Store-bought pizza dough pizza

Adapted from The Kitchn, makes 2 pizzas. Serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. store-bought dough, at room temperature for at least 1 hour
  • 1/2 cup (or 3 tbsp) of Rao’s Pizza Sauce, per pizza
  • 4 cloves of garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil
  • prosciutto
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced and sautéed
  • handful of mushrooms, sautéed
  • 1 cup mozzarella di bufala, thinly sliced
  • handful of basil, torn
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
  • cornmeal or all-purpose flour

Directions:

  1. Set your oven to 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Defrost pizza dough on top of stove.
  2. Sautee raw toppings.
  3. Tear off a large piece of parchment paper roughly 12 inches long. Working with one piece of the dough at a time, form it into a large disk with your hands and place it on the parchment. Use your hands to flatten the dough until it is 1/4-inch thick or less. If the dough starts to shrink back, let it rest for 5 minutes and then continue rolling. Brush a thin film of olive oil on a baking sheet. 
  4. Pre-bake the crust for 3-4 minutes before adding toppings.
  5. Top the pizza. Spoon half of the sauce onto the center of the pizza and use the back of the spoon to spread it out to the edges. Pile on half of the toppings and half of the cheese.
  6. Bake the pizza right on the baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then rotate the pizza. If using parchment, slide it out from under the pizza and discard. Bake until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese is melted and browned in spots, 3 to 5 minutes more.
  7. Repeat making a second pizza with the remaining dough, cheese, and toppings.

Tips I came across on multiple websites:

Crust

  • Let the refrigerated dough sit out at room temperature for 30 minutes or more before rolling.
  • Let the oven heat for at least half an hour before baking your pizzas. If you have a baking stone or steel, place it in the lower-middle part of your oven.
  • Set your oven to 450 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on your comfort. You can make good pizza at 450ºF/232ºC. 
  • Flour a clean wood chopping board (if big enough) to use as a work surface.
  • Don’t roll out the dough — press out the edges to make a crust (don’t press the middle), then stretch with one hand and rotate with other hand, then toss from hand to hand. video
  • Cover the dough and give it a 10-minute break to relax the gluten, when needed.
  • Pizza size: no more than 10 inches/25 cm in diameter.
  • Use olive oil on the sheet, and on the edges before baking. Spread olive oil on both sides of the crust.
  • If you don’t have cornmeal, use Parchment paper. FYI: The paper catches on fire if it touches the heating element.

Sauce

  • Pre-bake the crust for 3-4 minutes before adding toppings.
  • Add enough sauce so that when you spread it, you can still see the dough underneath: 2-3 tbsp of sauce per pizza. Less is more!

Toppings

  • Preheat the oven; While you’re waiting, set up your toppings.
  • Pre-cook raw ingredients (mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, meat, etc.)
  • Keep the toppings to just a handful at most. If you load homemade pizza down with a ton of toppings, it may take too long for the crust to cook.
  • For the cheese, use a low-moisture, whole milk mozzarella. If you want to use fresh mozzarella, drain it and pat it dry. 
  • If you plan to add some fresh arugula or herbs to your pizza, top the pizza with hand-torn basil after it’s out of the oven.

References: Good in the Simple, Garlic Delight, Pillsbury, The Kitchn

Next time I will try Brie, Sage, and Prosciutto toppings; or pesto in place of sauce and top with chicken, fresh tomato, and buffalo mozzarella. I would also try to make garlic knots (dough knotted together with garlic, parsley, and parmigiano-reggiano cheese). I forgot to defrost the dough ahead of time, so I followed this trick from Baking Kneads to wrap the oiled up put it in the oven at 100 degrees Fahrenheit (used the bread proofing setting) for one hour, then check if it is ready (risen to double its size). If it is not fully defrosted, back in the oven for 30 minutes. We used a baking sheet, not a pizza stone, and Parchment paper.

~Jessica

Chicken zucchini dumplings

Adapted from The Woks of Life

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium zucchini, seeds removed and shredded
  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, minced
  • 1/2 pound ground chicken
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 2 packages dumpling wrappers (see recipe from Pork dumplings)

Directions:

  1. Take the shredded zucchini, put it in a clean kitchen towel, and squeeze out as much water as you can. Add it to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. In a wok over medium low heat, add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and the minced ginger. Allow the ginger to fry in the oil until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add to the bowl of zucchini.
  3. To the bowl, add 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, ground chicken, ½ teaspoon white pepper, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 teaspoons sesame oil, 3 tablespoons soy sauce, and 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine. Mix well, stirring vigorously in one direction for about 5 minutes, until it resembles a paste.
  4. Wrap the dumplings and place on a parchment lined baking sheet, so that the dumplings are not touching each other. You can fry them right away, or cover the dumplings with plastic wrap and freeze them on the tray. Once frozen solid, you can transfer them to freezer bags and store for up to 3 months.
  5. You can boil them, steam them, or fry them. Frying tastes best, boiling is quickest (especially if you have many hungry mouths to feed), and we tried steaming with Napa cabbage leaves and sesame oil in a metal steamer.

Serves 6. Would love to whip out the bamboo steamer next time! Don’t forget some chili oil for dipping sauce (preferable over black vinegar, in my opinion).

~Jessica

Chinese pork dumplings

Adapted from The Woks of Life and this version!

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. green leafy vegetable (we used Napa cabbage)
  • 1 pounds ground pork (or ground chicken, fattier the better)
  • 1 egg
  • ⅔ cup Shaoxing rice wine
  • ½ cup oil
  • 3 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon white pepper

Dumpling Wrappers:

  • 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 cups water

Directions:

  1. Put the flour in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the water to the flour and knead into a smooth dough. This process should take about 10 minutes. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest for an hour.
  2. Wash the vegetables thoroughly and blanch them in a pot of boiling water. Transfer them to an ice bath to cool. Ring out all the water from the vegetables and chop very finely. You can also add a little bit of salt to get more water out! Wring it well with a towel after!
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the vegetables, meat, wine, oil, sesame oil, salt, soy sauce, white pepper, and ⅔ cup water. Mix for 6-8 minutes, until very well-combined and almost paste-like in texture.
  4. Begin assembling the dumplings! The best way to do this is to divide the dough into manageable pieces and then rolling each piece into a rope. Cut them into small pieces (in a size similar to if you were cutting gnocchi, or about the size of the top part of your thumb).
  5. Roll the pieces out into circles, and add about 1 1/2 teaspoons of filling to the center (it helps if you have an assembly line going, with one person cutting out the dough pieces, one person rolling it out, and one person filling/folding).
  6. Wrap the dumplings: dampen the edges of each circular dumpling wrapper with some cornstarch-water slurry. Put a little less than a tablespoon of filling in the middle. Fold the circle in half and pinch the wrapper together at the top. Then make two folds on each side, until the dumpling looks like a fan. Make sure it’s completely sealed. Repeat until all the filling is gone, placing the dumplings on a baking sheet lined with parchment so they aren’t touching.
  7. If you’d like to freeze them, wrap the baking sheets tightly in clean plastic grocery bags and put the pans in the freezer. Allow them to freeze overnight. You can then take the sheets out of the freezer, transfer the dumplings to freezer bags, and throw them back in the freezer for use later.
  8. To cook the dumplings, boil them or pan-fry them. We steamed!
  9. Serve with Chinese black vinegar, chili sauce, or your favorite dumpling sauce! (I’ve never been a fan of black vinegar dipping sauce.)

MAKES 8-10 DOZEN. If the wrappers start to dry out, wrap them in a damp kitchen towel and put them in a sealed plastic bag for a couple hours to soften back up. 2 cups chopped shiitake mushrooms (with minced ginger, onion, carrot) can also make vegetarian dumplings! We could have alternatively used other greens like baby bok choy, but I was putting that in a stir friend nian gao dish. And originally I wanted to use Chinese chives, but didn’t because they were $5/lb!!

The chicken and zucchini version from Woks of Life

~Jessica

Chicken broccoli Alfredo casserole

Adapted from Freezer Meals 101 and The Kitchn

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound dry fusilli pasta
  • 1 (14- to 16-oz) package frozen broccoli florets / 1 cup broccoli, steamed and coarsely chopped
  • 6-8 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated young Parmesan cheese (about 6 ounces)

Directions:

  1. Bring a large Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot of heavily salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the pasta and cook until almost tender (you want some bite left in the pasta, check it one minute before the time called for on the package).
  2. Turn off the heat, add the broccoli to the pot, stir to combine, and let sit for one minute (the broccoli will not be cooked all the way through). Drain well and set aside.
  3. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in the same pot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken in an even layer, season generously with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring every few minutes, until the chicken is browned and just cooked through, about 5 minutes total. Remove to a plate or bowl. Do not wash out the pot.
  4. Return the pot to medium heat and add the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. When the butter is melted, add the flour, scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan, and stir constantly until the flour starts to smell toasty and darkens slightly in color, about 1 minute. While constantly whisking, add the milk until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Bring just to a boil, whisking constantly. Add the cheese and whisk until smooth. Turn off the heat.
  5. Add the chicken and any accumulated juices, pasta, and broccoli, and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.
  6. Divide the mixture between 2 (8- to 9-inch) baking dishes or disposable foil trays (try to get ones that are around 2 inches deep), or transfer all of the mixture into a 9×13-inch baking dish or disposable foil tray. Let cool completely, then wrap tightly in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 2 months.
  7. Bake frozen, still covered in the foil, on the middle rack of a preheated 350°F oven until heated through, about 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then bake for only 1 hour.

“Fettuccine Alfredo or fettuccine al burro is an Italian pasta dish of fresh fettuccine tossed with butter and Parmesan cheese (pasta al burro e parmigiano)… The dish is named after Alfredo di Lelio, who featured the dish at his restaurant in Rome in the early- to mid-20th century; the “ceremony” of preparing it table-side was an integral part of the dish.” Wiki I prefer this fresher, lighter version to the heavy cream American one. I also wished there were cut chicken pieces at the deli, because chicken thighs take way longer to cook, especially if you only brown them the first time. I have to say this was only “ok” as far as freezer meals go — I think I would have liked this far more freshly made. And it was a substantial amount of work, even for two people!

~Jessica

Chicken stew

Adapted from Recipe Tin Eats

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 kg / 3 lbs bone in, skin on chicken thighs and drumsticks (6 to 8 pieces)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 onions, halved and cut into wedges
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 large carrots, cut thick end into 1.5cm / 3/5″ pieces, thin end 2.5cm/1″
  • 4 celery stalks, cut into 2cm / 4/5″ chunks
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) white wine (or water)
  • 3 tbsp (35g) flour
  • 3 cups (750 ml) chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 sprigs thyme, or 1 tsp dried thyme (or other herb)
  • 2 bay leaves (dried or fresh)
  • 600 g / 1.2 lbs baby potatoes, halved (quarter large ones)
  • Warm crusty bread (homemade garlic bread!!)
  • OPTIONAL: Fresh thyme or parsley (chopped)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over high heat. Brown chicken on both sides until light golden, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Remove from pot. (Do in 2 batches if pot not big enough).
  3. If there’s too much oil in the pot, discard some. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes until onion is translucent.
  4. Add carrots and celery, cook for 1 minute.
  5. Add wine. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to dissolve the brown bits into the liquid. Cook for 1 minute until liquid is mostly gone.
  6. Sprinkle flour across surface, stir.
  7. Add broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaves. Stir to dissolve tomato paste.
  8. Place chicken on top, keeping the skin above the liquid level as much as you can.
  9. Bring to simmer then cover. Bake for 45 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven, remove lid. Add potatoes, pushing them into the liquid and rearranging chicken so they sit on top (for lovely crispy skin).
  11. Return to oven without the lid for a further 40 minutes until the chicken skin is deep golden and super crispy, the potatoes are soft and the sauce is thickened.
  12. Taste sauce and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  13. Serve with warm crusty bread on the side to dunk in the sauce – or go all the way with Garlic Bread! Optional: garnish with extra fresh thyme leaves or parsley.

Ingredients for Garlic Bread:

  • 1 French stick / baguette , ~ 60cm / 2ft long (I use half a loaf of Whole Foods peasant bread)
  • 125 g / 1 US stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tsp fresh garlic , minced (~3 – 4 cloves, pack the teaspoon)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp finely chopped parsley (optional)

Directions for Garlic Bread:

  1. Preheat oven. I left it at the same temperature as the chicken stew.
  2. Cut the French stick in half. Then cut the bread almost all the way through into 2cm / 4/5″ thick slices.
  3. Mix together the butter, garlic, salt and parsley. Taste to see if it’s salty / garlicky enough for your taste.
  4. Smear garlic butter over cut side of bread.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes until the crust is crispy (check through foil).

I wanted a Dutch oven for a long time, and my sister Jennifer recommended the affordable Lodge cast iron 6 quart. She also recommended this chef’s blog! This came out super tasty — and every reheated leftover tasted better and better. HIGHLY recommend. Perfect for cold winter’s days to heat up your whole apartment.

~ Jessie

Garlic na’an

Adapted from My Food Story

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 teaspoon Sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 cup Yogurt
  • 1/4 cup Water
  • 1 tablespoon Oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Garlic
  • Sesame Seeds, Onions Seeds (for sprinkling and melted butter for brushing)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, sugar and salt. Stir to combine well.
  2. Add yogurt and oil and knead into the flour. Start adding water little by little and knead as you go till you get a soft, supple dough. You may not need the entire quantity of water so add only as much as you require. If the dough feels too dry, add water by the teaspoon or some extra flour if the dough feels little wet. It should look like a smooth ball
  3. Cover with a damp towel and set aside in a warm place for 25-30 minutes. If you live in a cold place, rest the dough for 1.5-2 hours. But in warmer climate, 30 minutes is sufficient.
  4. Heat a flat non-stick pan or skillet or tawa. We used a cast iron pan I found in the cupboard.
  5. Divide the dough into lemon sized balls. Dust a ball of dough in flour. Lightly roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness without applying too much force. Use a little dry flour if the dough is sticky. Make sure it’s thin enough! (Our first tries were a little bit thick)
  6. Brush the top lightly with water, and sprinkle with sesame and onion seeds (kalonji) and chopped garlic. Lightly press so that they stick to the dough. Turn it over, and brush the other side well with water as well – this helps the naan stick to the tawa.
  7. Make sure your pan is really hot. Now place the bottom side down on the tawa (pan) so that the side with sesame seeds is facing up. Wait for 5 seconds and cover with a lid, which should be big enough to cover the naan. The naan starts forming air pockets. Wait for 45 seconds and then flip the naan to cook it on the other side. Cook for approx 30 seconds, pressing down lightly to help it cook evenly. The naan is ready. Brush it with butter immediately and serve!

This recipe popped up in my Google Feed, which prompted the idea of this recipe for weekend date night culinary exploits. We didn’t have the sesame and onion seeds, unfortunately. I was impressed enough that we had found paneer for the saag, from the Pakistani grocery 20 minutes away. I do not recommend the “direct flame” method because every time, the naan fell into the fire. Exciting!

~Jessica

Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (130 g) flour
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temp.
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3.5 cups old-fashioned whole rolled oats
  • 1 bag Ghiradelli dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Whisk the dry ingredients (flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt) together. Just the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt– you’ll add the oats later.
  2. Mix the wet ingredients (butter, sugars, eggs, molasses, vanilla) together.
  3. Combine the wet and dry ingredients.
  4. Add the oats and chocolate chips. The dough will be thick and sticky.
  5. Chill the cookie dough. We did way more than 45 minutes in the refrigerator, which helps prevent the cookies from overspreading.
  6. Scoop cookie dough balls. About 3 Tablespoons of dough per cookie– yes, these are LARGE!
  7. Bake at 350°F for 13-14 minutes. The cookies are done when the edges are set and the centers still look soft.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Enjoy!

These were so good — just the right amount of chewy, and really awesome texture from the extra oats. I’ve long been an oatmeal raisin fan, but I was open to Jesse’s chocolate substitution, and they were quite the hit with his apartment. He skipped the molasses and used less sugar. Everyone was a fan of the bittersweet 60% cacao baking chips.

~Jessica

British macaroni cheese

Adapted from Great British Chefs and British Food History

Ingredients:

  • 30 g plain flour 
  • 30 g butter 
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 400 ml hot full-fat milk 
  • 6g of thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 200-250 g macaroni 
  • 1 slice stale bread 
  • ½ tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves, or ¼ tsp fried rosemary (optional) 
  • 225 g Stilton cheese, grated 
  • 200 g Gruyere or Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 30g of Parmesan
  • Pinch of Cayenne pepper or 20g of Dijon mustard
  • Salt and freshly-milled black pepper
  • 15 basil leaves

Directions:

  1. Start by cooking some pasta of your choice in a pan of boiling water. Once cooked, strain the pasta and set aside
  2. Place 50 mL milk into a pan over a low-medium heat and add the thyme and bay. Bring up to a warm heat and leave to infuse for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place a separate pan over a low heat and add the 4 tbsp. butter and 4 cloves of garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes then add the flour. Heat for for 2-3 minutes and stir constantly so the mixture comes together. –> Béchamel sauce
  4. Strain the milk, thyme and bay mixture so that you are just left with the infused milk. Gradually (over 5 minutes) add the infused milk to the other pan and stir with a wooden spoon. Bring to a simmer
  5. Take the pan off the heat and season with salt and pepper. Add the cheese, mustard, basil and pasta to the pan and then pour the contents of the pan into a casserole dish. Cover with some extra cheese and place in the oven at 180°C for 20 minutes (I prefer stovetop because I haven’t a baking dish currently).
  6. Remove the dish from the oven, divide the macaroni cheese into 4 portions and serve immediately.

My grandmother gave me a box of instant mac and cheese from her senior citizen community center (before the pandemic lockdown). Of course I didn’t want to eat that stuff straight, so I thought I would try to dress it up with some caramelized onions, garlic, herbs, and whatever else I might find in the pantry.

~Jessica

Falafel with tzatziki sauce

Adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook and The Mediterranean Dish

Ingredients (falafel):

  • 2 (15 ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 12 cup onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons cumin (can use a bit more if you like)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 dashes cayenne pepper
  • 14 cup fresh parsley, chopped and packed
  • 14 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 13 cup flour
  • oil, for pan frying (we used canola oil)

Ingredients (tzatziki):

  • 3/4 English cucumber, partially peeled (striped) and sliced
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt, divided
  • 4 – 5 garlic cloves, peeled, finely grated or minced (you can use less if you prefer)
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Arlotta garlic infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt (I used organic fat free Greek yogurt, but you can use 2% or whole milk Greek yogurt, if you like)
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients except flour in a large mixing bowl. Hulk smash.
  2. Thoroughly mix flour into the falafel batter with a spoon.
  3. Warm pita bread for serving. Sliced vegetables for serving.

Jesse got the idea for this based on the Moosewood recipe — imagine my surprise when I discovered it’s the same Moosewood as the restaurant in Ithaca, NY!

-Jessica

Chinese shrimp stir fry

Adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp oyster sauce (I didn’t have)
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro minced (optional, I didn’t use)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined (tails left intact)
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil divided (I used butter, peanut oil preferable)
  • 3 scallions, chopped (I wish I’d had, used red onion instead)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger, microplane grater (I wish I’d had)

Directions:

  1. Pat the shrimp very dry with paper towels. In a medium bowl, add shrimp and cornstarch and toss to coat.
  2. In a wok over high heat, add half the peanut oil (butter) and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. When the wok is very hot, add the shrimp in a single layer and cook partially until one side is nicely seared, about 1 minute. Flip and sear the other side of each shrimp, about one more minute. They don’t need to be cooked all the way through yet. Remove them to a plate and set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, combine oyster sauce, soy sauce and cilantro and set aside.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium and let wok cool off a bit to prevent the aromatics from burning. Add the remaining cooking oil and add green onion (I had red onion), garlic and ginger (couldn’t find) and stir fry for a minute until fragrant. [I used other vegetables, like lima beans, which I added to the wok and stir fried until bright in color and crisp-crunchy.]
  5. Pour in the sauce mixture and add the shrimp back into the pan. Stir fry for another minute or so until shrimp is cooked through. Serve immediately.

Some AirBnB tenants left some frozen shrimp, and I had garlic and butter, so… Home-cooked meal ^_^ My only regret is not having ginger and scallions — I don’t think the lima beans or red onions were the best complement.

~Jessica