Food, Seasonal Food

With this apple, I will make…

1024141146.jpg

It’s October. Such a gorgeous, gorgeous month this year. One thing we love about this month in my house are the apples. Apple season starts typically in August and reaches its peak towards the end of October. That’s the time when you can find the best apples for the cheapest price. I am so very excited about this blog post. Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. Buying local, delicious

2. Apples to make into

3. Homemade applesauce

4. Using the crock pot

5. And doing it on the cheap.

Applesauce.

In the crock pot.

Where have I been? Why didn’t I think of this before? I was browsing pinterest, looking for things to do with some wicked awesome apples I picked up in Amish Country when I came across these recipes for crock pot applesauce:

How To Make The Best Slow Cooker Applesauce (Live Simply)

How To Make Your Own Applesauce In The Slow Cooker (One Good Thing By Jillee)

My blog post is based on sort of a combo of these two recipes. I used the ratio of apples to lemon juice and cinnamon from @onegoodthingbyjillee and I did my prep like @livesimply and took her advice and added water and honey.

Because I’ve made applesauce on the stove-top a kadjikillion times, I felt ok just using guidelines from these recipes to make it in the crock pot.

1022141504.jpg

First, of course, I had to get some apples. So long story short, I found this wonderful place to buy apples. It’s cheap, local and the customer service and product value are exceptional. About a week ago, I went there for the second time to buy more Macintosh apples and some Golden Delicious with the intent of making boatloads of applesauce.

Amount: I ended up buying a 1/2 bushel of golden delicious and 1 peck of Macintosh. I wasn’t really sure on the exact amount of applesauce I wanted to make. Maybe I should have checked out this chart sooner..

According to the chart, I could have made 6-7.5 quarts of applesauce with 1/2 bushel of apples, and about 3 quarts with the Macintosh for a total of 10 quarts of applesauce. That’s roughly 52 pounds of apples for 10 quarts or 40 servings of 8 oz each.

I did not feel like making that much. Plus, I would rather save some apples to eat. The Macintosh are especially good for eating in my opinion. Here is what we brought home.

1022141628a

1022141627
Tiny baby hand for scale 🙂
1022141804
Add cinnamon and lemon juice.

Mix.

1022141806

1023140900a
All Golden, batch #1.
1027141207a.jpg
Batch #2 is Golden + Macintosh.

My method:

1. Peel, slice, cut the apples. I would guesstimate I cut up 6 lbs, or a little over 1/4 of the 1/2 bushel bag. I was aiming to double jillee’s recipe. I just filled the crock pot with as many slices as it would hold.

2. Juice 2 lemons for 3 TBS lemon juice. Again, this is double of jillee’s.

3. Grate 2 tsp. of cinnamon.

4. Pour on the lemon juice and sprinkle the cinnamon over the apples.

5. Then toss it all together and turn the crock pot on high.

6. On batch #1, I added about 3/4c. water and a few TBS honey about 1 1/2 hours into it.

7. Stir it periodically. I had to watch every so often to make sure the apples weren’t boiling over.

The apples actually cooked rather quickly. It took only 2 or 3 hours for the applesauce to be done. I didn’t need to mash them overly either. I actually prefer the semi-chunky texture, so I didn’t puree or alter the sauce in any way.

1027141209a.jpg

It’s very easy, no? As long as it isn’t too sour or cinnamon-y for your taste, you should be good. Live simply used Red Delicious apples in her sauce, but I really wouldn’t use that kind…her sauce was really brown and I think the type she used may have something to do with it. But to each his own! My fav. apple is a Golden Delicious, so I used those. On batch #2 I mixed in some Macintosh with the Golden Delicious. It’s all in your preference, really 🙂

How much did it cost me? About $3 (apples) + $1 (4 lemons) + 79¢ (4 TBS organic honey) = $4.79 for both batches.

We did eat some before I really measured but I think it’s safe to say we made 4 quarts out of 12 lbs. It adds up with the afore mentioned chart (http://www.pickyourown.org/info.htm). So that’s about 3.7¢ per oz, 30¢ per 8 oz serving. And $1.20 for 1 qt, or 32 oz.

The farm that I got my apples from is open year-round. I understand that not every apple farm operates that way though. If you can’t get out to an apple orchard in your area, just remember that apples go on and off sale at the grocery store all throughout the winter. It’s not a must that crock pot applesauce be made from farm fresh apples, although I highly recommend the experience. I would equate it to comparing my Grandma’s homemade strawberry jam to Smuckers jam. You can just taste the difference, and you’ll never want to go back to store bought again.

Cooking food from home is all about combining what your values are, what your family loves, what’s available in your area and what you have time and energy for. There are many many paths to healthy homemade cooking!

~Rachel

Food, Main Meal

Homemade Pizza: Part 2

Here’s the second part! The ending of our pizza story.  In Part 1, I showed you how to make pizza dough from scratch, without the use of a bread machine. I referenced Erin’s website for the dough recipe: http://www.5dollardinners.com/homemade-veggie-pizza/ It closely follows the recipe in her $5 Dinner Mom (2009) cookbook with the exception of 2 Tablespoons of Parmesan cheese added in the kneading process.

In Part 1, our dough was left here:

                                 100_3913

And looked like so:

100_3912

During part of the hour that it was rising in the oven, I grated my mozzerella cheese. I typically use more than this. I forgot I was using it for pizza later and J and I ate some. Scatterbrained 🙂

100_3915

Here I have made my pizza sauce and am browning about a 1/2 lb. ground beef with onions and seasonings (italian seasoning, oregano, basil, s&p). The pizza sauce is very easy to make. It is nothing but 2 cans (8oz ea.) of tomato sauce; 1 tsp. each of basil, oregano, italian seasoning, onion powder and garlic powder; and 2 tsp. of oil. I used canola oil. Olive oil would be a very good choice too. Tomato sauce, seasonings, and a wee bit of oil. That’s it. 100_3916

After the toppings were completemently done, I rolled out the pizza dough.

100_3917

So incredibly messy. Some like to follow a special technique for transferring the pizza dough to the baking pan. I don’t particularly have one, unless I’ve rolled it very thin. Then I will wrap it around the rolling pin and unroll it onto the pan.

100_3918

Next, I spread the warm sauce on the dough. I typically use about all of the 16oz.

100_3919

Cheese.

100_3920

Meat!100_3921

I baked it for about 20 minutes, till the cheese was bubbly and just beginning to brown.

100_3923

And then…..

I had a few pieces. It was divine!

100_3926

This pizza turned out really well. It was more of a deep dish pizza. The pieces in this picture were about 2″ thick. This is due to the fact that I made a whole recipe instead of a half and did not pre-bake my crust. I was distracted and worried, as my son was developing a suspicious cough. Had I made a half recipe and pre-baked the dough, I would have had a wonderful thin crust crunchy pizza. Ah well. It was still plenty delicious! Next time I think I’ll work on some pizza topping variations. Maybe a roasted veggie or a simple pizza margarita.

Easy, right? The sauce isn’t a must, but i do think it tastes better than store bought. It also depends on which store brand you buy. Typically, I will do a plain cheese or a pepperoni and cheese topping but some variety (and some real meat) is sometimes nice.

All together, this recipe cost me: 99¢ (dough) +    84¢ (sauce) +    $3.94 (meat, onions and cheese)  =   $5.77

Last time we ordered pizza at my house it cost us about $10 for a large pepperoni pizza. Prices vary by location but I think I can say with confidence that making your own pizza can save you $$. And even though it’s messy it can still be fun. I look forward to sharing this experience with my son when he gets older. And when I am less worried that he will turn my kitchen into a twirling snow globe of flour.

~Rachel

Bread, Food

Homemade Pizza: Part 1-The Dough

Pizza.

Everyone loves it. It can be a lifesaver when that pizza delivery person shows up at your door with that lovely flat cardboard box full of pizza-baked goodness. It’s so nice to have someone else cook sometimes. What woman doesn’t love that? This post is not about bashing take-out. Or convenience food. I wholeheartedly support both. Because cooking meal after meal has a tendency to get old. You would have to be pretty passionate about food in order to not be disheartened about making 3 meals plus snacks every day of your life. A break from being head chef is necessary from time to time.

I’ve bought pizza from 3 or 4  different pizza places in my town. Tried Wal-Mart and Aldi’s brand refridgerated ready-made pizza. Red Baron, DiGorno and Kashi Roasted Vegetable frozen pizza, plus a few other brands. My husband lovesRed Baron’s pepperoni. I’m more of a thin crust person. Love me some thin crust pizza margherita. Mmm. Crispy crust covered in nothing but juicy cherry tomatoes, cheesy blobs of mozzerella and fresh basil leaves=the best! Love it. Wish I had a classic Italian pizza oven so I could flash bake some right now. Delicious.

Anyways. Goes without saying that I have tried a lot of pizzas. And one day I decided that I would like to try my hand at making one myself. The pros? You choose the ingredients. No mysterious ingredients that you don’t know about. Also, your pizza will be cooked in your own kitchen. There’s something satisfying about knowing that you made this meal and that you made it well.

The cons? It takes awhile. But you can make this pizza in stages. After you make the pizza dough, you let it rise for an hour. That’s an hour of doing whatever you want (or whatever else needs done). Then if you’ve had enough, you can throw that pizza dough in the freezer for later.

But…you can also load that pizza with toppings and bake it for supper. Or lunch. Or breakfast. Personally I can’t deny that I’ve occasionally had pizza for breakfast.

So this blog is labeled Part 1 of my Homemade Pizza blog. This recipe is from: you guessed it. The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook. I know, I’m always promoting Dinner Mom recipes. But it’s for a good reason! Everything in that cookbook is easy, nutritious and delicious. I needed an easy recipe for pizza dough and I found it in that book. Bread dough can be a challenging thing to create and if you are making it for the first time, I think it’s important to use an easy recipe.

Erin has a new recipe on her website for pizza dough. Here is the link. I think that Erin is an awesome blogger and this recipe for whole wheat pizza looks really good. But the recipe is for a breadmaker. Which I do not have. Anyone else? No breadmaker is no problem. Just mix and knead the dough by hand. I can see you rolling your eyes! It’s not that hard, I promise. I’ve been making my pizza dough using this method for 3 years and it gets easier every time.

You can find this recipe in The $5 Dinner Mom cookbook, but this link from Erin’s website has the same dough ingredients as the book, with the exception of 2 TBS parmesan cheese that is listed in the book. This recipe is also made using a breadmaker but I will show you how I make my pizza dough by hand.

Begin.

100_3891

Here I have a cup of white flour and a cup of lukewarm water together in a bowl. The salt, oil, sugar and yeast are in a smaller bowl off to the side.

100_3892

100_3893After combining the warm water and the flour, i stirred in the rest of the ingredients. My recipe that I got from Erin’s book didn’t call for italian seasonings to be mixed in at this point.

100_3894

Then I let it sit for 15 minutes.

100_3895

After 15 minutes it was slightly spongy, not a whole lot though.

100_3896

Next I mixed in my remaining flour. I like to use 1 cup of white flour, 1 cup of wheat flour. I have a bowl with 2 TBS Parmesan cheese and 1 tsp italian seasonings in it off to the side, to be mixed in during the kneading process.

100_3897

100_3898

I mixed the dough with a wooden spoon as much as I could, but eventually you will have to mix it a bit by hand, pressing the dough pieces together till they form into a ball. I decided to use a wooden cutting board or “bread board” to knead my bread on, instead of my counter. I will have to say that I liked it a lot better.

100_3899

I put my dough ball on my floured bread board.

This is my least favorite part of the process. It took me 7 1/2 minutes of kneading to get it to the right texture. (Soft baby skin texture, as Erin likes to put it.) To knead the dough, you fold it in half, then press down and push away from you all in one motion.

100_3904

Step 1: stand your dough ball on one end, then with *both* hands fold it in half.

100_3905

100_3906

Step 2: Press the folded dough down with your palm and heel of your hand.

100_3907

Step 3: Use the heel of your hand to simultaneously roll and flatten the dough. Repeat until the dough is smooth, elastic and has the texture of “soft baby skin”.

After the kneading is done, I add my parmesan cheese and italian seasoning to the dough. This isn’t an absolutely necessary step, but it does add a lot of flavor to the dough, and compliments the pizza sauce nicely.

100_3909

I added it a little bit at a time by sprinkling it on the bread board, squishing down the dough on top of it, then kneading it into the dough. In the past I’ve tried to add it all at once and it didn’t work as well for me that way

100_3910

100_3911

Now the seasonings are fully incorporated and it is time to let the dough rise. The $5 Dinner Mom cookbook I used said to grease or flour a bowl, then put the dough in and cover it with a towel and let sit in a warm place. I did not like the vagueness of “a warm place”. A lot of places in a kitchen can be warm but how do you know what the optimal dough rising environment is? (Yes, very technical I know.) I can’t remember where exactly I got this tip, but I’ve heard a good place to let your dough rise is in your oven, with a bowl of hot water on the shelf underneath your dough. This method has always worked well for me.

100_3912

Here the dough is in a greased, slightly icky bowl.

100_3913

And in the oven, with 2 bowls of hot water, for good measure. After that, you close the oven door and let it rise for an hour while you take a break!

100_3914

My little cutie fell asleep as I was making the dough. I laid him down for a nap 🙂

This ends Part 1 of my 2-part Homemade Pizza post. Part 2 will follow soon! I will show how I prep my pizza dough for baking and how I made the sauce and toppings. Plus, a picture of the finished pizza before I devoured it. Yum. It was seriously gone in like a 24-hour period. Looking forward to sharing the rest with you 🙂

~Rachel