My boyfriend Andrew is blessed with a very close-knit group of friends from high school... four very different guys who have stuck together through thick and thin for the last 10 years and counting. His friend Justin, who recently moved to Cincinnati, is notorious for eating poorly... one horror story I heard had him subsisting for days on end on pasta and Parmesan. So I suggested that Andrew and I post cooking lessons for him to make his kitchen adventures more profitable, and perhaps even trick him into eating vegetables occasionally... though knowing Justin, that last part just might prove a challenge.
As my lovely girlfriend has made her exciting entry to the blogging world, I have immensely enjoyed reading her insights, loves, thoughts, and passions. So, when she suggested the occasional cowritten post, I jumped at the chance.
As Sarah says, my friend Justin does not cook, he merely heats things. He will eat whatever is available to him with the greatest immediacy and efficacy. With this in mind, we decided to make this first segment very easy to follow and to use small words, as he is a lowly Auburn engineering school grad and we don't want to overwhelm him.
So... the criteria. Food that is simple, good, and healthy without seeming healthy. I've mentioned before my penchant for this basic pizza recipe... it's pretty much as close as you can get to ready-made while still putting it together with your own hands. So it was an easy choice. In fact, this photo can more or less sum up the whole recipe, oven temperature and all...
Step 1: Turn on the oven and set it to 425 degrees. Pop open the pizza crust tube and unroll the pizza crust. There's a nice clear line down the center of the dough so it comes apart really easily... spray Pam or an olive oil spray on a cookie sheet (or some other long flat pan) and slap the dough on there.
Step 2: Bake the dough for about ten minutes -- you want the crust starting to brown before you add any toppings, so that the middle of your pizza doesn't end up soggy. When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the top with a little cheese.
Step 3: While you're letting the dough bake a bit, drain the tomatoes, beans, and corn really well. Again, you don't want a soggy pizza, so be thorough on this part. Then mix about half the can of corn and 3/4ths the can of beans in with the Rotel.* Quick microwave them for about a minute, just to get the seasonings from the Rotel infused into the beans and corn as well.
(*Stick the leftover corn and black bean mixture in a tupperware container; the mixture will go nicely with the rest of the cheese to make quesadillas later. Or for another option, combine it with salsa and add it to homemade nachos for a tex-mex twist!)
After steps 2 & 3, your counter top should look like this:
Step 4: Glop the tomato/bean mixture onto the crust, but use a fork to avoid transferring any extra moisture then formed when it was heated. Then spread the whole dealio with cheese. Ideally you don't want to use more than a cup or a cup and a half, but of course it depends on individual taste so have at it.
Step 5: Bake it for another 8 minutes, or a few more if you like it on the crispy/toasty side. Take it out of the oven when the crust is brown and cheese is melted...
Step 6: Dig in with gusto! (the gusto is requisite, so make sure to get that part right...)
Stats: From opening the refrigerator to sitting down with a plate of food, this dinner will take you about twenty-two minutes, and the most complicated part is draining the canned vegetables. :P If you pay full price for all the ingredients, it will cost about $7, and will end up being at least two servings even if you're ravenous from back-to-back hockey games. For the average, moderately hungry adult, it will be more like four servings.
Lastly, the other great thing about this pizza is that it gives plenty of space for modifications. Substitute shredded zucchini for the corn, Italian seasoned tomatoes for the Rotel, and toss on some grilled chicken and sauteed onions for a top-end Italian pizza. If you don't have Rotel, then just use normal diced tomatoes and add red pepper flakes or pickled jalapenos. Pizza is about as flexible, forgiving a concoction as you can possibly find, so play with it as you are led.
As you read this you may notice an air of playful patronization or even the slightest bit of condescension. Please understand this is written with the greatest amount of love and caring possible to have, when one is writing a step-by-step guide to cooking for someone who is usually too lazy to do more than microwave a Bertolli's. Suffice to say, I look forward to many more cooking guides ranging in skill and difficulty in the coming days. Perhaps a cooking lesson for another one of my friends, or maybe a collaborative analysis of something else all together. Granted this has been terrifically fun...maybe I'll be inspired to start a blog of my own.
If you're ready to take cooking to an even higher level but are still finding your foothold, check out Betty Crocker's free online cooking course "The Mixer". With weekly cooking videos with tips and instruction on different "themes" (chicken, pasta, greens, etc) it looks like a fun way to solidify your kitchen-skills-set. Otherwise, stay tuned here for further cooking fun and excursions into the realm of the edible! And Justin, let us know how the pizza making goes! :)