Homemade Pizza Recipe that Will Change Your Life

Second

Name one of your friends that doesn’t love pizza.

Exactly.

If there is pizza, it will be eaten. Full disclosure: years ago I was told I’m sensitive to lactose. Not full-on intolerant, but I should proceed with caution before taking down the entire cheese wheel. That hasn’t stopped me from ingesting the Italian precursor to tostadas.

There was a dearth of holiday plans for NYE this year. So, my girlfriend and I invited friends to her casa for some drinks and dinner before going out. Grappling over what to make to feed our friends, we landed on homemade pizzas since we thought it would be the easiest and least time consuming.

The below pizzas–I don’t like calling them pies–were made off the dough recipe in Bon Appetit’s October issue. Their homemade pizza recipe and sauce is also a winner with anchovies as the secret flavor punch.

Life-Changing Pizza Dough from Bon Appetit

  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)
  • 2 tablespoons plus ½ cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus more for surface

I have long avoided making legit, homemade dough mostly because when I want pizza I can’t wait 4 hours or definitely not 24 hours for dough to rise. Having made this dough twice in the past 5 days, I can vouch that it is doable to make your own pizza and stop relying on delivery or a frozen pizza.

This dough does take a full day to develop its flavors, BUT it only takes about 15 minutes to make. The rest of the time it sits in the fridge. In that time, you could clear your freezer of frozen pizzas bought in moments of weakness. You can also make a double batch of dough and freeze one for a later date.

Tips

  • Use a Kitchen Aid if you have one. It makes this insanely easy.
  • Make a double batch.
  • Be sure to oil the bowl and coat the entire ball of dough before refrigeration (flip it over once the bottom is coated).
  • Get creative.
  • My pizzas only took about 15 minutes instead of the recommended 20-30. So, watch them closely.

Once the dough is done with its day spa in the cooler, you need to get it back to room temperature before trying to stretch it onto a pan. This took at least 30-45 minutes for my double batch of dough. From then on it’s up to you to twirl your mustache and top it with your favorite veggies and meats. I learned one thing when asking for input before topping: a lot of people hate mushrooms.

We made three homemade pizzas on NYE with variations on the below toppings:

  • Onions
  • Red bell pepper
  • Italian Sausage
  • Pepperoni
  • Hot Capicola
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh basil

Endless possibilities await.

What are your favorite toppings?

A Year of Adventures and Doing Stuff

Rodin on traveling abroad.

December 31, and the week leading up to it, has always been of interest to me. The culmination of a calendar year causes me, and seemingly every other blogger, to reflect on the past year’s events, what happened, what didn’t, where’d they go, what did they cook/eat, who did they date. The arbitrary nature of time demarcators has led me to question the significance of today versus yesterday or any other day. As a society (and world) we mark today as the end of the year and tomorrow the day to join a gym, just as soon as the room stops spinning and we find our pants.

In stark opposition to the mindfulness movement, I have largely been focused on the parts bookending “now.” Where am I today versus a year ago? Where will I be a year from now? In my 29 years I can safely assert that I am not clairvoyant, nor a historian. I often struggle with remembering where I parked my car or what I just ate. I have a vague notion of where I will be tomorrow and maybe a week from now, but beyond that…

The basis for mindfulness is that you can’t change the past, nor predict the future, so why worry about either? If you have any friends who post those inspirational quotes or read any profiles on a dating site this year, I’m sure you’ve read some variation on that axiom, likely attributed to Buddha.

While I try to become more “now,” I did want to enumerate what happened in 2014, mostly so I have some reference point when I fry my brain from rapidly vacillating between gadgets and apps.

Travel

Oh, the places you’ll go…

Where didn’t I go this year? I have dreamed about going to Europe for many a New Year’s reflection day. This year finally was the year. After dating Leann for about two months, I shared that I wanted to spend my birthday somewhere other than Chicago. She asked where and I said Italy and Paris. She followed up with inquiring if I was going solo or with friends. Leann shared that if no one else would go, she would be interested.

“How committed are you? If you had to give a percentage…”

“75-80,” Leann answered.

A few weeks later I asked “Are you sure?” no less than five times. And after that our first trip was booked. My quest for a passport stamp would be realized. Oddly, I don’t think I’ve looked at those stamps since the adventure. Even more peculiar was that someone was willing to go overseas with me for a prolonged period of time.

Stops along the way: Rome, Florence, Venice, Paris, Fajardo, Old San Juan.

Each inspiring and beautiful in their own way. Florence was one of the most breathtaking places I have been, possibly due to the steeply sloped hills. Traveling was one of the main themes for my writing this year. While it certainly can be expensive, seeing other cities and cultures opens the mind. Plus, I don’t think many people want to read about my daily commute. Traveling is my escape to newness. Experiencing a city for the first time is magical. There is no feeling like my first time in Paris. Walking around Paris that premiere nuit. Wandering in the damp and chilly early evening. Emerging from the Metro and seeing I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramid. Turning to Leann with mouth agape. Then walking some more. Wandering. Then, our feet hit the damp pavement a little faster. There it was. Illuminated in all its glory.

Le Tour Eiffel.

Le Tour

I have never experienced anything like that day. That’s the magic of travel.

I hope to return to some of these places in the future, but I’m not focusing on the future. MINDFULNESS!

Dating

More than traveling this year, there was a larger theme. Adventures with Leann. By some luck I happened to find someone who is eager to try new things, a patient listener (we all know my stories are seldom succinct) and someone who says yes. She gives unconditionally. She has unknowingly reminded me of the innocence of young love. Those times before becoming jaded or disenchanted with the dating “process.” There is little doubt that I am crazy. Somehow that doesn’t bother her. What started as a conversation about ice cream while sipping margaritas has developed into a year full of happy times getting to know her, her family and her friends. What adventures will we get into in 2015? Follow #lookatusdoingstuff to find out.

Foodstuffs

This was the year I became a professional chef. Thanks to Chicago Food Bloggers and Mealsharing.com, I hosted my first dinner party at a swanky rooftop in Chicago’s South Loop. This was also the year of bacon. Leann and I entered a cooking competition through The Takedowns. To supply us for the showdown, they gave us with bacon. Lots of it. Enough to clog all your arteries. And those of your friends.

Also thanks to Yelp and Chicago Food Bloggers, I got to eat some delectable dishes that inspired my cooking. I had the chance to meet restaurant owners and some other bloggers in the process.

Dancing

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2014 was also the year I became a professional dancer. No, not that kind. Thanks to Nicolle Wood, I got a bit closer to learning that devil dance known as balboa. The first few weeks were rough because I had basic knowledge of the basic step. Through her patience and generosity with her time, I was able to learn hangman, crabs, scoots and the routine in time for our performance outside Harold Washington Library. Hoping to take on lindyhop in 2015.

Working

Another year at the same place, but there were lots of shuffles. The company was acquired by another company and the office moved from the ‘burbs to downtown. That has necessitated several shifts in commuting and lifestyle. The company continues to grow and my team is growing exponentially. I have had the opportunity to recruit and hire some very talented people.

So now, it’s off to another party. Some close friends are gathering for homemade pizza and reflecting on the year that has been full of -ING verbs. Thanks for following this year and I hope to share more great adventures from around the world in 2015!

Sopa de Elote Dip Recipe | Bacon Takedown Showdown

It isn’t every day your food is featured in Thrillist for Best Bacon dishes.

I have a love/hate relationship with cooking competitions. I swear them off, but not long after I get the invite, I am signed up and scouring recipes for inspiration.

The latest was the fifth annual bacon takedown. I eat bacon once or twice a year, so I’m by no means a connoisseur. Cycling through dishes I’ve perfected that include bacon, I considered stuffin muffins and carbonara. The first is ingredient and labor intensive. The latter has poor reheat value. After vetoing these dishes I started questioning why I signed up.

Then I got my idea: Mexican corn.

I started it as a chowder soup. Serving soup samples is tedious. Know what isn’t? Making it a dip.

Of course you made something with tortilla chips.

The addictive element of competitions is you get instant feedback from people who aren’t your family or friends. They have no obligation to say your food is good. And they definitely don’t have to come back four times for another taste.

The good news: everyone seemed to love the dip.

The bad news: I didn’t win. Always a bridesmaid…

Continue reading Sopa de Elote Dip Recipe | Bacon Takedown Showdown

Emmy-Award Winning Dinner

chicken, dinner, emmy, northwestern

 

Dani Carlson commented on one of my many food pictures a few months ago. I first met Dani in college where she ran the show for the on-campus news program. She taught me most of what I know about broadcast news. Network and Broadcast News taught me everything else. She also won an Emmy this year for her reporting work at WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, MI.

Since her request to learn how to cook chicken that wasn’t mushy I have been tinkering with different recipes to find one that would conquer her challenge.

I make a fair amount of chicken dishes, but this summer has been dominated by grilling. Earlier this week I took a stab at a new recipe from Bon Appetit.

As is often the case, I didn’t have all the ingredients so I swapped a few for what I had on hand. Here we go with Dinner for an Emmy-Award Winner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper–don’t use the pre-ground stuff. It’s a waste.
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dry red (Recipe calls for white)
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Optional: mushrooms, carrots, other veggies
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme plus thyme leaves for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Process:

  1. Start pot of water to boil for noodles.
  2. Heat the skillet over medium heat.
  3. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. If the chicken breast is more than an inch thick, either slice it in half (parallel to your board) or pound it out.
  4. Add oil to skillet and swirl it around.
  5. Place chicken in the hot pan. If you don’t hear a distinct sizzle, the pan isn’t hot enough. I let mine get hot for about 5-6 minutes.
  6. I added carrots, which were too sweet for the savory vibe the rest of the dish had going.
  7. After 6-7 minutes on one side, flip the chicken to sear the other side.
  8. Let that cook for another 6-7 minutes. The chicken should start firming up.
  9. Remove the chicken and let it rest on a plate.
  10. Add onions, garlic and optional veggies. Stir. Let cook for a minute. Add chicken stock, mustard, wine. Stir. You’ll need to let this cook a few minutes on medium/medium-high heat to cook out the booze and let the flavors combine.
  11. Place the chicken back into the pot. Cover.
  12. Transfer 1/2 cup of pasta water to the skillet/sauce. Stir.
  13. Drain the pasta.
  14. Plate it up.

Searing the chicken should avoid the squidgy chicken texture you despise. But it shouldn’t be super dried out either. If you can win an Emmy and teach people how to use AVID, you should have no trouble with some chicken!

chicken, dinner, emmy, northwestern
Finished product.

Lebron: The Chef

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This summer has become an insipid rumor mill surrounding where NBA players will take their talents. Will they or won’t they? A reporter had a reliable source who ended up being as dependable as an inflatable pool.

My relationship with sports has become like a faltering marriage. With athletes saying they don’t make enough and taking their talents to different beaches, I became less interested in sports. Instead I shifted the time I used to spend reading the Sports page and watching ESPN to reading recipes and ogling a chef’s technique.

I had a few issues after reading Lebron’s letter. These stem from a short stint as Sports editor for my high school paper and a raging insecurity complex where spotting grammar errors elevates my sense of worth.

Were the repeated words and phrases like “no question” used as dangling clauses necessary? I’m sure four years in Miami were just like college. College without a composition class.

But Lebron said he has grown. After four years he is now a sage. He knows how to build a premier team. He can get more out of players. He knows all these things at the age of 29. For perspective, Lebron has five months on me. And two championship rings. And millions and millions of dollars. He probably also has a much easier time trying to find a home.

As I sat wondering what to have for lunch today, I wondered what would Lebron do? He’s decisive. Then it occurred to me. He’d make homemade mayonnaise.

The beauty of mayonnaise, like Lebron, is that if you screw up, all is not lost. Like the prodigal son, the emulsion can be saved. Hallelujah!

Mayo is incredibly simple to make. It’s a simple emulsion. You combine acid, seasoning and an egg yolk, then furiously whisk and slowly drizzle in oil. If I watched ESPN more I’m sure I could make references to which ingredient corresponds to players on the Cavs.

I used this ratio from Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio for my first attempt.

Ingredients

1 large egg yolk, preferably organic or farm-raised
1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon water
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, to taste
1 cup vegetable oil

Possibly unlike Lebron, I nailed it on my first attempt. A swish. I slathered it on toasted French bread and made myself a sandwich with arugula.

In the end, Lebron is just trying to patiently make some mayonnaise in Cleveland.

“We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process.”

Lebron, if you need a demo on how to make mayo, I can take the Megabus to Cleveland.

No question.
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Wonton Wednesday

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If at first you try to make Taco-Tons and don’t succeed, try, try again.

In honor of Taco Tuesday, I attempted to make these last night after the gym. In my haste, I tried using corn tortillas as the wrapper. There’s only one problem dear taco-loving friends: Corn tortillas aren’t flexible, even if you heat them.

Tonight was Attempt 2 at the fusion masterpiece that is taco filling in a wonton wrapper. A brewery by my office deserves credit for the idea. They had an item called “Titan’s Toothpicks,” which I admit is catchier than Taco-Tons. Their creation was a variant on taquitos with meat, corn, salsa and cheese inside the fried cylinders.

20140423-200338.jpgI made turkey tacos with black beans, avocado and kale Monday night. I’ll post photos and a recap on how to make your own in the coming week.

Re-imagining ways to eat existing food is necessary for any person living solo.

If you cook a big meal, you’ll likely grow tired of eating it for multiple days. Turning grilled chicken into a healthy salad or a wrap adds longevity to your leftovers.

Wonton Wednesday should quickly become a thing. After my Egg Roll exploration, I’ve got the rolling process down and a pontoon-load of extra wrappers. You’ll need an egg to seal the Tons closed. Tonight I used the wonton wrappers instead of their larger sibling used for egg rolls. Subsequently, you can’t put much food in each wrapper.

Nevertheless, start thinking of foods you’d like fried inside some crispy dough. These would be great for parties. They are a bit labor intensive, but worth it in the end.

3 Things I Learned Tonight:

  1. The process is quick. Each side cooks for 30 seconds tops.
  2. Oil is hot. Splattering oil hurts.
  3. Have something to dip the Taco-Tons in, like salsa verde, sour cream or maybe some queso dip.

And you may as well fry up the egg used to seal the wrappers. Every bro needs his protein.

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