Monday, November 19, 2012

A Pizza Revelation


With the holidays fast approaching, its a hectic time of year here at the cookie shop and there are no signs of slowing down until January!  This seasonal increase in business invariably means more time in the bakery, working into the night and less time in the kitchen, cooking for the family. 

Over the years, I've had to come up with creative ways to feed everyone during busy season without giving in to the temptation of convenience foods and take-out, which can be lacking in nutrition and tough on the wallet.

These pizzas were an absolute revelation one hectic night when I was busy packaging cookies, my daughter was doing schoolwork and my husband was editing photos.  We were all hungry, but I was short on time and hadn't been shopping in awhile, so a sit down meal wasn't happening.

I rooted around in the fridge and found tortillas, but no taco fixin's.  I had some marinara, but no pasta.  I had a bumper crop of fresh basil from the Aerogarden and the remnants from a ball of fresh mozzarella.

The result of this hodgepodge of ingredients was an incredibly light, crispy pizza with fresh toppings that rivaled any good quality frozen pizza - and many delivery pies - and is a regular staple in our house now. 

It's convenience food... but without the preservatives and ingredients you can't pronounce!

Tortilla Pizzas

Flour Tortillas (you can use any size, depending on your appetite)

Olive Oil

Parmesan Cheese (shaved, shredded or grated)

Marinara Sauce (I make my own, but jarred is fine)

Fresh Mozzarella

Toppings of your choice (use a light hand with the toppings)
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Preheat oven to 350.  Brush each side of tortilla lightly with olive oil and place on baking sheet.

Sprinkle tortilla with a thin later of Parmesan cheese, add a little sauce and break up some mozzarella cheese over the top.

Add toppings - we like prosciutto, which crisps up beautifully in the oven, and red onion.  Add your favorites and get creative!

Bake for 15 minutes or until cheese is bubbling.

I like to tear up lots of fresh basil and add to the pizzas after they come out of the oven.



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Me and My Shadow...

 Vicky, shadowing me for the day

As I mentioned in my last post, we've made quite a few changes, both within our family and our business, these past 18 months, which is the reason for my long hiatus from the blog.

One of the bigger changes was the decision to home school our daughter.  My husband and I both work from home and have flexible schedules, which lends itself to the crazy, on the road, never two days alike world of homeschooling.  Her First Grade year was an adventure in kitchen table science experiments, road trips & field trips, backseat math and backyard discoveries.

Her time in public school (Kindergarten) and our first year homeschooling were both invaluable lessons to us, as parents, in what makes our daughter tick and where her passions lie.  We learned that educating children, whether through traditional school or homeschooling, is an ever-evolving process that you need to tweak as you go along.

This September, we made another change and decided to enroll Season in a part-time, alternative school to supplement our home lessons - The Birch School in Rock Tavern.


Season (holding the class dog) with some of her classmates

In addition to her core subjects, she also has ample opportunity to spend time learning about what she loves - in her case, animals, geography, cooking, sewing and science.  The school also matches kids up with mentors who have experience in the areas of study they are passionate about.  This is how I came to spend an afternoon with a remarkably mature 15 year old girl who loves to bake.

Vicky spent a day at our bakery not only observing, but baking side by side with me for much of the day.  It was an education for both of us.

I learned not to underestimate kids and their abilities.  This 15 year old girl had more focus, attention-to-detail and creativity than many adults!  She was well-spoken, enthusiastic, she took constructive criticism with grace and she worked incredibly hard.  It was evident that she was doing something she loved.

The experience also reinforced for me the importance of allowing my own daughter the time and the opportunities to discover what she loves to do.

When she asks to help me in the kitchen, I'll think less about the mess she is likely to make and more about the memories we'll create - and the passion it may spark in her.









Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Back in the Saddle

I've been on a ridiculously long blogging hiatus, but I'm back and so anxious to talk about all we've been up to this past year!

To start off, I have a fantastic new recipe for Quinoa Cakes to share.  My husband has been on a bit of a health kick lately and in order to show my support, I've been buying the strange and unfamiliar items he's been adding to my grocery lists each week.  I've also been searching for ways for both of us to enjoy them, since Tom could subsist on nuts & seeds and my idea of health food is adding broccoli to my bacon encrusted mac n' cheese.

These Quinoa Cakes fit the bill for all of us (even our 7 year old) - healthy, protein packed quinoa disguised as a crispy, caramelized, flavorful snack.  I love the versatility of this recipe, so toss in your favorite veggies, herbs or spices.

I've also included a recipe for a creamy Dijon dipping sauce that works perfectly with the cakes.

  

Quinoa Cakes and Dijon Aioli


2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa (I cook mine in chicken stock for extra flavor)
4 large eggs
1 large shallot, finely chopped (you can also use a grater)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped  (you can also use a grater)
Big handful of chopped chives, scallions and parsley
1/2 cup grated or shredded Parmesan, or cheese of your choice
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (both traditional and Panko work great)
Salt & Pepper


Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and shape into patties.

Heat about 3 tablespoons olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add the patties and cook until bottoms are very brown, about 5 minutes.  Flip and cook on the second side until deeply golden as well.  Drain on paper towels.

You can make all of the patties or you can store the leftover  mixture in the refrigerator for a few days and make patties as you want them.  The cooked patties heat up very well on a lightly oiled skillet.

You can serve these alone with a squeeze of lemon and aioli dipping sauce, over a salad of baby greens or on a whole grain bun, like a burger.  I ate a couple for breakfast this morning!

FYI - Cooking quinoa is very much like cooking rice.  I use a 2 to 1 ratio of liquid to quinoa.  Bring liquid to a boil, add quinoa, bring back to boil, cover, lower heat to simmer and cook until liquid is absorbed.

Using a combination of stock and white wine as the liquid adds a ton of flavor to the finished dish.
I also like to add a tablespoon of butter and some salt before adding the quinoa, but you can leave that out.

Dijon Aioli

 1/4 cup mayonnaise (Greek yogurt also works very well)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
1 teaspoon capers

Mix all ingredients together and serve with quinoa cakes.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Perfect Storm

 
Our first season of sponsoring a Little League Team has come to a close and we couldn't be happier for our Team STORM.  Not only did they conduct themselves with excellent sportsmanship and poise under pressure at every game, but they capped off the 2011 season with the playoff VICTORY!  As evidenced by the pictures below, these ladies played their hearts out.  I couldn't be prouder to have my name on the backs of those jerseys!  Congratulations, girls.....



 





 
Photos by Tom Ciriello

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father Figures

Growing up without a father in my life, I was not immune to feeling sorry for myself when Father's Day rolled around and I felt as if I was missing out on something.

As I've gotten older and reflected on my past and the people in it, I'm grateful for the realization that I've had amazing father figures at many stages of my life.

Photo by Peter Quinn
My mother raised my brother and me (by herself), to love each other unconditionally, to protect each other fiercely and to work tirelessly for what we felt was important.  She led by example when she instilled in us a strong work ethic and the belief that we were capable of anything we set our minds to.  She was both mother and father to us, and I realize now that I didn't miss a thing.




My brother was my confidante, my biggest supporter and my best friend growing up and he never once made me feel like a nuisance - even though being his little sister, I'm sure I was more often than not.  He taught me to stand up for myself, he gave me confidence and he made me feel loved and accepted throughout my childhood and well into adulthood.  He's been with me through every important milestone in my life - he's helped me pick up the pieces after my failures, he walked me down the aisle at my wedding and he was prouder than anyone when I succeeded. He was and still is one of the most important people in my life.




In my early 30's, I had the good fortune to meet a wonderful man who became my husband and the father of my daughter.  As I observe his relationship with her, I witness every day just what its like to have a great father.  Someone who not only makes you feel safe and secure, but who puts band-aids on boo-boos, teaches you how to ride a bike, cuddles you when you're scared and makes you feel like the most important person in the world.




Luckily for me, with my husband also came a wonderful family and my father in law has become my late-in-life father.  I am incredibly appreciative of his invaluable advice, his acceptance of my often unconventional decisions, his generosity, his unconditional support and love.  He is a stellar father and grandfather and quite frankly, I don't know what we'd do without him.



I've learned that fathers come in many forms and I've been blessed to have more than my share.

Happy Father's Day!