Baked Pizza Chicken and Cheesy Garlic Bread
“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)
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.
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.
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.
Simplest Salad with Go-to Vinaigrette: (Serves 4)
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)
Preparing your brownies:
-Follow the directions on the box. Mix in peanut butter chips before baking. You can do it!
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