Use What You've Got

One of the main premises of "Cooking with a Plan" is to buy ingredients when they're on sale and use them in several different recipes. Furthermore, use the leftovers from those recipes to make new meals!

Here's an example of buying ingredients on sale and using them effectively:

Two weeks ago, frozen raw shrimp was on sale at Giant. I bought a 2 lb bag. This week, cherry tomatoes were 2 for $4 and bagged greens were 2 for $4 at Wegman's.

Last week, I didn't have much food in the house and decided to use some of the shrimp I had bought as a base for a meal. I discovered some delicious portobello frozen raviolis in the freezer and a jar of vodka sauce in the pantry. I also had a small piece of stale bread from earlier in the week.
I sliced the bread and brushed it with olive oil. I sprinkled some Mrs. Dash Italian Seasoning over them and placed the slices on a cookie sheet. I broiled the bread for no more than 5 minutes (keep an eye on it!). Meanwhile, I thawed a handful of shrimp and peeled them. I also got a small pot of water boiling and cooked the ravioli. After a very quick saute of the shrimp, I tossed the cooked ravioli into the pan and then the vodka sauce. The shrimp and ravioli heated up the sauce and we were good to go. I wish I had gotten a picture of it because the bread was all golden and delicious and the ravioli looked much more decadent than a last minute meal should look.

Ok, now flash forward to this week. I made the Barley Salad with Chicken and Corn early in the week. This used up one of the pints of tomatoes and one bag of greens (baby spinach) and all the chicken I had in the house. As expected, I was flipping through Everyday Food Magazine when I was making my grocery list and saw that there was another recipe that would use the second pint of tomatoes, the second bag of greens, and the frozen shrimp that I bought on sale last week. With about ten minutes of planning, I was able to effectively use all the food I had purchased.

The biggest reason I like to cook with a plan is because I HATE wasting food (and money!). You think that you are getting this great deal when you get the 2 items for x amount of dollars, but then you never use both things. I've thrown away many bags of unused lettuce or pints of tomatoes because they spoil. You've got to have a plan for how to use ALL the ingredients you've purchased. I find that when I don't plan my meals around the quantity of ingredients I buy, things go bad and are wasted.

Sauteed Shrimp with Arugula and Tomatoes
~This is very simple, but satisfying~

  • olive oil (about 1 tbsp and 1 tsp)
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes (I used 1 pint)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 oz. wild or baby arugula (4 cups)*
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • cooked pasta** or rice for serving
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring often, until they blister, about 2 minutes (it took more closer to 5).
  2. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring often, until almost opaque throughout, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add arugula, season with salt and pepper, and toss until wilted, 1 minute.
  4. Add lemon juice and toss to combine. Serve the saute over rice or pasta (I used Barilla Whole Grain Spaghetti...our favorite!).
*Arugula is fun because it's got a unique peppery taste to it.
**I made a half of a box of spaghetti...but following the mindset of this post, I could have made the whole box and used the leftover spaghetti for one of my "Asian Take Out" meals I learned to make from How to Cook Without A Book. More on that idea is coming up in a future post!


Barley is Gnarly

I couldn't help myself. I love the way that "Barley" and "Gnarly" rhyme. I just had to title this post with "Barley is Gnarly". However, I wasn't completely sure what "gnarly" meant. So being the cool person I am, I looked it up online. I found two totally different meanings.
The first one is from dictionary.com

Gnarly - adjective, gnarlier, gnarliest.

Slang. distasteful; distressing; offensive; gross: a comic noted for his gnarly humor.

The second one is from urbandictionary.com

Gnarly - adjective

Off the hook. Totally extreme. When you've gone beyond radical.

They are obviously quite different, which could be a representation of how people feel about barley. Some people really like it and allow it to be a base for lots of other flavors. Others hate all things that can be described as "health food" and think it's nasty.

I honestly have had very little experience with barley. I may have eaten it once or twice, but I've never prepared it and never had a strong desire to prepare it. I figured it would taste...well, gnarly (in the dictionary.com sense of the word). But when I made used it in a recipe last night, I found it to be rather gnarly (in the urbandictionary.com sense of the word).

I saw a recipe in Everyday Food Magazine (I'm loving myself some Everyday Food Magazine June 2010) that used barley and thought I'd try it. Yum! The
barley took on all the great flavors in the dish and made it more filling and nutritious. I actually read online that barley is considered a "nutritional powerhouse" because of its fiber, vitamins and minerals, and lack of fat and cholesterol.

Here are a few tips/shortcuts that I used for this recipe:
  1. Instead of roasting chicken and shredding it, I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. At Wegman's, the rot. chickens are only $4.99 and perfect for this type of thing.
  2. Instead of buying a big sack of barley (because, at this point, I was still convinced that it was gnarly), I used the bulk section of Wegman's organic aisle. Not all grocery stores have bulk sections, but they are a great money saver because you only get what you need!
  3. I used a silpat on the baking sheet when I roasted the veggies. I didn't want to scrap charred scallions off the bottom of the pan.
  4. Finally, I bought a bag of pre-washed baby spinach. I'm veering away from bagged greens for numerous reasons, but this was the most convenient option on a busy work night.
Barley Salad with Chicken and Corn
~This would be a great thing to bring to a cookout~

  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup barley
  • 2 bunches scallions, cut into thirds crosswise and white ends halved
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels, about 3 ears of corn, or frozen corn (I used fresh)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 fresh parsley leaves
  • Approx. 2 chicken breasts, shredded
  • At least 1 tbsp and 2 tsp fresh lime juice
  • 5 oz. baby spinach
  1. In a medium pot of boiling water, cook barley according to package instructions (I used the instructions at the store which said to cook each cup of barley in 2 1/2 to 3 cups of water). Drain and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat over to 450 degrees. Place scallions and corn on a rimmed baking sheet. Toss with 1 tbsp oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  4. In a large bowl, combine barley, roasted vegetables, tomato es, parsley, chicken, 1 tbsp oil, and 1 tbsp lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. In a medium bowl, toss spinach with 1 tbsp oil and 2 tsp lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the chicken-barley mixture over the spinach leaves.
Since I was feeling very much like a domestic diva, I decided to make the cookie recipe in the same issue of Everyday Food Magazine because I had the ingredients on hand. They just looked so light and refreshing in the magazine!

Lemon-Poppy Seed Cookies
~These were so easy and so delicious~

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp poppy seeds
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with racks in the upper and lower thirds.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, egg yolks, poppy seeds, oil, lemon zest, and vanilla. Stir eggs mixture into flour mixture until combined (dough will be slightly dry).
  4. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined baking sheets.
  5. Bake cookies until golden brown, 10-14 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool completely (or eat them warm right out of the oven because you can't wait). They can be stored for approx. 5 days in an airtight container.
  6. Optional Step: I decided to use the lemon juice from the zested lemon to make a little glaze for the top. This is totally not necessary, but adds a nice layer of flavor to the yummy morsel. I just mixed the lemon juice with powdered sugar until it reached the desired consistency and then drizzled it on the cookies as they cooled.


Two Sides to Breakfast

Last week I had to bring a casserole to a special breakfast we were having at school. I have limited experience with making breakfast casseroles other than my Crab and Roasted Red Pepper Strata.
My thoughts wandered back to a dish that my friend, Jen, made for a little get together we had. I remember eating one serving and then casually passing by the food table about 100 more times to keep getting more.
I wish I had gotten a picture of this dish last week, because they look so yummy! By the time I thought of taking a picture, they were practically gone!

Ham and Cheese Sticky Buns
~These are quite the crowd pleaser~
  • 24 party size potato rolls
  • 1/2 lb. sliced swiss cheese
  • 1/2 lb. sliced ham
  • 2 sticks (1cup) butter
  • 1/3 c. brown sugar
  • 2 Tbls. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 Tbls. mustard
  • 2Tbls.poppy seeds
  1. Slice rolls in half and place bottoms in 9 by 13 baking pan.
  2. Layer on cheese and ham and top with roll tops.
  3. Melt butter in a saucepan and add sugar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard and poppy seeds. Bring to a boiland let boil 2 minutes.
  4. Immediately pour over rolls and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Can be made ahead and heated when ready to serve.
These sticky buns may be delicious, but they are not great if you are calorie counting. I was browsing my June 2010 edition of Everyday Food Magazine and saw this healthy twist on the traditional "Egg-in-a-hole", which is usually made by frying a slice of bread with an egg in the center. I made them for dinner tonight and we were delighted with the result!

Bell Pepper "Egg-in-a-hole"
~This took less than 10 minutes to make!~

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 bell pepper (any color), cut into four 1/2 inch thick rings
  • 4 large eggs
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 tsp grated Parmesan (I actually shredded some sharp Cheddar instead)
  • 4 slices multigrain bread, toasted
  • 8 cups mixed salad greens (I scrapped this and make some home fries with a potato I had laying around)
  1. In a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet, heat 1 tsp oil over medium-high.
  2. Add bell pepper, then crack 1 egg into the middle of each pepper ring.
  3. Season with salt and pepper and cook until egg whites are mostly set but yolks are still runny, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Gently flip and cook 1 minute more for over easy. Sprinkle with Parmesan (or Cheddar) and place each egg on a slice of toast (I put the eggs between two slices of toast to make a breakfast sandwich).
  5. Toss salad greens with 1 tsp oil and season with salt and pepper, serve alongside eggs (like I said before, I didn't do this because I didn't have any greens...but I made some home fries instead).
Since I made this for dinner, we finished it off with some old fashioned oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that I made last night as a "Series Finale of LOST Special Treat". I found the recipe online at allrecipes.com

Chewy Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
~These are my husband's favorite cookies~

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (I skipped these)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into the creamed mixture until just blended. Mix in the quick oats, walnuts, and chocolate chips. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.
  3. Bake for 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.