Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spicy Pecans and Cider Vinaigrette

It has not felt as much like fall the last few days.  It has been wet and muggy and has felt as if we are moving back into summer (which thankfully, we are not).  I love fall as you have probably already gathered from reading previous posts, and once I get it in my mind that fall is coming, there is no going back.  I just cannot, no matter how much I love summer foods, crave them as I would during the summer months.  Instead, my food thoughts turn to those which are roasted, or orange, or spiced, or sweet, or, as in the case of this salad, all of the above.

This is a favorite salad of mine, and I have made it with variations with great success.  Either way, it is always tasty.  I think it owes its success to a varied mixture of textures as well as temperatures.  It is appealing, giving you a bit of a surprise in every bite.  It is crisp, crunchy, spicy, sweet, creamy, and chewy, all at the same time.  Can't get much better than that.

You can make this salad with plain, toasted nuts of your choice or the spiced ones in the recipe.  I liked the spiced ones best.  On a side note, even if you don't make the salad, make the nuts!  They're addictive!  You can also vary your cheese, using goat cheese or feta as the contents of your refrigerator dictate.  You can also change up the veggies, using roasted winter squash or beets.  Don't be scared off by the lengthy ingredient list or multiple step process.  Most of the items are things you probably already have around the kitchen, and many of the steps can be done ahead of time.  Also, the vinaigrette and pecans can be doubled easily to give you several nights of salad (or pecans just to munch on as a snack).  Trust me, it is a cravable fall salad worthy of the little bit of extra effort it takes to assemble.  

I have broken the recipe into two main parts.  The vinaigrette and pecans can be made ahead so they are listed in the first part of the recipe, and the other salad ingredients and directions follow.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spicy Pecans and Cider Vinaigrette
serves 4 as a side or appetizer
For the Cider Vinaigrette and Spicy Pecans:
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grainy Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons good quality olive oil 
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  1. Place vinegar, mustard, and honey in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until emulsified. Alternately, you could add all ingredients to a jelly jar and shake until combined. The vinaigrette can be made up to a day ahead.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine pecans, brown sugar, butter, hot sauce, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and toss well to combine. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring after 5 minutes. Spread pecans on a sheet of foil or waxed paper to cool completely. The pecans be made up to two days ahead.
For the Salad:
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut in 3/4 inch pieces
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 bunch green leaf lettuce (or other tender greens), torn into bite-size pieces 

  • 2-3 tablespoons dried cranberries
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine sweet potato pieces, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet and roast approximately 20 minutes until the potato is tender when pierced with a knife. Remove from the oven and keep warm while preparing the rest of the salad. 
  2. Place the torn greens on a platter. Arrange the warm sweet potato on top of the greens. Distribute the cranberries, cheese, and nuts evenly around the potato. Drizzle the salad with the prepared vinaigrette. Serve while the sweet potato is still warm.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Apples in Cinnamon Syrup

"An apple a day keeps the doctor away."  If that saying is true, I should be very healthy this year.  I have definitely been eating my fair share of apples recently.  As mentioned in previous posts, we eat a lot of apples from the late summer through the winter.  We have already been to the mountains twice to get apples, purchasing Honey Crisps, Jonagolds, Red Romes, and some Fujis, and we are planning another trip soon for Pink Ladies and Arkansas Blacks.  I love apples!

A few of the apples getting ready to be prepped-  Don't you love the big bag of popcorn in the background?
Since we have so many around, I have also been canning with them when I have time.  I like to have apples around in some form for pies, crisps, sauces, and just for eating.  Here is a really great way to can apples that is fairly simple and quick in relation to other canning projects but has a pay-off better than most since the apples are so versatile.  You can enjoy these apples right out of the jar, over yogurt or ice cream, in desserts or oatmeal, or with savory dishes.  The possibilities are endless.  

Apples in Cinnamon Syrup just before processing
It begins with good cooking apples which you peel, core, slice, and keep fresh in a bowl of cool water doctored up with a little Fruit Fresh or lemon juice.   I used Jonagold and Honey Crisp , but you could use any apple that holds its shape nicely when heated.  I made five quarts which used about 13 pounds of apples.  You need approximately 2 1/2- 2 3/4 pounds of apples per quart jar.  You can make as many quarts as you need, just increase the syrup quantity as needed.

While you are prepping your apples, throw together your syrup mixture and allow it to come to a boil to melt the sugar.  I use an very light syrup so that my apples are more versatile (and healthier), but you can use a light or medium syrup if you prefer.  The syrup quantity for the method I used is enough to make up to 7 quarts.  You can save any you have left for a few days or use it to sweeten tea and other beverages. 

Apples in Cinnamon Syrup hiding behind Chinese Plum Sauce and Spiced Apples.  The spiced apples came from a recipe posted on Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen.  I hope to post my pictures of  those along with some recipes soon.
When canning apple slices, it is best to use the hot pack method.  It produces a better textured product and also prevents the fruit from floating as much in the jar.  You just want to be sure not to overcook the apples before packing the jars.  I bring them to a simmer and turn the heat off after about 2 minutes.  Any longer and you could end up with mushy apples which is not nearly as appealing as apples that still look and taste like apples and not applesauce. 

Once the apples are heated, pack them into jars.  You want to pack them tightly but leave room for them to expand a little in the jar.  Packing too tight can lead to seepage of liquid from the jar.  Add a cinnamon stick to each jar, and fill the jars with the hot syrup. 

These jars are processed 20 minutes.  You can also use pint jars which are processed for the same amount of time. 

I must say that the cinnamon stick adds great flavor and looks very sophisticated in the jar, but it is not necessary, so you can leave it out if you wish.  You could also try adding other whole spices such as star anise or a couple of cloves, just be careful because some spices (or too much spice) could overpower the apples.   

This method is only slightly adapted from the National Center for Home Food Preservation site.  You can find their instructions for the apples here, and their instructions for the syrup (including how to change it to light or medium) here

Apples in Cinnamon Syrup 
makes approximately 5 quarts but can be increased/decreased as needed

13 pounds cooking apples, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced
cool water
Fruit Fresh or lemon juice

10 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
5 cinnamon sticks (each approximately 3 inches long)

Prepare your jars, lids, and rings as well as your boiling water canner.

As you prep the apples, keep them from discoloring by placing them in a bowl of cool water with a couple teaspoons of Fruit fresh or lemon juice.  While prepping the apples, combine the water and sugar and bring to a boil in a large pot.  Drain the apples and place them in the boiling syrup and simmer gently about 2 minutes until the apples are heated.  Turn the heat off while you pack the jars. 

Carefully pack the apples into quart (or pint) jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Make sure to pack them fairly tight while still allowing room for expansion.  Add one cinnamon stick, if using, into each jar, and ladle hot syrup over the top, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Use a bubble remover or chopstick to remove as many air bubbles as possible from the jars.  Adjust the headspace and wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp cloth to remove any syrup.  Top each jar with a sterilized lid and ring and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.  Allow jars to sit in canner 5 minutes after processing time is complete.  Remove jars to a towel to rest 24 hours.  Check seals, wipe jars, and store for up to a year. 


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chicken and Artichoke Pizza with Pesto

Fall is almost here.  The days have been crisp, and I am finally getting to the point where I feel okay dipping into some of the stuff I have put up this summer.  Ever since I posted the pizza dough and pesto, I have been meaning to post the recipe that inspires both for me. 

Years ago, when I was a young chick and first married, I found a cookbook from a chicken cookoff contest at a thrift store.  In it was a recipe for a chicken and artichoke pizza with pesto.  I cannot remember the specifics of the recipe at this point.  Was the crust store-bought or homemade?  Were the artichokes in oil or water?  Was there a recipe for pesto along with it?  What I do know is that it became an instant favorite with us, and we have been having it ever since.  Now, I am not one for eating the same food over and over, so for a recipe to stick around that long is really saying something. 

Over the years, the book has been lost.  I cannot even remember its title.  I have made this pizza so many times, in various ways, and it is always great.  It has never failed me, and I don't think it will fail you either. 

You can make this pizza with a large store-bought crust or smaller, individual ones. You can also make the crust that I use from the link at the top of the post.  The same goes for the pesto.  You can purchase or make your own with my recipe or your favorite.  The constants are that you must have quartered artichoke hearts (either in oil or water, drained), precooked chicken chopped into pieces, and a white melting cheese (I like fontina, but mozzarella also works).

Chicken and Artichoke Pizza with Pesto
makes 1 large pizza, two medium, or four individual 

Pizza dough or crust (store-bought or homemade
1/4 cup pesto (store-bought or homemade)
1 can quartered artichoke hearts (either in oil or water), drained
1 cup precooked chicken, chopped*
8 oz fontina or mozzarella, shredded

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place a pizza stone in the oven to preheat.  If using homemade pizza dough, roll it out on a lightly floured surface according to dough directions.  Divide the pesto evenly among the crusts and spread to create a thin layer of pesto.  Chop the artichoke hearts into smaller pieces, and divide among pizza crusts, spreading them out evenly.  Layer on the chicken pieces and top with the shredded cheese. Slide the pizza onto the hot pizza stone. 

Bake according to crust directions and times** until the bottom is crisp and the cheese has melted and is beginning to brown. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges.   

*I have used precooked chicken from the grocery, but I tend to season a large chicken breast with salt and pepper and cook it in a little oil in a skillet until just done.  Then I slice it and chop the slices into smaller pieces.  Either way, works.  You could also use shredded leftover chicken.

**When I make this I use two medium, homemade pizza crusts.  I bake each prepared pizza 5 minutes or so until everything is crisp and melted.  If it needs longer in the oven, that is fine.  Take it out when it looks ready. 


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Chinese Plum Sauce

As summer dwindles and fall creeps in, you may find yourself in possession of a basket or two of plums.  If so, I have just the thing for you.  Chinese plum sauce is a sweet and sour, pleasantly salty, and aromatically spiced condiment used frequently in Chinese cooking and as a dipping sauce.  I have to admit that I have never been fond of plum sauce, mainly because my knowledge of it came from a jar found next to the microwavable ramen noodles in the grocery store.  That is, until recently, when I found myself with a basket of ripe, juicy red plums and decided to make it myself. 

Let me tell you, this stuff is great!  Much better than the store-bought stuff, it is the consistency of a slightly thin ketchup and is so flavorful.  Great in stir-fries, used as a dipping sauce for eggrolls and pot stickers, and slathered over a pork roast, it is versatile and worth a try.  It is also one of the easiest condiments I have ever made and is perfect for a fairly quick canning project. 

It begins with plums (most any type will do), vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, and spices which are cooked until the plums are soft and beginning to fall apart. 

The mixture goes for a whirl in the blender until it is smooth and ready to be ladled into jars and processed in a water bath canner.  Easy peasy (and tasty to boot). 

I adapted this recipe from Put 'Em Up!  After looking at a variety of other recipes online and in books, I changed some ingredients to fit what I had on hand and added additional spices.  Feel free to alter the spices to suit your tastes, but remember to include the full amount of sugar and vinegar to insure a safe product. 

Chinese Plum Sauce
makes 4-5 half-pints (mine made 5 but just barely)

2 1/2 pounds plums, chopped (pits removed, but peel left intact)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp Five Spice
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

Place all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer approximately 25 minutes until the plums have softened and the sauce has thickened a little.  Puree in a food processor or blender and return to the pot.  Bring back to a boil.  Ladle into hot, sterilized 8 oz jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace, and wipe the rims with a clean towel.  Place sterlized lids and rings on jars and process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Let jars rest in canner 5 minutes after processing time has ended.  Remove jars to a towel to rest 24 hours. Check seals, lable, and store.  


Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Produce Lover's Paradise and Some Basic Recipe Ideas

I know I just posted Thursday, but I couldn't help myself and had to post again.  I just spent last night and a good part of today in the mountains.  My husband and I went up there to get more apples (we eat a lot of apples this time of year), and we stopped by a tailgate market this morning.  Now, if you have been reading this blog, you are aware of the fact that I spend a lot of time on the weekends at the farmers' market, but I am not usually as spoiled as I was today at the Henderson County Tailgate Market.  This relatively small market was packed to the brim full of some of the most beautiful fruits and vegetables you could want.  Since the seasons are changing, there was an extensive mix of produce to choose from, everything from kale to peaches.  As I walked around, I wanted to buy everything.  I tried to spread my money out so that I spent a little at each tent. Let me show you the bounty I brought home!  The good thing is that a lot of produce this time of year keeps well, so it is okay that I overdid it a bit.

As you can see, I went a little crazy.  This is much of what I bought.  The only things not included here are six ears of yellow and white corn, a big bunch of dinosaur kale, and apples, apples, and more apples.  I definitely have my cooking cut out for me this week with this produce, but it should yield some very tasty results.  Here is what I plan to do with some of the items I bought.  
I bought enough corn to have some cooked on the cob and some cut off.  I plan to make skillet fried corn with the corn kernels I cut off the cob.  Put a couple tablespoons of butter in a cast iron skillet on medium heat and add the kernels from about 4 ears of corn.  Cook 10 minutes or so until the corn is softened a bit and beginning to brown slightly.  Season with salt and pepper (and chopped fresh basil, if desired).

I plan to chop the red cabbage up and add some spiced apples I made the other day from this recipe from Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen.  She added the apples to the cabbage, and I thought it looked great.  I may brown some bacon before adding the cabbage.  Bacon makes everything better!

I do not love boiled turnips as many southern cooks do, but I do love roasted turnips.  Chop the turnips (peel if necessary first) into cubes.  Toss with enough olive oil to lightly coat.  Season with salt, pepper and chopped fresh or dried thyme.  Roast on a baking sheet on 400 degrees until tender.  Rutabaga is also delicious cooked this way.  The turnips become almost candy sweet.

Radishes are one of my favorites, and I like to keep it simple.  I make a dressing of 1 cup cider vinegar and 1/2 cup sugar.  Add in 1/2 teaspoon or so of salt and a good grinding of black pepper.  Slice the radishes into the dressing and add cucumber if it is still available at the market.  It is also excellent over salad greens, but if you are going to eat the dressing with lettuce, add a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil to help it cling to the leaves.

The beet is a very underappreciated vegetable.  I like them pickled or simply roasted.  I can't decide which I am going to do with these, but I am thinking that a salad with goat cheese, pecans, and cider vinaigrette sounds pretty darn tasty right about now.

A variety of winter squash.  I had some the other day cut in wedges and roasted with butter, salt and pepper.  Once they were finished, I brushed them with a little warm apple pie jam that I had in pantry from last fall.  Sweet, salty, and delicious.  Some of these may end up the same way.

Some of this kale will probably end up in this sweet potato and sausage soup from Smitten Kitchen, but I know I will not be able to get away without making my husband's favorite pasta with kale and bacon (I will post this at some point when I get around to making it). 

A variety of apples.  Some I plan to cook with, roasting them with some of the winter squash from above.  Some will make their way into canned apple pie filling (I will post it when I make it), and many will just be eaten as-is or with caramel dip (as a treat).

Last, but not least, more apples and a half gallon of apple cider from the orchard we visited.  Both came from Grandad's Orchard in Hendersonville, NC.  I plan to use the apple cider in vinaigrettes throughout the year, so I am going to freeze it in ice cube trays to have on hand.  

I purchased all of this fantastic produce from farmers that I actually got to meet.  It is all as fresh as it gets.  And all of this cost me less than a typical trip to the grocery store.  It just goes to show that supporting local agriculture is the way to go!  Now I have to get into the kitchen and figure out where to put it all until I get around to using it. 


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Chocolate Chess Pie and Oompa Loompas

I want to say, right from the beginning, that I am strange.  I know it (and some of you may know it too).  My brain makes weird connections between seemingly unrelated things at times, and I am not sure why.  When I am putting on mascara in the mornings, I am transported to the cosmetics department at JC Penny in my hometown.  When I am listening to Norah Jones on the radio, I think about a brief stint spent babysitting in a horse barn (don't ask).  And every time I make what I consider to be my very favorite dessert, I think of oompa loompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  You know the scene where Augustus Gloop falls into the river of chocolate eventually leading to his demise?  Well, when I stir the filling for the chocolate pie I make, it never fails to remind me of that river, and I just have one thing to say...if I am going to be done in by chocolate like Augustus, I want it to be this chess pie!

This is a pie that my aunt has been making for eons.  I got the recipe from her, and she got the recipe from one of those old church cookbooks that a lot of southern (and probably other) churches put out yearly.  I am not sure who came up with the original recipe, but I know that whoever it was, they were smart and very good with pie.  

I recently made this pie for a lunch at work, and I made it on an all-nut crust to satisfy the needs of some co-workers who cannot eat foods containing gluten.  Therefore, this pie (if you follow the recipe as is) is gluten free.  You can certainly make it in a regular pie crust (I usually use an all-butter crust).  Actually, my husband prefers it in traditional pie crust because he says that the buttery crust is a nice counterpoint to the rich chocolate filling (he doesn't say it in exactly those words).  Either way, I think it is heaven!  

Poor photo...tasty pie.  The crust does get brown, just be careful that it doesn't burn.

I must tell you that this pie is not that photogenic.  My husband says it looks like a big, brown blob.  I apologize for that.  I did not use flash, but the light reflects off the crust.  Just ignore its ugliness and make it anyway!  

The crust (if you are making the nut version) is simply ground pecans, sugar, and butter mixed together and patted into a pie plate.  The crust does not get par-baked, but it does get chilled for 30 minutes prior to baking.

Crust just out of the refrigerator

The filling is melted butter, chocolate, vanilla, eggs, and sugar mixed together.  As the pie bakes, a thin, crunchy crust forms on top.  The crust is part of what makes this a "chess" pie.  This crust will begin to separate from the more fudgy filling and may even crack.  Like I said, not a pretty pie.  This is supposed to happen though.  The inside will remain moist and gooey resulting in a nice blend of textures.  Add in the nut crust, and you take texture and taste to a whole new level.  I am a firm believer that nuts better most any chocolate dessert.  

So, if you want pie or chocolate or nuts or anything evenly remotely resembling any of those, you will want to try this recipe.  You will thank you, your family will thank you, and the oompa loompas that pop into your head as you stir it up will thank you too (or maybe they only visit me).

Chocolate Chess Pie with a Pecan Crust
makes one 9-inch pie

2 1/2 cups pecans, ground in food processor
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 tbsp butter, melted
a pinch of salt

1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 stick butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust, combine all ingredients and mix well to coat the pecans in butter.  Pat into the bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie plate.  Place in the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes or while you make the filling. 

To make the filling, melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler (or in the microwave).  Add the sugar and vanilla to the butter mixture and stir to combine.  Add the eggs, whisking to blend.  Pour the filling into the chilled crust and place in the oven.  Bake anywhere from 35-45 minutes until a crust has formed on top and the center of the pie only jiggles very slightly when moved.  If the crust begins to get too brown, cover the edges with foil.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely or serve slightly warm with ice cream or whipped cream.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Pesto and Pizza Dough

I hope you folks had a nice restful Labor Day weekend.  Mine has been busy but very enjoyable.  Wouldn't it be nice if every weekend was three days long?  I don't think I would mind going to work each day if I knew three days of rest and productive home life awaited me at the end of each week.  Anyway, let me snap out of dream world and get into what I have been up to these past three days.  In addition to traveling to Hillsville, VA for this awesome (and absolutely huge) flea market, I went to the mountains to get apples and then spent today canning them along with some plums and making pesto and pizza dough for the freezer (more on the canning projects coming soon). 
1/4 cup of pesto thawed and ready to use
It seems that everyone these days enjoys pesto, and you probably know how to make it already.  It is quite possible that you even have your own favorite recipes/methods for both pesto and pizza dough.  I am not going to try to convert you to my recipes, but what I am going to do is suggest that you begin making larger quantities of both to freeze and use on those busy nights when spending time cooking and cleaning in the kitchen may not be at the top of your to-do list.  

These two items are favorites in our house.  We use them together to make pizzas, and we also use the pesto with pastas, sandwiches, and vegetables.

I had made some pesto earlier in the summer with the basil from my garden, but I was beginning to worry that I would not have enough to last through the winter, so I bought four large bunches from a vendor at the market.  He was getting ready to call it quits for the day and gave them to me for only a dollar each which I thought was a fantastic deal. 

I took my purchase home and divided it into two bowls along with the other ingredients needed for the batches.  Now, I must tell you that I don't use as much cheese as is called for in most recipes.  I prefer to use less which allows me to have a lighter pesto for some things, or I can add more cheese to the pesto, when needed, for other dishes.  I also tend to use pecans rather than the traditional pine nuts because they are less expensive and more readily available in my neck of the woods.

Ingredients for 6 batches of pesto measured out (3 batches in each bowl)

Once my batches were portioned, I used a food processor to blend everything together.  Now here is the part I like best...I freeze the pesto in a standard muffin pan which gives me exactly 1/4 cup pesto per muffin cup.  This is the perfect portion amount since most of the time I use about 1/4 cup on pizzas.  If I need more, I just remove multiple pesto "muffins" from the freezer to thaw (I just put the pesto muffins in a freezer bag once frozen). 

Pesto ready for the freezer-  each pesto "muffin" is 1/4 cup
I have to tell you how excited I am about this particular batch of pesto.  It is almost entirely local!  The same day I bought the pesto, someone was selling locally grown pecans as well as garlic!  As you can see, it doesn't take much to get me excited about something. 

Now, on to the pizza dough.  I love homemade pizza, and there are several recipes we like to have on a frequent basis, but I don't usually have time to come home and make pizza dough from scratch, and I didn't have the freezer space to store large quantities of dough for future use.  This usually meant that I either didn't have pizza or I used a store-bought crust (unless it was the weekend and I had time for homemade).  No more!  A month or so ago I bought a small deep freezer, and I have discovered the beauty of freezing pizza dough!  You can easily double the recipe or do as I do and make several batches back to back to rise at the same time.  It begins with water, yeast, white flour, and whole wheat flour (you can use all white flour if preferred) which are combined in an electric mixer (or you can do it by hand) and kneaded (in the mixer or by hand) until it is smooth and elastic.  When you can stretch a small piece of dough out and it forms a "windowpane" of dough rather than tearing, you will know it is ready.    

One batch of dough after being kneaded in the mixer
At that point, the dough will need to rise in a warm place covered by a damp towel until doubled in size which will take about 2 hours.

Two batches of dough after rising 2 hours (I just removed the damp towel)
After it has risen completely, remove the dough and divide it into smaller pieces.  I usually divide one batch of dough into 4 pieces which gives me 4 medium (8-10 inch) pizzas.  You can also divide it half to get 2 large pizzas or in eighths for 8 individual size pizzas.  Knead each portion briefly to form it into a smooth ball and bag them individually in freezer bags.  The dough will last approximately 3 months in the freezer.  To use, simply put it in the refrigerator several hours before you are ready to use it to allow it to thaw.  Then roll it to the desired thickness, top it, and bake it.  

Eight bags of pizza dough ready for the freezer (each one makes a medium pizza)
The recipes that follow are for one batch.  I made two batches of the pizza dough in the pictures above, and I multiplied the pesto recipe by 6 in the pictures above.  Remember that I don't add as much cheese to the pesto, so if you want to add more, feel free to do so before freezing.  

Basil Pesto (with pecans)
makes a little over one cup of pesto

1 cup packed basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped pecans (you can use other nuts or pine nuts)
1 tbsp parmesan cheese (or more to suit your tastes and needs)
1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup olive oil
(sometimes I also add the juice of 1/2 a lemon if I feel it needs some acidity)

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or blender.  Process until relatively smooth.  Spoon pesto into muffin cups and freeze if desired.  Once frozen, pop the pesto out of the cups and place in a freezer bag to store.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
makes enough dough for 2 large pizzas, 4 medium, or 8 small

1 3/4 cups water, divided (some warm and some at room temperature)
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast (1 envelope)
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing
3 1/4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more depending on humidity
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated sugar
additional olive oil or cooking spray
cornmeal for dusting (this is needed when you are ready to bake the dough)

Measure 1/4 cup warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Sprinkle the yeast into the water and let stand 5 minutes until foaming.  Add 1/4 cup warm water plus 1 1/4 cups room temperature water along with the 2 tbsp olive oil.  In another bowl, combine the flours, salt and sugar, and whisk to combine.  Add dry ingredients to the mixer and mix on low speed for 1 minute.  Mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic and you can see through the dough when a small piece is stretched.  Add more flour as needed to reach this texture.  Remove the dough from the mixer and form it into a smooth ball.

Put the dough in a large bowl that has been brushed with olive oil or sprayed with cooking spray.  Turn the dough over in the bowl to coat all sides.  Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half, quarters, or eighths, depending on the size pizzas desired.  Form each piece into a ball.  At this point, dough can be frozen or used. 

To freeze dough, lightly coat each ball in oil or cooking spray and place in individual freezer bags.  Dough can be frozen up to three months.  To use, thaw in refrigerator several hours and proceed with the follow baking directions.

To shape and bake, preheat a pizza stone in the oven on 450 degrees while you make the pizza.  Flatten each ball into a disk and use your fingers to stretch it outward until you have a pizza crust with 1/4 inch thickness. 
Transfer dough to a pizza peel or the backside of a cornmeal dusted sheet pan.  Add toppings and slide dough onto the preheated pizza stone.  Bake until golden brown- 9-10 minutes for large, 5 minutes for medium, or 4 minutes for small.  You may need to leave the pizza in longer depending on the thickness of the crust and the toppings on the pizza.