Spicy Chicken, Bacon & Avocado Pizza

Ever since I made pizza with yeasted potato crust it has become a staple in our meal rotation list. It seems like all it takes to come up with an amazing filling combo is just a little inspiration so the influence of flavors Brion and I tasted in Mexico became a natural choice for me.

Although avocado on pizza may sound weird, if you are a guacamole lover, its glorious. When you think about it, tomato or tomato sauce is a big part of pizza most of the time. Often guacamole is made with tomato, so it compliments pizza well. I used all the ingredients you would normally fit into a tortilla for toppings. Spicy chicken, bacon, avocado, onion, tomato, cheese and GUACAMOLE!

When I make guacamole for pizza, I like to keep it simple: mashed avocados, onion, garlic, lime juice, salt and cilantro. Another thing I found, was that any left over pieces can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and placed in a freezer bag and frozen. When you want to use them, thaw at room temperature then heat slightly in the microwave. Most often pizza is frozen unbaked and needs assembly and baking. This pizza tasted just as good as when it was freshly baked!

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Spicy Chicken, Bacon & Avocado Pizza
Instructions
Pizza Dough
  1. Cook potato, peel, mash & cool. Combine yeast with lukewarm water; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand about 3 minutes until foamy. Add butter, salt, sour cream & potato; mix well.
  2. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead dough about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with a tea towel & allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Chicken Marinade
  1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine all ingredients. Seal & turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
Guacamole
  1. In a large bowl, coarsely mash avocados with lime juice & salt. Stir in garlic, onion & cilantro. Blend well. Cover & set aside until ready to use. You will have extra for something else.
Pizza Topping Prep
  1. In a skillet, cook bacon until fairly crisp, drain on paper towels & chop coarsely. Wipe skillet with paper towel. Add marinated chicken, stir-fry until cooked then remove to a dish. Add peppers & onion to skillet; sauteing until tender crisp.
Assembly
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll or press dough into a 16-inch circle. Transfer with paper to a baking sheet.
  2. Using some grated cheese, make a ring around the outer edge of the dough. Roll dough once over cheese ring. Carefully spread the 1/2 cup of guacamole over the bottom of pizza, then sprinkle with a bit more cheese. Layer with avocado slices, onion, bacon, chicken, tomato & remaining cheese. If you prefer, brush to top of the outside ring with egg wash.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown, Remove from oven & slice.
Recipe Notes
  • You may choose to prepare your marinated chicken & guacamole before you start making the dough.

Bacon Weave Stuffed Chicken Breast

This week we celebrate my husband, Brion’s birthday. Since we have never felt the need to mark such occasions by giving gifts, we would rather just make some memories together. In January of this year (2019), we enjoyed a wonderful vacation in Merida, Mexico. Known for its rich history in Maya culture and tradition, Merida is also the capital of the Yucatan.

Although referred to as a colonial city, Merida has distinguished itself from other cities in Mexico by having something that can only be seen in its originality in the state of Yucatan, even more in Merida. The ‘you & me’ chairs or the ‘sillas tu y yo’, bring unique quality to this beautiful city. These chairs can be seen all around Merida. When you sit down you are facing the other person. The origin of these chairs is unclear. Popular legend has it that an over-protective father in Merida created this chair design so when his daughter was with her boyfriend they could talk comfortably without having to sit next to each other. The chairs have become part of the city’s culture and individuality.

We had such a great time and felt wonderfully safe during our stay. As I mentioned in a blog from February (2019), one of Brion’s ‘bucket list’ items was to visit Chichen Itza. It was amazing!

As always, Brion had done a great deal of research on the area before we went. I am always grateful for the ‘flawless’ vacations we have enjoyed over the years due to his careful planning.

THANKS FOR BEING THE SPECIAL PERSON YOU ARE!

BIRTHDAY WISHES, TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE

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Bacon Weave Stuffed Chicken Breast
Instructions
Avocado Filling
  1. In a small bowl, combine avocado filling ingredients. Set aside until chicken is ready to stuff.
Meat Preparation
  1. Place the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, carefully pound chicken breasts until an even 1/2-inch thickness. On 2 large sheets of plastic wrap, prepare a bacon 'weave' square for each chicken breast. Place 3 strips of bacon perpendicular to you. Weave 3 more strips parallel to you by folding down alternating strips (no different than a lattice weave pastry crust).
  2. Divide avocado filling between the 2 flattened chicken breasts. Using plastic wrap, roll both bacon & chicken together to form a 'parcel'. Tuck in any loose bacon ends & secure with toothpicks.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a heavy oven-safe skillet, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Sear the bacon wrapped chicken on both sides for a few minutes. Cover pan with foil & place in oven for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 F on an oven thermometer.

Summer Sangria Parfaits

For years, Sangria has been enjoyed at many summer picnics and outdoor events. This Spanish wine punch has deviated so far from its simple origins it has become nearly unrecognizable. The concept seems endlessly adaptable not only as a drink but as dessert.

Tradition goes back a long way when it comes to sangria. Early Greeks and Romans mixed wine with sugar and spices because their water was bacteria filled and unsafe to drink. Adding a touch of alcohol made the liquid drinkable and mixing the watered down wine gave it flavor. This drink, called Hippocras, was likely the common ancestor of both sangria and mulled wine.

Our love of sangria in North America dates back probably to the sixties and it has never really fell out of vogue to this day.

These sangria parfaits let you enjoy some summer fruit combined with the flavor of sangria. You can make them either with or without wine —your choice.

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Summer Sangria Parfaits
Instructions
  1. In a small saucepan, bring wine to a boil over medium-high heat. In a medium bowl, stir boiling wine into dry gelatin mix for about 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Stir in club soda, lime & orange juice.
  2. Place bowl of gelatin in a larger bowl of ice & water. Let stand 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1 cup EACH grapes & strawberries. Pour into 6-1 cup parfait glasses. Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm. Garnish with remaining fruit.

Spiced Pulled Pork Tortillas w/ Orange Guava Sauce

This pairing of pork, corn tortillas and guava brings me back to some of the flavors we tasted on our adventures in both Cuba and Mexico.

Pulled pork sounds like a lot of work but it simply comes down to a gentle, slow cooking process so it can be literally ‘pulled apart’ when finished. Pork shoulder is the most commonly used joint. The long cooking could dry out some cuts but shoulder is quite a fatty joint, therefore providing a natural baste. During the cooking period, most of the fat will dissolve but most importantly its this long cooking process that breaks down the tough fibrous connective tissue called collagen that tenderizes the meat making it so easy to pull apart. Although smokers are very often used, slow cookers or even traditional ovens will do the job nicely.

When the pork is finally done, it needs to rest for 10 minutes and then it should be ready for pulling apart. Use two forks to shred the meat and you’ve got it! This meal not only has great eye appeal, but the taste is wonderful!

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Spiced Pulled Pork Tortillas w/ Orange Guava Sauce
Instructions
Dry Rub for Pork Shoulder
  1. Drizzle pork with 2 Tbsp of oil; sprinkle with spices & orange zest & rub into meat. Season with salt & pepper. Place in a plastic bag & refrigerate overnight (about 24 hours).
  2. Bring meat to room temperature. Preheat oven to 275 F. Place meat in a roasting pan & bake until thickest part registers 170 F. on a meat thermometer. Basically, roast until it's falling apart. Remove roast from oven & transfer to a large platter. Allow the meat to rest for about 10 minutes. While still warm, take 2 forks & 'pull' the meat to form shreds. Keep warm until ready to assemble tortillas.
Orange Guava Sauce
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion in 1 Tbsp olive oil until tender. Add water (or wine), frozen orange juice concentrate, soy sauce, spices & cubed guava paste. Bring to a boil; reduce the heat slightly & continue to boil gently until mixture reduces slightly. In a cup, combine cornstarch & water & add to sauce continuing to cook about 2-3 minutes more. Taste to see if any spice adjustments are needed.
To Assemble
  1. During the roasting time of the meat, prepare avocados, red onion, cilantro leaves, lime wedges. Drain canned black beans (if using) so they are ready to warm at serving time.
  2. When everything is ready, lay out warm tortillas, top with pulled pork, avocado slices, black beans, red onion, cilantro & drizzle with warm orange guava sauce. Fold or roll tortilla & enjoy!
Recipe Notes
  • If you would rather not have the corn tortillas, cook some rice to serve with pulled pork. Spoon sauce over the meat & serve it with the sliced avocados, red onion & black beans.

Kahlua Marinated Fruit

It’s summer and there’s nothing better than the simple sweetness of fresh fruit. Barbecues are the highlight of the season and no doubt you will be making numerous ‘cool’ desserts.

I realize fruit marinated in alcohol is not for just any barbecue but if it fits the occasion, it adds a nice finishing touch.

Marinating fruit in alcohol is nothing new. Many cuisines have special recipes that include dried fruits such as raisins, currants and prunes. You can create endless combinations using fresh fruit with wine, spirits or liqueurs. Of course, the added bonus is this dessert does not require you to turn on the oven.

This simple fruit salad uses Kahlua in the marinade. Fruit is thirsty stuff and will soak up basically any kind of wine or liqueur you chose to pour over it. Put together your own personal ‘magical’ concoction and enjoy!

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Kahlua Marinated Fruit
Instructions
  1. Cut up an assortment of fresh fruits. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar & kahlua; fold into fruit & allow to marinate for about an hour before serving.
Recipe Notes
  • Estimate about 1 3/4 cups fruit per person.
  • Fruit choices could include:
  • Pineapple, Mango, Papaya, Kiwi, Strawberries, Plums, Star Fruit, Grapes, Cherries, Apricots,  Peaches, Oranges & Tangerines

Baked Seafood Stuffed Avocados

Very often when you browse through ideas for preparing avocados the comment is made that they should never be cooked. Avocados are most often eaten raw, chopped up in a salad, spread on toast or made into guacamole. This is usually because they can very quickly become bitter once heated. However, if cooked just right, they are delicious.

Roasting avocados is more of an art than a science. If you choose to roast slices, adding some oil, garlic or chili powder with a little salt and pepper helps to draw out the natural flavor. If you want to slice them in half and remove the seed, you can add any number of fillings. Just bake and enjoy, knowing that the flesh just next to the skin, is the most nutritious part of the fruit.

These crab and shrimp filled avocados make an extraordinary Sunday or special occasion brunch entree. If you like avocados and seafood, this one’s for you!

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Baked Seafood Stuffed Avocados
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice & pit avocados. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients; mix well.
  2. Spoon the mixture equally on top of each avocado half. Place in a glass 9 X 13-inch baking dish or 4 individual servings dishes. Make sure your avocados will not tip over during baking time. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked. Serve immediately.

Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones

What to call it — an omelette, frittata or quiche? While this trinity of brunch egg dishes all contain eggs, the preparation methods vary. All are delicious but here’s what defines them.

The traditional French omelette contains eggs, a splash of water and a pinch of salt and pepper. The briskly whipped eggs are cooked in clarified butter then turned out of the pan when still a little custardy and unset. These (colorless) omelettes are rolled up like a business letter and served with only a few herbs. In North America, we seem to want to ‘clean out the fridge’ so to speak, adding just about anything and everything. This version is cooked until mostly dry on top and golden on the bottom. As a rule, they are folded over once, then served.

Frittatas are generally thicker than omelettes. The ingredients are mixed in, instead of sprinkled on. While started on the stove, sometimes they are finished under the broiler then served in slices like a pie.

Quiche, on the other hand, is a savory custard baked in a pastry crust or a potato crust. Quiche gets its richness from the addition of whole milk, half & half or even heavy cream. Just to add another twist to the mix — enter the ‘crustless quiche-omelette’.

This particular meal at our house, was one of those ‘clean out the fridge’ ideas that turned out absolutely wonderful. I had posted the salmon/dill scones on a blog a number of years ago. They made an ideal compliment for this meal.

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Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones
Instructions
Baked Omelette
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a deep pie plate with cooking spray.
  2. In a skillet, saute bacon until cooked but not real crisp; dry on paper towel & crumble. Add onions, mushrooms & garlic to skillet, sauteing in bacon drippings until tender crisp. Chop tomato & 1 avocado. Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt & pepper. Add all prepared ingredients; gently stir.
  3. Pour mixture into pie plate distributing evenly. Bake 35-40 minutes, rotating once half way through. Let omelette cool for 5 minutes. Top with remaining sliced avocado & serve.
Salmon/Dill Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners. In a bowl, mix together flour & baking powder. Add grated cheese, smoked salmon & dill. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk & oil.
  2. Place half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & stir well. Then add the rest of the wet ingredients & mix until completely combined. Spoon into paper liners until each is filled halfway, then place a heaping tsp of cream cheese in the middle of each scone. Divide the rest of the batter between the 8 cups.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan & continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until scones are just browning on top & test done.

Rice Flour Crepes with Black Beans & Guacamole

Due to the fact that rice flour pairs perfectly with taco-worthy fillings such as avocado, beans, cheese etc. gave me inspiration for this meal. This flour is a staple of South east Asia, Japan & India. Rice flour or rice powder is very different from rice starch, which is produced by steeping rice in a strong alkaline solution.

The technique of frying with rice flour has become universal. Rice absorbs less oil than other flours while frying, resulting in fewer calories from fat and a less oily product. Even many fast food restaurants dust their french fries with rice flour to give them that characteristic, satisfying crunch. By blending traditional wheat or cornstarch batters with rice flour will lighten the batter up and reduces some of the ‘gumminess’.

Rice flour is well suited to crepes but it is important to make them in thin, crisp rounds. If they are too thick the most likely they will crack if you are wrapping filling inside.

The recipe I’m using for my crepe stacks is pretty much a basic crepe recipe with rice flour substituted for all purpose flour. For the classic Asian rice ‘crepe’, coconut milk and turmeric are generally used.

This combination of flavors was very interesting. The recipe seems kind of long but it comes together fairly quickly. It certainly will be a ‘keeper’ for us.

Print Recipe
Rice Flour Crepes with Black Beans & Guacamole
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia, Mexican
Servings
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, Asia, Mexican
Servings
Instructions
Rice Flour Crepes
  1. In a pitcher, whisk all ingredients together until smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes while preparing the rest of the recipe.
Crepe Filling
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add turkey; stir-fry until no longer pink. Stir in water chestnuts, carrot, cilantro, garlic, apricot preserve, soy sauce, ginger & red pepper flakes. Remove from heat & set aside.
Guacamole
  1. In a bowl, coarsely mash avocados, lime juice, salt, garlic, onion & cilantro with a fork. Cover & refrigerate until ready to use.
Black Beans
  1. In a bowl, combine all ingredients except chicken broth (or water). In a food processor, pulse 1/2 cup of the mixture with broth until smooth. Add to mixture in bowl & stir to combine well.
  2. Heat griddle to a medium-high temperature. Using a 1/4 measure, pour batter on griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup measure, enlarge crepe by making circular motion in the batter. Cook each crepe for about 2 minutes until bottom is lightly browned. Lay on a plate until ready to use making sure not to let them dry out.
Assembly
  1. On each serving plate lay one crepe. Spread each with some of the guacamole, top each with some of the turkey filling, black beans, diced fresh tomato & a sprinkle of smoked Gouda cheese. Repeat with 2 more layers on each plate. End with a swirl of guacamole for some eye appeal. Serve extra beans on the side if you wish.

Lemon Pepper Shortbread Cookies

Grinding pepper over our savory meals is very much the ‘norm’, but when you add it to sweet desserts it preforms a strange chemistry, especially against a mellow backdrop of vanilla.

Adding flavor to cuisines of all nations, black pepper is the most widely produced and popular spice in the world. Pound for pound, it is also the least expensive spice.

Contrary to popular belief, pepper is not intended to be used like salt. Although, it holds a special spot right beside the salt on our dinner tables, it is not a flavor enhancer but rather a spice.

There is a distinct and undeniable earthiness to the flavor of black pepper, one that is biting, hot, piney, pungent, woody and sharp all at the same time.

Using pepper in baked goods or sprinkling it on fresh fruit is not exactly a new idea. Gingerbread and pfeffernuse have long been spiced with pepper. No matter how you use black pepper, its a spice of grand proportions.

These ‘pepper’ cookies are real handy since you can freeze them and ‘slice & bake’ when needed. The flavor combo is exceptional.

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Lemon Pepper Shortbread Cookies
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Course dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a bowl, cream butter, sugar & vanilla until light & creamy.
  2. In another bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, lemon zest & spices.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with the milk. Combine only until incorporated. Turn dough out onto a work surface & divide in half. Roll each portion into a log about 1 1/2-inch in diameter. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap & refrigerate until firm ... at least 2 hours or freeze until needed.
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the plastic wrap & slice into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Place on baking sheet & bake for 6 minutes, rotate pan & continue baking for an additional 6 minutes. The edges of the cookies will be firm, but the tops will be soft. Cool on a wire rack.

Tortilla Crepe Stacks

To some of us, Mexican food terms get a little confusing. I mean there is the taco, burrito, quesadilla, enchilada and taquito just to name a few. Before anything, one needs to know what a tortilla is. Simply put, it is wheat or corn plain bread that is used as a wrapping material around different types of filling ingredients to make the various Mexican dishes. 

Masa Harina is a traditional flour used to make corn tortillas and tamales as well as other Mexican meals. To make masa harina, field corn (or maize) is dried and then treated in a solution of lime and water called slaked lime (or wood-ash lye). This loosens the hulls from the kernels and softens the corn. In addition, the lime reacts with the corn so that the nutrient niacin can be assimilated by the digestive tract.

The soaked maize is then washed, and the wet corn is ground into a dough called masa. It is this fresh masa, when dried and powdered, that becomes masa harina. Water is added again to make dough for the corn tortillas or tamales.

Cornmeal and masa harina are very different preparations of corn. Do not try to substitute cornmeal or regular wheat flour in recipes calling for masa harina as they will not produce the same results.

Today, I want to make some tortilla crepe stacks. Crepes as we all know, have always been a hallmark of French cuisine. So the question is, ‘how did they come to be in Mexican cuisine’? In the 1860’s, French forces invaded Mexico. They came, they conquered, they cooked and then they got kicked out. Cinco de Mayo commemorates that victory for Mexico from 1862. However, it took another five years before the French left Mexico for good. During their stay, the French left their mark on the country’s cuisine.

One of the reasons I have always loved crepes, is that they are so easy to make and taste so good. You can either roll the filling inside or just stack them with their fillings and make a ‘cake’.

These tortilla crepes are made with half masa harina and half white flour. Next, I made a mushroom rice & barley pilaf and some guacamole. You can pick and choose when it comes to the extra filling add-ons. I guess it did get a bit more involved but worth it —.


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Tortilla Crepe Stacks


Instructions
Tortilla Crepes
  1. In a blender, beat eggs with milk & oil. Gradually add masa harina, white flour & salt, beat until smooth. Allow to stand for 1 hour or longer. Heat an electric griddle to 350 F. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter onto griddle. With bottom of 1/4 cup, make circles in the batter, gradually enlarge to size of tortilla you wish to make. I made 3 for each crepe stack. Cook each crepe for a few minutes on each side then remove to a wire cooling rack.

Rice & Barley Pilaf
  1. In a saucepan, saute onion, garlic & mushrooms until tender crisp. Add chicken broth & bring to a boil. Add all remaining pilaf ingredients & reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until barley & rice are cooked & liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; place in a dish & set aside to cool.

Guacamole
  1. Mince onion & sun-dried tomatoes & mash avocados. In a small bowl, combine avocados, onion, sun-dried tomatoes, & remaining guacamole ingredients. Blend well, cover & refrigerate.

Crepe Stack Fillings
  1. Cook chicken & shred, Grate cheese & prepare all filling ingredients.

Assembly
  1. Spread 4 tortillas with guacamole, reserving a bit for 'decorating' the top of each stack. Over the guacamole, put a layer of rice/barley pilaf. Top each of them with chicken, green peppers, olives, corn, red onion, fresh tomatoes, zucchini, black beans & a sprinkling of cheese. On 2 serving plates, place one filled tortilla topped by a second one. Complete each stack with another corn tortilla. 'Decorate' each with remaining guacamole, salsa, sour cream & remaining cheese. Heat each crepe stack for a few minutes in the microwave before serving.