DIY Gourmet Pizza: Cheaper than Take Out

If you’re good at starting something, forgetting about it, coming back to it hours later, then homemade pizzas are just the best. They’re so affordable to make, and you can put ingredients on you want on them. Best of all, you can make two pizzas with one batch, and freeze one for those days you’re broke and don’t feel like cooking. Depending on your ingredients, your homemade pizza can cost less than those frozen, cardboard flavoured things you find in the frozen food section of the grocery.

Does it take long? Not really. To be honest, if you start the dough in the morning, or leave it overnight to be rolled out and baked the next day, it’s not too bad. The dough takes about an hour to rise and be rolled out.

Do you need special equipment? Nope. You don’t really need a speed mixer or a food processor, but if you have one – great! It does cut down some of the time mixing the flour and yeast, if that’s an issue. For this experiment, I just used my stand mixer to blend the dough at the beginning.  As for rolling, I didn’t even have a proper rolling pin. I used an empty wine bottle.

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As you can see, rolling pins are optional. 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon quick-rising instant dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, yeast and salt) together in a bowl, and pour it all out onto a counter. Make a well in the center, so you have what should remind you of a high school volcano diorama.

Next, run your hot water tap and fill your measuring cup until its 1/2 full: Make sure it’s just a little warmer than room temperature, but if you’re that worried, use a thermometer: It should be 120 F or 50 degrees Celcius. Add the oil, and pour this mix into the hole of your volcano. Instant lava!

Now, here comes the fun part. If you were the kid who loved playing with plasticene in kindergarten, you get to relieve your youth again. Start mashing the sides of the flour-volcano towards the centre of the lava pit, and start kneading. Knead it for at least eight minutes straight, or through the duration of three songs from your favourite album. You really can’t over-knead the dough at this stag.e

If you doubt your stamina or your strength, it’s okay to use a food processor with the pastry blade if you have one, or the dough hook on a stand mixer. The proportions of the dough remain the same.

The first stage of kneading will yield a ropey and raggedy dough, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the plan.

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The first stage of kneading: It doesn’t look like it now, but this will become a nice, smooth ball of dough.

You can put it in a greased bowl, and cover it in plastic wrap, or just cover it with a large bowl. Put this in a draft-free place and forget about it. Clean up a bit. Vacuum your home. Run an errand or two. Call a friend and invite them over for custom made pizza. The rising stage should last an hour: check it to see if it’s doubled in size.

Cut the dough ball in half. You now have the choice of the following:

  1. Wrap the dough balls in plastic wrap. Put the frozen balls of dough in the freezer for thawing and rolling out later.
  2. Keep the plastic wrapped dough balls in the fridge if you want to bake pizzas within the next 24-48 hours.
  3. Roll out the dough – without the plastic wrap, of course – and dress them.

I’ve rolled out the dough of one of the balls for immediate use. I decided to partially bake the other. By baking it halfway, it means the dough is slightly raw, and perfect for cooling and freezing. When you put the frozen (half-baked) pizza in the oven, it thaws and bakes perfectly, just like a store bought frozen pizza. Except this version tastes good.

Sprinkle two 12 inch pans with flour or cornmeal, if you want a crunchy crust. Put the flattened round of dough down, and start topping it any way you want.

I added the following toppings to mine:

  • Pesto, brushed over the top of the dough
  • Kalamata olives
  • Slices of spicy pepperoni
  • Sliced mushrooms

My significant other, Dominic put three kinds of meat on his

  • Tomato paste to coat the dough
  • Dried oregano, thyme and marjoram (to give the flavourless tomato paste some “oomph”)
  • Spicy pepperoni slices
  • Half cooked bacon (it would burn if placed fully cooked on top of the pizza)
  • Salami

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees Farenheit. Here’s the trick to getting the cheese all ooey and gooey: Put add the cheese after you take it out of the oven. Really. Don’t put it on the raw pizza, it will overcook and get crusty. If you like crunchy brown mozzarella, then go ahead, but trust me, half the joy of a good pizza is the way the cheese melts into soft strings as you pull a slice away.

So: Put your veg, meat or other toppings (pineapple? Anchovies? Sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions?) on the pizza and bake the whole thing in the bottom third of your oven, for about 10 minutes. My oven was slow, so this process was 15 minutes. It needed another minute in the oven after I added shredded mozzarella.

trust me, half the joy of a good pizza is the way the cheese melts into soft strings as you pull a slice away.

Result: Two pizzas. The flour was approximately 50 cents, and the most expensive part of the toppings were the meat slices. We bought an immense brick of cheese that was on sale for $5.00, and we only used a third of it. In all, both pizzas cost about $6.00, and yielded four slices each. That makes it $3.00 per meal since we each ate two slices for dinner, and had the other two for lunch the next day.

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If I were going to make frozen pizza, I would still bake them in the bottom third rack of the oven at 500 Farenheit, but for only 5-7 minutes. Let them cool, then wrap in plastic, or use a re-sealable frozen food bag.Add the cheese and follow the same rules for cooking. The only difference is that with the par-cooked pizzas, you can put those directly on the oven rack as it cooks.

Here are some other recommendations for pizza toppings:

  • Shrimp
  • Caramelized garlic
  • Seared scallops and béchamel sauce
  • Sun-dried tomatoes
  • Red onion rings
  • Green peppers
  • Grilled zucchini
  • Hot peppers
  • Feta cheese
  • Smoked cheese, like Applewoods smoked cheddar, or smoked Gouda
  • Smoked meat (Pastrami, if you’re American)
  • Marinated, grilled tofu

The options are endless.

How to Have Your Best Yard Sale, Ever

It wouldn’t be a true blog about frugality and fabulosity without a post about Yard Sale how-to’s.

Like any Canadian, if it’s raining, I’m inside, purging my home of unwanted goods. If sunny, I’ll be outside, hunting through someone else’s yard sale for hidden treasure.

It’s basically an eco-system of gently used goods; for whatever item I pick up at a garage sale, one item from my home must go. It’s getting easier to get rid of unwanted goods these days, with free online listings to promote your event.

Step 1:

Find a venue. If you don’t have a yard or a garage, ask a friend who does. Would he or she like to share the event? The more the merrier, and it’s always good to have an extra pair of hands on deck for bathroom breaks, or running for spare change.

Sometimes churches, temples, synagogues or community centres may rent out their space to a group. If you get a bunch of like-minded friends, you could consider pitching in to meet the rental price. Ask if you can sweeten the deal by offering to donate a portion of your sales to their cause.

Step 2:

Advertise, advertise, advertise. If it seems excessive, you’re doing it right. Post to as many online classifieds as you can.

  • Print up yard sale ads, and post them to your workplace cafeteria (if allowed) or community bulletin boards and coffee houses (ask permission first.)
  • Start advertising roughly a month before the event. This gives the hard-core yardsalers time to add it to their calendar, and plants the idea in the minds of those who don’t make plans ahead of time. “What shall we do today?” “Oh, I dunno…I recall something about a yard sale going on today…”

Here are some free venues for advertising your yard sale: 

  1. Garage Sales By Map: A free online garage-sale finder. You can post it as far as a month in advance, and you can get an advance posting just by promoting it on your blog or webpage.
  2. Craigslist:  You can post weekly, or pay a nominal fee to keep it on the top. Unlike Kijiji, you can only post two weeks prior to your event.
  3. Kijiji.ca – you can post your yard sale, and add photos of your location, maps, and last year’s event, if you have any. Update weekly to keep it up top.
  4. Local online and newspapers: Many boroughs have advertising-based print and online bulletin boards or papers. Check their classifieds section, and post.
  5. Social Media: Create an event and post it on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and include daily updates.

Step 3: Prep Your Goods

Display: Make sure you have a wide, clean table, or at least, a couple of sawhorses and a plank. Pretty it up with a tablecloth: Potential buyers are less likely to approach your sale items if the display looks dingy, or cluttered.

Clean your items: Would you want to buy something dusty, chipped, or grubby looking? Of course not. True, there are some hoarders out there, but why make the sale harder than it should be? Wipe off that film of dust and grime.

Book displays: Put books in large boxes with the spines facing outwards: This makes it easier for browsers to see the title, and you can write the price on the box itself, instead of stickering up each book.

Have change ready: There’s always someone at the sale who wants to break a $20 bill for a twenty five cent purchase. Nobody likes that guy, but it’s always best to be prepared.

List your prices clearly: Do you have a “no haggling” policy? Let buyers know with a polite sign on the table. If you’re open to bargaining with buyers, don’t waste your time price tags for each item. If a customer is interested, he or she will ask. Other wise, lump similarly priced items together and make a sign like, “everything on this table $2.” If nobody is buying after an hour, make it a BOGO: Buy One, Get one Free.

Step 4: Have An Exit Plan

What are you going to do with the unsold goods? Part of the idea for the yard sale was to de-clutter you home, wasn’t it? Don’t return the clutter to your house, unless someone paid for a large item, and needs to store it until they can transport it.

  1. Find a charity that could use the items. The Diabetes Foundation of Canada has a service called, “Clothesline” that picks up your unwanted goods, so that takes delivery off your hands.
  2. Try thrift stores, like Value Village: They don’t pick up, but you do get a stamp on a card towards 30% off your next purchase at this thrift store chain for each bag of goods you donate. Proceeds go to charitable foundations.
  3. Homeless Shelters: Call to ask if they are accepting goods, first. Some places have policies on furniture or clothing, especially if they have limited (or no) storage space.
  4. Red Cross: There are some emergency plans for those who were forced from their homes in a hurry: Check out their website for a Red Cross branch near you.

What’s your best tip for a successful yard sale?