Spaghetti Boats!

I have a troubled past when it comes to squash. I boldly resisted it as a child, as I recall, since I’m a picky veg eater, but I promise, now I’m trying things.

Today’s culinary adventure is spaghetti squash with a sausage marinara. I saw a video about a spaghetti squash chicken parm but I like pork with my tomato sauce, I suppose. I’ve only had squash this way one other time – a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away (Calgary), and it was moose sausage. Well done, Jamie.

I haven’t got much pomp and circumstance steam in the ol’ engine tonight so I’m going to get to business. I would like to apologize for the weird lighting in my kitchen.

We’ll start by roasting our squash. Cut it in half, brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

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Turn over to cut side and roast at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes. Should be able to pull away from the skin, sort of soft but still holds its shape. A little crisp on the edges is a good thing.

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Meantime, I’ve used some sweet basil pork sausages, pulled out of their casings and are now browning in a pan.

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For the record, if you don’t want to use pork, it’s cool – beef or chicken would do fine as well.

When the sausage is cooked, drain the meat in a bowl with paper towel – stuff’s kind of greasy so it’s best to dry it out a bit. It’s going to hang out next to the sleepy kale for a while. (Oh god, please forgive me for the blurry photo. Messy hands + phone = shoddy photography.)

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In the same pan, in a few leftover bits of sausage grease, cook some onions and shallot.

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I’ve now emptied a full jar of canned tomatoes into the pan, seasoned with a bay leaf, a big handful of oregano and some salt and pepper. We have time so we’ll let it cook down and thicken with tomato paste.

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By now, the squash is done and scraped clean. This is where the boat comes in – try not to pierce the skin.

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Our tomato sauce has been simmering 15 minutes, and I’ve added the sausage back in.

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Keep simmering. This amount of time can vary as much as you like. You can cook for an hour and let all the liquid cook out, or you can cook less and thicken with tomato paste, just a few spoonfuls at a time. Check your seasonings. And remember that the longer you let it simmer, the less tomato paste you’ll have to use and the better the flavor.

I’d imagine you know by now that we put kale in everything. Why not?

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Mix that mess together. Mmm pile of veggies.

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It’s gone back in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes to melt the grated cheese I put on top. I picked mozza and parm.

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I am so astounded at how much I like this. Really.

Next post preview – excellent crock pot snack mix!

xo.

Spaghetti Boats

  • one spaghetti squash
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 3-5 pork sausages (5 will give you enough leftovers for pasta later)
  • one shallot
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • one large jar or can of tomatoes (whole, preferably)
  • bay leaf
  • tbsp oregano
  • a few handfuls of kale
  • tbsp or two of butter
  • grated cheese (definitely parmesan)

Oven to 375. Cut squash in half lengthwise, brush with oil and season. Roast for 40 minutes, or until squash is tender. Remove sausages from casings and brown in a saucepan. Remove meat from pan, and drain over paper towel. Drain most of the fat from the pan. Add shallot and garlic and cook for a minute or two before adding tomatoes and seasonings. Simmer for 30 minutes, re-adding meat halfway through. Scoop out roasted squash, stir in chopped kale and marinara. Re-fill the squash skins, top with grated cheese and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Beef Strog. 

Okay, I’m back! What did I miss? 
Sorry for the unannounced hiatus, kids. Things just got…away from me. I’m back now, never fear.

Before I begin…

  
Solidarité. 

Today’s delight is beef stroganoff. It’s kiiiiinda like my mum’s, which I remember being extra good, but I seem to make it a tiny bit different every time, since I only use the recipe card to remind me what I put in it and rough amounts. This stuff is creamy, delicious and easy. 

  
I’m using stew beef today, but you can use whichever cut you like – just keep in mind that you’ll be braising it so it doesn’t have to be a tender cut to begin with. 

Sauté your beef in a hot pan with oil.  Remove the meat from the pan.

 
Use that same beefy pan to cook your mushrooms halfway in butter. Trust me when I tell you to a) don’t crowd the mushrooms and b) ALWAYS cook them with at least some butter. Always. 

  
Don’t cook them all the way, since you’re going to add them back in later. Set aside. 

In the same pan (see what we’re doing here? Flavor development, that’s what’s up), put the meat back in with a few cloves of garlic and a half shallot. Turn on medium low. 

  
When you can smell the onions and garlic, add in a cup of strong beef stock and some tomato sauce of some kind. I used a couple tablespoons of ketchup and a couple tablespoons of this Williams-Sonoma Bloody Mary Sauce – it’s got a little horseradish in it. Bring that up to a simmer, cover and cook until most liquid is gone. 

  
This cooking time will vary depending on the cut of meat you use. This stew beef took between a half hour and 45 minutes until I was satisfied. The stock gets all thick and amazing and comes together into this awesome sauce…I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m getting excited.

Best to take it off the stove for a minute and dollop about a half cup sour cream on top, but let it sit a few minutes before stirring it in so it doesn’t curdle. 

  

I’ve seasoned with salt and pepper and dry mustard. I might have put a bit much in, because there was a very distinct Dijon sort of flavor. 

 

Toss your mushrooms in and heat through. Serve over noodles. 

Yesssss. So delicious. Would be good with kale in it too, I think. 

Mum’s Beef Stroganoff (kinda)

  • Stew beef
  • 1 1/2 c sliced mushrooms  
  • Olive oil
  • Butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 shallot
  • 1 c strong beef stock
  • 4 tbsp of tomato sauce (ketchup, tomato paste, etc)
  • 1/2 c sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. Dry mustard 
  • Salt and pepper.

Brown meat in oil, remove from pan. Half cook mushrooms in butter, remove. Add meat, garlic and shallot, and sauté for 2 minutes. Add stock and tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 30 minutes, or until meat is tender and most liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and a cream. Let stand 5 minutes so cream won’t curdle. Season, add mushrooms and heat through. Serve over noodles.

2 dinner servings plus a smaller one for lunch. 

Full o’ beans!

Pot o’ chili on the stove and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs on the TV.

I’m a little behind this week on my post – everything’s just been all over the place and am having a hard time keeping up. Unfortunately, homework and cleaning take precedence over pretty much everything.

I haven’t made anything too crazy over the last week, but I’ll definitely give you a few tidbits. 🙂

When we should have been having turkey last weekend, we went lazy and ended up having bruschetta and charcuterie. And a bottle of wine.

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I like sourdough, and even more so when it’s pan fried. I usually turn on my pan to medium, add a tablespoon or so of both butter and oil and crisp to your liking. Then you can top with a mixture of chopped cherry tomatoes, a garlic clove, a sploosh of oil and some basil chiffonade. I like bocconcini or mozzarella on mine, but whatever you like works. Pile up your noms on that pan fried bread, throw it under the broiler for 5 minutes and drizzle with balsamic reduction. We use Nonna Pia’s, but you can make your own, too.

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I made this too. It’s banana cake with pecan broiled icing. It was delicious. No recipes, though – I got it from my mama.

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This little treat is a crock pot favorite, from Janet and Greta Podleski and their cookbook, Loony Spoons. This one is called The Nutcrocker.

1 cup medium salsa
1/3 cup light peanut butter
2 tbsp frozen orange juice concentrate
1 tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp grated gingerroot
1/2 tsp curry powder
12 boneless skinless chicken thighs (about 1 kg)
Chopped green onions and chopped peanuts for garnish (optional)

Whisk together salsa, peanut butter, orange juice concentrate, soy sauce, honey, gingerroot and curry powder in the crock of a slow cooker. Place chicken thighs over sauces. Turn pieces to coat both sides with sauce. Cover and cook o low heat setting for 5 to 6 hours or high heat setting for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until chicken is tender. Garnish chicken with chopped green onions and chopped peanuts, if desired.

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Tuesday’s extraordinarily long day resulted in the following:

Thyme butter, spread on toast, and toasted in the oven, smoky cheese added (cheddar for me, gouda for Josh) and melted, with crispy bacon pieces, a fried egg and an avocado for me. Little sriracha…11pm magic.

The last thing I made was this amazing, out of the blue fruit and nut bread pudding. We had a bit of that sourdough left, which, of course, by this time had dried out significantly. Chopped small, soaked in milk, eggs, sugar, then mixed with dark chocolate chips, pomegranate arils and toasted almonds.

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This was a “seat of my pants” dessert and it was delightful. Who’d’a thunk it?

And now, my friends, I will finish Cloudy and eat too many beans!

Love you.

Fortunately, I am mighty. 

Turkey Day Weekend! I suppose this means I should be making turkey but I’m not. Not today. The only thing I’ve planned for this long weekend (drumroll, please) is my cleaning list. I do plan on making something with old bananas, and I have a lovely flat of Roma tomatoes to can, but I’m basically slowly working my way through the many things in my house that require a thorough scrubbing. 

What an exciting life I do lead, right? 

Tonight’s supper is shepherd’s pie. Sriracha potatoes and smoked cheese. Bowl o’ meat and gravy. I can’t imagine what could warm me up more. 

First, we’ve got our pile of food:

  

Not quite everything, but you get the gist. We are starting with minced garlic and shallot, along with our ground beef, in our hot pan, while simultaneously boiling potatoes. 

   
 
The potatoes boil for a half hour if you cut them small enough. 

Let the meat brown and toss in your veggies as you chop them. I’ve used rainbow carrots, green beans and a bit of frozen corn kernels. Stir into the meat and season – salt and pepper, oregano, bay leaf, bit of dry mustard.

  
 I’ve gone about 6 times around the pan with my liquid beef bouillon and added just over a cup of boiling water. 

  
Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes, or roughly as long as you need to finish your potatoes.

Speaking of potatoes, drain the water when they’re finished. Toss in about a half a cup of milk, 2-3 tablespoons of butter, salt and pepper into the potatoes and mash, whip, mush – whatever consistency of mashed potato appeals to you.

  
I decided to be a sneaky bunny and add sriracha to the potatoes. Not too much. 

  
So now that this is ready, give your meat and veg a good stir, then sprinkle with a couple tablespoons for flour (or potato starch) to make your gravy. 

  
Top this beauty with your spicy potatoes. 

  
  
Sprinkle potatoes with grated cheese. I’m using smoked Gouda. 

  
Sprinkle lightly with cayenne or paprika.

  
Bake for 20 minutes at 400. I turned on the broiler and put it back in for a few minutes to crisp the cheese. Now, I know it’s tempting, but give it a minute so you don’t burn your face off. 

  
Happy Turkey Day! 

Shepherd’s Pie:

  • 2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 shallot
  • 500g ground beef
  • 3 carrots
  • 1/2 c. bite size green beans
  • 1/2 c. Corn (frozen, canned or fresh)
  • Beef bouillon 
  • Boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 c milk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oregano, bay leaf, dry mustard
  • Sriracha
  • 1/4 c grated cheese
  • Cayenne 

Boil potatoes for mashing. 

Brown meat with garlic and shallot over medium heat. Add veggies, seasonings and stock. Simmer 20-30 minutes. Mash potatoes with butter, milk and salt and pepper. Add sriracha. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons flour over meat and veg. Stir to coat.

Pour meat into baking dish. Cover with mashed potatoes, sprinkle with cheese and cayenne. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes. 

Serves 2. 

…And the Chicken Soup

I’m sorry, this took me forever to do! I had planned to give you the promised chicken soup AGES ago when I did the stock, and then my brain went to mush and I forgot to. Anyway, the point is, here’s the soup!

Successfully pulled off a surprise birthday party yesterday for Josh. Among the snacks: beef nachos with fresh salsa and guacamole, delightfully made by the lovely Sarah, baked brie in pastry with mango chutney, on sourdough with apples, and artichoke dip.

And now, for the cake. The cheesecake. It was coffee and chocolate with some Kahlua, and then Kahlua whipped cream. Yeah. It was phenomenal. I decided I wasn’t interested in cutting pieces and washing 15 plates, so I just put the whole cake on the table with a pile of forks, with a bowl of whipped cream next to it. I know; we’re animals.

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This is all that’s left – a haphazard chunk and some whipped cream with chunks of cheesecake in it. Somebody help me, my willpower is failing. For the recipe, click here, and for the love of god, make sure you have people to share it with.

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Enough cake. Let’s make soup! (Please be warned that for some reason every photo I took today turned out blurry. I might have dropped my phone today…)

We’re roasting chicken tonight, since I don’t have a rotisserie handy. I’ve taken two chicken breasts, seasoned them with the same things I plan on using in the soup – salt, pepper and oregano.

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Add a little cube of butter, and wrap it al cartoccio (en papillote in French). My chicken is still slightly frozen, so it’ll have to cook quite a bit longer than usual. I’m roasting at 400 degrees for about 55 minutes, give or take a few, but 40 – 45 would do if your chicken was fully thawed.

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Again, with the mirepoix. There’s a touch of butter in here with my celery, carrots, shallot and garlic, but I’ve also added the roast drippings from my chicken for extra deliciousness. Give it a medium heat saute for 5 minutes. Add your roasted chicken and season with more oregano, salt and pepper. I like to add red pepper flake to give it heat – like I said, sinus-clearing chicken soup is the best.

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We’re finally using the delicious stock we made! YAAAAAY. It’s been a while – it’s almost at the end of its life so we must use plenty! I’ve done about 2 tablespoons to begin with, and boiled water from my kettle to keep everything hot.

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Let that simmer a while – I’d say half an hour is probably sufficient but if you want to leave it on longer, go for it. Just bear in mind that you might need to add some more liquid and stock since the broth will evaporate if boiled long enough. This is never a bad thing.

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I’ve cooked a small amount of rice on the side. You’re definitely welcome to cook your rice in your broth, but I like to have it separate because I don’t like mushy rice. Not that your rice will get mushy if you cook it in there, but if you have leftovers it won’t be the consistency I like the next day. Your call. Your dinner.

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As you can see, I decided my soup needed some green, so I grabbed some leafy kale and chopped it. I let the kale cook about 10 minutes in the soup, but if you like it crunchier you can put it in right at the end if you want. I can also suggest green beans and/or peas if you like that kind of thing in your chicken soup.

We had ours with buttered and toasted sourdough. I’m feeling sleepy now.

Fall time needs as many warm and comfortable things to eat as we can find, and with the first few days of October looking like they do, I’m feeling more like curling up with a big cup of Earl Grey and my friends at Downton Abbey…

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • butter
  • oregano
  • salt & pepper
  • 3 small stalks celery
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 large clove garlic (mine are enormous so two average size)
  • half shallot
  • red pepper flake
  • bouillon
  • boiling water
  • 3/4 c. rice, cooked

Heat oven to 400. Season chicken with oregano, salt and pepper. Wrap in parchment paper with about a tablespoon of butter and roast on a pie plate (or roasting pan) for 45-50 minutes (or longer, depending on your oven – just check when you think it’s done and go in 5 or 10 minute increments afterward). Set aside, reserve roast drippings. Chop chicken when slightly cooled.

Chop mirepoix and add to soup pot with tablespoon butter and reserved roast drippings. Cook 5 minutes, then add chicken and seasonings. Cover all ingredients with boiling water and stir in bouillon. Simmer 30 minutes. Add kale after 20 minutes, if using. If you’re using beans or peas, add them with the chicken.

If you don’t have a rice cooker and don’t know how to cook rice in a pot:

Season rice with salt, pepper, and small amount of butter. Cover, set over high until just boiling, then turn down to a simmer and cook 15 minutes, depending on what kind of rice you like. Wild rice takes a bit longer, I find, but we usually use basmati so it isn’t so difficult.

Delicious with buns and bread!!

If you do have some leftover, and you need to add some liquid, just put what you have in a pot on the stove again, and add what you think is necessary. Add bouillon as required – just keep tasting.

This recipe freezes brilliantly, but only if you haven’t cooked your rice (or noodles, if you prefer) in it. Uber-mush – I don’t recommend it. Otherwise, it thaws easily; requires a little extra broth and seasoning but it’s a lovely meal when you have a long day.

xoxo.

Breakfast for Dinner

Well, wasn’t today just SO MUCH FUN?? Do you detect a hint of sarcasm? Good. 

I wasn’t going to blog this one but it turned out so good that I couldn’t help it. Kinda like chili and kinda like huevos rancheros. 

  
So, I love eggs. Poached, especially. Bit of salsa, avocado and sour cream? Muy delicioso! 

I basically took this from a huevos rancheros recipe but have obviously done something different to it. I didn’t take pictures this time so I’ll write it out, proper-like.

  • 2 flour tortillas
  • Olive oil
  • Half shallot
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 500g (give or take) ground beef
  • tsp each cumin and coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 cup canned tomatoes
  • 1/3 c. Black beans
  • 1/3 c. Kidney beans
  • 1/4 c. Corn kernels
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • Grated cheese
  • 4 Poached eggs

Dice bacon and crisp. Remove from pan. Add shallot, garlic and a sploosh (that’s the amount you get before the first glug, you know?) of olive oil and sauté before adding the beef. Once the meat is browned, add seasonings and stir. Toss in your veg, beans and bacon, and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

For this next step, I used an 8″ round pie plate with 2 tortillas because we don’t have individual dishes, but you could use large ramekins if you had them. I didn’t bother to butter the dish but I suppose you could – line your dish with the tortillas. Heap your tortilla with meaty stuff, cover with cheese and bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until your cheese is melty and your tortillas have crispy edges. 

Top with poached eggs, avocado, sour cream and salsa. Fresh cilantro is encouraged, I think, but I’m a no cilantro girl, so you’re on your own for that. 

All in all, easy and yummy weeknight dinner! 

I’m Going on an Adventure!

Happy fall, friends!

I’ve always been of the mind that my world would be a happier place if there were only two seasons – 6 months of summer and 6 months of winter. I feel cheated, this year, of my summer, so it’s only logical to want an extra couple of months of it. Sadly, that’s not going to happen in Vancouver. Alas, alack.

That being said, I’ve learned to embrace fall. It means scarves and warm drinks and pumpkin things (yeah, yeah, I know, we talked about this already), and lovely colors, etc. Gotta fatten up for winter, too, you know…

So I was talking with my friend Chuck yesterday, about beer-n-mac, and I suddenly had an idea for our next culinary adventure: pork-n-mac. I know, it’s been done before, but this time, we’re going to do it a little differently than the original pulled pork mac-n-cheese that you might see in restaurants. That one is usually extra-smoky and packed with BBQ sauce. It would also be made from all day roasted pork shoulder, but I don’t have one of those, so we’re going to (again) use the contents of my refrigerator to try something new.

Remember how we talked about the beer? Well, Josh and I don’t drink beer, so we don’t have it readily available. I do, however, have a single solitary strongbow in the fridge, which made me think, “Okay, no beer, but there’s an apple cider thingy in there…hey wait, what goes with pork? Apples!” Good thing, too – another friend of mine, Dan, just gave me a big bag of apples (I promised to bake him a pie) from his parents’ orchard. Into the pot they go!

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The original recipe for my homemade mac-n-cheese came from this cookbook I got when I graduated from high school. Called “Munchies”, it contains dishes for one or two people that can be easily made on a budget. For me, this cookbook has been pivotal in expanding my one-person cooking horizons. I like to make notes in the margins; for example, this Italian Egg & Muffin Sandwich recipe says, “This is really good, but it’s dry without butter, and makes two full sandwiches. 4 servings is a lie – it only serves me.” My gluttony is unparalleled.

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This is a wonderfully easy recipe for homemade mac-n-cheese. Blows the ol’ KD out of the water any day. I tried to find the recipe online to share, but alas, type “munchies” into the Google search bar and all you get is stoner recipes. Not helpful if cooking for children.

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We’re starting with the crock pot (duh – when don’t we?), and a small pile of lovely things to braise the pork. We’re leaving the chops whole, rough-chopping our other ingredients, and then we’re going to douse the lot of it in Strongbow. Please note that I am woefully out of garlic and that I only used 2 VERY small cloves. I’ll add a bit of garlic powder later if it’s not enough.

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Add some oil to your pot, just to give it a bit of fat. You can put butter in if you want. I also threw in some thyme, because it’s Josh’s favorite, and I don’t mind it either. Use whatever YOU want, though; dried, fresh, whatever. Thoroughly salt and pepper, then give it a stir. Set the chops on top of the apples & veg, and pour the cider over.

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We’re going to set this for 6 hours on low. Time for house cleaning…

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I’ve decided to take the meat out of the liquid and give it a bloody good shredding. It doesn’t need to be hot when we add it to our pasta, as we’re going to cover the whole dish in cheese and bake it in the oven, so this pork scenario can happen beforehand, OR EVEN USE LEFTOVERS (this just occurred to me – I’ll stop yelling).

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Onto the cheesy pasta bit! Put your pasta pot on with some salt and set it boiling. In a big ol’ saucepan, saute your shallot and garlic for a minute or two, just to start the flavors. You can take this out of the pan before making the roux, or you don’t have to bother (because I definitely don’t).

If you’ve never made a roux before, that’s okay! All you’re going to do is melt a couple tablespoons of butter in your pan. Once it’s melted, sprinkle in a couple tablespoons of flour and cook. It’ll make a paste as it cooks, and it’ll darken in color, turning a caramel shade.

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Once you’re satisfied with the color, slowly pour in your milk, stirring constantly. Add your cheese. Once it’s melted, stir in your shredded pork and your pasta, and any veggies you feel are necessary. Today, I’m using halved cherry tomatoes. And then I added sriracha.

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Dump all this awesomeness into a baking pan. If you’re using a saucepan that is oven-friendly, feel free to leave it as is and just toss it into the oven. 15 minutes should do it, just to get the top a little crusty.

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I’d also like to mention, before leaving you to explore new worlds of cheese on pasta, that the braising can most certainly be done in other ways – you don’t always need a crock pot. I just like it ’cause it’s easy. If you have a dutch oven or a metal roasting pan with a lid, you’ll do just fine. I was going to type out instructions, but here, let me google that for you…

The Reluctant Gourmet – How to Braise Everything

Enjoy!

  • pork chops
  • apples
  • shallot
  • garlic
  • fresh herbs
  • olive oil & butter
  • flour
  • milk
  • grated cheese
  • sriracha
  • salt & pepper

Half shallot, garlic, apples, oil, strongbow and meat in crock pot. Season liberally. Braise 5 hours on low, one hour on high. Shred meat and set aside.

Saute shallot and garlic in 1 tbsp. butter & 1 tbsp. oil. Add 2 tbsp. butter, melt. Add 2. tbsp. flour, stir into paste and cook 2-3 minutes. Pour milk slowly into pan, stirring constantly. Add cheese and sriracha, meat, veg and cooked pasta. Stir well, pour into oven-safe pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.