Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pizza Margherita

My bread baking has now expanded to something I find incredibly useful - pizza dough! I like making pizzas at home but never have fresh dough. So, a response to a post on my favorite cooking forum led me to the blog "Cate in Thailand" and her pizza dough recipe.

After preparing the dough, I topped my pizza with a tasty marinara sauce (YES, from a jar!) and fresh mozzarella. After baking until the crust is crispy and the mozzarella is gooey, I topped with fresh basil. In making this dough I learned a couple things; 1) don't spread your dough too thin. It will make sliding off the peel more difficult, especially with sauce and cheese on it. And 2) make sure to use a good amount of cornmeal on the peel, otherwise it'll stick to the peel and turn over on itself on the pizza stone! (yes, I did this. Fortunately I made two pizzas.)

Ingredients for SIX 12 inch, thin crust pizzas:
4.5 c. all-purpose flour or bread flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp instant yeast
1/4 c. olive oil
1 3/4 c. ice cold water
cornmeal for the peel

The night before you want to eat pizza:
  • Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in elecric mixer bowl
  • Pour in the oil and water, and stir using a paddle attachment until just sticky
  • Switch to the dough hook and mix for 5-7 minutes until elastic
  • Remove dough from bowl, place on counter and divide into six equal portions
  • Form each portion into a ball. Leave dough in fridge overnight in ziploc bag with little bit of olive oil for use the next day. Or, you can also freeze each ball individually in a ziploc bag with a little olive oil, just put into the refrigerator the night before you wish to use it.

The day you want to eat pizza:
  • Remove the dough from the refrigerator 2 hours before you plan to bake them
  • Place on counter and form into 5 to 6 inch rounds, cover loosely with plastic wrap or clean towel
  • After 2 hours is up, preheat the oven as high as you're comfortable with - preferably 450 or higher. Make sure you preheat your pizza stone as well.
  • Sprinkle cornmeal on your pizza peel
  • Shape the dough quickly stretching it to desired width (but not to thin!!)
  • Place onto the peel, place toppings and put into the heated oven
  • Cook until the crust is crispy and cheese is melted

Monday, February 9, 2009

A photo of the delicious Penn Station knock off sandwich!

A few days ago I posted the recipe to my version of Penn Station's Teriyaki Chicken sandwich. At that point, the sandwich looked so tasty that I had to eat it as fast as I could, rather than attempting to get a suitable photo for the blog. Well, the hankering for this sandwich hit again and this time, I forced myself to wait before diving into the deliciousness that is this sandwich. Enjoy the photo, and try the recipe!

Please note the homemade french fries. Baked the fries in the oven for about 15 minutes, then deep fried them in a couple inches of oil.
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Saturday, February 7, 2009

Homemade, Warm Applesauce

My husband and I have recently become a fan of The Great Dane's homemade applesauce. I figured it couldn't be that hard to get something similar out of my kitchen, so I thought that the pork BBQ I made for dinner this week would be nicely complemented by warm, homemade applesauce. The results were very good. My husband required a second serving!

I got this recipe from

Serves 4

4 apples, peeled, cored and chopped - I used tart green apples
3/4 cups of water
1/4 cups of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon - I used a heaping teaspoon...

In a saucepan, combine apples, water, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Allow to cool, then mash with a fork or potato masher.

I kind of mashed my apples as they cooked, rather than waiting for them to cool then mashing. At the end, when there was still a little bit of water at the bottom of the pot I cranked up the heat to reduce the water/sugar/cinnamon down and remove some of the watery moisture.

Served warm, alongside the pork sandwiches and corn.
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Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwiches

I like BBQ, I like crock pot cooking, and had 4 boneless pork loin chops in the freezer. Thus, the birth of this recipe. I usually do this with chicken and get more moist results, but think that this was very tasty. If I were to make pork BBQ again I'd look for a fattier cut of meat. But the pork loin chops worked well for me, especially since it's what I had on hand. The best part about making this in the crock pot (aside from the fact it took 5 minutes to put together before I left for work) was that when I came home from work my house smelled like glorious bacon. I thought for a moment that my husband had fried some up for breakfast, but then remembered that no - I had actually thought ahead to make dinner, and was cooking up yummy pork BBQ. What a wonderful moment.

Serves 3-4 people

4 boneless pork loin chops - frozen or fresh
Favorite BBQ sauce
Hamburger buns

Throw your frozen chops in a crockpot
Douse in lots of BBQ sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Rays) until very very well coated, but don't use it all - you'll need some more later.
Set on low and cook for 8-10 hours, or until it's cooked through (probably a shorter amount of time, but this is how long I was at work!)
Pull out the pork, shred with a fork or chop with a knife. Should come apart very easily!
Here's where that remaining sauce comes in - in microwave safe bowl, add some BBQ sauce to the bottom (about 1/4-1/2 cup) and microwave until warm
Add the shredded pork to the warm BBQ sauce and toss to coat
Add some of the BBQ sauce from the crock pot to the bowl and toss to coat
Serve up on hamburger buns!

If you want to make pulled chicken instead of pulled pork (which I actually think is a bit better) just replace the 4 pork loin chops with 2 or 3 large chicken breasts (bone in, skin on). Prepare the same way. When you remove the chicken to shred just remove the skin and bones - which should come right off. And, when adding the BBQ sauce that's cooked down in your crock pot, take care to not add back any bones or skin that's fallen off when pulling the moist, tender chicken from the crock pot.
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Homemade Hummus

The recipes I've seen for hummus seem pretty easy, so I thought I'd give this a whirl to go alongside the homemade pita bread I posted earlier. My inspiration for this recipe comes from Ina Garten's Hummus recipe. It called for only one ingredient that I wasn't sure I could easily find - tahini - but thought I had seen this in the Asian section in the grocery. Well, after a trip to my well-stocked grocery, Tahini was nowhere to be found. So I now had a REALLY good reason to stop at this curious place I have been driving by ever since I moved to Madison last May - the The Garden Asian Market. First of all, it's a gas station. Walk in the store, and you'll see windshield wiper fluid, pine-scented air fresheners, and lottery tickets....right next to the live lobster, fresh produce, and Chinese style BBQ duck. It is also directly in front of what is supposedly a very good Chinese restaurant.

It took me a moment to get my bearings...and the problem was that a lot of what I was seeing in what appeared to be a condiment section of this little place had only Chinese characters on them. Of the jars of stuff with labels I could read, I didn't see anything called Tahini. I know Tahini is some sort of bean paste, and saw some bean 'things' in jars, but wasn't certain of what it was exactly. So I left empty handed.

So, Ina's recipe needed to be modified minus the Tahini, and I also halved it because...well I just didn't need almost 3 cups of hummus for two people. The key to this recipe is that it is really just a list of ingredients, and you should adjust the flavors of lemon, olive oil, hot sauce, salt, and garlic according to what you like. Mine ended up very garlicy and lemony, but still tasted pretty good. (FYI - It's going to be a little more grainy than what you'd get if you used tahini). Here's what I did:

2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can of chickpeas, drained with liquid saved
3/4 tsp Kosher Salt
1 fresh lemon (need about 3 T.)
Tablespoon of water, or the reserved chickpea liquid
Hot sauce
Olive oil

Put chickpeas, garlic, salt, lemon (to taste!), hot sauce and little of the chickpea liquid in a food processor and blend it up until it seems as smooth as you can get it.
Add in olive oil a little at a time to make it a bit smoother. I added a few tablespoons (I think). I completely eyeballed it.
When it tastes the way you want, you're done. :-)

Put it in a dish, drizzle a little olive oil over it and eat!
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Pita Bread

As I continue learning how to use yeast to make bread, I've found yet another easy recipe on Amber's Delectable Delights blog. You can get the recipe here... as well as below. I figured that this would be a nice addition to the storebought hummus I usually buy (Athenos brand hummus, by the way), and was also curious to know how soft these would be, in hopes of using them to knock of Chilis' Chicken Ceasar Pita at a later date. Well, little did I realize but, this recipe inspired me to make my own hummus as well (recipe to be posted soon). Overall, the results were quite good, despite accidentally omitting the last rest right before baking! I paired them with homemade hummus and fresh cucumbers and even dipped them in my Superbowl Velveeta Salsa dip. Kind of reminded me of my husband's favorite appetizer back in the day (Don Pablo's flour tortillas, rolled up and dipped in queso). Will definitely make again!

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 packet yeast
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening

Mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water. I ended up using 1.5 cups

Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes. If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.

When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.

When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.

After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick - 6 inches in diameter. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.

Place discs on a lightly greased baking sheet and let rise, uncovered, until barely doubled in thickness, about 30-45 minutes. (I actually forgot this step, and think I still got good results, but would have probably experienced even fluffier pita bread had I done this).

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn’t necessary.
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Monday, February 2, 2009

Penn Station Teriyaki Chicken Sandwich Recipe

Okay - these looked SO tasty when they were assembled that my husband and I inhaled the sandwiches before I had a chance to take a photo! So, no photo for this blog update.

The source of my inspiration for this super quick dinner is Penn Station. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Penn Station is a quick serve restaurant where you order your sandwich and they make it in front of you on their hibachi-like grill. They saute up all the ingredients, throw on some cheese, toss it in a french bread, and throw it through a broiler to get it all melty and gooey. My favorite sandwich has always been the Chicken Teriyaki Sandwich with mushrooms and onions however recent years it hasn't been living up to my standard. So, I set out on a quest to make it the way I remembered. Plus, there aren't any Penn Stations here in Madison! The recipe below I believe will be super flexible for you. Add as many or as few mushrooms, onions and green peppers as you like. Season with as much (or as little) teriyaki sauce as you want. The French bread I'm using is the take-and-bake kind that you'll find in the bakery. Usually comes two to a loaf, each loaf is about 18 inches or so long, and you heat it up to get it crusty.

Serves about 2, depending on how big of a sandwich you make
- 1 French bread loaf
- Vegetable oil - enough to coat the bottom of a saute pan
- 1 large chicken breast, pounded thin
- 2 very large mushrooms, thinly sliced
- 1/4 to 1/2 a white onion, thinly sliced
- Half green pepper, thinly sliced
- Teriyaki sauce
- 2-4 Swiss cheese slices

  1. Cut one loaf of French bread in half to get two 8-inch length loaves. Slice both loaves lengthwise, but not all the way through
  2. Turn oven to 300 degrees, put sliced loaves in the oven while it heats up. Once the bread gets slightly crusty, turn off the heat, but leave the bread in the oven to keep warm
  3. Pound your chicken breast as thin as you an get it and slice all your veggies
  4. Heat vegetable oil in pan on med-high heat. Put the chicken breast in the pan and begin to saute. As the chicken sautees, use two stiff spatulas to shred the chicken in the pan. (This is how they do it in the restaurant!)
  5. Add in the onions, mushrooms, green peppers and teriyaki sauce
  6. Saute until teriyaki has cooked down, chicken is cooked, and veggies are as soft as you want
  7. Pre-heat broiler
  8. Place the swiss cheese slices in the bread, fill with the chicken teriyaki mix
  9. Place sandwiches under the broiler to melt the cheese

There ya go!
Now, if you wanted to make this a true Penn Station recipe, you'll need to fry up a batch of freshly sliced french fries...that is also one of the BEST things about Penn Station. I fear that these won't be properly recreated any time soon since I don't have a deep fryer or the willingness to have that much oil on hand. At least I've satisfied the Chicken Teriyaki sandiwch craving!