Chicken Sausage Pizza? Yes, Really.

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Unfortunately, I haven’t curtailed my holiday level eating. So unless I’m going to become a sumo wrestler or try out for a new reality show, “Bariatric Place,” I better cool it. I think I’ll start by not buying whatever pops in my head or see at the grocery store. But still on a food austerity program, I try to use up what I have on hand and only buy essentials like bread, wine and dog food.

Chipotle Chicken Sausage

I’ve talked before about my affinity for gourmet chicken sausages. Ideally, I like to grill them on charcoal, but I’m not firing up that grill in the snow drifts. So having a couple left over from a dinner earlier in the week, I decided to make that main attraction on a pizza. Yes, I know it’s not pepperoni or “real” sausage, but it’s a decent substitute and more interesting.

As you’ll recall, I don’t mess around making my own dough/crust. That’s what the gourmet cook “who no longer inhabits” used to do and I see no reason for it. But I do get creative and all gourmet on your a** w/ toppings. Here’s what I put on this one:

  • Store brand spaghetti sauce – not much, just enough to coat the crust
  • Sautéed fresh spinach and shallots
  • Sliced chipotle sausage w/ cheese
  • Bagged mozzarella
  • Fresh mozzarella – cut in 1/2 in. cubes
  • Chopped fresh Greek oregano ( under the snow in my herb bed – It Lives!)
  • Toasted pine nuts

I popped the oregano and pine nuts on top when I pulled it out of the oven. Just follow the directions on the prepackaged crust for time/temp it’s usually 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

OT RED ALERT: Pal Sarah just told me Trader Joe’s now has CRUNCHY Cookie Butter!! I couldn’t concentrate on anything after I heard that. I felt like Keith Richards when he finds a new supplier! Yowzer. I bet Sarah will work her magic w/ that stuff.

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Nothing Says “Happy New Year” Like Bacon Cookies

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My excellent pal Sarah and I hung out on New Year’s Eve. For food choices, the menu was simple –  steamed shrimp w/ salsa verde, bean & ham soup I made from the damn interminable ham from Xmas (“Holiday Hogs”) and maple bacon chocolate chip cookies. Yes, you heard that correctly and more on it in a minute.

For beverages, S brought some apple pie-flavored jet fuel and whipped cream-flavored vodka. I had some cheap rose brut sparkling wine, chocolate stout and some other choices. See, told you it was an easy menu and so nutritious!

Cookies From God

Back to the cookies which are the most amazing things I’ve eaten in a while. I got the recipe from Bitchin’ Kitchen on the Cooking Channel. Being mesmerized by them on Nadia G’s show, I decided it would be the NYE highlight. Here’s the link to recipe:

(I believe in citing and giving proper credit to sources – AS YOU ALL SHOULD!)

Milk Chocolate Chip Maple Glazed Bacon Cookies

S and I substituted dark chocolate chips because milk chocolate is lame. Make them your way, but be prepared to start looking at them like Gollum looks at the Ring – you’ll get really weird about them, I promise.

The Batman

After consuming some alcohol, snacks and The Cookies, we decided to watch “The Dark Knight Rises.” I’ve been a fan of this series and had high expectations. But feeling particularly dumb for not being able to follow it, I asked S if she was. Nope. I don’t want to give full credit to the pie and whipped cream booze because I think the movie was rather convoluted. We didn’t finish watching it.

The next day, I saw that TNT was running the second Batman movie, so I watched it to see if it would help me keep up. After that, I did finish the third, but wasn’t wild about it. Oh, and when did people start calling him “the” Batman?

It was a tolerable holiday thanks to the company and the wonder that is bacon…

Looks innocent, doesn't it?

Looks innocent, doesn’t it? Photo credit: Sarah: Co-conspirator

Holiday Hogs

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hamWhen there are just two people getting together (the Mother Unit and I) for a holiday, buying festive food should be simpler. Not really. I made hopefully the last foray into shopping land today for a few food items. I decided to get a ham. Ham doesn’t rock my world, but I like making bean soup w/ the ham bone. You have to go through a lot of ham to get to that bone. She Of The Slight Frame will have to take home many lbs. of ham.

Looking at the half-hams, the smallest I could find was 8.8 lbs. How big are these hogs, anyway? That’s one big butt. OK, so I don’t know exactly where the ham is on the hog, but I try to disconnect from that aspect as long as I’m still a carnivore.

Holiday Items

Today, this is what I bought. Not strictly a single people list since I’m having company, but it reads like one.

  • Two nice bottles of white wine – An Albarino and a Torrentes, a bit above my usual $10 limit, but hey, it’s a holiday. I had some Prosecco from Trader Joe’s, but wanted some “regular” white.  (If you think you have to buy $$ Champagne or that dreadful other fizzy crap, try a Prosecco. Usually cheaper, but w/ the bubbly thing, it’s a fun Italian sparkling wine. You have to trust me on these things.)
  • Bailey’s Creme Brule Coffee Creamer – Coffee snob that I am, I don’t usually go for frou-frou, sweet coffee “enhancers.” But I had a coupon and also thought it would be good in the Kaluha knock-off I bought last week.
  • Pears – Needed those for the decorative holiday fruit collage I have going.
  • Milk-Bones – The pup might get a more fancy treat for Xmas, but these are a necessity.
  • A Brie-like product – The first time I’ve bought Brie since Bokhara, my cat, died. He loved the stuff. Again, a coupon and the Mother might enjoy.
  • Jeni’s Brown Butter Almond Brittle Ice Cream – Dear God, can you imagine? Can’t wait to try it.
  • More stuff I can’t recall or it’s too boring to list – This all added up to $103, which was surprising.

No Baking

I normally bake at least a few things at holidays. Not in the mood or no energy or both this year. But check out that ice cream above. And there’s wine…and ham…

Burning the Latte

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"Medium" Starbucks Pumpkin Latte

“Medium” Starbucks Pumpkin Latte

After recently paying over $4 for a festive holiday latte at Starbucks, I’ve started making my own at home. Don’t get excited. I didn’t buy one of those insanely expensive new coffee/espresso/latte/single-serve machines. I use leftover coffee, a couple hits of Hershey’s dark chocolate syrup, cinnamon and fat-free creamer. It’s not bad. There’s no foofy foam on top or sprinkles, but it’ll do.

The other morning, I actually burned the latte. I was doing remote cooking in the style of  HWNLI (“He Who No Longer Inhabits” or the “new” Voldemort) and left the pot simmering away while I was distracted by the pup. My gas stove that goes from gentle simmer to fry the hell out of it in under 8 seconds made a boiling, sticky mess all over the burner. Lovely. I drank some of it anyway.

Carbo Load

What is it about this time of year, besides my rampant SAD (seasonal affective disorder – kind of depression “lite”), that makes me put every sugar-laden item in a five-mile radius in my mouth? Brownie bites are no longer satisfactory alone – they must have a scoop or TWO of peppermint ice cream on top!

This would be a good plan if I wanted to be a sumo wrestler. Reminds me of something a psychiatrist with whom I used to work (not as a patient, a colleague) said when I mentioned trying to lose weight. He said, “Maybe you should just revise your goals to become as big as possible.” I worry sometimes that he gave similar advice to his patients.

Fruit

In an attempt to cool it w/ the sweets, I had a clementine orange today. OK, let’s quit pretending that fruit is just as satisfying as a hunk of chocolate. Seriously. I love apples, but this time of year, they need to be baked w/ brown sugar or dipped in something.

To Ham or Not to Ham

Not unlike the masses, I think about buying one of those spiral-sliced, glazed (see brown sugar above) hams this time of year. If I do, I then have to eat 34 ham sandwiches even after splitting leftovers w/ my mother. But it’s often worth it for the bean soup I make w/ the bone. But now these suckers are like $4.99/lb. and of course the smallest you can purchase is 73 lbs. I may have to opt for another meat du jour this year.

Okay, I just proved my own point that most blogs go on and on with the most inane drivel disguised as interesting stuff. But maybe now you too are inspired to chuck the expensive latte habit and burn your own at home?

Alter Ego

When I’m not writing this blog about trips to Trader Joe’s and wine selections, I actually write for a living. I know, I know. That’s hard to believe, but I often pay my bills w/ writing income. In the interest of cross-promoting (like cross-dressing, but w/ less flair and mascara), here’s an article I wrote that was just re-posted on the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop blog. Thanks to author Tim Bete for his assist. Check it out and then stay and read about other humor writers who don’t have side jobs…

“Ahoy Matey: Pirate Parenting Eases Stress of Moving”

Is Peanut Brittle a Vegetable?

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I got an unexpected check this week (from what I assumed was a deadbeat client) which facilitated a long overdue TJ’s trip for staples like dark chocolate peanut butter salty caramel truffles. I also went to the reg. grocery store and stocked up. It’s amazing how much your menu-planning becomes more creative when you have actual food.

Holiday Food

I used to look forward to making holiday food like peanut brittle, lemon pound cake w/ lemon glaze, cheese balls, etc. Not really up for it this year, but I did find some raw peanuts from last year. Evidently, I wasn’t up to it then either. Still w/i the use-by date, I think I’ll make some.

My grandmother taught me how to make peanut brittle the old-fashioned way – cooking on the stove and spreading it out on a marble slab to cool. I make it in the microwave. I know how to make other candy-type things like caramels, but it’s a tricky process. You can end up w/ mortar if you don’t watch that thermometer. So, microwave it is.

Shopping Spree

Here’s the Trader Joe’s bounty:

  • case of wine – haven’t been able to afford that in a while. It makes sense because essentially you get a free bottle w/ the 10% discount. BTW, try a Gruner Veltliner if you can find one. Don’t worry if people scoff at your pronunciation.
  • gorgonzola – the real Italian version
  • smoked salmon – I swear I could live on it
  • sea salt pita chips
  • fig butter – for that apple pizza I’ve talked about
  • garlic hummus
  • spinach and kale dip – better than it sounds and low-fat
  • rosemary and raisin crackers – ditto
  • other stuff I can’t remember

At the reg. grocery I bought:

  • 2 lbs. of frozen E-Z peel shrimp – like the salmon, I could live on this.
  • brownie bites
  • green beans – I steamed them for me and the pup. Maybe eventually we’ll just eat the same diet. No comments, I’m kidding, people.
  • booze – I’m not a booze drinker, but I wanted a coffee liqueur for the occasional after-dinner drink and rum for a hot-buttered rum recipe I love. (see above holiday “food”)
  • other veggies and fruit
  • almond milk – it’s better than soy and I had a coupon
  • other boring stuff I can’t remember

Design-a-Tote

Hey, if anyone is interested (and why wouldn’t you be? I’m an artist, too!), I’ll design you a SPGL tote like the one below. Just send me your nutty grocery list (leave a comment and we’ll go from there) and I’ll design a tote for you. How fun is that? Well, you probably have more fun than I do, so it’s relative. This isn’t about trying to monetize my blog, I just like to tote cp (240x240)make the totes and they’re really affordable.

I Need a Wobbly Food Dispenser

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Because my pup inhales her food and then amazes me w/ loud belching, I bought her one of those treat/food dispensers that has a small hole and is weighted so it wobbles on the floor. This makes feeding time more challenging and lasts longer, so she eats slower. It’s also hysterical to watch. If I had means to make a video of her, I’d share it. She’s smart, so it didn’t take her long to figure it out and now it’s a game.

Human Food Dispenser

Watching her work for the food and realizing I must be subconsciously training to be a sumo wrestler if my recent eating habits are an indicator, I think I need one of these devices. If I had to roll something around on the floor in order to get my truffle brownie w/ peppermint ice cream on top, at least I’d get a bit of exercise. It wouldn’t be pretty and certainly not entertaining to watch, but I might be less likely to give in to a craving.

Wal-Mart Shopping List

I’m not a fan of Wal-Mart. Don’t get all righteous on me, I’m not a shopping snob (I go to Goodwill sometimes.). I don’t like their labor practices (sexist, racist, ageist, etc.), but damn, they have some good prices. Best for pet toys, drug store stuff and their food is good.

While visiting the Mother Unit this week, we ran in for a few things. I don’t know what she bought because I was distracted by the elaborate plan she laid out for us to meet up after shopping. We didn’t synchronize our watches, but there was way too much discussion.

Here’s what I bought:

  • two lemons
  • loaf of wheat bread
  • Milk-Bones (small multi-flavors version)
  • nightlight bulbs (my only concession to holiday decorating is those little electric lamps you put in the window. I do that in memory of special folks and beloved pets.)
  • gum

Still money challenged, that was it. But it kept me from having to go out amongst them in any other retail environment for a while.

I’m not going to say “Happy Holidays” because I wouldn’t mean it. But if I like you, I’ll wish you some down-time and less exposure to the dysfunctional family crap than usual.

If I get a check this week, I’m buying a case of wine and will report in later.

Cheers….

Thanksgiving Pizza

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I’m not a fan of the holidays. I used to be (somewhat) before various crappy things happened in my life around this time of year. Now, I get through it w/ friends who don’t hold it against me or have different expectations of the season or me.

But I did want to enjoy some downtime from work and have fun w/ my pup over the holiday weekend. So I bought some fun food, wine and an extra toy or two for her (bright green, rubber chicken-leg looking thing).

Thanksgiving Dinner

Still on an austerity kick (not self-imposed, believe me – I’d love to spend some money w/o giving it a thought) kick, I decided to use up the food I had on hand w/ a couple new items thrown in. Here’s what I created:

Roasted Tomato, Onion and Bacon Pizza

  • 1/2 – 1 pt. cherry tomatoes or larger cut into small chunks
  • 4 lg. garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1 c. yellow (or sweet) onion sliced medium thin
  • olive oil
  • s & p
  • shredded mozzarella or Italian combo (as much as you want – hell, it’s the  holidays and everyone else is stuffing themselves!)
  • 5-6 strips cooked bacon, chopped into medium pieces
  •  1 T. fresh oregano, chopped fine
  • pre-made pizza crust
  • One (or more – cheers!) bottle decent red wine

I’ve talked about roasting tomatoes before. Brings out the flavor and great in pasta, etc. Throw some olive oil in a small oven-safe dish. Add tomatoes and garlic, drizzle more oil on top and add salt and pepper. Pierce each tomato w/ a knife so you don’t create little tomato bombs in your oven.

Roast at 375 for about 20-25 minutes. You could roast the onions, too, but they take longer so I did them in a separate dish.

Allow tomatoes and garlic to cool. Remove garlic from skin. Add extra olive oil as needed and puree in food processor until slightly chunky. Chop onions separately and add 1/2 T. of oregano.

Heat oven to crust package directions (this one was 450 degrees). Spread tomato mixture on crust, top w/ onions and bacon. Spread cheese over surface. If the bacon was less done – I like it crisp – I would have put it on top of the cheese to brown.

I baked this for about 10 minutes in a convection oven (A wonderful tool if you haven’t used one.) The cheese was bubbling and crust edges a bit browned. After you take pizza out, sprinkle remaining oregano on top.

This turned out really well. Sweet roasted tomatoes, garlic and onions countered the salty bacon.

Enjoy w/ wine!

Pie

About the only thing I really crave of the traditional Thnksgvg. foods is dressing and pumpkin pie. The other crap I could skip.

I had  a frozen Trader Joe’s pie w/ whipped topping that tries to be cream. I had way more than the “recommended serving” size. Screw it. See above.

Fake Wolves Scare Chelse

I decided to buy the first Breaking Dawn “Twilight” movie on cable.  I read the books and had seen the first two and thought they were OK. Blech. I seriously can’t get beyond the lousy acting of that Bella chick and to see her all skeletal and whiny was really taxing. But what made it interesting was the pup’s reaction to the fake wolves (seriously, how badly done were those dudes?). When they came on screen, she charged the TV, hackles raised and barked and growled like crazy!

I’ve noticed she watches TV very intently. Even barks at that roomba-like vacuum thingy infomercial. So, I tried muting the scenes w/ the wolves, but she would catch the action and get right back up in their faces again. Missed most of the movie, but not much of a loss. Only wasted $1.99.

Wine, pizza, the pup and a cheesy movie. Not a bad day/night. I survived. 1 down, 2 to go.

People Actually Get Work Done at Starbucks?

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Today I was congratulating myself on dressing like a grown-up (even put on MAC eyeliner!), packing the laptop, dropping the pup at Doggie Day Camp, treating myself to lunch and finally making it to Starbucks to get some work done.

“Medium” Starbucks Pumpkin Latte

Seriously? Do people really get work done at Starbucks? Folks next to me are earnestly discussing Jesus, some not-great blues is playing and I haven’t done a lick of work. I am, however, enjoying my medium $4.55 Pumpkin Latte ( I don’t call it “grande,” it sounds so pretentious). So I’m not even breaking even – spent $34 ($14.00 for pup care) and have not written a single income-producing word.

I’ll head to Trader Joe’s in a bit and pick up some goodies and report in later. Watch my deficit column grow…

Essentials from Trader Joe’s

I always think I will just pick up a few things at TJ’s. That never happens. This was the list:

  • maple syrup
  • honey
  • goat cheese
  • wine (1-2 bottles of red)
  • tea
  • fig jam

Here’s what I threw in my cart in addition to the above:

  • 5 bottles of wine, total
  • frozen pumpkin pie
  • coconut milk (that WAS on my list for another grocery store)
  • coffee (since when has coffee gone to less than 12 oz. bags? It was bad enough that there is no longer a 1 lb. choice)

Grand total: $78. Did not see that coming.

Dog Trumps Blog

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I hope there’s a support group out there for neglected blogs. Mine needs it. At group, I imagine you’d hear them say things like, “She was crazy about me at first, posting daily and then I guess the thrill wore off…”

My last post was 9/25. The only excuse I have is I got a puppy. I honestly don’t know how you human parents do it. I’ve barely had time to work or do anything not puppy related. Training, buying matching/coordinating collars and leashes, vet visits, throwing the squeaky ball 23,000 times, etc. How do you manage??

She’s doing great and at almost 9 months, needs less attention. But when I’m on deadline, there needs to be a puppy equivalent to Dora or Nemo DVDs for the busy Dog Mom.

Thanksgiving Non-Holiday Foods

My mother informed me she’d like to just hang at home this year, so I have no Thanksgiving plans. Before you feel sorry for me, it’s actually the way I like it. Too many years w/ the ex’s family –  giving each other “suggestions” while cooking and then getting stuck w/ the horrific clean-up that followed their insane food fests did me in. I could give a sh**.

But I’ll check in next week and tell you what wine I I’m choosing to go w/ the pizza or Whopper combo I’m having. And I have baby Butterfingers leftover from Halloween. Score!

What Style Peanut Butter Does my Dog Like?

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My blog has been neglected for well over a month. I apologize. I bet you were thinking, “Wow, I wonder what she’s buying at the grocery this week?” Probably not, since you have a life. Not much shopping lately because money has poured into the black hole of home ownership. If you looked at my driveway, I doubt you’d think I needed 19 tons of gravel. I did.

Puppy!

But bigger news than gravel – I got a puppy! When I lost my main man in March (“Let’s Write Off March 2012”), I didn’t think I’d have another pet for a long time. I certainly couldn’t get my mind around having another cat – it wasn’t right. When a neighbor posted a pic of a yellow lab puppy on Facebook, I was gone. She was rescued from the shelter on the day she was to be euthanized and I contacted her fosters at the end of August. A week and a half later, I had a 6-7 mo. old puppy. I haven’t had a dog since I was a kid, but she’s amazing and we’re settling into a routine. As you might imagine, my grocery list looks quite different. Most of my money now goes for things my dog wants. She likes nice things.

Shopping List for Pup

  • Milk-Bones instead of Malbec
  • Peanut butter (to hide pills and stuff the Kong toy) instead of smoked salmon
  • Chew toys instead of fun cheese
  • Fashion leash and trendy collar instead of fancy crackers
  • Dog food that’s $15.99 for 5 lbs. instead of food for me

Share your dog/puppy stories w/ me. I now speak your language.