Honey Wheat Pizza with Sun Dried Tomato Sauce and Roasted Chicken

Honey Wheat Sun-dried Tomato Pizza with Roasted Chicken-3

I have a love/hate relationship with pizza.

There are many things to thrill to about pizza. Layers of baked cheese, herb-soaked tomato sauce and fresh meat and/or vegetables piled on top of a soft, but crispy-on-the-edges dough, is song-worthy. Other high points include its sweetly tomatoey flavor hit, satisfyingly warm bite of stringy cheese not quite softened to its base, and beautiful, lingering salt kick from thin slices of meat or seasoned veggies.

But, there are also many things to run from with generic pizza. Overly processed and spiced, bad pizza is too heavy on the dough and not heavy enough on the flavor. Kind of like a rectangle of thick, shellacked cardboard baked to crusty doneness, it leaves a one-note sensation of grease and blandness in its wake.

Needless to say, I am hesitant to try any pizza recipe because of my immediate fear of the untasty; and as you know, it is hard for me to hide my disappointment and displeasure with bad food (I know Mom, I know). However, if there ever was anyone to trust in this journey of facing my fears, it would be Rachel Van Egmond. Vowing from a young age never to leave home without a necklace, she is the one-woman owner and founder of Van Egmond Vintage (where she repurposes vintage jewelry into beautiful necklaces), mother of precious Ramsey, and wife of eighth-grade math teacher and musician Jeremy. To say that her life is busy is an understatement! But on a recent dinner at her home in Montgomery, I was wooed immediately by her take on- gasp!- pizza.

Rachel’s dough was different; sweet and hearty, but not too thick, softer in the center and  airier on the edges. I loved her southwestern-themed toppings- avocado, shredded chicken, bell peppers, lightly sprinkled cheese and tomato sauce. Like Rachel, it was light and fun and full of creative flavors.

Immediately inspired, I set about creating my own version, with her dough as my anchor. And I will tell you, this dish is my new, go-to weeknight dinner. Making the dough is easy, and you only have to be patient enough to let it rise for an hour. The sun dried tomato sauce is inspired by Budget Bytes and tastes just like the jarred variety, but super delicious and much less expensive. Roasting the chicken, doused in spices, skin on and bone in, keeps the flavor in without weighing down the crust. All in all, this version is a winner. And when it comes to pizza, I don’t use that term loosely.*

Honey Wheat Sun-dried Tomato Pizza with Roasted Chicken-5

*Also, please be advised  that you have not been to Body Pump in weeks (ok, let’s be honest, months) like myself, the hand-kneading of dough method will most likely count as your workout for the week and you may or may not be sore tomorrow. You have been sufficiently warned:)

Honey Wheat Pizza with Sun Dried Tomato Sauce and Roasted Chicken

What You Will Need

For the pizza

  • 1 or 2 batches of pizza dough (depending on how many people and/or singles you are feeding; 1 batch feeds 2 hungry people)
  • Sun dried tomato sauce (recipe below)
  • Shredded roasted chicken (recipe below)
  • Fresh spinach leaves
  • One avocado, diced
  • Colby jack cheese (Just make it as cheesy as you like)

For the dough*

  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp bread flour (plus extra if hand-kneading)
  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp active dry instant yeast

What You Will Do

1. By Hand: Go ahead and flour a large, clean surface on which to roll out your dough. Place all dough ingredients in a large bowl. Using a large wooden spoon, manually stir all of the ingredients until they just come together in a ball. Take the dough out of the bowl (it’s totally ok for there to be flour/dough shred pieces at the bottom of the bowl at this point; just scoop them out and add them back into your dough ball) and put it on your floured surface. Knead the dough, taking out all of your aggression from the week onto the now flattened loaf, until it’s warm, sticky, elastic, and it has a nice give when you press into it with your palm; about 10 minutes or as much as your biceps can stand.


2. With a stand mixer. Place all ingredients in a stand mixer. Manually stir a couple of times with a dough hook, then attach dough hook and knead on low for about 2 minutes until a ball of dough forms. Then, increase speed to medium high and let knead for 8-10 minutes.

3. Cover dough bowl with damp washcloth (I used plastic wrap and a damp washcloth) and place in a warm place to rise for about 45 minutes. If you are making the chicken for this pizza, I would get that going now.

5. Preheat oven at 450. Go ahead and place a pizza stone in the oven to get hot.

4. Remove dough from the bowl and roll it out to form pizza crust(s) about 1/3 inch thick. I made three large pizzas with two batches of dough. Now top with sun dried tomato sauce, roasted chicken, spinach, avocado, and cheese.

5. (CAREFULLY! I almost burned my over-ambitious hand off here) slide your pizza onto a preheated stone. Seriously, please use extreme caution and don’t be a spaz and have to ask of help only after you burn yourself like I did. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until cheese is melted, bubbly, and happily sizzling in the pan.

6. Let cool for a minute or two, then slice with a pizza cutter and serve.

For the sun dried tomato sauce:

  • 2/3 cup olive oil (Use the best quality you can here; it really makes a difference in the sauce!)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • two pinches crushed red pepper
  • some freshly cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz. tomato paste (I like Hunts)
  • 1 tsp honey (Use local honey if you can here too)
 What You Will Do
  1. Add the olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, paprika, cumin, crushed red pepper, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to a small skillet.
  2. Stir continually, and heat the mixture over low heat for about 3-5 minutes. If this sizzles that’s totally ok; you just want it to smell aeromatic and try not to let the garlic burn.
  3. Add the tomato paste and honey, and continue to stir continually. The oil will most likely separate from the spices, and that’s great! It tastes good that way. I heated mine over low for about 4 minutes, or until the paste darkened a bit.
  4. This tasted great the day I made it, and the next day when I used it again. I think the spices develop flavor in the sauce over time!

For the roasted chicken

What You Will Need

  • 3 bone-in, skin on chicken thighs, patted dry
  • Some generous shakes of Jim N Nicks’ Chicken and Turkey seasoning

What You Will Do

1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

2. Place your chicken thighs in a roasting pan. Cover generously with spice mix; flip pieces over and do the same thing on the other side.

3. Bake for about 28-30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reaches 165 when inserted into your chicken.

4. Let cool, then shred into pieces for the pizza pizza.

For those of you who made it all the way to the end of this article, I love you and appreciate your tenacity. Not only will you be rewarded with great pizza, I also give you with the best restaurant pizza link in Alabama: Bettola

Sausage Fajitas with Red Beans and Sage Sour Cream

Sausage Fajitas

Y’all, 2013 was an incredible year; I learned a lot. But I have such high expectations for 2014 to be even better!

One of my resolutions for LuvCooks is to focus on the incredible culinary talent, resources, and ingredients we have around us. There are so many inspiring people in this world, and I want you to meet them and their recipes.

Granted, some of these people I do not personally know, but I want to (and may or may not have stalked them on the internet). Ree Drummond, Maggie (my former high school lunch lady who opened her own diner in my hometown and makes cinnamon rolls that are as big as your face) and John T. Edge, here we come! These are the people- new friends, old acquaintances, and like they say in the South- “your momma and them”- that I want you to know about.  My goal is to showcase their recipes, talent, and heart for the food we love.

Also (I will miiissss youuuu Oreoooooos) for the next three months, I am trying to eat as little processed food as possible. This stems from feeling a bit like I am spiting Mother Nature with the amount of wonderful produce we have in the South. ‘Nuff said.

I can’t think of a more fitting way to begin this culinary journey than to start with Deramus Family Sausage in Booth, Alabama. I have been eating Deramus sausage since I was a wee girl, dancing to Paula Abdul and waking up to the smell of savory sausage browning on the weekends. I will never forget the hand-written thank-you notes we received in the mail from Mrs. Deramus after ordering their product. The flavor and ingredients the Deramus family uses is unparalleled in the sausage business, and if you talk with the head of production, Herb Murray, he will tell you that their secret ingredient- the force that makes their sausage delicious, prevents heart burn and all around makes the sausage-eating wonderful- is a specially-grown sage that only they know about. In fact, when Mr. Deramus (Herb’s stepfather) first started making sausage, he was sent to Germany during World War II and put in charge of livestock. While there he discovered the secret ingredient to delicious German sausage (their blend of sage) and came back to the Southern States on a mission to find that herb and recreate it for himself.

Since Herb’s favorite way to eat his sausage is sautéed with bell peppers and onions, below is my own spin on the Deramus family tradition. Using Creole seasoning and liquid smoke instead of fajita seasoning ups the flavor ante to accompany the hot sausage. Red beans round out the Creole flavor line up, and the sage sour cream offers a welcome cool-down, using the Deramus’ signature ingredient to finish it off.

These fajitas are perfect for a warm night in, and while you are eating them, I suggest you go on over to Deramus’ website and order more. You will be greeted by Herb’s voice on the telephone- he handles all calls and customers- and I promise that you won’t be able to help but fall in love with him and his product (and a hand-written thank-you note or two).

Sausage Fajitas with Sage Sour Cream

What You Will Need

  • 2 links Deramus Family hot sausage, halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/2 inch half-moons
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 green bell peppers, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon creole seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 corn tortillas

What You Will Do

1. Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium heat for a minute or so.

2. In the cast iron skillet, add your sausage slices and brown sausage about one to two minutes each side, until they are lightly browned on each side. Make sure and watch these as they cook quickly and you want to keep them just a bit crisp.

3. Once your sausage is cooked, use a slotted spoon to place the pieces on a paper-towel lined plate. Pour out all but about 1 tablespoon of the sausage drippings. (Save the extra grease; this stuff is gold! I put mine in a container to use for future cornbread.)

4. Place your skillet with one tablespoon drippings back onto the heat and turn up to medium-high. Add sliced onion and pepper and cook for about five minutes, stirring occasionally; you want the veggies a bit softer than raw. Add creole seasoning and liquid smoke; cook about five minutes more. Watch your veggies to make sure they stay on the crisp-and not limp-side.

5. Once the veggies are cooked, transfer them to a plate and heat your tortillas. I prefer to put each tortilla back into the cast iron skillet for a minute or so on each side until they are warmed through and light brown on the edges. Or, you can spray cooking spray between each tortilla, pile them up, wrap them in aluminum foil, and heat them up in a 300 degree oven until warmed through.

6. Top each warmed tortilla with sausage, fajita mixture, red beans, and sage sour cream. Wrap up and dig-in!

For the Red Beans (This recipe is adapted from My Daily Moment) I always like homemade beans better than the canned variety.

What You Will Need

  • 1 lb. dry red beans
  • 2 qt. water
  • 1 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. garlic, chopped (about 6-7 large cloves)
  • 2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • Creole seasoning, to taste

What You Will Do

1. Pick through beans to remove the ones that look funky or broken.

2. Rinse the beans rinse thoroughly, and put them in a large Dutch oven pot with enough water to cover by about an inch. Bring them to a rolling boil for ten minutes, then drain and rinse the beans again.

3. Pour the old bean water out of your Dutch oven, rinse it, then add boiled beans, water, onion, celery, and bay leaves to the pan. Bring to a boil.

4. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook over low heat for about 1 1/2 hours or until beans are tender. Stir.

5. Mash some of the hot beans against the side of your pan. Add green pepper, garlic, thyme, salt, and black pepper.

6. Cook uncovered over low heat until creamy, about 30 minutes. Remove bay leaves.  Add a large dash of Creole seasoning to taste.

For the Sage Sour Cream

What You Will Need

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp dried sage (or to taste, depending on how sage-y you like things)

What You Will Do

1. In a small bowl, whisk sour cream with dried sage until combined.