I’ve been making my own pita bread at home for a few years now. Finding them in my local grocery store can be hit and miss, so it started out as a necessity. But, like everything else – once I had them homemade, I couldn’t go back. I figured it was high time I shared it with you guys. These pitas are puffy, pillowey, and soft . Everything that you could possibly want in pita bread!

They’re easier to make than you’d think too. I’m able to put the dough together at 3 in the afternoon, and we’re eating gyros with the pitas I’d made by 6 in the evening. It comes together quickly, and is very workable. To shape the dough, I like to stretch with my hands (like you would a pizza) and then finish with the rolling pin. I don’t like a giant “pocket” in my pita, and this technique seems to help with that. I also like a slightly larger pita, so I roll it thin.  But, if a pocket pita is what you’re looking for, just make the dough circle a bit smaller and thicker.

The recipes make 8 pitas, which was perfect for the guys and I to have dinner. Then, we enjoyed pita pizzas the next day for lunch simply by topping with pizza sauce, cheese, and some fun toppings. The boys loved having their own individual pizza to decorate, and I always love turning leftovers into something new. Enjoy!

I know, I know. Hamburger buns from scratch? When they’re only a couple of bucks to buy at the grocery store, who has the time? I’ve been making an effort to make time for more homemade breads this year – and I was completely blown away by these hamburger buns! I’ve always  known that bread baked in your own oven was always more substantial than the it’s airy store-bought counterpart. But, I really didn’t think it would make that much of a difference in a burger. I couldn’t have been more wrong!

This bun will hold up to any burger and toppings you should choose to pile onto it. And yet, it still manages to remain tender and really “hugs” the burger – soaking up all the delicious, beefy juices that manage to make their way out. A batch of dough for these guys was the perfect amount for us. Made just enough for all of us to have a burger, and then I froze the other half for a dinner later in the month. Most breads and doughs freeze so beautifully, it’s always so handy to have in the freezer for an easy meal.

I’ve been having a lot of fun making pasta at home these days. I’ve had a pasta machine for a few years now, the kind with the handle you crank. It was a great little machine, but I never found myself getting it out to use.  I’d wanted the attachment for my stand mixer for a while now, but it was pricey – and, not really something I’d buy for myself. Well, my mom and dad were really good to me this year and gave it to me for Christmas! Since then, I’ve been making pasta probably once a week. It’s been so wonderful. While dried boxed pasta is very affordable, and you can even get high-quality imported pasta at your regular grocery store now…there is just something to be said for fresh pasta.

Tender, yet firm. Finally, the term “al dente” makes sense! I’ll be honest with you guys, my first attempt was a bunk. I used the recipe that came with KitchenAid attachment instructions, and it was a complete wreck. It used 100% all-purpose flour. I had to add a considerable amount more water than the recipe called for, and it just kept tearing when I tried to roll it out. That batch ended up in the trash can. But, I didn’t give up. I turned to Annie, who can always be counted upon for a great recipe. This dough came together beautifully, rolled out beautifully, and cut beautifully. I happened to have semolina on hand from a previous trip to the “big city”, and used what I had in a couple weeks. I had to poke around a bit to find it close by, but I found it at a health food store. The 50/50 ratio of all-purpose flour to semolina is just perfect. I’m looking forward to trying some flavored pastas as well. I think I’ll mix some chopped fresh herbs into the pasta next time. With some sautéed garlic and olive oil. Perfect, simple dinner! Enjoy.

Cajun seasoning is one of my favorite spice mixes. I use it on/in many different dishes; crispy potatoes, spicy shrimp pasta, etouffee and gumbo (as Alton would say – that’s another episode!). Often, the spice mixtures that you buy off the shelf have a ton of salt in them. Plus, alot of words that I can’t even pronounce. I’ve found that it’s very easy to make at home. It only takes a few seconds to put together the spices that you probably already have in your pantry. And with most things you make for yourself at home, it’s much more economical than it’s store-bought counterpart.

I love food from that region of the country. I’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit-but many books, movies, and television programs that I love are centered there. Any Swamp People fans out there? I’d have to say Troy is my favorite, followed closely by the Guist brothers. Somehow I can’t imagine them going to the grocery store to shell out $5 for a small tin of spices. Part of the life is making due with what you have, and taking pride in it. While I’m not quite ready to be shooting and dining on squirrel like Glenn and Mitchell, making my own Cajun spice mix is a start, right? Looking forward to making more DIY basics in the kitchen in 2012.