Pizza

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Almost everyone loves pizza!  Hot pizza or cold pizza, deep dish or thin crust, lots of cheese or lots of sauce, meat lovers or veggie, white or red.  There are so many variations, pizza can make almost everyone happy. You can divide the dough into small balls and roll out little individual pizzas. Let everyone choose their own toppings; a particularly fun thing to do with kids. Pizza. It’s what’s for dinner.

Pizza night starts with the crust.

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cups tepid water

2 1/4 tsp dry yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1 T olive oil

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp each dried oregano and basil (optional)

1/2 tsp garlic powder

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Place tepid water in a bowl and mix in yeast and salt. Add the olive oil. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour, garlic, and herbs and stir with a wooden spoon. Add remaining flour and knead for five minutes until you have a smooth dough. Grease a bowl and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size, approximately an hour.

Divide dough in half or in smaller portions if making small, individual pizzas. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface.

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Preheat the oven to 450.

Once you roll the dough out place on a lightly greased pizza pan. Fold the edges over, lightly rub down with olive oil and pre-bake for approximately ten minutes. This helps to keep the crust from getting soggy.

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Now we are ready to top the pizza. There are many prepared sauces that you might like or you can use fire roasted tomatoes, a little olive oil, and some herbs.

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Blend the tomatoes, 1 T of olive oil and herbs to taste. Spread the sauce on your pre-baked crust.

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Choose your favorite toppings. Tonight I’m using onions, peppers, artichoke hearts, portabella mushrooms, tomatoes and some organic pepperoni.

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Spread the toppings.

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I used romano cheese and fresh mozzarella. Grate the hard cheese over the toppings and distribute slices of mozzarella.

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Bake for approximately 25 minutes until cheese is golden brown and bubbly. Enjoy this thing of beauty with a cold beer, soda, a nice wine  or a glass of milk.

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Like I mentioned earlier there are countless pizza toppings for every taste. Sausage, bacon, ham, pepperoni. Spinach, fresh basil leaves, arugula. Sweet peppers, banana peppers, peppadews, green olives, kalamata olives, black olives. Mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, roasted garlic, artichokes, asparagus, zucchini. And pineapple…my least favorite topping. Love it in an upside down cake but leave it off my pizza.

Mozzarella is the most common of pizza cheeses but provolone, feta, Parmesan, Romano, asiago, goat cheese, even Gorgonzola are great options. Different cheeses pair well with different veggies and meats. Most grocery deli sections and frozen food aisles have countless types and brands of pizzas.  If you don’t have time to make a pizza from scratch doctor a grocery pizza up with fresh toppings and extra cheese to make it your own.

Note:  The crust recipe makes enough for 2 large pizzas. If you only plan to make one, freeze half the dough BEFORE you let it rise. Divide the dough and place half in a zip lock freezer bag. When you’re ready to make a second pizza let it thaw/rise and your ready for pizza #2.

 

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Boiled Dinner

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Boiled dinner is comfort food.  It’s not glamorous or gourmet dining. It’s a dinner my grandmother used to make with pork chops or pork steaks. She probably didn’t put any vegetables or tomatoes in because my grandfather was a meat and potatoes kind of guy. I’m going to make our boiled dinner with Polish sausage. This dish is one of my dad’s favorites and I’m wishing he was here with us to enjoy it. A very simple dish to prepare in one pot.  It’s a dish that is flexible and can accommodate to what’s in your fridge or what’s not in your fridge. I’ll give you the basics.

Ingredients:

2 T olive oil

1 medium head of cabbage

1 large onion

3 carrots

2 stalks of celery

5-6 redskin potatoes

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

2 tsp caraway seeds

salt and pepper to taste

1 pound Polish sausage

1 pint stewed tomatoes

4 cups chicken broth

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Rough chop the onion, celery and carrots. Heat olive oil in a heavy kettle and sweat the vegetables for 3 minutes or so.  Mince the garlic cloves and add to the kettle.

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Rough chop the potatoes and rinse them. Add to the other vegetables in the kettle.

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Core and rough chop the cabbage and add to the kettle.

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Cut the sausage into 1 inch pieces and add to the kettle. Add the caraway seed and salt and pepper to taste. Add tomatoes and chicken broth. Cover the kettle and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.  Reduce heat. Simmer over low heat for 2 hours or so. Occasionally give it a stir.

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Ladle into soup dishes, add a small pat of butter and enjoy with some good bread.

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So that’s a boiled dinner. You could substitute pork chops or pork steaks. Cube them and let them cook in the broth. If you prefer andouille or a mild Italian sausage that will work. If you want more vegetables add green beans, parsnips, rutabaga, or turnips.

It’s what’s for dinner.

Rugelachs

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Every year, for nearly 30 years, my very good friend and I have a candy making, cookie baking marathon for the holidays. We used to do it over a three day weekend. Now that she recently joined the ranks of the retired we held our marathon over an entire week and we were able to go to lunch a couple times and even got a little shopping in.  The real significance of our candy making, cookie baking bonanza is not just that we make the most beautiful, awesome tasting, melt in your mouth sweet treats. It’s really about two good friends in sync with one another in the kitchen. Over the years we have fallen into a comfortable routine. I make most all of the cookie shapes (balls, sticks, knots, cookie press) and my friend does the messy stuff (dipping in chocolate, rolling in nuts, powdered sugaring). We both make dough. We both do cleanup. Not everyone can work well with another person in the kitchen. And our ability to do that makes our Christmas goodies just a little more special.

We have cookie recipes that we have made forever. And every so often we experiment with a new recipe. A few years ago we started making the Rugelach and it has become one of our favorites.

Ingredients:

Dough

1 cup butter at room temperature

1 8-oz package cream cheese at room temperature

2 cups of flour

1/2 tsp salt

Filling

1 cup sugar

2 T cinnamon

1/2 cup melted butter

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

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(We make a double batch.  Actually we make two double batches.)

In a stand mixer cream butter and cream cheese together. Combine the flour and salt and gradually add to the creamed mixture. Divide dough into fourths and roll into balls.

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Wrap each ball in wax paper and refrigerate for one hour or more for easy handling.

Preheat oven to 350.

After dough has chilled roll out into approximately a 12 inch circle. Combine sugar and cinnamon. Brush each circle with the melted butter. Sprinkle with 3 T cinnamon sugar and then with 2 T chopped pecans.  Cut each circle into 12 wedges.

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(The dough circle pictured was small and was only cut into 8 wedges.)

Roll up wedges beginning with the wide end. Place pointed side down on ungreased baking sheet approximately 2 inches apart. Curve ends to form a crescent.

Bake for 24-26 minutes or until golden brown. Seems like a long time for cookies but they need to bake that long. Remove to wire racks to cool.

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One of the secrets to really good baked goods is really good ingredients. Always use real butter, fresh, quality spices and chocolates.

Maybe one day our beautiful and amazing daughters will take over for us and we can wait anxiously to receive our cookie trays.  That will be a happy day.

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Caramel Corn

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More holiday nosh!  This caramel corn is an irresistible, addictive sweet treat that’s easy to make. As a child I remember getting a box of cracker jacks and enjoying every bite of the molasses flavored, candy coated popcorn and peanuts AND finding the prize that was in every box. You might find a ring, stickers, plastic figurine, whistle, or a temporary tattoo. If any of you saved the toys from your cracker jacks they have become collectible and are probably worth a few coins. Whether or not this caramel corn makes you feel nostalgic I’m confident you’ll enjoy every last bite. And if you want to include a prize in every bag, well all the sweeter!

Ingredients:

16 cups popcorn (approximately 2 bags of microwave popcorn)

1 cup nuts (optional)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp baking soda

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(Sorry I open the brown sugar bag on the wrong end.)

Spread popcorn (and nuts if you’re using) on a greased jelly roll pan or in a large roasting pan. Try to pick out any unpopped kernels to save on dental work as you’re munching your caramel corn.

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Preheat your oven to 250.

In a heavy saucepan combine sugar, butter, and corn syrup.

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Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Boil mixture for 5 minutes without stirring.

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Remove from heat. With a wooden spoon stir in vanilla and baking soda stirring constantly.

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After the addition of the vanilla and the baking soda the consistency of the mixture makes a dramatic change.

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Pour the caramel over the popcorn and stir well to coat. Bake for 45 minutes stirring every 15 minutes.

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Pour out onto freezer or parchment paper to cool. Spread out to separate. Store in air tight containers or sealed zip lock bags.

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We made some with pecans and some with lightly salted cashews. You can use any kind of nut you prefer. Or you can go nutless. I have always used the light butter microwave popcorn but if you have a hot air popper or like to make your popcorn on the stove the old fashioned way it’s all good.

If you put a bowl of this out at your holiday party or while you’re watching a movie, I guarantee you it will be one of the first things to disappear.  Prize or no prize. Enjoy!!

Very Chocolate Chocolate Fudge

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One of my favorite holiday traditions is candy making and cookie baking with my very good friend of nearly 40 years. We’ve been doing it together so long we have an easy routine. Usually we start on a Friday evening and finish up our thousands, and I do mean thousands,  of sugary sweet treats on Sunday evening. But this year my friend has joined the ranks of the retired and we are taking an entire week to do what we’ve always done in two and a half days. We always do our candy the first night. This year we are trying a new very chocolate chocolate fudge recipe that another friend shared with us. I cannot eat chocolate but all of the fudge samplers are confirming that the recipe switch was a good one.

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Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1 14-oz can evaporated milk

4 1/2 cups sugar

1 8-oz bag miniature marshmallows

2 oz unsweetened chocolate

2 4-oz boxes semisweet chocolate

2 4-oz boxes German chocolate

1 T vanilla

2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Combine butter, milk and sugar in a heavy kettle.  Stir over medium high heat until sugar dissolves. Continue cooking to a full boil. Turn off the heat and cover for five minutes.

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Add marshmallows and stir until melted.

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Break the chocolate up and add a few pieces at a time stirring until all of the chocolate is melted. Add the vanilla.

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Pour into foil lined 9×13 pan. Make sure to butter the foil or spray with Pam. Let stand until cool.

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Once the the fudge has cooled you can lift it out of the pan using the foil, cut into squares and enjoy.

My dining room table is groaning under the weight of all our candy!

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Santa Fe Green Chili with Pork

I haven’t blogged for a couple of weeks. I’ve been busy with the holidays and I had my 87 year old father visiting for a couple of wonderful weeks around Thanksgiving. My husband was bragging my blog up to my dad and my dad asked if I got paid for writing my recipes on the computer. I told him no, but one day my blog may make me famous. To which my dad replied, what good is being famous if you don’t make any money. Yup!  Ever the practical Finn.

So the possibility of fame is the lead in to this particular blog entry. I entered a Chili Cookoff that was held today. I decided to make my Santa Fe Green Chili with pork. I call it my Santa Fe Chili because I purchased the green chili powder that I use in this recipe on one of our visits to Santa Fe.   This is one of my favorite chili recipes!  And a lot of the chili tasters also liked it. I’m proud to say I placed second in the competition. Hope you’ll like it too.

Chili, like many other soups, tastes best the second day. If possible I would recommend preparing it the day before you plan to eat it. In this particular recipe there is a notable positive difference with the flavors and heat the second day.

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Ingredients:

2 pounds good lean ground pork

1 large onion diced

3-4 cloves of garlic minced

3-4 poblano peppers roasted, peeled and rough chopped

1-2 seeded and diced jalapeño pepper(s)

1 can mild green chilies diced

6 cups chicken broth

1 quart diced tomatoes

3 T dried oregano

1 T dried green chili powder

1 T cumin

salt to taste

2 cans cannellini beans drained and rinsed

2 15-oz cans yellow or white hominy drained and rinsed

1/4 cup (or more to taste) of fresh cilantro chopped

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On top of your gas range or in your oven roast the peppers. Once the peppers have a good char put them in a bowl and cover with Saran Wrap until they are cool enough to peel and dice.

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In a large heavy kettle cook the pork, onions and garlic until the pork is no longer pink.

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I like to to strain out any grease after cooking and then return the meat and onions to the kettle.

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Add the diced poblano peppers, jalapeños, and mild green chilies.

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Add the oregano, cumin, green chili powder, and salt to taste. Stir in the chicken broth and diced tomatoes.  Drain and rinse the beans and hominy and add to the kettle.

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Bring the chili to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.

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Allow the chili to cool down and refrigerate overnight.

On the second day slowly heat the chili over medium heat. Chop the cilantro and stir into the chili.

Serve with fresh grated pepper jack cheese, thinly sliced green onions, and a little sour cream. Chili goes great with a nice slice of buttermilk cornbread. Cornbread recipe was previously blogged.

Thanks to all the folks at the chili Cookoff today who voted for my Santa Fe Green Chili!  You gave me a brief moment of fame, a cookbook and a great apron!

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