Monday, March 15, 2010


I've been putting off making pizza crust for a really long time... and I love making pizza, so it only seems right that I should be making my own crust. I also love cheesecake and I am resistant to it as well. I thought about this a lot as I attempted my first pizza crust and decided on a reason for why this might be.

Amber isn't even just one of my best friends. She is a sister to me straight up. We are so different and so alike at the same time- just as sisters often are. Many of my best memories include her, and as is true with sisters- we have certainly had our fights and disagreements. Every single moment made us stronger and closer. She lives a world away from me now, but I couldn't hold her closer to my heart.

Amber and I first met in 1996. We were in college, but this was over the summer. I was dating- are you ready for this small town mess- Ryan at the time. Ryan's friend was dating Billi Jo (who actually is my 2nd cousin.) Billi Jo and Amber were bff's. Billi and Amber lived in Penfield/DuBois- about an hour away from Emporium. Ryan and I were at the DuBois mall one day- where Amber worked- and he wanted me to meet her, as they'd had several opportunities to hang out seeing as their friends were dating one another. He introduced me and I don't think I made a very good impression. Luckily, I had another chance soon when I bunch of us caravaned it to Lilith Fair. Ryan had told me what a great girl she was, and I decided I wanted to be her friend. She was driving in another car, so I took the opportunity when we made a stop, and just went up to her and started talking, determined to make a better impression this time. We had a great time at Lilith Fair. I can't imagine if I hadn't taken that chance. What a loss that would have been.

Amber and I ended up living in the same apartment complex my senior year in college. (H-O!) That is when we became really close. I headed off to England the following year, but when I came back, we were both working at Chi Chi's. Ryan too- even though we were no longer dating, we were very close friends. Oh, the Cheech. Good times. Amber spent a lot of time at my place, and I spent a lot of time at hers. We were together pretty much all the time between working and hanging out. And then I got a teaching job in Greensboro. (Amb went with me for a week to do all of my interviewing- Amber!!! They are taking a SURVEY up ahead!!! What are we going to do?) Amber was finishing school. She visited a couple times, we talked all the time. This wasn't a friendship that was going to end. She decided after graduating that she would move to Greensboro as well to pursue teaching.

We thought a good long time about whether or not we should share an apartment. We certainly did not want to end up hating each other! We decided to take a chance. Amber, me, Heidi, Mama, and Booey. We were quite the little family. I will never forget unpacking her things and finding this orange plastic bowl that really has to be from the 1970s. I'd never seen it before and we laid on the floor laughing so hard we couldn't move. (I now own said bowl and always will- unless she moves back!) I remember starting each morning on the porch with our coffee and all the flowers Amber always had all over the place- I can't grow things, she is incredible. We took turns being the parent to each other. We had the best time, I'm so glad we had that time together. I am truly trying to keep this blog at a reasonable length, but it has occurred to me that I could probably write an entire book about our friendship. Amb- you still have the journal, right?

So, what does this all have to do with my anxiety over pizza crust and cheesecake?

Amber can cook. I mean, the girl has an Italian background and she can tear it up. She's awesome. And she would cook a lot of phenomenal food, but what I remember the best are her pizzas and cheesecakes... No words can explain how perfectly she does each. I realized this was what was holding me back. These were things Amber made... could I really even come close? Could I make them without her standing right there with me? I'm glad I chose to attempt the pizza crust first. Cheesecake is coming. At least I have her springform pan that she used every time to give me good luck... watch this space...

I needed a cocktail for some liquid courage. I made a killer one. Equal parts silver tequila and grapefruit juice, a splash of Grand Marnier, and ice all in a shaker. Shake it well, then strain into a glass. A martini glass would have been nice, but was dangerous in this situation. Top with soda water and squeeze in the juice from a hearty chunk of lime. Delish.

I decided to make a whole wheat crust. I think I wrote on her Facebook wall at least 3 or 4 times during the process. Since it was the middle of the night in New Zealand, I wasn't getting a response.... I was nervous, antsy waiting for the yeast to do its thing, and waiting for it to rise. I paced and worried... and it turned out just fine, outside of the funny shapes! I did dump out the first yeast/water/honey mixture and started again when the yeast didn't seem to foam up like it was supposed to- or was it?! I didn't really know for sure. I was more exact about water temperature the second time and it seemed to like that a bit better. The crust turned out a little dense maybe, but I did go with whole wheat flour for the nutrition factor. I think I'll try half and half next time. Or maybe whole wheat pastry flour, as it's supposed to be lighter. Anyway, I knew it wasn't going to be Amber's super light and crispy crust... I'm not ready to even try to make it like her's yet.

When my crust was done, I topped it with some homemade bbq sauce that I made from OJ, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, dijon, mustard powder, onion and garlic powder, chili powder, pick a pepper sauce, brown sugar, ginger... um? I think that's it. Who knows? I just threw a lot of shit in a pot until it tasted pretty good. On top of the sauce I layered onions, garlic, and corn that I had caramelized together . Next were black beans, some chopped pineapple, and a nice Wisconsin Cheddar. In the oven it went and when it came out, I sprinkled cilantro all over the top. After cutting slices for Scott and I me, I drizzled each with a homemade ranch.

And where, do you ask, did I get this fabulous ranch dressing recipe? Amber, of course. My friend, Cameron, will absolutely choke me if I don't give exacts on this, as she's been asking when I'm going to make it and blog about it since my very first post. I make it a tiny bit different by adding a couple extra ingredients and upping the quantity of a few others, but the skeleton is all hers. Mine would have never become mine if it weren't for her and I give her all the credit.

3/4 cup Duke's
1/2 cup buttermilk
heaping TBSP sour cream (I only add this if I want it thicker, I didn't when making it for the pizza)
1 1/2 tsp dried onion
1 clove grated garlic
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 TBSP dried parsley
4 TBSP high quality freshly grated Parmesan
a lot of freshly ground black pepper
splash of cayenne powder
TBSP or so of chopped chives if I can find them cheap
salt to taste

It's damn good. It's good on pizza, potato chips, hell, I even dipped crackers into this time. I don't think I ever ate it with salad, ironically... but, damn, that would be a rockin' salad. You just need a vessel to get it into your mouth. It's sensational, and it topped this bbq black bean pizza perfectly.

Amb would have been proud. It wasn't as good as her pepperoni pizza. Not even close. I am resigned to the fact that I just won't accomplish that... but, that's ok. I am pretty psyched it turned out at all, and according to Scott, it was one of the best pizzas I've made. It was filing at least. It even made a great breakfast when I baked off a leftover slice and threw a fried egg on top.

I end this post with a very grateful heart. Words can't describe how much I miss Amber since she moved to New Zealand several years ago. She has a beautiful daughter now, named Olivia, and although I've not met her, I miss her too. Amber will always, absolutely always, be my family. I truly cherish her and cannot imagine my life without her being a part. I know our kids will play together one day, and I can't wait. Who knows? Maybe we'll even end up as the crazy cat ladies with a house down by the river just like we always imagined.


  1. I want to try this meal! Sounds awesome.

  2. Thank you so much! I laughed out loud & cried too! What good times we have shared! I completely forgot about the SURVEY!!! LOL!!! I still remember the "lecture" I got after a weekend getaway to the beach! And, of course I still have the journal.
    As far as the pizza crust I have tried my fair share of flours...spelt, whole wheat, wholemeal, semolina, plain white...but overall I think the key is OLIVE OIL!!! The more the better, and since my mother & father-in-law have an olive orchard, I'm set! I love that you don't have a round pan, neither do I...I usually stretch the dough into a rectangle to fit the pan vs. 2 small circles, but may try your style next time.
    A note on the ranch, it does ROCK! I love it!! I too have modified it, and now use fresh ingredients in place of the dried ones...still a great dressing though. I personally enjoy it on wings, carrot sticks and oven chips. I'm sure pumpkin fest would have been even more yummy with that on the menu!
    Kim, I'm so glad that you were persistent...I couldn't imagine life without a sister!

  3. Good on ya, KB! Nice dough. I like your toppings. I got a little mouth water when I read through them. I will also have to try that Ranch dressing, so thanks for sharing. Seriously, I would love to chew down a piece of that pizza right now.