Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Pizzaria!

My Pizza

4 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 3/4 cups room-temperature water

Beat together all, knead for 15 minutes, place dough in oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for 1 hour or until doubled. Punch down, dump our onto floured surface. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Divide into 2 lumps of flour. Roll out into a circle or square, on a floured surface to about a ½ thickness and size of pizza sheet. Adding flour as need be to assist rolling. Place each round onto oiled pizza pan or baking sheet. Brush surface of each with olive oil, gently, cover again with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 25 to 30 minutes. Uncover and add sauce to top, and all the toppings you want.
*Bake in a preheated, very hot, 400° oven for about 20 minutes, checking on it during baking so the cheese doesn‘t burn.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice is a staple meal we eat once a week, ~or close to once a week.

1 1lb. bag of large red Kidney beans( I like Camelia Brand)
1 lb. smoked sausage, cut into 2 inch lengths
1 smoked ham hock
1 medium onion, diced
1 green pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 tsp. Creole seasoning

Rinse the beans and drain.  Place in a bowl and cover with water for a couple of hours. (the soaking step may be omitted if pressed for time)
Drain beans and place into stockpot with all other ingredients, including ham hock. Don't add any Creole seasoning or salt, at this time, will add later after beans have softened. Add water to pot to cover over the top of beans 2 inches.
Lightly cook the sausage in a skillet, just to brown a bit, add this to pot of beans.  Stir and cover.  Simmer for 2 or 3 hours, stirring every so often, to ensure no sticking.
When beans are soft, add the salt and/or Creole seasoning.  Taste.  Cook until beans are soft enough to mash against side of pot with spoon.
Serve over steamed rice and along with Iced Tea and buttered french bread!
Don't forget to the Louisiana hot sauce on the table!

Friday, January 27, 2012

True Cinnamon

Some facts  about my favorite spice--cinnamon.
I love this spice!
 It's scent, it's flavor, in cooking or in candles and in essential oils, it calms me, stimulates my digestion, and brings sweet thoughts to my mind.
One day, I began to research my favorite sweet bark and I will summerize what I have found to be important facts for all of us, cooks and cinnamon lovers to know.

My search for info began when my husband, Mr. Goodwrench was given a bottle of Pharmacy brand, Cinnamon Oil capsules 1000mg. to try for high bloodpressure.  I simply got online and found that the oil in the capsules was not true cinnamon oil, but cassia oil.  There are four types of Cinnamon.
Of the four Cinnamonum species:  [1]

Cinnamonum verum (true cinnamon or Sri Lanki or Ceylon cinnamon)
Cinnamonum burmannii (Korintje or Indonesian Cinnamon)
Cinnamonum loureiroi (Saigon or Vietnamese)
Cinnamonum aromaticum (Cassia or Chinese)

 The Ceylon cinnamon, verum, is the one to use, it is the true cinnamon.  The Ceylon cinnamon is  lighter in color, the curled bark sticks are thinner and will crush easier. The flavor of Ceylon cinnamon is sweeter and as cinnamon goes, Ceylon is the highest prized.   Europe and Mexico is the greatest importer of Ceylon cinnamon and in America the primary import is the Chinese Cassia aromaticum, more marketable due to the availability, darker color and stronger scent and flavor.[2]

An ingredient in all Cinnamonum plants is "Coumarin". [3]  Coumarin is found in highest concentration in the Cinnamonum aromticum, or Cassia bark.  This Cassia is the cinnamon oil contained in the Parmacy brand capsules of cinnamon oil given to my husband. I am glad he didn't use the capsules because in high concentrations Coumarin can damage the liver.  Coumarin, as you research, you see has many pharmacutical uses, Coumadin is developed from it, and  Coumadin is a commonly prescribed blood thinner. "European health agencies have warned against consuming high amounts of cassia bark, one of the four species of cinnamon, because of its coumarin content." [4]
Coumarin is found in much lower amounts in the three other species of cinnamon.

Now I am looking for the botanical name (source) of any cinnamon on it's product labels.  McCormick brand, Saigon Cinnamon is found on most spice shelves in groceries.  I called McCormick Spice at 1-800-632-5847, for the botanical name of  the Saigon Cinnamon because it is nowhere to be found on the bottle. The customer service department told me   McCormick Saigon Cinnamon  is Cinnamonum Laureiroi Nees, which is Saigon or Vietnamese cinnamon.
 Since I frequently use cinnamon in cooking, I am choosing to avoid Chinese Cinnamon, or Cassia and stick to using the real cinnamons--verum, burmannii, and loureiroi.   Read the labels, ask questions,  most cinnamon spice for sale in stores is Cassia. 

Hope this helps!

Internet Sources:
1. Wikipedia article, "Cinnamon"
2.  New World Encyclopedia article, "Cinnamon"
3. Wikipedia article, "Coumarin"
4. Wikipedia article, "Coumarin

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter Fare