Unusual Pizza Toppings

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

savvyhousekeeping corned beef pizza

Like the above Corned Beef Pizza, I like trying unusual toppings on my homemade pizzas. One of the best pizzas I have ever made was one with barbecue ribs. It had rib meat, a combination of mozzarella and smoked cheddar, and a mixed marinara and barbecue sauce. It was awesome.

We have also tried pulled pork, arugula, squash, chorizo, chicken, falafel, and lots of other toppings. All have been good. The trick is to think of the whole pizza as complimenting the flavor of the topping. So with the ribs pizza, I didn’t just dump meat on top, I also incorporated cheese and BBQ sauce that mirrored the flavor of the ribs. This gives the pizza an overall harmony, and harmony = delicious.

Here are some toppings I’m curious about:

Egg Pizza

savvyhousekeeping egg pizza

I have tried egg on a pizza before and found it unnecessary. However Michael Ruhlman’s egg pizza makes me want to give it a second chance. For one thing, he paired the egg with asparagus and bacon, which sounds darn good. Also the egg I had was practically raw, and he cooks his in the oven for a few minutes, which would make a lot of difference in texture. It gives a whole new meaning to breakfast for dinner.

Chard Pizza

savvyhousekeeping chard pizza

I am going to be growing chard this year, so will probably try it on pizza. In particular, I like the looks of In Praise of Leftovers’ broccoli, chard and chévre pizza, pictured above. Wow.

Pear Pizza

savvyhousekeeping pear pizza

Pear sounds like one of those ingredients that could either be awful or genius as a pizza topping. This recipe from the Rustic Kitchen gives me hope that it is the latter. It is pear pizza with red onions and walnut pesto, which sounds kind of awesome.

Corn Pizza

savvyhousekeeping corn pizza

Here’s a picture from the Biggest Menu of “pizza with fresh corn, balsamic marinated roasted red onions, mozzarella, smoked mozzarella topped with fresh chives.” I’m sold. I know that’s good.

Potato Pizza

savvyhousekeeping potato pizza

The LA Times has a recipe for potato pizza. Sounds like the trick is to slice the potatoes very thin to get them to cook. I’m not a fan of white sauce on pizza, so would probably tweak the flavorings to go with marinara instead.

Really, this can go on and on. There’s no end to the deliciousness of pizza, especially when you make your own.

What unusual pizza toppings have worked for you?

Homemade Vs Delivered Pizza

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:52 am on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I eat a lot of pizza. As such, I have carefully analyzed the cheapest way I can purchase a good pizza. And by good, I mean a pizza with real cheese and a nice dough–not those paper-dough cheese-food pizzas you can get at fast food chains. Here’s my options for purchasing a large sausage pizza, from the cheapest option to the most expensive:

Homemade using my own dough: Dough: $.25, Cheese: $2, Sauce: $.10 (using tomatoes from the garden), Sausage: $.25, total: $2.65

The problem here is you have to think ahead and give the dough time to rise, so this option is not good on spontaneous “Let’s get pizza!” nights.

Homemade using the local pizzeria’s dough: Dough: $2, Cheese: $2, Sauce: $.10, Sausage: $.25, total: $4.35

When we are feeling lazy, we go for this option. We get a bag of the uncooked dough from a local pizza place and then use our own ingredients from there. (Trader Joes also sells uncooked dough for $1.30 a bag. It’s not the world’s greatest dough, but it’s passable.)

Take N Bake from local grocery store, on sale: $6

I’m not a fan of grocery pizza because they skimp on cheese. However, on sale this can be a reasonable way to get pizza.

Take N Bake from local pizza place, on sale: $6-$10

I used to use Papa Murphy’s when they first came out in the 1990s, but now their prices are so high, I don’t see the point of their pizza. If you have a coupon or get them on sale, they can be worth it, but not on sale, they are around $12-$15. At that price, you might as well just get a cooked pizza. (Costco also has a Take N Bake pizza for around $10. It’s pretty good.)

A pizza from my favorite pizza place: $15

Bricks has great pizza and we go there a lot. I have no complaints about Bricks, frankly. I love that place.

A pizza from local delivery place, take out, with coupon: $18

The local pizza delivery places have good pizza. Sometimes I take advantage and order a pizza, using the coupons I get in the mail and picking the pizza up. Without the coupon, the pizza costs between $21-$22.

A pizza from local delivery place, delivered, no coupon: $25

This is a hell of a lot to spend on pizza.

If you compare the most expensive way to get a pizza–delivered with no coupon–to the least expensive way–homemade with your own dough–you’re talking a savings of $22.35 a pizza. When you’re buying about four pizzas a month, like I do, that’s about $90 a month in savings. This is precisely why I almost always make my own pizzas. And if I do go pay for one, it’s usually to Bricks.

Here’s a recipe for making that sausage pizza at the top of the entry, courtesy of Eggs on Sunday.

How To Propagate A Fuchsia Plant

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Tuesday, March 25, 2014

[Courtesy About.com]

Fuchsias are one of the easiest plants to propagate. To grow your own, all you need it a clipping off another plant.

That’s great because fuchsias come in all kinds of colors and styles and are very malleable. You can hang them from baskets, grow them as shrubs, or even train them into trees, like so:

[Read about how to do this here.]

Perhaps most importantly, fuchsias are forgiving plants. They grow in both shade and sun and bounce back from neglect pretty easily. And hey, if you kill it, you can always start again with a new clipping.

How To Propagate A Fuchsia Plant:


    Flower pot
    Potting soil
    Bucket or something to mix in
    Fuchsia clipping


Start with a clipping from a plant. Simply pinch the end off an existing fuchsia plant, like so:

The clipping is wet because it fell into the cup of water I had it soaking in. I don’t know what kind of fuchsia it is, but the flowers look similar to this one, only red:

[Courtesy Love That Image]

Next, choose your pot. Pick one on the smaller side, since fuchsias don’t seem to like a lot of room while growing.

Fill the pot with dry dirt to the top:

Pour the dirt into a bucket or container. Add water until it is thoroughly moist, then pack the wet dirt into the pot again. Add more soil if necessary.

Stick your finger into the middle of the dirt. Insert the fuchsia clipping so that its stem is in the soil and the leaves are in the sunshine, like so:

Clean off the pot, and voila! You have the start of a new fuchsia plant.

Put the plant in a window where it can get indirect light. Once the soil has dried out, start adding a small amount of water every day. Fuchsias like a steady supply of water, but they don’t like to be drowned. I usually give a new plant about an ounce of water a day.

In a week or so, you will start to see new growth on the plant, and that is how you know that it has rooted. Continue to give it water. Before you know it, it will be taking over your windowsill.

Fava Beans

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 11:57 am on Monday, March 24, 2014

favas savvyhousekeeping

This is the remainder of my fava bean harvest. I probably could have gotten some more beans out of the plants but I needed to make room for the tomatoes, so I picked the rest of the crop yesterday and pulled up the plants for my compost.

Because they put nitrogen into the soil, farmers use favas as cover crops. Favas are a cold-season crop and take a long time to produce beans. The plants get about 3 feet tall and don’t produce a ton for their size. I planted nine plants and harvested about 100 bean pods altogether.

The beans themselves are full of protein and quite delicious, especially when fresh. However, they are also labor intensive. Not only do you have to shell them from their pod, but each bean is surrounded by a bitter membrane that you have to remove. To do this, I popped them in a pot of boiling water for two minutes so that the membranes loosened. The inner bean is a grassy green and very tender:

fava beans savvyhousekeeping

Removing the membranes takes some time, but once you do it you have a pile of lovely beans that you can put in a salad or serve as a side dish. I made some for dinner last night. After removing the membranes, I pan-fried them with some oil, garlic, basil, salt, and pepper, like so:

fava beans savvyhousekeeping

Since the pan frying was only about heating the beans and adding flavor, the whole thing took about 5 minutes. The end result was a delicious, pillowy bean, kind of like a cross between a green bean and a potato. And because everything except the oil and spices came from my garden, the cost of making this side dish was around $.10.

fava beans savvyhousekeeping

Planting favas was an interesting experiment. While I wouldn’t bother with them if they were springtime plants, since they can be planted in the winter, they are a nice way to put your garden to use in the cold months. I will probably plant them again.

Eat For A Week For Under $8.50

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Monday, March 24, 2014


Last week my food budget felt tight, so I roasted a chicken. One whole chicken is enough for my husband and I to eat on for the entire week. That’s right, I get a week worth of dinners out of one chicken. And the best part is that chicken is so versatile, it doesn’t feel like you are eating the same thing over and over again.

I buy whole chickens when they are one sale. This one was $.79 a pound, which added up to $4.22. I used every part of the chicken, even the bones and the gizzard, as well the ends of all the vegetables I encountered during the week. In the end, I got six meals out of the chicken, if you count the chicken broth. The total cost? $8.48.

Here is how I did it:

Monday Night: Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Steamed Broccoli: $5.41

    Chicken: $4.22
    Butter: $.10
    Oil: $.05
    Herbs: Free from the garden
    1 Lemon: Free from the garden
    2 Potatoes: $.69
    Half of a bunch of broccoli: $.35

After the chicken came out of the oven, I cut some slices off the breast and served them with lightly salted steamed broccoli and a baked potato.

Tuesday Night: Chicken Salad with Oil/Vinegar Dressing: $.65

Chicken breasts plus:

    Lettuce: $.45
    1 Carrot: $.05
    2 Radishes: $.05
    Croutons: free
    Oil/Vinegar/Salt/Pepper: $.10

I cut up the lettuce, added the other vegetables, and mixed them with the oil and vinegar/salt and pepper. Then I put the croûtons and the rest of the chicken breast on top.

Wednesday Night: Chicken Burritos: $1.25

Chicken legs/wing meat plus:

    2 Tortillas: $.40
    Cheese: $.30
    Tomatoes: free from the garden
    1 Jalapeno: free from the garden
    Taco Seasoning: free
    1 Onion: $.05
    Beans: $.10
    Oil: $.05
    Half an Avocado: $.35

In a frying pan, I cooked the onions, tomatoes, beans, and chicken in oil with the taco seasoning. I added this mixture and cheese to the tortillas, rolled them, and cooked them in the oven for 15 minutes. I served it with mashed avocado.

Thursday AND Friday: Chicken Pot Pie: $1.07

The remaining chicken meat plus:

    Remaining Broccoli: $.25
    1 Onion: $.05
    1 Carrot: $.05
    Pie Crust: $.45
    Milk: $.10
    Butter: $.10
    Flour: $.02
    Oil: $.05

I made the crust in a pie pan. Then I cooked an onion, carrot, and the rest of the broccoli in oil. Then I made a cream sauce with butter, flour, and milk. When that was done, I combined the sauce, the rest of the chicken, and vegetables in the crust, finished the pie, and cooked it in the oven until the crust was done and the sauce was bubbling. The resulting pie makes enough for two dinners.

Saturday: Chicken Broth (In reality I didn’t really eat this on Saturday—we went out to dinner. But you could.): $.10

Chicken bones/gizzard/neck plus:

    The ends of the Onions/Carrots/Broccoli: free
    Water: free
    Spices: $.10

I boiled all the above in water until it turned into broth. If I had wanted to, I could have made soup out of it, but I chose to freeze it for future use.

Total spent on all the dinners: $8.48

If I were doing this in the summer, that number would be even lower because the carrots, potatoes, onion, lettuce, and radishes would be from the garden. (That would make the total cost: $7.09)

So there you have it. Chicken = the most frugal food ever.

Shrinking Violet Cocktail

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:59 am on Friday, March 21, 2014

savvyhousekeeping romantic cocktails weddings valentine's champagne creme de violet

Presenting my newest concoction with DIY Cocktails: The Shrinking Violet Cocktail. It’s so named because this cocktail is likely to shrink rapidly as soon as you taste it.

Oh, and it uses Crème De Violette Liqueur, a brandy-based liqueur with flavoring from violets.

savvyhousekeeping romantic cocktails weddings valentine's champagne creme de violet

I recently tried this liqueur for the first time. It’s sweet with floral notes and goes great with champagne. Not only does this cocktail have a lovely purple hew, it is easy to make. It would be great at a wedding, anniversary, or just to fancy-up a Friday evening.

Shrinking Violet Cocktail


    1 oz Crème De Violette Liqueur
    Violet, pansy, or viola blossom to garnish (optional, but recommended)


Pour the Crème De Violette Liqueur into a champagne flute. Top with champagne. Garnish with flowers. Enjoy!

Free Green Onions

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Thursday, March 20, 2014


Here’s how to get some free green onions. Next time you get a batch from the grocery store, don’t throw out the roots. Instead, put them in a pot of dirt. They will soon sprout up new onions for you. I’ve done this multiple times–in fact, as you can see, I have two new green onions starting in my kitchen.

Prolonging the Life of Simple Syrup

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 12:00 pm on Wednesday, March 19, 2014

savvyhousekeeping strawberry syrup
Strawberry syrup

I need simple syrup all the time for cocktails, Italian sodas, and desserts. The thing is, I have a problem with it going bad. Simple syrup is a combination of sugar and water that has been boiled until the sugar is dissolved. I usually do a 1:1 ratio–1 cup of sugar for a cup of water. This is a perfect environment for mold to grow in. It seems that no matter how tightly I put on the lid of the jar, mold appears within a week or two.

Yesterday a friend sent me this experiment. Camper English of Alcademics heard that “rich simple syrup,” which uses a 2:1 ratio, lasts longer in the fridge. He decided to find out if that’s true by making the different kinds of syrup and seeing when they spoiled. He also added vodka into the mix, which he had heard prolongs syrup. In the end, he had four bottles of syrup, as follows:

* 1:1 simple syrup
* 1:1 simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka
* 2:1 rich simple syrup
* 2:1 rich simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka

The results?

* 1:1 simple syrup lasted One Month
* 1:1 simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka lasted Three Months
* 2:1 rich simple syrup lasted Six Months
* 2:1 rich simple syrup plus one tablespoon vodka lasted more than six months

Good to know.

Read the full experiment here.

Make Your Own Italian Soda

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Wednesday, March 19, 2014

savvyhousekeeping homemade italian strawberry soda

A friend told me that she’d been making her own sodas lately. When I inquired further, I discovered that she had been making simple syrups from fruit and combining them with club soda or sparkling water. She said it was a great way to use up oldish fruit.

When I was in high school, I was obsessed with Italian sodas, which are a flavored syrup combined with carbonated water, exactly what my friend was doing at home. So we decided to give it a try with some strawberries that I had recently picked from my garden. Here’s how it went down:

Italian Soda


    2 c fruit, in this case strawberries
    1 c water
    3/4 c sugar (if you like it sweeter and less fruity, use 1 cup sugar instead)
    Club soda or sparkling water


First, make the syrup. Combine the sugar, water, and fruit in a pot and bring to a boil.

savvyhousekeeping homemade italian strawberry soda

Let it boil until all the sugar is dissolved and the fruit releases its flavor into the water, about 5-10 minutes. Strain the syrup from the fruit.

The resulting syrup was a bright red and very pretty. We ended up with about 2 cups of it.

savvyhousekeeping homemade italian strawberry soda

Then I filled a glass with sparkling water, about 12 oz, and added the syrup until it tasted right. It ended up taking quite a bit of syrup to get the flavor where I wanted it, about 8 Tbs, or 1/2 cup.

The soda was delicious and refreshing. The only thing I would do differently is add ice next time.

Since I learned how to properly store simple syrup, I have had a couple of other Italian sodas with the remaining syrup since then. My friend and I talked about other sodas you could make–pineapple, tangerine, lavender and honey. The possibilities are endless.

And the leftover fruit that we strained out of the syrup? We put it to good use by putting it over some homemade strawberry ice cream.

savvyhousekeeping homemade italian strawberry soda

Cost: Fruit: free from the garden; Sparkling water: $.45 (could be cheaper if you shopped around for a sale); Sugar: $.10; Water: free.
Total Cost of Drink: $.55

A can of Pepsi is cheaper if you buy it on sale, but it doesn’t taste as good.

Grow Your Own Tea Bush

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 8:00 am on Tuesday, March 18, 2014

[University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture]

I was excited to learn about the Tea Bush, called Camellia Sinensis. All tea that we drink–black, green, oolong, etc.–is made from this bush. By growing it in your yard, you can make your own tea.

The Tea Bush is originally from Asia and closely related to the Camellia, as you can probably tell by the name. And like the Camellia, it is a pretty bush with fragrant white flowers and waxy green leaves. It takes well to pruning, can be grown as a hedge, and can get 10-15 feet tall. Best of all, this plant works in light shade, so it is a good way to add an edible plant to a shady spot.

I haven’t grown a Tea Bush yet, but I plan to put at least one in the backyard. According to the Sunset Western Garden Book, the plant can be grown in Zones 4-9, 12, 14-24. I would assume that if you can grow a Camellia, you can grow a Tea Bush.

You can purchase a tea seedling from One Green World for $20. They say the plant is 8-10 feet high and is cold hardy to 0°F.

Let’s grow our own tea.

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