Easy Home-Made Pizza using TJ’s Pizza Dough (Re-Visited!)


Yesterday I noticed that the all-useful TRADER JOE’S PIZZA DOUGH had undergone a price hike. It had cost 99 cents for as long as I can remember, ever since our TJ’s opened. Yesterday I noticed TJs raised its price to $1.19 (thats in NY area) Does not seem much you say, true, but if I told you they raised its price 20% you might think “thats a bit steep”. OK rant over, now here’s the good part of this post!

The pizza recipe” post I did before seems to be one of the more popular posts here, so I’m re-visiting the topic of PIZZA (Yeah Baby!)

Pictured below is yet another pizza I made for dinner recently using TJ’s ever useful bag of Pizza Dough. To make this I used some homemade spaghetti sauce, with some extra veggies I had leftover from another dinner (eggplant, peppers, and onions). Mozzarella, and some hot Italian sausage. At the end I put on some cooked Kale with garlic I had made another night too. See, part of the “pizza night” ethos is to use up whatever one can in the fridge!


Seriously, doesn’t this home-made pizza look so damn yummy and delicious that you wish you could eat it right now?! Well guess what, you canMake your own pizza at home. Its EASY! No, really, it is pretty dam easy. Do you need to use home-made sauce? Of course not, a jar or canned sauce like TJ’s Marinara would be fine.

Making your own pizza is easy, fun, super delicious and is of course generally way cheaper than buying one. There is *nothing* like eating a pizza you just pulled fresh out of the oven a few minutes before. If you have never made pizza at home before, you absolutely must try making one yourself at least once, and promise, once you do make one, you’ll want to make a pizza every week. Every time I go to Trader Joe’s I buy a package of dough to keep in my freezer to always have it on hand for these occasions. It will defrost on the counter in about 3 hours (or leave to defrost in the fridge overnight). Is a Recipe needed to inspire you? OK then heres one:

pizza5HOMEMADE PIZZA

Ingredients needed: 1 package of TJ’s Pizza Dough, about 8 ozs of some SAUCE (Marinara, etc),  about 1/2 lb Cheese (Mozzerella, Parmesan, Pecorino, Grana Padano, Jack, etc ) and using more than one cheese is even better, Fresh Garlic, (optional: diced tomato, onion, parsley, cooked mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, kale, etc) and of course, Italian Spices (oregano, basil, rosemary, red pepper, black pepper….)

1) Take your (defrosted) package of TRADER JOE”S PIZZA DOUGH out of the fridge –  leave it out at room temperature for at least one hour (the package says ’20 minutes’ but longer is better). Room temperature dough will be easier to work and press out.  (around the 1/2 hour point, you can turn on, pre-heat oven to 450-500)

2) Prepare a clean work surface thats large enough to work on and lightly dust it with FLOUR. Remove the dough from the package (I invert the plastic bag to remove and just pull till it all comes out). Dust the dough with flour so you can work it. Now you shape it. With your hands well floured and adding a little extra flour (or cornmeal) on the surface of the dough as needed, start to press out the dough using your fingers. Keep working and turning it until it is your desired size and shape. I used a square non-stick “half-sheet pan” to cook my pizza. Its a little trickier to make the dough into a square shape instead of a round shape but I like it like this. If using this kind of square pan, put a little olive oil in the pan on the bottom, put some on top of the dough and work it with your fingers…keep pressing it out gently. The oil will help you to stretch it out and work the dough into shape. Let the dough rest five minutes if you find its not ‘listening’ to you and keeping the shape you want and pulling back in (thats normal, let it rest a bit then do some more work). Be careful not to make the pizza “too thin” (or rip it!) if you can. Or too thick. Get it just right. Build up the edges to make your crust. You can gently brush the edges with some olive oil if you want -this is optional.

Shaping your dough is the only “hard part” of this project and the more you do this, the more you will get the hang of handling pizza dough. If its not perfectly shaped your first time dont fret! I promise it will still taste mighty good! Don’t give up. Check YouTube for some videos on making pizza, study a bit and practice and keep doing it. You will get the hang of it and find it getting much easier in future.

Now that you have your pizza dough base ready, its time for the ingredients
3) Spread your tomato sauce out with a large spoon. Do not oversauce – that will make the pizza harder to cook evenly and soggy. Add sauce as a thin sparse layer. Now add your other ingredients, again in moderation, and spaced out. Don’t place too much stuff on it. Sprinkle on grated mozzerella or other cheese as desired. I like to use more than one cheese (Parmesan is great as well as Grana Padano) If using sausage, pre-cook a bit just till you can slice easily (I cooked mine covered for 5-6 minutes, let it cool in the pan, then sliced it up and added it) Add extra spices as desired (Oregano, Rosemary, Basil, Red Pepper flakes….). Add fresh cracked pepper. Drizzle a bit of Olive Oil all over just before baking (Are you vegetarian? Vegan? Adjust the ingredients as needed. I’m sure you know how. Soy cheese perhaps?)

4) BAKING: When its ready to bake, place the pizza in pre-heated 450-500 degree oven. Ie, very hot (real pizza ovens are even hotter). Bake on middle or top oven rack. Check pizza after 15-18 minutes (ROTATE the pizza, if your oven bakes unevenly after 10 minutes). The pizza will probably need a total of around 20-25 minutes to bake, but your mileage may vary, as every oven is different. Check it frequently until you think its done. When it is done, I think you will know; it should be bubbly and slightly browned on top (as well as the bottom) However be careful not to over-cook your pizza or it may be a bit tough. Real pizza ovens are 600-900 degrees or hotter, so a pizza bakes in mere minutes….we just do our best with our regular home ovens. When your beautiful pizza looks – and smells – like its done, it probably is, so remove it from the oven. Check it. If its finished, you should let it rest 2 minutes before cutting as it will be easier to slice. Yes, waiting is the hardest part. SLICE it up with your favorite tool. I’ve got a pizza cutter from a 99 cents store, and it works fine. Believe it or not I even use kitchen shears to cut pizza, and that works fairly well. If you have fresh Basil, now is the time to add it – use kitchen shears as I learned to do watching master pizza maker Dom DeMarco at the legendary DiFara’s Pizza in Brooklyn)! Dom’s pizza’s are to die for.

The hardest part in the above may be waiting 20 minutes or so for the pizza to come out of the oven. The thing is, once you get the hang of making a pizza yourself a few times you will find its really that not hard to do, nor takes that much time. You must try making pizza yourself. Please leave some feedback on your successes (or failures)

Buona Fortuna (good luck!) and Enjoy…

Gently remove dough from bag and place on lightly floured work surface. Let dough rest for 20 minutes, then, for best results, stretch by hand or roll out with rolling pin to 12-inch diameter. Top with your favorite toppings and bake in a preheated 450 degrees oven or BBQ grill for 8-10 minutes, or until cheese begins to boil and the bottom of crust is golden brown.Use a hot pizza stone or lightly oiled pan for optimum results. Mangia!

AND YET MORE PHOTOS OF MAKING OF A PIZZA USING HOMEMADE DOUGH

HALF ZUCCHINI / HALF TOMATO

Amazing 99 cents deals at TJ’s this Xmas


My checkout person told me during the holidays TJ’s puts on a lot of deals for 99 cents. Here are two examples of things I found today for just 99 cents each:

Gingerbread Man Kit”

Its one huge gingerbread cookie with packets of icing, candy buttons, and sprinkles that you add as customized decorations. The packages says “made in Germany” so I assume its tasty. For a buck, this is an easy and fun present for kids (or adults).

The Sample Station that day had these Chewy Eggnog Cookeis so I got to try them before I bought them (which were really tasty with the TJ’s coffee I had with them).

“Chewy Eggnog Cookies”

They are soft and chewy and have the typical spices that go in eggnog. They are tasty. They went amazingly well with the Winter Spice Blend coffee at the Sample Station.

Again,  TJ”s is selling these cookies for a buck. Who wouldn’t buy these to try?

Personally I stocked up on quite a few of both of these 99 cents steals, both to give as fun gifts and to put some in the pantry.

Eggnog Almonds


My local Trader Joes had a sign next to these candies, around Christmas-time…
“Oops – We bought too many of these; our mistake is your gain. Reg. price $3.99. Now $1.99”


Who could resist such a come-on? I bought some to try …and they are actually quite tasty.

They are good-size almonds inside with a white chocolate outer coating, and they do taste like “Eggnog”. They have that flavor profile and spices. You can see flecks of nutmeg in the coating.

As I’m a dark chocoholic I normally avoid anything with white chocolate (no cacao? thats not chocolate) as a waste of flavorless calories, but the spices make this into something tasty. Try them if you see them , especially for the overbuy “mistake” price.

TJ’s Multigrain and Flaxseed Water Crackers


This looked worth a try the other day – and it was. This is a “healthy” cracker. Ingredients? Package states, “Whole Grain Flour (Wheat, Quinoa, Spelt, Millet, Kamut), Enriched Wheat Flour, Sunflower Oil, Whole Flaxseed, Salt, Sugar”. That looks pretty natural to me. Just about every healthy grain on the planet is in this cracker. So you don’t have to feel too bad eating these. The label states 4 crackers are 60 calories. Also not too shabby right?

Taste? Very good. They do NOT taste like cardboard, as some “healthy” products tend to. These taste great: Natural and fairly neutral as a “water cracker” should. Like “Carr’s”, which are the standard, but a bit more flavorful, no doubt due to the whole grains. They are a fine base for anything: cheese, dips, meats, etc, and yes I’ve eaten some on their own and I think they are better than Carr’s this way, which are way too bland for me. These are crisp and delicate but sturdy enough to support anything you top them with. These sell for a very good price too – well at the moment, TJ”s is now raising prices on a weekly basis! They are a great deal for $1.29!

A RAVE

Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil Soap


Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Oil “Pure Vegable Soap” looks like and according to the ingredients is almost exactly the same formula as their wonderful Oatmeal and Honey soap. Ingredients on the label are identical except instead listing oatmeal flakes and honey as ingredients, this lists Tea Tree Oil in the ingredients. The fragrance of this soap is a bit less pronounced than the Oatmeal Honey one, which smells so good I think I could almost eat it.  This is more subtle. While I do frankly prefer the Oatmeal version, this too is very good, and I like it very much as well. If you Google it, you see it has very good reviews on some sites for many types of skin problems. Tea Tree Oil is supposed to possess certain medicinal properties, such as being an anti-fungal & antiseptic agent.

All I know is my face does feel incredibly clean and grease free after washing with this. In the shower, its also feels kind of “cooling” to the skin, and feels a tiny bit like Dr. Bronners* (my favorite soap in hot weather is Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap) But this may be my close second. Like Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap, this soap is definitely good for cooling off in hot summer-time weather. It sells for a little bit more than TJ’s Oatmeal soap (1.99 for 2 big bars of this vs. $1.70 for the Oatmeal / Honey soap). However compared to fancy, pricey skin soaps, this stuff is an ABSOLUTE STEAL at $1/bar. Try and see what you think.

TJ’s FRENCH GREEN BEANS (Haricots Verts)


RAVE

These can easily be on any Trader Joe’s Top 10 List. Easily best “first try” of a TJ product in a while. I was quite impressed. These are in the Frozen section, and are extremely good quality French Haricots Verts “(translation: green beans”). They say clearly “IMPORTED FROM FRANCE”. 

“Haricot Verts” are better than the standard green beans you probably know and buy. Haricots Verts are the skinnier French variety, more tender green beans than we have in U.S…the kind of green beans you see on your plate in a very nice restaurant next to that $30 entree you ordered.

When I see fresh HARICOTS VERTS, imported from France, at a top produce green grocer like Fairway for example, they are always expensively priced, something like $6-8 per lb?… vs. $2/lb for “normal green beans” so about 4x what good old regular fresh green beans cost? I usually think ‘who can afford to buy these things? Those with money to burn.’ Well thanks to Trader Joe’s all of us can afford to buy these wonderful vegetables. TJ’s sells a package of HARICOT VERTS in a 24 oz bag. (1.5 lbs) for $1.99! Jeez do the math people, thats about 1.50 /lb? Thats about the same price (or LESS!) than I might buy some regular fresh green beans at the market. (a price check followup in April 2012 show the same price!) 

These are the the wonderful thin, haricots verts, all prepped ready to use, which have been flash frozen. Dark, nice green color. I‘m pretty sure they’ve been blanched for a few seconds prior to being flash frozen. Certainly easy to use: they are all prepped! (ie, tip and tailed) This is a big time saver as prepping beans is the one thing I don’t like about when I buy fresh green beans. they do take a bit of work to prepare (tip and tail). These are trimmed and cut into bite size lengths, ready to use.

To cook, either throw them in boiling water, or do as I usually do, toss the beans into a hot sauté pan with some butter and oil. Cook for perhaps 1-2 mins. Don’t overcook these, you will ruin them. Throw in minced garlic and you have a nice French side dish of haricots verts, ready in minutes. Salads? Yes! I threw them into a salad after boiling them for about 45 seconds, dumping them in a colander and running cold water to cool them, and they were really good tossed with some TJ’s Virgin Olive Oil and White Balsamic vinegar! Delicious. Toss in some diced hard boiled eggs, and parsley, and you have a nice “salade composé”. I also just add them to any dish I’m making that would be good at the last five minutes, generally breaking them in half first as I add them (stews, soups, etc).

haricots verts cocoCategory:Green beans

haricots verts cocoCategory:Green beans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To sell at this price, I can only imagine these are one of those items TJ’s makes a huge deal with the vendor for. TJ’s purchases in such huge quantity, directly from the vendor, then as they say, pays in cash. Thats how TJ’s makes deals so they can sell products at such bargains (case in point is Olive Oil, right? They buy HUGE massive quantities from vendors all over the world)

Anyway TJ’s FRENCH GREEN BEANS (Haricots Verts) are my new favorite vegetable, and are now on my “always these have on hand” Trader Joe’s List. Pretty sure there will always be a package in my freezer from now on. Right next to TJ’s frozen peas and edamame. These are very versatile things to have on hand at all times. Definitely always have a bag in the freezer of these things. Try them, you won’t be sorry.

RECIPEHaricots Verts With Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

(If you make this remember the recipe assumes using fresh haricots verts so adjust the cooking time down)

 

Have you tried this product?  Let me know what you think in the comments section!

TJ’s Tuscan Pane bread


RAVE:

You will see this bread on many a “Trader Joe’s Top 10” and “best products” lists, and rightly so. I think its one of the best products they sell, by far the best packaged bread I’ve had, period. Its a very good, country style bread. Pretty sure this is a slow rise sourdough; its usually full of air holes. Its has a very nice chewy texture and a good crust, of course which is better heated. In fact it gets 10x better toasted or grilled. Tuscan Pane makes unbelievably good toast, and many a morning this bread toasted is what I crave at breakfast. Top the toast with butter, jam, cream cheese, cheese, veggies or just about anything and you have a little slice of toast heaven. One of my faves would be with cream cheese and tomato. Or brie with jam, warmed till the brie is a bit melty.

A large 27 oz. loaf of Tuscan Pane original “white” was until recently $2.29. It has gone up to $2.49 (All wheat products are up) The Whole Wheat version goes for $2.69. Flavorwise I think I prefer the original “white” one to the whole wheat one but the whole wheat is still good too if you prefer that. I usually always prefer to buy whole wheat breads, but this one, not really. Since first trying this, this is yet another TJ product I’ve been become totally hooked on. I must have Tuscan Pane on hand at all times now. I keep it in the freezer; it keeps well frozen at least a week or two.

This bread can be the base of many easy sandwich, snacks and other recipes (croutons? yes!) I make quick and easy Bruschettas using this all the time. Here’s a fast, simple recipe:

BRUSCHETTA

-TJ’s Tuscan Pane

-Fresh garlic, ripe tomato, olive oil

Grill or toast a few slices of bread. When golden brown, immediately rub a cut clove of garlic on the bread. Take a slice of ripe tomato and ’smush’ it into your toast. If you want to be neat, you can dice your tomato and top it (but rubbed in is authentic Italian or Basque Pa Amb Tomaquet style) Drizzle on a nice splash of olive oil, sprinkle with some fresh black pepper and sea salt. A little herbage (basil) on top can’t hurt, but if you don’t have, thats fine.  If you want something heartier, add some sliced or grated parmesan or other cheese or perhaps some prosciutto. Done. YUM!

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