Marinated Portobello Pizzas

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(Becky, the Mama.)

As long as I can remember I have wanted to be Italian. I look Italian. I FEEL the inner, fiery passions of an Italian. I love the way every little word in Italian sounds like music, or a romantic flirtation.

I met a beautiful grandmother from Sicily a few years ago, at a friend’s house in Denver, and after chatting a bit, she asked me if I was Italian. Be still il mio cuore (my heart).

I said, “No, but I really, really want to be.” What I didn’t say, but what I wanted to say was, “I want to live under the Tuscan sun by day, and I want the moon to hit my eye like a big pizza pie at night. I want to eat gelato and drink café in a piazza.” (And I want an excuse to use words “gelato,” “café” and “piazza” in a sentence every day.)

This lovely lady, immediately recognizing my Inner Sophia Loren said, with a wave of her hand, “No worries, I will make you Sicilian.”

“You will?”

“Yes,” she said, and then she ceremoniously took my face in her two cupped hands, looked in my eyes and said, “Now you are Sicilian.”


So there ya go.

In honor of my bestowed-upon Sicilian-Italian-ness, I offer these beautiful little marinated Portobello pizzas for your eating and snacking pleasure today. You can fill them with anything you have on hand that you enjoy, the possibilities are endless: mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil; goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and pesto; chopped veggies and lentils in a marinara sauce with vegan cheeses; humus and olives and red roasted peppers; chicken, asparagus and Alfredo sauce. I could go on and on, as we Italians are prone to do.

I filled these Portobellos with a rich home-made marina sauce I mixed with some leftover diced roasted veggies. Then I sprinkled them with mozzarella and Parmesan and topped with a few slices of turkey pepperoni.

Muah! Easy, pretty and delizioso! If you think ahead, try to pop the mushrooms into the marinade as soon as you bring them home from the grocer. The longer they marinate the better they taste! I ended up marinating these for almost 3 days. They were so juicy and flavorful.

This recipe has almost no carbs, is gluten free, and can easily be adjusted to be vegan or vegetarian. If you have lots of people over for a party who are all on special diets (and who isn’t these days? ) you can even make them to order. (Or let your guests make their own.)

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Marinated Portobello Pizzas

Makes 2 Portobello Pizzas


1/3 cup of your favorite Italian or balsamic salad dressing

2 large Portobello mushrooms

½ cup of your favorite marinara or spaghetti sauce (mixed with any chopped leftover veggies you like)

2 T. grated mozzarella cheese (or a slice of fresh buffalo mozzarella)

2 T. Parmesan cheese

6 to 8 slices of turkey pepperoni (it has 70% less fat that regular pepperoni and the same amount of flavor)


Marinate the mushrooms in the dressing for at least four hours or up to several days in a tightly covered container. (Put in fridge if you are marinating more than 4 hours. Otherwise you can leave the mushrooms to marinate on the counter top.)

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Next, broil or grill the mushroom on both sides until the get grill marks or start to brown. Turn stem side up and carefully cut off the stem. (I chopped the stem and added it to marinara.) Place a generous spoonful of chunky marinara sauce on the mushrooms (about 1/4 cup each) then sprinkle each with a tablespoon of mozzarella and Parmesan. Finally top with pepperoni. Bake or Broil (about 6 inches from heat) until cheese is melted and pizzas are heated through. Now THAT’S amore!

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Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade (Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

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(Becky, the Mama.)

The first time I created and served this recipe for a patio party, guests kept saying, “Oh my goodness, what IS this yummy stuff?” I struggled to describe what is was, because, as is so often the case, I just put whatever sounded good to me into a pan and crossed my fingers. This recipe began with a pan of diced roasted Greek veggies that becomes a colorful, intensely flavored Mediterranean topping for wedges of hot grilled Naan bread, alongside hummus and a lemon-zest ricotta. If I were to be asked to create a “perfect bite” on some sort of home cook’s competition, I’d serve this Roasted Eggplant and Red Pepper Tapenade on top of, well, just about anything.

This hearty appetizer is perfect with a glass of good wine, either on a hot summer day or a cold winter evening. It is wonderful at just about any temperature but probably best served a room temp which makes it a great no-fuss appetizer for parties. (Also perfect for New Year Celebrations coming up.)

I must confess, I am a little sad when there is not a container of “Yummy Stuff” in the fridge somewhere. It’s become my favorite condiment on top of fresh grilled Naan or Pita,burgers or sandwiches, or as a topping to punch up flavor in everyday spaghetti. If you are vegan, it’s especially nice to keep on hand to add a quick burst of color and flavor to lentils, beans, brown rice or quinoa.

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Roasted Eggplant & Red Pepper Tapenade

(Or “That Yummy Stuff”)

* Recipe of Roasted Veggies below,cooked, cooled and diced to desired “chunkiness” for spreading
1 T. olive oil
2 T. tomato paste
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 ½ t. sugar
Couple of shakes hot pepper sauce (like Tabasco) to taste
1 T. capers or 1 T. finely chopped pepperoncini peppers
5 large green stuffed olives, sliced (may use black olives if you prefer)
1/3 c. chopped dried tomatoes
1 to 2 T. water, if needed
Salt and pepper, if needed


In medium to large skillet, heat olive oil. Add diced roasted Garlic Greek Veggies. Add tomato paste, vinegar, sugar, capers or pepperoncinis, sundried tomatoes, and olives. Stir and cook in skillet until sauce is thick, well-blended and hot and some of the “vinegary” smell and taste is cooked out, about 2 minutes.

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Add water if needed, but keep the tempenade thick. Serve warm, room temperature or even cold if you like. It is amazing on grilled Naan or pita bread atop hummus, fabulous as a thick relish-like topping for a Greek-style burger or any sandwich.

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Mediterranean Garlic Roasted Veggies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees


1 eggplant, peeled and diced about 1 inch cubes
1 red pepper, seeded, stemmed and rough chopped in big chunks
3 big cloves garlic (or 4 smaller ones)
1 red onion, peeled and rough chopped in large chunks

3 T. olive oil
1 T. balsamic vinegar

Fresh ground sea salt and pepper (light sprinkling over all)


On a large baking sheet sprinkle olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Place chopped eggplant, red pepper and red onion on pan. Using clean hands mix the veggies with the oil and vinegar and then give the whole thing a light sprinkling of fresh sea salt and pepper. Put whole garlic cloves somewhere on pan either wrapped in foil or parchment with a little olive oil; or use a small clay garlic roaster.

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Roast veggies for about 20 to 30 minutes or until veggies just begin to get soft and brown-blackish in spots. Smash soft roasted garlic into a paste with flat edge of knife or fork, and toss with veggies.

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Italian Chickpea Bread Casserole (Vegan)

Italian Chickpea Bread Casserole

(Rachel, the daughter)

This weekend we had our first family stomach virus, a true milestone in parenting. Jackson woke up on Saturday morning sick. Sunday night, I went to bed early, my queasy stomach telling me I too had been bitten by the bug.

I’ll spare you all the details, but at the pinnacle of our monumental family milestone, Jackson woke up crying around 3am. Jared tried to console him to no avail, so he brought him to me to nurse him in bed. Within seconds Jackson was calm. And seconds after that, I pulled away, tossed him back to Jared and ran to our bathroom.

Through the walls, I could hear our poor baby bawling. I felt terrible, but knew his daddy had him until I could get to him again. And then I heard sounds echoing my own from the other bathroom.

Oh no. Not Jared too.

As soon as I could, I rushed to Jackson’s room. Pitiful baby was sitting up in his crib with all the lights on in nothing but a sloppily placed diaper, sobbing. Apparently, daddy had been bitten by the bug mid diaper change.

I re-aligned his diaper, zipped him back into his footie pajamas and rocked and nursed him. I prayed “God, just 10 minutes. Please just give me 10 minutes to get him back to sleep in his crib.” He answered and gave me exactly enough time, no more, no less.

These are the moments I wondered about before having kids. The last stomach virus I had was in my first trimester when I was pregnant with Jackson. It was the first time I truly feared becoming a mom and questioned whether I had what it took for the life long commitment of motherhood. I wondered if I’d be able to handle sickness with a baby or child or the sleepless nights. And now I know, it may be really hard, but apparently I can do it. I’ve been to the edge (of the toilet seat) and back. I’ve conquered the throne. I’ve, well, you get the jist of it. I somehow feel accomplished now. Like I’ve come into my own as a mom.

So what if I laid on the floor and let Jackson eat peanut butter straight from the jar for lunch. So what if we watched two episodes of Sesame Street from the DVR. So what if I still have cheerio crumbs and peanut butter stuck in my carpet. So what. I did it. I made it through. Some days that’s the best you can do, just make it through. And I did.

Today I finally felt like my normal self again. After little but broth and pasta for the last couple of days, I was in the mood for a real meal. This Italian Chickpea Bread Casserole hit the spot. It’s warm and comforting and, though it takes a little while to simmer and cook, was very simple to make.

I love the different textures in this dish: crunchy on top, fluffy soft cloud-like in the middle, chewiness in the chickpeas. A texture party in my mouth.

Italian Chickpea Bread Casserole

Serves 6


½ pound chickpeas, soaked or 2 cans drained and rinsed
16 oz crushed tomatoes w/ basil
2 c. veggie broth or water
1 t. coconut or brown sugar
1 t. balsamic vinegar
2 T. dried minced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups small tomatoes, whole (I used 8-9 campari tomatoes ) or 16 oz of canned whole tomatoes
8 pieces of bread, (I used Ezekiel Sprouted Whole Grain bread)
Olive Oil for brushing bread
Salt & Pepper

Optional Garnish of Caramelized Balsamic Onions

1 onion, sliced
1 T. Olive Oil
1 T. Earth Balance
1 T. Balsamic Vinegar
1 t. coconut or brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Few twists of cracked pepper


Drain soaked chickpeas and return to large pot. Add first eight ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Then simmer covered on low for 30-45 minutes (until chickpeas are cooked through—if using canned chickpeas you can cut time to 15 minutes), stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. On a baking sheet, line up bread slices and brush one side with a little olive oil. Place in oven (you can start while it’s still preheating) and bake until the bread is hard, but not burnt (I baked mine for 15 minutes, flipped it and baked for another 15).

In a high-sided casserole dish, lay out four of your pieces of toast. Breaking them up as needed to fit. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

No need for perfection, just fit it in there.

When your chickpeas are cooked through, pour half of the tomato mixture over the bread. Then repeat with the remaining bread and tomato mixture.

Simmering chickpeas with the tomatoes and seasoning.

Sprinkle the top with salt and fresh crack pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.

While this is baking, you can either kick back and relax, make a side salad or veggie and or caramelize some balsamic onions for the top of the casserole. It’s good either way, but who doesn’t love a little caramelized onion on just about anything?

Balsamic Caramelized Onions — you can actually cook down more than this if you have more patience than I do (or don’t have a whiny toddler at your feet testing every patient bone in your body :))

Directions for Optional Balsamic Caramelized Onion

Pour oil and butter into a cold skillet, heat to medium and add onions. Stir and simmer for 10 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 more minutes or until the onions are soft, brown and completely cooked through.

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Pesto Parmesan Chicken

(Becky, the Mama.)

I was famished after a gym workout this week, and decided to grab a bite to eat on my way home. Cruising through the drive-through lane at Taco Bell, I placed my order for a taco. The voice on the intercom sounded confused, so I repeated my order again, louder and with more clarity. And that is when I actually looked at the menu and realized…. I was in line at Starbucks.

One of my Facebook friends quipped, “So did you ask them to make you a Taco Frappucino?”

Granted, there is nothing appealing about the thought of a Taco Frappucino, but you’d be surprised at how many of my favorite recipes are created because of accidents. Or because I am hungry for a particular something, but out of an ingredient or two, so try to make due with substitutes. Time and again, the substitute often proves to be an improvement on the original recipe.

Such is the case with today’s recipe. Typically, when I make Chicken Parmesan, I use thin cutlets. What I had on hand was a couple of monster size breasts (Yes, my husband could not keep himself from making a few jokes about that) and I was in too much of a hurry to pound them thin.

Secondly, I often dip the cutlets in egg whites and grated garlic before rolling in Panko crumbs and Parmesan. Alas, nary an egg or a clove of garlic anywhere in the house.

That is when I spied a large jar of pesto that I’d purchased at Sam’s Club (it is surprisingly tasty, some of the best purchased pesto I’ve tried). One thing led to another and I ended up covering the breasts with pesto, then rolling them in Panko and grated Parmesan cheese. What we ended up with, eventually, was the best Chicken Parm I’ve ever made. In fact, it was the best Chicken Parmagiano I’ve ever eaten. The chicken inside stayed incredibly tender and when you cut through it, you could see the pretty layer of green pesto, golden Panko, red marinara and white cheese. Now that’s amore.

Pesto Parmesan Chicken

Serves 2 people (with big appetites)


2 large boneless chicken breasts

Salt & Pepper (to taste, to sprinkle lightly on chicken)

2 cups marinara sauce (your favorite bottled brand or homemade)

¼ cup fresh or grated mozzarella

1/4 cup olive oil

1 T. butter

1/2 cup Pesto

1 cup Panko bread crumbs

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Heat Oven to 400 degrees


Heat the marina in a saucepan until hot.

Put olive oil and butter in a large oven proof skillet and heat to medium high.

Rinse and pat boneless chicken breasts dry. Sprinkle both sides lightly with salt and pepper. Put pesto in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl mix Panko and ½ c. Parmesan cheese. Lay chicken breasts, one at a time, into pesto first, coating both sides of breast and edges thoroughly, and then in Panko-Parm mixture, coating both sides and edges of breasts thoroughly again.

Saute the breasts on both sides until the coating is crispy and golden. You may have to add a little more oil depending on size of breasts and your pan.  (Drain off excess oil, if there is a lot of it, before putting in oven.)

Then put the entire skillet into the oven and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and ladle each breast with ¼ cup marinara, 2 T. mozzarella and 2 T. Parmesan cheese. Place back in the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes or until cheese is melted and chicken breast is cooked but not overly so. (A meat thermometer is helpful here, but if you don’t have one, just cut through the middle of one of the breasts to check for doneness.)

Before serving ladle each breast with more marinara and sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese. This dish is excellent served with a side of angel hair pasta that has been tossed in a little pesto.

Variation:  Use thinner chicken breasts or pound smaller chicken breasts thin.  Put sauce and cheese on immediately after pan frying, and cook in oven only until cheese melts.

Vegetarian or Vegan Variation:
Use a vegan chicken patty (such as Gardien brand frozen chick’n scallopini), tofu, tempeh or seitan instead of chicken breasts. Use or make a vegan pesto (omit the parm cheese in most pesto recipes). The cooking time in the oven following pan-frying may not be needed at all, or just cook for a few minutes with tomato sauce and cheese. Vegans can serve without cheese, or use vegan versions of mozzarella and Parm on top.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
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The Title: Pesto Parmesan Chicken
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