Spicy Veggie Pizza


Let’s talk about real life for a minute. Have we known each other long enough to do that? I thought so.

Real life is not like imaginary life. In imaginary life I arrive before anyone else. In real life I am sometimes always 10 minutes late. In imaginary life I also have someone to do my grocery shopping and when I don’t feel like making dinner, my private chef Jose whips up a three-course meal, complete with a (chocolate) dessert. Pretty good right?

Just to make sure you got it, let’s take this pizza recipe as an example. In imaginary life I made my Jamie Oliver pizza crust, took vegetables out of my garden, and only ate one slice. In real life we were out of bread flour and yeast so Pilsbury made my crust, my corn was from the freezer, and I’m not telling you how many pieces of pizza I ate …fine, I ate 4 slices but it wasn’t my fault. This pizza is imaginary life good and real life easy. It’s covered in veggies, spicy-ness, cheese, and is delicious (hence the mass quantities I consumed). It screams summer and I have already added it to my list of favorite dinners. I’ll warn you, make sure to have some friends around when you make this. I’m already trying to talk myself into eating another “small” piece.


Recipe (very) slightly adapted from Shutterbean‘s Corn Zucchini Lime Pizza

Spicy Veggie Pizza

(Serves 4-6)

  • Pizza dough
  • 1 zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1½ cups corn (cooked or uncooked)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup feta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
  • red pepper flakes
  • salt & pepper
  • juice of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 500F. Put the zucchini & corn in a bowl. Toss with olive oil and set aside.

Oil a 9×13 inch pan (use a bigger rimmed baking sheet for a thinner crust) with extra virgin olive oil. Add dough and press it out to the edges.

Top the pizza dough with zucchini, corn, red onion, jalapeno, and cheese. Add cilantro leaves on top. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and red pepper. Cook for 20-25 minutes in the oven. The edges will be golden and the cheese melted (although not in my picture apparently). Evenly squeeze lime juice on top of the pizza, add another sprinkle of cilantro and some sliced avocado. Put the leftovers in the fridge immediately and walk away.


My pups were trying to persuade me to share. Sorry guys, this isn’t safe for you.



Monday Reviews- 5 Ingredient Fix


Monday Reviews:

I have noticed a problem. I talk (type?) too much. The story behind this cookbook was a page long before I was halfway through. Oops! I guess minoring in English will do that to you. I love writing and food and I get a little carried away sometimes. So let’s get started.

“5 Ingredient Fix” changed my whole cooking philosophy. Before this book I used to waste so much time with complicated ingredients and recipes. This book taught me how to simplify meals using only 5 ingredients. I doubt I would have ever picked this book up off the shelves if I hadn’t seen the show first. In an episode called “Cook Once, Eat Twice” Claire (in my kitchen I’m on a first name basis with the chefs) made Pork Roast with Hard Cider Gravy and Parsnip-Potato Mash. It looked so good I immediately looked the recipes up on my computer and made it for dinner that night (can you tell I’m a little impulsive?). It was amazing. I couldn’t believe only 10 ingredients could make an entire meal that was also delicious. I ordered the book the same night.

“5 Ingredient Fix” covers it all, from breakfast to cocktail hour to dessert and is laid out very simply. The five ingredients are at the top of the page with the instructions below and two tabs are listed on the side of the page. One states: “What makes this recipe really sing” where she introduces the recipe with a couple of sentences about why she likes the dish. The other tab says “What to toss in if you have it”. This gives you a more options if you want to go above the 5 ingredient limit. The directions are clear and easy to read and the photographs are lovely. Looking through this book I realized just how many of her dishes I have made, some of my favorites are, Lemon-Tarragon Chicken Soup, Spaghetti Squash with Basil Butter, Edemame Hummus, and Pecan Cheese Straws.

The only downside to this book is the time factor. Since you are only using 5 ingredients, you have to work a little harder to bring out the flavors. This is usually achieved in this book by roasting, which can add about 45 extra minutes so keep that in mind. However I think the extra time is well worth it and would recommend this book to anyone who craves simple, delicious food.


I make this soup whenever I’m feeling under the weather. I usually have the ingredients on hand and the mix of roasted garlic, hot soup, and lemon always makes me feel better.

Recipe from 5 Ingredient Fix by Claire Robinson

Lemon-Tarragon Chicken Soup

(Makes 4-6 servings)

  • 1 large head garlic, cut in 1/2 horizontally through cloves
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, plus thin slices for garnishing
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon leaves, plus more for garnishing
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, preferably organic, cut into bite-size pieces

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put the garlic halves, cut side down, on a sheet of aluminum foil on a rimmed baking sheet. Add 2 tablespoons chicken stock and wrap the foil around the garlic, keeping the cut sides flat on the sheet tray. Roast until the garlic is very soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the garlic from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle.

Squeeze the soft garlic from the head with your fingers into a large saucepan. Whisk in 1 cup of the stock to loosen the garlic paste and put the pot over medium-high heat. Add the remaining stock, lemon juice, and chopped tarragon; season with salt and pepper, to taste. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken. Cover and cook until the chicken is just cooked through, about 9 to 12 minutes.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with thin slices of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh tarragon leaves.

“What to toss in if you have it: You can add just about any vegetable to the soup; chicken breast cooks quickly, so there are no worries about overcooking vegetables in the broth. Broccoli, peas, fresh corn kernels, celery, and carrots would all be great additions.”

Monday Reviews- Jamie’s Italy


Monday Wednesday Reviews:

To help me blog on a more regular basis I thought I would turn to my other favorite love, cookbooks. This isn’t a story from my childhood of days spent flipping through cookbooks with my mom. In fact, my mother rarely used cookbooks, instead she relied on a handful of staple dinners and Italian recipes handed down from her mother and grandmother. Italian woman rarely write anything down, and my mother was no exception. My sister Amelia and I have had myriad conversations regarding our frustration that she never wrote down the recipe for her lasagna with homemade sauce and have spent the past three years attempting to recreate it from memory. (Amelia has recreated a similar version and now gets requests to make lasagna for the family on an almost monthly basis.)

Ironically my mother has shelves packed with old cookbooks from Martha Stewart and The Joy Of Cooking. But the only time I ever saw her use these cookbooks was to make two things. Birthday punch (which she made for rare special occasions) and a multi-step egg soufflé (which she made on even rarer occasions). For this reason I grew up believing cooking was just something that happened naturally. I imagined I would move out on my own and years of cooking wisdom would magically appear fully formed in my brain.

For this reason, a large part of my college diet consisted of microwave oatmeal, apples with crunchy peanut butter, ramen noodles, cheese quesadillas dipped in barbeque sauce, and frozen vegetables. Occasionally I would stumble across a recipe in a magazine or feel the need to cook my boyfriend a “fancy dinner” (usually the same baked salmon and rice) and break out of my rut for a while. However I still never thought to pick up a cookbook or learn to make myself anything worthwhile.

A few things helped to change this pattern. One, I got married, being a wife, I now wanted to learn to make dinners so my husband Nick and I could sit and eat together (also if I had let Nick make dinner, we would have eaten frozen pot pies every night). Two, for my bridal shower my mother in law gave me a cookbook and had all the guests bring me their favorite recipe to add to it. It was one of the most thoughtful presents I have ever received and really helped teach me to make some great dinners. My third breakthrough happened while wandering through Lowe’s of all places. You know those racks of magazines that cover every topic from landscaping to grilling? I picked up one called “Ultimate Italian”, it had so many delicious looking recipes I quickly added it to our cart of painting supplies and light bulbs. When I got home I read through it and saw a recipe for homemade pizzas from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook “Jamie’s Italy”. My mom had loved him back when he was known as “The Naked Chef” so I decided to try the recipe. I went to the store and bought semolina flour and golden caster sugar, came home and made my very first homemade crust. It was easy and more importantly it was better than any crust I could have gotten from the delivery guy. I was hooked. I knew I had to have whatever else Jamie Oliver was cooking in his book. I went out that night and bought my very first cookbook.

And what a book. Jamie Oliver is the kind of person I want to be friends with. He makes you feel confident and also says fun British words like “meat with two veg”. The book has beautiful pictures of Italian countryside’s, grandmothers making pasta, and (my favorite) a truck bed stuffed with pans of lasagna. This book totally immerses you in the culture. The recipes are made with simple, non-processed ingredients and they really challenge you to use fresh food and know where it comes from. It seemed so obvious when I read it but it had somehow never really occurred to me before. Inspired, Nick and I starting going to the local farmers market down the street and even planted a couple of vegetables in our tiny yard. I loved this book, I loved it so much I spent a whole month making recipes out of it. Until one night after a dinner of chicken tetrazzini (made with 2 cups of heavy cream and twice as much cheese) Nick and I realized eating pasta 5 nights a week was making our pants a little… tight. That night I vowed to cut back on the pasta dishes and dust off my running shoes. But I was a new woman. This book made me realize just how delicious food could be when I put a little effort into it and, that with a little guidance I could make delicious food whenever I wanted. I was liberated and knew this was the beginning of a whole new way of cooking.

This recipe is the first thing I made from “Jamie’s Italy”. The crusts are simple to make and bake up beautifully. I just put all the toppings in small bowls and let everyone make their favorite (Nick and I like Margarita pizza the best). It is also easy to double the recipe and freeze some for later too.

Recipe from Jamie’s Italy by Jamie Oliver

Pasta Per Pizza-Basic Pizza Dough

(Makes 6-8 medium-sized thin pizza bases)

  • 1 3/4 lb strong white bread flour (about 3 ½ cups)
  • 1 ½ cups fine ground semolina flour or strong white bread flour
  • 1 level tablespoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ oz envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon golden castor sugar
  • just over 2 cups lukewarm water

Pile the flours and salt onto a clean surface and make a 7-inch well in the center. Add your yeast and sugar to the lukewarm water, mix up with a fork and leave for a few minutes, then pour into the well. Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. It will look like stodgy porridge (How British is that??!) – continue to mix, bringing in all the flour. When the dough comes together and becomes too hard to mix with your fork, flour your hands and begin to pat it into a ball. Knead the dough towards you and your right hand to push the dough away from you at the same time. Repeat this for 10 minutes, until you have a smooth, springy, soft dough.

Flour the top of your dough, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 15 minutes at room temperature. This will make it easier to roll thinly. Now divide the dough into as many balls as you want to make pizzas, i.e. lost of small ones or a few larger ones, but I suggest that 6 is a good quantity for this amount of dough.

Timing-wise it’s nice to roll the pizzas out 15 to 30 minutes before you start to cook them. If you want to work more in advance, it’s better to keep the dough wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge rather than having rolled-out pizzas hanging around for a few hours. Take a piece of the dough, dust your surface and dough with a little flour or semolina, and roll it out into a rough circle about ¼ inch thick. Tear off an appropriately sized piece of aluminum foil, rub it with a little olive oil, dust it well with flour or semolina, and place the pizza base on top. Continue doing the same with the other pieces and then, if you dust them with a little flour, you can pile them up into a stack, cover them with plastic wrap, and put them in the fridge.

When you’re ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 500F. At this stage you can apply your toppings. Remember: less is more. If you can, cook the pizzas on a piece of granite or marble in your conventional oven- if not, do them one by one on the bars of the oven shelf toward the bottom of the oven. (If you’re going to cook your pizzas on the bars of the oven, make sure they’re not too big- otherwise they’ll be difficult to maneuver.) Cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until pizzas are golden and crispy.

Bourbon French Toast


Living in a small town in the Midwest can be difficult sometimes, especially when you are looking for specialty foods. However being in a college town of about 150,000 you can get lucky sometimes. I found Chinese 5 spice powder on my first try.  Tahini paste was a different story. The first time I ever tried to find it at the regular grocery store was definitely a learning experience. After 30 minutes of wandering the “international aisle” I finally gathered the courage to ask an employee. He looked at me with a bewildered expression and went to go “find the manager” who never showed up. I learned a valuable lesson that day, #1. Always know exactly what it is that you are looking for (I had never seen Tahini paste and had no idea what it looked like). #2. Specialty stores can be your best friend (I found a small business that had an entire isle devoted to tahini). I have wanted to make French toast with Challah bread since I saw a recipe for it about 5 years ago. I went to every “bakery”* in this town and couldn’t find a single loaf until this Saturday at the farmers market. They had just unloaded the beautiful braided loaves and it took all my self control not to buy every one they had (Okay, Nick helped restrain me a little bit).

*I put bakery in quotations because most of the so-called bakeries in this town import their bread as apposed to baking it themselves. Welcome to Champaign, IL.

Long weekends call for something a little more decadent. So I knew this was the perfect time for my French toast to make its big debut. When I want a dessert or baked good to be a little more special I turn my “Baked” cookbooks, written by the owners of the Baked Bakery in Brooklyn. I own both of their cookbooks and am constantly inspired by both the beautiful photographs and the love and passion that permeates each recipe. A quick search through their second book “Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented” and I found a recipe for their version of French toast. I opted to add bourbon (because doesn’t it make everything better?) and it was a big hit. The bread soaked up the custard mixture and the bourbon infused everything with its smoky caramel-vanilla notes. Turns out it was worth the wait.


Bourbon French Toast

Adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

  • 1 loaf Challah Bread (a day or two old is best)
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup half and half
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 generous tablespoon bourbon (optional)

Generously butter the sides and bottom of a 9 x 13 inch glass pan. Slice the loaf into 1-2 inch slices (I will slice mine a little thicker next time) and arrange bread in an overlapping pattern. In a large bowl add eggs, half and half, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and bourbon (if using). Whisk until combined. Pour the mixture over the bread. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours or overnight. Preheat the oven to 350. Using your fingers, flip each slice to ensure even coverage. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (you may need to cover with foil for the last 5 to 10 minutes if they are browning too quickly) or until the bread is golden and the mixture puffs up.



Can I share something with you? I’m a little nervous. This is my first post and it officially marks my foray into the blogging world. I’ve had this blog floating around in my head for a while but I wasn’t sure if I would have anything productive to offer the blogging community (I’m still not sure, if you want me to be completely honest). But food and family are my two biggest passions and I decided that, ready or not I was going to do this because it makes me happy. So. Here we go.

I guess now would be a good time for introductions. I’m a twenty something (26 if you want to get specific) working the typical 8-5 job in the corporate world. When I’m not working, most of my time is split between eating and spending time with my giant family (yes we include our dogs as family). So I thought I would make a little place to document my two loves and have something to refer to when my great-grandchildren want to know what I was doing when I was a twenty something, you know, back in the 2010’s. 🙂

As this is our first time together I don’t want to bore you with too many details, so, let’s talk about food shall we?

This first post is a celebration of sorts, so what better way to celebrate than with cake? Since honesty seems to be the theme of today’s post let me share another secret with you. Up until a few days ago, I despised confetti cake. Man that feels good to get out. But seriously, the box confetti cake (not to be confused with boxed yellow cake, because that is delicious) has never appealed to me. I tried it when I was 7 years old and still remember the dry, artificial, crumbly taste it left it my mouth. I refused to eat it ever again and never looked back. Until I saw this. Have you ever seen a more tempting picture? No? Me neither. I knew I had to make this cake, even though it called for vegetable shortening (something I try to avoid due to the copious amounts of cake I consume).

With the help of my best friend Alexis I made a two-layer cake, took out the almond, and opted for more vanilla. I also used brown sugar buttercream (adapted from Joy the Baker) to increase the sugar content of my cake. Friends, I am in love with this cake. I want to make it every day and eat it for breakfast. I love it so much that I am not going to waste any more of your time with words. Print this recipe out, find some shoes, and run to the store for some shortening.


Celebratory Confetti Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Slightly adapted from thekitchn.com

(makes two 9 inch round cakes)

  • 4 egg whites from large eggs
  • 1 cup milk divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups cake flour
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
  • 8 tablespoons non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 1/3 cup multi-colored jimmies (or one full container)

Heat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease two 9-inch round cake pans. In a small bowl mix the egg whites, ¼ cup milk, and vanilla extract. Set aside.

Sift the cake flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Mix for 30 seconds or until well combined. Add the butter and shortening and mix for another 30 seconds- 1 minute. Pour the remaining ¾ cup milk and continue mixing on medium speed for about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Gradually pour in the egg white mixture, mixing for 30 seconds after each addition. Mix for one more minute. Gently fold in the jimmies.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans, bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove from oven and place the pans on a baking rack to cool. Then turn the pans onto a cooling rack. Let cool completely before icing.


Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Joy the Baker

1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened

8 oz cream cheese, softened

½ cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 tablespoons heavy cream

2-3 cups powdered sugar depending on desired consistency

Cream the butter and cream cheese together in an electric mixer (be sure that the two are at room temperature to keep your frosting from getting lumpy). Add the brown sugar and vanilla and beat for about 2 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the powdered sugar one cup at a time.  Alternate with the heavy cream until you reach your desired consistency.