Friday, November 26, 2010


Okay...last one. I promise.

If cranberries are too tart and Asian's too out there for your picky eater, go simple and familiar. Go barbecue.

We have Wolfgang Puck to thank for giving us barbecue chicken pizza. I'm considering building a small, tasteful altar. Just a few candles. Nothing showy. I first found Wolfie's (yes, I call him Wolfie) barbecuey wonderfulness at his restaurant in Orlando. It was lifechanging. Okay, maybe that's a little excessive. But it was what opened my eyes to the idea that a pizza can be more than marinara and pepperoni.

And then we have California Pizza Kitchen to thank for spreading the barbecue glory to grocery store freezer cases all across America.

Barbecue sauce and poultry, after all, is a flavor combination our nuggetized youth have been conditioned to accept with an almost Pavlovian response. Add the shape and cheese of pizza, and it's really hard to go wrong. So hard, they may not realize they are eating leftovers. Again.

Start with that crust. Smear it with your favorite barbecue sauce. I like to take a cheap bottle of something pre-made and doctor it a little with some brown sugar and orange zest until I get exactly the tangy-sweet flavor I like. But if KC Masterpiece or Sweet Baby Ray's is already just what you want, why make it harder on yourself.

Then I get liberal with the turkey. Dark meat, white meat, whatever you've got left will be fine.

Get wild at this point if you want. Red onion, green pepper, whatever you want to do. I actually served it with slaw, so I wasn't concerned about the veggie content. Then, bring on the cheese.

I bypassed your typical mozzarella and went for provolone. It's slightly smoky, and that flavor paired perfectly with the barbecue sauce. What you've got is the perfect snack for football games...that gets rid of leftovers without having people groan at you about "casserole again?"

Now, like all good trilogies, our leftover journey has come to its conclusion.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Revenge of the Leftovers!!!

Okay, you didn't think there could be just one leftovers post, right? 'Cause that would be ridiculous. One meal out of leftovers? What are you going to serve for Thanksgiving? A canary?

The further you get from that original meal, the further you want to be from that original meal. In that spirit, today's offering is taking you from Plymouth to Peking. Welcome to the world of Asian turkey. Via pizza.

Yeah, pizza. Read the name of the blog again. Okay, fine, you don't want pizza? Change it up. This makes a great sandwich, open faced on some good crusty bread, or toasted in a sub roll and closed up with a little Asian slaw on top. Or stuck in a pita pocket. Or slapped together, spread with butter and given a turn around a hot pan like a grilled cheese with a serious twist.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Okay...start with the bread. I'm going back to that great PennMac crust I used the other day. But use what you've got. Frankly, I'm anticipating some leftover Italian bread, so this could turn into a nice long pizza boat for me, almost a bahn mi of leftovers.

Now we address the sauce. I got some spicy orange sauce in the Asian section at Wegman's the other day, and I've been dying to try it on something. This seemed like a good opportunity. I painted it on the crust liberally, and topped it with the turkey.

I went heavy on the turkey, because I had a lot of turkey. If I had it (and frankly, it would have been great, but I actually didn't have all of the veggies I'd have liked), I'd have then added red pepper strips, matchstick carrots, broccoli, maybe some bok choy. If you like it in a stir fry or with your fried rice, throw it on.

Then we look at cheese. You want something mellow. A cheddar wouldn't fit. A mozzarella would be okay, but you want something that will harmonize with the Asian flavors. So...I used up the brie I had leftover from the the other day. Hey, leftovers! Gotta use 'em up, right?

It's pretty, isn't it? Okay, maybe pretty is a stretch. I was really wishing for some green onion when I pulled it out. But damn did it taste good. Asian flavors and French flavors are great pairings. They took the turkey to a completely different place than the Thanksgiving table it started.

So throw together a pizza. Or a sandwich. Or a pita. Just don't listen to what you tell your kids. Play with your food.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Leftovers Before Thanksgiving

As much as everyone loves that giant bird, most of us have a love-hate relationship with what comes after the big meal. Oh, yes. I'm talking leftovers.

Getting a picky eater to approach leftovers can be like making seating arrangements for a Mafia wedding. Difficult and dangerous. It has to be familiar but it can't be a Xerox of the original meal. It has to be new but not too alien. It has to be all things to all people.

This week, I smoked a turkey, trying some new ideas before the big day. Naturally, that left me with piles of meat. After turkey soup, turkey and noodles, turkey sandwiches and turkey salad, even my husband, who would eat an ostrich whole given the opportunity, was starting to look slightly fearful when he asked what was for dinner. I needed something different. Something appealing to an almost-3-year-old, a guy with a big appetite for bold flavors, and, well, me.

So...okay...where's my pizza crust?

Ah. There you are. Let me tell you about this crust, first. If you go to Pittsburgh, to the Strip District, there is a magical place called the Pennsylvania Macaroni Company. PennMac to the natives. It's an Italian market that caters to restaurants and in-the-know afficianados, selling everything from gigantic sides of salt cod and every pasta under the sun to olive oil by the tanker truck and breads like these freshly made, par-baked pizza shells. They did not give me these shells. I wish they had. I love them to death. No, I paid for them. And then I did this to them.

That's my homemade cranberry sauce. It's a bag of cranberries, a couple of oranges, a chopped apple, a cup of apple cider and a cup of sugar, cooked down to a sweet, tangy jam. Do you have to do that? Of course not. Your favorite cranberry sauce is fine, whether it's from a can or a jar or the deli. Just spread a nice layer over the shell.

The turkey was next. I used chunky strips instead of sliced or diced pieces, looking for a substantial, thick layer of meat over the puckery cranberries. I used white meat, but whatever you have will be fine.

That took us to the cheese. Every pizza needs cheese, right? But what works with both the mellow smoke of the turkey and the tart jamminess of the berries? And what is special enough for a holiday meal? Brie. I peeled and diced up some slices of a mild and buttery Brie and scattered them over the turkey.

I popped it in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes, waiting for the cranberry sauce to melt into a glistening glaze, and the Brie to take on its trademark melting texture.

You see that? That's what happens when you combine the pastry-wrapped goodness of a fruit-topped Brie en croute with a good old turkey sandwich. It's perfect. Cut it into narrow strips and it's a perfect holiday appetizer for a tree-trimming party. Slice up nice wedges and you have the perfect snack for cuddling up with some sappy Christmas movies.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Not your Grandma's baked apples

When I was a kid, I was frequently on diets. My mother would have me on diets, and then I'd go to my grandmother for the summer, where I spent weeks following whatever the latest low-calorie miracle plan happened to be. None of them were very long-lived but while they were going on, they were followed with a fervor some people reserve for religion or military service.

No matter what they were called, they all had the same basic tenets: eat less fatty stuff, eat more vegetables, and dessert is the devil.

This translated to a lot of very boring baked apples that were only minimally sweetened or flavored before being cooked to mush and pretending to be dessert when they had much more in common with baby food. I'm here to tell you, pouring a Fresca on an apple and sticking it in the microwave does not make it taste like apple pie, no matter what the little handbook says.

But now, my husband has some heart issues and diabetes. We have some directives. Eat less fatty stuff. Eat more fiber. Dessert is the devil. Sounds vaguely familiar, doesn't it?

What I also have is this kid.

Clearly, he's pretty fond of his apples. Which means we have a lot of them around our house. And despite the fact that he eats them two at a time, it's still a challenge for him to get to every apple in a bushel (yes, a bushel) before they start to see better days.

And that means...baked apples.

I approached the idea with some horror. Obviously, I have issues. Plus, I like food, and I like it to taste good, but I am also pretty fond of my husband and I'd like to keep him around for a while. My objectives, obviously, were at war.

Sweet Heat Apples

4 large apples, halved and cored
4 T. softened butter (I used a butter-canola oil blend)
1/4 c. coconut sugar (maple, demerara or brown sugar would work well, too)
3/4 c. oatmeal
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 aji panca chile, finely chopped (Any mild, fruity dried chile would work. If that's not available, use a little cayenne to taste.)
1 c. apple cider

Place apple halves in a large baking dish. Cut butter with sugar, oatmeal, vanilla caviar (bury your scraped bean in some sugar for a great treat, or save and refrigerate to steep in some hot milk for a fantastic alternative to hot chocolate), cinnamon and chile. Divide between apple halves, mounding on top. Pour cider into baking pan (not over apples). Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes. Serve drizzled with the baking liquid.

We have a winner!!!

Thanks to the good people at, we have a completely randomly generated winner for the giveaway.

Congrats to Amy, who takes home a yummy dip mix. Thanks for following and reading!