Category Archives: Weekends

That Beautiful Bread


Olive Oil Bread With Rosemary

Sometimes, you just need to hole up in your space and get down to the business of making some heart-warming foods.  This weekend was very much like that for me, and I am hoping to get a whole series of posts out about the things I made in the next couple of days.  One thing I have started making in the last few years, for the very first time in my life, is yeast breads.  Granted, with the low-carb frenzy of the last decade, I generally shy away from white flour, but there are some times when you just want good old-fashioned bread.  I figure that, as long as I am making it, and I have a reasonable idea of where the ingredients are from, it is better than eating processed white bread or even bread from the grocery store bakery. Continue reading

Super Bowl Food: Pizza!


'za!

Okay, so I posted on Facebook that I was super-pleased with the response to my Shrimp n’ Grits post and that I was looking for ideas on what to post next. I have quite a few idea/pictures in the queue, but my buddy Alex (see his comedic offerings linked on the right there) suggested that Super Bowl food would be appropriate choice. Then, my friend Keith (see his funny blog on the right there, too!) mentioned pizza, so the decision was made. Granted, I don’t think that I have all that much to contribute to the plethora of pizza recipes out there, but I know what I like, and maybe my tastes will be new to some.

First off, I really like whole wheat crust. For me, white crust is great when someone else makes it, but if I am going to bother making ‘za from scratch, I am gonna switch up everything, top(pings) to bottom. The recipe we use is just a variation on the one in the Joy of Cooking, which the Bun adapted for use with whole wheat flour.*

As for toppings, there are several that we turn to when making homemade pizza, most of which are on the vegetarian side. In fact, the pizza shown above is one that we made when our friends Mark and Erica decided to challenge us to a vegetarian week of dinners; it was a good way to get ourselves to think about how to get a balanced meal without eating meat. You’ll see that we used a red sauce (just crushed tomatoes seasoned with fresh garlic, dried oregano, salt and pepper). Over the sauce, we added mushrooms sauteed with thyme, roasted red peppers, spinach (thawed from frozen), Ricotta and Parmesan cheeses, and fresh basil, which elevates the flavor of most red-sauce pizzas. The result was so delicious that we couldn’t even wait to take a picture before we’d both had an enormous slice. If you are looking for a veggie pizza (and provided that you still eat cheese), this combination can’t be beat.

*There are several good brands of whole wheat flour available these days, including a few that say you can use them in place of regular all-purpose flour (I suggest testing a recipe out on yourself before serving guests). Trader Joe’s brand is the one we used in this recipe, and it worked really well. Let me know if you have any other suggestions!

A Note on Cocktail Parties


If there is one thing I have learned about cocktail parties, it is this:  the simpler, the better.  Sure, you want everyone to be festive and have a good time, but it turns out that you don’t have to bust your hump to make a good party.  In fact, if you put too much time into the preparation for the party, you’ll find yourself exhausted and the affair will often come off as overwrought.  Simply put, people come to your party to see you and your friends, not for a big spread of fancy appetizers and complicated drinks.

For me, I always attend a cocktail party with a lot of gratitude for the host for putting the event on at all.  It isn’t often that people get a larger group of people together for an occasion, and to host such an affair is both stressful and rewarding.  As a guest, I just appreciate that someone was thoughtful about scheduling a gathering and providing some good cheer.  As a host, I think it is best to remember that perfect parties are never really all that fun, and almost come off as a non-event.  Keep it casual, but with a sense of occasion, no matter when you decide to hold your next cocktail party.

Regarding food, it turns out that people often gravitate to the simplest snacks.  Cheese and crackers, mixed nuts, and crudite plates are all simple crowd-pleasers.  Pick one or two slightly more complicated items from your latest food magazine or from a quick review your favorite food website; if you can make items in advance, all the better.  Remember, you want to spend time with your guests, not slaving over the oven.  Try to keep items small and portable, without gloppy sauces and or napkin-necessary greasiness.  Don’t forget sweet items, too.  Cookies are a great cocktail item to have around, because they contrast the saltiness of savory bites.  Savory usually = salty, and salty usually = more drinks, which we all know can end up being messy.  Keep everyone noshing and talking and not just sipping.

As for drinks, have several options in terms of booziness.  Some people can handle more than one Martini or Vodka Stinger, but I don’t happen to be one of those people.  Though the old-school rules of cocktail parties say to serve strictly spirits, I see nothing wrong with giving people the choice of beer or wine instead.  The old rules also say to have a fully stocked bar available for people to mix their own drinks.  Well, that might be an option someday, but for now, we try to keep costs low by offering two or three options, premixed in pitchers or punch bowls.  An old-fashioned drink (Manhattan, Sidecar, etc.) is always welcome for those who like a kick, and most people love anything made with sparkling wine or champagne.  I know I do!

Other than that, come up with a quick, but thoughtful playlist that is a mix of both upbeat and mellow (but not too much of either), and have some fresh flowers and candles around.  You’ll be surprised how just a little prep work can make for a great get together.