Archive for ‘Make It Work Monday’

June 2, 2014

Make-It-Work Monday: Spinach Artichoke Pizza

My grown-up self has a secret for my child self.

Spinach is actually really good. Artichokes will not make you choke to death in disgust.

See, child self, the trick to making these seemingly icky and impossibly horrible vegetables actually super delicious is to hide them inside a creamy cheesy blanket called “Spinach Artichoke Dip” and then eat it on lots of carby things like crackers and chips.

Now, child self, if you really want to disguise your veggies, take those precise ingredients and turn them into…. PIZZA.

This is a super easy, quick, versatile recipe – perfect for a week night supper.

If you feel fancy you can make your own dough. I have been advised by my husband to not try this at home. Again. (However, I have had other successful attempts at disguising veggies as pizza).

Luckily my supermarket sells pizza dough from a local bakery which is rad. So while my oven was preheating to a very hot 500 degrees F, I just stretched that baby out like I was born to do it.

Actually I didn’t stretch it out thin enough (Make it work…)

I also cooked a little garlic in some oil and tossed in some chopped baby spinach. Squeezed a little lemon in to the mixture, too.

The pizza gets topped with the spinach and oil mixture, then sprinkled with mozzarella (fresh mozz would be nice, but I just had shredded on hand), artichoke hearts, and then, for the finishing touch, tuck some little nuggets of goat cheese in there.

The trick is transferring this baby into the hot oven. I don’t have a proper pizza stone – just a few small tiles that I put together. When I slid the pizza as quickly as I could onto the stones, of course they separated a bit and then my oven started smoking like crazy and I thought all might be lost.


But, it was a make it work moment and it turned out just fine! The key is making sure the bottom of your crust is VERY floured (or cornmeal works great too) and that you have  the pizza on a nice thin, flat, slide-able surface to get it in the oven.

So, grown-up me to child me. Eat your veggies. (Just disguise them first with cheese and bread and oil.)

Spinach Artichoke Pizza
adapted from Half-Baked Harvest
makes 2 pizzas

1 lb pizza dough, split into two balls (room temp)
1/4 cup oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
big handful of baby spinach, chopped small
half a small lemon’s juice (this is a precise technical term, yes)
about a cup of mozzarella cheese, fresh or shredded (more or less to your taste)
about 4 oz goat cheese (I used garlic soft goat cheese, but you could also try feta for a different spin)
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped roughly
pepper and salt to taste
dried basil for garnish

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. If that scares you, 450 will work too, but the hotter you can go, the crispier the crust! If you are using a pizza stone, let it preheat with the oven. Otherwise you can use a flat baking sheet.

While the oven preheats, heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic gently (i.e. don’t burn it. this can happen very quickly). Remove the pan from heat (or turn down very low) and toss in the spinach to wilt.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add some salt and pepper to taste and lemon juice. Stir it up.

On a well-floured cutting board or baking sheet, stretch one of  your pizza dough balls to about 12 inches, trying to keep it to a pretty even thickness. Don’t worry too much about the roundness – it will still taste the same, I promise! This is a bit easier if the dough is room temp vs. straight out of the fridge.

Brush/spread half the oil and spinach mixture on the dough. Top with half the cheese, artichoke, and goat cheese. Sprinkle lightly with dried basil.

When the oven is heated fully, quickly open the door and slide the pizza with a large spatula (or two if you have a helper to hold the pan) onto the pizza stone. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until crust is golden and hollow sounding when tapped. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Repeat with other half of ingredients.

May 18, 2014

Make-It-Work Monday: Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake

What’s for dinner this week?

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake.

This is like a grown up version of something they serve at daycare preschool. Its cheesy and warm and has those little bite size chicken bits in it. It’s only grown up because it has TWO vegetables in it.

Confession: this recipe was inspired by something I stumbled across on the Country Crock website a while ago. Yes. Me. A site for “buttery spread.”

Listen. Don’t judge until you have made this (but please use real butter. Please.) The Mr. loved this so instantly that it went straight on a recipe card and became a regular favorite.

This is a good recipe to make ahead or make parts ahead. You can also substitute in other vegetables as you see fit, or use other leftover cooked chicken that you might have around.

It is the perfect Monday comfort food and makes great leftovers!!

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake


2 cooked chicken breasts (or about 2 cups cut up chicken)**
4 cups chopped veggies (I use red pepper and broccoli, cut up small)
3 Tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Garlic powder, onion powder, salt an pepper to taste

**I like to poach my chicken by boiling some chicken or vegetable stock in a sauce pan and dropping the chicken in. Cooking time will depend on thickness of meat and if it was completely thawed, so check a piece every 5 min until the inside is no longer pink. Discard stock.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sauté the vegetables in butter and/or oil until they are crisp-tender (now raw but still have a snap when you bite in). Place in au gratin dish (or other casserole dish) along with chicken.

In the same pan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter, whisking constantly to avoid forming clumps. Add milk slowly and cook until mixture thickens slightly and loses the floury taste. Add in cheese gradually, whisking until smooth. Pour cheese mixture over vegetables and chicken and give a little stir to make sure it gets distributed.

Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes or until golden. Or stop before baking, let cheese cool, cover with Saran Wrap and keep in fridge for up to 2 days before baking.

May 5, 2014

Introducing…Make-it-work Monday

When I started this blog I was a free-spirited college student living 5 minutes from home with nothing to do on the weekends but spend hours in my parents’ kitchen, creating magic out of all their flour and butter. I would sometimes spend an entire Saturday making 4 different creations with complicated steps and new techniques.

Oh, to be young again! My own grow-up kitchen is just as busy, and I’m still known to spend quite a few hours there on the weekends. The difference is that I am now in charge of actually feeding two humans and a little cat, so I can’t waste time on frivolities! Dinner’s gotta get on that table! And hopefully it should have some nutritional value beyond chocolate.

Disclaimer: I have the best human to cook for in the world. He will quite literally eat anything I put in front of him, with a smile and a thank you, and then do the dishes.

Second Disclaimer: I still waste time on frivolities. I can’t stop. I love dessert and I love kitchen adventures.

Anyways, I have been learning a lot about cooking real food over the past few years, and I think it’s time to bring that to this blog. So I am going to attempt a weekly series called Make-it-work Mondays, where I write a quickie blog post about getting a yummy, nutritious meal out on the table. I will focus on meals that can either be made ahead, or can be made in 30-45 minutes on a busy weeknight. No guarantee of glamour, or of perfection.

In case you missed the reference, “make it work” is a reference to the fabulous Tim Gunn, who always tells the contestants on the reality fashion design show Project Runway that no matter what, they have to make it work and send SOMETHING down that runway.

Cut to my kitchen. The garlic has burned. I’m out of rosemary. I forgot to thaw the chicken. I have make-it-work moments every day in my kitchen.

So for the first Make-it-work Monday, I bring you Creamy Tomato Tortellini with Sausage and Spinach. Oh gosh. That is SO not a glamorous name. But it sure was yummy, and so easy to make! I also, in true make-it-work fashion, barely had time to take pictures before we had gobbled it up. You could seriously play with this recipe – change or add more veggies, alter the ratio of tomato to creamy, whatever floats your boat. Just MAKE IT WORK!

Creamy Tomato Tortellini with Sausage and Spinach
inspired by Everyday Reading


16 oz bag of frozen tri-color tortellini
4-6 sweet italian sausage links
2 cloves garlic, peel still on
about half a jar of tomato sauce
1/2 cup plain greek yogurt (original recipe uses half and half – but this is a GREAT tangy sub) several handfuls of baby spinach
handful slow roasted tomatoes**
**On the weekend, I slice up a large handful or two of cherry/grape tomatoes, toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of basil and roast them in a 250 degree oven for a few hours until they burst and wrinkle. They give a really nice pop of tart tomato taste. If you don’t have time, you could substitute jarred sun-dried tomatoes or even roasted red peppers.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the sausages out on a rimmed baking tray and also toss the two garlic cloves (peel still on) on the tray too. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning the sausages halfway through, or until sausages are no longer pink when you cut into the middle. Let cool 5 minutes or so, and then slice into half circles (bite size pieces). I actually made these ahead too and stored them (whole) in the fridge for up to a day before slicing and adding to meal.  Also slice off one end of the garlic cloves and squeeze out the yummy roasted insides. Use a knife to roughly chop/mash it up.

Meanwhile, cook the tortellini according to the package. Save about 1/2 cup of the pasta water for the sauce. Drain in colander and set aside.

Swirl a little olive oil in a large frying pan and add the sausage slices, garlic mash, and roasted tomatoes. Add in the tomato sauce, and then slowly stir in the greek yogurt. Add in the tortellini and spinach (pull off any large stems or tear any huge pieces) all at once. Add in the pasta water a little at a time until the sauce seems to be the right consistency – not too thick, not too watery. If it gets to watery, just let it cook a few minutes. Stir and cook until spinach wilts. Serve sprinkled with parmesan or just plain!