Friday, December 19, 2014

James Beard's Pizza Crust

I decided to make pizza on Wednesday, because so much was going on that we needed a quick and easy dinner.  Of course, having carefully read my James Beard Menu Cookbook recently, and having made his outstanding white bread, I recalled that there was a recipe for pizza crust.  James Beard was and is a very trustworthy food creator, and so I decided to give it a whirl.

JAMES BEARD'S PIZZA CRUST

1 cup warm water
1 tbsp (or 1 packet) yeast*
4 cups flour
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the sugar, and then add the flour, salt and olive oil.  Mix according to my yeast bread directions located to the right------->
Let the dough ball rise in a warm place until doubled in size, punch down and split it in half.  Roll out each half to fit a round pizza pan or a small rectangular baking tray; top with your choice of sauce, meat, vegetables and/or cheese.  Sprinkle oregano over the top and drizzle with olive oil.  Bake at 400F until browned, 20 to 25 minutes.


*Note that I used double the amount of yeast so my dough would rise faster - in about 15 minutes.  Also note that I multiplied the recipe by 1.5 so I could make 2 large trays of pizza.  Ryan's home from college, after all, and he is hungry.

The boys received this pizza very enthusiastically.  My dearly beloved declared this to be my best pizza crust ever.  And, all of the leftovers were gone before dinner Thursday.  Case closed; James Beard wins again!

Happy Friday, everyone!  Time to start working on my holiday menus!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Punch!

Every year, I tell you about our traditional Christmas Punch after the fact.  That doesn't help if you want an absolutely terrific breakfast/brunch/lunch/all day punch, though.  So this year I'm thinking just a teeny bit ahead.

I cam up with this punch as a special beverage to go with our traditional sugar overload on Christmas morning, which buys my dearly beloved precious time to down a pot or 2 of coffee before the present frenzy begins.  Everyone just loves it; incidentally, my future son-in-law is coming for his first ever Christmas morning here, and Shannon is certain he's going to be delighted by the sheer volume of sugar he can consume before the day really starts!

MARJIE'S CHRISTMAS PUNCH

12 ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 can cold water
1 bottle (2 liter sized) Diet Cranberry Ginger Ale, cold
2-3 bananas, sliced
1/2 pound frozen strawberries, still frozen
dollops of whipped cream

Pour the orange juice concentrate in the punch bowl, and add one can cold water.  Pour the Diet Cranberry Ginger ale in the punch bowl, pouring first directly into the orange juice to combine, and then down the sides to retain some carbonation.  Slice and add the bananas, if desired, and the frozen strawberries (which replace ice to keep it cold).  Drop whipped cream over the top, stir lightly with the ladle once or twice, and serve.

Makes one large punch bowl full.  Note: plan to make twice as much as you think you'll need.  We routinely finish 4 bowls, plus coffee, tea or hot cocoa, with our confections before presents.  We then usually have another 2 bowls after presents.  Because the soda is diet, it's fairly low calorie (and I eat much of the fruit which is floating in it).  It has a great tang.

Of course, I can't find a picture of the punch, so here's one of the family at Christmas breakfast a couple of years back, with the punch bowl at the end closest to me (and another at the other end of the table).  It's likely we were on punch bowls #3 and #4 by the time this picture was taken.

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Favorite Christmas Cookbook!

Last week, I promised that I'd show you my favorite Christmas cookbook.  Here it is.

I bought this the first year we were married.  I was absolutely certain I could cook each and every thing in this cookbook, and my husband would be delighted.  Well, I soon discovered that a man whose favorite treats are cranberry nut bread, brownies and pickled herring (true story) only needs a few cookies to keep him happy.  Nonetheless, I pull this off the shelf every year, pore through its pages, and settle on just a few things to make.

 It's really 3 cookbooks in one, as you can see.
 There are recipes for main courses, side dishes, and sweets of all kinds!
 One of these days I'm going to make the wreath coffee cake.  So far, I've been lazy.

 I'm thinking about making the whipped cream cake (bottom of the page), and the cranberry filled one (top right).  Maybe this year?


 And this is the Spritz cookie recipe we use, with our Pampered Chef spritz cookie maker.  But of late, the girls have been into rolling out sugar cookies, so....

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed my Christmas cookbook!  This is my entry for Louise's Cookbook Wednesday! 

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Garden Tuesday: Migration

It's been cloudy, raining, snowing or all 3 for at least a week here.  So, this Garden Tuesday is from a little while back.


Birdies leave when snow flies.  They are not entirely stupid, the nomenclature "birdbrain" notwithstanding!

Happy Garden Tuesday, everyone!

Friday, December 12, 2014

James Beard's Basic White Bread

Remember my James Beard Menu Cookbook from just before Thanksgiving?  Me, too.  I used his Mushroom Sauce recipe for the ham during both of the "Meet-and-Greets", and I made his Basic White Bread from the same cookbook one night.



My youngest fussbudget asked me to make more of that bread, so he can butter and microwave it.

What?  That kid never likes anything!  Of course I made it again!

JAMES BEARD'S BASIC WHITE BREAD

2 cups warm milk
3 tbsp yeast
4 tbsp butter, melted
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
6 cups flour

In your mixing bowl or bread machine bucket, pour the warm milk (around 100*F), and sprinkle the yeast over it.  Add 4 cups of the flour, the butter, sugar, salt and the rest of the flour, and mix according to your machine's directions, or following my directions to the right-------------->

Let the dough rise for 10 minutes, then punch down, split into 3 loaves and put into greased loaf pans.  Let rise until doubled in size, then bake at 375F or 350F in a convection oven, for 25 to 30 minutes, depending upon how dark you want your loaves.

My post-large-gathering renditions of this have cut the recipe by 2/3, so I'm only making one loaf of bread at a time.  It makes great grilled cheese sandwiches, open faced hot turkey sandwiches, or, as Mark prefers, heated and buttered bread for a snack.

This will be my entry for December's Cook Your Books, hosted by Kitchen Flavors.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cookbook Wednesday: Christmas Cookbook #1

It's Wednesday again!  And that means Louise is running her Cookbook Wednesday linkup!

 Of course, given that it's December, for the next 3 weeks, I'll be writing about my Christmas cookbooks.  Today's cookbook is called, appropriately enough, Christmas Foods.

Ryan found this at a library book sale a few years back, and was insistent that we had to have it.  It's a small volume, with beautiful pictures.  But I really don't love it.

The table of contents states that there are several sections, including appetizers, main dishes, desserts, gifts and several others.  But there are no such notations in the text of the book, so you'll be reading a recipe for potatoes on one page, and cake or something similar on the next page.  It's very confusing.

Some of their recipes sound easy enough to do, even if you're really busy, but some just sound like you're setting yourself up for an hours long project.  So I can't honestly say I've ever cooked from this book.  But I do look at the pictures every year, and tell myself that maybe next year I'll give some of these projects a go.

Next week, I'll show you the Christmas cookbook I use the most, and Christmas week, I'll show you my sentimental favorites.  Until then, go visit Louise and check out the offerings from her other visitors!

Happy Cookbook Wednesday, everyone!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Garden Tuesday: A Harbinger of Things to Come

The day before Thanksgiving, we got 8" of snow.  Shannon's fiance had been planning to go "axing" with Mark, but when he saw the snow, he got excited.



See how the front paths had been shoveled?

That's not all.  The silly men - Chris, Patrick, Dan, Jeff and Mark - shoveled from the front gate around to the garage, which is about 1/4 mile.  Indeed, my plow man was confused when he showed up later, and called me to ask why I'd hired a new plow service instead of calling him.

Five guys with shovels can be loony.  But they professed to have fun!

We did have some freezing rain this morning.  It's currently raining, and we are supposed to get about an inch of rain.  But it's supposed to get colder, and the predictions by the 2 local weather stations are 3" to 6", or 1" to 8" of snow, while the National Weather Service says 8" to 10".  Mark had a snow (ice) day today, and likely will have another tomorrow.

Welcome to winter, everyone!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Meet-and-Greets!

Yes, plural.  Because there were two virtually identical affairs.

On Friday night, the future groom's brother, mother and mother's parents made the trek up here from the wilds of New Jersey.  The mother brought me flowers and a tin of very pricy chocolate covered cookies, which I fed to everyone after dinner.  The better not to fatten me up too much, and all of that.

The meeting went fine, of course; did anyone really expect guests to be something other than cordial?  The most memorable thing about the whole evening was that the groom's brother is huge - he makes my sons look average.  We're talking over 6'6", around 300 pounds, linebacker-style huge.  Very nice man, of course.  I told Shannon that she will be forever saying she married the shorter, better looking brother.

The second night, the groom's father and his 93 year old mother came to visit.  She was a charming old lady who came from Brazil decades ago, and still sometimes struggles for the right English word, but was highly conversational. She brought me an edible bouquet.  Have you ever had one?  They are delightful.  We passed it around for dessert.

Dinner was ham, sweet potatoes, orange almond salad and bread both nights.  I also made James Beard's Mushroom Sauce, and it was a huge hit.






The first night, we also had mashed potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts with bacon.  I fed 20 people.  The table still had its extra appendages.

The second night, we had roasted tomatoes and no mashed potatoes.  I only had to feed 12.  It was just too easy.


No dessert was required either night; both groups departed by 9PM.  Of course, my hungry hordes came to the kitchen to raid the cakes and pies still abounding there.

The ham was a humorous story - at least, it was to me.  My food supplier told me that there were 2 semi-boneless hams of 14 to 17 pounds each in a case, so I ordered a case of hams.  Now, picture me making the biggest circle I can with my arms, while saying, "Each ham was thiiissss big!"  Yep, each was 23 pounds.  So I cut them in half, used half each night, froze the rest, and some day I figure I'll need them.  My dearly beloved was irked about the quantity of ham.  I think he's over it, since there were no leftovers either night.

So, my meals all worked out as scheduled.  Everyone was stuffed.  Everyone was happy.  And now you all can laugh at my hams, too!

Happy Thorsday, everyone!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

What a week it was!  Lots of people to feed.  Lots of food.  Lots of dishes.  And I do mean LOTS of dishes.

So, right to the pictures, right?

Two 24 pound turkeys need two carvers, of course.

 This visitor offered to carve both.  He had no idea what he'd offered to do.
 If too many cooks spoil the broth, what happens when one has half a dozen or more table setters?
 And here's the picture you've all been waiting for: The Dinner Party!  (I was wearing the dress I made for the wedding in New Jersey in August.  It was too pretty to stay locked in a closet.)
 Food, in plentitude!





 One of the turkey platters midway through dinner.  We don't mess around when we feast.
 And note that Natasha carefully threw her dog food on the floor, concentrating on the real food.  She didn't touch her dog food for the rest of the weekend, just sulked until she got people food.  She's no dope.

Stay tuned for pictures of snow and other feasts!  Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Thanksgiving Menus and Pie!

I have a feeling that there are going to be a lot of this type of day for the next 2 weeks or so.  The food delivery came in.  A trip to the bloodwork lab was required.  And the normal stuff happened around me.

You saw the list yesterday.  It wasn't cheap.  And it took a long time to put away.  Fortunately, I'd been preparing for 2 days, and had the refrigerators nicely cleaned out and organized.  All is well; remain calm.

Now, on to the important stuff: menus!  Here's the next 10 days, excluding Thanksgiving. You'll note that next Friday and Saturday are identical.  That's right; the visitors will all get the same food.  Then I don't have to be smart enough to make 2 sets of plans.

The numbers in parenthesis behind each day are how many people I expect to feed.  Tonight has changed; it's up to 7, as is tomorrow night.

And here's Thanksgiving's tentative menu.  I have the feeling I've forgotten some Thanksgiving foods.  Fortunately, 2 of my daughters will be here this weekend, and can help me think.  I'm betting Ryan will have suggestions, too.

Not mentioned are all the secondary foods for the week: waffle batter, quick breads, hot dogs and sandwich materials for snacking throughout the days....

Oh, Karin, I'd use your beef stock to make some nice French Onion Soup, or maybe use a little to make the dip for French Dip sandwiches.  I'm actually thinking of making French Dip on Sunday the 30th instead of stew.

Last night, I decided to get a head start, and make up a dozen pieces of pie crust dough.  They keep in the freezer for a long time, and if I am going to make a mess of the food processor, I might as well make it worthwhile. 

Then, my dearly beloved was very unhappy about having to go for bloodwork, so I promised him a "practice" lemon meringue pie.  No egg yolks, just egg beaters, so it contained no cholesterol  He was a happy man, indeed.

And I was able to make him wait long enough for his pie that it had time to set up, and hold its shape after I cut it!  Hooray!

That's all for this installment of Marjie's Holiday Circus.  If I have time next week, I'll post.  Otherwise, Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  And remember, no matter how harried you feel, you won't have about 22 people milling about your house, so it won't be as difficult as it might be!