Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Spaghetti Dinner

A pasta dinner for four at home costs $5 - $10, depending on whether you buy all organic pasta & sauce. At the Italian restaurant -- even the "fast food" type -- you'll be paying $20 -$30. If you find a quality pasta sauce that you like, don't turn your back on the good old spaghetti dinner. Instead, try the garlic bread ideas below sent in by Lara (thanks, Lara!) to turn it into something special.

Jar of sauce
Garlic powder
Cheese (optional)

Bring large saucepan of water to a boil. (1 minute hands-on prep)
Drop in spaghetti & turn heat to low. Cook until done the way you like it. (2 minutes hands-on prep)
While spaghetti is cooking, butter several slices of bread & sprinkle them with garlic powder. (3 minutes hands-on prep)
Top with sliced cheese if desired & toast them in the broiler for 2-3 minutes or the toaster oven for 5-10 minutes. (2 minutes hands-on prep)
Drain spaghetti when it's done & return to the hot pan. Mix in sauce. (2 minutes hands-on prep)

Any pasta can be used in place of the spaghetti. The sauce can be meaty or vegetarian.

Serving Suggestions
Serve with a salad if you have lettuce on hand. Or, try green veggies on the side, like peas or broccoli. The bread has a wonderful "Texas Toast" flavor, but is much healthier than the frozen boxed garlic bread.

Cheesy Beans and Rice

Wow -- I must have beans on the mind (or menu) lately. Here is a very fast recipe for beans and rice, flavored with plenty of cheddar cheese.

I can red beans or black beans, undrained
1 cup instant rice
1 cup water
4 oz. shredded cheddar or colby cheese
1 tsp. chili powder

Combine water & rice in saucepan, bring to boil & simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on whether you have white or brown instant rice. (3 minutes hands-on prep)
Stir in beans, cheese & chili powder until well combined. (3 minutes hands-on prep)
Although it might look messy, it tastes great & is usually a big hit with the kids.

Serving Suggestions
Serve by itself with a salad on the side. Or, make a burrito by rolling mixture up in a tortilla & topping with sour cream & salsa.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Black Bean Salad

This salad is good alone, but it's especially good served with tortilla chips or quesadillas in place of salsa.

1 can black beans
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
1/4 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 cup fresh corn kernels, raw or cooked
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. lime juice
1 tsp. honey or sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbls. fresh cilantro, chopped

Place the drained and rinsed beans into a large bowl.
Add the onions, green pepper, tomatoes, and corn and mix gently.
In a small bowl mix the garlic powder, lime juice, honey, and salt. Pour over the beans mixture and toss.
Top with fresh chopped cilantro.

Try kidney beans or hominy instead of black beans. You can use lemon juice or apple cider vinegar instead of lime juice. For a very quick meal, melt cheese on tortilla chips at 350 degrees in the toaster oven while you're preparing the salad. They should both be ready at about the same time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Quiche is the quintessential quick meal. (How often can you use a "QU" word three times in the same sentence?) It's extremely versatile & can be padded with last night's leftovers.

4 eggs
1 1/4 cup whole milk
unbaked pie crust
1/4 tsp. salt
anything else you like (think veggies, cheese, cooked meat)

Line a baking dish with the unbaked pie crust. (1 minute hands-on prep)
In a separate bowl, add milk & salt to beaten eggs. You can use an electric mixer or just a fork, if you prefer. (2 minutes hands-on prep)
Stir in your additions. One of my favorites is sharp cheddar cheese, shredded or in chunks, a handful of spinach, & chopped onion and/or chives. (5 minutes hands-on prep, leaving time for chopping)
Bake in a 375 oven for 30-45 minutes or until middle is firm & a knife comes out clean.

Try different combinations for a breakfast quiche or a dinner quiche. Try a crustless quiche or an unconventional crust, like a tortilla, cheese, or sticky cooked rice.

Serving Suggestions
For dinner, we enjoy serving quiche with a salad or by itself with a nourishing dessert, like real strawberry shortcake or honey baked cinnamon apples.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fettucine Alfredo

This was my college recipe for the dish, born out of both the desire for a quick meal and a usually empty cupboard. It was surprisingly good, thoroughly simple, and a favorite for many years.

Evaporated milk
Grated parmesan cheese

Immerse fettucine in boiling water & simmer until tender. (2 minutes hands-on prep)
Strain noodles when finished & return to the hot pan. (1 minute hands-on prep)
Add 2 Tbls of butter. When butter is melted, add 1/4 can evaporated milk & 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese. Stir until well-mixed. Add more evaporated milk and/or parmesan and/or cheese to taste. (4 minutes hands-on prep)

I often added frozen chopped broccoli to the water as I was bringing it to a boil so it would cook along with the fettucine. You can also top the fettucine with chicken or beef, making it an excellent dish for using up last night's leftovers. And of course, most noodles will work in place of the fettucine, like spaghetti, macaroni, linguine, rotini, etc.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Crockpot Cabbage & Potatoes

Typically, Supper in Seconds should save you from a restaurant bill at the last minute, when you're already tired, haven't planned anything for dinner & are trying to pull out just a few more minutes of reserves to put something together. But sometimes, you have enough time to plan earlier in the day -- just no time to put the plan into action. On these days, a crockpot meal that can be thrown together in the requisite 5-10 minutes can be a perfect choice. Here's one of ours.

1 head of cabbage, roughly chopped cabbage (approximately 1 inch squares)
about 10 small red potatoes
2 Tbls. butter
2 tsp. salt

Put your potatoes in a sink full of cold water to soak while you chop the cabbage. (1 minute hands-on prep)
Chop the cabbage. (3 minutes hands-on prep)
Put in crockpot with about 10 small red potatoes (fewer if the potatoes are larger), the butter & the salt (2 minutes hands-on prep)
Fill with water to an inch from the top. (1 minute hands-on prep)
Cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

We serve with apple cider vinegar. Meat eaters often serve this meal with sausage.


Recently our most frequent standby, quesadillas are adaptable to many different diets.

tortillas, corn or flour
shredded or sliced monterey jack cheese (or other mild white, like mozarella or provolone)
oil for frying
salsa, for serving

Slice cheese if necessary. (2 minutes hands-on prep)
Heat oil to medium high heat (corn tortillas) or medium heat (flour tortillas).
Place as many tortillas in the oil as will fit in your pan. (1 minute hands-on prep)
Place a thin layer of cheese on each tortilla and top with another tortilla. Press each top tortilla down with the back of a spatula. (1 minute hands-on prep)
Fry until crispy on one side, about 4 minutes (corn tortillas) or 2 minutes (flour tortillas).
Flip to the other side. (1 minute hands-on prep)
Fry for a few minutes until crispy on this side, too.

We like to serve with salsa, sour cream, and/or guacamole & a small side salad of finely chopped lettuce, peppers & onions.

Add veggies or meat along with the cheese. Try summer squash, green peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, chicken, turkey, shrimp or beef. Breakfast quesadillas with eggs & cheddar cheese (with or without more meat & veggies) are also very good.

If you use corn tortillas, sprinkle with salt when they are fresh out of the frying pan.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Salmon Croquettes / Tuna Burgers

Thanks to Lara for this one. I've had these at her house & they are very yummy. The biggest plus? They even please the under 5 crowd.

Anna Mae's Salmon Croquettes (my granny)

1 packet of salmon (or use canned, but plan for time to debone)
1/2 c mashed potatoes (leftovers or use bread crumbs as a binder)
Chopped or Grated onion
Chopped or Grated carrot
Salt and pepper to taste (can also add garlic powder, oregano, parsley, red
pepper flakes - experiment with flavors)
1 egg
Cracker crumbs or bread crumbs (optional)
Olive oil

Debone salmon if you are using a can. (adds 4 minutes hands-on prep)

Combine first six ingredients and mix well (using your hands works well to catch any stray bones). (3 minutes hands-on prep)

Preheat some olive oil in skillet on medium-low heat. (1 minute hands-on prep)

Pat out croquettes to desired size. Roll in crumbs (optional). Place in olive oil. On medium-low heat, you can begin fixing sides, if desired, & tend to the patties very little. Once browned on one side, flip over to brown other side. (5 minutes hands-on prep)

I usually serve with green beans and potatoes or rice.

Variations to make them Super Easy

Rather than pat into croquettes, roll into balls, then dip each ball in olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet & bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until you just begin to smell them.

Tuna Burger Variation

2 cans tuna
3-4 Tbls. mayonnaise or 2 eggs
2-3 Tbls. dill pickle relish
1 onion, minced
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
olive oil or cooking oil

Mince onion in a food processor. (2 minutes hands-on prep)
Mix all ingredients together except salt and oil. (2 mintues hands-on prep)
Make patties & saute in oil on medium-low heat until browned on both sides. (3 minutes hands-on prep)
Dip patties in oil & place on cookie sheet. Bake at 400 degrees until you begin to smell them (15-20 minutes).
Sprinkle with salt & serve.

Rice Casserole

A shout-out to my college friend Christy for this one.

1 can cream of potato soup
2 cups (uncooked) instant rice
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup frozen green beans
1 can sliced water chestnuts
garlic powder
onion powder
sliced or shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cook the rice on the stovetop (hands on time, 2 minutes).
At the same time, boil your veggies on the stovetop to defrost them (hands on time, 1 minute).
In a large casserole dish, mix the cream of potato soup, the rice, the veggies, the water chestnuts & the spices. (hands on time, 3 minutes)
Top with cheddar cheese. (hands on time 1-3 minutes, depending on if you have to slice the cheese)
Bake uncovered until cheese is brown & bubbly (about 20 minutes).

OK, this recipe is so adaptable to different tastes. Use any cream-of soup you like. Use any veggie you like. Use canned veggies instead of frozen. Use a different "special" ingredient from water chestnuts, like cashews or chopped green olives or canned diced tomatoes. Use different spices, like cumin & chili powder or fresh basil. Instead of the cheddar cheese, top with crushed tortilla chips, melted butter, & grated parmesan like my friend Christy used to do.