Thursday, October 8, 2015

After-school pizza showdown!

What are two constant feelings that college students experience? Exhaustion and hunger.

The solution? Pizza! Everyone enjoys pizza in some way, shape, or form.

It's one of those meals that is easy enough to make at home. Just throw some ingredients together and you're done! Chop up some stuff, add some cheese, pop that thing in the oven, and then enjoy the goodness after a reasonable amount of time.

Making your own is not only a healthier alternative to the frozen varieties, but it brings you a level of satisfaction that words simply can't describe. Maybe it's the bubbly cheese, the smell of crust as it bakes, or the fact that you can TOTALLY customize your toppings to suit your liking. How amazing is that?!

I also use pizza as a platform to get rid of any leftovers that still might be lingering in the fridge. That measly tablespoon or 2 of vodka sauce still in the jar can easily be used up. Just spread it out on your (store-bought) crust, and taadaa! Instant pizza sauce.

My roomie will read that last paragraph and shake her head in disgust, but it really works! Get creative!

Originally, I was just going to post just the first pizza I made. But I really wanted to show just how innovative you can be with the I decided to show both!

The first pizza issss....SHRIMP TACO PIZZA! Yup, just like Grace Helbig!

(If you haven't watched this yet, you really should. Especially if you're hungry.)

Ready for the heat!

Oh yes. Look at that delicious culinary monstrosity. Now, let's reverse this flavor train  back to the beginning. 

First step! Take your pre-made pizza crust (stop groaning in disgust, I'm in college), and add your sauce. In this case, I used leftover green enchilada sauce and salsa for the taco-ish part. Than add your favorite pizza/taco ingredients into a pan along with your shrimps. I used tiny "salad" sized ones since they tend to have more flavor, and the larger ones aren't too appealing to my boyfriend. For the veggies, I cut up Italian cubanelle & red bell peppers, garlic, and onions.

putting it together


After everything is cooked through, scoop your toppings out of the pan and onto the crust. Make sure not to overcook your shrimps! Those poor little buggers can get SUPER chewy (like rubber-bands) and devoid of all tasty flavor if they are left on the heat too long. If you get the pre-cooked kind, you can eliminate the worry of eating raw shellfish. Heat gently, people.

Now, let me explain why this pizza is not DROWNING in boyfriend and I are both lactose intolerant. Cheese tends to turns both of our digestive tracts into pits of uncomfortable hell. However, I am a person who believes cheese-less pizzas are a cruel form of torture, so I used a cheddar-Jack blend sparingly.

I added some thinly sliced tomatoes, and baked the pizza at 375s F for around 15 minutes. Low and behold, this was the result:

OMG the deliciousness

 I drooled as I added that photo, just so you're aware. It's a lot different than Grace's, but that's what makes pizza so amazing. Adaptability and individuality at it's finest.

And now, ladies and gents, it's time for pizza number two!

Since many of the steps for the first pizza are the same for this one, I don't really need to repeat it here. This time, I used a leftover jar of vodka pasta sauce as a base layer of flavor. For the veg, I added mushrooms, onions, jalapenos, and again topped with thin tomato slices. I used the same cheddar-Jack blend that I used on the shrimp taco pizza.

Pizza victory!

All that goodness...

And there you have it! Pizza isn't as mundane as so many pizza joints make it out to be, especially when you take the ingredients into your own hands. Now, go whip up you're own unique pizza creation!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Beef Wellington

I've never been to the UK (sigh), and complicated recipes often intimidate me. Last night, I decided to go for it, and I took on one of Britain's most beloved dishes....

Beef Wellington.

Ah yes, that sumptuous piece of beef clad in pastry dough had to be mine. All day long, idiot-proof recipes and tantalizing photos beckoned me. I searched Pinterest and YouTube high and low for the preparation method that best suited my time constraints, tastebuds, and my budget.

I eventually landed on this gem!

The gents over at SORTED Food gave me the inspiration I needed! They made the steps simple to follow, and showed how one can add their own flare to this classic dish. Ben and the gang decided to give their beef an Italian twist with parma ham and fresh basil. I, myself, choose a poor college kid alternative.

Their  duxelles (the pasty bit that goes on top of the beef before sealing in pastry) consisted of traditional ingredients, with mushrooms and garlic (nix the pate) pureed and then finished off in a skillet.

I opted for a can of chickpeas, 2 cloves of garlic, lime juice, and fresh jalapeƱos from my garden.

chickpea & jalapeƱo duxelles

It wasn't as fatty or as smooth as the traditional duxelles, but I did finish it off in the pan after searing the steak. And it was DELICIOUS, all on its own!

As for the steak, I choose a cheap (as in $6.57 cheap) lean-ish cut that was fresh, and had just been cut that morning. I gave it a veggie oil massage before seasoning it with salt and pepper, then I dropped it in a  terrifyingly hot pan to sear. As Ben from Sorted Foods pointed out, I made sure to sear the steak on all sides before putting it on a plate to rest.

Now, here's the part that is going to have some people cringing. And by some people, I mean chefs...or people that have tasted properly prepared Beef Wellington. Bear with me, and keep in mind that I'm poor and can't reach most of the items on the top shelves of grocery stores.

I searched that Hannaford top to bottom on a quest for puff pastry. Alas, I found none. But that wasn't about to stop me from attempting this recipe! And so I reached for the pre-made pie pastry dough that is already cut into rounds, and comes in a box of two.

I know! It's not the same as puff pastry! But let me ask you this...have you ever had a Cornish Pasty? 

If your answer is yes, than you know that this was a wonderful substitution! The key is to prick the top of the pastry after the filling is sealed in, which allows steam to escape as it cooks. Sort of like an apple pie. Another key step is to brush the top of the pastry with an egg wash right before it goes into the oven. Nothing beats that crisp golden-brown crust. *drool*

the pastry wrapped beef

I set the oven to 400 (F), and let 'er rip for about 30 minutes. The pastry did crack in a few spots, and some juices did leak out, but not bad at all. Check out the result!


LOOK AT THAT FLAKY CRUST! It's golden brown, but not too dry thanks to the egg wash. The beef did overcook slightly (the boyfriend and I prefer medium rare), but it was mouthwatering! Next time I will try cooking it for 20 minutes instead of 30 to avoid the "well-done" spectrum. The duxelles added a POW of flavor that was surprisingly light, all thanks to the lime juice! And that crust? Utter perfection. I was so impressed, I couldn't stop squealing with delight. Even with my mouth full.

I paired a veggie medley to go with the rich Wellington. Mushrooms, onions, and spaghetti squash might seem like an unlikely trio, but they come together AMAZINGLY in a pan with some pumpkin ale (as you can glimpse in the background), butter, and some Lee & Perrin's. The steakhouse flavors you know and love, all on one plate.

If you haven't done so already, please be sure to check out the wonderful gents over at SORTED Food's YouTube channel! Don't forget to check out their lovely blog for all the recipes you can try at home!

Thanks for reading!
xoxo - Rae