Spinach, Garlic and Chicken Chardonnay White Pizza

We’re beginning to settle into our new place just nicely these days. I’m starting to cook a lot more, once again, and even getting back into the rhythm of creating new recipes for the site. I’ve been away far too long if you ask me. The very first thing we bought for our new home was a pizza stone, even before we got some of the more important things like a lamp or dining table. I wanted to make sure we had our pizza nights locked in. This is actually the first pizza stone I’ve ever owned. As a matter of fact, someone on instagram recommended it to me a long time ago and I immediately thought about their comment when I picked it up at the store. They were absolutely right, pizzas are 100 times better when cooked on this round ceramic pizza cooking contraption. It’s like magic. Like the future. It makes it so easy to achieve that artisan pizza taste and texture. (The following has been a PSA for Pizza Stones of America. Is that an actual thing? It totally should be).

Moving and unpacking has taught me that we’re all looking for quick and easy recipes that require little to no time in the kitchen. Sometimes we’re just too tired to whip up something fancy during the week, or we simply don’t have the time to devote ourselves to a meal that takes way too long to make. That’s okay. Instead of reaching for that take-out menu, though, we should be focusing on creating simple recipes that taste just as good (if not better) as the restaurant version. I’m always trying to come up with new and exciting ways to incorporate pizza into my daily life. If I had it my way, we’d be eating pizza every single night. Oh, different kinds of course. I mean I do have some standards. Pizza everyday for dinner just sounds like a dream come true, doesn’t it? 

One easy way to turn a drab meal into something fun and exciting is by incorporating wine into the dish. Sure, wine is great to drink with dinner, but it’s also great to cook with! I’ve partnered up with Barefoot Wine to bring you this delicious Spinach, Garlic and Chicken Chardonnay White Pizza. It’ll change the way you think about pizza and wine forever! Get ready to eat the entire pizza by yourself, especially with the creamy white garlic sauce that gets slathered on top of it underneath all of that cheese and tasty toppings. Are you rethinking that “pizza every night” thing we talked about earlier? You should be. 

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The Classics: Buttermilk Fried Chicken

I’ve recently been told by a few people that many of my recipes on the site seem to be a little too demanding or time consuming to make. Some of you have even mentioned that during the week it’s impossible to try out the recipes because you have so many other things going on. You’ve asked for more quick and effortless recipes. I really do appreciate the feedback and have been listening intently because it helps me grow as a food blogger. The main reason why I run this site is so that you try out the recipes for yourself. I want you to fall in love with these dishes and make them over and over again, the way that I do, without feeling overwhelmed about it. So if you’re looking for more simple and delicious recipes, without all of the fluff, simple and delicious recipes you shall get.  

In honor of this revelation, I’m starting a new series on the site called, “The Classics.” It’s pretty much what you might think it is. For the past few weeks I’ve been toying with the idea of creating and sharing easy recipes of classic dishes we all know and love. Recipes with straightforward ingredients and easy-to-follow, uncomplicated steps. I sometimes take for granted how great it is to get into the kitchen and make really simple dishes. It’s therapeutic almost, to not have to think too much and just cook because it’s soothing. Because it’s fun. It’s so easy to get lost in the marvels of the internet with all these delicious recipes popping up, the kind that combine a couple different dishes into one mega dish. I’m all for those recipes, don’t get me wrong. I mean, you have seen my creations on here, but sometimes it’s important to take a step back and appreciate the classic dishes we grew up with.

I’ll be sharing “The Classics” in installments every few weeks (mixed in with my regular posts) so keep an eye out for them. If you happen to have any suggestions or are dying to see a particular classic on here, let me know by dropping a comment down below. Also, if you try out one of the recipes be sure to hashtag them with (#TCAclassics) on FB, instagram or twitter. (I want to see them!) I’ll keep track of that tag and share the photos as they come in. That’s exciting right? Not as exciting as fried chicken I’m afraid. Speaking of, as you can see, the first installment happens to be fried chicken. The king of all classic dishes, and one of my all-time favorites. 

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Calzones: BBQ Chicken & Sausage and Peppers

I go through this whole process to decide on what to make for dinner. Sometimes when I feel uninspired, I go to the market and let the store decide for me. “Hey store, what should I cook for dinner?” I’ll scream out loud as I walk in. Sure, I’ll get some stares but it’s mostly because they’re jealous they didn’t think to ask the store themselves. They understand. We’re in the same boat. I’ll take a stroll around and see what looks good on that particular day and I’ll usually get ideas just on that. However let me give you one piece of advice, I’m sure you already know this, but you should never go to the market on an empty stomach. It’s bad news. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve taken a trip to the grocery store starving and I end up having chips and a baguette for dinner. Maybe even a few string cheeses on the car ride. I’ll get home and be like “Hey guys, guess what! We’re having pretzels and ice cream cones for dinner.” That never goes over well, which is a shocker to me. I mean, who wouldn’t want plain ice cream cones for dinner? Sometimes I base meals solely on what I feel like eating on that day. I go through cravings like a pregnant woman—I’m assuming. I’ll get something in my head and won’t be able to rest until I eat it. It’s a blessing really. The same thing goes for the posts and newsletters I photograph. Most of the time—okay, maybe always—I end up making, shooting and sharing a recipe that I felt like eating at the time. Purely selfish of me I apologize (but not really because it’s a delicious way to work).

My family will always know when I really don’t feel like cooking because I end up making something super simple like tuna sandwiches, or turkey sandwiches, or grilled cheese sandwiches. There’s a theme here, sandwiches are easy to make. Take note. At the same time, whenever I whip up a batch of buttermilk pancakes and scramble a few eggs and call it dinner, they’ll know how lazy I’m feeling that day. Although breakfast for dinner is the best thing on this planet, so no one’s complaining. Certainly not me. I could eat breakfast for dinner all day every day. I digress though. This post came through a conversation with a friend. I hadn’t eaten a calzone since like elementary school, and then she made me one and I was like “Whoa that looks amazing! I haven’t eaten a calzone since elementary school!” She then told me, “You should make calzones for your blog!” I responded with, “Oh yeah, like BBQ chicken. Oh Oh and sausage and peppers!” We both stared at each other and laughed like if something was funny and these calzones were unattainable, but then we both stopped laughing immediately and just stared at each other knowing we just said something serious and genius. And that’s how these calzones came to life. I had the BBQ chicken idea in my head immediately and the sausage and peppers came to me a little later only because I thought in my head I would have to make a second kind because one of my sister’s hates BBQ sauce (total weirdo). This whole long story just to show you how I usually decide on what to make and shoot. That’s how my brain operates when it comes to food. The more you know.

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Fried Chicken and Waffle Sandwiches

Before we can dive, mouth first, into this post we need to discuss one important topic. It’s more so answering a critical question, really. It happens to be the biggest question ever asked in the food world. The answer to which is the most vital piece of information that can ever be granted. You might be wondering what the question is. I’ll tell you that it’s a question I’m most often asked. Perhaps you’ve been asked it too. You’d be surprised how may people inquire about such a topic. Pancakes, waffles or french toast? My answer is always waffles. Waffles to the very end of my existence. Waffles for life. Waffles, always and forever. Waffles for the win. And not just because this happens to be a waffle post, no, but because crispy on the outside, moist on the inside waffles are to die for. Although not on pancake days. Tall stacks of warm flapjacks with butter and maple syrup, perhaps with a few chocolate chips thrown into the batter? Definitely pancakes. Pancakes to the very end of my existence. Pancakes for life. Pancakes, always and forever. Pancakes for the win. Yet french toast, however, is kind of the best thing on the planet, isn’t it? Challah or brioche french toast with a dusting of powdered sugar, perhaps even stuffed with cream cheese and berries? Most definitely french toast, hands down one hundred percent. French toast to the very end of my existence. French toast for life. French toast, always and forever. French toast for the win. Do you see my dilemma? I can never get anywhere with this.

Over the weekend I was housesitting/cat sitting for a friend. It was a nice get-away for me, as said friend lives by the beach. Now I know what you must be thinking, “But Jonathan, you hate the beach!” If you weren’t thinking it before, you’re thinking it now. And you’re right, I’m not a beach person—I’m not much of a sun person really—but I am a cooler weather person. So I’m all for houses by the beach and gloomy overcast days. I decided to get some work done—in between constantly taking pictures of her cat and getting on his nerves with hugs and kisses of course—while I was over there. I always think it’s fun to cook in someone else’s kitchen. You get thrown out of your comfort zone, out of your element. It’s sort of weird preparing for a post in a space I’m not familiar with, especially since my friend also bakes and cooks and shoots and writes. It’s like walking around in someone else’s shoes for a day, ones that take you a while to get used to. However, I did manage and I actually had a lot of fun shooting somewhere different. Somewhere that wasn’t my own house for a change. I’m sure Miller, my college studio lighting teacher would be oh so proud of me for that, so this post is for him for forcing me out of my comfort zone (it only took me a year to do it). In the end I love how the pictures turned out, but lets be honest, shooting with the cutest cat in the world, certainly helped. He’s a hoot, constantly sneaking up trying to get food, thinking he can’t be seen. Oh I can see you Jules Stevens, I can see you and you’re adorable. I guess when it comes to fried chicken and waffles none of us can keep away.

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Gone are the long summer days with scorching three digit weather. The heat beating down on our barely-clothed bodies is now behind us. It is in the past. We say goodbye to artificial cold air better known to us as the AC. We bid adieu to shorts, skirts and tanks. Sunglasses we break them. Bathing suits we toss them. Flip flops we trash them. Maybe I exaggerate and we do not go to such extremes but we just put them in the closet far away from sight. We pull out such luxuries as coats, scarves, gloves and knitted socks. For us Southern Californian’s these are luxuries because we take them out for a day and then we are forced to retire them as quickly as we brought them out. But we are not complaining. We will take what we can get. We grab whatever is given to us when it is given to us. We welcome with open arms shorter days with cooler weather. Those overcast mornings and chilly nights. The sun is no longer our arch nemesis—trying to kill us—rather we are excited to see it. The sun is now our friend. We look up and even give it a smile from time to time when we spot it peeking through the clouds. Its rays warming and lighting the way, not heating and killing.

Autumn has finally arrived. It has presented itself at the perfect time. The most opportune moment. Just when we thought that summer was going to murder us with its excessive heat, the Fall came and relieved with its brilliant colors and decadent aroma. Yes, there is an aroma to Autumn. Walk outside at five in the evening—just when the sun is beginning its slow descent— take one giant whiff. Devour all that Autumn has to offer. Inhale that chilly breeze. The leaves changing colors, they begin to fall and swirl down to the ground. As you walk back home, admire the environment all around you. Remove your hat and tip your head to your neighbors passing by walking their dogs. The warmth from the houses down the street, to the left and right of you is contagious. Their doors are closed keeping the cold air out and the warm happiness in. The yellow light within, seeps through the curtained windows, casting a glow onto their garden. Onto their lawn. Onto their picket fence. It barely reaches you, but it’s enough to make you smile. You tighten your scarf closer around your neck and you continue your walk back home taking in all your surroundings.

As you walk home wearing your warm pants, heavy coat, scarf, gloves and beanie, you begin to be thankful that summer is over. No longer because of the heat and worrying about staying cool, but rather you are thankful because of something entirely different. Something entirely selfish. You stop in your tracks. Right there in the middle of the sidewalk, halfway home, you stall. You do a little jump kick out of sheer enthusiasm for you have just realized that you no longer have to eat super healthy and watch your figure because you have to dip into a bathing suit. Gone are the bikini days that summer brings with it. Happy are you for finally being able to eat buckets full of carbs and comfort food to your heart’s content. I cannot help but think that this is the cycle of life. You spend spring worrying and exercising for summer. And then you spend autumn and winter eating and not worrying. Then spring comes around and it starts up again. Perhaps I’m just projecting. Whatever the case might be, you begin to walk again, but this time you walk with a bounce in your step and a grand idea on your mind. The temperature has dropped and it could be perfect for a soup. But you do not want to make soup for dinner tonight. No, you want something special. You yearn for something heartier. Something more filling. You want to fill your house with wonderful smells from spices and fresh herbs. You shall make a Jambalaya. Because you want to bring that Southern cajun-creole excitement into your home.

Here’s what you will need.

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Chicken Stroganoff

The inevitable summer dinner party has arrived. There is nothing you can do about it now. You are frantic because it is your turn to host it. This time, the responsibilities have landed upon you. You are starting to cry. Hey! Stop that crying! There is no crying in cooking! You have to suck it up. Step up to the plate. It is your turn to shine. Sure the task sounds daunting. Scary almost. Cooking an entire meal for a gathering and hosting it, can be a bit too much for any one person. In reality you might go crazy. Have no fear, I’m here to help. Who am I you might be asking? Well, I’m your cooking conscious of course. You won’t go crazy as long as I’m around. So the tears have stopped but now you have begun to sweat. Wipe that sweat off your face! Do not fret. Keep your chin up. Hold it up high. Higher. Higher. There you go. You can do this. Be confident. Have a stiff upper lip. You are a master in the kitchen. Oh you are not? Well, let us pretend you are. You are the master, and the kitchen is your domain. Say it with me, “I am the master, and the kitchen is my domain!” I do not think you meant it that time. Once more, with feeling. “I am the master, and the kitchen is my domain!” There you go. It’s easy. Keep all the other dinner parties—you have attended—in the back of your mind, and take note that they have all been deliciously entertaining. What is more, they have all been easy, flawless even. The other hosts and hostesses have blown it out of the water. They have knocked it out of the park. They have put together spectacular summer dinner parties. Parties that guests are still talking about. That is what we need. This is what you will do. We have to throw a party that people will talk about for weeks and weeks on end. Your party will come and go and your guests won’t be able to stop mentioning it. You too will shine. The Joneses have nothing on you.

The fire has been lit within you. The spark, ignited. Your confidence, higher. An evil smirk sprawls across your face. You contemplate what to serve as you start to go through all the recipes in your repertoire. No, those tired and stale recipes will not do here. You need a new one. A fresh recipe. For a spilt second you lose yourself in the idea of ice sculptures and chocolate fountains. Wanting so badly to impress. To impress your family. To impress your friends. To impress your neighbors. To impress those know-it-all Joneses. Thoughts of live bands, jugglers, tents, chandeliers, and ceiling acrobats enter your mind. You get lost in your own wild ideas and schemes. Caviar. Sundae bar. Seafood buffet. Silent auction. For a few minutes you lose consciousness. Your eyes glaze over and you enter a dream-like state where fancy, grandeur, and expensive float all around you. Suddenly you awaken. You come to. You open your eyes and realize that you are standing on top of your kitchen counter with your arms stretched out laughing uncontrollably. What has gotten into you? I have created a monster. I walk up and slap you. I slap you hard across the face. Your look registers a state of shock. A state of disbelief, when you realize where exactly it is you are standing and that the slap had to be done. I’m sorry, I just slapped you, but it had to be done.

Now listen up. You do not need fancy buffets and extravagant entertainment to throw a memorable dinner party. Sure people will be mesmerized with such things because they are nice, but in reality they will be just as impressed with simple and delicious food. You do not need to slave away for hours in the kitchen worrying about making individual meals or a wide variety of appetizers. Dinner parties should be stress-free. They should be fun. You are there to enjoy the party as well. You deserve it just as much as your guests do, if not more. What you have to do is make one easy dish. One that is packed with flavor and is set to impress. Often times people get overly ambitious and think they need to make something with exotic ingredients. They base a recipe’s excellence on the amount of ingredients listed. However the simple reality is that less is more. All you need are a few simple and well thought out ingredients to create a show stopping meal. For instance, take normal everyday chicken breasts, some good hearty crimini mushrooms, onions, garlic, sour cream, a few spices and herbs here and there, and while you are at it, a pound of healthy whole wheat egg noodles. Why you got yourself a meal fit for a king or queen (I’m an equal opportunist conscious, what can I say?). Wipe that look of confusion off of your face. What can you make with said ingredients? Well thank you for asking, my young grasshopper, you can make Chicken Stroganoff. “Chicken what now?” Well Chicken Stroganoff of course. Make this classic dish, reinvented, for the dinner party and the “ooohs” and “ahhhs” will just come rolling in. The Joneses will hate you for it. You’ll be a star. People will want to be you. I can see that look of intrigue in your eyes. How do you make Chicken Stroganoff you ask? Well let me show you how. Just put your trust in your ol’ cooking conscious here and I will teach you how to make such a dish.

We begin with our simple, yet incredibly delicious, ingredients.

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