Clean Out The Fridge Night: Barbeque Chicken Pizza

Have I told you guys about Winesday? It started when I went up to Boston last month and left Mark to his own devices. That Wednesday, he decided to stop by Whole Foods on his way home from work and pick up a steak for dinner. Instead, he happened upon Whole Foods' weekly wine and food pairing night. For $5, you get a glass (bring your glass back and the tasting is only $4!), access to the five stations staggered throughout the store, and a booklet of the recipes for everything you're tasting. Each station has a food sample and gives you 2 oz. of wine that they think pairs well with it. Pretty great, right? Well even better is the fact that Mark was picked up by the funniest group of ladies who invited him to join their tasting group. We have been meeting them for the last month or so, gathering at 5:15 and chatting and sampling our way through the store. They are easily our parents' age and older, but a pretty sassy bunch.

Anyway, at Winesday last week, one of the food samples was grilled chicken in a blackberry bbq sauce, and it was awesome. I made it for dinner one night last week with just some salad and we both kept saying how good it was. BONUS: it is also stupidly easy. I seasoned some boneless, skinless chicken thighs with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, then Mark threw them on the grill while I whipped up the sauce, then we tossed the grilled chicken in the sauce. That's it! The recipe made quite a bit more sauce than we needed, so I stuck the rest in a jar and popped it in the fridge.

Last night, I was so stuck on what to make for dinner. I did not want to go to the store, but nothing we had in really appealed to me, at least not anything that would defrost quickly. Then, while screwing around online, I saw this post on Food Lush talking about homemade pizza. I was still thinking pizza wouldn't work because all of my dough was frozen, but then I decided to give Annie's dough a try. This was a total crapshoot for me, seeing as I am completely yeast impaired, but it actually worked well! Believe me, no one was more surprised than I.

Then it was time to figure out toppings. I didn't want to do just a plain tomato and mozzarella, but again, I did NOT want to go to the store. I hunted through the freezer and came up with two marinated chicken breasts remaining from the Great Meat Truck Debacle of 2011, and that was when the plan crystallized: BBQ CHICKEN, MMM.

I tossed the chicken in a bowl of warm water to defrost while I diced all of the remaining onion products in the house (half of a vidalia and a few large shallots). The onions and shallots went into a pan with some EVOO and butter to caramelize, and a little later, I threw in a little salt, pepper, garlic powder, and thyme. Yum. I also used the caramelizing time to grate some mozzarella.

Once the chicken defrosted, I tossed it on the grill to cook. When it was done and still hot, I diced it into little pieces appropriate for pizza bites, then poured in a generous amount of the leftover blackberry bbq sauce. I wanted to be pretty generous with the sauce, because this was the extent of the sauciness for the whole pizza.

Mark had a meeting with his boss last night, so he was pretty late getting home. This gave me a good lead time to preheat the oven and pizza stone as Annie directs (I have no idea if this made a crucial difference, but it all turned out pretty well). While I was waiting for Mark, I rolled out the dough and put down a layer of thinly sliced provolone cheese. Next up, I sprinkled the caramelized onions and saucy chicken pieces evenly across the pizza. Finally, I sprinkled on the mozzarella and we popped it into the oven.

Sure, it wasn't a traditional bbq chicken pizza, but this clean-out-the-fridge meal was pretty easy and really delicious!
Cheese, cheese, and dough. How bad could that be?
Caramelized onions, anyone? OH, YES. YES, PLEASE.

Mmmm, pizza.
Clean Out The Fridge BBQ Chicken Pizza

You'll need:
  • Dough (I used a 1/2 batch of dough from Annie's Eats)
  • Cheese (I used a layer of grated part-skim mozzarella and a layer of thinly sliced provolone)
  • Caramelized onions/shallots (see above)
  • Chicken (I grilled two small, marinated pieces of chicken breast, but the marinade was completely unnecessary; it was just what I had in)
  • BBQ Sauce (see below)
  1. Make the dough according to recipe instructions and let it rise for at least an hour and a half. Once dough has risen, separate into two portions. If only using one, wrap and freeze the other. Let the portion you're using sit on the counter to rest.
  2. Prep and cook the onions.
  3. Grill, dice, and sauce the chicken.
  4. Preheat the oven and pizza stone to 525 degrees.
  5. Roll out the dough to desired size and transfer to parchment paper. Roll some more, as the dough will shrink back during the transfer.
  6. Top dough with provolone, onions, chicken, and mozzarella and transfer the pizza to the hot oven. 
  7. Bake for 5-10 minutes, but keep an eye on it. It's done when it's all golden and bubbly. Enjoy!
BBQ Sauce
  • 1/2 c blackberry preserves
  • 1 c ketchup
  • 1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne (I used smoked chipotle powder)
  • 1/4 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and simmer. That's it!

Reason #846948674096 why I need a job ASAP

So, my bedroom, you guys. Ohhh, I hate it. HATE. And this kind of sucks, because I have put not a small amount of work into it. In fairness, I haven't exactly put in a lot of work either, but still. I would really like to create a space that feels peaceful and relaxing. Instead, I have this:

I'm keeping it really real here -- this is exactly what the room looks like today, clutter and all. It's sheet changing day, so it's extra lovely right now, but in general, it's just a whole mess of UGH, you know? There are a few elements I am happy with, starting with the wall color.

Quick detour re: wall colors. We have discovered through revealing paint layers during the course of renovating that the previous owner of the house had absolutely zero taste whatsoever. The whole freaking house must have looked like a box of primary color crayons. Obviously when he hired a realtor, the first piece of business was to make the house presentable, so he had the place painted top to bottom in the most bland shade of decorator white ever mixed. The only rooms with color were the kitchen and bathrooms, which were a lovely shade I like to call "Govern-mint Institution Green." Oh, and the powder room? That was a lovely shade of electric peach. He also re-carpeted the whole place with the cheapest beige carpet ever made, which has stretched to become all wavy, and comes complete with padding so thin that we frequently step straight through onto the tack strips. I curse the cheap bastard on the regular as you might imagine.

Tangent aside, I still really love the wall color. I was so delighted to be rid of the bland beige that was swallowing the whole room, and I love how crisp the blue is with the white ceiling. I also loved how the blue made the photos above the bed pop. I bought them when I lived in Chicago, back when I was free to accessorize with pink (see also the pretty lamp on the dresser). We needed some decent sized art for over the bed, so we stuck these up there as place holders. However, once the room was painted, we were stunned to discover that they looked worlds better. We're super lazy and have VERY different taste in art, so they got to stay. The bedside lamps were the most recent addition, and I really love them too. They free up so much nightstand space, and even better, where the ceiling in the room is so high, the lamps help to ground the bed.

Other than that, though, the most I can muster for this room is a big ol' MEH. The furniture is the ubiquitous Ikea Hemnes stuff, but it is serving its purpose cheaply until someday when we can figure out what we actually want. The quilt, which totally clashes with everything, was from back in the pre-curtain days of beige walls, but was called back into service when I sent off the duvet cover I love to be made into a coverlet. I hate how messy duvets are, but loved the fabric; it's the Crate and Barrel "Claire" pattern. I just wanted to separate the top and bottom of the duvet and lightly quilt them back together. Unfortunately, I bypassed Etsy for the conversion in favor of Mark's aunt, and there does not seem to have been any progress since I gave it to her in October, so here we are in Clashfordshire.

I made the curtains last year, using fabric my mom spotted on the sale table at the fabric store. I think I was swayed by the fact that my mom liked it and that the fabric was on sale for a total of $30 instead of all of the $30/yard fabrics I had been seeing (and loving). I was so overwhelmed by the fabric hunt by that point, so I went with it, despite not being a red person AT ALL. I followed Janell's tutorial over at House of Fifty (formerly Isabella & Max Rooms), and while the tutorial was excellent, even for this novice, I made one crucial mistake. Where I was working with red fabric, I wanted to use a light blocking material to line the drapes to prevent fading. What I did not realize was that some light blocking material, i.e. the stuff I bought, is stiff and almost plastic-y, kind of like a shower curtain. It did not occur to me that this would inhibit my curtains from hanging in pretty little folds, and it certainly did not occur to me that my tying the panels up to train the folds would result in messy, quasi-accordion pleating. The curtains just look sloppy, which pisses me off because they were so much work and yet I really don't care for them.

Every so often, I would halfheartedly peruse fabrics online, but I hadn't come across anything that made me want to pull the trigger and go to the trouble of sewing new panels. However, around Christmas, I was picking up a few little gifty odds and ends at World Market and spotted a tablecloth that looked familiar. It was the same fabric that they had been selling as curtains last summer but that sold out before I could get my hands on them. I found four 120" tablecloths and snagged them with the intention of sewing curtains for my kitchen. They (and the nice, pliable lining fabric I purchased this time) have been sitting in the office upstairs for nearly six months now while I dithered and debated about what to do in the kitchen. And then it hit me: HEY, THAT FABRIC MIGHT WORK IN THE BEDROOM. I grabbed one of the panels and threw it over my bedroom door to see it against the walls. It's been hanging there for a few days, and I think I'm liking it. The blue isn't exactly the same, but it blends nicely.
See the lovely Govern-mint Institution Green in the bathroom there? I cannot WAIT to gut that bathroom.
I think some panels and some white wood blinds* would be simple and pretty and will look great with the goddamn coverlet if I ever get it back. I will also have enough fabric for a little cornice in the bathroom whenever we finally redo it. Can you imagine? A cohesive master suite? DARE TO DREAM.

So that's the seriously long winded story about my decision to make new bedroom curtains. What do you think? Improvement or mistake?

*Oh, forgot to mention -- we have been living without shades since replacing our windows A YEAR AGO; oh my god, we are slackers. Also, my sincere apologies, people of the completely separate neighborhood behind us who we thankfully will never meet, at least not in a manner that will identify us as Those People Without Shades In Their Bedroom. We are as grateful for the large trees in our backyard as you are, believe me.

This Week in Photos, Part II

Well, I am (mostly) keeping up with the Photo A Day challenge this time! I have had two days posted a day late, but still. Posted! Here's Week 2 in a nutshell:

Day 6: you
This was one hell of a lazy Sunday, so me + laptop + recliner + tv was about as real as it was going to get. Plus, there was no way I was going to post a photo of my unwashed head. Nuh uh, not happening. No one needs to see that. (You're welcome.)
Day 7: someone that inspires you
These spectacular knuckle dimples here? They belong to my "nephew", the one little dude on the planet who actually makes me think I might enjoy being a mother one day, if I'm ever so lucky. I love the stuffing out of this guy.
 Day 8: a smell you adore
I love this stuff. LOVE. This bottle is on my front hall table, so it's the first thing you smell when you come into the house. I have another one upstairs too. I also have candles, laundry detergent, dryer sheets, vacuum cleaner beads, sachets, lotion, etc. Basically, if they sell it in this scent, I'll probably buy it. It's clean, fresh, and delicious, without being overpowering. LOVE.
Day 9: something you do every day
This was my first day late post, mostly because I couldn't think of one (photographable) thing I do absolutely every single day until well after coffee time. This is likely because I am incapable of coherent thought until after coffee time. Anyway, yes: morning latte is a must for me. I used to be a Starbucks junkie, then I started drinking drip coffee at home. Turns out I am ancient and the acid in drip coffee kills my stomach. I much prefer it balanced by the milk in the yummy, yummy latte. Bonus: this little machine here was only about $150 on Amazon and does a fantastic job.
Day 10: a favorite word
This was a tough one; I don't necessarily have favorite words. I am more into how words play together, I guess. However, Mark and I saw this photo on a Red Sox email blast and loved it so much that we tracked down the image from the photographer. Now it's just sitting on the dining room table waiting to be framed. Pretty cool shot, yes? (Um, the original, not mine, obvs.)
Day 11: kitchen
Mark has been working CRAY-ZAY hours lately, but the bonus has been that he has been able to take some random afternoons off to enjoy the amazing weather we've been having. Last Friday, we ran through Whole Foods throwing delicious looking things into our basket. We sorted them into our picnic basket out in the car, then headed for my favorite park along the river banks. We spread out a blanket and our snacks, cracked open a nice bottle of (super illegal! hello, park service!) wine, and enjoyed the sun and the beautiful breezes in our little mobile kitchen. Perfect day.
Day 12: something that makes you happy
Sooo, you know how, when you were a kid, you used to swear to yourself as you gagged down lima beans that when YOU were an adult, you would eat ice cream for dinner? Well, on Saturday, we totally exercised our rights as adults. We had been running around all day and stupidly ate our remaining picnic snacks when we got home. We weren't hungry enough to bother with dinner, but hungry enough that we needed a little something. Perfect solution? Ice cream! And this Haagen-Dazs is AMAZING. It tastes like Jello Pudding Pops, but like, the richest, most delicious Jello Pudding Pops ever.
That's it! Week two was a good one 'round these parts.

I am about to talk genealogy; feel free to avert your eyes.

Just in case it weren't obvious already, I am a dork. HUGE dork. To prove my point, I offer Exhibit A: I just registered for an membership, and this isn't the first time I have done it. Yeeeah.

I have always been kind of a sucker for family history. I have always love hearing the stories about what it was like when my grandparents were young. Somehow imagining what it was like to live where my ancestors lived was like catching snippets of a really interesting movie, and I was always wanting to see more. It was also pretty amazing trying to fathom the enormity of the balls it would have taken for my great-grandmothers to leave their families at not even 20, knowing it was most likely forever, and move to the U.S. (I mean, really, can you imagine? I was nervous leaving for college and that was only an hour away. Clearly the gene pool has gone soft in the intervening years.)

Over the years, I have visited from time to time in hopes of finding more information about my family, but I have always hit dead ends pretty quickly because of my somewhat limited information and the limited information available from overseas registries. I decided to give it another shot, though, because I am super dorkily addicted to the weekly hour long commercial for, AKA NBC's Who Do You Think You Are? (♫ "Ahh ahh ahh ahhhh..." -- theme music brought to you by Mark, who sings it every. single. time. they play it, including each return from commercial.) I mean, can you blame me? They plug a partial name into the search engine and seconds later have a complete family tree. It's effective advertising is what I'm saying.

I opened up another free trial this week and totally fell into a genealogy wormhole. However! This time around, I learned new things! Like, I had great-great-grandmothers named Norah and Teresa, Mary and Caterina. I have a crapload of ancestors named Bridget, and even one named Kate. It took me the better part of a day to learn all of this information, making it even more special to me. Norah and Mary and their husbands were people I had never even heard of before -- blows my dorky little mind. I have even been emailing with a woman with whom I seem to share an ancestor; here's hoping she has some useful advice.

Please note, Irish genealogy research still sucks, comparatively speaking. Case in point: I excitedly explained my discoveries to Mark when he got home, and he was all, "Look up mine too!" He was absolutely useless in providing names beyond his grandparents and dates beyond his parents, but we rolled with it, and I was back to the 1700s in one branch of his family within minutes. Because OF COURSE I WAS. Now he's very excited by the fact that his Swedish ancestors were named things like Axel and Magnus. He is misguidedly thinking that these could be potential names for our hypothetical children. "What? You said you like family names." Ohh, buddy. Not so much. 

Anyway, now I am dreaming of taking the amazing trips to see where ancestors lived a la Who Do You Think You Are? I kind of did that on a visit to Italy when I was in grad school, visiting the town my grandmother's parents came from. My sister and I visited the mountaintop church my great-grandmother used to talk about hiking up to as a girl. We had Easter dinner with my grandmother's cousins who still live on my great-great-grandparents' property. I actually went into the house my great-grandfather grew up in, though it's only used for storage now. The U.S. is a relatively young country, and I am only the third generation of my family born here, so I suppose I could blame my geeking out on the novelty of this kind of experience, but truthfully? DORK. Dork dork dork. And I can't wait to do it again. One of my best friends lives in London and I have already recruited her to join me on a road trip through Ireland at some date TBD, so it looks like I have some work to do.

Are any of you as geeky as I am with this stuff? Any (hopefully inexpensive) hints/tips/tricks for research on Irish ancestry?

This Week in Photos

I was really intrigued when everyone and their sister started posting photos for the January Photo a Day Challenge. Of course, being both a shameless follower AND consistently late to the party, I did not really get my act together to participate until March. Then March went to hell in a handbasket, what with finishing up the laundry room renovation, jumping right into the bathroom renovation, a visit from my mom, and our week and a half in Tahoe. My ability to shower on a daily basis was struggle enough, let alone remembering to take and post photos. I made it about 10 days into the month before scrapping things. April was just as crazy, with trying to get the house company-ready for Easter and then my trips to Philly and Boston.

Since it's looking like May might actually be relatively tame, I am jumping back on the bandwagon. Here's the week one recap:

Day 1: peace
Does it get more peaceful than an afternoon latte, a comfy chair, and a new book?
Day 2: skyline
Dreaming of this Tahoe skyline. I (heart) you, vacation.
Day 3: something you wore today
I wore my favorite pink shoes to wander around Old Town Alexandria with Mark.
Day 4: fun!
Friday Night Pizza Night is about as fun as it gets in this house. Cocktails, couch and dvr time, and some homemade pizza for dinner are the perfect way to start the weekend.
Day 5: bird
I am so not a tchotchke person, but I found this guy on clearance at the Crate & Barrel outlet and he just makes me happy, hanging out on his little bookcase perch. Weirdo.

I'm doing my best to stick with it this month, you guys. I'll keep you posted.

(What, you think I don't hear you taking bets?)

PS -- Happy Cinco de Mayo! Coronas and guac are on me.

And the World's Worst Food Blogger Strikes Again **UPDATED!**

I am so not a food blogger. I don't claim to be, and I definitely never could be. I mean, I cook a lot, but I'm more of a little-of-this-little-of-that type of cook than a recipe follower. On the occasions where I do follow a recipe, you can bet your last dollar that it's not one I created. I love reading food blogs, but it took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that, oh hey, she probably tested this out a few times before writing it up as a post. She even took the time to take pretty pictures of the ingredients and the finished product!

My usual food entry style is to go about my normal business making dinner, end up with something so tasty that I just have to tell you about it immediately, and then decide, "Eff it -- I'll just write it now and update the post with pictures later." Which, of course, I never do. Overachiever, ahoy!

Anyway, this one is another one of those. After it turned out way better than I expected, I had grand plans of doing it again, lovingly photographing, and carefully crafting a post for once in my life. Yeah, and then I used the leftovers last night to make God's gift to grilled cheese and decided, once again, to half ass it for now and post pictures later. I'm sure we're all collectively holding our breath for the update, no? Buckle up for a little something I like to call:

Holy Hell, I Had No Idea Corned Beef Was Delicious

I am half Irish, and growing up, my Nana would usually make a boiled dinner sometime around St. Patrick's Day. My father wouldn't touch a boiled dinner if you paid him (he's a tad on the charmingly high maintenance side), so these dinners usually happened on a night when he had a meeting or business trip. My mom, sister, and I would go to Nana's house for dinner, and having been preparing the meal all afternoon, the house would inevitably stink of feet. Cabbage, yo -- it's what's for dinner. Although I have happy memories of these boiled dinners, I also remember not eating much beyond the boiled potatoes and the meat (smoked shoulder, as I recall) that we would dunk in brown mustard. In fairness, plain boiled turnips and cabbage are kind of gross.

Last year, my mom happened to be visiting around St. Patrick's Day. (My sister and I live about 15 minutes away from each other, and our parents are about 500 miles north, so whenever my dad has a business trip, mom usually comes to visit us. Two kids, one plane ticket. So convenient!) She absolutely looooves the grocery store I shop at (as do I -- I have a strict requirement that we never move outside of Wegmans shopping range), so I took her grocery shopping. As we were perusing all of the amazing offerings, she spotted a corned beef brisket. We thought we might do a festive St. Patrick's Day meal, so I tossed it in the carriage and on we went. Of course, as we were putting the groceries away at home, we acknowledged that boiled dinners are kind of gross and just stuck the meat in the freezer, where it sat until I noticed it last weekend and decided to have a clean out the freezer week.

Now, my experience with corned beef was seriously limited. The only thing I knew for sure was that if you're opposed to tough, stringy meat, then you really needed to cook the crap out of brisket. For this reason, I decided it was a perfect candidate for the Crock Pot. On Wednesday morning, I opened up the defrosted meat and tossed it into the crock pot with the little seasoning packet it had come with. A quick perusal of epicurious told me that onions and beer might be the way to go. As I am a big fan of both onions and beer, I agreed, and into the pot went one vidalia onion cut into big chunks and one bottle of Smithwick's leftover from my dad's Easter visit. I added a smidge of water too, because the liquid level seemed a little low, threw the cover on, and set it to low.

Full disclosure: During the cooking process, I was not expecting even remotely tasty results, as the whole second floor of my house smelled gross. (I will not even tell you how I described it to Mark, as I clearly have more respect for your sensibilities than my husband's.) I checked it around dinner time, and while cooked, it didn't seem quite there yet, so we ordered in. However, as I was headed to bed, I took the meat out to slice, and damn if it wasn't ah-mazing. Into the fridge it went, until I hoovered up several slices while standing over the sink the next day and called it lunch.

I figured dinner would be reubens (YUM), except Mark hates cole slaw and I forgot to buy some for myself, so it ended up as an insanely delicious grilled cheese. Seriously, INSANELY DELICIOUS -- halfway through his sandwich, Mark requested a second one. (Request denied on grounds of insanity, sir; consider your cholesterol!)

In not even remotely close to short, here's what you need to do, immediately if not sooner. Get yourself:

corned beef brisket, 2.5-3.5 lbs., with seasoning packet
1 vidalia onion
1 bottle of beer (your choice, though the Smithwick's was pretty tasty)
1 c water

Add the ingredients to a slow cooker, set it to low, and let it go for 10-12 hours. Then, it's sandwich time. Bear in mind, this is basically a grilled cheese (duh), so I have no idea why I'm writing out instructions, but here they are anyway. For those, you'll need:

corned beef brisket, as prepared above and thinly sliced against the grain
NY style Jewish rye bread, 2 slices per person
mustard of your choice (I used a combination of dijon and honey dijon)
thinly sliced swiss cheese

- Butter one side of each slice of bread, then flip them over and spread with mustard.
- Cover the mustarded side of each slice of bread with swiss cheese.
- Layer the slices of corned beef onto one slice of the cheesed bread per sandwich, then top with the second slice of cheesed bread, buttered side out.
- Transfer the sandwiches to the pre-heated pan (I used an electric frying pan with a lid, set to about 300-325 degrees, and it worked perfectly) and cook over med-lo heat; it's a thick sandwich, so you want to be sure it has time to heat through without burning the bread. Using a covered pan really helps with this.
- When the bottom layer of cheese starts looking a little melty, gently flip the sandwiches over. Note: until the cheese layers are melty enough to glue the meat into the sandwich, you'll need to work carefully.
- That's it, really. Keep the pan covered, and just flip the sandwiches occasionally until they are nice and golden brown, then dig in.

Next time, I am definitely going the Reuben-esque (see what I did there? my fatty sandwich vs. fat women painted by Rubens? no? just me finding that funny? ok, moving on) route and swapping out the mustard for some Russian dressing and cole slaw (forgive me, I haaate sauerkraut).


(And I promise to try to come up with something more interesting than a photo free recipe next time.)

**UPDATE: Turns out that if you make this same sandwich, except swapping out the mustard/corned beef for scrambled eggs with corned beef? It makes a pretty freaking amazing brunch. Who knew?