finding ways to use cooking, crafts, and hospitality to be a blessing for others

Saturday, July 31

Flavorful Homemade Pizza Crust

Parade of Pizzas: Day 4
homemade crust for baked or fried/large or mini pizzas

I was introduced to this recipe by my mother-in-law. She is an excellent cook! It comes from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion cookbook. King Arthur Flour has a great catalog of baking supplies and they have a line of cookbooks.

This pizza dough requires more time to make than the recipe I posted last week. But it is versatile, delicious and worth the extra time. Plus, you can make-and-bake it day of, make it now and bake it days later. It can be made gluten-free and can be shaped into 2 large pizzas or several palm-sized pizzas.

When I made it with my husband's family we shaped it into mini-sized pizzas, baked the dough, topped the dough, and baked it again. We also fried some on the mini pizzas and topped them just prior to serving. We like it both ways, but love it fried!

This recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion Cookbook.

3 cups flour (use gluten-free flour if desired)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons to 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water

Mix and knead together all of the dough ingredients, by hand, mixer or bread machine, till you’ve created a smooth, soft dough. Don’t over-knead the dough; it should hold together, but can still look fairly rough on the surface.

Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes; then refrigerate it for 4 hours (or up to 36 hours); this step will develop the crust’s flavor. It'll continue to rise in the fridge, so make sure it's in a big enough bowl.

For 2 large pizzas, divide the dough in half. Working with one piece of dough at a time, pick it up and stretch it into the shape desired. For a large thin-crust pizza, make a 12-inch round. For thick-crust, make a 9-inch round.For mini-pizzas, divide the dough into clumps large enough to stretch into a thin 3-inch pizza.

Baked Pizza
Cover the dough, and let it rest while preheating the oven to 450 degrees. After 30 minutes, transfer the pizza dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet or a hot oven stone. Bake for 6-8 minutes.

To enjoy the pizza NOW
Top it with your favorite toppings and return to oven to bake for 8 minutes. You desire a golden crust and bubbly cheese.

To enjoy the pizza LATER
Allow the untopped crusts to cool, wrap them in plastic wrap, and store at room temperature for 2 or 3 days. Refrigerate for up to 5 days; or freeze for up to 4 weeks.

When you’re ready to serve, remove the crusts from the refrigerator/freezer. While they warm to room temperature, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Top it with your favorite toppings and return to oven to bake for 8 minutes. You desire a golden crust and bubbly cheese.

Topping Suggestions
marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, pepperoni, hamburger, bacon, sausage, chopped pineapple, assorted vegetables (roasted onions, peppers, olives, mushrooms, zucchini)

Fried Pizza
Shape dough into 3-inch rounds. Drop rounds, a few at a time, into hot oil. I like using a fry daddy. After 1 1/2 minutes, remove the rounds with tongs and cool on a paper napkin lined plate. After frying all mini-pizzas, stack onto a serving platter and serve with assorted toppings available for people to customize their pizza!

Topping Suggestions
cold marinara sauce, cold pesto, feta cheese, chopped olives
Yields 2 9-12 inch pizzas or several mini-pizzas.

Friday, July 23

Girlfriends Reunion

Two of my best friends are coming in town today!

Amanda, Katie and I in college

And I thought I would share pictures with you of the fun I have planned!

Last year I prepared a daisy themed party for them...

some treats for when they arrive
instructions for how to make a table runner like this

chocolate cupcakes with frosted daisies

the table


I have been looking forward to using my bumble bee table runner and napkin rings,
so this year I planned a bumble bee themed party!

mini bundt brownies, chocolate chip cookies,
watermelon and mandarin oranges with izze sodas

the table

We are planning to check out Bess and go to Schlitterbahn!

Update: Bess Bistro is awesome!
We loved the restaurant's underground vibe and delicious new menu!

I recommend the steak frites!

Wednesday, July 21

Fast Homemade Pizza Crust

Parade of Pizzas: Day 3
homemade crust for personal size pizzas

This is an AWESOME pizza crust recipe!

The crust is soft and flavorful. The dough is easily made and rises quickly. Plus, the recipe makes six 8-inch personal pizzas, or can be adapted to make a couple of large pizzas.

This is based on Ina Garten's (HGTV's Barefoot Contessa) White Pizzas with Arugula recipe. The original recipe makes a great pizza, but I like adapting it to work with any combination of toppings.

This recipe is from Ina Garten's Back to Basics Book. (A great cookbook!)

1 3/4 cups warm (100 to 110 degree) water
2 packages dry yeast
1 tablespoon honey
olive oil
4 cups flour, plus extra for kneading
Kosher salt

Combine the water, yeast, honey and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast is dissolved, add 3 cups of flour, then 2 teaspoons salt, and mix on medium-low speed. While mixing, add up to 1 more cup of flour, or just enough to make soft dough. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth, sprinkling it with the flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the bowl.

When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured board and knead it by hand a dozen times. It should be smooth and elastic.

Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and turn it to cover it lightly with oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Then, dump the dough onto a board and divide into 6 equal pieces. Place the dough on sheet pans lined with parchment paper and cover them with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Use immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.

Press and stretch each ball into an 8-inch circle and place on pans lined with parchment paper. Top pizzas with marinara, pesto, alfredo, or olive oil. Add cheese, pepperoni, veggies, or any desired toppings. My pizzas were topped with a homemade marinara, grated mozzarella cheese and a variety of meats and veggies!

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes.

Yields 6 personal size pizzas

Tuesday, July 20

Mini Bagel Pizza

Parade of Pizzas: Day 2
appetizer bagel pizzas

I think mini bagels are great! They are better for breakfast than the standard size and they are so cute to serve at brunch! They are also a great option for an appetizer pizza!

I used tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and another favorite mini of mine...

Aren't they just darling! A silly thing to like, I know, but they make mini-bagel pizza an easy go-to appetizer when having friends over for game night or a sports watching party. Also, consider using mini pepperoni on antipasto salads or appetizer platters!

I baked the bagels at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Another option is to make mini pizzas on English Muffins; in this case, bake for 8-10 minutes.

Mini Foods

While we are on the topic of mini... mini bagels, mini pepperoni, mini pizzas...

I thought it would be fun to share a party I came across with more mini-sized foods. This party was for a young girl's birthday party, but I have also seen it used for baby showers.

These pictures come from The Pleated Poppy. It's a charming blog and she shares pictures from the "Tiny Party" she had for her daughter.

mini banner on mini cakes

mini caramel apples, mini chocolate chip cookies and mini grilled cheeses

mini oreos and mini fruit skewers

mini strawberry shakes in starbucks sample cups

mini banner for the fireplace

mini party hats

Monday, July 19

Pizza Party!

Parade of Pizzas: Day 1
quick-prep pizza

Welcome to Pizza Week! Each day I am going to show you a new pizza recipe! Today is quick-prep pizza day.

These are pictures from a "Pizzaz Your Pizza Party" that I co-hosted with my friend, Jana, for the girls in our church youth group. For simplicity we purchased pre-made pizza crust and tomato sauce, then prepped a handful of toppings. It made for a fun party and tasty meal.

fruit and veggies

tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, ground hamburger and sausage, pepperoni

Pre-made crust speeds up the process, but you miss out on the fun of kneading dough, tossing it in the air, and acting like a pizza chef!

Start with crust

spread on tomato sauce

sprinkle on cheese

add toppings
In this case, I wanted to customize a pizza with my friend's initial!

And in this case, I wanted to make a pizza for my husband!
This would also be cute for Valentine's Day,
or to remind someone special that you love them!

Bake pizza at 375 degrees for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the crust has browned.

For a 4-cheese pizza, I recommend: mozzarella, romano, asiago, and monterey jack cheese; ricotta and gorgonzola are great options for a Mediterranean/Margherita pizza.

Although it takes more time, cheese seems to melt better (and taste better) when bought in block form and grated at home. Packaged grated cheese is coated with an anti-caking agent called low dust powdered cellulose that is better to avoid.

Wednesday, July 7

Hello Birdie Brunch

At another awesome brunch party we decorated with a bird theme. My friend, Kristen, had the tan-colored tablecloths, I had blue napkins and the rest of the decor came together pretty easily. With the versatility of bird themes (baby showers, spring parties, housewarming parties...) and the ease of putting this party together, you should try this!

For the tables we used a few small bird's nests. Then, added in moss, small blue birds and tan speckled eggs. We elevated the nests on short candle holders. To continue the theme I purchased inexpensive tiny wreaths and used them as napkin rings.

For the buffet table I purchased some fabric that had a twig pattern and used it as the tablecloth. To create some dimension we elevated some of the food onto fabric covered foam. And, we used a vase full of branches for the centerpiece.

Brunch Menu

Sunday, July 4

Banners and Garland

With the growing trend of crafty people everywhere stringing together homemade banners and garland for parties I thought I would share with you some of my favorite ideas. Unfortunately, I can not remember where I got some of these pictures. So, I will keep looking for their source, but if you recognize an image, please let me know so I can add a link to that person's blog below their picture. Also, if you have a banner you a proud of, add a link of it in the comments section!

A simple banner I made for a friend's shower

A miniature sized party banner I made for a the entry-way or front door

A birthday banner for sale on Sweet Paper's etsy site

I love the artistic way this banner was hung!

A beautiful banner of flowers showcased on Jones Design Company's site

Colorful paper links

Martha Stewart's vertical banner of dots

Felted garland posted with how-to instructions on The Purl Bee

To view more great banners check out Etsy!

Saturday, July 3

Beach Brunch

Each quarter a group of women from my church come together on a Saturday morning for brunch and fellowship. The tradition was started a few years ago by Denise, a friend of mine who also has a cooking blog. In the last year, Kristen has started hosting and coordinating these brunches. She comes up with fun theme ideas and a group of us help decorate and contribute our recipes. It is such an awesome time and I always find myself looking forward to it.

Beach Brunch Table Decorations

Buffet Table Centerpiece

Food Buffet

Friday, July 2

Sweet Baby Shower

My friend Kristie recently welcomed her first baby into the world! His name is Kaleb and he is a sweetheart. A few months back a group of us hosted a baby shower in their honor. Here are some pictures!

The Guests of Honor: Kristie, her Grandmother and her Mom

Celebration Banner

Welcome Banner

Yummy Finger Foods

Brittney's Chicken Salad Sandwiches


Lemon Tarts
Sugar Cookies recipe

Kate's Egg Salad Sandwiches

Crackers and Dip

Fruit Salad

Vegetable Tray

Rachel's Delicious Cakes


Candy Favors

A common question I get is about the small serving tongs and silver card holders. I purchased both at Sur La Table for $1.50 each.

This was a fun event for us to plan together and we had a great time to celebrating Kristie!