Confessions of a Food Blogger

Chester IMG_0993Question: Enjoy your blog posts! But tell me, what do you REALLY eat?

Answer: Thanks, Chester (pictured here sending in a question…)! I get that question a lot. All my posts are things I’ve made and eaten—on weeknights as well as weekends—and lived to blog about them. But not everything I make is blog-worthy. Gentle readers, rest assured, we do not sit around sipping rose-infused mineral water and nibbling on pâté made from baby rabbit livers. Well, once in a while we do, but most of the time we eat just like you. We have scrambled eggs for dinner. We scrounge for leftovers in the back of the refrigerator, hoping to score something that isn’t growing mold. I just found a sweet potato in my pantry that’s sprouted so many roots it looks like Ursala from The Little Mermaid. And there’s a mystery smell in the frig right now, and I canNOT identify the culprit! Ugh.

Don’t get me wrong. I love food! I love coming up with new ideas for dinner or dessert, or reviving old favorites to freshen them up. And we do eat well most of the time. But sometimes I’m just too tired after work to make a meal, and enthusiastically welcome take-out. (How one can possibly tire of mousing and clicking all day? It’s not like I work in a coal mine…sheesh.) Once my neighbor Diane popped over around dinner time, apologizing for interrupting what she thought would be haute cuisine prep. She didn’t walk in on lemon frittata in the making, or anything even remotely “foodie” in nature. Time to show the flip side of the coin.

Sadly, there was no dinner preparation going on for Diane to interrupt. I was sitting in front of the TV watching Modern Family re-runs, while I snarfed down a couple pieces of pizza leftover from Papa Murphy’s 10 Dollar Tuesdays. (The Hawaiian, with added green peppers, in case you’re wondering.) At least I’d heated up my ‘za and wasn’t downing it cold, like some half-starved college student. But there was not a fork, knife, or spoon in sight. I’m not sure I even had a Brawny paper towel handy for a napkin. And I was drinking my Diet Coke straight from the can, ’cause I was too lazy to bother getting up to grab a glass and fill it with ice. Classy, huh?

So yes, food bloggers eat like real people. Yes, I eat pizza someone else has made. Leftover. Does that make anyone feel better? The glimpse of reality sure made Diane laugh. And I think she felt just a ping of relief, too.

DISCLAIMER: No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog.

Better-Than-Take-Out Pizza Dough

IMG_0927You can make—and bake!—pizza made from this dough in the time it takes to order and pick up a pizza. I’ve been using this recipe to make personal pan pizzas for about 15 years now, and it’s always warmly welcomed by family and guests. This summer, my husband and I have used this dough to make and bake a couple pizzas in the Big Green Egg, and those are definitely killer. (Greek pizza pictured here—full recipe to come.) I’m posting this not only because it’s so easy and tasty, but because my scrawled pen and paper recipe is worn and tattered beyond legibility. My daughter-in-law Jess wanted to make this dough once, but she couldn’t make heads or tails of the faded chicken scratching on the recipe once she found it. So before this family fave is lost for all eternity, I’ll post it. And run a hard copy for back up. Cause that’s how I roll.

Oh, and where did I find this super simple gem? It was featured in a Family Fun magazine in the 90’s. It uses yeast, but really people, it’s nothing to be afraid of. Embrace the yeast! It’s your friend! This dough is no more difficult than mixing up a batch of Play-Doh. Only this, you can eat.

Makes 8 personal pan pizzas, or two 12-inch pizzas

1 cup warm tap water
2 1/2 teaspoons dry yeast (or 1 package, if using individual packets)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
olive oil
corn meal

Preheat oven to 425° Fahrenheit. Rinse large mixing bowl with hot water to warm it. (Especially important in winter to take the chill off the bowl, which could reduce water temp and keep yeast from rising properly.) Add warm water to bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top of water. Let stand 5 minutes, or until yeast is dissolved (water will be cloudy and/or foamy).

Stir in olive oil, salt, and 1 cup of the flour with large wooden spoon. Add remaining 1 1/2 cup flour and stir until dough begins to cling to spoon, and most of flour is incorporated into loose ball.

Sprinkle butcher block or large cutting board with flour. Drop dough down onto board, and knead by bringing outside edges in and punching them into the center of ball. Sprinkle flour on top when dough gets sticky. Repeat until dough is smooth and elastic. Pour 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium bowl and rotate to coat. Drop kneaded dough into oiled bowl, and then flip dough, so that whole ball is coated in oil. Cover with damp towel, and place in sink. Fill sink about a quarter or third with very warm water. Let dough rise for 30 minutes.

Punch dough down and toss onto floured board. Divide into 8 pieces for personal pan pizzas, or 2 pieces for a couple of 12-inch pizzas.

To make personal pan pizzas:

Lightly oil 3 baking sheets, and sprinkle with a light dusting of cornmeal. Form dough pieces into balls by binging outside edges in to center a couple times. Roll a ball out flat with rolling pin, about 8 inches in diameter. Place up to 3 crusts on a baking sheet, zig zagging to fit. Top with purchased marinara sauce, spreading to within 1 inch of edges. Add other toppings such as grated mozzarella cheese, chopped green peppers, onions, olives, mushrooms, pepperoni, sausage, etc. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, with pans on top, middle and bottom racks. Rotate pans half way through baking – top to bottom, bottom to middle, and middle to top. Move to wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Serve.

To make two 12-inch pizzas:

Lightly oil 2 round baking sheets, and sprinkle with a light dusting of cornmeal. Form each dough piece into a ball by binging outside edges in to center a couple times. Roll a ball out flat with rolling pin, about 12 inches in diameter. Move dough to prepared pans. Top with purchased marinara sauce, spreading to within 1 inch of edges. Add other toppings as desired. Bake in preheated oven for 12 minutes, rotating pans in oven halfway through baking. Slice and serve.

P.S. Changed the name of this recipe from Easier-than-take-out to Better-than-take-out, after reading my friend Peggy’s hilarious synopsis of her attempt at this dough in the comments below. In the end, she loved it! So it’s worth trying to get this one right.