Classic Pizza Dough

Pizza is one of my favorite food, and I have enjoyed making homemade pizzas for years with this pizza dough. Nothing is more fun than inviting over a few couples, having them bring some toppings, then bellying up to the pizza-making bar.

1 cup lukewarm water
2 T. olive oil
1 packet dry yeast
3 cups flour (approx.)
2 t. kosher salt
2 T. sugar (my secret ingredient)

In a small bowl, combine the water, olive oil and yeast. Set aside until it looks foamy, about 5-10 minutes.

In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour with the salt and sugar. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the yeast mixture in a slow, steady stream. Let the mixer run on low until the dough comes together.

If needed, add up to a half cup more flour bit by bit until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead a couple times by hand.

Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover it with plastic. Let it rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour, until almost doubled in volume.

Refried Beans Without the Refry

My sister Tracy made this for us, and it was shocking how good they were, especially without meat! I’m going to be real honest and say that sometimes I don’t even puree them. They are great just as beans over rice, etc. This recipe is from AllRecipes.com, which Tracy loves for great recipes.

1 onion, peeled and halved
3 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
5 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin, optional
9 cups water

Place the onion, rinsed beans, jalapeno, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin into a slow cooker. Pour in the water and stir to combine. Cook on High for 8 hours, adding more water as needed. Note: if more than 1 cup of water has evaporated during cooking, then the temperature is too high.
Once the beans have cooked, strain them, and reserve the liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher, adding the reserved water as needed to attain desired consistency.

Roasted Rosemary Pecans

I adapted this recipe from my beloved cooking show host Nigella (is it wrong to say I have a teensy crush on her?). I added sugar to balance the herby/savory taste, and I think they are great as little gifts. I usually double the recipe, as it freezes beautifully.

2 1/2 T. unsalted butter
2 T. (packed) finely chopped rosemary
1 t. Kosher salt (or 1/2 t. regular)
1/4 t. (scant) cayenne pepper
1 T. sugar
2 cups pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add butter to rimmed cookie sheet or baking dish, and place in oven until melted. Remove and add rosemary, salt,  and cayenne, mixing well to combine. Toss mixture with pecans until well coated, then spread out and bake for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Crisp Rosemary Flatbread

If you want to impress your friends with a recipe that really isn’t that hard, please make this recipe. I bet you have all the ingredients on hand right now. The only tricky ingredient is rosemary. Now please don’t go buy some cut rosemary. Spend your money instead on a rosemary plant. Stick it someplace in your yard; it will change your life. It doesn’t need any special care, and you’ll find you use it all the time! Anyway, this flatbread is like a cracker, but it’s a whole different sport than what you get at the store. It’s so yummy. You can use it for a dip, but trust me that it’s delicious on its own. Roll it out super thin if you want it really crisp; but a little thicker gives it a great, chewy/crisp texture that’s awesome too. This recipe was in Gourmet in 2008.

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing
Flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle.

Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times.

Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece (keep remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap) on a sheet of parchment paper into a 10-inch round (shape can be rustic; dough should be thin).

Lightly brush top with additional oil and scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top, pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt. Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer flatbread (discard parchment) to a rack to cool, then make 2 more rounds (1 at a time) on fresh parchment (do not oil or salt until just before baking). Break into pieces.

Flatbread can be made 2 days ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Can’t Resist Coffee Cake

This is an old standby coffee cake recipes that comes from my friend Sandy Parker’s mother’s bridge group. She says they go crazy over this one. If you have a stand mixer, it’s easy to make. Otherwise, I can’t imagine having the patience to mix the batter for 10 minutes.

Serves 12

Batter:
1 package yellow cake mix
1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding (3.4 oz size)
5 eggs
3/4 cups Canola oil
1 cup water

Topping:
1/2 cup sugar
5 t. cinnamon
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Mix batter for 10 minutes. Prepare (mix) the topping (sugar, cinnamon and nuts) in a small bowl. Butter your bundt pan. Pour 1/4 topping into the pan add 1/3 of the batter add 1/2 of the topping-stir with knife to “swirl” rotate with batter and topping. Bake at 325 for 55-60 minutes.

Szechuan Green Beans with Ground Pork

This is probably my favorite way to eat green beans. I think it gets even better if you sort of leave it on the stove on low for awhile (found that out by accident). If you haven’t cooked with hoisin sauce, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Buy it for this recipe, then go search the internet for some more recipes – so good! I don’t change the recipe much except to serve it over brown rice or whole wheat couscous. You could top it with a few sliced almonds or pine nuts for a little more protein. Also, you could do it with asparagus in season.

I really don’t generally like to read caloric info, but since this is out of Cooking Light, I’ll go ahead and tell you that it’s only 234 calories. But don’t hold this against it.

Serves 4

1/2  pound  lean ground pork
1  teaspoon  cornstarch
1/8  teaspoon  salt
1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground white pepper
1  teaspoon  peanut oil
2 1/2  cups  (1-inch) cut green beans
1  teaspoon  minced fresh garlic
2  tablespoons  hoisin sauce
1  teaspoon  sugar
1  teaspoon  crushed red pepper
2  teaspoons  low-sodium soy sauce
2  cups  hot cooked white rice

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork mixture, beans, and garlic; cook 3 minutes or until pork loses its pink color, stirring to crumble.

Combine hoisin and next 3 ingredients (through soy sauce) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add hoisin mixture to pan. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Serve over rice.

Polenta Cups

I’m sure we’ve all been there (please tell me I’m not the only one!)… you’re at a party, and someone brings out an app, and you literally can NOT Step Away from the Appetizer! This happened to me years ago at our beloved wine tasting group in Portland. Iva-Marie brought these, and I can still almost taste them. Smooth, tangy, crunchy, buttery – yum! It’s so impressive, especially with a glass of wine.

3 cups milk
1 T. unsalted butter
1 t. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
Blue cheese, gorgonzola or camembert
Pine nuts, toasted
Butter

Combine milk, butter, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan and heat to a simmer. Slowly add cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Lower heat and continue stirring until the mixture has thickened and leaves the sides of the pan, about 10 minutes.

Coat mini muffin pan with Pam. After polenta is slightly cooled, use mini ice cream scoop to put polenta in balls into mini muffin tins. Make indent in each one with your thumb. Top each with a bit of cheese, some toasted pine nuts, and a tiny dab of butter.

Bake at 350 till golden, about 8 minutes, till melted and cheese is hot.

This recipe is always a hit at parties, especially with our wine tasting group! 3 cups milk1 T. unsalted butter1 t. sugar

1/2 t. salt

1 cup yellow cornmeal

Blue cheese, gorgonzola or camembert

Pine nuts, toasted

Butter

Combine milk, butter, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan and heat to a simmer. Slowly add cornmeal in a thin stream, whisking constantly. Lower heat and continue stirring until the mixture has thickened and leaves the sides of the pan, about 10 minutes.

Coat mini muffin pan with Pam. After polenta is slightly cooled, use mini ice cream scoop to put polenta in balls into mini muffin tins. Make indent in each one with your thumb. Top each with a bit of cheese, some toasted pine nuts, and a tiny bit of butter.

Bake at 350 till golden, about 8 minutes, till melted and cheese is hot.

Ooey-Gooey S’more Brownies

I almost didn’t make this recipe. It was out of Cooking Light, and I just didn’t know how a light brownie could be that good. But I am such a s’mores fanatic and it was recommended so highly that I decided to give it a try. And now it’s a favorite. The original recipe calls for peanut butter chips – substitute those if you must – but I think the toffee chips give it that almost burned taste of a s’more. Delicious!

Ooey-Gooey S’more Brownies

3/4  cup  fat-free sweetened condensed milk, divided

1/4  cup  butter or stick margarine, melted and cooled

1/4  cup  fat-free milk

1  (18.25-ounce) package devil’s food cake mix

1  large egg white, lightly beaten

Cooking spray

1  (7-ounce) jar marshmallow creme (about 1 3/4 cups)

1/2  cup  toffee chips (or crush up a Heath bar)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine 1/4 cup condensed milk, butter, and next 3 ingredients (butter through egg white) in a bowl (batter will be very stiff). Coat bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Press two-thirds of batter (NOT ALL THE BATTER – I SAY THIS AS A SERVICE TO YOU.)  into prepared pan using floured hands; pat evenly (layer will be thin).

Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Combine 1/2 cup condensed milk and marshmallow creme in a bowl; stir in morsels. Spread marshmallow mixture evenly over brownie layer. Carefully drop remaining batter by spoonfuls over marshmallow mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

If you must know, there are 176 calories per brownie, but only if you cut it into 24 brownies.

Overnight Oatmeal with Almonds and Dried Cranberries

This recipe will change your life (and probably lower your cholesterol!). You can make delicious, steel cut oatmeal once a week and have it on the table in less than 10 minutes the first day and about one minute on subsequent days. I started my quest to speed up steel cut oatmeal after I had the Best Oatmeal Ever at a hotel in Portland with my friend Jessica. It was so good that I even gave her the ingredients as a gift. But I hate giving a gift that complicates life, so I was so happy to come across this speedy trick.

Just soak your oatmeal on Sunday night, and you have a whole week’s worth that tastes as good as the first day! Take time to find muscovado brown sugar if you can; it’s a special touch. I use sliced almonds and dried cranberries from Costco, but the hotel served hazelnuts, and of course you could use raisins for the fruit. Either way, yum! I found the recipe on The Bitten Word, adapted from Food & Wine in 2008.

Overnight Oatmeal with Almonds and Dried Cranberries

Serves 6

1 1/2 cups steel-cut oats
6 cups water
1/4 cup chopped salted roasted almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
Brown sugar or pure maple syrup, for serving

In a large saucepan, boil the oats in the water for 1 minute. Cover and let stand overnight at room temperature.

The next day, uncover the oats and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring frequently, until the oatmeal is cooked and creamy but still a little bit chewy, about 10 minutes. Spoon the oatmeal into bowls. Top with the chopped almonds and dried cranberries and sweeten to taste with brown sugar or pure maple syrup.

Make Ahead: The prepared oatmeal can be refrigerated for up to 1 week. Rewarm in a microwave oven and thin with water if necessary before serving.