Thursday, May 6, 2021

Cinco de Mayo Dinner Party

 Cinco de May Dinner Party


Now that we are fully vaccinated and our neighbors are as well we decided to get back to entertaining and sharing a meal.  Over a year since we hosted friends in our home...the longest time we have ever gone without having company.  Cinco de Mayo seemed the perfect time to celebrate life getting back to almost normal!

The centerpiece was a simple mirror charger that I found in the Dollar Zone at Target.  It was in with all the wedding items, but I thought it would be great on our dining room table.  I added our candles, a vase of faux flowers that I wrapped with a colorful napkin, and a maraca that I have had since high school days from Spanish class!!!

Place setting was very simple  - I used brown woven mats as background, colorful flower mats from Dollar Tree, and the napkins purchased from Kohl's a few years ago.  I think they look perfect for Cinco de Mayo and the Spring/Summer season.  The plates are my everyday white dishes, but I did pull out the better silverware to shine up the table.
I used the blue stemmed water glasses from Dollar Tree - and used these cute little cork coasters I found at Ikea to protect the table.  We have had the dining room furniture since 1979...and it is back in style and works perfectly in our more modern apartment.  We had the table top refinished when we moved three years ago.  It had taken a beating from all the dinners over the years.   I use the coasters now to keep the nice, smooth top staying that way.
What would Cinco de Mayo be without margaritas.  I found these cute glasses at the Cash & Carry sale that our community hosts every so often.  The last day of the sale is Dollar Day - fill a bag with as much as you can for ONE DOLLAR!  I snagged these cute glasses along with some other items.  The pitcher is from Ikea...I linked the tray with one of the napkins and tied another colorful napkin to the pitcher for some fun.
Simple appetizer of veggies and roasted red pepper hummus.
The dinner was Santa Fe Chicken - I usually make that recipe in the crock pot, but for a dinner party it presents better when prepared in the oven.  I use this recipe  Santa Fe Chicken and baked it in my Temptations baking pan that I found at QVC.  I forgot to take photos of the chicken....
But I did remember to take photos of the dessert - Red Velvet Cupcakes that are SUPER easy.  
1 box red velvet cake mix
12 ounces of Dr. Pepper ( I used diet Dr. Pepper)
THAT IS IT !  Mix together, put in cupcake tin, bake at 350 degrees for 18 minutes.
This could not be easier...
I used my new measuring cup - also found on my Target run - that you can view amount from above.  Game changer!
I use an ice cream scoop to fill the cup cake liners...and I had these liners that had the same colors as the napkins and looked festive!
Once baked I let them cool....
Then frosted them with cream cheese frosting...I used low fat cream chees and Smart Balance to make this a little bit healthier..
Once frosted I used colorful sprinkles to make them pretty...
and served them on my family's pedestal cake dish.  Family legend says my grandmother purchased this for my Aunt Ann ( who passed away when my father was 16 so I never knew her..) because she was a great baker and used to bake a cake for her family every week.  My grandmother ( who I also never met) thought she needed a nice plate for her cake.  Over the years we always used it for birthday cakes...now I use it whenever I can!
The cupcakes were great and the dinner was a great success.  We ate, laughed, and talked until late in the night.  Like old times!
And going under the "you should never try something new when you have guests" theory - I did anyway and tried my new rice cooker that I found on Amazon.  I served brown rice with the chicken.  We eat a lot of rice and I like the idea of making it easy to prepare.  This worked out great - a good buy!  It also comes with a steamer basket to make veggies and fish - I will have fun playing with it this week.
Have you entertained in your home recently ?  Are you ready to get back to normal after this past year ?  Did you celebrate Cinco de Mayo ?  Please leave a comment below - I would be thrilled!  Thanks for stopping by Our New Vista!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Easy Peasy Pizza

 Easy Peasy Pizza

We love pizza !  For years and years pizza has been our go to Friday night meal.  Over the years we have had pizza delivered, picked up a pizza on the way home from work, then decided we needed a healthier version.  For several years I purchased a well known pizza shell that was a whole wheat version.   It was good, but a little too chewy - and frankly, too expensive.  Then I came upon a brand called Mama Mary's.  Two whole wheat crusts in a package.  For years I bought them at Walmart and would stock up and store them in the freezer.  Then one day - bam!  - they disappeared.   I noticed my local grocery store carried Mama Mary products and asked several times to have the whole wheat version in stock.  Each time I was told yes...it will take a few weeks.  Well, they never did show up.   Then I searched and found whole wheat pizza shells at Whole Foods.  You can see a post about them here - 

Making Pizza A Little Bit Healthier

And that was good, but not great.   Then the pandemic hit and I decided to try my hand at making my own pizza dough.  There are TONS of recipes online and I tried a few.  Some were too thin, some too chewy for our taste - and I finally found this Pizza Crust yeast and tried the recipe on the package.  SUCCESS!  We really like it, it is easy to make, and I can use some whole wheat flour!  For a few weeks there during the Covid panic you could not find the yeast anywhere  - everyone was baking!  When I did find it, I stocked up.



It says "fast and easy on the package - and it is!


It comes in packs of three - and I use my Kitchenaid Stand Mixer to make the dough.

I first tried making it on my old Pampered Chef pizza tray...but it was too hard to get the crust on the tray and it did not get brown on the bottom.  I tried putting the dough right onto the oven rack with the pizza peel you see in the back of my olive oil basket...but that was a disaster.

I found this pizza pan at Kohls and decided to give it a try.


Here is the recipe -
1-3/4 to 2-1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1 package of Fleischman's pizza crust yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup very warm water ( 120 - 130 degrees)
3 Tablespoons oil
Pizza sauce, toppings, cheese

I use a combo of whole wheat flour and bread flour.  I recently purchased these ProKeeper flour containers and I love them.  Airtight and easy to store in my cupboard.  
I start out with one cup of whole wheat flour...

Add the sugar...

And the salt into the mixing bowl...along with one packet of the yeast.  Add the oil and the warm water...
I check to make sure the water temp is between 120- 130 degrees...

Add it to the bowl and mix for one minute, until...

it forms a mixture that looks like this.

Then I use a 1-1/2 cup measure of bread flour...


Attach the dough hook to the mixer....

And gradually add enough flour until ....

the dough starts to come together.  I never use the entire cup and a half of the bread flour.  I just add a little at a time until I see the dough start to form a ball...
And once it does I let the dough hook knead the dough for 4 minutes on low speed...

While the dough is kneading, I get ready to make the pizza.  I use this silicone pad to roll out the dough...
and get the toppings ready.  A small can of mushrooms from Aldi..
drained well...


Whenever I buy spinach I chop and freeze several batches so I am all ready for the pizza.. .
and chop up some colorful peppers, too. While I am doing this, I keep an eye on the dough kneading.  Sometimes I add a tiny bit more water...or a tiny bit more flour...depending on how the dough looks.   After you make this a few times you get a feeling for how it should look.

The flour I did not use to make the dough is ready to sprinkle on the silicone pad...


and I use my hands to flatten the dough and shape a circle.


I have watched videos where people just shape the dough with their hands...but rolling the dough works for me...

So, I roll it fairly thin to make a circle to fit the pizza pan...

It is NEVER a perfect circle...but that is OK, because I like the crusts that form on some of the edges!
Spread the dough with pizza sauce...though I sometimes use leftover marinara sauce..


I also spread some "Parmesan Cheese" on top for extra flavor, and I use the reduced fat...

As well as reduced fat, part skim mozzarella cheese...

I break up the spinach leaves...

spread them on top of the mozzarella, top with the mushrooms,


and the peppers.

I pre-heated the oven to 425 degrees....

and pop the pizza in for 15-17 minutes.


Another Friday night tradition...while the pizza is baking we enjoy a glass of wine and some nuts...and enjoy the smell of a pizza backing in the oven!

And then it is done...Pizza Bliss!  All gooey and hot !

Cut into 6 slices...we usually eat 2 each and then freeze the rest for another time...

I like mine with EXTRA Spicy Mrs. Dash.
And that is it!  I love making the dough, and I love that I can control the fat and toppings on our pizza.  
Have you made pizza crust at home ?  Do you have a favorite recipe or tip to share ?  I would love if you leave a comment below - and until then, Happy May!  
And thank you for stopping by Our New Vista!

Cinco de Mayo Dinner Party

  Cinco de May Dinner Party Now that we are fully vaccinated and our neighbors are as well we decided to get back to entertaining and sharin...