Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Best Pizza You (even you in central Missouri) Have Never Heard Of

   Ellis Bakery.  Much like our small town itself, if you blink, you might miss it.  Located on a side street, inside a steel building that looks more likely to house, well...anything other than a bakery, is one of mid-Missouri's best-kept secrets.  In addition to making small quantities of breads and sweet baked goods (cinnamon rolls on the weekends, for example) for local grocery stores, Randy also cooks up great, simple, classic American pizza.  If you think 'pizza' in mid-Missouri, you generally think Shakespeare's and, let's be honest, they make an amazing pie as well.  Shakes is different, though, with a fairly thick, rich crust (and an amazing wheat crust, but that's another post) and mountains of toppings, some of a somewhat exotic nature.  Shakes pizza is awesome, but it's fairly pricey and can be pretty greasy as well, depending on the toppings you get. 
   Ellis Bakery's pizzas, as cooked up by Randy, however, are fairly minimalist in comparison.  Simple ingredients, classic 'hand-tossed' original crust, and a simple, slightly sweet, lightly savory sauce.  Oh, and the price? A large (the only size they offer) cheese starts at $9.00, with each additional topping only a dollar extra.  We've tried to pin down exactly what it is that makes this pizza so great on several occasions, but it's really pretty difficult.  The crust is awesome, with just a hint of sweetness and some similarities to a nice Italian loaf (I think Randy said the pizza dough recipe is fairly similar to his Italian bread recipe), the sauce is simple, and the ingredients are fresh.  In the end, I think, it's a good example of how restraint and simplicity can produce something that's far more than the sum of its parts. 

Healthy 'Biscuits' and Gravy

Over the last several months, my wife and I have been trying to eat a bit healthier and start a more intense workout regimen.  This is, in itself, fairly difficult (especially if you love food like we do!) but the situation is complicated further by the fact that we're both in graduate school, Jess works two jobs, and we have a 45 minute commute every day.  Convincing yourself to eat healthier is, in those circumstances, not so easy at times.  This week, though, we came up with a recipe that both tastes far worse for you than it is, and is easily made up in bulk ahead of time, so that you can just heat it up in the morning and go.

Both of us love biscuits and gravy but, let's face it, it's probably one of the most unhealthy breakfasts you can have.  With a few small tweaks, though, you can get most of the taste of this classic breakfast, with a lot fewer calories and fat.

      Healthy 'Biscuits' and Gravy                 (9 half-cup servings)

             -1 lb Honeysuckle White Original Breakfast Sausage
             -1.5 cups Uncle Buck's Cream Gravy Mix (available at Bass Pro Shops)
             -4 cups water
             -Healthy English Muffins (we like Thomas' Light Multi-Grain English Muffins)

This one's super simple.  Cook the sausage according to the directions on the packaging and set aside.  We didn't find the need for any oil or even cooking spray to get this one to fry up nicely.  After that, mix the Cream Gravy mix with the water and cook until thickened, following the directions on the package.  When thick, add the crumbled turkey sausage and continue to cook for a few more minutes, making sure that the gravy doesn't burn on.  You can add red pepper flakes if you want a bit more kick to the gravy, though we typically add them later, when we're ready to serve.

This recipe makes nine half-cup servings.  One half-cup of gravy plus one English muffin comes out to a total of 260 calories and 9 grams of fat.  Not bad for a breakfast that tastes like it should be significantly worse for you! 
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