Cheese Bites Deep Dish Pizza

Is it just me, or do you find yourself a little more creative when you are preparing a dish to pass? My husband automatically knows when he walks in and sees something like this pizza that it’s not for us! Lol!! Or his question ten times a day is “Did you get a picture yet?” Ha! Ha!  Recently I saw a commercial for one of the big chain pizza places and was intrigued by their “Cheesy Bites Pizza”. Besides donating a dish every week to the local community lunch in town, I share food with some elderly friends that don’t cook alot. I think it’s just nice to treat them to some fun foods now and then. Foods that they may not try otherwise. Nothing over the top, just foods and flavors that I really enjoy myself. And one dish that I know they really love is pizza. I  prepare pizza almost once a week and the stuffed crust pizza’s are fun to prepare and fun to eat! For today’s blog post, I prepared my version of the “Cheesy Bites Pizza”. It is meatless, but not lacking in flavor by any means. I literally pulled all of the ingredients out of my refrigerator. Leftover marinara sauce from the local Italian restaurant, homemade chimichurri sauce, sweet peppers from my friends garden and alot of mozzarella. They were so excited to see the pizza I prepared for them, I don’t even think they noticed that one of the cheese bites was missing, lol!! Quality control.  

 

Cheese Bites Deep Dish Pizza

Cheese Bites Deep Dish Pizza

10 inch cast iron skillet
pizza dough (see recipe on link) you will only use half of the pizza doug recipe for one pizza or you could bake two pizzas
Olive oil
Cornmeal
3 mozzarella cheese sticks, slice each into 4 pieces
Mozzarella, sliced or shredded
Red sauce or fresh tomato slices (I used a store bought marinara)
Chimichurri sauce, optional (see recipe on link)
Thinly sliced sweet onions
Thinly sliced red bell pepper
Dried Italian herb mix
Granulated garlic
Coarse sea salt
Fresh cracked pepper

How to prepare fresh pizza dough. Click onto picture to see full recipe on site.

How To Prepare Fresh Pizza Dough

How to prepare chimichurri sauce. Click onto picture to se full recipe.

Learning To Prepare Chimichurri

 

Cheese Bites Deep Dish Pizza

 

1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil on bottom of 10 inch cast iron skillet. Sprinkle on some cornmeal. Take pizza dough ball and press dough out to cover surface and slightly up the sides of pan.

2. Place the pieces of string cheese around the edges. Space out evenly. Take a sharp knife and score/cut in between the cheese bites. It should look like a flower. Pull the dough over to cover cheese bites and pinch to seal on each side. Repeat until done.

3. Drizzle a little olive oil on bottom, add cheese, a little red sauce(or tomatoes), chimichurri(if using), onions, more chimichurri, cheese, red sauce, bell peppers, Italian herbs, granulated garlic, crushed red pepper flakes.

4. I also like to drizzle a little oil over the crust(cheese bites) then season with garlic, herbs, pepper, salt and cornmeal.

5. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. Place under broiler until brown and bubbly. Let cool slightly.

 

Cheese Bites Deep Dish Pizza

Cheese Bites Deep Dish Pizza

 

Cheese Bites Deep Dish Pizza

Frijoles Charros con Salchichas (Mexican-Style Beans)

Frijoles Charros con Salchichas

This is going to be short, sweet and savory. I wanted to share with you a variation on the charro-style Mexican beans that I typically cook anytime we have carne asada or smoked brisket. Sorry, there are not many prep pictures included as I had a few dishes going all at once tis Labor Day Monday. I was lucky I remembered to take this picture, lol!  Many times you will find hot dogs or sausage slices in some charro bean recipes. It was not an ingredient typically added in the recipe I learned from my Mom. I had a few extra all beef hot dogs on this day. But the real star of this dish was the brown sugar maple flavored bacon that I bought especially for Richard. What can I say, he loves bacon for breakfast on the weekends.  The maple and brown sugar flavors in the bacon really stand out in this recipe and quickly became my husbands favorite version of charro beans to date!

 

Frijoles Charros con Salchichas(Mexican Style Beans)

4 strips of brown sugar maple(thick cut) bacon, chopped
2 all beef hot dogs
1/2 cup white onion, diced
2 serrano peppers, sliced
1 red anaheim pepper, sliced
1 pickled jalapeño, sliced
1 large roma tomato, diced
handful of chopped cilantro
3  full cups cooked pinto beans,drained and rinsed
1 bottle mexican beer
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
Juice of 1 large lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Tips~ If you want to eliminate the beer from the recipe, just substitute with more broth.

Directions

1. In a large pot, at medium heat cook the bacon until crispy. Add the hot dogs, onions, serrano, pickled jalapeño, anaheim pepper, tomato and cilantro. Saute for a few minutes.

2. Add in the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine. Cook at a low simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. Taste for salt and pepper. Yields  up to 8 servings.

Grilled Chicken~ And Everything Rice! Learning About Sofrito For Arroz con Gandules

In an attempt to expand my palette and try some new food ingredients, I picked up a 1 pound bag of dried pigeon peas(gandules). With that being said, as soon as I think of gandules, I think of the many, many recipes I have read for the popular Puerto Rican rice dish, Arroz con Gandules.  The gandules come in a few varieties and after being cooked have almost the same texture of most beans(legumes) and are mild in flavor. And the first person I think of when it comes to Puerto Rican food is my dear friend Norma Torres. Her blog site,  Platanoes, Mangoes and Me has some of the most creative and beautifully plated dishes I have seen. Norma belongs to a creative cooking group. And a few times a year they challenge each other with a special ingredient. The plates that come out of these challenges are amazing and could rival any gourmet restaurant. My challenge, as far as preparing Arroz con Gandules, was finding the ingredient sto prepare the real deal sofrito like Norma’s recipe. The first rice recipe below, although delicious,  is loosely based and was pieced together by what I had available. But, the second version is more authentic to the way Norma developed hers. I was excited to find fresh recao leaves which is an important ingredient in her sofrito flavor base.  I grilled some lemon pepper chicken and paired it with the arroz con gandules. You can find chicken recipe at the end of the post.

 

Learning to Prepare Arroz con Gandules-Red Sofrito~ The First Version

Arroz con Gandules-Red Sofrito

Arroz con Gandules-Red Sofrito

I wish I would have taken a picture of the red sofrito before I added it to the pot. Here it is combined with the tomato sauce as it reduces.

 

Red Sofrito~The First Version

1 Green bell pepper(all I had was a poblano)
1 Red bell pepper

1/2 onion
6 cloves garlic
2 roma tomato(Norma told me to never add tomato to sofrito, oops! The second attempt is more accurate.)
1/3 cup cilantro(no culantro where I live, so I added cilantro)
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano

*Coarsely chop all of the ingredients and place in processor or blender. Pulse to blend until desired finish. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

 

Green Sofrito~ Recao-The Second Version

1 cup fresh recao leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, optional
1 green bell pepper(again I used poblano)
1 yellow sweet pepper
1/2 cup garlic cloves
1 small white onion
2 teaspoons thyme
3 teaspoons oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1/3 to 1/2 cup water
*splash of vinegar, optional

Arroz con Gandules-Green Sofrito-Recao

 

Arroz con Gandules-Green Sofrito-Recao

 

Arroz con Gandules-Green Sofrito-Recao

 

Here Is Norma’s Recipe for Arroz con Gandules y Chorizo. Just click onto the picture and it will take you to her blog site.

Arroz con Gandules y Chorizo-Norma Torres, Platanoes, Mangoes and Me Blog Site.

 

Arroz con Gandules y Chorizo (My First Version)~ 

Arroz con Gandules-Red Sofrito

 

 

Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons annatto powder
1/2 cup dice onion
1 1/2 cups finely diced spanish chorizo

1 recipe for Red Sofrito Sauce (see recipe above)
2 packets Goya culantro with achiote ( cannot find culantro where I live, so I added this sazon)
2 cups long grain rice
2 cups gandules(previously cooked and drained)
3 cups of broth (I reduced the amount to three cups instead of 4 like the original since I blended tomatoes into the sofrito)
salt and pepper to taste

*I did not have any alcaparrado(olives, pimento and capers) to  add to the first version of the rice.  Norma used 1/2 cup in her original recipe.

Arroz con Gandules-Cooking Gandules

Tips~ I cooked a one pound bag of Goya brand gandules. Soak in water overnight. Drain and add fresh water. Add some aromatice, such as smashed garlic cloves, onion, bay leaves. I never season with salt  until they become tender. I cooked them mostly covered at a steady simmer for about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Once tender, I added salt and pepper to taste and cooked for another ten minutes.

Arroz con Gandules-Red Sofrito

Directions~ First Version of Arroz con Gandules

  1. 1. Heat oil in large caldero style pot to medium heat. Add the annatto powder, onions and Spanish chorizo. Season lightly with salt and pepper and saute for 3 to 5 minutes.2. Add the red sofrito and Sazon packets to the pan. Stir well to combine and taste for saltand pepper. Let sauce cook out for a good 15 minutes or until it reduces and thickens slightly.3. Add the broth or water, rice and gandules. Gently stir to combine. Bring to a boil and taste for salt. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover and continue cooking until most of the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with fork. Cover rice with foil paper, cover with lid and place back on heat at lowest setting. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes, checking to make sure that bottom of rice does not burn. You want golden, crispy and brown, not black, lol! Cover and let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Yields 10 to 12 servings.

Arroz con Gandules-Red Sofrito

Tips~ Even with all of the adjustments I made on this version, I was very happy with the results. My friends at the community lunch loved it and I would make it again for sure.

 

And for the second attempt at Norma’s Arroz con Gandules, I was a little more prepared with recao leaves in hand!

 

Arroz con Gandules y Chorizo(My second version)~ A little closer to Norma’s  original recipe

Arroz con Gandules-Green Sofrito

 

Ingredients

2 tablespoons achiote/annatto oil
1 cup thinly sliced Spanish-style chorizo
1/3 cup onion, diced
salt and pepper
1/4 full cup green sofrito(see recipe)
1/3  cup alcaparrado(see recipe)
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1 envelope Goya Sazon
2 cups chicken broth or water
1 cup gandules(already cooked).I did not see the green gandules or else I would have picked those up.

Arroz con Gandules-Green Sofrito-RecaoTips~ To prepare a quick achiote/annatto oil, I added 1 teaspoon of achiote seeds to a small glass bowl. Cover with 1/4 cup olive oil and heat in the microwave for 40 seconds to 1 minutes. Strain out the seeds.   As I have stated many, many times, It’s good to measure out all of your ingredients when trying a new recipe. Less room for mistakes.

Arroz con Gandules-Green Sofrito-Recao

Tips~ For the Alcaparrado, 6 queen size olives with pimento, 1 tablespoon  capers and 1 tablespoon red pimento. Chop up fine and combine. I purchased the ingredients separate, but it also comes mixed already in the Goya brand. 

 

Directions

1. In a skillet, heat achoite oil to medium heat. Add the onions and chorizo. The onions are not in the original recipe, but I like sauteed onions in my rice, so I added them. Season lightly with salt and pepper, to taste. Saute for 3 minutes.

2. Add the sofrito, alcaparrado and tomato sauce. Stir well to combine and cook for a good 5 to 7 minutes to cook out some of those raw flavors.

3. Add rice, gandules and 2 cups of broth. Gently stir to combine. When it comes to a boil, reduce to a low simmer. Taste for salt and pepper, cover and continue
cooking until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Depending on you pan, this could take 14 to 18 minutes.

4. At this point, I fluffed out the rice and covered it with foil paper. Put the lid back on and reduce heat to the lowest setting. Continue cooking for another 15 to 20 minutes.The pan you use will vary, so you want to check the rice on the bottom so it does not burn. You are looking for a nice crusty brown color. Once you see this, remove from heat and let rice stand for 10 minutes.

Arroz con Gandules-Green Sofrito-Recao

Tips~ You can see the brown crusty bits of the bottom layer of rice. But know that all pots and pans cook differently. In this same pan, the middle burns faster and therefor was alot darker in that spot. I moved it during the last segment of cooking so it would not burn too much.

 

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken

 

 

For The Brine(requires overnight brining)

water, about 4 cups
salt to taste
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon peppercorns, smashed
1 teaspoon crushed cumin seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
splash of white vinegar

You Will Also Need
3 large boneless chicken breast (sliced open to make 6 pieces)
More Pepper
Zest of 2 lemons and lemons
Olive oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh herbs such as cilantro, parsely or oregano for garnish

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken

 

Directions

1. Combine all ingredients in a pot and heat to medium. Cook just until the salt dissolves and the water begins to form bubbles. Remove from heat and let cool completely. Cover chicken and chill for 24 to 48 hours.

2. When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove it from the brine and remove excess moisture using some paper towels. Season chicken with fresh cracked pepper and the zest of 2 lemons. Drizzle with olive oil and set aside. Slice the lemons into thick slices. I had some leftover Spanish chorizo from the rice recipe so I cooked it on the grill for just a few minutes per side.

3. Preheat grill to medium/high heat. When ready, brush grates with oil. Place chicken onto grill, zest side down. Season the other side of chicken lightly with more pepper and brush with a little oil. Close lid on grill and cook for about 8 or 9 minutes, turning halfway through cooking time. Remove from grill and cover with foil paper. Grill lemon slices for a few minutes per side. Serve with your favorite sides and garnish with grilled lemon slices. Yields 6 servings.

Grilled Lemon Pepper Chicken