Becky's Perfect Pizza

I love pizza! I love thick crust and thin crust and everything in between. I really think pizza is my all-time favorite food. (Oops, I forgot about bacon – now THAT is perfect food).

I have been making homemade pizza since I was a pre-teen and used boxed hot roll mix. Over the years I have tried many yeast to flour to water ratios as well as dried yeast, rapid rise yeast and cake yeast. The yeasty taste and smell are so important. It makes you realize it is homemade—frozen pizza just can’t capture that specific aroma.

I will share my perfect pizza recipe in the next blog and I hope you will give it a try. Read on for a pizza story and a few ideas.

My son is the perfect pizza fan. He likes a thin crust, plain (cheese and sauce only) and he likes it often! When he went away to college and then law school I would make up a double batch of dough every two weeks. On Sunday nights, I would roll out the dough into 12 thin crusts and bake until it was just a tiny bit golden. Monday mornings would find me at the post office with a priority mail box in hand full of pizza crusts. Off to Boston or wherever he was at the moment they would go. I mean this is one lucky kid. I even used to regularly mail him homemade cherry pie in a special container. My friends would make fun of me for going to all that trouble, but the worst part was standing in line at the post office. Too bad this was a number of years ago and they didn’t have the self-mail stations you can now use day or night.

The crusts are delicious, can be frozen, then topped with your favorites and baked for a very short time.

I have made the crusts tiny (cut out with a cookie cutter) for appetizers with fresh basil and mozzarella toppings. I have also rolled the dough into larger individual crusts and had friends over to create their own specialties and I have made giant pizzas with great success.

WOW! I am making myself hungry. Let’s have pizza tonight!!


Personal Wedding Gifts

Jen M. from Boston recently wrote in and wanted to know if I had any creative wedding gift ideas for a couple she is good friends with. She would prefer not to buy off the registry and wants to give something a little more personal – ideally, a gift that plays into the hobbies of the couple and their favorite things. She said they enjoy wine, the outdoors, and music.

Here are a few ideas – for the wine lover in them, what about a pair of stemless wine glasses, a great bottle of wine and a subscription to
Wine Spectator magazine? Or buy four beautiful wineglasses and have them monogrammed or two glasses, wine and an insulated carrier. On top of the package tie a wonderful wine stopper – they will actually use it and there are some really great ones out now.

Stemless wine glass from Crate & Barrel

Wine tasting/pairing classes are a lot of fun too. We live near the NY Wine and Culinary Center and there are a ton of interesting things go on – there should be something similar in the Boston area.

For the outdoorsy ideas – what about a picnic blanket or quilt monogrammed with their combined initials? They can throw it in the trunk and will have it forever. My kids played on one I received at my wedding so long ago. There is also a new product out there for picnics called the Victory Backpack, by
Picnic Time. It is an insulated backpack with four glasses, tons of room for food and a lot of little compartments for wine and cheese, napkins etc. It comes in a bunch of different colors and is a really different gift.

For the music lovers – what about tickets to the Boston Pops or Boston Symphony? Or combine all their favorite things – music tickets, wine and a blanket!

*Becky Knows Everything: Try not to buy one of those cutesy picnic basket things. They are overloaded with “stuff” and leave no room for the things you really need, like the food. Also, even if I don’t buy off the registry, I always take a look at it just to get a feel for the couple’s personal style and colors.


Elisabeth and Joe are Married

We spent a delightful weekend in Philadelphia over the Fourth of July celebrating the marriage of Elisabeth (Adie’s college roommate) and Joe (Jimmy’s childhood friend). Adie and Jim were both in the wedding party so it was extra special, especially since it got me out of Rochester and on a mini happy trip.

Saturday, July 4th was such a pretty day in Philly. I mean 80 degrees, bright sunshine and no humidity (my hair was thankful).

The marriage ceremony was held outside on a lovely trellised patio at a beautiful country club and was performed by Elisabeth’s grandfather.

Elisabeth, in a wonderful
Priscilla of Boston draped gown looked so happy! She was preceded down the aisle by the bridesmaids, dressed in black halter style dresses. They carried a vibrant mix of oranges and pinks, including roses and peonies. The bride carried a lush bouquet of cream and blush peonies.

The sweetest part of the ceremony was when Elisabeth began to say her vows, but could not find the words through her tears. She finally stopped and asked her grandfather for a “do over” so she could recite them again. It was so endearing.

Joe looked very handsome in his classic tuxedo and pink tie.

The cocktail portion of the evening was so nice. A picturesque setting, an open bar, (oh, so important) and yummy cold and hot appetizers including an oyster bar. The most memorable appetizer was a mini philly cheese steak in a cream cheese tart.

For dinner and dancing we entered the ballroom. The bridal party and Elisabeth and Joe were introduced and danced. We were served a delicious dinner, topped with a tasty piece of cake.

What a happy event, and how nice we could all witness their vows and the beginning of their marriage. Congratulations, Joe and Elisabeth!


A Philly Fourth

Fourth of July weekend was spent in Philadelphia this year. Mike and I attended a lovely wedding which I will blog about soon.

When you think of Philadelphia what comes to mind? The Liberty Bell, Independence Hall (apparently it’s where the Declaration of Independence was signed), Sylvester Stallone running up the steps in Rocky, the Philadelphia Phillies and their new stadium, Valley Forge, cheese steaks? Well, not for me. When I think of Philly, I think of the nearby KING OF PRUSSIA MALL!

While Mike and our son-in-law, the great Jimmy, went to Valley Forge (Jimmy is from Philadelphia and has been going on field trips there since second grade), I had the real fun on my favorite kind of field trip – to a gigantic mall.

King of Prussia Mall (the largest mall on the East Coast) has over 400 shops and restaurants, a
NORDSTROM (and a really good Nordstrom at that), tons of food, a Legal Seafood for lunch and all sorts of interesting non-chain stores. Please, how many Victoria Secrets do we need in the world? It’s divided into three sections and you can find pretty much anything there you could ever want. Anyway, my daughter, her friend Sarah and I shopped and lunched and had the best time. Not getting to see the Liberty Bell frankly didn’t bother me one bit. It will still be there next time, right? If you get anywhere near Philly, check out this great mall. More on the wedding itself later.


Mom's a Peach Cobbler

My Mom makes the best peach cobbler and it is sooo easy to make. The peaches are looking really good right now and last night I made a cobbler for Mike and me. In the winter, when I have a “cobbler craving” I use frozen blueberries and raspberries that I thaw first. A sprinkling of walnuts on top is delicious too!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Peel 5 large peaches, split in half and remove pit. Now, this is a slimy job and I have tried doing it a bunch of different ways, but the bottom line is the peach is slippery when the peel is removed and you still need to get out the pit!

Slice the peeled peaches thinly (another rather slimy job) and place in large bowl.

Add the following ingredients to the peaches:
2/3 c. sugar
2 tbs. flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg (the real nutmeg used with a zester is fab)
Mix all together. Spoon into a nice quiche or pie pan and dot with 3 tbs. of butter.

In separate bowl, mix together:
1 c. flour
2 tbs. sugar
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt

Now add:
1/3 c. solid vegetable shortening like Crisco in the little blue can
1 egg
3 tbs. milk

When all is mixed, drop onto peach mixture in large tablespoons Bake 25-30 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

I serve in bowls with a dollop of whipping cream, ice cream or even Cool Whip.

*Becky Knows Everything: Try really hard to let this cool at least 15 minutes or the inside of your mouth won’t be feeling too peachy or happy!


More Floral Tips and Tricks

I promised I would give you some more info about ordering flowers from a florist and here you go:

Beware of the standard holiday centerpiece. I have worked for large and small florists and they all do the same thing (like the cut flowers in a vase from my recent blog). They will make up dozens or even hundreds of identical centerpieces for the holidays. For Thanksgiving they will feature yellow mums, any rust colored flower and HORRIBLE FAKE LEAVES. For Christmas they feature poinsettias, one or two red candles, some berries, and Christmasy greens. If you want to send a centerpiece to a friend (and it is generally a nice thing to do – although she probably already has plans for the center of her table and sometimes the table is so full of food there is no room) please, please be specific about what you want so the florist will have to make up something special just for you. Better yet, don’t order a centerpiece. Order a low silver bowl filled with red roses and holiday greens or a pretty red tulip and lily combination - the hostess can put this in a lot of places.

We LOVED when someone would order something different, like red and white roses, poinsettias and curly willow – it was a nice break from the monotony. I once went to a holiday gathering and the hostess had received THREE centerpieces from the same florist, all exactly alike. This is a failure on so many levels – the phone people, the floral manager that handed out the orders, the designer and the delivery driver. Pretty much takes out any feeling you got something special!

Go to T.J. Maxx or a place like that and buy a special urn or cool vase and take it to the florist and let them fill it. Already you have done something nice. Or bring something you own but don’t use like an oversized wine glass – they will fill it with moss and beautiful flowers. Be specific about greenery too, say “no leather leaf please”—that’s the junky greens you get at the grocery. They will have to give you ruscus or a fern and won’t charge more.

*Becky Knows Everything: With the economy the way it is, please try to support your local florist. Flowers are considered a luxury item and in tough times people don’t send them. If you do, please go to a florist. Don’t we all think the grocery stores make enough money?? I mean, Philadelphia Cream Cheese is $2.49 here – IT WOULD COST $10 FOR ME TO BUY THE CREAM CHEESE FOR MY FAVORITE CHEESECAKE. Now that’s a problem!!


The Guac Off

Hi Becky Knows Everything Readers! So, Becky is taking a few days off from blogging and asked me (her daughter Adie) to fill in. I recently went to a great party and she thought you would be interested, so I am happy to oblige! My mom always throws a really fun party and one of the things she taught me is to have either a theme or some sort of activity to keep the night lively. People love to play games, dress up, and compete – throw some cocktails into the mix and you’ll have yourself a killer party.

When I was little, mom would always put on wonderful parties for my friends – when I was 8 there was “Adie’s Ladies Lunch”, an elegant luncheon for 6 of my friends. And by elegant, I mean we used the fine china and ate Andes Mints. When I was 12 she threw a “Come As You Will Be In The Year 2010” party. My girlfriends and I dressed up as the women we would become in 2010. I was a pregnant lady with a missing tooth – thank god that’s not what actually happened, but I guess I still have another 5 months. Her friend Mrs. Parker dressed up like a gypsy and told our fortunes. And then there was that “Christmas in July” party where all my friends came over and decorated Christmas cookies, followed up by caroling in the neighborhood. I am sure the neighbors thought we were insane.

Okay, so you get my point. To have a great party, you’ve got to plan something or else everyone just sits there and is boring. My husband and I just moved to Boston and we were thrilled when my co-worker invited us over for a party – the main event was a guacamole making competition. NICE! Needless to say, I was psyched. I came armed with my molcajete and with all the ingredients I needed to make Rosa Mexicano's famous guacamole tableside – I wanted it to be nice and fresh. That’s right, I meant business. To sway the voters I bought five types of candy bars and tied cute little notes on them asking the voters to support me. A note on the Mounds bar said “I bet you could eat mounds of this stuff! Vote for Adie!” A note on the Payday said “God this guac is better than payday!” Apparently, I have a lot of extra time on my hands.

I am sad to report that my husband and I made a huge party blunder and showed up late. We walked in just as they were judging the 8 official guac entries. Each competitor placed his/her entry on a main table and each bowl was labeled with a letter. The party-goers took a taste of each, cleansing their palates in between with Coronas. Then came the anonymous vote. After the hostess took the official tally she announced the winner. The crowd broke into cheers as letter F was named the most delicious guac of the night. It was a traditional guacamole with a twist – chunks of mango that made it nice and fruity. I was so disappointed I didn’t get to officially compete – I just know I could have won. I guess next year I will make sure to show up on time.

So remember, the next time you plan to host a fiesta, have a competition or make your friends dress up. Everyone is sure to have a great time.