“Frozen Pizza? What’s that doing on your blog?” Yes, yes – I can hear you now. Don’t worry; this is not grocery store frozen pizza. This is a how-to for making frozen pizza kits for your own self. And then how to use them also. Check it out – you might even like it…
Ingredients (per kit):
- 1 parbaked pizza crust
- 1 cup pizza sauce
- 1-2 oz. sliced pepperoni
- 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
- 1/4-1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
- Wrap your pizza crust in plastic wrap and then in foil (this is my tried-and-true method of keeping the consistency of the crust as close to fresh as possible). Freeze.
- Pour your pizza sauce into muffin tins (I have one tin that has ½ cup slots and one that’s smaller. I use the ½ cup version on this one). Freeze.
- Weigh out a couple of ounces of pepperoni on your kitchen scale (or just grab a handful) and seal into a sandwich bag.
- Combine your cheeses in a second sandwich bag.
- Put both sandwich bags into a quart-sized freezer bag. Freeze.
- Once your pizza sauce is thoroughly frozen, you can put 1-cup servings into additional sandwich bags and add them to the freezer bag you already have going.
- Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 475°.
- Take all ingredients out of the freezer and place on work surface.
- Put frozen sauce into a prep bowl and microwave for 2 minutes, pausing to stir and break up semi-thawed chunks after the first minute.
- Meanwhile, unwrap foil and plastic wrap from pizza crust and break up any large chunks of frozen cheese by smashing them against the counter.
- Once sauce is thawed, spread it evenly on frozen crust, avoiding the outside 1/2″ to make it easier to hold while eating. Add the pepperoni, slightly overlapping, until the pizza is covered. Sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan to cover pepperoni.
- Cook pizza until cheese has thoroughly melted and begins to brown in spots (begin checking after 5 minutes).
- Remove pizza from oven and allow it to rest for 3-5 minutes (this is the best way ever to avoid burning the top of your mouth with the first bite).
- Slice and serve (enjoy)!
- You can test how much your own muffin tin holds by filling a liquid measure with exactly 1 cup of water. Pour the water into one spot on your muffin tin until just full. Subtract what’s left in the measuring cup from one, and you’ll know what kind of servings you’ll get out of your muffin tin.
- Frozen pepperoni works ridiculously well on pizza. I actually buy a huge bag of pepperoni at Costco for like $8 and then keep it in the freezer. When we want to make a pizza, we just grab a handful out. Spreading frozen pepperoni does make your hands a little cold, but it lasts so much longer, it’s totally worth it. I don’t like to think about the fact that frozen pepperoni has enough fat to easily peel slices away when things like, say, bacon, stick together when thoroughly frozen. Just eat your pizza.
This recipe is my version of America’s Test Kitchen’s New Best Recipe roasted carrots. They actually call for baby carrots in the recipe (yeah, those already-peeled nubs that you buy in a bag), but since we’re using CSA veggies, I just peeled and sliced some of our fresh-from-the-farm carrots instead!
- 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1″-2″ lengths
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475°. Toss the carrots, oil, and salt in the broiler pan bottom. Spread the carrots in a single layer and roast for 12 minutes. Shake the pan to toss the carrots. Continue roasting, shaking the pan twice more, until the carrots are browned and tender, about 8 minutes longer. Serve immediately.
You would really think, with a recipe this simple, that I could get my act together and get some side dishes on the table, right? You’d think. Maybe it’s because I only have one oven. Maybe that’s it. Maybe if I had two ovens, I could cook multiple things for dinner. Maybe it’s because I have a firm belief that one-dish meals are the only way to go, regardless of whether they have more than one food group in them. I don’t know. Maybe you’ll be reading this blog a year from now and I suddenly will have figured out how to do the whole side-dish thing. Please don’t hold your breath. I wouldn’t want you to turn blue.
I found my inspiration in America’s Test Kitchen’s New Best Recipe, and made a few changes, based on what I had on hand. Here’s the note that they include in the recipe book:
To vary the flavor a bit, try substituting other types of cheese, such as Gruyere, fontina, or feta, for the cheddar. Yukon Gold potatoes, though slightly more moist than our ideal, gave our twice-baked potatoes a buttery flavor and mouthfeel that everyone liked, so we recommend them as a substitution for the russets.
- 4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, dried, and rubbed lightly with vegetable oil
- 4 total ounces sharp white cheddar, swiss, and regular medium cheddar cheeses, shredded (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 3 medium scallions, sliced thin
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- ground black pepper
- Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet until the skin is crisp and deep brown and a skewer easily pierces the flesh, about 1 hour. Setting the baking sheet aside, transfer the potatoes to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
- Using an oven mitt or a folded kitchen towel to handle the hot potatoes, cut each potato in half so that the long, blunt sides rest on a work surface. Using a small spoon, scoop the flesh from each half into a medium bowl, leaving 1/8 to 1/4 inch of the flesh in each shell. Arrange the shells on the lined baking sheet and return them to the oven until dry and slightly crisped, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the potato flesh with a fork until smooth. Stir in the remaining ingredients, including pepper to taste, until well combined.
- Remove the shells from the oven and increase the oven setting to broil. Holding the shells steady on the baking sheet with an oven mitt or towel-protected hand, spoon the mixture into the crisped shells, mounding it slightly at the center, and return the potatoes to the oven. Broil until spotty brown and crisp on top, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm.
Hubby & I have been making hamburgers together for years, so we’ve got it down to a science at this point!
- ½ pound lean ground beef
- 1 slice sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into quarters
- 2 tablespoons milk, or more as needed
- ground black pepper
- finely chopped onion and garlic (optional)
- cheese (cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack; whatever you like)
- Dijon mustard
- thinly sliced onion
- Hamburger buns (our favorites are the onion flavor)
- Optional: avocado, pickles, tomatoes
- Place bread and milk in medium bowl and mash with fork. Let it sit for a few minutes, and mash again, adding milk as necessary until a paste forms. Add hamburger, pepper, and onion/garlic (if using) and mix by hand until thoroughly combined
- Form hamburger mixture into two to four patties and place on Cuisinart Griddler fitted with grill plates. (If you don’t have this awesome accessory, you can also fry the patties in a large frying pan over medium heat, flipping halfway through cooking.)
- Add cheese just before patties finish cooking, and prop top of Griddler up so that it is not touching the cheese (alternate method: add cheese after you’ve flipped the patties, and cover frying pan with lid to melt the cheese).
- Meanwhile, spread mustard on the bottom half of each bun. When patties are finished, place one patty on each bun and top with onion slices, sprouts, and any other toppings you wish.
Hubby has put up reasonably well with the mostly vegetarian diet we’ve been on recently. He does see how much cheaper it is to not buy meat, but he is not sold on the concept of vegetarianism. (For that matter, I’m not actually sold on it; I just would rather have our food budget last for an entire week than only make 2 meals with it). We’re splurging a bit this week (and last), to reward ourselves for not getting drive-through when we’ve craved it. We’re trying to adjust our lifestyle even more towards the “eat at home” model, and making sure that we’re still addressing our cravings and serving our favorite foods goes a long way towards that goal!
We love these burgers. They’re always moist (from the panade) and flavorful (from the onion & garlic inside the patties). They have a juiciness that you just don’t find with most fast-food options, and they end up being cheaper for all the ingredients than it is to go to the drive-through once. Not to mention the fact that we have some idea what goes into the burgers we make at home!
Although this is where I usually list my “inspiration,” this meal was one of our traditional meals from America’s Test Kitchen, adapted to the ingredients we had on hand (mostly including leftovers). I really enjoyed it, so I hope you give it a try!
- 1 acorn squash
- olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled & put through a garlic press (divided)
- 3 shallots, minced (divided)
- approximately 4 cups whole peeled tomatoes canned in their own juice (see notes)
- chopped fresh basil to taste
- approximately 4 ounces lean ground beef
- 1 slice sandwich bread, crusts removed (we used whole wheat and flax because it’s what we had on hand, but I usually use a high-quality sandwich bread or a couple of slices from a french loaf if I’m making garlic bread with the meal).
- shredded parmesan cheese
- dried spaghetti
- Preheat oven to 350°. Slice squash in half and remove seeds. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil into each half of the squash and spread oil over the entire squash (both skin and flesh sides) with your hands. Bake squash on parchment-lined cookie sheet until tender. The squash is done when a fork or skewer slides into the flesh with minimal resistance. (Can be baked up to two days ahead and stored, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator).
- Meanwhile, rip bread into approximately 4 pieces and place in small mixing bowl with a splash of milk. With a dinner fork, mash the bread until it forms a paste with the milk. You can add more milk as needed until you get a smushy consistency. Add half the garlic and shallots along with all of the beef to the bread mixture and mix with hands to combine.
- Form smallish (1″ diameter) meatballs and place on an additional cookie sheet. Bake meatballs in the same oven as the squash until browned and sizzling. Since these are made with a panade (the bread/milk combo), it’s really hard to overcook them, so don’t be afraid to give them a little longer than you normally would. They’ll also be reheated in the sauce, so it’s pretty difficult to under-cook them.
- Puree the canned tomatoes in a food processor until smooth.
- Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a large fry pan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, approximately 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until just fragrant, 30 seconds or so. Add pureed tomatoes and heat through.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Add basil to the tomato mixture and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Once the squash has finished cooking, scoop the flesh directly into the tomato sauce. If you are cooking the entire recipe in one night, use caution while handling the hot squash. Add Parmesan cheese to taste.
- Add meatballs to the sauce and heat through.
- Cook spaghetti according to package directions and serve topped with sauce. You can top with additional Parmesan if you desire.
- We only used whole canned tomatoes and pureed them because we had leftovers from another recipe. I would normally make this recipe with either canned diced or crushed tomatoes, and skip step 4.
We love spaghetti and meatballs, and we got our original meatball recipe from America’s Test Kitchen New Best Recipe. These meatballs are not quite as tasty as theirs, but since we had so many parts going on with this meal already, we skipped the step where you brown the meatballs in oil. I can only handle so many dirty pots & pans from one meal!
The sauce ended up really flavorful and thick because of the squash. Although there was not any specifically squash flavor that I could tell (which sort of disappointed me, because I do like my squash), there was a heartiness and an oranginess that I liked. I think this would be a really good recipe for someone to try that has squash to use but is either sick of the flavor or isn’t sure they like squash. I had originally baked the squash a few days before, to use in a different recipe that I never got around to, so using the one we had this way seemed like a good idea.
All-in-all, this was a delicious rendition of one of our standbys and we’d likely try it again under similar circumstances. In the future, I do however want to experiment with other pasta & squash recipes that really highlight the squash flavor.
Hubby & I went to our friends’ house Christmas Evening and brought the makings for the decadent hot chocolate recipe I found in the The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. Since the cookbook is 3-ring binder style, I took the hot chocolate page out in preparation to bring it with me, but I apparently set it down as I picked up the grocery bag. So I knew the ingredients, and I’d glanced at the recipe. Rather than walking 4 blocks back home to retrieve the recipe, I just went for it. Here’s what I did:
- 3 cups whole milk
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoons Hershey’s Dutch-processed/dark chocolate powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup chocolate chips
- more cream, sugar & vanilla for whipped cream
- Irish Cream
- Combine milk, cream, chocolate powder, sugar, & vanilla in a saucepan and heat to boiling on the stove top
- After the milk mixture is hot, remove from heat & stir in chocolate chips. Whisk until melted.
- Meanwhile, have one of your friends that you’re hanging out with whip some of the cream for topping. After the cream forms soft peaks, add sugar and vanilla to taste.
- Spoon the hot chocolate into individual mugs and add Irish Cream to your hearts’ content. Stir and top with whipped cream. Enjoy!
In the original recipe, the vanilla was added off heat along with the chocolate chips and there was more chocolate powder (2 tablespoons instead of 1). I’m not sure how much difference it might have made, but I will say that our cocoa was delicious. It’s definitely a special treat (whole milk and heavy cream = rich cocoa!). I think I’ll be adding this hot chocolate recipe to my traditional holiday list. Now I just need to get some Sweet Demitasse Cups and Saucers to serve this in so we don’t all get coronaries!
So far, I make this recipe exactly as I found it at Epicurious, but I’ll update here if I come up with any significant changes. For me, it just tastes exactly like Broccoli Cheddar soup should, but made with decent ingredients I have in my home.
- 1 small head broccoli (½ pound)
- 1 large boiling potato (½ pound)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 6 oz sharp Cheddar, coarsely grated (1½ cups)
- Discard tough lower third of broccoli stem. Peel remaining stem and finely chop. Cut remaining broccoli into very small (1-inch) florets. Cook florets in a large pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking, then drain. Reserve 3 cups cooking water for chowder.
- Peel potato and cut into ½-inch cubes. Cook potato, onion, bell pepper, broccoli stems, and garlic in butter in a 3- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add cumin, salt, pepper, and mustard and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add reserved cooking water and simmer (partially covered), stirring occasionally, until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in cream and cheese and cook, stirring, until cheese is melted, then season with salt and pepper.
- Purée about 2 cups of chowder in a food processor or blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids) and return to pot. Add florets and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 2 minutes.
Delightful. Hubby said that it was good broccoli cheddar soup, we didn’t have a lump of cheese in the bottom of the pot (like we found in some recipes I could mention), and it was everything I like in a winter soup: filling, thick, and full of fattening things like butter and cheese and cream! For the dairy, I used an Australian cheese that I found at the local discount grocery store (where I was looking for inexpensive, interesting Christmas presents). It was a lovely meal, and I’m adding it to our list of recipes to repeat. Shockingly, I didn’t change a thing from the recipe as written. I may try to add a bit of spice next time, but I thoroughly enjoyed it this way.
I found the original Winter Squash Mash Recipe at Epicurious, and made a few tweaks as I was cooking. I love winter squash, and I’m always happy to have another preparation for it!
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- One 2¾- to 3-pound kabocha squash, halved crosswise, seeded
- 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick spray. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil inside each kabocha squash half and brush to coat. Place squash halves, cut side down, on prepared baking sheet. Roast until squash is very tender when pierced with knife, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Scoop out squash flesh into bowl and mash until almost smooth.
- Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and stir 5 minutes or until the garlic begins to caramelize. Smoosh the garlic cloves with your spatula and break it up into relatively small pieces. Add butter mixture to squash and mash until smooth. Season generously with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Add more broth if desired and rewarm in microwave before continuing.)
This meal was actually scheduled for Friday night. I arrived home Friday to find a take-and-bake pizza sitting on the counter, and roasted squash sitting on the stove top. Hubby had followed the directions faithfully until it was time to take the squash out of the oven. Then he thought that he’d messed something up, because the squash was collapsed on the cookie sheet. He’d only seen the photos of ½ squashes still firmly keeping their shapes, so he was sure it was ruined. Since the pizza was ready to go, we went ahead and ate that for dinner on Friday. But the squash was fine, so we scraped it into a storage container to wait for another day, which ended up being Sunday.
After the trauma on Saturday, I wasn’t up to cleaning the kitchen this weekend. What with the busy schedule we had this week, everything was pretty much dirty, which is why I didn’t mince or press the garlic cloves. Yes, I am admitting on the internets that my kitchen was dirty enough that I didn’t have any clean utensils capable of mincing garlic. And I still cooked in it. That’s how I am (sometimes). So I figured the mincing was really just to get the garlic into edible pieces, and cooking it to the smashing point and spreading it out would probably work fine.
I really liked the taste of the kabocha even before the butter and garlic were added – it is probably my favorite of all the winter squashes we’ve tried. The CSA folks are planning a bulk sale, and here’s hoping there’s a kabocha option! At any rate, I enjoyed my modified version of this recipe, and I can see how it might need the broth if you started with a less-moist squash, but I would recommend adding it slowly, bit by bit, and testing for texture along the way. You wouldn’t want to end up with a winter squash puddle instead of a winter squash mash, after all!
I never ate cooked greens when I was growing up. My mother didn’t like them, so I never got exposed to them. Until I was a vegetarian, visiting a boyfriend who was attending law school at NYU. I dated him for two years of his law school career, and visited every chance I got. He made it a point to take me to each of the 4-star restaurants that were then housed in New York, and I presented my vegetarian requirements at each. I found a new love for sautéed mushrooms, creamed spinach, and even some forms of polenta during this time, and will always be glad that 4-star chefs are willing to create a meal for picky 20-somethings!
Anyway, I was looking at the bag of mixed greens that came in this week’s share and thought, I wonder what it would be like to make creamed spinach-and-mustard-greens-and-whatever-else-might-be-in-there? So I thought we’d give it a try tonight, based roughly on this recipe at Epicurious.
- 2 lb baby spinach and other braising greens
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2/3 cup heavy cream
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- dash freshly grated nutmeg
- Cook spinach/greens in 2 batches in 1 inch of boiling salted water in a large soup pot, stirring constantly, until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water until cool. Squeeze small handfuls of spinach greens to remove as much moisture as possible, then coarsely chop.
- Heat milk and cream in a small saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until warm. Meanwhile, cook onion in butter in a 2½-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Whisk in flour and cook roux, whisking, 3 minutes. Add warm milk mixture in a fast stream, whisking constantly to prevent lumps, and simmer, whisking, until thickened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in nutmeg, spinach greens, and salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring, until heated through.
Cook’s note: Creamed spinach can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Reheat over moderately low heat until hot.
Creamed greens are delicious. My father commented that he probably would have put about 3 cloves of garlic in them, and my friend let him know that there were like 6 cloves in there. I didn’t adjust my measurements quite accurately, so the cream mixture was pretty thick, but I love it that way, so I wasn’t worried, and it got good reviews from all my tasters.