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Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Poem Lovely As A . . . .

When I was a senior in high school I had taken all my required courses and so was able to fill my last semester with electives.  Drama, Choir, any "fun" classes like advanced sewing were already a regular part of my academic schedule.  Art was about the only thing left for me to take.  I enrolled for Art 1 and found myself in a class with a lot of freshmen and a few seniors who, like me, were filling class time.  Don't discount freshmen - it was through one of my younger art classmates that I found singing opportunities at the local Baptist church and where I met my future (now present) spouse.

Requirements for this class were not rigorous.  The first thing we had to buy was a sketch pad and a box of crayons.  The Crayola 24 box was the preference although I think some of my classmates scrounged the art boxes of their younger siblings for supplies while others purchased the deluxe box of 120 including a built in crayon sharpener.  Fools they.  The first thing the art teacher did was grab somebody's crayon and snap it in half, explaining that the rough edge was needed for the technique we would be using.  I vowed to keep my brand new box of crayons away from him.

In the early weeks of the semester we were taken outside to draw various trees around the school.  I was surprised by how easily I was able to realistically represent these natural creations with merely a broken crayon and a pad of paper (yes, I succumbed to the theory that the rough edges of the broken crayon allowed one to sketch leaves and branches more realistically).

All that fall I sketched trees; sitting on the front porch to draw the neighbor's beautiful maple in its coral colored splendor, waiting for my younger sister during doctor visits where I was her chauffeur, drawing the trees surrounding the medical center, taking impromptu breaks from class to sketch again the great oak which gave our school its mascot and yearbook title.  I handed in the required number of drawings.  I don't remember the grade.

Later in the semester we experimented with water colors, with oil paints, with pen and ink, choosing subjects appropriate to the medium.  One girl at my table brought in the cigarette lighter from her boyfriend's mid 1960s model Ford Galaxie to draw in a pen and ink rendering.  I tried painting a glass mason jar with water colors, a disappointing failure.

Best of all were the Ivory soap carvings.  We were allowed to carve in relief or in three-D.  I found a photo of a statue in a book and elected to recreate her in Ivory Soap.  As I recall the project was successful.  I wonder if later my sculpture was relegated to the bathroom for a more practical existence.

I once traced the fashion illustrations on a sewing pattern and handed it in.  As I recall I was given a good grade but I always felt guilty about it.  Likely the teacher knew just how I had achieved the drawing and gave me the grade as punishment.  Or not.

These past few weeks, driving to work, I noticed the maples, ashes, lindens and other neighborhood trees turning to rust, gold, orange and scarlet.  I remembered those school days spent outdoors and those other occasions drawing trees.  The annual occurrence of the leaves turning never fails to amaze all that behold its beauty.

Quotable Quotes; in the category That's The One I Want To Draw!

"Life is about using the whole box of crayons."  RuPaul

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pizza-licious!

I love pizza.  Doesn't everybody?  What I don't love is Chicago style pizza.  And wouldn't you know, I just happen to live . . . . never mind.  My favorite pizza is from my home town.  I won't tell you where that is but I will tell you that Little Caesar's and Domino's need not apply.  Pizza Hut?  Well, it'll do in a pinch but the fact is I cannot get my favorite pizza unless I am visiting family that still live in the home place.  Consequently, I end up making pizza at home much of the time.  It's not as good as what I grew up with but it's better than deep dish.  Or pan.  Or (perish the thought) thin crust.

I have a friend who also makes pizza at home.  She is lavish with toppings - lots of pepperoni and enough cheese to keep the dairy business in business.  I favor a more modest approach when it comes to cheese, and the man prefers a light hand with the sauce.  I like to make my crust from scratch - a basic bread recipe will serve, or any of the dozens of pizza dough recipes available in books or on line.  Sometimes I may use a store-bought crust like Boboli, or I may use frozen bread dough.

Those pizza doughs that come in the cardboard tube, like the crescent rolls, are okay but not big enough or hearty enough.  Save them for making breadsticks.  Nor do I advocate using things like English muffins or pita bread as pizza crust.  Somehow, they just taste like an English muffin or pita bread with tomato sauce and cheese.

But this week I found a new way to make pizza at home quickly and easily.  This is one of those recipes that I wish did not taste good.  I saw it on a television commercial and actually made fun of it until I decided to give it a try.  The crust was made using a cardboard tube of biscuits.  I had ham, sauce and cheese on hand so I decided to give it a try.  Wouldn't you know, I did not have a can of biscuits?

Luckily, they appeared on the next grocery store sale paper and we were in business.  Also on sale was a package of pepperoni.  Now I have nothing against ham on a pizza but if you want to get down to basics, pepperoni is definitely the way to go.

Next time they are on sale, pick up a tube of those biscuits.  Likewise some sauce, cheese and pepperoni or other toppings - or use what you have in the fridge.  Here is the basic recipe with some variations.

Open the package of biscuits and separate them - most seem to come 8 to the package.  Flatten the biscuits, gently stretching and pressing with your fingers, to approximately 6 inch circles.  Organic shapes are also appropriate - the biscuits will take on a life of their own during baking.  Place the "pizza dough" on a greased baking sheet.

Top each with a spoonful of tomato sauce, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce or whatever is on hand.  Plain tomato sauce can be helped with a pinch of basil, oregano, garlic powder and/or crushed red pepper flakes.  Or make your own sauce from scratch if you are of a mind to.

Now add toppings of your choice - a few slices of ham or pepperoni, and a scattering of cheese.  Pop the pizzas into a preheated 375f oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes.  Ours were perfect at 13 and 14 minutes.  Remove to a board to cool for a few minutes before serving.  That's it!  Little pizzas with a buttery, flaky crust and tasty toppings, made in just a few minutes and (depending on your sauce and toppings) very little clean  up! 

Give these a try.  If you are more adventurous (or maybe a vegetarian) try these variations.  Use ham, Canadian bacon, pineapple, any kind of cheese, black or green olives, peppers and onions, sliced tomato, garlic, spinach, or just check out the menu from your local pizza place for inspiration.

These little guys would be great for a party appetizer (everybody can make their own) or to make with kids for a quick supper for a party or sleep-over.  Or just any time you want pizza and can't wait the 30 minutes for delivery.

One note - those canned biscuits sometimes come in a "buttery" variety.  I think the plainer versions may be more appropriate, or you may prefer a different cheese and assortment of toppings for the butter style biscuits.  Enjoy!

Quotable quotes; in the category Hey, Toss One My Way! 

"Ideas are like pizza dough, made to be tossed around."  Anna Quindlen