Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dinner on the Balcony - BBQ Chicken Pizza

When we first moved in together, Tor and I would almost always pick up a frozen pizza while grocery shopping.  It was just so handy to have in the freezer for those Friday nights when you don't feel like cooking.  More often than not, that frozen pizza was a CPK BBQ Chicken Pizza, one of the hubby's favorites.  It's been a while since we've had a pizza in our freezer, mainly because I now work half days on Friday's and have time to cook.  And after seeing this post and this post I decided I had to remake an old favorite.

For my version, I took bits and pieces from the above recipes, as well as the one on the bottle of BBQ sauce I picked up.  I used pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joe's because I didn't have the time, or confidence, to tackle making my own yet.  The pizza turned out great with flavors just like our old favorite, but so much better!

BBQ Chicken Pizza
Pizza Dough
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup BBQ sauce - I used Gayle's BBQ Sauce from Whole Foods and loved it!
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced
Cilantro to garnish

1.  Pour about 1/2 cup BBQ sauce over the chicken breast and marinate in an airtight container or Ziploc for at least 4 hours.

2.  Bake chicken breast at 350 for about 25-30 minutes, until cooked through.  Set aside to cool.   Turn oven up to 450. When chicken is cooled, chop into bite sized pieces.

3.  Roll out your pizza dough to your desired size.  I rolled mine out into a large rectangle and put it on a cookie sheet.

Note, if you use TJ's dough you need to take it out of the fridge and let it rest for 20 minutes before rolling out, otherwise it won't roll out very easily.

4.  Spread about another 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce onto the crust.  Arrange the mozzarella sliced on top of the sauce, then sprinkle the chicken over the cheese.  Top with the sliced onions.

5.  Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is nice and bubbly.  Sprinkle cilantro leaves over pizza.  Let cool a few minutes before slicing.

We enjoyed our slices with some red wine on our new balcony.  Sorry for the super dark picture - it was the best I could do while holding the camera on my lap!  Note the cooler turned into a makeshift table...

Don't worry, we got some real patio furniture the other weekend and even potted some fresh herbs.  We are really enjoying our little outdoor space, especially now that Summer seems to have officially arrived here in L.A!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Meatless Monday - Stuffed Shells

I have to be honest with you...I don't always have a "Meatless Monday."  Sometimes it's a Meatless Thursday, or Fish (which isn't really meat) Tuesday.  My point is that I try to cook some sort of meatless meal at least once a week.  For no other reason than I feel it's healthier to not eat meat every single day.  Don't get me wrong.  I love me some meat.  A big, juicy, medium rare steak?  Yum.  But I feel that a meatless day helps cleanse the system and makes sure I'm getting a good amount of veggies in my diet.

Okay, now that that's off my chest let me share another vegetarian, but completely filling, dinner.  Stuffed Shells.  I think I had seen a picture of shells while perusing various food blogs and automatically had a craving for them.  So I did what I almost always do....googled a recipe and found this recipe for shells stuffed with ricotta.  It was pretty easy to put together, though it does require getting your hands a little messy while stuffing the shells.  My husband LOVED this dish and was happy to eat leftovers for days.  I found that the ricotta was just a bit too much for me.  It was good, but I got tired of it by the end of the meal.  I would definitely make this again, but next time I think I'll make a meaty version with ground beef mixed in with the ricotta.

Stuffed Shells - from allrecipes

1 package jumbo pasta shells
2 eggs, beaten
1 (32 oz) container ricotta cheese
1 lb shredded mozzarella, divided
8 oz grated Parmesan, divided
1 Tablespoon dried parsley - I used fresh because that's what I had on hand
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
1 jar pasta sauce  
8 oz sliced fresh mushrooms

1.  Preheat oven to 350.

2.  Boil pasta according to package directions.  Drain and rinse.

3.  In a large bowl mix eggs, ricotta, half of the mozzarella and Parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper.  I also threw in a handful of shredded fresh basil.

4.  Stuff each shell with the ricotta mixture.  Place shells into a 9x13 pan.  You'll mostly likely have to layer some of them.  I stuffed each shell pretty full and still had plenty of ricotta mixture leftover.

5.  In a medium bowl, mix together the pasta sauce, mushrooms, and leftover mozzarella and Parmesan.  Pour over the stuffed shells.

6.  Bake for 45-60 minutes.

Enjoy with a garlic toast and a nice glass of wine.  Or two.

**Note - This recipe makes quite a bit, so you'll probably have leftovers for a day or two!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fill In The Blank Friday!

Friday is here again!  We have no plans for the weekend, which is just perfect for me.  Hopefully we'll finally get our apartment completely set up and hang all our pictures.  And hopefully there will be a lot of sleeping in and maybe a little bit of baking thrown into the weekend.  Nothing buy excitement at our house!

Once again I'm playing along with Lauren and her Fill In The Blanks.  You can play along too by linking up at her page.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

1.   The last thing I ate was       warm chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with vanilla ice cream for dessert last night.  Yum!

2.  The next thing I'd like to eat is    Cinnamon bread.

3.  The best things     usually don't come very easily - you have to work for them.

4.  Something that makes me supremely and utterly happy is   seeing the people I love happy.

5.  Sports are     fun.  I grew up playing a lot of sports, and plan on making my future kids at least try a few sports.  I think it's important to get outside and play instead of sitting inside playing video games as a kid.

6.  I miss       all my friends that live so far away, which is most of my close friends.  They all need to move back to California!

7.  Right now I am       running late in the morning, as always!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Weeknight Dinner - Cilantro Chicken

I don't remember how or when I discovered the Big Girls Small Kitchen blog, but as soon as I did I scrolled through their recipe index bookmarking recipes I wanted to try.  This one for Cilantro Chicken Milanese was at the top of my list and it did not disappoint.  The chicken turned out so moist and tasty on the inside with the perfect crunchy crust on the outside.  It was really pretty simple to make, and I love that it's for 2 servings - perfect for a weeknight dinner.  Here's the recipe...

Cilantro Chicken Milanese - from Big Girls Small Kitchen

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 lemon, juiced
Dash cayenne pepper
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon oil

1.  On a flat work surface, place the chicken breasts between two sheets of plastic wrap (I used a Ziploc baggie).  Use a meat mallet, rolling pin, heavy skillet, etc to pound the chicken to 1/2 inch thickness.  I used my pink rolling pin and have to say it was fun to work out some stress on those chicken breasts!

2.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the yogurt, mustard, cilantro, garlic, soy sauce, lemon juice, and a dash of cayenne.  Season with salt and more cayenne as necessary.

3.  In an airtight container or resealable bag, pour half of the yogurt mixture over the chicken.  Toss until coated.   Marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours, up to 6 hours.  Reserve the remaining marinade for serving.

4.  When you're ready to cook the chicken, place the breadcrumbs on a shallow plate.  Dredge the chicken in the crumbs and shake off any excess.

5.  In a large skillet (cast iron if you have one - I don't), heat the butter and oil over medium high heat.  Add the chicken.  Cook until golden brown on both sides and cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.  If your skillet isn't big enough you'll have to cook the chicken in batches.

6.  Serve immediately with a generous dollop of the reserved marinade and cilantro leaves for garnish.  

I served mine with a quinoa salad like this one, using veggies I already had in the fridge.  

This recipe is definitely a keeper and will probably make several appearances in our house this summer!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Meatless Monday: Stir Fried Sesame Broccoli with Rice Noodles

I've mentioned before that some sort of stir fry dish makes a weekly appearance in our household.  While they're pretty easy to put together, sometimes they can get a little old and boring.  When I saw this recipe on the Dana Treat website I knew I had to give it a try.  The noodles were a nice break from using rice and the dish itself had great flavor.  Don't let the long-ish list of ingredients scare you away - this meal was really easy to make and didn't take much time at all.

Stir-Fried Sesame Broccoli and Tofu with Rice Noodles
From Dana Treat

10 ounces extra-firm tofu
6 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. roasted sesame oil
8 ounces very thin rice noodles
1 pound broccoli, cut into florets
Kosher salt
8 dried shiitake mushrooms, covered with near-boiling water
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
2-inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced or grated
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
4 scallions, including the greens, thinly sliced
2 tbsp. mirin
2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro
Sesame seeds, for garnish

1.  Cut the tofu into ¾-inch cubes.  In a shallow dish, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the soy sauce, the rice wine vinegar, brown sugar and the sesame oil.  Add the tofu to the dish and turn to coat.  Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours, turning occasionally.

Note:  This didn't make a whole lot of marinade and the tofu soaked it all up pretty quickly.  Next time I'll probably make double the amount of marinade.

I also added some asparagus because we had some leftover in the fridge.  

2.  Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of water to boil.  Have a bowl of ice water ready.  Put the dry noodles in a large bowl.  Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and allow to cook for 1 minute.  Turn off the heat and scoop the broccoli into the ice water bath.  Take the very hot water and carefully pour it over the rice noodles.  Drain the broccoli and set aside.  Once the noodles are tender, drain them as well and add them to the broccoli.

3.  Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the tofu (no need for any oil at this point) and dry fry until the tofu is browned on all sides.  Add the remaining marinade to coat the tofu, then scrape it out onto a plate and season with salt.

4.  Replace the skillet to the burner.  Add the vegetable oil followed by the ginger, garlic, jalapeño, and scallions.  Stir fry for 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms and their soaking liquid, taking care to hold back any sediment at the bottom of the bowl.  Cook for 3 minutes.  Add the tofu, noodles, and broccoli and toss well to combine.  Stir together the remaining soy sauce and mirin and pour over the noodles.  Toss well again.  Stir in the cilantro and garnish with the sesame seeds.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Dad's Day!

My Birthday!

Questionable parenting methods

Questionable home decor

A shoulder to lean on

Graduation from Indiana, 2000

USC PT School White Coat Ceremony
USC Graduation, 2008
The Big Day! 

Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fill In The Blank Friday

It's finally Friday again,
which is always a good thing!
This weekend will bring us drinks out tonight, hopefully,
and a couple days at my parents' house to celebrate Father's Day.
Here's to hoping the sun makes an appearance
because this June gloom is getting kind of old!

1.   The last movie I saw was       Alice in Wonderland on our new 3D television.  The husband got a good bonus this year and treated himself to a new 60" TV with 3D capability.  As much as I think a ginormous TV is completely unnecessary, I have to admit the 3D was pretty cool!

2.  I want to    not go to work today.  Or ever =)

3.  Surprises are     hard to keep a secret

4.  The best accessory is   a great pair of shoes - although I'm sad to say I don't have any!

5.  My favorite warm drink is     hot chocolate with a huge dollop of whipped cream!  Or hot apple cider.  I kind of sound like a 9 year old, don't I?

6.  My favorite cold drink is       lemonade.

7.  Currently loving      our new apartment and balcony.  I can't wait to get a table and chairs so we can eat dinner outside, once it finally gets warm here in LA!

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Field Trip: Chicago

A few weekends ago, the mister and I spent a few days in Chicago before heading out to Moline for the wedding of a dear friend.  I've had a long love affair with the windy city.  I have never lived there but have several friends from my undergrad days at Indiana that live in the city, and also lived just an hour away in Milwaukee for a few years.  I love the vibe of an older city and would totally live there if it weren't for the small problem of freezing weather.  The hubby had never been, so I was super excited to show him around.  We spent two days walking around Navy Pier, going to a Cubs game, eating deep dish pizza, and having drinks on the 95th floor of the Hancock Tower.  It was a bit chilly for Memorial Day, but we had a great time.

View from our hotel

Navy Pier

For the first day in Chicago we thought this was the Sears Tower.  
It's not.  
It's the Hancock Tower.  

Cubs Game

Deep Dish at Giordano's

The Giant Bean (aka The Cloud Gate)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Moving and Fill In The Blank Friday

I've been MIA these past two weeks.  
I apologize.
I have an excuse, really.  
First was a trip to Chicago and Iowa for a friend's wedding (post to come!)
Then was a last minute decision to move, 
involving scrambling to pack all week 
after already being exhausted from working all day.  
And a mad dash to clear out one apartment so we can clean it out.  
All while trying to organize the new one.  

This is just part of the chaos that was our apartment.
And yes, that's a giant sombrero
because, well, you never know!

So I'm a bit late for these Fill Ins, 
but to me it's still technically Friday 
because its 4:45am and I still haven't' gone to sleep.  
Whats up with that?

1.   This weekend I'm     moving, kind of.  We are moving to a new apartment within our current apartment complex.  It's 2 floors and a few long hallways away from our current place.  But it's got a balcony (score!) and bigger living spaces (double score!)  and    I'm kind dreading the whole packing, unpacking, organizing thing.  And hoping I'll still be able to move my body enough to make it out for drinks with friends later.

2.  My last vacation was   a few weekends ago we went to Chicago, then to Moline for a dear friend's wedding.  Posts with pics to come soon, I promise.

3.  My next vacation will be     who knows?!  A possible white water rafting trip next month.  A possible trip to Washington in September.  Definitely going somewhere in October for the anniversary.

4.  My favorite way to relax is   Lying on the couch watching TV - all the shows I've DVRd during the week.  You know, the trashy stuff....Real Housewives, Oprah behind the scenes, Food Network stuff.  Or watching Glee through Netflix.

5.  When vacationing one should always     remember to relax.  I kind of have that problem.  Relax, enjoy the surroundings.  Stop counting every cent you're spending and wondering how far off budget you'll be..

6.  When vacationing one should never       go straight to work the next day.  You need a couple days to vacation from your vacation.
7.  The best part about a vacation is       the memories.  Good or bad, you've made some memories with your spouse, friend, whomever you were with.  You will now have moments when you're sitting, drinking wine, saying "Oh My Gosh!  Do you remember that time in Granada when it was so cold you had to buy a souvenir shirt to wear under yours?  Or How about that time we almost got swept away by thunderstorms in Iowa?"  Good stuff.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Garden Tour

A few weeks ago we spent the weekend at my parent's house.  
Being springtime my dad's garden was starting to sprout with 
green beans, 
and many other goodies.  

I love going home and being able to make a great meal 
with ingredients picked fresh out of the garden.  
It's amazing how much better everything tastes - 
the peppers are hotter, 
tomatoes are juicier, 
green beans are sweeter.  

I wish I had half the green thumb my dad does 
so I could have my own veggie patch one day.

Would you like a tour?
It's gonna cost you...

Every good garden needs a guard dog...

And a lawn mower...