December 2011

BBQ Chicken Pizza

It used to be hard for me to understand BBQ Chicken Pizza people. Why in the world would one choose to order that over your standard, delicious, amazing, traditional tomato sauce pizza? You know the old saying – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I think whoever came up with that had pizza in mind.
Well, I’ve turned a new leaf. I moved into a new neighborhood, started going to new restaurants, and started doing new things. Marriage being one of them, BBQ pizza being the other. One of our favorite neighborhood restaurants has BBQ chicken pizza on the menu – and I don’t know if it was newlywed bliss, severe starvation, or one too many glasses of wine – but I ordered it a few months ago. And I loved it. And I’ve been eating it nearly every weekend since.
And, to get to the point, I wanted to make it at home. The key(s) to good BBQ chicken pizza – crispy crust, tender pulled chicken, good BBQ sauce.
Pizza Dough
1 cup warm water
1 package yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 cup bread flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 skinless chicken breasts, bone-in
1/2 onion, sliced
BBQ sauce
Fresh Mozzarella
Start by mixing the pizza dough. In a liquid measuring cup, mix one cup of warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let it stand there for a few minutes to get all foamy.
In a mixing bowl, combine the flours and salt. Pour in the warm water and mix. Add the honey and oil. Knead together until combined. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour. Cover the bowl and let rise for about an hour and a half.
Now, cook the chicken. There is a lot of flexibility here – you can use leftover chicken, grilled chicken, plain baked boneless skinless chicken…but I recommend this method if you have the time.
Preheat the oven to 300. Heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts, browning all sides.
Throw in the sliced onions.
Drizzle with some BBQ sauce (a cup or so) and a little more olive oil.
Cover the pot and place in the oven. Bake for an hour and a half, and remove from the oven.
Now it should be time to roll out the dough. Increase the oven temp to 450. My wonderful and thoughtful husband surprised me with a really great pizza stone – which works wonders on a pizza crust. I highly recommend you get one. If you don’t have one, a baking sheet will be fine. Place the pizza stone/baking sheet in the hot oven to heat it up.
Roll out the dough to your desired thickness. We like really thin, crispy, crust – I rolled out to about 1/4 inch thickness. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkles with a little salt.
Take the pizza stone from the oven, and drizzle with olive oil and flour. Use a brush to spread out evenly over the stone. This is a little hard to do without burning your hands, but you’ll find a way.
Place the pizza dough in the oven and bake for 8 minutes. Meanwhile, pull apart the chicken. It should just fall off the bone.
Remove the pizza crust from the oven….
Spread with BBQ sauce….
Add the chicken…
And plenty of fresh sliced mozzarella.  On half of the pizza I threw on some corn. Sadly, it was canned. Texas has bad corn. This is a great addition though and highly recommended.
Bake the pizza at 450 for about 10-12 minutes, until the crust looks crisp and the cheese is slightly browned.  And that’s all, folks!

French Toast Casserole

Here is your Christmas brunch recipe. I’m not trying to be bossy, but this is it. I know, I know, Christmas is about family, friends, time together, blah blah blah. To me, it’s about the food. And let me tell you, I would have been much better off making this recipe for my family of 9 at Christmas, rather than my Dallas family of 2 on a random Sunday. You just simply cannot stop eating this stuff.
The best part about this recipe (well, the second best part – the first best part is the taste) – is that you assemble it the night before, then simply bake it the day of. It is such an easy and stress-free brunch option.
1 loaf french bread (I used a round french boule)
8 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup half and half or heavy cream
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 stick cold butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional, but good)
So, start by greasing a 9×13 inch baking dish. Tear your bread into about 3-inch chunks and throw them in the dish.
In a bowl, mix together the eggs, milk/cream, sugars, and vanilla.  You can modify the sugar combo if you’d like – I love the flavor of brown sugar so cut down on the white.  Pour the egg mixture over the bread. I think I threw on a few more sprinkles of brown sugar here for fun. Not necessary, but fun.
Cover and put in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight (I did overnight – and it was really fun to think about that marinating in there the whole time).
The next morning, or a few hours later depending on your life choices, preheat the oven to 350 and remove the casserole from the fridge. To prepare the topping, mix the flour, brown sugar, cold butter, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. I used a hand mixer for this, but I think a pastry cutter would have been more appropriate. I don’t have one of those, since I was born in the 80s.
 Pour the topping over the casserole, and then bake for 50 minutes.
Scoop out the casserole in ginormous sized portions, and top with whatever feels right. We did bananas and maple syrup. And I think that will be my dinner this evening.
 Merry Christmas!

Christmas Wreaths


I’d like to dedicate this post to my little sister Bente, who lives for these little corn flake wreath Cookies. Ok, maybe she doesn’t live for them, that would be strange and would require an intervention. But she sure likes them a lot, and so of course I had to add them into my Christmas baking repertoire. I don’t know why, considering she lives in Wisconsin. I guess because she likes these a lot and I like her a lot.

Christmas corn flake wreaths are a really fun and perfect addition to your holiday cookie collection. Bright green Christmas wreaths that taste like rice krispie treats, but a little bit better. They are also a perfect choice if your oven breaks and the oven man comes 187 separate times and can’t seem to fix the problem, as these are a stovetop item.  I have no hard feelings there.

Our oven has since been replaced, but I plan to make another batch of these this weekend. They are a nice break from the traditional sugar and ginger cookies.

4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but highly recommended)
4-5 cups Corn Flakes
Green food coloring
Red cinnamon candies, red M&Ms, or something else red for the holly berries

Start by melting the marshmallows and butter in a large pot over low heat, stirring often. Don’t burn the marshmallows, you will ruin Christmas.

Once the marshmallows and butter have reached a nice, smooth consistency, mix in the vanilla and almond flavorings. Stir in lots of food coloring. You don’t want to have a dead-looking wreath.

Lay out aluminum foil or parchment paper to prepare the wreaths on. Mix in the Corn Flakes, stirring until completely coated. I don’t have a picture here because I grabbed some corn flakes and had marshmallows all over my hands. And mouth.

Turn off the heat. Drop the corn flake mixture in spoonfuls onto your prepared surface, and poke a hole in the middle to form wreaths. I find this works best right after you drop them onto the surface. They start to get sticky quickly.  You will have to do a little manual wreath-forming as well. I have not found this process to be the easiest thing in the world, but they always end up looking cute so don’t worry.  Place the cinnamon candies or M&Ms in clusters of 3 on the bottom of the wreath. Again, do this before the marshmallows dry.


And that’s it! Let them sit for a couple hours to firm up, and eat away. These stay good for a really long time, so you can make them really early in the baking season!

Christmas Sugar Cookies

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at 5815 Velasco, thanks to my husband’s very enthusiastic Christmas spirit and the hours he spent on the lights. Christmas lights, Christmas tree, Christmas music….now all we need is Christmas sugar cookies! The Christmas staple, the cookie that every household must have during the holiday season. The truth is that the search for the perfect sugar cookie is about as challenging as getting people to follow me on this blog. Which is hard, by the way.
Anyway – crispy, soft, chewy, crunchy – sugar cookies come in many shapes and textures. And everyone likes theirs differently, like pizza crust. I, for one, am a firm believer in chewy (or soft…), I guess soft, sugar cookies. I still haven’t really figured out the difference in the two textures. These are definitely soft.
I won’t claim this is the perfect sugar cookie, because I have not tried all 4,567,782,001 sugar cookie recipes out there. If I had, I would have to believe these are in the top 10. I have tried a lot of recipes, and these are my favorite so far. Very soft, flavorful, and cute, if you decorate them.
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 jumbo eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons butter, softened
3 teaspoons vanilla
1/2-3/4 cup milk
Food coloring
Start by creaming the sugar and butter.  Add the eggs, one at a time, then the vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Gradually mix it into the butter mixture, and stir just until combined. Over mixing will make the cookies less soft.
Wrap the dough in saran wrap, and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. You can skimp on this a little, but I will tell you it is much easier to work with when it’s cold.
When the dough is nice and chilled, remove it from the fridge and let it rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, flour a flat surface, and get your rolling pin and cookie cutters ready.
Preheat the oven to 375.
Now: the key to softness. DO NOT ROLL THE DOUGH OUT TOO THIN. Seriously, roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick.
Then, use your favorite little cookie cutters (I got mine at Williams-Sonoma), and place the cut-out dough on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Bake at 375 for 7 minutes. They should be slightly underdone. This is a good, magical thing. It will guarantee chewiness. If they look WAY underdone, keep them in for 8 minutes. I can’t hold your hand through this one, use your own judgment. See how puffy those look?
Next, on to the icing. Cream the powdered sugar, butter, and 1/2 cup of the milk in a large mixing bowl (I like to use a hand mixer for icing). Add the vanilla. Slowly add a little more milk, until the frosting reaches a thick, creamy consistency.  If desired, divide up the frosting to make colored variations. You probably should, it is Christmas after all. Then, decorate your heart out. I used red and green sprinkles, black and red frosting gel, and colored sprinkles for the snowman noses.
  Oh and coconut for the snowflakes.
If I were 6, that red ginger man would have been left for Santa. Now that I’m 28, screw Santa. I’m eating my favorite one.

Egg Nog Cookies

MAKE THESE. Seriously, I don’t care if you don’t like egg nog, you will like these. And the best part is, there is no rolling, cutting, sprinkling, or double-boiling involved with these things. They are so easy!
Recipe (makes about 3-4 dozen)
3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup egg nog
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Egg Nog Icing
2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup egg nog
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter and both sugars in a bowl with a standing mixer. Add the egg nog, vanilla, and egg yolks. Mix just until combined.
In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Slowly add it to the butter mixture. Eat some dough.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and drop the cookie dough in about 2-tablespoon portions, a couple inches apart.
Bake for about 22 minutes…
Yes, I ate half of one as soon as it came out of the oven. I couldn’t help myself.
Let the cookies cool completely, then prepare the icing.  Mix all the ingredients with a hand mixer, adding more egg nog if necessary. You want the icing to be very thin and glaze-like.  Drizzle the icing over the cookies, and eat one immediately.
 This is my first in a series of Christmas cookie recipes….stay tuned. I got a little carried away this weekend.

Brussel Sprout Salad

People have very strong opinions about brussel sprouts – they either love them or hate them. I find they are similar to politics, in a way. You don’t want to bring them up in dinner conversation because you will often get a very explosive reaction and people will never agree.  I can’t even mention the word brussel sprout in front of my husband without getting a ‘god those are gross.’ But the truth is I don’t think he has even touched one since he was a kid, when everyone hates them. I certainly did.  Growing up,  I couldn’t believe something so terrible existed in the world.
However, seeing as this is a post about brussel sprouts, I have changed my mind. These cute little things are wonderful, and you can do a lot of fun things with them. If you like brussel sprouts, you will love this salad. If you don’t, stop reading this post now. I don’t want to upset any readers.

1 lb fresh brussel sprouts

2 slices bacon
3 T. dried cranberries
2 T. olive oil
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 T. maple syrup
kosher salt
I think this salad tastes best with crispy roasted brussel sprouts, but you could steam them if you need to save time.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Lay the brussel sprouts on a baking sheet in a single layer, drizzle with 1 T. of the olive oil, and sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Roast for about 20-25 minutes – you want them to remain crispy. Remove from the oven and let them cool completely.
Meanwhile, prepare the bacon.
Cook until very crispy. Transfer to a plate covered with a paper towel.
For this dressing I used a balsamic reduction. I mixed 1 cup balsamic vinegar with 1 tablespoon maple syrup, and cooked in a large saucepan on medium until reduced to about 1/4 cup. I love the sweetness of the glaze with this salad, but you could also just mix 3 tablespoons balsamic with 3 tablespoons maple syrup if you were looking to save time.
Break the bacon up into large crumbles, then toss with the brussel sprouts and dried cranberries. Mix in the dressing, and you’re dunzo. How easy!
I think this salad is best served slightly chilled, but you could serve it warm if you prefer.