Lazy Day Pizza

The concept of ‘semi-homemade’ is not one that thrills me but there are days when you are lazy and it is exactly what happens.

I can make homemade pizza dough.  I even enjoy doing it.  But truth be told my local co-op sells a wonderful whole wheat dough.  The fact that it has ‘matured’ for a few days makes it all the more tasty too. One package is often more than a single pound so I check the weight  and save leftover dough for another snack.  March tomatoes are not the greatest so I slice two plum tomatoes and marinate them in some nice olive olive, salt, pepper & dried herbs – basil & oregano this time.  There was no fresh basil at the store so I opted to use some fresh baby spinach.  I also had some fresh minced onion leftover from earlier in the week.  I sautéed the onion with a little oil, then after removing the onion, wilted the spinach in the same pan.   For cheese I purchased some fresh mozzarella, and used some freshly grated Parmesan & Romano that I always  keep on hand.  I sliced off about 3 ounces of the mozzarella.  After drizzling a piece of parchment paper with some olive oil and shaping the dough into a 12-inch circle, using some plastic wrap to assist in forming, place torn pieces of  mozzarella on the dough. Next scatter the sautéed onion and spinach around the pizza. Place the tomato pieces on next.  It is now going to look really pretty.  Finish with a sprinkling of the grated cheese.  I do it mostly by sight but would guess I use 4-5 generous tablespoons.Now it is time to slide the parchment paper & pizza onto the bottom rack of the preheated oven (400-425F).  Bake for 12-15 minutes, keeping an eye on it. Remove from oven.                       Slice, plate & enjoy.  

I find using an old metal 12-inch pizza pan, or a wooden cutting board helpful for transferring the pizza in to & out of the oven.

I also tend to use my kitchen shears to cut into slices.  They work better for me than a pizza cutter or knife.  (That might say something about the quality of my shears vs. my other kitchen tools!)

A Half Step Back

Wishing for spring but there was a light dusting of snow when I looked out the window this morning. Someday I will look through the screen & see green grass.

A friend of mine, who is in the same frame of mind,  dropped off some branches for me to force. I’ll post another snap shot when they burst into bloom.

The Privileges

Yippee!  Finished off another book.  Now I can move to something else in the awaiting stack.

But first a little about the ending of The Privileges by Jonathan Dee.  A very little because the thought it left me with is too deep to write about now that I’m past the age of believing pondering these things for long will do much more than give me a headache.

The conclusion of one of the characters, to paraphrase,  is that an insane amount of money is never enough,  just like any number of nuclear missiles is never enough.  The point of both is to make you feel safe, and no amount of either will ever make you feel safe enough.

That’s it… I just going to leave this post hanging there.

Comments might be very interesting.  Even months from now.  I know somebody is out there who dares to expound on such things.

Travels Past

I flew over the ocean to England for the first time in 1998.  It was something I had dreamed about since my teens.  There were a few first trip mistakes but all in all I was not disappointed.  Every time that I’ve gone back since I’ve been more delighted.  For a number of years I posted on the travel site VirtualTourist.  The site changed over the years, I changed too, and I simply got out of the habit.  I have a page there about my darling fluff ball of a cat in addition to the travel pages.  If you want to take a look you can use the links I’ve built into the text above.

I’m inserting  a trio of shots from the RHS Gardens in Harrogate that  I snapped  back  in May 2008. 

I need to look at something blooming. It is a mental health issue. Anybody else feeling the same?

Frozen vs. Fresh

Sure there are lots of things that you can pop into the freezer, but are they really as good as fresh? Well I pulled some of the Cheese ‘n Chive Puffs out of the freezer and reheated them today.  I have to admit there was nothing ‘wrong’ with them.  My husband was very happy having 6 or 8 of them with a glass of red wine (or was it a Stella?) but I just didn’t feel they were has tasty as fresh from the oven the first time.  What can I say – my friends always say when I push leftovers onto them “You know you could put them in the freezer for sometime when you are busy.”  Sure I could but I just don’t like eating it later from the freezer.  I’m too frugal to toss it after it has been frozen too long.  I’d rather give it to a friend while still fresh.

A side note:  I was blog surfing the other night and found a very similar recipe to these cheese puffs which called for half the cheese to be Gruyère (like mine) and the other half Parmesan.  That sounds like a really nice variation. That other recipe also called for lowering the oven temperature half way through baking, like I do on popovers.  Given that the recipe works fine without doing that I think I will leave well enough alone on that count.

Mini Cheese’n Chive Hors d’oeuvre Puffs

–Adapted from Good Housekeeping April 2010 Herbed Gougeres–

1 cup water
6 TBs Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend, cut into tablespoons
1 pinch sea salt
1 pinch hot paprika or ground cayenne
1/2 cup unbleached flour
1/2 cup King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour
1/2 cup Egg Beaters
2 large eggs
2 tablespoon(s) finely chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon(s) freshly grated lemon peel
1 TB dried parsley flakes
6 ounces grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat water, 50/50 Blend, salt, and cayenne in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil.

Remove from heat. Add flour all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture leaves sides of pan to forms a ball.

Add egg beaters, then eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Batter should be  smooth and satiny.  Stir in chives, lemon peel and parsley flakes until well mixed.

Then drop in all of the cheese and fold until incorporated.
Drop batter by the tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 20 minutes until puffed and golden brown, rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool briefly on wire racks. Serve warm.

Cheese puffs can be frozen for up to a month. Cool completely. Place in airtight containers lined with wax paper.  To serve place frozen cheese puffs onto cookie sheets and reheat at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until warm.

I’ll update you on how the freezing works when I take what I managed not to wolf down out to reheat.

Not My Usual Brownies

My usual brownies are made with Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa.  However a found a couple boxes of unsweetened chocolate in my cupboard and decided I should make something with it.  I adapted this recipe from one on the back of the Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate box.

4 squares Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate

1 stick Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend

½ stick butter

1 cup Splenda Sugar Blend for Baking

1 egg

½ cup Egg Beaters

2 tsps.vanilla (I use pure vanilla powder)

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease an 8” x 12” glass pan

Microwave chocolate, Smart Balance and butter in large microwaveable bowl on HIGH 2 min. or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Stir in sugar. Add eggs, Egg Beaters, and vanilla; mix well.

Toss nuts & flour together.  Add into chocolate mixture and stir until well blended

Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 30 -35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Cool in pan.  Cut into squares & enjoy!

On the Road

Once it a while, despite any buy local convictions, you just have to venture out & up the road to some of those big bad ‘big box stores.’  I needed a new printer that would be compatible  with my semi-new Windows 7  laptop.   Along the way the cell phone in Mr. Important’s coat pocket starts ringing.  So he pulls the car off onto the shoulder.  It is a nice sunny early spring day.  So like a tourist I snap a couple road side photos.  Hope you enjoy.

Cream Cheese and Sundried Tomato Spread

This is a tasty treat on crackers. If you are living low-carb you could spread it on celery sticks or cucumber slices.

All you need is:

8 – 10 sundried tomato halves
4 ounces of cream cheese (regular or low fat)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley

Place the sundried tomato halves into a food processor.  Chop finely.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  I find things blend best if I drop the cream cheese into the processor bowl by spoonfuls.  Blend.  Remove into a serving or storage container.  Tastes even better if stored for a day or two.  You can of course double the recipe if you are feeding more than two people.