Date Night Mini Pizzas

Even though we are married and see each other every day, Will and I still try to have a date night at least once a week; we’re both pretty busy people and it’s nice to have some time that is dedicated for us to just relax together and really talk.

One of our favorite date night things to do is make mini-pizzas together. This is really fun because we each prepare our pizzas side by side, share toppings, fling sauce at each other, and comment on how we each choose to arrange our toppings.

Into the oven they go… Then we pull them out, swoon over how beautiful our pizzas are, and sit down together to eat. We are never disappointed, because the beauty of mini-pizzas is that we each get make our pizza exactly the way we like it!

As if having a fun and tasty activity with your S.O. wasn’t good enough, it gets better…the crust is FAST and EASY. And it’s got whole wheat flour in it. And delicious herbs. And even though it has yeast in it, it only needs to rise for 15-20 minutes, which I’ve found is just enough time to prepare the toppings.

Here’s another great thing about the dough recipe, you can easily double or triple it for a crowd. Or double it, portion it, and refrigerate or freeze whatever you don’t use. Just remember that if you are going to store it, you should coat the inside of a zip top bag with cooking spray or a thin coat of cooking oil to make dough retrieval a snap.

TIP: You don’t really need any special equipment for this recipe, but a pizza stone is really going to make a huge difference in the quality of your crust, especially if you like a crispy crust. I would definitely recommend using one if you can.

Toppings are limited only by your imagination. Mini-pizzas are a great way to use up little odds and ends of produce that may be accumulating in your fridge. 1/8 of an onion? Slice it up. One lonely jalapeño? Adds some zing.

Will tends to like tomato sauce, onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, and daiya cheese on his pizza; he is pretty consistent. I like to try different things, so this week’s pizza was topped with pesto, daiya cheese, sauteed onions and garlic, and veggie sausage crumbles; I also put a big handful of torn arugula on top when the pizza was hot out of the oven. YUM!

What kind of toppings do you like on your pizza?

Date Night Mini Pizza With Herbed Whole Wheat Crust

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp instant yeast (about half a package)
  • 1/4 tsp sea or table salt
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped herbs of your choice, OR a few pinches of dried herbs, crushed between your fingers (oregano, basil, thyme, whatever you have lying around)
  • 1/2 cup hot water (115º-125º F)
  • 2 tsp agave nectar

Method

Preheat oven to 425º F.

In your mixer’s bowl, combine AP flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, and salt and stir. Add water and agave nectar, and mix until smooth.

Switch to the dough hook and knead on low speed until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes (–OR– knead by hand on a floured surface, 5minutes), adding whole wheat flour 1 tablespoon at a time if dough sticks.

Using a bench knife or sharp chef’s knife, cut the dough in half and shape it into smooth balls. Invert your mixing bowl over one, and place another deep bowl (or piece of lightly oiled plastic wrap) over the other and let rest 15 minutes.

Stretch or roll or toss each dough ball into desired shape and place on parchment paper (or a baking sheet, if you are not using a pizza stone). Turn over a small lip all around the edges and seal with your fingertip by pressing slightly. Have fun with toppings.

Cook in preheated oven for 12-15 minutes, or until dough is browned around edges and as crisp as you like it.

Yield: 2 mini pizza crusts

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Luscious Lime Ice Box Cookies

Food-091115-0004Whew! It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Life has been crazy, between work and school and a hard drive crash on my home computer. But I’m easing back into it today with one of my favorite flavors: LIME.

Food-091115-0001I can’t take credit for this recipe, as it is just a minor tweak of the Grapefruit Ice Box Cookies from the book Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar by the amazing Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero. The original recipe is here, but I’ve listed it again below with my changes to make it limey.

While I thought the original recipe featuring ruby red grapefruit sounded excellent, my DH has an aversion to anything grapefruit. But after a foolish CostCo run recently where I found myself in possession of 10lbs of limes (why??), I decided to use some of them up on these cookies. And I am *so* glad I did! The sweet lime flavor of these cookies is so bright and citrusy, and the shortbread has just the right balance between tenderness and crispness. I love them!

Food-091115-0002DH loves them too…he walked into the kitchen this morning to announce that they were a hit, as he had eaten several for breakfast; I considered this a victory as he had seemed less than lukewarm about the lime idea when I had originally pitched it to him. Go lime!

Other modifications: I used waxed paper to roll up the cookies instead of parchment, and I baked them on a silicone baking mat. I was able to fit all the cookies on one cookie sheet, because they don’t spread out very much. Also, I really only needed about half of the glaze, so I cut the quantities in half for the recipe below. For the entire recipe, you will probably only need about 3 limes, maybe 4 if they are small. Remember to zest your limes before you juice them!

Luscious Lime Ice Box Cookies

IngredientsFood-091115-0003

For cookies:

  • 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lime zest
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For glaze:

  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoons lime zest for sprinkling

Method

In a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer on medium speed, cream together the margarine and shortening. Beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla, lime juice, and lime zest. Add flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt, and beat until a soft dough forms. On a piece of parchment paper from the dough into a log about 14 inches long. Roll up in parchment paper and fashion the log into a rectangle by rotating and pressing the dough to square off the sides. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from fridge and slice rectangle into ¼ inch thick slices and place on cookie sheets. The end slices are going to be wack, that’s ok, just discard them or make 2 weird looking cookies. Bake 15 minutes, edges should be lightly browned. Let cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before glazing.

Make the glaze and assemble: In a small mixing bowl, use a fork to mix together sugar, juice, and vanilla. It should fall from the fork in thick ribbons, if it seems to thin add a little extra sugar. Too thick, add more juice by the teaspoon. Spoon onto cooled cookies and spread a bit. Sprinkle with a little zest. Let set for at least half an hour. If it’s warm in the kitchen, place cookies in the fridge to set. Store in a container until ready to use.

Pomegranate Party Trick

pomegranate-091021-0001Autumn brings us so many tasty delights, I look forward to it every year. I think Autumn may be my favorite season. In addition to beautiful fall foliage, we get beautiful squashes and pumpkins, gorgeous greens, and of course…pomegranates! I always get so excited when I pick up my first pomegranate of the season, and this year is no exception.

pomegranate-091021-0003Pomegranate seeds are not just pretty to look at and tasty as all get-out, but they are packed with nutrition too. They are high in vitamin C, potassium, antioxidants, and fiber, and are low in calories.

I love to put pomegranate seeds on just about everything, and they work really well with both savory and sweet dishes. I will sprinkle them on salads, soups, ice cream, overtop of pumpkin bread…anywhere I can think of.

One of my favorite things to do with pomegranate seeds is to float them in a carbonated beverage. Yes, pomegranate seeds can float! So today instead of a recipe, I offer you this formula for an impressive party beverage:pomegranate-091021-0002

  • Carbonated Beverage
  • Slice of lime (optional)
  • Pomegranate seeds

I love to use sparkling water for this, it is an almost-no-calorie treat. The pomegranate seeds sink to the bottom of the glass at first, but then float up onto a wave of carbonation. For a more adult beverage, I like prosecco, or even champagne.

TIP: I promise this trick can make even cheap champagne more impressive!

What other carbonated beverages can you think of to try? (Please don’t say beer!)

Kohlrabi and Turnip Spicy Asian Slaw

kholrabi slaw-091017-0003One of the cool things about doing a CSA is that from time to time something shows up in your share that you’ve never seen before. This week for me, it was kohlrabi.

If you’ve never tasted it, kohlrabi has a very mild, pleasant flavor. I found it to be kind of cabbagey tasting, in a very good way. It also has a very satisfying crunch which reminds me of broccoli. Apparently when kohlrabi is very young, you can eat it without having to peel it. But the outer layer of the large specimen we got was fibrous and tough, and it definitely needed to be peeled.

Our share this week also contained a bunch of turnips, and I had some left over carrots from the farmers market too. In light of this, I figured it was slaw time.

The dressing on this slaw is one that I use all the time with a shredded cabbage base, so feel free to sub in about a half of a head of cabbage if kohlrabi and turnips aren’t your thing.

This makes about 6-8 cups of slaw. When I’ve made (the cabbage version of) this in the past, I’ve often doubled it because it’s so tasty, and it does not last long in our house!

Kohlrabi and Turnip Spicy Asian Slaw

For the Dressing:

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Ingredients

  • 1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1.5 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1.5 tbsp tamari, soy sauce, or Bragg’s Amino Acids
  • 1.5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 5 thai chilis, sliced on the bias (or a seeded and chopped seranno  or jalapeno)
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced

Method

Whisk together all ingredients except for the onion (you can also use a blender for this). Pour the dressing over the sliced onion in a large bowl, and set aside for half an hour to let the onions macerate slightly in the liquid. Stir occasionally.

For the salad

Ingredients

  • 1 large kohlrabi
  • 3-4 small turnips
  • 2 small carrots
  • 2 tablespoons black or white sesame seeds
  • 1 handful mint leaves, chopped
  • Other herbs of your choice (optional, but chopepd cilantro or parsley or thai basil would be nice)
  • Veggie “chick’n” strips (optional)

If your turnips still have their green tops attached, cut them off and set them aside for another use. Peel and trim all the veggies.

A food processor with the disk for shredding works best for the veggies. Shred all the veggies, and add them to the bowl with the onions and dressing. Add the sesame seeds, mint leaves, and “chick’n” strips and other herbs (if using). Toss the slaw to coat with dressing. Garnish with extra sesame seeds and herbs.

Serve right away, or tuck it into the fridge until you are ready. This lasts about 4 or 5 days in the fridge, but is best the day it’s made.
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Chestnuts Demystified

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Have you ever tasted a chestnut?

If you buy them pre-cooked in jars at the store, they tend to be pricey. I believe I saw some last year for about $10 at wholefoods, and the contents of the jar was probably only about 2/3 cup. That seems prohibitively expensive to me, and so I had never cooked with them.

But then last week at the farmers market, I saw a pint of fresh chestnuts for $4.00. I snatched them up without a real plan for them.

When I got them home, I was like…how am I going to cook these little buggers? “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire?” That sounds a little dicey to me. So I researched a little and decided to peel and boil them.

And now I know why they are so expensive in the store…it is definitely a manual process but the taste…oh my goodness, chestnuts are SO supple and delicious with an earthy sweetness. And the texture is unexpectedly soft and creamy, they practically melt on your tongue.

If  you have access to reasonably priced chestnuts–at a market, a store, or if you have a neighbor with a chestnut tree–I recommend trying to cook them yourself at least once. After you taste them, you will know it is worth the effort!

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Ingredients

  • 1 to 2 cups fresh, raw, in-shell chestnuts
  • Water
  • Salt

Method

First thing you need to do is get the shell off, and this is a lot easier if you do a quick cook of the nuts first. Put a pot of water on to boil (you only need just enough water to cover your chestnuts by about an inch). Meanwhile, use a paring knife to score the shell with an ‘X.’ Try not to cut too deep into the actual nut when you do this.

Drop scored chestnuts into boiling water, turn the heat down to medium, and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, and use a slotted spoon to remove a few chestnuts at a time from the water. They will be very hot, so let them cool for a minute or two before handling. Using your fingers, remove the shell and the fibrous covering over the chestnut. If any shells seem particularly stubborn, return to the hot water for a few more minutes to help loosen them.

TIP: You may find a worm in one or two of your chestnuts. How do they get there? I don’t know. But throw these chestnuts away. You may also find some chestnuts that look kind of black or otherwise “not quite right.” Don’t waste your time on them, just toss ’em and move on. Out of my pint, I probably had to throw away about 8 to 10 chestnuts. But there were still plenty to work with.

BONUS TIP: Removing the shells is the part that is a little tedious, so stream some Hulu or listen to a podcast while you work. :)

Once all your chestnuts are free from their shells, put a fresh pot of water on to boil, season generously with salt. Turn the heat down to medium, add your chestnuts, and simmer until they can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, about 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the nuts.

Drain, and allow to cool. These will keep in the refrigerator for a little over a week.

Stay tuned for ways to use your delicious chestnuts!

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Baked Flour Tortilla Chips

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My husband and I used to eat at a local restaurant where they’d always present a lovely bread basket at dinner time. It featured some kind of crusty white bread, some corn bread, and some delightfully crispy and spicy baked tortillas. For me, it was the tortillas that always stole the show, and so I decided to figure out how to make them.tortilla chips-091010-0001

I was happy to find that they are deceptively easy. The texture is so light and crispy, and you can really dial them in by playing with the spices any way you like. These are great for rounding out a bread basket, dipping into hummus or guacamole, or as an impressive garnish for a hearty soup or stew.

They are also great for straight-up snacking, and beat the pants off store-bought flour chips!

Have I mentioned they are EASY??

Baked Flour Tortilla Chips

Ingredients

  • 1 package fresh flour tortillas (white, whole wheat, or whatever you like)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • Spice blend from my pumpkin seed recipe, OR chili powder and a little salt

Method

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.tortilla chips-091011-0003

Use a pastry brush to lightly brush just the top side of each of the tortillas with olive oil, and then dust liberally with several dashes of spice blend or chili powder and salt. Place the tortillas in a stack as you go. When you are done, move the bottom tortilla to the top of the stack (this puts the bottom of that tortilla in contact with the oil and spice from the tortilla below it).

Cut the stack in half, then in half again, and then again to make wedges (a bread knife works best for this, cut gently). Arrange wedges in a single layer on cookie sheets.

Bake for 8-12 minutes, rotating the pans half way through baking time. When I rotate the pans, I also like to move the chips that are on the outside to the center of the pan for even baking.

These are done when they are lightly puffed and crispy (if they start to turn a little brown, they have gone too far so try to pull them out before that happens). Let them cool on a wire rack, and store in a large glass or plastic container.

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Sketti-O’s

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Did you eat Spaghetti-O’s as a kid?

I am not ashamed to admit that I grew up eating Spaghetti-O’s, and I absolutely adored them. I loved them so much that I continued to eat them in college and into my early adulthood.spaghettios

But then I went vegan, and took a closer look at the Spaghetti-O’s label. Of course they are NOT vegan. And I was also kind of horrified to find that they are full of preservatives and chemicals that I’d rather not put into my body. So just like that, they were out of my life…

…until recently. A few months back, I was randomly thinking fondly back on my Spaghetti-O’s days, and I thought, “hang on, why not make my own healthy vegan version?”

And so this recipe was born.

It’s a one-pot recipe that’s really easy to make. The hardest part of this recipe is probably finding the pasta rings. There is only store that carries them in my area, but I think alphabet pasta would be a really fun substitute, and easier to find.

I always added hot sauce to my Spaghetti-Os, and so this recipe is a little bit spicy; but feel free to leave out the heat if that’s your preference.

This makes about 12 one-cup servings, or 6 to 8 larger servings. It will keep really well in the fridge for up to a week, so don’t worry about making such a big batch. You’ll gobble it up pretty quickly anyways.

Home Made Sketti-O’s

Ingredients

  • 4 cups spaghetti sauce, preferably home made
  • 5 cups of water
  • 9 oz. (can and a half) tomato paste
  • 1.5 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1.5 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 – 2 tsp. cayenne pepper and/or hot sauce (optional, only add if you want a little kick)
  • 1 – 2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • black pepper
  • 12 oz ring or alphabet pasta
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (optional)

Method

In your blender, combine the spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, spices, salt, and pepper, and as much water as you can fit without overwhelming your blender. Blend until the mixture is entirely smooth, and put it in a big pot. Put the remaining water into the blender and swirl it around to get all the good stuff off the sides, and then pour it into the pan. Stir to combine. The sauce will look very watery.

Heat the sauce over high heat until it comes to a rolling boil. Add the pasta rings and lower the heat to medium. Cook until the pasta rings are soft and the sauce has thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Stir frequently to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot. When pasta is fully cooked, stir in the nutritional yeast, if using. Put the lid back on the pot and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving. Adjust seasoning to taste. If the sauce is too thick, add more water until it is the consistency you like.

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