Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thin Crust Pizza- A St. Louis Classic

I've been feeling homesick lately and when I do I try to recreate some of the foods I grew up with in St. Louis.  One of my all time favorite food is St. Louis style pizza, the most famous being from Imo's Pizzeria.  I thought about ordering some and having them shipped, but the cost just wasn't worth it.  I found out from my nephew that there is actually a recipe online for the entire pizza!  crust, sauce even the cheese.

I went to the website he recommended  Leave it to a yankee to come up with the perfect St. Louis pizza knock off.

There are a few things I like about this recipe is: 1) It uses things that you have readily available in the pantry, 2) the dough doesn't have to rise 3) it makes TWO pizzas and 4) It's thin, thin, thin....nothing like the pizza we get here in NY.

So if you'd like to try a St. Louis classic here's what you'll need:

8 ounces of tomato sauce
3 Tablespoons of tomato paste
2 Tablespoons of fresh basil
1 Tablespoon of sugar
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
(This one place I differed with the Cooks Country recipe.  I used canned pasta sauce since it already had the all the seasoning in it and that's what I had.)

2 cups all purpose flour
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
(I would follow this exactly. There is no yeast so the dough is very thin and will bake up crispy.  Also since there is no yeast there is no need to let it rise.  The dough can be used immediately.)

This is another place I differ from the recipe a little.  In St. Louis we have a cheese called provel, not provolone, but provel.  It's a mixture of cheese: swiss, cheddar and provolone. To make 2 pizzas grate about 1/2 cup each of swiss and cheddar and then add a 1/4 cup of provolone so that it melts well.

Heat the oven to 475 degrees.  Roll out the dough (which has been divided in half) into a 12 inch round.  Spread with sauce getting all the way to the edges.  Cover it with cheeses and top with whatever topping you'd like.
Here's a few tips to make your pizza authentic:
Roll it out onto parchment paper using a little (none would be better) flour.  Use a pizza stone that has been preheated in the oven.  Slide the entire pizza and paper on to the stone.  Bake for 9-12 minutes.  The most important thing-- don't forget to cut it into squares. St Louis pizza is always cut into squares.

I hope you'll try a piece of my hometown-- St. Louis.  The pizza is quick and delicious!

Have a childhood favorite food?
Have a favorite pizza recipe you'd like to share?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Focaccia Bread- The Easy Way

I love a good sale!  And nothing beats getting pizza dough at buy 1 get 3 free!!  You can freeze them or you can turn them into something else like focaccia bread.  Everyone takes help from the store now and then (right Sandra Lee?) but the real trick is turning it into something else.

I took one package of Price Choppers ready made pizza dough that was in the dairy case and let it rise according to the instructions.  By placing it in a oiled bowl in a warm place, covered with a clean towel.  That took about 45 minutes.  While the dough was rising I made an infused oil.  On the stove in a small saucepan I warmed about 1/4 cup of olive oil.  Once the oil was warmed but not bubbling I grated in 2 cloves of garlic and about 1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil and dried parsley.  I let the oil steep off the heat.

Once the dough had risen I turned it out onto a light greased baking sheet.
<TIP> The dough will spring back but that's okay.  Keep working it out with your fingers.  Once it's in the rectangular shape, then take your finger tips and press them down all over the bread to make dimples.

I spread it with the infused oil adding a sprinkle of salt to the top.

I baked the bread in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 12-15 minutes.  You'll smell it for sure!

Once the bread is done I sprinkled it with a little grated Parmesan cheese.

I served the bread with an old fashioned pasta dinner -- spaghetti and salad.

Have a double duty use for a grocery store item?
Have a great pizza recipe that you'd like to share?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Polenta with a Mexican Twist

I've been participating in the most recent of Food Network's endeavor's @healthyeats to promote a healthier lifestyle one week at a time.  Last week was eating breakfast every day for a week which I'm happy to say I do almost every day, every week.  This week was eating more whole I thought I would share this version of polenta as part of @healthyeats as a different way to enjoy healthy whole grains.  Enjoy!

At a recent trip to my local grocery store I was looking for tomatillo salsa for a recipe that my family really likes, but couldn't find any.  Instead what I did find was something called racaito, a combination of garlic, cilantro, olive oil.  I wasn't sure if I could substitute it for the salsa but thought I'd try it.  It didn't work.  But I was reading the jar and thought it might be good in a starch, and one of our favorite starches is polenta.

I decided to make a cooking liquid flavored with onion and garlic and then add the racaito.  I simmered the liquid before cooking the cornmeal in it.  The result was a creamy and very flavorful polenta with a Mexican twist.  To finish it off I added a tablespoon of butter and some grated cheddar cheese.  Delicious!

The first time I made it I was home alone for dinner and had some leftover pork loin.  I put the polenta in the bottom of the bowl, added the pork loin on top.

The next time I browned some chipotle chicken sausages and then added them to the polenta. It was spicy but so good.

When I had left over polenta I refrigerated it, then cut it into pieces and fried it.

Making Mexican polenta is easy and trust me, very flavorful.

Here's how:
In a large pot like a dutch oven add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once the oil is hot, add 1 small onion chopped.  Saute the onion until transluscent but not browned.  Grate or finely mince 2 large garlic cloves more or less depending on your preference into the pot with the onion.  Cook until fragrant.  Season with salt and pepper.  Add 2 heaping tablespoons of Racaito to the pot and stir to combine.  Cook until fragrant stirring to make sure the herbs and garlic don't burn.  Add 4 cups of chicken broth or stock and bring to a mild boil. Turn the heat down and simmer the liquid for 10-15 minutes so that the liquid can absorb the flavors. Bring the liquid back to a mild boil.  Once the liquid is boiling add 1 cup of cornmeal and whisk continuously until the polenta becomes thick.  Turn the heat down to low and continue to stir occasionally so that lumps don't form and the flavor can penetrate the cornmeal.  Cook, stirring occasionally for at least 15-20 minutes or until the cornmeal is cooked and the polenta is smooth.  You can do this on top of the stove or in the oven set at 350 degrees.  Once the polenta is cooked add 1 tablespoon of butter and as much grated cheddar cheese as you like, and we like a lot.  I would say at least 1/2 cup.
That's it!  Serve it however you like.  It's delicious by itself or with Mexican style sausages or chicken.  I would even grill a steak with Mexican seasonings and serve the polenta on the side.  It's very versatile.

If you have any leftover (which you may or may not, it's really that good!) you can refrigerate it and then the next morning spread it out on a cookie sheet....

Cut it into squares.....

And pan fry it.....

Would make a delicious breakfast with some crispy bacon or fried ham.

When I bought the Racaito the last time I saw that they also had Sofrito.  I guess it's time to experiment with this to see what amazing dish I can come up with using that. 

Have a secret ingredient you can't live without?
Have you used Racaito or Sofrito and have an amazing recipe you'd like to share?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stockpiling 101

Everyone seems to be jumping on the couponing bandwagon, trying to beat the stores at their own game. I have to admit it is a high when you get lots of merchandise for very little money and your stockpile starts to grow and grow.  I'm not "extreme" when it comes to couponing (although my teenager daughter would strongly disagree with that) but I do plan my trips to get the most for my money.

I thought I would share my "stockpile", although very small compared to most, I like to keep it contained behind closed doors and not let it spill out into my living space.  What I tend to stock up on are health and beauty items, canned goods, laundry detergent and dish soap along with frozen items.

I'll break down what I bought and what I spent in another post.
Freezer includes 16 boxes of Pizza rolls, 20 Smart Ones frozen dinners, 6 pork loins, 6 pkgs of Johnsville Chicken sausages.
Laundry detergents and dish soaps.  Doesn't look like much but they are in 2 rows.
That is actually 8  bottles of dish soap.

16 cans of Progresso soup that I bought for $1 a piece.

Different views of my health and beauty stockpile.

As I learn different tips and techniques I'll be excited to share them with you.  Also I'll be sharing recipes that use things out of my stockpile.  I don't buy things just to buy things or because they are cheap, unless they are for the the food pantry.  I stockpile to feed my family.  So the recipes I develop will use pantry ingredients and items I was able to get with coupons and on sale.

Want to share your tips and techniques?  Have a money saving strategy that you'd like to share?  Have a stockpile storage idea?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

How to Pay with Cash and Keep the Change

This is my latest haul from Rite Aid and CVS.  All totaled it came to $176.28 but I didn't pay that, I only paid $25.87.  How?  Sales, coupons, store loyalty cards, rewards and coins.  Yes, coins.
I know that planning out a shopping trip takes a lot of time.  I know that clipping coupons, reading flyers and matching deals can drive you crazy.  But let me let you in on what I think is a little known or used strategy when it comes to saving money -- when you pay cash, keep your change.  Set aside a jar, a mug or even a ziploc baggie, then once a month count it and roll it.  It's easy, it's simple and it adds up!
Don't have coin rollers?  Go to your bank and ask, more than likely they will give you them for free.  No point going to the store and spending $5 for a bag of coin rollers.  And once your coins are rolled take them back to the bank and cash them in.  I look at this as "free money" which I used to bring my total down on today's haul.

Saving a large amount of money will take some time and planning, I'm not saying you can get out of doing that.  But if you're smart and patient you can save BIG!

Here's the break down of my haul.
Rite Aid
I broke my transactions into 2 (later I realized I would have saved an additional $3 if I would have broken it into 3 and that would have paid for my papers) then I was able to use my Ups Rewards on the 2nd transaction.

Saving a large amount of money will take some time and planning, I'm not saying you can get out of doing that.  But if you're smart and patient you can save BIG!

Here's the break down of my haul.
Rite Aid
I broke my transactions into 2 (later I realized I would have saved an additional $3 if I would have broken it into 3 and that would have paid for my papers) then I was able to use my Ups Rewards on the 2nd transaction.

Transaction 2:
This was the biggest transaction.  I took the rest of the money from the coins,($16.00)  plus $2 I had in my pocket and $5 from my husband to complete this transaction.  We were short $3.62 which I had to put on my debit card.  Still not bad for this big haul.

1 bag of Skittles
4 Dawn dish liquids
 1 Oral B power toothbrush
1 Colgate whitening toothbrush
2 Aleve
4 Aquafresh Toothpaste
2 Pantene
2 Old Spice Body Wash

For a total of $81.41
Wellness Card savings: $25.24
Coupon savings: $29.55
Making my total $23.62
I paid using the rest of my coins that I cashed in - $16
Hubby donated -$5 plus I had $2 in my coat pocket
Also had $3 in Ups rewards from previous transaction
Making my total $3.62.

Now I know some of you will think that's a stretch but the $33 in coins to me is free money.  The $2 in my coat pocket, more free money. Plus the Ups rewards -- more free money.  So I guess to be fair I should ad Hub's $5 in.  Okay, so that makes the total I had to pay out of pocket $8.62 for $122.80.  Still not bad- right?
If I would have planned further ahead I would have taken the Ups Rewards from the second transaction and made a 3rd transaction .... maybe next time.

Now for the CVS haul which is also pictured in the photo above
I have to admit I didn't do as well at CVS which is a surprise to me.  I usually come away pretty well from CVS and urge new couponers to start there to sharpen their skills but the CVS I go is sometimes a disappointment since they don't always have sale items.  But that being said, they are always willing to give you a rain check.

I did this all in one transaction.  I scanned my CVS card when I walked in and got $3 in Extra Bucks but decided to save them until I could buy the rest of my merchandise with my rain checks since they will give me additional Extra Bucks.

My total was $53.48
But with sales and coupons I saved $31.19, making my out of pocket $22.29
This transaction included:
2 (5 pks) gel pens
2 Tide with bleach
4  Dawn Dish liquid
2 beef jerky

Not as good at Rite Aid but when you add both transactions together I spent $32.87 if you don't count the cash we had in our pockets and $25.87 if you do.  Our total trip was worth $176.28 so all in all I think it was successful.

Do you have money saving strategy that you'd like to share?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

What's For Dinner- Easy Red Beans and Rice

It was snowing today I and wanted something for dinner that would warm us from the inside out.  I was lucky enough to get an amazing deal on smoked sausage so I thought why not red beans and rice.

But this isn't your usual red beans and rice, this dish takes about 30 minutes to prepare, and I can guarantee that it will be even better tomorrow, for lunch.  It's a simple combination of onions, garlic, stewed tomatoes (that's the secret ingredient) red kidney beans and smoked sausage.  It's then served over rice.  It can be spiced up or toned down.  It's a no-fail, easy, quick dinner.

To Make Red Beans and Rice you'll need:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large clove of garlic finely chopped
1lb. smoked sausage cut on diagonal
1 15 ounce can of stewed tomatoes
1 15 ounce can red beans
To season it you'll need:

red pepper flake
or hot sauce

In a large skillet heat the oil on medium high heat.  Chop onions and add to the skillet.  Cook until translucent on medium low heat.  Be sure not to brown them.  Once the onions are cooked add the chopped garlic, cook until soft.  Season with salt and pepper and red pepper flakes.  Cut the smoked sausage on a diagonal (this will allow more surface area and the sausage will get crispy faster) and add it to the skillet. Cook the sausage until brown and heated through.  After the sausage is browned then add the stewed tomatoes and the red beans (drained) to the skillet.  Stir to combine and heat through. Season with thyme.
After tasting if you'd like it spicier add hot sauce.

Serve over rice.

Makes 4 servings

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top 10 Blog Posts- My Best of 2011

Now that all the celebration is over I thought I would take a look at my stats and see just what people were reading.  So here's my top 10 blog posts from last year:

1. Easy Skillet Apple Pie

With 1603 page views this recipe was actually a review of a recipe that I saw in Southern Living Magazine.  By lining a cast iron skillet with a ready made pie crust this southern classic is done in no time.

2.  Double Caramel Peaches

This blog post received 1188 pageviews as part of Food Network's FN Dish Summer Fest.  Peaches are cooked in homemade caramel and then used to top angel food cake then whipped cream and a creamy Mexican caramel called Cajeta.

3. Gooey Butter Cookies

The recipe for these cookies, which are a take off on a gooey butter cake, received 487 pageview.

4.  Christmas Cake Designs

This blog post (which got 361 page views) was all about tips to decorate holiday cakes.

5.  Sausage, Spinach and Ricotta Cannelloni

This blog post was part of Food Network's FN Dish for recipes highlighting spinach. Scratch made cannelloni shells were filled with Italian sausage, ricotta and spinach.   It received 313 page views.

6.  Baking a Pie in a Pumpkin

A novel twist on pumpkin pie.  The custard is baked in the pumpkin.  This blog post received 263 page views.

7. Curried Pumpkin Soup

I was surprised that this recipe got as big a response as it did.  I'm not much for curry but it married well with pumpkin in the soup that was pretty much an experiment.  This blog received 232 page views.

8.  Potato Canapes

This recipe was featured on Food Network's FN Dish Summer Fest.  A quick, easy and delicious appetizer or snack for game time.  This blog post received 231 page views.

9. Carlo's Bakery

As part of our trip to meet Rachael Ray at a book signing we stopped by Carlo's bakery (home of the Cake Boss seen on TLC) to buy some goodies which included cannolis, chocolate cake and amazing cookies.  Couldn't pass up a chance to visit this famous and delicious destination.  This blog post received 223 page views.

10.  Trip to the CIA

Yes that's me on the left at the Culinary Institute of America. Last September I was fortunate enough to be able to spend the day at the institute, meet chefs and take a class.  It was one of the most special days of my life.  I've never been anywhere before where I felt more at home.  This blog post received 160 page views.

That's it!  My most popular blog posts of 2011.
In the next couple weeks the blog will go through a major transformation, so I hope you continue to visit and read, and I'll try to come up with interesting and delicious blog posts.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

First Post of 2012- Full of Hope and Promise

Today is January 1st 2012.  The first day of a new year.  The day when everyone feels renewed and refreshed, full of hope and promise.  And of course also full of resolutions and good intentions.

Like everyone else I have resolutions that I'd like to make, things I'd like to change.  We all have things that we need to work on.

Whether it's losing a few pounds, saving money or conquering a long time challenge I wish you all good luck making 2012 everything you'd like it to be.

I hope that you will visit often to see all the changes I have planned for this blog.  New design, new recipes and new topics.  I'm hoping to inspire and entertain, to teach and to share insights and tips.  And as always I'm open to comments and suggestions.  I love to hear what you think.

So, take this new year and mold it into what you want.  Make it your own.  Be the best you can be.

Happy New Year!

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