Alabama Fire-Crackers

Any of you with teenage boys, really boys of any age, will understand it when I say that my kids are always hungry. Always. If you didn’t know better, their appetites would give you the impression that they hadn’t seen a good meal in who knows how long. Anytime, day or night, they’re ready for a meal or two. To their great dismay, in between regular meals they have to settle for a snack. Have you been to the grocery stores lately? Snacks are seriously expensive and prices seem to climb higher every week. In an effort to keep my food costs down, and also to keep my four hungry monsters at bay, I try to find affordable alternatives I can make myself. I had stumbled onto this recipe on allrecipes and it looked incredibly easy, yet bursting with flavor, so I knew I had to give it a go. I struck gold! Not only did my boys love it, my husband also heartily approved. It’s since become a regularly recurring snack selection and a game day and party request. This recipe is a crowd-pleaser. For my guys, because they’re full again. For me, because they’re full and that didn’t require hours spent in the kitchen, a hole in my wallet, or leave me utterly exhausted.

Alabama Fire-Crackers

4 Sons 'R' Us: Alabama Fire-Crackers

  • 1 gallon ziplock bag
  • 1 box of saltine crackers, 16 oz
  • 1 2/3 cup canola oil
  • 2 envelopes ranch dressing mix
  • 2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Directions

  1. Add oil, ranch, red pepper, garlic, onion, and black pepper. Seal bag.
  2. Using your hands mix ingredients around together until evenly combined.
  3. Add crackers to the bag. Seal again.
  4. Turn the bag over several times to coat crackers with the spice mix.
  5. Lay the bag flat and let it sit for about an hour
  6. Turn the bag over, repeating several times until the crackers are thoroughly coated with the spice mix.
  7. Allow the bag to sit overnight.
  8. Remove the crackers from the bag and serve.

Cake Decorating Frosting

I do not like bakery cakes or their frosting. (Gasp) Shocking, I know, but I grew up never eating store bought cake, not even sampling bakery cakes, or pre-made frosting.  Now that I have, I know I wasn’t missing anything. The few times I attempted to use store-bought frosting for decorating cakes, the results were disastrous. It’s not stiff enough to hold it’s shape, and the addition of any food coloring makes it runny. With four boys who request custom cakes for their birthdays, this obviously, was just not going to work. That, and I couldn’t stomach paying outrageous amounts of money to a bakery when I was sure that with a little practice, trial, and error I could duplicate their designs. My Grandma and Mom, made beautiful cakes that always tasted just as good, if not better, than they looked and the frosting was always rich and creamy. So when I made the decision to give my boys the same kind of catered cake experiences I had grown up with, I just knew I had to have my Mom’s recipe to make it happen. The recipe is simple and easy to whip up. It’s even easier to adjust for stiffness so you can customize and create a simple or elaborate cake or cupcake design that will hold firmly in place, but still taste smooth and sugary when cut.

Cake Decorating Frosting

  •  3-4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/2 cup of shortening
  • 4-5 tbsp milk, or half and half for a richer frosting
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract, optional (I omit)

Directions

  1.  In a stand mixer, add all ingredients.
  2. Mix on low speed until evenly combined. Do not whip!
  3. If the frosting is still chunky add milk, 1 tbsp at a time until it’s mixed smooth.
  4. Alternately, if the frosting is too runny, add more confectioners sugar until mixed to desired stiffness.
  5. Frost!

If you’re not interested in a white cake, add a couple of drops of food coloring until your desired color is reached, and then frost. If chocolate frosting is your fancy add cocoa powder, 1 tbsp at a time, until it tastes chocolate-y enough for you.

A few other points about working with this type of frosting. If your frosting is too stiff, and you’re trying to frost any parts of a cake that have been cut or aren’t browned by the outside of the baking pan, it will pull up pieces of cake and make a mess. Also, don’t wipe! For a neat look that won’t ruin the cake, gently wipe frosting back and forth until frosted. To achieve a smooth, finished look, smooth over with a HOT knife. Dip the knife in hot water to keep it hot and free of any icing clumps. Otherwise, get your bake-on and frost. There will be mistakes made along the way, but the results are well worth it! Practice makes perfect, and nothing beats your child’s smile when they see you’ve managed to create something from their imagination, or yours, just for them. Just for fun, and hopefully some inspiration, here are a few of the various cakes I’ve made for my boys.

Basketball Cake 076 003 001 002 010  DSC03637060

Key Lime Pie Fudge

I needed something quick to take to a friends’ dinner party, but couldn’t decide between my usual list of go-to favorites. Everything just seemed boring, or over-used. Imagine you’re trying to get ready for a night out and staring down the gauntlet that is your own closet. Nothing grabs you, nothing fits the venue just right, etc. Giving up on finding inspiration within my own pantry, I decided to troll through my browsers bookmarks, and settled on tweaking some Key Lime Pie Fudge bites that I had found on About.com.  The prep was simple, the amount of effort involved was minimal, yet when finished I was left with creamy little bites of heaven. These are THAT good! This is not your Grandma’s fudge. Give them a try. You will never think of fudge the same way again.

Key Lime Pie Fudge

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  •  1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 & 1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp lime zest, finely grated
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Line an 8×8, or 9×9 baking dish with aluminum foil and spray, to evenly coat the foil, with non-stick cooking spray
  3. Either in a microwave, or on the stove-top, melt butter.
  4. When melted combine butter, sugar, and graham crackers in a bowl, stirring until evenly combined and moist.
  5. Transfer graham cracker mix into your foil lined pan, smoothing and spreading to make an even layer.
  6. Bake the crust for 7-10 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and let cool.
  7. Melt chocolate, salt, and condensed milk in a stove-pot over medium low heart, stirring until evenly combined.
  8. When mixture is smooth, add lime juice and zest, stirring until evenly combined.
  9. Transfer the fudge to the prepared baking dish, spreading into an even layer over the graham cracker crust.
  10. Refrigerate fudge until it is set, about 2 hours, or overnight.
  11. Using the foil as handles, remove the fudge from the baking dish.
  12. Using a sharp, hot knife (run under hot water periodically to keep hot) cut the fudge into 1 inch squares.
  13. Let the fudge rest at room temperature for 15-2o minutes before serving.

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

One of my guys go to appetizers when we eat out is spinach and artichoke dip. While I don’t always want to eat out, I do enjoy serving them their restaurant favorites from the comfort of my own kitchen. That, and they look at me like I’m a magical kitchen wizard which kinda tickles my fancy. So, several years ago, I set to work making a delicious at home version of their eat out favorite. Now, it’s become a recurring cast member at our annual celebrations, including holiday dinners and parties.

Now, are you looking for the perfect creamy, rich, and indulgent dip to share as a special treat with family? Or for a perfect Super Bowl appetizer that’s easy to prepare, but has guests thinking you’ve slaved away all day in the kitchen? Look no further than this recipe. This is the best Spinach and Artichoke dip I’ve ever had. I’m talking plate-licking good. Even better, it’s one of the easiest possible appetizers to make. Prep takes maybe 5 minutes, and that’s being generous. If you’re looking for something versatile, this is also the dip for you. My family enjoyed it for New Year’s Eve, and I served it with slices of a very crusty baguette. We’ve also enjoyed it with tortilla chips, crackers, mini toasts, and pretzels. Since it was for a special occasion I went with full fat ingredients but, if you’re looking for something more figure-friendly, you could easily shave off half of that by using the reduced fat, or non-fat counterparts.

Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip

creamy, rich, and delicious!

  • 3 cups frozen spinach, finely chopped and drained, or more or less to desired consistency
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 6 oz can marinated artichoke hearts, finely chopped and rinsed
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a food processor, or in a bowl with a spatula, mix all ingredients together until evenly combined. 
  3. Transfer dip to a baking dish and bake 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and the edges are golden-brown.
  4. Serve with bread slices, tortilla chips, crackers, etc.

Cheapskate Chicken: Every piece has a purpose

Every time I turn around, it seems like groceries get more expensive and I’m getting less ‘bang’ for my buck at checkout. I have a set grocery budget that must feed six people and I only shop once a month. I’m always trying to maximize the amount I can purchase within that and spread the love to all my families’ meals. I love finding ingredients that can cheaply be used to make multiple things, especially things that are key ingredients in multiple recipes. It makes me feel all giddy. Call it an obsession of mine. I know, I’m weird, and I’m totally OK with that.

One thing in particular I know has drastically gone up at the stores is meat, and I use A LOT of meats. Chicken, especially, has seen a price hike and I haven’t seen great sale prices in quite some time. I’ve always preferred boneless, skinless breasts, simply because I am also lazy, and try to find shortcuts in the kitchen so that making dinner from scratch every night isn’t always an entire evening affair. I do have kids I have to attend to after all.  In seeking out cheaper alternatives, on a whim, I decided to buy a $3.00 pack of two bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts about a year ago. I kept them in the freezer for some time since the prospect of de-boning was rather daunting. Finally, I decided to try cooking them like I would a whole chicken, in the crockpot, and the results were life changing! Or at least revolutionary in my kitchen. Enter: Cheapskate Chicken!  Now, from only one $3.00 package of chicken, with minimal (and I mean bare-minimum) prep, and just a handful of other kitchen staples, I get enough chicken for 3 meals that will feed all 6 of us, am able to make about a gallon and a half of chicken stock/broth, two packages of carrots, celery, and onions infused with flavor and ready to throw in your homemade soups, and even have meat to add in with our dog’s dry food for 2 weeks at a time. Interested yet?! I’ve never encountered a simpler multi-step process. Here goes.

Cheapskate Chicken

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  • one package bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
  • salt
  • pepper
  • whatever other dry seasonings you prefer

Directions

  1. Rinse, and pat dry, both chicken breasts
  2. Place them into the crockpot, skin side up
  3. Liberally salt and pepper the tops of the chicken breasts
  4. Add whatever other dry seasonings you’d like to add a hint of flavor to the meat. I prefer Montreal Chicken seasoning from McCormick. Occasionally, I will add in some minced garlic.
  5. Cover, and cook on high for about 4 hours, on low about 6 hours, or until meat is cooked through
  6. For easier removal from the crockpot (it’s so tender it has a tendency to just fall off the bone) turn your crockpot off and let the breasts cool before taking them out.

Don’t worry about your chicken burning or sticking to the bottom since you haven’t added any liquid. As the chicken cooks, the moisture it expels will collect on the bottom of your crockpot and prevent it. Not to mention the ‘dry’ cooking leaves the skin incredibly crisp and delicious. My kids always argue over who gets to eat the skin when it’s done!

Step 2: Pickin’ your chicken

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  1. Remove both breasts from your crock pot and place them on a clean surface, cutting board, plate, whatever you prefer.
  2. Pull all the meat you can find off your chicken, making sure to remove any bones that may come away with it. Place any bones in a bowl, along with the skin if you haven’t gobbled it up already like I do.
  3. Any meat you don’t want, whether it’s dark, fatty, whatever, either add to the bowl with your bones, or if you have a furry friend, place it in a zip lock bag to save for him/her, again being careful to remove any bones.
  4. Once you’ve picked your chicken clean, package up the meat you’ve kept, either in tupperware for the refrigerator or in freezer bags for the freezer in meal-size portions.
  5. If the chicken isn’t shredded enough for you, give it one quick spin in the food processor, or until your desired texture is reached.

Step 3: Homemade Chicken Stock

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Your crockpot is really going to get a workout today. You’re all ready to use it again! For this step you will need a few additional ingredients which I’ve listed below.

  •  chicken bones, skin, fat
  • 3 cups of baby carrots
  • 3 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • water

Directions

  1. Throw your discarded chicken bones, fat, and skin back in your crockpot.
  2. Add in the prepared vegetables.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste, and add in any other spices you think your stock might need.
  4. Pour enough water over the vegetables to fill your crockpot about 1/2 inch from the top.
  5. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.
  6. When cool, pour the contents of the crockpot into a strainer that has been placed inside of a large stew pot. Preferably, one that can rest on the edge of the pot so it’s sits up out of the liquid that separates from the solids.
  7. After draining, remove the strainer from over the pot and pick out all pieces of bones, skin, and fat and discard them.
  8. Package up the veggies to freeze to use as sides for meals, vegetables for soups, stews, and other recipes. Their juicy flavor is incredible, and will enhance any meal.
  9. Add enough water to fill the stock-pot until the desired consistency is reached. Thicker, darker broth is considered ‘stock’ and is typically a little more potent, the more watered-down is broth. Both are good and you will never want to buy the store-bought versions again.
  10. Refrigerate or freeze your broth and use as needed.

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I typically keep some broth in the fridge and freeze the rest. I save any old plastic containers, such as yogurt, sour cream, ricotta cheese, etc, with their lids since plastic containers can be re-used, and also allow for the expansion of the liquid when it freezes without breaking, shattering, or cracking.

If you prefer a leaner broth, let the entire stockpot full of broth cool in the refrigerator before packaging until the fat has congealed, or hardened. Using a spoon, skim any fat off the top of the broth. Then package.

Now, sit back and give yourself a pat on the back. Your family will think you’ve slaved away in the kitchen all day and all night, and sing your praises, but (SHHH!) you, your crockpot, and your pocket book will know the satisfying truth.

Lasagna Soup

I love soup. I mean, I really love soup. Most people, I’ve found, prefer soup to warm them up on a cold winter night.  I don’t just relegate soup to only winter weather advisory days, but feel it is an all-encompassing  meal, even in Summer. I could eat soup 365 days a year and be a very happy camper. That being said, I do have four hungry boys, and a hungry husband who prefer their soups to be hearty so I’m always trying to find soups that can stand alone as a satisfying meal. I’m pretty sure, when I met my husband, he was convinced a soup could never be a ‘manly’ meal, and definitely never a meal he would feel ‘stuffed’ after. I’m pretty sure that unspoken ‘I told you so’ is the elephant in the room every time he naps after eating just ‘soup.’

Given my husband’s Italian heritage, and our love of all things pasta, I figured I would give  Paula Dean’s lasagna soup recipe a try. Naturally, my guys were skeptical about any recipes’ ability to make a soup, however hearty, truly taste like one of their all time favorite pasta bakes; however, they’re always up for trying anything new that I put out on our table. Boy, were they blown away by the finished product! It really did taste like, you guessed it, lasagna. I did make a few changes to suit my tastes and make it a little less soupy, but it only enhanced the flavors and left everyone feeling all warm, fuzzy, and full afterwards.

UPDATE: Wow. It’s been 2 years and I’m finally getting around to updating this recipe’s photos. Trust me, it needed to happen. I’ve left the original posted at the bottom for your viewing enjoyment. Or not. 😉 We don’t always go the crust bread loaf route when serving this. Another favorite is pairing it with slices of Texas toast that have been toasted and then slathered with our homemade Italian garlic butter. Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Lasagna Soup

Tastes Like Lasagna Soup

1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground sausage
1 onion, chopped
1 green pepper; chopped (I omitted)
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp thyme
1 tablespoon brown sugar
6-8 cups chicken broth (depending on desired consistency)
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups broken lasagna, pappardelle, or egg noodles
1 & 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 loaf of ‘crusty’ bread, optional

Directions

1. In a large skillet combine ground beef, ground sausage, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef and sausage are cooked through and crumbled. Drain.
2. Transfer meat mixture to a large stew pot and add in broth, tomatoes, sauce, thyme, Italian seasoning, brown sugar, and salt.
3. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, over medium-high heat.
4. Reduce heat, and simmer about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add in noodles and continue simmering until noodles are tender.
6. Stir in the parmesan cheese.
7. Serve soup and garnish each bowl with shredded mozzarella and a piece of warm, crusty bread.

Aaaaaand, here’s the original photo:

Lasagna Soup

Pan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

With football season, wrestling practice, homework, and Church activities during the week, some nights it’s really hard to find the time for dinners that require a lot of prep. My kids keep me on the go, and there’s never a dull moment. However, with so many activities crammed into just a few short hours, weeknights are when I try to use my ‘set it and forget it’ recipes. I’m always searching for ways to incorporate great taste and nutritious ingredients into my family’s  dinners, especially in my simple meal ideas. This recipe was suggested to me by a friend and I adapted it to my taste from Food.com‘s version. My boys aren’t picky eaters, but they still balk at the use of the word ‘spinach’ in combination with the dinner they’re anticipating. Something about those pretty, leafy greens makes kids nervous. I swear, it must be ingrained in their DNA. They just can’t ever seem to believe that it might taste good, delicious even. That being said, my kids have heartily approved of this meal and not one leaf was left. It was a struggle for them not to lick their plates clean. Even my husband was pleasantly surprised that just a few common ingredients could yield such a hearty, flavorful meal. Perfect for a chilly fall evening.

Pan Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, fat-trimmed and cut into chunks
  • 2 lbs. red potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, white or yellow, cut into wedges
  • 1 10 oz package fresh spinach, or frozen if thawed prior to use
  • 3 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • grated, or shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine potatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary. Toss to coat.
  3. Pour the mixture into a large roasting pan.
  4. Roast vegetables for 25 minutes, stirring once.
  5. Add chicken, tossing once more to coat.
  6. Roast 15 minutes longer, or until chicken is cooked through.
  7. Evenly distribute spinach over the chicken and vegetables.
  8. Roast 5 more minutes, or until spinach is wilted.
  9. Toss before serving.
  10. Garnish with Parmesan cheese

Homemade Marinara Sauce

There are some things that just can’t be eaten without marinara. They just aren’t satisfying without the addition of its slightly sweet, robust flavor. Mozzarella sticks, toasted ravioli  and pizza quesadillas immediately come to mind. Toss it with some cooked pasta and you have an easy entree. However, not all marinara is made the same and those that are truly delicious and flavorful are often rather pricey, even on sale or in bulk. At one point, to save some extra money in my grocery budget, I tried not buying it, but tomato sauce and pasta sauce were poor substitutions. So I set about finding a recipe that I could make at home for minimal cost. Now, let me introduce you to my homemade marinara that will tantalize your taste buds while leaving your wallet pleasantly plump! The entire recipe, which made 3 batches for our family of 6, cost about $3-4 to make and used things I always keep stocked in my pantry. Oh, and last but not least: it cooks in your crock pot while you sleep. You just set it and forget it. Easy, right?

Homemade Marinara Sauce

  • 2 cans of crushed tomatoes, 28 oz ea
  • 1 can tomato paste, 6 0z
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar*
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste

*I make my own brown sugar. To make your own brown sugar simply combine 1 cup  granulated sugar with 1 1/2 tbsp molasses and stir until evenly mixed. I give mine a quick spin in my food processor.

Directions

  1. Add all ingredients to your crockpot and stir well.
  2. Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or overnight. If your crockpot is not airtight or notoriously dries things out, you may want to add more water as a precaution.
  3. Remove the lid, stir well. Remove the bay leaves, and enjoy! Also, do not be alarmed when your sauce is done if it’s bright red color has become darker and browner. You want this. It lets your know that it’s cooked and that the sugars in the sauce have caramelized.

Making your own marinara sauce is that easy! You can enjoy immediately over your favorite pasta, as a dipping sauce, or store for later use. I canned two jars, and froze the rest. To unfreeze, put it in the refrigerator the night before you intend to use it. Then, when it’s defrosted, just heat and eat.

Buffalo Chicken Bake

Being that we have all these boys and seeing as how I am cheap, I try to buy in bulk whenever possible. Notice I said cheap. I’m not even going to try and dress it up and label myself as frugal, thrifty, etc. I’m just cheap. As part of my cost-cutting, we have a membership to Costco and that’s where the majority of our groceries come from. That being said, almost every trip to Costco my kids manage to convince me to buy them lunch, a snack, an ‘I’m going to die right this very minute if I don’t eat’ something from the food court. Their favorite thing to order is the Chicken Bake. So when I came across this recipe for Buffalo Chicken Garbage Bread, I knew they would love it.

Buffalo Chicken Dump Bread

I altered the recipe to the satisfaction of my tastes and those of my cheese-aholics. Notice I also changed the name. I could just imagine if I answered their ‘what’s for dinner’ question with something that included ‘garbage’ in its name. So I didn’t.

Buffalo Chicken Bake

Buffalo Chicken Dump Bread 2

2 cups cooked chicken, shredded or diced
1 tsp. olive oil
1 pizza dough (we used homemade and let it defrost in the refrigerator overnight)
8 oz. of shredded mozzarella cheese
8 oz. of shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of buffalo wing sauce, divided
1/4 cup of ranch

Directions

1. Pre-heat oven to 425°F. Toss chicken with 1/4 cup of your wing sauce. You can add more or less depending on your desired spiciness. Stir to combine, the ranch dressing and remaining 1/4 cup wing sauce.
2. On a floured surface, or counter top, roll out dough into a long rectangular shape. Spread buffalo ranch sauce evenly across the dough. Add chicken and then top with both cheeses.
3. Pick a side and roll the dough up to form a log. Seal both ends (prevents ‘oozing’ while baking) and place seam side down on a non-stick or greased baking sheet.
4. Bake for 30 minutes. Let sit and ‘rest’ for 5-10 minutes before cutting into slices, then serve!

Easy Homemade Pizza Dough

My entire childhood I remember looking forward to Wednesday nights because it was ‘pizza night’. We had Church every Wednesday evening so we needed a quick dinner, and Grandma would just whip up a crust and pop a pizza in the oven. Everything Grandma made was from scratch, so it was crusty, carbohydrate heaven! Now, years later, my kids look forward to our own pizza nights and we pay homage to Grandma every time by using her trusty recipe for easy homemade pizza dough. I’m not sure where this recipe originated from, other than it’s the one that my Grandma used and was written down on an old note card and tucked away in her recipe box. It bakes up into the perfect crust and freezes well. This version makes enough dough for two pizzas. I usually make one pizza for dinner the day I make my dough and then store the other dough ball in the freezer. When I’m ready to use it, I simply let it thaw in the fridge beforehand. WARNING: Baking pizza on your own crust will ruin store bought pizza for you and your kids will beg you for it constantly! Baker beware 😉

Easy Homemade Pizza Dough

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 1/4 tsp. yeast, or 1 packet
  • 1 1/4 cups water, room temperature
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

Directions

  1. Measure the warm water into a bowl. Add yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and bubbles up, about 5 minutes. Add the room temperature water and olive oil and stir to combine.
  2. Add flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until the dry ingredients are combined. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and stir until a cohesive mass forms. Using the dough hook, let the mixer knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Stop the mixer when the dough starts to pull away from the sides and form a cohesive ball. As best you can form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep, well oiled bowl, and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2-2 hours.
  3. Press the dough to deflate it, remove from the bowl, and turn onto a lightly floured work surface or countertop. Divide the dough into two equal pieces.
  4. Pre-eat oven to 400 degrees. Form pieces of dough into smooth, round balls and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for ten minutes.
  5. Working with one dough ball and keeping the other covered, shape the dough, and transfer to a non-stick pizza pan of your choice. Top as desired. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until the crust edges are golden brown and the cheese is golden brown in spots. Repeat with remaining ball of dough or freeze* for later use.

*If freezing the dough make sure you wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap before putting it in a freezer bag. Before freezing stops the yeast process, the bread will continue to expand some. It WILL pop through the plastic wrap, but the extra layer will prevent it from busting the freezer bag and offer you an extra layer of protection to prevent freezer burn. This dough tastes just as good after freezing as it does fresh.