Touch of Nectar

No time to pack a pretty bento lunch this morning, I just grabbed something from the well stocked freezer.

Butternut Squash and Pear Soup. I rounded out the rest of my lunch with some cheese and crackers. Easy peasy. And very tasty!

This soup has a nice little zing to it from the curry powder and just a hint of sweetness from the pears. Just the thing for a gray day like today.


I received the 365 Ways to Cook Pasta cookbook as a Christmas present from my boyfriend’s sister when I was 18. I was just learning how to cook and this was a great start. The boyfriend is long gone, but the book has stuck with me.

Pasta itself is inexpensive and easy to prepare. We eat some sort of pasta dish in our house at least twice a week. Last night was no exception.

The recipe was Spaghetti with Butter Parmesan and Browned Bacon. It was found in the chapter titled “Emergency Dinners” which rely on ingredients from the refrigerator and pantry. Easy and fast meals.

I did cut back on the amount of butter, but the final dish is nicely creamy and flavorful. Dinner took about 15 minutes to make.

I served this with cheese rolls and fresh orange slices, but I was wishing for a fresh tomato salad. There is just something special about bacon and tomatoes together.

The Emergency Dinners chapter may be my favorite part of the book, but I like some of the other chapters as well; Savory Summer Salads, Spaghetti in the Pantry, Elbows on the Table, Tiny Pasta Shapes, No Cook Sauces, Quick Cook Sauces, Meat Sauces and Light and Easy.

I’ve made a LOT of recipes from this book and definitely plan to make more. There is something for every season and the recipes range from almost instant to more complex dishes.

These are just a few others that I’ve tried:

Confetti Orzo Salad
Shells with Tomatoes Arugula and Parmesan
Wagon Wheels with Chickpeas and Creamy Lemon Dill Dressing
Elbows with Cannellini Beans, Bacon and Red Onion
Elbows with Chickpeas and Escarole
Penne with Grilled Salmon, Asparagus and Lemon Butter
Linguine with Tuna, Lemon and Arugula
Spiral Pasta with Shrimp, Peas and Tomatoes

{March 29, 2011}   Quick and Delicious Dinner

My menu plan for last night more or less got thrown out the window for various reasons. I keep plain chicken breast in the freezer for just that sort of occurance.

I thawed the chicken and found a simple and fast recipe in my 365 Great 20 Minute Recipes cookbook (out of print? I can’t find a link)

The recipe is called Ginger Chicken Saute and it really did take me only 20 minutes to get dinner on the table.  This is recipe #106 of Project 365I had rice already cooked in the fridge, so I heated that up with a tiny bit of water in the microwave. Meanwhile I also sauteed some snap peas and yellow squash.

Dinner is served! Yum! Very gingery.

This could also be done as a make-ahead or OAMC meal if you make the marinade and freeze the chicken. Just cook and eat in that case. Easy Peasy! I will make this again for sure. Hubby inhaled it too, which is always a bonus.

We recently cleaned out nearly all of our freezer stock. While this is a good idea to do several times a year to keep things fresh, it makes me twitchy. I like having a very well stocked freezer in case of emergency. Surprise dinner guests, unemployment, illness, zombie apocalypse… It is also  nice to be able to pull something frozen out of the freezer, already prepped and have dinner ready in minutes. No thinking required. Some nights are like that.

Last week ground turkey was on sale buy one get one free, so I made a huge batch of meatballs. I froze them individually on a tray before placing them, in dinner-sized portions, in zip lock freezer bags. I bought a large package of chicken breasts. Half of the package made dinner for 3 with leftovers and the other half was cut into smaller portions and put in marinade in the freezer.  I also stocked up on some pantry items that were running dangerously low.

Week Total – $20.67
2 pounds Ground Turkey – $5
1 large package boneless, skinless chicken breasts – $12
2 cans tuna – $1.00
3 cans diced tomatoes – $2.67

I also made twice baked potatoes and froze 8 servings worth.

This week, I’m hoping to get to Costco and buy a package of pork roasts. They usually have them for $12. There is three decent sized roasts to a package. One will go in the crock pot for some sort of shredded pork dish, one will be sliced into scallopini/schnitzel/piccata ready portions (without the breading) and the third will be cut into stew-sized chunks, which could also be used for kebabs.

I will not be cooking this weekend, since I will be out of town, so I’ll concentrate on re-stocking instead of making dinner-ready food. The other thing I will purchase this week is hamburger. Trader Joes has well-packaged hamburger for $2.49 a pound. I will buy 4 and most likely use one for dinner this week.

Week total – $21.96.  At least 10 dinners for 4 can be made with just those two purchases.

Off to look for the recipes!

Restocking the freezer this week.  Some doubling up on recipes throughout the week.   Ground turkey is on sale at Safeway for buy one get one free, so I’ll be making a HUGE batch of meatballs to freeze. I also want to restock my freezer with roasted red bell pepper and tomato soup.  I might throw some beans in the crockpot for some sort of freezable stew later this week too. I bought a giant package of chicken breasts, so those will go in the freezer in at least 3 different marinades. (to be determined)

As of today, I am at 99/365 recipes. As always, these are in no particular order.  (Already changing the menu since I forgot a few things at the store last night…)

Sat 26 Shrimp and Snow Pea Stir Fry – Cooking Light 04
Steamed rice, dumplings (freezer)

Sun 27 – Mini Meatloaves – Cooking Light 2004 (make double) and Twice Baked Potatoes (make at least double. hubby loves these)

Mon 28 Pork Chili with Greens – 1001 Slow Cooker  and Sweet Corn Cheddar Pancakes From Asparagus to Zucchini

Tue 29Sage Stuffed Chicken Breasts – George Foreman Green Beans (wondering if this would freeze well?)

Wed 30 – CORN/Leftovers night (might change since I won’t be around this weekend to cook)

Thur 31 Pork and Fennel Ragu – Cooking Light 2004 Rice, Bread, Salad

Fri 1 – Off to Canada! I’m teaching a 4 hour backcountry cooking class. So not ready! Hubby and kidling to eat leftovers or eat pizza.

BreakfastsStrawberry Cinnamon Muffins – Cooking Light 2005 and Ginger Dessert Waffles – Spices of the World

LunchesGreen Apple Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette – Cooking Light 2004 and  Tarragon Tuna Salad – Spices of the World and and Potato Salad with Parsley and Chives – Cooking Light 2004 (for hubby. Didn’t get made from previous menu) Slaw of some sort? I have green cabbage to use up.

Dessert Applesauce Cake Spices of the World (made with home canned applesauce) I also picked up an angelfood cake at the store – to be served topped with Cool Whip and home-canned berries.

The Menu this Week. March 19-25 2011

It’s official! I am ¼ of the way through Project 365. I have made 92 recipes. Only 273 left to go! I am about 2 weeks ahead of schedule, but I’m anticipating a lot of days in April and later this summer when I will not be cooking at all.

Dinners this week are mostly from the pantry. Pretty much the only things I need from the store this week is a pound of hamburger and a large package of chicken.

As usual, these are most likely not in the order that I will make them. I’ve been trying to get the husband and kidling to eat more fruits and vegetables so I will also serve melon, grapes, pineapple and/or oranges with dinner. And bread. Always with the bread.

SatCanton Chicken and Rice  from 1001 Low Fat

Sun – Chicken Stew with Parsley Dumplings (my own stew from the freezer) from 1001 Low Fat

Mon – Pork Schnitzel from Rachael Ray’s 365 No Repeats and Rice Pilaf with Shallots and Parmesan from Cooking Light 2004

TuesPasta Shells with Tuscan Tuna from Cooking Light 2004

Wed – Beef and Been Burritos from 1001 Low Fat and Zucchini with Oregano and Sun dried tomatoes from Asparagus to Zucchini and Herbed Polenta from 1001 More Low Fat

Thurs – Knit night. Hubby and kidling to eat leftovers or order pizza.

Fri – Fettuccini with Chicken Piccata from 1001 More Low Fat

Breakfasts – Almond Pancakes from Beyond the Moon and Muffins (undecided. Strawberry?)

Lunches – (also doubles as side dishes) Potato Salad with Parsley and Chives from Cooking Light 2004, Macaroni Salad from 1001 More Low Fat, Armenian Bean Salad from Asparagus to Zucchini and Egg Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes from Beyond the Moon.

Dessert – Double Crust Blueberry Pie from 1001 Low Fat (made with home-canned blueberries)

What’s in your pantry? Do you keep it well stocked so that you can make dinner in minutes?

Basic things I keep in my pantry are a wide variety herbs and spices, canned beans (garbanzo, white and kidney), chicken and beef broth, canned tuna, cream of xx soups, canned corn and tomatoes, dried pasta, rice, lentils, barley, quinoa, olives, sun dried tomatoes and jars of pasta sauce. In addition, I almost always have macaroni and cheese mixes, as well as Bisquick and corn muffin mix.

In the freezer is lots of frozen fruit and vegetables. I usually have a couple of pounds of hamburger and bacon as well has home made soups – especially chicken. We love the fish in marinades that I can find at Trader Joes.

What can I make from all this stuff? Here’s two ideas for you. Both use pantry items and take less than 30 minutes to make. Add some bread and salad or fruit and dinner is done in no time.

First, Chunky Beef Chili from my Eat Well Stay Well cookbook.

This serves 4 and has 443 calories per serving. I served it with some corn bread muffins and sliced oranges. I made the muffins first and let them bake while I assembled the rest of dinner.

Sauté 3 minced scallions, 2 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and ½ teaspoon oregano in 2 teaspoons oil for one minute.

Add 1 pound of ground beef and stir until browned.

Add 1 cup of corn, a 16 oz can of red kidney beans and a 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes.

Simmer for 5 minutes and serve.

Another good pantry meal is Fusilli with Tomatoes, Spinach and Prosciutto (Zaar Link).  Serve this with some crusty bread and fresh melon.

I have made lots of variations of this same dish, switching out the prosciutto for bacon or pancetta and the spinach for arugula or kale. Use whatever tomatoes you have on hand. I used canned and fresh this time around.

Lentils – Make ahead and freeze.

Lentils are cheap and easy. For a little more than a dollar, I can get a whole pound of dried brown lentils.

They are also good for you. They are low in fat and high in fiber, protein and folate. They are a good source of iron and potassium. One cup of cooked lentils has 230 calories, almost no fat, 7mg of iron and 16 grams of protein. Plus they are delicious!

I cook the entire bag of lentils, either in water or broth, then freeze the cooked lentils in 1-2 cup portions. A vacuum sealer works wonders for this. Try to freeze the packages as flat as possible so that you can stack them in your freezer like library books.  Don’t forget to label and date the bags. This same method also works for barley and rice. It is nice to be able to make soups, salads and pilafs almost instantly because you have done much of the work ahead of time.

When you are ready to make a lentil dish, just thaw and add the lentils.

Some lentil recipes I’ve tried recently: (recipe titles are links to the recipes)

Lentil Pear and Goat Cheese Salad – from Eat Well Stay Well

Lentil and Fennel Salad – from Cooking Light (holey smokes batman! This is fantastic!)

Lentil Salad with Spinach, Cheddar and Pecans  – from Food & Wine

Country Lentil Soup

– from 1001 Low Fat



And some old favorites:

Bacon and Lentil Soup

Lentil Soup with Cauliflower and Bacon – from Food & Wine (this freezes well)

Tomato Lentil Salad

Mushroom and Lentil Soup – from Super Foods (this soup also freezes well)

Green Lentil and Mixed Vegetable Pan Fry

– from What’s Cooking Vegetarian


Still need more ideas? These are on my to-be-tried list:

Lentil Soup with Chard – from Cooking Light

Bay Scented Lentil Salad with Pancetta – from Cooking Light

Barley-Lentil Salad – from Beyond the Moon

Lentil Vegetable Soup – from Horn of the Moon

Lentil and Pancetta Soup – from Cooking Light

Bulgur and Lentil Pilaf – from 1000 Great Recipes

Sweet and Sour Lentils – from Moosewood Low Fat Favorites

{March 15, 2011}  

Not too shabby for just cleaning out the fridge!

On the left is leftover pork piccata, spinach, green beans and asparagus, grape tomatoes and the chickpea-barley-artichoke salad.

On the right is apricots, grapes and girlscout shortbread cookies.

{March 14, 2011}   Freezer to the Rescue!

Whenever I cook barley for a dish, I cook the whole bag. Barley takes a long time to cook, but it freezes well. I package the cooled, cooked barley into zip lock bags – about 1 ½ cups per bag.

I always have cooked barley ready to go. I can have barley mushroom soup (for example) on a weeknight for dinner with almost no work at all.

Then I found this pilaf recipe. It uses ingredients I usually have on hand. Trader Joes has the best artichoke hearts and canned beans. I keep a couple of cans of each in the pantry for my lunches.

For this recipe, I used already cooked barley from the freezer, thawed. I didn’t have pesto in the fridge so I used a bit of powdered mix. I also omitted the Parmesan cheese. I don’t think the recipe needs it.

The result? A very flavorful, rich but light pilaf. Delicious!

Link to recipe:  Barley Pilaf with Chickpeas and Artichoke Hearts

et cetera