I really hate frozen pizzas. There I said it. A friend of mine who works in the grocery business says some pizzas have the ability to be thawed and refrozen several times without losing quality. Honestly, the standard must be really low. No wonder I hate them.

But frozen pizzas are a quick food when you are on the run and lack preparation. Which in my case happens frequently because I have way too many balls in the air. Or hair ties. Or barbie boots. Or a host of other child items I'm trying to manage at any one time.

So, how to make something you hate that is sometimes necessary much better? For frozen pizza I have two tricks:
  1. Up The Temp | I use a counter top toaster oven and increase the temperature about 25 degrees more than it says and shorten the time just a tad. I get a much crispier crust on the bottom wtihout the whole thing drying out.
  2. Good Parm and Olive Oil | Once the pizza is out of the oven immediately sprinkle olive oil and grate good quality Parmesan over the top. After cutting and plating add a bit more Parmesan.
I love this gourmet up trick and so do my kids! I hope you do as well.

Recipe Tip By Russell Peterson
Copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved

Having a hard day? Need a stress reliever? This deliciousness and best ever banana bread is what I make.

Chocolate Shaved Peanut Butter Chip Banana Bread

  • 3 Very Ripe Bananas
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 1/2 Cups Sugar (I use 1/2 cup each white, brown and turbinado)
  • 1 3/4 Cups Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/3 Cup Shaved Chocolate
  • 1/3 Cup Peanut Butter Chips

  1. Smash bananas and combine first six ingredients
  2. Add flour and baking soda and mix thoroughly.
  3. Fold in chips and shavings.
  4. Pour in greased loaf pan.
  5. Bake 325 degrees F for 60-70 minutes.
  6. After 60 minutes it will be pretty gooey in the middle which we like, so bake it longer if you want it cooked through more.
  7. Cool for 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and enjoy with copious amounts of butter!

We don't count calories with banana bread.
My dad tells this story of my mom's first attempt to duplicate his own mother's rice pudding recipe. Oh fer sure, it was a long held Scandinavian secret that must be meticulously passed down to the next generations. Well, my mother, as eager as ever to play the role of housewife (not really), dutifully tried to duplicate the recipe...except...for...one small...change. She used minute rice. Let's say, my dad was less than pleased. So the story goes.

I'm sure there were details missed, like my dad's desire to not be wasteful. What if my mom had said, "Honey I need to go to the store for some rice." And my dad responded, "I'm sure we have some, just use what we have." So she did. It isn't always a good idea to place historical blame when one never really knows the nuances of all the facts. I'm sure the Swedes would agree.

So I'm going to give my mother the benefit of the doubt. She might have even been trying to improve on the recipe. Which is exactly what I have done.

My Grandma Gin told me there were actually two rice pudding recipes. One baked and one cooked on the stove top. In the picture at the left, which I believe is my birthday, you will see my grandmother's mother on the right, Hulda. The others are my mom, dad and great grandfather Julius. My other great grandmother Rachel (pronounced Rahkel) apparently baked her recipe over night. Hulda did it on the stove. Or was it the other way around. Funny that oral history thing. 

My grandmother wasn't certain of the technique either, which of course caused others in my family to make it differently. My Aunt Diane makes hers a bit runnier. There were probably earth shattering feuds about the proper thickness! Clearly that was too Norwegian!

I've now made it several times and can duplicate it exactly as my grandmother made. It isn't hard 1 cup of rice (I prefer medium grain, but any will do.), 6 cups whole milk cooked on medium low (double boiler preferred) adding 1 cup of sugar, 1 tempered egg and 1 tsp salt right at the end. Cook a bit longer. (Mix in raisins optional.) Pour in a bowl. Cover with cinnamon sugar. Chill. Serve with milk. That's it. My dad loves it. Unless of course you run out of regular rice and only have Jasmine rice. Oops, perhaps I am my mother's son.

Jasmine Rice Pudding

  • 1/2 Cup Jasmine Rice
  • 3 1/2 Cups Milk (2% or whole)
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • Cinnamon Sugar

  1. Cook rice and milk in double boiler for about 2 hours over medium low heat.
  2. Mix sugar, salt and egg together. Temper with a bit of the rice mixture.
  3. Add sugar egg mixture to rice.
  4. Cook a minute or so longer.
  5. Pour into serving container and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
  6. Enjoy!

Trying to make a good quality home made trail mix or granola bar is really not very hard. This one is my favorite recipes and is a jazzed up riff on Alton Brown's Granola Bars. I'm sure you will love it.

Trail Mix
(Substitute for any of the following ingredients generously.)
  • 2 1/2 Cups Mixed Nuts
  • 1/2 Cup Raisins
  • 1/2 Cup Dried Cranberries
  • 1/2 Cup Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 Cup Dried Blueberries
  • 1/4 Sliced Almonds
  • 1/8 Cup Dried Apricots
  • 1/8 Cup Dried Mangos
  • 1/8 Cup Roasted Peanuts
  • 1/8 Cup Dried Cherries
  • 1/16 Cup Chia Seeds

  • 1 Cup Honey
  • 1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 4 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt

  • 3 Cups Rolled Oats
  • Butter For Pan

  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Combine the trail mix ingredients or just buy a good quality trail mix and use a little more than 5 cups.
  3. Add the oats to the trail mix. (Alton has you toast the oats, 
  4. In a sauce pan on the stove heat the syrup ingredients to boiling and then simmer about a minute making sure the brown sugar is completely dissolved.
  5. Butter a 9x13 pan completely. Get all the corners.
  6. Add the syrup mixture to the trail mix and mix thoroughly. The chocolate chips will melt.
  7. Press the mixture into the pan so it is evenly flat.
  8. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.
  9. Cool completely and cut into individual bars.
  10. Wrap the bars in plastic. They will last about a week and are great for snacks and meal replacement.

We use these bars for breakfast, lunch and snacks. I like to package them up in plastic wrap individually so they can be grab and go for the family. Way better than those purchased bars!

© Russell W Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 10.22.14

This past week my daughter (Stiletto #2) took her PSAT at school. This is the pre-test to the SAT and the qualifier for National Merit Scholarships from the College Board. One of the things that I like about the school that they attend is that they don't over prepare them for particular tests. Many schools do that and in the end it amounts to a test score beauty pageant instead of a real evaluation of knowledge and problem solving. Even moderating for this culture, there is still enormous pressure for kids to do well on the test. So knowing there would be a little anxiety, I figured a really good breakfast would be the first thing in order for the day. Since Stiletto #2 is a Carbo Queen and loves soft white bread, I decided a new recipe just for her was in order. Well, it was a hit and easily her favorite bread of all that I have made. Even the Trophy Wife loved it more than all the others! Guess who got the high score for the day. Yes, it was a beauty pageant.

  • 4 Cups AP Flour
  • 1 1/4 Teaspoons Quick Rise Yeast
  • 1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 1/4 Cup Sour Cream
  • 3/4 Cup + 1 Tablespoon 1% Milk
  • 1 Tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar or White Vinegar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Flour For Boule Forming

  1. Combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Combine the wet ingredients and warm to about 85 degrees. I do this slowly in the microwave using the reheat setting. It takes about a minute and a half. Make sure you stir it well.
  3. Combine all the ingredients. It should just start to look glossy, but not wet.
  4. Spray oil the inside of the bowl moving the dough to each side and the spray the top.
  5. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Place in oven with only oven light on and let raise at least 6 hours.
  6. Turn out onto oiled counter top and fold over twice.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and let raise another hour.
  8. Preheat oven and Dutch oven or heavy pot with lid to 450 degrees.
  9. Remove pot from oven and remove lid.
  10. Using a couple tablespoons of flour quickly form the dough by pulling under a few times into a Boule or round shape.
  11. Place shaped dough into Dutch oven, cover, and place into oven.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes covered and then 10 minutes uncovered.
  13. Remove dough from pot and cool on a wire rack.

This recipe is great for both sandwiches and toasting.

1 slice (depending on how big and without butter) is approximately 150 calories.

© Russell W Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 10.16.14


Fall is in full swing which means we get to cook those wonderful oven and crock pot baked dishes or hot dishes or casseroles or whatever you want to call them. I whipped this up in just a few minutes tonight and it was so dang good I ate almost the whole thing before the family came home. Actually, they never came home. Yippeee! More for me! P.S. This dish is gluten free for all ye who live that new dietary direction and you won't even notice!

  • 1 Jar Kirkland Marinara
  • 2 1/4 Cups Solare Gluten Free Penne Pasta
  • 1 Pound Ground Beef
  • 8 Oz Whipped Cream Cheese
  • 1 Cup Freshly Shredded Light Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 Cup Freshly Shredded Parmesan

  1. Brown ground beef. DO NOT DRAIN.
  2. Place 1 cup of marinara sauce in the bottom of crock pot.
  3. Mix the remaining marinara sauce with the ground beef that HAS NOT been drained.
  4. Once the beef and marinara mixture has warmed, mix the whipped cream cheese into it until almost melted.
  5. Layer in the following order: 3/4 cup pasta, 1/3 of meat sauce, 1/3 cup of each cheese. Do that three times.
  6. Close the lid and cook on low for 3 hours.

Serves 4 with a little under 500 calories per serving.

© Russell W Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 9.04.14

I threw out my bread machine. Well, actually I put it in the spring garage sale, but nobody bought it. After years of making bread in it, I discovered no knead bread in a pot. I haven't looked back since. It is so much superior in texture, taste, crust, flavor...I could go on. If it were me, I'd wrap up that bread maker of yours and give to a relative who doesn't know any better. Then you can impress them with your bread making techniques because you know yours will always be the bomb!

  • 2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 Cups Rye Flour
  • 3/4 Teaspoon of Quick Rise Yeast
  • 1 3/4 Teaspoons of Salt
  • 2 Cups Tepid Warm Water
  • 1 Tablespoon of Molasses
  • 1 Tablespoon of Honey
  • Spray Oil
  • Olive Oil
  • Flour For Dusting

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Combine wet ingredients and add to dry.
  3. Mix until it is thoroughly moist and starts to look a bit shiniy.
  4. Pull it half away from the bowl and spray with oil. Then repeat with other half. Then spray the top of the dough with oil. 
  5. Cover in plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Place in oven with only the oven light on for about 8 hours. I like to do it over night too.
  6. Remove from oven. Oil the counter. Take the dough out of the bowl and place on the oiled counter. Fold over twice. Once in each direction.
  7. Spray with oil if needed, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 45-60 minutes.
  8. While that is rising place a covered Dutch oven or large covered pan in your oven. Turn the oven temperature to 450 degrees F and preheat the Dutch oven while the dough is rising.
  9. Remove Dutch oven from oven and place on stove top. Remove lid.
  10. With a couple of tablespoons of flour, quickly form the dough into a boule or ball shape by pulling it under and adding flour so it isn't stick. You should only need to pull it under a few times. Place in Dutch oven and cover. Return to oven.
  11. Bake 450 degrees covered for 30 minutes and another 10-12 minutes uncovered.
  12. Remove and cool bread on a rack.

© Russell W Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 9.04.14
So while my bread rose, I spent time outside landscaping a new "secret" entrance to the dog run. I think Siskel and Hooray are going to love it!

I love fall except for the part where it turns into winter. In the meantime, I am going to enjoy this wonderful and light creamy porcini mushroom soup because it taste nothing like winter.
  • 3 Oz Dried Porcini Mushrooms (Re-hydrated)
  • 1 Chopped Onion
  • 1 Chopped Carrot
  • 3-4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 1/2 Cups Mushroom Liquid Reserved
  • 17 Oz Chicken Stock
  • 3 Teaspoons Chicken Better Than Bouillon
  • 1 Tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 1 Can Light Coconut Milk
  • 1/4 Cup Cream
  • 1 Large Tablespoon Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Tumeric
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • Pepper To Taste
  1. Re-hydrate the mushrooms, drain and reserve the liquid in a bowl. The sediment should fall to the bottom of the bowl.
  2. Lightly pat dry the mushrooms with a towel.
  3. Chop the onion and carrot into fairly small pieces.
  4. Add the olive oil, mushrooms, onion and carrot into a large pot. Cook on medium high until onions and carrots begin to soften.
  5. Add the stock, 2 1/2 cups of the reserve liquid (skimming off the top so the sediment stays out of the soup), the Better Than Bouillon and the tomato paste.
  6. Bring to a boil and cook about 15 minutes. 
  7. Reduce heat and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a light boil and simmer another 5 minutes.
  8. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender until smooth. Return to heat on low for a few minutes.
  9. Cool slightly and serve with sour cream.

  • This has a light mushroom flavor. If you want more depth, I would suggest doubling the amount of mushrooms or using a couple of different varieties. I think just about any dried mushroom would do.

  • Can also be made with vegetable stock.
I love good leftover challenge. I peek into the refrigerator and swing open the pantry doors. I hear Ted Allen from Chopped announce my arrival and think what leftover basket items would I use tonight. Would it be gooey duck and squid ink or beef tongue and spam? I pick refrigerator bowl number 3, refrigerator bag number 4 and glass container number 1. I accept the challenge.

As I place the containers on the smooth kitchen counter, I'm imagining right about now that Alex Guarnaschelli is thinking I'm the culinary at-home-dad superman. She sees me with my knives and cape and can't wait to taste what I bring her on my over sized triangular art plate with bamboo asymmetrical edging and American Western Nouveau Asian fusion styling.

I fire up the stove, combine containers number 3 and 4 in carefully measured equal amounts and simmer gently. I lose total track of time and Ted says I have almost no time left. I quickly plate up my culinary delight and sprinkle it with what was in bag number 4. I season the dish as Mr. Allen calls time and throw my hands up into the air. I'm so proud of myself. I look at the others. They've got nothing. I wipe off my knives and think Alex is gonna love me tonight.
Here's my winning recipe from the leftover basket:


  • Cooked White Rice
  • Beef Tomato Chili Soup or Chili
  • A Few Ounces Of Shredded Cheese
  • Dried Parsley
  • Black Pepper

  1. Heat equal amounts of the first two ingredients in a sauce pan over medium low until bubbling.
  2. Plate.
  3. Sprinkle with cheese, parsley and pepper.


Usually 1 cup of rice and 1 cup of soup together make a serving.

Approximately 325 calories.

© Russell W Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 9.17.14

The Trophy Wife thinks I have a magic way with soups. For some reason I can taste a pot of cooking goodness and know just what to add or adjust to make it extra special. I wish I had that ability in other areas. But never you mind. 

I love this particular soup because it tastes hardy like a chili, but is lighter in texture - more like a broth soup. There's the magic: light and filling all at the same time. I think you'll love it!

  • 1 Pound Ground Beef
  • 1/2 Large Vidalia Onion Diced
  • 1 15 Ounce Can Tomato Sauce
  • 1 6 Ounce Can Tomato Paste
  • 4 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Tablespoon Flour
  • 1/8 Teaspoon Cumin
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Chili Powder
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Tumeric

  1. Brown ground beef in cast iron pan with diced onions.
  2. Add flour half way through browning.
  3. Pour beef and onion mixture into crock pot.
  4. Deglaze pan with 1 cup of the chicken stock and pour that into the crock pot.
  5. Add all other ingredients to crock pot.
  6. Cook on low for 4 hours.

No need to add salt, there is enough in the tomato sauce, tomato paste and the chicken stock.

Makes about 4-6 servings depending on who you are feeding.

Regular serving is about 198 calories.
Larger serving is about 297 calories.

© Russell W Peterson | DayParentDad.com | 9.16.14
The dogs seemed quite interested in the leftover onion.