Tuesday, May 21, 2013

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Nearly 12 years ago, my mom forced me to go into a little pizza restaurant in our hometown and fill out a job application.  Papa Murphy's...maybe you have heard of it...?  I begrudgingly did so, swearing that I would only work there for a few weeks, just until I found my dream job at somewhere more glamorous like...the mall.  Well guess what?!  That little job that I was keeping only to pacify my mom's desire for me to not be a lazy bum all summer...became a huge part of my life.  One in which, I officially finished today!!!  That is right...just short of 12 years!  I can't believe I even just said that!  I started working there the summer before my senior year and found, after only a few short months, that I not only loved the people I worked with, but that the owners of the company were marvelous!  I was an assistant manager and then a store manager for several years during college, and left the position just after my first baby turned one.  Then they offered me an incredible opportunity to work for them from my home, out of state, watching their security cameras weekly.  So that is what I have been doing for them the past 4 years, and it has been an incredible blessing to make a small income while my husband went to dental school. But since he is graduating next week and finally getting started on his career, I thought it was finally time to cut ties and focus on other things!  But I will always be thankful for that job!  

Since this seems like the ending of an era to me, I thought I'd go out by posting a re-creation of one of my favorite pizzas from Papa Murphy's...the BBQ Chicken.  You would think after so many years of working in one place, I would abhor the food.  But it is actually quite the opposite.  Papa Murphy's is still one of my favorite places to get pizza and I especially love their specialty pizzas.  They don't always carry the BBQ chicken, and in fact, not all stores even get it.  This past weekend, I had a sudden craving for it and decided to create my own version.  It was really yummy!  If you like BBQ sauce, then I think you will love this!
BBQ Chicken Pizza

*You can use whatever pizza dough recipe that you would like.  I like this one because it is easy and requires no rising.  I use it all the time when I need a quick dinner idea and it tastes great.  If making dough isn't your thing, purchase a ready made crust from the store and use it instead.

Fast and Easy Pizza Dough

3 cups flour, more or less
1 Tablespoon honey, heaping
1 Tablespoon oil, heaping
1 cup warm water
1 Tablespoon yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt


1-1/2 cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
2 cups shredded mozzarella, divided
1/2 cup 3 Tablespoons your favorite BBQ sauce, divided
2 green onions, chopped
1 roma tomato, chopped

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  If you are using a pizza stone, let the stone heat for at least 30 minutes in the oven before baking.

Mix all pizza dough ingredients together, except the flour.  Add the flour and knead for several minutes, then put into pan, pizza peel or pizza stone.

Combine the chicken and 1/4 cup BBQ sauce and mix until the chicken is covered.  Spread the remaining 1/4 cup + 3 Tablespoons BBQ sauce over the pizza dough.  Sprinkle about 1-1/2 cups mozzarella cheese over the sauce.  Sprinkle the chicken mixture over the mozzarella cheese.  Sprinkle the green onions and tomato on top.  Then cover with the rest of the mozzarella.

If baking in a sheet pan, bake for 12 minutes (checking often) until crust is browned and cheese is golden and bubbly.  If baking on the preheated pizza stone, slide pizza onto the stone and bake for about 8 minutes.  Makes 1 large pizza.

Recipe Source:  The Unsophisticated Kitchen using the pizza dough recipe from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin

I present to you my very favorite dinner!  Seriously, there are a great many meals that I love, but this my friends, is the best.  I even chose this for my Mother's Day meal!  My husband, Jason, is a beef kind of guy.  He will pick beef any day, over the best ever pork meal.  But even he loved this!  Every last piece of roast was devoured.  And to add to its appeal, the pork is cooked in the slow cooker!  Easy and delicious!  I encourage you to make this..and soon!  

Balsamic Glazed Pork Loin

2 pound boneless pork loin roast, trimmed of large fat pockets
1 teaspoon ground sage
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup water

1/2 cup brown sugar, light or dark
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 Tablespoons soy sauce

In a small bowl, combine the sage, salt, pepper and minced garlic.  Rub the spices all over the roast and place it in the slow cooker.  Pour 1/2 cup water into the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Near the end of the cooking time for the roast, combine the ingredients for the glaze in a small saucepan and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat and let the mixture simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens.  Remove the pork from the slow cooker and shred.  Place on a platter or plate and drizzle the glaze over the pork.  Serve.

Recipe Source:  Mel's Kitchen Cafe

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Coconut Cream Pudding Cookies with Toffee & White Chocolate Chips

I must admit, I arrived a little late to the game, when it comes to pudding cookies.  I have seen recipes involving pudding circulating the blogosphere and Pinterest for awhile now, but had yet to try them until this past February.  That is when I spotted the strawberry creme pudding at the grocery store and knew that I just had to make a cookie out of it!  And they were crazy delicious and, despite the horrific pictures I took, have become one of the most popular recipes on my blog!  After the success of those cookies, I knew it was only a matter of time until I tried more delicious combinations.  

I am also new to the incredible world of coconut cream.  Growing up, my only exposure to coconut was an Almond Joy candy bar...and I am not a fan at all!  So I have always kind of avoided the stuff.  However, a couple of months ago, my friend Tatum brought a coconut cream pie to a church activity and I took a small piece, just to give it a taste.  Well one taste was all it took and I was hooked!  I chose the coconut cream pie over the Oreo and Reese's pies!  There isn't much I would take over either peanut butter or cookies and cream, so that is big for me.  I fell in love with the flavor of coconut cream!  So when I saw coconut cream pudding the other day, I could not wait to create a delicious cookie with it!  I couldn't be happier with how these turned out!  Now I must admit, they don't taste like that incredible coconut cream pie I tasted months ago.  However, the pudding gives them an incredible flavor and makes them moist and delicious!  Two of my most favorite things in the world are toffee and white chocolate, so there was no doubt they were going into these things!  Oh these are good!  I want a batch right this minute!  Too bad its almost 11 o'clock at night...I guess I will settle for a bowl of cheesecake ice-cream...that's better right?!


Coconut Cream Pudding Cookies with Toffee & White Chocolate Chips

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3.4 ounce package coconut cream pudding
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups white chocolate chips
1/2-3/4 cup toffee chips 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare baking sheets by spraying with non-stick cooking spray or lining with parchment or baking mat.  In a medium bowl, combine the butter and sugars.  Mix until fluffy and add eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition.  Add vanilla and pudding and mix well.  

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Add it to the pudding mixture and mix until well combined.  Stir in the white chocolate and toffee chips.  Drop by rounded tablespoon onto the prepared pans and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, being careful not to over bake.  

Recipe Source:  The Unsophisticated Kitchen

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Curried Chicken Shephed's Pie

First of all, anyone have any tips on photographing a casserole?!  That was not an easy task!  No matter what I did, my dish just looked like a sloppy, gloppy mess!  Is gloppy a word?  I don't think so.  Don't let the pictures deter you from making this shepherd's pie though...it is delicious!  

What do you think of when you hear the term comfort food?  I have heard it in relation to foods like pot roast, grilled cheese sandwiches, fried chicken, those types of foods.  For me, shepherd's pie is the ultimate comfort food.  I had never had a shepherd's pie until I met my husband.  It was one of the first dishes that his mom served when I started joining their family for Sunday dinner.  Though a little nervous about the combination of green beans, potatoes and hamburger at first, I was hooked after one bite.  Now that we are living away from our families and no longer able to join either of them for Sunday dinner, I now consider things like my mother-in-law's shepherd's pie and my mom's sloppy joes and baked beans to be pure, down-right delicious comfort foods.  If there is one thing I hate about living far from family, it is missing those Sunday dinners, at either my parent's house or my in-law's.  I wish we could be there every week.  But since we can't, its my job to serve up those comfort dishes to my little family, and since I like to try new things, I decided to switch it up a little bit and try out a twist on the old (and well beloved) shepherd's pie...and this is it...Curried Chicken Shepherd's Pie.  Tender pieces of chicken breast, are enveloped in a slightly spicy, chicken broth based sauce, mixed in with tender vegetables and covered up by buttery and creamy mashed potatoes.  I thought this dinner was amazingly delicious!  

So tell me what are some of your favorite comfort foods?!

Curried Chicken Shepherd's Pie

This recipe calls for cooked chicken and prepared mashed potatoes...so plan ahead!  This would be a great recipe to use up some left over mashed potatoes.

1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon curry powder
1-1/2 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
2 Tablespoons dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups mashed potatoes
1/4 teaspoon milk

In a large skillet, sauge onion and celery in 1 Tablespoon of butter until tender.  Add frozen vegetables and remaining butter.  Cook for 2 minutes longer.

Stir in flour and curry powder until blended; gradually add broth and milk.  Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened.  Add the chicken, parsley, salt and pepper.

Transfer to a greased 2-quart baking dish.  Top with potatoes and sprinkle paprika over the top.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees, for 25-30 minutes or until heated through.

Recipe Source:  Adapted ever so slightly from Taste Of Home 

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mini Puffed Oven Pancakes

This weekend we celebrated my husband's 30th birthday!  He has had a hard time with this idea of getting older, but I for one, think he is just getting better with age!  Let me take a minute to tell you about this husband I have.  He is pretty awesome.  He is one of the hardest workers I know, he is an amazing father and he. is. funny.  He has done so many things for our family in the nearly 9 years that we have been married, including but not limited to...giving me 2 perfect babies, working so hard in school and work that I can be a stay-at-home mom, buying and fixing up multiple houses, and making me laugh a whole lot.  But, one of the best things he has ever done for me personally, was win me a Kitchen Aid Mixer.  That was pretty dang awesome of him.  

Everyone raise your virtual hand if you read Our Best Bites!  If you have your hand down, I'm telling you right now that you should!  They not only share amazing recipes, but are laugh-out-loud funny!  I strongly recommend.  Anyhow, for those that don't know, about 6 months ago their second cook book was released.  To celebrate, they hosted a contest where you were to photograph yourself with a picture of the new book and send it in to them to be judged.  The best, most creative pictures would then be selected to receive prizes.  I told Jason about it, but also included that I had no ideas to make myself stand out.  He, however, has never backed down from a challenge, and viewed this as such.  So he came up with this...

And we won!!  Thanks to his creative mind and shameless desire to make people laugh, I now own a shiny red Kitchen Aid mixer (and there is this lovely picture floating out there in blog land for all the world to see)!  See, he really is the best!!  So happy birthday to him!

Okay, so I was getting to the recipe.  These Mini Puffed Oven Pancakes are one of our very favorite recipes out of that Our Best Bites Cookbook.  They are amazingly simply and incredibly delicious.  Last time I made these, I had to whip up a second batch immediately because we devoured them so quickly! Then those disappeared just as fast.  Jason loves them so much that he requested them for his birthday breakfast yesterday and we almost needed a third batch!  

Mini Puffed Oven Pancakes

1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon salt
2-3 Tablespoons butter, melted
Powdered sugar
Whipped cream, optional

Place a nonstick mini muffin pan in the oven and heat to 400 degrees.  Meanwhile, place the flour, milk, eggs and salt in a blender and blend until mixture is smooth.  Remove the pan from the oven, doing so very carefully and with an oven mit, as the pan with be very hot.  Quickly spray the wells with nonstick spray.  Fill the muffin wells 3/4 full with batter.

Bake for 12-18 minutes, until batter is puffed and slightly golden on top.  Remove the puffs and place on a plate or platter.  Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  Drizzle with maple syrup or strawberry sauce and whipped cream, or eat them alone with your fingers!  All ways are equally delicious!

Strawberry Sauce

3 cups frozen strawberries
2 Tablespoon sugar

Place strawberries and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the strawberries release their juices, about 5 minutes.  Cook for 1-2 minutes longer, stirring continuously and smashing berries slightly with a fork.  Serve over pancake puffs.

Recipe Source:  Pancake Puffs from Our Best Bites.  Strawberry Sauce from The Unsophisticated Kitchen

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Marsala Pork Chops

This recipe is a good one!  I love these pork chops!  However, I probably should have changed the name to something else.  The original recipe called for Marsala wine, but I don't keep wine on hand, so I improvised and adapted the recipe slightly to what I had.  Yep, I pushed the marsala right on out of there.  But I couldn't think of a better name...so Marsala it is, but isn't...get it?!  Good.  Name aside, this is a truly delicious meal.  It has only been the last few years that I have discovered a deep love of onions and this meal definitely caters to that taste.  If you love onions and garlic, you will adore this meal.  If you don't...well skip over this one and I'll have something for you non-onion lovers in the next few days!  

Marsala Pork Chops

1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs
4 pork loin chops (the original recipe says bone-in, I use boneless)
3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon peper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cold butter cubed
Hot cooked egg noodles

Place bread crumbs in a large resealable plastic bag.  Add pork chops, one at a time and shake to coat.  In a large skillet, cook pork chops in 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat for 4-6 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.  Remove and keep warm.

In the same skillet, sauté onions in remaining oil until tender.  Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes longer.  Add the chicken broth, pepper and salt, stirring to loosen browned bits from the pan.  Cook, stirring occasionally until liquid is nearly evaporated.  Stir in butter until melted.  Serve over pork chops and noodles.

Recipe Source:  Adapted slightly from Taste of Home
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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Open-Faced Chicken Avocado Burgers

I first made these open-faced burgers about 3 years ago when I really started getting serious about learning how to cook.  I remember looking at the recipe and being totally overwhelmed with the list of ingredients and I remember that it took, what seemed to me, a very long time to throw them together.  I even went to a specialty store to look for the ground chicken because I was sure that the regular grocery store wouldn't carry it.  Well, after all the work I thought I put into them I was delighted at how delicious they were!  The avocado dressing sauce was tangy and delicious and took what could be just a regular old burger over the top!  Even though I loved these and thought they were one of the best things I had made yet, I didn't make them again until just a few weeks ago.  The only reason being that I remembered them to be way too much work!  But when I was at Walmart the other day and spotted the ground chicken (that I thought was some crazy uncommon ingredient), I had a sudden strong desire to make them.  So I pulled out the recipe when I got home, and I actually laughed out loud at myself.  I couldn't believe that I thought these were so difficult to make!  It showed to me how far I have traveled in my culinary journey, because things that once seemed so overwhelming and difficult to me, now seem like a piece of cake!  Beautiful in their presentation, these are an easy and delicious spin on the classic burger! 

Open-Faced Chicken Avocado Burgers

Avocado Sauce:

1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 medium ripe avocado, peeled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
4 green onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons prepared pesto
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound ground chicken
4 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 4 slices
4 slices Italian bread (3/4 inch thick)
2 cups fresh arugula or fresh baby spinach
8 slices tomato
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a blender, combine the first eight ingredients; cover and process until smooth.  Chill until serving.  For burgers, in a small bowl, combine the Parmesan cheese, pesto, garlic and salt.  Crumble chicken over mixture and mix well.  Shape into four patties.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook burgers in 2 Tablespoons of oil for 5-7 minutes on each side or until a meat thermometer reads 165 degrees and juices run clear.  Top with cheese; cover and cook for 1 minute longer.  

Meanwhile, brush the bread with remaining oil and place on a baking sheet.  Broil 3-4 inches from heat for 1-2 minutes on each side or until toasted.  

Spread each slice of toast with 2 Tablespoons of the avocado dressing (refrigerate the remaining sauce for another use...I have used it on sandwiches and other hamburgers).  Top the slices of bread with the spinach, a burger and sliced tomato.  Sprinkle each burger with basil and pepper.  Serve.

Recipe Source:  Taste of Home

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