Dusk and silhouette

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November 11, 2009 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

It’s November already? Where did time go? And how did I get all the way up here?

November 4, 2009 at 3:48 pm Leave a comment

Into the light

October 21, 2009 at 11:48 am Leave a comment

Cheeseless Pizza

What do you miss most?

I felt like one of the greatest losses to my life was pizza.  Oh, pizza.  Who honestly doesn’t like pizza?  But for quite a while, I boycotted the idea of pizza.  I found it too depressing to think about.  The smell of a pizza shop in full swing acted almost as a siren song.  It’s just that I couldn’t go in.  I couldn’t indulge in that ooey, gooey cheesy mainstay of the American diet.

After a while, though, I got to thinking.  When I was a little kid, I used to pull the cheese right off of any pizza that was put in front of me.  We’ve all seen kids do this.  Of course I (and those other kids) ate that cheese.  But for some reason in my strange little child’s brain they were two separate things, this cheese and the tomato-topped bread stuff.  I was not one who hated the crust.  Oh, no.  I loooove pizza crust (and pretty every other bread-like substance that has ever passed my two lips).  In fact, it was the main reason I like pizza so much.  The only reason I can’t have pizza is because of the cheese, but I’d been denying myself the pleasure of the crust and toppings for far too long.  So why not return to those fun kid days and have the crust, the tomato, and now that I’m an adult, throw in some adventurous toppings — like veggies!  This is more than a focaccia with the tomato sauce and all the toppings!

Some pizza places will give you a cheeseless pizza if you ask nicely, but I always felt nervous that I’d get it and there the globs of dairy would sit.  And this did happen a few times.  Eventually, the more I found myself in my own kitchen, I came up with my own recipe.  It only takes a little bit of time, and you don’t have to worry about it getting cold while they deliver it!

Since I love pizza crust, I make my own.  Without the cheese, I prefer to make a whole wheat pizza dough.  It’s adds a bit more flavor.  If you don’t like whole wheat pizza dough, there’s plenty of options out there.  If you don’t have time or don’t want to make your own dough, you can always pick some up in the refrigerated or frozen section of your grocery store.  It is really easy, though.  Don’t be afraid of the yeast!

Ingredients:

Raw ingredients
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 1/4 t. active yeast (or 1 packet)
1/2 t. salt
1 c. warm water (not boiling!  warm from the tap is fine, you should be able to put your finger in without burning it off!)
2 T. olive oil
Pizza toppings, like:
tomato sauce
1 Portobello mushroom
1 small bell pepper
1 medium red onion
Any topping will do here.  Whatever you like and whatever you have on hand!

Lets make the dough!

IngredientsIn a stand mixer, food processor or in any bowl, add the yeast, warm water, the all-purpose flour and 1/2 c. of the whole wheat flour.  Mix together.  Add the 2 T. of olive oil, the salt and another 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour and begin mixing.

Mixing the doughYou want to mix these together until the dough starts to come together.  Add the remaining 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour and knead with the dough hook or by hand until you have a smooth, elastic ball.  You can see how sticky the dough was in the picture at the top right.  A few minutes later, it came together and after some kneading, it was quite smooth, as in the bottom right hand picture.
Take the ball of dough out the bowl and add about 1 T. of oil to the bottom.  Coat the bowl.  Yes, I know I’ve left the bowl a bit dirty from where the dough scraped the side while mixing.  It’s ok.  This is perfectly fine.  I have to remind myself of this.  It feels so wrong, but it’s so right.  Just let it go.
Put the ball of dough back into the bowl and coat all sides in the oil from the bowl.  You can see a little shine on the dough in the center photo.
Cover with a clean dish towel and put in a warm-ish place for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  I like to do it this way: preheat my oven to about 200° while I’m mixing the dough, then turn it off after a few minutes.  I put the dough in there.  This works really nicely, especially if you’re like me and you’re too cheap to turn the heat on in your apartment when it’s cool just to make some dough.  It’s only October here, people.  The heat cannot come on yet!

Risen dough

After about 45 minutes, my dough had doubled in bulk.  Yes, it’s magic.  And no, I’m not a witch!  You can’t see that line on my bowl where the dough scraped any more because the dough has risen that high!
Gently fold the dough down.  You can punch it if you want, but it’s not really necessary.  Knead the dough just a little bit to get out the excess bubbles of air and let it rest for 10 minutes or so.
Preheat your oven to 450°.
Dough on the pan
Grab a rimmed baking sheet (I’ve got a jelly roll pan here), and oil the surface a bit so that the pizza doesn’t stick.
Gently stretch the dough out on the pan.  This dough recipe conveniently makes just the right amount to cover this pan generously.  Interesting, that.

Start topping your pizza.

Pizza toppings Add the tomato sauce and spread it around a bit.  Toss on the mushrooms, then the onions, then the peppers.
Put it in your HOT oven for 20-25 minutes.
It will come out looking like this.  It’s kind of closer to Chicago style than New York thin crust.  Nice and crisp on the bottom.

Now, if I’m having this for a meal, I need a little something more.  My favorite companion to this is dark leafy greens and cannellini beans sauted together with a little acid.

Dark leafy greens

with cannellini beans

Ingredients:

1 bunch of curly kale (or chard, or dandelion greens, whatever)
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic
1 cup cooked or 1 can of drained cannellini beans
some left over onions and other veggie toppings that didn’t fit on the pizza also makes a nice addition

Get sauteing

Mixed beans and greensPut oil into a hot pan, and add the onions and saute about 2 minutes until beginning to soften.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Be careful that they do not begin to burn.
Toss in the kale and let wilt just a little.  Add about 1 t. of balsamic vinegar.  Mmm balsamic makes this so yummy.
Add the beans and about 4 T. of water.  This will help steam the greens quickly, get all the bits off the bottom of your pan, and warm the beans.
Serve everything together on a plate and enjoy.

It may not be a cheesy pizza with cheese in the crust and cheese hidden who knows where else, but it’s yummy and pizza-like.  This would also make a nice appetizer at a party if you cut it up into smaller squares!

Cheeseless Pizza

1 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
2 1/4 t. active yeast (or 1 packet)
1/2 t. salt
1 c. warm water (not boiling!  warm from the tap is fine, you should be able to put your finger in without burning it off!)
2 T. olive oil
Pizza toppings, like: tomato sauce, 1 Portobello mushroom, 1 small bell pepper, 1 medium red onion. Any topping will do here.  Whatever you like and whatever you have on hand!


  • Add the yeast, warm water, the all-purpose flour and 1/2 c. of the whole wheat flour.
  • Mix together.
  • Add the 2 T. of olive oil, the salt and another 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour and mix.
  • Add the remaining 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour and knead with the dough hook or by hand until you have a smooth, elastic ball.
  • Take the ball of dough out the bowl.
  • Add about 1 T. of oil to the bottom.
  • Coat the bowl.
  • Put the ball of dough back into the bowl and coat all sides in the oil from the bowl.
  • Cover with a clean dish towel and put in a warm-ish place for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
  • Gently fold the dough down.
  • Knead the dough just a little bit to get out the excess bubbles of air and let it rest for 10 minutes or so.
  • Preheat your oven to 450°.
  • Grab a rimmed baking sheet, and oil the surface a bit so that the pizza doesn’t stick.
  • Gently stretch the dough out on the pan.
  • Add the tomato sauce and spread it around a bit.
  • Toss on the mushrooms, then the onions, then the peppers.
  • Put it in your HOT oven for 20-25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven, cut into pieces, and enjoy.

October 15, 2009 at 10:44 am Leave a comment

Watching autumn

October 14, 2009 at 12:26 pm Leave a comment

Oh, I dream, I dream, I dream of Amsterdam.

October 7, 2009 at 10:48 am Leave a comment

Dairy-Free Meatballs

It was Mr.’s birthday last week, and I told him that he could have a meal of his choosing.  The thing he really wanted most?  Pasta and meatballs.  I don’t tend to make meatballs very often (or for that matter meat in general).  It was his birthday, and I was happy to try and come up with something.  What can I say?  I express my love through food (at least some of the time!).

Part of the reason for that is because I’ve always been afraid of making meatballs without the milk and the grated cheese.  Recently, though, I tried an experiment.  What would happen if I left those things, those yummy-in-every-recipe-you-can-find ingredients, out?

And when I looked in my refrigerator, I also noticed that I didn’t have any eggs, either.  So this would have to be anything but your meatball with bread soaked in milk and bound together with an egg and some melted cheese.

What resulted was a savory, satisfying meatball that was also super easy.  I roast them in the oven, so there’s no need to stand over the stove and turn them over and over while they cook.

I can’t believe how good these are.  They are moist — without all those sinful ingredients.  I’ve tried them with turkey, and they work just as well.  So simply use your ground meat of choice.

Here are the ingredients:

1 lb. ground meat
(I have 1/2 lb. of ground beef (85% lean) and 1/2 lb. of ground pork — hey, it was a special occasion!)
1 small yellow onion
1-3 garlic cloves (depending on how big they are and how much you like garlic)
scant 1/4 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 T. ketchup
Yes, ketchup.  The vinegar and tomato mix works well, and Giada De Laurentiis recommends this in her dairy-filled recipe for meatballs, so I know I’m not way out there.  And I’m Irish, so I don’t have any Italian grandma’s recipe I’m messing with here.
2 T. worcestershire sauce
This is the key ingredient.  It adds a nice savory bite to the meatballs.  You need this when you don’t have milk or cheese or eggs in it.  Combined with the ketchup, the flavor is intensified.
1/4-1/2 t. red pepper flakes
You can skip this all together, but without ingredients from the dairy case, I find a little spice makes all the difference.
1/4 t. dried basil
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. salt

Preheat your oven to 375° F (190° C).
Chop the onion and the garlic as finely as you reasonably can.  I’m not a professional chef, and don’t chop like one. You don’t need to drive yourself crazy trying to get this perfect.
You can quickly sweat these (you know, cook them in a saute pan until they soften a bit) in a little oil at this point.  I was running a little late, and didn’t bother this time.  It was fine without doing it, but the little bit of oil in the meatballs can be a nice touch.
Toss them into a bowl.
Put your ground meat into the bowl with those aromatics.
Add the rest of your ingredients to the bowl.  Nothing fancy here.
Mix everything up.  Use your hands, a fork, a spoon.  Whatever works for you.  This is about half-way there.  You want everything to be well incorporated.  Don’t overwork it, though.  Once it looks like you’ve got a good distribution of the onions, you can probably stop.
Place a layer of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet.  This will save you a lot of time when it comes to clean-up.
Thinly coat with a little oil (maybe about 1 T.)  Olive or vegetable are fine.  Whatever you have on hand.
Begin to shape the meatballs.  I like to do this with two tablespoons.  Scoop up one slightly heaping spoonful of meat from the bowl.  Scrape it from one spoon to the other, rotating the spoons slightly so that it rounds out the ball.  If you want to use your hands, go for it.  Once it is in proper ball form, place it on the oiled sheet pan.
From one pound of meat, I got 15 meatballs.  You can see that they are a little imperfect, and that they have onions sticking out of them.  This is ok.
Bake in preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.
When they come out of the oven, they should be nicely browned on top and on the bottom where they were in contact with the pan.
You may want to drain them on a towel, if you’re feeling a little healthy.  If you’re feeling a little naughty, don’t bother.
Serve however you would like.  In this case, per request, I topped some rigatoni and tomato sauce (home-made) with the meatballs and served a small green salad with a balsamic vinaigrette.  Use them however you want, though.  I froze the other half of these for another day.  You won’t miss the dairy with these flavorful bits of deliciousness!

Dairy-Free Meatballs

1 lb. ground meat
1 small yellow onion
1-3 garlic cloves (depending on how big they are and how much you like garlic)
scant 1/4 c. whole wheat breadcrumbs
1 T. ketchup
2 T. worcestershire sauce
1/4-1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/4 t. dried basil
1/4 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. salt

  • Preheat your oven to 375° F (190° C).
  • Chop the onion and the garlic as finely as you reasonably can.
  • Toss them into a bowl.
  • Put your ground meat into the bowl with those aromatics.
  • Add the rest of your ingredients to the bowl.
  • Mix everything up.  Once it looks like you’ve got a good distribution of the onions, you can probably stop.
  • Place a layer of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Thinly coat with a little oil (maybe about 1 T.)  Olive or vegetable are fine.
  • Begin to shape the meatballs.
  • Once it is in proper ball form, place it on the oiled sheet pan.
  • Bake in preheated oven for about 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.
  • Drain on towel (or not).
  • Serve hot.
Makes 15 meatballs.

October 2, 2009 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

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