My late husband Bob would often refer to me as a “creature of habit.”  He was so right.  I can easily get stuck in a routine, and I don’t like it when I have to leave my carefully crafted comfort zone.  Most of the drawers in my kitchen are very ordered – we all need a messy junk drawer, don’t we?  Although my spice cabinet needs to be reorganized after several searches for lesser-used ingredients, I can usually grab what I need without much trouble.  I have arranged the clothes in my closet by color.  The empty hangers in my basement laundry room are sorted that way, too. 

I also plot my routes when I go places, avoiding high-volume traffic areas as much as possible.  When I am riding with other people, sometimes I have to bite my tongue to keep from telling them which way to go.  At other times, I don’t bite it when I should.  I feel discombobulated when someone else chooses a different route than I would have taken.  I often lecture myself to loosen up, knowing that my lack of flexibility can be a bit ridiculous. 

All that to say this: I am facing the idea of getting a new vehicle, and the thought has me feeling stressed.  People that know me will tell you that I drive my own minivan and am not comfortable changing cars.  When my transportation was in the shop for a manufacturer’s recall, it had to stay for a couple of days.  The dealership provided a loaner car, informing me that I could drive it as much as I wanted to.  I was very tense as I drove home; I just couldn’t seem to relax.  The luxury car sat in my garage till I went to get my van – I was so relieved to be in a familiar vehicle again that I almost cried. 

The past couple of weeks have been spent checking out different vehicles on the Internet.  My head is in a whirl.  There are some features that I require, some I desire, and some that I don’t really want.  The one thing I am pretty certain about: I want something red.  Besides the fact that red is my favorite color, it doesn’t fade into the background; it’s easier for other drivers to see.  Part of me wants to let go of the idea of purchasing a new (at least to me) vehicle.  But another part tells me that it is time to do so, as the one I have is becoming unreliable.

I took a break from stewing about my transportation dilemma in order to try a couple of new recipes.  Knowing that the “big game” is this coming weekend, I wanted to provide my readers with food ideas to serve during a football-watching evening.  I had a couple of others lined up to try, but that didn’t happen.  I chose to spend time visiting friends who were in the hospital instead.  Besides, I have LOTS of previously prepared dishes to fill in the gap.  Even if a person is like me and ignores the upcoming sporting event, the recipes are well worth making.

Deep-Dish Mini Pizzas

1 (14-ounce) can refrigerated pizza crust, or use freshly made pizza dough

1-1/2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese, divided

1 cup pizza sauce

12 slices pepperoni (more if desired)

2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Unroll pizza dough on cutting board.  Roll into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle.  Cut into 12 3-inch squares.  Place in square in a greased muffin pan cup.

Sprinkle half the Mozzarella cheese evenly into cups.  Top with pizza sauce, remaining shredded cheese, and pepperoni.  Sprinkle with Parmesan and oregano.

Bake 11 to 12 minutes or until crusts are golden brown and shredded cheese is melted. (They will take longer to bake if using homemade dough.)  Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan.  Serve warm.  Yield: 6 servings.

Homemade Pretzel Dogs

6 cups water

1/3 cup baking soda

1 (13 to 15-ounce) package refrigerated pizza dough OR 14 to 16-ounce purchased prepared pizza dough OR freshly made pizza dough

1 (16-ounce) package hot dogs

Kosher salt (optional)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with foil (spritz foil with cooking spray).

Stir together water and baking soda in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil.

Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface.  Roll into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle.  Cut dough into ten 1-inch strips; cut each strip in half crosswise.

Cut hot dogs in half crosswise.  Wrap each dough strip tightly around a hot dog piece in spiral fashion, pinching edges to seal, and leaving hot dog peeking out of each end. 

Add 4 wrapped hot dogs at a time to boiling water.  Boil about 30 seconds.  Remove with slotted spoon.  Place on prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt (if desired).  Repeat with remaining hot dogs.

Bake hot dogs until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. 

If using as appetizers, cut each hot dog in half.  Serve with mustard.

Garden Dip

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 (10-3/4-ounce) can tomato soup, undiluted

2 tablespoons finely chopped celery

2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley (or 1 tablespoon dried)

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Generous dash garlic powder

Generous dash salt

Generous dash pepper

Generous dash hot pepper sauce

With electric mixer or rotary beater, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Gradually add remaining ingredients; chill.  Serve dip with assorted fresh vegetables, crackers, and/or chips.  Makes about 2-1/2 cups.

Chicken Spread

1 (8-ounce) block cream cheese, softened (may use 2)

1 large (10 to 12-ounce) can chicken, drained

1 package dry ranch-style dressing mix

Combine ingredients; chill, and serve.

Dry Ranch Dressing Mix

1/2 cup dry buttermilk powder

1 tablespoon dried parsley, crushed

1 teaspoon dried dillweed

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried onion flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in blender.  Blend until smooth.

For salad dressing: Combine 1 tablespoon mix with 1 cup mayonnaise and 1 cup milk.  (Use more mix for stronger flavor.)

Use 1 tablespoon in recipes calling for 1 envelope of mix.