Friday, September 30, 2011

Lame Dinner #1: "Pizza Toast"


"You should write about that," my friend Maddie said last night, when I was describing one of our most common lame dinners. So Maddie: this one's for you.

It's true that our very lamest dinner is popcorn and smoothies, which I serve most often in the summertime. But "pizza toast" is our second lamest dinner, and I serve it often, especially when it is suddenly 6:30 and I am standing in front of the open refrigerator with a dial tone humming in my brain. "Oooh," the kids say, because they are in a never-ending living remake of Oliver! "Pizza toast! Yay!" I could cry, seriously. Except then I remember that my mother, an excellent cook, would sometimes bake us up a carton Stouffer's French Bread Pizza, and we were nothing less than thrilled. So.

When it comes time to make pizza toast, you'll be glad you froze the extra tomato paste in lumps like I suggested. Plus, it's so appetizing when it's all covered in frost crystals. The geodes of the frozen-canned-foods world.

Pizza toast and apples. Pizza toast and whole unpeeled carrots. It doesn't matter what you serve it with, because the only important thing is that you cut up a string cheese with scissors. Mozzarella and a knife just aren't going to get the job done in the appropriately depressing way. 

Toast the bread on one side, then flip it and spread thawed tomato paste on the untoasted side. Paste, not sauce: sauce is just going to sog into the bread, while paste is going to actually be strangely delicious (can you believe that I can't resist giving you actual serious advice about fucking PIZZA TOAST?). Because I am fancy about my pizza toast, I drizzle a little olive oil on the tomato paste before spreading. I really do. Now cut up your string cheese with a pair of cleanish scissors, one string cheese per bread slice, and arrange it artfully. Add toppings, if you have any, which you don't, then pop your toast back under the broiler until the cheese is melted. While you wait, you can admire the filthiest of your lesser appliances.
Are you salivating yet?
And it's done! Pizza toast. It's a perfectly balanced meal on another planet where you live to be zero years old!

You guys, thank you for your beauty and sweetness when I wrote last week. Because of you, I am now happily sitting under my SAD lamp with an estrogen mist and a B-vitamin drip, reading What Is the What. (I really am reading that book. Thank you for recommending it.) I feel better this week--like a breeze has blown through my mood and swept out all the humid debris. But it helps so much (I know you know this) to be buoyed by friendship and the friendship of strangers.

xo

p.s. Grape jam drawing tomorrow. . . keep voting and stay tuned.

52 comments:

  1. haha, I'm laughing out loud. We love Catherine, and yes, pizza toast is awesome, but I use english muffins and my son goes nuts for it. That's what kids remember, amazing isn't it?

    while you're sitting there, don't forget to use your little stand alone bicycle pedals to keep the blood circulating while you wear the compression socks! :) lol

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  2. Ooooh...I can't wait for lame dinner #2. And thanks, actually, for the advice about the tomato paste, because the sauce really does make it soggy, and I wouldn't have thought of that, so see? Oh, and it was so great to see that someone else's toaster oven is as grody as mine. Made my day.

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  3. Brilliant! Thank you. I always need new ideas for lame nights (of which there are a lot at my house.) It looks yummy, too.

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  4. And thank you so much for revealing that such a great revered cook who makes such gorgeous food also has lame dinner nights. I feel so much better now about *our* lame dinner nights, which are more often than I'd like to admit. ;)
    My favorite easy dinner is burritos - heat up canned beans, throw some rice in a pot, throw in lettuce and whatever stray leftover veggies are sitting sadly in the fridge and some salsa and cheese, and viola! My husband always toasts his tortillas over the gas stove, but that's just getting fancy. Although it does make his burrito wrap up better, so maybe he's right about that. What is everybody else's favorite easy dinner? I'm just curious....

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  5. I love it! My favorite dinner to make when my husband is out of town is oatmeal. Perhaps fortified with apple slices. My kids love this dinner, but the spouse is less enthusiastic (he'd prefer cheese and crackers in the case of no actual dinner).

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  6. Nothing like reading about the Somalian Civil War to make one feel cheery and optimistic again!

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  7. Oh Catherine! I love you even more for your pizza toast confessions. :) If you want to get Halloween-ish with your pizza toast, try this: http://familyfun.go.com/recipes/pizza-mummies-688188/

    Wait...or did you create those for Family Fun?!

    (and the grossest of my lesser appliances is the blender base...ewww)

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  8. I needed this. Thank you.

    Our favorite lame dinner is breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs and either toast or Bisquick biscuits or pancakes. And maybe some berries plucked fresh from the freezer.

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  9. Catherine, I'm making your Iced Oatmeal Awesomeness cookies right now for our school's festival tomorrow. I am so tempted to frost them for myself and fail to deliver them to school.

    Your post made me laugh to tears. I am having such a hard time preparing food for my family that suits their desires, and meets my nutritional requirements. The last thing Finn told me last night was, "I'm sorry." For telling me that the cinnamon squash and plain spinach I served last night tasted like "nuclear waste." I handed Soren a couple of vitamins and asked that he drink the remainder of his milk, if he felt the need to boycott dinner. I told my husband that maybe I need to give up and be one of those people who go to Chick-Fil-A every night for dinner. He begged me not to.

    Maybe I need to do Pizza Toast. I remember making English Muffin pizzas with just tomato paste when I was a child. I guess I didn't understand how acidic the pizza wound up being, but it was what I made. Your toaster looks as loved as mine.

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  10. Deirdre1:15 PM

    If you had "I love Catherine Newman" tee shirts, I would definitely buy one and wear it all the time. Big hug!

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  11. ladidah1:43 PM

    i'm dying laughing from this post!

    recurring lame dinner from my childhood: a "hoagie" roll sliced in half with the inside dug out and spread with cream cheese and jam. my mom called them boats and, for a while, we had this every saturday night.

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  12. love that you dropped the f-bomb in regards to the pizza toast post!!! that made my day!! :)

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  13. OK, see now this is why I keep coming back to this blog. Yes, sometimes I am making one of my many lame dinners and I'll think, "I bet Catherine Newman doesn't feed her kids smoothies for dinner." But you do! You do. A friend who writes about food and faith and justice and kid recently said, "The thing about foodies is that, as much as I love all the emphasis on fresh, local, organic and all that, the recipes are always so fancy. How about a recipe for a good old-fashioned chicken and rice casserole?" I sent her straight to her blog, because that's what I love about it. You've got the conscience of a foodie but the honesty of a regular mom who's just trying to put good food in front of her family as often as possible.

    Anyway. Besides smoothies, I will make actual milkshakes for dinner, with fruit and maybe some peanut butter or a piece of cheese. Also french bread pizzas (will try the scissored string cheese trick next time), pancakes, biscuits and eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, and Trader Joe's potstickers with a side of brown rice (TJ's microwavable in a bag) and sugar snaps (also TJ's in a microwavable bag). And top it all off with Trader Joe's sweet chili sauce. One of my kids will eat just about anything if it's got that sauce on it.

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  14. Robin2:17 PM

    Nearly every night is lame dinner night at my house. I diligently read your recipes, enjoy the writing, and ignore the actual making of food. We eat quesadillas, pasta sauce from a jar, grilled ham and cheese, chicken nuggets, pancakes, etc. just about every night. Every once in awhile I'll roast a chicken, but even then it's the preseasoned Perdue in the special roasting bag because I can't be bothered. All of those lame dinners mean that my toaster oven looks just like yours but the inside of my actual oven is nearly spotless after living here for 8 years and never cleaning it. Also, my electric can opener is scary. And I also enjoyed the f-bomb. Oh, and we eat too much mac and cheese from a box. But I'll never stop reading your recipes, from the fanciest to the lamest, just because they are so fun to read!

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous8:52 PM

      Oh, this is so funny--love this comment. I get this.

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  15. alison2:36 PM

    Not that I hope for your melancholy-ness, but I hope it’s your melancholy-ness that’s keeping your posts few & far between and short and not that you are going to leave us again =(

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  16. Anonymous3:10 PM

    Lame dinners at our house = grilled cheese, oatmeal, popcorn or scrambled eggs, with fruit and milk and carrot sticks. With two picky kids, lame = frequent.

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  17. My husband was recently gone for 9 days (yes, I was counting), and one night we had granola bars for dinner (in the car!). The kids, of course, loved it.
    My husband is also known for making the morning's leftover oatmeal into...voila!...dessert-meal (with chocolate chips). And he totally gets away with it.

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  18. In our house, our lame dinners revolve around whether or not we have real cheese.
    If there is real cheese, then we have quesadillas. If we have tomatoes or green onion, those make it onto the quesadillas. It's usually just overly buttered plain cheese quesadillas (which I secretly admit are delicious). These are then sliced into tiny bits (because, after all, you only had so much real cheese), served with milk and eaten in front of the TV.
    If there is no real cheese, then we get out the american. You first have to break off the old dried out corners where your cheap cheese wrappers did not seal properly. Grill the cheese on the bread and know that you are the one who is going to have to eat the sandwich made of bread heels. Open a can of store brand condensed soup (hope that you have more than cream of mushroom left), heat on stove and voila... dinner.

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  19. I LOVE you, and I LOVE it when you drop the F-bomb even MORE!

    Our lame night dinners usually involve my telling the kids to make their own sandwich. That's right--I don't even bother to make it myself, I make the KIDS do it. Otherwise, we end up with scrambled eggs or hot dogs. It's been happening more frequently lately since I've been unemployed and the grocery allowance is mighty, mighty small. Eggs = cheap! Hot dogs = cheap! Cabbage and potatoes and smoked sausage = CHEAP!

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  20. You know what? I'm trying it! I can already tell my boys will love it. Especially after the lemon chicken and cauliflower gratin I cooked up for almost two hours yesterday that they declared, "gross".

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  21. mrs.craig6:17 PM

    Hilarious! I love that you curse and that you have the best EVER sense of humor and that you make me feel proud to serve my girls Pizza Toast. Thank you for being a true gem! xoxo

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  22. mrs.craig6:18 PM

    Hilarious! I love that you curse and that you have the best EVER sense of humor and that you make me feel proud to serve my girls Pizza Toast. Thank you for being a true gem! xoxo

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  23. Thanks for being normal!

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  24. Allyson7:20 PM

    Tonight my son had "Cheese and Cracker Picnic in the Den" for dinner. Which means he had cheddar cheese, saltines, and a juice box in front of Spongebob. I save this particularly lame meal for when I'm either sick or too depressed to move. In short, at least you heated your kids' dinner up, and therefore get to point at me and laugh and feel superior to someone. Glad to be of service.

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  25. Maddie7:41 PM

    You are the best! You made my day better in many ways today. Thank you.

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  26. I laughed out loud at this post. Which is pretty much what I've been doing since I read Waiting for Birdy (years and years ago) in bed next to my sleeping husband, trying not to laugh so hard it shook the bed and woke him up. You crack me up, and make me feel better about the days I, too, feed my children lame meals. I actually broke out the English muffin pizza toast the other day, and they were so impressed. But I used spaghetti sauce that we had left over in the fridge, so it was a little bit soggy. So the advice is appreciated. Always.

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  27. Cathy7:51 PM

    I am pretty sure no one can top (bottom?) my own lamest main course, the appetizingly named "peanut butter glob." Every once in a while, when I simply can't face wrangling with my picky picky eater, it's the option that keeps everyone happy.

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  28. I LOVE it! Three cheers for lame dinners! I'm in the last weeks of a difficult pregnancy, with three kids ages 4 and under. Lame dinners are all we do right now. We've been doing english muffin pizzas once a week, but they've been soggy. And Pizza Toast - so much better than english muffins, because we always have bread. Sorry, you may think you're lame, but I still think you're a food genius. We all need repertoire of lame dinners. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches are getting old around here. Sorry that I'm so excited about your lamest post, but the timing is so good for me.

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  29. On the eighth night of Passover we always have Matzah Pizza (which my non-Jewish husband started calling Machu Picchu years ago). Of course, tomato paste. There's no way sauce would work on the matzah. Then lots of garlic salt, oregano and dried basil. In my college vegetarian days, it was topped with American slices and eaten night after night. Now it's a one-time meal, and it's topped with Cabot Cheddar. But there are still never any vegetables on top.

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  30. Um, Stouffer's french bread pizza was GOOD. Right? Who's with me?

    OK I guess it's just you and me.

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  31. oh my god I love you. You never fail to make me laugh and feel better about the world just as it is. Pizza toast looks delicious. It's gotta be better than mac and cheese from a box for the 5th night in a row...

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  32. Oh man, can you do a lame dinner post every week? That would be so awesome. I like to think of my lame dinners as simple options that are still (mostly) sound choices.

    How about something for the crock pot, my most neglected appliance for sure, but really clean!

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  33. I'm trying the pizza toast! When we were kids my mom made it on English muffins. My toaster only has the verticle slots so I'll have to use the oven. AND, can you believe it, we don't have string cheese over here! I'll just have to use mozzarella. Not the bufalo kind, my kids don't like the fancy, more delicious variety. But I promise to cut it up with scissors. I cut everything with scissors now, thanks to you. Glad you are feeling better. I've been thinking of you. Your melancholy autumnal words always strike a cord with me and my shrivelling ovaries.

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  34. I totally laughed out loud at this post, and the captions under your pictures. I love that you turn a post about pizza toast into something humorous and that I am actually tempted to try it...and I never would have thought about tomato paste, so thank you!

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  36. rachel2:20 PM

    it's funny to me how your writing pops into my head as i go about my day, such as yesterday when i suddenly remembered how ben thought there was a deer poking its head through the wall.

    classic.

    i am absolutely certain that this pizza toast post will stick with me too, like the greasy film on the windows of all of our lesser appliances. you're nothing short of my hero.

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  37. Angela3:36 PM

    Lame dinner here: hotdog sausages with bread, maybe homemade bread, maybe not. Maybe ketchup. Maybe cucumber. We will try pizza toast!!

    Um, my microwave door looks a bit like that...(why won't it come clean like the white parts??)

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  38. Pizza toast sounds great to me and I loved reading your commenters lame dinners too.

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  39. Anonymous7:56 AM

    Ok, the most lamous (lame+famous!)dinner in our house would have to be cereal, but it's hard to argue with the nutritional value of a wholesome bowl of Cheerios and skim milk, unless of course, it's actually Captain Crunch or Cocoa Puffs...which it often is....but still.
    And does no one else feel polarized to those mystical, magical "Golden Arches" for dinner in a box where you convince yourself it is wholesome because you cockily and smuggly order the chocolate milk or apple juice instead of a soda with your kid's dinnner?

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  40. Catherine, you never fail to make me smile. I am a big fan of "English Muffin Pizzas" so I totally get this. Also, here's what I want to know. How does one get a toaster oven clean? Mine looks worse than the picture of your toast broiling. I am seriously asking.

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  41. Anonymous1:13 AM

    Ha, ha! Your sudden use of the "f" word really got me laughing so hard! Incredulously hilarious!

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  42. Dying laughing, and SO grateful to know you don't cook like usual all the time. :)

    Also, this is weird, but I am in the process of ordering a light box too, which I was researching before reading your post. I live in Minnesota and every winter makes me sadder. Sigh.

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  43. And now I've gone back and read all the comments and agree that you need to make and sell some "I love Catherine Newman" t-shirts. Would totally buy.

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  44. Oh, this sounds so much like what I call "flatbread pizza." Flatbread with jarred spaghetti sauce spread on top, then sprinkled with pre-grated mozzarella. A about 10 minutes in a 425-degree oven and voila! Dinner! I serve this with baby carrots. Done! :)

    Glad you're feeling better this week. I think the fall, while such a great season, just does bring out the melancholy sometimes.

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  45. heather12:35 PM

    our number one lame dinner is exactly yours, but I'll use the paste tip, and double toast tip,
    thank you. our number two lame dinner is diced onion and chopped garlic sauted in olive oil, a little butter, sea salt, pepper and dried thyme. mix w/ capellini and call it dinner. what's your number two?

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  46. Shauna11:16 AM

    I too would buy an "I love Catherine Newman" t-shirt!

    I am bored of dreaming up and making dinner, so on Sunday, I sit at the supper table with paper and pen in hand, and make everyone call out dinner ideas for the week. Quite recently, we got to Friday on the list, and someone called out popcorn. I said excellent! and someone else added smoothies! and watch a movie? and thus popcorn and smoothie supper was born in our house. I feel so much better knowing that you've called this supper too!

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  47. What a laugh - your blogs always make my day!

    Our favorite lame dinner is cheese cubes and summer sausage and grapes. I use sword toothpicks and call it Samurai Supper.

    cleaning tip for the toaster oven - use baking soda and a damp towel. Baking soda breaks down the carbon and it's okay if it gets in your food.

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  48. Oh, my. That was freaking hilarious! Thank you for writing and sharing it.

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  49. My mom used to make us English Muffin pizzas - English Muffin, ketchup (yes ketchup)and American cheese. It was hands down one of our favorite dinners.

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  50. My go-to lame meal? I use a fancy term, so the kids don't know it's lame: Yogurt Parfaits. Slice a banana into a small, fancy dish. Add yogurt. Sprinkle grape nuts on top. All the major food groups at least!

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  51. I cannot believe I did not comment on here last time; for a community cookbook, one of his sisters submitted my husband's go-to meal from study abroad, Tube-Stop Potatoes, which was basically: cut potatoes, boil, drain, cover in salt, pepper, and shredded cheese. His sister later teased "I forgot to add "Eat standing over sink" to the instructions."
    This is so awesome.
    Have you added pesto quinoa to the least possible effort dinners? Make quinoa. Stir in pesto. Serve. My kids love it. It feels like a miracle every time.

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