Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Naan Mistake

Apparently the cold weather is affecting my brain.  Or, maybe it's that school has been closed for two days.  Either way, I totally screwed up my dinner plan tonight.  The original plan was to make falafel and pita.  But, when it came time to start the pita, I started naan instead.  I didn't realize my mistake until we started on the falafel and I was like, wait a minute, why am I making naan to go with falafel?  Durrrr. 

But guess what?  When it comes down to it, pita isn't that different than naan except, you know, for that handy little pocket to put your falafel and fixings in.  File this under the we-all-make-mistakes folder.  And the who-really-care-if-it's-naan-or-pita folder.

Most importantly, it was a delicious mistake.

Falafel and Naan
(Sources: allrecipes.com, food.com, and here's the pita recipe I meant to use)

Making Naan

I've used a few different recipes but I prefer this one because it uses only four  ingredients!  4! And, I almost always have them on hand. 

First, you mix up the dough: flour, salt, baking powder and plain yogurt.

After letting it rest for an hour or more (it was more like 2 hours for me), cut it in 8 pieces (or 10, or however big you want your naan) and roll them out in an oblong shape, 1/4" at the most.   

Next, put it on a preheated cast iron skillet (or a regular skillet if you don't have a cast iron) for about 4 minutes, until it begins to bubble and is brown/black on the bottom.

Once you have bubbles and brown spots, transfer it to a seriously hot oven (500 degrees or broil).  You can place the Naan directly on the rack or on a pizza stone (I prefer the pizza stone).  Watch it poof up!  And, if it doesn't poof, try rolling your dough thinner.  I pop mine under the broiler for a few seconds after they poof to get some color on the top.

Repeat until all your naan is cooked, eat immediately (slathered with some butter and some minced garlic, if you'd like) or cool and reheat later.

(adapted from food.com

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups plain yogurt
In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt.

Stir in the yogurt till the dough is too stiff for a spoon, then knead it in the bowl till it holds together well, adding more flour if necessary.

Turn it out on a floured surface and continue kneading for about 5 minutes until the dough feels smooth and elastic.

Form the dough into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl, covered with a towel, to rest for an hour or longer.

Take the dough out and cut it into 8-12 equal pieces.

Heat a large seasoned cast iron skilled over medium heat (or other non-stick skillet).

Heat your oven to about 500 and have the broiler on.  I heat my oven to 500 and then switch it to broil (depends on how your oven functions).

Take 1 piece of dough at a time and roll it out on a floured surface until it measures approximately 5 inches by 10 inches (it does not have to be exact, worry more about the thickness) and less than 1/4 inch thick.

Lay it in the hot skillet and cook it over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until it begins to bubble/puff and is brown/black spots on the bottom (check bottom periodically to see how it's going)

Using a spatula, transfer the naan to the oven, directly onto the rack or on a pizza stone.  Cook for a minute or two or until it puffs up.  Once it puffs, you can transfer it closer to the broiler to get some color on top, if desired.

Remove naan from the oven and brush it lightly with melted butter if you like.

Continue this way with all the dough. Serve the bread fresh from the oven, or let them cool and wrap them up.

You can reheat piles of bread wrapped in foil or by placing them directly on the oven rack for about 5 minutes at 350/400 degrees.  Enjoy!

PS - If you read through all of this, leave me a comment and let me know who's reading! 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Food Sources

I'm trying something new!  I joined a buying club that my friend Jennifer kept telling me about.  I finally got in gear and signed up.  Before I get to what the buying club is all about, let's talk about my other food source experiments.

The Regular Stores

For many years, I shopped at the regular grocery stores (Rainbow, Cub, Target, Lund's) but never loved the experience or the selection.  On occasion, I have shopped at Whole Foods but I don't love it.  For one, it's expensive (Whole Paycheck!) and I used to work there and always felt disappointed they don't offer many local options.

Grocery Delivery

After having kids, I tried grocery delivery.  I loved (LOVED!) the convenience.  But, the quality was hit or miss and some things were crazy expensive.  I haven't ordered from grocery delivery in over a year.  But, if you hate dragging your kid(s) to the store in the winter, order your groceries online and thank me later. 

Community Supported Agriculture 
(check out Adventures with a Crop Share for my CSA recipes)

We bought a crop share for four years.  The first year was through a small farm.  We loved it but we also had issues with smashed/sub-prime produce.   We then switched to a larger farm (farther away, unfortunately) and it was fantastic.  We had plenty of fresh, delicious produce delivered weekly.  Getting through our "veggie box" each week was challenging but fun, too.

Then, our kids started to really influence our meals and would whine we made things such as carrot top soup or anything with a pile of wilted greens involved.  I mean, come on kids!  The husband and I were trying our best to eat it all up with little help from the kids.  So, we switched to an every other week delivery plan for the next season.  It was a little easier but I decided I needed a break from the challenge of a veggie box.  We dropped the CSA in favor of the co-op.

The Co-op

I kept meaning to check out the co-ops around town but never really took it seriously.  Finally, one day I got myself to our closest co-op (Seward Co-Op) and holy cow was it amazing!  Small, fresh, local, delicious!  I could even get produce from our favorite CSA farm.  It wasn't all good, though, because it's hard for me to shop at the co-op on a small budget.  I know it can be done, but it's hard!

The Buying Club

I heard about a local buying club through my friend Jennifer and finally got around to getting the details.  We liked what we saw and joined last week!  What is a buying club, you ask?  When a group of people pool together to order, they can get produce (and other products) at wholesale prices through a distributor.  The club I joined is the South Minneapolis Natural Food Buying Club.  Not only can we order organic produce, we can also order from Frontier (wholesale prices) and Azure Standard.

Today, I picked up my first order and am super excited!  There were a few things that I would have loved to get but because other people weren't ordering them, they weren't an option.  That's the one downside of the buying club - what is ordered is based on club demand and not just individual demand.  I think I can work with that.  I'll still shop at the co-op and Target (the prices on their staples are hard to beat!).

Where do you get your food?  Please share - I'd love to hear!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Hello and welcome!

Let me introduce myself.  I'm Vanessa, a stay-at-home mom to two kids, ages 3 and 6.  I love to cook and spend almost all of my free time cooking, eating, or thinking about food.  I try to cook healthy and use quality ingredients yet stay on a budget of about $100 a week.

We have some food traditions around here and one of them is Friday pizza (and movie) night.  Nine times out of 10, we make our own pizza and usually top it with whatever we have on hand.  When we order take-out pizza, we usually get a deep dish pizza from Di Noko's.  They used to be located just down the street from us but sadly they moved closer to downtown.  If you live in the Minneapolis area, you MUST try their pizza.  We usually get sausage and mushrooms as toppings.  The sauce is a tad on the spicy side and so is their sausage.  It's definitely the best chicago-style pizza I've had outside of the windy city.

We were craving some deep-dish but didn't want to make the trek to the new Di Noko's location (seriously, it's only 5 miles but going downtown isn't always the easiest thing).  Lucky for us, Mike was home Friday and whipped up two of these deep-dish pizzas.  They were SO amazing.  I could have eaten a whole one by myself.  The recipe is from Cooks Illustrated and takes some time, but I would argue that it's definitely worth it!

Another food tradition we have around here is our dinner club.  Let me pause for a moment and tell you about how we arrived at dinner club.  A group of girls and I met through a mom's group years ago and hit it off.  We started knitting together, or shall I say "knitting", on a regular basis.  We also take an annual getaway weekend together, too.  A couple of years ago, we decided to introduce our husbands and start a dinner club.  It's been great!

Last night, we got together for Midwest Comfort Food (we have a different theme every month).  The menu was fantastic:
  • Appetizers: sweet bacon wrapped tater tots, pickle wraps (you know the ones with the roast beef and cream cheese), Ritz with Easy Cheese, and cheese curds.  
  • Soup: chicken wild rice soup
  • Salads: raspberry Jell-o (made with applesauce and fresh raspberries) & broccoli sunshine salad
  • Main Course: meatloaf (Martha Stewart style) & mashed potatoes and gravy
  • Dessert: bread pudding with dried blueberries and vanilla ice cream
I ate until I could eat no more and then some.