Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Old Antique

Same trip, same day as the photo below. I packed an easy lunch - sandwich bun, vegetable sticks, fruit, a hot thermos of tea and stopped earlier alongside the road to eat.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Daybreak on Zion

Morning was just beginning to break on Zion Road. The day was going to be a long one - travel six hours - business - lawyers - doctors - driving - driving. But, before I'd driven too far, this scene stopped me. I pulled over, rested my camera on the lowered window and prayed that God would guide me through it all. He did.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Jet and Buff

Last week - a sunny moment on the deck. When little, he had a darling pet, Lucy Maude. She went to heaven and now he has Jet, who loves him just like Lucy Maude did.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Letting Off Steam

The other day, while in Town, I pulled into the drugstore parking lot. Violinist pulled in behind, driving Fiance's car and parked a few spots over from me. I went in to drop off a prescription, while Violinist attached a new rear-view mirror and refilled the wiper fluid in my car. I came back out and we sat together enjoying the sunny quiet, chatting and looking at library magazines.

A man got out of his car and walked by. Violinist flicked the remote control for the lock of Fiance's car. Bip-bip-bip. Bippity-bip-bip. The man stopped. He stared at Fiance's car. More people got out of their cars - two ladies, one wearing a huge ski hat. Bip-bip-bip. Bip-Bip. Bippity-bippity-bip. Stop, stare, walk on. Some walked a little closer. Some scrunched up their faces. An older man took a few steps back toward the car, tilted his head looking very concerned - analytical. This went on for a good half hour while we pretended to be reading.

A woman in smart business attire parked on the far side of Fiance's car and got out walking toward the drugstore. Bip, bip, bip. She stopped stock still. She turned. She stared looking really, really...intense. Mad even. She flicked her remote and every time she flicked, Violinist would flick his remote. Bip, bip, bip, bipety-bip. Stare. Eyes flaring. She clearly thought she was controlling both cars. It was a scene straight from "Christine," only she was the possessed. She stood frozen, right hand with the remote straight out, clicking, clicking, clicking. Bip-bip-bip. Bippity-bip. Bip. Stare. By now we had slunk down, completely melted into uncontrollable fits of hysterics, neither of us holding the magazines very still at all. Bip-bip-bip, bipety-bip. Glaring stare.
"Stop it Violinist!" I coughed. "She looks like she's going to come over here and kill somebody!" And then he said, "Well, is your prescription ready yet?"
"It's for One Old Man."
"Oh, okay. Well, I'll see you tonight at supper." And we kissed and hugged and said goodbye. And I felt so much better.

(The photos accompanying this are of, The Cat, who apparently is as confused as I, as to what the heck this is supposed to be and why it is lying on the deck and who put it there?! I thought it fitted in with all of the above.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Red River, Whole Wheat Molasses Bread

Here's a delicious way to get some whole grains into your diet. I make this in both loaves and buns for lunches. The other night, two loaves of this disappeared right out of the oven, one slathered with butter and honey after school and the other with supper.

Red River Cereal is a Canadian classic. It originated in the Red River district of Winnipeg, Manitoba back in 1924 and is generally eaten as a cooked breakfast porridge. It is excellent. My parents grew up on it, I did and so have my boys. The cereal consists of mostly cracked wheat, cracked rye and cracked flax. Some of the flax is left whole - looks prettier that way. Red River is readily available here in Canada but I would think the grains making up this cereal would be available from any grocer billing themselves as a supplier of whole grains and foods. Similar hot cereal grain mixes are often sold in bulk food stores as three grain or four grain cereals and so on. Any of those could be substituted here.

I followed my usual method when baking bread. Start with yeast in water and a bit of sugar, then mix some more water with sugar, salt and oil. Combine those and begin adding in the grains and type of flours I want to use - topping off the flour combination with all-purpose flour. I've found that every bread I've ever made requires a measure of all-purpose flour. The white flour helps keep the bread from becoming heavy. I've previously discussed kneading bread and how to handle raw dough, it all applies here too, but this particular dough is easier to handle than most.

Red River Whole Wheat Molasses Bread
  • 2 1/2 cups water, 1st amount
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. yeast or 1 packet of yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups water, 2nd amount
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup molasses - approximate (3 big glugs) The usual measurement for sugar in my breads using this proportion of liquids, is 1/2 cup. But I don't like cleaning out molasses from the measuring cup so I just pour some in. Make bread enough and after awhile this way of bread making will happen to you too.
  • 2 cups of Red River Cereal, uncooked
  • 4 scoops whole wheat flour (my scoop is 32 oz.) Take a look at the photo below.
  • 1 scoop all-purpose flour to make a soft dough which hangs together and more for kneading the dough
Mix together the 1st amount of water and brown sugar with the yeast into a large mixing bowl. Measure out and mix together the second amount of water, oil, molasses, salt and pour into the first amount in the mixing bowl.
Stir that all together.
Add the whole wheat flour.
Add the Red River or substitute another cracked wheat and cracked grain cereal.
Mix it up and then add the all-purpose flour. You can see below that the mixture is still quite wet. Our goal is to create a soft dough that hangs together with which we can begin to knead.
Mix it up and it should look about like this below. Scrape out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Knead until it looks about like this, below. Add a bit of all-purpose flour as needed during the process until the stickiness of the dough pretty much disappears.
Use your finger tip to determine if the dough feels smooth enough.
Pop it back into the mixing bowl. But first, oil the bowl and slide the dough around in it to completely coat it with oil. Put into the oven with the light left on. To help the dough rise quicker, don't be afraid to turn the oven on at about 200 F and leave it there for 2 - 3 minutes. But be very sure to turn it off again or the yeast will die.
When the dough has risen, remove and shape into loaves weighing 1 3/4 lbs each. If you don't have a scale take a look at the photo below. The loaves should fill that much of the loaf pan - 2/3rds. My batch produced 4 loaves and I had 1 pound to spare, which I shaped into 4 big lunch buns. Put the bread back into the warmed oven to rise again. Oh, and grease the pans first. Use lard. EWwww! But it works the best.
When the bread has risen up over the pan tops, remove from the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 F and bake the loaves, 3 at a time x 20 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. I baked three loaves and then the fourth loaf along with the small pan holding the four buns. The buns only took 15 minutes at 400 F.
Remove the loaves immediately from the pans and tip onto racks to cool. Sometimes my racks are occupied with other things, so I'll tip the loaves onto their sides to cool that way, still leaving space between them. You can just see some tipped loaves in the photo above to the left.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tow Tales - Part 6

This is what happened next, in the sorry tale of Decadent Housewife's towing trials. GG had not originally called a tow truck, therefore, he and Decadent were towing - again. Decadent got scared by a big old 15 foot ditch, when GG in the lead van took a corner a little fast and tight. Decadent pulled the emergency, effectively cutting the joy-ride to an instant stop. To find out most everything else, go to Tow Tales.

"Which car do you want towed?" waved the tow-truck guy toward the three cars presently parked in Decadent Housewife's driveway.
"None of them," answered GG.
The tow-truck guy in his nice dark green serviceable uniform, snappy cap and "Fred," brightly embroidered over his heart, paused, "Then, where is that car located?"
"It's where I told you it was yesterday - over on the side road," replied GG.
"Where's that?" asked Fred. "We've gone up and down the roads, but it isn't there."
"You were supposed to pick it up yesterday."
"Yeah, I know, but it slipped my mind."

Exactly twenty-four hours had passed since I watched GG drive off up a dusty road to a not too distant mechanic's garage, to call for a tow-truck, leaving me stand watch, over a broken-down van, pondering Katherine Hepburn, pig farms and wind direction, big butt ditches, cedar tree windrow country beautification programs and waving at traffic (so as to keep people from hitting said broken down van.) I felt bad again, about pulling the emergency brake and screeching both vans to a stop - never mind that apparently the brake had not even been connected, since the cables for it were actually lying beside me on the van's bare metal floor. Now the van was missing.

So, the tow guys can't find GG's broken van. So, maybe somebody actually did hit the van, after we left it on the road for the tow guys and raced home to get GG to work and Decadent back cooking in the kitchen. GG had said somebody might hit it, and told me to stand guard and wave them away. So, it's gone! For. Ever. Gee - isn't that too bad. I decided to not worry about the missing van. I had other things to occupy my time, like laundry. So, I went about my merry business, until the next day when curiosity got the best of me, after overhearing some very loud one-sided telephone conversations, clicks - then louder, very deep exasperated sighs.
"GG, did you chase down the thing about the van?"
"Did the tow guys find it?"
"No - the police found it."
"Where is it?"
"They had it towed."
"So now what?"
"The tow guys have to go take care of it - have you seen a little black speaker dome? I was repairing it for a guy at work and can't find it. I really hate doing that to a customer."
"Doing what?"
"Lose stuff." (...to be continued...really, I kid you not.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

March Break

I have to say, I've never been real fond of March Break. It has always meant more than usual of the above, situated as it is in muddy March. I am thankful, it is finally over, so we can all get back to routine. Boo. Hiss.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Arrives

A huff puff of winter last evening,
it's dusting of white gone by morn',
spring arrived this daybreak,
hope with the sunshine is born.

I know. I know. I should stick to making bread and bossing around adult kids. The trivet above is one of two, once belonging to a Victorian auntie.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tea With Elderly Cousin

Elderly Cousin, lives alone with her exceedingly, very big, black cat and visits when the weather is fine. My grandfather was her father's first cousin. What that makes us, I'm not sure. She is from the Scottish part of that side of the family. We enjoy each other's company despite the age difference. Her oldest is my age.

We always share a pot of tea poured from my brown betty. I bake a little cake, usually spice, sometimes lemon and pull it out of the oven just as she arrives. We set out mismatched dishes - cups and saucers collected over the years. From her hard pink tote emerges some leftover bit of current studded brack or gingercake. On occasion her daughter from across the ocean comes too, with her little daughter. To celebrate this, there is extra cake and squares and a bowl of fresh fruit. The last time they all visited, it was morning and out from the hard pink tote came little boxes of breakfast cereal. I set out the bowls and milk and sugar. We made coffee instead of the usual tea. It provided some relief from the bedside watch of Elderly Cousin's ill husband.

Elderly Cousin is jolly, sensible and practical - yes, practical. She knows how to shoot and clean a rabbit. I've watched her catch and crush a fly with her bare hand, wipe it on her white butcher's apron and then serve up another piece of cake. I eat it anyway. Sometimes she coughs now, so I try to remember to include a box of tissues along with the tea things. When we were kids she would arrive to visit my mother with a mason jar of fresh milk. So fresh, that upon opening the lid, the unmistakable odour of barn wafted upward. After straining it for straw, my mother used the milk for baking, but not before my father would drink the three inches of "gold" floating on top, smack his lips and then "moo" at my mother - to her disgust.

Today is a fine day.
"Decadent? Will you be home this afternoon?"
"Yes I will, but we have sick people in the house."
"Did you see the robins this morning? The girl who does my hair said her cats are playing with the robins."
I see Jet and The Cat are back playing games on the deck, but not with any robins.
"How about I come by next week," I tell her. "I have to come to The City and can stop in on the way back. I will bring the cake."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sheet Apple Pie With Crumb Topping

This is what I call Pan Apple Pie - pie pastry rolled out onto a rectangular pan, sliced apples and a crumb topping - apple crisp set into pastry, really. It came about when I found myself on occasion with a bowlful of odd varieties and beat-up apples. They had become soft. They had traveled to work and back a few times. On occasion my tote gets dumped out et voila - a beater apple (better than a beater banana.) I also had been experimenting with Fruit Platz, a frugal way to make a small amount of a variety of fruits stretch and reasoned the same thing could be done with my pie pastry and oats for a topping (since I'm more Scot than German.)

I use pie pastry enough for one, double crusted 9-inch pie, rolled out to cover an 11 3/4 x 17 3/4 pan. If you don't have that exact pan size it doesn't matter. The crust will just be a little thicker. Originally, I used a little smaller, disposable aluminum pan, easily found in grocery stores. Over time I found tin pans through my thrift store travels and use one of those now, just because they support themselves beneath the weight of any food.

With the flexible aluminum pans, I placed the pastry onto the pan, slid the pan, into a milk bag which our 4 liters of milk are packaged into, here in Canada and then rolled out the pastry directly onto the pan. Pan - Pastry - Plastic - Roll. Now my pans are a tad bigger, so I slit the plastic bag open to make a nice sturdy sheet of plastic, lay the pastry down the center of the pan, cover with the plastic sheet and roll. I didn't take pictures of all that, but you can go to my pastry making post to see how to make pastry and how I roll out pie pastry for a round pie.
These apples have seen better days. Some are a little wrinkly and soft, dinged up with bad spots. There happen to be about three different varieties here; Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Fuji. There might be a Gala in there too. Some apples cook down to mush and don't do well in pies. Others hold their shape well. I've found when doing them like this - it doesn't matter.

It may seem that there is a lot of fruit here for the pan, but some of the varieties will cook down, filling in around the spaces of others which hold their shape a bit better. I've made this recipe with as little as four cups of fruit, which is generally the amount needed to fill one 9-inch round pie. This time I had between 6 and 8 cups of sliced apples. I piled it on and it worked.

Apple Filling

  • 8 - 10 apples, any variety, peeled, cored and sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2 nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • lemon juice (optional)
Crumb Topping
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cook oatmeal
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
Double Crust Pie Crust
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup vegetable shortening, rounded
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 7 Tbsps. cold water
Make the pastry. (Not shown in this post.) Cut shortening into the flour and salt. Mix in the water using a fork. Don't overwork it or you'll have a hard and tough pastry. Form a long log and roll it out directly onto the pan. Use a sheet of waxed paper or plastic to help with the rolling. Press the pastry out and up the pan edge. Flute the perimeter.

Make the crumb topping. Measure out and mix flour, oats, brown sugar and butter.Cut the butter in until it is a small crumb and set aside.
Prepare the apples last. Peel, core and slice up the apples. Work fast to keep the apples from browning or drizzle with a bit of lemon juice to keep this from happening. It also adds a nice flavour.
Mix the white sugar, flour and spices together with the apples.Dump the apple mix out onto the prepared pastry.
Cover the entire surface. I use my hands.
Cover completely with the crumb topping.
Bake in a preheated 375 F oven x 40 minutes or until the pastry begins to colour up a golden brown and pull away a bit from the pan edge.
Often I'll make this for company with kids, as I've noticed that children are more inclined to finish it all, unlike a wedge of "real" pie. But if they don't finish it all, they have wasted less. This takes less fruit, less time to prepare, feeds more people, is easier to cut and serve than a regular round pie and can be eaten out of hand like a brownie, which is something teens seem to do.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day

Another gorgeous day here. Hope you all enjoy yours and Happy St. Patrick's Day. I have a bit of green on as I have a wee bit of Irish in me. The schoolboy artwork is a piece done by my father, dated March 17, 1935.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Why I Shop Mondays

Aha! A bright sunny March morning and here is the To-DO-List. Being Monday, it should go fairly fast.
  1. Start Laundry.
  2. Clean up kitchen mess from Violinist and Fun and GG.
  3. Eat the half banana somebody left behind.
  4. Give left-over milk to cats.
  5. Break it up between Jet and The Cat.
  6. Eat something else.
  7. Write To-Do List.
  8. Decide how much storage stuff to move out of the way for the water guy coming on Wednesday.
  9. Think about what was on hold at the library.
  10. Drive to Town to pay bills for One Old Man.
  11. Groceries for One Old Man
  12. Groceries for Decadent Housewife.
  13. Buy sunglasses and extension grabber thingy for Geek Guy's Dad.
  14. Explain to medical supply store personal what I mean by extension grabber thingy.
  15. Drop off and pick up at library.
  16. Take Buff for non-skid shoes.
  17. Laundry.
  18. Eat something.
  19. Talk to Buff about his disappearing act this weekend.
  20. Determine suitable consequences.
  21. Kiss him and hug him.
  22. Make yogurt for One Old Man.
  23. Make soup, (hold the beans) for One Old Man.
  24. Find thick plastic sheet for GG to lie on later today.
  25. Find a pair of disposable coveralls for GG.
  26. Go with GG to One Old Man's place and watch him fix something underneath the bathroom sink.
  27. Try to convince One Old Man to go to hospital.
  28. Ask him what he wants done in case he - well - you know.
  29. Make Supper.
  30. Make Lunches.
  31. Finish Laundry.
  32. Run two miles.
Most people don't shop Monday mornings. I do because stuff is marked down in price at the grocery store, there are no crowds and most everyone I know is at "real" work, so I don't get hung up at the apple bin discussing my MOG dress dilemma. Not that I mind. Really. It's one of the cool things about living in a small community. Our apples all come out of the same bin.

(Photo of Bess by GG while Jet and The Cat were busy trying to take each other out beneath the ladder.)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

No Dinosaurs Allowed

Violinist is chilling on the couch, sick, having returned from a visit to the hospital emergency. I wanted to take him in last night, several times, but he fell asleep. However his coughing kept me awake and I got up to see that he was fevered. Elderly Cousin called. "There's sickness in the house," I told her, "it wouldn't be a good idea to visit." I hear some bike engines, look out and see The Cat and Jet ticking one another off on the deck. Still no sign of Buff. Buff texted Fun last night and said he was staying over at a friend's. I had Fun text him back. "Call Home Mom."

Fun ran into trouble working a zipper into some jeans he is currently de- and re- constructing. First, I showed him how to insert the zipper. Then, I showed him that we need to remove the darning foot and reattach the regular sewing foot and then raise the feed dogs. Once we did all that, the upper thread was not catching the bobbin thread. So I removed the bobbin case and saw that a band on the bobbin case was bent. We looked for the screwdriver to tweek the tension but Fun had misplaced it. When GG got back from Town with Violinist, he went to the Shop from Hell, came back and fixed the bent bobbin band. Fun has been doing some heavy-duty sewing and the bobbin thread still wouldn't catch. GG was still doing sewing machine repairs but got side-tracked with Violinist watching, The Flintstones.

Buff came home to refuel and is out dirt-biking, but before leaving, showed me how to text message.
"Text Message? Why can't I just call you?"
"Because I don't have any more minutes. Just do it this way."
"I'm not sure. How do I get back to the main...just call me and be home by twelve."
"Just text me."
"Just call me and be home, by twelve."
"Text me."
"I am texting you right now - Be Home By Twelve, Mom."
GG finally broke down last week and bought us a cell phone. Yes, us. We share everything but toothbrushes.

Recently, I thought I had finally figured out Facebook and now this morning, see they have re-tweeked it and I have to figure that out again, so I can spy on my kids. I loaned my cellphone to One Old Man this week. "Does it have a camera?" he asked. "Hmmm, I don't know. We only got it last week and are still trying to learn it."
"They have cameras you know," he said, peering over his wire half-glasses, "I think it's that window on the front."
"If it does, I wouldn't know how to work it," I replied. He went back to his cross-word.
I still haven't figured out the cherry-red Ipod Fun bought me last fall. Fun is off to The City with his Best Female Friend, hitting the fabric stores. He took my camera and said he would visit Speedy. "NO, NO FUN YET. Tell Buff there's a triathlon coming up in Town next month." But before Speedy called, I had just gotten off the phone to California Auntie, "Can you hear me?! Can you hear me?! Are you still there, Decadent?"
"Yes, Auntie, I'm still here. No, this isn't the cell, this is the landline."

Before he left, I suggested to Fun that he might want to think about getting his own sewing machine, since I have a MOG dilemma and might want to sew a MOG dress, just in case. It would be good to know my machine works. I then shared what I think is important to know about purchasing a sewing machine. Check Consumer Reports. You can find it at the library. It would be good if you can find a machine with metal casting - not plastic. You really only need straight stitch, zig-zag, and automatic button-holer. He glazed over and then said, "I've already been looking."

During commercials (remember? - The Flintstones?) GG kept jumping up to work on the sewing machine and mentioned he needed to look at the brakes on the van. If he can't do his Geek Guy tricks with my sewing machine there is always my mother's for back-up. But it would be nice if Fun shows up with his own. The movie is over and GG headed out the door to work on the van brakes. A few minutes later he stuck his head in the door, "Honey Can You Give Me A Hand?" "I'm glad there are no dinosaurs during our time," croaked Violinist.
Me too.

Friday, March 13, 2009

How This Housewife Makes Pizza

Buff showed us how to make the pizza dough. I explained how to handle the dough. Here is how I do the pizza.

Pans. When it came time to sort my Mom's things, my sister dug through the jewelery box while I dug through the kitchen. I don't know what she was looking for, but I was hunting for the pizza pans and got them - battered, old, black tin. In my experience, a black pan produces a better crust. I have a lighter coloured one and the pizza crust does not bake well on it.

I still use the lighter pan, but bake the pizzas on the dark pans first and pull them out of the oven. The lighter coloured pan goes into the oven last. Once it has baked it's time, I pull it out and check the underside of the crust. Yup, still pale. So, I slide it off the pale pan and onto a black pan (usually available by then, thanks to the wolves) and bake a little longer. Sometimes when expecting more wolves on a Friday night, I'm pressed to put a rectangular cookie sheet into use. They work fine and just require a tad more dough.

Use Lard
to grease the pans. Yuk. But it works better than anything else I've used. Never wash your pans. Double Yuk. Wipe clean with a paper towel.

Dough - For a 13-inch pizza I use 3/4 lb. of raw dough. For an 8-inch personal pan size pizza, use about a 1/4 lb. of raw dough. If you like a thicker crust, use more but remember to up the bake time. Remember to handle the dough properly. Go back to Handling Raw Bread Dough and follow those instructions.

You know how we see pizza dough being tossed up in the air? I succeeded in taking down some cobwebs and scaring The Cat. I can't prove this, but I suspect it has something to do with some guy a very long time ago, trying to impress his mother or girlfriend. Make a little ball of dough. Plunk it down on the pan. Flatten it with your palm. If you are making more pizzas, plunk the dough balls down on those pans and flatten them. And like any other time you find yourself working with raw dough, let it rest if it resists. Dough will co-operate after having a rest. In a minute or two you will be able to stretch the thing out to cover the entire pan by pressing both palms down and pushing outward with your fingertips.I couldn't show you both my hands because one was holding the camera, and the pictures GG took showing both of my hands got eaten up by a low camera battery and Speedy hasn't sped in to fix it all yet and I promised to get this pizza thing up for Y'ALL. (I can say that. I live in the southern part of Canada.) So this is what you get. Spin the pan and keep stretching. Push the dough right up and over the pan edge. This will all be easier if you work traveling from pan to pan. Homeschoolers will totally get this. Teach this one something, move on to the next, teach the third one, come back to the first one. Keep making the rounds. Each pan of dough will have a little rest while you are working on the next pan, pushing, prodding, stretching. When it begins to resist. Go on to another pan. We will OverCome!

Toppings - Like a lot of things in life, less is more. I don't add much more than three toppings after the tomato sauce or olive oil, cheese and oregano. Don't load up the toppings, or the dough sitting beneath it, won't be able to bake properly. Space things out, just like the teacher made us space out our letters when learning to print. Sundried tomatoes are so flavour intensive that I use them very sparingly. The same applies to olives.

Don't put sopping wet stuff on top of the dough and expect a good pizza. Squeeze out the tomato juice and seeds, fine-chop the peppers and give a quick squeeze in paper towel. Drain the tinned mushrooms, tomatoes and frozen spinach. If you are preparing a precooked topping like spinach or tomatoes, cook down until the mixture starts to clump together.
Slice things thinly. Slice the onions, peppers and tomatoes thinly. Again, it's about getting rid of moisture. Thinly slice sausage. It's easier to do this when the sausage is frozen. Quickly rinse off the frost by putting it under running water. Dry. Score the sausage casing with a knife and peel it off. Cut slightly defrosted bacon into smallish 1/2 inch pieces and fry until just done. Not crisp. A 500gr. or 1.1 pound of bacon (don't ya' just love metric?) will stretch to cover about 4 pizzas.

Tomato sauce - Go easy. I use a 5 1/2 oz. tin of tomato paste reconstituted with water to equal 1 cup. That one cup will stretch out to cover up to 8, 13-inch pizzas. At most, I put about 2 Tbsps. of sauce on a 13-inch pizza. Pick it up with the back of a tablespoon and apply it that way. You only want to just scantly cover the dough. Purchasing "Pizza Sauce" is unnecessary. Buy the tomato paste. It is far more economical and can be used for so much more.

About Cheese - Mozzarella - Look for cheese with a low moisture content, buy it when it goes on sale and toss it into the freezer. Frozen cheese will crumble when thawed. I usually put the larger chunks through the grater just the same, or crumble it very carefully over the dough. It is easy to put too much cheese on the dough if the cheese has been frozen, since crumbled cheese is thicker than grated cheese, so be careful. Keep thinking thin. Think about what that cheese is going to do when it gets stuck in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes. It will spread out and cover the crust. So go easy on the cheese. Just cover the top lightly, not obliterate it.
Feta - Use feta packed in water. Go easy with it too. Also, because this is pricey, I'll often put down a small amount of mozzarella first, finish it off with feta and pretend that nothing is amiss. No one has caught on yet, that I do this.

Parmesan - On occasion, I've run short of mozzarella and used parmesan. Divide up the mozzarella amongst the pizzas, then fill in by sprinkling on the parmesan. Very nice.

Other Cheeses - I haven't been all that adventurous with cheese when it comes to pizza. Once we finally hit on a good basic pizza, and more wolves and wolfettes than usual swarmed in every Friday night, I sort of said, "Okay, I can go read a book, now." I'm sure you can think up some wonderful combinations. Think smokey...mmmm. Or skip cheese altogether. Some people I happen to be related to only eat cheese-free pizza. Imagine the calorie reduction just by doing that.

Oregano and Seasonings
- Oregano is the basic seasoning in pizza sauce. I buy a big container because I use a lot. The kids complained about it when they were little. Now they love it. Seasonings are especially important with vegetarian pizzas. Think about it. Usually meat on pizza has been smoked or highly seasoned in processing - bacon, sausage, ham. Vegetables are not. With a vegetarian pizza the missing spicy meats are compensated for with the addition of extra spices. Spinach improves with minced garlic and onion. Thyme adds a smokiness. Marjoram is a milder version of Oregano.

Garlic Flavoured Olive Oil - I use this in place of tomato sauce on our Vegetarian Tomato Pizza and also for other breads - focaccia - garlic breads - pasta. It is easy to make. Peel some garlic cloves. Pop them into an old wine or vinegar bottle. Pour in good quality olive oil. Cork. Set on the counter and in about a day or two it's ready to use.

Baking Temperature, Times & Method - Put one oven rack at the very top and one at the very bottom. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place two pizzas in the oven, one on the top rack and one on the bottom rack. Bake for about 6 - 7 minutes. Switch the two pans, also rotating them front to back for even baking. Bake another 6 - 7 minutes. If you haven't overloaded the pizzas with toppings or your pan is not real light in colour, the pizzas should be done. Watch colour. Use a metal spatula to lift up the edge of the pizza to check the colour of the underside. The crust should be golden brown underneath and on the perimeter.

Usually 15 minutes total is good for pizza - sometimes a little less, depending on how clean the oven happens to be. Don't give up if you find yourself fiddling around. Take careful observation of what you have done, pan size, pan colour, dough weight, lard vs. other grease, moisture content of the cheeses, moisture content and thickness of the topping. Oh, and a gas oven makes a world of difference.
Cutting the Pizza - You know those cute little roller blade cutters? I don't own one. They slide the toppings around. I slide my hot pizza off it's pan onto a cutting board and using a sharp, wide blade knife, cut by pressing down firmly. Once cut, pick up the cutting board with the pizza and slide it back onto the pan to be served that way. I mention this because I've watched people timidly slicing away at pizza, when a good whack is the thing to do.

In the weeks to come, I'll post a few of our favourite pizzas. I am not the last word on pizza. I am a housewife, in her tiny kitchen somewhere in rural Canada. This is just what works for me and a little of what I have learned over the last thirty-some years. When Saucey Chef shows up on a Friday night it's fun to see what she does with my humble pizza dough. Definitely Decadent.

(The first pizza is Sweet Canadian. The second pizza is Greek. The third pizza is Vegetarian Tomato.)

(Pepper Photo by GG)