I have a secret fantasy. In it, I’m appearing on The Rachael Ray Show to promote my book about living the Boozy Lifestyle and I’m asked to participate in a cooking challenge. The game is to create a meal out of five random ingredients. I know I’ll ace it since I perform this very activity at least a couple of times a week. My daydream may be less exciting than folks who imagine sipping champagne in a private jet en route to dine in Paris, or thrill-seeking adventures like climbing Mount Everest or sky diving but it’s my unheralded superpower, nonetheless.
This ingredients-on-hand challenge was initiated by cleaning out our pantry, stocked with those irresistible 10 for $10 sale items that have no immediate plan for consumption. Normally, I not very aware of the aging of canned and packaged goods in the cupboards since they’re meant to last for a few years. But when an elderly relative serves you dip from a jar with a “Best By” date sometime in the last century, it’s a wakeup call to check the dates.
To my pleasant surprise, there’s nothing in this pantry sweep that needs to be thrown away. I make a collection of items with expiration dates drawing near, including a package of Knorr Pasta Sides. Prepared packaged goods like Knorr side dishes or Kraft mac-n-cheese aren’t foods I prepare on a regular basis; but I keep these items on hand for occasions when we are inclement weather-bound, or overcome with laziness to the point of cooking incapacitation.
I choose the microwave directions and, for the last two minutes of cooking time, add a cup of par-boiled broccoli florets. It’s a tasty accompaniment to grilled chicken legs and thighs seasoned with Italian herbs and parmesan cheese.
Paired with Buena Vista Pinot Noir.
Next up in the Ingredients On Hand Challenge, we move on to cleaning out the refrigerator. Frequently there’s a smidgeon of ricotta cheese, a chunk of mozzarella, or a few ounces of cooked pasta left over after making lasagna, stuffed shells, eggplant parmigiana, or a homemade pizza. Here’s an easy way to put those leftovers on a plate instead of in the garbage pail.
- ¼ – ½ pound of cooked spaghetti (or whatever is leftover)
- 3 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
- ½ – ¾ cup of tomato sauce
- ½ cup Ricotta cheese
- 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon of parsley
- ½ teaspoon of dried basil
- Pinch of salt and pepper
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg and combine with ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.
- Add the spaghetti into the ricotta mixture and gently coat.
- In an oven-safe dish, pour a bit of tomato sauce on the bottom. Transfer the spaghetti to the dish.
- Layer the mozzarella over the top of the casserole. Pour the remaining tomato sauce over the top and allow some to coat the sides of the dish to prevent the spaghetti from sticking and burning.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
Paired with McManis Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.