June 24, 2013

... Southwestern Quinoa Salad

I'm becoming quite a fan of quinoa.  My first foray was the Superfood Salad, which I've made several times since.  I also made a Mediterranean version... unfortunately (for you) I ate it too quickly to write a post about it.  I'll make it again soon... promise!  The beauty about these salads is that they're quick and easy to make, they're pretty darn inexpensive (I made this one for less than $10), and they're good for you.  Win. Win. Win.

This one takes great southwestern flavors - avocado, red bell pepper, cilantro, black beans - and blends them together in a terrific salad that would be perfect as an entree or a side dish.  The cumin-lime dressing really brings it all together.

I've also started making my own tortilla chips.  I go back and forth between corn and flour tortillas.  Corn is better for you, but you don't come home with an obnoxious amount of tortillas if you buy flour.  Either way you go, you follow the same simple steps.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Brush the tortillas with a little olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt.  I like to add other seasonings to mine, too... a little cayenne pepper this time.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, but keep an eye on them because they'll brown pretty quickly.  They take a little (and I mean little) more time than opening a bag of store bought chips might, but just think of all the flavor combinations you can create!

Southwestern Quinoa Salad
serves 4-6

1 cup dry quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1 avocado, chopped into chunks
handful of cherry (quartered) or grape tomatoes (halved)
1/2 red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped into chunks
small handful cilantro, diced
juice from one lime
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
salt, to taste

Cook quinoa according to package directions.

While the quinoa is cooking, prepare all other ingredients.  Prepare the dressing by combining the lime juice, oil, cumin, and salt.  Whisk it until combined.  Adjust seasoning as necessary.

When the quinoa has finished cooking, remove it from the heat and fluff it with a fork.  Add black beans and toss to warm them through.

Let the quinoa cool for about five minutes and then add all the remaining ingredients, including the dressing, and mix.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Taylor's Notes:
It's as simple as that.  What's so great about this recipe is that it'll keep in your refrigerator for a week... if you don't eat it before then!  


June 23, 2013

... Potato Frittata with Feta and Scallions

I realize I've been a little M.I.A. lately.  It's partially because I've just moved (if 7 months ago qualifies) and I've been busy with updating the house, getting settled, and waiting for my new dining room furniture to arrive.  Now that it has (hip hip hooray!!), I've been enjoying entertaining friends and family.  Today I got to host my dad, brother-in-law, nephew, and Grandma and Dale.  As breakfast / brunch is one of my most favorite meals, I'd say this might turn into a bit of a ritual.

Somewhat traditional breakfast ingredients - potatoes, eggs, bacon - are taken up a notch in a delicious frittata.  While the potatoes are roasting, take a few extra minutes to add Cinnamon Brown Butter Puffs and fresh fruit to the menu.

I don't mean to brag, but check out that frittata!  It was pretty darn tasty, but I'm convinced that what made it so good was the skillet.  I was lucky enough to get to use my Grandpa Jack's cast iron skillet (thanks for the loan, Dad!).  Whether you have a well-seasoned, well-loved skillet or a new one, I have no doubt your frittata will be a success, too.

Potato Frittata with Feta and Scallions
serves 6-8

3 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1 3/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 teaspoon table salt, plus more for roasting potatoes
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound bacon, thick-cut, cut crosswise into 1/4" matchsticks
1/2 bunch (about 3 or 4) scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced
2/3 cup crumbled Feta cheese
6 large eggs
2 tablespoons milk or cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a roasting pan or baking tray generously with oil, about 1 to 2 tablespoons.  Peel potatoes, and cut them into 1/4" - 1/2" slices, then halve them lengthwise into half-circle shapes.  Pile them in the prepared pan, and generously season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Don't worry if they don't fall into one layer - the combo of some steamy / softer and some crisp-edged potatoes will work great in this dish.  Roast 30 minutes, or until potatoes are mostly cooked (they'll finish cooking with the eggs), tossing once halfway through.  Let cool slightly.

Cook bacon in well-seasoned 9" cast iron frying pan until crisp.  Scoop out with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Add additional tablespoon oil to the bacon drippings in the pan, and reheat it over medium heat.  Swirl the oil and drippings around in the pan and up the sides, being sure to coat it fully.

Arrange roasted potatoes in your skillet.  If there are pieces with browned undersides, flip the toasty sides up.  Scatter bacon, then scallions and feta over potatoes.  Whisk eggs with milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and several grinds of black pepper in a medium bowl, and pour over potatoes.  Cover skillet with foil and bake 20 minutes.  Remove foil, and bake another 10 to 15 minutes or until puffed at the edges and set in center.

Serve right from the skillet in 6 to 8 wedges.

Taylor's Notes:
This is another winner from Smitten Kitchen.  It doesn't look like Deb has posted it on her website, but it's in her cookbook.  Buy it if you haven't already - you won't regret it.

I used small gold potatoes rather than the Yukon Gold, solely because my grocery store only offered a 5-pound bag of Yukon Golds and one girl just doesn't need that many potatoes.  I reduced the roasting time of the potatoes by 5 minutes, but other than that I followed the recipe.  And really, when it comes to recipes that come out of the Smitten Kitchen, that's exactly what you should do.


... Berry Parfait

Summer has officially arrived (well, let's be honest, it arrived before it was actually 'official').  Although I try to watch what I eat most of the year, there's something about swimsuit season that really brings it home.  I refuse to give up desserts, though, no matter what time of year it is.  This one may not be entirely healthy, but it's certainly not completely guilt-inducing.  

Berry Parfait
serves 6 (individual) or 12 (in one pan)

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (1 1/2 sleeves of graham crackers, crushed)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.  Press firmly in a 9"x13" baking dish (or individual parfait cups) and bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool.

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cold milk
8 oz Cool Whip, thawed

Beat cream cheese with sugar and milk until smooth; fold in Cool Whip.

Berries!  Berries!  Berries!  I used one container each of strawberries and blueberries.

Spread filling mixture over graham cracker crust.  Top with berries.  Add a dollop of plain Cool Whip and a sprig of mint as garnish.

Taylor's Notes:
I've mentioned Pinterest a time or two, yes?  This recipe is an adaptation of one I  pinned.  I've linked the original recipe there, but I left out the vanilla pudding aspect of that recipe.  To me, it seemed like a little too much and I chose to make the berries shine rather than have them coated with pudding.  To pudding or not to pudding... that is your choice.  


May 8, 2013

... Salted Peanut Butter Cups

I think I'm in love.  I have been for a while, really, and it's one of those loves that will last a lifetime.  Taylor + peanut butter + chocolate... what a wonderful relationship we have.  So you have to know that when I came across this recipe for making my own peanut butter cups... and salted (!) no less, I was all over it.

{reference my notes below for an explanation of that glob of chocolate...}

I mean honestly, how can you look at that and not be in love?  Here's the problem, though.  These babies are so easy to make, with ingredients that you likely have on hand (or am I the only one who stock piles peanut butter and chocolate chips?), that you'll probably fall in love soon, too.  Hey, don't say I didn't warn you.

My friend Kerstin introduced me to these via the blog A House in the Hills.  It's a beautiful blog - check it out when you have some time!  The recipe on the blog, however, is vegan.  I'm absolutely not saying there's anything wrong with that, but I did tweak my version of the recipe and it's most certainly not vegan.  Here's my version...

Salted Peanut Butter Cups
serves makes 24 cups

1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup peanut butter (I missed the 'crunchy' part of her ingredient... I recommend that you use it!)
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup raw sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
sea salt to sprinkle on top

Line a mini muffin tin with papers.  You certainly could use a regular size muffin tin, but I'm warning you, these babies are sweet and rich... More power to you if you can eat a regular size!

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat and then stir in the peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and sugar.  When it's melted and mixed, spoon the mixture into the muffin tins.

In a separate pan, combine the chocolate and milk.  Stir over medium heat until the chocolate has melted.

Spoon the chocolate over the peanut butter, filling the papers almost to the top.

Sprinkle with sea salt and then refrigerate.

Taylor's Notes:
Ok, like I mentioned, mine aren't vegan or good for you (well, not good in terms of healthy at least), but man... they are delicious.  Here are a few things I found... 

  • The peanut butter mixture didn't set up on it's own (refer to picture above where the chocolate started sinking into the peanut butter).  I ended up sticking them in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes or so before I poured the rest of the chocolate on.
  • I do think that actually using crunchy peanut butter may have helped that.  I suppose I'll have to make them again to try out that theory.  Darn.
  • I made another half-batch of chocolate based on Sarah's notes.  You can tell how that affected the peanut butter to chocolate ratio.  You can definitely play with it based on how you like your chocolate and peanut butter to play together.
  • These are best eaten right out of the refrigerator.  Actually, better yet, out of the freezer.  I served them at a party and the longer they sat out, they got a little soft and were kind of difficult to eat.  
Other than that, these are way too easy to make and I'm going to try to forget that I ever made them.  Yeah right.


Side note... Baxter's face looked exactly like this the entire time I was making these.  He's a huge fan of peanut butter, too.  I'm sure he'd love chocolate as much as me, too, if I'd let him...

... Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

This may be one of the quickest and easiest pasta recipes to make.  And when you have a night full of catching up with an old friend planned, quick and easy is the best way to go.

A little pre-get together prep and you'll be well on your way to getting the scoop on what's been happening over the last couple months.  

Shrimp pasta is the perfect meal for spending the least amount of time in the kitchen possible.  They both cook up very quickly.  Keep your eye on those shrimp, as soon as they're pink, they're ready!

serves 4

vegetable oil
kosher salt
1 1/2 lbs linguine
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
5 tablespoons good olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic (9 cloves)
2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
grated zest of one lemon
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the linguine, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, in another large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic.  Saute for 1 minute.  Be careful, the garlic burns easily!  Add the shrimp, 1 tablespoon of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes.  Toss to combine.

When the pasta is done, drain the cooked linguine and put it back in the pot.  Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.

Taylor's Notes:
I would add a little salt to this and / or a few more shakes of the red pepper flakes.  But, you know, I like it spicy so proceed at your own risk!  We had this with some crusty French bread and a nice red wine.  Hey, what's girls night without a little vino?  And, in case you were wondering, yes, I found this recipe on Pinterest.  I'm telling you, it's the best site since, well... I don't know what.  But it's good.  If you're on it, check out my 'foodie' board for recipes I'm planning to try and my 'check list' board for recipes I've already tried... and my comments about them :)  


February 4, 2013

... Chicken and Black Bean Nachos

Besides the company I had and Beyonce's half-time performance, this was one of the major highlights of Super Bowl XLVII (or 2013 for those of you who, like me, can't keep track of all the Roman numerals).  It certainly kept us preoccupied during the black out.

I found the recipe on Pinterest and am so glad I did.  I know, Shock! Awe! Taylor made a recipe from Pinterest!  Not only was it quick and easy to put together, it was delicious and even "healthier" than standard nachos.  And that'll make you feel a little less guilty about chowing down on nachos while watching Beyonce rock it in a skin tight leather number.

Chicken and Black Bean Nachos
serves 6 appetizer portions

6 oz tortilla chips
1 can (16 oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 red onion, diced
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup light sour cream
chopped cilantro
salsa (either fresh or your favorite bottled salsa)
pickled jalapenos

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Arrange the chips in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Spoon the beans evenly over the chips, then top with the cheese, chicken, and onion.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and bubbling.  Remove.

Combine the lime juice, sour cream, and cilantro.  Spoon over the nachos.  Top with the salsa and jalapenos.

Taylor's Notes:
Hello Rotisserie Chicken!  It's been a while, but one of my favorite short-cuts is back and perfect in this quick and easy recipe.  The sour cream / cilantro mixture was really great on top, but you could certainly leave the cilantro out if you don't like that sort of thing.  


... Mango Salsa

Look at this gorgeous color!  Doesn't it look like Summer?  Or at least Florida in the winter?  Regardless of the time of year or location you're in, if you can find a ripe mango you should make this salsa.

And then put it on fish like this...

serves 2-4

1 large ripe mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients, except the s&p, and toss well.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Taylor's Notes:
Again, Mom made this one.  It was the perfect topping for fresh caught Florida Grouper.  It was also great as a snack with tortilla chips the next day.  It'd be great on several types of fish, shrimp, scallops, even chicken.

Know what else is great?  This... for dessert.


*Please excuse my use of Instagram photos... the food really was beautiful and delicious even without the filters...

... Hot Crab Cheese Dip

Vacation.  It's a wonderful thing.  Especially when it's spent in sunny Florida at the end of January.  I don't know about you, but I say 78 degrees is way better than 8 any day.  We enjoyed the beautiful weather by cooking at our home away from home one night and made this recipe as an appetizer.  It was delicious and I'll definitely make it again... if only to remind me of warmer temps in the middle of winter.

Hot Crab Cheese Dip
serves 8

8 ounces light cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons skim milk
4 scallions, sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1 pound lump crab meat, flaked
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, skim milk, scallions, lemon juice, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and garlic salt in a bowl and mix well.  Fold in the crab meat.

Spoon the crab meat mixture into a shallow 6-cup baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.  Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes or until light brown.  Let stand for 5 minutes and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve warm with tortilla chips.

Taylor's Notes:
To be honest, Mom made this.  All I did was bake it and eat it.  But, boy, was it delicious.  It probably didn't hurt that we ate it on the deck of the house we rented for our family vacation in Key Largo, Florida while overlooking the ocean and enjoying the sunset.  I mean, I'm sure it'd be just as good if you ate it in your living room.  In the middle of winter.  Really, I'm sure it would.  

If I remember correctly, Mom made this early in the day and kept it in the refrigerator while we were out playing.  We set it out about 20 minutes before sticking it in the oven to bake.  

I just realized - only by looking at the photo - that we (ahem, I) didn't add the parsley before serving.  Oops.  #garnishfail


... a Hot Chocolate Bar

Well, better late than never... I always say.  Or, almost always... Anyhoo, this Christmas (yes, I know it's currently February... don't judge), after driving around the Plaza to look at the lights, we headed back to my house for a little warm up.  Hot Chocolate is great for that.  Hot Chocolate with Bailey's or Peppermint Schnapps... even better.

It's a perfect idea for a big group and a lot of fun to see what add-ins everyone enjoys.  We had the aforementioned Bailey's and Peppermint Schnapps, chocolate-dipped marshmallows, candy canes, caramel bits, mini chocolate chips, and chocolate hazelnut Pirouettes.

Here's the most exciting thing... you don't need to wait until Christmas to enjoy it.  Hot Chocolate is great in February, too!

Hot Chocolate Bar
serves 4

4 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup sugar

In a medium saucepan, heat 4 cups of the milk over low heat, being very careful not to let the milk boil.  In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa, sugar, and the remaining 1/2 cup milk.  Add the cocoa mixture to the warm milk and continue to warm the cocoa until hot.

Pour into 4 mugs and garnish.

Taylor's Notes:
I tripled the recipe and it made enough for thirteen of us.  It's pretty rich, so you probably don't need more than a cup - especially depending on your add-ins - but hey, I don't judge.  Drink away.  

I made this a day ahead and kept it in the refrigerator until we were ready to enjoy it.  It heated up on the stove pretty quickly - in maybe 20 minutes or so - over medium heat.  Again, be careful not to let the milk boil.  Trust me, no amount of Bailey's can help burnt milk.


January 20, 2013

... Spicy Thai Noodles

I've had this recipe pinned for quite a while now.  That's one of the downfalls of Pinterest... pin and forget.  Love 'em and leave 'em.  Until now.  Now I'm making a goal to actually make the recipes that I pin.  Viva la Pinterest!

The beautiful thing about most online recipes - and especially well-read food blogs - is that there are nearly always comments from readers who have made the recipe.  After reading several of them, I found myself tweaking the original recipe before I even started.  Here's the original recipe should you choose to follow it.  See my notes below for my changes.

Spicy Thai Noodles
serves 4

1 box linguine or angel hair pasta
1 - 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sesame oil
6 tablespoons honey
6 tablespoons soy sauce
green onions, cilantro, peanuts, toasted sesame seeds, shredded carrots

Boil noodles.  Drain.

Chop green onions, cilantro, carrots, and peanuts.

Heat both oils and crushed red pepper over medium heat in a small pan (2 tablespoons makes this dish very spicy.  I use only 1 tablespoon or less of pepper.)  Strain out pepper and reserve oil.  To oil, whisk in honey and soy sauce.  Toss mixture with noodles.

Refrigerate overnight or until cold.  Before serving, top each individual serving with onions, cilantro, carrots, peanuts, and toasted sesame seeds.  Serve cold.

Taylor's Notes:
As I mentioned, there were several comments to the original blog post... and I loved reading them.  You can always find great information from other readers and often the blogger will add notes, too.  Like, for instance, you really don't need the vegetable oil.  Several people - even LeAna, the blogger, said that she now leaves it out.  I added 1/8 cup just to see how it'd be.  Silly me.  I should have listened.  It wasn't bad, but was definitely more oily than it needed to be.  So, lesson learned - leave it out.  The other great tidbit I found was to add rice wine vinegar and a little peanut butter (I used Justin's Almond Butter as I've quickly become addicted to it).  And finally, as always when chilies are concerned, add at your own risk.  LeAna warns you in the original recipe that the full two tablespoons add a lot of heat.  You know me, I love heat, so add as you wish.  I actually used a tablespoon and a half of Sambal Oelek, which is chili paste.  Since I used that, I didn't drain the flakes from the oil.  

A few other things I did on my own was use Udon noodles instead of linguine.  I also added shrimp.  Several other readers added chicken, broccoli, mushrooms.  I forgot the peanuts (bummer!  they would have added great texture).  As always, the beauty of cooking is being able to make it your own.  So go get in the kitchen and be creative!  Add what you like and leave out what you don't.  And by all means...

Enjoy yourself!

January 13, 2013

... Ravioli Gratins with Goat Cheese, Basil Pistou and Pine Nuts

My collection of Le Creuset cookware is growing!  How fantastic are these Mini Cocottes that my dad gave me for Christmas?  He's such a good guy.  He also got me the cookbook to go along with it and I have no doubt he'll be benefiting from this gift often.  He's no fool.

I've flagged nearly all of the recipes in the book, but this one was the winner when my sister and nephew were coming for dinner.  Lucky for me and Kate, Elliott doesn't eat much (he's only 3 months old, after all) which meant leftovers for us.  And those leftovers were just about as good as the first round, which is saying a lot coming from me.

The prep work was easy.  Throw a bunch of fresh basil, some garlic and a little olive oil into a food processor and, voila, you have basil pistou.  Which, we learned, is pesto sans the pine nuts.  You could certainly switch the two out in this recipe, but whatever you do, make it fresh.  I've found some great jarred pestos, but, as with most things, nothing compares to fresh.

The recipe is simple to assemble.  A few layers of four or five items, pop it in the oven, and out comes this...

A perfect single serving of pasta.  Now I'm off to choose a recipe just for Dad.

Ravioli Gratins with Goat Cheese, Basil Pistou and Pine Nuts
serves 4

3/4 cup crumbly fresh goat cheese
2 bunches of fresh basil
4 cloves of garlic
several drops of olive oil
1/4 stick sweet butter
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 lb of fresh cheese ravioli
1/2 cup pine nuts
4 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Prepare the basil pitou.  Rinse the basil leaves under cold water.  Gently dry in a clean kitchen towel.  Peel the garlic and take out the inner germ.  With a small mixer, mix the garlic with the basil and a few drops of olive oil.

Precook the ravioli for one minute in salted boiling water, taking care to drain them well.  Add several drops of olive oil to coat them and prevent them from sticking together.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly butter 4 mini cocottes.

Add to each, a layer of ravioli, a spoonful of crumbled goat cheese and one of the basil pistou.  Add one teaspoon of pine nuts and continue with another layer of ravioli, one tablespoon of cream, one of goat cheese and a last one of pistou.  End with a layer of ravioli, a tablespoon of cream and a generous amount of grated Parmesan.

Bake, uncovered, for about 10 minutes until the tops look crunchy and a deep golden brown.

Just before serving, add several fresh, roughly chopped basil leaves and a teaspoon of pine nuts scattered on top.

Taylor's Notes:
There really isn't much to say about this.  It's as simple as it seems and as good as it looks.  I'll definitely keep this one towards the top of the pile.  It's perfect for a small dinner party and ideal for people who only like leftovers one more time (ahem).  


... White Four-Cheese Pizza with Basil and Garlic

Happy New Year, kids!  After a crazy busy Fall and Winter, I'm really excited to be back in the kitchen trying out new recipes.  Thanks to Santa, I have several terrific new cookbooks and I can't wait to share them with you.  First up...

This should come as no surprise considering how many posts I have based on Deb's recipes.  I love making pizza at home, so was thrilled to find her recipe for homemade pizza dough.  She gives instructions for both a rushed dough and a leisurely dough, but honestly who plans ahead enough for a pizza dough that takes more than 8 hours?  Not this girl.

So, pizza dough... check.  I'm a huge fan of white pizza (the whole not-a-lover-of-tomatoes thing I'm always talking about) and this recipe is my new fave.

Easy pizza crust, four cheeses, garlic, basil... You can't get much better than that.  

White Four-Cheese Pizza with Basil and Garlic
serves 6

for the dough...
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for counter
1 teaspoon table salt
olive oil, for coating bowl

Turn your oven on to warm (about 200 to 225 degrees) for 5 minutes, then turn it off.

Pour 1/2 cup warm water into the bowl of your electric mixer, sprinkle the yeast over the water, and let it stand for 5 minutes.  Add the flour, then salt, and mix with your dough hook at a moderate speed until the mixture starts to form a craggy mess.  Reduce the speed to low and mix for 5 minutes, letting the hook knead the mass into a smooth, elastic dough.  Remove dough and wipe out bowl.

Coat inside of mixing bowl with olive oil, place dough back in bowl, and cover with plastic wrap.  Place in previously warmed oven, and let it sit for 30 minutes, or until doubled.  Remove dough from oven (now is a good time to preheat it according to your recipe's instruction).

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter (if you want to roll it out), pizza peel, or prepared baking sheet, and let your recipe take it from here.

for the pizza...
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
6 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices, then coarsely chopped
3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 450 degrees.  Brush 13x9-inch metal baking pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Mix remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic in small bowl.

Roll out pizza dough on lightly floured work surface to 14x10-inch rectangle.  Transfer dough to prepared pan; brush lightly with some of the garlic oil.  Top with mozzarella cheese and goat cheese, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.  Crumble ricotta cheese over, then sprinkle with Parmesan.  Bake pizza until crust is golden brown and cheese melts, about 18 minutes.  Drizzle remaining garlic-oil over pizza.  Let stand 3 minutes.  Sprinkle with basil.

Taylor's Notes:
The pizza dough was so easy, but mine didn't raise like Deb said it would.  I left it in the warmed oven for about 15 minutes longer than the recipe noted in hopes that it would raise a little more, but no luck.  I didn't notice that it made a huge difference in the taste of the crust - just might have produced a little smaller pizza.  Which, let's be honest, isn't a horrible thing if you're eating it by yourself.

For the pizza, I swapped out the Parmesan for Asiago and added a few toasted pine nuts for a little crunch.  The basil was a perfect addition - please don't leave it off!

Enjoy and Happy New Year!