Sunday, April 29, 2012

Pizza Night

Everyone in our house loves pizza so I try to make it frequently enough so that the temptation to go out for pizza is silenced. It is very inexpensive to make your own, healthy pizzas at home. Tonight was pizza night and once again I tried to photograph it and once again they were made, baked and consumed before I got many pictures. I suppose this is a good thing. It means they really like my pizza, right? Since we are dealing with multiple food allergies, I decided long ago to individualize the pizzas rather than making one that will fulfill all needs but that nobody will like very much. That means two crusts for starters.  A gluten free crust and then my regular, whole wheat crust...

Regular Pizza Crust
1 1/4 cups of warm water
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 T yeast
1 T sucanat or honey
3-4 cups of freshly ground wheat

Pour the water in a large mixing bowl. Add the next 7 ingredients. Allow this to rest until the yeast begins to foam. Add the flour and stir in, mixing well. Using the kneading paddle on your dough or your hands, knead your dough for about 10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic with a nice sheen to it. Cover the dough with a moist towel and put in a warm place. Allow the dough to rise until double in size. Punch the dough down and divide into portions that suit your family and pan sizes. Place on a greased cookie sheet and allow to rise again.  The entire process takes about 4 hours, so I usually make the dough when I am making lunch. That way its ready when I want to make dinner.

Ready to make dinner? 
Now you can sprinkle some flour on your clean counter and place one of the dough portions on the flour giving it a good dusting. Working from the center, use your fingertips to gently push the air bubbles out of the dough. Gradually working around from the middle out and gradually increasing the circle size. You can use a rolling pin at this point if you are not comfortable spinning a pizza. Since my father owned a pizza restaurant when I was in college I can toss a pizza pretty comfortably but will use the rolling pin on the rectangle pizza that goes to my son. ;-)
The Gluten-Free Pesto Pizza is ready to put in the oven
Place the prepared pizza crust in an oiled pan of your choice. You can dust the oiled pan with a little cornmeal if you like a crisper crust. I have one round stone(a Pampered Chef stone I found at Goodwill), a round steel pizza pan with holes in it and one rectangular "Medium Bar Pan" from Pampered Chef as well as a flat stone that stays in my oven. My gluten free crust is pre-made and goes right on that stone, so I prepare that pizza on a flexible cutting mat which makes it easy to transfer to the oven.

I allow the pizza crusts to rest in their respective pans about 20-30 minutes while I prepare the toppings. We use goat cheese, raw cheese, grass-fed mozzarella, which is grated into individual bowls. We chop fresh veggies, sometimes I will caramelize the onions and peppers, slice pre-cooked uncured sausage or open a jar of canned pizza sausage and open a jar of our homemade canned pizza sauce and usually pull out some pesto as well. As I mentioned, we eat pizza a lot, so I do can my own pizza sauce and when I can find a good deal on fresh, grass-fed italian sausage, I either can that as well or fry it up and keep it in the freezer. I also store hunks of mozzarella, goat cheese or any other pizza-related items in the freezer in what I call the "Pizza Bag" so I can just pull it from the freezer on pizza-making night. If I open a jar of pizza sauce or pesto, I just put the partially used jar in the Pizza Bag as well. That way, nothing spoils and I am not required to run to the store for ingredients everytime the mood for pizza strikes.


Four custom pizza pies make everyone happy
Once all the ingredients are prepared, it's time to make the pizzas. I preheat the oven to 450 degrees and everyone is free to make their own pizza, but since we do this fairly often, the novelty has worn off, and I usually have a daughter helping me and we make for everyone else.
Each person has different requirements and that's why we all have our own "pans." Once all the pizzas are made, I sprinkle them with some oregano and a little more garlic, brush the edges with a little olive oil, and pop them in the oven. The thicker ones take longer and are softer(for braces) and the little gluten-free pizza made on an Udi's Gluten free crust goes in last because the crust is precooked and it cooks fast.
Usually they take about 20 minutes to cook and I rotate them from top to bottom so they all get evenly cooked. When everything is ready, we sit down and quickly polish off most, if not all of the pizza in one meal. And that is what pizza night looks like at our house.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Catnip

Catnip is now available in our herb garden. Cut fresh to order. Catnip (Nepata cataria) is a member of the mint family (Labiatae), but it isn't just for cats....

Internal uses: 

The leaves of catnip have traditionally been chewed as a remedy for alleviating toothaches. The inhabitants of Southern Appalachia have used it since the eighteenth century as a remedy for cold. Tea made from catnip has been used to relieve intestinal cramps and gas discomforts. Recent researches show that consumption of teas containing catnip has anti-cholinergic effects. Catnip has been used for relief of insomnia and prevention of nightmares, and has a mild anti-spasmodic effect and is used to treat cramps. The juice from the leaves was used to stimulate menstrual flow. It has been used in the treatment of children’s ailments, such as colicky pain, flatulence and restlessness. The herb has also been used as a cold remedy, for hives, to promote sweating(diaphoretic), and a pain killer(anodyne). (Please refer to an herbal dictionary like for further information on these terms.)Since it promotes relaxation it is also used to lessen migraine headaches.

External uses: 

Poultices made from catnip have commonly been used for toothaches, though they can be applied to any part of the body. It has been used to reduce swelling associated with soft tissue injuries, like bruises and recent studies have shown it to have antibacterial and antiviral substances. Poulices have been applied to sore breasts of nursing mothers and to the neck for tonsillitis. Thymol extracted from catnip has beneficial antiseptic uses on the skin and in the nasal and pharyngeal passages. Catnip oil repels insects and has even been shown to kill termites. The flowering tops of catnip yield up to 1.0 % volatile oil, 78 % being nepatalactone, the main attractant to cats.

Catnip is easy to grow and use. Research it for yourself and see if you can use catnip in your home.
One of my favorite herbal books. A referral link to Amazon is shown below. There are a lot of herbal books out there. Find books that you feel comfortable with, that list interactions with any pharmaceuticals you might be taking and always use caution when using herbs as medicine.

 *I am not a doctor. It is important that you exercise caution when considering using any herb for medicinal purposes; seek professional advice and do your own research before using them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Hot n' Brown

This recipe is a big hit at our house. When I make it, I never have leftovers and usually despite the fact that there are five of us eating, all six english muffins get eaten. Its pretty easy to make and if the cheese sauce is doubled, you have plenty to make a mac and cheese later in the week, or to pour over grits or have welsh rarebit later in the week. It really is a good sauce and the combination is so yummy. I typically make my English Muffins since they are rarely on sale and will post that recipe later this week. This is a great summertime recipe since it requires tomatoes and when Earth fare has its thick cut uncured bacon, I will buy extra and freeze it in 12-slice portions so I can make this whenever its requested. 
Ingredients:
3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced
6 English Muffins, lightly browned
Sliced turkey or chicken breast
12 slices cooked, uncured bacon
Cheese sauce


Instructions:
First make cheese sauce: Melt butter over a low heat. Stir in flour and salt and slowly add milk. When almost thickened, blend in cheese. Blend well and set aside, keeping covered and warm.  Next, fry bacon and set aside to keep warm.  When ready to serve dinner, split the english muffins and arrange on a broiling pan, broil  them till slightly brown and toasty. Remove from broiler and top each English muffin half with a tomato slice(or two), then some turkey or chicken slices(lunchmeat works well for this). Return to oven to heat well, watching carefully so it doesn’t burn; just long enough to get it hot. Place muffin halves on a plate, pour cheese sauce liberally over top and criss-cross bacon on top. Serve with a sharp knife and fork. Devour!!



Cheese Sauce
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
4 cups milk
3 cups grated sharp cheese

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Oven Baked Southwestern Wraps


If you have ever had the Southwestern Eggrolls at Chili's, you will enjoy this healthy spin on their popular appetizer. This recipe can offer a lot less calories and a lot more nutrition packed into these yummy wraps. My calorie counter has these clock in at just under 400 calories each if you add a tablespoon of dipping sauce on the side. If there are any leftovers, they taste even better the second day.


Ingredients:
3/4 lb grass-fed ground beef
2 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
1 small onion, diced(1/2 cup)
1 jalapeno, diced (optional)
1 small red pepper, diced (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
8 whole wheat tortillas(or corn, or gluten-free)
dipping sauce(see below)


Directions:
Lightly brown your beef over a medium heat. While your meat is browning, strip the kernels off your corn cobs into a small bowl, toss with the cilantro and chipotle chili powder and set aside.
When the meat is no longer pink, drain off the fat and add the onion, jalapeno and red pepper. Saute until tender and add the garlic clove, cooking an additional 2 minutes till tender. Set aside. Make your dipping sauce(below) and refrigerate. Prepare your tortillas if you are making them yourself.


Assembly:
Combine the meat and corn mixture. Place 1/2 a cup of the mixture(1/8th) into your tortilla. Fold in the ends and roll. Place seam side down in your panini press, cooking until outside is brown and crispy or place seam side down on a lightly oiled baking sheet. Repeat, using all your tortillas and filling. You can bake in your oven at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned and crisp. Serve with dipping sauce.  Makes 8 wraps.

Notes:
You can leave off the jalapeno and your dish will have a southwestern flair without much heat. Adding more or less of the jalapeno and adding more chili powder will help you to achieve the spice that pleases your family. You can also add about a cup of grated monterey jack or cheddar cheese to the meat filling after it is cooled if you like. We don't because of dairy allergies and the additional calories and the fresh flavor and textures make the cheese unnecessary. For gluten free, just swap the flour tortilla out for a corn tortilla or a gluten-free brand from the store.


Dipping sauce
1 ripe avacodo
1 tsp lime juice(or white vinegar)
1-2 dashes hot sauce(to your liking)
1/4 cup sour cream(or use yogurt or all mayonnaise)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
dash onion powder
dash salt
dash dried parsley
dash garlic powder
dash pepper

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gluten Free Strawberry Yogurt Cake

This cake is amazing. Its addicting and its going to be made again! It is sweet, so you could reduce the sugar, but we liked the tangy lemon combined with the acidity of the strawberries and the sweetness of the sugar. The glaze once dried gives a crunchy sweet crust and the cake is moist and delicious. YUM! For my wheat-eating friends, you could use a regular baking mix or combine flour with 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt for similar results.


Ingredients:

1 cup of grass fed butter
1 3/4 cups of Sucanat or evaporated cane juice or sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp lemon powder*
2 1/2 cups of Arrowhead Mills Gluten Free Baking Mix, divided
1 cup of Brown Cow plain yogurt
1 cup of chopped fresh strawberries

glaze
1 cup organic powdered sugar
1 tsp lemon powder
2 T water

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10" bundt pan and set aside. In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy on high speed. Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated in the batter. Add the lemon powder and lower the speed to mix the flour and yogurt in. I switched to a batter attachment at this point. Alternate between adding the 2 1/4 cups of flour(dry) and the yogurt (wet) until you have a thick batter. Start with about a 1/4 of the flour, mix well then add a 1/4 or so of the yogurt and mix well. Repeat until you have used all of both the dry and wet ingredients. Do not overmix or your cake will be tough. Toss the strawberries with the remaining 1/4 cup of flour and fold into the batter carefully. Spoon the thick batter into the bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for a while before removing from the pan. Once it is cool enough, transfer to a plate and top with the glaze below. Serve warm or cool. Refrigerate any unused portions...if there are any.


Glaze
Pour all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir to mix well. Set aside until ready to use. If too thick, you can add a little more water until it is somewhere between honey and syrup in consistency.

*I get my lemon powder from frontier because I can't always count on getting organic lemons fresh from the store. You can use lemon juice(1 T of lemon juice is similar to 1 tsp lemon powder) but adjust your liquids or flour accordingly.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Consequence Jar

"I can't do this...its too haaarrrdddd...."
"I don't want to get in my pajamas..."

We've all got whiners. Some more than others. I have one child that could win awards for his whining skills. I have tried time outs and more recently pulling privileges or special snacks. I find that I get really fed up with it if he's having a particularly whiny day. To some extent I understand whining. I don't want to clean the house and if I had someone to whine to, I just might, but when its a daily practice, an HOURLY practice, it needs to be curbed. So my futile attempts were made.

Now meet the consequence jar. Sitting on the counter in the kitchen, looking quite innocent. Inside are consequences for whining, or not doing chores, or bad attitudes...its really quite effective. And humorous at times. For example, one item says "clean the glass on the back door while singing a song" another says "hop on one foot while getting the mail" then the more serious..."scrub the toilet" or "sweep the front porch"  There are even some "grace" cards. Grace meaning, they get this incident free(no chore)but you never know what will happen next time.
I typed up a sheet of them and folded the slips of paper and put them in a glass jar on the counter. Its waiting for the first infraction...and within minutes we have one. He pulls a piece of paper from the jar and is told to "hand wash the dishes." Since its between meals he gets off easy with only about 6 items, but he starts to put up a fuss. I tell him if he would like to pull a second slip from the jar to keep on talking.

And there is silence.

So far, this has been very effective... :-)


Here are some other examples:

Empty recycling can in pantry
Rub mommy or daddy’s feet for 10 minutes
Clean your room
Wipe down upstairs bathroom floor
Clean a glass on back door while singing a song.
Clean out silverware drawer
Remove the magnets and pictures and wipe down outside of fridge.
Do 25 sit ups while singing "I will not _______ anymore" really loud.(fill in infraction for that time)
You have been given Grace
Vacuum garage floor mats
Scrub upstairs bathtub
Empty all garbage cans
Fold 10 pairs of socks
Sweep front porch.
Sweep back porch.
Clean out your closet
Dust living room
Wipe off railings on front porch
You have been given Grace
Write “I will not _______” on a sheet of paper 50 times(fill in infraction for that time)
Do 25 push ups while singing "I will not _______ anymore" really loud.(fill in infraction for that time)
Run around the house 3 times and pick 20 dandelion flowers for the chickens.
Wipe all the wood railings on the chairs in the kitchen and under the table
Wipe all the wood railings on the chairs in the dining room and under the table
While hopping on one foot, go get the mail.
Choose 2 items of yours to donate to Goodwill.
Vacuum your bedroom
Hand wash dirty dishes
Scrub your toilet while singing “I love to clean when I am misbehaving”
Pick up backyard putting all sticks in the burn pile
Pick up frontyard putting all sticks in the burn pile