Pasta Carbonara with Garlic Asparagus

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I remember the first time I ever made carbonara.  I was living in Montreal, and my boyfriend at the time had invited me over for dinner.  The menu was his inspiration, and this was in the early days of Internet recipes.  (He also insisted on pronouncing béchamel as “bockamell” for the duration of our relationship, so I was already a little suspect.)  I have a vague memory of an open laptop on the table, a bit of erotic panic at the idea that we were about to mix raw eggs into our meal, and a frenzied moment where it all came together and we stirred like there was no tomorrow to prevent the threatened scrambling.  And, I remember both of us taking a few token bites, congratulating ourselves for thinking outside of the box of the typical college-age go-tos of quesedillas and tofu curries, and then admitting that we were totally disgusted, no doubt moving on to an equally exciting dinner down the street at any of the 24-hour eateries that surrounded both of our glamorously bohemian apartments.  Le sigh.

My relationship with raw eggs has come a long way since then.  I still won’t order eggs sunnyside-up for brunch, or drink an egg white cocktail, but I WILL make an over-easy egg at home and enjoy how a runny yolk with salt and pepper can be the perfect complement to some fluffy artisan toast; I will slowly beat an egg into hot Asian noodle soup and watch the wispy strands curdle with delight; and I will poach an egg and put it over nearly-any-vegetable-and-brown-rice and call it a meal.

I have 12 more years of experience watching ingredients transform since that night on Boulevard René Lévesque, and now, I feel fully supportive of pasta carbonara being a legit meal, and serving it to my family for dinner.  It’s good, guys.  Don’t worry about the eggs.  If you eat pho — and everyone should eat pho — then you can make and eat this meal.

So, let’s go.  Pasta carbonara.  Even though it sounds (and tastes!) fancy, it’s a supremely simple dish — the crux of which is some really delicious bacon.

So first things first, I chopped up 8 oz. of some applewood smoked bacon I’d bought earlier, and fried it up in my smaller cast iron skillet.  I poured the extra fat into a dish to use for future cooking oil, drained the bacon chips on a paper towel, and then cooked up 2 handfuls of frozen peas in the same skillet, transferring them to another bowl once they were cooked.

pasta carbonara

In a separate mixing bowl, I beat together 4 eggs and 1 cup of shredded cheeses (Romano, and garlic pepper jack that was on sale at Grocery Outlet this week), and chose a bag of pasta from the pasta shelf in our pantry.  I didn’t even plan this, but we had a full pound of Campanelle in there, which is a totally wonderful pasta to use for carbonara.

While I boiled a big pot of water for the pasta, I split a bunch of skinny asparagus in half — saving the rest for another meal — and put it in that same skillet, along with 3 pressed cloves of garlic and some salt.  I sauteed this in the remaining bacon fat for just a minute or two, enough to coat all the spears, and then popped the whole skillet into a 350-degree oven to finish them off.  I adore any piece of kitchenware that can double as a stovetop champion, and then weather a hot oven unscathed.
pasta carbonara

So the water boils, pasta is added, and once it’s done cooking, I reserved some of the pasta water before draining it.  Once it was drained, it went back into the pot with some of the reserved water to loosen it, the peas and bacon were stirred in, and then came the egg/cheese mixture — poured in with one hand while the other hand vigorously mixed it all together to prevent the eggs from scrambling while the hot pasta cooked them.

The result — and the beauty of carbonara — is a deliciously silky, creamy texture that tastes cheesy without all the rigamarole and heaviness of a roux-based cheese sauce.

A little more salt and cracked pepper on top, pull the asparagus out of the oven (this could be any vegetable you enjoy, obviously), and you’ve got a perfect meal, with only two dishes to clean.

pasta carbonara

Corn Pasta with Broccoli Pesto, Button Mushrooms, and Lemon Chicken

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Here’s a super easy weeknight meal, inspired by this dish from Smitten Kitchen!

I’ve spent the past year dabbling in the gluten free world, which lately has sort of gone by the wayside because I decided to run a half marathon in May (yes, really!), and now that I’m running 4+ times a week, my body doesn’t seem to care whether I eat bread, pasta, or even pizza.  It’s pretty awesome, and honestly, worth all the miles I’m putting on my shoes.  I made a breakfast sandwich the other day…on an English muffin!  After 13 months of corn tortillas and chickpea-flour pancakes, that was pretty revolutionary.  Not to say I don’t still love brown rice (and let’s face it, I’d eat a corn tortilla quesadilla for lunch every single day if I weren’t such a stickler for variety), so a ton of meals I cook still happen to be gluten-free, but I can be a little less strict about it these days and still feel healthy and clear-headed.

Which is all meant to say, we still have a lot of corn and brown rice pasta in our pantry.  Which is why this meal happened.

Corn pasta with broccoli pesto

I started by quartering some mushrooms and sauteeing them in my skillet.  We made slow cooker collard greens for a dinner party last weekend that used an entire pound of bacon — that fat of which I saved and have been cooking pretty much everything in this week, including these mushrooms.

Corn pasta with broccoli pesto

I chopped up some frozen chicken tenders for protein, but wanted a little extra texture to go in there so after defrosting them, I coated them in a simple batter of flour and dried herbs.  Then I fried them up next in the skillet, and set both them and the mushrooms aside on a plate.

Corn pasta with broccoli pesto

Meanwhile, I had been steaming an entire bunch of broccoli in my fancy bamboo steamer (using the pot of pasta-water-to-be as the steaming liquid), which I now removed from the heat (and added the corn pasta to the water to begin cooking it.  Corn pasta — at least this brand — takes about twice as long as regular pasta to cook, so get started on it before you think you’ll need to.

Corn pasta with broccoli pesto

While all that sauteeing had been going on, I’d chopped up a couple shallots and a few cloves of garlic, which I sauteed in the empty-again skillet for a few minutes before adding the steamed broccoli, some red pepper flakes and salt, and a bit of half and half.  This made a nice mushy mess, but looks aren’t important here, because it’s all about to go into the Cuisinart anyway.

Corn pasta with broccoli pesto

Here’s where the true improvising begins.  After a few pulses in the Cuisinart, it looked like super thick cream of broccoli soup, but then I started adding odds and ends from the fridge to make it creamier — some random soft cheese wedges that were left over from said dinner party, a little more cream, spices and salt to taste, and then to thin it out and turn it into more of a sauce, I took a dips into the pasta water with a measuring cup (though I can’t tell you at all how much!).  Regular water probably would have worked fine here, but pasta cooking water gets nice and starchy, especially from corn pasta, so this helped to give the sauce some body.

Corn pasta with broccoli pesto

Once I was satisfied with the taste and consistency, I drained the pasta, mixed in the sauce, and then topped it with the mushrooms and chicken.

Easy and healthy (minus the bacon fat) one-dish meal!

Angelhair Pasta with Parmesan Zucchini, Sauteed Bell Peppers, and Blackened Salmon

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Sometimes it’s those nights where I’m cooking by myself, thinking I’m going to just whip up something quick and easy, when nobody else is around to witness it, that I wind up eating masterpieces for dinner.  I guess that’s how this blog originally started, but now that I live with Jesse those nights feel more rare.  Not that he won’t eat anything that’s put in front of him, and probably seconds and thirds as well, but when we’re cooking together, or even just when I’m cooking for both of us, I find myself sticking to the tried and true, even using recipes more.

So Monday night, while Jesse was out bowling with the boys, I found myself out running errands until just before dinner, and en route home totally ravenous.  I so rarely do this — stop at the grocery for like a single item — but I was craving some sort of fish.  The Johnson Creek Freddy’s actually has a pretty decent seafood department, so I pulled over totally impulsively and bought a piece of salmon.  This was no big splurge — it was less than $7 for the whole piece, which I only used half of and froze the rest (and wound up with leftovers for lunch, still!), but it still felt nice to treat myself to exactly what I wanted, and make a delicious meal, just for myself.  Like I always used to do!


This was partially inspired by a super simple Ina Garten recipe (I’m currently reading through the Barefoot Contessa Family Style cookbook), urging me to cook my zucchini slices in small batches so they brown and crisp instead of steam and get mushy, and then cover them in parmesan, for good measure.  She’s right, I realized, this is the reason I always forego the zucchini, because it always gets mushy and overcooked, no matter what I do.  And the pasta?  Angelhair pasta was undoubtedly the carb-y texture that I was craving that night, and we just happened to have a partial package of it in the pantry.  Bingo.

First I sauteed up half an onion in some super delicious olive oil.


I’d made some homemade feta a few weeks back, which you can store at room temperature, as long as it’s submerged in oil.  I had added some rosemary in there for good luck, and now that all the cheese is gone, I’m left with this wonderfully dank olive oil to cook with!

Then, the zucchini.


Like I said, I cut the salmon steak in half, and stuck the rest in the freezer.  This part, I stuck straight into the skillet, (which I had now cleared of the zucchini, keeping them warm in a covered bowl), skin side down.  After about five minutes I flipped it, and now the skin peels easily off, as if it were never even attached.


I covered it again and let it blacken with all the residual salt, pepper, and cheese flakes that were in there from the zucchini, and then added a sliced red pepper in there along with it.


I make popcorn, like, almost every night.  Pretty much, yeah.  Someday I’ll show you how the pros do it, but for now all you need to know is that I make a little mixture to sprinkle on, that involves nutritional yeast (fine grain), Lawry’s salt, pepper, and oregano.  After each batch of popcorn, there is a thick layer of detritus at the bottom of the bowl from where these seasonings missed the kernels and sifted through.  I save this in a little bowl and sprinkle it on just about everything, because it is unbeatably delicious.  So if you ever hear me referring to just general “herbs,” this is probably what I’m talking about.


Watch out for the kernels.

Meanwhile, I’m boiling some water and cooking some angel hair pasta — just enough for a single serving.  Jesse and I had big plans to cook risotto on Tuesday night, so I’m not looking for leftovers here.

Once the pasta was done I strained it, threw it right back into the pot, and added some butter, a few shakes of nutritional yeast, a splash of cream, a few squirts of lemon juice, and some cracked pepper.


I mixed that all up and poured it onto a big plate, serving as the “bed,” and then on top of this added the zucchini, peppers, and salmon.  They had all been waiting for this moment.

Don’t tell Jesse, but sometimes salmon tastes best when you’re eating alone.


Pasta Carbonara with Turkey Bacon and Snow Peas

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Wow, I am so loving having another cook in the kitchen — especially one who wakes up in the morning already ruminating on an idea of what he wants to make for dinner.  I’ve had an especially spoiled week, with my work schedule ramping up to its usual fall frenzy, both UCU and Yarnia in full fall swing, and Jesse finding himself with a sleep-in, do-stuff-around-the-house kind of schedule while he waits on an electrician for his current project, I got not one but two evenings this week where I got to come home after a 12-hour work day to find him in the kitchen finishing the last of the dishes with dinner already made and ready to go.

For years all the grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning up afterwards has been 100% on me!  I hadn’t even considered this bonus perk of living with someone, especially when my evenings often are merely phase three of my work day; after a few hours of transcription in the mornings before work, and then seven hours of plowing through my to-do list at work, I often come home to a few more hours of screen time, whatever I couldn’t finish at the shop — albeit in my favorite little nook of the couch, in pajamas, and with a glass of wine or mug of tea at my side.

The best part is, taking a few days off made me so excited to come home on Thursday evening, with a little more lax of a to-do list that night, and unload the contents of our veggie drawers and try to get creative.  I’m sure it won’t always work out this beautifully, but it happened to be an afternoon where Jesse had gone out to take advantage of what was rumored to be the last sun we’ll see until next April, and got home from disc golf to find me browning turkey bacon and whisking together the sauce for a carbonara, and I think he was equally as delighted.

I had bought this package of turkey bacon on a whim at GO this week, and it seemed like the perfect light protein to throw into some campanelle pasta, along with some equally sized chards of the snow peas that had been lingering in our fridge for almost too long.

This got browned in the skillet along with the peas, and after that, half of a finely diced white onion and a few cloves of garlic for just a few minutes, until they had barely started to soften; all this I set aside while I worked on the rest of the meal.

Now squash, to be honest, is one of those vegetables that I have tried to like for years, unwilling to accept the fact that I just really don’t, but always on the lookout for ways to make it work.  So local and hearty and cheap and plentiful!  How can I not like squash?  Well, I recently discovered, while at my friend Hollis’ house for dinner, that perhaps some Delicata squash, sliced super thin, is just the disguise I was looking for.

So tonight, I tried it out her way: slicing the squash in half lengthwise, I cored out all the seeds, and then cut the squash into thin half moon slices.

These were tossed in a bowl with melted coconut oil, salt, pepper, and my Balti seasoning from Penzey’s, and baked at 375 for about 25 minutes.  And wouldn’t you know it, they came out perfect and delicious enough to eat, skin and all.

Meanwhile, to give us some greens on the side, I whipped up a super quick-and-easy salad of Napa cabbage and red onion, dressed with Smitten’s buttermilk dressing.

I’ve never made a carbonara sauce before, but I have to say, I may be sold on it.  I do love a good cheese sauce, but this one is sooooo much less work than my usual bechamel-inspired one, so much lighter, and really, if you wanted to cheese it up, you could add any soft or grated cheese at the end and it would probably work just as well.

Essentially, while the pasta is cooking (I used campanelle, which I think I had lying around in my pantry from way back this summer when I got overzealous about the festival pasta salads), I whisked together 3 eggs, half a cup of cream (half & half), some salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings.  Then, as soon as I had drained the pasta, while it was still steaming hot, I stirred the sauce in so that it cooked the eggs just enough, but stirring continuously so they wouldn’t scramble.  It’s still a rich, creamy sauce, but not such a gut bomb, and takes about a tenth as long to prepare.  Sold!

This Week’s Groceries

Portland Fruit Company 10/9

  • Bananas: $1.06
  • Honeydew melon: $2.88
  • Red potatoes: $1.66
  • Miscellaneous produce: $8.72 — bummer that they don’t itemize everything, but I know this included a head of Napa cabbage, yellow onions, avocados, roma tomatoes, plums, and nectarines

TOTAL: $14.32



Grocery Outlet 10/11

  • 2 lbs. shredded sharp cheddar: $5.99 — this was cheaper than the brick that I was planning on grating myself for some reason!
  • Turkey bacon: $2.49
  • Chicken strips: $3.99 — guilty pleasure freezer snacks
  • Peppermint Chai tea concentrate: $1.49
  • Tuna: $1.78

TOTAL: $15.74



Grocery Outlet 10/7 (This was Jesse — it shows up on the credit card but I’m still working on him to keep the itemized receipts!  I think this was stuff for the Italian sausage pasta with vodka sauce that he made last Sunday.  Like I said, he’s a meal-based shopper.)

TOTAL: $26.02


Pasta Shells with Zucchini and Gouda Cream Sauce

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This was a clean-out-the-fridge kind of week.  I had a super-power-work-day on Tuesday, totally reveling in the fact that I can stay at home during my day off to catch up on computer work for UCU and Yarnia, rather than going to a cafe where I have to pay for coffee, bring my laptop into the bathroom with me, and fight over outlets.  This used to be a Tuesday necessity for me, because I hated staying at home in my basement on a beautiful day, staring at a wall, even if it felt as great as it did to be productive and feel on top of my work for the coming week.

But this week?  I got to go to my step aerobics class (yes, that’s right, I said it.  And it’s awesome), come home and shower, and walk up and down my staircase more than necessary just because I’m so excited it’s there, while I organize my kitchen, do my laundry, and then have a marathon work sesh out in my backyard, at a makeshift card table we’ve set up under the porch, in my bare feet, drinking homemade iced coffee (mine is so much better than Crema’s, anyway!), and crank out 6 serious hours of computer time.

Not exactly what most people would call a day off, but in my world, I’ll take what I can get.  Plus, I took last Saturday/Sunday off to go up to Seattle for a friend’s wedding, and had a fantastic 3-phase evening that included me and Jesse attending a swanky reception at an art center downtown, crashing a college electronica basement party near my old high school, and ended with us wandering around my childhood backyard park at 7:00 in the morning…so I don’t feel too sorry for myself.

view from the makeshift office

I had bought some summer veggies the day before, in anticipation of an impromptu Labor Day barbecue we had sent out a mass text about, but that ended up being pretty low-key, so I had plenty of zucchini left over.  And tons of milk products in my fridge that were on the verge of going bad, including a half-gallon of whole milk that Jesse had brought over that would sadly go to waste if used in any form other than a delicious cream sauce.  So that decided that.

First, zucchini and onions.  You guys get sauteed together.

Then, a roux.  That’s just a fancy way of saying butter and flour melted together.

This turns into a paste, so you can incorporate it into the milk to thicken it nicely without any clumps!

See?  Look how nice and thick that is.

Once I start (slowly) adding the milk, stirring as it thickens, I also add 3 cloves of garlic (just got a new garlic press!  Yesssss!), and some bouquet garni-type herbs.  And salt and pepper.  And ground coriander.

Oh, and back to all the dairy that was about to go bad…I had a stockpile of cheese from various soirees we’ve had over the past month or so — some soft, some hard, namely gouda — that were also salvaged and melted into this delicious creaminess.  God it feels good to clean out the fridge.  Subtle psychological burden, lifted!

Those veggies I sauteed earlier now get mixed in…

And this box of shells (with a few rogue pennes, apparently), freshly cooked, gets stirred in to it all at the end.

I even had some leftover spinach-strawberry-hazelnut-blue-cheese salad left over from Monday night’s BBQ that made a perfect complement to this super rich-and-heavy gut bomb of a dinner.  Oh, and at the last minute I tore up some collard leaves that our friend (newly employed at New Seasons and with bounties of reject produce to spare!) had brought over on Monday night, and stirred those in for a nice healthy crunch.  And as you can see, I felt compelled to add some Bacos as garnish.  Is living next to Grocery Outlet turning me trashy?

This Week’s Groceries

New Seasons 8/30 (but counting it as part of September)

  • Half gallon milk: $2.50
  • Broccoli: $2.51
  • Garlic: $1.08
  • Red cabbage: $3.52
  • Fuji apples: $1.41
  • Bok choy: $0.46

TOTAL: $11.48



Fred Meyer 9/3

  • Watermelon: $5.98
  • Turkey breakfast sausages: $1.67
  • Frozen seafood mix: $3.99 — I see some hot and sour soup in my future…
  • Salmon burgers: $3.00
  • Honey: $5.47
  • Bulk granola: $1.23 — Someday I’ll actually make my own…
  • Coriander seeds: $0.72
  • Sliced almonds: $1.91 — So stoked that the Johnson Creek Fred Meyer has a bulk section!
  • Navy beans: $2.38
  • Eggplant: $1.49
  • Baby spinach: $3.98
  • Strawberries: $2.00
  • Adam’s peanut butter (x2): $6.00 — on sale for $3/jar!!  In case you hadn’t noticed, I make a lot of peanut sauce.
  • Cottage cheese: $2.29
  • Dozen eggs: $2.99
  • Zucchini: $0.82
  • Fresh mint: $1.99 — Someday I’ll grow this in my backyard, but for now, I have to buy it in itty bitty packages 🙁
  • Case of Diet Coke: $4.60 — For those rough days at work.  You know the ones.

TOTAL: $52.41




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This was not a huge cooking week.  Between having my fridge full of leftovers after my mom’s visit last weekend, being cooked a delicious dinner (below) by two of our friends Tuesday evening, barbecuing with more friends on Wednesday for dinner, and wanting to clean out the fridge for the coming weekend, when we’re gonna head out to the Salmon River for Kate’s 3rd Annual B-Day in the Woods, I haven’t been too focused on coming up with elaborate meals.

But Elizabeth has been! This is the meal she whipped up for the four of us on a lovely summer Tuesday evening in their backyard.

So, last night was kind of a leftovers night.  I came home from work starving, and before I could even run around the corner to Grocery Outlet to stock up on camping food for the weekend, I threw on some rigatoni pasta to boil.

Jesse has been moving in slowly, bringing over the most absurd odds and ends to gradually mark his territory in the new house: his backgammon board and travel Yahtzee, his bike (that was a biggie), and most recently, a half gallon of whole milk (Jesse is the only person I’ve ever met who unabashedly purchases milk “in the red carton”), some Raisin Bran, two packages of cheapo looking cookies, and a jar of pasta sauce that he had doctored up last week with a bunch of veggies and meat.

I knew this sauce must be on its last legs by now and he wouldn’t be getting to it before this weekend, so once the remainder of that box of pasta had been all cooked up and drained…

I heated up the sauce, throwing in nearly half a bag of spinach leaves to give it a little more veggie power.

These obviously shrunk down to invisibility instantly, so I also made a little nest in my bowl with another handful, over which I ladled the pasta and sauce, mixed together.  (Oh, and I also threw in the last of some sliced gouda that is still delicious, but probably not soft enough anymore to use on sandwiches.)

Next?  I knew I’d probably cry if I came back from camping and that entire gargantuan bag of baby bok choy that’s been sitting in my crisper since my venture to Fubonn had gone bad.  Here, I kept it simple.  I chopped off the stems, rinsed off the leaves, and sauteed the entire bag of bok choy in some coconut oil.  I threw in the last of a package of TJ’s chicken nuggets too, going along with the theme of using up odds and ends to turn this meal into something a little more interesting.

Once that had all cooked down a little, I poured in the remainder of an Asian dressing I had made the other night when we had Matt and Erika over — I had made a soba noodle salad with my go-to peanut sauce, but reduced the amount of peanut butter by about half so it wouldn’t be as thick and creamy as I’ve made for the last two festivals…I was getting kind of sick of that version.  But, I ended up with the perfect amount left over to give this dish a little flavor and kick.  And then of course, I topped it off with the last of my Thai chili peanuts from TJ’s.

This Week’s Groceries

Note: I have been doing woefully bad at sticking to a budget this month.  I think it’s a weird combination of every single weekend being a festival that we’re prepping like 13 meals’ worth of food for at once, adjusting to Jesse being around and the fact that he eats about 3x as much as me but we haven’t really had a conversation about how the next phase of our life together is going to mesh with this blog, and that I now live 3 blocks away from the Grocery Outlet, which is so insanely cheap, but also imparts a scarcity complex of buy-this-now-because-it-may-never-be-as-cheap-again-ever-in-the-world.  Thus, I end up coming home with muffin-flavored oatmeal and 1-gallon jars of pickles when I was really just trying to pick up some tortillas and cheese.  I need to rein this back in.

Grocery Outlet 8/24

  • Triple chocolate trail mix: $3.99
  • Spinach tortillas: $2.99
  • Sliced provolone cheese: $1.99
  • Bag of plums: $2.99
  • TastyBites rice biryani (x2): $2.18
  • TastyBites aloo mutter (x2): $2.18
  • TastyBites chana masala (x2): $2.18 — best camping food ever!!
  • Albacore tuna: $1.49 — in a packet instead of a can.  Looks like twice as much in volume but easier to deal with the garbage out on the trail, I think.
  • Bag of carrots: $1.49
  • Bell peppers (x4): $2.00
  • Watermelon: $4.99 — we’re going to make an amazing adaptation of Sunset Magazine’s watermelon jalapeno salad for Kate’s birthday cocktail this weekend!  It involves hiking out to camp with an entire watermelon in our frame pack.
  • Maple streusel instant oatmeal: $0.99
  • Sweet pepper pesto: $1.29 — the perfect condiment to put on tortillas with cheese and hard boiled eggs and sliced peppers for a camping lunch, no?
  • Artichoke pasta sauce: $1.99 — No plan for this, but I couldn’t resist.  So crazy cheap!!
  • Avocado: $0.99
  • 4 limes: $0.80

TOTAL: $37.70

REMAINING FOR THE MONTH: -$46.29 — uh oh.  I really went over this month.  Okay, let’s work from the pantry, Linds!



Friday Chicken Pasta

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I was contemplating what to make for dinner tonight while I was biking home from work — something quick, basic, and green.  After last night’s Supper Club, I needed something a little more cleansing to offset the comfort food.

I knew the only veggie I had left in my fridge was a monster head of kale, so this meal came together pretty effortlessly.

Remember all those lasagne noodles I made the other night?  Well, they’re still around and need to be used, so I flash boiled them in a frying pan (this is going to be a one-pan meal, btw) so soften them up again — I was lazy and just left them in my fridge in the colander so they were a little clumpy and dried out by this point.  Three minutes in shallow boiling water softened them right back up.

No longer in lasagne mode, I was picturing more of a warm pasta salad, so I rolled the long lasagne noodles up into little squares and sliced them into strips.

I drained these and dumped them into a big salad bowl and tossed them with my favorite olive oil to keep them nice and slippery, then added salt and cracked pepper.

On to the kale.  In case you didn’t know, kale is my favorite vegetable.  Usually I can’t go more than five or six days without an intense craving for perfectly wilted kale, and I’ve been known to devour an entire bunch of it in one sitting.  I mean, it cooks down small, but still.  I make it pretty much the same way every time, with spices being the only variable, depending on the context:

  • Slice the bunch of kale from head to toe, into strips  
  • Heat olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt, and “spices” (tonight: mustard seeds) over medium-high heat.
  • When the spices are toasted (or in mustard seed’s case, when they start to pop!), dump the entire bunch of kale into the pan 
  • This will seem ridiculous/impossible, because there’s no way an entire bunch of kale can fit in a saucepan, but just force it.  It cooks down so much, you’ll feel silly using your wok.  Literally just force it in with your hands, and after a few seconds you’ll feel the leaves start to wilt and shrink down 
  • Just when you think the bottom layer is about to burn, you pull out the big guns:

    • Give a good four or five squirts of lemon juice over the leaves, and it will simultaneously act as a mini steaming agent, while giving the kale a nice tanginess. 
    • Now you can feasibly stir the kale with a wooden spoon, but don’t do it for too long!  You want to remove it from the heat just as soon as it becomes manageable, so you don’t overcook it.  I like it when the leaves still have some texture, and the stems still have some crunch.

      Into the bowl it goes.

      And then finally, my go-to protein.  I always have roasted chicken in my freezer, that I can quickly brown in this same sautee pan, with just a little salt and nutritional yeast to make the outside taste crunchy and glazed.

      That got diced up and thrown in with the rest, and then I added just a single tablespoon of this:

      I love having a few key Trader Joe’s tapenades in the fridge, for an occasion such as this.


      Mushroom Garlic Lasagne

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      My day began with a morning trip to the southeast before I could start my work, because I had left an incredibly necessary component at the store this weekend.  I’m not a big fan of going in to work on my days off, but at least it meant I got to swing my new favorite grocery store while I was down there!

      1 package lasagna noodles ($2.49)
      half gallon milk ($2.99)
      feta cheese ($3.59)
      1 honeycrisp apple ($0.82) — in case you haven’t noticed, wintertime is for veggies, summertime is for fruit
      bag of red quinoa ($8.99) — planning a red quinoa salad for later this week
      pound+ crimini mushrooms ($5.54) — you’ll see why soon!
      1 red onion ($0.63)
      bag of mixed greens ($2.31)
      bunch of kale ($2.29)
      1 acorn squash ($1.41) — roasted and chopped up in the sesame quinoa salad!
      hunk of Parmesan ($3.85) 

      TOTAL: $34.92

      Remaining for the month: $115.09 

      Sometimes when I’m reading food blogs I’ll bookmark particularly yummy looking posts and tag them with “recipes totry” in Delicious, then on days like today when I actually have time to think about what I want to eat before I go grocery shopping, I’ll pick out ingredients on purpose.

      In Smitten Kitchen’s rendition of this recipe, she claims to have used FOUR pots and pans (a big deterrent for me, from the get-go) but in my version I only counted two, including the Pyrex I baked it in, and in which it will remain until it has been totally eaten (hopefully not until the end of my workweek!).

      This meant cooking the pasta first — the key to consolidating dishes is to move your way to least to most dirty cooking processes.  Boiling pasta is basically just like cleaning the pot, right?  

      So I cooked an entire box of lasagna noodles in salted boiling water with a splash of olive oil.  An entire box is definitely more than is necessary, but when are you ever going to use half a box of lasagna?  I’ll use the leftovers to make some sort of roll-ups to take to work later in the week.  Maybe chicken-pesto-mixed-greens?

      Once I drained the pasta and set it aside to cool, I was back to an empty pot.  So I took these guys and sauteed them up in a few tablespoons of butter, olive oil, and a little salt (the liquid doesn’t evaporate as well in this deep a pot so I had to drain them before using them in the lasagna).

      With those out of the picture, now I could make the bechamel sauce and dirty up the pot for real.  Bechamel is a super simple cream sauce, that always starts with equal-ish parts flour and butter — in this case I started with about half a stick of butter and half a cup of flour.

      Melt the butter, then add the flour and stir it around until it forms a paste.  Now you can add the milk in slowly, and as you stir, the flour will thicken the sauce without it clumping.  This is how I start my cheese sauce, and usually here I’ll toss in some fresh rosemary or sage, but this sauce has a really great garlic flavor and I didn’t want to obscure that, so instead I threw in three huge cloves of chopped garlic, about a teaspoon of grated fresh nutmeg, 1.5 teaspoons of salt, and a bunch of ground black pepper.

      After this sauce thickened I started layering in the Pyrex — noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and grated parmesan cheese, ad infinitum until I ran out of the first ingredient (mushrooms).

      Make sure Parmesan is the final layer, and then pop it in the oven at 375 for 45 minutes.