Pizza and the park but not in the park

Please don’t be one of those who thinks making your own pizza involves extra work, a messy kitchen, and flour and/or cornmeal everywhere.  That usually scares people into not trying their own pizza dough.  Ok, yes, it is messy, and it’s a little more work BUT…If you try it on your own…I can almost guarantee you will not want to buy frozen pizza ever again. Yes, it’s that good. Unless you’re Martha Stewart and can master anything in one try, it won’t come in one making. It takes a few times to really get the feel for it. Scroll below for the recipe I used but follow along so you’ll get a better understanding on how dough works and each step of the process.

For starters, you have to understand how dough works. I don’t either, so it’s ok. Hubby is a bread man and has tried to explain it to me a few times. All I have gotten from it is that dough requires yeast and the yeast needs to be fed. Why am I feeding yeast, when I want it to feed me? It wants to be fed sugar. Hey, yeast and I are not so different after all.  Starting to like this yeast. In this case, I used active dry yeast. Active dry yeast has to be met with the liquid at a certain temperature or it won’t rise. I guess it’s kind of picky like me when I want my coffee. I want it a certain temperature…or I won’t rise out of bed either. 🙂 That’s one of the tricks to a good dough. Getting the temp right so that the active dry yeast will rise properly.

Another is the mixing step. If you use all purpose flour, you won’t have to mix as much and you’ll have a crust that’s not as chewy. If you use bread flour, you will have to mix longer and your crust will have a little more bite to it & will be a bit more chewy. In this pic, the dough is still not ready. Notice the rougher edges and it appears shredded looking? Like shredded clouds? You will know your dough is ready because it will begin to look smooth. The dough will be sticky, yet not stick to your finger. Pull the dough off the hook a few times if you are going the mixer route. If you are kneading by hand and the dough is sticking to your fingers and hands, just add a little more flour at at a time to handle. If you’re kneading, I recommend looking up a video on youtube for proper kneading.

Once your dough is ready, take a little oil and rub the inside of a gallon size ziplock bag. Take your dough out and divide it if you’re making several pizzas into 9 oz side portions. This is the approximate weight for a regular size pizza. Roll it in your hands to form a ball, then place inside the ziplock bag. Do not zip close the bag. Fold the opening under where the zipper part on the ziplock rests underneath the ball of the dough. (See pic) Cover with a towel loosely. Wait 2 hours. Perfect time to take the family to the park and play some baseball and frisbee. 🙂

After 2 hours, the dough will look like it has ballooned. That’s a good thing. It means the yeast has done it’s job! I could go into this long, drawn out explanation how yeast eats the sugar, then as you knead it develops the gluten – which then traps the gases – but I still don’t grasp it 100% after it has been told to me a few times. Just know that the yeast has done it’s job if you see your dough has doubled in size. At this stage, you will take your hand and push gently in the middle of the dough to “punch it down”. If you don’t have a lot of time, you could make your pizza at this stage, but if you have time (trust me, it will be worth the wait) put it in the refrigerator the same way and let it sit overnight or at least for 6 hours.

I would not use a rolling pin at this stage. Hubby said to take my fingers and go around the edge of the dough.

Now…you could get all fancy and start flinging it in the air. It’s your dough, what do I care? (Yes, I did try this and it was quite fun!!) This step does take some practice. If you pick the dough up, gently stretch it with your fist in the middle of the dough. Again, if you really want to see how it’s done, Youtube! It will stretch rather quickly, so be ready. If you feel more comfortable putting it down on the surface and stretching-go for it!

Next, I place on a pizza paddle that has been sprinkled with cornmeal. If you don’t use cornmeal, you will be peeling raw pizza dough off of your pizza paddle with nothing to show for it after all that hard work. I have done this a couple of times, followed by lots of tears and a pledge that I will never make homemade pizza again. And yet…here we are. 😉 Put cornmeal on your paddle! Take a fork and gently poke holes all in the dough, all around, or you might get air trapped and huge air dough bubbles. At this stage, you could take a pastry brush and brush garlic infused olive oil onto the dough. This adds so much flavor. Top it off with whatever toppings you love!

Place your pizza on your pizza stone (that has been in the oven for at least 10-15 minutes while the oven was preheating). If the stone is not preheated in there, your bottom crust will not cook as fast as the top part of your pizza. You want consistency. Put the paddle up to the stone and gently pull the stone backwards in a jerking motion -but not too much or your pizza will just plop everywhere.  Jiggle it a little forward and backward to get a feel of how slippery your pizza is on that cornmeal. Small motions. Not big. Get a feel for it. Once you pull backwards, your pizza should slide onto that stone like a baseball player slides into home.


3/4 Cup warm water (6 fluid oz) around 112° Use a thermometer for best results
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp regular olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
2 Cups All purpose flour (bread flour if you want it chewier)

Place warm water, sugar, olive oil, salt and yeast in a bowl and mix with a spoon until the ingredients dissolve. Do not let mixture foam up. Immediately add the flour and liquid mixture in a mixing bowl with a dough hook. Knead the dough on the lowest speed for approximately 8 minutes or until you see your dough is smooth and tacky. Tacky to touch, but not so sticky it sticks to your finger.

Roll into ball with your hands and place in lightly oiled ziplock bag that is NOT closed. Fold opening under the dough ball. Let rise for 2 hours out on counter with towel over it. After 2 hours, punch dough down and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 6 hours. Better if left overnight.

Oven 475° preheated with pizza stone for 15 minutes before cooking. Cook 6-8 minutes depending on how hot your oven is.


salmon a new way

Funny thing about this is…I hated seafood when I was little.  Not all seafood though. Only catfish, salmon,  or other (what I used to call “fishy” fish).  I loved shrimp, lobster and some forms of crab.  I’m not sure when the switch happened.  I blame it on pregnancy, because that’s when my palate started changing.  So there.  I did hear that the longer you cook salmon, the fishier tasting it will be.  Some people advise against a medium rare salmon, but others say medium rare to well done is ok.  These two groups are probably like the raw egg is a no-no, -OR- the I will lick a cake batter bowl clean if you turn your back for 2 seconds group.  First, I say I am a part of the 2nd group and then, I say do what you feel comfortable doing.

First things first….and that’s the alcohol.  I’m not really a big drinker, but every now and then I do like to have white wine with fish, or red wine with steak.  I’m no wine expert by any means, but I do know what taste I like, and what I don’t like.  So, if I come across one I do like, I’ll go ahead and post it.

This one was around $10 at your local supermarket.  It’s called Bridlewood and I don’t know much more than this, other than I think it’s very smooth.  I can’t tell you it’s got a woodsy, or citrus, or hint of this or that.  It just tastes good, I do think it’s smooth, and I will be buying it again.  A side note:  if you have your own, personal favorites, please let me know in the comment section!  I love to try new ones!

I also cooked roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus.  I like my roasted sweet potatoes with a little more bite, but make them the consistency of how you prefer them.  For this, I just peeled the sweet potatoes, cubed them, and tossed them with some olive oil, honey, cinnamon, salt and pepper and baked at 425° for 15 minutes.

For the Marinade (for the salmon):
2/3 cup low sodium soy sauce
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp lemon pepper/garlic seasoning
2 Tbsp butter

Gather all ingredients (minus the butter) and put in large ziplock bag. Seal the bag and shake to dissolve the brown sugar or break apart with your fingers as you shake. Place salmon filets (will fit 2-3) in the bag and marinade for at least 2 hours.  (I usually let it marinade for at least 3 hours)  When ready, preheat oven to 400°.  Place a pat of butter on each filet and (optional) sprinkle a minimal amount of the lemon pepper garlic seasoning on each one.  Cook filets for approximately 20 minutes depending on how many, and what the size of your filets are.  It should be a hint of salt, a hint of citrus, and buttery, melt in your mouth goodness! **BONUS You can also do this with shrimp but check your time on cooking shrimp.  I also cooked roasted asparagus along with it.  Again, your preference as to what veggie to serve.

quick pick-me-up smoothie


I originally saw this recipe on The Chew. Daphne Oz (daughter of Dr. Oz) made it.  It is so simple, and so good for you.  I have adapted the recipe to my tasting, so you do the same!  When berries are not in season, you may find you need to add more honey for sweetness.

1/2 cup of plain organic yogurt
1 Tbsp of honey
palm full of blueberries
3-4 strawberries or any other fruit you desire
1 banana (or can be left out but I love bananas!)
1/2 cup of chopped ice
1/4 cup of milk (or more for blending)
2 capsules (1,000 mg each) Ester-C vitamins (if you have them whole, put them in a ziplock and smash them)
1-2 tsp of Natural Psyllium Husks (which is really fiber – you can find Metamucil makes it)

1)  It’s yummy for a morning snack or after a run
2)  It’s got fiber in it – which makes you feel fuller…longer!
3)  It’s loaded with vitamins!

Not so vanilla Vanilla

Are all vanillas created equal?  Enter Nielsen * Massey vanilla paste.

According to Nielsen Massey’s website, the taste of vanilla varies by which region the bean came from, maturity of the beans when picked, and curing & extraction method.

Where to find:  I purchased mine at Williams Sonoma, but I believe you can purchase it at some supermarkets.  Though I have not confirmed this yet, someone said Trader Joes and World Market carries it.

Price compared to store bought vanilla extract:  Not enough to break the bank.  If you can find it, get it.  Considering you pay nearly $4.00 for store vanilla, this will not stretch your wallet.

How this vanilla is used compared to store bought vanilla extract:  Exactly the same

Taste compared to store bought vanilla extract:  make icing, meringues, french toast batter, or anything where you desire a strong taste of pure vanilla, and POW! Plus, who doesn’t love to see those little black specks when you’re eating fresh, homemade vanilla ice cream?