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Gourmet Pizza in 15 Minutes

10 Jan

Pizza can be much more interesting than the typical American tomato sauce/meat/cheese affair, and it’s pretty easy to make yourself, either with your own homemade crust or with the help of ready-made dough or crusts.  My friend Amy and I used to get together on Friday nights at her apartment, walk to the grocery store (Central Market), and pick up some delectable bites for dinner.  Most of the time we ended up with a few types of salami (my favorite was the finocchiona! It’s made with ground fennel seed!), some brie or some blue cheese, some nuts, fresh and/or dried fruit, garlic-marinated olives or kalamata olives, some wonderful bread from the bakery (Italian white was our favorite–coated in cornmeal and so delicious!), and, of course, some wine.  However, a few times we grabbed some of the ready made pizza crusts from the Central Market bakery.  The crusts are about half-cooked, so you can top them with whatever you want, pop them in the oven, and have dinner in about 10-12 minutes.  They have both personal size and full size crusts.  We made margherita pizza (tomato, basil, and fresh mozzarella), salami/blue cheese/carmelized onion pizza, and probably others I can’t recall right now.  I also used these crusts to make pizzas for an Election Night 2008 party. One was margherita, and the other was a basil pesto and shrimp pizza.  As you can tell, I love these crusts!  They freeze wonderfully, too.  I had one in my freezer, and I made the following pizza with it a few weeks ago.


2 cups fresh, chopped spinach or arugula

1/2 red onion, sliced

4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

1 pizza crust

About 2/3 cup pesto of your choice (I made a pesto myself with sun dried tomatoes, fresh parsley, walnuts, garlic, and olive oil)

Freshly ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to about 375 F.

Spread the pesto over the pizza crust, as if it were tomato sauce.  Top with the spinach, the sliced onion, and the goat cheese.  Bake for about 12 minutes, until the edges are brown.


Butternut Squash Quesadillas with Goat Cheese and Salsa Verde

9 Jan

This is a dish I actually made around Thanksgiving, but I’m a little behind on posting to the blog.  This is part of my effort to catch up!  I was looking for interesting ways to prepare butternut squash.  To be honest, I didn’t much like butternut squash, or any of the winter squashes for that matter, until recently.  I thought…seriously, a lot of people love butternut squash…so maybe I’m just preparing it wrong?  So, to make a long story short, I do in fact really enjoy butternut squash now.  This is one of those dishes that has helped convert me to a squash lover.  I found this on the Austin American Statesman website.  Here is the link.

I made some changes to it, as I usually do.  The biggest difference is that I didn’t include any goat cheese in the green sauce.


1 butternut squash (about 2 lbs)

Olive oil to coat the squash

Whole wheat tortillas

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

4 or 5 tomatillos

3 jalapeno chiles (more or less, depending on how hot (or not) you want the salsa)

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup fresh cilantro

Juice of 1 lime

Goat cheese, crumbled


Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Split the squash in half, rub it with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt.  Put the squash on a cookie sheet or in a glass baking dish.  Bake for about 45 minutes, checking on it after about 25.  When the squash is done, it will be tender, more or less the texture of a cooked potato. It should come out looking about like this:

While the squash is in the oven, make the salsa.  In a skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the chopped tomatillos, onion, garlic, and chiles.  Add about a 1/2 tsp salt and some pepper.  Saute until the vegetables are all tender, around 15 minutes.  Add to a food processor or blender, and add the cilantro, and the lime juice.


Scoop the cooked squash out of the skins with a large spoon.  Mash it with a fork in a medium mixing bowl.  Add a bit of salt, and stir.

Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Heat the tortillas on one side, and once slightly browned, flip.  Then, fill with some squash mixture, and dot with pieces of goat cheese.  Fold to form the quesadilla.  Once the filling is warmed through, remove form the skillet and top with the green sauce.  Yum!