Cauliflower Crust Pizza.

This recipe is a tribute to a friend who so generously acted as beauty consultant / hair colorist for me yesterday. To thank her, I made these gluten-free pizzas, which are completely delicious whether g-free is your lifestyle (hers) or not (mine). Though gluten is fine by me, I’ve found that a lot of the things I love to cook (and eat) are already gluten-free. So when I find a recipe, like this one, that is totally dreamy and healthy AND fits in with the g-free life, I love to share it. This is one of those! I came upon essentially the same ingenious recipe on 3 of my favorite blogs, and this is my version of that awesomely tasty and healthy pizza. Yum! And thanks Jeni!

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INGREDIENTS

for crust:
2 cups cauliflower stems and florets, grated
1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
oregano and granulated garlic to taste
1 egg
salt and pepper
2-3 tbsp cottage cheese, to hold it together

topping ideas:
1/2 cubed chicken breast, sauteed with salt, pepper, and paprika
shredded mozzarella
grape tomatoes, quartered
green onions, chopped

Just the Recipe link: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 450 F.

First, put the grated cauliflower into a bowl and microwave for 7 minutes, covered with a washcloth or paper towel. When it’s cooked, mix all the crust ingredients in a bowl. Use more or less cottage cheese, depending on how dry the mixture is and how it’s holding together.

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On a greased baking pan, shape the cauliflower mixture into two flat discs, as thick or thin as you like.

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Bake them for about 15 minutes, or until the edges are browned and the top is flecked with bits of golden melted cheese. The thickness of the crusts will affect baking time, so make sure to keep an eye on them.

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Once the crusts come out of the oven, I use a spatula to loosen them from the bottom of the pan and make sure they come off in one piece, because this will be a lot harder to do once they’re topped with cheese and other wonderful things.

Before you start with the toppings, turn up your oven to broil (or to very, very hot!). The pizzas only have a few minutes left to cook, and we want to do it at a high heat.

On to the beautiful toppings. They can truly be whatever you want – we went with chicken, green onion, tomato, and cheese, and they were fantastic!

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Stick back in the oven for 3-5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and has started to turn a little golden. Sprinkle with some more green onion or some oregano and dig in!

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Spiced Chicken and Chickpea Stew.

There’s nothing like a hearty and healthy stew on a Saturday afternoon in Fall. This spiced chicken and chickpea one-pot meal was a fun little cooking adventure because I don’t often use flavor combinations like these. Especially the cinnamon. I’ve never been brave enough to try cinnamon in a savory meat dish before, but I’m glad I did! The heat of the paprika and cayenne provide an great backdrop for the smokey exotic cumin and cinnamon. This is a filling dish that keeps well in the fridge—the bright spice flavors get even deeper if they’ve had a chance to marry a bit. Kidney beans or great northern beans would work just as well as chickpeas, and if you wanted to make this dish vegetarian or vegan, just cut out the chicken and add an extra can or two of beans. It’s all about protein and spice!

INGREDIENTS

3 chicken breasts (substitute with another can or two of beans for a vegetarian/vegan version)
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3-5 carrots, sliced into coins
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 tsp hot paprika
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp ketchup
14 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tsp dried parsley
lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

Season each chicken breast with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium in a skillet or other large pan. Brown the chicken on each side, then set aside.

In the same pan, add another drizzle of oil if needed and stir in the onion and carrot. Sprinkle with a bit of salt, to keep the onion from browning. When the onion and carrot are softened, add the bay leaves, paprika, garlic powder, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cumin, and cinnamon. Turn the heat up a bit and cook the spices until fragrant, about 2 minutes.

Then add the ketchup, and put the chicken breasts back into the skillet. Add the tomatoes, and then fill the empty tomato can with water and pour into the pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn down to a high simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in the chickpeas and sprinkle over the parsley. Cover and simmer for about half an hour.

Remove the bay leaves, sprinkle with lemon juice and more parsley, and serve with couscous.

Chicken and Rice Soup.

I started out the week feeling a bit under the weather. On Monday, I got home from after-work cocktails, ate a quick dinner, and got right into bed. Still not at my best on Tuesday, I went right home after work and decided to jump on my sickness problem with an good old-fashioned remedy: I poured a glass of red wine and made this soul-warming soup…which I ate in bed under my cozy comforter while watching the Cubs lose another game. I’ll be sure to make a note here if I make a miraculous soup-driven recovery, but either way, mannnn was this soup good. Most soups with this much flavor take at least an hour or two to cook, but this one only takes about 45 minutes total! Lightly spiced chicken, rice, and veggies in a warm, comforting broth: just what a sick girl needs.

INGREDIENTS

1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp powdered ginger
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp coriander
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup brown rice
1 tsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium potato, diced
6 cups stock or broth (I used homemade chicken stock)
1 1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried marjoram leaves

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350. Season the chicken breast with cumin, ginger, red pepper flakes, coriander, salt, and pepper. Wrap it in foil and bake until just cooked through, about 25 minutes.

In a small pot, cook rice according to package directions. We want the rice slightly “al dente,” since it will be going in the soup pot after it’s cooked.

In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat butter and add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and potatoes. Cook about 3 minutes, until starting to soften.

Pour in stock or broth and season with parsley, marjoram, salt, and pepper (be generous with the pepper!). Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer about 20 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked, shred or cut it up into bite size pieces and add it to the pot. Cook an additional 10 minutes or so.

Garnish with fresh parsley and prepare to be comfort-fooded.

Ropa Vieja-Inspired Enchiladas.

Ropa vieja, which translates quite appetizingly to “old clothes,” is a rich Cuban meat dish. If you’ve never tried it, kindly stop reading and go to your nearest Cuban restaurant and order some; here’s a link to Yelp, just search for Cuban food. I’m serious about this. If you were to ignore my command and try these enchiladas before eating real deal ropa vieja, it would be like watching Godfather II before you ever saw Godfather I; you enjoy it, but you don’t really get what’s going on. I think that makes my point well enough–see you in an hour or so. Buen provecho.

…….

If you’re still reading, then either I don’t have the authority to make you blindly obey my food directives, or you’ve eaten ropa vieja. Let’s move on. I created this tasty dish out of pure cowardice. Though I love ropa vieja itself, I’m intimidated by the idea of cooking it (partly because I want it to be as authentic as possible, and partly because every recipe I read has different ingredients and directions!). What’s a girl to do? I decided to bail on the authenticity route this time, cut out the meat, and just try to play with the other flavors a little bit. Maybe as I walk farther down Recipe Road I’ll decide it’s time to give the real ropa vieja a try. For now, here’s my enchiladas in ropa vieja sauce—the lovechild of Mexican enchiladas and Cuban ropa vieja, two of my favorites.

INGREDIENTS

for ropa vieja enchilada sauce:
1 onion, rough chop
1 bell pepper, rough chop
2 carrots, rough chop
2 stalks celery, rough chop
2 bay leaves
olive oil
4 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped, plus adobo sauce to taste
3 cloves garlic, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

for enchiladas:
tortillas
your favorite fillings – I used a mixture of leftover chicken, cheese, cilantro, and black beans
cheese, avocado, and parsley for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Heat a pan with oil over medium heat. Stir in onion, bell pepper, carrot, celery, bay leaves, tomato paste, oregano, garlic powder, cumin, chipotle chile and adobo sauce, garlic, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

When the veggies are completely softened, remove from heat. Remove the bay leaves and, using a potato masher or immersion blender, crush up the veggie sauce, as smooth or as chunky as you like. I forgot to do a step here: dip both sides of the tortillas in the sauce, coating them so that they’re softened and easier to roll.

Then, spoon some of the sauce over the bottom of the baking dish.

Now take whatever enchilada filling you’re using and roll it inside the tortillas (the tortillas which you have diligently coated in sauce, UNLIKE the tortillas in my photo!). Place them seam-side down in the dish.

Spoon the rest of the sauce over the tortillas and sprinkle with cheese. Place the dish in the oven; nothing has to cook here, we’re just heating it through.

Bake until the cheese is completely melted and the tortillas have just barely started to brown a bit at the edges. Serve it up with a few slices of avocado and a sprinkling of parsley. Gorgeous, isn’t it? I think my confidence might be boosted enough to give the real thing a go…anyone know a great recipe for authentic ropa vieja?

Cilantro Chipotle Chicken.

This is another dish born of necessity. Last night, my fridge contained (among other things) a bunch of cilantro and a few chipotle chiles that were about to go bad. So I made up this recipe and had a fabulous dinner! I served it with a caramelized onion and pea couscous, but it would also make a great fajita filling. Or, even better, shred it and make chicken quesadillas. I’m a total quesadilla fiend, so I think I’ve just inspired myself for a future recipe: cilantro chipotle chicken quesadillas with corn salsa. Mmmmm. But back to the oven-baked original of today’s post—it’s juicy, really flavorful, and has a nice spicy kick to it. Feel free to use less chipotle/adobo sauce if you’re a spice whimp, or to add another chipotle if you’re extra brave!

INGREDIENTS

2 whole chicken legs (you could definitely use breasts too…I just like dark meat)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 tbsp honey
juice of 1 lime
2 canned chipotle chiles, chopped, plus 1 tbsp adobo sauce

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to a plastic bag. Seal the bag and rub the marinade all over the chicken. Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if you’re patient (I am not).

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a pan with foil and lay the chicken in it, skin side up.

Bake the chicken until it’s done, around 25-35 minutes.

That’s it! Don’t you just love an easy yet tasty recipe for a weeknight dinner?

Creamy Chipotle Chicken Tacos with Avocado Crema.

I’ve written before about my love for Rick Bayless’s cooking. That guy just totally understands flavor. Recently, I’ve been getting lunch at his street food restaurant, Xoco. It’s got a tempting menu of authentic Mexican tortas, from carnitas to choriqueso, and during my lunch breaks, I’ve been working my way down the list, trying them one by one. Man, those overpriced sandwiches are a hard habit to kick! But it’s not just Rick’s tortas that have me hypnotized–it’s pretty much everything he makes. This dish is inspired by one of his, though I’ve fiddled with a lot of the ingredients. Notably, I made my version with chipotle chiles and avocado crema, because I never pass up an opportunity to use those two fabulous ingredients. This is a great dish to make for dinner if you’re craving restaurant food but don’t want to go out. And no wonder–it’s inspired by the Mexican restaurant king of Chicago!

INGREDIENTS

1 bell pepper, cut into thirds
1 jalapeño, halved
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 medium white onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup chicken stock
pinch of dried thyme
1 1/2 cups Mexican crema (or, since I can’t usually get ahold of crema, I use sour cream or Greek yogurt)
handful of cilantro, very finely chopped
1/2 ripe avocado, mashed
juice of half a lime
1 1/2 chipotles chiles, minced, and 2 tbsp adobo sauce
6 tortillas

DIRECTIONS

Blacken the pepper and the jalapeño over an open flame. Once they skins are black and flaky, wrap them in a tea towel and set aside to cool.

Once cooled, peel off the skins, slice the bell pepper and dice the jalapeño. Set aside.

Season the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Heat oil over medium and brown, first on one side, then on the other. Set aside. When the chicken has cooled enough to touch, slice it into strips.

In the same pan, soften the onions.

Stir in the garlic and cook for one minute. Then add the spinach, chicken stock, and thyme.

Cook down until nearly all the liquid is evaporated, stirring occasionally.

While the onion mixture cooks down, prepare the crema. In a small bowl, stir together crema/sour cream/yogurt, cilantro, mashed avocado, lime juice, and salt and pepper.

Now separate the crema into two bowls. Set one aside. Take the other bowl and stir in the chipotle chile and the adobo sauce and stir to combine.

When nearly all the liquid is evaporated from the onions, stir in the chipotle crema. Continue to cook for about 3 minutes, until the mixture has thickened.

Then stir in the chicken. Cover, turn down the heat to medium low, and cook 5 minutes more.

While the chicken finishes cooking, wrap tortillas in a tea towel and microwave for 1 minute. Top a warm tortilla with plenty of the creamy chipotle chicken and onions, a few slices of bell pepper and jalapeño, and a generous dollop of avocado crema.