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Hi, I'm Pam Mehnert

As Outpost's general manager, Pam's work keeps her at the office, in meetings, or in front of her computer more than a simple 40 hours each week. However, her passion as a foodie has driven her to take on this challenge for the culinary experience of...
Pam Mehnert

Week Eight - Really, only 309 days to go? Come on, that's all?

A Year of Inconvenience
For one year, I'm making everything from scratch and forgoing convenience foods. Join me on my journey! By Pam Mehnert on June 13, 2010
Yes folks, that is sarcasm dripping every so sweetly and slowly off the end of week eight and onto this page. I don't know why I counted the days, but I did. And now as I sit here reflecting on the seasons ahead, and changes in food and food production ahead of me, it's beginning to feel daunting once again.

Funny thing is that the past week went by pretty smoothly for me. I'm in a food routine now. Sunday is my production day for the week, which isn't a bad thing when there's nothing else to do, and the weather is kind of crappy. I get up early Sunday morning, start a pot of coffee and then begin preparing for the week baking a loaf or two of bread, and perhaps granola bars or crackers. But summer is here in Wisconsin and the warmness of the wind, the voices of my friends, and the smell of brats in the air are calling me away from food production like seductive sirens.

A lot of my friends think that I'm spending all my free time cooking. While it's true I'm spending more time than before I started this journey, the actual cooking time is only about five more hours each week. It's actually the planning and the shopping that takes more time. If I don't plan ahead, then we end up eating the same things over and over again. Dinner becomes a protein, starch and vegetable - just like we all learned in Home Ec. However if I do spend the time planning, dinner in particular becomes more interesting with meals such as grilled steak fajitas with portabella mushrooms, peppers and zucchini on home made flour tortillas, or grilled tuna with basil butter and fresh tomato sauce. That said, I still have to be careful to not over-cook the tuna or the whole idea of having something new you put all this time into, makes you feel like grabbing a frozen pizza and calling it quits.

Speaking of pizza, during my first week of mass production I made a batch of pizza sauce from scratch, and it's been waiting patiently for me in my freezer for six weeks. Truth is, you get home from work and want to eat dinner within an hour, not hours later as I imagined myself having to whip up a batch of pizza dough that had to sit and rise for at least that amount of time. This week I heard my Mother's voice say, "use my pizza dough recipe." Okay, it was actually Lisa's voice as she reasoned with me in my distraught state of mind, to actually recall that I had a pretty quick and pretty good tasting dough recipe of my Mom's that we used several years ago when we had a big pizza party for my birthday.

That pizza, and crust in particular, was my redemption the end of week eight. The crust was quick and easy and we were enjoying it a little over one hour later. Much better than the frozen kind, in fact I think I said out loud I didn't want to go back to my old pizza ways once my year was over. Someone remind me I said that 308 days from now, okay?

Quick & Easy Pizza Crust
  • 1 tablespoon of instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar or honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Combine the yeast, sugar and salt with 1/2 cup of warm water and let it sit for five minutes until the yeast begins to bubble. Add all of the flour and mix until blended. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a minute or so until the dough becomes smooth (or until it isn't terribly sticky like it will feel before you knead it). Form the dough into a ball.

Pour the olive oil into a larger mixing bowl and grease the sides of the bowl so the dough doesn't stick. Place the ball of dough into the bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rise for only 20 minutes. Turn on your oven to heat to 425 degress and if you're using a pizza stone, place it in the center of the oven. Prepare all of your pizza toppings while the dough is rising.

Once the dough has risen put the ball onto a floured surface and work it into a circle by gently stretching the dough from the center to the outside. Keep turning it over to keep both sides floured so it doesn't stick.

I like to bake my crust on a pizza stone. If you're using a pan, make sure to lightly oil the pan before putting your dough on it. Now I don't yet have a pizza peel, so I turned my dough onto a Silpat in order to transfer it onto the pizza stone. I lightly oiled the side of the dough I was turning out onto the stone, which helped if form a nice crunchy bottom.

Poke the dough all over with a fork before putting it in the oven to keep the dough from puffing up. Bake for five minutes until the crust begins hold it's shape. Remove from the oven and add your sauce and toppings. Bake for another 20-25 minutes until the crust edges are brown and the cheese is bubbly. Enjoy!

My recipe for from-scratch pizza sauce can be found in my post, "My Sunday of Mass Production with Recipe."


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