Chicken Fajita Pizza

One thing that I made a lot of when we were living in China was pizza. There was actually a Papa John’s pretty close to our apartment, but it wasn’t my favorite and making pizza at home is just fun. There are a endless flavor combinations. Really, if flavors go well together on their own, there’s a good chance they’ll go well together on a pizza.

One day when I was staring at an open fridge, trying to decide on the flavor of day, I came up with this idea for Chicken Fajita Pizza. No, it’s not the first Chicken Fajita Pizza ever made, but I think the combination of my favorite fajita marinated chicken and the Mexican black bean sauce, really made it special.

These photos are actually from the first time I made this pizza (while still living in China) but it’s one of my favorites still. Nowadays, I roll the pizza dough just a little bit thinner and I go a little heavier on peppers and onions, but the basic pizza is still exactly the same!

Now I want to know what YOUR favorite homemade pizza is!



Perfect Pizza Dough


Over the years I have tried a lot of different recipes for pizza dough.  The pizzas that I made were always successful, but I was never blown away by the crust. I’ve found you can disguise a mediocre crust with really great toppings, but why settle for mediocre? When I go to my favorite pizza restaurants I would never discard that extra inch of bread, yet at home I always did. I needed to do something about that.

That’s where this recipe comes in. This recipe yields dough that is crisp on the bottom with a tender and chewy crust around the edges. You aren’t overwhelmed with a flour-y taste and it has just the right amount of olive oil flavor. It works just as well with plain cheese pizza as it does with a flavorful BBQ Chicken pizza (like the photo, recipe to come). Quite simply, it’s the perfect pizza dough. Do not be intimidated by the length of these directions, it’s really not difficult to make and the recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas, so the work of one day spreads to 2 meals!

*Warning – I took a LOT of photos of this process!

Perfect Pizza Dough

1/2 cup warm water (about 110°)
1/4 tsp granulated sugar
2 1/4 tsp (1 envelope) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 oz.) bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 tsp salt
olive oil or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the bowl

Stir together 1/2 cup of warm water with the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and allow to proof for 5 minutes (yeast will dissolve, water will start to look milky and foamy). Stir in the room temperature water and olive oil.

While the yeast is proofing, stir together the bread flour and salt. Create a well in the flour and pour in the water/yeast mixture.

Using a strong wooden spoon, begin to work the flour into the liquid.

When it becomes too difficult to do by hand, flip out onto a lightly floured surface and knead with hands for 10 minutes until it forms a smooth and elastic ball, adding only enough flour to work surface and hands to keep dough from sticking. If the dough seems too dry and hard to knead, you can add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Alternatively, use a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook to combine flour and salt. Pour in the liquid and allow to knead on low speed for 5-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. 

At this point I think the dough needed just a minute or so more of kneading

Spray a large mixing bowl with non-stick cooking spray or coat lightly with olive oil. Add the ball of dough, gently moving it around the bowl to coat with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 90-120 minutes, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough. If you plan to bake immediately, preheat oven to hottest temperature (450-500 degrees F) and place a pizza stone in the lower 1/3 of oven. If you plan to use later, divide dough into 2, shape into balls, cover tightly with plastic wrap, place in a ziploc bag, and freeze. Later, remove dough from freezer and allow to thaw in fridge overnight, then proceed to following steps. Do the same with one ball if you plan to make one pizza now and one pizza later.

Divide dough into 2. Cover with a clean, damp towel, and allow to relax for 10-20 minutes. Working one at a time, place the dough ball on a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper. Use hands and begin to stretch the dough, turning the parchment paper as necessary to keep an even round shape, into a 12-inch round. Using a pastry brush, apply a thin layer of olive oil to the outer inch. Top with desired toppings, leaving the outer 3/4-1 inch ridge.

Using a pizza peel or large cookie sheet, transfer parchment paper and pizza to hot pizza stone and bake for 8-12 minutes or until the outer crust starts to turn golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Repeat with second ball of dough, if using right away.


  • Always preheat oven to highest temperature at least 30 minutes prior to baking. Hot, hot, hot ovens are how pizza delivery joints get crispy crust.
  • If desired, use hands to create an outer ridge in the dough. (I cup my left hand a little and use the outside edge of my right to sort of “pinch” the dough all the way around)
  • If you are having trouble stretching your pizza dough, allow it rest for 5-10 minutes. This gives the gluten time to relax.
  • Don’t be afraid to cook the pizza right on the parchment paper. It makes it much easier to transfer to the oven.

Source: Baking Illustrated, as seen on Good Thymes and Good Food

Mashed Potato Pizza


That’s right. You read the title right; Mashed Potato Pizza. I told you last week that Jesse is heading back out to China soon and before he leaves I’m going to fill him up with carb-y goodness. And before I see comments about evil carbs, please know that this isn’t the kind of meal you’re going to have all the time. Everything in moderation. Don’t worry, the following night we had a very healthy dinner with a small side of brown rice.

I can’t take full credit for this idea. Back in Ohio being an Irish dancing teacher meant occasional weekend commitments for dancing events. This would usually mean lots of time fixing wigs, zipping dresses, tying shoes, and saying “shhhh, the audience can hear you”. But it also meant all of us teachers going out for a nice dinner after the event. After the beginner recital we went to a place called Watson Bros Brewery, and they served the most unusual and delicious dish – Mashed Potato Pizza. Sadly one day I went and the doors were closed. But I never stopped thinking about it. And I finally recreated it. Possibly even better than the original.

Mashed Potato Pizza
(Sunny Side Up Original)

2-3 cups mashed potatoes (recipe below)
1 pound ball of pizza dough
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 green onion, sliced diagonally
1/3 cup plus 2 Tbsp sour cream
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
*1 chicken breast, cooked and cut into bite size chunks – optional

*The chicken was a little minute addition I made to attempt to round out the meal.

Preheat the oven and a pizza stone to 450 degrees.

Shape the pizza dough into a 12 inch circle**. Add the garlic to the melted the butter, then brush over the entire top of the dough. Carefully move the dough the hot pizza stone and bake for 8-9 minutes, or until the top starts to turn a light golden brown.

Remove the dough from the oven. Spread 2 tablespoons of sour cream over the top of the pizza dough. Then spread the mashed potatoes. Return to the oven for 5 minutes until the pizza dough seems crisp and the mashed potato peaks just begin to turn brown. If you want you can turn on the broiler for a minute, just keep an eye on it.

Top the pizza with Parmesan cheese, green onion, bacon, chicken (if you’re using it) and a big dollop of sour cream in the middle . Serve with additional sour cream or Ranch dressing, if desired.

** I shape my dough right on a piece of parchment paper so when it comes to moving it to the hot stone all I have to do is slide the paper over.

Mashed Potatoes
(I make the mashed potatoes while the oven is preheating and the dough is cooking)

1 1/2 pounds Russet potatoes
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp half and half (or milk)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

Add potatoes, garlic, and 2 teaspoons of salt to large saucepan filled with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Remove from heat and drain water from potatoes.

Add the kosher salt (for some reason I think the rough kosher salt helps the potatoes mash easier, could be in my head, but it’s what I always do) to the potatoes and use a potato ricer to begin mashing the potatoes. Add the butter, half and half, and sour cream and continuing mashing and stirring until smooth. If they seem dry you can add a little more half and half or milk. Test the taste and season with pepper and, if necessary, more salt.

Pizza Dough*

2/3 cup warm water
1 packet or 2 1/2 tsp active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp butter, melted (usually I use olive oil but for this pizza I used butter)
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Stir the yeast and sugar into the warm water. Let sit for 8-10 minutes, or until the water looks creamy and the top is foamy. Stir in the melted butter.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (or large mixing bowl) stir together the flour, salt, and garlic powder. Create a well in the center and pour in the water/yeast. If you’re using a standing mixer, turn the mixer to low and let it knead for 5 minutes, adding more water a teaspoon at a time if necessary. If you’re not using a standing mixer begin stirring together with a wooden spoon and when it gets tough to stir start kneading with clean hands. Knead by hand for 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball, place in a lightly greased bowl, and cover with a clean towel. Let rise for about 30 minutes.

* This pizza dough is incredibly forgiving. I make it at least once a week and more or less go by feel of the dough now. If you want to let it rise for longer and double you can, but you can also just let it rest for a few minutes and roll it out. The longer the rise, the lighter your crust will be. The shorter the rise, the denser the crust will be. I do it both ways all the time but I guess I can say that I prefer a 30-45 minute rise.

Margherita Time


This time last year Jesse and I were taking the first giant step of this newest journey in our life. We left the Thursday before Memorial Day and made our way across the United States to San Diego. I’m pretty used to long drives but this was in a class of it’s own. Still it was amazing. It was great having a chance to spend 3 days with just the 2 of us. Plus let’s be honest, this is a pretty cool country and we went from lush farm lands in the midwest, to wide open spaces in Texas, to dry flat dessert in Arizona, then green beautiful mountains in Arizona, then the most amazing mountains that looked like giant mounds of over-sized pebbles, and finally we landed in San Diego where the palms trees are plentiful and the air smells of the ocean. Just awesome.

Looking back a year later I don’t think I could have guessed how many incredible changes and wonderful experiences we would have in just one year of our lives. Of course with the good came some bad. The worst of it being that we have been separated for more than half of the last year. That part sucks, no way around it. But we’ve made the best of it and in 3 weeks we’ll be together again! Here is to hoping that this next year is even better (and has us together more than we are apart!)

What’s all that have to do with Margherita pizza? Uh, nothing. I just had some things to get off my chest before sharing the recipe. This pizza tasted great and would be perfect for a quick weeknight dinner. You can double the dough recipe, divided it into 4 and freeze 3 parts individually so you always have homemade pizza dough on hand. You’ll never need a processed, sodium laden frozen pizza again!

Margherita Pizza

1 ball pizza dough (recipe below)
2 Tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle of garlic powder
1-1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup diced (or sliced) tomato
3-4 fresh basil leaves, julienne

Preheat oven and pizza stone to 500 degrees, with rack in the lowest position in oven.

Roll out pizza dough until ~1/4 inch thick and ~10 inches across and transfer to a piece of parchment paper. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic powder.

Spread the mozzarella cheese over the pizza dough and sprinkle the tomatoes and basil on top.

Remove hot pizza stone from oven and carefully transfer the pizza (parchment paper and all) to the stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes, keeping an eye on it the whole time so the cheese doesn’t burn.

Easy Weeknight Pizza Dough
(Adapted from Amber’s Delectable Delights)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package quick-rising (instant) yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

In a measuring cup, add the sugar to the warm water and stir until dissolved. Add the yeast and let rest while you prepare the dry ingredients.

In the bowl of a food processor add the flour and salt. Pulse a few times to blend the flour and salt.

Turn the food processor on and stream in the water/yeast mixture. Turn the food processor off and stream in the olive oil. Then pulse in 4 second increments until a ball of dough is formed. It should be slightly sticky but not wet. If it is too dry add water a tablespoon at a time. If it is too wet add flour a tablespoon at a time.

At this point you can do one of two things. One, let the dough rest for 15 minutes while you gather your toppings, then roll out. Two, transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour until almost doubled in size. Then divide the dough in half and roll out. I typically let it rise, but the great thing about this recipe is that you don’t have too. I’m just used to letting it rise (for other recipes) and I like my dough to be a bit fluffier. I also feel like I have more dough to work with if I let it rise for longer (able to get 2 balls of dough).