Friday, April 30, 2010

Best Pizza Dough Ever!!!!

I love pizza!  I love great pizza dough!  I have found the perfect recipe on, she got the recipe from The Joy of Cooking.  This dough is super easy to make, and the outcome is a perfect pizza crust!  I also use it for making buns, yummy!

My husband and I had an artichoke and basil pizza, no tomato sauce.  I pressed the dough into the pizza pan, brushed olive oil all over, some mozzarella cheese with some feta chunked in there, artichokes and basil, added a bit of chunky tomatoes, a bit more cheese... it was delicious!  The girls had triple cheese with a mild tomato sauce... so so good!  The crust itself rises to perfection, I always brush olive oil on my crust too, it just makes it that much better!  Try it!  It's so easy, and so rewarding!

Perfect Pizza Dough

You will need:
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 1/2 - 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs salt (Optional. I add a pinch of sea salt.)
1 tbs sugar (Optional. I usually make it without. Use sugar if you like a puffier crust.)

Combine the yeast and the warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 5 - 10 minutes until yeast is dissolved and is starting to foam up.

Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Mix until it’s all holding together. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Don’t skimp on the kneading! The dough should be smooth and elastic, tacky, not sticky, when you’re done.

Transfer it over to a bowl that you’ve lightly coated with additional olive oil. Turn the dough over to coat completely. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean and floured dishtowel and let rise in a warm place. I like to put mine in the oven, which has been preheated for about a minute (then turned off). Keep it in there for about 90 minutes until it’s about doubled in volume.

Punch the dough down and divide it in half. At this point you can use all the dough to make one large thick-crust pizza, two smaller pizzas, or just use the one half to make one large thin crust pizza. (And freeze the other half for next time! This is my preference.)

Regardless of the path you have chosen, roll your dough into a ball and let it rest, loosely covered, for about 10-15 minutes. While it’s resting, preheat the oven to 450F. Grease and dust your baking stone or baking sheet with cornmeal (don’t skip this step!), flatten the dough and roll it out flat. Brave? Let your kids have a go. They might surprise you by not dropping it on the floor.

The dough will be fairly elastic, so you’ll have to stretch it out. Place the dough on your baking sheet. To prevent the toppings from making the crust soggy, brush the top of the dough with a bit of additional olive oil. Use your fingers to push dents into the surface of the dough. This will prevent air holes bubbling up as it bakes. Let it rest for 10 minutes while you prep your toppings.

When you’re ready, pop it in the oven. Depending on the thickness of your crust, it’ll take about 12 minutes (give or take) to bake. Broiling it for a couple minutes at the end will make your cheese nice and brown.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

I LOVE  Love her, love her.  She posts the most amazing recipes, I've tried many of them, and will try many more.  This weekend I am making Beef Empanadas!

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper (about 1 large)
1 ½ lbs. ground beef (use 85% lean, not the super-lean)
1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 cup pimento-filled green olives, sliced
1 cup golden raisins
2 tsp. honey
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
several dashes of hot sauce, to taste
3 large eggs, separated

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 (8-ounce) package of cream cheese, at room temperature (don’t use low fat)
½ cup heavy whipping cream
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling the dough
1 tsp. kosher salt
lime wedges, for serving

1. Prepare the filling: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion & bell pepper and sauté 3 to 4 minutes until softened. Raise heat to high and add beef. Cook, stirring constantly, until browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Use a spoon to scoop out some of the liquid; discard. Stir in cumin, olives, raisins, honey, salt, pepper and hot sauce. Cook until the meat is golden brown, liquid has evaporated and flavors have blended, about 4 more minutes. Cool completely in the refrigerator. Stir in 3 egg whites when mixture is cool.

2. Prepare pastry: Process butter, cream cheese and cream in a food processor or electric mixer. Add flour and salt and mix just until combined and dough holds together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Divide into three pieces. Flatten into disks and wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before rolling out. If the dough is chilled overnight, take it out for about 15 minutes before rolling out.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter baking sheets or line with parchment.

4. Dust a rolling pin with flour. Working with one dough disk at a time, place the disk on a clean, well-floured surface (I use a silpat mat). Roll gently from the center of the dough to the top and bottom edges and from side to side. Reflour the work surface and/or rolling pin, as needed. You want the dough to be thin but not transparent.

5. Assemble the empanadas: Use an overturned bowl (about 4 inches across) to cut out circles. Gather scraps together, re-roll and cut more circles until you’ve used up all the dough. Scoop some filling into the center of the dough circle (about 2 Tbsp.). Wet the edge of the dough with water, using your finger to to rub. Fold the dough over to form a half-circle. Crimp edges with a fork, or fold over decoratively (using more water, as needed, to act as ‘glue.’) Repeat the process until all of the filling is used. The empanadas can be frozen at this point, or placed onto a baking sheet. If baking right away, chill the filled empanadas for a few minutes. Prick the top of each empanada twice with a fork. Beat 2 egg yolks with 2 Tbsp. water and brush egg wash over each empanada. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.

6. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm with lime wedges.
Yield: 26 to 28 appetizer-sized empanadas

*Freeze leftover empanadas to reheat in the microwave.
*You’ll get a feel for how thin the dough should be rolled out and how much filling to use after you assemble your first couple of empanadas.
*Serving the empanadas with lime was a tip from my Peruvian friend. They’re delicious that way.

Seriously, she makes everything easy, truly easy.  Check out her blog for step by step instructions.  I pop my laptop up on the counter and she walks me through the whole recipe!  She understands what real food should taste like and how it should be prepared... easily!  How many people love to work with a finicky and convoluted recipe?  Not me!  Enjoy!  I know we will!

It's been busy :)

Since my last post, we've spent those three weeks getting Braedon ready for his trip to Europe!  He left on April 23rd, flew into Manchester, made his way to Edinburgh, and is now in London!  They plan on backpacking, busing, driving and flying around Europe, four months minimum, but they may stay until the end of the year.  If their money runs out, they will work for food and a bed!  hahaha  We had a Bon Voyage party for Braedon and my nephew Scott (his travel companion) on April 17th, the weather was gorgeous, the food was aplenty, and a good time was had by all.  It was nice to watch Braedon relaxing with his friends and family, and enjoy being in the spotlight!  :)  They boys have been texting me daily, thank gawd for technology!  This mama bear has never been away from her first born cub... it helps.  I did have a pang of loneliness for him yesterday, not sure why, just hit me that he was halfway across the planet.  This is a great experience for him, something we encourage him to do for as long as he can, before reality sticks it's ugly nose into his business!  I'll post regularly as their trip abroad unfolds!


Monday, April 5, 2010

Lemon Truffle Cake!

We went to my wonderful mother-in-law's for Easter dinner on Saturday, the food was, as usual, amazing!  The company wonderful, we talked, ate, relaxed, it was a thoroughly enjoyable time.  I brought Lemon Truffle Cake for dessert.  Kennedy was supposed to help me make it (budding baker) but she decided to have friends over instead... we will be making this again, because it was amazing!  It is a keeper!  I got the recipe from a blog I follow,  You should check it out, everything I've made from her site has been wonderful!

I let the truffle filling and lemon curd sit covered in the fridge overnight.  The lemon curd will remain easy to spread without softening, but take the truffle filling out of the fridge to sit at room temperature in the morning.    It worked well because it firmed up nicely to support the layers.


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup unsalted butter or white vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
5 large egg whites

3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup water
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 cup (6 ounces) chopped white chocolate or vanilla baking chips
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

1 cup whipping cream
3 Tbsp. powdered sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.

2. Prepare the cake: In a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, and butter or shortening. Blend until the butter is evenly mixed. Add the vanilla. Beat at low speed for 1 minute, then increase the speed to high and beat for 2 minutes, scraping the bowl constantly, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy.

3. In another bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Gently but thoroughly fold the whites into the cake batter. Pour evenly into the prepared pans.

4. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, or until the cakes are no longer jiggly in the center. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Split the cooled layers horizontally to make 4 layers in all. (I use a serrated knife… and gently saw around the center to cut even layers).

5. Prepare the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Whisk in water until smooth. Cook over medium-high heat until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to low and cook 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with a fork. Slowly stir about 1/4 cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks, whisking quickly while adding the hot liquid. (You don’t want to create scrambled eggs, so be sure to add the hot mixture slowly, whisking it into the eggs as quickly as possible). Continue adding ¼ cups of the hot mixture to the eggs until you have warmed up the egg mixture. Whisk the egg yolk mixture back to the mixture in the saucepan. Cook over low heat until the mixture boils, whisking constantly, then continue to cook for 2 minutes, stirring.

6. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and lemon juice and zest. Transfer half of the hot filling to a small bowl and set aside to cool. Add the white chocolate to the hot filling in the saucepan and stir until the chocolate is melted; set aside. In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in the white chocolate mixture until light and smooth. At this point, you should have a small bowl of lemon curd and a bowl of white chocolate truffle filling.

7. Spread one third of the white chocolate filling over one layer of the cake. Top with a second cake layer, then spread with one third more of the filling; top with a third cake layer and spread the remaining filling over. Top with the last cake layer and spread reserved lemon curd. Refrigerate, uncovered, until the filling is set (2 to 3 hours).

8. Make the whipped cream: In another bowl, whip the cream and sweeten it with the confectioners’ sugar. Frost the sides of the cake with half of the whipped cream frosting. Put the remaining frosting into a pastry bag and pipe decoratively around the top and bottom edge of the cake. Refrigerate up to 8 hours before serving.

Serves: 16 (this is assuming everyone will have one piece, which they won't! :)

This cake is so satisfying to make.  It is decadent and delicious, my mother-in-law said it was "elegant" and she's right!  We topped it with a little nest made of whipped cream, mint leaves and mini-eggs for the Easter theme.  It is surprisingly easy to make and put together, give it a try!!!  It does help that I live with a journeyman chef, but I will say he was off riding his motorcycle when I made this!  He did cut the cakes evenly for me, he's had lots of practice, but next time I'll take a "stab" at it :)


Celebrate Life

We celebrated Easter with family and friends this weekend.   We are always happy to celebrate with those that are important in our life.   The Hebert-side get-togethers are getting to be very large with all the marriages and new arrivals,  we need to figure out a better plan for housing these increasing numbers for our family events.  But, it is always nice to be able to celebrate with your family and friends, in whatever dose that may be!

A time to celebrate life. 

As I near my fortieth birthday, I find myself celebrating life.  Not just once in a while, not just every year on my birthday, but every day, every hour, every minute.  I celebrate Monday morning, Wednesday afternoon, Thursday at 2pm, the anticipation of the weekend.  I celebrate the drive home and the 15 minutes I have to just be alone with my thoughts.  I celebrate parking in the front driveway, and knowing that as soon as I walk in the door I will be greeted by my family, my lovely husband and my amazing girls, I know my man-child Braedon will come down eventually and say "hey Mom"... and give me a smile... and I am filled with sunshine!  I celebrate a phone call from my sister, I celebrate talking with a friend, I celebrate getting cookbooks from the library, I celebrate trying those recipes and having a glass of red wine while I cook.  I celebrate slipping into a hot bath at the end of the day.  I celebrate getting my girls up in the morning and being able to deal with whatever they throw at me :). 

I celebrate that we will be out in the yard this weekend, raking out the flowerbeds, getting rid of all the wet leaves that accumulated before the first snow, getting the beds ready for the early tulips that will appear any day now.   I revel in jumping on the trampoline EVERY DAY with Julia, it's so much fun, and how she giggles, I celebrate those giggles!  Sidewalk chalk, coloring every inch of every sidewalk we have, new skipping ropes for Easter that we will be bringing out tonight... sitting in the sun on the deck with a glass of ice water with lemon, feeling that sun on my skin.  Celebrating Spring coming, celebrating the new season.  Celebrating these things with my husband and my kids.  Celebrating how fortunate we are in life! 

Celebrating family, celebrating friends, celebrating life. 

I've learned the importance of this.  The importance of celebrating each and every day.   It's strange what is happening to me, I feel it with every waking moment, I feel it each night as I am drifting off to sleep, I feel it when everything is peaceful, and I feel it in the midst of chaos.. and it feels good.  I've slowed my mind down and am really figuring out to just enjoy all the changes in life.   I deal with things so differently now.   In my 20's I really didn't have a clue :), in my 30's I could feel it coming, and now as I near my 40th year, it's like I'm on a train that I can't stop, and don't want to!!!  I survived a lot in my thirties, survived and am now celebrating the experience, because that's another thing I've learned.  You can't change what has happened.  You can't, it's that simple.  You can't make it disappear, you can pretend it didn't happen, but that is being untrue and unfair to yourself.  You survive it, you move on from it, and you embrace every experience that happens after it.  You deal with the bad, you celebrate the good, you become strong and sure of who you are.  And seriously, it is quite a feeling!   I  keep trying to put it into words, but I it's hard to transfer what I am feeling, into words.  It feels like... peace.  Peace.  Peace with who you are, peace with where you've been, and peace with where you are going.  There are bumps and setbacks along the way, yes.  But the peace is there, always... you can always find it, you just have to remember it's there, it doesn't go away.  It is so much easier to deal with things knowing you have that inside.  It's like a warm glow emanating from inside of me, it's happiness, just true and pure happiness. 

I'm not saying that I never have a bad day, or have bad experiences, but I've learned to turn them around a lot faster, and deal with them a lot quicker to get back where I want to be.    When I look at our life now, I am so in love with it!  And when I think about what is to come, I get more excited by the minute!  I don't lay in bed on a Sunday night, worrying about what the week will bring, I used to do that, I could never sleep on a Sunday night.  True, it is circumstance that affects that, but it really makes you think, why not change the circumstance?   If someone is not enhancing your life, why are they in it?  If you don't like what you do for a living, why are you doing it?  If something makes you unhappy, why do you allow it continue to do so?  We all have the power to change things so that we are in the best place we can be, we control that!   Our lives are way to short to live them by someone else's rules and standards.  We all need to figure out what we want, how we want our lives to be, and go for it, seize it!  Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something!  I will practice what I preach, every day I get closer and closer to where I want to be!   With the support and love I feel from the people I am important to... how in the world can I fail?


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Best Mom Ever

Last night, my babies, fresh out of the bath, teeth brushed, pj's on, winding down for the night... the girls and I are in my room, laying on the bed, playing the DS, I keep grabbing it and doing a level, and dying each time, they laugh at me every time... maniacally! :)  They say to me:

Julia:  "Mom, you are the best Mom ever"
Me:    "really?  Thanks!"
Ken:  "What do you mean really Mom, yes really!!!"
Julia:  "you take such good care of us Mom"
Me:  "awe, you guys are awesome" (hiding happy tears)

Made my night.   Made my week.  I adore my kids.  They make my life so perfect.