BBQ Chicken Pizza

BBQ Chicken PizzaWhen you live in North Carolina you start to realize people have some very strong opinions about BBQ. Growing up in the south, but not this far south I had BBQ as a child, but I had really only had one type. Looking back I believe it would have been considered Eastern NC style BBQ – a shredded pork with a vinegar based sauce, no tomato.  BBQ was not something we ate often, but I did enjoy it and I still do.  To be honest I am not a tried or true BBQ purest. I like both Eastern and Lexington style, which apparently there are bills regarding the BBQ in North Carolina.  I may not be a BBQ purest, but I do know that North Carolina reigns in BBQ.  Don’t get me wrong other areas in the South claim to know BBQ, but throwing something on the grill is not the same as pork barbecue slow cooked, covered in just the right amount of sauce and served along side cole slaw and hush puppies.  That is called grilling and I love that to, with just about any type of meat, fish, vegetable; but to me that is not BBQ.

Here is where I allow my own opinions and taste to enter.  Barbecue sauce, which typically when I think of BBQ sauce I am looking for that tomato influenced sauce that tends to be served with Lexington style BBQ or the wet ribs of Memphis style BBQ can add a nice flavor to meats other than pork.  I enjoy chicken tossed on the grill and basted with bbq sauce, or ribs done well and served with bbq sauce on the side.  So for this recipe, I meld my opinions together and create my own BBQ chicken Pizza.  These days you can find a bbq pizza on a lot of menus, but that was not always the case.  California Pizza Kitchen was one of the first restaurants known to have added a pizza like this to their menu.  It was an instant success.  I don’t remember when I had my first taste of BBQ pizza, but I have been making a version of my own since the early 2000’s.  It has changed some over the years as I have realized I prefer to keep it simple in flavor using Mozzarella and a small amount of cheddar or gouda, but only as an additional flavor.IMG_3947

BBQ Chicken Pizza

1 Pizza Dough ( my go to is trader joe’s pre made dough)

1 Chicken breast, cooked and chopped*

1/4 cup red onion, diced

1/2 cup pineapple, chopped (fresh, frozen in small pieces)

1/4 cup red onion, diced (optional)

1/2 cup Barbecue sauce of choice, divided

3/4 cup shredded or sliced mozzerella cheese

1/4 cup shredded or sliced cheddar or gouda

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

* I find it easiest to plan ahead for this pizza and cook an extra chicken breast a day or so ahead. I prefer to grill chicken and use what we do not eat or plan by cooking an extra breastPreparing the Pizza Dough

Preparing the Dough

Allow dough to sit out for at least 30 minutes to become room temperature. This will make rolling the dough out easier. I did not say it would roll into a perfect circle as that takes skill which I don’t focus on, I just roll and go. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and allow to heat for 30 minutes with pizza stone. Remove hot pizza stone from oven and pour 1 Tbsp olive oil over the stone. Spread it around if you want or the quick and easy way just toss the dough on top. I always try and roll a little more once the dough is on the stone to thin it out and reach the edges of my stone.

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IMG_3943Preparing the toppings

In a small bowl toss together chopped chicken, red onion, pineapple, and red pepper.  Add 3 Tbsp. barbecue sauce.

Assembling the pizza

Remove the pre baked dough from the oven when it begins to turn golden brown in some spots.  If there is an air bubble in your dough allow some steam to escape.  Spread the remaining barbecue sauce on the dough then spread the toppings evenly around the pizza.  Cover with cheese and return to preheated 425 degree oven.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to bubble an turn brown.

Remove from oven sprinkle fresh cilantro over the pizza.  Slice and serve.

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A couple of our favorite pizza recipes

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Traditional Turkey Pepperoni & Veggie Pizza

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Shrimp Pesto Pizza

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Naan Bread Pizza

Cilantro Serrano Pesto Pasta

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This is an herb that I am not sure I realized how much I liked it until about ten or so years ago.  It was around that time that I realized how nice the flavor was and what cilantro could do to a recipe.  Fresh herbs are great, but the problem I find with so many fresh herbs is you purchase them in bunches.  Rarely does a recipe call for that much.  Now if you are able to plan really well you can ensure that several foods you prepare that week will include the same fresh herb and then none is wasted.  But hello reality that does not work every time and some times just because you bought cilantro or another herb you may not want the same meals each time. Thus if you have the space or the energy growing you own herbs helps this dilemma considerably.  However I have tried growing cilantro and it is not easy.  You see I do not have a green thumb in fact I kill most house plants, but when it comes to garden herbs and plants I seem to manage usually, but cilantro is tough in the south.

The one good thing that came of my brief stint of trying to grow cilantro was some more recipes that utilized the herb.  When cilantro flourishes it does really well, but it has a short growing season and does not do well in heat.  Unlike basil and mint which as you snip them they grow more, my cilantro plants did not do that.  Rather they began to brown.  So in an effort to use all my nice cilantro I started cooking.  If you have been following my blog for anytime you know I love pesto.  So when I ran across this recipe that is a pasta dish but can just as easily be served as a pasta salad, I had to try it.

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Cilantro Serrano Pasta with Chicken 

Ingredients
1 1/2 Cups fresh cilantro
1/2 Cup fresh mint
1/2 Cup parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp toasted pecan halves
2 garlic cloves
1 serrano chile, seeded and sliced
2 Tbsp extravirgin olive oil
2 tsp sherry vinegar
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast**
Cooking spray
3 Cups hot cooked penne pasta
2 Cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes)

Directions
Place cilantro and next 5 ingredients (through chile) in a food processor; process until well blended. With processor on, slowly pour oil through food chute; process until well blended. Place pesto in a large bowl; stir in vinegar and black pepper.
** Chicken can be prepared one of two ways.    1)Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat chicken with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 5 minutes on each side or until done. 2) Poach or boil chicken until cooked.IMG_3851IMG_3853

Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Add chicken, pasta, and tomatoes to pesto; toss to combine.  Serve and Enjoy.

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* adapted from Cilantro Serrano Pesto with Grilled Chicken and Penne that appeared in Cooking Light Magazine

If you like pesto, be sure to check out these recipes that use different pesto sauces in a variety of ways.

IMG_2637Arugula Pesto

IMG_2644Shrimp Pesto Pizza

Arugula Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Fontina

Arugula Pesto, Caramelized Onions and Fontina

Fancy Grilled Cheese

IMG_2833Snap Pea Tortellini & Pesto

Treasure Chest Thursday: Any Season Salad

IMG_3737Being a salad person, I have about ten salads that we rotate through as main meal salads depending on the season and the local produce available.  In a recent post, I told of never having made a chopped salad until recently.  I need to apologize as apparently I told a small little story.  I have been making a chopped style salad for years without realizing it and this is a salad that can be made any season.

Many years ago, when valentine’s day was more about two of us than three of us, I planned out Valentine’s Date.  It was actually an evening at home.  I happened upon a cookbook that sort of set the evenings plans into play.  Intercourses, yes go ahead laugh a little as we have, but that is the name of the book.  It is a cookbook that focuses on aphrodisiac foods and recipes that incorporate them.   I am not sure how much I believe in the power of food in romance, but the book includes a lot of my favorite foods – avocado, chilis, pine nuts, strawberries, and more.

Anyway cute little me thought how fun to cook a meal based on some of these recipes and give the book as a gift.

Over the years we have tried several of the recipes in the book.  There are others that I have not been brave enough to try, partly due to their uniqueness and my uneasiness that Mr. Mixture wouldn’t enjoy.  Mr. Mixture’s taste have definitely grown and he is always willing to try new things I make, so maybe I will get adventurous.  Anyway one of the first recipes, I tried was a salad that included pine nuts.

Pine nuts are said to be “a deft kernel of love.”  Apparently the northwestern Himalayas are said to have one of the highest birthrates and they relate it to pine nuts and their power to increase fertility.

Being that I can never follow a recipe or so Mr. mixture seems to think, dinner became this one night.  It began as a side salad, but I turned it into a wonderful main meal.  A salad that would become a treasure chest recipe for us.

Any Season Salad

3-4 Cups Mixed Greens, Dark Leaf Lettuce, or Butter Lettuce, Chopped

1 avocado, peeled and chopped

1 tomato, chopped

4 Tbsp. Toasted Pine Nuts

1/2 cup Alfalfa Sprouts

1/4 cup minced Red Onion

1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped

3 Tbsp. Mozzarella Cheese, grated or chopped

1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped

1-2 Chicken Breast, grilled or baked and cut into chunks*

* I marinate the chicken in olive oil, fresh ground black pepper, dried basil, lemon juice

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Toss all ingredients into a large salad bowl and toss well.  You can either add the chicken to the salad or top individual salads as desired.  This salad is also versatile in the moisture from the vegetables allows the salad to toss nicely and decrease the amount of dressing needed.  You can choose to toss with the dressing to serve or allow individuals to dress to their desired taste.

Dressing 

2 Tbsp White Wine Vinegar

4 tsp Dijon Mustard

2 tsp Honey

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

6 Tbsp Olive Oil

Whisk all ingredients together.

Printable Recipe and Nutrition info here

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Mixed Greens with Grilled Peaches & Chicken

DSC_3170Mixed Greens with Grilled Peaches & Chicken

Ingredients

2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 Tbsp garlic clove, minced
1 Pinch salt & pepper
1/4 Cup Olive Oil
2 Peaches, halved and peeled
1/4 Red onion, sliced
3 Cups Mesculan Mix
1/2 Avocado
1/2 Red Pepper
Goat cheese
Corn, grilled and cut off the cob
4 baby bella mushrooms, sliced

Dressing/Marinade

2/3 Cup Olive oil
4 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 Cup Balsamic vinegar
1 Peach, peeled, cored

Directions

Marinate chicken prior to cooking in garlic, pepper, and oil or you can use a small amount of the dressing.
Dressing
Combine oil, mustard, vinegar, and peach in food processor. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Over medium heat, grill chicken about 5 minutes on ach side. Grill red pepper and corn. Brush peaches with dressing and grill about 2 minutes, brush the other side and grill an additional minute or two. Top mesclun mix with chicken, peaches, onion. Top with dressing

* the recipe for the dressing/marinade has been doubled as I like to have enough to marinade the chicken and it keeps well an is a versatile balsamic dressing.

Pretzel Crusted Chicken

pretzel chickenIMG_3056Pretzel Crusted Chicken is one of those recipes that I pulled from a magazine several years back.  I grew up in the south and though I have come to love many southern things – fried okra, country music, and sweet tea- I have never had a love for fried chicken.  I enjoy chicken tenders and have always been someone who would toss them into a salad, or order the salad that has them atop rather than grilled chicken for a change, but fried chicken and I are not a perfect match.  I have had some great fried chicken, but there is just no love affair there.

However in the early days of making meals for Little Miss Mixture, I never thought to serve kid food, but obviously some flavors and recipes may be better accepted than others.  The recipe I adapted this from caught my eye.  It first appeared in a Food and Wine magazine.  I was not looking for a recipe for Little Miss Mixture, but I figured the combination of flavors might be fun.  It was a hit from the beginning and has become one of her favorites.  In fact this was what she requested for her “out of school celebration meal.”

Pretzel Crusted Chicken

1/2 pound pretzels

1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup whole-grain mustard

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/4 cup water

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3-4 skinless, boneless chicken breast, pounded to 1/4 -1/3″ thick (tenders could be substituted)

1.Preheat the oven to 400°.

2. In a food processor, pulse the pretzels until coarsely ground; you should have coarse chunks and fine crumbs. Transfer to a large, shallow bowl.

3. Wipe out the food processor. Add the oil, whole-grain and Dijon mustards, water and vinegar and process until smooth. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.

4. Pour half of the dressing into a large shallow bowl, add the chicken breasts and turn to coat. Dredge the chicken in the pretzel crumbs and transfer to a rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.

5. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cooked through. Serve the chicken and provide the remaining mustard dressing on the side as desired.

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* this recipe was adapted from Mustard-Baked Chicken with Pretzel Crust.

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*top photo courtesy of therootcellarsgarden.com