Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tattoos and Pizza

Reading: I will be reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by the Swedish guy who wrote it (can't think of his name right now... I am sure it will come to me eventually, or I will actually look it up because it will bug me.  Anyway...).  I have resisted reading this book for a couple of reasons.  First off, it is popular and everywhere.  That almost always turns me off a book.  Ask me if I have ever read some of the other books that "everyone" has read.  Unless it was chosen for a bookclub selection, the answer will nearly always be "no". 
Secondly, it is not my style of book.  Nothing I have heard about it has endeared me to it or made me want to read it.  Mystery/thriller kind of genre, graphic sexual violence, long descriptions and lots of character
Third of all, I don't like tattoos.  And the title always gets the Fountains of Wayne song, 'Red Dragon Tattto" in my head and then I call the book "The Girl with the Red Dragon Tattoo".  Look up the song.  It cracks me up.

Stieg Larsson.  That is his name. So anyway...

Why am I reading it?  Because one of the bookclubs wants to.  And bookclub is not all about reading only what I want to (as much as I try to sway people away from certain books...).  Maybe it will be a treasured read.  I didn't want to read Harry Potter and I ADORED that and became obsessed with the series.  I also did not want to read Twilight and HATED that and did not read any more after the first one.
We'll see.  I'll keep you posted.

Eating: When last we saw Hallie going off to cook, it was Aloha Chicken Pizza on the menu.  Did she make the pizza?  Did they enjoy it?  Will she share the recipe?  The answers are all "yes".
Aloha Chicken Pizza was truly delicious.  It may have bumped the previous favorite off the top of the list (though I must admit the top two are quite similar - the former #1 was BBQ chicken pizza).  It is a Pampered Chef recipe, though I have made my own tweaks (of course!).  First off, I made my own crust.  Second, I used rotisserie chicken instead of cooking and chopping chicken.  Thirdly, I made my own BBQ sauce.  And finally, we used green peppers instead of red, mostly because our red pepper plants barely produced one fruit, we haven't seen any at the farmers market, and the grocery store feels the need to charge up the wazoo for red peppers.  But I digress...  Here is the recipe.  Feel free to buy your own crust and BBQ sauce, and to cook your own chicken.
Aloha Chicken Pizza

Crust (from Betty Crocker, aka "Big Red") >>>>If you are using refrigerated pizza crust, it takes 2 of them.
1 package yeast (or about 2 1/4 tsp)
1 C warm water
2 1/2 C flour
2 Tbls olive oil (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt (Note: when I am making for a red sauce pizza, I add a sprinkling of Italian seasoning into the crust mixture)
Combine yeast and warm water in a medium bowl and mix until yeast dissolves.  Add remaining ingredients and beat 20 strokes (don't ask me why 20).  Let rest 5 minutes.  Roll out onto warmed pizza stone (or of course you can use another type of pizza pan or other flat pan - I always use my stone and I always preheat it with the oven when making this crust). 

BBQ Sauce (from Pampered Chef Casual Cooking)
Cook 1/4 C finely chopped onion in 2 tsp vegetable oil over medium heat (I always skip this step because someone doesn't like onions - the sauce turns out fine without onions).
Stir together in medium saucepan:
1 1/2 C ketchup
3 Tbls Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbls cider vinegar
1/2 C honey
2 Tbls BBQ seasoning mix (I use the Pampered Chef BBQ rub)
1 tsp prepared mustard
(You will end up with about 2 1/3 C BBQ sauce - you only need about 3/4 C for the pizza.  The rest will refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 weeks.)

To make the pizza (as I made it - we like a thicker crust so we use the pizza stone instead of a larger pan like a cookie sheet)
Preheat oven to 425F.  Roll crust onto warmed pizza stone.  Spread 1/2 to 3/4 C BBQ sauce onto crust.  Sprinkle 2 C shredded rotisserie chicken, and 2 C well-drained pineapple tidbits over pizza (you can of course use fresh pineapple instead - it calls for 1 medium pineapple).  Top with 2 C grated mozzarella and 1/2 of a red (or yellow or green) pepper, chopped.  Bake 20minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is to your desired melted-ness and color (I like mine to be golden brown.).  YUM!  We served with Blue Hawaii drinks but would also work with Mai Tais!

Weeding: Today is the day of my plant swap and garden party.  So of course it is raining.  Sprinkling on and off, in the 60s and cloudy.  Good thing we cleaned out the garage and picked up the house too!  When I started planning this, it was August, hot and sunny.  I was thinking of summery snacks and dessert, summery drinks.  Now we are baking apple crisp and warming some cider.  We'll swap in the garage if we need to and retire to house for refreshments.  I am still looking forward to it and already thinking how I will do it differently in the spring.  Ready to swap monarda, black-eyed Susans, lambs ear, and ajuga.  And could be persuaded to dig up a few others on request.

Until we weed again,

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Eating: One of my favorite quick, go-to menus for when I forgot to plan something for dinner or when I am short on time is Salmon Patties with Pesto Pasta.  The ingredients are always on hand at my house.  Prepare yourself for receiving my top-secret recipes...

Salmon Patties (adapted from the recipe on the back of the package)
1 large pouch of salmon
1 egg
about 1/2 C. bread crumbs (I use the Progresso ones, unflavored)
about 1/4 C. frozen corn (or by all means, fresh if you have it)
about 1/4 C. finely chopped red and/or yellow bell pepper (we nearly always have some peppers sliced and in the freezer)
2 T. butter (use real butter, it really is that much better than any of the fake stuff)

In a small non-stick saute pan over medium heat, cook corn and peppers until slightly browned.  Meanwhile, in a medium-size mixing bowl, combine the salmon, egg, and 1/4 C. of the bread crumbs. Add the corn and peppers and mix together well.  Use your clean hands - it is okay.  While you are doing this, melt butter in large skillet.  Spread the other 1/4 C. breadcrumbs on a small plate.  Divide the salmon mixture into 4 equal parts.  Form 4 patties.  I usually squish it into a ball shape pack it together well so the patties don't fall apart too much, and then smush it down gently onto the breadcrumbs on the plate, flip it over and get crumbs on the other side while shaping it.  Set patties into the pan (the butter should be melted and bubbling a little - don't let it get too brown or it may taste burnt).  Cook patties until golden brown on both side.  Serve atop the pesto pasta.  I usually do 2 per person.

Pesto Pasta
As soon as I start cooking the corn and peppers, I begin boiling the water for the pasta (we use bow ties aka farfalle for this recipe 99% of the time - I don't know why), and start making the pesto too.  My secret pesto recipe?  Knorr's pesto packages.  Just add water and olive oil as per the package instructions.  If you are a super-do-it-yourself person, use the fresh pesto you made this morning.  Go for it.  I don't care.  Just like I don't care if you use jars of Ragu instead of making your own bolognese, and I don't care if your idea of "from scratch" brownies involves scratching open a box from Betty Crocker.  Just telling you what I do.  Trader Joe's sells pesto in a jar that I use to make my tomato soup from a can taste just a little more special.  You can use that.  Anyway...  I cook the pesto and the pasta while my salmon cakes are cooking, mix the pesto and pasta together, serve it up on a plate and top with salmon cakes.  If you are feeling fancy, drizzle a little of the pesto around the plate.  OH!  I almost forgot!  The pine nuts.  They are kind of expensive but we like the extra little crunch in the pesto.  I keep a bag of them (from Trader Joe's, of course) in the freezer and toss them in at the end. 

Et voila.  Dinner served in about 15 minutes.  Add to your grocery list: salmon pouches, breadcrumbs, eggs, frozen corn, peppers, bow tie pasta, and pesto.  You will be prepared for an anytime, no planning dinner.

Getting hungry now.  Time to start the pizza...  Tonight we are trying an Aloha Chicken Pizza.  New recipe, I will let you know what we think and share the recipe if it is a good one. 

Until we eat again,
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