Thursday, May 27, 2010

Recipe Roundup - Pizza Dough (Bread Machine)

This is a great, and flavorful pizza dough recipe.  I use my bread machine to do the hard work.  Put the ingredients in the machine in the order suggested by the manufacturer, and select the dough setting.  This makes enough for two large pizza's.

1.5 Cups Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Honey
2Tablespoons Active Dry/or bread machine Yeast
1/4 Cup olive oil
2 1/2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Flax Meal
1 teaspoon salt

I grind flax seeds into meal at home, but you can purchase flax meal at the store as well.  I add everything to the bread maching and include garlic, oregano, and other herbs for extra flavor.  I've even been know to throw in some sundried tomatoes on occasion.  :)  You can just toss in a bit of whatever you like for flavor, or nothing at all.

When the dough is done rising preheat the oven to 425 and dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Cut the dough into two balls.  (You can freeze half if you don't need two large pizza's.)

Oil a pizza pan or baking sheet.  Take one dough ball and spread onto your prepared pan working from the middle to the edges until desired thickness is reached.  Roll any excess dough onto itself at the edges to creat the outter crust.  Use a fork to poke holes in the crust.
Bake at 425 for 8-12 minutes.  The longer you pre-bake it, the crispier your crust will be.  Remove the crust from the oven and top with whatever toppings you like and return for the oven until cheese begins to brown.  I like to hide spinach and finely chopped onions between the sauce and the cheese, for the little one that thinks her slice is only pepperoni (or in this case veggie-roni).  Sometimes I brush the crust with butter, garlic, salt, and oregano for a garlic breadstick flavor. 

And Voila, you have a beautiful tastey pizza that your family will love.  Enjoy!

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.”
Jack Brooks

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What's that Mean?? Animal Products

Chapter two in a series of common questions and terms compiled with some researched answers, and some added personal opinion to help everyone understand what's become of food over the last few years....After all, if you are what you eat, shouldn't you know what you're eating? Feel free to email questions, or terms you’d like clarification on. If I don't know the answer, I'll find it!

What's That Mean??
Animal Products


Grass Fed – There is currently no USDA official definition of grass fed, but the understood definition is a cow that was raised eating grass. (This does not always include the finishing process)

Grass Finished – The last 90-160 days of a feed cows life are spent getting fattened up. Typically this is on grain. Grass finished cows eat nothing but grass until the day they are processed.

          Why grass fed? Well, 100% grass-fed meat is not only lower in saturated fats but also slightly higher in omega-3 fatty acids. Meat and milk from grass-finished cows also have more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which studies suggest may help prevent some cancers, diabetes and more. Grass-finished meat is higher than grain-finished meat in vitamin A and vitamin E, two antioxidants thought to boost resistance to disease.

Most, but not all Grass Fed Beef is also free range. Check the label for a free range grass fed beef.

Poultry and Eggs

Free Range – this typically the chickens are raised in large flocks in big open warehouses rather than in stacked cages. They can walk around, flap their wings and preen their feathers a little. They are allowed access to the outdoors, although it may be very little access as the producer doesn’t actually have to disclose the amount of access.

Cage Free – This just means the chickens are not kept in cages. The term doesn’t add any other regulations.

Pastured – These chickens are raised in outdoor pens that are moved from pasture to pasture, and typically fed an organic diet. The chickens are able to eat a wide variety of natural foods from greens to grubs and are typically antibiotic free. Many people find these eggs/chickens to taste the best, and there have been some studies to indicate they may be more nutritious.


Certified Humane – This isn’t regulated by the FDA, but a few smaller organizations, the largest of which is Humane Farm Animal Care, are working to come up with a common definition. HFCA has a certification process with standards that include a nutritious diet without antibiotics or hormones, animals raised with shelter, resting areas, sufficient space and the ability to engage in natural behaviors.

Hormone Free – The USDA does not allow the use of hormones in Pork or Poultry. However, for Beef etc. Hormones are administered to make the animal grow larger and faster. Milk producing cows are often treated with an added synthetic hormone to increase milk production. Some controversial studies tie the increase in the use of hormones in feed animals to early onset puberty, and breast cancer. (Hormones are not allowed in organic meat or dairy products, or in those products that are certified humane)

Antibiotic Free – Oh this one could be a blog in and of itself so I’ll try to control myself. Because industrial/conventional feed animals are kept in such despicable conditions they get sick….a lot. To keep them from getting sick the entire flock/herd/group is treated with therapeutic antibiotics…meaning they are given a pretty much constant stream of antibiotics. Scientists estimate that nearly 70% of all antibiotics in the United States, more than 24 million pounds per year, are routinely put into the food and water of healthy livestock. Do you know where all that ends up? Well the animal waste products are often sprayed onto pastures and absorbed into surface waters, and the rest, ends up on our plates, contributing to the rise of antibiotic resistance in people.

So in short, animal products from Industrial/Conventional farms = bad, and small local ethical farms = good. :) But no really, the more you know the easier it is to decipher the label and know your food.

"Just as appetite comes from eating, so work brings inspiration, if inspiration is not discernible at the beginning"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Know your food!

Everyone has a different definition of healthy. Personally, I consider healthy to be natural, minimally processed, no pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, additives, preservatives, etc. So, if you consider healthy to strictly mean low fat/low carb/low sugar/ then....we're going to have some work to do. :)

I feel like people have lost all respect for their food. We don't know what's in it; we don't know where it came from or how it’s made.....and yet we put it in our mouths and eat it. This is a problem....for me at least. If you don't know what it is, why would you eat it?

For instance there's the eternal battle of butter vs margarine. Well, let’s look at the ingredients. The ingredients on butter are typically cream and salt. As far as ingredients lists are concerned, shorter list with recognizable ingredients are better in my book. So I know what cream is and I know what salt is. Heck, if you wanted to you could make your own butter pretty easily. (I might just have to try that.) Now for margarine: Liquid soybean oil, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, water, whey, salt, vegetable mono- and diglycerides and soy lecithin (emulsifiers), potassium sorbate and sodium benzonate (to preserve freshness), artificial flavor, phosphoric acid (acidulant), vitamin A palmitate, colored with beta carotene (source of vitamin A).'re not making that at home. I don't even know what all that is, and so, I wouldn't eat it. I wouldn't feed it to my child, I wouldn't cook with it, and I wouldn't consider it healthier than butter. Butter will have more calories, fat, and cholesterol than margarine, but you actually need ALL those things in your diet, just in small quantities.

We're so into the fad diets. We give up carbs; we give up fat; we give up sugar. The problem is what we really need to do is learn to eat everything in moderation. We need a variety of nutrients to live our lives to the fullest, and we need to get those from a variety of sources. Too long we've given into the stigma that food is bad, it’s the enemy, don't let it control you. We have epidemics of obesity on one end, and anorexia on the other. It’s like we're afraid of food.

We, as a society, have chosen foods that are cheaper, and chemically derived. Wouldn't it be better to eat smaller portions of the REAL food; food you can identify, recognize, pronounce, and actually tastes better? And now that we've erred on the side of cheapness we've given up on quality all together. We'll eat a $.49 hamburger. When you can eat out, for cheaper than you can buy the ingredients and eat at home, there's something very wrong with what's in the food. Don't people ever wonder what they put it in it to make it so cheap? Think about it. $.49 for a we really want to eat that? Companies are using slogans like "Stuff your face with value" to sell food. Wait....I want to eat food, not value. We want to eat more, more, more, and get more, more, more for our dollar. Haven't we ever heard that you get what you pay for? Where did this cheaper is better mentality come from anyway??

People everywhere are starting to realize that what we need to do is start eating real food. There are whole movements out there from "Retake our Plates" to "Food Revolution" to "Slow Food". Just think about all the negatives that can be avoided, from the new studies linking chemicals in food to cancers, pesticides to ADHD, and BPA to infertility. The impact on human and environmental health would be astounding.  Our dollars speak volumes my friends. If we as a society start purchasing our foods from local farms, farmers markets, and focusing our dollars on organic and natural foods, then that's what the main stream stores will start carrying. Eventually even restuarants will get the hint. Companies sell what we buy, so if we stop buying crap, they won't sell it, simple as that.
So go natural, go organic, READ THE INGREDIENTS, and be healthy and happy. (Plus real food tastes better!) Take the question mark off your plate, and know your food!

"Life is so brief that we should not glance too far backwards or forwards...
therefore study how to fix our happiness in our glass and in our plate."
Grimod de la Reynière (1758-1838)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Recipe Round Up: Cheddar and Prosciutto Buttermilk Biscuits with Rosemary

4 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour (I used pastry flour for a finer consistency)
1/4 C Minced fresh rosemary
2 tbs baking powder
2tsp coarse salt
1tsp cracked black pepper
1.5 Cups (3 sticks) cold butter (unsalted), cut into pieces
2 C Shredded Cheddar Cheese (8oz)
3 ounces prosciutto finely chopped (3/4 C)
2 1/4 C cold buttermilk (and a little extra for brushing)

~Preheat oven to 400 with racks in the upper and lower thirds

~Prepare all ingredients.  I use fresh rosemary, put it in a very small bowl and use kitchen sheers to cut it down to size.  I find this method a little easier than cutting the rosemary on a cutting board.  I use the kitchen sheers to produce smaller pieces of chopped prosiutto as well. 

~Combine flours, rosemary, baking powder, salt, and pepper in large bowl.  Cut in butter with pastry blender, or your fingers.  I prefer the hands on finger method as I feel it gives me more control over the final consistency of the dough.  When the mixture resembles coarse meal with some remaining large chunks of butter, add the cheese and prosciutto.  Stir in the buttermilk just until the mixture forms dough.  It will still have dry parts and be a bit crumbly.

~Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead to incorporate any remaining bits.  Squish the dough into about a 12inch square and cut into square biscuits (2-3").  Transfer biscuits to an ungreased cookie sheet and brush the top of each one with buttermilk. 

~Bake for 30-40 minutes until the biscuits are golden brown.  About halfway through rotate the baking sheets from front to back and from top to bottom for even browning.  Serve Hot.

These biscuits are fantastic on their own, are rich in flavor, but also go well with a dish.  We had them with black bean soup.

“Love doesn't just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.” Ursula K. LeGuin

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What's That Mean??: 1 - General Terms

I've decided to do a series of common questions and terms and compile them with some researched answers, and some added personal opinion to help everyone understand what's become of food over the last few years....After all, if you are what you eat, shouldn't you know what you're eating? Feel free to email questions, or terms you’d like clarification on. If I don't know the answer, I'll find it!
What's That Mean??
Some General Terms

All Natural - The phrase all natural on a package only refers to the processing of a food product AFTER it is received by the manufacturer. It has nothing to do with the growing process, or feeding process. These products can contain GMO (genetically modified) ingredients, pesticides and other chemical agents, growth hormone, and/or antibiotics.  (So really...natural doesn't mean natural at all......that's why we have the term Organic)

Conventional - This is a lesser known term that pretty much means anything not Organic

Organic - Organic is a label that means the agricultural product was grown without the aid of conventional pesticides, or fertilizers. For animal products, the feed must be pesticide and hormone free, AND the animals must not be treated with growth hormones or antibiotics. No genetic engineering is allowed in organic food.  Basically this is how food was intended to be, before we started messing with it. 
  • USDA Organic –
    • -100% Organic – Single ingredient foods that meet organic guidelines, or multi ingredient foods in which each ingredient and any processing agents have been organically produced.
    • -Organic – contains 95% organic ingredients by weight (excluding water and salt)
  • -Made with Organic Ingredients – contains 70-95% Organic ingredients. (cannot be labeled USDA Organic)
Trans Fat – (Partially Hydrogenated Oils/Trans Fatty Acids) Trans Fat is known to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol and is considered the worst of the fats. Trans fat is a man made product that is created by combining hydrogen and vegetable oil. It is used as a cheap way to prolong shelf life, and slow the spoiling process. You have to check the label on this one and look for “Partially Hydrogenated” anything, and/or shortening. Many shortenings, butter alternatives, baked goods, crackers, cakes and fried foods contain trans fat. Keep in mind that if a food has less than .5g per serving they are not required to list it, and can label the food as 0g trans fat per serving, so reading the ingredient label is the only way to know for certain.  Trans fat is so bad its even illegal in some places. 

High Fructose Corn Syrup – (HFCS) High-fructose corn syrup is made by changing the sugar (glucose) in cornstarch to fructose — another form of sugar creating a combination of fructose and glucose. It is popular with manufacturers because it extends the shelf life of processed foods and is cheaper than sugar. More and more scientists are disagreeing with the statements of safety of high-fructose corn syrup. A research team at Princeton has found that rats eating high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight that rats eating regular table sugar, even when the caloric intake was identical. HFCS promotes disproportionate weight increase in the abdominal area, and a rise in circulating blood fats (triglycerides). High-fructose corn syrup is found in everything from peanut butter and ketchup to Wonder Bread, to kid’s juice boxes and salad dressings. Because it is so cheap, food companies use it in almost everything as a sugar replacement.  I personally think we should just stick with sugar over these types of alternatives. 

The food industry has changed more in the past 50 years than in the previous 10,000.  We've learned to genetically manipulate food, cover it in pesticide, pump our animals full of hormones and antibiotics and create cheaper less nutritious foods.  Its time to revert back to natural foods, as they were before all our "advancements"

 "Tell me what you eat, I'll tell you who you are." ~Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Monday, May 10, 2010

Pizza Fusion - Orlando - A Restaurant Review

When you make the decision to live a more sustainable lifestyle, one of the first things you may feel you have to give up is eating out. Fear not! Behold Pizza Fusion!

The corporate mission statement of Pizza Fusion is "to uphold the highest level of integrity in all we do, from the quality and origin of our food to our care for the health of our customers and the environment."  How refreshing is that!  A restaurant that cares.  Their menu is all natural and 75% organic, and all their meat is certified humane, and hormone, nitrate, and antibiotic free. The delivery vehicles are hybrids, they purchase renewable wind energy certificates to offset 100% of their energey consumption, and all restaurants are built to LEED building standards.  All of these efforts are fantastic, but they would be nothing without the fresh ingredients and amazing staff that are the building blocks of Pizza Fusion-Orlando

First, let me start with the staff.  I know we're talking about a restaurant so you expect me to say something about the food, and I will, but the staff at Pizza Fusion-Orlando deserves a little praise first.  My family and I have been to Pizza Fusion twice now.  When we walked in for our second visit, nearly a month after our first, we were greeted by Kyle (our server from our first visit) who said "welcome back!"  Welcome back?  You mean you remember us after only one visit?  The staff, Kyle and Greg, and all the other's whose names I don't know yet, are courteous, knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and friendly.  They reccomend things based on what they actually like, not just blind, everything on the menu is good reccomendations.  As we left with full bellies, and smiling faces, my daughter gave Kyle a hug, and he shook my husbands hand mentioning that Monday nights, is family night, so we could come in and get the little one a free cheese pizza with our order.  As I walked towards the door, my daughters hand in one hand, and my yummy leftovers in the other, one of the other employees jogged past me to hold the door, with a smiling face, and well wishes for a lovely evening.

In a day and age where customer service has gone by the way side to make room for speed and efficiency it is so refreshing to go to a restaurant where you are treated as more than a customer, but as a guest at their establishment.  This is what you will find at Pizza Fusion-Orlando.

Now for the food!  So far, I have tried the Burchetta Pizza, the Founders Pie,  and the Sausage with Tricolor Peppers.  My husband also had the Big Kahuna last visit, but between him and my daughter...I didn't get to try that one.  The food has amazing fresh flavor.  The salads are crisp; no brown wilty lettuce here!  We've had the Fusion Salad, and the Pear Gorgonzola.  They were both fantastic.  The salad dressings are delightful with just the perfect blend of flavors and spices.  The pizza crusts are amazing too.  For a more traditional flavor go for the Organic White crust, but my personal favorite is the multi-grain.  When you're finished devouring your pizza (and you will devour it) you must try their signature dessert....Vegan Brownies.  Now I know some of you out there are shaking your heads right now at vegan brownies...but I assure you my friend, not only am I lover of all things chocolate, but my husband is a brownie connoisseur and these brownies...are AMAZING!  They are moist and gooey just as a brownie should be.  The chocolate chip cookies, and the gelatto are also yummy, but its hard for any dessert to make it out of the shadow of these brownies. 

The portions are perfect, they don't skimp on the desserts, and I don't have to worry about what's in the lemonade (its organic) if my daughter should feel like having a sweet drink.  I feel welcomed, and comfortable with every visit.  I assure you, Pizza Fusion is a tastey experience, one you will want to repeat as much as possible.  I know I'll be going back again soon!

"It's fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day. That's what human life is all about-enjoying things."  - Julia Child

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Its The Simple Things

Why do people try to make everything bigger, better, and more complicated than needed?  Can we not appreciate the little things in life anymore; the simple, perfect, wonderful things?  It seems like everyone wants everything faster and grander than necessary.  I'm guilty of this too...I suppose it is the mentality of Americans, or maybe people in general.  We want bigger houses, faster shinier cars, bigger better everything.  But why?  When we're children we know how to find happiness in a bubble, running through a field, a boquet of weeds, and jumping on the bed.  When does that change? 

Today was perfect.  My kind of perfect.  What did I do today that was so super fantastic you may ask?  Well, we celebrated mother's day.  I slept in a little, I cleaned the kitchen, and did a couple loads of laundry, then my husband and daughter went to run errands, and I took a nap on the couch.  (that in and of itself is super-fantastic)  I woke up when they returned, but since I could hear giggles and whispering I kept my eyes closed, and snoozed.  When they woke me I found my laptop with a happy mother's day note written in the paint program, a new cookbook (The Rodale Whole Foods Cookbook), and a card my daughter drew for me.  My husband had made me various coupons for dinner out, a trip to the beach, a trip to whole foods (SCORE), and foot and back massages.  I asked my daughter what she drew in the picture (she's 4) and she said that was her, and a giant mommy worm.'s original...and I LOVE IT! 

We went to a cute pizza place (courtesy of my dinner out coupon) and made a trip to Whole Foods (coupon again) so I could get some ingredients to make something out of my new cookbook.  It was the perfect night.  When we got home we watched a movie, and had popcorn on the couch.  We all four (dog included) hung out and ate popcorn and spent time together.  It was an amazing day.  I appreciated every moment of it, that's when it hit me.  How often do we just sit back and appreciate what we have; without the more, more, better, bigger thoughts?  Think about it....Think about what you have.  Does your mind automatically go to getting something new? 

Was it an expensive day? Not particularly.  Did I get that worm composter I've really been wanting?  Nope.  Was it a whine free day?  (of course not...did I mention she's four?)  But I got everything I truly wanted and needed; a day with my family, time with my little girl, cuddles on the couch, and a warm heart full of gratitude.  Sometimes, we just need to learn to be content.  Life has a funny way of showing us that happiness is found in the simple things.

"I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may be;for I have learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions,and not upon our circumstances"~Martha Washington