Malibu Veggie Pizza - Surprising Topping Combination

This is perhaps the best vegetarian pizza I have ever eaten.  It's unexpected and I even question calling it pizza as the ingredients are at least partially untraditional.  Old Chicago calls this a Malibu Veggie pizza.  If you are a pizza fan, I highly suggest you try it.  Here's what's on it:

Instead of pizza sauce, it has a spicy salsa and then top it with mellow ricotta cheese, sweet shredded carrots, red onion, red pepper, mushrooms and diced tomatoes.  After baking each slice is topped with a large dollop of guacamole. 

The resulting pizza is loaded with toppings that are a wonderful balance of sweet and spicy, creamy and crunchy.   It's my new favorite pizza. 

This recipe takes about one and half to two hours to make start to finish.

Gif Created on Make A Gif

Malibu Veggie Pizza

Pizza Dough:
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup wheat flour
2 - 2.5 cups white flour
Cornmeal to sprinkle under crust

1.5 cups salsa (Get something spicy because you want a hint of heat and it gets really spread out.)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded jack cheese
1/4 cup provolone, shredded
2 carrots, grated
2 cups tomatoes (Try to drain as much juice off as you can.)
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/4 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced (I don't think the mushrooms are necessary for flavor or texture, you could skip them.)

1 cup guacamole (1 avocado, 1 tablespoon minced onion, 1 tablespoon minced cilantro, 1 tablespoon lime juice)
  1. Pour the cup of warm water into a large bowl. The water should be about 115 degrees F, about the temperature of a nice bath. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Then sprinkle the yeast on top. Cover the bowl with a towel and allow the yeast to bloom for about five minutes.
  2. Check on your yeast to make sure it has bloomed. The water should now be covered in a thin layer of frothy foam. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the olive oil, salt and wheat flour. Let the dough stand.  Wheat flour takes longer to absorb water than white flour so I like to give it five minutes or so before adding in the white flour.
  3. Start mixing in the white flour half cup at a time until the dough is really hard to mix. Then use your clean hands to knead the dough. I like to knead right in the bowl or you can turn it out on to the counter.
  4. Knead for about five minutes until the dough is elastic and still a little sticky.
  5. Pour a little oil into a large clean bowl, place the ball of dough into the bowl and turn it to grease all sides. Then cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place until double. Depending on how warm your place is this could take thirty minutes to an hour.
  6. Meanwhile, dice and slice your toppings. 
  7. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously sprinkle a generous amount of corn meal on to your pizza baking pan. 
  8. Punch the dough down and turn it out on to a clean work surface. Roll out the dough to the size of your pizza pan. Transfer the dough to the pan and let it rest ten minutes before layering on the toppings. 
  9. Top your pizza in the following order: salsa, ricotta cheese, jack and provolone cheese, carrots, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, mushrooms.  Check out the animated gif above!
  10. Bake your pizza for 15-25 minutes or until the edges brown, and the cheese bubbles.   The toppings have a lot of moisture, so I like to prop the door of the open about an inch so the steam can get out. 
  11. Let pizza sit five minutes then cut into slices and add top with guacamole.  A light Mexican beer is the perfect pairing. 
What's your favorite pizza topping combination?

Spring Ephemerals Blooming at Taltree

I took my camera out on Friday when I was putting out spring ephemeral labels around Taltree Arboretum and Gardens.  Look at what I found!

Dutch Crocus (Crocus hybrid)

Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica

Lenton Rose (Helleborus orientalis)

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)


Cinnamon Leaves - Sweet Bread Recipe

I'm starting this post while the bread is in the oven. The smell of baking cinnamon bread is intoxicating.  All I can think about is how hungry I am.  I doubt there will be any of this loaf left.  I have to make sure that I get photos before we dig in. 

I recently discovered Vietnamese cinnamon.  I'm not sure why it is so much better than regular cinnamon.  Vietnamese is much more potent, bordering on spicy.  The cinnamon in this recipe is enhanced with the sharper and earthier flavor of nutmeg. 

We're making a basic yeast bread recipe slathered in butter, cinnamon and sugar.  A rare treat to be enjoyed and savored and eaten fresh out of the oven. 

The recipe starts with mixing all the dry ingredients, save one cup of flour and then mixing all the wet ingredients together and heating them to perfect yeast temperature (115-125 degrees F).  Then mixing all the wet into the dry.  This makes a very strange dough that at first is almost crumbly and then the more it is worked becomes very sticky.  That's when you add in the rest of the flour. 

Then you have a nice elastic dough which is allowed to rise until double before being made into leaves.

Roll out the dough into a large rectangle about 12 by 20 inches. Slather on the melted butter and top with the cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar mixture.  Then cut the leaves.   

Cut the dough into six strips and then stack them up.  Cut the stack of strips into three or four stacks.  I cut it into four and they could have been wider for my 9x5 inch loaf pan. 

Lots of cinnamon sugar will fall out, just scoop it back up and put it on top of the leaves.  Place the leaves in a buttered 9x5 loaf pan.  Let rise a second time until double. 

Then bake for 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.  This is also a good time to consider making coffee, because when this comes out of the oven you will want some bitter coffee to balance the sweet gooey cinnamon leaves. 

Take the bread out of the oven and invert it on a plate so all the syrup that was bubbling at the bottom trickles down the sides.  Let it set for five minutes so you don't burn your fingers and then dig in.  This was the perfect breakfast for a rainy Sunday morning.  The only downside being I didn't have as much natural light to work with so the photos don't quite capture it.  I swear it looks even better than this. 

Cinnamon Leaves
 (This recipe was adapted from Joy the Baker)

For the Dough:

2 3/4 cups plus all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk
1/4 cup water
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Filling:

1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter, melted

  1. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, yeast and salt) together in a large bowl, reserve one cup of the flour.  On the stove or in the microwave, heat the milk, water, and butter until the butter is liquid.  Allow the mixture to cool until it is still warm, but you can touch it with out burning yourself.  Beat the two eggs together in a small bowl.  Then add the butter mixture, eggs and vanilla to the dry ingredients.  Use a wooden spoon to combine.  The dough will take a while to mix. Once everything is a very sticky dough, kneed in the remaining one cup of flour- about five minutes of kneading should do it.
  2. Place the dough in a greased a bowl, rise with a clean towel over top until double. I like to warm my oven for a five minutes then turn it off and let the dough rise inside the slightly warm oven.  It should take about an hour.  Bread will rise really fast at about 90 degrees. 
  3.  Roll out the dough on a clean surface to 12 by 20  inch rectangle.  Now your ready to add the filling.  Brush the melted butter over the surface of the rolled out dough.  Then mix the cinnamon, sugar and nutmeg together and sprinkle it over top.  It will seem like a lot, just trust me on this part.
  4. Then cut the dough into six strips.  Stack the six strips on top of each other.  Cut those strips into three or four stacks of squares.  Put the stacks of squares into the greased 9x5 loaf pan. 
  5. Allow to rise a second time until double (about 15-30 minutes). 
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Check to make sure the loaf is done before you tip it out by using a butter knife to press down on the top, if it springs back it is done.  If it doesn't the dough isn't quite baked, put it back in the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes. 
  7. Use the butter knife to loosen the edges then invert the bread onto a plate.  The syrup that was made from all the sugar, is really hot and will run down the edges.  Let the bread set for five minutes before you dig in so you don't burn your mouth.  And don't forget to pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of milk.  Enjoy.
This recipe was submitted to Yeast Spotting and Simple Lives Thursday.


Healthy Happy Hummus - Vegetarian Recipe

I learned how to make hummus from a friend who learned from his Turkish next door neighbor.  Is that the way recipes should be?  Hummus is a puree made from chickpeas and tahini.  Tahini is basically peanut butter made with sesame seeds.  At my grocery store it is in with the Italian/Greek food items.  To boost the sesame seed flavor I like to add toasted sesame seed oil which can be found in the Asian foods section. This is also a great addition to stir fry or curry. 

I love hummus and a little container is several dollars at the grocery store.  It's very easy to make a large quantity cheaply with ingredients you can find in pretty much any market.  I choose to use dried chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) because they are tastier, cheaper and healthier than canned.  All you have to do is remember to start soaking them the night before. 

We eat hummus with fresh bread, veggies and feta cheese for dinner about twice a month.  Hummus also makes a great lunch or afternoon snack.  It is high in fiber and has a decent amount of protein especially for a meatless dish.


1 cup dried chickpeas (about 2.5 cups hydrated)
1 onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
½ cup liquid from chickpeas
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)
5-7 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
½ teaspoon salt
Cayenne to taste (1/2 teaspoon)
  1. Soak the chickpeas over night than boil them for thirty minutes to an hour until they are soft enough to smash with a spoon.  Drain the chickpeas saving about a half cup of the water they were boiled in.
  2. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil, until the onion is transparent.
  3. Put the sauteed onion and garlic plus all the other ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth.  Add some of the reserved chickpea water to get things moving if you need to.  In Panama we used a hand-crank, clamp-on the counter type grinder and it worked just fine. 
Yields: 4 servings

Nutrition: 324 calories, 15 grams fat, 7 grams fiber and 8 grams protein

There are lots of ways to enjoy hummus.  I adore hummus as a dip for crackers or served with sliced cucumber, bell pepper, carrots, and Kalmata olives.  It's also good with some crumbled feta cheese, on fresh bread or if you make it thinner as a salad dressing.

This recipe was featured on Simple Lives Thursday.


Confession: I've Never Donated Blood

I have never donated blood. I don’t really have a good reason for this, just never got around to it. With all the natural disasters happening around the world, I’ve been feeling helpless. I don’t have a lot of extra money to give, but I do have blood.

Sara gave blood!
Earlier this month my friend Sara had this up as her Facebook Status and the following challenge ensued:

Sara: Whenever I have a moment where I start to question my value as a member of society, I can think of the phone call I got today & know that I am wanted for a pint of blood at the very least. Here’s to contributing!
Foy: You should write a persuasive blog post encouraging people to give blood. I like the idea, but I lack motivation. Perhaps a little nudge would do the trick.
Sara: Foy: I'll show mine if you show yours :)
Foy: Is that a challenge? Should we do dueling blog posts on donating blood?
Sara: I like it! It can count as our good deeds for that day, giving us license to be thoroughly rotten for the other 23 hours. When do you want to post?
Foy: Hmm.. Give me next week to figure out how to give blood around here. March is crazy, but it can't take that long to donate. I've never done it before. Let's plan on March 15th?

Sara: Sounds great!

I made a couple calls to the local hospital and then the Red Cross. It’s pretty easy to get an appointment. Just check the American Red Cross Blood website.

I was in the FAQ section when I realized that I have lived out of side of the country. I was in Panama for two years with the Peace Corps. I’ve been back 1 year and 8 months. Am I even eligible to give blood? Turns out, it is on a state by state basis; for sure a year needs to have passed and in some cases two years. So I might be eligible. I’ve left several messages for various people at blood labs and at the Red Cross asking if I can donate blood. No replies yet.

Did I make the challenge? Unfortunately no, but I have learned quite a bit! And I’ve overcome the inertia of doing nothing.

I’d like to encourage you to look into donating blood. Read up on how easy it is here: http://www.redcrossblood.org/donating-blood/first-time-donors

Check out Sara’s post where she successfully gives blood over on a Weight-y Life. She’s an inspiring gal taking her health into her own hands.


Vegetable Gardens for Small Spaces

Were your grandparents vegetable gardeners? What about your parents? Are you?

According to a National Gardening Association’s 2010 study gardening is on the rise; of the household surveyed 37% are doing some of their own food production. That's a 19% increase from 2008-2009.

Why Do Folks Want to Grow Their Own? 

Survey says:

  • 58% Better tasting food
  • 54% Save money on food bills
  • 51% Better quality food
  • 48% Grow food that they knew is safe

If this were my personal list, I would add educational opportunity, exercise and stress relief.  Plus plants are pretty. 

This is one of my favorite vegetable gardens.  It is on a private estate in Pennsylvania and is one of the last designs that Rosemary Verey did State side before she died.  Proof that vegetable gardens don't have to be hidden in the back yard.  The orange are marigolds, a variety similar to Starfire Signet Marigolds available from Seed Savers Exchange.
You don't have to have a space this big to grow vegetables.  You can grow a tomato in two feet square in the ground, a raised bed, or a big pot on a balcony, patio, or strip of land along the side of your house.
Here's an edible landscape at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There is some large kale in back and parsley, basil and chives up front.

You could even just put some holes in a bag of soil and insert some lettuce seedlings. 

Where ever you chose to start your garden make sure you have at least eight hours of direct sunshine and access to water.
It could even be your window.  This is a hydroponic window farm from windowfarms.org.  An electric pump on the shelf below pumps nutrient rich water up to the top plants every thirty minutes.  The water trickles down through all the plants and their roots back to the basin below.  All you need is a window - preferably south facing. 
Now is the time to start thinking about your potential garden.  The frost free date in the Midwest is May 15.  That's when you want to start your garden to get maximum growing and harvesting time.
What Should You Grow?

What you'll eat.  If you don't like green beans, don't plant them, even if you will get buckets full for weeks. 
For optimum use of your small space choose small plant with high yields.  Consider plants that you can eat the leaves like: lettuce, spinach, chard, radish, and onions. 

If you are looking to add fresh flavor to your cooking grow herbs.  They take up very little space and don't need as much water as the bigger plants like tomatoes.  Try parsley, chives, thyme, basil, sage, oregano, rosemary, marjoram or mint.  Above is an elegant window box that is mixed herbs and flowers.
What are Some Easy Vegetables to Start With?
  • Lettuce, spinach, micro greens
  • Banana or Chili type peppers
  • Bush Beans
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Short root crops like little carrots, beets, radishes
  • Green onions 
The most popular vegetable to grow is tomatoes!  Eighty-six percent of gardeners grow tomatoes.  If you have a small space I strongly recommend cherry tomatoes.  I don't have any numbers but I am sure that cherry tomatoes produce more pounds of tomatoes over a longer period than standard or beefsteak size tomatoes. 

Tomatoes need a lot of space and water so be sure not to crowd them.  Allow a foot and a half radius of space around each plant, especially when planting in a container.

Be prepared to water your tomato twice a day during the hottest parts of the summer. 
Plant Selection for Small Gardens
When you are shopping for your veggies look for plants with names that include:
  • Dwarf
  • Patio
  • Container
  • Bush
  • Short internodes
  • Compact
  • Pixie
  • Tiny
  • Miniature
These name tell you that the plant is better suited for your small space.  Many nurseries and seed companies are advertising just these qualities in their plants because they know consumers often don't have a lot of space.  

Fertilizing your Small Garden

If you are growing veggies in containers or in small raised beds it is important to make sure your plants have enough nutrients.  Soil rich in organic matter is the best way to go.  If you are planting in the ground amend the soil heavily with compost.  If you are growing in containers use a light potting soil and consider mixing in up to 25% worm compost or other rich compost.  Avoid using mushroom compost, it can be salty. 

If you are growing heavy feeders (plants that use a lot of nutrients) like tomatoes, peppers, zucchini or cucumbers you may want to add fertilizer.  I prefer organic, but you could also use artificial.  Fertilize your plants when they start to flower and again when they start to set fruit.  Keep in mind that whatever you put on your plants will wind up on your plate. 

You Never Know Until You Try

I'd like to leave you with that thought.  Gardening is something to learn by doing.  If this is your first try, start small.  If your plants die, try to figure out why, then plant some more.  There is a learning curve.  You never know what you are capable of until you try.  Good luck!


Chicago Flower and Garden Show 2011

Some beautiful forced tulips at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.
 Saturday my fellow horticulturalist and I spoke at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.  I wasn't terribly nervous until I stepped up to the podium and then my knee started shaking.  It made the whole elevated stage vibrate too.  A couple deep breaths and I was good to go.  We spoke on nature and nurture and how they each play a part in gardening.  It was fun to expose people from the Chicago region to Taltree Arboretum and Gardens.  I hope we inspired some folks to come out this summer. 

After the presentation we got a little bit of time to go out and enjoy the show.  I love the competitions.  I always come away with a list of things to try. 

Bolted purple cabbages paired with tulips.
I stopped by the Chicago Botanic Garden's Extension booth and asked them what was the most frequent question they were getting.  They said it was about all the bolted cabbages and kales.  People didn't know what they were.  Once they mentioned it, I started seeing them everywhere.  At first I thought perhaps it was unintentional, but they were to frequent too be a mistake.  Perhaps this is a new trend?  The bolted cabbages do add a nice vertical height. 

I adore this sedum, it is such a vibrant green.  This is Dora Aalbregtse's entry in the Cacti and Succulents category.  The sedum is 'Fine Leaf Gold'.  It would be perfect for the Railway Garden if it is winter hardy in Zone 5. 

The tiny sedum also show up in the winning Container Garden. Upon closer inspection, this one was also designed by Dora Aalbregtse.  The woman's got taste.

My favorite display was the Window Boxes.  This was the winner and I love the way herbs were incorporated.  I'm definitely using this as an example for my Vegetables in Small Spaces Class. 

I also love it that they include a planting diagram. 

Although this is not a combination that would work in real life, there are cool and warm plants all mixed together,  it is proof that beauty and function are not mutually exclusive. 

Flower and Garden shows have a lot of smoke and mirrors.  Usually I can get absorbed and not think about how much razzle-dazzle it takes to create these displays.  But this one by Smith and Hawken broke the spell.  I had to laugh out loud and take photos when I saw it.   Do you see it?

This "garden" is nothing more than grocery store veggies in cups with some Spanish moss tucked in the edges.  I wouldn't have noticed except for several of the cups were showing like so many plastic cups at a college party. 

An Early Spring Haiku

Shiny green heads peek

from Winter’s dirty blanket

March does her laundry

Saw this haiku on thepioneerwoman.com and it made me smile.


Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onions - Healthy Side Dish Recipe

Brussels sprouts are uber healthy.  They have been linked to cancer protection, lowering cholesterol and supporting thyroid function, and they taste superb.  I like my Brussels sprouts roasted until they are a tad bit past bright green and the bitterness has been reduced leaving a hint of sweetness from the caramelization that is happening.  When paired with onions and bacon you've got a substantial side dish.

Pan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
1 onion
2 slices of bacon, diced
Fresh ground pepper to taste

  1. Start by cleaning the Brussels sprouts.  First cut off any discoloration on the stem.  If the Brussels sprouts are larger than a ping pong ball you'll want to cut them in half so they cook all the way through.

  2. Then dice the onion.  We don't eat a lot of meat, but we do usually have some bacon in the freezer.  We slice off what we want with a sharp knife and then put the block back in the freezer.  It's a handy little trick. 

  3. In a large skillet, saute the bacon and onion together over medium heat until the onion starts to brown.  Then add in the Brussels sprouts.  Cover and stir every couple of minutes until the Brussels sprouts turn bright green and then start to fade to a more avocado color.  You're want some browning and caramelization happening.  Turn the heat off and allow the Brussels sprouts to sit covered, while you prepare the rest of your meal.  They are best if they get five minutes or so to steam before serving.

  4. We enjoy Brussels sprouts with grilled fish or as a side to eggy-in-a-basket.  Hop on over to An Austin Home Stead where I wrote the recipe as a guest post!
 If you found your way here from An Austin Homestead, I hope you'll stay awhile.  There is a button over on the left to subscribe or become a facebook fan.  I've got a lot of recipes and garden ideas to share.