The Scoop on Papa Murphy's New Gluten-free Crust Pizzas



You know that weird pizza craving you get, when nothing but a hot, greasy slice of pizza will do? Since I've had to cut out gluten, that craving is almost constant. It's not like I used to eat pizza every day anyway, but not having that option turned it into nearly an obsession. Add to that that I used to love Papa Murphy's pizza. It was so nice to be able to go get one with whatever I wanted on it, throw it in the oven and then feed it to the family gathered around the table like a bunch of hungry piranhas.

Not too long after moving to the Denver area, I tripped across a little place about two towns over that serves a decent gluten-free pizza, but it's pricey and too far away for a "fix". Since then, I've been looking for the perfect pizza, sans gluten. I'd had a few that were somewhat akin to starchy, bitter cardboard with a layer of (presumably) tomato sauce and a smattering of cheese. Yum. A friend introduced me to some frozen ones carried at Costco that were pretty good, but I don't have a membership. We tried one of the other brands from the health food store and it was TINY. Like, almost as satisfying as a saltine and a quarter slice of Kraft processed cheese. We split it, ate a ton of salad, then binged on the banana bread I'd made earlier that day to fill in the gaps.

Then, someone told me that Papa Murphy's had FINALLY started offering gluten-free crusts! OMG! Jackpot! And even better? They're made by local Colorado company, Udi's, which makes some of the better gluten-free breads out there. So what's a girl to do? Why, locate the nearest Papa Murphy's (conveniently, it's only about three miles away!) and order a Gourmet-Vegetarian-Hold-The-White-Sauce-Add-Marinara-And-Throw-Some-Canadian-Bacon-On-There-For-Good-Measure. Yep. We're some of those people.

We got it home and unveiled it. It's only available in a medium, but looks pretty much like a regular ol' thin-crust pizza. It comes on one of the paper trays and the instructions say to bake it like the "classic" pizzas. So, into the pre-heated oven it went (I need to get an oven thermometer. The unit in our rental house is kinda super craptastic. I do a lot of checking and toothpick poking when I'm baking in that thing). I set it for the minimum time suggested, since our oven seems to be on 'roids and always bakes too hot and too quickly. After the twelve minutes were up, I peeked in. The edges were beautifully brown and the cheese was starting to bubble on the outside perimeter. The middle looked less promising. I pulled it out, and on inspection, it was not exactly cooked in the center. The crust was still doughy-white on the bottom and the center, while probably hot enough to safely eat, was not piping hot and bubbly. I turned the oven off, shut the door and waited another five minutes. It was still a little pallid, so I left it for another five and went off on an ADHD mission to do something completely unrelated, because, well... that's just how I roll. I heard Scott take it out and asked him whether it was ready yet. I got some sort of guttural grunt in reply. It looked pretty darned done, so he cut it. Let's just say that the bottom did not get as nice and crispy as the edges. It wasn't gooey, but it also wasn't nice and slightly crisp. It was still pale. This could be due to a number of factors, but here are my theories:
  1. Our oven sucks.
  2. There were too many toppings to allow it to cook thoroughly.
  3. We should have used a pizza stone that was preheated, so it would start cooking the bottom right away.
I'm hoping that number three will do the trick the next time I feel the need to gnosh on pizza. I think a combination of the first two factors would make the third all the more valid, since a good pizza stone will pretty much start cooking on contact.

Apart from this, how was it? Pretty darned good! The crispy parts of the crust were almost indiscernible from their wheaty counterparts. The center, although not crisp at all, still tasted good. It held up well under the sauce and veggies, which is a huge plus. The toppings cooked well and didn't make a soggy mess of the crust. I ate a slice for lunch the following day, and it pretty much had the same attributes as a normal piece of leftover pizza, but believe it or not, maybe not quite as soggy. 

It's definitely more expensive, but when I'm reallllly wanting a decent pizza, this will be my go-to. Quick, easy, and gluten-free (just like me... well, not really... but it sounds catchy :-P).

Please note: I was not compensated or sought out by Papa Murphy's to write this review.








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Well, I'm Back Again...

Ever heard that Dwight Yoakam song, "Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose"? I don't know why it always comes to mind anytime someone says, "I'm back!". Whatever. I go off on tangents. I think that has become obvious. Sooo, anyway...
I apologize to our small following for bailing out for the last several months. Scott was offered a job in Denver in the Spring and we had two weeks to find a house, pack our own house, schlepp stuff up here and get Scott started in his new job. I thought about divorce. I thought about maiming. Neither one seemed a good option. I'm glad I erred on the side of laziness and didn't act on either, because I like my husband again.
In this time, I've learned a lot about living in an early nineties rental house in the Mile High City. Here are a few examples. Like:
  • How to remove ancient urine stains (some of them so established they probably had names and personalities) from a rental house carpet.
  • The "joys" of lawn care.
  • How to cram 350 sq. ft. worth of kitchen stuff into a 200 sq. ft. space.
  • How to love white laminate cabinets. Everywhere. Or at least tolerate them.
  • Shiny brass and glass nineties light fixtures just aren't pretty, no matter how drunk you get. Stay tuned for my coverup project of the monstrosity in the foyer ... once I figure out exactly how I'm going to do it. ;-)
  • How to quickly remove a hair clog (the former tenant's) the size of a medium cat from the shower drain and not gag and retch.
  • How to drive in INSANE traffic without flipping everyone off. I still let the occasional bird fly... just not often.
  • How to resist the urge to paint every white wall in the place. You know, the ones that match the laminate.
  • IKEA can be avoided... although, it will find its way into your peripheral vision regularly.
  • Where to find the best designer home decor bargains (can you say a huge, gorgeous gold glass lamp by Tahari for twenty bucks???).
  • If you don't at least pretend to love the Broncos, it seems to be grounds for drawing and quartering someone.
I wish I'd had the time to take photos of our house in Santa Fe before we rented it. We painted and scraped and cleaned and polished and it was so hard to leave! The dream house I'd wanted it to be... now it is... for someone else.
On the upside, I'm managing to make the best of our four-bedroom rental tract house in the 'burbs. All the houses up here seem to be really big. The advantage to that is that we can host a small army -- we have two guest rooms and a crafts room/office now. I've decorated bathrooms, hung curtains, arranged and rearranged furniture, procured a fabulous, newly upholstered mid-century Ethan Allen sofa on Craigslist for $100... Oh, did I mention that Craigslist up here ROCKS? Well, it does. Like, a lot.
I've got ideas... lots of ideas, and I want to share them. I think first up is a gluten-free dessert pie crust. I've been jonesing for Key Lime pie for a while now and I think I've got the crust figured out. Keep an eye out next week for that one... and others...
Here's hoping everyone's having a great start to their weekend!
xoxoxo,
Jennie
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Monday Makeover Reveal: Grungy Mid-century Chair Goes Tropical

I'm back! I took a little hiatus to get some of my projects finished up, purge some of the clutter and a bunch of other fun stuff! In the interim, I've been busy working on projects... today I'll show you one that I'm particularly excited about!

Look at this really great mid-century chair I picked up at Goodwill just a little over a month ago for $7.99. It was all scratched up and the upholstery was just downright disgusting, but it had AWESOME bones, as you can see here. I thought about painting it, but then upon closer inspection, I realized this might be a refinished gem:

She's a beauty, despite her bedraggled appearance!

I wasn't sure what I would find under that crappy finish... I decided to sand a bit, and boy was I happy I did!
GROSS upholstery HAD to go.
The underside had a paperboard cover with the maker's name -- Shelby Williams Manufacturing. I did a little research and this company is still making chairs! How cool is that? As you can see, this sturdy little chair was made in May of 1960, making it 54 years old, almost to the month! I saved this old cover, carefully pulling the staples, then replaced it after I reupholstered the seat. It was too cool to throw away with the date and origin printed on it!

After disassembling, scraping and sanding, I found that there was a GORGEOUS walnut (I think) chair under the scratched and abraded finish.

I solicited the help of my husband to get ahead on the scraping.
I failed to take photos of the rest of the process -- RL kind of got in the way. I can say that I used Old Masters Wiping Stain in Early American, then went over that with a coat of Special Walnut. I sealed it with Minwax Wipe-on Poly in the Satin finish. I did three coats -- sanding after the first and second with 320 sandpaper to knock down any roughness and give me a super smooth finish.

It's staying put in our home -- it's so comfy that I think it would make a great guest chair for those, "Oh, shoot, not enough seating!" get-togethers. It's permanent home is in the foyer area where it can provide a little resting spot for removing shoes or setting that heavy briefcase.

I used a Robert Allen fabric I found at Joann's. I don't remember the name of it right now, but it had that 1950's bark cloth kind of look to it that I really loved. It's also Teflon coated, so should stand up to a lot of wear and tear. I chose not to make the welt cord for this, as I was afraid it would detract from the lines of piece since it's an asymmetrical pattern. I am glad I forewent it!

Here are the "after" photos. I am really, really happy with the way it turned out! I left some of the dings and dents, since this IS a fifty-four-year-old chair. I like to leave some of the character in these old wood furnishings.




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Gluten-Free Feature: Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies (really!)



As I've bemoaned in previous posts, being gluten-free is not easy. Everywhere I turn, I'm beckoned to by rolls, cookies, crackers, soft pretzels... even corn dogs (but don't tell anyone about the latter!). One of the things I'd been missing more than anything, though, was a good chocolate chip cookie. I'm not much of a sweets person anymore, but every once in a while, nothing will do but a big glass of milk and a couple of chocolate chip cookies. So, I started experimenting.

I have probably gone through a dozen different recipes and finally settled on this one -- it is the closest I've been able to come to a "real" chocolate chip cookie. It was actually stumbled upon quite accidentally one evening when I was using my "good enough" recipe and realized I was going to run short on butter AND flour mix. Boy, am I glad I did! The coconut flour gives these a really nice, rich taste. Coconut flour absorbs a lot of liquid, so to compensate for this, you will add milk to the dough. Cow's milk or vegan options should work just fine; I used whole cow's milk. The coconut oil lends itself to a firmer form, so you don't end up with those squished-out flat cookies that can often happen with all-butter recipes. Here is my version of this old classic. If you make them, please let us know how they turned out for you!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Gluten-Free Flour Blend (see mine below)
  • 1/4 cup Coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder*
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup unrefined coconut oil, melted or at soft room temperature
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla*
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips, or a combination of chips (I used 2/3 cup milk chocolate chips and 1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips, since this is what I had in the pantry when I wrote this post)*
  • 1/2 cup of pecan pieces (optional)
 Instructions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. 
  2. While your oven is preheating, beat together the sugars and butter and coconut oil until fluffy. Add in eggs and milk and vanilla and beat again until smooth and fluffy.  
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour mix, coconut flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
  4. Now you'll start adding the dry ingredients into the wet a bit at a time, mixing thoroughly. Continue adding in dry ingredients until they're full blended. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts (if desired). 
  5. Place rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet, about 2 inches apart. Place in oven and bake for 8 - 12 minutes, or until just golden brown around edges. 
  6. Remove from oven, let sit for 5 minutes, then move to wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. These also freeze really well! 
*If you must avoid all gluten, be sure to buy a gluten-free baking powder, chocolate and vanilla. Apparently some of them are packed in facilities that handle wheat. 

 Gluten-free flour mix:
My favorite all-purpose mix is 6 parts brown rice flour, 2 parts potato starch and 1 part tapioca starch. It creates a smooth baking flour and works well for thickening soups and stews.
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Super Easy Sun-Dried Tomato and Fresh Basil Pesto

So, it's probably painfully obvious now that I'm a Trader Joe's slut fan. I can go in there and spend more money in ten minutes than I would if someone turned me loose in a Jimmy Choo store. Not that I don't love a well-executed pair of stilettos, size-ten-thank-you-very-much (no Bigfoot jokes!)... Anyway, on my last trip to TJ's I found a gorgeous package of organic basil. Big, beautiful leaves full of flavor. I used small amounts on a couple of caprese salads, but I still had a ton left over. I HAD to figure out some way to use every last leaf! Then it occurred to me -- on the same trip I bought a bag of sun-dried tomatoes and some olive oil. Then I thought, "Ah-ha! Pesto!" I was having an Italian-themed trip, I guess!

Both Scott and I love pesto, so it seemed like a no-brainer to me. Toss it with some of the brown rice fusilli (see, I told you it was an Italian kind of day) from TJ's and YUM. This pesto is so ridiculously easy that it can be done in a few minutes.

Here is my personal husband-approved take on pesto. It would be great mixed with cream cheese and served as a cracker spread, or do what Scott does -- mix it with a little mayo for a rockin' turkey sandwich spread!

Here is what you will need to pull off this feat of culinary delight.

EQUIPMENT:
  • Blender, food processor or something of the like (I used my Magic Bullet because I was too lazy to get the food processor dirty and my blender's a POS)
  • Rubber spatula
  • Little bowls to rehydrate stuff in
  • Measuring spoons and cups
INGREDIENTS:
1/3 cup sundried tomatoes
2 - 2 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves (stems discarded)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp dehydrated minced garlic, or 1 - 2 cloves fresh
2 tbsp almond butter (you can substitute 3 tbsp of whole pine nuts, a few pistachios, or really whatever type nut you prefer in your pesto, or leave them out all together for a stronger flavor)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, if desired
Salt to taste


HOW YOU DO IT:
Prepare tomatoes, if necessary. Since I used regular sun-dried tomatoes (not packed in water or oil), I set them to soak about 20 minutes ahead of time. Make sure your water is pretty hot so that they "perk" up properly. The same goes if you're using dehydrated, minced garlic. I used about 2 tablespoons of water to rehydrate the garlic -- otherwise it's impossible to strain and most of it ends up going down the sink. If you're using oil or water-packed tomatoes, skip this step.


Pick all the basil leaves from the thick stems. If it's going to be a while before you get to them, cover them with a damp paper towel and place in the fridge.

 
Place all ingredients except salt into your blender or food processor. Pulse on high speed, scraping sides intermittently, until thoroughly puréed. If the mixture is too thick, you can add a bit of tomato juice or water to thin. Add salt to taste.


Serve tossed with pasta, or as a condiment with artichokes, cut veggies or crackers. Keep in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to a week. Pesto can also be frozen with good success.

***Delicious Pesto Sandwich Spread***
Using in a ratio of 2 parts mayonnaise or Vegannaise to 1 part pesto, mix thoroughly and use in place of regular mayo on sandwiches, or drizzle over grilled veggies. So delicious!


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Tidy Tuesday Tutorial: A Homemade Grout Cleaner That Works!

I'm a little embarrassed by our floors. Our house is almost all floored in this peachy-pinky fake saltillo tile. Gosh, the nineties were stylin'! I'm grateful that it isn't genuine saltillo, as that stuff is even harder to care for, but this porcelain version has its moments. When we moved in, the grout was already grungy. I didn't realize that this wasn't its normal colour until I was fishing under a table for something. Yeah, gross, huh? It's actually supposed to be a sort of tan-peachy-pink. Not a brilliant choice for the desert southwest! EVERYTHING is dirt around here. Red. Dirt. I set about trying to scrub Every. Last. Inch. I gave up. I got the foyer done and ran out of steam. It was too daunting and frankly, I was having a heck of a time getting the grime to come up. Since that epic failure, I've just quietly mopped and pretended the grout is that colour.

A couple of weeks ago I came across (what appeared to be) a really great DIY Grout Cleaner. It didn't claim to magically lift the grunge without some work, but the results looked stunning! I had to see if it would work on our grout!

The space in front of our stove is a nightmare. It's got to be one of the dirtiest, most disgusting spots in the house. It's a food magnet, and any spill magically gravitates toward it and lands SPLAT right there. I scrub it fairly regularly, but it's another one of those spots that I like to pretend is supposed to look that way. Until recently. I spilled spaghetti sauce on the floor, and before I could get a rag to clean it up, the grout had slurped the stain right on in to party with the others that have decided to live there. It seemed the perfect opportunity to mix a batch of this cleaner up and see what it could do!

The grout cleaner is composed of a handful of different ingredients you'll find in most homes. It contains baking soda (make sure you use baking soda and not baking powder), household ammonia (scented or unscented -- it doesn't matter, as the smell in the other ingredients is fairly neutral), and white vinegar and water.



Here is the recipe:
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup baking soda 
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp ammonia 
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar

Here is the equipment you'll need:
  • Spray bottle
  • Something to mix in; preferably with a pour lip
  • Rubber gloves
  • Grout brush
  • Old rags
  • Eye protection (I accidentally caught the edge of the brush and spurted a bit of this stuff into my eye. Not my finest moment and it HURT.

Now, I would highly recommend you mix this up outside. You won't be able to smell the ammonia once it's mixed in, but it's pretty potent when you're putting everything together. As with all chemicals, add them to the water; not the other way around. I would also recommend using a non-reactive container to mix it in, such as glass (I used my 8 cup Pyrex measuring cup) or plastic. Once it is thoroughly mixed, decant into a spray bottle.

Here comes the fun part: spraying it on and scrubbing! Make sure that the area you're going to be working on is clean and free of loose dirt. Working in small sections, spray the cleaner directly on the grout line and allow to sit for a few minutes. Get after it with a stiff brush -- I would recommend a grout brush. I couldn't locate ours, so I used a stiff toothbrush and it wasn't quite as tough on the stains as I'd hoped. I still got good results -- especially for that DISGUSTING amount of build-up! I scrubbed, rinsed my brush in a bucket of hot water, wiped the grout line down with a rag, then moved onto the next section. Here are the before and after pics:

As you can see, the stains were MUCH lighter (I mainly worked that midline in the bottom photo -- I was eager to take pics and compare. This is about 2 minutes of work here) when I got done, even before it was fully dry. I gave it a good quick steam mopping to pick up the slight haze the baking soda left behind. I will need to do this again with a stiffer brush, but I can't tell you how delighted I was with how well this simple recipe pulled the grunge out of the grout! A whole-house work-over looks like a good summer project! Once I achieve the results I'm happy with, I will seal the grout. Hopefully, it will last for a while!



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Frugal Friday How-to: Ballard Designs Knock-off Botanical Prints

I am beginning to think that the folks at Ballard Designs are just cruel. Every few weeks they send me a catalogue FILLED with gorgeous furniture, linens and home décor. I spend a couple of hours with it, drooling and wishing. Then I dog-ear the pages with the things I'm jonesing for the most and mull over whether I can recreate them.

This afternoon I noticed some really beautiful botanical prints hung in a grouping in one of their collections. I would LOVE to have something like these adorning the narrow strip of wall next to the back door!

Photo via: Ballard Designs
Well, what's a girl to do??? At almost $100 a piece, we're talking a mortgage payment on the wall! Then I remembered seeing some great free printable art during one of my searches. I went back through my stuff and found them on thegraphicsfairy.com. In the search box look for "botanicals" and it will bring up a huge variety of gorgeous graphics. Have you ever been on their site? There are tons of incredible printables and clip art on there! I highly recommend you check out their site just for the eye candy factor!

Since these are going in the living room, I decided I wanted a trio of colourful prints. We don't have a colour printer, so I right-clicked them and saved them to a folder on my hard drive. I decided to have them printed by Walgreens -- they have a feature where you can get your photos printed in-store from an order you place online with your digital images. Another upside is that they have a cropping tool that lets you choose what will be in your photo -- I wasn't sure I'd be able to make that happen exactly by trying to do it in my photo editing software and then printing them from my zip drive at Kinko's. Anyway, if you choose this option, they almost always have a really great coupon code to get a decent discount. I chose 5x7 inch prints, as the space they're going into isn't huge and I didn't want the wall overpowered by them. That's the beauty of doing these yourself -- you can choose the size that's right for the application. The ones in the Ballard Catalogue are 14.5"x12" -- definitely too big for where I wanted to place them!

On to the frames! We have a fairly eclectic style in our home -- we surround ourselves with the things we love and try to group them together in ways that are aesthetically pleasing. I had a trio of frames housing outdated family photos. Two of them are the same colour and the other is a nice, deep red. I considered spray painting them all black, but then realized that the red matches the rose hips in the one print I chose, so I decided to keep them their original colour. The two tones of the frames I think adds a little interest, but the same style creates a cohesion within the group. We have these strange narrow spaces between doors and windows all throughout the house, so these balance nicely vertically with the red one in the center.

On the other hand, if I were going to create a large collection like the one above from Ballard, I would probably purchase some simple black wooden frames from Michael's or the like and distress them a little myself. Most frames like that can be had for around $5 (especially if you use the 40% off one item coupons Michaels puts out almost every week. Check with your local store for their policy -- some will allow you to use multiple coupons in one transaction and some won't). I digress...

I placed each photo in a frame, being careful not to smudge up the glass or the photo's surface. I played around with placement until I was happy with the arrangement on the wall, and then voi la! A completely gorgeous new wall arrangement! What do you think? Aside from the crummy photo, that is. ;-)



Price breakdown:

Photo prints: ~$9 for 5 -- other two going in kitchen
Frames: Free
Total for project: $5.40

Not bad when you consider that this project cost 1/20th of a single print from Ballard Designs!

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