Zucchini Pesto Pizza

Remember how I'm temporarily living in an apartment with a closet-sized kitchen without several essential cooking appliances?

Well, last weekend I have this delicious pizza idea. So I chop up the toppings, mix up the dough, pour the dough onto the counter...and have a heartbreaking realization.

My rolling pin is roughly 1200 miles away in the drawer in my kitchen...
my dear, dear kitchen that I didn't know how much I loved until I moved.

So what do you do without a rolling pin?

You use your hands.

Yes, I painstakingly used my palms and fingers to "roll out" (squish out) the pizza dough.

But trust me, friends.

It was worth every single squish.

It's worth it for the basil-y garlic-y pesto, tender veggies, fresh mozzarella, and crispy whole-wheat crust.

You have to try it.

(This is one of those recipes where you don't have to measure the toppings exactly. Use however much you want!)

Zucchini Pesto Pizza
8 servings
1 recipe whole-wheat pizza dough (I love this one)
6-8 oz basil pesto
1-2 cups fresh, roughly-chopped spinach
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 large tomato, thinly sliced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
8 oz buffalo mozzarella, sliced
grated parmesan cheese, for sprinkling

Roll (or squish) out pizza dough, bake at 450 degrees for 3-4 minutes, then slather on the pesto and layer the rest of the toppings, sprinkling parmesan cheese on top. Bake for another 8-10 minutes.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

Soft, chewy chocolate


melted peanut butter chips



And I don't use that word everyday. I think the last time I used it was in High School choir.

I fortunately stumbled across this recipe on Tasty Kitchen. The only change I made was I refrigerated the cookie dough overnight (I recently read an article about how that's a secret to great cookies...yes, I'm a nerd). The taste and texture were perfect-o.
(Plus I slightly underbaked them for a softer cookie!)

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookies
Makes 2 dozen
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until fluffy. Add flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; mix until combined. Fold in peanut butter & chocolate chips, refrigerate dough at least 1-2 hours (overnight is better), then bake at 350 for 7-9 minutes (I slightly underbaked these (on purpose) and they were still soft and chewy the next day!).


Blini (Russian Buttermilk Pancakes)

This year was my husband's first Father's Day...and because he lived in Russia for two years, serving a mission for our church, I decided to (attempt to) make some Russian cuisine!
Great idea, right?

Well, breakfast turned out really yummy, but dinner ended up being a semi-flop.


Okay, it was a complete flop.

Spending way too long in the kitchen with sticky beyond sticky dumpling dough gave me enough frustration to wish I was a bent-over Babushka (Russian grandma) myself that could actually make Russian food.
You could say our Russian dumplings ("Pelmeni") were a little too flour-y and...well, flavorless.
But at least they were...umm...edible...?!
Let's just say it'll take a lot for me to attempt Pelmeni again!
Those Babushki are even tougher than I thought...

...back to pancakes.

So for breakfast we had blini, or Russian buttermilk pancakes, with some sweet bananas and luscious, plump blueberries.
These pancakes have a denser (is that a word?), heavier texture--my husband and I both enjoyed them! It's fun to change up your pancakes once in a while.

You'll want to mix it up in a pot, not a small saucepan (you'll be reminded of 3rd grade science when you add 2 whole tsp of baking soda to the buttermilk!).

Blini (Russian Buttermilk pancakes)
from everydayrussian.com
3 cups buttermilk
2 tsp baking soda
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour (use less for thinner pancakes, more for thicker)

Whisk buttermilk in a pot over medium heat--just let it get warm; don't let it boil. Add the baking soda & let it froth up while whisking (this is the 3rd grade science project part). Remove from heat, add the sugar & salt, and slowly whisk in flour. Pour 1/3-1/2 cup of batter onto greased frying pan over medium heat. Flip over when pancake is bubbling (about 2 minutes) and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
Serve with sour cream or jam (if you're Russian, because Russians put sour cream on everything!).
Makes about 8 pancakes.


Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Homemade Dressing

I am still living in jacket-weather.

And we're nearing the end of June.


So, to combat the grossness outside, I made something yummy:

The perfect summer pasta salad.

(Take that, yucky-cold-rainy-44-degree-weather!)

And this one's good, trust me. It's not covered in a bunch of globby mayo or sugar-infested dressing.

Simply fresh and lovely.

I slightly adapted the dressing recipe from allrecipes.com.
As for the pasta and veggies, I used whole wheat rotini and whatever vegetables I had in the fridge and added some creamy feta. This could easily be your clean-out-the-produce-drawer go-to recipe! :)
(I didn't exactly measure the veggies...just throw in whatever looks good.)

Makes about 8 servings
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

8 oz. whole wheat rotini pasta
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
1 handful cherry tomatoes, quartered
3-4 carrots, sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

Place all dressing ingredients into a closed container and shake to combine (this can be made ahead and refrigerated; I think refrigerating also gives it more flavor).
Cook pasta according to directions, let cool, and mix in prepared veggies & cheese. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight before serving.

...I think I can smell summer coming...


Veggie & Black Bean Burritos

These unique burritos can be described in two words:


Pretty, aren't they?

Makes about 8-10 servings
Julienne the following vegetables: (I love whoever made up that word, julienne.)
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 red onion
3 carrots
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 stalk broccoli

Simmer for 45 minutes in the following mixture, in a large frying pan:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup wine vinegar (I like red)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
salt & pepper to taste

Add 3 cups of rinsed/drained black beans and heat through. Serve on warm tortillas with sour cream & salsa.

*The original recipe (from my mom) calls for 1/2 cup wine vinegar, but over here we use a little less. So if you're feelin' tangy, add some more...


German Pancakes with Whole Wheat Flour

A classic breakfast dish that I modified to make a little healthier...no sugar, less butter, and you know I like to sneak in whole wheat flour whenever possible. :)

Plus, who needs sugar when you have delicious, freshly-sliced strawberries on top?
That's all the sweetness you need.
...with maybe some pure maple syrup on top. :)

German Pancakes with Whole Wheat Flour
6 servings
3 Tbsp butter
6 eggs
1 cup skim milk
1 cup whole white wheat flour (or 3/4 cup whole wheat flour + 1/4 cup white flour)
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place butter in 9x13 dish and allow to melt in preheating oven. Meanwhile, whip eggs until thick and lemon-colored (and whip 'em real good--that's what makes them fluffy!). Add milk, flours, and salt. Pour mixture into pan of melted butter & bake 15-20 minutes (will be puffy and bubbly!). Serve with favorite fruit on top...and indulge.


Fiesta Rice

Throw on your sombrero and heat up the stove...this versatile rice dish is muy delicioso!
Use it in a taco salad, add it to burritos, serve it up with tortilla chips & fresh guacamole or some chicken fresh off the grill. It works great as a side or main dish.

Last night, my husband and I had it on top of raw baby spinach with sour cream, cheese, & tortilla chips crumbled on top. Like I said, it's muy, muy bueno! (I know, my friends tell me I should start a spanish blog.)
My mom stumbled upon this recipe a few years ago and it's been a favorite ever since.

Fiesta Rice
Makes about 8 servings

2 tsp olive oil
10 oz. frozen corn, thawed
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup chopped green onions
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp fresh minced garlic
3 cups reduced sodium chicken broth (use vegetable broth to make this vegetarian)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
dash salt
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, undrained
1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice

Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add corn & cook 10 minutes or until corn starts to brown. Remove from pan & set aside. Melt butter in pan, add onions, and saute 5 minutes or until tender. Stir in uncooked rice, cumin, & garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add broth, black pepper, salt, & diced tomatoes and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, & simmer for about 45 minutes, or until rice is done. Remove from heat and stir in reserved corn & black beans. Heat through and stir in cilantro & lime juice.
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