Taco Pizza

Friday, February 24, 2012

A long time ago (in a galaxy far far away...in the midwest) I remember Pizza Hut serving taco pizza. It was one of my favorites. Granted, now I can no longer find it at Pizza Hut but I can make it in my own home. I love this pizza because you can put just about anything you would put on a taco, on top of a pizza. What a great combination! I recently came across a recipe that put some corn meal in the pizza dough and I thought I'd try it out. After the first bite, my husband exclaimed, "This tastes like a Chalupa!". And once again the culinary wheels in my head started turning. Anyway, Chalupas are for later, right now it's time for taco pizza.

Posted by Jen

The Ingredients:
For the dough:

1 c warm water
1/4 c oil (I like Olive oil)
2 1/2 c flour
3/4 c corn meal
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp (or 1 package) yeast

For the taco toppings:
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 c tomato sauce (not pictured, oops)
1 taco seasoning packet OR 2 tsp taco seasoning (or more to taste)
1 4 oz can diced chilies (optional)
2 c shredded cheese (cheddar, Monterey jack, pepper jack, etc)
1 c shredded lettuce
1/2 c (or more) salsa
1/2 c sour cream
1/2 c sliced olives
1 chopped avocado (optional)

OR anything else you like on tacos (refried beans would be great, but my family doesn't like them.

The Directions:
Make your pizza dough as you normally would either in a Kitchenaid, by hand, or by machine. (I used a bread machine on the dough cycle).

While the dough is resting/rising, cook your hamburger with the onion, and spices. (and green chilies if desired) Then add the tomato sauce. (I actually didn't have any tomato sauce so I added some red enchilada sauce!). I also used this opportunity to add in some pureed carrots and spinach so I can sneak more veggies into my family. When the dough is ready roll it out thin and place on your pizza pan. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Poke pizza dough all over with a fork so that it doesn't puff up while baking. (sorry I forgot to take a picture at this point) Bake in oven for about 10 minutes or until lightly brown. Remove and add meat and cheese toppings. (If your family likes refried beans, heat some up and spread it thinly on the bottom of the meat mixture)
When the cheese is melted, remove from oven. Working quickly add the lettuce, salsa, avocados, olives (if you'd like), and sour cream. Serve immediately while still warm. Yum. It looks like a giant taco!


Chocolate Tart

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

If you're looking for a rich, smooth, chocolaty dessert, then look no further. A chocolate tart (tarte au chocolat) is just what you've ordered. Plus it's super easy, especially with Lara's Perfect Pie Crust recipe. I chose to use the chocolate filling recipe from French food at About.com. It looked like the easiest to do! You can make it to impress your friends, or to just savor the deep chocolate taste all by yourself. Serve it with whipped cream, top it with powdered sugar, chocolate curls, or your favorite fruit. It's so versatile.

For Pie Crust:
1 c butter flavored Crisco
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 egg + enough ice water to equal 1/2 c liquid

For the Chocolate filling
1 1/4 c heavy cream
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten

First, follow Lara's recipe for the Perfect Pie Crust. This really is the best pie crust recipe I've come across and I have NEVER had a problem with pies since I discovered it. I have to tell you that I avoided making pies for nearly 10 years because I hated the pie crust process. (I once nearly threw pie dough at the wall in frustration). But not any more! If you don't want to link back to her recipe then here are her instructions: (but I highly recommend checking out the step by step tutorial for how to make it)
1. With a pastry blender (or fork) cut shortening into flour and salt, crisscrossing across the shortening pieces until mostly the size of peas
2. Make the egg/water mixture by placing an egg in a half cup measuring cup, beat the egg slightly with a fork, and add ice water to the top.
3. Make a slight well in the flour/salt/shortening mixture, then add the egg/ice water mixture and stir with fork until just barely clinging together (10-15 seconds at most).
4. Knead with hands for 15-20 seconds just bringing in some of the loose crumbs. Only do this until the dough is just holding together.
5. Refrigerate for a little bit if desired. Roll out onto a floured surface to the size needed for your pan.

I have a removable bottom tart pan. You do not need to have one of these to make this. You can use a regular pie pan if desired. Because a pie pan is deeper than a tart pan you may need to increase the amount of cream to 1 1/2 cups, and use 12 oz of chocolate (ie the entire bag of chocolate chips...minus a few that accidentally fall onto the counter and end up in your mouth)

Place your rolled out dough onto the tart pan.

Take your rolling pin and roll it over the top of the pan while pressing a little, thus cutting off the dough to fit the pan. (Skip this if using a pie pan. Just crimp the edges to make it look nice)

Prick the crust all over with a fork. Cut a square of tin foil slightly larger than the bottom of the pie plate. Form it into a slight bowl shape. Carefully fit it into the bottom of the crust. Place pie weights or dried beans into the foil 'bowl'. Bake for 10-12 minutes in a 425 degree oven.

After the crust comes out of the oven, lower the temperature to 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare your chocolate filling. Heat the cream in a medium pan over medium heat just until simmering. Stir occasionally so the cream doesn't burn or stick on the bottom.
Remove from heat and stir in chocolate. Stir until smooth. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Time to temper the eggs. If you add the beaten eggs to the hot chocolate mixture, your eggs will become scrambled and we don't want that. So you need to bring the beaten eggs up to the chocolate temperature a little at a time. Scoop spoonfuls of the chocolate mixture into the eggs and incorporate well. Keep adding the chocolate and mixing it into the eggs until the eggs reach a temperature that is like the chocolate mixture.

Pour the tempered eggs into the chocolate mixture beating it so it is smooth.

Pour into the baked crust. (I placed mine on a cookie sheet just in case there were spills and to make it easier to transfer to the oven)

Carefully place tart into the 375 degree oven and bake for 18-25 minutes or just until the center is a little jiggly. I personally took mine out at 18 minutes.

Cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Make sure that you can remove the tart ring. Remove the outer ring if desired and place in refrigerator. Decorate as desired and serve chilled.


Rocky Road brownies

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lara’s Aunt Debra here. Just to keep the wonderful chocolate recipes going for the month of February, here is a recipe that my kids love. They are huge brownie fiends but their favorite ice cream is rocky road. That sent me on a path to find a recipe I liked for brownies with the wonderfulness of marshmallows and nuts. After a few misses, I found a combination that worked well.

Rocky Road Brownies
(Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food)

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 bags (18 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup mini marshmallows
2 cup chopped walnuts, almonds, peanuts or whatever nut you choose (my kids go for the


- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan

- In a heatproof bowl, combine butter and 2 cups chocolate chips. Melt in the microwave on high >power for 3 to 5 five minutes, stirring occasionally.

- Into the chocolate/butter mixture, stir in sugars and salt. Once combined, stir in the eggs and then the flour, stirring just until combined. Mix in 1 cup of the walnuts.

- Spread batter evenly in prepared pan.

- Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 25 to 30 minutes.

- Remove from oven. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, remaining chocolate chips and marshmallows. Bake until the marshmallows are puffed and beginning to brown and the chocolate turns shiny, roughly 5 to 7 minutes. (If you like your marshmallows extra toasty, turn on the boiler of your oven and use that for the last few minutes. Be sure to turn the pan every minute or so to ensure even browning.)

- Remove from oven and cool completely in pan. Cut and enjoy!


Easy Gourmet Chocolate Bark

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lara's sister-in-law Karey here! I'm on a mostly sugar-free diet, but I am a huge sucker for holidays! One simply cannot celebrate Valentine's Day without chocolate, right? When I saw a recipe on Mama's Minutia for a simple chocolate bark calling for only three ingredients, that sealed the deal! This is a super easy recipe for a delicious grown-up treat.

1 bag dark chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% Cacao)
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup chopped almonds

Melt chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave until smooth. Pour half of the chocolate into 1 9x9 pan, lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle almonds and cherries over the chocolate, and press down if desired. Pour remaining chocolate over the top. Chill in the fridge, or at room temperature until the chocolate hardens. If you want bars, score the chocolate when it's partially set, so you can break it apart more easily once fully hardened.


Update on Spencer

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I know you're mostly just here for the recipes and I promise I won't do this very often, but for those of you who are interested, here is a quick update on my son:

  • After four weeks in the hospital, then one glorious week at home, he just returned to the hospital yesterday to start his second round of chemo.  Each round takes about 4 weeks of in-hospital treatment. 

  • His fourteen-year-old sister and nine-year-old brother (2 out of his 4 siblings) were were found to be exact bone marrow matches, so his treatment now will include a bone marrow transplant which will be performed in a couple of months. Which sibling will be the actual donor will be decided later by a transplant team from the hospital.

  • Once he lost his hair, a whole host of friends and relatives shaved their heads in support (girls got hair cuts and donated it to Locks of Love, an organization which makes wigs for young cancer patients).

  • With the help of family and friends, we are doing our best to keep life at home as routine as possible and thankfully it seems that the rest of my kids are doing okay.  My little one is quite a bit snugglier than usual when I'm around, but I'm not minding that one bit. 
  • I haven't had much time to do much cooking lately, but thanks to the kindness of many friends who have been bringing our family dinners,  we are still enjoying delicious, home-cooked meals.   
  • I am so very thankful to Jen and my sisters who have kept the blog updated over the last few weeks!  I'm happy to know that the recipe sharing goes on while I am away!

Here are some of my favorite photos from over the last month: 

My husband and son, just after shaving off Spencer's hair which had begun falling out in patches.  My husband only kept the mohawk for a few minutes, but it still cracks me up whenever I see this picture!

I love this picture of Spencer and his youngest sister, taking a stroll around the pediatric oncology unit. 

This is what I've been doing instead of cooking...learning how to take care of Spencer's central line (an IV line surgically implanted in his chest). 

His hospital room sports several homemade signs and banners, but this is my favorite....a sign made by his little sister!  I especially love all the staples.

It's been a mild winter here in the DC area, so the nurses let him go out and play in the courtyard on a few of the nicest days when he was feeling good.  It was his first breaths of fresh air in weeks and he enjoyed playing basketball with his Dad and keep away with this cute little fellow cancer patient. 

Truly our needs are met and we do not need anything other than your continued prayers, but if you'd like to donate to help find a cure for leukemia, go here to my cousin's fundraising page. My cousin is a lymphoma survivor of almost 10 years and now devotes herself whole-heartedly to finding a cure for blood cancers--like leukemia and lymphoma.   She is participating in a 100-mile bike ride in honor of Spencer and you will find updates and blips from our family blog there. 
Funds raised from her bike ride go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is committed to curing blood cancers and helping patients and their families. 



Valentine's Day Strawberry snacks

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day! Hopefully today you feel extra loved. I was searching around for a quick Valentine's Day snack, and I came across this easy snack. It would be perfect for an after school snack for your loved ones. (and with the wheat bread and strawberries I'd like to think it's a little bit healthy!). I honestly can't remember where I saw this idea online and I forgot to bookmark it. So, if this little gem of a snack is your idea, please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due. Maybe after eating these snacks your loved ones will give you little chocolate kisses!
Wheat bread
heart shaped cookie cutter (optional)

Cut bread out into heart shapes. Or just cut the bread into four squares. You may wish to toast your bread first, but it's totally up to you.
Wash and dry the strawberries and cut off the tops. Slice either in half or into thinner slices. Cut into a heart shape. Have you ever noticed that strawberries are just naturally heart shaped?!
Spread a spoonful of Nutella onto your bread. And place strawberry in the middle.
Voila!. A super easy and somewhat healthy snack that your kids can help make. My three-year old gobbled it up. (and he had a lovely chocolate face afterwards!)
Happy Valentine's Day! Don't forget to tell someone you love that you love them.


Mini S'mores

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hi, it's Kristina again. I love to make treats, but since my rather restricted diet doesn't allow for too many, I don't make them as much as I used to. But when I saw these mini-s'mores posted by a friend on Facebook, I just had to try them. They are simple and delicious!


Thanks to Texas Cottage for sharing this recipe!

Ingredients for Mini S'mores:
  • 1+ cup finely crushed graham crackers (7-8+ whole graham crackers)(I like a thick graham cracker crust, so I tend to use more graham crackers, which means I have to increase the powdered sugar and butter accordingly)
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 6 tablespoons melted butter
  • 4 chocolate bars (I used two large ones from Trader Joes)
  • 12 large marshmallows (use pink marshmallows for a more Valentiney treat)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place graham crackers into a large plastic bag and crush them. Combine the graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and butter in a  bowl.

Place a handful of crumb mixture in each cup of a mini muffin pan. Press the crumbs firmlyin to form shallow cups. Bake for 4-5 minutes. 

While crust is baking, break the candy bars into rectangles and cut marshmallows length wise with scissors. When the crust is done, remove from oven and place one chocolate piece into each cup and one marshmallow on top with the cut side down. 

Return to oven 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows are slightly softened. Take pans out and let cool for 15 minutes or so, then carefully remove s'mores from pan. Then allow then to cool completely.

Take the remaining chocolate and put it in a small microwavable bowl and  heat on medium until melted, stirring every 45 seconds or so.  Dip the top of each marshmallow in melted chocolate. Turn them back over and let the chocolate set for an hour or so, then eat. Should make 2 dozen.



Double Chocolate Banana cookies

Friday, February 10, 2012

Once again I had ripe bananas to use and I was looking for something other than banana bread to make. (Although if you haven't tried this banana bread recipe, you really must). I had chocolate on the brain, like always, and I thought to myself, "I wonder if there are any recipes using ripe bananas and chocolate together?" So I turned to Google and found a few different ideas out there. (even for Chocolate banana mousse). So after checking a couple different recipes, I experimented and combined a couple different ideas together to make this moist, almost cake-like chocolate cookie. I even didn't feel that much guilt eating a lot of them because there are healthy bananas inside! Yea for getting your chocolate and potassium at the same time!

The Ingredients:

1 c sugar
3/4 c shortening or butter
1 c mashed ripe bananas (about 3
1 tsp lemon juice or orange juice
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c cocoa powder
1 c chocolate chips

The Directions:

Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the egg. Mix in the bananas,vanilla extract, and the juice. I used lemon juice but I think the orange would go better with the chocolate and banana.

Add all the dry ingredients.
Mix well and stir in chocolate chips.
Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet. (use parchment paper, a liner, or grease it first). I use two spoons to do this. One to scoop the batter, and the other to help slide it onto the baking sheet.
Bake in a 375 degree oven for 8-10 minutes. I always cook cookies at the lesser time because I prefer softer cookies.
Eat as is, or make some glaze to go on top. All you need is:
1 c powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp almond flavoring
1-2 tsp corn syrup (optional. the corn syrup will help the glaze set if you're not serving them until later)
Put the powdered sugar in a small bowl and add a Tbsp of milk, along with the extract. Stir with a fork. Add a little more milk and keep stirring until smooth. Add the corn syrup if desired and stir some more. If you need to make it thinner just add a little milk. You want it to be able to drizzle, not blob.

Put the glaze in a baggie and snip a tiny hole out of one corner. This will help you get cute drizzles on your cookies. If you don't care about cute drizzles, then use a spoon to drizzle or even just frost the whole thing. I do have to admit that the glaze does mask a little of the banana flavor of the cookie. But it is still super delish!


About This Blog

My name is Lara and while I'm definitely not a gourmet cook, I do love preparing tasty, healthy meals for my family. Finding new recipes to try and sharing the ones we've already fallen in love with is a passion I've had since college and the reason why I've started this blog! With five kids, I'm usually in a hurry, so you'll find most of these recipes kid friendly and simple to make.

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