Caribbean Marinade – Grilled Chicken and Veggie Skewers

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Hullo internet friends!  I’m here to share a quick and tasty recipe in this quick and tasty post.

This Caribbean flavored marinade is largely inspired by one we make and put on beef skewers at the fancy, waterfront restaurant where I work.  The sous chef that I work under knows that those spicy beef satays are one of my favorite things and he almost always gives me a little ‘quality control’ snack whenever we serve this one up at a banquet.

My version was quite tasty on some grilled chicken and vegetable skewers served up with some rice!  These skewers would be great with any sort of picnic sides like potato or macaroni salad too.

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Caribbean Marinade – Grilled Chicken and Veggie Skewers

Serves 4 – Cost approx $1.43 per serving, including rice

Ingredients

  • 1 can coconut milk ($.99)
  • 1 jalapeno, take out the seeds if you’re a sissy ($.25)
  • 1/4 bunch cilantro ($.25)
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 Tbs curry powder
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into cubes or strips ($1.49)
  • 1/4 lb mushrooms, large dice ($1)
  • 1 red onion, large dice ($.50)
  • 1 bell pepper, large dice ($.50)

Sooooo, this recipe is very complicated so pay attention!  Just kidding, it’s easier than taking candy from babies.  First, you blend up all the marinade ingredients in the first list.

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Second, you marinade all your goodies anywhere from 2 hours to overnight.  You can pre-skewer and pour over the marinade or marinade the goodies and skewer later.  I did it the later way because I was running late for work and didn’t have the time to assemble the skewers…

IMG_0750Third, you grill them up!

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Holy Steak Seasoning Batman!

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Hello lovlies! It’s nice to have some time for interneting, it’s been crazy here in the mountains but it’s good to make that hay while the sun is shining.  Here’s a quick post to alleviate my guilt at ignoring my little blog.

Anyway, I got a free sample of ‘Steakhouse Steak Seasoning’ from Raley’s as part of their ‘Something Extra Try-It’ program, and I’ve been putting it on just about everything.  I’ve been really surprised about how versatile it is.

Of course it’s good on any sort of beef, I’ve mixed it into some burgers and rubbed it on a grilled tri-tip; which were both a hit with the Fireman in my life.  Off the beaten path a little bit, I also used it to season some oven fries and it was delicious!  It was also really yummy sprinkled on the top of some fresh bread.  In addition to salt, pepper and onion flavors, this spice mix has some caraway and dill flavors in it too and makes bread taste like an ‘everything bagel.’

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Last night I used this steak seasoning rub on another tri-tip I got on sale, but I dressed it up with a few additional spices to make it have a little Middle-Eastern/North African flair to it.  I toasted up a tablespoon of corriander and teaspoon each of mustard seeds and cumin and coarsely ground all three.  I rubbed the toasted spices and the ‘Steakhouse’ seasonings on my happy little tri-tip and let it sit in the refrigerator for most of the afternoon.  When my fireman came home, I fired up the grill and slapped on the meat (and also some onions and lemons for my side of tabbouleh!) and dinner was had.

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Wet Hot American Summer Risotto – Just a quickie…

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I guess with the afternoon showers and muggy, blanket-like clouds it has been a little bit of a ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ here in Tahoe, but nothing like being at an epic summer camp ;)  If you’re in the mood for a silly summer (for grown ups only) comedy, I highly recommend it…

Anyway, I made this little summery risotto and I thought it was tasty enough to share.  I made it using my ‘Kitchen Sink’ method of throwing in all the little bits of things needing to be used up in my kitchen.  Today it was chicken stock, bacon, green onions and some cheeses that needed to go and so a risotto was born.

On a side note: how do you tell if you’ve married into the right family?  One good clue is when your in-laws send over little baggies of home-made bacon!  Thank you to Mr. W for this tasty treat.  It was subtly smoky, very lean and meaty, like the bastard child of Canadian bacon and American bacon.

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American Summer Risotto

Serves 4 – cost approx $1.34 per serving

Ingredients

  • 6 slices bacon, thinly sliced ($0 thanks to my awesome Father in Law!  But about $.75 if store bought)
  • 1 small red or white onion, small diced ($.30)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced – optional ($.25)
  • 1 lb arborio rice ($1.75)
  • 1/2 cup white wine ($.25)
  • 4-6 cups chicken or veg stock
  • 1 cup corn kernels, frozen or fresh, roasted would be delicious! ($.30)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese ($.50)
  • 2 Tbs butter ($.12)
  • 1/4 cup fun cheese, crumbled – I used mozzarella, but feta or goat cheese would be awesome too ($.50)
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced ($.15)

Start by crisping up the bacon in a large pot or large saute pan.  Remove the bacon and leave a few tablespoons of fat in the pan.  Saute the onion, garlic and jalapeno 5 minutes or so.  Toss in the rice and saute 2-3 minutes or until the grains are opaque with little white centers.  Deglaze with the white wine.  Start adding the chicken or vegetable stock, 1 cup at at time and stirring regularly and adding more liquid when the rice has absorbed all of the last batch.  When the rice is done to your liking (I like mine a little al dente) stir in the corn, reserved bacon and parmesan cheese.  Next add the butter and stir quickly until it’s all incorporated.  Mix in your fun cheese and add salt to taste.  Garnish with the green onions.

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South East Asian Grilled Chicken – Cool Summer Spring Rolls

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There’s nothing better than a summer dinner where you don’t have to heat up your kitchen one little bit!  I cooked up some marinaded chicken thighs outside on the grill and served them with a smattering of cold ingredients.  This one was both easy and so fun to eat, my fireman and I had a blast making ourselves little spring rolls and dipping them to our hearts’ content.

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This chicken would be great as a component of a noodle bowl or grilled on a stick as either kebaps or satays too.  I just love spring rolls with all my tiny, little heart though.  Any of those options would be great as a main course or as appetizers.

While the main recipe here is the marinaded and grilled chicken, I’m also sharing some little recipes for some Vietnamese-inspired dipping sauces too.  The recipe for the peanut sauce comes from my college friend, Mai.  In our senior year, our little study group started doing small dinner parties where we showed each other our specialty recipes.  It started with just us girls, but then ended up growing bigger and bigger as our boyfriends (which are all now our husbands!) and friends caught on to the fact that we are all awesome cooks.

Being from a Vietnamese family, one particularly memorable night Mai made us a huge pot of pho and all the fixin’s for spring rolls and a perfectly simple peanut sauce for dipping.  I wish I could say I remembered all her wonderful recipes, but it was a BYOB sort of dinner party involving everyone’s boyfriends and a smattering of roommates, and the only one I remember is her peanut sauce…

South East Asian Grilled Chicken - served in spring rolls

Serves 4 – cost approx $1.85 per serving for whole meal, including sauces

  • 4-6 pieces boneless chicken – whatever is on sale or you like best, I got some delicious thighs for $.99 per lb and took out the bones myself ($1.75)
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 lime, quartered and squeezed ($.18)
  • 1″ piece ginger, rough chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 2 Tbs palm sugar* or brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 2 Tbs soy sauce
  • 2 Tbs fish sauce
  • 2 Tbs sambal olek chili paste

Just mix everything together and let marinade in the fridge for 2-6 hours.

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When you’re ready to eat, just grill up your chicken!  (If you don’t feel like grilling, I’m sure you could roast or saute it too…)  Let the chicken rest 5 minutes or so then slice into strips of you’re doing spring rolls.

[*If you're wondering what palm sugar is, it's a type of compacted sugar that comes in little domes and is available in most Asian markets.  Wikipedia tells me that it comes from the sap of a variety of different types of palm trees.  You just grate or chop off what you need.]

Here’s what I used for the rest of the spring rolls:

  • 10 oz package of vermicelli/mung bean noodles – they come in little bundles, to prepare them you just pour over hot water, let set 5 minutes to ‘cook/soften’ the noodles, drain them, toss with a little veg oil and chill for later ($1.50)
  • 1/4 head shredded cabbage or lettuce ($.40)
  • 3 shredded carrots ($.20)
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro leaves ($.25)
  • 1/2 bunch sliced scallions ($.25)
  • 1 package rice paper wrappers ($1.50)

Here’s how to assemble your wonderful little spring rolls:  First, set out a shallow bowl of lukewarm water.  Get a sheet of rice paper and dunk it for 30 seconds or so.  Set it on your plate and pile on whatever fixin’s you like.

IMG_0693Next, wrap it up like a little burrito!  That’s all folks.  (Pardon the horrible, shadowy picture)

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Mai’s Peanut Sauce

  • 1/2 cup peanut sauce ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup hoisin sauce ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup pho broth or other stock

Mix all ingredients and dip away!

Lazy Nuoc Cham

  • 1/2 lime, zest and juice ($.10)
  • sambal olek chili paste, to taste
  • 2 Tbs rice vinegar

Mix all ingredients and dip away!

Black Macks! – Here’s to summer!

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Sadly, these aren’t my fishies.  Ooooh how I wish they were.  I had to cut off their heads to fit them in a 9×13 pan! The brave hunter who slayed these mighty Mackinaw was none other than Fireman Mikey (and a few of the other guys from the crew) with whom I have a standing agreement: if he catches enough fish to share with my and my sweetie I’ll cook them up and make us all a feast.

On tonight’s menu was blackened fillets and oven fries with a sour cream and herb dipping sauce.  It was so funny, of course the firemen loved the fish, but the thing that they both raved about was that I threw in some carrots with the oven fries.  I think it was the combination of the spicy fish, the naturally sweet carrots and the creamy dipping sauce.

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Fireman Mikey has promised me that he’ll show me his fishing spot where he lands these awesome Mackinaw (for that matter, I promised to take him paddle-boarding too!), but it seems like we’re not going to have a day off in common in the foreseeable future.  Oh well, the time will come.

Simple Blackening Spice Rub

Makes enough for about 2-3 lbs of meat – you could use fish fillets, chicken cutlets or breasts, shrimp or even pork

  • 2 Tbs Cajun seasoning
  • 2 Tbs mild chili powder
  • 2 Tbs paprika
  • 1 Tbs dried thyme or 2 Tbs fresh thyme

You could easily increase or decrease the amount of blackening spice to suit however much meat you’re planning on cooking!  Just mix all the spices together and coat your fillets and pan fry!  Easy peasy, lemon-squeezy.

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Look at that bountiful plate or blackened fish!

Sour cream Dipping Sauce

Makes about 1 cup – cost approx $1.37 per batch – since I got the fish for free, it was the most expensive part of my dinner!

  • 1/2 cup sour cream ($.25, pints go on sale for $1 all the time when it’s close to the expiration date.)
  • 1/2 cup mayo ($.12)
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest ($.50)
  • 2 Tbs whatever mustard you like best, I used dijon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbs whatever fresh herbs you like best, I had scallions on hand this go around.  ($.25)

Just mix everything together and find something to dip in its wonderfulness!  I think the lemon compliments the blackened fish really nicely.

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Luby’s-Style Mac’n’Cheese – I know it’s wrong but it feels so right!

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There’s just something magical about a well done, Southern-style, greasy-spoon, all night diner, type of macaroni and cheese.  It’s impossibly creamy, super cheesy and is just the perfect foil for some meat and veggies.  The side-dish of the Gods.

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For me, that perfect mac’n’cheese always came from Luby’s.  When I was a little girl, growing up in the suburbs of Houston, my family would often go out to dinner with some family friends to Luby’s.  (It’s a kid-friendly, cafeteria-style restaurant, for those of you so unfortunate to never have spent time in the South.)  In my memories, it was always so amazing; both the smorgasbord of tasty foods to choose from and getting to play with my friends.  What more could a little kiddo want?  Two things were a must for me when my parents took me to Luby’s: the macaroni and cheese because it was just so perfect and “Lello Jello” because I really loved to say it even though I was saying it wrong.  My Dad was always a fan of the liver and onions that they served there, but that was way beyond my immature palate.  In all reality, Luby’s is probably a pretty average restaurant, but it will always have a special place in my heart and in my childhood.

Because I now live in California, when I saw a copy-cat recipe online for Luby’s Mac’n’Cheese it started a dangerous obsession.  I researched several copy-cat recipes and tested out more than one, trying to get the perfect taste and consistency; then came the adjustments to get the cooking method just right.  My poor fireman has been eating a lot of mac’n’cheese in the past few weeks.  On the other hand, I have a friend, who went to high school in the Austin area and who is quite the macaroni and cheese aficionado, and she was more than happy to help me taste test all my versions.  Two Texans agree, this recipe is damn tasty.

Luby’s Style Mac’n’Cheese

Serves 4 as a side dish – cost approx $.70 per serving

*Note: This recipe can be doubled quite easily if you need to feed more hungry mouths*

Two Firemen to feed means two pounds of pasta!  Boy can they eat!!!

Two Firemen to feed means two pounds of pasta! Boy can they eat!!!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb elbow pasta ($.75)
  • 2 Tbs butter ($.16)
  • 2 Tbs margarine
  • 3 Tbs powdered milk – the secret ingredient I never would have guessed!
  • 3 Tbs flour
  • 12 oz Velveeta or other ‘cheese product’ cut in small cubes – don’t judge ($1 on a good sale)
  • 4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded ($.63)

Start by putting a pot on to boil the pasta in and preheating the oven to 350F.

When the water is boiling, salt it with some verve and toss in the pasta.  While the pasta cooks, melt the butter and margarine together over medium-low heat in a large, oven-safe pot.  Stir together the flour and milk powder then whisk them into the melted butter and margarine.  Let cook, while whisking constantly 1-2 minutes, making something like a roux.  Measure out 1 1/2 cups hot, boiling pasta water (I used a ladle and a Pyrex measuring cup and it worked quite well.) and whisk it in, still stirring constantly.

Keeping the pot over low heat, stir in the Velveeta and half of the cheddar until it’s all melted and slightly bubbly.  This may take about 5 minutes.  By now the pasta is probably done, so drain it and mix it into the cheese sauce.  Right about now, your mouth will probably begin to water profusely.  Sprinkle over the remaining cheddar cheese and pop it all into the oven for 5-10 minutes to melt the cheese on top and meld the flavors.

This is the perfect side dish to bring to a pot-luck or barbecue.  Or you could just add some sauteed onions, broccoli and bacon for a quick and easy weeknight meal, like I did!

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Apple Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread! – Breakfast Heaven!

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When I was starting college, I worked seasonally in a bakery in my home town, which is really what caused me to suffer from the ‘Freshman Fifteen’ as opposed to the cafeteria food in the dorms.  Being surrounded by breads and sweets all day was one of the best jobs I ever had.  Even though I’ve always been a morning person, starting a shift at 3 am isn’t easy.  I found it’s much nicer when you have good co-workers with whom you share some common interests.  The ones we happened to find in that bakery were Mexican rap music and making animals out of scrap bread dough.  Don’t judge, 3 am is a weird time of day/night for anyone and reggaeton keeps the spirits up and brain awake in the wee hours.

Anyways, we would always make this bread in such huge batches, it was one of the bakery’s best sellers!  There were sometimes more than 50 pounds of bread dough that we made into this gooey, apple filled, masterpiece.  It’s a blast to make and so damn tasty, makes great toast: both the regular kind or the French kind! ;)

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Apple Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread

Makes 2 loaves – cost approx $1.25 per loaf

Ingredients

(Software)

  • 4 lb dough/2 loaf’s worth of your choosing, white or wheat – I’m told you can get this stuff in the freezer aisle?  I use a recipe from Southern Living Magazine.  (about $1 from scratch)
  • 1 can apple pie filling ($.99)
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 2-3 Tbs honey ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar and a tablespoon or two of milk or water, for optional glaze

(Hardware)

  • 2 loaf pans
  • drip pan – absolutely essential!
  • bench scraper
  • side towel – for your handsies

Preheat the oven to 350F, setting up a rack in the middle and a rack below to put a drip pan on.  Grease your loaf pans however you like best.  Make sure to get all the other things and ingredients together before starting.  Trust me, this is a messy one and when you hands are covered in apple cinnamon goop, you don’t want to be digging around in your cabinets.

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Put all the ingredients in that first set on a working surface, like so!

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Then chop the ba-jezus out of it while occasionally stirring everything together into one gooey mess.

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Scoop into the two loaf pans and let them sit for 20 minutes or so.  (This lets the dough proof a bit and lets all the flavors meld.)

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Bake at 350F 45 minutes or so, until the outside is irresistibly golden and the internal temperature is about 180F.  Oh my mercy!

Sausage and Lentil Stuffed Cabbage – The Lentil Adventure Gives in to Bacon…

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This little recipe took a couple tries to get it right, but I’m pretty pleased with the results.  I was getting tired of lentils, big surprise, but in particular I was getting tired of lentils as part of a vegetarian meal.  I wanted something that felt fancy and rich, but still helped me chip away at my massive box of lentils.  Making these stuffed cabbage rolls a second time was good for me because, on the second go-around, I figured out how to keep from dirtying every pot and pan in the house and how to simplify the sauce and the side dish for these delicious little cabbage rolls.

One thing that I really love is that this dinner, has that ‘Sunday-Supper’ feel to it in the sense that it takes a while to put together but it tastes like a million bucks and makes your whole house smell like braised wonderfulness.  It’s super-tasty but at the same time, it stretches out a mere half pound of ground sausage into a protein and veggie packed dish.  I hope you like it!

Sausage and Lentil Stuffed Cabbage - served with buttered herb noodles

Serves 4 – cost approx $1.41 per serving, including noodles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry lentils ($.50)
  • 1/2 cup pearl barley ($.15 – this is a good item to look for in the bulk aisle!)
  • 1 head cabbage ($.99 I got a great deal!)
  • 4 slices bacon, divided use? kinda… ($.44)
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 lb country sausage – this is the leftover half of my sausage roll from the pasta night! ($.99)
  • 3 eggs ($.45)
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, you know, the kind that comes in a green can, not the kind that comes in a big wheel… ($.50)
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs or 2-3 Tbs dry – I used some fresh thyme and sage ($0 from my Daddy’s garden!)
  • 2 cups stock – any type!
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup sour cream ($.35 – look for ‘it’s about to expire’ discounts!)

Budget an hour or so of your time to put this dish together and another hour for it to braise in the oven. This isn’t a quick week-night meal to throw together.  I would strongly advise reading this recipe all the way through.  Start by putting the lentils and barley in a small sauce pot and covering with water.  Simmer about half an hour or until the lentils are fully cooked.  I’ve noticed that they seem to cook at a similar rate…  When done, rinse in a colander and put in a large bowl that you will later assemble your filling in.

While the lentils and barley are cooking away, go ahead and prepare your cabbage.  Blanching and shocking it is absolutely necessary.  (I tried to be lazy and skip this step, it’s bad, don’t do it!)  This process makes the cabbage leaves pliable and easy to fill with stuffing and they seem to cook much better and more evenly when you stuff them and bake them.  First, get your set up going: one pot salty, boiling water, one large bowl salty, icy water and a landing place for your blanched and shocked cabbage, I used a casserole dish lined with a tea towel.  Like so.

IMG_0580Next, cut around the base/stem of the cabbage with a paring knife.  Gently pull apart all the leaves until you have a nice big pile of them.  Like so.

IMG_0579Then, start to move the cabbage leaves, 3-5 leaves at a time, through the blanching and shocking station.  First, you dunk them in the boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then into the ice bath for a minute or so then into the resting/draining spot.  Ta-da!

IMG_0581[Unnecessary, but dishes/time saving note: keep your pot of hot water on hand for cooking the noodles in later!  Also, use the casserole dish to build your stuffed cabbages in later.]

Ok, so by now we’ve got blanched and shocked cabbage leaves, just begging to be stuffed.  So let’s make some filling to oblige them.  In a large saute pan, cook up the bacon and set it aside for it’s ultimate destiny, being crumbled over the top of your finished dish.  Saute up the onion and garlic in the bacon fat for about 5 minutes and then scoop into the bowl with the lentils and barley.  Add in all the other ingredients in that large set (the eggs, ground sausage, herbs, etc…) and mix thoroughly.  In that same saute pan, cook up a little bit and taste for salt and adjust the seasonings as necessary.  Hang onto that pan for making the sauce at the end.

Now, onto assembly!  (Now is a good time to preheat your oven to 350F)

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Put about half a cup of filling in each leaf and roll them up like little burritos.  It made about 16 cabbage rolls for me.

IMG_0586Ho-kay, now pour in 1-2 cups stock.  The level of liquid should come up about half way up the side of your beautiful little cabbage rolls.  Cover and pop into a 350F oven for 45 – 60 min of braising time.

Last step, I promise, when the cabbage rolls all cooked up, gently drain out the delicious stock into the reserved large saute pan.  Don’t worry about getting it all, just what you can without accidentally dumping the cabbage rolls onto your stove top.  Reduce by half over high heat, then turn to medium and stir in the sour cream and paprika.  Simmer to combine for 2 minutes, taste and add salt as necessary.  Pour your delicious sauce over the little cabbage bundles of joy and garnish with the reserved crumbly bacon.  Now the clouds should part and a chorus of angles should sing merrily while shining heavenly light down upon your creation.  Serve with hot buttered noodles, enjoy!

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Creamy Lemon Pesto Pasta – Kitchen Sink Pasta #1

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Pretty much since I started the blog my fireman has been suggesting that I put on something that I make for us almost every week: Kitchen Sink Pasta.  The problem is that it’s never the same so I never knew how to write about it, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Kitchen Sink Pasta is many, many things.  It’s what happens when I’ve had a busy day and need to whip up something quick and easy.  It’s the fate of all the little bits of things lurking in the dark corners of the fridge.  It’s a mini-at-home-‘Chopped’-challenge when I’m feeling ambitious.

What Kitchen Sink Pasta really is a method.  First, I wake up and realize I haven’t planned out that night’s dinner and decide on Kitchen Sink Pasta, which is usually my que to throw together my easy ciabatta dough to bake up later.  *Note: I really only make bread because one box of pasta won’t feed both of us and leave a leftover for  the hubby’s lunch.*

Secondly, when it’s time to start cooking, I round up all the little odds and ends in the kitchen and see what needs to be eaten and see if I can make a theme or cohesive culinary idea out of it.  In today’s roster is a lemon, some country sausage, a bunch of herbs from my Daddy’s garden and feta cheese, which screams out “GREEK” to me…

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Second, I pad roster with pantry staples that are almost always lying around, like onions, garlic, olive oil and, of course, pasta.

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Third, I try to come up with an idea for a sauce or lack there of.  I like to run through some simple sauce styles in my mind and see which one goes best with what I’ve got going; like a simple Aglio-olio-pepperoncino (the quintessential Kitchen Sink Pasta!) or Cacio-peppe combination, a pesto, a cream sauce or a tomato based sauce.  Today I chose a combination of creamy and pesto; the creamy because it was snowing outside and wanted something rich and filling and the pesto to bust through all those herbs.

Creamy Lemon Pesto Pasta

Serves 3-4 – cost approx $1.51 per serving, including bread

Ingredients

  • 1 small bunch oregano ($0 for home grown!)
  • 1 small bunch thyme ($0 for home grown!)
  • 1/2 bunch parsley ($.25)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon’s juice ($.25)
  • salt – to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil ($.50 – I got a good deal on some nice olive oil at Raley’s!)
  • 1 lb pasta – just whatever you have on hand, any type will be tasty
  • 1 lg onion, thinly sliced ($.50)
  • 1/2 lb pork sausage ($.99)
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 2-3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk ($.44)
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella ($.37)
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta ($.99)
  • 1 lemon’s zest ($.25)

Start out by putting on a pot of water to cook the pasta.

To make up the pesto, blend up all the ingredients in the first set.  Taste and add salt as necessary.

In a large pot, saute up the onion in a little bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes.  Add in the sausage, cinnamon and nutmeg.  The cinnamon gives a nice Greek/Mediterranean flavor and the nutmeg is traditional in cream sauces.  When the sausage is all browned add in the garlic and cook another minute or too.  Sprinkle over the flour and stir for a few minutes to make an informal roux.

Next, whisk in the milk and bring to a simmer.  Let the sauce simmer 5-10 minutes (hey, that’s about how long it takes for pasta to cook, hint hint!)   You can add in up to about a cup of pasta water to the sauce if it looks too thick.  Stir in the cooked pasta, the pesto you already made and all the remaining ingredients.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Yum yum!

IMG_0571I’ll try and share the next version of Kitchen Sink Pasta that turns out particularly tasty with all you out there in the internets!

 

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie – The Lentil Adventure Lingers Awkwardly…

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My fireman is such a good sport about this whole food-blog business.  He puts up with me standing on a chair at the dinner table to get a good picture.  He uses his phone’s flashlight app to better light my pictures while I’m standing on said chair.  He fishes out the right colored plate that I asked for for the particular meal.  He eats the same meal a few times in the same week if I’ve become fixated on getting a recipe ‘just right.’  He eats lentils week after week if I’ve become fixed on a particular ingredient, like I have been recently.  (Don’t feel too bad for him, I’m also currently experiencing an home made ice cream fixation.)  He nicely answers all my little questions like: How is the texture?  What would make this better?  Does it need more salt?

As we were eating this vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie I asked him “Does this taste almost like meat?” and then he laughed at me and said “No, but it’s very good as it’s own thing.”  For a little while I thought he was trying to make me feel better about a recipe that just wasn’t there yet, but then he took seconds, and then thirds.  I had made myself a little, personal-size portion, he ended up eating part of mine that I couldn’t finish and almost this whole pan!

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This recipe isn’t going to fool your family if you try to pass it off as a dish with meat, but it’s pretty darn tasty and quite filling to boot.  It’s hearty, warm and quite vegetarian.  Creamy and potato-y on top and thick and stewy on the bottom!  It would be a good potluck or side dish if you have a mixed crowd of meat eaters and vegetarians.  Also, if you used a dutch oven it would be a one-pot-wonder sort of a dish.  Plus, it can be made ahead (or even frozen!) and cooked when you’re ready to eat.

Now, I wanna talk about mashed potatoes for a sec.  (I called for leftover mashed potatoes in this recipe, but fresh ones would do just fine too.)  In the last year or so I’ve started to always make a huge pot of mashed potatoes; it seems to me like it takes only a tad more effort to prepare and mash up a double batch of potatoes than a single batch and there’s so much you can do with the leftovers!  If I’m not planning to make a second dish with them, like a Shepherd’s Pie, I like to freeze up little 1 or 2 cup portions to use in other dishes.  Mashed potatoes are great to thicken up soups, stews or chowders or you can make potato rolls.

Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 4 – cost approx $.98 per serving

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb dry lentils, cooked – makes 2-3 cups when all cooked up ($.50)
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1 onion, small dice ($.50)
  • 3 ribs celery, small dice ($.11)
  • 3 carrots, small dice ($.10)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 3 oz or 1/2 small can of tomato paste ($.25)
  • 1/4 cup A.P. flour
  • 3 Tbs Worcestershire sauce – or soy sauce if you’re going vegetarian for realsies
  • 2 cups stock, any kind, I used vegetable stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas  ($.19)
  • 1/4 fresh herbs, minced – I used thyme, sage and parsley ($.25)
  • 3-5 cups leftover mashed potatoes ($1.50)
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese ($.25)

Preheat your oven to 375 F.

Begin by melting the butter in a large oven proof pot.  (If you don’t have one, make the lentil mix in a large saute pan and transfer to a casserole dish.)  Saute up the onion, celery, carrot and garlic over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until the veggies are cooked through.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Add in the tomato paste and flour and cook for 5 minutes while stirring frequently to brown the paste and cook out the raw taste in the flour.  Next, add in the Worcestershire sauce then the stock.  Bring the mixture up to a simmer and be sure to scrape the browned goodies off the bottom.  Add in the cooked lentils and herbs and let simmer for 5 minutes or so.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Now, top your lovely lentil filling with a nice layer of mashed potatoes and sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top.

so cute...

so cute…

Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top of the mashed potatoes is slightly browned.

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