Tuesday, June 28, 2011

In the Kitchen: Spicy Black Bean Pizza

Phew! It's been a crazy few weeks. Don't you hate when those paying jobs have to get in the way of the fun stuff, like blogging? Geez. I've been talking about this pizza for at least a week and here it finally is. Since I first made it about a month or so ago, it's been on our menu three times and has become a household favorite. I'm just gonna simply say yummmmm. Yep, five m's worth. Maybe even six.

Whole Wheat Crust:
1 envelope dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water
3/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 - 2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

15 oz black beans*
1 cup prepared salsa (homemade or store bought)
2 jalapenos or 1 serrano chile, cut rough chunks
2 large garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup diced bell pepper (red, green, yellow or mix)
1 cup fresh (cooked) or frozen (thawed) corn kernels
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1 cup shredded cheddar
2 avocados, diced (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

*You can use dried or canned beans for this recipe. If using dried, soak about 200 grams and cook according to package directions (1 - 1.5 hours). If using canned, drain and rinse well before using.

To make the crust, combine yeast and sugar in water. Stir until dissolved. Add salt, oil, whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour. Stir well.

Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 5 - 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 20 - 30 minutes.

If using a metal pizza pan, lightly grease it, or you can use a pizza stone. Stretch and pat or roll dough to a 15" round. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes, until crust is dry and lightly browned. Set aside.

While the dough is rising and prebaking, you can prepare the pizza topping. In a blender or food processor, combine the beans, salsa, chile and garlic, and puree until smooth. Dice the peppers, green onion and cilantro and shred the cheeses.

Spread the bean puree over the prebaked crust and top with the diced peppers, corn, green onions, cilantro and cheeses.

Bake at 400° for 7 - 12 minutes until cheesy is bubbly and crust edges are browned. Allow pizza to cool for 5 minutes before cutting. I know, it's very hard to wait…

Top with cubes of avocado and a dollop of sour cream, if desired, and dig in!

This pizza is perfect for the vegetarians in your life. It's rich and hearty and the carnivores at the table won't even miss the meat. However, chicken does pair perfectly with the other ingredients in this dish and gives this pizza a new life for the meat-eaters. Just add bite-sized chunks of cooked chicken on top of the bean puree with the other ingredients and bake as directed.

And find more delicious recipes here.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In the Kitchen: Chicken and Mushroom Macaroni and Cheese

I won't try to tell you this is one of my 'healthy' meals because… not so much. I mean, it is macaroni and cheese, after all. I will tell you that it's darn delicious though, unless you don't like shrooms, or butter, or cheese. But if that's the case, we may need to end this friendship now.

6 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni
Approx 1/2 lb chicken, cut into bite sized pieces (I use 4 tenderloins)
1/4 of a large yellow onion, diced
2 large cloves of garlic, diced
6 - 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
3 Tablespoons butter (divided use)
2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups milk (divided use)
1 3/4 cups shredded cheddar cheese (divided use)
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and spread in an 8x8 baking dish.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 T butter, onion and garlic over medium high heat until it begins to sizzle. Add the chicken and continue cooking. When the chicken is about halfway done, add the mushrooms and heat until they are soft and chicken is completely cooked.

Add the chicken mixture to the noodles in the dish (including any pan juices) and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat 2 T butter over medium heat until melted, add 2 T flour and stir to combine. Add 1 1/2 cups milk, paprika, salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to a gentle boil, stirring frequently until slightly thickened. Lower heat to a simmer and add 1 1/4 cups cheese, stirring until melted.

Once melted, remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup milk. Pour sauce over chicken and pasta and mix gently to combine. Cook at 350° for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and spread remaining 1/2 cup cheese on top. Return to oven and cook an additional 10 minutes. Broil if desired to brown cheese. Serve and enjoy!

This recipes makes a hearty, but not ridiculous, amount. It will serve 2 – 4 people twice or 6 – 8 once, depending on how much you like to eat and what you serve with it. If you don't like mushrooms, just leave them out! The cheese sauce is easy and delicious and can be used with anything you like. You can also easily double the recipe (entire thing or just sauce) which makes a perfect amount for a potluck!

And find more easy and delicious recipes here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

In the Kitchen: Gooey Peanut Bars

Today I have a simple treat that's as easy as it is delicious. Three ingredients and 15 minutes is all you need to make these sweet and salty peanut bars.

2 cups coarsely chopped salted peanuts*
14oz caramel squares (about 50 pieces)
1 cup mini marshmallows

*Did you know that if a word such as chopped, diced, sifted, etc comes before the ingredient, you are to measure the ingredient after you prepare it as directed. If it comes after the ingredient, you first measure the ingredient, then prepare it. So in this case, you are measuring out 2 cups of already chopped peanuts, rather than measuring two cups of peanuts and then chopping them, which would read '2 cups peanuts, chopped.'

Lightly coat an 8 inch square baking dish with cooking spray. Line the baking dish with parchment paper, letting it hang over two sides, then lightly coat the parchment with the cooking spray. Evenly spread 1 1/4 cup peanuts across the pan.

In a heavy saucepan, combine 1 tablespoon water, the unwrapped caramel squares and the marshmallows. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the caramels and marshmallows melt and become smooth.

Pour the caramel mixture over the peanuts in the baking dish, then top with the remaining 3/4 cup peanuts, lightly pressing them down into the caramel.

Let cool until solid, about 2 hours. Remove the entire square from the pan using the parchment paper flaps and cut into bars. Store leftovers in a airtight container between layers of parchment or wrap individual bars in professional grade plastic wrap for a delicious grab & go snack!

p.s. The pot you melt the caramels in will be really sticky and the caramel hardens quickly on the sides after you pour it out. You may think that you'll never get the pan clean, but just fill it with hot water, let it sit in the sink for about 10 minutes and it will all rinse right away!