Category Archives: pizza

Who says you can’t go home.

A few weeks ago, Eric and I took a day trip to our alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to enjoy a day of football and pretending to be 21 again.

The football game? Ah-mazing. Not only a win but also one of the best games in recent memory. GLORIOUS!

The pretending to be 21 again? Well. That didn’t really go as planned.

The U of I was my home for four years. I felt like I knew every nook and cranny of that campus. Every tree-line walkway on the quad, every quiet place to study, every patch of grass to nap on in sun. Every bus to ride to avoid walking in the snow or the rain, every booth in my favorite hangouts, and every lecture hall seat to avoid because it was missing a desk. It felt as familiar as my childhood bedroom, and just as cozy and welcoming. I belonged there.

The connection I feel to that place is strong and intense. Emotional. I met and fell in love with my husband there. If it wasn’t for a college dorm and all it’s simultaneous awkwardness and awesomeness, I wouldn’t have met some of my very best friends. I think I look back so fondly on my college years because it connects my past with some of the best parts of my present and future.

But going back. Going back is weird. It’s funny how you expect everything to be frozen in time. It should look, feel, smell just the way you remember you it. And when it doesn’t, you’re a little shocked. You’re a little wounded. Sure, that abandoned Wendy’s building at the corner of 6th and Green served no purpose, other than maybe to attract crime and…other things, but when you see it’s been replaced with a luxury high rise apartment building with a pool on the roof (for college students, mind you…), you can’t help but feel a bit bewildered. And what is this gourmet frozen yogurt place doing here?  It’s just not the same.

That sense of belonging. You want it to be there so bad. But it’s not. The faces on campus hidden by sunglasses and headphones, weighty book bags slung over their shoulders – they are ten years or more your junior. Babies! Kids you probably babysat for while you were in high school! Waiting in line in the cold to pay $5 to get inside a smelly, dirty bar and drink bottom shelf liquor until you can’t see – there’s nothing fun about that anymore.

But that’s okay. It’s good actually. Because you’re older and wiser. Because chucking stuff off a balcony is frowned upon when you’re pushing thirty. Because staying out past 2am makes it really hard to get up and go to work in the morning. Because even though it’s not the same and even though you don’t really belong there anymore, you still have the memories. You still have those four years frozen in time just as they were when you were there. That’s totally enough. 🙂 No one can take that away from you.

Our trip to Champaign-Urbana didn’t make us feel like we were 21 again, but it definitely drew up a ton of nostalgia. More than anything, we were overwhelmed with an intense craving for one of our favorite campus foods….Pokey Stix!

Did you have a Gumby’s near campus at your school? If so, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. If not, I’m sorry. Really. Womp womp. That’s a travesty.

When the campus bars would close, thousands of slightly intoxicated and famished students would pour out into the streets. The late night food spots would be packed to the brim. Burritos, sandwiches, french fries, and pizza. It didn’t matter how bad it was, there was no doubt it would taste amazing after all that bottom shelf booze.

But the holy grail of late night eats? Pokey Stix. A cheesy, doughy, pizza/breadstick hybrid consisting of a pizza crust topped with an uber-greasy garlic butter sauce and smothered with a golden layer of melted mozzarella. They were cut into long strips and came with marinara and a revolting, warm, watery ranch on the side for dipping.

NOTHING but the real deal would satisfy the craving. And, until now, I thought Pokey Stix were just another thing from days gone by. Surely they couldn’t be replicated. Surely they wouldn’t taste as good as they did with best friends in the wee hours of the morning.

Good news, lifelong Pokeys fans. They absolutely can. And they absolutely do. Eric and I each took a bite of these and were pretty much blown away by the garlicky, buttery perfection. We ate until our bellies ached. Just like we used to.

So grab some old friends, an ice cold cheap beer, and whip up a batch of these for some reminiscin’ and football-watchin’. Who says you can’t go home? 😉

CHEESY GARLIC BREADSTICKS (Recipe inspired by and adapted from: Jam Hands)


  • Pizza dough (I used this Baking Illustrated recipe as seen at Brown Eyed Baker, but canned, premade, store bought, whatever you like will work. I would avoid a crust that’s too thin – the texture will be off.)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onion
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded (I would avoid pre-shredded – it’s too dry)


  1. Prepare pizza dough as instructed. Preheat a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven for about 3o minutes.
  2. In a small skillet, melt butter. Add garlic and cook briefly until just fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Do not overcook the garlic or it will taste bitter! Stir in dried minced onion and salt and pepper.
  3. Roll the dough into a 12 to 14 inch circle. Drizzle with garlic butter and spread to the edges. Sprinkle with Parmesan and then mozzarella.
  4. Remove pizza stone from oven and reduce oven temperature to 425 degrees. Liberally sprinkle the stone with cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking. Carefully transfer the dough to the stone and bake until the cheese is melted and the crust is golden – about 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. To serve, cut the pie in half down the center once. Then make perpendicular cuts across the pie in the opposite direction to achieve long, thin strips. Serve alongside marinara and ranch for dipping. Cheap beer is optional, but recommended. 😉 Serves 4.




Filed under appetizers, pizza

Beachin’ Pizza.

It took me a while to get excited about homemade pizza. Even most frozen varieties seemed to taste better than my experiences with the homemade stuff. See my story about being traumatized by homemade pizza as a 9 year old. 😉 It would scare you off too. I’ve gotten over my fear at least enough to make it myself, but I still don’t make pizza from scratch as often as I would like.

I was humbled to be named the WINNER of the April “You Want Pies with That?” round-up for my springy Pineapple Strawberry Pie (THANKS ALL!) and had the honor of picking May’s theme. I picked…you guessed it…PIZZA PIES!

I picked it because I knew everyone could get really creative with it. If there was ever a blank canvas in the world of food, it would be an empty pizza crust ready to be piled with toppings. There are no limits.

That said, I was all excited to go crazy with pizza. It’s fun to take the flavors of other meals and pile them on top of a homemade crust. Tacos, chicken wings, cheeseburgers and BBQ are all items that translate well into the world of pizza. Those are all well and good but I wanted to create a pizza like nothing I had ever seen before.

Off I went on my merry way. 🙂 To CREATE!

One of my husband’s favorite summer meals is a shrimp and sausage boil. It’s a pretty simple concept with four distinct pieces to the puzzle – shrimp, smoked sausage, red potatoes and corn on the cob. It’s all boiled up in a broth seasoned with Old Bay seasoning and lemon. It’s quick to put together and all the different textures and flavors make for a really satisfying meal.

So…I got thinking. Is it possible to put all the goodness of a shrimp and sausage boil on a pizza? Would that work? Is it crazy? Have I gone off the deep end here?

I’m brave. I like to try new things. I could do this. And if it flopped, well, so be it. I’m no stranger to that either. Bring it!

 Here’s what imagined:

Homemade pizza crust, topped with a garlicky Parmesan/Old Bay “cream” sauce. I say “cream” because I actually made a béchamel with low-fat milk – per usual. On top of that, chunks of shrimp, marinated in beer and sprinkled with a bit more Old Bay, lemon-pepper corn kernels, sliced turkey kielbasa (any smoked sausage would do) and paper thin slices of red potato. To finish it off, just a dusting of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of fresh parsley for a bit of brightness.

Now, did I succeed with this ambitious project?

The correct answer is…YES!

This was an awful lot of work as everything from the crust to the sauce to the toppings was made from scratch but in the end it was worth it. So many different flavors going on here that combined very well on a golden brown crust.

Let’s talk about a couple of the individual elements, shall we? Namely, the crust and potatoes

First the crust. Now, I really like this thin and crispy recipe from Cooking Light. I actually haven’t made any others since I found this one. I decided to go ahead and try the Baking Illustrated recipe this time (as seen at Brown Eyed Baker and  Annie’s Eats ). It’s very good. I liked the flavor and it got nice a crispy on the bottom which I like. However. I did find that it to be almost too much crust. It puffed up so much, it was like eating a chunk of white bread (not to say that’s bad…that’s just not how I like my pizza) It could have been operator error, I admit that. After the initial rise, I didn’t get down to the business of rolling and baking right away because I wasn’t ready. So it sat there on the counter for what was, essentially, a second rise. That could have affected the outcome of my final product for sure. Even so, the ease and the texture of the thin and crispy recipe will still probably keep that one at the top of the list. At least for now.

And the potatoes. This was the part that worried me most. I knew if I left the potatoes in chunks, they would have to be par boiled before going on the pizza. Then I was worried that they would just turn to mush and I didn’t want that. So I decided to go with super thin slices. I don’t have a mandolin, and frankly those things give nightmares about lost fingers and bleeding out alone on the kitchen floor, so I used the thin slicer blade for my food processor to slice up the potatoes. I hadn’t used that particular blade yet, but let me just say I am IN LOVE. In fact, I went a little crazy, feeding potato after potato through the tube and watching them instantly transform into magically thin slices while squealing with delight. Really, you only need 1 to 2 good size reds to have enough for the pizza – it’s only a 12-incher after all. After they’re sliced, I soaked them in water for a good 20-25 minutes or so to remove the starch. Before I was ready to put them on the pizza, I drained off the water and patted them dry with a clean kitchen towel.

I couldn’t decide if I should try to give the potatoes a head start on some color by giving them a quick roast in a hot oven. In the end, I didn’t, but next time I will. Although the potatoes were tender after the pizza was done baking, I think the end result would be more attractive with a bit more golden brown deliciousness over the top since there’s not much cheese. I included that step in my recipe below.

So there you have it! A delicious and creative pizza treat! Enjoy!

SHRIMP AND SAUSAGE BOIL PIZZA (Recipe inspired by this meal)

Please excuse the craptastic photo – it’s the only one I had uploaded to Photobucket before my computer crapped out. It’s all I got, kids. Be gentle, I just lost an old friend. I’m grieving. LOL. 😉

For the Crust:

  • 1 lb pizza dough of your liking (Here’s the recipe I used this time. Here’s the one I like the best. Premade works too, whatever your preference.)

For the Shrimp & Sausage:

  • 1/2 lb. raw jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (or thawed if you’re like me and use frozen), and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • About 6 ounces beer
  • About 4 ounces smoked sausage, very thinly sliced (this is about a quarter of a 1 lb. package, any kind you like will work. My preference is turkey sausage)

In a bowl, combine shrimp, Old Bay and beer and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes.

While the shrimp marinates, heat a skillet over medium heat. Gently brown the sausage slices on both sides. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the same skillet, cook the shrimp pieces until just barely done – 1 to 2 minutes TOPS. In fact, if the pieces are a little underdone, that’s okay, they’ll finish cooking in the oven. Transfer to another plate and set aside.

For the Corn:

  • 1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon butter (I used Smart Balance here)
  • The juice of half a large lemon (or less if that’s too lemony for your tastes)
  • Freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Combine corn and butter and steam in the microwave until defrosted and just tender – about 2 minutes. Stir in lemon juice and pepper. Set aside.

For the Potatoes:

  •  1 to 2 good sized red potatoes (eyeball it), sliced ultra thin
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste.

Place potato slices in a large bowl of cool water and soak for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and dry the slices thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel.

Put the slices on a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Brush the tops of each one with a little bit of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in a hot oven (450 degrees) until just barely golden brown – 5 to 10 minutes.

Helpful hint: Roast your potatoes while you preheat your pizza stone!

For the Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1/4 cup finely minced onion
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, finely minced or pressed
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning (or to taste)
  • Salt & freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

In a saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add onions and garlic and cook until the onions begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add remaining butter to saucepan and allow it to melt. Add flour and stir until combined and golden brown – about 1 minute. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Continue to stir until the milk just bubbles and thickens – about 5 minutes.  Add Old Bay and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese, stirring until melted and combined. Set aside.

To assemble and finish:

  • Olive oil for brushing the crust
  • Cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Prepare pizza stone by preheating in a 450 degree oven for about 30 minutes (or per your stone’s instructions)

Meanwhile, roll out pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on a flour surface (I have a pastry mat I like to use, but parchment paper works fine too.

Brush the crust with olive oil all the way to the edge. Spoon on the sauce and spread out, leaving about an inch of crust uncovered around the edge. Sprinkle the shrimp and corn evenly over the sauce. Next make a layer of potato and sausage slices over the top. Sprinkle with cheese.

Remove pizza stone from oven and sprinkle the surface with cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking, carefully transfer the pie from the floured surface to the stone. Bake at 450 for 10 to 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Sprinkle with fresh parsley just before serving.

WHEW! Now pop the top on a bottle of beer and ENJOY! You deserve it after all that hard work! 🙂


Filed under pizza, sausage, shrimp, veggies

All Puffed Up

Sometimes it’s kinda fun to make a meal out of something that technically isn’t a meal. Like cereal. Is cereal dinner? From a balanced nutrition standpoint, probably not. But when it’s late or you’re tired or you just don’t feel like turning on the oven and dirtying up a bunch of pots and pans, cereal totally hits the spot. And I don’t know about you guys, but whenever Eric and I go on vacation, we always find a local ice cream parlor and make big ol’ sundaes dinner at least once. Ice cream for dinner is a vacation MUST!

Obviously this is not an every day thing, but every once a while it feels nice to forgo all the rules about what makes a balanced meal and just have fun with food.

Eric really likes finger food type stuff. Anything bite-sized that he can just pop into his mouth is always going to be a hit with him. The guy has been working extra hard lately and needed a little bit of cheering up. Let’s face it – if he needs cheering up, then I need cheering up. If he’s blue, I’m blue. I must love the guy or something. Huh. How about that. 😉

So on Saturday, I decided we’d have a non-dinner dinner. Not a balanced meal? Meh. So what. It’s Saturday. For dinner, we had bread, cheese and meat. In tiny puff form that made it extra easy to eat way too many. Success. Although, for the record, I did cut up some raw veggies to eat on the side. So, I did do SOMETHING right. 🙂

These little babies are super easy to make and a lot of fun. They are the perfect make-ahead snack for a game day or an appetizer spread. They are light, fluffy and cheesey with a great hint of crunch around the edges (which I just cannot resist. EDGES RULE!) The pepperoni gave them great flavor. Really these are pretty customizable. Perhaps bacon, cheddar and scallions for your next brunch spread or Parmesan, garlic and herb for a side on lasagna night. Any veggies, cheese or meat you desire can be mixed into this puffy batter. The combinations are endless!

PEPPERONI PIZZA PUFFS (Recipe Source: Everyday with Rachael Ray)


  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (I used 1% with fine results)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup)  (I used turkey pepperoni)
  • 1/2 cup store-bought pizza sauce (I used Newman’s Own marinara – my preferred jar sauce!)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 24-cup mini-muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, microwave the pizza sauce until warmed through, then stir in 1 tablespoon basil. Sprinkle the puffs with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil. Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping. Serves 4.

Note: These can be made ahead of time. Place baked puffs on a baking sheet and put in the freezer until frozen. Transfer to a storage bag. When ready to eat, preheat oven to 350 degrees, place puffs on a baking sheet, and bake for 8 to 10 minutes until warm.



Filed under appetizers, bread, muffins, pizza

Me Time

Couch? Check.

Orange and Blue Chief Illiniwek sweatshirt blanket? Check.

Girlie movie? Check.

Alcoholic beverage? You betcha.

Homemade pizza? Check and check.

Everyone has a different idea of “me” time but that right there…that is ideal for me. Warm, cozy, comfy heaven right in my own living room. Eric went out of town for the weekend to stay with a friend. I could have gone with him but I just felt like staying home. That doesn”t mean I didn’t pout a little when he left, because I always do…that’s a given. Believe it or not, I really do miss him when he’s away. Even so, I couldn’t help but get a tiny bit excited about some quality me time, especially since we have been quite busy lately!

For me, time to myself for sure means time in the kitchen. Follwed by stuffing my face with my creation in front of the TV. LOL. I love it because there’s no timelines, no pressure, I can take my time and really enjoy it. I blast my tunes on our iPod dock and dance around the kitchen like nobody’s watching.  Well, I hope nobody’s watching….we don’t have window treatments on the kitchen windows yet so, really, it’s a free show once it’s dark outside. LOL. Eh, my neighbors shouldn’t be looking in my windows anyway, right? Right!

The other great thing about me time is getting to use all sorts of ingredients Eric won’t eat! That’s my favorite part. I like to pile them all on a pizza so it’s like maximum usage of said ingredients all at once. I can really get my fill when I pile them on top of a homemade crust. YUM!

This weekend’s Me Time Pizza featured a drizzle of olive oil, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, and crispy, spicey capocollo. I came to enjoy capocollo after a co-worker at the department store I worked at when we first moved here turned me onto a tiny sandwich shop down the street from the mall. They made a totally yummy sandwich they called the Italian BLT with grilled capocollo, lettuce, tomato, and a totally yummy homemade Italian vinaigrette dressing on top. Yum, yum, yum!

Well, that place went out of business a couple years ago, OF COURSE. Probably because it was a little on the pricey side (those types of places just don’t seem to last around here) so when I saw capocollo while browsing the grocery store deli case yesterday, I thought of that sandwich and decided to add it to me pizza! Perfect!

Below is the recipe for my Me Time Pizza…but the absolute best part of Me Time Pizza is that it is 100% customizable. These ingredients don’t appeal to you? No problem. Top your pie with whatever you like, pour yourself the beverage of your choice, grab your favorite chick flick and hit the couch! Enjoy!


For the crust: You can make the one I like to make. Or make your favorite. Not into making your own crust? Refigerated dough will work. Frozen too. Boxed, bagged or pre-made will all do just fine. This is YOUR pizza after all!

For the toppings I used:

  • 5 slices of spicy capocolla ham, cooked crisp and crumbled
  • 1 large onion thinly sliced
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced button mushrooms
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped artichoke hearts (I used canned. Drain, rinse, chop and pat dry)
  • 1/2 cup chopped jarred roasted red peppers, patted dry
  • 1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded pizza blend cheese
  1. In a large skillet, heat enough olive oil in the pan to cover the bottom plus about a tablespoon more. Add onion and stir to coat. Reduce heat to low and simmer the onions until deep golden brown, stirring occasionally. If onions begin to scorch, add a bit more oil and keep stirring. This whole process takes about 20 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms to onions and cook until tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove mushroom and onion mixture from pan with a slotted spoon, draining off as much oil as possible.
  3. Drizzle your dough with a bit of olive oil. Spread the onion/mushroom mixture  over the top. Top with the rest of the ingredients and cheese. When it comes to cheese and toppings, I like to alternate by adding some veggies, then some cheese, more veggies, more cheese and end with the meat on top. But that’s just me…top with remaining ingredients any way you like!
  4. Bake according to your crust’s directions. While it’s baking, put on pj’s and slippers, pour your drink, cue up your movie. When it’s ready, ENJOY your Me Time! 🙂


Filed under pizza, veggies

I Need to Make this Chicken…STAT!!

It happens to everyone at one point another. You take a package of chicken breasts out of the freezer and put them in the fridge to thaw with plans to use them a few days later. Something happens and for whatever reason, the day you plan to use them comes and goes. Now there is thawed chicken in fridge and all you can think about is how you need to do something with it right away. Like it makes you lose sleep…gotta make that chicken, gotta make that chicken now…now…NOW!

That happened to me this week. I was so worried I was going to miss my window to cook this chicken, I pulled it out of the fridge this morning and poached the entire package without any real plan of what I was going to do with it. I figured I’d come up with something later and if worst came to worst, I’d make a couple of quesadillas for us to chow down on.

For dinner tonight I was craving the two things I’m always craving….bread and cheese. HA! Since I already had cooked chicken already to go, the chicken parmesan calzone was born! YUM. These were so so good. Eric really enjoyed them. Simple to throw together too, especially if you have cooked chicken sitting around you need to use up. 🙂



  • About 1 1/2 cups cooked chicken, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup marinara sauce (I used a homemade sauce, but you can use your favorite jarred sauce too!)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 can refrigerated pizza dough (like Pillsbury)
  • Egg wash
  • Additional Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top
  • More marinara for dipping! 🙂


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In large bowl combine chicken, sauce, cheeses and basil. Stir to coat. (Note: The mixture will not be really saucy, just moistened.)
  3. Unroll pizza dough and divide into two portions. Roll the dough on a floured surface into a thin circle….just eyeball it until it looks big enough.
  4. Fill each circle with a generous portion of the filling, fold over and pinch edges with a fork to seal. Cut three small slits in the top. Brush each with egg wash and sprinkle with additional parm cheese.
  5. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with additional sauce for dipping.



Filed under chicken, pizza

A Man-Pleasing Meal

Ahhh…it’s good to be back to blogging. I’ve been running around like crazy the last couple weeks with my new job and all the traveling we have been doing. I feel like I haven’t been in the kitchen in months!

Today was a cloudy, rainy, cold day here in northeast Iowa. A sure sign that fall is on the way. I was craving something warm and comforting for dinner. Since Eric is really busy with school and work,  and he was really a trooper going all the way to Indianapolis with my family this weekend even though he’s completely swamped, I thought he deserved a meal I knew he’d love. I have a tendency to put my own tastes before his because…well, I guess I’m a selfish, terrible wife. Heh….

This was way yummy and totally hit the spot on a cold day. The original recipe calls for grilling the calzones, which would be delicious I’m sure. I baked mine…because there was no way I was going to stand out there in this weather!! The perfect meal for hard working, meat loving man!



  • 1 pound refrigerated pizza dough
  • 1 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I used closer to a cup, I like lots of cheese
  • Salt
  • 2 plum tomatoes, chopped


  1. Preheat oven to 400*, divide the pizza dough and form into two balls. Place in a large bowl greased with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temp for 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the beef over medium heat, breaking up the meat, until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  3. In the same skillet, cook the bacon until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Reserve the drippings in the skillet (I soaked up a bit of the drippings with a paper towel and reserved about 1/2 tbs.). Add the onion and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes; add to beef. Crumble the bacon into the beef mixture and stir in the cheese; season with salt.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1ball of dough into a 12-inch round and transfer to a large oiled baking sheet. Place half the beef mixture on one side of the round. Top with half the tomatoes. Fold over the dough to form a half moon; crimp the edge to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough. Brush the calzones with olive oil. Pierce a vent in the top of each calzone. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

**Note:** I ended up with about a quarter of the filling left, probably because I didn’t roll my dough enough and I got nervous about filling them too much because I thought they’d burst. You could probably get away with only 1/2 pound of meet and two slices of bacon for two people.

SPICY CAJUN KETCHUP (for dipping!)

  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 3-4 drops hot pepper sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. Cajun seasoning

Combine and enjoy! 🙂


Filed under beef, pizza

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)


  • 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


  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.



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.



Filed under pizza

Looking Forward to Fall

Every year about this time, I start thinking of cool, crisp fall days filled with apples, pumpkins and falling leaves. Then I quickly come to my senses and realize that just behind fall is winter, which we all know I loathe! HA! Seriously though, I do love fall. September and October are my favorite months of year! I can’t help looking forward to it!

In honor of my love for all things fall, I decided to create a yummy autumn-inspired pizza for dinner for tonight. An interesting flavor combo I really love is that of sausage and apples. Seems weird, but it’s actually very good and flavorful. This pizza combines those flavors on a soft flat-bread crust. The flat-bread came out great! Very chewy and tender.

CARAMELIZED APPLE, ONION AND SAUSAGE FLAT-BREAD PIZZA (Dough recipe: Cooking Light, July 2008. Topping Recipe: Me)



  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Dash of sugar
  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 6 tbs. warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 1/2 cup warm water (100-110 degrees)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Cooking Spray


  1. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife
  2. Dissolve sugar and yeast in 6 tbs. warm water in a large bowl; stir in 1/4 cup flour. Let stand 30 minutes or until bubbly. Add 1 3/4 cups flour, 1/2 cup warm water, and salt to yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of the remaining flour, 1 tbs. at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85*), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Yield: 2 (11-inch) pizza crusts, 12 servings. (I divided my dough into 4 pieces to make individual sized pizzas, I have two dough balls left to use at a later time.)


**Note**: The recipe below is for two individual sized pizzas, feel free to adjust to feed more!)


  • 1 link sweet Italian sausage, casing removed (I used turkey Italian sausage)
  • Half a medium onion, diced
  • Half a large Granny Smith apple, diced (skin on)
  • 2 tbs. butter
  • Splash of Apple Cider Vinager (about a tablespoon)
  • 1/2 tsp. brown sugar
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1 cup shredded mozzerella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Fontina cheese (I like Fontina because it reminds me of swiss but melts better, it’s one of my favorite cheeses!)
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh sage


  1. Prehat oven to 425 degrees (I like a hot oven for pizza to add more crispiness to the dough, feel free to adjust temp to suit your tastes)
  2. Brown sausage in a skillet, remove from skillet and set aside
  3. Melt butter in same skillet, add onion, apple, vinager, brown sugar and cook until deep golden brown, about 10 minutes, scraping the brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Coat a pizza stone or baking sheet with olive oil and roll dough to desired thickness, sprinkle with cornmeal, and flip dough so the cornmeal side is on the bottom. Spread the apple onion mixture on the dough. Add the cheese, sausage and herbs.
  5. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until desired doneness. Let sit 5 minutes before cutting.



Filed under pizza, sausage