Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays from The Gingerbread Queen!

Leiua, The Gingerbread Queen, would like to wish everyone Happy Holidays!!

The life of The Gingerbread Queen is apparently quite wearisome.

Or maybe it's just being saddled with an owner who likes weird headbands...


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Do You Do...?

What do you do when your spouse or significant other is away from home for a couple of days?  Recently, my husband went out of town for some C.L.E.E.T. classes (that's continuing education classes for Oklahoma law enforcement types).  He doesn't go out of town very often, so it is rare that I have an evening to myself - and even more rare for me to have two or three in a row. 

First on the list for each evening was getting home and letting out the dog, Leiua (pronounced "Lou-ya", and almost blasphemously short for Hallelujah).  Leiua is an American Pit Bull, and is the sweetest dog you will ever meet.  She is seven years old and has only growled once that I know of - not counting when she is chasing rabbits in her sleep.  She is a big clown and makes me laugh every day.  Leiua is not quite 60 pounds - a runt by most Pit Bull standards, but she still thinks she is a lap dog.  She is very docile and submissive - not at all like the media portrays Pit Bulls.  Leiua is the epitome of what American Pit Bulls used to be called - "America's Nanny Dogs".  She is not very protective, though.  Leiua thinks everyone is her friend and anyone that comes to the house is there to see and play with her.  It doesn't exactly strike fear into anyone's heart when she immediately rolls over to try and persuade them to scratch her belly.  The only thing lethal about Leiua is her tail.  That is a little whip that will bruise the heck out of your calves if you don't get out of her way when she is excited... or happy... or playful... or ornery...

[As an aside, I bet many of you didn't know that Helen Keller, who was blind, deaf, and unable to speak for most of her life, had a Pit Bull.  "Sir Thomas" was her companion for many years.  I bring this up only to illustrate that the viciousness of Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes you always hear about in the media is a fairly new aberration and that fighting is not actually the Pit Bulls' true nature.]

Helen Keller and "Sir Thomas", her Pit Bull
Back to my story...  The first big question of each evening was, "What's for dinner?"  Since I didn't have to cook, I had planned to take full advantage of the many and varied restaurants in the greater Tulsa area.  Unfortunately, I had not counted on all my friends being too busy to go out to eat with me.  My evenings wound up being rather one-sided conversations with the dog about the various merits of the restaurants in our immediate area, whether or not they would freak out if my dining companion wore a floppy hat to cover her large ears and rather hairy facial features, whether or not I could actually get Leiua to wear the hat for any length of time (I could not), and, finally, which restaurants were fairly quick with take-out. 

"We are not amused."
The next question ultimately was, "Is there anything worth watching on television?"  With over 150 channels, you would think that surely there was.  I am sad to report there was not, which led to the subsequent question of, "What do we do now?"  Since I still couldn't get Leiua to wear the hat for any length of time, making a stealth community outing with her was impossible.  The first night, I resigned myself to remaining home.  I thought about going to the movies, since there is now, thankfully, a really nice theater just 3 1/2 miles from my house.  Unfortunately, they weren't showing anything that interested me, either.  I could have watched any number of DVDs, but making the choice of which one to pick was too tiring to even think about by that time.  I flipped through the channels for a couple of hours without finding anything very interesting.  (I long for the days when the History Channel actually showed historical shows and not endless hours of pickers and storage locker auctions.  And when did hoarders and addicts become art or entertainment, A&E?  But, I digress...)

The second night I decided to skip television all together and browsed my local Target after dinner.  I managed to pick up a few badly needed items, even if I didn't know how badly I needed them until I stumbled across them in the aisles. 

First off, was a new shower curtain, followed by a matching liner, and some pretty cool double-sided hooks (I hadn't ever seen those before).  The shower curtain that was in the master bath was ancient (read "bought the year we moved into this house") - one of those billowy, fabric ones with the fake valance and no liner that were so popular back then.  This shower curtain set has a tight waffle weave and lends a spa-type feel to the bath.  The liner has little square prisms all over, which reflect the light inside the shower.  The set even matches the wallpaper, which is surprising, and gives the bath a much needed update.  One of these days I'll strip off that wallpaper, but that is a big project for another day.

The next purchase I discovered to be a necessity was a new ironing board cover.  The old cover was falling apart.  Let me just say that I don't iron unless it is a dire emergency.  I am all about wash and wear.  When that fails, I use wrinkle releaser spray.  (By the way, if you buy wrinkle realeaser sprays, you are wasting your money.  I found a recipe on the internet years ago and have been making my own for just pennies a bottle.  Let me know if you want the recipe.)  ...back to ironing...  My husband is an ironer.  He learned to iron in the Army and has been going strong ever since.  He asked me to iron something once but didn't like the way I had done it, so he never asked again.  (And I was soooo happy sad, yeah, that's it, sad, not to have been more help to him in that area...)  In case you are wondering, this new cover has thick padding, is heat resistant, snagproof, and a pleasing lilac color - which goes with absolutely nothing in the room.  (Yes, my husband insists on keeping the ironing board up 24/7 in the bedroom.  Ugh.)

A few aisles over, I came upon some queen-size sheet sets that were in the Clearance section.  I really wanted a pink set (which my husband would have hated), but wound up buying what looked like a mustard-colored set, as it was on Super Clearance compared with the other sets.  You don't find 400-thread count, percale, allegedly wrinkle-free, queen-size sheet sets for $20 very often.  Lucky for me, when I got them home and on the bed, I realized the sheets were actually gold and an exact match for the comforter set.  BONUS!  (Sorry about the wrinkled sheets in the photo, but I didn't think about taking it until after I had already lounged for a bit... and now we know that the "wrinkle-free" promise was a lie.)

My final purchase was a charcoal-infused mattress pad with a silky, textured cover.  It is one of those "memory" foam pads and is really, really comfy - sort of like lying on a cloud of freshly ginned cotton.  Unfortunately, we can't get the mattress pad to stay in place.  There was nothing included in the box to affix it to the mattress and the sheets won't hold it still, hence the duct tape you see in the photo.  I tried that on the corners to keep it from sliding, but it didn't work.  I am sorry to report that it has become my daily chore to reposition the mattress pad every night.  It usually only moves a few inches while we are sleeping, but that is enough to keep us from having a good sleep the following night.  If anyone has any ideas as to how to get the mattress pad to stay in place, please let me know.

All in all, I was in Target for over three hours just wandering up and down the aisles - sometimes going over the same aisle several times.  I saw lots of other things I wanted, like office supplies (which I definitely do not need - I am already the Sticky Note Queen), and a really cool Hampton Forge Tomodachi cutlery block with six super-sharp, stainless steel coated knives in bright, rainbow-colored hues.  I really, really, really wanted that knife set, but just couldn't justify the expense.  I tried, believe me.  But seriously, aren't they just gorgeous?  I am a sucker for bright colors and sparkly things...  The knife block doesn't have the blade guards, but does have an additional four steak knives.  Maybe I can justify buying it another day...  sigh...
I finally paid for my merchandise and was rewarded with a coupon for a free soda from the Snack Bar.  That was good, and since it was so close to store closing, they even threw in a free bag of popcorn. 

When I got home, I unloaded everything, played with Leiua and ate my popcorn, before calling it a night and heading to bed.  My final night sans spouse, I hung the new shower curtain set, replaced the raggedy ironing board cover, and put the mattress pad and sheet set on the bed.  I felt a surge of accomplishment (which probably just shows how little it takes to excite me).  I couldn't wait to see my husband's reaction the next evening.  I waited with bated breath (well, almost).  Would he like the new spa-like look in the bath?  Would he revel in the luxurious, cocooning comfort of the new mattress pad and sheets?  Would he be happy the ironing board cover was well-padded and snug for a smoother ironing experience? 

I imagined he would relax against the bedding and his back pain would become non-existent thanks to the new mattress pad.  Surely, he would gush about how wonderful it felt and commend me for being the industrious and hard-working wife who catered to his needs.  Yeah... apparently, I imagined I was married to someone else...  If my husband noticed any of the changes, he didn't mention them.  Of course, that's not entirely a bad thing.  If he hadn't liked them, you can be sure I would have heard about it and back to the store they would have gone.  I would like to think that he just took the changes in stride and chose to keep the deliciousness of them to himself.  In reality, he probably really didn't notice them, and that's okay.  I know they are there and I am loving them.

So... what do YOU do when your spouse or significant other is away for a few days?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Easy Tip for Cleaning Scorched Pans

I can't recall where I first heard this tip for cleaning scorched pans, but thankfully I remembered it when the hubby began cooking more... cooking more, but not cleaning more.  His specialty appears to be scorched pans.

He never cleans them.  I tore up several steel wool scrubbing pads attacking the burned-on gunk.  Then I had a moment of clarity when this simple cleaning tip returned to the forefront of my mind.  It saved my sanity, not to mention my arm muscles.  Honestly, if I'm going to get tennis elbow, I want to have at least gotten it from actually playing tennis!  If you are even a little bit like me, you will be happy for this tip.  You don't even have to scrape the pan first!

1.  Add a small squirt of dish washing liquid to the pan.  (No specific brand required.)

2.  Add water to cover the scorched area, being sure to cover the bottom of the pan about 1/2" or so.

3.  Set the pan on the burner and turn the heat up to High.

4.  Bring to a boil.

Allow to boil at a full roll at least one minute.

4.  Remove from heat using a hot pad, if necessary - don't burn yourself!  Rinse under running water.  Use a regular kitchen scrubbing pad to scrape away any bits of food left behind from the rinse.  A steel wool pad should not be needed.  You should still have plenty of soap in the pan, but if not, add a few drops more to ensure the pan is nice and clean.

Voila!  From scorched on food to nice and clean without having to use all that elbow grease!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Dr Pepper 10

If you are a fan of Diet Dr Pepper, you have to try the newest product in their line-up:
Dr Pepper 10.

The gray can with the logo in maroon, red, black, and white is a bit on the subdued side, but there is nothing subtle about Dr Pepper 10.  Sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup, this formula has only 10 calories per 12-ounce can.  It is without a doubt even closer to the original, sugary soda formula than any diet drink I have ever tasted. 

Say what you will, but I harbor no ill will toward High Fructose Corn Syrup or those that manufacture and utilize it.  I love the stuff.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the jury is still out on the benefits or problems resulting from the consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup.  However, there has been no conclusive study that showed High Fructose Corn Syrup had mercury leaching into the product.  Nor has there been a conclusive study showing that it is less healthy or more likely to cause weight gain than other forms of added sweetener.  (

BUT... what is really inside that can is MAGICOne sip and THIS is how I felt:

I was instantly transported to 1965 (or so), when I was allowed to get an ice-cold bottle of Dr Pepper out of the crisper drawer in my great-grandparents' refrigerator!  I absolutely could not believe the full flavor of this soda for only 10 calories per can.  That feeling remained from the first drink to the last.  AMAZING!!! 

(Okay, okay.  I admit that this photo is not quite 1965, but it is just a year or two earlier and I swear I really didn't change much during that time.) 

The formula also tastes very much like a true soda fountain Dr Pepper made with syrup containing pure cane sugar, just like I used to get at my grandparents' drug store. 

(Maynard Drug, Washington, Oklahoma; 10-24-56)

If you haven't tried Dr Pepper 10 - seek it out and try it now!  You won't be disappointed!!

IMPORTANT NOTE:  I did not receive anything from Dr Pepper or any other company, person, or entity for this review.  I saw Dr Pepper 10 at my local Target and decided to try it.  I was so amazed at the flavor, I decided to write about it.

Monday, August 22, 2011

I Heart Faces - It's Pet Week!

I Heart Faces has weekly photography contests for amateur and professional photographers.  I definitely fall into the former category.  I don't enter their contests very often, and I really don't do it to win.  Although, I have heard that just as many amateurs win as pros.  When I do enter, I do so for the fun of it and because I want my photo to have lots of exposure.  You can bet that any photo on their website gets viewed... a lot!

Each week they post a theme and at least one human face must be visible in the entered photos.  Some weeks they don't require a face.  This week is one of those rarities.  It is Pet Week!  That being said, I am entering this photograph of my beloved dog, Leiua.  She is a full-blood American Pit Bull, but is the complete antithesis of the Pit Bulls you hear about in the media.  Leiua (short for Hallelujah, but a bit blasphemus, probably) is the sweetest, most docile dog you will ever meet.  Leiua is actually the poster child for "America's Nanny Dog", which used to be the nickname for Pit Bulls before cruel, unethical dog fighters came into the picture.  In fact, Helen Keller, who was deaf, blind, and mute for the first several years of her life, had a Pit Bull named Sir Thomas.  Pit Bulls are also commonly referred to as the clowns of the dog world.  They are just plain goofy, as you can see in my photo below:

Have you ever seen such a big smile for the camera?  : D

Thursday, August 18, 2011

goodreads and "The Help"

If you haven't checked out, you are missing out!  This is a major book review website.  It includes numerous authors, librarians, and readers.  Anyone can join and anyone can post reviews.  It is a wonderful way to check out books before you check out books (from the library).  haha  It's also a great way to make sure that your children are reading books appropriate for their age. 

That said, here is my review of The Help by Kathryn Stockett:

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Help is an excellent book that allegedly accurately portrays race relations in the South in the 1960s.  This is from the perspective of black maids and their white employers.  While I was a little concerned with a white person writing black dialect, it didn't seem stiff or "put on".  The interactions between the various maids and employers were entertaining.  The book showed the hopefulness of the black community for acceptance and equal protection/equal rights under the law, as well as the stubborn backward-glancing of some white characters who would have liked nothing more than to perpetuate the separation of the races through any means, including violence, misinformation, and outright lies.  Some of the people in this book are not likeable at all, but others shine for their honesty and the clarity of their vision.  This is a MUST read.

(I did notice one glaring error in the book, however.  When discussing Medgar Evers' murder, book characters state he was bludgeoned to death.  A quick internet check by Stockett or her editors would have quickly revealed that Evers was killed by an assassin's bullet.  To make such an error is nothing short of lazy and is deeply disappointing, given that the book is truly about the civil rights movement.)

If you join the website or are already a member of goodreads,
feel free to add me as a friend! 

[NOTE (added 08-21-11):  I saw the movie version today.  While the writer corrected the mistake about Medgar Evers' murder, so many things were changed from the book that it made me sad.  Now, I know that when you translate a book to a screenplay, lots of things usually have to be left out.  That's not what I'm complaining about here.  Several of the changes didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason.  One change in particular - the reason Constantine was no longer the maid for Skeeter's family - made it look like her mother was way more vindictive and wrong for what happened than it did in the book.  I don't know if they were trying to soften the responsibility of other minor characters, but they certainly left Skeeter's mother looking more like one of the horrible employers Skeeter and the "colored domestics" were exposing in their book. If you ask me (which you didn't), you can see the movie for the performances, some of which were pretty good, but if you are going to see it, read the book afterward.  I think you will be disappointed if you read the book first.  I know I was.]

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Mailbox of Possibilities

My mailbox today held a single plain, white, non-descript envelope.  It was surprisingly stiff and heavy when I lifted it out of the box.  As I closed the mailbox lid, I pondered the envelope.  What was inside?  Why was it so heavy?    It was too flat for a credit card - even one of those fake ones they sometimes send to try to entice you into applying for a "pre-approved" card.  I turned the envelope over several times as I walked to the front door. 

Once inside, I looked closely at the return address:  WGBH, Canton, MA.  Hmmm... nothing I recognized.  The stamp was one of those pre-sorted ones with a golden eagle staring off to the left.  The only other marking was, "Address Services Requested", something I used to write on the mailings I sent to my clients when I was a Probation & Parole Officer.  It was supposed to ensure that if a person had moved, the Post Office would not forward the mail, but would return it with the person's new address listed on the front, thus keeping me informed of all my clients whereabouts, even if they were less than forthcoming about where they were living.  (Assuming, of course, that probationers and parolees actually filed change-of-address orders with the Post Office.)

I didn't remember sending off for any refunds, rebates, coupons, or the like, so what could this be?   I tore open the flap.  I pulled out a small flyer that read, "Test your appraisal skills with the new ANTIQUES ROADSHOW app!"  I made a mental note to check the app out later and set the paper aside.  Next out were a couple of brochures for a bank and an insurance company, if I recall correctly.  I threw those away.  Finally, I freed the folded cardstock from the envelope.  My name and address were in the lower left corner. At the top left corner it read, "Congratulations!  Here are your ANTIQUES ROADSHOW tickets..."  YES!! 

(That's a gold-foil treasure chest in the top middle of the ticket, in case you were wondering.)

Several months ago, I learned The Antiques Roadshow was coming to Tulsa.  Tickets were free, but you had to enter a lottery and apply to win a pair.  In April or May, I learned I had won two tickets.  I knew lots of people who had applied for tickets, but I don't know anyone else who actually got them.  You aren't supposed to be able to buy or sell the tickets, which I know frustrates some people.   I actually like that, though, as it is a more just system and rich or poor, you have exactly the same odds of getting into the show as everyone else.  (I did have someone offer to buy a ticket for quite a bit of money when they heard I had won a pair.  I turned them down, of course.)

I sent my sister a message telling her the tickets were here.  She has super mad garage sale and thrift store skills and is the queen of finding things of value amongst all the junk!  I am not lying when I tell you she once paid a nickel for a tiny little doll about an inch tall.  She thought it looked like a Liddle Kiddle, a series of teensy dolls that were very popular in the 1960's.  She called me to check, as I still have my Kiddles, as well as a book about their value.  Then she sent me a photo of the doll. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the exact same doll in the pages of the book with a note saying it was a never-released prototype.  (How the doll wound up in a garage sale in Noble, OK, is anyone's guess!)  I copied the pages and sent them to her.  She listed the doll on eBay and sold it for $105.00!!  I have never figured it up, but I'm pretty sure it was about a one hundred gazillion percent increase over her five-cent investment.  But she's lucky like that.  Way back when, she even won $100,000.00 in the McDonald's "Dick Tracy" promotion. 

Unfortunately, my sister isn't sure she can make the trip to Tulsa (she lives in Washington, OK), as her husband and one daughter will be on a mission trip and she will have the other daughter with her.  I suggested the girl stay at my house with my dog, but I'm not sure I sold it.  (For the record, both girls are teenagers, so don't call the authorities on me, please.  haha)  BUT, if my sister backs out, I will be looking for a placement.  Any takers?

Now if you will excuse me, I am off to sort through my priceless antiques... objets d' heirlooms... collectibles... junk for something to take.  If it isn't worth anything, maybe I'll get on the outtake reel at the end where everyone talks about how they brought Aunt Mildred's prized Ming vase that they were sure was worth millions, only to find out it was actually a Vacation Bible School paper-mache art project (but a REALLY, REALLY good one!)!!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Rest in Peace my Sweet, Sweet Tillie

"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." ~ Will Rogers

Today I had the unfortunate predicament of whether to put my long-time friend and companion of more than 16 years, Attila the Hound - or Tillie, for short - to sleep.  It wasn't my decision alone, but it was still the most heart-wrenching thing to have to decide.  It was something I have been dreading for months.  I had even taken her to the vet about five months ago and asked if it was time, as she had seemed to be going downhill.  The vet checked her out and decided we could up her medications and give her an additional pain pill.  She had a pretty bad case of arthritis, hearing loss, and cataracts, plus a sprained ACL.  (I didn't even know dogs had ACL muscles before then!)  

The new medications worked great until a couple of days ago.  Poor Tillie now appeared to have either sprained her ACL again, or maybe tore it; and her arthritis was much worse.  She could barely stand up, stumbled around, slipped, and appeared to be at least a little disoriented quite a bit of the time.  I gave her the last of the pain pills, hoping they would help her put the spring back in her step - or at least keep her from falling down for no reason.  They helped a little, but not much.  
Today I had to take Tillie back to the vet.  My daughter has been visiting and went with me, thank goodness.  I don't know if I could have done it by myself.  Leiua came with us, too, because she insisted.  As soon as I put Tillie's leash on, Leiua began carrying on and would not be quiet.  When told she was not going for a ride, Leiua bolted out the front door.  She ignored my calls to come back, despite the promise of dog biscuits galore.  I jumped in the truck and went after her.  When I caught up with Leiua, I opened the truck door and she jumped in the cab.  She refused to get out when I got back to the house.  So I put Leiua's leash on her and my daughter and I took Tillie to the truck.    
Once at the vet's, the hardest part was having to admit that Tillie's quality of life was not what it should have been.  Her bad days outnumbered her good ones.  Tillie still loved to be petted and had a habit of walking up to anyone sitting down and clunking her head onto their knee.  If they didn't pet her, she would keep nudging them with her head until they did.  That always made me laugh!  Tillie was always sweet and loving.  She would bark at strangers, but was never mean to anyone.  She loved "people food", which I gave her whenever possible, even though my husband didn't approve.  But Tillie hadn't eaten very well for several months, so I would feed her anything I could to try to get her to eat.  She loved "Panda Express"!

Still, I knew it was time to let Tillie go, but couldn't bring myself to say it without confirmation from my husband and daughter.  Once that decision was made, we had to decide what to do afterward.  We decided to have Tillie cremated.  Dr. Sarah and the vet tech came in and prepped Tillie.  She was calm and quiet throughout the entire thing, although Leiua was very talkative.  She seemed to know what was going on and refused to be quiet.  Tillie was 10-years-old when we got a 7-month-old Leiua, and they had both always been very protective of each other.  The vet tech offered to take Leiua out of the room, but I thought she deserved to be there for Tillie, too.  

I stroked Tillie's head and spoke softly to her while Dr. Sarah administered the medication that would ease Tillie from her pain and our lives.  Tillie went to sleep and passed from this life to what I would like to believe was her own Heaven to wait for us.  

[As a Christian, I have always been taught that animals don't have souls and don't go to Heaven.  While I believe they don't have souls, I don't see how they cannot be in Heaven, as I know for Heaven to be perfect for me, my animals have to be there.  No other creature gives such pure, unconditional love as a dog.  Surely, they are deserving of being eternal companions!]

We get Tillie back in a couple of weeks.  Her ashes will be delivered in a very nice wooden box with an inscribed name plate.  I can't even imagine how I will feel when I pick her up.  I miss her so much it's crazy!  She was so much a part of our family, the house seems empty without her.  Leiua has been searching the house and the yard for Tillie and seems to be grieving, too.  

Maybe I'll bring Leiua something from "Panda Express" tomorrow in honor of Tillie.  I think that might be fitting.

Our gratitude and thanks to Dr. Sarah Smith, Dr. Laura Embry, and the staff at the Catoosa Small Animal Hospital for all of their loving care of Tillie and Leiua over the years, and for helping us through this most difficult time.  They were very considerate and patient while we struggled with our decisions.  I am very pleased that we chose them for our veterinarian provider when we first got Tillie.  They have always provided the utmost professional, compassionate care for our dogs and us, as well.  (They probably wouldn't approve of the dogs eating "Panda Express", though.  LOL)  

Finally, thanks to the Animal Rescue Foundation of Tulsa (ARF) for bringing Tillie into our lives all those years ago.  We have had the best time with her and have made the most wonderful memories!

Rest in peace my sweet and beautiful Tillie.  
We miss you so much!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

"Dirty Snow" Cupcakes

I should have made these cupcakes back in February during Round 1 or Round 2 of the Oklahoma blizzard.  But I didn't...  First I didn't have the right ingredients.  Then I had the ingredients, but I didn't have the drive.  Now I have both - AND a day off from work.  So, without further ado, I give you "Dirty Snow" Cupcakes.  (Okay, it's really an Earl Grey Tea Cupcake with Earl Grey Tea Buttercream, but I'm taking a bit of creative license here.)  I found the recipe at a website, which will go unnamed because I didn't really like their recipe for the cupcakes or the frosting.  Since I modified their recipes so much, I am not posting those, either.

 First, brew your tea.  Drink some to make sure it's not too strong. 

Prepare your muffin tin.  I used a really cute flower-shaped one that my sister gave me for my last birthday. 
I used snowflake cupcake liners.  I forgot to take photos of the filled tins, so we will skip right to the frosting.
 Whip the frosting to a light consistency and add the contents of two Earl Gray tea bags.  The tea looks like pepper or vanilla bean seeds when it is mixed into the icing.  The frosting will change to cream-colored.
The frosting was a bit runny, but set up well after a few minutes in the refrigerator.
Sprinkle with some snowflake candies and they're done! (Someone said they should have been called "Biscuits & Gravy" cupcakes.  I might have to try that next time.  Sausage cupcakes, anyone?  Haha!)
The cakes were light and airy.  The cupcake and buttercream had a slight tea flavor, but it was more pronounced in the frosting.  The overall effect was a cupcake that was both sweet and a bit savory.  All in all, pretty darn good.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Homemade Pizza

I don't make homemade pizza very often, but here's what I do when I decide to forgo carry-out:

1.  Buy pre-made pizza crusts because they are inexpensive and pretty tasty and I am lazy they are so much easier than making my own.  I prefer Mama Mary's, which come two in a package.  This time I bought Traditional, but I understand they also make Thin Crust.  I'll try that next time if my grocery store has them.


2.  Buy one large can of Hunt's Tomato Puree (about 12 ounces), one large package of pepperoni (at least 100 slices), and one package of Kraft Shredded Italian Cheese (2 - 3 cups).  (I picked up the new 5-Cheese Blend with Philadelphia Cream Cheese added.)

3.  Gather the cooking spray, Olive Oil, and Kraft 100% Real Parmesan/Romano/Asiago Grated Cheese Blend.  I make a mix of spices using the following:  1/2 Tbl. Crushed Basil, 1 1/2 Tbl. Italian Seasoning Blend, and 1 Tbl. Dry Mustard.  If I'm out of Italian Seasoning, I use 1 Tbl. Crushed Oregano. 

4.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Spray a pizza screen with cooking spray.  If I use the pizza stone, I put it in the oven before turning on the heat, as the stone could crack otherwise.  I don't like using cookie sheets, as the crust gets a better texture from the screen or stone.  Today I used the screen.

5.  Lightly coat the interior of the pizza shell with Olive Oil.  Pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the Tomato Puree on the shell and spread around as evenly as possible.  It will be a little "patchy", but I never want too many empty spots, so I add more puree as needed.  

6.  I make sure the spice mix is well-blended and evenly, but lightly, sprinkle about 1/3 of it over the sauce.  I follow with a slightly heavier, but even, sprinkling of the Kraft Grated Parmesan Cheese Blend.

7.  Add pepperoni in concentric circles starting at the edge of the crust and working inward to the center.  Spread half of the Shredded Italian Cheese over the top.  Add another layer of pepperoni making the same circle pattern.

8.  Turn the oven down to 425 degrees and bake for 10 - 14 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and starting to turn brown.  

9.  Remove the pizza from the oven using a pizza paddle or oven mitt and allow to rest on a cutting board or other safe surface for at least 3 minutes.  Cut using large kitchen shears.  I serve with Crushed Red Pepper and the Grated Cheese Blend or freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.

Our pimply-faced Pac-Man Pizza.  (Sorry!  I couldn't resist.)  

Wacca, wacca, wacca, wacca...  

He's headed for the super-rare scissors bonus fruit!  (LOL)

Look out!  Here come the ghosts!!

Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde

(In case you were wondering, Blinky is red, Pinky is pink, Inky is blue, and Clyde is orange.  Just don't ask me why.)