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Embracing everything that makes life fun.

Author: Diane Hartford (Page 2 of 8)

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

If you keep pizza dough in your freezer (you do keep pizza dough in your freezer, right?), then weeknight dinners are a breeze. All you need is sauce, a few vegetables, and cheese and you are good to go.

A few years back I found a recipe on a blog for smoked mozzarella pizza with lemon.  The recipe and picture caught my eye because the lemon was sliced into paper thin rounds and used as a topping. Lemon rinds? Can you eat them? Would you want to?

Since I am always game to try new things, I made the recipe and fell in love with it! Since then I have realized that thinly sliced lemon on a salmon sushi roll is also delicious. But, this post is about pizza and over the years I have riffed variations of the original pizza based on whatever is in season or in my refrigerator.

This time around I had spinach that I needed to use and the end of a bag of pistachios. I find smoked mozzarella at Trader Joe’s. If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you, ask at your local grocery store. Smoked mozzarella can sometimes be challenging to find. You can use fresh mozzarella in a pinch if you can’t get your hands on the smoked variety.

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Pizza Dough

I take the pizza dough out of the freezer the morning I plan to make pizza. The dough will be thawed by dinner time. A few tips on pizza dough. Many grocery stores stock fresh pizza dough in their refrigerated aisles. I particularly like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. You can also hit the freezer section and get bread dough (like Rhodes) and keep that on hand. If you have some time on the weekend, you can make a delicious no-knead pizza dough and use it for this recipe or place it in the freezer for future use.

I also love making pizza on a pizza stone. You put the pizza stone in the oven as you start to preheat the oven. Once the oven comes to temperature, then set a timer for at least fifteen minutes and let the stone get nice and hot.

I roll the dough out on a parchment paper-lined pizza peel. Roll the dough out thin if you want to achieve a crispy crust. Then, drizzle the crust with olive oil and spread it around with your fingertips until there is even layer over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes over the top of the dough.

Next, place slices of smoked mozzarella on top of the dough, followed by lemon slices (rind and all). My sweetie doesn’t love the lemon rind so I do cut the rind off half the lemon slices and put those pieces of lemon on his side of the pizza.

Finally, place spinach leaves over the top and sprinkle with the pistachios. Slide the pizza and parchment onto the pizza stone and let the magic begin.

I usually check the pizza halfway through cooking time and rotate the pizza 180 degrees to ensure even baking.

Let me know if you try this unusual but delicious pizza!

This recipe is inspired Alexandra Cooks recipe for Pizza with Lemon Smoked Mozzarella and Basil  

Smoked Mozzarella Lemon Pizza

Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen

Girl a Girl a Knife book cover

Book Review

I have seen several reviews of Amy Thielen’s new cheffy memoir, Give a Girl a Knife, comparing it to last year’s restaurant memoir Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. I find the comparison odd. Other than both of the authors of the memoirs are women who worked in restaurants, I see few other similarities.

Don’t get me wrong, I read and enjoyed Sweetbitter.  But, this memoir described the author’s time in New York as a bar back in a fine dining restaurant which included many boozy nights with coworkers at local bars after the restaurant closed. Give a Girl a Knife describes the time when two twenty-somethings were trying to find the balance between chasing their professional dreams in the city while living a simple, unencumbered rural life.

The book is full of examples of Amy and her boyfriend-then-husband Aaron’s commitment to eschewing material pleasures in order to pursue their art (his sculpture, hers food) while living a necessarily frugal life. Their trajectory bounces them between New York City and rural Minnesota where they take ‘living off the land’ to a new level which would be unimaginable to most of us.

Amy Thielen’s writing is lovely. Let’s be clear, this not a merely memoir of a celebrity chef. I first learned about Amy Thielen was via her short-lived Food Network show Heartland Table. The show came out about the same time as Amy’s cookbook, The New Midwestern Table, which was awarded a James Beard award. Amy’s style of food and writing is down to earth with a touch of wit and charm.

Thielen did her time in some of New York’s finest kitchens. She and Aaron squatted in buildings in New York during many of those years. In the summer, they would pack up and return to rural Minnesota. Where they would plant a large garden at the small home that Aaron built in the woods.

That home initially had no power, no water, and no indoor plumbing. They subsisted primarily on what they could grow in their garden. Thielen preserved what they didn’t eat. In the fall, they packed up and went back to New York to work during the winter. They would earn enough to sustain them through the next summer in Minnesota.

I enjoyed Give a Girl a Knife very much and appreciated their determination to live their dream. It wasn’t easy, their family and friends didn’t always understand, and sometimes Thielen herself had doubts. But, in the end the story is a powerful one of relentlessly pursuing the life you want to live.

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Summer is coming! Summer is coming! I cannot believe that we are less than two weeks out from Memorial Day weekend and the official start of summer. BBQs and margaritas are two summer staples that I look forward to during the cold, gray days of winter. These grilled margarita shrimp tacos hit the mark on both counts.

Firstly, the recipe was inspired by an almost full picture of margarita that was left over after a recent party. Who ends up with leftover margaritas? Usually not me. But this time, I had so much leftover and I couldn’t bear to throw it away. So, instead I improvised.

I had shrimp in the freezer that I thawed out and then marinated the shrimp in the leftover margarita making sure that all the shrimp were submerged in the liquid. I let them marinate for an hour or two in the fridge and started making the avocado and mango salsa, as well as, the spicy slaw.

The ingredient list may seem a bit daunting but I promise that this recipe comes together pretty quickly.

Pickled Red Onion

I had the pickled red onion in the fridge and recommend that you make up a batch to keep in your fridge too. I used this recipe. In addition to being delicious on tacos, the pickled red onions also tasted great on burgers (or veggie burgers as is the case in my house). Thinly sliced red onion will do in a pinch if you don’t want to make the pickled version.

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

I actually had the rest of the ingredients on hand and drew inspiration from what was already in the refrigerator. You can improvise with this recipe too. Don’t want to make the avocado and mango salsa? Then, consider using jarred salsa and avocado slices. Lettuce or cabbage shreds can replace the spicy slaw if you want, but it is really good.

I used flour tortillas but corn works too if that is your preference. If you feel like doing some prep work on the salsa and slaw ahead of time, these margarita grilled shrimp tacos are a great dish for entertaining. Make a big batch of margaritas, use some of it on the shrimp and serve the rest to your guests while you man the grill.

How to Make Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Margarita Shrimp Tacos

Spring Break Playlist

Spring break playlist

Guess who is back with another incredible Spotify playlist for our listening pleasure? None other than the beautiful, talented, and overall lovely Hello Fun Seekers Contributor Courtney Droz.

Court puts together the most amazing playlists and she has another one for you today.  This playlist is especially dear to me, as Courtney put this one together with me in mind. Read on to get Courtney’s inspiration and be ready to shake your groove thing.

CourtZionNP

Making playlists on Spotify is something I love to do. I have playlists for different seasons, moods, and activities. I’ll spotlight some of them here on Hello Fun Seekers playlist series. I hope you enjoy!

“If you got your ticket, man, you’re allowed to come with me

Yo, for right now I’m gon chill at the beach

Check out the pretty girls layin back, you know how we do playa yo

I’m out here in the sun baby it’s all good!”

-Wyclef Jean, The Carnival

I made this playlist for Diane who was looking for a Spring Break playlist. I thought, what would the perfect Spring Break vacation with Diane be? Immediately, I decided it would be going to New Orleans and showing up at a house party hosted by Wyclef Jean and Shakira. So that’s the basis for this one.

New Orleans House Party

There is a good amount of Creole and Zydeco music throughout this playlist to keep that Louisiana party vibe going. I think of the rest of the songs as guests we run into at the party: The crazy cool Lisa, Angela, Pamela, and Renee (LL Cool J), an American teen (Khalid), the earnest guy who does not seem to be having a great time (The National), the magnetic artist (Amy Winehouse), someone who just stopped in to see what condition her condition was in (Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings), and a group asking if they can kick it (A Tribe called Quest) to name a few.

It’s quite a party, and it ends with Big Al Carson inviting us to leave in a very polite way.

What would your ideal Spring Break entail?

Cheers, and enjoy! 

Want to check out more of Courtney’s playlists? You can find her Road Trip Playlist right here.

Spring Break Playlist

Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes with Pita Chips

Za'atar Roasted Tomatoes

Za’atar. Doesn’t it just sound exotic? Do not be put off by this unfamiliar Middle Eastern spice mixture. Za’atar is combination of dried herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, and savory, mixed with sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. It is delicious and works perfectly on these za’atar roasted tomatoes!

I used za’atar to season the roasted tomatoes and on the pita chips that I baked for this post. Za’atar is available at Middle Eastern markets or on Amazon. If you are ambitious, you can make your own.

 

I love the flavors of Middle Eastern food. That love can be traced back to trip to Las Vegas many years ago.  I had a remarkable meal at Neyla, a fabulous Middle Eastern restaurant that sadly is now closed. That night at Neyla, we enjoyed mezze as our meal.  Mezze is an assortment of small plates, think tapas, but with Middle Eastern flavors.

That first experience with Middle Eastern food started a life-long love affair for me. I sought out Middle Eastern restaurants to try in Salt Lake City and in other cities when I traveled. For the record, when in Salt Lake City, I recommend visiting Mazza for an incredible Lebanese feast.

In addition to trying meals at Middle Eastern restaurants, I also began trying to make Middle Eastern foods at home. Back before you could Google a recipe, cookbooks were the main source for exploring the recipes of a new cuisine.

Rose Water and Orange Blossoms

I was inspired to write this post after recently reading the fabulous cookbook Rose Water and Orange Blossoms by Maureen Abood. The mezze section of the cookbook is filled with traditional Lebanese small plate recipes, including a write-up on how to peel chickpeas for super smooth hummus.

As an aside, I actually read this article from Serious Eats on making the smoothest hummus ever and I decided to try it.  The kicker is that the article said that peeling the chickpeas is the essential step that makes the hummus so smooth. So yes, I PEELED the chickpeas, all the while muttering to myself, ‘why the hell am I peeling the chickpeas’? I will be damned if that hummus wasn’t the most incredibly smooth hummus that I have ever made. That being said, peeling chickpeas is rather tedious and time-consuming.

Abood’s method seems more efficient than the one that I used which was standing their peeling them one by one. Next time I make hummus, I will try to her method and let you guys know how it goes.

How to Make Za’atar Roasted Tomatoes

If you enjoy Middle Eastern food, I recommend getting your hands on a copy of Rose Water and Orange Blossoms. However, in the meantime, feel free to give these delicious za’atar roasted tomatoes and baked pita chips a try. You can add a bowl hummus and an assortment of olives and enjoy a wonderful mezze of your own.

How to Make Baked Pita Chips

3 pita breads

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

Fresh ground pepper

1 teaspoon za’atar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. With pita bread lying flat on a cutting board, split the bread in half horizontally so you have two thin rounds. Repeat with the two other pita breads.
  3. Place rounds on two sheet pans. Place olive oil, salt, pepper, and za’atar into a small bowl. Brush each pita round with olive oil mixture.
  4. Bake until golden. Start checking the pita rounds around 7 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and let cool enough to handle.
  6. Gently break up the rounds into pieces.

NOTE: You can also cut the pita rounds into eight wedges before you coat with oil and bake. I prefer the more rustic look of breaking the pitas up into uneven pieces.

Za'atar Roasted Tomatoes

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

The only thing that could make this dish more spring-like is if I stuck a tulip on the top of it. I would not do that because it would be silly. Instead, I took some of my favorite spring flavors and combined them into a beautiful asparagus and artichoke frittata.

Springtime is always associated with eggs (think Easter) and those tender spears of asparagus. For this recipe, I recommend selecting asparagus that is at least as thick as a pencil. You do not want to be trying to peel those skinny little stalks into ribbons. Unlike most preparations of asparagus, you don’t want to snap off the tough ends. You will use them as a handle and hold onto them as you are peeling the stalks into attractive ribbons.

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

I used canned artichoke hearts that were quartered. You will want to drain  and rinse them and then gave them a rough chop. I selected feta cheese mainly because I had some in the fridge. You could also substitute Parmesan or goat cheese if you prefer.

Frittatas are equally as welcome on the table for brunch served with roasted potatoes and fresh fruits, as they are on the dinner table with a salad and crusty bread. They also travel well as leftovers for lunch the next day. Alternatively, frittatas are perfect if you are having vegetarian friends or family over (ahem, Mom) and don’t know what to make.

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Here is another idea; wouldn’t this be lovely as part of Mother’s Day brunch spread? Add some fresh fruit and mimosas and you have a brunch fit for a queen. Wouldn’t the asparagus and artichoke frittata also be perfect for book club? Most book clubs that I have been involved in could more accurately be categorized as wine clubs but the frittata would be great for that too!  I would recommend a Sauvignon Blanc to accompany this frittata because of the strong flavors of the asparagus and artichoke.

How to Make Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Asparagus and Artichoke Frittata

Wait! There’s More

If you like frittatas, you may also be interested in these recipes:

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

 

Let’s be real here. I heart anything that I can scoop in a tortilla chip. If that scoopable dip contains seafood then I am over the moon. So, you can imagine my excitement as I prepped this shrimp and corn ceviche.

Sometimes, I will go on a bender of good health and stuff delicious fillings into leaves of lettuce (Romaine and Boston Leaf being my favs) instead of chips. Other times, I just want to scoop up delicious fillings into crisp, salty tortilla chips. I fall completely into the salty camp and would trade you cookies, cakes, and brownies for chips, nuts, and cheese any day of the week.

In the interest of full disclosure, this recipe would be at its best during summer when you could score fresh corn from the farmers market and roast it on the grill but it is also possible to make this dip year-round using frozen fire-roasted corn.

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

You can make this shrimp and corn ceviche several hours or a day ahead of when you plan to serve it. This makes it an ideal dish for parties or potlucks.

I used an orange as the citrus in the recipe but you could also use grapefruit if you preferred. Blood oranges would also make a dramatic and visually appealing substitution in this shrimp and corn ceviche recipe.

In addition to serving shrimp and corn ceviche as a dip or filling in a lettuce cup, you could also top the ceviche onto a bed of greens for a light lunch. I would serve the shrimp and corn ceviche with a crisp white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc or a summer beer such as a Hefeweizen.

As the weather warms up, what are your favorite recipes, drinks, and music to listen to while you enjoy the sun-filled days? Drop a comment below and let’s get this warm-weather party started!

How to Make Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

Shrimp and Corn Ceviche

Road Trip Playlist

Road Trip Playlist

I am over the moon excited to introduce you to Hello Fun Seekers Contributor Courtney Droz. You are in for a real treat if you love music. Court puts together the most amazing playlists and she has one for you today. Hopefully, this will be the first of many playlists that Courtney will share with us. Court, take it away!

CourtZionNP

Making playlists on Spotify is something I love to do. I have playlists for different seasons, moods, and activities. I’ll spotlight some of them here on Hello Fun Seekers playlist series. I hope you enjoy!

The Spotify playlist I’m spotlighting today may be my absolute favorite ever. I made it specifically for road trips; it’s called, “Miles From Nowhere.”

What is better than a good road trip? I love the feeling of packing up the car, leaving your job and responsibilities behind you for a little while, rolling down the windows and hitting the open road! I especially love road trips through the desert, places like Moab, or Arches National Park in southern Utah. What are your favorite road trips?

This playlist winds its way from New York to California. Starting out with songs set in New York like “I and Love and You” by the Avett Brothers, we then spend some time on tunes about Ohio Like The Low Anthem’s “To Ohio” (an aside: there are so many songs about Ohio. It’s kind of weird. Why Ohio?).

Spotify Playlist Road Trip

Photo by Jeremiah Roth

Next we take the scenic route through the south with some Old Crow Medicine Show, and Johnny Cash, back up to the Midwest with songs from The New Basement Tapes, and Bruce Springsteen, and then we finally head through Utah, Idaho, and Nevada with songs like Damien Jurado’s “So on, Nevada.”

Finally, we make it to California with songs by Dawes, Joe Purdy, and John Hiatt. (There are almost as many songs out there about California as Ohio) I also sprinkled in songs about travelling like Laura Marling’s “Rambling Man” and of course Cat Stevens’ “Miles From Nowhere” where the playlist title comes from.

Miles from Nowhere

This playlist is nice and long: 3 hours and 15 minutes, so it will keep you entertained through a good part of your long trip. Turn it up good and loud and sing along. Let me know what songs you love, what songs you would add, and where your travels take you!

 

Ten Essentials for a Perfect Pool Day

10 Essentials for a Perfect Pool Day

Hello Fun Seekers! I am so excited to be heading down to Las Vegas on Thursday for a long weekend of rest and relaxation.  The weather forecast calls for clear, sunny skies with a high of 80 degrees. EIGHTY DEGREES! Can you say pool day?  I cannot wait to get down there.

While the others are in the casino gambling, I plan to spend the day at the pool. I am not talking about getting to the pool early, sticking a towel on lounge chair kind of pool day though. Instead, I plan to rent a daybed which is a little splurge that I love to treat myself to on occasion. #treatyoself

There are a few essentials that I always bring for a pool day retreat. Here is what will be in my pool bag to ensure a day of fun.

10 essentials for a perfect pool day-1
Pool Bag Essentials

A total must-have is my Kindle Paperwhite (fully charged!) loaded with two new books:

(Small tangent) Do you need ideas for what to read next? I just heard about this new service from the NY Times called Match Book. It is a literary advice column where readers can email a description of books they love and books they did not like.

“The weekly column will connect readers with book suggestions based on their questions, their tastes, their literary needs and desires.”

Smartphone with external battery with:

  • Podcasts – If you haven’t gotten on the podcast bandwagon yet, what are you waiting for? If you have an iPhone there is literally an app that is already on your phone called Podcast. Open it and search for one of these podcasts below and your commutes and walks will never be the same.
    • Modern Love 
    • The Happier Podcast
    • S-Town – Seriously! I listened to this series already but it is so good. If you have not started listening yet, do yourself a favor and download the first episode today.
  • Music – I have to have some tunes because I don’t trust hotel pools to play decent music and I fear getting stuck with techo music all day. Not relaxing!
  • Audiobook
    • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane – Lisa See’s new novel. Set in the remote mountains of China and the Akha people. See’s books always transport me to another world and introduce me to a culture I know nothing about.
Other Essentials

Snacks – Almonds, dried cranberries, dried apricots, with coconut is my favorite.

Sunglasses, cover up, and sun hat – You don’t want to get sun-burned. Plus, your older self will thank your younger self for these skin preservation measures.

Finally, I stash a water bottle, sunscreen, and headphones in my bag and then I am ready to go!

What am I forgetting? What are the essential items in your bag for a perfect pool day?

 

 

 

 

 

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Is anything more exhilarating than watching the Earth come back to life in the spring? No matter how challenging things are in the rest of the world, a walk around the block can have me whistling a tune in no time. Daffodils and tulips are popping up from the ground, forsythia bushes burst out their bright yellow flowers, and one of my favorite ingredients, spring mix salad greens, make an appearance in my garden. One of my favorite ways to serve spring mix salad is to combine it with Mediterranean flavors of roasted red peppers, olives, pine nuts, and feta.

Spring Mix Salad

Spring Mix Salad is typically a combination the following lettuce types: romaine, oak, leaf, butter, chard, spinach, and arugula. The greens are small and tender. They are also quite delicate so you will want to handle and dress them with care. I like to make a light vinaigrette and sparingly drizzle it over the greens.  A spring mix salad is not the salad to pour a glumpy ranch-style dressing over. You will want a hearty romaine or iceberg to stand up to the weight of those types of dressings.

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Put the ingredients for the simple Mediterranean-inspired vinaigrette into a Mason jar and shake vigorously to combine. You can make the dressing ahead of time and then shake it up again just before serving.

You can either use jarred roasted red peppers for this recipe or roast your own. If I am not in a mad rush I usually roast them myself over one of my gas burners. You can also roast the red pepper under the broiler or on your BBQ. The key is to let the skin of the red pepper get nice and charred. Then, you place the pepper in a brown paper bag or in a bowl with a cover to steam for 10 minutes. The skin will peel right off.

The salad comes together quickly and makes a great accompaniment for dinner or I love to take it to work for lunch. Just tote your dressing along separately and pour on just before serving. The spring mix salad greens will wilt rather quickly after being dressing so plan accordingly.

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

How to Make Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

Mediterranean Spring Mix Salad

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