fears in the kitchen.

“Let’s make pizza,” I said.

“Okay.  Let’s use the pizza stone,” Dad said.

“How?” I said.

“I don’t know, but we’ll figure it out,” Dad said.

And so, on a lazy Sunday evening, this is what my Dad and I set off to do.

Pizza connoisseurs will tell you that the pizza stone is the only way to make a homemade pizza.

Honestly, I don’t really know.  I’ve only ever made one “special” pizza in my life.  It happened right after I read the book “Eat, Pray, Love,” as I found myself infatuated with cheese and bread and Italy.  And the pizza?  Let’s just say I fell into a food coma directly afterwards.  It was…one word…ah-mazing.

All the other pizzas in my life have been quick, no-rise versions.  (Or takeout!!)  Needless to say, a pizza expert, I am not.

So I was a little intimidated when Dad pulled out the pizza stone.  A little apprehensive.  I may have even let out a groan or two.  A flip of the eyes in Dad’s direction, just to be sure he realized what kind of toll this was putting on my slightly over the top, very unattractive, perfectionist side.

I’ve come to realize that you can’t be a control freak in the kitchen if you have no idea what’s going on.  😉

But Dad, in his typical calm and cool kind of way, told me there was nothing to worry about, as he popped the stone into the oven and cranked it up to a whopping 500 degrees.  I don’t think the oven has ever yet experienced such a heat wave.  I instantly had visions of smoke and fire and burnt mozzarella.

Anyways.  I ignored those visions and got right to work on the pizza dough.

For extra safety precautions, I used my “lucky spoon.” 😉

I don’t really know what happened after that.  It’s kind of a whirlwind.

I do know that it was a two person job.  Between the prepping, the planning, the “we don’t have a recipe, what do we do?” solutions.

Two heads are sometimes oftentimes better than one.  Yes.  Even in the kitchen.  

Besides.  Dad said that if all else failed, the telephone was in full working condition.  The pizza barn was just a number away.

This made me feel slightly better.

But in the end, no pizza barns were called.  We ate.  We smiled.  We laughed at the night that had just unfolded.  Then we savored the sweet, summer produce from our garden.  And then, lastly, we patted each others backs to a job well done.

The crust came out perfect, the toppings were fabulous, and best of all, we had fun.  Yes.  Sometimes, not knowing the outcome of a recipe can make for a very special, delicious memory.

But.

Honestly?

I’m still kind of scared of the pizza stone.

Basil, Tomato and Mozzarella Pizza—cooked on a stone

If you don’t have a stone, use a cookie sheet in place of it.  Or, use this dough recipe to grill your pizza, which is always a fun and delicious option.  This dough would also make delicious breadsticks to accompany a bowl of minestrone soup, if you sprinkle the bottoms with a bit of cornmeal, spreading garlic and olive oil on top.  Enjoy!!

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 packet (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 clove garlic
  • 4 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced thin or torn
  • Large handful of fresh basil
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, sliced thick and patted dry with paper towel

Directions

  1. Place pizza stone in unheated oven.  Then, preheat oven to 450.
  2. For dough, pour 1 cup warm water into a medium bowl; add sugar and sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk oil and 1 teaspoon salt into yeast mixture. Add flour and stir with a wooden spoon until liquid is incorporated.  Turn dough onto floured surface.  Knead for about 2-3 minutes, until dough forms an elastic ball. Transfer to a medium bowl that has been sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with oil; brush the top of the dough lightly with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; set in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes. Punch down dough and cover; let rise another 30 minutes.
  4. On a pizza paddle or a thin wooden cutting board, sprinkle coarse cornmeal.  Place dough on cutting board and spread out into large round shape, using fingers to spread.  Using a wide spatula (or the paddle,) transfer dough to preheated stone.  Cook 7 minutes.
  5. Brush dough with a mixture of mixture of oil and garlic.  Place tomato, cheese and basil on top.  Continue cooking for another 10-13 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.  Let cool for several minutes and serve.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: Do you have any “fears” with kitchen utensils, equipment or cooking methods?

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my seasonal obsession.

I think I’m obsessed.

You know how when you’re reading a really, really, as in really, good book and you just dread the thought of ever having to put it down.  Dreading the thought of ever seeing it end??  

That’s me.  With blueberries.  Yes, I am totally, helplessly (over the top) obsessed.

I have already been blueberry picking for a total of five times this season, and I still can’t get enough.  My freezer is packed full of the plump little bites of blue, but I’m so greedy.  I just want more and more.

I wish I could tell you that I’ve been at least putting all of this picking (and…ahem…money) to good use, but honestly?

I haven’t baked a thing with them.  Nothing.  Not even blueberry pancakes have yet made an appearance.  Instead, I’ve been eating them by the cupfuls.  Fistfuls!  With yogurt and cereal and oatmeal and smoothies.  In fact, I almost can’t bear the thought of turning them into any sort of baked good, which is just ridiculous and completely unheard of.

So there you have it.  Now you know what I’ve been up to.  Gorging myself on every last bit and bite of fresh, local produce because I just can’t get enough.  Maybe—perhaps—despite my knowing that this is never going to actually happen, I’m believing that I have some influence on preventing summer from leaving.  Some influence on stopping summer in its tracks.  Some influence on making sure that the juicy, plump berries stick around for the long haul.

Because I really would like to see summer hang around for just a while longer.  I’d hate to see it end.

QUESTION: What is your current seasonal obsession?

the perfect summer meal.

I’ll admit it.  Sometimes I buy things just because I think they’re pretty.  Or strange.  Or completely unique.

I think bibb lettuce is pretty.

(tell me I’m not alone???)

I was walking proudly through the grocery store with this bibb lettuce in my cart, and not an inkling of knowledge with what I was going to do with it.  I considered wraps at first.  Or just using it as an accent to an ordinary old sandwich.

But then.  My herb garden needed trimming this morning, and I needed a good excuse to use these goodies up.

So.  Really, just like that.  Spring rolls were born.

Spring rolls can be as simple or complicated as you want them to be.

Obviously, you guys know me by now.

And, well.  My spring rolls were pretty simple.  Obviously.

I threw some rice paper into my cart, just as the thought of spring rolls popped into my head.  And to think it all started with a package of bibb lettuce.  

If you’ve never used rice paper before, it can be a little intimidating.  But you’ll get the hang of it in no time.  Simply heat some water and pour it into a shallow dish.  Your basic pie pan will work nicely!

Douse the rice wrapper for about 30 seconds or so, just until the paper is soft and slightly sticky.

Then place it on a dry working station (I used my cutting board.)

Fill it up with veggies, noodles and other such yummy things.

Flip up two sides…

…and roll it up nice and tightly.

WARNING: Be sure not to overfill it.  And yes, I am being totally hypocritical when stating this, as I inevitably always overfill it.  Sigh.

(As an aside, if you happen to have some extra bibb lettuce, chop it all up and make yourself a crunchy, garden fresh salad on the side.  Those sunny garden tomatoes need an excuse to be eaten!)

I’m pretty sure this is the perfect summer meal.

No ovens.  No cooking.  No hot kitchens.

(No frizzy hair.)

Just a lil’ chopping, dicing and rolling.  And dunking and eating.

Sigh.  I heart summer.

Vegetarian Spring Rolls

Feel free to add shrimp or tofu to these simple wraps!  Honey roasted peanuts are also a nice, unexpected touch.

This recipe makes 2 very stuffed spring rolls or 4 very elegant spring rolls.  I won’t judge you for taking either route. 😉  Serve these with your favorite dipping sauce or use the hot and sour sauce recipe at the bottom.  Enjoy! 😀

  • 1 cup bibb lettuce, sliced thinly
  • 1-1/2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1/4 cup basil, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup mint, sliced thinly
  • 1/4 cup chives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 2 oz uncooked brown rice noodles, cooked and rinsed under cold water
  • 8 rice sheets
  • 1 avocado, sliced thinly
  1. In a medium bowl, combine lettuce, carrots, herbs, bean sprouts and noodles.
  2. Heat water and pour into pie plate or other shallow dish.  Douse the rice sheets in the water for about 30 seconds, or until soft and slightly sticky.  Carefully lift out of pan and place on flat working station, such as a cutting board.  On one-third of the paper’s side, place about 1/8 (or 1/4 if making larger sized) of the filling and place 1/8 of the avocado on top.  Be sure to leave some wiggle room for rolling!  Roll up two of the ends towards the middle.  Roll up the other side into a tight bundle.  Repeat for all of the rice sheets.
  3. Cut spring rolls in half and serve 2 rolls to each person, along with a dipping sauce.  Enjoy!
Quick and Easy Hot & Sour Dipping Sauce:  Whisk together the following: 1 Tbsp sugar + 2 Tbsp white wine vinegar + 1 tsp chili sauce + 1 clove garlic + 1 tsp lite soy sauce
QUESTION: What are some of your favorite summery things (or foods?)  

Canada: Day 3

We each had some sort of agenda on vacation.

Visiting with relatives.  Going to the beach.  Kayaking.  Relaxing and reading.  Eating too many maple cookies (oops, did I just say that out loud?)

High on the list of priorities for my dad was visiting the place where his grandparents once lived (and now his uncle.)  He spent most of his summers here as a kid, so the place was brimming with memories.

And then we sat right down on the wide open lawn and we feasted on bakery fresh, fluffy white rolls smothered in peanut butter, while sipping on cans of chilled diet coke.

I am in love with Canadian bread.

(Really now, what am I NOT in love with in Canada???)

Driving on, we found ourselves back in Richibucto, where we stretched out by walking across a small boardwalk.

The day was unusually warm, considering we were expecting 60/70 degree temperatures for the rest of the week.

So—yes, of course!—we took advantage of it with dishes of ice cream.

And then I found myself feeling unusually chilled once I was back at the cottage, so I balanced it all out with a bowl of homemade lentil & sweet potato stew and a hunk of toasted bread and butter.

The day was pretty laid back.  Pretty simple.

But it ended with a bang.  Literally.

Thankfully, most of the storm headed further on past our cottage, but it was frightening just the same (I will never make it as a storm chaser!)

Tomorrow’s plans: Four wheeling and going for a walk deep (deep!) in the woods of my great uncle’s camp!

QUESTION: Do you live in the same place as you did growing up?  Do you plan on having it stay that way?  If you’ve moved away, do you ever plan on going back?

Notable Nutrition Notes: Vegetarians & Iron

If you’re eating red meat on a pretty regular basis, you probably haven’t given the thought of getting enough iron in your diet a second thought.

However, if you eat primarily a plant based diet, or if you consider yourself to be a vegetarian or vegan, iron is something worth mentioning.  This is especially true if you’re female, as your needs are more than twice that of a man’s (finally, we get to eat more of something! 😉 )

First, some basic info.  There are two types of iron.

Heme Iron: the more absorbable kind, found in meat products (liver, beef, dark meat from turkey, etc.)

Non-Heme Iron: the less absorbable kind found in plant-based products (i.e., black beans, dark leafy greens, iron enriched cereals, fortified tofu, lentils, raisins, etc.)

The Non-Heme iron has its issues.  While 15-35% of the heme iron is absorbed in our bodies, only 2-20% of the non-heme iron is absorbed.  This can be problematic if a vegetarian (or a non-red meat eating individual) isn’t eating a whole lot of iron containing foods in the first place.

What to do??!!??

Well.  There are some strategies.

  • Eat Vitamin C with your meals.  Adding some cantaloupe or diced bell peppers or kiwi & strawberries or broccoli or potatoes (the list goes on and on) to your meal will help to enhance the amount of iron that is absorbed, giving you the optimum amount possible.
  • Sip tea and coffee between meals, not during.  They contain tannins and polyphenols which can actually interfere with the absorption of iron.  Not a good thing!
  • Add meat, fish or poultry to your meal.  If you’re not a vegetarian, adding even a small amount of these foods can really amp up how much iron you absorb.  If you ARE vegetarian, focus primarily on including some vitamin C rich foods with each meal.

How you turn all of this information into a tasty meal is up to you…just have fun with it!

Lately, I’ve been really into adding fruit to my salads.  Cantaloupe snuggled in between some greens and then drizzled with balsamic vinegar and sea salt is out of this world.

  • mixed greens
  • black beans (iron rich!)
  • avocado
  • walnuts
  • tomato and cantaloupe (vitamin C rich!)
  • cucumber

The Food Should Taste Good Multigrain Chips?  That piece of dark chocolate for dessert?  The scoop of honey roasted peanut butter eaten straight from the jar?

Well.  That was just because.  Just because.

QUESTION: Do you eat mostly heme or non-heme iron sources?  What are some of your favorite food-based iron sources?

family, food, fun.

The Graduation Party was an ultimate success story!

Nice weather.  Fantastic food.  Family.

Yes.  Success!!

Spotted: Nicole from Loving Simple Moments!  And her hubby, Nate! 😀

I find that the older I get, the more and more I appreciate family.  Friends will come and go, but family sticks with you no matter what.

Love these ladies! 😀

Newest family member addition! 😀

There was a ton of food, thanks to everyone who pitched in to bring something.  My dad cooked up my most favorite dish of orange marmalade sockeye salmon yesterday, and there was too much other food to fit on one plate.  I made leftovers into my dinner and found myself eating completely different items than what I had at lunch!!  Baked beans, Mediterranean Quinoa Salad, Spinach and Walnut Salad with Pears, Homemade Baked Beans, Broccoli and Apple Salad, etc.

Limitless!  And totally delicious.

That being said, I think the ultimate star of the show was the cake.

I may be a future dietitian, but I’ll never be ashamed to admit that sometimes dessert is the best part of the meal.  Just sayin’. 😉  My parents ordered a very large yellow cake with chocolate buttercream frosting from my most favorite bakery.

(p.s. This is what 4 years of chemistry, biology, anatomy, etc. and 1 year of dietetic interning will do to a person…ha!)

So.  Yes.  The Graduation Party was an ultimate success.

Now it’s time to update my resume, study for the RD exam and start job hunting!  I’m ready. 😀

QUESTION: What is your favorite kind of cake?  Lemon!!  Or anything with the perfect kind of chocolate frosting. 😀

dietetic internships, leaky tarps, and eggplant on the grill.

Well.  It’s officially official!  Ten and a half months of dietetic interning, learning, working, training, advancing.  Ten and a half months of homework assignments, endless projects, new friends, new places, new experiences.

Completed!

I’ve been running on pure adrenaline these past few days, as I finished up with some last minute assignments and as I bid my fellow interns goodbye after graduation (not forever, of course!)

And then.  This morning?  I crashed.  Absolutely crashed!

I didn’t feel at all into my morning run.  I didn’t feel like reading.  Or baking or cooking or even eating for that matter (!?!?!)  I was pooped, whiped, tuckered out.  Exhausted.  Thank goodness for the Grill Master (aka, Dad.)

I can always count on him to change my mind about the eating thing.

And so, the rest of the day consisted of me dicing a few vegetables here, throwing a few spices there, and generally just allowing myself to enjoy the day.

Dad manned the grill.  Mom helped. 😉

We had a nice wide spread of grilled vegetables.

The eggplant was by far my favorite component of the entire meal.  I’ve only had the purple globe a couple of times, served in the delightfully understated peasant dish of ratatouille.  And mostly, I think of it as a veggie fill-in for the old Italian favorite–eggplant parmesan.

Really, it hadn’t crossed my mind to throw it on the hot grill until today, but I’m glad we gave it a go.  It was thick, meaty and dense.  And perhaps best of all, it was absolutely intoxicated with extra virgin olive oil.  Heaven.  I can only imagine what kind of pizza or sandwich this would make.  So many new possibilities!

Lots of veggies, some grilled potatoes and a slab of BBQ tofu.  This plate earned my vote for meal of the week.

We don’t often eat off of paper plates, but we have some extras kicking around the house.  This totally added to that “camping out” kind of feeling! 😀

Eaten outside on the deck, under a tarp which dutifully protected us from an oncoming rain storm.

Well.  Mostly.  Until about 10 minutes or so later, when it too decided that it was pooped, tuckered and whiped out from the past week.

Eeeps!

We all ran indoors, hiding from the storm.  Dancing around puddles.  Laughing as the rain plummeted down, down, down upon us on the way in.

Today was wonderful, delicious, peaceful.  Dare I say it, perfect?

Yes.  I dare.  What a lovely Saturday.

Grilled Eggplant

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  1. Preheat grill to medium/high.
  2. Slice eggplant about 3/4 inch thick, into circular slices.  Brush both sides with olive oil.  Sprinkle on some salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Place on grill for about 3-5 minutes.  Flip once browned and soft.  Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes.  Enjoy!

QUESTION: What was the best part of your SATURDAY?