Instead of making a classic pizza, one with traditional toppings, why not go gourmet? When I was living in Germany back in the ‘70s I had friends who spent all of their leisure time exploring gourmet restaurants to refine their tastes. Our family was out exploring neighboring countries. Not that we didn’t eat well, but “gourmet” at that time meant high sophistication and elite tastes. Gourmands were a distinct, select group who were equated with wealth. But times have changed. Today, the demand for good quality and a variety of foods from around the world has dramatically changed the way we cook. Many of those unheard of or unattainable food items of the past are now both available and affordable.
This recipe, however, does not include any exotic food items. No need to go to a specialty store. Everything is as near as your market. You might have most of the ingredients at home now! So get out your Grillet, get yourself out of the “classic” pizza mind set and try this gourmet version. Because be it labeled “classic” or “gourmet,” the best recipe is one that celebrates the love of good food!
Have all ingredients ready before you begin:
1 ready-made pizza dough, at room temperature
1 tblsp olive oil
8 oz mozzarella cheese, sliced or shredded
2 tblsp butter
2 tblsp water
2 tblsp dark brown sugar
1 firm pear, diced
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 oz prosciutto, torn into bite size pieces
Mixed salad greens with bleu cheese dressing.
In the Grillet, combine the butter, water, brown sugar, pear and walnuts and saute for 3-4 minutes or until mixture begins to caramelize. Set aside to cool. Wipe pan clean.
Spread the olive oil in the pan and preheat to 350 degrees. Gently turn and stretch the pizza dough until it is the correct size and carefully place in the bottom of the Grillet (I used about ¾ of the dough).
Cover and cook for 8 minutes; remove lid and flip the crust to the other side. Place shredded or sliced mozzarella on crust followed by the apple and walnut mixture. Sprinkle the crumbled Gorgonzola lightly on top. Cover and cook for an additional 9-11 minutes.
With a couple of spatulas, remove pizza from pan and add prosciutto.
Top with the mixed greens or if you prefer, place salad on the side.
As I mentioned in a previous post, this year I’ve been really trying to exercise regularly and eat right. But every once in a while I think we all get those cravings that we’ve just got to give in to. And that’s ok. In my opinion, the best way to stay healthy is to limit the amount of unhealthy foods we eat, not to abstain from eating them completely.
And this is where Rice Cooker cooking really comes in handy. Not only do the meals I make in my rice cooker come together faster and more easily than if I were to use an oven, but they allow me to cook in smaller, personal sized batches. And that is exactly what I needed when I desperately wanted some warm and creamy, cheesy pasta on a cold weekend day. keep in mind, this recipe is perfect for one person as a main meal or for two as a side dish but it can easily be doubled for a bigger crowd (or for a bigger craving).
PASTA WITH GARLIC AND SUN DRIED TOMATO SAUCE
1 rice cooker cup of chicken, cut into one inch thick pieces
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 rice cooker cups penne pasta
1 1/2 rice cooker cup chicken stock
1/4 rice cooker cup sun dried tomatoes
1/2 rice cooker cup cream cheese
1 rice cooker cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp paprika
olive oil for sauteing
Set the Rice Cooker to Sauté-Then-Simmer™ and brown the chicken. Add in the garlic and heat until softened and fragrant.
Add the pasta, chicken stock, sun dried tomatoes, and cream cheese. Mix until cream cheese is evenly distributed and let simmer for 15 minutes.
Once time has elapsed, stir in the cheese and spices and continue cooking until cheese has melted.
While most Farmer’s Markets are closing up shop, some of you are lucky enough to either have a garden or know someone who does. Fortunately for me, I’m in the latter group. Indeed, I just finished a myriad of ways to prepare tomatoes, all kinds.
But now being in the month of November, we are in squash mode. Many are available throughout the year but the best are from early fall through winter. Consider the Acorn, Banana Squash, Hubbard, Butternut, Spaghetti Squash, Winter Squash,…and that is just to get you started. There are others, but don’t leave out the obvious big one either…Pumpkin!
Now, with your Grillet you can highlight any and all of them in your winter menus with ease.
Keep in mind when you are cooking you want to go with what tastes great to you. Allspice, ginger and nutmeg – aka the pie spices – will balance the sweetness of a squash. For a more savory dish consider sage, cumin , curry or thyme. Think about add ins such as chopped apples, roasted pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, pomegranates or even chilies for a sweet and spicy combo . In addition to broths think of incorporating wine, orange juice, coconut milk or honey.
Planning for those special dinner gatherings, Thanksgiving being both obvious and almost upon us, I’ve decided on a pair of soups, one of which will be from a squash and the other from red peppers. And, if you are thinking ahead to other gatherings, these two soups not only taste great individually but as you’ll see, they present well together!
When making up this Roasted Red Pepper soup, consider such herbs and spices as thyme, bay leaves, garlic, onion. Go spicy and add a jalapeno, hot sauce or some pepper flakes. Go smooth and add a bit of heavy cream, yogurt or stir in a bit of cream cheese.
Above all remember: recipes are good guides; good cooks make it their own!
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
4 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp each salt and white pepper
1/2 cup Greek style yogurt
In the inner pot of your Grillet, lightly sauté the squash and onion. Add chicken broth and nutmeg and simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash is fork tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Using an immersion blender, food processor or blender, puree until smooth. Ladle into soup bowls adding a dollop of yogurt if desired.
RED PEPPER SOUP
4 red bell peppers, diced (or two 15 oz jars roasted sweet red peppers, drained)
1 onion, diced 1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chicken broth 1 bay leaf ½ tsp each salt and pepper
In the Grillet, saute the red bell peppers, onion and carrot until tender. Add garlic and continue sautéing for an additional minute. Add the broth and bay leaf. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaf and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
If you choose to place both soups in one bowl, measure the same amount of each soup in two containers with pouring spouts and gently pour into bowls simultaneously.
Pinwheels! When it is time to have guests over or just a special family dinner, these are a great
choice for your main entree.
Keep your accompanying menu simple; these Pinwheels will be the star. Plan ahead; do as much of the prep work as you can in advance. You don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen while your guests are enjoying themselves. That is a great part of this recipe: these can be prepared the day ahead, covered in your refrigerator until ready to be grilled. Pinwheels put the word elegant into the idea of grilling. Enjoy these, and enjoy your guests!
Remember, a recipe is only words on paper until you make it, so make it your own!
2 lbs boneless beef (such as flank steak, London broil or boneless beef ribs)
8 oz provolone cheese
6 oz baby spinach
salt and pepper to taste
butcher twine or wooden skewers (soaked in water, so as not to burn)
Butterfly the beef (or ask your butcher to do the butterflying for you) by cutting it horizontally in
half, being careful not to cut all the way through. Place the meat on a sheet of plastic wrap and
cover with another sheet. Then with the back of your butcher knife or a meat mallet tenderizer,
pound out the meat to about 1/4 inch. Remove top piece of plastic wrap and discard.
Preheat the Grillet to 375 degrees.
Season the meat with salt and pepper. Lay the spinach evenly on top followed by slices of
cheese, covering the entire surface.
Starting with the side nearest you and with the help of the plastic wrap, roll up the beef, pressing
slightly in order to make a firm log or jelly roll shape. Using the twine or skewers, secure the roll
tightly every 1 1/2”.
With a very sharp knife, cut between the ties to make the pinwheels. Secure with twine at top
and bottom of each pinwheel so as to help keep its shape. Trim outer edges so the cut sides will
Lightly spray griddle pan with oil. Grill the pinwheels cut side down for about 3 to 4 minutes on
each side until well browned. Adjust time for the degree of doneness.
You may vary the fillings according to your taste, such as mushrooms, roasted red bell peppers,
fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, prosciutto, mixed baby greens, sun dried tomatoes…the choices are
Zuppa as a literal translation is simply soup, but the Italians have managed to win me over with their heartier and more flavorful versions of just plain soup. This Tuscan soup with bacon, spicy sausage and a few potato chunks satisfies pretty much every palate and every craving, and by adding a nice thick slice of Italian style bread to go with it tops it all.
1 lb spicy Italian sausage
1 lb bacon
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 lb small potatoes, quartered
2 cups kale, chopped
4 cups beef stock
1 cup heavy cream
Brown the sausage and bacon in your rice cooker using Steam or Saute-Then-Simmer and set aside. Add onion and garlic and cook until fragrant and softened. Place sausage and bacon back into the rice cooker. Add chicken stock and potatoes and let simmer for 30 minutes, or until potatoes have softened. Add cream and kale and serve with crusty Italian bread.
My son had a science project where he needed to make a cell model of a plant cell. After contemplating on different strategies and ideas, we decided to build a jello mold with layers of clear jello sandwiching different edible items representing parts of an actual plant cell. We used a stuffed olive as the nucleus, kidney beans as mitochondria and Brussels sprouts as chloroplasts, etc…you get the point.
We made a base layer and let it set before adding the “edibles.” Finally we covered it with a second layer of gelatin and let it set.
We used the Aroma water kettle to prepare the gelatin, and the project was a blast as well as educational.
With the weather finally cooling down, I’ve resumed pushing myself to start running again, and with that, trying to eat healthier, more nutritious meals. Unfortunately for me, my friends happen to have some of the best sugary recipes to go along with their fantastic cooking skills.
A few days ago my friend Lauren brought over a batch of chocolate chip banana bread she made and boy was it good. So good in fact, I just had to whip up some more. Instead of waiting for the oven to heat up and searching for my bread pans, I decided to take the low maintenance route and use my rice cooker. Roughly an hour later I had warm, moist banana bread all to myself.
Feel free to add any nuts, fruit, or candy pieces you’d like to jazz up your banana bread. In this recipe I ended up swapping the chocolate chips for walnuts. That makes it sort of healthy, right?
RICE COOKER BANANA BREAD
1 ½ cups flour
¾ cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 large bananas
⅓ cup butter, softened
¼ cup milk
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts (or any other add in)
optional: powdered sugar
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
Put the bananas in a large freezer bag and mash with hands until there are no more lumps. Cut a hole in the corner of the bag and squeeze the mashed bananas into your mixing bowl. Add the butter, milk, egg, and vanilla extract and mix until the batter is smooth. Fold in walnuts and put bowl aside.
Using a paper towel to spread, coat the inner pot of your Rice Cooker with cooking oil to prevent the bread from sticking. Pour the batter into the pot, select the Cake function and set for 60 minutes. If your rice cooker doesn’t have a Cake function, simply select White Rice or Cook. Using this method may require multiple cycles for the bread to cook thoroughly.
Once your rice cooker switches to its Keep Warm setting, check to see if the cooking is complete. Invert the banana bread onto a plate, top with a sprinkling of powdered sugar if desired, and enjoy while warm.