Heat’n’ Up the Pizza

I love pizza. I could eat it every day, I think.

Living in Kentucky, college basketball is the thing most everyone loves. I’ve never been a sports fan. But University of Kentucky basketball is so important here that even our fire hydrants were painted “Wildcat Blue” for several years. I told someone once the only reason I paid attention to who won games was that Papa John’s Pizza gives 45 percent off your order the day after a UK win. You can’t really pass that sort of thing up!

There’s always pizza left over, which brings up the dilemma of just how to reheat it so it’s tasty. When I was in college, I never heated it up. Grab a cold slice from the fridge and you’re good to go. These days, I enjoy the chill knocked off it a little.

Until recently, my method was to put my slice on the rack in the toaster oven and heat until warm. I like my pizza a little crispy on the bottom and nice and melty/fluffy on top. Since I’ve been having to sit down while cooking, I took to the internet to see if heating pizza in a skillet was an option. It is. Where have I been all this time!

To reheat the pizza I place it in my cold skillet and set the burner on medium—275 degrees for regular crust, 225 for thin crust. Put on a lid and wait. Like a crock pot, resisting the temptation to lift the lid is the hardest part. Some steam needs to build up in there, especially with thicker crusts. This allows the bottom to get nice and crisp, while the middle gets nice and fluffy and the cheese is nice and melty!

Of course, being a fan of cute food, or perhaps needing to make the whole process more complicated, I cut my pizza slices into appetizer sizes. I have thin crust pizzas cut in squares when I order them. When reheating, I cut each square into strips. For thicker crust, triangle shaped slices, I cut off the point then cut the remainder into strips. Yeah, I know. It’s odd. But it also makes my brain think I’m eating a lot of pizza!

This skillet reheating method also works really well with chicken, too. Fried chicken becomes extra crispy, and baked chicken becomes fried. Wings especially do well. I’m thinking bagels might taste good heated this way.

So, there’s my quirky pizza reheating method. Do you reheat your pizza? How do you like it?

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Wooo Bananas

“Wooooo, those bananas are odorifous!” exclaimed my mother as she walked into my apartment yesterday. Yeah, they were. But there’s a method to my madness with the ultra fragrant banana bunch.

I love bananas. Maybe I was a monkey in another life. I like anything banana flavored, but mostly I like bananas. This smelly bunch I’d gotten specifically to put in the freezer.

This works best if you let the bananas get really ripe. Not mushy soft—you still want them to hold together when you peel them, but pretty soft. Peel the bananas and slice them into about quarter-inch slices. Arrange your slices on a plate. You can overlap them loosely but don’t smoosh them together. Once you’ve cut and plated all your bananas, set them in the freezer. I like to leave them at least overnight at this point.

Once they’re frozen, you can break them apart into slices again and put them into the storage container of your choice and keep them in the fridge.

Now you’re probably wondering what to do with these frozen banana coins. Well there are many uses, especially if you’re a banana fan like me.

The simplest thing is just to eat them. They never really get rock hard. They make a nice little treat on their own—kind of like a banana popsicle.

You can use them for cooking. If you’re about to bake some cookies or banana bread, get out the appropriate amount while you prepare the rest of the recipe. They’ll thaw enough to mash up for use in your baking.

Another thing to do is make banana “ice cream”. Put your banana slices into a blender with a little bit of milk, some cocoa (not necessary, but you know—chocolate), and a spoonful of peanut butter. Whiz it all up together. It’ll be like soft serve at this point, but a few hours back in the fridge and it will firm right up. I’ve seen recipes for this that call for greek yogurt, too. I tried it and the yogurt gives a nice texture. I’m not a fan of greek yogurt though, so I didn’t really like it that way.

These frozen banana pieces can also be used in place of ice in smoothies. Makes them nice and chilly. I use frozen strawberries in place of ice in smoothies, too.

The frozen bananas can also be used as a topping for your store-bought ice cream, too. Or as a topping/decoration for cake or pie or other desserts. And they’re good in your cereal, too!

Another thing I like to make seems to make everyone make a yuck face, but I promise! It’s really good! Spread just a tiny bit of mayo on the banana slice. Top with either crushed peanuts or a couple of peanut halves. Eat. Mmm. Tasty. This also works with unfrozen bananas, too. Just cut them into longer pieces, spread with the mayo and roll in peanuts. My grandmother used to make this all the time. I have no idea where she came up with it.

Hm.. I think it’s time to go have some banana snacks.

Tex Mex Experience Dip

This dip isn’t really Mexican or Tex Mex. But it has that flavor profile. Good grief. Did I just say flavor profile? Anyway, this recipe has evolved from one I got from a co-worker years ago. It’s sort of turned into one of those “whatever is in the cabinet” kinds of things.

As with many recipes like this, I end up making way more of it than is really necessary. But it never seems to go to waste. One year I made a batch of it to take to work. I started out with just a little, and by the time I finished adding I had more than a gallon of the stuff. And there was none left to take home.

So, for a normal sized batch rinse a can of black beans and drain them. Also drain a can of whole kernel corn. Frozen works ok, too. Just rinse it with hot water and it’ll be just fine. While they are draining, chop a medium sized white onion. Yellow works ok, too. I just like the white ones better. Also chop up a few colorful bell peppers. I like red, green and yellow. If you can find the purple ones, that’s excellent, also. Dice some Roma tomatoes. You can used diced canned tomatoes, too—just drain them. Save that lovely juice for drinking! Lastly, chop up a few green onions, green part included.

Mix all the things! Then add your own “flavor profile”. I like to add a liberal dollop of garlic powder, a sprinkle of coarse ground kosher salt and some chili powder. That’s it! serve with corn tortilla chips for dipping.

The original recipe included jicama and jalapeno peppers, too. Both taste really good in the dish, but I don’t usually have those on hand. For the batch I made today, I used canned stewed tomatoes that I drained and chopped up.

If you make an abundance of this stuff, it comes in handy for many things. Put some in a salad. Add a few spoonfuls into some tomato soup or some cream of chicken soup. Mix it up with some cream cheese or sour cream to make a different kind of dip. Top a baked potato or fried potatoes with it. Roll it up in a flour tortilla for a wraptastic snack.

You can make this with other beans, too. I’ve made it with pinto beans, garbanzos and navy beans. Or you can leave out the beans completely if you like.

It’s versatile and I love it. Which is why I don’t make it very much. I tend to eat way more of it than I ought to!

Toad in the Hole

I’ve been obsessed with this lately. Despite the fact that my mom says they used to make this a lot when I was little, I don’t remember it. It’s not traditional English toad in the hole which is made with sausage. This is where you cut a hole in the middle of a piece of white bread and fry an egg into it.

Now I do remember my great aunt (great as in my mother’s aunt, though she was pretty great as a person, too) making such a thing. She and her husband never had any children, and I was the only young child on my mom’s side of the family. My aunt used to make these elaborate breakfasts for me. Cereal with faces made on it with various toppings, toad in the hole and many other things that would delight a small girl.

My aunt’s husband was one of those curmudgeonly types who wanted you to think he didn’t really like anyone. But he and I got along fine. He liked to make me toys that made a lot of noise and annoyed my aunt and my mom a lot. We had each other’s back. One time my mom and the aunt decided to throw out his beloved hot sauce collection to make room in the fridge. I ran outside where he was working on his garden to apprise him of this egregious act!

Perhaps as a reward, a few days later he decided I needed a set of Lincoln Logs. This was when Lincoln Logs were the redwood color and not slick and polished like they are now. He chose a box with a picture he liked on the front and returned with them. I’m not sure why they appealed to him. Perhaps because he was an architect and airplane designer, or perhaps there were a lot of pieces to clutter up the house with. When he found we could not build the project shown on the can of Logs, he promptly went back to the store to mention it was false advertising and to buy enough cans to make the project.

But, as usual, I’ve gotten side tracked.

I’ve been making the the toad in the hole dish nearly every day for breakfast lately. I just cut a square out of the center of a piece of white bread to start. I’m sure it would be easier with a biscuit cutter, but there you go.

I put a pat of butter into a non-stick skillet set at 375 and let it melt. I plop the holey bread into the butter then quickly turn it over so both sides get buttered. Once the bread begins to brown, I break an egg into the hole I’ve made. At this time I turn it down to 275. Once the egg has firmed up some, I carefully slide my oversized spatula under the bread, getting it situated well using a spoon at one edge.

Here’s the tricky part. I quickly flip the toad over, hoping the egg doesn’t fling itself over the skillet. I’m not always successful. Sometimes I even manage to get the dang bread folded in half somehow. But it’s easily corrected and I’ve not broken a yolk yet! I think that’s why I like this dish. It makes the egg stable enough for me to turn over without breaking it—a task I can’t do with just an egg.

I keep tapping the egg lightly until it feels pretty much “right”. I’m hoping for a well-cooked white with a runny yolk. Sometimes I get cocky and have a runny white, too. Not my favorite. But it’s only happened twice so far.

Sometimes I get fancy and cut rings of mini sweet peppers and place on top of the yolk beforeI flip it. It looks pretty. And it’s tasty, too.

One day I got a double yolk! It almost didn’t fit in my little square hole. That’s one thing I miss about living on a farm when I was kid. We got double yolk eggs all the time. I guess our hens were over achievers. My folks didn’t like them too much, but it was a real treat to me!

Steak?!

All you steak purists probably should avert your eyes right now because I’m about to use steak and non-stick pan in the same paragraph.

Steak isn’t something that’s usually on my menu. It’s much too expensive, and after giving up red meat as an experiment a few years ago, I kind of lost my taste for it. But sometimes I just have a craving for a big hunk of steak.

I made the mistake of going online to try to look up cook times for making a steak in a skillet. People would dang near come to virtual blows over steak cooking. And heaven forbid someone should suggest doing it in a non-stick pan. So finally I consulted to ultimate cooking knowledge bank—mom. She cooked steaks in a pan for years for my dad, albeit in cast iron pans which make everything taste pretty great. My pan is the Copper Chef pan. You know, the one you see on late-night infomercials hosted by Eric Thiess (who I’m strangely fascinated by). It’s not the Red Copper one. I decided to use this pan because they claim it can take a high heat without missing a beat.

After getting out the steak to let it warm up a tad, I decided I should make something to eat with it instead of just having a steak. So potatoes it was! I sliced up some red potatoes and rinsed them well to get all the starch off. I find this does two things: it keeps them from boiling over and they don’t get sticky since they’re a waxy tater to begin with. I put them in just enough water to cover them and stuck them in the microwave. I made a lot in order to have some for another meal. I usually try to cook extra of most things. It allows me to make some quick meals here and there.

Once the potatoes were cooked and drained, I turned to the steak. I didn’t have the nerve to put my cooktop up to max sear, which is above 500 degrees. I settled for high, which is 475 degrees. I flicked a little water into the pan with my fingers to see if it was heated up. It’s heated when the water drops skitter and dance across the pan.

My steak was well-marbled. None of this namby pamby take all the fat off kind of steak. I always think of my dad when I get steaks. He was, surprisingly, a pretty good cook. He’d always say “the flavor is in the fat!” I didn’t want to add butter or oil at all, so I held the rim of fat along one side to the pan and it melted off just enough to do the trick. Then I laid in the steak. Wow! The Copper Chef lived up to it’s advertising. It put a wonderful sear on both sides of the steak lickety split! I ended up getting it a little more done than I was aiming for. It turned out just a little pink through the center, which is ok, too!

While the steak was resting, I dumped the pre-cooked potato slices in the pan with the steak drippings and fried them up a little. I served them up next to my well-rested steak, adding just a touch of butter and salt to both.

I enjoyed every mouthful of that steak. It was a nice little ribeye. I might treat myself to another one of those when they go on sale again!

The steak adventure turned out really well, and it didn’t seem to have harmed it one bit to have been cooked in a non-stick pan. So there.

Candy Bread

Since I referenced the candy bread in the About Me thingy I thought I’d best talk about it here.

When I was a kid one of my favorite treats was cinnamon toast. My mom would make a piece of toast, slather it with butter, and sprinkle on a little bit of cinnamon sugar mixture.

I continued to make this treat all through my years, making it more and more sugary as time went by. Recently I had an idea for making it even sweeter and luscious. I’m sure any dentist would have a conniption seeing this being eaten. I care not.

First, take some butter and soften it a tiny bit in the microwave. Don’t melt it completely. Just enough to work with it. Cream the butter with cinnamon sugar mix. Err on the side of sugar because you’re going to caramelize it. The texture of the “spread” should be thin enough to spread on untoasted white bread.

Once you’ve made the spread, spread it onto BOTH sides of the bread. It’s a messy job, but someone has to do it. I like to cut my bread into little strips, but it’s not necessary. Just fancy in my mind.

Once you have all the pieces spread with spread, arrange them in a non-stick skillet. I’m cooking on an induction burner, so I fire the burner up to Medium. That’s about 275 degrees. You’ll start to hear the bread sizzling. At this point start carefully turning over your bread. You’ll think “oh no, I’ve put too much spread on!” But you haven’t. The bread will be slightly floppy at first. Fry your bread until it is just past the point of golden brown. It will begin to firm up at this time.

Take up your bread and lay it out on your plate in a single layer. It will continue to firm up until you have something like crispy caramel cookies! It’s sweet and gummy and oh, so, tasty.

I’ve not tried any variations yet, but I’m thinking making this on French bread or other fancy breads might be great. Maybe even some dollops of whipped cream! Or maybe even some leftover pancakes or waffles would be nice with this treatment. Not that I ever have leftover pancakes or waffles…

Tinkering

I like to tinker in the kitchen. I sometimes do unlikely things. I do things that would probably horrify food sticklers and foodies. Check out the “About” page for a more precise description of what this is all about.

There won’t be actual recipes all the time. It’s mainly a bit of indulgence in the realm of “what I ate today” and how I constructed it. If that’s not your thing, that’s ok. I just wanted to warn you! If you need some ideas of things to make with bits and pieces of things in the kitchen, maybe you’ll find something here.

I’ll start off by telling you some of the things I always keep on hand in the cabinet, fridge or freezer. With these things I can generally make something that’s sort of tasty!

Pantry List

  • Canned Tomatoes. Crushed tomatoes are all purpose and can be used for many things. I’ve recently started getting into using canned stewed tomatoes. They have some flavors imparted and I also like eating them right out of the can.
  • Rice. I like medium or long grained white rice asa staple. It cooks well in the rice cooker or the microwave.
  • Pasta. I usually keep angel hair on hand. I like the long kind, not the kind that looks like a little nest.
  • Dried Beans. Pintos are the most versatile, but I also keep black beans and lentils. Great in the crock pot!
  • Canned Beans. I keep some canned black beans on hand for quick use. I also like canned French Cut green beans.
  • Chicken Bullion. I use the powdered kind. In addition to making a nice cup of soup, it can be used as a seasoning in many things like rice and dips.
  • Flavorings. I keep a variety of spices around. I tend to lean toward garlic laden seasonings or mexican-style flavorings. Keep what you like the best. I also keep sugar, cinnamon, balsamic vinegar, Tabasco Jalapeno Sauce, and coarse Kosher salt.
  • Potatoes. I usually get red potatoes. They last a long time and can be used a variety of ways. If you don’t use potatoes very often, canned ones are good in a pinch. You can fry them up or put them in some soup.
  • Tater Tots. Yep. Love ’em. You can make a lot of interesting things with them.
  • Onions. I love onions. I put them in everything. I like white ones the best. They keep longer. I cut them up with a spiralizer tool and they go a long way because they’re so thin and uniform. I only cut up a couple at a time. The rest I store in the crisper in the fridge
  • Frozen Peppers and Onions. I get both the pepper and onion mix, as well as peppers and onions separately. You always have some onions and peppers even if you run out of the fresh.
  • Crackers. I like Oyster Crackers. They make a good snack with some flavorings applied. I also keep regular saltines on hand.
  • Oats. I like quick cooking. Good for recipes or for breakfast. Or just to stir into your yogurt for some texture!
  • Canned Milk. I don’t use much milk. But sometimes you need a little bit. I get the 5 ounce cans. Dried milk is ok, too. But I like the flavor of the canned better.
  • Chicken Broth. I get canned, low sodium to have on hand. But I also make my own and put it in the freezer when I make a chicken in the crock pot. Making it yourself allows you to control the taste and seasonings.
  • Butter. I like unsalted. It lasts a long time and can be frozen. It’s useful in many things.
  • Cheese. I keep Swiss and Mozzarella slices on hand most of the time. I also like to keep a package of a shredded cheese blend like Mexican blend or Casserole blend. And yes, Velveeta is generally around, also.
  • Frozen Veggies. My go-tos are Brussels Sprouts, Fordhook Limas, Whole Kernel Corn, Broccoli Florets.
  • Eggs. They last a long time, are good proteins, and you can make a lot with them.
  • Bread. I get plain, cheap white bread. Yeah, I know. It’s nutritionally dead, but it works in a pinch and keeps forever. Plus I make bread in the bread machine.
  • Tortillas. I like flour ones. I also like to keep tortilla chips on hand as well.

So that’s what I ALWAYS have in my kitchen. I do keep other things around, but these keep me going.