Archive for July, 2013

Kitchen Captivated

I think I’ve professed my love for cooking and eating enough times on this blog that you all know that I like to…well…cook and eat. All that cooking and eating opened a fun little door and I’m now writing a regular column for a local magazine in my hometown. It’s small potatoes for sure, but it’s a fun project for me that I’m really excited about.

My first column was published a couple of weeks ago and I wrote about my newish obsession with grilling pizza. Seriously, it’s the best.

So, if you have a minute, check out my column here and the next time you’re in the mood for pizza, try this recipe:

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Pizza Dough

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 ½ tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 2/3 cup bread flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (can be swapped for bread flour)
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast (or one packet of yeast)

Combine flour and salt in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Let stand for a few minutes while the yeast activates. The yeast is ready when it gets frothy and bubbly. Add dry ingredients, oil and honey. Stir the dough until ingredients combine, then knead on lightly floured board until smooth and elastic (about 8-10 minutes). Form the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover the bowl and let rise until doubled in size (about an hour).  Divide the dough in half and using a rolling-pin, form the dough into two 12-inch circles.

My most favorite toppings are simply garden tomatoes, fresh basil, a little garlic and mozzarella. Nothing beats that combination and on the grill, the tomatoes soften and roast perfectly.

To cook your pizza, heat your barbecue to 500 degrees. Use a pizza stone or pizza pan to cook your pizza. You can use a cookie sheet, but it doesn’t work as well. You can also cook your pizza directly on the grill. Simply place your rolled-out dough directly on the grill, cook on one side for about 2 to 3 minutes, flip, add your toppings and finish cooking for an additional 5 to 8 minutes. Most pizzas will cook on the grill in about 10 minutes.

When your pizza comes off the grill, top with freshly chopped basil (doesn’t matter what kind of pizza you’re making, the basil will up its wow factor by 100 percent). Every spring, I buy a couple of basil plants at the grocery store and plant them in a pot on my back patio. All summer long, I’ve got lots of basil on hand for pizza, salads, pesto or whatever I’m making.

I’m a little bit in shock that August is just a few days away. It doesn’t seem possible July has come and gone so quickly. I think a few more pizzas on the grill are in order.

Zucchini Bread

My sad little zucchini plant sat wilted and small in the corner of my garden this year. I almost gave up on the thing until finally in the last couple of weeks, he’s made a comeback. I’ve never met a zucchini plant that didn’t want to grow.

And grow and grow and grow.

That corner of the garden is now taken over by a zucchini plant that’s taller than Luke and pumping out giant squash nearly every day.

This means I once again buy flour and sugar in bulk and my oven works its tail off baking zucchini bread almost every day. Last summer I think I ended up storing 20 loaves in my freezer and I’m sure it will happen again this year.

My mom’s recipe has always been by far my favorite and yet I never asked her for it. I just waited until she took pity on me and shared what she had made. This year, I finally wised up, got the recipe and now it’s the only recipe I make.

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Mom’s Zucchini Bread

(adapted from a recipe from the Spokesman Review…probably from the late 1980’s????)

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line bread pan with parchment paper or coat it in cooking spray. Beat eggs and oil for 2-3 minutes until creamy. Add sugar and mix well. Add zucchini and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Slowly combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Do NOT over mix! Add in chopped walnuts. Pour batter into bread pan and bake for at least one hour, until a toothpick stuck into the center of the bread comes out clean.

A couple of quick notes:

Bake the bread in ONE large bread pan. I don’t know why, but this makes a difference. The top of the bread forms a slightly crispy crust, making it so delicious. For some reason, when the dough is divided, it doesn’t do this.

I typically add an extra 1/2 cup of zucchini. It takes the bread a few extra minutes to cook, but I feel like the bread stays moist an extra day.

If the bread is getting too dark on top but it’s not finished cooking, fold a piece of tin foil in half and create a little ‘tent’ to cover the bread. It will continue cooking but the top won’t get overly brown.

Add chocolate chips, blueberries or other kinds of nuts. Do NOT add whole wheat flour, flax-seed or bran flakes. This significantly changes the texture and taste of the bread (I tried, I was very sad with the results). It’s a treat, not health food.

Enjoy!

Making Memories (even if it kills us)

“I think we just accept we’re going to be miserable for a long time until one day it pays off and we realize all this was worth it .

I mean, come on, we’re making memories.”

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Wise words said by my husband as he stood in ankle deep water in the pitch black, packing up our tent trailer, as rain poured on us and a certain 9-month-old wailed from the truck.

We’ve decided to be a camping family…or maybe it’s a family who camps?

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We bought a tent trailer right before Memorial Day and then proceeded to get completely rained out several weekends in a row. Two weekends ago we finally made our inaugural trip up into the ‘mountains.’

The boys rode their bikes, we had campfires, went for walks, threw rocks into the lake, explored a few (easy) trails, ate hot dogs. And let’s keep it real: we had very little sleep, we yelled at our kids. We drank a lot of coffee. We did a fair amount of gritting our teeth, but really and truly, it was fun.

Encouraged by our mostly successful first trip, we set out again. All started well. We met our friends, the kids were happy, the beer was cold and the weather was hot hot hot.

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Cue Scarlet crying inconsolably all night long. And then the thunderstorms started, quickly followed by hail and rain. So much rain. The boys were troopers, watching movies on the iPad and riding their bikes through giant puddles in between storms. After each storm, the sky would clear and we would think, ok, this is it, it’s stopping, we’ll be fine. And then it would start again.

Finally in the pitch dark, in the pouring rain, as Scarlet cried and cried; I raised the white flag. No more. Time to go home.

And I’m so glad we did. But I’m also excited to head out again. In fact, I’m itching to try again. I want this for our family. I want these memories. I want the kids to remember the hustle and bustle of packing up, the anticipation of getting to our camp site. A couple of days, just us as a family, squashed together in a little trailer (that leaks a little and maybe smells a little musty).

I want the dirty feet and sunburned shoulders. I want sticky marshmallow fingers and sore legs from hiking and swimming and playing hard. I want memories imprinted into my children’s minds; our family together.

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For Aaron and I, it’s a few more years of hard work. I need to remind myself of that. But already, we see the fruits of our labor. And if we get rained out and the baby cries, then ok, we’ll head home, regroup and try again next weekend.

 


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