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.
sautéed ham, onion and spinach
add homemade cheese sauce
top it with breadcrumbs
bake till brown and bubbly
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!
This is not a political statement, and maybe it’s all in my head, but I think American lamb is much less “lamb-y” then imported Australian/New Zealand lamb.
This can’t be a crazy concept since all naturally grown/cultivated things tend to pick up the influences of the local “terrior.” Maybe there is something about the Australian/New Zealand countryside that helps contribute to that strong “game” taste in the meat that I am not a fan of.
However with enough garlic and lemon any lamb is bound to taste great! Typically I cook my lamb with a heavy greek-style red sauce, with plenty of garlic and some cinnamon undertones. Recently I was inspired to lighten things up and keep it light with a flavorful marinade of lemon, garlic, rosemary and my-not-so- secret lamb seasoning blend.
I marinated a small (2lb) boneless leg portion of lamb overnight in this flavorful marinade. Patted it dry without scraping off too much of the seasoning and sprinkled it with fresh salt and pepper. After leaving it out for 30 mins or so to get the chill from the fridge off, it I roasted it at the usual 20 mins/lb in a preheated 400 degree oven. Use a thermometer and trust it. 145 degrees internal temperature is considered medium well* and if you pull it out and it’s reading 140 degrees – trust your self and keep it out, lightly covered with foil to finish while resting. It should continue and come up about another 10 degrees. DON”T put it back in the oven “for just a few extra minutes” like I am always tempted to do. And do.
The line between “medium-well” and overdone is a thin one. As is often the case and becuase I am such a worry-wort about the cooking temperature, I may have crossed over that line. Oops! The meat was still tasty and tender and my husband didn’t mind but I probably should have skipped those last few minutes in the oven and left well enough alone! ( or in this case left “medium” alone!)
I did serve it with spinach rice (“Spanakorizo”) and a simple, chunky red sauce made from canned tomatoes poured around the lamb in the beginning, mixing with the roasting juices in the pan.
*Author’s Note: I prefer my lamb medium to medium-well but if you like yours a little less done, 120-130 degrees internal temperature is where you want to be for “medium-rare.” However don’t go by me, as I am not official –go to the FDA website!
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!
I can not emphasis enough the virtues of labeling things when you put them in the freezer.
Not only for the obvious “eat/cook by date” but for the “what actually is this?”
Recently I pulled out some sort of hot-dog/sausage looking package out of my freezer and wished I had labeled it.
I am sure at the time I was all like “oh I will throw this in and will defiantly remember it because it’s special.”
2 months later… (let’s be honest it could have been 2 weeks later) and I can’t remember what sort of local sourced, handcrafted, all natural, no nitrates “hot dog or sausage” thing this was!
So after defrosting I had to start with the basic question of “is this a raw product or fully cooked?”
Taking no chances, I sliced and cooked one to be sure. After tasting it I still had no clue.
Here is the information for analysis: firm texture, not very salty, mild flavor – possibly an all beef product. It was not as “pink” as it appears in the photo – probably due to lack of Nitrites*. Hubby doesn’t get along with Nitrites so I often avoid them in sausage products anyway. If anybody has any ideas out there, by all means I am taking suggestions as I would like to remember so I can maybe get them again – they were tasty!
*Nitrates and nitrites are frequently added to processed meats like bacon, ham, sausages and hot dogs. They function as preservatives, helping to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. They also add a salty flavour and improve the appearance of the meat products by giving them a red or pink color.
Info Credit: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/are-nitrates-and-nitrites-harmful
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.
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.
I may be a bit of infrequent blogger these days but I am predictable. (At least when it comes to quiche!)
As is often the case, I found myself once again with too much fresh dill in the fridge. And of course I always have Feta cheese on hands. So naturally I made a quiche. Much like my “Dilly Good” quiche from July 2016, I used potatoes in the base instead of a crust, making it more like a Tortilla Espanola” or a Spanish style potato omelet. (and gluten free) Which means I took my time slowly precooking the thin slices of potatoes in oil, over not too high a heat so they soften but not brown too much. And the same for the onions. Short of that I basically whisk up some eggs and dairy of choice (I like whole milk or half/half) and layer it all into a pie dish. Cook as you would any quiche – 40-45 mins at 400 degrees. Best served after it has cooled a bit or even room temperature.
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 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!