Pizza anyone?

When kids are at that difficult stage where everything is “mine”, you can make their little hearts go pitter-patter by serving them an individual pizza and letting them choose their own toppings. This thin crust recipe may be the answer to that age old question of , how do I do that?

Everyone's Favorite, Pizza

You will need these ingredients:

1 cup of warm water

½ package of active dry yeast (about 1 & 1/8 teaspoon)

1 and ½ teaspoon of granulated sugar ½ teaspoon of salt

3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

3 cups of bread flour

Blended Pizza Cheese (Mozzarella and Provolone)

Instructions:

This dough does not have to rise.  Using a large bowl, combine the warm water with the yeast, sugar, oil and salt. Mix until the yeast dissolves. Use a wooden spoon, to mix in the flour, ½ cup at a time. Once it’s all mixed together, knead it on a floured counter until it feels elastic.  Divide into 4 parts, roll each into a ball and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Assemble your favorite toppings.  You can use a jar of prepared pizza sauce or make a simple sauce yourself by combining a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce with 1 and ½ Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a pinch of sugar.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. A pizza stone will deliver a crispy crust, whether thick or thin. Otherwise a baking sheet will do. Shape each individual dough ball into a round crust about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Add the sauce and a few toppings (not too many) and sprinkle on pizza cheese.

Bake at 425 degrees for 11 to 17 minutes turning once or twice after 10 minutes if needed to achieve the crust to your liking.

Yay, pizza for everyone!

What does Chicken Noodle Soup have to do with a wedding, you might be thinking?  Last week my grandson got married.  He and his new bride did something at their reception that I had never seen before.  They ask some of their family members to make soups for the reception.  My grandson ask me to do his favorite home made Chicken Noodle Soup.

It’s a simple recipe that doesn’t take long to put together in a slow cooker. It’s a soup I have made for him and others several times over the years. I’m going to share the recipe with you, you never know when you might need a memory to share.

Zac’s Chicken Noodle Soup

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You will need:

8 Cups of Chicken Stock

2 Cups of Cooked Chicken, cubed

3 Stalks of Celery, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces

2 Carrots, sliced into 1/4 pieces

1 Medium Onion, diced

1 Teaspoon Salt

1/2 Teaspoon Pepper

1/4 Teaspoon Poultry Season

2 Cups of Pasta, I used bow ties but any pasta will do.

Place everything except the pasta into the slow cooker.  Stir to incorporate the ingredients.  Cook on high for one hour then lower the heat to the low setting.  While the mixture is cooking on low, cook your pasta on your stove, as directed on the package, until they are almost done, el dente`.  I have found trying to cook pasta in a slow cooker, will reward you will a gummy mess, most of the time.  So I prefer to cook it on my stove, then drain and add to the slow cooker, stir to well incorporated.  You will want to cook for another 30 minutes on low, allowing the pasta to absorb the Chicken Noodle Soup flavor, then serve while hot.*

*If you have a newer slow cooker, it might have a keep warm setting, if so, place the soup on that setting.  Refrigerate your leftover soup within 2 hours after removing the heat source.

As you can see from the picture, because I was making two gallons, I had to make it in my large soup pot.  If you have a large gathering, you can double the recipe and do like wise.

12 Tips for Soup and Salad Lovers

1. With soup, it is easy to “Cook Once, Eat Twice” (or three times!). Soup is the perfect freezer food, which means leftovers won’t go to waste. Soup will keep in the freezer for a couple months, so don’t hesitate to whip up extra large batches to enjoy now and later.

soup and salad lovers

2. Freeze leftover soup in muffin tins for easy-to-transport single-serve lunch portions.

3. Allow soup to cool overnight in the refrigerator before freezing. Putting hot soup into your freezer can briefly increase the internal temperature of your freezer, which could negatively impact your already frozen items.

4. Don’t add cold milk or cream straight from the refrigerator to your soups while cooking. To prevent curdling, warm the milk and cream up before adding to the simmering soup.

5. Mirepoix is a combination of diced carrots, celery and onion used to add flavor to soups, stocks and broths. The smaller the pieces are cut, the faster they will release their flavor.

6. When making soup, “sweat” aromatics, like onions or garlic, first. Simply sauté these ingredients in a little olive oil or butter until they are soft. This will release their flavors and enhance the final taste of your recipe.

7. Give your soup a chance to cool a bit before adding final seasoning. When soup is boiling hot, it is difficult to tell whether or not it actually needs more salt or other seasonings.

8. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime to broth-based soups before serving to “brighten” up the flavors. Citrus has a natural fresh taste to it that will liven up the other flavors in your soup.

9. Save time cleaning up by making your salad dressing in the same bowl you plan to serve your salad in. Mix up your dressing ingredients and let them sit for a while to give the flavors a chance to meld. Then add the rest of your salad ingredients to the bowl and toss to coat right before serving. If you make more dressing than you need for one salad, simply pour off the excess into another storage container before adding your salad ingredients.

10. When making homemade vinaigrette, add a little Dijon mustard or mayonnaise to emulsify the mixture. This will help hold together the oil and vinegar (or other acidic components) longer.

11. No one likes a soggy salad. Don’t add dressing until right before you serve it to keep your lettuce crisp.

12. It’s important to thoroughly wash lettuce before eating it, but it can be challenging to get it dry enough to hold your dressing. If you eat a lot of salad, a salad spinner is definitely worth the investment.

Ingredients for A Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup

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Potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables. You can do so many things with them, including this wonderful simple soup.

You will need:

4 Cups of Chicken Broth

1 ½ Cup of Whole Milk

2 to 2 ½ Cups of Potatoes, cubed

¼ Cup Celery, thinly sliced

¼ Cup Carrots, thinly sliced

½ Cup Sweet White Onions

¾ Teaspoon of Salt

¼ Teaspoon of White Pepper

4 Ounces of Cream Cheese, room temperature, cut into one inch pieces

1 Tablespoon Corn Starch

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Add the oil to a six quart soup pot, heating it over medium high heat.

When the oil gets hot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Cook for two – three

minutes while stirring. Turn the heat down to simmer.

Add the chicken broth, potatoes and spices, cooking until the potatoes are

fork tender [about 10 minutes].

Add 1 Cup of the milk, while stirring, to avoid curdling. When the milk has reached the same temperature as the cooking soup, drop in the cream

cheese, allowing it to melt for a couple of minutes before stirring the soup,

once more.

Taste the mixture to be sure you do not need to add more salt or pepper.

If more is needed, do so now.

Add the corn starch and the rest of the milk to a small bowl and mix well.

Slowly pour the mixture into the hot soup, stirring, until the soup thickens. Reduce the heat to warm and allow the soup to cool.

Serve with a good hardy bread or an assortment of crackers.

Options:

[1] Top with your favorite shredded cheese.

[2] Slice a couple green onions and sprinkle on top.

[3] A couple tablespoons of Bacon Bits will add lots of extra flavor.

[4] Add a pinch or two of Red Pepper Flakes to the cooking soup,

to add a little kick to the soup.

[5] Float a pat of butter on top of the hot soup.

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Potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables. You can do so many things with them.  Baked, Fried, or Hashed, they are simply one of the best all around food items.  This wonderful simple soup recipe will delight anyone who eats it, give it a try on a cold Autumn night.

You will need:

4 Cups of Chicken Broth

1 ½ Cup of Whole Milk

2 to 2 ½ Cups of Potatoes, cubed

¼ Cup Celery, thinly sliced

¼ Cup Carrots, thinly sliced

½ Cup Sweet White Onions

¾ Teaspoon of Salt

¼ Teaspoon of White Pepper

4 Ounces of Cream Cheese, room temperature, cut into one inch pieces

1 Tablespoon Corn Starch

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Add the oil to a six quart soup pot, heating it over medium high heat.

When the oil gets hot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Cook for two – three minutes while stirring. Turn the heat down to simmer.

Add the chicken broth, potatoes and spices, cooking until the potatoes are fork tender [about 10 minutes].

Add 1 Cup of the milk, while stirring, to avoid curdling. When the milk has reached the same temperature as the cooking soup, drop in the cream cheese, allowing it to melt for a couple of minutes before stirring the soup,once more.

Taste the mixture to be sure you do not need to add more salt or pepper.  If more is needed, do so now.

Add the corn starch and the rest of the milk to a small bowl and mix well.

Slowly pour the mixture into the hot soup, stirring, until the soup thickens. Reduce the heat to warm and allow the soup to cool.

Serve with a good hardy bread or an assortment of crackers.

  • Options:

[1] Top with your favorite shredded cheese.

[2] Slice a couple green onions and sprinkle on top.

[3] A couple tablespoons of Bacon Bits will add lots of extra flavor.

[4] Add a pinch or two of Red Pepper Flakes to the cooking soup, to add a little kick to the soup.

[5] Float a pat of butter on top of the hot soup.

If you’re looking for a meatless meal that satisfies, look no further. This isn’t an exact recipe, it lets you choose your favorite vegetables, herbs and spices.  Instead it is meant to inspire you for your next veggie only meal.

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Then open your refrigerator and see what is in the vegetable draw.  Choose your favorites and begin chopping up some veggies.  Next add some herbs, such as, Basil, Cilantro, Oregano or mint.  Drizzle with Olive Oil, then lightly toss.  Add a pinch or two or my favorite spices, salt and pepper, lightly mix to mingle the flavors.  Using two pieces of foil, [or as many as you need] divide the vegetables and place on the foil, folding them into small pouches.  Place on a cookie sheet and bake for about 20 minutes for a hot crunchy texture or 35 minutes for a completely cooked meal. 

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In this photo, we have pattypans, peppers, onions and tomatoes with basil, parsley and oregano.  You can also add, fresh mushrooms, eggplant, garlic and plenty of other veggies.  Most will work well in this little quick and easy [no] recipe meatless meal.

Take care when opening the pouch as steam can burn fingers and noses, if gotten too close.  The aroma will be amazing but don’t stop there, add a drizzle of your favorite balsamic reduction or soy sauce, then serve over rice, pasta, Quinoa or just have it by itself.  With all the flavors and texture of this meatless meal you will not miss the meat at all.

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If you prefer your food grilled, this [no] recipe can be done on your grill, also.  Just be sure to use one of the vegetable baskets made just for grilling so your chopped veggies will not fall through the grill while cooking.  Complete the cooking before adding the soy sauce, balsamic vinegar or Olive oil to the hot vegetables.  Toss to incorporate the flavors before serving. Serve with some slices of warmed french bread that has been sprinkled with Parmesan Cheese for a meal to remember.

 

Garden Fresh Italian Tomato Sauce

¼ Cup of Olive Oil

2 Medium Sweet Onions, chopped

2 Cloves of Garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Basil Leaves, finely chopped

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon of Fresh Oregano, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon of Sugar

4 Pounds of Fresh Tomatoes, peeled and chopped*

[should measure about 2 ½ quarts]

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Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, Basil, Oregano and salt. Saute for about five minutes then stir in the tomatoes. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about two hours. Stir often. Add the sugar and continue to simmer until the sauce come to the thickness you like.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. You should have about 5 ½ to 6 cups of sauce. When cooled, store in air tight containers until ready to use. Can be frozen if needed.

*Before chopping, squeeze out as many seeds as possible. The seeds can give the sauce a bitter taste. Try keeping as much of the liquid as you can by squeezing over a mesh strainer with a bowl under it. Add the liquid to the cooking sauce. This sauce can be added to any of your favorite pasta recipes.

Fabulous Garlic Sauce

½ Cup of Minced Garlic, about 1 large head

¼ Cup of Olive Oil

¼ Cup of Butter

1 Cup of Fresh Parsley, finely chopped

¼ Cup of Parmesan Cheese, shredded

Heat the oil and butter over medium heat until soft but not browned. If you scorch the sauce, it will become bitter tasting. Stir in the parsley and cook while stirring for about two minutes. You want the parsley soft but still green. Serve while hot over ½ pound of cooked pasta, toss well. Adding ½ cup of small shrimp will only make this meal better.

White Clam Sauce

2 Small cans of Minced Clams [about 14 ounces total]

¼ Cup Olive Oil

¼ Cup Butter

2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed

2 Tablespoons of Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped

½ Teaspoon Salt

Drain the clams, reserving the liquid. In a skillet, slowly heat the oil and butter. Add the garlic and saute until the garlic is golden brown in color. Remove the skillet from the heat and add in ¾ cup of clam liquid*, salt and cilantro. Bring it back up to a slow boil, simmering for about 10 minutes. Add the clams and simmer for another 3 minutes, while stirring. Recipe makes about 1 cup of sauce. Enough for ½ pound of your favorite pasta.

*If there isn’t enough clam liquid, finish it off with water or chicken stock.

 

Tips for Reducing Your Family’s Food Waste

You might be surprised to learn that in the United States, we have more than 34 million tons of food waste on an annual basis. That accounts for around 14 percent of the total waste we place in our landfills, where it decomposes and creates greenhouse gases. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that families in the United States waste about 27 percent of their food purchases, thus wasting spendable income.

So what can you do to reduce your food waste? Keep in mind that by reducing the amount of food you throw away, you’re actually saving money too. The following tips and lifestyle changes will help you make sure very little goes to waste.

[1] Meal Planning will help stop Food Waste.

Plan your meals weekly. Decide how many meals your family will be eating at home each week. Then make a written plan of what you need for breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Create a list and then shop from the list, buying only what you need. When you’re making the list, keep the recipes in front of you so you can make sure you buy the right quantity. For example, if a stir fry recipe calls for 10 ounces of chicken, you can buy only around 10 ounces, about one large chicken breast.

[2] Learning to Love Leftovers will stop Food Waste.

Much of the food that goes to waste in your home is most likely due to leftovers. Either change your meal planning so you don’t have leftovers, or learn to love them. For example, leftover stir fry may not sound like a typical breakfast, but it can be quite satisfying if you add a couple of eggs and create an omelet. You can also, plan to use them the next day for your brown bag lunch.

food waste This is one of my favorite ways to use leftovers for another meal.  A finger food plate where everyone gets a verity of small leftovers for a complete meal.  Black bean salad with corn tortilla chips, salmon pete` on celery sticks, sliced fresh veggies and a boiled egg makes an inviting meal, while clearing out the refrigerator.

[3] Learning to Preserve food will stop Food Waste.

There are many different opportunities to preserve your produce before it goes bad. For example, if you buy an abundance of apples and can’t eat them all before they go bad, you can chop them up and freeze them. You can place them in a food dehydrator or a low temperature oven and make dried apple slices. You can also cook them down and toss them in a food processor and make applesauce or apple butter.

Finally, if you just can’t do anything with that food and it’s going to end up in a landfill, consider composting. Composting turns your food scraps and paper scraps into rich soil that you can use in your garden, landscaping or even in your indoor plants. It’s a smart way to help keep food waste out of landfills and to enhance your gardening experience.

 

Less Meat in Your Diet Means More Money in Your Pocket

We all know that reducing meat consumption can help us lose weight and reduce the risk of

chronic health problems and diseases. But, having less meat in your diet, can save you money as well.

The astronomical cost of raising the meat we eat is passed on to you, the consumer, in supermarkets

and restaurants.  Beans, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains are much less expensive and can save

you some serious dollars by pulling meat off the list.

add broccoli instead of meat

 

You’ll even spend less in restaurants when you choose from the ‘heart healthy” or vegetarian menus.

Many restaurants all across the country are joining the meatless bandwagon and offering more

meatless entrees. One restaurant even provides a multi-course meatless tasting menu every

Monday and the owner claims that it’s perked up his (usually) slow Monday clientele.

It’s true that some organic and gourmet fruits, vegetables and nuts are decidedly more expensive

than a good deal on a $1 cheeseburger at your favorite fast food restaurant, but for vegetarian staples

such as beans, lentils, eggs, dairy, rice and corn, there’s no doubt that you’ll save money on your grocery bill.

Some supermarkets offer staples such as beans and nuts in bulk, saving you money and letting you

purchase only what you need, so there’s less waste.   Another option for meatless meals is ‘meatless meat.’

Veggie burgers, chicken substitutes and other products are readily available in almost every supermarket

and most health food stores. They’re made from soy and seasoned so that many would swear they’re

eating real meat.

These veggie substitutes are cholesterol free and there’s no fat, so, there’s no waste.   The Eastern world

has known about the benefits of tofu (soy) for centuries and countries such as China and Japan use

it in many exotic dishes and stir fries.  It tastes good and is good for you.

Meat on your grocery list means more money at the supermarket. Going meatless at least once a

week not only saves money, but more than that, it will decrease cholesterol and saturated fat and

make you healthier.   Less meat in your diet will mean better health and more spendable money in

your budget.

I’m a believer in cooking more than one meal at a time.  Cooking multi meals at the same time, sets you up for more time in the evening for family activities or just plain sitting and enjoying each other.  If you don’t have time to do, two complete meals, do the prep work for both at one time. Below are three recipes where all the hard stuff can be done at once, setting you up for 20-30 minute meals.
Shopping list for three meals:
2 Pounds of Ground Beef
2 Large Onions
1 Red Sweet Bell Pepper
1 Jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
Small head of lettuce
1 Package of soft tortilla shells
1 Package of Corn Tortilla Shells
3 Packages of Ramen Noodles [chicken or beef]
1 Can of Diced Tomatoes
Assorted Shredded Cheese
1 Package of Taco Spices
2 Roma Tomatoes
Prep by chopping the onions, tomatoes and pepper.
Shred ½ head of the lettuce
Place the vegetables into separate zip lock bags and refrigerate.
Brown the ground beef and ½ of the chopped onions, just until the meat is pink, then cool and divide into 3 equal parts.
Place the meat into air tight containers and refrigerate until needed.
Beef Tacos
1 part of the browned meat
1 package of taco spices
the chopped onions, tomatoes and lettuce
½ to ¾ cup of shredded cheese
Taco shells [flour and corn]
Finish cooking the ground meat, adding the spice package. Place all the ingredients on your table and allow everyone to make their own taco.
Serve with Corn on the cob and some Fresh fruit to complete your family meal.
Ramen Noodle Beef Casserole
1 part of the browned meat
3 packages of Ramen noodles, broken into pieces
¼ cup of chopped onions
1 can of diced tomatoes
3 cups of water
shredded cheese
Using a medium pot, add the ground meat, onions, diced tomatoes and cook until the onions are soft. Add in the water, noodles and flavor packages. Cook over medium heat until the water has disappeared, pour the mixture into a casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with ¾ cup of shredded cheese*.
Place in a 350 degree preheated oven and bake until the cheese has melted down over the noodles [about 12 minutes].
Serve with a garden salad, using the second half of the lettuce and some of the other chopped veggies.
*Velveeta Cheese can be used here, instead.
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Add the browned meat plus ½ cup of onions and ½ of the chopped red pepper, to a medium sauce pan. Cook while stirring, until the vegetables are soft, then add the jar of sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Using a large pot, heat 4-6 quarts of water. Salt the water until you can lightly taste the salty flavor to enhance the flavor of the pasta. You want it to taste like the ocean not the Dead Sea. When the water reaches its boiling point, place in the pasta of your choice and cook as directed on the package.
When the pasta has cooked, drain well, removing all the water you can, return it to the pot or a serving platter. Some people like to add the pasta into their sauce but I do not. It will soak up the sauce too quickly and in some cases will leave you with a dry pasta dish with no sauce to serve on the side. I prefer to place my pasta on my plate then add the sauce over the top, adding a little sprinkle of cheese.
Serve with warm garlic bread and steamed green beans to complete your meal.  Cooking multi meals at one time will allow you more family time when it comes to putting dinner on the table.