30-Minute Meals: pizza, pizza!

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I shared my sourdough starter journey in a previous post, and one of my favorite ways to use excess starter is in pizza dough. If you have starter, use this recipe, and if not, use this one. In the first one, it mentions adding “pizza dough flavor” to the dough. No idea what that means. I simply add a bit of garlic salt, pepper, and herbs (thyme, oregano) to my dough. I usually make my dough the night before, but you can make it the same day, just budget in 2-4 hours ahead of time.

I like to make two smaller pizzas for ~*variety*~, so here are two of my favorite combinations, plus a recipe for a classic red sauce, if you want to go traditional!

Pesto Pizza:
— 4-ish tbsp pesto (recipe here)
— 2 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
— fresh mozzarella (tip: get this from your deli if they have fresh mozz balls)
— 4-5 slices prosciutto (tip: get it freshly sliced from your deli. it’s 1/2 the price and not dried out)
— baby arugula
— balsamic vinegar reduction (optional)

  • After par-baking your dough, smear pesto all around. Lay down your tomatoes. Top with mozz. Bake until mozz is bubbling. Top with proscuitto and either A) put it back in the oven to get crispy or B) lay it on top and let melt. Top it all off with arugula and balsamic.

BBQ Pizza:
— BBQ sauce
— pulled chicken or pork (use up leftovers here!) or one sliced, cooked andouille sausage
— sauteed, caramelized onions and bell peppers
— fresh mozzarella
— avocado (optional)

  • After par-baking your dough, spread BBQ sauce all around. Sprinkle meat of choice and onions/peppers all around. Top with mozz and cook until cheese is browned. Top with avocado.

Classic Pizza Red Sauce:
— 1/4 onion, finely diced
— 4ea garlic cloves, finely minced
— 5ea roma tomatoes (or equivalent of whatever is freshest)
— 2tbsp tomato paste
— olive oil
— 1tsp fresh oregano
— 1tsp fresh thyme
— 1tbsp fresh basil, chiffonade
— garlic salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. Sautee onion in olive oil until caramelized. (Take the time, build the flavor, its worth it.)
  2. Add garlic once onions are golden-brown.
  3. Once garlic is golden, add tomatoes. Use juices from tomatoes to scrape up any yummy bits from the bottom of the pan.
  4. Reduce, reduce, reduce. Once the tomatoes are cooked down, add tomato paste and olive oil until slightly thinner-than-desired consistency is reached. Let reduce some more. (Reduction = less water = more flavor concentration.)
  5. Add herbs, garlic salt, and fresh pepper. Taste. Adjust accordingly.
  6. Use right away or store for later. Leftovers can also double as a starting point for most pasta red sauces.

Get creative and mix and match ingredients! Pizza is a great way to use up leftovers or vegetables that are going to go bad soon. Making it at home is exponentially cheaper than ordering takeout. I always recommend getting your charcuterie (prosciutto, pepperoni, salami, etc.) from the deli vs. prepackaged. 1) It’s legitimately half the price, 2) it’s so much fresher and softer, and 3) less single-use plastic waste. Also, buy fresh mozzarella from the deli or as a log. Any other cheeses, buy in a block and grate at home. Pre-sliced/pre-shredded cheeses don’t melt as well. Making pizza at home is fairly simple, a fun group activity, and besides prepping dough ahead of time, it’s a quick dinner to throw together after a long day. Plus, who doesn’t like pizza? (A/N: If you don’t like pizza, don’t @ me. Idc. Pizza is dope.)

Cheers,
Erin

let’s get basic: part two, pesto edition

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Talk pesto to me, baby. There are a few things that I always keep on hand, which I will cover in this ‘basics’ series. Pesto is one of them. You can put it on toast with eggs, add to pasta, eat with fresh bread or tomatoes, add it to a salad or quinoa bowl, toss it on roasted vegetables or poultry, use it as a pizza base–SO MANY OPTIONS! Make a large batch and it lasts a few weeks. It’s such a quick and easy way to add flavor to things you already eat.

Basic Pesto:
— basil (one large clamshell container or three smaller containers)
— 1/4 cup pine nuts
— 1/2 cup evoo
— 1/2 cup parmesan, freshly grated
— 6-8 cloves garlic, peeled
— salt & pepper, to taste

**equipment needed: food processor (optional but highly recommended), mason jar

  1. Are you ready for this? Throw everything in the food processor (literally don’t cut a thing) and puree until smoothish. Taste and season as necessary.

A few notes:

  • You can make this by hand but it involves a lot of chopping. Still worth it.
  • The garlic will taste a little sharp at first, give it time to sit and mellow out.
    • I like to roast my garlic in a pan with the evoo until browned for extra flavor. You can also roast the pine nuts in there as well.
  • Go nuts! You can substitute the pine nuts for pecans or walnuts or cashews. Just make sure they’re not already salted or else you end up with a very salty pesto!
  • Keep in mind that parmesan is very salty on its own when adding seasoning.
  • Throw the whole basil in there, don’t pick off the leaves. Eat them stems!
  • Add sundried tomatoes for a twist. Or jalapeno for a spicy kick.
  • Add more or less evoo for desired consistency. I prefer to leave mine more chunky since I use it primarily as a spread versus a sauce. That way I can add more evoo if I do use it as a sauce. You can always add more oil but you can’t take it away so I err on the side of chunky.

Same as with the vegetable stock, yes, you can buy pesto. But again, this has no preservatives, and you can control the sodium and quality of each ingredient.

Cheers,
Erin

little lucita, the sourdough starter that could

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Recently, a coworker gifted us with some sourdough starter (‘Lucita’, named after the mother starter we got her from, who they called ‘Lucy’. Anyway…). Admittedly, I was daunted after looking up how to care for it, feed it, and just how McFreaking Long it took to make bread. Then, I figured out a system and it has been life-changing. I’m not a pastry pro so I’m going to link you to other recipes, but I want to talk about what I’ve learned and how I have incorporated this into my life in a low maintenance way because there’s a lot of info out there and frankly, who has the time for some of it??

First, I keep our sourdough starter in the fridge until Thursday night, when I pull Lucita out, remove any hooch (ick) that likely formed on top during the week, and add 1/4 cup flour (I like Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour.) and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir into starter. I like to keep a rubber band around our Weck container so I can see how much it rises and falls. I also recommend the Weck container as the top fits loosely enough to allow air to escape as it ferments. I continue feeding my starter morning and night on Friday and Saturday to get the starter nice and active for my Sunday bake, which is my preferred day since I’m typically home all day and have the time to babysit dough for seven hours. (Yes, that’s how long it takes and yes, this is a ‘fast’ way of making bread, haha.) If your starter grows a lot, scoop some out and keep feeding. You can discard the excess or use it for pancakes/waffles or our favorite: pizza dough (see my pizza post here).

Then, on Sunday, I make the bread using this recipe. A few tips:

  • Start early. Start to finish this takes 7 hours, but most of the time is just letting the dough sit and rise, so don’t be daunted!
  • Set timers on your phone.
  • HEAVILY oil the bowl you let your dough rise in, and generously oil your hands each time you handle the dough to avoid frustration.
  • For the first 3 hour rise, I set two timers for 1.5 hours, so I remember to fold the dough halfway through.
  • I use a cast-iron skillet because I don’t have a dutch oven. It works just fine.
  • I do the higher end of the bake time, 15 minutes with lid on and 15 minutes lid off. This gets just the right amount of crusty and prevents a doughy bottom.
  • The bread lasts about a week and a half (if you can resist eating it that long). There are no preservatives in there, so always cut it on a clean board and store it in a bag to prevent molding.

After making the bread dough, I feed the starter one last time and let it sit out for the afternoon to eat it all up before putting it back in the fridge to go (mostly) dormant until Thursday when I bring it back out and do it all over again! I’ve found that as my container gets super dirty (because starter is like glue it’s so sticky), it produces more hooch/alcohol. I clean/swap my container every 2-3 weeks, depending on how grimy it gets.

And that’s it!! It seems like a lot, but just take the plunge and it’ll become a part of your routine. I suggest asking a local bakery if you can have some of their starter, or you can purchase some from King Arthur Flour. Feeding takes 1-2 minutes for a few days, and you ignore it in the fridge for the rest of the days. Making the bread itself only takes a few minutes of effort, the majority of the time is just letting the dough rise. And in the end, you get fresh bread as a reward for your efforts!

Hopefully this is helpful! Bread can be daunting and there are lots of complicated ways to make it, but this is manageable for me. Drop a comment below with any helpful tips or questions! Happy baking!

Cheers,
Erin

chicken & dumpling soup

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Last post we covered vegetable broth. Now, let’s dive into one of my favorite things to make using almost all the same ingredients! Because in this house, we love not wasting food. We also love soup. Also, I’m going to (parenthetically) throw in as many technical terms I possibly can because I had a request to do so, not because I want this to become anything pretentious.

This recipe is a hybrid of chicken & dumplings and chicken noodle soup and honestly, I wish I’d started making it years ago.

Chicken Noodle (Dumpling) Soup:
— 1ea whole roasted chicken
— 1/2 yellow onion, small dice (macedoine, for you knife cut fiends like me)
— 3 carrots, small dice (macedoine, again)
— 4 celery stalks, finely diced (brunoise); set aside celery leaves
— 5 mushrooms, finely diced (brunoise)
— 5 cloves garlic, finely minced
— 2 quarts vegetable stock
— 3-4 dried bay leaves
— 1/2 bunch thyme
— 1 can flaky biscuits
— 1 tbsp celery salt
— salt & pepper to taste

**equipment needed: one large stockpot, cheesecloth, butcher’s twine, roasting pan, rolling pin (or any rolling pin-shaped object, i.e. a wine bottle)

  1. The chicken. You can either A) buy a whole roasted chicken from the store or B) roast one yourself (highly recommend this recipe from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) and make this recipe from the leftovers. Both options turn out great, just depends how much time you have. Regardless, discard the skin, take all the meat off the bones and pull apart. Take the bones and put in the oven at 350 and let them get roasty while you prep everything else.
    • I suggest lining your roasting pan with aluminum foil as it will burn to the pan a little. Also makes capturing any juices released from the bones easier to toss into your pot later because: free, extra flavor. We love that.
  2. Make your mirepoix. This is your onion, celery, carrots, mushroom, and garlic. Toss about 2tbsp butter in your pan. Toss in your mirepoix minus the garlic. Garlic burns so quickly and every recipe adds it in far too early in my opinion. Now, this is going to seem like a lot of vegetables. You’re right. It is. But they’re good for you and they’re going to sweat down. Let everything caramelize a little and then add in the garlic.
    • There are a lot of recipes that literally throw everything into a pot of water and boil it all together. You can do that. It’s faster. But this way allows you to build so many layers of flavor and is going to taste exponentially better. Trust.
  3. Add your broth to the pot and bring to a simmer.
  4. By now your bones should be browned. (If not, throw them on broil but keep an eye on it.) Once they’re cool enough to handle, wrap the bones, bay leaves, and thyme/celery leaves in cheesecloth and tie with butcher’s twine. (A bouquet garni, if you will.) Now, you can just throw the bones/herbs in there, but you have to fish them back out later and I always miss one so this method prevents any surprises down the road when you’re just trying to enjoy some soup. Toss your cloth of goodness into the pot. Add celery salt, a healthy grind of black pepper, and any juices from your roasting pan. Let simmer one hour.
    • You can also chop up the celery leaves and toss them into the soup directly or use as a garnish. They have a lot of flavor and it would be a waste to just toss them out!
  5. Meanwhile, separate your biscuits, and split each biscuit roughly in half once more so they’re not as thick. Use lots of flour on your cutting board and rolling pin. Roll out each half biscuit until about 1/8-1/4″ thick. Cut into strips–choose your own width, I prefer 1″. Set aside until you have a massive mound of “noodles”.
  6. Taste your broth. Salt and pepper accordingly. Once satisfied with your broth, remove the sack-o-bones (bouquet garni). Add in your noodle-dumplings. Broth will not be clear due to all the flour and will thicken. If it gets too thick, add more broth or water. Let noodles cook, about 8 minutes. (Taste-testing encouraged.)
  7. Once noodles are cooked, add in chicken. Let everything simmer together for a few minutes, give it one last taste/season, and then feast!

Cheers,
Erin

let’s get basic: part one, vegetable broth edition

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Why, yes, we are pretending I didn’t take a year-long gap of not posting. And what about it? In the past year and a half, the fiance and I moved from Chicago to the PNW, bought a house, switched jobs, and planned a wedding (that is 30 days from now). Also in the past year, I’ve been promising recipes to friends and haven’t posted them, so here goes:

Let’s talk vegetable stock/broth. I always keep some in the house. It makes rice, quinoa, soups, risotto, literally everything more flavorful and it’s so easy to make.

Vegetable Stock:
— two yellow onions
— three leeks, washed thoroughly
— 5-6 carrots, washed
— one head garlic, cut in half
— one bunch celery
— ten dried bay leaves
— two tbsp black peppercorns
— one bunch thyme
— salt to taste

**equipment needed: 2 large stockpots with lids, a fine-meshed strainer or cheesecloth, lots of tupperware or mason jars for storage

Give the onions, carrots, leeks, and celery a large dice, keeping everything around 2″. (Yes, a very large dice or else you end up with mush.) Doesn’t need to be perfect as you’re just extracting flavor, however, you do want everything similar in size so it cooks evenly. Divide everything between the two biggest pots you have and fill with water. Cover with lids and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and let it do its thing for about 2-3 hours. Taste to see if it needs any more salt and then strain and store in pint-sized containers. Freeze most of your containers, leave a few in the fridge so they’re ready to go when you need them!

A few tips: You don’t need to peel the onion, carrots or garlic, just make sure they’re clean. It’s all flavor so don’t toss it out! Additionally, you can save scraps from previous cooks in a bag in your freezer until you’re ready to make stock. So save the outer layer of your onions, those mushroom stems, and the last bit of herbs you didn’t need and repurpose them into a flavorful broth!

Sure, you can buy broth from the store, but it’s loaded with salt and preservatives. It’s also much more expensive than making it yourself. You can also turn this vegetable stock into chicken/beef/bone broth by saving bones from whatever meals you make, roasting them in the oven, and boiling them in the stock. I’ve been making my own broth for years and I use it for everything I possibly can and it’s definitely worth it.

You’re gonna like the way you cook, I guarantee it.
–me, just now

Cheers,
Erin

Erin Eats: Veggie Burgers

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Welcome to a new segment of the ole blog: Erin Eats! I might not use my culinary degree for much nowadays, but I can still cook my tail off. I’m the world’s worst at following recipes, and even worse at writing my own recipes down. So I’m going to attempt to start logging some of my favorite creations here. Now, a disclaimer: I don’t measure anything. Ever. So you won’t find any teaspoons or tablespoons or ounces here. Strap on your apron, pour yourself a drink, and have yourself a kitchen adventure. Cooking is an art, not a science. (That’s baking. Don’t ask me how to bake.) So to kick off this segment, I’m going to reference one recipe I created by accident, and have recreated multiple times on purpose: sweet potato & black bean burgers. (The accident was my ground turkey was spoiled so I had to get crafty.)

Not my photo, not my recipe, but it’s pretty right? In addition to measurements, I don’t really do food photography. But it’s a nice reference. So let’s dive in to what I lovingly refer to as my recipes. But as Jack Sparrow would say, the rules are really more like guidelines. So have fun with it.

Here’s what you need:
2 large garnet sweet potatoes (Garnet has more flavor imo, but regular works just fine.)
1 can black beans
1 cup oatmeal
2 tbsp(ish) garlic salt
1 tbsp(ish) black pepper
1 tsp(ish) cumin
1 tsp(ish) paprika

Optional but recommended accouterments:
roasted garlic hummus (or whatever flavor you prefer)
avocado
baby spring greens (toss in evoo, s&p for extra flair)

First, dice your sweet potatoes. I like them a rather small dice, about 1/4″ cubes. Size matters. They don’t have to be perfect but as close in size as you can get without spending hours dicing. Roast them in the oven at 350 for half an hour or until lightly browned. I don’t oil my potatoes but you can if that pleases you. (I cook on aluminum foil for easy removal and one less pan to clean.)

Put oatmeal and spices in a blender and pulse it until it forms a fine powder.

In a bowl, dump your can of beans, bean water and all. Don’t drain the beans, you need the moisture to hold everything together. Lightly mash the beans so you have some bean paste and some whole beans. Or just mash it all. Whatever suits you. Mix in your oatmeal-spice-powder. Fold in your sweet potatoes once they’re nice and crispy.

You can eat right away or store for later, usually makes 4-5 patties, depending on how big your potatoes were and how big you make your patties. The patties hold together better once chilled, so since this is fairly easy to make, I usually prep this meal while making another dinner so I have the night off later in the week. Because I’m worth it.

To cook: coat your pan with olive oil/butter/coconut oil, whatever you prefer, and cook over a medium heat. I mash my patties super thin–it’s okay if they crack or don’t hold together 100%, we’re not winning any points for presentation–that way I get lots of crunch and texture. Once crispy on both sides: you’re done! I don’t eat mine with a bun as this is attempting to be a healthy dish, so I like my patty served on top of a bed of salad greens, smeared with hummus and topped with avocado.

Happy eatings,
Erin Connor