A Photographic Guide to Delicious Pizza

Because we’ve already posted about pizza on more than one occasion on this blog (Pizza Worthy of a Blog Post and Girls Night Pizza), I’ve decided to do something a little different this time. The following photo collages are a photographic guide to delicious pizza, from homemade pizza dough to fresh, cheesy dinner.

Pizza dough and toppings

Pizza prep and baking

Girls Night Pizza

If I’ve learned anything about life during my six years in grad school, it is the importance of balancing work, school, and life. I always look forward to girls night. A few weeks ago, Shannon, Kaitlin, Abby, and I got together to relax, fellowship, and recharge. The evening centered around good conversation, silly YouTube videos, and, of course, delicious food.

I was trying to think of something fun, moderately healthy, and delicious for dinner. I landed on top your own pizza night. I asked Artie to pick up toppings and pre-made pizza dough from Publix that afternoon. When I arrived home, I was surprised to find he had prepared homemade pizza dough. Turns out it was more affordable, healthier, and relatively easy.

When the girls showed up for dinner, Artie rolled out four individual pizzas and we got to work decorating them with deliciousness from a toppings bar.

Toppings included sauce and cheese (of course) plus broccoli, mushrooms, chicken sausage, sweet bell pepper, Cubanelle peppers, sautéed eggplant, spinach, and black olives.

The only downside is that our oven could only cook two pizzas at a time. If I did this again, I would make the mini pizzas smaller so that two could cook on each baking sheet allowing four pizzas to be cooked at once instead of two. We had plenty to talk about though, so no one really minded the wait.

The end result was delicious. The crust was thin but tender and the veggie toppings were plentiful. While these were supposed to be individual pizzas, they were still too large for one serving so as a bonus, everyone went home with half of a mini pizza.

All in all, I would say top-your-own pizza night was a success. Hopefully Artie can share the pizza dough recipe on the blog soon. The end result was yummy, fun to make, and more or less healthy.

A Birthday Cupcake Tasting

Every year I typically try to do something fun for Jill’s birthday. It usually involves a small party with multiple variations on a type of food. One year I made three types of pizza from scratch, one year I made three different types of brownies, and one year I made four types of macaroni and cheese. Unfortunately, due to schedule conflicts, we did not have a party last year. Not wanting to let the opportunity pass un-celebrated this year, we decided to pick the tradition back up. This year Jill requested a cupcake tasting.

We ordered three 20 inch pizzas from Decent Pizza: a cheese pizza, a pizza with Bradley’s Sausage (a locally made sausage) and fresh mushrooms, and a pizza with eggplant and spinach. The pizza was served, of course, with a selection of Cupcake Vineyard wines, including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot.

Pizza
Decent Pizza makes delicious pizza

I made a spinach and blueberry salad with the most delicious spinach (grown in my parents garden), organic blueberries from New Leaf Market, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. My parents always grow this amazing, hearty, dark green spinach; it makes the spinach from the grocery store seem flat and tasteless.

A spinach salad
Garden fresh spinach, organic blueberries, and parmesan

Following the pizza and salad came the cupcakes. I made a selection of regular-sized and mini cupcakes in four flavors. The wildflower honey cupcakes were made with honey from the bees Jillian’s family used to keep to pollinate the orange groves. Sunflower seed butter cupcakes were a more subtly flavored spin on peanut butter cupcakes. Chai tea cupcakes were a boldly spiced cupcake to contrast the more delicately flavored wildflower honey and sunflower butter cupcakes. The red velvet cupcakes, a cupcake standard, were made with natural red food coloring made from beet and hibiscus extract. The natural food coloring did not give the cupcakes the same intensely red color traditional red velvet cupcakes have, but they tasted great. While we liked each of the cupcakes, Jill and I both agreed that the sunflower butter cupcakes were our favorite.

Happy Birthday, Jill!

Assortment of cupcakes
An assortment of cupcakes

Pizza Worthy of a Blog Post

Knowing that the streets would be congested with traffic during homecoming, Jill and I opted to cook dinner at home instead of going out to eat. Stopping at the grocery store on the way home from work, I thought “pizza would be a highly appropriate Friday night cuisine.” So, I picked up a few essential ingredients and headed home to make what I deemed “pizza worthy of a blog post” and what Jill called “better than take-out pizza.”

Although most people probably would not begin a post about pizza with photos of eggplant, Jill and I both view eggplant as an essential pizza topping. We were rather disappointed when our favorite local pizzaria, Decent Pizza, dropped eggplant from their menu. Thankfully, I had these two baby eggplants growing in the backyard garden.

Baby eggplant
Baby eggplant

With an immediate need for the eggplants, the two baby eggplant were picked before they had a chance to grow to their full sizes (this pizza  wasn’t going to sit around waiting for the eggplant to grow), diced finely, mixed with two cloves of garlic (minced) and sauteed in olive oil.

Eggplant with garlic
Eggplant with garlic

When soft, I took the baby eggplant morsels off of the heat let them await their destiny–a kind of purgatory where tender eggplant wait to ascend to the realm of deliciousness.

Sauteed eggplant with garlic
Sauteed eggplant with garlic

Wanting a slightly more rustic taste for the pizza, I opted for sliced Italian style chicken sausage instead of the traditional pepperoni (or the slightly less traditional turkey pepperoni).

Italian-style chicken sausage
Italian-style chicken sausage

Although I enjoy making my own pizza dough, that activity is usually relegated to the weekends when I have more time. So, this Friday night masterpiece make good use of the pre-made 5 grain pizza dough from the Publix bakery.

Publix Italian Pizza Dough
Publix Italian Pizza Dough

After rolling it out on a floured surface, I put the pizza dough on a baking sheet and got ready to assemble the pizza.

Pizza dough on a baking sheet
Pizza dough on a baking sheet

In addition to making my own dough, I occasionally like to make my own pizza sauce. Again, this is an activity typically reserved for a weekend. Tomatoes are also not currently in season. So, I used my favorite canned pizza sauce (which I opened with the ridiculously cute can opener pictured below).

Pizza sauce
Pizza sauce

While tomatoes are not in season, I do have plenty of basil and oregano growing in my garden. So, I jazzed the pizza up by adding a layer of fresh sweet basil, purple basil, and oregano on top of the pizza sauce.

Fresh sweet basil, purple basil, and oregano
Fresh sweet basil, purple basil, and oregano

Over the fresh herbs, I added mozzarella cheese, sliced baby portobello mushrooms, the sliced chicken sausage, and the eggplant morsels.

Pizza toppings
Pizza toppings

After baking for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, the golden cheese oozed over the crust while the aroma from the mushrooms, sausage, eggplant, and herbs elicited a kind of Pavlovian response from both Jill and me.

Baked pizza
Baked pizza

Served with a simple green salad with Annie’s goddess salad dressing, this better than take-out pizza rounded out the week with a blog worthy meal.

Pizza and salad
Pizza and salad