Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pesto Chicken Pizza

PEOPLE. This pizza is crazy delicious. If you like pesto, you must make this pizza!! You will not be disappointed. It takes literally no time to assemble or cook, and got rave review from my husband!! We tried to make it a smidge healthier by using thin crust, and we found individual size thin pizza crusts at the store! I made my own pizza sauce and pesto for this one, and I'll include the recipes for those after the main pizza recipe.

Pesto Chicken Pizza
as adapted from Plain Chicken

1 pizza crust 
1/4-1/3 c. pizza sauce
2-3 Tb. pesto
1-2 c. mozzarella cheese
5 oz. can of cooked chicken

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Mix chicken and pesto. Start with 2 Tb. and add to taste. Set aside.

Brush pizza sauce onto pre-cooked pizza crust. Put a layer of mozzarella cheese on top of the pizza sauce. Sprinkle the chicken/pesto mixture over the mozzarella. Sprinkle more mozzarella over the chicken.

Bake pizza for 10-15 minutes, or until crust begins to brown and cheese is thoroughly melted.

Pizza Sauce
You can totally make this on your own, and save yourself the money of buying a huge jar! The only money you put into this sauce is the cheap lil can of tomato sauce.

1 8oz. can of tomato sauce
1/2-1 Tb. pizza seasonings*

Open tomato sauce and pour into microwave safe bowl. Add seasonings to tomato sauce, starting with 1/2 Tb. Add more seasonings to taste, up to 1 Tb. Stir together. Put plastic wrap over the bowl and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Stir.

*I have an already prepared "pizza seasonings" in my spice rack. This is simple enough to make on your own, though. Just combine equal parts of basil, oregano, marjoram, and garlic.

adapted from Simply Recipes

1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed (or 2 TB. dried, crushed basil in a pinch)
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/6 c. pine nuts*
3/4 tsp. minced garlic (about 1 1/2 minced garlic cloves)
salt and fresh ground pepper

Pulse the pine nuts in a food processor a few times to break them into small pieces. Add in basil and pulse a few more times. Add in garlic and again pulse the food processor a few times.

Turn the food processor on and slowly add the olive oil in a slow stream. Stop a few times to scrape down the sides. Once the olive oil is completely mixed through, add the cheese and blend in the food processor until completely combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.

*I have heard that you can use walnuts in place of pine nuts, and I have to say...it worked!! I'm not a pesto snob by any means, so others might not agree with this, but if you don't have any pine nuts and you do happen to have walnuts--go for it!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

I keep seeing all these recipes lately for brussel sprouts. I found a couple recipes online with yummy ingredients, so I decided to use them to make my own! In the picture below, they are served with Italian Cream Chicken with pasta, which you can find here.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
as adjusted from Elefantitas Alegres--Menu Sunday and SkinnyTaste

1 pound of brussel sprouts, washed clean with ends cut off and halved
2 pieces of bacon
1 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. chicken broth
1 shallot, diced
1 tsp. minced garlic/2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut up bacon into small pieces and fry. Remove bacon pieces to a paper towel. Put shallot, garlic, and EVOO into bacon grease. Cook on medium heat until shallot begins to get translucent. Add in brussel sprouts and toss in garlic/shallot mixture. Add in white wine and chicken broth. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat, or until brussel sprouts start to lose their crisp green color. The brussel spouts should start to soak up the liquid and get soft.

Put brussel sprout mixture into a baking dish and put into oven for about 10-15 minutes. Watch the bussel sprouts closely to ensure they don't burn. Be sure to toss them about every 5 minutes to ensure even cooking.

Italian Cream Chicken

This is a recipe I found from a friends food blog, Sweet as P.I.E. She is big into slow cooker recipes, and when she posted this new one, I decided to give it a shot. I adjusted it a tiny bit, and fixed it with regular angel hair pasta. I also made roasted brussel sprouts with this dish, and you can find that recipe here. The best thing about slow cooker recipes--you can put in frozen meat! No defrosting needed!

(all the ingredients--notice the box of slow cooker liners in the back--they are great!)

(the finished product!)

Italian Cream Chicken
as adapted from Sweet as P.I.E.

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 packets of zesty italian dressing dry mix
1 8oz. package of fat free cream cheese
1 can cream of chicken and mushroom soup

Put the cream cheese, soup, and mixes into a slow cooker. Allow the cream cheese to melt until all can be stirred and mixed together. Add in chicken and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Use a fork to shred chicken. Serve over pasta.

Homemade hot chocolate

I love hot chocolate once the weather turns cooler!! I started to dislike the packaged variety once I realized how easy it would be to make it from scratch! With recipes like this, everyone's taste is different, so add ingredients slowly to get the right cocoa/sugar levels for your liking. Also, you can adjust the ingredients using different types of milk/cream (I always use skim milk), different types of sweeteners, and different varieties of cocoa (I used regular here, but I love using Hershey's dark chocolate cocoa!).

Homemade Hot Chocolate
serves 2

2 1/4 c. milk
4 Tb. cocoa
4 Tb. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Pour milk into saucepan. Heat slowly over low heat so as to not scald the milk. Add in all other ingredients and stir until warmed. Top with marshmallows!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Apple Butter and How to Can!

I'm SO excited to bring this recipe to you guys!! There are so many kitchen things I've gotten to experiment with lately, and I have been having a lot of fun. My most recent attempt was making apple butter and  canning it!

The original recipe comes from SkinnyTaste, a website I've found tons of great recipes on. I have made the apple butter recipe before, but cut it in half because I didn't want gallons of the stuff and had really no way to gauge how much it would make. (The fact that the recipe says it makes 16 2Tb. sized servings pretty much meant nothing to me. See? I'm super cooking-saavy.)

Anyway, I tried it again, making the full recipe, with some left-over 8 oz. jars from my Mom. I had 6 jars at my disposal and only ended up using 4. I want to make this for holiday baskets, so I'll probably buy some of the smaller 4 oz. ones so I can make more from this recipe.

I'll add my instructions for canning at the end.

Slow Cooker Apple Butter
from SkinnyTaste

6 apples (I used in-season gala)
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Chop up apples into small pieces. Place into slow cooker. Top with remaining ingrediants and stir well. Cover and cook on low for 10 hours. Uncover and puree with an immersion blender. Cook uncovered on high for 1-2 hours.

*Right after the apples went into the crock-pot*

*After a many hours in the crock-pot. No noticeable difference, really*

*Breaking out the immersion blender--don't look at my messy crock-pot!!*

from Food Network Magazine

1. Wash jars, lids, and bands in hot soapy water. Place the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, simmer jars until you need them.

2. Place lids and bands into simmering (not boiling!) water until you need them.

3. Remove jar one-by-one from simmering water and fill with hot preserves/jelly/butter/etc. Leave headspace on each jar.

4. Use a clean small spatula (I used a spatula handle) to go along the inside of the jar to release any air pockets.

5. Wipe rims and threads and make sure they are clean.

6. Remove lids and bands from the simmering water and place on top of filled jars. Screw tops onto jars until tight.

7. Place filled jars back into boiling water. Make sure water is 2 inches above tops of jars. Once boiling, cover pot and boil for 15 minutes.

8. After 15 minutes, lift jars from hot water and transfer to a kitchen towel. Let sit for 24 hours to ensure seal forms.

9. Check the seal--make sure the lids do not pop! Store unopened jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.

**Jars boiling!**

**Lids and bands simmering**

**Preparing to boil the finished jars**

**All finished and ready to go in the cabinet!!**

Monday, November 7, 2011

Hot Apple Cider (Crockpot version)

Recently I helped out with a post-wedding shower at church, and brought, among other things, hot apple cider. Since its fall-ish outside, I felt the need to bring something that went with the season. I ended up with this recipe from Tasty Kitchen, which I then adapted. It turned out very good, and everybody seemed pleased with the results!

Hot Apple Cider
adapted from a recipe by Tasty Kitchen user babskitchen

1 gallon apple cider
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 apple
1 orange
3 tsp whole cloves
4 cinammon sticks, each broken in half
1/4 tsp allspice
2 dashes nutmeg

Pour the apple cider into a Crockpot (mine was a 6 quart Crockpot and worked perfect). Add in brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, allspice, and nutmeg. Turn on low.

Cut up the orange into 4 slices. Drop into cider mixture. Cut the apple in half and stick cloves all over the apple, both sides. Drop apple halves into cider mixture.

Cook on low for 4-6 hours.

Peanut Butter Cookies

This is my favorite, most easy go-to recipe. These cookies are so yummy, and only 4 ingredients!

Peanut Butter Cookies
adapted slightly from Paula Deen's Kitchen Classics cookbook

1 c. peanut butter
1 c. sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all 4 ingredients. Drop tablespoon sized cookies onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle each cookie with sugar and flatten out with a fork, if desired. 

Bake for 12-14 minutes, depending on desired doneness of cookie. (12 minutes will get you a wonderfully squishy cookie!)

Sour Cream Noodle Bake

My Mom downloaded this recipe from the Pioneer Woman website and was going to make it for just her and my Dad, but I offered to make it and clean up if she would buy the ingredients so all four of us could enjoy it. It was a good deal! :)

I liked this casserole, but it ended up tasting like lasagna to me. Which is fine, but I guess I just expected it to have its own unique taste. I made some adjustments to the original recipe to make it a tad healthier.

Sour Cream Noodle Bake
as adapted from The Pioneer Woman, here

1 pound ground chicken breast
1 15oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
black pepper
8 oz. weight egg noodles
1/2 c. light sour cream
1-1/4 c. low fat small curd cottage cheese
1/3 c. green onion
1 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brown ground chicken in a large skillet. Drain any fat and add tomato sauce, salt, and plenty of pepper. Stir together, and simmer while you prepare other ingredients.

Cook egg noodles until al dente.** Drain and set aside.

Combine sour cream, cottage cheese, and more pepper. Add to noodles and stir. Add green onions to this mixture and stir.

With a prepared baking dish (need a big one here, like 9x13-ish size), add half the noodles to the dish. Top with half the meat mixture, then sprinkle on half the cheese. Repeat with noodles, meat, and cheese. 

Bake for 20 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

**I have this instruction starred because I don't want you to be like me. Usually when I cook pasta, I put it right into the water and then turn on the heat. Mostly because I think waiting for water to boil first is dumb. And I am impatient. I took this approach with the egg noodles, and I am here to tell you, DON'T. They turned out fine, but they were way over cooked. Like, incredibly soft. Not the way a noodle should be. It ended up being fine in this dish, and no one said anything about it, but for the future, definitely boil water FIRST, and then put in the egg noodles.