RECIPE: Bread-Machine Pizza Dough

Pizza Night at our place is generally a big deal. Sometimes we order in from our favorite pizza joint, Buccaneer Pizza, and sometimes it’s frozen pizza from Trader Joe’s (even Costco if our friend Eric is bringing the feast). As of late I’ve been making pizza from scratch at home, with pizza dough and sauce TJs, but I have friends who always make their own pizza dough and claim it’s as easy as pie (sorry ’bout the pun). So after tooling around with some recipes online, I came up with this one. It uses a bread machine, so if you have one gathering dust in the highest cabinet in your kitchen, it’s time to crawl up there and bring it down for a test run. In my bread machine the whole recipe takes less than 90 minutes, which is less time than it would take for me to go to TJs, get completely sidetracked be all the other cool stuff I want to buy, and drive home.

Incidentally when I’m using fresh dough I generally do not make one big pizza. Instead I make tiny pizzas in muffin tins (big thanks to Catherine at weelicious for the inspiration on that one). This recipe made 2 dozen pizza muffins.

8 oz light-colored beer, room temperature (I used Peroni, which is an Italian lager)

2 T. butter

2 T. sugar

1 t. salt

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (try using one with a high-protein content so that your crust is chewier, like King Arthur)

2 1/4 tsp. yeast (1 packet)

olive oil


Put all ingredients except olive oil in a bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (note: in my case, it went flour, salt, sugar, butter, yeast, beer). Select Dough setting, and press “Start”. Remove dough from bread machine when cycle is complete.

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RECIPE: Zucchini Pancakes

Have you planted zucchini in your garden before? Then you know to expect that at the end of the season you are going to have zucchini up to your elbows and struggle to find a way to use them all. This recipe is delicious in spring when the zucchini in the market are small and delicate, but I think it’s perfectly matched for those big pigs you’ll have at the end of summer. I think it would also work well with goat cheese or blue cheese, if you’re not a big fan of feta.


1.5 lbs. zucchini, grated (4 to 5 cups)

1 T. salt

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1 c. all-purpose flour

3 eggs

2 T. parsley, very finely chopped

2 t. mint, finely chopped

Pepper to taste

8 oz. fat-free Greek yogurt

2 T. fresh dill, chopped


Grate zucchini into a large mixing bowl and stir in salt. Place in a sieve and let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse and let stand for another15 minutes. Squeeze excess water from zucchini (a dishtowel is perfect for this task) and return to the bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly. Form mixture into 12 equal size patties.

Coat a large skillet with canola oil and heat on medium-high until almost smoking. Fry in batches until golden, 4 to 5 minutes and then transfer to warm oven.

Mix yogurt with dill and chill until ready to serve.

Transfer pancakes to platter for serving and add yogurt on the side.

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RECIPE: Turkey Stroganoff “Helper”

DH loooooves Hamburger Helper. DH is also a type-1 diabetic, with a number of health complications as a result of years of minimal compliance with the recommended diet and exercise regimen for diabetics. Astonishing as it is (or not), Hamburger Helper is not a diabetic-friendly processed food. It’s high in fat, higher in carbs and disturbingly high in sodium content. So I try to find other dishes that will fulfill his desire for that kind of beef-and-noodle kind of dish. I tooled around with the “slow food” versions of the ingredients in his favorite HH flavor — stroganoff — and this is what I came up with. DH ate three servings of it, and then said it was “just OK” because he doesn’t like the blandness of ground turkey. That said, if you use a super-lean ground beef, like a grass-fed sirloin, you could get that beefy flavor with a comparable fat content. (Incidentally, the others at the table scarfed theirs down and also requested seconds. I guess it’s purely a matter of preference.)


– 1 box low-carb/high-fiber egg noodles (I used the Al Dente Carba-Nada egg fettuccine, 10 oz. bag)

–  1 T. olive oil

–  1 large onion, chopped

–  1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced (I used crimini, elsewhere known as baby portabellas)

– salt and pepper to taste

–  2 garlic cloves, minced

–  1/2 cup white wine, use divided

–  1 lb. ground lean turkey

–  2 tablespoons cornstarch

–  1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

–  Pinch cayenne pepper

–  2 t. poppy seeds

–  1 pint plain low-fat Greek yogurt

– 2 T. flat-leaf parsley, chopped fine

Cook egg noodles as per the manufacturer’s directions. Drain and set aside.

In a large skillet, add the olive oil and heat to almost smoking over medium high heat. Add the onions and mushrooms, and saute until mushrooms are softened and the onions are turning golden brown. Add a dash of salt and pepper (the salt will pull the last of the water out of the vegetables) as well as the garlic, and continue to saute, about 5 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan to a heatproof bowl. Deglaze the pan with white wine, picking up the fond on the bottom of the pan, and add this liquid to bowl with the vegetables.

Reduce the heat on the pan to medium and add the turkey. Brown the meat until all traces of pink have disappeared, about 10 minutes, and then drain any fat from the pan. Sprinkle the cornstarch over the meat and toss to coat. Stir in the broth, the remaining wine, and the vegetables, and bring to a simmer, about 5 minutes.

Stir until sauce thickens. Add additional salt and pepper, the cayenne and the poppy seeds. Add the egg noodles and stir to combine. Remove from heat; stir in yogurt. Remove to a serving platter. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Serves 4-6.

Categories: Cooking, Food, type 1 diabetes | 1 Comment

RECIPE: French Onion Gratin


1/2 c. unsalted butter

5 lbs. white onions, thinly sliced

¼ c. Amontillado sherry

¼ c. Worcestershire sauce

2 t. dried thyme

1 T. chicken stock concentrate

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 c. coarsely grated Gruyère cheese

1 t. finely chopped flat-leaf parsley


In a large pot, melt the butter over low heat. Add the onions and about 1 teaspoon salt and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until they are deeply browned and reduced to marmalade consistency, about 3 hours.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the sherry, Worcestershire, thyme, chicken stock concentrate, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook over low heat until the liquid is reduced, about 5 minutes.
Preheat the broiler. Divide the caramelized onions between shallow, heatproof bowls or serving dishes (such as gratin dishes or ramekins). Cover with the Gruyère, dividing it equally between the dishes. Broil until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, about 4 minutes. Garnish with the parsley. Cool slightly; serve with baguettes and sliced apples for dipping.

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RECIPE: Linguine with Spinach and Wild Mushrooms


  • 1 1/2 oz. dried wild mushrooms (morels are awesome in this dish)
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 lb. linguine
  • 1 1/2 c. baby spinach
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 1/4 c. white truffle oil

Soak mushrooms for 30 minutes  in enough cold water to cover them. Rinse and chop very fine.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta according to the producer’s directions;  drain and immediately add to skillet with mushrooms.  Add spinach and toss to combine, using the heat of the pasta to wilt the spinach. Add the Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil, again tossing to combine. Serve hot.

Serves 4 to 6.

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OK, so… Easter.

Easter was a really pleasant day. Like one of those days where you actually fall asleep smiling as you drift off, just reviewing the preceding hours in your mind.

We started the day with a late-morning brunch at my parents’ house. Their backyard is mind-boggling. There is a pool,  an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace, and even a waterfall made from rocks that they have collected from their trips to the mountains over the years. It’s *that* cool. So of course we braved the drizzly weather to enjoy brunch in the backyard. Mostly straightforward brunch-y stuff: eggs, grilled ham, toast/bagels/English muffins, fresh fruit, coffee and juice. Basic stuff. But there were a couple special items on the table as well. Armenian nibbles! Yay! Mom drove out to Anaheim to buy basterma (paper-thin slices of buttery, spicy, air-dried beef, not unlike pastrami), good Armenian string cheese and lahmejun (the Armenian version of pizza: spicy flatbread with veggies and sometimes meat). Just forget everything else on the table. These little morsels of mezze are what I’m really craving. There isn’t much on the table, so most of us are being very selective about how much we eat. Neither DH or DS care for basturma or lahmejun, which is fine with me because that means I get their portion.

After we got home and DS is down for a nap, I grab the keys and I’m off to Trader Joe’s. I admit it; I have a “thing” about shopping at TJ’s. I always go in with a list, and then I buy an additional 50% of new-and-interesting-and-oh-jeez-I-better-buy-that-because-next-week-it-could-be-discontinued stuff. You can find me there at least once a week, usually on Sunday, prepping the fridge and pantry for a week of culinary craziness.

Fast forward to 6:30ish. The house is clean, the table is set, the wine glasses are polished, friends have arrived and I am ready to ROCK AND ROLL. I start rapid-firing courses out to the table. The first is Ceaser salad, with homemade dressing and homemade garlic Parmesan croutons. The out goes the traditional Gruyere fondue (I’m not taking any credit for that one; it’s a microwave-ready cheese-o-rama from TJ’s). Next is the French onion gratin (like French onion soup, but without the soup part). There’s bread and apples and raw vegetables and wine being passed around the table. The whirlwind starts to die down, so I go in for another kill: linguine tossed with wild mushrooms, baby spinach, Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil. The red wine gets passed around. We are talking politics and culture and whatnot, but every sentence is peppered with praise for the food on the table. I am  so happy that I forget (for the moment) what my kitchen looks like.

After DS is put to bed, we move the party to the living room. Time for dessert! Someone has brought an angel food cake, which I lay out buffet-style with vanilla bean ice cream (TJ’s), sliced strawberries, sliced pineapple, chocolate sauce (TJ’s) and fleur de sel caramel sauce (TJ’s). There’s a general feeling of contentment in the air. All of a sudden we realize it’s 11:30, and we all start clearing away dishes. They get piled upon piles in the kitchen. It starts to look like a scene from a Shel Silverstein poem, but I tell everyone I’ll deal with it later. Guests shuffle out the door, filled with dairy products and pasta and good cheer. Shortly thereafter I too shuffle off, this time for bed, wearing the aforementioned smile as I drift off to sleep.

Then Monday morning comes. And until I round the corner into the kitchen, I have somehow forgotten what is waiting for me in there.

Can someone call ServPro?

Who's gonna clean up that mess?

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Our Easter Oeno-experience

Easter 2011, I must say, was pretty cool. So cool, in fact, that the exploits of the day are going to have to be broken down into several posts. Well, at least a couple. But this aspect of Easter definitely deserves stand-alone recognition.

Some of you may know that, in another lifetime, I was in the wine business. My first job in wine, as a matter of fact, was at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa, CA.  I still have relationships with a few of the people I met there. One of those is John Downing, who is my go-to guy for recommendations on Italian (and other) wines. So when I found myself inviting an ex-pat Italian — from Rome, to be exact — to Easter dinner, I knew I was going to have to do something special. So I trotted over to Hi-Time when I knew John would be in the cellar, and I waited.

Pretty soon John was able to break away and spend a few minutes with me. I need help, I said.

Your mom’s a therapist, he said.

Not that kind of help, I said. (Yes, we have that kind of friendship.)

And I boiled it down for him: I wanted two bottles of wine, one each red and white, and I wanted them from the Emilia-Romagna region. (Rome is located in the Emilia-Romagna, and our dinner guest was Roman, so I wanted to do my best to make him feel welcome.)

John chuckles and scratches his head and starts kicking some thoughts around. At first, he thinks he only has one — a Sangiovese/Cabernet  blend. Thirteen bucks. I’m on it. But what about white? It takes him another minute, but he produces one more bottle for me: a white, this one a varietal called Albana. Not very acidic, very round, a little sweetness. I shrug and take the bottle. Could be great, could be gross. We’ll find out tomorrow. I go home and put the red on the sideboard and the white goes in the fridge.

So now it’s Easter dinner and our guest has arrived. He’s affable and charming, and is quite engaging in conversation. He compliments everything that comes out of the kitchen. One of our friends asks if he can open the wine. Go ahead, I say, I’m busy in the kitchen. So a couple minutes later, I get handed a glass of the Albana. It’s reminiscent of honey and pears, kind of like a Greek dessert. I take a sip. I swear if you had not told me this was Albana, I would have put money on it being an unoaked Chardonnay. Barely sweet, fat, not woody. Not normally my kind of white wine, but I have to say it was a killer match for the Ceaser salad and the fondue I was laying out on the table. So I was pleased. I was also pleased that our Roman friend was enjoying himself.

Finally I get the pasta on the table, and it’s time to get the red wine into the glasses. The bottle has been open for an hour or so, but not decanted. Didn’t matter; it was pretty young, but not tight at all, so it did just fine being poured straight away. I generally don’t get excited about Sangiovese, but this was yummy. The nose was like the darkest red roses you’ve ever smelled, and in the mouth it was rich but not tannic. It was a perfect foil for our pasta with spinach/wild mushrooms/truffle oil.

It was no surprise when the bottles were completely drained. Nor was it a surprise when our Italian friend reached for second glasses of each with a big smile on his face. I’m sure someone dead and famous once said that wine is the lubrication to make fast and lasting friends of us all, but for the life of me I don’t know who that might be. So maybe it’s me. After I’m dead, be sure to quote me.

FATTORIA MONTICINO ROSSO 2009 ALBANA, $12.98 and DREI DONA 2009 SANGIOVESE CABERNET “ROSENERE”, $12.95; both at Hi-Time Wine Cellars.

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Recipe: Chicken and Snow Pea Stir-Fry

Yay, my first recipe! Hope you enjoy it. This was really quick and easy. Incidentally, the chicken I used for the stir-fry was cooked in the crock pot. I put several pounds of boneless/skinless chicken thighs (much less expensive than breast meat + much more flavorful than breast meat = my choice for chicken) along with a beer and a few dried bay leaves. They cooked on high for three hours.  It came out a little stringy but completely delicious. I served the stir-fry with udon noodles that I found at Costco and had in the back of the fridge, just waiting for me to find some kind of inspiration for them. The noodles got a quick pan-fry treatment with sesame oil and a little of the chicken broth/beer “juice” from the crock pot. Stroke of genius, that was — they came out amazing. Not nearly as bland as udon normally does.


  • 2 T. cornstarch
  • 1 t. agave nectar
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 T.  reduced-sodium  soy sauce
  • 1 T. sesame oil
  • 2 c. julienne-cut carrots
  • 2 c. fresh snow pea pods (or sugar snap peas)
  • 2 T. fresh ginger, fresh
  • 4 c. cooked chicken,  cut into bite size chunks
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced on the bias, about 1″ pieces
  • 1 T. sesame seeds


In a small bowl, combine cornstarch, agave nectar, water and soy sauce, blending until smooth. Set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Add carrots and stir to coat. Saute about 3 minutes. Add peas and ginger and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Stir in chicken and cornstarch mixture. Cook, stirring, until mixture thickens and is thoroughly heated. Add green onions to the stir-fry and saute for about another minute, until the onions start to look glossy and bright green. Transfer to platter. Before serving, sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Serve with rice or noodles.

Serves 4 to 6.

Categories: Cooking, Food | 1 Comment

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