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Pizza Night

Last night Lindsay, a couple of friends, and I went to one of our favorite pizza places.

That's right. Since 1993.

Pizza Lucé is local chain that offers higher end specialty pizza, pasta, salads, sandwiches, appetizers, and desserts.  Plus they have a bar with a great beer selection (Yes, I partook of some very delicious and a bit of bitter orange Surly Furious).  They have many items on the menu that can be Vegan or Gluten-Free.  If you live in/near Minnesota I recommend making the trip.  Even if you aren’t in the area, you should check them out: http://pizzaluce.com/ 

I didn’t remember to snap photos of everything, but here is what is some of what we ordered:

Artichoke Dip. It is so good that Lindsay always orders it.

From their website: “Critics agree—we put the art in artichoke dip. In fact, each order is an identical baked reproduction of Picasso’s best known work from his acclaimed “Parmesan-Cream Cheese-Artichoke Hearts and Garlic” period. Love at first bite? Yes. Served with two loaves of our toasted homemade focaccia bread.”

The special last night. Pasta with a pumpkin cream sauce.

Bowtie pasta, roasted corn, spiced pumkin cream sauce, and scallion greens for garnish.  Also it came with two pieces of garlic toast.  Very nice fall flavors.

Pizza Athena. Basically a greek salad on a pizza. Brilliant.

Again from their site: “You don’t need to consult some internet oracle to know this little goddess has fresh spinach, tomato, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, red onions, Greek oregano and toasted garlic with light mozzarella on Bianca sauce.”

Everyone left very full and very satisfied.  The only flaw with the entire meal was when I was carrying out the leftovers, the pasta container slipped off and I lost a bit to the floor.  Yes, I did clean it up.

It’s A Hotdish, Damnit!

I’m a Minnesotan, born and bred.  Rural Minnesotan to be specific, so my perspective (and relatives) are definitely hick.  With that being said, it should be no surprise when I say that I fall firmly into the hotdish camp of the Great Hotdish vs. Casserole Debate.  It’s okay if the rest of the country doesn’t agree.  They’re wrong, but it’s okay for them to have their own opinion.

Tonight we had two friends over for supper and some mindless TV viewing.  Since the weather is getting cooler and there was a decent chance that Lindsay would be cooking when we made plans, it was decided that Tater Tot Hotdish sounded really good.

Rereading that last sentence, it sounds like Lindz is not a good cook.  I just want to set the record straight here.  She is a great cook.  She worked in two different restaurants for several years.  She is even highly praised for her ability to cook breakfast, specifically her eggs.  In fact, there were people who would walk out of brunch in one of the restaurants if they saw that she wasn’t working.  Nowadays, she just lets me cook because I enjoy it more and I’m more adventurous in trying different things in the kitchen.

Back to story.  Everyone I know grew up with a different standard version of this dish, but most of the time it was a way to use up different things from the fridge or freezer.  Even through all of the iterations, several key ingredients remain constant: tater tots, cream of something soup (traditionally mushroom), burger of choice, and frozen veggies.

I ended up cooking supper because I was home and Lindsay was busy with other stuff, so it all worked out in the end.  This recipe is going to have a lot of hand waving and approximations because I’ve made it enough that I just do it by feel.

First off you want to brown a pound of hamburger in a skillet and drain off the fat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Place the burger in a large mixing bowl.  To that I added about a pound of frozen mixed veggies, about a pound of frozen green beans, and about a pound of frozen corn.  Then I added two cans of cream of mushroom soup.  The idea is to add just enough soup to coat everything without the final dish turning into, well, soup.

This is what it should look like

I put the filling into a 9×13 stoneware dish and leveled it out.  The final step is to place a single layer of tater tots over everything.  I then placed it in the oven and turned it to 375 degrees and left it for about 45 minutes (I forgot to get an actual number on the time, but this is pretty close).  Pull it out when you see the filling bubbling up through most of the tater tots.  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Never put stoneware into a preheated oven.  The thermal shock will cause stress fractures in pottery and in time it will crack on you.  Just put it in the oven and then set the temperature and let both heat up together.

And this is what came out:

Almost forgot to snap a picture!

Just so the meal didn’t feel so institutional, I decided to make a side salad with romaine lettuce, button mushrooms, onion, tomatoes, and parmesan cheese.

I don't know about nutritious, but it was delicious.

For dessert, Sheryl and John brought over some apple crisp and vanilla ice cream.  Though somewhere in the process it lost the crisp, but nobody complained.  Not even sure that they noticed when we were all scarfing it down.

Yeah, that's right. You know what I'm talking about.

As an added bonus, the whole meal was gluten-free for those keeping track.