Category Archives: Main Meal

CARAMELIZED ONION AND GOAT CHEESE QUESADILLA

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Most of my favorite foods are the ones that play themselves off as sophisticated, but are still meant to be eat with your hands.

They know what’s going on when it comes to flavor, but they don’t take themselves too seriously. Like this miso mozzarella grilled cheese or these crab fritter tacos. They’ve got it going on when it comes to flavor and texture, but also have some serious napkin requirements.
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This caramelized onion and goat cheese quesadilla is totally part of that club! It’s a giant crispy tortilla filled with creamy, melted goat cheese and mozzarella. There’s also sweet, gooey caramelized onions in there, and some sautéed baby spinach for good conscience.
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This is one of those weeknight dinners I can pull together quickly and feel good about. If you make the onions in advance, it’s a really quick meal. And there’s really nothing wrong with having a container full of caramelized onions just sitting in your fridge, waiting to be eaten.

Trust me on that one.

This quesadilla fulfills all my bar food cravings and makes me feel like a responsible grown-up all at the same time. Goat cheese has a way of doing that to girl.
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CARAMELIZED ONION AND GOAT CHEESE QUESADILLA

Makes 1 quesadilla

Ingredients
1 large flour tortilla
2 oz. goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 large sweet onion
2 cups baby spinach
1/4 cup wine, beer, or stock
2 tbsp. olive oil (divided)
1 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. thyme (fresh or dry)
salt & pepper

Instructions
First, caramelize the onions: Peel the onion and slice in half. Slice each half into 1/2-inch slices. Place a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the butter and 1 tbsp. of the olive oil. Once the butter has melted, add the sliced onion to the pan and toss to coat in the fat. Let sit for 3-4 minutes, then add the thyme and toss to mix. Cover the pan.

Continue to stir and cover the onions every 4-5 minutes. After about 20 minutes, the onions will start to brown. (If this happens to quickly, turn your heat down / not quickly enough, turn your heat up.)
Once the onions become browned and very soft, almost like jam, add the wine beer, or stock to deglaze the pan. Use a wooden spatula to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan, and remove from heat.

Onions can be caramelized up to 3 days in advance, and refrigerated in an air-tight container. Microwave before using to remelt the fats.

To make the quesadilla: heat a skillet pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and the baby spinach. Season the spinach lightly with salt and pepper. Use tongs to toss the spinach until bright green and wilted, about 4-5 minutes. Set aside.

While you cook the spinach, let a griddle pan heat up over medium-high heat. Then spread the goat cheese evenly over one side of the tortilla. Place the tortilla cheese-side-up on the griddle pan. Sprinkle evenly with the grated mozzarella.

Once the mozzarella cheese melts, add the onions evenly to one half of the tortilla. Place the cooked spinach evenly over the onions. Carefully use a spatula to for the tortilla over the onions and spinach. Continue cooking until the outsides are browned as desired. Enjoy immedieately!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH GOAT CHEESE CREAM

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Welcome to the first full week of October, everyone!

Obviously I made some soup. Some very autumnal soup.

Don’t worry, though. It’s not pumpkin spice soup. It’s Butternut Squash Soup with Goat Cheese Cream! Fancy, right?
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Really it’s just a bunch of fall flavors roasted in the over or sautéed in a pot. Then pureed until unrecognizably smooth! You can do this, I promise.

It’s also a bit of a work out. Not really, but peeling butternut squash can be HARD. There’s like 3 layers to get through. Worth it, though!

The squash is roasted with some Granny Smith Apples. They are my favorite and not hard to peel. Win.
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You have some flexibility here as to the consistency of this soup. Add more stock to make it thinner, less to keep it thicker. I kept mine thick and it was awesome, but I realized halfway through I was kind of just eating well-seasoned baby food.

But I mean, there was goat cheese involved and that’s about as sophisticated as it gets if you ask me.

So whatever.
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The goat cheese cream makes this soup feel really grown up! It’s pretty subtle in flavor and adds just a little tang to the soup. It works.

If you’re feeling really crazy and fall-y, put this soup in a Rosemary Thyme Bread Bowl. Dreams will come true. Promise.
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BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP WITH GOAT CHEESE CREAM

Ingredients
For the Butternut Squash Soup:
1 whole butternut squash
3 granny smith apples
1 yellow onion, diced
4 small (or 2 large) carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 large cloves garlic, sliced
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
6 sprigs fresh thyme
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock, plus 1-2 cups
olive oil
salt & pepper

For the Goat Cheese Cream:
2 parts goat cheese
1 part cream (or whole milk)

Instructions
To make the soup: preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Peel your butternut squash until you get to the orange flesh. Slice it in half down the middle, and then cut each piece in half again. Spoon any seeds out from the lower cavity. Cut into roughly 1-inch pieces.

Place the squash pieces on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Use your hand to toss to coat. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden but still somewhat firm. While the squash bakes, peel the apples. Cut into pieces roughly the same size as the squash.

After 20-25 minutes, remove the squash from the oven. Add the apples to the same sheet tray and stir with a spatula. Place back in the oven to roast for another 10 minutes.

While the apples and squash roast, heat a large pot over medium heat. Add 2-3 tbsp. olive oil and then the diced onion, carrots, and celery. Sauté until the vegetables begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes. Remove the squash and apples from the oven. Add them to the pan along with the garlic, ginger, and fresh thyme. Stir to combine and let cook 1-2 minutes.

Add the 4 cups of stock and salt and pepper to taste. Raise the heat, bringing the liquid to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, and either blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a blender or food processor.

To make the goat cheese cream: microwave the goat cheese for 15-20 seconds at a time until it is smooth and easily spread. Mix with the cream using a fork until the ingredients are well combined and smooth. Drizzle over warm soup and enjoy!

ROSEMARY THYME BREAD BOWLS

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Oh hey there! Happy first day of autumn!!!

Also happy day of the season premier of Nashville. I spend the summer binge watching it from the beginning just in time to start planning my entire week around the new season airing. There’s nothing like a Hulu-induced primetime televisions obsession.

Also there’s nothing like soup…in a bread bowl! Because isn’t that one of the reasons we really love soup, anyway? Even if not in a bread bowl, I’m usually breaking up crackers or a baguette and tossing it in there…wishing I was just eating out of a bread bowl.
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So I just went ahead and made some of my own. With some beautifully fragrant and flavorful herbs, of course!

I made these bread bowls on the small size for a few of reasons. Mostly, they’re perfect to have for a lighter lunch or having soup with a salad of some sort. They’re also great to serve with some sort of soup or chile with your full football spread.

Also though, sometimes I like to enjoy soup and a bread bowl without the guilt of eating a loaf of bread the size of my head. So there’s that.
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If you’re planning to serve these with a soup that won’t jive with rosemary and thyme, just leave the herbs out. Generally, though, the flavor goes pretty well with any fall flavored vegetable soup.

If you want to get insane and put some mac and cheese in there too that would definitely work. Make it cauliflower mac and cheese to keep that angel on your shoulder in check.
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ROSEMARY THYME BREAD BOWLS

Makes 4 small or 2 large bread bowls

Ingredients
2 1/4 tsp. dry active yeast (1 packet)
1 tsp. sugar
1 cup warm (not hot) water
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
sea salt for topping

Instructions
Add the sugar and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer.* Add the warm water and stir lightly with a fork. Let sit 5-10 minutes until the mixture becomes foamy. Add the flour, kosher salt, rosemary, and thyme. Using the dough hook attachment, stir the mixture on a low speed. Once the dough starts to come together, slowly stream in the milk.

Keep mixing the dough until it comes together into a wet but firm ball. Oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

In the meantime, line two small baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Kneed lightly until the dough is one smooth ball. Cut into 2 even pieces if making large bread bowls or 4 small pieces if making small bread bowls. Shape the pieces into balls and place on the baking sheets. Cover with a clean baking towel and let rise an additional 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Add the egg to a small cup and mix with an equal part water. Brush the top of each bread ball with the egg wash and top liberally with cracked sea salt. Bake for 15 minutes, and then remove from the oven to brush with the egg wash again. Bake for another 10 minutes for small bread bowls and 15-20 for larger, or until the bread bowls begin to turn golden.

When cool enough to handle, remove the bread bowls to a cool rack until ready to serve. Heat your soup in a separate pot. Use a small knife at an angle to cut a hole around the top of the loaf. Use your fingers to remove the core of the bread along with the lid. Fill the bread bowl with soup and serve the top on the side.

*If you don’t own a stand mixer, mix the dough by hand and kneed on a floured surface. Oil the bowl and return the bowl to rest.

END OF SUMMER STUFFED PEPPERS

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I’m as guilty as the next for jumping feet first into fall the day after Labor Day. But truthfully, we’ve still been well into the 80s here in Denver and we’ve got the produce to show for it.

The first day of fall isn’t until September 23, so it is officially the end of summer. Like, it’s happening right now.

So let’s take our winnings, stuff them in a pepper, and top them with cheese. It’s a thing, I swear.
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These end of summer stuffed peppers are a celebration of all those gorgeous, bright flavors that spend all summer just getting themselves perfect. There’s very little seasoning and (for once) very little cheese. These guys just don’t need much help.

I made my peppers with onions, tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, and corn. But if you’ve got mushrooms or other goodies growing in your garden, toss them in there!
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Stirring in a little tomato paste and cooked rice helps hold everyone together. Then they hang out in the oven, soften even more, and just get to know each other.

These peppers make a great snack, light lunch, or hearty side dish. Serve two per person and they’re a really great meatless meal.

End of summer, for the win!
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END OF SUMMER STUFFED PEPPERS

Makes 6 side servings or 3 meals

Ingredients
3 bell peppers
1/2 cup white or brown rice
2 small or 1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small yellow squash, diced
1 ear sweet corn, kernels sliced from the core
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dry or 1 tsp. fresh thyme
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Cook rice according to package instructions and set aside.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add the olive oil and then the diced onions. Cook until the onions become soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato, zuchini, squash, and corn and sauté another 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.

While the vegetables cook, slice each of the bell peppers down the middle and remove all the seeds and white ribbing inside. Grease a baking dish large enough to hold all the pepper halves and set aside.

Once all the vegetables have softened, add the minced garlic and thyme and cook for one minute. Add the tomato paste and stir until well combined with the vegetables. Remove from eat and stir in the rice.

Generously stuff each bell pepper halve with the vegetable mixture. Place in the baking dish and bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and raise the temperature to 450. Sprinkle the top of each pepper with the parmesan cheese. Bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Serve warm.

SHRIMP LO MEIN WITH BROCCOLI

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Ordering Chinese food is one of our favorite things for dinner. We actually have a rule that, when discussing what to do for dinner, as soon as someone suggests ordering Chinese the conversation is automatically over. That’s what’s happening. It’s simply not discussed.

So you’d better be serious about it.

I pretty much always get shrimp with broccoli. And sometimes a little lo mein on the side. It’s my thing. The people who answer the phone and take the orders know it. The delivery guy knows it. It’s just my thing.

Today I had some broccoli in the fridge that needed cooking and some shrimp in the freezer, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Blasphemous, perhaps. but it turned out pretty great!
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This is a great meal option when you have vegetables and/or meat in your fridge that need to be cooked ASAP, but you’re craving take-out. It comes together in about a half hour. It should satisfy those cravings, at least temporarily. And it’ll keep some of your food out of the garbage!

If you’ve got extra carrots, onions, or mushrooms laying around, get them in here! Throw all the veggies in together. Chicken, pork, beef, tofu, whatever. Cut up a scrambled egg pancake and toss it in there. Whatever you’ve got.

A nice goal for making this is to throw in whatever vegetables chilling in your fridge need a little loving. Another nice goal is to not put your hand right up against the electric burner you forgot you just turned off, like I did. That’s actually a great goal.
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SHRIMP LO MEIN WITH BROCCOLI

Serves 2

Ingredients
8 oz. dry lo mein noodles or Chinese egg noodles
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 small crowns broccoli, cut into florets
1 small yellow onion, halved and sliced
3 large cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tbsp.)
2 inches ginger root, peeled and minced (about 2 tbsp.)
2 green onions, minced, divided
1 tbsp. oyster sauce
3 tbsp. soy sauce, plus 1-2 tbsp. more
1 tsp. rice vinegar
3-4 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided

Instructions
Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Cook the lo mein noodles according to package instructions. Drain into a colander and rinse thoroughly under cold water. Transfer to a bowl and toss with about 1 tbsp. vegetable oil. Set aside.

In a small cup, mix the soy sauce, oyster sauce, half the minced garlic, half the mixed ginger, and one of the minced green onions. Set aside.

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add about 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and tilt the pan to coat the surface in the oil. Add the shrimp and cook until they are just opaque, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add another tbsp. of vegetable oil to the pan and add the onion and broccoli florets. Cook until some of the onions start to brown and the broccoli is bright green, about 5-6 minutes. Add the remaining minced ginger and garlic and cook for an additional minute.

Use a wooden spatula to move the vegetables to the edges of the pan. Add one more tbsp. of vegetable oil to the center of the pan and then add the cooked lo mein noodles. Remove the pan from heat. Add the shrimp and toss everything together. Pour the soy sauce mixture around the edge of the pan and continue tossing until everything is well combined. Taste for flavor and add more soy sauce as needed.

Plate the lo mein and top with the remaining minced green onion. Enjoy immediately!

BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER SLIDERS

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Ok, so, I know I’m on a bit of a cauliflower kick lately. First this Sriracha Honey Cauliflower Pizza, then the Creamy Cauliflower Mac and Cheese, and now this.

But really, I’m not even sorry. These Buffalo Cauliflower Sliders are that good.

This recipe was a serious labor of love for me. Lucky for you though, I nailed it eventually! The first few rounds resulted in deliciously flavored sliders with a gross mashed potato-like consistency. Not cool. Also no salvageable, it turned out.
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There were two big changes that made these sliders eventually awesome. First, roasting the cauliflower in the oven is key. It softens it up and gives great flavor, all while drying out a lot of the excess moisture it secretly holds. That extra moisture = mushy burgers.

The second thing was just giving it a light pulse in a food processor instead of full-on ricing it. You could even achieve the same result with some dedication and a sharp knife. That’s the ticket to Texture City.
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Fold in a few other goodies, and these babies are ready to fry. Delicious buffalo sauce comes together in seconds. Assembly is simple and the results are absurdly satisfying. Tons of flavor and great texture make this the ultimate snack. The cauliflower is filling enough to make a few of these a whole meal.

Win-win!
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BUFFALO CAULIFLOWER SLIDERS

Makes about 10 sliders

Ingredients
For the Patties:
1 small head cauliflower
1 tbsp. vegetable oil, plus more for frying the patties (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1-2 tbsp. hot sauce
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup hot sauce
1 stick butter

10 slider buns
lettuce, sliced tomato, and ranch dressing, for topping

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Roughly cut or break the cauliflower head into florets. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and toss with 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil. Roast the cauliflower in the oven for 35 minutes, tossing with a spatula halfway through. Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature, so it is no longer steaming.

Add the cauliflower florets, blue cheese crumbles, garlic powder, and hot sauce to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse about 5 times, until there are no larger pieces of cauliflower left, but so the mixture is still courser than rice. Move the mixture to a mixing bowl. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the beaten egg and panko breadcrumbs.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Once the pan is warm, add the vegetable oil so that it is about 1/2 inch deep. Use your hands to make patties from the cauliflower mixture, about 3 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick. Gently place in the oil, careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until each side is a deep golden brown, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain excess oil.

While the patties drain, place the butter in a small bowl and microwave until melted. Add the hot sauce to the melted butter and mix with a fork until well combined. Set up your slider buns with a dollop of ranch dressing, a lettuce leaf, and a tomato slice. Individually toss each patty in the sauce, coating both sides, and place directly on the bun. Enjoy immediately.

CREAMY CAULIFLOWER MAC AND CHEESE

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Ohhh man. Oh. Man. This stuff…this stuff is good.

Have you seen this creamy cauliflower sauce from the mega-genius (Lindsay) over at Pinch of Yum? It’s so much magic she even made an ebook of all the things one can do with it.

So today, I’d thought I’d take a crack at my own creamy cauliflower magical creation. And you’re going to be so glad I did!
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Let me be clear here: mac and cheese is serious business in our house. It’s easily one of John’s favorite dinners. Usually we go traditional, starting with a béchamel sauce and adding about 2 blocks of grated cheese…oops. And honestly, even then I sometimes feel like it’s not creamy enough.

And then all of a sudden this guy happened!

Basically, we’re replacing that béchamel with a cauliflower puree – but not just any old cauliflower puree. It’s seasoned with garlic, sage, and some butter among other friends. I got a little crazy and threw in some heavy cream, because whatever. It was delicious.

I used less than half the amount of cheese and butter I usually use for my best mac and cheese, and sacrificed nothing. The texture is so creamy, and the flavor is so there. Toasted bread crumbs on top tie the whole thing together, so don’t skip them!
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CREAMY CAULIFLOWER MAC AND CHEESE

Inspired by Pinch of Yum’s Creamy Cauliflower Sauce

Ingredients
1 head cauliflower
3 cups vegetable stock
6 cups water
2 tbsp. butter
8 whole cloves garlic
3 sage leaves
1/2 cup cream (or whole milk)
salt & pepper to taste
2 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 lb. pasta, shells or pipe rigate recommended
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2-3 tbsp. olive oil

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. In a large pot, bring the vegetable stock and water to a boil. Roughly break or chop the cauliflower into florets about 2 inches wide. Boil the cauliflower until easily pierced with a fork, about 5 minutes. Remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon and add to a food processor fitted with a steal blade.

While the cauliflower cooks, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the butter, and once it has melted, add the garlic cloves. Sauté the garlic for 2-3 minutes, careful not to let them brown. Add the sage leaves and cook for another 2-3 minutes, making sure the garlic does not brown. Add the garlic, sage, and all the butter to the food processor.

Add 1 cup of the vegetable stock-water mixture and the cream to the food processor. Run the food processor for a few minutes until the mixture becomes very smooth. Taste for salt and pepper and add as needed, and add any more liquid to reach your desired texture.

While the food processor runs, add the pasta to the same stock-water mixture the cauliflower cooked in. Cook until just past al dente.

Once the sauce is done, move to a baking dish. Fold in 1 1/2 cups of the cheddar cheese until it is evenly distributed and starts to melt. Fold in the cooked pasta until well combined. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese.

Mix the bread crumbs and olive oil in a small up. The mixture should be moist, but not wet. Evenly spread the breadcrumbs over the top of the mac and cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Enjoy immediately, or let cool and reheat when ready to serve.

GRILLED PEACH AND PROSCIUTTO PIZZA

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Alright guys, I think this is my last call for peaches…this summer, anyway. Now that we’ve got the cocktail and the dessert, this Grilled Peach and Prosciutto Pizza is completing the peach trifecta.

What is the peach trifecta, you ask?

Nothing, I just made it up right now. Moving on.
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If you’re really not into the close of summer, this pizza is for you. Fresh peaches are grilled till they’ve got beautiful grill marks. That gives them a deeper flavor and makes them look pretty.

Salty Prosciutto comes in to balance out that sweetness. Have you had prosciutto on pizza before? It’s like fancy, paper-thin bacon. It crisps up so nicely. It’s the best.

The unsung hero of this pizza is really the bottom layer of goat cheese. It’s gently warmed to become nice and spreadable and flavored with honey and thyme. Ah-may-zing.
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We’re not using too much and not just dropping huge dollops on top, so it’s fairly subtle. Which can be hard to achieve in the goat cheese department. It’s still there, but playing as much of a supporting role as diva goat cheese is capable of doing.

This is such a perfect end of summer meal. If you’re craving it in the winter, though, just defrost some frozen peaches and throw them onto a grill pan. It’ll be like summer vacation in your slippers.
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GRILLED PEACH AND PROSCIUTTO PIZZA

Ingredients
Pizza Topping:
Makes enough for one 10-inch pizza
1 peach
2 oz. soft goat cheese
1 tbsp. honey
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. thyme
3-4 slices prosciutto
4-5 large basil leaves, chopped
aged balsamic vinegar, for topping.

Pizza Dough:
Makes enough for two 10-inch pizzas
1 tsp. dry active yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil

Instructions
If making your own pizza dough: Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer* and mix with a fork until the water becomes cloudy. Add the flour and salt and mix slowly with the paddle attachment until a wet dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook attachment and kneed the dough for about 3-5 minutes. It should be tacky and elastic. If it is too sticky, add more flour 1 tbsp. at a time.

Pull the dough out of the bowl and set aside. Add 1-2 tbsp. olive oil to the bowl and put the dough back in. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 90 minutes. Once it’s risen you can either use the dough immediately, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze it.

To make the pizza: Place a pizza stone in the center of your oven and preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. Make sure your pizza dough is at room temperature. Bring a small pot of water to boil. Cut an “x” in the bottom of the peach through the skin. Place the peach in the boiling water for 60 seconds and remove with a slotted spoon. Once it’s cool enough to handle, peel the skin off the peach.

Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Slice the peaches in 1/8-inch slices. Grill each slice until dark char-marks appear, about 4 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Place the goat cheese in a microwave-safe dish and heat on high for 15 seconds. If the cheese isn’t spreadable after 15 seconds, heat for another 10 seconds on medium heat. Add the olive oil, honey, and time and mix to combine.

Gently work your pizza dough into a rough circle and place on a piece of parchment pizza. Evenly spread the goat cheese over the dough, leaving a border for crust. Evenly distribute the peaches. Use your hands to tear to prosciutto into 3-4 pieces per slice and place around the peaches.

Use a pizza peel to slide the pizza onto the pizza stone and bake for 12-14 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately top with the chopped fresh basil. Drizzle with the aged balsamic and enjoy immediately!

If you don’t own a stand mixer, you can mix the dough by hand in a large bowl and and kneed 5-10 minutes on a floured surface. Oil the bowl and return the bowl to rest.

SHRIMP AND SAUSAGE OVER CREAMY POLENTA

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Mmmm comfort food. Filling and satisfying and all the other good things. I know it’s summertime and it’s hot and even kind of sticky in some places, but that still does not make comfort food any less comforting.

This Shrimp and Sausage over Creamy Polenta is kind of a play on southern shrimp and grits. The flavors are much more Italian, though, with a chunky tomato sauce loaded with fresh thyme and oregano.

It’s comfort food to the max.
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I don’t cook with a lot of meat, but sausage is one of my favorites to use when I do. It’s so flavorful when browned in a hot pan. You could easily substitute in vegan sausages if you want. Or add veggies. Or just make this sauce with shrimp only.

Or just skip the sauce and eat a whole pot of polenta. I would totally understand if you just did that instead.
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Believe it or not, this was the first time I’d ever made creamy polenta! It was way easier than I expected and somewhat similar to making rice. I found this article to be super helpful!

I didn’t add a ton of cheese, which is somewhat shocking for me. But I really just wanted enough to give the polenta a little extra salt flavor. This whole meal came together in under an hour, and was pretty stress-free. It’s a great choice if you’re cooking for friends at home!
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SHRIMP AND SAUSAGE OVER CREAMY POLENTA

Serves 4

Ingredients
1/2 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 lb. Italian sausage (I used mild)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

4 cups water
1 cup polenta
1 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Instructions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Prick your sausages in a few places with a fork and place them on the sheet pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

While the sausages bake, bring a pot with the 4 cups of water to boil over medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, add the salt. Whisk the water and slowly stream in the polenta. Keep whisking as the mixture thickens.

Once it thickens to the point that the polenta does not fall to the bottom if you stop stirring (about 3 minutes) turn the heat to low-medium. Keep whisking another 2-3 minutes as the polenta continues to thicken. Place a lid over the pot and set a timer for 30 minutes. Then, every 10 minutes stir the polenta with a rubber or wooden spatula, being sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the pot.

By the time you place the lid on the polenta, the sausage should be done baking. Heat a skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Slice the sausage into 1/2 inch pieces. Add 2 tbsp. olive oil to the hot pan and then add the sausage.

Once the sausage starts to brown, add the diced onion. Cook the sausage and onion for another 5 minutes or so, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the garlic, thyme, oregano, and red pepper flakes and cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for another minute, and then the diced tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium and let the sauce cook down a little bit.

Once the timer goes off on your polenta, remove from heat. Stir in the butter and cheese until melted. Stir the shrimp into the tomato sauce and place a lid on that pot. Remove the lid once the shrimp are cooked, about 4-6 minutes. Remove the pot from heat.

Ladle about 1 cup of polenta into the middle of each dish and top with the shrimp and sausage sauce. Garnish with fresh thyme as desired. Serve immediately, paired with a light red wine like Pinot Noir.

MEDITERRANEAN PIZZA

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Before continuing: I must warn you that this pizza is not for flavor wimps. Flavor wimps, get out of here. There is nothing for you here.

So, for the rest of us…

Daayummm this Mediterranean Pizza is a taste explosion! No opportunity for more flavor was wasted here. First things first, we’re ditching traditional pizza sauce. Don’t get me wrong, I love the stuff. But I needed a change.

I had some leftover sun dried tomato pesto leftover form this tortellini salad, and it’s the base of this pizza. Next, we’re layering on some mozzarella cheese for supreme meatiness, and then some crumbled feta for a flavor left hook.

The artichokes are a little salty, the tomatoes nice and sweet, the red onion tangy and the arugula just a little peppery. Everyone is at this pizza party!
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Doesn’t uncooked pizza look so much uglier than the finished product?

This (finished) pizza looks super fancy and artisanal, but it doesn’t require any more effort than this Sriracha Honey Cauliflower pizza does.

This pizza is the perfect thing to make for grown-up pizza parties, and will pair perfectly with a glass (read: bottle) of your favorite wine.
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MEDITERRANEAN PIZZA

Ingredients
For the pizza
Makes enough for one 10-inch pizza
1 cup dry sun dried tomatoes
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 large cloves garlic
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup walnut halves
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2-3 marinated artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups arugula or baby arugula

Pizza Dough:
Makes enough for two 10-inch pizzas
1 tsp. dry active yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil

Instructions
If making your own pizza dough: Combine the yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer* and mix with a fork until the water becomes cloudy. Add the flour and salt and mix slowly with the paddle attachment until a wet dough comes together. Switch to the dough hook attachment and kneed the dough for about 3-5 minutes. It should be tacky and elastic. If it is too sticky, add more flour 1 tbsp. at a time.

Pull the dough out of the bowl and set aside. Add 1-2 tbsp. olive oil to the bowl and put the dough back in. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 90 minutes. Once it’s risen you can either use the dough immediately, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 3 days, or freeze it.

To make the pizza: Place a pizza stone in the center of your oven and heat it to 500 degrees celsius. Cut a piece of parchment paper and place it over a pizza peel or cutting board.

Next, make the sun dried tomato pesto. Place the sun dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, garlic, parmesan cheese, walnuts, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process until the ingredients are finely chopped and then slowly stream in the olive oil. If the pesto is too dry or pasty add more olive oil 1 tbsp. at a time until the desired consistency is reached.

Make sure the dough is room temperature, and place it on the parchment paper. Gently work it into a roughly 10-inch circle. Spread the pesto evenly over the dough. Then top with the cheeses and then the artichokes, onion, and tomatoes. Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Remove from the oven and immediately top with the arugula so it starts to wilt. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

*If you don’t own a stand mixer, you can mix the dough by hand in a large bowl and and kneed 5-10 minutes on a floured surface. Oil the bowl and return the bowl to rest.