Wednesday, April 26, 2006

This blog has moved!!!

I'm packing my bags and moving this blog!

You can catch up on what I'm eating here.

Please update your feeds, bookmarks, etc.

See you at the new blog!!!

Mmmmmmm pizza

So there's this pizza from a takeout place I love. It's not at all a traditional pizza - no tomato sauce and not a lot of cheese. What kind of freaky pizza am I talking about???

Spinach pizza.

Yep. It may sound weird but it's oh so yummy. The pizza at the pizza place has a base of pesto sauce topped with spinach, diced tomato, red pepper and feta (I think that's all...that's all the stands out in my mind anyway). I've been thinking for awhile that I need to attempt to recreate it but I never seemed to have all the ingredients on hand at the same time. Then this whole veggie box came my way and presto! I had almost everything.

It really doesn't take more than 10-15 minutes to make this pizza dough and it makes enough for one decent sized pizza or two small personal sized ones. Please note that this if for a handmade dough. I don't use a food processor. I don't own a food processor. If you want to give me a food processor I'll gladly accept it though. ;-)

Basic Pizza Dough
2 cups all-purpose flour (if you want to have a whole-wheat or multigrain crust replace 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat or multigrain flour)
1 1/2 tsp quick-rising (instant) dry yeast
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup hot water (120F/50C)
2 tsp olive oil

In bowl, combine flour, yeast and salt. With a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the water and olive oil (I add the olive oil to the water, it's just easier that way) until dough forms. At this point I normally toss the wooden spoon and use my hands. When I comes to dough I tend to be a "hands on" person.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead 8 minutes or until smooth and elastic (mine was fine after about 5 minutes). You're going to want a stable surface. Personally I prefer countertops. When I knead I tend to put my weight behind it and, well, tables move.

When you've kneaded your dough, place it in a bowl greased with olive oil, turning the dough so that it's greased on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. I like to place it on top of the stove and turn the oven on low so there's a steady warmth around the dough. But I live in a basement. If I had a kitchen that got sun I'd place it on the sunny countertop or table.

While the dough was rising I plotted the rest of my meal. I don't really like pesto. I know, somewhere out there someone just fell over. Sorry. I can't help it. But I needed something to get that basily, garlicky flavour in there.

*warning* The following section contains no actual measurements - the measurements are really just guestimations. When I cook I do not measure although measuring is essential for baking until you get really, really good at it (takes way longer than with cooking).

I poured about 1/4 cup of olive oil into a bowl. I then added about 1 tablespoon of dried basil and whisked it together. I minced 2 garlic cloves with some salt until they were almost a paste. I added this to the olive oil, stirred it all together with my mini-whisk and let it sit so the basil could rehydrate.***

I took stock of how much feta I had in the fridge and decided that it might not be enough. So I hoofed it to the grocery store to be greeted with my approximation of hell. For someone reason everyone and their children decided to go grocery shopping at the exact same time I did. And the store was short-staffed so there were only 3 cashiers. I wandered around and even though I had only come for feta, cereal (which I almost forgot to get) and some cleanser I ended up getting way more. I was hoping that by taking extra time the lines would magically disappear. They didn't. And there seemed to be a lot of shrieking children in line. When I got through the cashier I practically bolted out of the store (I actually thought about abandoning my groceries because I couldn't take the shrieking but I might need that feta!) .

By the time I got home and put away my goodies it was time to rescue the rising dough.

I turned the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and kneaded it for a minute or two to deflate it. Then I rolled it out (I couldn't get it to stretch on its own). When I got it to the size and shape that I wanted I placed it on a baking sheet and let it rest for 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 500F.

During that 15 minutes I washed, dried and chopped the spinach. Maybe about a 1 cup of fresh spinach after it was chopped? I sort of guessed on how much it would take to cover my dough. I think next time I'll use a bit more. I seeded and chopped about 2 tablespoons of tomato and about an equal amount of red pepper.

The dough had sit for 15 minutes by the time. I spread the olive oil, basil, garlic mixture over the pizza dough with a pastry brush (I ended up not using all of the olive oil but I did use most of it). I spread the chopped spinach over the olive oil mixture, followed by the tomatoes and red pepper. Then I crumbled lots of feta over the top. I used lots of feta. Mmmmm It was ready to go.

I popped the pizza in my 500F oven and baked for 10 minutes. When I pulled it out I transferred the pizza to a cooling rack. My baking sheets tend to cause the bottom of everything to brown up a lot and I didn't want it to brown too much. I wish I had a camera so I could show how perfectly it came out. Oh well, use your imagination. It looked *good*.

Since it was on the cooling rack and I don't have a pizza cutter anyway so I cut my pizza with scissors. I ate two pieces and dipped my crusts in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. And I have leftovers for tomorrow.

Perfect!

***If you actually like pesto instead of my olive oil base just spread it so that it lightly covers the dough. You don't want it to be too thick because they flavour could overpower the veggies. Also with pesto, the pizza as a whole is a wee bit drier than with the olive oil I used.

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Pizza project

There is a pizza experiment going on at Casa di Scimmia.

I will give details later. I have to run out for feta right now while the dough is rising.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

I have a bigger problem than the beets...

The veggies are here! The veggies are here!

It's kinda funny. I just got a rubbermaid container of veggies delivered to me. lol It strikes me as funny.

But I realized that I have a bigger problem than beets. Among this week's stash was a potted basil plant. Ummm I have a black thumb. I've been know to kill a cactus or 2 (or um 3...) in my time. How the heck am I going to remember/manage to keep a basil plant alive??? I've put it the sunniest of my unsunny windows. Unfortuanately that means i can't see it. Maybe we ought to start taking bets on how long before the Monkey kills the Basil???

Oh and the baby bokchoy is adorable. :)

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Woohoo!

I called Green Earth Organics today and it turns out my order did go through and it starts tomorrow. Yay!

Now I just gotta figure out what to do with those beets. I was looking at recipes today. The recipes with roasted beets were sounding the most appealing to me today.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

New Food Frontiers

I just did something that I'm both excited about and scared about. lol

Can you guess???? I bet you can't! Cause it's not something that I've ever really talked about here or anywhere else but it's been on my mind for *months*.

I just signed up for biweekly organic vegetable delivery!!!

I first heard of such services about 4 or 5 years ago when I was working at the McGill bookstore. (Wow! Has it really been that long???) One of my fellow cashiers, who happened to share my name (not Zoe - the other one, lol), was talking about how she and her roomies got a box of food from an organic farm delivered on a regular basis (I think their service may have been monthly but I'm not sure). At the time she was complaining because they had 3 heads of cabbage and no clue what to do with them. They made soup and that took up one head but had no idea what to do with the rest. I looked up some recipes for her and passed them along on our next shift together. And then I stopped thinking about it.

But never completely. Every now and then I would google organic food delivery services just to see what was out there. Generally speaking the services seems like too much food for me or were just too expensive for my budget at the time. Shortly after I ditched the Roomies From Hell and got my own place I was doing some google and I found this service - Green Earth Organics. Every couple of months I'll look it up and stare at the page. And hem and haw and then decide not to do it. The organic part of it wasn't positively vital to me but it is nice, I'll admit. I love organic apples.

Today I looked at it and really thought about it. And then I pinged some friends of mine that were online and asked them what they thought of it. And the overall verdict was go for it. So I did. I originally looked at getting the small box once a week but I was a bit wary about that. So I decided to opt for the family sized box biweekly (I figure I can always "upgrade" to a smaller weekly box after I see how it goes.)

Why did I do it now and not months ago? A number of factors. One is that I've been buying most of my fruits and veggies at the St. Lawrence Market (my local grocery store sucks). Don't get me wrong, I *love* the market. But with summer on the horizon I want to be able to not have to spend almost every Saturday lugging a backpack full of veggies back to my place on the streetcar. My local butcher does also sell organic veggies but I really think that this box is a better deal and it's probably a better bang for my buck than a trip to Whole Foods.

Secondly, work really has gotten busier lately. To the point where I've had to work a weekend here and there. And that means no veggie expeditions. Also since work has gotten busier I've been eating poorly. This past week hasn't been as bad as the previous two weeks but to be honest, that wouldn't be hard.

So I figured I have do something. So this is what I came up with. I figure it's best to start with a biweekly plan to a) see how well I'm able to incorporate these fruits and veggies into my diet and b) see how I deal with it financially. Personally I think around $100/month on fruits and veggies sounds about right.

I'm not sure if my delivery will start this week or next week. But if it starts this week I think the only question is this - what the hell am I gonna do with 1 lb of beets?????

Edit: There appears to be a problem with their online sign-up so my order didn't go through. I left a message on their machine today so hopefully they will get back to me tomorrow morning. If not I'll call them again in the afternoon. Since delivery day for my area is Tuesday I'm not sure I'll make it for this week.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Proof

Have you ever suspected that Kraft Dinner (or Kraft Mac n Cheese for you weird Americans) didn't really contain cheese? I may have proof.

Piper - the cheese goddess - refuses to touch it. She turns her nose up at it. She will eat Cheesewiz. She'll eat that weird cheese jalapeno dip that Tostitos makes. She'll eat every cheese know to man from goat cheese, to triple cream Brie, to stilton with cranberries, to Cracker Barrel cheddar. But Kraft Dinner??? No way. Not gonna happen. She'll look at you condescendingly as if you say "You can't fool me!" and walk away. Her verdict is that it is not cheese.

I think I'll take her word on it.

(Yes, I'll give the Piper/cheese posting a rest for awhile after this, lol.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Meal Assembly Services (again)

I originally posted about a meal assembly service I saw in the news back in February (clicky). Elaine Magee, aka the Healthy Recipe Doctor, just posted this article on the assembly services popping up in the US. She also has provided nutritional information where available (I still can't find nutritional info on the Supperworks site).

I still don't think that this is a good idea for me for a variety of reasons. The serving sizes aren't geared towards the single person (I'm really not their target demographic). I think it's too expensive for me (12 entrees [each entrée serves 4-6 people] = $279.00 [$3.88 per serving based on six servings per entrée] and they charge $15* to split the 12 entrees into 24 that serve 2-3 people [still too much food for me]). And I don't have enough freezer space. Plus I really am able to make most of the dishes they offer and I don't see the need to pay other people to do it for me. If I were working at my old job and we were in our busy season and dinners were not provided it might be tempting even with all the above going against it.

Supperworks seems to gaining popularity. They opened in November and have gone from 35 to 300 clients a month. According to their website they are planning to open up locations in Newmarket, Toronto, Etobicoke, Ottawa, Kitchener/Waterloo and London (I also saw an Alberta based company was planning to expand into London). They also now offer gift certificates which I think could be a great gift for new or expecting moms.

* I misquoted the first time and said $40.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Honey We're Killing the Kids

Despite the fact that I felt horrible on Monday, having worked with a migraine and having a really stressful day overall, I stayed up long enough to watch Honey, We're Killing the Kids on TLC. A brief description from the show's website says:

Honey We're Killing the Kids! offers a startling look at the causes of America's childhood obesity epidemic and issues a critical wake-up call for parents. In the series, nutrition expert Dr. Lisa Hark shows how everyday choices can have long-term impacts on children, and offers both the motivation and the know-how to help turn these families’ lives around.

I had to let this sit for a few days while I digested it. I think at the foremost I think that three weeks is really too short of a time to tell if the family is really going to stick with it. How many people do you know that have done diets for a few weeks and then totally dropped off of them?

Secondly - in regards to the episode last Monday - I think that having them make tofu for dinner on the very first night of their new meal plan was just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I know adults who won't touch the stuff (see Kyle's comment here about a tofu recipe that I posted). Expecting three kids who are used to eating total junk to dive into a plate of tofu stirfry is a stretch.

Thirdly - at no time during the three weeks when she was giving the family their weekly tasks did the expert recommend/prescribe/whatever exercise for the kids or the parents! Yes, the mother did join a gym but it was her choice to do it for her "down" time.

Fourthly - I'm not really sure what I think about leaving all the junk food that they pulled from the snack cupboard in easy access (and I can't believe how much junk food they had!). I get the whole learning to resist bad food thing and learning to make good food decisions but part of me feels like they were just setting the kids up to get in trouble.

Finally - I didn't like to host. It didn't seem as though she was very involved. On one hand that's probably a good thing because the family really is responsible for their actions and activities. They really did seem to be mostly doing things on their own. But on the other hand, it really didn't seem like she had a connection with the family other than walking into the house for 10 minutes a week and telling them what to do. And I just didn't like her. She just seemed very cold.

I'll be very interested in seeing them do a follow up show.

Note to self...

I have to go to the dollar store at some point this week and buy aluminum pans with covers. I'm craving casseroles. Craving casseroles is an odd thing for me although it does happen from time to time. I did not grow up eating casseroles. Did anyone just fall down??? You see, my family ate meat and potatoes (along with a vegetable) almost every night. Or some variation of meat and potatoes - sometimes it was fish and chips, lol. It was very rare that the pattern was changed. Sometimes my mother would make a big batch of pasta sauce (err until I got older and started doing it better than she did). On nights like that she and I would eat pasta and my stepfather would eat meat and potatoes (he really didn't like anything other than meat and potatoes). Sometimes on the weekends I would make pizza. My mother might eat part of it but mostly it was just me. (I'm very thankful that my mother did let me experiment in the kitchen when I was younger - I like meat and potatoes but not every day.)

I don't think I ever tried a casserole until I was in my early teens (honestly! We didn't even make shepards pie at my house!). By then my older sister had moved out and had embraced them. To be honest, I wasn't crazy about them. And I'm still not a huge fan of them. I'm really not used to using canned ingredients. Almost everything at home was made from scratch.

Through the years I have found a few casseroles I like, especially hashbrown casserole (also called Cheesy Potatoes by Calleen). But there's still a problem - casseroles make too darned much food for one person! So my solution? Split it between several aluminum pans (buy the ones with covers) and freeze them. That way I get casserole without having to eat the whole darned thing. ;-)

So I'm thinking that next weekend I may stock up on ingredients and make a couple of casseroles to pop in the freezer. Or maybe I'll give one to my friend who can't cook to save his life.

And now I'm going to go back to trolling for recipes on the iVillage message boards. I haven't done that in *ages* and I've already found a few I want to try in the next few weeks.

So many recipes...so little time...