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Sweet Potato Pizza

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Although my favorite pizza isn’t fancy or interesting (supreme with regular ol’ pizza sauce), I do love to try new things and this recipe, found in the latest Taste of Home magazine, called to me.  My husband doesn’t like sweet potatoes and I have this weird thing where if he doesn’t like something, I try to find a way that he will enjoy it.  I want everyone to like the things I like – I’m a control freak like that. ;)

Anyway, he hates eggplant even worse than he dislikes sweet potatoes, and I once got him to enjoy it on a pizza, so I figured it would work with sweet potato too.  I was right!  He might not have enjoyed it as much as our mutually loved supreme pizza, but he gobbled it up and said “it’s good” when I asked what he thought, so I count this as a success.  :)

Sweet Potato Pizza

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2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for pan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, about 10 oz.
2 tablespoons water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 tube (13.8 oz) refrigerated pizza dough*
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded*
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed

In a small microwave-safe bowl, stir the olive oil and garlic together; microwave for 30 seconds and set aside to infuse while preparing pizza. Preheat oven to 450F. Rub plain olive oil over a large 14″ pizza pan; set aside.

Peel the sweet potato and cut into 1/4-inch slices. Cut each slice into 1/2-inch wide strips; place in a microwave-safe dish and add the water. Cover and microwave on high 3-4 minutes, or until potato is almost tender. Drain; sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss together gently.

Unroll pizza dough and press to fit prepared pan. If desired, pinch edge to form a rim. Sprinkle with the mozzarella cheese and one tablespoon of the garlic olive oil. Top with sweet potato and sprinkle with the herbs. Drizzle with remaining tablespoon of garlic oil and sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese. Bake on lowest oven rack 12-15 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is melted.

*Veronica’s notes: if you prefer to make your own crust, go for it! This is my favorite whole wheat crust. The original recipe called for 1 cup of mozzarella and 1 cup of fontina cheese, but I couldn’t find the latter and went with all mozzarella.  I’d definitely encourage you to try it with fontina if you can find it – I’m sure it’s even better that way!

Recipe source: adapted from Taste of Home Feb/March 2014, sent in by Libby Walp of Chicago, IL

Lookin’ for more pizza with pizzaz? Here are a few of my personal favorites:

Shrimp & Bacon Ranch Pizza

Fresh Vegetable Pizza

Cheeseburger Pie

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Bread Machine Hamburger (or hot dog) Buns

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It’s been so long since I posted the recipe for Rosemary Sage Burgers with Chive Mayo that many of you may not even remember this picture:

Yeah, I posted that over three years ago.  I put that delicious burger on a delicious homemade bun, always intending to share the recipe. And didn’t.  Then I won a red ribbon for that recipe and still didn’t share the recipe.  I guess better late than never, right?

These buns are nice and soft with great flavor.  Making the dough in the bread machine makes them fairly easy, too! The only work you really have to do is shaping the buns, the rest is just waiting.

Bread Machine Hamburger or Hot Dog Buns

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1 1/3 cups water
2 tablespoons non-fat milk powder
2 tablespoons shortening
2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups all-purpose flour (or 2 cups all-purpose & 2 cups white whole wheat or whole wheat flour)
1 packet instant/bread machine yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
Optional: egg white & sesame seeds or poppy seeds

Measure all the ingredients into the bread machine pan in the order given, making a little well in the mound of flour to put the yeast in. Push pan in place, select the dough cycle, and push start.

When cycle finishes, turn out onto a floured board and punch down. Knead 4 or 5 times; add a little more flour as you knead if necessary to keep it from sticking. Cover dough with a clean dishcloth and let rest for about 30 minutes. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal or flour.

For hamburger buns: Press dough into a circle and cut into 8 even wedges; form each wedge into a ball then flatten into a smooth and fairly even circle.

For hot dog buns: Shape these into long somewhat narrow snakes. (Makes about 12 or so.)

Place dough shapes on the baking sheet, cover with parchment paper or a clean dish towel, and let rest for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. If you’d like to add sesame seeds or poppy seeds to the tops, brush them with beaten egg white, then sprinkle the seeds on top.

Bake at 375 for about 17 to 18 minutes, or until nicely browned.

Makes 8 hamburger buns or about 12 hot dog buns.

Recipe source: The Cooking Photographer

Homemade Sloppy Joes (look Ma, no cans!)

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I follow a lot of blogs and some of them I rarely comment on (if I commented on every blog I follow it would be my full-time job), but will pin their recipes almost daily.  Such as Plain Chicken and Jam Hands.  Everything they post is like, “Oh that is the most fattening and delicious thing I’ve ever seen. I must make it!”  FYI, I really love fattening recipes, especially right now.  (And more and more am not loving sweet stuff!  To the point that I almost would have rather died than taste the frosting on the last order of cupcakes I made, though I made myself do it to make sure it was good. I couldn’t tell if it was good, I hated it so much.  Oh well, fat is better for you than sugar anyway.)  This one  isn’t fattening, but I won’t hold that against it because it is family friendly.  And maybe that’s a better way to classify Ali’s recipes (she has two little girls).  I love family friendly too, even if it doesn’t have a pound of butter in it.

I pinned Ali’s Best Ever Sloppy Joes over a year ago and finally made them recently.  I have never made them from scratch so I don’t know if this is the best-ever recipe from personal experience, but it sure beats using a canned sauce!  Totally delicious.  I ate two sloppy joe’s for dinner the night I made this, and Dennis ate the rest of the pan! I think he had at least four!  So I guess you could say this is husband-approved.  Like I said, family friendly.

*I didn’t serve these with bakery fresh buns, but her instructions to do so reminded me I have an award-winning buns recipe I need to share! Will do that soon!

Best Ever Sloppy Joes

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1 lb. ground beef
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped green or red bell peppers (I use a small bell pepper)
1/2 cup chopped celery (I used three stalks)

Cook ground beef and chopped onion. Drain fat off meat. Add back to large pan. Add remaining ingredients. Mix. Reduce heat to low and cook 40 minutes. Serve with fresh bakery buns.

Recipe source: Jam Hands

Thankful Thursday #93: the cake didn’t explode


So did any of you realize that the cake in yesterday’s wedding photos was the cake I said I was making on Thanksgiving? Oh yes it is!  It survived the 1 1/2 hour journey and did not explode, implode, topple over, get dropped, get smashed, get stepped on, sat on, or even sneezed on.  It was perfect.  Well, as close to perfect as I’ll ever get a cake.  Thank the Lord above for small miracles!  Or perhaps in my case, it was a miracle of epic proportions.

This was my first wedding cake:

And this was my first wedding cake done for a couple I did not know, so the stress factor and importance factor was even higher (they did not have love for me to help with forgiveness,  lol):

Notice the water on the box? Yeah, it was raining. I hope it’s true that the more goes wrong on your wedding day, the smoother your marriage, because if so, this couple must be the happiest couple on Earth!  They certainly deserve it.

And here’s the sad little dummy cake (made out of styrofoam) I made in a hurry to replace the cake I ruined…and then proceeded to drop and ruin it as well.  It was a bad. day.

So yeah, it’s a pretty big deal that the only snafu I ran into with this cake was that the top tier suffered from icing budge (when the air inside a refrigerated cake expands as it comes to room temperature and causes a bulge and/or eruption in the frosting). I even put a dowel rod in the top tier to keep the budge from happening but should have removed it to allow more air to circulate during the trip, but even so, this was a small problem and I just pressed the frosting back into place with a spatula and it was good as new.

I was so happy you guys!  The bride was happy, the groom was happy, and we all lived happily ever after.

Until the cake slid off the table.  ;)  The end.

Bird’s Nest Cookies

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Most of my readers probably know by now that I’m a Christian.  What might surprise you is that I don’t celebrate Christmas and Easter as Christian holidays.  We do the secular stuff with our families, exchanging gifts, hunting for baskets, but we do not recognize any affiliation of those holiday traditions with our faith.  We recognize Christ as our savior, remember his birth, life, death, and resurrection, but we do not do it just because it’s Easter or just because it’s Christmas–holidays that ultimately have pagan roots and nothing to do with Christ, despite the emphasis put on Him during this time by many. Not that I despise that emphasis, it’s actually refreshing, but we choose to keep these holidays secular while keeping our focus on Christ year-round.  Make sense?

*crickets chirping*

Hello?  Is anyone left?  Hopefully I didn’t lose everyone by starting out on such a serious note.  I have lots of thoughts on this subject…and maybe I should share them some day.  I was thinking about starting a “my faith” page on my blog where I can file my thoughts on spiritual matters in more detail.  Let me know if you’d be interested.

Anyway, whether you celebrate Easter or not, these moist chocolate macaroons shaped into nests with white chocolate truffle “eggs” are a perfect spring-time treat!  I made these a couple years ago and nearly forgot about them until I ran across the photos I took.  Perfect timing!  I hope you enjoy them, I know our family did!

Bird’s Nest Cookies

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2 squares (2 oz) unsweetened baking chocolate
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 (14 oz) bag sweetened shredded coconut
16 to 18 white chocolate Lindt Lindor balls (2 bags), or other egg-shaped candies

Move the oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 275 degrees. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Melt baking chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave on high 30 seconds at a time. Stir after each stop until melted; set aside.  With a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the egg whites on high until stiff and glossy. Add the salt, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate. Beat until mixed. Stir in the coconut and hazelnuts. Scoop into mounds with a small (size 24) ice-cream scoop or a 1/4th cup dry measuring cup. Place on cookie sheets and make an indent in the middle with your thumb.

Place both cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Switch the cookies to the opposite shelf halfway through baking. This will prevent over-browning. Meanwhile, unwrap the candy.

Move cookies to a cooling rack and allow to sit for five minutes, or until they are barely warm to the touch. If you place the truffles on top while they are more than barely warm, they will melt into goo. If you are using candies with a shell, wait until the cookies are cool to place them on top, or the shells will crack. For the truffles, working quickly, set the Lindt balls on top of the cookies. Let cool completely. The Lindt balls may drip a little so you may want to place a sheet of parchment underneath the cookies.

*To toast the hazelnuts, place them in a small bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, and microwave another 30 seconds. Immediately rub together in a paper towel to remove a little of the excess skin. Leave most of the skin on. Chop coarsely and set aside.

Makes 16 to 18 large cookies.

Recipe source: The Cooking Photographer

Question of the day: if you celebrate Easter, what are your favorite traditions?  Our family (technically Den’s family–mine doesn’t really celebrate) always does a Easter basket hunt, even for the adults. I love hiding them almost as much as finding them! :)

You might be a redneck…


Rednecks are the butt of many jokes (gotta love Jeff Foxworthy!), but I think they deserve some credit.  I laugh at the jokes because they can strike pretty close to home for me, and I love laughing at myself, but truly, us rednecks are some crazy geniuses.  We find the easiest and cheapest ways to fix and recreate things, and while the result is often comical, it’s also, well, easy and cheap!  And I’m all about easy and cheap.  At least when it comes to fixing & recreating things. :)  So hey, if that makes me a redneck, then I wear the name with pride!

Our back door is on the landing leading to the basement, and flush to the ground with our yard.  Due to poor landscaping, when it rains the water pools close to our door and comes in right under it, making a waterfall down the stairs.  Although we plan to level the yard and dig a trench some day (it’s always some day), in the mean time we did a redneck fix on it and nailed a board at the base of the doorway, caulked it, and now the rain no longer comes in under the door. Feel free to applaud.

The sunrooof on my car has leaked since the day I bought it.  The car company I bought it from fixed the seal for a discount (yeah, they refused to do it for free, even though I took it in the same week I bought it!), but it started leaking again a few years later.  Paying only half (if they weren’t lying to me) cost me over $200, and I wasn’t about to fork over $400 every time the seal needed fixed again.  So we bought a tube of waterproof clear caulking gel and apply a new coat around the roof every summer.  Works like a charm and it kinda goes well with all the hail dents.

There happen to be a few creative rednecks living in our neighborhood as well, so we’re in good company.  Check out this flower bed we came across on one of our walks.

Notice anything strange?

Apparently this lady got fed up with watering flowers and decided to plant artificial ones, the kind that never die!

And how about this sun shade made out of cardboard?  Why waste $10 when you can finally use some of those big boxes you’ve been collecting for the last decade and make your own, right? Right!

Notice how it’s dark outside?  I’m hoping this person was just on a really loooong grocery shopping trip, because otherwise this photographic evidence throws my “rednecks are geniuses” theory out the window.

OK, now this is a creation that I’m sure many non-rednecks have used.  Greenies makes a wonderful product called Pill Pockets that are dog or cat treats with a hole in the middle so you can pop the pill in, mold it back over the pill, and delight as your dog or cat happily swallows the pill without a big fuss.  Jessie just loves them.

The only downside is that they cost $7-$9 a bag and don’t last long when you have to give your pet more than one dose a day.  Jessie has skin allergies in the summer and has to take 6 pills a day at times to keep her from licking all her fur off.  My solution?

Turkey hot dogs are considerably lower in fat and calories than regular, and Jessie certainly doesn’t need any extra fat on her chunky little frame.  These cost $1.50 at my Aldi store and last two or more weeks.  Cheap and easy–a redneck’s dream!

To make my own pill pockets, I slice the hot dog into pieces wide enough to fit her pills.

Then I make a space for the pills by cutting a slit into each one. (On a totally unrelated note, the brown scar is from my exploding boiling honey incident, if you’re wondering. The old thick scar starting on my lower forefinger and running down to my palm is the result of my first in a long line of burn incidents.  My Dad always called me “the burn victim” growing up, because I burned myself so often.  I also used to be a quasi-pyromaniac, even starting a fire in our attic once.  Probably not the best obsession for a burn victim, right?)

Insert the pill.

And Jessie happily gobbles her pills down.  (It also works well to fold the pills into American cheese, which is soft and pliable and easily molds to the shape of a pill.)  I just store the remaining slices in a Ziploc bag so that I can just pull them out and use them immediately for her next several doses.  Oh, and that blue Rubbermaid storage tub on the floor in the photo above?  That’s her food container.  I wasn’t going to pay $40 for a food storage bin when I could make my own for less than $10, thank you!

And then there are the things that just don’t need fixing.  Like my water bottle.  I left it on the floor of my car on a hot day and melted one side flat.  Then I got it stuck in the revolving door at work and crushed the other side.  Hey, it still holds water and the straw still works.  Why do I need a new one?

Redneck pride!

Homemade Deodorant

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You’d be surprised the conversations you get involved in at church.  The teens are talking about the “Ponzi scheme” of social security, while one sister is talking about how knitting can “tighten your bosom” if you do it enough (knitting, that is), another is recommending Robitussin for infertility (really??), and two others are talking about how much they love their homemade deodorant while you’re trying to ignore the bloody photos & details of a hunting trip some of your brothers just returned from.  I love my brothers and sisters in Christ for all their diversity!  And thanks to two of them, I found out how to make my own deodorant and so will you.

Many are concerned about the aluminum found in store-bought deodorants, afraid that daily use will raise the aluminum levels in our bodies above what is healthy.  The reason deodorants contain aluminum is to actually prevent perspiration, which is the only down-side to making your own deodorant.  If you’re hot enough to sweat, you will still sweat.  But at least you won’t smell!  And sweating is actually a very healthy thing, allowing your body to release chemicals and toxins through your pores.

Like I mentioned in one of my Thankful Thursday posts, this homemade deodorant passed the ultimate test for me: teaching Sunday school.  I’m not a very stinky or sweaty person even without deodorant, and with it I’m always fresh as a daisy, except on the Sunday mornings that I’m teaching Sunday school.  It’s ridiculous, but I’m totally intimidated by children when I’m supposed to be in a position of authority.  I love playing with kids, having fun with them, but when I’m supposed to be their superior and not their colleague, hoping that I sound like I know what I’m talking about, and required to discipline them if necessary, I almost can’t handle it.   (One big reason it might be a blessing that I’m not a mother!)  Before the homemade deodorant, I always stunk to high heaven after teaching Sunday school, but when I went in wearing the homemade stuff, I came out smelling just as shower-fresh as before!

So, it definitely is an effective deodorant.  As for the look and feel of it, it does not compare to the invisible types, but depending on how thick you make it, can actually be less visible than traditional stick-deodorants.  The first batch I made quite thick, only adding enough coconut oil to make the consistency like a thick, whipped frosting, and it went on a little thick when applied.  The second batch I made thinner so that I could actually pour it into the deodorant tube (the first batch I scooped and smashed into it), and while I have to keep it in the fridge so that it stays solid, it goes on very thin and smooth so I like it better that way.  I find I only need a very light smear of it, which means it lasts much longer than regular deodorant.  This may differ from person to person, and your mileage may vary.

While reading other reviews of this type of deodorant, I found that extra virgin coconut oil is ideal, as it is antifungal and antibacterial, which boosts the odor-eliminating power of the deodorant.   I also discovered that some people are sensitive to baking soda and can get a rash from it, so you may have to tinker with the recipe to reduce it (and upping the cornstarch as you do) until you get a formula that your body likes.  If your skin starts to get dark under your arms and starts to itch, this is a skin yeast infection which one person said is caused by the baking soda (I tend to think it would be the cornstarch since it is something that yeast could feed off of, but I don’t know).  If this happens to you, get a generic athlete’s foot cream to clear it up.  I have had this happen before for a different reason, and found that Lotrimin (I got generic) worked best for me, clearing it up in just a few days.  Go back to your regular deodorant until it’s cleared up, then tinker with your recipe to adapt it until it no longer has this effect.  You could even try putting Lotrimin in the mixture.

OK, so here’s the church lady-inspired homemade deodorant recipe!  Up next, how to naturally give your bosom a lift while learning to knit! ;)

Homemade Deodorant

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3 tablespoons baking soda
3 tablespoons arrow root powder or cornstarch
3 tablespoons extra-virgin coconut oil, heated just enough to become fairly liquid
Tea tree oil (a natural antifungal), and/or other essential oils for fragrance (optional)

Start with an empty deodorant tube.  If yours still has deodorant in it, just roll it up and pull it off the base.  Reusing the container and wasting the deodorant is cheaper than buying a brand new empty container by itself, because you don’t have to pay for shipping.

Be sure to wind the base down to the bottom before filling.

Whisk the baking soda and arrow root powder or cornstarch together in a bowl until lump-free and fine.

Add the oil…

and stir with a spoon until incorporated, then whisk it up until smooth.

Add your essential oil(s) in now to reach your desired fragrance, then add additional coconut oil or dry ingredients of equal measure as necessary to achieve your desired consistency.  Pour or pack into an empty deodorant tube and refrigerate until solid.

This may be stored at room temperature, but if you made the mixture very thin, you will have to keep it in the refrigerator if you want to apply it as a solid rather than a cream.

Miracle Pan Release


I bake a lot of cakes.  It’s kind of my thing.  I even have a T-shirt that says, “Real Girls Eat Cake.”  Because I want people to know that the reason I eat so much cake is that I’m real, and not because I have a problem.  Although I may not be fooling anyone but myself with that shirt.

Anyway, because of all the cake-baking happening in my kitchen, I usually also have a can of Baker’s Joy or a bottle of Wilton’s Cake Release in my pantry because they make such an easy one-step job of greasing and flouring my cake pans, which nearly every cake requires.  With a push of a spray nozzle or a swirl of a pastry brush, my pans are covered in seconds and there is never a pile of flour laying around my trashcan.

However, I can be kind of a tightwad, so when my friend, Suzie, sent me the link for a miraculous recipe to make my own “Cake Release”-type product, I was overjoyed.  And let me tell you, it works SO much better than Baker’s Joy.  And just as good as Wilton’s product at a fraction of the price.  I’ve never had a cake slide out so easily, except when using Wilton’s Cake Release!  It is very shelf-stable and easy to make, so I encourage you to whip up a batch to keep on hand for your own baking projects.

Miracle Pan Release

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Printable recipe with picture

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Whisk thoroughly until everything is incorporated and smooth. Store in airtight container at room temperature. To use, dip a pastry brush or impeccably clean fingers into the mixture and spread a thin layer over the bottom and sides of pan(s) for any recipe that calls for “greasing and flouring” your pans.

*Note: you can make any size batch you’d like, just make sure all amounts of each ingredient are equal to each other.

Recipe source: Apron of Grace

Homemade Magic Shell

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Have you ever had Magic Shell?  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a Smucker’s ice cream topping that comes out liquid, like chocolate syrup, but hardens when it comes in contact with your ice cream, so that you have to tap and break it to take a spoonful of icecream.  It’s so cool!

My husband is obsessed with it, but you can rarely find the peppermint kind, his favorite, so I started making it for him last year.

It is super simple to make, and you can add any extracts you like to change the flavor profile.   You can also use dairy-free chocolate, such as Ghirardelli semisweet chips, and you have a vegan topping for your vegan one-ingredient ice cream. Since that ice cream is so healthy, I didn’t feel too guilty about adding some of this to the top of it and calling it my breakfast.  :)


Homemade Magic Shell

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Printable recipe with picture

1 1/2 cups (300 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (200 grams) refined coconut oil
pinch of salt

Place the chocolate and oil in a microwave-safe dish and microwave for thirty seconds, stir, and microwave another 15 seconds. Repeat, if necessary, stirring well every 15 seconds, until mixture is melted and smooth.  This can also be done in a double boiler. Stir in salt and store in an airtight container at room temperature.  Mixture will remain liquid during the summer, but might solidify during the winter.  If it becomes solid, simply heat it until liquid again.

Peppermint Magic Shell: add 2 teaspoons peppermint extract.  I like to divide the batch in half, leaving half plain and adding 1 teaspoon peppermint to the other half.

Makes about 2 cups Magic Shell.

Recipe source: adapted from Brownie Points

Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich with Pesto Hummus

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Another mouth-watering Mediterranean sandwich, bursting with fresh flavor! This recipe comes from the lovely Debbi, who was inspired by a Panera sandwich. I haven’t tried the original, but I know I like this one!

I messed up my bread (only about half my loaves ever come out right–I’m still learning) and it baked up pretty flat and wide instead of round, but if done properly with enough flour (I’m always scared to add too much), you will have a nice sandwich bread.

I know this recipe seems like a lot of work for a sandwich, but if you break down the process into steps, it’s not so bad. Make your bread one day, and make your hummus while you’re roasting the eggplant the next. Plus, it makes lots of sandwiches!

Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich with Pesto Hummus

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Tomato Basil Bread
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) yeast
3/4 cup warm water (110 – 115 degrees)
1/4 cup minced fresh basil, packed
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups bread flour (I used AP)

Pesto Hummus
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (water reserved)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted and cooled

Garlic-Roasted Eggplant (optional)
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb. eggplant (about 2 globe or 4 Italian)
Kosher salt
8 fresh thyme sprigs

Make the bread: In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Stir in basil, Parmesan cheese, tomato paste, sugar, oil, salt, pepper flakes and 2 cups of flour. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Turn onto a floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 – 5 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. Punch down dough, knead for 1 minute. Shape into a round loaf. Place on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled about 1 hour. With a sharp knife, cut a large X in top of loaf. Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Make the hummus: In a food processor, combine all the ingredients. Add in reserved bean water slowly until desired consistency is reached.

Make the eggplant:
Mix the minced garlic and oil together in a small bowl and set aside. Slice the eggplant into rings and toss with 1 teaspoon salt. Place in a colander and allow to drain for 30 min. Heat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Over the sink, gently squeeze the eggplant to extract the salty juice and wipe them dry with a paper towel. Brush each half thoroughly with the garlic olive oil. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 30 minutes-1 hour. The eggplant will collapse and the bottoms will be a deep brown caramel color. Let cool considerably before handling, at least 20 min. Gently turn the cut side up. If serving as a side dish, serve with a lemon wedge for squeezing or drizzle with vinaigrette. If using in other recipes, scoop the flesh from the skin with a spoon.

For the sandwich: Spread two slices of tomato-basil bread with Pesto Hummus, then top with  lettuce, red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, and Garlic-Roasted Eggplant (if using).

Recipe source: adapted from Debbi Does Dinner and Fine Cooking

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