Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Cookbook's white pizza delicious

My husband was quite surprised when he came home for lunch Monday and found pizza, still hot from the oven, waiting for him on the dining room table.

I seldom cook lunch for us — we rely on sandwiches and leftovers — but I needed a food column recipe for this week, and I was hungry!

I realized last week that I had forgotten about a cookbook that had been sent my way in the fall during a rush of new books. It was actually a very good cookbook, and I had wanted to share it with my readers. I spent about an hour thumbing through the pages of "My Recipes: America’s Favorite Food” Friday and once again found so many things I wanted to try.

The 200 recipes in this cookbook are from some of the country’s top magazines, including Cooking Light, Southern Living and Real Simple.

Each recipe in this book has a review from someone who has tried the recipe, and some have tips as well. I love this feature because it reminds me of what I find so appealing with recipe websites.

There’s also an interactive feature with the books that allows you to scan the recipe photo with a smart phone for even more information. For instance, if you scan coconut shrimp with Maui mustard sauce, you will see a video on peeling and butterflying shrimp. Scan the recipe for black bean, corn and zucchini enchiladas for 14 more meatless main bean dishes.

I set aside time late Monday morning to cook and chose the white pizza from the cookbook. I’ve made white pizza before but not with a sauce like this one. The thick sauce, which I spread on a Boboli pizza crust, is made with ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. The toppings I chose were thinly sliced Roma tomatoes and basil. We had planted basil over the weekend, so I snipped a few leaves from my very small plants. I love fresh basil season and decided while the pizza was baking that I need more than two plants this season!

But back to the pizza. It took about 30 minutes to prepare this pizza and cook it. And it was 30 minutes very well spent. I knew I would love this pizza as soon as I got a whiff of the tomatoes, basil and oregano as the pizza cooked. It’s such a wonderful smell and made me so hungry.

Reggie and I gobbled down that pizza. We both liked the cheese sauce and loved the freshness of the tomatoes and basil.

I will make this pizza again soon because I only used half of the ricotta cheese I purchased. Next time we make it, I will add more basil and, at Reggie’s request, some fresh mushrooms and maybe bell pepper.

I highly recommend this recipe. It’s great for meatless meals, nights when you don’t have much time to cook, and for when the tomatoes start piling up in the garden.

There are any number of wonderful recipes like this one to explore in "America’s Favorite Food.” Others I would like to try include fresh tomato, sausage and pecorino pasta; broccoli beef lo mein; macaroni salad with bacon, peas and creamy dijon dressing; and peach and brie quesadillas with lime-honey dipping sauce.

The book’s list price is $24.95, but it sells for less on online sites.

White Pizza
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) pre-shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
  • 1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1 (1-pound) Italian cheese-flavored pizza crust (such as Boboli)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots*
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped spinach
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup thinly sliced plum tomatoes
Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Spread cheese mixture over pizza crust, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Sprinkle with basil and next 6 ingredients (basil through garlic powder). Arrange plum tomato slices in a single layer on top. Place pizza on baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Remove pizza to cutting board; cut into 6 slices.

"My Recipes: America's Favorite Food"

Originally from Cooking Light

*When I made the pizza, I omitted shallots, spinach, red pepper and garlic powder because I didn't have them on hand and didn't want to purchase anything else. I also used freshly grated parmesan cheese, which I already had. Next time, I will cut back on the black pepper.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

For kids and adults

I’ve said it before, and it’s still true: I enjoy reading children’s cookbooks!

The recipe instructions are always user-friendly, and the recipes are easy to prepare. Ingredients are usually simple, and the photography is enticing.

The latest one to cross my desk at work is "Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook,” from Time for Kids.

The first thing I made from this cookbook was wrapped tight turkey bites. I made the easy wraps in just a few minutes for my lunch Tuesday and thoroughly enjoyed them.

The filling includes chunks of deli turkey, corn, mixed lettuce and red pepper stirred together with a little ranch dressing and rolled in a tortilla.

I loved that I had most of the ingredients on hand, including red pepper, which I keep in the freezer. I did use 6-inch flour tortillas instead of 8-inch whole wheat tortillas because it’s what I had in my refrigerator, but I think the wraps would hold together better with the whole wheat version.

I never would have thought corn would be good in a turkey wrap, but the crunch of the corn made a good addition to my lunch.

That’s the thing about trying new recipes — you never know when someone’s good idea will become a favorite with you as well. And so, that’s why I might try a few other things from this cookbook that I don’t normally eat.

For instance, I might try pesto presto pasta salad. The dressing for this salad is pesto sauce. I’ve never been a big fan of pesto, but this summer, when I have plenty of basil in my garden, I might just try this recipe and make my own pesto.

And what do you think of rice with chicken, mango, grapes and pineapple? The photo of tropical breeze chicken salad certainly looks yummy, especially with almonds sprinkled on top. I like all of the ingredients, I just haven’t had them together in one dish before!

I made pigs in a blanket for my family for lunch Sunday, but I didn’t use pizza dough for the "blanket,” and I used cheese slices rather than shredded mozzarella cheese. Who knows? My family might like it if I switched up the ingredients and tried the "Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook” version.

This is really a nice cookbook, and I think most kids could find something in this book they’d like to try, including on the go munchies mix, grilled cheese made with Parmesan, provolone and mozzarella cheeses and decadent chocolate cupcakes that start with a doctored German chocolate cake mix.

At the beginning of the book, young readers will find cooking tips, healthy food ideas and ways to avoid kitchen disasters. (We should all read those pages!)

I encourage parents and grandparents to buy cookbooks for the children in their lives, to spend time letting them choose new recipes to try and then to work side-by-side with them to prepare meals. This summer would be a great time for this project!

"Kids in the Kitchen” has 80 recipes and the cover price is $19.95, although it’s cheaper online. It’s available at www.timeforkids.com/cookbook and from retailers.

Wrapped Tight Turkey Bites
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped deli turkey breast*
  • 1 cup mixed salad greens
  • 1/4 cup frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed and drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced green onions (I omitted)
  • 2 tablespoons light ranch dressing
  • 2 (8-inch) whole-wheat flour tortillas
Combine turkey, salad greens, corn, red pepper, green onions and ranch dressing in a large bowl, tossing well to coat.

Warm tortillas according to package directions. Divide turkey mixture evenly between each wrap. Roll up and cut in half diagonally.

“Kids in the Kitchen Cookbook”

*Some tips: At the deli, I requested 1/4 to 1/3 pound of turkey in one slice so that I could cut the turkey in small chunks. While at the grocery store, I got enough mixed lettuce from the salad bar for this recipe; I think it cost around 50 cents. If you don’t have peppers at home, you could get these from the salad bar as well. Next time I make this, I might try fat-free raspberry vinaigrette instead of ranch dressing.

Lisa Boykin Batts