Pizza Playgrounds

Pizza is a veritable playground.

Just when I think I can’t come up with another flavor combo, voila!

Sometimes I outdo myself…

Here ’tis before it became a “hot mess” (to quote a Southern phrase) — artichoke hearts, olives, toasted pine nuts, and mini-pepperoni slices. Basically, I was cleaning out my fridge, freezer, and pantry, and this is what went into the oven.

Hmmm. What sounds good together?

Better yet, what tastes good together?!

With a lil’ goat cheese for added interest atop a gluten-free crust, my taste buds were intrigued for two days. (Anyone else like leftover pizza for breakfast?) The pine nuts took it over the top… crunchy pizza… YUM.

No matter what life presents, there’s a flavor combo awaiting YOUR ingenuity.

Be creative!

Oh my, YES…

Enjoying pizza playgrounds,

~ Kim

In My Kitchen ~ September 2020

Hello, dear ones. I haven’t participated In My Kitchen for almost a year — not for lack of interest, but for lack of “new” things to show and tell. At this stage of the game I don’t need much, but every once in awhile I run across something interesting. Thank you to Sherry’s Pickings for another opportunity to join in the fun. If you have culinary interests — or if you’re curious — please click on her link above for a global tour of ingredients, storytelling, and delightful folks who love to cook. I discover something new every time I tune in.

In My Kitchen… is/was today’s repast: a Fried Egg Florentine with Crispy Shallots and Goat Cheese. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt inspired to fix something “fancy” for myself, but today was the day. (SO good…) Don’t neglect to nurture you.

In My Kitchen… is a new set of cookware. I wasn’t planning on replacing the old set, but I was frustrated by their strainer-style lids and pour-spout pan edges. A good seal is tantamount to great flavor. One day while I was watching a TV talk show (a rare occurrence) they featured a “deal of the day” — a set of professional-grade Cuisinart pans for a ridiculously low price. Who am I to argue with signs? Did I hit the order button immediately? Nope. I did a lot of research and read the reviews. Hundreds of them.

It’s funny what folks complain about. “Everything sticks.” (Heat up those induction-bottomed pans gradually.) “Too many spots.” (Ever tried a cotton dish towel?) “I only hand wash them.” (It’s doubtful professional chefs take the time — the pans are stainless steel and they clean up just fine in the dishwasher.) “Wish they had clear lids.” Seeing isn’t believing. Trust your instincts — or practice some more. Frankly, I was thrilled with their flat restauant-style lids. Long live the diner days…

Now if I only had more folks to cook for besides The Man Of Few Words ‘n’ me — hello, lake neighbors!

In My Kitchen… is a bottle of Jalapeno Honey. Not only is it great for glazing grilled chicken or pork chops, it also makes for a lovely salad dressing. A splash of white balsamic vinegar and EVOO followed by a drizzle of that golden nectar results in some mighty fine eatin’ without the fuss of making a vinaigrette. Heavenly indeed!

In My Kitchenare other “new” or rediscovered recipes: Kasbah Chicken Skewers (courtesy of Ally’s Kitchen cookbook), fresh-caught Gulf shrimp (before Hurricane Laura hit), and the Best Fluffy, Flakey, Buttery Biscuits Ever thanks to a previous IMK hostess, Maureen Shaw, who said “no need to acknowledge me for the recipe.” Thank you kindly, ma’am, but I like to give credit where it’s due.

Best Fluffy, Flakey, Buttery Biscuits Ever — thanks, Maureen!

(My recipe is for a half-batch; double and cut ’em into whatever shape suits you.)

1 cup all purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp + 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/4 cup (4 Tbsp.) cold butter cut into 1/2 inch cubes, plus extra to melt and brush on top before or after baking (see below)

1/3 cup milk

1-1/2 tsp. honey

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Cut in cold butter with a pastry blender until mixture is pea-sized.

Stir in milk and honey until dough comes together. (Don’t overmix.)

Dump onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times. (I just kneaded it in the bowl — no counters to clean)

Pat with your fingers to about 3/4-inch high. (I saved a step — and more counter cleaning — doing that on the parchment-lined sheet pan.)

Cut with a biscuit cutter, tin can, or glass, but don’t use a seesaw motion as the biscuits won’t be as high — or use a chef’s knife and cut into squares. Optionally, let them rest twenty minutes before baking or not. (I opted for the second option in both cases.)

Separate biscuits 2-inches apart, or 1-inch apart if you like softer edges. (I did and do.) Brush with melted butter if desired. (I waited until the end.)

Bake 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven to a cooling rack and brush tops with melted butter. Serve immediately or cool completely and freeze the rest. Bring on the sausage gravy or breakfast biscuits!

In My Kitchenthings are pretty much status quo since the last time I touched base (thank heavens) — making the most of what I have and whatever we’ve been blessed with — an integral part of IMK. I feel blessed to state that, considering hunger is a huge problem here and worldwide. Feed your family — yourself — and a few other folks while you’re at it. (Please contribute to your local food pantry, too.) Every lil’ bit helps.

Enjoying “new” blessings,

~ Kim

Friendships Renewed

Just tried to re-post a “blast from the past” since I don’t have anything new to report these days. (Blame it on Covid-19 and contentment.) I know WordPress offers a way to do that, but I haven’t figured out how yet. So, I’m teasing you with a photo of Old Boy (our Great Blue Heron) and hoping you’ll click on the following link to see what I’m up to. Some things never change, including ongoing friendships.

https://alittlelunch.com/2012/06/05/friendship-renewed-rhapsody-in-blue-iv/

If you’re feeling so inclined, please look up my other Rhapsody in Blue posts in the sidebar under “search.” Can’t believe it’s been that long since I wrote them, but Life On The Lake has stayed pretty much the same. Feeling blessed!

So, how are YOU doing during the pandemic? What are your greatest challenges so far? What’s been your greatest solace? (Please share.)

Other than cooking, cleaning, and keeping myself amused — reading is a HUGE plus — I’ve been hanging out and enjoying whatever God and Nature have to offer. How about you? Are you okay? I care about YOU!

Hoping this lil’ bit of PEACE was a bright spot in your day.

Enjoying solace — and friendship — at the lake,

~ Kim

Strawberries & Cream Stuffed French Toast

The long holiday weekend is almost upon us and I’ve been pondering what to make. Company is outlawed and trips to get groceries have been few and far in between. Thankfully, strawberries are in season and I remembered a recipe from the days of yore… 2011. (Yup, “a little lunch” has been around that long.)

Feel free to peruse the archives in my side bar anytime.

The following is one of my favorites, re-edited. It’s almost the weekend ‘n’ all.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Ever notice how breakfast tastes better on a weekend morning?

I’m not much of a breakfast-eater during the week, but on Saturday mornings I’m in the mood for something decadent — not your ordinary breakfast fare.

The solution to my decadent dreams was Strawberries & Cream Stuffed French Toast.

Filled with strawberries, sweetened mascarpone, cream cheese, and a hint of spice, it elevated plain ol’ French Toast into something extraordinary.

Quick to make, too — unless you happen to be out of Mascarpone cheese — in which case, you start the night before.

(Skip ahead to the Stuffed French Toast recipe if you have Mascarpone on hand.)

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

(Adapted from two tarts’ recipe on Tasty Kitchen)

1 c. heavy cream

1/4 t. confectioners’ sugar

1/2 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whisk together heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar in a double boiler over simmering (not boiling) water. Using a wooden spoon, stir until it reaches 180° F. Add lemon juice and stir 5 minutes more; remove from heat.

Set top part of double boiler on a pot holder; let stand undisturbed for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl; line sieve with cheesecloth. (In a pinch, use a coffee filter — same principle.)

Slowly pour the cream mixture into the sieve; let stand 20 minutes or until cool enough to refrigerate. Wrap sieve (bowl and all) in plastic wrap and chill overnight.

In the morning, scrape the fresh Mascarpone cheese from the filter — it doesn’t stick — and discard the liquid in the bowl.

Prepare to be amazed.

I’ll never lack for Mascarpone cheese again.  Or, Stuffed French Toast…

Strawberries & Cream Stuffed French Toast

6 slices French bread, approximately 2″ wide each

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

4 oz. Mascarpone cheese, softened (homemade or store-bought)

1 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, plus additional for serving

1 pint ripe strawberries (reserve some for garnish)

1 c. milk

3 eggs

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/4 t. freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. salt

4 Tbsp. butter, divided

Create a pocket in each slice of bread by slicing through the middle without cutting through the crust; set aside.

Mix together softened cheeses and confectioners’ sugar until well blended.

Rinse and hull strawberries; pat dry and slice into 1/4″ slices.

Spread a generous portion of cheese mixture in each French bread pocket. Layer with sliced strawberries; set aside.

In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar, spices, and salt.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter on a griddle over medium heat.

Meanwhile, dip each stuffed French toast into egg batter covering both sides; drain slightly.

Fry three pieces at a time. When underside is golden brown, flip over and fry until golden on both sides. Keep warm in a 250 degree oven until remaining pieces are cooked. (Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to griddle before frying the rest.)

Serve with a dusting of confectioners’ sugar and garnish with whole strawberries.

Weekend French Toast

This weekend treat your family (or yourself) to breakfast. You’ll be glad you did!

Remember to honor those who made it possible, too, xo.

Enjoying freedom and Stuffed French Toast,

~ Kim

Do More Of What Makes You Happy

Prior to last month’s shelter-in-place orders going into effect (aka: lockdowns, quarantines, or stay-at-home mandates re: Covid-19) I visited a lovely local shop and picked up several notepads for future gift giving. Not only did they offer upbeat sayings, they included a color-coordinated spatula. (Some folks call them “scrapers” — in this case a mini-scraper — but I still call them “spatulas” no matter what size.) Figured they’d come in handy for ekeing out the last of whatever folks were trying to use and was cheered by the postive message. Apologies to whoever coined the logo above; I’ve seen it a number of times so I figured it was “public domain.” May you reap your reward in heaven for such an uplifting thought! Thank you.

Little did I know how important that phrase would become in the coming months. These days we’re all trying to reduce/re-use/recycle bits and bobs at the bottom of the bottles lurking on our fridge shelves. Truthfully, they’ve escalated to even more importance than we ever could’ve imagined. One more ounce of flavor = another meal. For those suffering from food shortages, my prayers are with you. I feel entirely blessed to have enough (so far) and the means to splurge now and then. I also continue to donate to our local food shelf and I hope other folks do, too.

Mother’s Day came and went. My annual tradition usually includes making something with lobster (don’t I wish?) but it wasn’t meant to be this year. Frozen shrimp was the only seafood alternative. (Does anyone else dread going to the grocery store until absolutely neccesary like I do?) Still, I was overjoyed that they carried some sort of crustacean. I also had a recipe in mind…

Spicy Grilled Shrimp

(adapted from Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything)

1 large clove garlic (I used 1 tsp. refrigerated minced garlic)

1 T. Kosher salt (his recipe specified “coarse salt”)

1/2 tsp. sweet paprika

1/2 tsp. hot paprika

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. freshly-squeezed lemon juice

15 to 20 medium-sized shrimp, peeled & deveined with tails intact (I used the frozen/thawed equivalent)

  1. Mince garlic with salt until fine. Add both paprikas and blend well.
  2. Stir in lemon juice and EVOO to make a paste. (I transferred the above to a bowl before making the paste.)
  3. Add shrimp; mix gently to coat thoroughly.
  4. Allow to marinate for a few minutes or up to 1 hour.
  5. Preheat grill (or broiler) to high. Place shrimp skewers as close as possible to heat source.
  6. Grill (or broil) 2-3 minutes per side or until shrimp are pink.
  7. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

I added two skewers of veggies, too — mushrooms, onions, and grape tomatoes — before I tossed the shrimp on the grill (shown slightly “charbroiled” above by the time I got to ’em) but they were a delightful addition to my holiday meal. Bonus points for “Chili Lime Fish En Papillote.” (No recipe… just sprinkle fish filets with extra virgin olive oil, S & P, chili powder, and freshly-squeezed lime juice wrapped in foil.) YUM! The rest of the shrimp and veggies are headed for a batch of Jambalaya tonight along with some rice, smoked sausage, and chicken from my freezer. Reduce/reuse/recycle. And, do more of what makes you happy!

For me that involves cooking (or grilling) by the seat of my pants, letting nothing go to waste, watching Jeopardy (even the re-runs lol), reading books, practicing the piano, going outside to snap a photo now and then, writing letters, keeping “the castle” clean for TMOFW, and hopefully posting an upbeat message whenever I’m so inclined.

Be safe and well, my friends, xo.

Enjoying present-day life despite the ongoing restrictions,

~ Kim

Did I mention dancing?! What makes YOU happy these days?