Category Archives: My Favorite Recipies

I love food. I love everything about food. I love cooking it, I love eating it and I love planning a good menu. I hope you will enjoy some of my favorite recipies.

Pumpkin Bread and Other Things I LOVE About Fall

I think there are many reasons I love fall. The reprieve from the intense heat of summer. The colors. The hint of fun and joyful family time to come. Things seem to slow down or have the illusion of slowing down, anyway. So many things that make it a favorite time of year.

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Pumpkins. Pumkins, pumkins, pumpkins.

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Crisp Apples. Apple Crisp. Apple Dumplings. Apple Pie. Homemade Applesauce.

Our home, decorated in the rich and vibrant colors of the season. Warm and inviting.

Gardening and potting flowers. I know, only in Arizona. Our reward for surviving the summer.

Carving Pumpkins. Halloween Parties. Trick-or-Treating. Marshmallow Ghost Peeps. Ninja Turtles, Skeletons, Zom-Bees and Zombies.

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Thanksgiving right around the corner.

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And Pumpkin Bread. Not just any pumpkin bread, the best pumpkin bread ever.

E.V.E.R.

Well we think so anyway.

Here is the recipe, originally posted last fall …

Real Good” Pumpkin Bread.

One of my very first posts in fact. And while a few things have changed since then, like the fact that I don’t eat sugar or much wheat anymore, it is still one of my favorite things to make as a treat for the rest of my family or a gift for someone special.

I have found some pretty tasty gluten and sugar free pumpkin recipes but there is really no substitute. Thankfully, I still enjoy the incredible aroma that fills the house with each loaf.

Okay, and a little taste once in a while.

Okay, and I ate a mini-Baby Ruth or two out of the kid’s Halloween Candy. Mostly sugar and gluten free. Mostly.

Happy fall, everyone!

Now go make some Pumpkin Bread!

And watch out for Zom-Bees.

They love Pumpkin Bread you know.

 

Baby Portabella Sliders

I have had my eye on these babies for a while. Baby portabellas that is. As the name would suggest, they are smaller than a full grown portabella but a bit bigger than a cremini. So technically, they are really more of an adolescent portabella.

Baby-Portabellas

So, while that very important distinction has been made, the question what to do with them? remains.

Hmmmm. Slice and sauté or stuff like a cremini? No.

Marinate and grill like a big portabella? No.

More creative. Must be more creative.

They are the perfect size to replace the burger in a slider.

No, that’s not it either. Think. Think. Think.

Does anyone else out there have similar conversations with yourself?

Okay, yes, but do you have them about mushrooms?

Marinate and grill. Burger. Slider. I like it but not the burger. The bun? Oh, now that is intriguing.

The bun. Hmmmm. Sliders with baby portabella mushroom buns.

No bread, low carb, sounds delicious. I like it. I like it very much.

Baby Portabella Sliders it is!

Now, who else should we invite to the party?

Blue-Cheese

Ahhhhh, blue cheese. My favorite party guest.

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And applewood smoked bacon. Come on in!

Let’s get this party started!

Baby Portabella Sliders

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Prepare slider sized burgers.

You can grill or pan fry them. Right now, it is about 482 degrees outside so I opted for the cast iron on my stovetop in my air-conditioned kitchen. If you are using ground beef at an 80/20 ratio, you don’t really need to do more to it than add a little salt and pepper. I had a leaner blend on hand so to one pound of ground beef, I added one egg as a binder and a dash of cream for moisture (about a tablespoon) along with a bit of freeze-dried parsley just for fun. Season on both sides with salt and pepper. As always, be sure your pan is good and hot before you put the meat in! I am a medium-rare kind of gal so I cooked the burgers on medium-high 4-5 minutes per side.

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For the “buns”, I pulled the stems out of the mushrooms and then brushed both sides of the caps with Drew’s Rosemary Balsamic Dressing (I absolutely love the stuff) and seasoned both sides with salt and pepper. Use whatever dressing you like or even just a bit of olive oil or coconut oil.

Frying-Portabellas

I adore my cast iron grill pan and it worked perfectly for “grilling” up the mushrooms. Make sure your pan is hot before you put the mushrooms in. I cooked them on medium-high for 2-3 minutes a side. Don’t move the mushrooms after you’ve turned them and you will end up with perfect grill marks.

Now, to build the sliders.

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I selected the least attractive mushroom caps to use as the bottom “bun” and set each on a leaf of butter lettuce. The sizes varied but still worked out just fine.

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Next, the burger patty.

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Blue cheese crumbles.

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Applewood smoked bacon.

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Just a bit of thinly sliced red onion.

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And finally, the second mushroom cap. See those grill marks?

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Buns? What buns? Who needs buns? Not when you’ve got baby portabellas!

These were delicious! The mushrooms were flavorful and juicy and perfect. Messy but perfect.

I can hardly wait to make them again. In fact, I can’t stop thinking about them.

Oh, the possibilities …

Ground lamb with feta crumbles and tzatziki. Maybe a little olive tapenade?

Smoked Cheddar. BBQ sauce. Jalapenos. Caramelized shallots. Garlic aioli. Brie. Pesto. Mozzarella. Roasted red peppers. Goat cheese. Avocados. Serrano ham. Monterey Jack. Pickles.

Infinite possibilities that beg the question … what are your favorite burger toppings?

I would loved to know!

Enjoy!

This Trim Healthy Mama approved “S” recipe is happily linked with other Trim Healthy Tuesday recipes at Stacy Makes Cents and Gwen’s Nest.

Nothing Says “I Love You” Quite Like Banana Pudding

A few weeks ago, the phone rang. All plans were set aside. The busy-ness on my ever-present “to-do” list suddenly became unimportant and I found myself hastily throwing a bag together and waiting in the airport for a seat on a flight to Oklahoma.

My husband’s Uncle Milt passed away. My Uncle Milt passed away.

We quickly decided I would be the one to go and be with the family for the funeral services and my husband would stay home with the boys (Sara is in Washington with my mom for a month). It might seem strange that I was the one to go when the loss was on my husband’s side of the family but that is the funny thing about family, love blurs the lines. And I loved my Uncle Milt so very much.

I first told you a little about Uncle Milt and Aunt Peggy last fall when I shared Aunt Peggy’s delicious corn casserole recipe with you. I told you a bit about their love story and what they came to mean to me so many years ago when I was a new military bride desperately missing my own family. And I briefly mentioned the banana pudding.

This is the first chance I have had to sit down and gather my thoughts after the five beautiful days I spent in Oklahoma (that busy list didn’t go away while I was away). And I am struggling a bit. It is hard to find the words to sum up this sweet man. To sum up what he meant to me; to so many. To sum up a life lived so well that left behind is a far-reaching legacy that winds its way through an entire family, binding together a wife of 56 years, four children and their spouses, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, sisters and brother-in-law, nieces and nephews. And me, married to a nephew but embraced as a daughter.

As I write, I remember that today is Aunt Peggy’s birthday and I am thankful that these words have waited until today. I can think of no better gift than to remind her of the blessing she and Uncle Milt have been in my life.

And it all started with banana pudding.

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I don’t remember the exact moment I had Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding for the first time but it instantly became my absolute favorite thing in the universe. No exaggeration. Better than French fries.

And Uncle Milt quietly took notice.

We lived about 45 minutes away from Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg when my husband was stationed at Altus Air Force base. We spent a lot of weekends playing cribbage around their cozy dining room table; always Aunt Peg and I teamed up against Uncle Milt and my husband. Those boys like to think that they won most of the time but I don’t remember it quite that way. What I do remember is feeling loved and welcome. I remember missing my own family a whole lot less because Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg became like parents to us and their four children and their families like siblings.

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So many times I walked through their front door to hear Uncle Milt quietly say “it must be ‘That Girl’! Go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Always there was a banana pudding waiting for me. If it wasn’t Aunt Peggy’s banana pudding, it was a Styrofoam container from Ryan’s Buffet heaped full of banana pudding that he had gone and gotten for me. He was a big man with a big presence and an even bigger heart and I adored him.

We were stationed in Oklahoma for only two years and too soon, it was time for us to move to Arizona where my husband would fly part-time for the National Guard and full-time for American Airlines. I was devastated to leave and cried most of the way through Texas. Life quickly took over and we didn’t see or talk with Uncle Milt and Aunt Peg nearly enough but the bond we had forged with them in that two years remains such a part of us.

Over the years, Uncle Milt’s health declined with the onset of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s/Dementia. He eventually had to be placed in the Veteran’s Center where his growing needs could be met. Aunt Peg was right by his side everyday. Such love. Such an example.

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I have heard it said that while Alzheimer’s may rob your loved one of his memory, what matters is that you remember. You remember.

I remember.

I remember and was blessed to join this amazing family  to celebrate the life of a man who meant the world to me. Cousin Jim’s sweet wife Yvonne even made a banana pudding for me shortly after I arrived and I jumped off of the gluten-free/sugar-free wagon with reckless abandon. Only for banana pudding. And I did stick five spoons in the bowl and share it. The only thing better than a big bowl of banana pudding all to yourself is a big bowl of banana pudding shared with five people you love.

We told stories, we laughed, we cried, we prayed and we rejoiced in the knowledge that Uncle Milt is restored and again whole in the arms of the Savior he spent his life glorifying.

I promise you Uncle Milt, I will remember.

And I will forever remember so many things about saying goodbye.

I will remember Uncle Chuck’s story about the anger he felt when his own father passed. A man poor in the pocket but rich in all the ways that matter. How he was unable to comprehend that the sum of a man’s life could end up a few papers and documents in a shoebox. It was you who showed him that the true sum of his father’s life was not in that shoebox but was in him and his four beautiful sisters. It was you who helped him to realize just how remarkable his own father was. He remembers.

I will remember Jim’s eulogy and the stories of a husband and father’s love and strength. Your wife and your children and their children remember.

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I will remember the internment ceremony at the beautiful military cemetery that is your final resting place. I will remember the full military honors for a man and a career that included two tours in Korea and one in Vietnam. I will remember the cry of the bugler sounding TAPS as the wind gusted mightily and it was finished. All of your family remembers. And a grateful and free nation remembers.

I will see you again Uncle Milt. I know you will have the cribbage board waiting and I will smile to again hear “oh, here comes ‘That Girl’ – go look in the fridge, you might find something in there for you.” Until that day, I will remember.

Aunt Peggy’s Banana Pudding

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It isn’t a fancy recipe. It isn’t a complicated recipe. But it is how someone very special shared with me just how much I meant to him. How he reminded me how much I was loved. I am happy to share it with you and hope that you will make if for someone you love.

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Ingredients

  • 1 – 3.4 ounce package of instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 cups heavy cream, whipped
  • 3 bananas, sliced
  • 36-48 Vanilla Wafers

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Directions

Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and water. Add the instant vanilla pudding and whisk again until smooth and well blended. Chill the pudding mixture for 5 minutes.

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The pudding mixture will be starting to set. Fold in the whipped cream.

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Begin layering the ingredients …

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Start with pudding,

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add a layer of vanilla wafers

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and then a layer of sliced bananas.

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Top with more pudding, wafers and bananas and finish with pudding.

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It is always pretty to have some of the wafers peaking through a glass bowl.

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Top with crushed vanilla wafer crumbs. You can garnish with a few fresh banana slices and vanilla wafers just before serving.

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Or dress up individual serving bowls. You can also eat it right out of a Styrofoam container. Whatever works for you!

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When I got home from Oklahoma, I whipped up a batch for the girlfriends who had stepped up to take care of my boys for the two days I was gone and my husband had to work. One batch fit nicely into two 8×8 disposable pans.

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Just layer in the same manner as above.

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Top with vanilla wafer crumbs and pretty up the packaging and you will have a gift that is well received.

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It is simple but it is my absolute favorite banana pudding. For many reasons. I hope you love it too!

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Happy Birthday Aunt Peggy. I love you so much!

One final note, I am working on a gluten-free/sugar-free version. Right now, as we speak. I’m having a little trouble with the vanilla wafers but I am determined to eat this whenever I wish. Well the bananas will still be a splurge but not the end of the world. Stay tuned …

I Take Thee Banana Bread

Finally, the Banana Bread Post.

This another of my grandmother Ibby’s wonderful recipes and I absolutely love it. It feels very old fashioned to me and it always comes out perfect.

My grandmother did a lot of catering in the 1960’s and 70’s for the women’s circle at her Presbyterian church, the Whitworth College Music Department (Spokane, WA) and numerous weddings and showers and dinner parties for regular clients. She used this banana bread recipe often, making lovely little tea sandwiches with an orange cream cheese spread.

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This is my grandma Ibby with my mom and my stepdad at their wedding, which my grandma catered.

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There are the banana bread tea sandwiches with the dark crusts on the platter upper right. They made an appearance at a lot of weddings and bridal showers. This picture is from my mom and stepdad’s wedding reception. I take thee banana bread. Get it? Remember, I have a cold. My intellectual capacity is diminished.

Incidentally, my mom and stepdad were brought together by me. I found him. My sister owes her existence to me. She’ll read this so I just wanted to remind her.

He was the Mountain Manager at the ski area my mom worked at and would always say hi and stop to chat a moment with me when I was outside playing at the condominiums we all lived in. I took a shine to him; he was quite a catch. He was a widower 18 years older than my mom and I got three pretty great step-brothers in the deal. And my little sister of course but she came later. My dad passed away in 1995 and I miss him so much but I am so very thankful for all the years I got to spend with him.

My parents would have celebrated their 40th Anniversary this June.

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Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.

Recently, I made my grandma’s banana bread tea sandwiches, just as she always did.

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The china, linens and pink depression glass came from my other incredible grandmother, Eileen. The one who let me eat Froot Loops before bed. Remember? Grandmas are the best!

Grandma Ibby’s Banana Bread

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Ingredients

Banana-Bread-Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar and salt.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (3-5 minutes). Add and incorporate the eggs (one at a time) and the vanilla.

Mix in the dry ingredients and then the bananas and chopped nuts.

Note: I don’t mix the nuts in but instead, sprinkle them over the top before baking. They look nice and are easy to pick off for anyone who doesn’t like them. Skip the nuts entirely if you are going to make the tea sandwiches as the bread slices up more cleanly.

Pour into a 9×5 loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

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Orange Cream Cheese Filling for Tea Sandwiches

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  • 8 ounces of cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp. orange zest
  • 1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • And just a little freshly grated nutmeg

Blend all ingredients together in a mixer and spread between banana bread slices.

Banana-Bread-Tea-SandwichesCut the crust off of both ends and then slice into four finger sandwiches by slicing in half and then slicing each half in half.

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And then, it’s time for tea!

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This recipe also makes wonderful muffins.

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I sprinkle the nuts on top just like I do with the loaf option.

It will make 12 muffins and bakes for 20-25 minutes.

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This is a treasured recipe and is something I will always associate with my grandma Ibby. Especially the tea sandwiches which were just so her.

It is moist and perfectly textured with just the right banana flavor. I have been cutting out the sugar and recently (this morning) baked the muffins with Truvia sugar substitute and they turned out great! Next, to try them with almond or coconut flour. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Enjoy!

Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

Last week was teacher appreciation week at my children’s school. We have some pretty incredible teachers in our lives so it was important for me to let them know how much we appreciate them in a special and personal way.

No, I did not painstakingly craft and then artfully frame their initials in crayons. It’s all over Pinterest, you should check it out. That is over the top, even for me.

Nope, I baked (and stuck in a gift card on the side).

Each teacher received a dreamy lemon blueberry muffin, made extra special by the rich and velvety lemon cream cheese icing piped on top. I had a little fun and packaged the muffins in colorful plastic bowls and tied on a note of appreciation with some colorful ribbon.

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Just one muffin but a perfect muffin made and presented with appreciation and care.

I love homemade gifts.

And gift cards.

I’ve been working on this recipe for a while now, obsessed with determined with getting just the right tart and tangy lemon flavor and dense but moist muffin texture; and now, finally, I am in love and happy, no eager to share.

Happy and eager. I hope you love them.

Especially since it will take me untold hours on the elliptical machine to burn off all of lemon blueberry muffin taste testing that was necessary. My husband was kind enough to recently fix the once broken elliptical and now I have no excuses. Although I still seem to find one or two.

Lemon Blueberry Muffins with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

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Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp lemon extract
  • 2 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 cup blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tin or line with cupcake papers.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add the sugar to the dry ingredients and mix together with a whisk.

In a small bowl, whisk together the vegetable oil, milk, lemon juice, beaten eggs, vanilla extract, lemon extract and lemon zest.

Note: I was hesitant to use the lemon extract because for some reason, it feels like cheating to me. Especially when I have fresh lemons in abundance. But I just wasn’t getting the depth of lemon flavor that I wanted so I tried the lemon extract and it was just what I was looking for. Sometimes you just gotta’ go with your gut!

Make a well (an indentation in the center) in the dry ingredients and then pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients.

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Mix until just fully combined.

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Coat blueberries with a sprinkling of flour which will keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins as they bake.

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Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.

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Fill the muffin cups using a standard ice cream scoop for consistency.

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Bake for 20 minutes (25 minutes for the jumbo muffins I made). Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 regular muffins, 9 jumbo muffins or 24 mini-muffins.

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Eat them hot out of the oven, just as they are or let them cool completely and then frost them with Lemon Cream Cheese Icing for an extra special touch.

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Lemon Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8oz. Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 pound powdered sugar

Cream the cream cheese and butter together for several minutes. Mix in the vanilla, lemon juice and lemon zest. Add the powdered sugar slowly and on low-speed. Once the powdered sugar is mixed in, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat the mixture on high-speed for 3-5 minutes until you have a smooth and creamy icing.

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Spread or pipe onto cupcakes …

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A large star tip fitted into a disposable piping bag will give you a fancy swirled design.

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Or for a simpler look, just fill the piping bag, snip the end and pipe a smooth swirl of icing.

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Top with a few fresh blueberries.

Cream cheese icing is very soft so be sure to refrigerate the muffins for an hour or more to set the icing, especially if you will be travelling with them or giving them as gifts.

Because my muffins were gifts, I did a little fancy packaging.

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I found these little bright-colored plastic bowls in sets of four at the grocery store.

The perfect size for a muffin. I was very excited!

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I made a simple little note of appreciation on the computer and then punched two holes for the ribbon to thread through. I also mentioned that the muffin recipe could be found on my blog. You know, just in case. And thankfully now, five days later, it can be.

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I gathered  a piece of cellophane wrap around each cupcake.

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And secured it with a piece of ribbon knotted with enough room to keep the muffin from getting squished.

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I threaded each end of the ribbon through the holes in the note and then tied it off, finishing with a decorative snip on the ends.

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Pretty simple stuff but a fun, delicious homemade gift from the heart.

Enjoy!

I’m off now to make about a million cupcakes for Cub Scouts tomorrow. After I hit the elliptical machine, of course.

Wink. Wink.

Grilled Corn Salad

It is starting to warm up around here and my mind is quickly heading in the direction of Summer. Maybe it is heading that direction because my children only have a few weeks of school left and I am madly planning their Summer activities.

Bored kids can be unpleasant.

Moms with bored kids can be unpleasant.

Aside from the occasional bout of unpleasantness, I really love summer; and I particularly love summer cooking. To me, summer food is light and fresh and most often grilled and nothing beats dining al fresco.

If you hadn’t heard, Arizona Summers are HOT and the last thing anyone wants to do is turn on the stove or the oven. Instead we stand outside, 116 degrees, gentle breeze blowing – as if straight from a hair dryer – and grill. Truthfully, we grill all year-long and probably should be cooking inside in the air conditioning but that just isn’t very summerish now is it?

Besides, there is nothing quite like grilling in a fabulous outdoor kitchen. Would you like to see my fabulous outdoor kitchen?New-BBQ

So would I.

I promise, I’m not poking fun at my hard-workin’ committed DIYer husband who hasn’t had the time yet to move beyond the dry stacking stage. He is way more than capable of building the best outdoor kitchen ever … if only there were about six more hours in a day.

If anyone knows a good (reasonably priced) stone mason in the area you would be my new best friend and my husband would have the best Father’s Day gift ever.

For now, we make do with Old Bessie – I totally just made that up, we don’t really call our ancient gas grill Old Bessie but maybe now we will.

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She’s not pretty but she get’s the job done.

I apologize to anyone with the name Bessie.

Back to the grilled corn salad. Crunchy refreshing salads are the best and I was very excited to give this new one a try. My way, of course.

Grilled Corn Salad

Adapted from “Festive Corn Salad”, Quick and Easy Mexican Cooking by Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

Grilled-Corn

Ingredients

  • 2 cups grilled corn kernels (cut from 3 cobs of corn depending on size)
  • 1 grilled zucchini, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 ripe tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Directions

I wanted to try this recipe right away but sadly, I was a little early for really good fresh corn. As I couldn’t find any still in the husk, I decided to settled for the only fresh corn that I could find …

Fresh-Corn

To grill them start to finish, they really need to be in the husks (we’ll talk about that when the good stuff starts showing up at the Farmer’s Market) so I had to improvise.

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For corn on the cob, I bring a pot of water to a boil, put the corn in, bring it back to a boil, cover and boil for five minutes.

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To get the grilled look and flavor I was after, I then misted the corn with a little olive oil and put them on a very hot grill. If you don’t have an oil mister, get one. Today. Trust me.

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The grill needs to be hot because you want the char marks and flavor but you want them quickly so the corn doesn’t overcook and dry out.

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Halve the zucchini, mist it with olive oil and season it with salt and pepper and then put it on the grill with the corn – just for a few minutes you don’t want it over cooked and mushy.

Grilled-Veggies

Perfect. Now to put the salad together.

Side note on grilled zucchini, it is a great kid veggie as it is the perfect soft texture for them to practice cutting with a knife and fork. I have a set of kid silverware with very safe knives. I start ’em early cutting soft fruits too. They love it!

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This is NOT a kid safe knife but my kid is holding it for me so that I can hold the corn and the camera. Now that is trust; but I just had to show you my favorite trick for cutting corn off of the cob. Besides, he’s almost nine and is pretty handy to have around.

Just turn a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl, balance the flat end of the corn on the smaller bowl and slice down with a sharp knife. If you are not trying to photograph the process, two hands should be enough.

The corn kernels fall off into the larger bowl. No mess.

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Genius.

I wish I could say I thought of it but I picked it up somewhere on the Food Network.

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Next, chop and add the zucchini, bell pepper, tomato, cilantro, onion and jalapeno.

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When a fine dice or mince are called for, just cut small strips (julienne) and then make perfect little pieces.

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With jalapeno or other hot peppers, most of the heat is in the veins and seeds so remove those with a paring knife before you dice the pepper. I don’t mind the heat but I don’t want the little seeds in my salad.

Next add the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper and mix well.

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Serve at room temperature or chilled from the fridge.

You can make it a day ahead and it will keep fine.

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I have made this salad a few times now and served it above with tequila lime chicken.

Oh, I’ll tell you about that tomorrow.

And that, over there on the side, peeking over the chicken, that is an avocado salad; watch for that one too.

When I made corn salad last weekend to take to a luncheon, I did it a little differently. I didn’t have time to grill the corn or zucchini so I used 2 cans of corn (drained) and sautéed them and the diced zucchini in a few tablespoons of butter for five minutes. As a last-minute add, I also diced up two mangos and tossed those in the salad for a sweet touch that was very well received.

Play around with your favorite ingredients. Make it your own and enjoy!

The Pizza Night Tradition!

In our house, every Friday night is Pizza & Movie Night. It is “tradition” and it is our favorite night of the week because we have made it to the end of another busy week and get to relax and have fun together.

As a family, we have many “traditions”. It is important for all kids to have some sort of structure, routine and predictability in their daily lives but for kids that have experienced a whole lot of unpredictability, stress and trauma, it is absolutely crucial. So, we have traditions.

Heck, who am I kidding, routine and structure are crucial for me too. I like order and predictability. I am a girl who has a plan and a list for everything. Flexibility is not my super power and I freely admit it. Thankfully, I am not a control freak. I am a recovering control freak who is now able to appreciate the fact that God gave me three little people who are perfectly wired to test my resolve help me grow on a daily basis.

Yup, that God, he’s a funny guy. Have you heard the saying the way to make God laugh is to tell Him your plans? Well, I am absolutely certain that I provide Him with constant amusement, in oh so many ways. Thankfully, I have learned through His endless grace and constant mercy to trust Him even when the need for plan B or C or even D arises. That being said, I will always have a list or two going. I can’t help myself.

So while control is not the goal (hmmm, alliteration, I’m not usually a fan but I think maybe that should be my new motto), we are still very intentional about how our daily lives are lived. We have to be and meal time is no exception. Every night, we eat together at the dinner table as a family. If daddy is going to be late then the kids eat together and I sit with them and then enjoy dinner with Gary when he gets home. We practice sitting still, eating with manners (and forks) and we talk over our day like ladies and gentlemen; or at least we try.

But not on Fridays.

Yes, built into our structure, routine and predictability is pizza night.

Every Friday night, we eat with our fingers, slurp on a root beer (or a glass of wine – I do try not to slurp my wine but it really just depends on how much “growing” I have done during the week) in front of the TV while we watch a movie. It is messy and a little unhealthy (everyone needs a root beer once in a while) but that is good because it is fun and it is tradition and no body ever said order and routine had to be boring.

Come to think of it, neither does pizza.

Sometimes we order our pizza but often times we make it ourselves. The most fun is to have a bunch of different toppings laid out and then everyone makes their own individual pizza.

Sometimes the crust is homemade, sometimes it is Trader Joe’s dough or my favorite Archer Farms brand Ultra Thin and Crispy, sometimes it is a ciabatta roll, whole wheat tortilla or a piece of pita bread; see, I can be flexible. More and more we make our own pizza. It is just tastes better and after spending $60 or more on delivery only to have each kid eat one piece compared to watching them devour every bit of the homemade stuff, homemade wins.

I’m going to share my favorite homemade pizza with you because I’m the mom and because my pizza is the best. In fact, let’s just call it “Mom’s White Pizza is the Best”, because a) it is a white pizza; b) that is what I dance around and chant after every perfect bite; and c) it is the best.

Then, I will share a list of some of our favorite pizza toppings. Because lists are awesome.

Mom’s White Pizza is the Best (that part can be optional – look at me being flexible)

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Here’s what I do …

Pizza-Crust

Pizza-Crust-2Decide on my crust. These Archer Farm’s crusts (found at Target) are wonderful. I am totally a thin and crispy devotee and these are convenient, low cal and really good. I have not been asked to endorse this product in any way (hello, small potatoes here) I am just sharing them because I have tried them and think they are great!

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Spread a generous layer of plain old Ricotta cheese on my thin and crispy crust.

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Drizzle on some olive oil.

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And add whatever toppings sound good.

Here I’ve got fresh mozzarella, freshly grated parmesan and fresh basil.

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Bake it according to the crust’s directions. This was baked at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.

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On this one I added a little bit of Sun Dried Tomato Pesto. Amazing.

And there you have it, Mom’s White Pizza; which is not entirely white but we’ll stick with that because of the Ricotta “sauce”. I also love to top it with arugula and fresh halved grape tomatoes, placed on the pizza just after it comes out of the oven.

For the record, while this is an individual pizza, I do not eat the entire thing in one sitting.

Well not unless I have “grown” considerably that day.

Moving on.

A big hit with my kids is a recent discovery.

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I had some left over ciabatta rolls and decided to make pizza with them. I topped them with traditional pizza sauce, turkey pepperoni, fresh mozzarella and freshly grated parmesan.

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I just popped them under the broiler and crisped them up (3-5 minutes) and my kids inhaled them. In fact, they have requested them for pizza night again tonight. David wants me to add bacon to his though. I will. Because I love him.

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Serve this ciabatta pizza with a few hot wings, yogurt blue cheese dressing and a side salad and it’s perfect for mom and dad too.

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As for dad, his basic pizza requirements are no white sauce (it has to be red or it isn’t pizza) and it must be covered in jalapeno peppers. Good. But not “the best”.

There are a lot of different toppings that we’ve tried and enjoyed and everyone certainly has their favorites. As promised, here are a list of some of ours (I will let you guess who likes what) …

  • Pesto as pizza sauce
  • Asiago Cheese
  • Romano Cheese
  • Kalamata Olives
  • Artichoke Hearts
  • Roasted Red Peppers
  • Hamburger and Onion
  • BBQ Sauce, BBQ Chicken, Cheddar Cheese and Red Onion
  • Caramelized Onions or Shallots and Gorgonzola Cheese
  • Brown Butter Fried Sage Leaves and Sausage

Truly, the possibilities are endless. I would love to know what some of your favorite pizza toppings are and if you have pizza night too or any other fun family traditions.

Happy Pizza Night!

Enjoy!