Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Deep-Dish Pizza!

Last night I tried a recipe for deep-dish pizza that I had pinned on Pinterest a few weeks ago. We gave it two thumbs up!

The recipe was from The Comfort of Cooking. If you want to see a picture, click on the link because after waiting 3 hours for it to be done (due to circumstances I wasn't able to start the dough rising til 5pm), we were in too much of a hurry to eat it for me to grab my camera! I've never tried deep-dish pizza before but it was quite easy. I made mine in a 9-inch pie plate and it worked perfectly. The dough was soft and chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside, the toppings were perfect (although I wish I would've had some fresh basil), and...it was just yum. I was also happy with the thriftyness of the recipe because it makes enough dough for 2 pizzas and only uses half package of Italian sausage! Also, I had some leftover for lunch today. I put the other half of the dough in the freezer as the recipe mentions, and I'm excited to make it again and play with some more toppings. =)

Here's the recipe:

Pizza Dough
Makes 2 pizza crusts

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/3 cups warm water
1 envelope yeast

Add the yeast to the warm water and set aside for 5 minutes.

Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and olive oil. Stir the yeast into the water and make sure it’s all dissolved. Add it to the flour mixture. Mix until everything is combined, and knead with a dough machine or by hand for about 8 minutes.

Oil two bowls lightly with olive oil and set aside. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll into balls. Place each ball into the oiled bowls, seam side down, and brush the tops with a little olive oil. Top each bowl with plastic wrap or a clean, dry towel and place the dough in a warm place (I use a turned-off oven). Let rise 2 hours.

Once risen, use the dough or wrap in plastic wrap, then a plastic baggie, and freeze or refrigerate.

Deep Dish Sausage Pizza with Spinach Salad
Serves 4

3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
6 ounces Italian sausage, casings removed
12 ounces pizza dough, homemade or frozen store bought, at room temperature
1/2 pound mozzarella, grated (2 cups)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to a pan and cook sausage over medium heat until browned, 6-7 minutes. As it cooks, break the sausage into crumbles with a potato masher (this makes it much easier!) or large spoon. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.

Heat oven to 400° F. Coat a 9-inch oven-proof skillet or cake pan with 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil. Stretch and press the dough into the pan, covering the bottom and sides. Top with half the mozzarella, then the tomatoes, oregano, and remaining mozzarella.

Scatter the crumbled sausage over the pizza. Bake until the crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes.

Concerts and Comedy

Last week I had the amazing opportunity to see the Afters, Sanctus Real, and Casting Crowns in concert as a part of their Come to the Well tour. They were incredible!

I mostly went for Sanctus Real, even though they only sang about 5 songs. I have been a fan of them ever since I started listening to Christian music a lot, but their latest album, "Pieces of a Real Heart," has meant the most to me. It came out at a time in my life when I was struggling a lot spiritually and emotionally, and every song on that album blessed me in some way. But it was great to see Casting Crowns, one of the first artists I started listening to when I started going "rebellious" and listening to that "devil music with a beat," and The Afters as well.

The Afters were on first. Here they are belting out "Never Going Back to OK."

From Blogger Pictures

Sanctus Real next. Awesome guys.

From Blogger Pictures

This is not the most flattering picture of him, but I think I might have a wee bit of a musician crush on Matt, the lead singer. Is that allowed? ;-)

From Blogger Pictures

Here's my favorite song of theirs, "I'm Forgiven," which they performed at the concert.

Casting Crowns was last. They are fantastic live, and I will definitely be downloading their new album when it comes out. The songs they sang from it were great.

From Blogger Pictures

Overall, a great night. If you enjoy Christian music, check to see if the Come to the Well tour is coming to a town near you!

On Friday night, Andrew and I went to a comedy show at the club on post. I won tickets by answering a question correctly on the Ft. Bliss MWR's Facebook page. I didn't care for two of the acts; although they did make me laugh plenty, they just weren't the kind of comedians I enjoy. But the 2nd act I thoroughly enjoyed. The comedian was Steve Hofstetter and he is hilarious. He does use profanity a lot, but he is not nasty just for the point of being nasty (which is why I hate the majority of comedians--is normal life not easy enough to make fun of without resorting to non-stop filth?). Here's a good bit of his if you've never heard of him:

Anyway, it was a fun week for live entertainment!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cheap Meals

This morning I posted on Facebook about a show I watched on the Food Network called "Sandra's Money-Saving Meals," where the hostess made a meal for $20 (without even using something expensive like steak or seafood!) and called it budget-friendly. I'm sure her show might be helpful to some people who aren't used to cooking at home and need to start with some baby steps. But it sparked some fun discussion on my status about what we all typically spend on groceries a month and how much our average meals cost. It varied, but one thing we all agreed on is that $20 is NOT money-saving for the average family for a weekday meal! =)

Anyway, I am not at all an expert when it comes to sticking to a budget for grocery shopping. Andrew can certainly attest to the fact that I have blown way too much money on groceries too many times to count! My problem has always been not sticking to meal-planning consistently, as when I don't meal-plan, I go haphazardly through the grocery store grabbing everything that inspires me, top that off with the ingredients for a few recipes I'm wanting to try, and then faint when I get to the register and see the total. Add another fainting session when at the end of the week I realize that a special vegetable I bought for a certain recipe was forgotten about and is rotting in my veggie drawer because I got distracted with all the other cool things I bought. It's really appalling. =)

Now that I have more time on my hands, I'm working on being consistent in the thrifty habits that I know work if I use them. I am still spending more than I would like right now because there are a lot of items that I keep as staples in my pantry/fridge that had to be thrown out when we moved, and I'm slowly replacing them. Moving sucks! But it is still encouraging to break down my grocery bills and see how much our meals are actually costing me. And on average, mine cost about $3 to $6 depending on what meat I'm using. Speaking of meat, I like to buy it in bulk. Last week, I bought a big package of chicken leg quarters and a big pack of boneless, skinless chicken breasts for a total of $20, and that worked out to enough meat for 8 meals. Nice!

I can attribute my ability to make cheap meals mostly to the fact that I grew up cooking for my family of 12. Cooking was one of my daily chores and it was one chore I didn't mind having! However, we couldn't afford fancy ingredients or expensive cuts of meat, or any of the processed ingredients that can make cooking easy. I learned how to work magic on chicken, ground beef/turkey, beans, and cheap cuts of pork, even if the recipe I was trying called for something we couldn't afford or keep in the pantry.

This is a meal my mom found originally and I still make periodically to this day. It is cheap, delicious, and not at all bad for you! =)

Salisbury "Steaks"

Break up 1lb of lean ground beef into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup dry bread crumbs or 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, a sprinkle of garlic powder, 1 beaten egg, and a generous sprinkling of parsley.

From Blogger Pictures

Mix and form patties. Place the patties in a heated deep frying pan. If the beef is very lean add a bit of oil to the pan to keep them from burning.

From Blogger Pictures

Cook the burgers for about 4 minutes on each side, then take them out and put on a plate.
Add 2 cups of beef broth to the pan. Stir to deglaze the pan and let the broth heat up til almost ready to boil. Dissolve a few tablespoons of cornstarch in half a cup of water and slowly stir into the broth a little at a time until it has reached the thickness you want. If you accidentally get it too thick, just add a little water.

From Blogger Pictures

Add the burgers back into the pan and reduce the heat to low.

From Blogger Pictures

Cover and let simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until burgers are cooked through. Add a bit of salt to the gravy if needed. Serve over mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta. Yummy!

From Blogger Pictures

A few notes: This meal probably cost me around $4, and made enough for 3 people (meaning I had leftovers for lunch the next day!). You can use ground turkey instead of ground beef (just switch the beef broth to chicken), and also add mushrooms and onions. Also, I use chicken and beef broth a LOT. I would spend a lot of money on it if I hadn't discovered "Better than Bouillon" organic condensed stock. Costco has jars of both chicken and beef  for about $6 each that make 78 cups of stock. The grocery store carries a smaller jar that makes 38 cups of stock for $4. It's not quite as convenient as the bottles/cans of stock, since you have to dissolve the "gel" in hot water first, but the price makes it more than worthwhile!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Kitteh can haz tuna?

Cats have amazing noses. Ever since Reilly smelled me opening a can of sardines a few months ago (yes, I like sardines--don't judge), he has associated the sound of cans opening with the scent of fish, and he comes running. If he can't hear the can opening, but it's some kind of seafood, his nose will tell him to come running.

Tonight he was sleeping in our bedroom and I was in the kitchen making dinner. I got out two cans of tuna, opened one, and then went in the living room to say to Andrew, "I just opened up some tuna; I wonder how long it will take Reilly to come running."

The words were barely out of my mouth when here comes Reilly from the bedroom, looking all expectant! LOL He followed me into the kitchen and gave me pleading looks and did his loud, special I-want-fish meow until I gave him a bit.

I love cats!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wine festival!

This weekend was the Harvest Wine Festival in Las Cruces, New Mexico (about an hour away)! We decided to go today. Andrew is not a huge wine drinker--he would much rather have a beer--but he took me anyway and by the end of the day he was even choosing his own samples and critiquing them. I was proud of him. ;-)

From Texas Army Adventure
It was a little on the hot side today--around 100--but I must say, it's rather a nice change to go to an outdoor festival and be able to count on not freezing your butt off or getting rained on. Haha

From Texas Army Adventure
It wasn't unpleasantly busy, which was nice. We picked a good day to go.

From Texas Army Adventure
Getting my sampling on! Our $15 tickets included a wine glass to do all our drinking in, plus free tastes at all of the wine vendors' booths. I thought that was a pretty good deal.

From Texas Army Adventure
Yummy fresh quesadillas for lunch! Andrew refused to let me take a picture of him for this because he said there was nothing special about it, but I argued that since this is the first time we've gotten fresh Mexican food at a festival/fair, it was worth documenting. He doesn't get pictures sometimes. ;-)

From Texas Army Adventure
So many yummy wines to try! I'm no wine expert but I'd say New Mexico does a pretty good job at representing in the wine industry.

From Texas Army Adventure
Andrew tried a wine slushie! I'm a little bummed I forgot to try one myself before we left.

From Texas Army Adventure

From Texas Army Adventure

From Texas Army Adventure
The bottles that came home with me. I could've bought so much more! But these were two of my favorites. A semi-sweet white wine (Symphony) that had been named best of the festival and a sweet red that I particularly loved.

It was a fun day and I'm looking forward to going again next year! I also made sure to bring a bunch of brochures home with me so I can visit the wineries themselves, perhaps with some girlfriends!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Happy Finds

Yesterday I went on my first Costco trip since moving to Texas. I love Costco. There are a lot of things I buy in bulk there, particularly my cooking/baking basics like flour, sugar, stock, meat, rice, butter, etc. Anyway, I've noticed every Costco is a little different. At this one I was overjoyed to find these two items:

From Blogger Pictures
Grapeseed oil and quinoa!

I've been using grapeseed oil as my only cooking oil for a couple years now. It's the healthiest oil out there and, unlike olive oil, is also mild enough to use in baking recipes. I was so excited to find a 2 liter bottle for $7.98! As for quinoa, I've been trying to find it for awhile, after trying it and liking at a friend's house. El Paso is not exactly the capital of healthy eating enthusiasts, so I was afraid I was going to have to order it online, but lo and behold! This 4lb bag for $9. I'm really looking forward to trying some recipes I've been finding and using it to occasionally replace my never-failing side of starch every dinner.

I also discovered they carry Greek yogurt for a good price! I love Greek yogurt. I didn't get it this time though since I still have some in my fridge.But my health-nutty side was definitely satisfied by yesterday's trip to Costco!

I also ran into Ross and Marshall's and found some of the organizational items I had on my Container Store wishlist for fixing up my kitchen. I love Ross and Marshall's!

From Blogger Pictures
Pictures to follow when I've used these to get my chaotic kitchen drawers and a few cabinets in order!