The Last Birthday

Last night was my Mom’s birthday.  It’s the last family birthday of the year, so we can all chill out on the celebrations for a few months.  Phew.

My nephews think that she’s “fifty eighty three years old”.  Yup, 5,083 years old.

I have to say, she looks remarkably good for her age! 😉

In celebration, my family made a FEAST.

These were the leftovers that I partook in for lunch today.  I didn’t actually take many pictures of the actual dinner.  Just this one:

and this one:

Yeeaah, here’s the thing.  When you’ve got two crazy nephews running around like a couple of hooligans and 5 adults trying to wrangle them all while making dinner, things get a little chaotic and pictures were the last thing I was thinking about.  I don’t know how Mama Pea does it.

Needless to say, I didn’t just forget to take pictures of my beautiful Thai Chicken Salad Pizza, I also forgot MY CAMERA at my parents’ house when I left.  The horror.

The above pictures are of the un-Thai’ed pizza and the eggplant parmesan.  The recipe I used for the pizza was inspired by Rachael Ray (recipe here) but I “kicked it up a notch”.  Was that an Emeril reference?  Gee, I watch too much Food Network.

For the pizza, roll out pizza dough (I used one that was store bought to simplify the process- making one from scratch at this party would have been unwise, trust me) and spread with a thin, even layer of duck sauce or sweet and sour sauce, which is what I used.

Then top with shredded mozzarella, monterey jack or provolone (or all three, we don’t judge here) and julienned strips of red bell pepper.  Bake on top rack of oven at 425° for about 12-15 minutes until the cheese gets bubbly and starts to brown.

After that, I made a sort of salad/slaw to top the pizza with.  It’s similar to Rachael’s but I beefed it up.  I julienned 1/2 a seedless cucumber, 1/2 bag of packaged coleslaw mix (the kind with cabbage and carrot), a little bit of diced bell pepper and some chopped scallions.  I tossed the mix with a combo of 2 parts white wine vinegar and 1 part honey, seasoned with salt and pepper.

The original recipe called for peanuts and peanut butter, but since my nephews have nut allergies, I modified the recipe.  The chicken that I came up with (totally by accident because I went a whole different direction) was AMAZING.

I’m not giving you the recipe yet because I’m still toying with it and have big ideas for some variations, but just use any grilled chicken recipe you like.

Top the baked pizza with a heap of the slaw and some strips the chicken and that’s what you get!  So good.

Yeah, that’s the un-topped pizza again.  I ran out of the salad-slaw for the leftovers.  I rule.

We also had eggplant parmesan, garlic bread and salad, followed by angel’s food cake with strawberries.

Nope, my family doesn’t like to eat at all.

Happy belated birthday, Mom!

Advertisements

Papa’s Pizza Party

Today is a very special day.

It’s hump day.

A new episode of Modern Family aired tonight.

AND

It’s my dad’s birthday!

Pay no attention to the fact that I look like a crazy person in this picture.  Blame the photographer, my sister.

To celebrate, our family went out for a good ol’ fashioned pizza party at California Pizza Kitchen.

Glamorous, I know.

What can I say?  My nephews are suckers for a good cheesy pie.  And contented children = uneventful dinner = happy family = untraumatic birthday celebrations!

I like CPK a lot, but I know that it’s really easy to eat enough calories to feed a sumo wrestler for a week with some of their dishes.  Now, I’m not a calorie counter but even I can appreciate the value in controlling my intake when I’m faced with an artery-clogging menu like this.

So what did I do?  I checked out the nutritional stats on CPK’s website before we went.  There’s some new legislation out there that requires larger chain restaurants to post nutritional info- check it out, it’s pretty eye-opening.

After perusing the menu online, I decided to go with the Asparagus Soup as an appetizer.

Not only does a cup of this soup weigh in at just over 100 calories (there’s no cream in it), it was really good for my ever-persistent cold.

I ordered a half-size of the Original BBQ Chicken Salad as my entrée.

Usually my bottomless stomach would scoff at the idea of a half salad, but a) my appetite has been wavering since I came down with this stupid cold (the horror!) and b) CPK’s salads are huge.  Like, bigger than my head huge.

We, of course, ended the evening with some cake.  It wouldn’t really be a celebration without one, you know.

Although he did evade the infamous birthday crown.  Lucky man.

Happy birthday, Papa!  You’re still my favorite dad. 🙂

What are your family’s birthday traditions?

Success

Remember when I went to Cicero on my birthday to get pepperoni bread?

Ok, so technically they were out of pepperoni bread, so we got pizza and this amazing chicken dish:

Flash forward a few weeks to a discussion with the boyfriend about plans for his birthday, which is coming up on Monday, and he turned and said to me,

“You know what I’d like for my birthday?  I’d like for you to make that chicken dish from Freddy’s.”

“Ok, no problem!”  I said.

Errr…and then I thought about it.  Not only did I not have the recipeI didn’t even know what the dish was called!

But then I said to myself, “Megan, you’re not one to back down from a culinary challenge.  Let’s do this.”

I still don’t know what it’s supposed to be named, so I’m calling it “Ciao! Que Pollo!”. It’s a working title.

Ciao!  Que Pollo! —Makes 2 hefty servings

1 small eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds

1 cup crushed tomatoes

bottled Italian herb seasoning (usually has oregano, marjoram, basil, sage, etc)

2 chicken breasts

8 garlic cloves

2 small heirloom tomatoes (or 1 large), sliced into rounds

3 oz fresh mozzarella, sliced

2 oz sliced provolone

1/4 cup fresh basil


—–

Preheat oven to 350°

In a skillet, heat a small amount of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add eggplant slices and brown slightly on each side.  Add crushed tomatoes and reduce heat to low.  Sprinkle in some italian herbs (I probably used about 3/4 teaspoon).  Make sure eggplant is coated in tomatoes and turn occasionally.  Cook until eggplant is very soft, about 10 minutes.

While eggplant is cooking, add about 1/2-3/4 cup of oil to another skillet and heat over medium heat.  (I used a combo of olive and vegetable, but whatever you have will work fine)  Smash garlic with the flat side of your knife (or a hammer if you’re feeling aggressive) and peel.  Add garlic to skillet, making sure it’s not bubbling too hard  (you don’t want the garlic to burn- believe me.)

Butterfly chicken breasts.  Lay chicken on a cutting board and while placing one hand on top of the chicken and pressing down lightly, slice horizontally to split chicken being careful not to cut through the other side.  You should end up with a larger, thinner piece of chicken.  Season chicken with salt, pepper and another light sprinkle of Italian herbs, then place in skillet seasoned side down.  Brown lightly, then flip.  It will probably be in the skillet for about 15 minutes.

Layer a few slices of eggplant with sauce on top of each piece of chicken, then layer on a few slices of tomato.  Add a few slices of mozzarella and a slice of provolone.  Stack basil leaves neatly on cutting board, then roll like a cigarette and slice crosswise.  You’ll end up with little ribbons of basil (also called a chiffonade).  Sprinkle most of the basil over the chicken.  Add some of the cooked crushed tomato to the skillet around the chicken (just a few tablespoons).

If your skillet has a plastic handle, wrap it in tin foil and place the entire skillet in the oven.  Let cook for about another 10 minutes so that the cheese begins to melt.  Then turn the broiler on and (watch it carefully!) let the cheese brown slightly.  Remove from oven, garnish with the remaining basil and plate chicken, spooning pan sauce over it.

It turned out perfectly, no joke.  It even looked like Freddy’s!  The boyfriend approved, saying that it was better than Freddy’s!  Ok, so I think he was just sucking up (which I certainly appreciate) but it was really very good.  It reminded me of a chicken/eggplant parmesan except lighter, with no breading and less heavy tomato.

It looks like a long recipe, but I promise it’s easy.  Go for it.  You’ll feel accomplished.

In the spirit of Freddy’s, I also attempted to make a much simpler variation of pepperoni bread.  I used the same beer bread recipe that Madeline used a few days ago.  I just added some slices of pepperoni and more Italian herbs to the dough and baked in a boule shape.

I’ll level with you- it tasted nothing like Freddy’s bread, but it was really good!  The boyfriend thinks I should name it “Megan bread” and sell it.  Next time, I’d add about twice as much pepperoni.  Not bad for my first attempt at making bread from scratch, though!

Time to get dressed- I’m taking someone to dinner for his birthday!