Wednesday, February 15, 2012


So this week was my week to host the cooking club (which means I include a recipe, pics, and post on Wednesday I suppose). I have had a crazy week (as usual, I'm starting to wonder if perhaps I'm not as organized as I think). First, I had to make my challah bread and a cheesecake (special request from someone for the lemon cheesecake!), next, on Sunday we had our annual Valentine's Day Dinner. This is really such a fun and fab event my mom hosts every year. We all get together and eat, then pass out Valentine's (so all of Saturday I was running around making mine up, and of course I would forget to take them to the dinner on Sunday...) It was hysterical watching all the kiddies hand out their valentines-my nieces and nephews cannot tell L, EP, and me apart, despite the fact that we look absolutely nothing whatsoever alike and we see them weekly :).  They were so intent on the business of getting their cards around to everyone else that when someone handed them one they would hand that off as well. Of course the adults enjoyed passing out some valentines-just bc you are out of elementary school does not mean you are done making cute crafty treats! I'll have to take some pics and post them, they were all so marvie.

On Monday E brought home her new baby so of course I zipped right up. He is just delightful!
Isn't he cute! (And E you are now obligated to leave a comment :)   )

Tuesday was Valentine's which I'll post about later.
Today I have become an unwilling participant in a strange dramatic reenactment of some events in the 1800s (I think) and so while trying to get my pizza made to get to that, L typed up the recipe on this post for me. She is a wizard on the keyboard :)

So-for my week I chose my fav pizza recipe ever bc I wanted to make sure everyone tried it. I love love love pizza, eat it several times a week to my mother's horror, have applied to work on the Dominos on the moon, and this is the best homemade version I have tried yet!
Several people in the group were not too impressed with this pizza so I feel I had better add a few disclaimers right at the beginning:
1: you must add sugar to the pizza sauce, it is essential!
2: you must have a pizza stone for this crust recipe.
3: throw the crust onto the hot stone, then add the sauce, cheese, and toppings. It is hard to transfer once you have everything on it.
4: It really comes together quickly. I spend 5-10 minutes mixing the crust together and getting it into the bowl to rise. Then I let it rise for about 40 min. I spend about 5 minutes on the sauce and then let it simmer while I roll out the crust and start assembling the pizza-total time, 30 minutes max plus the 40 minutes of rising time.

Awesome Pizza Dough
4-4 1/4 cups bread flour
1 envelope (2 1/4 t) instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil
1 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)

1. Pulse 4 cups of the flour, yeast, and salt together in a food processor (fitted with a dough blade if possible) to combine. With the processor running, pour the oil, then water through the feed tube and process until a rough ball forms, 30-40 seconds. Let the dough rest for 2 minutes, then process for 30 seconds longer. If after 30 seconds the dough is sticky and clings to the blade, add the remaining 1/4 cup flour 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.

I never add the extra flour.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and form it into a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours, before using.

I usually let my dough rise in a slightly warm oven (preheat to 200, then turn it off) to speed things up.

Perfect Pizza Sauce
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
Salt and Pepper
Several Tbsp Sugar
A healthy heap of red pepper flakes

Cook the oil and garlic together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sizzling and fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, and red pepper, and simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (The sauce can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 4 days.)

I love the jars of garlic, so fast and easy and I think it tastes just as good!

 I hate tomatoes and tomato sauce! I always order light sauce on pizza. what makes this sauce better than bearable is the sugar (majorly important!!!!) the crushed red pepper (the more the merrier!) and finally, getting rid of the chunks. I always use my little stick blender (one of my fav tools) to blend it up.

Cheese Pizza
Serves: 4-6

2 pounds pizza dough (see above)
Olive oil, for brushing
2 cups pizza sauce (see above)
12 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (3 cups) (grate your own!!!!!!!)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I never use this, I always forget about it)

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position, place a baking stone on the rack, and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Let the baking stone heat for at least 30 minutes (but no longer than 1 hour). Line a rimless (or inverted) baking sheet with parchment paper. (you don't actually need the parchment paper for this recipe)

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, divide it into 2 equal pieces, and cover with greased plastic wrap. Working with one piece of dough at a time (keep the other piece covered), press and roll the dough into a 14-inch round on a lightly floured counter. Transfer the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet and reshape as needed.

I have a rolling pin but I always use a glass, it is easier to work with.

3. Lightly brush the outer 1/2-inch edge of the dough with oil. Spread 1 cup of the pizza sauce over the dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle with 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella and 2 T of the Parmesan.

go light on the sauce, you will not regret it. Also-I was out of parchment but for this recipe it does not matter, the crust does not stick or anything.

Never (unless you absolutely have no choice) use pre-grated cheese for pizza-it does not melt as well!

4. Slide the parchment paper and pizza onto the hot baking stone. Bake the pizza until the edges are brown and the cheese is golden in spots, 8 to 13 minutes. (Prepare the second pizza while the first bakes.)
 ****a stone is essential for good pizza crust!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
(my mom is continuously giving away her pizza stone (to me). I always just put it in my old bedroom upstairs so that when I am there to cook I have it on hand. Then, a few months later, she finds it in the kitchen and tries to give it away again. Seriously, I cannot live without my stone! It is essential for most breads and pizza!

5. Remove the pizza from the oven by sliding the parchment paper back onto the baking sheet. Discard the parchment paper and slide the pizza onto a cutting board. Let the stone reheat for 5 minutes before baking the second pizza. Serve hot.
my cute pizza plates that Jesse brought me back from Disneyland!

Well, there you have it, the best homemade pizza ever!!!
I tried sticking to just the pizza in this post but I'll have to soon record my thoughts on the strangest dramatic reading that I was involved in tonight.
till later then,

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Holla Back Bread

I made my challah bread-late of course but I live by the saying "better late than never" :)

I actually was not impressed with this. My bread did not seem to rise very well and consequently seemed rather dense and a bit dry. Of course, I burned it, that could have been part of the problem.
My one piece of advice-use Parchment Paper!!!! I cannot believe that the one time I am out of it was the one time it was crucial!
My burned bread was really hard to get off the pan and, as I was in a bit of a mood, I had to restrain my hands from hurling it across the room into the trash. I took the photo first, and then, mad as I was, I did not even taste it. I just held a piece of it in my hand and therefore the bread just "seemed" dense and dry. I did have a slew of taste testers and they said it was just "fine".

I have been in a mood lately-perhaps it is bc my arch nemesis of an instrument, the quantachrome CHEM-BET ultra undeluxe series, is finally behaving (and I can no longer blame the terrible results on it and must accept that my samples, my life's work, have some serious issues...).

Anyhow, I'm off to visit with the instrument again and we'll see what happens, I am supremely confident (as I am too optimistic for my own good) that all will end well there :)

This week is my week to host the baking group so I will for sure be posting on time! Plus, I'm posting my favorite pizza recipe of all time!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the challah bread. At least it looked rather like the photo :)
for the recipe (and an example of not burning the thing) see

I currently have no other news, plus I'm still reeling a bit from the ultimate smack down from both L and O the entire way home from our Valentine's Party (they claim that a) people do not associate chocolates (fine or otherwise) with champagne as much as they think of having chocolates or chocolate covered strawberries with milk and b) that they will not engage in further discussions with me for reasons that were not entirely clear).
However, in addition to my pizza posting, I will include a detailed account of our fabulous Valentine's Party, as well as my first project night. So, you have something to look forward to after all :)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Sunday Evening with Frogs

 I am taking a little break from my acrobatics routine. I am working on building my arm strength by doing handstands against the wall. Plus, it will be convenient to be able to walk on my hands. When I have more strength I'll move to flares-that might take some years... Aside from my arms, I'm working on a sustained worm, back walkovers, and a nice explosion to a grand jazz finale (which is really a handstand from a crouch to a slide through with the leg pose). I've done about 10 minutes worth of work and I wonder if it is possible to pull something in the upper arm-as I've forgotten the names of all the muscles (except gluteous maximus) I think anatomy truly was a waste, and to think, I've never been able to view Arbys roast beef sandwiches the same because of it :(   
Anyhow, I have to give my fatigued crispy body a rest-my body being tired because I was once again caught up in the Target craze and stayed up late screaming about Jason Wu as I snagged a bunch of strange kitty paraphernalia  online (thought nothing compared to M who got a hold of someone's credit card-which had a hold put on it quite quickly, or E and L who kept up a stream of frantic calls and texts), my face being sun burnt as I did not notice the first line of directions on mapquest that said go 26 miles, consequently underestimated (rather majorly) the time it would take to get to Park City, was late to the ski rendezvous, and did not even think about sun screen. At least I got there. I kept looking for the exit after 13 miles (bc I did not know that I really needed to go 26 + 13 miles) and as you can imagine, I was completely bewildered, positive that I had missed the shortcut through the mountain (which exists in every Fantasy novel I have ever read, often abandoned by dwarfs or trolls). E tried to convince me that there was no way there but to go around the lakes. I will never let my precious GPS out of my site again.
O got up this morning (or quite possibly this mid-day, whatever you call 12:30) and told me he had the most awful night (by way of explaining his lolly gagging in bed till all hours). He had  a terrible nightmare about a dinner party at a family's house that went wrong. I immediately was all sympathy, I know how unsettling it is to dream of family dinner parties where everyone is taken out by the Prime Back Killer etc. However, when O told me the details, I realized that we might define nightmare slightly differently. You see, the discussion had been about convection ovens when O jokingly said one of the party members looked like a convection oven. No one laughed, instead, they all told O what bad taste it is to joke about someones appearance etc while he spent the rest of dinner trying to tell them that they had made this into such a big deal and they were being bizarre while the "convection oven" was just sobbing. Then O said to me (in real life, not the dream) "I mean, no one looks like a convection ovens so I was obviously joking." He had me there-if people say you look like a square box, don't take it personally. After all of this, O asked me what a convection oven was (just to be sure it was what he thought, as he was still so mystified by the reaction to his jest). I myself was equally mystified-by O's reaction. I mean, what a wonderful world where a nightmare is where you call someone a convection oven. I do far worse every April Fools Day (which won't happen this year bc I'm going to turn off my phone and lock myself in the lab for 24 hours this year so no one can involve me in their "hilarious" jokes which end with every one crying and me looking like the villain rather an unwilling accomplice).
Anyhow, I just finished the Scorpio Races, great book, and have been working on a frog face. It is the perfect face to present when you have nothing to say-no witty comeback, no idea what someone said, no idea what an answer is, etc. Ever since I started thinking about it, I have noticed my frog face is difficult to distinguish from my regular face, as my brows are unfortunately straight despite my best attempts to get a decent arch, and my mouth is straight across too-and that is a frog face, and enigmatic straight line that no one can interpret. I just tried to do a little more dramatic a face and ended up spitting my mouth wash all over the bathroom as the result was a bit much too much. I think the burnt nose did not help. So far though, I have no frog face to take out in public. I'll have to continue working on that.
Until till tomorrow (and the rest of my Budapest moments....)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Back with 7 Layer Bars

Just back from Yoga. I continue to amaze myself with my dedication to the gym. However, I have the feeling that this week's recipe probably counteracted any of the good done there.

I've had quite the week, as usual...
I've been completely absorbed in some fantasy novels. Every single free minute is spent drowning in them. I discovered another series by Tamora Pierce, my fav!!!! starring the daughter of my all time fav....Alanna!! I've finished the series now, and while they were really only a bit above good, it was so nice to see my favorite people again, Alanna and George, Daine, Numair, Jonathan, Myles, etc, that I'm inclined to rate the series very highly. At first I was a little skeptical of the romance between a person and a crow-transformed-into-a-human, but, it worked in the end. This was nothing like Stuart Little. I spent several long showers analyzing what it is I hate so much about Stuart Little. I think it comes down to this: you are not allowed to not acknowledge weirdness. If all the animals in Stuart Little were talking and wearing t shirts, it would have been fine. But not all of the animals were out racing boats, and yet, no one was ever like "hmm, there's a mouse racing a boat wearing shorts, that's fantastic!" Anyways, I did not mind the crow thing-there are lots of animals doing crazy things in this series. I've moved on to a new book today called the Scorpio Races and I'll let you know how that goes.
I tried to make another board on pinterest full of glow in the dark things-that has not gone far, but I did find some things that I am beyond in love with.

 It is so small so you'll have to lean in close but as you can see, it is a fabulous moose with sparkly antlers. I think this is a must for the tree house I plan to live in one day.

I'm compiling my own Fantasy World Map from all of my fav books. One day, when I own a house (I assume that happens at some point in time) I will have it painted on my wall behind my bed like so....

and just because it is the cutest thing you have never seen

I really want a tiny pig to drink hot chocolate with.

O has been combating a cold (which he treats by staying up all night long playing on the computer) and so there are boxes of tissues cropping up all over. I personally cannot stand tissues (the powdery feel irritates to the point of making my skin crawl) so I know this means he has been to the grocery store-I'm vaguely surprised he could find the place :). In addition to the boxes of tissues, every morning when I wake up there are pans and pots all over the kitchen. My curiosity was certainly piqued. I finally asked O what he has been doing. He told me about, and offered to make me, a breakfast skillet. He is just enamoured with this new thing he has invented. I think I'll have to take him up on it (at a normal hour of the day though). Fortunately he is getting over the cold so I hope his insane hours will go back to just slightly extremely late night hours and possibly he'll eat meals during the hours of 6 am to 10 pm.

Besides these worthy activities, we had the Czech Consulate from LA staying with us for the week (which entailed me setting up a breakfast table with a spot for him and two fake spots for O and I (fake bc we have only eaten breakfast at home and/or together twice and that was over a year ago). Each night before I went to bed all I'd have to do was put out new silverware, bowl, and a cup for his spot, so it really was not too much work). We attended a Czech movie at the Sundance Film Festival-it was depressing, a prereq for Sundance I think. We had two showers for O's side of the family, a bridal and a baby, so lots of fun there, and finally, we had a dinner for two Czech delegates this week at my mom's (so I cannot claim to have been busy as she set everything up for me!) Don't ask me about the conversation as it was all in Czech.
 After dinner on Tuesday O celebrated Mitt's victory. You'd almost think O won something himself, he was that elated. Of course with the dinner and all, his Tuesday rap night had to be moved to Wednesday and I just had to listen from the bathroom while blow drying my hair. It was OK, even though I could not see him, I had the memorable image of him grooving around, lots of hip thrusts etc, in super ultra tight and crazy long jeans (he's been trying to find a pair of designer jeans so for his bday I took him shopping and this was the result in the dressing room. Suffice it to say, we left empty handed as I did not think I could handle a pair of those in the house). Of course the concert was preluded by a mini mental meltdown by O when he became all irate over our house being insanely cold. It is true, we all have to wear coats (as it is kept at 62F) and sit around all bundled up. However, as this is the only way to keep the inferno I call my bedroom bearable, I don't know what other options we have. Today, I gave up all thoughts of sleeping tonight and turned the heat up to 70 :)

So, back to baking!
This week's host was Jesse! J is one of my old roommies. She selected the......Wedding Cake!!!

My jaw dropped when I initially saw that on the list bc it would be so like J to make something horrendously ambitious and such. Fortunately, she was joking and actually selected 7 layer bars.

This Sunday I was properly prepared to make my baking assignment and I got it all done. I was going to post that night but got carried away by the Planet of the Apes (bc it is O's 28 days of bdays, he has been renting nonstop movies on the ITV. I have seen more movies this week than in the last year I think. in case you are wondering, Warrior was good, though I really did not want to see it. Contagion was good, though I only slightly wanted to see it. Planet of the Apes made me want to see the next one, though I also did not want to see it, even while watching it. I personally am going to see if I can sway him into renting the third twilight this weekend :)    ) So all in all, my posting was delayed.

OK, initial thoughts on the 7 layer bars:
Terrible! JK that is a little harsh. You know how cookies are best right out of the oven? Well, these were a gigantic mess right out of the oven. Fortunately I did not throw them out. The next morning they were.... delightful! They were well received by my panel of judges

O took this photo and said "I think that is really nice, I'm getting very good at this".

After allowing them to sit, they reminded me a bit of almond joys, which I love!
I made a few mistakes: 1. do not line the pan with tin foil as the book suggested, it was a hot mess. 2. use two cans of sweetened condensed milk. While the bars were good, I think the sweetened condensed milk I omitted would have taken them to a gooey over the top wonderful level (opinion seconded by my mom).  I will have to try these again with the proper amount and then judge them against the chocolate fillers with oatmeal shortbready crust stuff that I sometimes make (some of my judges thought those were better). All in all, I'm glad I tried these, they were lots of fun! To see the full recipe, check out Jesse's cooking blog at   She added butterscotch chips which I think would be great!

and as we have a super smart girl in our baking club we have this cool linky so you can check out some of the others who are in the group :)


Well, my next post for sure will finish up Budapest and a rather fun massage :)