Saturday, February 7, 2009

Mama's Pizzeria!

When we first moved to our little corner of Northwest Georgia two years ago, we almost immediately discovered an authentic pizzeria that became a Sunday afternoon habit. Giovanni's Pizza was the best. The service wasn't always great, but we could get two large pizzas overloaded with stringy, stretchy, full-fat version mozarella for $10. The middle of last year brought a disappointment when, without warning, Giovanni's disappeared. So began my quest to duplicate his recipe. The secret, I think, was in the cheese. Pizza is not a good choice for curtailing culinary no part skim mozarella, if you can help it.

As a family, we prefer a thin crust. Yes, you can have really, really good homemade pizza on the table in 35 minutes (not including oven preheat time to 425 degrees).

Starting with the dough...

In your Kitchenaid, using your dough hook, following ingredients:

3 cups all-purpose flour or freshly milled wheat flour
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

You may need to add water to the dough one Tablespoon at a time, depending on the humidity. Your dough should be very pliable, but NOT STICKY!

After you've mixed your ingredients for three minutes on low, separate the dough into two balls and roll out onto your two pizza pans. I prefer to cook on baking stones, well seasoned. I prebake the rolled dough at 425 for 8-10 minutes, then add my toppings. Toppings are an individual preference, all the way down to the sauce. I use whatever sauce I have on hand, but prefer tomato puree seasoned with oregano, basil and thyme. After you've loaded your pizza with toppings and cheese, bake in oven again for 15 minutes or until cheese is golden and bubbly.

So easy! And you read that recipe rising time for the dough.

Some other variations (think CiCi's!) that we've tried:

Sauteed onions, bell peppers and black olives (for the grownups, of course)

Mexican Pizza: I've been known to use leftover taco meat, but you can fry one pound of ground beef and add an envelope of taco seasoning, prepared according to directions. Replace the mozarella with Jack or cheddar cheese, and after cooking, load on the taco toppings: lettuce, sour cream, chopped tomatoes...whatever you like!

Philly Cheesesteak Pizza: Fry one pound of ground beef, add one envelope of onion soup mix, and one cup of water with two tablespoons of flour (hint: whisk in flour well to the cold water before adding to the meat) . You can grill some more onions, bell peppers and mushrooms for a topping and finish with melted velveeta!


Sunday, January 18, 2009

How not to be frugal

Lesson learned the hard way.  I'm not sure how it works for you, but tonight I discovered why I should not take my husband shopping.  The last time we went together was over a year ago, when I first embarked on my frugal journey.  I've had a year of training in frugality, he hasn't.  He simply impulse buys whatever he wants! It really disturbs me to watch someone pay full price (especially when I share the wallet).
Let me back up...
This week has been a week of reading frugal cookbooks, and frugal living books.  It's not like basic training for me since I've been doing this for a while, but I am honing my skills in preparation for the worsening economy.  I truly do believe that it is going to get much worse.  There's one thing that I have learned, and that is that you have to actually USE what you stockpile, otherwise frugality is an exercise in futility. We've spent the past two weeks eating from the pantry and freezer, just as we always do twice a year in January and July. Notice that our yearly cleanouts come at times when pinching a penny helps (right after the holidays and again at curriculum purchase time). We could probably eat from the stockpile for another week or two if necessary, but I fear that it's becoming tiresome for my crew. Now it is time to stock up again!
Normally, I am not a warehouse club shopper.  The $40 yearly membership is too steep to recoup for what we actually BUY there.  Not all of their prices are so wonderful!  However, Sams Club is running a deal through January 21st: if you purchase an annual personal or business membership for $40 ($35 for businesses), you get a $25 Sams gift card on the spot! That makes a year of membership only $10 or $15.  Definitely worth it!
Be have to have discipline to shop at Sam's, and you have to know your prices to really know if you are getting the best deal.  An impulse buy at the regular grocer may cost you $2 per item. At a warehouse, impulsivity may cost you $8-$10 or more per item!
Here are some good buys at Sam's, based on what we actually use a lot of and price comparison at Publix and Aldi:
  • Nearly all of their spices are majorly discounted.  For instance, 20 ounces of onion powder for $3.48 (I use this as a base in nearly all of my homemade mixes for taco seasoning, spaghetti seasoning and homemade Shake N' Bake).
  • Pure Vanilla (not imitation!) 16 ounces for $6.67. I go through a lot of vanilla!
  • Mrs. Butterworth's Syrup, one gallon for $6.34.
  • Trash bags, 13 gallon with drawstring, 150 for $8.86.
  • Butter, $1.94 pound
  • Mozarella Cheese, 5 pounds for $10.87.  I shred this into 2 cup portions and freeze.
  • American Cheese, 160 slices for $11.28.  Yes, this'll last a while!
  • Basmati Rice (the only brand/type we like) 15 pounds for $16.77. Not the cheapest TYPE of rice, but we do eat only this kind.  It doesn't get mushy and we use it as a base for fried rice often.
  • Organic Raw Spinach, huge tub for $3.84.  We'll munch on it raw for a few days, in salads, then cook what's left in chicken broth with the Basmati Rice and a handful of shredded cheddar!  Yummy side dish!
  • Cream Cheese, 3 pounds for $6.67.
As you can see, the dairy products are a terrific deal.  Cheese rarely goes on sale, and when it does, you still can't beat the price of Sams.  Hard cheeses freeze well when shredded. I have a Salad Shooter gadget which can quickly shred mounds and mounds of cheese.
Happy stockpiling...and remember to be truly frugal, leave the family at home!