Three Ingredient Pasta Sauce

It has been forever since I posted!

Work got busy.

We were travelling a bit.

And, we’ve been apartment hunting.

Which is incredibly time consuming.

Which has meant that I’ve been making really fast dinners.

And totally forgetting to take any pictures.

Ugh.

But this was so delicious and so easy that despite the lack of photos, I think you’ll still love it.

Three ingredient pasta sauce:

  1. cherry tomatoes
  2. Bacon
  3. Red Wine

That’s it. And whatever kind of pasta you want to toss it with.

I was in a rush at the store and trying to grab a few things and get out when I saw this gorgeous carton of multicolor cherry tomatoes for $1.99. The price! The beautiful tomatoes! I had to do something with them.

So i brought them home, sliced them in half and then rummaged in the fridge.

We had 4 pieces of bacon left over from when we had BLTs. So I diced up the bacon and fried it in a pot.

When it was cooked, i tossed the halved tomatoes into the pot with the bacon and let them cook down in the bacon fat. You can drain some of the fat off, but really, why?

Stir occasionally. The tomatoes will start to burst open and the juices will mix with the bacon.

I wanted a little more liquid so I looked around and grabbed the open bottle of red wine on the counter.

A few glugs, lowered the heat and let the pot simmer.

The wine added a richness that made it taste like the sauce had been cooking all day. Reality:20 minutes.

Boil water, cook whatever kind of pasta you want and toss with the sauce.

Don’t be afraid to plan a meal around one ingredient that just looks incredible in the store. Trust your senses. If it smells good and lookgs good, it’s probably in season and probably will taste its best.

Shrimp and Grits

When we were in South Carolina earlier this year, we were sure to eat our weight in that good Southern food that just isn’t quite the same above the Mason Dixon line.

With no trip to the South planned any time soon, though, and a craving for some shrimp and grits, we had a problem.

So, my husband and I put our heads, and our kitchen skills together, and tag teamed an awesome shrimp and grits dinner.

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It’s actually a fairly simple recipe that you can tweak to fit your craving or flavor profile.

We kept ours fairly classic with cheddar, bacon and scallions, but this could easily take an Italian turn with Parmesan and garlic, or have more of a Mexican flair with some green chiles and pepper jack cheese.

So for this recipe you will need:

  • 1 cup grits (or polenta)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1/2 pound shrimp (frozen works great. Cleaned, deveined, shell off, tail on)
  • scallions

Get started by preparing your grits according to package directions. Ours called for boiling 3 cups of water and then adding in the grits, stirring and leaving on the stove for twenty minutes with the lid on.

In the meantime, prepare your shrimp mixture. Start by placing your bacon, cut into small pieces, into a frying pan and cook until crispy.

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Remove the bacon from the skillet, but leave the grease. Place the shrimp into the bacon grease. Hey, this is a Southern dish. We’re cooking with bacon grease y’all.

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Cook the shrimp, turning to cook on both sides, until they are pink.

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When the shrimp are cooked, add the bacon back in. Also add in your chopped scallions. Lower the heat and let everything warm through.

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Meanwhile, add the shredded cheddar to your cooked grits and stir until it melts in.

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Serve up a a few big spoonfuls of grits in each bowl and top each with half the shrimp mixture.

 

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And there you have a five ingredient Southern Fix!

 

Ratatouille Over Couscous

I was thinking about the name of my blog, and I was thinking about what really makes a dish Itty Bitty City Kitchen friendly.

And I came up with a few factors.

As the name implies, the kitchen is itty bitty, so dinners need to not need a lot of ingredients. They also need to not require a lot of pans or any fancy gadgets that can’t be stored in said itty bitty kitchen.

Also, as the name implies, this kitchen is in a city, which means that it’s probably in a bustling, crowded area that’s packed with people and noise. It also probably means that work hours are long and by the time you get home, what with the crowds and noise, meal prep has to be fast. And easy. You’re probably tired.

So, with all of that in mind, here is what I think is one of the most itty bitty city kitchen friendly meals, ratatouille. You can vary the ingredients, but think five vegetables and some seasonings. Also, one pot. Also, also, you throw said ingredients into said one pot and just stir it once in a while. Small number of ingredients, one pot, and super fast and easy.

Oh. And Delicious.

Ratatouille is basically a stewed vegetable dish in a tomato base. You can swap out the vegetable and the spices based on your tastes, the season, and what you have on hand, but a can of diced tomatoes is essential.

I used:

  • 2 green bell peppers, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into one inch chunks
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes

You will also need vegetable oil, salt and pepper. I went slightly Middle Eastern and added turmeric, but you could do herbs de provence, thyme, Italian seasoning, anything really.

This is a throw everything in one pot dish, but you don’t want to throw everything in at the same time. We’re going to layer a bit.

Drizzle some vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add the peppers and onions and cook over medium until soft (10-15 minutes).

Add the eggplant, a drizzle more oil, salt and pepper and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

Lastly, add the diced tomatoes, chickpeas and turmeric. Let this cook, covered, for another 10-15 minutes.

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This can simmer for longer, but if you’re just home from work and starving because someone did not order lunch for the meeting you had from 12-3, then this is good to go.

This makes a great side dish if you wanted to have some grilled chicken or steak.

Or, if you want to make this the center of the meal, whip up some quick cooking couscous. This is sort of a small kitchen, busy cook staple. Bring water to a boil, pour in couscous, turn off burner, cover, and boom, five minutes later you have couscous.

So, to serve this over couscous, make the couscous and scoop a few spoonfuls into a bowl.

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Ladle over your ratatouille.

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And then to really bring the Middle Eastern flavor home, add a scoop of Greek yogurt.

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This dish is delicious, but the best part about it is that it gets even more delicious as it sits in the fridge.

What’s more itty bitty city kitchen friendly than a one pot dish that serves up two dinners?

Enchiladas

Every time my husband goes to Austin he comes home raving about the enchiladas.

We make quite a bit of Mexican food, but I had never tried enchiladas.

This was a decidedly team effort.

  1. because he is the one who has eaten these fabled enchiladas from Austin
  2. and two, because as you read on, you’ll see you need four hands for this one.

I decided to keep the filling fairly similar something we would make for tacos. So I went with

  • 3 diced green bell peppers
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • shredded rotisserie chicken

Preheat the oven to 400

Start by tossing the peppers, onions and beans into a pot with a drizzle of vegetable oil. Cook over medium until the peppers and onions have softened.

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Toss in the shredded chicken. It’s already cooked so we’re just looking to warm it up a bit. Season with salt and pepper.

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You can stop there and have some awesome tacos. Just scoop the filling into tortillas and add some cheese and guac.

To turn them into enchiladas you will need:

  • 2 cans red enchilada sauce
  • shredded taco cheese
  • tortillas

You will also need a wide, shallow dish (like a pie pan) to dump the enchilada sauce in and a 9×13 baking dish to bake the enchiladas in.

Oh, and a partner. You definitely will want a partner for this one.

Pour some sauce into the 9×13 pan. Just enough to coat the bottom. Pour the rest into the shallow dish.

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Set up an assembly station with the pot of filling, cheese, tortillas, dish with the sauce and 9×13 baking dish. (ignore the bananas in the picture. We have a small kitchen. I had nowhere else for them to go)

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Fully dunk a tortilla in the sauce.

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Hold the tortilla and have your partner spoon some of the filling into the center. Careful you don’t overfill- you need to be able to roll these.

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Have your partner sprinkle on some cheese.

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Carefully roll the tortilla, bringing both sides together

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And place seam side down in the baking dish.

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Repeat this process until you are out of tortillas or until the baking dish is full.

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Pour the remaining sauce from the dish over the tortillas

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Top with cheese and bake for about 30-40 minutes

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Serve up with a side of guac.

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By the way, we made a lot of enchiladas because my brother in law was coming for dinner. But I definitely recommend making a big dish of these because 1. it’s a messy process, so get messy for a big reward, and 2. they keep well in the fridge, so you can have leftovers!

Warm Brie Salad

Remember last week when we were super French and made Croque Monsieurs and Ham and Cheese Quiche?

Also remember how we tried keeping the number of ingredients we had to buy to a minimum?

Well after a weekend in Atlantic City, we need some meals that don’t require a lot of ingredients (the slot machines are not always kind) and that are on the lighter side (there may have been a lot of drinks and 3am Taylor Ham sandwiches).

With the French theme from last week in mind, I kept turning to brie.

Now brie is not exactly light and healthy, but it packs a ton of flavor in a tiny amount. So used sparingly, and paired with fresh greens, we may be on to something here.

I’m a big fan of salads for dinner. And I’m an even bigger fan of cheese, so I thought about combining the deliciousness of brie with a salad. Then I thought, what’s better than brie? Exactly. Warm brie.

So for this dinner you will need:

  • greens, (I used a mix of baby spinach and spring mix)
  • some brie
  • some honey
  • I had walnuts on hand from the Mushroom Walnut Ravioli the other week, so I tossed those in as well.
  • Also added a handful of dried cranberries because I always have them in the fridge.

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

Place your brie in an oven safe dish and drizzle with a bit of honey.

 

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Bake for about 10 minutes, but don’t walk too far away from the oven. The brie goes from still coldish to melted like that.

You just want it to be a little soft and runny.

Carefully top your greens with the warm brie and walnuts. Add dried cranberries or whatever else you wish.

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One Ham, Two Dinners, Part 2: Ham and Cheese Quiche

Tuesdays are worse than Mondays.

I don’t know why. They just are. Mondays at least you can talk to your coworkers about what you did over the weekend, and somehow in retelling the weekend fun, you can kind of extend it beyond the two days. But Tuesday? Tuesday is like okay for real now, you have to work. No excuses.

So I’m even more excited about the ham we made Sunday being in the fridge and ready to be transformed into a super easy super yummy dinner than I was yesterday.

Yesterday was all about the Croque Monsieur. Today, we’re going to take the same ingredients (minus the bread) and make a ham and cheese crustless quiche!

So easy. If you made the Croque Monsieur yesterday, you’ll have all the ingredients on hand. If not, the shopping list is still super simple.

  • ham, cut into one inch cubes
  • cheese, shredded (any kind works- mozzarella, swiss, cheddar- whatever you have)
  • five eggs
  • splash of milk
  • butter, for greasing the pan (you can use cooking spray too)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and butter a pie pan.

To the buttered pie pan, add your chunks of ham in an even layer.

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Then sprinkle over your shredded cheese.

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In a bowl, crack five eggs

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Add a splash of milk

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And whisk until combined.

Pour your milk and egg mixture over your ham and cheese.

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Bake for about 30-45 minutes, until the center is firm.

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Slice and enjoy.

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To continue the French theme, serve with a salad of greens topped with a mustardy vinaigrette. It will cut through the richness of the eggs, ham and cheese, like it did yesterday with the Croque Monsieur.

And there you have two meals from a few simple ingredients- eggs, milk, ham, cheese, butter and bread.

That’s two itty bitty city kitchen friendly meals from 6 ingredients!

One Ham, Two Dinners Part 1: Croque Monsieur

So my favorite thing in the world is when I can cook one thing and get more than one meal out of it.

Okay it’s not my favorite thing in the world, but it makes me really really happy.

I had a ham in my freezer from an Omaha Steaks order from my aunt. I had kind of forgotten about it. Then I saw it tucked in the back and the wheels immediately started turning.

If I cooked that one ham on Sunday, we could have Croque Monsieurs on Monday and a Ham and Cheese Quiche on a Tuesday. Even better? All of the ingredients for both meals are essentially the same, so less to buy at the store. Score!

Croque Monsieur is basically the best ham and cheese sandwich you will ever eat. When we were in Paris, my meals largely consisted of Croissants, Croque Monsieurs and Steak Frites. Croque Monsieur is sort of like a ham and cheese, meets grilled cheese meets savory stuffed French toast.

The ingredients are super simple, like a lot of French cuisine. It’s really just about the execution.

You will need:

  • bread (any kind you prefer)
  • ham, sliced
  • swiss cheese, sliced
  • butter
  • eggs
  • milk

I cooked the ham on Sunday, let it cool, sliced it and popped it in the fridge. This way, Monday after work I only had to assemble the sandwiches and cook them until the cheese melted. But I am getting ahead of myself.

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Start by placing a few slices of ham on one slice of bread.

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Add the cheese and then add the other slice of bread.

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In a shallow dish, add two eggs and a splash of milk

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and whisk until combined (see, kind of like French toast.)

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Next, carefully take the whole sandwich and place it in the egg and milk batter.

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Press it down so it is fully coated and then flip so the other side is coated as well.

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Repeat with your other sandwich.

Melt some butter on a skillet and place your sandwiches in the melted butter.

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Cook on the first side until golden brown (maybe 5 minutes over medium heat) and then flip and cook on the other side.

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The bread will be all golden and custardy and the cheese will be melting into the ham.

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For a very French touch, and to cut the richness of the ham and the cheese, serve with a salad with a mustardy vinaigrette. The mustard and the vinegar is the perfect balance to the richness of the sandwich.

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Enjoy your sandwich, and store the leftover ham and cheese in the fridge for tomorrow’s dinner. We’ll keep it French again with a ham and cheese quiche.

Mushroom Walnut Ravioli

One of the things that’s really tough when it comes to city living is grocery shopping.

Whatever you buy you have to be able to carry home, because unlike the suburban dwellers, us city folk don’t have a car trunk to transport the cans of chick peas, boxes of pasta and gallons of milk.

This means a bit of strategizing goes into my grocery shopping ventures. I try not to buy milk and orange juice at the same time, or do a restock on canned goods when i need to buy eggs (can be utterly disastrous).

The other grocery conundrum is while there may be a fabulous deal on cereal or pancake mix, and while it is true that these things have a long shelf life and can be bought in large quantities, my itty bitty city kitchen cannot hold large quantities of anything.

So, what’s a city chef to do?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Start thinking about how you can buy just a few things and transform them into one or maybe even two fantastically flavorful meals. That’s exactly what this dinner is. Three ingredients (plus butter and olive oil, which I always have) that go a long way when it comes to flavor, won’t take up a lot of room and aren’t too heavy to carry home.

  • Ravioli
  • Mushrooms
  • Walnuts

Bring a pot of water to boil and cook your ravioli according to package instructions.

In a skillet, drop in sliced mushrooms, some butter and some olive oil (I never measure butter and oil, so use your best judgment)

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Cook until the mushrooms are browned.

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And then add in your chopped walnuts.

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Cook until the walnuts are warmed, stirring so they don’t brown.

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Drain your ravioli and top with the mushroom walnut mix. For extra decadence, you can add a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

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Decadent, indulgent, and super easy.

Italian Stuffed Peppers

Coming to you from mom’s not so itty bitty, just outside of the city, kitchen.

Since it was Easter, we spent the weekend at my parents’ house.

Since it was Good Friday, we couldn’t make our usual Friday night pepperoni pizza and salami bread.

The pizza was no problem- just lose the pepperoni and there you have Good Friday ready, meat free dinner.

But what to go with it?

Salami bread without the salami is just bread.

Bread…

How about take some bread and stuff it into peppers?

Italian stuffed peppers and pizza? Perfect Friday night dinner.

You will need

  • cubanelle peppers
  • bread, any kind will do, leftover rolls, white bread, whatever
  • Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • olive oil
  • vegetable oil

Wash the peppers, cut off the tops and remove the insides.

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In a bowl, loosely tear the bread. We made four stuffed peppers and used 7 slices of white bread. The amount of bread will depend on how big the peppers are. Worst case scenario? You start stuffing peppers and run out of stuffing and make some more.

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To the sliced bread

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add about 1/4 cup bread crumbs

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and drizzle in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

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mix and add more oil or bread crumbs as needed. you want a moist but not oily mixture.

Take your hollowed pepper

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and start stuffing, making sure to push the bread all the way down

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and stopping a bit from the top. If the pepper is overstuffed, the filling will fall out when you are trying to fry the pepper.

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place your stuffed pepper in a skillet with enough vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

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Stuff your remaining peppers and place in the pan.

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Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes total, turning the peppers so they are cooked on all sides.

You want the skin to get nice and blistered and the filling to get crispy.

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The perfect light dinner with a big salad or the perfect accompaniment to Friday night pizza!

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Pizza – All about the Pan

 

So, back in the day, my family owned a pizzeria in Orange, NJ.

It’s still there – Toast of the Town- but it’s not in the family any longer.

My mom worked there with her aunt Mary back when mom and dad first got married. She ripped the tops off her gym socks to make a sweatband on hot nights while Aunt Mary screamed out number 69.

Welcome to my Family.

So, while we no longer have the pizzeria, we do still have… drum roll… the pizza pans!

Mom has one and grandma has one. I’ve been jonesing for one.

And now, finally, this beauty is mine.

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Do you see the perfectly seasoned pan? Do you understand that no matter what I did my pizza would not taste the same as my mom’s or grandma’s because no matter how i seasoned or topped it, it was not baked on this pan.

Until now.

My grandfather recently passed away and we are cleaning out my grandparents’ house and moving grandma into a cute little apartment. She no longer cooks for herself, so when mom asked what I wanted from the house, I asked for the pan.

Now, my Friday night pizza tastes just like mom’s.

Pizza night is such a great family tradition that we’ve been doing as long as I can remember. All you have to do is buy good dough (our grocery store has great frozen dough), defrost it in the morning and then stretch it, top it and bake it when you get home.

Drizzle some olive oil on the pan so the dough doesn’t stick and place your stretched dough on the pan.

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Add canned pizza sauce

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Shredded mozzarella

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Slice pepperoni (because dad says you can’t have pizza without pepperoni)

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And bake at 425 for about 15 minutes.

 

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Slice

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And mangia!

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