I thought my last day of work was going to drag, but surprisingly it went by pretty quickly! Around 3 in the afternoon we got together in the small conference room and had some treats – my co-worker Janice knows me just a little too well – she knows I love cheese and I’ve always found red velvet cupcakes insulin worthy! Although I do scrape off most of the frosting – I know most people love buttercream frosting, but it’s a bit too much for me.
We have a dry erase board in that room, and as I was moving some chairs around, saw this:
But here’s the weird thing, no one would admit to writing it, so it’s a mystery, but it only made me realize more that I am making the right decision.
My office manager boss gave me a sweet card and flowers:
The office signed a nice card and my two co-worker secretaries gave me a sweet card and a gift card to a restaurant near the office – um, I think to entice me to head that way again and meet up with them! I do have a track record of not keeping in touch with former co-workers, even if I’ve eaten lunch with you every day for three years, if you or I leave, that’s pretty much the end of the relationship. But I am trying to do better! (Hi Alison, Judy, Renee and Whitney!)
Before I knew it, I packed up the last of my snowman mugs and headed to Courtney’s house for Cooking Club! I was the head chef this month. Basically I pick the entrée and then the rest of the sides, appetizers and desserts assigned to the rest of the group. I knew I was going to make my Chicago Deep Dish pizza when my turn came up. For a couple of reasons. 1. It’s super delicious! and 2. I wanted to show everyone how easy it is to make deep dish pizza at home.
Only one tiny problem. One of our fellow cooks has a gluten allergy. I didn’t want her not to enjoy the main course, so in January when I knew I’d be the head chef, I got to work on coming up with a gluten free pizza dough. And as luck would have it, my first attempt was a home run. So while I made that first pizza a thin crust, I thought there shouldn’t be a problem making a deep dish pizza using that dough, and it worked out just fine. Here’s the thing about the gluten free dough – it’s a bit more crumbly than a regular flour pizza dough. All it needs is a bit of fat to help roll it out – just a bit of olive oil and you are good to go.
I brought two pizzas already made. That’s the best part too – you can make these pizzas up to 3 days in advance, just take the pizza out 30 minutes before you bake it for 30 minutes at 425. You can also freeze the pizza too. Just defrost in the fridge overnight, and then do the same thing – set it on the counter 30 minutes before baking.
It looks like I am having such an awful time, right?! Ha! I brought another batch of gluten free dough for Julie to take home and try. Then I brought regular flour deep dish pizza dough and demonstrated how to assemble the pizza – olive oil in the bottom of the pan, spread out the dough, sliced mozzarella cheese, toppings, sauce and Parmesan cheese, in that order. It’s the America’s Test Kitchen recipe and you can find all the step by step instructions here. Don’t be intimidated by how long this recipe looks – I’ve made it so many times over the years I can almost do it by memory.
While I demonstrated, the pizzas were cooking, and we ate some amazing appetizers and had a delicious side of stuffed artichokes, which I didn’t think I’d like, but I loved. And I also deemed the dessert insulin worthy!
That top flowery looking dish? That is called a tarte soleil – fancy word for a French puff pastry dish that looks as if you spent hours on it, but our fellow Chef Tina from Shredded Sprout said it wasn’t complicated to make at all. I haven’t worked with much puff pastry at home (she used store bought and it was delicious!). She found the recipe on Smitten Kitchen – you can follow her instructions here. And while her version of sundried tomatoes and olives dipped in a feta lemon dipping sauce was amazing, Tina recommends reading the comments on this post from all the different variations people used using this same technique – making it sweet by using nutella for instance. Swoon!
Donna made shrimp spring rolls with a Thai peanut sauce. I loved the bright fresh flavors in those. She learned to make these from her tennis partner, so while her recipe didn’t have exact instructions on measurements, etc., I found this recipe that is the closest to her dish. And guess what guys? I even ate the chives in the spring rolls! Baby steps.
Julie made stuffed artichokes. I am actually not that familiar with using fresh artichokes. Tony used to love them, but I would cheat and buy the marinated artichoke hearts at the store for his pizza or if I added it to his pasta. Julie created this recipe from several that she saw online. We all applauded her efforts in breaking down so many artichokes to get to the hearts!
- 5 large artichokes
- 2 lemons
- 2 cups gluten free bread crumbs (or regular if you don’t have a gluten allergy)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 4 tablespoons grated Manchengo cheese
- Olive oil, salt and mayo
Peal the hard outer leaves from artichokes leaving only the yellow center leaves. As you are working with each one, keep the remaining artichokes soaking in lemon water to avoid browining. With a peeler, remove touch outer skin of stalks. Steam the artichokes for 30 minutes until tender. Let cool.
Mince the garlic and grate 3 tablespoons lemon zest. Add 2 tablespoons EVOO to suate pan and garlic and lemon zest . . .2 minutes. Add bread crumbs and sea salt and toss.s Let cool. Add cheese and toss.
Cut the artichokes in half and remove the furry choke with inner leaves. Place a quarter size dollop of mayo where the choke used to be. Top each artichoke with the bread crumb mixture and drizzle with EVOO. Broile on low to heat and brown the topping.
Mary Beth made a giant antipasto salad. I didn’t get a good picture of the actual salad – sorry MB! Turns out you can’t have your finger in front of the lens when you take a picture, who knew? But she said while you can add anything to the salad that you have on hand – jarred artichokes, mozzarella cheese, salami, proscuitto, etc., the dressing makes the salad. It was absolutely delicious.
- 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
- 1.5 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 6 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
- 6 tablespoons mayo
- 2 teaspoons white wine (optional)
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil.
Put everything except the oil in a food processor. Blend until combined. Slowly add oil while continuing to blend. Store in refrigerator up to 2 weeks. No food processor, no problem! Just do it the old fashioned way and whisk in a bowl until combined. Store in a mason jar.
Can we talk about Catherine’s shrimp dish for just a second?
She brought this over to show us before putting it into the oven, and the smell of garlic wafted up and was intoxicating right from the get go. Again, there wasn’t a true recipe to this, but she described it:
- 2 pounds peeled and deveined shrimp, tails left on
- 5 cloves of chopped fresh garlic
- 2 lemons sliced
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped rosemary
- hefty pinch of crushed red pepper
Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. She served this with crusty bread so that you could dip it into the wonderful sauce that is left over in the bottom of the pan. We all agreed that with a fresh garden salad on the side, that in itself could be a dinner. So good!
I didn’t get a picture of the cut pizza that I made, but everyone gave it two big thumbs up. I made one sausage and pepperoni and the other fresh spinach and cheese. I cut each pie into 8 pieces so we each got a taste.
And no Cooking Club would be remiss without dessert, and Lindsay made a no bake oatmeal bar that was her Grandma’s recipe:
Louise’s Oatmeal Bars
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 stick of butter
- 1/2 cup cocoa
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2.5 – 3 cups old fashioned oats
- 1/3 cup peanut butter
- 1/2 cup chopped peanuts (optional)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, butter, milk and cocoa. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until it comes to a rolling boil. Continue to boil for ONE MINUTE stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Add in oats, peanut butter and vanilla and mix well. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto wax paper and refrigerate 15-20 minutes.
This was such a fun night. The food was delicious, the company was wonderful and I am just so happy to be a part of this group. Sadly, I didn’t get any good pictures of our hostess with the mostest Courtney or Tina, but I’ll be a better photographer next time. Thanks for hosting Courtney – until next time!
I heard some sad news earlier this week. One of my blog friend’s Amee who I’ve been on a couple Beef trips with is probably the healthiest person I know. She works out, does cross training (check out this Instagram!) and has been eating a healthy diet for years. But cancer didn’t get that memo and last week she was diagnosed with breast cancer. While I know she’s a fighter and will get through this, it’s just another reminder that life is too short and you have to appreciate every day that is given to you and not take it for granted. I hope you can head over to her blog and wish her well – give her any positive feedback if you are a breast cancer survivor or know someone who is – be sure to let her know Biz sent you – we need to send her a lot of virtual hugs!
So here’s to the first day of the rest of my life! Now I am off to fix a leisurely breakfast because, oh yeah, I don’t have a job! Hannah and I do have plans today though. I have a baby shower to shop for and we may or may not hit up a thrift store (um, that would be a given!) and we need to get pedicures before our Texas trip that we leave for in a week.
I hope you have an awesome weekend and I’ll “see” you on Monday. You can always find me on Instagram though in the meantime (MyBizzyKitchen). Make it a great day!