Today I wanted to kick off a new Friday series. I’m calling this one Tonight & Take 2. I get questions about how I have all the ingredients for everything I make or how I come up with what I make.
The reason I have an ingredient on hand is because:
a) I live to avoid grocery shopping so leftovers are planned to a T
b) using-what-I-have is my middle name
c) cooking for 2 of us means a whole package/container/item needs creativity so we aren’t eating the same thing day in and day out.
I just don’t usually share how I plan to use the other half. I might use part of the whole for a recipe but now you’re going to see how that happens. I also might make something and space out the blog posts so you think each posted item was spaced out. Aren’t you excited?!
Here are my meal planning tips here and here. Now, back to using an ingredient to make 2 totally different dishes.
Butternut Squash and Black Bean Enchiladas
½ roasted butternut squash
1 cup black beans
8 oz shredded monterey jack cheese or pepper jack
1 tbs liquid smoke (optional)
1 tbs salsa
8 wheat tortillas
Fill each tortilla with squash, black beans, and cheese.
Roll up and top with enchilada sauce.
Bake covered for 20 minutes at 350-degrees.
These were flavorful and I loooved the smoke flavor with the squash. The beans make it filling and balanced. Does this have you thinking about another leftover that would be good in here? Throw it in! Go crazy!
Now, these enchiladas were take 2 on a roasted butternut squash. Round one was a fall pizza with butternut squash, gouda, and bacon.
I posted this butternut squash lasagna last year but I thought it it needed a little re-do.
Don’t judge this lasagna until you try it. It is seriously so good and a great fall food. I love this one! It is much faster to prep & cook than traditional Italian lasagna.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
(adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 butternut squash, roasted
16 oz ricotta cheese
½ cup cream cheese
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ cup Parmesan cheese grated
1 cup chicken (or vegetable) stock
½ box lasagna noodles
Roast butternut squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees. (this could be done the day before)
Combine ricotta, cream cheese, egg yolk, and ¼ cup Parmesan cheese.
Mix squash and chicken stock over medium low heat.
To assemble lasagna: spread noodles on the bottom of a 9×9 baking pan; top with ricotta mixture and some cheese; layer more noodles; top with butternut squash mixture.
Repeat laying noodles then ricotta and cheese, then noodles, then squash and repeating until all the layers are used.
Sprinkle some cheese on top.
Bake 30 minutes at 375.
I sprinkled some fresh basil in there. I love the flavor combo and I hadn’t grabbed a package of sage. I think the fresh-factor is important and sage makes it more fall-ish.
See? Pretty simple and it’ll feed a crowd. It is a great dinner to prep in advance and stick in the oven for just little fuss. It reheated well and I froze leftover pieces.
Butternut Squash Lasagna (serves 6-9)
1 butternut squash: $1.89
16 oz. ricotta: $1.99
4 oz. cream cheese: $0.62
1 egg yolk: $1.24
16 oz. mozzarella: $3.59
4 oz. Parmesan cheese: $1.98
8 oz. chicken stock: $0.11 ($2.99 jar/25 cubes=11 cents per cube/cup)
8 oz. lasanga noodles: $1.00
total cost = $12.42/9 servings = $1.38 per serving
Even cutting larger pieces (6 instead of 9) comes to $2.07 per serving!
I had some leftover noodles. Early on in your layers, take a quick count how many noodles fit so you don’t run out mid layer when you could have scooched a few. I cut the up the leftover noodles with a little sauce and some cheese. Pow! Pop a meatball on and I’ve got a last minute dinner in the freezer some night! My resourceful Momma taught me well!
Well, we’ve made it to Friday! Somehow it always seems like an accomplishment. A wise gal, Ms. D, told me “I like to call it big Friday. Thursday is like little Friday.” I like that.
I’ve been really into salads for dinner so I wanted to throw this idea your way. We like salad bar dinner to each customize and because it’s all the fun stuff at the salad bar that make it fun food. Toppings to a sundae.
There’s nothing super crazy in this bar, but it’s a good use for leftovers!
Manicotti is totally not seasonally appropriate but I don’t care. I love pasta in all forms and figured I’d try out manicotti one night when it wasn’t too hot to have the oven on. I can’t say this is my favorite. I really love lasagna and stuffed shells come in a close second, but my manicotti was good. They’re just tougher to assemble than stuffed shells. It was a labor of patience.
I should give Amy’s manicotti a try she learned to make it with Monterey jack slices instead of ricotta from her mom. That sounds easier and maybe cheesier!
Look who photo bombed my picture! Windsor is often underfoot in the kitchen so I figured I wouldn’t crop him out of this one. It’s a tough one to capture since he’s black against cherry cabinets so nevermind how over exposed it is, just look for the red collar!
1 box Manicotti shells
2 cups tomato sauce
32 oz. ricotta
1 cup baby spinach (optional)
1 tbs chopped garlic
2 tbs Italian seasoning
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Boil manicotti until about 50% cooked, be sure not to overcook them then drain
Mix ricotta, egg, chopped spinach, garlic, Italian seasoning, and ¾ cup mozzarella until combined.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prep a baking dish with nonstick spray and ½ cup tomato sauce
Carefully spoon ricotta mixture into the manicotti shells. (I used a teaspoon and filled using both ends (and gravity).
Spread sauce over the top, cover with foil, and bake for 35 minutes.
Remove the cover, sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and bake for another 5 minutes until golden and melty.
I added the spinach because I often have some leftover and it is an easy/healthy way to sneak a veggie into this. When I have leftovers I toss it into a plastic container in the freezer if I can’t use it right away. The ability to cook it or eat spinach raw makes it my favorite green.
This is a good one to make & freeze if you aren’t into eating it meal after meal! It would be a good one to give my cousins-in-law who are now new parents (if they weren’t 2,000+ miles away)!
If I just scared you off….
Check out my baked ziti for easier assembly
or check out Martha’s Butternut Squash Lasagna I made and fell in love with if you are wishing fall upon us
I have a brief (but delicious) one for you today. I just got back from San Fran and have a lot of catching up to do. I made this side salad for Father’s day since my dad is all about the avocados recently. It is a bit delayed but couldn’t be more perfect for the crazy heat we’re having here on the East Coast (San Fran, not so much). I liked it as an easy alternative for a veggie side.
2 cups corn
1 large cucumber (I used an English cuke so I didn’t have to peal it and there would be some dark green)
2 tbs chives (or green onions)
2 tbs Italian salad dressing
dash of salt
Cook corn and roast corn slightly (roasting = optional).
Chop cucumber, avocado, and chives.
Combine dressing with all the chopped ingredients and serve immediately.
Tip: leave out the avocado until serving but the rest can be prepped earlier that day
I like the color and textures in this one. I would have been tempted to throw in some tomatoes if I had any around. The chives came from my garden and yes, they are the only edible thing growing right now. I’m crossing my fingers for my tomato plant that seems to be rockin’ some green future-tomatoes.
I think it also lends itself well to a Mexican meal or if you have an abundance of fresh corn this summer! It is light and cool so serve it at your next bbq and throw any leftovers into a quesadilla or onto your salad or dip into it with chips.
To continue this What I Ate series, I have a fun side for you.
This was a perfect summer meal. Marinated grilled chicken and couscous packed with veggies. I loved the flavor and was really jazzed about the couscous as a side. It might not look extra special but it was just right.
I cooked the couscous as I normally would but I roasted tomatoes while the couscous was cous-ing. I added the roasted tomatoes, and spinach I chopped up as if it were an herb. Worked like a charm to use a somewhat small amount of leftover spinach and “hide” it in a way. I added a touch of butter and Dijon. Perfect!
10 grape tomatoes
1-2 cups spinach, cut chiffonade
1 tbs butter (or 2 if you’re being real)
1 tbs dijon mustard
I’ll put almost anything in a calzone. I like to do a few meatless meals sprinkled throughout the regular scheduled items. It is such a cost saving and it is never a bad thing to add more veggies into our lives. This wasn’t my greatest calzone. I think I didn’t like that there wasn’t enough texture for my taste. The inside was flavorful but cheese + spinach + artichoke + more cheese, made for a gooey center.
1 pizza dough ball
12 oz shredded mozzarella
8 oz ricotta
2 cups baby spinach
8 oz artichoke hearts
1 tbs garlic, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Mix ricotta, spinach, artichokes, and garlic together.
Gently stretch dough into a big circle and lay it onto a baking sheet with one half centered aka, the bottom of the calzone (with the other hanging off, aka the top).
Layer some of the filling spreading it out, almost to the edge.
Top it with mozzarella, layer on more filling, then more mozzarella until both cheese and filling runs out.
Carefully fold the top over to meet the other edge. Gently press the edges to seal.
Brush with eggwash, if desired.
Cut about 4 slits on the top to let steam out.
Bake 30-40 minutes and let stand at least 5 minutes before cutting.
This is an oozer! I waited and cut but it still oozed a bit. I mean, the inside is very malleable so it started escaping a bit. I can’t even imagine if I cut it immediately! Be sure to fill, fill, and fill the calzone some more. The worst homemade calzones are super doughy without much in the middle. Get that filling all the way to the edges too. The eggwash is optional. It’ll make the top shiny and restaurant-quality looking. I also never recommend trying to transport the uncooked calzone. Load it up right on the pan you’re cooking it on. You’ll hate your life trying to move it since you won’t have enough hands/spatulas/coordination to move it from your counter to the pan gracefully.
The flavors were good, and the crust was the crunch needed but I thought the inside was too much of the same texture. I think because I had a texture issue with this, I’d stick to spinach and artichoke as dip or maybe I’d do it as pizza. Check out my other calzones I’d recommend in a heartbeat.
I love leftovers. I love transforming one thing into something totally different annnnnd I love not spending any money to do it. These were a prime example of all these things. I had leftover risotto from the other day. I made more than usual but even with Mr. J and I eating it with dinner one night and leftovers for lunch the next day, there was still a good amount. I decided to make aranchini!
Aranchini are historically Sicilian but as you can imagine other regions of Italy have similar ones that they’ll tell you are not aranchini. I learned this while dining with the mob. Mine are not authentic since I didn’t have any mozzarella for the middle.
Even without this seemingly key ingredient, these were simply delicious. Maybe because I fried them. I never fry anything so it makes me appreciate it even more. Frying makes me anxious and it’s such a mess.
1 ½ cups prepared and chilled risotto
2 eggs, whisked with 1 tbs water
1 cup panko
2 tbs grated Parmesan
Preheat oil ½ deep in a pan on medium
Scoop refrigerated risotto into 1” balls
Dip each into eggwash then roll in panko until completely covered
Fry in batches turning until golden brown.
Remove and let rest on paper towel.
These were so surprisingly good! I let them get pretty fried before turning them the first time. I think that really helped them stay together since they had a solid fried base on the bottom when I scooped with a slotted spoon.
We each ate a few as an app with dinner and I froze the rest. I think they’ll defrost pretty easily in the fridge and bake to reheat. They’ll be awesome when this weekend is over and I can celebrate a successful event (knock on wood!). I work all year for this weekend so wish me luck, dry weather, well behaved vendors, and lots of fundraising $$ coming in!