Caramelized Onion, Bacon, Thyme & Spinach Pizza

I’m gearing up for a triathlon on Saturday, which means I get to obnoxiously carbo-load all week long! Serious athletes would put a great deal of thought into what they eat the week or two before an event (or every day of the year for that matter). I am only concerned with eating enough, making sure I eat some carbs the day before, and staying away from Mexican and spicy food the night before a big race day (learned that one the hard way). This week’s meals are a good balance of carbs and protein. We start off, yesterday, with whatever I had in the fridge after a crazy fun weekend at St. George Island, and that turned out to be a caramelized onion pizza.

Caramelized Onion, Bacon, Thyme & Spinach Pizza

First, make your pizza dough. Yes, from scratch. I took this one from the now defunct Good Things Catered blog.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 package active dry yeast

1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoons EVOO

3/4 cup warm water (105-110 degrees)

In a food processor fitted with a steel or dough blade, process the dry ingredients once or twice. Drizzle in the water. Then add honey and oil. Process until the dough comes together as a ball; you may have to add more flour (I usually do).

Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface, and knead 5-6 times. Place in a bowl that’s been slightly oiled. Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge. It needs about 4 hours to rise, and the good thing is it’ll keep for a week, and be ready to use when you are. If you don’t have 4 hours, do the traditional rise method: cover with a dish towel and place in a dark, warm spot for 45 minutes. Punch it down, then let it rise again for another 45 minutes.

Next: prepare toppings. I sliced up one onion, and caramelized it. That means I cooked it down in EVOO, with some salt, pepper and a dash of sugar, over medium heat (don’t get antsy and put it on high), until they are caramel colored. It’ll take at least 25 minutes, so pour yourself a glass of wine and sit back & stir. I also cooked up some bacon, and washed some spinach for the toppings. Since I haven’t totally destroyed my garden yet, I decided to add some fresh thyme to the mix, as well as a few dollops of ricotta (sounded good at the time, and it was good).

Roll out the dough into whatever pizza shape you wish. I went for a traditional circle last night. Place on a silpat or baking sheet, and top with a little marinara sauce, a light sprinkle of mozzarella, onions, spinach, bacon, more mozzarella, parmesan and thyme. Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes, and enjoy.

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Pizza & Cars

I was involved in 2 rear-end collisions in the span of 48 hours last week (one of those was in a rental car, on official university business; neither of them my fault). I’m fine, as was everyone else involved. Physically fine, that is. Mentally and emotionally, combined with the usual end-of-semester-exhaustion, confusion and despair… and the general life crises that come with turning 30… one could say I’m already on edge. When I drive on the interstate? As I do, like, every day, to get to work? My stomach hurts. It physically exhausts me, because I am so intently focused on not having another accident. When I slow down with traffic due to brake lights? Like is the case daily when you drive in metro Atlanta? And I look in my rear view mirror to make sure no one is about to rear end me again? And the driver behind me is going over 20 and creeping up on my tail? I panic and have flashbacks. I really do not know how serious accident victims move on and drive again (looking at you, Meredith & Jayme. Stronger women than I am, for sure!). I’m having major issues, and the damage in my case was minimal.

Today was going SO AWESOME, too. Things are really looking up for this Intro to Mass Media course I’m teaching in the fall, I advised some fabulous former students (who I am excited to have join the aforementioned COMM1101 class), and I’m making pizza for dinner. So that’ll be the recipe when I finally get around to it: pizza with spinach, artichoke hearts and feta. Maybe even some kalamatas on my half of the pizza.

Back to why I nearly lost it today: part of the despair recently has been the fact that I have not been able to drive Cindy Rae Vaughn since she’s in need of plastic surgery (who’s that, you ask? Cindy Rae is my 2007 Honda CR-V. Yes, I talk about her like she is a person. It’s not weird; I promise). Enterprise let me drive a Chevrolet HHR. It’s a total poser of a vehicle and should not be on the roads. I do not like this car. It’s red, first of all. And it’s not a car, but it’s not quite an SUV or crossover either. It’s like a strange PT Cruiser wannabe or something. And the visibility in the car is horrific. And the cup holders aren’t placed appropriately, making it difficult to safely drink my coffee or smoothie on my commutes as I am prone to do since I barely have time to eat or drink anything at work. Whine whine whine.

So my day started really looking up when I got a call from the body shop that Cindy Rae was all better. Happy face! As soon as I was done with work, I drove to Enterprise, returned the HHR posermobile (which – really important side note – I had purposely NOT refueled and it had run almost completely out of gas, and one of my biggest fears is running out of gas on the highway), and got to the shop to pick up Cindy Rae. After standing around about 10 minutes waiting on my car to be pulled around, as the front desk manager said would be happening, the manager walks in and says, “oh, they didn’t call you?”

Frowny face.

“It’s not ready yet.”

Sad panda.

Apparently there was some issue with the paint on the interior back gate? Who knows. By the time I’d gotten back to look at it, their workers had already started fixing the problem, and I was informed I would have to pick up the car tomorrow.

Frowny face.

This also meant I had to go all the way back to Enterprise, to re-do the whole entire car-rental dance (made extra complicated since it involved another party’s insurance company), and get back in my posermobile, dealing with¬†rush hour traffic, on either 75 or Cobb Parkway.

And I lost about 1 1/2 hours of my life dealing with this.

The funny part? While I was waiting on my ride back to Enterprise, I checked Twitter on my phone. Earlier today, I tweeted the following (hence my worry over not refueling the rental vehicle):

@laurabethdaws one of my biggest fears is running out of gas. rental car went right to “e” as I parked this morning. will worry about this all day.

To which one of my current students responded:

@TWorMySims Everyone pray for @laurabethdaws..she always has extreme car troubles for some reason..

And I noticed this tweet while I was in the middle of the auto shop, frustrated beyond belief, tired, and mad. And I could. Not. Stop. Laughing.

So, moral of the story: thank you, student @TWorMySims, for reminding me that it’s all okay. I should just quit my whining and be thankful that I was not at fault in either of the accidents, no one was hurt, and the other insurance company is handling the $2200 worth of damage done to poor Cindy Rae. And I should also be thankful that I have a husband who loves me and a cat that tolerates my presence and who both make me happy. And I should just let it all go, because if it’s not one thing, it’s another, and life’s just too short to go around worrying about driving posermobiles and people randomly rear-ending me and anything else that might be stressing me out. So I’m going to tell you my pizza recipe now, go pour myself a SweetWater in an icy cold glass, and just say nevermind to everything else tonight.

Want to make pizza, too? Here’s my favorite dough recipe.

Pizza Dough

2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 package active dry yeast

1 tablespoon honey

about 2 1/2 – 3 tablespoons EVOO

3/4 cup warm (105-110 degree – yes, measure it) water

First: prepare your workstation. Set out a surface on which you can knead some bread, and dust it with flour. Set aside a medium-sized bowl, and smear it with some vegetable oil.

Next: In a food processor, combine the flour, salt & yeast with a few pulses. (Kitchen equipment challenged? You can do it with a fork.) Gradually stream in the water. Then the oil and honey. Whir together until the dough forms a loose ball-like thing. Dump it out on your lightly floured surface, and knead it a few times, adding flour if you need to for consistency. It shouldn’t be sticky – it should have a smooth feel to it.

For traditional rise (i.e. you want to use the dough right away), put the dough in the oiled bowl, cover loosely, then allow to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour. I get to use my fancy “bread proof” setting on my new oven, but just placing it in a corner on your kitchen where it won’t be subject to coldness works fine. After the first rise, punch down the dough, then return to rise again for another hour.

For cold rise: just plop the dough, in the oiled bowl, in the refrigerator, covered with plastic wrap. It’ll hang out for up to a week, ready for you at a moment’s notice.

At this point, you’re ready for pizza. Roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thickness. Top with some sauce, some cheese, and whatever sounds good to you. Tonight, I’m going crazy with spinach leaves, drained, chopped artichoke hearts out of a can, and some feta. Bake for 18-20 minutes at 350. Enjoy!