Barbecue Chicken-Bacon Pizza


Some days I have to work hard to figure out what we’re going to have for dinner.  Other days, inspiration simply strikes out of the blue, and I roll with it.  Still other days, someone offhandedly mentions pizza on Twitter, and I become obsessed.  I give all credit for today’s inspiration to Miss Snarky Pants and her pizza-loving husband.

I knew I wanted to make a chicken pizza, but what sauce and cheese to go with it?  It was a conundrum, and for conundrum assistance, I turn to the ultimate vast font of information.  Not Google.  Not my mom.  Not even The Joy of Cooking.  Oh no, in situations like this, I turn the only place I could: Facebook.  It worked, too.  In no time, I had a suggestion that rocked Southern Honey’s socks — barbecue chicken pizza with sharp cheddar cheese, which became barbecue chicken pizza with bacon, red onion, and sharp cheddar and colby jack cheese.

And all of it thanks to the power of the internet.

Barbecue Chicken-Bacon Pizza

Ingredients

Your favorite pizza crust
1 Boneless skinless chicken breast, browned
1/2 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c shredded colby jack cheese
1/4 red onion, chopped and sauteed
1/3 pound bacon, chopped

Sauce: 3 parts barbecue sauce to 1 part pizza sauce  (I used two parts of a honey barbecue sauce, one part of a chipotle sauce, and one part pizza sauce)

Preheat the oven to the proper temperature for your pizza crust.

Chop the bacon and cook it to your desired level of doneness, then saute the red onions in the bacon grease if you want for additional yumminess.  I then added some olive oil to the pan and browned my chicken.  Shred or cube the chicken.

Roll out the pizza crust.  Since I used my pizza stone, I threw down some corn meal to keep it from sticking first.  Then spread on your sauce.  Sprinkle with onions, bacon, and chicken, then cover completely with cheese.  Bake as directed, then slice and enjoy!

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Renovation Delays


For all my bluster about a month ago about all the improvements I was going to bang out on the house, I have made practically no progress.  It’s embarrassing — no mirrors or cabinet doors in the bathrooms, stuff strewn all over the guest bed from under the guest bathroom sink.  Thankfully, nobody has come over to stay.

Thanks to my mom and shockingly cooperative weather (as in, it was only in the 80s today and not torching us in the upper 90s), I got a start on all those cabinet doors and the mirrors.  I sanded everything down and got two coats of paint on it all.  If I’d been able to get the stupid medicine cabinet off the wall the way I thought I would be able to, I’d be done with everything but the main body of each vanity.  😛

Well, almost done.  I forgot that I forgot to make sure I had the drill and the proper bits available since the new handles for the vanity doors require two screws instead of just one like the old handles.  This is why I can’t get anything done: No brain!

Who knows?  Maybe by next week I’ll have bathrooms I can actually use again.

Nahhhhh.

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Zipper Peas: An Experiment


At the farmers market this weekend, I was scouting for fresh peas.  I love them but can’t afford to buy them at the store very often; I’m really going to have to break down and grow some for myself at some point.  I thought I had hit the mother lode this time when I saw a sign for zipper peas at my favorite stall.

Of course, when I got home, I started looking up just what zipper peas were and discovered that they’re more like blackeyed peas than snap peas.  I’m not really a fan of blackeyed peas, so this was kind of depressing.  Plus, I couldn’t find any recipes to start with that weren’t soup, which was really not what I was in the mood for.

Fortunately I finally found a suggestion in the comments on a blog.  With an added suggestion from a Facebook friend, I ended up with a dish that blew blackeyed peas out of the water.  I ate it as an entree because I was lazy, but it would be a good side dish, too.

Zipper Pea Bang-Up (serves two)

Ingredients

1 lb zipper peas (weight before shelling)
1 clove garlic
1/4 lb bacon, chopped
1/2 tomato, chopped
1 bay leaf
Pepper to taste
Olive oil

‘Unzip” and shell the peas (There’s a fiber running the length of each pea pod that you pull to open the pod — if you’re lucky.  Only some of mine unzipped properly.).  Rinse them and cull out any broken ones.

In a medium sauce pan, heat about a half-tablespoon of olive oil, then add the bacon and cook until crispy.  Stir in the peas, garlic, bay leaf, and pepper.  Simmer for about ten minutes, then add the tomatoes.  Simmer for another five to ten minutes until the peas are good and tender.

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Farmers Market Score: Grilled Vegetable Pitas with White Wine Vinaigrette and Caprese Salad


You know, my favorite time of year may well be from April to October, aka the months when the farmers market is open.  I mean, when else can you get homemade jam; purple, red, orange, green, and/or yellow bell peppers; cucumbers; heirloom cherry tomatoes; peaches; or fairy eggplants in one place for less than you could pick them up at the grocery store?  Heck, I can’t get purple bell peppers or fairy eggplants at the grocery store, period!

That’s my way of saying that I’ve been to the farmers market twice this week and plan to go back tomorrow before we go to the lake with friends.  Seriously, three times, and I didn’t come away empty-handed earlier in the week either time.  The first day I picked up heirloom cherry tomatoes, which I had never even seen before but which were absolutely delicious, a purple bell pepper, and a couple of sweet onions and apples.  The second day I grabbed regular cherry tomatoes; I’m putting together a pasta salad for tomorrow and the heirlooms are too sweet for that.

Today I finally got to take my bounty for a spin, and it was absolutely delicious!  I don’t get to cook as often as I’d like, so I thoroughly indulged on my day off and celebrated the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics with a Caprese salad and whole wheat pitas filled with grilled vegetables and topped with a homemade white wine vinaigrette.

Caprese Salad

Ingredients

Heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Mozzarella cheese
Fresh basil, torn
Balsamic vinaigrette

Preheat oven to 350*.  Halve the tomatoes, spread them on a cookie sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for approximately fifteen minutes.

If you don’t have mozzarella pearls, which I didn’t, just chunk up your mozzarella by hand or knife.  I also grabbed some basil leaves from the front porch and tore them.

Once the tomatoes have cooked and been allowed to cool for a few minutes, combine them with the mozzarella and basil.  Then drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

White Wine Vinaigrette

Ingredients

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh parsley and basil, finely chopped

Combine all ingredients and whisk to emulsify.

Grilled Vegetable Pitas

Ingredients

Sliced bell peppers (I used purple, green, red, and orange)
Slice sweet onion
Zucchini, cut into strips
Yellow squash, cut into strips
White mushrooms, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Whole wheat pita, cut in half
Sliced Roma tomato
Sliced cucumber

Toss the fresh vegetables, except the tomatoes and cucumber, with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place all the vegetables in a foil pouch and place on a hot grill.  Cook for 8-10 minutes.  Toss the pita on the grill, too, for a couple of minutes to warm them.

When everything is ready, put two to the three slices of tomato and cucumber in each half of the pita, then load down with your grilled vegetables.  Top everything off with the white wine vinaigrette.

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Zucchini Fries


I kept seeing this recipe making the rounds on Pinterest, getting pinned over and over and over again, and finally I decided to give in and just make the stupid things already.  (Yep, I too succumb to peer pressure.)

However, to make myself feel better (and because I enjoy flying by the seat of my pants, plus I somehow never have all the ingredients I need), I opted to make take the pinned recipe as my inspiration and just wing it.  The result was pretty good, although I suspect the original is better due to the inclusion of cheese.  Everything is better with cheese.

Zucchini fries (inspired by King Arthur Flour’s Baked Zucchini Sticks)

Ingredients

One medium zucchini
1 c panko
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
Crushed red pepper
Freshly cracked black pepper

Cut the zucchini in ninths, lengthwise, then cut into three-inch pieces.  Pop the zucchini in a collander, sprinkle with a tablespoon of salt, and let it drain for an hour.  This pulls all the excess moisture out of the zucchini.

Preheat the oven to 425*.  When the zucchini has prepped, rinse it and dry it thoroughly.

Here’s where I tried a little trick: We have a few divided plates for the Munchkin, one big compartment and two small ones.  So I combined the panko, Italian seasoning, red pepper, and black pepper in the big compartment and whisked an egg in one of the small ones.  Et voila, minimal distance between egg and breading!  It really kept me from making an absolute mess the way I usually do when I bread something.

Coat your zucchini in the egg and then toss it liberally in the panko mixture, then transfer them to a cookie sheet.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes, then flip and cook for another 12 minutes or so.  Really, you just want them nicely golden-brown.

These can be reheated (mine had to be; I caught a stomach bug, so while I got them baked last night, I didn’t get them eaten until today), popped back into the oven at 350* for seven or eight minutes to get them hot and then bumped back up to 425* for another three minutes or so to get them crisp.

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Renovations: Stripping Down the Bathrooms


Heaven help me, but I looked at Pinterest a while back and saw something I liked.  Then I decided that maybe it would help us sell the house (or help me like our bathrooms better), so I would give it a try.  Accordingly, I popped out to buy sandpaper, stain, and new handles for the cabinets to take them from a blond oak to an espresso brown.

Of course, when I got home and got the cabinet doors off — after finally locating a screwdriver capable of the task — I realized it was a mess down there.  And taking the mirrored door off the medicine cabinet made me realize the rest of the medicine cabinet is not solid wood and therefore impossible to actually stain.  So I’ve been operating without a bathroom mirror for a week.  Oh, and looking up after doing all THAT made me see the light fixtures above the sinks, which are brass and therefore non-compatible with my little scheme, so I had to get Southern Honey up on the step stool to figure out how to take them off the walls so I can give them a brushed nickel finish.

I love how a small task suddenly explodes into DO ALL THE THINGS!

On the bright side, while it’s open to all and sundry, sans doors, at the moment, my master bathroom vanity is extremely organized.  I went all Pinterest on it again and got stacking storage containers, plus a three-drawer storage thing for my makeup.  And in a throwback to when I was twelve, I got around to cleaning out my Caboodle and using it like an adult: to store the forty bajillion nail polishes I own but don’t actually need.  😀

My tasks this weekend, should I choose to accept them:

  • Sand down the cabinets and doors.
  • Drill new handle holes in the doors.
  • Get at least one coat of stain on.
  • Clean and paint the light fixtures.
  • Buy new towel racks, toilet paper holders, etc.

No problem.  I should be done by next Christmas, easy.  *facepalm*

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Beginning the Renovations: Guest Room Bookshelf


We hope to put the house on the market in a month or so, not because we don’t like it, but in hopes of getting closer to town and into a better school district for the Munchkin.  Nothing against the elementary school out this way, but there are better middle and high schools.  And I have to admit that it’s been extremely isolating living out here while having a child, and I hadn’t been coping well.  Hopefully a move into town will help.

I’m not putting all my eggs into the “move into town” basket, however.  I’m making sure that we don’t do anything to the house that I wouldn’t want to do down the line, certainly nothing we can’t live with: mostly cleaning and staging, some touch-up paint, replace the living room carpet (likely with hardwood laminate), refinish the bathroom cabinetry and replace the fixtures, and redo the guest room bookshelf.

So, two weeks ago in our stupidly, stupidly hot weather, I set about painting the bookshelf.  It wasn’t much, just white, three shelves, cheap pressboard.  Along the way, I learned why you don’t ignore the instructions about not painting if it’s hotter than 95* (bubbled up like mad) and that it’s depressing to go into the garage at 9 pm and have it still be hotter than 95*.

Apparently the “Before” shot is on another SD card, because I couldn’t find it when I went through my camera.  But trust me, it was a boring white bookshelf.  Wait, I found a very old picture:

See?  Boring!  And it meant that nothing in the room even remotely looked like it went together.

But then I worked my magic, and now it looks like this:

The first thing I did was to remove the pressboard backing — this was an older cheap bookshelf, so it was a lot thicker then the cardboard that some of our newer bookshelves have, so it’s standing the test of time pretty squarely.  I set that aside and started painting.

I did two coats of Krylon Brown Boots for a solid base.  Then I added an even coat of Krylon Sparkling Canyon for the subtle shimmer and a little texture.

In the fabric department of a local store, I picked up a yard of a nice cotton fabric whose pattern I loved — it compliments the room as a whole, I think — and some spray adhesive. The entire inside of the pressboard got a coat of spray adhesive, as did the back of the fabric.  Then Southern Honey helped me lay the fabric over the pressboard and smooth out any wrinkles.

I let everything dry overnight again (I allowed 24 hours drying time between coats of paint due to the high temps and humidity — plus I had to sand down the nasty bubbles in the first layer of Brown Boots), then I nailed the pressboard back into the bookshelf, and we’re back in business!

The final product, now that I have all the books back on the shelves:

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Super-Easy Summer Pasta Salad


Now that the Munchkin is getting older and we’re getting more settled down with work and home life, we’re finding time to actually hang out with our friends again.  And with today being a holiday, we all got together for a massive amount of good food.  I’m surprised we didn’t all need cranes to get ourselves out of the house.

Since I’ve been crunched for time to do prep work lately, I decided to stick with something simple: pasta salad.  Normally I use an easy-peasy set combination of ingredients that aren’t too out-there, but I noticed at the Munchkin’s birthday party that, for this crowd, it wasn’t the right combo.  I’m a mite stubborn, so I took that as a challenge and decided to do some experimenting.

After googling several recipes and reading an article breaking down how to create the perfect pasta salad (that might have been a tad over-the-top, really), I decided I knew what I wanted and made my shopping list: cherry tomatoes, green and red pepper, cucumber, green onion, parmesan cheese.

Then I got to the store and found that cherry tomatoes were $4 for a container, while red peppers were $1.25 each and parmesan was $6 for a wedge.  But feta was only $2.50, so maybe I would just do a Greek-inspired salad.  Except that Kalamata olives were also ridiculously expensive and they were out of the less-pricey red wine vinegar.

At that point I was getting kind of desperate, so I took a good long look at the salad dressings to see if anything reached out to grab me.  Then I saw it: Roasted red pepper vinaigrette with Parmesan cheese.

Back to the produce section one last time to adjust my veggie stash, and I was finally out the door.  I forgot to buy olive oil, but since I wasn’t making my own vinaigrette, it worked out all right.  In the end, the only thing I wanted to do that I forgot was to fry up some bacon and add that.  But I got serious compliments on the way out the door, so this was clearly a hit despite the lack of piggy goodness.

Super-Easy Summer Pasta Salad (a Southern Sugar original, if by “original” you mean “birthed from the confines of expensive grocery prices”)

Ingredients

1 16-oz box tri-color rotini
2/3 orange bell pepper, chopped
2/3 cucumber, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
2/3 yellow squash, chopped and sauteed (if I’d had more time, I would have grilled this and the zucchini)
2/3 zucchini, chopped and sauteed
1 bottle roasted red pepper vinaigrette dressing

Optional: Chopped parsley, green onions, bacon, Parmesan cheese

Prepare the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and rinse so it doesn’t stick together.

Add all your vegetables to the pasta and toss with approximately 1/4 – 1/3 bottle of dressing.  Refrigerate at least one hour.

Just before serving, add more dressing to your taste and toss to thoroughly coat.

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Black Beans with Cumin and Garlic


If anyone’s curious why there’s a sudden spate of new recipes this week, it’s in large part to the fact that I’m quarantined at home with pinkeye.  *sighs*  So food prep is interspersed with lots more hand-washing than normal, because nobody should look the way I do right now.  It ain’t pretty.

On the bright side, I am getting to try a few new things that I’d have trouble finding the time for otherwise, and I love that.  I was really pleased by the way these turned out, and even more pleased with how well they paired with the previous night’s leftover cilantro lime rice.

Black Beans with Cumin and Garlic (from Carol Anne over at Food.com)

Ingredients

2 16 oz cans black beans or 16 oz dried black beans
4 cloves garlic, minced
2  tsp cumin
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 c chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

I halved the recipe and used dried beans because that was what I had and I was mostly only making it for myself.

Soak dried beans in water overnight; drain the next morning.  Drain and rinse the beans if you’re using canned.  Toss them into the crock pot.

In a small pan over medium heat, heat the oil, then add the garlic and cumin.  Cook until fragrant.  Add them to the beans in the crock pot, then pour in the chicken broth and the salt.  Stir and cook on low for 6 hours (I started late, so I had them on high for about an hour and then turned them to low for another three).  Serve with fresh cilantro, if desired.

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Spice-Rubbed Grilled Pork with Cilantro Lime Rice


My favorite thing about Wednesday nights is getting the chance to make dinner myself and  not be stuck with leftovers or something boring.  Even better is getting to play with the grill, especially when it results in Southern Honey going, “Oh man, this is good!

While the rice only got a so-so rating, the pork chops definitely got two thumbs up from Southern Honey.  Oh, and the Munchkin actually ate them, which is something of a minor miracle, as they weren’t ground.  😛  These are definitely staying in the mix, and I think the spice rub would be good on chicken or maybe even fish, too.

Spice Rub (Cheryl and Bill Jamison at Epicurious)

(For 6-8 inch-thick chops; I halved the recipe since mine were smaller and I only had three.  I still have some left over, so it’s in a sealed container in my spice cabinet.)

Ingredients

3 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
3/4 tsp sugar
3/4 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 to 1/2 tsp ground cayenne

Prepare the dry rub 1 to 8 hours before grill time.  Combine all your ingredients in a small bowl, preferably with a lid if you think you might have some left over.  Liberally coat the chops with the rub, place them in a plastic bag or airtight container, and refrigerate.

When you’re ready to go, fire up the grill and get it medium-hot.  My chops were only about a half-inch thick, so I tossed them on for about five minutes on each side.

Cilantro-Lime Rice (from Chef In You)

Ingredients

1 c basmati rice
1 to 2 c water
1 tsp oil or 1 Tbsp butter
Juice of one lime
1/2 tsp sugar (optional)
Approx 3 Tbsp cilantro

Soak the rice for 10 to 20 minutes.  Then, in a medium-sized pan over low heat, melt the butter and then add the rice (or just add the rice and oil).  Coat the rice in the melted butter and heat until it starts to smell good.  Then add the lime juice and stir for 60 seconds.

Add the water.  Cover and cook down for approximately 20 minutes.  I went with 1 1/2 c water but needed about 25 minutes before all the liquid was absorbed.   While it’s cooking, chop your cilantro finely.  Once it’s done, add the cilantro, stir, and you’re ready to go!

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