Scraps

Sometimes you just have to use up the scraps of things you have hanging around your cabinets and fridge. And that is the very essence of “cabinet stew.” Using what you have on hand to create a meal.

For me that started waaaay back in my 20’s when after a late night out, you would come home starving – things weren’t as 24/7 back then – and pull stuff out of the cabinets to try to put together something delicious. “Cabinet Stew” was born! I can’t take credit for coining the phrase. It was the boyfriend of one of my friends, Karl, who invented the “Cabinet Stew” in the first place!

Other then a quiche, my favorite way to use up scraps is in a mac-n-cheese. I use up whatever random chunks of cheese I have on hand, of course there is always dried pasta in my cabinets and this time I threw in a small amount of fresh spinach, some diced Canadian ham and onion. It felt almost healthy. Almost.

 

 

Production Notes:

Cheese: this one was mostly Swiss cheese with a small amount of cheddar and some parmesan on top. It made a nice compliment with the salty ham.

Pasta: I used gluten free – make sure not to over boil!

Sauce: simply equal parts of your choice fat and flour whisked with warmed whole milk. I like to add the powdered spices in with the roux so they can toast a bit. In this case I used garlic powder, smoked paprika and ground nutmeg to compliment the spinach. In retrospect a little dijon mustard thrown into the cheese sauce would have been a nice compliment to classic flavors of ham, Swiss and spinach!

 

 

 

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“Puffy” Quiche

What’s a girl to do when she wants to make a quiche and needs a crust?

Get out the flour and mixer and make a homemade pie crust? I think not. Since I use store bought pie crust for my quiche, the thought of actually making my own crust seemed like way too much work. #sorrynotsorry

But I did have some store-bought “puff pastry” on hand. So I googled this to be sure and of course I found out that I was not the first person to wonder if puff pastry could be used for quiche.

I think my concerns were about the bottom crust – would it be soggy? And since I never put a top crust on my quiche what would I do with the second pastry sheet from he package? I decided today my crust would have a top.

So I sautéed some onions, peppers and Italian sausage for the filling while I blind baked the bottom crust. I do this with my pie crust too. I simply “dock” the bottom with a fork and bake for about 10 mins to set the bottom crust and avoid a soggy bottom.

I added some “Somerdale” sweet red cheddar cheese chunks, a dash of dried Italian seasoning and the standard eggs/whole milk mix and poured the whole thing in. Next I laid the top square on. It’s a little messy where I had to repair the seams from unfolding it roughly and of course those specks are just some Italian seasoning. I figured I was being clever by scoring the dough into serving squares. (plus I was worried the whole thing would puff up into the roof of the oven if I didn’t!)

 

Standard Baking protocol – 40 mins at 400 degrees and voilà!

 

 

P.S. pronounced “best quiche ever” by the hubby!

Middle-Aged Pasta

Nope I am not referencing my age – just acknowledging the fact that Lasagna noodles were invented by the Greeks but perfected into the dish we know and love by the Italians as early as the middle ages!

That’s a lot of lasagna over the years!

For some, lasagna is a special dish prepared only on holidays and possibly at Sunday dinners. At my house lasagna is a weeknight treat too! Yup you read that right – weeknight lasagna and I promise it doesn’t take all night!

The key is use the “no-boil” noodles (they are pretty good these days!) and convenience items like jarred sauce, already roasted veggies and pre-cooked meats.

the parts

Pick up precooked meatballs from the deli/prepared foods counter and slice thin for an easy layer of meat. Check out the deli/salad bar for items like roasted mushrooms and caramelized onions. A jar of your favorite red sauce works perfectly. Be sure to pick up a container of grated cheese and some fresh parsley to add to the container of ricotta. (you will also need an egg for the ricotta mixture.)

The key to the no-boil noodle is a generous amount of sauce and a tight foil cover for most of the cooking time. Take the cover off for the last 10-15 mins. The box of no-boil noodles has a good basic recipe you can follow, just use layers of things you want to eat.

I skipped the heavy cheese layers and did 2 layers of the mushroom/onion and 2 layers of the sliced meatball, topping it only with grated cheese since my husband doesn’t love all the gooey cheese like I do. And my waistline thanked me too. I made mine in a very manageable 8×8 dish that fed 2 people with plenty of leftovers for lunch or could feed 4 with a salad on the side.

Not fond of meat? Use a layer of sliced eggplant or zucchini instead of meatballs! As a bonus you can sometimes find sliced zucchini in the salad bar or veggie aisle.

the best part

 

Now THAT’s Ricotta!

I recently picked up some fresh ricotta at my local 50,000 sq. foot “Italian food emporium” in Boston and it changed me forever. I realized up until now, I had really never tasted ricotta – just poor imitations!

ricotta

“Ricotta Calabro” produced right here in New England – Connecticut to be exact – was amazing!

Don’t just take my word for it – look at the awards the producer has received! link here.

I know something as fresh and amazing as this should be eaten in its original state, but the weather had been unseasonably cool and I had my heart set on some comfort food.

Pasta, cheese and tomato sauce = comfort. Throw in a little Italian sausage and even the husband will find this dish comforting!

I basically just added crumbled, cooked sausage, to some cooked pasta in a oiled casserole dish, coated it with tomato sauce and strategically set up “clouds” of ricotta. I topped it with shredded Parmesan cheese and baked it for 30 mins at 350 degrees until it was just crispy on the edges and bubbling in the middle. Comfort food at its best!

 

 

A Tale Of Two Patty Pans

 

…and a tomato and some garlic.veggies

This is not the first time I have written about Patty Pans and in fact I seem to have a habit of buying them in pairs. I guess 1 just doesn’t seem like enough and more than 2 seems like too many.

Just a simple grill job for these little beauties, along with some fresh onions, kebobs and Feta-tomato rice salad. All they needed was a light marinade of olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, pepper and a few chili flakes. Summer simplicity on a plate!

 

Plain & Fancy

Can you guess who ate what?

Your choices are:

Boston Irish-american guy: plain or fancy?

New Hampshire raised country girl: plain or fancy?

Boston Irish guy = plain & New Hampshire country girl = fancy

Did you guess right?

I am always trying to encourage new things at dinner time but this was just a little too exotic…

fancy sauce

I picked up this fancy little can of sauce at the new, fancy “not-so-little” Italian grocery store/food emporium that recently opened at the Prudential mall in Boston. I am sure you know the one I mean. Google it.

Without giving it a direct plug I will say that I could go there everyday for a year and still not try everything they have stocked in the 55,000 square feet of Italian goodness!

Maybe next time I will get the plain stuff for Mr. fancy Boston guy!

 

 

 

Easy-Fancy Potatoes

Hasselback Potatoes are the perfect blend of  “easy but looks fancy!”

What are they? Basically they are baked potatoes that have been sliced in a decorative manner. They were a Swedish invention at the “Hasselbacken Hotel” in Stockholm, where they are called “hasselbackspotatis,” back in the 1700s.

I decided to test these out as a possible Thanksgiving dish. We were always more of a baked potato family than a mashed family so a twist on the family standard seemed like a good idea. I washed and sliced some potatoes, poured melted butter and seasoning over them as the many internet recipes suggest and baked them in a high oven ( 450!!!) for 50 mins. They were easy and they look impressive, but I think next time I will slice and bake them with just a bit of oil rubbed onto the potatoes and at a slightly lower heat. I will save the butter-garlic-topping for when they come out of the oven because I noticed that garlic pieces burned unless you conscientiously tuck each one into a slice – who has time for that on thanksgiving!

Here is a look at my “test drive”

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