Improv Cooking

While shopping yesterday, I found that a staple quick cook ingredient has sky rocketed in price.  Ground beef was nearly $10/lb …WOW.. So needless to say I did not pick it up.  There were some nice, preformed Italian sausage meatballs that were only $7.00–  Seven dollars folks… Unbelievable. 

Since I live near a rural farming community, I think I am going to stock my freezer by buying my meat and having it butchered locally.  It makes a lot of sense both environmentally as well as economically. 

I made a quick Italian skillet meal with these expensive little meatballs. 


1lb ground Italian sausage (or the best price/product you can find/afford)

1/2 of a sweet onion finely diced

1 large clove of garlic cracked (to be removed later)

1 teaspoon each, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper

1 cup pasta (your favorite)

1/2 cup white wine

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

3 Tablespoons self rising flour

1 cup whole milk or half and half

1 cup boiling water

1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

For extra pop of flavor, fresh parsley or basil and 1/2 cup Japaneses Panko or fresh breadcrumbs. Reserved rendered fat from the sausage.

Cooking Directions

In a large oven safe skillet brown the sausage over medium high.  When cooked fully, add the pasta and stir to coat just before removing the excess fat. (Reserve rendered fat if you are going to top this with the breadcrumbs).  Add the onion and garlic to the skillet and stir to keep the garlic from burning.  Remove the sausage, pasta, onion and garlic (discard if you like, or mash and keep with mix) Keep in a bowl beside the stove while you make the sauce.

De-glaze the pan by adding the wine and scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Allow the wine to reduce by half.  Swirl in the butter and after it melts, quickly sprinkle on the flour.  Stir with a whisk and allow it to bubble for a minute to cook out the raw flour taste.  Gently stir in the milk and constantly stir until fully incorporated.  Once the sauce comes together, add the herbs and seasonings (except those fresh for the topping) and stir.  Add back the reserved ingredients and stir.  Bring to a boil, and slowly stir in the cup of boiling water and then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 15 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese prior to serving.

If topping with bread crumbs, mix breadcrumbs, finely chopped herbs and reserved rendered fat.  Sprinkle over top and brown under broiler watching closely.  

Allow to cool slightly before serving.




Take Out Tuesday – Spring is Here

I love Asparagus with fish especially.  This time of year you can see some beautiful fresh in the farmers market or grocery.  This recipe is yummy on its own, but I like to pair it with fish or steak.  Takes a few minute to prepare but it is worth it.  A true splurge!

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon Sauce

1 bunch asparagus, ends cut to tender lengths
1 egg yolk
1 Tbsp. white wine, semi sweet to dry, (Silver Coast – Viognier) 1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest
Juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp. melted butter at room temperature

Place asparagus in steamer over water or chicken stock with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix together all ingredients except the butter and wine. Whisk vigorously over a double boiler and slowly add the butter and wine alternatively until egg is cooked and light yellow. Whisk constantly.

Serve hot asparagus with this sauce poured over immediately after completing. Be careful how long this sauce sits at room temperature, it tends to break after a time.

Garnish with lemon slices or zest curls.

This “sauce” is so close to a hollandaise, but due to adding the wine, I felt I shouldn’t call it that.

Make-Ahead Monday

 I’m Queso over It!Image

Left overs:

2 pork chops, 8 oz. steak or 1 large chicken breast

1 left over stuffed bell pepper mashed up (or 2 roasted jarred Red Bell peppers and 1/3 cup rice)

1/2 of an onion, thinly sliced

4 six-inch white corn tortillas

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1/2 cup shredded Pepper Jack or fine crumbled Queso cheese

1 thinly sliced tomato



1 tablespoon fresh cilantro (snip with shears)

4 lime wedges (quarter a lime from tip to tip)

2 Tbsp. light sour cream


If you like it hot:

1 Jalapeno or Serrano pepper, halved, seeded, and cut into thin strips


Lightly coat one side of each tortilla with cooking spray. On the un-coated side of the tortillas, divide half of the cheese. Top with onion mixture, tomato slices, cilantro, and the remaining cheese (Hint) assemble quickly in the pan, and make sure the cheese gets out to the edges.  Top with the other tortilla, coated sides up.


Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. Cook quesadillas for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until cheese melts and tortillas are lightly browned. (Hint) To prevent spills, press the edges of the tortillas with a spatula to make sure the cheese melts at the edges prior to flipping in the pan. 


Repeat with other two tortillas and ingredients to make the second quesadillas.


Cut each quesadilla into 4 wedges. Serve warm and, if desired, with sour cream, additional cilantro and lime wedges.

Take Out (and bake) Tuesday

Take out (and Bake) Tuesday

Ever make tacos and have left over seasoned meat filling?  Take a few extra minutes and boil up some pasta.  Make a quick sauce with the leftover meat, salsa and cheese.  Mix all of this in with the meat, cover and allow cooling, and then freezing. 

When you are ready to cook it, take it out, and sprinkle with a little cheese for a topper.  Place in the oven and in about 45 minutes on 350 degrees you will have a bubbly yummy taco pasta bake!

Take Out Tuesday!   

Make Ahead Monday

Make ahead Monday

Have some left over fried chicken and veggies from Sunday lunch or dinner.  You’ve got the fixings for a great Monday night supper. 

Remove the skin and bones from the chicken and cube into an inch or half inch cubes.  Get your left over veggies out and also make sure they are in one inch or half inch pieces.   You need about two cups each chicken cubes and veggies. 

Meanwhile, heat 1 ¼ cups chicken broth to boiling. Immediately lower the heat to heat to maintain simmer.  In small bowl, stir one tablespoon of cornstarch into ¼ cup water to dissolve; stir into broth and simmer 2 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Stir in veggies and chicken along with some herbs and seasonings …such as parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

Continue to heat until the combination returns to a bubbling simmer then transfer to a baking dish (9×13).   Cover, cool then refrigerate. 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cover the top of the baking dish with phyllo, puff pastry or biscuits to your liking, just remember to leave some venting, or cut into the phyllo or puff pastry so that it doesn’t puff too much, and allows the steam to escape.

Bake 30 minutes or until topper is golden brown.

Make Ahead Monday!