Monthly Archives: February 2010

Maddie’s kinda St. Louis Style

People who know me well, know that I am not a big fan of St. Louis style pizza.  When I moved to St. Louis from Arkansas in 1991, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as St. Louis style pizza until I had my first encounter with the bizarre square pieces.  I was having dinner with a friend (a  St. Louisan)  at Talayna’s and we ordered a pizza. When the pizza arrived at the table I tried to extract a triangle-shaped “pie” piece.  (To my credit, I remember the restaurant as being dimly lit).  I looked at it for a while and finally was getting ready to take my knife to the pizza when my very polite friend said “Isn’t it funny how St. Louis Pizza is cut in squares?”  Ah, yes, squares.  No wonder.

Besides the squares, I’ve been very verbal about my dislike of provel cheese. What is it anyway??? Why does it make my stomach hurt? So, it may seem very unlikely that I’m about to write about my experience creating a kind of  “St. Louis Style” pizza.  But here it is. 

On Feb. 10. 2010, I saw an article in the Post-Dispatch by Joe Bonwich about how Meghan Erwin introduced the world to St. Louis pizza through Cook’s Country magazine and was able to reproduce Imo’s style pizza.  I was intrigued by the no rise crust and loved the idea of making that so quickly.  So, I decided to give it a go.  Pretty  much that’s the only part of the recipe I used. Remember I don’t like provel so….(Erwin does tell you how to create your own provel like cheese if your area doesn’t have it readily available.)

Here’s the recipe. 

For the dough:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 TBLS cornstarch

2 TBLS sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup plus 2 TBLS water

2 TBLS olive oil

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position. Place a pizza stone or an inverted baking sheet on  the rack. preheat the oven to 475 degrees. 

2. Combine flour, cornstarch, 2 teaspoons sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Combine water and olive oil in a measuring cup. Stir water mixture into flour mixture until dough starts to come together. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 3 or 4 times, until cohesive. 

3. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, press into a small circle and transfer to a sheet of parchment paper dusted lightly with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll and stretch dough into a 12-inch circle, rotating parchment as needed. Lift parchment off work surface and onto an inverted baking sheet. 

4. Top each piece of dough with ingredients. Carefully pull one sheet of parchment paper and pizza off a baking sheet and place on the hot baking stone.  Bake until underside of crust is golden brown and cheese is completely melted, 9 to 12 minutes. 

I made two different types of pizzas. I used Mangia Pasta pesto as the base for the first pizza then topped it with artichoke hearts, chopped fresh red pepper, and parmesan reggiano. For the second pizza, a jarred marinara was layer one (I used Newman’s Own), and then steamed broccoli, and shredded mozzarella. 

I loved the crispy crust and it was so easy and fast to make.  I didn’t have a pizza stone (we broke ours years ago and sadly have never replaced it) so I used the inverted baking sheet.  Also, I didn’t have parchment paper so I just put it straight onto the pan (I oiled it a little to prevent sticking.)

I will definitely make this crust again–many thanks to Meghan Erwin!  But, I must confess, I’ll keep cutting my little triangles.


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Mindful eating: Question 3 & 4

So, I have spent the past few days trying to integrate questions 1 and 2 when I sit down to eat–Am I really hungry and do I spend 20 minutes on every meal.  Assessing my degree of hunger has been helpful.  Last night we had pizza and I have to say that normally I would easily eat three or four pieces mainly because I love the taste of it.  However, I realized when I checked in with  my stomach that I wanted to stop after two pieces and I felt great. I wasn’t super full and I had leftovers which I love.

I still need to work on spending twenty minutes on every meal.  Not sure how to do that yet, but I’ll pursue it and welcome ideas.

The next two questions Susan Albers,PsyD,  suggests you ask yourself are: “Do you use all of your senses when you eat?” and “Do you multitask at meals?”  I love the idea of using all my senses when I’m eating.  Sight, smell, taste, texture, and even the noises around you– not that they are always pleasant. 

I decided to practice using all my senses.   I seriously wanted to eat one of our vegan chocolate chip cookies from our café.  (These cookies are legendary in small circles).  I stopped what I was doing, took a deep breath, took a second to smell the cookie, broke a piece off and noticed how moist it was and then I ate it.  It was amazing how taking a breath before I ate it helped me become more mindful to everything around me–the music playing, the release of tension in my neck as I exhaled.  And smelling the cookie first whet my appetite.  The funny thing though, was that after I ate three bites I found that I didn’t really want more than that. It was delicious, but oddly it was all I wanted.  I believe had I not taken the moment beforehand I would have eaten that whole cookie without giving it too much thought.  So, I shared the rest of the cookie and felt satisfied.

Question 4–multitasking. I’m not one to drive and eat, but am certainly guilty of eating while reading, eating while emailing and grabbing bites in between tasks at the store.  I LOVE READING the paper and eating my breakfast. So what would it mean to give that up?  Would I really enjoy my food more?  This is one I’ll have to experiment with.  My guess is I will not give up eating and reading the paper. 

A Note on the pictures:  I couldn’t figure out how to show the captions on these so this is why I included them.  The first one shows my son and his buddy eating  some smoothie pops last summer.  I love it because they were so thoroughly enjoying ever part of eating it–the taste, the coldness of it, the goo dripping down their hands and they ate them slowly.  If I’d been in the picture next to them, it would have shown my smoothie pop half-eaten and I imagine no drips on my hand.  They really are “hands on” with their food.

And the second photo is from a  farm dinner we did at the Local Harvest Café. It was one of the first dinners and I loved that salad because it was simple, beautiful, delicious and fresh, and I savored every bite when I ate it.  It is a good reminder of the pleasure of food. 

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Mindful eating–Question 1 and Question 2

My parents are serious about periodicals.  A trip home means I can catch up on food and decorating trends as well as culture, goverment and even cleaning simply by perusing the ever full coffee table—Health, Smithsonian, The New Yorker, some type of public policy review, Good Housekeeping,  the newest menu magazines, Newsweek, The Atlantic Monthly, etc.    This year I walked into our room and saw a huge bag of magazines sitting by the bed.  “I saved these for you so take what you want, ” said my mom. Seriously, there must have been 40-50 magazines.  It was extremely overwhelming because I can’t even keep up with my bi-monthly Ready Made subscription.

I surveyed the bag and took a few home thinking that if nothing else I could use them for collages (right, I haven’t done that in three years, but still).  This week I picked up Health Magazine, July/August 2008.  There was an article called “How to think yourself thin.”  I”m a big believer in thinking things into reality so checked it out. I was pleasantly surprised because the main focus of the article was on mindful eating.

I love the idea of mindful eating. And I probably do it 10 bites a week and that might include time spent  tasting new products for the store or a new item at the cafe.  I’m not overweight, but I know that I still eat lots of things without even thinking about it. Many times I scarf down a meal (a delicious meal) and realize I didn’t take the time to really enjoy the food.

The whole day after I read the article I kept thinking about it and wondered what it would be like to truly be more mindful in  my eating.  I decided to challenge myself to pay more attention.  I’m hoping it will help  me slow down in other ways and maybe I’ll even be a better model for my son who, like his mama and daddy, loves to eat.

There are six questions  the article suggests that you ask yourself before each meal. In a short series of entries I’ll explore them.  Here are the first two:

1. Are you really hungry?  They give a “hunger meter” which I’ve included below, pretty much verbatim.

a. Take a moment to assess your hunger.

b. Give it a rating on a scale of 0 (ravenously hungry) to 10 (Thanksgiving stuffed).

c. When your hunger is at a 4, it’s time to start eating; waiting until you’re at a 2 or 1 might lead to overeating.

d. Start slowing down when you get to 6 or 7 and reassess: Are you still eating to satisfy your hunger? Or are you simply munching  mindlessly?

2. Do you spend at least 20 minutes on every meal?

I started with question 1 tonight when I ate dinner. I was definitely at a 4 and quickly approaching a level 3 or 2 when I sat down to eat. I made a sweet potato and black bean quesadilla for dinner.  A pepper colby from Morningland Dairy provided the creaminess and a dollop of Nancy’s thick full-fat yogurt acted as a sour cream substitute. I love a good quesadilla, and the sweetness of the potato blended nicely with the spicy cheese and black beans.

When I started to get full (6 or 7 on the hunger meter) I noticed I still had 1/3 of my quesadilla left (I used one of the San Luis whole wheat tortillas folded in half and they are big).  But I have to tell you that I still wanted to eat it.  So, being nice to myself since it was my first meal of mindful eating, I decided to just observe myself eating it and figured that maybe in a week or so I’d do better about how much food I made.  Thankfully my son thought it looked pretty good and  helped me eat the last 1/3.

The second question was much harder.  I looked at the clock when I started eating and it was about 5:15 p.m.  I tried to eat slowly and quickly wished that  I’d opted for a chewier meal–some tough salad greens, raw kale, fruit roll ups, beef  jerky.  Seriously, I easily could have eaten that meal in under 10 minutes had it not been for interruptions from my son which I welcomed so my meal would take longer. 

 I think eating more slowly will be one of the tougher things for me to change. Maybe if we ate more in courses at home I’d have an easier time. Appetizers, soup, salad….Well, it was a good first try.  Four more “questions”and many meals to go.  Well, not “to go” I hope.


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Favorite kitchen gadgets

When I turned 40 several months back I asked for a manual hand mixer.  I have wanted one for quite a while and thought that any request I made on the eve of 40 would be met with a yes. In retrospect, maybe I should have asked for more. Ha ha.  Seriously, I  do love this kitchen gadget.  It’s great for scrambling eggs, banana bread, making pancake mix, and a wonderful way to introduce kids to cooking.  It’s fun and easy to use and you don’t have to worry about that wacky electricity and fingers getting caught in rotating beaters. 

Beck after a succesful waffle mix session. Notice the flour on the shirt!

For bigger jobs I will pull out the big ol’ Kitchen Aid Mixer, but it’s heavy and not really needed for simple mixing.  I know that the hand mixer came from Home-Eco which is on Macklind.  I’m sure you can get them other places, but Home-Eco is a great place since they are a “Green General Store.”

My other favorite kitchen tools are my pressure cooker and immersion blender. My in-laws got us the pressure cooker about six years ago and it has been a favorite.  Sure, it’s not total “slow” cooking, but I can make dried beans in one hour without any pre-soaking.   Kale cooks up perfectly in about three minutes.  And lentils are ready in as little as ten minutes. It makes cooking from scratch a little easier for me.

 I know some folks have bad memories of pressure cookers, but these are easy and safe to use.  I highly recommend getting a pressure cooker cook book to go along with your pressure cooker as it gives you lots of information about what you can cook and suggested times.  

And lastly, the immersion blender. We got this right before our son was born because I was insistent on making all of his food.  I’m happy to say I did make most of his food and  still do (this is probably the only thing I have really stuck with of all my pre-baby ideas of how I would parent–as my friend Amanda says,”You’re the best parent you are ever going to be before you actually have kids.”) The immersion blender made it so much easier. 

I made all kinds of concoctions when he was little–broccoli, barley, tahini, brewer’s yeast–that I blended to a smooth consistency so he could eat it easily.  I use it now to make smoothies or blend a soup or pasta sauce. 

There are a million kitchen gadgets out there.  My suggestion is to think of your per cost use.  How many times you will use it–weekly, daily, every five years?  The more you use it the more your cost per use goes down.  And if the item really will help you eat more healthy foods then it might be worth it. 

Yours in cooking and eating and supporting local food.


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