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Perfect Cast Iron Pizza Every Time

RachelEarlier this spring, my well-seasoned and much loved pizza stone broke in half in the oven while I was entertaining, and, after spouting off a fair number of expletives, I started looking for alternatives to my deceased stone. I ended up breaking out the cast-iron, and there is no turning back now. The crust is perfect — crispy on the bottom and soft and fluffy on the top — and everything cooks evenly. This is now the only way we make pizza in our house, but it does require a few tricks to get it right.

cooling

All you need is a cast-iron pan, pizza dough, sauce, and toppings of your choice.

Start with a well-seasoned cast-iron pan, put a tablespoon of vegetable oil in, and wipe it around the bottom and sides of the pan. Do not leave any pools of oil. If you're new to cast-iron, check out this article by another GRIT blogger.

pizza dough

Use your favorite pizza crust recipe, or even one from a box. If you use a deep dish cast-iron pan, you may need to double your recipe to be able to make it up the sides (and have a little left over to do stuffed crust!). Press the pizza dough into the oiled pan. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Then, place the pan on a burner on medium heat while you put the toppings on — about 5-10 minutes. This crisps up the crust and helps the pizza slices come out of the pan flawlessly.

cheese first

Add half the cheese first. This keeps the sauce from making the crust soggy.

sauce second

Add your favorite sauce on top of the cheese.

toppings next

Put your toppings on top of the sauce.

Add more cheese and more toppings.

oven

Place the pizza in the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and golden.

Let the pizza cool for 15 minutes before cutting and serving. I know its hard, but trust me, it goes a long way in making for an easier clean up. If you dig in right away while the pan is still hot from the oven, the melty sauce and cheese will spill over into the pan and it will burn and stick.

gooey cheese

Just look at that gooey, cheesy perfection ...

clean pan

And get a load of that practically spotless pan!

Happy pizza party!

The Best Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie

Rachelwhipped cream

Every year we visit a local farming family a few roads over. They grow all name and number of squash and other wonderful veggies, and they sell them at their roadside stand. They sell fantastic pie pumpkins that we roast, puree, and freeze in recipe-sized portions. This year, we froze 35 pie pumpkins for our family. Now that's a lot of cookies and muffins! It also makes great baby food, and I have a killer pumpkin potato soup recipe, too! (You can find it HERE along with directions on how to preserve your own pie pumpkins.) But our favorite pumpkin recipe by far is Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie, filled to the rim with fresh pie pumpkin. Its spicy, custardy goodness brings warmth to our holiday gatherings.

Pumpkin pies tend to be skinny, with only 1/2 to 1 inch of filling, and that's disappointing to me. When I want pie, I want pie. So, how can you make a deep dish pumpkin pie? It's not like you can heap pie filling on in a huge pile like an apple pie, for instance. You have to have a deep pie pan. I have a wide array of pie pans in my arsenal; typically they come in three depth sizes: 1, 1-1/2, and 2 inches deep.

To be honest, I had a hard time sharing this recipe since its kind of what I'm known for at holiday gatherings, but it is time I pass it along. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

deep dish

Deep Dish Pumpkin Pie

*requires 9- or 10-inch round, 2-inch deep pie pan*

For the crust:

• 1-1/2 cup flour
• 2 tablespoon sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 tablespoon + teaspoon lard or Crisco
• 1/3 cup butter
• 1/4 cup cold water

1. Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor, pulse a few times, then slowly add water while pulsing. Continue until a crumbly dough is formed.

2. Turn out onto plastic wrap and chill up to 3 hours.

3. Before baking, remove from plastic wrap, roll dough out, and place in pie pan.

For the filling:

• 1 cup sugar (you can substitute honey in the same amount)
• 1-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1 teaspoon allspice
• 1-1/2 teaspoon ginger
• 1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 4 eggs (beaten)
• 1 can evaporated milk or 12oz heavy whipping cream
• 4 cups pureed pumpkin

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

2. Add pumpkin to a large bowl, add spices, salt, sugar, and vanilla, and then mix well.

3. Add beaten eggs and evaporated milk. Mix well. Pour filling into prepared crust.

NOTE: Filling will come close to the top of the pie pan, so use care when transferring to oven. I like place the pie pan on a cookie sheet before I pour the filling; it helps when transferring to oven, and also protects your oven in case of any spillovers.

4. Bake at 425 F for 15 minutes, then turn heat down to 375 F for 60 minutes. Depending on the humidity on the day you make this pie, you may find that it requires 20-30 more minutes of baking time.

5. Allow to cool and serve with whipped cream.

pie serving

Using Your Clothesline in Winter

Rachelclothesline

My husband came home after getting the mail and said that our electricity bill has been high the last few months. His first thought was that we should start unplugging things after we were done using them (which we should). My first thought was, “The dryer...” It has been cold and wet since the end of October in our area, so I have had to dry our clothes in the dryer.

I only launder our clothes every other week. Thankfully my husband has a uniform service at work, so that cuts down my washing duty significantly. However, we use prefold cloth diapers; currently all three of our little ones are in diapers. I wash diapers three days a week on average, then I dry them in the dryer in winter — sometimes it takes two cycles in the dryer to fully dry the diapers since they retain moisture so well. In the spring, summer, and fall months, all my laundry goes out on our big, 40-foot-long clothesline, barring inclement weather. But I have always had to dry indoors in winter. Not this year! This year, I'm not letting my clothesline hibernate through winter.

Some of you may ask, how on earth can anything ever get dry without heat in freezing temperatures? Its called sublimation, and this is how it works: When you hang damp clothes out on the line, they will freeze. The ice then gets evaporated by the sun, leaving no more moisture in the clothing. Simply put, you are freeze-drying your laundry!

A nice, sun-shiny, snow-covered day with a little bit of breeze is ideal! Especially if you have whites or diapers that need a little bit of stain removal. The snow is key for this, since it reflects the sunlight and maximizes the sun's natural bleaching super powers. It eliminates even blueberry stains on cloth diapers! Can I get a hallelujah from all my cloth-diapering mommas out there? Breast-fed baby poo stains disappear magically, too! Your white T-shirts might even look like they had a spa day. And the smell! If you love the scent of line-dried laundry in the summer ... just wait until you try it in winter! It is the best!

Here are a few tips for using the clothesline in the depths of winter:

WARNING: In winter you cannot line-dry diaper covers with a PUL lining. It can cause the PUL to crack and therefore ruin your covers! Use a drying rack inside for your covers instead and protect your investment.

• Take a little extra time in the laundry room and pre-clip your clothes pins to your laundry. The chill of the air combined with the dampness of the clothing can make for finger-freezing experience.

• I like to wear a mitten on my clothes-grabbing hand and a thin glove on my pinning hand. It really helps to keep your hands warm as you work.

• Work quickly! You will find that some items will start to freeze instantly; the quicker you work, the faster you can get everything hung up before it becomes an ice block in your basket.

• When the time comes to take things down the laundry will be stiff, so take things down gently since some fabric can become brittle. Avoid hanging up dress shirts and things of that nature.

• If your laundry doesn't get totally dry, just pop it in the dryer for a short cycle, or let it finish drying on a drying rack indoors. You may need to go out to your line periodically and wiggle your clothes if you notice ice buildup.

• Get yourself a wicker basket for laundry hauling. Plastic laundry baskets can become brittle and break in these temperatures.

I got a lot of pointers from my grandmother, who used to do this regularly as she grew up, and a friend whose mother used to hang clothes out in the winter. I love to be outside even in the freezing cold. Even if I have to work in it, I still get to enjoy the beauty of the season. Good luck, and happy freeze-drying!

Carrot Cake Fruit Leather

RachelInspired by my mom's famous carrot cake, I came up with this yummy, carrot cake, fruit leather recipe. It's got the sweetness, spice, and textures of a classic carrot cake without all the calories, and it's totally transportable. It's a great snack and a great gift. Your house will smell fantastic, too!

Carrot Cake Fruit Leather Recipe:

Prep: 20 min

Dehydrator Time: 8-12 hours (depending on your machine or if you use your oven instead)

Ingredients:

• 1 20oz can crushed pineapple
• 1 cup steamed and pureed carrots
• 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
• 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
• 1/4 cup raisins
• 1/4 cup maple syrup

Instructions:

1. Combine pineapple, coconut, walnuts, raisins, and maple syrup. Pulse in a food processor about five times. Return to bowl.

2. Stir in pureed carrots.

3. Spread mixture 1/4-inch thick onto the fruit roll-up trays that go with your dehydrator. Dehydrate according to your machine's directions for fruit leather, typically 8 hours, or until fruit leather is no longer shiny or tacky.

*Oven Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 150 F.

2. Spread the mixture onto a silpat on a cookie sheet 1/4-inch thick for up to 12 hours, until fruit leather is no longer shiny or tacky.

3. Cut finished fruit leather with a pizza cutter and roll it up with waxed paper. Enjoy!

carrot cake fleather