Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two Secrets to Achieving Happiness

Wow- how do I follow that emotional post? Take a moment to read yesterday's post if you haven't already.

I'm filling in to today for Chef Debbie. For those of you who know her, I'll give you a moment to recover from your drink coming out of your nose. I know of other mother/daughter blogs, and each family member has something different to add. My Mom recently shared a few recipes with you (not that she personally made, but it still counts!) from the Pioneer Woman, so this in not an entirely new topic. However, she would be the first to welcome a guest blogger who likes to share about a cooking adventure, not being someone personally tempted by the kitchen. My Mom gave me many things (blonde hair, lessons on how to color your hair when it's not so blonde anymore, love for icecream in the middle of the day, and other serious & important things...) but cooking was not a gene or skill inherited from her. If anything, I learned to love being in the kitchen around age 7 1/2, when she decided I was old enough to take over all the cooking...or was I just desperate and decided I couldn't eat ANOTHER Tuna Bundle??? I don't remember. Doesn't matter. Truth is, I love to cook now, and morning sickness permitting, I spend a lot of time in our newly remodeled kitchen (just a little plug for my genius husband who gave me a lot more space in this beloved part of our house). I even have a stainless steel island, which if you are going to pretend like you are the Pioneer Woman, you MUST have.

First I want to try to tempt you to make homemade freezer jam with all the amazing fruit in season. Before I got married, I would have thought this was a daunting task. Then I found out that it was sort of "the thing to do" if you wanted to have a happy husband, and my sister-in-laws kept showing up with the delicious stuff at family events. Of course, I wanted my husband to be happy, so I bought a flat of strawberries and got to work. I learned a few things that summer: 1) Jam does not actually have a lot of fruit in it. That one flat made about 32 quarts of jam (!) 2) It will make you look like you are amazing in the kitchen, but really, the hardest part is cutting up the fruit (which I don't even do- I use a food processor). 3) Jam is good on EVERYTHING. We put it on scones, toast, in yogurt, you can even use it as an icecream topping. Here's how to do it: Buy a box of Sure-Jell (in the canning section of your grocery store), fresh fruit of your choice, and some sugar and give it a whirl! The directions are easy, and it will take less than 30 minutes from start to finish. As a side note, this year I made a sugar-free version using no-sugar added cranberry juice and strawberries, and I don't miss the sugar at all. Make sure to check your box of pectin (I used the "Ball" brand for the sugar-free version). Here are two lovely jars of to keep, and one to give away. Isn't this tempting?

Sometimes I like to try new recipes and other times I just want to fall back on my favorites. Unfortunately, I have not yet collected all my favorites for those basic meals that make up our weekly menus. For instance, I'm still searching for the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe. (Any recommendations? Must use real cheese.) However, there is one search I recently ended and that was for a Perfect Pizza Crust. Now for you health nuts (I say that respectfully) it is not 100% whole wheat, but if you don't care about that, then it is indeed Perfect! It's super easy and makes me want to eat pizza all the time. It's de-lish- tastes like your favorite small town pizzeria pizza (unless that would be Pizza Hut, in which case you have no idea what you are missing). Note- it makes 4 large pizzas- perfect for large families. I usually halve the recipe and make two pizzas, one for dinner, and another for lunch or snack. I've also frozen the dough, and it still turns out fabulous! (The pizza picture below is not mine...I would have a LOT more cheese.)

Here it is, straight from the Naked Chef himself:

Jamie Oliver's Pizza Crust
Copyright © Jamie Oliver 2008. All rights reserved. (

PIZZA DOUGH INGREDIENTS (with my equivalents in parentheses)

  • 1 3/4 pounds white bread flour (6 1/3 cups)
  • 7 ounces fine ground semolina flour (1 1/2 cups...I used whole wheat)
  • 1 Tbsp. fine sea salt (mine was not "fine" but worked well)
  • 2 packets of dried yeast (2 Tablespoons)
  • 1 Tbsp. golden caster sugar (1 Tablespoon granulated sugar)
  • 20 ounces lukewarm water (2 1/2 cups)
To create the dough: Place all your flour and salt into the food processor. Add the yeast and sugar to the lukewarm water, mix with a fork and leave for a few minutes. Once it has started to foam, begin pulsing the flour in the processor and slowly pour in the yeast water through the funnel, bit by bit, pulsing as you go. Pulse until all the ingredients have come together. This may take a minute or so, and then blitz continuously for a few minutes until you have a smooth, soft dough. Carefully remove the blade and leave the dough to rest in the food processor, with the lid on, for at least 15 minutes at room temperature. This will make it easier to roll it out thinly.

It's nice to roll the pizzas out 15 to 30 minutes before you start cooking them. Keep the dough in plastic wrap in the fridge if you aren't ready.

To create the pizza: Preheat your oven to 500°. Then, take your freshly made pizza dough and tear it into pieces. Roll each piece out on a floured surface until it is roughly circular, about 12 inches across and about 1/4 inch thick.

Spread 2 to 3 Tbsp. of tomato sauce into middle of dough and spread out evenly, leaving edge of pizza clear. Dot the pizza with mozzarella, and sprinkle with basil leaves and any toppings you like. If you can, cook the pizzas on a piece of granite in your conventional oven. If not, then put them one by one on the bars of the oven shelf toward the bottom of the oven. (If you're going to cook your pizzas on the bars of the oven, make sure they're not too big.)

Pizza should cook at 500° until the base of the pizza is golden, bubbly and crisp around the edges, about 7 to 10 minutes.
I usually use fresh mozzarella and whatever fresh veggies I have on hand for toppings. You may never go back to store-bought pizza crusts/frozen pizza. :) And your husband will love you forever if you make him some freezer jam. See, everyone is happy!

Brite, who seems to have inherited the Long Post Curse.


lea said...

love the fact that my sweet brite in a guest poster especially since i knew her before i knew debbie. i also love the fact that she didn't wait until midnight to post. how would the jam taste ON the pizza crust? just wondering.

brite introduced me to the pioneer woman's website and for that i will always be indebted to her. she also introduced me to debbie, her mom, and i am not sure if i am in her debt or she is in mine...

Moriah said...

Wow, this is a change! So are you checking your own comments, B? :)

Ahem. A word about your pizza sauce? ha

wbtrice said...

I felt like it was getting too long, or I would have mentioned the sauce (I actually did, but deleted it later). If anyone wants Moriah's 5-Minute Gourmet Sauce recipe feel free to ask. I never make pizza without it! :)

Meg in Tally said...

Yes, Brite! I have THE perfect Mac & Cheese recipe. I'll e-mail it to your mother...its easy enough for HER to make! LOL!!

Loved your post. No doubt you've spent a lot of time with the Princess!

Meg in Tally said...

After looking at my e-mail recipe list, I find I've already sent it to your mom--over a YEAR ago! Can't believe she wouldn't share it with you. It would fit right in to PW's recipe book since it has a lot of cheese and a lot of butter!

lea said...

you are so right brite (that is why that rhymes)... i DESIRE & DESERVE a weekend off at the beach! no guilt about your mom winning the challenge since i do get a lovely frenchie lunch WITH her out of this.

"a blog a day in may" might just lead to my motto for next month...

try to be out of bed by noon in june...

Colette said...

Great post, Brite! :) You have motivated me to consider making jam sometime in the future. :D

Anonymous said...

Ummm...just wondering here...but which of those jars of jam do you keep and which do you give away? Kind of weird to give away the 1/2 full one?

Give ME the full one! LOL!!

Mfp said...

Hey Brite,
I liked your post, it was funny, and not too long! :)