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Using Frozen Pizza Dough

It came to my attention that while I have briefly talked about how to use frozen pizza dough for flat bread, I’ve never actually given the process it’s own center stage.  Frozen pizza dough is like gold in your freezer, and it is incredibly easy to thaw quickly in the microwave.  There is no need to wait for a solid hour or more for it to thaw out on the counter top.  So I wanted to share that information here in it’s own post and it’s own recipe.  Hopefully this will help make it more accessible and also take a bit of the fear factor out of using the dough from frozen.

This all started with a blog post about stocking your pantry with easy to make foods, that can be made cheaply, made in bulk, and frozen for storage and easy retrieval later on.  For me, the most versatile thing that I make in my kitchen is Whole Wheat Pizza Dough, and unless something terrible happens (like our freezer being such a mess that we can’t possibly see a frozen ball of delicious dough… which has happened…) I always have it in my freezer.

What I do not always have is the hour or more that it can take to allow the dough to leisurely thaw out and come up to room temperature while lounging (the dough, not me) on the kitchen counter.  This is especially true in the cold weather months.  Instead, we have been graced with the microwave.  If, like some of my dear friends, you have no use for the microwave then please by all means use this same recipe to make and freeze the dough.  You need to be more organized than I am in order to remember when to pull the dough out to thaw, but judging on the organizational skills of my friends who choose to not use the microwave that isn’t a problem.

But back to our task at hand…  Using frozen pizza dough.  This is going to be important, since the next post I do will have an amazing Turkish inspired baked tomato and egg dish.  You are going to want to make that dish, and you are going to want this easy flat bread to go with it.  Trust me.  🙂

Pizza Dough Flat Bread Using Frozen From Scratch Pizza Dough

One portion of premade frozen Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (white dough works well for this too!)

If you have lots of time…

  • Remove the frozen portion of pizza dough from your freezer and place it on the counter or someplace warm to sit for about an hour to thaw. Once the dough feels slightly chilled, but no longer frozen, use it as described below.
    Frozen pizza dough lounging on the counter

    Frozen pizza dough lounging on the counter

    If you don’t have an hour to thaw your dough…

  • Remove the frozen portion of pizza dough from your freezer and remove any plastic or other coverings you had it protected in.

    Frozen dough ready to be defrosted.

    Frozen dough ready to be defrosted.

  • Place the frozen dough on a small, microwave safe plate and “heat” the dough on regular power for 30 seconds.

    Pizza dough that has been defrosted in the microwave and rested.

    Pizza dough that has been defrosted in the microwave and rested.

  • Let the dough rest in the microwave undisturbed for about 5 minutes. After the dough has rested give it a gentle poke with your finger in the center to see if it has thawed all the way through. If it still has a large frozen portion in the middle, then heat it again for 30 seconds and let it rest for 5 minutes. Continue doing this until the dough is completely thawed. Be careful since if you heat the dough too much in the microwave the edges will start to cook all the way through. You can still use your dough if this happens, but just know that those edges may get extra firm when you bake the dough.

To Bake Your Dough:

  • Roll or stretch your dough to the desired shape and thinness for whatever purpose you desire.
    Ready to roll...

    Ready to roll…

    Hand stretched dough seasoned with a little olive oil, salt, and dried thyme.

    Hand stretched dough seasoned with a little olive oil, salt, and dried thyme.

  • If you want to be sure that you don’t get too many bubbles forming in the middle of your dough, dock it at this point with a rolling docker or simply poke it all over with the tines of a fork.
  • If you want the dough to be used as a flat bread or similar preparation, season the dough with a little olive oil, salt and your favorite dried herb blend and then bake it in a preheated 425 degree oven, checking it after about 10 minutes to ensure that it isn’t browning too quickly. To give it a nice burnishing on the top, switch your oven to broil for the last minute, but watch it like a hawk so that it doesn’t char.
  • If you want to use the dough for pizza, simply follow the pizza recipe you have at hand, or check out some of the options here at thesheepareout.com.
  • Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe.

Click here for a printable version of the Using Frozen Pizza Dough recipe.

Pizza Dough Flat Bread




Thanksgiving in a Foreign Land

This is Thanksgiving week… American Thanksgiving, I should say.  This is, however, not just any Thanksgiving, but my first Thanksgiving out of the country and the 150th anniversary of when President Lincoln established it as the third national holiday (along with Independence Day and Washington’s Birthday).  The holiday takes on a different feeling when you think of the timing; the end of the Civil War, the government trying to hold the increasingly fragmented nation together.  How do you forge a lasting union for a nation of people with loyalties, cultures and traditions that span the globe?  Part of the answer, apparently, was to give them a common tradition tying together families across the country in thanksgiving.

Two cousins in a crib.  The "pricelessness" of family at Thanksgiving.

Two cousins in a crib. The “pricelessness” of family at Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday of the year.  The focus on food and family has become increasingly important to me, first when I moved across the States for graduate school, then trying to create new homes with Dave as we progressed through our impromptu academic tour of the Midwest, and now with Little Man in Canada.  So here we are, looking for ways to create our own new identities, to create new family traditions, and to create a dual nationality identity for our son.

play time

Thanksgiving, however, is anything but a simple holiday.  The children’s stories of pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a nice turkey dinner are just that… stories.  But the creation of Thanksgiving, the annual retelling of this fictitious meal uniting disparate peoples, is still a powerful tool today.  For a fascinating study of the history (and fiction) of Thanksgiving, please check out Janet Siskind’s The Invention of Thanksgiving (click on the link to download a pdf of the article).  You’ll never think of American Thanksgiving in the same way again… but in a good way.  It’s powerful, and so is the resulting holiday.

lake 2

For my personal purposes, not so differently from Lincoln’s, Thanksgiving has long been about creating a sense of home when “home” is not necessarily apparent.  A sense of family when family is far away.  A sense of belonging in a place that is still a bit foreign.


When living in upstate New York, this meant celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving with Dave.  Until we met I had no idea that Canada had a Thanksgiving; assuming that it was a uniquely American holiday.  It is and it isn’t.

cousin love 2

Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the 2nd Monday of October, not the 4th Thursday of November.  It is a harvest celebration, without any stories of Pilgrims and Indians.  The meal is mostly the same with turkey, stuffing and the sides.  However, Canadians tend to avoid the dodgy green bean casseroles, with most Canadians I know being horrified by the dish.  In Canada, Thanksgiving is a relatively minor holiday and is quickly eclipsed by Halloween.  I didn’t quite understand this until moving to Canada this year.  For all of my adult life, even when moving often, the idea of a Thanksgiving alone or uncelebrated was tragic.


One Thanksgiving when we were first dating, Dave was not going to be able to join anyone’s family dinner since he needed to stay in town to finish writing his Master’s Thesis.  This seemed an abomination to me that someone would be home, alone, on Thanksgiving, with only the hope of an at best mediocre TV dinner to look forward to.  So even though I was definitely going out of town to be with my adopted New York family for Thanksgiving, I devised a nice, stay at home version for Dave.  All he would have to do was put things in the preheated oven at a certain time, take them out, reheat a couple of things, and he’d have his own pint-sized Thanksgiving meal.  I think I even wrote out the instructions for him, down to the unwrapping of the carton of crescent rolls and how to form/bake them.  After all, this Canadian obviously did not understand the importance of the holiday since he was willing to sacrifice it.  Who knew how far his ignorance of the proper foods went?  In theory, this should have been fantastic, or at least sweet.  In reality, it has lived in our combined memory as well intentioned, but horrific.  I mean absolutely disgusting and barely edible.  He’s lucky that it was partially edible, since even the local pizza places weren’t delivering that evening.

Dave’s Thanksgiving meal was to be an oven-roasted Cornish game hen, mashed potatoes (oy!), gravy, sweet potato praline, balsamic vinegared brussel sprouts (double oy!), canned crescent rolls (hence the instructions) and I think a mini-pumpkin pie for dessert… but that might also have been burned in the oven.  Of all this, the Cornish game hen was good, the crescent rolls were passable, and the sweet potato praline saved the day.  The mashed potatoes, on the other hand, were raw.  The brussel sprouts were disgusting.  The pie, if it ever existed, has not survived in memory.  It would take me a good 8 years to make passable mashed potatoes.  After this (and other experiences) I was forbidden by friends and family alike to attempt mashed potatoes.  In fact, just a week ago I made pork chops with mashed potatoes and gravy, and both Dave and I commented on the fact that I just might have learned how to actually cook them properly.  I have no idea how a person who even then was a pretty good cook could not make mashed potatoes.

And while the brussel sprouts (yes, I can cook these well now too) were so bad that they don’t even deserve discussion here, I will share with you the one glowing beacon of the day; Praline Sweet Potatoes.  These are now the one thing, no matter whose Thanksgiving I am going to, that I always bring with me.  They are almost sweet enough to be a dessert, but have just a hint of a savory edge that pairs excellently with turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce and the rest.

Dave's Mom's gorgeous table setting with fresh persimmon candle holders.

Dave’s Mom’s gorgeous table setting with fresh persimmon candle holders.

The pictures in this post are from my first Canadian Thanksgiving.  They look the part and embody that sense of Thanksgiving that I think will likely be missing from our American Thanksgiving this year.  We’re still fiddling with tradition, and straddling the line between nations.  Say “Happy Thanksgiving” to a Canadian this time of year, and you get some very confused looks since for them Thanksgiving was over a month ago.  There will be new photos of new traditions coming soon.  In the meantime, no matter what we are doing I plan on keeping family close and tradition a bit loose.

I don't have step-by-step pictures here, but the recipe is easy and the results are worth trying for even without a safety net of photo documentation.

I don’t have step-by-step pictures here, but the recipe is easy and the results are worth trying for even without a safety net of photo documentation.

Praline Sweet Potato

2 lbs. whole sweet potatoes (not from a can)

¼ cup milk

1 egg, slightly beaten

1 tsp. salt

Pepper to taste

½ cup brown sugar, packed

¼ cup butter, melted

¼ cup dark corn syrup

1 heaping cup of pecans, chopped

1.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Pierce the raw sweet potatoes all over with a sharp knife and place them on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet.  Roast the sweet potatoes in the oven until soft and easily pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes to an hour.  In the meantime, butter a 2-3 quart shallow casserole dish and set it aside.  Once the sweet potatoes are cooked through, allow them to cool until they are easy to handle with your hands.  Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

2.  Tear the skins from the sweet potatoes and put the orange flesh into a large mixing bowl.  Mash the sweet potatoes until they are creamy.  Add the milk, egg, salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the buttered casserole dish.

3.  In a small bowl combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup.  Pour this over the sweet potato casserole and spread it around so that all of the sweet potato is covered.  Sprinkle the pecans evenly over top.

4.  Bake the casserole uncovered for 45 minutes, or until it is set.  The topping will still be slightly soft at this point, but it will harden as the dish cools.  Watch the pecans towards the end of the cooking time.  If they start to brown too much or burn, drape a piece of aluminum foil over top to slow the browning.

Click here for a printable version the Praline Sweet Potatoes recipe.

lake 3

Frost Morning

The locals are starting to look at the sky in a suspicious way.  As we’ve hit the end of October and November is upon us, people native to the island are starting to look at the bright, cold, dry sunshine with mistrust, and keep muttering that it simply won’t last.

Evening is falling faster, and once we have dinner Little Man is constantly asking if it’s dark yet since he wants to go outside and say hello to the moon and the stars.  The moon, however, has been fickle of late.  Dancing through the bright blue morning skies, and then disappearing at night, leaving the riot of stars to sparkle on their own.

To further underscore our movement towards winter we have woken to a couple of mornings sparkling with frost.  It’s time to bring in our potted herbs and find some open space (some how…) in the basement where they can get light to wait it out until it’s warm enough outside again.  Until then, I’m trying to find more indoor things to do around town, and on those sunny, dry days we greedily head to our favorite playgrounds to soak up the cold Autumn sun for as long as we have it.

I’m feeling the need to track down some good, local, apple cider.  That would go nicely with the massive bag of cinnamon sticks that I just unpacked.  It must have been lost at the back of our pantry in Iowa, but will make a great fall and winter addition to hot drinks.  Along those lines, I think it’s time to introduce Little Man to warm cider with cinnamon.  Maybe after our next frosty morning tromp to say “good morning” to the chickens.

Cold morning light from behind the cedars on the way to the hen house.

Cold morning light from behind the cedars on the way to the hen house.

25th Post and Counting…

This is my 25th post on The Sheep Are Out…, a blog about our lives on Vancouver Island.  We’ve lived on the island for about 3 ½ months, and are starting to get a feel for the area.  We’ve wrangled sheep (and our toddler), explored the ocean coastline, played in what feels like a myriad of parks and playgrounds, and begun a quest for the best fish and chips in the greater Nanaimo area.  We feel closer to family (at least our north-of-the-border family) and farther from friends; though that equation is starting to shift as we are making friends here now too.

Little Cowboy touring his new acreage.

Little Cowboy touring his new acreage.

As inevitably happens with any move, it starts to feel impossible to have lived anywhere else.  We know where things are in the house… mostly (please don’t ask for anything in any box in the basement).  We know where to go in town for great sushi or for Little Man’s favorite fried rice.  We know which grocery stores carry the foods we want, which gas stations are the fastest to get in and out of, and where we most want to go when we have the rare chance for a baby sitter.  In short, we are starting to find our feet.

We all know who's the boss here, right?

We all know who’s the boss here, right?

In honor of this 25th post, the recipe I am sharing with you is for what I’ve named the Manic Monday cocktail.  Right after the semester started for Dave, there was a Monday that left us both a bit frazzled around the edges.  It was one of those days when it feels like the wheels are just about to leave the track, but you might be able to hold on for just a moment more.  To celebrate that crazy day being over, I made these Manic Monday cocktails and we toasted the survival of our own little tornado of crazy.

End of a long day.

End of a long day.

In the spirit of joyful survival; to all of our friends and family that we’ve found here; and to our friends and family who we would love to come and visit… Cheers!  May your home feel like home.  May your days be filled with family and friends.  And may you come visit us soon!


Manic Monday Cocktail

Makes one cocktail


1 ounce dark rum

1/2 ounce orange liquor

1/2 ounce lemon juice

1 ounce mango juice

Ice cubes

Optional: lightly sweetened citrus soda


  1. Put all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and secure the lid.
  2. Shake vigorously until the metal shaker gets nice and frosty.
  3. Strain the ingredients into a rocks glass with new ice.  This is a great opportunity for ice spheres if you have the forms.
  4. Optional: Top the cocktail with about an ounce of a lightly sweetened citrus soda if you want something a bit brighter.  I love the extra sparkle on a hot evening, but if I want to taste more of the mango then I just keep it simple.

P.S. For those of you who would prefer an alcohol free cocktail, and let’s face it sometimes it’s nice to serve a fancy drink without the booze, try mixing equal parts of mango juice, orange juice and the sparkling lemon soda.  Delicious, refreshing and a special treat for those who can’t have or don’t want the alcohol.

Click here for a printable version of the Manic Monday Cocktail.

Ladies and Gentle-Chickens!

OK, I’ll admit it…  I’m totally turning into a farm-geek.  Harvesting and gathering your own food is just plain fun (particularly since we were not involved in the hard work of prepping the garden or planting anything… just reaping the benefits).  It’s like Easter egg hunting.  Digging through the potato hill, not sure if there is anything left until your hands start raking in the ruby red tubers.  Little Man loves pulling up root vegetables, especially beets.  He grabs the leafy greens and then leans back with all of his might until either the root gives way or the greens do.  I have had to start restraining myself at the farm garden, always reason to come back tomorrow.  We have free reign in the garden, but it is not our’s and I don’t want to abuse our privileges there.  Even so I often find myself making excuses to go back to the garden or asking Little Man if he wants to go say “hi” to the chickens just so that I can say “hi” too.

After "shopping" in the garden

After “shopping” in the garden

 My favorite thing to do is gather eggs.  There is something about walking into the chicken coup, the scent of sweet hay and a little bit of chicken funk, but it just makes me smile.  Novella Carpenter in her hilarious discussion of urban farming in an Oakland ghetto (Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer) describes chickens as the gateway animal to urban farming.  After a couple of weeks living on the farm I can totally see her point.  We plan on staying here for quite some time, but when we do eventually leave… don’t tell Dave, but I would really like to be somewhere that we could have chickens. 



 Speaking of Dave, a couple of days ago he came home from working at the university to be greeted by a happy toddler who invited him to go say “hi” to the chickens.  We went to take the short cut to the chicken coup through the back yard, which Little Man calls the “hair cut.”  He heard us call the short path to the garden behind our house as the “short cut,” but didn’t know the word so now it is “hair cut.”  Usually when Little Man greets the chickens he says “Helloooo Laadiessss.”  Today was different.  He walked up to the coup, threw his arms wide and yelled “hello ladies and gentle-gnomes!”  Dave and I smiled at each other and in unison said “good evening ladies and gentle-chickens!”

 We went into the coup and were greeted by Little Man’s “ladies.”  Our plan for the eggs was built on yesterday’s botched brunch.  Little Man, while trying to hold it together in a marathon grocery shopping expedition said that he would like pancakes for brunch.  I made a rookie mistake and promised my beautiful, curly-haired boy that he would have pancakes… and then we got to the restaurant 30 minutes after they stopped doing breakfast.  Oh bother!  So to atone for my error, dinner that night was a pancake breakfast.  Specifically we had pancakes made from a Bauder Camp recipe (I miss those cocktail cruises!), homemade turkey sausage patties and oven-roasted home potatoes.  I’ll share those recipes at another time.  For our purposes in this post I am going to share the recipe that came the day after our pancake breakfast for dinner.  We ended up having a good amount of sausage and potatoes left over, and in our house that can only mean one thing… frittata.

 A frittata is like a large omelet, but it’s even better since you don’t have to flip or fold it.  That means it can be easily turned into a fast, delicious dinner.  I have included a link to the frittata recipe below, and it is based off of the left overs that we had in our house that evening.  You don’t have to make a pancake breakfast for dinner in order to prep for this meal the next night… but it’s a great excuse to do so.

 One “trick” I use for frittatas is something that I learned from the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites: Flavorful Recipes for Healthful Meals cookbook.  To make a frittata that provides four servings (the leftovers are great the next day!), I start with eight eggs.  If the eggs are small I might add another to round it out.  The trick is to only use four whole eggs and four egg whites, ditching four of the yolks.  My brother is moaning right now, but by getting rid of those yolks I can decrease the amount of fat and bad cholesterol in the dish.  Dave and I are both a bit rounder than we would like, and lowering overall bad cholesterol in our diets is another goal.  So there you go.  You can keep or ditch those four yolks as you see fit.  I haven’t found any loss of flavor, richness or overall awesomeness in my frittatas since I started doing this.

 One last frittata trick…  Many of the recipes that I’ve read and seen demonstrated on TV require that you get out an extra plate, flip the darn thing when it’s mostly cooked onto the plate, and then invert it again into the skillet to finish cooking.  It looks simple on TV.  I’m sure my issues with this have been a result of a lack of patience or my overall clumsiness, but I have burned my hands and splattered my stove (and countertops… and cupboards…) enough that I gave that technique up.  Instead, I cover the frittata pan with a lid immediately after I add the eggs.  This lets the top set up through the steam released from its cooking.  Once the eggs are set up nicely I remove the lid, sprinkle on a bit of grated cheese and pop the thing under the broiler for a minute or too to brown it up.  That way you get the crispy browning of the top that you would otherwise miss from not flipping it.  No more burned fingers (or at least less), no more messy stove and surrounding area (or at least less), and the resulting frittata is stunning in its caramelized cheesy glory.

Sausage and Potato Frittata

Left over roasted potatoes and sausage patties for the frittata

Left over roasted potatoes and sausage patties for the frittata

The frittata flavor base of onions, roasted potatoes and sausage

The frittata flavor base of onions, roasted potatoes and sausage

The flavor base after adding the smoked paprika, my favorite spice

The flavor base after adding the smoked paprika, my favorite spice

After adding in the egg mixture

After adding the egg mixture put a lid on the pan to help cook the top

Once the top is almost set, you can add the cheese

Once the top is almost set, you can add the cheese

The top is almost set and I had run out of cheese to grate.  Luckily I did have slices of Colby.

The top is almost set and I had run out of cheese to grate. Luckily I did have slices of Colby.

The finished product.  Be careful with broiling your frittata.  I have been known to walk away from the oven and "caramelize" my frittatas more than intended.

The finished product. Be careful with broiling your frittata. I have been known to walk away from the oven and “caramelize” my frittatas more than intended.

Best kitchen helper ever!

Best kitchen helper ever!

Mommy, Where Are We?

Little Man and our "big, big, big, big" tree

Little Man and our “big, big, big, big” tree

“Mommy, where are we?”

 Ever since the move, our son asks us this a couple of times a day.  When we ask the question back to him, he answers that “we’re home.”  Not having had anything in his experience to prepare for (or to understand) our cross-continental and over-the-border move, he’s still working out what “home” is.  And frankly, so am I.

 So where in the world are we? 

Country: Canada

Province: British Columbia

Island: Island!?!

OK, one more time… Island: Vancouver Island

 As the second house on the farm property we are surrounded by trees and pasture and wilderness, but in less than 10 minutes we’re back down in town close to dozens of little hole-in-the-wall restaurants, or the sea wall, or the library, or within 15 minutes to the university where Dave teaches.  We seem far from everything, but can get anywhere in a matter of minutes.

 When Dave’s mom, sister and I were first driving out here to view the property this “closeness” was not apparent.  Having lived in the American Midwest for a number of years I was not as immediately worried about the wilderness as my lovely, city-raised travel partners.  The minute we passed by the last subdivision and there were more trees than telephone poles my in-laws got fidgety.  There was quite a lot of nervous giggling, and “where ARE we?” questions.  Our odd mumbling GPS didn’t help matters, nor did my cryptically written directions.  Was I even awake when I wrote them down?  Then finally we passed two mammoth Easter Island heads (moai) in the middle of the forest, and turned right onto our road.  I know this may sound odd, but all of you archaeologists out there (in career or in heart) will understand when I say that those heads seemed like a good omen to me.  They are incongruously perched amid the cedars that run alongside the road, and the first time you catch sight of them they can be startling.  I still have no idea why they are there, but I’m glad that they are.

 Our neighborhood seems like two sides of a fairytale.  A few homes, all with incredible gardens and most with chickens, wrap around a short lane.  This is bordered on one side by grassy fields and restful horses, and on the other side by a gentle downward slope leading to a low, damp pasture ringed with trees and a small pond.  When I first saw this view on that cool Spring evening, the edges of the bottoms were fringed with a silver mist, and I imagined all sorts of magical creatures emerging from the forest darkness.  Or then again, maybe a slip back in time, before the Hudson Bay Company and the miners and the loggers, when this land was filled with a very different type of civilization.  The darker side of the fairy tale I learned later that evening.  This land used to belong to a British aristocrat, tales of the native peoples who might have called this place home long buried.  The aristocrat wanted to create a home more suited to his fancy, and drained a lake that once filled the pasturage below that I had been admiring.  That story still makes me think about a novel I’ve read, the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain, where the evil sorcerer-lord drains a magical elven lake.  The drained pasturage today is beautiful, particularly when the sheep are slowly munching their way through the cedars.  I do wonder, though, what it was like before; and what older beauty was destroyed to make this current beauty possible.

 Now our “home” borders this beautiful expanse.  When Dave came home from his first soccer practice, we sat outside under the little arbor on a bench. Sipping beer we sat and ogled the view, laughing at what had brought us here and not quite believing that we’d landed in such a beautiful place.  This is where Little Man’s first memories will be formed.  Amazing…Sunflower3

 As I try to create my own sense of “home” in my wilderness, I’d like to share the latka recipe that I mentioned in an earlier post.  Mom made these latkas for me and my brother every Saturday morning throughout my entire childhood.  They are one of my earliest food memories.  I also remember spending the night at my Grammie’s house as a young girl and asking her to make these latkas in the morning.  She didn’t know how to make them, and I was young enough that even though I had helped my mom make them countless times I did not know how to explain the process or the ingredients.  Later I would pay much closer attention to what Mom was doing so I could also recreate that taste, and now they are probably my most powerful comfort food.  These latkas were a part of our Independence Day(s) dinner, and are still my go-to comfort Saturday morning breakfast.  Little Man is going to love them!

 Mom’s Latkas

Latkas are traditionally Jewish, specially served at Hanukah, but I have also had them at diners in different parts of the States.  I have never had the opportunity to eat them homemade anywhere else than my own home.  They’ve become the kind of dish that is so closely embedded in my own culinary identity that even though I am not Jewish, I don’t think that I could try any one else’s latkas (except for my Mom’s) with an open mind.  When Dave and I were dating, in fact, he asked me to send him the recipe (more of a method at that point) so he could make them for his family when he went home one Christmas.  I was later horrified to hear that he’d had the audacity to grate cheese into my latka mix.  While that could be a lovely oozy hash brown recipe, I was not amused that it had ended up in MY latkas.  I haven’t shared the recipe with anyone since, but now in my quest for home I’m sharing the recipe again hoping in the sharing some sense of “home” can be created here as well.  So traditionalist (with a side of apple sauce and sour cream), anarchist (grated cheese in the batter…) or just plain wonderful on their own, I hope you love these as much as I do.

 Makes about 12 medium-sized latkas.

 3 medium (2.5 lbs) Russet Potatoes

4-5 eggs

¼ cup garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Canola oil for the pan

 Preheat your oven to its lowest setting.  You will keep the cooked latkas warm in the oven while you finish cooking the rest.  I am not a mom who stands at the stove cooking while everyone else gets to sit down and eat the delicious food.  I like to cook them all, keeping the done ones warm in the oven, and only when the last latka (or pancake, piece of french toast, etc.) comes out of the pan do we all sit down to eat together.

 Line a large nonreactive bowl with a clean kitchen towel (not a fuzzy one) and grate the potatoes into the towel-lined bowl.  Collect the four corners of the towel together and squeeze the potatoes firmly over the sink to drain out the extra liquid.  Put the potatoes into the bowl and set aside.  Some people like to drain the potatoes in a colander for 30 minutes or so, but I am not that patient.

Potatoes grated into a towel-lined bowl

Potatoes grated into a towel-lined bowl

Grated potatoes after being squeezed

Grated potatoes after being squeezed

Pour enough oil in the bottom of a large skillet to coat the pan well.  Don’t skimp here. By having a good amount of hot oil in the pan you can get a good golden crust on the latkas.  Too little oil and the latkas stick to the skillet, and oil that isn’t hot enough lets the potatoes soak up too much oil creating greasy latkas.  Heat the skillet over medium-high heat until the oil is hot.  Do not try to use olive oil here, as it will burn.

 Now back to the drained potatoes.  Break the eggs into the grated potatoes and add the garlic powder, as well as a good amount of salt and pepper.  It will seem like you are adding an excessive amount of dried spice, but you’ll be surprised by how much it takes to season the latkas.  I often start with about a tablespoon of salt and pepper depending on how much potato I have to start with.  Stir the mixture together until well blended.

It is always a good idea to break eggs one at a time into a small bowl and then add them to the main mix.  That way if you get a bad egg you have not ruined your entire batter.

It is always a good idea to break eggs one at a time into a small bowl and then add them to the main mix. That way if you get a bad egg you have not ruined your entire batter.

Lovely latka mixture.  You will not know if you have the seasoning right until after you taste the "tester."

Lovely latka mixture. You will not know if you have the seasoning right until after you taste the “tester.”

 When the oil is hot take about a tablespoon of the mixture in a slotted spoon and put it into the hot pan, pressing down lightly to form a rough pancake shape.  Cook this “tester” latka until golden on one side and then flip it.  This should only take a minute or two if the oil is heated well.  Once the latka is crispy on both sides remove it to a towel lined plate and taste.  The “tester” lets you gauge if you need to add any more garlic powder, salt or pepper.

Latkas frying on their first side

Latkas frying on their first side

Latkas on the flip side

Latkas on the flip side

 Once you have the mixture seasoned properly, drop more latka mixture into the skillet.  I use about 1/3 of a cup of mixture each for four good-sized latkas cooking in the pan at any given time.  It is important to use the slotted spoon for the latka mixture, as the potatoes will give off liquid as they sit.  You don’t want soggy latkas, so let the excess liquid drain out of the spoon before you drop the mixture into the pan.  Cook until the latkas are golden on one side, flip them and crisp the second side.  Between batches you can add more oil as needed, heat the oil again, and then add another batch to the pan.  As one batch of latkas is done, remove it to a paper towel-lined baking sheet and keep them in the warm oven until ready to serve.

Finished latkas being kept warm in the oven until we can all sit down and eat together.

Finished latkas being kept warm in the oven until we can all sit down and eat together.


Print on the link above to open a pdf of the Mom’s Latkas recipe card that you can print.

Food and Family, Family and Food

One of the biggest perks of this trans-continental move has been getting closer to family; or at least closer to my in-laws.  We are on the correct coast for my family and their air travel time was cut down by three hours, but we are not close enough to allow for frequent visits.  Luckily for our Little Man, however, he at least gets to be closer to one set of grandparents… finally.  The saddest part, of all of our moves, has been moving farther away from friends that have become family.

Living in the American Midwest we were lucky enough to have a couple of visits from family each year.  Within the first two weeks of living on the island we had three visits from family, with others planned for the near future.  This is my idea of an embarrassment of riches; access to family.  Now if we can just get my parents to move a bit farther north… but I digress.

Little Man and Dave wading out into the ocean

Little Man and Dave wading out into the ocean

Little Man and Daddy wading out in the ocean

The water was amazingly clear and shallow for quite a ways…

The most recent family visit to our little homestead was Dave’s sister.  I have been blessed by being a part of multiple families of very strong women, and Dave’s sister is one of them.  Because of the distance that used to exist between our respective homes, you could probably count the number of times that I have actually been able to visit her on two hands, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know her even better now that we are so close.

When we got a weekend planned for E to come out, we were all very excited and my mind immediately went to what food I could make.  I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from cooking for people, and from trying to find the perfect thing or meal to create that fits that person.  In E’s case, however, this can be tricky, but to quote her son “tricky, but I can do it.”  For various health reasons Dave’s sister follows a unique set of dietary guidelines; not quite vegan, not quite macrobiotic; not quite gluten-free.  Her diet is distinct enough that my “go to” ideas of home-made scones and cinnamon rolls did not seem appropriate (though I shamelessly will use those to lure any other family and/or friends to come and stay with us… they’re tasty… you know you want them…).  Now before I give anyone the wrong idea, E is also completely “no muss, no fuss.”  She does not want anyone to feel they must cater to her eating style, and in fact has been known to bring all of her food with her so as not to cause anyone stress or hassle to feed her.  Challenge accepted!

For dinner I knew that I wanted to make something out of a macrobiotic-inspired cookbook that E had given me a couple of Christmases ago.  The recipe I chose was the Rustic Pasta from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet.  I have not yet gotten permission from the publisher to post the recipe, and since I did not do anything to make it my own I’ll just have to point you in the right direction for the moment.  If/when I get permission to post the recipe I will.  In the meantime I can at least tell you that it is a recipe that should not work.  It is a simple whole wheat pasta dish with quite a lot of onion and cabbage, and a sauce that combines a little bit of soy sauce with a little bit of marinara sauce.  It should not work, but somehow it does.  Even Little Man agrees, but I do admit to a liberal dusting of his favorite parmesan on top.  I don’t know if I would have been brave enough to try it if E wasn’t coming to visit (motive) and if we had not just harvested a cabbage from the garden (means).  Let’s just leave it at the fact that the dish was so good I just made it again for our family for dinner and Little Man scarfed it up again.

Freshly picked cabbage for a Rustic Pasta dinner

Soon to be freshly picked cabbage for a Rustic Pasta dinner

The recipe I want to highlight for this post is also not my own, but I have gotten permission to share this one with you.  Kiersten Frase has an amazing blog called Oh My Veggies – A Vegetarian Food Blog (www.ohmyveggies.com) that I have been truly enjoying.  In fact, one of her recipes has become my go-to breakfast.  Her Mexican Chocolate Breakfast Shake (click on the text link to go to the site and recipe) takes only minutes to prepare the night before.  In the morning simply toss the pre-mixed ingredients in the blender, blitz it up and you are ready to go.  The shakes are creamy, intensely chocolaty and taste like a great milk shake even though they dairy free.  The one change to the recipe that I make is blending in two ice cubes per serving just before pouring the shakes.  This makes them even frostier, giving more of the ice cream texture.  Kiersten also has a Chai Breakfast Smoothie, which we love, and a Piña Colada that I haven’t had a chance to try yet, but chances are it will be delicious.

Oh My Veggies Mexican Chocolate Breakfast Shake

I made Mexican Chocolate Breakfast Shakes for the three of us, Dave, E and myself, and Little Man did his best to smile his way to repeated tastes from all of us.  Little monkey!  The shakes were the perfect start to our morning.  We ended up doing a day trip out to Chemainus, which is about 20 minutes south of Nanaimo.  Chemainus is a pretty little town with great character right on the ocean.  It is famous for its numerous murals, but Little Man wanted nothing to do with that, and instead pulled us along to the playground by the water.  The water was cold but not quite toe-curling, and amazingly clear.  Our little guy had a great time wading out with his Dad and looking for shells in the shallows.  He also developed quite the crush on his Auntie, or I should say has rekindled the flame.  Little Man has only had the chance to spend time with E on two or three trips, and each time he falls for her hard.  Good thing the feeling seems to be mutual.

Family at Chemainus Beach

Family at Chemainus Beach

Two Independence Days

Did I mention that we made the move to Vancouver Island the day after Canada Day and two days before American Independence Day?  So even though I had warned our American bank that we’d be moving to Canada, an automated system caught our Canadian purchases and “temporarily” froze our account… the day before the Fourth of July… so no live person would be in the office to fix this problem until July 5.  Argh!  Our dilemma was discovered when we tried to buy sushi from a take-out joint for dinner.  Thank goodness we had not decided to go to a sit down restaurant, had eaten our food and then found out we had no funds at all.  I don’t know what we would have done.  Would they accept our toddler helping us wash dishes as payment?

 So we went home, frustrated and concerned about what we were going to eat that evening and the next day until the American bank opened again and freed our cash supply.  Luckily the day that we unloaded our moving van I had visited the grocery store for a few staples.  We had oatmeal, bananas and milk for toddler cereal in the morning, and I had also bought a bag of potatoes on the off chance that we just needed something comfort foodish…  I don’t know about you, but basically any type of comfort food for me includes potato in some form.  It would be another day or so before I realized our farmer friends were growing potatoes in the garden, and oh what a splendid discovery that was.

 On the drive back to our sushi-less home, we remembered that we were living on a farm (yes, we were slow on the uptake that day…).  Most importantly in this case, we were living on a farm that had chickens, glorious chickens.  So we all put on grubby shoes and I grabbed a basket that usually held students’ papers and dropped in an unused (and unwanted) curtain as padding.  As our landlords were on vacation, their friends were stopping by to take care of the animals.  We had been told that we could collect eggs and eat from the garden while they were away.  As we trudged up to the chicken coup, we were praying that the farm help had not completely collected all the eggs.  They had not, but we will later find out that they had planned to do just that, which is a different story for a different day.

 In the meantime, we needed to collect dinner.  The three of us walked into the coup; or at least two of us did.  The previous day our son had decided that the sheep were “too loud,” but the chickens won his heart instantly. While his love was unwavering, he was not sure about walking amongst them and instead felt safer in Dave’s arms.  I can’t blame him, I’ve often felt the same way.  We collected nearly 3 ½ dozen eggs that day (remember the part about other people’s plans to collect eggs?  Oops!).

The ladies who saved the day

Collecting eggs for dinner

The best eggs you will ever taste

 Later Dave and his mom would comment on how confident I looked in the hen house gathering eggs, and they asked about where I had learned to do that.  My first thought was that it was egg collecting, not rocket science…  or even archaeological science.  Then I remembered that this actually was not my first time collecting eggs.  Visiting my Grammie’s small farm as a child I had also collected eggs.  I don’t think I did it often, and my main memory of this is being pecked by the chickens (not fondly).  Flash forward to the in-between time of Canadian and American independence holidays and I suddenly found myself living on a farm, with a hungry husband and child waiting for my efforts.  I think my long-missed grandmother was proud at that moment.

 With our egg bounty we headed down to the garden for some herbs and lettuce.  I found a little curly parsley, some fresh oregano and an abundance of chives.  Basket overflowing and toddler in arms, we headed back to the house.

 The potatoes were shredded, drained, seasoned and pan-fried into latkas like my Mom’s college roommate had taught her (this recipe will be shared in a later post).  Another 8 of our eggs were transformed into what I on the spur of the moment named Chinese Eggs.  I had never cooked with eggs that I had literally just collected minutes before.  Just like restaurants use descriptive names to entice our appetites, I use the same tactic with our son whose favorite food in the world is Chicken Fried Rice.  The only way I got him to try (and love) an amazing roasted sweet potato risotto was to call it Italian Fried Rice.  I have no shame when it comes to food shenanigans that get him to eat.  So our Independence Day meal (for both countries) was made up of my Mom’s Latkas, Chinese Eggs, a salad of freshly harvested lettuces and fresh herbs, tossed simply with a little olive oil, salt and white pepper.

 As we ate and laughed about our farm fresh feast, washed down with a lovely, cheap Californian wine I brought in my luggage, we sent all grateful thoughts to those chickens and their absent caretakers.  When Dave and I married in upstate New York, promising for better or for worse, much of what I was thinking about was the difficulties of life as an academic, especially for two academics in the same field.  I certainly did not imagine (in dream or nightmare) living on a farm, feeding my amazing family with the bounty that we had literally just collected from the ground 30 minutes prior.  All in all, this was a pretty good way to celebrate independence.

On my way to the chives

Chinese Eggs

I named these “Chinese” Eggs in honor of my profuse amount of chives, which reminded me of an amazing sautéed flowering chive dish I’d had at a much missed restaurant in upstate New York.  Using the catch word “Chinese” was also a ploy to entice my son to try them.  He usually does not like scrambled eggs, but he LOVES Chinese food.  In this case the ruse worked and he gobbled them up!  If you are curious as to why I only used half of the yolks in this recipe, I did that in an effort to lower our overall cholesterol intake for this meal.  Between the Chinese Eggs and the Latkas I used an entire dozen!  We didn’t finish it all, but that was still quite a few eggs on our table at once.  I also used white pepper as opposed to black because I had not yet found where I had packed the black pepper.  It was a fortuitous difficulty since the flavor of the white pepper was perfect for this dish.

 8 eggs divided (4 whole and 4 whites)

1 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (such as parsley, chives and tarragon)

½ teaspoon white pepper

Salt to taste

Olive oil for the pan

In a medium bowl whisk the four whole eggs and four egg whites together.  Mix in the chopped herbs, pepper and salt.

 Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil.  Pour in the egg mixture and stir, stir, stir.  Cook the eggs until the whites are set and then remove them from the pan to a serving bowl.

 *If cooking for children, pregnant women or anyone who is immune compromised be sure to cook the eggs thoroughly.

Click the following link for a pdf version of the recipe that can be printed.

Chinese Eggs Recipe