Ariba, Ariba!! First Attempt at a Mexican Pizza

Taco night (or as we call it in this house, “Effin’ Taco Night!!”) has always been quite popular in the dinner rotation here. So, for quite some time now I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making a mexican pizza. Well, last week I finally got my ideas together, headed to the grocery store and got everything I needed to do it.

The homemade dough was just your basic pizza dough recipe. The one thing I did decide to add to spice things up though was a bit of some cayenne pepper. See dough ingredients below:

3 cups of flour to start
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 tsp. sugar
3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 Tbs. of yeast
1 tsp of cayenne pepper

The toppings I decided to put on this pizza were:

Refried beans
Salsa
Black Olives (Lindsay’s brand of course)
Diced tomatoes
Spicy taco meat
Home grown chives from my Mom & Dad’s garden
Cheddar & pepper jack cheese
Crushed red pepper flakes

While the dough was doing it’s thing in the bread maker, I got all my chopping and prepping done ahead of time. First, I cooked up 1 lb. of ground sirloin and then added a packet of hot n’ spicy taco seasoning. I also warmed up the refried beans in a sauce pan so that they would be easier to spread on top of the dough. Once the dough was ready to roll out, the first thing I put down was the refried beans. Next, I spread out the salsa on top of the beans and sprinkled some crushed red pepper on top of that. I purposely bought a salsa that wasn’t too chunky but not too runny/watery either. It had a great consistency similar to what you would get in a mexican restaurant. Then, I added the black olives, chives and diced tomatoes. And finally I shredded the cheddar and pepper jack cheese and covered the pizza.

I cooked the pizza at 385 degrees for 19 minutes. The pizza looked great when it came out of the oven. I have to admit I was very excited yet nervous to try this pizza. I really had no idea if I was going to love it or hate it. To my surprise, it tasted excellent!! Only a few things I would change up to make it even better the next time I make this. This pizza would be a perfect candidate for using the new cast iron pizza pan we have (this time I just used our regular pan). The cast iron really gives the crust a crispy crunch to it which I felt would have helped this pizza. I may have put on a little bit too much salsa because I felt that if I didn’t eat the pizza quickly, it just might get a little too soggy. So I think the extra crunchiness that the cast iron pan provides would have been great.

Mexican Pizza

Another thing I forgot to add that I bought for this little experiment was black beans. Oops! There’s always next time. Also, I wanted to add my favorite taco sauce, Ortega (medium or hot), but was worried with the salsa AND the taco sauce that it might get even MORE soggy. So I skipped the Ortega sauce this time. I think next time, I might mix up a combination of salsa with the Ortega sauce and use that. Another thing I thought might be fun to add on top (maybe after it’s done cooking) would be crushed up tortilla chips. But I haven’t decided how I feel about that topping yet. Would it really help the pizza? Or am I just gettin’ crazy now?

Needless to say, Effin’ Taco Pizza night was a success! And I think warming up a piece of the leftovers on the stovetop in a frying pan would a great idea for this pizza. I think that it would help crisp up the bottom of the crust a little more when going to reheat it. Now all you need is a margarita and you’d be set!

Mexican Pizza

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One Spicy Pizza – Cha cha cha!!

OK, it’s a new year. Time for CPG to come out of hibernation and write her first blog of 2011. For my first homemade pizza of the year I decided to go with a spicy theme tonight (probably against my better judgement considering I landed in the emergency room towards the end of 2010 for stomach issues again). But, what can I say, old habits die hard. Mom, I promise I took a Pepcid AC! So let’s get started with what was in the dough.

Ingredients:

1 Tbs Olive Oil
2/3 Cup Lukewarm Water
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
2 1/4 Cups Flour
1/4 tsp Oregano
1 Garlic Clove, minced
1 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 Jalepeno Pepper, minced (optional, I did not have one unfortunately)

And into the bread maker the ingredients went. This was a little bit smaller dough recipe than I typically make. But it was just what I was looking for, a thinner crust than usual. Once the bread maker timer went off, the dough was ready to come out. It looked perfect. I could see the little flecks of red pepper flakes throughout. Next, it was time to get the dough on the pizza pan and add the sauce and toppings.

Spicy Pizza Toppings

Toppings:

Ragu Pizza Sauce
Spicy Italian Sausage Pieces
Pepperoni
Fire Roasted Red Peppers
Kalamata Olives

For the cheese, I used shredded mozzarella, parmesan, and pepper jack for a bit more of a kick. Three types of cheese are better than one right?! I cooked the pizza at 385 degrees for 18 minutes and 23 seconds. A number I thought sounded good. It came out just perfect with the cheese lightly browned and good crisp to the crust. I have to say, this pizza was probably in my top 3 pizzas I have ever made. The amount of sauce was just perfect. When ever I think I have just enough sauce, I always add just a little bit more. I have always liked a decent amount of sauce on my pizzas. The spicy sausage really added some amazing flavor. And to kick things up yet another notch, I always add crushed red pepper on top of my slice when I eat my pizza. So all the spicy flavors came together quite nicely. If the heat is a little too much for you to handle, you can always dip your crust into ranch dressing to cool your mouth off. The only thing I might have done differently with this pizza is added MORE of the fire roasted red peppers to it. They were so darn good I could not stop eating them right off of the pizza before it even went in to the oven.

Spicy Homemade

Nothing like homegrown vegetables on your pizza!

Homemade pizza tonight! Ok, so my decision process on making pizza tonight went something like this. I didn’t want pasta because I had pasta for dinner last night. I had grilled burgers and brats over the weekend so I didn’t feel like grilling. I figured I’d make a nice big salad one day this week but that would require going to the store to buy all the stuff to go in it and I just didn’t feel like making the trip. I wanted something that didn’t require a lot of effort or time either. I started to get the inkling for a pizza (naturally) but knew that by the time I got home, making the dough from scratch would put me at actually eating dinner around 9:00pm tonight. And I was already hungry (this was around 5:00pm that this thought process took place). So, I thought, you know…Whole Foods has really good fresh homemade dough and that would cut down the prep time by a lot. And viola, there you have it! We were making pizza tonight.

Since there was no dough making in this process, I’ll go right in to which toppings were used tonight:

  • Ragu Pizza Sauce
  • Fresh Mozzarella from Whole Foods
  • Chunks of cut up homegrown tomatoes from my parent’s vegetable garden
  • Sliced kalamata olives
  • Pepperoni
  • Sauteed homegrown zucchini from my parent’s vegetable garden
  • Basil…you got it, homegrown from my parent’s vegetable garden

Can you tell I’ve just recently been to my parent’s house? Any time I go there during the summer I get sent home with a bag full of fresh vegetables. I love it! This time I actually picked my own basil leaves too. Anyways, the pizza came out really tasty. I loved the fresh basil the best. The flavor really stood out and it smelled delicious. The kalamata olives really had a great strong flavor as well. Of course I love kalamata olives so I didn’t mind the strong taste. I can eat those things like candy. In fact, I often just sit there and eat them out of the jar as a snack when I’m deciding what to eat. I didn’t really notice the zucchini that much. We cut up round slices and sauteed them in a pan before we put them on the pizza. I wonder if I added more the next time if they would be more noticeable. Or maybe I’ll try doing shredded zucchini. We’ll see.

Whole fresh pizza

I actually felt like this pizza could have had a little more crunch to it. I cooked it for it’s usual time of around 18 minutes at 385 degrees. Maybe it had to do with the type of dough it was, but I actually put the whole pizza (what was left of it) back in to the oven for another 3 minutes after I ate the first slice. It gave it a little more crunch to the bottom. So then I was happy. All in all the pizza was very good. If you’re going to put vegetables on your pizza, you really can’t go wrong with homegrown. It just tastes so unbelievably fresh! Thanks Mom & Dad! I’ll certainly be back for more veggies sometime soon.

Close up fresh veggies

Pizano’s Pizza – Pretty darn good!

First I’d like to start off giving a quick explanation on why I have been looking forward to trying this pizza for awhile now. The man who founded this pizzeria is Rudy Malnati Jr., son of Rudy Malnati Sr., who in 1943 established Pizzeria Uno in Chicago. And who helped co-manage this Pizzeria Uno with Rudy? None other than Rudy’s son Lou Malnati! Well, we all know that Lou Malnati’s is my favorite deep dish pizza of all time! So I was very excited to see how this pizza compared of course.

So off we went, to the Pizano’s Pizza & Pasta in the Loop in downtown Chicago on Thursday night to give it a try. The place was very busy, but we were able to pre-order our pizza while we waited to be seated. We decided to get a sausage and pepperoni deep dish pizza. We actually ordered a large so that we would have plenty of leftovers to take home and I just so happen to be enjoying a reheated slice of it right now as I write this! :)

When the pizza came it looked very similar to Lou’s at first glance. And actually, the whole time I was eating it, I couldn’t stop comparing it to Lou’s. Which I don’t know if that helped it or not since Lou’s is my all time favorite. It had some big shoes to fill in my mind. The crust is similar in that it is a buttery flakey crust. In my opion, Lou’s is definitely better but this was pretty good too. It had a nice solid crunch to it on the bottom and the sides had that crisp thin flakiness to it.

Pizano's PizzaPizano's Pizza slice

One thing I really liked about this pizza was the flavor of the cheese they used. It definitely stood out to me. I wish I could place what they were using. To me, it wasn’t just your typical mozzarella, but something else too. The saugsage was also one of my favorite parts about the pizza. It had a really good italian flavor to it and they used a good amount. It wasn’t a full layer of sausage that Lou’s is known for doing on their pizza’s, but it was still good none the less. I had no complaints about the tomato sauce on the pizza. It had nice chunks of tomatoes in it which is always yummy if you ask me. But, I will say, I wished there had been a little bit more sauce used on the pizza altogether.

Before we even had the idea to go to Pizano’s, we happened to see a Groupon gift certificate online for sale for the restaurant. For those of you that don’t know what Groupon.com is, it’s a website that offers daily deals at unbeatable prices. This could be discounts off of anything from restaurants to salons. They base the deals on the city location you are in. When I found a deal on Pizano’s Pizza downtown, we obiously jumped on that one right away. So at the end of our night, when we presented the $50 gift certificate to the waitor, his face dropped when he had to tell us that they no longer accept the Groupon certificates. We were very confused as to why, as the manager wouldn’t really give a reason. But, the good news is, when we emailed the website to see what the deal was, they told us to simply mail back the gift certificate and said we would get a credit on their website to use in the future on something else.

So, at least our money wasn’t wasted and we still had a great time in a good atmosphere enjoying our deep dish pizza. The pizza itself was very delicious and I was pretty impressed with it. So, I would have to rate this pizza as a 4 and definitely see myself getting this again in future. Pizano’s Pizza is no Lou Malnati’s but that family definitely has some amazing pizza making abilities running through their genes!!

Garlic, garlic, and more garlic!!

On the menu tonight.. pizza! I don’t know what it is about Sundays, but I always seem to want to make pizza on Sunday nights. So we got out the good ole bread maker and started on the dough. The crust on this one was exceptionally good this time. Here’s what was we put in the crust so you can see why.

12 oz. can of Bud Light
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. sugar
4 cups flour
2 tbsp. yeast
2 tbsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. Mrs. Dash Extra Spicy  seasoning

The whole time the bread maker was doing it’s thing, it smelled sooooo good. You could really smell the garlic. I was really looking forward to this one. So once the dough was ready it was time for the toppings. We included: pepperoni, ham, bacon, olives, mushrooms and minced garlic. The cheese we used was mozzarella and a mix of cheddar and monterey jack. The oven was preheated and the pizza was ready to go in. Eric said, “Pick a number between 1 and 60.” I picked 40. So the timer was set for 18:40. Haha. Must have been a perfect number because the pizza came out just right. With the cheese slightly browned just the way I like it.

Garlic crust

The pizza turned out just as I suspected. Delicious! You could really taste the garlic in the crust. And let me tell you, I am a huge fan of garlic. If I had cloves of garlic on hand I would have roasted them and threw those right on there too. Next time! I could also taste that it had a bit of a kick to it from the Mrs. Dash extra spicy seasoning and the pepper we added to the crust. I always add crushed red pepper on top of my pizza as well. What can I say, I’m a big fan of spiciness.

The crust was great this time. It had just the right amount of crunch on the bottom and yet it was soft on the inside. I have to say, this pizza had some girth to it too. And we even halved the dough to save for another time. Just look at that the loads of melted cheese on there! I’d say this pizza was a success. I can’t wait to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

garlic crust slice