Monday, July 19, 2010

True Pantry Living

Ok, this is a long time in coming. I always have billed myself as a “bargain” cook and now I really have to put my money where my mouth is. Due to some new financial constraints, I am hesitant to spend money and, thus, go to the store right now. That means, it’s time to be extra resourceful and cook with what I have on hand at this moment. We went to a Birthday party this afternoon and gorged ourselves on Chik-fil-a (did you already know how delicious their chicken salad sandwiches are? I had no idea…I pity the fool who has no access to a Chick-fil-a!) and I managed to eat BOTH Jay’s and my dessert last night when we were out celebrating our eighth (EIGHTH!) anniversary at a Mexican restaurant (apparently, I DO have room for both churros and flan after eating an enormous vegetarian burrito. Shameful.). Anyway, the point of all that is I am thankful I don’t have to come up with something too substantial for dinner tonight. Here’s what I’ve managed to come up with:

Maple Roasted Sweet Potato and Spinach Salad with Bacon Mustard Balsamic Vinaigrette

6 oz. Bag of pre-washed baby spinach (love the stuff!)
6 slices of bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces and pan fried until crispy, reserving 2 Tablespoons of the drippings
1/4 c. red onions, sliced (soak onion slices in ice water for 10 minutes to remove the bite)
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (slice 1/2 inch rounds and then quarter)
2 T. olive oil
kosher salt
2 T. maple syrup (thank you, Cracker Barrel and your adorable leftover bottles–it’s been a long time since I’ve been to Whole Foods to get bulk maple syrup)
1/2 cup blackberries, washed and dried
1/4 cup toasted pecan pieces

2 T. stone ground mustard
2 T. maple syrup
2 T. bacon drippings
1/4 t. garlic powder
4 T. balsamic vinegar
2 T. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with olive oil and kosher salt, spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast sweet potatoes for 25 minutes, or until browned and tender, turning once. Drizzle maple syrup over potatoes and roast for 5 additional minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

For dressing: in a glass measuring cup, whisk together mustard, syrup, drippings and garlic powder. Once combined, whisk in balsamic vinegar. Finally, slowly drizzle in olive oil until dressing is smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Assemble salad:
Layer spinach, sweet potatoes, onions and blackberries. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to combine. Sprinkle bacon pieces and toasted pecans over top.

And the verdict…Silas told me it was the “best dinner ever!” but I think he’s becoming very adept at trying to butter mommy up.

Also, I made spaghetti pie to bring to church tomorrow for lunch. Gotta love re-purposing the leftovers! Sorry, the picture is really did taste better than it looks! I have a lot of room for growth in my food photography! Try as you might, a fresh basil leaf sometimes does NOT dress things up enough!

Spaghetti Pie:
1 lb. spaghetti, broken into thirds, cooked al dente
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

4 cups leftover spaghetti sauce
(jarred marinara, 1 lb. extra lean ground beef, 8 oz. frozen spinach thawed and drained, 1/2 package sauteed, sliced baby bella mushrooms)

1 c. Italian blend shredded cheese

Stir cream cheese into warm pasta. Beat together eggs, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Stir into pasta until noodles are thoroughly coated. Pour into greased round casserole dish. Level out the pasta. Spread sauce mixture over pasta and top with shredded cheese. Bake, covered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake 5-10 additional minutes or until cheese is melted and browned.

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