I don’t love asparagus. I don’t hate it either. So I thought I might like it more if I smother it in cheese sauce. Cheese sauce makes every vegetable super delicious and totally less healthy.
This recipe is based on one from Cooks Country Magazine April Edition. After starting the recipe, I realized I was lacking half of the ingredients, so I improvised. I really like what I came up with.
1/2 pound asparagus
3/4 cup water
pinch of salt
1/4 cup chicken stock
pat of butter
1 tbs Wondra Flour
1/2 cup sharp cheddar
Trim about 2 inches off the ends of the asparagus. Reserve the trimmed ends. Boil the water in a saute pan and add the trimmed ends. Cover and boil for 5 minutes. Remove the trimmings with a slotted spoon and throw them away. Add the asparagus to the pan with a pinch of salt, recover and cook for 4 minutes. Set asparagus on some paper towels to drain and dry. Reserve the asparagus liquid in a measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 3/4 cups of liquid. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and add the flour. Whisk over medium-low heat for about a minute. Add the liquid and whisk for another few minutes till thick. If it’s too thick, add more chicken stock. Too thin, sprinkle in more flour while whisking vigorously (this may create lumps). Turn off the heat and stir in the cheese till melted. Add pepper to taste. Pour over asparagus. Yum!
I love Costco, but when there are only two members in your family, it’s difficult to use Costco quantities without everything spoiling. That’s why I buy carefully — I buy foods that last a long time, such as mini bell peppers, olive oil and chicken stock. But yesterday I just couldn’t resist the baby portobello mushrooms in the refrigerated produce room. Also too delectable to avoid — the Costco rotisserie chicken. Such heavenly flavor for only $5 and there’s so much you can do with the leftovers.
This recipe I threw together in about 20 minutes. It uses some chicken leftovers and makes good use of my perfect mushrooms. These make colorful appetizers, but I was craving them as my main meal. They were delish!
3 mini bell peppers (red, yellow and orange) or 1/4 of a bell pepper
1/8 of an onion
1 clove of garlic (I was out, but I would normally add this with the onion)
about 12 mini portobello mushrooms (crimini or buttons would work too), stems removed and saved
salt and pepper
1 tbs fresh chopped oregano
2 tbs bread crumbs
2 thick slices of roasted chicken breast
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Carefully remove the stems from each mushroom and with a melon baller, scoop out some of the flesh inside each mushroom so there’s room to stuff. Save what you scoop.
In a mini food processor, pulse the peppers, onion and mushroom stems and innards till finely chopped. In a small frying pan, heat up about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the peppers, onion, garlic, mushroom innards, oregano, salt and pepper. Saute till everything is softened, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the chicken.
Transfer the cooked ingredients to a bowl and combine the chicken, bread crumbs and half the cheese. In a small baking dish, fill each mushroom cap with the mixture so it mounds up on top. Top with shredded parmesan cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
By far my most successful cake to date. Modified from a recipe in Booze Cakes, a cookbook Rosey gave us for Christmas. Since I was making cake for two, I made a single layer round cake in a 10-inch pan. I bought a four-pack of inexpensive Californian Champagne, the tiny bottles, so I didn’t have to waste a whole bottle. The other bottles I saved for dinner.
The cake turned out really short, but I loved the look of it after I added the frosting. Since my frosting skills are terrible, I called up my sister-in-law and asked her to give me a frosting lesson. Lesson learned!
1.5 cups all-purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons salt
1 stick of butter, room temp
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 egg whites
2 drops red food coloring
1 cup Champagne
12 oz. cream cheese (like a brick and a half)
1/2 stick of butter
About a cup of powdered sugar
Fresh strawberries for decoration
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and butter cake pan and place parchment paper in the bottom. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter till light and fluffy, about four minutes. Add the egg whites one at a time. Mix in the food coloring.
Now add the flour in four parts and the champagne in three, alternating starting and ending with flour. This will prevent the batter from curdling. Pour batter into pan and bake for 35 minutes or until a knife pulls out clean when inserted into the center.
Let cool for about 30 minutes and remove cake from pan. Let cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter till fluffy. Start adding the sugar and taste it once and a while till it’s to your liking.
Frost the cake Slice the strawberries and place them around the sides of the cake. Add a pretty strawberry design on top.
This simple marinara sauce is the backbone to many of my father’s recipes. He would make a far larger quantity than the recipe I’m providing so he could freeze it and use it anytime. I have fond memories of my dad standing over the stove and instructing me to stir in the corners of the pot so none of the sauce would burn. My sister and I would bring small cups to him, which he’d fill with piping hot sauce, and we’d sip on it like soup.
To this recipe you could add several ingredients. I sometimes saute some chopped onion and mushroom in butter and toss that in. My dad adds reconstituted porcini mushrooms that we pick in summertime. I have porcini powder right now, so I sprinkled about 1/2 teaspoon into the sauce. For a putanesca sauce you could add fried up bits of pancetta and kalamata olives. Add a splash of red wine to give it some depth. Add fresh chopped herbs at the end of cooking such as oregano, basil or thyme.
Ingredients (most are eyeballed):
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
2 tbs. olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 dried chili pepper, or 1 tsp. dried pepper flakes
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbs. dried basil
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. sugar
In a saucepan, heat up olive oil over medium flame. Add the garlic, and cook till golden brown on all sides. Be sure not to burn the garlic. If you do, just start over. Garlic is cheap. Add all of the other ingredients. When sauce is bubbling, turn heat to med-low, cover and cook for at least 30 minutes. Stir frequently so the sauce doesn’t burn. Freeze leftover sauce in jars.
Add spicy ground pork to any italian dish or marinara sauce to give it zing!
1 pound ground pork
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1-2 tsp. cayenne powder (depending on how spicy you want it)
1 tsp. dried pepper flakes
ground pepper to taste
Mix together all of the ingredients. Fry up a small sample to taste how spicy it is. Add more cayenne if you want it spicier.
I call this lasagna “Babysitter Lasagna” because I went to babysit a couple of boys once and the mother had made this ahead of time for me to pop in the oven. The use of cottage cheese instead of ricotta makes the lasagna less watery and more creamy. I love fresh, authentic ricotta, but it’s not available where I live and the grocery store kind just isn’t my style. Hiding spinach in the recipe adds a little more nutrients. I used to use fresh mozzerella, but after making this so many times, fresh mozz just becomes really chewy and watery. I find the storebought pre-grated stuff works better.
This recipe will be followed by two more recipes. One on how to prepare spicy ground pork at home and the other is my homemade marinara. Both of these you can sub storebought, but I love to make it all myself.
1 pound of spicy ground pork (storebought it fine)
1/2 package of frozen chopped spinach
1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles (Barilla works)
1 2-cup container of 2% milkfat cottage cheese
3 cups marinara sauce (about 1.5 jars of storebought)
6 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbs. butter
dash of dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
salt and pepper
2 cups pre-grated mozzerella and asiago blend cheeses
1 cup grated fresh parmesan cheese
Preheat oven according to the lasagna noodles’ packaging. Usually 350-375 degrees.
In a microwave-safe bowl, add the spinach and a splash of water. Cover bowl with saran wrap, leaving a space for air to get out, and microwave for about 5 minutes. Let cool.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the cottage cheese, egg, oregano, basil and salt and pepper to taste.
In a frying pan, brown the pork. Set aside. Drain some of the fat, but leave a little in the pan. Add the butter and the mushrooms and saute till mushrooms are soft and slightly browned. Set aside.
Transfer the spinach to the center of a clean dishtowel and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
Usually I refer to the lasagna noodles’ box for layering instructions.
In a 13x9x2 baking dish, add about 3/4 cups of sauce and 1/3 of the meat. Add three noodles. Add 1/3 of the cottage cheese mix, some spinach, and sprinkle with some of the cheeses. Top with more sauce. Add some meat and mushrooms. Place 3 more noodles on top. Add some cottage cheese, some spinach and cheese. Do this layering one more time, top with the last 3 noodles, sauce, meat, mushrooms, or any other ingredient that’s left. The last thing you add is cheese.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes or according to noodles’ packaging. Take off the foil and bake another 10-15 minutes or until it’s all bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit about 5 minutes before serving.
This recipe is based on one from The Pioneer Woman Web site with a few alterations.
There are still a few shrimp left in this photo! They were so good, I forgot about blogging altogether.
Appetizer for 2
1/2-3/4 pounds of raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
A small carton or jar of orange juice
6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
dash of cayenne pepper
several shakes of Old Bay seasoning
1 tbs. honey
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter
With a large Ziplock bag propped up in a bowl, pour in about a cup of orange juice and three sliced cloves of garlic. Add a glug of olive oil, some salt and pepper, and a shake of cayenne powder. Add the shrimp, seal up the bag and marinate for a couple of hours.
This dish only takes a few minutes to prepare, so when you’re ready, take out the shrimp and dry them on a couple of paper towels. In a liquid measuring cup, combine 3/4 cups of orange juice, a few sliced garlic cloves, some cayenne and the Old Bay. Add salt and pepper to taste. Heat up a large non-stick skillet on high. Add the butter. When it’s melted, add the shrimp. Cook for about one minute, flip shrimp and cook another minute. Set aside. With the pan still on the heat, add the orange juice mixture and the honey. Let it bubble and thicken for about five minutes. Take care not to let it burn by stirring often. When it’s a little thicker, add the shrimp and toss thoroughly. Transfer to a shallow bowl. The leftover glaze is phenomenal when sopped up with rustic bread.