Thursday, May 27, 2010

Easy barbecue chicken pizza

I mentioned in my last post that I've been making pizza with pre-made packaged pizza crusts this week and the success has been great! It's definitely an easy way to step up from frozen pizza, use up leftovers and stuff you have in your fridge (Bobolis come with their own little pre-measured packets of pizza sauce too! So easy!).

The leftovers that have been hanging out in my fridge this week are some grilled barbecue chicken breasts that we made on Saturday. John has been making huge sandwiches of them all week and finally today I was down to one-and-a-half chicken breasts. Perfect time to use up my extra Boboli crust! I'd been eyeballing a recipe from for a simple barbecue chicken pizza all week. In anticipation I picked up a half pound wedge of gouda cheese (gouda! I hardly know her! ha ha!! Ok so I'm probably the only who thought that was funny) and a red onion. We already had plenty of barbecue sauce on hand (Sweet Baby Ray's is our household fave ... we buy it in bulk at Costco!).

So here's what I did:

I cut up the chicken in slices/chunks. I had one-and-a-half grilled chicken breasts that were lightly coated with BBQ sauce. I put the sliced chicken in a bowl and coated it with 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (the original recipe called for 1/4 cup but I accidentally overdid it ... happy accident!). Then I cut the wax and rind off the gouda cheese and shredded it. It seemed like a lot of cheese but I ended up using it all! I didn't want to waste it!!

I layered half the cheese on the crust, then arranged the chicken on top of that. I scraped down the bowl and added any leftover sauce to that. Then I added about half a thinly-sliced red onion (it was a medium-ish size) all over the chicken. Then a drizzle of BBQ sauce from the bottle. Then the rest of the cheese on top. Oooh baby. I gouda you.

Baked it for 15-ish minutes in a 450 degree oven.

OH EM GEE. This pizza. It is so good.

Sydney wasn't as big a fan of this one as she was of the tomato basil one I made earlier this week, but she did enjoy licking all the cheese and barbecue sauce off the top:

I ate mine straight up. And had to restrain myself from going back and eating the rest (poor John will need something to eat when he gets home from teaching tonight).

The shortcut of the century: Boboli pizza crust

Recently when I was strolling the aisles of - where else! - Costco they had a 2-pack of ready made pizza crusts (with sauce) that I just had to take home. My family came into town for a visit soon after and we had a Make Your Own Pizza Party! I made a very safe fresh tomato, mushroom and basil pizza with lots of mozzarella cheese while my sister and her boyfriend took it to another level with Italian sausage, peppers, mushrooms ... the works.

As I am making the effort lately to use up all our leftovers AND cook at home more, I figured a pizza party was in order this week. I picked up a two-pack of Boboli crusts at my grocery store and pulled out all the stops (we already had roma tomatoes and fresh basil and cheese in the fridge just begging to be used up).

I topped my pizza to my pleasing (I used the included sauce packet, lots of tomato rounds and a huge handful of fresh basil, along with salt and pepper):

The results? Well lets just say we wolfed it down so fast I didn't have time for any after photos. Syd ate TWO adult-sized pieces, chirping about "pizza!" the whole time! We had no leftovers. OOPS. The toppings were piled high and the pizza crust was still crispy and chewy (not soggy).

What I love about these pizza crusts is that it allows me to do something I love (cook) without sacrificing a lot of time. I can use what I have on hand or I can get all fancy and make something more complicated. I don't feel bad about NOT making pizza crusts from scratch ... as of this moment I don't see any reason why I should! Hooray for shortcuts!

I think I love you: Cook's Country

It is well-documented that I'm a PBS junkie. We don't have cable and I need my fix of cooking shows and historical drama (and also? Sesame Street only comes on twice a day. HA). One of my favorite cooking shows on PBS is called Cook's Country. It is a "test kitchen" show where they try out equipment and tell you what the best versions of recipes are. I LOVE IT! Arguably it's very nerdy, but hey, I'm a big nerd.

Recently a recipe for a mashed potato casserole caught my eye on the show and so I took to the internet to print out a copy. Unfortunately I had to "sign up" for the website in order to procure the recipe (which I have yet to make). Signing up for an account on the website also signed me up for the show's magazine. I received my "free trial" copy today and I have to tell you ... I LOVE IT. Number one, it has no ads. Number two? It's beautiful. It's a large, thin glossy magazine with gorgeous two-page spreads on recipes and kitchen equipment reviews and FOOD. This month's issue (the mag comes out every other month) had reviews on immersion blenders and a yummy-looking recipe for tomato mac and cheese. I'm intrigued! I pored over it today as Syd and I munched on her dinner (she does better when she has a little space to eat. Can't blame her) and practically had to wipe the drool off the page. I'm going to send them a check. This magazine is awesome!

The view from my kitchen today:

(It was the only way to get dinner done today with no potential injuries.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Homemade salsa, the easy way

Today my husband discovered the salsa (courtesy of The Pioneer Woman) that I made earlier in the week and sent me the following series of texts:

 You think he liked it?

The recipe was easy, but it would have been easier if I had a large food processor (I have a little 4-cupper) or a decent blender. SIGH. I had to do the salsa in batches in the blender. I also added a lot more cilantro (I used an entire bunch), used lemon juice instead of lime because that's what I had, and used one fiery hot chili pepper from our garden (no seeds, and still! SO HAWT!!).

It's good stuff. John'll tell you. :)

Salsa chicken in the crock pot!

Oh man, this recipe totally saved my butt for dinner. It was about 1 pm and I had NO IDEA what to do for dinner. I knew I had salsa, rice, and chicken breasts (frozen) on hand. I remembered a salsa chicken recipe my friend Elizabeth posted on Style Lush and wondered if I could make it my slow cooker. I googled a few salsa chicken recipes but they all called for beans and corn (which I did not have on hand) and I decided to just throw caution to the wind and go for it.

BOY AM I GLAD I DID! This recipe knocked our socks off. We have been doing a lot of soup in the crock pot lately (we are totally sick the classic chicken tortilla soup in the crock pot ... I was making it once a week for a while).

Anyway, here goes:

Put 4 frozen chicken breasts and lots of salsa (2+ cups) in the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours.

When you're nearly ready to eat, make some rice. I made 2 cups of uncooked white rice in my rice cooker ... it took about 15 mins.

Take the chicken out of the pot and set on a plate. Add 2-3 Ts of sour cream to the sauce in the pot and stir. Then add as much rice as you want (I added most of what I made in the rice cooker, minus about 1/2 cup).

Scoop up some rice on a plate and top with a chicken breast. Add cheese if you want. Be sure to put the leftovers somewhere the dog can't get it. I learned the hard way that my basset hound REALLY liked this dish too. UGH.

Cauliflower's new life

John hates cauliflower. HATES. I can't say that I've ever big a big fan of it either but I get tired of the same old green beans and broccoli and steamed carrots racket, you know? A while a go my friend Holly mentioned that she and her boyfriend actually got into a FIGHT over some roasted cauliflower they'd made and they now had to get TWO heads of cauliflower so they could still have harmony in their relationship. I've been experimenting with roasting veggies more lately (see the recipe for roasted carrots here ... Syd and I LOVED these!) and so I pressed Holly for her instructions on roasted cauliflower. I finally made this one night when Syd and I were on our own for dinner and WOW. She and I ate the entire head of cauliflower between the two of us! YUM! I knew I had to make it for John. I did just that a few weeks ago and he has requested it several times since. Last night I made it again and he turned to me with a mouthful and said "I think I'm addicted to this stuff!" If that's not a total 180 I don't know what is!

Here's the method I use. One head can serve two hungry people, but I've made two heads at a time just like Holly and it doesn't last long! We usually eat all the leftovers the following day!

1-2 heads of cauliflower, cut into florets, stem and leaves discarded
olive oil
kosher salt & pepper

Once you've cut up the cauliflower put it into a large bowl and drizzle with A LOT of olive oil. I'm not really sure how much I use because I don't measure but it has to be at least a cup when I make 2 heads! I usually drizzle, then add a few pinches of salt and pepper, toss, then add more until everything is completely and evenly coated. Then dump the bowl onto a large cookie sheet and pop it into a 400 degree oven. Every ten minutes or so toss the cauliflower with a large spatula. After about 25 mins your cauliflower will be soft, slightly browned (and it shrinks a bit in size) and is totally amazingly addictively delicious. I dare you to find a picky eater who won't like this veggie!

Roasted Cauliflower
Photo from

Give Brussels sprouts a second look!

Recently at Trader Joe's I saw a bag of washed and ready-to-go Brussels sprouts in the refrigerator section and snapped them up. I was planning on slicing them up thinly and sauteing them in bacon drippings that I've had in my fridge forever (I saw a similar dish in a magazine and thought I'd give the yucky sprouts of my childhood another go). However, things took a turn when I made a ham in my slow cooker this past Monday. The ham bone went in the freezer for a future, and may I say lucky?, pot of beans. John had a ham sandwich earlier in the week and we have enough ham left for about one more collosal sandwich and then a lot of smaller pieces for .... I didn't know. Last night I was cooking up a storm, trying to keep a lot of fresh veggies from going to waste (we had corn on the cob and roasted cauliflower too!) and I needed a quick way to prepare these sprouts. I went to google and found a recipe that called for brown sugar and chicken broth and HAM, so I improvised!

I put a tablespoon-ish of bacon drippings in the pan, melted them down, then added about 2 cups of chicken broth and heated until boiling. Then I added about 1 T of brown sugar and one t. of kosher salt. I threw a top on the pan and served up the other veggies to Syd and when the sprouts were slightly wilted I gave it all a stir, crumbled in some ham, turned off the heat and ate. I liked the (Syd did not). It was an easy and fast way to prep the sprouts and it definitely got my mental wheels turning. And of course we're all reminded of the important fact that bacon and/or ham make ANYTHING better. Ha!!

Friday, February 12, 2010

I've found my inner fat kid

And here he is:

I love him!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

C is for skillet cookie, that's good enough for me!

Monday was a Mama Needs Cookie kind of day. My friend Jennie recently linked to Ezra Poundcake's version of Martha Stewart's skillet cookie (say that three times fast). I am always looking for new ways to use my trusty Lodge cast-iron skillet, so I was immediately interested. I have to confess that I had some trouble with the, uh, wording of the instructions. The last item on the original ingredient list goes like this: 1 1/2 cups mixed milk and semisweet chocolate chips (about 9 ounces). For a good thirty minutes I pondered this. How does one mix milk and chocolate chips? How do you know how much of each to use? How do you combine a liquid measurement and a dry measurement? I even took to Twitter to beg for help. After which I soon realized that it was calling for milk chocolate chips and semi-sweet chocolate chips. DUH. Can you tell I'd had a LONG day? Which was WHY I needed a cookie in the first place?

You'd think it would be smooth sailing after that little episode. I assure you, it was not.

This cookie dough is not to be trifled with. I snapped my spatula in half while trying to fold in the semi-sweet chocolate chips (I chose to boycott the milk chocolate chips for making a fool of me. Also, I didn't have any on hand). RIP blue spatula. We had a good run.

Once I got past the recipe tomfoolery and the spatula injury, this cookie was impressive. I also accidentally added 1/4 cup too much white sugar (I make the Toll House recipe so much it's imprinted on my brain) and it turned out delicious. AMAZING, actually. It was gone by last night. How sad.


Here's the recipe with my modifications in bold. Best of luck!

Serves 8
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (I used less, let's say "scant")
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened (I used salted butter)
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (about 9 ounces)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes (I used a hand mixer).
4. Add egg and vanilla, mixing until they are fully incorporated.
5. Add flour mixture, and beat until just combined.
6. Stir in chocolate chips (Beware, flimsy spatula!)
7. Transfer dough to a 10-inch ovenproof skillet, and press to flatten, covering the bottom of the pan. Bake until the edges are brown and top is golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, 15 to 20 minutes. Cut into 8 wedges. Serve each with a scoop of ice cream or a large glass of milk.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Easy stuffed peppers

I recently re-organized my cookbook (basically a three-ring binder with clear plastic pages into which I stuff recipes that I find and like), and happened back upon my mom's recipe for stuffed peppers. I made it for dinner tonight ... so easy and really yummy! I threw this together while Syd munched on her dinner in the high chair.

Here's my mom's recipe with some tweaks (I ended up with 6 peppers, her recipe called for 4).

6 bell peppers, green or red
1.5 pounds ground beef
medium-large diced onion
~1 T minced garlic (to taste)
2 small cans diced tomatoes
shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend I had on hand, but you can use whatever you like)
salt and pepper
chili powder
1/2 cup instant rice
1/2 T. sugar

Cut the tops off the peppers and clean out the insides. Par boil the peppers by dropping them in boiling water for about 7 mins. Remove and place in a rectangular baking dish with high sides (I used two glass loaf pans).

Meanwhile sautee the ground beef with the onion and garlic (add more garlic if you like). When the meat is cooked add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper, and a few dashes of chili powder (optional). You really can season this however you like ... you could add red pepper flakes if you like it spicier, or substitute a can of RoTel for one can of tomatoes ... the possibilities are endless. Stir everything together and then add the rice. Cover and cook until the rice is done.  Taste the meat filling and adjust your seasonings as needed.

Place a small amount of the meat mixture in the bottom of each pepper, then place some cheese on top of that. Then fill the peppers to the top with the rest of the meat mixture and then top with cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

I enjoyed my pepper with corn tortilla chips (as I do most things).

Bon apetit!!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Crock Pot Roast Beef and Potatoes

I wasn't lying when I said I've been going nuts with the Crock Pot lately! Yesterday I made my first roast in the Crock Pot and DANG it turned out amazing! I have to tell you I think the Crock Pot is a totally fool-proof amazing way to cook. It has certainly put food back on our table this year, as we have a squirmy toddler who has to be barred from the kitchen via baby gate. It is so easy for me to throw a bunch of ingredients in my slow cooker in the morning when she is restrained in her high chair eating breakfast and it is so SATISFYING to have dinner ready to go when we're ready to eat at around 5:3o pm. God bless you, Inventor of the Crock Pot!

Here's what I did:

First add to your Crock Pot:
3-4 red potatoes (mine were on the large side) cut up in large chunks with the skin on. You could probably also use Baby Golds. Whatever you like or have available.
One large cubed onion.
4ish carrots, cut into chunks. I used regular unpeeled carrots, but you could also throw in a few handfuls of the washed and peeled baby carrots that we all know and love.
A heaping tablespoon of minced garlic (I have a huge Costco jar on hand in the fridge ... best purchase EVER MADE at Costco if you ask me).
One bay leaf
One cup of beef broth

Get a ~3 lb. chuck roast, coat it generously on both sides with kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and garlic powder. Then coat it with flour and sear it on all sides in a few tablespoons of olive oil. Place it on top of the potatoes and carrots in your slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Serve with biscuits and the drippings (or "juice" as we call it) for dinner and everyone will think they've died and gone to heaven.

(As a side note, the way to know that your roast is "done" is when its texture changes from kinda "hard" ... in other words if you poke it with a fork or squeeze it with your tongs it won't have a lot of give. When it's done it will be all floppy and falling apart and unwieldy and AMAZING so just be careful not to drop it on the floor when you remove it from the slow cooker or you just might cry. I would.)

Julie & Julia

Last night I finally saw the movie Julie & Julia. Naturally I thought it was WONDERFUL as it focuses on two of my favorite subjects: Writing and cooking! My husband watched it with me and even had to admit that it was a fantastic film. I related to it on so many levels ... especially how Julie, a writer, loves to blow off steam by cooking. Meryl Streep is obviously an amazing actress and played Julia so well, the food all looked FANTASTIC, and yes, it inspired me to cook and I totally printed out the recipe for Julia Child's Beof Bourguignon this morning ... three complicated pages. Oof. It might be a while before I get to that one as I am a person who doesn't attempt a recipe unless it is easy to make and isn't particularly labor-intensive (for instance, my Crock Pot has been getting a major workout this winter).

My favorite part of the movie had to be the story of Julia and Paul Child's marriage. Nora Ephron, you get props from me: You know how to tell a story.

If you love to cook, or even just watch cooking shows, you will love this movie!!

Here's a link to the Julie/Julia project blog that is featured in the movie. I'm about to go and devour it!)

Chicken Tortilla Soup in the Crock Pot

My Crock Pot has been getting a lot of use lately! My friend Kara (famous for her Governor Bar recipe, woah mama) recently posted on Facebook that she made chicken tortilla soup in her Crock Pot. I was intrigued and immediately asked for the recipe. I make another version of chicken tortilla soup every so often but it is a bit labor intensive, so I don't make it a lot even though it's delicious. I was able to throw this recipe together with stuff I already had on hand and poof! Dinner appeared! We were all pleased. Hope you enjoy it too!

Here's the recipe cut and pasted straight out of Facebook. Thanks Kara!!

1. 4 chicken breasts (I put mine in frozen)
2. 2 cans chicken broth
3. 2 cans diced tomatoes
4. 1 cup salsa... See More
5. 1/2 cup chopped cilantro (or 2 T dry)
6. 1 T Cumin
7. 1 can black beans (drained)
8. 1 can corn

-put all ingredients in and mix it up.
-cook in crockpot on low for 8-10 hours
-I shred the chicken an hour before done cooking
-serve with tortilla chips and cheddar cheese

(You can modify this recipe to your liking. I've substituted RoTel for one or both cans of tomatoes, I usually dump in a lot more salsa - we get the medium pico de gallo kind - and I also add chili powder and extra cumin for more umph. But this recipe as is is REALLY good. I just enjoy playing around and not following directions. Story of my life.)