I’m… not a great cook. I don’t get much enjoyment from it either. As you might imagine, oven-ready lasagna noodles are my friend! As I was shopping last week, I decided to try something different, because I didn’t even feel like browning the ground beef for a regular meat lasagna. Recalling once upon a time when the twins were tiny babies and a friend brought us a delicious lasagna that had pepperoni added between a couple of the layers (amazing that I can remember anything from those days, but this was some really good food), I grabbed some turkey pepperoni and, on a whim, a package of sliced mushrooms.
I followed the directions on the lasagna package more-or-less (it called for ricotta cheese with egg and seasonings plus tomato sauce with the browned meat mixed in), but I used a jar of sauce on its own, without the ground beef.
I added the pepperoni (torn in half) and mushrooms atop the sauce layer, all except the very bottom & top. I added a little shredded parmesan cheese on top and baked as directed–350F for 30 min. with foil on top, then another 15 min. uncovered to make everything nicely browned and bubbly.
I really had no idea how it would turn out, but with the preparation as easy as it was, I’d be happy as long as it was edible. It ended up even better than that. The kids gobbled it up, my husband loved it, and the flavors were light but just different enough to make it interesting.
Recently I have been trying to get out of the prepared-food rut and do more cooking myself. I have a few cookbooks and websites that help me when I have the time and energy to plan a family dinner or Sunday brunch, but when it’s just me and the kids at mealtime I find myself falling back on the old standbys that were my favorites as a child. English muffin pizzas are one of those.
Ingredients: English muffins, tomato sauce, and cheese. Fancy spaghetti or pizza sauce with shredded mozzerella is good, but I grew up eating these made with Hunt’s tomato sauce & American cheese slices, and look where I ended up (uh… maybe not the best example ;)). In a pinch, you could even cut up string cheese sticks for the topping. Fancier moms than I could whip up a batch of white sauce or… well, the possibilities are endless.
Split & lightly toast the English muffins. Arrange them on a baking sheet — a toaster tray works fine if you have one, but you could use your oven for larger batches — and spread a small amount of sauce on each. Add cheese, and any other toppings you like. Broil until the cheese is melted and browned around the edges.
For extra fun & kid participation, let them spread the sauce and add the cheese or toppings.
That’s it, fun mini pizzas, right from your toaster! (Thanks, Mom!)
With all of the messes that three little ones create, I noticed that our paper towel consumption was at an alarming rate. Even using “pick-a-size” towels, running into the back room to get a fresh roll was happening far too often. Worse, many sheets were tossed in the trash with nothing more than a few drops of milk or a tiny smear of sticky-hands on them. A few things I wiped up with a dishtowel, but then I was left with a grimy dishtowel on which to dry my nice clean dishes. Yuck.
While browsing Costco’s aisles one day, I noticed a giant (of course) package of shop rags — cheap, oversized terrycloth washcloths — and I had one of those light-bulb-over-the-head moments.
Thus was born my experiment: I take out a fresh shop rag in the morning, and use it for all of the minor wipe-up jobs for which I’d normally grab a disposable towel. At the end of the day the used rag goes into the hamper in the laundry area with the dirty dishtowels. There are still occasions for disposable towels — meat juices or other potentially hazardous food messes, potty accidents (my next experiment may be using these for bathroom cleaning).
So far, so good. The shop rags are large and absorbent enough to handle a good-sized spill, but small enough to not generate a huge pile of unnecessary laundry (as the grimy dishtowels were beginning to do). The laundry area is right next to the kitchen, has a slop sink for really soggy rags, and was already the repository for messy towels and other items destined for
nuke from orbit hot water wash with a little bleach. If you don’t have a Costco nearby, similar rags can be found at hardware and auto supply stores.