Pear-Gorgonzola-Caramelized Onion-Toasted Pecan-Balsamic Arugula Pizza

This was fantastic and came together much more quickly than I expected after a CRAZY night.  It was inspired by this recipe in Cooking Light magazine, but I adapted it quite a bit to suit Vegetarian Girl and a preference for blue cheese over provolone.

1 large pre-baked pizza shell (I used Boboli)

1 small white onion, thinly sliced

1 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large, ripe pear, thinly sliced

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese (I used Gorgonzola)

1/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted

4 cups baby arugula leaves

about 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Melt butter with olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, for 10-15 minutes or until the onion is soft and lightly browned all over.  Spread onions evenly over pizza crust.

Sprinkle cheese evenly over onions, then top with pear slices.

Bake pizza for 10 – 15 minutes or until cheese is thoroughly melted and crust is lightly browned.

Remove pizza from oven and top with toasted nuts.

Toss arugula with vinegar (you may not need all the vinegar) and place a nice layer of it over the top of the pizza.

Cut the pizza into wedges and serve with any leftover arugula on the side.

Homemade Cheddar Crackers

Recipe here.

These were really tasty, but a bit of trouble to roll out and don’t predictably bake to anything resembling a uniform size.  They puff and wobble as they bake, so some turn out thicker or smaller.  They taste good, but they’re just difficult to work with.  If I make these again, I will probably roll the dough into a log, freeze it, then slice into coins for baking.  The one thing that I really DO like about this form factor is that they are a perfect Goldfish-like “pop into your mouth” size.  Perfect in a little bowl to accompany a cocktail or, with some juice, for an after-school snack.  I would probably add a bit of cayenne and or paprika or pimenton the next time that I make these, just for a bit more kick.

Apple and Pear Beignets with Vanilla Bean Sugar

Recipe here.

I wanted to make something a little special this morning because Girl had a couple of friends to spend the night last night and so I was feeding a crowd for breakfast.  These were a big hit with the girls, who immediately noticed that the sugar “tasted REALLY good” and “MUCH better than plain sugar.”  True, the vanilla beans in the sugar were fantastic.  Not cheap, because I made a double batch (2 vanilla beans!,) but well worth the expense.  I should have cooked the beignets a tiny bit longer, because they could have been a little more cooked in the middle, but they were still fantastic.  I used an OXO cookie scoop to plop the dough in the oil.

I had quite a bit of the vanilla bean sugar left over, so I’ll be finding some luxurious uses for it soon.  It might be fantastic to top a creme brulee with.  We’ll see!

Spicy Stir-Fried Pork, Asparagus and Onions with Lemon Grass

YUM!  Recipe here.

I used a red onion, because that what I had on hand, and I cooked it a bit longer than specified, because I like my cooked onions REALLY cooked (but I’m OK with raw onions in a salad – go figure.)  I served it over jasmine rice cooked in veggie stock.

This was quite tasty and a big hit with both Hubby and Boy.  I usually don’t like to make recipes more than once, but this might be one that I would consider.

Green Lentil Salad with Baby Spinach and Goat Cheese

Recipe here.

Super fast and easy and very yummy.  I served this with some sliced, grilled steak (and a 2006 Ironstone Cabernet Franc) for the die-hard carnivores at my house, but it was definitely hearty enough to be a meal on its own.
Update:  I just saw that a new version of this recipe (with the goat cheese formed into a patty, breaded, and fried until crispy) has been posted by Blake Royer (the original author) on Serious Eats.  It can be found here.  I will definitely be trying that soon.  My mother made a fabulous salad with homemade vinaigrette, roasted chicken and breaded, toasted goat cheese medallions that is TO DIE FOR, so I imagine this will be great, too.

Pioneer Woman’s Apple Fritters

Recipe here.

These were so yummy and tasty-crusty-crunchy.  Great for a lazy weekend breakfast, even though you house will smell like boiling oil for the rest of the day.  I used a small (2 oz) cookie dough scoop with a little release lever on the side to drop the fritters in the oil, to keep them a consistent size and give them a pretty shape.  The kids helped with these and we all liked them quite a bit.

Giada’s Roman-style Chicken and Smoked Mozzarella and Sun-Dried Tomato Cigars

Yum yum yum.  Chicken recipe here.  Salad/Cigar recipe here.

I adapted the chicken recipe quite a bit, because it was a last-minute decision to make it and I didn’t have the exact right ingredients on hand, but the basic gist was still the same…browned, then simmered with tomatoes and peppers.  Caramelized/roasted cauliflower on the side.

The salad and cigars were fantastic.  The smokey, gooey cheese (a bit hard to find, but worth effort) and the sweet, chewy tomatoes were delicious together.  The salad (with cigars) is hearty enough to be a main dish, but since we were using it as a side, I only put half a cigar on each portion.  Also, for the dressing, I didn’t want to open a bottle of champagne just to make it, so I made a vinaigrette with champagne vinegar, instead.  Delicious.

Barefoot Contessa’s Maple-Oatmeal Scones

Recipe here.

Delicious and easy.  Makes a TON of scones.  Fabulous maple flavor. Great for feeding a crowd without a lot of effort.  Like Barefoot Contessa’s Orange-Cranberry Scones, they are best eaten the same day, or possibly the next day, but suffer in texture if kept longer than that, so I’d plan to share or freeze any leftovers or consider making a half-batch.