Jalapeno Popper Pizza Wednesday, Sep 9 2020 

Spicy, salty, smoky, creamy, and chewy. If you like jalapeno poppers, those yummy jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped in bacon, I have a twist that you might enjoy at least as much. Jalapeno Popper Pizza was one more tasty use of my crop of jalapeno peppers that I discovered this summer.

Homemade pizza is easy and delicious. It only requires a handful of ingredients, especially if you use prepared dough.

I baked two variations of this recipe. The first one contained healthier ingredients, including low-fat cream cheese and turkey bacon, and was baked on the outdoor grill.

The second one was the real deal with full-fat cream cheese and pork bacon. However, I baked this pizza in a pan in the oven.

I used raw, crunchy jalapenos on the first pizza. The second time around, I sautéed them slightly before adding them to the crust which I preferred.

The healthier pizza was tasty but there’s no argument the fattier ingredients were more satisfying. However, the grill produced the best crust. Had I baked the second pizza directly on the pizza stone instead of in the pan, or on the grill, it would have been perfect.

Temperatures rise up to 700˚ Fahrenheit in my little, inexpensive outdoor grill. That is close in temperature to commercial pizza ovens which range from 700 to 800˚. Both options result in an excellent textured crust.

Traditional indoor home ovens can come close to this if a pizza stone is used. The stone should be placed on the lowest rack in a 475 to 500˚ oven preheated for up to an hour before placing the dough on it.

I baked the second pizza in a pan because it was easier to manage in and out of the oven but have since ordered a pizza paddle, also called a peel. This will enable me to move breads and pastries on and off the pizza stone or grill much more efficiently.

I chose the Weber 6691 pizza paddle because of positive reviews and the rotating handle which allows for easier storage. I bake bread and pizzas often, so I don’t know why I waited this long to purchase such a handy tool.

I tried to be conscious of measurements for you with this recipe but typically I do not measure when cooking for myself and loved ones. Cooking to taste is so very personal. When making this recipe, adjust for the size of the pizza and the preferred amount of cream cheese, bacon, and jalapeno.

Homemade dough or store-bought frozen bread or pizza dough works well for the crust. Some pizzerias sell their dough for home use, as well.

I made my Italian bread dough recipe for the crust. Two thirds of the dough was patted into a 16″ pie pan and the remainder was formed into a few small rolls. I allowed the rolls to rise before baking, but not the pizza crust.

I also baked the crust about 5-10 minutes before adding the toppings. This prevents the toppings from soaking into the dough and making it soggy, which is especially important when using traditional tomato sauce and wetter ingredients such as olives, spinach, and sausage.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on this recipe and how you improved it for yourself.

***

Jalapeno Popper Pizza

(Makes one 16″ pizza)

  • 4-6 slices of bacon, chopped
  • 6 oz. of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large or 3 small jalapenos, seeded and sliced
  • pizza dough for a 16″ pizza

Preheat oven to 475˚for at least 45 minutes.

Cook the bacon until crisp. Reserve the bacon grease. Chop into bite-sized pieces.

Sauté the jalapeno slices in a few tablespoons of the bacon grease. Cook until softened. Drain and pat with a paper towel.

Roll or stretch pizza dough into a circle or pat into a greased pizza pan. Bake 5-10 minutes.

Remove the pizza crust from the oven and immediately spread the cream cheese across the crust. Sprinkle on the bacon and jalapenos. Return the pizza to the oven and bake until the cheese is bubbly and the crust begins to brown, about another 15 minutes.

Cool, slice, and enjoy.

*****

Check out my post, Riches to Rags, on St. Francis and the sweet town of Assisi, Italy and also my website for all of my books.

Singing the Holiday Blues Monday, Dec 2 2019 

I thought it would be easier this year. Yes, my husband, Marshall, only passed away less than nine months ago, but this was my fifth year without him at Thanksgiving dinner, and I am at peace knowing that Alzheimer’s has released him into the hands of the Lord. Yet, at the end of Thanksgiving Day, I was still depressed.

As my friend, David, who just lost his wife to Alzheimer’s, said to me, no matter how we fill our days, the evenings are sad and lonely. I’ve noticed that the last few years have been like that. I’m more depressed after being with loved ones and returning home.

Keeping busy and social are important elements in preventing getting stuck in the muck of holiday depression. We need to do things that bring us joy. And at the end of the day, especially the most difficult ones, ease the loneliness with uplifting music, movies/tv/reading, and friends.

I’m fortunate to have people who help me through. My friend, Paul, insisted on coming over on Friday to watch a silly Christmas movie. He knew a cure for loss was company and humor. And then, my son and his girlfriend visited yesterday.

Remember, that although missing our loved ones, especially around the holidays never fully disappears, it does get easier. As my psychologist friend, Sue, says, it becomes a different kind of, more bearable mourning. My mother passed away in 1999, and I especially long for her while baking during the holidays. It’s not the heart-wrenching type of pain of the past, but more like a missing part of the puzzle of tradition and a gratitude for having those experiences at all.

May all your memories of passed loved ones bring a smile to your face and a warmth to your heart this holiday season.

***

If you’re in the area, please join me for my last presentation of the year. “The Alzheimer’s Spouse,” will be from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, December 5, 2019 at The Inter-Faith Chapel at Leisure World, 3680 S. Leisure World Boulevard, Silver Spring, MD 20906. For reservations, please call Julie Boone Roth, 301.847.3051.

***

The Alzheimer’s Spouse is available from Amazon.com and ACTA Publications.comNavigating Alzheimer’s is also available from Amazon and ACTA.

***

Do you follow my other blog, Midwest Mary, or my author Facebook page?

Sweet Twisted History Wednesday, Dec 12 2018 

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With the progression of the seasons comes the move from everything pumpkin to everything peppermint. But if the iconic Christmas peppermint candy canes aren’t your thing, you can appease your sweet tooth with your choice of an array of other flavors. Sour Patch, Jolly Ranchers, Orange Crush, and A&W are some, as well as–believe it or not–rotisserie chicken and pickle.

Legends about the origins of candy canes link a preacher and his lessons on Christianity to the candy. The story is that candy canes were designed with red to represent Jesus’ blood, white for the Resurrection, and the J-shape for the name, Jesus.

None of this is true, but it didn’t stop an elementary school principle in Nebraska from banning candy canes for these reasons. Most likely, the basis of the legend came from someone who indeed did use candy canes to teach about Jesus, but artwork shows images of candy canes long before these stories first circulated.

White, straight candy sticks date to the 17th century and came in several flavors, including mint. The twist of red and white began showing up around the turn of the 20th century. And the hook shape may have begun as a means to hang them on decorated Christmas trees, a German custom that became more popular when Queen Victoria and her German husband displayed them in their home in the mid-1800s.

What’s your favorite flavor? I’m still a traditionalist and like the peppermint, especially  when it’s crushed and mixed with white chocolate.

(Have you seen my latest posts on my other blog including: Save it For Those Who Listen, Soulful Connections, and The Alzheimer’s Teacher?)

Hot and Smokey Tuesday, Jun 12 2018 

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Cinnamon, cumin, sumac, and cardamom. One of my attractions to different cultures is their cuisine. Tai, Hispanic, Indian, Chinese, or Italian. I love them all! I thrive on the spices of ethnic foods and am excited when I discover a new one.

My newest seasoning of choice is chipotle powder. Chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeno that has just enough heat and smoke to pack a great punch on everything from eggs and green beans to chicken and fish. Or try a few shakes over popped corn or even corn on the cop. 

For a quick, healthy snack, sprinkle chipotle powder on a mashed avocado. Add a squeeze of lime juice and a dash of sea salt. Top it off with a bit of fresh cilantro and you have a special snack to enjoy with tortilla chips.

Venture out to your grocery store’s spice aisle and be brave! Pick up some chipotle powder or another spice that you haven’t tried before. Purchase the smallest amount possible and experiment. You may find that you are drawn to more vegetables and proteins when you literally spice up your life.

(Follow me on Facebook and see my other blog, Mary K Doyle Books.)

Taste That Shape Monday, Jun 26 2017 

Food is one of the pleasures of life. Most of us look forward to times of day and seasons that present our favorite dishes. But why we like those foods is complicated. All of our senses—sight, smell, sound, touch, in addition to taste—play a role. So does our memory and perceptions.

Marketers and chefs know the significance of visual presentation whether the food is packaged or plated. We are drawn into restaurants or the family table due to the aroma of what’s cooking. And that sound of the sizzle on the grill attracts us along with that smell.

The feel of foods is also important. Some like cold or hot dishes or foods we can hold in our hands. We also have our preferences of crispy, crunchy, or creamy. And how much we enjoy any of it is based on past experience. Comfort foods are linked to memories of earlier days.

I’m not a big fan of farfalle, also known as bow-tie pasta. As pretty as they are to look at, I prefer the firmer, tubular shapes of macaroni or penne. The texture, how the sauce sticks to the pasta, and the familiarity of childhood family dinners are only a few of the reasons these types of pasta top my list.

Scientists state that shape does in fact alter the flavor of foods. Molecules reach the tongue and nose at different speed and order with the change of shape.

A few years ago, the British company Cadbury updated the shape of their chocolates called Dairy Milk. The public strongly reacted claiming that in doing so the flavor changed. Cadbury responded that the recipe and preparation process remained identical. The only change was the shape of the angular chunks to ones that were curved.

Their goal was to allow the chocolates to fit into the mouth easier. But this also changed how quickly the chocolate melted and molecules were released on the tongue. The oils in the chocolate now are released quicker resulting in an oily taste.

When preparing foods, shape is even more significant. Dice vegetables and their texture changes, varying the taste, or at least our perception. Think of how differently raw, whole carrots taste from diced or sliced and also how they taste when cooked. And the more surface area of the ingredient, the greater the change. For example, we increase the browning or charring on a vegetable or piece of meat with elongated shapes of food.

The shape also affects aroma. The smaller something is cut, the greater the aroma, and as we know, smell is an important aspect of taste. Chop broccoli or cabbage and the smell of the sulfur can be offensive. Slice onions or mince garlic and we can almost taste them.

(Follow my posts on Mary K Doyle Books or my author Facebook page.)

 

 

Quick Crisp Saturday, Feb 11 2017 

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Family cooks have brought about many of our favorite and comfort foods as the result of limited ingredients on hand, rethinking the use of ingredients, and errors in baking. You may know that the original chocolate chip cookie baker intended to make chocolate cookies but the chocolate never melted. The chocolate chip, instead of chocolate, cookie soon topped the list of all-time favorite treats.

I recently purchased a mega box of packaged serving size instant oatmeal forgetting how much I dislike it. Instant oatmeal makes a softer textured dish rather than the chewier old-fashioned version which I prefer.

So what to do with all this oatmeal? Today I turned some of it into a very quick Blueberry Crisp. I didn’t measure but can give you a general guide to follow.

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The simple recipe begins by spraying ramekins or a baking pan with non-stick spray. Toss blueberries or sliced peaches or apples (I used frozen organic blueberries), in a sprinkle of sugar. Fill dishes about 3/4 full. Blend a couple of tablespoons of softened butter and/or coconut oil with each package of instant, flavored oatmeal. (I used maple brown sugar.) If using unsweetened oatmeal, you will need to add sugar. You also may want to sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake at 350 until the topping browns.

Depending on the amount of butter and sugar added, this is a relatively healthy snack or breakfast that literally takes minutes to prepare. You can bake ahead and have them ready whenever you want. Just top with plain yogurt and serve.

(Check out my posts on Mary K Doyle Books or like me on Facebook to see all my posts.)

Stop! Reflect! Give Thanks! Wednesday, Nov 23 2016 

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I’m not one to long for the past. My life’s been a mix of extremes—excellent and dreadful times. I look back on the good ones with gratitude and prefer not to relive those that were difficult.

However, I do miss the Thanksgivings of my childhood. Thanksgiving weekend was relaxing. We laid around through the weekend, savored the leftovers, watched tv, and visited friends and family. We were happy doing nothing! The Christmas chaos didn’t begin for weeks.

There’s no down time anymore. We clear the lavish Thanksgiving table without digesting that last piece of pumpkin pie, and are off and running through the New Year. There’s so much to do: shopping, wrapping, card writing, baking, cooking, and partying.

Please don’t let this very important holiday pass without a moment of pause. Reflect on our abundance and give thanks. Acknowledge our many blessings and appreciate the food and friendship around us. These are the riches of life.

Want Some Bugs with That Cake? Saturday, Apr 23 2016 

The concept of red velvet cake escapes me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan of the flavors. But what’s wrong with chocolate cake and cream cheese frosting without dying the cake red?

Red velvet cake requires 2-4 tablespoons of red food coloring to transform the brown chocolate to red. And do you know what that red food coloring is made from? Bugs.

Red food colorants are typically made from chocineal, carmine, or carminic acid, all of which are made from crushed carcasses of a South and Central American insect known as the female dactylopious coccus. It takes about 70,000 insects to make one pound of cochineal.

The Aztecs and Mayans produced the red dye for coloring fabrics as far back as the 15th century. It became popularly used in foods in recent times as a safer alternative to those found to be carcinogenic. Today FD&C Red Dye #40 is also used. This dye is not made from insects but rather coal.

Red food coloring is used in most red drinks and candies as well as red velvet cakes. Check the labels to know for sure.And enjoy those tasty treats.

(Follow my posts on Mary K Doye Books and my Facebook author and book pages)

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

 

Spiralized Wednesday, Mar 30 2016 

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Stand too close to me, and you may get Spiralized. My new toy is a Mueller Spiral-Ultra 4-Blade Spiralizer. It was a bargain on Amazon at $28 for the 8 in 1 spiral slicer, pasta maker, juicer, and mandolin.

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The gadget sure has helped me add more vegetables to my diet. And dinner never has been easier! Cucumbers, zucchini, sweet potatoes, squash, white potatoes, and onions are transformed in minutes from whole vegetables to beautiful streams of deliciousness.

Baked, fried, or boiled, everything cooks quickly. Just add a little olive oil and seasoning or a sauce of choice.

Firm fruits and vegetables spiralize and slice best. And cooking needs a gentle touch. Boiling the “pasta” is really a brief parboiling or it turns to mush.

Some of my favorite spiralized dishes are:

  1. Baked thin spiralized sweet potatoes with a sprinkle of olive oil and coconut lime seasoning.
  2. Roasted sliced and seasoned potatoes
  3. Spiralized zucchini sauteed in a dash of olive oil with pine nuts, crushed garlic, fresh basil, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of shredded Parmesan cheese.

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My only complaint about the Mueller Spiralizer is a lack of instructions with the product. After several nasty cuts from the very sharp blades, I found a good YouTube video on how to use it. I also have since purchased their cookbook which has instructions, guidelines, and some interesting recipes. The print is large enough to see without reading glasses but the few photos are only in black and white.

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

You’re Not a Baby, Carrot Sunday, Jan 24 2016 

Crunchy, sweet, tasty – baby carrots make a great little snack whether we dip them or not. I love the way they snap when you bite into them and the idea that they contribute toward a healthy diet. But did you know that these little carrots didn’t grow that way?

The January 15, 2016 Wall Street Journal featured the most fascinating article by Roberto A. Ferdmanon on these little babies. He said the path to popularity began when California carrot farmer Mike Yorosek peeled and sculpted bite-sized carrots from deformed regular sized ones. It was an effort to prevent the produce from being delegated to the trash. He sent a bag to a local grocery chain along with his full-sized carrots. The stores asked for only the baby ones from that point on.

This ingenious idea boomed into big business. Carrot consumption snowballed every year. More than 70% of all carrot sales now are from these little jewels which sell at a premium.

Carrots are packed with antioxidants. They may have an anti-cancer effect and help regulate blood-sugar. They are an excellent source of vitamin A and also contribute toward our needs for vitamins C and K, calcium, iron, potassium, folate, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, and zinc as well as fiber.

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

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