Posts tagged mozzarella

A staple turned healthy: grilled cheese

Apparently April is National Grilled Cheese Month… who knew?  Grilled cheese is undoubtedly a college staple being its quick and easy self.  But, unfortunately it’s not the healthiest of meals, and most people don’t bother thinking about how fattening the toasted gooey goodness really is.  One way to lighten up a grilled cheese is to use low-fat cheese (swiss or provolone are good options) rather than pre-sliced and packaged singles.  An even better way to make a healthy version is to stuff the sandwich with ingredients that are good for you and will keep you full for longer.  Instead of layering cheese slice after slice, opt for vegetables, or something with substance like chicken or deli meat (you’ll get your protein for the day too!).  Instead of using the traditional butter in your pan, try using a non-stick spray or even a little bit of olive oil to cook the sandwich.  

Here are some great options to try from the Food Network’s blog post on grilled cheese.:

  • Turkey, Swiss and sundried tomatoes on whole-wheat bread
  • Low-fat cheddar, honey mustard and granny smith apple slices on multi-grain bread
  • Goat cheese, tomato and baby spinach in a whole-wheat pita
  • Part-skim mozzarella, basil and roasted red pepper on whole-wheat bread
  • Manchego, arugula and olive tapenade on an English muffin
  • Jarlsberg Lite, grilled chicken breast and BBQ sauce on potato bread
  • Low-fat cheddar, salsa and spinach on multi-grain bread

I made a grilled cheese for lunch yesterday that was loaded with sliced turkey breast and mozzarella cheese, topped with tomato slices and avocado slices.  To flavor it up I spread brown mustard and a dab of honey and sprinkled black pepper.  It was a delicious combo and kept me full all day- a much healthier alternative to the traditional bread and cheese combo.

You’ll need:

  • Two slices of whole wheat bread
  • Three slices of turkey breast (or sandwich meat of choice)
  • A few thin slices of mozzarella cheese
  • A couple thin tomato slices
  • A couple thin slices of avocado (or another vegetable of choice)
  • Brown spicy mustard
  • Honey (about half a teaspoon)
  • Black pepper
  • Non-stick cooking spray or olive oil (the spray works best, all I had was olive oil)

Directions:

 

  1. Spray the pan or coat lightly with olive oil and bring to low-medium heat.
  2. Slice the tomato and avocado and get everything else out and ready.
  3. Place the turkey and cheese on one slice of bread and top with the honey, mustard and pepper, and then place this slice (bread down) and the other slice on the pan.  You’ll have to stay by the pan and watch it: they’ll heat up fast.
  4. Let this cook for a minute then add the tomato and avocado to the slice with the turkey and cheese, and place the other slice of bread on top of this slice, completing the sandwich.  
  5. Flip the sandwich once to make sure both sides and browned, and take it off the heat when it’s golden brown, or if you like it a little bit on the crisper side (like my picture), wait a second longer… read: I screwed up.  Don’t wait too long, it really tastes 10 times better golden brown and not burned.
  6. Let it cool, cut it in half, and enjoy!

 

Here’s the visual guide (I missed a couple of steps of pictures since this process moves quick, but you get the gist):

 

Put the bread, one with turkey and cheese, on low-medium heat

Top with honey, mustard and pepper

Add the veggies, top with the other slice, and flip

Here are some other grilled cheese recipes to try:

Looking for a breakfast version?  Check out this one at All Recipes

The Top 10 grilled cheese recipes from Delish

A spin on grilled cheese: Bobby Flay’s grilled cheese bruschetta at the Food Network

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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

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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:

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“Life is a combination of magic and pasta.” -Federico Fellini

Pasta is without a doubt the most commonly cooked item in a college kitchen.  It’s easy, quick, cheap and tasty.  That being said, it can also be extremely boring; and that is precisely why God created cheese.  Funny how you can throw sauce and cheese over pasta and it magically transforms into a completely different dish.  My cheese of choice?  Definitely mozzarella (as if you faithful readers didn’t know that already).  Baked ziti is the perfect solution to turn that plain old box of pasta into a classic favorite.  Now I know it’s not the healthiest of meals, and it does take a good chunk of time for the pasta to bake.  But in my defense, it’s super easy and you only need a few cheap ingredients… so hey, two out of four objectives isn’t too bad every now and then right?  Trust me, the taste makes up for it.

You’ll need:

  • One box of pasta:we used penne, which is really similar to ziti.
  • About half a jar of your favorite sauce, or if you have a lot of spare time on your hands (yeah, right), make your own sauce. For a great sauce, try any Newman’s Own.  We used Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic.
  • Mozzarella cheese, about half a chunk, or half a bag if you go the shredded route
  • Garlic powder
  • Black pepper
  • Basil (fresh if you can make it to the store, but dried works great too)
  • Crushed red pepper, if you like it on the spicier side
  • A little bit of olive oil (not absolutely vital)

Directions:

  1. – your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook the pasta regularly, until it’s al dente (a little bit firmer). 
  3. Heat your sauce on medium heat while you cook the pasta.  Don’t let it burn!  If it starts bubbling, take it off the heat.
  4. While the pasta’s cooking, slice or shred the mozzarella.  We used thin slices throughout the dish and then topped it with shredded mozzarella (see picture).
  5. Once the pasta is done, drain it and drizzle a little bit of olive oil, then stir it carefully.
  6. In a square dish (or larger if you’re cooking for more people), add the pasta, then a thick layer of sauce, and half of the mozzarella cheese slices (see picture).
  7. Repeat step 5 on top of the first layer, so you have two identical layers.  Then sprinkle the basil, garlic powder and black pepper over everything.
  8. Stir it all together, making sure you reach the corners and the mozzarella and spices are distributed evenly throughout the dish.
  9. Next top it all off with shredded mozzarella (using a grater or cutting up the mozzarella thinly), spreading the cheese evenly over the top.
  10. Stick it in the oven at 350 for 30 minutes, and it should be golden brown on top with the cheese melted.

And there you have it: a boring old pasta dish turned gourmet.  And it wasn’t even difficult! Buon appetito!

Here’s the visual guide:

cook and drain the pasta:

Prepare the sauce:

In a dish, layer the pasta sauce and mozzarella:

Repeat this step, add the spices, then stir everything together:

Top the whole dish with shredded mozzarella and stick it in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees:

When you take it out, the cheese should be melted and the top should be a crispy golden brown:

Looking for some other new pasta dishes to try? Check out these great recipes:

The Food Network’s Pasta collection: 100 mouth-watering recipes

Pasta recipe galore from CDKitchen.com

The National Pasta Association’s family favorites: Hello, the name says it all

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“You better cut the pizza in four pieces because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” -Yogi Berra

I know, a Red Sox fan turning to a Yankee for quotes, not cool.  But I like it, and it rings true, especially in this case.  Pizza is one of my FAVORITE things to make for a variety of reasons.  It’s super quick and easy.  There’s really no need for measurements or directions of any sort.  You can pretty much put anything edible on a pizza and as long as you cook it for the right amount of time it’ll probably come out good.  It’s one of the best recipes to get creative and have fun with, and that’s my favorite part.  

The pizza my roommates and I made last night is a relatively healthy recipe, and it’s pretty low budget: all the ingredients came out to about $15 (less if you already have some things at home).  It’s also the reason I chose the quote above.  No matter how hard we tried, the entire thing was gone by the end of the  night.  It’s a white pizza with mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and roasted garlic, and everything you’ll need to know is listed below.

You’ll need:

  • 1 lb Pizza dough (I usually just buy it at the store, but you can make it too if you’re feeling daring)
  • Flour (enough to cover your surface and the dough)
  • Basil leaves.  Here’s where we ran into trouble!  Good ole’ Grand Union (the Storrs grocery store) didn’t have any fresh basil leaves, so we had to resort to dried basil.  But if you can get your hands on the fresh stuff, it really does make a difference.
  • Tomato: about one half, sliced thin
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • One head of garlic: you may not need the whole thing, probably only half or a few cloves
  • Oregano(dried or fresh, up to you… once again, Grand Union fails in the herb department)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. A few hours before (or overnight) you need to let the dough rise.  Roll it into a ball and cover it with flour before putting in a bowl covered with Saran wrap and keep somewhere in room temperature.  Last night we were crunched for time, so I only let it rise for about 2 or 3 hours and it came out fine.
  2. Once the dough has risen, you’re ready to start making the pizza.  Before anything, preheat your oven to 275 and chop up the garlic clove.  Now there is a certain way to do this, so for those of you new to the kitchen, check out this video to see how it’s done.  Once you’ve chopped the garlic into really, really small pieces, throw it all on an oven sheet and stick it in for about 7-10 minutes or until it’s golden brown.
  3. While the garlic is roasting, slice up your tomato half and the mozzarella cheese.  We loooove mozzarella at my apartment, so the more the better.  But for a healthier option, ease up on the cheese and add more tomatoes.
  4. Roll your pizza dough out into a flat circle or rectangle.  We use a rectangle to fit the cooking sheet we have, and a point that I continuously fail to remember (including last night) is that it’s always better to prepare the pizza ON the cooking sheet, because transferring it can be a major production (picture all three of us with spatulas heaving the thing onto a sheet trying not to spill flour and cheese everywhere).
  5. If you don’t have a rolling-pin, try to flatten the dough as much as possible using spoons and your hands.  Make sure you get all the air bubbles out.  With a pin, it may not look pretty, but I guarantee you’ll get the same taste, which is definitely what’s important.
  6. Don’t forget about your garlic in the oven, you’re going to want to check on it periodically so it doesn’t burn.  When you eventually take it out, turn the oven up to 400 degrees.
  7. Next add all of your toppings.  I like to start with a base of parmigiano-reggiano, spread evenly all over the entire pizza.  Next layer on your mozzarella slices and tomato slices and fresh basil leaves.  The best presentation is when these are spread evenly with only minor overlaps (you don’t want to cover all of the tomatoes with mozzarella, etc.).  Don’t forget about the garlic in the oven!  Mix these small pieces in as well.
  8. Next spice it up with oregano (dried in this case), and some salt and pepper, and you’re good to go!
  9. Throw it in the oven (hopefully you’ve already turned it up to 400, if not, do so now) for about 13-20 minutes, or until it’s golden brown on the edges, and the cheese is melted golden on top.  If you use a lot of cheese like we do, it may take longer (less cheese, less time, obviously).  I know 13-20 is a wide range, but I say that because some people like it crisper than others.  We tend to use the entire 20 minutes, but make sure you keep checking on it to decide when you want to take it out.

Here’s a visual step by step, so you can check your progress by comparing to the pictures:

chop up and roast the garlic

Roll out your dough and cover lightly with four

Cover with toppings, spreading everything evenly

Throw it in the oven at 400 for 13-20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on the edges

Give it a minute to cool, then serve with salad for a delicious meal!

And there you have it!  The recipe does sound a little intimidating, but I promise it’s easier than it sounds.  Like anything else, practice makes perfect, and before you know it you’ll be making a menu’s worth of pizzas, and I want to hear all about it!  Send me recipes for your favorite pizza, or if you have any topping ideas you’d like me to test out, please let me know!

I give extensive praise to the Food Network, per usual, and their wealth of information about making pizza and dough.  There are hundreds of recipes to try on their website, from plain and simple to exotic and unusual.  

Here are some other great websites to check out when making pizza:

Just like it sounds: pizzamaking.com

Pizza fan Billy Reisinger and his very thorough pizza making guide

Making pizza from allrecipes.com: be sure to check out all the links on this page for different types of pizza!

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You Guys Can Cook?

When a friend of mine suggested that we all had dinner together this weekend, I pictured my roommates and I slaving over the stove for a few hours and serving a delicious meal to the four boys that were planning on coming over on Friday night.  You can imagine my shock when it was the boys who said THEY would be doing the cooking for the evening.  My first thought was, you guys can cook??  Since when??  My roommates and I were a bit apprehensive (was it safe to eat whatever they planned on making??), but our curiosity of how their meal would turn out got the best of us, and we welcomed them into our kitchen, a little unsure of what to expect.  The boy chose to make chicken parmigiana over pasta with a side of garlic bread: a bit challenging, and one of my all-time favorite meals.

We were told that the only thing we were responsible for was the wine (check out this article for some great affordable wine choices), and sure enough, the four of them showed up with bags of groceries ready to get their chef on at 7:45 Friday night.  The only thing we did all evening was sit back and get started on the wine, occasionally checking on what was happening in the pots and pans on our stovetop and making ooos and ahhs over the delicious aromas.

About 40 minutes later we were feasting, and believe it or not, the meal turned out GREAT!  The boys did fabulously, and unfortunately for them, we’ve discovered their hidden talents and I have a feeling they won’t get out of making this a regular occasion.  The only downside to letting people, in particular a bunch of boys, cook for you?  You got it… clean up duty.  But that part aside, cooking with friends can be a really fun activity.  To spare them their reputation, no pictures were taken of the boys in action.  But I did manage to get a picture of the finished product, and below is the recipe the boys used to make the meal.  I’ve also included a few links to other good chicken parm recipes, as well as my favorite recipes for garlic bread.

Bon appetit! And more importantly, HAVE FUN!

Great chicken parmigiana recipes:

Easy chicken parm from About.com

Food Network’s Tyler Florence’s chicken parmesan

A simple chicken parm recipe from ReluctantGourmet.com

More of a visual learner?  I’m a big Guy Fieri fan, and here’s a great video about how to make a quick, yet delicious chicken parm:

It’s pretty hard to screw up garlic bread; and when in doubt, you can always buy it at the grocery store.  But where’s the fun in that?  The nice thing about garlic bread is that there are actually a ton of variations you can try.  Here are some scrumptious recipes:

A great recipe from a fellow cooking blogger

Food Network’s Paula Deen shares her recipe (Who  drool over everything she makes on her show?)

Try this variation: garlic knots from allrecipes.com

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