Lent 2013 Challenge Day 41: On the Road Again

Yesterday our homeschool field trip club visited a museum in the city where Mr. M works.  Because of our schedule, we would be eating lunch at the museum, and all five of us would be eating dinner in the inevitable traffic jam on the way home.  Thus, I had to make all three meals for the day before leaving the house in the morning.

Breakfast was the usual:  yogurt or Instant Breakfast (depending on the kid), cereal, fresh fruit.

Lunch was hummus wraps with whole-wheat tortillas (hummus was homemade because it’s cheaper and I’m allergic to tahini; tortillas were store-bought because I can only do so much with my time).  We also brought along small Tupperware snack cups of apple sauce,  the last three juice boxes someone gave us, and a large tumbler of water for myself.

Dinner was spiral noodles and peas in cream cheese mushroom alfredo.  It was mushroom alfredo because, surprise, we were out of evaporated milk; I subbed a can of cream of mushroom soup from our emergency stash.  We gave the Tupperware microwave pasta cooker one.  last.  try. The results were passable, though they were a bit gummy and did take longer than the 9 minutes the recipe promised.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that our dinner was still hot by after 7 hours.  I made sure to preheat the Thermoses with boiling water for five minutes, then I heated a rice bag in the microwave (the kind you use for sore muscles) and placed that between all the Thermoses in a bag in our trunk.  So, the meal itself took fewer than 20 minutes to cook, but I may have gone over with the prepping of Thermoses.  Thermi?  Hm.

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 36-37: Nothing to see here, people.

Really, there isn’t.  Late Thursday afternoon I had all the kids out for haircuts, so Mr. M made pizzas for us using the par-baked crusts spoken of in last weekend’s food prep post.

Last night, I had to use up the rest of that monster bag of bargain kale before it went south, so I made sauteed kale with mushrooms (bought on sale last week, also going south) and garlic.  I deglazed the pan with a bit of white wine, having forgotten to take out a container of vegetable stock to thaw.  Meanwhile I had angel hair cooking in our microwave pasta cooker… and I’m starting to give up on that thing.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, but all but the first two batches of pasta I’ve made in that thing have been just this side of inedible.  They’re gummy and mushy and gross.  So, we had food last night, and it was all by the book, but it wasn’t very tasty.  Alas.  There wasn’t enough Parmesan cheese in the world to save it.

Lent 2013 Challenge Day 34: Inaugural Feast

Yesterday was the inauguration of Pope Francis, on the Feast of St. Joseph, which is my husband’s feast day as well. We usually have some sort of meat on St. Joseph’s Day, because traditionally in our diocese, the bishops lift the Lenten restrictions so we, especially our area’s large Italian community, can feast instead of fast. I had a moment of thinking we’d be justified in breaking the rules on this very special day and getting some actual steak. I mean, Pope Francis is from Argentina, the Land of Beef. What better way to celebrate, right? However, given that the man asked his countrypeople to stay home and give the money they would’ve spent on plane tickets to the poor, buying a steak didn’t really fit the spirit of the day.

So, vegetarian recipes from a country of cattle farmers? We made baked cheese empanadas to go with a slow cooker of pasta fagioli.


Slow Cooker Pasta Fagioli (prep time: 10 minutes; cook time 4-8 hours)

1 small onion, finely diced
3 c chopped kale (I’ve seen recipes calling for swiss chard or baby spinach in place of the kale)
2 t olive oil
1/4 c red wine
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
2 c vegetable stock
1 15oz can cannellini beans, drained
3/4 c small pasta (we used orzo, but ditalini is traditional)
1 generous tablespoon of minced garlic
1 tsp each of dried parsley, orgeano, basil and thyme leaves
1/4 t ground black pepper
2 bay leaves

Sautee onion and kale in olive oil over medium-high heat until onions just start to brown and kale turns bright green. Add red wine to pan, cover and reduce heat to medium-low for 3-5 minutes. Add pan contents plus remaining ingredients to your slow cooker and cook on high 4 hours, low 8 hours. Top with Parmesan cheese, reminding us of the sawdust on the floor of St. Joseph’s carpentry shop.

Baked Cheese Empanadas (time: 20 minutes)

1 package of prepared pie crust, just below room temperature
Parmesan and shredded cheddar cheese

Roll out the crust and cut into triangular quarters. Place about a tablespoon of cheese in the center of each triangle. With a finger dipped in water, trace around the outside of each triangle, then fold in half to seal. Crimp edges with a fork as shown and pierce the top of each empanada with a knife 2-5 times to avoid explosion. Bake at 425F for 12 minutes or until golden brown.

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Many thanks to the older member of First Shift for doing the hand modeling.

Strictly speaking, the empanada recipe breaks the time limit rule as well as the “no processed foods” rule, but it was to educate the kids on Pope Francis’ home country as well as his vow of poverty.

Lenten Challenge Day 27: Pink Pasta

This one’s easy, too.  We used half of the batch of alfredo leftover from Saturday, mixed it with two cups of weekend-made tomato sauce, and tossed it with more microwaved spaghetti.  Cheap, easy, and not too bad on the nutrition.

Lenten Challenge 2013 Day 22: “Mommy’s Fennel Delight”

It’s going to be really hard to write this one down. First of all, tomorrow is grocery shopping day, so I had some leftover stuff to use up; this means that your version of this recipe may will vary. Then there’s the other issue: this was ready in about, well, let’s say 22 minutes, so by the strictest terms, it was a failure under the Lent 2013 Challenge Rules. However, the family had opportunity to eat well before 20 minutes were up. More on that during the recipe itself.

Don’t you love the title, by the way? First Shift picked it.

Mommy’s Fennel Delight (prep time: just over 20 minutes)

1 c pasta shells
2 potatoes, peeled and diced
1 T each of olive oil and butter
1 fennel bulb, sliced thin (put your fennel tops in your stock bag)
3 carrots, sliced as thin as you can get them (I peel mine because we don’t buy organic; also, save some carrot nubs for the kids to gnaw while you cook)
1 onion, chopped
1 T minced garlic
1 T crushed dried sage leaves (more or less to taste)
Sea salt & black pepper to taste
1 c leftover rice (we had instant brown rice leftover from Vegetable Fried Rice)
Grated Parmesan or bleu cheese crumbles to taste

Heat a large (not stock pot size, but the next size down) pot of water to boiling, add some salt, and boil pasta and potatoes 7-9 minutes or until desired tenderness. Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add fennel, carrots and onion, stirring frequently. When vegetables are crisp-tender, add garlic, sage and salt, and keep stirring. Add leftover rice. When pasta/potatoes are ready to drain, spoon about 1/2 cup of the pasta/potato water into the skillet; reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Finish draining pasta/potatoes (over a sink this time) and add pasta/potatoes to skillet. Serve immediately. Top with cheeses to your liking.

I’ve only recently started using the pasta water. Growing up, I’d heard that you’re “supposed” to use the pasta/potato water, but for what? A friend lent me a copy of Ginny’s Gems recently, and there was a bit in there about thickening sauces with your pasta water. Oh, so that’s it! Now I know. Knowing is half the battle. What’s the other half? I don’t know.

Gluten-free folks could probably just boil up more potatoes in lieu of any pasta.

Vegans could take a note from Cutting the Cheese, who recommended to me elsewhere to try this recipe here but with cannellini beans. I’m a recent convert to cannellinis, as youse all saw with kale-stuffed sweet potatoes, but I’m inclined to agree that cannellinis would be great in Fennel Delight.

Ahem. Mommy’s Fennel Delight.



Lent 2013 Challenge Day 13-14: Revived Seafood Mac & Cheese

What do you do when you’ve made your family “krabbyslow cooker mac and cheese but you get stuck at a car dealership well past dinnertime and then get stuck in traffic after that, potentially delaying dinner until well past the toddler’s bedtime? You pull off the road and get emergency food. Then you come home, put your slow cooker liner in the fridge to wait until the following night’s dinner.

“But Mrs. Mackerelsnapper,” you say, “wouldn’t that make your mac and cheese all dried out, making it sit in your slow cooker all day and then in your fridge all night.”

Yes, dear reader, it would.

“So, you’re going to feed your picky family dessicated mac and cheese?”

Hardly! Dear reader, I present you with:

Revived Seafood Mac & Cheese (time: 20 minutes)

3 c cauliflower florets, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 T each olive oil and butter
2 T flour
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 c milk
1 c shredded cheese (any kind pretty much)
1 tsp seafood seasoning (more or less to taste)
3/4 batch of “krabbyslow cooker mac and cheese

Steam cauliflower in microwave 5-8 minutes or until crisp-tender. Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet, brown onions in oil and butter. Sprinkle with flour and black pepper, then whisk in milk until smooth. Once skillet contents are bubbly, turn heat to low and add cheese a bit at a time, stirring until melted and smooth. Stir in seafood seasoning and cauliflower, then stir in “krabby” mac & cheese. Heat thoroughly and serve immediately.

This got rave reviews from the young. I encourage you to find your own ways to rescue meals!


Lent 2013 Challenge Day 2: Italian food–it’s what the Romans made Jesus eat.

After discussing with my family what we wanted as our meal for the feast of St. Valentine’s Day…

Thank you, Catholic Memes!

Thank you, Catholic Memes!

…kids and spouse alike unanimously overruled Heart-y Pizzas and opted instead for Pasta Aglio y Olio with Sage.


We made this fit in well within the 20 minute rule by using a TupperWare Pasta Cooker. We also splurged for a $1.91 loaf of heat-n-eat garlic bread from the day-old rack (it was a special day, after all). For dessert we made two “mug cakes” to share between five people; another splurge was $2 on a can of ReddiWhip. This went even father because we included the sweet treats from the kids’ Valentine party from earlier in the day. So when all was said and done, our meatless St. Valentine’s feast for five cost us about $6.

Was using the microwave pasta cooker cheating? Perhaps. How many families on government assistance can afford to dump big bucks at a Tupperware party, really? However, I have a decent amount of Tupperware, most of which I have purchased at thrift stores for no more than $2/piece. Anyway, we’re doing what we can to keep on track! What’s the plural of “mea culpa” ?


What can you do with mac-n-cheese?

Indeed, what can you do with slow cooker mac-n-cheese?  Add some of that “krab” stuff that Subway calls “seafood.”

“It’s pollock!  It’s made out of pollock!”

Sorry.  Couldn’t help myself.

Then add a dash of seafood seasoning .  Then throw in some broccoli for fiber and vitamins before you plug in the slow cooker.  For heaven’s sake, don’t forget to press the power button, either.

Emergency Pasta

If it wouldn’t have revealed too much identifying information, I was going to post a screenshot of the text conversaion I had with my husband on Friday afternoon.  Actually, the only telling part was my text asking him to start a pot of water boiling for pasta.  We were at the vet, getting a prognnosis for our oldest pet, a 15 year-old cat who has on more than one occasion, with malice of forethought, tried to kill me.  Anyway, thankfully for him, animals are not capable of going to Hell, because he is in his final decline.  In spite of all the dead bugs placed in my shoes, all the times he sat under me just as I was lowering down to the couch, all the cat hair and cat pee and cat barf I’ve cleaned up, all the stairs I’ve nearly died descending because he stepped right in front of my ankles…I’m still pretty torn up.

Anyway, if you’re ever having a pet or other type of emergency on a Friday night, here’s a little meatless something-something that can be made as vegan as you’d like–or not.

Pasta Aglio Olio with Sage

1 lb of your favorite pasta (gluten-free would be fine)
1/4 c olive oil
2 T minced garlic (honestly, we used more, but we are totally weird like that)
12 fresh sage leaves, sliced into thin ribbons
1 pinch Kosher salt

As pasta cooks. heat garlic, oil, and sage leaves in a large sautee pan over medium heat (not too high or things will scorch).  Let garlic get golden brown, then toss with cooked pasta.  We also topped ours with fresh garden peas and bleu cheese crumbles.  The kids LOVED it, and it was just the carb-heavy comfort food I needed after the preceeding 24 hours. The only reason we were able to throw this together so quickly was because of family teamwork:  hubby started the water before we even got in the door from the vet.  First Shift of Kids gathered the sage and the peas.  I even let the kids (they’re 8) slice the sage with careful supervision.  You would not believe how proud they were that they were allowed to use a “sharp” knife for real kitchen work.

Black Tie Taco Beans

I was so impressed with myself. I had already made tonight’s dinner by 5pm last night. It was all ready to be lidded and popped in the refrigerator, then from there popped into the slowcooker the moment we got home from The Rally for Religious Freedom. So well planned! So easy! Such a set-up for Second Shift of Kid to fall ill with a stomach bug as I was placing the lid atop said dinner!

Alas. I have no doubt that God let that happen to protect our family from something–what, I don’t know, but instead of flipping out at Him for keeping us away, I get it this time. He knows what He’s doing. At least I can do things around the house today, say an extra rosary when I’m not changing poopy diapers. And I don’t even have to worry about getting dinner together. Nice.

I like Black Tie Taco Beans for Lent because it’s made entirely from nonperishable goods–in other words, things that you could pick up in a food pantry. It’s a good meal to use with kids when broaching the subject of solidarity with the poor, especially on a day like today, when our brothers and sisters in faith and hope are rallying for our right to help the poor unhindered, not exterminate them slowly. Okay, I said I wouldn’t make this an apologetics blog, so on with the cooking.

Black Tie Taco Beans

1 28oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15oz can of black beans
1 15oz can of whole kernel corn
1 c of salsa (mild or wild, your choice)
1/4 cup (one packet) of taco seasoning (again, you pick the mild or wild)
1/2 lb farfalle (bow tie) pasta, cooked

Gently stir together all ingredients in a slow cooker, and cook on high 2 hours. If you want to dress it up, you can top it with sliced olives, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, shredded cheese, or McBaja Taco Sauce before serving. Skip those things if you’re vegan, though I wonder if you could make a baja taco sauce with rice milk and soy yogurt? If you’re gluten-sensitive, I bet you could sub quinoa for the pasta, which removes the “tie” part of the title, so if you have an alternate title, please feel free to suggest it.