Friday, March 26, 2010


This is another perfect example of not wasting food.
I'm not a cheapskate. I buy things I want and need if I have the money, but I truly hate to waste my money. And that includes spending good money on food and then having it end up in the trash. I always clean out the refrigerator every time I come home from grocery shopping and always try to make something out whatever is still in good shape. Unfortunately, sometimes something ends up in the trash. Food poisoning is not on the menu at our house.

Fortunately, my husband and I are both good about eating leftovers. I take them for lunch most of the time, and he will eat whatever is in the fridge during the day. (He works at home.) I wanted to make salad for dinner so I started to gather what I need from the refrigerator, only to find that the lettuce had frozen! Arggh! I had turned down the temp in the fridge for some crazy reason, only to find that a lot of what was in there froze or formed ice crystals. The baby carrots froze in the veggie crisper, as did the baby zucchini. Usually carrots don't thaw well to eat raw, they get kind of mushy, but they were ok. Maybe they weren't frozen solid. And the zucchinis are never the same again unless you have blanched them before freezing. But, I WAS NOT going to let them go to waste. I made what I like to call Spaghetti Vegetables. But more on that later. Let's get back to that frozen romaine.

Lettuce absolutely does not come back to its original form once frozen. But I WAS NOT going to throw that away either. I put it back in the fridge grumbling under my breath about the $2.89 I was going to have to throw away. Since the lettuce froze and I couldn't make salads, I had to figure out something else to make for dinner. I checked everything else in fridge and found that I had some carrots left from last shopping day, three parsnips and some celery. Hmmm. Vegetable Soup was in the making and I knew exactly what I would do with the now frozen lettuce. I started slicing and dicing and sauteing, and before I knew it I had a really yummy pot of Vegetable Soup. Yes that's right, I used the lettuce in the soup. Just like you would have put spinach or kale into a soup. I cut up the lettuce and dropped it in the pot to let it simmer with everything else. Once everything was soft, I tasted it. It was delicious! Other than the lettuce, I used only root vegetables in the soup so it had that sweetness that only root vegetables can lend. It was so satisfying and aromatic. The lettuce was softened nicely, and tasted .... well.... green. It only had a very slight taste of lettuce and it was wonderful in the soup. I really don't think that anyone would have know it was lettuce unless I had told them.

Here's how I made my Root Vegetable Soup with Romaine Greens

2T canola or corn oil
1 medium yellow or white onion, diced
2-3 large cloves of garlic, peeled
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 parsnips, peeled and sliced
4-5 stalk of celery, washed and sliced
3 cans of chicken or vegetable stock (about 6 cups or enough to cover veggies by an inch)
salt/pepper to taste
1 head of romaine lettuce, sliced
1/4 lb. Orzo pasta (optional, or use any other small pasta or cooked rice)

Dice the onion and saute on low/medium heat while you do the rest of the slicing/dicing.
Mince the garlic very small, add to the onions and give it a stir
Peel and slice the carrots and parsnips, add to the saute pan and stir.
Clean and slice up the celery and add to the other sauteing vegetables.
Let the veggies saute until they are about half way done.
Add the stock. If its not enough liquid to cover the veggies by an inch, add some water and some chicken flavoring, or another can of stock.
Add the sliced romaine, salt and pepper
Let everything simmer on low until the lettuce and veggies are just done. Re-season as necessary with salt and pepper when done.

I loved this soup and will make it again for one of my soup nights!

Spaghetti Vegetables
Here's how I dealt with those frozen baby zucchini. Ughhh! I was thinking I'd have to puree them to be able to use them. After all, they weren't spoiled! The skin on a zucchini gets kind of mushy if you freeze it fresh and then thaw. Well as it happens, I fell for that ad on TV for the Titan Peeler. It came with another tool that juliennes vegetables really well. Almost as well as an expensive mandolin! Not as fast, but it works really well. All you have to do is run the tool over the veggies with a little pressure, and voila! Lovely thin strings of veggies! (I recommend the Titan Peeler and the other gadgets it comes with, I love it!) So, I started thinking and thinking. I julienned the two frozen baby zucchinis into strips the whole length of the zucchini. Then I julienned two large carrots, the whole length of the carrot. I sliced three scallions long ways so they looked like the zucchini and carrots. I wanted everything to be long like spaghetti noodles. Then I took some of the biggest mushrooms I could find, and although I could not use my tool on them I sliced them into very thin slices. So now I had a whole table full of these "strings". I sauteed everything with garlic, and when the veggies were soft, about 5 minutes, I added all the seasonings at once, some ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese and some cooked and drained whole wheat pasta. This is one of those dishes where the whole wheat pasta works well with the other flavors.

Here are the quantities:
3/4 lb. of whole wheat spaghetti or angel hair pasta
2 small zucchini - julienned
1 - 2 long carrots, julienned
3 - 4 scallions, sliced longways into thin strips
2 t salt
1 t cracked pepper
1/2 t red pepper flakes (or more if you like it spicy)
2 large cloves of garlic finely minced
1- 1/2 c c ricotta cheese
1/2 c Parmesan cheese
1/2 c chicken stock (or enough to create a nice sauce with the cheeses you added) This made enough for our dinner and two leftover lunches for me.

The Spaghetti Vegetables has become a favorite and I make once in a while now. It's low cal, loaded with nutritious veggies, and since I used whole wheat pasta, it also has lots of vitamins and fiber.

We ate this as "vegetarian" meal (it had chicken stock in it), but it would make a wonderful side dish for almost anything, garlic shrimp, grilled steak, grilled chicken, even a nice piece of steamed fish with butter and lemon.

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Just back inside from cleaning out the herb garden for the upcoming growing season. The chives are already 10 inches high and it’s only the first day of Spring! The Greek Oregano is perennial and it looks like it will come back again this year. The Garlic Chives are only about 4 inches high, but are looking good. The potted thyme plant was a little overgrown last season and the winter took a lot it. Had to cut it back severely, but it will definitely grow again. Some of what I cut off still had some nice green leaves, so I’ll wash it and put it in fridge. I see some Chicken with thyme in my near future. The two rosemary plants are still alive, so they got a nice haircut too giving me several branches of fresh rosemary to use or dry.

Let’s see ….. what else? Oh! My beautiful mint plant has died! I kept it in a container in the center of the garden, but either the winter took it this year, or it was just plain pot bound. I think it was the latter. I’ll get a new one and put it in a bigger pot. Must have mint. No mint – no mojitos!!

I also lost my potted lemon thyme.Not only is it a pretty little plant, it has a very distinct lemony scent that’s hard to resist so I’ll have to replace that as well.

The Herb Garden isn’t very big. I have it on the sunny side of the house and didn’t make it too wide because it’s right there where there is sometimes a lot of foot traffic. It may not be very big, but I get more herbs than I can use. I dry everything I can't use and seal it in vacuum food storage bags. I could never use it all before it loses its flavor. What I usually, have: just two parsley plants, one thyme, 2 chives, 1 garlic chive, 2 rosemary, 1 mint, sometimes a tarragon plant, sometimes an extra lemon thyme. The Greek Oregano started out as two small plant

s, and I didn’t realize how much it would spread. It’s like a ground cover, so I have to work fairly hard to keep in under control. But I wouldn’t give it up. It’s one of my favorite herbs and it’s really pretty too. I use as much fresh as I can all during the growing season, and then dry the rest to use all winter.

Because I live near farmland, we have a LOT of grasshoppers and other bugs. As you can see in this picture, I have to keep my basil plants in a cage to keep them from being munched down to the stems. Two years ago, I had no basil. It was like the earth stood still when I went outside to water and saw nothing but stems on my three basil plants. The cage not only protects them from being eaten, but they also benefit from the light shade the screen material provides.

I dry my herbs by just hanging them in kitchen. I have a piece of soft wood that I hung like a picture on the side of my cabinets and I put the pinned herbs up there for about 2 weeks.

I also grow Nasturtiums in a container, and a few pansies on the front porch because they are edible! Even if you don’t want to eat them, they are beautiful food safe garnishes. I use a big purple pansy with a long stem on it to garnish a pina colada - it's beautiful! Other edibles are carnations, roses, marigolds and violets. Try some of these in a salad. Most of them have a bit of a peppery flavor.

Since this isn’t a gardening blog, why don’t I get to some of my favorite ways to use herbs.

Up until about 10 years ago I never used herbs or spices. I didn’t know how to use them mostly because I didn’t know what they tasted like. So when Food TV came into my life it was the beginning of being a better cook. I still talk to people sometimes who tell me they have never used or tasted basil or rosemary.

Take chicken for example. Put some salt and pepper on a chicken and toss it in the oven and you’ve got dinner. Not bad either! But add some rosemary and garlic or thyme and lemon and you have an aromatic, succulent piece of chicken like you’ve never had before. I suppose it’s possible there are some people to don’t care for basil, or rosemary, of any other herb for that matter, but I can’t imagine this!

One of the simplest and most delicious things you can do with herbs:

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Preheat oven to 350

6 redskin potatoes (any kind will do, but these work really well.

2 T Olive Oil

1 T Rosemary

1 t. garlic powder

1 t salt

(This is not my photo)

Cut the potatoes into bite size chunks. If you are using those little red potatoes, then you can leave them whole, or cut the larger ones in half. Wash them well after cutting them and drain them on a towel so they are mostly dry.

Now put them into a bowl along with all the other ingredients. Mix well to coat thoroughly. Place them on a cookie sheet lines wit

h foil, or into a 9 x 12 baking pan lined with foil. Bake them until they are fork tender and lightly browned, about 20 – 25 minutes.

Just as simple:

Garlic Bread with Herbs

Turn the broiler on high.

1 loaf good Italian bread, or a French loaf will do just fine. Frankly, this would be good on hamburger buns!

½ stick softened butter

2 t garlic salt (or 2 cloves fresh garlic finely minced)

1 T dried basil, dried oregano, or dried thyme, or a little of each

Parmesan cheese (optional)

Mix the butter, garlic and herbs together to make what is called a compound butter. (This is not my photo)

Cut the loaf in half length wise and spread both sides. Wrap the loaf in foil and bake for 15 minutes.

Alternately, slice the bread and spread each slice with the compound butter. You can top these with a little Parmesan now if you like. Place the slices on a cookie sheet. Broil until brown. DON’T WALK AWAY FROM THIS! Watch them get brown or they will burn before you even know what happened.

Experiment with different kinds of herbs on this bread. It’s a good way to find out what kind of herbs you like. Rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme, parsley, even tarragon if you like it, would be delicious on this. As it happens

all of these taste great together in a compound butter (except the tarragon).

Tomato, Onion and Herb Salad

3 large tomatoes, cut into big chunks

2 cloves minced garlic

1 t. kosher salt

½ red onion, sliced very thin

5 or6 fresh basil leaves, minced (or 1 T dried basil leaves)

1 T Olive Oil

2 T Balsamic Vinegar

Fresh ground pepper

Mix everything together. Let sit in refrigerator for about 15 minutes.

Lemon Thyme Butter

½ stick butter, melted

2 T fresh lemon thyme

Add lemon thyme to melted butter and let sit for 5 minutes to absorb the flavor. Drizzle some over a piece of cod that’s been sautéed in a skillet with a little olive oil. Salt, pepper.

Or toss some cooked shrimp with a little of this thyme butter. It would even be good drizzled on breast of chicken.You don’t need a lot of this on anything, a little goes a long way. But go ahead and enjoy as much as you like! Only you can control the calories you eat!

Here are a bunch of ideas on how to use herbs. If you want a recipe for anything I mention, just let me know, I’ll send one!


Add about 1 t of thyme to your meat loaf mix

Stuffed peppers – I was amazed at how good it was!

Scrambled eggs add 1 t dried to 3 eggs.

Add a little dried thyme to your biscuit mix or corn muffin mix.

Thyme is wonderful in Lentil Soup or Stew!

Try it in white bean dip with a little red pepper flakes


Fresh whole leaves in salads

Fresh whole leaves on a chicken sandwich with avocado and mayo

Top a pizza with fresh leaves that are cut into little strips.

Toss a big handful into your pot of tomato sauce

Use some dried basil and sun dried tomatoes to flavor home made bread dough

Top a pizza crust, or French load with mozzarella, basil, garlic and olive oil, broil to golden.


Toss into tomato sauce

Top a pizza

Use in a Greek Salad that has olives, feta cheese

Make a marinade for a London Broil using oregano, garlic, pepper, red pepper flakes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar


Good with seafood, chicken and eggs. Add just a very small amount of tarragon or it will overpower anything you use it in. Great in Chicken Salad, Seafood Soups, Souffles, Shrimp Quiche, Scrambled Eggs.

Make a little of this to keep on hand:

Rosemary Salt

½ c Coarse Sea Salt

2 T fresh rosemary leaves

Put into your spice grinder and whiz until the rosemary is evenly distributed. Be careful not to turn the salt into powder. Sprinkle this on chops, steaks, or lamb before cooking.

Roasted Rosemary Chicken

1 whole roasting chicken (you can use Cornish Hens if you like – you know, those little tiny chickens)

about 1 T of kosher salt

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, finely chopped, or about 3 t. of dried

4 T butter, room temp

Preheat the over to 350

In a small bowl, add the salt and the rosemary to the butter and mix it well to make what is called a compound butter.

Use the handle of a wooden spoon and insert it at the neck part to get under the skin on the breast. Move the handle around underneath the skin of the breast on each side, going in as far as you can. Once the skin is loose, take about 1 Tbs of the butter mixture and shove it in there, doing the same on both sides.

Now use a knife and make a little cut down at the “ankle” of the drumstick and insert the wooden spoon handle again to loosen the skin. Put a little butter under there on both legs. Do the same at the thigh area, making a small cut at what might be the knee” of the leg. Loosen the skin on the thigh as much as you can and add some of the butter under the skin, doing this on both legs. If you have a little of the compound butter left, smear it all over the outside of the bird. Sprinkle a little pepper on the bird too.

Alternately, you could just rub the outside of the chicken with the compound butter and forget about under the skin. It’ll be very tasty, but the meat is definitely more tender and juicy if you use the under the skin method. This is a pretty messy process, but I guarantee it's worth it.

Now put the chicken into a roaster, preferably on a rack that’s been placed in the bottom. Tie the legs together to keep them from cooking too fast and browning too much. If you don't have any twine, try this little trick. Take a piece of foil and twist it into a rope. Wrap it around the legs and tuck it tightly - it will work beautifully!

Depending on the size of your bird, roast the chicken for 1 – 2 hours. You can tell the chicken is done when the juices run clear (not reddish). Or when you think it should be done, you can take a pair of tongs and gently grab a drumstick. If you can see that it is ready to come away from the bird with just a little effort, the chicken is done.

Just follow the directions on the packaging and you should be fine.

Let the chicken rest for about 15 minutes before you slice it so all the juices won’t run right out of the meat.

There are so many uses for herbs it would take a whole cookbook to cover them all. You can even use herbs in cookies! Lemon thyme cookies are scrumptious! Basil Orange cookies, mint brownies, lavender tea cookies, and even Earl Grey Tea Cookies. Maybe tea isn’t an herb – it’s debatable, but these are really good!

Lastly, if any of my local friends want to try some dried herbs, I have lots of rosemary, thyme and oregano. Let me know if you want to try something and I’ll send you a recipe and some herbs.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


One morning I fried up the three sweet Italian sausages that I had leftover from earlier in the week. I made a sausage and egg sandwich out of it. Just scrambled a couple of eggs and put ½ of one of the sausages and a spoonful of eggs on a small roll I had in the freezer and thawed in the microwave.

(I had rolls left over from a dinner, so I wrapped each one individually, put them all in a gallon Ziplock freezer bag, and threw them in the freezer. Now I have a single roll whenever I want one. We don’t eat too much bread most of the time, so I end up freezing bread and rolls almost every time I buy some.)

My little sandwich was yummy. I only had half of it though – I shared it with my husband.

Later in the afternoon, I had a hankering for pasta with tomato sauce for dinner.

I had a jar of sauce in the pantry, a bag of small bay scallops in the freezer, a small zucchini that I needed to use up, an open package of spaghetti noodles in the pantry, and, of course, two sausages from this mornings. I usually have my own homemade marinara sauce in the freezer outside, but the yard was so soggy from all the snow and rain, I didn’t’ want to go out there to get it. I keep a jar of my favorite sauce around for just such occasions, usually a marinara.

I call this dish:

Spaghetti with Sausage, Scallops and Zuchinni


2 T olive oil

1 c of small bay scallops (alternative, use shrimp), thawed, and drained very well

2 Italian sausages, cooked and sliced thinly

1 jar of sauce, or equivalent amount of your own home made

1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise, and then sliced into ¾ inch chunks.

½ pound spaghetti

I put up water to get the pasta going and cooked the spaghetti a light al dente.

In a large saucepan, I added the olive oil and over high heat, sautéed the scallops quickly – maybe two minutes. I added the sliced sausage and the sauce. I let the sauce simmer slowly. I wanted to make sure the scallops wouldn’t be tough, so I simmered them for maybe 15 or 20 minutes to soften them. Then I tossed the zucchini chunks into the sauce, and cooked that for maybe 5 minutes. The zucchini doesn’t take very long. Drain the pasta.

That's it! I spooned some of this sauce over the drained spaghetti. Top with a little Parmesan if you like. It was a delicious meal that I would have been happy to get in a restaurant!

This recipe is very typical of meals I make at home. I don’t waste anything if I can help it. Everything in this dish was either a leftover or on hand. So I always scout the fridge, freezer and pantry for what I have. It's yet another example of how you can make something out of "nothing" !

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I suppose there are people who don’t like pizza, but I don’t know any. How would it be possible to dislike a warm crispy crust covered with yummy tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella cheese, and some fresh basil snipped onto the top. This simple pizza is one of the best I’ve ever eaten! Add some sautéed Italian Sausage, mushrooms, green peppers and sweet onions, and now it’s a hearty meal.

Tonight’s dinner will be a Mexican Pizza. I had some leftover seasoned ground meat (turkey) from a Quesadilla I made last night and I had a pizza crust on hand. It was delicious and light! The recipe is below.

Pizza in and of itself is a fairly healthy food choice. Choose the thin crust, (better yet a thin whole wheat crust), low fat cheeses, drain any meats of most of their fat on paper towels, and use fresh veggies that you’ve sliced yourself, and you have a pizza choice that is not only tasty, but good for you, in moderation. We don’t have pizza every night. Maybe once a week on average. It does depend on whether I have any crusts in the pantry, and if I have anything to top it with. Most of the time I have something for toppings – tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, and peppers are almost always in the fridge. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have some shrimp in the freezer, or a link of Italian Sausage to brown.

Of course, there are those people who simply would not forgo the big chunks of sausage, pepperoni, an inch of cheese, and a thick crust, baked in a pan that has been oiled heavily with olive oil. YUM! Yes, this is a delicious kind of pizza, but it's packed with calories, fat, and carbohydrates. A pizza that is stripped of all that fat can be equally good if you use the right seasonings and toppings.

The way I make our pizzas at home are always the lower calorie, lower fat versions and they are delicious. I buy pre-made pizza crusts most of the time. A brand called Mamma Mary’s, Thin Crust, is the one I choose. They have regular and whole wheat. The whole wheat, in my opinion, isn’t that good with certain ingredients. I don’t like it whenever I use fresh tomatoes or sauce. But it’s really good with mushrooms and onions, or chicken with artichokes on a pizza with no sauce. (I make a lot of “white" pizza). The Boboli brand tends to be thicker and have more fat in them. When you handle a Mamma Mary’s pizza shell, your hands have no oil on them. Other brands tend to leave a film of oil on your hands, proving they have more fat. Just read the labels. You will see the difference. Also, some brands have flavor already on the crust, like cheese or garlic. I like to use the plain ones so I can control the flavor and ingredients I’m eating. Those pre-flavored ones tend to be very salty as well.

The other alternative is to use fresh pizza dough. You can buy frozen raw pizza dough from your grocery’s freezer. Thaw according to package directions and form pizza crusts. Bake the crust according the package directions, but only bake until the crust is dry and has NO color. Now is the time to top your pizza and let it finish getting color as it bakes again. It’s a little more trouble this way, but if you have the time, why not! I think the fresh pizza dough is better than any pre-made brand.

If I don’t have pizza crusts on hand, I will often use a large tortilla shell. Just bake it at 375 degrees for 2 minutes before you use it. It helps to keep it crispy after you top it. After you top them, these will bake in 3 – 4 minutes instead of the 6-8 it takes on a regular crust. I also do the shells like this for quesadillas instead of oiling them and browning in a skillet.

Here are a few of the different combinations I’ve tried.


Preheat oven to 425

2 large plum tomatoes

2 T olive oil

½ t garlic powder or 1 large clove finely minced garlic

1 T dried basil

½ t dried oregano

½ t salt

½ t pepper

1 green pepper, cleaned and sliced into thin slices

2 scallions or the same amount of red onion sliced thin

1 thin pizza crust

1 c. grated low moisture mozzarella cheese

Slice the tomatoes into ¼ inch slices and place in a bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Mix very well to coat all the tomatoes, and let sit while you prepare everything else.

Slice the green pepper into very thin slices, and chop the scallions into small pieces, or using red onion, slice the onions very thinly.

Now that everything is ready, spread the cheese on the crust evenly. Top evenly with the dressed tomatoes, and be sure to use all the goodies from the bottom of the bowl. Add the peppers and scallions. Top with a light sprinkling of just a little more mozzarella to act as a “glue” for the toppings.

Bake the pizza in a preheated oven for 6 minutes. If you’d like it a little darker, give it another 1 – 2 minutes, but be careful not to over bake. The Momma Mary's type crust will quickly turn into a crumbly cracker if over baked.

Some extras you can add at the end if you like … drizzle a little fresh olive oil over the top, sprinkle with some red pepper flakes, sprinkle some grated Parmesan on top.

It’s delicious with or without the extras at the end, and you will notice that there is no sauce on this pizza! Most of the pizzas I make have no sauce. Just toppings. If I happen to have some sauce on hand, I’ll put some on if I’m using sausage. But we actually love our pizzas without sauce most of the time.


Make the same pizza, but add some raw shrimp. Use about ½ lb. of small shrimp, or cut large ones into two or three chunks so you can distribute evenly over the whole pizza.


It’s not authentic Mexican, but it has the flavors we think of as Mexican.

Preheat oven to 425

1 /2 lb. ground beef or ground turkey

1 T olive oil

1 T chili powder

1 t garlic powder or 1 large fresh clove finely minced

½ t cumin

1 – 2 T finely minced onion (or 2 t dried onion flakes)

(Or use ½ of a taco seasoning packet instead, but these packets are very high in salt)

½ t salt

1 plum tomato, seeded and diced

½ of a large green pepper, diced

12 – 16 black olives – sliced

8 large shrimp, chopped into 3 pieces each or 16 small shrimp (optional)

1 C + a little of grated cheese – use a Mexican blend or mozzarella – either one is fine

½ red pepper flakes (optional)

2 T minced cilantro (optional)

1 scallion (optional)

Brown the turkey in the olive oil. Once the turkey is browned, add the seasonings (chili powder, garlic cumin, onion, salt). Remove from the heat and cover. Let it sit while you prepare the tomatoes, olives and green peppers.

Now seed and dice the tomato and green pepper and slice the olives.

On top of your prepared pizza crust, spread the 1 cup of cheese evenly. Top with the ground meat, tomatoes, peppers, and olives. Sprinkle just a little more cheese on top to act as a glue on top on everything else. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes until the cheese is nicely melted and a little brown.

Top with red pepper flakes, sliced scallions and cilantro if you are using them.


Make the same basic recipe for the Veggie Pizza, but use only the dressed tomatoes and cheese as toppings. This is surprisingly good and a very light meal. If you have any fresh basil, tear a few leaves into little pieces and sprinkle over the top.


12 oz, or more, sliced mushrooms, any variety or mixed.

1 medium sweet onion, sliced

2 - 4 oz. Blue cheese – depending on how much you like and use your favorite

1 cup mozzarella cheese

1 prepared whole wheat pizza crust (this combination is good on the wheat crust)

Saute the mushrooms in a little olive oil, until they are just done. (Raw mushrooms on a pizza, unless sliced paper thin, let out too much liquid onto your pizza while it bakes making it soggy.) Remove the mushrooms to a plate. Now saute the sliced onions slowly until they are soft and slightly caramelized to a light golden. Remove from the pan immediately to the same plate the mushrooms are on so they don’t dry out.

Now spread the mozzarella cheese on the crust, top with the mushroom and onions evenly over the crust. Break up the blue cheese and also distribute evenly over the pizza. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes.


½ lb. crab meat

4 oz. low fat cream cheese, softened to room temp.

½ tsp Old Bay

1 small green pepper thinly sliced or very finely diced

1 prepared pizza crust

½ c. low moisture Mozzarella cheese

Mix the crab, softened cream cheese and Old Bay together and spread over a prepared pizza crust. Now top with the mozzarella. Top with very thinly sliced green pepper. Bake 6 – 8 minutes.

Optional: Use Jumbo lump, but be careful when mixing with the cheese so you don’t break them up too much. You may want to microwave the cream cheese a little to make is softer. Chop up the green peppers into small dice and add to the crab mixture.


1 prepared whole wheat pizza crust

about 12 olives, 3 for each quarter of the pizza, quartered or sliced

1 can drained and chopped artichoke hearts

1 T Olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely minced

½ t dried basil

½ t dried oregano

1 C. low moisture shredded mozzarella

Mix the olives, artichokes, herbs, garlic and oil to coat well.

Top a crust with most of the mozzarella. Reserve a little to sprinkle on top. Top the crust with the olive and artichoke mixture. Bake for 6 – 8 minutes at 425 degrees.


Add red pepper flakes and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on if desired.

Add about 1 c of cut up rotisserie chicken chunks to this pizza to make it heartier

Of course, there is always the sausage, pepperoni, ham and bacon topping for those of you who just have to have meat on a pizza. For my taste, these toppings taste best when you want to use tomato sauce on the base.

Try smoked oysters and Gouda. Just use some shredded mozzarella, top with the canned smoked oysters that have been drained, and top with a handful of shredded smoked Gouda.

The Veggie Pizza above is a great take along appetizer too. Slice the tomatoes a little thinner before dressing them. Let it cool completely after it bakes so you can slice the pizza into 24 thin wedges with a good sharp long blade. We ate them at room temp, and everyone loved them! They were like pizza crackers! I added a little red pepper flakes for this one. You could do this with any topping combination as long as it’s not to thick. The thicker the toppings, the more chance there is of your “pizza crackers” falling apart.

Here is one I made on a Spinach Tortilla. A “secret “ ingredient gives this one a very interesting flavor. Don’t be afraid of it because no one will even know it’s on the pizza unless you tell them. It’s ¼ teaspoon of anchovy paste. Just spread it all over the bottom of the tortilla shell before you bake it for 1 ½ minutes. It’ll be a very thin coat, but that’s what you want. Too much will reek of anchovy. Just a hint though will give the pi

zza a sort of smoky nutty flavor. Of course you can add more if you are an anchovy lover, or not! Leave it off if you can’t imagine using a little anchovy paste. I like to distribute the ingredients evenly on my pizzas so I will often keep the prepared toppings in 4 piles on the cutting board and then use each little pile on one quarter of the shell.

This also makes a great appetizer at a dinner party. Just cut the tortilla pizza into 4 or 8 slices to serve 4 – 6 guests.


Preheat oven to 375

1 8”spinach tortilla

¼ t anchovy paste

1 roma tomato quartered lengthwise and then sliced (1/4 per

8 black olives

1 medium clove garlic, finely minced

¾ c. mozzarella or jack cheese

olive oil

I keep powdered dry porcini mushrooms in my spice pantry, so I dusted the pizza with this too. If you don’t have it, no problem.

Spread the anchovy paste all over the tortilla shell so it’s nice thinly distributed over the whole shell. Now put the shell right on the oven rack for about 1 ½ minutes. Watch it closely. As soon as it starts to bubble, take it out and place it on your pizza pan.

Sprinkle the minced garlic over the shell evenly and top with the cheese. Add the tomatoes and olives, and sprinkle just a tiny bit more cheese over the top. Bake for about 3 minutes, watching carefully. When it’s just about done, drizzle just a little olive oil over the top for moisture and flavor. Bake for another minute or so, until the edges start to brown.

Careful not to over bake. Tortilla shells burn easily and become very crumbly if baked too hard.

Just recently my sister posted some YouTube Videos of an old show we used to watch as kids. It was a Fright Night type of show called Ghoulardi. Ghoulardi was the host and the show always featured some kind of a scary movie. Every Friday night, my Mom would order pizza for the five of us from DiBella’s across the street. We’d all sit on the floor and watch Ghoulardi’s latest creature feature. The pizza at DiBella’s was some of the best pizza ever. I can still remember how good is was nearly 40 years later. It was ooey gooey with sauce and cheese and I can remember how delicious the sauce was.

Funny, I was just trying to think of another pizza that was as memorable as DiBella’s and I could NOT come up with one. I’ve had lots of good pizza, but nothing as memorable as DiBella’s. It could have had something to do with the fact that it was part of a weekly family ritual, and not so much the pizza. (This goes back to a previous post where I talked about It’s Not the Food, It’s the Friends). Mione’s in the Marlin Mall in West Ocean City is to die for. Great sauce, garlicky, yummy yeasty crust and you can buy by the slice. I get the plain cheese thin crust or the tomato basil when I have a slice. It’s a little expensive, and has a little too much olive oil, but oh, so delicious!

Pizza is a great way to entertain whether you make your own or order from your favorite pizza shop. You can always make a fresh green salad to serve with it. There are endless varieties and combinations you can enjoy. Try different combinations with your favorite ingredients. Even a not-so-good pizza won't bee that bad! It’s simple to build a pizza, so keep trying!

Sunday, March 7, 2010


An old friend from Cleveland, Judy, posted a comment to my first post in February about Soup Night. It was wonderful to hear from her again! Another friend reminded me that by writing this WeBLog, I must be keeping my New Year's Resolution of staying in closer touch with friends more often. She’s right!

Judy made me nostalgic of my days in Cleveland when my late husband and I used to have company a lot. As usual, I went overboard with the food at every affair. But that's just me. It’s what I do. At one event we had a pool tournament. We divided our guests into teams and they played pool in the basement tournament style, while those of us who were waiting our turn to play, enjoyed a pizza bar upstairs.

I made homemade individual pizza crusts. I just bought frozen, raw pizza dough, thawed it and made 6” to-7” crusts and par baked them, just until they were no longer raw, but had no color on them. I laid out every kind of topping you can think of. I fried up crumbled Italian Sausage and drained it well on paper towels before I put it in a bowl. Sauteed mushrooms, bacon bits, sliced fresh sweet peppers, olives, red onions, several kinds of cheese and even had a bowl of small raw shrimp to toss on top. It was like a salad bar of pizza toppings. I even had a bowl of pizza seasoning I blended myself to sprinkle on top, with herbs I grew in my backyard and dried. Each person built his own pizza and it baked for 4 minutes. I had huge ovens so we could get lots of pizzas in at one time. I noticed that everyone was sharing their creations with each other to see who made the best pizza! That was a lot of fun, and we ate LOTS of pizzas! But it was our friends who made the party fun!

Judy's comment made me want to say something about having friends over. She told me that she and her husband like to have friends over too, but they take the easy way out; wings, pizzas, etc. That made me think a little. It really isn't the food, it's the friends! All the food I make is something I do for myself. At home, there is only my husband and myself so there’s only so much cooking you can do for two. A party gives me the chance to prepare things I like to make that normally we would not have at home, like the dips, and brie wrapped in pastry, and guacamole, and all kinds of other stuff that you would normally only see at a party.

The last Soup Night of the Season was a great success! I made several items I love to make along with the two pots of soup. We had 17 people. And although the food was good, like the pizza party, our friends are what ultimately made it such a success. Lots of laughter and conversation all evening. Can’t wait for next season!

So go ahead! "Take the easy way out". Serve your favorite neighborhood pizza shop's pie, and get some wings from your favorite wing place, or buy a 4 foot sub sandwich to cut up and get some potato salad. It's a wonderful way get together with friends and share good times!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


How do I make something that really tastes good?
My Green Bean Soup, the small pot for the upcoming Soup Night, is for my vegetarian guests. Anyone else can have some, of course, but these days I make it especially for them. There has always been a second pot of soup just in case someone doesn’t care for the main event, but my guest list has included several vegetarians recently so the second pot has turned into a vegetarian choice. And by the way, my non-vegetarian friends seem to gravitate toward that pot quite frequently! The grocery store I shop at does not carry Vegetable Stock in a can or a box. Go figure. I will often use the stocks off the shelf in the grocery – they are quite tasty and most of them are low sodium and low fat. (I try to make my soups as healthy as possible.) It’s a lot work to make your own so save yourself some time and use what you can buy when you need it. Even the generic brands are good. Just be sure to taste whatever you use so you don’t end up putting in too much salt. You may not even need any more salt depending on the brand you use.

Vegetable stock is a lot easier to make than chicken or beef stock. Obviously, you don’t need any meat. Whenever I do choose to make my own chicken or beef stock, I make sure to brown the meat very well before I add the water and other ingredients. It doesn’t have to be cooked through, it only has to have lots of brown on it. So you can brown it on medium-high to high heat. The brown color will add a LOT of flavor. You can certainly do the whole thing without taking the time for browning, but you are missing out on extra flavor that way.

Since I have to make my own vegetable stock this time, I used the opportunity clean out the vegetable bin after grocery shopping today. And keep in mind, I didn’t buy any of this today, it was all left over from last time I shopped. Here’s what I found.

A partial bag of carrots, a small zucchini I didn’t use, some celery that had slightly frozen (I hate when that happens), a large leek, some celery tops I used for a garnish and didn’t throw out, and two heads of romaine lettuce. You may remember I told you about how I used some romaine in a vegetable soup I made a couple of weeks ago and how good it was. I have some more lettuce that is not going to get used before it goes bad, so it’s going in the pot too. Everything you throw into the pot will be thrown away, so you can use pretty much anything in here. I mean, you could even use potato peelings if you had them (and of course if they were clean). I had some dried, sliced, roasted garlic in my pantry but fresh garlic will work just as well.

Here’s what I used: Keep in mind – you can really use anything you have in the fridge.

Into a soup pot with about 2 quarts of water, enough to cover everything with about an inch of water over the top:

2-3 carrots, chopped into large chunks
3 – 4 stalks of celery cut into large chunks
1 small zucchini
1 large leek chopped up and then rinsed very well (leeks can be very dirty inside)
or 1 medium yellow onion, cut into quarters, peel and all (the peel gives a lovely rosy color)
1 or 2 Romaine Lettuce heads (the whole heads, or just the trimmings (bottoms, stalks from leaves)
1 large dried porcini mushroom (throw in any kind of dried or fresh, for some extra flavor)
1½ - 2 Tbs. salt
Pepper to taste
Two cloves of garlic, smashed with the back of a knife, or the equivalent of any form of garlic you have
A dash of nutmeg (Approx 1/8 tsp)
½ of a small bay leaf (I don’t like too much of this unless it’s chicken or beef stock)
Bring it to a boil, turn it down and let it simmer for about an hour. All the veggie parts you put in there should be very soft. Notice what a nice color the stock has taken on from all the goodies you added to the pot.

Taste it. You can add salt/pepper now, or leave it as is and add salt/pepper later when you use the stock to make your dish.

Drain the stock through a large sieve. I would just throw all the veggies away now. You’ve cooked all the flavor out of everything so the veggies themselves are really not worth much at this point.

It’s now ready to use to make any kind of soup or sauce you like. If you’re making vegetable soup, just throw in some fresh veggies and let them cook to your taste. This will provide the veggies you want in the soup and add a little extra flavor to the stock at the cook.

Freeze leftover stock in small portions and you can use it make sauces or just thaw, heat and sip on it on a cold winter night.

It’ll never turn out the same twice unless you write down what you’ve used and the quantities you used. I find I like it just as much no matter what I put in the pot. However, there are a few of things I personally prefer NOT to add to any stock. I think a good stock should be fairly benign to allow you to add whatever “different” flavors you want to the dish/recipe you’re making with the stock.

Green Peppers – I find them a little bitter in the stock when simmered for a long time.
Ginger – unless you want the whole batch for something that “screams” for ginger, I would leave it out.
Green Beans – the flavor is too distinct in the stock and will make anything you use it in taste like green beans.
Whole fresh peas – same as green beans – they add too much pea flavor to the stock, unless you want that.
Corn – corn is OK, but it adds a lot of sweetness to the stock. So it’s good in chowders, or corn soup.
Potatoes – adds too much starch to the pot and a little too much potato flavor, unless you’re making potato soup or a chowder that asks for potatoes.

Just think a little about the flavor of the veggies you are adding, and about how they might taste in the finished product. This has a lot to do with knowing how to cook without a recipe, being an intuitive cook. If you think about what different foods taste like, then try to imagine how certain things would taste together. How would peas taste with a bay leaf added? Don’t know what a bay leaf tastes like? Then experiment because you will never know what it tastes like unless you try one. Here’s one good way to try a bay leaf. Make some chicken stock without one. When it’s nearly done, taste it. Then add a bay leaf, and ½ hour later. You will taste a depth of flavor that you did not have before.

I know it all sounds like too much to absorb, but this is the way you learn to know how flavors work together. Knowing what individual ingredients taste like is an important key to cooking intuitively, and it doesn’t happen overnight.

I’ve been cooking since I’m 11 years old and didn’t’ start using herbs and spices until maybe 5 – 7 years ago. I have no shame telling you that while I clean the house wash dishes, process vegetables from the vegetable garden, and even sit here writing a Food Blog, the Food Channel is on. Even if I’m not listening closely. It’s almost like “brainwashing”. But I’ve learned more from that TV show than from anywhere else! I never used fresh ground pepper from a pepper mill before! I never used rosemary before!!! It has become one of my favorite herbs! (I’ll write a Blog on herbs soon). And I will tell you that I have become a much better cook by watching/listening to the Food Channel.

I know I had a lot to say today. But don’t let it overwhelm you. One step at a time. Don’t ever hesitate to ask me a question or ask me for a recipe for something you’d like to make. Nothing could give me more satisfaction that sharing what I know with you.

(FYI -All the pictures you see are taken by me, of food I've prepared myself. I'm taking pictures of everything I make these days!)