Hello! We're happy to have you!

Friday, January 29, 2021

Best Ever Sourdough Pizza Crust


Secret to health: Eat what you want so long as you make it yourself!

Wanna know why my blog is special? I put the recipe first and give the story later.

Favorite Pizza Dough
yields 1 cookie sheet or 1 12" crust

  • 275 g all-purpose flour
  • 20 g Vital Wheat Gluten
    • I like Bob's Red Mill brand and there's almost always some in my cupboard
  • 180 g warm water (about 110-115 degrees F) 
  • 5 g active yeast
  • 75 g sourdough starter
    • You may omit this, if you don't have it, and make the recipe as usual!
  • 50 g sugar
  • 70 g good olive oil
  • 3 g kosher salt
  • ***Any dried herbs you may want to incorporate!
    • I have a "winter herbs" blend, which consists of:
      • Thyme
      • Oregano
      • Mint
      • Sage
Please note: When I add sourdough to a recipe, I tend to "wake it up" by feeding and watering it about 20 minutes before I use it. This appears to make it work faster but also give a better consistency in the end-product overall. I do equal parts all-purpose flour and water to my own sourdough, and although I used to feed it once per day, I've gone between intermittent fasting for it and it's worked just fine. I think I know to feed it once every other day, but I always throw away half of it because we don't want a large amount of any dead yeasties floating about, do we?

Combine the sugar with the warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer, fitted with a dough hook, and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit and gather the other ingredients. You can weigh the flours together, but please keep the salt and oil separate. Good olive oil is what gives the crust the ability to flake up and be delicious, so don't skimp on quality!

After about 5 minutes, when the yeast has been activated, add your sourdough and flours and mix using a dough hook until just combined. The dough will seem dry. Don't you worry! Now add the olive oil and the salt, as well as the herbs. You're going to just let those sit on top of your dough ball for about 10 minutes. This process is to allow moisture to get in and puff up your flour granules for a spell before the hard work begins. It also lets the sourdough and activated yeast get to know each other, make small talk, etc. Don't underestimate the power of a good Meet n' Greet!

When your 10 minutes is up, turn on your mixer for 5-7 minutes, on low speed, or until the dough is completely silky and elastic. Turn your dough out onto a cool counter and rub with olive oil, just enough to coat it. Pull it into a tight ball, and pop it back into a clean bowl, and leave it to set. You can cover it with a clean tea towel, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil. What matters now is that you set it in a warm place until it has doubled in size, which usually takes an hour. I tend to take this time to heat my oven, which should be at 450 degrees F when you cook pizza.

Let's talk about toppings and the architecture thereof!

Pizza traditionally has a tomato-based sauce and is topped with cheese as a staple, usually mozzarella as the base. Most folx add parmesan and provolone to this mix, and if you're from St. Louis you know that the only way to go is the white Velveeta-esque cheese that as far as I can tell nobody asked for, that we all love, is "Provel." The base of the pizza is usually going to be standard, but the topping choices and preferences of how it's all made can be highly regional. First We Feast did a great piece on it, in fact! I was also able to find this fun picture on Pinterest that may help you get a little adventurous.

Pizza and making it is a thing that gives you a great opportunity to experiment with flavors. The main two flavors one generally associates with pizza are acidic/sour(tomato sauce, some cheeses) with fatty/creamy(cheeses, etc). From there, you can add salty, bitter, umami, and even sweetness to make rounded experiences. Spinach and artichokes go great together on a pizza with a mild, creamy cheese. Pepperoni and mushrooms are a good combination of spicy and umami flavors. I always like a hint of freshness here and there, so I sometimes like to add fresh herbs when it comes directly out of the oven. Obviously, prior planning is ideal, but what I personally love about making pizza at home is that you can easily transform any small bits of ingredients in the fridge into something amazing with little effort. 

On the pizza above, I used:
  • Filipino-style Longanisa
    • A gorgeous beef sausage that comes frozen, so you can slice it ultra-thin
  • Meatballs
    • A leftover from when my husband made pasta and meatballs
  • Thinly-sliced white onion
    • Because I don't like red onion
  • Thinly-sliced garlic
    • Because I like "HOT" as a fragrance but not necessarily as a flavor
  • Miyoko's Mozerelle
  • Follow Your Heart Parmesan
  • Bolognese sauce
    • Again, leftover from when my husband made pasta and meatballs
  • Fresh-grated lemon zest
    • For fragrance and lightness
The balance of ingredients is so important, but when you have a distinct flavor profile that you're going for a specific flavor profile. I encourage you to get out there and try your own fun flavor profiles!

Now that we've spoken quite a bit about flavors and creating flavor profiles, let me tell you how to actually finish making this pizza...

Turn out onto a floured surface and pat down gently with your hands. You can use a rolling pin at this point, but I personally think it's better to simply stretch out by hand, pulling and slapping down to get the air out. I take of all of my rings and toss my dough to get it to stretch, which is a great amount of fun! I also like square pizza with a rather thin crust so that's why I spread mine thin on a cookie sheet. Be sure to dust your sheet pan with semolina or flour before putting on the dough! 

Protip: Let the pizza dough chill in the fridge until just before you're ready to bake! Once it's chilled and your oven is hot enough, simply top your pizza in the manner in which you prefer, brush the edge of the crust with some good olive oil, season with salt and pepper all the way around, and pop it in the oven at 450. You can push the heat up to 500 if your oven goes that high, but mine doesn't. My oven takes about 15 minutes to cook, rotating once halfway through. I do that because my oven gets hotter towards the back, but yours might have different hotspots. Even baking is important in a pizza!

Evacuate from oven, garnish with the fun extras of your choice, and there you have it! You now have a delicious pizza that didn't take you 45 minutes after ordering or cost you $30! This is a great project for a rainy day, and this pizza dough is so incredibly versatile that it can be put on a hot grill as well as a cast-iron flat top. I encourage you to have fun with pizza, because it's a wonderful food that deserves a lot of fun when it's being made. 

Thanks so much for spending some time with me! Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Chocolate Sugar Cream Pie

Best of all, this pie is vegan!

Mirror glaze? Jelly Cakes? Of course, they're all gorgeous, but what has caught my eye as of late is the new trend of "Desperation Pies." I must not be the only one who's attention has been grabbed, as Bon Appetit has written about them, as well! This pie is a twist on an American classic desperation pie, known as a Sugar Cream pie...also known as a Hoosier pie! What is so amazing about this pie is that there are no eggs in it. This is great if you have a dietary restriction, a food allergy, or even just plain don't feel like driving to the store when you're out of eggs. Either way, it's an impossibly silky texture with only a few simple ingredients. Here's how to make it!

Vegan Sugar Cream Pie
*marshmallows optional
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1/2 c almond or hemp milk
  • 1/2 c or 3.5 oz white sugar
  • 1/2 c or 3.5 oz brown sugar
  • 1/3 c dark cocoa powder
  • 4 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
    • The freeze-dried kind, if you please!
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • ** 1 tsp cardamom
    • I just really like cardamom and chocolate, but you can omit this if you like
  • 1 pie shell, unbaked
    • If you need a recipe, follow this one!
      • 14 oz all-purpose flour
      • 4 oz vegan butter such as Earth balance or Flora
      • 4 oz vegetable shortening
      • Enough vodka to bring it all together, usually 1/2 c
    • Simply blend this by hand or in a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, wrap, and chill for an hour before rolling out to use. So easy!

Roll your pie dough out into your chosen pie dish and chill while you let your oven preheat to 325 degrees F. I suggest also lining a sheet pan with aluminum foil so you may set your pie on later. Even better, set the baking rack of your oven to the lowest point, so that the crust will be closer to the bottom. It's imperative that your dough be quite cold when it goes in the oven, so you'll get a flaky crust! Please note that you may parbake this crust if you like, but in all honesty I've never noticed much of a difference so you may as well save yourself the extra step and just bake it straight.

To make your sugar cream pie, simply combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl with a whisk. This is the most-important step to getting a lump-free custard, so make sure that all of the dry ingredients - cocoa powder, sugars, flours, etc. - are all in there and all well-mixed. Slowly add your 1/2 cup of almond milk and stir in with a whisk. Add in half the coconut milk and stir until completely combined and utterly smooth, being sure to scrape the sides well. The last thing you want in this pie is patches of dry stuff! 

Add the last of the coconut milk, scrape all sides with a spatula, and stir well. You may even put this mixture in the blender, if you like, to ensure that it is as smooth as it could be! Cover this mixture with plastic wrap and let sit for about 10 minutes to hydrate. 

When you're ready to bake, place your chilled pie dish on the foil-lined sheet tray and open your oven door. Uncover your chocolate mixture and give it a good, slow stir with a spatula first, and then a whisk. You do not want any sedimentary action in your bowl! Everything should be floating when you put your pie custard into the oven, and that's how you get such a silky texture. Get ready!

Pull the bottom rack of the oven halfway and place your sheet tray and pie pan upon it. Grab your custard, give it a final stir with a spatula, and pour it straight into the pie shell. It should fill it all the way up to the top! If you have any bubbles, you may pop them with a quick blast of a torch, but it is not necessary. Finally, gently push the pie on the rack back into the oven, being slow and steady so you won't spill this extra-liquidy filling everywhere. Close up the oven and bake at 325 for 45 - 60 minutes, depending on the weather. This pie will take quite a while to set up, but you won't have to worry too much about over-baking it because there are no eggs to scramble!

In the meantime, while we wait, may I speak for a moment about the history of Desperation Pies? If you'd like to skip this part, just click here to your next step...

You might know a desperation pie not by type, but by name: Vinegar pie, Sugar Cream Pie, Shoofly Pie, even Water Pie... These pies came out of the kitchens of American cooks during times of economic hardship, such as the American Civil War or the Great Depression. I even recall hearing Caroline Ingalls mention "Vinegar pie" during an old rerun of Little House on the Prairie as a child. It sounded old-timey and disgusting, but this funny treat has gained quite a bit of notoriety recently! I suppose it's no surprise with the pandemic. I personally am glad that these forgotten treats are making their way back onto the table. I just love eating history!

A desperation pie is a pie that's simply made with few ingredients that may be found in a pantry. I know that "water pie" doesn't sound great, but you must admit that it does intrigue, by only name alone. How could something called 'water pie' be tasty? Or Vinegar pie? Quite simply!

Humanity has always been resourceful. Sugar cream pie, or Hoosier pie, itself is said to be an Indiana staple brought over from the Quaker settlers. We love a sweet treat, but resources are likely scarce on the prairie when you're trying to build a barn and keep wolves away at the same time. It's traditionally made simply with milk, flour, and sugar. We can't have dairy, of course, so I made one for us with coconut and almond milks instead. It is only a happy coincidence that this pie is made vegan, and is just about the tastiest, creamiest pie I've made in quite a long time! Why is that?

Eggs are wonderful when it comes to baking. They lend an unctuous fattiness to anything and help achieve creaminess in any recipe. The risk when baking with eggs, however, is that they may overcook and then scramble in your custard, leaving you with a less-than-desireable texture. What's lovely about this particular pie is that there's no risk of scrambling eggs, so you can leave it in the oven for as long as it needs to be, which is to say "until it's set."

Is your pie set? Has it bubbled or is it no longer jiggling? Great! Let's take it out and let it cool on the counter for about 30 minutes, before popping it into the fridge and letting it chill until cold. This could take 2 hours, but it is ideal that you do this overnight. Then, cut and serve! It's cool, refreshing, and oddly light for such a dark-colored pie!

To top it, you can leave it plain with some powdered sugar, whip up some coconut cream, or toast some vegan marshmallows for a s'mores-like treat! This pie is chocolatey without being too fudgy and heavy, and it is such an impressive thing to have in your fridge when you feel like giving yourself a little treat after a hard day. 

Thanks so much for joining me today! I hope you learned some cool stuff. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Thursday, January 7, 2021

My Mindful Guacamole


Chips not included. 

A successfully done guacamole, in my opinion, begins in a molcajete. These are heavy-duty stone mortar-and-pestle situations that are responsible for the sauces (or salsas) of the Latinx/Indigenous peoples of the Central and Southern Americas. I do not have one, so I use my own trusty mortar and pestle, which is made of clay and wood. It's easily my favorite tool in the kitchen that allows me to create pastes, spice rubs, pestos, salsas, and - of course - guacamole. If I had to put it in a category, it definitely would go in the category of "Cannot live without."

Can you make this recipe in a bowl with a spoon or fork? I suppose. But why would you do such a thing when you can use a tool that will serve you for decades to come? The virtues of a good mortar and pestle are many. It's satisfying in a sensory way to hear and feel how spices grind against one another! Mostly, though, I love the mindfulness it allows me to achieve while grinding. You get to stand there, hang out, pound away at any frustrations, and transform an ingredient to your will. I love grinding garlic into coarse salt and pepper, to release the aromas, and to mesh together all the flavors of the ingredients, in a beautiful and sensuous concoction that goes in apart...and ends up together.

Maybe this is a metaphor for coming together during and after hardships to rise stronger than ever? I'd like to go more into mindfulness, but let's just get straight to the recipe for now. 

My Mindful Guacamole

  • 2 medium avocados
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Juice of 1/2 a small lime
  • 1/2 a jalapeno, chopped 
    • Trust me, it will give you a head start
  • A dollop of sour cream
    • I use the vegan kind, made by Tofutti! If you want to use the dairy-kind, that's just fine
  • As much cilantro as you like (I think I put 1/8 cup in, chopped, but I can't say for sure)
  • Two fat pinches of salt
  • About 10 grinds of fresh pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
Add to your mortar and pestle first the salt, pepper, and spices. You're going to want to crush these together first, as it shouldn't take long at all, but it's very important that the salt take on the flavors of all of your dried spices. Next, take your garlic cloves, chopped jalapeno, and half of the cilantro you decided to use. Grind all of this together, slowly at first. You're going to want to grind this against each other for at least 60 seconds before you begin pounding. Don't pound hard unless you have a potholder or towel between the bottom of the tool and your counter, lest you damage it. I pound gently, just enough to get a solid sound, and grind after every other pound, in circular motions. Here's my rhythm:

Pound-pound grind. Pound-pound grind. Pound-pound grind.

I hope that made sense? 

You're going to do this until you get a gorgeous paste, and you'll not proceed until you get that paste. Trust me, it's worth it, as you'll get much more flavor out of that garlic and jalapeno than you imagined with a hand-tool like this! It'll turn a muddy green color when it's right. Don't rush this part, okay? This is your time of meditation, of calm, of honesty with yourself. It takes me 3-5 minutes, and I love it!

When your paste has been achieved, no matter how long it took, add the avocado. When you open the avocado and scoop out the goodies, you are certainly allowed to chop the flesh up a little. Grind this into your paste until things are just barely combined and you can still see some visible chunks, add your lime juice.

Grind the avocado into the sides of the bowl, quite slowly, using downward strokes. I love watching the flesh of the avocado get smashed on the sides...it's so satisfying! And the color stays that beautiful green with the addition of the lime juice and the acidity and heat of the garlic and jalapenos.  You're going to keep grinding and stirring gently until it creates thick and beautiful guacamole. All that's left now is to add in a dollop of sour cream and the rest of the cilantro, and stir in until wholly incorporated! If there's a time to correct the seasoning, it's now.

In defense of the sour cream: Yes, it's absolutely authentic. The Tias y Abuelas of the world will side with me in saying that there are some people in the Latinx community that use sour cream in their guacamole! Like Filipino food, many cocinas are individualistic and they say that only their way is right... Let me tell you, my friend: they're all right so long as they are made with love and intention. I like sour cream because it lightens the guacamole, helps it maintain the bright green color longer, and it makes it more spread-able for when you want to put it on a tortilla or a tamale or a sandwich. I use the Tofutti/vegan sour cream because I'm hella lactose-intolerant, and it's just as good as the dairy sour cream. I've also baked with this product, and it's excellent!

You can transfer your guacamole into a serving dish, but - if the truth is to be told - I often serve it in the bowl of my mortar and pestle. I don't think I need to tell you how to enjoy this, only that if you are to store it, make sure you have the lid of your container touching the surface of the guacamole, or a sheet of clingfilm touching it. You don't want to get a gray skin!

I love guacamole as an ingredient or as a mid-afternoon snack. It's creamy, it's cooling, and it's full of healthy fats. Furthermore, if you are an absolutely crazy-for-crafts DIY kind of person, you can boil avocado skins and pits to get a beautiful pink color for a natural dye. No, really! 

Check out more info here!

Thanks so much for hanging out with me today. I hope you're all staying safe, indulging in some mindfulness and some self-care, and remembering to breathe. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

My First 2021 Snow Day Musings

I'm feeling creative today so I thought I would go back to what made this blog special in the first place, or at least what I felt like made it special: My thoughts.

Back in the day, I used to write for Open Salon. "Write for" is a generous statement, because I really just posted my thoughts on this big open forum and people decided if they liked it or not. I suppose I got the idea from watching Julie & Julia when I was first starting Culinary school. I had this idea that I was going to be this amazing writer that connected people and helped change their lives. I guess I wanted to reach out and see if anyone was ou there in the void, listening. 

I remember Banksy said that fame is a byproduct of actually accomplishing something. But what is an accomplishment? Who decides what accomplishment is? The world? Your social circle? Is it you?

I feel like I've accomplished some fun stuff on this website, where it's been a braindump for my recipes and what I was making. In truth, I had this phase where I did what every annoying food blogger did: writing LONG PROSE THAT NOBODY CARED ABOUT along with a recipe. And then the recipe at the end? Pull your finger out of your ass.

I guess I realized how annoying this was from the other end and decided to switch it up. Yay! And it was received well, but I have no idea if folx tried it out or not. I have no idea if anything on this website has meant anything to anyone. I suppose that this is the strange thing about the internet, in which it's mostly just screaming into the void and hoping that the void has answered back. 

Maybe I'm feeling this way because it's my first day off of the new year? I had such fun out in the beautiful snow today. Winter has kissed my home. I love the sound of snow crunching under my boots. The plows came today on the side streets so I'm free to go to the grocery store. But what will I make? 

I usually just go to the store, look around at what protein is there, and decide from there. I'm not much of a leftover queen anymore; maybe I used that juice up when I was working at the food rescue kitchen? I loved doing that, transforming food nobody wanted and using it to feed those in need. I really felt like I was accomplishing something by doing that. Maybe I should go back to it, transforming my leftovers into something new? 

Well, dear friend, I hope you know that I'm here, alive and kicking, and this writer made it through 2020. 

Here's hoping we can all make it through this coming year of 2021. Happy cooking and happy eating.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Olive Oil Herb Shortbread Cookies


For all intents and purposes, these aren't really "cookies", but "biscuits," as in they have a lovely crunch and are excellent with coffee or tea. I ended up liking them better as dunkers than I did eating them straight. In the spirit of making things easier for everyone, I've decided to post this recipe in *gasp* VOLUME instead of weight! 

This will - hopefully - be the easiest ever cookie recipe I post. Fingers crossed? Oh well, onward. 

This could not be easier to make, but it does require a mortar and pestle to replicate it exactly as I have. If you don't have one, you can muddle the sugar with the herbs using the back of a spoon. 

Olive Oil Herb Shortbread Cookies

  • 3/4 c good olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • Fresh oregano and thyme from the garden, as much as you like
    • I used oregano and thyme because these hard herbs are the ones I had available. You may use any that are growing in your window box! I used two sprigs of each, with leaves stripped for my cookies
  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c coarse ground cornmeal**
    • This is if you want a crunchy cookie! If you'd like something a little more tender, I suggest tapioca flour, potato starch, or even cornstarch!
  • A fat pinch of salt
Muddle the herbs with the granulated sugar and salt using a mortar and pestle until the sugar turns a gorgeous bright green. I have fresh herbs in my garden because I mulch the ever-living bejeezus out of the perrenial herbs. Use what you have, as always, so long as you want to taste it in a cookie.

Mix the sugars together with the olive oil with a whisk until well-combined, then add the egg. Whisk until wholly combined and switch to a wooden spoon or spatula. Simply add the dry ingredients, a little at a time, until you get a tasty dough. Wrap tight or cover, and then chill for an hour!

To bake, simply heat the oven to 325, cut into your desired shapes, and bake for 10 minutes. They'll get hard as they cool, I promise you! You can have them plain or ice them with a simple buttercream or glaze. The glaze pictured above was simply a little powdered sugar mixed with some aronia berry cordial. Yum!

Let's just keep it simple in 2021, shall we?

Happy cooking and happy eating. 

Happy 2021


Very briefly:

Happy New Year! 

Please make 2021 a good year. You can do so by choosing to be a good person and doing good things. Don't do them because you'll be rewarded later, or because there's a threat of karma coming behind you to rend your flesh from your bones or anything like that. Just be a good person for the sake of it. 

Thank you.