Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Banana and Chicken Pizza

This recipe may sound a little strange, but trust me; it will surprise you.

In college I had a professor who was from Australia. I loved listening to her exotic accent, and it was a treat when she would occasionally tell us a little bit about her life in Australia. She would always talk about one of her favorite foods, banana and chicken pizza. All of the students would turn their noses up in disgust, agreeing that banana and chicken pizza sounded too odd for their taste buds.

For our final we turned in a big research paper and had a party during the time slot for the exam, instead of  taking a dreadful test. Each of the students brought a side dish to share and our professor provided the pizza. She had one of the students who worked at Pappa John's take a banana in to work with him to make the banana and chicken pizza. Some of my classmates refused to try it, sticking to the familiar pepperoni and sausage pizzas. I have always considered myself to be an adventurous eater; I'll try almost anything once. I thought the banana and chicken pizza was delicious! The sweet taste and silky texture of the bananas danced with the richness of the cheese and the succulent chicken. I would choose the banana and chicken pizza over a greasy pepperoni pizza any day.

After deciding to try making this pizza at home,  I did a little research online. I found some recipes for banana pizza with cinnamon and sugar, and banana pizza with a chocolate crust. These both sounded delicious for dessert, but not for a meal. I had to wing it.

Banana and Chicken Pizza


1 box of Jiffy pizza crust mix (one box makes a 12"-14" crust)
1 can of pizza sauce
1 chicken breast
1 handful of chopped onion
1 1/2 ripe bananas
shredded mozzarella cheese
shredded mild cheddar cheese
palm full of dried tarragon
black pepper


Note: To be more efficient I processed a whole package of chicken in the Marinade Express and put what I wasn't going to use into sandwich bags to freeze and save for later.

1. Process the chicken in the Marinade Express.

When I opened the chicken it had a bad smell to it. I checked the date and it said it should be fresh for another week. Still, I trusted my sniffer on this one; the chicken was on the verge of spoiling. I knew the Marinade Express process kills up to 99.5 % of bacteria present in food, and I have a very good nose, so I figured it was worth a shot to see if my chicken would come out smelling fresh. I put the chicken into the Marinade Express along with a packet of unflavored seasoning. I made sure I drew a high vacuum and did not shortcut the time.Then I watched as the chicken rotated in water that kept getting progressively dirtier.I let it rotate for less than five minutes. Then I dumped the dirty, smelly water out, and rinsed out the drum of the Marinade Express. I reloaded it with a fresh seasoning packet, water, and the chicken and carefully drew a new vacuum. I let it rotate for another fifteen minutes. The water remained noticeably cleaner and when I removed the chicken for the second time it smelled fresh and ready to cook. I was relieved; it saved me a trip to the store and dealing with the hassle of trying to exchange the meat. The Marinade Express works wonders; turning smelly chicken back to fresh chicken is one of them. I know it's all science but in my mind it's magic! To find out all of the magic tricks the Marinade Express has up it's sleeve visit the Marinade Express website.

Caution: I am not recommending that anyone try this with food that is too far spoiled; it could be dangerous. 

2. While the chicken is processing in the Marinade Express begin chopping the onion. You only need a small handful of chopped onion.

3. Cut 1 1/2 bananas into thin slices.

4. Remove the chicken from the Marinade Express; drain the water. Place one chicken breast into a baking dish and bake in the oven at 350 degrees until the chicken is mostly cooked through (so it doesn't overcook when it is cooking on the pizza).This will only take about 15 minutes, because the Marinade Express process causes protein foods to cook faster than normal.

5. Follow the directions on the pizza crust box. They are simple: add some water to the mixture, knead the dough, and cover it for 5 minutes.

6. Add the pizza sauce, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese, onions, bananas, cubed chicken, tarragon, pepper, and salt to the crust.

Note: Paul was helping me with this pizza recipe.He is an expert at making pizza because he worked at Happy Joe's Pizza and Ice Cream for eight years. Whenever we make pizza together he always reminds me not to overflow the pizza with toppings because they will slide off the pizza. Make sure you eyeball the cheese; we had quite a bit left over, and we used more mozzarella than cheddar.

7. Bake the pizza until the crust is golden brown. Then slice and enjoy!

Pre-baked Banana and Chicken Pizza

The banana and chicken pizza was delightful. It was savory and sweet, cheesy and zesty all at the same time! It was how I remembered it being in class that day in college. The subtle licorice flavor of the tarragon was a perfect addition. I am proud of the Marinade Express for freshening the chicken, and loved the opportunity to experiment with a pizza most everyone (at least in the U.S.) hasn't heard of. I plan to revisit the banana pizza and try adding some Canadian bacon instead of chicken for the salty, sweet combo. I hope you try this recipe.

Banana and Chicken Pizza

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hot Chocolate On a Stick

I wanted to share with all of you chocolate lovers out there that I had the best hot chocolate I have made at home, called Choc-O-Lait. My mom gave me some for Christmas; she found it at TJ Maxx. Instead of the packets of powdered chocolate you pour into milk, you simply heat up a mug of milk and let the 100% real Belgian chocolate-on-a-stick melt into the milk. It is absolutely decadent! I have the milk chocolate flavor.
The Choc-O-Lait website has several different flavors to chose from such as dark chocolate, coffee chocolate, ginger chocolate, and more. I hope to find these little treasures in the stores more often to help me keep warm this winter.

Hot Chocolate on a Stick!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Warm Yourself Inside and Out With Curried Squash and Apple Soup

Winter arrived late this year in Iowa. Last Thursday we finally got our true snowfall of the season, and I woke up to a fluffy, white winter land. The roads were slick and I didn't have time to shovel my driveway before work. I got a ride to work and made the one mile trek back to my house with the snow biting at my face. I was ecstatic to finally be able to test my new winter boots to their full potential. They are one of the best purchases I have made in a long time. I returned home with toasty, dry feet, and I don't even have to wear socks with them! I got the North Face Amore boots in brown. I am in love with them. If you want to take a look or purchase them check out, free shipping both ways! Love it!
The North Face Amore Boot in Brown

During my walk home I began to think about making something that would warm the rest of me from the inside out. I have been itching to try a recipe from my favorite soup cook book (which I mention in a previous blog post), called Curried Squash and Apple Soup. Squash is a wholesome, tasty vegetable and I have found that it makes wonderful soup.

Curried Squash and Apple Soup
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course, or 8 as a first course

2 medium acorn squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds and fibers removed
1/4  cup vegetable oil
4 teaspoons black mustard seeds
3 tablespoons curry powder
2 large Granny Smith apples, cored, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 medium onion, cut into chunks
10 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons very finely chopped peeled ginger
4 cups vegetable broth
lime juice, to taste
2 teaspoons kosher salt

For Serving
1 lime, sliced across into very thin rounds
3/4 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
 raisins (optional)
slivered almonds (optional)
rice (optional)


1. Heat the oven to 500 degrees F. Roast the squash cut-side up in a roasting pan for 50 minutes, or until soft. Scoop the pulp from the squash.

2. In a medium saucepan, stir together the vegetable oil and mustard seeds over medium heat until the seeds are popping (be careful-it is very easy to burn the spices if the oil gets too hot). Stir in the curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, over medium-low heat for about 1 minute.

3. Stir in the apples, squash, onion, garlic, ginger, and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the apples and onion are soft.

4. In a food processor, working in batches, puree the soup. The soup can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

5. Return the soup to the pot and heat through. Season with the lime juice and salt. Top each serving with a thin slice of lime and dollop of yogurt.

Note: To serve as a main course add slivered almonds and raisins on top. Serve rice on the side.

My variations: I couldn't find black mustard seeds so I omitted those. I had a large butternut squash on hand; I used that instead of acorn squash, and whole almonds are just as tasty as slivered.

Curried Squash and Apple Soup

The smell of curry perfumed the air as I made this soup. I ate it that night for dinner as a meal with rice, almonds, raisins, and yogurt. It is a velvety thick, creamy soup. The tartness of the apples, lime, and yogurt was the perfect symphony to the sweetness of the squash and raisins. The curry powder added the exact amount of spiciness, just enough to warm me from the first snowfall of the season. For a vegetarian soup, it is very filling and satisfying. I thought I would have to have a snack later on but I was content and warm as the snow continued to fall outside.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

T-shirt Tie Scarf

T-shirt Tie Scarf

The T-shirt scarves have become a really popular way to make something old into something new. I found an old brown shirt that I haven't worn in over a year, maybe because it says "Everyone Loves a German Girl" on it and I figure I should at least try to look my age. I decided to use an old burgundy tank top that doesn't fit anymore to compliment the brown.

Supplies needed:

1 old T-shirt
1 old tank top
Pair of fabric scissors


1. Lay the shirt and tank top flat on the table or floor.

2. Starting with the t-shirt first, cut off the bottom seam.

3. Cut the the t-shirt into 1 to 1 1/2 inch strips, beginning at the bottom, up to the collar. Cut out the collar and the sleeves. Set the sleeves aside to use later.

4. Once the strips are cut pull on them to make them curl in on themselves. Set the strips aside.

5. Begin cutting the tank top. Cut the bottom hem off. I cut these strips along the width so they were longer.

6. Sort the strips by color and length.

7. Cut the sleeves from the t-shirt into small strips; set  aside.

8. Now tie each end of the strips together and wrap the loop around your hand. Depending on how many times you wrap the strip around your hand it will make the loop smaller or larger. I tried to make mine as random as possible.

9. Use the small strips from the sleeve to tie the loops together. I placed my colors together randomly, but be creative and make a pattern or whatever you want.

10. Tie it up. I made mine a circle scarf, but an open-ended scarf would have been just as cute.

11. Wear it. Wrap it around your neck and show it off. I wrapped mine around 3 times.For a tighter look I can opt to wrap mine 4 times.

This was a fun, easy, cheap, versatile craft. I plan to make more variations of a t-shirt scarf. I already have the shirts picked out. I hope you have fun with this one; there are endless possibilities.

Peachy Chicken

Sometimes simple recipes are just as savory as the most complicated ones. My roommate has a wonderful cookbook that everyone should have: Six Ingredients or Less by Carlean Johnson. It has tons of simple, healthy recipes with ingredients that you probably already have on hand. You can purchase the cookbook on Amazon here.
Peachy Chicken

Peachy Chicken

1 chicken, cut up, or 4 chicken breasts
1 can (29 oz) peach halves; save juice
3/4 cup soy sauce


Process the chicken in the Marinade Express using the MX Teriyaki Marinade mix. You could use neutral or the Sesame Ginger Marinade to compliment the peachy flavor. I had processed the chicken in the Marinade Express the day I went grocery shopping and placed two chicken breasts each inside sandwich bags to freeze them in portions. The day I planned to make the meal I removed a bag from the freezer to thaw it. This helped to make the cooking day fantastically easy.

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Arrange chicken, skin-side down, in oil-sprayed 13x9-inch baking dish. Combine peach syrup with soy sauce. Pour over chicken. Bake 30 minutes. Turn and bake 20 minutes or until cooked through, basting frequently. During the last 10 minutes of baking add the peach halves to the chicken to warm them. Serve with peaches. Makes 4 servings.

Since I was making this dish for two of us I cut the recipe in half. Because I cut the recipe in half and had processed the chicken in the Marinade Express (which reduces the cooking time), I cooked the chicken for about 20-25 minutes. I made some brown rice to help soak up the peachy goodness. This recipe was tasty and easy; I will be making it again soon.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ring in 2012 With a Spanish Flair

To help me celebrate the New Year I decided to make some sangria. I fell in love with this fruity wine drink when I visited Barcelona, Spain in 2008. My dad has been asking me to test alcoholic drinks using the Marinade Express, and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out.

Myself in Barcelona, Spain
The Glorious Sagrada Familia

Ingredients for Citrus Sangria:

1 bottle of red wine 
2 oranges
1 lime
1 lemon
2 tbs sugar
1 shot whiskey
2 cups of Ginger Ale or club soda


Cut the fruit into wedges or round slices. It is best to expose as much surface area of the fruit as possible.

Pour the entire bottle of wine into the Marinade Express drum. I bought a cheap bottle of dry red wine but a sweeter wine would work too. Add the sugar. Squeeze the oranges, lime, and lemon into the liquid, and drop the fruit into the mixture. Add the shot of whiskey.Generally sangria has rum or brandy in it but I had some whiskey on hand which worked fine.

Once the lid is in place draw the air out of the Marinade Express and set the timer for 10 minutes. Step back and watch as the wine stains the middle of the bright orange, green, and yellow fruit to a deep red. 

Remove the sangria from the Marinade Express into a pitcher. I used a ladle to transfer the fruit without splattering. 

Most recipes require the sangria to be chilled for 24 hours before drinking so that the fruit juices have had a chance to marinate in the wine. I chilled my sangria for 5 hours and it definitely had a wonderful juicy flavor. I put a little bit of the ginger ale in my glass before I drank it to add sparkle to the sangria. The Marinade Express helps to break up the juices in the fruits faster, eliminating the 24 hour marinating time in the refrigerator; the Marinade Express does exactly what we'd hoped it would. 

I rang in the New Year with a delicious drink. I admit, I had the prettiest drink at the party. I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year!