Caramelized Onion, Baby Kale and Goat Cheese Pizza

baby kale pizza

Hooray!! It’s another weird pizza! I’ve had some pretty fabulous pizzas on the blog. I absolutely love experimenting with pizzas, mostly because it’s so easy it’s stupid, but also because a store-bought pizza crust is the PERFECT blank canvas to try interesting flavor combinations. I would argue that any of your favorite flavor combos would make a good pizza. Are you a fan of truffles, gruyere cheese and garlic? Throw it on a pizza! What about a cheeseburger with mustard, lettuce and special sauce? Think In-N-Out. Why couldn’t that be a pizza? Oh my goodness, In-N-Out Burger Pizza coming soon to a blog near you. Wow, I’m excited!

This little pizza pie really took BJ by surprise. I took some of my favorites…caramelized onions, goat cheese and pine nuts…and added a few newcomers to create a perfect bite. Fresh baby kale and a sweet balsamic drizzle give it enough green to ease your guilt over the cheese and buttery onions, and enough acid to cut through the richness. De-lish. This would be a fabulous holiday party appetizer. Cut it into rectangles and call it a flat bread. People will “oooh” and “ahhhh” and think you’re a secret celebrity chef or something. If you want to serve it as a quick lunch or dinner, throw some bacon into the mix and call it day. Protein, veggies, dairy. Done.

slices of baby kale pizza

Happy cooking!

Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Baby Kale Pizza

1 lb. mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 whole wheat Boboli pizza crust
2 large red onions, sliced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 oz baby kale
5 oz goat cheese, crumbled
Red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Balsamic Drizzle

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and slowly caramelize, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring balsamic vinegar to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir in honey and salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat.
  3. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the pizza crust on a pizza stone or cookie sheet, and top with mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions, goat cheese crumbles and red pepper flakes. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the cheese in melted.
  4. Remove from the oven and top with baby kale, pine nuts and drizzle with the balsamic drizzle. Slice and serve.

Caramelized onion and baby kale pizza with goat cheese

Dinner Parties, Good Friends and Olives

marinated olives appetizer

Dinner parties, good friends, and olives…just a few of my favorite things. I LOVE having people over for dinner. The more the merrier! It can be a challenge to wrangle all of my favorite people together at the same time, but the stars aligned this weekend and we had ten wonderful friends slated to eat dinner at our home.

When I’m cooking for a lot of people, I try to keep it simple. I like to choose a meal that can be mostly prepped and cooked in advance, and then reheated as my guests arrive. This works well for a lot of reasons, but my favorite reason is because my kitchen can be all cleaned up with no dishes in the sink when the party starts. Always a plus! When cooking for more than four to six people, it’s way too stressful to try to serve a meal that has to be cooked and served immediately. That’s even tough to do for a weekly family dinner, but throw in wanting to socialize with friends and keeping your kitchen  moderately presentable, and it’s nearly impossible.

So for our little dinner party I made my Mega Meaty Pizza Lasagna, caprese salad, arugula tossed with a quick vinaigrette, butter-charred crusty bread, marinated kalamata olives, and a simple ice cream dessert. With just a little planning, I was able to do almost all of it HOURS before the party started. So easy!

One of the surprises from the night was how much everyone liked the marinated olives. Really? The two-minute, simple, no-recipe-needed appetizer was the show stopper? Figures. So! Whenever something is REALLY easy and yet REALLY yummy, I always feel compelled to share it with you so you can wow your crowd as well. This is a great appetizer to make when you want to stretch a dollar yet make a big impact. Kalamata olives are marinated with minced rosemary, garlic and the zest of one lemon and one orange. That’s it! It’s great for holiday entertaining- especially at Christmas. I chuckle as I type that because ever since my best friend, Haley, told me that rosemary tastes like a Christmas tree, I always pair the herb with that holiday. I mean, she’s right after all, so why not go with it? (She also thinks goat cheese tastes like a farm, but I’m not yet willing to only serve the delicious cheese when I’m having a hoedown…which is never.)

bowl of marinated olives

This is a really great dinner party menu. It helps you, the host, have the best of both worlds- a delicious spread of food and plenty of time to enjoy your friends. And the olives…yum! Give them a try soon; even if you aren’t having a dinner party. They’re easy and inexpensive enough to make for absolutely no reason. Enjoy!

Happy cooking!

Marinated Olives

2 jars kalamata olives, pitted
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1/2 large orange
drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Mix all of the above ingredients together. Cover with plastic wrap for an hour or up to overnight. Serve with crostini, crackers, or alone.

marinated kalamata olives

 

What Gazpacho Taught Me About My Tastebuds

green gazpacho

It was a fun week experimenting with my Farmer’s Market goodies. I enjoyed only having to throw everything into a blender and then TA-DA…dinner was served! All of my summer produce was showcased so nicely in its raw state. Nothing beats summer veggies at their freshest, and using them in a crisp, bright gazpacho served before the main dish is the perfect way to highlight their awesomeness. So get out to the Farmer’s Market and see what you can find. Use these recipes only as a starting point, and let whatever bounty you score be the star of your dish.

 

white gazpacho

 

Gazpacho week has taught me something I had long forgotten about my tastebuds…they don’t like raw onion. And guess what? Gazpacho is packed full of raw onion. Raw everything, right? Next time I make gazpacho I think I’m going to cheat a bit. I’m going to sauté whatever onion, shallot or leek the recipe calls for before I chunk it into the blender. Problem solved. If you’re not a fan of raw onion I encourage you to do the same when you play with these two recipes. You’ll be happier with the results and will still only have to do minimal cooking. However, if you’re not worried about that strong taste and resulting strong breath, give the recipe a whirl as is.

Happy cooking!

Green Goddess Gazpacho

green goddess gazpacho

3 spring onions
1 small clove garlic, peeled
1 green pepper, cut into a few chunks
2 cucumbers, cut into large chunks
1 avocado
5 tbsp fresh basil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
fresh dill or dried dill weed, for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Throw everything in the blender and puree until smooth. Garnish with dill, a dollop of plain greek yogurt, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Serve.

 

Nutty White Gazpacho

nutty white gazpacho

1/2 medium head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets
2 slices of crustless white bread
1/4 cup pine nuts (1 1/2 ounces)
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 large shallot, coarsely chopped (optional to saute)
1 1/4 cups blanched slivered almonds
1/2 medium seedless cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped, plus 1/4 cup finely diced cucumber
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
salt and white pepper, to taste

  1. In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the cauliflower until tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water until cool and drain well.
  2.  In a blender, combine 1 1/2 cups of cold water with the cooked cauliflower, bread, pine nuts, chopped garlic, sherry vinegar, chopped shallot, 1 cup of the slivered almonds and the coarsely chopped cucumber; blend until smooth. Add the olive oil and pulse just until incorporated. If necessary, add more water to thin the gazpacho. Season the soup with salt and pepper and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
  3.  Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the remaining 1/4 cup of slivered almonds in a pie plate and toast for about 6 minutes, until fragrant and lightly golden. Ladle the gazpacho into bowls. Garnish the soup with the toasted almonds and the finely diced cucumber and serve.

 

Why I’ll Leave the Hummus-Making to my Friends

spinach artichoke hummus

BJ and I have been a part of a wonderful Life Group for more than five years. During that time some of those dear friends have since moved out of state, but we’ve always been really fortunate that the new couples who join in their place are really awesome. We’ve hit the life group jackpot for sure…five solid couples, most with children and the rest with babies on the way. Super fun girls, great guys, and the best part…a bunch of amazing cooks. We eat well every time we’re together and we eat A LOT of hummus. Of the group, half are Armenian and I’ve learned the Armenians know their hummus. They know their food in general. I’ve been introduced to some of the most delicious food because of these sweet friends…

Yalanchi (stuffed vegetarian grape leaves), Cheese Boureg (baked cheese in phyllo dough), Pilaf (my friend Ani still can’t believe I called it Armenian Rice-a-roni), Shish kabobs, Armenian string cheese and Soujouk (Armenian cured meat), and hummus.

Oh yes, the hummus. It’s straight forward enough, right? I mean, we can all make hummus. Combine chickpeas, tahini (ground sesame seed paste), garlic and lemon juice and let it go for a spin in the food processor. Done.  And we’ve all seen the variations…roasted red pepper hummus, roasted garlic hummus, spinach hummus, etc. You’ve seen the hummus trios on restaurant menus, right? So I had the grand idea to whip up my own variation, Spinach-Artichoke Hummus. I thought it would be so smart to take that super fattening, but super delicious dip, and lighten it up a tad.

So I made a traditional hummus and started adding stuff. I added spinach, artichoke hearts, I roasted an entire bulb of garlic, and threw in a handful of parmesan cheese. Ta-da!! Spinach Artichoke Hummus. I was impressed and thought it was quite tasty. BJ came home and asked what I made.

“Hummus!” I answered.

“That’s hummus? It doesn’t taste like hummus.” He argued.

“Well it’s my spin. It’s Spinach-Artichoke Hummus.”

I was annoyed. I didn’t think it would warrant an explanation after he tasted it. Wasn’t it so obvious?

Hummus with pita

He reassured me that it tasted wonderful but maybe not like hummus. I still thought he was wrong and I packed it up to take to the beach where we were meeting our friends Reed and Ani. Ani is Armenian. She’s Armenian and she’s honest.

I proudly whipped out my fresh pita triangles and my hummus. She tasted it. She liked it. Then she called to her husband, “Reed, do you want some dip?”

“Dip??” I asked, “It’s hummus.”

Ani replied thoughtfully, taking care not to offend me, “It’s really good, but I wouldn’t call it hummus. I mean, it has the consistency of hummus…but…is there parmesan cheese in there?”

We laughed and I thanked her for making this blog really easy to write. This blog for Spinach-Artichoke Hummus-like Dip. Whatever you want to call it, call it your snack next time you rent a movie or throw a party. It’s very tasty; full of all of the flavors you love in Spinach-Artichoke Dip, but with half of the fat and calories. It’s a snack you can feel good about. We gobbled it up and I’ll absolutely be making it again soon. Give it a shot and let me know what you think. Hummus…or dip?

Spinach Artichoke Hummus

Spinach-Artichoke Hummus (Dip)

15 oz. chick peas, drained
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini, plus more to taste
1 bulb of garlic
2 cups fresh spinach
1 cup frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice the top 1/4 inch of an entire garlic bulb off. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Wrap in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 30 to 45 minutes or until garlic is soft.
  2. To remove garlic cloves, simply squeeze the entire bulb into the bowl of a food processor. Garlic will slide right out, leaving the peels behind.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to the food processor and process. Drizzle in olive oil while the machine is running until it reaches your desired consistency and taste.
  4. Serve with pita chips or raw veggies.

What else can I do with this ricotta?

So now that you have a nice batch of homemade ricotta in your fridge, let’s figure out how to use it! I’m assuming you have some left over after making the roasted cherry tomato bruschetta, and that’s a bold assumption because I definitely didn’t. But good news– even if you’re out, you now know how  easy it is to make more.

Like I said, I ran out post-parent picnic, but I had already brainstormed all of these wonderful ways to cook with it so I’m seriously making more tomorrow. Good thing I have a steady supply of cheesecloth in my pantry. So here are my thoughts and some useful links that will help you get the most out of that creamy, wonderful goodness just lying in wait in the refrigerator. Let me know which ones you use and always let me know if you come up with something totally awesome that I haven’t thought of…I would LOVE to try it!

(More) Uses for Homemade Ricotta Cheese 

  1. Pancakes
  2. Stuffed Shells
  3. Summer Vegetable Tart
  4. Scones
  5. Muffins
  6. Cheesecake!! duh
  7. Pizza- See my “weird pizza” OR this one!
  8. Gnocchi!!!!!!! (I’m excited about this one!)
  9. Cookies
  10. Stuffed and Fried Squash Blossoms

Need a few more dinner ideas? Check out this Food 52 article that will inspire you to squeeze 6 dinners out of one batch of ricotta. Or if you’re ready to move on from our cheesy friend but still need some dinner ideas, become a Menu Therapy subscriber for just $5. We will plan your dinners, write your grocery lists and help you become a superstar in your kitchen. 🙂

Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta with Shallots and Thyme

roasted cherry tomato bruschetta

This might be my favorite way to make bruschetta. Scratch that– this is definitely my favorite way to make bruschetta. I serve this as an appetizer every time we have someone over for dinner, and it’s usually gobbled up so quickly that I only get to sneak a bite or two.

Assorted cherry tomatoes roasted with shallots, thyme, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of brown sugar. Di-vine. I usually put the tomato yumminess in a bowl and serve it alongside toasted crostini and a log of goat cheese topped with lemon zest and red pepper flakes. So good! I love goat cheese, even if my best friend Haley thinks it smells like a farm. She’s kinda right. I ‘ve actually noticed lately that the goat cheese has such a strong presence that the subtle sweetness of the roasted tomatoes can be overlooked, and that’s just a shame. To remedy that and to help the tomatoes shine like the star they are, I served it up with…you guessed it…the homemade ricotta from a few days ago.

roasted tomato crostini

One bite and I’m pretty sure I heard angels singing the Hallelujah chorus. Hello match made in heaven! The creamy ricotta with its mild hint of saltiness is the perfect base on which to serve the bright tomatoes bursting with sweetness and flavor from the shallots and thyme. We took these little cuties to our sunset picnic at the beach with my mom and dad, and they ate them up long before the sun dove into the Pacific. My mom referred to them as “crack”. I double checked and confirmed that was a compliment.

If you heeded my advice and made yourself a ton of ricotta, let this be one of the ways you enjoy it. It will be hard, but don’t use it all up because I have a few more suggestions coming your way soon. Once I started brainstorming it was hard to turn it off! There are apparently an infinite amount of ways to cook with ricotta, each more delicious-sounding than the next. What’s a girl to do? I guess I’ll go curdle more milk!

ricotta-and-roasted-tomato-crostini_forweb

Roasted Cherry Tomato Bruschetta

4 cups assorted colors of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 shallots, thinly sliced
4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed from stem
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat an oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare a sheet tray by lining with aluminum foil. This will make clean up easier and keep all of the goodness from sticking to the pan.
  3. Scatter halved cherry tomatoes, shallots and thyme on the tray and lightly drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and pepper and toss to coat tomatoes evenly.
  4. Bake at 425 for 15-20 minutes, until tomatoes are bursting and shallots are softened and beginning to caramelize.
  5. Remove from oven and spoon everything into a serving bowl.
  6. Serve alongside toasted crostini and ricotta cheese.

If you like this recipe, let me help you plan and cook dinner every night. I’ll do the hard part and you do the cooking  Become a subscriber for just $5. Happy cooking!

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Another Weird Pizza

roastedgrapepizza1_for_web

What can I say, I’m a sucker for a weird pizza. Pizza day, which also happened to be sandwich day, was one of my favorite days of culinary school. Did you know pizza is a sandwich? I didn’t. I suppose it makes total sense really, as a pizza is nothing more than an open-faced sandwich. Interesting, huh? A little pizza/sandwich trivia for your Sunday. Anyway back to weird pizzas…

I believe this will be the fourth pizza to make the blog. I must REALLY like pizza. This is actually kind of news to me, I wouldn’t have pegged myself as a such a pizza-lover. Then again, maybe it’s not the pizza as much as it is all of the fun things you can do with it. Topping options are endless and I always have a lot of fun coming up with new combinations. In the past I’ve raved about my Brussels Sprouts Pita Pizzas and my Meyer Lemon Pizza, and both are out of this world! Save the Brussels until next winter, but definitely put the Meyer Lemon Pizza on your to-eat list ASAP. It’s fun. Add this one to the list as well…Roasted Broccoli and Red Grape Pizza with Ricotta and Pine Nuts. Whoa that’s a lot going on. Too much? No, I don’t think so. Is there ever too much of a good thing?

Roasted Broccoli? Good.

Roasted Grapes? Gooooood. (I can hear you doubting this, but I promise, it is!)

Ricotta cheese and pine nuts? Double good.

Put it all together on a store-bought crust and call it a pizza. I did, and it was yummy! Actually, I made mini pizzas which was even better because everything mini is more fun. Kellan loved it! Truthfully, he just pulled off all of the “broccoli trees” and ate them, but I still consider that a win.

This pizza is a really great meatless meal that will still leave the family feeling satisfied and full. It would also make a fancy little appetizer for your next dinner party or get together…your friends and family will be so impressed, as it’s just as pretty as it is tasty. I hope you’ll try it soon!

roastedgrapepizza2_forweb

Roasted Broccoli and Red Grape Pizza with Ricotta and Pine Nuts

1 bag broccoli florets
2 cups red seedless grapes
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
salt and pepper, to taste
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, to taste
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
16 oz. part skim ricotta cheese
3 mini Boboli pizza crusts or 2 regular size

  1. Preheat the oven to 425.
  2. On one sheet pan, drizzle broccoli florets with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. On another sheet pan, drizzle the grapes with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar.
  3. Add the broccoli to the oven and roast until it starts to char, 20-25 minutes. When there are approximately 10 minutes left for the broccoli, add the sheet pan of grapes to the oven and roast until they start to wither and burst.
  4. Meanwhile, spread the ricotta over the pizza crust(s) in an even layer, leaving a 1/2 inch around the border.
  5. Remove broccoli and grapes from the oven. Toss broccoli with the lemon zest. Top pizzas evenly with the broccoli, grapes and pine nuts. Bake for approximately 5 minutes to warm cheese and crust.
  6. Slice and serve.

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