Baked Pizza Chicken and Cheesy Garlic Bread

October 17, 2012 | | | |

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“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” -Brian Tracy

I’m not the greatest with kids. So, when Logan asked me last week if I would cook dinner for Daniel, the high school student that he mentors, I was a little hesitant. However, I’ve heard a lot of great things about Daniel over the past year, and the Student Sponsors program that Logan is involved with is pretty amazing. (I love a guy that is good with kids and devotes time to community service!) So, even though I was nervous about having Daniel over, I agreed to make dinner because I am a supportive roommate/girlfriend. I also recognize that I should probably work on my child-interaction skills.

The night before the dinner I asked Logan what he thought we should have, to which he responded, “I don’t know, whatever you want! I already told him you’re a professional chef!” I mean, I am, but that terminology puts a LOT of pressure on me.* What on earth was I going to make for this kid? Chicken fingers? Hot dogs? Spaghetti? More importantly what would I give him to drink? Milk? Apple juice? Luckily, a friend of mine pointed out that he’s a high school senior, not a picky six-year old. Ugh, back to the drawing board.

Adding to my stress, Daniel was coming at 6:30pm. You don’t exactly have the luxury of slaving for hours when you’re serving an early bird special. And since it would be both illegal and inappropriate to have cocktail hour, I wasn’t even going to be able to buy myself any extra time. I needed something I could make relatively quickly but that still lived up to my “professional chef” status. So I decided to make one of my favorite meals: Baked Pizza Chicken with Cheesy Garlic Bread and Simple Salad. Followed by Peanut Butter Chip Brownies. (Yes, I baked. The fact that they were from a box is irrelevant.)


I am happy to report that dinner was a success. Daniel is a very bright, interesting guy and we had a great conversation about colleges, sports, family, and cooking.  Maybe I’m not as bad with kids as I thought!** Oh, and I pretty much nailed it with the menu choice. Daniel loved it, and so will you. It’s quick, delicious, and fun for all ages. Trust me, I’m a professional.

*Here is where I remind you of the Le Cordon Bleu medal and paper chef’s hat in my possession.

**Okay, so he’s not really a kid. But everyone has to start somewhere!

Baked Pizza Chicken: (Serves 4)

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½ inch thickness (Or buy thinly sliced chicken cutlets)
8 oz/1 medium-sized ball fresh mozzarella
6-8 slices pepperoni or genoa salami
4 ½ tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large zucchini
1 large sweet onion
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
For the Tomato Sauce:
14 oz can diced tomatoes
28 oz can tomato puree
½ yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
2 tsp sugar
Salt to taste


Preparing your tomato sauce:  

-Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a pan. Add minced garlic and onions and sauté over medium-low heat for about five minutes (until the onions become translucent).


-Add the diced tomatoes, puree, oregano, chili flakes, and sugar. Mix well and allow the sauce to come to a boil. Lower heat until the sauce is just simmering. Allow it to simmer for a half hour. If you don’t have a half hour (I didn’t), let it simmer for at least five minutes. Salt to taste.


Optional: Puree sauce in a blender. I like a smooth tomato sauce, but if you like a little texture, you can skip this step! Whatevs.

*This is my go to tomato sauce for everything. It tastes great on pizza, pasta, fish, and even with eggs. Go wild.

Preparing your chicken:

*If you need to thin out your chicken breasts: Place chicken between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound it with a rolling pin or side of a cleaver (or wine bottle) until it is about ½ inch thick.

-Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.

-Add a tbsp of olive oil to a grill pan (or a regular pan if you don’t have a grill pan, obviously). Grill/sauté the chicken until cooked through, about 3 minutes on each side.


Preparing your vegetables:

-Slice your onions and bell peppers into thin slices. Slice zucchini into ½ inch rounds.

*I find it easiest to cook each vegetable separately using the same pan (I hate washing pans).

-Heat two tbsp olive oil in a pan and add the onions with a pinch of salt. Saute until onions are tender and translucent. About 15 minutes. Remove from pan.

-In the same pan, add ½ tbsp olive oil and the zucchini with a pinch of salt. Saute until just tender, about 8  minutes. Remove from pan.

-Add ½ tbsp olive oil and the peppers to the pan. Saute until just tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from pan.


Assembling your pizza chicken:

-Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.

-Layer the vegetables in baking pan or dutch oven: start with the onions, then zucchini, then peppers. Place the chicken on top.


-Cover everything with tomato sauce. Add the pepperoni/salami and then add ¼ thick slices of mozzarella. (At this point, feel free to refrigerate this and bake later/the next day! Sneaky time-saver.)


-Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until everything is heated through and the cheese is completely melted. Marvel at the deliciousness.

Cheesy Garlic Bread: (Serves 4)

This bread will make you VERY popular.
1 small loaf crusty bread
4 large garlic cloves, minced
4 tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
2 heaping tbsp parmesan
2 heaping tbsp mozzarella
½ tsp dried oregano


Preparing your garlic bread:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

-Combine minced garlic, olive oil, and salt in a small bowl. Allow the mixture to sit for about ten minutes to soften garlic.

-Slice the loaf of bread in half. Spread each half with half of the garlic oil.


-Place bread in a baking pan and bake for 5-7 minutes until lightly toasted.

-Sprinkle each half with 1 heaping tbsp each of parmesan and mozzarella and ¼ tsp oregano.


-Switch your oven to broil and place your bread underneath it for about 3 minutes or until the cheese has melted and started to bubble.

-Slice and serve! BOOM. Major crowd pleaser.


Simplest Salad with Go-to Vinaigrette: (Serves 4)

½ red onion, finely sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
For the Vinaigrette:
2 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Olive oil
½ shallot finely minced
1 garlic clove finely minced
Salt and pepper to taste



Preparing your salad:

-Combine Mesclun, finely sliced onion, and halved cherry tomatoes. Duh.

Preparing your vinaigrette:

In a small bowl combine all ingredients and mix well. OR if you have a small container with a lid, add all ingredients and shake. Easy? Easy.

*Add vinaigrette to salad just before serving and toss. I’m sure you knew that.

Fudge Brownies with peanut butter chips: (Serves 4-16, depending on your level of gluttony)

1 box Duncan Hines Fudge Brownie Mix
2 eggs
¼ water
¾ cup vegetable oil

Preparing your brownies:

-Follow the directions on the box. Mix in peanut butter chips before baking. You can do it!

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