Spinach Pizza Bread

There are many ways to make pizza breads I already shared my pepperoni one HERE.  But I make other versions as well.  I’ve done a chicken parm one….which is filled with breaded chicken cutlets, mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce.  I’ve also done it with sausage, peppers and onions and I’ve done my favorite which is filled with spinach and provolone cheese.  YUMMY!  I like to have a variety of flavors when I make things like this because not everyone likes pepperoni and not everyone likes spinach.  In my family alone, Joe and Olivia go for the pepperoni one, while Ava and I like the spinach one.  So those are the 2 I make most often.  The worst part of this recipe is squeezing the water from the spinach…it’s the worst, I get annoyed and it’s messy…if anyone has an easier way to remove water from spinach PLEASE share!   Obviously I’m being a bit dramatic because I still make it often, but it still annoys me!

Spinach Pizza Bread

2 packages of frozen CHOPPED spinach (make sure you get chopped)

Garlic (minced)

Olive Oil

1 pound of pizza dough

Sliced provolone cheese  (you can use shredded too)

Preheat oven to 375°

Defrost all spinach and remove water (by squeezing to your heart’s content and then draining a bit longer on paper towels).  You want most of the water removed.  This will give your hands a good workout!  You will lose some spinach down the drain, don’t panic…it happens.  

Once water is removed from spinach, saute with garlic and oil in a pan until flavors incorporate and spinach is cooked thru.   I LOVE garlic so I use a lot, but go by your taste.  I didn’t include measurements.  Let Cool.

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Roll out your dough into an oval.  Remember you are going to be folding it all over…so make sure it’s big enough, but not too big that it won’t fit on a baking sheet.

Cover the rolled dough with cheese and then with spinach.  

Fold up sides and ends.

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Oil the bottom of the baking sheet with a thin layer of olive oil.

Place bread on baking sheet

Brush the entire bread with an egg white (beat).

 Bake for approx. 20 minutes or until brown on top and crispy.  

Slice and enjoy!

chicken parm

**this is a picture of the chicken parm one…I don’t have a finished spinach bread one!**

~gianna~

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Fajitas

Fajitas are one of my favorite things in the world……I can’t even imagine anyone NOT liking them.  Cheese, peppers, sour cream, cheese, chicken, cheese, guacamole….CHEESE!!!!  And I  sometimes even use the full fat version of everything!!!!  Mmmmm….I love fajitas.

So while I have never met a chicken or shrimp fajita I didn’t like…I’ve also never met anyone who doesn’t like these fajitas….welllllll..except my sister-in-law, Ann…who slathered hers in ketchup when I made them for her and my brother in law!  I don’t think I ever made her fajitas again……and I probably never will!  🙂  Her loss!

These fajitas are so easy and so delicious, thanks to one special ingredient…the marinade!  It’s all in the marinade  and I’m not ashamed to admit it!  Someone perfected a perfect (in my opinion) fajita marinade and WOW it’s great!

marinade

When I make this I usually make extra so we have leftovers for lunch or another dinner.

So I don’t have many measurements and I sometimes substitute shrimp and it’s equally delicious!  I also love peppers and onions, so I go heavy on those!

Chicken Fajitas  (or shrimp)

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (washed, trimmed and sliced into bite sized pieces)

OR

Uncooked shrimp (devined and shell removed)

World Harbors Fajita marinade (I usually use 1/4 – half a bottle)

Olive oil

Red bell peppers  (washed, cleaned and cut into slices)

Green peppers (washed, cleaned and cut into slices)

Vidalia onion (cut in half and then sliced)

Olive oil

Shredded Mexican Blend Cheese  (LOTS!)

Sour Cream

Guacamole or Avocado

Salsa

Clean and cut chicken.

In a large pan add chicken and Fajita marinade and toss and cook until it’s done.  Usually takes about 10 minutes.

Wash and slice peppers and onions into strips.

In another large frying pan add peppers, onions and olive oil.  Just enough for sauteing.   And cook those until done.  “Done” for the peppers and onions is however you like them.  I like mine cooked until still slightly crunchy. 

Heat tortilla shells (follow directions on bag)

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Fill (or stuff…like I do) your tortillas with all the yummy toppings, roll it up and ENJOY!!!!

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~gianna~

7 Layer Taco Dip

This is a favorite of mine and it’s something that I have been making for years and years….I think the first time I brought it to a party I was actually in High School……sooooo it’s OLD!   But it’s something that never disappoints..well except this one time when I brought it to a party and some drunk friends decided to put it in the oven and cook it……..people still ate it, but it wasn’t very tasty.   PLEASE…DO NOT HEAT THIS DIP….TRUST ME!  The nice thing about this dip is that you can make it however you want…..and add or subtract ingredients….or add extra or less of others…..Just make it to your liking.  There really aren’t measurements to it!  This is perfect for any time of year……and a great dip for football games!

7 Layer Taco Dip

 

Can of refried beans

Container of Guacamole (or make your own, which I often do)

Container of Sour Cream

Package of taco seasoning

Tomatoes — seeds removed and chopped

Olives — sliced

Shredded Mexican blend cheese

Scallions

Tortilla chips (I like the bite sized ones….they are perfectly sized for dipping and enjoying!)

 

1.  Spread refried beans over a large circle serving platter.  I try to use one with a small lip.

2.  Spread guacamole on top of beans.

3.  Mix sour cream and taco seasoning in bowl and then spread over guacamole.

4.  Layer chopped tomatoes on top of the sour cream mixture.

5.  Spread sliced olives all around.

6.  Sprinkle cheese on top of the tomatoes and olives.

7.  Sprinkle chopped scallions over the entire dip.

8.  DO NOT COOK  🙂

9.  Serve with chips

10.  ENJOY!!!!

taco dip

~gianna~

Cheddar Ale Soup in Soft Pretzel Bowls

So a few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website for Cheddar Ale soup…it sounded delicious but I didn’t have all the ingredients….so I filed it on my computer for another day.     I recently got a Mac and I’m still (3+ months later) trying to figure it out.  I went to find the recipe and couldn’t remember where I filed it…..so I did a quick google search for Cheddar Ale Soup and not only did I find the original recipe (from Williams-Sonoma), but I found someone that made THAT soup served in a………..wait for it……………..

A pretzel bowl!   

It has all the makings of the perfect game day food (or any day food, really)!    I could probably poll 100 men (and women too) and 90% would say at least 3 of these ingredients are on their “Top 10 Favorite Foods” list!   Cheese…….Check!  Bacon…..Check!  Beer……Check!  Pretzels……CHECK!!!   Pure Genius!  

 All day my house smelled amazing, from the pretzel dough rising on the counter, to the soup simmering on the stove, to the pretzel bowls baking in the oven…..it was heaven!  And the taste was even better!  It was delicious and the best part….I didn’t have bowls to wash after because we got to eat them!

 I’m not going to lie or even try to minimize this meal…..it takes awhile to make and it’s pretty tedious and there are lots of pans and bowls to wash (but no soup bowls!!!).  I was in the kitchen a lot this morning, more than I like to be.   When I wasn’t actually standing at the stove, I was checking on things, but if you have some time and want to make a yummy meal DO IT..I dare you!  You won’t be disappointed!  File this one away for when you are home on a snowy day or a weekend when you have extra time to spend cooking!   I actually did most of the prep and cooking of this meal in the morning and then finished it up around dinner time, because I had time while my kids were in school.  It actually worked out nicely!  You don’t have to do the pretzel bowls either…you can serve the soup in regular bowls….but I highly suggest the edible ones!  My kids loved them, and I can’t lie…..I did too! 

Pretzel Bowls

(Thank You Fake Ginger)

Makes 4 Bowls

5 1/2 cups bread flour

2 envelopes of quick-rising yeast

2 tsp salt

2 tsp sugar

4 cups + another tablespoon or 2 of hot water (very hot, but not boiled)

Cornmeal

8 cups of water

1/4 cup baking soda

2 Tbsp sugar

1 egg white (beaten to blend)

Coarse Salt (I didn’t have this, so I left it out…I also don’t like salt on my pretzels — I’m weird

Combine bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar and water in stand mixer (or large bowl) and mix until dough comes together in a ball.   Switch stand mixer to kneading attachment and knead for 5 minutes.  Or put dough on floured surface and knead for 5 minutes (or until elastic and smooth.  Grease medium bowl.  Add dough to bowl, turning to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and a dishtowel. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume (about 35 minutes).

Flour baking sheet.   Knead on lightly floured surface.   Diving into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and place on floured baking sheet.  Cover with towel and let sit for approx. 20 minutes until balls double in volume.  

Preheat oven to 375°.   Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Bring 8 cups of water to boil in large sauce pan.   Add baking soda and sugar (it will foam — don’t panic).    Add one ball of dough to water with slotted spoon and let sit for 30 seconds.  Flip ball and let sit for another 30 seconds.   Transfer ball 9with slotted spoon) to prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining bowls.

Brush rolls with egg white.  Sprinkle generously with salt (or omit like I did).  Bake rolls until brown about 25-30 minutes.   Transfer to wire racks and let cool.  

Using a sharp knife, work on a diagonal in a circle to remove a hole in the top.  Remove top and then hollow out the middles of the rolls to make a bowl.  Do this gently so you don’t puncture a hole in the sides or bottom.  

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Cheddar Ale Soup

(adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

 Serves 6-8 bowls of soup

 6 slices of bacon

1 Tbsp butter

1 Vidalia onion — diced

2 carrots — peeled and diced

2 celery stalks — diced

3 cloves of garlic — minced

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cup pale ale (any flavor you like)

1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

3 cups milk

3 cup chicken broth

1 pound of extra sharp cheddar cheese– shredded

 

In a frying pan, cook bacon until crisp.   

Remove bacon and drain on paper towel.

 

In a large stock pot add 2 pieces of the bacon and 2 Tbsp of the fat from the frying pan, cook on medium heat.  

Add and melt the butter.  

Add the onion, carrots and celery, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 20 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the flour and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes. 

Add the ale and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. 

Add the Worcestershire, milk and broth, increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer. 

Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. 

Remove the pot from the heat and puree the soup (in small batches) in a blender.  You can also you an immersion blender.


Set the pot over medium-low heat and add the cheese by the handful, stirring constantly; do not allow the soup to boil. 

Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed pretzel bowls. 

Garnish with leftover crumbled bacon.

 ENJOY!!!  I know you will!!!

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~gianna~

Beer & Chili Meatballs

These little balls of deliciousness have been an old standby of mine whenever I’m asked to “bring a hearty appy!” because you can make them in bulk and they are so yummy!  I also always add them to my own menus..when I’m hosting a party!  I usually cook them on the stove, and then transfer them to my crockpot and keep it on warm, just to keep them hot!  (They aren’t as good served room temperature..or cold!)   And even though they do have beer in them……kids go coo-coo for them!  The alcohol burns off…so don’t worry (I never do) ;oP  And they are made with ground turkey, so they are a tad more healthy!  BONUS!!!  They are also great for any time of year…I’ve done them for New Years Eve….a Summer Luau or any day in between.  I was recently told by friends that they started making these for parties and they call them “Gianna’s Meatballs”.  I’d be happy to have my name attached to this recipe!  


You must make these for the next “bring a hearty (or any) appy!” party!  And you won’t be disappointed…NO ONE will!

Beer & Chili Meatballs

Preheat oven to 350°

You will need for meatballs…

1 lb ground turkey

1 cup Italian Breadcrumbs

2 eggs (beaten)

3/4 cup milk

Mix all in a bowl (I use my KA Stand Mixer)

Form small meatballs (like bite-sized or a little bigger)

Put on a baking sheet that has been lightly oiled

Bake for 30 minutes


You will also need

1/2 cup beer (any kind)

1/2 cup brown sugar

A bottle of chili sauce

(people often ask where to find this in the store.  It’s usually near the cocktail sauce and ketchup)


In a large pot on the stove mix in all ingredients and drop in meatballs. Stir occasionally, let simmer for 15-20 minutes!

 

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~gianna~

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Here is an oldie, but goodie!  I used to make it all the time for parties….it was one of my go-to dips.  But then other dips/appys took it’s place and I kinda stopped bringing it.  The nice thing about this recipe is that someone, somewhere ends up bringing it to a party or get together we are at…and it resurfaces itself.  Which is exactly what happened again. A friend of mine brought it to our New Year’s Eve party this year….and now it’s baaaaaack!   If you like buffalo-style chicken wings, you will love this dip!  It’s creamy, with a little crunch and a whole lot of spice and it’s really easy!  It’s a perfect dip for anytime..but especially football season!   It’s also one of my husband’s favorites!

 I tweaked my original recipe (which I got from one of my best friends, Alyssa) to make it a somewhat lighter version.   The only difference is to swap out regular cream cheese for the 1/3 less fat (or fat free) and serve it with crackers and tortilla chips instead of celery and carrots!    You decide which is the right fit for you!  🙂

Buffalo Chicken Dip (the healthier version)

 

2 pkg. 1/3 Less Fat Cream Cheese

2 small or 1 large can of chicken (I use all white meat Swanson)

1 packet of Hidden Valley Ranch (dry mix)

1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot Sauce (more or less to your liking)

1/2 cup diced celery

Celery, Carrots, Crackers or Tortilla Chips for dipping

 

Preheat oven to 375°.

Combine cream cheese, hot sauce and ranch packet in a bowl and mix well with a mixer (hand or stand) until smooth.

Add chicken and celery and mix until it’s incorporated.  

Pour mixture into an 8×8 baking dish.  

Cook for about 20 minutes or until it starts to bubble…stirring every so often.

 Serve warm with celery sticks, carrot sticks, crackers or tortilla chips. 

 ENJOY!

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~gianna~

Penne Vodka

Many years ago this recipe came to me via a message board I was on.  A lot of times someone would post a recipe and about 100 people would make it within a week of hearing about it….. and then give their 2 cents.  With this recipe everyone was raving that this was “the best vodka sauce recipe ever”…..I think one person even ventured to say she’d like to bathe in it, she liked it so much.  Sounds..kinda….I don’t know…..fun???   Once I made it, I had to agree!!

So I filled my tub with this stuff, (my family thought I was nuts) and ……

It’s really that good!

I have a few different ways I make/have made vodka sauce, but this one is by far the best!  It’s the perfect thickness, with the best flavors…. all rolled into one delicious bowl of pasta!   My kids and my husband both love it…so it’s a winner in our house.   It’s also a great thing to make extra of and freeze for a night when you don’t feel like cooking…it defrosts and reheats nicely and is just as good as the first time!  It’s also just as delicious leftover!

We aren’t a huge “leftover family” (is that even a phrase?  I dunno?) but I usually make just enough dinner that there isn’t anything left over for another night.   Not the case for this sauce!   I urge you to make extra and have a lot left over.

I think my anti-leftover mentality comes from  when my Mom would say (every so often), “LEFTOVERS TONIGHT!”  And all of us groaning because it was normally something we didn’t like the first time around…..which was why it was left over to begin with!   Makes sense…yes?  I grew up with 2 brothers, so normally the good stuff was gone, FAST…..and didn’t need another night.  The bad stuff….well it was packaged up for another night.  Secretly it probably made my Mom happy….because she didn’t have to cook that night.

“LEFTOVERS TONIGHT….we are having meatloaf!”  (((((((GROAN)))))))

I’ve gone off on a tangent and off the subject.  Get used to that…it will happen again.

ANYWAY…….Thanks, Amy for this delicious recipe!  I’ve tweaked it a bit…i think the original recipe had something other than bacon (imagine that??)…pancetta maybe?  Prosciutto?  I can’t remember…but I’m sure either work!  🙂

Penne Vodka

1 pound of penne pasta cooked

6 strips of bacon (chopped)

1/ 4 c Vodka 

2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

2 TBSP Olive Oil

1/2 of a Vidalia Onion

1 Large Can of Crushed Tomato

1 C. Romano Cheese

2 C. Heavy Cream

1/2 Stick of Butter

In a small bowl soak pepper flakes and vodka (NO MORE THAN 5-8 MINUTES if you don’t want it too spicy — the longer you soak the spicier it is). Then using a small colander, remove pepper flakes….keeping the vodka.

Saute bacon, oil and onion for 8 minutes in a medium pot.

Add crushed tomatoes and vodka. 

Cook on low for 30 minutes.

Add cheese, heavy cream and butter.

Cook for 25 minutes.

Cook pasta as directed on box and drain.

Make sure to keep stirring so the cheese doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn!

Serve over pasta.

ENJOY!!

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~gianna~ 

No Mess Bacon

Recently I had to make a large amount of bacon for a class breakfast in Olivia’s class.  The thought of standing in front of my stove frying 4 pounds of bacon was something I knew I didn’t want to do, especially because it needed to be at the school by 9am and frying that much bacon could take hours…and let’s not forget how much grease I’d probably get splattered all over myself and my kitchen.  NO THANK YOU!

So my best friend Nil told me about cooking it in the oven.

She said I would never cook it on the stove again…..

“it’s perfect bacon”, she said.

“Cooked evenly!”, she said.

“And without any mess!””, she said!!!

I was sold!

I figured it would be very hard to mess up bacon….and if it was making my life easier, why not give it a shot?  Plus, I usually trust her ways around the kitchen.    She was right!  Since I’ve done this for Olivia’s class I’ve made bacon a few other times (obviously)…and every time it’s been done in the oven.   And it really is delicious, perfectly cooked bacon….without any mess!   Bacon is a favorite of mine (ours)…we eat it for breakfast, I make a lot of recipes with bacon, put it on salad, on sandwiches…….but the mess that comes with it– all over myself and my stainless steel and black stovetop, was never fun to clean up.  Thanks, Nil!!!

No Mess Bacon

Line a cookie sheet with foil.

Lay COLD bacon on cookie sheet leaving just a tiny bit of room between each piece.

Put sheet into a COLD oven (this is important from what she told me).

Turn oven on 400° F and cook for 20 minutes.  

Flip bacon halfway thru.

***Keep an eye on bacon for the final 5 minutes because once it starts cooking it goes pretty quickly and you don’t want it to burn***

Once it’s done, remove bacon and lay on paper towels to absorb the grease.  

ENJOY!!!

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As you can see you will have perfectly, evenly crispy, delicious bacon!  No mess either…once the grease is cooled down just gently pull the foil up and throw it in the garbage!  No need for a grease can or anything!

Ahhhhh bacon!

~gianna~

Lemon Chicken

I had a hard time deciding which recipe I should post as my very first one on the blog….I went back and forth numerous times, but then decided this should be my very first recipe, because it’s one of my favorite recipes of all time…..EVER!    And why not, right?….I did just post a lot of my favorite things recently.  I promise this chicken dish will not disappoint and could possibly become a favorite in your house too.

This recipe came from my Uncle Ricky……..but my Nana took to making it often..which is funny because they are on separate sides of the family.  She probably got this recipe during one of our large (Italian) family parties or dinners!    Olivia often asks me to make it…..and how can I say No?    Aside from frying the chicken cutlets…the recipe is very quick and easy!  I mean frying cutlets isn’t the worst thing ever, but it gets time consuming and messy…and anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE to cook….but cleaning it up is my worst nightmare!  So the little splatters of oil everywhere…are all worth while once you take a bite of this deliciousness!

Lemon Chicken

1 lb. of boneless, skinless chicken breast

Flour

1 egg

Italian seasoned bread crumb

Oil (for frying)

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 lemons

¼ c. white cooking wine

½ stick of butter

¼ c. finely chopped parsley

After you have cleaned all your chicken

Dip each piece in flour, then egg, and then bread crumbs

Fry in a frying pan until cooked…golden brown and cooked through.

Remove all chicken from pan and slice into bit sized strips.

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Preheat oven to 375.

Leave 4 TBSP of leftover oil that you fried the cutlets in.

To that add garlic, the juice of the lemons, cooking wine, butter and parsley.

Allow this whole mixture to get hot…..you do not have to “cook” it.

 In Pyrex or any kind of baking pan put 1-2 TBSP of juice just to coat the bottom.

Add one layer of chicken strips.

Pour some juice over.

Add remaining (if any) chicken.

Pour remaining juice over.

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Put in oven JUST TO HEAT, for 10-15 minutes.

ENJOY!!!

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~gianna~

 

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