Sunday, March 23, 2014

Personal White Chicken Pizzas

This week, I had grand plans to feature two dishes that resulted from buying a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. This is a trick I use often...it's a great short cut for having meat on hand for salads, sandwiches, soups, you name it. However, my grand plans were cut short by a power outage that lasted for nearly 36 hours, making the leftover shredded chicken I planned to use to make soup inedible.

So instead of two recipes, I can only offer you one for this week. But this one is a great option for those who want to make a lot of something and then freeze a portion for later. I used this recipe to make several individual pizzas, many of which I have frozen for later. And in case you were wondering, they were salvaged, along with a 3 pound piece of pork shoulder, and transferred to a neighbor's freezer for safe keeping until my power came back on.

At this time, I have yet to test how well these frozen pizzas do, but I'm confident in the instructions in Cooking Light that they will be wonderful. I'm including the recipe to make these but also the instructions on how to prepare for freezing.

Personal White Chicken Pizzas (makes 12 personal pizzas)

Ingredients:

  • 30 oz. refrigerated fresh pizza dough, divided
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 8 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 thyme sprigs
  • 4 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
  • 1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 4 tsp. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 12 oz. shredded cooked chicken breast
  • 6.5 oz. preshredded reduced-fat 4-cheese Italian-blend cheese (about 1 2/3 cups)
  • 3 oz. fresh part-skim mozzarella cheese, torn into small pieces
  • 2 TB fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup small fresh basil leaves

  • Directions:

    Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in oven. Preheat oven to 450° (keep pizza stone or baking sheet in oven as it preheats).

    Let pizza dough rest, covered, at room temperature as oven preheats.

    Combine oil, basil, red pepper, garlic and thyme  in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook 4 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat; let stand 5 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine sieve over a small bowl; discard solids.

    Combine milk, yogurt, and vinegar in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 6 minutes. Gently stir to form small curds. Strain curds through a fine sieve; let stand 5 minutes. Discard liquid. Combine oil mixture, cheese curds, and salt, stirring gently.

    Divide dough into 12 equal pieces (about 2.5 ounces each). Roll each piece into a 6-inch circle on a lightly floured surface (keep dough covered with a damp towel to prevent drying). Spread about 1 1/2 tablespoons oil mixture over each pizza, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Divide chicken, Italian-blend cheese, and mozzarella cheese evenly among pizzas; sprinkle evenly with thyme leaves and black pepper. Carefully remove pizza stone from oven. Arrange 3 to 4 pizzas on pizza stone.

    Bake at 450° for 8 minutes or until dough is golden and cheese browns. Repeat procedure with remaining pizzas, or follow freezing instructions. Sprinkle pizzas evenly with fresh basil leaves.

    TO FREEZE: Bake pizzas on preheated stone for only 5 minutes. Cool; wrap individually in heavy-duty foil, stack, and freeze up to 2 months.

    TO REHEAT: No thawing: Place frozen pizzas on a baking sheet that's not preheated; bake at 450° for 13 minutes or until cheese browns.

    Friday, March 21, 2014

    Last Call for Soup!

    The first day of Spring has come and passed. Yet the DC area is calling for yet another snowstorm next week. Hopefully it will be relatively quick and harmless and this whole "in like a lion, out like a lamb" thing can happen already. Because I'm over the off and on snow. And the sniffly cold I've developed as a result is over it as well.

    So for this post, I want to offer those of you who are still experiencing the chill of winter, a few of my favorite soup recipes to try before soup season is over. Which I hope is any day now. I'll actually be posting one last soup recipe of my own next week, but here are some favorites to whet your appetite. Two vegetarian options (though one is so rich you don't miss the meat!) and one chicken option. Something for everybody.

    And I go more the Oprah route when it comes to soup. You get a soup! And you get a soup! No Soup Nazi here!

    Senegalese Peanut Butter Stew: Still hands down, one of my favorite soups to make.

    Moroccan Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup: I made this twice this winter and just enjoyed my last frozen coup. Savory with a hint of sweet, this gets better every day it sits and the flavors get a chance to meld.

    Tortellini Tomato Spinach Soup: Seriously easy, and seriously good for a more delicate palate.

    Monday, March 17, 2014

    Baked Stuffed Zucchini with Mozzarella

    Yet another Monday Snow Day. This has become a pattern that I truly hope is over and done with soon. The snow will be pretty for a few hours, but then as people get out and about and some of it melts, some of that initial beauty falls to the wayside. But one good thing that comes out of these snow days for me, is the ability to make a decent lunch. Fortunately I already had everything I needed in my fridge so no need to go brave the chaos that is my neighborhood Giant.

    This dish was not only easy to make, but also quite tasty. So if you're looking to make a vegetarian side dish, I'd highly recommend giving it a shot.

    Baked Stuffed Zucchini with Mozzarella (serves 4)

    Ingredients:

    • Olive oil, for brushing the baking sheet
    • 2 medium zucchini
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper
    • 2 plum tomatoes, halved, seeded and diced small
    • 1/4 tsp. chopped fresh oregano leaves
    • 1/4 tsp. white vinegar
    • 5 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn into  1-inch pieces
    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush a baking sheet or dish with olive oil. Halve zucchini lengthwise and scrape out seeds. Place, cut side up, on sheet and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, oregano, and vinegar; season with salt and pepper. Top zucchini with tomato mixture. Bake until it is dinner, approximately 20 minutes.

    Heat broiler, with rack in top position. Top zucchini with mozzarella. Broil until cheese is brown and bubbling, 1-2 minutes. Serve immediately.

    I enjoyed this with fruit for lunch, but I think it would go great with a grilled chicken or fish dish.

    Friday, March 14, 2014

    Food Porn: Mintwood Place

    A few weeks ago, my parents traveled from Pittsburgh to DC for a short visit. The visit ended up being even shorter due to a winter storm coming into the area. But we made the most of the short time, taking trips to Union Market and other great food spots. One place in particular was the shining star during our visit. That was our Friday night meal at Mintwood Place.

    But before I got into the awesomeness that is the food there, I have to give mad props to the bartender at Cashion's Eat Place who served up some awesome pre-dinner cocktails. I was a big fan of their "French Riviera" cocktail, which was made of rye, apricot brandy, and lemon. They had a lot of other interesting cocktails on their list, so I look forward to going back and trying some more. But that would have to wait for another night. I was on mission for dinner.

    Mintwood Place has been celebrated a lot as of late. It tops many of the city's best lists and their chef was a recent James Beard Award finalist. I was fortunate to get a Friday night reservation there two weeks in advance, but I would be shocked if that continues to be the place. This restaurant was an absolute delight. From the d├ęcor, to the friendly staff, I was extremely impressed. We started off the night's meal with a bottle of Malbec, a cheese plate and these suckling pig fritters. So tender and rich, it reminded me of my last time indulging in this dish...during my trip to Barcelona in 2010. These pig fritters sat on a sweet potato mash and that brown sauce you see there? Mole. Holy mole. This was a great flavor combination and a wonderful way to start the meal.

    My mother opted for the steak frites which was cooked to perfection and was pretty sizeable for one person. Then again, we had already indulged in some fairly rich foods early on in the meal, but I'd be remiss not to mention that this was a great choice.

    My father and I both opted for the pork chop. I swear, this was the thickest pork chop I have ever seen and it was cooked to perfection. It came with crispy kale and a spaetzle carbonara, which included swiss chard and bacon. But the real flavor in this came from the pork glaze. Essentially this was a pork chop glazed with meat. I can't recall the exact technique as it was described (see above reference to bottle of wine and pre-dinner cocktail), but that glaze combined with the fried capers sealed the dish for me. Biggest, baddest, boldest pork chop ever. Go and get it. Now.

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

    Clementine Spinach Salad with Sugared Almonds

    If you're like me, the winter brings a wealth of citrus into your home. In particular, clementines or tangerines, usually whatever you can buy in a crate or in a big bag. I eat them daily throughout the winter but sometimes I want to do a little more with them than just eat them plain. I came across this great, simple side salad recipe and found what may be my new favorite fruity salad. I may even try making this again with a citrus grilled chicken or fish to add a bit of protein. Enjoy!

    Clementine Spinach Salad with Sugared Almonds (Serves 4)


    Ingredients:

    • Bag of baby spinach
    • 4-6 clementines
    • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1 bag of dried cranberries
    • 1 cup sliced almonds
    • 1 TB honey
    • 1 1/2 TB sugar
          Dressing
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • 2 TB red wine vinegar
    • 1/2 tsp. salt
    • dash of pepper
    • 1 tsp. dried parsley
    • 2 TB sugar
    • dash of Tabasco
    Directions:

    To make the sugared almonds, melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add almonds, and toast, stirring frequently, until almonds are light brown, about 5 minutes. Toss with sugar, and spread almonds on a plate to cool.

    To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until combined.

    Combine the spinach, oranges, onion and cranberries in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and sprinkle with almonds. Serve immediately.

    Friday, March 7, 2014

    Spaghetti Squash

    In the New Year, everyone resolves to eat better and make better lifestyle decisions. And I'm one of them. In fact, this blog started as a result of a very successful New Year's Resolution a few years back. One thing that I have been wanting to try to make for a while is spaghetti squash. I've had it at various Vegan dinner parties in recent weeks, but I had yet to attempt it myself. Earlier in January I had made my homemade marinara sauce with meatballs. You can see that recipe here. Since it makes enough for a small, hungry army, I often freeze a large amount of it so I can enjoy it throughout the winter. So I decided to break it out for my first foray into spaghetti squash. I strongly believe that with a good topping, anyone can enjoy spaghetti squash as a healthy alternative to regular pasta.

    Spaghetti Squash (serves 2-3 people, depending on size of squash)



    Ingredients:
    • Spaghetti Squash
    • Olive oil
    • Oregano, dried
    • Sea Salt
    • Pepper
    • Your Favorite Sauce
    Directions:

    Probably the most difficult part about working with spaghetti squash (or any squash for that matter) is cutting it in half. Those suckers are hard to work with! It took a very large, sharp knife for me to cut these in half...and arm strength I just don't have. So...I elected to cook them for 10 minutes or so first in order to soften them up, and then cut them in half for the rest of the time. But hopefully you're stronger than me!

    If you are able to cut these suckers in half, do that first. Then scoop out the pulp and seeds from the middle. You can elect to toast the seeds as a snack, or just toss these. They will not be needed for the dish. Once this is completed, sprinkle the insides with olive oil, oregano, sea salt and pepper. Then place them rind side up and bake in a 375 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, until they have softened on the inside. Then just take a fork and shred out the spaghetti squash. Toss with your sauce and serve!

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    Pears with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto

    Today is Oscar Sunday. Anyone who knows me knows two things. 1) I'm a movie fanatic. 2) I love to have people over for food to watch particular TV events. Such as the Super Bowl. The Oscars. World Cup. You name it. And Oscar Sunday this year is no different. While I will be making my posole for some friends (as you'll recall, I had a bit of pork left over after that debacle, so I froze some large chunks of meat for later), I wanted to share a simple recipe that I made for a party late last year. So if you're going somewhere to watch the Oscars and need to make a simple appetizer, this will do the trick!

    Pears with Blue Cheese and Prosciutto (serves 6-8)

    Ingredients:
    • 2 pears, such as Bosc or Bartlett, each cored and sliced into 8 wedges. Toss with lemon juice
    • 2 tsp. lemon juice
    • 3 oz. blue cheese, cut into small pieces
    • 6 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in half, lengthwise
    • 1 cup arugula
    Directions:

    Roll up an arugula leaf, a piece of pear, and a piece of cheese in the prosciutto. Yep, that's it!