margherita pizza

Pizza. There is something so wonderful about even the word. And while some like it piled high with meats and cheeses, I like mine one of two ways: stacked with veggies and one meat - like a good deli pepperoni or a sprinkle of bacon or sausage - or a simple margherita-style pie. We had the latter simpler pizza this week.

It's so simple that there isn't a recipe, really. We buy sourdough pizza dough from our grocery store deli, roll it out and sprinkle a pre-heated pizza stone with crunchy cornmeal. Brush the dough with good old olive oil, or in this case, pesto - from Mario Batali's "Eataly" in New York - sprinkle it with salt and pepper, and then top it with mozzarella (fresh is the best for this pizza, but we had shredded on hand), ~ four sliced Roma tomatoes, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Just before sliding it into a screaming hot 425* oven, give it a shake of oregano or Italian seasoning. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until it's browned and bubbly to your liking, and then top it with fresh julienned basil. Heaven.

I always pair this meal with a salad or some other kind of veggie in hopes of discouraging myself from eating just one more slice, but it never works. I always eat one more piece than I planned. It's that good. And oh-so-simple for a weeknight meal.

And a glass of wine - red or white in this case - doesn't hurt either.

On the menu this week: sun-dried tomato, spinach and mozzarella stuffed chicken breasts with veggies; paninis with chicken, roasted-red peppers, mozzarella and homemade mayo, and a side of steamed snow peas; chicken, tomato and rice casserole and salad; and Mexican night in honor of Erika, including taco salads and guacamole.


homemade "crunchtastic" pickles

so, after our foray to new york for the long weekend (more on that – specifically the food – in upcoming posts), our pickles had pickled and were ready for the tasting. in fact, i was thinking about them on the way home. after eating out for four days, we were ready for a homemade snack-type dinner upon our arrival. with nothing else to do that night except to go to bed (unpacking clearly out of the question), we did what every sane, hungry and sick-of-restaurants traveler would do: we scavenged and found three pieces of bread, some cheddar cheese, 1/2 an onion, canned tomatoes and some chicken broth. Grilled cheese and homemade tomato soup it was. And pickles.

I was really nervous. Homemade pickles, homemade pickling spice? I'd never had such a thing. And I was a little scared ... the brine was cloudy, and had the remnants of the spice mix floating. I could clearly see the dill, which i generally don't care for (though i adore dill pickles). Tentatively, I removed a sliced pickle and took a bite.

POW!  There it was in all it's pickle glory. Crispy, crunchy, vinegary, salty, spicy and dill-herby. (Claussen ain't got nothing on this.) When I make them again – and I say when intentionally – I'll cut the red pepper in the spice mix in half. But, if you like spicy, then you'll like these (if not, then nix the spice).

"Crunchtastic" Pickles
Shown to the right on a yummy burger with a side of sauteed spinach
2 large cucumbers (about 8" long), sliced into rounds at whatever thickness you like your pickles
1/3 c pickling spice (recipe to follow, makes about 1/3 c)
2 cloves of garlic, halved
1/3 c white vinegar
1/3 c kosher salt
2 c cold, filtered water
1 tsp dried dill
1 bay leaf (break it into thirds if you can)
3 clean pickle or spaghetti-sauce jars with lids

  1. Wash pickes and arrange evenly among three jars with the garlic cloves. Set aside.
  2.  Mix water, salt and vinegar in a bowl (one preferably that is easy to pour from). Stir until salt is disolved. Taste. Should be sour, and kind of salty like the ocean. Add more vinegar if you think it needs it. Add pickling spice, bay leaf pieces and dill; stir vigorously. Before it settles, pour the mixture evenly among the jars. Add more water if needed to fill the jars.
  3. Then shake those jars like there's no tomorrow. Let them hang out in the fridge for a few days, shaking ever now and again to get the spice in all the nooks and crannies.

Homemade Pickling Spice, just mix and go!
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 1 tbsp allspice
  • 2 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (use less if you can't take the heat)
  • pinch cinnamon
And that's it. If you're a pickle lover, then you must try this. Enjoy!


ugly little energy bars

So, in honor of the hubs' first half marathon this weekend, I made him some tasty - and ugly - little energy bars. What they lack in aesthetics, though, they make up for in toasty nuttiness. And it gave me the opportunity to use my combo peanut-cashew-almond nut butter. Turned out to be a great pre- and post-run snack. I think I might just blame his awesome time on these little guys. But don't feel like you have to run 13 miles to enjoy one (or two)! They're super good for you, too.

Ugly little energy bars (makes 12 bars)
  • 2/3 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (or any nut butter)
  • 1/3 cup honey (next time I'll try half agave)
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup dried fruits (raisins, cranberries, chopped apricots, whatever you have.)
  • 2/3 cup nuts or seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, chopped almonds, etc.)
  • Pinch salt (two pinches if peanut butter is unsalted)
1. Pre-heat oven to 325.
2. Combine flax with peanut butter, honey, salt, and water in large bowl and stir to combine.
3. Add dried fruits, nuts and seeds in whatever combination you like. Batter will be very stiff.
4. Spray 12 cup muffin tin with non-stick spray and divide batter evenly into cups. Use damp fingers to press batter into cups and flatten tops.
5. Bake 25 to 30 minutes until tops are dry and edges are a deep, toasty brown. (Bars will not rise.) Cool completely and store in air-tight container for up to two weeks.

Homemade pickles
The other thing I attempted this weekend was homemade pickles - inspired by two huge cucumbers I got in my produce box. This picture is of them after I shook them up with the pickling spice. You can see the coriander, dill, red pepper and a bunch of the other seasonings that went into the homemade spice mix. The jury is still out on  how they will taste, but the brine is salty, kinda spicy and tangy, and it was pretty fun to put together. I'll post the recipe after we've tasted them.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!