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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Working date night? French Bread Pizza!

OK can I tell you that, in my honest opinion, my BFF Tammy makes THE BEST french bread pizza I ever had!  Now being Italian that's saying something.  And lately I have been CRAVING it!  Since we don't live just a couple houses down anymore, it's not easy to beg her to make it for me. :0)  On top of the fact that I think secretly my husband is a pizza junkie.  I swear EVERY weekend he mentions pizza.  Problem is none of the pizza places around us thrill me.  I guess I spoiled myself with my homemade pizza and nothing else will do.  Add to it we HAVE to finish getting organized here.  We still have stuff in boxes from moving back in the house after the flood repairs.  And have stuff to consolidate since we got rid of our storage unit.  Yes I KNOW it sounds like a lot and sometimes seems very overwhelming.  So our plan was to put up our shelves to empty 3 more bins.  But we have to eat.  So why not calm the craving with something quick?  Oh yeah!  You guessed it!  French Bread Pizza!!!

The thing about it is that it's YOUR pizza so make it YOUR way!  Hubby's never made it so he watched and then made his.  LOL  It all starts with the ingredients.  Check your pantry, check the fridge, and run out and get what you don't have.  
Here's what we used:

 I know, I know!  People say there isn't much difference between regular marinara sauce and pizza sauce.  I say for me I like a pizza sauce.  It's thicker than regular marinara but use what you like and what you have.  I love this sauce and use it whenever I make my homemade pizza.  Pretty simple ingredients.  I forgot to pick up bacon, so bacon pieces would have to do in a pinch. ;0)  So what do you do?  Load it on!  However you like it!  Pretty simple right?  Though I do recommend if you are going to put on onions, peppers, or mushrooms you give them a quick sautee.  I did mine separately but you can do them all together.  I love garlic, and thankfully so does hubby so I sprinkled the peppers and mushrooms with a little TS Garlic Garlic while they were cooking.  I also used my TS Roasted Garlic Infused Oil and lightly basted the bread before piling on the ingredients.  My last ingredient was a sprinkle of TS Dried Tomato & Garlic Pesto seasoning.  Gave it a little something.  Hubby likes it pretty simple.  So while he used most of the ingredients, he skipped the sprinkling of seasoning, which is fine by me.  LOL

Then pop it on a baking sheet and bake in 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.  Once you see the cheese is melted, which won't take long and since everything else is already cooked you're just looking to melt the cheese and warm it all up.  You can take it out now OR do what I did and put it under the broiler for a few minutes to get that nice brown, crispy cheese.  
Like I said ... quick, easy and we were putting our shelves up in no time!  It wasn't my BFF's french bread pizza but it was VERY tasty and calmed the craving!  I'm hoping she makes it soon ... otherwise I will have to resort to making this again!  Of course I don't think hubby will be complaining.  So raid the fridge and pantry!  Pile on what you want!  Pizza is only limited by your imagination and this definitely is not a budget buster!  So make what you like, however you like as for this pizza there really isn't a recipe.  But the best ingredient to ANY dish is you ... Enjoy!!!!!!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Mushrooms and Farro? You heard right ....

First let me give props where props are due!  THANK YOU SO MUCH Anne from Webicurean for the recipe for Farrotto (Farro Risotto) with Mushroom Medley.  Well not just for the recipe but for answering my questions too. :0)

So it starts like this.  I was scrolling through Pinterest and came across a pin for this and thought "OK there's a recipe I could try."  See I used to watch Food Network RELIGIOUSLY!  And I would see Giada De Laurentiis cook with farro so many times but could NEVER find it at my local market.  So I TOTALLY gave up any thought of being able to not only TRY this wonderful grain, er uh well the definition is still not clear, but to be able to cook with it.  Then while at this neighborhood market, the light shown down, and there it was.  OK it wasn't as dramatic as all that but I was at a neighborhood market and while strolling down the international aisle there it was.  Italian Peralized Farro!  YAY!!!!  Now what do I make with it.  So for the last couple weeks this has sat in my pantry while I tried to figure out what to make with it.  Then when all hope was lost, while scrolling through Pinterest I spied this recipe.  It seemed the perfect side to go with the pork end chops and roasted carrots I was making.  BUT, you KNEW that was coming right?  While reviewing the recipe, I of course had to make some tweaks, and noticed that it called for white wine.  My small problem?  I don't drink so I don't have nor know how to pick out wine.  *sighs*  Maybe I will just have to go back to the drawing board.  Nope!  I WANT to make this!  I have all the ingredients, even with my tweaks, darn it!  So I messaged Anne, can I replace the wine with stock I ask.  Yes was the answer.  Woo Hoo!  So here is what mine looked like!

I KNOW!  Looks darn good right?!  I didn't deviate much from the original recipe.  But I did make some changes.
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon EVOO
1/2 Small Onion, minced
1 Teaspoon of TS Garlic Garlic
6 oz Crimini mushrooms, sliced (These are also called Baby Bellas)
4 oz Button mushtooms, sliced
6 oz Shiitake , sliced 
Sprinkle of salt, this draws out the wonderful juices of the mushrooms and onions.
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
1 Teaspoon Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 Tablespoon EVOO
1 Cup Farro,soaked overnight*
2 Cups Each Chicken and Vegetable stock, heated
½ Cup Grated Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, melt the butter and EVOO. 
Add the shallots, sprinkle with TS Garlic Garlic and saute until soft. 
Stir in the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt and cook until tender. 
Add in thyme, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, heat the EVOO in a medium saucepan, and stir in the farro, tossing until well coated and slightly toasted. It will release a nutty sent when it's toasted.
Add the 1/2 cup of stock, and simmer, stirring, until absorbed. 
Add the stock about ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition and simmering until the liquid is absorbed.
When there’s only about 1 cup of the stock remaining, stir in the mushroom mixture, add another ½ cup of the stock, stir, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until done. 
Add the remaining stock if necessary. 
Stir in the Parmesan cheese, and serve.

*Note: If using pearled or pre-cooked farro, soaking overnight can be skipped. 

If you find or order this grain this is definitely one to try.  I have twin sisters, one would NEVER try this dish.  She doesn't like mushrooms!  WHAT!  Who doesn't like mushrooms?  *sighs* One of the questions for the universe. LOL  And another said the house smelled really good!  Of course the smell was really good but the taste was DELICIOUS!  Hubby had 2 helpings and asked if he could have the left overs for Saturday's work lunch.  Love when compliments are in abundance!  Try Anne's recipe or mine, or better yet make it your own!  You are only limited by your imagination!  Use a different combination of mushrooms, use fresh herbs instead of dried, but no matter what you change or which recipe you use remember the best ingredient to any recipe is you .... Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Spaghetti Squash not just for marinara!

Wow!  I am getting so excited being back here and being able to blog again!  I so missed it.  Writing, cooking, baking, and researching are such an outlet for me!  Mom always said I should be a writer. LOL  Now I know that men go right for the recipe, they don't want all the fluff.  Well the fluff is funny, or serious. Anyone can post a recipe, my fluff isn't just about me but can be very useful information. ;0)

So here's my fluff for today!  We were shopping the other day and I saw that they had the spaghetti squash on sale.  Now last time we had it I think the only reason hubby ate it was because I cooked it.  Nice reason but I wanted him to like it!  I want him to skip the carbs sometimes or at the very least lessen them.  So I got the look when I picked one up but figured I would try again and hopefully get a better result.  I just didn't want to do the same old "throw some marinara on it, it's just like spaghetti".  Umm not!  Well you can but I wanted hubby to want to try it again.  So researching options I found a wonderful recipe that I thought I would just have to try.  Prevention's Spaghetti Squash Casserole!  Looked and sound good but I wanted great!  So with my few little changes I made the recipe my own and made it DELICIOUS!  MY health nut brother tried it and said it was " Really Good", talk about compliment.  Now I can't wait for hubby to try it!
A lot of my changes are more to layering flavors.  I LOVE when you carry a flavor throughout the food, especially when doing a casserole or one pot meal.  To me it is very important while others might think that layering of different flavors is better.  This is wear YOUR tastes should be asserted. :0)

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed
Sprinkle of Tastefully Simple's Garlic Garlic
Couple grinds of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400
Coat baking sheet with nonstick spray.
Season squash and place cut side down on the baking sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes or until tender when pierced with a sharp knife or fork.
Let cool until you can handle.
Using a fork, scrape and separate the squash strands into a large bowl.

1/2 lb Lean Ground Chuck
1/4 lb Decased Italian Sausage
In a medium skillet, fry up meat until done.
Strain and set aside in large bowl you will be putting squash into.

Here I used the grease that was created by the meat since there wasn't that much or you can use 
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 medium carrot, peeled cut in half and sliced.
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped  (I didn't have garlic so I used 2 teaspoons of my TS's Garlic Garlic)
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup medium diced baby bella mushrooms
2 baby or 1 small pepper of your choice (I used 1 yellow and 1 red baby peppers)
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup (8 ounces) 1% cottage cheese
1/2 cup (4 ounces) shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
3 Tablesppons dried parsley
3 tablespoons seasoned dry bread crumbs (I ground up some cheesy garlic croutons and used those)

While the squash is cooking, warm the oil or use left over grease from meat in a medium skillet set over medium heat. 
Add the carrots and sautee for a few minutes (3 - 4 as they don't have to be totally cooked because it will go back in the oven.)
Add the onion, garlic, and basil. 
Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. 
Add the tomatoes and cook for and additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until the mixture is dry.
Remove from heat and let cool down.

To the bowl with the squash, add the cottage cheese, mozzarella, parsley, and the onion mixture. 

Stir to mix. Pour into the prepared 13 X 9 baking dish. Sprinkle with bread crumbs.  (I used the shell of the squash to bake it in.)

Bake for 30 minutes, or until bubbly and heated through.

It not only tasted delicious but smelled REALLY good while cooking.  It definitely has less carbs and more vegetable in it.  And with the cheese the kids will never know they're not eating real spaghetti.  Please give it a try and let me know what you think.  I'm thinking maybe next time to try a tex-mex version.  Well off to get more squash! ;0)  Try it at home, change what you will but remember the best ingredient to any recipe is you!  Enjoy!!!!!

Friday, September 13, 2013

I'm Back! And there's nothing like updating a favorite!

Hi Everyone!  So sorry I haven't been on in a while!  Life has been VERY chaotic!  Less than 3 years ago our town flooded, April 18th of this year it flooded yet again!  Our poor house had 12 - 14 inches of water in our living space.  Thankful for insurance but oh the work.  First clean up, then deal with the insurance company, then pack up what you have left that could be salvaged, add to it getting the repairs done, and FINALLY unpacking and buying new stuff to make everything livable.  Moving in back into your family home was fun at first but when you realize you really have no space to call your own, you get very depressed.  Plus you have to work around people that already have a pattern and live there.  Not easy or fun!  Oh but let's add to the chaos!  I know I mentioned about starting a business in one of my last posts.  Well I did!  I am not an Independent Consultant for TASTEFULLY SIMPLE!  Yes I started it while I had no home to speak of.  ;0)  So you will see some recipes added with products from their line, like this one!  I will also include my website if you're interested in ordering any of their products.  Let me tell you I had my Grand Opening and it took longer to shop for the stuff to make the samples from the party kit, bake or refrigerate them, or even clean the house.  The products make it SIMPLE!  Plus the website has 100's of their own recipes that you can browse for ideas!  I know I know!  I preach making it from scratch but when you don't have time these are so worth it.  The products themselves taste like their made from scratch but add your own tweaks and no one would EVER be able to tell. 

So that being said ... during this chaotic time a lot of quick, easy dinners or take out was done.  Trying to cook in someone else's is so hard!  So finally kitchen back together, with a stocked pantry and refrigerator.  Woo Hoo!  It's go time!

With it being hot the last couple days and trying to eat healthier I was trying to make something that was yummy and healthy.  Of course it decided to get cooler today but that so did not change my plan.  Actually make a slight change and still got the yummy!!!!

Who doesn't love a BLT?  What's not to love?  But let's update it a little!

Above is my updated version of a BLT!  It's a Chicken, bacon, tomato, lettuce wrap!

I roasted the chicken using Tastefully Simple spices of Garlic Garlic, Onion Onion, and Bacon Bacon.  See they're so good you have to double the name. LOL  Since the spices have salt already in them I just added some fresh ground black pepper and roasted at 350 for 45 min to 1 hour.  Make sure chicken is done by using a meat thermometer.  The chicken's internal temperature should be 165.  Once done remove from oven and set aside to cool.  Once cooled, grab a fork and start shredding.  I used 2 chicken breasts for us since I wanted some left overs.

Lemon Basil dressing
1/3 Cup Olive Oil Mayo
2 Tablespoons of Greek Yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 Teaspoon minced fresh basil
1/2 Teaspoon of TS Garlic Garlic
Whisk all of the above ingredients together and chill for 1/2 an hour.  You can add more lemon or lemon zest, fresh basil, or garlic to taste.

Fry and chop up some bacon or you can take the easy route and just buy real bacon pieces.  This is all to taste of course but about 3 - 4 slices should do it!

Mix the chicken, bacon, and 1/2 to 3/4 of the lemon basil dressing together and set aside.

I chopped and seeded the tomato and used Boston or Bib lettuce for the wrap.  I love the texture and this lettuce makes it easy to use as a wrap.

I served the extra dressing on the side because I don't like my salads heavy or soupy with any kind of dressing.

We had a side of broccoli, cauliflower, and orzo pasta.  Lite, healthy, and SO yummy!  It really is a must try.  Hubby liked it so much he asked what other kinds of lettuce wraps I could make.  NICE!   

Please try this even if you don't follow the recipe exactly.  It will definitely be one that everyone can enjoy!  But no matter what you change, whether you use a different dressing or just straight mayo the best ingredient to any recipe is YOU!  Enjoy!!!!!