Thursday, August 4, 2011

Garden Tortilla Pizza

I'll admit, I'm quite proud of this recipe. Not only is it healthy, it uses things that are typically in my fridge! Bonus points for not having to make a last minute Meijer run for ingredients. One of my projects this summer has been to grow a mini-garden of herbs. In my collection are basil, cilantro, oregano, chives, parsley (although it's struggling to make it) and echinacea. I was able to use some of them in this recipe, and it added a wonderful freshness to it. This recipe is super easy and each "pizza" is individual so you can personalize it (see ideas at the bottom of this post). Enjoy!

Before starting, preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Take your tortilla, brush some olive oil on it, and sprinkle with basil, chives, and a bit of garlic powder (or use the real thing if you enjoy the strong flavor). Place on a cookie sheet and put it in the oven for ten minutes. This gives it a nice crunchy "crust" and a great flavor. 

While that is baking, heat olive oil in a skillet, and saute onions, adding spices after a couple minutes. The spices I chose were: Chili powder, black pepper, mustard, paprika, and lemon herb. After the spices and onion have mixed add in the clove of garlic with a garlic press. Let cook for 2 minutes, constantly stirring and flipping. Add the chicken breast. Cook on medium heat until the chicken is cooked thoroughly. 

When the tortilla is done, take out of the oven and set aside. Cut up the desired amount of toppings. My pizza contained mini-tomatoes, bell peppers, and fresh basil leaves. Top the tortilla with the chicken and then the veggies, and now you're ready to add one of my favorite things: mozzarella cheese! Sprinkle on top and you're ready to pop it in the oven for about 12 minutes. The crunchier you like the veggies, the less time it should spend in the oven. 

Possible Topping Ideas

  • Bell peppers
  • Onion
  • Spinach
  • Chives
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Tomato
  • Squash/ zucchini 
Possible Spicing Ideas for the Chicken
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Mustard
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Black pepper
  • Kosher salt
  • Fajita seasoning
  • Seasoning salt
  • Chili powder
  • Paprika
  • Hot sauce
  • Any variety of Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blends
Buon Appetito!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Secret Agent Banana Bread

Yesterday morning I was overcome with the undeniable and sudden craving for banana bread for breakfast. I woke up, opened my new Martha Stewart Baking Handbook (amazing) and found the banana bread. However, as I looked over the ingredients, I realized that about the only healthy thing in banana bread was the bananas themselves! Stocked with bleached  and overprocessed flour, buttermilk, and unhealthy oils, I felt like I was reading a virtual heart attack. I had some extra time and lots of inspiration so I decided to "healthify" this recipe.
P.S. That container in the background is a set of four I proudly purchased at a garage sale. I love their look.
I call it Secret Agent Banana Bread because no one could tell the difference, and you can sneak some healthy ingredients and no one has to know. The new recipe was stocked with whole grain goodness without the gritty whole grain taste (let's all just fess up and admit that sometimes whole grain just doesn't taste that fantastic). I also went out on a limb and added chopped fresh strawberries to add some color and additional flavor. I wasn't sure how they would do, but it turned out great! Next time I will be even more generous with the strawberries since this time since the banana bread flavor drowned out the occasional strawberry. 

Preset the oven to 350. This recipe makes 2 loaves.

3 cups of King Arthur's white-whole-wheat flour (after some research I found that it has the same nutritional value as plain whole wheat flour. See one of the links here.)
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
3 large eggs
2 cups of sugar (if you want to healthify this as well, try using honey, or a substitute sugar. This may change the flavor.)
3/4 cup applesauce (this is a substitute for oil. If you opt for oil, use 1 1/3 cup of canola or veggie oil)
1 1/2 cup of ripe mashed bananas- about 3 medium bananas
1 cup of chopped fresh strawberries
1/2 cup of skim or 2% milk
1 cup of oats (I prefer the bigger grains but whatever you have on hand works)

Spray two bread pans with vegetable based cooking spray, flour the sides, and set aside. 

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt, set to the side. In another bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, and applesauce (or oil). Mix this into the flour mixture, then add the vanilla, banana, strawberry, oats, and milk. Beat just until it is combined. If you over beat this bread, it can make it tough, or much more dense than preferred. 

I love how the strawberries add color.
Pour the batter evenly between the two prepared pans. Bake in the oven for about 60-70 minutes depending on the oven. Rotate the pans halfway through, and when the time is up, insert a cake tester to see if it comes out clean (my substitute cake tester is a skinny chopstick I acquired from a Chinese take-out place). Let cool completely, and when you take them out let them cool,  or slice them up while it's warm! For storage, place the bread in an airtight bag or container. Buon apettito!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Cream Cheese Frosting

This frosting is awesome. I'm not a huge cake fan, or frosting fan, but this recipe is a creamy and delicious addition to any cake or cupcake. While not too overpowering, it has a distinct cream cheese flavor.

2 eight oz packages of cream cheese
1/2 cup of butter (or Imperial Vegetable oil for a healthier option)
2 cups of confectioners or powdered sugar (make sure there are no lumps)
1 teaspoon of vanilla (add more to taste if desired)

Make sure the cream cheese and butter are both softened...lumpy frosting is a downer. Whip the cream cheese and vanilla together, gradually add the butter, and then the sugar. Voila! You have a delicious frosting. Chill in the fridge until you need to use it.

This frosting in perfect for chocolate or pumpkin cakes! I used mine to make a double layer chocolate cake decorated with red raspberries. Buon Appetito!

Tip: Adding about a half cup or so of Cool Whip makes this frosting more fluffy if you are looking for a lighter texture.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Recipe- Homemade BBQ Sauce

For Father's Day, my dad asked me to cook him and the family dinner. After going through recipes I decided to try my hand at grilling, and I must admit that I'm still at a loss as to why so many men are crazy about it. Perhaps it was my attempts to wrestle our two large dogs away from the chicken while I grilled...

BBQ chicken on the grill is a classic, and I wanted to make the meal extra special since it was celebrating one of the most inspiring people in my life- my dad. Here's my Father's Day recipe for sweet homemade BBQ sauce:

2 Tablespoons of veggie oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic put through garlic press
3/4 c. of ketchup
2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons of white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons of brown sugar, packed
1 Tablespoon of honey- add more or less to taste
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of mustard powder (optional)
1/2 cup of water

This recipe is super easy. Just chop the onions, and saute them in veggie oil. After they start to soften, add the garlic. Saute for just a couple minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, and continue to simmer for 15-20 minutes. If you want it to be thicker, add less water. This recipe makes plenty for 10 pieces of chicken.

Tip: Marinate the chicken in the BBQ sauce for at least a couple hours, or even better, overnight!

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Creamy Chicken Crepes

This recipe required the intervention of Nate, my boyfriend. Let me just confess now that I cannot make crepes to save my life. I tried my hand at one, and it ended up looking like a anemic pancake. Good. Thankfully, Nate had spent the previous summer watching a cooking show, and flipped the crepes like a pro. Meanwhile, I worked on the filling. I didn't use a recipe for this one to see what I could come up with. The product actually turned out very well. The food was delicious and extremely filling. You can find a traditional crepe recipe anywhere online. Be warned, however, that the mixture should be runny and and you will most likely need to add extra milk to the crepe mix.

For the Sauce:
1 eight oz package of cream cheese
1/2 can of cream of chicken soup
2 Tbs. of butter (or, as a healthier option use Imperial Vegetable Oil Spread)
1 1/2 Cup of milk (add more or less depending on thickness of sauce)
Paprika to taste 
Salt and Pepper to taste
A splash of white wine vinegar (optional) 
1 1/2 lbs. of boneless chicken

Cook the chicken in a frying pan and season lightly with salt and pepper. Set aside when cooked. Now to begin on the sauce! Soften the cream cheese, put in sauce pan. As it warms it will be easier to mix in. Add 1/2 can of soup, then the butter. Cream together on medium low heat as you add the milk gradually. Begin adding paprika, salt, and black pepper. Taste test to see if you want more or less of these. If you want, add the white wine vinegar for a little kick and to heighten the flavor. When the sauce begins to simmer, add the cooked chicken pieces and mix in. Let this mesh together on medium low heat for about 5-7 minutes. Keep in mind that the mixture will thicken when it cools. 

Take pan off of heat, and spoon the creamy chicken into the crepes, wrap, and place fold-side down in a dish. Pour the extra sauce over the top of the crepes and sprinkle some paprika on top for presentation's sake. 

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Homemade Chicken Breading - A Healthy Twist

Last winter I had a loaf of bread that needed to be used, a bag of chicken, and some extra time. I decided to make a breading that was healthy and full of flavor. Warning: Making this takes a bit of time, so it's not a quick 10 minute meal. However, you can store it to whip out later. Here's what you need:

Half a loaf of your choice of sandwich bread
1/4 cup olive oil (the higher quality, the better)
1 clove of garlic (Add more or less depending on your preferences)
Black pepper
Sea salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons of diced tomato
Chopped Onion to taste

To dry out bread without making it stale, line up the bread on cookie sheets, turn the oven on low, and place in oven for a few minutes. The time will depend upon the thickness of the bread.

While bread is drying, pour olive oil in skillet, put heat on medium low. When oil is heated up, saute the onions for 2 minutes, add tomatoes. They are really for color, not flavor. Add garlic, black pepper, sea salt, and basil. The flavor will kind of hit you in the face. Don't worry, it's much more subtle when cooled off and used with chicken.

Heat up olive oil mixture until it's simmering, simmer on low for a little over 5 minutes. While this is simmering, break up and grind the bread into small crumbs. Place in large bowl.

When the Olive oil mixture has simmered, take it off the heat and let it cool a bit. You don't want it to get to room temperature, but it shouldn't still be simmering when you pour it in with the crumbs. Pour the olive oil mixture in with the bread crumbs, and stir it in until they are thoroughly intermixed. Spread mixture on cookie sheet and put in warmed oven for ten minutes. Let cool, and you're ready to bread some chicken!

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Chicken Curry and Rice

Curry... I can't get enough of it. It's flavorful, smells wonderful, and is my favorite color. This is my personal recipe that I have used many times to bring color to my day and my dinner plate.


Chicken (perferably boneless)
Black ground pepper
Olive oil
Green and red bell peppers
Milk, cream, or coconut milk
Pinch of flour

While rice is cooking, saute the onions and bell peppers in a frying pan for two minutes, add some curry and black pepper. Feel free to experiment with different spices. I usually add something different every time. Notice how I didn't include measurements? This is the kind of recipe that is completely up to taste. So fly free and make it your own.

After about 3 minutes of sauteing the vegetables and spices, add pieces of chicken, cut up in one-inch pieces. Add more delicious curry and pepper to make sure it is seasoned thoroughly. You may need to add more olive oil to the mix. You practically have to babysit the chicken to make sure it is cooked just right. Stir often, and don't make the heat too high.

When the chicken is done, take it out of the pan and put it aside in a covered bowl. Now for the curry sauce. You have a pan full of flavor right in front of you, so you need not add to much. Here at the Catchpenny Kitchen I use whatever I have in the fridge. This usually includes milk, or on a good day, cream. Either work beautifully. You can also find inexpensive coconut milk at your local Asian or Indian market.

Alright, for the sauce, turn the heat on low, and add your milk/cream/coconut milk and stir constantly. Add more curry and pepper to give it a full flavor. If you like that extra zing you can also put a diced hot pepper to your taste in the mix. My secret to extra spice but not something that will give you 3rd degree burns? Chili powder. Add it to taste to the cooking sauce. There will be onions, peppers, and juice left over from cooking the chicken to make this sauce perfect. Heat and stir until all of the ingredients have combined and your sauce is a good, creamy consistency. Take note that it will thicken when it sits. If you find that it is still to thin, add a tiny bit of flour and that should do the trick.

Next step? Serve it up. You may prefer to mix the rice, chicken and sauce in one beautiful pile, or you may want to keep the chicken to the side and pour sauce on the rice. It's up to you. Either way,

Buon Appetito!