Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ian's Bedtime Prayer

A while back Ian started waking up in the night from bad dreams. As a simple way to help him set his intention for a peaceful night, I suggested that he pray. At first I helped him but over time he has come up with his own take on things. It's very sweet to hear him say his prayer every night on his own. And he's never woken from a bad dream since!

Holy Spirit*
Please help me to have happy dreams
Make sure the night is short
Take care of all the people I love
Have Fun!

* I generally direct prayerful thoughts to the Holy Spirit as a representation of the non-ego mind. Giving up what I don't know to that which is greater than me. Experience has shown me that when I step out of the way by handing the problem over to the Holy Spirit, I am guided to a loving place/decision/idea that was not apparent before. The path I was searching for is suddenly and clearly illuminated.

My simple prayer that has evolved from something a yoga teacher has taught is:

Holy Spirit
Please (help me to understand/show me the way/find peace with) ......
Because I don't know.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Vampire Repellant Pizza

aka The 50 Garlic Clove Pizza

Last night, Evan's months-long dream finally materialized in this pizza. I had my doubts, but honestly it might have been the best pizza we've ever made. It goes without saying that anyone who plans on kissing anyone else in the house should be on board with eating it. Your house will smell, maybe for days, as will your person. I honestly feel sorry for the people who will be practicing yoga next to Evan this morning. We will be opening windows today to air out.

As with many of my culinary successes, this pizza's life started
with a Cook's Illustrated consultation. In this case, the crust and the basic sauce were taken from their Thin-Crust Pizza recipe.
There are two biggest contributions to pizza-dom it offers is a dough that ferments for 3 days and the cooking technique that involves moving the baking stone to the top shelf of the oven set at the highest temperature. But any favorite crust recipe would work.

Evan started separating the garlic on Friday and sort of overdid it, ending up with 106 cloves that filled a 4 cup measure. As much as he wanted to try to use them all, I think 50 is about the right number as too much more weight on the crust would have resulted in topping overload and a flimsy base. As part of the deal for me to make this, Evan and Ian were in charge of garlic peeling.

I put about 12 crushed cloves into a half cup portion of the basic sauce.

I roasted 2 dozen, working half of those into the dough as I rolled it. I would skip this step next time because it compromised the dough's integrity and didn't add anything flavor-wise. The remainder of the roasted garlic was put on top of the pizza that had already been covered with sauce, grated parmesan, and homemade mozzarella. Using roasted cloves was critical to forcing in every flavor of garlic possible. It really made a difference in the end product.

Using an neat little tool I picked up from Pampered Chef, the remaining cloves were sliced into paper thin wisps. Some of these were placed on top of the pizza in their raw state. Next, the pie was placed in the screaming hot oven to bake.

I sauteed the remainder of the paper thin garlic VERY gently in roasted garlic infused olive oil (just because I happened to have it to use up, regular olive oil would have sufficed.) I salted moderately at the sautee step and at the end. In order to taste the garlic, there must be salt.

After the garlic had turned a very slight golden color I drained it and patted
it dry. This left me with slightly crunchy, slightly sweet little garlic crisps that I topped the pizza with when it emerged from the oven. I gave it a sprinkle of basil and the 50 garlic pizza was done. It was even better with bit of crushed red pepper flake. The garlic was prominent but not burning or raw while covering the full spectrum of flavor. Anyone who really enjoys garlic will love it, as will anyone who really doesn't like other people standing too close.

I also made a regular mushroom/pepper pizza as well as a Gluten Free one using almond flour. The GF was okay, but honestly some things just can't be done justice without wheat and pizza crust is one of them.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I am so ridiculously excited that I just made my own mozzarella. I finally got around to reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingslover) which has been on my book list for a long time. It's interesting, and while I thoroughly respect her 1 year local eating adventure, I simply couldn't live without fresh produce in the winter. But she inspired me, not only to focus more on buying local ingredients when possible, but also to make cheese. That process had been simmering in the back of my mind for a while, but it seemed now was the time to try it. In typical Renee fashion, aka impulsive, I ordered a $70 cheese making kit from the The New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. With dreams of aging my own cheddar, I chatted about how I was embarking on this new culinary adventure with my friend Naomi (bread baker extraordinaire) who promptly tossed me her leftover rennet and citric acid from her brief interest in the activity. Excitedly I began reading Home Cheesemaking book and quickly became intimidated. The process sounded daunting, with lots of caring for cultures and other unfamiliar things. I lost my nerve. I contemplated it for 2 days and decided to return the kit for a full refund. Now was not the time for me to receive the lesson of cheese-making. I would try the simplest cheese, mozzarella. Judging from the plethora of failures I read about online I figured that cheese alone would take several attempts to master.

I picked up a gallon of raw milk from the local farm. Armed with my donated rennet and citric acid, I followed simple online instructions for making the mozzarella.

It started with adding the acid, gently heating the milk, then removing from the heat and adding the rennet. This is the time it forms a curd. Mine looked different than the picture in the instructions. More lumpy like cottage cheese, hers looked smooth like pudding. Right here I thought I was going to be throwing out the batch. But I pressed on...

See, my curds looked scary BUT reminiscent of mozzarella so I kept the hope alive.

I drained my curd and then for kicks because my goal was shred-worthy mozzarella, I squeezed as much water out as possible while waiting for some clean water to boil.

Now here is the fun part because its like playing with grown-up playdough. Armed with rubber gloves, you submerge the ball of curds into 175 degree water and work it in and the stuff starts getting soft. At this time you pull it and knead it like bread until it becomes smooth and elastic. Re-dipping it in the hot water when it needs to be loosened.

And then you get.....

A beautiful 12 oz braid (or ball) of shiny mozzarella. Right before the last stretch and shape I added a tsp of sea salt to work into it. So now it is happily soaking in a salty whey brine in the fridge as it awaits its final destiny as the topping of Evan's 50 (or 104) garlic clove pizza tonight. It was so fun, easy, and satisfying to make. Now maybe I need to go re-order that advanced cheesemaking kit....

Friday, March 11, 2011

Coconut Lime Tart

This was an experimental mish mosh of two recipes plus my own ideas with pretty nice results for a 'not-too-sweet' gluten-free dessert. I chose to change the lemon curd recipe to lime to follow a mexi-cali inspired dinner of spicy Tortilla soup and a California chopped salad with grilled shrimp. Probably would have made more sense to take a picture of the pie before I cut it, but didn't think of it.

Pre-heat oven to 350.

In food processor combine:
3/4 cup of blanched almond flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Pulse to combine.

Gentle melt over low heat:
1/4 cup coconut oil

Then mix the coconut oil with
1 TBSP agave nectar and
1 tsp vanilla extract.*

If the mixture seems too oily you could add more flour. Either almond, or if you have it coconut flour to get it to a press-able texture, much like a wet graham cracker crust mix.

Then press into a tart or pie pan. Bake until golden about 7-12 minutes. Then cool.

In a double boiler over gently simmering water place:
6 TBSP butter
1/2 cup honey

When well combine mix in:
4 large eggs, beaten, stirring constantly.

Then add:
1/2 cup lime juice (about 4)
Grated zest from 4 limes

Continue stirring until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon. (like when making pudding). This can take up to 30 minutes.

Pour filling into crust and chill.

Garnish with fresh whipped cream.

*I just started making my own vanilla extract by placing 6 vanilla beans in a quart of vodka and letting it steep for a month. Theoretically this can be kept going indefinitely by adding more beans and vodka.