Lidl + Travel = Pasta Friday!

February 16, 2018

An impending trip always prompts some interesting meals as I try to use up vegetable odds and ends and other perishables.  Tonight’s fridge exploration resulted in a few broccoli crowns; some medium cheddar; the last of some Iberico ham; and a quart of milk that needed a purpose.

So what does Lidl have to do with it?  Last weekend I went to Lidl for the first time.  This is a dangerous, and somewhat frustrating, place for me.  Frustrating because I can’t possibly do the entirety of my grocery shopping there.  I have too many brand loyalties.  Some things Lidl sells only in larger quantities than I need. (I’m looking at you ramen noodles and green onions).  Some things I need, Lidl doesn’t carry at all.  (Um, decaf coffee, please)!

For me Lidl is an expensive place.  That’s the dangerous part. I bought all kinds of stuff I didn’t need.  It’s an amazing place to shop for European meats and cheeses.  Thus the Iberico ham.  I also picked up some lovely feta and Irish butter at a very good price!  Lidl also has lots of “special” items that are advertised at a special price with a sign that says something like “get it before it’s gone!”  I’m a sucker for that stuff.  So I also came home with some frozen scallops.  (What?!  I’ve never bought such a thing in my life).  I bought some truffle oil.  Now, that was a good deal and I do really like it.  I bought a package of orecchiette pasta with a seasoning packet attached.  Ridiculous.  I never buy seasoning packets except for taco seasoning!  So, I went in to look around and pick up eggs and milk.  I came out $42 later with my eggs and milk and a lot of other stuff.  Which brings us to tonight’s dinner.


It’s Pasta Friday!  I didn’t want to do anything too complicated.  I did want to use the broccoli and the ham rather than toss them before I leave town.  I had milk and cheese.  You see where I’m going with this.  Macaroni and cheese with some extras!  Alas, no macaroni.  Searching the cabinet – ditalini? Nope, too small to have with the broccoli.  Farfalle?  Nope, the cheese sauce kind of falls off.  Spaghetti?  Um, no.  Wait!  I have a bag of fancy orecchiette – little ears perfect for holding cheese sauce!  The seasoning packet is in the cabinet and likely to make an appearance mixed in olive oil and served with bread.

I thought we’d discussed cheese sauces in the last few weeks so I didn’t take any pictures, but I was wrong!  I’ll have to do another cheese sauce soon and do a better job.  There’s a lot of satisfaction in being able to make a good cheese sauce.  Here’s the basic idea.

Make a roux:  melt butter; whisk in flour; whisk in a small amount of milk;  whisk in a little more milk; whisk in a little more milk.  Getting it?  A little milk at a time, whisking constantly.  The whisking will make sure you don’t have lumps.  Bring the heat up enough to make the sauce bubble. This is how it thickens.  If it gets too thick, whisk in a little milk.  If it gets too thin, let it bubble until it thickens.

Tip If you put in too much milk and it won’t thicken enough by bubbling, make a slurry and add it in.  A slurry is a little flour mixed with a little milk or water.  That’s how you can add more flour and not end up with lumps.

Salt and pepper to taste.  That’s a white sauce.  To your white sauce add grated cheese.  I used medium cheddar tonight.  I like sharper cheddar so I have no idea why I even have it.  To add a little more tang I added some dijon mustard.  YUM!

Tip Grate your own cheese.  The pre-grated cheese is fine for topping tacos, but not for melting.  Manufacturers have to use an additive to keep the shredded cheese from sticking together in the package.  The coating keeps the cheese from melting smoothly.  You’ll have little uneven dots in your sauce where the cheese didn’t quite melt.  That might be a trade you’re willing to make to avoid having to grate your own cheese.  Fair enough.

For the pasta and broccoli save yourself the trouble of dirtying two pans.  Just make sure you have a large enough pot and enough water to accommodate both.  Bring the water to a boil and add the pasta.  When the pasta is about half done add the broccoli.  Drain them together and return them to the cooking pot.

Add your cheese sauce and fold it in.  Folding instead of stirring will help keep the broccoli whole.  Unless you’ve overcooked it, which is what happened to me.

You’ll see below that the broccoli does have plenty of whole pieces, but there’s also an awful lot of teeny tiny floret pieces spread throughout.  I underestimated the time it would take for the pasta to cook and I added the broccoli too early.  In a cheese sauce, where you’re going for something pretty smooth anyway, it’s not a big deal.  In a pasta primavera or something light like that it would be a bigger problem.

I just heated the ham in a pan until it started to crisp and chopped it.  Add the ham at end.  Save some for the top.  It just looks nice.  Or leave it out if you want a vegetarian meal.

So that’s how Lidl + travel produced my pasta Friday this week!  Hard to beat macaroni and cheese no matter how you make it!



Malai Palak (Indian Creamed Spinach)

February 11, 2018

Another recipe from my Rasika cookbook, it’s been on my list for a couple of weeks. I had just a little of the chicken curry left and this was nice to have alongside.  It’s nothing like the creamed spinach you may be used to, served with steak and filled with cheese and cream and butter.  I’m not knocking that, but this is definitely not that.  No cheese and with much less cream.  It turned out slightly more like spinach sauce or soup than I expected.  It tastes good and the onions give it some texture, but it still might be nice for it to be a little bit toothier.

I did make a couple of substitutions.  I used part of a jalapeno instead of a Thai green chili, less heat and a pepper slightly easier to come by.  I looked for fenugreek leaves and fenugreek leaf powder, but no luck.  Of course I combed the interwebs looking for a suitable substitute.  Here’s what’s weird. Some sites listed maple syrup and some sites listed fennel and others celery leaves.  Odd.  Maple syrup seemed kind of out there.  You have to buy a whole fennel bulb or a jar of fennel seeds.  I’m not a huge fan of fennel so I wouldn’t have a lot of use for the leftovers.  That left me with celery leaves.

For the spinach:

  • 1 large clamshell of spinach (10oz)
  • handful celery leaves
  • 3/4 C water

Blanche the spinach in boiling water and transfer immediately into a bowl of iced water.  That’s how you keep the bright green color.  Drain.  Add spinach, celery leaves, and water to a blender.  Process until smooth.


Here’s the spice/aromatic part of the ingredients list: (my photo disappeared!)

  • 1/4 C canola oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 2 1/2 C diced onion
  • 1 T minced ginger
  • 1 t diced jalapeno
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1/4 C cream
  • salt to taste

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the oil in a large pan.  When it shimmers add the cumin seeds and garlic. Brown the garlic.  30 seconds.
  • Add the onions.  Cook until the onions are brown. 5 minnutes
  • Add the ginger, jalapeno, and turmeric.  Stir 30 seconds.  Add the spinach.
  • Stir constantly for 5 minutes.  Be careful of the splatter.
  • Reduce the heat.  Add cream and salt.  Bring to a boil  Cook another 5 minutes.

Here’s how it went:

Other than the fenugreek, this recipe is pretty easy and pretty good.  It’s beautifully bright green.  It has a toasty flavor with just a little heat.  I did end up with a green polka dotted kitchen.  There’s a LOT of splatter when you add the spinach.  It’s a great side dish.  I imagine it will be good served over rice.  The cookbook offers adding cubed paneer  or potatoes as good variations.  Palak paneer makes a good entree and adding some potatoes would give some weight to the spinach as a side.  All in all, two thumbs up!  My array of Indian food at home is increasing!


UPDATE:  This is absolutely a multi-use vegetable side.  It makes a fantastic topping for scrambled eggs and an amazing sauce for pasta!

Pasta Hivera

February 9, 2018

It’s Friday, so even though I don’t have a long run tomorrow, it’s pasta night.  I’ve been eating my curry for a few days (which is AWESOME), but something slightly more plain seemed like a good idea.  I don’t live in a climate that can grow everything all year, so no Pasta Primavera (Spring Pasta) in February.  So I made Pasta Hivera (Winter Pasta).  It’s also a little bit Pasta Leftovera.

I had half an onion, part of a pepper, part of a bag of matchstick carrots and one good garlic clove.  Add some good olive oil and crushed red pepper, toss it with spaghetti and voila!  Dinner.  I topped my first bowl with pecorina, but not the second.  Yes, I had two bows.  No judging.   It’s awesome either way.

It would be good with just about any combination of vegetables.  If you’ve got leftover roasted brussels sprouts, chop them and toss them in.  Some steamed broccoli?  Into the pan it goes.

I added some halved grape tomatoes and chopped parsley at the end to remind myself the Spring will get here eventually.

Here’s what you need:

  • A goodly amount of olive oil
  • Whatever vegetables you have in the fridge
  • Garlic, sliced or chopped
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan, Pecorino, or Romano, grated – optional
  • Pasta

Here’s what you do:

  • Cook the pasta to al dente, salt the water
  • While the pasta cooks heat the oil in a heavy pan until it shimmers.
  • Add the hearty vegetables, crushed red pepper, and garlic first – onions, pepper, carrots
  • Add the softer vegetables towards the end – spinach, tomatoes, cooked broccoli, cooked brussels sprouts
  • Drain the pasta and mix with the vegetables
  • Grate the cheese over the finished dish

Here’s what I thought:

Pasta is good.  Full stop.  Pasta with olive oil and vegetables is very good.  Add some cheese and spicy pepper.  Even better.  The best part?  The hat trick of cheap, easy and fast.



Tariwala Murgh (Chicken Curry)

February 5, 2018

I think I’ve mentioned how much I love Indian food. Love it.  But I rarely make it at home.  It’s often full of ingredients that aren’t familiar to me and that I don’t usually have in the house.  This year I bought a beautiful cookbook from Rasika, my favorite Indian restaurant in DC.  I decided I would be brave.  I would collect some of the ingredients I didn’t know and I would jump in and make some of this wonderful food.

This cookbook does a wonderful job of explaining all of the spices you’ll encounter.  Even better, it tells you in how many recipes you’ll encounter those spices.  This was a big help to me in deciding which ones I should buy to get the most bang for my buck.  For this one, I ordered deggi murch.  It’s a special chili powder.  While I don’t have everything I need to cook my way through this book, I do have an extensive spice cabinet.  I do keep turmeric, cardamon, cumin seed and garam masala in the pantry, so that made this that much easier.

I’ll admit this is not an easy recipe.  It has a lot of ingredients and it takes a long time.  The recipe commentary recommends that you make this a day or two ahead of serving it, so I haven’t even eaten any yet to know if it’s worth it!  That comes tomorrow.

I feel confident that you could use this masala on vegetables just as well, but I used chicken because that’s what the recipe says.  It also says you could make it with lamb. So, very versatile.  And it freezes well.  If it’s good enough to make it again I’ll probably make double.  It won’t be much more trouble to double the amounts and having some in the freezer would be worth it.

This is “Home-style Chicken Curry” so everyone does it a little differently.  I followed the recipe as closely as possible.  I did use home canned tomatoes instead of fresh.  They just taste better than Winter tomatoes in Virginia which taste like nothing.  And I used some bottled ginger to make the paste because that seemed like exactly the right use for ginger that was already kind of paste-like.  Oh, and I substituted ground cumin for ground coriander.  It seemed closer that substituting fresh cilantro, which is the plan that produces coriander seeds.

So settle in.  Here we go.  Just kidding. The description will be a LOT shorter than the actual process!

Here’s what you need, with my adjustments:

  • 1 pint canned tomatoes
  • 2 C water
  • 6T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 t cumin seeds
  • 4 green cardamon pods
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 Indian bay leaves
  • 1/2 an onion sliced thinly
  • 1 T chopped garlic
  • 2 T Ginger-Garlic paste (process 1 part ginger, 3 parts garlic and some water into a paste)
  • 1 t turmeric
  • 1 t deggi mirch
  • 1 T ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken, chopped into 2 inch pieces
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 T finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 C hot water
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 t garam masala

Whew!  That’s the list.  But there are fewer steps than ingredients!

Here;s what you do:

  • Set out the chicken to come to room temperature and salt it.
  • Puree the tomatoes and water in a blender
  • Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed pot until the oil shimmers.  Cast iron or enameled cast iron are your best bets.  Add the cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick, bay leaves.  When the cumin starts to crackle, add the onion.


  • Cook 7-10 minutes, until the onion is brown.  Add the garlic.  Cook another 3-5 minutes.  The garlic should be brown.  Watch it carefully or it will burn.
  • Add the Ginger-Garlic Paste.  Have the lid nearby!  This stuff cracks and pops in that hot oil.  Cook it 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomato puree.  Bring to a boil.  And the turmeric, deggi mirch, and cumin.  Cook 15 minutes.  You’ll end up with a loose paste.


  •  Add the salted chicken and ginger.  Cover the pot.  Cook 5 minutes.  Stir occasionally.
  • Add the water, lemon juice, and garam masala.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cover the pot, cook 10 minutes.  It will be soupy when you’re done.


Serve with rice and naan.  That comes tomorrow.  Fingers crossed that this was all worth it!


Super Bowl Sunday Shrimp: Etouffee

February 4, 2018

I’m in a disagreement with the NFL (I think Roger Goodell is a complete tool) and I have the hot hates for both of these teams so it’s unlikely I’ll watch much of the game tonight. Still, that shouldn’t preclude me from participating in the food extravaganza that is  Super Bowl Sunday.  I braved the grocery store yesterday and came home with shrimp etouffee and BBQ shrimp, or at least the components.

I have afternoon plans so I did all my prep when I got home from my volunteer gig at the SPCA.  Chopping done.  Shrimp peeled.  (Imagine my delight when I realized that they were already deveined!)  Shrimp stock on the stove.

Here’s what you need:


1 Tbsp Creole seasoning (like Tony Chachere)
2 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Onion, Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Celery, Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Bell Pepper, Finely Chopped
1/8 Cup Flour
1/2 Cup fresh Tomatoes, diced
2 Cups Shrimp Stock
2 Tbsp Minced Garlic
2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp Hot Sauce (I like Frank’s)
3 Tbsp minced Italian Parsley
1 lb Good Quality Shrimp, Peeled and Deveined, Save shells for the stock
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

The stock almost makes itself here.  You’re already chopping celery, onion, pepper and garlic.  Put the ends and leftovers in a small pot as you go.  Add a couple of lemon slices, some salt and water.  Let it simmer, partially covered, for an hour or more.  Keep an eye on it so you don’t lose too much liquid.  Add water if you need to.  Easy peasy.  Drain it into a bowl or measuring cup.  You’ll need about 2 cups.


Here’s what you do:

  • Melt the butter in a pan.  Add the onion, celery, pepper and garlic.  Saute until they begin to soften.
  • Add the flour.  Whisk the flour into the vegetables and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes, or longer to taste.

The key to etouffee is the roux.  The roux makes the gravy.  Etouffee means “smothered” so the gravy is everything. The longer you cook the roux, the darker it gets in color and in flavor.  This recipe calls for a blond roux, 3-5 minutes.  I cook mine 5-7 minutes for just a little extra brown.


  • Whisk in a little stock, forming a paste
  • Add the stock a little at a time and keep whisking
  • Let the etouffee thicken as you add stock.  Use the stock to loosen and the heat to thicken as needed

When you add the first bit of stock the roux will form a paste.  It will ball up almost like a dough as you stir. See above. A whisk will help smooth this out.  You really do have to whisk the whole time.  If you walk away it will stick to the pan and likely seize up.  That’s how you end up with glumpy gravy.   It’s the bubbling temperature that makes the liquid thicken so once you’ve got the stock all in and the texture that you want, turn it way down.  You still need to stir as it simmers or you’ll get a skin on top, but not constantly.


  • Simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently

If the sauce gets too thick add a little stock to loosen it up.  If you run out of stock you can use water just as well.  Stir occasionally, but you can do other things at this point.   This simmers 20-30 minutes so this is your opportunity to put the rice on or make a salad or find yourself a beer.  Tonight, I cheated.  I used leftover rice.  Not even my rice.  Chinese takeout rice.  No joke.

Tip If you know you have a week with a couple of rice dishes in a given week stop by your local Chinese takeout place and buy a quart of rice.  It reheats just fine in the microwave if you add a little water and cover it.

At the end up the simmering time you’ll have a beautiful caramel colored etouffee.


  • Add the shrimp and parsley.  Simmer 7-8 minutes until shrimp is cooked through
  • Add butter
  • Serve with rice

If you’ve cut the temperature back for the simmer, turn it back up some when you add the shrimp.  You need a pretty decent simmer to cook the shrimp quickly enough that they don’t get rubbery.  Be sure to give large shrimp 7-8 minutes.  Don’t go by color.  When you cook them this way they’ll turn pink on the outside before they’re cooked all the way through.

Adding the butter at the end gives the sauce a nice shine.  Doesn’t hurt the flavor any either.  If you’ve added a lot of stock or water to make the consistency right, you may need to add extra Creole seasoning and/or hot sauce.  You can always make that available for each person to add to taste as well.


Tip  If you’re making this for guests do everything up through simmering the etouffee before folks arrive.  You can let that sit until you’re ready for it.  You may have to skim it, but probably you can just bring it back to a simmer and add a little water to get it ready for the shrimp.

Here’s what I thought:

It’s shrimp in spicy gravy.  Of course it’s good!  I actually prefer the roux a little darker.  I just got impatient tonight.  The recipe I started with called for homemade Worcestershire sauce and homemade Creole seasoning.  I’m all about doing things from scratch, but this seemed like overkill to me.  And I left out the thyme because I don’t have any.  I didn’t miss it.

This is darn good Super Bowl food.  Easy to make for a crowd.  Good with beer.  Eat with a spoon.  A very nice step up from chili.  Enjoy!


Super Bowl Sunday Shrimp: BBQ Shrimp

February 4, 2018

No chips and dip for this girl this Super Bowl Sunday!  Don’t get me wrong, I love chips and dip.  Tonight I decided to up my game.  Shrimp and more shrimp.  Let’s start with BBQ Shrimp.  This really, really couldn’t be easier.  Easy to do for a few or a crowd.  Messy for sure.  And totally worth it!

This is so easy you don’t even have to shell the shrimp!  Most New Orleans recipes use head-on shrimp.  I got my shrimp at the grocery store and they come without the heads.   I’m okay with that.  They also came shell-on, but de-veined.  Perfection!  I only made 1/2 a pound of these because I’ve got etouffee coming later, but I could eat a whole pound of these, or more, without batting an eyelash.

All it takes is Worchestershire, lemon juice, pepper, creole seasoning and butter.  That’s it.  Now, my sauce separated tonight so the butter didn’t integrate into everything else to make a unified sauce.  Know what?  Still good.  Doesn’t look nice.  Tastes great.  And it’s football food so I’m going to go with taste!

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 lb large raw shrimp , unpeeled
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon, reamed)
  • 3 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning (I use Tony Chachere)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 cups (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • Crusty bread as accompaniment

Here’s what you do:

In a large skillet combine shrimp, Worcestershire, lemon juice, black peppers, Creole seasoning, and garlic and cook over moderately high heat until shrimp turn pink, about 1 minute on each side. Reduce heat to moderate and stir in butter, a few cubes at a time, stirring constantly and adding more only when butter is melted. Remove skillet from heat. Place shrimp in a bowl and pour sauce over top. Serve with French bread for dipping.

The constant stirring matters.  It’s what keeps the sauce from breaking.  I was slicing bread and looking for leftover containers, etc while I made these so the stirring didn’t really happen.  Thus the ugly sauce.  Served with local Billy Bread from Lecker Baking.

10 minutes start to finish.  Can’t beat that!  Grab some napkins and gather round!


Shrimp and Grits

January 28, 2018

After running with some dogs at the Richmond SPCA, I spent my day cleaning the house.  I’ve had a sick pup so the rugs needed some serious attention.  I knew that after a day with the carpet shampooer I’d need a nice dinner.  Shrimp and grits is the best way to combine comfort food with treating yourself a little fancy.  And there are a million ways to make it.  Some people feel very strongly that there’s one “real” way to make shrimp and grits.  I can be happy with them just about any way they come.

Tonight I went a little fancy with grits cakes.  I made the grits this morning so they’d have time to cool and firm up.  I like my grits stiff enough to eat with a fork so the texture is right.  Use quick cooking grits for this. Not instant.  Never instant.  For savory dinner grits like this I often use some kind of stock instead of water and/or milk.  I had some chicken soup base in the freezer so I diluted that and added some salt.  At the end a little Parmesan and some butter.

Tip Have you ever had grits at a restaurant that tasted like nothing?  And no matter how much butter or salt you add, they still taste like nothing?  It’s because whoever made them, they didn’t salt the water.  You have to salt the water.  The salt has to cook into the grits.  If it doesn’t, you can never put enough salt on top of them to make them good.

Ok, if you want to make grits cakes your grits should be thick enough in the pot that they stick to a spoon.  Then you spread them in a jelly roll pan that has parchment paper lining the bottom.  Let them chill in the fridge for a few hours.  Then you can cut them in whatever shapes you like.  Tonight I used a biscuit cutter to make pretty rounds.  You could just as easily use a knife to cut squares or triangles.  With rounds you’ll have some edges leftover.  I’m all set for breakfast for a few days!

For the shrimp: peel them, remove the tails; devein them.  Please remove the tails.  It’s messy to remove the tails with a knife and fork and weird to have them left in your bowl at the end of the meal.  Besides, you end up leaving the tail meat behind.  Leave the tails on for cocktail shrimp or peel and eat, but if you need utensils to eat the dish, do yourself and your guests the courtesy of removing them.  Then run the tip of your knife down the back of each shrimp to remove the vein. You can use the flat of your knife to scrape the vein out.  Or, you can buy them already peeled and deveined.  Just don’t buy them already cooked!

For this version of shrimp and grits, there’s bacon.  Can’t go wrong there.  And again, I have plenty leftover for breakfast!  The only other ingredients are peppers, onions, garlic, more stock, white wine and lemon juice.  I added a little flour as well to thicken the sauce, but you could easily cook the sauce down instead.

Reheat your grit cakes in the oven and serve the shrimp and sauce over them.  Yum!  I even did one as a beautiful appetizer.  Perfect for an elegant dinner party or dinner for two or as the start to a lovely dinner for one!


Here’s what you need:

For the grits


  • 4 C stock
  • salt
  • 1 C quick grits
  • 1/2 C Parmesan
  • 1 T butter

For the shrimp


Tip  I keep a few of those little wine bottles around for occasions like this.  If you need a little wine for cooking, but don’t plan to open a bottle for drinking, they’re just the right thing.  It’s not the best wine you’ll ever have, but it’s absolutely drinkable.  And if you’d drink it you can cook with it.  For me, this is a great way to have 1/2 C for a recipe and one glass with dinner.

  • 3 slices bacon, cooked crisp, 1 T bacon grease reserved
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 T flour
  • 1/2 C stock
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 1/2 lemon
  • salt, pepper, Tabasco to taste
  • sliced green onions for garnish

Here’s what you do:

For the grits

  1. Bring the stock to a boil.  Add salt to taste.
  2. Stir in the grits and cover.
  3. Stir often to keep them from sticking to the bottom.
  4. Cook 15 minutes or so until the grits are cooked, but still slightly toothy.

For the grit cakes

  1. Spread the cooked grits into a jelly roll pan lined with parchment.
  2. Chill in the refrigerator 2-3 hours or up to overnight.
  3. Cut into shapes.
  4. Place on a baking sheet.
  5. Heat in a 300 degree oven 8-10 minutes, until warm through.
  6. Keep warm for serving.

For the shrimp

  1. Fry the bacon, drain and set aside.  Pour off the grease, leaving 1 T in the pan.
  2. Add the pepper, onion and garlic.  Stir until they soften.
  3. Stir in flour until it disappears.
  4. Add stock and wine.  Stir until the sauce begins to thicken.
  5. Add the shrimp.  Cook 3-4 minutes, flipping 1/2 way through.
  6. Squeeze the lemon over the shrimp.  Add salt and Tabasco to taste.
  7. Serve over the warmed grits cakes, topped with the green onions.

Ramen for Grownups

January 27, 2018

It’s Noodle Saturday!  Yes, normally this would happen on Friday, but I had a very long week and access to leftover pizza last night, so there you have it.  I’ve mentioned my adoration of Asian noodles.  And if you’re interested, you can read all about the disaster that was my last attempt to make them at home.  Still, I wanted to try again, but something else entirely different.  Ramen!

This is not your college ramen.  Well, it kind of is.  You do get to buy those 20 cent packets of dried noodles.  That’s where the similarity ends.  First, you throw away that salt packet they call seasoning.  And you make a really wonderful broth.  And you add a bunch of vegetables.  And it’s amazing.

So, I took a few shortcuts.  My last experience left me a little wary of buying a bunch of expensive stuff or even going very far out of my way to pick up ingredients I don’t keep in the house.  I used the dried packet of noodles instead of looking for fresh noodles.  I used rice wine vinegar with some sugar instead of going to the asian market for mirin. I skipped the miso paste entirely  And still, so, so good!  Even better it falls in the 30 minute meals category!

Here’s what you need for 2 servings:


  • 2T sesame oil
  • 1T minced garlic
  • 1T minced ginger
  • 4-5 sliced green onions, green and white parts separated
  • 2T soy sauce
  • 1T rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2t sugar
  • 2C chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 chicken breast, sliced thin
  • matchstick carrots
  • 2C baby bok choy, chopped
  • 1C sliced shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 package dried ramen noodles, season pkg discarded
  • 1 soft boiled egg

Here’s what you do:

  • Heat the stock in a small pot, bring to a boil
  • Poach the sliced chicken 3 minutes, remove from the stock
  • Keep stock at a simmer
  • Heat the oil in a medium sized pot
  • Add ginger, garlic, onion whites
  • Simmer until onions are soft
  • Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sugar and 1/4C of stock
  • Stir 2 minutes
  • Add carrots, bok choy, and mushrooms


  • While the vegetables soften, bring the stock to a boil and add the noodles
  • Cook the noodles until they’re soft


  • Add the stock and noodles to the vegetables
  • Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the egg
  • Boil 5-6 minutes
  • Place the egg in an ice bath
  • Peel and halve the egg
  • Serve half the noodles, vegetables and broth and half the egg in each of two bowls


How was it?

So, so good!  I’ve redeemed myself in the asian noodle arena!  Next time I’ll get the special ingredients and search for fresh noodles and maybe add some Chinese pork and broccoli.  The possibilities are endless!

Pile O’ Vegetables

January 23, 2018

On Tuesdays I run with friends at 6am and am usually showered and ready to roll by 7:15.  Sometimes I grab some breakfast and start my workday by 7:30 and other days I try to get some household stuff done before the workday begins.  Today was the latter.  TV watching got in the way of my usual weekend trip to the grocery store, so I made the grocery run this morning.  First, let me tell you that early Tuesday morning is not a good time to hit the Kroger.  Apparently it’s restocking time.  Many shelves were sadly empty and many aisles were blocked by boxes and pallets.  I forged ahead though and bought mostly vegetables.

I still had some time after I got home so I chopped cauliflower, radishes, broccoli and mushrooms for roasting.  I halved an acorn squash for the same.  My day ended with a pile of roasted vegetables and zero plan.  Zero.  I spent about 30 minutes looking for recipes for roasted vegetable casseroles and roasted vegetable pot pie.  I don’t even like pot pie.  Again, a big fat zero.  So this is a completely made up dinner, which is why there aren’t so many pictures.  I’ll do better next time.

In the end I decided to pull together a sauce for the vegetables to serve on top of mashed acorn squash.  I purposely stayed away from cheese sauces and mustard sauces.  I ended up with a white sauce, a bechamel, flavored with vegetable stock, milk, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.  It’s pretty good really.  I only made one serving of the complete mixture so I can still do whatever I want with the leftover vegetables and sauce.


We’ve covered roasting vegetables already, so no mystery there.  And I’ll do a better demo of making a white sauce later, but here’s the idea.  Once you master a bechamel you can do just about anything with it.  It’s a great base for a cheese sauce; a mustard cream sauce; a lemon sauce.  And for this sauce.

Melt butter.  Stir in flour.  Add liquid a little at a time, stirring constantly.  That’s how you avoid lumps.  We’re talking about gravy here, really.  Tonight I added the vegetable stock first and then some milk.  Stir, stir, stir.  It will bubble and thicken as you go. If it gets too thick add in a little more liquid.  If it’s too thin let it bubble up and thicken.  But keeping stirring!  If you don’t it will seize up and you’ll have glop.  Once I had just about the consistency I wanted I stirred in some balsamic vinegar.  Tasted.  A little more.  Tasted.  A little salt.  Tasted.  Done.

I have no doubt that some herbs would do this sauce a lot of good, but my brain just wasn’t firing tonight.  This is a super good sauce for these vegetables.  It’s a nice balance for the sweet squash too.  I’d make one change.  I love the shiitake mushrooms.  And they’re fantastic in the sauce.  They aren’t so good with the acorn squash.  I think for the leftovers I’ll separate the vegetables from the squash.  Maybe a little honey for the squash.

The last part of this is frizzled onions.  I saw this in one of the recipes I perused today.  I’ve never frizzled an onion. And I might not have tonight either except that I’d already sliced the onion and poured the oil in the pan.  Basically you heat the oil until it shimmers and add a handful of onion strings.  No flour needed.  Stir them around until they start to brown.  Get them out quickly or they’ll burn in the blink of an eye.  Wait for the oil to come back to temperature before adding the rest of the onion strings.  These are a lovely topping for pretty much anything.

So, I’ll definitely eat the leftovers, just in a slightly different configuration.  I can’t say that you’re missing a ton by not having a recipe that would allow you to replicate it exactly.


Homemade Pizza Sauce

January 22, 2018

It turns out that if you binge watch Netflix on a Sunday, you don’t make it to the grocery store.  That means that you have to make Monday night dinner from whatever you can find that you didn’t get around to making last week.  Monday night is also dog class night for my pups, so dinner starts later than some other days which means it needs to be kind of quick.

Left from last week I had a container of campari tomatoes, a few sliced mushrooms, one piece of naan. I always have some variety of cheese.  If that doesn’t scream pizza, I don’t know what does.  I love pizza.  And naan makes a very good pizza for 1 or, with a salad, a not bad pizza for 2.  A few packages of naan and you have a pizza party in the making!


I could have used a few sliced tomatoes as a topping, but January tomatoes just aren’t that terrific for slicing.  They don’t taste like very much.  But if you turn them into sauce, they’re wonderful.  And it’s not as difficult as you think.

Any old tomatoes will do, but if you start this with grape or cherry tomatoes I can almost guarantee you’ll regret it.  Something a little larger like a campari or a roma.  Regular slicing tomatoes work too.  Halve them and core them. In a campari or roma it’s a simple triangle cut out to core.


Place them cut side down in a heavy pan with some chopped garlic and some olive oil.  The hot oil will sizzle so be careful.  Use a spoon to mash the tomato halves flat.  Keep mashing them until the skins begin to come off.  Remove the skins.  Add some basil, oregano and salt.  If it cooks down too far before you get all the skins out just add a little water and cook it down to the right consistency.  Voila!  Pizza sauce!  You can run it through a sieve to get the seeds out easily.  I was hungry tonight and these seeds are small and soft so I didn’t bother.

One side note about a naan pizza.  They aren’t large so I feel like I sometimes run out of toppings space. I’m a thin crust, thick toppings girl so this is an issue.  I find that if you chop your toppings up small you can fit more on there.  It also helps guarantee that you have every flavor all over the pizza.  So tonight, 3 cheese and mushroom yumminess in every bite!  And a little Ardent Saison, because beer and pizza.  Duh.