20-Minute Meal: Cajun Smoked Turkey Sausage Alfredo

While I haven't been in much of a festive mood this year, I still cook...and even eat occasionally! I was in the mood for smoked sausage the other night, so I threw together this splendid concoction in 20 minutes, start to finish:

While I made it just for me, out of sheer boredom and a sausage craving (yeah, yeah, I know...), what I made would easily serve four and would probably be really good with a nice, green salad on the side. 

What You Need: 

  • Medium egg noodles
  • 1/2 yellow or white onion, chopped coarse
  • 1 bell pepper, whatever color you like, cored, seeded and chopped coarse
  • 1 pack turkey smoked sausage (we have Butterball brand, use whichever brand you've got) 
  • 1 jar Ragu Light Parmesan Alfredo (or whatever lite or fat-free Alfredo sauce you find)
  • Cayenne pepper, sprinklings...I didn't measure, sorry
  • Kosher salt...just a touch
  • 1 tbs olive oil

What You Do:

  • Heat water for noodles to boiling, add noodles and let them cook
  • Heat olive oil on medium and saute the peppers and onions for 5-7 minutes
  • Sprinkle a touch of kosher salt and cayenne pepper, to taste, over the peppers and onions
  • Slice sausage into 1/2 inch coins and add to the skillet
  • Continue cooking the peppers, onions and sausage for another 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, til the sausage gets all nice and toasty brown (see above...like that!) 
  • Check noodles. I like mine done. I don't do that Al Dente stuff...I'm not Italian. Sacrilege, I know!
  • Add the entire jar of Alfredo to the skillet and stir to evenly coat all the veggies and sausage. 
  • Reduce heat and let it simmer for another 5 minutes or so to warm the sauce
  • Drain the noodles, add them to the skillet, stir it all up til everything is getting along nicely
  • Plate. 
That's it. Simple, straightforward and great for lazy, lonely cooks like me! 

Oh, and if you've ever wondered how to get all that sauce that's stuck to the sides of the jar OUT of the jar, read here for ways to set it free and get your money's worth out of canned and jarred items!! 

Happy, happy cooking, eating and then going back to whatever you were doing before I so rudely interrupted! 


Christmas Gifts with Flavor: Flavored Syrup for Coffee

So, clearly, December is the month for slacking...at least when it comes to cooking fodder, eh? I must apologize for my absences. Chickens. Heads Cut off. Ya know. 

Anyway....as the time for Christmas Cheer draws near, I thought I'd finally get this out to you, in case you've got some last minute gifts to come up with.  Above, is a bottle of peppermint syrup that my cousin's beloved made for her...at home....made, bottled and labeled...at home. 

And while I don't have a recipe myself, I did find these two recipes that sound EXTREMELY easy and cheap to make up...all you need to do is provide the bottles, labels and maybe a little ribbon to tie around the top.  

Peppermint Syrup from Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

EDIT: My cousin has divulged the recipe for the syrup pictured above!!!

-1 C. Water
-1 C. Sugar
-20 peppermint candies

Don't have exact directions, but I would imagine you add all the above into a pan and let it melt down, slowly, probably at medium, or medium to low heat...stirring regularly.

Lisa also stated that she would've enjoyed a touch more peppermint without more sugar, so she recommended adding a few drops of peppermint extract to bump up the flavor more, if you're into peppermint really, really bad! 

And peppermint is just one of about one billion possibilities when it comes to making flavored syrups for coffee, hot chocolate or even ice cream! 

You can find glass bottles with lids at most any dollar store. Just make sure you wash and rinse them thoroughly before filling with the syrup. 

Use a heavy stock paper or grocery bag paper to make your own labels. Whether you handwrite and design them, or create a label on your computer and print it onto the paper, your personal touches will make it even more special! Use a hot glue gun or glue stick to adhere the label to the bottle. 

Tie some raffia or regular foil ribbon around the top for a finishing touch. 

Voila...flavorful gift, freakishly cheap!  

I won't make any promises about posting more Christmas-related ideas before the big day, but I do want to wish you all a very Merry Whatever You Celebrate on That Day and hope it's the best one yet! 


Christmas 2013: Not So Jolly

Let's face it. I had high hopes of providing a ton of ideas for the upcoming Christmasy festivities. Yet, to be honest, 2013 hasn't been the happiest of years. In some cases, yes, but knowing what it's going to be like this year, with family issues and what not, I'm just not much in the spirit of Yuletide caring.

Don't get me wrong, I love holiday food and all, but anything I think about now is just the standard stuff:

-Homemade Mac and Cheese
-Green Bean Casserole
-Roast Beef
-My Aunt's always better than anyone else's homemade Chex Mix.

So, I would like to extend my apologies for being a bit Grinchy this year.

I'm working on creating a whole new me...one who is much happier and much more productive in 2014. As a tried and true introvert, this is taking a tremendous amount of mental work on my part! Meanwhile, I hope you can find some other recipes here that will help feed you between now and the big day!  Check out the archives. Or, jump on over to Simply Deb and see what else is going on! 

Happy Holidays! 


Christmas Gifts with Flavor: Quick Breads

Ok, kids....so it's December 3. That means approximately 2 to 2.5 weeks to get all your Christmas gifts planned, bought and wrapped before the big day. Over the course of these next two weeks, I'm going to share with you some great gift ideas that involve food, or the ingredients therein.

Giving food-related gifts not only saves you tons of cash, it allows you to make something from your heart and possibly provide something new that your friends and family members may have never tried before.

What I'm sharing today is something I've done throughout the years, when money was exceptionally tight and Christmas shopping was fairly out of the question. Most of the ingredients I used were bought at the local discount grocery (Save A Lot) and only took about a day to bake, then package the foodstuffs.

Quick breads 

I don't have my own recipes for these, I got each one out of one of the best, most useful cookbooks, ever:

Keep reading...it's worth it!  


Veggin' Out with Chef Boyardee

Back in October, I wrote about doctoring up your standard, run of the mill Chef Boyardee Pizza mix. I get bored easily. I also cannot make any sort of "boxed" meal without doing at least SOMETHING to it, whether that be adding more noodles, more veggies or different herbs, to make MORE of it and to make it taste at least LESS processed than it is.

(Please note, I never have claimed to be, nor will I ever BE a "foodie"...this should eliminate any expectation that I will never post about Hamburger Helper or frozen pot pies!)

Over the past month or so, I had some major stomach/gut issues and learned that I have that lovely thing called Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Yay. So, now, in hopes of finding the foods that will not upset my delicate innards, I've been playing around with assorted foods. I know that frozen pizza, fresh cucumbers, barbecued chicken, that lovely creamed chicken that I adore so much and Honey Bunches of Oats cereal all upset me greatly, much to my dismay. Everything I read, however, seems to want you to avoid any kind of healthy food, including vegetables, fiber and what not...so how is it that I can eat more healthy stuff without causing an internal ruckus? (I'll let you know when I fully figure that out!)

I wanted pizza, but didn't want the grease and fat levels of the frozen variety, so I picked up another Chef Boyardee pizza kit, the Cheese-only variety, and some fresh veggies that I knew would go good on top of it and set out to make a veggie pizza of sorts.

Keep reading to see what fresh hell I made!!!


Tried but Not True: Melt in Your Mouth Chicken

So, the other night, we couldn't figure out what to make for dinner...and I was rummaging around Pinterest for something quick in the chicken department. I didn't find anything quick for that night, but found this recipe for "Melt in Your Mouth Chicken" that I put on the lunch menu for Sunday. (For once, I actually had EVERY single ingredient required.

I followed the directions to a T....a big, capital...T.....and yet, THIS is what came out of the oven: 

One of these things is most DEFINITELY NOT like the other. I don't know if it's because I lined the baking sheet with foil (because I didn't feel like scrubbing a pan) or if it's because I used grated parmesan cheese instead of shreds. I just do not why mine does not look like the picture above. 

It was an odd, odd thing, this recipe. Granted, I've never baked with Greek yogurt before, so maybe this is normal and what they used was NOT Greek yogurt? I can tell you that I opened the oven at about the 25-minute mark and they were SWIMMING in what I assume to have been yogurt liquid....runny, gross looking, yuck and so I drained the majority of THAT off. Maybe that's why they didn't brown properly? I baked it at the indicated temperature, for the indicated period of time. The only thing that got golden brown was the bottom of each boob, after I got done peeling them off of the aluminum foil. 

The flavor was different. Good, but different. My husband said it got better the more he ate, and that we had a winner with this one.  Allow me to show you my face at hearing this:  

No, this is NOT me.....but that most certainly had to be my expression at that particular moment. 
He's an artist. He draws pictures and stuff. Rock your world, he will. 

Anyway....back to that chicken. Yeah. Next time, I will be omitting the aluminum foil, and if it's still not browned by near the end of the cooking time, I think I'll stick it under the broiler for a minute or two to see if that does anything other than burn the stiff peaks. 

PS: This is NOT a non-messy kind of proposition. Sure, the yogurt spread mixes up all nice and neat in the bowl, but then you have to somehow get it to spread over the slippery chicken. Of course, NOW, after the fact, I realize that I should've patted them dry before applying the spread. I'm on the ball, yes I am! The spread is so thick that I didn't feel it would be feasible to put it in a pie pan or something and then try to dip the chicken in, so I just used the good ol' digits and slopped it on each side, then around the edges as best I could. 

I will let you know what happens the next time I try this!  

If YOU have any clue why it did not brown like the chicken pictured in the recipe picture, please do share!  


The Lighter Side of Chicken Cacciatore

On Lidia's Italy the other day, she was making her version of Chicken Cacciatore, and I was immediately reminded of this recipe from Michael Chiarello: Chiarello's Chicken Cacciatore. It may very well be the first recipe I ever made that ventured outside the lines of spaghetti and meat sauce or some version of Helper. The kids were small, so I know it was YEARS ago, back when I barely knew what olive oil was and had never cooked with fresh herbs before. (Yes, I am that old.) I loved Mr. Chiarello's PBS show, so much so that I signed up for his catalog and ordered these:

Yes, they're old. Worn. And mainly sitting up there on the shelf for decoration...along with a can of Arizona Sunshine that I found in my grandpa's house after he passed. I miss my grandparents. I hold on to the tiny things to help me remember the best times in life. ANYWAY!  Back to cacciatore.  This recipe made me see parsley as something more than a garnish. I have never stopped using Italian parsley since I first made this. It's amazing. Try it, if you never have...the fresh stuff!!! 

So, I went searching for the recipe and found it on another food blog (see link above). I was overjoyed!  However, having recently discovered that my digestive system is not what it once was, I am now trying to lighten everything up, that and I'm not all that fond of chicken thighs, so I revamped the recipe to fit my dietary and budgetary needs.  


The Joys of Spinach

This week, during one of the rare times when I catch part of an episode of Dr. Oz, I saw this recipe for a Spinach Walnut Citrus Salad. I like spinach. I like citrus. It's a go! Took all of 5-10 minutes to put it together. I highly recommend this, not only for the health benefits, but also for the lovely flavor! 

As for the vinaigrette, I am not one to waste, so I added the juice from the grapefruit. Or, rather, I was letting the juice fall into the bowl while I was sectioning the grapefruit and then decided "HEY, this would add even MORE ruby red grapefruit flavor!  All in all, it probably amounted to two tablespoons of juice. 

Being the ARTISTE that I am (HA), I dressed the spinach before adding the rest of the ingredients, because I like to create a somewhat photogenic plate, even if I'm not shooting it!  I added enough baby spinach to fill an entire dinner plate, since this WAS my dinner last night. To be honest, next time, I will combine spinach with romaine hearts. After about 1/2 the plate, the spinach was just, well, too much spinach, not enough crunch for me. 

Here she is, the finished and lovely salad. I did sub mandarin oranges for a fresh orange, just because I really need to use up items in my cupboard. It was just a fairly delightful combination of sweet and sour and a little kick with the cayenne in the vinaigrette. 


Simply NOT Organic-The Followup

Back on October 6th, in Simply NOT Organic, I shared with you some rather disturbing findings about a rather stubborn zucchini and some "fresh" rosemary that I bought back in July. In October, the zuke and the rosemary were still going strong, looking and feeling like I'd just bought them that week.

I checked them again on November 1st. Behold, we have SPOILAGE! FINALLY!

The rosemary is starting to decay, with some leaves turning black and a bit of mold developing on the base of the stem. Only took a little over three months. THREE. MONTHS! How organic is that really? 

The zuke, bought at a local farm, was still fairly solid, but was starting to look just a tad withered. No bad spots on the outside though and no mold on the stem or blossom ends. 

I knew I wasn't going to eat it, so I chopped it up. This is what I found. Actually, the picture makes it look more browned than what it really was. I did not try to do a taste test, because...EWWW. So, I'm going to presume that had I wanted to, I probably could've still used it back at the beginning of October. However, since it frightened me, I just left it on the counter.

So, yeah. That's what they call "organic" now in the herb world. And I don't think it matters much whether a veggeble is grown locally or far away. What matters is the seed. Clearly, a touch of genetic modification occurred at some point to produce a very long-lasting fruit. 

I'm still kind of conflicted, because I like fresh vegetables and frankly, it's quite obvious that it doesn't matter where you get them, you just do not know what kind of seeds were used to produce the PROduce. All we can do is buy local, ask questions, keep calm and hope for the best, right?  


Easy Holiday Appetizers: Cranberry Roast Beef Roll Ups

The other Deb and I were discussing the joys of surviving on a diet consisting solely of appetizers. Why do we love them so? Is it because they are neat, tidy, compact and portable? Is it the ability to eat without having to cook an entire 3-course dinner? We don't know, but we know we love appetizers.

With the holidays (think THANKSGIVING) right around that corner, you need quick, easy apps that you can make in mere minutes, like this recipe for cranberry roast beef roll ups. This combines the best of cheesey, sweet and savory goodness in a portable little pinwheel. I don't have pictures yet, because I haven't made it in a few years, but believe you me, pictures can't do the divine flavor any sort of justice. For now, we'll have to suffice with a few shots of separate ingredients.

What You Need:

Flour tortillas
1/2 red onion, chopped (fine for smoother texture or rough for more crunch, you pick)
Cream cheese (Fat free is fine, as is whipped, which is delightful)
Deli Roast beef, sliced thin, but not chipped
Cranberry relish


The amounts vary, depending on how many rollups you wish to make. For one tortilla, you'll need at least 2 tbs onions, 2-3 tbs relish and 3-4 tbs cream cheese, along with 2-3 slices of roast beef.  I know this is a very shoddy way to tell you, but when I made them before, here at home, it was just random and just for me. So, to guesstimate, I will surmise:

1/2 lb cranberry relish (from deli or prepackaged)
1/2 to 3/4 lb roast beef
1-2 containers of cream cheese (depending on how cheesy you like it)
1 small red onion
1 pack of large tortillas (usually 8-10 in a bag)

What You Do:

Let the tortillas sit out for about 20 minutes. Cold tortillas don't roll as easily.
Same with cream cheese, if using regular, non-whipped varieties. It spreads much easier at room temperature.
Chop up that onion while you're waiting
Assemble tortillas:

  • Spread a thin (or thick if you want more) layer of cream cheese across the tortilla. Doesn't have to be perfect, just has to be cheesy.
  • Place 2-3 slices of roast beef across the surface of the torilla
  • Spoon cranberry relish over the roast beef, spreading it out to a thin layer 
  • Sprinkle roughly 2 tbs of onion over the the surface
  • Start rolling. Don't try to make it too compact, just roll
Place rolled tortillas, with the end flap facing bottom, on a tray, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour. 

Once rollups are chilled, use a sharp, serrated knife to slice each one into 6-10 pieces. Cut off the awkward tortilla-y ends and dispose, via your mouth. 
You can secure each rollup with a decorative toothpick if you're feeling particularly festive, or place a layer of curly kale on the serving platter OR just use a really colorful platter. 
Keep these babies chilled until serving. 

It might take all of 30 minutes to put these together, if making the entire bag of tortillas. Quick, easy, and almost too good to save just for holidays!  


If you like what you see, please subscribe so you can keep up with all my cockamamie cooking ideas! 
While you're at it, visit me and my dear friend, the other Deb, over at Simply Deb. You'll find a ton of ideas and information on health, fitness, food, gardening and money management. 

Furtherform, please visit these other fine purveyors of decadent foods and recipes. 

Credits for the lovely pictures:

Eckrich Deli Roast Beef Get some, it really is excellent!
Luby's Cranberry Relish I am so making this. You should too!
Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Ok, so this is NOT all cream cheese, but the picture is lovely and it sounds delightful, especially with cut, fresh fruit!
Red Onion Onions rule the world.
Homemade Flour Tortillas If you want to be adventurous, make your own tortillas. These.


Easy Holiday Appetizers: Decadent Peppery, Limey, Green Onion Sauce

Seriously. Sorry about the title, I don't have an official name for this sauce. You might wonder how these four items:

Could, would or ever should be joined in one recipe. (Those are limes, not peas!) Hold on to your hats, I'm about to describe an absolutely AMAZING sauce that you can use to make sandwiches, wraps or little finger sandwiches, perfect for any holiday gathering or Sunday afternoon football snacking!  

I know, it sounds a bit odd to combine lime and green onions and then put it on roast beef. I never believed it myself until I tried it. I snagged this recipe from a product sampler at a local Meijer store many years ago. I think I also gained a lifetime supply of sample packets of this: 

Trust me, it's one of the bestest black peppers around! So, let's get down to the nitties and gritties, shall we? 

The Sauce. 


1 cup mayo (fat free would probably be the best alternative but live on the edge and use full-strength for the best flavor) 
4-5 tablespoons lime juice (1/2 a lime, juiced or lime juice from a bottle, you pick) 
1 large or 2 med bunches green onions, washed and sliced thin, using all but the tattered ends and roots)

What You Do: 

Add all the aforementioned ingredients to a bowl
Chill (for at least an hour, but overnight is an exquisite amount of time to let it all comingle!) 

Where You Put It: 

Deli roast beef, sliced thin or even chipped, if you want to frustrate your local deli clerk! Go for the best brands....trust me, cheap roast beef is full of water and just kind of gross. 
Italian Bread, sliced thin. 
Wraps (like Flat Outs, or even tortillas) 

Putting It Together: 

If you're making finger sandwiches, I highly recommend having the Italian bread sliced in store, so you don't have to mess with it. Most commercial bakery slicers run thin, so it makes the perfect size for this recipe. Since Italian loaves tend to be a bit short, I'd recommend making two tea sandwiches per two slices of bread. 

Cut two slices of bread in half before assembling. 
Slather on a layer of the onion sauce, covering the surface of the bread bits for best flavor. 
Hold a piece of roast beef up from one end, so it's dangling in the air, touch it to the bread and let it kind of cascade into a lovely, frilly little pile o' beef. Or, just smack it on there. 
Top it off with the another 1/2 piece of bread. VOILA. 
You can use decorative toothpicks to hold them together or just let them hang out. 

If you're not going to eat them right away, cover the platter with plastic wrap and keep them chilled to prevent them from getting icky and stale!  

Onion pinwheels: 

Flatouts offer more bread-like chew than a tortilla, but the choice is yours. I wouldn't recommend flavored tortillas because it will definitely distract from the amazing flavor of the sauce. However, if you're adventurous, go for it!  

Spread a healthy amount of sauce over the entire surface of the wrap
Cover the surface of the wrap with slices of roast beef
Sprinkle a little kosher salt over the beef (a very little)
Roll it up and then slice into 1-inch pieces. 
Eat those awkwardly shaped end pieces now. 
You can hold these together with decorative picks or just tuck them neatly together on a platter. 
Same as before, wrap and chill if not eating immediately. 

This IS a COLD recipe. I do NOT recommend heating the sauce at all, since it's mayo and it will just become oily and disappear. I've tried it at room temperature, but I really do prefer cold. 

I must apologize as I do not know for certain the serving amounts for the above recipe. For guesstimation purposes, I would have to say that you can cover at least four Flatout wraps, six large tortillas or 16 tea sandwiches. That is a total GUESS however. Just depends on how much sauce you want to add. It's easily doubled or tripled and it stores well in the fridge for at least 3 days. 

And a final note: I have never tried this with anything but roast beef. I don't know how it will pair with poultry or even seafood, but it might be kind of funky with some flaked crabmeat!  Please share if you try it with other meats. Let me know how it goes!  


On Making Changes

Hi there. Everyone else usually revamps, revises and cleans house in the Spring. Not me. I wait til Autumn is in full, chilly swing. So, today, I am rolling out my newly redecorated space and adding some new stuff.

Exciting, right?

Once in a while, life likes to remind you to keep looking for the good. And, often, it will also give you gentle reminders that good is already right there. You just have to look for it. So, in keeping with those gentle reminders, I have found the good in working at home, for myself. See, while I love food (a little too much) and I adore cooking, I also love to write. In fact, that's my full-time career/job.  I don't write books just yet, but that is on the bucket list. For now, I am a freelance contributor on several blogs and I write pieces for assorted clients throughout the Internets!  Exciting, too, I know!!!  

My writing journeys have led me to a myriad of amazing, intelligent beings from across the globe. One such person is my friend Deborah Aldridge, another freelance wordsmith with an amazing wit and a keen sense of all things health- and garden-related. After much discussion, we have decided to combine forces in a group of blogs that focus on all things health, garden, food and budget related. You can find this phenomenal combination of wit, talent and skill by visiting Simply Deb.  And if you lose this post, neverfear!  There's a handy tab at the top of this blog and also a feed in the sidebar, so you can see just what's going on!  

I hope that you'll continue to visit me here at Cooking Squared and also wander on over there, as well, for the best in common-sense, useful ideas, advice and know-how. Go ahead. Do it. Find the good in your day!  

Thanks, faithful, loyal friends and strangers. Your visits are a blessing!  <3 


The Easiest Thing You'll Ever Make: Creamed Chicken Sandwiches

It's hard to believe that something that looks slightly disturbing can taste SO good, but I cannot tell a lie. It is amazing!

It may very well be just a regional or even local staple, especially at church potluck dinners, school lunches and local county fairs. Creamed or shredded chicken sandwiches. Yum. 

This is the brand we use, because it's what they sell here.....

This is what you need: 

1/2 small onion, minced or finely chopped
1 tsp olive oil (or cut the fat even more and just spray the pan with no stick spray) 
27 oz. can of boneless, cooked chicken
10.5 oz can Cream of Mushroom soup (another way to cut fat: use a fat free soup) 
Salt and coarse ground black pepper (probably less than 1/2 a tsp each, here) 

This is what you do: 

Saute the onion in the olive oil, or in a sprayed skillet, over medium heat, until the onion is transluscent. 
Open the can of chicken and skim off any visible fats and drain the majority of the broth from the can
Add chicken to the skillet and shred it further with a fork
Add mushroom soup to the skillet and stir to combine everything
Sprinkle on salt and pepper
Heat for 5-10 minutes. 

THAT is it. 

This amount will make enough for between 8-12 sandwiches, depending on how much chicken you add to the bun. My husband likes to top his off with pickles. Yuck. But, hey, if you like pickles, go for it. 

The more you know: 

Stick the chicken can in the freezer for a good 30 min. to an hour before cooking. The cold will solidify the chicken fat (which is gross) so it's easier to remove it. You could probably also throw the chicken in a strainer and rinse it off, if you REALLY want to remove some fat, but then, you'll be removing some flavor as well. 

If your creamed chicken is too soupy, add a few spoons of instant potatoes. This will thicken it up without changing the flavor. 

Leftovers can be frozen or kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, just warm up in a pan or in the microwave as needed.  


A Little Autumn with Your Soup?

This is a soup, the recipe for which I got from a former friend who got it from some newspaper, newsletter or magazine and then used it to make this tremendously lovely soup for her cafe. I no longer know where she is or what happened to her cafe, but this remains..and THIS is absolutely FABULOUS, even if I'm the only one in the house who likes it.  I guess you have to first like squash and squash-related recipes, first. 

Honestly, the most labor-intensive part of this whole deal is peeling and cutting up the squash. You need a sharp, serrated paring knife or a sharp larger knife....and you need to be absolutely CAREFUL, keeping the knife and the blade pointed away from you and away from your hands at all times!  

See how oddly shaped it is?  It's very unwieldy and tempermental and TOUGH to cut up! A tablesaw might work better. 

So, apart from that particular task, cutting up the veggies and putting it all together in the pot takes all of about 5 to 7 minutes. 

Keep on reading or you'll never know how to make this delightful soup....and you won't get to see all the lovely pictures of the entire process!  


Think Inside the Box

Sometimes, you just gotta go with the same old, reliable, somewhat boring boxed, processed foodstuffs, like Chef Boyardee Pizza. Thing is..it's a PIZZA, you can doctor it up and make it your own. We're not too adventurous when it comes to pizza additives, but have found that the addition of bell pepper, red or yellow (not green) just adds something phenomenal to the flavor. Mushrooms are a must....but I can't stand what happens to fresh mushrooms on a pizza, the drying, shriveling, rubbery effect. Yuck. So, I stick with canned varietals. And of course, onion!

Inspired by I don't know what, I also brush the entire pan with about a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and then sprinkle it lightly with Italian seasoning and just a touch of kosher salt. The beloved could do without either of those, but I think it just adds to the flavor and takes away from the overly processed tone of such a meal. 

Dough. DOH! 

What a work of art, eh? 

Cheeses. Many. Whatever was in the fridge, including Kraft Touch O' Philly Mozzarella, Sargento Sharp Cheddar, left over from the Maccheroni al Formaggio, and a few sprinkles of shredded Di Giorni Three Cheese blend. Not so much cheese as to form a solid wall, but enough to add flavor and yet still able to see the pie below. 

18 minutes at 425 degrees F. I'm slow to shoot pics. Deal. 

Oh my heavens. Guess who's having left overs for lunch today?  
Using a word I don't normally ever type or speak out loud, it was DELICIOUS! 

Someday maybe I'll get really adventurous and add zucchini and eggplant and fresh basil and some other kind of cheese, but for now, it's tried, it's true and it's been on our menu for decades.  


Cheese, Please?

Several months ago, I watched Lidia's Italy, on PBS of course, and saw this: 

I knew I just had to make it. One or two problems abounded. No "pipette" pasta, no Italian bread, no fresh sage (my plant is producing sage-looking leaves with no discernable sage flavor or scent) and no affordable Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano to be found. Never fear, there are always moderations to be made in order to come up with some semblance of deliciousness in this household! 

Soaking cheese. How exciting! 

Since my sage plant is defunct, I decided to add a VERY minimal amount of ground sage. Since it could possible become TOO much, I opted for about a pinch....probably less than 1/16 teaspoon. Also a sprinkling of white pepper just for good measure. 

Melty cheese. What is NOT to love? 

See, the Large Elbow noodles are more than sufficient as a replacement for the short, squatty pipette. 

So, here's the deal with the baguette. The store was all out of fresh Italian loaves the other night, all they had left were the bake-at-home baguettes. I knew from experience that these buggers were hard as a rock after baking, so I figured one would be fine for making the fresh breadcrumbs. However, I should have baked it Friday night and let it sit for a few days to completely stale out. It was entirely too soft for grating and for the food processor, so I ended up with these longer shreds, most of which got thrown out, but I ended up with probably 1 1/2 to 2 cups of crumbs. In the future, I will use a very stale Italian loaf and I will probably make 3-4 cups of crumbs because crumbs, baked and butter soaked, are hard to beat. You can never have enough of them, in my humble, crumby opinion!

Buttered the dish, with unsalted butter, before added the mix. Here she is, pre-baked.

She was so productive, she sprouted offspring....really, no, I made the entire box of pasta and all that cheese and do not own a baking dish with which to hold such a massive amount of food. I'm fairly sure, after cooling, that this can be frozen, either whole or in individual servings. This was FAR too much food for two people. More on that in a bit! 

Plated. Then et. 

So, In all honesty, this is NOT something I would ever serve again as a main course. It was just too much blah after about 4 bites. It would be perfect as a side for healthier fare such as grilled chicken or even some sort of fishy dish, but on it's own, it was just too much. It's very heavy, clearly not healthy and should be used only in moderation. To be far, though, I must admit that I totally forgot to add my cheap version of permsan to the bread crumbs, so there was a little bit of clavor lost and I'm almost 100% certain that if you can afford all the expensive cheeses, there would be even more flavor. Yet, still...

So, if you've got a hankering for a hunk of cheese, try it--maybe cut the recipe in half and you'll still have enough left over for freezing or to share with your block. You could also change up the cheeses, go for all white or all yellow, or if you want some spice you could probably toss in some zesty pepper jack. Play around. Live on the edge of the noodle. 

Happy Monday!  


A Little Pie with Your Meat?

As per usual, I saw this lovely piece of work made on America's Test Kitchen a while back. Of course, I set my mind to actually constructing it. That took a while. Mainly, fear held me back. Fear of making my own pie crust. Fear of royally screwing this up, though, it's got so very few ingredients, it's kinda hard to screw it up. Be warned, however, this is an IMMENSELY labor-intensive recipe. And while I am certain it won't take you the 4.5 hours it took me (because I get distracted easily and go do other shit)....it will take at least 2 hours, if not a bit more. Check out the pics and then see ALL the way down at the bottom for my final, verbose thoughts!  

I won't be going into finite detail, as you can check out the more than worthy and well-explained details for the recipe by clicking that big linkie right up there.  For now, keep reading and see how big a mess I can make! 


Simply NOT Organic

You should know that I don't have a lot of faith in anything labeled organic...whether it comes from a store or farm or farmer's market. In fact, I'm going to surmise that it's actually just a chance for the non-organic farmers to get rid of the produce that isn't quite up to PERFECT IMAGE par....because many of the experts will tell you that organic foods might be blemished or imperfect "BECAUSE" they are natural. So the stuff that normally would've been fed to the swine, cattle and landfills is now repurposed as organic.


Mind you, if you're a lawyer for the produce and farming industries, I said that I'm SURMISING this...I did NOT say it's a proven fact. :P

And actually, through the course of shopping and actually paying attention, I have noticed that the NON-organic stuff is a lot less perfect and less stable than its organic siblings.

Something really frightened me.  Back in July, the 23rd to be exact, I bought a package of "fresh" rosemary at Kroger.  Kroger brand "Simply Organic".

Maybe we should take a moment to consider what we consider to BE organic.  To me, it SHOULD mean, fresh, non-GMO, no chemical fertilizers, waters, pesticides or herbicides, no NOTHING just an heirloom, non-hybrid (redundant, yes) seed that grows into a fruit or vegetable and needs to be sold within a few days of harvest.  Ok, so here's the rub....

This picture was taken this morning, about 10 minutes ago:

This is OCTOBER 6.  July 23 to October 6....that's right...TWO and ONE-HALF MONTHS ago, I bought it.  Today it still looks like it did that first day. No mold, no discoloration, no wilting, no nothing. You may ask how I can tell that something is rotten in the state of Organics?  Because I have grown rosemary.  I have picked stems and I have watched them wilt, even with refrigeration, after a few days. This is highly, HIGHLY abnormal behavior for cut plant stems. Highly ABNORMAL.  

So, when the label says "No Preservatives" and Grown "organically"...I think I'm going to err on the side of BULLSHIT...because something, somewhere along the way made this "plant" grow to last.  Just for shits and giggles, it's back in the fridge, and we'll check on it periodically to see JUST HOW LONG it takes for it to spoil.  Needless to say, I think I'll just start and continue new herb plants because I have no desire to be preserved, above or below ground, for another century.  

Next up, remember when I got the farm-grown, fresh tomatoes?  September 3rd, if you don't recall.  Approximately one month ago.  Here's the haul on that day....

Note that the tomatoes and the cuke were consumed. Now note the unsuspecting zucchini on the left.  That was September 3rd.  This is today, again, October 6th: 

So, in a month, other than getting a little dirty because I dropped some olive oil on it while cooking....other than that, it is totally free of blemish, spoiling and still hard as a zucchini-shaped rock.  No, this farm does not advertise organic or non-GMO products, but still, it's a vegetable, grown on a FARM...you would think it would behave as normal garden-grown vegetables do.  

Clearly, there's some GMO action going on inside that less-than-squashable squash.  

So, yeah, organic? I don't buy it.  Literally or figuratively.  

Grow your own. That's the best advice I can ever give.  Even if you do use hybrid, GMO seeds, you'll at least be able to control exposure to chemicals and soil condition. 

Now, run away screaming. 

Happy Sunday! 

If you want to see what became of these items, go HERE


More On Meals: Spend Less Make More

There are a metric fuqueton of coupon-clipping, money-saving websites designed to keep you searching for the latest, greatest, biggest deals and savings every single minute of every single day. To that, I say:

Sure, if you don't have to work and you can afford the gas to drive here, there, hither, tither and yon just to save 10 cents at one store, go for it. And, since I am most definitely known to be wrong, on many occasions, I could be wrong about this observation--couponing actually makes you buy MORE. I hear the stories about the women who can get a month's worth of groceries for a measly $20...but I have yet to make that happen in my own shopping cart. I do not have the patience, the time, or the dedication to buy 5000 newspapers just to get the coupons, nor do we have stores here that double coupons, or let you combine a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon, etc.  They're getting wise to it, and those days, trust me, will come to an end.  

So in the interest of saving your sanity, focus on the things that ARE reasonable.  
  • Loyalty cards 
  • BOGO offers
  • 10 for $10 offers
  • Sunday coupons
  • Online coupons
  • Store or generic "value" brands
  • Clearance items
Any combination of these will help you save several $ on your shopping without driving you insane in the process. Well, maybe just a little insane. 

Loyalty Pays

I have yet to see a Wally World loyalty card and I despise that particular business, so I attempt to avoid shopping there whenever possible. The only reason I go there now is to get Polaner All-Fruit because my normal store, Meijer, stopped carrying it for some ungodly reason.  Damn them. Kroger, while carrying it charges about 50% MORE than Meijer did, and I can get it for $1.98 at Wally World. Puke, but it works until I find something better.  

Anyways, get loyalty cards at the stores you shop most....Meijer, Kroger, Costco, wherever. These cards give you access to savings that you won't get if you do NOT have them, especially at Kroger.  Keep in mind that I'm writing about what works here, in northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana, but this can apply to whatever stores you have in your area. At Meijer, the loyalty card is in the form of "MPerks". You go online, clip their store and manufacturer coupons, and get the chance to earn big bucks for buying so much of whatever....say, buy $20 worth of produce and get $5 off coupon.  They don't offer rewards as often as I would love them to, but when they do, I can usually hit the big mark and earn $20 off my bill. Kroger, you have to swipe your loyalty card at check out...and their "sale" prices for loyalty will NOT apply if you don't have that card.  Kind of a bait and switch tactic, in my humble opinion....because they make the loyalty price big, and keep the normal price small...and then leave you with sticker shock at checkout if you don't have their card.  I don't shop there much. Their stores are weird and somewhat very overpriced. I have a CVS card, but rarely go there, as we don't use a lot of prescription drugs, so there's not much need to make a special trip. (See you save money on gas, if you do NOT go places!)  

You get it.  Card = Saving Money


The ultimate delight when you want to stock up, if you can find multiple coupons...the BOGO coupons.  I just had one for shaving cream that the beloved uses...so we get two. Stocked up. VOILA. Stores will also offer BOGOS on stuff too, just have to watch the ads. 

10 for $10

My personal favorite. Who doesn't want stuff for a buck. You DO have to watch it though because sometimes, the stuff is already a buck, so you're really not getting a deal at all. This is great for produce, like bell peppers or carrots or mushrooms....not so great for those individual broccoli crowns, which are like $0.75 regularly...you'd be paying MORE. Yikes.  Also great for croutons, or canned fruit that's normally way over $1. You get it. And, usually, you do NOT have to buy 10 items to get the $1 price....just make sure your store allows that first before you go insane. You will NOT be saving much money if you have to buy 10 of everything.


Whether you get them from the Sunday paper, at the checkout lane or online, coupons work. Even if you can't find a store that doubles them. Places like Coupons.com and Redplum.com let you pick what you want to print. The coupons that print at checkout at your store (at least at Meijer) SOMETIMES are a killer deal....but mostly I get coupons for Coffeemate, since that's the one thing I buy EVERY SINGLE TIME I am there. Then, when you have a favorite brand of something (here, it's Earthbound Organic or Marzetti Simply Dressed salad dressing), you can sign up on their company websites and usually on FB to get even more coupons.  The real trick is to use them when the stuff is on sale.  For instance, sometimes, Meijer has a 2 for $4 sale on the Marzetti dressing, so I get them and use the coupon which makes them 2 for $3.  Can't really beat over 50% savings, now can you?  Same with the Earthbound stuff.  2 for $5 lettuce, less the $1 off 2 coupon...you get it...just watch for sales. They happen often. Sign up for the coupons, clip the Sundays and of f you go.

Store Brands

Ewwwwwwww. Sometimes, yeah, eww. Other times, no...it's good. It's the same.  Pasta, croutons, dairy (sour cream, milk, half & half, etc.), spices. You just have to watch and make sure it really IS cheaper than the name brand stuff.  And, surprisingly, Meijer carries all natural, peanut only peanut butter...no added sugar, no added nothing, just peanuts. And it's cheaper than the overprocessed, sugar-ridden crap.  We will be oh-so-very crushed and saddened if they ever stop making it. You just have to try things and see what works for your own tastebuds. That really is the only way.


Especially meat, which you can freeze as soon as you get home or use immediately, produce, which yeah, I'm not into the whole everything organic fad, because I've worked in produce. I know. I see. The ONLY way you're going to get truly organic stuff is to grow it yourself and even then, you're going to fail unless you live under a dome on land that has never been touched by humans.

So, I guess what I want to emphasize is that there are tons of ways to save money. Maybe not as much as the coupon-freaky people do (no offense), but still....
  • Use these methods (coupons, clearance, etc.)
  • Make a list
  • Buy what you really need and only what you really NEED 
If you have some trick or method to your own shopping madness, do share!