The Best Frozen Pizza (in a convection oven)

The Taste Tester is an unabashed, unapologetic lover of ALL pizza. He is not discerning in his taste. Pizza, even pizza I would consider sub-par, is better than any other meal in his opinion. His standard in evaluating most of the things I make is-would he choose this over pizza? The answer is almost always no.

This makes eating out a challenge. Pizza is usually the cheapest option when eating out or getting take-out. And, since eating out is usually a rather unhealthy endeavor, the Taste Tester hates to waste his calories on a meal he considers only average. Therefore, we eat a lot of frozen pizzas, as they are usually cheaper and more convenient than eating out.

For as long as we have been together, the Taste Tester’s go-to frozen pizza brand was Tombstone. Pepperoni to be exact. But recently, we wondered, is this still the best frozen pizza? There have been so many recent developments in the frozen pizza realm, so we decided we should get to the bottom of it once and for all.

The Test

To determine the very best frozen pizza, we sampled a pepperoni pizza from each brand. They were each cooked in my microwave convection oven, not my conventional oven. I think this may have had an effect on the crispiness of the crust, but once we started with the convection oven, I did not think it was fair to switch. We will do another test using the conventional oven and see if that changes the results.

To help you interpret our opinions, you should know that the Taste Tester loves pepperoni and it is his preferred pizza. I like all kinds of toppings but am normally satisfied with pepperoni as well. I also prefer thin crust while the taste tester usually likes New York style pizzas, but is open to all types of crust without a strong preference.

Each pizza was rated by both the Taste Tester and myself in each of the following categories:

Crust
Toppings
Sauce
Overall

We rated them on a scale of 1-10 in each category, which left a total possible 40 points from each of us, for a total of 80 possible points.

The Results

The Taste Tester and I, in the interest of science, will continue to test as many frozen pizzas as we can get our hands on. I have summarized the scores here and I will link to the reviews as I write them! This is completely unbiased and we were not in any way compensated or requested to give these reviews. Believe it or not we took it completely upon ourselves to conduct this experiment.

Freschetta Brick Oven: 73.1%

DiGiorno Stuffed Crust: 65.6%

Red Baron Classic Crust: 50.6%

DiGiorno Rising Crust: 47.5%

Meijer Pizzeria Hand Tossed: 45%

Kroger Rising Crust: 45%

Kroger Simple Truth Organic: 15%

 

Fall Planting for a Late Harvest Garden

Last weekend (the weekend before Labor Day), I did my fall planting. My summer garden is fledgling because I put it out late due to my wedding. I just picked my first ripe tomato yesterday! This is my first year using my raised bed garden, since we moved into our home late last summer, so I am treating it as one big experiment. Overall I am pleased with the way my plants have come in and look forward to a better year next summer.

I have refused to let my lack of success in summer gardening deter me from striving for a late harvest garden. In my summer garden, I have tomato and pepper plants, along with one cucumber plant growing out of my garden into my neighbor’s yard. My garden looks like this:

garden 1

The beautifully landscaped raised bed was built with significant help from my father. Shoutout to him for picking up, transporting via truck, then carrying all these rocks up a hill . . . two days before my wedding.

Here is a diagram I drew in MS Publisher to illustrate where everything is planted:

summer garden

For the late fall/winter garden, I planted peas, carrots, cauliflower, spinach, and pumpkins. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts my first frost will be October 15 here in Southeast Michigan, so I am really getting it out pretty late. But, it has been such a hot summer I was hesitant to put it out too early. It finally felt like fall this past week, but next week it is supposed to be in the 90s again, so I am worried about my cold-weather loving plants.

According to my online research, peas can survive a temperatures as low as 28 degrees F, so I should (hopefully) be okay until at least November. I read conflicting reports here and here about the cauliflower, carrots, and pumpkins, but thought the best way to know for sure was to give it a try. The spinach I am less worried about because it can be harvested in as little as 45 days, so it should be okay. I will continue to plant the spinach every other week to have  an ongoing crop and to see how it tolerates the cooler temperatures. All of these crops thrive in lower soil temps (around 70 degrees F), so this should be the perfect time of the year to get them in the ground. Hopefully I can have a mild fall/early winter to give them the best chance of  success.

Given the limited space available in my raised bed, I had to get creative with my planting. This is how my fall plants were integrated:

Fall Garden planting

The peas were placed strategically because they need support. My hope is that I can use my existing tomato stakes to create a pea support once the peas take off. The pumpkins were planted in the corner so that they can hopefully vine out onto my neighbor’s overgrown property. The rest of the plants were just placed wherever there was space.

Here’s hoping for good weather and an excellent late fall/early winter harvest! What did you plant in your fall garden?

Bacon, Black Bean, and Corn Tacos

ESHA Logo
Calories
3683 cal
Fat
270 g
Carbs
82 g
Protein
279 g


Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info

Yields 4

Bacon, Corn, & Black Bean Tacos

20 minPrep Time

25 minCook Time

45 minTotal Time

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Ingredients

  • 7 strips bacon
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 jalapeno peppers, chopped and seeded (or leave the seeds, this is to taste)
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 4 ears corn, removed from cob (or about 3-4 cups)
  • Milk, to taste (optional)
  • 2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • Toppings: cilantro, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, tomatoes, etc.

Instructions

  1. In a cast iron skillet (or other large skillet), fry bacon to desired crispness.
  2. Remove bacon from skillet and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Leave the bacon grease in the skillet over medium-low heat.
  3. Add the onion, followed by the peppers to the bacon grease and cook about 5 minutes, until soft but not brown. Reduce heat if needed.
  4. Add the corn to the pan. Fry corn until cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. If you want to make this step even faster, microwave the corn on the cob for 5 minutes. This will mostly cook the corn then it should fry much more quickly.
  5. For a creamier-style corn, you can add a bit of milk at this time. I forgot about the milk so I did not try it this way.
  6. Once corn is cooked, stir in black beans until heated through.
  7. Cut bacon into small pieces and add to pan or use as a topping for the tacos.
  8. Makes 4 servings of two tacos each.
7.6.3
20
http://www.foodiocentric.com/2016/08/bacon-corn-and-black-bean-tacos/

Ahhh August. Is there anyone who doesn’t love this time of the year? I mean, sure, it’s hot, but all the best things are in season. Tomatoes. Peaches. Corn. This is the time of the year to figure out how to use these fresh ingredients in as many ways as possible. Like turning corn into corn tacos. With bacon. Do I even need to say more?

corn taco 1

3 more weeks of summer means 3 more weeks of corn! (That’s right southerners-it’s still summer up north, no school until after Labor Day!) I have been buying it by the dozen and freezing it for winter. This weekend I got 5 ears/$1. Can you beat that? This year, the Taste Tester, who previously was not a big fan of corn, has come around to liking it. Partially because I have been grilling instead of boiling and partially because it’s so cheap! I was nervous about this recipe since he is not a big fan of corn, but he really liked it* and we ended up enjoying the leftovers** for dinner the following night. (Leftovers from meals the Taste Tester doesn’t care for end up as my lunch!)

corn taco 2 Read more

Sweet Potato Breakfast Pizza

Sweet potatoes have a special place in the heart of both the taste tester and myself. In the first 26 years I spent on earth, I cannot think of a single time, outside of Thanksgiving, that I ate a sweet potato. Then, seemingly all of the sudden, around 2012, sweet potatoes started having a “moment.” Sweet potato fries started popping up on menus and it seemed that their popularity soared. Or maybe that was only in my head. Maybe the sweet potatoes were there all along and I just hadn’t bothered to notice.

Read more

Best Dairy Free Ice Cream: Cashew Cream Ice Cream

In case you haven’t been following along, this is installment number 3 in my Best Dairy Free Ice Cream Series. So far we have tried ice cream made with almond milk and coconut milk. This week we’re using cashews.

Let me start this post by saying I DO NOT HAVE A VITAMIX! Oh-the horror! It is on my 10-mile long wedding registry, but I am not holding my breath waiting for one of my beloved friends or relatives to show up at our wedding with a $500 gift. After our wedding, I will have to decide if I want to shell out for one. On the one hand, I do make smoothies almost daily. But, on the other hand, my Nutri-Bullet is still going strong and doesn’t cost much to replace. I don’t really have a lot of other blending needs, but maybe the Vitamix will be like my Kitchenaid mixer-once I got one, I found uses for it almost daily. Tell me readers, do I need a Vitamix?

Well, you definitely need a Vitamix for this recipe. You may possibly be able to get by with an actual food processor-I don’t have one of those either. Instead I rely on the food processor attachment to my immersion blender, which has failed me before and on this recipe failed me again.

So before I get to the review and recipe, let me explain what I previously alluded to: This ice cream was chunky. As in, the cashews did not fully blend so the texture was overall gritty and occasionally you might eat a whole cashew. Secondly, I did not add my beloved gelatin at exactly the right time, which resulted in additional (more gross-tasting) chunks. Now, given all those issues, I was amazed with how the recipe came out. Read on:

The Review

Foodiocentric:

Mouthfeel (does it feel like ice cream in your mouth?): without the chunks, this is a 5/5; with the chunks more like a 3/5

Ice Cream Taste (how much does it taste like “real” ice cream): 4/5

Overall Taste: 4/5

Would you eat it again? Yes, even with the chunks, it was that good.

Would it pass as real ice cream? Without chunks, yes.

The taste tester proclaimed this was by far the best of all the dairy free options and tasted the most like real ice cream. In spite of the chunks, we still finished the entire batch. However, the chunks really prevent this from achieving “real ice cream” status and I would never feel comfortable serving this to other people.

If you have a Vitamix or great food processor, this is probably the recipe for you. If not, maybe try one of the others.

ESHA Logo
Calories
447 cal
Fat
34 g
Carbs
27 g
Protein
9 g


Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info

Cashew Cream Ice Cream
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Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups cashews plus water to cover
  • 2 1/2 cups almond milk (Califia recommended, I find it to be extra-creamy)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 T gelatin
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 T brandy (or other liquor, or omit)

Instructions

  1. Place cashews in a bowl and cover with water. Soak overnight or all day while you are at work.
  2. When ready to prepare your ice cream, heat almond milk, sugar, and coconut oil in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Remove from heat, stir in gelatin until dissolved. If it won't dissolve, heat it back up for a few minutes.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and brandy.
  5. Place all ingredients, including the (drained) cashews, in a blender. You probably want to put the cashews in first.
  6. Blend until everything is very, very, very smooth. For extra smooth ice cream, run everything through a fine mesh strainer (NOTE: I did this and still had chunks!)
  7. Process according to your ice cream maker's directions.
7.6.3
14
http://www.foodiocentric.com/2016/07/cashew-cream-ice-cream/

 

 

 

 

We now interrupt this food blog to bring you . . .

A WEDDING!

Where have I been? Why did I drop off the earth after hosting the world’s worst Mother’s Day Brunch? Did I die from embarrassment? Did I vow to never cook or serve food to other people again? Did I slip into a depression so fierce I couldn’t get out of bed?

No, nothing of the sort.

The taste tester and I GOT MARRIED!

I know I don’t talk about a lot of personal stuff on the blog. The taste tester is a rather private person. But, I owed you an explanation.

Some of you may know we were already married . . . legally. But, this past June, we finally had a proper wedding. Yes, a 100 person, white dress, church, 6 person band, mile long wedding registry, two bridal shower wedding!

But that was over a month ago and since then I have been lazy with a capital L. Just enjoying the summer and working and putting away all my wonderful new wedding gifts.

But, I’m back. And I might just have some wedding related posts to share with you such as:

How to DIY wedding invitations.

How to DIY wedding paper (and where to have it printed!)

My pre-wedding diet and exercise plan. (and how my Fitbit played into that!)

How to DIY wedding flowers (or, more accurately, how to claim you can DIY wedding flowers then make your sister and her boyfriend do all the work)

Wanna know anything else? Just ASK!

Kitchen Fails: Mother’s Day Brunch

I’m trying out something new here at Foodiocentric. It’s a humorous little story just for the sake of hilarity. No recipe, just fun for you (and humiliation for me). Hopefully it makes you feel a little better about your lack of kitchen prowess or gives you a good laugh. Here it goes:

Since the Taste Tester and I moved into our home, I have been lobbying for a holiday. I LOVE hosting people, I LOVE cooking, I’m great at cooking, and now we have a really, really spacious and nice house, so holidays here we come right? Well it turns out when families have 20+ year long traditions they aren’t so hip on uprooting them so their in-law of less than a year can try her hand at baking her first ever Thanksgiving turkey. So, since my lobbying for holiday hostessing has been unsuccessful I got an idea; I’ll just start hosting new holidays, previously un-celebrated by the taste tester’s family.

Thus, my idea for Mother’s Day brunch was born. The taste tester wasn’t totally on board, but once I reminded him that brunch food is the cheapest of all food, he relented. And we were off. I spent weeks dreaming up the perfect menu. Imagining how perfect it would go. How cute my tables would look. How I could finally use all those hostess items from my wedding registry. I planned. I scoured the internet for recipes. I borrowed a donut pan from my friend. I was ready.

The brunch was to be on Sunday, but I had to spend the day Saturday prepping. I did my shopping, then went home to pre-prepare everything that could be done in advance. Here was the menu:

Pancakes (originally planned for many kinds: blueberry, chocolate chip, cinnamon roll, and plain)

Johnny Cakes (cornmeal pancakes)

Homemade Donuts (glazed and glazed then dipped in chocolate)

Bacon

Sausage

Quiche

Fruit

Cheese+Crackers+Salami

Lemonade + Rose Champagne Mimosas

Coffee+Coffee Creamer Swirl Ice Cream (for dessert)

On Saturday I made the following preparations:

Measure all the dry ingredients for the pancakes and Johnny cakes. Measure dry ingredients for donuts. Make the quiche crust, from scratch and mix the filling. Make TWO different types of ice cream; churn and freeze. I make fresh squeezed lemonade. It was disgusting. What did I do wrong? I add lime juice, it gets worse. Wow this is awful. Ok well it’s for a mixer anyway, no one will notice when it’s mixed with champagne. Is this a sign of things to come? Hopefully not. I spend the entire day cooking and cleaning and go to bed dreaming about my perfect brunch, which would be served promptly at 1:15 the next day.

I get a late start the next morning and my kitchen messier than I remembered. I was supposed to start making the donuts promptly at 11, but got started around 12 instead. Ahh well, we’ll eat a little late I told myself. Then I put the bacon in the oven to cook, a new method I had recently learned in a cookbook. I set the quiche up in my convection oven and began to heat up my griddle for the pancakes.

Ahh everything is going perfectly as planned. My guests arrive, right on schedule and everything is on track to be served slightly late, at about 1:30. Oh well, I have fruit and crackers out, everyone is happy. Then my guests come to the door and the dogs start going insane. I start to feel overwhelmed and promptly ignore my duties to wrangle said dogs because I MUST.FOCUS.ON.COOKING. The taste tester is annoyed by this development.

Then I start to notice that my pancake batter looks a little runny. And the Johnny cake batter is a little runny too now that you mention it. The taste tester runs to the pantry and grabs flour, but I think it’s whole wheat, instead of AP and why do I not label these containers?!? Oh well, no time for that. He starts furiously mixing it into both bowls anyway. I turn up the heat and pray the pancakes will set up fast enough that I can actually flip them before they run down the trough of my griddle.

Everything seems to be working. The pancakes are thin but it’s ok, people like them that way. The sausage is on the stove, the bacon is in the oven. Oh yah, the bacon is in the oven. The timer goes off. I open it to find my bacon is burnt. Well one pan is burnt. One pan is so far beyond BURNT. It is inedible. And it is nearly on fire. As evidenced by the amount of smoke coming from the oven. The fire alarm goes off. The dogs go insane. The windows must be opened and now people are complaining they’re cold (it’s 60 degrees out-that’s another story). I can’t even look away from the pancakes that are running all over my griddle. I want to cry. But I can’t. Because I have 10 people in my kitchen who still want to eat.

It’s ok, there’s more bacon. But it has to cook. In the oven. For another 20 minutes. It’s fine, I’m still flipping pancakes. I can only fit 6 of these runny things on my griddle. So it’s taking awhile. The quiche comes out of the oven. It looks perfect. Relief. At least something is going right.

Ok, as soon as the bacon is done we can eat. In the meantime, I’ll be flipping pancakes. Can someone get me a mimosa?

So the bacon is finally finished. The pancake batter has tons of lumps in the bottom, rendering at least 1/4 of it unusable. Oh well, I have now made approximately 67 pancakes, so I think that’s enough for 10 people. Time to cut the quiche. It looks a little runny in the middle. Well now I can’t even see where I just cut. Ok, so I guess it wasn’t done. Luckily the oven is still hot from all the bacon. The quiche goes back in the oven. I tell people start eating, hoping no one will notice that I let a semi-raw quiche sit on the counter for 20 minutes and then put it back in the oven. That’s probably against some type of health code. Of course, I can’t eat, I have to babysit said quiche. The quiche is finally done and served and at this point, I’m not even hungry. The taste tester goes through the line but the bacon (his favorite) is already gone.

At some point, I managed to snap two pictures of my perfect spread before it is devoured. Not quite what I pictured.

brunch 2

Real Life Brunch

So, who’s up for Thanksgiving at our house?

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

Second in the search for the best dairy-free ice cream, I tried a coconut milk based recipe inspired by Heartbeet Kitchen. For the sake of science, I decided to keep all these recipes plan vanilla, but her salty honey version looks divine and I will be trying it after I crown a winner!

The best part about this recipe? No eggs!! This recipe gets plenty of fat from the coconut milk, so no need for those pesky egg yolks. Egg-free recipes not only make your ice cream vegan in addition to dairy free, but they are all around much simpler. If you are new to the homemade ice cream game, I would definitely recommend starting with an egg free recipe, there are plenty out there. The eggs are what really complicate things and make for a lot of additional cooking/stirring/prepping.

This recipe comes together in a snap and, once again, I was quite pleasantly surprised!

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

The Review

Foodiocentric:

Mouthfeel: 3/5, not as creamy as the almond milk version, but definitely the texture of real ice cream

Taste (like ice cream): 4/5, a slight coconut flavor, but it definitely captures the texture and flavor of regular dairy ice cream

Taste (overall): 3/5, I just liked the other version better, not for any particular reason

Would you eat this again? Yes, definitely. I honestly can’t believe how many delicious dairy-free ice cream recipes are out there and I definitely want to try the salted honey version that inspired this recipe!

Coconut Milk Ice Cream

The Taste Tester (and his friend):

The Taste Tester happened to have a friend over watching the hockey game, so I actually had two taste testers for this one!

Both liked it very much and the taste tester ate the entire bowl, which was supposed to be for us to share. I wanted to get opinions without telling our friend that it was made from coconut milk, but the taste tester blew the lid off that one. Neither of them felt it tasted overly coconut-y, although when we ate it a few days later the taste tester reported that he thought the coconut flavor was stronger after a few days in the freezer. The taste tester also claimed he tasted whey protein powder (which to him is a good taste, somehow), but I did not get this flavor at all. I am guessing it was the vanilla that prompted this response. Maybe?

Originally, the taste tester liked this one better than last week’s almond milk ice cream, but during the second tasting (a few days later), picked the almond milk as the better flavor. If anything, I think this shows how close the two are in flavor and texture.

ESHA Logo
Calories
274.02 cal
Fat
0.01 g
Carbs
42.77 g
Protein
3.29 g


Click Here For Full Nutrition, Exchanges, and My Plate Info

Coconut Milk Ice Cream
Save RecipeSave Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 T. gelatin
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 can reduced fat coconut milk
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1 T. vodka

Instructions

  1. Combine gelatin with 1/4 cup coconut milk in a small bowl.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat remaining coconut milk and sugar until bowling.
  3. Add milk/gelatin mixture, boil for 1.5 minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, add vanilla and vodka.
  5. Chill and churn according to your ice cream maker's directions.
7.6.3
4
http://www.foodiocentric.com/2016/05/coconut-milk-ice-cream/

Lightened Up Manicotti

Manicotti

The other day, the Taste Tester came home from work asking about manicotti, and, more specifically, why he had neither had it nor heard of it. After his inquiry I realized I have never made it, so I decided to check it out. We aren’t big pasta eaters in the Foodiocentric household, but Taste Tester was convinced this could be good because of the low pasta to toppings/fillings ratio. And, I have to agree, one of the best things about this recipe is that between the fillings and the toppings, you do consume a relatively small amount of actual pasta. The bad news is you consume a relatively large amount of cheese mixed with other types of cheese. Read more