I’m pretty sure this is a dog thing (probably a cat thing too), but our dogs have their regular hangouts. If we’re looking for them, we can almost always find them there. This is Oscar’s…on the arm of the recliner. He loves to sit with us so this is his way of saying, “I’m here…ready…but yet, out of the way…for you to sit with me.” Love him!
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When I first started making this dish, it was crockpot pizza. Then I realized the crockpot aspect wasn’t really necessary, and I wanted put my own twist on the ingredients. So the dish you see in the picture there is like it’s 3 cousin, twice removed (or something). Now, when I tell Mr. J what’s for dinner, I call this “You know that thing that’s like crockpot pizza, but isn’t made in the crockpot…that’s what we’re eating.” So much for brevity?
Here I go again with one of those recipe “concepts.” It doesn’t really have a recipe, and you can do whatever you want. I realize that when you’re first starting out in the kitchen, you HATE this kind of post, but I’m hoping that this will give you an idea.
The base for what’s pictured is Campanelle pasta with a jar of spaghetti sauce and a pound or so of browned ground beef. Then, take your favorite pizza toppings, and bam! it’s pizza pasta. You can use any sauce you want, any pasta you want, and include meat (or not). If you’ve got leftover spaghetti that needs livening up, it’s a perfect candidate, too.
If you’re out of the store-bought stuff, here’s my pizza sauce recipe. You could also use this marinara sauce recipe. Or just open up a can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes and throw in some herbs. Easy peasy.
For toppings, go with mushrooms, green peppers, sausage, pepperoni (the mini ones are fun), olives…the possibilities are ENDLESS! I think I’d forego the ham and pineapple on this one though! And don’t forget the cheese! I recommend mozzarella, Parmesan, and feta, if you’re feeling bold! Pop it in the oven for 15 minutes to melt the cheese and bring it all together.
This is a great make-ahead dish. However, we’ve found that the pepperonis turn brown in the leftovers so I make the base without them and add them on as we reheat throughout the week. Of course, you can do this in a large baking dish instead of individual servings. I just wanted to customize ours with our favorite toppings. Hey, that’s a fun party idea…the Super Bowl is just around the corner, you know!
Now that I’m back to work after baby, I’m trying out once a week cooking. I grocery shop and prep / cook meals on the weekend so that eating during the week can be quick…with much less mess. I’m also trying to prep one veggie to eat off of for the week in addition to chopping toppings for salads throughout the week. I’ve been posting the pictures on Instagram because I love to chop, and I think the veggies are beautiful!
Last week, I made fajita peppers. I sauteed red, yellow, and orange bell peppers and onions in olive oil with fajita seasoning. I enjoyed them during the week on burritos, salads, and mixed in my chili mac. The previous week, I roasted zucchini with herbs and ate it as a side dish for several nights. I also put it in my tacos one night. I made hummus and chopped up carrot and celery sticks for weekday snacks, too. Prepping and even cooking veggies ahead of time makes it much more likely that I’ll eat them (and that they won’t go bad!).
I really enjoyed the huge batch of freezer cooking I did before baby. I promise to do a recap of how it all worked out, and I hope to do that again, too. It’s so easy just to grab something out of the fridge and start eating right away.
If cooking a week’s worth of meals isn’t up your alley, you might try meal planning instead. There are so many resources out there for it if you do a little digging. I follow several bloggers that post their meal plan for the week. That’s a great place to get new ideas.
I’m sure many of you pine for a kitchen remodel, but that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’ve been thinking on several deep cleaning projects to get my kitchen in better shape. Then I came across this post: How to tune-up your kitchen for 2013: 9 easy steps from Simple Bites, and I really got inspired. Here are a few of the things I want to do in my kitchen.
Deep clean the cabinets – Remove everything from the cabinet and wipe away crumbs and dust that have collected there. While I have the items “out in the light” I will consider if it’s something I actually use. If I don’t, I can give it away or yard sale it.
Clean out the pantry and freezer – Throw away was isn’t at its peak and plan meals around what is left. This saves money, makes room, and brings fresher ingredients into your kitchen.
Clean out the spices – Consolidate multiples, throw away what isn’t fresh, and organize so I can actually see and find what I have. Maybe I should employ a lazy susan or tiered shelving?
Clean off the kitchen table and actually eat there – Over the holidays, the kitchen table was the place for doing crafts, boxing up treats, overflow counter space, filing cabinet for important papers that didn’t have a home yet, wrapping gifts, stray laundry, groceries that wouldn’t fit in the cabinet, etc. As I’ve been doing post-holiday cleaning and organizing I decided that I really wanted to strive to keep the kitchen table open so that we can enjoy several meals there every week. Right now, it’s about 1/4 covered, but we’ve eaten several meals there over the course of the weekend. We agree that family dinners are important as Chicken grows up, but sometimes noshing in front of the TV is too alluring. Baby steps?
Daily dishes – This is more of a maintenance task than anything, but I’ve been trying to run the dishwasher every night before bed. Before baby, Mr. J would do the dishes in the morning, but this routine seems to be working out better these days. A clean kitchen begets a clean kitchen (most of the time).
Assess the counter-top – We all try to keep what’s used very often handy on our counter top, but mine is getting cluttered. I want to assess what’s there, how often I use it, and what might be a better location for it to live. Streamline in 2013!
Ok, I’m sure there is more I could do, but I feel like this is a good start. Do you have any New Year projects in your kitchen or home?
Last year, I royally screwed up Mr. J’s birthday cake. I forgot the eggs…wah wah. I like to warm up my eggs a little before baking, and I left them in their warm water bath instead of mixing them in the batter. The result wasn’t TOTALLY disgusting, but it wasn’t great either. The cake was flat…both physically and taste-wise. I ended up cutting rounds of cake with a biscuit cutter and layering it in ramekins with the peanut butter butter cream I’d made. It was cute, but not the best result ever.
This year, I decided I was going to really do it up big, and I think I had success. I made a chocolate and peanut butter lovers delight: Devil’s Food cake (only 5 layers), peanut butter butter cream with whipped cream frosting, and cookie crunch filling…OH MY! He insisted I go write down my methods immediately so he could have this cake again next year. Woo hoo!
Yes, this cake does take a while to make, but it was so so worth it to make up for last year and see the happiness his face!
And just in case you were wondering how two people eat a 5-layer cake with tons of other holiday sweets lingering around…I froze 3/4 of it in slices for easy consumption later!
And here’s what I wrote out for future birthdays to come. Note: I would like to try spreading the cookie crunch layer over all 4 filling opportunities. I think it’s a little too thick the way I did it here. However, Mr. J insists that it’s the perfect ratio and that I should never, ever mess with it (hence the note to self at the top).
Mr. J’s Favorite Famous Fabulous Peanut Butter Birthday Cake
DON’T MESS WITH THIS … OR ELSE! (HE’LL KNOW)
Prepare Cake Layers
Prepare 2 boxes of Devil’s Food cake mix according to package instructions using warm ingredients
Using 3 – 8” cake pans, put 1 ½ cups of batter in each pan sprayed with cooking spray (this will be half of the batter)
Cook until centers aren’t jiggly, about 15 minutes. This was trial and error for me since the layer is thinner than what the package instructions indicate since it’s spread over 3 pans instead of 2. I also have very dark pans that cook rather quickly. The jiggle test is really your best bet…just gently shake the oven rack (wear a mitt, of course).
Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Place a dinner plate lined in wax paper over the top of the pan and invert to remove the layer. Remove all layers. Don’t try to dump the cake pan upside down when the layers are still warm. One of your layers will die…that’s why I had 5 layers instead of 6. It was ok though…we just used that layer as a sample to make sure the cake was ok 😉
Clean cake pans (carefully, they’ll still be hot), spray with cooking oil, and put 1 ½ cups of batter in each. Cook those and cool in pan completely on wire rack.
Make Peanut Butter Butter Cream
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
18 oz. creamy peanut butter
Cream together with hand mixer in a larger-than-you-think-you-need bowl.
Add 2 ¼ cups of powdered sugar gradually, mixing after each addition.
Add 2 teaspoons vanilla and 2 Tablespoons of milk or cream (I used almond milk this time).
Fluff on medium power for 5 minutes.
Make whipped cream
Chill bowl and whisk attachment in freezer for at least 10-15 minutes before beginning.
1 – 8 oz. container of regular whipping cream
¼ cup powdered sugar
Add both ingredients to bowl of stand mixer. Beat on medium speed until thick. Watch carefully!
Carefully fold whipped cream into butter cream. Beat with hand mixer briefly until well incorporated.
Cookie Crunch Filling
Mock Dairy Queen Icecream Cake Crunch
1 package of regular Oreos
1 – 7.25 oz. Magic Shell topping
Pulse 2 out of 3 rows of Oreos in food processor until course crumbs form. “Discard” 3rd row of Oreos.
Warm bottle of Magic Shell under hot water. Shake well according to package instructions. Empty entire bottle of topping over cookies.
Pulse 5 – 6 times to incorporate cookie crumbs and topping. Set aside until ready to assemble cake.
Equipment I used: glass cake stand, cardboard round (not required but nice to have), straight spatula (like this one, offset would work well, too) to transfer and smooth out frosting, cake decorating turntable (I have this one, again not required but nice to have), frosting bag and coupler, and two cake decorating tips. I used a large round one for general use to spread icing evenly over the outside of the cake and the filling layers. I also used it to make the well to contain the cookie crunch filling. I used a star tip to add decorative details. I’m definitely still working on the patience, gentle hand, flick of the wrist, and equal spacing needed for making an attractive cake border. Practice makes perfect…oh darn!
Place 8” cardboard round onto work surface. Place 1-2 Tablespoons of frosting on board. Place first layer of cake top-down. Pipe a layer of frosting on top and even it out. Add second layer of cake (top-up). Pipe around the edges of the cake layer and fill in the well with half of cookie crunch mixture. Add a layer of cake (top-down). Pipe a layer of frosting on top and even it out. Add a layer of cake (top-up). Pipe around the edges of the cake layer and fill in the well with second half of cookie crunch. Place top layer of cake top-down.
Add crumb coat. Chill for 20 minutes. It won’t really set like straight-up butter cream because of the whipped cream, but the crumb coat was still really helpful for keeping crumbs out of the final layer of icing.
Ice cake and smooth out the surface.
Decorate cake with remaining icing and Reese’s cups. I used 6 regular-sized Reese’s total. For the top, cut ¼ wedges out of 4 Reeses. Pipe large dollops of frosting at 4 equidistant points on the top edge of the cake. Place ¾ pieces of Reeses there. Pipe smaller dollops in between these points and place ¼ pieces there. Cut remaining 2 Reeses in quarters. Along the bottom edge of the cake, place small dollops below each of the candy points on the top rim of the cake. Stick the ¼ round pieces in each dollop along the bottom. Alternatively, you could use any size Reese’s cups or Reese’s Pieces to decorate. You could also nod at the cookie crunch and use Oreos.
Store in refrigerator.
We recently won two adorable harnesses in an auction for All American Dachshund Rescue. Thanks so much to Stephanie from Happidog Harness for donating to the cause, working over the holidays to make them, and for great customer service! Sorry the dogs are a blur…they were so happy in their new outfits!
Waiting in “give me a treat please” stance.