Barbecue Chicken Pizza

– johanna | January 28th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Appetizer, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Sides

When I was little I loved Pizza Hut pizza. The crust was so thick and crunchy on the outside and so soft

and warm on the inside. Each slice had the perfect ratio of sauce to cheese. Of course if it was not a special occasion we usually ate homemade or Little Caesars. I remember the first time I had Pizza Hut BBQ pizza was on a trip to Atlanta. The BBQ flavor was short lived. Besides I seemed to have been the only one who favored a non traditional slice of pie.

Source: Stolen Moments Cooking
For the crust:
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water (105 to 110 degrees F)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp Italian seasoning, optional
4 – 4 1/2 cups flour (can use 3 cups white flour and 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour)

Let yeast and sugar dissolve in warm water in a large mixing bowl for about 5 minutes. Add olive oil, salt and optional Italian seasoning.

Slowly add the flour until completely combined and dough is no longer sticky. Knead for 5 minutes, place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for 1 hour.

Depending on how thin you like your crust, this makes enough for 2 large pizzas plus 2 small pizzas. The extra dough can be frozen.

For the barbecue sauce:
1 1/2 cups ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp each – allspice, crushed red pepper flakes, pepper, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder

Add everything to a small bowl and stir until combined. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before using to allow the flavors to blend.

For the toppings:
1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and sliced
1/2 pounds bacon, diced and crisped *optional
1 onion, thinly sliced and caramelized (cooked in 2 tsp bacon grease or butter.) *optional
1 cup frozen corn, thawed *optional
2 cup shredded pizza blend cheese

To assemble the pizzas:
Roll out dough into desired sizes on thickness. Place on a baking sheet or stone dusted with cornmeal.

Spread barbecue sauce on top of the crust, leaving about 1/2 inch crust all the way around.

Top with chicken, any other desired toppings and cheese. Bake at 500 degrees for 12-15 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

— Sub flour tortillas or frozen or refrigerated pizza dough for the homemade version.

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Pesto Chicken French Bread Pizza

– johanna | January 28th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Appetizer, RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Sides

Super Bowl Sunday is set for February 6th. If you are not heading to the Cowboys Stadium then it is time to plan your home turf game menu. This year we’ve got a pizza bar theme. The two contending teams are the Gourmet Pesto Chicken French Bread Pizza and my personal favorite the BBQ chicken pizza.

Source: Stolen Moments Cooking
1/2 – 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and pepper or type of poultry seasoning
2 loaves French bread, halved lengthwise
1 – 1 1/2 cups pesto
2 cups Italian or pizza blend cheese
1 large tomato, sliced

Season chicken breasts to taste. Bake at 350 degrees until fully cooked, about 30 minutes. Let cool and cut into thin slices.

Spread pesto on each of the four halves of bread. Evenly layer the chicken pieces on top of the pesto.

Cover completely with cheese and bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, until cheese is completely melted and lightly golden brown.

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Family Togetherness: Winter Olympics

– johanna | January 25th, 2011


The first winter Olympics took place on this day in 1924 in Chamonix, France. The olympics used to be a major highlight when I was a child. I loved watching the daring athletes perform amazing feats to compete for the gold. What an exhilarating feeling to know you are among the most gifted athletes in the whole world.

To help cultivate a love of the Olympic games and bring the excitement close to home hold a family or neighborhood olympic event. Ask each family member to suggest their favorite winter olympic event. If you are like us and not do not live within easy access of the snow work as a team to come up with creative ways to meet the needs for each event. When I lived up north my friends and I would gather garbage can lids, shovels and trash bags to slide down icy hills. Plastic tied over shoes coupled with wet grass becomes an ice skating rink. Brooms and a birdie or puck are all you need for street hockey.

You will need:
A musical anthem and flag for each team and an official olympic banner.
A stop watch
Any materials needed for each event

Make medals using wood circles from the craft store. Drill a hole at the top. Spray paint gold, silver or bronze. Then slip a ribbon through the hole and tie a knot.

Begin with a celebratory march. Have each team or family member carry their flag during the opening ceremony. Afterward celebrate each others victories with a warm mug of hot chocolate.

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Shrimp Linguini Alfredo

– johanna | January 21st, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish, RECIPES - Sides

I had a pint of heavy cream left over from a Slovian nut roll I made for Three Kings Day. I really hate it when I have to throw expired goods away. Like the four pears that ended up in the trash because I kept putting off and putting off making something with them. Cream especially is not a cheap commodity. Ideally I should have made my favorite Gingered Pear Crisp. Golden spires of cinnamon crisp and gingered pears encircled by a mote of cream. The perfect excuse for a dinner party. Only there has been no time for a party and now my pears are a soupy mush.

Friday night is movie night and therefore kids menu night as well. The choices are usually limited to…well, kids favorites. Little ones can be pretty finicky. Take my three year old for example. His diet mainly consists of cereal, yogurt, cheese, milk and few bites of dinner (a bribe he must eat in order to have a yogurt with his dinner). The other two will eat most anything especially anything alfredo. Now normally my alfredo is a generic knock off using milk and flour with a little parmesan. The best part is the spinach filled raviolis they devour by the fork load. Give them homemade mac and cheese and I have a war to deal with.

Once again they surprise me. Only problem was I was not prepared. There was a time they liked shrimp. Then they did not. Now they do. My tip for Shrimp Alfredo is to make extra shrimp, just in case.

Serves 6
Source: ButterYum Blogspot
1 pound peeled and de-veined shrimp, cooked
1 pound linguine or fettuccine
2-3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2-4 cloves of garlic, smashed and left whole
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
lemon zest for garnish (optional)

If using frozen cooked shrimp thaw in the refrigerator that morning.
Cook raw shrimp in 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup chicken broth; until slightly pink. Remove from heat and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add noodles and cook until desired doneness.

Meanwhile, in a very large saute pan, heat the butter and olive oil over med-hi heat. Add the smashed garlic cloves and cook for a minute or two, until you the garlic has flavored the butter/oil well, you will be able to smell the garlic aroma. It’s okay to let the garlic brown a bit, but don’t let it burn. Remove the garlic from the butter/oil. Add the heavy cream; heat until bubbly. Add the cheese; stir until melted and well incorporated. Lower the heat and simmer at a slow rolling boil until the pasta is ready.

Drain pasta. Just before adding the pasta, add the shrimp to the sauce and gently heat through; being careful not to over cook. Add the parsley, salt and pepper, and optional lemon zest; stir. Add pasta and toss well; serve immediately.

Note – this dish will thicken quickly upon standing. Recipe doubles well. Leftovers can be reheated by adding a little milk and stirring slowly over med heat. Cooked chicken and/or other long pasta shapes can be substituted.

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Family Togetherness: New Year Treasure Box

– johanna | January 18th, 2011


Photo and Art of decoupage box by: Haru

It is a brand new year with many amazing possibilities. The kids and I spent New Year’s weekend going through a box of my belongings from long ago that my mom sent to me for Christmas. The box was filled with old letters from another lifetime and volumes of classic literature. The kids were delighted by the colorful array of cards. The New Year Treasure Box is a fun way to hang on to all the treasures and maybe even a few nuggets of coal.

During the month of January gather the family together to decorate envelopes or small boxes to hold their personal treasures.

Treasures can be the recording or lyrics to a favorite song, tickets to a memorable concert, a journal entry, pictures, art, trinkets from a vacation or outing, a dream, a wish…. anything that makes a memorable impression.

At the end of the year on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day during a scheduled family time give everyone the spotlight to share their favorite treasures. The New Year treasure box gives us, the parents, a clear view of our children’s interests by what they view as treasures. We may even find that what we thought was a treasure at the beginning of the year is of no interest later on. Pick a few of the most treasured pieces to reamin in the box. The rest may be disposed of or placed in a separate remembrance binder or box.

*This activity can also be done by hanging a string on the wall. Clip the treasures to the string.

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Shepherds Pie with Mashed Cauliflower and Potatoes

– johanna | January 14th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Main Dish

Shepherds Pie is a meat pie dating back to the Middle Ages. Traditionally “Mutton Pie” was made using lamb or mutton and vegetables baked in a thick pastry shell called a “coffyn”. The pastry was thick, tough and inedible. The “coffyn” was a type of baking dish patterned after the stoneware dishes of Ancient Egypt that could withstand hours of heat.

The “Cottage Pie” is believed to have originated in Scotland. The cottage pie was traditionally made with beef and vegetables topped with mashed potatoes unlike the shepherds pie made with mutton and vegetables. Pies or casseroles were a useful way to use left over meat. The vegetables consisted of what ever was available that season. The Elizabethans favored a similar “Minced Meat Pie” seasoned with cloves, mace, pepper, saffron, raisins and prunes.

Cottage pie came across the seas to the America’s with the English. There are as many versions of Shepherds or Cottage pie as there are Grandmothers. This recipe for Cottage Pie is a mixture of beef with gravy and loaded with veggies.

Source: Elli Krieger
1 pound lean ground beef (90 percent lean or higher) or turkey
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
3 medium carrots, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 pound white mushrooms, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
1 teaspoon salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold or creamery potatoes
1 small head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into florets
2/3 cup 1 percent lowfat milk
2 tablespoons butter

In a large nonstick skillet cook the meat over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the meat to a plate. Drain any fat remaining in the skillet.

Heat the oil in the skillet over a medium heat. Add the onions and carrots and cook, covered, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8 minutes. Raise the heat to moderately-high. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft and their liquid has evaporated, about 8 minutes longer. Return the meat to the pan. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in the broth, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper and bring to a simmer being sure to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the peas. Pour the mixture into a 12-cup shallow baking dish (about 11 by 9 inches).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Scrub the potatoes and cut into 2-inch pieces. Arrange the potatoes in a steamer basket, and steam for 10 minutes. Add the cauliflower to the basket and cook until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 15 minutes longer. Mash the vegetables with a potato masher until smooth. Heat the milk, butter, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper and stir into the potato mixture.

Spread the potato mixture on top of the meat and bake until heated through, about 25 minutes.

— For a smaller serving bake individual cups using 6-oz ramekins per person; or use half the mixture and bake in a 9X9-inch pan.
– Use the leftover potatoes with another main dish later in the week.
– Use the leftover meat mixture in a pot pie. Grease a pie plate with oil or butter. Lay 1 pie crust in the bottom then fill with meat mixture. Top with another layer of pie crust. Freeze or use within the next two days. – Make a Mexican pie. Add a tablespoon chili powder, 2 tsp cumin, black beans and corn. Layer in a cake pan: tortilla, mixture, cheese. Repeat. Freeze or use within the next two days.

Research: Food Time Line & What’s Cooking America

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January Website Review: Adultitis- The Escape Plan

– johanna | January 11th, 2011

Filed under: THE BOOKSHELF

I found Kim and Jason on the Escape Plan blog two summer’s ago. I started to write down the 40 day steps to end Adultitist. Got to number 20. Then got busy. Lost the name of the website because I forgot to save it. Periodically I would search the net but there are a ton of 40-day plans out there. Fortunately the Goddess of New Year Eve Resolutions smiled down upon us and favored me with a blessing to find the lost website just in time for January.

Last year I decided to make 12 monthly resolutions because it seemed more effective than just writing down a list of goals and hoping for the best. For one whole month I was dedicated to a goal. Some months I was more successful than others. The months I was a complete failure I know I did my best so it was not a complete loss. About mid summer I came to the conclusion that we needed a little more spice in our life. Having three active children close together was a little insane and the effect was “Adultitis”! We needed to rediscover our inner child. Now that the kids are older and we are finally venturing out of the cave more we need to learn to relax a bit.

Kim and Jason came up with the term “Adultitis” to describe the lost child in all of us. According to their website, “Adultitis is a silent epidemic that has been ignored for far too long. It’s a disease that slowly erodes our inborn childlike spirit, wreaking havoc on our world, our nation, and our families. It kills laughter, dreams, curiosity, faith, happiness, and hope. It stresses us out. It causes us to take ourselves too seriously. And in some extreme cases, it can cause smile amnesia.”

I realized I had Adultitis when our second child was born 6 years ago. Bugs were icky, mud was too dirty and craft projects too messy. I thought to myself, when did this happen? I used to love playing with bugs and especially, my all time favorite childhood past time, making mud pies. That same day I took my then one and three year old out into the backyard to play in the mud. The process to heal myself of adultitis has been at a standstill. This year my resolution is to find something more exciting to do with the dear husband than walk around Costco on date night.

First step to curing adultitis is to head over to and take the test. My test result revealed I was at Stage 2 Adultitis: You have progessed to a very aggressive form of Adultitis. You are probably experiencing very high stress levels and may be having difficulty laughing. Seek help now. Please consult the Prescription for treatment options.

Next, use both the and the original site Kim and Jason for tips and guidence to start the 40-day challenge.

40 ways to escape Adultitis:

1. Spend at least 15 minutes immersing yourself in a field you know nothing about.
2. Find a reason to celebrate and do something to celebrate it.
3. Do something that is typically seen as inappropriate for someone of your age.
4. Add something childlike (not necessarily childish) to your workspace or home.
5. Become a scientist. Conduct a silly experiment.
6. Write down one big dream of yours. Draw or find a picture to go with it and put it somewhere you will see it often.
7. Spend 15 – 30 minutes doing something you love that you don’t often have the chance to do.
8. Draw a funny picture and hide it in an unexpected place for someone else to find.
9. Do one thing today to support a cause or issue you really care about.
10. Create a memory today with someone you care about that will mean a lot ten years from now.
11. Do something your parents would never let you do as a child.
12. Write a letter to a childhood hero (real or fictional).
13. Spend ten minutes doing something outside that you have never done before.
14. Do something to help someone you don’t know.
15. Eat something you’ve never had before.
16. Call or meet with someone in your family and ask them a question you are curious about regarding your family’s history.
17. Learn how to do something new today. Your time limit: 30 minutes.
18. Get out of your element. Go somewhere you’ve never been before.
19. Spend 10 minutes visioning yourself 10 years from now as having accomplished one of your biggest dreams. Be as detailed as possible; imagine in all five senses.
20. Right an old wrong.
21. Write a haiku about the things you are thankful for and put it somewhere to serve as a reminder.
22. Do something to make the world a better place.
23. Take a picture of the most childlike spot in town.
24. Figure out a way to add some color to your day in a new, unusual, or wacky way.
25. Talk in a phony voice or accent to a complete stranger.
26. Open to a random page in the dictionary and look at the first word on the upper left-hand side. Keep turning pages until you find a word you don’t know. See how many times you can use this new word in a sentence today.
27. Take a routine you do everyday and put a childlike spin on it.
28. Buy something that captures the spirit of childhood for under $5.00 (including tax).
29. Ask an expert something you are curious about in his/her field.
30. Figure out a way to bring some fun into a dreaded task today.
31. Find a place to sit quietly for ten minutes. Listen for at least one sound that you would not have normally noticed.
32. Do something that will get you to laugh out-loud (one that puts you in danger of peeing your pants a little bit).
33. For no reason at all treat yourself to something out of the ordinary.
34. Think about some of the things you liked to do as a child. Pick one and do it.
35. Do something to make the day of a child.
36. Accessorize your wardrobe today with a touch of childhood.
37. Eat or drink something today that brings back childhood memories.
38. Make someone a homemade gift to show how much you care about him/her or to thank him/her for a job well done.
39. Play a practical joke on someone.
40. Congratulations on making it to the end. Your final test is to take tomorrow off. Spend today making any necessary adjustments. Do anything you want, but no work and no chores. Consider it a sick day or at least a “sick of it” day. (Remember, Adultitis is a serious affliction.)

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Cheddar and Herb Biscuits

– johanna | January 7th, 2011

Filed under: RECIPES - Breads, RECIPES - Snacks

Growing up in the south biscuits were common whereas in California rolls or bread usually accompany a meal. We rarely serve bread with a meal. The exception would be if we are having soup or a dinner salad. Biscuits are a great choice because they are fast. They do not require proofing yeast and then waiting 2 hours for the dough to rise. These biscuits go really well with chicken soup or tomato soup.

The recipe calls for 1 1/4 cups buttermilk plus more to brush the tops with. I found that I did not need all of the buttermilk in the dough. Take the time to slowly add the buttermilk testing the dough between each small addition. You only need enough to help the dough stick together.

I like to use a fork when adding the liquid. Once the dough starts to form by sticking together I use my hands to gather it together. Just be careful not to overwork the dough. I learned a great tip from my Baking Illustrated cookbook on how to gather the dough. Use a fork not a spoon to lightly work the milk in. Once the dough starts to come together into a ball there will be a small amount of flour on the bottom of the bowl. Add a little of the liquid to the flour and then incorporate it into the rest of the ball.

Source: Cooking with Shelburne  Farms
Makes 12 (2 1/2-inch) biscuits
3 cups flour
2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp col unsalted butter, cut into small bits
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme, sage or rosemary leaves
1 1/4 cups cold buttermilk plus a little more to brush the biscuit tops with

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, powder, soda and salt.

With your fingers or two forks, work the butter into the flour mixture until the dough looks like fine gravel with a few larger butter bumps throughout. Stir in the cheddar and thyme. Add the buttermilk gradually, just until a pinch of dough comes together when you squeeze it between your fingers.

Lightly four the counter and dump the dough onto it. Knead it a few times to bring it together and then use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll the dough out to a 3/4-inch thicknesss. Cut out the biscuits with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter or glass.

(You can reroll the biscuits once but more than that will make the biscuits tough.)

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush tops with buttermilk. Bake 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

— You can reroll the scraps once but not more or the biscuits will be tough.
— Keep the ingredients as cold as possible and work with the dough as little as possible to ensure light flaky biscuits.

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The Day of Epiphany: The Twelfth Day of Christmas

– johanna | January 4th, 2011


Artwork: Tres Reyes Magos,

(Author’s name unavailable)

Our daughter was not in the mood to take down the tree and put away the Christmas decorations. I can sympathize with her; I felt the same way. December seemed to rush by like the wind. Next thing I knew our son was back at school and we were going about the day just as before. So I went searching for another tradition. I most certainly was not looking to add another tradition but the Twelve Days of Christmas seemed like a perfect ending to all the excitement we experienced over the past month.

The Day of Epiphany, Three Kings Day or Christmas is celebrated in Europe and in many Latin countries on January 6th as apposed to December 25th. The feast commemorates the arrival of the Magi or Three Wise Men to the manger where the baby Jesus was born. The Magi, similar to Santa, leave gifts under a tree or in socks or shoes to symbolize the offerings of gold, myrrh and frankincense by the wise men. In return for the gifts from the Magi children will leave straw or hay under their beds or in their shoes for the camels.

Three King’s Day represents the close of the Christmas Season. There are many ways families celebrate the 12th Day of Christmas; however the tradition of serving a King’s Cake is the most constant of them all. The King’s Cake or Epiphany cake is baked with a trinket or bean inside. Whoever gets the piece with the trinket reigns as king or queen of the feast and gets to order everyone else around for the day. In Mexico the winner is in charge of buying the tamales. Traditional cakes can be a type of sweet bread shaped in a round (France), a pound cake or cake in the shape of a crown or a round pastry with a gold paper crown (Spain) set on top. The cake may be decorated with colorful candies or frosting.

For many families January 6th is the day they take down all the Christmas decorations. One family prepares pinecone bird feeders a few days before to hang on their tree. Once all the decorations are removed they set the tree outside to feed the birds. The bird seed is their small gift to the birds.

Kristen, a mom I met at the playground one day told me all about their Progressive Christmas Cocktail tradition. They start out at her sister’s house for French Onion Soup. Then travel to her mother’s house for horderves. Finally everyone gathers at Kristen’s house for martini’s. The idea of traveling from place to place seemed to fit with the theme of the traveling Wise Men.

I thought it only befitting that we could incorporate my favorite Christmas Eve read, The Littlest Angel. His gift was not made of sparkles or gems but was comprised of the warmest memories of earth: A butterfly, a stone and his dog’s collar all tucked gently away in a worn wooden box. Our cake? A wonderful Eggnog Pound Cake. Lastly, we come up with this year’s goals (our gifts) for both family and personal.

How do you celebrate The Day of Epiphany?

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