Monday, October 26, 2009

What's for Dinner? Pizza! (Homemade, of course)

Oh, the fun of thinking, "What am I gonna make for dinner, tonight?". I had decided on homemade pizza early in the day, only to discover when I started cooking that my shredded mozzarella cheese had molded. In a panic, I reached for the kid's string cheese that I usually put in their lunches. So, I peeled and chopped 6 sticks of string cheese and put them on the pizza. The pizza turned out great!

We never strive for a perfectly round pizza. The utter beauty of this pizza is not in the shape, nor in the taste (which is quite good), but in the pennies this dinner costs. I think I make 2 whole pizzas for my family for less than $3! Add a salad and it's a perfect meal!

Now, if you haven't made your own pizza before, you're in for a treat. I use the recipe that came with my food processor, and it couldn't be easier (see below). After rolling the dough out, I brush it with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with salt, add tomato paste, right out of the can, add some oregano, basil, or other herbs, and spread with mozzarella cheese (my children only like plain cheese pizza). For me, I add all kinds of toppings (my favorite is fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes and torn basil leaves) - experiment, I'm sure you'll be glad you did. I then fold over the outer edge for the crust.

Then bake in a preheated 500 degree oven for about 10 minutes and you're ready to eat! I use either a baking sheet with cornmeal spread on it, or I use a pizza stone that's been in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Here's the Pizza Dough Recipe:
Prepare the dough, and while it rises, use your Food Processor to chop, slice and shred the toppings for your pizza.

Servings - Makes 1-1/2 pounds dough (two 14-inch crusts) / 8 servings

1 package (2-1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (105?F) water
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup cold water
flour for dusting


In a 2-cup liquid measure, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 3 - 5 minutes. Insert dough blade in work bowl and add flour, salt and olive oil. Add cold water to yeast mixture.With machine running, pour liquid through small feed tube as fast as flour absorbs it. Process until dough cleans sides of work bowl and forms a ball. Then process for 45 seconds to knead dough. Dough may be slightly sticky. Dust dough lightly with flour; transfer to a plastic food storage bag, squeeze out air and seal top. Let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and punch down, let rest 5 - 10 minutes. Roll into desired crust sizes and follow pizza recipe.

Note: If you only wish to make one pizza, you may freeze half the dough before it rises. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer bag. When ready to use, remove in the morning, unwrap, rub with olive oil and place in a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to thaw and rise during the day. It will be ready punch down and roll out in about 8 hours.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Cake for Brenda

It was the birthday of R's teacher's assistant. So, I thought I would make a cake. I came across a fabulous recipe for marshmallow fondant (see below) and made it. Cut out butterflies for the cake, but they didn't harden and I wanted the butterflies posed with their wings bent upwards. So, I used a bit of gumpaste from our local bakery supply. I used a few of the marshmallow fondant butterflies, anyway, and a cream cheese frosting over a vanilla cake.

I made some gumpaste flowers by using flower cookie cutter, scoring lines on the petals, and letting the flowers harden in a mini muffin tin. And, I tried my hand at roses, pitiful effort, I know, but I'm intrigued enough to find a flower-making class.

Now, even though the marshmallow fondant butterflies didn't harden, the recipe was so easy to make and tasty that I'll be using it to cover cakes with in the future.
Marshmallow Fondant Recipe:
1 bag of mini-marshmallows (brand name works best)
3 Tbsp water
2 lbs powdered sugar
Put marshmallows & water together in microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 2 minutes. Take out this "soupy" mixture & use spoon (mixture will be hot enough to burn) to mix. Gradually add half of powdered sugar & mix with spoon. Put rest of powdered sugar on heavily-greased counter, dump marshmallow mixture on top of powdered sugar and gently knead with greased hands all sugar into mixture (should take about 5 minutes).
Now it's ready to roll, or you can let it rest overnight in fridge. If you want to add color, you can during the "soupy" phase, or at the end.
The best thing about this fondant is if it gets a bit hard, you can stick it back in the microwave for 5 - 10 seconds. Here's a link to a great page with recipes and video. If you've been waiting to make fondant, I hope you "go for it" and give this easy recipe a try.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween Witch & Cauldron Cake

My daughter's school has a fall event with children's games and lots of fun things for the kids to do. They also host a cake auction, and while I had been going to the event for many years, I hadn't baked anything. This year, I decided to try. I found a photo on flickr that I just loved (sorry, I don't know the baker's name), and modeled my cake after it. Here it is:

I used a round sports ball mold for the cauldron and a wondermold (barbie cakes) for the witch base. Buttercream frosting and fondant cover the cakes. Rice kr*spy treat belly for the witch and gumpaste head, hands, skull and frog. Fondant clothing. Cookie crumb dirt. I used Cadb*ry Flake chocolates for the logs. Using a pearl luster dust on the cauldron made all those fondant wrinkles look awesome - the cauldron looked authentic. My children clustered around me for the day it took to make the cake. And, what took me by surprise is that I won the cake decorating contest (Whoo Hoo!) and then the cake was auctioned off to make money for the school. This cake was a blast to make, and I hope some of you try it, too.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gate Ornamentation

My gate has been looking a little forlorn since we moved here, last May. I had been thinking of many ideas to try and spruce it up a bit. I had seen a picture of a used olive oil tin can, filled with flowers. But, since I get my olive oil at Costco and have what seems like gallons to go through before I could justify buying a tin at Trader Joe's, I was thrilled when I was in my M-I-L's garage and she gave me a container perfect for my purpose! Here it is after I had started putting seasonal decorations in it (I should have taken a picture of the container before I started).

As you can see, it's a work in progress. These are just the things I had lying around the house and in the garden. Next time I'm off to the Ben Franklin or the San Francisco Flower Mart, it will be more gorgeous!

J.Covington*Design just posted about something similar using grape hods, on the upscale end of things - he has ones with french vineryards' coats of arms for $450 or he can make a custom one, if you contact him.

If I can find the picture with the olive oil container used as a flower vase, I'll put it here. It was very inspirational and looked easy to do.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sand Castle Sculpture

During the long weekend, we headed out to West Marin, to Drake's Beach at the Point Reyes National Seashore. A sand sculpture contest was on and we wanted to see it! The drive out was spectacular - I love our golden rolling hills and cows, here in Marin. Here's my favorite painting (by Martha Borge) of a location along the way out to the beach. I have a copy of this painting in my house - I missed out bidding on the original painting by ten minutes!

What's great is that the sand sculpture contest is very family-oriented. There was a division for adults and another for children. Here are some of the more fabulous sculptures:

The first sculpture we saw was this wonderful horse.

My husband's favorite - a carp.

My children's favorite - a car driving out of the sand.
A few others.

What's surprising is that I have lived in Marin County for almost all of my life and I have never been to this unbelievably beautiful beach. The cliffs along the beach were spectacular. Here was my favorite sculpture (hee hee - my kids on the cliffs).

We had a wonderful time - the weather was perfect (the cliffs act as wind protection and the temperature was a comfortable 75 degrees). I can't recommend this beach highly enough. If you ever get the chance to visit one of the many fabulous beaches and lighthouses in our area, here's the link to the point reyes national seashore website.

Did you do any sand sculptures this summer?

I think we will be entering the contest next year. Now, just to figure out what to sculpt....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

About Time!

I just realized that it's been 9 months since my last blog entry. 9 MONTHS! I have to admit, I was a bit discouraged when no one came to read my blog (yes, I was new to blogging). But, I've missed it. Being forced to take pictures and to write an account of what's happening. Do you all love doing it, too, the writing and pictures and sharing? And, now with all my three children finally back in school (I do miss summer, though) I thought for today I would write about....

My Couch. Sofa. Settee. Vintage find on Craigslist for $150. It's super long - four of us can sit on it without touching! It's just waiting for some foam, down wraps and white linen upholstery. Here it is in all it's glory (or partial glory, the full glory was too gory - that print is, well, you can see it peeking out under the white sheets I have tucked in (looked like it should be on an old grandma's atrium).

It's a somewhat hideous, vintage piece with caning on the sides. Sort of french/swedish gone a bit wrong. But, I love it. As I mentioned, I'm not patiently waiting for some foam as these cushion have burlap, horsehair and springs that have sprung. I have my husband on the lookout for any couches getting dumped so I can abduct the cushions. I want to make one big cushion (I'll glue some free cushions together to make one big one) on the bottom and two back cushions, surround them with luxurious down - I have a featherbed mattress I bought at a garage sale just for this purpose - and some snow white Duralee linen. I'll post pictures of the finished project at some (hopefully) soon date. Here's a picture of Joni's settee. I do like the tan check, but am going for a blue/white/yellow theme in my living room:

See those cute scallops? Love them! Since my last post I have discovered cotedetexas! If you like french design - go check out Joni's website - such a wealth of info! And, for the odd day when she hasn't posted (getting her next tremendous post ready) I love her blogroll! Anyway, Joni has inspired me like no one else. Not only is my house prettier, but it is so SO much cleaner. I'm finding I don't want that nasty dirt marring my beautifully (in my mind, anyway) designed house. Oh, and did I mention my husband is just a little bit sweeter since the house is looking so fabulous? I know he likes it, too.

See you, tomorrow.