Sweet Potato & Bacon Pizza

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These days, September races by without stop.  At work, we are still (sometimes literally) packing away summer while we kick off our Fall season.  This means bringing in over 100 students to start working on four different weekend programs and preparing our 30+ after school teaching team to begin classes at as many schools.  It’s hectic, with one deadline after another, but also full of inspiration (hello, 100 children acting/singing/dancing with so much confidence in auditions!) and creativity (writing new scripts, casting, preliminary costume and set designs, etc).  In October, once we get past everything that is beginning, the routine will come.  Until then, its mostly just holding on for the ride.  I am also settling into the rhythm of Fall semester classes and M is settling in for a busy holiday season full of events.  Amidst this mild chaos, I am trying to keep  up my meal planning and trying to keep the focus on healthier foods as we shift towards Fall flavors.  It isn’t always successful–I’ll readily admit that I am a stress eater.  Or at least, a stress craver.  I don’t always give in!  And when this pizza craving struck, I tried to think out of the box.

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Years ago, right as I began to cut gluten from my diet, we went to the Dan’l Webster Inn in Massachusetts with my family.  I jumped at the chance to order their gluten-free pizza.  As a somewhat recent convert to the sweet potato fandom (thank you, freshman year dining hall for otherwise terrible food options), the Sweet Potato & Bacon pizza was very intriguing.  Sweet potato? On a pizza?!  With onions and gorgonzola cheese and bacon and balsamic vinegar?  It was too weird of a combination to resist.  And then, it came out with a layer of fresh greens.  Super weird!  But I am sooooo glad that I ordered it because, together, all those weird foods are AMAZING.  This pizza covers all of the flavor points: savory, earthy, salty, sweet, tangy, nutty, chewy, crunchy, fresh!  It was definitely life-changing, and I’ve gone on to attempt to recreate this pizza several times.   I’ve also stuffed the ingredients (minus the pizza crust) into baked sweet potatoes.  Also delicious.  We just went back to the Dan’l Webster Inn when we were up visiting my dad this summer and I finally realized that I was forgetting the “creamy pine nut spread” in all of my copy-cat attempts.  With this final factor, I’ve have been able to perfect my recipe!

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Now, this pizza isn’t exactly on that healthy list–but it isn’t as bad as a pizza could be, either!  By using ingredients that have super strong flavors, you can scale back on the amount of each used.  It’s almost a flatbread-style, which in my book means a small amount–if any–‘sauce’ and an equally small amount of cheese.  This focuses in on the toppings and means this pizza isn’t going to ooze with sauce or cheese in the same way as regular pizzas.  Add a salad or some roasted veggies on the side, and you can fulfill a pizza craving in the most delicious way!

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Sweet Potato & Bacon Pizza

Serves 4 | Prep time: 45 minutes (divided) | Cook time: 15 minutes

  • 1 large gluten-free pizza crust (a thin-crust style works best here!)
  • 2 large sweet onions
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 2-3 oz gorgonzola cheese
  • 1-2 handfuls of arugula
  • 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 batch Creamy Pine Nut Spread (below)

Creamy Pine Nut Spread

  • 2 Tbsp. pine nuts
  • 1 oz cream cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 4 sage leaves (or 1/4 tsp. ground sage)
  • 1 Tbsp parmesan, shredded

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Caramelize the onions: Add a splash of oil or butter to a saucepan and coat the surface with the heated oil.  Slice the onions and add to the pan.  Cook over medium heat until softened, then turn the heat down low and cook for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have turned caramel-brown and shrunk down.  Remove from pan.

Prep the toppings: While the onions are caramelizing, peel the sweet potato and dice into small pieces.  Place in a small pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook over med-high for 6-10 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the potato pieces.  Drain thoroughly.

Chop the slices of bacon.  In a sauce pan (can be the same one used for the onions, if they have finished caramelizing and are removed from the pan), add the bacon and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until the fat has rendered and the pieces are crispy.  Remove from pan to a paper towel-lined plate to allow to drain.

Prepare the Creamy Spread: Add the parmesan, pine nuts, stage leaves, garlic, cream cheese, and olive oil to a food processor and blend until smooth.

Make the pizza: If using fresh pizza dough, follow the directions to the point of having it rolled out on a pizza stone, then par-bake at 450 degrees for 5 minutes.  If using a pre-rolled, stiff crust (like Udi’s) with no instructions for par-baking, place the crust on the pizza stone.

Spread the pine nut mixture across the entire crust, from edge to edge.  It will be a very thin covering.  Sprinkle the onions, then potatoes, then crumbled gorgonzola cheese evenly over the pizza crust.  Bake at 450 degrees F for 10-12 minutes, until the cheese is softened and the edges of the potato pieces begin to brown.

While the pizza is baking, set the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half and has thickened.  Remove from heat.

Remove the cooked pizza from the oven and immediately top with bacon, then a drizzle of the balsamic reduction.  Finally, top with fresh arugula.


Almond-Cauliflower (Grain-less!) Pizza Crust (+ Link Love)

I’ve been on an undeniable veggie kick lately.  My breakfast eggs are suddenly loaded with tomatoes, onions, peppers, spinach, and potatoes; my soups are turning into stews with the sheer amount of vegetables swimming in the broth; stir-fries are invading my daydreams.  I’m guessing it is due to craving the nutrients, now that we are getting close to midwinter and I keep battling bouts of cold and flu that knock me flat for days and then leave me scrambling at work.  Can I apologize any more for the unplanned absence here on this blog?

But I’m returning with a brand new cobbled together recipe and several links to others’ brainchildren.  And all of these recipes have “hidden” veggies.  Or legumes, I suppose, to be vegetation-ally-correct.  Not that I have to hide veggies from anyone, these days, but it’s nice to know I can work in extra nutrients without much fuss.

First, I made Heidi’s Black Bean Brownies.  I was intrigued by this flourless version, as a opposed to brownie-mix recipes around the web, because ‘flourless’, obviously, means one less ingredient to check or adapt to be gluten-free.  I’ll be honest, I started this recipe while I upset with other matters, and didn’t realize it called for a food processor.  Ours has begun its slow death, and after a lot of frustration, I managed to cobble together the recipe.  These brownies taste delicious, deeply chocolate-y, moist and fudgy…nearly too fudgy.  I’m slightly put off by just how much butter is in this recipe (I save my massive-amounts-of-butter-recipes for more precious things like Lemon Curd).  I would like to tweak and play with this recipe, to see if I can reduce the butter and set things up a little better.  These fudgy brownies barely stick together after refrigeration.  Despite our troubles holding them together, we had no trouble finishing off the batch over the next few days.

My second vegetable addition was to my beloved Shepherd’s Pie.  I had some cauliflower to use up, so I cooked that up with a potato or two and pureed/mashed it all in place of the potato topping (still with all of the cheesy, buttery goodness).  I had never had cauliflower mash before, but I love the texture and mild taste it added to the Pie.  I’d like to work in a lot more veggies in this dish, as it’s quickly becoming a house favorite.

Finally, I continue to play with gluten-free pizza crusts and crust-alternatives.  I’d seen recipes for cauliflower crusts, but I didn’t like how much cheese was within the crust.  I have made an All-Cheese Pizza Crust, but I prefer to have my cheesy melty goodness on top of the pizza.  To have it on top and in the crust makes me a little guilty 😉  I also found an almond crust, and played with combining the two to keep the veggies without the massive amounts of cheese, with relative success.

Cauliflower-Almond Pizza Crust, precooked

Almond-Cauliflower Crust

  • -1 c. grated cauliflower (about 1/3 of a head)
  • -1 c. almond meal
  • -2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • -3 Tbsp parmesan cheese
  • -1 garlic clove, minced
  • -2 tsp italian seasoning
  • -1 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Grate or food-process the cauliflower into a texture similar to cornmeal.  Microwave the cauliflower without additional liquid for 8 minutes.  In large bowl whisk almond meal, cheese, and seasoning.  Add cauliflower and garlic, mix well.  Stir in eggs and olive oil until thoroughly mixed.  The dough should be slightly wet and sticky, but ball together and stay together with a little pressure (mine looked kind of crumbly, but rolled into a ball as I pulled it out of the bowl).  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and grease thoroughly (I mean it!)  Spread dough onto baking sheet, pressing flat and into preferred shape.  Lightly brush top with olive oil.  Bake for 15 minute, until crust is golden.  Spread with your preferred toppings (pre-cook any meats and tough vegetables) and broil for 5-10 minutes until toppings are warmed through.

Cooked Crust

 


Baking Break-throughs (Link Love)

I spent yesterday evening with my lovely friend A, working on a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for weeks.  I’m slowly building up my base of flours and starches–not enough to try any basic mix yet, but I now have white rice flour, sweet rice flour, tapioca starch, and corn starch, in addition to some store-bought GF AP mixes (Pamela’s, Bisquik, etc).  Fiddling with the ratio of egg to flour and adding rice flour to my mother’s gluten-full popover recipe led to the best end-result yet, though I have many more modifocations to make before I’m truly happy.  But today was a huge step in the right direction!  Mom approved, and even likes the extra bit of chew in the GF version compared to her usual recipes.  Its starting to feel like I’m understanding the interplay of flours and starches a little bit more, which is a welcome alternative to staring dazedly down at all of the little bags of white stuff.

Rice flour popovers 

Still, while I’m happy to find I have fairly easy access to these flours and starches (and I haven’t even visited the local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, yet!), I still need to find the balance in consumption/use to expense.  I can’t afford to buy new packages of flours every week.  Thankfully, being back home (and sharing a kitchen and food with family, rather than 5 roommates each buying their own food and promptly forgetting about it in the cramped recesses of our fridge) means I have much better access to fresh and varied produce and meats, with less strain on my budget and less fear of the food spoiling.  I’m far less reliant on starches than I was at school, where the mediocre meals had to been rounded out by rice, or more commonly found, potatoes, to actually feel substantial.

A few weeks before graduation, I stumbled across Kate Chan of Gluten Free Gobsmacked’s recipe for Chicken Potstickers.  I’ve been holding off as I tracked down all of the ingredients, but A and I both needed a distraction, so last night, we set to work.  I was a little intimidated, having never made pasta dough (with or without gluten), much less a filled, gluten-free pasta.  And though we were initially skeptical about the small quantities of ingredients going into the filling, it turned out to be more than enough.  In fact, we ran out of dough before running out of filling, and fried up a couple “meatballs” to finish off the chicken mixture.  With our inexperience, I’m quite pleased with how they came out.  We should have rolled the dough a tad thinner, and cut bigger circles, but we ended up with well over 40 miniature dumplings and an encouraging feeling of success.  I was further surprised at how much the dough puffed as it boiled, our little minis were nearly full-sized when cooked through and crisped.

Frying Chicken Potstickers 

Mom and the Brother were at work during this adventure, so I’ve used that as an excuse to pull out a batch for dinner tonight, along with some quick fried rice to use up leftover steak and veggies.  We’ll see what they’re opinions are, but, at the very least, I’m ecstatic.  I’ll admit, asian dumplings and pizza (okay, and Bagel Bites–I did survive 3 years of college before my diagnosis) have been my most missed foods. Between these darlings and Shirley at Gluten Free Easily’s recipe for Flourless Pizza, I’ve been deliciously satisfied!

Flourless pizza with sausage & tomatoes