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My medicine cabinet, and that frozen pita dough.

September 13, 2009

As many of you probably know by now, I am leaving for a 5 week work trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia soon. I’ve been busy the last week or so getting my vaccinations up to date and buying all those little things I may want or need while I’m over there.

I’ve never been to Africa before, so I’m incredibly excited to have my first experience on that continent, and from what I hear, our Addis office is full of wonderful people who have already gone out of their way to make my stay (and planning for my stay) easier and more comfortable. I have no fear at all about the people I’ll meet, the places I’ll see, or the parts in between. What I do fear, however, is disease.

I’m not the healthiest bird around, and when I travel, it’s infinitely worse. On a school trip to India I picked up Delhi Belly within a week of my arrival and didn’t shake it until the last week of our trip. Trip to Honduras? Massive traveler’s disease. Trip to Guatemala? More mild, but still got sick. So, I’m pretty much guaranteed to pick something up, but it’s to minimize the risk of what that something is that I bring you…the Medicine Cabinet.

Bam.

Bam.

This represents all the drugs, prescriptions, and assisters that I am taking with me, to ward off, cure, or suffer through any number of diseases I may pick up on my travels. Seem like a lot? Well, I’ll be there for five weeks. Not long enough to get used to it, but just long enough to be totally MISERABLE if something goes wrong.

The above photo includes the following, for those of you who are curious what it takes: (clockwise form left) probiotics (the “Pearls”) for when I have to take antibiotics that kill everything in my system and need to replenish the good bacteria so I’m capable of digestion; Ben’s 100% DEET insect repellent, to keep all bugs and subsequent dengue fever (for which there’s no vaccine and no cure) away from me; potable water tablets, to kill bugs in my water; Immodium* and other assorted diarrhea-related pills (including Pepto and Gas Relief tablets) for when the water tablets fail; cough drops because it’s cool there and everyone’s got a cold; allergy meds (both tablets and nasal spray); Benadryl; the prescription bottles are malaria pills and a serious antibiotic for if I get diarrhea; the blue packets under the Benadryl are extra antibiotics for when the serious antibiotics cause other kinds of issues (of the female variety); Bullfrog sunscreen because if I take the malaria pills they make me more sensitive to sunlight; and I skipped over the many bottles of hand sanitizer and packet of laundry soap because they’re basically just preventatives. Also I’ll be taking Advil (for obvious reasons) and a first aid kit with bandaids and the like.

Scared yet? Oh wait. There’s more. I also had to get three shots last week, most notably the Yellow Fever vaccine. This is like the ONLY vaccine that the U.N. says a country can require proof of for entry into their country. For Ethiopia, for example, you must have proof of vaccination at the airport or they will inject you on site. This could be a rumor, but I didn’t want to risk it. So?

Good to go.

Good to go.

I should note here that this entire medicine cabinet is incredibly doomsday, and I’m an over-preparer, but I wanted to make sure that if something happens, I’ll be able to take care of myself. Essentially I’m trying to be so over-prepared that Fate takes one look and says “Nah, it’s too boring. Let’s pick on somebody else.”

Now that I’m basically prepared for the End of the World, I can tell you how INCREDIBLY EXCITED I AM!!! I’ve been wanting to visit Africa (any country, really, preferably all of them) since I read the Poisonwood Bible in high school, so this is like a dream come true. I’m hoping this is the first of many trips to come, so I will be blogging nonstop I’m sure. Pictures will be taken, cooking in a kitchenette will be perpetrated, and my life will be well documented for the stalkers out there who love me.

In the meantime, I’m trying to cook as much as I can, and see all my friends before I go. I wish I could see the fam before I left, but there just isn’t time to fly back to Texas, and it’s not exactly en route to Addis. And seriously, it’s just 5 weeks. I’ll live. 🙂

And now, because I promised it 2 weeks ago, I have the results of my Freezing the Pita Dough experiment!

—–

When Sarah posted about her pitas, I knew I would never be able to eat them all myself, and particularly not in one sitting. So I did a little research and found a way to freeze the dough. I separated the dough out into balls (i.e. the balls you would make an individual pita out of), and tossed some olive oil in a couple little ziploc baggies. I put the balls in the oil and rolled them a bit (so they wouldn’t stick to the side of the bag) and stuck them in the freezer.

When I got back from Chicago last Monday, I took one of the baggies out of the freezer and stuck it in the fridge overnight (to defrost). I opened them up Tuesday for dinner, and decided that while the pitas were lovely the last time, I just hadn’t had enough pizza in Chicago, so I wanted to use them as pizza dough. Well, I have to say – I don’t know how they would have turned out as pita breads, but as pizza dough? AWESOME.

Crispy and delicious.

Crispy and delicious.

The dough wasn’t super-elastic, which is why you see the pokey corners of the dough instead of a nice round pizza, but I mixed it with a little cornmeal (excellent crunch!) and rolled it out with a rolling pin on the countertop.

I read that one of the tricks to good pizza is to get your oven SUPER hot, like 500° or so, and to put your pizza stone or baking sheet directly in that heat for a good half hour before you put your dough on it. I followed the rules, and put my cookie sheet upside down (this helps, but I don’t know why) on the rack, heated the oven, and waited about 20 more minutes to put the pizza in.

Baking in ze oven.

Baking in ze oven.

Meantime, I was making the toppings for this one:

— mozzarella,

— sauteed mushrooms (sprinkled with a little garlic salt),

— broccoli florets (boiled for like…4 minutes or so, then taken out of the water, so they’re bright green but don’t loose the crunch),

— a sliced tomato,

— and slices of shallot.

I made the sauce using a can of whole, peeled tomatoes (organic), garlic powder, onion powder, a couple of shakes of herbes de provences (rosemary, thyme, etc. – you could use just a little oregano if that’s all you have), some red pepper flakes and some salt. I put all that in a bowl and mashed it with a fork, so the whole tomatoes were broken up but not totally liquified.

The pizza was fantastic – crust delicious (I rubbed a little olive oil on the edges before it went it, and sprinkled some garlic salt), firm but easy to cut and chew, and the sauce was actually really good (good thing I kept the leftovers!).

Pizza goodness.

Pizza goodness.

The one drawback to this pizza? I overloaded the crust and started picking up slices before they were cooled long enough.

Pizza casualty.

Pizza casualty.

Still tasted good, though, and when I went back for the third (ahem and fourth) pieces, they had cooled long enough to be eaten as a slice rather than a pie.

So. Frozen pita dough? Once transformed to frozen PIZZA dough, a monumental success!

Tip of the Day: Freezing Things

When you’re making things like sauces (i.e. the tomato sauce for this pizza), don’t be afraid of keeping the leftovers in the freezer for a while. I put the leftover red sauce in a ziploc baggie (fold the zipper parts over on themselves, like rolling up a sleeve, before filling – keeps the zipper clean and it seals better) and stuck it in the freezer. All I have to do now is take it out, put it in the fridge the night before I want to use it (as I did last night!) and it will be perfect for a new pizza the next day!

Other things I’ve frozen that work well in baggies: chili, marinara sauce, soups, individual size servings of meats and pepperoni, some breads and muffins. Please note, however, that for sanitary reasons  you shouldn’t leave any of those objects to thaw on the counter. It’s best to put them in the refrigerator the night before, so they’ll be defrosted and still chilled, to inhibit the growth of bacteria. You don’t want to need any of the itmes presented in the first half of today’s post, do you? 🙂

Enjoy!

* I should note here that you really shouldn’t take Immodium as a cure for traveler’s diarrhea, particularly if you’ve got blood in your stool. Gross, I know, but it can cause worse problems. Immodium should really only be used for light diarrhea. Isn’t travel fun?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2009 12:52 pm

    great post! thanks for the tip about freezing…I’ve done it with meat, but not with sauce and other perishables.

  2. Rob permalink
    September 13, 2009 4:59 pm

    I’m really not sure that these two topics should have been combined into one post. I was slightly queasy after reading the first section. Not sure I really wanted to think about food at that point. But anyway…

    I never thought of using an upside down cookie sheet as a substitute for a pizza stone. I’d be interested to test them against each other, as pizza stones are magic devices which (so long as they are preheated) do wonders for homemade pizza crusts .

    • lisam permalink
      September 13, 2009 6:37 pm

      Haha, good point, Rob. Sorry about that…but it’s kinda one of those things where you get in the posting mood and you just can’t help yourself. Maybe go back and read the second half in a few hours, when you’ve had time to forget my horrifying diseases.

      And I don’t think an upside down cookie sheet is a replacement for a pizza stone, but when you don’t own one, I think it’s a good help. Bottom line is the item upon which you’re placing the pizza should be hot, that’s about it.

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