Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pizza Mondays


  For the last seven years we have had the privilege of knowing the Blauch family.  Andy and Debbie Blauch (pronounced bl"ow"k (ow as in wow)) are another homeschooling family with whom we attend church.  They are also the founders of our local, bi-annual "Heritage Ball" that we enjoy so much. Our kids have grown up together and we love them dearly.  

The Blauch family 

    A tradition we adopted from the Blauchs is their "Pizza Friday".  We have devoured the Blauch pizza on more than one occasion, and quite frankly, it is some of the best pizza we've ever had. Debbie has the technique down to a science and somehow manages to pull off this weekly event without it looking as though a bag of flour exploded in her kitchen.  Even though we had attempted homemade pizza in the past, I had avoided it because it was such a messy project.  The Blauch pizza was so delicious, however, that I had to rethink my avoidance.  In addition to their more traditional recipe, Debbie also makes an additional batch of a gluten-free variety for one of her six children as well.  I hope to be able to share that recipe soon.
    Since my husband has Mondays off from work, our pizza day is different. We indulge on Mondays rather than Fridays. We also only do this every two weeks, rather than weekly.  The Blauchs also use more consistent toppings.  They usually stick with cheese and pepperoni (although once Debbie made a fabulous broccoli and chicken combo too!)  We Wands can't seem to do anything the same way twice.  Yesterday, we made a double batch for lunch leftovers (that is why there are two bowls in some of the pictures). Here is our adventure.

One batch makes three standard-sized pizzas or four thin-crust pizzas.  
They bake at 400 degrees.  Counting "wait time", it will take a little over an hour for dough to be completely ready for toppings. 

6 tsp. yeast (2 tablespoons)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons oil (plus a little more to coat dough)
Assorted pizza toppings of your choice

Combine 2 tablespoons of yeast with 2 cups of water.  Smile for the camera.

Stir.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  
Go find boy again.  Review the difference between teaspoons and tablespoons and compare with half teaspoons and half tablespoons.  Review with boy too. :)

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Add 1 1/2 cups of flour.

Stir.  Let sit 10-20 minutes.

After 10-20 minutes, it will look like this.

Find boy again.  Put apron on boy.  Add 4 1/2 cups flour.  

At this point, we transferred our mixture to a larger bowl.  Then we added 1 1/2 tablespoons oil.

Work together into a soft dough.  If it seems a little dry, wet hands as needed.  Try to remember if boy washed hands.

Gently rub ball of dough with oil and let rise for 45 minutes.

Start preparing those toppings.

 Emily dices the peppers and the onions.

After Sammy chops the bacon and Italian sausage, Harrison fries the bacon.

We also had spinach, mushrooms, ground venison, Italian sausage, and pepperoni.

Our dough after 45 minutes.

Ask husband with part-time Pizza Hut experience from twenty years ago to roll out dough and press onto pizza pans.  Admire him as he throws the dough high into the air.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Debbie uses spaghetti sauce to coat the dough. I was able to stock up when it was on sale.  She also sprinkles a generous amount of Parmesan cheese underneath the mozzarella which gives the pizza a more intense flavor.  

One of the benefits of making your own pizza is having control of your ingredients and their quality.  The guys love the Italian sausage.  The girls - not so much.  Emmie and I like spinach and Sammy and I like mushrooms.  We were able to make everyone happy.  My daughter, Hayden is a bacon monster.

Some "before" pictures.

Place a couple of pizzas in the oven for ten minutes at 400 degrees.  After ten minutes, switch positions of pizza onto opposite racks to ensure more even baking and bake another ten minutes.  You may need to bake up to an additional 5 minutes if you use a lot of toppings like us!

Some "after" pictures.  We eat our pizza on paper plates for easier clean up.  After all, there are pizza pans and bowls to wash!



Plenty of leftovers to refrigerate or freeze

Up close

Some other yummy pizza ideas:

  • Enchilada pizza (We used leftover enchilada filling and topped finished pizza with lettuce and a dollop of sour cream)
  • Use alfredo sauce instead of red sauce and top with chicken and veggies.
  • Make a dessert pizza .  We baked a plain pizza crust for ten minutes to give the crust a head start.  After ten minutes, we removed pizza and topped with mini chocolate chips and marshmallows.  We baked it for another ten minutes and then drizzled caramel (in the ice cream section) over the top when it finished baking.  It was AMAZING.  You could also top one with pie filling!
  • Use dough for calzones.  I also saw Anne Burrell on Food Network run her pizza dough through a pasta machine to get it super thin, cut it into triangles, season with spices and cheese, and bake as crackers for dipping into a homemade garlic dip.  The choices are endless!

But we urge you, Brethren, that you increase more and more; that you aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you, that you may walk properly toward those who are outside, and that you may lack nothing.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-12


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Easy Sweet and Sour Pork Chops

A huge sweet and sour pork chop (cut in two), rice (with drippings) and peas
It may look a little homely, but don't be deceived.  The flavor is there!

     It has been a looong time since we've posted anything on this particular blog.  We have been in between homes for well over five months and I haven't really had my own kitchen.  It has definitely been an interesting journey!  Now that we are somewhat settled into our new home, I'm motivated to get this going again!  I am well aware that many folks out there are struggling financially, and groceries are getting more and more difficult to afford.  I hope to provide some ideas, affordable recipes, and some strategies for feeding a large family on a tight budget in the weeks to come.  May the Lord continue to provide for your family as you continue to seek Him and praise Him through it all!

     I have been wanting to share this recipe for some time now and the opportunity arrived today.  My mom used to make this dish when I was little.  I actually hated pork chops as a child and remember groaning in disappointment whenever they were on the menu.  This was the only way I would eat them.  If you are a sweet and sour fan like me, you'll be excited to try this simple, quirky, flavorful recipe.  If you tolerate sweet and sour (like my husband), simply scrape off all the goodness, and put butter on your rice instead of the drippings.  Happy compromise.  

pork chops of your choice
brown sugar 
1 onion
2 lemons
large bottle of ketchup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

First, I rinse and rub the pork chops.  I actually do this with just about everything except ground meat. (I soak lettuce as well.)  This may seem a little excessive to some, but I like clean food.  It is unfortunate, but there may be a few folks lurking in your local meat department who lack your integrity.  Not all wear their little hair nets and plastic gloves.  Some may even slap that dropped piece of meat right back onto the package.  Sorry to be nasty, but it does happen.  Heat may kill germs, but it will not remove debris. I also have to add that there are some WONDERFUL folks in the meat department who have been a a great help to me. Nevertheless, I rinse.  Make sure you clean your sink afterward and try not to be messy while you do this. (Ooooh, my daughter Emily just brought me an iced coffee she made in the "Magic Bullet" as I type this. We'll have to post that. Thank you, Emily!)

I spray a little Pam onto the casserole dishes before shaking off the water and placing in the pork chops.

Sprinkle pork chops generously with brown sugar.

Top with sliced onion.

 Top onion with seeded, sliced lemons. Yep, I wash the outsides of those too.

Okay, it gets a little weird here.  Generously squirt your favorite ketchup on top of the entire thing and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about an hour unless pork chops are boneless, really thin, or extra thick.  I would bake the boneless or extra thin about 30-40 minutes and the extra thick about an hour and 15 minutes.  Be aware that if you shorten the baking time, your onions and lemons may not be as tender as you would like.  I usually go with a standard bone-in pork chop for this reason.  The flavor of the ketchup will transform into a tangy sweet and sour topping, and the meat juices will mix with the flavors of the toppings to make a wonderful sauce for rice.

Within 10 minutes, your house will smell fabulous.  I almost always serve this with buttered rice and ladle the yummy drippings on top.  The rice does better with a sweeter fare than potatoes.  My husband's "rule" in our house is to serve peas with rice and corn with potatoes. If you serve peas with potatoes or corn with rice, the entire space-time continuum will be thrown off.  Just sayin'. The chops below are almost done.  If it seems too intense to leave the thick ketchup glaze on top, remove casserole dishes from the oven a few minutes early. Flip over the pork chops and finish baking. When baking time is over, remove chops and set aside while you whisk everything together in the casserole dish (a little tricky with the onions and lemons).  Return chops, spoon thicker drippings over the top, and serve.

The onions and lemons should be very soft.  I have been known to snag several remaining lemons out of the casserole dish after dinner and nibble on them.  Yum!

You can also use this same recipe with chicken, and yes, it is good.  I have to admit, however, that the chicken does not have the same intense flavor as the pork chops.  There is something the pork just adds to the sauce that makes it superior to the chicken!

In light of the adventure the Wand family has just experienced, the verses below sum up the value of such trials and should encourage you as well:

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.  Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13