Monthly Archives: August 2008

How I Came To Hate Homemade Pizza…

And How I Fianlly Got Over It: One Girl’s Journey

Bear with me a second as I set the scene for you. Picture if you will, a suburban Chicago street lined with middle aged trees and raised ranch houses, rising purposefully from their sloped yards and black-topped driveways filled with minivans, bicycles and basketballs. The year? Approximately 1991. Inside one such house, a birthday party is getting underway. 8 or 10 little girls are gathering for a birthday sleepover. Movies, scary stories and midnight snacks are certainly on the agenda for the evening.

Enter our protagonist: A young, towheaded Erin…all skinny legs, stringy hair and coke bottle glasses. All NKOTB t-shirt, neon socks and Keds. She hangs back in her friend’s dining room, waiting for the others to sit down first. The room sports gold carpet and dark, old-fashioned looking furniture. Streamers and ballons turn sickening shades of green, yellow and red under the glow of the tinted, early 80s chandelier. The paper Happy Birthday tablecloth rustles softly as each girl takes her place at the table.

Birthday Girl’s mom appears from the kitchen holding a jelly roll pan in each hand. She places the pans on the table, unveiling the evening’s entree choices: Homemade pizza, pepperoni or cheese. Little Erin’s eyes widen with horror as Birthday Girl’s mom begins to dish out this pizza monstrosity. The crust is two inches thick if it were a foot. The cheese oozes from all sides as the pizza is pulled from the pan with a worn out spatula, pepperoni bleeds orange and grease soaks the matching Happy Birthday paper plates.

It’s going to be soggy, she thought, her heart nearly pounding out of her chest. Oh my God, it’s going to be soggy, what am I going to do? Her eyes darted around to her friends. She watched as they happily gumed down on their mushy pieces, helping the oozing cheese to their mouths with their fingers, lips lined and shiny with toxic pizza runoff.

A piece is placed in front of her. She fumbles with it as she attempts to get it to her mouth, it’s practically melted in her hand…like trying to hold on to the flakes at a bottom of a bowl of cereal. She goes in for a bite and….AHHHHHHHHHH!!! It’s awful! It’s inedible! It’s all she can do to not toss her cookies all over the table.

Fastforward some 15 odd years. Our young protagonist is all grown up and in charge of her own kitchen now. She is making it a point to try to cook andbake things she never dreamed possible. Even things that she has not liked in the past. Determined not to let the Infamous Birthday Pizza Disaster of 1991 stand in the way her dreams, Erin decides to tackle pizza on her own terms. With a fabulous fresh, fun and grown up twist, of course. “Be gone, you soggy crust, you oozy cheese, you greasy pepperoni!” She demands.

With unfaltering will and determination, Erin sets out in search of the perfect pizza crust. She tries one, and much her delight, enjoys it very much. But she simply cannot shake the feeling that there is better out there. One so perfectly crispy and delicious, it will make her never want to pick up the phone and call Papa John’s ever again. On August 3rd, 2008, our heroine found that crust. With her eyes nearly filling with tears of joy, she turns to her husband and says, “Holy crap, this pizza rocks!”

So, as you can see, I’d been deathly afraid of homemade pizza since I was about 9 years old up until very recently. I can now safely say that I am officially over it. My trip to the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning yielded some gorgeous tomatoes, my basil plant out back was just begging to have some of it’s bright green leaves plucked and put into something yummy….Pizza Margarita it is! I found this dough recipe I got so excited about over at Brown Eyed Baker. I remembered a while back that Chelle had blogged about a really great looking dough that I knew I wanted to try so I headed over to her blog for the recipe. Unfortunately, I saw that that particular recipe called for bread flour which I didn’t have and didn’t really feel like going out to get. Bummer. However, much to my delight, Chelle had a second dough recipe in her blog from a few months back that sounded easy. Her drool-worthy photos made it a must try. I LOVED this dough! So big thanks to Chelle! YAY!

PIZZA MARGARITA (Dough recipe: Brown Eyed Baker, adapted from Cooking Light, Dec. 2007. Topping recipe: Me)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package active dry yeast (2-1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees)
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons yellow cornmeal
  • Olive oil, for drizzling
  • Chopped tomatoes to taste
  • Chopped fresh basil to taste
  • 1.5 to 2 cups shredded fresh mozz cheese
  • Freshly grated parm cheese, for sprinkling

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Dissolve yeast and sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Stir 1-1/4 cups flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt into yeast mixture to form a soft dough.
  2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.
  3. Place dough in a large bowl coated with coil, turning dough to coat. Cover; let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)
  4. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Roll dough into a 14-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Place dough on a pizza pan or baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Crimp edges of dough with fingers to form a rim.
  5. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

  6. Drizzle dough with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place pan on lowest oven rack; bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven; top with desired toppings (I used tomatoes, basil and cheese) and bake an additional 10 minutes or until crust and cheese is lightly browned. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

ENJOY! 🙂

 

Note: I like to put the basil on BEFORE it goes into the oven because I like how it gets wilty and seeps it’s basil-y goodness all over the entire pizza, but you are welcome to add the basil after baking, if you prefer.

 

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It’s Good Being the Boss….

Eric pretty much has no say in what we eat. There, I said it. I used to ask him what he wanted but he never had an answer. In two years of marriage, I don’t think he has ever told me what he’d like to eat. I got one of two answers: “I don’t know.” or “Whatever you think.”

So I just stopped asking. I decided that, yes, whatever I think DOES sound great! Now, I know what he likes and what he doesn’t, and I’ve really been pushing the envelope lately on what’s considered Eric-friendly. He really is great about trying new things. Whether or not he enjoys them or not, well…he never says. I can tell though. I’m just that good.

This dish incorporates two things that are less than Eric-friendly…lots of veggies and asian flavors. Well, I’m the boss of this kitchen and what I say goes, so when I spotted this recipe for Chicken Fried Rice from Amber over at Amber’s Delectable Delights, I knew I just had to try it. I had grilled chicken breasts for dinner the night before, so this was a perfect way to use up the leftovers. And since I had all the other ingredients on hand, it went together quick and made for a delicious, healthy meal.

Well for me at least, Eric only ate about half his portion and then went into the kitchen for a couple brownies. Aw, poor guy… 😉 I followed Amber’s lead and used low sodium soy sauce in place of the teriyaki because that’s what I had on hand. I also added about a 1/2 cup of chopped green onion at the very end with the rice and peas, and then finished by sprinkling a bit more on top. Other changes appear below in italics.

CHICKEN FRIED RICE (Recipe Source: As seen at Amber’s Delecatble Delights, orginally from Bakespace: motherof2boys)

INGREDIENTS:
6 ounces cooked diced chicken
2 tablespoons water
1/4 c. low sodium chicken broth or bouillon
1 1/2 tablespoons low sodium teriyaki sauce
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root (I used about 1/4 tsp. ground ginger)
Pinch white pepper
2 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup diced onion
1/2 cup shredded carrot
1 1/2 cup cooked white rice (I used brown rice)

1/2 c. frozen peas

DIRECTIONS:
In small bowl, combine chicken, 2 tablespoon water, chicken broth, teriyaki sauce, ginger and pepper. Set aside. In large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Add eggs; cook, stirring until set but moist. Remove egg to warm plate. Add remaining oil and heat. Add onion and carrot. Stir fry 3 to 4 minutes, until tender. Stir in rice and peas. Cook until rice begins to brown. Add chicken mixture and egg. Cook 5 minutes longer until heated through.

ENJOY! 🙂

And finally, a product rave…I don’t know if it’s just me, but I cannot cook a perfect pot of rice to save my life. It’s either overdone or underdone or sticky or mushy or any other number of things rice should not be! Perfect rice is really key to a dish like fried rice, so I was pretty psyched when I saw these instant rice cups at the store. The cups are from Minute Rice and it’s fully cooked rice that comes in two perfectly portioned plastic cups. No cooking needed, just pop in the microwave and serve. I’ve seen similar products before, but they’ve always been seasoned with other flavors…which I’m not a huge fan of these days. I’d never seen just plain white or brown rice with nothing added! I just popped open my cups and added to my skillet! FINALLY, perfect (plain) rice. 🙂

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Chicago-Style Brownies?

Ha ha…okay, probably not. But the “Deep Dish” in the title of this recipe makes me think of my hometown pizza that eats like a steak. These thick, fudgy brownies kind of eat like a steak too! You almost need a knife a fork to tackle these bad boys. Almost.

This is our favorite brownie recipe. These are just little squares of chocolate heaven. Eric has been getting some pretty healthy dinners this week (much to his dismay), so when I put down a plate of these in front of him last night, he picked one up, was about to take a bite, hesitated for a second and asked me, “Are these real brownies?” “What do you mean real brownies?” I asked him in return. “You know…full-fat, real brownies?” “Yes, babe, they are real brownies.” “Oh, thank God.” Then he proceeded to stuff his face with two. Poor Eric…

DEEP-DISH BROWNIES (Recipe Source: Allrecipes.com)

You’ll have to excuse my photo…When I cut into the brownies they were still way too warm so they got all mangled. Seriously, who waits for a pan of brownies to cool before digging in? Yeah, that’d be no one. 🙂 I managed to destroy the entire pan trying to get nice squares, and this was the best I could do. We’ll be eating brownie pieces with a spoon this weekend! Note to self: for photographic purposes, resist the urge to cut into a warm, gooey pan of brownies. Oh, screw that! Warm brownies rock! 😉

INGREDIENTS

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup mini-chocolate chips (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease an 8 inch square pan.
  2. In a large bowl, blend melted butter, sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Gradually blend into the egg mixture. Fold in chips. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until brownies begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Let brownies cool, then cut into squares. Enjoy!

ENJOY! 🙂

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