Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan Pizza

Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan PizzaSmoke Adjustment
Normally, when the temperatures get toasty, I do a lot of grilling. Grilling outside means that the house stays cooler inside. I had planned to write about cooking pizzas on the grill for this week but, circumstances being what they are, grilling isn’t an option.

Once again the Golden State is dealing with horrific fires that have burned thousands of acres, destroyed homes, and taken lives. And, all of that on top of an ongoing pandemic. It’s emotionally and physically exhausting. Not to mention devastating to those who are experiencing it first hand. The air quality just does not lend itself to outside pizza making.  But, I’m still in the mood to make some pizza. So, I have been looking for alternative ways to get my cheese and carb fix.

I found this recipe for Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan Pizza in a recent copy of Milk Street magazine. While it does qualify as pizza, it is not your typical neighborhood delivery type pie. It’s actually got a crust more like focaccia. (Okay, my mouth just started watering at the mention of focaccia…) The dough for this crust is pretty wet, so the trick to making this sheet pan pizza is to not use fresh mozzarella and to top it with ingredients that do not have a lot of moisture to keep the top from getting too soggy. You can try regular pizza sauce—but use it sparingly. Lightly brushing it on with a pastry brush would be ideal. This is what I have had to do because the original recipe called for sliced up cherry tomatoes on top and that is a no go for a few people in my household. You just want enough to give it some tomato flavor without wetting it down. Also, if you want a little more bang for your buck, you can chop up some fresh rosemary to add to the crust dough to give it some tasty fresh flavor.

Focaccia-Style Sheet Pan Pizza Recipe
Yields 4 to 6 servings
Adapted from 177 Milk Street Read more…

No-Knead Rustic Bread

No-Knead Rustic BreadStill We Rise
I struggled with bread making for years. It was only in the last few that I figured it all out. Since then I have mastered a couple of recipes, Vermont Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread and Hearty White Sandwich Bread. And, have experimented with others with a decent amount of success. Lately, since I seem to have a little more time on the weekends, I have branched out to make some of the harder stuff. And, by harder I mean those beautiful crusty loaves that you would normally purchase from people who know what they are doing.

The most difficult thing about baking bread right now is finding the flour and even the yeast. I was fortunate to be able to order a 10# bag from the King Arthur website but I had to keep checking to see if they had stock before I got lucky. I will say that we have been able to get some flour in here at the store, though it’s been spotty. (But, it’s getting a little better.) Yeast is a different issue. The good news is thousands of years of bread making on this planet have taught us that you don’t need foil packets of yeast to make bread. It’s in the wild, man…

There have been a number of recipes popping up that require using “wild yeast” which for all intents and purposes means making a “starter”. The most obvious example is a sourdough starter. I have mostly tried to avoid making sourdough during my bread making journey because of the requirement of using a starter. Starters can be labor-intensive. They require daily feeding to keep them active. It can take over your life and become a real chore if you have an active calendar. As my calendar has become less active in recent weeks, I was working up the courage to start the process but I was saved by a friend of mine who not only dropped of a tasty loaf of her rosemary sourdough but some of her starter as well. This is a common practice amongst sourdough bakers. You gotta do something with the “discard” so why not dispense it to your friends? You can only make sourdough waffles so many times…

Because I am unable to share my starter with all of you I am sharing a few recipes for your viewing pleasure. The first is a fairly basic recipe for a rustic sourdough. Please note it does use packaged yeast as well as starter. And here are instructions for how to get your started going. If you are unable to get yeast, I encourage you to do a little research about natural yeast. (The King Arthur Learn section of their website is great.) Yeast from dried fruit is a very old but effective method of baking bread and might be a good option. ( It’s also a great science lesson for your kids.)

The recipe below is a fantastic peasant bread for those who want crusty loaf but aren’t big into sourdough. I made this one last weekend and it was so tasty. Also, remember that these recipes and ideas require time. Good news is, right now, we have that time…

No-Knead Rustic Bread
Adapted from the Food Network
Yields 8 servings Read more…

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones

Chocolate Hazelnut SconesOregone
I spent last weekend in Oregon and it was glorious. True, I spent four years living there—so I may be biased. But, the drive down to Eugene from Portland reminded me just how much I love it up there, green rolling hills, fields of frisky animals, charming red barns….

There is no greener state than Oregon. And yes, it does rain up there. A lot. And that rain makes for some of the most stunning scenery you can ask for. This time around, I was blessed to experience one of the few absolutely perfect-weather weekends. No rain and 70 degrees. Perfect. Add to that a football win for the home team and you just can’t get much better than that…unless we start talking about the food.

Oregon is a food lover’s dream and it’s no secret that the hot Portland restaurant scene is where innovation is happening. With the abundance of fresh-grown veggies and humanely raised meats available within an hour or two of the city, you’d have to work pretty hard to not to produce a quality product. Needless to say, I ate pretty well on this trip.

I took advantage of what there was to offer including the fresh veggies, and the Pinots, and of course, the coffee. Coffee is a religion up there. Like, literally. Oregonians don’t mess around. While consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of caffeine at one of my favorite coffee stops, I had the privilege of snacking on a hazelnut chocolate scone freshly made from Oregon grown hazelnuts and fresh butter. It was ah-may-zing!

I brought a bunch of coffee beans home with me in an effort to extend my trip (if only in my mind and coffee cup). For this same reason, I have been searching for a hazelnut scone recipe on the internet. I found this basic recipe on Food 52 and have been experimenting to duplicate my Oregon scones. It’s a tough job but I am definitely up to the task….

Chocolate Hazelnut Scones
Adapted from Food 52
Yields 12 servings Read more…

Sausage and Sage Biscuits

Sausage and Sage BiscuitsChicken and a Biscuit
Next week is Spring Break. And, while we don’t have an elaborate vacation scheduled, we are planning on a few small trips here and there to get us away from the daily grind. There are a few open days with nothing planned except to sit around and drool. I am hoping there will be at least one rain-free day to allow for a little laying in the hammock laziness. (Of course, I am writing this as it is absolutely pouring outside. I mean seriously, will it never end?)

Hammock laziness is fantastic. But, it can lead you to daydreaming, which in turn can lead you on some pretty random mind journeys. Case in point, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other night in search of a few minutes of mind-numbing escape, I saw a video that a friend of mine shared showing a chicken running in her pasture while wearing a pair of blue pants. I almost wet myself. I have been laughing about it for days. It’s cracking me up as I write this now. I don’t know why I find the video so funny. But, it gets me every time. My kids think I am certifiable. They’re probably right!

And now for the random mental journey…
While watching the video, I was reminded of when we first moved into our house. There was a lot of work we had to do including building a fence around the property plus a long list of repairs that needed completion before we could even move in. Strangely, we decided to build the chicken coop first—probably because we were so excited to have the room to have chickens.

That memory lead to another of my husband and a friend building the fence around our property. I can’t even tell you how many feet of fence they built in that single weekend. Our house sits on a little shy of an acre-and-a-quarter and the fence goes around three sides of it. So, feel free to do the math. It’s a lot of fence. And, I have never seen two men eat as much as they ate that weekend (and these are dudes that can put it away on a regular basis). I now have a healthy understanding of what it is like to feed people on a farm or working cattle ranch. Which reminded me of the biscuits and gravy I made for them on the second morning to make sure they had the energy needed to keep building.

See? All of this from a chicken wearing pants…

That’s how I found myself thinking about biscuits and gravy. Since we’re on break next week, I will actually be able to cook something time-consuming for breakfast instead of the rushed bowl of cereal or piece of toast. There will be no calorie-burning fence building. So, I had to find something gravy-less at the very least.

I was happy to come across this recipe for Sausage and Sage Biscuits. I may be delusional, but it seems a tad better for you than traditional biscuits and gravy. And, if not? It’s vacation. Calories shouldn’t count on vacation. So, I am going to eat my biscuits in my hammock while pondering the benefits of pants on chickens…

Sausage and Sage Biscuits
Adapted from New York Times Cooking recipe by Genevieve Ko
Yields approximately 20 biscuits Read more…