This is one of my favorite times of year — I get to clean out the pantry and start all over again after Passover. It is the time to use up all the half bags of rice and pasta and cans of beans and bags of flour and so much more.
I start to make bread like a possessed baker and try all kinds of new recipes, but mostly I just make the ones I can do in my sleep with some extra rye flour or whole wheat flour or whatever else I have in the house. I seem to be making up a lot of “Everything” toppings. Seems I overbought that little gem! Next week will be bagels and bialys. Time to invite some friends for brunch.
It is also pasta time in my house. When the kids were little, I had tons of fun-shaped pasta from Stars of David to wheels, to letters and stars and more. I would cook them all up, add some half containers of cheeses from ricotta to cheddar, and create a dish they would then rate. The little critics would grade their mom like pros and some recipes actually became family favorites.
I made broccoli and cauliflower rice before it was fashionable because I could then add it to the pasta and no one was the wiser. I could even add some pureed butternut squash and no one ever knew! We still eat pasta for a quick dinner — usually just mixed with tons of veggies and some grated Parmesan, so we have quite a few half-filled containers to use up.
My goal is to avoid wasting food. Americans waste up to 40 percent of the food they buy and I am certainly guilty of wasting food too often and then feeling guilt. So, I am really trying my best to avoid contributing to that statistic. But it is often not that easy — especially as Passover looms ahead and the instinct is to toss anything opened and only half filled. Can I really use that half cup of breadcrumbs, or the Panko crumbs, wild rice, quinoa and more? We will see.
So, try to use up what is open, avoid opening anything new and create new recipes for your family using up the leftover chametz. Who knows? You may find the next family favorite among the open boxes of pasta and rice!
Mixed-Up Pasta with Tomatoes, Veggies,
and More (Dairy)
I have used Faro with this recipe and it is delicious. Try it with some beans or Faro or other grains you like.
1 lb. pasta, all shapes and sizes (break spaghetti into smaller pieces)
2 cans tomatoes, (14-ounces or larger) crushed, whole, cut them up and use the liquid, plum, etc.
2 to 3 Tbsp. tomato paste (you can use an entire small can)
4 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced, divided
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 to 2 onions, diced
1 package mushrooms, sliced (8 to 10 ounces)
Diced and sautéed veggies (such as zucchini, peppers, fresh small tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, sliced carrots, zucchini, spinach, string beans)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Grated Parmesan cheese
Any herbs such as oregano, thyme, basil, chives
Fill a large pasta pot with eater and a generous handful of salt and bring to a boil. Heat a small frying pan. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil and heat for a few seconds. Add the onions and cook until golden. Add other veggies and cook until crisp-tender and then add half the garlic and cook until fragrant. Turn off the heat and add the salt and lemon juice, mix and transfer to a large l bowl. Add the remaining olive oil, heat a few seconds and add the tomato paste. Cook until brown around the edges and mix well, continuing to cook until a bit darkened. Carefully add the canned tomatoes and mix well. Cook until reduced a bit and thickened. Add any herbs and spices you like, including the remaining garlic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta until barely al dente. Remove the pasta (If you have any “butter and sketti” fans, reserve a bit of pasta for them) to the skillet with the tomatoes and mix well. Add about 1/3 cup of the pasta water to the pan, mix and cover. Heat on low for 3 to 5 minutes, then add the cooked veggies and mix well. If the pasta is still too hard, add a bit more of the pasta water and mix well. Continue to cook, covered, until desired tenderness of the pasta. Scrape into a large serving bowl and top with grated cheese. Serve with salad and crusty bread. Serves 4 to 6.
OPTIONAL: Add some black olives or capers and season with some crushed red pepper flakes.
NOTE: Hate tomato sauce? Just add the veggies and some veggie broth made with some bouillon paste or powder and the pasta water! The pasta waters helps marry the liquid to the veggies and pasta. Toss with lots of grated Parmesan cheese and let the cheese get creamy!
We load these up with “everything but the kitchen sink” including chopped dates, coconut, dried cranberries, walnuts, raisins and all kinds of chocolate chips and chunks. One year, we also included some left over chocolate sprinkles, Rice Krispies, graham crackers, and pieces of pretzels. They were, surprisingly, delicious! Have fun with these and really, use everything up!
1 stick butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups flour, half white half whole wheat or all of either
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice (scant)
Tiny pinch ground cloves
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Generous pinch salt
2 to 2-1/2 cups regular or old-fashioned (not quick) oatmeal (see note below)
1-1/2 cups raisins or other dried fruits, chopped
Add’l 1 to 3 cups (total) of add-ins such as: chopped dates, walnuts or other nuts, white chocolate chips, chocolate chips, M&Ms, chopped chocolate bars, peanut butter chips, chopped dried apricots, chopped dried apples, dried cherries, dried cranberries, flaked coconut, cereal, broken pretzels, even crushed crackers. Anything you like will work.
Note: Toasting the oats adds a delicious nuttiness to the cookies. To toast the oatmeal, spread in an even layer on a cookie sheet and toast at 325 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes, until the oatmeal begins to smell rich and nutty. Watch carefully to avoid burning.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugars together with an electric mixer until just creamy and well blended. Add the eggs, yolk, and vanilla and beat until very creamy and a little bit fluffy.
Sift the flour, spices and baking powder, and soda together. Stir the dry mixture into the butter mixture either with a wooden spoon or on a very low speed of the electric mixer. Remove the bowl from the mixing stand. Add the oats and stir until combined. Add the other mix-ins and mix well.
Lightly grease two cookie sheets. Place generous tablespoon-sized mounds of the cookie dough about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheets and lightly flatten with a fork or your clean hand. Place in the oven.
Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes (the more ingredients you add in, the longer the baking time needed) or until they are deep golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan to a rack and repeat until you have used all the dough. Makes about 3 to 4 dozen cookies, depending on the size and number of additional ingredients added.
NOTE: You can substitute almond or other nut flour for some or all of the oats.
Vegan, Organic, Gluten-Free Beans and Rice ‘Kugel’ (Pareve)
This is a variation of an old recipe that my mom used to make. We called it ‘kugel” because I made it in the pan my kids associated with my kugel recipe.
3 large onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
2 to 3 leeks, white part only
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 to 4 Tbsp. canola or extra virgin olive oil
2 (10-ounces each) packages mushrooms
2 to 4 cups organic mushroom, onion, or vegetable stock or water
1-1/2 cups long grain white rice. You can also use brown rice, just pre-cook it longer.
1/2 cup organic wild rice
1 can beans, Lima, navy, kidney, red, black or any combination, more if you like
1/4 cup fresh chives or scallions, snipped
Any fresh herbs you like
Any herbs and spices you like such as chili powder, cumin, coriander, za’atar, fresh tarragon, chives, garlic, shallots, etc. Use the spices your family members like
Salt and pepper to taste
OPTIONAL: DIced red and/or green bell peppers • Minced jalapeno pepper • Raisins and/or other diced dried fruit such as apricots, figs and dates
Generously grease a glass or ceramic 3-quart baking dish. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Wash the leeks and slice them in half lengthwise. Cut each half in thin, half-moon slices, and break them apart if they stick together. Place in a bowl of ice cold water and swish vigorously to clean. Let the water settle and remove the leeks to a colander. Discard the water, rinse the leeks and shake a bit to dry. Set aside.
Cut the onions in half and thinly slice them into half-moon slices. Break them apart also. Clean and slice the mushrooms. Finely mince the garlic. Dice any peppers you are using, and, if using, finely mince the jalapeno pepper. Drain the beans
Heat a large frying pan and add the oil. Add the leeks and onions and sauté until just lightly golden. If using, add the peppers now. Add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms give off their juices and the juices just begin to evaporate. Add the garlic and mix well. Remove from heat. Add dried fruits if using. Mix and set aside.
Meanwhile, parboil the different kinds of rice in different pots until each is about halfway cooked. Brown and wild rice will take longer than any kind of white rice. Drain well. Mix the onion-mushroom mixture with the rice. Add the beans and the minced chives and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into the casserole dish and spread evenly.
Add the water or stock to the pan in which the mushrooms were cooked and heat just to boiling to deglaze and get up any bits of remaining onion, garlic and mushroom. Pour the liquid carefully over the rice and cover the pan with aluminum foil.
Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes, checking several times to make sure that there is enough liquid. Add more boiling liquid, if needed. Uncover to brown for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking. Serves 8 to 12.
Break-Apart Bread with Cheddar and Jack Cheese (Dairy)
Let the kids help on this one. Even the younger ones can roll the dough into the small balls. You can add some whole wheat flour, but not too much or the bread will be too heavy.
6 to 7 cups unbleached white flour
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 packages yeast
1-3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup water
3 to 4 Tbsp. butter
1-1/2 cup mixture of shredded cheddar, Shredded Parmesan and Monterey Jack cheese or any cheese you have on hand except Mozzarella
Add’l 1/2 cup melted butter
OPTIONAL: Any seeds you may have like sesame, poppy, Everything, sunflower, etc.
Mix 2 cups of the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl of an electric mixer. Heat the water, milk and butter in a saucepan over low heat, until it is very warm, about 120 to 130 degrees. Do not let it boil.
Pour slowly into the dry ingredients and turn on the mixer to a very slow speed. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated, scraping down bowl as needed. Then turn on speed to high and beat for 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add one cup of flour and beat on high for another two minutes. Reduce speed and another cup of flour beating well after addition.
Add the cheeses and beat until incorporated. Add the rest of the flour, one cup at a time and, when the dough seems stiff, turn it out onto a clean, floured surface. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth. Place in a greased bowl, turning the dough so the greased side is up. Cover and set in a warm spot for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
Thoroughly grease a 10-inch tube pan and set the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Punch the dough down and break into 20 to 30 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and place half of them into the pan. Brush the dough with melted butter and add the rest of the balls of dough. Brush with more melted butter, cover and set in a warm spot to rise for another hour.
Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 to 50 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and remove from pan. Dough will pull apart.
OPTIONAL: Brush the top of the first layer of dough with one egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. Then sprinkle with some seeds over the dough balls. Repeat on top, and bake as directed. Serves 6 to 12.