Pizza Sandwich

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Hi.  My name is Jenny and I enjoy food that tastes good in a hurry.

I was blessed with a Cuisnart Panini maker for Mother’s Day and I’ve been using it like crazy for the past few weeks.  Having such a fancy new tool in my arsenal of kitchen stuff  make’s me feel almost illegally happy.

…but that doesn’t take much!

I can’t say I invented this pizza sandwich, but I’m proud to brag that it came to me in a moment of “Oh Crap, what is my 2 year old going to eat for dinner.”  Running out of nuggets was a blessing in disguise…now these sandwiches are requested more than anything else (“Pizza Sandwich, Mom! Pweeeeeees!!”).

Disclaimer: This is not fancy.  This is not special.  This is only super yummy and easy.  I make them for myself frequently.

This sandwich takes only about 8 minutes to make

  • While your panini grill is firing up, get out 2 pieces of bread, mozzarella (shredded or otherwise) and some pizza or marinara sauce.
  • Sauce both faces of the bread liberally.
  • Add a pile of cheese (and any toppings)
  • Assemble sandwich and place in panini maker.
  • Cook for 4-6 minutes (until cheese is melted and starting to ooze out).
  • Eat….and realize how freaking awesome 3 little ingredients can be!  For the visual learners, here’s a photo tutorial.  Scroll to the bottom for a few tips!

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Tips on making the perfect pizza sandwich:

1) DO NOT butter the outsides of the bread (one of the very few things in life that butter does not improve).  It took me many paninis to realize the sogginess was a result of buttering the bread.  Lightly dust the panini plates with some cooking spray, if desired.

2) Use bakery fresh bread.  Makes all the difference.

3) A sprinkle of Italian seasonings on the cheese tastes great.

4) If making for kids, this is a great one to sneak a few spinach leaves into.  They’ll never know!

5)Let your panini get screaming hot first.  Otherwise the bread won’t have that crunch.

What are the tried-and-trusted sandwiches in your home??

 

Simply Delicious Pizza Crust

Growing up, my family had a weekly Pizza Night.  I’m pretty sure most families do this on some level…or at least most families in our neck of the woods (but, then again, we also tell jokes at Halloween instead of just saying “Trick or Treat”…midwesterners are special).  We used to sit around a big, colorful blanket that my mom would lay out on the family room floor, gorge ourselves on take out pizza, drink our milk and relish in the entertainment value of TGIF television.  An indoor picnic party every Friday night. *Sigh* Those were some fun times.  I love my siblings.

But I digress!  I was prompted to start our own Pizza Night a while ago when JJ began taking night classes, mandating an easy couch-worthy meal for the two of us.  And, being that the nearest pizza place is 15 minutes away, and is a Pizza Hut – which has become rather gross lately – I’ve been working hard on my homemade pizza making skills.  They are getting pretty good (I brag).

I’ve always followed the recipe for Valentino’s Pizza Crust.  It’s easy and almost completely fail proof.  But, it’s a little bland if you follow it strictly.  So, I’ve adapted it slightly and found a few tricks that make it extra ‘real nice’, as I like to say.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 1 packet)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 tablespoon pizza seasonings
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Begin by adding the yeast and sugar to the warm water.  Let it set up for 5-10 minutes – until it begins to get foamy.

Once things are moving and grooving, add the olive oil, pizza seasonings and garlic salt.  I use Presti’s Spicy Pizza Seasoing.  No idea what’s in there, but it’s yummy…and not spicy at all.

Give that mixture a brief stir, then mix in the flour.  If it seems too sticky, add a little more flour.  It should be slightly sticky, but not difficult to manage.  Knead it for a few minutes, just to get the ingredients mixed.

The original recipe says it only needs 10 minutes to rise.  I’ve found that letting it have anywhere from 1-4 hours is best.  Good things take time…but this recipe is totally rush-able if you’ve only got 10 minutes to wait.

Once you’re ready to cook, simply roll out the pizza (no need to be perfectly round, unless you are biased against crazy shaped pizzas), add your topings and bake for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees.   2 important tips here that really improve your ‘za:

1. Use cornmeal instead of flour to roll out the pizza.

2. Always bake on a pizza stone that has been thoroughly preheated (otherwise your crust will stick and not become crunchy).

Now the only hard part is deciding what toppings you want to throw on your pie.  Decisions, decisions…

Cast Iron Skillet Pizza

Wednesdays are pizza nights in our household.  JJ has class until 9:30, so designating it at an official pizza night makes supper easy and gives me a reason to perfect my pizza making skills.  Most importantly, it gives me a reason to eat pizza once a week. 🙂 We don’t live too far from town, but JJ and I are picky pizza eaters and have found that, usually, the cost of delivery/take-out pizza is rarely worth the price or the drive (Iowa is not known for its pizza places..but we have great pork!).

I’ve been making pizzas on my pizza stone, which usually gets me great results.  However, JJ and I have really been craving a Chicago Style pizza lately, so I decided to try my hand at one, using my new cast iron skillet (cooking in that pan is like giving any meal the Midas Touch…turns an ordinary recipe to gold!).  Evan was being fussy, so I didn’t take the time to photograph my way through this trial run, but here is the beautiful result.

I have to say…it was pretty good!  I followed parts of this recipe specifically for a cast iron skillet pizza (click on link). If you have the time and are really craving a deep dish pizza, it’s worth it.  The pizza cooked evenly in my 12 inch skillet and it had great flavor.  The cheese was gooey and melty (yup, I used a whole package of sliced mozzarella and a little extra shredded cheese…we love cheese) and the crust held together very nicely.  I think I’m going to eat a slice of the leftovers while I type the rest of this…excuse my saucy fingers!

One of the things I love about pizza making is that, other than the crust, you really can’t go wrong with ingredients.  I made this pizza with just cheese and pepperoni, but there was plenty of room in this crust for more!  Here are a few tips, based on the recipe I followed, that might help if you decide to take on this venture (again, totally worth it!).

  • I followed a different crust recipe that I use on a regular basis (Valentino Pizza Crust).  It worked fine for this chicago pizza and was easier to make than the original recipe called for.
  • Add a few tablespoons of pre-mixed pizza seasonings into the dough.  This really adds to the general flavor.  Garlic salt is nice, too.
  • Before spreading the dough into the skillet, sprinkle corn meal on the bottom.  This makes the pizza come out very easily…I lifted our whole pizza out of the skillet with two spatulas, which made cutting and serving much easier.
  • Use sliced mozzarella and fill in the “gaps” with shredded.  It melts much more evenly.
  • If using an oven with an electric element (like mine), put the pizza on the second to bottom rack.  After letting the oven heat to 500 degrees, I followed the instructions to turn down the temperature to 400 degrees, however I only cooked it for about 25 minutes.  This was still about 3-5 minutes too long as the crust was slightly crunchier than I would have like it.

I intend to try this recipe again in a few weeks, cooking it for less time and jazzing up my seasonings.  Also, on a side note, you’ll notice that the link to the pizza crust I used is from www.allrecipes.com. I love that site.  From the serving calculator (does the math for you if you want to increase or decrease the amount of what you’re cooking) to the nutritional information, I have found many useful tools there.  Plus the reviews people leave are incredibly helpful…it’s like a cooking class every time I research recipes on that site!