I’ve been writing for a long time, eating for longer, and cooking for somewhere in between the two, but never before thought to combine them…until a close college friend started bugging me to share the recipes that my fiance and I consider staples. The problem is that we rarely cook from recipes…they’re more inspiration. As an admittedly Type A person, cooking is an opportunity to break outside the box–sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. The things that don’t are often given to the dog.
In April of 2012 both my fiance D and I went vegetarian cold-turkey— no pun intended. Out went the meat and in came the fresh produce, the challenge of adapting old favorites, and the satisfaction of knowing we could eat healthy, delicious, and unpretentious meals without meat. Throwing dinner together these days isn’t as simple as picking a meat, starch, and a vegetable but we’ve found it’s infinitely more gratifying.
When you have limited protein sources, it’s important to plan ahead so that your ingredients work together to make a cohesive meal and so your weekly menus have some diversity. Both D and I work full time jobs with ‘normal’ hours…and don’t often get home to discuss dinner until it’s already time to eat. Our go-to technique is to sit down over the weekend and menu-plan. Based on our schedule for the week, we determine which meals we’ll make each night– the nights I work later, D is in charge of getting dinner started so I can walk in the door and help finish things, whereas the days my workload is lighter, I love nothing more than coming home and cooking together. Planning in advance lets us grocery shop for what we need so we’re not scrambling after work and it helps ensure we’re not bored with eating the same leftovers night after night out of exhaustion.
Tonight could have gone very well….or been one of those days we resort to our go-to-staple of instant mac and cheese with edamame (to be discussed in another post–I promise it’ll win you over). D, a teacher, is off for the summer and among his list of things to do today was to figure out our dinner for tonight. I had honestly forgotten about it until I got home, but was pleasantly surprised to see that he had figured out a way to incorporate some of the yellow squash that’s been sitting on our counter since I picked it this weekend– it grows faster than we can eat it!
BBQ Chik’n Pizza
1 pre-made whole wheat pizza dough (we like Trader Joes’ or Harris Teeter’s)
your favorite barbeque sauce (we like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
1/4 of a small red onion, julienned
1 medium yellow squash, cut into thin rounds
frozen chik’n strips (we use MorningStar)
shredded cheddar cheese
shredded mozzerella cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and make sure your oven rack is set in the middle of the oven. Lightly oil your cookie sheet with either olive oil or a pressurized oil spray like PAM. Cut your red onion into thin strips and put into a small bowl with some ice water and set aside–briefly soaking the onion will pull out some of the harsh onion flavor. Put some flour on a clean countertop or cutting board, lightly flour the pizza dough, and stretch it out until it fills the size of a cookie sheet; we used our largest sheet (17.25 inches by 11.5 inches) and the dough fit perfectly, but depending on your cookie sheet you may want to use less dough and set the rest aside for monkey bread, breadsticks, garlic bread, etc.
Spread the barbeque sauce evenly across the pizza dough, then sprinkle cheese on top– a ratio of twice as much mozzerella compared to the cheddar. Top the cheese with the onions (it shouldn’t have to be said, but pull them out of the water first!) and the squash rounds, then the chik’n strips. Finish with a light sprinkle of both mozzerella and cheddar cheese, then some cilantro, and finally with a light mist of PAM. Stick in the oven for 6-7 minutes, pull out and rotate the cookie sheet 180 degrees, then cook another 6-7 minutes or until the cheese is melted and lightly brown.
Reaction: This was by far the best homemade pizza we’ve made and will be repeated often this summer. The sweetness of the barbeque sauce was perfect against the tang of the onion and the creaminess of the cheeses, and in pizza you really don’t notice a difference between the whole wheat pizza and a white dough. The squash was a sneaky way to add veggies to an otherwise ‘unhealthy’ pizza, and if you haven’t tried fake chicken strips yet, you should—the first time I had them was in a chik’n tortilla soup and I thought I’d been tricked into eating chicken! The texture is uncanny and in something like this, you honestly cannot tell the difference– try swapping out poultry for chik’n strips the next time you make this or any other chicken dish.