Backyard Pizza Oven

With the growing interest in expanding the indoors outside with added living space, it is no wonder why cooking outdoors has become even more popular.  I recently used a wonderful product called the Pizza Que pizza kit for Kettle grills. Most kettle grills can accommodate this expansion which turns the grill into an amazing pizza oven.  The temperature of my oven reached over 700 degrees in less than 30 minutes and kept that temperature for one hour, without any other assistance.  At that point, we wanted the oven to cool down, so it could have stayed hotter even longer!

Since our pizza cooked in less than eight minutes, we could have made at least 7 more pizzas in rapid succession during that time period.  The result was an excellent tasting pizza which was equal to any wood fired pizza I have sampled at any restaurant.  And, all of this in my own backyard for a fraction of the cost.

This was a really fun time as well, and could be turned into a super fun pizza party for friends and other guests.  I used my favorite frozen pizza crust, with my technique of using corn meal on the pizza paddle for ease in transfer into the oven and out. A mix of flour and corn meal could also be used.  Too much corn meal will start to smoke or burn if left in the hot oven for too long.

 

Midway through the cooking time, I rotated the pizza as recommended with the included stainless steel paddle with ease.  The crust was already almost done at that point, so the pizza easily moved on the ceramic pizza stone.

The kit assembled in less than 30 minutes and also comes with a thermometer which determines when the pizza should begin cooking. The oven must be up to temperature to achieve the best and fastest results. I followed the directions that came with the kit and had outstanding success. Thanks to the Charcoal Companion again for another great product.

The kit is sold on amazon.com, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, and online at pizzacraft.com

 

One pot New Orleans shrimp

Even though we have lived been living in Michigan for nearly ten years, the second time around, I still have a love for down-South cooking. We spent nearly one year in New Orleans and became very endeared to the fish and seafood specialties of the area.

Here is a recipe that I have been making for many years which reminds us of our time spent in that area of the country.

Gather these ingredients to make this dish:  coarse salt, 2-3 tablespoons margarine, 2 stalks celery, garlic paste, 1/2 white onion, green onions, 4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, sliced lemon, about 20-25 cleaned shrimp, Herbs for Seafood and parsley flakes. White or brown rice as desired to accompany the dish.

I prepare this dish in my Staub cooking pot, which helps add to the flavor of the dish with the built-in cooking technology to the lid.

Prepare the rice for serving as the dish is completed.

To make the dish:  Melt the margarine in the Staub cooking pot.  Add celery, green onion, white onions, salt to taste and garlic.  Cook until soft. Next add, the Worcestershire, Herbs for seafood, lemons, and shrimp. At this point, I cover the dish, reduce the temperature and cook for about 5 minutes before stirring again. Continue to cook until the shrimp is done and top with parsley flakes for presentation over the rice.  This dish takes under 30 minutes to prepare and serve.  It is very tasty and full of flavor. Staub pots can be purchased at many cooking stores, such as Sur la Table or Williams Sonoma. One-pot cooking is easy, fast and very comforting to serve.

Recently at the International Home and Housewares show, Staub featured many of their new colors and designs for 2017.  Here are some of the lovely pots that they featured in Chicago.

Apricot glazed chicken

Grilled chicken has become a staple go-to in my house. I can serve grilled chicken a variety of ways with an assortment of side vegetables or toppings.  Over the years, I have become very creative with grilled chicken.

For an alternative, I found this recipe from Martha Stewart and omitted the red pepper flakes, and baked instead of broiling.  The apricot glaze is very tasty and instead of grilled chicken, these chicken breasts bake in the oven and stay very moist and tasty.  Much easier to make for a large crowd if needed to prepare in advance and then simply bake while visiting with your guests.

Here is how I prepared the chicken.  Prepare these ingredients ahead of time:  apricot jam in a bowl, skinless chicken breasts–thin sliced, salt and pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a sheet pan covered with tin foil.  Place the chicken breasts on the pan and season to taste.  Bake in the oven for 6 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush with the glaze of apricot jam.  Bake another 8 minutes until the chicken is done.  I used thin cut chicken breasts and this cooking time worked perfectly for this dish.

Enjoy and serve with any side dish or salad.

 

 

Boska cheese boards

For Easter appetizers this year, I plan to share a cheese board with my family. I was recently introduced to a company from Holland that offers so many lovely products for preparing and serving cheese. They offer everything from slicers, graters, boards, and knives to fondue and raclette sets. Their products are high quality and were beautifully displayed at the home and housewares show in Chicago last month.

Here is what I plan to serve this year for my cheese board:  olives, dried apricots, cranberries, candied oranges, white cheddar cheese, fig jam, red onion jam, crackers, almonds, pickles, grapes, nuts, honey, Gouda and Jarlesberg cheeses. In addition, I will offer crusty bread slices, apple slices and raspberries.

Here are some photos of the Boska products that are available online on their website designed for United States residents.

IMG_1883

IMG_1879

Stuffed Portobellos

One of my favorite hot appetizer “go-to’s” is always stuffed mushrooms.  I have posted a few ideas on this blog in years past of those recipes.  This recipe, however, is a dinner entrée recipe that is wonderful for a Meatless Monday menu plan. Made with larger mushrooms, this recipe is terrific served with a side salad for a complete meal.

Here is how I made this delicious dinner.  Select larger Portobello mushrooms, one per guest. Wash well and remove the stem.  Clean out the black scales and wash again.  Place on a baking sheet or in a baking dish.  I poured about 1/2 cup of White Zinfindel wine in the pan for added flavor and moisture to the dish while cooking.

In a skillet, melt 1 tablespoon margarine and saute 2 stalks chopped celery, 1/3 chopped red onion, and 2 ounces of crumbled bacon.  I used crumbled bacon in a bag.  Season with salt and pepper while cooking.

When the vegetables are soft, remove them from the stove top. In a bowl, mix in 1/2 cup Panko crumbs and 1 cup shredded Fontina cheese. Add the sauteed ingredients to the bowl.  Add enough light mayonnaise, about 1/2 cup, just to pull together the mixture.

Stuff the mushrooms and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  This recipe can also be placed in a casserole dish and baked to serve with crackers as an appetizer.

Additional cheese can always be put on top of this casserole or the mushrooms prior to baking for an extra cheesy taste.  This recipe will fill four large mushrooms.

Book review: Celebrate Everything!

As a brand new grandmother, I am so excited to be able to share some special events with our new grandson in the coming years. This book, written by Darcy Miller is brimming with ideas for every occasion. As a celebrity party planner, she shares many ideas on how to personalize every event and bring every party to life.

Many types of parties are showcased in her book, including everything from an ice cream party to an anniversary party.  Ideas for food and drink, fun and games and even cakes and sweets are delightfully photographed, illustrated, and described.  Recipes, descriptions of meals, suggestions for gifts and even menus are included in the chapters.

Personally I love her sweet table display ideas along with her conversation starters. Just about every idea in the book is fresh and new.  The whole book is cheerful as well as classic.

Memories can be made by reading and exploring the ideas within.  I can’t wait for a chance to plan an occasion with Darcy’s ideas.  She shares her blueprint for success with style and class.

 

Springtime Spinach Spread

March Madness is upon us again, and there is always another event where a new appetizer could be shared.  Here is an easy recipe that comes together in less than 30 minutes and is very creamy and tasty.  This recipe makes a lot of spread, so it can either be frozen for later events or only plan to make this recipe for a gathering.  It will become your next favorite recipe.

Gather these ingredients:  one package of crumbled real bacon, 8 ounces of low fat cream cheese, 3/4 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan and Romano cheese, 2 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, one box frozen spinach thawed, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, and dried parsley flakes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a ceramic pie dish with Pam to coat.  With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese, sour cream, cheese, mayonnaise, and the Worcestershire sauce. Next, stir in the spinach-fully drained, mozzarella and cheddar cheese, salt and ground pepper to taste.  Spread into the prepared dish.  Sprinkle with more cheddar and mozzarella as needed to cover the dish.  This will be about 3/4 cup of additional cheese.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Bake for 20 minutes until slightly brown and very hot.  Garnish wish parsley flakes and serve with an assortment of crackers or crusty bread. Yum.