Pizza #1

It’s the weekend. And nothing says “weekend” more than pizza and beer. If you happen to feel like you don’t enjoy beer, I would strongly advise you to find a friend who is a beer geek. They can tell you all sorts of things about beer you might not know. And you will likely find a beer that suits you! Because beer is so varied (and there are so many hidden, delicious wonders), saying you don’t like beer is akin to saying you don’t like music. If you have tried all of the beers and still don’t like beer, that’s cool. You may want a glass of wine for this one. We’re all friends here. The point is, please don’t give up on beer having had only a warm BudLight at a party in 1998.

I believe it was the father of ancient medicine, Hippocrates, who wrote about maintaining a healthful diet on the weekends, “Fuck iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!” [citation needed] But this isn’t just an ordinary pizza. This is a pizza for people who want a more healthful pizza option without sacrificing any of the delicious pizza flavor and texture. Because healthy doesn’t have to mean a fistful of raw kale and a glass of chia seeds in bottled water.

This pizza came about because of two things: 1. I wanted pizza and didn’t want to go to the grocery store; 2. I had just scored some amazing golden beets at a farmers market down the street from us. When you see beautiful golden beets for $1.50 a bunch, you buy those fuckers and figure out what to do with them later. That’s your life advice for the week. You’re welcome.

Here’s just a brief note about cheese. I keep a primarily plants-based diet. But sometimes, I like a bit of cheese. Luckily for me (and you), there is such a thing as vegetarian cheese! These are cheese made with milk from certified humane dairies and a synthetic enzyme instead of rennet. Do you know what rennet is? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrl, look it up. It’s in all of your cheese. So look for cheeses that are called “vegetarian” or have a label saying they are made with a synthetic or man-made enzyme. It’s still fatty and not great for you but sometimes you have to take that plunge.

2 2/3 c whole grain pastry flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill. You can use any mix of white and wheat flour that you’d like)
½ c red quinoa, uncooked
1 envelope dry active yeast
1 c warm (110-degree) water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 T olive oil
As much black pepper as you’d like
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp oregano
2 T parmesan or nut cheese substitute
1 scant c store-bought or homemade red sauce
4 oz shredded cheese/cheez of your choice
1 head of garlic, roasted
1 fresh golden or red beet, roasted
½ red pepper, sliced
5 medium-sized crimini mushrooms, sliced

Step one, pour yourself a drink. We’ve been through this. I’ve personally been on a bit of a lager kick recently so I’m having a Stella Artois. There are also plenty of amazing local beers where you are, probably. Ask your beer geek friend for recommendations. Next, roast the beet. Preheat the oven to about 450-degrees then cut off the green top and the long rat tail from the beet. Wrap it in aluminum foil and roast for the better part of an hour.

Meanwhile, make the crust. Set the quinoa to cook on the stove. Just like rice, it’s a 2:1 ratio of water/grain. So in this case, use 1 c water for ½ quinoa, bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low for about 15-20 minutes. You’ll know it’s done cooking when the germ separates from the grain. They look like wee, white rings swirling around the red kernels of grain.

Proof the yeast. Don’t be afraid of yeast!! Just make sure the water is warm enough. You can heat the water in a kettle or in the microwave. The first few times, try to gauge the temperature with an actual kitchen thermometer (or meat thermometer or candy thermometer), if possible. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water and let sit for a few minutes. The surface will start to get cloudy with amazing yeast coming back to life. You are now a yeast necromancer! You must wield this power with care and responsibility!

Next, stir in the salt, oil, pepper, herbs, parmesan and flour. It will get sticky and difficult to work with and that’s when you start kneading with your hands. It doesn’t have to be overworked, though. The more you fiddle with the dough, the tougher it will get. So go easy. Lastly, add in the quinoa from the stove. It will look strange as you mix it but it will also be clear when the quinoa is distributed evenly. You’ll cover this with a kitchen towel and let it sit in a warm place for 45 minutes.

At this point, add the garlic head to roast with the beet for the last 20 minutes. You’ll wrap it in aluminum foil as well. When it’s done, you can use a sharp knife to cut the bottom off and then squeeze the delicious garlic out.

After the dough has risen for 45 minutes, you’ll want to play with it a bit to get it pliable and then spread it out on a cookie sheet covered with foil. I usually sprinkle about a tablespoon of corn meal over the foil to prevent sticking. You could also use oil. Press the dough down with your fingers to spread it evenly over the cookie sheet. You could also use a pizza round, if you have one. Once the dough is spread out into a giant rectangle, you can let it rest for a few minutes. This would be a good time to peel the roasted beet. You’ll want to get the skin off and cut off the top bit where the leaves grow out of. Then you can dice it. WARNING: it will turn your knife, your cutting surface, your hands and anything else fuchsia, if you are using a red beet. But liiiiiiiike, in an awesome way. Still, fair warning. Reduce the oven temperature to 425.

I personally like to make my own red sauce. But, as mentioned, I didn’t feel like going to the store. And there was a jar of very decent store-bought sauce in the cupboard from when my paramour made me a surprise lasagna. Spread the sauce evenly over the crust. Then sprinkle the grated cheese on top of the crust. Then, it’s just decorating, basically. Distribute the roasted garlic, diced beet, sliced pepper and sliced mushrooms over the whole pie.

You’ll bake the pizza for about 15 minutes. If you can avoid it, don’t open the door. Look through the window if there is one. You don’t want the heat to escape. You’ll know it’s done when the crust around the edges is brown and it SMELLS SO GOOD YOU CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE!!!!!
After it sits for about 15 minutes, you can cut it into six delicious squares of amazingnosity. It’s better for you than most pizzas you would get out in the world because it contains some wonderfully nutritive elements. The crust is high in fiber because of the whole wheat flour and the quinoa and you can actually cram as many vegetables on top as you’d like. Boom. Health.

Enjoy your weekend, my lovely pals! Thanks for visiting my kitchen x

 

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How to Make Groceries

Down the bayou, when you go to the market to purchase foodstuffs for your family, you are “making groceries”. Everyone seems to have their routine in the grocery store. Some people make lists, some people like to take their time and mosey through all of the aisles. Me, I used to time myself. I’d go the Kroger 55 at some early-morning hour on a Sunday (and probably Tuesday and Thursday–at the very least) and time my trek, trying to best some previous time. I used to strongly dislike going to the grocery store but we’ve made nice since then. The grocery store is your friend. Just don’t be that guy who pulls the cart behind him! I effing can’t stand that guy. Lookin’ at you, straight dudes who, for some reason, find pushing the cart emasculating. Ridiculousness.

I hear all the time that people would eat more healthful foods…except they can’t afford it. Or it’s too hard. Or it takes too long. Or they don’t know where to start. Don’t be mislead, my sweet pals!! Eating fresh, clean, delicious foods can be affordable, easy, and fast as the dickens.

I’m going to have a whole blog on both organic foods and GMO’s so I won’t get too involved right now. As far as organic foods go, the more fragile the food, the more likely you are to need organic. So while you might want to get organic versions of your leafy greens, maybe don’t worry so much about sturdy-as-fuuuu broccoli and cauliflower. Please just don’t think that “organic=healthy” across the board. Organic only means that nasty chemicals weren’t involved in growing the food (hopefully). That doesn’t mean that everything in your “organic grocery” is good for you. There are still plenty of processed foods and chemicals involved in many of those items. The idea here is that a bunch of carrots, an onion, some kale, garlic and whole wheat pasta will still be cheaper by the serving than a frozen meal. And you can control what goes into the dish.

The first thing you need to know about making groceries is what to get. Do you know how to make a well-rounded meal? Various bits of chicken in a bucket followed by jaunty brown bits of something calling themselves chocolate doesn’t count. Do you remember the food pyramid? It’s actually been replaced with My Plate. This is a new system that values vegetables over everything else! Huzzah! So it’s vegetables, fruits, grains, protein and a bit of dairy (if you choose). The literature is far more comprehensive than the pyramid–even when they got sassy and turned it on its side. A good general rule is to have at least two vegetables, a grain and a protein. And if you can get lots of color in, awesome. Don’t be shy of foods you’ve never tried. I can still remember how exciting artichoke night was when I was a kid, even though the first time, I was confused/terrified. Take a stroll around your produce aisle and really look around. That’s how you learn that red peppers are usually more expensive than green and that winter squashes are a “treat”. Things like carrots, green onions, cilantro, yellow onions, and spicy peppers have always been cheap in the areas where I’ve lived. Same with giant leafy greens that are so good for you. Spinach in the plastic box may be $5 but an enormous bunch of collard or turnip greens will be 99 cents. So use your noodle and your inner Scrooge McDuck a bit.

But wait.

I know that some of you may live in a food dessert. That is, a place where you don’t have access to a grocery store or farmers market. In places like these, most food comes from fast food restaurants and gas stations. It’s an awful situation wherein fast food restaurants prey on people without other options. It is infuriating. If you’re in a situation like this, I’d encourage you to grow as much of your own food as possible. If you don’t have a yard or balcony or window with light, see if you have access to a community garden or if you can arrange a trade with a pal who has a yard. And if you don’t know anything about gardening, ask this dude. He is the absolute best. Growing food and/or herbs is a good idea for all of us, to be sure but it can’t always be done.

Most of us have access to a chain or family grocery. You can bet your sweet bippy that stores like Albertsons, Kroger, Vons, Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, Safeway, A&P, Brookshire, Publix, Super One, Wegman’s, Piggly Wiggly, WHATEVS, will have a weekly ad. If it makes you feel like a grandma to pick up the ad on the way in, you could check the store site before you go in to see what’s on sale and make a note on your list. Oh, I’m sorry, does this seem like a task all of a sudden?? Don’t worry, all the work is on the front end. It’ll probably only take a few visits of this sort to illustrate the pricing trends. These sales are often marked in the store, as well. And don’t be afraid to join your store’s “club”. It can save you sooooooooo much money.

You may have noticed that I’m advocating buying lots of fresh produce. It’s a good idea. Usually, the only frozen things I buy are frozen vegetables. I can be lazy, too! But flash-freezing does a good job of retaining nutrients in vegetables and fruits. Don’t buy any of that canned junk. Lookit my face. Don’t. Here’s a simple article about fresh versus frozen. So frozen isn’t always the worst.

Usually, after I get all of my precious, precious produce, I’ll get one or two more expensive things I call (to myself) luxury items. This could be kind of vegan sausage, some miso paste, a super fancy legume of some sort, some vital wheat gluten, or another whole grain that seems expensive until you realize how many servings are in the box. Just to illustrate the makin-groceries-don’t-gotta-break-the-bank point, I’m including a receipt and photo from a recent grocery trip. (n.b. The “Dang Myeon/Gold” item is sweet potato glass noodles. I live in Koreatown, okay??) I *may* have gotten a weird face make for $1.99 but everything else is food. And the Italian squash listed is a zucchini.

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Those are purple potatoes! They are amazing! Plus, grated purple potatoes + grated golden beets + broccoli =  an unexpected Mardi Gras breakfast (avec a fried oeuf).

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I’ll admit that 22 cents for a broccoli crown of that size is pretty bonkers. But that’s the thing! Something delicious is always on sale. Just take your time at first. Look around. There’s way too much to say about this in just one post. Thankfully, there are more days than just today. So we’ll get to it 🙂 In the meantime, ask me ALL OF THE QUESTIONS! I never tire of discussing food. As always, mes petits choux, thank you for visiting my kitchen x