Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Deep-Dish Pizza Recipe

*gasp* A picture! For once, I am actually posting a picture of one of my recipes! It is a task which I had been procrastinating forgetting since my last post... I have still been trying lots of new recipes... cinnamon rolls... stir fry... and others... but I just don't ever like the way my pictures turn out (so, if you have any tips on food photography, they would be very much appreciated!!).
Although this picture doesn't do it justice, tonight I made Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza from America's Test Kitchen (if you follow the link, all you have to do is enter your email to view some of the "free" recipes on their site... not many, but I think it's worth it!). The crust is flaky and buttery, the sauce is sweet and rich- the only thing I wasn't completely happy with about this recipe was the cheese. It wasn't exactly the texture I was looking for. But, the problem may have been that we didn't use whole milk mozzarella because we couldn't find it... I think it's possible that the whole milk cheese might have a more...cheesy texture?
Anyway, if you've enjoyed a Lou Malnati's deep-dish (or something similar), but don't live near a restaurant, this is a great, fun recipe to try. Just be sure to start early in the afternoon so you'll have enough time to let the dought rise (two 45 minute periods)!

What are your favorite pizza toppings?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Camping Themed Party

A camping themed cook-out is a great event to host on a budget - prepare simple food and use elements from the outdoors for decoration. Hold the party around the fire pit in your backyard, or at a park where one is available. Offer several different yard games to play and when it gets dark, play flashlight tag... or if your budget is a bit more generous, rent a projector and a screen and watch a movie outdoors.


These tent invitations are pretty easy and straightforward. Inspired by this post that has lots of other great camping party ideas. You'll need:

  • Two triangles of the same size (small enough to fit in the envelope you are sending the invitations in). One should be a patterned paper and one should be a light, solid color. (one of each for each invitation)
  • Small rectangles of solid color paper cut with jagged edges (one for each invitation)
  • Small letter stamps (I've seen sets before at Michael's craft store for $1 or so)
  • Black stamp pad
  • Small brads (one for each invitation)
  • Small pieces of hemp or twine
  • Scissors
  • Adhesive of your choice
  1. First, stamp the letters you want on your "sign," the small rectangle of paper with jagged edges. You could stamp "A Party," "Camp-out," or the name of your party "camp" (e.g. Camp Sunshine).
  2. Next, poke two holes in the top edges of your sign and thread the short piece of hemp through the holes to form a hanging sign. Secure the sign with the brad to the patterned paper only.
  3. Once you have attached the sign to the front of the patterned paper, cut a slit down the middle of the triangle, almost reaching the sign. Fold back the sides of the paper to look like an open tent.
  4. Apply adhesive to the back of your patterned triangle, than line it up with the solid triangle and adhere. You may need to trim the edges of triangles if they don't line up perfectly.
  5. You're done! Sorry for the blurry picture... but I think you'll get the idea. Have fun with this invitation. Mix and match the papers, and don't worry about stamping the letters just right - it adds to the rustic camping look!

Camping activities are fun and easy.

  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt, searching for items such as acorns, pine cones, and leaves. Whichever team collects the most items in the fastest amount of time wins. (Make sure all the items on your list are available in the area, and set boundaries for your guests' safety.)
  • With the items from your scavenger hunt and some super glue, decorate bug habitats (like these ones) for take-home prizes. If lightning bugs are out, use the houses to collect them.
  • Play Flash Light Tag, Capture the Flag, and other traditional outdoor games.
  • Rent a projector and watch a movie under the stars.


After roasting hot dogs over the fire, it's time to break out the marshmallows! Treat your guests to a S'mores Buffet, a fun twist on a classic treat. You can make your own graham crackers (healthier than store-bought and you can bake a variety of flavors like chocolate and cinnamon sugar).
Offer an assortment of chocolates such as milk, white, extra dark, and chocolate peanut butter cups.
You can also make your own marshmallows, using agave nectar instead of corn syrup. (I think it would also be fun to experiment with unique flavors like chocolate and salted caramel!)
If you like, you can also serve different fruits and nuts to top the s'mores. Guests will enjoy creating their own unique flavor combination. Chocolate peanut butter and dark chocolate coconut would be on the top of my list to try! Check out Birthday Girl's post for more S'more Buffet ideas. Using any ingredients, what s'more flavor would you create?


Send your guests home with "survival kits" (or hand them out at the beginning of the party). Fill inexpensive backpacks with fun and useful outdoor items such as granola bars, trail mix, glow sticks, flash lights, hand sanitizer, and other items you find at the dollar store.

Enjoy your camping party!

Thursday, June 9, 2011


That's what I'll be doing this summer. Lots and lots of it. I love to do it. This week, I've cooked or baked something every day and I'm thinking I might make something else today. I can't get enough of it. I also want to keep a record of all the recipes I try here.

Unfortunately, this week, I don't have any pictures of the food... because I didn't get around to taking any and now most of the food is already gone. But in the future, I promise I will at least try to get a good picture. Anyway...

So, my goal is to cook dinner once a week for the summer. I started out this week with a challenge to put together a meal for $10 or less. I made it just within my budget, thanks to the fact that we already had some of the ingredients... hopefully as I go I will learn how to be a little more frugal.

First, I made Pioneer Woman's Restaurant Style Salsa.
Let me tell you, this stuff is amazing. The recipe uses canned tomatoes, but the fresh cilantro, jalapeƱo, onion, and garlic give it a homemade taste.
This recipe also makes a huge batch of salsa. About 6 cups. If you do the math, the cost of all the ingredients should technically be cheaper than jarred salsa (and way better). But... maybe not because it disappears twice as fast.

Pioneer Woman's Restaurant Style Salsa


1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes With Juice

2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced Tomatoes And Green Chilies)

¼ cups Chopped Onion

1 clove Garlic, Minced

1 whole Jalapeno, Quartered And Sliced Thin

¼ teaspoons Sugar

¼ teaspoons Salt

¼ teaspoons Ground Cumin

½ cups Cilantro (more To Taste!)

½ whole Lime Juice

Preparation Instructions

Note: this is a very large batch. Recommend using a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.

Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.

Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. Serve with tortilla chips or cheese nachos.


I also made Spicy Bean Burritos from Annie's Eats. Just a warning, this recipe uses chipotle in adobo sauce and the burritos really are spicy! Really! Although I am not a big fan of spicy foods, I love the sweet and smoky flavor that the chipotle adds to the bean mixture.

Spicy Bean Burritos

Yield: about 6 servings

For the bean filling:
2 tsp. canola or vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. minced chipotle in adobo sauce
1 tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. kosher salt
Dash cayenne pepper
1/3 cup water, vegetable broth or chicken broth
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
6 tbsp. fresh salsa

For serving:
6 (9- or 10-inch) flour tortillas, warmed
Shredded cheese
Diced tomatoes
Shredded romaine lettuce
Chopped green onions
Low-fat sour cream or Greek yogurt

To make the bean filling, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin, salt and cayenne; stir, cooking just until fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Add the beans and the water or broth to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat, stir in the salsa and mash the mixture with a spoon or fork.

Spoon about a third of a cup of the bean mixture down the center of each tortilla. Top each serving with a pinch of shredded cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, green onions and sour cream.Roll the tortilla up tightly, burrito style, and serve immediately.


Both of these recipes were easy and yum - I will almost definitely make both of them again. By the way, if you have never checked out Annie's Eats, do it now! It is a beautiful site and I have found plenty of great looking recipes that I want to try, including chicken gyros with homemade pita bread... in fact, I plan on making the Ginger Beef Stir Fry next week. And I will try to post at least one picture.