Pizza madness – 2 pizzas for the price of one!

Tonight was sourdough pizza night.  I love making pizza at home.  The way I do it is a lot of work but the end product is truly worth it.  The pizza crust I work with makes enough dough for two pizzas.  What I try to do is make the starring ingredients things that are very different from each other.  The supporting players can be the same to help cut down on the work.  This strategy gives us two very different pizzas to choose from


If you want to make my pizza, go here to read an earlier post that will give you the crust recipe and a general idea of what to do.  Make sure all of your ingredients are as dry as possible.   Cook any extra liquid out of your sauce and drain then squeeze excess liquid from all canned ingredients such as olives or artichokes.  Here are the ingredients lists for tonight’s featured pizzas:

 Salmon pizza

Salmon and beet greens pizza:

Pizza sauce (this was merely a can of whole roma tomatoes cooked down with fresh garlic, onion powder, oregano, basil, salt and pepper)


Beet greens (sautéed in olive oil, fresh garlic, green onions and red pepper flakes.  This mixture was then braised in red wine until soft and all liquid was evaporated)


Shredded mozzarella cheese


Shredded Quattro Fromaggio (four cheese blend from Trader Joes)


One can of boneless, skinless pink salmon


Chopped artichoke hearts (canned, packed in water)


Sliced black olives


Sliced red onions


Sliced roasted red peppers


Chopped fresh garlic

 Canadian Bacon Pizza

Canadian Bacon and pineapple deluxe:

Pizza sauce


Canadian bacon


Pineapple, (canned and packed in it’s own juices)


Sliced black olives


Sliced roasted red peppers


Chopped fresh garlic


I hope you’ll try to make your own pizza.  The sourdough crust is wonderful but if you need to use store bought pizza dough, it will still turn out better than anything you can buy!




Okay.  I admit.  This was entirely my fault but it was still annoying. 


I read Martha Stewart magazine but it is in a kind of voyeuristic freak show kind of way.  It is hard for me to believe that people are actually so clean and organized.  I am the anti Martha.  I was the kid who had a room that looked like a tornado hit it.  When my Mom yelled at me to clean it up, I was the kid who shoved the entire mess into the closet.  I’m still that kid.


You would think that any sane person would find room for the scores of cookbooks she owns.  Any person who cares about their things would make sure they are at least standing up vertically on the bookshelf.  That same rational person would figure out there was a cookbook population problem and make an effort to find a place for the overflow.


 Instead… I have a habit of laying the extra books on top of the properly vertically stored books on the shelf (you know where this is going, don’t you?).  To make matters worse, I thought it was perfectly acceptable to store my cookbook holder the exact same way.  And… are you ready for this?  In this same kitchen cupboard where these shelves are, I was storing a bunch of glass items on the floor of the cupboard right in front of the lowest shelf of books.




 Looks like I need a new cookbook holder…


And if anyone knows where I can get a new lid to my infusion jar, let me know.


Broken lid


Well, I’m not one for New Years resolutions, but I think I need to resolve to be a little tiny bit more Martha. 😳




The goddess of protein

Curried Pork Loin

I think I have mentioned this before, but my boyfriend’s mom is a wonderful cook.  I’ve known this great lady for  more than a couple of decades now and besides being smart, witty and a gorgeous woman, she is a genius in the kitchen.  She is one of those cooks who can try something once, analyze the flavors in her head and file the information away for later.  I have never seen her reach for a cookbook and she seems to be able to make anything. 


Why did I call this post “the goddess of protein”?  My boyfriend’s mom was a dental hygienist in a former life.  When she went to school, she had to learn about nutrition.  Nutrition has always been something she continues to study and through the years, she has been a champion of protein.   As the food fads have come and gone over the years, she has ignored any new fangled reasoning that says things like substituting processed vegetable proteins for meat or margarine for butter is better for you.  Time and time again, she seems to be proved right.  She believes the body needs plenty of protein and that red meat is good for you because of the high quality protein and B vitamins the meat provides.  That being said, if you eat at her house, you will most likely eat something meaty and probably red meaty, but I have always noticed that she always serves a balanced meal.  There will be a healthy starch and plenty of vegetables too.  The secret to her healthy habits is to shun refined sugar and processed foods.  She cooks her food from scratch and anything she makes will taste better than what you will eat in a restaurant.   This woman is in her sixties now and you wouldn’t know it.  Over the years , she has always looked a decade (or two) younger than she is.  When I first met her son, people would consistently mistake her for his sister.  Her diet advice does work!


Some of the best meals I have ever had have been at her house.  When I was younger and learning to cook, her son taught me how to make many of their family staples but I would sometimes ask him to call her and ask her how to make certain things.  One day when he was talking to his mom, she described a pork roast she made, it sounded so delish that I asked him to ask her how she made it.  Since she never uses recipes, I was expecting her to give him general directions about the process and not give him approximations of how much of this or that to use.  She was able to tell him exactly how much of each ingredient to use off of the top of her head and the “recipe” he wrote down was perfect.  Anything in the recipe that is an approximation is what it is because you don’t need measurements.  What a goddess!!  I have made this roast over and over again and I am always stunned at how perfect it is.  The only thing I changed was to double the basting sauce.  The sauce that results from this recipe is like manna from heaven.  I always require pools of it to ladle over the meat and onto a hot steamy pile of long grain brown rice, which is the perfect partner for this dish.  Round out the meal with your favorite pile of simply steamed veggies and a good red wine and you will be an extremely happy diner.


Pork loin roast with curried apple sauce

For the roast:

2 ½ lb (or slightly larger) Pork Loin Roast

Garlic powder


Curry Powder

6-10 cloves of garlic (or more), halved or quartered if large


For the sauce:

½ cup teriyaki sauce

2 tbsp mustard powder (Go for a mild not hot mustard like Coleman’s)

2 cups fresh apple juice

1 cup white wine

½ tsp powdered ginger

2 tsp curry powder

3 to 4 tbsp honey (less if using a sweet light honey, more if using a complex dark honey)

garlic powder, to taste

onion powder, to taste

pepper, to taste


Preheat the oven to 450 degrees f.  Poke holes in the top, bottoms and sides of the roast and insert the garlic cloves or garlic clove pieces into the holes.  Pork loin roasts are usually two pieces of pork tied together, jam some garlic in between the two pieces of pork.  The garlic will cook in the meat and give it a nice garlicky flavor but the garlic never really softens all of the way.  I like the garlic pieces even though they are still pretty intense.  If you love garlic be generous with it.  If you aren’t a big fan (I will lose my respect for you but…), use a lot of garlic anyway and eat around the whole cloves that fall out of your meal.  Liberally sprinkle the garlic power, oregano and curry powder over the top of the roast.  When you are ready to bake the roast, lower the heat to 325 degrees f, put the roast in the oven where you will roast the meat for at least a good half hour before you begin to baste the meat.  Cook the roast for about 45 minutes per pound (I cooked the 2 ½ pound roast for about two hours which was a little long but we like our pork a little well done around here).


Meanwhile, place all of the sauce ingredients in a saucepan.  Bring the sauce to a boil and lower to a simmer.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Taste the sauce.  If you like a sweeter sauce, add a little more honey.  If the sauce seems a bit sweet, add more garlic powder or onion powder.  Before you tweak the sauce, remember that the sauce will concentrate and the flavors will deepen in the oven.  Begin basting the meat after it has roasted for between a half hour to forty-five minutes.  Baste the meat every 15 to 20 minutes or so.  Serve the meat with plenty of sauce.

Sometimes only a large sausage will do

Sausage Sandwich

Cravings.  I don’t have those serious I have to have (fill in the nasty fast food blank) cravings I used to have.  Those: I don’t want to cook and I have to have this specific cheesy, salty, greasy, smelly, sweet, sour whatever it is from (fill in the nasty fast food place blank) sort of cravings.  I don’t want hamburgers any more at all.  I still want pizza quite often.  I still love Mexican food.  I don’t necessarily crave this stuff but every once in a while, something fast food like sounds really good.  The thing that is good about cooking something that would fit right into a fast food venue at home is that it is quick to have at home but it will taste a hundred times better because you made it at home and you are in control of the quality of the ingredients.


Sausages are often a bargain at my local market and they are really good quality.  I can pick from many different varieties from not so healthy pork or lamb to very lean, healthy poultry versions of the same thing.  Pair these delicious meaty morsels with fresh veggies and really good sourdough bread and you have something that transcends the pedestrian sum of its parts.


I made a couple of changes to the sausage sandwich recipe from a back issue of Gourmet and I like the results a lot.  One reason to try this recipe is for the onion and pepper mixture.  I made my own version a few times prior to finding this recipe and the sandwiches turned out ok.  Good but nothing special.  I stumbled onto this recipe, which calls for a garlic paste and fennel seeds, and it is nirvana.  The fennel seeds impart a sweetness to the caramelized veggies that is divine.  I hope you try it.  I think you’ll agree that this is one mighty fine sausage sandwich.


Sausage, Bell Pepper and Onion Sandwiches

Adapted from the December 1991 issue of Gourmet Magazine


3 Bell Peppers, preferably red, sliced thin


2 large onions, sliced thin


2 large garlic cloves, minced and mashed to a paste with a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle


¼  tsp whole fennel seeds


¼ cup olive oil


6 hot Italian sausage links (or mild Italian sausage or mixture of both)


2 good quality, crusty, sourdough baguettes


In a large skillet, sauté the bell peppers, onions, garlic paste and fennel seeds in the oil over medium to medium high heat.   Sauté, stirring until the veggies are softened, and slightly browned.  Season with salt and pepper.  This should take five to ten minutes.


While the veggies are cooking, Heat a lightly greased cast iron pan over medium high heat.  Cook the sausages on all sides until cooked through about six to ten minutes.


Cut the bread into 5”-6” lengths to match the size of your sausages and split the bread down the middle.  If you prefer warm toasted bread, pop the bread into the oven for a few minutes to lightly toast.  Cut the each sausage lengthwise down the middle.  Insert a sausage into the bread so that it lays flat over the bread (that way you get a bit of sausage in every bite, yum!).  Generously spoon the onion/pepper mixture over the top of the sandwich.  Enjoy!


You’ve seen one cow, you’ve seen ‘em all!


Judging from some of the interesting comments I get on this blog, most people would be happy if I stuck to cooking and stopped talking about food issues, but I read the news way too much and then I just can’t help myself! 


Today it was announced that the FDA has approved cloned animals to enter our food supply.  Aside from the visceral reaction I get whenever I read about some new frankensteinian change to our food supply, I really do have valid concerns this time.  A healthy food chain is a diverse food chain.  A population of animals or plants can survive a catastrophic disease or a change in environment much easier if there is genetic diversity.  If we begin to clone the “best” animals to be the parents of our food animals, we may eventually have millions of cows who have a desirable trait such as highly marbled meat but who lack the genes to fend off certain diseases.  So really, my concern is food security.  We have already lost many heritage breeds of animals and heirloom plants, old varieties that we can breed back to if we need certain traits.  The animals and plants we raise for food are already very identical to each other.  Adding cloning into the mix will make them even more similar.


One extreme event in our history we can refer back to in order to understand my concern over cloning is the Irish potato famine.  One variety of potato out of the possible thousands of varieties found in Peru was brought back to and grown in Ireland.  This variety of potato was successful both as a crop and as a desirable new food.  The potato became a staple food that people depended on as a major source of their calories.   Potato blight wiped out the monoculture crop of potatoes that Ireland depended on.  Over a million people perished.


Now it would be silly to say we would all starve to death if all of the cows or sheep or pigs died, but we are a very meat centric society here in the U.S. and our economy would take quite a hit if our meat industry were somehow decimated.  McDonalds doesn’t claim to have served a hundred billion burgers for nothing!


Anyway…just a little food for thought.

A loaf of homemade bread at last!

Raison Walnut Sourdough


I have an admission to make.  This won’t be news to anyone who really knows me well.  But for those of you who don’t know me, I really dislike the holidays.  I’m not a shopper and I am big on procrastination so I end up being so stressed out that a crumple into a tiny little stress ball that keeps imploding and imploding until I feel like a lump of coal.  Early in the month of December, I saw a couple of blog events that dealt with holiday baking that I would have loved to participate in, I even bought the ingredients for some amazing looking but horribly complex cookies.  I was so close to participating and as a new Blogger, I know I should have, but I didn’t.  I normally try to do some baking but I couldn’t.  After an office potluck (I brought salad in a vain attempt to eat something healthy), a department Christmas party, family staying with us for a week followed by all of us joining more family further south for another week, I was drained.


Before all of this mayhem started, I bought myself a present of a couple of cookbooks.  I wasn’t able to think of touching them before the New Year, but now that things are calm, I was able to get a look.  One of the books I got was the King Arthur Flour whole-grain baking book.  This book has some really fantastic looking recipes and I can’t wait to delve into the recipes further.  For now, I was after sourdough.


Poor Herbert has been languishing in the fridge for weeks and weeks.  I did give Herbert a mercy feeding sometime before Christmas, but I really felt like I needed to use my sourdough starter for real.  Using the starter usually entails a couple of days thawing from the cold and a couple of good feedings.  The mercy feeding consisted of some food and a quick couple of hours to absorb it before going back into lockup. 


I chose to make sourdough waffles from another book I got in the same shipment:  Wild Fermentation by Sandor Elix Katz.  I also chose to modify the Walnut-Currant Sourdough Bread recipe from the King Arthur Flour book.  I fed Herbert the day before I wanted to start and then set up two preferments the night before I wanted to bake.  Both of these sourdough goodies came out really well.  Here is my take on the bread:

 Raisin-Walnut Sourdough Bread:

Adapted from the King Arthur Flour whole grain baking book




½ cup stone ground whole-wheat flour


¼ cup room temperature water


1 tbsp, active well fed sourdough starter




The entire Levain from above


1 ½ cups stone ground whole-wheat flour


1 cup unbleached white flour


1 cup room temperature water


2 tbsp honey, use an assertive honey like an avocado or buckwheat honey


1 tsp salt


¼ cup raisins


¼ cup walnuts, broken up if in large pieces


Corn meal


The night before you want to bake, make the levain.  You want to give the mixture at least a full twelve hours to ferment.  The book said it would look bubbly and expanded when it was ready, mine just looked like mini bread dough but it definitely doubled:  Mix whole-wheat flour, water and starter well.  Cover the bowl with a layer of plastic wrap.  Once again, leave to ferment overnight, at least twelve hours.


In the bowl of a standing mixer combine the levain, whole-wheat flour, white flour and water.  Use your paddle attachment to mix the ingredients at the lowest speed until just mixed together.  Let this mixture stand 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, add honey and salt.  Mix on low speed until the new ingredients are mixed in thoroughly.  Increase the speed to kneading speed and knead the dough for two more minutes.  Cover the bowl and let the dough rest thirty minutes.


After thirty minutes, turn the dough out onto a floured board.  Pat the dough into a 6”x9” rectangle.  Sprinkle the raisins over the dough and then fold the edges horizontally in over the raisins.  Pat the dough into the 6”x9” rectangle again.  Sprinkle the walnuts over the dough and then fold the dough into thirds again.  Move the dough to your bowl and let it rise for thirty minutes.  You will now repeat the patting, folding, thirty-minute rest sequence three more times.  After you have folded and rested the dough a total of four times for 2 – 2 ½ hours total, shape the bread into a round being careful not to let the raisins or nuts tear the surface of the bread.  Turn the loaf into a floured banneton (I didn’t get one for Christmas, but this book taught me that you can line a colander with a floured linen dish towel to mimic a banneton, how cool and money saving is that?!).  Cover the dough and let it rise 2 – 3 hours. 


45 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven with a pizza stone and a metal pan in it to 450 degrees.  When you are ready to bake, sprinkle a peel or a baking sheet with corn meal.  Invert the dough out of the banneton and onto the peel.  Use the peel to move the bread to your baking stone.  Toss a cup of water into the metal pan for steam and close the oven door fast.  Bake the loaf for 15 minutes and then lower the temperature to 400 degrees.  Bake for 30- 35 minutes longer. Use the peel to remove the bread from the oven to a cooling rack.  Cool the bread thoroughly before letting yourself get tempted to cut off a big slice.  The bread will keep cooking until it cools.


This bread had a dense crumb and a shatteringly crisp crust the night I baked it.  The next day after being stored in a plastic bag on the counter, the crust was chewy but the bread had a wonderful flavor.  This loaf was incredible used as the bread for a fried egg sandwich in the morning.