everything but the kitchen sink pizza.

The weather this week has been to die for. Seriously. It’s in the mid 60s during my morning walks, cozying up in a sweatshirt to take Miss Ellie out. Let’s be honest. It feels like fall. And not only that but in the morning meeting the other day a producer pitched a story about the leaves changing. Fall is almost here folks.

So that got me thinking – if fall’s almost here than summer is almost over (yes, brain science I know). And well I have been slacking majorly on my summer to-do list. And an easy one that I’ve been meaning to check off – making pizza!

I had every intention of 1) making my own dough and 2) making this pizza. But for the first time all summer I didn’t have any zucchini on hand. As for the own dough part…well I saw this at the store and it looked so eassssssy.


So no zucchini. But I did have about every other veggie and lots of other goodies to use up before they went bad. So here comes the pizza with everything but the kitchen sink. Because it all depends on what’s in your fridge this recipe is a mere guideline. Got some zucchini? Throw it on there. Let all the veggies hang out!

Ingredients:

  • Pizza crust (use your own recipe or cheat like me and used Pillsbury’s new artisan pizza crust)
  • tomato
  • red onion, sliced
  • assorted peppers, sliced
  • kalamata olives
  • garlic, grated
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesean
  • 1 cup apple chicken sausage
  • olive oil

How-To

Follow the instructions for your dough. Preheat the oven, roll it out, prebake for about 8 mins.

Rummage through your fridge and find the things you want to toss on your pizza. First off, check out this pepper. Have you ever seen a purple bell pepper? Yeah me either! (Unless you answered yes, and well than you live a more exciting life than me).

Slice and dice all your veggies. Grate your garlic. Chop up that yummy apple chicken sausage that has been hiding under everything else in your fridge drawer. Rub down the dough with olive oil. Pile on the toppings.

Top that all off with some cheese. I had lots of feta and parmesan. And to finish that off I dried out some oregano from my herb garden and sprinkle that yumminess on top.

Bake away! And obviously clean up while it’s cooking…or not. I made this the other night and well I just washed the pan tonight…

Now enjoy! And well if you’re like me than you’ll begin to enjoy it before you remember to take a finished photo. Whoops…

 

So what do you have in your fridge that you can top a pizza with? Let me know what you create!

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Beer BBQ Pulled Chicken

There’s this pesky little rule in Tennessee (maybe just Knoxville? Not sure) that you aren’t allowed to have a grill on apartment patios. Obviously when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Lots of apartments, wooden balconies, one lose spark – I get it. But on holiday weekends it’s practically un-American to not have BBQ.

So what’s an apartment-living girl to do? Use her crockpot!

And nothing goes better with BBQ than beer so this is  double whammy.

Beer BBQ Pulled Chicken
(Adapted from How Sweet Eats)

3 skinless chicken breasts
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
8 oz beer (I used Sam Adams Summer Ale)
16 oz BBQ sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)

How – To:

1. Nice thing about a crock pot? No need to defrost the chicken! Just pop those guys right in. Cover them in the spices.

2. Pour in beer and add the BBQ sauce.

3. I turned my crockpot on high and let it work for about two hours and then set it to low the for the next three. But in general it’s about 4 hours on high, 8 hours on low.

4. Shred up the chicken and put it back in the sauce and let it soak up for 15-20 minutes.

5. Put a big ole’ pile on a soft bun and if you’re like me – add even more BBQ sauce.

6. Pair with your BBQ side, corn for me, and ENJOY!

Apple Crisp

The perfect apple crisp is simple. Sugar, flour, cinnamon, apples and butter.

5 ingredients, 1 delicious dessert.

So with a simple recipe, I’ll go with a simple post – pictures and directions – no need to jumble it with my ramblings. Just bake and enjoy.

Apple Crisp
Ingredients:

  •  3 cups sliced apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/8 cup water
How-To:
You’ll need 3-4 apples depending on their size. Cut them into thin slices. I leave the skin on because I think it adds texture as well as some color but if you aren’t a skin fan go ahead and peel them.
Lay them in a 8×8 pan. You can make it pretty but it’s going to get covered with crumbly goodness in a little so there’s no need. As long as there are even layers then you’re all good. How  many layers? Well enough so you would have big bite of apples and enough so that you can’t see the bottom of the pan.
In a bowl cream the butter and the sugar. You want it to still be crumbly so if you’re using an electric mixer don’t over mix.
Add the flour. Keep mixing. Feel free to sneak some bites of the pieces that fly out of the bowl…they’re very yummy.
Drizzle the water over the apples in the pan (this will create some steaming action in the oven) and then sprinkle with cinnamon.
Top it all off with your crumble mixture. Cover all the apples…because who wants to eat just a baked apple? Bake for 30-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Take it out when it’s golden and perfect.
Ta-da! The perfect apple crisp.
Friendly tip: If you have leftovers  (if you do then you have excellent self-control) don’t cover them with foil. It will become a soggy mess. Keep it on the counter and if you need to, just  lay a paper towel over the top. It won’t go bad. You can then eat it for breakfast the next day. That would be a great way to start the day.

Better-Than-Dad’s Chicken Parmesean

My dad is a phenomenal cook. He’s one of those cooks that keeps it very simple but always turns up something fantastic. Some of his all time best are his grilled chicken, steak fries, and his world-famous spaghetti sauce (which I make all the time). He also makes a pretty good chicken parm…but the other night I as able to call him and tell him I bested his cooking.

Yup that’s right, I beat my dad. Of course he was skeptical, but he said I could cook it for him when I come home for Thanksgiving.

It’s cheesy, saucy and really good. I made it with baked eggplant fries…sooo good. Get excited for those…

Better-Than-Dad’s Chicken Parmesan
Adapted from Food.com  (and Dad)

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • tomato sauce (plain)
  • diced tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 2 cups italian dressing
  • 1/2 cup parmesan
  • tsp basil
  • 2 tsp oregano, divided
  • tsp dried parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
How-To:
Marinate the chicken in the dressing. You can use whatever you have in the fridge…mine was something like zesty italian. Mmm.
Let it marinate for a couple of hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
When the oven’s ready. In a bowl mix together the parm and the remaining herbs. Dredge the marinated chicken in the mixture. Put the chicken in a baking dish and top with your now-simmered-to-perfection tomato sauce. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
This is a great time to work on your sauce. The key to my dad’s sauce (I kept that part of his recipe) is PLAIN tomato sauce. Sautee the onion and garlic in a little bit of olive oil. Let those carmalize. Once they’re done, add the tomato sauce and diced tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, half of the oregano and a bay leaf. Cover and simmer.
The longer it simmers, the more flavor.
Pour the sauce over the chicken when your timer goes off. Top it with the cheese. Bake for 10 more minutes.
Now trust me, you’re going to want to dive right in, but for the sake of your taste buds. Hold off for 10 seconds…if you can….

Vodka Mint Lemonade

I am so sorry that I am such a blog tease.

WEEKS ago, I posted this picture – taunting you with a drink hiding in the background of my lemon sorbet recipe that I promised I would share with you.

And I failed. Blog fail. It’s funny because teasing is a trick we use in journalism all the time. “Coming up – which of your favorite vegetables could cause cancer…At the top of the hour we’ll bring you the latest on the Casey Anthony trial…etc.”  You know what I’m talking about.

It’s all a teasing game (I even wrote an article about it once) but the key is that if you tease it, you have to dish it.

So better late than never…I present you with Vodka Mint Lemonade…you can go make some and forget all about my little blog fail.

Vodka Mint Lemonade

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 2 oz vodka
  • several sprigs of mint
  • 2 oz club soda
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • extra sugar for rim
How-To:
Start with the hardest task of squeezing your lemons (I say hard because remember when I squeeze all these lemons…hands hurt for days). For 1 oz of lemon juice you’ll need about one lemon.
In a martini shaker, add juice, vodka and sugar. Shake well. Take your martini glass and rub a lemon along the rim, dip in sugar.
Pour your cocktail into the glass and top with club soda and mint.

If you’re like me and the best part of any drink is the sugary rim, you’ll find yourself with half a drink left but a sugarless rim.
This is where you get creative and find ways to put more sugar onto the rim…this might include using your finger…or some other trick that you should probably share with me now.
Again apologizes for the tease but hopefully now that you’re all liquored up on vodka and hyped up on sugar, you’ll forgive me!

Greek Chicken Burgers

Greek food is a weakness of mine. Probably because my dad’s side of the family is from a little town in Greece (actually because of some war, it’s in Turkey now…but that’s just a technicality) and I have been eating incredible Greek food since I was a baby.

From spanikopita to lamb to saganaki, if it’s Greek, I probably love it. But sadly my cooking skills have failed when I try to copy my family’s recipes. But I have found that I can incorporate the flavors of the food I love into things that are simple enough to make.

I can make hamburgers. Simple. You mix some spices with some ground beef, mash into a patty and grill. Ta da! So when I came across a Greek chicken burger recipe I had to try it out. Spinach, feta, oregano and a sad attempt at tzatziki sauce and I have a delicious dinner!

Greek Chicken Burgers
Adapted from Kitchen Parade

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces frozen spinach leaves (defrosted and drained)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • 2 Tbsp panko or dry bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 pound ground chicken
How-To:
First off defrost your spinach. If you have time set it out in the morning, if not place it in a colander with a paper towel (to prevent little spinach particles from escaping!) and place under hot water. After it’s defrosted you want to make sure to squeeze out ALL of the excess water, otherwise your burgers will be soggy.
In a bowl, mix together all the ingredients. I used my hands – and it was VERY messy. But also kind of fun. Squishy, squishy chicken goo.
Form the chicken goo into five patties. (I was only cooking for myself so I put four of the patties into individual ziplock bags and froze  them. Hello easy dinner for the next week!)
Grill the patties on a grill, grill pan or frying pan. Let sit in the pan for five minutes without touching, flip and cook the other side. If you’re fancy, check their doneness with a thermometer (should be 165F) or if you’re like me, mutilate your burger a little and peek in the middle.
As for serving. I was trying to be healthy so I didn’t put it on a bun. I just topped mine with red onions and served it with cucumbers and my sad attempt at tzatziki sauce.
Ok let’s talk about this sauce. So I really like tzatziki sauce. But the one I made was not so great… The recipe called for 1) a food processor – which I don’t have and 2) tomatoes – which I don’t like.
But I made it anyway. In a blender I combined 1/2 green pepper, 1/4 cucumber, 1 roma tomato, 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, salt and pepper. Well it was disgusting. It was watery and tasted like a took a bite out of a tomato. Gross. So I tossed it in the garbage disposal.
Attempt number 2: I blended the remaining Greek yogurt, cucumber and salt/pepper.  That was MUCH better. No tomato nonsense. Still wasn’t great, but it was decent. Next time, I’ll probably stick with store-bought.

Fudgey Gluten-Free Brownies

Gluten-Free is the way to be.

Ha, that’s a joke right? Well in my book it is because I simply cannot imagine a world where I can’t consume pasta, bread, cookies and the thousands of other things that contain gluten that also happen to make me very happy. But sadly some people cannot eat gluten (yes, it really is very sad for them). And my friend Elyse (and fellow Executive Producer at ATVN) is one of those people, and even worse, it was only this summer that she discovered this fact.

Years ago I baked a friend who was allergic to gluten some brownies that tasted like cardboard. But because he had been diagnosed as a kid with his allergy he thought they were delicious because he had never eaten anything else. I knew the situation would not be the same for Elyse. So when it came time to bring some baked goods into the newsroom I leaped onto the gluten-free bandwagon (haven’t you heard it’s ALL the rage?) and whipped up some brownies. 

Let me tell you. They were pretty darn good! I ended up using a mix (Bob’s Red Mill Brownie Mix) but am also going to try this recipe at some point. 

Moist, fudgey and a little cakey. They were just what a brownie should be (although they did lack that crisp top that I enjoy so much, but hey, they were a far improvement from chocolate cardboard.)

Fudgey Gluten-Free Brownies

How-to:
Preheat your own to 350 and spray a 13×9 inch pan with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, pour in the mix.
Melt your butter and gather up the other ingredients.  
Add the butter, egg, warm water and vanilla to the bowl. 
You could also add in nuts or chocolate chips to the mix at the moment (I almost put in some nuts to keep me from eating the brownies but decided that for the sake of this blog I should be able to tell you what they taste like. So it’s all for you blog friends.)
Spread batter in pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. I always check on my brownies at five-minute intervals, poking them with a toothpick (or in this case a fork because we don’t seem to have toothpicks in our new apartment – add that to the list of toaster and electric mixer) to ensure they don’t overcook.
Let the brownies cool and slice ’em up to serve to your newsroom full of hungry journalist who never even guessed these chocolate morsels lacked gluten!
You won’t see me swearing off pasta or cookies anytime soon but it’s good to know that I could get by with this (slightly) healthier version of one of my favorite desserts. Enjoy!

Rainbow M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies

There’s nothing better than a combination of two delicious things to create one even more amazing thing. So when I found a recipe for these m&m cookies, I decided to add chocolate chips, therefore turning my favorite cookie (chocolate chip) into something even better because it uses my favorite candy. (I mean really, m&m’s are the best. Am I right? Some might say boring but I say simple and perfect.)

So many pretty colors!

The recipe was a little…well specific. The eggs needed to be room temperature and the butter needed to be melted and then cooled. And wait till you see how it suggested to shape the cookie… But what I have learned from my recent cooking adventures is that for best results, it is KEY to follow those tiny details. One detail of this recipe was altered and I paid the price. Again, I’m learning here people, learning with every recipe and every recipe misstep.

Rainbow M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from HowSweetEats 

Ingredients:
2 cups + 2 tbsp enriched all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 sticks of salted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup M&Ms
1/2 cup giant chocolate chips

How-To:

Mix the flour and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside (yes, include those two extra tablespoons…why? Well I have no idea but it says to so do it). Then in a larger mixing bowl mix the sugar and butter. (Make sure it’s cooled, this may force you to just hang out and stare at your mix for a quite a bit of time…you could pass some of that but sneaking m&m’s from the bowl…)


They should look like the photo below.

Side note: This step I feel is the key reason why homemade cookies are so much more superior than store-bought dough. The brown sugar. Brown sugar gives cookies (and more specifically the dough) that really sweet, grainy texture that just melts in your mouth. End side note.

Next add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla and stir until mixed. Slowly add the flour. Mix it all together. 
Fold in the m&m’s and giant chocolate chips (if you must use regular size ones…well I won’t judge you. You could also use mini m&m’s. Those are pretty cute).

OK this is where it gets strange. Form a ball with the dough. For large cookies, 1/4 cup size balls, for smaller ones, 2 tablespoon six balls. Now tear the ball in half (weird I know). And then stack the torn up halves on top on each other on your cookie sheet. Repeat.

{see how they’re little cookie dough stacks? Cute and functional}


Now I was a skeptic too. And I’m not totally sold on the fact that this really changed the cookies tastiness or not, but it did look like a puffier cookie and it did do something about making it softer or something. I don’t understand the “science” behind this cookie tearing method, but just do it and you’ll have happy cookies for a happy stomach.

Bake for 8-12 minutes. This will depend on the size of your cookie. So basically just watch them. Because there’s nothing worse than walking away for a minute to pour another glass of wine and your cookies have browned. So sad. But that didn’t happen this time! (Probably because I kept the wine close to the oven…)

I was making my cookies for the Open House for Annenberg TV News, so I practiced super self-control and only ate two. But everyone LOVED them at the open house so I was happy my cookies went to making other people happy instead of simply making my butt bigger…

Oh right. You want to know what that tiny detail was that I skipped out on? So take note that the recipe called for salted butter. Didn’t have any of that. So I just added salt to my flour, baking soda mixture. Hmmm. Wrong move. Not sure if I simply added to much salt (since I was just guestimating) or if I shouldn’t have added any, but the cookies were definitely a bit on the salty side. Luckily they were crammed full of so many m&m’s and chocolate chips that really no one cared that there was a pinch too much salt.

It’s a learning process people. And one I don’t mind doing homework for.

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits

While I really love to cook, I will be the first to admit that I have a long way to go before I can call myself a good cook. I mean I can follow a recipe and usually it turns out looking similar to the picture, but there are always those occasions where I didn’t follow each step perfectly, and they look like sad imitations of the pretty picture.

But the other night I had one of those perfect cooking moments. I came across a recipe for garlic cheddar biscuits (which I LOVE) and they also happened to be low-fat. Win-win! But while I was making them I thought the batter looked a little thick and I burnt the garlic juuuuust a little so I was already a bit deflated. But turns out my biscuits were anything but.

When I opened up the oven to peek at the little guys, my biscuits looked like biscuits! They had risen into cute little biscuit shapes and were perfectly golden. Once I topped them with the parsley-garlic butter, well you would have thought a real cook had made them! Maybe I’m getting better than I thought…

Garlic Cheddar Biscuits
Adapted from  SkinnyTaste

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 cups Heart Smart Bisquick
1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese
2/3 cup fat free milk

How-To:
Preheat your oven to 400°. And first things first, mince up your garlic.
And while your mincing away, start melting the butter in a small frying pan. Add half of the garlic to the melted butter and saute on low heat for about a minute. Remove from the heat and add your chopped parsley.
You can let that hang out on the stove for a bit.

In a large bowl, combine Bisquick, cheddar cheese and remaining garlic. Stir in the milk and be careful not to over mix. The batter will be thick and should have some lumps.
Drop tbsp size balls of batter onto a Pam-sprayed cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes. If you’re lucky like me than they will have turned into beautiful biscuits. Or if you’re like me on most other days, well they won’t, but I bet they still taste good!
Drizzle the biscuits with the melted butter, parsley, garlic mixture. Bake for another 5 minutes or until perfectly golden.
                                           {take a big bite!}
And because they’re low-fat, there’s less guilt when you eat 3 (or 4) of them while you wait for the rest of dinner to cook! Yumminess!

Lemon Sorbet

Hello blog friends!! I’m so sorry for my lack of posting. I have been living, breathing sorority recruitment for the past week or so. Basically that means I have been spending my days singing, dancing and conversing till my voice is a thing of the past. But luckily sharing this post with you doesn’t require the voice from my mouth but instead the one that flows from my fingers. To help soothe my sad poor throat I came across this lemon sorbet recipe.

I love love love lemons. Like I eat them like normal people eat orange slices. (Yes I’m well aware this is bad for my teeth). And so when I saw that I could make lemon sorbet without an ice cream maker I jumped on the chance. Now I will admit this would have been quicker and easier with an ice cream maker, but hey a girl’s got to work with what she’s got.

Lemon Mint Sorbet 
Adapted from Kitchenography 

1 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
lemon zest

How-To:

So with so few ingredients, you guessed it, this recipe is pretty simple. It just takes a little patience and LOTS of lemons.

First of put a 8 or 9 inch pan in the freezer. For best results use metal but I only had glass on hand. Then it’s time to make your simple syrup. Combine the water and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Then reduce the heat and let it simmer until all the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat an allow it to cool. About 15 minutes or so.

In the meantime, start juicing your lemons. Now if you’re cool, and have a juicer, your hands are going to be  a lot happier with you than mine were with me. Look at all those lemons…Yeah, I was about ready to give up until I came up with a little side recipe…see him chilling in the corner… you’ll have to check back soon for that recipe.So back to the lemon sorbet. After you’ve juiced all the lemons in the world (or so it seemed) add the juice, simple syrup and lemon zest to your chilled pan. Pop it in the freezer. The recipe said to check back in an hour to stir but even after three hours mine was still all liquid. It took about 8 hours total. That was a loooong wait.

But well worth it.When it’s frozen, use a fork to scrap it until you’ve got a pan of icy lemon crumbles. Spoon into a chilled bowl as it melts faster than regular ice cream/sorbet. 
I added some fresh mint because really lemon and mint are just perfect for each other. Then I enjoyed a bowl or two (or three…hey it was all to help my throat get better…) Now with a soothed throat I’m off for more singing!