Saturday, April 29, 2006

Why didn't I get anything done this spring?...Because it only lasted a week.

I've been so busy lately, I haven't had much time to make anything, let alone blog. I've even cut down my list of "must read" blogs down to 2 or 3. I did, however, manage to take some pretty pics of spring time around our house. It (spring) was nice while it lasted. It's 90-something degrees outside today! Where the heck did spring go?!? Oh ya, it was that one week of beautiful 70's inbetween the rain and the heat. *sigh* I can't believe we've got at least another 20 degrees to go before it's REALLY hot. Anyway, these are pictures of our beautiful springtime flowers. I'm sure they're wilting as I type...

This is our beautiful dogwood. Oh, I love this tree. I'm so glad the previous owners planted it. I know they loved it too, because the little old lady who lives next door said they did.

These are the flowers which will probably wilt here in the next week or two. Hopefully not...I'll be optimistic...I WILL water them, I will water them, I will...
....they WILL live through the summer. There. See?
Aren't they pretty? I so don't have a green thumb, but for some reason they are really happy here and actually growing! You know what I mean? Not just-not dying, but actually growing! Yeah.

...a close up.

I've always wanted to hang flowers on my front door. There's a little sandwich baggie inside the tin container for water. I do forget to water these sometimes.
One other picture of springtime outside...

A little bit of spring inside. I love my kitchen. Occasionally, i get a little tired of different colors I've painted our walls around the house or just wonder what things would look like if the walls were a different color. Almost two years here and I still love, love the color(s) of my kitchen. It's been called alot of different things, but I call it green apple green. If only we liked green apples, I would ALWAYS have a bowl of them on the breakfast table.

One more picture.

I do have a few projects I'm working on, but they're a secret for now...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Ever been to Chicago?

If you have, hopefully you took time to get authentic Chicago pizza. If you did, than you'd know that anyone claiming to make authentic Chicago pizza outside the city of Chicago, (and definitely the state of Illinois), is probably a liar, or just very misinformed. Anyone, that is, except my husband. Hubby spent his undergrad in that fine city, consuming...well... we know how much pizza college boys can pack away. Let's just say, a lot of it. So he, like anyone who spends years eating the same thing several days a week, became something of an expert. Because we don't live within driving distance, (not even close), my husband began his search for the perfect Chicago stuffed pizza recipe. Finding none, he toiled and toiled, borrowing from some, and altering where needed. day, it was finished. For anyone seriously interested in making a truly authentic stuffed Chicago-style pizza, read on! As you will see it is a very long recipe. But, believe me, it's well worth it.

the following is written and photographed by "hubby"
Stuffed Chicago Style Pizza

Crust Ingredients (makes 2 pies worth)
1.5 C warm water
1.5 pkg yeast (or 1.5 T)
2 T white sugar
4+ C bread flour
2 T oil (or butter) + some for brushing
Cornmeal for dusting (optional)
1 beaten egg

Having lived in Chicago I couldn't eat all the "Chicago Style Pizza" I found at so many restaurants around the country. It took me awhile, but I figured out the crust after making some challah without enough eggs. It was about the right consistency, so I worked egg into the recipe until it turned out alright. Of course, to be authentic you'll need cornmeal, loads of butter, and a cast iron pan. I sometimes use cast iron, but this time I used a deep dish baking stone from Pampered Chef greased with butter, so I didn't bother with the cornmeal. You can also be a bit healthier by replacing up to a cup of whole wheat flour and using honey, but if you're doing it you may as well have fun eating it.

Combine salt and 2 C flour. Combine yeast, water, sugar, and some (up to .5 C) of the flour, mix, and let sit until foamy (5-15 min). Combine yeast mixture, egg, oil, and flour, (I never add the wet stuff to all the dry stuff at once--it always ends up too dry). Mix thoroughly, adding flour .5 C at a time to get a sticky but solid dough. Turn out and knead for 10 minutes, until the surface starts to blister a little. Turn it in a well oiled bowl until it's covered (else it will dry out). Cover and let rise for 1-1.5 hours, until doubled. Brush some melted butter or oil into a deep dish stone or cast iron pan. Even a pie pan will work, but it doesn't hold heat as well; cast iron is worth it. I got some pre-seasoned pans from Amazon for dirt cheap.

Turn out the dough, (don't "punch" anything), and knead it 30 seconds or so, to work out the bubbles, and let it sit for a minute. If you need to, add a tiny bit of flour, but you're better off using oil. Dried out dough makes bad crust. Messy is ok.

Divide it in two with a knife or dough blade, (don't pull it apart or you'll undo what the yeast did so well with the proteins in the dough). At this point I divide one of the halves in two again and freeze them separately in ziploc bags with as much air taken out as possible. You could use them again later for another stuffed pie, but it never turns out the same. I thaw one at a time, the bag immersed in water, (never thaw dough under heat or on the counter), and make a thin crust with toppings my wife won't eat anyway. With the half you're using, divide it again, one piece (the top) half as big as the other (the bottom).

Put the top aside, and roll out the bottom to fit your pan. That's right. I said roll it. You can't toss these or they won't get thin enough. I promise nobody is watching you use a rolling pin on pizza dough. Lay it in your greased pan and push it in evenly. I pull it up over the sides a little so it doesn't fall in while it's baking. Be sure to poke lots of holes with a fork, around the sides, too, so it doesn't puff up too much. Coat it with butter or oil (of course) and stick it in the oven while it preheats to 500 or so. It should take 5-10 minutes, so take the time to roll out the top crust.

Take it out when it starts to brown a little bit. If the sides look like they're getting too dark at the pre-cook stage here, then use some foil or a pie ring for the main cooking cycle. I use oil instead of butter on anything that's sticking out since it won't brown as fast. Line the bottom crust with loads of mozzarella, then toppings. I used a layer of pepperoni and a layer of green peppers, but whatever you use be sure the veggies are pre-cooked. Nobody wants to feel like they're eating healthily when they bite into this thing.

If you have a huge wheel of sausage, then use it. I have yet to find those outside of a Gino's or Uno's. I'm not sure how they make them, and it's disgusting to imagine, but they're good.

Top wth more cheese if you want (I don't, but hey, why not) and then tuck the top crust into the ridge on the bottom one.

Coat with tons of homemade sauce, (I'm sorry, but if you go to all this trouble and use Ragu then you deserve what you're eating), then basil, oregano, and parmesan. Bake for 10-15 minutes, and don't open the door. You don't want radiant heat or you'll burn the crust. Let it sit for a few minutes before cutting, and eat with a knife and fork.

It sounds like a lot of work. I guess it is. If you don't have time for it, then quit your job. You're not really living, anyway.