Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Happy Joe's Taco Pizza Returns

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2022.  I tiptoe into this new year.  The last 2 Januarys have been harbingers of rough years.  Without detail, trust me, things really can go only get better.  I've been rethinking the blog, and wondering do I stick solely to cookies?  But no.  I faithfully post them all on my Instagram, go there! I am so much more than sugar cookies.  I love everything about making them, love selling them, love being a part of so many celebrations.  But oh do I love to cook.  So cook we will.  Let's continue this journey.  But I promise, there'll be no scrolling past multiple ads and senseless writing.  Recipes and stories, that's my life. I am happy to continue to share.  Let's start with a family favorite.

A few years back I wrote about my favorite pizza of all time, Happy Joe's Taco Pizza.  It turns out there are a LOT of you who feel the same way!  I have an old friend associated with the Happy Joe's Pizza of my childhood and he went to that blog post and admitted....I'm pretty close.  So I decided since I found some throwback Taco Doritos we may tweak this recipe.  

Hot out of the oven!

First a little history.  My first trip to Happy Joe's was in Clinton, Iowa.  It was my birthday, and I know that because we never really ate out in a restaurant unless we were traveling or a special occasion, and everyone said you had to go to Happy Joe's on your birthday.  After our pizza they brought me a sundae with a candle on it and they honked this big brass horn,  "May I have everyone's attention, we are celebrating a special birthday tonight at Happy Joe's, Susie is 12 years old today!"  I assume they all sang happy birthday as well.  The waitresses in their iconic short red dresses with crinoline fluff underneath and the red and white saddle shoes.  The guys wore red and white stripe shirts.  For the 70's it was vintage and nostalgic.  For 2021, it seems even more nostalgic.  

The costumes of course are gone, probably replaced by polyester polo shirts and baseball caps.  There's been times when the menu offered oddities like sit down dining with onion rings and burger fare, a frozen yogurt bar, and their new breakfast pizza (which I am not opposed to).  I miss the charming ice cream shop feel up front, barrels of penny candy and hand scooped ice cream, sundaes with whipped cream and cherries, and a model train running the rails around the ceiling, and lets not forget the horn and the singing.  But all things change, no wait staff anymore, order at the counter, fill your own drink, no trains, no horns, no ice cream parlor feel.  I miss the old ways, honestly.  But the pizza hasn't changed.  I still order an extra taco pizza and freeze it for the trip home.  I still ask for extra taco sauce because it's delicious and I can never have enough.  

My Happy Joe's friend is coming to visit, so I thought we'd brush up on the pizza before I made it for him.  Here's how this version went. Note that the Publix dough is one of my favorites, and the last time we had it was on a pizza oven outdoors on a Camp Chef Grill.  It was amazing.  We discovered this dough is not good for high heat oven cooking.  Its so fluffy it was impossible to get a thin crust, and it was a little doughy inside.  I need to just bite the bullet and make it from scratch.  However, Because of the nature of this pizza, a premade crust would not be terrible, a thin and crispy type crust is what it needs.  This crust was yummy, but very airy, big bubbles (which are the best with traditional sauce) but we ate all of it.  Every bite.  And we declared it the best version yet.


1 1/2 pounds ground beef

Taco seasoning for the beef

2 pizza dough balls from Publix

cornmeal for dusting

1 can traditional refried beans

1 jar pizza sauce

1 bag shredded mozzarella

1 bag shredded cheddar 

shredded iceberg lettuce

chopped tomatoes

Taco Doritos

Happy Joe's Taco Seasoning

Brown the ground beef in a little olive oil and add the taco seasoning to it.  I am not opposed to a packet, but homemade is easy and delicious. Set the cooked and seasoned meat aside.

Take your room temperature crust and stretch and shape to desired size. We tossed and spread out the crust to about 12-14" so it would fit the pizza stone preheating at 500ยบ in my oven. We did it on a pizza peel with a dusting of corn meal. A pre bake would have been a great idea here...but we didn't.

Mix the refried beans and the pizza sauce together.  The last time I added the Happy Joes Pizza Sauce, and I think it has no place here.  It is a topping and not an ingredient! Cover the crust with the sauce mixture.  I had about 1/3 of a cup left over, we ate it with some chips while the pizza cooked. 

Cover each pizza with the ground beef, then both cheeses.  Gently slide onto a preheated stone and bake, carefully watching.  I found with the fat crust baking for about 8 minutes and then cranking the heat down to 300 and continue to bake worked the best.  The dough was not totally raw, but it will be better with thinner dough and a fast bake.  

Remove the pizza and top with shredded lettuce and tomatoes and crunched up Taco Doritos. Serve with the one and only Happy Joe's Taco Sauce. 

As a footnote, we used Trader Joe's dough and the above recipe and cooked it on our Ooni.  The thinner dough is much better, but that Ooni is making me nuts.  We need some practice on it!  What are you waiting for?  Get in there and cook!

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Burnt Ends

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Smokey, saucey and tender.

I love Instagram, and one day I scrolled and saw the same photo over and over for burnt ends.  I did some googling and today was our second attempt at this deliciousness!  When you look at recipes, many use brisket, pork belly, one even called for Waygu.  I made what is commonly referred to as Poor Man's Burnt Ends.  And frankly, the name sort of ticks me off.  I get it, chuck roast, which is what I used, isn't the most expensive cut of meat.  I wait for it to go on special at Whole Foods...love that Prime discount, and I know it is thicker and better than a chain grocery meat counter.  It's a gorgeous hunk of meat, and in just a few hours, what a treat!

We have a couple Green Eggs, but when it comes to smoking, we really love this little bullet smoker from Home Depot. It's cheap and does a great job. We bought it when we needed more ribs smoked than the Green Egg coud handle, and now its the go-to smoker.  It's so easy to use, and any charcoal works for me.  While the little smoker was heating up, we basically rubbed the roast with dry rub.  I make my own, following a recipe from one of my favorite Insta accounts, Grilling 24X7.  This Dry Rub makes a great gift, and is delicious.  I skipped the cayenne and red pepper flakes as I am the only spice lover here.  

Smoker set up, we added a handful of applewood chips. 

Once the smoker was hot, 250 degrees is ideal, we put the meat on.  Our little smoker has the water in the bottom (add wood chips!) and a couple shelves.  We put the meat up top, and wiggled the vents to keep the heat constant.  It did get a little hot, and that isn't the way to cook this.  Low and slow so it falls apart is best.  I think that's the beauty of a chuck roast, there is a bit of fat, so it doesn't really get tough.  But, going slower and longer, it will fall apart, think pot roast....  It should smoke in there for a good 4 hours.  I only add wood chips at the beginning, if you use good charcoal it doesn't need more smoke in my opinion.  We may have gotten a little antsy, and hungry, so we pulled it after 2 1/2 hours.  It was cooked, but not perfectly tender.  Back on it went.  Be patient.  Pull it off at 4 hours and cool for half hour or so.  

This was 2 1/2 hours, we gave it a little longer....

The first time we made these, we wrapped it in foil after 3 hours and cooked it an hour more.  After reading opinions on this, I decided I liked the crispy exterior, and it gets lost when it's wrapped in foil.  Today we skipped the foil step and liked it better for sure.

This is one 3# roast, so the last stage goes faster in a single layer.

Cut the roast into cubes and put the meat in a foil pan with the sauce.  Many recipes suggest more rub at this point as well.  We did that the first time and felt like it was just too much rub, and we skipped that step today.  Most BBQ sauces have a fair amount of sugar, and will caramelize well, but I added a tablespoon of honey to speed up the caramelization, a little brown sugar would work too.  A good hour to 2 is best to really get the cubes crispy and shiney with sauce.  It'll be less time if they are a single layer in the pan like mine, we went an hour.  If you cook a couple roasts and fill a pan for the last step, leave them longer to get them coated with sauce.  We stirred every 15 minutes. You'll know if they're ready, you won't be able to stand it.  Also, take a fork to check it out! The chunks should be super tender. 

Burnt Ends

3# chuck roast. Rub well on all sides with dry rub.  Prepare smoker with a water reservoir and some wood chips if you like. Smoke the roast at 250 degrees.  No higher, for 4 hours.  Maybe a bit longer if there are 2 roasts in there.  Take meat off, it should be dark and crispy.  Cool for 15-30 minutes and cut into cubes.  Put the meat cubes in a disposable foil pan with BBQ sauce of your choice.  Add a bit of honey (1-2T) or brown sugar (2-4T) for additional sweetness and caramelization if desired.  Mix well and put back on smoker for 1-2 hours depending on quantity.  Stir every 15 minutes and remove when glossy and delicious.  

What are you waiting for?  Get out there and cook!

Friday, December 11, 2020

Christmas Past.....MERRY ME!

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 Every once in awhile I made a platter of cookies that even I am like, Wow!  I did that!  This is one of those platters.  I made them last CHristmas when we were partying and socializing.  It's kind of sad to think this wedding probably was postponed or drastically cut.  I personally was uninvited to 5 weddings in 2020!  My directions for this party was Christmas but not Christmas green, and engagement but not "she said yes" cookies as they were engaged a few weeks ago. I know this friend well, and I knew this would be a pretty dressed up party (no blue jeans here), so the cookies needed to be elegant as well.

We decided on gold accents, which I just love with red and sage.  I hand painted the rings because I find gold airbrush to be the strangest color!!  I love some sugar crystals to add a little texture to the platter, and of course a diamond should sparkle.  There might be a dash of disco dust on there.

 I love the way the platters came together.  They originally wanted to do their own platters which I understand.  It's the South, we use Grandma's sterling and fine antique crystal, but I told them I would fill 2, 18" platters and it is doubtful they have anything that could accomodate 5 dozen cookies.  I know people are turned off by disposable plastic, but I am pretty adamant about making the platter myself. I have lots of practice!

A few days before pick up, she texted me and asked if I could add a dozen cookies.  Hmmm.  I usually have some basic blanks, and I had these fat stars.  I just love the Merry Me on them!!! They were a sweet addition, get it, sweet addition?  Yep. 

 I knew she was planning on doing white flowers, and I assumed there'd be poinsettias.  I found a tutorial from Sugarbelle on making poinsettias.  I didn't do so well.  I had the tip, but I made these giant round cookies thinking I could fill it with one poinsettia.  That didn't work.  I made dozens of these smaller poinsettias on parchment paper and put 3 on a round cookie, but I know I will use them all the season.  I improvised and I really love my very organic poinsettias!  I also loved the white background for my poinsettias where I sprinkled a little gold shimmer on the white, I just loved the way everything sparkled!  The hearts were inspired by Clough'd 9 cookies, Amy is super talented.  My pine boughs need a little refining.....

So there you have it.  Another Christmas first in the books.  Ho, ho, ho....what are you waiting for?  Get in there and bake!!!