Guess what everyone!!! It’s clean-out-the-fridge night!! Yaaaaaayyyyy!!!
In my ongoing to quest to reduce wasting food, I “invented” a recipe where I basically throw all my leftovers in a pot of mac’n’cheese. I say “invented” because it doesn’t take a lot of creativity to throw veggies in with pasta, and because when I was done with the whole thing I saw the exact same damn recipe on the back of the Kraft cheese bag.
I’m not sure how I feel about coming up with something that can be found on the back of a bag of anything, but you know what, my pasta was damn good, so whatever.
Under the Food Articles of Full Disclosure, I must confess that there was some major experimentation going on here tonight. I’ve decided to try to break away from milk altogether. I’ve been a huge addict, and have been drinking more milk that water lately. This becomes slightly problematic when you’re slightly lactose intolerant. I’m not cutting out dairy products altogether, since I want to keep the calcium in my diet. I’ve started exploring the use almond milk, which I’m now totally in love with. I used it as the liquid base in the cheese sauce, and frankly thought it would suck big cow balls, but nope! It rocks!
I love being surprised.
I call this recipe Mustgo…because it’s made up of everything in the fridge that must go tonight, before it goes bad!
I also love being clever.
One box of your favorite pasta shape
1 lb bacon
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups almond milk
Skim milk Italian cheese mix
Skim milk cheddar cheese
I brought a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. While the water was getting all warm and bubbly, I chopped the broccoli, pared down the Brussels sprouts and quartered them, then sliced the green beans. These all went into a steamer basket over about an inch of water on high heat. They only needed about five minutes (after the water came to a boil) to get deliciously soft and perfect. (The trick to steaming multiple veggies at the same time is to make sure they’re all about the same size.)
After the pasta had boiled for about 12 minutes, it was a beautiful, mouth pleasing al dente. It got to hang out in the colander down in the sink for the rest of the evening.
For small space cooking, the sink my favorite temporary storage area. I make sure it’s spotless before and after each excursion into culinary frontiers so I’m not being gross, but otherwise, it’s a great way to clear some counter space.
Into the now empty pasta pot went the pound of bacon, cut up into bite-sized pieces. Can I just take a second to ask, what
in the world is better than the smell of frying bacon? Seriously, it’s right up there with sautéed garlic and fresh bread. My apartment was, yet again, an aromatic paradise.
I love living here at dinnertime.
After about ten minutes, the bacon was perfect. Not gonna lie, I totally snuck a piece (or five) waiting for the rest of the meal to come together. It was blissful—perfectly golden and crispy, like Sunday morning on my tongue. Alas, reveling in nostalgia and culinary happiness can not be forever, as I had to vacate the bacon onto a paper towel lined plate to drain before they went past the Beautiful Threshold. (And we all know that Threshold. I’m not looking for Cajun bacon here.)
With the bacon removed, I had a LOT of bacon fat left over. I poured out all but about three tablespoons worth into a bowl, then whisked the flour into the bacon fat. Yeah, I know, I know. Bacon fat is bad. But you need a roux to thicken the cheese sauce, and roux is half fat, half flour. Why the hell would you pour out all of one fat just to replace it with another like butter? Besides, bacon fat tastes awesome.
I let the roux cook for about two minutes, just until it started to darken. The darker the roux, the better it tastes…but there’s a delicate balance before it goes all topsy turvy and gross. Once you burn a roux, you may as well order pizza, ‘cuz it’s a pain in the ass to start over. Once it hit that golden stage, I whisked in the two cups of almond milk, then let it simmer for about five minutes. You want it to look like a weakish white gravy when all is said and done.
At this point, I was hungry as hell. It had been a long day (aren’t they all?!) and I wanted FOOD. Luckily I was heading into the home stretch—the studio was smelling awesome, and I even started a little happy dance in the kitchen. Working quickly, I threw in about twelve shakes of hot sauce, a few good shakes of cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and the freshly grated nutmeg (do you remember my rant about the nutmeg? Seriously. I will stop talking to you!!). A quick taste proved my suspicions. It was awesome.
I should probably take a second to explain that this entire recipe is to taste. It’s based on leftovers, and whatever you have in your fridge. This isn’t something that’s going to be thrown off if you use a cup of peas versus half a cup. It’s not a bomb, it’s a pasta dish. Keep tasting as you go, and keep adjusting until you like what you’re eating.
And now…the cheese. You can’t make glorified mac’n’cheese without the cheese! That’s like going to prom without a great pair of shoes. It’s just not done. A generous handful each of the Italian mix and cheddar was all it took—they’re fast melting cheeses, so I turned off the heat and whisked it into a homogeneous blend of cheesy goodness.
Next…the peas. Those went in first since they were still frozen, and needed to cook first. After about a minute, I added two forkfuls of sundried tomatoes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beans, and bacon. Those were combined with a strongly assertive stir before tossing in the cooked pasta.
Can I just say, without tooting my own horn a little too much, that this is a freight train of culinary awesomeness? Cause it is.
And now I’m off to clean the kitchen!!
I am eating the single most amazing salad I have ever made. Or ordered. Or had made for me. Ever. In my entire life (which, by the way, is getting longer every time I wake up).
For probably months now, my buddy Akhila has been e-gushing via email about the Nicoise salads she makes. She loves them, and while I’d been intrigued based on the fact that it was food and I love it, I hadn’t actually made it.
Now, I should add the caveat that this is not a traditional Nicoise salad. I googled, and according to a recipe by THE Julia Child, Nicoise salads have Boston lettuce, green beans, minced shallots, tomatoes, potatoes, tuna, hard boiled eggs, anchovies, olives, and capers. My recipe is…well, it’s different. Partially because I can’t ever stick to a script (one my many critiques back in my opera days) but also because despite having a food blog, I suck at meal planning. This usually means I have parts of full recipes, but never the whole thing, sitting on my shelves/in my fridge. I have become a pro at substitutions and creative meal pairings.
This recipe has only boiled potatoes, green beans, chicken, and hard boiled eggs in a Dijon mustard dressing. I had lettuce…but the lettuce was pretty gross, so tossed that out. I’m actually ok with that, because I don’t like lettuce anyway. I planned on include tomatoes, but the tomato wasn’t looking particularly tomato-y, so I passed on that one too. And I didn’t have tuna because I hate it, so I subbed in chicken. I also didn’t have shallots, anchovies, olives or capers, so I left those out.
But traditional or not, I am a happy camper right now.
Mel’s Non-Traditional Nicoise Salad
One chicken breast, baked and cubed
Five fingerling potatoes (I used these cool multi-colored ones but any ol’ fingerling is fine)
Big handful of green beans
One hard boiled egg, peeled and chopped
One tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼-ish cup olive oil
Tonight is a Bikram night, so this recipe actually got made in stages. I got home from work approximately 630, so a big pot
of water immediately went on the stove with the fingerlings, which I had cut into bite sized cubes. Once they were perfect and fork tender, I drained them in the sink. (SF Note: FORK tender, not knife tender. Knives are meant to cut into things, so OF COURSE it’s going to slide in and out easily. Forks are meant to poke things, so use a fork to make sure it’s truly done. You’ll never bite into a undercooked potato again.)
While that drained, I whisked together the mustard, olive oil, salt, and pepper for the dressing. This is really to taste, so just keep adjusting things, tasting as you go, until you get something that makes you smile.
Then it was time to go to Bikram. I try to get there half an hour early so I have plenty of time to check in, set up my mat and towel, refill my water, and decompress from the day. For those of you interested in trying it, it’s a good idea to get there early to “warm up” just by lying on the floor in the hot room. Trust me. I rushed in three minutes before class started once, and it was NOT a good class.
The meal came together pretty quickly after I got home about 930. I piled the potatoes, a handful of raw green beans (LOVE them raw, but if you want to cook them, steam for a few minutes then plunge them into a bowl of ice water. Don’t leave them in there for more than 2-3 minutes though or else they’ll get mushy. No one likes mushy beans. Dry them on a clean dishtowel and continue with the recipe), a hard boiled egg, and cubed chicken breast in a bowl, then toss with the dressing.
I always have baked chicken and hard boiled eggs on hand. They’re the best things ever. I usually bake up a full package of chicken at once to save time, energy and money, all of which I love and lack. Awesome time savers for the busy single working gal!
This salad is probably going to be a main stay in my life. No, not probably. Will be. Biting into this was just…bliss. I was in such a good place from yoga tonight. The nicoise just deepened that place for me. Feeding my body and my soul!
I can’t wait to try this with salmon—it’s going to be awesome.
And now I’m off to clean the kitchen!