Archive for September, 2012

September 28, 2012

Recipe from the Garden: Tim Valley’s Bleu Rocket Pizza

Fall Morning – Fog on the Lake

The sun is shining, the trees are changing colors and leaves are gently dancing to the ground.  The crisp mornings lead to warm afternoons, but one sniff of the air and you can tell something is different.  The warm, floral scented breezes have been replaced by cool earthy, woodsy smells.  No need to check the calendar, its officially fall.

Fall is by far my favorite season.  It’s cool and calm, the earth’s energy is slowing in preparation for winter.  Squirrels and chipmunks run a muck burying acorns and walnuts in every nook and cranny (making a mess of my gardens and containers, mind you).  The cool evenings invite fleece and flannel and back yard bonfires.  And nothing spells a better weekend meal for me than my cousin, Tim Valley’s Bleu Rocket Pizza and a glass of Cabernet or Merlot.  Simply put, it’s heaven.

The only thing that could make it better is making this pizza in my backyard pizza oven, but that dream is yet to come to fruition.  Some day… until then, I will continue to warm the house with the wonderful smell of garlic, the smokey prosciutto, the nuttiness of the walnuts and unmistakable scent bleu cheese.   Top it all off with fresh wild rocket or arugula from your garden or local farmers market and its pure bliss.  By the time this pizza hits the table I’m usually drooling.

Tim, thank you so much for sharing this recipe, which has come to be a favorite in my house.  And for everyone else, I hope you enjoy it enough to put it into your recipe repertoire.

Without further adieu…

Tim Valley’s Bleu Rocket Pizza

Individual packet quick yeast
1/2 c water
A little salt
1 T honey

Light Fire in Oven

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Add the first 4 ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  Whisk in flour until whisk is sticky. Let rise 15 min.  Roll as flat as possible onto lightly floured surface.  Spray pizza pan with cooking spray or oil.  Lightly flour the top of the crust, fold crust into 4ths (for ease of handling) and place onto pizza pan.  Unfold crust.

Olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
Prosciutto, cut into wide strips (recommended Trader Joe’s Stock Meier – smokey flavor)
Bleu cheese, crumbled
Walnuts, chopped
Mozzarella, shredded
Baby Arugula/Wild Rocket
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Drizzle Olive Oil onto Crust

Drizzle olive oil onto crust.  Using a pastry or silicone brush, brush crust with olive oil.  Spread chopped garlic over the oiled crust. Lay prosciutto strips in a single layer over the garlic.

Spread Small Amount of Bleu Cheese

Spread a small amount of  bleu cheese over prosciutto (careful not to use too much or it will overpower the other flavors.) Sprinkle chopped walnuts.

Thin Layer of Mozzarella

Spread a thin layer of mozzarella over the top.

Browned on Top

Bake in 500 degree oven until brown on top.

While pizza is baking, soak baby arugula/wild rocket, spin dry in a salad spinner or place on absorbent towel.

Topped with Arugula, Salt & Pepper

When pizza is done, remove from the oven and spread a layer of arugula over the top.  Lightly season with a minute amount of salt (don’t over do this, there is already salt in the cheese and prosciutto) and pepper.

Slice and Serve

Slice and serve hot.



September 27, 2012

Living Sustainably: WWGD (What Would Grandma Do?) Part II

For a while I’ve been trying to cut down and ultimately eliminate plastic in our home, with my primary focus being on plastic used on food or beverages.  I’ve gotten rid of plastic cups, and while I have cut way back on the use of plastic storage bags, there are some uses I haven’t found a replacement for yet.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to make extra of everything I make for dinner.  Some for lunches (including my son’s), some for freezing and some for sharing.  In the past, my storage method has been predominantly plastic.  Since then, I’ve replaced the containers for leftovers that will be eaten soon with glass containers or jars and lunches either get put into the same thing, a reuseable sandwich bag or a thermos, but the freezer stuff had me puzzled.  I’ve seen silicone containers, but have to say I feel my feelings are very mixed on them.  While I think the concept is great, I’m still so leery to put food in silicone whether it’s for baking or freezing because, while I have no background in the matter, my gut tells me that there’s something that’s just not right.  I have a fear that in a few years we’re going to hear that silicone is horrible and we need to stop using it.  So I’ve been on the quest for materials that have stood the test of time.

That brings me to today.  Okay, not quite.  That brings me to a couple of days ago.  I’d made a loaf of banana bread and decided, “That’s it.” I’m not putting it in plastic any more.  No Ziplock, no Saran Wrap, nothing.  That’s when I realized I had no idea what I was going to store it in. I wasn’t about to run out and buy a “freezer-safe” container for $25 or a set of them for $50 -$100 because that’s just ridiculous.  I tried to remember if I knew life before plastic and all I could recall was waxed paper.  That’s when I decided to call my Mom.  I asked her, you guessed it, “What did Grandma do?  What did she wrap freezer stuff in?  What did she put left-overs in?  What did she put sandwiches in?”  (I actually have Snack Taxi’s, reusable sandwich bags, but they are in the wash so I needed a back-up concept.)  I was looking forward to getting great insight.  And I did, but not what I expected.

For starters, they didn’t have a freezer, they had a tiny ice box, so they didn’t freeze anything.  Ha, ha!  No WONDER my fridge seems so out-of-place in my kitchen!  The houses in our neighborhood were all built in the late 1930s – early 1940s, few years earlier than my Mom was born, but basically the same era.  No fridge, no freezer, that explains a lot!

Back to the plastic problem.  Next up: leftovers.  No leftovers.  There were six kids in the family so leftovers were non-existent.  Okay, I rolled the dice.  “How about your lunches?”  Can you guess it?  They didn’t pack a lunch.  Instead, they went home for lunch, but my Grandpa was a mail carrier on a rural mail route.  Grandma packed him a small lunch every day (finally some hope!).  A sandwich, wrapped in waxed paper, a thermos of coffee, and something my Grandma had baked, like banana bread or nut bread, wrapped in waxed paper!

So I didn’t get the answers I thought I would, but I did learn more than I thought I would.  I learned more about my Mom’s childhood and my Grandma’s way of doing things so I was already happy.  I also learned that I’m on the right track on one thing, or at least I think so.  While waxed paper isn’t reusable for very long (at least it doesn’t contaminate the food and will eventually break down) so for now I’m okay with that.

So I’m still on the quest to find better solutions for the freezer and for sharing, but at least the ball is in motion.

If you have a plastic-free method that you really like, please let me know!


September 24, 2012

Mindful Living: Appreciating What You Have (Money Isn’t Everything)

It was Thursday, a little before noon, the home phone rang.  Nobody ever calls the home phone.  I didn’t recognize the name so I walked by it.  My husband, on the other hand, picked it up.  I was instantly irritated.  I could tell by the brief conversation, that it was for me.  I could have killed him.  It was a telemarketer.  I hate telemarketer calls.  That’s why I registered for the Do Not Call list.  WHY would he answer it and WHY would he say, “Sure, she’s here.”?  Seriously!?  There’s a reason why I didn’t pick-up.  I didn’t want to talk to a telemarketer.  I was hungry and wanted to eat my lunch, not struggle to get off the phone with some telemarketer.

I took the phone from him, half-glaring but half curious.  “Hello?”  I was not a telemarketer.  Turns out it was a head hunter.  For me.  That stopped me in my tracks.  Suddenly I wasn’t so angry with my husband any more.  I listened to the friendly voice at the other end of the line.  A lot of information was coming at me pretty quickly.  Holy smokes!  I needed to take a break to think about this.  I needed food so I could think clearly.  I needed… to call him back.

You may have heard me talking about listening to your authentic self (or God or the universe) to help guide you in life, but it never crossed my mind was that instead of a subtle message, you might get an honest to goodness, real person at the other end of the line, out of the blue, throwing you a curve ball, testing you, in your face, kind of message.

You see, I’ve been playing with a lot of ideas as to which way to take my blog and my business lately and occasionally I start wondering if things would be better if I worked for another company instead of freelancing. I keep telling myself to stick with it.  Trust in myself and what I’m doing and things will all work out.

That’s when the phone rang.  It was almost as if the universe was saying, “Are you sure?”  The call I got was for a very well-known landscape company in the Twin Cities.  And while the call wasn’t a job offer, it was suggested that I would be a good candidate for the position and I should consider pursuing it.  There was also conversation about money.  The salary would be nice and the commissions would make the job even more enticing, but…  here in Minnesota our landscape season is relatively short.  Plus, working on commissions in landscaping only applies to jobs sold, not all plans drawn, so it’s possible that I could end up doing a lot of work I would never get paid for.  After thinking about this  I did some calculations and figured I would need to be working at least 80 hrs. per week during the season (summer) just to meet their expectations. Could I do it?  Sure.  Would I be stressed out?  Definitely.  But the money!

The money, is not worth it.  My son is young.  Assuming I interviewed, things went well and I got the job, it would mean not being there when he gets home from school, missing dinner, missing his games and maybe even missing bedtime.  I might have money in the bank, but no amount of money could bring back his childhood.  No amount of money could fix the regret I would feel being at work instead of being with him.

So as you probably figured out, I graciously bowed out.  I was flattered to receive the call and at another time in my life this would have been, or could be great, but not now.  We are all given choices in our lives.  Some of them big, some of them not-so-big, but regardless of how large or small the decision seems at the time, we need to make sure the decision we make is right for us.  We need to listen to our hearts and do what will truly make us happy.  I’m grateful to have the opportunity to spend so much time with my son right now because I know it’s not always going to be that way.  There will come a day when I will barely see him at all and I’m sure that day is coming faster than I even realize.  But for now, I want to be there.

So, yes, I might be walking away from the opportunity of a lifetime, but I have something much more valuable to me, the ability to make my own schedule so I can be where I’m needed when I’m needed.

I realize what I chose isn’t for everyone, but for me, I can’t think of a salary that would make me feel okay about not being there for my son.  We all need to find balance in our lives and what’s right for me might not be right for you, but neither is better than the other, it’s just different.

So when the universe sends you a message, make sure you take the time to listen, to figure out what the message is and why its being sent.  And then, once you’ve figured out why, figure out what the best answer is for you because no matter how many people to talk to about it, no matter how many opinions you get, nobody else knows what is right for you, but you.


September 23, 2012

Mindfulness Reminder

Enjoy the little things in life for one day. You’ll look back and realize they were the big things.
– Author Unknown