Thursday, November 19, 2009

it's swell

does anybody else get those emails from about the "new" music being released every week?

i honestly don't usually pay much attention to them. i'm not all that "hip" these days, and "new" music mostly passes me by with little notice.

but then, a couple of weeks ago, "strict joy" was on the "new" music list. and i thought, "hey, i recognize those faces."

glen hansard & marketa irgolva, from the movie once. and they're band, the swell season. my heart leapt for joy.

i wrote about once back in april when matt & i first saw it. i didn't elaborate too much on it, other than the fact that i absolutely loved the film. so, indulge me.

once takes two very powerful and common ideas seen both in film and life and gently smashes them together with wonderful and poignant results: love and music. watching two people fall in love is a wonderful thing in a movie, if you believe it. and you do in once. and while i love musicals as much as any girl, the necessity for a suspension of belief, e.g., characters randomly breaking out into song & dance like it was choreographed oh so perfectly, is sometimes a bit too much to ask of me. while once isn't a proper musical by any means, the movie is filled with music, songs written from a sad and passionate place, overflowing with emotional honesty. and to me, these songs are what truly make this movie for me. the amount of passion and emotional intensity found in the songs is overwhelming and beautiful, and glen hansard's crystal clear and pure tenor voice gives me chills. just listen:

this is "falling slowly," the "big" (oscar-winning) song from the movie. i teared up when i found this. its emotional intensity (both the song and hansard's performance) hits me deep.

so you can imagine how excited i was to learn that they were (a) still together and (b) had a new album of music out. but i was even more ecstatic to learn that they were touring. and that they'd be in houston in 2 weeks.

matt & i bought tickets that night, and waited for friday the 13th...though, i admit, quite nervously. we're both not huge fans of live shows for several and varying reasons. we worried about the atmosphere of a small-ish club, probably filled with rowdy, drunk texans cheering on this pure and refined pair and their wonderful music. and we worried that live, it just wouldn't be the same. well, all i can say is that we were incredibly wrong and very pleasantly surprised at how amazing and fulfilling their live show was!

even despite the rowdy, drunk texans yelling "GLEEEENN!!!!!" the entire night. (congratulations, loud man. you know his name.) glen hansard is an incredible performer who, at one point, unplugged his holey guitar, walked away from the microphone, and let only his voice do the work. it was amazing. and marketa, who is incredibly shy, was oh so cute and subdued. they make such a great pair.

i brought my camera (as you can see), but since it wasn't my fancy shmancy camera, getting a good photo was nearly impossible. this was my best shot of the night, slightly blurred, but enough to remember it by.

it was a very magical night for me, one filled with joy and pure emotions. i highly recommend anybody reading this check out once and the swell season. here's another taste of glen & marketa, music also from once:

Friday, November 06, 2009

delicious homemade pizza

i was going to do a halloween post this week...but our halloween this year was pretty craptastic. we missed our ward's trunk or treat because i guess people DO actually start activities on time here. and i didn't manage to get good pictures of our awesome pumpkins.

so i've decided to move on. and eat the gigantic bowl of candy we barely got a chance to hand out.

now, something you must know about us (matt & i) is how much we love pizza. hardly a week goes by without pizza being consumed at our house. and we don't just eat it like animals. we taste it, smell it, and let our taste buds take in the deliciousness that is pizza. we love pizza.

so most thursdays at our house is pizza night. and not just any pizza...homemade pizza! we got a pizza stone as a wedding gift, and almost immediately tried making homemade pizza.

and we failed. miserably.

and now, over a year later with a good modified recipe in hand and my baking skills sharpened, i make pizza nearly every week. and not just successfully. but awesomely. and i want the world to know it. and eat it.

nama's homemade herbed pizza

1 packet dry active yeast (or 2 1/2 teaspoons)
1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 to 3 teaspoons dried herbs (i use a combination of basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, & sage, all of which make up the italian seasoning you find in stores.)
3 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

how it's made
1. first, in a large mixing bowl, dissolve the year in the warm water. be sure it's not too hot or you'll kill the yeast. swish it around in the water with a fork and wait for it to start foaming, about 5 to 10 minutes.

2. to dissolved yeast, add salt, sugar, olive oil, the herbs, and 2 cups of flour. mix by hand or with an electric or stand mixer until the flour is well incorporated.

3. next, add 1/2 cup of flour at a time, mixing well between each additions, until the dough is the right consistency. what's the right consistency? i'm glad you asked! you want your dough to be moist and sticky, but not too sticky that you can't work with it. and definitely not too dry that it's flaky and the flour isn't mixing well. if you find your dough in this dry state, add some more water a teaspoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. if it's too sticky, add more flour. i find about 3 cups of flour to be the perfect amount.

4. if you don't have a stand mixer with a dough hook, lightly flour a good surface to knead your dough on and knead away! if you have a stand mixer (seriously, i don't know how i live without mine.), replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook and knead on low to medium-low speed for 5 to 10 minutes. the trick with kneading is knowing when it's ready. your dough should be smooth and elastic, and i suggest trying the window pane test to check: remove a small portion of the dough, thin it out, and stretch it slowly. if it's ready, the stretched part of the dough should be very thin and translucent. if it just tears when you stretch, it's not ready. here's a great explanation and picture of the window pane test.

5. when the dough is ready, place back in the bowl if you've kneaded it by hand. pour a small amount of olive oil in the bowl and coat the dough. place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough, cover with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until double in size. i usually put the pizza stone in the oven about half way through the rising and put the bowel on the oven so it rises a bit faster.

6. punch down the dough and place on a lightly floured surface. this amount of dough can either make 2 thin pizzas or 1 thick pizza, both medium size. divide the dough in half if you're making 2. using a rolling pin or a pastry roller. (i much much much prefer the pastry roller; you have much more control of the pizza shape that way.) shape into the sized pizza you want. if you find that the dough is retreating whenever you roll out a section and not holding it's shape or size, let the dough sit for a few minutes to simmer down. then resume.

7. now, get out your pizza peel. flour it, and place large piece of parchment paper on it. then, place your shaped dough on top of the parchment paper. trust me. you'll have a much easier time transferring the pizza to the stone on the parchment paper. with the dough in place, build your pizza. bake at 475 for 6-10 minutes. it really depends on how thick your pizza is, so just keep an eye on it. remove and consume. and watch out for the scary bearded guy.

he'll eat it all if you don't keep an eye on him.

i must also share our favorite topping, and specifically, a sauce matt came up with last christmas.

this pizza pictured above has the following toppings: pasta sauce (we just use prego), mozzarella, diced onions and green peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, cheddar cheese, parmesan, and feta. doesn't that sound delicious?

mmm...but what about this pizza?

this is a white sauce pizza made from alredo sauce and caesar dressing, heavy on the caesar, light on the alfredo. it's probably terrible for you. but it's oh so good. we use any kind of canned alfredo and ken's steak house dressing. simply the best caesar dressing i've ever had. also on this pizza are familiar characters: mozzarella, diced onions and green peppers, marinated artichoke hearts, parmesan, and feta.

and here's another fun tip: to up the delicious factor on your crust, right before you put it in the oven, use a pastry brush to brush olive oil around the entire edge of the pizza and then sprinkle with sea salt. i can't tell you how big of a difference this makes to that small piece of crust. it's amazing.

also, stop by your local costco and pick up a 65 ounce bottle of marinated artichoke hearts. you won't regret it.