Sunday, November 29, 2009

Pizza and Syrup

Sounds good, right?

Luckily, I'm not talking about putting these together! Last night we had our weekly homemade pizza night. This morning we had waffles and syrup. So why put them together, even in a blog title? It  comes down to making the best use of what you've got. My younger son, who often cooks with me, puts it this way. "If you think you don't have the ingredients, just find something to substitute." He's a very wise and flexible cook!

So let's look at the pizza first. We certainly have enjoyed great pizza restaurants, especially those with the fabulous variety of toppings. Unfortunately, by the time each family member ordered the pizza they wanted, we had spent a week's worth of groceries! For a while we tried substituting pizza from those inexpensive pizza places. Sure, it was food, but not very good food. I started looking at what it takes to make a pizza.

Starting with the dough, I was appalled to see the prices of premade pizza dough at the grocery store -- it was almost as much as those cheap pizzas just for the dough! I was starting to think maybe this wasn't the right solution. Then I found more reasonable priced pizza dough, including a wheat dough, at Trader Joe's. Now we were ready to experiment. Early in the process, I also purchased pizza sauce. After we'd been making bread for a while, we started making our own dough. Also, this past summer, with a bounty of tomatoes, I used the fresh sauce to make pizza sauce. This is not hard at all and takes practically no time, whether you have tomato sauce either homemade, jarred, or canned. I'll never buy special "pizza" sauce again!

For toppings, it all comes down to what we have. Often we have leftover chicken in the freezer, which makes a great topping with sliced red onions. When we got some pineapple on sale, we added chunks of that. Pepperoni, now bought in bulk, is a favorite. This week, we had turkey with onions with barbecue sauce. While it wasn't the prettiest pizza we've ever made, the kids loved it!

On to the syrup. Often on the weekends, in the past we used to go out for a big breakfast. It was often way too much food and much would go to waste. Almost 20 years ago, we received a waffle maker as a wedding present. Although it had been used occasionally, one day a couple years ago, even before unemployment was visited upon us, we made a tradition of making waffles or pancakes on the weekends. Until a couple months ago, this involved real maple syrup, and a bag or box mix of pancake mix.

As we now stock whole wheat flour in our pantry, it seemed natural to find a way to use this in our weekend breakfasts. We're still experimenting with recipes, and having fun figuring out what tastes good and also everyone likes. The other key ingredient is the syrup. Real maple syrup, which we all love, is just getting too pricey! So this morning, with just a couple tablespoons left in our last syrup bottle, we contemplated the possibilities. Could we have our traditonal waffle breakfast without maple syrup???

My answer was, sure we can! I set to looking at some recipes sites to get some ideas. As it turns out, we had apple juice and orange juice in the refrigerator. Using a recipe I found as a jumping off point, I mixed some of each with the remainder of the maple syrup, some water, a little sugar. These simmered for a few minutes to combine all the flavors. While it might have eventually thickened on it's own, the waffles were almost ready, so I added some cornstarch to thicken it to a nice, thick syrup consistency. The family was a bit skeptical, but overall this fruity syrup was met with approval!

It's pretty satisfying when this works out well. Of course, sometimes the experiments aren't so successful, but I'm happy to say we'll definitely be trying many more new recipes along these lines. With each success AND failure, we learn. Happily, these successes were quite delicious!

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