My favorite pizza.

Nut-free | Soy-free | Gluten-free option | Clean eating option

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We’re big pizza lovers in this house. Back in my semi-homemade days I had several pizza posts, but they were all boring pepperoni (or pepperoni and green peppers) pizza. Then we lived in Switzerland and spent 10 days in Italy. They don’t do pepperoni. They do salami, but trust me, it is NOT the same. So I got a little more adventurous.

In the 4 weeks between when we were told we were moving to Switzerland for 6 months and when we actually moved, I binge-watched Rick Steeves’ Europe on PBS–only the countries we were actually thinking of going to (sorry Estonia)–and learned, among many other things, the reported origin of our beloved pizza. It came from Naples in the early 18th or 19th centuries. Legend has it that the archetypal pizza, Pizza Margherita, was commissioned in 1889 to honor the visiting Queen Margherita with the three colors of the Italian flag: red tomatoes, green basil, and white mozzarella.

I ate this pizza a lot in Italy. And Switzerland. And interestingly, everyone does it differently. The Swiss just do it with tomato sauce. The Romans did a little sauce AND tomatoes. We never made it to Naples, so I don’t know if this really is the real way, but by far my favorite way of eating Pizza Margherita is this: garlic-infused olive oil (LOTS of garlic), fresh Roma tomatoes, mozzarella, Parmesan for a little bite, and lots of basil.

Publix, our local amazing grocery chain, has amazing Italian-style pizza dough for just a couple bucks, so I get two: I make one pepperoni for the girls, and my husband and I share this. And I eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.

No, this is not clean. This is not healthy. You can use whole-grain or gluten-free crust, and the veggies and part-skim mozzarella make it less terrible for you than delivery (or diGiorno! Ha!), but let’s keep this in the “sometimes food” category. With the chocolate frozen custard. Yum!

Pizza Margherita

Original recipe here

  • Pizza dough of choice
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
  • 10 basil leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 400 or 425, depending on the instructions for your chosen pizza dough, with a pizza stone in the oven (optional but highly recommended).
  2. Pour olive oil into a medium bowl and add garlic and salt. Add sliced tomatoes; toss to coat, and marinate 10-15 minutes at room temperature.
  3. Roll out and toss your pizza dough to desired width and thickness on a large piece of parchment paper.
  4. Brush dough evenly with about a tablespoon of garlic oil marinade. Sprinkle evenly with 1 1/2 cups of the mozzarella and all of the Parmesan.
  5. Top with tomato slices, spaced evenly, and sprinkle basil over the tomatoes.
  6. Sprinkle remaining mozzarella evenly over the top of the basil and season all over with salt and pepper.
  7. Bake 15-20 minutes, until crust is golden, and let stand 5 minutes before slicing.
  8. Enjoy!
  9. If there are leftovers, reheat in a 350-degree oven–not the microwave.

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Chicken Tikka Masala.

Gluten-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Clean-eating option

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So I’m realizing that we eat a lot of variations on chicken and rice in our house. We have several curry versions, the NYC street cart version, and a few comfort food versions from my semi-homemade days, just off the top of my head.

This is the I-used-to-live-near-an-awesome-Indian-restaurant-but-I-don’t-anymore-but-I-really-don’t-need-to-leave-the-house-anymore-for-delicious-Indian-takeout version. It’s one of my husband’s favorite meals ever. And my favorite part about it–besides how delicious it is–is that odds are good you have all of the ingredients in your spice cabinet! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to blog it!

Chicken Tikka Masala

Adapted from here

Marinade:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt (I use lowfat Greek yogurt)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • up to 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • up to 1 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips

Masala:

  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 8 oz. can no-salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1 cup cream

Rice:**

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  1. For the marinade, combine all ingredients except chicken in a medium bowl. Add chicken and toss until coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least a couple hours (I usually do overnight).
  2. Grill chicken (original way) or cook under a broiler on high on a broiler pan (my lazy easy way). Discard marinade.
  3. Meanwhile, for the masala, melt butter in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Add jalapeno and garlic and saute one minute or until fragrant. Season with spices and salt and stir to toast spices.
  4. Add tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on medium-low until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Begin cooking rice (below). Add grilled (broiled) chicken and simmer 10 minutes.
  5. Rice: bring water to boil. Add remaining ingredients, cover, and reduce heat. Cook 15 minutes, fluff, and serve topped with tikka masala.

**A couple notes about the rice: first of all, yes, I know that Basmati rice is best suited. However, I find Jasmine more economical and versatile, if less authentic. If you want a clean eating version, use brown rice and cook 45 minutes instead of 15.

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Summer Reading Party!

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The idea for this came about at the end of the school year, when moms everywhere were scrambling to think of ways to keep our kids from killing each other and forgetting everything they’d just learned. My friend Chrissy, who also can’t contain herself when it comes to planning her kids’ birthday parties, found a printable Summer Reading Bingo sheet and shared it on Facebook with a caption to the effect of, “There’s a Reading Party on here. Anyone want to join us?”

We did.

We got a couple other crafty moms together, found a date, and the Book Club Party was born.

With The BFG film coming out, and with many of these 2nd-through-4th-graders reading it or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the first time, we decided on a Roald Dahl party. Kids read either (or both) of the books, and had to have at least one Bingo on their sheet to gain entry. (My rising 2nd grader took that part very seriously.)

Chrissy had some decorations left over from her daughter’s Willy Wonka birthday party a year ago, so we were able to keep this really low-budget, low-effort operation. I also restrained myself and only printed out 5 quotes from the 2 books to put on the wall.

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You can download a Willy Wonka font for free here.

None of us got a shot of the food, but here was the theme menu:

  • Snozzberries (berries)
  • Treats dipped in the Chocolate River (fondue)
  • Miniature Wonka bars (free printable wrapped around Hershey Nuggets) IMG_9779
  • Frobscottle (vanilla ice cream and raspberry sorbet with green-dyed ginger ale poured over the top–I might use Sprite next time so it’s sweeter) IMG_9796
  • I tried to think of a non-messy way to serve “Human Beans,” but couldn’t come up with anything. Then my friend Wendy mentioned crunchy roasted chickpeas would be delicious. So consider that.

Activity 1: we made dream jars from the BFG (out on the lanai to contain the glitter).

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Activity 2: Juicing Violet Beauregard. I got the idea from here. I bought a few of the bluest splash balls I could find at Target, filled a punch bowl with water and a few drops of blue food coloring, and positioned a couple buckets at another end of the yard. The teams took turns filling their splash balls with “juice” running across the grass to squeeze them into their bucket. The team with the fullest bucket at the end of 3 minutes won.

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We then attempted an activity involving catching “dreams” (water balloons) in those same buckets (yes, the connection was tenuous at best; it’s hard to think of literary-based water games, trust me), but had an injury when someone missed, so I won’t recommend that one.

Then we turned on the sprinklers and just let the kids run! Because kids need unstructured play time too.

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The party was a success! It was fun to share the joy of some of our favorite childhood books with our kids, and let them share these literary experiences with their friends.

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Legendary NYC Street-Cart-Style Chicken and Rice–Clean!

Clean | Gluten-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Dairy-free option

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Half a decade ago, we lived just outside New York City, which meant we were just minutes from some of the most delicious and diverse food options in the world. When we moved to Tampa, I needed to learn to cook some of our favorites myself, and it wasn’t until just weeks ago that I found this gem. Finally our cravings for street cart chicken with yellow rice and yogurt sauce can be satiated!

Clean NYC Street-Cart-Style Chicken and Yellow Rice

Adapted from here

Chicken:

  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Yogurt sauce: (you only need half of what’s below if not everyone loves it with the sauce; omit for dairy-free)

  • 1 cup plain lowfat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
  • juice of 1 lemon (1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Rice:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter, olive oil, or dairy-free buttery spread
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 2 cups basmati, jasmine, or brown (for clean) rice
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • optional: additional water for jasmine or brown rice (see instructions below)
  1. Toss together chicken marinade ingredients with chicken; marinate an hour.
  2. Whisk together yogurt sauce ingredients in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Heat a large saucepan on high heat with enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom. Add chicken thighs and cook in batches until done. Remove to a plate and keep warm.
  4. If there are burned bits of garlic in the bottom of the pan, remove those. Then in the same pan, add butter, rice, and spices. Stir to coat and cook on medium-high 1-2 minutes to toast the spices.
  5. Add chicken stock, and water if needed. Basmati: no additional water. Jasmine: 1 1/2 cups water. Brown: 2 1/2 cups water.
  6. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn heat down to low. Cook 15 minutes for basmati and jasmine; 45 for brown rice. Fluff when finished and remove from heat.
  7. When rice is done, dice chicken.
  8. Serve chicken atop yellow rice and drizzle with yogurt sauce. Sprinkle with harissa, sriracha, or other hot sauce if desired.

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Chocolate Frozen Custard.

Gluten-free | Nut-free

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Today is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day! Last week was National Donut Day… I tend to wonder who it is that makes these arbitrary holidays, but regardless, if it means tasty food I’m all about it.

I found this recipe on Serious Eats awhile back and pinned it for a special occasion; I think this counts, right? I love frozen custard–you know, the soft, melt-in-your-mouth creaminess that you can find at Shake Shack, Culver’s, and the like. I never understood why it was so much more expensive than normal ice cream… until I read the ingredient list. Those egg yolks! But I tell you: they make it. We’ve made quite a bit of ice cream in our little Cuisinart over the years, and this is the one homemade ice cream that doesn’t turn to a block of ice in the freezer if we don’t eat it all in one sitting. (Which, trust me, you won’t; it’s rich, even for a self-professed chocoholic and ice cream aficionado like me!)

My oldest says this tasted like “brownie ice cream.” Yep.

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Chocolate Frozen Custard

Original recipe here — recipe below doubles it because I promise you’ll want more!

  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light (clear) corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, corn syrup, and cocoa until well incorporated. Carefully whisk in cream and milk until well blended.
  2. Heat on medium-low (but closer to medium) several minutes, whisking frequently, until 170 degrees–or until thickened enough that a custard forms on a spoon when you dip it in and a finger swiped across the back of the spoon leaves a clean line. (It sounds weird, but I bet it’ll make sense when you do it.)
  3.  Stir in salt and vanilla.
  4. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a freezer-safe airtight container, and chill in the refrigerator several hours, until very cold–40 degrees or so.
  5. Churn in your ice cream maker according to your appliance’s directions.
  6. Return to your freezer-safe container and either serve immediately or freeze about 1 hour to firm up a bit.
  7. It tastes best within a couple hours of being made.
  8. Optional: if you want to make a “concrete,” finely chop toppings like M&Ms, Oreos, brownies, etc., freeze until hard, and then add to the ice cream maker during the last 2 minutes of churning. Enjoy it right away!

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Paleo Blueberry Scones.

Paleo | Vegan option | Gluten-free | Dairy-free | Clean eating

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I have always loved scones. Something about the bite being firmer than a muffin but still moist, and so flavorful.

Because of the time we spent in London exactly a year ago now, when a Teacher Appreciation Week breakfast was proposed with an English tea theme, I jumped at the chance to spearhead it! I ordered scones, English muffins, and bread from our Publix bakery; my mom sent homemade jam and marmalade; I displayed all the British children’s books I’ve amassed over the years (a LOT of books); and we had toasters and teas for the teachers to help themselves to. But I knew some teachers (my daughter’s included–yes, I’m biased) can’t have traditional bread or scones because of allergies and intolerances, so I sought out an allergy-friendly scone recipe for them.

I found it. Oh boy, did I find it! They were SO good, and they were gone SO fast. With our new farm-fresh blueberries, I just had to make them again! The texture is a little less dense than normal scones, but no less delicious: not too sweet, and so flavorful.

Paleo Blueberry Scones

Original recipe here

  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour or macadamia flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs (for vegan, use 2 flax eggs)
  • 3 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk, room temp
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with parchment.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the liquid ingredients.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. The mixture should be slightly crumbly but stay in one mass. If your mixture is too dry, add a couple more drops of coconut milk.
  5. Gently fold in blueberries.
  6. On a wax paper-lined cutting board, form the dough mass into your favorite scone shape. I form it into a square about 3/4-inch thick all around, then use a large chef knife or offset spatula to cut it into 6 rectangles. Halve each of those into a triangle and you’ll end up with a dozen triangles about 3-4 inches to a side.
  7. Carefully use the knife or spatula to lift each scone onto your baking sheet, spacing a couple inches apart.
  8. Bake 16 minutes or until just golden.
  9. Let cool completely before enjoying!

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Creative leftovers: Pressed Southwest Wraps.

Nut-free| Gluten-free option | Soy-free option | Clean-eating option

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Let’s talk leftovers.

My girls don’t like them. Nope, not one bit. Except for my toddler, whom I often hear grunting and “eeeee” (please)-ing as I’m trying to enjoy my leftover curry (or this one!) or chicken tikka masala for lunch in peace.

But who really wants to make a brand-new, from-scratch meal (that their kids are probably going to whine and complain about anyway) every single night?

So I’ve been trying to find ways to cut prep time while masking a few “reused” ingredients. Here are a few:

  • Always make extra. Extra rice, extra cooked and chopped chicken. And keep it in the fridge to use in a different recipe.
  • Always make extra (again). Extra enchilada sauce or enchiladas, extra filling for these wraps. And freeze it for another meal.
  • When I need a small amount of something, like tomato paste or green onions, I portion out the rest and freeze it.

These wraps do a great job of combining these odds and ends into something low-effort and really delicious. The best part is that you can add in whatever you and your family wants. I subbed in corn for the original recipe’s peppers and adjusted the spices a little bit so that my girls will enjoy it without complaining.

With the right tortillas and brown rice you can make this gluten-free and/or clean. Unfortunately, I don’t know if there’s a way to successfully make this dairy-free because the cheese and sour cream help hold the wrap together, but you could try it with vegan cheese and just really sticky rice. Let me know how it works!

Pressed Southwest Wraps

Adapted from here

  • 1 cup cooked warm rice
  • 1 green onion, finely sliced (or 1/2 Tbsp. chopped green onions- still frozen, even!)
  • 1/2 Tbsp. dry cilantro
  • up to 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1 tsp. lime juice
  • 1-2 cups cooked chopped or shredded chicken
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn, defrosted
  • shredded Mexican-blend cheese (I even used crumbled-up leftover cheddar slices once!)
  • sour cream
  • tortillas, gluten-free and/or soy-free if necessary
  • soy-free cooking spray
  1. Combine the rice, onions, spices, and lime juice in a medium bowl. Stir in chicken, beans, and corn.
  2. Dollop a spoonful of sour cream around the center of an open tortilla and sprinkle with cheese. Spoon a couple tablespoonfuls of the filling onto the tortilla, then roll like a burrito. Spray the cooking spray on the seam side and lay seam-side down on a plate.
  3. When all wraps are assembled, heat a nonstick griddle on medium to medium-high heat. Carefully lay a couple wraps at a time on the griddle, seam side down, and press down all over with a spatula. The cooking spray helps seal the seam shut. When browned, flip, press again, and remove to a warm plate until all wraps are finished.
  4. You can wrap each individually in foil to save and reheat in the oven later.

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