Pizza?!?

My family loves pizza. They would be content to eat it two or three times a week. I on the other hand, am not such a big fan. But because my husband and children adore it, I make it. From scratch. Homemade sauce, homemade dough, etc. etc. Actually, making pizza from scratch is not all that difficult to do, especially if you have a stand mixer for the dough, although it does take a bit of forethought and planning. But hey, I’m a multitasking modern woman, I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan…

Last weekend I made sauce, which means in my family’s mind pizza was soon to follow. “When?” they kept asking, “When is it going to be pizza night?” The daily interrogations were wearing me down so I declared that tonight would be pizza night. HOORAY!!

Yeah, well that advanced planning I mentioned, that somehow never occurred over the course of my afternoon and before I knew it, the clock read 4:30 and the stand mixer was still sitting in the pantry. Not wanting to see their sad little faces when I broke the no pizza news to my family, I quickly scanned the contents of my refrigerator. I found a package of Indian nan-style bread in the freezer but only a small chunk of fresh mozzarella in the crisper. However I still had leftover cheddar, jack and asiago from my macaroni and cheese recipe. These may not be the makings of my regular pizza, but with any luck I would be able to create something vaguely resembling personal pizzas with them. And so pizza night was back on!

To say these personal pies were a success would be an understatement. The nan created a lite crispy crust, the crazy mix of cheeses were delicious and the kids loved having their own little pizzas. And since we each got our own pie I was finally able to have pizza topped with something a bit more to my liking— spinach, onions and hot peppers!.

(How To Save Pizza Night) Personal Pizzas
The great thing about these pizzas is that you can really get creative with the toppings. Green olives and hot peppers, grilled chicken and caramelized onions or even sunny side up eggs and fresh spinach— go crazy!

4 pocketless pita breads
2 cups red sauce
4-6 oz. grated cheese (mozzarella, cheddar, asiago, provolone)
toppings of your choice

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place pita bread on baking sheet and broil on high for 1-2 minutes until slightly crisp.
  2. Top with a layer of sauce, grated cheese and toppings of your choice.
  3. Pop back under the broiler for another 5-7 minutes until the sauce is warm and the cheese is melted and bubbling.
  4. Slice, eat and enjoy.


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A Cheesy Topic

…In 1993 Crayola held a contest to
name a new shade of crayon.
The winning name: Macaroni and Cheese…
The suggested wine to serve with mac n’ cheese
is a crisp Chardonnay… If you google
“macaroni and cheese”,
20,800,000 results will come up…

My son loves to play the “What’s your favorite” game. What’s your favorite place to be? (Anywhere with him and his sister, of course!)… What was your favorite subject in school? (English, he gets his love of reading from me)… What’s your favorite video game? (Words with Friends) and most recently, What’s your favorite vegetable? (I love most vegetables and I don’t really have a favorite). I’ve tried to instill my enjoyment of vegetables and healthy food in general in my children, and so far it seems to be working. My son loves anything with lots of onions and garlic, and my daughter is crazy about broccoli, raw carrots and celery. But they are kids after all and like most kids they also adore french fries, chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese.

I’m not proud of this, but I will come clean… there’s a bag of tater tots and some chicken nuggets in my freezer at this very moment. I’m a busy mom and sometimes I too need to cut corners. However, I draw the line at boxed macaroni and cheese. Have you ever tasted mac n’ cheese from a box? It’s awful. Even the organic stuff is almost inedible. So I set about finding a recipe that tasted good and wasn’t so loaded with fat that I would feel guilty feeding it to my kids. It took a lot of trial and error but I finally found a Cook Yourself Thin recipe that used real cheese and butter, but in restrained amounts. After a little tweaking on my part (and if you know me then you know I can never follow a recipe exactly as written) I finally have a meal that has the whole family looking forward to mac n’ cheese night. And naturally, it always gets served with a nice side of veggies!

Macaroni and Cheese
This recipe can be made with any shape or type of macaroni you like.
I’m not abig fan of elbows (too boring and not a great vehicle for holding sauce), so I usually use something like Campanelle, Radiatori or even Orecchiette.

2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. flour
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 cup skim milk, warmed
16 oz. dried multi-grain macaroni
1/4 cup aged Asiago (or Pecorino Ramano) cheese, grated
4 oz. Sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
4 oz. Colby Jack, shredded
Plain panko crumbs (for topping)
Aged Asiago cheese, grated (for topping)

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the flour and whisk until it turns a golden brown, about 2 minutes.
  3. Slowly add the warm milk, continue whisking and bring the mixture to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes, whisking frequently, until the sauce has thickened. Add the garlic powder, salt and Dijon mustard and stir until well combined.
  4. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Remove the white sauce from the heat, add the three cheeses and stir until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce is smooth.
  5. Pour half the cheese sauce over the cooked macaroni and give it a gentle stir. Add additional sauce until the macaroni is coated to your liking. (I often have extra sauce that I use when I reheat the leftovers.)
  6. Serve as is or sprinkle the top with some panko crumbs and a bit more of the Asiago cheese. Pop it under the broiler for 4-5 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling. Serve and enjoy!

*adapted from Cook Yourself Thin

delicious comfort

“Beautiful soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!”
~Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

It’s finally cold enough here in New Jersey to actually feel like winter. This sudden drop in temperature has restored my children’s hope for snow, made it feel like a proper football season for my husband and his beloved Giants and inspired me to haul out the “big pot” and cook up something hearty and comforting. Normally this pot if mine churns out great vats of red sauce, steaming pots of chicken soup and a killer turkey chili. But last weekend was so crazy cold that I wanted to make something really rich, soothing and wonderful. Something that would not only fill my family’s bellies but also warm them right down to their toes. After much browsing, googling and serious debate I finally decided on the meal to make: Chicken-Corn Chowder topped with aged cheddar cheese and served with a side of cornbread. Makes you feel toasty just thinking about it doesn’t it? I have to say it was pretty fantastic. So good in fact that a few nights later, when I gave the kids the choice between leftover chowder and pan-fried grouper (normally a Greco kid favorite) the chowder won, hands down!

Ordinarily I would jump to the recipes at this point, but I think I have a bit of housekeeping to do first. When I began this blog I told you that I’m not a food snob. And while I still consider this to be true I feel I should amend that declaration a tad. There is something that has zero room in my little food world. What you may ask? Well I’ll tell you… canned creamed corn. Yup, that slimy yellow mush we all remember from the 70’s. (I believe that must of been it’s heyday.) Anyway it’s still out there on the store shelves and it happens to be called for in both my chowder and cornbread recipes. I however refuse to support the canned cream corn industry and instead make my creamed corn from scratch. Stop rolling your eyes, it seriously takes all of 10 minutes to make and is so insanely delicious that I couldn’t get my family to stop eating it right out of the pan. If you insist on using the canned variety, so be it. But I promise you, the minimal effort required to make it yourself is well worth the yummy payoff.

Chicken-Corn Chowder with Aged Cheddar
This recipe can easily be halved, but my feeling is if you’re going to take the time to make soup you might as well make enough for leftovers.

2 tbsp. olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cups homemade creamed corn (see recipe below)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 3/4 cups low fat milk
2 cans of navy beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups shredded cooked chicken
2-3 cups shredded aged cheddar cheese, for topping

  1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat, add the onion and bell pepper and sauté until the onion is transparent and the peppers are fragrant, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. Add the creamed corn, smoked paprika, cumin, milk, heavy cream and beans. Bring to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover and simmer about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add in chicken, season with additional salt and pepper to taste and allow to continue simmering until chicken is heated through.
  4. Ladle into bowls, top with aged cheddar and serve with a side of cornbread.

*adapted from Kerrygold.com

Homemade Creamed Corn
1 medium onion, diced
2 tbsp. butter
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1lb. bag of frozen corn, defrosted
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. yellow cornmeal
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups low fat milk

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and sauté the onion and salt until the onion is translucent.
  2. Add the corn and the rosemary sprig and cook for 3 minutes or until the rosemary begins to go limp. Remove the rosemary, sprinkle the corn with the sugar and cornmeal and stir to combine well. Cook for 1 minute then add the heavy cream and milk. Cook for another 5 minutes, until the corn has softened and the mixture has thickened.
  3. Use an immersion blender to puree a bit of the corn mixture to give it more of a canned consistency. (A food processor or blender would also work.)
  4. Give the corn a final stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve or set aside for later use.

*adapted from Alton Brown

Cornbread
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup brown rice or AP flour
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup creamed corn (homemade or canned)
1/2 stick butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and grease an 8×8 square baking dish.
  2. In a large bowl stir together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, melted butter and creamed corn.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir until just blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth out into an even layer.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and a toothpick in the center comes out clean.