Chicken Fajita Pizza

One thing that I made a lot of when we were living in China was pizza. There was actually a Papa John’s pretty close to our apartment, but it wasn’t my favorite and making pizza at home is just fun. There are a endless flavor combinations. Really, if flavors go well together on their own, there’s a good chance they’ll go well together on a pizza.

One day when I was staring at an open fridge, trying to decide on the flavor of day, I came up with this idea for Chicken Fajita Pizza. No, it’s not the first Chicken Fajita Pizza ever made, but I think the combination of my favorite fajita marinated chicken and the Mexican black bean sauce, really made it special.

These photos are actually from the first time I made this pizza (while still living in China) but it’s one of my favorites still. Nowadays, I roll the pizza dough just a little bit thinner and I go a little heavier on peppers and onions, but the basic pizza is still exactly the same!

Now I want to know what YOUR favorite homemade pizza is!

 


 

Chicken and Basil Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

Jesse is a funny guy. Lately there has been a common recurrence in his reviews of dinner, “It was good/great/amazing/OK, but it would be even better with potatoes.” The man loves his potatoes, and thinks that they should be an ingredient in every meal. Chicken and rice, calzones, hoagies, soup… you name it. Don’t get me wrong, I like potatoes too, but rice AND potatoes in one meal?

After several evenings of, “Where’s the potatoes?” and after finding 2 of the largest potatoes I’ve ever seen at the market, a light bulb went off. It was time to take his potato love to an extreme. And thus was born the STUFFED Twice Baked Potato. Would you like some potatoes with your potatoes?

These potatoes can not be tagged as an “Easy Weeknight Dinner”, not because they’re difficult just because they can be a bit time consuming. Don’t worry, they are well worth the time and effort.  Knowing the time/effort required for twice baked potatoes,  I really wanted the potato to be the star of this meal so I opted to add chicken to the stuffing. It was nice to not have to worry about preparing a main course and in the end the meal was filling and satisfying.

Chicken and Basil Stuffed Twice Baked Potatoes

Ingredients
2-3 Idaho baking potatoes (depending on their size, mine were HUGE so I just made 2)
Olive oil and kosher salt for coating
1 Tbsp Olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken broth
small handful fresh basil
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
Juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded

Directions
Preheat an oven to 400 degrees F (200 C). Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.

Scrub the outside of the potatoes really well, then pat dry with paper towels, prick each potato with a fork 6-8 times, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle each potato with about a teaspoon of oil and use a pastry brush to evenly distribute over surface then sprinkle with kosher salt. Flip the potatoes and repeat on the other side. Bake for an hour to an hour and a half, or until they are tender when pricked and the internal temperature reads 210 F (100 C).

When the potatoes are close to being done, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and saute for 3-4 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the half and half and broth. Stir well and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. In the meantime, chop the basil. After the sauce has simmered, add the basil, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice. Taste the sauce and add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Once the potatoes have finished baking, cut them in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop out the insides, leaving a thin shell around the edges, then return the shells, open side up, to the baking sheet. Place the potato guts in a bowl. Use a fork to slightly mash the potatoes. Pour the sauce into the bowl with the potatoes and stir to incorporate. Add the cooked shredded chicken and stir.

Fill the potato shells with the filling, sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and return them to the hot oven for 10 minutes, switching to the broiler for the last minute or so if the cheese hasn’t yet started to turn golden brown.

Serve hot with a small side salad or steamed vegetables.

Adapted from Kayotic Kitchen

Spinach and Artichoke Macaroni and Cheese


Starting out in the kitchen I was pretty lucky. I didn’t have a lot of flops and I had enough success to keep me motivated in trying newer, some more complicated, things. But let’s get real here for a second. Not everything I make turns out great the first time. Getting even more real, some things never quite turn out the way I want them to. I tried making pad Thai a few months ago…. We had pizza for dinner that night.

Of course, I’m not going to share things here that just don’t work, not really the kind of blog I’m going for. Keeping that in mind, I always have high hopes that whatever dish I make will be good and what I like to call “blog worthy.” Occasionally, a meal I expect to be good exceeds that expectation.

This Macaroni and Cheese is one of those meals. I found myself licking my bowl clean, going back for seconds and sneaking a few extra bites when putting the leftovers away. Plus there’s spinach in it, so it’s got to be healthy right? OK, maybe not. But turning one of my favorite appetizers into a meal this good is a win in my book. It’s also pretty easy to put together. Lots of stirring, and adding the ingredients in steps, but not at all difficult. From start to finish (including all the chopping) I think it took me just over 30 minutes.

 

Cheddar and Ranch Cheese Ball

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Happy Halloween! As I promised yesterday, here is the recipe for the BRAINS!! If you’re still looking for an appetizer to take to a Halloween party tonight why not give this a try? It’s super simple, tasty, and will impress/gross out all of your friends! This would also be good for non-Halloween events, just skip the brain shaping and roll into a ball and then in sliced almonds instead!

Cheddar and Ranch Cheese Ball

Ingredients
3 1/2 cups shredder cheddar cheese (I used a mix of sharp, mild, and Vermont white)
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese (optional, I skipped)
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (1 ounce) package Ranch-style dressing mix (Hidden Valley brand)
1 cup sliced almonds (Obviously omit if you’re making the brain)
2-3 drops of black food coloring, if you want a grayish hue
3-4 drops red gel food coloring, for “blood”

Directions
Add the cheese to the bowl of food processor*. Pulse a few times for 3 seconds each. Add the cream cheese and Ranch seasoning packet and process until smooth.

To make the brain, remove half of the mixture and form an egg shaped ball, place on a plate. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip, or a ziploc bag with the corner cut, with the remainder of the mixture. Starting in the middle of the formed ball pipe a straight line length wise to the edge of the egg shape. When you reach the edge start zigzagging your way back to the middle. Repeat on the 3 parts of the egg shape. I used the picture below as a model when I piped. If you have a lot left, try piping a second layer directly over top.

Place the brain in the refrigerator for about an hour. Before serving spread red food coloring on a knife and stick it cheese ball. Serve with crackers. (The left overs were also really good spread on a bagel!)

*If you don’t have a food processor this can also be done in a bowl with just a spoon (or a hand held mixer), but the food processor does make it extra smooth for piping.

Adapted from What’s Cookin, Chicago?