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

Brown Butter Cheesy Potatoes and Brussels

brown butter brussels and potatoes

My favorite winter-time pasta dish is Orecchiette with Brown Butter Brussel Sprouts. It is the BEST. The flavors of  sautéed leek, shredded brussels, nutty pine nuts and rich browned butter meld together to create a dish that literally makes me happy from the inside out. I could eat it every night, no problem. Honestly, I would probably even talk myself into thinking it’s healthy because of the brussels sprouts. But it’s not. No, chalk this one up as a loss in the healthy-eating department, as you generally can with anything that calls for a stick of butter. It’s ok though. ‘Tis the season to indulge!

I planned to make my all-time favorite pasta dish last week but when I got home from the grocery store I realized I hadn’t put any pasta in my basket. UGH. How does a meal planner leave things off her list? Good grief. I scoured the pantry looking for any kind of pasta I could find…I saw a box of no-boil lasagna noodles and briefly considered what that would come out like. Eh. Then I saw the potatoes on the counter. Tiny, beautiful, golden potatoes that practically begged to be doused in brown butter and all of the other brussels “fixins”. Sure thing teeny potato. Today is your lucky day.

So the dish went the same way it always does…leeks and brussels sprouts sautéed in olive oil and a splash of white wine, seasoned liberally with salt and pepper. Butter, (much less than a stick as I wasn’t making a butter sauce for pasta, but a light glistening for the spuds0, slowly browning in a saucepan. The only difference in prep was instead of boiling orecchiette pasta I roasted the potatoes in a 375 degree oven for approximately 50 minutes. When the potatoes were cooked to perfection I tossed the whole thing together and took a fork straight to the serving dish. Ahhhhhhh.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I’ve found a new, delicious side dish. I mean let’s be real, this combo screams Turkey Day. If you’re looking for something a little different this Thanksgiving, yet still a timeless classic, this should be your go-to. It’s definitely a new favorite in my house!

Happy cooking– and Happy Thanksgiving!

brussels and potatoes

Brown Butter Cheesy Brussels and Potatoes

5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 lb. small yukon gold potatoes, halved or quartered to the same approx. size
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium to large leek, quartered and chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cups Brussels sprouts, shredded
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Toss the potatoes with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, or until cooked.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat and continue to cook, swirling occasionally, until butter turns golden brown, Skim foam from top, and remove from heat. Pour into a bowl to stop the cooking, leaving any burned sediment behind; set aside.
  3. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and leek and cook for 2 minutes. Add the brussels sprouts and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add a splash of white wine and deglaze the pan. Simmer until the wine is mostly absorbed. Stir in the potatoes and pine nuts. Pour browned butter over the mixture and combine. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Serve immediately.

Ten-Course Thanksgiving Day Meal Plan

thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving!! Of course I do, as it’s a holiday almost completely centered around food. What’s not to love? Since I love it so very much I wanted to share with you my complete 10-course dinner meal plan complete with tried and true family recipes. Use the whole thing or use just a few recipes and incorporate them into your family’s tradition. I imagine you in the kitchen with someone very near and dear to you, chopping and mixing and cooking your heart out. Perfection. I’ll be with my mom and sister, talking through Chelsey’s wedding plans as we cook, our fellas hanging out with Kellan and Allie and watching football. Pure perfection, indeed. Enjoy the holiday, your loved ones and some really great food. Remember all you have to thankful for and simply take the time to soak in your many blessings.

Happy Thanksgiving!

1o-Course Dinner

Short Rib Chili

short rib chili

Halloween has come and gone and we somehow forgot to schedule our annual late-October chili night potluck. I guess that’s what happens when life is no longer just about a fun night with friends, but is completely centered around your kids’ Halloween costumes, scouting out the best neighborhood for trick-or-treating, and making it out to the Pumpkin Patch before the moment passes. Check, check, and check. Chili night? No check. Bummer.

To cheer myself up, I decided we would have our very own little chili night, Purvis party of four, three, make that two. Allie’s still on the bottle and Kellan is boycotting food, so BJ and I were left to ourselves with a giant pot of chili. It’s ok though, because this was gooooooood chili. I started with a friend’s already awesome recipe and made some minor changes and one MAJOR addition. Short ribs. Yep. So now we’re talking a three-meat chili made with ground beef, bacon, and beer-braised short ribs. Holy. Cow. Literally.

three meat chili

Take out your calendar, phone, day planner, or if you’re like my husband, a sticky note, and plan a day to make this chili. You’re going to want to get this on the books ASAP. Pick a day when you have nothing else to do because you’re going to want to babysit this one. Low and slow wins the chili race. Add ingredients, taste, add more, cook more, taste again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Great chili is very much a personal preference, so I don’t want you  to limit yourself to my suggested measurements and time frames. Take these ingredients and methods and make them your own. If something sounds like too much heat to you, leave it out. If the idea of honey in your chili weirds you out, skip it. (Actually please don’t skip the honey, it really rounds the whole thing out. Unless you must. Sigh.) Let me know how your chili turns out, especially if you have a delicious addition that I absolutely MUST know about. Happy cooking!!

Short Rib Chili

For the short ribs:

3 lbs. beef short ribs
2 red onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
light Mexican beer
tablespoon oregano
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons canola oil

  1. Season short ribs with salt and pepper. Heat canola oil in a large braiser or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Sear each side until brown, approximately 3 minutes per side. Remove the short ribs and add in onions and garlic. Cook until softened and beginning to brown.
  2. Add short ribs back to pan and pour in beer until the liquid comes a little over halfway up the sides of the meat. Bring to a boil and stir in oregano. Reduce heat to low and cover.
  3. Cook on low heat for 3 hours. After 3 hours remove the short ribs and pull the meat off the bone and shred. Try to keep the fat separate and discard.

For the chili:

1 lb. bacon
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 yellow onion, diced
4 shallots, diced
2 cans El Pato Mexican tomato sauce
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chili powder, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon cumin, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons garlic powder, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon onion powder, plus more to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
3 poblano peppers
1/4 cup yellow mustard
1 tablespoon honey
large can light Mexican beer

  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Bake the bacon for 25 to 35 minutes, or until crispy. Finely chop.
  2. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallots and cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add ground beef and cook until crumbled, browned and cooked through.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low and add bacon, El Pato, beans, spices, and half of the can of beer. Stir, cover, and cook on low for 2 hours.
  4. Meanwhile, set the oven to HIGH Broil. Spray the poblano peppers with cooking spray and put on a baking sheet. Broil for 5 minutes or so per side, until skin is charred and blistering. When the entire pepper is charred, remove from the oven and place in a glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 15 minutes. Next, remove blackened skins. Seed and finely chop.
  5. After 2 hours, add the poblano peppers, yellow mustard and honey. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. If it needs tang, add more mustard. If it needs something to take some of the heat out, add more honey. If it needs thinning out, add more beer. Let your tastebuds be your guide.
  6. Lastly, add the short rib. Stir to combine and serve. You can top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, or cornbread croutons. Enjoy!

short rib chili

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

 

It’s Football Season- Time to eat Hot Wing Sliders!

Hot Wing Sliders

Summer is on its way out and it’s time for my favorite season of the year. I’m not talking about Fall, although Fall is pretty awesome in its own right. No, my favorite season has less to do with great weather and falling leaves, and more to do with an increase in trash talking, wearing a particular set of colors every Saturday, and eating some delicious, nerve-calming food. That’s right, it’s FOOTBALL SEASON!! We made it!

Football season is not great for eating healthy food, but when your nerves are shot watching your team go for it on 4th and inches during a tied ballgame, who wants to be dipping celery in some ranch? Not me, certainly not my husband, and I’m guessing not you, either. I laughed as I overheard BJ giving our little boy a heads up last weekend.

“Kellan, next weekend starts the beginning of staying inside all day, yelling at the TV, and eating lots of yummy food. Are you ready?” Kellan is. Granted, he will be over it in about ten minutes and I’ll be the bad mom who puts Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the iPad to babysit him for a few, but I’m confident he’ll still turn out alright.

BJ and his brothers always use football season as an excuse to ask their mom to make her famous hot wings. They are so good. They will set you on fire and have you begging for a gallon of milk to guzzle, but that’s the point of hot wings, isn’t it? The only problem is, it can be a drag to make hot wings. It is A LOT of work unless you have an indoor deep fryer. Masterbuilt makes some incredible fryers that make everything, including clean up, easier. If you love making hot wings, you need one!

But let’s say you don’t have an indoor fryer, you don’t want the mess and hassle of homemade hot wings, but you DO want the delicious, melt-your-face off, I’m-crying-real-tears, essence of a hot wing. That’s when Hot Wing Sliders become your new best friend.

Three Hot Wing Sliders

These little gems are super easy and will give you EXACTLY what you’re looking for in hot wing flavor. Honestly, I think I like them just as much…maybe better.  I’m a girl after all, and the idea of gnawing on a chicken wing, especially given my dislike for chicken in general, is kind of unappealing. Especially when there are other people around, which there inevitably are on game day. Yep, this is easier. Easier to make and easier to eat. You can feed an army with this recipe, just double or triple it as your crowd grows. You can even toss it all in a slow cooker if you really want a hands-off experience. I love that idea on a busy game day!

Give these Hot Wing Sliders a try this weekend. Win or lose, at least you’ll be eating well.

Happy football season!

Happy cooking!

Oh– and WAR EAGLE!

Hot wing slider on a plate

Hot Wing Sliders (makes 12 sliders)

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
18 oz. Lousiana Hot Sauce
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 packet ranch dressing seasoning
Ranch dressing or blue cheese dressing, for garnish
Pack of 12 Hawaiian Rolls, halved into slider buns

  1. Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup hot sauce and garlic powder with 2 cups of water. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pan like a Dutch oven or braiser. Sear chicken, about two minutes per side. Reduce heat to low, and hot sauce-water mixture until it goes a little over half way up the sides of the chicken, cover with a lid and let cook on low for 1 to 2 hours, depending on how much time you have.
  3. Meanwhile, combine remaining hot sauce and dry ranch dressing seasoning. Remove chicken from pot and shred. Drain cooking liquid from pot. Add chicken back to pot and pour in hot sauce-ranch mixture. Cover and keep on low heat.
  4. To serve, top one side of Hawaiian bun with a heap of chicken mixture. Top with ranch or blue cheese dressing. Top with other side of Hawaiian bun. Eat!!!

holding hot wing slider

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Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

banana chocolate chip cupcakes

These cupcakes have been on my to-do list since I was on bedrest with Allie. After a doctor’s appointment one day in February, BJ took me to our favorite bakery in the world, Susie Cakes. You see we used to only visit Susie Cakes when we were already up in north county. Now however, they have opened up a location right down the street from us. BJ goes twice a week. It might be a problem. But back in February it was still a real treat to stop in, so we did.

We shared a slice of their seasonal special, Banana Chocolate Chip Cake with Cream Cheese Icing. It was decadent and delicious. I’m a sucker for banana-flavored anything, and just so happen to have one of the best banana bread recipes around, so I knew this would be something I would want to recreate.

banana cupcakes in pan

banana chocolate chip cupcakes in pan

I took my recipe for banana bread and merged it with another great cupcake recipe. Perfection! These could have passed as muffins and been eaten with no frosting at all…but where’s the fun in that? I piped on some homemade cream cheese frosting, topped the whole thing with a sprinkle of mini chocolate chips, and died and went to heaven. These jokers are good! The banana bread-cupcake-muffin-whatever-it-is, is lovely; not overly sweet with nice warmth from the cinnamon swirling around in the background. I love the addition of chocolate chips and fluffy cream cheese frosting, because they both serve to pull it all together and take the cupcakes from good, to spectacular. Who doesn’t love a melty, chocolatey, surprise in their banana bread? I mean cupcake. Same thing, right?

banana chocolate chip cupcakes

banana chocolate chip cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

So if you have some bananas that are quickly passing their prime on the countertop, go through your pantry and gather up everything else you’ll need to make these happen. Your friends and family will thank you. I took them to our Life Group last night and watched proudly as my two preggo friends devoured two each. I love feeding pregnant girls, they are the best! If there’s another time when a girl can eat two cupcakes without batting an eye, I’m not sure when it is. Unless I suppose you’re alone with your thoughts, two napping babies, and a cup of coffee. I’m not confessing anything here, I’m just imagining that a girl could get away with it then too. Especially if no one was watching. 😉

Happy baking!

cupcake garnished with banana slice

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

1 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
½ cup packed light brown sugar
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
3 to 4 large very ripe bananas
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (if you haven’t used this yet, please do ASAP!!)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup whole milk
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
mini chocolate chips, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. This recipe will yield twelve to eighteen cupcakes.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In another bowl, mash the bananas until smooth and stir in milk and vanilla. Set aside.
  4. Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the softened butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.
  5. In three or four batches, slowly add in the flour mixture, careful not to overmix but beating until just combined.
  6. Stir in the mashed banana mixture and chocolate chips by hand. Batter will be lumpy.
  7. Fill the muffin pans two-thirds of the way full and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Allow to cool before adding frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick usalted butter, softened 
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and the cream cheese. Slowly blend in the powdered sugar. Be careful to have the mixer on very low speed so that you don’t end up covered in powdered sugar. Add in vanilla and then beat until smooth and well-combined.
  2. Side note- the longer you beat the mixture, the lighter and fluffier your frosting will be!
  3. Assemble the cupcakes by topping each with cream cheese frosting and a sprinkling of mini chocolate chips.

many cupcakes

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.

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I’ll have the house made ricotta, please!

homemade ricotta cheese in cheesecloth

Have you ever been to a restaurant that offered house made ricotta cheese as an appetizer? Why would you order that, right? Can it really be worth the $12 price tag when you can get a 16 oz. tub at Trader Joe’s for $2.99? Yes, friend. Yes. I promise you, yes. I order it at one of our favorite places in Laguna Beach. It’s served alongside a honeycomb and always makes me feel super fancy. It’s something about house made anything that will make you feel that way. I’m a sucker for the chipotle ketchup, house made crackers, sausage ground and stuffed in the back of the house, or butter that was just churned up that morning by the prep cook. Homemade cheese makes me giddy as well…in a restaurant and especially in my own kitchen. I love when something sounds daunting when in reality, it’s a breeze.

Homemade ricotta cheese is the easiest thing you’ll ever make.

Bring milk and cream to a light boil.
Add vinegar.
Watch milk curdle.
Strain with cheesecloth to separate the curds from the whey (yep, this it where that came from).
Eat.

Cheesecloth in strainer

Cheesecloth layered on top of strainer, awaiting the goodness that is to come!

Milk and cream begin to curdle when vinegar is added.

Milk and cream begin to curdle when vinegar is added.

Curds of cheese being strained of as much liquid (whey) as possible.

Curds of cheese being strained of as much liquid (whey) as possible.

Delicous, creamy, homemade ricotta cheese. You will never go back!

Delicous, creamy, homemade ricotta cheese. You will never go back!

You barely cook, but friends and family will think you are a culinary genius. Homemade cheese??!! That’s so impressive! Impressive until everyone finds out how insanely easy it is, then it’s just smart. Why would you buy the grainy, flavorless excuse for ricotta cheese you can get at the store when you can make twice as much, twice as cheap, that tastes twice, no, let’s say INFINITELY better? You wouldn’t– and you never will again!

This is too easy not to try, and I promise you will find a ton of uses for it after it’s made. You can use it in lasagna, pancakes, gnocchi….hmmm…I feel another blog coming on. My favorite use for it is to smear it on a crostini and call it a day. See ya, butter. There’s a new girl in town and her name is Ricotta. She’ll be slathered on my toast until every last creamy bit is gone. And then I’ll make some more. Why not? It’s too easy and too delicious not to!

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar (this is NOT white “cooking” wine)
kosher salt, to taste, about 1 teaspoon
cheesecloth

  1. Combine milk, cream and salt together and bring to a gentle boil in a heavy enamel pot, like Le Creuset.
  2. Once boiling, remove from the heat and stir in white wine vinegar. Let sit untouched for 2 minutes or so until it begins to curdle.
  3. Cover a fine mesh sieve with two layers of cheesecloth and set over a bowl. Pour curdled mixture into cheesecloth and let stand for 25 minutes until the curds and whey have been separated and most of the liquid has drained into the bowl. What remains in the cheesecloth is your ricotta!
  4. Pat yourself on the back and find the nearest crostini, lasagna recipe, or whatever!

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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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I hate chicken.

chickenmarsala_forweb

I wish I liked chicken. People who like chicken have an easier life. Their restaurant orders are easier, the bill is cheaper, and they’re eating healthier than me by default. I’m never going to go for the chicken on the menu, (unless of course I’m at Chick-Fil-A or Zaxby’s, that’s a whole different kind of chicken). I’m going for the steak, the king crab legs or the pasta. In my humble opinion, ordering chicken at a restaurant is giving up on the meal before it has even begun. Ick. Chicken is boring. Bland. Dry. And there’s always a fear of landing the mysterious chewy piece that you have to spit out into your napkin and hope no one saw. Gross. Nope, no chicken for me please. I do, however, make it for my family all the time, and I always put a chicken dish or two on each week’s meal plan since most people do, in fact, like it. I also ALWAYS try the dishes that I’m asking others to eat so I run into a chicken preparation that I actually like every now and then. What kind of cook would I be if I didn’t? This recipe is one such preparation.

Maybe it’s the Italian inspiration behind this Chicken Marsala with Pan Roasted Cherry Tomatoes that makes my tastebuds sing, or perhaps it’s simply the umami-richness of the mushrooms and marsala wine sauce. Whatever it is, this dish is a winner. It will please the chicken-eaters and the chicken-haters in your life, although it’s quite possible that of the latter I am the only one. It’s quick, easy and tasty…perfect for a weeknight dinner. I served this chicken alongside parmesan smashed red potatoes that were par-boiled, smashed down onto a baking sheet, drizzled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted in the oven. YUM!

Chicken Marsala with Pan Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

16 ounces fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry Marsala wine
1 teaspoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon cold water
2 tablespoons heavy cream
½ teaspoon salt (more to taste)
6 chicken cutlets
1 tablespoon olive oil
⅓ cup flour
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups cherry tomatoes
fresh parsley

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a medium or large saucepan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and saute for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown.
  2. Add the garlic and wine – let the mixture simmer gently to reduce the wine, stirring occasionally. After 15-20 minutes, add the cornstarch, cream, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to the marsala mixture – it should start to thicken slightly
  3. Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a shallow bowl. Toss the chicken in the flour mixture until coated. Shake off excess.
  4. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Pan-fry the coated chicken for a few minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through.
  5. Add sauce and mushrooms to the skillet with the chicken. Top with tomatoes and simmer until the tomatoes are beginning to burst. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

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What does Strawberry Shortcake mean to you?

strawberryshortcake

I love a good strawberry shortcake. If I see one on a dessert menu it’s always a given that I will be ordering it.  Make that any fruity dessert. I know I’ve said this before but when a dessert has fruit in it I feel like it’s practically healthy. Please don’t burst my bubble, I know I’m dreaming. Back to shortcakes.

When I was a little girl it was a real treat when my mom served strawberry shortcake after dinner. She usually made hers with the little round sponge cakes that can be found in the produce aisle by the berries. She would slice the strawberries, toss in some sugar to sweeten them up a bit, and pile them on the sponge cake topped with a dollop of cool whip. I loved it! It usually signified that summer time was here. Just imagining those little treats takes me back to warm southern evenings, playing with my little sister in the yard, drinking water from the hose pipe, and watching lightning bugs flicker in the twilight sky. Now that’s some yummy nostalgia for you.

It seems that everyone has a different idea of what strawberry shortcake looks like. For many it’s that yellow sponge cake, but for others it’s a slice of angel food cake or even ladyfingers. All are delish. Somewhere along the way I discovered another version of shortcake, one I’d like to argue takes the…cake…although it’s much less cake and much more biscuit. That’s right, my favorite version of Strawberry Shortcake is made with a crumbly, buttery, slightly sweet, drop biscuit.

A drop biscuit is a biscuit that has NOT been rolled out and cut into circles, it’s simply dropped (plopped, kerplunked, spooned) onto a baking sheet and baked. It’s free form; no fuss, no muss. It’s also easy. There are tons of recipes for these shortcakes out there, but I’ve included the easiest one I’ve used here. Don’t tell anyone, but I use Bisquick for mine. Who cares if it’s fancy, it’s tasty! I also like to mix it up with my strawberries and toss them with brown sugar instead of granulated sugar. I like the subtle caramel flavor the brown sugar imparts, and to me the syrup created with brown sugar is thicker and richer in flavor than when regular granulated sugar is used. Want to take it even a step further? Add in a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to your berries. There’s your fancy!

So what’s your favorite version of Strawberry Shortcake? I’m eager to hear what you love because who knows, it might become my new favorite down the road!

Strawberry Shortcake

2 1/3 cup original Bisquick mix
1/2 cup milk
3 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 quart strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Stir bisquick mix, milk, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and the melted butter until a soft dough forms.
  3. Drop by spoonfuls into 6 biscuits onto a greased sheet pan. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.
  4. Meanwhile, combine strawberries and brown sugar. Mix and let sit 15 to 20 minutes or until a syrup forms.
  5. With an electric mixer beat heavy cream on high speed until it begins to thicken up. Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip until soft peeks form. Chill.
  6. To assemble shortcakes: Slice the biscuits in half. Top bottom half of one biscuit with some strawberries and syrup, and a dollop of whipped cream. Put top half of biscuit on top like a sandwich. Top with another dollop of whipped cream and then more berries and syrup. Serve.

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Asparagus’ Last Hurrah!

aspargus tart

I’m a big asparagus fan. I eat it year-around because I like it and because let’s face it, I can. We live in America and can get our hands on pretty much any produce any time of year, we just might pay a pretty penny for it. That’s the beauty of seasonal eating though. If you eat what’s in season it will not only taste better, it will cost less. So that’s why this dish is asparagus’ last hurrah…of the season.

I love how versatile asparagus is. It aims to please; making it easy for any cook to accomplish something wonderful with it. Grilled, roasted, battered and fried, sautéed, served raw in a salad, pureed into a soup…there is truly something for everyone. There’s not much I haven’t done with asparagus, and now I can mark even one more preparation off the list. Please marvel at this gorgeous tart with me. I mean, how yummy?!

asparagus-tart-horiz

Flaky, buttery puff pastry is the perfect vehicle to house nutty gruyere cheese, caramelized leeks and bright green asparagus. This tart is a cinch to put together, taking very little time and effort but looking like a million bucks. You could cut it up into squares and serve it as an app at your next get together or dinner party, but it would also be a nice alternative side dish to a grilled steak. Starch and veggie in one bite, throw it in the oven and tend to the grill. Done.

However you serve it, just serve it. It’s pretty to look at and even more pleasant to eat. A fun alternative to what you’ve probably been doing with Spring’s favorite veggie.

Asparagus Tart with Gruyere and Leeks

2 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, freshly grated
1½ pounds medium asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 leek, trimmed, cleaned, sliced lengthwise and chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep a parchment lined baking sheet and place the two puff pastry sheets on the baking sheet, overlapping them about an inch to connect them. Using a sharp knife, lightly score the pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges all around to mark a rectangle for the outer crust. Then, using a fork, pierce the dough all around in the center, not the edges. Bake the pastry dough until golden, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and sauté until caramelized, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Remove the pastry shell from the oven, sprinkle with Gruyere cheese and caramelized leeks.
  4. Arrange asparagus spears in a single layer over the Gruyere cheese, alternating ends and tips. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  5. Slice and serve. Enjoy! 🙂

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Let us eat cake!

hummingbird-cake-whole

I am so excited to be back in the kitchen!! Actually, I’m so excited to be anywhere other than the couch. Baby Allie has made her debut and all is slowly getting back to normal in the Purvis house.

After a brief stint in the NICU which resulted in one extra day at the hospital for us both, we came home on a sunny Monday afternoon. It was a really wonderful wheelchair ride through the hospital with my baby in my arms. When Kellan was born I was wheeled out in tears as I was forced to leave him behind in the NICU. I literally went home, showered, and immediately returned to the hospital to be with my baby. It was depressing. This time I was wheeled out in tears again, but they were tears of joy that my prayers had been answered and we were all heading home together. To God be the glory!

We were greeted at the driveway by both grandmothers and Kellan jumping up and down and cheering for us. There were balloons and flowers; quite the little celebration, and boy was I ready to celebrate! I knew friends and family would be coming to the house to see our new bundle and I wanted it to be a party…and no party is complete without cake.

So yes, 5 days post cesarean section and 1 day post hospital discharge, I baked a cake. It was awesome. The cake and the actual baking process, that is. If you’ve never had Hummingbird cake you need to remedy that as soon as possible. It is perfect for this time of year, overflowing with banana, pineapple, pecans and decadent cream cheese frosting. I can see it on the dessert table at Easter and Mother’s Day, or even at your Memorial Day festivities.

For me, it was the perfect cake to celebrate our sweet little girl’s arrival. It’s delicate in flavor, but makes a strong impact. Delicate and strong, just like a hummingbird and just like our little one.

Enjoy!

hummingbird-cake-slice

HUMMINGBIRD CAKE

For the cake:

3 cups flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup fresh pineapple, crushed (see below)
2 cups very ripe bananas, mashed (approximately 4 large or 6 medium-small)
1 cup chopped pecans

For the frosting:

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, chilled
3, 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, chilled
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 ½ cups finely chopped pecans

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Peel bananas, place in a small mixing bowl and mash. Set aside. Leave the oven heated to 350 degrees.
  3. Butter and flour 3-9 inch round baking pans. Trace the bottom of the pan (for all three pans) onto parchment paper, cut out circle and place in the bottom of each pan.
  4. In a sifter over a large mixing bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Sift into the bowl. Set aside.
  5. In a second large mixing bowl combine the granulated and brown sugar; stir to combine. Add the eggs and stir briskly by hand to combine all ingredients into a smooth mixture.
  6. Whisk the oil and vanilla into the sugar/egg mixture until combined and smooth.
  7. Add the flour mixture all at once and hand stir (do not beat) to combine the mixture fully.To crush the pineapple: Place 1 cup of finely diced fresh pineapple in a medium mixing bowl and using a potato masher, crush the pineapple. Add the fruit and juice to the batter. Also add the mashed banana and the pecans. Stir just until combined; do not over stir.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans. Tap the pans on the countertop to release any air bubbles and place in the 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until cake bounces back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool in pans on racks for 5 minutes then turn out onto cooling racks to fully cool before frosting. Be sure to peel off and discard the parchment paper.
Instructions for Cream Cheese Frosting:
  1. Cut sticks of chilled butter into 1 inch pieces and place in the bowl of a standing mixer (can use a hand held mixer if needed). Beat on low speed, gradually increasing speed to medium until the butter is still cool but has softened together (about 3 minutes).
  2. Cut the cream cheese into 1 inch strips and add to the butter. Mix at medium speed until fully combined, and smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla and slowly add the sifted powdered sugar. Beat until well blended, increasing speed to beat on medium-high for 3 minutes or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.
  4. Fold in pecans by hand.
Instructions for Cake Assembly:
  1. Place the first layer of cake upside down (the bottom of the cake will be frosted) on the serving plate. Cover with 2/3 cup of frosting. This will be a thin covering.
  2. Place the second layer of cake right side up (flat cake bottom onto the frosting) and frost the top of this layer with 2/3 cup again
  3. Place the last cake layer with cake right side up and use the remaining frosting to cover top of cake and the sides.
  4. Allow cake to stand at room temperature 30 minutes before serving and store any uneaten cake in the refrigerator. Cake best when made the day prior to serving!

Adapted from Boulder Locavore

 

Strawberry Fields

strawberryicecream

Last weekend I desperately needed to get my two year old out of the house for a little while. Kellan needed to burn some energy and Mom’s belly needed a break from being his drum set, landing pad, and pillow. Trust me I usually love having his attention and affection in whatever form it comes, but baby Allie needed some quiet time in utero. 🙂

On Saturday morning I did some research to find out what was going on in South Orange County and I ran across a U-Pick Strawberry Field a mere four miles from our house! Perfect! It looked super quaint and off the beaten path…much better that the strawberry field we pass from time to time that is flanked by freeways on both sides. This little local strawberry field is at South Coast Farms and boasts a backdrop of picturesque rolling hills. Not only does it have u-pick strawberries on weekends during strawberry season, it’s an organic farm and farm stand offering on site fruits and vegetables for purchase seven days a week. There’s even a CSA program (Community Supported Agriculture) where locals can subscribe to receive bountiful baskets of seasonal produce grown in the community. I’m really excited to give it a go after the baby comes as I imagine it will be the perfect inspiration for the healthy eating plan I’ll need to get back into pre-baby shape.

I was so excited for BJ to take Kellan to pick strawberries! Of course I so wish I would have been able to go with them, but it’s really all about the experience for Kellan and he always has the best time with his daddy! I sent them out the door with two empty baskets and anxiously awaited their return. Two hours later a very proud little boy marched through the door carrying a basket full of beautiful strawberries and sporting a huge smile.

“Look what I brought for you!” he beamed.

kpickingstrawberries

kstrawberry

BJ followed behind with the second basket of bright red berries. I could smell their sweet scent from the couch! We quickly washed up a few and tasted the treasure. They were so juicy, sweet, and soft enough to easily bite right into, but not mushy. I doubt there’s a more simple pleasure than the taste of freshly plucked strawberries. I knew right away what we needed to do with them. It was an unseasonably warm weekend so homemade strawberry ice cream seemed like it would be a winner…and it was!

strawberries

From my seemingly permanent perch on the couch, I coached BJ through the homemade ice cream making process. We started out with an ice cream base made of half and half, sugar, a vanilla bean, egg yolks and finished with heavy cream. I’ll admit, I jumped up off the couch and tackled the yolk-whisking part as I was less than confident that BJ’s effort was getting them to the fluffy state they needed to be in. (Whew! That was a work out for a girl who has been sedentary for two months!)

Once the base chilled, we stirred in about a pound of pureed berries and then let the ice cream maker do its thing. After only a half hour of churning it was ready to go into the freezer. This is the KEY to good homemade ice cream. Sure, you can go for it right out of the maker. That’s what most people do. But that’s also why most people’s homemade ice cream is really soupy and never makes it to the creamy, firm texture you expect from ice cream. We let ours freeze overnight but if you can’t wait that long, I would suggest at least 3 to 4 hours for better results.

This was some seriously good ice cream. I enjoyed a small bowl every night until it finally ran out, and even shared bowls with our Life Group. It got rave reviews…especially the texture. They couldn’t believe it was homemade!

You may or may not have a strawberry field from which to pick your berries, but I bet your grocery store is starting to stock some good looking berries. Give those a shot or use this same ice cream base with a fresh fruit that does grow in your neck of the woods. I promise it won’t disappoint!

strawberryicecream

Ingredients:

3 cups half-and-half
2 cups sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
9 whole large egg yolks
3 cups heavy cream
1 lb. strawberries, hulled
2 tablespoons sugar

  1. Stir half-and-half and 2 cups sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Split the vanilla bean, scrape out goodness inside, and add it in. Heat the mixture until it’s hot but not simmering or boiling.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks vigorously with a whisk until they start to lighten in color and get fluffy. You can use an electric mixer but be careful not to overdo it.
  3. Using a ladle, slowly drizzle a bit of the half-and-half mixture into the egg yolks, whisking continuously. This is called “tempering” the egg yolks and will bring them up to a warm enough temperature so that when you add them to the hot half and half the eggs don’t scramble. You can do this again for good measure if you’d like.
  4. Pour the tempered yolks into the saucepan with the rest of the half and half mixture and stir gently with a wooden spoon for 2 to 4 minutes, cooking it slowly until it’s thick enough to coat the spoon.
  5. Pour the entire mixture into a bowl through a fine mesh strainer. This will get rid of any eggs that might have accidentally scrambled. Nothing is worse than ice cream with bits of scrambled egg mixed in!
  6. Add the heavy cream to the bowl and stir gently to combine. Refrigerate this mixture for 2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile, combine the strawberries and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a blender. Puree until smooth. Pour the pureed strawberries into the chilled custard mixture and stir to combine.
  8. Now pour this mixture into your ice cream maker and churn according to the manufacturer’s directions. Transfer it to a freezer-safe container and freeze it for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.

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Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars

saltedcaramelapplepiebars

If you’re looking for something to do with that batch of salted caramel you made with me last week, I have a recipe for you! We are right at the peak of apple season…the perfect time to pick some apples and turn them into pies, bars, butters, and jams. Apple nirvana! Combine apple season with the fact that salted caramel and apples go together like peanut butter and jelly, and you will soon agree that these Salted Caramel Apple Pie Bars are the perfect way to kick off November. I snagged this gem of a recipe from my favorite website for all things sweet, Sally’s Baking Addiction, and made them for our Life Group last week. They were a huge hit! I suggest serving them warm and smothered with nothing but caramel, but my mom would argue that they’re best served up with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Either way, these bars are sure to become a fall staple in your house. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Shortbread Crust

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose flour

Apple Filling

1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled and thinly sliced (1/4 inch thick)
1 large Honey Crisp apple, peeled and thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Streusel

1/2 cup (40g) old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup (70g) light or dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup (30g) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
Salted Caramel recipe from below

  1. Preheat the oven to 300F degrees. Line an 8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on all sides. Set aside.
  2. Make the crust: Stir the melted butter, granulated sugar, vanilla, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the flour and stir until everything is combined. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes while you prepare the filling and streusel.
  3. Make the apple filling: Combine the sliced apples, flour, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a large bowl until all of the apples are evenly coated. Set aside.
  4. Make the streusel: Whisk the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender or two knives (or even with your hands) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
  5. Remove the crust from the oven, and turn the oven up to 350F degrees. Evenly layer the apples on top of the warm crust. Press them together tightly and press down to fit in pan. Sprinkle the apple layer with streusel and bake for 30–35 minutes or until the streusel is golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Lift the foil out of the pan using the overhang on the sides and cut into bars. Once cut, pour salted caramel sauce on top. Enjoy!

Bridal Showers and Peanut Butter Pie

Peanut Butter Pie

When I got married seven years ago I had some of the BEST bridal showers ever. I was very lucky to have some seriously awesome friends from almost every stage of my life jump in and ask to throw me a shower. Lucky, lucky me! It was a really fun season and the outpouring of love I felt during that time has stayed with me throughout the years. So special!

Of all of the wonderfully generous gifts I received, the one that I have used the absolute most is probably this peanut butter pie recipe. No joke. At my kitchen shower all of the lovely ladies were asked to bring a copy of their favorite recipe, and that’s how I got my hands on this gem. I feel kind of guilty about it because I have no idea whose recipe this originally was, but now I am known as having the BEST peanut butter pie around. Whoops! I guess the secret’s out now- it’s not actually my recipe. I did make one considerable improvement to it by adding my own graham cracker crust instead of a store-bought one. One could argue that really takes this pie to another level, but all in all the credit really belongs to someone else. So dear friend if you are reading this blog and the recipe looks familiar…THANKS!!- And please let me know so I can pass the kudos to you!

My in-laws are driving down the freeway as we speak, coming to spend some time with Baby K. My father-in-law, Bill, LOVES this pie and will be thrilled to see it chilling out in the fridge. I don’t get to make it for him nearly as often as I’d like, so I made sure to have it ready and waiting for his arrival. Next to Kellan, I think this peanut-buttery goodness is going to be a sight for sore eyes.

This recipe is a breeze to follow and can be whipped up in mere minutes. You’ll have to let it set up in the refrigerator for a while, but no one said you couldn’t start the party early by digging in to whatever gooey remnants grace the bottom of your mixing bowl. Heck, spread it on a banana and call it a healthy snack…there’s fruit involved after all and we know how I feel about that.

Speaking of bananas, there are a lot of ways you can dress this pie up and make it your own. Layer sliced bananas on top of the crust before pouring the peanut butter filling in, switch the graham cracker crust out for one made with chocolate wafer crumbs, or add a caramel drizzle to the top…anything! Or you can leave it as is and take the credit anyway. I certainly won’t tell. 🙂

Peanut Butter Pie

 

For the crust:

2 cups of finely crushed graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
pinch of salt

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees. Mix all of the ingredients together. Firmly press the mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a lightly buttered pie dish. Use the bottom of a glass to make sure the crust is nicely pressed into the edges of the pie pan.  Bake for 7 to 8 minutes. Let cool completely before filling.

For the pie filling:

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup granulated sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar

Whip the heavy cream and granulated sugar on high speed until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Beat the cream cheese, peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth and totally combined. Fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture until blended. Pour filling into the cooled graham cracker crust and chill for at least 4 hours.

Grilled Carrots with Citrus-Honey Dressing

It’s officially Summer and I am officially obsessed with grilling. Maybe it’s because as the temperatures rise it just gets too darn hot in my house to stand over the stovetop, but whatever it is, I would much rather spend my evenings cooking outside. Grilling is summer what roasting is to winter. If you’re into food at all you’ve probably noticed the roasting craze that has taken over Pinterest, food television, and cooking blogs. “When in doubt, roast it!” they say. I totally agree and 100% subscribe to that mantra. In the wintertime everything tastes better roasted. Roasted brussels sprouts, broccoli, butternut squash, carrots, asparagus…you name it, it can be roasted. However, enter Summer and the oven takes a back seat to it’s cooler, adventurous, macho brother- the grill. If you can roast it, you can grill it. Since both methods are dry heat cooking they are practically interchangeable.

Why is it then, that most of us only use the grill to cook protein? Silly! Wouldn’t it be so much easier if we were able to complete an entire meal outside on the grill? No running back and forth…inside and outside…outside and inside. Craziness! I know every time I’m supposed to be manning the grill and the stovetop at the same time something suffers, and it’s usually whatever I’m grilling. What good is perfectly creamy risotto if the New York Strip you were planning to serve it with looks and tastes like beef jerky? Biggest bummer ever!

That’s why I’m making it my mission to keep it all outside this summer. If my meat is supposed to be grilled then my side dish will be too. Simple. Prep it all inside and then take it all outside to do the cooking. No more running to and fro like a crazy person trying to manage two ticking time bombs at once. I’m simplifying my summer cooking and meal planning.

So far this summer I’ve grilled bread for bruschetta, cherry tomatoes for a taco topping, green beans for a tangy salad, limes before squeezing them into guacamole, carrots for a sweet and smokey side dish, and yukon gold potatoes for a killer potato salad.  I’ll have to share that potato recipe soon. I served it to my meat-and-potatoes-loving Dad and he LOVED it.

Start thinking about your side dishes when you plan to fire up the grill. Is there any reason why they can’t hit the grates as well? Just to prove that it can be done I want you try this grilled carrot recipe soon. I sliced my carrots into 1/4 inch thick strips, tossed them with salt, pepper and extra-virgin olive oil, and then dropped them right on the grill. The grill marks create a sweet, caramelized crust that brings out the carrots’ natural sweetness. Then toss it with a honey-citrus dressing, fresh mint and feta cheese, and you have a super unique and tasty take on this boring old root vegetable. Enjoy- and get grilling!

grilled carrots

 

Ingredients:

1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch-thick slices lengthwise
1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffonade (thinly sliced)
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Heat a grill over medium heat. Toss carrots with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
  2. Combine orange juice, red wine vinegar, honey, 1/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil and dijon mustard. Whisk vigorously until combined and slightly thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
  3. Grill carrots for 2 to 3 minutes per side with the grill closed, careful not to burn. If needed, remove carrots from direct heat and continue cooking over indirect heat until softened and cooked through.
  4. Toss carrots with dressing, mint and feta cheese. Serve.

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Meyer Lemon Pizza

The look on my husband’s face said it all. He had just returned home from an evening surf session and was ready to devour his dinner. After all of that paddling, not to mention the hike to and from the beach with his surfboard in tow, I’m sure he was hoping that meat and potatoes were on the menu. Sorry BJ, you didn’t marry a meat-and-potatoes-for-dinner-every-night kind of girl.

“Lemon pizza? For dinner?”

“No, MEYER lemon pizza,” I answered, like that would make a difference. It didn’t. Sometimes recipes just sound really good to me. I read it or see a picture of it, and just know that it’s going to be delish. Enter Meyer Lemon Pizza. More often than not, BJ is totally on board with my weird ideas. He loves to try new things and would definitely be considered an adventurous eater…But I guess I can’t really blame him for being a little bit skeptical about this one. I can see where a citrus-covered, meatless pizza could be a bit of a disappointment to hungry surfer. However, any pizza crust smothered in goat cheese, caramelized shallots (my personal favorite flavor-rever-upper), toasted pine nuts and ribbons of fresh basil has to be divine, right?

Right!! This pizza is one of the best things I’ve eaten so far this year. Meyer lemons are a really cool lemon-orange hybrid with a very soft, thin skin that lends a really fun sweet-tartness to every bite. Not having enough goat cheese to adequately cover my store-bought Boboli pizza crust, I mixed in a little bit of plain greek yogurt and lemon juice to get the crust happily smothered. From there, top your cheese with thinly sliced meyer lemons and caramelized shallots, and quickly bake or broil in a screaming hot oven. Top with pine nuts, basil and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Pizza nirvana on a plate!

BJ loved it! I knew he would. My 18 month old “Mmmmmmed” and “Yuuuuumed” his way through his slice. Always my favorite dinnertime serenade. I’m not going to lie. I threw a few steaks on the grill at the last minute. I didn’t want to disappoint the need for meat that BJ rarely voices but always appreciates. It was a fabulous dinner on our back porch. The best company a girl could have, plenty of protein, and a the shining star, my super weird sounding, but oh so yummy Meyer Lemon Pizza. I hope you will try it soon!

Lemon Meyer Pizza

Ingredients:

whole wheat Boboli pizza crust
5 oz. goat cheese
1⁄4 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 large or two medium shallots, sliced
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1⁄4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1⁄2 cup basil, chiffonade
2 Meyer lemons-­‐ thinly sliced and 2 teaspoons of juice reserved from half of one
salt and pepper, to taste
extra-­virgin olive oil

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a sauté pan, heat butter over medium-low heat. Add shallots and slowly caramelize. Set aside.
  3. Combine room temperature goat cheese with Greek yogurt and lemon juice. Whisk vigorously until smooth and easily spreadable. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Spread goat cheese mixture onto pizza crust leaving a ½ inch border all the way around. Top with lemon slices and shallots. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and top with pine nuts, basil, freshly ground black pepper and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Slice and serve.


Mega Meaty Pizza Lasagna

A few weeks ago my mother-in-law celebrated her 50th Birthday in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. It was an awesome week with my husband’s family. We rented a super cool beach house and kept it very low key. We ate in every night, played board games and celebrated 50 years of a very special lady. Really good times. For me, part of the fun was being the family chef for the week. As long as I’ve been in the family, I’ve never had the opportunity to really cook for them night after night. Sure, there have been meals here and there, but this was the first time I was able to hold them captive in the kitchen for an entire week. It was awesome!! We had burgers made with a combination of beef and bacon, biscuits with homemade sausage gravy, a good old fashioned low-country boil, steamed King Crab legs with drawn butter, a GIGANTIC mexican fiesta, and last but not least, my Mega Meaty Pizza Lasagna.

I have a few different lasagna recipes in my repertoire. One recipe I was given while visiting Italy and another that has become a huge hit on Pinterest, my Buffalo Ranch Chicken Lasagna. Both are great, but I knew neither would cut it as our first dinner at the beach. I needed to kick things up a notch to make sure this hungry bunch of meat-eaters left the table feeling satisfied. That’s when I recalled a lasagna recipe I’d seen from a cookbook my mother-in-law gave me that included ground beef, ground sausage and pepperoni. PEPPERONI! IN LASAGNA!! Yes, please! Taking that concept I added some ideas of my own and hit a serious home run. My family loved it and couldn’t get enough. I made it again a few days ago for some friends and heard more than once that it was the best lasagna they had ever tasted. I credit the pepperoni, it really does the job.

I wanted to share this easy recipe with you because if you’re anything like me, you would love to be known for your amazing, meaty, decadent, cheesy, pepperoni-laced lasagna. Is there anything better to be known for? Enjoy!!

mega meaty lasanga

Ingredients:

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage (mild)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. pepperoni, roughly chopped
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
12 oz. can tomato paste
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon oregano
1⁄4 teaspoon all-spice
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
16 oz. box no-­‐boil lasagna noodles
1 lb. mozzarella cheese
16 oz. ricotta cheese
1 cup grated parmesan

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large, heavy skillet, lightly brown ground beef, sausage, onion and garlic in the oil.  Add pepperoni, tomatoes, tomato paste, water, salt, pepper and oregano, all-spice and Worcestershire. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  3. In a 13 x 9-inch pan, spread 1 cup of the prepared sauce. Alternate layers of noodles, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan cheeses, ending with sauce, mozzarella and parmesan.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbling.
  5. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.


Brussels Sprouts Pizza

I have been beyond obsessed with brussels sprouts this winter. Ob. Sessed. Luckily for me, my husband has been very supportive of this new addiction and has happily eaten every single one I’ve put in front of him. My son has too. I somehow hit the jackpot in this area. My one-year old has a more distinguished palate than many adults. He “Mmmmmms” and applauds every time he eats. It’s pretty awesome. I pat myself on the back at every meal even though I secretly know it has very little to do with me, and everything to do with the fact that he’s an awesome baby. I digress.

Brussels Sprouts. If you hate them, chances are you haven’t had them prepared correctly. I’ve recently had great success sharing many different preparations with family and friends, and everyone has raved. These pizzas might be my favorite creation to date. Super quick to throw together and yet HUGE on flavor, this would be an easy appetizer for your next get-together. We actually ate a couple of these each for dinner and it was perfect. I hope you’ll try these soon…I promise you won’t regret it!

Brussels Sprouts Pizza

Ingredients:

8 pita breads
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
extra-­‐virgin olive oil
3 medium cloves garlic, cut in half
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 lb. pound Brussels sprouts, shredded or shaved
1 leek, sliced lengthwise into quarters, then chopped (keep root intact for easy cutting)
1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
salt and pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Heat butter over medium-­‐low heat. Add onions and slowly caramelize,

    careful not to burn, until onions are brown but not burnt. Set aside.

  3. Heat olive oil over medium-­‐high heat. Add leeks and Brussels sprouts and

    sauté for 5 to 7 minutes, until softened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

  4. Meanwhile, rub each pita bread with the cut side of a garlic clove. Drizzle

    lightly with extra-­‐virgin olive oil and a few crushed red pepper flakes.

  5. Top each pita with some of the caramelized onions and then 1⁄4 cup

    mozzarella cheese. Divide Brussels sprouts mixture evenly over the top of the 8 pitas, approximately 1⁄4 cup of mixture per pita. Add a few crumbles of goat cheese to each and top with the crumbled bacon.

  6. Bake at 425 for 8 to 10 minutes. Serve.


Buffalo Ranch Chicken Lasagna

It’s Super Bowl time! You have the perfect excuse to scroll through your pins on Pinterest and choose a few super unhealthy, extremely decadent dishes to serve to family and friends during the big game. Hooray!! Trust me, I’ve been there and done that. A few years ago when Pinterest first hit the scene I had a Super Bowl spread that you could gain five pounds just looking at. It was intense…and delicious. This year I was thinking about trying to replicate my mother-in-law’s hot wings, but I just can’t bring myself to go through the whole deep-frying ordeal. Such a mess. Then I remembered something I actually saw on Pinterest myself a few days ago- Buffalo Chicken Lasagna.

Interesting.

I read the recipe and it actually sounded pretty good…hot sauce, blue cheese, white cheddar, pasta…what’s not to love? I made some changes and additions and came up with what I think it a pretty amazing combo. I personally love dipping my hot wings in ranch dressing, not blue cheese, so I added some “ranchy” herbs and spices to the sauce to really drive home my favorite hot wing flavors. If you want to mix up your game this year, give this one a shot. It’s a crowd pleaser and it won’t leave your kitchen with a layer of oil coating your appliances and countertops. Or if you must, go for the gold and put all those pins of yours to good use. At least you have a good excuse. 🙂

photo copy

olive oil
2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 small onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large carrot, grated
2 garlic cloves, minced
1, 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 , 12 oz. bottle Louisiana brand buffalo wing sauce 1 tablespoon dried parsley
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder
1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder
1⁄2 teaspoon dried dill weed
salt and pepper, to taste
no-­‐boil lasagna noodles
15 oz. ricotta cheese
4 oz. blue cheese
1⁄2 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
12 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz. white cheddar cheese, shredded

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrot and cook until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  2. Add the can of diced tomatoes, bottle of wing sauce, dried parsley, dried dill, onion powder and garlic powder. Stir in chicken and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low, cooking for 20 minutes or up to an hour.
  3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine beaten egg, ricotta cheese and blue cheese. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Remove lid from Dutch oven and check seasoning. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  5. Begin the lasagna layering process. Spread 1 cup sauce into a greased 13-­‐in. x 9-­‐in. baking dish. Layer with three noodles, 1-­‐1/2 cups sauce, 2/3 cup ricotta mixture, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 2/3 cup cheddar cheese. Repeat this process 2 more times for a total of three layers.
  6. Bake, covered, at 350 degrees with 20 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake for 20 to 25 minutes more. Remove and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.