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THE BEST BBQ Chicken Pizza EVER.

So I dont mean to over-talk this pizza up to such big proportions, but seriously, if you were ever a fan of the whole bbq-style chicken pizza craze, this Oh SO good.
*OK, theres kind of a lot of steps to this, so read through thoroughly before embarking on this adventure!*

This particular time, I used Trader Joes' whole wheat pizza crust... (but it's also very worth your time to make your own) also, I rolled it out slightly thinner than the instructions on the package directed, brushed it with garlic butter and pre-baked it til it was just slightly browned. 

And  because I'm just weird like I am, I have pre-cooked & portioned, shredded chicken in my freezer, ready to just be warmed through... Although most of you arent like me,  it's quick to prep the chicken for this pizza- just poach a couple of chix breasts with some roughly chopped celery ribs, onion, carrot and garlic, as well as bay leaves, peppercorns and a couple dried hot chilies in simmering water until done. Let sit until cool enough to shred. Set aside.

 So then:
Thinly slice 1 medium sweet potato. Toss the slices with a little olive oil, salt & pepper, and then grill the potatoes in a cast iron grill pan, turning over to crsip both sides, and then set aside. While the pan is still hot, grill 1 green bell pepper, cut into long strips, turning until lightly charred. Let cool and roughly chop. Set aside.

THEN, in another medium pan, caramelize 1 large yellow onion in butter on med-low until lightly browned, about 20 minutes, stirring often. Set aside.

Chop 1/4 lb. smoked bacon into 1/2 inch pieces. In a medium pan, fry the bacon 'bits' until crispy. (aka 'lardons') Remove and drain on paper towel lined plate. Set aside, reserving the grease and the pan:
   take the cooked shredded chicken and saute it in the leftover bacon grease, toss a bottle of Ken Davis in and heat through.

Shredded Mozzerella, Cheddar (1-2 cups each) and Blue Cheese crumbles (about 1c)
1/2 c thinly sliced scallions
2 T. Fresh chopped parsley
1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Lay sweet potato slices around the pre-baked crust. Spread reserved caramelized onions, grilled green peppers and lardons over potatoes. Top with the shredded chicken and bbq sauce from pan. Sprinkle the three cheeses, scallions, parsley and pepper flakes over top and bake until cheese is melted and lightly browned...



Pesto... in February??

...when Trader Joes is involoved  :)
...I bought three of their big packs of basil- probably about 2c. per pack...
Since pesto is really a simple process, with few ingredients, make sure you use high quality olive oil, pine nuts and cheese... it makes all the difference in the world!!

1c pine nuts, toasted (300 degrees for about 12 minutes)
8 cloves garlic
1c. high quality parmesan, finely grated (about 1/2 - 2/3 lb.)
6c. basil, washed and spun dry
8 T lemon juice, from about 3 lemons
1c olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1/2 c water

Put first 3 ingredients into food processor (alternatively use a blender) & process until paste-y. Feed basil leaves through chute with processor/blender running, alternating with the lemon juice and olive oil until incorporated. Season with the salt and pepper and add water until mixed through.
Spoon into ice cube trays and freeze about 5 hours. Transfer to a freezer bag or tupperware and store up to 6 months (if it even lasts that long!!)  ...OR use right away, fresh from the blender!


Making 'meringues' has never been my strong suit... its always been a yolk contamination issue or I over beat and break the whites. dont forget under/over baking them etc... They're tricky little buggers. After countless trials and errors over the years, I finally got my touch with this recipe & was happy when I got the OK to make them for the Ely Art Walk open house this weekend... You can really alter this as a base and make any flavor combo you like:
vanilla/raspberry/cherry/orange/mint-chocolate, or exchange the cocoa powder for all powdered sugar and make plain vanilla, etc... you can also add food coloring too- have fun!

*Preheat oven to 300 degrees*

2c confectioner's sugar
1/2 c. cocoa powder (or powdered sugar, if making vanilla etc)
2 T cornstarch

8 large egg whites, at room temp
1/2 t. cream of tartar
1 c granulated sugar
1 t vanilla, mint, any flavor extract...

luster dust or melted chocolate, etc for decorating- optional...
Sift together the first 3 ingredients. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 4 minutes. Add granulated sugar, one tablespoon at a a time until incorporated. Beat on high until stiff, shiny peaks form. Add extract and food coloring, if using.
Gently fold the powdered sugar mix into the meringue. Fill 16" disposable frosting bag with meringue batter. (Use whichever shape/size tip you like, I used a plain one)
((this is what my arm felt like after doing 200 little blobs!))

Pipe the batter on to parchment-lined cookie sheets, about 1" apart. Bake 8 minutes and then reduce oven temp to 200 degrees. Bake 1 hour further. Let cool 1 hour more.

Decorate or leave plain. Eat alone or use in a fruit trifle   :)