Thursday, September 26, 2013

Serving Up {Pizza}: Balsamic Pear Pizza

Earlier this week I posted a recipe for a Tomato & Basil Pizza and in doing so shared my culinary pizza adventure as I tried to create a pizza dinner for my family recently, using mainly ingredients from my own garden.  The second pizza I made that evening was this recipe for Balsamic Pear Pizza.  I have enjoyed pear pizza many times in restaurants, so with a pear tree just outside my backdoor I knew that a pear pizza was what I wanted to make that night.

My most memorable pear pizzas have generally been paired with a balsamic flavoring, so as I searched for the perfect recipe I was drawn to this one.  I have also enjoyed pear pizza with Gorgonzola cheese so I experimented a bit, but having made this recipe with a smattering of Gorgonzola as well as without, I have to say that without won it for me so that is how I wrote the recipe.

This pizza was a hit!  So much so that I didn't get as many slices as I would have liked so I was "forced" to make it again later the same week.  I served it the second time to my in laws for lunch and it was voted a hit again so this recipe is definitely a keeper.

One Year Ago: Sally Luna Bread
Two Years Ago: Coconut Chex Mix

(recipe adapted from Inspired Taste)
printable version

1 ball favorite pizza dough (I prefer Trader Joe's)
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4  cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2-3 pears, ripe but still firm
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup pecan pieces

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place pizza stone in the oven to heat as well.
Form pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on large piece of parchment paper, sprinkled with corn meal.  Allow dough to rest.
In a medium sized non-stick frying pan, heat 1 Tbs. of olive oil over medium heat.  Add sliced onions, thyme and salt.  Cook 3-5 minutes or until the onions are soft and beginning to brown.  Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and allow to simmer until the syrup becomes thickened and coats the onions.  Set aside.
Core and thinly slice the pears.  To prevent the pears from browning, sprinkle with lemon juice and gently toss.
Drizzle remaining olive oil over the pizza dough.  Spread onions over the pizza dough.  Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the onions, then place pear slices and top with pecan pieces.
Remove heated pizza stone from the oven and carefully transfer prepared pizza from parchment paper onto pizza stone and place in the oven.  Bake the pizza until crust is cooked and cheese is melted and beginning to bubble - approximately 12 minutes.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Serving Up {Pizza}: Pizza with Tomato and Basil

A few weeks ago I found myself needing to begin preparing dinner without really a menu idea in mind.  With it being late summer, and with plenty of fresh produce in the garden and the orchard, I determined that I wanted to make something utilizing all the yummy options outside my back door.  We ended up having two very different pizza's that night and they both turned out delicious.  I am sharing both recipes this week in hopes that maybe you still have some fresh ingredients of your own to utilize.

The first recipe is pretty standard fair at many pizza parlors - a tomato and basil topped pizza.  In my case I used Roma tomatoes because that is what I had ripe on the vine, along with basil picked from the plant right as it went onto the pizza.  It could not get any fresher and the delicious flavor was evidence of the perfect ingredients.  In fact, the pizza was so yummy that I made it again only a few days later.  What can I say?  I had a lot of tomatoes!

I also have to put a plug in here for buying fresh mozzarella (the kind that comes in a ball that you have to grate yourself and it makes a mess when doing so) whenever you are making homemade pizza.  It tastes better, it melts better and the pizza will thank you.

One Year Ago: Darn Good Chocolate Cake

printable version

1 ball favorite prepared pizza dough (I love Trader Joe's)
corn meal
Olive Oil
1 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, grated
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced thinly (1/4 inch)
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup packed fresh basil, cut chiffonade-style

Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place pizza stone in the oven to get to temperature.

Roll out pizza dough into a 12-inch circle on a large piece of parchment paper sprinkled with corn meal.  Drizzle olive oil over pizza dough.  Sprinkle mozzarella over the top of the dough.  Arrange tomato slices over cheese.  Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over tomatoes, then basil and garlic.  Remove pizza stone from oven and carefully slide prepared pizza onto pizza stone.  Place in preheated oven and bake until crust is baked through and cheese is melted, approx. 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and generously sprinkle with salt to taste.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Serving Up {Snack}: No Bake Energy Balls

We are only two weeks into school and I am already dreading the 3:05 pm question....."what's for snack?".  I think that by the time I have answered four children ask me "what's for breakfast?", "what's in my lunch?" and "what's for dinner?" I really should get an option to pass on the snack question - or at the very least they could organize themselves to come to me in a group so that I only had to hear/answer the question once, but they just aren't that organized yet.

The result is that I have snack on the brain a lot.  So when I saw this recipe on pinterest last week (with the eye catching tag of "my favorite snack ever!") I thought to myself, "that is what we are having for snack today".  And while I cannot claim that it is my favorite snack ever, or even in my top 10 because brownie variations probably occupy all 10 of those spots, I will say that these were a tasty little snack without near the guilt of my truly favorite snack ever.  My kids readily agreed!

Two Years Ago: Creamy White Chili

(recipe via pinterest)
printable version

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.
Using a cookie scoop, make individual balls and store in an airtight container (I store them in the fridge).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Serving Up {Pasta}: Herbed Chicken Lasagna

One of the tell tell signs that your kids are growing up (at least for my kids) is their willingness to try different foods and enjoy flavors that they used to turn their nose up to.  What a great plug for this recipe to admit that my kids plug their nose and run away when I make it :)  More correctly, they used to plug their nose and run away.  Like I said, they are growing up.

This past month when I made this lasagna, they actually followed their noses into the kitchen asking what smelled so good.  My daughter's exact comment was, "it looks kind of scary (anything that has green in it is deemed scary) but I just have to taste it because it looks so good!"  I was thrilled with her maturity and the best part was that she LIKED IT - even though I think that she didn't want to :)

The only down side to the maturing of the taste buds is that I had to share.  And this is one of those meals that I would rather not share cause it is so stinkin' good that I could probably eat the entire pan myself (not in one sitting).  So whether you have kids with mature taste buds or kids that will turn away, you really can't lose because you will either be the hero for making a fabulous dish that the whole family raves about or you will enjoy the goodness of it and have awesome leftovers for the next week.  Hey, I'm just telling it like it is.

One Year Ago: Chickpea Masala Sandwiches (Doubles)
Two Years Ago: Coconut Syrup

(recipe from Good Things Utah, 2007)
printable version

1 ½ cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup chopped onion
2 Tbs. butter
2 pkgs. Hollandaise sauce (prepared per directions)
½ large pkg. pre-cooked lasagna noodles
1 pound chicken, cooked and cubed
½ Tbs. fresh basil
½ Tbs. fresh oregano
Salt and Pepper
1 (12-ounce) can asparagus tips
1 ½ cups Italian blend or mozzarella cheese
½ cup shredded parmesan

Sauté mushrooms and onion in butter for about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix chicken, basil, oregano, and salt & pepper to taste.  Gently fold in asparagus tips.
Using a 9x9 pan, spread small amount of prepared Hollandaise sauce on bottom.
Make 2 layers as follows: noodles, Hollandaise, chicken mixture, mozzarella and Parmesan.  Repeat for second layer.
If there is any sauce left over, pour it over the second layer of noodles before adding the last of the cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Serving Up {Bread}: Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

My youngest child started kindergarten this week!!!  I don't think there is anything cuter than watching him walk into the elementary school with his two older brothers.  I watch in the rear view mirror and see three boys - large, medium and small - all walking away from me with their backpacks on their backs and it is stinkin' cute!  One of these days I am going to greatly embarrass the 10-year old by jumping out of the car and taking a photo of them all together.

I mention school, and more specifically kindergarten, because you just never know what your child will learn (or do) at school.  My insight yesterday was more than I wanted to five year old asked me, "how come when you lick the kickball after you have played with it, it tastes bad?"  Seriously???  I cook a lot and you would not believe how difficult it is to get that same 5 year old to take a taste of ANYTHING...but he is licking kickballs?  I am speechless!

Today's recipe is hopefully more tempting than a kickball and guaranteed to taste better.  We are entering fall, with all the yummy fall flavors...which in the food world equates to PUMPKIN!  But I still have zucchini that I am harvesting and baking with (a little of this and never enough of this)!  Lucky for me, last year I discovered this recipe for Pumpkin Zucchini Bread and I absolutely love the combination.  It is perfectly moist and tastes like it could be the poster child for fall with all the yummy spice flavoring.  Not to mention that your house smells divine while it bakes.  For your sake I really do hope that you still have a few lingering zucchini so that you can enjoy this recipe and share it with someone you love!

One Year Ago: Snickerdoodle Blondies
Two Years Ago: Candy Bar Pudding Dessert

(recipe from Taste of Home)
printable version

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup butter, melted
1 Tbs. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1 cup shredded zucchini

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare two 9 x 5-inch loaf pans by greasing and flouring.

In a bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Add pumpkin, butter and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; gradually add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Stir in zucchini (and nuts if desired). Pour into prepared loaf pans. Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until breads test done. Cool in pans 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Serving Up {Candy}: Grandma's Caramel Popcorn

Last week school started for my kids...and the rains started and the temperatures dropped and it felt like fall!  Yet, here I am one week later and the weather forecast for the next few days is high 80's and low 90's.  I feel that last's week's "fall" was only a tease and we have made a very abrupt return to summer.  The unfortunate part of that is that the kids are still in school and we can't just go find respite from the heat at the pool like we did for the month of July :(

Regardless, I am going to pretend that this week's weather didn't happen and stick with the recipe that I had planned, which screams "fall" to grandmother's recipe for Caramel Popcorn.  This recipe is the recipe that my dad makes every time he and my mom make their fall visit to our home.  In fact, it is generally made while the kids carve their pumpkins in preparation for Halloween.  It's our own family Harvest Party and this caramel corn is the perfect accompaniment.

One Year Ago: Caramel Brownies
Two Years Ago: Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce

(recipe from grandma Wright)
printable version

1 lb. (approx. 2 1/2 cup) brown sugar
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light karo syrup
1 stick butter
pinch salt
1 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels (use a little less for more caramel coverage, a little more for less caramel coverage - I use 1 1/4 cup myself cause I like the caramel!)

Begin by popping popcorn kernels in an air popper.  Allow to cool and then sift through popped popcorn and remove any unpopped kernels and discard.  Set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, karo syrup, butter and salt.  Using a candy thermometer, heat over medium to med-high heat (stirring to prevent burning) until the temperature reaches "softball stage".  Remove from heat and pour over prepared popcorn.  Stir until well mixed.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Serving Up {Pork}: Balsamic Pulled Pork

I am a bit of a sucker for shredded meat done in the slow cooker.
I love the ease of it.
I love the quantity of it.
I love the flavor of it.
So you can bet when I see a recipe in pinterest-land for pulled pork....flavored with a balsamic vinegar bbq sauce...done in the crockpot that I am going to be trying it out.  I have a bunch of slow cooker pulled pork recipes but this one has it's own unique flavor, and a tasty one at that.

I initially served this on buns, as the recipe called for, complete with coleslaw (but without pickles) and it was great.  The leftover was used as filling in tortilla wraps (yum) and also consumed as a pizza topping (also yum).  If there had been any remaining I think it could have also been great on a salad.  Try it out and let me know what you do with it.  I know I will be making it again and am always looking for delicious variations.

One Year Ago: Moist Zucchini Brownies
Two Years Ago: Ranch Vegetable Dip
                         Strawberry Lemonade Quencher

(recipe from Better Homes & Gardens)
printable version

2 1/2 - 3 pound boneless pork shoulder roast
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
3/4 cup chopped green pepper (1 medium)
1 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3/4 cup ketchup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. Dijon-style mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Trim any visible fat from meat. If necessary, cut meat to fit into a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker. In the cooker, combine onion and sweet pepper. Add meat; sprinkle with thyme and rosemary. Pour broth over meat.  Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 9 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 1/2 to 5 hours.

For barbecue sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar, honey, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic, black pepper, and salt. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

Transfer meat to a cutting board. Using two forks, pull meat apart into shreds, discarding fat. Strain vegetable mixture, discarding liquid. Return shredded meat and strained vegetables to cooker. Stir in barbecue sauce. If using high-heat setting, turn to low-heat setting Cover and cook for 1 hour.

To serve, spoon meat mixture onto bun bottoms. Top with coleslaw and pickles. Add bun tops.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Serving Up {Cookies}: Evil Oatmeal Fudge Bars

I have stumbled across this recipe a number of times, and each time I think, "how yummy!" only to realize, "I have this recipe!" (and it IS yummy!)  Most recently the recipe was showcased on a morning news show and I chuckled that they referred to them as Evil Oatmeal Fudge Bars.  Of course by "evil" it translates to I-can' I feel the name is a good one and I have chosen to use that name as I share this recipe.

One Year Ago: Easy Salsa
Two Years Ago: Zucchini Bread

(recipe adapted from aunt Holly, Good Things Utah & Becky Higgins)
printable version

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups quick-cooking oats
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
2 c. (12 oz.) semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla

In a mixing bowl cream butter and brown sugar, adding eggs and vanilla until well combined. Combine the oats, flour, salt and baking soda in a separate bowl and stir dry ingredients into the creamed mixture. Press 2/3 of oat mixture into a greased 9" x 13" baking pan.

In a saucepan combine sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, butter and salt. Cook and stir over low heat until chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Pour chocolate sauce over the crust. Sprinkle the remaining oat mixture over the top of the chocolate.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool completely prior to cutting into squares.