Like the combination of salami and okra, this blog is dedicated to recipes that are born from sometimes unusual mishmashes of leftover ingredients we have on hand at home. We both work full-time so there is always time pressure, especially on weekdays. I do most of the daily cooking, and together my husband and I try to create meals for our family that follow three basic guidelines:

1. Delicious and nutritious.

2. Frugal use of ingredients

3. Edible to everyone in the family

We try to limit takeout food to once or twice a week because it's not good for our waistlines, the cost adds up and can put a strain on the family budget. At the end of the day, I just want to go home and stay home after work. I've found that in the time it takes me to drive to the store and pick up ready-to-eat takeout, I can usually put together something quick at home.

David and I grocery shop together for the entire week. Sometimes we impulsively buy an interesting ingredient at the store with no plan for cooking it, and later I'm not sure how to incorporate it into our meal plan. Thus, by the end of every week, I'm inevitably left with only a few ingredients, many of which do not traditionally go together.

These recipes are a result of those experiments. Some combinations work unexpectedly, some combinations may not appeal to you -- they don't all appeal to us!

When writing up these recipes, I try to be accurate, but often I put together these dishes by sight or taste or availability of ingredients. Most of the photos are David's. We'll note it when someone else contributes a pic.

The wins come when my family says, "I thought this dinner was going to be crazy, but it's actually good."

We hope you'll have the same reaction!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ultimate Guacamole

I made this "ultimate guacamole" for the first time when I came home from shopping one day and realized that I had forgotten to buy limes I had always used in my guacamole recipe.  I usually have lemons in the house, so I substituted.  The results were delicious.  
One of my daughter’s friends commented that she likes this guacamole because “it doesn’t have any stuff in it.”  I asked her what she meant, and she said, “oh, you know: tomatoes, onions, green leaves.”  I think she meant cilantro.  I agree with her.  I like my guacamole pure, too.  We hope you enjoy!

The Ultimate Guacamole
            2-3 ripe avocados
            Juice of one lemon
            1 garlic clove (be sure to remove the little green stem in the center of the clove.
            Dash of salt

Finely chop the garlic clove (or use a garlic press), and place in a bowl with half of the lemon juice and salt.  Add avocadoes and mash with a fork until there are no large chunks, but don’t puree until smooth.  I like a bright lemony taste, so at this point I add a little more lemon juice.  I recommend experimenting, adding more lemon juice and salt to your own taste.  Serve with our new find,  Frontera Lime and Sea Salt tortilla chips or our all-time favorite, El Milagro "Totopos" Mexican Kitchen Style corn tortilla chips and Out to Lunch Fiesta brand queso

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Enchiladas Rápidos

My family loves enchiladas, but the thought of cooking them conjures up spending hours in the kitchen preparing the dish.  When we get enchiladas at restaurants, they are often too cheesy, too greasy, and too saucy for our taste.  Some people like that style, but if you prefer your enchiladas on the lighter side, you may enjoy this rendition.  Plus, these enchiladas only take about 10-15 minutes to prepare.  We hope you like these!

Tomatillo Sauce:
            1 ½ pound tomatillos, husks removed and quartered
            1-2 fresh jalapenos, cored and seeded
            1-2 garlic cloves, chopped


Combine ingredients in a bowl.  With a hand blender (or a stand blender), puree until smooth.  Add a little stock or a touch of water if the puree is too thick for your taste.  Dash of kosher salt to taste.

            10 whole wheat tortillas or corn tortillas
            1 ½ - 2 cups grated cheese, cheddar or combination of cheddar and Monterrey Jack
            Shredded chicken (leftover rotisserie chicken or leftover grilled chicken works nicely –  be sure to shred, not chop)
            Black or pinto beans – I like Eden brand 
            Sautéed spinach –  sauté some spinach in olive oil with a few chopped onions. When I       am in a hurry, I just wilt some chopped spinach in the microwave
            Tomatillo sauce

Place about 1/3 to ½ cup tomatillo sauce in the bottom of a large casserole dish.  For each tortilla, warm in a microwave on medium high about 5-10 seconds.  This makes the tortilla pliable and easy to roll.  Almost everyone in the family likes individual enchilada filling variations.  I fill David’s with shredded chicken, extra jalapenos, beans and spinach.  Our girls like theirs filled with beans only.   I like mine filled with beans and spinach.  Just be sure you remember where each combination is placed in the casserole dish!  Pour the tomatillo sauce over the tortillas, and cover with cheese.  Bake in a 350 oven for about 25 minutes or until sauce is bubbling and cheese is slightly browned.  Serve with sliced avocados or guacamole and sliced jalapenos.   

Photo credits:   Green ones by PES; yellow ones by CHS

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Quesadillas and Cava

This is one of my family's favorite meals.  We have it about once a week (the cava is for the adults only).  It's a fun way to spend a Saturday night at home making dinner together and a great way to use up any leftover vegetables in the fridge.  And, to my family's delight, each person's quesadilla can be personalized.  See my suggestions in the variations section.    
Serves 4.  In a medium pan, sauté together:
            1 medium onion
            1 medium bell pepper, any color
After 4 minutes or so, add:
            ½ cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
After 1 - 2 minutes add:
            2 big handfuls of spinach leaves
When the spinach has wilted (usually 1-2 minutes), remove the vegetables from the heat.

On large tortillas (we used up the last of our Ezekiel sprouted grain tortillas and also some Stacey's organic flour tortillas), spread some refried beans.  Top each tortilla with some of the sautéed vegetables.  Add some shredded cheese, any kind and as much or as little as you want.  
Fold tortillas in half and place on a preheated griddle.  I don't use any butter or oil on my griddle to keep calories down, but you certainly can.

Other variations:  Instead of shredded cheese, we often substitute several tablespoons of delicious Fiesta Queso, which is the best off-the-shelf grocery store queso ever. It's better than most restaurant queso.  David adds sliced Pederson's buffalo sausage and pickled jalapeños into his quesadilla.   You can toss in a handful of any leftover vegetable you have around in the fridge - sliced zucchini, other types of greens.  Mushrooms work nicely  -- although our daughters don't like them.

Serve quesadillas with salsa, guacamole (or just smashed avocado as shown here) and a nice bottle of chilled cava -- or any bubbly will work.  Ole!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Grilled Romaine Salad

Or... How to Rescue Your Wilting Lettuce 
I like to buy heads of beautiful bright green, crisp romaine lettuce. Within a week, they are still in the vegetable crisper, not so crisp, slightly wilting, losing their yummy crunch.  This salad solves the problem of what to do with lifeless romaine that has seen better days. (It works really well with fresh lettuce.)
1 package of 3 heads of romaine lettuce 
1/3 - ½ cup shredded parmesan (you can add more or less depending on your preference)
Fresh ground black pepper

Juice of one lemon
2-3 Tablespoons of olive oil
One garlic clove, finely chopped.
Spilt each romaine head in half lengthwise.  Place on a preheated medium grill (you don't even have to oil the grill.  The grill doesn't need to be super hot).  Grill each side of lettuce for 3-5 minutes, until you see grill marks, but the leaves are not all black and crispy.

Chop lettuce into bite size pieces and place in a salad bowl.  While the lettuce is still warm, add the dressing and parmesan.  Toss salad and add black pepper to taste.  

And now I don't feel guilty about wasting a head of lettuce.  We hope you enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Time for Dessert!

Jenny is not allowed to have any.  But that doesn't stop her from trying.

Chocolatey Almond Chocolate Chip Cake
My family and I love chocolate cake.  Actually, we love just about anything chocolate.  So I picked up a carton of chocolate almond milk.  Sounds good, right?  How could you go wrong with the combination of chocolate and almonds?  Turns out, unsweetened chocolate almond milk didn’t satisfy anyone’s chocolate cravings around our house.  Here’s a recipe I came up with to use up the almond milk.   This one DID satisfy everyone’s chocolate cravings without being overly sweet or decadent.   
Preheat oven to 350.  Prepare a 9x9 cake pan with cooking spray.
In a stand mixer (or a large bowl and hand mixer), combine:
3/4 cup plus 1 TBL sugar
1 cup flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ cup canola oil
¾ milk unsweetened chocolate almond milk
1 tsp almond extract
Beat on high for 2 minutes.  Add:
1 egg
Beat on high for another two minutes.  Fold in:
½ cup chocolate chips (we like Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chipsPour batter into prepared baking pan.  Bake for 25-30 (if the top cracks or if the edges look hard, remove from the oven immediately!).  Cool in pan and serve. 
Variations:  if you don’t have any almond milk, regular cow’s milk works fine!  If you don't have any almond extract, vanilla extract works fine, too.  Here's the difference.  You won't have an almond essence to the cake.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Kale and Tortellini Soup

We look for ways to add more vegetables, especially greens, into our every day meals.  When I read that kale is one of the “world’s most healthiest foods,” I gave it a try.  I was most familiar with kale as a garnish among the containers of vegetables and toppings at the salad bar at work and as an ornamental crop in gardens.  At first, I tried steaming it; no one liked it.  Even a sauté with garlic and olive oil didn’t convince my family to eat this robust vegetable.  Knowing I had to soften the tough kale leaves, I tried them in soup.  Since I almost always have a bag of frozen tortellini in the freezer for quick dinners, I combined the two.  Here’s the recipe that delivered the kale.  We hope you enjoy!
In a large pot, place about a tablespoon of oil olive. Sauté:
            1 carrot, chopped
            1 stalk of celery, chopped
            1 small onion, chopped
            2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
When the vegetables are slightly softened, add:
            1 bunch of kale, washed, stalks removed and roughly chopped into large pieces
When the kale leaves turn bright green (in about a minute or two), add:
            4 cups of low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock and 3-4 cups of water
Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10-15 minutes.  Add:
            1 can of chick peas or cannellini beans, rinsed
            1 bag of frozen tortellini (I use Whole Foods brand frozen cheese tortellini) 
Continue cooking until the tortellini are ready (about 3-4 mins – a taste will tell you).  Serve with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes (if you like) and grated parmesan.  Serves 4-6. 
Variations:  When I’m in a hurry, I skip the sautéed vegetables and begin sautéing garlic in olive oil adding in the kale and stock and let that simmer for about 10 mins.  Then add the beans and ravioli.  If you don’t have any beans at home, you can omit them.  If I have some crushed tomatoes (about a cup or so) leftover from another recipe, I sometimes throw them in when I add the stock/water.  I’ve also used frozen ravioli instead of tortellini if that’s what I have in the freezer.  If I have frozen turkey dogs in the freezer, I’ll slice a few of those up and add, too.  The red pepper flakes can go in when the garlic is added during the sauté. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Roasted Spaghetti Squash and Beet Greens with Pasta

Every winter, I buy a spaghetti squash. I'm not sure why. No one in my family likes it. I remember how excited my kids were the first time I bought one. They thought it would taste like real spaghetti. They were terribly disappointed when they tasted it.  Another bait and switch vegetable. Since then, I've tried to prepare spaghetti squash many different ways - with tomato sauce, with parmesan, baked, steamed, etc. Nothing has worked. Until tonight.

This time, I roasted the spaghtetti squash that had been sitting on my counter for several weeks. I decided to combine with some beet greens saved from David's recent beet purchase. It always seems like such a waste to throw out those greens.  Here's what I made:

1 spaghetti squash - I cut the squash in half, drizzled each face with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. I roasted them face side down in a 425 oven until soft (about 30-35 minutes)

1 bunch beet greens - I sauteed 4 chopped garlic cloves (we love garlic -- cut down to 2-3 if you like a less garlicky taste) with a half an onion in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil with a little salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

1 cup of pasta (I used Barilla Plus macaroni - any small pasta shape or type would work, I think)

1/2 - 1 cup cannellini beans (We like Eden brand)

Toss all together and add more olive oil if you'd like (David added about a tablespoon, but I thought there was enough oil from the greens and the squash) and Parmesan cheese. You could also add more red pepper flakes, salt, and/or pepper to taste.  This served two people.


Note: if you don't have beet greens at home, you could use any green you may have lying around or in your freezer - spinach, kale, chard, etc...