One Vanilla Bean Turns 5! Baking Steel Giveaway & A Recipe for Breakfast Pizza

My favorite breakfast

My favorite breakfast

I can hardly believe that it has been 5 years since I started this blog with a simple, and poorly photographed, recipe for granola. To my defense, it’s delicious and I still make it exactly as I made it then.

I started the blog to share my recipes with family and friends. Also, I was bored out of my mind during the 2010 snowmageddon! I’ve met some wonderful people through my blog and through social media, and developed close friendships.

I wanted to do a special giveaway for readers of the blog. One of the kitchen items that I’ve been using a lot lately is the Baking Steel. The boyfriend got it for me as a Christmas gift, and boy is he happy he did! I’ve been obsessed with it, making all kinds of pizza: NY style pepperoni pizza, a simple Neapolitan style pizza, thin crust pizza, cheesy garlic bread… I can’t stop.

NY Style Pepperoni Pizza

NY Style Pepperoni Pizza

Cheesy Bread and Thin Crust Pepperoni Pizza

Cheesy Bread and Thin Crust Pepperoni Pizza

The great news is that Baking Steel has kindly agreed to provide a Baking Steel to one lucky reader! Baking Steel started as a Kickstarter project. The concept is a simple one, the steel is a better conductor of heat, producing a better crust, and creating better oven spring for baked goods such as bread. The resulting crust is a thing of beauty.

Baking Steel Superior Alternative to Pizza Stone (photo from Baking Steel)

Baking Steel Superior Alternative to Pizza Stone (photo from Baking Steel)

In order to be eligible to win:

  1. Leave a comment below telling me what is your favorite pizza combination.
  2. Optional: Follow me and follow Baking Steel on instagram.
  3. You must have a contiguous US address for shipping of the product in case you win.
  4. If you are one of those people who has social media accounts only to enter giveaways, you will be disqualified. This is not an opportunity for you to go resell something on ebay.

I will randomly pick a winner on February 14th. Now I leave you with a recipe for my latest obsession: breakfast pizza. Thank you for visiting my blog and for following along for the past 5 years!

Breakfast Pizza

  • 1 ball of pizza dough, about 8 ounces, store bought or home-made (this is my favorite crust right now)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 small maple breakfast sausage links, casings removed, cooked and crumbled or cooked whole and cut into pieces
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
  • 1/3 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons sliced chives or finely chopped parsley
  • a few drops of truffle oil (optional)
Breakfast Pizza Before Baking

Breakfast Pizza Before Baking

  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to using.  Pre-heat Baking Steel in the oven according to manufacturer’s directions. Place the mozzarella cheese and the cheddar cheese in a small container and freeze while you are pre-heating the oven.
  2. Stretch dough to a 9 inch circle, making the edges a bit thicker than the rest. Place on a pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal. Sprinkle mozzarella and cheddar evenly on the dough. Top with the crumbled sausage, sliced boiled eggs, and bell pepper. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Tip on your baking steel and cook for about 10-12 minutes, rotating the pizza once halfway through cooking time. Remove the pizza from the oven, and sprinkle with chives and truffle oil if using.

Note: If you don’t have a Baking Steel (yet) or a pizza stone, you can pre-heat a cookie sheet in the oven at 500F degrees for about 15 minutes. Make sure to place the cookie sheet upside down in the oven. Prepare your dough on parchment paper, and slide the parchment paper with the pizza onto the pre-heated cookie sheet. Cook 12-15 minutes at 450F. The crust won’t be as crispy and crunchy, but it will still be delicious.

Breakfast Pizza

Breakfast Pizza

**Update** 2/14/15 The winner of the Baking Steel is Kaoru!

Day Designer Giveaway Winner Announced

Day Designer Giveaway

I am completely overwhelmed by your response to the Day Designer giveaway! I can’t believe that there were over 200 entries!

I read every single comment. I really wish I had a day designer for each one of you. After reading all of your comments, and using the Day Designer, the one tip I have to stay organized is to make a task list that corresponds to a specific slot of time. Make sure you allow enough time to complete each task.

And now for the winner of the giveaway… the winner is Nica de Leos!

Congratulations, Nica! Please email me your mailing address. My contact email is in my about page.

Thank you to everyone who participated! Hope everyone has a wonderful weekend.

Salmon and Corn Chowder

Salmon and Corn Chowder

Salmon and Corn Chowder

My friend Olga hosted a soup swap last weekend. For a long time, I could not decide on what to make. I wanted something that was easy to make, and that many different people would enjoy. I even asked for recommendations on Facebook. Then I remembered this salmon corn chowder recipe.

I’ve been making this recipe for many years. The original recipe is from and old Marie Claire magazine. I have added ingredients and changed the procedure over time. This is not a thick chowder. It is thickened slightly by using some of the corn kernels. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that it is not a thick soup doesn’t mean that it is not creamy. Heavy cream and whole milk make this a luscious and satisfying meal.

What I love about this recipe is that you can make it with fresh corn when it’s in season, or you can make it with frozen corn when fresh corn is not available.

It is perfect for a cold winter day. I think it was a hit at the soup swap.

And if you want to learn more about the soup swap, visit Olga’s post.

Salmon and Corn Chowder

(Adapted from an old Marie Claire magazine)

  • 8 ounces fresh salmon filet, bones and skin removed, cut into 1 inch dice (or 8 ounces canned boneless & skinless salmon)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 small new potatoes, cut into 1 inch dice (about 2 cups)
  • 3 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon shopped dill
  • salt and pepper
Salmon

Salmon

  1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and return to the refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. In a large pot, over medium heat, melt the butter, and add the red onion. Cover and cook for 4 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic, potatoes, and carrots. Season with salt and pepper, and sauté for two minutes. Add in the milk, and broth, and bring to a simmer.
  3. Place 2 cups of the corn kernels in a blender, and add 1 cup of the simmering liquid making sure that you don’t add any of the vegetables that are cooking in the liquid. Blend the corn kernels and 1 cup liquid until smooth.
  4. Add the blended corn, the remaining 2 cups of corn kernels, the red bell pepper, and the heavy cream to the pot. Bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes, just until the potatoes are tender.
  5. Once the potatoes are ready, turn off the heat and add in the salmon. The salmon will cook in 1-2 minutes with the heat off. Taste the liquid and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the dill and serve. Makes 5-6 large servings.

Do you have a favorite go-to soup recipe?

Salmon and Corn Chowder Ready for the Soup Swap

Salmon and Corn Chowder Ready for the Soup Swap

Day Designer Giveaway

Black Stripes Day Designer Giveaway

Black Stripes Day Designer Giveaway

I’ve been waiting quite a while to get my hands on one of Whitney English‘s Day Designers. All my friends who have one rave about how great it is, and how it helps them to keep their lives organized.

Even now, when I think about it, all the little things that I have to keep track of become overwhelming: work duties, personal and work travel schedules, blog posts, doctor’s appointments, weekly menus, freelancing due dates, and on and on and on.

I think that as technology enables us to do more, our days are filled with even more tasks.

We are past mid-January, but you can still get organized for the rest of the year.  I allow an extra five minutes every morning  to sit down and write down my to do list for the day. I’ve been using my planner for about two weeks now, and I see myself checking off more things from my to do list.

Starting the day with a cup of coffee and my spotty dots Day Designer

Starting the day with a cup of coffee and my spotty dots Day Designer

I purchased an extra Day Designer Day Planner & Personal Daily Agenda in black stripes to give away on the blog. Right now they are completely sold out.

In order to be eligible to win:

  • Leave a comment below telling me why you need the Day Designer or share a tip that you use to stay organized.
  • Subscribe to this blog to receive notifications of new posts by email, under Email Subscription on the top right column of my blog. That way you’ll be notified of future giveaways.
  • For extra entries (optional): follow me on instagram and/or twitter and leave a separate comment below.

If you are one of those people that only has social media accounts to enter giveaways, you’ll be disqualified. This is not an opportunity for you to go resell this on ebay. I really want this to go to someone who needs it and will use it!

I will pick the winner on January 31st. I will update this post to include the name of the winner, and I will notify the winner via email. Planner will be shipped  to US address only.

Earl Grey Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate with Early Grey Tea and Home-Made Marshmallows

Hot Chocolate with Early Grey Tea and Home-Made Marshmallows

It’s so cold outside! We are having some really cold weather here in DC. I have resisted the urge to have some creamy hot chocolate, but yesterday I gave in. I had no milk, but I had almond milk. I made my favorite hot chocolate with almond milk instead. Honestly, I can say that there was no noticeable difference in texture or flavor.

This hot chocolate is flavored with Earl Gray tea. The tea gives it more depth of flavor, and scent of bergamot. I can’t think of a more comforting way to warm up at home.

Earl Grey Hot Chocolate

(adapted from the Tea Box by Gilles Brochard)

Serves 4

  • 2 cups almond milk, vanilla flavored & unsweetened (I like Califia Farms brand when I don’t make my own)
  • 1 small star anise
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise (or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 2 bags of Earl Grey tea, or about 2 teaspoons loose leaf tea (You can use a decaf version if you have concerns about caffeine)
  • 4 ounces best quality semi-sweet chocolate, very finely chopped or grated
  • 1 tablespoon of agave syrup (optional)
  • mini marshmallows for serving

Procedure

  1. In a small pot combine the almond milk, star anise, and cinnamon stick. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod and add them to the milk along with the pod. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
  2. Once the milk barely starts to simmer, add the tea and turn off the heat. Let steep for 3 minutes. Remove the tea bags.
  3. Add in the chocolate. Turn on the heat to low and mix well with a whisk. Once the chocolate has melted, taste and add agave syrup if desired. Strain the hot chocolate into a large bowl. Before pouring it into mugs, whisk vigorously to create some froth. Serve and top with mini marshmallows.