Pizza Times Two

So here’s what I’m having for lunch:

TWO pizzas!

 

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The best part?  The whole kit and caboodle, depending on options, is right around 300 calories- not bad for TWO pizzas, right?

 

 

 

Here’s how I do it:

For the crusts, I use pitas- here are some thoughts on what to use and why: You’ve got to use something that’s fairly low in calories, yet sturdy enough to hold up to your topping.  Some weight conscious recipes call for tortillas;  all I have to say to all of the tortillas out there is, “you can’t handle the stuff!”  (Sorry- couldn’t resist!)  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to need to put a whole lot more on my pizza than any tortilla I’ve ever seen can handle.

Pitas are another option- unless you want to make your crust from scratch, of course, but if might make for a late lunch…    So when I started working on making pizzas I could eat and stay within my program, I looked at lots and lots of different pitas.  Most of them were out of the running right off the bat  because the calorie count was too high…  so that led me to the ones I love and use all the time- my very favorite, hands down- the ones made by Joseph’s Bakery.*

*I do not receive compensation to favorably review or recommend any product- you can see my policy on this here.

 

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Joseph’s actually makes lots of different things, and I’ll discuss some of them in future posts, but for this recipe I use their regular size pitas- either the Heart Friendly Oat Bran and Stone Ground Whole Wheat or their Flax, Oat Bran, and Whole Wheat variety- both are great.

Don’t let the names of all of those whole-this-and-that ingredients in the names throw you- they are very healthy, but definitely have the very best balance of non-wholiness (yes, that’s a new word!) taste and healthy wholesomeness I’ve ever found- not to mention the regular size loaves have just 60 calories each!!  It doesn’t hurt one bit that they’re nice and thin, which makes for a perfectly crispy and crunchy pizza crust!  If you can’t find them, you can get them here.  (This is not an affiliate link.)

So, now that the issue of crust is settled, spray the pitas lightly with non stick cooking spray.  As much as I love these sprays, I need to tattle on them just a bit- you have to be careful- the nutritional labels say there are no calories, but there are!!  Just look at the ingredient list and you’ll see what I mean.  So, in order to keep the calories to a minimum, you must learn to spray very lightly and quickly…  and aim well, or you end up with the stuff everywhere except where you want it.  It’s a learned skill…  took me awhile… hopefully you’ll catch on quicker.

Or you can use a pastry brush- natural bristle is the only way to go here because it’s easier to get a really light coating of oil.  (See mine below) Those synthetic ones are great for some things, but they’ll deposit way too much oil for our purposes here- they’re better for spreading things like BBQ sauce.   Ooooh,  yummy…  BBQ sauce…  I need to work on developing something with BBQ sauce?!  (Sorry- distraction happens a lot when I’m thinking about recipes!)

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Don’t judge me- it’s seen lots of use, and looks really beat up, but it works like a charm!

So just pour the tiniest amount- like a teaspoon or less- of extra virgin olive oil into a little bowl and dip the brush in, getting just a little bit on the end, and brush the entire surface of the crust, concentrating on the edges.

 

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 Next, spread some pizza sauce around, leaving the edges bare- don’t worry too much, it doesn’t have to look perfect to taste fabulous!  At this stage I sprinkle oregano- fresh if you can get your hands on it- all over the whole thing.  And maybe some basil too!

 

 

Just so ya know, here’s what I look for in sauces.  First, if you don’t look at nutritional labels, you’ll need to know they differ significantly, not just in taste, but in fat and calorie content!  I’ve tried a lot of them over the years, and what I look for is one that’s not too sweet, not too watery, and as low in possible in fat and/or calories.  (I mean, seriously, if I’m going to eat fat, it’s not going to be in a tomato sauce!  It’s going to be some form of butter- like in and/or on a baked something…  probably cookies….  or cookie dough…   (insert dreamy expression and wistful sigh here….)  Anyway, back to pizza!  With all of that in mind, the best sauce I’ve found is Ragu Pizza Sauce.  Not Pizza QUICK Sauce, because it has 50% more fat in it, and therefore 50% more calories.  So, not to beat a dead horse here, but I look at it this way- if I think of my daily allowance of calories (or PPV for Weight Watchers members) as a budget, this is not where I want to allocate any more of mine than I have to.

 

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Onto making so we can EAT!!

Next, I put the cheese on, and I use Trader Joe’s Lite Shredded Mozzarella because it has the lowest calories per ounce I’ve been able to find (45) but it melts well and tastes fantastic!

 

DSC08049And the pepperoni!

You might notice I diced mine- when I’m working with ingredients with tons of flavor, like this one does, but I can’t use them indiscriminately, I spread what I do have out as much as possible- I like to get a smidge in every bite!

 

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Finally, I like a nice dusting of Pecorino  Romano cheese to give the whole thing a really nice finish of Italian flavor.  Instead of sprinkling it from the measuring spoon, I put it in my hand and distribute by pinches- much less chance of accidentally getting it all in one place.  Your pizza won’t be nearly as pretty if you do, then try to fix it. Trust me.

 

So, now that you’ve built your Italian beauty, put it in the oven and let it get all melty… and toasty…. and nicely tanned!  If you’re using a toaster oven, set the temperature about 25 to 50 degrees lower than if you’re using a big oven.

And, a word to the wise… keep your eye on it.  I’ve heard stories (not that I’d know myself…) that it’s ridiculously easy to set these things on fire.  Such an event can result in a panicky phone call from kids to a mom who is out shopping, resulting in a mom having heart palpitations brought on by a massive panic attack, followed by near fainting when the kids blow the fire out, then promptly hang up rather than passing this information along.  I’ve even heard of a family who’s had three of these ovens (not to mention very nearly a brand spanking new house) destroyed when the things caught on fire.  Don’t let this happen to you.  Keep your eye on it, especially when running it at high temps!

 

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When it comes out, if you like oregano as much as I do, sprinkle a little more on there, just for fun, and let the PIZZA PARTY begin!

 

 

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Here’s a pic of the mozzarella package- just so you know what you’re looking for.  It’s in with the other sliced and shredded cheeses at Trader Joe’s.  I love this stuff- it’s half the calories of most “light” mozzarella, but looks, tastes, and melts almost like the regular stuff!

 

 

 

Pizza Times Two
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Pizza Times Two
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
1 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
1 10 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425F
  2. Spray the pitas very lightly with non stick cooking spray.
  3. Split all ingredients equally between the two pitas.
  4. Spread pizza sauce on pitas, leaving 1/2 to 3/4 inch around edges clear.
  5. Sprinkle oregano and basil, as desired, over the sauce.
  6. Spread the mozzarella evenly over the sauce.
  7. Spread the pepperoni evenly over the cheese.
  8. Sprinkle Romano cheese evenly over the pepperoni.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes or until nicely browned.
  10. Sprinkle oregano over pizza if desired.
Recipe Notes

To see my policy on nutritional information, go here and scroll down.

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RELENTLESS

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Losing weight (this time) hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, but there have been times when I’ve felt really discouraged.  The weeks right before reaching my minus 75 pound milestone were particularly agonizing because it was just going so slowly!  When I finally reached this place I was asked if I had anything to share about how I did it, so I wrote my thoughts about dealing with the feelings of frustration and despair I’d been having.  These feelings really scared me because they’d always caused me to give up in the past, so I shared how my mindset was changing on Weight Watchers group’s Facebook page.  I hope it’ll encourage you when (because, let’s face it- it’s bound to happen) you face your own bumps along the way.

 

October 9, 2014

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About 4 or 6 weeks ago, right about the time when I was seriously stalling out (again…) and feeling really discouraged (again…) over how slowly things were proceeding, God gave me a word- or well, really, an idea- RELENTLESS.  And He’s been quietly showing me that this is how I really should view the process of losing weight.

So, relentless… you know, kind of like how the tide is, when it’s going out. It only recedes by tiny imperceptible fractions of an inch with each wave.

 

Sometimes it even comes back in, just a bit, and returns to creeping, ever so slowly, back out again.

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And the process takes time- sometimes a really LONG time; in some places, there is only one high, and one low tide each day.

 

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Yet, no matter how it looks, feels, or seems, there are a few things that are absolutely certain- the tide is GOING to go out; whether I can tell or not, it IS moving; and nothing can stop it.

So in a word, the tide’s recession is RELENTLESS. While this “low and slow” manner is definitely not the way I’d like the process of losing weight to work, this is apparently how it does- at least for me.

Now, when I struggle, I repeat:

Be the tide!  Be the tide!  Be the tide!  Be RELENTLESS!

 

 

 

 

Super-Secret Master Red Sauce

A collaboration between Jo Ann Fuhrer and Abby Hines

 

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This smells every bit as good as it looks and tastes!

Super, as in wonderful, fabulous, amazing.

Secret, because as many cookbooks as I’ve read, and demonstrations as I’ve seen, I’d never, ever, heard of the little trick my friend Jo Ann taught me- and it makes all the difference in the world!

Master, because once you learn to make this, it can be used in all of your Italian concoctions that are built on a tomato sauce, or gravy, as it’s often called.

Oh, and, it’s a collaboration because I had to make some alterations to Jo Ann’s original recipe to make it fit my calorie requirements.  But, her technique- which is the secret part of this recipe- the thing that makes this so fantastic, is all Jo Ann!

So, seriously, this is one of the most delicious, healthy, and versatile things I’ve ever learned how to make, and even though I’m not Italian it’s now one of my very favorite comfort foods.  I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m so grateful Jo Ann took an entire day to turn this English-German-lots-of- other-things mutt into an honorary Italian cook!  (I’ll be showing you how she taught me how to make fresh pasta that day, in another post- it’s insanely amazing!)

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One of my first attempts at making fresh pasta- so fabulous!

 

So, let’s get started!!  To begin with, clean, peel and dice a large onion, then clean and dice 2 or three large bell peppers. (I use the red, yellow, and/or orange because, well, they’re prettier, and they’re sweeter than the green ones!)  Don’t worry about the size of the pieces- tiny or super chunky- you can do them anyway you want.

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Now, place these veggies in a big skillet- I like the non-stick kind because I can get away with using little to no fat, and things don’t stick or burn.  As long as you pay attention, that is.  Not that I ever have a problem with that…

 

Anyway, put your skillet over medium to medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of butter.  You can use extra virgin olive oil, as I do, because my husband is allergic to milk, but Jo Ann uses butter.  Cook the veggies until they’re soft and caramelized- you’ll know it’s getting ready when it looks like my picture below.  (You can let it go longer if you want.  I like mine a little more caramelized- my husband refers to the way I like them as “charred,” but what does he know?)  Just go at least until the veggies start to have nice brown spots like the ones in my picture:

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Now, turn the heat down to medium and add about a tablespoon of minced garlic and keep stirring so it doesn’t burn.  When the aroma of the garlic is really strong (in a good way) take the skillet off the heat, put this mixture in a large stockpot, scraping every last bit, including any brown bits, into the pot (I know- it may look icky for now, but it’s going to taste great later) and set the pot aside for now.

 

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Here’s a picture of the kind of strainer I use to do this

Into the same skillet, place the ground beef, and cook it over medium to medium-high heat until there’s no red color left.  (You could use ground turkey if you like, and it tastes fine- I’ve done it- but it just doesn’t look right.)  In a minute, we’re going to really brown the meat, (aka caramelize) but first, put it in a really tight strainer like the one at the right and rinse very well with hot tap water, moving it around with a spoon to be sure all of the fat from the meat gets washed away- you want to keep all of the meat, but none of the fat!  Give it a few minutes to drain, and in the meantime, wash the skillet with hot soapy water to remove the fat.

 

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(OOOps! It looks like some of my onions escaped back into the meat!)

Now, (I know, I know, I just told you to get rid of all of the fat, but you do need a very small amount on the skillet’s surface for this, so…) spray it lightly with non-stick cooking spray- that way you’ll use just what you need, and you get to control how much goes into your dish.  Turn the heat up to medium or medium-high and keep stirring every so often, but not so much that the meat never gets a chance to sit there and brown up.  You want it to look like my picture below, so just keep going until you get lots of delectable little caramelized bits, all over the place.

At this point, we need to be vewy, vewy qwiet, and make sure no one is around to hear or see you do this, because here comes the secret part of this recipe- and we don’t want anyone to find out how simple it really is!  When you’re completely sure any and all spies are elsewhere and/or sufficiently distracted, add two small cans of tomato paste to the meat.  Set the heat to medium or medium-high and stir to combine well- it will be thick, but keep mixing with a wooden paddle or spoon.  Here again, you need to move it around enough to keep it from burning, but give it a chance to sit still every so often to allow the tomato paste to caramelize.  Once you do this a time or two, you’ll get the hang of how to manage it in the way that makes sense for your stove and you.  Just keep stirring and cooking until the color looks something like this picture:

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Before caramelizing the paste
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After caramelizing the paste- see the difference?!

 

Once you get it to the level of brownness you want, deglaze (aka pour cold or room temperature liquid into a hot skillet so it makes a really cool hissing sound) the skillet with dry white wine.  Now, I’m not going to lie- the amount of wine in my recipe is an approximation of what Jo Ann did.  Like all good cooks, she didn’t exactly measure it, (recipes are really just guidelines, right?!) she just turned the bottle up, and I counted the number of glugs I heard as wine came pouring out. Later, I went back and poured the same number of glugs (8 to be precise) into a measuring cup, and that turned out to be about a cup, so that’s how much I’ve figured into the recipe- and what will go into my calorie calculation once I figure out how to do that!  See notes on this here.  Obviously, you can adjust the amount to your taste.  Viva la Italian measuring methods!  Allow this to simmer for a few minutes to dissolve most of the caramelized bits and reduce.

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See- I measured the wine!

Add all of this mixture (yes, all of it- every last morsel of the stuck on brown and even black stuff, using a scraper if you must, because this really is the good stuff) to the one already in the stock pot so they can begin cozying up to one another- they’re about to become very best friends, and you’re going to love the results!

Now you can add everything else from the recipe I’ve put below to your pot- the crushed tomatoes, herbs, and seasonings.  Cover tightly and let the mingling begin!  Let it all simmer over low heat for about an hour & a half, or two at the most.

Once the magic that’s been happening inside the pot has had a chance to work, and you think you’re getting close to being ready to unveil your masterpiece, (maybe at the hour to hour and 15 minute mark) take a minute to dip about a quarter of a cup out, into a ramekin.  And taste it!  Check to see if you like the level of your herbs and seasonings- if you don’t feel you’ve got enough of something, add it now, then let it continue to simmer for 15 more minutes more.  Taste again to be sure, and when you like what you’ve got, let it go for at least the 90 minutes and up to 2 hours, then serve it up, piping hot!!

 

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Here’s just one of the things I’ve whipped up with this sauce- complete with homemade fresh pasta!

You can ladle this sauce over any kind of pasta shapes or noodles, any kind of stuffed pasta, or you can always make layered dishes like lasagna or baked ziti.  I often make a double batch of this stuff, and use it in several different ways- the options are endless, and I’ll be sharing some of the things I make with this sauce in later posts.  For now, enjoy it any way you like!

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a more concise version of the recipe:

(I’ll work on figuring out how to make a “printable” link, but for now, this should be easy enough to cut and paste.)

Super-Secret Master Red Sauce

Makes 8-10 cups
Servings 8-10

1 large onion, diced
2 to 3 large bell peppers, diced
1 tablespoon butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 lb ground beef, the leaner the better
2 cans (6 oz) tomato paste
1 cup dry white wine
2 cans (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
¼ cup dried Italian herb blend- I like freeze dried, or fresh is best if you can get it
2 tablespoons fresh basil paste, or freeze dried
2 teaspoons of salt, and pepper to your taste

Over medium to medium high heat, sauté the onions and peppers in a large skillet.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, then cook for a few minutes, stirring often or constantly to avoid burning the garlic.

Place all of this in a large stock pot.

In the same skillet cook the beef and drain in a strainer with very small holes, rinsing with very hot water to remove as much fat as possible.

Allow to drain well and then put the meat back in the skillet.  Over medium to medium high heat, continue cooking the beef until it caramelizes.

Stir often to keep it from sticking to the skillet.

When a lot of the meat is darker in color, add the tomato paste and cook over medium to medium-high heat until paste has caramelized and become a darker brown.

Deglaze the skillet with the white wine and allow it to cook for a few minutes to reduce.

Add the canned tomatoes, herbs and salt, and stir to combine well.

Cover and allow to simmer for 1 to 2 hours.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Great the first night, amazing the next day!!

 

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Some of My Most Requested Recipes!

I’m still learning how to do this blogging thing- it’s been just about an hour since I downloaded all of the stuff to get started, and I’m pretty excited that I’ve been able to figure at least one thing out- I’ve changed the colors, so that’s a great big WooHoo!  But I’ve also realized I don’t like any of the pictures I already have, so I’ll have to work on that and come back a little later to start decorating!  As soon as I learn how to navigate all of this, I’ll start posting my most requested recipes, and some new ones I think you’ll love too!

In the meantime, huge thanks go out to my sister, Amy, and my friend, Deb, who so encouraged me a few weeks ago that I feel I might actually be able to do this- let’s hope they were right!!

See you soon,

Abby