Two-Ingredient Lemon Bars with Fruit Salsa

Lemon bars are a classic ‘retro‘ dessert. The two ingredient lemon bar concept is not meant to replace the ones that everyone loves around the holidays. They are more ‘cake like’ than the originals with a ‘spongy texture’ and do not have a shortbread crust on the bottom. However, these lemon bars are super easy to make and have good flavor. A quick, last minute dessert or great for a summer picnic or backyard barbecue.

From what I understand, the Betty Crocker company published the first known recipe for the original lemon bars in 1963. By the 1970’s, everyone was making them. I’m not sure, but I would suspect the two ingredient lemon bars made with angel food cake mix and lemon pie filling would have been the brain child of Betty Crocker Inc. or possibly the Weight Watcher company.

One box of angel food cake mix, one (or two) cans of pie filling, mix, bake and there you are, just like magic! It seems you can have unlimited alternatives just by using a different pie filling. I found, making these quick little bars with lemon curd gave them a nice tang. The fresh fruit salsa was a good accompaniment.

Two-Ingredient Lemon Bars with Fruit Salsa
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Two-Ingredient Lemon Bars with Fruit Salsa
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Instructions
Lemon Bars
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9 X 13" baking pan with parchment paper, coming up the sides to avoid the cake from overflowing during baking.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix & pie filling, by hand. Angel food cake mix needs to be the just add water kind - but do NOT add water, eggs, oil or any other ingredients except the pie filling! Pour into prepared pan & bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly brown on top & tests done in the middle.
Fresh Fruit Salsa
  1. In a large bowl, toss together peach, mango, kiwi, strawberries, lemon juice & strawberry preserve. Chill & serve with lemon bars.
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Swedish Apple Pie

Many cultures have embraced the ‘apple pie’ and put their own spin on it, so why is it known as the quintessential ‘American’ dessert. If your someone who hates making pie crust …. this pie is for you. Swedish Apple Pie is more like cake than a pie and very similar to a cobbler. You layer your apples in a buttered pie dish, whip up the batter, spread it over the apples and bake it. As it bakes, the batter fills in the spaces between the apples, creating cakey  goodness for each bite. 

This pie reminds me of an experience that seems quite comical when I think of it now. Before I had ever studied in the commercial food industry or made any amount of pies, a friend gave me a recipe for a ‘Swiss’ apple pie. Her instructions were to place the apple slices in a pastry lined pie pan. Next, pour vanilla pudding over the apples and bake. It sounded great! I purchased a box of Jell-O brand vanilla pudding & pie filling, made a crust and filled it with apple slices. I assumed you were supposed to cook the pudding before covering the apples with it for some reason. Wrong! What resulted was apples baked in a pastry shell with a ‘rubber top’. I guess we all have to start somewhere right?!

Nevertheless, I think you will enjoy this easy way to make an apple pie.

Swedish Apple Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Swedish Apple Pie
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch pie pan.
  2. Peel, core & slice apples. Place in buttered pie plate. Sprinkle apples with 1 Tbsp sugar & cinnamon.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine cooled, melted margarine, 1 cup sugar, salt, egg, flour, extract & walnuts. Mix well. Gently spread batter over apples. Bake for about 45 minutes or until top is golden. Serve warm or cold with ice cream or whipped cream.
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‘Spring” Whoopie Pies with Mascarpone Filling

Not a pie at all, traditional whoopie pies are two thin chocolate cakes sandwiched around a white frosting. The origin of the whoopie pie is somewhat controversial. Some people say they were invented in Medieval Germany and brought to the USA by immigrants. Women would bake cakes and use leftover batter and icing to make these special treats. The little cake sandwiches were placed in children’s lunch boxes, where upon discovering them, cries of ‘whoopie’ were shouted. From the basic chocolate and vanilla formula of the past, a whole host of varieties have since taken the stage.

I love the pastel shades of Spring and try to incorporate them into anything I can. When I was shopping the other day, I happened to see some little colorful  French Macaron  cookies in a bakery window. As great as they look, I personally have never cared for the ‘meringue’ type cookie. Nevertheless, it gave me some inspiration for some ‘spring’ whoopie pies. Adding a few new flavors to the chocolate and vanilla batters along with some flavored Mascarpone fillings takes whoopie pies (cookies) to a whole new level.

'Spring" Whoopie Pies with Mascarpone Filling
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'Spring" Whoopie Pies with Mascarpone Filling
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Ingredients
MASCARPONE FILLINGS - Raspberry, Blueberry, Apricot & Strawberry Preserve
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven 350 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar & vanilla until light & fluffy. Beat in egg. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda & salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk.
  2. In separate small bowls, divide vanilla batter into 4 equal portions. Leave one plain, to the second dish add pistachio nuts & a tiny bit of green food color gel. To the third dish add 2-3 Tbsp Chambord liqueur & red food coloring. To the fourth add lemon zest & yellow food color.
  3. FOR CHOCOLATE BATTER: Follow directions in the first paragraph, adding cocoa along with flour mixture. Using a small scoop or heaped tablespoon, spoon mixtures onto baking sheet. Allow room for spreading. Bake for 10-12 minutes. DO NOT OVER BAKE. Remove from oven & transfer to wire rack.
  4. While whoopies are baking prepare Mascarpone fillings. For every 60 grams of Mascarpone use 2-3 Tbsp of one of the preserve flavors.
  5. When the whoopies are cold, match each with whoopie half with its closest partner size. Spread with a knife or use a piping bag to cover the flat side of one whoopie half of each pair generously with filling. Top each with its matching half, flat side down & gently press together.
Recipe Notes
  • Another flavor you might enjoy is lemon curd which can be purchased in the preserve section of the grocery store.
  • For chocolate filling, add a little cocoa powder & powdered sugar to some Mascarpone.
  • For some of the vanilla whoopies, I made a Rosewater flavored filling with 1 tsp margarine, 60 gm Mascarpone, 3 Tbsp powdered sugar & 3/4 tsp rosewater.
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Seafood Avocado Omelette

I had no idea when I completed my studies in the commercial food industry that there would be some food items I would make so many times. One such item was an omelette. 

In the early years of my career, my first position was a short order chef. It all sounded pretty easy until it came to the weekends. On Sunday morning alone, you could use anywhere from 90-120 DOZEN eggs. A large percentage of them were made into omelettes with various fillings. All this would be made and served in the course of 4-5 hours as individual breakfasts in the hotel restaurant. That job definitely taught you the perseverance you would need to survive in the industry. 

Omelettes have a long history dating back to 16th century France. Most are made with just simple egg and dairy ingredients. The fluffiest omelettes use whole eggs or all egg whites, which are beaten with a small measure of cream, milk or water. I even recall adding just a tiny bit of pancake batter to give them more body.

Legend has it that when Napoleon and his army were travelling through the south of France, they spent one night near Bessieres. Napoleon ate an omelette prepared by a local cook and enjoyed it so much that he ordered the townspeople to gather all the eggs in the village and prepare a gigantic omelette for his army the next day.  Since 1973, every year on the Monday following Easter, people in Bessieres, France make a giant omelette, using 15,000 fresh eggs.

I have added some pictures of this huge omelette as well as one of a cook dumping egg shells in a pile.

The recipe I am including is an adaptation of an omelette I enjoyed at a restaurant called Mariah’s sometime in the eighties. At the time it was located in the seaside town of Carlsbad, California, USA.

Seafood Avocado Omelette
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Seafood Avocado Omelette
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Servings
2
Servings
2
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Guacamole
  1. In a small dish, combine all guacamole ingredients; set aside.
Omelettes
  1. Preheat an electric flat griddle to 325 F. Saute mushrooms, green onions & shrimp in margarine keeping each separate from each other. Remove from griddle. Carefully pour beaten eggs onto griddle forming two large circles. Divide guacamole, mushrooms, cheese, crab meat & shrimp between the two omelettes.
  2. Cover with a large sheet pan for a few minutes until all is cooked, being careful not to over or under cook. Fold each omelette over & place on serving plates. Top with sauteed green onions. Add some fruit for a garnish if you prefer.
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Easter French Toast with Strawberry Compote

HAPPY EASTER!

Easter is synonymous with spring which speaks of new life and fresh hope. After the cold winter there is nothing we look forward to more than having a sunny day and seeing the flowers peeking up through the ground. Buds on the trees open up after having slept all winter. Leaves burst out of the buds in fresh green color when the sun gets brighter and warmer.  The season of spring really is a time of renewal.

Whether or not your religious, Easter has some pretty magical facets to it. I remember as a kid the ‘secret bunny’ leaving colorful eggs and little baskets filled with a few goodies. My sisters and I always got a new Easter dress and ‘straw bonnet’ to wear to the church service. Then of course, the wonderful Easter meal itself.

After having good luck with my Easter bread, we are having some for Easter brunch.                                                                                                                     ORANGE ANISE FRENCH TOAST w/ STRAWBERRIES & GREEK YOGURT — perfect!

Easter French Toast with Strawberry Compote
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Easter French Toast with Strawberry Compote
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Strawberry Compote
French Toast
Servings:
Instructions
Strawberry Compote
  1. Rinse, hull & slice strawberries. Zest & juice lemon. In a small saucepan, whisk together lemon zest & juice, sugar, water & cornstarch. Add strawberries, mixing gently while bringing to a simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cool slightly.
French Toast
  1. In a shallow bowl, beat eggs; whisk in milk, salt & cinnamon. Soak the slices of Easter bread in egg/milk mixture for 30 seconds on each side. Cook on hot griddle until golden brown on both sides & cooked through.
  2. Serve strawberry compote over french toast & Greek french vanilla yogurt.
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Easter Bread with Anise & Orange Blossom Water

Rich with tradition, symbolism and treasured ingredients, Easter breads figure prominently in many cultures’ Easter celebrations. These yeast breads, full of eggs, butter, fruits, nuts and spices are a symbol of breaking the Lenten fast on Easter morning. Each ethnic group seems to have its own unique version of this sweet bread. Bread has long played an important role in religious ceremonies and holidays and is often baked in symbolic shapes. It has been said that bread is the ‘staff of life’ with Easter being the ‘celebration of life’.

I have wonderful memories of my mother’s Easter bread. It wasn’t iced or decorated but it had such a glorious flavor. She would bake it in tall cylinder shaped loaves and it always had a nice yellow color. Oh, the taste of a memory!

Every Easter I like to try something slightly different from the previous year when making Easter bread. Lately I have been using orange blossom water in different recipes with good success. So why not in Easter bread with anise seeds and almonds? The method is a little different in that the egg whites are beaten separately. Brion and I both thought it tasted real good.

Easter Bread with Anise & Orange Blossom Water
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Servings
1 LOAF
Servings
1 LOAF
Easter Bread with Anise & Orange Blossom Water
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Servings
1 LOAF
Servings
1 LOAF
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. In a large mixer bowl, combine 1 cup flour, yeast, 2 Tbsp sugar & salt; mix well. Add lukewarm water, butter & egg YOLKS. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat about 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, stir in orange zest, mixed peel, aniseed, almonds & orange water.
  2. In a small bowl, beat egg WHITES until stiff; gradually add 1/4 cup sugar. Fold into flour mixture. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a SOFT dough. Knead on floured surface until smooth & elastic, 3-5 minutes. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl & turn to grease top. Cover & let rise until doubled in size.
  3. Punch down dough. On a lightly floured work surface, pat to a 14 x 7-inch rectangle. Starting with shorter side, roll up tightly, pressing dough into roll with each turn. Pinch ends & edge to seal. Place in a greased 9 x 5-inch bread pan. Cover; let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. If you wish, you can glaze the loaf with egg wash before baking. Bake about 35-40 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan & cool on a wire rack before slicing.
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Kahlua Cinnamon Nut Roll

Today, March 28th, marks the date of my mother’s birthday. She passed away in 1978 at the age of 60. No matter how many years go by she will always be the never ending song in my heart. She had such a wonderful ability to make the everyday things more enjoyable. I have so many great memories of those times that I just took for granted and now realize how special they were. Her courage and strength to endure the harshness that farm life sometimes throws at you was nothing short of amazing. As we honor my mother today, we hold on to those precious memories that will never fade from our minds.

As I have mentioned so many times before, my mother was exceptional in her ability to cook and bake. Regularly, when she baked bread, one of the extra treats was a pan of cinnamon rolls. This Kahlua Nut Roll seemed perfect for today’s blog recipe. 

In 1986, a little recipe pamphlet was published by Maidstone Wine & Spirits Inc. using Kahlua liqueur. All you had to do was write to them and request as many copies as you wanted free of charge. It contained about 90 recipes all using Kahlua. What a great bit of ‘PR’ work!

The oldest proof of Kahlua’s date of origin is a bottle found by Maidstone. The bottle came from Mexico and was dated 1937. The word Kahlua was discovered to have ties to ancient Arabic languages and the old label, which bears similarity to the current label, shows a turbaned man smoking a pipe beneath a Moorish archway. The only obvious change in the current label is the man has become a sombrero wearing man, napping beneath the same Moorish archway and in some labels there is no man pictured at all.

My  Kahlua Cinnamon Nut Roll  was adapted from this great little recipe pamphlet.

                              WONDERFUL MEMORIES OF OUR BEAUTIFUL MOM!

Kahlua Cinnamon Nut Twist
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Kahlua Cinnamon Nut Twist
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Yeast Dough
Cream Cheese/Pecan Filling
Kahlua Syrup
Servings:
Instructions
Yeast Dough
  1. In a small dish, add yeast to lukewarm water; set aside. In a large bowl, combine milk, shortening, sugar & salt. Add 1 cup of flour; beat well. Add egg, yeast mixture & remaining 1 1/4 cups flour.; beat to form moderately stiff dough. Turn out on a floured work surface. Knead gently until smooth & elastic. Lightly butter bowl, form dough into a disk & cover with clean tea towel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 50-60 minutes.
Cream Cheese/Pecan Filling
  1. In a bowl, combine cream cheese & butter until smooth. In another dish, combine pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon & salt. Set aside.
Kahlua Syrup
  1. In a small sauce pan, melt butter; add brown sugar & Kahlua liqueur. Bring to a boil; simmer until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; reserve 1/3 cup syrup. Pour remaining syrup into a 9-inch round cake pan.
Assembly
  1. When dough has risen, turn out on a lightly floured work surface & roll into a 14-inch square. Spread dough with cream cheese mixture & sprinkle sugar mixture on one half. Fold other half over sugar & press lightly to adhere.
  2. Cut dough lengthwise into 5 strips. Beginning in the center of prepared pan, wrap strips in a spiral pattern, pinching ends together. Cover & let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake until golden & cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Remove & let stand in pan 5 minutes. Invert onto serving plate; spoon reserved syrup over top.
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Almond Orange Blossom Cookies

A special memory that comes to mind at this time of year is the scent of orange blossoms. While it is still winter in our part of Canada, in Seville, Spain spring is in the air. Mid March to early April, for about three weeks in Spain’s sun-bleached region of Andalusia, there’s a soft intoxicating fragrance reminiscent of magnolia and wisteria flowers. The heady, powerful smell of orange blossom pervades the whole city.

Brion and I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Seville, in early spring one year. It was an amazing sight seeing all those beautiful orange trees. A number of our pictures in this blog show the abundance of the fruit that is produced.

These bitter orange trees from China were introduced to Spain by the Moors in the eighth century and were planted in the beautiful courtyards of the Alhambra  in Granada, and throughout the south of Spain. They have become known as Seville Oranges. Unique to citrus trees is the fact that fruit from the previous season can remain on the tree while the blossoms for the next season’s crop arrive. A flowering deciduous, evergreen that provides shade in the summer and thick swatches of lush green to line the streets in winter.

The fruit of the Sevillian orange tree is too bitter for fresh consumption. It has been put to good use in many other ways such as in the production of liqueurs and wine or for making confectionery like creams, pastries and chocolates. But above all for the well known Seville Orange Marmalade.

Orange Blossom Water is another product which is derived from the distillation of the orange tree flowers. This use of orange blossom water in cooking comes to the west from North Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The flavor of this distilled water is flowery but not too overpowering. The important thing is to use very little to give the merest hint of fragrance. Orange blossom pairs well with apricots, figs, strawberries, rhubarb, pears and dates. Add a few drops to fruit salads, stewed or poached fruit and fruit crepes.

The cookies in this blog are delicate like their namesake blossoms and lightly ‘perfumed’ with orange blossom water and orange zest. The almonds add an extra bonus in the flavor. I just love the ‘exotic’ touch fragrant water gives to baked goods.

The Plaza de Espana that Brion and I are standing in front of is a spectacular building, waterway and square. It was built as the centerpiece of the 1929 Ibero-American Expo. Colored ceramics feature heavily around the plaza. The provincial alcoves, walls, ornate bridges and balustrades are also covered in ‘azulejoz’. The plaza has been used over the decades as a location for filming several movies such as Star Wars and Lawrence of Arabia.

I hope you will enjoy the cookie recipe as well as my mental journey to Seville.

 

Almond Orange Blossom Cookies
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Servings
36
Servings
36
Almond Orange Blossom Cookies
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Servings
36
Servings
36
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, beat butter & orange blossom water together until smooth & creamy. Add sugars & salt; continue beating for about 1 minute. Add egg yolks & zest; beat on low until well blended.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together flour & almond meal. Combine flour mixture with wet mixture, mixing only until combined. DO NOT OVER MIX.
  3. Using a rubber spatula, transfer this soft, sticky dough to a piece of plastic wrap & gently form into a disk. Wrap the disk & refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove disk from refrigerator. On a lightly floured work surface or between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out dough to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch round cookie cutter with a fluted edge, cut out cookies & place on baking sheets.
  5. Top cookies with sliced almonds. Bake for 12-15 minutes. When baked, cookies should have a light brown bottom, light golden edges & pale tops. Remove from oven, letting them rest on baking sheet for a couple of minutes before carefully sliding parchment paper with cookies onto a rack. DO NOT OVER BAKE! The cookies finish setting up as they cool.
Recipe Notes
  • If you would rather not cut them out with a cookie cutter,  just form a log when you wrap the dough in the plastic wrap. After refrigerating, unwrap, slice & bake.
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Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble

Crumble, a dish of British origin, can be sweet or savory. The sweet variety generally contains stewed fruit with a crumbly topping of butter, flour and sugar. A savory version uses meat, vegetables and sauce for the filling, with cheese replacing sugar in the crumble mix.

Crumbles and crisps are very similar. They both contain fresh fruit with a streusal-like topping. The original difference between the two was in the  topping: crisps would contain oats and crumbles would not. Overtime the lines have blurred and the names crumble and crisp are now used interchangeably.

Oatmeal ‘anything’ is very nostalgic for me. I can’t remember one thing my mother made using oatmeal that I didn’t like, including ‘porridge’. Oatmeal is still as much a staple in our pantry as it was in my mothers.

For this dessert, I thought it would be unique to add a little caramelized twist to an old classic crumble. Caramelization is a chemical change that makes naturally occurring sugars in fruit, when gently sauteed in butter, turn brown and quite flavorful. The combination of caramelized bananas, fresh mango and lemon juice topped with a spicy crumble is wonderful (and easy).

Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Ingredients
Crumble
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a parchment lined baking sheet, slice bananas into discs. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar & bake for about 10 minutes or until caramelized. Remove from oven. In a medium bowl, place mango, 1 Tbsp sugar & lemon juice. Mix until combined; add Caramelized bananas & toss gently. Spoon fruit mixture equally into 2 or 4 ramekins.
  2. In a small dish, toss together all of the crumble ingredients, using your fingers to combine. Divide crumble between ramekins. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with either ice cream or whipped cream.
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BBQ Chicken Pizza al taglio

Pizza al taglio (Italian for pizza ‘by the cut’) is a variety of pizza baked in large rectangular trays and generally sold by weight with prices marked per kilogram or per 100 grams. This type of pizza was invented in Rome, Italy.

Roman pizza al taglio came into existence in the 1960’s. These large slabs of pizza are generally thicker and softer. The main emphasis being not so much upon the visual aspect of the pizza, rather the taste and convenience of the process being the priority. The rectangular pizza shape makes it easier to cut and divide the pizza to the buyer’s desire.

Years ago, growing up on a farm, pizza was not a usual meal for our family. This was until my mother acquired a nice, little, glossy covered recipe book put out by  Fleischmann’s Yeast Company. Among numerous good recipes it contained one for PIZZA!  My mother baked bread every week so she had yeast baking down to a science.

I really don’t recall what it was topped with, just that it was sooo…… good! Brion and I refrain from ‘ordering’ pizza very often. Not because we don’t like it but rather just the opposite — we love it. The only problem is the calorie count is just too high. That being said, it doesn’t stop me from making a homemade version from time to time.

Today I used the crust recipe from that Fleischmann’s book and a copycat filling from Boston Pizza’s BBQ Chicken pizza. Yum!

BBQ Chicken Pizza al taglio
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Servings
12-15 slices
Servings
12-15 slices
BBQ Chicken Pizza al taglio
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Servings
12-15 slices
Servings
12-15 slices
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
Pizza Crust
  1. Measure into bowl, 1 cup lukewarm water. Stir in 1 tsp sugar; sprinkle with the pkg of yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, THEN stir well. Add 1 tsp salt & 1/4 cup oil; stir in 1 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in additional 1 1/4 cups flour. Turn out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth & elastic. Place in a greased bowl; brush top with melted butter. Cover. Let rise in a warm place free from draft until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Toppings / Sauce
  1. In a skillet, saute onion, red & green pepper & mushrooms in a small amount of butter. Shred mozzarella & cheddar cheeses. Chop cooked chicken. To BBQ sauce add water to make sauce consistency.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. When dough is doubled in bulk, punch down. Press into a 16 x 12 x 1" baking pan. Spread BBQ sauce & water mixture over crust. Top with sauteed vegetables, chicken, mozzarella & cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes or until crust is golden & cheese is melted.
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