Monday, June 27, 2011

My Fear Story

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts "Stuff You Should Know" and the podcast was about "How Fear works."  Then the host told his fear story.  It reminded me of my fear story.  I've been scared many times over the years, but a story of true fear doesn't happen often.

Mine begins with a move to the country in California.  I'd been an Air Force Brat all my life and always lived in the city.  When I was 16 my family moved to the home my parent ultimately retired to and it was in their dream spot in the country.  My brother and I were city kids.  It was difficult getting use to the quiet and the darkness at night.  Another thing contributing to my uncomfortableness was no curtains on my bedroom windows.  Never did get any.  I caught my brother and his friend one night looking in and trying to scare me through one of my windows.  He was 13 and so were his friends.  Perfect age for "let's spy on your 16 year old sister."

I told my mom and dad what was happening and my mom suggested that while theboys were outside and up to their shenanigans to lock the sliding glass door in my brother's bedroom.  That way he'll have to come in through the upstairs door in the living room and explain why he's out at night.

The fateful day came and I heard rustling by my bedroom window.  My mom was out of town for a nursing seminar and only my dad was home.  He was a crotchety old military man always yelling at us and on our cases (well he still is).  I knew my brother was going to be in big trouble.  My mom wasn't there to soften it.

I threw on my fluffy robe and tippy toed out of my room as not to alert my brother to the plan.  I locked the downstairs garage door.  Next to tippy toe into my brother's room and lock his slider.  Ever so quietly and slowly I step toward his slider.  Giddy with anticipation of his finally getting into trouble for peeping on me.  I'm halfway to the door when suddenly my brother sits up in bed and screams bloody murder.  I simultaneously scream bloody murdered at the top of my lungs and I scramble for the light switch.  There is my brother wide awake, but had been sound to sleep in bed.  What he saw was a big fuzzy creature creepy into his room in the middle of the night.

We stood frozen for probably 5 minutes just staring at one another and listening.  We were now terrorized by the fact that our crotchety old dad was going to come running downstairs to save us and nothing was really going on.  We listened intently.  Our eyes rolling around in our heads.  Listening for every bump.  For the rapid thump thump thump on carpeted steps of someone running down the stairs.  Finally we slowly let our breaths out.  No dad.  No dog barking.  We were greatly relieved not to get a tongue lashing.  Yet, our next anxious thought was "We just screamed our loudest bloody murder screams and no one heard us.

When we first moved to the country I had expressed my concern about the isolation, the quiet, the darkness, the fact that my brother and I were on ground level by ourselves.  My dad just laughed and said, "All you have to do is scream and I'll come save you."

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Deep Dish Pizza That Ate Orangevale

I was watching a show on the Food Network and they were making Deep Dish Pizza.  I just fell in love with the idea of making my own.  I saved the episode and sat down and wrote down every thing they did to make their wonderful pizza.  I promptly erased the episode no longer needing it, but I don't remember what the show was called.  I'll have to think on that.

Anyhow with some web research my plan and recipes were complete.  So, yesterday afternoon I went to work with the below recipe.  After the 2nd rise I punched it down and began shaping it to my pan.  What I encountered was not a resistant dough, but a dough that reminded me more of "The Blob" from movie fame.  How so you ask?  Well, it kept growing and growing quickly.  Rising I guess would be the term in the bread world.  It was rising in such a fast fashion that I couldn't even get the dough pressed on one side when it was rising out of the pan on the other.  I was literally shaping and punching it down at the same time.  It was becoming a joke.  Finally I decided to make sure all my toppings were ready.  Punch the crust down quickly top it and throw it in the oven not to just bake it, but to kill it.  Unlike "The Blob" which needed cold to stop it my blob needed heat.

After about 10 minutes the heat did the job and stopped it in it's tracks.  Clearly I needed to tweak this recipe.  Fortunately, I knew it was still going to be very tasty even though it had about 1 1/2 inches of crust on all sides.  I topped my pizza with mozzarella, sweet Italian sausage, pepperoni, diced bell pepper, diced red onion, 1 15 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, Italian seasoning, mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.  Yes, I did all that before the blog had time to consume me.

Not one piece of pizza is left today.  DH had it for dinner.  A snack after he returned from reffing and took the rest for lunch today.  That's why I have no picture.

What I'll do next time is use half the amount of yeast and see how that goes.  As for the rest of the dough recipe it made a very tasty dough with the right taste of Deep Dish Pizzas I've had at the restaurant.  The corn meal, olive oil and lack of salt in the recipe was really in the right direction for a tasty crust.  I had 2 other concerns.  One is did I use the right size pan.  I didn't have a 15 inch round pan.  I used my 13" X 9" rectangular pan.  I also wondered should I have cut the dough blob in half.  Maybe I put too much dough in the pan to begin with.  All things to consider the next time I make Deep Dish Pizza since I don't have Steve McQueen to save the day.

Deep Dish Pizza
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup corn meal
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour
4 1/2 tsp dry yeast

Put all ingredients in mixing bowl in the order listed making sure to put the flour and yeast in last.  Mix on low speed with dough hook until dough forms a ball then mix on medium speed for 10 minutes.

Take the dough out of bowl and form it into a ball.  Then place it back into the bowl with a damp towel over it.  Let it rest until it almost doubles in volume.  Takes about 30 minutes.  Punch down and let rise again.  It can now be shaped in pan.

Coat the bottom of a well seasoned 15" X 2" deep dish pan with regular olive oil.  Place dough ball in the center of the pan and press it out until it cover the entire bottom.  Then, using your fingers pull the dough up the sides of the pan.

The edge should be pinched up against the side of the pan.  If the dough resists holding shape cover with a towel and allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before trying again.

Using mozzarella or provolone cover bottom of the dough.

Add desired toppings.  Top with crushed tomatoes then Italian seasoning and finally Parmesan cheese.

Place pan in the center of the bottom oven rack and bake at 475 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes turning half way through until the crust is golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool about 3 minutes.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Incredible Poodle Throw Rug

What I especially like about this particular rug is it follows me around the house and repositions itself.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Outdoor Movies and Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

My brother started outdoor movies in the 90's at Halloween.  He'd affix a bed sheet tautly to his porch for a screen.  Then project a movie of his choosing in the Halloween genre, but G rated since is nephew and niece were quite young.  "Mad Monster Party" was a particular favorite (see movie trailer at link.)  After "Trick or Treating" we go back to his house for a movie. We'd bring our sleeping bags and lay down on the lawn.  We'd mostly watched the movie, but sometimes we'd fall asleep.  It was all apart of the fun.

Ever year at the same time I was having a Halloween party for my friends.  Kids were not invited for many years, basically because they were too young to stay up that late.  They would go to Grandma's and Grandpa's.

Then the year came when the kids wanted a Halloween party of their own.  So, I combined the parties and invited all my adult friends to bring their kids.  I asked my brother that year if he'd do an outdoor movie at my house.  We showed "The Nightmare Before Christmas."  It was a big hit.

We had many outdoor Halloween parties, but one year my daughter asked if we could do an outdoor movie for her birthday.  Having a summer birthday it sounded like a great idea.  That's how the summer outdoor movies started.

We tape a white sheet on to our garage door and project the movie on to it.  We make quite a night of it.  I have 2 portable fire pits we roll out for warmth and s'mores.  I pop lots of popcorn.  We encourage everyone to bring a chair if they like.  Definitely bring a blanket and pillow.  As with tradition someone always falls asleep during the movie.  The blanket serves to keep one warm, because even though it's summer we get what's called "The Delta Breeze" in the evening.  It takes a 100 degree summer day and brings the temps down to the 60's nearly ever night.

This years snacks included chocolate dipped strawberries and I made some peanut butter cookies with the chocolate kisses.

Chocolate dipped strawberries are simple and yet very impressive looking.  Not to mention they just taste great. 

What I do is I put 2 cups of chocolate chips in double boiler.  A double boiler consists of a pot that holds hot water and a bowl or another pot that sits securely over this pot. The top bowl or pot holds the chocolate while it melts over the indirect heat.  Do not boil the water.  Keep the heat low.  Also don't let the water touch the bottom of double boiler.  The chocolate chips melt fast like this.  Once melted I turn off the heat.

While the chocolate chips are melting I wash the strawberries.  Making sure to get the dried blossom off the end and little seed flakes off of the strawberries.  Don't know what else to call them, but if you rub each strawberry gentle under water you'll have a clean strawberry ready for dipping.  I like to find large strawberries, but no one has ever turned their nose up at a small chocolate dipped strawberry.  Make sure strawberries are completely dry.  Since I don't make a lot of them I dry each strawberry individually.  You don't want water in the chocolate or it will cause the chocolate to seize and makes it completely unmanageable.

I cover a cookie sheet with wax paper and begin dipping.  I pinch all the stem leaves in my fingers to use as sort of a dipping handle and to keep them out of the chocolate.  Then I lay the strawberry on it's side in the chocolate (probably a 45 degree angle) and twist it until strawberry is coated to my liking.  I've found you don't need the chocolate really close to the stem as it's a part of the strawberry one does not eat.  Lay dipped strawberry on wax paper.  When all are dipped I find a flat spot (or make one) in my fridge to let the chocolate set.  If you don't get the sheet flat all the dipped strawberries will slide off cookie sheet if there is no rim or slide to rim and set in one giant aggravating clump.  So, flat is the key.  Once set peel off wax paper and put on serving dish.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Our New Favorite Salad Dressing

Costco had an El Torito Chicken Caesar Salad kit that was outstanding.  I was telling a friend about it and she said that her husband made the El Torito dressing from scratch a lot in the 90's.  She said it was SO good and that the recipe was on the internet.  Sure enough it was very easy to find.  The recipe looked like it was a little bit of a pain in the butt.  I was up to the challenge for a delicious salad dressing though.

I read the comments that came with the dressing recipe to make sure nothing negative was said.  The only comment I read that caught my eye was it made too much dressing.  The recipe makes a quart.  I make Ranch dressing quite a bit and that recipe makes 2 cups, which is the perfect amount.  I decided to halve the recipe from the get go.

My Notes:  Roasting a pepper at my house is kind of a pain.  My oven sets off the smoke alarm.  So, can't broil it.  I have a portable roaster, so I set it up under my exhaust fan above stove.  It took an hour to roast the pepper.  Next batch I started the BBQ and again it took about an hour to roast one stinkin pepper.  Next I put my comal (cast iron plate) on the stove and roasted the pepper.  It worked the best of all my attempts.  I suspect if you can use your broiler in the oven that might be the fastest.

Finding roasted pumpkin seeds out of the shell have been a challenge.  Still haven't found any.  Maybe the health food store?  In it's place I used roasted sunflower seeds.  That worked great.  I just recently sat a shelled some roasted pumpkin seeds I'll let you known if I notice a big difference.

Cotija cheese tastes to me like just very salty kind of flavorless cheese.  I did buy some and use it, but in the future I always have Parmesan on hand I will try that and let you know how that works out.

Cilantro is what really makes this dressing in my opinion.  Yes, take the time to wash and stem one whole bunch.  This is what gives the dressing its beautiful green color too.  The pepper does not make it that pretty green color.  My dad doesn't like cilantro and I was worried he wouldn't like the dressing.  We went camping and it was the only dressing choice.  He asked me what made the dressing green.  I lied like a rug and said it was the roasted pepper.  After I talked him down from a minor freak out that anaheim peppers were not "spicy hot" he enjoyed the dressing.  He didn't even mention it had cilantro in it.

So, all and all is this a healthy dressing no, but every now and then it's a great delicious choice.  I've found 2 cups serves about 12 people.  Now on to the dressing recipe.  The recipe I have below is already scaled down to the 2 cup proportion.  BTW it fits into my Ranch Dressing container perfect for pouring and keeping dressing mixed.  I see it every now and then at the grocery store by the Hidden Valley Ranch packets.  Tupperware also sells a similar container.

El Torito Cilantro and Pepita Salad Dressing

1 medium anaheim chilies, roasted, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 garlic cloves, peeled
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 ounces salad oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons grated Cotija cheese (you can also use Parmesan cheese if you cannot find Cotija)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/8 cup water

Place all dressing ingredients except cilantro, mayonnaise and water in a blender of food processor.

Blend approximately 10 seconds, and then add cilantro little by little until blended smooth.

Depending on size of blender, it may be necessary to do in batches.

Place mayonnaise and water in a large stainless steel bowl, and mix with a wire whip until smooth.

Add the blended ingredients to the mayonnaise mixture, and mix thoroughly.

Place in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Will keep for three days.