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!!