Saturday, May 30, 2009

fastfood@home: It's Not Delivery it's Homemade

Making pizza at home isn't that bad

Homemade PizzaMonths ago I was searching for pizza recipes. From dough to sauce, I finally combined some recipes to get something to taste like Pizza Hut's pan pizza. The sauce is simple, and to me, it tastes just like Pizza Hut's.


Pizza Hut Copycat


Pizza Hut Sauce Copycat 


1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce

¼ c. water

1 tsp. sugar

¼ tsp. dried oregano

¼ tsp. dried basil leaves

¼ tsp. dried thyme

¼ tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp salt

1/8 tsp. black pepper

1 whole bay leaf

½ tsp. lemon juice


1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.

2. Cook over medium heat until sauce starts to bubble.

3. Lower heat and simmer until it is as thick as you like it.

4. Makes enough for 2-4 pizzas.



Easy Pizza Dough I forgot where I found the dough recipe, but I combined it with another recipe that called for oil in the pans. It originally called for 2-3 oz. of oil but that's way too much. I use 2 Tablespoons for a cake pan, and 3 Tablespoons for the big pizza pans.





1 1/3 c. warm water (105° F)

¼ c. nonfat dry milk

1 Tbsp. granulated sugar

1 pkg. yeast

½ tsp. salt

4 c. flour

2 Tbs. oil

Homemade Pizza Dough


1. You can prepare dough for use one day prior to baking the pizza, or use it later the same day.

2. Combine warm water, powdered milk, sugar and yeast in bowl and allow to proof for 2-3 minutes.

3. Put ingredients in large bowl, then add oil, salt and flour.

4. Stir until dough forms and flour is absorbed.

5. Knead for 10 minutes until it has a smooth consistent texture. Rub a light coating of oil on dough and allow to rise in a tightly covered container for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

6. When the dough has doubled, punch it down, reform into ball shape and set in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or overnight. The dough will rise again.

7. An hour before baking pizza, take dough from refrigerator and let warm up.

8. Preheat oven to 475° F Roll the dough out on a floured surface until it fits across pizza pan. Approximately 1/3 pizza dough for small pan. 2/3 pizza dough for large pan.


In regular size, round cake pan, Add 2TBS. vegetable oil to pan and coat then add dough. Brush edges with garlic and rosemary oil or garlic butter. Let rise for 30 min. then add sauce, cheese and toppings. Remember vegetables go under the cheese; meats go on top of the cheese.


Roll out dough very thin and put on large pizza pan coated with 3TBS. vegetable oil. Brush edges with herbed oil or butter, and add sauce, cheese and toppings.

6. Bake pizza for 12-14 minutes or until bubbly.

At least for my oven, you could probably get away with setting the pizza on the bottom rack to make the crust more crispy. But the oil in the pan helps brown the crust, and my rack was second from the bottom. The crust was limp, yet browned, but not doughy. I may try the bottom rack next time.

Pizza Dough

I learned this fancy-schmancy crust technique when I was teenager working at the local dive-of-a-restaurant. Who knew it'd come in handy again.



Here's the pan pizza. I just make the dough the size of the inside of the cake pan, and let it rise for 30 min. then add the sauce and toppings. It's almost like a personal pan pizza.

Pizza Hut Pan Pizza Copycat



You've probably seen the Hormel pepperoni at the grocery store, and it works great. BUT, be sure to microwave the pepperonis for 30 sec. or so. And here's why. You don't want all this on your pizza do you?

greasy pepperoni






All done, and it tasted great!

Homemade Pizza Pizza Hut Copycat


Pizza Hut Pan Pizza Copycat


Pizza Hut Pan Pizza Copycat

I tried Stuffed Crust Pizza the next day, with some leftover dough. It might work better with half strips of string cheese.

Stuffed Crust Pizza Stuffed Crust Pizza Stuffed Crust Pizza Pizza Hut Stuffed Crust Pizza Copycat

Read more!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hunting for the Elusive Morel

Wild Morels Walking in the woods is relaxing on its own, but with a little luck, you could come across some of the tastiest morsels of the forest. Once you find your first morel, you’ll be poking around in the brush and rustling through last fall’s leaves to find more. Many people enjoy the hunt, and hunting is the right word when it comes to finding morel mushrooms (actually they’re fungi)… because mother nature doesn’t always cooperate.

When you find one morel, chances are there’s more. Like most fungi, they rely on an underground ‘root’ system that relies on the perfect conditions to grow. Moisture, temperature and other factors dictate when you’ll see the first morels sprouting from the forest floor.

When are morels in season?

The "season" for Morel Mushrooms begins sooner in the southern climates and works its way north as the daytime temperatures warm up. Start looking when temperatures begin to climb into the sixties with low’s in the 40’s. This is approximately mid-April for the Central United States.

Discovered mid-May in a park near Minneapolis, MN


Where in the world do they grow?

It seems morels can grow wherever they want. The picture above is at the edge of a grassy area in a local park. The Great Lakes area seems to be a hotbed for the morel, but their most prolific range seems to be from West to East, Oklahoma to Washington D.C.; and from North to South, Minnesota to Tennessee. But they're can be morel hotspots throughout the West and the Pacific Northwest as well.

Look around downed trees, such as old ash and elms, poplars, aspens and around orchards or even pine trees. Sometimes you’ll see big patches of morels after forest fires or logging operations. The downed trees act as a fertilizer for the morels. Once they start growing they’ll keep coming back until the soil is depleted of the nutrients they need. Many patches will grow for years while others may just appear once.


You found a morel!

Use a mesh bag or an old onion bag. Morels spread with spores and once they’re jostled around they’ll release more spores, hopefully for next year’s harvest.

Cooking Morels Once you find a morel, you can just pinch it off at the base. You’ll notice the morel begins to darken along the stem and the cap as it ages. The amount of discoloration indicates whether it’s nearly unusable or not. If the morel is 50% “good” then you can pick off the good parts and throw away the bad. With good weather conditions, the morel can last up to two weeks growing out in the wild.

Once you get them home, it’s a good idea to use them within one week. Rinse off any dirt and little critters and then halve them, place them in a bowl and cover with a damp paper towel or cotton cloth and place in the refrigerator.

It’ll take some work and patience, but enjoy the hunt for the elusive morel and it’ll pay off in the end.



KNOW what you’re picking. True morels are hollow, stem to top. False morels either have a complete stem, or have a connection point between a “cap” and stem.

DO NOT rely on just on this page to identify morels. This page does not contain enough complete information to do so.

Technorati Tags: ,,,,
Read more!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

What does "Natural" mean to the FDA?

Here's an enlightening article. You've probably seen the natural claims on various products, and then you try reading the ingredient list. Does corn syrup come from nature? Yes. But is it natural? I think not. It's a cheap, chemical process. Which is why corn syrup is in everything.

7upNatural You've probably seen 7up's claims of all-natural ingredients. But it's certainly not made with real and natural sugar. It's made with high fructose corn syrup. Thanks science!

From the Huffington Post:

Ready for a back-to-school pop quiz? Here goes:

How does the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) define the word “natural” for food products?

Actually, that was a trick question. The agency can’t be bothered to define the term at all.

But that hasn’t stopped manufacturers, eager to bask in the “natural” marketing glow, from shamelessly slapping the word on everything from salad dressing to potato chips. Unlike “organic,” which is legally regulated, “natural,” when seen in the aisles of your local supermarket, can mean pretty much anything the processors like.

Their cynicism, as evidenced during a recent stroll through the fruit juice department of my nearest grocery store, knows no bounds. A citrus drink whose label all but shouted out the word “natural” listed, among its ingredients, caffeine, aspartame, magnesium oxide, potassium bicarbonate, calcium carbonate, and artificial yellow coloring #5.

Is that natural artificial yellow coloring?

Yet, only a few shelves down, I came across another drink bearing a “natural” label, which did seem to be made from ingredients like lemons, sugar, and water. Same claim, very different beverages. Very, very confusing.

Pointing to surveys showing that 83 percent of American consumers want the FDA to come up with regulations governing “natural” claims, industry groups such as the Sugar Association have been lobbying the agency to do something, if only to stop the marketing free-for-all and level the playing field. In response, Geraldine June, head of the Food Labeling Standards Department told the website Natural News last week that her agency hadn’t seen enough evidence that consumers are being misled by the labels for the issue to become a priority.

Then perhaps she could explain the above fruit juice discrepancy.

Or maybe thumb through her own agency’s archives, which indicate that as early as 1993, regulators saw that there was just such a problem and attributed it to “the widespread use of this term, and the evidence that consumers regard many uses of this term as noninformative.” “Noninformative” is bureaucratese for “blatant lies.”

Fifteen years ago, lack of resources was used as an excuse for inaction, according to Natural News. At least Ms. June stays consistent on this point, saying, “The FDA has a limited budget and must prioritize.”

Fair enough. So, as a public service, I am going to provide the FDA with a well-thought-out and practical definition of natural, guaranteed to clear away the confusion. It even has a nice, official tone, and I’m doing all this absolutely free of charge.

“The product does not contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient or chemical preservative, or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed.”

Okay, okay, I plagiarized. That definition was stolen verbatim from the USDA’s Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book. It has been in effect since 2005. But the USDA’s jurisdiction in this area is pretty much limited to meat and poultry.

If Ms. June is really interested in making the best use of her limited funds (not to mention protecting consumers from being ripped off), I suggest she temporarily adopt the USDA’s definition of natural until the lexicographers at her agency come up with their own. Just don’t hold your breath.

Read more!

A Walk Through the Forest

You Never Know What You'll Find!


It was a warm Memorial Day Weekend here in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and I usually take my dog for a run every morning. But I  decided to take her for a shortcut through a forest area along the sidewalk. And that's where I spotted some wild edibles and flowers. So I had to head back home and grab my camera.

Here was a nice surprise at the border between our local park's grassy area, and the thick forest you see above. It's a morel mushroom, and they taste great. I left this one alone, so maybe it'll make more next spring.


Not sure what these flowers are, but the white one is on some kind of tree. And the pink flower is on a bush that reminds me of a wild flowers-2 







These look like some kind of wild honeysuckles based on their flower shape, but I'm not completely sure about that. Either way, they're pretty to look  flowers-5


Here are some wild Columbines. It seems mother nature has picked this color, as I've seen the same colors on other columbine plants in different flowers-7


Here is an edible. It's called stinging nettle. If your bare leg brushes by it, you'll definitely know what you walked through. It feels like prickly stings all over. But just chopping it, or boiling it like spinach will make the stings inactive.nettle-2 nettle

Here's why they call it stinging nettle.

nettle Stings


Now here's a gooseberry, that obviously doesn't want to get eaten. Here in Minnesota most of the gooseberries turn a deep purple when ripe. gooseberry

Here's a friendlier strain of gooseberry. Notice it doesn't have the thorny look.



A beautiful flower I just happened to find. At first I though it was a wild version of a calla lilly, but I think the flower form is all wrong for it to be that. I'm not sure what it is. The wind had knocked it down when I came back to take its picture, so I had to prop it back up for the perfect picture. UPDATE: It’s a “Jack-in-the-Pulpit”

calla lily-2 calla lily-3


fern A forest wouldn't be complete without ferns!






raspberry bush

Small blackberry bushes grow along the wooded area that borders our local park. On the other side of the park's grassy area you can find blackberries and raspberries when in-season. It's just enough to go on your morning yogurt.



elderberry And finally the spring fruits of the elderberry bush. This particular tree probably won't have many berries as it's really shaded.

Read more!

Friday, May 22, 2009

fastfood@home: Red Robin Seasoning

RedRobinseasoning If you've been into Red Robin, you'll notice they have big shakers full of this seasoning on the tables. It's great on those bottomless steak fries. But you can have it at home too. Ore-Ida offers all kinds of fries in the freezer aisle, including ones that look and taste just like Red Robin's fries. I find that if you cook the fries longer than the directions say, they'll lose that freezer taste.

Just mix this seasoning up and sprinkle on fries, burgers and even steak and chicken. For the life of me, I couldn't find dry tomato soup mix in the stores. But I did find dried tomatoes that I just put into a coffee grinder until it was powdered. It turned out just fine. I'm thinking dried tomato powder may have other applications in the kitchen.


3 tablespoons salt

1 tablespoon instant tomato soup mix 

2 teaspoons chili powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


Just mix together and add to a salt shaker.

Read more!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Peaches & Cream Oatmeal Cookies


It sounds like a surprising combination in a cookie. But it uses white chocolate chips for the cream and dried peaches. The cookie itself is somewhat chewy, yet firm. If you can't find dried peaches (I was lucky) but you can also use apricots.


  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • Pinch salt

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1 large egg

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried peaches

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts

  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with a rack in the middle of the oven.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Slowly add egg and continue mixing. Slowly add flour mixture, oats, peaches, walnuts, and white chocolate chips. Mix until combined.

Line cookie sheets with parchment. Use a scooper or wet hands and make 20 balls from the dough placing evenly on cookies sheets. Press down on cookie dough with palm of your hand to make a flat circle.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden and still a bit tender in the center. Remove from oven and let sit on sheet trays 1 minute. Remove to cooling racks to cool completely.

from Sunny Anderson "Cooking for Real"

Technorati Tags: ,,,
Read more!

The Art of Braising for Beginners

potroast An advantage to buying tough cuts of meat, is the relatively low price. But cooking it can be a nightmare if you're not sure how to do it correctly. That's where braising comes in.

The result is "fall-off-the-bone" meats with great flavor. You can braise in a crock pot, pressure cooker or a large saute pan. Popular dishes that use a braising technique are osso buco, pot roast, braised veal & lamb shanks and braised cabbage. You can braise just about any meat, fish or vegetable.

9 Simple Steps to Great Braised Meat:

(1) Season the main ingredient with salt and pepper.

(2) Heat a few tablespoons of oil and/or butter in a heavy pan or Dutch oven.

(3) Saute meat or vegetables in the pan on medium-high heat until the meat browns.

(4) Deglaze the pan by pouring broth, stock, wine or juice and scrape any pieces of meat that are stuck to the pan and stir.

(5) Add cooking liquid (water, stock, wine, juice or some combination) to the half-way point of the main ingredient.

(6) Cover and place the meat on the middle of a rack in an oven that has been pre-heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

(7) Cook until completely tender. This can range from 1 hour to 6 hours, depending on what you are cooking.

(8) Remove the pan from the oven and strain the meat and vegetables out of the liquid.

(9) Remove the excess fat floating in the liquid, and then reduce the sauce to desired thickness by cooking it down over low heat until it thickens. Or, make gravy by adding a mix of equal parts fat and flour (a roux).

Technorati Tags: ,,
Read more!

Soda Nostalgia with real sugar


Do you wish your favorite sodas would taste they way you remember them? Now's your chance. Pepsi Co. has unveiled their Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback. So what makes this retro look taste like the past? It's made with real sugar.

A little digging reveals it actually is real sugar... a blend of cane and beet sugars. For some it's a trip down memory lane, but for others it's a way to taste the soda formulas from the 60's and 70's.

You might think Pepsi is responding to the "high fructose corn syrup" backlash. But they of course, give no indication why they're introducing these retro sodas now, even as many people look for products without HFCS.

I've taste tested both Throwbacks, and needless to say, I only tried them once. You see, I grew up on HFCS, and these "real sugar" formulas taste very different from their HFCS siblings. They don't seem to have the "bite" that I'm used to. But the sodas do seem to taste a lot smoother.

It's a taste that some would have to get used to. And for others, it'll take you back to a simpler time, where sweets were actually made with sugar. But you'll want to try the Throwbacks now, they're here only for a limited time.

Read more!