Waiting for my book deal

20 05 2012

How is it that my blog never got picked for a book deal or movie rights?  Oh yeah, because nobody reads it.  Their loss, this stuff is hysterical.  I was going to send this story in an email to my sister but it’s so awesome I’ve got to tell everybody.

The CSA started  back up a couple weeks ago and we’ve got turnips.  Not a whole lot, but there’s turnips.  Honestly I don’t know what to do with turnips at all, so I went hunting.  I found a few interesting recipes on Cooking Light, so I chose this one:

Turnip-Parsnip Gratin

We had no parsnips, so Karen went to the store and bought the sorriest looking parsnips I’ve ever seen.  You make do with what you’ve got, right?  So Sunday comes and it’s time for some barbecue.  We’re going to make some steaks, some chicken thighs, potatoes, and the gratin.  While the coals are heating up I get out the turnips and parsnips and begin peeling them.  Karen asks “What should I use to slice the veggies?”  and my answer should have been THE KNIFE.  But the recipe says to use the mandoline, and we’ve got a mandoline, and we haven’t used the mandoline for several years so I say “Use the Mandoline.”

What happens when someone uses a mandoline for the first time in three years?  They go to the emergency room, that’s what.  Almost immediately Karen slices off a large part of her thumb.  It’s still attached, but she needs stitches.  She needs to drive herself so I can stay home with the kids, reassuring them that Mommy’s okay.    So she goes into the bathroom to rinse her hand and get ready to go.  In the meantime I grab the parsnips and say to myself “I’ll finish the job, but I’ll be careful.  Not like Karen.”  Almost immediately I slice off a piece of the palm of my hand.  You know, the meaty part by your thumb?  Yeah, sliced it right off, no flap or anything.  I grab the towel recently put down by Karen and apply pressure.  It’s not bleeding too bad, unless I, you know, release the pressure.

At this point Karen comes out of the bathroom and sees me sitting there with a sheepish look on my face.  I show her the wound.  There is nothing to stitch; mine sliced clean off.  So Karen goes to the ER.  I have the presence of mind to tell her not to drive the new car, so she doesn’t drip blood all over it. From my first aid training and I know that you’re supposed to apply pressure to a wound to stop bleeding.  So I grab a rag and a ace bandage and wrap my thumb/hand/wrist as tight as I can and still move my fingers.

While Karen is gone I finish the gratin; it’s already cost us a pound of flesh, I’m making it for dinner dammit.  The potatoes were already in the oven and the coals were hot by this point so I put the steaks on the grill and finished making the gratin.  For the kids I ordered a pizza.  Karen came home with a very professional looking bandage.  Mine, not so much.

Karen told me “The doctor poked the flap with a needle to see if it was still viable.”  After several convulsions I asked her WHY DID YOU TELL ME THAT?

The gratin was excellent.  In case you’re wondering (and I know you are) we used fontanella cheese.


Doing the impossible

27 01 2011

My annual Super Bowl post is coming very soon.  For an opening act I thought I’d showcase once again why this blog is called Mark Ruins Dinner.

If you’re like me (and why wouldn’t you be?) you purchase convenience food at the grocery store because it’s quick and impossible to ruin.  You may have even asked yourself “How could you possibly wreck a frozen pizza?”  Here’s your answer.

The boys had some friends over so I thought getting a couple frozen pizzas would be an easy dinner that everyone would eat.  So I got one cheese and one pepperoni and put them in the oven at the same time.  After 17 minutes we checked on them.  At this point Karen said to me “Why did you put one right above the other?  You’re supposed to stagger them so the crusts cook properly.”  She couldn’t have told me that at the beginning.  Besides, I’m the homemade pizza guy now.  Anyway, we moved them apart so that the top pizza crust would cook, but it wasn’t that easy.  You see, the crust on the top one had started sagging through the oven rack.  But we did our best and moved it over.  But then Karen decided it would be a good idea to turn it, so that it would stop sagging.  In the process she ripped a hole in the middle of the pizza:

That’s the cheese dripping through the middle of the pizza.  I quickly got it out before it opened up like a black hole.  We had a heck of a time getting it out of the oven, but the boys ate it just fine.  Karen said it looked like a belly button.  I don’t think that’s a good thing for a pizza.

This doesn’t bode well for my Super Bowl pick.

White Pizza

6 07 2008

It’s been a long time since I posted about pizza. In fact, it’s been almost a year since I last took a picture of one of my pizzas. That’s because this is called Mark Ruins Dinner, and I’ve found a great recipe and I’ve been using it exclusively with equally great results. But Lately I’ve been trying to come up with variations from our usual fare so I decided on white pizza.

I don’t know a whole lot about white pizza. For instance, what to use as a sauce? Do I just use olive oil? What kind of toppings would go with it? I don’t know. So I did some research on the food network and I found this recipe by Emeril, which uses a roasted garlic sauce. Sounds good, now what?

I started with my favorite pizza dough: Whole wheat and rosemary pizza dough from Pinch My Salt. I’ve tweaked it a little and I hope Nicole isn’t too offended. First, I’ve been using bread flour instead of all purpose flour because Karen told me to, and it works out really well. Also, when adding this flour the recipe calls for three cups, and I use three and a half cups. I was having trouble with the crust being soggy when the cheese and toppings were done, and this did the trick. I’ve also been using the stand mixer to do the kneading for me because I always do it wrong by hand.

The roasted garlic sauce was actually pretty easy to do, but in Emeril’s recipe it’s hard to follow because he mentions the last step first. I will list it here in its correct order.

Roasted Garlic:
2 heads garlic
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a small baking dish with aluminum foil.

Cut the top quarter from each head of garlic and place, cut side up, on the prepared dish. Drizzle with oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Turn the garlic cut side down, and roast until the cloves are soft and golden brown, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.

Over a small bowl, squeeze each head of garlic gently with your fingers to expel the cloves. Add the olive oil and stir with a rubber spatula to blend thoroughly. Spread the mixture over the pizza crust.

Yield: Each head yields about 1 1/2 tablespoons, 2 heads about 3 tablespoons

See, that was easy, right? Now, for the toppings. I was thinking simpler is better, so I just put some basil leaves and fresh mozzarella on top.

In all this pizza is okay but it could be better. Even with the basil most of what you taste is garlic. It could use something to lighten it up a bit. To that end Karen isn’t a really big fan right now. In fact I’ve made this pizza twice now (yes, the same exact pizza twice) and this last time she ate none. Neither did Aliyah. Does that count as ruined? When I asked Karen how to make it better her suggestion was to add tomatoes.

At least the picture is nice, right?

In other news, Jared quits Subway for Pizza Hut

1 04 2008

Jonathan’s preschool spent a week talking about eating healthy things. To kick things off they went to Pizza Hut on Monday for a field trip. Pizza Hut. When I think about healthy eating Pizza Hut is the first thing that comes to mind, right after McDonald’s and Taco Bell. Isaac had this same preschool teacher so I know this Pizza Hut trip is one of her favorites.

Quick question: what time would you schedule a field trip to Pizza Hut for a bunch of 4-5 year olds? That’s right, 9:00am. The kids just had breakfast and they’re full of energy, and they’re asked to come in and sit still at booths and tables. In the meantime the parents hope they don’t start pulling the light fixtures from the ceiling.

For God’s sake Jon, sit down!

So we all pile into this tiny little dining room in a restaurant that is really designed for delivery. We’re waiting and the kids are starting to act up a bit when I notice the teachers huddled in a circle talking in hushed voices. Then they start counting kids and adults. They’re seeing about fire codes and all that. I hear one teacher report 31 kids (including siblings) and another report 34 adults (including six teachers). Maximum occupancy for the restaurant? 54.

Four teachers head back to the school. I start thinking “I am so blogging this.” Apparently they didn’t have to send any of the students home. They take the kids back to show them how they make the dough, and the different stages it goes through. I was impressed at the size of their stand mixer. Then they let the kids make their own pizzas.

Leave some for your classmates please

What I meant to say was the pizzas already had sauce and cheese on them, and the kids could put more cheese and / or pepperoni on them. And when you ask a 5 year old to put pepperoni on a pizza you get lots and lots of pepperoni. Much more pepperoni than any pizza should have. In the end, the kids picked most of it off.

i didn’t want it anyway

The kids ended up having a good time. Of course they did, they got to eat pizza at 10:00am. I can’t wait for the next great field trip idea: tooth care week at the chocolate factory.

Pizza homework: on my own

23 08 2007

Karen let me do this one by myself.  I’ve been doing nothing around the house lately, including cooking, but that’s another post.

All the toppings except one

Tuesday (I think, it’s hard to keep track these days) I was talking with Isaac and mentioned to him “Why don’t we have pizza tonight?” I was greeted with a resounding “YES!” so I set to work. I’ve been collecting pizza dough recipes since I now have a working oven, and I saw this beauty over at Pinch My Salt, author of my Valentine’s day dessert. It’s whole wheat and rosemary pizza dough and it looked very good so I’ve had it on my mind for a while.

In the baking instructions I thought it interesting that Nicole suggests assembling the pizza on parchment paper and then baking it on the pizza stone at 500 degrees, parchment and all. The box says the paper is oven safe to 400 degrees. After some discussion the decision was made “Well, we’ve got a fire extinguisher, why not try it?” That and the fact that this dough sticks to the parchment like glue before baking and to pull it off would be to make it the shape of West Virginia. So we put it in the oven on the parchment paper and it didn’t burn the house down.

It’s a circle!!!

Is it bad when I’m shocked that things work out the way the recipe says they will? Holy cow, I could make circles! To me this dough worked better with my hands than Mario’s.

Enough of all this yammering, how did it taste? Nicole, if you’re reading this I will tell you this is the first time Isaac has eaten the outer crust of any pizza in his life.

Isaac eating the crust

This crust was good. Here’s the half cheese/half pineapple pizza for the boys:

Pizza with cheese and pineapple

I’d made a big batch of pizza sauce and frozen it in ice cube trays a while ago, so I thawed some of them and used many of our standard toppings:

Pizza goodness

We also made a now standard from Mario, with medallions of mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and tomato slices. However it got sliced and eaten so fast I never got a chance to take a picture.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 3 cups of all purpose flour. I used bread flour instead of all purpose because Karen told me to. And in the recipe Nicole doesn’t say how much rosemary to put in; I suppose she’s leaving it up to personal taste. I used one sprig’s worth of leaves, chopped very fine.

Pizza lesson #1: circles!

19 06 2007

Yes, here it is. My moment of triumph, my shining glory.

success!  Let’s open a pizzeria!

Karen did most of the work.

Karen and I made pizza together Friday night so she could show me what dough is supposed to look and feel like. Karen thinks I’ve been pushing too hard when I knead the dough. I mixed the batter and kneaded the dough. Karen sliced the toppings, rolled the dough into CIRCLES for pizza and assembled the pizzas. I put the boys in their aprons so they could top their own pizza.

silly in the kitchen

I also put the pizzas in the oven and monitored their cooking. Yes I’m making it sound like I did more than just stand there watching Karen work. Here’s the dough after I kneaded it.

I may be small but I’m drinking milk!

Did I tell you I hate my oven? It doesn’t self-clean any more, and it shut off again while cooking pizza #2. We really need to have it repaired / replaced. Karen loves the downdraft and convection though.

We used a different dough recipe this time (from Mario Batali of course). Karen suggested using bread flour instead of all purpose flour and it was the best dough we’ve ever made. Plus there’s wine in it. A wine that drew the attention of the guy at the liquor store such that he complemented my taste. I didn’t have the heart to tell him “I only need a quarter cup, it’s going in pizza dough.”

Pizza with our standard toppings

Next we decided that while we’re making Mario’s dough we may as well make a pizza from the same show. Plus we had the fresh mozzarella in the fridge. He called it Classic Pizza Napolitana and it’s got slices of fresh mozzarella and basil leaves on it. Karen suggested adding some tomatoes on top. It was close to being the best pizza I’d ever had.

pizza napolitana before cooking

Remember the soup nazi from Seinfeld? They’d taste his soup and then say “Oooo, that’s good. I gotta sit down.” That’s how good this pizza was. It’s only Friday and already it felt like Father’s day.

Below I’ll put our recipe adapted from Mario’s.

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t laugh or your pizza will look like this too.

11 03 2007

I was excited about pizza night on Friday.  This time I started singing the Molto Mario music at about 3:00.  And for all you people looking for the theme music, I’ll find it I promise. 

Not content to ruin just one kind of pizza dough, I wanted to use a different recipe.  I found this one from my friend Mario.  Anybody that puts wine in the pizza dough is cool in my book.  I didn’t have the wine, though.  When a recipe calls for a specific wine from Italy, I probably shouldn’t use cooking wine from the grocery store.  So I brought out my Pizza Margherita recipe from before, and the results were about the same.  I used Mario’s pizza sauce though, and it was yummy.  To recap:

What I used:
Pizza Dough
Pizza Sauce

What I wanted to make:
Pizza, Mario style

 What I made:



Let’s get a good discussion going.  What states do these pizza outlines look like?  And here’s a map to get you started.  And why are pizzas supposed to be round anyway?

If you’re interested in what went wrong, keep reading.

Read the rest of this entry »

Pizza Markarita

1 02 2007

I like pizza.  Making homemade pizza looks like a lot of fun.  And making pizza is something you can do with your kids.  If kids help make food they are more likely to eat it, but seriously, my kids would eat pizza three times a day if I made it.  However, some problems arise with pizza making:  (1) I know nothing about making dough, and (2) I know nothing about making sauce.  These are kind of important parts of the pizza, aren’t they?  So where do I look when I am totally and utterly lost?  That’s right, the internet.  So I look online and find a relatively simple pizza sauce recipe, and it turns out to be so ridiculously easy that I’m ashamed that I waited this long to try making it.  Fine. Then I start looking for a dough recipe.If I’m looking for recipes online I primarily look at two places: Cooking Light and the Food Network (Alton Brown is King).  I’ve seen Alton Brown talk about yeast and gluten and I’ve watched those awesome belching yeast puppets from “Dr. Strageloaf” and “House of the Rising Bun.”  (You know it’s a good cooking show if six- and three-year-old boys will watch it saying “Play that again!”)  So I suppose I understand the basic physics behind it. But often baking is subjective, and that’s where I tend to have problems.  Here, I’ll give you a good example:

THANK YOU Alton Brown for showing me the difference between SOFT PEAKS and STIFF PEAKS.  For all you foodies out there, you can stop laughing at me now, there are certain subjects in cooking and baking where it is assumed you know what you’re doing, and nobody actually shows you what they mean.  Now let’s talk about the dough.

 I found a good (I suppose, but what do I know?) recipe for a basic pizza dough from (who else?) Mario Batali.  Mario and I understand each other, and I feel like we have a good working relationship.  After watching “Molto Mario” I always leave thinking “Wow, I can do that, but LARD?  REALLY, Mario!”  (I never knew just how important pork fat was to italian cooking.)  Wow, that’s great.  I made the pizza and it turned out great.  The dough was very yeasty and the sauce was too acidy for me, but it was still very good.  I filed it away and planned on doing it again.

The NEXT time I made the recipe I looked for a different brand of canned tomatoes, and the sauce came out PERFECT.  I would choose this sauce over takeout any day.  I was completely stoked.  “Great!  Let’s make the dough!”

I make the dough.  I knead the dough.  HOW LONG SHOULD YOU KNEAD DOUGH?  Apparently the amount of time listed in the recipe is, well,  kind of a rough estimate.  Well, I really don’t know what I’m doing and after the dough rises I decide to have some fun with it.  Karen was working late so there I am in the kitchen spinning the dough up in the air like an idiot, all the while  humming the theme music to “Molto Mario.”  But immediately I know something is wrong.  It’s not stretching out like it should, and I know what the problem is.  I didn’t knead it long enough.  The recipe makes three pizzas, 12 inches or so each.  Let’s take a look at them one by one:


Pizza #1.  Very nice, the boys helped put on the cheese and pineapple, very nice, we assemble it on the pizza peel and I slide it into the oven and it bakes until (at least some of) the cheese is golden brown and delicious.  There is a problem.  After three bites the boys stop eating.  I taste some, and I really can’t blame them.  They get spaghetti-o’s instead.


Pizza #2.  At this point I was getting very cocky, even though I knew something was wrong.  After pizza #1 was in the oven I decided to assemble the pizza on the counter and then slide the pizza peel under it like “real italians” do.  You can see the results.  A round pizza ends up looking like New Hampshire (or is it Vermont?).


While I was cursing and trying to make pizza #2 edible, the remaining ball of dough siezed up into a rock and I couldn’t save it for the life of me.  I ate pizza #2 to destroy the evidence before Karen came home from work.