Pizza Crust

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Everybody loves pizza.  I adore pizza – it’s a square meal with your meat, dairy, bread, veggie… right?  But!  I often find myself just a little disappointed with delivery pizza, even the stuff that comes from my favorite place in town.  It’s just never hot enough, never cheesy enough… it’s kind of just never enough.

Maybe I just don’t enjoy paying a dollar per topping?  That might have something to do with it.

I’ve tried making pizza many different ways, and I often have trouble with the crust.  I tried making it on a baking sheet, and it turned out too thick.  I made it Pizza Hut style in a skillet (thick, crispy crust), and it turned out alright… but not as good as I would have liked and very filling and fattening to boot.  Then, I tried this method…

It’s fantastic.  I’m never ever going back ever!

Until the next time I’m feeling super lazy.


Ingredients;

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (as hot as the tap will spit out)
  • 2 1/2 cups bread flour (all purpose is fine too)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • additional olive oil
  • desired toppings
  • pizza sauce (referably home made, which is actually incredibly easy!)

Recipe;

  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar into warm water in a large bowl, let stand until frothy.  This takes five to ten minutes, or just long enough to empty the dishwasher in my household.
  2. Stir in the bread flour, olive oil and salt until well combined.  Allow to stand for about five minutes.  While the dough is hanging out, put a cast-iron skillet or any old pan on the stove at high heat.  We want this to be rip-roaring hot.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured countertop or working surface of your choice, divide into three or four dough balls.  Roll each dough ball into a round (or ovular, if you’re feeling rustic) 1/4 inch thick shape with a well-floured rolling pin.  Make sure you flour the pin, else you’ll just wrap the dough around it.  A wine bottle covered in flour will do in a pinch, and worked for me during my years as a pin-less college student.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium.  Pour a bit of olive oil in the bottom of your skillet/pan/etc, and let it heat just a moment.  Take your first doughy crust victim and throw it right into the skillet.  Let this rest a few minutes, flip the dough when it starts to bubble up.  Rest a minute, flip one more time until the bottom is a nice golden-y brown.  Repeat as necessary, re-oiling the skillet each time.
  5. Tun the heat down to low.  Place your desired toppings on the golden-y brown side, and place in an oiled skillet.  Cover (with tin foil, a lid, etc) and allow your cheese to melt and your toppings to meld.  Repeat as necessary.
  6. Allow to sit about five minutes before cutting, or risk ripping all of the cheese off!  This recipe holds well and can be brought in to lunch or eaten for breakfast, which ever is your thing!

Evening Essentials: Baked Potato

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All my life, I’ve wrapped my potatoes in tin foil and popped them in the oven (or set them in a hot grill if available) to bake them.  A couple of years ago, I learned that this was not baking a potato, but rather steaming it.  I was missing out on crispy, lovely potato skin.  The horror!

It has become my personal mission to make sure no other must suffer as I have for so long!  Reach not for the tinfoil when craving a “bakie!”

Instead, clean off your potato as you usually might, and follow this recipe.


Ingredients;

  • Potato
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt

Recipe;

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Stab cleaned potato viciously with a fork several times on each side, to prevent spontaneous potato explosion.
  2. Coat the potato in a light drizzle of olive oil, ensuring the whole thing is covered with a light layer and place it on a baking sheet.  Shake some salt (I love sea salt in this case, but a little bit of any salt will do) over the potato, and kind of roll it around in it, ensuring that the bottom gets a little sodium love as well.
  3. Stick those suckers in, even if the oven isn’t fully preheated.  Let them cook for 45-50 minutes, until they are cooked through (there isn’t any resistance when prodded viciously with a fork).
  4. Slice up, serve on a plate or in a bowl with desired toppings.

Tiny Thanksgiving

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This year, Research Assistant and I are hosting Thanksgiving for my parents in our little apartment.  Four people and a dog isn’t much to stress over, but as it is not only my first time hosting but my parent’s first time visiting me in D.C., I’ve gotten to the outer reaches of my obsession with perfection.  I’ve been planning the menu since my parents announced they would arrive. I’ve been making lists on lists on lists and have even painted furniture!  I started purging my closets of clutter, and even got rid of the junk drawer!

It’s like organizational semi-nirvana.

While reading just about every single thanksgiving how-too the internets, I’ve noticed a lack of lists to help people prepare for their first time hosting in a small apartment that they may not have lived in for very long.  Here’s my process for preparing to host your own Very Tiny Thanksgiving!


October;

  • Assess your Furniture. I found I was missing a few pieces in my apartment (and still am, who needs a nightstand when you have a cooler!), so I made plans to get these things way before T-Day.  If you are having guests stay over, make sure you have enough air mattresses, linens, et cetera.  I highly suggest taking inventory and making an Ikea trip.
  • Assess your Kitchen.  Honestly, if you only have one pasta pot, you probably should consider NOT hosting Thanksgiving… but if I can’t change your mind, now is the time to get those little extras – one set of three pots, two baking sheets, two casserole dishes…  Make sure you have enough plates and silverware for potential guests as well!

First Week of November;

  • Gather potential recipes.  If you don’t know the recipes you will be using, contact grandma/mom/Auntie Lynn to get them.  Put all of these recipes into a Word Document even if you’re not sure you’ll use them.  You’ll thank me later.
  • Finalize Guest List. Speaking of grandma/mom/Auntie Lynn, make sure you have a final list of who is and is not coming.  This allows you to a) know who’s going to be in your house and b) who to assign what dishes to if you’re having a more pot-luck-esque affair.
  • Order the turkey!!! If your “small” affair is a bit larger than my own, order your turkey now.  If you want an heirloom bird, kosher bird, or a naturally organic farm-raised vegan bird who subsided only on truffle oil, order your turkey now.  If you’re like me, and are obsessed with every detail of your party, order your (tiny) bird now.  This is a helpful calculator to see how large of a turkey you need.

Second Week of November;

  • Decide on Decor.  Have a vision in mind of what you’d like tour table to look like.  If you need any additional stuff to achieve your vision, make sure you acquire it now.  I mean, aside from cut flowers…
  • Finalize the Menu.  Remember that Word Document?  The one with grandma/mom/Aunty Lynn’s recipes in it?  Go through that and edit as necessary.  You want to have all of the recipes you’re going to use on the big day in this document.
  • Presentation Choice.  Are you having a fancy sit-down dinner, a buffet style dinner, or something else entirely?  Will you have premade drinks ready or a drinks bar?  I absolutely suggest a buffet-style dinner with an open bar!

Third Week of November;

  • Last minute inventory.  If you could possibly need anything else (kitchen utensils, a new plate, a table cloth) NOW is the time to get it.
  • Make your grocery list.  Some folks may have done this when they finalized their menu.  Pull up the word document and go through each recipe, writing down ingredients and how much you need.  I would suggest dividing the list into things you can get the weekend before and things you can get the day of.
  • Create a Cooking Schedule.  While you’re writing down that ingredient list, make a note of how long each recipe is going to take (and add ten minutes).  Use this information to make a cooking schedule for the big day!  When do you have to wake up to put the bird in?  When should you start the green beans?  What time is dinner!!!

Weekend before T-Day;

  • Clean the house.
  • Set up centerpiece/set table.
  • Create a Party Playlist.
  • First Grocery Trip.  Remember the two grocery lists you made?  Take grocery list number one and head to the supermarket.  Pick up your bird on the way home too!
  • Thaw/Brine the bird.  If you have an inordinately large bird, you might have had to start doing this earlier, but you need about one hour of thawing time to each four pounds of meat.  You can wet brine or dry brine your bird, too.
  • Print out the Recipes! Back to that word document!  Print them out and put them somewhere safe, but not so safe that you won’t remember where they are.

Two days before T-Day;

  • Cook and store some make-ahead dishes. Some of your dishes can be prepped/cooked beforehand and stored.  This is the time to do about half of this.  Finish the other half of your make-aheads tomorrow!
  • Final Grocery Trip.  All of those perishables you have to get for Turkey day, get them now.  I promise the grocery store will not be as packed today as it will be tomorrow.
  • Wash ALL YOUR DISHES.

One day before T-Day;

  • Finish all make-ahead dishes, (make some muffins for tomorrow too!)
  • Do any prep work needed to make tomorrow smoother.  This could include anything from slicing and dicing vegetables to removing giblets from your turkey (I generally throw these away, but some people use them for their meals).

T-Day;

  • Don’t panic.
  • Eat, drink and be merry!

Paring Down

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My Research Assistant worked late most of last week, allowing me the perfect time frame to clean out my closet.  I had been planning what to keep and what to store for a couple of weeks before this purge.  There are many guides out there, but I ended up using several steps of my own.

The short version?

  1. What counts?
  2. What is your number?
  3. Make a list of what’s in your closet.
  4. Pare down your list
  5. Purge and store!

The longer version is a little more wordy…

First, decide what will count toward your number.  I did this based on what I had the most of so that I would really get to the point of this exercise – living with less.  If you find you hoard sweaters but only have two pairs of shoes, include sweaters in your final count. So on and So on.

For me reconciling weather the three pairs of shoes and two blazers that live at my office would count was very important.  In the end, I included tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear (including cardigans) and shoes in my final number.  My work blazers (navy and black) and the coordinating shoes do not count, nor do the few formal dresses I keep for weddings/work functions.

Second, choose your number.  Some people go with 33, some 37, and some even say the number isn’t important, it’s the journey.  I fall in the latter category, but in the spirit of focusing on narrowing down my shirt and shoe collection, I had to pick a number.  It had to be an even number because an uneven amount of clothes in my closet would make me itch.  I eventually chose 40.

Third, think about your closet. I suggest making a list of all of your clothes – whatever you can remember wearing.  Mine was in an excel spreadsheet, but it doesn’t have to be that meticulous.  Anything that wasn’t on the list is obviously not something I wear often and should be stored (I’m not throwing things away yet, I just can’t).

Fourth, make the harder decisions.  Take the list of your closet and think about the pieces you wear the most.  Mark them.  Think about the shirts that only go with one pair of pants and vice versa.  Keep working at it until you’ve achieved your number goal!  Remember, you can store the items for a while until you’re ready to get rid of them.

Fifth and finally, get to work.  On a day you have time, do all of your laundry and return everything to its rightful place before you begin to purge.  This helped me see my mess for what it was.  Then, pull everything out of the closet (and drawers) and return it.  This was really nice to do because I was able to simultaneously organize my little closet!

 

Good luck!

Cinnamon Apple Muffins

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Breakfast!  A meal I often skip, sadly.  I really try, but usually I can only down a cup of coffee before I bolt out the door in the morning.  My lack of breakfast is a testament to the fact that I am not a morning person.  Brunch is lovely, and there’s nothing better than pancakes for dinner when it’s raining (more on that later!) but eating at 7:30?  Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Recently, I made a failed attempt to start eating more breakfast foods at breakfast time.  I gathered my make-ahead, heat-n-eat recipes and got to work!

While I ended up failing my breakfast-eating challenge, one recipe did rise to the top.  Inspired by this recipe from Add a Pinch, I continued to make Cinnamon Apple Muffins long after my abject failure!


Ingredients;

  • 2 cups flour (plus 1 tablespoon for coating apples)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (plus 1/2 teaspoon for coating apples)
  • 2 cups diced apples, including skin
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of almond milk

Recipe;

  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon) and set aside.  In a separate bowl, toss apples in the excess flour and cinnamon and set aside.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar in a third bowl, whipping until combined and light in color.  Add eggs to creamed butter and sugar one at a time, adding vanilla last.
  2. Fold dry ingredients into the “wet” ingredients until well combined, alternating flour with the milk.  Finally, stir in coated apples gently.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and divide batter into a greased muffin tin, filling each cup about 3/4 of the way full.  Bake muffins for 30 minutes, and let rest for to minutes on baking racks.