Friday, January 21, 2022

Pizza-making tutorial

I was making pizza for dinner the other night, and it occurred to me I should photograph the steps for anyone interested in a pizza-making tutorial. 

Pizza delivery is absolutely unheard of out here, and we seldom go out for it either, because it's SO much cheaper to make it at home. There are zillions of ways to make pizza; this is how I do it.

I start with my much-faded recipe for the crust:

It says:

• 1 1/2 cups flour

• 2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

• Garlic/salt/basil (to taste)

• 1 1/4 cups warm water

• 2 tablespoons oil

Mix until blended. Add 2 to 4 cups additional flour to make a stuff dough.

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Mixing pizza dough takes just a few minutes.

Adding all the ingredients to the bowl:

Adding enough additional flour to make a stiff dough:

Getting ready to knead.

Kneading before:

Kneading after. I don't knead for very long, just a couple minutes:

I drizzle a bit of oil into the mixing bowl...

...then plop the dough back into the bowl, flipping it once to make sure it's coated with oil.

Then I cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise in the oven (where it's warm) for, I dunno, about an hour or so.

Meanwhile the mozzarella cheese and pepperoni has been defrosting. I buy both in bulk at Chef's Store (a restaurant supply store), though I look forward to the day when I can make my own mozzarella cheese again.

When it's time to make the pizzas, I drizzle a little olive oil on the pizza pans...

...and spread it out. Then I sprinkle some cornmeal on the pan, which helps prevent the crust from sticking (and gives the crust kind of a nice crunch too).

Here's the risen dough.

I cut it in half unevenly. That's because I like a thinner pizza crust, and Don likes it a bit thicker.

Spreading the dough takes mere seconds per pizza. It's at this point I have to keep track of which pizza is which.

To Don's pizza, I add standard pizza sauce.

To my pizza, I add pesto sauce. This stuff makes Don gag, but I love it.

Ready for cheese.

Cheese:

For homemade pizzas, we tend to be lazy and just use pepperoni, but of course they can be dolled up in an infinite number of ways.

Into the oven, about 425F for 25 minutes (at which point we start monitoring). I like my pizza a bit darker, so I always put mine on the bottom rack and keep it baking longer.

Don's pizza, finished.

In my opinion, homemade pizza is every bit as good (if not better) than restaurant pizza, and hand's down better than frozen pizza. And it literally costs pennies on the dollar, especially if the ingredients are purchased in bulk.

This is a long post with lots of photos for a process that actually takes very little time. So there you go, a modest pizza-making tutorial.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Wild coffee and cattail corndogs

A couple of funny memes from Backwoods Home Magazine:


Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Woodstove in a manufactured home?

Some time ago, a reader left a comment as follows: "My wife and I are thinking about retiring into a mobile home. It looks like that's what you and your husband fixed up. Are you satisfied with it? Is it sufficiently built to make a comfortable home? I thought you indicated you had a woodstove and I did not know you could put a wood stove or firebox stove inside a mobile home. Please comment. Thank you."

The following material was written mostly by Don.

Prior to moving into our current abode, we had very little experience with manufactured homes. During the transition between our old home and our current home, with got within a hair's breadth of purchasing a rather dingy (but inexpensive) 1970s single-wide installed in a mobile home park, just as a temporary place to live. The seller pulled out at the last minute so the sale never went through, but let's just say the inside looked like a 1970s single-wide.

 

However a few years ago, at our old place, we had some new neighbors who bought the property next door. They purchased a triple-wide manufactured home (they have a large family), and we watched with fascination the process of hauling in the sections and installing them. When it was completed and the neighbors toured us around, we were impressed with how bright and airy and beautiful it was. Clearly things have come a long way in the manufactured home industry, especially compared to that 1970s model.

Our current home is a hybrid, part manufactured and part stick-built (a large extension was added which we use as a living room). The original manufactured part was built in 1995, and here and there we can still glimpse some of the early d├ęcor (the back of a closet, under the bathroom sink, etc.) However over the years the home has been improved and decorated to look much nicer. Someone installed nice laminated flooring, the walls are a decent neutral beige, they remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms, and the appliances were upgraded (a mixed blessing). During this remodeling, in addition to the stick-built extension, they also added two beautiful porches facing north and east. As a result, it doesn't look like a manufactured home at all.

Since moving in, the first major indoor project was building a spacious pantry in an underutilized corner, which gave us a double bang for our buck: pantry inside…

…and a library wall outside.

The second major indoor project was installing the wood cookstove. When we moved in, our home had two heat sources: forced-air central heating, and a pellet stove. Clearly these are useless during power outages; and power outages, we've discovered, are not uncommon. A non-electric heat source was an essential improvement.

Anyway, back to the reader's original question about installing wood heat in a manufactured home. The answer is yes, it can be done – with a few provisos.

Firstly, if you want to install a woodstove in a manufactured home (or if there's one already installed), you should contact your insurance company to find out what their requirements are concerning the installation. Manufactured homes differ structurally from stick-built homes in a variety of ways, so you need to make sure everything is compliant with state and local codes.

The most common requirements are:

• The woodstove must be rated and approved for use in manufactured homes. This means the stove model has been tested and is in compliance with HUD Standard UM-84 (a metal tag will be affixed to the rear of the stove attesting to this compliance). An approved woodstove will have a separate air intake vent to the outside, to allow exterior air into the firebox during combustion. The reason for this requirement is because most manufactured homes are built fairly air-tight, and installing a woodstove without a separate air intake vent may result in carbon monoxide buildup.

• Most approved woodstoves have a built-in heat shield attached to the rear of the stove. This is probably due to the limited space in a manufactured home.

• The woodstove must be mounted to the floor in such a way that, should the home be moved at some point in the future, the stove will remain in place.

• The woodstove must be installed in a way that meets standard state and local codes (proper pipe spaces, pipe types, distance from combustible materials, Class-A pipe through the ceiling and roof, non-combustible heart pad, etc.).

It's worth noting that some insurance companies may object to allowing a woodstove to be installed if it will be the principle or only heat-producing system. Some insurance companies may also require an inspection of both the woodstove and its installation by an agent or specialist. Some companies may even require the stove to be installed by a licensed professional. This is in addition to whatever state and local regulations which with you must comply. Don't forget to look online for specific installation information for manufactured homes.

Woodstoves in manufactured homes are not usually allowed in sleeping spaces (bedrooms). Also, because manufactured homes are usually so air-tight, it is often required (and recommended) to install a smoke and carbon monoxide detector.

We were able to skirt a few of these requirements because a significant portion of our home is the stick-built addition to the manufactured portion, and we installed the woodstove in that addition. But our insurance company still required us to provide photos of the UL tag on the rear of the stove, as well as photos (both interior and exterior) of the final installation and pipe assembly.

It helped that we have the same insurance company we used at our previous home, as well as the exact same model of woodstove we used in our old place.

We don't profess to be experts in manufactured homes by any stretch. However we've been very satisfied with the quality of construction of our nearly 30-year-old model. It's warm and well insulated, lends itself to remodeling projects (such as the pantry), and in all respects makes a cozy abode for a couple of semi-retired empty nesters.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Honey-walnut shrimp

When I went into the city last week, I picked up a luxury item: shrimp. That's because I came across a recipe I wanted to try, namely honey-walnut shrimp made so popular by Panda Express.

I love Panda Express food, but unfortunately there isn't a franchise within a hundred miles of our new home, so it's been a long long time since I had any honey-walnut shrimp. That's why this copycat recipe was so intriguing.

The shrimp I bought at Chef's Store was de-veined, shelled, and without tails. Rather surprisingly, the three-pound bag didn't cost an arm and a leg (maybe just a few fingers and toes). It's clearly not something I'll purchase very often, but it wasn't as pricey as I'd feared.

Here's the recipe:

Ingredients

1 c. water
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. walnuts
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1 c. cornstarch
Vegetable oil for frying
1/4 c. mayonnaise
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. heavy cream
Cooked white rice, for serving
Thinly sliced green onions, for garnish

Instructions

  1. In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add walnuts and let boil for 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove walnuts and let cool on a small baking sheet.
  2. Pat shrimp dry with paper towels and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place eggs in a shallow bowl and cornstarch in another shallow bowl. Dip shrimp in eggs, then in cornstarch coating well.
  3. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1” of oil. Add shrimp in batches and fry until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel lined plate.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, honey, and heavy cream. Toss shrimp in sauce. Serve over rice with candied walnuts and garnish with green onions.
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I decided to double the recipe, and (ahem) increase the amount of walnuts by a bit since I love walnuts.

As it turns out, that was a mistake. As much as I love walnuts, this dish shouldn't be overwhelmed by them. Next time I'll scale the nuts way back.

Following the directions, I let the shrimp defrost and drain, then patted it dry with towels.

I chopped up the nuts a bit...

...then boiled them in sugar-water for a couple minutes.

I scooped the nuts out of the sugar water and laid them on a sheet.

Next up, the coating for the shrimp. This consists of beaten eggs in one bowl, and cornstarch in another.

First I added a bit of salt and pepper to the shrimp...

...then dumped the shrimp into the eggs and mixed to coat them well.

Then I dumped all of that into the cornstarch bowl. This may not be the scientifically precise way to do things in the culinary world, but what I can say, I'm a lazy cook.

I made sure everything was stirred and thoroughly coated.

Meanwhile I heated some olive oil in a pot. I seldom fry anything, so this step had me the most worried because I wasn't sure how hot the oil should be before adding the shrimp. I guess frying is fairly forgiving, because I gently lowered the shrimp (about half at a time) into the pot, and it went fine.

I did have to break up the shrimp as it fried, since it wanted to clump together with the cornstarch, but that was no big deal.

While the shrimp was frying, I mixed up the sauce (mayonnaise, honey, cream)...

...and stirred it.

I scooped the fried shrimp out of the oil and let it drain on paper towels.

Then it was time to mix everything together.

Okay, folks, this turned out to be fabulous.

The only mistake, as I mentioned, was adding too many walnuts. I'll definitely scale that back next time I make this dish.

Shrimp is too expensive to repeat this recipe very often, but as an occasional treat, it's wonderful!