PIZZA OVEN!!!!

Remember that pizza oven that we keep talking about? (Here, here, here, and here)

Well…after almost a year, we finally finished it over the weekend!

Finished pizza oven with Geroni-gnome, our watch'gnome'

Finished pizza oven with Geroni-gnome, our watch’gnome’

Our brand new, almost-done pizza oven!

Our brand new, almost-done pizza oven!

It’s not quite pizza time yet. We have to wait for the mortar to dry fully and then start lighting consecutively larger fires, curing the oven. All-in-all it should take another week and a half or so. Then…it’s pizza time! Over the past year, the oven has gone from a pile of bricks…

A truckful of fire bricks

A truckful of fire bricks

To a base…

So it began: Memorial Day 2013

So it began: Memorial Day 2013

More of a base...

More of a base…Firebricks, red bricks, and kiln insulation

To a real-looking oven!

Building up the walls and ceiling arches

Building up the walls and ceiling arches

The arches hold! We're really doing this...

The arches hold! We’re really doing this…

Almost there!

Almost there!

So close to pizza time!

So close to pizza time!

It looks like it was meant to there, right!?

The backyard is READY!

The backyard is READY!

Two big questions remain: When is happy hour?  And what should we name it!? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below! Winner gets invited to our pizza party!

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Basil-mint pesto

Oh, look! A new post! Sorry about the blogging hiatus, my day job has been occupying all of my blogging time and energy.

Anyway, over the weekend Brandon and I made a delicious dinner, that was also extremely photogenic. It was also very popular with my Instagram followers, including a recipe request. So, here it is:

A few months ago we planted a “basil-mint” plant with our fig tree, in hopes that planting them together would be mutually beneficial. Our experiment has been somewhat successful, although I don’t know if it’s my master gardening skills or the combination of sun and rain the garden has been getting.

Our basil-mint bush

Our basil-mint bush

We definitely won’t have figs this year (although the tree has doubled in size since last year!) and we have more than enough basil mint. This stuff is great. It tastes like basil and is hearty like mint. It also spreads like crazy. We cut off a whole stalk of basil and used Brandon’s Dad’s not-so-secret recipe to make the pesto (see below).

Basil-mint pesto

Basil-mint pesto

We took the extra time to make pasta from scratch for this dinner, and it was well worth it. We used our pasta maker with the rigatoni attachment. The pasta was perfect.

Homemade rigatoni

Homemade rigatoni

While we let the pasta dough rest, we sauteed Italian sausage ground turkey LINK and peas. Once the noodles were cooked, we added them to the meat and peas, added a touch of pesto and some parmesan. Voila! Dinner!

Delicious! Our basil-mint pesto final product

Delicious! Our basil-mint pesto final product

Brandon’s Dad’s Pesto Recipe 

(Yield: 1 3/4 cups, 4 servings)

  • 2 c. fresh basil
  • 3/4 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 c. chopped hazelnuts (Or any nut, really. We used pine nuts this with this pesto)
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2/3 c. olive oil

Put all ingredients in the blender until preferred consistency is reached. You can add a squeeze of lemon to help hold the color, but don’t add too much or it will flavor the pesto. Use immediately or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate pesto up to one week or freeze up to six months.

 

Happy Doughnut Day!

It’s doughnut WEEK on the blog, with Sunday’s post on Top Pot Doughnuts and Wednesday’s doughnut cocktail post, all leading up to National Doughnut Day — a day our household will for sure be celebrating.

Donuts

If you’re in the Seattle area, I want to help you out with some tips to make sure you celebrate doughnuts (or donuts) today!

Top Pot Doughnuts

Top Pot Doughnuts

Top Pot Doughnuts have locations everywhere, including representation at most QFC grocery stores. Find a full list of Top Pot locations here. And a list of their offerings here. I’m not a coffee drinker, but I hear their Ovaltine mocha is a must-have. So order one of those alongside your doughnut! (Please note: QFC has a wide variety of Top Pot Doughnuts, but not all of them. If you want some of the more-specialized doughnuts, I’d recommend hitting up a Top Pot cafe.) Read about my recent tour of Top Pot here.

Daily Dozen Doughnut Company | Seattle, WA

Daily Dozen Doughnut Company | Seattle, WA

If you’re downtown and craving a smaller portion of doughnut, Daily Dozen Doughnuts is the place to be. Daily Dozen Doughnuts offer mini doughnuts in the following options: plain, cinnamon-sugar, powder-sugared, frosted (with sprinkles!), and their newest, more limited options: maple and maple-bacon. You can order them by the half or full dozen and I highly recommend the “assorted” option, with several of each variety. If you want a maple or maple bacon, be sure to specify as they aren’t normally included in the assorted option. Bring cash, as Daily Dozen Doughnuts doesn’t accept any other form of payment. And be sure to tip, their sign tells you to. For location and more information, visit their Facebook page.

Mighty-O Donuts

Mighty-O Donuts

If you think doughnuts are too unhealthy to celebrate, you should visit Mighty-O Donuts in the Green Lake area. These vegan donuts are made without: chemical preservatives, hydrogenated oils (trans fat), coloring or artificial flavors, and animal derived ingredients, which make them cholesterol free, and they still taste good! Normally I go for the sprinkle options, but my favorite at Mighty-O is the lemon poppy donut. For location and more information, visit their website. Enjoy!

Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme

Krispy Kreme is not a favorite of mine anymore (they were when they first opened), but they’re classic and tasty and offering free doughnuts today. Go get some at a location near you!

 

 

{Wine Wednesday} Doughnut cocktails

WineWednesday

Here is a special gone pinning/Wine Wednesday mash-up for you on this very special doughnut week: DOUGHNUT COCKTAILS!

Enjoy these sweet cocktails alone or paired with your favorite doughnut:

Glazed Doughnut Cocktail

Glazed Doughnut Cocktail

Hot chocolate shooter with mini doughnuts 

Hot chocolate shooter with mini doughnuts

Powdered sugar doughnut cocktail 

Powdered sugar doughnut cocktail

Get ready for National Doughnut Day on Friday! Check back in the morning when I share my favorite Seattle doughnut recommendations.

Top Pot Doughnuts: fresh from the fryer

Ta-da! Top Pot co-founder Mark shares his fresh chocolate, creme-filled doughnuts

Ta-da! Top Pot co-founder Mark shares his fresh chocolate, creme-filled doughnuts

Brandon and I recently had the pleasure of attending a private tour of one of Seattle’s hottest doughnut-teries (like a bakery, but solely for doughnuts): Top Pot Doughnuts.

Brandon loves, loves, loves doughnuts and we make it a point to visit well-know doughnut shops when we’re out of town, on vacation. Some examples include: VooDoo and Blue Star in Portland, Gourdoughs in Austin, and Doughnut Plant when we were in New York City for our honeymoon. We record food and travel network shows about doughnuts and doughnuts often grace our breakfast table.

I’m less of a doughnut fanatic (rather than a sweet tooth, I have more of a savory tooth) but I can’t say no to a good maple bar or frosted doughnut with sprinkles.

Top Pot Doughnuts opened in Seattle in 2002 and they currently have 16 locations here. (Plus a newly-opened shop in Dallas. If you’re reading from Dallas, you should go check them out!)  One of the locations is very close to my day job and I’m lucky enough to have doughnuts grace the office kitchen once every couple of weeks. They have many varieties of doughnuts, with the classics and several seasonal favorites. In fact, I just saw on Facebook that the blueberry cake doughnut made its seasonal debut. I’ll have to pick some of those up soon.

Mark Klebeck and I met through my day job and the more I spoke to him, the more excited I was to share his glowing personality and doughnut knowledge with Brandon. Mark and his brother are true entrepreneurs and I was so excited to hear how they started this and so many other businesses.

Mark met my Dad, Brandon and I at the Top Pot flagship store on 5th Ave in Seattle. (It’s kind-of famous, thanks to a former Seahawk with a sweet tooth.) This location makes 3,000 dozen doughnuts each day to supply doughnuts for the greater Seattle area (that’s 36,000 daily) and runs pretty much around the clock, shutting down for a mere 4 hours each early morning. We stepped behind the counter and into the back to a world of  hand-forged doughnut delight.

Mark and his brother, Michael, created a cookbook for their doughnuts and you can find their dough recipes in there.

Yeast doughnut dough at Top Pot

Yeast doughnut dough at Top Pot

The doughnuts rise 300 percent, so they start off much smaller than you think they’re going to… Like these maple bars being punched out. Doughnut making at Top Pot is an incredibly manual process (truly hand-forged) and the dough above gets rolled flat, perforated and then run through an old-fashioned press that punches out yeast-raised doughnuts like these:

Maple bars: the early stages

Maple bars: the early stages

Nothing gets wasted in this process. The leftover yeast dough scraps from the bar and circle doughnuts gets combined together to form Top Pot’s famous apple fritters. (One of Brandon’s favorites.)

Leftover dough = apple fritters

Leftover dough = apple fritters

Apple fritters before the fryer and glaze

Apple fritters before the fryer and glaze

Once the doughnuts are in their shape, they need to rise. Top Pot has a walk-in proof box where the doughnuts go to rest and grow. This process takes less than an hour. Once they’re plumped up, it’s off to the fryer! All of Top Pot’s doughnuts are fried and we were able to watch cake doughnuts, yeast-raised doughnuts and apple fritters get fried all at once, in separate vats.

For the cake doughnuts, this machine plops the ring of dough in the oil. As it cooks, the doughnut rises. Here is a batch that are almost ready for their glaze!

Doughnuts in the fryer

Doughnuts in the fryer

Once they’re all cooked and floating, the metal tray that is hiding at the bottom of the fryer is lifted out and the doughnuts get cooled:

Hot doughnuts, comin' through

Hot doughnuts, comin’ through

Once cooled, many of the doughnuts (fritters, old-fashioned, etc…) get glazed. The glaze-r is so cool. The doughnuts are placed in a single layer on their wire rack and the whole rack makes its way to the glaze table. Then this trough gets filled with glaze and the doughnut maker covers the whole rack in a swift motion:

Well-glazed glazed doughnuts

Well-glazed glazed doughnuts

Here is Mark walking us through the process. Brandon was really intrigued and was hoping for a sample.

Mark & Brandon: Best buds at Top Pot Seattle

Mark & Brandon: Best buds at Top Pot Seattle

Lucky for him, Mark is generous and Brandon was able to eat his favorite, still warm, doughnut, an apple fritter! He was happier than a kid at a candy shop. Or a kid at a doughnut shop. Same thing, I guess.

Fresh doughnut? Yes, please.

Fresh doughnut? Yes, please.

Our tour finished with more sampling and more learning about the doughnut business and coffee bean roasting business, the profitable side of Top Pot Doughnuts that Brandon and I, the only two Seattle-ites who don’t drink coffee, have very little experience with.

My Top Pot favorites: frosted doughnuts! (Not pictured: my other favorites: the maple bar)

My Top Pot favorites: frosted doughnuts! (Not pictured: my other favorites: the maple bar)

And Mark was nice enough to autograph our Top Pot cookbook…

Autographing our Top Pot Doughnuts cookbook

Autographing our Top Pot Doughnuts cookbook

…and pose for a photo with us!

Brandon, Mark, and Megan | Top Pot Doughnuts, Seattle, WA

Brandon, Mark, and Megan | Top Pot Doughnuts, Seattle, WA

Top Pot is really invested in their community and they have partnered with Northwest Harvest to sell raffle tickets to the Seahawks/49’ers re-match in San Francisco over Thanksgiving weekend. Buy your tickets at any Top Pot location and know that each ticket purchased provides 45 meals. More info can be found here. The drawing is held on June 6.

Thank you to Mark and Top Pot for a wonderful, fascinating, and tasty tour and we look forward to continuing our adventures and trying every doughnut variety you produce!

Oh, National Doughnut Day is on June 6. I know I’ll be celebrating and I hope you do too… perhaps with a visit to Top Pot? Maybe I’ll see you there!