Stuffed Pizza

After a long evening of shopping for our Christmas Eve party, Chris and I wanted something to fill us up. We were thinking ahead and bought a 1 1/2-pound pizza dough at the grocery store along with everything else that was on our holiday checklist. I know we've blogged pizza numerous times, but I swear, this one's different! We split the dough into two pieces, about 2/3 and 1/3 size each. Chris stretched each piece of dough the way he does, and we lined an oiled and heated cast iron pan with the larger dough, sides and all, allowing a bit of overlap on the top. In order, we topped it with layers of the following: olive oil, slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, sliced pepperoni, and shredded mozzarella. Then we put the smaller dough on top as if it were a pie, folding over that extra overlap from the pan-lining dough. We let it cook for a couple of minutes on the stovetop then flipped it (very carefully!). We topped the previously-bottom-but-now-top-dough with a little more sauce and shredded cheese and put the whole cast iron into a preheated 500-degree oven for 10 minutes. I turned on the oven light and we sat in front of the stove, watching our creation bubble and brown, our stomachs growling in anticipation. After it cooled a bit, we cut it into six thick pizza slices that were oozing piping hot sauce and cheese. It was the kind of pizza you needed a fork and knife to eat. It was filling and delicious, and with a bottle of cheap chianti, our dinner was everything we wanted it to be.


Mom's Creamy Macaroni and Cheese

It's a busy week for most people, and that includes us right now. Chris has been doing research for a paper and presentation he has to do to finish up a graduate course, and I'm doing my best to finish up the holiday "stuff" that needs doing. Dinners have been either quick, easy, purchased elsewhere, or a mix of all three. It's also a stressful time, however, and that means we're both yearning for good comfort food loaded with carbs. That brings us to tonight's meal - my mom's homemade macaroni and cheese. Comfort food is the "it" thing these days, with upscale restaurants serving their own versions of pot pie, meat loaf, and even casseroles, and there are plenty of schmancy mac-n-cheese recipes out there, but nothing compares to this one, which produces a very creamy, very satisfying, very comforting meal or side. Thanks, Mom!

1/2 stick butter or margarine
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups milk
8 oz. Velveeta, cut into cubes
6-8 slices American cheese
1/2 lb. pasta (a shape that would hold the cheese sauce well, like elbows or shells)

Preheat oven to 375. Boil water for pasta and cook pasta according to package directions; drain and pour into 1 1/2 quart oval oven-proof casserole dish. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Whisk in flour until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon each). Add milk and Velveeta. Cook over medium heat, stirring until cheese is melted and you have a somewhat thick cheese sauce. Pour sauce over pasta and mix together. Place slices of American cheese on top in one layer. Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes.


Pot Roast and Christmas Decorations

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas..." at least at our house, as we scheduled our decorating for this weekend. The freshly cut Douglas fir is resting in its stand, awaiting lights and ornaments. The house has decorations in every room including sage and pine-scented candles that are giving our home not only its holiday scent but also a cozy, warm glow. As we scurry around setting everything up, we needed an one-pot wonder of a dinner and so we chose the ultimate in this category, Pot Roast.

We season our 2 and 3/4-pound roast with salt, pepper, and a few shakes of dried thyme, and brown the top and bottom for several minutes each. Then we put it in our small roasting pan so it fits snugly with several baby carrots (about 2 cups) and Yukon gold potatoes (about 3/4 lb.). We add 1 1/2 packets of Lipton onion soup mix and 1 1/2 cups of water and roast it in a 425-degree oven for an hour and fifteen minutes. Then, just to brown the fat a little, we stick it under the broiler for a couple minutes.

The fragrant cooking smells fill the house as we decorate, and when it is time for dinner, we enjoy a traditional meat and potatoes feast that was easy, filling, and just right for a chilly Sunday afternoon.


Champagne Risotto with Bay Scallops

We're turkeyed out, as most people are by now, I think. We made our stock, had a pot pie, made soup, and now we want something that doesn't resemble poultry of any kind. When I stopped by the local Price Chopper on the way home from school yesterday, I saw bay scallops on sale for $4.99 a pound. I love scallops, and prefer the large sea scallops most of the time. But the price was right, and I had in mind to make a risotto with these sweet little shellfish gems. The constant stirring was a happy chore, since the result was a good, creamy rice dish.

1/2 stick butter
1/4 cup chopped green onions
2/3 cup arborio rice
1 cup Champagne
1 14 1/2-oz. can chicken broth
3/4 lb. bay scallops
1/2 cup grated Grana cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the green onions and saute them until they are soft, only about a minute. Add the rice and saute for 2-3 minutes until well mixed. Add the Champagne and lower the heat. Simmer until the liquid is almost evaporated, stirring often. Slowly add the broth, a few ounces at a time, stirring often and each time simmering until the liquid is almost evaporated (about 20-25 minutes total). By the end of the broth, the rice should be tender. Add the scallops and simmer until they are cooked through. Then add the cheese, stir to mix well, season with salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.


Chris's Rich Turkey Stock

We didn't host Thanksgiving, nor did we bring anything homemade. I know, weird for a couple of self-professed foodies, but that's the way it went this year. My parents hosted Thanksgiving and did a fabulous job as always (thanks, Mom!), sending Chris and me home with plenty of leftover vegetables, turkey meat, and of course, the carcass from the bird. Over the weekend, Chris got to work making his homemade stock by putting all of the following ingredients in a large stock pot and simmering it for hours and hours. We used it as the base for two delicious leftover meals: pot pie and soup. It was a deep brown color and had rich turkey taste. For the turkey pot pie recipe, see previous post HERE, as I pretty much followed the same recipe.

Chris's Rich Turkey Stock Ingredients:
1 turkey carcass (with the "good" meat cleaned off) cut up to fit in the pot
1 Vidalia onion, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 quart vegetable broth
1 1/2 teaspoons celery flakes (or use 2 chopped celery stalks if you have them, which we obviously did not)
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
salt to taste