Thursday, 17 February 2011

Pita Pizza

Yes, when I get my act together and start publishing, it tends to happen all at once. Here's another recipe - one that I came up with all by myself! Abby asked for pizza tonight for dinner. I had to admit that it sounded good, but so NOT on the diet. So I made one completely from scratch!!
The pita crust and the sauce are both homemade! This means that there's a good chance you'll have most of the ingredients in your house for whenever you want pizza! Is it as good as delivery? No. Of course not. Will it satisfy your craving for junk food on movie night and keep the kids & hubby happy? Probably ;-)
Makes 4 personal sized (about 8") thin crust pizzas. Or 2 larger pizzas. Serve with a large salad for a complete meal!
  • Calories: 409.9
  • Total Fat: 9.5 g
  • Cholesterol: 16.4 mg
  • Total Carbs: 58.7 g
  • Dietary Fiber: 9.7 g
  • Protein: 19.6 g

Pita Pizza!
    For Sauce: 
    1 8oz can tomato sauce 
    1/2 can water (4oz) 
    1 small onion, minced 
    1/2 green bell pepper, minced 
    1t garlic 
    1t garlic powder 
    1t onion powder 
    1t oregano 
    1t parsley 
    1/2 t basil 
    1t no-calorie sweetener  
    For Pita Crust: 
    2.5C whole wheat flour 
    1t salt 
    1t garlic powder 
    1t onion powder 
    1t dried rosemary, crushed 
    1T sugar 
    2t yeast 
    1T EVOO 
    1C hot tap water 
    For toppings: 
    8 mushrooms, sliced thinly 
    1/2 bell pepper, sliced thinly 
    4 oz part-skim mozzarella, shredded 
    8 large leaves basil, shredded (lay them on top of one another, roll up like a cigar then slice)


For Pita Crust:
1. In a large bowl combine 1C flour with salt, sugar & yeast. Add oil and water.
2. Beat with whisk for 1 minute, then add the rest of the flour 1/2C at a time.
3. The dough should be a rough shaggy mass that cleans the sides of the bowl
4. Knead for 6 minutes.
5. Heat oven to 400F (if you have a baking stone, place it inside to heat). Divide dough into 4 pieces, roll into balls , dust lightly with flour, cover with a damp towel and rise 30 minutes.

For Sauce:
1. Spray a small saucepan with spray oil and sauté onion and peppers for about 5 minutes or until wilted. Add remaining sauce ingredients and simmer 10-15 minutes.

To Assemble:
1. Roll each piece out into about a 10" circle on a floured surface. Curl up about 1/2" around the edge and press the edge firmly to the bottom - making the edge of the crust (see photo)
2. Prick the crust well with a fork (this recipe makes pocket pita if left unpricked!). Flour a wooden cutting board and place the pizza on it. Jiggle the crust to make sure it will slide. Place 1/4C sauce on the crust and spread to the edges.
3. Spread 2 sliced mushrooms, 1/4 of the bell peppers and 1 oz of cheese on the pizza, and top with 1/4 of the fresh basil.
4. Jiggle the pizza to make sure it's not stuck (help with a spatula if it is) then take it to the oven and gently slide it onto your hot stone. If you only have a metal pan, make the pizza right on it then place the pan in the oven.
5. Bake for 12 minutes or until the cheese is browning!
You could also make this into 2 full sized pizzas. Slice each into 8 pieces. 4 pieces per serving.
Number of Servings: 4

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Roasted Winter Vegetables

I've had a request!! I love to make these roasted winter vegetables - they're so yummy! This is really not much of a recipe, more like ingredient suggestions, so have fun!!

  • Around 8 C of your favorite winter vegetables, in 1" cubes (I usually use butternut and sweet potatoes, but parsnips and carrots are very nice additions)
  • 2 onions, in 1" cubes
  • 6 peeled cloves of garlic, cut in half
  • 1/4C olive oil
  • 1t salt
  • 1/2t black pepper
  • 1t garlic powder (optional)
  • 1t onion powder (optional)
  • 1/3C balsamic vinegar

You'll need a very large pan for the oven - the biggest 16" cast iron skillet is what I use. You want your veggies to be just 1 or 2 cubes deep. Combine all the veggies in your pan then drizzle lightly with oil - I usually pour from the bottle and don't really measure. Drizzle on the vinegar and spices and toss well with your hands.

Roast at 375 for around 1.5 hours - stirring and tossing every 20 minutes or so. By the end, the veggies will have soaked up the caramelised vinegar and be sizzling in the oil. Use a firm-edged (preferably metal) spatula to scrape up the veggies when you toss - to avoid tearing them. If you only have a smaller pan - and your veggies are deep - plan on 2 hours, and they might not get crispy. But they'll still be tasty.


Friday, 11 February 2011

Valentine's Day 2011

Valentine's Dinner 2011
featuring Mastering the Art of French Cooking
by Julia Child.

Friday, Feb 11:

Started working on some stuff today to prepare for tomorrow. Made my Praline for dessert - burned the first batch of caramel, but the second turned out alright. Pretty much looks like peanut brittle. Pulsed in the processor for about 30 seconds, and it's done!

Trimmed 2 of my 4 lamb shanks. I didn't know what I was doing, and I was afraid of taking off too much of the fat and not having any flavor left. The other 2 I'm not even going to touch - we'll see which ones turn out better.

I think that's all for today. It's actually not that much work, and it can all be done tomorrow, then held until re-heated for dinner!! Yay!

Saturday, February 12:

The day is here! This morning, Matt took Abby out to the park for several hours, so I started work as soon as Anya went down for her morning nap. First I took care of my lamb. This dish is easy to prepare ahead of time and them bring back to a simmer before dinner. I browned the lamb, then made my sauce and put it all into the oven for about an hour. In hindsight, it was a little tough, and should have braised for about another 30-60 minutes. I refrigerated my stock so I could easily scoop the fat off, then reduced my sauce down to a nice thick glaze. All done and ready for dinner!

Next I worked on my potatoes. I peeled a bag of fingerling red & yellow potatoes, then sautéed them slowly until tender. I drained them on paper towels and saved the buttered skillet until dinner.

Carrots were easy. I quartered fat baby carrots then simmered them for 30 minutes with a touch of sugar, butter, salt & pepper.

I blanched my brussels sprouts, then placed them in a small casserole drizzled with butter, salt & pepper.

30 minutes before dinner, I brought my lamb sauce to a simmer, added the shanks back in then popped it into the oven to re-heat, with the brussels sprouts beside them. I heated my potato skillet, browned my potatoes further and added fresh chives, rosemary & parsley. I also sautéed my carrots briefly with chives and parsley.

When it was all done, I plated our beautiful dinner and poured the remaining gravy into a small pitcher. The flavors were excellant. Well developed and rich, well seasoned and strong. The only thing wrong was that the lamb could have braised longer, but the flavor was very good. The potatoes were tender, the carrots perfectly done, and the sprouts very tender and nice. I served our lamb shanks with a Cotes de Rhone wine, as suggested by the cookbook.

I almost forgot about dessert! I prepared it during one of Anya's naps. It was really pretty simple - an egg custard. Yolks & sugar cooked together, then folded into beaten egg whites with fresh, homemade praline (carmelized almonds), rum & vanilla. This was poured into dessert dishes lined with dried ladyfingers which were drizzled with rum and espresso. It wasn't quite as amazing as I'd hoped, but I think that's just because I really prefer rich chocolate desserts. The flavor was very good, and Matt dug into the leftovers only 2 hours after dinner!!

Well, the whole dinner was amazing! I am very pleased with every dish that I prepared. The vegetables had too much butter overall for my tastes, but the flavor was much richer than the veggies I usually make, so I guess it makes a difference. The lamb shanks were a bit underdone, but tasted very rich and flavorful. As far as the trimming goes, I should have removed the fat and silverskin from all of the shanks. There was no need to cut the meat away from the bone, because the meat contracted while cooking anyway - the ones I trimmed look really wimpy with such a small amount of meat on the end!!

Julia Child, you have done it again! An amazing Valentine's Day feast was prepared and enjoyed by one and all. I can't wait to try more recipes!!

Wait... what's this you say? You want photos?? I guess...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

...and then there was Julia Child.

I have begun a new chapter in my cooking journey. I received Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child as a wonderful thank-you gift from some good friends whom we had the pleasure of hosting for a couple of weeks. While they were here, S. wanted to make a special dinner and chose Boeuf Bourguignon and Ratatouille, by Julia Child. We watched Julie & Julia since I knew they prepared the stew in that movie. The dishes were amazing. Astounding. Literally better than anything we'd ever had in a restaurant. We got a little bit Julia-happy :-D

I'd had the book set on my Amazon wish list since I watched that movie the first time, several months ago, and I jokingly said that I'd accept a copy when they asked what they could get me as a thank-you gift. Imagine my surprise when it showed up on my doorstep the day before they left!!!

I'm on a fairly strict diet right now, and it's working wonders! I've lost almost 30 lbs in three months. This does not really fit in with the 'butter, butter and more butter' of French cooking. My plan is to do a recipe or 2 every couple of weeks. I'm also pretty sure that most recipes can be altered to use less fat. But, I really want to do the cookbook justice and make them correctly.

My first dinner will be a big one - Valentine's Day!! Here is the menu I've chosen:

  • Braised Lamb Shank(339)
  • Potatoes sauteed in butter(526)
  • Braised Brussels Sprouts(451)
  • Carrots in Butter(477)
  • Caramel/Chocolate Almond Creme(594)

I won't usually choose 3 buttered veggies and won't be making very many desserts, but for Valentine's Day I'm going all out! I'll make another post with my progress later this week!!