Homemade Pita Bread

Jalapenos have come in at Farmer's Market which has me thinking of all recipes jalapeno.  I'll probably can some too, but that will be in a few weeks.

One of  my favorite recipes that calls for jalapenos is Michael Symon's Pork Souvlaki. I have his Carnivore cookbook but you can find the recipe HERE. We have a fabulous pork vendor at our Farmer's Market, Amor Farms, so I knew the meat was going to be great.

I also have a favorite recipe for
tzatziki sauce but I usually buy some pita bread to throw on the grill when I make this dish. I had some time so I thought why not try and make it?  How hard can it be?  Turns out, not too hard!

I did some Googling and decided on a recipe from Half Bake Harvest. The ingredients are simple, flour, water, salt, yeast, olive oil.  The prep is easy, bloom the yeast, add most of the flour, the water, the salt and olive oil, knead while adding flour as needed and let rise for an hour.

The dough comes together in a velvety soft ball, not sticky and not dense. I love doughs that feel like that.


After an hour it was nice and puffy.

The recipe makes 8 rounds of bread.  Since it was just my husband and I, I only made four.  We wouldn't eat it all and I think making it fresh from refrigerated dough will be better than warming up the finished bread.

You simply cut the dough in to 8 pieces and roll them into "circles".  I need practice at my circle making.

The dough is then fried in a hot cast iron skillet.  I love anything that calls for cast iron. I use mine all the time.  I prefer Lodge, simple, classic, functional and inexpensive!
It just takes a couple minutes per piece.  I think mine was too thin in the middle so next time I will use my bigger rolling pin so it comes out more even.

So how did they taste?  They were great!  Very soft with the perfect amount of chew. Not dense or dry like some I used to buy. Yes, used to buy. Why would I buy it when it's this easy to make?  Like I mentioned I'll try to roll them more evenly next time, but all-in-all this recipe is a winner.

Served them with my souvlaki, tzatziki and a little Greek salad.

Tomorrow night is Michael Symon's Bucatini with Bacon, Tomatoes and Jalapeno!

Product Reviews Continued... Spot Stuff

A few weeks ago I was finishing off some yummy homemade pasta in a brown butter sauce and dribbled a little butter on one of my favorite pairs of shorts.  I didn't notice until after dinner and was too lazy to run a load of laundry right away.  I did put some pre-wash on them but didn't wash them until the next day.  Stain was still there.  I washed them again.  Stain was still there.  Insert sad face here.

Then I received an email from The Grommet advertising "Spot Stuff" which is supposed to take out any oil based stain, even if it has been washed and dried.  What the heck, it couldn't make the stain any worse, right?

This is what the stain looked like after two washes.  Pretty obvious!

I bought a package of 9 little pouches of Spot Stuff.

The directions say to sprinkle "a little" over the stain.  The picture below is about half of the pouch.

Then you rub it in and let it sit for 5 minutes or so.  When I started rubbing it in it was obvious I'd used too much, but it couldn't hurt, right?

When I tried to just brush it off (the directions say washing is not typically necessary, you should be able to just brush the powder off), again obvious I put too much on.  Mine were going to have to be washed again.

So I washed them.  Here is the result.  What's funny is, to the naked eye the stain looks completely gone but in the picture you can still see it faintly there.  I'm going to try the process again, maybe leave it on a little longer next time, but overall I'm thrilled because I can wear my shorts in public again!  (They didn't fade!  Pictures were taken at a different time of day... lighter in the room for the picture below.)

Product Reviews... cleaners, pets and food storage

Have you heard of The Grommet?  If not, it's a cool website with unique and fun items you may not find other places.  I've ordered a few things from them.

I ordered a carbon eyeglass cleaner. It was ok.  Did it work?  Yes.  Was it easy, sort of. But it took up more space in my purse than my little eyeglass cleaning cloth and didn't work significantly better.  I also ordered a similar item for cleaning the screen on my phone.  As with the eyeglass cleaner it worked, but not significantly better than the cloth I use.

We have two shedding dogs and when I saw they had animal grooming gloves that worked as brushes I had to try them.  Our older dog HATES being brushed.  These really worked!  While the older dog still doesn't love being brushed, he's more tolerant of these than a regular brush.  Our lab, well, she just can't get enough. She begs for more when we stop!  Does it get the undercoat out? No. But does it do a good job of regular brushing? Absolutely.

I ordered a Firebiner: Flint Multi-Tool Carabiner for my nephew who is into survival.  He said it looked cool and might review it on his YouTube Channel.  If you want to see some fun videos by a 12 year old (now, he was 11 when he started) check out "Survival Kid TV" on YouTube. I think he does really well, but I'm sure there's just a little bias there!

Recently I bought two more items, a "Guac Lock" and some "Spot Stuff."  I had better luck with these purchases.

Let's start with the Guac Lock.  There are just two of us in the house.  We both like guacamole, but we throw a lot out because we don't eat it fast enough.  I thought if this gadget worked, we might get through an entire batch of guacamole (or hummus, or any other dip that makes a enough that you're going to have leftovers.

There are four parts to this gadget. There is the serving/storage bowl with movable bottom, a "plunger" and a special lid.

You place your guacamole in the bowl and serve it up with your favorite chips!  If you're like us, there will be leftovers (though I know folks for whom this is a single serving) and as you know leftover guac turns brown pretty quickly.  Will this help keep it better longer?

When you're done snacking, you simply flatten out the guac and use the plunger to push the dip to the top of the bowl and place the lid on it. Then push the dip up a little more until it's popping through the hole in the lid.

You can see a few air bubbles in there so I wasn't sure how this was going to work, but I closed the flap and put it in the frig.  As a control, I put a little guacamole in a bowl, topped it with a little lemon juice and put plastic wrap over it, how I would normally store leftovers.

After 24 hours both bowls still looked fine. You can see just a little darkening of the guacamole in my "control" bowl.

After 48 hours the guacamole in the Guac Lock looked much better than my control.

So it works!  It looks nice on the table and it keeps things fresh, so I'll call it a win!

I will say that the base of the bowl is a little looser than I expected it to be and some guacamole did seep into that seal and got a little nasty looking, but overall I'm happy with this purchase.

If you want to see my review of "Spot Stuff, go HERE.


Pancakes, who doesn’t love pancakes? I make them quite often, different flavors, Noble Pig has a great pumpkin pancake recipe, I have a good lemon cornmeal recipe, and then there’s plain ol’ pancakes.

We were at one of our favorite St. Paul establishments, Yarusso’s, a week or so ago and got to chatting with one of the owners, Fred Yarusso.  He’s the sweetest guy. On this particular evening we were talking about cooking and baking and how so few people do it anymore.

He asked what we thought of his pizza dough. We like his pizza dough. It is crispy with the perfect amount of salt. He told me that he uses Pivetti flour in his dough. It’s Italian 00 flour and it is all he will use in his crusts. If you’re not familiar with 00 flour, it’s a very finely ground flour that supposedly produces pizza and breads with a delicate crumb and a very crisp crust (much like Yarusso’s!).

I, of course, checked Amazon and they had it, so right there I ordered some to give it a try.  As we were chatting about pasta, cookies and farmer’s market he told me that this flour also makes amazing pancakes and he gave me his recipe.

Now I had to do some scaling. His recipe started with 15 egg yolks!  The other key ingredients were buttermilk and half & half.

I mixed it all up and let it rest a little while I warmed up my cast iron griddle.

Time to make pancakes, batter on the griddle and wait for big bubbles then flip!

Yes, occasionally my flipping skills were tested...

But we ended up with a nice big pile of pancakes.

But how did they taste?  Was the special flour worth it?  I took one bite, looked at my husband and said "These are GOOD!"  He looked at me with that "whatever" look, then he took a bite and looked at me with an expression of shock and awe!  These were really good pancakes!  I've made buttermilk pancakes before and they've been good, but there was just something about these that made them better.  They melted in your mouth and had a nice tangy flavor.  This is now my go-to pancake recipe.  

With the scaling I need to tweak it a bit.  I think the batter was just a touch too thin so the pancakes didn't fluff up as high as I like them.  Otherwise, perfection!  Thank you Fred Yarusso!  Now on to pizza dough with this new flour!

Lidia's Stuffed Shells

A month or so ago I ran across a video by Lidia Bastianich in which she made stuffed shells with her Nonna.  They are adorable together!  Even if you don't plan on making this dish, watch the video.  The recipe looked simple and it left me craving stuffed shells. I haven't made them in years.

I printed the recipe and headed to the grocery store for the ingredients. After I'd purchased the ingredients I thought I'd watch the video one more time. Well, Lidia uses different ingredients in the video than she does in the recipe (and the recipe is linked in the video so I know I printed the right one!).  So I ended up with a mixture of both recipes in the dish I made.

Baked Stuffed Shells - Lidia (the recipe)
Baked Stuffed Shells - Lidia (the video)

The filling in the recipe calls for whole milk ricotta, fresh mozzarella, grated Grana Padano, chopped fresh parsley and an egg. I was lucky enough to find Calabro ricotta in my local grocery store. It is the best ricotta! It is smooth and creamy and I could just eat it with a spoon and maybe a little honey. The store did not have Grana Padano. I didn't want to make a run to Cosetta so I went with a good Parmesan Reggiano instead. The directions say to slice half the mozzarella thin and cube the rest. Cubing fresh mozzarella seemed like it would be a trick. Turns out I didn't have to. Read on.

Then I watched the video. In the video, Lidia uses cubed provolone cheese and peas in the filling mix. I didn't have any provolone in the house but I did have some Eichten's mozzarella which has a texture similar to provolone so I used that along with the fresh mozzarella. We did run out for peas because we thought that sounded good! I think spinach or even basil would be equally good or maybe even a little crab?

All but the sliced fresh mozzarella is mixed together for the filling. In her video, Lidia suggests you put this in the refrigerator to make stuffing the shells easier so that's what I did.

The sauce is equally easy to put together.  A little olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, tomatoes and fresh basil, if you follow the recipe.  If you follow the video, a little dried oregano is added to the sauce and there is no mention of the basil! I added both!

This simple sauce smells so good as it simmers! I was a little surprised at how good the kitchen smelled.  Definitely a dish I could make for guests because it comes together so quickly and the kitchen will smell divine!

The shells are cooked even less than al dente, just enough so the shells can be stuffed.  They will finish baking in the sauce. Lidia suggests rinsing the pasta with water then putting them in some cold water to cool them. I've never done that before, so I tried it. The shells didn't stick to each other as much as they have in the past (even after a rinse, as I get to the end of the stuffing some shells would stick together) so maybe it helped with that.

The stuffed shells are placed in a baking dish to which a little of the sauce has been added. The full batch calls for a 15x10 baking dish. I don't own a 15x10 baking dish, shocking I know. But I had made a half batch (since there's just the two of us) so my pretty little red stoneware worked perfectly.

I had enough filling to make a double layer of shells. I didn't want to waste any! 

In the video, Lidia uses grated mozzarella cheese, not fresh as called for in the recipe, and she mixes it with a little of the Grana Padano (or Parmesan in my case). Nonna explains that mixing the cheese keeps the shredded cheese from sticking together.  I topped my pasta with the fresh mozzarella and a little of the grated Parmesan.

About a half hour later this beautiful dish came out of the oven!

These were delicious. The cheese was creamy, the peas added a fresh flavor that cut the richness of the cheese. And that simple sauce was so good I mopped up every last bit on my plate with a piece of good bread. We'll definitely be having this again. I could easily whip this up after work. This sauce would be fantastic on anything!

My New Favorite Sourdough Bread Recipe

Is there anything better than fresh sourdough bread? Sourdough is one of my favorite breads to make and to eat.  I've been baking it for several years now so my starter is getting some age on it. The Clever Carrot's Sourdough Bread -A Beginner's Guide was my go-to recipe until now. It is a great tutorial. If you are a first-time baker of sourdough I think it is definitely worth a read.

I have tried many sourdough recipes, some successful, some not so much.  I'm always so disappointed when the bread doesn't turn out because it's such a time-consuming process.

I recently ran across another recipe for sourdough, How to Make Sourdough Bread by The Kitchn.  What was different about this recipe is it doesn't call for any kneading. It's not a no-knead bread, you fold the dough (for 2 and a half hours!) rather than knead it.

Like most sourdough recipes, you're not going to whip this bread up in an afternoon. You have to start early, especially if your starter has been in the refrigerator for a while. I pulled mine out Thursday afternoon and gave it a good feed.  I fed it again Friday morning so Friday afternoon it would be fat and happy and nice and bubbly.

Friday night I put together the Leaven. It uses just a tablespoon of that pretty starter. Yep, that's it, just a tablespoon to make two full loaves of bread!

This is mixed with 75 grams of bread flour and 75 grams of water to create a leaven. If you don't own a kitchen scale I highly recommend buying one, especially if you like to bake. Weighing ingredients is so much more accurate than measuring them. It really does make a difference. And, when recipes only give you weights, well, you can weigh things!

This is what the leaven looked like before I put it to bed for the night.

Saturday morning it was beautifully bubbly. I knew it was ready because it floats!

The Leaven is mixed with a water and flour and left to autolyze for anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours.  This starts the process of the starch breakdown giving the bread a little head start!  The dough is what is called "shaggy" at this point.

After 30 minutes or so of rest (that's all I wanted to wait!), I added a salt/citric acid/water mixture to the dough. The recipe states that the dough will "feel quite wet and loose at this point."  Ya think? Oh, and never forget the salt when making bread! Trust me. You won't like the results.

Now the folding starts. The picture above is after my first fold. Hard to believe it will turn into anything resembling a cohesive dough at this point!  According to Emma Christensen at The Kitchn, folding is better than kneading because it gives the crumb of the bread a better structure and nicer holes. I can't tell you if it was just the recipe or if it really was the folding, but this bread has amazing crumb!

I folded the dough for two and a half hours. No, I wasn't standing there folding the dough continuously, it was fold, rest 30 minutes and repeat until I had folded the dough a total of 6 times.

Here is what the dough looked like after three "folds". You can see it is starting to come together.

After the final turn the dough is allowed to rise for about an hour.  I love my dough buckets from King Arthur Flour. It's easy to see how much your dough has risen.

After the rise I had a nice dough with lots of airy pockets already.

The dough is split in two and allowed to rest again while the proofing baskets are prepped for the final rise. I wish I got to rest as much as this dough does!

Emma suggests using proofing baskets. I've never used them but have been curious, especially when I see those beautiful loaves of dough with flour rings.  The first time I made this I tried using a towel in a mixing bowl. I didn't put enough flour on the towel and, in addition to having quite a flour mess, the dough stuck to the towel. I was able to peel it off and still make a pretty loaf of bread, but I didn't want to repeat that this time so I ordered myself a proofing basket!

I loaded it up with flour and hoped for the best!  The second loaf went into another flour-laced towel. I hoped I used enough this time! This is the long proofing stage, three to four hours.

This recipe calls for baking the bread in a Dutch oven which is my preferred way to bake bread. I love the crust you get without having to put ice cubes or water in a hot oven during baking. I personally love my Lodge Dutch oven for this but my Le Creuset works just fine too!  I do sprinkle a little cornmeal in the bottom before adding the dough just to make sure nothing sticks.

I still haven't mastered turning the dough into the 500 degree cast iron pot. It turned out a little oblong, but I did get nice flour rings so I was hoping for a beautiful loaf of bread. And no fingers or arms were burned!

 A little slash and into the oven it went. I will admit I need some practice slashing bread in a 500 degree cast iron pan.

Emma's instructions call for baking the bread anywhere from 60 to 80 minutes, "until the crust is deeply browned; aim for just short of burnt." I tested the temperature of my bread after 45 minutes and found not only was the crust beautifully browned, it was about 205F in the middle so I pulled it out.

This is beautiful bread! OK it's OK looking this time. I need to work on my flour bread art.

BUT, the crust is crispy and chewy and the crumb is soft and just melts in your mouth! The addition of a little citric acid did bump the sour just a bit. I may add more next time.

The hardest part of fresh bread is waiting for it to cool before cutting into it. With this bread you are rewarded for that wait! This is now my go-to sourdough bread recipe!

Homemade Pita Bread

Jalapenos have come in at Farmer's Market which has me thinking of all recipes jalapeno.  I'll probably can some too, but that will ...

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