Happy Father’s Day Pizza Mattina

pizza mattina

pizza mattina

Some say my parents were the original recyclers. Nothing ever went to waste and when it came to food it meant preparing leftover spaghetti into a tasty frittata and vegetables into savory soups and stews. Much to my mother’s dismay my dad recycled day old Italian bread into bread crumbs sailing bits of hard bread all over the kitchen as the crusts pinged off the old box grater. He made a mean panzanella with that same old bread back in the day before this bread salad was ever cool and trendy.

Of all his delicious dishes, it is the memory of his homemade pizza that has me salivating. When the breadboard (handmade by his father) came out I knew we were all in for a treat. My dad, dusted with flour, gave the task of mashing the leftover baked potato to me. The “recycled” potato was the secret to making his yeasty dough bake up crisp and delicious on the outside and tender on the inside. I am among the few who know the secret of the potato. All were welcome to the table for pizza, but if you could not make it my dad would deliver.

My dad in Sicily

My dad in Sicily

My dad died at the ripe old age of 86. He was tired and ready to go. He had worked hard, lived the American dream and was proud of the business and family he had built. As an insulin dependant diabetic he pretty much defied the odds of living such a long and healthy life, but all along the way I felt like he was preparing me for the day he would eventually go. As I watched him push his insulin needle, yet, another time, through his clothing into his body I would scream in horror…..he would calmly respond, “What? You want me to live forever?” He was a character to say the least.

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my dad with young Will & Cait

I miss my dad, but I resolved my grief within a day of his death. My dad’s passing, unlike my son, was the natural order of things. My dad was done and ready to go. He went peacefully into the night and I was prepared for it. Just a completely different experience.

Happy Father’s Day to my biggest cheerleader. You continue to inspire me to “zig instead of zag”. Inspired by you and your name I remember how proud you were when a version of  this recipe won an award from King Arthur Flour.

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Sweet Pizza Mattina

2 cups King Arthur Flour Whole Wheat flour

1 cup King Arthur Flour Unbleached Flour

1 russett potato, roasted, peeled, grated

1- tablespoon sugar

1- teaspoon salt

1 (2 ¼ tsp.) packet instant dry yeast (quick-rise)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 ¼ – cups lukewarm water

2 tablespoons butter

1 baking apple, peeled, cored, chopped

1/3- cup dried sweetened cranberries

1/3- cup orange marmalade

½ cup packed shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Combine flours, potato , sugar, salt, yeast, olive oil and water in a stand mixer. Mix and knead about 5 minutes or until a soft, smooth dough ball forms. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 ½ hours or place in refrigerator and let rise overnight. Just before the dough rising time is up heat oven to 425F. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add apples, cranberries and orange marmalade; cook, stirring, 3 to 5 minutes or until bubbly and apples are just tender.   Gently punch down dough. On a lightly buttered baking sheet, press down into a 9-inch x 12-inch rectangle. Use your fingers to gently dimple the dough all over. Spread the apple mixture evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch rim around the edge. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake 16 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Slice into wedges. Serves 8.

 

 

Make Merry & Bright & Balanced

Boston Style Steak & Wine Wraps

Boston Style Steak & Wine Wraps

Time to put up the tree and holiday lights. This year I picked out the tree in literally 2 minutes because it was too darn cold and slippery to walk the farm. My one and only was quite grateful for my quick choice and chopped it down before I could change my mind. We missed having William to man the saw and grateful for Caitlin coming by to help decorate. Only those tiny white lights will do and I love how the tinsel sparkles in reflection.

In reflection there is nothing that lights up my life more than the smiles on my children’s faces during the holidays. Like my father I am always happiest when my children are around. In fact, I feel most in balance when I am sandwiched right between them. Like the sweet vanilla cream between those crispy chocolate cookies-perfectly balanced, centered, calm, merry and bright.

Christmas 2010 Merry and Bright

Christmas 2010 Merry and Bright

Now imagine for a moment how one feels when one of those bright lights is suddenly snuffed out. The entire strand dims and the sparkle disappears. Losing a child turns all is calm to all is upside down and inside out. It’s chaotic night instead of silent night. There is no rest ye merry gentlemen, but plenty of dismay.

Fatigue is not a friend of the grief-stricken. It disrupts the balance of our being and plays havoc with our coping skills. Lack of sleep, restless sleep and insomnia causes a tipping of the scale with one teetering on the edge. Do whatever it takes to get a good night’s sleep. Peaceful sleep is crucial for getting through each and every day. In the long run, it is essential to getting your sparkle and your balance back.

When it comes to recipes balancing your taste buds is crucial. The most delicious dishes have a balance of salty, sweet, bitter and sour in the ingredient list. There is also a 5th taste known as umami which has to do with the savoryness or meatyness of the dish. I also add the 6th sense which has to do with the love one puts into their food. Food from the heart is inspired and has a certain sparkle. With just one bite all is merry and bright with the world.

This is my grand prize winning dish from the Beringer Wine Great Steak Challenge. It’s perfect for the holidays as either a main dish or an appetizer. It’s perfectly balanced flavors are incredibly affordable and will add a certain sparkle to your festive buffet.

Boston Style Steak & Wine Wraps

1 cup Beringer’s Founders’ Estate Shiraz

1 cup beef broth

½ cup dried sweetened cranberries

2 tablespoons molasses

1 1/2 pounds flank steak, about ¾-inch thick

kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

18 cup-shaped leaves of Boston lettuce

½ cup sliced green onions

¼ cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Heat covered gas grill to high. In a medium skillet, bring wine, broth, cranberries and molasses to a boil. Boil sauce, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 22 minutes or until reduced and slightly syrupy; set aside. Meanwhile, season steak on both sides with a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place steak on hot, lightly greased grill rack. Grill steak 2 to 3 minutes or until well browned. Turn, and grill other side for 2 to 3 minutes or until well browned. Reduce gas grill temperature to medium. Grill steak 7 to 9 minutes or until medium-rare (125 degrees on an instant read thermometer). Transfer steak to a cutting surface; let rest for 5 to10 minutes.  Thinly slice steak across the grain.  Arrange lettuce cups on a large platter. Fill lettuce cups with steak. Top steak with cranberry-wine sauce, a sprinkle of green onions and cheese. Serves 6 Serve with Beringer’s Founders’ Estate Shiraz.

Good Grief Shortcuts to Pie

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Those of us who have walked the grief journey know it is a long road of healing. It’s a bumpy road filled with obstacles. As much as I would like to offer some shortcuts through the process I don’t believe I know of any, but there are some important tips to keep in mind. First, during these darker winter months get outside and get some sunshine. A walk or a bike ride is great for easing the pain. Do it with a friend and that is even better. Being socially active provides much needed distraction and offers a “little vacation” from one’s sorrow. Getting your rest and eating a balanced diet goes without saying. Lastly, find a hobby or a cause that gives comfort and joy. It’s the best way to channel one’s positive energy to get over the hurdles. Now, let’s bake! It makes me happy.

One of my greatest baking hurdles was learning how to bake a pie. My mom was a big Mrs. Smith’s fan, so baking pies does not come naturally. It’s been a learning experience having tried every pie dough in the universe and every fruit pie thickener known to man. Double crust pies, crumb pies, lattice pies, meringue pies, cream pies, cookie pies–it’s a long journey, a work in progress and am happy to do it.

The holidays would not be complete without pie. My William’s favorite was apple so that is what I’m baking. The good news about pie is there are lots of shortcuts, so don’t be afraid of getting started.  I know many avoid baking pies because they fear the crust. It’s OK to buy the ready made kind, but get the one that can be unfolded and fitted into your prettiest pie plate. Next, core the apples but don’t peel them-saves a ton of time. Thinly sliced un-peeled apples are nutritionally better and the fiber provides a little extra texture contrast in the filling. I believe the peel contains pectin which is a natural thickener, too.

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For the best apple flavor use a variety of different apples and don’t over sugar or over spice; a half cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon plus a pinch of salt is just right to enhance the apple flavor. I also like a 1/4 cup of fresh or frozen cranberries ground into the mix instead of lemon juice. The tart berries balance out the sweetness of the sugar and add a rosy glow of  color.

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There are numerous ways to crimp the pie edges. One of the easiest and prettiest will make use of that scalloped edged sugar spoon that sits in your junk drawer. Just press and seal all the way around. Finally, toss out the aluminum foil and go buy yourself the William-Sonoma silicone piecrust protector. It prevents pie edges from over-browning and takes 1 second to apply; never wrestle with aluminum foil again. Worth every penny.

The William-Sonoma Silicone Pie Protector

The William-Sonoma Silicone Pie Protector

Cranberry Apple Pie

Store-bought or homemade pie dough for double-crust pie

8 medium-size baking apples, cored, thinly sliced

¼ cup fresh or frozen cranberries, finely chopped in food processor

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon sugar

Heat oven 400F.  Roll out pie dough to fit pie dish. Fit one crust into bottom of pie plate. In large bowl, toss apples with cranberries Mix ½ cup sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt; sprinkle over fruit and toss to mix. Spoon fruit mixture into prepared crust. Top with remaining crust; seal edges, flute and cut steam vents in top of pie. Brush lightly with egg white and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.