But Sugar is Sweeter

Archive for February, 2011

Red Beans & Rice

There are 3 reasons why I really wanted to make this dish: First, although I really thought spring was on its way (and was planning dinner accordingly),  I was quickly thrown back to reality when I found my  car crystalized in 2 inch thick ice. After finally digging my car out from under the snow/ice mix, I decided that a warm, hearty, wintery meal was in order.  Second, Mardi Gras is fast approaching, and it really makes me miss Louisiana and the friends I made there.  Louisiana is probably the most cultural place in America, and they sure know how to cook.  And third, my friend Maggie, just bought a crockpot and I promised her a good “Crock Pot” recipe.

Likely your reasons for making this dinner are going to be different than mine, but I think you should find your own reasons, and make this.  This isn’t one of those crockpot meals where you have to cook everything before you put it into the crock pot (I never got the point of that), so it’s quite simple to make. In fact, when I had the cutting board out for dinner the night before, I just cut up the ingredients,  and then John threw them in the crockpot this morning.  But just because it’s simple doesn’t change the fact that it’s delicious.  You know what would make this dinner even more delcious?  King Cake! If you live in Louisiana, please go eat a king cake for me, and then tell me all about it (preferably one with cream cheese and strawberry filling).  Oh how I miss you Louisiana and your sweet, sweet food and drink and people.

Red Beans and Rice

  • 1 pound Dried Red Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 7 cups Water
  • 1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Chopped
  • 1 whole Onion, Chopped
  • 3 stalks Celery, Chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Finely Chopped
  • ½ pound Turkey Polska Kielbasa, sliced (or Andouille Sausage)*
  • 3 Tablespoons “Tony’s” or other Creole Seasoning
  • Hot Cooked Rice

* If you want the real thing, you should go with the real sausage.  I happen to like turkey sausage, but it’s not going to give you quite as thick of a sauce.

Rinse and drain the red beans. Place all the ingredients into a large Crock Pot, except for the rice.

Cook, covered, at HIGH for 7 hours or until beans are tender.  Don’t peak.

Serve over hot white rice.  I also made this cornbread to serve with it.  (Krusteaz didn’t pay for me for this or anything,  but I just thought it was a really good box mix, and it was only $1)

Adapted from  Tasty Kitchen


Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

To be honest, I’ve been eating the “verde” version of enchiladas for so long, that I kind of forgot there was any other kind. But that’s perfectly fine with me, because I love this dinner.  Its great because so many different cuisines are made using a red tomato base, so this really adds some variety to the dinner table. I made a similar version for the first time back in college (Friday night dinner parties!), and I’ve been adapting it ever since.  At this point I’m even afraid to order enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant, for fear that they won’t live up to this version.

I thought about making the  verde sauce from scratch,  but I couldn’t find tomatillos at the store. (Probably had something to do with being the middle of the winter in Ohio). But it’s probably better that I didn’t because this dish is great just the way it is, and I have enough other things to keep me busy.  For the cheese topping,  this time I happened to use  queso fresco, but I have made it before using Monterey Jack, and I like both.  It just depends on what I find at the store and what happens to be on sale.

Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

– Makes about 8 enchiladas

  • 1 can (10 oz) green enchilada sauce
  • 1 bottle (14 oz) salsa verde (or about 2 cups)
  • 1/2 an medium onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  large (12 oz) chicken breast (or 2 smaller) – pounded to an even thickness
  • 1/2 block (4 oz) reduced fat  cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 8 corn tortillas (about 6 inch)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco or Monterey Jack cheese

Add the canned enchilada sauce, salsa verde, minced onion, and garlic to a saucepan over medium heat.   Add the 1 or 2 chicken breasts to the saucepan, cover pan, and cook for 20 minutes. Cut the chicken in half to ensure it is cooked through, and if not, continue cooking until it is no longer pink.

Turn off heat, and remove chicken from the pan.  After cooling slightly, shred chicken into small pieces.  In a small bowl combine the chicken, cream cheese, 2/3 cup of enchilada sauce and cilantro.

The salsa mixture should still be warm at this point.  Working with one tortilla at a time, dip the corn tortilla into the salsa mixture for about 10 seconds and remove with tongs.  This is just to make the tortilla more pliable, so it doesn’t crack when rolling.  Then place the tortilla on a plate and spread 1/3 cup of chicken mixture down the tortilla.  Roll up and place, seam side down, in a 11 x 7 baking dish coated with cooking spray.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.

Pour a heaping cup of remaining salsa mixture on top of the tortillas.  (I usually have some left over, but I prefer this to using 1/2 a can of enchilada sauce. If you want to double this recipe, I would just use an extra jar of salsa and skip the canned sauce). Top with crumbled queso fresco or shredded Monterey jack (or both).

Bake at 425° for 15-20 minutes, or until cheese melts and enchiladas are heated through.

Spinach Lasagna

The worst part about the first 2 years of medical school is that most of your time is spent studying alone. Despite the fun pictures on Facebook, we don’t actually get to hang out together that much.   To try to remedy this situation, John and I decided to have a little “Lasagna Party”.  It was a good excuse to get together with all of our friends, including the newest “member”- Baby Zoe!  We have some diverse tastes in our group, so we had quite a lasagna selection: Spinach Lasagna, Lasagna with a a beef and sausage sauce, and Lasagna made with chicken sausage.  It was quite a feast!

Of all the lasagna choices, this spinach lasagna was probably the healthiest. (Not quite sure I can call it healthy – it’s still lasagna after all).  But in general, the cream sauce used in spinach lasagna usually makes it much more fat and calorie laden than it’s meat and tomato counterpart.  However, I found a recipe that didn’t use cream, and used non-fat ricotta, to make this a healthier and much reduced fat version.  At first I was skeptical that this lasagna would just taste like a lowfat version of the real thing, but I was very pleasantly surprised.  I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed that this was “reduced fat”, and it was really quite easy to put together (it does take some time though).

Spinach Lasagna

– Makes a 13 x9 dish to feed 8-10 people.

  • 2 cups nonfat ricotta (16 oz)
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella (about 10 oz)
  • 1 grated parmesan cheese (2 oz)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tablespoons Olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 5 cups 1% milk (I used skim milk and substituted  about 1/4 cup cream)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3o ounces (3 packages)  frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 12 lasagna noodles

1. Heat a large pot of water over high heat.  Season with salt and olive oil.  Add lasagna noodles to water and cook for about 9 minutes. (It’s better to undercook the noodles slightly.).  Drain,  and lay noodles onto paper towels to dry separately.

2. Combine ricotta cheese, 1 1/2 cups mozzarella, 1/2 cup parmesan, slightly beaten egg and salt and pepper in a bowl.  Stir to combine, then set aside or refrigerate for later assembly.

3. Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet over medium. Add onion and cook to soften (about 5 minutes).  Add garlic and stir until just fragrant (30 seconds).  Add flour and cook for about a minute (cook it just enough to eliminate the raw flour taste, but do not brown.)

4. Slowly whisk in all 5 cups of milk and 2 bay leaves.  Simmer, while stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.  The sauce should thicken slightly.

5. Remove from heat, and remove bay leaves.  Stir in spinach, nutmeg, and remaining (1/2 cup) parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 13×9 inch pan with cooking spray.

7. To assemble: Place a heaping cup of spinach sauce on the botton of the 13×9 inch pan.  Layer 4 noodles, overlapping, on the bottom of the pan.  Spread about 1 cup of ricotta mixture over the noodles.  Top with a heaping cup of spinach sauce.  Repeat 2 more times, ending with ricotta and spinach sauce.  The top layer should have 2-3 cups of spinach sauce poured over top.  Top with remaining 1 cup of mozzarella cheese.

8.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  To avoid spills you can place the lasagna dish on a large baking sheet lined with foil (I didn’t do this because I didn’t have space in the oven). After 40 minutes, remove foil and continue to bake for 20 minutes.  Cool slightly before serving.

Recipe adapted from America’a Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook.

*In the ATK recipe, they actually suggested making 4 layers of lasagna, using 16 noodles but the same amount of filling.  If you really like pasta this might be a good option for you!

Cincinnati Chili

Growing up in Ohio, Cincinnati Chili was always a go-to meal for my family, so I have very fond memories of it.   Because of this I might not be the best critic,  but I have to say that I LOVE this dinner.  If you haven’t had Cincinnati Style chili, you really must try it!  It’s often called 5 way chili, because you serve: 1) the uniquely flavored chili, 2) over pasta, 3) with cheese, 4) with beans, 5) with onion, and then I like to add a little bit of sour cream.  It is NOT a spicy chili.  It’s actually more on the savory/sweet side.  In fact,  it even has chocolate in the recipe, which is probably why I love it so much.

I think one of the reasons that we often had this as kids was because there is a fancy little seasoning packet you can buy that makes this dinner super easy.  Being up in Toledo,  I couldn’t find it at our store and I really had a craving for it,  so I decided that I would make this chili from scratch.  I know – “way to complicate things again, Jacqueline,” but sometimes I just feel like you can taste the work that went into the food, and I like the taste of effort.  I have since found a place that sells the seasoning, but I don’t think I will ever go back – I like this recipe too much!  I was a little intimidated when I found it, because the ingredient list looked really long, but once I actually went through it I realized the only things I had to buy at the store were the turkey & sirloin, onions, and a can of tomato puree!  (I do have a large collection of spices). This dinner is quite easy to throw together, and just remember, this isn’t baking – you definitely don’t really need to measure exactly.   I just eyeballed it using a regular old silverware,  and it goes a lot quicker.

Cincinnati Chili

– Prep/Active Time: 20 minutes           Cooking time: 45 minutes.
– Serves 5-6
  • 1  pound  ground turkey
  • 1/2  pound  ground sirloin
  • 2  cups  chopped onion (about 1 very large onion)
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  cup  water
  • 2  Tablespoons  brown sugar
  • 3  Tablespoons  spicy barbecue sauce (ketchup would probably substitute fine)
  • 4  teaspoons  white vinegar
  • 2  Tablespoons  chili powder
  • 3/4  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 3/4  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground coriander
  • 1/2  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2  ounce  unsweetened chocolate, chopped (I used chocolate chips this time but it was better when I used the unsweetenend chocolate.  You could also substitue cocoa powder if need be.)
  • 1  (10 3/4-ounce) can tomato puree (I could only find a 28 oz can, so I just used half of it)

For Serving:

  • Hot Cooked spaghetti
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Kidney beans (rinsed, drained & warmed)
  • Chopped Onion
  • Light Sour Cream
  • Oyster crackers (if desired)

1. Coat a large dutch oven with cooking spray and heat over medium-high.

2. Brown the turkey and sirloin in the dutch oven. (About 5 minutes)

3. Add the onions & garlic to the pan and cook until tender (Again about 5 minutes).

4. Add the rest of the ingredients (water, brown sugar, bbq sauce, spices, chocolate, tomato puree) and bring to a boil.

5. Turn the heat down and simmer for about 45 minutes (or longer).

6. To serve: Place a scoop of spaghetti on each plate, top with a ladle of chili.  Add  cheese, kidney beans, onions, sour cream and crackers as desired.

Originally from Cooking Light

Latin Inspired Falafel

If you’ve got glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency*,  or if you generally just don’t like falafel, you might still enjoy this dish!  Traditional falafel is made out of fava beans and deep fried,  and personally I’m not a huge fan of fava beans or deep frying things.  So when I found this recipe for a healthy version of falafel made out of pinto beans, I knew I’d be in love.   Plus this gave me another excuse to make my own pita bread, and it came out so much better the second time!  Watching pita bread puff up in the oven is one of the coolest baking experiences EVER!

I had made this once before, and I wanted to make it again since I’ve been on such a “bean kick” lately.  Unfortunately, I tried using a cast iron skillet this time and the patties really stuck to the pan.  Because of the small amount of oil used to cook these, you really need a non-stick skillet.  Using the right pan, these patties are a cinch to throw together, and another easy weeknight meal.  I almost didn’t post this because I had a lot of trouble taking a picture of it that looked appetizing. But I couldn’t bare not sharing it with you  because I think it’s such a unique dish!  It really adds some variety to the weekly menu, and seems fancy while actually being really easy!  I hope you try it, despite the bad pictures.

*G-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase deficiency is a common x-linked disorder, in which affected persons can have attacks of hemolytic anemia brought on by fava beans (as well as infections and certain medications).  Sorry for being a dork, just trying to be educational around here.

Latin Falafel Patties

– Makes enough for about 4 pita halves.

  • 1  (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2  cup  shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/4  cup  crushed tortilla chips
  • 2  tablespoons  finely chopped green onions
  • 1  tablespoon  finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1  large egg white
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil

For the Avocado Spread:

  • 1 avocado, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 of a medium tomato, finely chopped
  • 1-2  tablespoons  chopped red onion
  • 2  tablespoons  light sour cream
  • Squeeze of fresh lime juice
  • Sprinkling of salt

For Serving:

  • 2  (6-inch) pitas, each cut in half crosswise (For updated pictures and my recipe see: Pita Bread)
  • Toppings such as lettuce, red onion, peppers (if desired)

1. First make the avocado spread by mixing all ingredients in a small serving dish.

2. To make the patties, combine all patty ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

3.  Preheat oil a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

4. Combine mashed pinto beans, Monterey jack cheese, crushed tortilla chips,  cilantro, green onion, cumin and egg white in a mixing bowl.

5. Form the pinto bean mixture into patties and place them in the oil in the large skillet.

6. Cook patties for 3 minutes on each side, or until brown and heated through.

7. To serve, place 2-3 patties in a pita half, and top with avocado spread and any other desired vegetables.

Adapted from “Falafel with Avocado Spread” from Cooking Light

“Doctored Up” Bean Burritos

I’m done with cookies for a while…back to some healthy meals!  This is a super easy and healthy, but surprisingly delicious meal!  I know you might be thinking, “Bean Burritos”, do you even need a recipe for that?  Well I have made bean burritos by just warming up a can of beans, and I think that this recipe is much better.  Adding a few ingredients really makes this meal go from  simple to exciting!  You can always add more or less spice, I tend to like my food a little on the less spicy side.

Usually have a problem eating a meal without a serious source of protein – usually meat – but I’ve found that both John and I will find a meal with beans satisfying.  It’s just a plus that they are also cheap, easy and healthy!  Plus, I’ve found I’m much more likely to eat the leftovers of a meatless meal, because unlike meat, beans don’t really taste all that much different a day later.   I think I am going to start buying black beans in bulk from my new favorite store, Costco.

Easy Bean Burritos

– Makes 4-6 burritos depending on the size.

For the Beans:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  teaspoon  chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce*
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/3  cup  water (or vegetable broth)
  • 1  (15-ounce) can  black beans, drained
  • 1  (15-ounce) can  pinto beans, drained
  • 3  tablespoons  salsa

For the Burritos:

  • Tortillas
  • Mexican blend cheese
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Shredded romaine lettuce
  • sliced green onions
  • light sour cream

*These come in a small can in the “Mexican” aisle of almost any grocery store.

1. Heat oil at medium high in a large skillet.

2. Add garlic, and 1 teaspoon of each chile powder, cumin and chipotle peppers to the oil.

3. Stir for about 45 seconds, or just until fragrant.

3. Add the 2 cans of drained beans, salt and water.  Bring the mixture to a boil.

4. Turn down the heat to medium-low and let simmer, without a lid, for about 10 minutes. (You can use this time to cut up the tomatoes, lettuce and green onions for the topping)

5. Remove from heat and stir in the salsa.

To serve: Spread the bean mixture down the tortilla, and top with your choice of toppings.

Recipe found at Pink Parsley, and originally from Cooking Light.

Conversation Heart Sugar Cookies

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!   I know that this is my second post related to Valentine’s….but I just love excuses to make cookies!  I’m really lucky that my friends, Samiya and Sarah, also share in my love of cookie decorating – it makes it a great 10:30 at night study break :-).  A while back, Sarah had the idea to make heart  shaped cookies and decorate them like conversation hearts.  It sounded so cute that I just knew we had to make them.  This is our second time decorating cookies together, and I think we are getting a little better at it.  (Still not ready to open our own cookie business….but maybe eventually.)  I made a simple sugar cookie dough (seen below) and cut the cookies out.  Then together we whipped up a batch of royal icing, and started decorating.  To make these you need to make quite a few icing colors.  We made, blue, green, white and pink, and then then took about 1/2 of the pink icing and died it a darker pink/red to do the writing with. The conversation hearts also come in purple, yellow and orange – so you can just pick your favorites.

As a helpful hint, we used gel food coloring, and even with globs of it we had trouble getting the icing to be “Red”.  My advice would be to add color until it looks like hot pink, and then the icing will dry a little bit darker.  Also, in retrospect, you really need very little icing to “write with”, and it would be easier to darkly dye a smaller amount of icing.

I don’t feel that I’m near good enough (yet), to make my own tutorial on how to ice with royal icing, but if you are interested here are a few sites that seem to have it down pat:  Brown Eyed Baker, Annie’s Eats, Sweetopia.   One day, (probably over spring break), you will be seeing a royal icing tutorial from me.  However, I think that these cookies are a simple enough design that a plain “dip” icing, or buttercream would also work fine.  Royal icing just gives the cookies that professional looking sheen.

Please take note of the “P.L.T.” cookie.  We were inspired by this week’s episode of Glee, and the Micheal Jackson song, “Pretty Little Thing”…Which we realized after was actually called “Pretty Young Thing”…whoops.

And then of course, you have to have the classic phrase, “That’s what she said”.  Which was kind of inspired by my favorite blogger, Annie, and by the fact that this phrase is awesome…

We also tried our hand at some other languages, with cookies like “Te Amo”, “Ich Liebe Diche”, “Je t’aime” & “Mi Amore.”

Janice’s Sugar Cookies

– I made half of this recipe, and it made about 30 large heart shaped cookies.

  • One lb. butter (4sticks),  softened
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 5-6 cups flour
Beat butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla for 10 min, until fluffy. Mix together baking soda and 3 cups flour…add to butter mixture. Mix 1 min. Add remaining flour until bowl is clean and no batter is around the sides.
Chill dough for 20-30 minutes.
Roll on lightly floured board. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes, or just before the cookies start to brown. Cool on a wire rack.
Recipe passed on to me by our family friend Robyn M.

Linzer Heart Cookies

With Valentine’s day right around the corner, it seemed like the perfect excuse to bake some cookies!  In my opinion, these are the quintessential Valentine’s day cookie.  They are just so adorable, and the raspberry jam peaking through the center of the heart is just the perfect for the holiday.  My mom used to make these for Valentine’s day, and I can remember her sending me some in a cute little Valentine’s care package.  I remember this so well because my mom isn’t really much of a baker, and I was so impressed that she made this complicated cookie, AND managed to get it in the mail before Valentine’s day.  I really wanted to send her some of these,  but of course – It’s saturday, Valentine’s day is on Monday, and I don’t think express shipping for cookies is really warranted. Maybe next year….

These cookies are really unique.  They are so airy and light, and almost melt in your mouth when you eat them. If you’ve ever had those little ball shaped cookies, covered in powdered sugar at Christmas time –  these cookies are somewhat similar (but more delicious). But such qualities in a cookie don’t come easy.    I’ve made these for 3 or 4 years now, and I think I have learned something new about how to make them better, and prettier each year.  Here’s a few tips that I’ve learned from my mistakes:

  1. These cookies are very fragile.  They are actually probably one of the hardest cookies to send in the mail (mine were bubble wrapped !) So don’t be afraid to make the dough a little bit thicker than 1/4 inch (and definitely no thinner).  It will help keep them in one piece.
  2. The dough has to be VERY cold when you are rolling out the cookies.  I usually divide the dough into 3 batches, so that I can roll out 1, while the other 2 are still as cold as possible in the fridge.
  3. I’ve found that it works best if you roll out the dough between 2 floured pieces of wax paper. The flour helps when you go to lift the cookie onto the cookie sheet. Another thing I’ve done is to roll out the dough and then refrigerate the flat sheet before cutting out, this also works well and if you do this you don’t have to re-refrigerate after cutting them out.
  4. The step that says “Chill the cutout cookies for 45 minutes before baking”, was actually included in the recipe for a reason (other than annoying an inpatient person like myself).  If you don’t chill the cookies before baking, they lose their shape quickly in the oven.  They still taste good, but it makes it hard to find cookies that match up nicely to sandwich together.  And they just don’t look nearly as beautiful.
  5. You cannot eat just “a piece” of this cookie.  Inevitably, you end up finishing the whole thing…

Linzer Cookies

  • 3 sticks (3/4 lb) butter, softened
  • 1  1/4 cups powdered sugar + more for dusting
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 cup cornstartch
  • 2 cups shelled walnuts or pecans, finely ground***
  • 3/4 cup red raspberry preserves

***Grind the walnuts in a food processor by pulsing 5-15 times.  Be careful not to overgrind because the walnuts will actually start to turn into paste, like peanut butter.  To help prevent this you can try adding a little bit of the powdered sugar to the nuts while grinding them.

Cream butter and 1 1/4 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and mix well. Sift together flour and cornstarch together, and add to butter mixture. Add walnuts and mix thoroughly.

Gather dough in ball and wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper. Chill for 4-6 hours, or overnight, or a day, or 2.

Sandwich the dough between 2 pieces wax paper.  Roll dough out to 1/4-inch thickness.  

Using a large heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out 1 cookie and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (preferably lined with a silicone baking mat).  Then cut out the same size heart, and using a smaller heart, cut a heart shaped hole out of the middle, also place on the cookie sheet. Place about an inch apart on cookie sheet (Mine in the picture were a little too close together!) Then chill for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F. Bake cookies for 10-15 minutes, or until they are only slightly browned. Remove and cool on wire rack.

While they are still slightly warm, spread half of the cookies with raspberry preserves, 1/2 teaspoon of jam on each cookie. Top each with one of the remaining cookies. Press together carefully, this is when it is very easy to break the cookies!

Once fully cooled, sift the remaining powdered sugar over the cookies. Turn cookies over and sift onto the other side.  I like to sift a little powdered sugar on them again before serving.

Makes about 25 “sandwiches”.

Passed on to me by my Mom, and originally from The Silver Palate Cookbook

Chicken “Tender” Parmesan & Marinara Sauce

I never have been one to order chicken parmesan at an Italian restaurant, but I happen to really like this meal!   The idea of a chicken tender, instead of a whole chicken breast, for some reason makes this meal a lot more appealing to me.  Plus, this is actually  pretty healthy, which is something I generally don’t associate with chicken parmesan from restaurants.  In fact, I like this version so much that it has been one of my “go to” dinners for a couple years.

It’s pretty simple to make, and since I’ve had the hang of it for a while now, I decided to re-complicate it for myself  and make my own sauce . The sauce making process wasn’t very difficult, but making it at the same time as the chicken made for a lot of dirty pots and pans, as well as tomato splatters all over the kitchen.  So as a note to myself, the next time I make this I’m going to make the sauce ahead of time (or remember to thaw out the leftover sauce I have frozen).  I figure that will make this a really easy weeknight meal.

Chicken “Tender” Parmesan

– enough for 3-4 servings

  • 1 lb chicken tenders
  • 1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley (if you have it)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2  tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 2 cups marinara sauce***
  • 1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese

***Before I decided to complicate this recipe by making my own sauce, I used  bottled tomato-basil or sundried tomato sauce and add a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar to it.  This worked fine, and made this recipe really easy.

1. Combine the bread crumbs, grated parmesan, basil, parsley, and salt and pepper in a shallow dish.

2. Lightly beat the egg white in a small bowl.

3. Dip each chicken tender into egg white and then into the breadcrumb mixture, so each is coated.

4. Heat the oil or butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. At the same time preheat the broiler in the oven.

5. Add the coated chicken tenders to the skillet and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.

6. Warm up the tomato sauce in the microwave (especially if it’s been in the fridge because it’s not in the oven that long to get hot), and then pour over the chicken in the skillet.

7. Top with mozzarella cheese.

8. Place the skillet in the oven, and broil for 2-3 minutes to melt cheese.

Serve alone or over pasta (I like angel hair or thin spaghetti). Also works great with broccoli or a salad.

Marinara Sauce

I’m not really sure what the definition of marinara is… and since I changed this recipe a lot, I’m not even sure if you can still call it a marinara.  But any who, this is a pretty basic pasta sauce and it worked great with this chicken!

  • 2 – 28 oz cans whole tomatoes, drained but juices reserved.
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Sugar (a few teaspoons)
  • Salt & pepper

1. Heat oil in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.

2. Add the chopped onion and cook 5-7 minutes, until lightly browned.

3. Add garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper to the onion and stir for 30 seconds.

4. Add tomatoes to pan, but reserve 4-5 tomatoes (these will be added later to give extra texture to the sauce).

5. Cook tomato mixture for 10-15 minutes, allowing it to thicken.

6. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir for about 1 minute.

7. Add the reserved tomato juice to the pan, stir, and simmer for 10 minutes.

8. Add sugar, salt and pepper to the sauce.

9. Transfer the mixture to a food processor and add the reserved tomatoes.

10. Pulse 15-20 times until almost smooth.

– Can be refrigerated for 5 days or  frozen in an airtight container for 2-3 months.

Adapted from ATK Healthy Family Cookbook

Pizza Bites AKA The Perfect Party Food

Hopefully you know that this past weekend was the superbowl.  I try to keep track of when the superbowl is just because it is an awesome excuse to make a bunch of food you might not make otherwise :-)!  I feel so lucky to have such great friends that also enjoy trying new things in the kitchen.  We had so much food that I’m still eating the leftovers.

Usually for a superbowl party, we would’ve made”Rotel Dip” – a slightly disturbing, but admittedly delicious concoction made entirely of Velveeta cheese and a can of Rotel tomatoes. Gourmet it is not, but at any party we’ve ever had the bowl is licked clean.  But as much of a hit as rotel dip is, I think these are going to be my new go to party food! First of all, they don’t involve any over-processed cheese; and secondly,  they are like pizza (the ultimate after party food), but in a cute little bite!  They were way easier to make than I thought they were going to be (especially if you already have a batch of my favorite pizza dough in the freezer), and they can be made earlier in the day and baked later.  I actually made one tray with real pepperoni, and John made the other tray with turkey pepperoni.  Yes, John made them.  That’s how easy they are :-). But seriously,  shout out to John because he is really becoming a big help in the kitchen, and he is an excellent dishwasher!  He even ended up making these again, but the second time he filled them only with cheese so that his vegetarian friends could also enjoy them.  He’s taking them into work tomorrow, so I will have to hear how they turned out!

Pizza Bites

– Makes one 9 inch pie pan

  • 1/2 batch Pizza Dough
  • 20-25 cubes Mozzarella Cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 20-25 Slices Pepperoni

For the Topping

  • Olive Oil
  • Grated Parmesean Cheese
  • Italian Herbs (I bought a small disposable grinder of “Italian Herbs”)

Divide the dough into 20-25 equal pieces.  (I used a food scale, in order to make sure they were even, but eyeballing works as well.) Press a slice  of pepperoni and a cube of cheese into a piece of dough, and pull the edges of the dough up around the fillings and pinch shut.  Place the balls seam side down in a greased pie plate.

When ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the tops of the rolls with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and italian herbs.  Bake for 20 minutes.  If you want the top crusts to be golden, try broiling for an additional 2 minutes.

For dipping sauce, you could try the New York Style Pizza Sauce, but I would blend it with a food processor or immersion blender to make it less chunky for dipping.  Ranch dressing is also a good choice, but for the most part I ended up eating these plain because they are just that good!

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Pizza Dough

I swear to you,  I would not lie to you,  this pizza dough is so easy and cheap to make that you will become addicted to it! I love it so much because you can make a big batch (which hardly takes anytime), and then freeze the dough into separate Ziploc bags to take out and use for an easy weeknight meal.  Plus, it’s way better than the canned kind.   I have been known to start a batch of this pizza dough at very odd times, like at the start of a movie, or after a movie, or in the middle of listening to a lecture (I love muli-tasking).  But I find this to be the beauty of this dough – you can make it WHENEVER you want, and it will still taste great later!

This pizza dough is what I use with my Spinach and Ricotta Pizza that I posted about a week ago.

One thing I’d like to mention, GET A PIZZA STONE! I can’t tell you what a difference a pizza stone makes in homemade pizza!    They are not that expensive, but if you don’t want to buy one, I’ve  heard of people using clay tiles from a gardener’s shop as a cheap alternative.  The pizza stone is crucial because as it preheats in the oven, it holds the oven’s heat.  Then when you transfer your pizza onto the stone using parchment paper, the bottom of your crust gets cooked directly.  This causes the crust to come out firm and crispy, even if you have a lot of watery, or heavy toppings (like vegetables).

Pizza Dough

– Makes enough for 2 pizzas (about 13 inches each)

  • 1/2 Cup warm water  + 1 1/4 cups room temperature water
  • 1 Packet Yeast  or 2 1/4 teaspoons (I use quick rise but I’m sure any would work)
  • 4 cups (22 ounces) Flour* (Again, food scales are great for flour!)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • Cooking Spray

*Bread flour is best for this recipe because it made from a high-gluten flour with barley added, which is specifically formulated to allow the yeast to work effectively.  It gives a loftier texture and a certain softness.  However, I often substitute all-purpose flour if that is what I happen to have on hand.

1. Combine the 1/2 cup warm water with the yeast in a 2 cup measuring cup and let sit for 5 minutes.  You should see the yeast dissolving as it becomes activated.

2. Add the remaining 1 1/4 cups room temperature water to the yeast (I usually just add water from the faucet until the measuring cup reads a total of 1 3/4 cup).  Also add the 2 Tablespoons of olive oil to the water.

3. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachement.    With the mixer on low add the water mixture and stir until the flour has become moist.  Then switch to the dough hook attachment.

4. Knead the dough on low (kitchen aid setting 2 or 4)  until smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes.

5. Oil a large bowl using cooking spray.  Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place in the oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap.

6. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 90 minutes or until doubled in size (I usually put mine on top of the stove, but depending on how warm your kitchen is it could take a little over 90 minutes).

7. Punch the dough down and then either…

  • Freeze it: It is really important that you double wrap the dough with plastic wrap, and then put it in a Ziploc bag.  The dough continues to rise even after you put it in the freezer – so if you don’t double wrap it, dough ends up leaking out of the plastic and gets exposed to the cold. When you want to use the frozen dough,  put it in the fridge up to a day before,  or put it out on the counter for few hours before you are ready to start cooking.
  • Use it several hours or a day later: I recommend still wrapping it and putting it in the freezer.  The yeast is really active in this dough and if you put it in the fridge it doesn’t slow the yeast down enough, so your dough continues to rise, and rise, and rise!  The colder temperature of the freezer is enough to “hibernate” the yeast, and then after it has cooled sufficiently you can put it back into the fridge.
  • Use it immediately: All you have to do is flour your work surface and roll it out into a circle.  I do this on parchment paper so that it is easy to transfer to the oven. I will show you my rolling method when I make a pizza soon!

8.  To Cook it: Preheat the oven with your pizza stone to 475 degrees for 30 minutes.  Top your pizza as desired.  Brush the outer crust with a little olive oil in order to help it brown.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Recipe found at  Annie’s Eats, and originally from the book Baking Illustrated (which is a cookbook I’m hoping to add to my collection soon!)

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Treats

I wasn’t going to put this on the blog, because it is so simple it doesn’t seem “blog worthy”, but after serving it before Med Ball, everyone really seemed to enjoy it!  I happened to have all 3 of the main ingredients around the house, so this was a last minute throw together appetizer.

Thanks to my awesome Grandma Josie, who bought a bunch of the these mini filo dough cups for me. If you know my Grandma at all, you know that buying just one of anything would be like one of the seven deadly sins!  So needless to say I have quite a few of these little filo cups in my cupboard and they sure do come in handy.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Appetizers

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

1 8 oz package herbed goat cheese

2 packages Filo Dough Mini Shells (about 30)

Sprinkling of Sugar

Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add a small amount of olive oil to a medium frying pan and heat over medium heat.  Add the thinly sliced onion to the pan and top with a sprinkling of sugar (to help the onion caramelize).  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onion caramelizes (about 1o minutes).  In the meantime place the filo dough cups on a baking sheet and fill each with an equal amount of herbed goat cheese (about a teaspoon).  Bake the cheese filled filo cups for 15 minutes in the oven in order to warm the cheese.  Remove from oven, and top each with a few slices of caramelized onion and serve hot.

Chopped Mediterranean Salad

Based on several of the most recent entries, it probably seems like I cook a lot of mediterranean food.  This is not a true representation of what goes on in my kitchen on a regular basis, so stay tuned.  I’ll be getting more variety around here eventually.

Admittedly, this salad is a bit summery, but after I saw a similar salad from Pink Parsley, I couldn’t resist making it.  I ended up kind of mixing that recipe, with one from this great new cookbook, “America’s Test Kitchen – Healthy Family Cookbook”.  Sometimes I forget how great a simple chopped salad can be.  I left out the chickpeas (kind of on accident :-)), but I think adding them in would make this salad a lot more filling, so it could even be a lunch.


*Feta cheese in a block that is packed in brine tastes better and is cheaper than the pre-crumbled

* If you want to make this salad in advance, leave out the lettuce, parsley and feta and until just before serving

Chopped Mediterranean Salad

  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons Red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I left this out)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 4 oz.  feta cheese, crumbled (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2-3 cups romaine lettuce, chopped

1. Toss tomatoes, cucumber and 1/2 teaspoon salt together in a colander and let drain for 15 – 20 minutes (If you’re in a rush you can put them in a salad spinner and give them a whirl)

2. Whisk olive oil, red wine vinegar, garlic  and salt and pepper in in a large bowl.

3.Add the tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas, olives and scallions tossing to coat.

4. Right before serving add the lettuce, feta, and parsley and toss to combine.

Homemade (and easier than you’d think) Pita Bread

For some reason, I have a problem with leftovers.  I’m not really sure when it started, but it seems that every time I make something for dinner, I never eat the leftovers.  John told me he was really surprised one day when I heated up  Mexican pizza to eat the next day, and that’s when I started to realize – there are 3 foods that I actually like as leftovers: 1) pizza, 2) Thanksgiving, & 3)chicken parm.   However, the fact that I don’t like leftovers doesn’t mean that I NEVER eat them. In fact, last night I made some delicious chicken gyros with homemade tzatziki sauce (one of John’s new favorite meals), and there is so much left over that I would really feel pretty guilty letting them all go to waste. In order to make the leftovers taste a little better, I thought – I’ll make something new to go with them!  And so began the adventure of making homemade pita bread.

For my first time making pita, it tasted great!, but it wasn’t the prettiest thing I’d ever seen….. It definitely didn’t look  like store bought, and I’m not sure you could really call it a “pocket”, but it was delicious fresh out of the oven!   Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes….

One of the things I find the most difficult about making bread, is all the “wait 10 minutes, let rise for 20 minutes…etc”.  So I wrote out the time estimates for each step.  Also, the steps that require you to ACTIVELY be doing something are denoted with a * (as opposed to the steps where you can, if you’d like, stare at the dough while the yeast works its magic).

Recipe for Pita Bread

3 cups plus 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour  (454 grams (food scales are great for flour!))

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature

*STEP 1: 10 minutes: Using a spatula, mix ALL ingredients together in the bowl of a mixer (Yep, all at one time – you don’t have to put the yeast in the water and let it sit, and all that jazz).  Using the dough hook attachment, knead the dough for about 10 minutes (speed 4 on the Kitchen aid), or you can work up a sweat and knead it by hand.

It should go from looking like this:

To looking like this:

STEP 2: 8 hrs – 3 days OR 90 minutes: Once the dough looks smooth, place it in a bowl sprayed with oil, and then spray a little oil on top of the dough. Cover and let sit in the fridge for 8 hrs -3 days OR in a warm, draft free place for 90 minutes. (I love this step because the recipe actually says, “for best flavor development, mix the dough up to 3 days ahead” – Yeah for making things ahead of time!)

*STEP 3: 3 minutes: Divide the risen dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each piece into a ball.

STEP 4: 20 minutes: Cover the dough with a damp towel and let it sit for 20 minutes.  This step allows the dough the relax before you start shaping it – if at any point you have trouble shaping the dough, just let it relax for a few minutes, and it should be easier to shape.

*STEP 5: 15 minutes: On a lightly floured surface,  take each piece of dough and shape it into a circle using your hands and/or a rolling pin.   This is the step that gave me some trouble.  In retrospect, I was trying to make the pita too large, and therefore the dough became very uneven in thickness. The next time I make these, I will try to roll them to about 6 inches wide, 1/4 inch in thickness.

Above – See how uneven they are?  Don’t try to roll them as thin as I did. The most important thing is to keep them even.

STEP 6: 30-40 minutes: Place the rounds on an oiled baking sheet and cover with oiled plastic wrap.  Let rise for 30-40.

STEP 7: While the rounds are rising preheat the oven to 475 degrees. If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven and preheat it as well.  If you don’t have a baking stone, turn a baking sheet upside down and preheat it in the oven.

*STEP 8: 9 minutes: Place as many rounds as you can fit on your baking stone at a time in the oven (I put 3 at a time).  Bake each for 3-5 minutes, and then continue with the remaining rounds, cooking each for 3-5 minutes.

The second time I made them, I made sure they were very smooth and even before baking them and look how nice they puffed up:

(Updated 2/15/11)

Recipe Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen

Tomato-Basil Soup

Sometimes I think that I missed a few key pieces of information in childhood.  One of them being the definition of a consonant –  I’m pretty sure I missed that day in first grade, and didn’t figure it out until much later.  And the other being that grilled cheese is enjoyed by many people with tomato soup.  One day when I was a little older,  I remember my mom ordering tomato soup and thinking how odd it was for anyone to enjoy a soup that was made entirely of pureed vegetables.  And then I was almost disgusted when  she told me that she used to have grilled cheese and tomato soup for dinner all the time as a kid.

Since my husband loves ALL kid foods (chicken fingers, macaroni, hot dogs…etc), he also loves grilled cheese and tomato soup.  I can’t say I’m a huge fan, but at least eating an entirely vegetable soup makes me feel a little better about eating a cheese sandwich.  I thought this soup would be a great alternative to Campbell’s and it made enough that I could easily freeze some for later (making it just as easy as opening a can next time)!  I used a food processor to blend the soup, but I think this recipe would be great to try a food mill with if you have one.

Make Ahead Tip: This soup is really easy but there are 2 steps that have to cook for 45 minutes each.  Therefore, if you roast the tomatoes the day before, all you really have to do to get this ready is throw everything into a pot, let it simmer for 45 minutes and then blend it in a food processor.  Also, like most soups it tastes better after it has been sitting for a while, so you could make the whole shebang ahead of time – easy peasy!

Tomato-Basil Soup

3 lbs Tomatoes

4 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

2 cups chopped onion

6 cloves garlic, minced

Crushed red pepper (to taste)

1 28-oz can whole tomatoes, undrained

2 cups fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon thyme

3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the tomatoes in half and scoop out the centers.  Place them in a bowl and add 3 Tablespoons olive oil, tossing to coat.  Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Cover a baking sheet with foil, place the tomatoes on the sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.

In a dutch oven, over medium heat, sauté the onions, garlic & red pepper flakes with 1 Tablespoon olive oil  for 8 minutes or until the onions start to caramelize. Add the canned tomatoes, roasted tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 45 min.

Process small amounts of the soup in the food processor  until it seems very smooth. (Remember not to fill past that “liquid fill line”).  Serve hot or cold (or freeze for later).

Adapted from Annie’s Eats.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate French Macarons

I’ve always been in love with things related to France – French language, French food, French wine and French cities.  When I started seeing French macarons around the blogging world, I knew I had to make them.  Luckily, we found out that we are going to have a SNOW DAY, so it seemed like the perfect time to try these rather complicated French delicacy.  After eating several of them, I can honestly say that these little treats are divine.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect because a no flour, egg white base  sounded a lot like meringue cookies to me, which I happen to dislike.  But these treats are crispy on the outside and almost like cotton candy on the inside. I even liked the plain cookie without the filling.

I learned pretty much everything I needed to know in this tutorial, which I found via Annie’s Eats. But I have a few comments.

  1. You really need to have a food scale to make these (which gave me a good excuse to use some gift cards to go buy one)
  2. The egg whites quickly go from soft peaks to stiff peaks (so don’t walk away from the mixer while you’re beating them …like I did)
  3. I found I liked a lot less filling then the original recipe called for, but if you think you’d like more filling, the original recipe called for 6 oz chocolate and 3/4 cup cream (and I had more than 1/2 of it left over)
  4. Also the original recipe called for blanched, unsalted peanuts, but I accidentally  bought roasted, salted and they worked fine.
  5. I used 2 silicone baking mats to bake these on (which my brother John introduced me to for my birthday). They are awesome for anything baked in the oven and I would definitely recommend buying one!

Peanut Macarons

55 grams slivered almonds

55 grams peanuts (I used roasted, salted)

200 grams powdered sugar

100 grams egg whites (aged at room temperature for 12-24 hours)

50 grams granulated sugar

Chopped peanuts for garnish

Weigh all ingredients. Combine almonds, peanuts and powdered sugar in a food processor and process until smooth.  In large bowl beat aged egg whites on medium-high until foamy.  Slowly add the granulated sugar to the eggs and beat on high until stiff peaks form.  Be careful not to overbeat. Then carefully fold in the almond/peanut/powdered sugar mixture until the mixture seems consistent throughout.

Line 2 baking sheets with silicone baking mats, (or parchment paper if you don’t have silicone mats). Spoon the batter into a pastry bag or Ziploc.  Cut the edge of the bag to leave an opening of about 1/2 inch. Pipe the batter into small rounds about 1-2 inches wide on the baking sheet.  Leave about 1 inch in-between cookies, although they generally do not spread. Now quickly sprinkle with chopped peanuts.  Then let the cookies sit for about an hour at room temperature.

Once a cookies have started to develop a hard shell, preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Bake the cookies for 11-14 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on pans.  Place in an airtight container until you want to fill them.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Filling

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 c. heavy cream

1 Tablespoon butter

1/2 c. peanut butter

Place the chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Heat heavy cream and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until it begins to simmer.  Pour over chocolate and then stir until the mixture becomes smooth. Let the ganache cool until easy to handle.  Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a medium tip.

Add peanut butter to another pastry bag also fitted with a medium tip.

Match up cookies so that they match as best is possible in size. Pipe a layer of chocolate onto the flat side of the cookie and top with a dollop of peanut butter. Sandwich cookies together and push down lightly.  Store in an air tight container until ready to eat.  (But I’ll have to say – at the rate they disappear, you might not need to store them :-))

Recipe from Annie’s Eats

Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

I am on a huge pizza kick lately!  Ever since I started making my own pizza dough, it seems like we have homemade pizza for dinner about once a week.  I love knowing exactly what goes into the pizza, and it’s really not much more work than ordering!!!  I’ll post a tutorial on making your own pizza dough soon, but for now substitute any pizza like dough or crust you’d like!

John even likes this pizza, despite the fact that it has a lot of vegetables!    The recipe for the sauce calls for fresh basil, which can be hard to find and really expensive.  Thanks to Monnette’s Market, I was able to buy a bunch of it for several recipes this week, right here in cold, wintery Toledo. A little hint with fresh basil is to roll up several leaves into a “cigar” shape, and then thinly slice them.  This is how they get the basil to look so fresh and not wilted in restaurants.   But if you can’t find fresh basil, substituting dried would probably be okay.  Also the sauce recipe makes enough for 2 pizzas – but it freezes well.  I usually make one pizza and freeze the other half of the sauce for pizza another week.

New York Style Pizza Sauce

1 (14.5 oz) can petite-cut tomatoes, undrained

1 (6 oz) can tomato paste

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons sugar

1  1/2 Tablespoons olive oil

7  Tablespoons water

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir with a wisk.

Spinach and Ricotta Pizza

2 Tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups baby spinach leaves

1 teaspoon (about 2 cloves) minced garlic

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

1/3 cup part-skim mozarella

2 Roma tomatos – sliced very thin

1/2 of the above recipe for New York Style Pizza Sauce

Pizza Dough

Olive Oil

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  If you have a pizza stone (which is an awesome investment because it makes the pizza crisp on the bottom), preheat it as well in the oven.  Roll your choice of pizza dough into a circle or square. Lightly brush the outer crust with olive oil.  Evenly spread the pizza sauce over the pizza, leaving a thin border for the crust. Top with the Parmesan cheese, garlic, and spinach leaves.

Then sprinkle mozzarella over the spinach, and top with small spoonfuls of Ricotta.

Bake in the oven for 10-13 minutes or until the crust looks golden brown.  Carefully remove from oven and top immediately with sliced tomatos.

Slightly adapated from Cooking Light