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Perfect pizza

Maybe one of these days we will convince Trader Joe’s to advertise here, because I’m about to pimp them again. Seriously, even though it’s a good 20 minute drive from our house, we do most of our grocery shopping there. Their prices are great, they have cool and unique products and they get you in and out (plenty of cashiers and baggers) quickly. Some of their items that we go out of our way for from Trader Joe’s are the Greek yogurt (thick and tasty), whole grain bread with no additives or junk, and my personal favorite–pizza dough. Now, they have whole wheat dough, and an herb dough. But there is nothing quite like the plain white one. And if you, like me, have ever gone on a wild goose chase for a ball of pizza dough, you might bookmark this thought–the one that says Trader Joe’s has amazing pizza dough.

Anyway, if you do grab a ball (heh heh, he said grab a ball…I digress), here is how I make perfect pizza every time……preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Wipe a work surface clean, and then spread it with some white flour. Place the dough down and turn it over a few times to coat with flour, and flour a rolling pin. Roll the dough, adding more flour to prevent sticking to rolling pin and surface (this also makes the dough more elastic). Do this as far as you can in every direction to wind up with a round, thin crust. Grab a pizza pan and place dough on it. I like to use a 14 inch pan, rolling up the ends to make them thick.

Grab a can of pizza sauce (or use spaghetti sauce), and pour a small amount on the dough. Spread it with a spoon, adding more as needed to cover the dough, but not necessarily cover it all the way…there should be red swirls all the way around, with plenty of white space too, if that makes sense. For the cheese, I like to grab some shredded mozzarella and put that in a bowl. Then I shred some sharp cheddar and add that to the mozzarella, then add some grated Parmesan to that. The ratio should be something like 60-30-10. Spread that around the pie, but like with the sauce, don’t over-do the cheese (unless you like it that way). Finally, sprinkle with a dash of dried oregano.

Place the pie in the oven, and bake, rotating clockwise every 4-5 minutes to bake it evenly, a total of about 12-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly, turning brown but not too brown. Remove, slice with a pizza cutter and enjoy. I know it’s perfect when I hear that “thwap!” as I’m cutting it, meaning my dough is thin and beautifully crispy. Man, I’m hungry! Anyway, enjoy and let me know if you have a chance to try this out.

  

Product review: Schwan’s mini meatball sandwiches and mini mozzarella bites

You’ve probably seen those yellow delivery trucks that are essentially refrigerators on wheels. These vehicles carry Schwan’s Foods. What you may not know is that you can order these products online now to be delivered to your door, but not necessarily by yellow refrigerator truck.

Anyway, I have never tried anything that Schwan’s made but I have heard that their food is mighty tasty, something you can’t always say about frozen foods. So I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was pitched two new products from Schwan’s–mini meatball sandwiches and mini mozzarella bites–as the company tries to appeal to the football watching public. So I popped them in the oven (the meatball sandwiches require about twice the time so I put those in first) and ate them–you guessed it–on Sunday while watching football.

Chef JimThe mini meatball sandwiches are kind of like mini Hot Pockets, but with one difference (no offense to the folks who make the aforementioned pockets)–they taste really good. The crust is actually nice and flaky, despite being a frozen product, and still house a good amount of whole grains without being grainy tasting. The meatballs do not taste like mystery meat, and don’t even have a weird texture as some frozen meatballs do. The only thing I would have liked more of is the tomato sauce, but this can be easily rectified by nuking some spaghetti or pizza sauce and dipping the sandwiches.

Chef JimIn fact, you might want to nuke extra sauce to go along with the mozzarella bites. For some reason, I was expecting breaded cheese sticks, but these were more like tiny pillows of dough with mozzarella cheese inside. Just like the sandwiches, the crust was nice and flaky and these were nice little bites. These have no sauce–it’s basically dough and cheese, but still delicious and perfect dipping into warmed pizza sauce.

  

Spaghetti sauce 101

For you guys that have never made homemade spaghetti sauce, here is my version that is so easy, a monkey could do it. And it’s real. I’m not talking open a few jars easy. Go ahead, give it a try….it’s the weekend and it’s cold outside in most places……

Here is what you’ll need:

¼ cup olive oil
2 32 oz. Cans crushed tomatoes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
1 small onion
2-3 garlic cloves or 1-2 teaspoons jarred garlic
2 tsp. Sugar
2 tsp Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil and parsley

You’ll need a giant pot, like a soup pot. Heat the oil over medium heat for a minute or two, and while that’s warming, peel the brown skin off the onion and throw it in the oil, whole. Push that around with a wooden spoon until it sizzles, and let it sizzle for a few minutes. If using garlic cloves, peel them and smash with the back of a large spoon or dull knife—but trust me, the jarred stuff is easier to use and just as good. Throw the garlic in the pot and let it brown, which takes about 30 seconds. Then add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Stir until the paste thins out into the sauce.

Then add the sugar, Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste. I like a lot of salt, a tablespoon or so, but that’s me. If you have high blood pressure, that’s not such a good idea. Then lower the heat, cover, and let that simmer for 2-3 hours. Just before serving it, chop a little fresh basil and fresh parsley and throw it in. That’s it.

Then just boil some spaghetti and you’ve just made homemade spaghetti sauce, just like Mom or Grandma used to. For an added touch, Purdue makes these really great, low-fat pre-cooked turkey meatballs. You can either warm them separately or throw them in the sauce for 10 minutes. Add a salad and maybe some store bought garlic bread or plain Italian bread and you’ve got a complete meal that will not only impress your wife, girlfriend or date, it should also impress yourself.

  

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