Thursday, July 20, 2017

Two-Ingredient Pizza Dough

If you've ever seen the episode of "I Love Lucy" where Lucy decides to make a big loaf of bread, and that loaf is so gigantic that it flattens her up against the opposite wall, then you have an idea as to the experience that I've had in the past when it comes to making my own pizza dough. I’ve tried different recipes, and all of them worked out pretty much the same, namely my dough raised so high as to become mountainous, causing my toppings to slide down the side like an avalanche. My oven was a mess.
When I saw the recipe for two-ingredient pizza dough requiring no yeast, I was intrigued. I had recently, conveniently, bought a bag of White Lily self-rising flour, always keep a big vat of plain Greek yogurt on hand, and figured what did I have to lose? (Other than the flour and yogurt, of course.)
So, last night during the ballgame I decided to whip up some pizza dough. It was almost too easy. I used a big mixing bowl, dumped the flour and yogurt in, stirred together with a wooden spoon until combined, emptied it onto a flour-dusted cutting board, and kneaded it for a little under eight minutes. I had a small square pan (11” x 11”) that fits perfectly into my toaster oven, so I lined it with foil, plopped in the dough, spread a little olive oil on top, and worked it all of the way into the corners.
The dough spread like a dream, but I was still leery as I had been fooled before. I sprinkled garlic powder onto the top (next time I'll be more liberal, and will also add it to the dough), and then I sprinkled it with cheese. I used a variety of cheeses because I was cleaning out the cheese bin in the fridge (read: cheddar, Parmesan, and mozzarella). I slid it into the oven, set the timer, and sat down to watch half an inning of baseball. When the timer went off I had the most beautiful looking cheese garlic bread imaginable!

Next time I make this dough I‘ll actually use it for pizza.
Two-Ingredient Pizza Dough
1-1/2 cups self-rising flour, plus more for kneading
1 cup plain Greek yogurt

Mix flour and Greek yogurt together in a large mixing bowl until combined. Transfer to a work surface dusted with self-rising flour. Knead dough, adding more flour as needed to keep dough from being too sticky, for 7 to 10 minutes.

Spray a 12-inch pizza pan with cooking spray and spread dough to edges of pan. Add toppings and bake at 500°F until done. Because I was only using cheese, I baked mine at 450°F.
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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Asparagus & Mushroom-Stuffed Chicken

I love it when a simple dish is fancy enough to serve to company. I also love it when that dish is remarkably delicious, and can be changed up to suit the season.

This stuffed chicken recipe could not be easier, and yet, look how beautiful it is. Can you imagine how special your guests are going to feel when you serve them this lovely main dish? I made this earlier in the season, and used white asparagus, but it can be served any time of the year, using green. I also suspect that the asparagus can be swapped out for spinach or broccoli. As I always say, don't be afraid to change up a recipe to suit your own tastes.

Simple enough for everyday, fancy enough for company, this is a recipe you're going to want to try.
Asparagus-Stuffed Chicken

3 large chicken breasts
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
Sliced mushrooms
9 to 12 stalks Melissa’s white asparagus, trimmed 2 to 3 scallions, chopped
3 slices provolone cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil

Packet of Melissa’s Hollandaise (for garnish), optional

  Preheat oven to 425°F.

Slice the chicken breast in half lengthwise, but not all of the way through so as to leave one side intact creating a pocket to stuff full of goodies. Season the inside of the chicken breast with salt, pepper, and a pinch of lemon zest. Lay the provolone cheese, sliced of mushroom, and 3 to 4 (don't crowd!) stalks of
either white or green asparagus in the center of each chicken breast. Sprinkle chopped scallions over all. Fold over, enclosing the filling. (You can use toothpicks to secure, if need be.)
Season the outside of the chicken breast with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and paprika.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil, swirling to coat. Cook the chicken 3 to 5 minutes per side for a total of 6 to 10 minutes. Cover the skillet with foil and place into the preheated oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 155°F.

Remove the skillet from the oven and allow to stand, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. Drizzle with Hollandaise, if desired. Serve.

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Day at the Beach Tablescape

This is one of those tables that I ruminated on for more than a week before finishing. It all started with the piece of Tommy Bahama fabric that I used as a runner. 
I loved the fabric when I saw it on eBay, and used it to make over a little footstool that my dad had made me about 20 years ago. 
My granddaughter needed something to boost her up when she was washing her hands in my coastal-themed bathroom, so I painted the footstool (originally Hunter green) with a soft taupe, and then replaced the English hunt fabric with this. I ended up having a lot left over, so it was easy enough to fold the edges under, press them down, and spread it across the top of the table.
That was followed by these placemats that I get a heck of a lot of use out of. They remind me of those fences that you see along the beaches of the Jersey shore, so they are always perfect for a coastal table setting.
Next up was the use of the fishnet. I love this stuff! You'd be surprised how many times I have pressed this into use. 
One of the reasons I put the table together was because I was dying to use the Seahorse pitcher and plates that I acquired over the last 18 months; aren’t they darling? I knew I wanted the pitcher at the center of the table but had no idea as to what to put inside.
I had thought about getting white flowers, like lilies or alstroemeria, but I thought they would be too white. So, the other day while I was rummaging around in the belly of the beast, I stumbled across some flowers that Jim (who always claimed he wasn't colorblind), bought me one year for our anniversary along with an equally hideous vase.
The flowers can best be described as diarrhea green. I never used them, storing them out of sight where they couldn't frighten me.
I hate to not use things, so began to wonder how it would be if I painted them. I’d never painted silk flowers before, but certainly was never going to use them as is, so figured that I’d experiment. I went out to the garage, rummaged through my vast collection of spray paint, found a nice ivory, and gave it a whirl. I absolutely love the look! I could have shopped and shopped and not come up with flowers as perfect as these. Plus, going over that green, gave them a light taupe look, and they worked perfectly here.
 Next up were the chargers that I got from blogger friend Marigene Purcell, and that I use again and again and again. If you ever see a set of chargers that you like and think you're going to use, trust me when I tell you, you will love them and use them a lot. I needed the green on my table to represent the green grasses in the dunes along the shore, topped the green chargers with these brown plates from the spice collection at Pier One (that I also use a lot), and then placed the Seahorse plates on top. I loved it! 
In order to bring out the color in the plates I used a deep teal napkin. I didn't want to get fussy, so just tied a knot in them and I think they look wonderful. If you ever are at a loss as to what to do with a napkin, tie a knot in it!
 I struggled over glassware. You all have seen the turquoise stemware that I use quite frequently, and I thought it would go perfectly here, but surprisingly I didn't like it as well as the brown that has been in the family for decades, and that I got from my mother. After that, all I needed was some nice bamboo flatware to keep up with the organic look, and I was finished.

 Hope you enjoyed the table as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

Fish net - Amazon
Brown plates, Napkins & Placemats – Pier One
Seahorse dishes – Maxcera
Bamboo flatware – Crate & Barrel
Runner fabric – Tommy Bahama
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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Jalapeno Popper Wonton Cups

I love wontons, crab rangoon, and egg rolls, but I don't make them at home, because I hate deep frying. I hate the bother, I hate the mess, I hate the smell, but I particularly hate the cleanup. Still, that doesn't keep me from having a wonderful time using wonton wrappers. I've used them in the past for delicious savory treats as well as sweet, but recently I have gone absolutely gaga over making wonton cups. They are so easy to do, they're baked instead of fried, and they can be filled with whatever your little heart desires.
I was in the mood for jalapeno poppers, so decided that I would make them in wonton cups. It saved me the trouble of hollowing out and stuffing jalapenos, and this way I was really able to control the heat by adding just the right amount of chopped pepper. These were so good! They are also make ahead. You can make both wonton cups and filling the day ahead, assemble and bake just before guests arrive, and dazzle them with this tasty snack. 
Here's the recipe that I used, but feel free to change it up in any way that you see fit. Also, consider making filling for egg rolls, wontons, or crab rangoon, and serving it this way as well. This is what I'll be trying next.
Jalapeno Popper Wonton Cups

12 Melissa's Wonton Wrappers
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (reserve some for garnish)
1 cup shredded smoked Gouda (or the shredded cheese of your choice), reserve some for garnish
1 T.
finely diced scallion (more if you plan to use some as garnish)
Pinch of garlic powder
1-2 jalapenos, seeded, ribs removed, finely diced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 12-well muffin pan with Pam, and lower a wonton wrapper into each. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool while you prepare the filling.
To prepare the filling use a medium-size bowl and beat together all ingredients.
 Divide evenly among wonton cops, topping with extra cheese, crumbled bacon, scallions, or even chopped chives. Return to oven, and bake an additional 10 minutes until hot and cheese is melted. Allow to cool a couple of minutes before serving.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Here are my Sources!

I was enormously pleased with all of the lovely comments that I received from you both on the blog, and personally, about how much you liked the lanai. This means a lot because this project was huge for me. This was the first, big, solo thing that I did since Jim passed away. It's kind of scary making big decisions like this on your own, but it's also quite liberating. I feel very fortunate to have found Joe Rogers, the master carpenter who did such wonderful work, and from there I was filled with so much confidence that I thought nothing could stop me.

A number of you have asked me for sources of various items, so I'm going to give you a chronology of the things that I bought, how I bought them, and give resources at the same time.
The fan came first, believe it or not. I spotted one with palm leaf blades and bought it. I stored it in the garage for about seven months before it was put to use. You can find a similar one here.
 Next was this green pouf. I struggled trying to decide on color. It was between the orange one and the green, and I eventually decided upon green. My granddaughter and grandson both love sitting on various small chairs, poufs, floor pillows, and the like, that I have scattered around the house. I knew that I was going to have to find some seats that would suit them out on the lanai as well. So, I did a Google search for “outdoor pouf.” That search led me to this page on Amazon.

After making the purchase, I realized, that the rug shown in the picture underneath the pouf was exactly what I wanted for this space, and these were the colors that I wanted to use, so both problems was easily solved. While the pouf was available through Amazon, it was drop-shipped from Plow and Hearth. I headed to the P&H website and searched for the rug. I felt very fortunate that I found it, so I ordered that next. Once I decided that I wanted a tropical/Mexican theme (and considering the rug's name was Talavera), I decided that I needed a Talavera piece in the colors I was going to be using, so searched on eBay, and found this wonderful frog.
After that, I decided that I was going to need an orange tray, so I grabbed one that I had around the house and spray-painted it orange. The glasses on top of the tray came from Pier One, and I'd used those before, and you can see them here, here, here, here, and here. Can you tell that I love them?
The napkins that someone asked about I made myself. They are made out of fabric that was called “Hawaiian quilting fabric,” and I found it on eBay.
The table in the corner was one that I had gotten from Pier 1. The top is a beautiful mosaic, but in colors that I didn't plan to use in this room. So, I knew I was going to have to cover it up. My hope, of course, was that I would be able to match the colors in the rug. So, yet again, sight unseen, I did a search for a long tablecloth in a deep turquoise for the base, and then searched good old reliable eBay for a Hawaiian smaller tablecloth to go on top. I couldn't believe how fabulously it worked out. The turquoise tablecloth underneath comes in a variety of colors, and you can find it on Amazon here. (This is a wonderful tablecloth at an astoundingly low price. I have two others, one in brown that I use for Thanksgiving, and another in forest green that I use at Christmas.) The floral tablecloth on top is Tommy Bahama. The lantern is from Pottery Barn.
 This furniture came from Joss & Main, as did the orange pillows and the leafy tropical pillows. How everything managed to match, I'll never know.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Brownie Crunch Bars

 I was wheezing, and moaning, and stumbling around the house like an old person. Around 7 o'clock last Saturday evening, the realization hit, that I am an old person. Not old old, but old-ish. It didn't please me.

How I got to this realization was part of a larger one that unfolded before my eyes throughout the entire day. I'd decided to invite my dad over on Sunday, July 2nd, so that he could see the new deck. Since he was coming, naturally, I was going to serve a nice lunch. And as long as he was going to be out here, I thought it would be a good opportunity for him to see his grandkids, the great grandkids, and my aunt and her friend, John, and celebrate his birthday. There would be 10 people in all, and I told myself that it was going to be casual, and simple. I truly believed that was the case. Why then, I had to eventually ask myself, did it take me the entire day to do casual and simple? How is it that a simple meal can be so much work?

Everything that could have gone wrong, did. I decided to make hamburgers and hotdogs ahead of time, grilling them, and then placing them in a pan of barbecue sauce so that I could simmer them slowly the day of the party; they would be delicious by lunch time, except, of course, for those that not only slid off of the plate and onto the floor, but that I kicked into the hallway on my way to the grill (Note to self: clean floor).

I decided to make some sort of brownie/candy bar dessert. I hate baking, so making dessert is torture for me. I would rather have a root canal than bake. I decided to adapt a recipe that I had found online. The recipe called for a layer of marshmallow fluff. No problem, I had a jar of that in the pantry. I checked the date when I took it out. It was fine, it had six months to go before expiring. It was surprising to me then, that when I took the lid off and peeled back that waxy paper that covered the top, that it was like glue, and not fresh glue, but really old glue. I tried to pull it out, and it snapped right back. That would not do. So I needed to make my own marshmallow cream. At this point, I was beginning to realize why simple food is so difficult. As it turned out, that didn't work out so well either, so I used miniature marshmallows, warming them and spreading them as well as I could, which, let me tell you, was not at all well.

I decided to do a layered salad, naturally giving my own special touch by chopping and toasting pecans to add to the mix. One of the layers called for Parmesan cheese mixed with seasoned salt. Aha, that was what I needed from the grocery store, seasoned salt. My swollen and throbbing feet did not want to find their way into shoes in order to run to the store, so I had to make my own.* No problem, I had all the ingredients, but I had to make my own. Yes, the light had dawned, as to why this is so much trouble.

By the end of the day (and that day ended after midnight), my feet ached so badly that I could hardly make it to the bed. I had yet to clean (I feel the same about cleaning as I do about baking), so would have to rise early to do that, before picking up dad. If I were having a dinner party, it would be no problem, that's what dimmer switches are for, but you cannot hide any sins when you have a lunch.

As it turned out, the party was a huge success, the day perfect, the food yummy, and everyone particularly enjoyed the brownies. Here is the recipe. Word of caution: buy yourself some fresh marshmallow cream.

Brownie Crunch Bars
 Adapted from a recipe on My Incredible Recipes


Bottom Layer

1 Box Brownie Mix (I used Ghirardelli)

Middle Layer
1 Jar Marshmallow Crème

Top Layer
 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
3 cups Rice Krispies

Line a 9"x9" pan with aluminum foil, leaving a 2" overhang on either end. Spray with PAM; set aside. Bake Brownies as directed on box; cool.

Spread Marshmallow Crème over cooled brownie layer.

Place chocolate chips and peanut butter in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30-seconde intervals, stirring after each (this took me a minute and a half), until melted and creamy.

Stir in Rice Krispies; spread evenly over Marshmallow Crème.

Cover and chill for two hours before removing from pan using the foil "tails," and cutting into squares.

Yields 24-36 bars depending upon how big you like your squares. (I cut mine small, as you can see, because they are very rich.)

*Should you find yourself in a similar situation, you can get the recipe for homemade seasoned salt here.

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