Category Archives: Entrées

Pizza Night!

Making my own pizza dough has been on the to-do list for too long.  It became a higher priority after our recent visit with Karen and Jim, and we enjoyed awesome homemade pizza baked in their neighbors’ outdoor pizza oven.  Nice!  A family dinner on the calendar provided the perfect opportunity for our own pizza party.  I had bookmarked a recipe for pizza dough from Annie’s Eats months ago and noted several of Annie’s hints for success.  First, don’t be tempted to substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour.  Bread flour’s high-gluten content gives pizza crust its structure and satisfying chewy crunch.  Second, weigh the flour for best results.  You also might want to take a moment to read Annie’s tutorial about making pizza dough.  It really helped me work through the process with confidence.

King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour was a must-have for the experiment.  If you have read our site for very long, you know our affinity for King Arthur products and their employee-owned corporate culture.  It’s been very exciting to hear that some of you have switched to King Arthur flours in your own kitchens!

IMG_1281Basic Pizza Dough

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup warm water (about 110°)
  • 1 envelope (2 ¼ tsp.) instant yeast
  • 1 ¼ cups water, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups (22 oz.) King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

Directions:

Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  Add the room temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed.  Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms.  Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook.  Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 ½ to 2 hours.  Press the dough to deflate it.

To bake, place a pizza stone in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 500° for at least 30 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  Form both pieces of dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.

Working with one piece of dough and keeping the other covered, shape the dough and transfer to a pizza peel or round of parchment dusted with semolina or cornmeal.  Brush the edges of the crust with olive oil.  Top as desired.  Slide the dough onto the pizza stone.  Bake until the crust edges brown and cheese is golden brown in spots, about 8 to 12 minutes.  Repeat with remaining ball of dough or freeze for later use.

Because I was making multiple pizzas for dinner, I doubled the recipe, then par-baked three crusts about 5 minutes before adding the toppings.  I froze one portion of dough for another time.  We had a marinara-pepperoni-sausage-cheese pizza for the traditionalists, an alfredo-mozzarella-romano pizza for the cheese lovers, but the star of the buffet was the recreation of an unusual pie we had enjoyed at an upscale pizza restaurant in the Dallas area.  It was super-easy and mega-delicious.

Fig & Prosciutto Pizza

  • Spread a par-baked pizza crust with fig preserves (Bonus:  I had some of Mom’s homemade preserves!  Alternatively, try Dalmatia Fig Spread.)
  • Top with prosciutto
  • Sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles

Bake for 5-6 minutes at 500°.  After removing from the oven, top with fresh arugula and drizzle with balsamic glaze.  I used glaze I had purchased, although you could certainly make your own.

The result?  The crust was perfectly crisp and chewy.  The sweet fig preserves were balanced with the tangy goat cheese, while the salty prosciutto paired fantastically with the sweet balsamic glaze.  It was a smashing success, to be repeated often!

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Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili Kit

I’m over winter, completely done with cold weather, and hope not to see ice on my driveway again.  I’ve worn more heavy sweaters in the last two months than I have in the previous ten years.  With sleet and possible snow in the forecast, it seemed like a good day for chili.

IMG_0819Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili Kit has been the foundation of my chili-making for years, but I didn’t know the historical significance of the recipe and its creator until very recently.  Homer Thomas Wilson (Wick) Fowler was born in East Texas, close to the town Karen and I call home.  After joining the Dallas Morning News in 1943, he became the first Texas reporter to go overseas in World War II.  He followed General Patton into Germany, and was one of the first journalists to enter Hiroshima after it was bombed.  Wick was known for his friendly, outgoing personality, and was in demand as a speaker after the war.  While continuing his news career, he started his own chili company and was one of the first competitors at the famed Terlingua chili cook-off.  He resumed the role of news correspondent during the Vietnam war, and with several cases of his chili mix on hand, established the Da Nang Branch of the Chili Appreciation Society International.  He accompanied H. Ross Perot to Vietnam in 1970 to seek the release of American prisoners of war.   Wick traveled the world recording history, but he is better known for his role in the culinary history of Texas.

The best thing about Wick’s kit is that there are seven individual seasoning packets, so it is easy to adjust the recipe to individual tastes.  I’ve tinkered with the standard recipe and here is the version that is a winner at our house:

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  • Brown 2 pounds of chili meat or lean ground beef and drain fat
  • Add 1 – 8 ounce can of tomato sauce and 2 cans of water
  • Add 1 – 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes, undrained
  • Add the salt, paprika, cumin/oregano, onion/garlic, and ground chili peppers seasoning packets
  • Add as much or as little of the red pepper seasoning packet as you like (I normally use 1/4 to 1/2 of the packet)
  • Add 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • I do not use the masa seasoning packet

Although the recipe on the box recommends simmering the mixture for about 30 minutes, the flavors are more developed if slowly simmered for about 90 minutes.  Alternatively, the chili mixture can be transferred into a slow cooker, and simmered on low heat for 4 hours.

Honestly, we would have enjoyed an 80° sunny day, but our warm and spicy chili with Fritos® and freshly shredded cheese made today’s cold and dreary weather a little more bearable.

Chili bowl

Where to buy Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili Kit

(Note:  “Find a store” links to a list of retailers on the Company’s website, but stores may not carry all of the Company’s products.  Please check with your local store to be sure they have this specific product in stock.  If not, ask them to carry it!)

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Cooking for Two

Cooking during the workweek is always a challenge for me, but cooking for two during the Monday through Friday blitz has a special measure of trials , especially if I don’t plan ahead.  Casseroles often yield more than we care to eat as leftovers, and some don’t freeze so well after baking.  Working late or extra-heavy traffic often means having dinner out if I haven’t done any preparation in advance.  Since Sunday afternoon was cool and rainy (almost unheard of for July in Texas), it seemed like a good opportunity to spend a little prep time in the kitchen.  After a few hours of work, I had stored several meals in the freezer that will help keep mealtime chaos at bay.

Spaghetti Sauce with Grandad’s Gravy

It is easy enough to make a quick pasta dish with Grandad’s Gravy at the end of the day, but add your choice of ground beef, turkey or Italian sausage with a little simmer time, and you will have a really hearty meat sauce that is sure to please.  I browned a mixture of ground beef and sweet Italian sausage with diced onion and green pepper, drained off the fat, then added a jar of Grandad’s Gravy.  After simmering it over very low heat for about 90 minutes, it smelled better than my own homemade recipe.  I divided the sauce evenly between two vacuum sealer bags and chalked up two easy meals for the freezer inventory.  Can’t wait to have some!

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J-Meatloaf

J-Meatloaf seasoning is just about the easiest way ever to make a savory meatloaf.  There’s no need to chop onions and peppers, and it isn’t necessary to pull a half-dozen spice and condiment bottles off the shelf.  Just mix meat, an egg, bread crumbs and J-Meatloaf, and you are done.  I like to mix and form the meatloaf, then wrap and freeze it.

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Thaw the frozen meatloaf for one to two days in the refrigerator, then roast it in a 350° oven for about an hour, or until done.  I usually use a pound of ground meat, which serves two for dinner, with leftovers for lunch (like meatloaf sandwiches).  Yum!  I put two ready-to-go meat loaves in the freezer today.

Mango-Lime Salsa Chicken

After we had this spicy slow cooker meal recently, I knew it would be in our menu rotation on a regular basis.  I used 6 frozen chicken breasts and one jar of Cherith Valley Gardens Mango-Lime Salsa.  This was probably the easiest preparation of the day.  I placed the chicken in the crockpot, poured the salsa over it, and started the slow cooker on low for eight hours.

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When done, I put two breasts in a vacuum sealer bag, along with some of the salsa.  Although the recipe on the post linked above directs that heavy cream be stirred into the salsa, I’ll do that when I reheat the chicken and salsa for a meal.  Score three more meals for future hectic weeknights.

I also put a pot of our favorite red beans on to cook for the meatless meals we try to have at least once a week.  We will no doubt be enjoying our red beans and rice with freshly baked sweet and spicy cornbread made with Cherith Valley Gardens Hot ‘n Spicy Corn Relish.

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As time permits, I’ll be adding to my freezer inventory of quick-to-complete meals.  By watching for market specials on meat and seafood and keeping gourmet food products on hand for easy preparation, we can have delicious meals on the table in a hurry, at a fraction of restaurant prices.  Win-win!

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Savory Horseradish Chicken

Robert Rothschild Farm Horseradish Sauce would have received the “Condiment of the Month” award in February if we had one.  It has been a go-to favorite for sandwiches and appetizers since we first tasted it.  It was past time to try it in a entrée, and the company’s website had a recipe that fit the bill on a busy weeknight.  It called for ingredients usually on hand, could be on the table in under an hour, and sounded pretty tasty.

Savory Horseradish Chicken

  • 1 1/2 cups seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup Robert Rothschild Farm Horseradish Sauce
  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 Tbsp butter, melted

Combine bread crumbs, parmesan cheese and parsley.  Brush chicken with horseradish sauce and roll in breadcrumb mixture.  Place chicken in greased 15″ x 10″ baking dish and drizzle with melted butter.  Bake at 400 ° for 15-20 minutes, or until done.

IMG_0355I reduced the recipe to serve two and we thought it was really, really good.  The bread crumb and parmesan crust was deliciously crunchy.  The horseradish sauce did double duty by sealing in moisture and adding that very distinctive tang.  The baking process mellowed the heat of the horseradish a bit, so I think this chicken would probably  be suitable for a family meal.  A quick rice pilaf and garlic sautéed green beans rounded out the plate.  I’ll be replenishing our supply of Robert Rothschild Farm Horseradish Sauce very soon!

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