Not Fancy Pizza

pizza

OK.  So, this is not fancy pizza.  I already said that, didn’t I?

My favorite pizza is a tie between a really good Margarita (love that tomato, basil, garlic combo) or this one from The Luggage Room that has a fig paste, sharp pungent cheese sprinkles and balsamic something-or-other topped with a simple arugula salad.  Basically it’s all three of my kids’ worst pizza nightmares tossed on a crust.

So, when I make pizza for my low-brow peeps, I keep it pretty vanilla (so to speak.)  Crust, sauce, cheese–sometimes sausage or pepperoni.  That’s really all they desire.

The reason I’m sharing this recipe with you–which is actually more like a tip–is that my not-fancy-pizza works great for school lunches, which, as our winter break has, uh, evaporated, I gotta kick things into high gear again.  I make three or so pizzas at a time, cut them up into just the right sized slices to fit into my reusable lunch pouches, freeze’m and pop’m into said pouches and there you go.  Who doesn’t like pizza for lunch?  Well, actually Josie doesn’t, but she’s definitely in a minority here.

Michelle’s Not Fancy Pizza

Ingredients: Dough.  Sauce.  Cheese.  Whatever else you want.

Directions: I buy my dough (yup.  It’s true) from a local Italian market.  Roll it out and bake at 400 for about 8 minutes so the crust will be a bit crunchier.  Then add sauce and whatever toppings.  Throw back in until cheese is melted and begins to brown.  Now that’s Italian.

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Chili Week Cha-Cha-Cha!

chili for breakfast

OK,  this photo is not destined for Sunset’s cover, but I saved my ultimate fave-ola breakfast (if you’ve been following, you know how much I love a good meal to kick off my new day…) scene for Friday: Chili with an egg on tortilla.  Man is it tasty.

I like my egg over med, scoop some chili in the pan for the last minute or so to heat it up, add a little shredded sharp cheddar cheese and some hot sauce… seriously… this… is… so… good!

Corn or flour tortilla will do.

If you’ve lost count, that’s five (5!) options from one chili recipe.  What a way to celebrate national, local Michelle’s independent Chili week!

This chili freezes well, btw.

I think if you Google “chili recipes” you’ll be amazed at all the ways you can heat up a pot of spicy-tomato-y-beans and what-not for dinner.  I’ve used recipes with cocoa powder, a multitude of beans (obviously not from Texas,) different meats… it’s really fun to experiment with the options.

And in that vein, here is another fun recipe for vegetarian chili  that I made a few weeks ago.  It was my usual method of preparation (winging it) but I actually took the time to record my adventure for your benefit.  If I had to think of a title for delicious concoction, I guess I’d go with:

Michelle’s “This Time” Chili:

Ingredients: 1 large diced onion, 3 cloves crushed garlic, 1 cup chopped celery, 2 cups chopped bell pepper, Two 15 oz. cans drained kidney beans, One 15 oz. can drained pinto beans, One can black beans w/liquid, One 12 oz can tomato paste, 1/2-3/4 bottle of beer (OK–yes I took a few sips so I’m not sure…) 1 tsp garlic salt, 2 1/2 tbsp chili powder, 1 tsp. cayenne, 1 tsp. black pepper, pinch of sugar

Directions: simmer the onions, peppers, celery and garlic until it all begins to soften.  Add everything else and bring to boil.  Simmer until veggies are fully cooked.  Open another beer and sit down to dinner!

Beautiful Sister/Ugly Dip

bean dip

I, personally, don’t think this bowl of dip is particularly visually appealing.  The first time my gorgeous sister, Sarah, whipped it up I didn’t get my hopes up too high… And then I tasted it.

Super Bowl of yum.  In fact, yes, I took this dip to a Super Bowl Party yesterday and, as is always the case, it was a huge hit.  The kids who have had it before actually squealed when I took the lid off the top and they saw this stuff ‘cuz they know it’s so tasty.

Beautiful Sarah’s Ugly Bean Dip:

Ingredients: 3 cans of black beans, drained; approximately 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, some chopped cilantro, approximately 12 oz. mild salsa (my kids don’t care for spicy)

Directions: Mix and serve.

Tips: The ingredient list above is a bit vague.  I have really found, though that the measurements can vary and you can still get a great dip.  Sometimes I don’t have cilantro on hand but if I can scrounge a few sprigs from my mom or another neighbor, I can make it work.  Cheese is the same story.  If you’re a bit short, you can still go for it.

Here’s a photo of the beans, cheese and cilantro before I mixed it so you can see about how much I used:

pre-bean dip

After this I just added the salsa and stirred it all up.  Dip some tortilla chips in that stuff and yummm-oh!

I make this dip on a semi regular basis.  It’s a nice hearty snack and packs some nutrition into the punch.  It’ll keep well in the fridge for a few days and we even take it on picnics and to the beach in the summer.  Enjoy!

Winter Salad

I know I use the word “love” excessively when I talk about food, but, well, I really do love a good salad!

In my humble opinion, a “good” salad should contain a variety of textures and colors and be filled with seasonal produce, when possible, that combine to make interesting and varied flavors.  If you are looking for the iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing, you can stop reading this post now.  If you’d like to tantalize your taste buds (oh my!) and whip up something delicious and nutritious, keep reading…

For a southern Californian, it is easy to make fresh salads year round.  But what’s a meal maker to do if it’s January and one happens to live in, for example, Otisville, MI?  Don’t despair, Michigander amigas!   It is still possible to make a decent winter salad, even if you live in the temporary tundra.  You likely won’t be hitting the farmers market this weekend like I will, but I think you’ll find most of my suggestions at super market near you.

If I use leafy greens, I always start with something dark.  For this salad I used spinach.  You know those fancy restaurants that serve salad sculptures precariously balanced on plates with artsy looking leaves and stalks so large that even a muppet could fit in his mouth?  I hate that.  I like my salad to be easily poppable into my mouth.  You can use a knife or, my fave time saver, poultry shears.  Snip, snip, done!

cutting greens

I chopped up some carrots, celery, cucumbers and then cabbage.  I especially like the striking contrast between the bright white-ish cabbage and the dark spinach.  I do say it is a quite a nice visual, don’t you agree, Dah-ling? (see photo below)

In the summer, there’s nothing (NOTHING) better than a ripe red tomato in a salad.  But in the winter there’s nothing (NOTHING) more disappointing than a white, cakey tomato in a salad.  Don’t do it!  Yes, you need something acidic to make your salad truly del-ish, but there are many better winter options than a lackluster tomato! Even with So-Cal’s year round produce scene, options are still seasonal.   Try a tart apple, fresh or canned sliced pears, or what I used in this bowl of yum: some fresh oranges.

Another winter salad secret of mine is craisins.  Yum!!!  These tart and tangy little garnet gems (they seriously do look like jewels, don’t they?) are the perfect complement to my almost-done masterpiece.

craisins

My kids are well-trained (hello–I hope so!) to eat a good salad, but prefer it without cheese or red onion.  So I usually toss theirs with a balsamic vinaigrette, serve them, and then add the rest for the grownups.  I adore thinly sliced red onion in pretty much any kind of salad, and I also like a dash of cheese.  In this salad I used a mild and salty crumbled feta.  Parmesan or goat cheese could also have worked.   If I use pears, I sometimes like a mild blue cheese.

People who enjoy my salads often get annoyed when they discover that I usually mix the dressing right on top as I go.  “How can I recreate that Michelle!?”  I like a few dashes of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic salt, pepper, sugar, sometimes mustard, sometimes honey, sometimes apple cider vinegar, sometimes celery salt…  (Sorry.  That’s not helpful; it’s annoying.  I think you get the picture…)

I promise to post some actual salad dressing recipes soon.  Honestly, though, when you’ve got so much good stuff in your bowl, a simple vinegar and oil (my general go-to) dressing from a bottle can do just fine too.

Drum roll please… Tah-dah!

salad

Some tips: Add the juice from oranges or pears to the dressing: yum!  This salad was served as part of a meal, but you can make your salad the main dish by adding some protein and maybe some bread or crackers on the side.  My preferred protein pals include chopped chicken, chickpeas, kidney beans or fresh nuts (walnuts, pecans=smile.)  Candied nuts taste marvy, but pack on the calories, so I usually just use plain.

Get creative with your salads.  My mom likes chopped cauliflower and broccoli in hers.  Sometimes we don’t even include lettuce or other leafy greens.  Gasp!  I know.  Shocking.