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Category Archives: Pizza

Game Day Menu Ideas

Growing up, my family never watched football. We were more of a hockey and baseball kind of clan. But every year we had a big ole Super Bowl Sunday party. I was infinitely envious of my younger sister, whose birthday happens to fall right around the Super Bowl, for she had a guaranteed birthday party each year, long after the rest of us had been weaned off of annual birthday celebrations.

In college, I briefly and half-heartedly tried to get into the whole football thing. I watched games on TV with my new college friends and looked to them to explain the ins and outs of the activity I was so hopelessly clueless about. But, my interest in football was short-lived. Not long after that, I met my husband, who’s more of a guitar and drum kind of guy than a sports fan. So, football remains largely absent from my life.

But in true, inherited non-football-fan fashion, my husband and I are throwing a Super Bowl party this year. Our game day menu is still under construction, but will almost certainly include some adaptation of these Buffalo Chicken Potato Skins and a decadent German Chocolate Cake in honor of my sister’s birthday. (Those recipes to follow after the Superbowl!)

In the meantime, if you’re in search of a few new ideas for your game day celebrations, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom recipes:

Spicy Beef Chili

White Chicken Chili

Sweet Honey Cornbread

Jalapeno Poppers

Spinach Dip and Fried Wonton Chips

Chicken Wing Dip

Homemade Pizza Dough

Blue Cows in a Blanket

Creole Deviled Eggs

Fresh Tomato or Corn and Chipotle Salsa

Steak Bordelaise Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza


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Pizza Dough with Kids

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Food inspiration can come from any place. My sister’s breakfast pizza was inspired by a visit to a gas station, my vanilla carrot bisque came by request of my imaginative toddler, and the internet has recently been flooded with stories and recipes for spaghetti tacos, inspired by an episode of the popular children’s show, iCarly. I’ve got to admit that spaghetti tacos are a genius idea. I’ll probably be serving mine up topped with baby meatballs and cheese. Personally, my inspiration often comes from pictures of food, restaurant menus, or food on tv. It comes through daydreams of favorite flavors and insatiable cravings. In the absence of other ideas, a walk through the grocery store never fails to flood me with inspiration.

Most recently, I was inspired by an episode of Barney. Yes, Barney. My boys and I were snuggled up on the couch one recent morning; our typical early morning routine, prior to starting the day. They were enjoying an episode of Barney, while I was poking around the internet. I looked up to see the giant purple dinosaur skipping around a kitchen, followed by a small army of children, throwing pizza dough in the air and singing a merry song. Boy were they having a grand ol’ time! I casually asked the boys if they’d like to make pizza dough someday. In an instant, my three year threw the blanket off his lap and jumped off the couch, excitedly saying, Lets do it right now!

I was hardly ready to make pizza dough at that very instant, but we did make it the very next day. Myself being a pizza dough novice, I ran a search online for a basic pizza dough recipe. I settled upon a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis at the Food Network. My husband is skeptical of skinny chefs. I love that about my husband. I just want to know her secret. Regardless, Giada knows her way around an Italian kitchen, so I was fully confident in her recipe.

I gathered our ingredients, cleaned our work surface, then called my tiny sous chefs into the kitchen. After getting them cleaned up and reminding them of the importance of clean hands in the kitchen, we set to work.

We started by sprinkling one packet of Dry Active Yeast (7 grams) over 1 1/2 cups Warm Water (approximately 100-110 degrees). An instant-read thermometer is helpful in checking the temperature. Water that is too hot will kill the yeast, while too cold will prevent it from activating. Stir until the yeast is dissolved.

In a separate bowl, whisk together 5 cups Flour with 1 1/2 tsp Salt.

Pour the yeast mixture over the flour and stir to combine. If the mixture is too dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. If the dough gets too wet, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time. We needed to add a few spoonfuls of additional water to achieve the right consistency.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place it on a well-floured surface. Lightly coat your hands in flour and knead the dough for about 10-12 minutes. Small children make excellent kneaders.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough in the bowl so that all sides of the dough are lightly coated in oil. Cover loosely with a piece of plastic wrap and allow it to rest at room temperature for about two hours. It should double in size.

Push down the dough and divide it into 3 equal sized balls. Place each ball in its own oiled bowl. Cover and let rest for another hour.

Thoroughly wrap each ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate. You can use it immediately or keep it refrigerated for up to a day.

To use the dough, lightly oil your work surface. Press and pull the dough into an 8-12 inch round. If desired, roll the edges to create an outer crust. Place the pizza round onto a baking sheet which has been sprinkled with a bit of corn meal. The corn meal will prevent the dough from sticking.

Top with your desired sauce, cheese, and toppings. Children love spreading sauce and sprinkling toppings. Set up an assortment of toppings and let them go to town! Bake for about 10 minutes on your oven’s highest heat (about 500 degrees).

As you know, I’m  a huge fan of cooking with kids. It develops a wide range of skills and helps to develop an appreciation of food. The process of cooking together is bursting with teachable moments about language, science, and math. It’s engaging, memorable, and helps kids develop a sense of pride in their accomplishments as they enjoy the product of their work.

To ensure a positive cooking experience with kids, be prepared. Gather the necessary ingredients and materials ahead of time, so you can keep the process moving smoothly. Muster up all of your patience and be prepared for a bit of mess, which admittedly, is often easier said than done. It’s normal for young children to need repeated directions and multiple prompts to stay on task. They may find that brushing all the flour off of the table onto the floor is more interesting than kneading the dough. Take a deep breath and try to redirect their attention. Modeling is your best teaching tool. Prior to each step, explain and show children what to do. If necessary, guide their hands as they complete each step.  Finally, talk, talk, talk as you cook. Talk about the procedure. Talk about the ingredients. Discuss how the yeast makes the dough grow. Make predictions about what will happen next. Ask questions and engage their curiosity.

This pizza dough recipe is a winner! It comes together easily, is a cinch to work with, and tastes perfectly doughy and delicious. It would be delicious with any combination of toppings.  My husband and I enjoyed one of the dough rounds with a few ingredients we had on hand; Bertolli’s Four Cheese Rosa Sauce, sliced pieces of leftover Wine and Cheese Sausage, and a generous sprinkle of a Monterey Jack cheese blend.

The kids chose traditional pizza sauce with mild cheddar, bologna, and pineapple tidbits. Such a kids’ pizza!

Everyone was satisfied with their selections. This dough will most definitely be making future appearances in our home. Also, keep your eye out for a basic pizza sauce recipe, coming up soon!

Oven-roasted Pulled Pork and Summer Peach Pizza

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Recently, I was having a conversation with someone who was tossing around the idea of opening a pizza shop in a city whose pizza market is predominated by chain restaurants. I suggested that as a way of setting himself apart, he should focus on using very fresh ingredients; local, seasonal, and organic when possible. In addition to offering a really good traditional pizza with traditional toppings, he could offer a special of the month, something a bit different, which features the most seasonal produce. As an example, I threw out peaches. Well, that got an odd look. So, I continued, Maybe with a BBQ type of sauce and pork or something. The odd look remained.

Over the next couple days, I mentioned this peach and pork pizza idea to a handful of other people, all of whom had the same confused reaction. Maybe I should have let it go, but for some reason, I couldn’t get this pizza off my mind. I mean, people put ham and pineapple on pizza. So why not pork and peaches?

I let the idea simmer in my brain for a while. The pork should be slow-cooked and tender, like pulled pork. The peaches would need to be roasted to make them extra sweet and tender. The sauce should full of tomato flavor, but with a definite sweet bbq accent. The cheese should be melty and mild. The more I thought it through, the more convinced I became that it would work.

So, I picked up a big pork shoulder and got cooking. Pulled pork is something which works best when cooked low and slow. There are several ways to do it, all of which can be successful. My preferred method is to oven-roast the pork, since I can use that method year round and I find that it produces a less mushy result than with a slow-cooker. You can decrease the cooking time by increasing the heat, but low and slow is your best bet for a tender roast, which will pull apart with ease. My recipe is sort of in middle as far as heat and time goes, but if you have more time on your hands, lower the heat and give it a bit more time.

For the sauce, I made a Honey Garlic BBQ sauce. I cooked the sauce along with the pork to pick up some of the pork flavor and allow the flavors to blend and concentrate. This also allows the onion and roasted garlic to slow cook for an even sweeter flavor. For a leaner end-result, you can cook the sauce separate from the roast.

Pulled Pork and Summer Peach Pizza

Ingredients

For the Roasted Garlic-Honey BBQ Sauce:

  • 1 15 oz. can Tomato Sauce
  • 1/4 cup Tomato Paste
  • 1/3 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp Mustard
  • 1/4 cup Worchestire
  • 1/4 cup Honey
  • 1 tsp Cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 head Roasted Garlic, cloves removed from the skin*
  • 1 Small Onion, chopped

For the Roast:

  • 1 5-7 pound Pork Shoulder
  • Paprika
  • Brown Sugar
  • Salt
  • Cayenne Pepper

For the Peaches:

  • 2 Peaches, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Tbsp Brown Sugar

For the Pizza:

  • 2 12″ Prepared Pizza Crusts
  • 2-3 cups Mozzarella Cheese
  • 1/3 cup Chives, finely chopped

*Click here for my guide to roasting garlic.

Directions

To prepare the roast, trim the excess fat from the exterior. Rub the roast all over with paprika, brown sugar, salt, and cayenne. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a heavy dutch oven pan with a tight fitting lid or in a baking dish that is just big enough to hold the roast, combine all sauce ingredients. Place the roast on top of the sauce and cover. If using a baking dish, tightly seal the pan with foil. Place it in the oven and cook for about 5 hours. No need to check, stir, or baste. Just pop it in a let it do its thing. You’ll know it’s done when the meat starts to pull away from the bone and the internal temperature, as measured with an instant-read thermometer, has reached at  least 170 degrees. You can also test the meat by scraping a fork into a piece of the roast. It should easily shred from the roast.

For the peaches, place the thin slices in a small baking dish and toss with the brown sugar. You can omit the sugar, if desired, but the small amount of sugar gives the peaches a very light, sweet glaze. Place the baking dish in the oven during the last 30 minutes of the roast’s cooking time.

When the roast is cooked, remove from the oven. Carefully lift the roast from the pan and place it on a rack or in a colander to cool for about 15 minutes.

While the roast is cooling, pour the sauce through a strainer to remove the chunks of onion, garlic, and any pork pieces. Allow the sauce to settle. Then, pour off any excess fat, which will rise to the top or use a spoon to remove the fat. Taste the sauce and adjust the flavor with more salt, cayenne, or honey, as desired.

When the pork is cool enough to handle, but still warm, use a fork to begin pulling the meat. If you scrape the fork against the meat, it should start pulling apart easily. Discard any fatty chunks. I like to go back over the meat with my fingers after pulling it, to make sure there are no slimy, fatty bits remaining.

Pour the sauce over the meat and toss to combine.

For the pizza, preheat oven to 425 degrees. Scatter the sauced pork in an even layer over the crust. Place several slices of peach on top of the pork. Sprinkle with a good layer of mozzarella cheese. Garnish with the chopped chives. Bake for about 12 minutes until everything is hot, the cheese is melty and the edges of the crust are golden.

Makes 2 12-inch Pizzas (plus leftover pulled pork for sandwiches!)

This pizza was really good. Even my skeptical husband was pleased!

Pizza Dragon and Chairs of Stock

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Childhood can be a confusing time. So many new experiences to take in, so much to learn about the world, the potential for confusion lurking around every corner. As a child, I remember the day our father told my sisters and I about the shares of stock which had been purchased for us. Our youthful minds heard chairs of stock. We continued the discussion with our father, he talking of the shares, we talking about chairs. Imagine our confusion when he tried to explain that our chairs were going to help us to pay for college. How in the world, we asked. Well, we could sell our shares, he explained. People will want to buy our chairs? Yes, he explained, people buy and sell shares all of the time. Hmm… We continued trying to process this whole chair thing. So, where do they keep all of our chairs? My father paused for a moment. We continued, Is there like a room somewhere filled up with our chairs? And, that’s when he realized we weren’t talking about the same thing.

Or take, for example, our first experience at Chuck E. Cheese. My family sat down and ordered some pizza and sodas. On the wall was a giant movie screen, the size of the wall. On it, the movie Pete’s Dragon was playing. Our parents told us the name of the movie. Between bites of our pizza, we heard Pizza Dragon. Eat pizza, watch Pizza Dragon. Made sense at the time. Took us a few years before we realized the movie was not actually Pizza Dragon.

Speaking of pizza, we’re having my signature pizza tonight. My brother in law is visiting and his top food request for the weekend was this very pizza. I’ve taken a Steak Bordelaise dinner; steak in a rich wine sauce with caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, and gorgonzola cheese; and I’ve turned it into a pizza. It’s the steak dinner you can eat with your hands. I told you I really enjoy handheld meals. You can use either, neither, or both mushrooms and onions on the pizza, depending on your preference. The best part is that all components of the pizza can be prepared ahead of time! This is a very hardy pizza, so it works well with a side of fresh salad.

P.S. There’s skirt steak on this pizza. Have I mentioned how much I love skirt steak??


Steak Bordelaise Pizza

Ingredients

For the Sauce

  • 1 cup Dry Red Wine
  • 1 Shallot, finely diced
  • 1 sprig Thyme
  • 2 cups Beef Stock
  • 1 Tbsp Cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp Water
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Toppings

  • 1 Onion, chopped (optional)
  • 2 cups Mushrooms, sliced (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Skirt Steak (about 1/2 pound)
  • 1/2 cup Gorgonzola Cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup Mozzarella Cheese
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Thick Pizza Crust, homemade or store bought (12 inch diameter)

Directions

For the sauce, combine red wine, shallot, and thyme in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer until the sauce reduces by 3/4. There should be about 1/4 cup remaining. Add the beef stock. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce reduces by half. There should be about a cup remaining. Strain the sauce to remove the shallots and thyme. Return the sauce to the saucepan. In a small dish, combine the cornstarch with the water. Add a spoonful or two of the hot sauce. Stir to combine, then add the cornstarch mixture to the sauce. Simmer for another minute or two until the sauce thickens. Season with a little salt and pepper.

For the onions, heat 1 Tbsp butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and cook for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they begin to lightly brown. Turn down the heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until the onions are soft and sweet.

For the mushrooms, heat 1 Tbsp butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the sliced mushrooms. Cook, stirring frequently for about 10 minutes until the are soft and lightly browned.

For the steak, preheat an oven to 450 degrees. Place the steak on a baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake for about 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, cut the steak into small bite-sized pieces.

To assemble the pizza, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread about 3/4 cup of the sauce over the pizza crust. Evenly distribute the steak over the sauce. Add the onions and/or mushrooms. Sprinkle with gorgonzola and mozzarella cheeses. Bake for about 15 minutes. Let the pizza cool for a few minutes before slicing.

A Runner’s Victory Feast

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Yesterday morning, my sister and I ran our first 5k ever! We ran for a cause that is close to our hearts, the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  You see, 30 years and some months ago, when my mother was pregnant with my youngest sister, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  As a mother, I can not imagine the choices she was faced with. With two young daughters at home and a baby growing inside her, she was faced with risking her life to preserve the health of my unborn sister or choosing her own health, at a cost of my sister’s life. Against her doctor’s advice, she chose my sister’s life above her own. She is my hero. Her doctors treated the cancer as best as they could, with the baby’s life in mind. But, the cancer spread too rapidly.  My sister was born two months premature. Seven months later, my mother passed away. Today, my sister thrives, a testament to a mother’s love for a baby she hadn’t even met.

My family had other encounters with breast cancer after my mother’s passing. It touches so, so many lives. And so, yesterday morning, my sister and I tied on our running sneaks and hit the pavement. We ran in honor of those we’ve lost and in celebration of those who have survived. We ran for our aunts, and cousins, and sister, and friends. We ran for our lives.  We ran for the lives of our future daughters and granddaughters. We ran for everyone whose life has been touched by breast cancer.

A few months ago, it was a challenge for me to run half a mile. But, yesterday, fueled by the power of our cause, we were victorious. We certainly didn’t set any records for our lightening fast speed, but we ran that course with everything we had.

Today I offer you two of the recipes from yesterday’s victory feast.  Serve with a glass of your celebratory beverage of choice. Cheers to heroes and life!

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

My dad is a pizza traditionalist. In his opinion, the only things which belong on pizza are tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and the standard list of meat and veggie toppings. Sorry, Dad…I have to heartily disagree with you on this one. I actually went through a phase where I turned all my favorite meals into pizzas; think Steak Bordelaise, Shrimp Scampi, and Chicken Marsala in pizza form. I’ll save those recipes for another day though.  Today, we get our pizza and wings in the same bite! This recipe calls for hot sauce and bleu cheese dressing.  I strongly recommend Frank’s RedHot and Marie’s Super Bleu Cheese Dressing (It has 25% more bleu cheese, so you know it’s good!).  This is a very hearty pizza, so be sure to use a thick pizza crust!

Ingredients

  • 1-2 Chicken Breasts
  • 1/2 cup Celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 12″ Prepared Pizza Dough, thick crust
  • 3/4 cup Hot Sauce (Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 2/3 cup Bleu Cheese Dressing (Marie’s Super Bleu Cheese Dressing)
  • 1/4 cup Crumbled Bleu Cheese
  • 1 cup Shredded Mozzarella

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place chicken breasts on a baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake until chicken is cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Once chicken is cool, cut or pull the chicken into small pieces. Toss chicken and celery in 1/2 cup of the Frank’s Redhot Sauce. In another bowl, combine bleu cheese dressing with 1/4 cup Frank’s Redhot Sauce (add more to make it extra spicy).  Spread sauce onto pizza dough. Top with chicken and celery mixture, discarding any excess hot sauce. Sprinkle with bleu cheese crumbles. Top with shredded mozzarella.  Bake in a 375 degrees oven for approximately 15 minutes until the pizza is hot and melty.  Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting.

Steak Sandwiches with Sauteed Wild Mushrooms and Gruyere

Sauteed Wild Mushrooms

Typically, I make my steak sandwiches with caramelized onions and gorgonzola, but since we’ve already covered the pizza with bleu cheese, I decided to make a different steak sandwich variation, using sauteed wild mushrooms and gruyere. For this recipe, I use skirt steak, which is easily my favorite steak for sandwiches and quesadillas. Generally, skirt steak is known for being one of the toughest cuts of steak.  Color me crazy, but it always strikes me as being tender.  The key is to cook it quickly at high heat and slice it thinly against the grain. Prepared properly, skirt steak makes a great sandwich steak, because it comes apart easily when you bite into it, eliminating that awful steak sandwich situation.  You know…the situation when you bite into your sandwich, but can’t get through the steak and then a big slice of steak comes falling out and slaps you on the chin. (Does that happen to everyone or is it just me??)  Anyway, skirt steak is the way to go, but if you can’t find skirt steak, then flank steak makes a good substitution.

Ingredients

  • 1 Loaf of French Bread (preferably a batard, which is wider than a baguette)
  • 1 Skirt Steak (about 1/2 pound)
  • 2 cups Wild Mushrooms, sliced (cremini, shitake, oyster…)
  • 1 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Tbsp Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Gruyere cheese
  • 1 Tbsp Butter (optional, for sandwich)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place skirt steak on a baking sheet.  Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes.  Thinly slice the steak against the grain. **If preparing the sandwich immediately, turn heat down to 375 degrees after cooking the steak.

For the mushrooms, melt 1 Tbsp of butter in a sautee pan. Add mushrooms and cook over medium heat for few minutes.  The mushrooms will begin to release their liquids. Continue cooking and stirring until most of the liquid evaporates and the mushrooms turn a golden brown, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute or two. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice batard in half lengthwise. Spread 1 Tbsp of butter onto the bottom piece.  Top with sliced steak and sauteed mushrooms. Cover with shredded cheeses.  Replace top half of bread.  Tightly wrap the sandwich in foil and bake for about 20 minutes, until heated through and cheeses are melted. Cut into 2-4 pieces.

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