Chicken & Mushroom Alfredo Stuffed Shells

Fettuccine Alfredo is one of my favorite dishes. For many years, however, making it always left me with the feeling that I was missing something. Fortunately, finally, I figured it out. In order for fettuccine Alfredo to leave you with a true feeling of fulfillment, you need to make an authentic Alfredo sauce. Continue reading

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Another Restaurant Favorite Nailed! – Chicken Scampi

I may have mentioned before that Hubby and I only go out to dinner a handful of times a year. Most of the time I like to blame Hubby for this because he insists there isn’t anything at a restaurant that he likes more than what I make at home. Be it his way of psychologically manipulating me to cook so we don’t have to go out, or just his genuine observation, I am to blame for this. I am the one who feels compelled to come home and try to make whatever he might say he enjoyed at a restaurant. I am the one who researches recipes, experiments in the kitchen, and tirelessly works to perfect at home what he could so much easier get at a restaurant (easier for me at least). He doesn’t ask me to do it, I just do. Continue reading

Saturday Night Snack Revisited, Revised, Revelled – Bread Sticks & Pizza Sauce

It’s been several months now since Hubby came home with sticker shock after ordering a couple pizzas and bread sticks from a local pizzeria. I lost my head for a minute or was possessed by an evil spirit or something, and suggested I just make our Saturday evening snacks rather than getting pizza every week. Continue reading

Saturday Night Snack Food – Garlic & Herb Cheese Sticks

If I were to say that Hubby pretty much lives in a cave, you might think me cruel or possibly believe I’m exaggerating a bit, but he’ll be the first to agree. Because I cook every night and he rarely is faced with having to eat out, Hubby has no conception of what food costs. I do all the grocery shopping, plan all our meals, and do all the cooking. He doesn’t know how much I spend on food or what goes into preparing our meals other than what he sees me doing should he happen to lose his way walking from the office to the bathroom and end up in the kitchen. Sure he knows where the kitchen is, but unless you can give him specific directions, I doubt he’d be able to find a jar of pickles in the fridge. Nope, should he want something in the fridge, he’ll ask and I will tell him, “It’s on the third shelf, right hand side, about halfway back.” I know my fridge like the back of my hand.

Anyway, about the only time Hubby is faced with buying food is the once or twice a year we go out to dinner and our Saturday night treat of carry-out pizza. For at least the past 15 years every Saturday night around 8:00 p.m. he heads out to a local pizza chain and picks up two pizzas and bread sticks. This typically runs around $15.00. Sometimes it’s a little more if he gets a specialty pizza, but definitely no more than $20.00.

About two months ago when he returned from picking up the pizzas, however, he was very upset. He proclaimed, “I can’t believe how expensive pizza is getting.” Apparently he had ordered two specialty pizzas, had butter and Parmasan cheese put on both, and gotten breadsticks and sauce all to the tune of $27.00. He was in shock. For the next 45 minutes, as we ate our pizza and watched a movie with the kids, he ranted about how expensive this was and how outlandish it was to charge that much for two pizzas and a little bread.

Trying to point out that he had gotten two specialty pizzas or that he had added on an additional topping was pointless. He was on his soapbox and there wasn’t a thing anyone could say to quell his tirade. Finally, after listening to him complain, I suggested we stop getting pizza. I immediately regretted my statement and he immediately calmed down. “Maybe we should,” was his response.

Great, I just blew the one night a week that I got a taste of what it would be like not to have to cook every night. Sure I still made dinner on Saturdays, but it didn’t have to be a huge meal like every other night because I needed to make sure we were all hungry for pizza later on. Saturday night dinners could be soup and sandwiches or perhaps a chicken Caesar salad, or even a wrap of some sort. Without pizza on Saturday nights, now I’d have to rethink my meal planning and come up with yet another “real” meal to make. Me and my big mouth.

But don’t think I stopped there. No, that wasn’t good enough. I then offered, “I’ll just make us something on Saturday’s instead. I could grill hot dogs, make some burgers, or some other evening snack.” WHAT WAS I THINKING? Don’t I cook enough already? What is it I’m trying to prove? And yet, as I was saying this, my mind was racing with the possibilities. All I kept thinking was this was a great opportunity for me to try some of the snack and party foods I never get the chance to make because we don’t entertain very often, we never have parties, and for the most part don’t have a social life. Other than having a ton of recipes collected that I never thought I’d get to make, it works for us.

Well it came as no surprise when Hubby accepted my offer. I might have imagined it, but I actually think I saw him skip a bit when he headed to the table to take another slice of pizza.

So for the past two months now I have tried to come up with fun and unique Saturday night snack food. It’s been exciting being able to use some of those party recipe ideas I never thought I’d get to use, but at the same time it is somewhat exhausting. I like being done in the kitchen by 6:00 p.m. and spending the rest of my evening relaxing. I am usually in bed by 8:30, 9:00 at the latest and I don’t like going to bed with dishes in the sink (this is a new habit I began this past January and have been very good about it without fail for the past five months). Adding another meal to the mix that isn’t served until 8:30 at night has made maintaining my nightly habits challenging.

The solution to my dilemma? Making our Saturday night snack earlier in the day and just heating or cooking it in the evening. This means no time spent in the kitchen after 6:00 other than perhaps putting something in the oven or heating something up on the stove.

One of the first new snack foods and probably the families favorite, seeing as I’ve already made it three times in the past two months, is garlic & herb cheese sticks. I use one pound of pizza dough that I make earlier in the day, which makes two 10″ cast iron pans of it, and it takes just 8-10 minutes in the oven.

Garlilc & Herb Cheese Sticks

  • Servings: 12 - 16 Pieces
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Ingredients

  • 1 Recipe Pizza Dough or 1 Pound of Frozen Pizza Dough
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1½ Cups Shredded or Sliced Cheese – I use a combination of Mozzarella, Provolone, and Munster
  • 1/3 Cup Freshly Shredded Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 tsp. Italian Seasoning
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Salt

Directions

  1. To prepare the pizza dough: Combine 1 Cup of bread flour, 1 tsp. sugar, 2¼ tsp. instant dry yeast, and 2 tsp. kosher salt in large mixing bowl. Add 1½ Cups warm water (approximately 110° F) and whisk until well combined. Let stand for 15 minutes to form a sponge, which proves your yeast is fresh. With mixer running, add 2 tbsp. olive oil and 2½ to 3 Cups additional flour 1 cup at a time until dough comes together. Knead dough with mixer dough hooks for 4 -5 minutes, until dough is firm and elastic. Grease a large glass bowl with olive oil, add the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and proof in a warm area until double, approximately 1 hour.
  2. Preheat oven 450°.
  3. Place 1 tablespoon butter in 10” cast iron skillet and place in oven.
  4. Divide dough in half. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and place in fridge until ready to use.
  5. Flatten second half of dough slightly on lightly floured surface.
  6. Remove hot cast iron skillet from oven and spread melted butter around.
  7. Carefully press the pizza dough into the hot skillet, being sure to press firmly against edges.
  8. Brush top of dough with olive oil; spread cheese on top and sprinkle with Italian seasoning and garlic salt.
  9. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned and cheese has melted.
  10. Cut in half; cut each half into 6-8 strips.

Cooking Note

These breadsticks can be served with ranch or pizza sauce, but we like them just the way they are. Covering them up with a sauce just takes away from the garlic/cheese flavor.

Note that the recipe for pizza dough will make 2 pans of these bread sticks. I have kept the second half of the pizza dough in the fridge for 3 – 4 days wrapped in plastic wrap without issue. Alternately you can freeze the unbaked dough for up to 3 months.

Saturday Night Pizza Night is no more, but the only thing that’s changed is the pizza. Now the family enjoys a variety of tastes and foods, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.