Tag: pizza (page 2 of 4)

You’ll Have To Leave Cedar Point For This Pizza: Brick Oven Bistro

Eight months later and I still think about that pizza I ate at The Brick Oven Bistro in Sandusky, OH.

Last September, I drove to Ohio to join a few North Iowa Blogger friends at BloggyCon held at Cedar Point Amusement Park. With Cedar Point’s season opening quickly approaching next week, I encourage you to venture into town and enjoy a meal at The Brick Oven Bistro.

The one dinner I ate in Cedar Point was composed of a side of french fries and goopy cheese sauce. I had taken one look at the pallid, $15 burger combos being served around me and just couldn’t do it. Park food is certainly convenient, especially when you’re hungry and tired. But it’s also expensive since attendees are a captive audience. My recommendation is to budget for park snacks and beverages and head into Sandusky for dinner.

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You Should Probably Try The Mucci Juice

We used to complain about the 3.5 hour commute between Minneapolis and Fargo. When we moved to North Iowa, we still complained about the two-hour commute to Minneapolis. Now, we live a 9.5 hour drive away and remember how we used to complain. The drive takes most of a day, but is still cheaper than flying (and we can take the dog) so we make the best of it. Podcasts, music, and corn nuts get us through.

Friends and readers still ask me for dining suggestions as they prepare to visit the Twin Cities for various occasions. We’ve lived away for about four years, now. Restaurants have come, gone, and changed. It’s impossible to keep up. On our visits back, we often lean towards our old favorites like Broders and Bangkok Thai Deli. Our time is so limited that we have time for maybe one nice dinner out and it’s really hard to decide where to dine.

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I Finally Tried Imo’s St. Louis-Style Pizza For Myself

The first time Jake tried a Provel pizza he called me.

He described how he had tried to double check that his particular pizza would be topped with mozzerella instead of Provel cheese. The person who took his phone order confirmed this. When his pizza arrived, he knew something was different.

“I found myself eating around the cheese.”

This statement concerned me because Jake loves cheese. Like, a lot. All kinds. Don’t ask what percentage of our typical grocery shopping trip is composed of cheese.

Therefore, I was scared.

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How We Make Our Favorite Thin-Crust Pizzas

One of my favorite meals to prepare is homemade pizza. Restaurants often refer to them as “flatbreads,” but we here, we just call them pizzas. Homemade pizza dough does take some time to prepare, but it isn’t very difficult. Therefore, I typically make pizza for Sunday suppers.

Our favorite pizzas don’t even involve tomato sauce. I just smear the dough with olive oil and garlic, and sprinkle over salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes before adding the toppings. Fresh mozzarella is our cheese of choice. It’s pricier, but has an ideal chew and richness. Scoop up a ball at your local Italian deli or find some at ALDI or Trader Joe’s. Instead of covering the whole pizza with mozzarella, I stretch one ball over an entire recipe of dough by pinching off pieces and dotting them between the other toppings.

The best part about making homemade pizza is that you can add whatever toppings you like. Any vegetable you find at the farmers market probably makes a great topping. We’ve enjoyed pizza topped with everything from roasted kholarabi to shaved radish to blanched potato slices. Here’s a list of our favorite pizza toppings and instructions for making my favorite dough.

Broders Pizza

Pizza inspired by our favorite pie in the whole world, The Eggplant Special at Broders Cucina Italiana in Minneapolis, MN. Topped with fresh mozz, roasted eggplant, bell pepper, caramelized onions, and goat cheese mixed with herbs.

Yeast doughs are more forgiving than you might assume. I avoided making yeast doughs for years because they intimidated me so much! If the yeast is not old and you allow the dough to properly rise twice, all should be well. It’s easy to feel tempted to rush the second rising, but, this will really mess up the texture of your bread. My culinary instructor at Minnesota State Community & Tech College always reminded us that yeast dough rises once for flavor and twice for structure.

When I prepare pizza crust dough, I look for a texture that’s smooth, elastic, and not too sticky. If you find that your dough is too dry, slowly drizzle in a little bit of water at a time, and, if it’s too wet, mix in more flour.

Favorite Toppings:
Fresh mozzarella: We stretch one ball over a whole recipe of pizza dough.
Sliced bell pepper
Roasted eggplant
Shaved hot chilis
Caramelized onions
Roasted (or pulled) chicken
Reduced balsamic vinegar: Reduce in a saucepan until thick and sweet. 
Basil
Slow roasted tomatoes: Instead of roasting at a high heat, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and bake at a low temperature (250-300ºF) until the juices thicken and the skins are tender. This could take hours. Cherry tomatoes work well, but if you only have whole tomatoes, cut into small pieces and remove some of the pulp.  

Pizza Jeni

Pizza inspired by Maxwell’s of West Fargo’s Roasted Chicken & Basil Pesto flatbread: Fresh mozz, pulled chicken leg meat, caramelized red bell peppers and onions, balsamic drizzle.

My Favorite Thin Crust Recipe
Adapted from Saveur’s recipe for Lahmacun. This is an excellent recipe in itself!

Ingredients:
2 cups AP unbleached flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
1 packet of yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus a little extra for oiling the bowl

Instructions For Making The Dough With A Stand Mixer:

  1. Place two cups of flour and a scant teaspoon of salt in a large mixing bowl.
  2. In a small bowl, add the yeast, warm water, and sugar, and gently stir. Water that is too hot will kill the yeast. I don’t measure the temperature, but aim for slightly above luke warm. The yeast will bloom after 5-10 minutes.
  3. Pour the yeast into the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil and mix with a dough hook at a lower speed until it forms a ball. If the mixture is too dry and won’t combine, slowly stream in a little bit of water. If the dough feels too sticky, add more flour.
  4. When you like the texture of the dough, mix on a medium or medium-high speed for about five minutes. It should feel smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, flipping it around so that the entire surface is oiled. Cover with a towel and allow to rise until it doubles in size. If your home is chilly or you can’t find an available window sill, turn your oven on briefly just to warm it. Rise the dough inside the oven.
  6. When it’s time to make the pizza, punch down the dough and remove it from the bowl.
  7. Divide the dough in half to make two larger pizzas, or smaller balls for personal-size pizzas. Gently roll them out on a lightly floured surface. The thinner you roll the dough, the thinner your pizza crusts will be.
  8. Place on sheet pans lined with parchment, cover with tea towels, and allow to rise again. They might not dramatically double in size, but they should appear puffy.

Topping Your Pizzas:

  1. Brush a light coat of olive oil on the surface of the risen pizza crusts. Rub with grated garlic and sprinkle with salt, pepper and/or crushed red pepper flakes.
  2. If you like pizza sauce, spread it on the dough. We prefer it without.
  3. Add your favorite toppings.
  4. Space pinches of mozzarella over the pizzas.
  5. Bake 400ºF (or higher) until the dough is crisp and golden brown around the edges and the cheese caramelizes.

Taste Test: Pizza Hot Dish In A Slow Cooker

Spending time browsing Pinterest makes me want to do strange things.

After avoiding Pinterest for quite some time, I logged back into my account and gazed in wonder and bewilderment at all of those frosted watermelon “cakes,” two or three ingredient [insert the name of any food imaginable] and recipe round-ups ad nasuem. Of course, nearly every image on Pinterest is vertical because someone’s research found people are more likely to pin them. Now, we have no other choice but to.

Last week my friend posted a nifty recipe for crock pot meatloaf. Between reading her post and seeing crock pot lasagna recipes, pizza hot dish got stuck in my head. I chose to try the Skinny Crock Pot Pizza Casserole recipe from the blog Six Sisters Stuff because it seemed to make slightly less food and contained less cheese and sausage than the other recipes (though I loathe the word skinny).

I did swap ground beef for ground turkey. My new favorite butcher grinds fresh beef and I drained the fat off anyway. Plus, the recipe calls for a cup of pepperoni, so why count calories? A friend commented that this type of pasta dish in the slow cooker can become dry and so I took her advice by adding more pasta sauce and water than the recipe called for. In the end, the pasta had still soaked up most of the sauce.

So, what does happen when you cook marinara sauce, rinsed (but not cooked) spiral noodles, chopped bell pepper and onion, black olives, ground beef, pepperoni, and mozzarella in a slow cooker on low for four-five hours?

IMG_7728

The recipe called for fresh garlic. My pasta sauce smelled garlicky, so I omitted it.

The instructions specifically say no peeking while the dish cooks. Five hours later. . .

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Honestly, the pizza hot dish in a crock post tasted pretty dang good. Since slow cooking is essentially steaming food, the cheese will melt instead of become golden brown. Also, the noodles at the bottom will feel mushier while the ones near the top will be chewier. Depending on how long you keep the meal on warm, some noodles may even become crunchy, but I didn’t even mind the varying noodle textures because they added textural contrast.

This isn’t the prettiest dish and it’s far from gourmet, but pizza hot dish in the crock pot is comfort food like our mom or school cafeteria might have made. We’re enjoying it enough to keep chipping away at the leftovers. Jake’s only complaint is that he did not like the addition of the green pepper. He likes raw green pepper but thought it got overcooked in the hot dish.

My best advice for anyone who wants to make this dish is to add lots of black pepper and change up the ratio of noodles and pasta sauce. Using about 2/3 box of pasta and 16 oz. of sauce + 1 cup of water might create more sauciness. Who knows, though. Cooking pasta in the slow cooker is wild, you guys.

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