Sunday, September 16, 2012

Experimentations in Pizza

I recently served homemade pizzas at book club, and in true Patti Wagon fashion, I severely over-prepared. My mathematical skills were particularly adrift in dough measurements, and I ended up with twice as much dough as I needed. But, in true Patti Wagon fashion, I froze that dough and have been enjoying pizza experimentations for the past few weeks.

I had some dying pears in the fridge (picked directly from my aunt's neighbor's tree, nonetheless), so what better way to put them to use than in a pear pizza, right?

Experiment 1: Sweet Pear and Brie Calzone


(Brie, onion, pears, honey, pecans, and pizza dough)

1. Caramelize onions (using a touch of sugar and salt).
2. Roll out the pizza dough, and top half with onions, sliced pears, brie, pecans, and a heavy drizzle of honey.


3. Bake at 500 on a pizza stone for about 12-14 minutes. (Good thing this isn't a beauty pageant. For the calzone or pizza stone.)

The Verdict:
While tasty, this pizza was about 5 degrees to sweet to enjoy as the main meal. Don't get me wrong, I ate the whole thing, and I liked it, but it wasn't ready for the spotlight yet.


Experiment Two: Savory Pear and Brie Pizza
In addition to the ingredients pictured above, I added white wine and prosciutto to the mix.

I chose not to add any sugar to the caramelizing onions; instead, I added a splash of white wine to the pan at the end to deglaze. This was a huge move. The flavor of the onions, and in turn, the pizza transformed from sweet to savory. To further alleviate the sweetness, I was not so heavy handed with the honey drizzle.

I also liked the addition of the prosciutto for a salty element. When has the addition of pork product ever made anything worse?

I cooked this pizza in my iron skillet (in the oven at 500 for nine minutes and then one minute atop a red-hot stove eye - to finish the bottom). 

The Verdict: 
DELICIOUS! The flavors were perfectly balanced this time. I will definitely be making this again, and I can visualize it served as (adorable) mini appetizer pizzas.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Latest Refashion: Shirt into Skirt

For my latest sewing project, I started with a shirt from Goodwill and set out to make a skirt. I was thrilled with this find. The gingham print is adorable, as are the details in the front pockets. I was on my own here with this project. (Read: no sewing sensei to guide me.) I loosely followed the instructions here, but I definitely exercised my own Patti Wagon creative license. (Read: no measuring, only seam-ripping, LOTS of seam-ripping.)
I started by cutting the shirt just above the pockets. I turned it inside-out and pinned in the sides. This part took a lot of guesswork, as it was quite challenging to pin it myself while wearing it. (Read: Now taking applications for a live-in sewing assistant. Must also be willing to do laundry and rub feet.) I kept the bottom of the shirt full and took the top in at an angle, almost up to the pockets.

Once I was happy with the fit, I was ready to make the waistband. I cut the sleeves into strips and then sewed them together to make one long 4-inch(ish) strip. I ironed on interfacing to give it some structure,  folded it in half, and then sewed it onto the top of the skirt. 

Next step, snaps! I also re-placed the buttons. The fabric was gathering slightly, so I moved each button down about 1/8". 
 Finished waistband. This might be the cleanest sewing I've ever done. Thanks, Husqvarna! (And Sensei!)

I chopped off about two inches from the bottom and hand-sewed a hem. 

Finished! Here are the two looks. 

Overall I am very happy with how it turned out. It wasn't an overwhelming project but still included pleasant amounts of hand- and machine-sewing.  My sewing skill set is improving with each project, and I am loving the number of hand-made (or refashioned) items that have crept into my wardrobe recently. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Weekend Breakfast Recap

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting a house guest. And what a pleasure it was! 
It was a delightful visit; HG and I made some memories along with some delicious breakfasts.

Breakfast #1:
Huevos Rancheros and Pancakes. HG made some stellar pancakes using this recipe, and I manned the huevos (by the seat of my pants). I think I overdid the accouterments, as the flavors became a bit muddled, but I'll treat that as a lesson (lessen the toppings). Beverages were bullshots, mine served in a frosted wine glass. Fancy!


Breakfast #2
Spinach, kale, artichoke quiche served with bacon and yellow tomatoes. This was all HG, so you'll have to goad him for the quiche recipe. It was heavy on the vegetables, light on the egg and cheese, and divine!

Breakfast #3
Various stuffed crescent rolls (in the style of a box of chocolates sampler), bacon, pancakes, and quiche. Take the opportunity to use your imagination instead of looking at a photo. (Or just look above. Leftovers. But just as good the 2nd time.)

Book Club Recap

Note: If you're more into recipes and less into musings, scroll down for a delicious gazpacho recipe. If you're more into musings, read on, my dear reader!

Last week I hosted book club for five lovely ladies. My love of book club is three-fold, listed in the following (very specific) order:

1. Great conversation with friends. It's always fun to catch up and hear each other's stories. And I must say, we all live very exciting lives! 
2. Umm, the food and drink. 
3. (and a distant 3.) Book discussion. Very exciting ladies. And very smart ladies.

I have always loved hosting parties, especially the meal planning and food preparation parts. I always feel very stressed and high-strung, but when it all comes together, I have a great sense of accomplishment and gratification.

For this month, we read A History of Love by Nicole Krauss. I highly recommend it. Beautifully written. Complex characters. Multiple story lines. Funny. Sad. Sincere. Memorable. Read it. You will love it.

But more important than the book (see order above), the food! 

As appetizers, I served prosciutto wrapped cantaloupe and ripe tomato catsup over cream cheese. It's a favorite

Main course, gazpacho and pizza. Homemade crust. Homemade sauce. Toppings galore. It's the Patti Wagon way. I made whole wheat and white crusts and used the CPK recipes for both. It is labor intensive and requires a stay in the refrigerator overnight, but the crunchy, airy chewiness of the crust makes it worth it.

I served a veggie pizza with zucchini, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes, kale, and caramelized onions on whole wheat with red sauce and mozzarella. It is in the upper right of the photo.

On the far left is Italian sausage, green peppers, onions, and mushroom on white crust (and also with red sauce and mozzarella).

At the bottom are the two white pizzas. I made a simple white sauce with butter, flour, milk, garlic, and parmesan cheese. I topped one with just spinach, mozzarella, and more parmesan. I added chicken to the other.

The red pizza sauce was a canning camp product. (We're definitely going to have to add this to the must-make list next year.)

Gazpacho Recipe (as promised)

This is always a must-have of the summer for me. I tend to eat a lot of salads, so this is a great way to get all the nutrients, just in a different form. It's so refreshing, I often find myself drinking it out of the bowl. (Shhhh!) Feel free to add more fresh herbs and/or a jalapeno if that's your thing. 

  • 1 peeled garlic clove
  • 2 T fresh chives
  • 2 T fresh basil
  • 2 T fresh parsley
  • 3 tomatoes, skinned and seeded
  • 1 green pepper, quartered
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 peeled carrot
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups broth or stock
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • 2 6-oz cans hot V8 juice
  • croutons, chopped tomatoes, cucumber and/or avocado to garnish
  1. Chop the garlic in the food processor with the chopping blade. Add fresh herbs and process until everything is chopped nicely.
  2. Remove the chopping blade and switch to the grater. Grate the carrot. 
  3. Return the chopping blade and add remaining vegetable ingredients and pulse. 
  4. Add in the tomato juice and process until almost smooth. 
  5. Transfer to a large bowl and add the remaining liquids. 
  6. Stir well and chill at least 2 hours before serving. 
  7. Serve cold with desired accouterments. 

For dessert, Grandma's chocolate pie. I'm going to have to make this one day when I'm not in a rush, so I can take pictures of the process and post the recipe. I was literally stirring the pudding whilst finishing the book before my guests arrived, so alas, no time for process photos. But isn't the final shot a beaut?

The perfect slice!