What I Want to Eat

In the Kitchen: More Pizza!

I’ve been really slacking when it comes to cooking. I’ve tried to make plenty of new things, but nothing really turned out right. I guess my heart just wasn’t in it. But then I decided I really wanted to make pizza (again).

This time I made a homemade thin crust dough rather than just beating the system with store bought mix. I’ve made plenty of pizza dough in my youth with my family, but never on my own despite hearing how “easy” it is from pretty much everyone. The recipe calls for proofing the dough although typically that’s really only done with thicker dough. Proofing this thin dough makes it much more crispy and crumbly rather than airy and fluffy. Proofing dough is super easy because it can be done by room temperature, leaving the bowl on a hot surface (like the stove while the oven is on), or leaving it outside like my grandmother used to.

I chose to split one recipe of dough in half and make two really small pizzas to try different things, so really it makes one regular sized thin pizza ideally. Splitting the dough made it very, very thin and crispy. The first one I made was roasted red pepper and basil while the second was prosciutto and arugula.

I wish I had better photos of the final result. 

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How to Assemble the Perfect Holiday Cookie Tin

Holiday cookie tins were the best things ever when I was a kid. They were always produced with love and care by the person who gave them to us, and my sister and I loved decorating cookies to give to our family and friends. Now as an adult I completely get the appeal of producing cookie tins for hostess gifts, cookie exchanges, and still family and friends.

I am a stress baker. I love being able to stop my over thinking for a little while by focusing on something that requires full concentration and makes people happy once it is finished. The holiday season is notoriously stressful with gifts, parties, work, and finals so it’s the time where I bake the most. In fact I got overboard and can’t possibly eat this many baked goods so my savior is the cookie tin.

It’s the easiest way to spread happiness, cheer, and love because you don’t even need to be an expert baker to produce a cookie tin. There are so many boxed mixes for cookies and brownies which can be made by the directions or altered to create unique tasty treats. But there is a formula for putting together the perfect holiday tin. Here are a few tips, tricks, and actual recipes I use when putting together my tasty gift tins.

Tips:

  • Don’t be afraid of messy textures and frosted cookies. Even a couple frosted cookies can be included as long as the icing has dried (it’s best to use royal icing).
  • When in doubt stick with chocolate chip. Unsure about your skills or trying something new? Go with chocolate chip. It’s a classic and a crowd pleaser. Add M&Ms or nuts to spice them up a little bit.
  • Never skip the gingerbread. You don’t have to roll and cut them. There are plenty of other options for the cookie, but it’s a staple because it includes the tastes of the season: nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger.
  • Separate the contents of the tray/tin with festive cupcake liners or by using twine to tie cookies together.
  • Butter. Butter. Butter. Invest in a lot of butter. Butter cookies are the best cookies and everyone knows it. Make sure to always use real butter for all baked goods. It keeps the flavor and calories don’t count at Christmas.

What is in my holiday cookie tin (aka assembly):

  • Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints – Include a jam cookie for a change of texture.
  • Brown Butter Pecan Shortbread – Try to include a nut cookie of some kind. Pecan Sandies are iconic cookies. Be aware of nut allergies depending on the nut cookie you choose.
  • Gooey Brownies – Brownies meets two requirements of a cookie tin: a bar of some kind and chocolate. There is no dessert without chocolate. Never leave it out.
  • Russian Tea Cakes – Anything with powdered sugar is essential. It’s white and powdery like snow. Russian tea cakes are one of the easiest and most popular cookies I’ve ever made.
  • Gingerbread People – See above plus they are just fun to decorate
  • Sugar Cookies – If you aren’t confident with gingerbread, go for the classic sugar or both. This NY Times guide to sugar cookies is a life saver and gives you tips and tricks for getting the perfect shape, icing, and bake. They are by far the funnest cookie to do because the possibilities are endless.
  • Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip – Remember to under bake and let rest for the perfect gooey cookie

Other Recipes: 

 

 

Monthly Edit

At the risk of being a cliché, I truly cannot believe it is almost December. Part of me is begging for 2016 to just end already. What began as an optimistic and hopeful adventure in January has become a torturous nightmare of a year. That’s not to say some really great things didn’t happen, but there’s been far more overwhelming things than those few great ones.

That said, I’m really excited for Christmas. At least when I begin to stress bake there will always be people around to enjoy the fruits of my labor and it’s much less of a suspicious cry for help. Everyone loves a good Christmas cookie, right? Before moving forward, here’s a few things I really loved this November.

  • Who What Wear Shoes have arrived! For months now I’ve been secretly hoping the Who What Wear x Target Style line would add shoes so it really would be a one-stop shop for all my style needs. FINALLY my prayers have been answered and their holiday shoe collection has finally hit target.com! My favorites are these booties and, something a bit different I normally wouldn’t buy, these slingback flats
  • My Favorite Murder podcast with Georgia Hardstark & Karen Kilgariff is my new podcast obsession. Each week they share fascinating true crime tales that range from popular ones to listeners hometown stories mixed with comedic and funny takes on things to make them a little less chilling.
  • Glitter nail polish is my sworn enemy. It is a real challenge to remove especially with the frequency with which I change my nail color yet some how I have ended up with this new Essie color from their winter collection. I loved most of the colors and just felt I didn’t need yet another red so I went with the gold to shake things up. I must admit, it was fairly easy to remove. I’ll chalk it up to a pre-Christmas miracle. Essie – Getting Groovy
  • I want all of the Zara candles in the world. Okay that’s not entirely possible, but the ones I was smelling as the employees restocked the last week were heavenly. I want my house to smell like that forever and ever. Candle
  • Holiday party’s are coming and I’m obsessed with this leather and lace dress from, of course, Zara. If only I could muster up the confidence to pull it off…
  • This year for Thanksgiving I cooked my very first turkey all by myself. Perfectly cooked to the right temperature on the first try. No waiting for hours because I screwed up the time or underestimated how long a turkey takes to roast. I did have a little help from Bon Appetit, but I nailed it. Another thing I dared to make was this Green Bean casserole. It was great, but I think my sauce skills need a little work.

In the Kitchen: Spinato’s Litaliana Pizza

I haven’t made homemade pizza since I was a kid. It was a twice a year family tradition that took an army to make. I made an attempt a couple of years ago during the summer, but it just turned out to be a time-consuming mess. Wow, I’m really selling this idea aren’t I?

When my best friend mentioned she wanted homemade pizza (by mention I mean asked nearly every day), I decided to give it another go. One of my favorite pizzas is from a local pizzeria, Spinato’s, so I tried to make it at home. I went, got a pizza pan, and gave it my best shot.

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Homemade pizza is relatively easy especially when you embrace “lazy” girl hacks (like I did). Here are my tips and tricks followed by the recipe.

  • Use the easiest dough recipe you can, but don’t use premade pizza crusts from the grocery (the only exception is Trader Joe’s). Use just-add-water packets if you have to, but avoid the premade.
  • Using canned tomatoes in the sauce will make it thinner than a pizzeria style sauce. Use tomato sauce or add more tomatoes to achieve the desired thickness.
  • Add your desired amount of parmesan cheese to the sauce as you like. Cheese is always a good idea.
  • Speaking of cheese, use Galbani mozzarella, and shred it yourself. It melts the best.
  • Preheat the oven at least 15 minutes before cooking the pizza to allow the heat to fill the oven completely.
  • Par-bake the crust before applying toppings if you plan to use “wet” toppings. “Wet” toppings are things that create excess liquid while they cook such as vegetables or meat (which produces grease). Par-baking the crust will make it stronger and able to withstand the extra weight of numerous toppings or “wet” toppings.

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In the Kitchen: Antipasto Pasta Salad

Making pasta salad has become one of my Fourth of July traditions. There’s something delicious about cold pasta, cheese, and vegetables on a warm day. Plus there’s a million different kinds to make and nothing is really off-limits. It’s a kind of everything but the kitchen sink kinda meal.

For this year’s pasta salad I wanted to try something different, but ended up with something pretty Italian. Antipasto is one of my family’s favorite things so I grabbed a bunch of my favorite ingredients and tossed them together in this dish. I chilled it all afternoon, but even just an hour works just fine.

There really are no rules so use whatever pasta you have handy and add any Italian meats or cheeses you enjoy. There are no exact measurements for the mix ins just personal preference (below is one ball of mozzarella, one small log of salami, and one container of cherry tomatoes). Word to the wise, when using prosciutto, cut back on the salt in the vinaigrette because of the natural salt content of the meat it will be overly salted.

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