Pizza Bread

Oooh, have I got a good recipe for you today…

As you all know, I love to bake – especially breads.  And I’m trying to be better at cooking meals, not just baking.  So I get super excited when these two worlds can collide; like they did the other night.

This is another one of my Pinterest finds, fitted to my family’s tastes.

And, as a bonus, it’s really quite easy to do.

The Recipes:

Pizza Bread, adapted from The Ivory Hut

1 t yeast

1 t sugar

3/4 cup warm water

1 2/3+ bread flour

1 t kosher salt

1/2 c bell pepper, chopped

1/4 c pepperoni, chopped

1/3 c onions, chopped

8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

1 T olive oil

Sprinkle yeast over mixed warm water and sugar in a bowl.  Let it sit for 5 or so minutes until foamy, then add in flour and salt.  Mix (using a mixer, spoon, or your hands) just until it comes together.  Add pizza toppings and knead for 5-8 minutes.  Dough will be tacky, but feel free to dust with a bit more extra flour if it seems too sticky.  Let rise for about 1 hour, covered in a warm place, then put in the refrigerator for another hour.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and flour a Silpat or waxed paper.  Roll out into a rectangle about 11×17”. Sprinkle cheese over top.  Then, using the Silpat or paper, fold along the long side, like an envelope.  Seal sides so cheese is not exposed.  Let rest while you preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Let oven stay at 450 degrees for 20 minutes.

Bake the bread, either on a pizza stone or baking sheet, for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.  About 3 minutes before taking it out, lightly brush the top with olive oil and let it finish baking.  Let rest on a wire rack to cool slightly before slicing.

Serve warm with homemade Marinara sauce for dipping.

Marinara Sauce

2 T olive oil

5 cloves garlic, minced

1- 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes

1 t sugar

1/4 t red pepper flakes

1 t oregano

1 t basil flakes

1/2 t salt

1/4 t onion powder

Heat oil and garlic in saucepan over medium-low heat for 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes and remaining ingredients.  Raise temperature to medium and let simmer for 20 minutes.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Last year, I admitted my love of boxed pizza rolls and made my own fresh and tasty version.  And they were really, really good.  But…they took forever to make.  Now this recipe gives you the same general concept, but so much easier and quicker.

(I have to admit that I was a little concerned going into this.  It was either going to be amazing or a big giant flop.  So glad it was the former.)

Making the dough was just like making regular dough, with just a couple of extras.  And the best thing – you can substitute and choose whatever filling ingredients you want to use.

When mixing, I highly recommend using some good old-fashioned hand-kneading to get all the fillings incorporated – the KitchenAid didn’t quite do it in that respect.  But once it’s mixed throughout, the rest is super simple.

Hubs commented that it looked like I was making fruit cake.

It was easy enough that I even made my own marinara sauce, from scratch, with no recipe!  (Though I have to shamefully admit that I did burn the garlic at first.  But that’s what happens when the UPS guy shows up, the kids and dog go crazy, and you get distracted by opening pretty packages.  Or is that just me?)

The finished loaf wasn’t the prettiest in the world, but really, you’re slicing it up anyways – so it doesn’t really matter.

Can you just imagine the cheesy bread smells coming from my kitchen?  (Frankly, I had to just imagine, too, since the burned garlic nastily smelled up the whole entire house.)

The flavor of this dish was all that I was hoping for and more.  The peppers, onions, and pepperoni were in every bite – and dipped in the marinara, it was just like a fluffy deep dish pizza.  Everyone loved it (yay!).

My only change for next time would be to roll the dough up in a spiral, so that the cheese could be spread out over more than just one section.  But, as far as changes go, that’s just a small one.

Not only would this be perfect for a meal, it would be a great appetizer to bring to a party.  (And it just looks cool when sliced.)

I can’t wait to try it again with other toppings.

Bon Appetit!

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Cilantro Lime Couscous

I can’t believe I’m new to the whole couscous thing.

It’s only in the last couple months that I’ve discovered just how much I like it.  Mostly because the only times I’d had couscous in the past, it was served cold – and I really did not care for it.

(To clarify, I have issues with cold pasta.  I don’t know why, but I really do not enjoy cold pasta, especially pasta salads.  I suspect it might be a texture thing.  I’m weird, and I know it.)

Anyways, having couscous warm has been an eye-opening experience.  Those little beads of pasta just soak up flavor like nobody’s business, and it’s so easy to make.

Easy enough that I made up my very own recipe the other night.

The Recipe:

Cilantro Lime Couscous

2 T butter

1/2 onion, chopped

juice of 1 lime

1/2 c celery, chopped

1 t garlic powder

1 1/2 c Israeli couscous

1 3/4 c chicken broth

1/2 t salt

zest of one lime

1/2 c cilantro, chopped

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions and saute until golden.  Add juice of 1/2 lime and celery.  Cook until celery is just tender.  Add couscous and garlic powder.  Stir often until couscous browns slightly.  Add broth, salt, and remaining lime juice and bring to a boil.   Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed (about 12-15 minutes) and couscous is tender.  Remove from heat and stir in cilantro and lime zest.  Serve warm.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I can’t believe this actually worked!  And worked well, at that.

The couscous was perfectly cooked and full of the lime flavor.  Even the onions and celery had little bursts of lime since they had been originally cooked in some of the juice.  The cilantro added a depth to the dish that made everyone in my family happy.  (We kind of love cilantro, if you haven’t noticed.)

And it was the perfect side dish to the tilapia; complimentary, but not the exact same taste palate.

I guess you could say that I’m a little proud of myself.

And actually excited again to be cooking (not just baking).

A great way to start the week, don’t’cha think?

Chicken Corn Chowder {Crockpot}

Okay, I’m just going to say it, it’s just not fair!

Many of you readers out there are enjoying warm sunny spring weather and already talking about grilling.  While we, on the other hand, have had a heck of a week filled with snow, rain, wind, rain, monsoon rain, hail, thunderstorms, and, of course, rain.  Gotta love the Pacific Northwest.

I’m jealous.  I want spring, and I want it now.

I’m tired of this March coming in like a lion and staying like a lion.  Where’s our lamb??

Okay, enough complaining for now.

The only silver lining I can find is that at least I still get a chance to make some comforting and hearty dishes in my crockpot.

The Recipe:

Crockpot Chicken Corn Chowder, adapted from Food.com 

2 T butter

1 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes

½ c onion, chopped

3 celery ribs, sliced

3 carrots, sliced

2 c frozen corn kernels

2 (10 ¾ ounce) cans cream of potato soup

1 ½ c chicken broth

1 t dried dill weed

½ c half-and-half

salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, melt the butter or margarine; brown chicken. Transfer chicken to slow cooker.  Add onions and celery to skillet and saute’ for about 3 to 4 minutes, until just tender.  Add the onions and celery to crockpot, along with carrots, corn kernels, soup, chicken broth and dill.  Cover and cook on low 5 to 6 hours or until chicken is done and vegetables are tender.  During the last 10 minutes, stir in the half and half.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Yesterday’s weather was crazy.  I mean absolutely crazy.  As I attempted to get back into my car from the grocery store (with the boys), Lake Parking Lot had formed under our car.  I had to brave huge gusts of wind and sheets of rain – without my coat (it had been barely sprinkling when we went in the store – and if you wear a coat for that, you’re just a wimp in our neck of the woods).  As I struggled to get the youngest buckled in his car seat, my cart blew free from where I’d lodged it, careened into the middle of Lake Parking Lot and headed straight for a car.  As I dashed after it, I stepped right into the Lake, soaking my feet and leg to mid calf.  It was awesome.  Not really.

Anyways, after driving the 20 minutes home with sopping wet hair and drenched clothing, I was ready to make something toasty warm for dinner and this recipe looked like it was meant for us all.

It was really easy to prep – even cutting the chicken.  Hubs suggested cutting the breasts while they were still partially frozen, and that worked great (especially since it let me skip the whole slimy raw chicken feeling I so love).  Once everything was thrown in the pot, there was nothing left to do except enjoy the smells wafting through my house.

But then I got bored.  So I started thinking… what’s better than warm chowder?  And then it hit me.  Warm chowder in a bread bowl!  Perfect.

So I made some lovely bread bowls that I’ll share in my next post.  In the meantime, check out our amazing meal.

Warm, hearty, and thoroughly satisfying on a blustery day.  The chowder was so tasty – creamy with the delicious chicken chunks and veggies.  And the sun actually made a short appearance while we ate, always a good omen.

Today looks like a milder version of yesterday, weatherwise.

I’m still going to wear my rain boots, though.

Happy Friday!

Curried Chicken Stew {Crockpot}

I’m not sure why I’m even sharing this recipe.

I think it’s because I’ve promised myself to share the ups and downs of learning to cook – and that means that sometimes (but not as often as in the past), recipes are just not going to turn out that great.

Not that this was horrible, but it certainly was not a favorite for anyone in the house.

I was excited, once again, to use my crockpot for an easy recipe – this time branching out from my typical American or Mexican fare.  I should’ve known my crockpot successes would have to come to an end sometime.

The Recipe:

Curried Chicken Stew, slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, December 2011

6 bone-in chicken thighs

2 t olive oil

6 carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks

1 medium sweet onion, cut into narrow wedges

1 c unsweetened coconut milk

1/4 c panang curry paste

1/4 c cilantro, chopped

Trim excess skin and fat from chicken.  In skillet cook chicken, skin side down, in hot olive oil for 8 minutes, or until browned (do not turn thighs).

In slow cooker, add carrots and onion.  In small bowl, whisk together 1/2 c coconut milk and curry paste.; pour over vegetables.  Place chicken, skin side up, on top of carrots and onions.  Cover.

Cook on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or on low for 7 to 8 hours.

Remove chicken, skim off excess fat, and then stir in remaining 1/2 c coconut milk.  Top with cilantro and serve.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I knew, knew, that I would regret using bone-in chicken thighs.  From my Tortilla Soup recipe last week, I knew that they would make the recipe greasy.  I stuck with them because I was hoping the browning beforehand might leach some of that grease out.  Wrong.

(I think BH&G used the thighs because it’s supposed to be a meal on a budget – but seriously, I have learned my lesson and will be sticking with boneless skinless breast from now on.)

Anyways, it was really easy to put together.

My math skills (or lack thereof) were put to the test when I had to chop the veggies.  Let’s just say my 2-inch carrots did not quite live up to 2 inches.  But my onions were pretty.

Besides the chopping and the browning, it was another dump and go recipe.

Things I wish I’d known before making this:

1.  Our curry paste happens to be extremely hot.  Hubs, apparently, only uses about 1/2 of what is asked in any recipe.  Oops.

2.  Even if it doesn’t say, always, always season your meat.  Otherwise it tastes bland – even after soaking in spicy curry all day.

So basically, it was an extremely hot curry surrounding some very bland and greasy chicken.  Not the most appetizing.

It’s not that I don’t think this recipe is salvageable, it’s just that we have better curry recipes that are just as easy.  But, I’m sure if someone else was motivated enough they could make this much better.  (I even tried to challenge Hubs again, but he said it wasn’t really worth it.)

One really good thing did come out of it though…

(Hint: it’s prominently shown in the picture.)

And I’ll be posting about it later this week.

Stuffed Peppers {with Beef, Rice, and Romano}

I’ve been having a hard time in the kitchen lately.

Not because I’m struggling with the cooking, but because I’m having a hard time with the meal planning.

(I know, you all feel so bad for me that I have to plan one whole meal each week.  I don’t know how the rest of you do it.)

I can find a great main dish – and then have difficulties finding sides.  Or vice versa.  It’s so frustrating.

So, when I saw Greg’s original recipe for stuffed peppers – I was inspired.  And then when I clicked on one of his attached links for other stuffed pepper ideas, I knew I’d found what I was looking for; a whole meal, in one very tasty dish.

The Recipe:

Stuffed Red Peppers with Beef, Rice, and Romano, adapted from Rufus’ Food and Spirits Guide

½ lb ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

4-6 large peppers, tops cut off (stems removed) and chopped finely

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, diced

1 ½ c white rice

2 c beef broth

28 oz can crushed tomatoes

1 t coriander

1 t turmeric

2 T fresh cilantro chopped

5 oz Romano cheese

mozzarella cheese to taste

Sauté onion in oil until softened, then add beef and brown.  Add chopped tops of peppers, coriander, turmeric, garlic, celery and rice.  Mix thoroughly.  Pour in tomatoes and stock.  Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add cilantro.

Place in oven at 365 degrees and bake until rice absorbs all the liquid, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, scoop out seeds and pith from bottoms of peppers.  Place in a greased baking dish.

When rice is done add Romano cheese and mix well.  Scoop into pepper halves.  Top with a sprinkle of mozzarella and bake for about 10 minutes.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

Let’s just get this out of the way right from the start.  I got the wrong meat.

What? (You might ask.)  How in the world could you have messed up getting ground beef?!

(In my defense, I was grocery shopping with two rather boisterous boys, hopped up on sugar from the bakery cookies, who were getting very bored rambling along with me.)

When I saw the ground beef section, all they had were huge mega-packs of meat (yes, our small town store often lacks some of the basics – but what they do have, they want us to get in bulk).  Anyways, I looked over to my left and saw a section of what I thought was ground beef.  It certainly looked like ground beef, so I got some.  When I finally got to cooking away, I learned that instead I had purchased cube steak.  (Only me.)

Hubs came to my rescue, mid onion-sauteeing, and chopped it up in the food processor.  Apparently, it was then actual ground beef, and all was back on track.

Now, if you like your kitchen to smell warm and inviting with a little spice, this is the meal for you to cook.  The sauce/filling smelled amazing.

After the sauce/filling cooked for a bit, and an ample amount of Romano was added, it was all ready for the peppers.  I was a little worried about actually filling the peppers, but Hubs suggested using an ice cream scoop.  It worked like a dream.

(We kinda had some crazy-shaped leftover peppers to use – so that’s why the green ones look a little odd.)

After adding a bit of mozzarella and another quick bake, this was the deliciousness that was revealed…

Perfectly cooked, with a little spice paired with the sweetness of the bell pepper, cheesy and flavorful throughout; it was a perfect all-in-one meal.

That we got to eat for several meals.

And when it’s just as good as leftovers, too, you know you’ve found a winner of a meal.

Bon Appetit!

Chicken with Orange Cilantro Relish

This recipe sounded so good in theory.

(And in the picture in my Good Housekeeping magazine certainly added to my excitement.)

Even better, was the fact that it was a healthy meal (something I need to work a tad harder at contributing around here).

(Though no one’s complaining too hard about the overabundance of bread and cookies lately.)

Now, I’m not saying I’m the best cook in the world, but I’m starting to be able to recognize a recipe that seems a little off; one that’s missing information or isn’t written as clearly as I need it to be.  So, as I worked through making this meal, I already had some questions of how it would turn out.

So I called on my trusty advisor (at least this week), Hubs, to help me interpret the instructions.

The Recipe:

Chicken with Orange Relish, adapted from Good Housekeeping, December 2011

4 boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets

3/4 t grated, peeled fresh ginger

1 t ground ginger

salt

pepper

1 large orange, peeled, de-pithed, and cut into segments

3 stalks celery, finely chopped

2 green onions, sliced

1 T apple cider vinegar

1/4 c cilantro, chopped

For Chicken:

Preheat oven to 425, spray cookie sheet (lined with foil) with non-stick spray.  Rub chicken with 1/2 t grated ginger and 1 t ground ginger.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.  Arrange on cookie sheet and roast for 10 to 12 minutes until no longer pink in center.

For Relish:

(You want to have all produce prepared before you put in the chicken and work on the relish.)  Place half of orange segments in saucepan and squeeze for juice.  Add remaining ingredients (except cilantro and extra oranges) and salt to taste.  Heat to boiling on high and then reduce heat to simmer.  Cook 7 minutes or until celery is crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cilantro and reserved orange segments.

Serve chicken and relish over couscous.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

I’m just going to come right out and say it: the relish was bitter, the onions were droopy, and the overall flavor just seemed off.  I was unpleasantly surprised by this turn of events, as it looked gorgeous while simmering away.

Now, Hubs was serving as my sous chef through all of this – and he agreed that I followed the recipe’s instructions exactly as written – but that they were not written well at all.

(By the way, I simplified and clarified the directions above for you all.  Not that I expect you to make it after reading this.)

I’m not sure what went wrong.  Maybe it was that my celery was bad (though it looked fine), or my replacement of apple cider vinegar for the originally called for red wine vinegar, or that too much pith got in my saucepan.  Something, though, caused the relish to turn out un-tasty (my new word for the day).

The chicken and couscous, though, turned out really well.  (I’d never cooked couscous before this meal.  I just followed the directions on the package.)

So, after I took the picture below and took a bite, I scraped off the relish and enjoyed the rest of the meal.

As we were sitting at the table, Hubs and I were talking about the real potential of this meal – about how a few tweaks could really make it great.  Hubs even went so far as to say that he could pretty much use the same ingredients and make it fantastic.

And I thought, what a great idea.  Challenge Accepted.

So, next week, we will be re-making this dish in the first ever “Hubs Re-Do Challenge.”  I will be assisting with ideas and as his sous chef.

I will share the results next week.

(Cross your fingers we don’t kill each other.)

But really, I am looking forward to this.

Tuscan Bean Stew

Yay!  Recipe one from my list of New Year’s Resolution recipes – check.

Delicious, warming, comfort food – check.

First dinner of the New Year cooked – check.

If they all are as easy as this dish, I am going to fly through these for sure.

The Recipe:

Tuscan Bean Stew, adapted from A Dash of Sugar and Spice

1 T extra virgin olive oil

6 slices bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces

1 large onion, chopped

4 medium celery ribs, cut into ½-inch pieces

2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

8 medium garlic cloves, minced

3 c turkey broth

2 c water

4 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well

2 bay leaves

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1 sprig fresh rosemary

Heat oil and bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon is lightly browned and fat has rendered, 8 to 10 minutes.  Add onion, celery, and carrots; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 16 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in broth, water, beans, bay leaves, and tomatoes.  Increase heat to high and bring to simmer; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.   Add rosemary and simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are fully tender.

Discard bay leaves and rosemary sprig; season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired, use back of spoon to press some beans against side of pot to thicken stew.

{Printable Recipe}

The Results:

What originally drew me to this recipe was the beautiful colors involved (well, and the fact that it had veggies in it that I actually liked).

I had planned on getting kale to go in it, but our small local grocery store (we live in a little town) did not have any when I went grocery shopping.

The other big change I made was I substituted turkey broth for the chicken broth – we just happened to have some homemade leftover from the holidays.

I really don’t think you’d notice any difference, though, between the two broths.  (Though you might between homemade and store-bought.)

I adored the smells that came from cooking this.  Between the bacon, onion, garlic, and herbs, my house smelled divine.  Hubs even commented on it when he walked in the door.

I wish I’d had better light to do the colors in this dish some justice.  But it was pretty – even without the kale.

The stew was tasty, filling, and perfect for a gray day (in other words, pretty much any winter day around here).  Next time I will be sure to use good bacon – and Hubs suggested removing it from the dutch oven after it’d crisped up and then adding it back in at the end in order to keep a little extra texture and taste.

I already feel this year is off to a great culinary start.

Crossing my fingers it stays that way.