Homemade Veggie Pizza

The other day, the wife asked me to make a dish with Kale (because she so enjoyed Eileen’s dish) and I thought… hmm… what could I do that would be unexpected?  Well, I ended up going with Pizza!

Thanks to JT, I started with this dough recipe. For this you’ll need:

3 1/2 cups high gluten flour

1  cup warm water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

So, you’ll want to mix add the water, oil, yeast, salt, and sugar in a mixer with a dough fitted with dough hook until yeast has fully dissolved. Then add flour and mix on low speed until the flour and water have mixed and a stiff dough ball forms. Place in a bowl and cover… you’ll end up with something like this:

Let the dough rise in the fridge for 24 hours… and you get this…

This will allow you to make 2 twelve inch pizzas.

Toppings were…


Red bell peppers

Green bell peppers




Red onions


The sauce consisted of:

28 oz. can pureed tomatoes

2 tsp of sugar

2 diced jalapeños

1/2 clove diced shallot

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon salt

At this point, you’ll want to heat your oven to 500. This will heat up while you toss your puree into a pan over a medium low heat. Make sure to stir in everything and let simmer for about 20 minutes once you are finished, you are ready to roll out your down and top.

I used mozzarella and sharp cheddar.   Tossed it in for 10 minutes….

And it was ready to go…

Some outstanding stuff, easy to make… and above all, healthy!

Van's Big Burger with Peanut Sauce and Homemade Cajun Fries

As I sat in the office this afternoon I had an overwhelming urge for a “5 Guys” burger… then a sense of guilt kicked in. Why buy a burger when I could make my own that will taste just as good, if not better. So, I give you “Van’s Big Burger” which will yield two servings.

For the burger you’ll need

1 tsp freshly chopped Oregano
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 shallot minced
1 1/4 lb ground sirloin

At this point, simply mix your oregano, shallot, salt, pepper, turmeric and sirloin. Create two evenly sized patties, wrap in plastic wrap, place in a freezer bag and… you guessed it (if you’ve been following my recent cooking method) cook with sous vide method. I wanted the burgers to be medium rare when they came out, so I cooked them at 135 degrees for an hour.

On to the Homemade Cajun Fries!

4 large potatoes of your choosing, cut French fry style (I did two russet, two sweet)
1 tbsp Paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cayenne pepper
peanut oil for deep frying

Here are the potatoes, ready to take their bath…

Cut and Ready To Go

Place your oil into a pan, over a medium high heat, and wait until it starts to shimmer. At that point, place them in the oil…

Fry, Baby, Fry!

As the fries are taking their bath, mix your seasoning… and place into a container that you can use to “sprinkle” on the fries when they come out of the oil. Make sure you fry for roughly 7 minutes… if you go over that you really risk your fries becoming soft. When you’ve reach your mark, place the fries into a colander and sprinkle with seasoning, shake to ensure coverage, and repeat until you are done with your fries.

By now, your burgers should have been in for roughly 35 to 45 minutes. Now it is time to mix up your peanut sauce…

For the Sauce

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp soy sauce

Start with mixing your peanut butter and warm water. Rather quickly the peanut butter will break apart. Once this happens and the brown sugar and continue to mix, then add your soy sauce.

Right about now (the funk soul brother… sorry, Fatboy Slim popped into mind) your burgers will be read to take out. Remove from the water and toss into a frying pan to sear each side for roughly a minute or two… you can use your peanut sauce (my choice) or olive oil. Add your cheese (if you so desire). I did Colby Jack.

Now you are ready to garnish. I did spinach, a slice of red pepper, green pepper, and a thin cut of red onion and a bit of the Peanut Sauce.

Here is the full view…

The Dinner, the Full View

And your obligatory close up, food porn worthy picture…

Pure heaven… wonderfully juicy, full of taste and supported by the homemade fries. For some extra flavor add Stone-Ground Mustard to the meal.

Totally worth your effort… even if you are just a frozen dinner kinda person.

Tilapia with Endive and Roasted Potatoes

The other evening I  wanted Tilapia, so I thought it was time to do a baked dish…

For this you’ll require:

10 to 12 red potatoes, quartered
2 fresh Tilapia fillets
Fresh oregano
Fresh Dill
Freshly cracked black pepper
Sea Salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 head of Endive (also know as Escarole), torn
2 tsp of lemon juice

Here you go:

1. First, heat your olive oil in a medium pan. When it starts to shimmer, add your red potatoes. Add dill, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste sauté until they begin to brown, then remove and place in a bowl.

2.  Pre-heat your oven to 365. While your oven is heating, put your Endive in the pan you did your potatoes in, cover, and sauté over medium heat for roughly 5 minutes. Add your oregano, salt and pepper to taste.

3. Now add the tilapia fillets and lemon juice and heat on each side for no more than a minute.

4. Place foil on a cookie sheet, on one side place your tilapia and on the other side mix your endive and potatoes and bake for roughly 10 minutes. Keep your pan for the next step!

5. Remove from the oven, add salt and pepper to your pan (no need for additional oil, you should be ok to accomplish what is needed) and over a very high flame quickly brown the tilapia on each side.  This will sear in the pepper/salt taste, giving you a nice brown color, with drying out the fish.

6. Plate and Enjoy!

Tilapia ready to go!

The garlic, endive and potatoes all play well together, and the lemon pulls the entire dish together! Very enjoyable and very quick to do.

And the next dish? Well, Tuesday we’ll have Kale Pizza!

The 30 Cake

Just a quick update.

This past weekend, the wife and I were asked to do a birthday cake for a friend (our first officially commissioned cake). Oh… and we had less than 24 hours to get the supplies, the theme and the cake baked and out the door. Outside of the fact that we used the cake recipe for the Easter cake, there is not much more of story behind this. I just wanted to share the final result.

Bison Ribeye over Root Vegetables with Honey Butter Sauce

Today is the second sous-vide cooking experiment and I’ve picked Bison for the experiment.  I debated on doing the Bison in the over at a low temp for a long period of time, but still went with the sous-vide method instead.

Ok, you’ll need…

1 Bison Ribeye, sous-vide cooked to your liking

1 carrot, cubed

1 parsnip, cubed

1 Sweet Potato, cubed

1 Red Potato, you guessed it.. cubed

1/4 lb tilapia filet

Salt and Pepper to taste

Freshly chopped dill, oregano, thyme

And for the sauce…

1) 3/4 cup of heavy cream

2) 2 tbsp of honey

3) 1/2 stick of butter

Here we go…

1. In one pan, with a thin layer of peanut oil, place your root vegetables over a medium heat and fry (while stirring) for 3 to 6 minutes.  Add salt and pepper while stirring.  After cooking, remove from heat and drain.  Place back into pan.

2. In a second pan, quickly heat your tilapia filet with a bit of olive oil over a medium flame.  Cook for one to two minutes on each side… be careful as it will cook very quickly. After you’ve quickly pan seared it, remove and cut into chunks. (but save the pan)

3. Back to the original pan vegetable pan now. Add your chunked tilapia, as well as your dill, oregano, thyme and sir. Continue to heat/stir over a low heat for another 3 to 4 minutes, then remove from heat.

4. Time for the honey butter sauce. In a small pot, over a medium flame, add your cream and butter (a little salt as well if you would like) and mix.  When the butter is fully melted, whisk in the honey. Heat for another 2 minutes and remove from heat.

5. Transfer your vegetable/tilapia mix to the tilapia pan, set side.

6. Take your beet, shave slices off and roast for a few minutes under a high flame. Remove and set aside.

7. Take your vegetable plan, add a bit of olive oil and put it on a medium-high heat.  Now it is time to sear your ribeye.  Cook on each side for roughly 2 minutes each.

8. Plate and Enjoy!

I love the Vegetable/Tilapia Mix, especially with the Honey Butter Sauce. I am a huge fan of Bison, and usually do not season it when cooking… to me the natural taste is good enough.  Now, if you do want to season it I would strongly suggest a light seasoning as one can easily overwhelm the natural flavors of the meat.


Prosciutto Wrapped Chicken with Poblano Peppers and Sun Dried Tomatoes

I was introduced to a new form a cooking: Sous-vide.

A quick lesson – Sous-vide is a form of cooking that utilizes submerging a vacuum sealed bag which contains your meat of choice into water that holds a constant temperature. The water is usually a lower temperature, and the meat is kept in for an extended period of time in order to provide a uniformly cooked meat.

Now, Sous-vide machines cost a pretty penny; however, one can accomplish the same results with… a beer cooler.  I kid you not.

Feel free to read up on how to sous-vide cooking as my intent isn’t to provide a tutorial on the subject, rather to give you my first sous-vide dish – Prosciutto wrapped Chicken with Poblano Peppers and Sun Dried Tomatoes

Needed For the Dish

2 Skinless Chicken Breasts


4 pieces of thinly sliced prosciutto

2 slices of fresh mozzarella

1 large Poblano Pepper, diced

1 cup Diced Sun Dried Tomatoes, in oil

1 Small Shallot, diced

1 tsp honey

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tsp olive oil

Note – you’ll also need tooth picks and oil for frying.

1. Place your chicken in a zip lock bag and remove the air (vacuum machine or submerge in water to use the pressure of the water to remove the air).

2. Fill a cooler with water heated to 150 degrees, place bag in cooler and seal and let it sit in there for about 100 minutes. Make sure to check the temp roughly every 30 minutes. If your temp drops below 145, add more water.

3. In the remaining 20 minutes, place your 1 teaspoon of oil into a medium sized skillet with your peppers, sun dried tomatoes (in oil) and shallot. Cook over medium high heat for roughly 5 minutes, and then reduce heat to medium-low and mix in honey and soy sauce.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Then reduce heat to low while stirring occasionally to prevent burning.

4. Remove chicken from cooler, pat down.

5. Place a slice of mozzarella on top of the chicken, wrap with prosciutto, and fry (not deep fry) in oil for roughly 2 minutes per side.

6. Plate, cover with your pepper/tomato sauce, and serve with a green salad

This was one of the freshest, moist, pieces of chicken I’ve ever had in my life. The prosciutto and the sauce add the perfect touch for the topping… I cannot – cannot – wait to try this when cooking steak!


Vanju's Deep Fried, Perfectly Seasoned Calamari

A few days back Monica, over at Cucina Naturale, made a Baked Calamari with cornbread crumbs. That got me all excited to go out and make my own Calamari. So, why is this called Vanju’s Calamari?  Well, my sous-chef demanded credit for her efforts  in the venture. Credit where credit it due.

For the Calamari:

1. 1/2 cup white flour

2. 1 cup Italian breadcrumbs

3. 1 tsp Garlic Powder

4. 1 tsp Ground Tumeric

5. 1 tsp Onion Powder

6. 2 tsp Paprika

7. 1/4 tsp Cayenne Pepper

8. 1/4 tsp Chili Powder

9. 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

10. 1 nice sized Calamari tube, cut into rings

For the deep frying:

1. 2 eggs, whisked

2. 32 oz of peanut oil

This is very, very easy… really…

1. Heat up your oil in a nice sized pan, deep enough to fully submerge the cut Calamari

2. Mix your spices, flour and breadcrumbs until ingredients are fully blended

3. Take your calamari, place them into the whisked eggs

4. Take calamari, one by one, out of the eggs and place into the spice/breadcrumb mixture and fully cover.

5. Place into peanut oil for two minutes, then make sure you turn the calamari and continue frying for another two minutes.

Drain, remove grease and enjoy!

I was worried that the batter would have too much kick, but no, it had a nice kick, but not overpowering. In many ways it almost would taste like popcorn shrimp… and it was the perfect start for the Fettuccine with Shrimp.

Thanks for the inspiration, Monica!

Fettuccine with Shrimp, Zucchini, and Summer Squash

Well, it is spring time in Chicago and thought it would be a good day for a spring-esque dish. What better than some Fettuccine and some fresh veggies. For this dish you’ll need:

1. 1/2 lb of Fettuccine

2. 3 tbsp of butter

3. 1 cup of chicken stock

4. 1/4 cup fresh basil, 1/4 cup fresh oregano, 1/4 cup fresh arugula

5. One diced shallot

6. A pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper

7. 1 lb of cooked shrimp

8. 1 small Zucchini, sliced

9. 1 small Summer Squash, sliced

10. 1 tbsp minced garlic

11. 1 small head of Broccoli, chopped


1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, cook pasta.

2. While the pasta is cooking, place the chicken stock, garlic and soft butter into a large sauce pan over medium-high heat. Let simmer for 3 minutes.

3. Add basil, oregano, arugula and shallot. Simmer for 3 minutes.

4. Add Broccoli, Zucchini, Summer Squash and shrimp. Simmer for 10 minutes – make sure to stir!

5. By now your pasta should be done.  Remove for the flame, drain the pasta, then place it back into the original pot.  Pour in your shrimp/veggie sauce and serve!

Now, I understand that I haven’t done much cooking as of late… so my taste buds may be a bit off… but this was, by far, the best dish I have EVER made.

No, I’m not kidding. Hands down, the best dish I’ve ever made.

The sauce was very light. The Zucchini, Broccoli, and Summer Squash were perfectly tender and the shrimp absorbed just enough of the sauce to retain a perfect balance of the sauce and the shrimp itself.

I’d cook this up and serve it to anyone who stops by, and I strongly suggest you give it a try!

Oh… and up tomorrow… the Calamari dish that was an appetizer for this meal.

Avocado and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

This past weekend the wife and I were on the road and, as a result, aside from the luxurious steak dinner at Ruth’s Chris, we basically had nothing much but fast food. So, as I arrived home early yesterday evening I wanted to jump into the kitchen and make something healthy. The result is my newly created Avocado and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms.

You’ll need:

1. 3/4th cup of heavy whipping cream

2. 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs

3. 1 cup of spinach, chopped

4. 2 tsp of worchestire sauce

5. 1/2 tsp of sea salt

6. 1 tsp of freshly cracked black pepper

7. Pinch of Onion powder

8. 2 half cups of fresh crab meat (claws)

9. 2 half cups of Mozzarella, shredded

10. 2 Large Portobello mushrooms

11. 1 Tomato, diced

12. 1 Avocado


1) Pre-heat your oven to 350.

2) Mix breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and onion powder

3) Add cream, worchestire sauce and mix

4) Add spinach, 1 half cup of crab meat and 1 half cup of Mozzarella. Mix. This will give you a nice consistency for the stuffing, which will allow you to create a nice stuffing patty for your mushrooms.

5) Place your stuffing in your mushroom caps, top with the remaining crab meat, cheese and tomatoes. Cut and spoon out avocado meat onto the mushrooms.

6) Bake for 25 mins at 350.

Serve and enjoy!

Some good eats here!

Texas Sheet Cake

I don’t ever recall having this before.  I just saw the picture of a simple chocolate cake that serves a small crowd people and that filled the need I had for this past weekend’s festivities.  This turned out different – GOOD different – than I expected as this was not the way I had ever made chocolate cake before!

2 tsp all purpose flour

2 c all purpose flour

2 c granulated sugar

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

3/4 c water

1/2 c butter

1/2 c unsweetened cocoa, divided

1/2 c low fat buttermilk

1 tbsp vanilla extract, divided

2 large eggs

6 tbsp butter

1/3 c fat free milk

3 c powdered sugar

1/4 c chopped pecans, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 375. Coat a 13 x9 in pan with cooking spray, dust with 2 tsp flour.

2. Combine 2 c flour with next 4 ingredients in a large bowl, stir with a whisk.  Combine 3/4 c water, 1/2 c butter, and 1/4 c cocoa in a small saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Add to flour mixture.  Beat with a mixer at med speed until well blended.  Add buttermilk, 1 tsp vanilla, and eggs; beat well.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 22 – 25 mins (closer to 25 for me).  Place on a wire rack.

3. Combine 6 tbsp butter, fat free milk, and remaining 1/4 c cocoa in a saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat and gradually stir in powdered sugar and remaining 2 tbsp vanilla.  Spread over hot cake.  Sprinkle with pecans.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Makes 20 servings.

I wish I had alternate views of an actual slice for you but I had to leave the party a bit early to go to work.  My husband saved me a slice and I ate it by the time I remembered I needed another pic :-p  Anyway, as you can see the frosting has a light crispness to the very surface.  The frosting is distinct yet the moistness of the cake (I believe d/t the buttermilk) blends nicely with it and gives it a definite richness.  Very good! I would definitely make this again for a large event.  You can make this the night before and let it cool overnight to save you time.

Nutritional Information:

Calories: 298

Fat: 10 g

Protein: 3.1 g

Carbohydrate: 49.8 g

Fiber: 0.5 g

Cholesterol: 44 mg

Sodium: 188 mg