Sun-dried Tomato Lemon Basil Pizza

Sun-dried Tomato Lemon Basil Pizza combines robust flavors to create an aromatic white pizza. Pools of cool ricotta cheese over top browned Mozzarella cheese provide the perfect foundation for the sun-dried tomatoes.

Homemade pizza saves dinner.

No, I don’t think that statement dramatic at all. Homemade pizza is quite literally one of the easiest and most satisfying dinners you can make on a busy weeknight.

Let me set the stage for you. You arrive at work just after 8am. Traffic was a nightmare which means you had to skip getting your Starbuck’s since the line would have made you late so the day has barely begun and you’re under-caffeinated. You manage to make it through the work day, through all the conference calls, the emails, the putting out fires left and right and now it’s time to get back in the car and fight the same traffic just going in the opposite direction. Oh and also, it’s raining. And not a drizzle, the sky just opened and it’s a downpour. You manage to make it home, not too behind schedule, you’re starving and it’s time to cook dinner. There’s no way you’re spending an hour or more preparing something….you’re beginning to think of ordering from your favorite spot. This is when pizza saves dinner. Homemade pizza can be ready in under 30 minutes, it’s fresh, it’s cheesey, it’s over the top savory, and is an all around crowd-pleaser.

That scene didn’t resonate with you? How about this one. You’ve been home with the kids all day. Nap time didn’t go as planned, it’s been one tantrum after another. There’s no way a Pinterest-inspired sensory box is going to happen, and it’s raining so no outdoor activities. You somehow managed to make it to 6pm, bedtime for the little ones is insight. But..it’s time for dinner. Time isn’t on your side though, the kids won’t hang in there for an hour or more as your prepare something complex. This is when homemade pizza saves the day. Quick, easy, little mess created, barely any cleanup. Kid-friendly, mom-friendly, an all around crowd-pleaser.

Yes, homemade pizza can absolutely save dinners everywhere. What makes this extra easy is using refrigerated pizza crust. While you can buy the ball of pizza dough and roll it out yourself, I feel this adds an extra unnecessary step and I don’t find it easy to get a thin crust from the balled dough. A little special trick I like to do is to brush the crust with a little extra virgin olive oil then sprinkle it with garlic powder, it really helps make the crust become this final savory seasoned bite at the end of the cheesy pizza. Keep a few packages of the thin crust refrigerated pizza dough in the fridge so you’re always ready to whip up some homemade pizza on one of those nights that needs a little saving.

A note on the Mozzarella cheese, while I typically like grating my own cheese, especially for Cheddar, I think it’s fine to use packaged shredded Mozzarella cheese for pizzas. If you want to grate your own from a block of cheese, absolutely do that, but I’ve had this both ways and I find either way produces the perfect pizza cheesy-ness.

-1 package thin crust refrigerated pizza crust
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-2 garlic cloves, grated
-1 lemon, zested
-1/4 cup chopped, fresh basil
-1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
-2 and 1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
-1/2 cup ricotta cheese
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
-Extra virgin olive oil +  garlic powder for dusting the crust

1. Preheat oven to 425. Lightly spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray, then place the unrolled pizza dough on top and gently knead and stretch the dough until it fits the size of the pan. Don’t worry if you get a hole, pinch the dough back together and press it together and it will seal back up. Once the dough has been fully unrolled, bake it for 8 minutes.

2. While the dough is pre-baking, in a medium pan over medium heat, pour the extra virgin olive oil. Add the grated garlic, the chopped basil, the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and all of the zest from the lemon. Cook and stir for 2-3 minutes, then remove from heat and pour into a bowl.

3. When the dough has been pre-baked, remove from the oven. With a brush lightly brush what will be the crust with extra virgin olive oil, then very lightly sprinkle with garlic powder. If you don’t have a brush, no big deal. Pour some of the oil into a small bowl, then bunch up a paper towel. Dip the paper towel in the oil and use that to brush the crust.

4. Once the crust has been prepared, cover the remaining dough with the shredded Mozzarella cheese, spoon in dollops the ricotta cheese over top the Mozzarella, sprinkle the 1/4 teaspoon of salt over top. Next, spoon the sun-dried tomato lemon basil mixture over top the ricotta and Mozzarella. Lastly, sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the whole pizza.

5. Bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees.

Enjoy!

Amaretto Blueberry Pastries

I remember when weekend mornings used to be relaxing.

I’d wake up when my body said it was time to wake up. Lay around in the covers for a few minutes, stretching and flipping my pillow over to the cool side, grabbing my phone and starting to scroll through Instagram posts and morning news stories. Eventually, when I felt awake, it was time for the first cup of coffee and a little bite of something to go with it…maybe a piece of a muffin or pastry. What time was it? Who knows, I wasn’t on a schedule. The day was mine, my time was mine.

If you couldn’t tell, all that is in the past. Like way way in the past. Since having Lilly 1 year 7 months and 22 days ago there have been no more relaxing weekend mornings. I remember that first feeling of “my time isn’t mine anymore” in the hospital the day after she was born. Lilly was having low sugar readings, which meant she needed to stay in the NICU, and any time I wanted to see her or feed her I needed to make the trek from my maternity room to the NICU. If you’ve ever birthed a baby you’ll know how painful that walk was, and making that journey several times a day, yikes, I just wanted to crawl there. But in the early morning hours I couldn’t relax, my mind was racing of all the things I needed to do or should be doing.

“How’s Lilly? I need to go see her.”
“I need to pump, am I doing it right?
“I should be doing something for Lilly.”
“If I’m not in the NICU all day, they will think I’m lazy.”
“I’m so tired, I need to rest, is that selfish?”

These are the new mom thoughts, and you realize life has changed forever. Now on weekend mornings, I’m woken up way before my body says it’s ready. When I come out to the living room, coffee isn’t the first thing. Instead, it’s setting Lilly up with what she needs: pouch, sippy cup of milk, clean diaper, second pouch because she’s sucked down the first pouch at light speed and is whining for another. Now there’s the overwhelming pile of dirty dishes in the sink, a dishwasher full of clean dishes that needs to be unloaded, somehow I’m feeling crumbs underneath my bare feet even though I swept and vacuumed yesterday.

What are we eating for breakfast? She’ll need breakfast soon.”
“Lunch. What do I have in the house that is kid-friendly?”

In the middle of all this, I’m running on auto pilot. Grab the coffee pod, brew coffee, a teaspoon of sugar, half and half, drink.

You see, weekend mornings the mood is much different now. There’s an un-relaxed feeling, on edge, I’m on someone else’s time schedule. While I love being a mom, I miss being able to completely relax.

She woke up at 7am, that means nap time at 11am…3 more hours to go.”

When I can grab a few minutes of peaceful alone time, I enjoy a fresh baked treat like these Amaretto Blueberry Pastries is heavenly. There’s just something about fresh baked pastry, the freshness of the puff pastry dough, homemade blueberry sauce is warm and sweet without anything artificial like packaged desserts. These Amaretto Blueberry Pastries deserve to be eaten with a hot cup of coffee, reading a good book, in the peaceful quite morning.

Food Exhibits

 After slicing the sheet into strips, take each strip and twist into a cork screw shape.

Then, take each cork screw and twist into a circular pastry form. I do this by taking on end, making that the center and wrapping the rest of the dough around this center. Make sure to close any gaps in the spiral, if there are gaps then the blueberry sauce will spill out onto the baking sheet.

The final pastry cups should look like this above, you’ll see the circular spiral shape and there are no gaps between the dough. Press down lightly in each center to make a small well where you can pour the blueberry sauce into. Do not fill yet with the blueberry sauce, you’re going to pre-bake the pastry unfilled before filling it.

Amaretto Blueberry Pastries are a warm and sweet pastry filled with a blueberry sauce with cinnamon, nutmeg, and amaretto. Top with toasted shaved almonds for a light crunch, these make the perfect breakfast snack with coffee or for a brunch gathering. Amaretto is a subtle flavor the will be complimented by the toasted shaved almonds.

-1 sheet puff pastry, thawed (this takes about 30-40 min to thaw, so take this out of the freeze and leave it on the counter to it’s ready for when you want to make these)
-1/3 cup shaved almonds
-1 cup fresh blueberries
-2 tablespoons white sugar
-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
-1 teaspoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
-1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
-4 teaspoons Amaretto liquor

1. Heat oven to 350. Pour the shaved almonds onto a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes until browned and toasted. Once they are toasted, remove from the oven and increase oven temperature to 400.

2.  In a medium sized pot, pour in the blueberries over medium heat, lightly mash them a few times with a large fork or potato masher to break up some of the blue berries and let the juices out. You don’t want to break all of them, but you do need some of them to be mashed. Once there is some juice in the bottom of the pot, add both the white and brown sugar, as well as the lemon juice. Stir so the sugars dissolve. Next pour in the amaretto, the cinnamon, nutmeg, and corn starch. Heat to a light simmer, then reduce heat to low. Stir until thickened. If this blueberry sauce is watery, add corn starch a teaspoon at a time to re-thicken. If you add more corn starch, you’ll need to heat the sauce to bubbly for the thickening process to happen. This whole process of making the sauce will take about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl and allow to cool before filling the pastries.

3. To form the pastry cups, see the instruction photos above. Using a pizza cutter, slice the sheet of puff pastry into 11 or 12 strips, I did 12 although one strip was very thin. Then, take each strip of the puff pastry and twist into a spiral. Last, take each spiraled strip and wrap it around until you have a circular pastry cup. Press down in each center to make a well where the blueberry sauce can be poured. If you didn’t look at the instructional photos please do this, just scroll up. It’s a bit hard to explain the process and the photos will help you work with the puff pastry to get the correct method and shape.

4. Place each each unfilled pastry onto a lightly greased baking tray. Bake unfilled at 400 for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, fill with blueberry sauce, then bake another 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top with some shaved almonds.

Enjoy!

Easy Layered Salsa Dip

At any party or get together, a dip is an absolute must.

I don’t care what other snacks there are, there’s got to be a good dip. Hot or cold, doesn’t matter….just make sure it’s there. Everyone loves grabbing that crispy chip and going in for the perfect scoop. The scoop that contains a little part of each of the dip components so that the chip has transformed into a mini replica of the full dip.

This Easy Layered Salsa Dip is something my mom would make every summer. The funny thing is, as a kid I didn’t appreciate how great this dip is. Instead, I’d run up to it, steal some of the Cheddar cheese off the top then sneak away. I can see how obnoxious this was to the other adults who would see the Cheddar cheese slowly disappearing off the top. Now as an adult, I’ve come to appreciate this dip for it’s delicious simplicity. Just 5 inexpensive ingredients, arranged in a colorful layer make a salsa dip that will surely disappear by the end of the party. The base is comprised of a blend of cream cheese and sour cream, then pour a jar of salsa over top. You’ll love the combination of the coolness for the cream cheese and sour cream with the spicy bite of the salsa. Then the sharp cheese and onion finish the bite. I think the chill of this dip makes it the perfect thing to bring to a pool party. It’s not going to weigh you down, the flavors of bright and light, and will be a refreshing chilled snack on a hot day.

Get that chip layered up with the sour cream mix, salsa, Cheddar cheese, and white onions.

  
Easy Layered Salsa Dip is a layered dip of sour cream and cream cheese spread, salsa, Cheddar cheese, and white onions. Whip this up in under 10 minutes for an easy, inexpensive, and flavorful dip. Spicy salsa, cool sour cream, and tangy Cheddar cheese.

-8oz block cream cheese, softened
-8oz container sour cream
-15.5oz jar salsa, however spicy you like
-2 and 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
-1/2 cup diced white onions

1. Soften the cream cheese by leaving it out on your counter for 30 minutes. You need to do this so that it blends well with the sour cream. Once the it has softened, mix this with the sour cream in a medium sized bowl. Set aside as you prepare the next ingredients.

2. Next, grate the block of sharp Cheddar cheese until you have 2 and 1/2 cups. I highly recommend buying a block of cheese and grating it yourself, it will be smoother and fresher compared to a package of pre-shredded. After the cheese is grated, dice small 1/2 cups of white onion.

3. To assemble, spoon the cream cheese sour cream spread into your serving dish and spread to cover the entire bottom. Whatever dish you use, you want it to have an edge higher than the dip, like the pie plate in the photo. This will make sure as the liquid from the salsa separates it doesn’t run right off of a platter onto your table. Next, pour the entire jar of salsa over top an smooth to cover the sour cream. Next, cover the salsa with all of the Cheddar cheese. Lastly, sprinkle with the diced onions.

Enjoy!

Lemon Blueberry Scones

I first launched A Seasoned Greeting back in 2011. It has been an incredible journey and to be honest, I’m not the same person as the person who made that first blog post in March 2011. I was thinking of this as I was writing the  About Me page that I just added to the site last week. Yes, I’ve been blogging for 8 years and have only now posted a page about myself. But as I wrote it, it’s transformative to see in black and white in front of me just how changed I am from the person back then. The thing is, while so much change has happened, I have this feeling that I’m on the brink of the next big things in my life. Part of that is related to this blog, and where I want to take it.

I recently purchased this book and reading it was one “aha!” moment after another. In addition to learning about recipe development, recipe writing, and how to descriptively write about food without using go-to words like ‘yummy’ and ‘delicious’, I’ve learned that I haven’t been embracing my voice here. Many of my earlier posts were sterile, I described why I cooked the recipe, told you it was yummy, and then posted the ingredients and cooking method. And there, I had a blog post. But now, I’m making a conscious effort to embrace my voice. To connect more with you, and hopefully you’ll feel a bit more connected to me. I need to work on breaking down the walls I’ve built around myself. To quite those voices that tell me “But…they won’t like you!” and just DO IT. So I hope you’ll continue on with me, and like what you read.

To date, my most popular blog post are these Copycat Panera Orange Scones. Funny thing is, the photo is pretty mediocre and it wouldn’t pass my scrutiny at this stage of blogging. But for some reason, it took off on Pinterest and it continues to drive me the most traffic even nearly 5 years later. It truly is one of my favorite scone recipes, so when I set out to create a fresh Lemon Blueberry Scone I went right to that base recipe for the scone.

The best thing about these scones is that they aren’t the crunchy kind. The sour cream in the dough helps keep these soft and pillowy. The tops and bottom have the much needed light crunch, while the inside is softer than a biscuit, but denser than cake. Each blueberry is a welcomed bite of cool freshness that will leave you hoping each bite contains a hidden blueberry. Just in case you weren’t getting enough lemon in the scone themselves, the glaze is packed with lemon zest and lemon juice. The last thing I love about scones, is they are easy. No rising needed, so special complicated method. Make a batch of these and enjoy them with your morning coffee, or a little treat in the afternoon. Their light and summery flavor won’t leave you weighed down!

Food Exhibit A

When you knead the dough into a circle and slice into the scone triangles it would look like this. You will be able to get 8 scones from this recipe.

Lemon Blueberry Scones are an easy scone recipe perfect for the Spring and Summer. Zesty lemons paired with cool and fresh blueberries make the perfect pair for a sweet and satisfying scone. No complex methods needed, you can easily make these scones and have them come out perfectly!
Makes 8 scones
-1/3 cup sugar
-1 lemon, you’ll be using the zest and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
 -2 cups flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-8 tablespoons butter, cut into cubes
-1/2 cup sour cream
-1 egg
-1 cup fresh blueberries
1. Heat oven to 400. Combine the sugar and the zest of the whole lemon. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add in the cubed butter, using a pastry cutter or a fork to break up the butter into the flour. You want the flour to get to a course meal texture. Avoid using your hands, this will begin to melt the butter too much and make it too soft.

2. In another bowl, stir together the sour cream and the egg. Stir in the 2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Using a fork, stir this sour cream batter into the flour dry ingredients and lightly stir, then lastly fold in the blueberries. I say fold in, because you want to gently stir them in so you don’t break them or burst them. You want to make sure the blueberries stay whole. Now, using your hand, form dough into a ball. It will help to lightly flour your hands to prevent it from sticking like crazy to your hands.

3. Lightly flour your counter top, place the dough ball onto your lightly-floured surface and form into a circle about 7″ wide. Cut into triangles. See Food Exhibit A above. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake 17 minutes.

Glaze
-3 tablespoons butter, melted
-1 cup powdered sugar
-1 lemon, you’ll be using 1 teaspoon of lemon zest and 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon of the juice

1. While the scones are baking, combine the melted butter, powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon of lemon zest, and 2 tablepoons + 1 teaspoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice. When scones have cooled, spoon glaze evenly over each scone.  


Enjoy!

Crispy Tuna Cakes with Dijon Mayo Sauce

Now that it’s officially Spring I’ve started my annual “time to get in shape” mindset. This basically involves me promising myself that I’ll workout, that this will be the year I can confidently wear any outfit I want and not feel like I should be covering this or that up.

So yesterday I did it. I ran in the park for the first time this season. I’m lucky to live near a large park that sits right on the edge of the the river that separates Bayonne from Newark. There’s a promenade right on the water’s edge where you’ll get the most refreshing breeze which is a much needed relief during those hot weather runs, but on the flip side that water breeze can freeze you right in your tracks in the winter.

The good thing about this park is it also has a track. I may be in the minority here, but I love running around the track sometimes instead of running through the park trails. It definitely has to do with the fact that I ran track in high school. Now, I’m using the phrase “ran track” very loosely. I was totally the weakest link on the team, I didn’t practice as hard as I should have but I was using it to stay in shape not to be the all-star track runner. But when I hit the track here in the park, the memories come flooding back. Seeing those big numbers in the lanes 1-2-3-4-5-6, the turns, those straights of 100 meters that felt like a mile at the end of the race. Running the track makes me feel energized, like “I’ve got this” feeling.

After a workout, and especially this time of the year, I want something light for dinner. I won’t go so far as to call this a healthy dish, but it is on the lighter side and has more of a refreshing element to it without making you feel weighed down or sluggish. This is a unique way to enjoy tuna fish, move over crab cakes, now tuna can be the star of a fish-cake. The top and bottom will get just crispy enough for a slight *snap* when you cut into it with your fork, and the inside will be tender and soft. Top this with a quick and easy mustard-mayo sauce, it will give this a much needed punch from the tangy mustard.

Tuna cakes are a light but satisfying dinner. Tuna takes center stage in patty-form seasoned with mustard and lemon, seared with a crunchy outer top and bottom to add texture to the inner soft tuna. Top this with a mayo-mustard mixture to add a tangy bite. Recipe yields 4-5 cakes.
For the Tuna Cakes
-2 5oz cans tuna in water, drained
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
-1/2 cup Panko crumbs
-1 teaspoon lemon zest
-1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
-1 tablespoon water
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
-2 tablespoons chopped fresh scallions
-1 egg
-salt and pepper
-1-2 tablespoons olive oil
For the Sauce
-2 tablespoons mayo
-2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1. Drain the cans of tuna and place tuna in a bowl. Add in the Dijon mustard, lemon zest, lemon juice, Panko, water, parsley, scallions, and salt & pepper. Mix together until everything is combined. The great thing about this recipe is you can taste it at this point (no raw meat!) and adjust any amounts if you feel it might need more seasoning. After tasting and adjusting, add the egg.
2. Form the mixture into patties, if you make them a little on the smaller side you could get 5, otherwise make 4 patties. Flatten them slightly, you want them more the form of a burger not rounded like a meatball. Place the patties in the fridge for an hour to chill. While chilling isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s going to make it much easier to manage them in the cooking process. If you don’t chill them just be aware they make break apart a bit and you’ll need to be careful.
3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat, the amount of oil will depend on your pan size. You want enough to have a slight layer of oil in the bottom of your pan so all patties will be sitting in some of the oil. Start pouring on the lighter side then add more until you get to the full 2 tablespoons. Cook the patties 3-4 minutes per side until they are nice and browned and crispy on both sides. While the patties are cooking on one side, mix up the topping sauce. Just mix together the mayo and the mustard…done!
Enjoy!

Source: Simply Recipes

Lighter Creamy Lemon Orzo with Toasted Almonds

Making lighter versions of recipes isn’t really my ‘thing’. It’s not that I’m not a fan of shaving off calories or swapping a high fat content ingredient for a lighter one, it’s just that those types of recipes aren’t what I gravitate to and not what I set out to create. But what happened with this lovely Lighter Lemon Orzo is I stumbled upon a dish that sounded amazing, tasted amazing, and just so happened to be a light version of a cream based pasta.

I actually first made a version of this recipe many years ago, back when I still lived in Charleston, SC. It was when I was still very much a novice in cooking and my food photography was….pretty terrible. I’ll spare you that photo and you can just enjoy the one below.

Anyway, back then I was part of a forum of other food bloggers and we’d share recipes, food photos and blog posts so I was always finding new things to try. Prevention RD had a delicious post for a creamy pasta that used Greek yogurt to make the dish creamy…no light cream!

I’ve made a few adjustments since I wanted this to be a side dish not the main dish. Orzo pasta is such a perfect choice for an easy pasta side dish. And the toasted almonds I added…oh my. You are going to LOVE this. The crunch is a needed interruption from the pasta becoming too monotonous and the lemon is just enough without being too overwhelming. And the fact that this is easy…and light…makes this a win all around. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!

 Lighter Creamy Lemon Orzo with Toasted Almonds is an easy and light pasta side dish to add to your Spring and Summer menus. Get the flavor of a cream sauce by using Greek yogurt!

-1 and 1/2 cups uncooked orzo pasta
-1/2 cup almond slivers
-2 tablespoons butter
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-1 large lemon, juiced and zested
-1 5.3oz container plain Greek yogurt
-Salt to taste

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour almond slivers onto a foil lined baking sheet and bake for 10-13 minutes until browned.

2. Cook pasta, then drain and leave in strainer, drizzle very lightly with some olive oil and stir to prevent it from sticking.

2. Melt butter in the pot that was used to cook the pasta over low heat. Add garlic cloves, then lemon juice. Turn heat off, then add yogurt and stir to combine. Add lemon zest and salt to taste.  Pour mixture over pasta and stir. Garnish with toasted almonds.

Enjoy!

Adapted from: Prevention RD

Gingerbread Spiced Energy Bites

Yes, I know it’s May and here I am making a totally Fall recipe.

I don’t know what it was, but I was really in the mood for gingerbread flavor. I tried playing around making a puff pastry with the gingerbread but it didn’t come out quite right. Then, breakfast bites popped into my head…you really can’t go wrong with these. You’ll notice when I make breakfast bites I really love to add chopped dark chocolate. You can omit this, but for me I love to find a way to sneak in some chocolate into something you can eat for breakfast. These are packed with chia seeds, flax seed, cashew butter, chopped dark chocolate, honey and the super warm and flavorful gingerbread spices.

Make a batch of these and enjoy with your morning or afternoon coffee. There’s no rule that says you can’t eat gingerbread in Spring.

-1 and 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
-1 and 1/8 teaspoons ginger
-1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
-dash of cloves (just a very small dash, less than 1/8 tsp!)
-1/2 teaspoon sugar
-2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
-1 tablespoon chia seeds
-1/3 cup honey
-1 cup cashew butter
-1 teaspoon molasses
-2 cups quick oats
 -1 3.5oz bar of dark chocolate, I like Ghirardelli 72%, chopped

1. Mix together the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and sugar. Pour the molasses into the cashew butter and stir to combine.

2. In a large bowl pour the quick oats, then stir in the spices mixture. Stir in the flaxseed and chia seeds, then the honey and cashew molasses butter. Lastly stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Place bowl in the fridge for 10 minutes.

3. After the mix has cooled, roll into the balls, making sure to continually grab some of the chocolate pieces that could pool at the bottom of the bowl.

Enjoy!

Toasted Sesame Spinach Dip

New pic, who dis?

Let me just say, and I hope you’ve noticed, that I’ve seriously stepped up my photo game. I’ve taken advantage of some training and learned a lot about angles, lighting, and styling shots to be more inviting and not just a a closeup of the food itself. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve learned. If you take a look at my photos from last year and the year before, the photos weren’t inviting, they didn’t help you envision making and eating the food, they were pretty flat and boring. But no more. Just dive right in a take a a bite, right? Take a look at the original post and photo here: Sesame Spinach Dip 2016

I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve reached my happy place with my photography. I still have a lot of growth that I want to do, and to help with that I’m getting a new lens in next week that I’m super excited to start playing around with. Thanks for coming on this journey with me!

This is a great easy dip to whip up. First, there’s no cheese! That’s right, no cheese. No cream cheese, no Mozzarella cheese…nothing. Ok so it does have sour cream, but if you’re trying to cut back on cheese or looking for a lighter dip option this is going to be right up your alley. Toasted sesame seeds, chopped scallions, spinach and chopped water chestnuts all come together to make a light and crunch dip perfect for Summer. If you’ve never bought water chestnuts before you’ll find them near where you’d by soy sauce and teriyaki sauce, they come in a can a bit larger than a tuna fish can.

-1 cup sour cream
-1 cup chopped scallions
-1 teaspoon garlic salt
-1/4 teaspoon pepper
-1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
-1 package (10oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, well drained
-1 can (8oz) sliced water chestnuts, drained and chopped

1. To toast sesame seeds, pour them onto a foil lined baking sheet and toast at 350 for 10 minutes.

2. Mix together the sour cream, scallions, garlic salt, pepper, drained spinach, and chopped water chestnuts. Stir in half the toasted sesame seeds. Pour into a large bowl and then garnish the top of the dip with the remaining toasted seeds.

Source: Keebler Toasteds Crackers

Loaded Chicken Fajitas

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know that I occasionally run polls where ingredients face-off to be featured in recipes. I know what you’re thinking…how exciting right? (Yes there’s sarcasm there.)

But seriously, when I engage with my Instagram followers I really want to know their feedback as to what recipes they want to see more of, what ingredients they want to see highlighted, and even what types of things they aren’t interested in. While this is my food blog, I wouldn’t be here without my readers and followers so I want to be sure that I’m consistently giving you recipes and content that you want to see and not just what I’m interested in.

So a few weeks ago bell peppers went up against asparagus and bell peppers won the poll to get their featured recipe. I cook with bell peppers a lot, mostly in quesadillas or in omelets. But to win a poll I felt like they really needed to be highlighted in something special, something different that you probably hadn’t cooked before. Stuffed peppers was too obvious for me, and with that I felt like the focus is more on the stuffing and not on the pepper itself. *ding* In pops Chicken Fajitas. Of course! The peppers really get to shine in a chicken fajita, and using yellow, orange, and green peppers add such vibrant colors to your dinner.

IMG_5133

You can find sheet pan fajita recipes which are a bit easier since you dump everything on a pan and bake it, but I find with that method the peppers and onions lack a certain something. I really prefer to cook them in a pan so you can get the char and caramelized pieces that add a depth a flavor you can’t get if you’re just baking them. This makes a nice big pan so will definitely get you some leftovers if you’re not going to eat 6-8 fajitas. Leftovers would be great over a bowl of rice.

IMG_5121

Just look at this color! Green peppers, red peppers, orange peppers, yellow pepper! And corn with just the perfect amount of char. That’s one of my favorite things about food photography, is capturing the bright and vibrant colors of the dish. This colorful loaded chicken fajita is just so inviting, you can’t help but want to dig in there and grab a big spoonful and start assembling your fajita.

IMG_5119

Be very generous with the fresh lime juice over top. It really ads a welcomed zest to each bite.

Have left overs? No problem, this is great served over rice for lunch or a left over dinner. I’ve included a recipe for an optional chipotle sour cream, if you like a little heat it’s the perfect addition to these peppers and onion chicken fajitas.

For the Fajitas
-1/2 green pepper, sliced thin
-1/2 red pepper, sliced thin
-1/2 yellow pepper, sliced thin
-1/2 orange pepper, sliced thin
-1/2 large white onion, sliced thin
-2 chicken breasts, cut into thin slices about 1/4″ thick
-2 ears fresh corn, cut corn from the cob
-flour or corn tortillas
-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-2-3 limes

For the Fajita Seasoning
-1 teaspoon cumin
-1 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon paprika
-1/2 teaspoon coriander

For the Chipolte Sour Cream
-1 cup sour cream
– 2 tablespoons chipolte in adobo sauce (I recommended starting with 1 tablespoon and tasting, if you like more heat add the second tablespoon…this does have quite the kick)
-2 garlic cloves, grated
-juice from two lime wedges

1. Preheat oven to 400. Slice the chicken breast into slices about 1/4″ thick, if some are very wide just give them another cut. 2 chicken breasts should get you enough for 6-8 fajitas. Mix all of the fajita seasoning ingredients together. In a large bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, the chicken slices and all of the fajita seasoning, stir until the chicken is well coated. Pour chicken onto a sheet pan and spread out the pieces so none are touching each other. Bake for 22-25 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken slices. If your slices are thin, check the chicken starting at 20-22 minutes, you don’t want to over cook and dry it out and that can happen very quickly at 400 degrees!

2. While the chicken is baking, heat a large pan over medium heat with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Once hot, add all of the peppers, onions and the corn that has been cut from the cob. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, and turning up the heat to medium high if pieces aren’t getting browned. You want to get some nice browned and charred look to the peppers, onions and corn. Turn off heat. Pour the cooked chicken in the same pan and squeezee 2-3 lime wedges over top.

3. To make the chipotle sour cream, combine all ingredients in a food processor. As noted above, start by adding only half of the chipotle in adobo sauce and give it a taste. If you want more heat, add the second tablespoon.

4. To assemble, spoon a generous helping of the peppers and onions mixture into a flour tortilla, top with chicken, squeeze a generous amount of fresh lime juice over top (I usually do 1-2 wedges per fajita depending on the size of the lime wedge) and lastly spoon with chipotle sour cream if you want that kick of heat. You should get 6-8 fajitas depending on how thick you want to make them.