Saturday, May 29, 2010

My Dwindling Grocery List

I'm not really sure what it was! Was it for the love of pizza? That discussion on the Diaper Pin forum about reducing the grocery bill? A conversation with a friend about being tired of my addiction to Ranch dressing? Being sick of running out of bread? I'm not sure if it was one of those things or a combination of all of them, but I've gotten onto a from scratch roller coaster and I'm on for a ride that I don't think can stop and let me off.

The above mentioned things did all happen around the same time, and somehow, they've all blended together into a marvelous change in how I think about cooking and groceries.

First, I had lunch with a friend and we talked a lot about processed foods. In that conversation I realized how bad it made me feel that I almost daily drenched my spinach salad with ranch dressing. Not only was it fattening, but filled with all things unnatural. I decided that day to learn to make my own salad dressing, so I started by looking on line. There's tons out there, and it looked easy. But all of a sudden I remembered an old spinach salad recipe that I'd loved, especially the dressing. It had never occurred to me to use this dressing on any salad. I pulled it out and made some.

It was SO easy and SO delicious. I have NO desire for Ranch anymore. I look forward to eating salad as much as I do cake and cookies now! It's also made from ingredients that we always have on hand! You can use it with any lettuce, but it definitely compliments spinach well.

Here it is. I usually double it and keep it in a recycled soy sauce bottle.

Olive Oil and Garlic Salad Dressing
1/2 c. olive oil
2TB wine vinegar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 small clove garlic (I usually break it in half to help the flavor out)
1/8 tsp. fresh pepper

Shake together and viola!

Scratch salad dressing off the grocery list! What's next? Stay tuned to find out!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Perfect Homemade Pizza

We've had a pizza stone for over 2 years and never used it. I decided it was time to use it or get rid of it. After seeing rave reviews for it on line, I got excited about giving it a chance. We also had a tried and true recipe from a friend, at least tried and true by her, SO I gave it a whirl.
I was VERY nervous about using the stone and cooking a pizza from scratch, since as everyone knows from scratch cooking is "so hard" and destined to fail. (Keep reading for more on that oh so common assumption).
Well, it wasn't hard at all and turned out DELICIOUS! We've had many pizza's since and will have to be excessively tired and have an INORDINATE craving for pizza to EVER order one again! (In other words, I'd have to be pregnant ;).

My husband has often mentioned when buying pizza that the profit margin is ridiculous! It is SO CHEAP to make pizza. We got a big pack of pepperoni and keep it in the freezer, always have leftover sauce (enough for 3 or 4 more pizzas), and as long as we're not out of flour, only have to refresh our mozzarella cheese supply after we've cooked 2 or 3 pizzas. It's become a quick, easy recipe around here because we almost always have all the ingredients around. As long as you think ahead of time so that that the dough has time to rise, you're good to go!

Here's the perfect recipe:

1 cup warm water (to prep yeast)
1 packet or TB of active dry yeast
3TB white sugar
3TB olive oil
2.5 c. bread flour
2 tsp. minced garlic
.5tsp. dried oregano
.5 tsp. dried basil leaves

1. Combine water, olive oil, sugar, salt in large bowl. Add flour, then sprinkle garlic on flour...lastly add yeast. Stir together until all clumped together.
2. Dump onto powdered surface and knead until "elasticy". As you knead the dough sprinkle on oregano and basil until it suits your color and taste. Put in large greased bowl and let rise until at least double in size.
3. Preheat oven to 475. Roll out dough on large oiled pizza pan/stone. Place the dough on pan and add your choice of toppings.
4. Bake 12 minutes, or until golden brown. (12 has been the magic number for us!)

Sauce (Stay tuned for how this sauce has forever changed my cooking and shopping!)

2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz plum, stewed, or diced tomatoes (one can or 2 cups of diced fresh tomatoes)
2TB olive oil
8 oz. can tomato sauce
1tsp. dried oregano
1tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper

Heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, sauce, oregano, basil and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until thickened, about 20 minutes.