Thursday, March 24, 2011

Focaccia Bread

Last year I got a mixer from my family for Mother's Day. I had been wanting one for a long, long time. I use it often, mostly for baked goods. But today I gave it a new purpose when I made Focaccia Bread. Focaccia can be made with so many different flavor combinations or toppings, and even turned into pizza. Last night, I decided to take this simple recipe and top it with caramelized onions and cheeses. I served my bread with Balsamic Chicken and green salad, which were both delicious, but the homemade bread that mommy made totally stole the show! (Even our picky eater ate a second slice!)

Focaccia Bread with Caramelized Onion & Cheese
adapted from Food Network Chef Anne Burrell's Recipe for Focaccia Bread

1 3/4 cups warm water
1 package of active dry yeast
1 tbsp. sugar
5 c.  all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1 tbsp. salt
sea salt for sprinkling
1 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, sliced into thin rings
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning blend


Combine water, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl. You will need to find a warm place to set your bowl. (I like to turn my oven on it's lowest heat setting and set the bowl on the stove top.) Wait at least 15 minutes until the yeast is foamy.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine flour, salt, 1/2 c. of the olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Once the dough has come together, scrape any excess flour off the sides of the bowl and then continue to knead in your mixer on medium speed for about 5 minutes. 
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface such as a cutting board and knead 1-2 times, adding a sprinkle of flour if dough is too sticky

Coat the inside of your mixer bowl with olive oil and place the dough in the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for an 1 hour. The dough should be doubled in size.

Coat a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with the remaining 1/2 c. of olive oil. Chef Burrell notes: This may seem excessive, but focaccia is an oily crusted bread. This is why it is soooooooooo delicious! (She's right!) Press dough into the pan and turn over to coat with olive oil. Stretch dough to fit the pan and put in a warm place and cover with plastic wrap (again) for 1 more hour. I know this seems like a lot of waiting...but really it's worth the wait! While the dough is rising  preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

In the meantime, drizzle a bit of olive oil into a skillet on medium heat and add onions. Cook just until translucent (Try not to caramelize just yet as the process will be finished in the oven). Set aside.

When dough is finished rising, poke a spoon handle into dough, creating dimples, about every inch.

Liberally sprinkle top with course sea salt. Top with garlic, cheeses, onion (I left a portion without onions so that our picky eater would be willing to give it a try.) Sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Bake until edges are golden brown and the onions have caramelized, about 25-30 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Cheesy Porkchop

And No... I'm not talking about my husband. Though he is pretty cheesy!

I'm talking about Asiago-Crusted Pork Chops, slightly modified from Cooking Light. The best thing about this recipe is that you can make it, start to finish, in under 20 minutes. Not to mention that it is absolutely delish! If you're looking to impress,  this one definitely gets points for taste and presentation.  You can't go wrong with crusty golden brown Asiago cheese.

Asiago-Crusted Pork Chop

Yield: 4 servings
4 (4 ounce) boneless center-cut loin pork chops
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 c. panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1/2 c. grated Asiago cheese
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
4 lemon wedges
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme

Trim pork of any fat. Place between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound (using a meat mallet, rolling pin, or small heavy skillet) to about 1/4 inch thickness.

Separate egg white from the yolk and place in a shallow dish. In another shallow dish combine panko, cheese, salt, and pepper. Dip pork in egg white and then dredge in the panko mixture, pressing down to coat evenly.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Careful place pork into the skillet and  cook 3 - 4 minutes on each side or until lightly golden (if you are using a meat thermometer to check for doneness the pork should reach an internal temperature of 160-170 degrees Fahrenheit)Remove pork to a plate or serving platter. 

Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over each pork chop and sprinkle with chopped thyme.

Serve with a green vegetable for a "springy" dish. Even if it's as dreary outside at your house today as it is at mine!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Cranberry, Orange, & Banana Mini-Muffins

 I have to admit that I went a bit overboard on this one. These muffins were going to be glazed, then I decided they should have streusel topping. When at last they were complete, I decided to combine both toppings! Pick either topping, both toppings, or enjoy these delicious snacks with none at all. Considering that the baby and the hubby gobbled up the first dozen within minutes,  I think we can safely say we found a new snack-time favorite!


2 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
4 tbsp butter or margarine softened
1 1/2 c. (3 large) mashed ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/4 c. sour cream
5 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. dried chopped cranberries
1 tbsp. orange zest

*Tip: 1 medium orange yields approx 2 Tablespoons of zest.

Streusel Topping
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. flour
1 tbsp. orange zest
2 1/2 tbsp. cold butter or margarine

1 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4-5  tbsp. orange juice

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Combine flour, salt, and baking soda with a whisk and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl combine butter and sugar and beat with a whisk, hand mixer, or stand mixer (whatever is convenient.)
  • Add eggs, one at a time and beat well. Add remaining wet ingredients to combine.
  • Slowly stir in the flour mixture. Once combined, fold in cranberries and orange zest.
  • Coat a mini-muffin tin with non-stick spray. Fill muffin tin with batter.  I used a tablespoon, which was just the right size.

Streusel Topping: combine brown sugar and flour, orange zest, and butter in a medium size bowl. Cut in butter with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle to coat the tops of muffin batter.

  • Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Adding Glaze: Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of orange juice. Remove muffins from tins and place on cooling rack. Drizzle glaze over muffins.

Yield: About 3 dozen mini muffins or 1 1/2 dozen regular size muffins.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

BBQ Chicken Pizza with Cilantro Lime Drizzle

    I started making pizza at home back when my husband and I were a couple of newlyweds living in the very expensive paradise of Hawaii. Ordering pizza on our Army salary was not a luxury we could often afford. Even now, 9 1/2 years later, we prefer our homemade pizza over delivery. Before our little one hit his "terrible" phasew, (which prevents me from spending much time in the kitchen) I took the time to make my own dough. At some point he will out grow this phase and I will again have the time to make delicious dough, but for now I am content with store bought.  is a great resource for recipes for pizza dough, in case you've got more time on your hands than I. This recipe is a great way to use up left over chicken, but also worth grilling up a piece or two, just so you can eat it atop a delicious pizza. 

1 ball of pizza dough (I get mine at Winco Foods)
1 1/4 c. of your favorite BBQ Sauce (more or less depending on how much you sauce you prefer)
2 c. diced or shredded cooked chicken
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 c. shredded Gouda
1/2 c. each diced red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and red onion
1/4 c. diced green onion

Cilantro Drizzle
1/2 c. olive oil
1/2 c. lime juice
4 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. diced jalapeno pepper (more if you prefer extra spice)
1/2 c. cilantro
2 cloves garlic
a pinch of salt

For the pizza:
*Tip: Remove pizza dough from your refrigerator a couple of hours before you begin so that dough is more pliable.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Start with a floured surface. Use the backs of your fists to press dough into an approximate 14" circle.

Transfer dough to a prepared pizza pan (If you would like you can also dust the pan with a little bit of cornmeal which will give you a crispier crust).

If you haven't already done so, dice your peppers and onions and set aside while dough rests.

Mix BBQ sauce and chicken in a small bowl and then dump it right into the middle of your crust. Use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the outside.

Top the chicken mixture with half of the cheese, layer with mixture of peppers and onions and then top with remaining cheese. Place pizza into preheated oven for 12-14 minutes. Cheese will be bubbly and crust will be golden. Yum!   

For the drizzle: Rinse cilantro and coarsely chop. Smash garlic and remove peel. Place jalapeno, cilantro, and garlic in a  food processor (or blender) and pulse. Add lime juice and honey and process.  Slowly stream olive oil into the mixture until it is fully incorporated. Season with salt to taste.

Drizzle cilantro mixture onto pizza and enjoy! Tonight we reserved some extra diced peppers and onions and tossed them with greens, leftover cheese, and crushed tortilla chips. The Cilantro Drizzle also makes an excellent salad dressing!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Big Fat Hen

Tonight we are having Slow Cooker Chicken because yesterday I had a rare free hour away from the kids and I spent my hour walking around a local grocery store.  Ridiculous I know, but I only had an hour, we needed fresh produce and I literally had nothing to do. Anyways, as I perused the sales I noticed that whole chickens were on sale for $.69/lb.  For that price I thought it was worth making a meal of.

Slow Cooker Chicken

Ingredients: 1 whole chicken, 2 cloves of garlic, 5 medium red potatoes, 2 stalks of celery, 1/2 a yellow onion, misc herbs (optional), olive oil, paprika, and lemon pepper seasoning.

*A side note: I used these seasonings...but if all you have is salt, pepper, and a little bit of garlic you can still make this dish. Use your imagination, and use what you have on hand because it shouldn't be complicated!

Step 1) Start with a clean sink. Remove chicken from packaging and reach your hand into the cavity to pull out all the inner most yucky parts. This is where the husband usually comes in handy...but of course he wasn't around. Rinse the cavity and entire bird with cool running water and then pat dry with paper towels. Set chicken aside.

Step 2) Rinse Potatoes and celery and place on a cutting board. Cut Potatoes in half and set aside. Cut celery stalks into small enough pieces to fit inside the cavity of the chicken.It doesn't have to be pretty because if your family is anything like mine, it's not going to get eaten anyways.  Roughly chop the onion and dice up the garlic cloves.

Step 3) Spray your slow cooker with nonstick spray and then place potato halves along the bottom. Place the onion, celery and part of the garlic inside the cavity of the chicken. Place chicken on top of the potatoes.

Step 4) Carefully slide your hand under the skin of the chicken, separating the skin from the breast so that you can get some of the seasoning right onto the meat. Rub olive oil, garlic, and the other seasonings under the skin and all over the outside of the chicken. You want it everywhere!

Step 5) Wash up carefully! Set your slow cooker to low for about 8 hours, meat will no longer be pink and juices will run clear.

Step 6) Enjoy!

Serving suggestion: We ate our chicken along with the red potatoes and a  fresh green salad. You could also add a vegetable or a some fresh dinner rolls to your meal.