Love, Authenticity, and Truth

Been a long time…I thought I would give up blogging forever as I moved on to other things, but I have a pull to always write, to dialogue, to share my thoughts and hear the thoughts of others. I’m reading a book right now for our Lovers of Literature (LOL) book club, “Blue Like Jazz” by Donald Miller. It’s provoking some interesting thoughts, touching on some things that I’ve always pondered. So much so that I feel compelled to write Donald Miller about by thoughts, something I don’t normally do. Yet, sadly, I’ve not found a way to connect or contact him. His blog, Storyline, and Facebook page seem to be completely devoid of his personal touch. Instead, it appears he has become more “corporate” and “untouchable,” marketing his new Storyline brand. How sad for me. Therefore, I’m sharing my thoughts publicly instead of privately…to hear your thoughts.

I struggled picking up this book, trying to get my book club to change it’s mind and choose another book (even though I’m the one who suggested it in the first place). No such luck. I’m stuck with it. I thought it would be another holier-than-thou, beat me over the head Christian book that would make me feel guilty for my shortcomings and failings as a “Christian.” But I’m finding that my mind is stirred, my spirituality is simmering, my desire to converse is spilling out of me into this blog post. A good thing, I suppose, when you really look at it.

I have always considered myself a Christian, but the meaning of that has changed as I’ve grown and stretched as a person. It is more about Christian spirituality now. I wince whenever I say that I’m a “Christian,” because I don’t associate myself and my beliefs with the larger, negative view of Christianity. As a matter of fact, I try to distance myself from it, embarrassed and shamed by the vitrol, ugliness, and judgment that radiates from the outspoken right-wing groups. Not to mention the cruelty of things done “in the name of Christ.” My heart aches because of it. I want to scream and shout, “That’s not Jesus! That’s not me! That’s not what it’s all about!”

I’ll be the first to admit my spirituality is messy, unruly, and uncouth. I was raised in the conservative church, and chewed up and spit out by the same conservative church. I know all the “rules,” the should’s and should nots. The feeling of not belonging because I’m different, authentic, and have a tendency to question authority. Why would I want to love something that doesn’t love me and who I am now, at this very moment?

I haven’t been back to an organized church since I was vomited out of the church 10 years ago, like a putrid sickness that was contagious. I was beaten and battered, disgraced and shamed, unloved and unwanted because I was me, my authentic self. But isn’t the church supposed to love the unlovable, the different, the cynics, the skeptics, the gay, the drug addicts, the artists, the rebels, the outspoken, the homeless, and still others? That’s what I thought. Apparently the church did not agree with me. I’m afraid to go back.

Now keep this in mind…I’m not bashing churches as a whole at all. I’m commenting on the ones that I’ve had personal experience with through the years. Yet still, I love God. I believe in Jesus. I believe in His all-consuming, graceful love for me and humanity. At times, I doubt it. How can He love someone like me? Is He even real? Is what I believe in even possible? Or is it all some odd fantasy cooked up by someone and we’ve all been fooled? I worry that I won’t live forever with Him. I’m scared that when I turn to dust, it’s just that….dust. Nothing. Finite. But Jesus says that with Him, we are everlasting, infinite.

I keep coming back to the same two questions…Does He really exist, and if so, Does He really love someone like me?

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A Life List, Not New Year’s Resolutions or a Bucket List

Italian Echoes

It’s a new year which often means resolutions. A long time I decided that I do not like nor do I create New Year’s resolutions. In my opinion, it was just setting myself up to fail. And fail it did. Miserably. Instead, I’ve been inspired to create a “Life List” which is my version of a bucket list. It isn’t about the things I want to do before I die, but because I want to live. Lesley, at Bucket List Publications, shared a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt that I think says it well: “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” This applies to my art as well as my life philosophy. I always believe in trying something at least once. I may have fear, anxiety, and nerves about it, but usually, although not always (no spiders for me, thank you very much), the joy of having the experience outweighs the negatives.

Not only did I create a “Life List” of things I want to do, but I created a “Completed Life List” of things I’ve already done! It was awe-inspiring to look at that completed list and realize how much I’ve truly accomplished in my short 36 years. I highly recommend compiling both lists, and as you complete an item on the “Life List,” move it to the “Completed Life List.” The memories that come flooding back each time I read the completed list is one of my most treasured moments. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” Here’s to living life to the fullest!

Kat’s Completed Life List (So far….as I do and think of more, I add more)

1. Tour Italy
2. Drink fresh squeezed blood orange juice overlooking the Amalfi coast
3. Pray with the monks at St Francis of Assisi in Assisi, Italy
4. Visit Venice
5. Ride a gondola in Venice
6. Lay on the floor and gaze at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
7. See Michelangelo’s David
8. Visit the Catacombs in Italy
9. Paint a life-size mule for Miles of Mules
10. Have an article published in a magazine
11. Complete a military ropes course in the woods/swamp
12. Backpack the Delware Water Gap
13. Swim in a hot spring in Florida
14. Get a tattoo
15. Throw a coin into the Trevi fountain
16. Go white water rafting
17. Visit the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas
18. Walk the Riverfront in San Antonio, Texas
19. Go clamming in Maine
20. Hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa in Italy
21. Visit Quebec
22. Visit Niagara Falls – Canada and USA sides
23. Visit Hershey’s Chocolate World
24. Visit Hershey Gardens to see the tulips in Spring
25. Visit Philadelphia Zoo
26. Visit the Metropolitan Art Museum
27. Visit the Philadelphia Art Museum
28. Ride an elephant
29. Participate in Mail Art
30. Swim in one of the Great Lakes (Lake Michigan)
31. Visit Precious Moments Chapel in Carthage, Missouri
32. Visit Bass Pro Shops flagship store in Springfield, Missouri
33. Visit Longaberger Village in Newark, Ohio
34. Visit Longaberger Golf Club in Newark, Ohio
35. Visit all 50 states (Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Washington DC, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kansas, Texas, Missouri, Massachusetts)
36. Visit the Vatican in Italy
37. Have rosary blessed by Pope John Paul II
38. Visit LL Bean flagship store in Freeport, Maine
39. Eat chocolate candy at
40. Dine at Shula’s Steakhouse
41. View art at Brandywine Museum (Andrew Wyeth)
42. Read one of my written stories out loud at a “reading” event
43. Go skinny dipping
44. Visit the Museum of Modern Art in New York
45. Visit the Vatican Museum in Italy
46. Visit the Liberty Bell in Washington, D.C.
47. Tour the White House
48. Sing a solo
49. See a Broadway play
50. Walked 42nd Street in New York (as an observer)
51. Ride the New York subway system
52. Visit the Reading Terminal
53. Visit the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Traveling Back to My Roots

Tonight, I was reminded why I write. Thanks, Ben. Ironically, the post on his blog had nothing to do with writing, but after reading that specific post and others on his blog, I felt like I was gulping fresh water after wandering in the arid desert for so long.

When I originally started blogging (many moons ago, and long before this particular blog), my only goal was to share my journey in art, faith, and life with others in the hopes that it might help even just one person struggling in their own journey.  In the past year or so, my train fell off the track. I became more concerned about how many people followed my blog, trying to seem professional, basically worried about my “image”.  I did things I’m not proud of and I wrote things I’m not proud of (most are deleted from here, so don’t go looking to start trouble).

Because I took the “image, self-focused” road, I lost interest in blogging. It became a chore, something that had to be done. It was no longer writing for the pure joy of it and the connection with you. Frankly, I’m ashamed and sad, for you and for me. We missed out on some authentic, honest time together and for that, I’m truly sorry.

My hope is to restore “The Skeptical Optimist” to its true roots…to a blog that shares my messy spirituality, my artistic journey,  and the musings of a skeptical optimist.  Let’s walk this well-worn bumpy road together, my friends….

Too Much Stuff and Chorizo Vodka Pizza

Finally…finally…I have the Chorizo Vodka Pizza recipe for you. I know how longanimous you were trying to be, while your knickers creeped higher and higher. Okay…maybe not, but I do know a few of you have been oh-so-patient waiting for this recipe.
076I had every intention of posting it two weeks ago, but the pizza didn’t come out of the oven quite to my satisfaction. Oh, it tasted good, don’t get me wrong! But it had way too much olive oil on it. Looked like Mt. Vesuvius exploded on the pizza, and not in a good way. Must remind myself that to drizzle olive oil is to apply it in sparingly small bits – not guzzles of slick oil. Oops. The pourer poured faster than the pouree expected it to and lo and behold, a not-so-magical, dripping, gooey cheese mess appeared. But since the flavors were delicious, I just had to give it another go.

MUCH more successful results the second time around ‘cause I remembered…drizzle, not pour…less is definitely more. Now that I think about it, it’s a philosophy that I try to live by – no, not drizzle, silly, but less is more. Every year, around this time, I start getting the urge to purge. To start fresh. Anew. To breathe and clear away the cobwebs, detritus, and mounds of matter that has collected in the corners. To begin the new year without the clutter of the old years.
078We started with the dining room, hauling away the old, ratty computer desk (Come on, who uses desktops at home, anymore?…I won’t make fun of you if you do…Dinosaur). Already, the room looked three sizes bigger. Then away went the cat tree dust collector, which the cats rarely used  (they much prefer the radiators, tables, couches, and humans). OMG. What is that? Not dust bunnies, my friends, but dust rats. Think New York City rats. Between the cat hair and the dust from living, we could have made another cat. I’m sure you’re grateful that we threw it all away, instead. I believe in recycling, but even that would have been a bit much for me.

In comes the wine refrigerator that someone gave us as a gift over 2 years ago. It has sat in the basement all this time, not cooling any wine…still in the box, as a matter of fact. Now we have this delightful little wine corner with all our supplies – glasses, tools, and of course, the wine! And I now have a photograph “studio” where the cat tree used to sit. Lots of natural sunlight and space. It doesn’t mean that my photographs will magically improve over night (oh how I wish my pictures would turn out like Pinch of Yum…one day, my friends, one day….), but it’s definitely an improvement.

Speaking of too much stuff, a 2005 study yielded some eye-opening results: the average family is drowning in clutter. Surprised? I doubt it. They released a book, Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century, with pictures that revealed garages filled to the ceiling with boxes, old toys, lawn equipment, and housewares. In fact, the researchers found that 75% of the houses surveyed had garages so chock-full of stuff, there was no room for a car. Can you guess why we’re addicted to watching Hoarders on TV? It rationalizes our piles of junk. We aren’t THAT bad, so we must be doing okay. Really?
074Not only does clutter affect our living space, but it’s been proven that it actually elevates our stress hormone levels. When it comes to dealing with stuff overflow, most of us can admit to giving up. We become so overwhelmed by the chaos, that we feel hopeless at fixing it. Sometimes it feels like that the junk in our closets, garages, and storage rooms multiply when our backs are turned. It’s easier than ever to buy in bulk, or to simply bring home more than intended.

Instead of cowering in front of the mess, challenge yourself to clean it out this month. Start the new year with a clean slate. Learn to slow down and practice conscious consumption by filling your homes with meaningful items that you love. And, maybe, instead of more stuff, choose hearts, minds, and people who care more about YOU than what you have.
Photo 2012-12-27 10

**Here’s the pizza dough recipe that I used for this pizza. But any dough you prefer would work just as well.

 

Chorizo Vodka Pizza

Author: Kat Collins
Ingredients
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
  • 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (1 pound) fresh pizza dough
  • Corn meal for dusting
  • Olive oil
  • 10 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, sliced 1/2-inch thick
  • 10 to 20 small basil leaves
  • 4 oz. chorizo, sliced into small pieces
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F and arrange and a rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Heat tomatoes, vodka, and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until bubbling and vodka smell is cooked off, about 15 minutes. Season, as desired, with salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside to cool.
  3. Meanwhile roll pizza dough to a 10-inch round. Dust a light layer of cornmeal on a baking sheet or pizza stone and place dough on top. Pierce the dough in several places to prevent it from bubbling up unevenly. Spread sauce evenly over the dough. Evenly distribute mozzarella across pizza and scatter basil and chorizo on top. Brush edges of pizza lightly with oil and bake until cheese is melted, and underside of dough is golden brown, about 15 minutes.
Notes

*I used the pizza dough recipe that I posted on my blog last week, but you can use any dough recipe or refrigerated, pre-made dough that you want. The cornmeal gives a nice chewy, crisp crust and it prevents the dough from sticking to the pan.

If you have a pizza stone, use it! It’s the best for making fresh pizza. Heat the stone in the oven as the oven is warming up. Never put a cold stone into a hot oven. It could crack or warp. If you don’t have one, a baking sheet works just fine, but the crust may not be quite as crispy.

 

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New Year's Traditions: Pork & Sauerkraut

I’m fascinated by New Year’s Eve/Day food traditions. Some of us eat the weirdest things, or the most delicious foods, passed down from generation to generation and you only eat it on this specific day. You serve it every year, but have you ever wondered why you eat what you do for New Year’s Eve or Day?
porksauerkraut
In most cultures, foods prepared on New Year’s Eve or Day are meant to bring various types of good luck. We’re eager to start the new year in the best way possible, even if it means having to eat a spoonful of black-eyed peas called Hoppin’ John (it’s a love/hate food created by African Americans and Southerners). Throughout history, people have eaten certain foods on New Year’s Eve/Day, hoping to gain riches, love, or other kinds of good fortune during the rest of the year. For people of several nationalities, ham or pork is the luckiest thing to eat.

Living in an area where Pennsylvania Dutch and German is the majority (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania was founded by the Moravians), pork and sauerkraut is a must on New Year’s Eve or Day. Pork is a German custom and the sauerkraut was incorporated by the Pennsylvania Dutch, who are of German descent. Any Pennsylvania German worth their salt knows pork is served on New Year’s Day because it brings good luck. Why pork? I asked myself the same question.

In Europe hundreds of years ago, wild boars were caught in the forests and killed on the first day of the year. Another reason is that a pig uses its snout to dig in the ground in a forward direction, signifying progress, whereas chickens and turkeys scratch backward and cows stand still. Pigs are also associated with plumpness and getting plenty to eat. Back in the day, if you had a pig to slaughter at the beginning of the year, it meant you would have plenty of meat for the rest of the year. However the custom arose, Austrians, Swedes, and Germans frequently choose pork or ham for their New Year’s meal. They brought this tradition with them when they settled in different regions of the United States.

Considering that my mom is from the North and my dad is from the South, this was never a tradition in my family. Our tradition is for Christmas Eve, not New Year’s Eve. Our typical Christmas Eve dinner consists of homemade lobster stew, shrimp cocktail, crab dip, Grammie’s molasses cookies and banana bread, and Nana’s fruitcake. Occasionally, we’d have a cheese ball, taco dip, meatballs, and other assortments depending on who came over for the evening. But pork and sauerkraut for New Year’s? Almost never, not even after we moved to Pennsylvania. As a matter of fact, we didn’t have any New Year’s Eve or Day traditions.

For Inge, pork was very common on New Year’s Eve and/or Day because her mom was German. Although, her mom didn’t start incorporating sauerkraut until she moved to the United States. They would serve the pork, typically a pork tenderloin, with mashed potatoes, applesauce and a vegetable.

This year, I decided to start the tradition in our home as an homage to Inge’s German history (although not Pennsylvania Dutch). I invited my parents over for New Year’s Eve dinner and cooked the traditional pork and sauerkraut with mashed potatoes and homemade applesauce. Delicious! The pork was tender and juicy with a hint of tang and apple brown sugar sweetness. The sauerkraut was sweet and luscious with crunchy bits of apples (forgot to get a soft apple…but still tasted good!). Afterwards, we continued our long-standing team game of Canasta (Dad and I are ahead, but Mom and Inge are catching up!).

Did you have the traditional pork and sauerkraut for New Year’s Eve or Day? If not, what is your traditional good-luck food to ring in the new year?

New Year’s Pork & Sauerkraut

Author: Kat Collins
Serves: 4-8
Ingredients
  • 8 center cut pork chops, bone-in
  • 2 pounds sauerkraut, drained
  • 1 large red apple, diced, preferably a soft type
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat a large cast iron skillet (or large nonstick skillet) over medium-high heat, and brown the pork chops on both sides; about 4-5 minutes per side for thick chops, or about 3-4 minutes per side for thinner chops. Place the chops into a 9×13-inch baking dish.
  3. Mix the sauerkraut, apple, onion, brown sugar, and caraway seeds in a bowl until well combined, and spread the sauerkraut mixture over the pork chops. Cover the dish with aluminum foil.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven until the pork is no longer pink inside, about 40-45 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a chop should read 145 degrees F.
  5. Serve with mashed potatoes, applesauce, and green beans. Enjoy!

*Adapted from All Recipes

 

 

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A New Year Fizzle – Happy 2013 to Me

So 2013 didn’t start off with the positive bang that I had hoped for. Instead of peace, love, and joy, I got a scary potential health diagnosis and every dish I created this weekend flopped. Okay, flopped may be a strong word, but they didn’t meet my standards for sharing them on this blog.

image

In 2007, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia.  Since then, its been a long, painful road from finding doctors that understand fibro, to learning treatments for it, to adjusting my lifestyle.  Because of insurance changes when I started my new job 2 years ago, I had to switch all of my doctors. Extremely frustrating when you don’t have a medical issue to anxiety, hysterics-inducing when you do have a medical issue, especially one as challenging as Fibromyalgia.

I’ve more or less accepted the diagnosis, although at times I still kick and scream in frustration. There’s no specific treatment and there is no cure. It is what it is. Living with a chronic pain syndrome is life-changing, to say the least. Many don’t understand it or don’t believe it because on the outside, I look “fine.” Believe me, I’m far from fine. But my intention is to not complain about it because I don’t want pity. Too much pride, I suppose.

On New Year’s Eve, I had my first appointment with my new rheumatologist (my fourth). She was reading my most recent blood work and asking unusual, in-depth questions. She wanted to know if any if my other doctors had brought up some of my abnormal blood results. Some, but they brushed it off, saying it’s all just fibro and nothing more. The doctor was surprised. She proceeded to tell me that based on my results, my history, and my physical difficulties, she suspects I have rheumatoid arthritis and/or lupus. What? Seriously? And no other doctor ever bothered to investigate further?

Those are much more serious diagnoses than fibromyalgia. NOT what I wanted to hear beginning the new year. It’s not definitive yet. I have three pages of lab orders that I have to get done, more doctor appointments, and so on. I’m praying it’s “only fibro.” Never thought I’d say that!

I’m trying to stay positive and focus on good things, like what recipe I’ll be posting next on this blog! I did promise you Chorizo Vodka Sauce Pizza, didn’t I? I will post it by Friday!

As for the less than stellar new year beginning, I’ll take it in stride. Why borrow worries for things yet undetermined and unseen? So to cheer me up, tell me what you cooked and how you celebrated the New Year!

P.S. If you have any questions about fibromyalgia, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, feel free to ask! If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it out for you. Or share your thoughts!

Happy New Year, my friends!

Haircuts and Homemade Pizza Dough

Every four weeks, I get my hair cut at Salon Mia in Hellertown, PA. Hey…it takes a lot to maintain my short, spiky do! Okay, not really, but it does have to regularly trimmed. It’s amazing how fast my hair grows. If I go any longer than four weeks, I start looking like a Chia pet. Not a pretty sight.

Depositphotos_3754415_m
I must say, that since I’ve gone short and spiky, with blatant red and blonde highlights, I get the most interesting comments from others. It’s gotten to the point that Inge and I will take bets on how many and how long it will be before someone says something when we go out. It inevitably happens. I’ve had a butcher yell across the farmer’s market, “I love your hair! You rock!” An older woman who had buzz cut grey hair shouted “Girl Power!” at the perfume counter at Macy’s. A delivery man in an elevator told me to “keep doin’ what you’re doin’ cause it’s hot.” Of course, the hot pink shirt and leopard print shoes may have had something to do with that one.

Dough making
But I digress. This post isn’t about my hair. It’s actually about pizza. Really? Yes, really. Down the street from Salon Mia is a small restaurant called Matey’s Crossroads Hotel. Whenever I get my hair done, I try to make it a point to eat here. While I can’t seem to find much history about the place, it is considered a historical landmark. The Matey’s family has owned and operated the Crossroads for over 60 years. Reflecting their origins, they specialize in Hungarian pizza with a signature sourdough crust and a secret cheese blend. My take? The best friggin’ pizza you will ever eat (at least around here, anyways).

Making pizza dough
Their crust is thin and crispy, but with a satisfying chew. Many will debate the merits of a thick or thin crust, but I prefer thin. I can’t stand when dough overwhelms my pizza. Pan pizza? Don’t even think about it. What’s the point of eating pizza if all it is puffy dough with toppings squished in it? I want the crust to be a vehicle, albeit tasty, for the delectable toppings. Pillsbury refrigerated dough from a can doesn’t cut it either, folks, if you want real taste and pleasure (but it is super quick, so for that, half a thumb up).

I’ve never been a fan of homemade pizzas because there was just too much dough and bland. It wasn’t worth it to go through all that work for a pizza that was mediocre. At that rate, I’ll buy a pizza from the place down the street and suffer through it. But since the stress of financial difficulties calls for eating more at home, I decided to give it another shot. I must confess, though, that this pizza was born out of the fact that I somehow forgot to buy half the ingredients I needed to make the enchiladas that I had been planning for a week. Don’t ask, because I have no idea what happened. Brain fart, I suppose.

Dough making

For thin, crispy, but chewy crust lovers, this dough is for you. It’s slightly sweet and nutty and the perfect canvas for adding spices, garlic, olive oil, oats, or what-have-you that you prefer in a crust. For me? I like it just the way it is. Simple perfection. And a sublime vehicle for the Chorizo Vodka Sauce Pizza I made with this crust (recipe coming soon!).

I used my Kitchenaid mixer with the dough hook to mix and knead the dough for the most part. You do have to knead the dough for 2-3 minutes by hand to get the silky texture. If you don’t know how to knead dough by hand, the Fleischmann Yeast company has an excellent video on YouTube. Check it out here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qn5lKmYIOh0

pizza dough with tomato sauce

This recipe will make enough dough for two 12” pizzas or four 8” pizzas. The dough freezes beautifully for about 3 months. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap it in foil, then place it in a Ziploc freezer bag or a freezable container.

Photo 2012-12-27 10(3)
What kind of crust do you prefer? What do you love on your pizza? I’d love to know!

Homemade Pizza Dough

Author: Kat Collins
Prep time: 1 hour 15 mins
Cook time: 12 mins
Total time: 1 hour 27 mins
Ingredients
  • 1 package active dry or fresh yeast
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 cup warm water, 105 to 115 degrees
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for brushing
  • Toppings of your choice
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and honey in 1/4-cup warm water.
  2. In a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour and the salt. Add the oil, the yeast mixture, and the remaining 3/4 cup of water and mix on low speed until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and clusters around the dough hook, about 5 minutes.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead by hand 2 or 3 minutes longer. The dough should be smooth and firm. Cover the dough with a clean, damp towel and let it rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes. I like to heat my oven to 200 degrees, then shut it off and put the covered dough in the oven. It becomes a homemade bread proofer! (When ready, the dough will stretch as it is lightly pulled).
  4. Divide the dough into 2 balls, about 12 ounces each. Work each ball by pulling down the sides and tucking under the bottom of the ball. Repeat 4 or 5 times. Then on a smooth, unfloured surface, roll the ball under the palm of your hand until the top of the dough is smooth and firm, about 1 minute. Cover the dough with a damp towel and let rest 15 to 20 minutes. At this point, the balls can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for up to 2 days or frozen up to 3 months.
  5. Place a pizza stone on the middle rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.To prepare each pizza, dip the ball of dough into flour, shake off the excess flour, place the dough on a clean, lightly floured surface, and start to stretch the dough. Press down on the center, spreading the dough into an 12-inch circle, with the outer border a little thicker than the inner circle. If you find this difficult to do, use a small rolling pin to roll out the dough. Lightly brush the inner circle of the dough with oil and arrange the topping of your choice over the inner circle.
  6. Using a lightly floured baker’s peel or a rimless flat baking tray, slide the pizza onto the baking stone and bake until the pizza crust is nicely browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Remember that the oven is very hot and be careful as you place the pizza into and out of the oven. Transfer the pizza to a firm surface and cut into slices with a pizza cutter or very sharp knife. Serve immediately.

*Recipe adapted from Wolfgang Puck/Food Network

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