West Chester Farmer's Market and Zucchini Without a Prayer

A Saturday morning at the West Chester Farmer's Market was exactly what I needed after indulgent weekends with friends.  Don't misunderstand, I adore my friends.  I miss them dearly.  Why do we all live so far apart from one another?  But my simple routine was completely off kilter.  There was no baking over the weekends with Tim.  There was no tending to our little garden.  There was no snuggling with the cutest puppy dogs ever.  And I missed Tim.  Our little life is a wonderful thing.

I admit I'd never been to a farmer's market before Saturday.  I have had the best of intentions to go, and in early May even drove up to South Lebanon a few times when I thought that their market might be open early.  Of course, it wasn't open, and then my early June weekends I was out of town, so this was my first opportunity.  I arrived around 9:30am and the area was already bustling with shoppers.  I had been given some advice by friends that you shouldn't take a grocery list with you but just go with what's fresh and available.  I did bring a little wish list of things I was hoping to find, and luckily, everything I wanted for the week was there. 

After perusing the farmer's market's website, I had two vendors in mind that I was particularly interested in checking out.  One was Blue Jacket Dairy.  A few weekends prior, Tim and I had been watching our local public broadcast channel and caught a special about local cheesemaking at Blue Jacket Dairy.  It was intriguing how this small, family operated business was turning traditional dairy farming into a specialty foods business.  With the local food and slow food movements expanding throught southwest and central Ohio, I was thrilled to see they were going to be at the market.  Their high quality gourmet cheese did not disappoint and I walked away with around $5 worth of each Ludlow cheese and Gretna Grilling cheese.

The other vendor I wanted to shop was Morning Sun Farm run by Dave and Evelyn Filbrun.  I was attracted to their booth because of the huge truck backed up to their stall and the long line of people waiting to purchase eggs and meat from them.  Their eggs are laid by free range, organic chickens and their selection of different organic poultry, pork, and lamb products was impressive.  They had all cuts of chicken available, and I was able to cross a whole chicken and a dozen eggs off my wish list.  Since this was one of the first booths I went to, I only had big bills.  The gentleman who was working the booth (perhaps it was Dave Filbrun?) was very polite and even offered samples of some sweet sausage they had warmed up on the table.  He asked me after I paid that if I had smaller bills when I finished shopping if I could bring him back some $1's or $5's.  About 20 minutes later, after I had purchased a zucchini, a big bunch of green onions, and some organic honey, I came back with some change.  The gentleman was so thankful that he gave me a package of frozen organic chicken wings at no charge

That's the beauty of doing business from person to person.  I will definitely be purchasing my meat from the market from here on out.  Not only is it better for my local agricultural industry (which is a big deal in Southwest Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana) but he made a big impact on me.  I highly suggest if you are in the Cincinnati area to check out the West Chester Farmer's Market and see if you can do some of your shopping person to person.  I think it will make an impact on you, too. 

While I'm saving the chicken for dinner this week, I did use the green onions in my Vegetable Pad Thai and I used the zucchini in this recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cakes with Pecans.  I'm pretty sure everyone has had zucchini in a quick bread, but I'd never had it paired with chocolate.  I know that Ashley over at Delish made some Mini Chocolate Zucchini Cakes of her own that I'd love to compare to this recipe.

While grating the zucchini I was wondering to myself how in the world this was going to taste!  Zucchini, while it is mild, definitely has a "green vegetable" flavor that is distinct when tasted alone.  When paired with 1 cup of sugar, zucchini just doesn't have a prayer of it's own flavor shining through.  While this is definitely not a healthy way to prepare zucchini, it is definitely a way to sneak vegetables into a dessert.  A nifty trick if you're like me and have a kid that won't even try something if she even slighlty suspects it won't taste good. 

I opted to top these with pecans but the original recipe called for walnuts.  For some reason Tim is rather picky about nuts and doesn't care for walnuts.  Personally, I don't find walnts and pecans all that different in flavor or texture.  I think if you left the nuts off completely, you would lose the little crunch that these bite size desserts need in order to be a more satisfying morsel.

I used semi-sweet chocolate chips rather than chopped bittersweet chocolate, and I think that was the right decision.  Without the semi-sweet chocolate, there isn't much intense chocolate flavor.  With the chips, they are very chocolately.  The texture was somewhere between a cupcake and a brownie and it was very easy to eat a bunch of them before you even realized they were half gone.  I suggest packing them up individually to ration them out before you eat all of them in one sitting!

This recipe also gave me a very good reason to use my mini muffin pan, which I've only used a handful of times to make very addictive Pepperoni Pizza Puffs.  In fact, Tim requested those Pizza Puffs this weekend, and that was what reminded me to make these Chocolate Zucchini Cakes! 

Chocolate-Zucchini Cakes with Pecans
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
makes 24-30 mini cakes

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp course salt
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
3 tbsp sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
24-30 pecan halves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, stir together butter, sugar, salt, and egg until combined.  Add vanilla, grated zucchini, and sour cream.  Stir until incorporated.  Sift flour and cocoa powder into the bowl and stir until combined.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Spray mini muffin pan with cooking spray.  Fill each cup with batter until 3/4 full (about 2 tablespoons) and top with a pecan half.  Bake 15-17 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool slightly in pans on wire rack before serving. 

Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days. 


Tried and True Pad Thai

For my older sister's birthday a few years ago, we went to Thai 9 in the Oregon District of Dayton, Ohio.  Being a somewhat adventurous orderer at restaurants, I am certain I picked some sort of moderately spicy dish like green curry.   Tim likely ordered a stir fry that was so high on the 1 to 10 heat level that he probably blistered his tongue and wandered around in a tasteless world for a few days.  I definitely remember (which is rare since I already told you about my memory issues) my sister, Amy, who prefers tried and true meals, ordered pad thai.  Being the food snob that I am, I likely balked at her ordering such a simple noodle dish.  How unimaginative!  How predictable!

Amy, I would like to apologize for not trusting your tried and true food choices.  It was not until this week, when I saw a recipe for Vegetable Pad Thai in Everday Food Magazine that I decided to give it a shot, and I am certainly glad I did.  I even successfully convinced Tim (a man with hunterer and gatherer instincts) to have a meal with no meat (gasp)!

Thankfully when I went to the West Chester Farmer's Market there were vendors who have had much more luck in their gardens than we are having.  I did make a little "wish list" before I left for a few things that I knew I needed to pick up, one being green onions.

Lucky for me green onions were in abundance.  From one vendor I got a medium zucchini and this huge bunch of green onions for only $1.75.  I felt like it was a small victory, and just another reason to shop there again.  I'm a bit disappointed that we will be out of town this weekend and I won't get to go back and visit for a few weeks. 

The recipe I was following was easy enough.  As with all Asian cooking, prepping everything you need before you even fire up the stove top is key to a successful dish.  You don't want to overcook because you will lose the texture of the ingredients.  I found it very efficient to drop the rice noodles in hot water to soak while I prepped everything else.  The only change I made to the recipe was to add a little bit of peanut butter to the sauce so that the dish would go beyond a basic soy sauce mixture into the arena of distinct peanut-ty flavor.

The resulting pad thai was salty and peanut-ty with complex textures from the soft, chewy rice noodles and crisp green onions.  Next time I make this (and there will be a next time, perhaps even this week if my sister and her hubby come over for dinner on Tuesday) I might toss in some shrimp or tofu, but it's definitely not necessary.  This simple pad thai stands tall on it's own.

Vegetable Pad Thai
adapted from Everyday Food Magazine
serves 4

8 ounces dried, wide, and flat rice noodles
2 tbsp dark brown sugar
2 tbsp lime juice
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp creamy peanut butter
2 tsp vegetable oil
3 green onions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup), separate white parts from green
1 garlic clove, minced
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped peanuts

Soak noodles according to package instructions.  Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl mix together brown sugar, lime juice, soy sauce, and peanut butter.  In a large non-stick skiller, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add green onion whites and garlic, cook while stirring constantly until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add eggs and cook, scraping skillet until eggs are almost set, about 30 seconds.  Remove egg mixture (including green onions and garlic) to a plate.  Add noodles and soy sauce and cook while stirring constantly until noodles are soft and coated with sauce, about 1 minute.  Add egg mixture and mix in with noodles, breaking the egg up gently.

Serve topped with cilantro, remaining green onions, and peanuts.


The Day I Almost Abandoned the Garden or The Little Watermelon That Could

I had two completely opposite experiences at the garden this morning.

I knew going into it that today would be a battle of endurance and perseverance but apparently my game face isn't as scary as the gigantic weeds choking out our plants.  Only after 20 minutes or so, I looked at Tim, his face red with sweat trickling over his eye behind his glasses, and thought if we just give up and go home, we can drink ice cold water and put our feet up.  The weeds were endless and our only goal today was to clear a small area around each plant so that they wouldn't be so suffocated by the increasingly strong grasses.  But as Tim was wilting away across from me and each time I dug my little hand fork into the ground my left bicep was screaming out, "you haven't lifted your arm this many times since 9th grade weightlifting with the girls volleyball team," I began to doubt our ability to make an impact.

In this moment of weakness, I considered abandoning the garden. 

And then I saw something that gave me hope.

We had not failed the garden yet, and it had not failed us.  There, in the midst of the weeds, was a teensy watermelon.  It was barely bigger than my thumb, but it was there, and it was hanging on.  It was the little watermelon that could, and if it could, we could too


Memory Loss and Margarita Ice Cream

I can't even bring myself to give you a garden update.  While I was away this weekend, Tim gave me the rundown of our plants and it was not the magical moment where he tells me we are certified green thumbs that I had been expecting.  Let's just say we are on our last ditch effort to save our tomatoes. 

I will say that the trip from our house to our garden has been more enjoyable than I expected.  The garden is outside of the city, and we have to drive through the uptown (or downtown?) area of Mason to get there.  Just as you are about to reenter the great wide open areas outside of town, there is a little ice cream stand. 

This is not just any ice cream stand.  It's the most popular ice cream stand I've ever seen.  Every single time we drive past the line is all the way out to the sidewalk and then curved around to one side or another.  People of all ages are standing around slurping milkshakes or licking vanilla soft serve ice cream.  It's clearly a summer staple in Mason, and one I hope to try out for myself very soon.

Ice cream madness is not exclusively in Mason.  Home cooks everywhere are making ice cream.  Just this past week my coworker Reanne asked me if I had ever made home made ice cream without an ice cream maker.  Well, I hadn't then, but I decided that I needed to try.

I had been carrying around a faint memory of watching Nigella Lawson make a tex-mex fiesta for some friends in which she made tequila ice cream without an ice cream maker.  If you know me outside of this blog, you know that I have a terrible memory.  It infuriates my husband to no end, and I'm sure he's not the first to be frustrated with the way I can simply let things go from my mind.  My argument is that I am asked to remember a lot--family things, work appointments, over 27 years of things that have happened in my life--and I just don't have the energy to store them all.  I have overcome some of my forgetfulness by creating habits--always putting my keys in the same place, making lists, using my Outlook calendar--but inevitably I will forget something that is important to someone else.  Consider this an apology to anyone who feels like I've forgotten something important.  I'm a work in progress.

This tequila ice cream must have made a big impression on me.  I must have been sitting there watching the television and saying to myself, "Store that somewhere, self.  You might need that when you're sitting at home trying to think of what to make for dinner when your friends come all the way out to the suburbs to visit you." 

Before Tim and I went Krogering to pick up all of the other items needed for our little dinner party, we stopped by a liquor store near our new neighborhood.  Tim ran in and I waited in the car.  About 30 seconds later, he came flying back to the car with no liquor in hand and a scowl on his face.  My first instinct, "Is the place getting robbed?  Something bad happened?" 

No.  None of that.  "They charge you $1 to use your debit card. I'm not paying $10 for a $9 bottle of tequila."

So that settled that.  We were not buying tequila from that liquor store.  Or probably anything else from there either...ever

We instead picked up a bottle of margarita mix with the liquor already in it from the grocery and that immediately changed this from a five ingredient ice cream to a three ingredient ice cream.  I'm all about simplicity--I can only remember so many things anyway.


You must do this a day in advance and the amount of servings this makes are sort of iffy.  I froze the ice cream in two small plastic containers, and my dinner party of five was so full from guacamole, lime-cilantro grilled shrimp, and fish tacos that we each only ate a small scoop in a little parfait dish.  We didn't even finish a full container.  So if I were estimating, this recipe makes 10-12 servings for a post-dinner dessert, but if you waited a few hours until you were good and hungry again, you might be closer to 8-10 servings.  If you are the type who loves margaritas and would drink a margarita instead of eat dinner, you might get 6 servings out of this (but I would still always recommend dinner, especially if you are eating at my house!)

Margarita Ice Cream
recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson

*A quick note:  In the original recipe, Nigella measures some things by weight and some things by volume and it was getting a bit confusing.  Since I don't have a scale I just estimated a few things and it turned out perfectly.  I think that my measurements in my adaptation will work well for you, but you are welcome to try her measurements shown in the link if you have a scale.


3/4 cup Margarita Mix with Tequila already mixed in
1/2 cup powdered sugar
16 oz heavy cream
optional:  lime zest for garnish

In a medium bowl, pour in the margarita mix and stir in the powdered sugar until dissolved.  Add cream and whisk until thick but smooth, not stiff.  Spoon mixture into airtight container and freeze overnight. 

Serve immediately after removing from the freezer and garnish with lime zest. 



The Beginning of Summer

The official first day of summer...was yesterday.   It's the longest day of the year but it flew by for me.  Isn't that how all of summer is?  So quick that we barely have a moment to stop and look into the endless blue skies that linger past (my) bedtime? 

The past few weeks for me have been filled with reminiscing and celebrating.  Two weekends ago I traveled to Indianapolis to help shower my good friend K.C. with love and household items before her July wedding.  Her sister made a batch of divine cheesecake brownie cupcakes--Lizzie, I must have the recipe.  It was truly a joyful weekend and I know K.C. will be very happy, even though she's living in Michigan!  (Ohioans can't resist a Michigan joke.) 

This past weekend my darling friend Lia traveled all the way from her new borough to visit our dear friend Abbie and me.  We had a fantastic dinner on Thursday night at my new house, where I did my best to wow them with my newfound culinary skills.  I've come a long way from Rice-A-Roni, haven't I ladies?  (At least I hope!)

Over the weekend the girls and I went to our Alma Mater's Alumni Weekend for our five year reunion.  While we had a great time visiting and touring the campus, I was most amused with the way Lia wanted to re-experience college life through her stomach.  As soon as the campus was in sight, she began ticking off the locations she absolutely had to eat.   Jimmy John's.  Harrison Dining Hall.  Kona BistroBagel and Deli...twice.

For us all, it was like visiting our home before our current homes.  So much of our experiences, food and otherwise, were rooted in our four years there, and I'm thankful we shared that with one another, then and now.


If We're Ever Going to See a Rainbow

We have to stand a little rain...

Is it just me or is this the rainiest June that anyone else can remember?  I hope our plants like it.


The Strawberry Festival and a Strawberry Sensation

Every rose has its thorn.  Every small town has its festival.  

The small town I grew up in has the Strawberry Festival.  It has a long history of parades, bed races, arts & crafts, and decadent strawberry creations.  You can find anything from strawberry shortcake to strawberry salsa, but the real delicacy of the strawberry festival is the famous strawberry doughnuts.  They are truly heaven on earth in a fried dough.  It's possible.  Just trust me--I'm a strawberry doughnut expert.

We traveled to Troy to watch a family member march in the parade.   The rain held off and we found an excellent spot to watch the passersby. 


The parade was filled with the small town usuals--pageant winners waving while perched on top of convertibles, candy being tossed into the crowd by clowns (as my father put it, "Clowns are scary," while he told the story of my sister traumatized by clowns at a circus when she was a child), and modest floats that local people put hours upon hours of time into preparing.

The day was lovely, despite the heavy humidity, and it was a taste of my childhood that I was happy to share with my new husband.   There is definitely something to be said about the spirit of small towns.

The highlight of the afternoon was my discovery of one of the booths selling fresh picked local strawberries from Fulton Farm.  Just outside of Troy, Fulton Farm has always been the local go-to spot for picking strawberries in the summer and pumpkins in the fall.  A few times I've walked into a grocery store in Cincinnati and purchased corn on the cob that was grown by Fulton Farm.  Knowing where my strawberries, corn, pumpkins, and all other foods are grown is something that has become very important to me lately.  At the supermarket, I find myself checking the sticker on my produce to see how far it had to travel before it reached my basket.

As soon as we returned home from the festival, I began researching recipes for something special to make with my very special bucket of strawberries.  There have been so many special strawberry recipes on the web lately like Strawberry Ricotta Graham Tartlets, Strawberry Galette with Homemade Vanilla Whipped Cream, and Salmon with Strawberry and Tomato Salsa.  Any of these recipes would have done my strawberries justice, but after I happened upon a recipe for strawberry bread there was no other option that seemed as appealing.

The instructions were simple, so I added a few recommendations to it, but overall, it was perfection.  I had the exactly the amount of strawberries needed for the recipe (it was a sign) and my strawberries were perfectly ripe.

Even the batter was incredibly tasty.  Oh, I know--raw eggs--but I eat my eggs over easy, what's really the difference?  It was very thick batter and I think the thickness kept the strawberries from sinking to the bottom of the bread. 

Then I popped it into the oven, watched some television with my husband, and tried to ignore the incredible smells coming from the kitchen.  I did check it once with a toothpick at 50 minutes, because I never trust an oven, but it definitely needed the additional time.  A total cooking time of 60 minutes was absolutely perfect for me.  I let it sit for 5 minutes in the loaf pan, then turned it out onto a wire rack to cool.

I probably could have let it cool longer in the loaf pan because it did start to pull in half a bit, so I'd suggest to you to leave it in the loaf pan for 10-15 minutes.  I resisted cutting into the bread for another 5 minutes or so, but finally I couldn't stand it.

I cut a slice for me and one for Tim.  The strawberries were steamy and practically melted into the bread.  It had the texture of banana bread, but it was oh so much more than just a quick bread.


It was a strawberry sensation.  Sour and sweet, dense but fluffy, breakfast and dessert.  In this photo it appears that the strawberries sank to one side, but when I cut into the bread the next day at the other end, the strawberries were more evenly distributed.  Also, the original recipe called for nuts, but I didn't have any on hand, so I left them out.  I can imagine that the addition of nuts would only enhance the texture of the bread.  Go with your gut here--nuts or no nuts, you will love this bread

Strawberry Sour Cream Bread
adapted from Closet Cooking who got the recipe from Joy of Baking

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts (optional)
2 cups fresh strawberries

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating each in until the egg is incorporated before adding the next.  Beat in the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  With the mixer on low, add 1/3 of the dry ingredients.  When that is just mixed in, add 1/2 of the sour cream.  Repeat with 1/3 of the dry ingredients, then the other half of the sour cream, and the final 1/3 of the dry ingredients.  Be careful not to overmix.  Fold in the strawberries and optional nuts.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 9x5 loaf pan.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven for 60 minutes until the top is golden brown and a toothpick poked into the center will come out clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan and 5-10 minutes on a wire rack before slicing. 


The Pizza Dough Revelation

Promise not to leave my blog if I tell you a secret?

:deep breath:


I feel better now that it's out there.  The truth is when we want pizza we prefer to just make our own.  I like spices on my pizza, but delivery (or Digiorno) can be a little too...much.  Occasionally I will leave work late and I know Tim will be hungrily waiting for me so I pick up a $5 pizza from Little Caesars.  Those times are rare, though, because we always plan out our menus for the whole week and if we don't follow it food will spoil.  I'm never one to waste anything so we do our best to keep up with the menu.

Lately, I've felt inspired in the kitchen to try out new things and leave our habits of cheap convenience behind us.  I have mentioned that meals at our house these days are often experimental.  I like to try out new techniques, new ways to eat chicken, new flavor combinations.  Tim is eating better for it, even if he won't admit it!

My latest challenge was to make pizza dough.  That may not seem to challenging to others, as I have asked many acquaintances about it and they offhandedly say, "I always make my own dough."  Am I the last one to make my own pizza dough?  It can't be true.  I know some swear by Trader Joe's frozen dough so there are definitely some other corner cutters out there. 

I want to know what is so special about homemade pizza dough and if it is really worth it.  I've decided I'm going to try several, document them here, and then compare them to one another, allowing you, my (devoted?) reader, to also have an opportunity to try out some new recipes for pizza dough.  Therefore, if you have a recipe you'd like me to try (something that is tried and true at your house?), send it my wayOr if there is a frozen brand that you think beats all homemade dough, please also tell me about it!

The first recipe in my pizza dough challenge was from Emeril Lagasse.  I chose this recipe because it appeared to have the simplest (and fewest) ingredients and seemed the most difficult to screw up.

The first step is to activate the yeast. Seems simple enough, right?

On my first try I combined the active dry yeast, sugar, and 110 degree water in the mixer bowl and waited.  Nothing happened.  I panicked.  Ugh, I had already screwed it up.  But how?  My guess is that the bowl was too cold, and cooled down the water immediately.  That didn't occur to me right away so I decided to mix some yeast with 110 degree water and leave out the sugar.  I didn't really want a sweet dough, anyway.  Nothing happened.  When that didn't work, I called my husband and begged him to tell me the secret of activating yeast.  He said the water has to be the right temperature and the sugar is important because it wakes up the yeast.  I checked this out and he's right:  the sugar is food for the yeast.  Smart man, I married.  Well, smart and he also worked in a bakery for a while!

Soldiering on (more than 45 minutes had passed by this time), I warmed a cup of water up again, leaving it in the same cup that I warmed it in, and added the yeast and a teaspoon of granulated sugar.  After a good stir, I waited, my nose practically at the lip of the cup, daring the yeast to make a move.

And it did.  What first looked like air bubbles began to come up to the surface of the yeast mixture.  Then I realized I could see the granules of yeast popping up the surface and a slight foam collecting on the top of the mixture.  It's alive! It's aliiiiive!

I waited about 3 or 4 minutes until I was sure that I wasn't going to ruin it (when in actuality, I probably could have moved on as soon as the yeast had been tested to show it was active) and then I added it to my mixer bowl.  Then I began adding the flour in increments, as well as the salt.  The trick is to add the flour until it just incorporates with the wet ingredients, and then add more.  I felt after I had added the 3 cups of floor that the dough wasn't quite coming together as it should.  I added a few teaspoons of water, just until it incorporated, and it really came together nicely.

Then I had to wait for it to rise.  The wait was an epic nail biter.  I didn't feel like I had any space in my kitchen that was "warm and draft free" so I opted for warming the oven to 200 degrees and then turning it off.  I filled a glass pie plate with hot water and put it in the bottom rack of the oven.  Then I put the dough in an oiled glass bowl and covered it with saran wrap and a towel and put that on the top rack of the oven.

Then I waited an hour.  I didn't even peak once.  And guess what?  It rose.  This recipe calls for a second rise, so after I took it out of the bowl, punch it down, cut it in half and shaped it into two round balls, and covered those in saran wrap, I had to leave them out on the counter for another 20 minutes.  The result was a puffy, light dough that easily rolled out to two 10-inch thin crust pizzas.

We topped one with olive oil, shredded fontina, crumbled goat cheese, fresh basil, and halved cherry tomatoes.

For the second one, we went traditional: home made red sauce, shredded mozzarella, and pepperoni.

As I took a bite into a slice of the pizza, I had a revelation:  with the simple flavors of the crust, the flavors of the pizza really stand out.  It was like getting back to pizza, and it's the same way I felt when I ate at Dewey's Pizza for the first time.  There was no hiding behind extra seasonings and garlic butter slathered all over every bite--it was about the ingredients

As far as it comparing to the pizza dough in a can?  It blew it out of the water.  My biggest complaint about the canned dough was that it was too sweet.  It lent too much to the overall pizza flavor, and always bothered me.  I also think it's too thin and flat--no dimension to the texture.  The home made pizza dough was light and puffy, but still crisp on the bottom--a perfect balance. 

Tim says it was the best pizza he's ever had.  He may be biased, considering he loves me, but I must agree--there is a difference.

Emeril Lagasse's Basic Pizza Dough
adapted from foodnetwork.com

1 package active dry yeast
1 cup water at 110 degrees F
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour, plus more for spreading on the counter to keep dough from sticking
1 tbsp olive oil

In a bowl, combine warmed water, yeast, and sugar and mix well.  Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.  Add the yeast mixture, salt, and 1 cup of the flour to a bowl and set bowl under stand mixer.  With the dough hook, turn mixer on low and mix for 60 seconds.  Add 1 cup of the flower and mix for another 60 seconds.  Add the last 1 cup of the flour and mix until the flour is mostly incorporated into a ball, turning up the mixer after 2 minutes and mixing for an additional 3-5 minutes.  Dough should be incorporated into a ball.  If necessary add additional water or olive oil, 1 tsp at a time, while mixing for the last 3-5 minutes until dough comes together to be a smooth elastic ball.  If you feel that you need to move the dough to the counter and knead by hand to get the flour to combine, that will also work.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F and then turn off.  Set a pan of water on the bottom rack to encourage a warm, moist environment.  Oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl.  Turn the dough over once to coat the dough in oil.  Cover the bowl with saran wrap and a towel and set on the top rack of the oven.  Let rise for 1 hour.

After an hour, remove the dough from the bowl and set on a lightly floured surface.  Using your fist, punch down the dough, and then cut the dough in half and create two small rounds, which will make two 10-14 inch pizzas, depending on how much you roll them out.   Cover the dough rounds with a damp towel or saran wrap and allow them to sit for 15 minutes, in which they will go through a second rising.

Put a pizza stone in the oven and preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Roll out the dough to your desired size and thickness.  You can either par-bake the dough for 6 minutes and then add toppings, and then bake for another 8-10 minutes, or top pizza with toppings and bake for 12-18 minutes.  I have found I get a crisper crust if I par-bake the dough first.