop a recipe for these crackers using the ingredient list from the side of the box.  I love natural foods because the list of ingredients can all be found in my cupboard.  Using the fact that ingredients are listed (by weight) from greatest amount to least amount, I came up with a pretty close approximation to the "real" thing.  A box of 8 crackers runs about $3.60.  This recipe makes about 48 crackers=6 boxes, which is a savings of around $20 since I used about $1.60 worth of ingredients from my pantry.  Not bad!

3-Seed Crackers

Makes about 48 large crackers

2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
5 Tbs. sesame seeds
4 Tbs. flax meal
2 Tbs. malted barley flour (Bob's Red Mill available at most larger grocery stores)
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp lemon peel1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cup hot water

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients.  Add the oil and the hot water and stir to combine.  Let rise in a warm place for about an hour.

Get ready to role out the crackers by placing four sheets of parchment paper on the counter along with a rolling pin and some extra flour.

Turn out dough onto a sheet of parchment paper.

Divide dough into four pieces.

Place one dough ball on a sheet of parchment paper. Lightly dust dough with flour.

Using your fingers, press dough into a flat circle.

Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until it is very thin . . .

. . . like this

Use a pizza roller to cut the dough into rectangles (you can make the crackers any size you'd like, but we like to make rather large crackers that we can use instead of bread)

Beat an egg white with 1 Tbs. water

Brush egg mixture over dough

Sprinkle extra sesame seeds or sunflower seeds (or a mix of both) over the top of the dough.  Place the dough and parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350º for 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 300º and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until crackers are very crisp.

Cool crackers completely before storing in an airtight container.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Delicious Lentil Kale Soup

1 lb. mild or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 3/4 cups lentils (any variety will work, but I used red lentils)
1 lrg. Russet potato, peeled and diced
1 lrg. onion, chopped
1 lrg. carrot, peeled and diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 Tbs. Penzey's 33rd and Galena spice blend or blend together 1 tsp. each black pepper and paprika, 1/2 tsp. each nutmeg and sage, 1/4 tsp. each cayenne pepper and basil.
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. salt (less if using regular broth or bouillon)
2 lrg cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1 bunch Lacinato kale, washed and sliced into strips
1/4 c. white wine vinegar mixed with 3/4 cup water
4 cups chicken broth (low sodium boxed preferred to bouillon)
2 cups water
salt, to taste

**Omit the sausage and use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian

Ingredients: (Clockwise from top) Lacinato kale, Italian sausage, red lentils, potatoes, onions, spices, celery and carrots

Cooking Directions:
In a large pot, brown the sausage in 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat.

Add onions and cook until onions are soft.

Add celery and carrots . . .

. . . then potatoes . . .

. . . then spices . . .

. . . and garlic

Stir all ingredients in the pot and cook for 3 minutes.

Add kale and vinegar/water mixture

Stir in kale and vinegar/water and cook until the kale is wilted (this won't take long)

Add lentils (they look orange, but they're called red)

Stir to combine

Stir in chicken broth and remaining water.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Continue to cook over medium low heat, covered,  for 30-45 minutes, or until the lentils are soft.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Candy Bar Cookies on a Stick

Who can resist a giant cookie wrapped around a candy bar? And what's even better? They're on a stick for no-mess eating (and easy sharing!).  These make great bake sale items and are very kid-friendly.


Peanut Butter Cookie with Reese's® Peanut Butter Cup on a Stick

Makes 45-60 cookies

16 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
16 oz sugar
12 oz brown sugar
15 oz peanut butter
3 oz roasted peanuts
4 eggs, at room temperature
4 tsp vanilla
26 oz bread flour
8 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Regular sized Reese's® Peanut Butter Cups
Lollipop sticks

Cream butter, sugars and peanut butter together.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until eggs are fully incorporated. Sift dry ingredients together; add to butter mixture and stir to combine.

Place an unwrapped Reese's Peanut Butter Cup onto the end of a lollipop stick.  Use a #24 scoop (about 1/4 cup) to scoop the dough. Slightly flatten the scoop of dough and place the candy onto it.  Form the dough around the candy, making sure the candy is completely encased in dough.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Continue making cookie "pops", making sure not to place them too close together on the baking sheet.

Bake at 375º for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  Slide parchment paper onto the counter and let the cookies cool completely before handling.

Coconut Snickerdoodles with Almond Joy® on a Stick

Makes 24-36

1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp coconut extract
2 tsp Cream of Tartar
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Almond Joy® snack sized candy
Lollipop sticks

Cream together oil, butter and sugar.  Add eggs and extract.  Sift together dry ingredients and add to the butter mixture.  Stir thoroughly.

Skewer Almond Joy candy onto the end of a lollipop stick.  Use a #24 scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out the dough.  Wrap the scooped dough around the candy, making sure to completely encase the candy.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Continue making cookie "pops", making sure not to place them too close together on the baking sheet. 

Bake at 375º for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  Slide parchment paper onto the counter and let the cookies cool completely before handling.

Honey Oatmeal Cookie with Caramel Milky Way® on a Stick

Makes 24

8.5 oz unsalted butter
4 oz sugar
4.5 oz honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
4 oz rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
10.5 oz bread flour (about 2 cups)
4 oz raisins

Milky Way Simply Caramel® candy
Lollipop sticks

Cream together butter and sugar.  Add the honey and vanilla.  Add oatmeal and stir. Sift together the flour and baking soda.  Add to the butter mixture and stir to combine.  Add raisins.

Skewer Milky Way® candy onto the end of a lollipop stick.  Use a #24 scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop out the dough.  Wrap the scooped dough around the candy, making sure to completely encase the candy.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Continue making cookie "pops", making sure not to place them too close together on the baking sheet. 

Bake at 375º for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.  Slide parchment paper onto the counter and let the cookies cool completely before handling.

Cookie Presentation Ideas:

Monday, October 15, 2012

Portuguese Cheese Salad

Okay, this may not look like much (due mostly to my poor photography skills-especially using my low-tech phone camera), but this cheese salad is THE BEST!  When I was a kid, we lived across the street from a Portuguese couple who would often invite our family over for really good eats.  This recipe was one that our neighbor served and I fell in love with.  I made this sandwich for my dad a lot during my teen years, and now my husband LOVES this.  Whenever I have some cheese that needs to be used, this is one of my go-to recipes.  It is also great grilled or rolled in lettuce leaves.

Portuguese Cheese Salad Sandwich

2 cups grated cheese (preferably not packaged shredded type).  I use cheddar.
1/2 cup black olives, finely chopped
3 Tbs. minced onion
1 clove fresh garlic, minced or 1/4 tsp (heaping) garlic powder
1 Tbs. Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 cup mayonnaise
Whole Grain Sourdough Bread

Mix all ingredients together.  Spread on whole grain bread and top with tomatoes and/or lettuce leaves. 

  • Grilled Cheese: Spread two slices of bread with butter.  Spoon cheese salad onto one slice of bread.  Top with the other slice of bread and cook on a hot griddle until bread is golden brown.  Flip sandwich and grill other side until golden brown.
  • Serve as an appetizer on crackers
  • Serve wrapped in lettuce leaves for a low-carb alternative

Whole Grain Apple Spice Waffles

Whole Grain Apple Spice Waffles with Caramel Syrup

Made with whole wheat, oats, apples and a scrumptious spice blend, then topped with a warm homemade caramel syrup.  These are sure to please!


3/4 cup whole pastry wheat flour
1/2 cup whole white wheat flour
1/2 cup oat flour (or 1/2 cup ground regular rolled oats)
1 1/2 tsp Baking Spice Blend
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder (increase to 1 tsp at sea level)

1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup Sucanat or regular brown sugar
2 apples, grated (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat waffle iron while making the batter.

Mix together dry ingredients.  Set aside.  In a separate large mixing bowl, combine buttermilk, oil, eggs, sweetener, apples and vanilla.  Mix wet ingredients thoroughly.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until all dry ingredients have been incorporated into the wet ingredients, but don't over mix.

Spray the heated waffle iron with cooking spray and ladle on the prepared batter.  Cook waffle until dark golden brown.  Serve immediately with warm Caramel Syrup, extra apple slices, and a sprinkle of Baking Spice Blend.

Caramel Syrup

Heat a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add 6 Tbs. butter and 3/4 cup brown sugar.  Stir as the butter melts.  Bring the pan to a boil and continue to stir until the brown sugar is no longer grainy.  Let the mixture boil for a minute or so, then add 3/4 cup evaporated milk.  Use a whisk to stir mixture until it is smooth.  Return to a boil and cook for another minute or two.  Syrup is ready when it drops in thick drops from a spoon.  Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and stir.  Pour syrup into a container with a spout for pouring or use a small gravy ladle.