Pizza night has long been an American tradition. Sadly, many people think homemade pizza is a difficult, if not impossible task. Homemade pizza is very easy, economical and does not have to include a box with a mustached chef. The most important part of the pizza is the crust. This recipe is very inexpensive, costing less than one dollar for four pizza crusts. Selecting the toppings for homemade pizza is as individualized as the cook. A pizza can be as simple as crust, sauce and cheese. For variety, brush the crust with olive oil, spread thinly sliced roma tomatoes and top with slices of fresh mozzarella and a sprinkling of basil. While pizza stones can cost quite a bit of money, there is a less expensive alternative. Unglazed quarry tiles can be purchased at most big-box lumber/hardware stores in 4-inch or 6-inch squares. The standard oven rack can be covered, leaving circulation space around the sides, for less than $15. There is no need to remove the stones from the oven. When baking, just place pans directly on the stones and there is no difference in baking times. But, if you really want to have a perfect and delicious pizza crust, try using a proper pizza oven. You can check some options on Californo. Crust: 5 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon sugar 2 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon instant (rapid-rise) yeast 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 ¾ to 2 cups room temperature water Directions: In bowl of food processor fitted with a dough blade, combine flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Pulse food processor 2-3 times to blend dry ingredients. With food processor running, slowly pour the olive oil and 1 ¾ cups of water through the chute. Continue to process until combined. Allow dough to rest for five minutes. Process the dough again for approximately 1 minute, adding additional flour or water if necessary. The pizza dough will be more wet and sticky than typical bread dough, but should pull away from the sides of the bowl. This dough is not intended to be kneaded. Divide the dough into four equal portions. Place each portion into an oiled zip-close bag. Allow the dough to rest for one hour at room temperature. If the dough will not be baked the same day, it can be frozen for up to one month. Remove dough from freezer and let thaw in refrigerator overnight before baking. Allow to rest at room temperature for at least one hour before shaping. On a piece of parchment paper, shape dough into desired pizza shape and thickness. Top with sauce and toppings of choice. Using the back of a baking sheet or a pizza peel, transfer the pizza onto a baking stone that has been preheated to a minimum of 450 degrees. A temperature of 500 degrees is desirable. Bake the pizza for five minutes or until cheese is melted and crust is baked through. Sauce: 2 tablespoons minced onion (fresh, not dried) 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce 1 6-ounce can tomato paste 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1 teaspoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon dried basil ½ teaspoon ground black pepper Pinch of sea salt Directions: In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, sauté the minced onion in the olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic and stir for one minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir until well-blended, reducing heat to low. Add the balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil, pepper and salt. Stir well. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow flavors to blend. Allow sauce to cool for at least 15 minutes before spreading on pizza crust. Pizza sauce can be frozen. Allow to thaw overnight in refrigerator before using. Crust and sauce recipe make four 10-inch pizzas.
Asparagus is a delicious and flavoursome green vegetable. Asparagus is especially affordable during the early spring, but is available all year round. Asparagus is a delicious and easy to prepare side dish to any meal, requiring minimal cooking time and very little clean up. Asparagus can be prepared in a variety of ways, including being steamed, roasted, pickled, stir-fried, boiled, micro waved, and sautéed. Asparagus is especially delicious sautéed. Sautéing asparagus is also one of the easiest ways to prepare this flavoursome green vegetable. Listed below are simple instructions for how to sauté asparagus. Asparagus is an excellent healthy side dish for those with special dietary needs. Asparagus is low in calories, and high in vitamin a and fiber. When lightly sautéed in a little heart healthy olive oil, sautéed asparagus can be tasty and slimming addition to any meal. Asparagus also an easy vegetable side dish for any holiday meal or family dinner. How to Sauté Asparagus Preparation Time 5 minutes or less Cooking Time: 15 to 20 minutes. Cooking time depends on the size of skillet, amount of asparagus being cooked in the skillet, and preference for how tender asparagus should be cooked. Cooking Supplies Needed to Saute Asparagus: Strainer, to thoroughly wash asparagus Cutting board Cutting knife, to chop garlic Large skillet Lid to cover skillet Metal spatula Ingredients: Peeled and chopped garlic, to taste, one or two cloves Bundle of asparagus One to three tablespoons of olive oil, depending on amount of asparagus being sautéed. Asparagus is also delicious sautéed in butter. Salt or pepper, to taste. Sea salt is especially tasty on sautéed asparagus. How to Sauté Asparagus in Olive Oil and Garlic Begin by washing asparagus in cold water using strainer, until thoroughly rinsed. Using cutting board and chopping knife, cut away any very hard ends at the bottom of each asparagus, if needed. Peel garlic. Break away cloves from garlic bulb. Peel each clove. Chop garlic. You may need to cut asparagus in half, or smaller pieces if whole asparagus does not fit inside skillet. Additionally, you can cut asparagus in smaller bit sized pieces, if you prefer. Add oil or butter to skillet. Butter melds well with the delicate and distinctive flavors of the asparagus. Heart healthy olive oil adds a delicious flavor and is a healthier choice then butter. Put heat on high. When oil is hot, first, add chopped garlic, then asparagus. Using metal spatula, mix asparagus and garlic. Add lid to skillet. Turn heat down to low and let cook until tender. Every few minutes, stir asparagus with metal spatula. Remember cooking times vary depending on amount of asparagus being cooked in skillet. You also can use pre-minced garlic, or garlic powder if you do not have any real garlic handy. Diced shallots or scallions also work well if real garlic is not available. A pinch of real ginger, peeled and shredded, also is a tasty addition to sautéed asparagus. Green beans are another flavorsome green vegetable that are delicious sautéed in olive oil, garlic, and salt.
Buy Locally to Save Money and Support Neighborhood Businesses Feeling the need to tighten belts against the economic downturn? Despite predictions of gloom and doom, there are ways to gather local support and help oneself and others through tough times. With every eye on the economy, it’s never been easier to save money on gas, food, childcare and more by pooling resources and buying within the neighborhood to support local economy. Local economy means the people closest to you geographically – immediate family, neighbours, nearby businesses, and anyone else who contributes to the economy in a neighborhood. Supporting local economy means choosing local retailers over superstores. It also means people supporting other people through systems like barter, carpooling, sharing childcare, and more. Buy Locally Grown Food One of the best ways to save money on food is to grow produce in a home or neighborhood garden. If that’s not possible, try farmer’s markets or stores that sell locally grown produce, meat and poultry. Organic local food is best, of course, because it supports local farmers and prevents the spread of pesticides and other chemicals into the environment – but if organic is beyond your budget, local produce alone is certainly a help to farmers near you, and will save money on gas and transportation to get fruits and vegetables to stores. Buy Fresh Rather Than Packaged Foods to Save Health, Gas and Money Packaged, processed foods not only cost more – they’re bad for health. Buy fresh produce, meat, and seafood. Cut refined, sugary, preservative-laden foods like packaged cereals, boxed cookies, store bought muffins, and other unnecessary items and make them fresh at home for half the cost and with healthier ingredients. Save Money by Carpooling with Coworkers It’s a tried and true solution to a tight budget: find out if people at work (or school) live nearby and arrange to carpool, saving gas costs and daily wear and tear on cars. It’s a relaxing way to save money and get to work on time. Create a Neighborhood Childcare Pool Daycare and babysitters are expensive, so many parents are turning to local childcare pools to help save money. All it takes is two or more families willing to take turns caring for everyone’s children. As a bonus, there’s a synergy in community childcare that can benefit kids who might be overlooked or bullied in normal daycares. Barter For What You Need Barter has a long tradition – older than money – that’s still going strong today. Sites like Craigslist or community message boards are a great way to learn more about local barter economy – or find out if a local tradesperson is willing to exchange goods or services. It’s impossible to know what someone might happily accept until you offer! Organize Potlucks or Picnics with Friends and Family Rather than eating out, try to arrange potluck meals with coworkers, friends and relatives. Potlucks are a perfect way to save money, learn new recipes and food traditions, and socialize in a warm, friendly environment. Support Local Businesses It might seem easier to run out to the supermarket or order items online– but think about the impact before choosing national or international businesses over local retailers. Small businesses give back to the community in wages, municipal taxes and purchases from other neighborhood businesses. During an economic downturn, buying goods from neighborhood businesses supports the entire community. Rent Out a Room Renting out a room at home isn’t for everyone – but it does bring in a few extra dollars and might enable someone with a lower income, like a student, or fallen on hard times to put a roof over their head. It’s also possible to offer a room to a self-employed or small business owner as an office, studio, or other workspace.
“Going green” and “eco-friendly” are just a few of the words describing our current, more environmentally conscious, society. These phrases are encouraging but where does the average person start? Do we have to install solar panels on our roofs or purchase a hybrid car? There are less daunting ways to live a “greener” life and visiting a local farmers’ market is a small step in the right direction. A farmers’ market is a designated place and time where farmers gather to display and sell their goods to the local community. Some operate daily while others are open on a specified day once a week. Around the world weekly market days are a tradition. When traveling, plan to visit the neighborhood market to get an authentic taste of local food and culture. Farmers’ markets are growing in popularity as people begin to see the many benefits of consuming locally grown, farm fresh food. Advantages of Shopping at a Farmers’ Market: Locally grown food is fresher; it hasn’t traveled as far as most supermarket produce. Fresher food means more nutrition and better taste. Produce is often organically grown which means there are more restrictions on pesticide and insecticide use. Livestock is often raised without antibiotics or growth hormones and is usually fed a healthier diet. Farmers’ markets keep money in the local economy and help family farms stay in business. By avoiding long distance shipping, locally grown produce uses less fossil fuel. Farmers’ markets skip the middleman and encourage relationships between consumers and producers. More Than Just Fresh, Locally Grown Food Fruits and vegetables are not the only items found for sale at a farmers’ market. Each market has it’s own unique selection of products for purchase which can include flowers, baked goods, seafood, honey and more. Local artisans and craftsman display jewelry, art and variety of crafts which typically will not be found at the local supermarket. Take some time to find out when your local farmers’ market is happening. There may be more than one in your area so check out the days and times that are most convenient. Consider bringing a reusable shopping bag to carry your fresh purchases home. If the location is close enough, think about walking to the market and saving the transportation cost. Talk to the vendors and get to know them and their products. As consumers become more informed about their food source options they are better able to make healthy, economical, society benefiting choices. This new year it’s simple to begin “going green.” Just start at your local farmer’s market.
Making the Best Health Food Choices for Wellness and the Environment Organic foods are big business, and for good reason: they are safer, easier on the environment, and often more nutritious than their “conventionally grown,” pesticide-laden counterparts. In recent years, however, locally grown produce has become a competitor for organic food, prompting the question: Is local or organic food a better choice for the average consumer? Local and Organic Foods: Definitions Organic meat, produce, and packaged foods are sold with the guarantee of their organic label – a government-regulated certification that says that these foods and their ingredients have been grown without dangerous pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, or any other artificial agents. Local produce means foods that have been produced locally, usually by small family farms rather than big agribusiness. Local foods support the local economy and may be fresher or cheaper than foods that have been shipped cross-country or from overseas. Organic Foods and Health Most people buy organic for the sake of their own and their families’ health. Dozens of studies have highlighted that there are very serious risks associated with pesticides, from hormone disruption to birth defects, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. Organic foods are free and clear of any chemical additives that might pose a risk to health. Studies show that organic produce has an additional benefit: organic fruits and veggies are often higher in nutrition (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants) than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. Organic Foods, Local Produce, and the Environment Another important aspect of organic farming is the care taken in preserving the earth’s ability to grow food crops and support health ecosystems. Run-off from pesticides can kill animals and disrupt the food chain near conventional farms, but organic farming doesn’t poison the land. However, organic produce is usually shipped significant distances before being sold – using fossil fuel resources and creating pollution as it travels from farm to table. Local produce avoids this evil if it’s grown, sold, and eaten within a few hours’ drive (or less). The shorter travel distance also means that local produce is fresher – and often less expensive – than fruit and veggies that are grown across the country. Local vs. Organic and the Impact on Local Economies Proponents of local food believe in supporting “local economies” by buying from your neighborhood strawberry farmer instead of an organic strawberry giant down in California. The concept of social responsibility plays a big role in the organic vs. local food debate. Finding Food that is Healthy, Local, and Organic Which natural food shopping pick is best for health, budgets, farmers, and the environment? It’s not an easy question to answer. In an ideal world, everyone would be able to enjoy fresh, local, organic produce all at once and all the time. In the real world, it’s sometimes possible to find food that is both (by asking around at farmers’ markets, for instance). Often, though, the choice between local and organic produce is a personal decision based on many factors. Organic food isn’t always available, and neither is local food (especially if you live in a large city). The best anyone can do is learn about the issues and follow his or her own conscience.
Organic food can be very expensive, but there are ways to save money and make a healthy lifestyle easier to maintain. Most of these methods involve dusting off the skills of a previous generation, coupled with some modern conveniences to save a little time! Even a simple staple, such as five pound bag of organic whole wheat flour, can come at a dear price. Ready-to-eat organic foods are both worth every penny and simply not affordable for everyone. There is a solution – one that requires an investment of time and the purchase of some equipment, in order to save money long term. The benefit is the peace of mind that comes from knowing the family eats food that was not soaked in herbicides, pesticides, or strong chemical fertilizers. Buy From Farmers and Make it From Scratch In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Food Cooperative allows local family farms to sell their goods directly to the consumer. This organization has created a state-wide farmer’s market that allows customers to order and pick up food on a monthly basis. Now, remember the price of a five pound bag of organic, whole wheat flour? For a little more than twice that amount, one of the producers in the Oklahoma Food Cooperative sells a twenty-five pound bucket of wheat berries. An electric grinder quickly pays for itself and over time reduces the cost of organic flour (compared to the store price) by more than half. With a little more labor, some of that wheat flour can be white flour instead, if light, flaky pastries happen to be on the menu in the near future. Milling flour and baking isn’t for everyone, obviously, despite the savings. The cooperative also sells frozen foods for those that desire local or organic food without needing to learn the mysterious art of cooking it. Buy in Bulk and Preserve Seasonal produce is always cheaper, for both organic and regular food. Look for local farmer’s markets or natural food suppliers to buy fresh, in-season produce. Buy produce by the bushel, if that option is available, and spend a weekend canning or freezing anything that can’t be eaten fresh before it spoils. It can even be a novel and fun experience for children to see how food gets processed. Stocking up for winter on summer’s cheaper prices – as families did for generations before the modern supermarket – can reduce the cost of food significantly for anyone willing to make the time investment. That hard work can also be turned into a source of income. Local food cooperatives will enthusiastically welcome producers of frozen and canned goods. The demand for such items often exceeds supply. To find local coops or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Organic Consumer’s Association websites. Buy Seeds and Plant a Garden Planting a garden is, perhaps, the simplest way to save money on organic food. It requires the most time and effort, but little in the way of actual equipment. It also requires a bit of knowledge about organic growing practices in order to keep from resorting to the rows of insecticides and other chemicals that line the shelves of the local hardware store. Gardening used in combination with canning and freezing saves the most money of all. If the amount of time required to keep up with a garden seems daunting, keep in mind that healthy food isn’t the only benefit. Planting and weeding burns quite a few calories – so that flaky pastry on the menu can be tasty and guilt-free.
You open up your refrigerator to grab a snack. You then begin to wonder… How old is that cheese? When did I buy that juice? When are those leftovers from? Are they still fresh? Food safety concern is popular for many families. Basic Rules to Follow when Shopping for the Freshest, Long-Lasting and Safest Foods Groceries When you go to the supermarket to do your big shopping, pick out your groceries first. While it might be hard to avoid the perimeter with all those great fresh foods, try to stock your cart first with paper goods, boxes, bottles, jars and cans. Make sure to always check for expiration dates and never buy a dented can or a leaky jar. Fruits and Vegetables The next stop should be the fruits and vegetables. When shopping for fruits and vegetables, try to determine when you will use them during the week. Make sure to buy with ripeness in mind. Some fruits and vegetables continue to ripen, while others do not. If you want something to continue to ripen at home, put it in a paper bag outside of the refrigerator for 1-4 days. Make sure to wash the fruits and vegetables just before you are about to eat them. Otherwise, the additional moisture may increase the rate of spoilage. Frozen Foods The next section should be the frozen food area. Again, be sure to check the expiration date on these products. Also inspect the package carefully to make sure there are no leaks and that the package is fully frozen. Sometimes packages may be thawed and frozen due to improper freezer temperatures. When this happens, there is usually crystallization on both the inside and outside of the package. You should never purchase this items. Chilled Foods The last items to shop for are the chilled products. These include meat, dairy, and seafood. These foods are the most susceptible to temperature change. Try to get these items back to their proper temperature as soon as possible. During the summer months, it might be a good idea to leave a cooler filled with ice packs in your car. Since the trunk temperature of a car can exceed to 120 degrees, food should never be placed inside the trunk. Keeping Foods Fresh in the Refrigerator Use a Thermometer There is good reason that refrigerators are built and designed the way they are. Since many of us fail to read the manual when we purchase a refrigerator, we do not know everything it is equipped with. The most important “accessory” is a thermometer for the refrigerator . For a few dollars, a refrigerator thermometer can be the best investment you make. The thermometer should be placed it in the middle of there refrigerator, not on the door or in the back. The temperature needs to be around 38 degrees and never over 40 degrees and should be checked weekly. Don’t Block Air Vents Proper air circulation is critical. Check where the air vents are in your refrigerator and make sure not to block them when stocking it with food. Don’t Overpack the Shelves Don’t pack your refrigerator as you do your kitchen cabinets. There needs to be spaces between the items on the shelves. By doing so, this helps to make the compressor work better. Mark Expiration Dates Mark the expiration dates on all food in the refrigerator. You should label each item with a marker so the dates stand out. This helps to make you are aware of the dates on all food items in the refrigerator. Keep Foods on Designated Shelves You should use the shelves in the refrigerator for items that are more sensitive to temperature changes. Make sure to place a clean paper towel in all of the drawers. This will not only absorb the extra moisture, but it will also keep produce fresh longer. The paper towel should be changed once a week. The drawers that are specifically designed for meats and cheeses have a perfect temperature setting for these products so make sure to place the correct items in these drawers. No Perishable Foods on Door Shelves The door shelves are the most convenient, but also the area that is the warmest. You should never place highly perishable foods on the doors. Instead, use this location for salad dressings and other condiments that do not spoil easily. Every time the door is opened, the temperatures change once the kitchen air hits them. These products should be checked regularly since they have a tendency to spoil at a faster rate. Keep Refrigerator Clean This does not mean you should clean it once a year. Your refrigerator should have a thorough cleaning at least once a season. Even though the refrigerator is below 40 degrees, bacteria can still survive and create a food safety issue. You will need to take the shelves out and clean both sides with hot, soapy water. Many refrigerators come with spill-proof shelves. This is a perfect place for bacteria to grow. Make sure to clean it immediately after every spill. A cool, clean refrigerator will help you get the best value and nutrition out of all your foods.