Friday, October 26, 2012

"Ghoulishly" Good Pizza Bites

If you've been following me on Facebook, you'll know that I am in the midst of midterm exams and I've been a little remiss in my posting. I think I may have been a tad overconfident at the beginning of the exams. I don't know how the (much younger) traditional students do it! Wow! Thank you all - SO MUCH - for hanging in there with me!!

The recipe below is for some delicious little pizza bites that couldn't be easier to make! They remind me of little pan-style pizzas. If you'd prefer not to make individual pizzas, just roll the dough out onto a 12-inch pizza pan and top with your favorite pizza toppings. These little pizzas reheat wonderfully in the microwave and are perfect for meals or as a snack!

Ghoulishly Good Pizza Bites

Makes 1 - 12" pizza or 12 pizza bites

1 cup all purpose flour

1 1/4 tsp. yeast

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese

1 - 2 tsp. dried Italian-blend seasoning

1/2 cup warm water

1 tbsp. olive or cooking oil

pizza sauce (use your favorite)

shredded mozzarella cheese (you can use any blend of cheese you like)

other toppings for pizza:  pepperoni or other meat(s), green peppers, onions, black olives, mushrooms, etc.

To make the dough, combine 1/2 cup flour, the yeast, and salt in a bowl. Add the water and the oil. Mix well to form a soft dough. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and Italian-blend seasoning, along with the remaining flour. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is smooth - about 5 minutes. Add flour as needed, if the dough is sticky. You'll want a slightly tacky dough, in the end. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free place for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

To make the pizza bites, grease a 12-cup muffin pan and set aside. Deflate the dough and divide it into 12 portions. Form a ball with each portion of dough and place it in each of the muffin pan cups. Flatten the balls of dough and bring the dough up the sides of each cup. Spoon 1 - 2 teaspoons of pizza sauce in each little pizza crust and top with your favorite toppings. We used pepperoni for our little pizza bites. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the toppings. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

An offset spatula (or a fork) works great for removing the pizza bites from the muffin pan. Be careful not to burn yourself!



Monday, October 15, 2012

Meatless Monday: Grilled

I have a super easy recipe for this week's Meatless Monday post!

Remember the Italian Herb Bread from a post or two ago? In addition to being a great pairing with soup, it also makes fantastic sandwiches - especially grilled sandwiches. We use Italian Herb Bread to make Grilled Pizza Sandwiches and the recipe below. I hope you enjoy the Caprese Grilled Sandwich as much as we do!

Caprese Grilled Sandwich

2 slices of bread for each sandwich 

tomato slices

slices of mozzarella cheese (fresh mozzarella is terrific in this sandwich!)

fresh basil leaves


olive oil

This is one of the tastiest and easiest grilled sandwiches to make. The only way this sandwich could be any better would be to make it in a panini press!

To make the sandwich, just layer the tomato slices, mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves (just one layer of these so you don't overpower the rest of the ingredients) on one slice of bread. Place another slice of bread on top of the ingredients.

Heat the olive oil (about one turn of the pan) and the butter (about 1 tbsp.) in a skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, carefully place the sandwich in the skillet and cook until the bread is grilled and golden. Turn the sandwich over and cook until the cheese has melted and the other side is also golden.



Friday, October 5, 2012

It's Official "Soup Weather" (Finally)

Fall has arrived! Gusting winds, swirling leaves, grey skies. It's official. It's soup weather!!

I went in search of a new soup recipe to try. I'm still stuck on Italian cuisine (so good!), so I started my search there. I came across a recipe from Rachael Ray that caught my attention, but then I found another one from Ree Drummond that also looked good. What to do? What to do?

Then it hit me. Combine them!!

 Below is my creation inspired by Rachael Ray and Ree Drummond. My son commented, "it smells like a Subway shop in here" when the soup was simmering away on the stovetop. That's how I knew I'd hit the mark! We enjoyed this soup with buttered slices of Italian Herb Bread. It was so delicious at the first serving, but even better on Day Two for lunch!

I hope you enjoy this soup as much as we do!

Italian Sub Cream Soup

olive oil

1 lb. Italian sausage (you can use mild or spicy, it's up to you)

4 oz. pepperoni (if using slices, cut into quarters)

4 oz. hard salami (if using sliced salami, but into bite-sized pieces)

1 green pepper, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tbsp. flour

28 oz. diced tomatoes

4 cups chicken stock or broth

salt & pepper

2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 cup small uncooked pasta (Macaroni, Gemelli, Ditalini)

2 cups cream

1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Shredded fresh mozzarella & Parmesan cheese, for serving

If you purchased links of sausage instead of ground meat, remove the casings and discard.

Place a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil to the pan - about 2 turns of the pan and heat until the oil shimmers on the bottom of the pan. Carefully, so you don't splatter oil on yourself, add the sausage and break up with a spoon. Brown the sausage in the olive oil until cooked through. Next, add the pepperoni and salami and cook with the sausage for 1 - 2 minutes. Stir in the onions and green pepper. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the peppers are soft and the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about one minute, then stir in the flour. Cook for another minute. Stir in the tomatoes, chicken stock (or broth), oregano, and pepper flakes and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer, taste, and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer. At this point, you could also move the soup to a slow cooker set to low. The longer this soup simmers, the better it tastes!

While the soup is simmering, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta and stir it into the soup. About 20 - 30 minutes before serving, stir in the cream and warm until heated through.

To serve, spoon the soup into a serving bowl, sprinkle with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses and chopped parsley.

If you'd like to serve a soft, flavorful bread with this wonderful soup, try the Italian Herb Bread below.

Italian Herb Bread

3/4 cup + 2 tbsp. milk

1 - 1/2 tbsp. butter, softened

2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese (1 tbsp. (dry) grated Parmesan cheese)

2 tsp. Italian seasoning

1 - 3/4 cups bread flour

1 - 1/2 tsp. yeast

I used a bread machine to mix the dough. To use a bread machine, just add the ingredients in the order given, set your machine cycle to "dough", and start. You'll want a slightly tacky dough. Adjust accordingly (water or flour a teaspoon at a time) during the mixing/kneading cycle. To keep the dough from drying out, I like to spread a little bit of olive oil on the dough once the kneading cycle is over. To shape, roll the dough out to an 8 x 12 - inch rectangle and roll the dough, from one of the long ends, into a cylinder with tapered ends. Be sure to seal the seam well! Place the loaf on a greased baking sheet. Slash the loaf, if you like, 1/4-inch deep at regular intervals.

If you are mixing the bread by hand (or with a mixer), warm the milk and butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat just until the butter melts. Pour the milk into a mixing bowl and add the yeast, sugar, salt, cheese, and seasoning. Mix well. Stir in the flour and mix until a dough forms. Knead the dough on a well-floured surface until it is smooth and elastic and slightly tacky. Coat a clean bowl with olive (or vegetable) oil and place the dough in the bowl. Brush a little oil on top of the dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to proof (raise) until the dough has doubled in size, about 30 - 45 minutes. Shape. Place the loaf on a greased baking sheet. Slash the loaf, if you like, 1/4-inch deep at regular intervals.

Bake at 350°F for 25 - 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. I like to spread a little butter on the loaf when it comes out of the oven before putting it on a wire rack to cool.


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