Deep dish pizza is my new favorite food

Let’s cut to the chase: Chicago deep dish pizza is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. I mean, just look at it…

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Since Chicago was our first real stop on the trip, providing a few days of leisure before camping, we decided to indulge in this decadent local treat. Our host
took us Giordano’s for a taste.

I am not sure what I was imagining deep dish pizza to be, but I could not have been more wrong. I think I was picturing a Sicilian sort of thing, with a thick crust. Instead, what arrived on our table was a stuffed pizza. The delicious crust was filled, like a pie, with a melty core of cheese and toppings, about an inch high. All the elements were perfect. The crust was light, sweet and flaky, just thinly lining the bottom of each slice. The sauce was delicious, closer to a thin tomato sauce than a thick marinara (win!).

Both the sauce and crust take a back seat to the cheese and filling, which ooze out everywhere bringing joy with every bite. Here, take a closer look:

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Now, I am a clean my plate kind of a girl, but a slice and a half put me over the edge. Good thing the leftovers made a great room temperature lunch in the road the next day ūüôā

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A Berry Nice Surprise

In a moment of great ambition, I volunteered to make pies for my family’s Easter celebration. Baking does not come naturally to me, so I felt a lot of pressure to get these pies right, since there was going to be a crowd of about 20 people. I decided on one strawberry rhubarb and one apple pie. I also decided to buy pre-made crust, and that I was not going to post about this adventure. However, a few things happened and that all changed. First, I found out there is no¬†rhubarb¬†to be found anywhere this time of year. So, with the strawberries already in my cart I decided to try a mixed berry pie. Second, the pies came out great! So here we are ūüôā

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Mixed Berry Pie
adapted from Epicurious

2 store bought pie crusts (I used the Whole Food’s brand frozen ones, made from only a few whole ingredients)
1-16oz container of strawberries, hulled and halved
1/2 pint fresh blueberries
1/2 pint fresh raspberries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (dark or light)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg yolk (for glaze)

Preheat over to 400 degrees F. Combine all ingredients except egg yolk in a bowl, and stir until fruit is nice and coated. Line a pie dish with one crust, and fill with fruit mixture. It should be piled nice and high, since the filling will cook down quite a bit. Carefully cover pie with the second crust. Seal by crimping the edges together with a fork nice and tightly. Cut a few slits in the top for vents.

To make the glaze, beat one egg yolk, 1 tsp of water and 1/4 tsp white sugar together. Brush over the top crust.

Bake for 20 minutes at 400F, then reduce temperature to 350F and bake for an additional hour to 1 hour and 25 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from over and cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Clean Venison Enchiladas

If you are anything like me, some days just make you crave a hearty, comforting meal that won’t throw you off the healthy eating track. This was one of those days, and it coincided perfectly with not wanting to create an extra dinner element for anyone who might feel they need meat to be a whole person. I feel as though I tackled this challenge with grace and ended up with quite a tasty morsel to show for it. The starting point was pulled venison I had in the fridge, and then I remembered this simply and super tasty enchilada sauce that has come through for me on a few occasions. Things just kind of took off from there.¬†If you are having one of those days, I hope this warms your belly and puts you in a good place.

Clean Venison Enchiladas

Ingredients:
Clean Enchilada Sauce
(original sauce recipe from The Naked Kitchen)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1tbsp whole wheat flour
3 tbsp chili powder
12 oz tomato paste
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, minced
sea salt to taste

for enchiladas:
6-8 corn or whole wheat tortillas
1.5 lbs pulled venison (though any meat will do)
12 oz vegetarian refried beans
optional toppings: cheddar cheese, avocado, plain greek yogurt

Preheat your over to 350 F.

To make the enchilada sauce, heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and stir until smooth. Stir in chili power and cook for an additional minute.

Add the tomato paste, veggie broth, onion powder, cumin, and garlic. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, for about 4-5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

Next, line a baking dish with a thin layer of enchilada sauce. If you are using corn tortillas, place them between two damp towels and microwave for about one minute so they steam and soften.

Fill each tortilla with a 1-2 spoonfuls of beans and then venison. Make sure they are not too stuffed that they don’t close!¬†Roll them up and place them seam down in your pan.

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Pour remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas. (Depending on how many enchiladas you end up with and how deep your pan is, you may end up with extra sauce, which freezes well.)

Cook uncovered for 30 minutes. If you are adding cheese, sprinkle it on during the last 5-10 minutes.

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Top with a spoon of plain greek yogurt and diced avocado to serve. Any leftover sauce or enchiladas can be frozen.

Note: This recipe is freezer challenge approved.

Eggplant Parmesan, Second Generation Style

Here’s something you should know about me: I live for splurge meals. My absolute all time favorite foods usually fall into this category. In my normal routine, I try to adapt some of these recipes into clean versions, but on splurge day anything goes. Fried stays fried, pasta stands in for itself, and I put cheese on my half too.

It took me approximately 2 seconds too decide what tomato week’s splurge recipe would be. Growing up, my dad (originally from Italy) would make his eggplant parmesan maybe once or twice a year. It’s not a quick undertaking, and I knew it was a big ask to see if he would make it with me so I could blog about it. The thing is, what I really mean by “second generation style” is that I want to learn how to make this dish exactly like his, because it is absolutely perfect. The effort is always worth it. Plus, it makes your house smell sooooo good.

Best of all, eggplant is in season right now and I can’t help but pay thanks to this¬†versatile crop.¬†What a fine nightshade you are, eggplant. Thanks for being you.

Traditional Eggplant Parmesan
makes enough to fill 2 13×9 baking dishes, about 16 servings

Ingredients:
3 medium size eggplants
3 quart jars cooked tomato sauce
2 lbs fresh mozzarella cheese
vegetable/ canola oil for frying
2 cups grated romano/ parmesan cheese

for batter:
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
a few cups of cold water

*Note: Since this takes a few hours, I usually make an extra batch to freeze or give away. Cut everything in half if you are only making one dish.

To make your batter, combine flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add eggs, lightly beaten. Once well mixed, start adding water about a half cup at a time. The batter should be the consistency of runny pancake mix. Keep adding water and mixing until the batter is thin enough that it will run off the end of a spoon easily. There should be no lumps.

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Next, trim off both ends of the eggplants and slice them about 1/4 inch thick. Do your best to keep the thickness consistant so the pieces cook evenly.

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Meanwhile, in a deep saute pan, heat up 3/4 to an inch of cooking oil on medium heat. Test the oil temperature with a drop of water or batter. It will sizzle when hot. If you have a thermometer, oil temperature should reach between 400-450 F.

Once the oil is ready to go, dip each slice of eggplant in the batter and just cover both sides. Let any excess batter run off, and then carefully place in the hot pan.

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When the underside becomes golden brown (1-2 min), flip them over and fry for another minute or so. When cooked, drain each piece of excess oil as you remove them from the pan.

draining-excess-oil-from-fried-eggplant-for-eggplant-parmesanAs the slices come out of the fryer, lay them on a plate covered with a paper towel to soak up extra grease as they cool.

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While the eggplant is frying, grate your mozzarella and parmesan. To make grating easier, place the cheese in the freezer for 15-20 minutes first. Now is also a good time to preheat your oven to 375 F.

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If there is any batter left over when the eggplant is done, you can pour it into your hot oil to make a zeppoli, or fried dough ball (more like a pancake in this case.) Cook it the same way as the eggplant.

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When it’s done, sprinkle a little powered sugar on top and enjoy! Besides being delicious, this snack might distract you from scarfing down tons of hot, crispy eggplant as it comes out of the pan. It also might not. I usually eat both, and chase them with large chunks of¬†mozzarella. Extras are built into the recipe to allow for this unstoppable force.

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Assemble everything in a baking dish in layers. Start with a little bit of sauce on the bottom of the pan, then eggplant, mozz, parm, and a drizzle of sauce.

Repeat until your tray is full. Only use a little bit of sauce in each layer so it doesn’t become too wet.

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End with the cheese layer on top.

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Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 45-60 minutes. Take the foil off for the last 10-15 minutes of cooking to let the top get crispy.

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Enjoy! Freeze whatever you can’t eat. This type of dish tastes better every time you heat it up.

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I would also just like to thank my good friend Jennifer for shooting the amazing photos for this blog while helping me fry eggplant for hours. They have added so much to this project, and I hope this is just the first of many¬†collaborations between us. I mean, they’re incredible. I’m not the only one drooling on my computer, right?