Pizza is the perfect exhausted Mom food! I used to buy it in town and pull it out of the freezer. It was the perfect… “Uh-oh whats for dinner?” meal. After I started making my own bread all the time I decided some day to give home made bases a go with the intention of freezing them as pre-made half baked pizzas. Since then I have never once bothered to freeze a pizza. It is so easy to just churn one of these out in an hour and requires no pre-planning so if I forget to defrost something… pizza it is then. One hour and fifteen minutes start to finish!
The girls like good old Pepperoni or Cheese but when I can be bothered I throw all the good stuff on the adult’s portion of the pizza so the boring picky ones can have their plain pizza and M. and I get to feast on baked olives, pepper and onions!
One batch of dough will make two large pizzas.
Use the 2 Hour Homemade Bread recipe with the variations noted below:
530 ml warm (to touch) water
2 Tbs dry yeast (If you prefer a slightly less bready- more crispy style crust use only 1 Tbs)
2 Tbs sugar or Honey
1 kg (2 lbs 3 oz) white bread flour or plain flour (Do weigh it out- it is far more accurate than measuring in cups)
1 tsp salt
1/4 c olive oil
For the Pizza:
A little flour mixed with a handful of corn meal
About 8 oz Mozzarella grated
About 4 oz Cheddar grated
1 small tin of tomato puree
1 each: garlic & onion stock cube (or puree a garlic clove or two and a wedge of onion)
Toppings of your choice… Yummmmm
Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Make sure your water is not hot, it should be only a little warm. Let it sit about 5- 10 minutes till it looks foamy. Stir/mix in the other ingredients- the sugar and salt are optional but I find it gives a nicer dough. This dough is a little sticky but not difficult to handle. If at this point your dough feels hard to push into you haven’t got enough liquid if it is difficult to get unstuck from your hands you have too much liquid.
Hand knead on a floured surface for 15 minutes- pizza dough should be springy. In a stand mixer I let it mix for about 8 min. Less kneading is totally ok too: your crust may be a little harder to spread thin without tearing but if you are short on time or energy it will still taste divine!
In a large bowl put a drizzle of olive oil and roll your balled dough in the oil. Cover it and set it aside to rise for about 1/2 and hour to 3/4 hour. If you have time let it rise the whole hour.
Now heat your oven high – our oven goes up to 500 F so that’s what I use but hotter is good too just reduce the cooking time accordingly. Prep your surface with a handful of the flour/cornmeal mix (I am actually using semolina left over from grinding my own wheat and works just as well as the corn meal) and stir the crumbled garlic and onion stock cubes into your tin of tomato puree: Homemade Pizza Sauce that costs about 50 cents to make!
Knead your dough a little and divide it into two balls. If your brave (or totally awesome) you could toss the dough like the pizza gurus do! I am neither brave or totally awesome so I use my hands and just push the dough into a flattish round shape and use the weight of the dough to pull out any too large lumps by lifting it up and working it gently.
Spread the tomato mix thinly split between the two pizzas. Less is more here so it should look thinly spread. Sprinkle your cheeses over the pizza and add any toppings you like.Put your pizzas in your super hot oven for 10-12 minutes. Our oven is not convection so I do 12 minutes in general but I always check it at 10 because Mozzarella has variable moisture content so cooking times can be different.
I serve it with salad from our Salad Table. Enjoy!
Like many British men M. has a fixation with Curry. Hotter is better.
M. spent the first 10 years of his career in food safety and built up amazing relationships with many of the restaurateurs he dealt with. So slowly over time M. started to learn how to make his own curry. Eventually he made his own recipe up from what he learned and called it “Hubby Curry.” Hubby Curry nights meant Momma had enough and had quit for the night so dinner was not on the table and the Husband was on duty. Their were periods of time when Hubby Curry nights happened a lot.
Naan bread (a must for curry aficionado) were always problematic. Store bought Naan were never quite right. Even the nice supermarket Naan were just O.K…. ish. So M. started to learn to make Naan. Its quite a process to do right and kinda complicated. So he landed on what was a totally easy and delicious alternative to REAL Naan… simple home made dough patted into oblong egg shapes fried on a very hot dry pan.
These days M. rarely makes Hubby Curry and it is usually pre-planned when he does. I however cook Indian dishes pretty frequently. I am totally in awe of The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon its totally thorough and really delicious!
Easy Naan Bread:
Start with simple 2 Hour Bread dough which has risen for 1 hour. Put a heavy frying pan (M. likes to use cast iron) on a medium-high heat. Do not grease the pan or season it. Divide the dough into 12 balls for large Naan or 24 balls for small Naan. Pat out the balls into Naan shapes and fry on the pan turning it when the first side is a bit browned. Enjoy with Curry or soups! They also make good pitta breads!
I make our own bread.
We eat bread almost daily: sometimes two loaves a day. In total I usually make about 30 loaves a month using about 70 lbs of flour and I can guarantee you if this were a difficult thing to do I would not be doing it!! I only buy two loaves of bread from the super market each month and I put them in the freezer for those days when we need bread to eat but I need the extra time more.
Home made bread is much cheaper: even buying the local organic flour from our Co-op I save a lot of money on bread. Home made bread is so delicious even the artisan stuff doesn’t compare to a hot loaf fresh out of the oven. You can make an organic real food loaf for less than half the price of the shop bought stuff with none of the hidden ingredients. If you find a recipe that works for you its easy to tweak it till it suits your tastes perfectly! For example: M. likes his bread with a little sweetness but when my mother in law is over I bake loaves with no sugar added because she doesn’t like the sweetness.
Until I hurt my back and couldn’t knead the loaves I was doing it all by hand. My back forced me into making the decision to get a stand mixer, I’m super happy to have the mixer but trust me that your bread will come out just as nice (maybe even better) and takes only 5 minutes more kneaded by hand. There is a lot of scary snobbery about bread making: You don’t need to be a baker or wonder chef to do it! You don’t need a special oven that gets to extra ordinary temperatures! And you don’t need to devote half a day to the task! This recipe makes two 2lb loaves and is super versatile and takes 2 hours start to finish (1 hour of which you aren’t even doing anything to it). Later in the week I will share with you some variations on the recipe that we use all the time to make pizza bases, cinnamon/pumpkin rolls, and naan bread.
550 ml (1/2 qt) warm (to touch) water
2 Tbs dry yeast
2 Tbs sugar or Honey
1 kg (2 lbs 3 oz) bread flour (Do weigh it out- it is far more accurate than measuring in cups) I use different flour mixes depending on what I want the loaf to be like but if you use less than 2/3 white bread you need to up the water content of the loaf and increase it rising time. I like to substitute 300 grams of white flour for 200 g home-ground whole wheat, 50 g chia seed, and 50 g oat bran and add another 30 mls water.
1 tsp salt
2 Tbs olive oil
Stir the sugar and yeast into the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Make sure your water is not hot, it should be only a little warm. Let it sit about 5- 10 minutes till it looks foamy. Stir/mix in the other ingredients- the sugar oil and salt are all optional but I find it gives a nicer loaf. This dough is a little sticky but not difficult to handle. If at this point your dough feels hard to push into you haven’t got enough liquid if it is difficult to get unstuck from your hands you have too much liquid.
Hand knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes- but don’t sweat it- a relatively easy bit of kneading will do. In a stand mixer I let it mix for about 4-5 min. Set it aside in the same large bowl in a warmish spot and let it rise for an hour. When our house is cold I put on a pot of coffee and put the bread bowl on top.
Before you start the next step preheat your oven to 430 F and very thinly smear butter (I use the wax papers that come around the butter sticks) inside your two 2 lb loaf pans and lightly sprinkle flour over the buttered surface. You can make any loaf shape you like and if you don’t have loaf pans just make two rounded loaves on a baking sheet (like the photo at the top).
Knock back your dough (which should be twice the size it was- if it isn’t find a warmer spot for it and leave it till it is. If it doesn’t smell yeasty you may have killed your yeast with too hot water). You don’t really need to knead it again but if you want a finer crumb bread knead it for just a minute or two- I don’t bother I just squish it around in my hands a little. Divide the lump into two halves and smooth them into fat tube shapes. Fold the ends under a little for a nice shape but its really not important how you shape it… its just aesthetics! Plonk one in each loaf pan.
Get your hands wet and just smooth them over the top of the loaf, sprinkle the moist surface with a little salt and then a fine coating of flour. Use a knife to cut a line down the center of your loaf about 1/2 in deep.Allow the loaves to rise about 10 minutes before you put them in the center of the hot oven.
Cook them for 8 minutes then open your oven door and reduce the temperature to 330 F. My oven takes less than 2 minutes to get down to 330 F before it kicks in heating again. Cook for 30 minutes more. This will give you a light crust which is a little crispy on top and more soft around the sides. If you like a much darker crust you can up the temperatures. I have read (in a recipe that makes a simple white loaf totally hard work) that you can start your bread at 500 F and reduce to 430 F.
This pretty much sums up my year since January.
I have been knitting a second Christmas Morning Sweater by Caddy Melville Ledbetter with Manos De Uruguay “Velvet Pincushion” since early January and trying to make our food budget stretch as far as I possibly can. I have spent an inordinate amount of time with this cook book : Economy Gastronomy. It has made feeding my family for less totally doable. It’s a theme in our house that the food budget is one of the only places where there is room to cut. In early 2013 I was shopping once a week and our month’s grocery bill was more than our month’s rent… seriously. M. and I could not believe how expensive food was and that it was full of GMOs, corn syrup and Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable fats which we had been easily avoiding in the UK because of EU and UK food labeling laws.
With some tweaks in what I bought and where I shopped I got our bill down to about $800 whilst avoiding most of the previously mentioned food baddies. For us that was still too high and felt like extortion when I had been feeding my whole family in England for about $720 a month without having to think or plan at all. So I sat down to researching what other people do. Last summer I tried couponing. No kidding it really is cheaper but only if you are willing to buy the sort of foods advertising wants you to buy. For a month our entire grocery bill was $50 a week but we were eating all those things I really really hate. And I was feeding my family out of pre-made, salty, sugar laden crap whilst spending a huge amount of time scouring the web for sales and coupons which would match up. It was easily a full time job and very very unsatisfactory.
So since then I had been looking much harder for solutions. Because I cook almost everything from scratch it was really the staples that were killing us and (amazingly to me) the weekly shopping!
So in January I learned to shop just once a month. Ironically we had been told by some wise soul before we ever moved back to the US that if you want to find the best prices on natural food you should shop where the Mexicans shop. That is what I do for half of the groceries: Food Maxx. The other half I buy in bulk at Costco. We are a few months in now and I can say genuinely the learning curve was harsh: planning a month of menus and all the different events that may come up and then transform that into a working shopping list from several different stores AND then to buy it all in one swoop is hard. Super hard. But it gets easier and easier again. I have traded in 5 grocery trips a month which with making a shopping list travelling to the stores, shopping and getting home again = about 18 hours a month, for one gargantuan and a little scary shopping day along side about two days of planning(= about 12 hours a month). Its worth the effort just for my own time sake but it has also cut our shopping down to $550 a month. That is about $18 a day or $3.66 per person per day or $1.66 per meal per person. Seriously. Less than $20 per day on food for a family of 5 and that is without taking into account the food we grow during the summer which will cut the bill down even more sharply.
I initially wondered if it was worth it… the extra thinking and planning and the huge shop that needs two people to complete it in a day. But then I realized saving only the difference in our $800 shopping bill and my current $550 is like giving M. a 8% pay raise. So yeah its worth it.
Today I am linking up with Ginny at Small Things for a Yarn Along!
Most of these photos are not of edible mushrooms- my hands were too full of mushrooms when we were picking the edible kinds to be bothered with my camera- and PLEASE do not rely on my photos for identification of mushrooms in the field. There are a few edible ones in here: like the Black Chanterelles and the one that looks like a white beard. We collected another five edibles that I didn’t get distinctive enough photos of because we were hiking on the north facing side of a mountain in dying winter light. Quite a few of those I did photograph are very inedible.
As a family we have always loved finding wild food. K. was 8 when she became obsessed with a book by Ray Mears which had a large section on finding wild edibles. She started by making refreshing spearmint pine-needle tea, progressed to battered dandelion greens and eventually lead to snacking on bulrush roots.
Meanwhile M. and I began to become familiar with the mushrooms found around where we lived in England. Our first wild mushroom was a Giant Puff Ball the size of M.’s head. We were camping in a Featherdown Farm Tent at the time so the mushroom was cooked over a fire in copious amounts of oil with onions and organic free range eggs picked three minutes earlier from under the farmer’s hens. It took us three days to finish that whole mushroom! We graduated onto other mushrooms but our crowning success was an untapped field of Parasol Mushrooms which provided us with several years of free delicious food before we moved to California.
Since we landed here we have looked for mushrooms but seen nothing. Or at least nothing that we could definitively recognize as edible (besides one lonely bunch of Chicken of the Woods). So months before M.’s birthday I started thinking about possibly going on a guided workshop for his gift to find out about California’s edible mushrooms and last July at the annual Boonville 4th of July Festival I met Tom Shaver. Tom lives and works on a local sanctuary called Emerald Earth. Its a lovely communal style place where the residents are the owners/managers and a regular source of information for the whole community about sustainable living.
Tom runs a mushroom foraging course every December. This year it conveniently landed the day after M.’s birthday but was not possible because M’s parents were over for the week: they are very fit for their age but the landscape (steep muddy hillside) and nature of the hiking (several hours on steep muddy hillsides) would have been totally unsuitable. Tom was so gracious he asked if we could fit in at the last minute some time when the weather, mushrooms and his schedule would allow it. We were able to go as a family and slip and stumble our way around the hills behind the totally unruffled Tom and glean an amazing number of mushrooms. So many mushrooms that we have only just (two weeks later) finished off the last of them. Best gift ever and a really amazing thing to get to do as a family!
Genuinely: if you are ever up for a great day and some amazing food find a local guided mushrooming tour and learn something new! Our girls who are pretty much “I will eat it if I don’t see it” mushroom haters were happily tasting (and helping to prepare) strangely beardy looking mushrooms fried in garlic batter (taste and texture of chicken nuggets), and an amazing seafood smelling fungus that when sliced into wedges and battered could easily have passed for fried prawns! We have eaten eggs and mountains of Black Chantrells which were M’s personal favorite as well as an delicious Oyster mushroom omelette. Not to mention almost two entire meals prepared from the highly prized and delicately aromatic (supposedly aphrodisiac) Matsutake!
Tom at Emerald Earth usually runs one session a year in December and spaces are always filled and no I haven’t been paid or remunerated for this post in any way shape or form… but if a few mushrooms showed up on my door step at some point… well… lets just say they wouldn’t go to waste!
Stop! Don’t throw out those pumpkins! Don’t pass by that bargain pumpkin bin! Whatever you do- don’t smash it!
A wonderful friend of ours from South Africa once commented about how horrified she was to see all the beautiful delicious pumpkins that are wasted in England around Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night. We had been growing our own pumpkins for several years (finding canned pumpkin in England at that point was like gold-dust so… needs must) by then and we had stopped celebrating Halloween so I had a pure conscience on the pumpkin front when I nodded earnestly and agreed with her! But in reality most of us either don’t know what to do with our pumpkins that sit and rot away on the front step or don’t really like most pumpkin recipes. BUT I have never met an American who didn’t like pumpkin pie! So salvage that pumpkin- get it into your kitchen make it into a pumpkin pie nicer than any canned pumpkin you could buy!
Chop your pumpkin in half and scoop out the seed- save them and bake them yummy and very very good for you.
Chop half at a time into narrow slices and carefully slice away the peel. I find it easiest to peel it toward a board because pumpkin is pretty hard.
Roughly chop the pumpkin- very rough don’t bother to be precise. The whole process is so easy J. did the other half of my pumpkin!
This is what you will be left with: Seeds to bake, rind to compost and rough chopped pumpkin. Put the pumpkin in water and boil it till it is soft. Drain the pumpkin and let it cool in the strainer before putting it in a large freezer bag and freeze it for about two days or till it is frozen solid.
The day before you want to use the pumpkin take it out of the freezer and let it defrost: a huge amount of water will separate from the pumpkin- throw it out. Turn the drained lump of pumpkin out into a strainer lined with cheese cloth. Twist the cheesecloth up tight around your pumpkin lump and press down on it with your hands- squeeze the lump until it stops loosing water and looks like a thick lump rather like play-dough.
This one medium pumpkin made about the equivalent of one large can of pumpkin. To make it into pie use whatever recipe you would normally (I use something very like this one but I exclude the ginger add a LOT more cinnamon, double the clove and add a dash of nutmeg). If you got to the “lump phase” like in the photo above just mix up the evaporated milk and pumpkin and puree it before adding the other ingredients and bake as usual. If your pumpkin is a little moister than my photo reduce the milk by half and add an extra egg, puree the pumpkin milk mix and then add the other ingredients and bake as usual.
**Edit: Some people prefer an oven baked method- it’s easier to peel for sure! It takes a little longer to bake the pumpkin soft but it requires less time to prepare the pumpkin so that is the trade off. I’ve always gotten better results from boiling but for you who like to know it all here is a link to a good how to. It will be moister so play with your recipe and see what you get! And the variety you use can make a difference both in texture and in moisture so again… a little bit of kitchen chemistry involved.**
There is a warning with all this though: fresh pumpkin pie from real pumpkins is so much nicer than it’s supermarket shelf alternative you’re family may never eat canned pumpkin again without complaining that it tastes funny!
Have a wonderful weekend… I’ll be making pumpkin pie.