Summer 2014 Reading Challenge

8:37 PM
One of the great things about the internets is having the chance to connect with people from all sorts of places that you would have had the chance to cross paths with. Through a recent blog hop I began following Megan at Semi-Charmed Kind Of Life, just in time too. I caught on a little late but I'm still just in time to catch the Summer 2014 Reading Challenge and boy, am I excited.

A little confession... I'm a book worm.

Motherhood has taken it's toll on my reading time, but once in awhile I try out a book that hooks me. And I stay up reading until 3am, knowing my punishment when my child wakes just a few hours later. Some books are just worth losing sleep over.

It's a my first reading challenge, so let's hope I can at least get through half of my list. Some of the assignments I didn't have the slightest clue as to what I was going to read, so I hope some of the books Google and Good Reads suggested are a fit for me. Speaking of which, time to get the Good Reads app running again. I'm terrible at checking in on that thing.

So here is my summer reading list:

5 Points: Freebie! Ready any book that is at least 200 pages long.
- Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway [305 Pages]

10 Points: Read a book that was written before you were born
- A New Hope: A Novel by George Lucas, Alan Dean Foster [First Published in 1976]

10 Points: Finish reading a book you couldn't finish the first time around.
- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare [177 Pages Remaining]

10 Points: Read a book from the children's sections of the library or bookstore.
- The Secret Garden by M.J. Carr [104 Pages]

15 Points: Read a book that is on The New York Times' Best Sellers List when you begin reading it.
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt [Currently No. 2 on Combined Print and E-Book Fiction list.]

15 Points: Read a historical fictions book that does not take place in Europe.
- The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom [Set in the United States]

15 Points: Read a book another blogger has already read for the challenge.

20 Points: Read a book with "son(s')," "daughter(s)," or "child(ren)" in the title.
- The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards [401 Pages] [I didn't have a clue but it was on several lists, may as well!]

20 Points: Read a book that was/will be adapted to film in 2014.
- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green [318 Pages]

25 Points: Read a book written by a blogger.
- The Pioneer Woman: From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels by Ree Drummond [341 Pages]

25 Points: Read a biography, autobiography or memoir.
- My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell [273 Pages]

30 Points: Read a pair of books with antonyms in the titles.
- Dark Witch by Nora Roberts (342 Pages) & The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (343 Pages)


And there we go! If any of those books are terrible, don't tell me now, I won't turn back. Though The Goldfinch will probably be the death of me with near 800 pages... yeesh. But I must know what all the hype in about. I don't have any rereads on my list, they're all new to me books!

Here's looking to you, Summer.

Weekend Shenanigans

10:41 AM
Happy Monday Tuesday! My post apparently failed to publish yesterday.

This weekend we achieved the near impossible, we had no plans and nothing major to do around our home. Aside from the normal necessary chores, it was mostly sweet relaxing. We'll get to the mostly part in a minute.

The kiddo and I began the weekend on Friday when I surprised him with a day out at the movies and the zoo. I knew we had to have our fun out and about Friday as we were scheduled to have some awesome storms for the rest of the weekend. The joys of Oklahoma living.

First stop, the movies! I took him to see Rio 2, which he had been begging to see. As I expected it was a cheap sequel to make some money for the studio, no where near as fun as the first. But the kiddo was happy, so what else matters? We also found out we can almost take out two buckets of popcorn together.

And then it was off to the zoo!

We briefly saw a lion, they're always hard to see unless you come in on snack day. But my favorite, the tiger was just posing it up. I don't know where the rest of the tigers went, I thought we had four but this is the only one we saw. I don't even know if it was a he or she, didn't catch a glance.

I made him take a photo in front of the tiger and got this face that says he is clearly doing this only for my amusement.

A wolf came over and said "Hi", he actually looked happy to see us. Maybe we looked delicious.

We saw an elephant getting a pedicure, that's pretty intense.

And then she did some tricks, I missed all her adorable poses but caught her playing dead.

I was pretty jealous of the grizzly bear enjoying a swim.

Mr. Handsome wanted his photo taken by the elephant which reminded me that we did this last spring...

Aw man... look how much he has grown!

Saturday was a different day and one of those not so wonderful motherhood experiences that will stick with me forever... and I'll never let him forget it either.

Hey, here he is being a good kid, helping me water flowers, not much to complain about here.

Then he asked if he could ride his scooter. Sure, why not?

I wasn't in the mood to go running so I slid on a pair of comfortable shoes and geared him up to ride up and down the street in front of our house like he normally does when I don't want to go far.

And so off he goes... but he keeps going... and going. I yell for him to turn back but he keeps going. 

Insert cursing.

I love my child, so I want to give him the benefit of doubt and think maybe the wind carried my voice and he couldn't hear me? But my motherly instinct says he's stubborn and thought he might get away with being independent. What followed was 30 minutes of running, yelling and searching for both my husband and I until we found him being escorted home by another mom.

Sigh, I should have been angry but all I had was guilt. I felt like I failed a motherhood trial because I couldn't keep up with, catch or turn my child around which resulted in me losing him! I was only relieved when we found him and couldn't find it in me to be angry anymore... though his father took it upon himself to deal punishment in the form of grounding. No more scooter for awhile among other things.

On the upside, I think I could run a 5k now... I ran about that and in slip on vans. I wanted to puke afterwards, maybe it was the nerves and stress, maybe it was the running.

Sunday, we just relaxed, for real. I continued working on my quilt, we made bread, watched a movie and spent the day in. We did have to manage entertainment for the little guy because he lost his iPad priveleges in his grounding and wasn't allowed to go to his Grandma's house either. Now you're  stuck with us, kid, hope you're happy. None of the predicted super severe storms occurred in our area, the tornadoes didn't start until the storms got much further west. After last years tornado experience, I'm good, no more for me please.

And those are our weekend shenanigans! The kiddo being the only one who pulled shenanigans, ugh. Next weekend is our anniversary, (6 years!) we have concert tickets, brunch plans and will probably catch our anniversary Marvel movie (they always fall on our weekend, so it's tradition to go).

Here's hoping the rest of the week is peaceful and happy.

Rising Pizza Crust

3:01 PM

I promised a pizza post immediately following my sauce post... and then the mail came in and I got FABRIC in the mail... sooo I may have gotten a little side tracked. Pardon me.

We're going to jump right into this one, no stories to tell, just pizza crust to make and a pizza. Hooray! I mean, I hope you enjoy my stories... it's just I already introduced today in the pizza sauce post.

The magic begins with warm water and yeast. I buy mine by the jar, but you only need one packet for this recipe. Your water needs to be heated to 110-120F, I use my candy thermometer to measure this, but if you keep a very close eye on your water it should start to gather bubbles on the bottom, just barely. Pull it off immediately, it over heats quickly and too much heat will kill your yeast. A candy thermometer runs about $5, I got mine at Hobby Lobby for $4 and threw the 40% off coupon from my HL app on there, so super cheap investment there.

Add the warm water (1 1/3 cup) to a large mixing bowl and then sprinkle the yeast on top (2 1/4 teaspoons if you're measuring, that's typically one packet).

Give the yeast a gentle swirl and let it bloom for 10 minutes. I didn't take a photo of mine bloomed, caught in the moment I suppose, but it should rise to the top and have a frothy or foamy appearance as well as a nice, sweet yeasty aroma. If this doesn't happen, then your yeast is dead and you have to start over, it happens. But you need good, bloomed yeast for this to work.

Once the yeast has bloomed you will add in 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar.

3/4 Tablespoon of salt.

2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil.

3 1/2 cups of flour, I sift mine but it is not a requirement.

And now it's time to mix. If you have a hand mixer, put on your dough hooks. If you're a lucky dog with a stand mixer, put on your hooks! And now you're going to mix it until it's smooth, this can take anywhere from 5-7 minutes, work on a low or medium speed. The dough should pull away from the sides and start to form into a ball as it gets smooth. If it stays too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour.

Now, if you do not have a dough hook, this can all be mixed first with a spoon and then by hand. It's a ton of work but it can be done. Just sub this in place of an arm workout for the day, because it will make your arms burn.

My dough is mixed well, it's slightly smooth but not perfect. At this point I don't feel my hand mixer can do any better, so I begin working by hand. If you have a stand mixer it may work it better, I can't actually say.

I am going to turn mine out onto my floured baking mat and finish working it by hand. If you bake often, get yourself a baking mat, they rock and save on cleanup. My blue mat is from Ikea but here is an affordable alternative. I knead mine and add extra flour as needed, I put the flour on the mat and slowly pull it into the crust. The goal is to get a smooth dough with elasticity, you should be able to gently poke it and have the dough pop back out.

This is how she looks when she is smooth and ready. It's not "smooth as polished stone" kind of smooth, just a smooth to the touch feel. Roll the dough into a ball.

Add one tablespoon of olive oil to your bowl (you can use the same bowl or a clean bowl) and turn the dough ball until coated. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and over the wrap place a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Right now my home is keeping an average temperature of about 74 degrees, this is a great temperature for the dough, warmer is fine too. But during the winter, my home can get a little cold, so if your home is cold, heat your oven to 200 degrees and shut it off. Then place the dough, in an oven safe bowl, into the oven and leave it cracked. Time it for 30 minutes, after that time close the oven door and let it rise for 30 more minutes.

Now, the dough has risen! Punch it down and press all the air out of it.

Pop it out onto your mat, and knead the remaining air out.

Separate it into two balls, like so. Cover them and allow them to rise for 15 minutes.

Set one ball aside and we're going to begin rolling them out.

Roll out from the middle to keep the dough from sticking and try to form the best circle you can. I'm not very good at it but I'm pretty decent. I'm making a 12in pizza, so I roll it out a little more because it always seems to retract when I transfer it to the pan.

Spray a pan with cooking spray (or use a pizza stone!) and transfer the dough over. I always give mine a few tosses for fun, but it's not a requirement. Pinch up the edges to form a crust.

Using your fingers, poke the dough all over like above. Don't poke holes all the way through, just press into the dough.

You're going to set this aside and let it rise for 15 minutes. You can roll out your other dough during this time. And get your toppings ready.

This is a perfect time to preheat the oven to 475F, the oven should have more than enough time to heat up and distribute the heat while you wait for the dough to rise and add your toppings.

Now while I planned to make pizza, I some how forgot to buy cheeses... oops. I mixed what I had on hand, which worked out really well. This is a mild cheddar and mozzarella mix, I highly suggest having mozzarella as one of your cheeses. It just makes it right. Yes, I am flat out lucky I had mozzarella on hand.

Your toppings are up to you! I love this Boar's Head pepperoni I get at Sprouts in the deli area and I had left over Boar's Head canadian bacon too. It's a pure coincidence it's all Boar's Head, I'm not paid to use it... I just LOVE their meats. You could make this all veggies or just plain cheese, use your imagination!

 Now my pizza dough has risen, see how the crust thickened? I add my sauce that I made while I was making my dough.

Add my cheeses.

Add my meats and stop to show you were the canadian bacon is.

Finish adding the pepperoni and it's ready to bake.

Slide this puppy into your preheated oven and bake for 12-16 minutes, at this time you can choose to pull it out or bake it longer. Of course, I suggest keeping an eye on it at all times to make sure it doesn't burn. I ended up baking mine for 20 to get my toppings and cheese a little more crisp, but that's my preference.

Also, bake your pizzas one at a time. It's a pain but they turn out better!

Once the timer goes off and you're satisfied with the pizza, pull it out and let it cool for at least 5-10 minutes. In my experience, I cut it fresh out one time and it all pulled apart on me, sadness. So now, much to the dismay of my boys, I let it cool down a little.

I love this recipe, I like a thicker crust, but this one remains chewy in the center so it's not hard to eat.

I do wish I had double the pepperoni but then I risk making the pizza too greasy... such a dilemma.

Ah, see how thick and beautiful she is? Just remember, my husband and son had to wait for me to photograph this before they ate. They sure do love me!

And I serve it up, just like this. Slice and eat, baby.

And now I'm hungry... did I even eat lunch yet? Too bad I don't have pizza, sigh.

Rising Pizza Crust

  • 2 1/4 Teaspoons Yeast
  • 1/3 Cups Warm Water
  • 3 1/2 Cups Flour
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Granulated Sugar
For Pizza
  • 2 Cups Shredded Cheese
  • Pizza Sauce
  • Any Toppings You Desire
Heat water on stove top using a candy thermometer to measure the heat. Heat to 110F-120F, aim closer to 120F. 

Pour water into a bowl and sprinkle yeast over the top. Gently swirl and let yeast bloom for 10 minutes. The yeast will rise to the top as it blooms and have a foamy appearance.

Add in sugar, salt, olive oil and flour. Mix dough with dough hooks until the dough is mostly smooth. About 5-7 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and finish kneading by hand. If dough is still wet or sticky, add extra flour and knead it into the dough. Your dough should be smooth and elastic. Give it a gentle poke and the dough will bounce back.

Coat a bowl with olive oil. Put your dough ball into the bowl and give it a few turns until it is coated.

Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, allow to rise for 1 hour.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto your baking mat. Punch it down and knead the air out. Separate it into two dough balls and cover them. Allow them to rise for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 475F.

Take one ball at a time and roll it from the center out, creating the best circle you can. Transfer dough to a greased pizza pan. Pinch up the edges to create the crust and then use your fingers to poke all over the dough, do not poke through the dough. Set aside and allow to rise for 15 minutes. Repeat with the other ball or put that ball into a freezer bag and freeze it for later.

Once the 15 minutes is up, top the crust with your sauce, cheese and toppings. 

Put in preheated oven and bake for 12-16 minutes or until desired doneness.

Remove from oven and cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing.

Easy Homemade Pizza Sauce

1:30 AM

Today is a wonderful windy Thursday in Oklahoma, the wind is certainly sweeping down the plains... but not in the tornadic kind of way. Just super gusty winds! Which gives me a bit of a headache, makes the allergies flare and despite the beautiful temperature outside, I'm staying in.

I wanted to share my pizza recipe today but first you need sauce. I considered cramming it all into one big post but thought maybe it would better to divide it up. I mean, what if you just want sauce and could care less about my crust? Or vice versa!? I suppose the dilemma is up to you to decide but I can say my household does love my pizza. I'm not so bold or big headed to say this is the best pizza EVAR but it is pretty darn good. Granted there are several local pizza places, like The Wedge Pizzeria and Pizza 23, I would gladly buy my pizza from any day... most days... I love it when someone else is making the pizza.

So let's make sauce!

Begin with green onions, slice off the tip and cut them up.

Add them to a heated pan with two tablespoons of olive oil. AND GARLIC, if you have garlic, add it in now. I forgot, so I get garlic granules later. But you have a chance to make things right and add two cloves of garlic in, sliced, right now... be a hero, save the day, add two sliced garlic cloves.

While the onions are cooking up, feel free to go ahead and open your cans, draining the diced tomatoes. You could use fresh tomatoes, which would be that much more amazing, but my tomato plants are about 3 inches tall right now, so no fresh tomatoes yet. Also a little tip, buy brand name canned tomatoes! If you're getting them at the basic grocery store, get Hunts or places like Trader Joes, Sprouts, etc. the store brand tomatoes are just fine. When you buy off brand tomatoes, they're normally loaded with salt, probably to cover up that they didn't use very good tomatoes. I, without thinking, grabbed off brand tomatoes on sale because they were on the end cap and the store was super busy. So you'll notice I don't salt my sauce because there is already crap ton of salt in my tomatoes.

Once the onions get a little browned, toss in some fresh italian flat leaf parsley if you have it. Let it cook until it wilts, it should only take a minute or two.

Now add in your petite diced tomatoes, I use two cans so I have left over sauce for pizza later. You can drop it to one can if you don't want extra sauce.

Add the tomato sauce! Just one can.

Now allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes until it gets nice and thick like this.

Add another can of tomato sauce and stir.

Now add your spices. I, ahem, have garlic granules because I forgot to add garlic cloves. And a little more flat leaf italian parsley.

A little italian seasoning, a hint of mexican oregano for my peoples and extra basil, because I like basil.

Let this simmer again, until thickened. Set it aside and let it cool.

Blending time! Let me suggest, for future reference, that you NEVER buy a white blender. Mine is permanently stained all over from making asado and pizza sauce. This was a gift, so I can't complain much, but I'll never have white again!

Add the thickened sauce to the blender.

I'm going to start low and give it a loving puree.

Let it puree until well blended, if you didn't let your sauce cool before blending I suggest holding on to the top. I've had pressure + heat pop mine right off before. It was tons of fun to clean up, I swear.

Grab a spoon and give it a check. Do you like the consistency? I wasn't happy yet.

So now, I'm going to viciously liquefy my sauce. Don't worry, it won't turn to actual liquid. I gave it a run on liquefy... I think I would have misspelled that without the picture, liquidfy... computer says that wrong! Word of the day liquefy.

Anywho, I gave it a run on liquefy and it was perfect! Nice, smooth and ready for my pizza.

Remove from blender into a bowl and set aside. Allow to cool until ready for pizza. I have a pizza recipe too, coming up next.

Easy Homemade Pizza Sauce

  • 6 Green Onions
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, Sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Italian Flat Leaf Parsley, To Taste
  • 2 Cans Petite Diced Tomatoes, Drained
  • 2 Cans Tomato Sauce
  • 2 Garlic Cloves
  • 2 Teaspoons Italian Seasoning
  • 1 Teaspoon Oregano (I used mexican oregano)
  • 1 Tablespoon Basil
  • Salt, To Taste
Add olive oil to a medium pan and heat.

Chop green onions and garlic cloves, add to the hot pan and lightly brown.

Add in about 2 tablespoons of italian parsley, stir in and allow to wilt. About 1-2 minutes.

Add the drained petite diced tomatoes and 1 can of tomato sauce, simmer until thickened. About 30 minutes.

When most of the juice has cooked down and thickened, add in the other can of tomato sauce, parsley, italian seasoning, oregano, basil and salt. Let simmer again, until slightly thickened. 

Remove from heat and allow to cool a little.

Once the sauce has cooled, at least to a warm heat (you just don't want it piping hot), transfer it to your blender. Puree the sauce until blended, then liquefy the sauce. Transfer to a bowl and set aside until you're ready to use on it your pizza.

Store in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for up to 3 months. 
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