More pizza (as if that’s a bad thing)

As part of my final project for online journalism, I’m creating a website and focusing my attention on pizza.  Pizza is one of the best things I can suggest to college cooks, since it’s cheap and actually really easy to make, which is why I talk about it so much.  Alas, we’re forgetting the best part: the taste.  That’s right, nobody can deny how delicious homemade pizza is.  Now don’t get me wrong, the classic options (cheese, pepperoni) are always great; but I much prefer trying unique recipes when it comes to pizza, and a new one I recently tried making for my friends is a barbecue chicken pie with onions and cilantro.  Don’t be scared to try new things when it comes to making pizza, it’s one of the best mediums to get creative with.  


Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pizza dough (1 1/2 lb ball)
  • One boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • Barbecue sauce: I used Olde Cape Cod, Stonewall Kitchen has a great honey barbecue sauce too. You’ll need about 1/4 cup for the chicken and another few tablespoons for the pizza
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese (about 3/4 bag)
  • Cilantro: fresh would be ideal, but I didn’t have any at the time, so I used dried and it worked just as well
  • 1/4 red onion OR scallions (I love scallions on this pizza, but I had an onion in my kitchen, and didn’t have any scallions: but I definitely recommend scallions)
  • Crushed red pepper (about 1 teaspoon)
  • Garlic powder (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Black pepper(about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Dried oregano (about 1 teaspoon)
  • Dried basil (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Directions:

  1. Make sure you cover the dough in flour, and leave enough time to let the bread rise in a bowl covered loosely in Saran wrap at room temperature (at least 4 hours or so).
  2. Heat a small pan to medium-high, and drizzle olive oil and pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.
  3. To prepare the chicken, rinse and dry it, then smother it in barbecue sauce and rub basil, black pepper and crushed red pepper all over both sides, then place it in the heated pan and let it cook thoroughly, reapplying the ingredients periodically while it cooks.
  4. While the chicken is cooking, you can begin preparing the bread dough.  Roll the ball out over a floured surface with a rolling pin, or using your hands and a spoon, making sure you rid of any air bubbles.  Before you add anything to the pizza, put the dough onto the pan you’re going to cook it on: it will make the process much easier.
  5. When it’s flat and rectangular, spread a few tablespoons of barbecue sauce over the dough.  I went light with the sauce, but if I could do it again I would add much more since it was a little dry.  Think of the barbecue sauce almost as a replacement for red sauce on a traditional pizza: but don’t use quite as much.
  6. Make sure you check the chicken before you move on and take it off the heat if it’s ready.  Then chop it into tiny pieces to top the pizza.  You can also chop the red onion (or scallions) at this point, into very tiny pieces.
  7. Sprinkle the cheese over the entire pizza, covering every corner and even reaching to some of the crust.
  8. Add the chopped chicken, spreading it evenly over the pizza, and next the cilantro and either scallions or chopped onions.
  9. Sprinkle evenly black pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and a little crushed red pepper if you like it on the spicier side.
  10. Put the pizza into the oven at 400 degrees for about 17-20 minutes (make sure you watch it, all ovens vary) but this should be pretty accurate.
  11. Let it cool then slice: I find with rectangular pizzas slicing into squares works best.

Some of my friends like dipping this pizza into a side of barbecue sauce or Balsamic dressing, but it’s also great on its own.  Enjoy!

Here’s some of the pictures I took.  I apologize for not having a complete guide: I was making a few different pizzas at a time, so I didn’t manage to document every part.  That’s also why you’ll notice a few different kinds in the pictures, and if any look good, try them on your own, or leave a comment and I’ll be sure to post the recipe 🙂

Let the floured dough rise

 

Cook the chicken in barbecue sauce

 

Add all the ingredients and let it cook (Again sorry for the lack of pictures!)

 

The finished product

 

Try these the unique pizza recipes:

Everything from Thai pizza to chocolate pizza at the Food Network

Recipes using every topping you could imagine at Pizza Recipe

Tons of different pizzas at All Recipes

Advertisements

Leave a comment »

The Spring Weekend Sunday smoothie

As Uconn’s favorite holiday once again comes and goes, Sunday morning brings the not-so-welcome repercussions of the three day festival.  In spirit of Spring Weekend, I decided to try an item or two myself from the Food Network’s suggested hangover cures.  I enjoyed a plate of scrambled eggs with a strawberry banana smoothie, since according to the article, “Drink a smoothie (with lots of fruit) to up your blood sugar and replenish at least one or two nutrients you might have lost the previous night.”  

Now I know most people know how to make a smoothie, but this post is more about the suggestion than the execution.  Smoothies are really easy as long as you have a blender and a couple of ingredients.  You can enjoy many different types, and they’re really healthy for you.  Feel free to mix it up and pick out your favorite items to combine for a delicious, refreshing flavor.

For one serving, you’ll need:

  • Ice cubes (about 15)
  • One yogurt.  I used Yoplait whips in strawberry, but other great options are french vanilla or any other fruity flavors
  • Fruit of choice.  I used a banana, because the potassium works against the dehydrating effects of alcohol and it goes well with strawberry.

Directions (as if they’re really pertinent):

  1. Throw it all in the blender and let it do its thing.

The smoothie didn’t completely cure my headache, so don’t omit the Advil or sleep.  But it’s a nice pick me up, and it definitely a great alternative to other foods that might not go down so easy.  Enjoy!

Mix all the ingredients together and blend

 

There are a ton of websites with smoothie information and recipes.  Here are some top choices:

Smoothie Web: with tons of different categories and unique recipes

Flowercarole.com, which has vegetable smoothies, or non-dairy ones too

Healthy and refreshing smoothies from Fitness Magazine

 

Comments (2) »

Ditch the Tostitos, fresh is best

As promised, I’m bringing you a recipe to use those leftovers from my last post: the black beans and corn.  What I didn’t tell you was that this recipe was one of the best things I’ve made all semester.  It’s a simple salsa, but it’s so delicious and the fresh ingredients knock that jar of Tostitos that’s sitting in your cabinet right out of the water.  Homemade salsa is really healthy, as long as you moderate your portions.  Of course it’s traditionally served with chips, but for a healthy alternative, use it over chicken, or in a salad.  Here are some recipes using salsa from Yahoo.  You’ll probably need to go buy some ingredients, but everything is pretty cheap, and you’ll use everything.  

You’ll need:

  • The leftover corn (3/4 cup)
  • The leftover black beans (2/3 cup)
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 avocado (optional)
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/3 cup fresh cilantro (don’t omit!)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes, but I had lime juice at my place so I used that)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Put the leftover corn and beans together in a large bowl.
  2. Chop all the vegetables except the avocado.  The tomatoes, onion, jalapeno and red pepper.  This is the most tedious part of the process, especially the tomatoes.
  3. Add these ingredients to the bowl and mix everything together.
  4. Chop the fresh cilantro and add that to the bowl.
  5. Add the lime juice, salt and pepper and stir everything thoroughly.
  6. Now, you can be done here if you’d like: it’s delicious just like this. Or, store it in the fridge for at least two hours, and then just before serving, chop the avocado and add that to the salsa. I didn’t include the avocado in the pictures, because I haven’t served the salsa to anyone (other than myself) and have yet to add the avocado; but it does add a great touch.

Serving tip: If using tortilla chips, put them in a pan and place them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes before serving.  The contrast of cold salsa and warm chips is fantastic., which is why most restaurants do this.

A ridiculously easy recipe, yet one of the tastiest!  It’s a perfect solution if you’re having friends over, or want to store something you can use a snack for a few days.  Enjoy!

The picture step-by-step:

Use the leftover corn and black beans

 

Chop the vegetables: tomatoes will take you the longest

 

Keep chopping!

 

Add all the vegetables together and stir

 

Chop the fresh cilantro and add that to the bowl

 

Add the lime juice, salt and pepper to the bowl and stir one more time

 

Enjoy with warm tortilla chips

 

Try these other great salsa recipes:

Top 20 salsa recipes from AllRecipes.com

The Food Network’s salsa collection

Great-Salsa.com… pretty self-explanatory

Comments (1) »

Reinventing a restaurant favorite

I was browsing one of my new favorite websites the other day, CopyKat.com (thanks to Professor Hancock) and stumbled upon a recipe for Chili’s southwest eggrolls. I order these just about every time I go to Chili’s, so you can imagine my glee at finding a recipe for them I could try on my own.  Now I’m throwing a little bit of a challenge to those of you who’ve just recently joined the world of cooking, but they’re definitely not as difficult as they appear (or taste!)  You’ll need to stock up on some ingredients, but the good news is, in my next post I’ll provide you with a recipe that you can use the leftovers in.  Forewarning to the folks scared of a little heat: these bad boys are SPICY!  You can always cut some of the ingredients, but that’s not really doing the recipe much justice, they’re meant to be hot!  These eggrolls are great for serving as appetizers if you’re having friends over, or just as a dinner for yourself.  I altered the recipe a little bit, and I’ll share my version with you below.  I also experimented with the directions and tried two different ways of making them: half fried, the other baked.  I thought the fried would taste way better; but I was pleasantly surprised when the baked tasted just as good, since it was the easier and healthier method the two.

For my slightly modified version you’ll need:

  • One boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1/3 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup black beans
  • 2 tablespoons frozen spinach
  • 2 tablespoons diced jalapeno pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon parsley (I just used dried)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cumin (very important, don’t omit)
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tablespoon chili powder
  • 3/4 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese (I used a Colby and Monterey jack combo)
  • four tortillas: the recipe calls for 5 7-inch tortillas; I used 6 halves of large tortillas because it was all I had, and it worked fine

I didn’t want to buy all the ingredients to make the avocado-ranch dipping sauce, but if you want to make it (at the restaurant, it definitely adds a great tough), then here’s the ingredients and recipe for that.  Otherwise, if you have some ranch dressing lying around, that’s a great substitute.

Directions:

  1. In a pan on medium heat, cook the chicken breast thoroughly adding salt and pepper to both sides while it cooks.  
  2. While the chicken is cooking, dice the onion and jalapeno and rinse and drain the corn and the black beans to get them ready.  
  3. When the chicken is done, dice it into tiny cubes, throw it back on the heat and add the onions and crushed red pepper to the pan, letting them sizzle for a minute or so.
  4. Next (ready for this mouthful?) add the corn, black beans, spinach, jalapeno, parsley, cumin, chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper and let that all cook together for about 4 minutes.
  5. Remove the pan from heat and add the cheese, then stir everything together (the cheese should melt into the mixture fast) and take it back off the heat
  6. Wrap the tortillas in a moist cloth and microwave for 45 seconds.  This sounds strange, but it really helps when you’re preparing the eggrolls.
  7. Now I didn’t really measure out the spoonfuls of mixture that went into each tortilla, so just kind of eyeball it.  The real recipe suggests about 1/5 into each tortilla, but since I used six I guess it would be about 1/6.

    fried eggrolls

  8. Fold the ends over and roll the tortilla up nice and tight.  If you have toothpicks in your kitchen, stick one at each end of the roll.  I of course did not have random toothpicks lying around my apartment, so I wrapped the eggrolls tightly in Saran wrap.
  9. Put them in the fridge overnight, or at least 4 hours before you’re going to fry/bake them.  I prepared them around 10 in the morning before class and then made them about 7 p.m. and they were fine.
  10. When you’re ready to make them, you have the choice of either frying, baking or both.  Like I mentioned earlier, baking them actually worked out fine, and it was far easier and less work. 
  11. To fry: Pour vegetable oil into a pan on medium heat.  You’ll need at least 2 inches at the bottom of the pan: the recipe suggests 4-6 cups (reason number one why baking is easier).  Using tongs, place the eggrolls (one at a time) into the oil and let the entire thing fry, flipping it on all sides.  They fry pretty quick, only about 2 minutes tops.

    baked eggrolls

  12. To bake: Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees, place all the egg rolls on a baking sheet, and stick them in for about 15-20 minutes.  Make sure you watch them, so you don’t burn them.  They should be browned and crispy (although not as dark and crispy as the fried version).
  13. No matter how you prepare them, let them sufficiently cool on a rack then cut them diagonally, so as to create triangle shapes (see the picture).

Now you’re ready to serve your appetizer!  They’re not too difficult, but they definitely give a gourmet air and I’ll bet you rack up those compliments, especially from the ones who like a little kick on their palate.

Here’s the visual guide:

Cook the chicken thoroughly

 

Dice the vegetables and rinse the corn and beans

 

Dice the chicken then put it back in the pan along with the onion and red pepper

Add the rest of the ingredients and stir

 

Take the pan off the heat and add the cheese, stir

Wrap the tortillas in a moist cloth and microwave

Place the mixture in the tortilla and roll and let them freeze overnight or at least four hours

To Bake:

Put the eggrolls in the oven for 15-20 minutes

To Fry:

Using tongs, place the eggrolls one at a time in oil on medium-high heat

Make sure you get each side in the oil, so the roll fries all the way around

 

For the fellow Chili’s lovers: check out more CopyKat recipes

Like the whole eggroll idea, but not sure about Southwest? Try one of these from AllRecipes.com

Comments (3) »

Pizza problem: solved

You’re in the mood for pizza, but don’t have time (or energy) to make it yourself, and don’t want to order because of the whole lack of income thing, plus it’s not very good for you.  Sound familiar?  I’m betting it does, which is why I’m sharing a fool-proof way to enjoy pizza the cheap, healthy way.  It’s an english muffin pizza, and it’s just as delicious as the real stuff (okay, that’s a little bit of a stretch… but it works!) and it’s way easier to make.

You’ve got some options here.  I prefer whole wheat english muffins (healthier and just as tasty), but we made a couple of each tonight.  You can use whatever you’d like as far as ingredients go.  All we had in stock was cheese, sauce and spices, but pepperoni, fresh tomatoes, chicken, etc. are great additions.  Another option is using a bagel instead of an english muffin, which tastes great, but forewarning, it’s far less nutritious.  

You’ll need:

  • English muffins: usually 1-2 per person is sufficient
  • Tomato sauce: about 1 1/2 cups
  • Mozzarella cheese: about half a block/ball, grated; or 2 cups of a bag of shredded cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Oregano
  • Basil
  • Crushed red pepper (if you like it on the spicy side)
  • Black pepper

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Slice the english muffins into halves, and place them all on a baking sheet.
  3. Put a spoonful of sauce on each muffin half and spread out evenly.
  4. On top of the sauce, sprinkle garlic powder on each muffin.
  5. Layer on the cheese generously and evenly.  Make sure you cover most of the sauce with cheese.
  6. Sprinkle oregano, black pepper, basil (and crushed red pepper) over the cheese.
  7. Stick the pan in the oven for 12-13 minutes, until the cheese is fully melted and the tops are golden brown (see picture).

Easiest. Recipe. Ever.

Check out the picture step-by-step:

Spread sauce over each muffin half evenly

 

Add the garlic powder and top each half with mozzarella

 

On top of the cheese, sprinkle the rest of the spices

 

Throw the pan in the oven at 400 for 12-14 minutes

 

Here’s another english muffin breakfast pizza recipe with Canadian Bacon from The Food Network’s Ellie Krieger

Want to go the bagel route?  Check out this recipe from AllRecipes.com

Here’s a video from smartcooking.com that goes through similar steps that I did, and shares a couple unique ideas for english muffin pizza toppings:

Comments (2) »

Spice up your chicken dish (and maybe use some lemons too)

Chicken doesn’t have to be boring.  It’s as simple as that.  I talk about chicken a lot, but I do it for a reason.  It’s versatile and really, really good for you if you use it the right way.  You can buy lots of it, then freeze it for whenever you need it.  The recipe options using chicken are endless, and you can find some great ones involving very little or cheap ingredients.  Even using a good dressing can make a great chicken dish, like my balsamic chicken over salad.  Using herbs and spices also enhances chicken recipes.  I think everyone (that includes you, college students) should have a few main spices in their cabinet: oregano, basil, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, and of course salt and pepper.  

Lemon pepper chicken is a dish you hear about a lot, but not many people actually try cooking it.  It’s healthy, pretty easy, and besides chicken, you don’t need a whole lot.  It does take some time, but if you cook a lot of it at once, you can throw it in the fridge and use it in salad, over pasta or on a sandwich over the next couple days.  

You’ll need:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breast: as much as you’d like to cook.  If serving for others, generally one breast per person is sufficient.
  • Flour: only about half a cup or so
  • Butter: half a cup, melted
  • Lemons: you’ll need half a cup of juice, so 2-3 lemons
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic: one clove, chopped; or garlic powder
  • (Optional) Onion: half, sliced
  • Rosemary or parsley if you have either

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Squeeze the lemons into a measuring cup until you have half a cup.  Then add the half cup of melted butter and the salt and pepper.
  3. Put the (rinsed and dried) chicken in this mixture and let it sit here for 10 minutes.
  4. While it’s sitting in the mixture, heat a saucepan to medium heat and put the flour and another teaspoon each of salt and pepper into a bowl.
  5. Add the chopped garlic to the saucepan and the sliced onions if you want to use them.  I like the recipe with or without the onions, they add a different kind of flavor that some like and others don’t.  
  6. After 10 minutes, transfer the chicken to the bowl of flour and rub the flour into the chicken.  You’re now ready to add the chicken to the pan with the garlic (and onions)
  7. Cook the chicken for about 10-15 minutes, flipping each piece periodically until both sides are golden brown.  To make sure it’s done, cut open a piece of chicken and make sure the inside is completely white.
  8. Take the chicken off the heat and put it into a baking pan or dish.  Pour the remainder of the lemon/butter mixture over the chicken and sprinkle rosemary or parsley over the chicken, then put it in the oven at 375 for about 10 minutes.

This chicken goes best over rice or with salad.  It’ a healthy meal that will fill you up, and like I mentioned earlier, you can definitely save leftovers for another meal or two.

Here’s  a visual guide:

Squeeze the lemons until you get 1/2 cup of juice

 

Mix the lemon juice, butter and salt and pepper in a bowl

 

Chop the garlic and onions and add them to a pan on medium heat

 

Let the chicken sit in the mixture for 10 minutes

 

Transfer the chicken to the flour mixture and coat both sides

 

Cook the chicken until both sides are browned and the middle is white

 

Put the chicken in a pan, top with the mixture and parsley or rosemary then bake for 10 minutes

 

There are infinite resources when it comes to chicken.  Seriously, google “chicken recipes” and see what happens!  Here are some of the best collections out there:

The Food Network’s chicken directory

ChickenRecipes.org… enough said

10 unique chicken recipes from Reader’s Digest

Comments (1) »

Viva la comida Mexicana

If there’s one thing we do well at our apartment, it’s preparing a fantastic Mexicana feast.  We cover everything from the appetizer to the main course, and all within a reasonable budget.  The overall meal is pretty good for you too if you don’t pig out too much (like anything else).  The trick to pulling off a good Mexican night is taking shortcuts here and there.  I’m going to walk you through the meal the way we did it, with intentions cutting time and money, but feel free to supplement your own ideas at any point!  

Uno: The chips and salsa of course!

 Use store-bought items for your Mexican night to cut time.  Check out Slashfood.com, a website that put a bunch of chips and salsa pairings to the test.  

Dos: Delicious guacamole!

There are some great packaged mixes available, so that all you have to add are the avocados.  I know it sounds like we bought a lot… but you cut a lot of time by buying these items, plus chances are you don’t have all the ingredients at school to make salsa and guacamole, so you’re actually saving money too.  Got the time and feeling up for it?  Make your own salsa and guacamole.  If you go the package route, all you have to do is follow the directions, and the only thing you’ll need is two avocados and for some extra flavor, throw in half a tomato sliced and a quarter of a red onion sliced.

Tres: On the main menu this time around: Quesadillas!

You can go with anything from fajitas (check out my recipe), to tacos for this part.  We went with the classic quesadillas.  You have some more wiggle room here; add chicken or steak for some substance, or make it your own unique recipe with barbecue chicken or pesto and chicken.  We didn’t have many ingredients at our place at the time, so we stuck with cheese (colby jack and Monterey jack).  

Now here’s our technology in the kitchen insert.  We have a quesadilla maker at our apartment, which is an absolutely fabulous find, and I recommend to anyone (not just college students).  It makes perfect quesadillas and it’s really fun to use.  I got mine at Macy’s for about $20.  You can find good deals on Amazon or eBay too.  Since most people probably don’t have a maker, go the traditional route and make them in the oven.  You’ll want to layer cheese and anything else (we add crushed red pepper and black pepper, but tomatoes, lettuce and salsa also work) between two tortillas, then stick them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until they’re golden brown on top and you can see the cheese has melted inside.

Check out the pictures of our Quesadilla maker and the Mexican night spread:

Prepare the guacamole with the package, avocados, tomato and red onion

 

Using cheese, red pepper and black pepper in addition to anything else you'd like to use, make the quesadillas with two tortilla shells

 

Using our quesadilla maker, we cooked the quesadilla to perfection

 

The final spread!

 

Looking for more Mexican ideas? Check out Mexican Made Easy with Marcela Valladolid from the Food Network.

For other quesadilla recipes to try, look at AllRecipes.com’s collection

The Food Network’s extensive quesadilla selection

QuesadillaRecipes.com: the name says it all really

 

Comments (2) »