The sun has been shining most of the week. With all of this off and on rain we have had as of late things are still a little damp. I will be glad when things start to dry out. I am even stoked that I get to get the mower out soon. I know I am weird, but green grass looks a lot better than the brown dried looking stuff. I got this Aero Garden for my birthday last year and since the house is up for sale I never took it out of the box. Well what the heck! It is set up and the three pods that I planted were basil, dill and oregano. You need to check these things out. It is a hydroponic system with a grow light. It will be fun to see how everything turns out. I planted some strange tomatoes and some exotic peppers in some pots I have on the deck. I hope they do well this year. Last year was not a huge success. The travel business is hanging in there. Alaska, River Cruising and All Inclusive Resorts are pretty hot items right now. A summer vacation is right around the corner and now is a pretty good time to get things in place. I don't know what it is, but my mind spins when it comes to cooking. I have been doing most of my experimentations with breakfast and have combined some pretty strange ingredients that work well with eggs. Some of the exotic combinations have been with capers, green olives, jambalaya, enchilada stacks and refried beans inside of an omelet. They all have worked for me, but I am not sure the rest of the family would ever eat any of it. One of my all time favorite foods in the world is pizza. Mama Mia it is pizza time! Did you know that the first pizzeria in the United States was opened by Gennaro Lombardi in 1895 in New York City? I am a pizza junkie and love to create different and unique pizzas. My parents went to a small college in Iowa and they used to hang out at this pizza joint called the Pizza Shack. They became friends with the owner and he shared his recipe with them. The only thing was it was for 100 pizzas so they had to cut it down to a recipe for 3 pizzas. Not only is this recipe still with our family it was also the start of Johnny's Pizza headquartered in Monroe, LA. Johnny Huntsman the owner of Johnny's Pizza and my parents went to college together and have shared the recipe ever since. Johnny's Pizza has 30 to 40 locations scattered out in Louisiana and Texas. This cooking session was going to consist of pizza made 3 different ways. Pizza #1 is going to be a potato pizza! Pizza #2 is going to be an alfredo pizza! Pizza #3 is going to be a normal with pizza sauce! The dough for 3 pizzas is quite easy. I mix 2 packets of rapid rise yeast to 1 cup of warm water and 2 table spoons of sugar. I let that proof for about 5 minutes. My dry ingredients are 3 cups of all purpose flour and 1 teaspoon of sea salt. I mix the wet and dry together with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Once all of this comes together pour it out on a floured surface and knead it into a ball. Then place it in a greased bowl about twice the size of the dough ball, cover it with a towel and put it in a warm place for 2 hours to rise. After 2 hours knock the dough down and dived into thirds and make 3 balls. Cover them with saran wrap and let rise a second time. The pizza sauce recipe is for 3 pizzas, but I am only using it on 1 of the pizzas. You take 1 can of tomato paste (Contadina), 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1 heaping tablespoon of ground oregano, 1 tablespoon of Louisiana hot sauce, 1 tablespoon of olive oil and I add a little water to thin it out some. Mix all of this together, cover and set aside. I normally cook my pizza outside on the grill, but I was bringing the show indoors. I cook a unit called a VillaWare Pizza Grill. It is a pizza stone made into a unit that will fit on your grill or oven. I have used it on my gas grill and my 22” Weber. I put my oven rack at the lowest level and the pizza grill goes on to of that. I set the oven to 500 degrees and let the stone heat up for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. I had some ingredients that I needed to prep first. I needed to make some caramelized some onions, crisp up some bacon, chop some mushrooms, slice some green olives and put the potatoes thru the mandolin. The Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese are the easy part. Once all of the prep work was complete and the onions had caramelized I was ready to roll. I forgot to mention this earlier, but you will need a pizza peel to slide your pizza on and off of your stone. Make sure and sprinkle corn meal on it first or your pizza will not come off. You will not be a happy camper if you forget this part. You can add more as needed. The first pizza is rolled out and placed on the pizza peel. This would be the strange pizza of the night. Olive oil would be used instead of pizza sauce. Then I layered thinly sliced potatoes on next. The mozzarella cheese came next. I prefer sliced cheese over grated. It seems to melt easier. I put crushed red pepper on next and she was ready to go. Just slide it on the stone and set your timer for 8 minutes. I was not sure how this was going to come out. I have never made a potato pizza before. The pizza was thin and crispy with a gooey cheesy potato topping. I cut the pizza into 12 slices and was ready to try my first bite. I must admit it was pretty good. It could be a keeper. Pizza #2 was going to be an alfredo pizza with caramelized onions, bacon and mushrooms. I used Bertolli’s alfredo sauce in a jar. I know I should have made my own. I rolled to dough out on a floured surface and then placed it on the pizza peel. The alfredo sauce goes on next and the mozzarella cheese. The caramelized onions, mushrooms and bacon go on next. Then it gets a shower of oregano and on the stone she goes for 8 minutes. This one smelled amazing! I cannot wait to taste this one. I have made alfredo pizza before, but not with these toppings. After 8 minutes this girl is bubbling. I slide her off onto the cutting board and let her sit for a minute before I slice into her. The smells of this pizza did not disappoint me. It was incredible. I need to drink a glass of red wine with this one. I am in pizza heaven and I still have another one to make. Pizza #3 will be Italian sausage and green olives and the famous pizza sauce. The dough is rolled out and the sauce and cheese go on next. The sausage and green olives join the party next and then it is showered with oregano. 8 minutes on the stone and this bubbling goodness is ready to come out. I don’t know what it is about green olives and pizza for me, but it gets my motor running. I know this one is going to be good. I believe it is time for another glass of red wine as I am going to sit down and eat this one. This has been an amazing pizza experimentation night. Another pizza that I make in the summer time when I grill pizza outside is a barbeque chicken pizza. I use barbeque sauce as the base on the dough before the cheese. I then add rotisserie chicken, onions, pickles and a drizzle of barbeque sauce on top of that. I kid you not you will want to do a jig after the first bite. I knew I should have made 4 pizzas tonight. I told you playing with pizza can be fun. Let your hair down and play with your food. This has been an amazing night and my taste buds have been satisfied. I think I need another glass of red wine to finish the night off. I hope this has helped give you some new pizza ideas. It is not authentic Neapolitan pizza, but it backyard fun pizza. Authentic Neapolitan pizzas that are made with local ingredients from Naples like San Marzano tomatoes, which grow on the volcanic plains to the south of Mount Vesuvius, and Mozzarella di Bufala Campania, made with the milk from water buffalo raised in the marshlands of Campania and Lazio in a semi-wild state. The dough is made from type 0 or 00 Italian wheat flour. I am sure it is good, but I will stick with the backyard fun version until I visit Naples! If you have any questions just shoot me a message. I would be glad to help. If you try something really weird like chocolate pizza let me know how it came out. I am learning about cooking everyday! Another night of cooking has come to an end and I am truly blessed with my family and friends that I have. Cooking is a passion of mine and I hope you enjoy making pizza as much as I do. I have to give special thanks to my mom for keeping the pizza recipe strong and alive in our family. She still uses these special pizza pans that are over 50 years old. She can achieve the same crispy crust that I get from my pizza stone. I love you mom! When you have time send me a recipe and I will make it and then write about it. I would be honored if you would share this blog with a friend who loves to cook. Find something you enjoy and just do it! Life is way too short! Have fun and smile! You never know what tomorrow will bring! Until next time, “Cookin with John” will be playing with some more food ideas to share with you!