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Tuesday
Dec092014

Papa John's Frito Pizza. Yes, this exists. 

I admit I'm a bit late to the game on this, as this topic has already garnered some attention from the interwebs, but, Elana and I are just a small sister-bro operation here; so cut us some slack.

Still, I suspect many of you are unaware as to what the title of this blog post actually references.  You're probably thinking, "Is Frito-Lay making their own Pizza?"  Or, "John, are you talking about Fried pizza?"  It's not about either, actually.  Let's just cut to the chase here: recently, I ordered a pizza from Papa John's - an act of likely stupidity perhaps it its own right.  Yet this wasn't just any ol' Papa J's pie... this was a pizza that was purposefully topped with, among other things, Fritos. (Read that sentence again).

Everyone here should be familiar with Papa John's and their skeptical but seemingly everywhere "Better Ingredients. Better Pizza. Papa Johns!" advertising campaign that it rams down our throats every other day and twice on NFL Sundays (which, actually, is the only way I could ever eat this pizza again.  If it was literally rammed down my throat). Hey, even Peyton Manning has shamelessly offered his support behind the brand, which really means jack shit of course, unless however you think you should be taking food and lifestyle advice from a dad-jeans wearing country boy who spends 4 hours every Sunday with his hands pressed firmly up against a 300 pound dude's sweaty grundle. 

On a recent day at work, I mustered up the courage to actually go out and buy one of these pizzas.  Notice the unintentionally funny "pizza maker/play maker" box.

For the first time, I was actually scared to eat a pizza; on one end of the spectrum, I might have a gag reflex or spend the rest of the afternoon in the men's room.  On the other end, what if I actually liked the pizza?  What would that even say about me as a person?  As a man?  As an Italian son?  I closed my office door, sat down at my desk, and took a deep breath.

Opening the box was bit like the immediate aftermath of the Con Edison shut down of the Ghostbusters' containment unit.  Indescribable scents were attacking my poor nostrils. I couldn't believe what I was  experiencing. I may have coughed, I can't remember.  I may have blacked out, too. 

(Newsflash, only dingbats douse their pies with needless goop like ranch dressing or, in this case, garlic sauce)

I'm going to be honest: whatever lunatic dreamed up this pizza is an asshole.  Ditto for anyone who likes it.  Getting behind this pizza in any way shape or form essentially tells me you are a tactless imbecile. Never mind that this pizza makes an otherwise innocent bystander (Fritos) guilty by association, but it is amazingly bad. Let's discuss. 

The Fritos, most of which fall off, are stale.  I mean, I could not even pick the Fritos off the pie and enjoy them separately (although I'm not sure I would even want to anyway since they just spent the last few minutes wading in this mess).  The tomatoes have no tang or sweetness.  The cheese, if i was to place them on taste's hierarchical ladder, would be somewhere below ice cubes drizzled with novocaine.  But where this pizza really starts to go bunny-in-the-pot crazy is in its application of bbq sauce which - if we are going to be honest with one another, has as much business being on pizza as garden mulch - is way too strong and salty.  Thankfully, the geniuses at Papa-John's offset the alkaline nature of the sauce with ground beef/taco meat.  Except I'm being sarcastic.  I'm not thankful for this.  I'm horrified.  This only expedites the pie's tumble down its spiral of spectacular shittiness.

Who put thought into creating this? Fraternity pledge-masters? Stoned 1st graders? Guantanamo interrogators?  It's really that bad, I'm not exaggerating.  And, look, I am a man who both needs and appreciates the occasional detour down roads of unrationalizable fun.  Funnel cakes, McDonald's fries, beer pong, Rocky IV - these are all harmless, Americana-born lapses in judgment that can nonetheless be enjoyed with mere modest suspension of belief or awareness. But this... this is something far worse. This is a speeding runaway train that is on fire, transporting toxic waste, while Rebecca Black blares on its loud speakers

I finished my lone slice (which, actually, featured somewhat fresh, spongy dough I should disclose) and contemplated our country's future. Really. How did we get to this point?  I mean, it's 2015 (almost). Aren't we supposed to be getting smarter with our foods and what we put into our body? Isn't America in the midst of an artistic/lifestyle comeback of sorts? It's a bit demoralizing to be honest. 

I suppose there will always be idiots in this world; climate change deniers, snake wielding preachers, the Kardashians, New York Jets fans (of which I'm one), etc.  The expression of such foolery is a part of the American way and, occasionally, can even ultimately yield masterful creations, like the cronut or cornhole.  But, I don't envision the Frito pizza heading down this path. 

Now, excuse me while I watch the new Expendables movie.

Sunday
Nov302014

Eat Like a Iaciofano – for Thanksgiving

Above is a tiny cookbook recapping the Iaciofano Family Thanksgiving 2014. We all hope you and your family had a fantastic one. If you're curious about how it all went down at Iaciofano HQ amidst the snow, Aunt Emily's malfunctioning hearing aid, and The Box's over-portioned servings of pie...well, have a look!

The recipes and (bonus video) are below!
Thursday
Nov202014

Pizza Class & A Come-to-Jamie (Oliver) Moment

I spent the past week and will spend the next one teaching classes on the book I wrote for Colavita, Top Your Pizza.

Yes, I teach people how to make pizza. We cover homemade dough, four different kinds of toppings and a salad for balance. I talk about how to caramelize onions and wax poetical about mozzarella cheese. People actually listen. They pay attention and ask questions. They even laugh at my jokes (sometimes). I'm finding the process rewarding, energizing, fun and definitely exhausting and challenging.

I am aware that my students are a self-selected population — they've signed up and have an interest in the subject matter — and that I'm not imparting life-saving information. This is pizza making...or is it??

Buy a man a pizza and he has a meal for that day. Teach a man to make a pizza and... 

...he has apps for every Super Bowl Sunday??

Along those lines, I touch on the topic of nutrition in class, as I believe pizza can be a healthy, balanced meal depending on your topping choice and application. Now, I'm not suggesting we can improve the health of the nation with pizza (or am I??), but during my trip, I had a come-to-Jamie moment when I stopped at a roadside IHOP restaurant.

To clarify, I meant Jamie Oliver.

I've been a fan of his since I first watched his TED talk and saw how passionate he seemed about food education, nutrition and helping people change their diets in order to change their lives.

That IS life-altering information, folks. As I watched Jamie show a few clips from his show Food Revolution, I thought, "Damn, that's gotta be HARD."

And I mean a serious challenge, as it's hard to change people's minds about anything, and that is no less true with their diets. Consider my efforts with The Box. Part of the problem, as Jaimie addresses, is that people just don't know. They're not education on the topic of nutrition, so you can't really blame them for making poor choices. That's fair.

So it becomes a two-fold problem:

1. Education

2. Changing people's taste

I'm here to suggest that the latter might be the more difficult of the two.

On my class tour on the road from Boca Raton to Jacksonville, my driver and I decided to stop at an IHOP nestled snuggly on the side of Route 95 for lunch. Also known as The International (which other nation?) House of Pancakes.

I assumed I could get something moderately healthy like a veggie omelette, and in fact IHOP has about two "Simple and Fit" entrees, one of them being a veggie omelette, which is made with egg substitute. How a chemical combination made to resemble the taste and texture of eggs is healthier than the real thing, I do not know.

All the "Simple and Fit" entrees were listed as under 600 calories, which lead me to believe that the other dishes on the menu were all well over that number, including Dulche de Leche Pancakes featuring what resembled large tubes of icing sandwiched between pancakes.

Time out. 

I like pancakes. In fact, at the end of this post, I'm going to list all the pancake recipes I've posted on this blog. However, I recognize that I'm what some would call, "a healthy eater." I like vegetables. Even kale. I'll go out of my way to eat them. I exercise. Maybe more than some. Definitely less than others. I watch my food intake, not by counting calories, but by trying to make good choices and recognizing when I'm full. 

But I'm not perfect. I've attacked a carton of ice cream with a spoon. I've eaten more than my share of pizza. I've come home late at night and ransacked the fridge like a racoon in the trash. This is life.

I also realize I'm lucky. I live in a city that has more food choices than most with access to farmers' markets, classes, independent food producers, locavore/organic restaurants and the like. I'm able to take advantage of these options. I'm very grateful for this, and I know this is not the case for many who are struggling to feed themselves and their families. This is a topic for another essay, and it's financial and access issue that I didn't list in my two-fold numeration above.

But I take issue with places like IHOP that are continuing to serve nutritionally negligent, over-portioned sugar delivery systems. Yes, there are "Simple and Fit" offerings on the menu, but like my pizza class attendees, only a self-selected group are going to look for them and then actually order them (and also try not to feel like a total ass when you say, "Yeah...I'd like the Simple and Fit Egg Substitute Omelette").

Additionally, the resulting egg substitute omelette looked so sad and watery in comparison to its fluffy, whipped and stacked neighbors, that who, indeed WOULD choose that option. It didn't look good. And, in fact, it was probably the worst omelette I've ever had. And IHOP isn't the only one. There are many more, as you know. John has a post coming up about Papa John's Frito Pizza that will alarm you.

This makes me sad. It makes me sad because I want to be able to convince people that healthy food is delicious. I cook for myself, my friends, and now complete strangers frequently, and manage to make delicious dishes that are nutritionally redeeming. And I know I'm not making a positive difference in the nutritional education system of this country, but I'd like to.

I want to think that the way to stop having items like this on restaurant menus is for people to stop ordering them. But that requires a change in taste. HOW do you change people's taste? How do you convince people that beets are tasty? Or that a quarter pound of sugar-laced lard has no place between pancakes?

I don't know. But I'd like to make an attempt with this blog post. With pancakes. Here are some recipes that I think are both nutritionally redeeming (in moderation, people) and delicious. I created them for Colavita and I'm reposting them here in the hopes that they might inspire you to think of pancakes, food and nutrition in a different light. And, uh...Jamie? If you're listening, I'd love to talk.

Pumpkin Pancakes

Recipe here and video below:

7 (ish) Grain Pancakess.

What You Need:

1/2 cup rolled oats (the real stuff)
1/2 cup millet flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 cup cooked farro
4 tablespoons chia seeds
4 teaspoons ground flax seeds 
1 cup almond or soy milk (you can use regular milk if you like)
2 eggs, beaten
a few swirls of agave syrup for sweetening (you can also use honey)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sea salt 

Butter, oil or non-stick cooking spray for you frying pan or griddle.

What To Do:

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl (don't forget the salt and cinnamon!). You can even use a food processor if you like. 

Add in the milk, eggs, vanilla and agave syrup. 

Blend until well incorporated. If the mixture appears too dry or sticky, you can add more milk.

Heat up your frying pan or griddle and grease with oil, butter or spray.

Ladle the batter onto the griddle in 1/4 cup sized scoops. Keep in mind, you might like to make mini pancakes, or HUGE BIG AS YOUR FACE ones. Go nuts, I'm not gonna stop you.

Cook for about 1 1/2 minutes on one side. Break out your spatula and give those suckers a flip. Let them toast up on the opposite side for about 2 minutes.

Flop them onto a plate and serve with cinnamon butter (I used Ronnybrook's) and more agave or maple syrup. You can also store these in the frigde for quite some time and use them as pre or post-workout energy pancakes.

Feel free to add fresh fruit and nuts!

Blueberry Oat and Polenta Pancakes

Recipe here.

Oat and Whole Wheat Waffles (<-- Loosely Related to Pancakes!) with Fruit and Nuts

What You Need:

A waffle maker (gifted by your boss or bought by your own self. Either works)
2 1/2 cups warm (about 100 degrees) almond milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 egg whites
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup slivered almonds for garnish

What To Do:
Mix the almond milk, sugar and yeast in a medium bowl. Let it stand until it becomes foamy (this is the yeast working its magic) - about 10 minutes.

Mix both flours, oats, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl.

Add the yeast mixture and stir to blend it all together. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. You can also leave it to chill overnight so you will be ready for hungry brunchers in the morning.

Separate the eggs, setting aside two of the egg yolks. Mix these two yolks into the batter.

Put the three egg whites in large bowl and with a hand held mixer beat them until they are white and foamy and peaks form (ex: when you lift up the beaters the egg foam will stand up).

Fold the egg whites into the batter with a spatula.

Heat up your waffle iron and spray it with a non stick spray (you can also use butter). When it is hot enough, pour the batter into the iron. Cook until the waffle iron gives you the green light (literally). Your waffles should be golden brown.

Serve with extra blueberries, slivered almonds and maple syrup.

 

Monday
Nov172014

Zaza's Slice of Life and Pizza - Los Angeles

Zaza's returned from the West Coast and has her pizza report ready! Check it out on Issuu here:

And on Tumblr here!

Friday
Nov072014

Peanut Butter and Sprinkle Sandwiches

Today is my birthday. Yes it's true! Today I am officially grown up. 

No, that will actually never happen. Especially when I continue to keep a pizza sketchbook and talk for my dog in a very bad French accent. 

What? Did I just write that?

Along those lines, for my birthday this year I am going to make a few confessions. Food-related confessions. I have some weird food-related habits and I'm going to come clean and tell you what they are. Then you can bring on the judging.

Or perhaps, as a birthday gift to me, you can tell me some of YOUR weird food habits. Because I know you have some. Everyone does.

Here are mine (in no particular order):

1. I reheat coffee. Sometimes even the next day. Sometimes even when it has milk in it. Oh, and I actually like soy creamer. I know...horrendous.

2. My favorite breakfast is poached eggs on oatmeal. But when I'm at the gym and can't get poached eggs, I'll get hard boiled eggs and mix them into an Apple Cinnamon oatmeal packet. Sometimes with strawberries. It's the best. It also grosses everyone out.

3. I cook with the refrigerator door open.

4. I've eaten tripe. And liked it.

5. I've eaten more food when on dinner dates. Yes, with men.

6. I have a gourmet food impulse buying problem. Please don't tempt me with $12 bags of artisinal granola or lemon curd made from the tree in your backyard. I will buy it. 

7. My favorite ice cream flavor is Chocolate Chip Mint. And that's how I say it, too. I like it to be green.

8. I was briefly employed as a funnel-cake chef at a Jersey Shore amusement park. I spent one summer constantly smelling like a donut. You'd think I'd have made more friends.

9. I really like chicken liver.

10. I prefer the tenticle parts of calamari over the rings.

11. I used to eat peanut butter and sprinkle sandwiches.

It's this last point I would like to address now, in honor of my birthday. Yes, I used to make myself peanut butter and sprinkle sandwiches. The bread must be white (a potato or buttermilk bread is an indulgent choice), the peanut butter must be creamy and the spinkles must be the long, multicolored kind.

It has recently (two days ago) come to my attention via my friend Kaz that the Dutch enjoy a similar delicacy called Hagelslag. The Dutch, however, prefer to use the butter of cows for sprinkle cement, while I enjoy the butter of peanuts.

The result is similar in that you have a glorious, sandwiched version of birthday cake. And I am going to tell you how to make my version (should you need instructions, which really does seem silly). 

Here goes:

Ingredients:

2 slices white, potato or buttermilk bread

peanut butter (I'm not going to judge you on how much you use, but don't skimp)

rainbow sprinkles (enough to cover one side of the bread in a thin rainbow layer)

Process:

Place bread on a plate.

Smooth one slice with peanut butter.

Spinkle sprinkles on top of the peanut better.

Cover with the other slice of bread.

Eat with delight and wonder like a child diving into her own birthday cake.

Happy birthday to me!