Sunday, August 28, 2011

Weekends = Build-Your-Own-Pizza Night!

I love pizza. Period.  I could literally eat it for every single meal.  Too bad it's so unhealthy!  We love to make homemade pizza and as crazy as it may sound it's really easy to make your own homemade, whole wheat pizza dough.

Tonight we are making Magherita Pizza! Yummy!  First I made a batch of whole wheat pizza dough and Sam helped me roll it out for our pizza.  He love, love, loves Margherita Pizza.  It's the craziest thing!

Margherita Pizza on Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

1 1/2-2 cups low fat mozzarella cheese
1/4-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tomato, thinly sliced
8-10 fresh basil leaves
*optional- roasted garlic
2 tbs olive oil

*Roasted garlic is not optional in our house! We love it, it adds great flavor and is really easy to make.  Cut the top off of a bunch of garlic, drizzle some olive oil on the top, wrap it in foil and roast in a 325 degree oven for about an hour.  When you're ready to build your pizza, open it up and squeeze the roasted garlic out directly onto the crust.  It is delicious!

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Roll out dough to desired thickness and bake on a pizza pan for about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven and coat with garlic, then olive oil.  Sprinkle cheese on top and place tomatoes and basil on top of cheese.  Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes until cheese is bubbly and just beginning to brown.

Ready to go in the oven!
One of the great things about this dough recipe is that it makes enough dough for 2 large pizzas when rolled out.  We never need two so I always roll the extra out into smaller crusts (small enough to fit in a freezer bag) bake them for 5-7 minutes and freeze them for a later meal.  They are great when you just don't feel like making dinner or when Sam's BFF, Emerson, comes over for a lunch date!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

I love baking, and bread is one of my favorite things to make.  I'm sure some of you are wondering how I can consider homemade pizza dough something fast and easy.  I promise I haven't lost my mind! This is a very easy and super yummy pizza crust recipe.

In order to be completely honest about the difficulty level of this recipe I will say, that I do have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer.  It is my very favorite kitchen appliance and it isn't necessary for this recipe, but it's one of the reasons I think this recipe is so easy.  I honestly cannot remember where this recipe came from, it is one I've had forever and we use it for many different dishes.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
1 tsp salt
about 1/2 cup warm water

Mix yeast, 1/2 cup warm water and 1 tsp sugar together in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, then add 1 tbs olive oil. Measure the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and add the yeast mixture.  Add the additional water slowly until doughy, but not sticky.  Knead for an additional 1-2 minutes.  Remove and place in a well oiled bowl.  Allow it to rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in size.  Punch down and then use for whatever...calzones, pizza...anything!  Baking instructions vary depending on what you are making, but generally it should be baked at about 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Grown Up Chicken Strips

I really enjoy making grown up versions of some of Sam's favorite meals.  This is one of our favorites.  It's really easy and quick and every body is happy when this meal is on the menu!

Parmesan Chicken Strips with Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce

1 package chicken tenders or 1 large chicken breast sliced into tenders
1 1/2 cups Homemade Bread Crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
1 cup milk

Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce:
3 tbs balsamic vinegar
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper
1/2 - 1 tbs mayonnaise

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Place chicken strips in milk and soak for up to 30 minutes.  Mix Homemade Bread Crumbs , Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and salt and pepper together in a small bowl in preparation for breading.

Meanwhile combine all ingredients for the dipping sauce and set aside.  Grease or use parchment paper to cover a rimmed baking sheet.

Remove chicken from the milk and dredge chicken strips in bread crumb mixture to coat, place on baking sheet when done.

Place in preheated oven and bake 15-20 minutes until browned.  Serve with Creamy Balsamic Dipping Sauce and a glass of wine!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bread Crumbs

In preparation for an upcoming recipe I'll be posting I wanted to throw out a few of my thoughts on bread crumbs.  Silly topic for a post, I know, but something I think can be make-or-break for a recipe. 

You can buy bread crumbs at the store, either plain or seasoned.  There are definitely times I use store bought, but it is so easy to make your own.  I hate to waste food, so anytime I have leftover bread I throw it in the freezer.  I mean any kind of leftover bread, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, french bread. We either use it to feed the ducks or I make homemade bread crumbs.  Either way it's not wasted!

Homemade Bread Crumbs:

leftover bread (about 10 slices or 3 hamburger buns worth)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Add all ingredients to a food processor and process until smooth.

*Optional ingredients can be added when a recipe calls for Italian bread crumbs.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Weekends = Family Breakfasts

To be honest weekends are when I fall off the healthy wagon and I am completely ok with that.  These cinnamon rolls have been a go-to holiday/special occasion recipe for me.  They're always a big hit! The best thing about them is that you can put them together the night before and then pull them out when you wake up and have hot, fresh cinnamon rolls with zero effort on a Saturday morning. 

This recipe comes straight from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook. When I grabbed the cookbook there was a bookmark on this page.  That should tell you how much we love it!

Creamy Caramel-Pecan Rolls

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbs ground cinnamon
2- 16 oz loaves frozen white bread dough or sweet roll dough, thawed*
3 tbs melted butter
3/4 cup raisins (optional)

Grease one 9x13 glass baking dish and set aside or 2 9x1 1/2 inch round baking pans.  In a small bowl stir together powdered sugar and heavy cream.  Spread into the bottom of the baking dish and sprinkle the pecans evenly over sugar mixture.

In another small bowl stir together the brown sugar and cinnamon; set aside.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each loaf of dough into a 12x8 inch rectangle.  Brush with melted butter; sprinkle with brown sugar-cinnamon mixture and raisins.

Roll up the rectangles starting from a long side and seal seams.  Slice each roll into 12 pieces with a sharp knife and place in pan, on top of pecans.

Cover and let rise about 30 minutes, until doubled. 

Bake in 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  If necessary cover with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.  Carefully invert rolls onto a serving platter.  Serve warm.

Make-ahead Directions:
Prepare as above, cover with oiled plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for 2-24 hours.  Before baking, let chilled rolls stand, covered for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake chilled rolls for 25-30 minutes.  Continue as directed.

*I've never actually used frozen bread.  I love making bread, so I usually make my own sweet roll dough.  You can use any recipe you have.  Let me know if you're interested and I'll post the one I use.

These are great and obviously my son (and hubby) love them.  Sam loves helping me sprinkle the nuts, filling and raisins!

Little Brothers

I have one.  He's great and our friendship has become one I desperately depend on as we've gotten older.  I got a text from him this morning full of blogging advice.  Of course, I rolled my eyes, but then I started thinking.  Turns out he's a pretty good little blogger himself.  Check out his company blog .  Kevin's my little brother. 

I decided that maybe he had some good ideas so I am currently letting him take over a couple parts of my blog, most importantly the design.  I mean, he does work for a company with the word "creative" in the name after all.  I'm excited to see where it goes, but please be patient! 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Calorie Wars

Round 1: Olive Garden vs. My Kitchen

I work out with the greatest group of mommies.  We were talking about our weekend dinners recently and someone brought up Fettuccine Alfredo.  I love a good Fettuccine Alfredo, but as many of us know it is horribly fattening.  It made me remember a recipe we used to use around here that's pretty similar and much better for you.  So I thought I'd do some research. 

Olive Garden's dinner portion of Fettuccine Alfredo (without chicken) totals out at a whopping 1220 calories.  What?!?! That's almost more than I eat in a whole day.  Next time you want Fettuccine give this recipe a try.  It's a modification of a couple of recipes, but the basis comes from a Better Homes and Garden cookbook.  One serving of this tasty pasta totals out at about 440 calories. So it's still not the healthiest thing I make, but it's certainly much better for you if you're craving Fettuccine Alfredo.

Creamy Herbed Pasta

10 oz fettuccine noodles
1/4 cup snipped, fresh basil
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tbs olive oil
4 oz reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup low fat cottage cheese
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup water or low fat milk
1/4 cup snipped, fresh parsley
2 tbs dry white wine
salt and pepper

Cook pasta, drain and keep warm.

In a medium saucepan cook the garlic in the olive oil.  Reduce heat and add cream cheese, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese and basil.  Heat and stir until almost melted.  Add water or milk, parsley, and wine.  Bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and continue to cook about 2-3 more minutes until sauce thickens.  Add the cooked pasta, stir until coated and serve!