Backyard Pizza Oven

With the growing interest in expanding the indoors outside with added living space, it is no wonder why cooking outdoors has become even more popular.  I recently used a wonderful product called the Pizza Que pizza kit for Kettle grills. Most kettle grills can accommodate this expansion which turns the grill into an amazing pizza oven.  The temperature of my oven reached over 700 degrees in less than 30 minutes and kept that temperature for one hour, without any other assistance.  At that point, we wanted the oven to cool down, so it could have stayed hotter even longer!

Since our pizza cooked in less than eight minutes, we could have made at least 7 more pizzas in rapid succession during that time period.  The result was an excellent tasting pizza which was equal to any wood fired pizza I have sampled at any restaurant.  And, all of this in my own backyard for a fraction of the cost.

This was a really fun time as well, and could be turned into a super fun pizza party for friends and other guests.  I used my favorite frozen pizza crust, with my technique of using corn meal on the pizza paddle for ease in transfer into the oven and out. A mix of flour and corn meal could also be used.  Too much corn meal will start to smoke or burn if left in the hot oven for too long.


Midway through the cooking time, I rotated the pizza as recommended with the included stainless steel paddle with ease.  The crust was already almost done at that point, so the pizza easily moved on the ceramic pizza stone.

The kit assembled in less than 30 minutes and also comes with a thermometer which determines when the pizza should begin cooking. The oven must be up to temperature to achieve the best and fastest results. I followed the directions that came with the kit and had outstanding success. Thanks to the Charcoal Companion again for another great product.

The kit is sold on, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and online at


Lunch at Eataly

So my foodie expedition continues in Chicago, and my excitement could almost not be contained when we walked from our hotel to Eataly.  It is difficult not be become an active food participant when you enter this one city block establishment, which expands to two stories. Not only can you purchase fresh food, staples, pantry items, sweets, watch food being prepared, but Eataly has a wine shop, homemade brews, restaurant service, and a meat and fish counter. This is one amazing place to spend some time. Everyone who appreciates food preparation needs to visit this store.


We decided to shop and eat on our first trip. So midway through our late morning of shopping, we stopped to have a Neapolitan-style pizza which was made from authentic ingredients from the region of Campania. The wood-fired ovens prepare the pizzas in 1-2 minutes with the crust being soft and elastic–and OH so tasty.  We enjoyed the buffalo mozzarella, the fresh basil and our arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette dressing. The classic Pizza Margherita was named for the Queen of Italy when she visited Naples in the late 1800’s.  To recreate this in a home kitchen, the base for the pizza would commonly today be known as a flatbread.

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The atmosphere for dining in several locations throughout the store could be described as busy, loud, energetic, and filled with a community of activity.  From my seat, I could watch fresh bread being sold as well as active shoppers throughout the open marketplace within the store.  Pizza, pasta, fish, vegetables, meat and cheese could all be purchased in various eating spots throughout the second floor of Eataly. The open Italian market feel is continued throughout the store.


Tomorrow I will share my Eataly shopping experience.


Summer biscuit grilled pizzas

For those last-minute meal ideas, have you ever thought of using biscuit dough for a flatbread pizza crust? Inspired by the Deen Brothers, I put together this recipe for a fun grilled individual-sized pizza.  So tasty, so quick, and everyone seems to love to make their own flatbread.

It is so easy to roll out the biscuits in advance and have them chilled in the refrigerator before the grilling even starts.  Cut up your selection of toppings and have them ready for the guests.  I used one 16.3 ounce can of refrigerated biscuits and rolled them in cornmeal to decrease sticking on the grill.  The cornmeal also gives the dough a bit of crunch.


Preheat the grill to medium 350-375 degrees and brush lightly with olive or grapeseed oil. Cook the biscuits on one side for 2-3 minutes with the lid closed. Flip them over and add the toppings very quickly, as the biscuits will only need another 3 minutes to be finished.


Close the lid and allow the cheese to melt.  All toppings will need to be pre-cooked as the cooking time is very short on these flatbreads.


Topping choices could be:  shredded cheese, sliced black or green olives, green onions, white chopped onion, chopped peppers, chopped mushrooms, small cooked bacon pieces, small pieces of pepperoni, cooked ham, chopped hot peppers, pizza seasoning, and many more.

This is a super easy recipe and one that really works. Everyone seems to love these little pizzas.  Also, mini pizzas could be cut into 4 pieces and served as appetizers for a summer party.  Make them in advance and keep them warm on low heat in the oven until ready to serve, or make them as needed for your guests.


Pizza soup with Pepperoni

With weather reports this past week coming in for our area, I was questioning if Spring was ever really going to take hold in Michigan.  I am still wearing a sweater, and yes, still eating soup.  My husband has learned over the years that I only offer certain foods, menus or dishes during appropriate months of the year.  He knows not to ask for mashed potatoes in July.  But, it took a few years for him to fully understand how I classify foods by season. Mostly, I focus on fresh vegetables of the season and look for the protein that best matches with those offerings.

However, that being said, and heading into May, I am still serving soup. In other years, with warmer temperatures, hot soup would be off the menu in March, and only replaced with a chilled soup offering until September.

I found this recipe for pizza soup prepared in a slow cooker from Taste of Home.  It is another recipe that calls for assembling the ingredients, and walking away for 7 1/2 hours. I modified the recipe to include frozen tortellini, instead of cheese ravioli, and feel that my version is super tasty. Try this recipe year round and  let it become one of your favorites. It freezes well, and makes about 6-8 servings from this recipe.

Assemble these ingredients:  2 cans of stewed tomatoes/14.5 ounces, 3 1/2 cups beef broth, 1 white medium onion, 1 small green pepper, 1 small package sliced mushrooms, 1/2 package sliced pepperoni, dried oregano, 3/4 package of frozen cheese tortellini, shredded Parmesan cheese and sliced black olives


Add the first seven ingredients to a slow cooker and place on low for 7 1/2 hours. Add the tortellini and increase to high, cooking for another 1/2 hour. Serve with shredded cheese and sliced olives as desired. A great offering with a side salad and crusty bread.


Jiffy Mix Factory Tour — Made in America


Last week we visited the Chelsea Milling company, home of the Jiffy Mix Plant in Chelsea Michigan.  With reservations, anyone can schedule a free tour of their factory. The tour could last 1 to 1 1/2 hours depending on the group size.  A short 20 minute video is shown, along with a safety film prior to the walking plant tour. The Chelsea Mill was established in 1901 as a traditional flour mill.  In 1930, the first Jiffy baking mixes were on the market.  Everyone seems to recognize the small blue boxes from their grocery store shelves.



Today, 1.5 million boxes can be packaged daily for shipment around the United States of America in this plant.  We toured the packaging plant, and learned a great deal about the products made in this factory.  On the tour, visitors are not taken through the flour mill, but guided around the large factory where many product lines are being boxed for home use, or bagged into 50 pound bags for institutional use.  A combination of older equipment from the 1950’s and modern computerized equipment can be seen.  Workers are busy keeping the process moving while the boxes are being mechanically folded, bag liners are being made, and then the various baking mixes are being filled into the boxes.  We watched the individual boxes being sealed and then gathered into cardboard shipment boxes.  The equipment is fascinating to watch.  The tour was very personal and I felt like I was right on the product lines.  An internet virtual tour video is available here:

I have used some of the Jiffy mixes over the years, but I have never noted so many different types until my tour last week. Their website has a nice listing of their current products:


After coming home, I baked the banana muffin mix, which made six regular sized muffins.  Super delicious!


Watch for the Jiffy mix trucks while travelling on America’s highways.  This is a wonderful made in America product.



Giada’s pizza pot pies

Just after our visit to Giada’a Las Vegas restaurant, I was inspired to try another one of her variations on traditional pizza.  This recipe is for pizza pot pie.  Pottery ramekins or soup bowls are required for baking the individual sized portions. I adapted the recipe to include pepperoni and prosciutto.  Giada suggests roasted chicken and pancetta.


To prepare the pot pies, assemble these ingredients:    For the tomato sauce– 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 minced cloves garlic, 1 teaspoon rosemary, 2 ounces diced pancetta or prosciutto, 28 ounces crushed tomatoes, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper.

For the pizza filling– tomato sauce, 2 cups small pepperoni, 2 cups chopped broccoli, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, pizza dough, 1/3 cup olive oil, and 6 tablespoons grated Parmesan.

Prepare the tomato sauce.  warm the olive oil over medium heat, adding the garlic, rosemary, and chopped prosciutto.  Saute until golden.  Add tomatoes and simmer for 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Next, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine the tomato sauce, pepperoni, broccoli, cheese, salt and pepper.  Combine and add to ramekins evenly.  Roll out your favorite pizza dough and cut into circles that will cover the ramekins.  Place the dough over the ramekins and seal over the edges.  Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and vent.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.


Bake for 18 minutes and check until the dough is browned.  Remove and serve.  This dish could be baked at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

This dish is both cute and personally made for your guests or family. Everyone always enjoys their own dish, at least in my family.  The preparation time on this recipe is about 30 minutes.  Great for a weekend or fun for children to help along with the process.


pizza casserole

Do you have a large group coming over for a game night or football party?  Here is a great recipe for a crowd of people.  Casseroles are easy because they can be baking while the guests are arriving, and are ready to serve right from the oven.

This casserole was featured in Paula Deen’s September/October 2014 magazine.  The casserole can also be frozen in advance, thawed for 30 minutes and then baked according to the directions. I divided Paula’s recipe in half for my version.

The casserole can also be adapted easily to fit the preferences of your family.  I omitted the sausage that she suggests, and changed the pasta selection to what I happened to have in my pantry.  This is a great casserole that will be enjoyed by your guests.  I promise.

To make the pizza casserole:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Assemble the following ingredients. One package of mushrooms, 1/2 pound ground beef,  6 ounces of crumbled bacon, one chopped white onion, 1/2 cup red wine, 1 jar pasta sauce, 1 cup Parmesan cheese, 1 cup Ricotta cheese, just over 2 cups of ribbed pasta, 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, red pepper, 1 cup sour cream, and one package of sliced pepperoni.


Boil pasta and drain.  Prepare a 2 quart casserole with cooking spray. Brown ground beef and chopped mushrooms in a skillet, Drain any excess fat from the beef.   Add onion to brown, and then the bacon. Next, add the red wine.  Once these ingredients are cooked together, add the pasta sauce to heat through. Season with red pepper flakes.

Next, in a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan, sour cream and Ricotta cheese. Then as the past is done, begin assembly of the casserole. SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES Begin with the noodles at the bottom of the dish.  Layer 1/2 of the meat mixture.  Layer with 1/2 of the cheese mixture.  Sprinkle with 1/2 of the mozzarella cheese.  Then repeat the layers.  The pepperoni finishes the dish on the top.



Bake uncovered for 40 minutes until hot and bubbling in the oven.