Monday, September 30, 2013

Recipe #244: Margherita Pizza

I think I found this recipe when drooling over, which linked to  I'm used to popping a frozen Digiorno in the oven without a second thought and 22 minutes later, having something somewhat, well, ok, for pizza.  Sometimes I'd try to be fancy and put fresh toppings on a Boboli crust with some pre-made pizza sauce.  This is the first time I've used dough (pre-made but still had to be baked), made my own sauce, and topped it with very fresh toppings, all at once.  Definitely worth the effort.  My notes are in red.


    For the Sauce
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1/2 large onion, diced
    • 3 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
    • 2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano  (I only had dried)
    • 1/3 cup packed basil leaves, sliced into ribbons, divided
    • 4 large roma tomatoes, chopped
    For the Pizza
    • 1 batch prepared whole grain pizza dough
    • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced  (Or more, especially if you keep eating it while prepping...)
    • 1/3 cup packed basil leaves, sliced into ribbons
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Salt and pepper


    1. To prepare the sauce, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the onion and garlic and cook until tender and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
    2. Add in all remaining sauce ingredients, bring a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes have lost their shape and it begins to resemble a chunky sauce, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.  (Straining the excess juice with a mesh strainer helped a lot- this helped prevent the crust from getting soggy)
    3. To prepare pizza, preheat oven to 475°. Spread the crust into a lightly-greased pizza pan and parbake for 10 minutes, or until the crust just begins to brown.  (I preheated my pizza stone for 20 minutes at 450 and then baked just the crust for 8 minutes, combining this recipe and the recommended cooking tips from the stone's manual)
    4. Remove from oven, spread on tomato sauce, layer on the cheese slices and half the basil ribbons, then drizzle with the olive.  (All of the basil went on at this point....)
    5. Continue baking in oven for an additional 10 minutes, or until the cheese is browned and melty. During the last 2-3 minutes of baking, slide the pizza off the pan and directly onto the oven rack for a crispier crust, if desired. Remove from oven and sprinkle with remaining basil ribbons and season with salt and pepper.  (I didn't bother putting the pizza directly on the rack.  The pizza stone made it the perfect crispness)

    Sunday, September 29, 2013

    Recipe #243: Hasselback Potatoes

    These are a cool combination of au gratin, baked potato, and potato chip.  Better to be over-cooked (for more crispiness) than undercooked.  Season according to your tastes!  A winner from Cooking Light magazine.


    Baking potatoes
    Olive oil
    Desired spices  (I used kosher salt, pepper, fresh thyme, fresh rosemary, dried parsley and basil)


    Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

    Slice potatoes- cut most of the way through at 1/8 inch intervals so that it looks like an accordion.  Line up chopsticks or butter knives on both sides at the base to stop the knife from going all the way through.

    Combine olive oil and spices and brush over the potato, making sure the oil gets into the cuts.

    Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour.

    Recipe #242: Lemon-Dill Chicken

    I don't know what flipped the switch, but I love dill.  I didn't used to (pickles don't count), but now this is one of my favorite herbs.  This chicken is a simple dish and full of flavor.  I found this recipe on and modified it a bit, but I'm posting it as-is with my comments.


    3/4 cup chicken broth mixed with 2-tsp flour
    2 tablespoons lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
    1/4 cup snipped fresh dill
    1 tablespoon butter
    5 ounces boneless chicken breasts  (I used 1.5lbs of boneless skinless chicken thighs)
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon pepper
    1 tablespoon oil
    2 tablespoons flour

    (NOTE:  Because I used more chicken, I DOUBLED the sauce.)


    1  Mix together 2-tbsp flour, salt and pepper. Coat chicken with mixture.  (I didn't do this- instead, I just seasoned the chicken with poultry seasoning)
    2  Heat oil in large non-stick skillet. Add breasts and cook over medium-high heat until golden brown, turning once and cooked through.  (I used butter instead of oil)
    3  Remove chicken to a plate.
    4  Add chicken broth flour mix, lemon juice and garlic to skillet. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 1-minute or until slightly thickened.
    5  Remove skillet from heat and add butter and fresh dill.  
    6  Return chicken to skillet and coat with sauce.  (I put the chicken in the dill sauce and let it continue simmering a bit instead of turning the heat off, then covered it and let it sit for a few minutes.)

    Recipe #241: Mini Tacos

    I don't normally cook cutesy, modular things, but these caught my attention.  They're very quick to put together and are fun to eat.  They could be easily modified, too, with olives, chopped up jalapenos, or whatever else sounds good to you.  I found this on  I had two changes.  First, I didn't use mini muffin pans because, well, I don't have them.  Regular size worked fine, as you can see.  Second, I cooked the wontons by themselves for about 3 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients and cooking for another 5.

    24 wonton wrappers
    1 pound lean ground beef
    1 (1.12 ounce) package Pace® Dry
    Taco Seasoning Mix
    2 tablespoons Pace® Picante Sauce
    1/2 cup Pace® Chunky Salsa
    1 cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
    1.Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
    2.Press wonton wrappers into mini-muffin cups.
    3.Cook beef in skillet until browned. Drain off fat. Stir in taco seasoning mix and picante sauce.
    4.Spoon beef mixture into wonton cups. Top with salsa and cheese.
    5.Bake about 8 minutes or until wontons are golden brown.
    6.Serve immediately with additional salsa. Garnish with sour cream and sliced ripe olives if desired. Makes 24 appetizers.

    Saturday, September 28, 2013

    Recipe #240: Exotic Lamb Stew

    I found this recipe in one of my neglected cookbooks and was intrigued by the odd ingredients.  I can't come up with a better name for it than the one provided by the book, but after eating this, I think it's closer to a tagine than a regular stew.  It was DELICIOUS.  The varied textures provided by the soft lamb cubes and the crunchy cashews and the basmati rice made me wind up eating way too much of this.  The flavor of the sauce is hard to describe- warm, citrus-y, exotic...  It reminds me of this recipe for beef tagine somewhat.


    1/4 cup peanut oil (I don't think you need quite this much- maybe two turns around the pot)
    1 large onion, finely chopped
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    1 1/2 lbs boneless lamb shoulder, finely chopped (I found some already-cubed lamb stew meat)
    1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 cup walnuts, very finely chopped
    1 1/2 cups chicken broth or stock (I added about 1/4 more during cooking to prevent any sticking)
    2 tablespoons tomato paste
    1 cup pomegranate juice
    3 tablespoons lemon juice
    8 oz canned chestnuts
    Basmati rice


    Heat the oil in a dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until softened, 5 minutes.

    Add the lam and turmeric and saute over high heat until the lamb is browned all over, 7-8 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

    Stir in the saffron, cinnamon, and walnuts.  Pour in the broth and add the tomato paste.  Mix well and bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over low heat, 1- 1 1/2 hours, until lamb is tender.

    Add the pomegranate juice, lemon juice, and chestnuts.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes more.  Serve hot over the basmati rice.

    Recipe #239: Steak and Blue Cheese Sandwiches

    This is so easy to make, and even though there aren't many ingredients, very flavorful.  Vary the amounts according to your tastes.


    Lean, very thin cuts of steak
    Gorgonzola cheese
    Ciabatta bread, freshly baked or toasted
    Seasonings, to taste


    Halve the bread lengthwise, butter, and toast to desired doneness.
    Spray both sides of the steak with olive oil, and season to taste (I used McCormick steak seasoning).  Cook in a pan until just browned, 2-3 minutes per side.  Let sit for a couple minutes.
    Put the steak on the ciabatta, and add the cheese.

    Monday, September 23, 2013

    Recipe #238: Caramelized Onion and Brie Risotto

    This recipe was exactly what I was looking for to use up a bunch of random things I had left in the pantry and fridge.  Risotto is fun to make, and this turned out hearty and flavorful.  Next time I think I will use more cheese, but this one is great as-is.  It takes on the color of the onions.


    4 tsp olive oil
    2 small onions, sliced
    1 cup arborio rice
    1/2 cup white wine (I had a Riesling)
    3 3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
    1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
    1/4 lb cubed brie
    1/2 tsp pepper


    Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions and saute, stirring often, until a deep caramel color, about 15 minutes.  Add the rice, stirring to coat in oil until toasted, about 2 minutes.

    Add wine and stir until almost fully absorbed.  Then add chicken broth one cup at a time.  Stir often to prevent burning and sticking until broth is almost fully absorbed before adding another cup.

    Cook until rice is creamy and stir in cheese and pepper.  Heat through.

    Recipe #237: Herb-y Baked Salmon

    I make salmon a lot and have posted a few recipes already, but this one is a keeper.  I adapted this from one I found on, and love the nice balance in flavor between the herbs and the salmon itself.


    2 6-8oz salmon fillets (this will vary your cooking time- mine were closer to 8)
    1 teaspoon each of dried dill, basil, mustard, lemon pepper
    1 teaspoon dried or 1 tablespoon fresh (or to taste) rosemary
    2 tablespoon oil
    2 tablespoon lemon juice


    Mix oil, juice, and seasonings together and baste over fillets.  Let marinate about 20 minutes.  Preheat oven for 400 degrees.  Bake salmon on a baking sheet about 25 minutes or until flaky.

    Sunday, September 22, 2013

    Recipe #236: Beef Daube Proven├žal

    Two new recipes in one day!  I happened to look at my new issue of Cooking Light magazine, and as soon as I saw the picture for this, I knew I had to make it for dinner.  I think it would easily adapt to a crock pot (they say high for five hours, but I bet low for 8 works fine) or a pressure cooker.  The cloves make a huge difference, so don't skip them!  Delicious, tender meat... and the noodles are perfect for it.  It's pretty similar to this recipe as far as looks, but the cloves make a difference.


    • 2 teaspoons olive oil 
    • 12 garlic cloves, crushed
    • (2-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 2-inch cubes
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided 
    • 1 cup red wine 
    • 2 cups chopped carrot
    • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion 
    • 1/2 cup less-sodium beef broth
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
    • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
    • Dash of ground cloves
    • (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
    • bay leaf
    • 3 cups hot cooked medium egg noodles (about 4 cups uncooked noodles)
    • Chopped fresh thyme (optional)

    2. Preheat oven to 300°.
    1. Heat olive oil in a small Dutch oven over low heat. Add garlic to pan; cook for 5 minutes or until garlic is fragrant, stirring occasionally. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon; set aside. Increase heat to medium-high. Add beef to pan. Sprinkle beef with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Add wine to pan, and bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add garlic, beef, remaining 1 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, carrot, and next 8 ingredients (through bay leaf) to pan; bring to a boil.
    1. Cover and bake at 300° for 2 1/2 hours or until beef is tender. Discard bay leaf. Serve over noodles. Garnish with chopped fresh thyme, if desired.  Serve over egg noodles.

    Recipe #235: Cream of Broccoli Soup

    It's autumn!  Time for soups and stews.  Here's the first of the season.  Credit to


    4 cups water (I used chicken broth)
    4 cups broccoli florets
    2 tablespoons margarine (I used butter)
    1 onion, chopped
    1 large stalk celery, chopped
    1/3 cup all-purpose flour
    1 chicken bouillon cube
    2 1/2 cups whole milk
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese


    1.In a medium-sized cooking pot, add water and broccoli florets and bring to boil; reduce heat and cook for about 3 minutes. Drain, reserving all of the water.
    2.In a food processor or blender, process half the cooked broccoli until fairly smooth. Chop remaining broccoli and set aside.
    3.In a heavy-bottomed cooking pot, melt butter or margarine, add onion and celery and cook for about 3 to 4 minutes until soft. Stir in flour; cook, stirring constantly for about 1 to 2 minutes. Add reserved water and chicken bouillon granules, and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium; simmer, stirring constantly until thickened.
    4.Stir in milk, nutmeg, pepper, and processed and chopped broccoli, and heat through. Adjust seasonings to taste. Serve garnished with grated cheddar cheese.