Goodbye 2014, Don’t Let the Door Hit You on the Butt on the Way Out….

Goodbye-2014-

I can truly say I am not sad to see 2014 go, it was a rough year for me.  Not to say it was all bad, but I definitely don’t need to repeat it.  We probably all have one of those years that we are happy to see end, this was mine.

This year I said farewell to a few friendships, but was also reminded how strong a few are as well.  As I get older I no longer need tons of friends, I am much more content with a few really good ones.  Like they say, quality over quantity.  Makes me treasure my quality friends even more.  Communication skills were sharpened due to this, which has helped in many areas of life, at least I can say something good came from these losses.

This year we moved out of our home into an apartment.  Our house is still for sale, hopefully the new year will bring a new owner for her… Once she is sold we can buy another home and get out of the apartment.  Living in 1200 square feet with two 4 year olds is challenging and very frustrating.  I find myself getting annoyed so much easier when the twinadoes are going crazy and being the wild feral jackals they are. They were use to being able to run and be wild toddlers but now we have neighbors above, below and next to us so they are having to learn the art of quiet play…So far it’s not going over very well.  Life will be so much more pleasant in a home with a backyard.

As for the home…. what zip code we will be in has not been completely determined.  On one hand that’s kind of exciting, but then on the other hand it gets me all kinds of crazy.  Change and I are not friends.  I like order and routine.  My hope is that we will know for sure where we will be living early in 2015.

Being in such a state of question makes me anxious.  So many people have said to look at this time of transition as an adventure, I tried at first, but my routine loving self just wouldn’t let it last for long.  On a positive note, I will never complain or take for granted the walk from a garage to inside a home, or the luxury of leaving stuff in the car and making several small trips at my leisure to bring in purchases.  All this has taught me to be a little more grateful for what I do have.

My wish is for 2015 to be filled with fun, good times, lots of love, good health and routine!!

I hope you all have a wonderful new year, better than the last and filled with everything you wish for.

St. Louise Style Pizza

Want a thin pizza that doesn’t require yeast and long rising time?  St. Louise Style is the perfect choice.  I first saw this on an episode of Cook’s Country Kitchen.  It can be made in roughly 30 minutes, which means you can have homemade pizza on a weeknight.  This produces very thin crust, the one downside people might find is this means you can’t load it up with tons of toppings, the crust just can’t handle it.  When I lived in the house we are currently selling, one of our favorite pizza places wouldn’t allow you to put more than 3 toppings, and in truth I loved the simplicity.

For the Recipe:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine flour, cornstarch, 2 teaspoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Combine water and olive oil in a measuring cup. Stir water mixture into flour mixture until dough starts to come together. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 3 or 4 times, until cohesive.  Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, press into a small circle and transfer to a sheet of parchment paper dusted lightly with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll and stretch dough into a 12-inch circle, rotating parchment as needed. Lift parchment off work surface and onto an inverted baking sheet.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees, if using a pizza stone (my preference) let it heat up before using.  Top with your favorite sauce and toppings, but remember it’s a very thin crust so don’t go all crazy.  Transfer the pizzas to the heated stone and let cook for 9-12 minutes until crust is golden and cheese is nice and melted.

Pizza Dough

DSC_1841 I’m a fan of pizza but not one of those eat it all the time kind of fans.  Once a month or so would be enough for me.  Living in the apartment has a few advantages, like being within walking distance of most any kind of restaurant you could ever want.  The pizza place that we order from is literally 5 minutes from my door to their door.  They have tasty pizzas, but those pizzas come with a hefty price tag if you ask me.  The last time I ordered a large pizza with three toppings it was a little over $27. Pizza dough is actually quite simple to make, but you do have to plan ahead.  From start to baking is roughly two hours, but to me it’s totally worth the time.

For the Recipe:

1 tbsp. sugar

1 tbsp. yeast

1 1/2 c. warm water

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. olive oil

4-6 c. flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer add the sugar, yeast and 1/2 c. of the warm water (warm to the touch, but not hot).  Let it sit for about 5 minutes, it should start getting all bubbly and happy.  If it doesn’t you will want to start over.  Attach the dough hook, then add the salt and olive oil.  Turn the mixer on and slowly add the flour.  Once you get all the flour in add the water, slowly.  Taking breaks every 1/4 c. of water.  You might not need the whole remaining cup, or you might need a little more.  Once the dough forms a smooth ball that pulls away from the bowl, leaving it “clean” it’s ready to be transferred to another bowl.  Drizzle about 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a bowl, then place the dough in, turn once so top and bottom have a layer of oil.  Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm area until it doubles in size.  This usually take about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.  Now you are ready to roll out the dough and make some pizza.  This makes two pizzas, so when you go to roll divide it into two balls.  Roll to your desired thickness, but remember, it will rise a bit more so make sure you roll it thinner than you want the end crust to be. I like to bake my pizza on a pizza stone that has been heated in a 450 degree oven for 30 minutes.  When I add the pizza I lower the heat to 400 and bake until the crust is golden and the cheese is melted, around 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy!!

Christmas 2014

Overall this was a great holiday season.  The twinadoes had a blast, they really got the whole Santa concept this year.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure how this holiday would go, would we get a tree, would I bake much or what?  I am not a creature that likes change, in fact, I hate change.  For the past eight years we’ve had a giant tree that was so bright you could probably see it from space.  The cookies I baked could have fed a third world country.  And the decorations around the house…well, let’s just say it was like a red, green and white tornado.  This year, our tree was a little barely six foot beauty that we decorated with one box of decorations.  I did bake, more than I thought I would, which was nice, but definitely not like years past.  As for decorations around the apartment, not so much.  But that’s ok.

What I wish I would have savored a little more, the sights and sounds of Christmas in the pacific northwest.  This is more than likely our last one here.  Nothing is set in stone, but let’s just say the ball is rolling…  I’m totally thrilled with the holiday we gave the twinadoes.  They were able to meet Santa, see lots of lights (the crazy 12’s house in Kirkland was the best!), and get that happy holiday feel.  For that I am thankful.

I’ve joked that next year I plan on going Christmas crazy, like Griswold Christmas crazy.  The reality is I was only partway joking.  I want the decorations and the lights and everything else that goes with the best time of the year.  I want to make a big meal and a place to share with friends.

Even with my list of wants I know I have it pretty darn good.  I’m just being honest of how this holiday went for me personally and how I will be happy for a holiday that is closer to what I am use to.  Yes I’m happy this is over and an even bigger yes that I had a nice time, as did my family.  For this I am thankful.

I hope you all had a pleasant holiday no matter what you were celebrating.  Now on to the New Year’s celebration.

Eggs Benedict From Leftovers…

This year we decided a ham would be a nice easy dinner for Christmas.  Being in the apartment with a kitchen about one fifth of the size of my old one makes cooking a tad more challenging, and I just wasn’t up for the challenge.  We barely touched the ham which leaves us with a massive amount of leftovers.  The first meal to be made from the leftover ham was eggs benedict, and it was really delicious.  I used leftover potato rolls that I cut into thirds and toasted in the oven in place of English muffins.

For the Recipe:

The Rolls

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Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Slice the potato rolls into thirds and spray with olive oil (I use my Misto), but you could also just drizzle.  Pop in the oven while you make the Hollandaise sauce, but don’t forget them in there, it’s so easy to burn them.

The Hollandaise Sauce

4 egg yolks

1/2 c. butter, melted

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you like it a little spicier)

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. lemon juice, fresh squeezed if possible

You can do this in a blender if you wish or you can do it on a double boiler (this is the double boiler version).  Whisk the egg yolks until they turn a lovely pale yellow, add the butter and continue to whisk.  Place on a double boiler, add the salt, cayenne and black pepper, whisk well.  Finish off with the lemon juice, and whisk until sauce is heated and thickens a bit.

If you do it in a blender you will do the same thing, only in a blender and not use a double boiler.  I’ve done it this way, and it does heat from the blender but I have not had much luck in it thickening to where I like.  Maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

The Eggs

I did a basic poached egg.  Simmered some water and a splash of white vinegar in a pan that comfortably fit four eggs.  Carefully crack the eggs into the water so they stay together in a little ball.  If you want, you can crack the egg into a little cup and carefully pour the egg into the water.  Be sure to keep the water only at a simmer or you might as well use that water for egg drop soup!  Let the egg cook for about 2 minutes, then careful roll it over in the water.  I like to use a spatula for this part, it’s just easier for me.  After the egg cooks on both sides, I like mine to still have a runny yolk, but cook yours longer if you do not, use a slotted spoon to carefully place the eggs on some paper towels to soak up the excess water.

The Ham

I cut the ham to fit on the rolls, but you can cut it however you want.  To heat, I simply popped it in the microwave for 45 seconds.

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Now you are ready to plate.  Place the toasted roll thirds on a plate, next the ham, then gently place an egg and lastly drizzle some of the Hollandaise sauce on top.

Enjoy!

Lemon Curd

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For some reason I always thought lemon curd was this labor intensive impossible creation that only master chefs could make.  I was VERY wrong.  It takes about twenty minutes from start to finish, however, this is definitely a time when quality ingredients are a must.  I’m not a fan of bottled lemon juice for this (not a huge fan of the stuff anyway but….), the fresh juice makes all the difference and you will only need two or three lemons, depending on how juicy they are.  Of course I will always use Meyer lemons but they are not available year round so when I get a craving for this stuff during the off season I use regular.

For the Recipe:

1/2 c. sugar (I like mine tart so up the amount if you like yours sweet, 3/4 -1 c total)

zest from two lemons (if you end up needing three lemons to get to 1/2c. juice then feel free to use that zest as well)

1/2 c. lemon juice, fresh squeezed

4 egg yolks

pinch of salt

5 tbsp. butter

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I don’t have a double boiler so I use a glass bowl that I place over a pot of simmering water, if you have one then by all means use it.  In the glass bowl add all ingredients except the butter and whisk until everything has turned a beautiful pale yellow and is kind of airy and light.  Place this over the simmering water (water should not touch the bowl) and whisk frequently.  It will take roughly ten minutes for it to thicken.  You want for it to not be thick like pudding, just slightly thickened so it can stay on toast, muffins, etc…  Once it has reached desired thickness add the butter and whisk well.  Take off the heat and let cool.  Place some plastic wrap directly on top of the curd so it doesn’t form a skin.  Let cool in the refrigerator before using.  Will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks.

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And Then She Turned Four…

My sweet little girl, you’re growing so fast

Your face holds the future and much of the past.

You look so much like two people that you’ve never met

Those eyes are from someone I’ll never forget

You have your own way of getting things done

Turning every situation into an opportunity for fun

Strong, determined, sensitive and kind

Constantly showing us you have your own mind

I know you are four, not technically a baby

But to me you always will be, even when you are eighty.

I cherish these days but I need to remember

The days of your childhood won’t last forever

For now I hold your hand when we cross the street

Make you crustless jelly jellys for you to eat

I’ll teach you what I know and help you become your best

For one day you’ll spread your wings and fly from my nest

So thankful am I to call you my daughter

And I hope you are glad that I am your mother