Monday, March 2, 2015

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Over the last few years pizza has become a beloved Friday night staple in our house. At least during the winter months. Every Friday there's a bit of a buzz in the house...we've made it through another work week, we have a whole weekend ahead of us, we can stay up a little later than usual tonight - letting Riker stay up past his bedtime to watch a family movie, and then putting the kids to bed to drink a bottle of wine and binge watch 4 more episodes of Orange is the New Black - and, there's pizza. There will almost always be pizza, and it will almost always be eaten on TV trays in the living room while watching a Disney flick. Because, Friday.

The pizza varies. On some Fridays we just really don't feel like cooking. The work week has been extra tiresome or the kids haven't been feeling well or I had to work late on Friday...or I just simply don't feel like cooking. I'd rather crack open a beer or pop the cork off a bottle of wine, relax and play with my babies for an extra hour while we wait for the delivery guy to come. On those days we call our local favorite, Tony's, and wait with anticipation for it to arrive (I admit, those days are Riker's favorite. "The PIZZA GUY IS COMING!").

But on other Fridays I like to make homemade pizza with all kinds of fun toppings. Like caramelized butternut squash, crispy kale, pomegranate seeds and fontina cheese.

Or like last Friday's masterpiece, garlic ricotta, balsamic caramelized onions, shaved Brussels sprouts and mozzarella. I absolutely adore Brussels sprouts on pizza, by the way. If you haven't tried it yet, do it. They get all crunchy and golden and delicious, and you can tell yourself that you don't need a salad on the side because your veggies are already on the pizza.

(For these less traditional pizzas, we always make Riker try a bite before letting on that I've made a regular sauce & cheese pizza for him as a backup. He loves green veggies so will usually eat half a slice before saying he doesn't want any more, which is when I bring out a regular slice for him.)

Pizza dough is so easy to make, and I usually make a batch big enough for two doughs so I can stash one in the freezer for another day. There is something so satisfying about making your own, and the taste is really, really good. This particular dough is nice because it's 100% whole wheat but it doesn't have a cardboard-like texture. It's a bit chewy and has a nice crunch on the bottom.

It's a blank canvas! Pizza Friday will take a hiatus this coming weekend since we're going to my in-laws' for dinner, but I've already planned out the Friday after that. Taco pizza. With homemade refried beans as the base. Friday, where are you?

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Makes 2 crusts

1 tsp. coconut sugar (can use regular sugar or honey if you don't have coconut sugar)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 cups whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur Organic Whole Wheat)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and warm water and stir until dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the top, and let the mixture stand until foamy, about 5-10 minutes. Add the salt and olive oil to the yeast and stir to combine. Slowly pour the flour into the yeast mixture and stir, allow wet mixture to be absorbed before adding more. Continue mixing until the dough is combined. Form the dough into a ball.

Coat the inside of another large mixing bowl with some olive oil and place the ball of dough in the bowl; turn it once so the dough is oiled on all sides. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Divide the dough into 2 pieces; either wrap in plastic wrap and freeze at this stage, or roll out on a floured surface. Top, bake, enjoy!

When ready to make the pizza, bake it at 450 for about 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Perfect Poached Egg

You need this on Saturday morning.

Poached eggs, specifically Eggs Benedict, are a weekend breakfast obsession of mine. If we go out to breakfast and they're on the menu, it's the only thing I'm ordering. But making poached eggs at home has never been one of my talents. For years I've been trying to get them right - perfectly round, firm on the outside but soft in the middle, and opaque enough so you don't see the yolk until cutting it open. No matter how many times I tried, they always seemed to spread and be a bit see-through. 

Not anymore.

Poached eggs are finicky little things, but a few key details make all the difference:

- The perfect temperature water
- A whirlpool
- A splash of vinegar

A lot of times we'll eat these on an Ezekiel English muffin with lox, or over a simple salad of lemon dressed arugula and tomatoes. These particular ones were laid atop a slice of toasted whole grain bread topped with sautéed spinach, kale, scallions, grape tomatoes and melted gruyere cheese, and then sprinkled with fleur de sel, freshly cracked pepper and red pepper flakes.

It's what Saturday mornings were made for.

The Perfect Poached Egg

This is really more of a technique than a recipe. Here's how I make mine:

1. Place a medium sized pot about half full of water on the stove.
2. Add a splash (about a teaspoon) of white vinegar.
3. Heat the water over medium heat until just before it begins to simmer, then turn it all the way to low. The water should be very hot but not actually bubbling at all.
4. Crack an egg into a small dish or ramekin (if you crack the egg right into the pot, the whites will spread).
5. Using a wooden spoon, swirl the water a few times until you have a whirlpool going.
6. Place the egg dish very close to the water and gently slide the egg into the center of the whirlpool. Poach only one egg at a time - it takes longer, but it's worth it. When the egg first goes in it will look like it's falling apart, but give it a minute.
7. After a couple seconds (maybe 10-20), use your wooden spoon to gently move the egg, helping the egg wrap around the yolk and making sure it doesn't stick to the bottom (if it's starting to stick, just use the spoon or a plastic spatula to carefully lift it a bit).
8. After about 3-4 minutes, when the egg is getting firm but still wobbles a bit when nudged, scoop it out and lay it on a plate lined with paper towels. Let all the excess water drain into the towel.
9. There will usually be some extra egg white clouding the water after this, so I like to scoop all that out before repeating the process with the next egg.

If you've cooked a couple eggs separately and want to reheat them all before serving, just drop them gently back into the hot water for a few seconds, drain on paper towels and then serve.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Christmas 2014

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

It's been a wonderful week so far, filled with family, friends, and of course tons of food. Over the weekend it really started to feel like the holidays since Matt finished work last Friday. No better way to kick off the holiday break than with cocktails and cheese plates! We had a bottle of St. Germain so made some fancy gin & elderflower cocktails in non-fancy glasses.

Matt's grandma also came over to bake our annual holiday cookies with me, a tradition I really love.

We baked up a storm! We made the traditional Crunchy Chocolate Pecan Cookies, Peanut Butter Truffles and Snowballs (we call them Crescent Cookies) but also a few new ones including White Chocolate, Cranberry & Macadamia, Nutella with Sea Salt and Peanut Butter White Chocolate Pretzel. Thankfully about half of these left the house to go to my office, our neighbors and to Matt's parents. I am sugared out!

We also took the kids for a festive day out with a little shopping, a cozy lunch at a creperie and a ride on the North Pole Express with Santa. (Couldn't get a pic with Riker's eyes open).

Once work wrapped up for me on Tuesday evening, my grandma, sister Amanda and her fiance Justyn got to our house for our annual Christmas Eve-Eve dinner (Nana's Tomato Mushroom Mac & Cheese), wine, movies and hanging out. They always come a day early because my sister and I cook all day on Christmas Eve day, and it's just nice to extend the holiday for one more night.

Usually on Christmas Eve I get a little stressed with all the cooking I have to do, but this year we cut the appetizer list down a bit and planned a dinner menu that I could mostly cook in advance, which really helped. It was totally stress free and much more relaxing. And when everyone arrived at 5:30, we were ready to go!

The dinner menu included:

- Baby greens with homemade balsamic dressing, cranberries, blue cheese and pecans
- Breaded chicken cutlets (we bought these from the butcher - one less thing to cook - and dressed them with fresh lemon, balsamic reduction and arugula)
- Kale and ricotta stuffed shells with butternut squash sauce (this is amazing - get the recipe here)
- Green beans with olive oil and fleur de sel
- Eggplant rollatini (made by my aunt)

Desserts included a wide array of cookies, truffles and pie.

Christmas morning with Riker was so much fun. This was the first year he really knew what was going on and looked forward to it for weeks, and seeing the joy on his face as he ran down the stairs that morning was one of the best feelings in the world.

Sadly I didn't snap any pics of Riker and Carson opening presents since we were too busy enjoying it with them, but that's the point, right? 

Since we're usually starving during present opening, the day before I had prepped some fruit cups for us to eat while breakfast was in the oven. They were a great way to start the morning before all the rich foods that come with Christmas dinner.

For breakfast I had pre-made (and then reheated that morning) a Broccoli & Cheese Quiche on whole wheat crust and a Cranberry Orange Bread, which slightly reminded me of being a kid since my mom always loved that flavor combination - every time cranberries were in season she would make Cranberry Orange Relish, and oftentimes on Sundays we would have orange cinnamon rolls. This bread was sort of a mashup of the two and tasted like home.

We cooked up some bacon on the side (I buy Applegate Farms and everyone loves it), along with coffee and mimosas of course. :)

My sister left after breakfast to head to Justyn's family's out in PA, and after naps, showers and a second cup of coffee we were off to Matt's parents' house for the big extended family celebration. It's so fun having a group of little cousins running around now. Their excitement is contagious and they're just so cute.

My two loves!

We got home late last night and are all pretty wiped from the week of parties, so we've just been hanging home in our PJ's all day. Matt and I both have off work until after New Year's, so it's nice to be able to just be bums today and not worry about the usual weekend to-do list. On Sunday we're headed to the Poconos for a few days of skiing and kid fun at the indoor waterpark, but until then, it's R&R for this bunch.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and are gearing up for a great 2015!