Monday, March 18, 2013

Mid-Week Mini Pizzas

Alright, so today is Monday, not the middle of the week, but I have tons of memories of my mom coming home from work, tired but needing to get dinner on the table (my mom was a 1960's mom) and I am happy to say, still with us, and one of her pantry go-to meals was Mini Pizzas.  She made them with whatever meat and sauces we had in the pantry.  If we had left over hamburger, she'd use that, or leftover beef or pork roast, even chicken, if that is what was sitting unused in the refrigerator.  She'd use what my dad called "doctored up" tomato sauce, since, in the late 1960's-1970's, ready-made pizza sauces were not prevalent in grocery stores. Mom would add dried oregano or Italian seasoning, or, when really pressed, just tomato sauce or paste or both.  She'd heat it up and spread it over English Muffins.  She'd top it with whatever meat was leftover, and sprinkled the top with cheddar cheese.  Cheddar cheese is my mom's favorite.  Since I am STILL sick with bronchitis - it Just won't end - I was trying to decide on something different yet comforty.  Memories of my mom's go-to pantry meals flooded into my sinus pained brain, and I realized, happily, I had All of the fixings to make Mini Pizzas. 

I think Every family in America has a meal like this one up their sleeves (more like, in their pantries), and I am sharing the Mini Pizzas I made this evening.  Keep in mind, as I mentioned previously, you can use whatever toppings you like.  I simply used what I had on hand.   Here's my starting line-up:

  1 package English Muffins, halved
  8 slices dry Italian salami sliced into slivers
  1 cup of cheese  (I used a Garlic Sharp Cheddar and Tomato Basil Cheddar)
  1 cup of Pizza Sauce  (I used Giada's Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce)
  6 large leaves, fresh basil, chopped

I simply halved the muffins and spread one spoonful of Arrabbiata sauce per muffin round. I added about a spoonful of the cheese blend, topped that with some salami, and sprinkled a little basil atop that.  Simple!  Then, I placed the mini pizzas on  my pizza stone, and slid that into a preheated 425 degree oven.  I baked them for about ten minutes, at which time they came out crispy and piping hot. 

You can add parmesan cheese to the top, but I chose to let the already flavorful cheeses I'd added speak for themselves. 

I have to tell you, I got a little cheese greedy and added a little bit more over the basil before sliding the stone into the oven!  Shhhhhh!



I have just one more thing to show you.  It has nothing to do with the mini pizzas, but as I mentioned in my previous Chicken Stoup post, I recently moved.  My kitchen is only a fraction of the size of the kitchen I'd had in the house I'd been sharing with the homeowner.   Not to fret, my moving was planned before I'd ever moved in, so it was not a surprise.  In any event, while planning my move, I'd asked a good friend of mine, whom I call "the Mad Scientist", who is also a master builder of Anything, to construct for me a "mobile culinary island", upon which I could top with my chopping block and store my oft-used cookwares.  My friend exceeded my expectations, and even moreso, gave the island to me as a birthday gift.  So cool!!!

Here it is in all of its functional glory........

I LOVE IT!!!!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

My Icky Sicky Chicken, White Bean, Bacon and Pasta Noodle Soup

I have been sick with bronchitis for seven days and each day seems worse than the previous day.  It's been tough because I just moved to a new place last weekend, and have been itchin' to cook my first meal, here, in my new digs.  A pantry version of the old chicken noodle soup remedy was not what I had in mind for my first meal.  But, it has proven to have been a good and wise choice.  Without further ado, here is my recipe:

Starting line-up:
1 pound chicken  (I used thinly sliced chicken breasts which I cut into nearly uniform cubes)
celery hearts with leaves, chopped
1 large white, yellow or red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or grated
3 strips applewood smoked bacon, chopped
2 red potatoes, cubed
1 cup farfalle pasta (or your favorite pasta)
salt and pepper to taste
one tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 or 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
3 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
1 14.5 ounce can white kidney beans, strained and rinsed
1 can corn kernel, drained and rinsed 
2 cans of chicken broth (or one large box)
*1 carrot, chopped or shredded (I forgot to get a carrot at the store, so it is not in my photos, but I normally add it to my stoups)
*eggs  (I love to add an egg or two or three to my simmering stoups for added protein)

There are a million and one variations of making stoups and soups, but this is the one I made last night.  Not my best work, but it hit the spot and helped me settle me and helped me sleep through the night.  Hope you take it and make it your own.  Enjoy!

Add the chopped bacon to a high-sided pot over medium-high heat.  Why bacon?  Why not?  As the bacon renders, reduce the heat to medium.  When the bacon has rendered, add the onion and garlic.  Sweat out the onions and add the chicken once the onions start to become translucent.  Add the celery after sauteing the onions and garlic for three minutes.  After three more minutes, add the spices and saute' another three minutes.  Add the drained and rinsed beans and corn and incorporate well. Add the broth and worchestershire sauce and bring to a boil. Bring to a simmer and add the pasta and thoroughly stir that in for even cooking. Allow to simmer for thirty minutes.  At this point, before that thirty minute simmer on low, I like to add a few eggs and let them poach.  That's just me.