Family-Style: Build Your Own Pizza

Last season of Top Chef, we started a tradition of “Family Dinners” at my house to watch each week’s episode along with a home-cooked meal! Tom, Dre, & Lex were the regulars at last season’s dinners, but couldn’t be happier to add Sarah to this year’s season. She brought along her homemade pizza dough for the return of Top Chef AND the return of “Build Your Own Pizza Night,” my favorite dinner theme!

The original plan was to do grilled pizzas, but after a summer of cooking and roasting Grape Tomatoes (via The Bitten Word’s amazing recipe) & Yellow Bell Peppers for pizza toppings, my grill ran out of gas. At least we always have the oven for back-up. I also prepared sauteed Zucchini, Chicken Andouille Sausage, Crab Meat, & Creole Shrimp, along with shredded Mozzarella, Smoked Gouda, Asiago, & Ricotta Cheeses, as topping options. Can’t forget some tomato sauce, as well! We all got to loading our shells with Dre opting for a Crab White Pizza & Tom piling on just about everying!

We were 3 episodes behind with all of our busy schedules, so we got together on a Thursday night to cook & recap via the DVR while the pizzas baked to perfection…

Dres Crab White Pizza - Pre-Baked

Dre's Crab White Pizza - Pre-Baked

My Pizza w/ the works

My Pizza w/ the works

Build Your Own Pizza Night

Homemade Pizza Dough a la Sarah

Roasted Tomatoes, Yellow Bell Peppers, & Zucchini

Chicken Andoille Sausage

Crab Meat

Creole Shrimp

Mozzarella, Smoked Gouda, Asiago, & Ricotta

Fresh Basil & Lemon-Thyme

Family-Style: Spicy BBQ Slow Cooked Pulled Chicken Sammies

I couldn’t wait to cook for my mom, as she made the trek all the way from beautiful Hawaii to visit Ker & I. Nothing is more comforting after a long travel (especially 3 flights & 14+ hours later) than a home cooked meal. The night before her arrival, I decided to dig out the ol’ Crock Pot. I usually rely on it to keep me warm during the winter months, but I had 6 chicken split-breasts waiting for a simmer.

I’d estimate that I make some version of pulled chicken in my Crock Pot about 4x each year, but never the quite the same recipe. This round, I took a Spicy BBQ approach for some summery flair.I tossed all the ingredients into the pot and set in the fridge with a can of chopped tomatoes on top so I wouldn’t forget to add in the morning. At 830am, I turned the Crock Pot on ‘Lo’ and headed to work. I love coming home to the aroma of a 9-hour simmer! Ker picked the bones out (a scorching & tedious task) & pulled the chicken. It simmered for another hour so the flavors could fully infuse.

I melted sharp cheddar on Whole Foods Onion Focaccia flat-breads, topped with leftover warmed collard greens, & a healthy pile of my Spicy BBQ Slowed Cooked Pull Chicken. I paired the plate with a Summer Roasted Vegetable Salad that I quick prepared the night before and finished with Rice Vinegar & Fresh Herbs before serving.

I always make a ton of chicken when I’m working with my Crock Pot. It works well on sandwiches, tortillas, quesadillas, salads, pizzas, inside a spring roll, & over rice to serve as extended leftovers. Get creative! I freeze a portion of every batch, too, to enjoy on a lazy dinner night!

BBQ Spicy Pulled Chicken, Melted Cheddar, Collard Greens, & Onion Focaccia w/ Roasted Summer Vegetable Salad

BBQ Spicy Pulled Chicken, Melted Cheddar, Collard Greens, & Onion Focaccia w/ Roasted Summer Vegetable Salad

Spicy BBQ Chicken Sammies w/ Summer Roasted Vegetable Salad:

Spicy BBQ Slow Cooked Pulled Chicken – BBQ Sauce, Soy Sauce, Worcestershire, Shallots, Garlic, Jalapeno, Olive Oil, Chili Powder & a Can of Chopped Tomatoes, marinated overnight & slow cooked in the Crock Pot for 10 hours

Whole Foods Onion Focaccia Flat Breads

Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Leftover Collard Greens from my Grilled Crab Dinner

Roasted Summer Vegetable Salad – Roasted Yellow Squash, Cherry Tomatoes, & Sweet Peppers w/ Minced Garlic & EVOO, cooled & tossed w/ S&P Lemon-Thyme, Thai Basil, Parsley, & Rice Vinegar

Only regret is forgetting to add chipotles to the chicken. It really could have used a some smokey, spicier layers. Til next time…

To Taste: Grilled Snow Crab Legs

Wasn’t too long ago that I was just sayin’ that you shouldn’t grill in the dark… especially crab legs. So I took another stab at grilled snow crab legs for a Sunday late-lunch/early-dinner with Dre. I decided to get all the sides started before I threw the crabbiness on the grill, so I could give it my undivided attention.

Earlier that week, I bought 2 large bunches of Collard Greens from the Italian Market. It was alot of greens for only $2! I rinsed & chopped them before sauteing in garlic, shallots, EVOO, & butter and simmering in chicken stock. I didn’t have any turkey bacon on hand as a usual ingredient in my greens, so just settled for some Sriracha & Worcestshire to jazz it up. I STILL had Grape Tomatoes from my Spicy Fish Tacos & Avocado-Salad and Sweet Peppers from my Mexi-Risotto, so I tossed them into a Rice-a-Roni Spanish Rice Mix.

Dre whipped up a batch of Cornbread using trusty ol’ Jiffy mix. We tossed in some sliced jalapenos & the leftover sweet peppers, and sprinkled with shredded sharp cheddar halfway thru the baking process. With the greens sauteing, rice simmering, & cornbread baking, it was time for crab!

After a few knife pokes, a brush of butter, & 5 minutes on each side, we had ourselves a summer afternoon feast. Oh, and MOJITOS! After some experimenting, Dre mixed up a perfectly refreshing batch using Apple Mint from my garden.

Grilled Crab Legs, Spanish Rice, Collard Greens, Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread, & an Apple Mint Mojito

Grilled Crab Legs, Spanish Rice, Collard Greens, Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread, & an Apple Mint Mojito

Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread

Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread - Photo: Dre

Grape Tomatoes

Grape Tomatoes

Fresh Collard Greens from the Italian Market

Fresh Collard Greens from the Italian Market

Summer Grilled Crab Feast:

Grilled Snow Crab Legs – Brushed in butter before grilling, dipped in Butter after

Sauteed Collard Greens – Wilted w/ Shallots, Garlic, & Olive Oil, simmered in Chicken Stock w/ S&P, Worcestershire, Dried Herbs, & Sriracha

Spanish Rice – Sauteed Garlic, Sweet Peppers, & Grape Tomatoes added to Rice-a-Roni Spanish Rice

Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread – Sauteed Sweet Peppers & Jalapeno added to Jiffy mix, topped w/ Shredded Sharp Cheddar

Classic Mojito w/ Apple Mint from my Garden

Leftover Lightning! Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp Lettuce Wraps!

Portioning is definitely not my forte when it comes to cooking… but who can deny leftovers! With my Spicy Fish Taco dinner, I went a bit overboard with the Mexi-Risotto! I also had an avocado, grape tomatoes, romaine, & green onion to use at their peak freshness. I defrosted some U-30 shrimp and made the tastiest Sweet & Spicy Garlic Sauce (recipe via Big Oven) to toss them in! I added some extra water in the end as the result was a bit too sticky for me, but I’ll def be keeping this simple recipe in my back pocket & suggest you do too! Next time I may just make the sauce & pour it over rice (or drink it straight)!

I wasn’t sure about the blend of flavors once I combined all of my lettuce wrap ingredients, but they meshed perfectly!

Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp Lettuce Wraps:

Sweet & Spicy Garlic Shrimp – U-30 Shrimp tossed in this amazing & easy Big Oven Recipe

Leftover Mexi-Risotto

Tomato-Avocado Salsa – Leftover Avocado, Grape Tomatoes, & Green Onion w/ Lime Juice & S&P – made by Dre

Whole Romaine Leaves

To Taste: Spicy Fish Tacos & Mexi-Risotto

One of my favorite quick & economical meals is Spicy Fish Tacos. Acme offers frozen Tilapia fillets in single portions at $1.00 apiece, so my freezer is always stocked with the easy to defrost packets. Summer hosts the best vegetables so fresh avocado, grape tomatoes, romaine, & green onion were mandatory additions! I had a bit more time on my hands on this quiet Sunday evening, so I had no qualms spending a bit more time in the kitchen pairing it with a Sweet Pepper & Cheddar Risotto. Thank goodness for Dre, my handsome kitchen assistant, as he took on the tiring task of continually stirring the rice.

Spicy Fish Tacos w/ Mexi-Risotto

Spicy Fish Tacos w/ Mexi-Risotto

Spicy Tilapia, Grape Tomatoes, Romaine, Green Onion, & Flour Tortillas

Spicy Tilapia, Grape Tomatoes, Romaine, Green Onion, & Flour Tortillas

Spicy Fish Tacos & Mex-Risotto:

Spicy Tilapia Fillets – Marinated in Sazon, Sriracha, Garlic, Shallots, & Lime Juice, Pan-Fried

Flour Tortillas

Mexi-Risotto – Red, Orange & Yellow Sweet Peppers, Cheddar, Garlic, Shallots, Chicken Stock, & Arborio

Quickie: Whipped by Potatoes

I LOVE LOVE LOVE mashed potatoes, but not the starchy process of peeling, chopping, & boiling the tubers. The best parts are using my prized Cuisinart Stand Mixer and, of course, eating them!

Whipped Potatoes w/ Fresh Herbs via my Cuisinart Stand Mixer

Whipped Potatoes w/ Fresh Herbs via my Cuisinart Stand Mixer

I kept the rest of my dinner quick with the entree & side:

Balsamic-Glazed Chicken Breast – Marinated in Italian Salad Dressing & Balsamic Vinegar, Pan-fried

Fresh Snow Peas – Sauteed w/ S&P, Shallots, Garlic, EVOO, & Butter

Whipped Potatoes – White Potatoes, Whipped w/ S&P, Lemon-Thyme, Parsley, Basil, Garlic, Shallots, Milk, & BUTTER! in my Cuininart Stand Mixer

A tall glass of Dr. Dre-2O

Balsamic-Glazed Chicken Breast, Sauteed Snow Peas, & a Mountain of Whipped Potatoes

Balsamic-Glazed Chicken Breast, Sauteed Snow Peas, & Whipped Potatoes