Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fool Proof Pan Pizza

I copied this recipe from Slice, a blog I link to on this site. Back in the pizza making mood and I do love cast iron skillets, I am thinking I might give this a shot. I had published a recipe for Nonna's Pizza earlier that has the same premise of a dough that is not kneaded, and then spread and cooked in an obscene amount of olive oil to basically 'fry' the crust. This looks similar. Now my lovely bride is not a big fan of pepperoni. In fact she likes the burger pizza the best but this calls for a lighter hand so perhaps some Sopressata or other salami.  Link is below:



 Fool Proof Pan Pizza


  • 400 grams (14 ounces, about 2 1/2 cups) bread flour
  • 10 grams (.35 ounces, about 2 teaspoons) kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 4 grams (.15 ounces, about 1/2 teaspoon) instant yeast
  • 275 grams (9.5 ounces, about 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons) water
  • 8 grams (.25 ounces, about 2 teaspoons) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to coat pans and drizzle
  • 1 1/2 cups pizza sauce, such as our New York-style pizza sauce
  • 12 ounces grated full-fat, dry mozzarella cheese (see note above)
  • Toppings as desired
  • Small handful torn fresh basil leaves (optional)
  • 2 ounces grated parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese (optional)


  1. 1
    Combine flour, salt, yeast, water, and oil in a large bowl. Mix with hands or a wooden spoon until no dry flour remains. The bowl should be at least 4 to 6 times to volume of the dough to account for rising.
  2. 2
    Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, making sure that edges are well-sealed, then let rest on the countertop for at least 8 hours and up to 24. Dough should rise dramatically and fill bowl.
  3. 3
    Sprinkle the top of the dough lightly with flour, then transfer it to a well-floured work surface. Divide dough into two pieces and form each into a ball by holding it with well-floured hands and tucking the dough underneath itself, rotating it until it forms a tight ball.
  4. 4
    Pour 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in the bottom of two 10-inch cast iron skillet or round cake pans. (See note above). Place 1 ball of dough in each pan and turn to coat evenly with oil. Using a flat palm, press the dough around the pan, flattening it slightly and spreading oil around the entire bottom and edges of the pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let the dough sit at room temperature for two hours. After the first hour, adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 550°F.
  5. 5
    After two hours, dough should be mostly filling in the pan up to the edges. Use your fingertips to press it around until it fills in every corner, popping any large bubbles that appear. Lift up one edge of the dough to let any air bubbles underneath escape and repeat, moving around the dough until there are no air bubbles left underneath and the dough is evenly spread around the pan.
  6. 6
    Top each round of dough with 3/4 cup sauce, spreading the sauce with the back of a spoon into every corner. Spread evenly with mozzarella cheese, letting the cheese go all the way to the edges. Season with salt. Add other toppings as desired. Drizzle with olive oil and scatter a few basil leaves over the top (if desired)
  7. 7
    Transfer pan to oven and bak until top is golden brown and bubbly and bottom is golden brown and crisp when you lift it with a thin spatula, 12 to 15 minutes. Immediately sprinkle with grated parmesan or pecorino Romano cheese. Using a thin spatula, loosen pizza and peek underneath. If bottom is not as crisp as desired, place pan over a burner and cook on medium heat, moving the pan around to cook evenly until it is crisp, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the pizzas and transfer to to a cutting board. Cut each one into six slices and serve immediately.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Home for the Holidays

We had various shifts and schedules to work around this year but it all seemed to work out for this best and we had a grand time no matter how little time we had.

The dinner was our usual NY Strip roast with Gene's potatoes and green beans. Simple yet filling. I made some rolls and a few beef sauces and we were in business. The hardest part was waiting for everyone to show. Since dinner was at 5, Brenda and I took in as show in the afternoon along with all the other old folks who were obviously empty nesters.

Genes potatoes are on the blog already and the Strip roast was just roasted at 400 with a salt crust. Didn't take long about 2 hours.

The rolls were a spin on "Lunch Lady Rolls" from Pinterest. I didn't have all the ingredients so I made it up as I went along and it was a chance to use my new Kitchen Aid.

2 cups of warm milk
4 T butter
1 egg
1 t salt
3 T sugar
1 cup warm water
2T yeast
6-7 cups flour

I made a soft dough and let it double. Punched down and rolled 1/4 inch thick rectangle. I cut the rectangle into 2 inch strips and cut the strips in half across the middle. I rolled them up and placed them seam side down on a greased pan. Rise again then bake 350 till golden.

Golden brown and light.

Here is the table scape of the day. Not bad.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Prepping for the weekend after Christmas

Now this does not usually happen to me but I had an epic fail last night. I was making stromboli's for the upcoming weekend. I had purchased pizza dough from Trader Joe's and planned to use it to make a few stromboli as well as the Rhodes Frozen Bread dough I had taken out of the freezer.

So my ambitious plan was to make a new stromboli with Italian sausage and salami and cheese. Sadly the dough was much less than  cooperative and the sandwich refused to roll up neatly and tore in several spots. Frustrated I simply threw it on a pan and baked it as is.  Tasty yet unsightly.

The second pizza dough fared better but I didn't roll it out so thinly and made a Muffletta stromboli with ham, cheese and green olives. Now this one looks pretty tasty.

Lastly, I had placed a beef roast in the crock pot before we left for church. A Yankee Pot Roast needs popovers or a Yorkshire pudding at least. I have a beautiful popover pan that I get a rare chance to use so I made popovers for dinner with the beef. Delish.


1 cup warm milk
2 eggs
2 T butter melted
1 t salt
1 cup AP flour

Preheat oven 400. Place popover pan in oven to heat with a teaspoon of butter in each pan.

Place warm milk, eggs and salt in a bowl and whisk till blended.  Add flour and butter, whisk till just combined. Pour into hot popover cups and bake for about 35-40 minutes.

Now, what to do with a leftover popover? They are dense and compact after a night in the fridge. Cut them in half, add a bit of butter and nuke them for 30 seconds. Kinda like scrambled eggs in a muffin. Tasty also.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Posting shortage

I got nothing. We are cooking but just ordinary things and nothing particularly new. Lots of small trips to the store and braving the cold weather.

Mackenzie sent me this photo after a session she had with Emily testing their skills in the odd light and wintry conditions of the day's snow storm. The picture is just fantastic and I have it as my screen saver at work.  It just makes my heart ache that our babies have grown into adults with their own lives and they gradually pull away from us. The time seemed to go so fast but seemed to last forever when they were little. Its amazing how they have prospered and developed careers. Mackenzie now a homeowner, Nicholas considering a move to Kansas to further his education in Anesthesia at KU. Benjamin trying to decide on a path within the scope of his career as a nurse. Realizing their dreams and making things happen and having the smarts to get it all done. Makes me want to start over and do it right this time but I am tired and feeling every year I have endured so far and looking forward to retirement that might never come.

We  decorated the mantle this year under the influence of Pinterest. Not sure how this little app has affected your life but it seems to dictate our style now, at least suggests things outside our wheel house.

Potluck Breasts

That title sounds so...nasty. In reality we are having a Potluck at work as we very frequently do and this time its for 'healthy' foods. We are making wraps so I volunteered to bring some meat in the form of turkey but not that deli stuff full of sodium and poison preservatives. I decided fresh meat would be best. Yay me?

It so happens that the local store had breasts for 79 cents a pound so I purchased 2  8 pounders, brined and roasted them rather quickly last night, sliced them thinly and it yielded about 10 pounds or better of cooked meat.  Just your basic brine of salt and sugar (hey, wait a minute, I suppose now they are full of sodium and sugar?) overnight with a bit of rosemary and peppercorns. So tasty (we had a bit last night)

Look at those perfectly crispy browned birds. No one to share them with but they are quite moist and tender and sliced beautifully. I packed them carefully in gallon bags and hauled them to work for the party. Lets hope everyone likes them.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Spatchcocking the Bird

I read a lot about turkey prep this year. A lot. Brining wet or dry, brining at all? What to do with so many choices and ideas and divergent views. One poster swore that the wet brine diluted the flavor of the bird and should be avoided. I had a whole bird about 10 pounds and a breast about 9 pounds. I wet brined the bird and dry brined the breast.

I also read about the way of cooking to ensure the thighs and breast were at the proper temperature on the same bird. The breast needs to be about 150 to 165 while the thighs need a higher temp to be done. The poster suggested spatchcocking the bird  to ensure an even cooking in much less time. He was right on the money. I let the breast come to 145-150 while the thighs reached 165. Removal form the oven and covered, the temps climbed and additional 10 degrees or more. So how to spatchcock a bird?
Spatchcocked bird. I later placed it on a rack before roasting at 400 for about 60 minutes. Use a thermometer. The timer never popped (a good thing)

Remove its backbone, arrange it's legs and press down the breast till a satisfying crack is heard. Done. Super easy with a set of shears, just snip out the backbone.

The wet brined bird was by far juicier and tasty. The dry brined bird was also tasty but not quite so juicy but not dry at all. I am sticking with the wet brine but I sacrifice the crispy skin I could have if I had not soaked the bird in water for hours. Oh well, the skin is fleeting but the meat endures.

The brine this year? Salt, sugar, rosemary and an orange I had squeezed for the cranberries. Pretty simply, 24 hours. Juicy meat, seasoned well with a hint of sweetness. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Season of Excess

I don't get notes from readers...ever.

A few days ago I received my first, a note from a reader from,  of all places, Mumbai, India. Apparently he ran across my post on Turkey Gravy and contacted me after reading my family profile regarding a Medical Mission trip to his country.There is a task force called Global Initiatives that operates a clinic in Mumbai slum areas.

That does give one pause. A Turkey Gravy recipe while his country struggles with clean water and vaccinations. I am embarrassed I am who I am after that, being wrapped up in a preparation of excess with so much want everywhere in the world.

Logistically it sounds impossible, the cost, the time off, the convincing my family. How much can you possibly accomplish in a few weeks in a struggling 3rd world country? It makes you feel so insignificant and gluttonous at the same time. Realistically, I haven't even tried to calculate the logistics of it all but I am sure once I started I could manage it somehow.

We were out to dinner with folks that are pretty well off and the discussion turned to a group of young people from church looking for funding for a mission in Guatemala. The group referred to the sub structure of Omaha and how talents should be redirected and applied to our own community. As with most everything, it ends in talk and not action and lacks support for either mission.  It is a good point though and Omaha is so much closer in a dire need of similar support. Why are we so apathetic?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving has never been so...well, confusing

As I browse through buckets of information and recipes for the dinner of the year, I am overwhelmed bu the multitude of choices and the information contrary to what I held to be sacred. I am in a conundrum about what to make.

Potatoes? Always Yukon Golds but, what...Russets? Steamed? In the skins? Best option now?

No sweet potatoes this year? Not one member of my family is a fan.

Yes, I am still going to brine the turkey. I have too, or actually I am afraid not to. It makes such a huge difference in taste and especially texture. 

Dressing? Of course but how, which one? Sausage, cornbread?

Ben wants Gene's Potatoes with the Swiss cream sauce. Canned potatoes for Thanksgiving. NO. He asked me just to make the sauce. Really?  Use it like a gravy?

No Green Bean casserole this year. Never cared for it but I found a fresh recipe instead of canned soup. Still no. Okay,  just fresh green beans.

Corn Casserole. Standard of the house. That will get made of course. Kind of a starchy, gloppy mix of corn and Velveeta with broken spaghetti. I find it hard to improve the recipe but it definitely needs updating (Don't tell my Mother-in-law).

It's just us kids this year. My Mom is coming over (a surprise to us) and the kids will be in and out depending on their work schedule. Some are bringing others, whatever. There is always more than enough food. But what?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Turkey Gravy

I saw turkey wings at the market. They were huge and perfect for the beginning of Thanksgiving cookery. The turkey stock for the gravy. As you know, I use Tyler Florence's Ultimate Turkey Gravy with no regrets.


Basically I roast the wings, an onion, carrots and garlic till the wings are a dark brown and fragrant. I set them in a large pot after the roast with fresh thyme (from my garden, it still good!) celery and simmered away for several hours, adding a bit of salt and pepper along the way. The strained product is no the perfect base for gravy or stuffing and it shall be.

Thanks Tyler. You are the man.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Broth to Remember, Take Stock

Ok so I am no poet but I have a huge stash of chicken wing tips and trimmings from whole birds. Our friend Lori's mom, Annette,  had surgery and I wanted to bring something over so I made a batch of Chicken stock for a base for some soup or something. Annette is recouping at Lori's house. I cannot imagine a more comfortable place to recover or a more gracious hostess.

So...on to the Stock, so easy but really delish.

I went out and picked a bunch of thyme from the herb pot and threw it in a large Marmite (stockpot). To this I added a whole unpeeled onion, halved, 3 cloves of garlic crushed, 3 large carrots washed and chopped, the top of Brenda's celery with leaves attached, about 10 peppercorns and all my wings (about 3 pounds). I filled the pot to an inch of the top and set it to simmer.

After it came to a good strong simmer, I skimmed it and added some salt and a scant teaspoon of turmeric. Instantly the already fragrant stock had a nice chicken golden color. It needed a bit of bouillon (about 2 good tablespoons) before I added any more salt  but the end result was chicken heaven. About 6 quarts or so.

So now...what to do with all?

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Busy and Lazy Weekend

We hit the ground running on Friday with a church meeting after work followed by dinner at a local eatery called "Hiro 88".  We had a grand time with our good church friends, John and Debbie Birge as well as some other aquaintances from church.

The menu at Hiro is about sushi but they also offered some common Asian dishes. One in particular that is near to my heart is 'Walnut Shrimp'. I  split a large portion with Brenda. John was intrigued and ordered it also. It was great and the Birges were happy with the choice. My attempt to make it at home is on the blog under 'Seafood'.

 We also had the squid salad which Debbie also ordered on our recommend and was very happy with it. One of very favorites we could eat by the bucket. It lacked the veggies that we find in other establishments but I found it very tasty in spite. It's all about the dressing really which, when finished,  I poured over a bit of rice. Delish.

Saturday morning was a work morning for our neglected lawn. We mowed and picked up leaves and bagged them. After a few hours of that we rewarded ourselves with a shopping trip and a lunch treat at 'Freddies' for a burger and split a few fries. That night for dinner I had taken out 2 fillets that I had previously cut and wrapped with bacon then froze. With a nice perfectly grilled medium and a side of broccoli it was a feast for just the two of us.

Sunday was church followed by the annual meeting, a brief report from the Auditing committee, a presentation of the Pentecost icon I painted to Fr. Nick Klodnicki and then off to home to relax. We skipped lunch after the church served fruit and yogurt with a delightful granola that I just couldn't stop eating.

I had taken a few chicken breasts out earlier in the day and I used 2 of them to make some fajitas and the rest I will grill or somehow prepare tonight for the rest of the week.  The 'Nativity Fast' begins this Friday and Brenda and I are trying to determine our level of participation. In the past, the former priest pretty much ignored these 'ancillary' fasts claiming erroneously that they were Monastic and not for the parish. We knew that to be untrue but went with it but now we are back on track with the real meaning of the season. It's a tough fast to follow in our American food obsessed society and it covers Thanksgiving which makes it really hard to be outside the family tradition, hence trying to determine our level of participation. 

Mackenzie stopped by for a late visit after work since she is leaving today to take of Christian after his sinus surgery in Sacramento tomorrow. Wow. That will be a relationship test for sure. We hope he has a smooth recovery and a patient caregiver. I am sure all will go well and we keep them in our prayers.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Apple Pie with a minor addition

We had a few bags of caramels we bought on clearance so I tucked a few in with the apples and melted a few on top. How bad could that be? I wish I would have chopped them a bit on the inside but I am not a big pie maker. Recipe was posted a few days ago. The crust is really flakey.  I hope it tastes OK. It's for the in-laws dessert tomorrow.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Husker Virgin

So for all the years I have lived in Nebraska, I have never attended a Husker Football game. It just never came up I guess. My Dad was a huge fan but rarely attended actual games.  I know all kinds of zealots and fans and season ticket holders but no one has ever asked us to go till last week. Our friends Bob and Kim Kropp we have known for 35 years or so. We shared an apartment complex with them in the early days before we were married and have been friends ever since although we rarely see them as much as we like, they are a very busy couple.
Bob and Kim Kropp and us.

When the opportunity arose to take advantage of some extra tickets and a drive to Memorial Stadium with them as well as spend a great few hours with them, we jumped at the chance. Mackenzie and Nicholas were also included so we made it a family affair. We brought a boatload of snacks and fluids.

Since I am a Husker Virgin, I had a few surprises and realizations in store for me. The crowd was amazing and dense. It was literally a sea of red with the occasional Northwestern purple thrown in. It was really loud, really loud, I shut my hearing aids off.  There is a lot, A LOT, of excitement in Lincoln for these games and it's infectious. Season ticket holders have almost permanent "neighbors" love 'em or hate 'em. The seats are really uncomfortable, not much you can add to that but I would think twice about attending games when I could lay on my couch and have excellent snacks at home.

The concessions were cheap. Really cheap. I was expecting some grand stadium prices but got instead, High School football prices, $3 for a dog, really? I'll have two.

Missing Benny who had other plans today.

The game was awesome and one of a kind that we just happened to be there at the right time, did not leave early as some did, and caught an amazing Hail Mary play that cinched the game. The crowd was deafening, excited, laughing, crying and generally amazed. Our hosts were lovely as they always are and it makes us wistful that we don't see them more but we had a great time, a great ride and a day of fun and excitement that you could not have predicted. Thanks again guys. We love you!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Do You Know the Muffin Man?

One of the children's most irritating "ear worms" when they were little, I have some bananas going south this week so I asked my lovely bride when I was auditing the church books on Tuesday to make me some banana muffins. I came home to none as she thought I was joking. I never joke about food.

Yesterday I stopped (fed my obsession) on the way home to pick up what I needed (yogurt) to make these "skinny" muffins. They are actually quite good and have no oil and surprising little flour that makes them almost healthy.  I had some whole wheat pastry flour on hand anyway. These were tender and rose high in the pan. I added walnuts and chips to the batter and did not frost them. Great with a glass of skim milk in the a.m.

I am not the family baker but these don't look too bad
The recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction:

Skinny Peanut Butter Chocolate chip Banana Muffins

  • 2 ripe large bananas, mashed with no chunks
  • 1/4 cup honey 
  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup 0% Plain Greek Yogurt (or regular yogurt, any flavor/fat content)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened milk 
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter 
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 and 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  • 1/3 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter, melted
  • 1/2 Walnuts  ( I added this and skipped the frosting)
Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Spray 12-count muffin pan with nonstick spray ( I used another 6 count pan too as this made about 18 muffins). Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, honey, brown sugar, yogurt, egg, and milk together until combined.  Whisk in the peanut butter and vanilla extract until smooth and thick. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips together (if using).  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and lightly whisk until combined.  Try not to over stir the muffin batter or your muffins will have a tough (not soft) texture. Stir as little as possible until no flour pockets remain.
Fill the muffin cups practically all the way to the top. Between 3/4 full and all the way full.  Bake for 5 minutes at 425F degrees. Keeping the muffins in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 350F and continue to bake for 12 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Drizzle muffins with melted peanut butter if desired. Muffins stay fresh at room temperature for 3 days. Muffins without peanut butter on top freeze well, up to 3 months.

About 120-130 calories each with little fat and 19 Carbs. Not bad for a lower carb, low cal breakfast/ snack item. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Weekend of New Beginings

 This was a busy week and weekend for the household. Trying to coordinate dinner for every one's schedules, meeting a new beau and a grand wedding.

For the Wednesday night introductions to Mackenzie's new guy, Christian, we had various cheeses, wine and Chicken Milanese who's recipe is on the blog already. A night of conversation and laughter with a table full of nurse's and conversation not for the faint of heart and positively disturbing at times.

I tried a new appetizer that was a big hit. A cast iron skillet full of Fontina cheese seasoned with Rosemary, Thyme, Salt and Pepper and a glug of olive oil. Baked at 450 for about 20 minutes till hot and bubbly and slightly browned, we sopped this up with a nice crusty baguette. So good,  this is a keeper. My buddy Dan added a little garlic and upped it notch. Not a bad idea.
Not my photo but it sure looks the same

We were kind of lazy Thursday as neither of us was particularly hungry and we ate late in the evening. I believe grilled cheese was on the menu for us. Simple and unassuming, it gave me a chance to use a lot of that sliced cheese that was growing older in the fridge.

Friday was Jeff and Emily's wedding day (Mackenzie's best friend). The festivities got us out of the house at about 4:30 and down to the church on time. The service was grand and long so everyone got their money's worth and then just a block or so up the street was the reception venue, our very own Joslyn Museum served as a back drop for a glorious occasion. Great band, fine food and nice company. A beautiful celebration for a charming couple that we just love. A late evening for sure but time well spent with all our kids and their respective dates.

Saturday, Brenda had an early class to attend with left me alone to my own devices. I roasted a slab of ribs for snacking later in the day and spent most of the day nursing my sore jaw (a long story and no, no one hit me) and tending to the pond for winter bedding, chasing off squirrels who happen to love my freshly planted tulips and general this and that around the house. Currently between commissions, I am enjoying the leisure of not having a deadline to meet.  The ribs were fall off the bone tender and delicious. We stayed in and enjoyed the peace and quiet.

Sunday was church and lunch and dinner with Mackenzie and Christian. Lunch at Wheatfield's and great steaks and fantastic seasonal squash with Mackenzie's prerequisite "Killer Bread" (recipe also on the blog) for dinner.  Chatting and laughing again till it was past our bedtime, we woke a bit groggy this a.m.  I need another weekend to recovery fully.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Apple Pie contest winner

  Part of the purpose of my blog is to archive recipes for future use. I have not made this pie but it looks like a winner to me.

Val Fennell's Our Family's Apple Pie

Crust (makes 1 double crust):
• 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• ½ cup cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces
• ½ cup frozen butter flavored Crisco cut into small pieces
• ¾ cup ice water
• 1 large whole egg
• 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Apple Pie Filling:
• About 2 pounds large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼-inch slices
• 1 to 1½ pounds Royal Gala, Gala or Jonagold apples, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼-inch slices
• ¾ to 1 cup sugar depending on the tartness of your apples
• 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
• 2 tablespoons unbleached flour, divided
• 1/8 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
• Zest of one small to medium lemon
• 1 tablespoon low sugar Pectin
• 4 tablespoons cold butter in tablespoon size pieces
• Juice of the lemon

Egg wash:
• 1 egg yolk or whole egg
• 2 tablespoons milk, half-and-half or cream
Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixing bowl or a medium bowl. Mix the dry ingredients for about 30 seconds just to combine. Then add the Crisco and butter and mix on medium speed until it looks like very coarse crumbs or small peas. Do not over mix. If combining by hand use a pastry blender with blades rather than wires.
Make a well in the center of the mixture.
Combine the wet ingredients and beat well. Pour into the well and with a fork mix until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not over mix. If your dough seems a bit too wet sprinkle in a bit more flour but no more than one tablespoon. It will not be dry for sure.
Divide dough in half, then pat/shape into two disks, wrap snuggly in plastic food wrap and chill for about 20 to 30 minutes.
While the dough is chilling ready your apples:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Peel and slice apples and place in a large bowl. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the apples and toss well. Cover with plastic wrap.
Remove the first disk of crust from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured counter or Silpat mat. Lightly roll your dough in one direction, turning it to make it round and about 12 inches in diameter. Place the dough in a 9½-inch deep dish pie plate. With scissors, trim the crust to about ½ inch below the rim of the dish. Remove the next portion of dough from the refrigerator and repeat rolling.
Place 1 tablespoon flour into the bottom of the pie plate and gently spread around. Add 1 tablespoon sugar, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg to the pie plate.
In a small bowl combine the remaining sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and pectin.
Rinse the apple slices and drain well. Toss the cinnamon sugar mixture with the apples and place into the bottom crust, being sure that the apples are solidly in place. Add lemon zest over the top of the apples.
Evenly sprinkle the remaining flour over the top of the apple slices and slightly shake into the apple pile. Place butter slices over the top of the apple mixture.
Cover with the top crust. Trim to about 1½ inches below the edge then fold over the lower edge and crimp the edges together.
Egg wash the top crust.
Make decorative vents in the top crust. If you have sanding or coarse sugar, dust or sprinkle the top crust lightly.
Bake for 15 minutes on a parchment lined baking pan, then reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees until the juices bubble in the center of the pie and the apples test tender in the center as well.
Remove from the oven and let rest for at least 30 minutes before cutting/serving.
Combine with a fork until smooth, then gently brush onto the top crust of the unbaked pie. After egg wash, you may sprinkle with sanding sugar if you wish.
The egg wash makes the crust a golden, shiny finish.
— Val Fennell

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Back from Mexican Nirvana

All year we look forward to that week we spend at our favorite resort in Mexico. This past week we achieved our ultimate relaxation and forgot everything going on at home for a brief period. Our batteries are recharged and we are ready to face another year.

Things have not changed much in Mexico. The staff is still friendly, the food excellent and the service is even better but this year we went with some special friends and just had the best time. They are our kind of folks. Laid back, chatty and relish alone time as well as together time. A match made in heaven. We sampled lots of different foods. Had way too much to drink. Enjoyed the bands and sultry Mexican evenings. Mat is very outgoing so we met lots of other folks too. We laughed a lot. Never ate breakfast together, sometimes ate lunch together and always had dinner together. We are so fortunate to have such great friends that are more like family to us (I believe Brenda and Lori are sisters on some level).

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Icon Commission from the Church

A few months ago, when Fr. Alex came we had to say good bye to Fr. Nick. He was so gracious and kind to us as we transitioned from our old priest to our new one. The church anted to have a special event for him and commissioned me to paint the church's patron icon for him. I also fund out that the board plans to use the icon for all our letterhead and marketing. I tried my best, as the panel was small for so many figures, to get as detailed as possible. The icon is finally finished and we have to have a high resolution photo done before I varnish it to keep down the reflection.
Here it is unvarnished and ready for photos. I hope it shows well when enlarged. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

St Thomas Sunday

Coming right up this first Sunday in October is St. Thomas Sunday. My and Ben's nameday I had painted this icon for him so long ago I had forgotten what it looked like.

Happy Name Day to all the Thomas' out there.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Divine Decadence

Mac and Cheese and dogs at work was supposed to be Tuesday but got bumped to Wednesday. I had the casserole in the oven when I found out so not terribly happy. After it cooled it went straight to the fridge.

I had made a bit extra for home which I baked for dinner tonight to test the recipe. Yum. Not our normal fare by a long shot but for work...well whatever goes. This was very cheesy but had lots of flavor and a nice consistancy. I give it 2 thumbs up but cannot make it often. I pulled this off of Pinterest.

Sweetie Pie's Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound of cooked drained macaroni ( I used 2 pounds honestly after mixing the amount of liquid it just looked like it needed more)
1 c whole milk
2 12 oz cans of evaporated milk
3 eggs
2 sticks of butter cubed small
1/2 pound Colby, Monterrey Jack, Sharp Cheddar and 1 pound of cubed Velveeta (2 1/2 pounds of cheese!)
1 T white pepper
1 T sugar
Grated cheese to top
I also had homemade croutons I crushed and spread on top

Preheat oven 350. Boil and drain the macaroni just underdone.
In a large bowl (LARGE) mix the milks and eggs, pepper, butter, salt, sugar and grated cheeses. Add the macaroni and mix well.

I poured this into a large 1/2 roasting pan and it came to the top with a full quart casserole left over.  Bake for 35-45 minutes till bubbly and slightly browned. This will serve 15-20 people.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Random Cooking and painting

I was alone all weekend and a little bored. I went to the Art Fair and painted but there were lonely stretches of nothingness and random grocery trips. My friend, Doug brought me some Pobalanos a week ago and a recipe for pesto to be eaten on steaks. I roasted the peppers are peeled them and left them in the fridge so they would not spoil. Yesterday I got out the mini blender and processed the peppers with other ingredients to make the pesto. It was surprisingly good.

Pabalno Pesto by Melissa D'Arabian

2 poblano's roasted skinned
1/2 grated Parmesan
1/4 c chopped cilantro
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 T chili powder
1/2 vegetable oil
Red or green chili (opt)

I just processed all the above to a smooth sauce. I did add a very hot Green Chili to take it up a notch.

Brenda returns home today to NY Strips and this sauce.

Randomly I have had Philly Steak Sandwiches on the brain. I was born in Philly and lived there randomly between my Dad's assignments as a career Navy man. The corner grocer was my favorite place to grab a steak sandwich and I ate them everyday. I remember them wrapped in wax paper and I remember how Nicky's little grocery smelled and recollections of the aisles and foods. I have tried to capture that essence ever since but always fail. I have made some pretty good sandwiches but none like Nicky's.

While I was out I picked up a small eye of round and froze it for a while before slicing it, by hand, paper thin slices. I seared the meat over very high heat in a cast iron skillet after the onions and mushrooms.

I wish I would have taken a photo of the finished sandwich schmeared with Cheese Whiz and topped with a heady layer of meat, onions and mushrooms but I succumbed to my primal instincts and took a bite before remembering to get my camera. It was good but no Nicky's. Sigh, back to the frying pan...maybe a Rib eye would be better?

Like I said I also painted. I am working on a complicated icon for the church so while the paint was drying on that project I finished another that has been in the works for a year off and on. My condolences to Thomas Arvid for the cheap imitation of his fine work but like any student I copy master works to enhance my own skills. While this may or may not look like a viable piece of art, it is in no way comparable to the original. He has a photo quality to his work that is amazing. I use his pieces to help me paint bottles with convincing shadows and reflections. Fortunately they go well in our home as most of my efforts are rather large. Here is the latest and if you have ever been to our home you can't help but notice the 50 inch canvas on the family room that dominates a wall. This one is smaller but the bottles are actually larger but fewer than my former efforts. I have just a bit left on the icon but I am calling this painting finished.
A total knock off of Thomas Arvid but a great exercise in reflected surface and shadow. My apologies to the artist.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Great Pork Belly experiment

So tonight, Brenda and Ben are visiting family and Nick is coming over to cook a few pork belly strips ( about 2.5 pounds) I bought at the Asian Market a few weeks ago. I have researched 2 methods for prepping and cooking and I have 2 packages of belly to play with. I am anticipating soft tender pork meat with a crackling crust. We will see. The bellies are fully thawed in the fridge as we speak and I choose not to marinate either of them as we want to actually taste the meat.

The first method is a long slow roast and the second is a quick boil and then an actual deep fry for a more authentic Chinese treatment. More to come....
I had 6 strips of  Pork Belly like this. I scored the skin and prepared the meat according to each recipes specifications.

For the Roasted recipe, the skin was rubbed with olive oil and a mixture of salt and fennel seeds I ground with the mortar and pestle.  The prepared meat was then layered upon a bed of quartered onions, garlic cloves and celery. I did not have carrots but I would have added them to the mix also.

This was then roasted at 450 for 15 minutes. The skin crisped up nicely and then I turned the oven down to 325 for nearly 3 hours. At the halfway mark, I added a cup of white wine to the roasting pan.

For the other method, I brought 2 cups of water to a boil with salt and peppercorns in a Dutch oven. I added the pork strips and covered for 15 minutes. I drained and dried the meat and put about 1-2 cups of oil in the pan and turned the heat on high. I carefully placed the pork strips in and covered quickly. Lots of spattering in this method. I cooked the pork for about 7 minutes then turned it over for the other side.

The results:

The roasted pork was by far crispier and the skin was rendered perfectly.
The fried pork looked incredible but the skin did not render as much and it was not nearly as crisp. I was not a fan of the fried version and the excess mess with all the oil was daunting.  In the fried version, the layer of tissue under the skin remained intact while in the roasted version, it melted away. That layer in the fried version was texturally tough and tough to chew.Not good at all.

The roasted version was shatteringly crisp and the meat was tender and succulent. At any rate, this won't replace my lamb breast as my favorite guilty pleasure.
Roasted on the left, fried on the right
The roasted recipe called for a gravy to be made with the drippings which I did and served it with new potatoes. Very tasty, but the chunks of pork dipped in the Asian sauce were really really good. I would use the roasted meat and the Asian sauce if I were ever to make this again but it's not likely. To me it was much ado about nothing. It was not all that cheap and the cooking time was excessive for the results.

The Asian sauce:
1/4 soy sauce
1 tbl lime juice
2 finely sliced chili's red (I had green)  Just right to offset the pork.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Honey Walnut Shrimp

One of our favorite local Chinese eateries serves Honey Walnut Shrimp and this recipe comes close enough. I first had the dish in Oakland Ca and dreamed of it ever since. I had no idea it was a common Chinese (at least American) dish.

So, lets get on with it.

1 pound medium shelled deveined shrimps
2 egg whites beaten
1 c Cornstarch
Oil for frying

For the sauce:
3 T Mayonnaise
1 1/2 T Sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 T honey
1 t lemon juice (opt)

For the glazed walnuts:
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
Boil till golden and put 1/2 c Walnuts in and spread out to cool.

Let the shrimp soak in the egg whites. Prepare in batches, dredge shrimps in the cornstarch and fry in the oil for just a minute till lightly golden and shrimps are pink. Drain on paper towel and finish the rest.

Assemble the sauce and place cooked shrimp in a bowl. Toss with the sauce and garnish with Walnuts. We served it up with steamed broccoli since we don't do rice very much. Yum

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Runza, Runza, meal in a bunza

Well, that was the silly ad for a local Nebraska phenomenon called "Runza". Basically a screaming hot freshly baked sandwich stuffed with cabbage and beef and cheese. The sandwiches now come in a variety of flavors including Swiss Mushroom and Jalapeno. The possibilites are endless. So tasty we had to make our own.

For the recipe:
2 pkgs Texas sized Rhodes dinner rolls, thawed and risen (24 per pkg I needed 30.)
2 pounds ground beef
1 onion chopped fine
4 cloves garlic minced
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder
Salt and pepper
1 pound pkg cabbage slaw or cut your own.
2 cups coarse shredded sharp cheddar

Saute hamburger till no longer pink, drain off excess fat then add onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook onion and garlic till onion is translucent. Add cabbage slaw in batches and cook till wilted. Season further with onion and garlic powder. Mix well and allow to cool.  Mix in cheese. Check seasoning. and salt if needed.
Press each roll into a 4-5 inch circle and place one large cookie scoop (3T) of filling. Bring edges together and press to seal. Place sealed side down on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or till golden. Makes about 30 tasty fresh Runzas. Oh yeah, that's what I'm talking about.

new Icon finished

Just finished for a baptism gift

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hot Wings...Really hot

Now you all know I love wings. I went out and bought fish sauce after I saw this recipe in Bon Apettit called Sambal Chicken. I used the sauce recipe to coat my wings.

1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c seasoned Rice Vinegar
1/2 c hot chili paste (Sambal)
1/4 c fish sauce
1/4 c Siracha
2 t ginger garlic paste (Indian Market)

I baked the wings at 400 on no stick foil till brown and crispy and then discarded the fat. I put all the sauce ingredients in a sauce pan and reduced the sauce by half. I tossed the cooked wings in the sauce and placed them back in the oven to brown up and then dipped them again. I turned off the oven, placed the wings back till the oven cooled a bit.
The wings were very spicy and sticky. Delish!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Corn Chowder

For Sunday's dinner I picked up some Argent Corn from the grocer.  Argent is a white sweet corn variety and for some reason I am enamored with white sweet corn this season.  I bought a dozen ears and cooked them all.

I had seven ears left over so I cleaned the corn for the cobs and planned to just refrigerate the corn for later but those cobs looked so inviting I decided to make a vegetable broth out of them. I filled a stock pot with 2 quarts of water and added the cobs, unpeeled onion,  halved, unpeeled carrots, a few garlic clove smashed and a bit of celery. I had a tub of vegetable broth (Knorr Stockpot) I also added with a few peppercorn, some salt and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. I let that simmer away for a bit then strianed it all and put it the fridge till last night.

Corn Chowder

2 quarts of vegetable broth
2 cups of corn off the cob
1 red pepper chopped
1 jalapeno chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 med onion chopped
2 T butter
2 T flour
thyme to taste (about 1 teaspoon for me)
Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 4 slices
Swiss Cheese, 3 slices
salt and pepper
1/4 c cream

I started with the onions and sauteed them in the butter. I added the peppers then garlic. The flour went in next and I cooked it for a few minutes then added the broth. Once it started to thicken I added the corn and thyme (about a teaspoon) and the cheeses. I didn't add a lot of cheese. I had slices that were getting along so 4 slices of sharp cheddar and 3 slices of Swiss but you can adjust this or leave it out. A quarter cup of cream at the finish topped it off. It had a nice light yellow color and a deep corn taste. If you need it thicker I am a big fan of Wondra but you could also make a buerre blanc (2 T butter mixed with 2 T flour).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Girls Night Out

My wife's crew meets quarterly after hours to discuss issues and solve current problems. Usually this happens at a local eatery but financial times being what they are, my wife volunteered my services to cook a meal and entertain the group at our home.

Not too long ago, I caught an episode of Ina Garten making a Warm Mushroom Salad with arugula, mushrooms and prosciutto. I have a glut of prosciutto in the freezer and this would be great time to use it up. along side the salad I had to have a few obligatory snacks as well so I went to my Pintrest food board. I am a pretty discriminating pinner so I had a few really good looking recipes to choose from. I used the White Cheese Pizza dip and Chicken Roulades to round out the meal along side our famous crostini ala Giada.

So now the menu was beginning to materialize into something we could be proud to serve, all I needed was dessert. A while back, Mackenzie bought some Balsamic Glaze at Trader Joe's and the last time I was there I picked up a bottle too. Hmmm fresh peach season, a sweet yet savory glaze and a bit of vanilla ice cream sounded about right. Menu...done.


I roasted a bunch of grape tomatoes after halving them and about 5 Plum tomatoes that I julienned after roasting. I also popped 8 slices of the Prosciutto in the oven to crisp it up. (This was not a part of Ina's recipe but the flavor is amazing and the texture is great.)

White Pizza Dip

1 1/2 pkg soft cream cheese
8 oz Provalone chopped (reserve 1/4 c)
8 oz Mozzarella freshly shredded (reserve 1/4 c)
1 cup Parmesean
5 garlic cloves chopped fine
1 t fresh thyme, chopped
1 t fresh basil, chopped
1 t fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 t salt
1 t pepper
Roasted grape tomatoes

Combine the cheeses, add the herbs and tomatoes, mix well  and place in a well greased 1 quart casserole. (I used a gratin pan) Smooth out and cover with reserved cheese. Bake at 350 till browned and bubbly. Serve with chips of crackers.

The Crositini is on the blog. The usual Prosciutto and sage combo.

The roulades were easy. Pound out Chicken Breast, line with Basil, roasted red pepper and Prosciutto then roll up. I placed them in the freezer for 20 minutes to make them easier to slice. Slice them in 1 inch rounds and skewer them. Place on a very hot griddle/ grill pan for about 5 minutes per side till cooked through.
 Chicken roulade grilled

I sauteed the 2 pounds of Cemini mushrooms in 2T butter till just tender. I poured in about 1/3 c Red Wine Vinegar and took the pan off the heat. I added this mix to a prepared platter of mixed green heavy on the Arugula and topped with the crisped Prosciutto and julienned roasted Plum Tomatoes. I sprinkled a good quality Olive Oil over all the greens and tossed with a bit of salt and pepper. I added the shaved Parmesan to top it all off.

The peaches were easy. I halved and pitted them and rubbed the cut side with honey. I placed them on the hot grill pan for about 5 minutes. I placed 2 halves on each plate with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Drizzled with Balsamic glaze and topped with roasted almonds.  Made a nice presentation but the peaches could have been better.

I wish I had pictures but I was so busy getting the food ready and prepared I just didn't get a shot in. The photos are from the various websites that featured the dish.


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