Smoky Grilled Pizza

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Now that we’re really into summer, we’ve begun our annual grilling extravaganza!  Jeb has always loved to grill, but I only started last summer (I’ll admit, I was a little intimidated).  We’re pretty good at the traditional grilled meats, but I’ve always wanted to try grilled pizza – and, believe me, it is DEFINITELY worth a try.  Since it makes four pizzas (around 9-10 inches each), this is a perfect recipe for casual entertaining.  We made ours on the charcoal grill, but it would also work fine on a gas grill.

The crust takes about two hours to rise, but that allows plenty of time for prep work… and a glass of wine.  Because the crust will be grilled, it is different than most other pizza crusts (more water and more salt).  This adaptation calls for the use of a smoke packet during cooking – it is definitely worth the time/effort and gives the pizza a great flavor!  See the bottom of the post for in-process photos.  🙂

Smoky Grilled Pizza
(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

Ingredients:

Crust:
1 cup water, room temperature
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1.75-2 cups all purpose flour
1-2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
1.25 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon rapid-rise yeast

Sauce:
1- 28oz. can of diced tomatoes (with Italian seasoning if desired)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)

Spicy Garlic Oil:
1/3 cup Olive Oil
6 cloves garlic
Red pepper flakes

Cheese:
2 cups whole milk mozzarella
1/2 cup parmesan or romano cheese

How to make it:

Make the crust:

  1. Combine the water and olive oil in a liquid measuring cup.
  2. Pulse 1.75 cups of flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in the food processor until combined.
  3. With food processor running, slowly add water/oil mixture to the flour and process until dough forms into a soft ball (about 1.5-2 minutes).
  4. If the dough is still not formed into a ball, add flour 1-2 TBS at a time and process briefly until soft ball forms.
  5. Transfer dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap (also lightly greased).  Let rise for 1.5-2 hours, or until doubled in size.

 

Make the Spicy Garlic Oil:

  1. Combine oil and garlic in a small skillet.
  2. Heat over medium heat until oil just starts to sizzle.
  3. Add red pepper flakes to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp).
  4. Cook for an additional 30 seconds (do not let the garlic toast).
  5. Allow to cool and transfer to a small bowl.

 

Make the sauce:

  1. Put diced tomatoes in food processor and pulse until coarsely crushed.
  2. Pour into fine mesh strainer (over a bowl) and allow to drain for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Pour drained tomatoes into a bowl, and mix with sugar and salt.

 

Mix the cheese:

  1. Mix the cheese together and put aside.

 

Putting it all together:

  1. Soak a handful of wood chips in a bowl (submerged) for at least 15 minutes.  Use a sheet of aluminum foil to make a small packet and place the soaked wood chips inside.  Use a knife to poke a few holes in the top (only) of the packet.
  2. When dough has doubled in size, transfer it to a clean surface and divide into 4 equal sections.  Roll each section into a tight ball, place on well-floured counter, slightly flatten each ball (with palm of the hand), and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Use a chimney to heat the coals.  When they are hot, spread them across the bottom of the charcoal grill.  Place foil packet over the coals (in the corner) and replace grate.  Open the vent in the grill, and allow grill to heat for at least 5 minutes.
  4. Clean and oil grill grate.  Make sure all toppings are ready – once you start grilling, everything goes very quickly.
  5. Roll each disk of dough to 1/8-inch thickness and place on a plate or cookie sheet.
  6. Flip dough onto hot grill and allow to cook, uncovered, until bottom is nicely browned and top is bubbly – about 2-4 minutes.
  7. Repeat with remaining dough balls.  I usually cook two at a time.
  8. Brush the cooked side of each crust with the spicy garlic oil, then top with cheese and then sauce.  You can put the cheese on top if you prefer, but the pizza holds together better (and has a better flavor) when the cheese is directly on the crust.
  9. Drizzle a bit of garlic oil on top of the sauce.
  10. Return the pizzas to the grill and cook, covered, until cheese is melted and bottom of the crust is golden brown.  You may need to do this in stages.
  11. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

 

I hope you give this recipe a try – and I know you will love it!  The crust is just the right texture, and the balance of flavors is spot-on.  Jeb says this pizza is what Bertucci’s pizza always tries to be!  Let me know what you think!

Put the foil smoke packet toward the back of the grill - the temp over it is much lower so you don't want it under your cooking surface.

Put the foil smoke packet toward the back of the grill – the temp over it is much lower so you don’t want it under your cooking surface.

These crusts are about ready to come off the grill.

These crusts are about ready to come off the grill.

All topped, and ready to finish cooking.

All topped, and ready to finish cooking.

 

Jeb loves to grill! :)

Jeb loves to grill! 🙂

 

 

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I Quit Weight Watchers

I haven’t really talked much about my specific diet strategies on here much.  Normally, I try to eat appropriate amounts of healthy foods.  That has resulted in some nice body recomposition, and consistent progress.  But, when I got hurt last summer, I needed something more structured to help me maintain my weight (or even lose some) while I was unable to exercise.  I wasn’t (and, frankly, still am not) able to just intuitively eat to maintain my weight.  I wasn’t really sure how to figure out my expenditure and make a good plan, so I decided to join Weight Watchers.  I had heard good things, and I really wanted someone to tell me just how to do things.

It worked too, while I wasn’t exercising.  Once I started exercising, though, it was very difficult to follow their points system and see results.  I think it overestimated my activity when I tracked it (sometimes a run might count for 30 points – which is more than some people eat in a whole day) and then I tended to be more lax with my diet – since I had the points.  Or, if I ignored the activity points that I earned, I found that I felt completely depleted and underfed.  My recovery started to suffer.  It just wasn’t working.

My other issue was that it focused so much more on QUANTITY rather than QUALITY.  I think they try to get people to focus on healthy choices, but I don’t know that having that much freedom of choice is good for me in a deficit.  I tended to gravitate toward a cookie rather than a granola bar or greek yogurt if they were the same amount of points.  I have a way to go in resolving all my food issues, and I think I make better choices overall if I am focusing more on eating good, healthy foods to fuel my body, rather than just focusing on staying below a target.

So, I decided to quit.  A part of me felt like I was giving up, but I am getting back to basics with my diet.  I’m re-embracing all the strategies that I used before (with success).  I shouldn’t have let so many of them go – I don’t feel as healthy as I used to, even though I am at a smaller weight.  I went to the grocery store today, and re-stocked on all my old staples, and am ready to hit it hard tomorrow.

Must.Stop.Grazing

Seriously.  I have been eating healthy meals (mostly), and have been super-consistent with my workouts.  I was starting to get really frustrated that I haven’t been dropping weight like crazy.  The rationalizations were out of control – building muscle (in a deficit??), retaining water, etc.

Then, I took a hard look at my diet.  I realized that I have been grazing… and not just a little bit.  I’m talking antelope-in-the-grasslands levels of grazing (i.e. ALL day long).  I’ve had a lot of homework and, oftentimes, only take breaks to refill my water glass.  What I realized, though, was that I have developed a tendency to also grab a handful of some kind of food while in the kitchen.

This is not good.  It is time to re-frame my actions and focus.  I try really hard not to get overly crazy and obsessive about food.  For me, it creates a pretty nasty cycle of binge eating and negative self-talk anytime I start become very restrictive.  I find moderation is very important for me, even more when I am busy or stressed.  However, having a more moderate approach to food can also slip into complete diet complacency…which leads to NO weight loss.

So, for now, back to basics.  If I eat something, I will first measure out a portion and track the food.  I will have to be more mindful.  But, I can do this.  I’ve done it before.  I just have to get back on track.  After all, I have a goal race coming up!

So, apparently Panera has a HIDDEN menu…

I just heard – Panera has healthier, low-calorie menu options!  From what I can tell, there are options that are gluten-free, dairy-free, etc.   Oh, but they are on a secret menu…

For the new year, Panera started serving a “hidden menu” that has lower calorie paleo-ish items.  This is great… in theory.  Panera’s made-to-order business model certainly allows for enough customization of the menu for just about anyone to stick to their chosen diet.  However, so many of their soups and sandwiches are sneakily caloric.  Even the salads have piles of nuts and cheese, which certainly pack on the calories (they are calorie-dense, even if they ARE delicious and have some nutritional value).  I was pretty excited to learn that they are now offering these newer items – things like a Mediterranean Chicken (or turkey) Salad, Chicken Hummus Bowl, or Steak Lettuce Wraps.  Nice.

Here’s my problem with this – WHY is it a hidden menu?  At this time of year, when everyone is thinking about healthier lifestyles (whether a New Year’s Resolution or just getting back on track after the holidays), they could probably draw in a lot of business with these options.  Plus, without advertising the menu, people might not hear about it, and it won’t be profitable.  If it isn’t profitable, it won’t last.  This is sad – there aren’t many quick, healthy options out there, and I think people would embrace these items if they were on the regular menu.

So, if you want to try it (and you are in the U.S.), you have to tell the cashier that you are ordering from the hidden menu… and try not to feel silly doing so!  Next time I go to Panera, I plan to give it a whirl.  If anything, I will be voting with my wallet.

Isn’t the whole thing kind of strange, though?  Why develop a new menu concept, but then not do everything possible to make it succeed?

Red Lentil Soup

lentil soup

I love soups this time of year.  Not only are they a great way to get some veggies, but they are so warm and filling.  This recipe, which I first made after a long run, is everything that is good about soup!  It is hearty and creamy – and the red lentils give it some heft without the addition of actual cream (or other dairy).  Like most soup, it doesn’t photograph well (seriously, doesn’t it look gloppy??), but it tastes amazing.  The addition of cumin and chili flakes lend just a bit of heat, and the sweet potatoes give it just a bit of chew.

This makes a large batch, and was just what I needed after a long run on a chilly day.  It only takes about 20-30 minutes of actual prep time, so can even be a weeknight meal (if you have time for it to simmer).

Red Lentil Soup
adapted from The Chew

Ingredients:

Olive Oil (for bottom of pan)
1 large onion
7 large carrots (or a couple handfuls of baby carrots), sliced
2 celery ribs (chopped)
4-6 garlic gloves, minced (we love garlic, and actually used 8 cloves)
2 cups of red lentils (rinsed)
2 teaspoons of ground Cumin
1 teaspoon of ground Coriander
1 teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes
1 teaspoon of Turmeric
6-8 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (depending on how wet you like it – you could also use vegetable broth)
1 sweet potato, diced
1 bunch of kale, chopped with thin stems removed

How to make it:

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven, and add onion.  Cook until onion is soft.
  2. Add carrots and celery, and cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add garlic, and cook for one minute.
  3. Stir in the rinsed red lentils.  Cook for a couple minutes, until the lentils are well-coated with oil and slightly toasted.
  4. Add cumin, coriander, red pepper flakes, and turmeric, and continue to toast until spices are fragrant.
  5. Add the stock, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  6. Add the sweet potato and kale, and cook for about 10-15 minutes (or until sweet potato is cooked through).
  7. Adjust seasoning to taste, and serve.

 

Awesome Pumpkin Pancakes

So good... especially with a little bit of melted butter.

So good… especially with a little bit of melted butter.

You have to try these pancakes!  Jenna, from Eat, Live, Run has been blogging over at PBS lately, and recently included this recipe for Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes.  Since I discovered this recipe, I’ve made it twice!  These pancakes are a great quick meal with a high satisfaction factor (without a ton of guilt).  The pumpkin adds a bit of fiber and vitamins.  Aside from the chocolate, there is no added sugar (that’s a good thing!), but they are still SO tasty.    I prefer mine with a bit of melted butter.  You could add maple syrup, of course, but they are just fine on their own!

A single recipe makes 4 decent sized pancakes (2 of them fill me up!).  These also reheat well, so I think it is worth it to double the recipe and avoid having leftover pumpkin!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Pancakes
slightly adapted from Eat, Live, Run

Ingredients:

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (1/2 teaspoon if grated)
1/2 teaspoon (heaping) ground ginger (I just love ginger!)
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter (melted)
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
1/4 to 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

 
How to Make Them:

  1. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together milk, egg, melted butter, pumpkin puree, and chocolate chips.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients until barely combined.  Do not overmix!!!
  5. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes.  When it is almost ready, add a little bit of butter to coat the bottom of the pan.  Wait for it to melt.
  6. Scoop pancakes into skillet (I like to use a 1/3 cup measuring cup to keep them roughly the same size).
  7. Cook for about 4 minutes/side, or until done.

 

Note:  You can keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven while you finish cooking the rest of the batch.  Simply preheat your oven to 200º F while you are mixing the batter together, and then turn it off.  As you finish cooking the pancakes, put them on an oven safe plate, cookie sheet, or cooling rack inside the oven until you are ready to serve.

I hope you give these a try – this recipe is definitely a keeper.  In fact, I might make it again for dinner again tonight!

 

P.S.  Pancakes, whether something like this, traditional pancakes, or protein pancakes, are REALLY easy to portion out if you are trying to count/track/measure calories or points.  I like this recipe because it is filling, has a reasonable amount of points (especially if you stick to the lower end of measurement for the chocolate chips), and doesn’t feel like “diet food.”

Healthy Creamed Spinach (with Kale)

I mentioned this in another post already, but I wanted to make sure to highlight this recipe – it is delicious.  I found it last year, and it has been an off-and-on staple every since (I tend to cycle through recipes).  Plus, unlike other healthy re-makes, this recipe has ingredients that are easy to find, inexpensive, and really tasty – while cutting out the junk!

I usually double this recipe for the two of us, and include some kale if I have it on hand.  If you’re not big on kale, this is a good way to eat it – you barely notice the bitterness, but benefit from all the nutrients!  You can use less garlic if you want, but we kind of love it so we use a little extra!

Creamed Spinach with Kale
adapted from Ask Georgie

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon butter (or oil of your choice – I’ve also used coconut oil)
2-3 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tablespoons of milk (I use 1%)
1 wedge Laughing Cow cheese, Original Swiss
2 big handfuls of Spinach, chopped with large stems removed
1 big handful of Kale, chopped with large stems removed

How to Make it:

  1. Melt the butter (or oil) in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic, and cook until fragrant and just slightly browned.
  3. Add milk and cheese wedge, and stir until cheese is melted.
  4. Add the kale and spinach, and allow to cook in the sauce until wilted (stirring occasionally).
  5. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, for a few more minutes, or until sauce begins to thicken.
  6. Remove from heat and allow the sauce to thicken just a bit more before serving.

Give this a try.  Jeb isn’t crazy about the taste of vegetables, but whenever I make this, he devours it!

Oh, and there’s no picture – we always eat it all before I remember to take one!