Pizza Crust

crust2

It seems as though we have fallen into a routine of eating pizza once a week.  We do not repeat any family meals more than once a month- but somehow pizza makes the weekly list.  I have started to make crusts to put in the freezer to use for quick lunches as well.  These little crusts are super easy to make and bake perfectly after they are thawed.

Usually, when I need more freezer crusts, I make an extra large batch of dough one night for dinner.  Then, the next day I use the refrigerated leftover dough to make individual style pizza crusts.  Simply portion the dough to make the size crust that you want, for mine I do about the size of a golf ball.  Roll each portion out onto a floured surface.  Poke a few time with a fork to prevent air bubbles.  Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.  Allow to cool then place into a gallon freezer bag, and freeze.  To thaw them for use I either microwave them for 20 seconds, or leave on the counter to thaw for a half hour.   Top and bake at 400 degrees or until sauce is lightly browned.

crust1

crust3

Pizza Crust

Yield: 2- 12 inch pizzas

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Warm Water
  • 1 tsp Yeast
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Honey
  • +/- 2 cups Flour- I use Bread Flour

Instructions

  1. In a large mixing bowl combine warm water, yeast, oil, and honey. Whisk to allow yeast to dissolve. Stir in 1 cup of flour with the whisk. Switch to a wooden spoon to mix in the remaining 1 cup of flour. Mix with wooden spoon until a ball of dough forms. Turn onto floured surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky- add flour as needed. Place in cleaned mixing bowl with a bit of oil to prevent sticking. Allow to rise, covered with a clean towel, until doubled. About 1 – 1 ½ hours.
  2. To prepare pizzas roll ½ of dough on a floured surface with a rolling pin. Transfer dough to a greased baking sheet, or one lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough. Decorate pizzas with desired toppings and bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is lightly browned.
  3. This dough can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator after it has risen. Cover tightly and use within 2 days. You can also par-bake the dough by baking without toppings for 5 minutes at 400 degrees. Par baked dough can be frozen or refrigerated until use. Refrigerate for up to one week .
http://www.staceycooks.com/pizza-crust/

 

 

Basil Pesto

pesto2

 

What do you do when your basil plant desperately needs a haircut?  Make pesto!  My husband says I am the grim reaper of indoor plants-  he is very right…. I have killed a cactus!  How do you under water a cactus?

I am trying very hard to be successful at my second attempt of an indoor basil plant.  I also have a cilantro and rosemary plant that are awaiting their fate.  I did not prune my previous basil plant enough, therefore it got overgrown and root bound.  This time I am determined to prune the plant if needed and to use it in fun creative ways.  Here is my little basil plant before and after its haircut….

 

basil1

basil2

 

Pesto is a simple formula all you need is a leafy herb, olive oil, parmesan cheese and a nut of some type.  I made a traditional pesto with basil, and pine nuts as my main ingredients of choice.  You can change the recipe by using cilantro or parsley, almonds or pecans… there are many possibilities.

puree

You can use pesto to make a quick pasta recipe for dinner, or toss it with cooked pasta, salami pieces and fresh mozzarella balls for a pasta salad.  Spread onto crostini with a garnish of parmesan is amazing.  Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, so make a double batch and play around with it.

pesto1

pestopasta

Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 12-15 Large Basil Leaves
  • 2 Tbsp Pine Nuts
  • ¼ cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1 tsp Lemon Zest
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • ¾ cup Olive Oil

Instructions

  1. In a small sauté pan over medium heat toast pine nuts until golden brown. Remove from heat.
  2. Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and chop until mixture is a rough paste.
  3. Toss with hot cooked pasta and season to taste. Garnish with shaved parmesan cheese.
  4. You can also serve this pasta dish with sautéed shrimp.
http://www.staceycooks.com/basil-pesto/

Yogurt Ranch Dip with Vegetables

dipfinal

Whenever we have dinner guests or family events we try to have an appetizer to enjoy at cocktail hour. One of my most requested appetizers is Blanched Vegetables and Dip. This is a go to recipe that my mom has made for many years, and that I have adopted for home and catering events. These veggies and dip are so much better than your run-of-the-mill grocery store veggie tray. The vegetables are blanched quickly, then shocked in an ice bath. The aldente vegetables are served chilled with the dip of your choice.

To Blanch Vegetables:

We enjoy using fresh vegetables such as green beans, asparagus, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.

Prepare the vegetables for blanching. Trim ends from green beans and leave whole. Cut tough end from the asparagus and leave whole. Peel carrots and slice on the bias (at an angle) into discs. Cut broccoli and cauliflower into bite sized florets.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook one vegetable type at a time. I recommend doing the broccoli last- as the broccoli leaves pieces in the water. Boil vegetables until aldente. Immediately remove from water and place in a bowl of ice water. This stops the cooking process and keeps the vegetables aldente (soft but with a slight crunch). Cook time varies between vegetables. Check after 3 minutes then test until they are your desired texture.

Once vegetables have been cooked and shocked in the ice bath they can be stored for up to 3 days in the refrigerator before serving.

A great, healthy dip to serve with your vegetables is Homemade Yogurt Ranch Dip.  I always have a batch of Homemade Ranch Seasoning on hand if I want to make any ranch dip or dressing.  For dressing you can mix 3 Tablespoons of this seasoning with 3/4 cup Buttermilk and 1 cup of Mayonnaise. dipfinal2

Yogurt Ranch Dip

Ingredients

    For Dip
  • 2 cups Plain Yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp Ranch Seasoning Mix
  • For Ranch Seasoning
  • ½ cup Buttermilk Powder
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Parsley
  • 1 tsp Dried Dill
  • 1 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 ½ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Dried Mushrooms- ground into a powder
  • ¼ tsp Black Pepper
  • ½ tsp Sugar

Instructions

    For Dip
  1. Combine both ingredient and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before service- and up to 2 weeks.
  2. For Ranch Seasoning
  3. Combine all dry ingredients. This mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 months at room temperature.
http://www.staceycooks.com/yogurt-ranch-dip-with-vegetables/

How to Fry an Egg

There are some techniques in cooking that seem so simple, but are difficult to master.  Frying an egg is one of those things.  I have fried countless eggs in my life and not always had success.  Whether it is a broken yolk, an egg stuck to the pan or a shell in the finished product disaster… I have had them all.  Watch the video to see the technique that I now use to have perfect eggs every time.

Springtime Iced Cookies

final1

In an effort to bring on great springtime weather I made bright and cheery iced cookies.  We have been in a limbo of cold then warm, rainy then frosty.  I have low hope that these cookies will actually help the weather… but they cheered me up and tasted great!

A good friend of a good friend gave me this recipe and it is truly foolproof!  I HATED baking cookies before I discovered this recipe.  This baker’s site has the best how to on making rolled cookies ever.  The most useful tip she had was how to tell when the cookies are done baking.  You bake them until they lose their “wet, shiny” look.  This tip helped me so much when I first took on making this recipe.

final2

Iced Cookies

Ingredients

  • Makes about 18 cookies
  • For the cookies
  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 cup Butter
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • For Icing
  • 3 Egg Whites
  • About 3 cups Powdered Sugar

Instructions

  1. In medium sized bowl combine flour and baking powder. In a stand mixer beat room temperature butter with sugar until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Add egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Add flour on low speed, one cup at a time. Remove dough from bowl and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
  2. To roll and cut your cookies place dough onto a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Roll out to ¼ inch thick. Cut with your choice of cookie cutter. Place on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. See below for doneness instructions. Allow cookies to cool completely before icing.
  3. For the icing
  4. Beat egg whites in a stand mixer with whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar until medium peaks form. If the texture is too thin, add more powdered sugar, if too thick add a very small amount of water. You want the icing to stick the whisk and drip slowly off. Color icing as desired with gel food coloring.
  5. To ice
  6. Place colored icing in piping bags with small dot tip. Choose your base color of icing and pipe a thin border 1/8 of an each from the outer edge of your cookie. Allow border to dry slightly then pool base icing color inside. If necessary use a toothpick to spread or pop any air bubbles. If you want your decorative icing to be flush with your base color add the icing décor while the cookie is wet. If you want the icing to sit on top then wait for the base layer to dry slightly. Once decorated allow cookies to dry for at 8 hours before stacking or bagging.
http://www.staceycooks.com/springtime-iced-cookies/

 

Marinated Chicken Burrito Bowl

 

As we move into springtime it is time to transition from heavy meals to fresh, light recipes.  I am officially retiring gravies, grits and pot pies in favor of salads, marinades and this awesome rice bowl.  This recipe seems like a knock off of everyone’s favorite Mexican food chain… and it is!  We live far from civilization so we often make do with homemade versions of big city meals.  The homemade versions are always better tasting, and much better for you.

Burrito Bowl pic

 

 

Marinated Chicken Burrito Bowl

Ingredients

    For Chicken Marinade
  • 2 Pounds Chicken Tenders
  • Juice of Half a Lime
  • 2 tsp Paprika
  • 2 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • For the Rice
  • 2 cups Basmati Rice
  • 3 ½ cups Water
  • 1 tsp Chicken Base
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Lime Juice
  • 1 Tbsp Fresh Cilantro, chopped
  • For Tortilla Strips
  • 2 , 8 inch Tortillas
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • ½ tsp Taco Seasoning
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • Toppings
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato
  • Avocado
  • ½ cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded
  • ½ cup Corn, frozen
  • ½ cup Black Beans, drained
  • Sour Cream

Instructions

  1. To prepare chicken, remove tendon from chicken tenders- With your fingers pinch the end of the white tendon that runs through the center of the tender. Using a paring knife, while still holding the end, scrape the tendon away from the chicken. Repeat for all tenders. Combine all ingredients for marinade together in a medium bowl and add chicken. Marinate for at least 2 hours.
  2. Bring water to a boil and add chicken base, butter, salt and lime juice. Then add rice and bring water back up to a boil. Once it has boiled turn heat to low, allowing water to simmer, sprinkle in cilantro. Cover pan and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside for service.
  3. To make tortilla strips cut tortillas into thin strips and place on a baking sheet. Toss with oil, taco seasoning and salt. Spread strips out so they are only in one layer. Bake at 350 for 7 minutes. Set aside for service.
  4. While the rice cooks prepare the rest of your topping for the burrito bowl. Wash and shred lettuce. Wash and cut tomatoes as desired. Prepare avocados. Sauté corn and black beans until warmed over medium heat in small sauté pan. Set aside for service.
  5. To cook chicken heat medium sauté pan with 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken tenders and cook over medium heat until cooked through.
  6. Finally, prepare your burrito bowls. In 4 shallow dinner bowls place about 1 cup of rice, in each. Then in a pie chart pattern place your toppings – Lettuce, tomato, cheese, avocado, tortilla strips, corn and black beans and chicken . Then top with a dollop of sour cream.
http://www.staceycooks.com/marinated-chicken-burrito-bowl/

Cream Cheese Apple Danishes

One of my favorite ingredients to have on hand is a box of puff pastry.  Whether it’s made into a savory recipe, or a sweet, this versatile freezer staple is good to have handy.  When you are working with puff pastry it is important that it stays cold.  Thaw it in the refrigerator then work quickly when preparing it to bake.  Puff pastry is a dough made from lots of butter, so the warmer it gets the more difficult it is to work with.

This breakfast Danish recipe can be made with a variety of seasonal fruits.  A few ideas would be peach, strawberry, blueberry and of course, apple.  When working with delicate fresh fruits like peaches and berries there is no need to cook the fruit ahead of time.

final

The puff pastry brand that I use is Pepperidge Farm.  It comes in two sheets that are easily folded out and cut.  Each sheet of the pastry is cut into 4 sections to make the Danishes.

4sq

Each section of pastry is topped with a dollop of cream cheese filling.  I have sautéed the apples in a little bit of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.  Arrange the apples as shown on top of the cream cheese filling.  Fold in two of the corners, then brush with egg wash.

top

fold

 

Cream Cheese Apple Danishes

Ingredients

  • 1 box Puff Pastry (2 Sheets)
  • For the filling
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese, Softened
  • 3 Tbsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Lemon Juice
  • 2 Egg Yolks (reserve the egg whites to brush the pastries later)
  • For the Fruit
  • 2 Apples
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon

Instructions

    For the Filling
  1. In a small mixing bowl, with an electric hand mixer whip cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and egg yolks until smooth. Reserve egg whites to brush over the Danishes before baking.
  2. For the Apples
  3. Peel and thinly slice each apple. Melt butter over low heat in a small sauté pan. Add apples and cook until nearly tender, but not mushy. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon and cook for one minute. Remove from heat.
  4. To assemble
  5. Lay cold puff pastry out flat on your work surface- if necessary to prevent sticking you can sprinkle a little bit of flour on your work surface. Cut each puff pastry sheet into 4 equal squares. Spoon about 2 ounces of cream cheese filling onto the center of each square. Then, lay about 6 cooked apple slices over the filling, fanning the slices out. Fold two corners and place onto a parchment lined baking sheet. If you do not have parchment you can use an ungreased baking sheet. Mix your egg whites that you reserved from earlier with 1 Tablespoon of water. Brush egg wash mixture over the exposed dough of each Danish. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
http://www.staceycooks.com/cream-cheese-apple-danishes/

 

Green Bean Casserole

Growing up we ate more than our fair share of the traditional Green Bean Casserole. It was the first recipe that I memorized- Canned French Cut Green Beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, a splash of milk and French’s Fried Onions. It was one of our favorite side dishes, and I wanted to create a homemade version.

Green Bean Casserole
Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 cups Mushrooms, chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 Tbsp Butter
1/4 cup Flour
1 cup Beef Stock
1 cup Milk
Salt and Pepper to taste
4 cups Fine Green Beans, Fresh or frozen

For topping:
2 Tbsp Butter, melted
1 sleeve Ritz Crackers, crushed
1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese, shredded

Place green beans and 2 cups water in a medium stock pot over high heat, covered. Allow to steam for 12-15 minutes. Pour beans into a strainer and rinse with cold water.

 photo cut_zpsb988f049.jpg

 photo chop_zpsa6dd62d3.jpg

In a medium saucepan over low heat melt 1 Tablespoon of butter. Stir in chopped mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes, and then add remaining 1 Tablespoon of butter. Stir in flour and cook for one minute. Add beef stock and stir until flour/butter mixture is well combined. Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. With heat on low add milk, then season to taste.

 photo 3ade541c-0440-47c8-92e3-4221a944967d_zpsedjbtamb.jpg

In a greased 9×9 inch pan pour a thin layer of mushroom sauce, then a layer of beans, and repeat the layering until all ingredients are used.

 photo green_zps4c0474a5.jpg

 photo top_zps4d557a3c.jpg

For topping, combine all ingredients and sprinkle over prepared casserole.
Bake at 350 25-30 minutes, or until top is browned and sauce is bubbly.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

What do you do when you are out of tortillas and want to make Mexican for dinner? More specifically… what do you do when you are out of tortillas and there is 4 inches of ice on your driveway, and it is 0 degrees outside? You make your own tortillas.
Tortillas are simple to make and the flavor of homemade is so much better than that of store bought. By that I mean, the kind of tortillas you can buy at your local Walmart. I have a good friend, who is a Chef and lives in Texas. When she wants tortillas she can just run to the store and buy freshly made, warm tortillas. We, here in the Tundra of Ohio (as she calls it) are not so lucky.

Flour Tortillas
Makes 12, 6-8 tortillas

 photo final_zpsf0512c0e.jpg

2 ½ cups Flour
1 tsp Salt
½ tsp Baking Powder
1/3 cup Shortening
2/3 cup Warm Water

Vegetable Oil for cooking

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine flour, salt, baking powder and shortening. Mix with hands until shortening is well blended with the flour. Add water, 1/3 cup at a time. Fold with wooden spoon to incorporate water. Add only enough water necessary to soak up all of the flour, but not make dough sticky.

 photo cut_zps5b6b8b40.jpg

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Roll dough into a log and cut in ½, then cut pieces in half again, and then each piece into 3 slices. This should give you 12 even dough discs. Roll each disc into a 6-8 inch round tortilla, with a rolling pin. Tortillas should about 1 millimeter thick.

 photo oil_zps19de7dd6.jpg

I use a folded paper towel secured with a rubber band as a make-shift oil brush. I grab it with tongs and brush the pan between each tortilla.

Once all of the tortillas have been rolled out, heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. Pan is ready to be cooked in when you can feel the warmth of the heat while holding your hand one inch from the bottom of the pan. Brush lightly with vegetable oil and cook tortilla on one side until large bubbles form, then flip and cook until browned in a few spots.

 photo cook_zps526a2b7b.jpg

Continue this process until the remaining tortillas are cooked, brushing pan with oil between each tortilla.
Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.

Blueberry Muffin Cake

One of my favorite breakfast sweets is a blueberry muffin. This cake is the perfect way to serve blueberry muffins to a crowd, without having the hassle of making muffins. It is great baked the day ahead, so its the perfect recipe for a stress free brunch.

 photo BlueberryCake_zps46831fb0.jpg

Makes 1 Bundt Cake

1 cup Butter, softened
2 cups Sugar
3 Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla
1 ¼ Buttermilk
2 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Baking Soda
½ tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Lemon Zest
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
2 ¾ cups Flour
3 cups Blueberries

In a medium sized mixing bowl mix butter and sugar with an electric hand mixer. Once combined add eggs and blend until fluffy. Then mix on low speed to incorporate vanilla, buttermilk, baking powder, soda,salt, lemon juice and zest. Keeping mixer on low speed add flour. Mix only until flour is incorporated, do not overmix. Fold blueberries into batter with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into greased bundt cake pan.
Bake at 325 degrees for 60-80 minutes- until toothpick come out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan for at least 30 minutes before turning out onto a cake stand for service. Do not turn out too early, or the cake will break stick in the bottom of the pan.