Thursday, January 31, 2013

Perfect Pizza Crust

Besides my little sister, I don't know anyone that doesn't love pizza. But it can get pricey if you buy it from restaurants, and making pizza at home usually doesn't taste as good. Sometimes the crust turns out hard and flavorless, and other times the middle of the pizza is under cooked. After some trial and error, I think Jeff finally figured out how to make the best pizza crust at home.

To start, make your dough a few days in advance. We mix our dough in our kitchen aid, put it in a ziplock bag, and set it in the fridge. When the weekend rolls around our dough has developed more of a complex  malty flavor by letting it sit. Just set it on the counter and form it into a bun a couple hours before you plan on cooking it so the dough can come to room temperature. Doing this step in advance also makes the process seem almost effortless when you actually make your pizza.

The next trick is how you cook the pizza in your oven. In traditional brick ovens, pizza cooks in a matter of minutes at 800-900 degrees. When you make it at home you want to get your oven super hot and place your pizza on a surface that is already preheated. We use a pizza stone and let it heat up for a good half hour before putting our assembled pizza on it. But be careful, I've heard some brands of pizza stones that will crack if you use this method.

Assemble your pizza on a floured pizza peel. We don't have one, but a flat pan works nicely. This way you can slide it off onto a surface that is already preheated.

Once it's done you can pull it off with the pizza peel. 

And always test your ingredients to make sure they are fresh! :)

Read this article for the best crust recipes. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Stink Bugs

Every city has its own bug problems. Cleveland had giant flies and midges. Luckily the flies didn't last long and the midges only stay around for a couple weeks. Those little guys come off of Lake Erie, swarm your porch lights, and then die in piles. Pittsburgh has its own issues. Stink bugs. At first I thought they were beetles and had Jeff kill them. That's his job. I don't do bugs. We quickly learned they were stink bugs and Jeff began flushing them to avoid the nice scent they put off to attract their friends. This summer was especially hot here and our window ac units were a life saver. The only problem is the tiny spaces allowed the stink bugs to parade right into our bedroom. Usually there were just a couple, and Jeff would grab a tissue and do the dirty work. One day we noticed they were hiding behind our curtain that covered our ac unit. I headed downstairs to work on dinner and Jeff marched upstairs to vacuum them up. He was up there for some time and dinner was going to get cold. I went up to check on him and he told me to leave. After about half and hour of the vacuum running he finally made his way back downstairs to tell me the horror he just experienced. Those stinking stink bugs found their way into our house and stayed behind the curtain. Not just a few, but hundreds! HUNDREDS! We pulled the ac units out of the windows pretty quick after that scarring experience. Since then Jeff has referred to the stink bugs in our home as a war.
The story doesn't end here. We are in the dead of winter and still finding these bugs in our house. Absence of bugs is the only redeeming quality winter has for me. One day as I sat up I found one crawling on the pillow where my head had just been resting. Jeff had a lovely encounter as he was putting his shoes on the take out the trash. While talking to me he pulled what appeared to be a piece of bark off his shoelace and put it in his pocket. He looked down and said, "What have I done!" and ran off. The distinct stink bug scent filled the room and I knew immediately. Jeff hung his head and said, "They've won this battle," to which I quickly reminded him that we are still winning the war.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Eight Months!

This little girl just turned eight months old!

She still has most of her hair and I'm constantly trying to keep it out of her eyes. 

Still no teeth. 

She loves green beans and doesn't care for sweet baby foods. 

I haven't been able to convince her that crawling is a good idea. But then again, I'm not so sure myself. 

She loves to be bounced, thrown, and swung upside down by her dad. Probably because it makes me nervous. 

 We just love our Jane!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Modernist Cuisine

For those of you who don't know, Jeff likes to cook and I like to eat, which really works out nicely. When we were first married he had a healthy obsession with Indian food. We learned to grind our own spices and make our own garam masala. Over the years I've experienced many of his food fascinations: popcorn, perfect grilling techniques, amazing whole wheat bread, gourmet ice cream, falafel, and the ultimate pizza crust. He is now on a modernist cuisine kick, which includes a lot of fun cooking opportunities. "What is modernist cuisine?" you may ask. It's basically using science and technology to make amazing food. No more lumpy sauces or dry chicken breasts for us. Here's a website with a lot of information if you want to take a look. We've tried several of their cooking techniques and in this post I want to talk about the cheesiest,  richest, creamiest macaroni you will ever eat. The blue box has got nothing on this, seriously. The problem with homemade mac and cheese is the roux. You usually use a roux to prevent the cheese from separating as you melt it. Although it makes a nice creamy sauce, the starch from the flour mellows out the flavor of the cheese. I'm always a bit disappointed with my first bite as I expect it to be bursting with flavor after adding a lot of cheese. You can always use Velveeta or some other fake cheese--but then it tastes like fake cheese. Adding real cheese doesn't work, because it separates into a greasy mess when you melt it. Here's where I'm about to blow your mind. All you need is a little sodium citrate. Dissolve it in the milk, add your favorite cheese, pour over noodles, and voila! The perfect mac and cheese.

Here is the actual recipe we used. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Holidays

We had a great time with family the last couple of months. It was so fun for Jane to finally meet everyone! For Thanksgiving we drove out to visit the Ortons in Arlington. Jeff had a conference in D.C. earlier in November so we all went and made it a vacation. Rebekah and Christopher were so nice to have us twice in one month. The weather was great for November and all the leaves were changing colors. We went for walks, visited the Natural History Museum, Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Art, walked the Mall, and the National Cemetery. My favorite part was probably how much Jane enjoyed the Air and Space Museum. She loved the big open spaces and since she has an obsession with fans, the hundreds of propellers were a big hit.

Christmas did not disappoint this year. We flew out to Utah and were able to spend a week with each side of our families  We even made it in time for a wedding, baby blessing, and Jackie's mission farewell. Jane was a great traveler and enjoyed all our outings. We went to the BYU Museum of Art, bowling, shopping, the temple, played tons of games, went to Cam and Britt's soccer game, a BYU basketball game, and ate way too much good food.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sleeping Like a Baby

My little mermaid. :)