Saturday, May 31, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging - Jerk Kabobs

For this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Wandering Chopsticks, I have created Hubby's favourite - Jerk Kabobs. This in no way means that I think that he is a jerk, not generally anyway, but refers to the Jamaican style of marinade that tastes sooo good.
I would say that the two most important elements to jerk seasoning are habaneros and allspice. The list of ingredients are long but the recipe is easy as I plunk them all in a blender and whiz them up.
Seen here the kabobs are served with grilled veggies and a baked potato topped with salsa.
I was introduced to jerk marinades by a tall, dark and handsome gentleman who lived on the bottom floor of an apartment building that I lived in years ago. There were a fair amount of parents of young children in the building and we would get together often. Dwight, the only father in this group of mothers, would make us jerk chicken and rum punch. The ladies would all laugh and sigh and twirl their wedding rings and enjoy the spicy island meal.
We have since moved away, the kids are big, but I still make jerk marinades - I wonder what Dwight is doing now?

Jerk Marinade and Barbecue Sauce
- makes about 2 cups
Good for beef, chicken and pork marinades.

½ onion or 1 small onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 habenaros, chopped roughly
Juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tsp dry thyme
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp salt
2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1” fresh ginger, roughly chopped
¼ cup vegetable oil

Mix together in blender.
Marinate meat, refrigerated, at least 6 hours. Skewer and grill to taste.
Keep some marinade aside for extra basting at the end of grilling.
Extra sauce (that has not come into contact with meat) can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.



Drying herbs.
I learned this technique of drying herbs from my friend Cindy. Take a paper lunch bag. Make a bunch of holes in it with a hole punch. Add herbs for drying and hang until dry. The dry time will be different for different herbs. This works best for herbs that don't have a large water content. Like thyme, rosemary and sage.
Pictured here is rosemary.


Check out Wandering Chopsticks for this week's round-up.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Breakfast Bread

Let's just say I have a thing about bread. I see no problem devoting one's day to creating a great loaf of bread - to me this is a perfectly honourable and reasonable use of one's time. On a desert island short list, I would pick bread easily over dessert.

My love of bread is nothing new. As a baby and toddler living in a van with a gaggle of hippies who thought traveling Europe with a small child was a great idea, the bread had to be hidden, lest I gum it down. Needless to say, I was not without ability and agility and could locate said hidden loaves while the grown-ups slept and dispatched them in quick order. I would do it today. Likely with less slobber.

As a depressed teen, I would slip out to the grocer's and buy myself a $0.99 baguette to gnaw on in my angst. Perhaps two.

My love of bread has been inherited by my children. Not least of which is my daughter who, upon surveying the 6 course Indian feast that I laid out for her and her friend said "what, no bread? But the chapatti is the best part!"

Do I need an excuse to bake bread? No, but I'll gladly take one. I have discovered a group of bread fanatics to bake with and for my first submission to BreadBakingDay - Breakfast Breads - I chose a recipe that originated in Saskatchewan, Canada. My native country, if not my province.

I present to you today a recipe for a breakfast bread - buttery on the outside and tender and rich in the middle with a ribbon of fruit to surprise and delight the senses. Wonderful in the morning toasted and spread with butter or creamcheese, it also went nicely that evening with the cream of broccoli soup that I prepared. I must admit, hubby and I polished off one loaf within 12 hours. Well, bread is the staff of life.


Helen’s Special Raisin Bread
From Home Baking
Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid




2 cups scalded milk, cooled to lukewarm
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
6 ½ to 8 cups all purpose flour
1 large or extra large egg
1 ½ to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus extra melted butter for brushing
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup moist, dark raisins, soaked. - I used ½ dark raisins and ½ dry wolfberries as I had just found some at the bulk store.

Combine milk and water in a large bowl. Sprinkle on yeast and stir. Add sugar and 2 cups flour and stir until smooth. Let stand several minutes.
Add the egg and butter and stir in, then sprinkle on the salt and stir in. continue to add flour a cup at a time until the dough becomes difficult to stir. Flour a work surface generously and turn out the dough. Knead for about 5 minutes, incorporating more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth, firm, and elastic.
Place the dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 3 - 4 hours, until not quite doubled.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and cut it in half. Lightly butter two 8x4 inch bread pans.
Flatten one dough piece in to a rough rectangle about 8 inches by 10 inches. Sprinkle on half the raisins, leaving a 4 inch wide band raisin-free at one short edge. Roll up the dough from the opposite edge, pinch the seam to seal, and place seam side down in one of the prepared pans. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, place a rack in the lower third of the oven and place a baking stone on it. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees f.
Just before baking, brush the loaves with a little melted butter and slash twice crosswise. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Brush the tops of the loaves with a little butter and lower the heat to 375 degrees; bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the pans: the loaves should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Place on a rack and let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.


Thank you Zorra, for founding this great monthly blog event!



Check out the round-up at Baking a Sweet Life for tons of great breakfast bread recipes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Daring Bakers - Opera Cake

The Daring Bakers strike again!
This time it was in the form of a formidable opera cake. Definitely the most complicated cake that I have ever made.

It consisted of five elements: a joconde, which is a cake layer made with meringue and ground almonds. A syrup, which drenched the joconde layers. Buttercream, sandwiched in between the layers. A ganache, making up the final layer, and a white chocolate glaze, to cover and seal the entire cake. (Whew)

I used DiSaronno as my flavouring. I made the ganache, joconde, syrup and butter cream the day before. I was feeling pretty cocky as I had made these parts ahead and they came out without any problems, even though the recipe for the buttercream frightened me. On Monday morning, all that was left was the assembly and the glaze. I started the assembly according to the instructions - the square of joconde on the bottom, syrup, 2/3 of the buttercream - so far so good. Then I put on the 2 rectangles. They kept sliding around and the buttercream was oozing out the sides, I figured that adding the next layer would keep them still. I syruped and creamed and added the other joconde square, the syrup and some of the buttercream that had run out of the layers. Still the middle layer was oozing and the rectangles were trying to escape. I put toothpicks in the cake, pushing the layers back in place while hubby screamed “Maybe we should build a retaining wall!”. Men. (edit: hubs has taken exception to his portrayal in this drama and wishes it to be known the he simply suggested the retaining wall in a calm and reasonable manner. Ok, so maybe he didn't scream, but the whole scenario was pretty crazed for a little while.)

I shoved the whole thing in the fridge and left it for a couple of hours. It didn’t look too bad. I told myself that I could trim the edges when it was done and if all else fails, call it a trifle. I added the ganache and put it back into the fridge to set up.

A couple of hours later, I trimmed the edges, made and poured on the glaze and popped it back in the fridge. It was looking pretty good, if puddley around the edges.
We had some that night and it tasted pretty good. I immediately froze about ½ the cake for another time. The next day it tasted even better, the flavours had had a chance to meld. If I were to make it again, I would probably use a fruit flavour rather than white chocolate. I would layer it differently so small pieces wouldn’t drift away and I would use a bit less butter cream. Otherwise I thought it was a great project, something I definitely would not have tried without a little push.

This recipe is based on Opéra Cake recipes in Dorie Greenspan’s Paris Sweets and Tish Boyle and Timothy Moriarty’s Chocolate Passion.
Thank you Fran of the blog Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie and Shea of the blog Whiskful for cohosting with Lis and Ivonne this month. I look forward to the next challenge!

Opera Cake
For the joconde(Note: The joconde can be made up to 1 day in advance and kept wrapped at room temperature)
What you’ll need:
•2 12½ x 15½-inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans •a few tablespoons of melted butter (in addition to what’s called for in the ingredients’ list) and a brush (to grease the pans)•parchment paper
•a whisk and a paddle attachment for a stand mixer or for a handheld mixer•two mixing bowls Ingredients:
6 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 tbsp. (30 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (225 grams) ground blanched almonds
2 cups icing sugar, sifted
6 large eggs
½ cup (70 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. (1½ ounces; 45 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.Divide the oven into thirds by positioning a rack in the upper third of the oven and the lower third of the oven.
2.Preheat the oven to 425◦F. (220◦C).
3.Line two 12½ x 15½- inch (31 x 39-cm) jelly-roll pans with parchment paper and brush with melted butter.
4.In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or using a handheld mixer), beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
Add the granulated sugar and beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy.
If you do not have another mixer bowl, gently scrape the meringue into another bowl and set aside.
5.If you only have one bowl, wash it after removing the egg whites or if you have a second bowl, use that one. Attach the paddle attachment to the stand mixer (or using a handheld mixer again) and beat the almonds, icing sugar and eggs on medium speed until light and voluminous, about 3 minutes.
6.Add the flour and beat on low speed until the flour is just combined (be very careful not to overmix here!!!).
7.Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the meringue into the almond mixture and then fold in the melted butter. Divide the batter between the pans and spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of each pan.
8.Bake the cake layers until they are lightly browned and just springy to the touch. This could take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes depending on your oven. Place one jelly-roll pan in the middle of the oven and the second jelly-roll pan in the bottom third of the oven.
9.Put the pans on a heatproof counter and run a sharp knife along the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Cover each with a sheet of parchment or wax paper, turn the pans over, and unmold.
10.Carefully peel away the parchment, then turn the parchment over and use it to cover the cakes. Let the cakes cool to room temperature. For the syrup(Note: The syrup can be made up to 1 week in advance and kept covered in the refrigerator.)What you’ll need:•a small saucepan
Ingredients:½ cup (125 grams) water
⅓ cup (65 grams) granulated sugar
1 to 2 tbsp. of the flavouring of your choice (i.e., vanilla extract, almond extract, cognac, limoncello, coconut cream, honey etc.)
1.Stir all the syrup ingredients together in the saucepan and bring to a boil.
2.Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

For the buttercream(Note: The buttercream can be made up to 1 month in advance and packed in an airtight container. If made way in advance, you can freeze the buttercream. Alternatively you can refrigerate it for up to 4 days after making it. To use the buttercream simply bring it to room temperature and then beat it briefly to restore its consistency.)
What you’ll need:•a small saucepan•a candy or instant-read thermometer•a stand mixer or handheld mixer•a bowl and a whisk attachment•rubber spatula
Ingredients:
1 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 grams) water seeds of one vanilla bean (split a vanilla bean down the middle and scrape out the seeds) or 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract
1 large egg1 large egg yolk
1¾ sticks (7 ounces; 200 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
flavouring of your choice (a tablespoon of an extract, a few tablespoons of melted white chocolate, citrus zest, etc.)

1.Combine the sugar, water and vanilla bean seeds or extract in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat just until the sugar dissolves.
2.Continue to cook, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 225◦F (107◦C) on a candy or instant-read thermometer. Once it reaches that temperature, remove the syrup from the heat.
3.While the syrup is heating, begin whisking the egg and egg yolk at high speed in the bowl of your mixer using the whisk attachment. Whisk them until they are pale and foamy.
4.When the sugar syrup reaches the correct temperature and you remove it from the heat, reduce the mixer speed to low speed and begin slowly (very slowly) pouring the syrup down the side of the bowl being very careful not to splatter the syrup into the path of the whisk attachment. Some of the syrup will spin onto the sides of the bowl but don’t worry about this and don’t try to stir it into the mixture as it will harden!
5.Raise the speed to medium-high and continue beating until the eggs are thick and satiny and the mixture is cool to the touch (about 5 minutes or so).
6.While the egg mixture is beating, place the softened butter in a bowl and mash it with a spatula until you have a soft creamy mass.
7.With the mixer on medium speed, begin adding in two-tablespoon chunks. When all the butter has been incorporated, raise the mixer speed to high and beat until the buttercream is thick and shiny.
8.At this point add in your flavouring and beat for an additional minute or so.
9.Refrigerate the buttercream, stirring it often, until it’s set enough (firm enough) to spread when topped with a layer of cake (about 20 minutes).

For the white chocolate ganache/mousse (Note: The mousse can be made ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to use it.)
What you’ll need:•a small saucepan•a mixer or handheld mixer
Ingredients:7 ounces white chocolate
1 cup plus 3 tbsp. heavy cream (35% cream)
1 tbsp. liqueur of your choice (Bailey’s, Amaretto, etc.)

1.Melt the white chocolate and the 3 tbsp. of heavy cream in a small saucepan.
2.Stir to ensure that it’s smooth and that the chocolate is melted. Add the tablespoon of liqueur to the chocolate and stir. Set aside to cool completely.
3.In the bowl of a stand mixer, whip the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream until soft peaks form.
4.Gently fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate to form a mousse.
5.If it’s too thin, refrigerate it for a bit until it’s spreadable.
6.If you’re not going to use it right away, refrigerate until you’re ready to use.

For the glaze (Note: It’s best to make the glaze right when you’re ready to finish the cake.)What you’ll need:•a small saucepan or double boiler
Ingredients:
14 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream (35% cream)

1.Melt the white chocolate with the heavy cream. Whisk the mixture gently until smooth.
2.Let cool for 10 minutes and then pour over the chilled cake. Using a long metal cake spatula, smooth out into an even layer.
3.Place the cake into the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Assembling the Opéra Cake(Note: The finished cake should be served slightly chilled. It can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 1 day).Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.Working with one sheet of cake at a time, cut and trim each sheet so that you have two pieces (from each cake so you’ll have four pieces in total): one 10-inch (25-cm) square and one 10 x 5-inch (25 x 12½-cm) rectangle.

Place one square of cake on the baking sheet and moisten it gently with the flavoured syrup.Spread about three-quarters of the buttercream over this layer.Top with the two rectangular pieces of cake, placing them side by side to form a square. Moisten these pieces with the flavoured syrup.Spread the remaining buttercream on the cake and then top with the third square of joconde. Use the remaining syrup to wet the joconde and then refrigerate until very firm (at least half an hour).Prepare the ganache/mousse (if you haven’t already) and then spread it on the top of the last layer of the joconde. Refrigerate for at least two to three hours to give the ganache/mousse the opportunity to firm up.Make the glaze and after it has cooled, pour/spread it over the top of the chilled cake. Refrigerate the cake again to set the glaze.Serve the cake slightly chilled. This recipe will yield approximately 20 servings.


























Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging - Lemon Balm Iced Tea

Several years ago I planted a little tiny seedling of lemon balm in a partly shady spot next to my bridal wreath spirea. I thought that it might be nice for garnishes and I had heard that the lemon scent deters mosquitoes. Now, left unchecked, my lemon balm grows to the size of a small shrub each year and I scramble to cut it back every few days before it eclipses the plants around it. Last year, while I was unawares, it totally enveloped a small cottoneaster and killed it. Gardening, as I have learned, is no place for the faint hearted.
This year I have vowed to keep on top of this vigorous herb and use it as generously as I can.

For my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging, a fabulous tradition of honouring herbs by Kalyn of Kayln's Kitchen, I have made Lemon Balm Iced Tea. This week's round-up is hosted by Cate from Sweetnicks, check out her site for more fabulous recipes starring herbs.

I feel that I must make an aside here. I have heard that iced tea is serious business in the southern United States and much debate is made on how to do it best. Here in Canada, I am sheltered from formal iced tea argument and have just brewed it in a manner that made sense to me at the time.


Lemon Balm Iced Tea

In a medium sized pot, add 7 cups cold water.
From your garden, cut down 2 giant fistfulls of lemon balm and rinse well, discarding tougher stems.
Add to the pot of water.
Add 1/2 cup of sugar or to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Remove from heat and add 2 black tea bags.
Let steep on the counter for another 10 minutes and strain.
Allow to cool and refrigerate until cold.
Serve over lots of ice with lemon and a fresh sprig of lemon balm.
Any special dietary needs can be met by switching the sugar for your favourite sweetener.
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For this week's round-up click here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sugar High Fridays - Cranberry Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Glaze

Sugar High Fridays -
Well who could resist a title like that? This is the name of the monthly challenge originated by Jennifer the Domestic Goddess. Hosted in May by Tartlette, the theme of the month is Citrus. This is more than okay with me as I am the rare type of girl who will take citrus over chocolate any day. Sorry if this offends anyone - especially you, Sheila. Friends anyway?
For this event I have made cupcakes. It is such a beautiful day today, these are just perfect for eating on the deck with a cup of tea while the puppies nose around for crumbs.


Cranberry Lemon Cupcakes with Lemon Glaze

From 125 Best Cupcake Recipes - by Julie Hasson


Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line one regular 12 cup muffin pan with papers


1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 eggs
2 tsp grated lemon zest
¼ tsp lemon oil or extract
½ cup milk
1 cup dried cranberries


1. In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, butter, eggs, lemon zest and lemon oil until smooth. Alternately whisk in flour mixture and milk, making three additions of the flour and two of the milk, beating until smooth. Stir in cranberries.
3. Scoop batter into prepared pan. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes in pan and then on rack until completely cool. Glaze.


Lemon Glaze
2 cups icing sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon
Whisk until smooth, drizzle over cooled cupcakes.
I topped the cupcakes with some edible flowers from a jar that was given to me. If I had some blueberries, they would be good too.

Check out the Sugar High Fridays round-up where an amazing 130(!) citrus desserts will tempt your tastebuds. Click here for part one and here for part two.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

GYO, Grow Your Own - Herb Focaccia

I was very excited by the Grow Your Own challenge given by Andrea of Andrea's Recipes. Growing food at my little tiny home with the little tiny yard has been one of the greatest rewards of moving to a house. There was really only so much I could do in a city apartment and I never seemed to be facing the right direction to keep windowsill herbs alive.
This year, like last year, I have gone overboard with my tomatoes and hot peppers (I gave up on sweet peppers as the bugs liked them too much) I am guilty of planting too many, too close, but somehow they produce nicely for me anyway. The only problem is that here in Southern Ontario, I won't see the fruits of my labour until August. Sigh.

Which leaves me with... Herbs! Well, there are greens too but they are a bit small yet. The herbs are lusty and verdant and just waiting to be of use so for this GYO I have baked up a Herb Focaccia to showcase the spring upstarts. Herbs are featured in the dough and as a topping.


Herb Focaccia

Dough
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 package traditional dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil*
1 tsp kosher salt
1 generous cup chopped fresh herbs - I used chives and oregano

In mixer bowl, combine water and yeast with rubber spatula. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with dough hook on medium for 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can knead by hand. Dough will be sticky.
Scrape into oiled bowl, turn dough to oil all over and cover with a tea towel and let rise 1 hour.
Meanwhile - Cut 1 purple onion in half and slice each half thinly. Put aside with a generous amount of dry thyme leaves and rosemary.
When the dough has risen, oil a cookie sheet and press out with your fingers to get a dimpled effect. Put on your onion slices, rosemary and thyme. Press these into the dough with your fingertips. Drizzle with olive oil* and sprinkle with coarse salt. Let rise 1/2 hour on the counter.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Bake 20 - 25 minutes, until crispy on the bottom and edges.

*I like to use a garlic infused olive oil. I just take 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 head garlic, peeled, and put them in a small oven proof vessel with a lid at 400 for 1/2 hour. Let cool and discard garlic.
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What all did I grow for this recipe? Oregano, thyme (dried from last year's garden) chives and rosemary.
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Check out Andrea's site for this month's round-up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's Up!

Only one week after Mother's Day, my shiny new pot rack is up. Two short weeks ago this was a pile of lumber, dowels, chain and hooks. But due to the magic of hubby, it has been transformed into my first pot rack. We had planned years ago to put one up over the island but it got put off as a fan seemed more important.
Hubs noticed that Laura Calder had one by her window on French Food at Home and got the idea to put it there. If you'll notice, he even left room for a little shelf at the top for my beloved Nordic Ware bundt pans. How thoughtful.
There is no limit to the dedication that man has for the woman, and the kitchen, that has fed him so well.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging - Lemon Parsley Lentil Soup

For my contribution to this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, I have recreated a lemony parsley lentil soup that I had about 20 years ago in a falafel shop. I know that 20 years is a long time to think about a soup and really too long for a self confessed foodie to try to recreate an enjoyable recipe, but sometimes it takes a little shove, like from Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen - mother of weekend herb blogging - to take a long hard look at the parsley growing in my garden and think of what would best showcase it on this cool, rainy weekend.
This soup was a big hit with my family, especially with my daughter, the semi-vegetarian, who's favorite food happens to be lentils. I kid you not. I served it with some caraway rye rolls but any hearty bread would be a nice accompaniment. The stand out part of this soup is that the fresh elements - the parsley, lemon, tomato and garlic - are added at the end, maintaining their bright, bold flavours.

This week's Weekend Herb Blogging host is Gay from A Scientist in the Kitchen. Check out her site to find some yummy dishes from around the world starring herbs.

Lemon Parsley Lentil Soup - serves 4-6
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 rib celery, sliced
1 large carrot, diced
1 tsp salt
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or a mix of the two.
1 cup lentils
1 diced tomato
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cup chopped parsley
Black pepper

Rinse and pick over lentils.
In a small soup pot, heat vegetable oil on medium/high.
Add onions. Sauté until soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
Add celery, carrots and 1 tsp salt. Sauté 5 minutes more.
Add stock and bring to a boil.
Add lentils and bring back to a boil.
Drop heat to gentle simmer and simmer until soft, about ½ hour.
Add tomato and garlic, heat through. Add lemon juice and parsley, heat through.
Season to taste and serve.

Wikipedia -Parsley, Companion plant
Parsley is widely used as a companion plant in gardens. Like many other umbellifers, it attracts predatory insects, including wasps and predatory flies to gardens, which then tend to protect plants nearby. They are especially useful for protecting tomato plants, for example the wasps that kill tomato hornworms also eat nectar from parsley. While parsley is biennial, not blooming until its second year, even in its first year it is reputed to help cover up the strong scent of the tomato plant, reducing pest attraction.

Check out the round-up for Weekend Herb Blogging #133 to see what else is cooking!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Michael Smith's Banana Brownies

The Barefoot Contessa, my personal idol, won over her hubby, Jeffrey, with brownies. There is something about a moist, dense brownie that pleases the senses like cake cannot. They are over the top, hedonistic, reach for a drink desserts. This month's Food Network Canada Cooking Club Challenge is Michael Smith's Banana Brownies - and who am I to turn down a challenge? Besides, it contains bananas, it's practically health food.

Michael Smith’s Banana Brownies
Yield: 12
“A recipe is merely words on paper; a guideline, a starting point from which to improvise. It cannot pretend to replace the practiced hand and telling glance of a watchful cook. For that reason feel free to stir your own ideas into this dish. When you cook it once, it becomes yours, so personalize it a bit. Add more of an ingredient you like or less of something you don't like. Try substituting one ingredient for another. Remember words have no flavour; you have to add your own!” Michael Smith.
Who can argue with that?

Ingredients:
1 lb. dark chocolate
2 sticks (1 cup) of butter
4 x eggs
4 x ripe bananas
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tbsp baking powder

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a small bowl set over a pot of simmering water.
In a separate bowl, mash together the eggs and bananas. Add the flour, sugar, cocoa and baking powder and stir to combine. Pour in the melted chocolate mixture and stir.
Butter and flour an 8” by 8” baking dish and pour in the batter. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the brownies are firm to the touch.
Note: Yields 8 large or 12 small brownies.
I followed the directions as they were, I just used chocolate chips rather than dark chocolate as they cost far less. Use what you like.
I did put parchment in the pan after buttering it and then buttered the parchment too. I left a little sticking up to use as handles to pull the brownies easily out of the pan after they had cooled a bit. Finish cooling on a rack before slicing. Then share with those you love. Or those you want to love. Maybe you'll win someone over.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Blog Party - Buffy Bash

This is the invitation to the 34th blog party, hosted by the magical Happy Sorceress at Dispensing Happiness.
I was immediately excited about this blog party as I am a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I used to watch it every week with my daughter. At some point she felt that she grew out of it but I kept on watching. I even bought her the figurines which she has kept in the packages and is hoping for future resale value!
Here, posing with the figurines, is my contribution to the Blog Party Buffy Bash.

Buffy Bash Cocktail
The Spiked SunnyDale (Spike-d SunnyD-ale) A very good cocktail to ease the stress of slaying and dating the undead.

In a brandy or cocktail glass,
½ cup ice cubes
Splash of grenadine and a maraschino cherry for colour, let it settle on the bottom.
1 oz white rum
1 ½ oz Sunny D
1 ½ oz ginger ale
Garnish with a coloured straw and something fruity
You can leave out the rum for an un-Spike-d SunnyD-ale.

I came up with this drink in the bathtub, trying to free-associate Buffy with alcohol.
Xander, Willow, The Master, vampire, hell mouth, witch, werewolf, Angel, the Bronze, Sunnydale -SunnyD-ale! Spike-d SunnyD-ale!
Ha! I slay me. I really do.
Poor hubby then got dispatched to the store for SunnyD - which we had only seen in commercials, who knew that there were different kinds? We used tangy original.
He was then rewarded with a refreshing glass of Spiked Sunnydale so all was well.
For the appetizer to go with it I went for a simple grilled chicken tender on a stake with a strawberry, drizzled with balsamic vinegar. A light appetizer to keep you in fighting shape.
I grilled the chicken tenders - just seasoned with salt and pepper - on a separate skewer and let cool. Then I threaded one on each bamboo stake (skewer) with a strawberry and drizzled both with balsamic vinegar. The strawberries have the added benefit of looking like human hearts but you shouldn’t dwell on that while you are eating them.

Go take a look at the Buffy Bash round up to see what the others are making...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Leftover Strawberries

Faced with a beautiful 1/2 container of leftover strawberries I decided to make hubby a treat. He had originally bought the fruit as part of my Mother's Day breakfast and served me a large bowl of strawberries with whipped cream - and a huge omelet! I am guessing that he subscribes to the theory that your wife will never stray if she is too full to go anywhere. We were forced to skip dinner due to the richness of breakfast and also the fact that it was served at 4:30 pm. Hubs lost track of time working on the pot rack in the basement. (No, it's not done, but it is looking close!)
Here is the recipe, adapted from Nordic Ware, for my Butter Shortcake with Strawberries. Makes 6 shortcake baskets.

You can substitute any berries. I glazed mine with warmed Peach Chardonnay preserves that I picked up in the Niagara wine region but apricot or most other jams or preserves will work just fine. If you don't have a shortcake pan use a muffin pan filled 1/2 way. If you have large domes cut them off or hollow them out.

1 cup flour
2/3 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
- fresh berries, sliced if using strawberries
-1/4 cup warmed preserves, jelly or jam for glazing

Heat oven to 350 degrees f. Generously grease and flour shortcake pan; set aside. In large bowl, combine butter and sugar, add egg, combine, add milk and stir to combine. Then add the dry ingredients except berries and glaze. Pour batter into pan, dividing evenly. bake at 350 f. for 18-20 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes and turn out onto rack. Cool and add berries and glaze. Serve with whipped cream.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Weekend Herb Blogging - Oregano Ravioli

The oregano is up in my small, Canadian garden and I am inspired by the lovely Kalyn at Kayln's Kitchen to create a meal to showcase this beautiful herb. I love it's grassy, floral quality and quite often use it in a fresh in a salad or dry it for more savoury applications. The flavour of oregano when fresh is milder than dried - it's more popular form.
This week's Weekend Herb Blogging Round-up is hosted by Laurie from Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska. Check out her site to discover some yummy dishes starring herbs!

Oregano Ravioli
My oregano ravioli is not stuffed with oregano, the fresh herb is worked right into the pasta. This will work for other herbs as well, just use less herbs for stronger tasting herbs and far less for dried.

Filling -
2 (1lb.) medium russet potatoes, peeled, cubed and cooked until tender. Mash fine or press through potato ricer.
1 cup shredded cheese, I used cheddar for this batch
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, grated fine on Microplane
pinch salt and black pepper to taste
Combine in a bowl, cover and set aside while you make the pasta.

Pasta -
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (or as needed)
3 large eggs
2 tbsp milk, water or cream (or as needed)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup loosely packed fresh oregano
The measure of flour and liquid will depend on the type of flour you use and the humidity, so be prepared to adjust to get the right texture.
Combine in a stand mixer with dough hook or by hand until you have a raggedy ball. Turn out onto counter and knead until you have a smooth, leathery ball. Cut into 6 pieces and roll out into thick lasagna noodles with pasta roller.


Create ravioli - I use a press but you could do them free form as well. Put a spoonful of filling in the center of pasta, brush beaten egg around edges and place second sheet of pasta on top. You should be able to do 8-12 per sheet, depending on how large you make them. Press out any air pockets and seal edges firmly with your finger tips. Use a pastry wheel or pizza cutter to separate ravioli.

Dust with a little more flour and let dry on counter 1/2 hour before cooking.
Simmer in gently boiling water or chicken stock until al dente. The ravioli pictured is served topped with grilled chicken and garnished with a sprig of fresh oregano.
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Wikipedia -
Oregano's name is derived from the Greek origanon ὀρίγανον oros ὄρος "mountain" + the verb ganousthai γανοῦσθαι "delight in". Oregano is high in antioxidant activity, due to a high content of phenolic acids and flavonoids Additionally, oregano has demonstrated antimicrobial activity against food-borne pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes.

Take a look at the Weekend Herb Blogging round up to see what else is cooking!


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Getting Excited for Mother's Day

A couple of days ago, Hubby and I went shopping for materials to make my Mother's Day present, a pot rack. Currently there exists in my basement some oak, dowels, hooks and chains which Hubby swears will be a handsome and handy pot rack when he is done. I do have faith in him, he always delivers and is dedicated to providing me with well-crafted gifts, if late. I will likely not be able to show you the pot rack this weekend and instead have included pics of two of the other gifts he has crafted for my kitchen this year.

The Salt Rack. Yes, I am a girl who is excited by a variety of salt. Hubby built me this rack for Valentine's Day - or near abouts - to hold my collection which includes:

Everyday salts like coarse sea salt, fine sea salt, table salt, kosher salt and pickling or coarse salt.

The more gourmet or finishing salts include Hawaiian Sea Salt, Australian Pink Flake Salt, Maldon Sea Salt, Celtic Gray Salt, Smoked Sea Salt aged in Chardonnay casks and Trapani (Italian) Sea Salt. I am quite pleased with my collection and feel fairly sated. However, there is one salt which I consider to be the Holy Grail of salt collecting. Soy Salt. It is a glistening black salt made by the dehydrating of soy sauce. Little black nuggets to garnish an Oriental style meal. I have never seen this salt in person, I read about it on the Gourmet magazine website, but I have left one jar empty in case I find it. Everyone needs a dream.

The Menu Board. The other item Hubs made for my kitchen this year was my menu board. This didn't take him too long as he actually crafted it a couple of years ago as a calendar holder which was far too large for any calendar that I could find. This year I asked him to convert it to a menu board and I just put the calendar on the fridge.
I know it is probably easier for my family to just ask me what's for dinner, but I get so happy writing it up on the board. I have coloured chalk and everything!
So, I wait patiently for my pot rack. Does this mean I'll have room for more pots?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Wildflower Cake

Let me just tell you, right here and now, that I have just a wee bit of a Nordic Ware baking pan obsession. All the shapes and sizes and patterns... I have been know to fondle and admire the pans even when I have no plans for baking. I am quite sure that they love me back.
Even Hubby has learned not to try to get in between me and my Nordic Ware and will acquiesce to the purchase if they are on sale. (The one condition of the hunt, because, let's face it, they are expensive pans.)
Today I got out my wildflower sheet pan to make a cake for the kids at the end of a long week of school. I put coloured sugar in the crevices to highlight the flowers, the rest of the decorating was provided by the contoured pan itself.

Spring Bouquet Cake - from Nordic Ware - for a 9x11 cake pan.
3 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease cake pan. Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Beat together butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. At low speed, alternately beat flour mixture and milk into butter mixture. Spread batter into prepared pan and smooth surface. Bake cake until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack to cool completely.

Now, before you think that I am having a one track affair with this company, let me also share with you that my baking pan collection extends far beyond Nordic Ware. Tart pans, springform, silicone, cast iron and baguette forms all hold a special place in my heart. They are art with funcion, they talk to me. Whereas some people might find a recipe and decide what pan to bake it in, I choose the pan I want to use and find a recipe to highlight it. It's a big world, I know I can't be alone in this. There must be others living month to month, just waiting for their next fix, I mean pan.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sunshine on a rainy day

Ok, so maybe the sun isn't shining. Maybe hubby is home injured and it doesn't look like we will be working in the garden this weekend. This is not cause for despair. Or much anyway. We can still sit on the deck and watch the rain. And have..... a cocktail? On a weekday afternoon? Fabulous!
I concocted this drink looking for sunshine in a glass. A drink able to lift one's spirits and bring hope that summer will soon be here. But don't take my word for it, try it yourself. I must warn you though, do not operate any heavy machinery after, like the telephone or the remote. Just relax, uncurl your toes and dream of summer.

In a blender, combine:

1/2 pineapple, peeled and chunked
1/2 mango, peeled and chunked
2 oz Uphoria Pomegranate Liquer
1 oz Uphoria Pink Guava Liquer
2 oz banana liquor
4 large ice cubes, or equivalent smaller ones
4 oz orange juice
4 oz vodka

Whiz up to combine, serve in cocktail glasses with a fruit garnish. Makes 4 drinks.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Playing Hookie

Half the flock have stayed home to rest today. Hubby has wrenched his neck so that his head sits at a peculiar angle upon his shoulders and Darling Daughter has taken a day off to sleep. She got into her jammies at about 8pm and has only surfaced for meals. She is the only person I know who can sleep for 24 hours, must be a teen thing.

So, in honour of the two homebodies I forwent the usual weekday breakfast of yogurt with granola or bran muffins and fruit and made a more weekend-oriented meal of eggs and toasted baguette.

Fresh herbs are showing their lovely faces in the garden and the eggs are liberally strewn with oregano and chives. A sliced tomato, some grated cheese and black pepper and you have a simple and elegant breakie, even on a Wednesday.
DD's is simpler, with fresh fruit instead of tomato and herbs but equally as tasty.

It is important to know when to take a little time for yourself to rest and heal. And spoiling yourself needn't be taxing, sometimes simple is best.

The Zone

There are nights when I am in the kitchen keeping so many plates spinning in the air that I start amazing even myself. I've mixed and rolled and cut the pasta, kneaded and fermented and baked the bread, made the salad and the dressing, and created a sauce for the pasta. All while writing down what I'm doing. This is the one area in my life where I am coordinated, where I don't fall apart under pressure.
A glass of Cab Sauve, puppies watching happily from their little beds, this is when I am in my element.
Usually I'll have the Food Network on in the background. Hubby put in a little tv for the kitchen since I spend so much time here. I don't have a lot of time to really concentrate on what they are making, so it doesn't bother me when they repeat the shows. It takes a few viewings for me to figure out what they are doing anyway.
I don't feel this bliss when I have to follow a recipe, or when I am entertaining. Then I usually over-plan and second guess myself. But leave me alone in my kitchen to cook for my family and I am in my element.
I believe it was Gloria Steinem who said that a man can't possibly appreciate a woman's spending the whole day in the kitchen making him dinner. I prefer Ina Garten's (The Barefoot Contessa) telling Jeffrey that her whole purpose in life is to make him a good dinner!
Is it my whole purpose in life? I guess not, but it is certainly what makes me feel good and what could be better than that?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's here!

Ok, this is the reason that the puppies and I haven't strayed very far from the house for 2 days. I'm serious, even our walkies have been within view of the house when nobody else was at home to intercept my precious parcel. FedEx just dropped off my prize copy of Jamie at Home.

I know I could just as easily purchased my own copy from Amazon and have it left in the mailbox but this is so much more delicious.

My entry to the Food Network Canada Cooking Club http://www.foodtv.ca/BLOG/archive/2008/04/18/april-cooking-club-challenge-results-part-i-roasted-garlic-vegetable-tart.aspx for April was chosen as deserving a cookbook and a hearty congratulations! There was also the harrowing chance that I would be sent the other prize, a Rachel Ray cookbook which, my apologies to RR fans, isn't my cup of tea. But Jamie it is, and the one I wanted too, as I had just received Cook with Jamie for Christmas from my daughter.

My appreciation for Jamie only recently developed over the last couple of years. He got my attention with his travels in Italy and his new show, Jamie at Home, is great. I love that he is growing most of his own food and sharing simple growing and cooking tips. We need more shows like that. Local, organic and brave. Remember the Manic Organic? Whatever happened to him?

But back to the delivery. FedEx guy was very patient with me and listened to the entire story of winning the cookbook and the subsequent waiting at the door. He had a wife who watched Food Network and Understood. So cheers to you, FedEx guy, I will dedicate my first JaH recipe to
you.

My picture of the Roasted Garlic Vegetable Tart I made from Anna Olson's new show, Fresh, taken on my deck on a sunny day. Later I took it to my mother's house for a family dinner, along with a pasta salad and freshly baked bread and lemon cakes for dessert.


Any excuse for a party

I remember when my friend Mark, who hails from India, used to complain that whenever people found out where he was from they would comment on how much they loved Indian food. This bothered him immensely as he thought his home country was somehow being reduced to the trivial or unimportant.
In my point of view, people who are food minded, and there are a lot of us, will associate almost any country first with it's food. Oh sure, music is also a great ambassador but it lacks the full sensual experience that food provides. The smell, texture and taste of a fine meal stays with you long after the evening has passed. What do I think of when I meet a Greek, Italian, Mexican, Cuban, Irish, Argentinian.......? Food. Food, food and food. You come from where? Really, sounds delicious, I mean fascinating.

Let's face it, there are few things we can't live without. Food acts as a necessity and a luxury, from basic fare to high art. You are what you eat. How fortunate we are in this day and age to have access to a variety of culture's foods and fiestas. The calendar can provide inspiration for innovative dinners via cultural holidays. Cinco de Mayo? I live in Canada, Mexican liberation has not been on the forefront of my most pressing concerns but I love the idea of celebration with food. So from this Canadian Gringa, I give you my recipe for pork ribs with pineapple mango chipotle glaze and pineapple salsa.
2 racks pork ribs, silver skin removed, cut in half
Glaze
1 chopped mango
1 chipotle pepper in adobo
1 cup chopped pineapple
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 habanero pepper, de-seeded
Combine all glaze ingredients in a blender.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place a large piece of heavy duty foil on a large cookie sheet and spray with cooking oil. Place ribs on foil in a single layer and season with salt and pepper on both sides. Pat to adhere. Brush on 2/3 of the glaze, both sides, and wrap tightly in the foil. Bake for 1 hour and fifteen minutes, ribs will be soft. Pull out of the oven and fire up the BBQ. Grill until nicely crisped up, applying the rest of the glaze. Be careful not to burn the ribs. Serve topped with salsa.
While the ribs are in the oven, you can make the salsa.
Pineapple Salsa
1/2 jalapeno or 1/4 habanero pepper, minced
1/4 cup chopped purple onion
1/2 cup pineapple, chunked
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
pinch of salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
Toss in a bowl and serve on top of or beside ribs.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Reading

I have just finished Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. I know that I am probably the last foodie to have read this important book but I have an excuse. I had meat in the freezer that I was afraid I would not be able to eat after cracking open this book.
I needn't have waited though, although Mr. Pollan's book can be graphic at times it is never unnecessarily explicit or shaming. It is an adventure of one man's first hand research into the food we eat and where it comes from. From industrial agriculture to Big Organic, pasture-raised foods and hunting and gathering. Pollan has an easy going style of delivering facts without making you sleepy. By the end of the book you feel informed and awake and more confident in your shopping decision making.

Unlike when I read Diet for a Small Planet a hundred years ago, I was not scared off of meat entirely. I agree that the planet cannot sustain so many people eating so much meat and like Pollan's attitude of eating meat as a smaller part of the diet. Hubby would be relieved too as he would follow me into vegetarianism, but he would sorely miss the meat.

So what has changed since reading The Omnivore's Dilemma? We have sourced out a local, organic meat shop nearby and are looking into the same for dairy. Not such an easy task in a smaller town but worth the effort. We buy local and organic when we have the option, sometimes you have to choose between the two though, unfortunately. We have become more observant - like when we pick up the apple bags that bear the logo of the local orchard and read the small print - Product of Chile! (I know, I know, apples are out of season and one of the worst crops for pesticides, but Hubby has some strange attachment to them and buys them all year no matter how mealy and waxy and tasteless.)

This year we are going to make an effort to shop at farmers markets and do some preserving and, yes, I did say that last year but this year we will try harder. We do grow some things at home, mostly herbs, hot peppers and tomatoes. I would grow more but I live in the world's tiniest house with minimal space to grow.

What won't change? There are some things I can't live without - olive oil, citrus, pineapples, coffee, bananas - you get the picture. Tread lightly and find a balance that you can live with.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday Morning

Today is a lazy day. Teens have a habit of preferring to spend time with friends, girlfriends and boyfriends and first jobs than with their mothers. That leaves mom at home with Good Hubby. On these occasions I am rewarded with a chef's morning off and an omelet. Not just any kind, I have specific preferences. There must be mushrooms, onions, cheddar and hot peppers. Anything else is gravy. Not true gravy you understand, just extra.
Omelets are Good Hubby's providence and I would never be so bold as to step into that territory. Fortunately, every other territory is still open to me. I have included a pic of today's omelet. I am a lucky girl.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Beginning

Saturday Morning,

In the relative quiet of the day, I am undertaking the beginning of my blogging journey.

Inspired by the lovely, raucous and generous ladies (and gents) of the Daring Bakers, I thrust myself into the stream of writers who are dizzy in love with the reading, watching, creating and tasting of fine foods.

Please be patient with me, my knowledge of computers is mediocre at best but my intentions are good and I promise to write regularly and with variety.

It is the weekend and in my family that means pizza. In the interest of sneaking some nutrition into my teenage sons, I have begun adding whole wheat flour to the pizza dough. Just a little at a time, so as not to arouse suspicion. Having 3 teens in the house means that pizza is done on a mass scale so here is my recipe, adapted from the KitchenAid stand mixer booklet, for sneaky semi whole wheat pizza dough.


Pizza for a Crowd

In your stand mixer -
2 cups warm water, not hot of course. Just warm to the touch.
4 tsp traditional dry active yeast or 2 (8 gram) pkgs.
Give it a stir with a rubber or silicone spatula.
Add 5 cups flour - I do about 2 cups whole wheat and 3 unbleached white. Go ahead and experiment but having some white gives the crust a lightness which is especially important when using other flours like rye.
2 tbsp Italian Seasoning - sometimes I use chili powder
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

Attach the dough hook to your mixer, and mix for 2 minutes on low to combine. Scrape down bowl and mix on 3 until you have a nice ball that pulls away from the bowl. About 3 -5 minutes. You can finish by hand if you like, kneading on the counter to get a nice smooth ball. If it is humid, you may have to add more flour. Just a little at a time.

Place your ball of dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a dish towel. Leave to rise for one hour in a warm, draft-free place.

Meanwhile dust 2 cookie sheets with cornmeal or semolina. One sheet for Fussy Boys and the other sheet for Veggie Girl and us, the Parents.

Gather some toppings. I find that you can easily locate small cans of pizza sauce at the regular grocery store and they top the 2 pizzas perfectly. As alternatives you can use pesto, salsa, or homemade sauce but for Fussy Boys, regular pizza sauce will be fine.

Shred some cheese - I do mozzarella for the traditional, about 1 1/2 - 2 cups and a blend of mozzarella and other cheeses for the other. Parmesan, cheddar, blue or feta are faves in our house.

Toppings - the world is your limit. Try to stick with a theme to avoid pizza chaos, it is tempting to put everything that you love on your pizza but you might find that your pizza is tastier with just a few generous toppings.

I believe that I should state now that many of the toppings should be pre-cooked. Bacon can be half cooked in a pan and let to crisp up on the pie, other meats should be fully cooked as the pie is only in the oven for about 15 - 20 minutes.

For the traditional I do just pepperoni or bacon. That's it. How these boys don't have scurvy by now I don't know.

For the alternative pizza, I do usually Hawaiian. Bacon, pineapple, roasted red peppers, pickled hot pepper rings and occasionally, slivered almonds. Or vegetarian Mediterranean - jarred artichoke hearts, feta, sweet red peppers, kalamata olives, halved cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs. (put the herbs on the bottom, to avoid burning) Lastly, and this might make you cringe, I love pizza with anchovies, onions and sliced tomatoes. Fortunately Hubby has grown to love this combo too but it can only be served when Veggie Girl, who will sometimes eat bacon, is not home.

When the hour of rising is coming to an end, preheat your oven to 475 degrees.

When your dough is ready, divide into two - a bench scraper is great for this.

Roll out each half to a rectangular shape roughly the size of your baking sheet. Transfer to the sheet and press in to fit.

Top each dough with sauce, cheese - hold some back for sprinkling on the top, and toppings. Top with the remaining cheese and bake until crisp. About 15 - 20 minutes depending on your oven and tastes, the amount of toppings will also affect the time so keep an eye on the oven after 15 minutes. Hopefully your baking sheets will fit in the oven side by side, if not, place pizzas on top third and bottom third of oven and rotate half way through.

Garnishing the pizza. As if the toppings weren't enough, I have been known to make a small mound of garlic mayo topped with Frank's Red Hot sauce for dipping the pizza. I buy the garlic mayo at the grocery store - not very foodie of me, I know, but it lasts so much longer in the fridge than homemade.

And last but not least, the real reason for making pizza on Friday nights - cold pizza on Saturday mornings! It is understood on weekends in our house that, yes, Mom will make breakfast but just not until noonish so foraging for leftovers is very popular for early risers.

Which brings me to the pic. Cold Pizza on a Saturday Morning. Nothing better.

Ciao!