Homestead Living: How to Make Homemade Pizza

 

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If there’s a food I can eat every week (maybe even everyday), it’s pizza. There are so many variations that it’s hard to tire of it. Plus, who doesn’t love melty, bubbly cheese and chewy bread?

A few years ago, Robert bought me a pizza stone and a pizza peel after we discovered the life-changing book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. We made a lot of bread; but then we decided to start dabbling with homemade pizza. We experimented with several different oven temperatures and doughs as well as different methods of getting the pizza onto the stone. This involved making a lot of pizza and also creepily watching the chefs in the kitchens of pizza joints when we went out to eat. It was a pretty rough assignment. And by pretty rough, I mean it was glorious.

I’m happy to report that all of that “hard work” has paid off and Bert and I are now able to make delicious pizza in our own kitchen. It’s fast, easy, economical, and i think I may even prefer our version to take out. I usually make a batch of dough about once every 2 weeks and leave it in the fridge for nights where I don’t have as much time to prepare a meal. On those nights, I grab whatever ingredients we have on hand and make a pizza pie for us to enjoy. That’s amore, my friends.

In order to make the best homemade pizza, you will need to invest in a good ceramic pizza stone. This really is key. You can get away with not having a pizza peel, but the stone is crucial. It allows the pizza crust to start baking as soon as that dough hits the hot stone and it provides you with that fabulous, chewy bread base that we all crave. I also like to use parchment paper underneath the pizza when I transport it onto the stone. I’ve tried putting cornmeal on the peel, but it ended in a calzone-gone-bad tragedy 9 times out of 10. I just decided to play it safe and keep the parchment paper handy. And, as I stated above, you don’t need a pizza peel if you don’t want one. You can transport the pizza to the stone using a cookie sheet or cutting board as long as you keep the parchment paper underneath.

Once you have your stone, you are ready to start making your very own scrumptious homemade pizza! I promise you you won’t be disappointed.

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First up…. You have to make the dough. And it couldn’t be easier. Here is the no-knead recipe we love:

Olive Oil Dough

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 3/4 cup lukewarm, NOT HOT,  water (I microwave mine for 1 minute in the microwave)
  • 6  1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

Directions

Place the yeast, salt, sugar, olive oil, and water in a large plastic bowl (I use a 1 gallon Rubbermaid container with a lid).

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Next, add in the 6 1/2 cups of flour. I have substituted whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour in the past, but I found the taste is best if you use half whole wheat flour and half white flour if you are looking for a little extra nutrition in your pizza crust.

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Use a wooden spoon to give all the ingredients a good stir until the dough starts to come together. It’s okay if a few clumps of flour remain. It usually takes me about 20-25 stirs of the spoon to get the right consistency. You will need to use a little elbow grease, but it will be worth it!

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Lightly place a lid on the container on the dough. Don’t seal it completely. Allow the dough to rest for 2-5 hours in a warm, dry area. I always allow my dough to rise on our kitchen countertop, away from the sink. The dough will puff up and start to press on the lid. At this point, you can either fasten the lid and refrigerate the dough for a later time or you can use the dough immediately.

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When you are ready to use the dough, dust your hands with flour and take a grapefuit-sized hunk from the bowl. Use one hand to grab a small handful of flour and then dust or “cloak” the dough with flour and smooth it into a ball. Place the ball of dough on a sheet of parchment paper and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes (if you are using the dough right after you let it rise, you don’t need to let the dough rest and you can proceed to shaping it right away). The resting allows the dough to warm up, which makes it less elastic and easier to stretch into a beautiful base.

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While the dough rests, place your pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven for a solid 20 minutes. If you are using a standard “bake” setting on an oven, preheat to 515 degrees. If you are using a “convection” setting, preheat to 485 degrees. These may seem like really high temperatures and you may be concerned that your oven is going to explode, but the temperature is the key to getting a great crust. I recommend using an oven thermometer to ensure the temperature you are setting your oven on is correct. You’d be surprised how inaccurate some appliances can be.

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While the oven is preheating and your dough is resting, you can prepare your toppings. Get creative- the possibilities are endless!

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Once the dough has rested, it’s time to assemble your pizza pie. Shaping the dough can take some practice. The important thing to remember is to respect the dough. Don’t fight it. If you start trying to stretch it and it is still pretty elastic or you are tearing holes in it, carefully mold the dough back into a ball, and place it back down on the parchment paper and let it rest for a little longer. The more your work the dough, the more the gluten develops and it can cause a tough crust if you get overzealous. If the dough is sticky, you can always dust your hands or the dough with more flour.

There are a few ways you can stretch the dough. You can hold the ball between your hands and gently let gravity pull the dough downward and then you can carefully turn the dough, kind of like your are turning a steering wheel. You can also stretch the dough a little bit and then drape it over your fists and then gently pull the dough outward with your knuckles and even flip the dough in the air (this never ends well for me). Or, if you are wanting to ease into the dough-making business, you can just push the dough out into a disc on the parchment paper and then tug it outward until you achieve your desired base.

Always leave more dough at the edge as this will be your crust!

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Next up, add your sauce. Tomato-based, pesto, ranch dressing, olive oil, whatever tickles your fancy.

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Then, add the cheese and toppings. Again, get crazy. This your pie!

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Once all the toppings are on and the oven has preheated, it’s time to bake the pizza. Slide a pizza peel or a cookie sheet underneath the parchment paper and pizza. Open the oven and carefully transport the pizza (with the parchment paper) onto the stone. I’ve found it easiest to do this by getting the pizza peel (or cookie sheet) as close to the stone as possible and at about a 45 degree angle. Then, you flick the wrist that’s holding the peel to scooch the pizza and parchment onto the stone. Again, you can try to do this sans parchment paper. A lot of people use cornmeal, but I’ve never had a lot of luck getting the pizza perfectly onto the stone without the parchment paper. The parchment can withstand high heat and it won’t impact the way the pizza bakes.

Note: parchment paper and wax paper are NOT the same thing! Wax paper will melt onto your pizza at these temperatures. 

If you are using the “bake” setting at 515 degrees, bake for 12-13 minutes. If you are using the “convect” setting, set the timer for 10-11 minutes. You’ll know the pizza is done when the cheese is brown and bubbly and the crust is a golden hue.

When you are ready to take the pizza out of the oven. Use you the peel (or cookie sheet) and place the tip on the edge of the stone and carefully tug the parchment paper and slide the pizza onto the peel completely. Remove, allow to cool, and cut into slices. Enjoy!

Congratulations, you just made homemade pizza. :)

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Source: Dough from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

The Amish “Monte Cristo”

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For all the food purists out there, I want to start by saying I understand this sandwich is not a true Monte Cristo. A Monte Cristo (based on my dining history and a quick google search), is a ham/turkey and cheese sandwich that is dipped in an egg/milk batter and then pan fried like French toast and served with jam. It is a delightful combination of sweet and savory and a fabulous Sunday brunch meal.

This version has not been dipped in a batter, but it contains the other components and I thought it wouldn’t upset the food gods too much if I deemed it the Amish Monte Cristo.

What makes it Amish, you may ask? Well, all of the ingredients come from an Amish origin. Not only did I grow up in an area that has a dense population of Amish; but there is a small settlement of Amish about 20 minutes west of Columbus in Plain City. On my days off of work, I sometimes venture out west to stock up on a few items. The bread, ham, and cheese all come from an Amish Farmer’s market in Plain City. The apples are from an orchard back in my hometown; and the apple butter was made by my in-laws, who share a family tree with this unique group of people.

The good news is you don’t have to have super magical Amish ingredients to make this sandwich. Just some good (as Ina Garten would say) ham, cheese, apple butter, apples, and bread. It’s a fast and tasty way to dress up a boring ham and cheese sandwich on cold Fall nights.

Amish Monte Cristo

Directions:

1. Spread a generous amount of apple butter on 2 slices of bread

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2. Layer one slice of bread with thinly sliced apples of your choice (I used Honeycrisp)

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3. Top with ham and swiss cheese.

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4. Grill in a lightly-buttered, heated pan until the cheese is melted.

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5. Enjoy!

Turkey Meatloaf

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I give myself a big fat “F” for my ability to keep up with my food blog this summer. While I love to bake and cook, I have admittedly not been interested in doing either the past few months. In fact, up until recently, I’ve been eating a pretty bland and boring array of foods. My appetite has changed a bit; but for a good reason- Robert and I are expecting our first child this Winter! We couldn’t be more thrilled to meet our little guy and I am so grateful to be well into the second trimester and getting back into the groove of life. My morning sickness has thankfully subsided (I really empathize for those women who have to endure that symptom throughout pregnancy) and my energy is great.

I am trying to cherish this time of growing a human life and not try to look too far ahead, but I can’t help but think of the person our little “Meebs” will become. What will he look like? What kind of personality will he have and what will his interests be? You know, important things like what will be his favorite cookie?

 I am taking advantage of my energy spurt and hoping to get back on the blogging bandwagon.

Turkey Meatloaf

Yield: 8 Servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 2 pounds ground turkey breast
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking sheet/jelly roll pan with tin foil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the oats and milk. Thinly slice 1/4 of the onion and set aside. Finely chop the remaining onion. In a large bowl combine the turkey, oat mixture, chopped onion, bell pepper, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, salt and a few grinds of pepper. Mix just until well combined.

Transfer the mixture to baking sheet and shape into a loaf about 5 inches wide and 2 1/2 inches high. Pour the tomato sauce over the meatloaf and sprinkle with the sliced onions. Bake for about 1 hour or until an instant-read thermometer registers 160 degrees.F.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 to15 minutes before slicing.

Source: Ellie Krieger

Olive Oil Pizza Dough

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What food do you associate with weekends? For us, it’s pizza. We have our local favorites, but those versions aren’t always economically friendly. Especially after I spend like a drunken solider on my trips to Target. It’s kind of a budget buster.

Robert and I have been on a quest to make the ultimate homemade pizza for a few years now. We have a pizza stone, a pizza peel, and we use our homemade pizza sauce. What we’ve been missing is the right dough. I’ve tried a variety of recipes, but they’ve always fallen a little flat. Finally, we stumbled across this recipe and we are thrilled with our results.

The other important part of making a great homemade pizza is the temperature of the oven. The best temperature, in our experience, is 500 degrees. This allows the dough to bake quickly and get a nice chewy crust. I was a little weary of how our oven would do at such a high temperature, but it does just fine (and our house is not a pile of ashes).

Now that we’ve found our favorite dough, our biggest problem is resisting the urge to make pizza every night. Oy vey.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Olive Oil Pizza Dough

Printable Version

Yield: About 4 large pizzas worth of dough

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Directions

1. Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a large bowl or lidded (not airtight) plastic container.

2. Add in the flour without kneading. Stir with a large wooden spoon to incorporate the flour into the wet ingredients. Do not over stir!

3. Cover (not airtight) and allow the dough to rise for approximately 2 hours and up to 5 hours.

4. The dough can be used immediately or refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.

5. When you are ready to make the pizza, preheat the oven (and pizza stone if you have one) to 500 degrees. If the dough was in the refrigerator, it needs to rest until it reaches room temperature so the dough can be stretched easily. To do this, take a grapefruit-sized hunk of dough and gently cover it with flour. Place the hunk on parchment paper and  let it rest for at least 20 minutes.

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6. After the dough has rested, carefully stretch the dough out using both hands. If you’re feeling frisky, you can toss the dough in the air. Allow the dough to be a little thicker around the edge if you would like a more defined crust. Keep the dough on the parchment paper. Next, top the pizza with sauce and your desired toppings.

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7. Using a pizza peel or a cookie sheet, place the pizza (still on the parchment paper) directly on the pizza stone. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until cheese is toasted brown. Remove the pizza from the oven and enjoy!

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Source: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Cream of Mushroom Soup

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I’m back! After the whirlwind that was the holidays, I sort of put food on the back burner (pun intended). We’ve had a lot of fun things going on after we rang in the New Year and most recently spent a skiing weekend in Maryland with friends. Unfortunately, Robert got sick with the flu and we had to cut the trip short (insert PSA for flu shots here). The poor guy is currently parked on the couch and on the mend. To help make things a little better for him, I decided to make a cream of mushroom soup. A lot of the recipes I found called for a variety of mushrooms, but I felt like keeping things basic and went with only the crimini. The extra addition of sage and thyme give the soup a delicious depth and it’s a perfect meal for a cold, snowy day.

I’ve experimented with making my own versions of cream soups and what I have learned is that, if you are using an immersion blender to puree the soup, always do so before adding in the cream/milk part. Otherwise you’ll end up with a frothy liquid that resembles a bad latte; unless you like mushroom lattes, in which case- blend away.

Happy Monday, everyone!

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I also included a few snapshots from our skiing weekend before the plague hit.

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

Printable version

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1lb crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 quart (4 cups) chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup lowfat milk
  • Olive oil

Directions

1. Heat about 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add in the mushrooms and onions and sauté until softened and the onions are translucent. Add in the garlic and sauté for about a minute longer.

2. Add in the seasonings and stir. Carefully pour in the chicken broth, scraping the bottom of the pot to ensure nothing sticks. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. Add in the cream and milk and heat until hot. Serve immediately.

Source: Adapted from Use Real Butter

Food Memory Friday: Mom’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese

You know, there are some recipes that only one’s (insert your choice) grandmother, mother, father, aunt can make the best. For me, my Mom’s mac ‘n’ cheese is one of those recipes. There aren’t a lot of bells and whistles with this version of a classic dish. It’s not gourmet in any way- no truffle oil, expensive cheeses, or exotic spices. In fact, I was disappointed when my mom told me she got the recipe from the back of a pasta box when she was first learning to cook as a young mother and wife. I had been imagining this grandiose tale of a secret family recipe that had been passed down through generations, dating back to the American revolution. In my mind, famous generals and First Ladies were involved in the preservation of this treasured jewel. It seemed (and still seems) more special than a tiny blip next to the nutrition facts on the back of box. And, in reality, it is.

My Mom made this mac ‘n’ cheese on several occasions while I was growing up.  I grew so fond of it that I requested she make when it was her turn to host the team dinner for my high school volleyball and basketball teams. My teammates grew to love it as well. It was a constant, a comfort if you will. So much a comfort, that whenever I take a meal to someone nowadays, my Mom’s mac ‘n’ cheese recipe always comes to the forefront of my mind. It’s so much more than just another baked pasta dinner. It’s something I make with love out of respect for the love my Mom put into making it. Even though the recipe doesn’t originate with my great great great grandmother, my Mom made it special because of the memories she created with us. As cheesy (pun intended) as it may sound, taking a bite of this mac ‘n’ cheese evokes such happiness. My mom is a very exceptional and unique woman. She isn’t a typical mother. She isn’t overly sentimental or “touchy/feely,” but my Mom has an uncanny ability to light up a room and make people smile. That’s what I think of when I get to sit down and enjoy her simple macaroni ‘n’ cheese- the fun, the jokes, and the belly-aching laughter. I hope I can be the same example for my future kids.

I love you, Mom.

Mom’s Macaroni ‘n’ Cheese

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 12oz box elbow macaroni, cooked until al dente
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups low fat milk
  • 1 pound American cheese, cubed

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10 inch round baking dish with oil and set aside.

2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Melt the butter. Add in the flour and whisk until smooth and slightly thickened. Carefully add in the milk, salt and pepper. Allow the milk to heat to a low boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat and add in the cheese. Stir until the cheese melts. Remove from heat and add in the cooked pasta. Stir until combined (mixture will appear soupy).

3. Pour the macaroni ‘n’ cheese into the baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, uncovered. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Source: My Mom, originally from Creamette

Pork Chops with Apple Cider Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Sauce

I have naturally curly hair. When I was growing up and in school, I was often envious of the girls with the straight blonde hair. I went through several years of trying to beat my frizzy hair into submission, bleaching it a lovely shade of trashy blonde and frying my hair to extra crispy with a flat iron or curling iron. Sometimes, I could disguise myself. But then, the slightest bit of humidity would creep in and those fabricated poker-straight strands would start to retract into a coil. As much as a tried, I just couldn’t hide it.  It took a while for me to accept that fact. And beyond accepting, it took even longer for me to embrace it. As with many things in life, it’s often a slippery slope to try to transform something into that which it was not meant to be.

Just as it’s sometimes tempting to season pork chops with all kinds of sassy spices, it’s usually best to let the true flavors of the meat shine through. A little salt. A little pepper. An apple cider mushroom and onion sauce (think of it as a pretty bow-adorned headband for your hair pork chops). That’s all you need for a beautiful and tasty dish.

Pork Chops with Apple Cider Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 4 pork loin chops, bone-in and fat trimmed
  • 1-2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 10 ounces fresh cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup apple cider
Directions
1.Thirty minutes before you’re ready to make the pork chops, remove from packaging and place on a plate. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper on both sides and allow the meat to rest.
 
2. In a large saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. When the butter is melted and hot, add the pork chops and cook for 6-7 minutes before turning and cooking an additional 6-7 minutes on the other side, or until a meat thermometer registers 145 degrees in the center (don’t overcook!). Remove from heat, place the pork chops on a clean plate, and cover with tin foil to allow the meat to rest (the meat will continue to cook as it rests).
 
3. Meanwhile, add the chopped onions and shallots to the same saucepan the pork was cooked in. Saute until tender and brown, about 5 minutes. Add in the minced garlic and cook an additional 1-2 minutes longer. Carefully pour in the apple cider and stir into the onion/garlic mixture, scraping up the bits from the bottom of the pan as you do. Stir in the mustard and then the mushrooms. Cook an additional 5 minutes longer, or until the mushrooms are cooked. Spoon the sauce over each pork chop and serve immediately. 
 
Source: Adapted from Skinnytaste, originally  from Food & Wine

Corn and Crab Chowder

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging summer break. I could go on and on about how it has been a jam-packed summer for us, but I know it’s the same for everyone. Life is busy. That’s just the way that it is. I keep thinking it will calm down soon; but I think my friend Jess summed it up when she told me, “you know, you’re not going to get any less busy, right?”

Sometimes, I catch myself thinking, “I will do x, y, and z as soon as I have more time.” The truth is that I can’t keep putting things off until then, because it will never come. This is how life is and I will never do the things I want unless I make them more of a priority. This is living, my friends.

This crab and corn chowder is a wonderful summer meal, especially with Ohio sweet corn being positively scrumptious right now. Despite the seemingly long list of ingredients in this, it really comes together quickly and it’s a great alternative to the more traditional corn chowder we enjoyed last year.

Go get yourself some corn, and whip this up for a tasty weeknight meal. Happy Monday, everyone!

Corn and Crab Chowder

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 serrano pepper, minced
  • 4 ears raw corn, kernels removed and cobs reserved
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over to remove shell pieces
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add in the onion, garlic, Serrano pepper, and corn kernels. Stir to combine and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions are translucent.

2. Add in cumin, chili powder, cayenne, and paprika and stir to coat the vegetables evenly. Mix in the chicken broth, milk, and water.

3. Add in the corn cobs and cook over medium heat for 12-15 minutes.

4. Remove the corn cobs and transfer 2 cups of the soup mixture into a blender (with a tightly-secured lid) and blend until smooth. Add the puree back into the pot and stir to combine.

5. Reduce the heat to low and add in the cilantro, crab meat, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

6. Remove from heat and serve hot.
Source: Adapted from The Fresh 20

Spice-rubbed Grilled Pork Chops

I love summer. I love the feel of my bare feet on the freshly cut grass. I love the sound of our neighbor kids, out of school for the summer, laughing and riding their bikes around the neighborhood. I love seeing the lightning bugs shine after the sun goes down. And I love using the grill for as many meals as possible.

For the past few weeks our friends, Jess and Greg, have been living in our basement as they await gaining possession of their new house. We and our roomies (as we have affectionately deemed them) have developed a cooking routine in which each couple cooks two meals a week. It has worked out really well so far and I love coming home to dinner already in progress or on the table.

Jess made this particular grilled pork recipe last week and it was delicious. The rub is very simple and packs just the right amount of spice. She served it will grilled zucchini and squash and it was a perfect fast and easy summer meal.

Spice-rubbed Grilled Pork Chops

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 bone-in pork loin chops
  • 1 tablespoon oil, plus more for grilling

Directions

1. Place coriander, brown sugar, cumin, salt and pepper in a large resealable plastic bag. Add in the oil and the pork chops and shake to coat evenly. Place in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

2. Warm up a gas grill to medium-high heat. Lightly oil the grill once it is hot. Add the pork chops and cover. Grill for about 5 minutes on each side, or until the center is 145 degrees.

3. Remove from the grill and place in a bowl. Cover with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes before eating.

Source: Everyday Food

Whole Wheat Pasta with Ricotta Vegetable Sauce

Do you ever go to the grocery store and buy lots and lots of produce, thinking of all the grandiose plans you have in store for it only to find that once crisp cucumber lying limp in the bottom of the crisper a week later? I do that. More than I care to admit and I always tell myself that I will get better.

On the drive home the night that I made this, I was really trying to talk myself into just stopping to pick something up for dinner. Unfortunately, I knew there was a heap of vegetables in my fridge just about to turn a little too ripe. It really made no sense economically not to try to find a way to use it up. Especially since I just recently lost temporary control of my will to not spend money at Target (or Tar-jhey as we like to say when we’re feeling fancy).

The end result was this pasta dish. Throwing whatever you can find in your fridge into pasta usually seems to work and it’s a really versatile and simple way to use up ingredients. I was pleasantly surprised with how it turned out. The ricotta added a slight richness to the dish and the fresh lemon juice and basil added great freshness. Basil just epitomizes summertime and it is making me look oh so forward to using it all the time in the coming months.

Robert was a little insecure when he saw this was a vegetarian dish, so I made sure to throw the remaining leftover porkchop on the side for him to calm his nerves. He’s a trooper. :)

Whole Wheat Pasta with Ricotta Vegetable Sauce

  • 1 12 oz box whole wheat pasta (I used penne)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, rinsed and dried
  • 3 shallots, diced
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup reserved pasta water
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (plus more for garnish if desired)
  • Parmesan cheese, shredded

Directions

1. Place about one quart of water and about a 1/2 teaspoon of salt into a medium-sized pot. Bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (still slightly firm, but not hard). Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water. Drain the rest of the water. Set the pasta aside.

2. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add in the peppers, shallots, and tomatoes. Saute until tender. Add in the minced garlic and cook just until lightly brown. Season with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Stir to coat the vegetables evenly. Remove from heat.

3. To the vegetables, add the ricotta, pasta water, and lemon juice. Carefully stir or whisk until smooth. Carefully add in the cooked pasta and toss until all pasta is coated. Stir in fresh chopped basil. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, if desired.

Source: Lolly’s Sweet & Savory Treats