“When I was ten years old, I wished for world peace, no capital punishment, and an endless supply of taco pizza or maybe pepperoni nachos, it was really a toss-up”
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(I smile into the phone at my son)
In my 40s, I wish for Saturday morning trips to the farmers market, lunch dates with my husband, and the secret to making a loaf cake that isn’t too brown on top but is cooked perfectly through in the middle
I wish for a kitty purring on my pillow
I wish for a slow, luxurious husband-kiss delivered to the side of my neck while I chop herbs
I wish for a summer filled with berry picking and warm galettes, off-beat salads, and the occasional cast-iron skillet pizza
I wish to sit at the kitchen table, something sparkly in hand, breathing deeply, staring at the wall, thinking about nothing, while my husband does the dishes
I wish that I would take the puppies for a walk, instead of the other way around, as it was this evening
I wish for a backyard barbeque with friends, an afternoon with my camera, Playdoh dates with my grandson, and breakfast at a small-town diner
I wish for those I love to feel happy and safe
Last Tuesday at 6 pm, I try for these dreams
But there are some issues
My husband is out of town; nothing sounds better than a cold glass of water on this terribly hot day. This week alone, not-done-enough loaf cake – 3 .. me – 0
I turn away from it all to stir a skillet of taco meat. My world fills with chili, paprika, cumin. The juices reduce down and thicken. I turn off the heat and reach for the dough
I hear the words of a friend who taught me how to make a great dough, so many years ago
“Don’t move your body; instead, move the dough. Don’t overhandle it. Add a bit more flour. Move quickly. Look at the beautiful marbling of the butter. Isn’t dough the coolest thing? Should we make our initials with the scraps?”
I form the dough into the skillet, covering it with a refried bean/taco sauce slurry, top with as much cheese as possible, and pinch off a piece of dough that no one will ever miss
“Mom, do you remember all of the birthday parties we went to at Happy Joe’s when I was a kid?”
(Of course, how could I ever forget)
I call and order delivery so they can have taco pizza for dinner too
I had my first Happy Joe’s taco pizza when I was in high school
One night after a football game, a bunch of friends bundled up in letter jackets, mittens and scarves found ourselves trying to pick from an assortment of choices on the menu. A parade of pizzas commenced until close
When the kids were young, and during those years, I did a fair bit of traveling for work.
Returning home was never a wholly attractive proposition, no matter how much I loved the town we lived in, our cozy starter home, or my trusty little kitchen that always ready and waiting. But just when my eye was at its wandering worst, I always found a compelling reason for renewing my vows to Ames. A certain family of four, known for ordering taco pizza on Friday nights
Founded in 1972 by Joseph “Happy Joe” Whitty, they’re an Iowa staple. In fact, their flagship location in Bettendorf was the first restaurant (ever) to have taco pizza on its menu. It quickly became (and remains) their best-selling pizza
Everyone was sad to see our Happy Joe’s close in 2010 after a flood, and I hadn’t thought much about it since. That is until I read Ann Friedman’s recent tribute in Bon Appetit
A crust baked with a thin layer of sauce made from refried beans, taco, and pizza sauces. Topped with taco meat, tomatoes, onions, cheese, nacho chips, and lettuce. There’s truly nothing like it
~ Adapted from Sweetie Petitti
Happy Joe's Taco Pizza (An Iowa Classic)
- 1 dough ball (gluten-free if you're avoiding gluten)
- ½ cup refried beans (it's best to find the smooth kind)
- ¼ cup Taco Sauce (this isn't salsa)
- ¼ cup pizza sauce
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 packet taco seasoning
- mozzarella cheese, shredded
- colby jack cheese, shredded
- shredded lettuce
- chopped tomatoes
- taco Doritos (or any cheesy nacho chip)
- Preheat oven to 425 deg F
- Brown the ground beef, drain fat.
- Add taco seasoning, along with 3/4 cup water.
- When it is cooked through, remove from heat and let cool slightly. (I only used only part of the meat for my pizza. I like to refrigerate the rest for taco salads during the week)
- Stretch your crust until they are the desired thinness
- Mix taco sauce, refried beans, and pizza sauce together.
- Spread over the crust
- Top with mozzarella, then taco meat, and Colby Jack.
- Bake until cheese is bubbly and crust is golden (about 10-15 minutes)
- Let sit for a few minutes to allow the cheese to set.
- Then cover the pie with lettuce, tomatoes and cheesy nacho chips (crush them up).
- Serve with additional taco sauce and sour cream