Food Experiments: One Pot Pasta Part II

As a follow-up to my last Food Experiment post, I offer a better pasta in one pan quickie lunch. This requires a prepared sauce, but adds some veggies, and I think it comes out much better than my previous one – here.

Not only do you only use one pan, it all cooks together once you get it started. No draining–once the pasta is done, the whole dish is done. Perfect!

For one serving, I used:

  • Penne pasta, about 3/4 cup dry
  • Classico Florentine Spinach & Cheese Pasta Sauce, 3/4 to 1 cup
  • Quarter of an Onion, diced small
  • Half a small Summer Squash, diced
  • 2 Tablespoons canned Black Beans
  • Fresh Basil, sliced up small
  • Olive Oil, salt and pepper, grated cheese
  • a splash of water

Heat a quart sized sauce pan to medium, add enough oil to saute veggies. Throw in the onion and let it saute a couple minutes, then add the squash. Give that another couple minutes, stirring to prevent too much browning. Then add the pasta sauce, some water, the pasta, and black beans. Turn the heat up to medium high and let it come to a boil. Lower the heat to Medium Low. Add salt for seasoning the pasta and squash, not too much, and pepper to taste. Stir well to make sure nothing is sticking — add water if it seems thick. There needs to be enough liquid to cook the pasta.

Cover the pan and allow it to simmer for 9 minutes. Stir it at least once. After 9 minutes, take it right off, stirring everything off the bottom.

Serve with a drizzle of oil and the basil on top, plus the grated cheese.

Of course, any shape of pasta will work, and any prepared sauce as well. If you don’t have/don’t like summer squash and black beans, then bell peppers, mushrooms or other vegetables that don’t take long to cook would work.

Definitely 2 Thumbs Up!


DIY Dunkin Donuts Breakfast Wrap

I have figured out a way to duplicate the DD breakfast wrap. I sometimes buy the bacon, egg and cheese wrap on my way to work and I really like it — it’s not too filling but it’s just enough for me. I’ve tried before to figure out how to make it at home, but it was messy and didn’t work well.

Then I found an appliance dedicated to making these wraps. Seriously! You can buy a machine for making breakfast burritos. And then you can buy a separate machine for making breakfast sandwiches, although you might as well splurge on the one that makes TWO breakfast sandwiches at once. LOL

You didn’t really think I was going to suggest getting one of those, did you? hahaha No, I have come up with a way to do this at home without buying anything you don’t already have. Here’s what you need for one wrap. You can even take this with you right in the foil:

  • One big square of foil
  • One tortilla, smallest size – I used white flour
  • One egg
  • One thin slice of cheese ~1/2 to 1 ounce
  • Bacon, pre-cooked — optional. I didn’t add this
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

You’ll need two burners on the stove. One is to scramble the egg and the other is to warm the tortilla right on the foil. Make sure the burner you use for the tortilla is very clean if you plan to wrap it up in the foil and take it with you.

Heat a small pan — I use a well-seasoned cast iron one — on medium heat. Add enough olive oil* to generously coat the bottom of the pan. Warm up the other burner to medium as well.

Place the tortilla on the foil, and take a basting brush and dip it into the oil from the heating pan and brush both sides of the tortilla. Be sure there is still enough oil in the pan to cover the bottom — you’ll be cooking the egg in that. Put the foil and tortilla on the hot burner — might need to turn this down to keep the tortilla from burning. Foil conducts heat really fast! Turn the tortilla over and heat the other side as well.

While that’s heating, crack the egg into a bowl and break it up with a fork. Add salt and pepper. When the olive oil is starting to smoke, tip the egg in and stir it a bit with a spatula. It will cook immediately, so when it does, take it right off the burner. Your tortilla should be hot by now, even browned in spots, on both sides. Place the cheese on half the tortilla (you’re going to fold it over), then add the egg on top of the cheese– and bacon if you’re using it.

Take the foil off the burner and fold it over in half (carefully – it’s hot!), pulling the tortilla away from the foil if it is a bit stuck. Turn it over on the other side, press down a bit to squish it together, pull the tortilla away on this side if it’s stuck. You can now put it on a plate, or wrap it up in the foil and take it with you!

*Scrambling eggs in hot olive oil is my new favorite way to do them. I learned it from America’s Test Kitchen/Cook’s Country/Milk Street. [Here]is the method explained. If you want this done quick and aren’t too concerned about over-cooking, you can heat that burner to medium high, but if you follow their method, it really makes a nice scrambled egg.

Food Experiments: Pasta w/Tomatoes in one Pan

I love to cook — now and then. Not always that excited to cook every day — who is? But when I get inspired, I really enjoy it. What I truly do not enjoy is shopping. I put off grocery shopping frequently until I don’t have anything I want to eat. And then sometimes I put it off a little longer. LOL

Sure, I know the right way to do things is to plan ahead, decide what you’re going to have for meals and then go shopping. Well, it’s not likely after 40 years cooking meals that I’m going to start doing that, so there are a lot of days when I have to get creative.

I recently discovered a great YouTube channel called Brothers Green Eats and it has inspired me to be more creative and less attached to recipes in the kitchen. These guys are very casual and fun and they have great ideas, great techniques to offer. Most of the food they make is very budget conscious, and one of the brothers, Josh, did a series called “How to Live on $3 a Day” which I really enjoyed. Be aware they can get a bit crude now and then. 🙂

Brothers Green Eats: How to Live on $3 a Day

The Recipe

Today I needed something for lunch. I had pasta, some leftover diced tomatoes from a can, onions, garlic and herbs and Parmesan cheese. I wanted to use just one pan, so I decided to cook them all at the same time. Here’s what I used for ingredients — measurements are approximate:

  • 3/4 cup rotini pasta
  • 2/3 cup diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1/4 cup diced onions
  • 1/2 garlic clove chopped fine
  • salt and pepper to taste and a pinch of sugar
  • 1 T butter
  • herbs — oregano and basil as you like
  • grated cheese

I brought about an inch or so of water to a boil, throwing all the ingredients except cheese in as I got them ready, with the pasta going in last when the water came to a boil. I let it cook on medium high for 9 or 10 minutes and then scooped out all the pasta and veg. Then the sauce got a bit of olive oil in it and stayed on the heat for 5 or 10 minutes to reduce. I threw the pasta/veg back in the pot with some of the cheese to combine, then plated it and added more grated cheese.

The Verdict? A Qualified Thumbs Up

So how’d it come out? Like soup! I couldn’t get the sauce to reduce very much, so I just put everything in a bowl. It was very tasty. The grated cheese did not work well though because the hot liquid made it gum up. If the sauce were much thicker the cheese would have been fine. I wouldn’t add it until after plating the pasta though.

Next time I think I would separate the pasta from the vegetables as they cooked, maybe putting the veg in a steamer basket and the pasta in the bottom of the pan. Then when the pasta is done, it could come out and the rest could continue to cook down for 5 or 10 minutes. The other thing I might do is combine a bit of the liquid with some corn starch and then add it back in the sauce.

All in all, I would do it again. Could certainly add some frozen meatballs or sausage or chicken. The main thing is to use very little water – just about enough to cover the pasta and veggies. It will still be enough to cook the pasta and you don’t lose any flavors by draining the pasta.

Next food experiment: I want to make tomato rice, where you make a big pot of rice and cook a whole tomato on top of it. But I’ll have to go buy a tomato for that. 🙂

Downy Infusions: Why?

Just saw a commercial for a Downy product – touch activated long lasting scent fabric conditioner (Ultra Downy Infusions). This sounds like such a terrible idea to me.

To begin with, I certainly don’t get why you would want MORE fragrance in your clothes than you already get with normal detergents and/or fabric softeners/dryer sheets. Sure, maybe you like the scents they offer or whatever. But to use a product that leaves so much residue on your clothes that touching the material releases the fragrance into the air? That just seems to be a terrible idea. Cloth that you wear next to your skin infused with chemicals, releasing those chemicals so you can breathe them all day long. I think it’s a little alarming.

I do not know anything about the toxicity of these products — apparently it’s difficult to get any kind of complete information about it because of trade secrets. But I don’t think I need to know the composition to be concerned about the addition of long-lasting chemicals onto your skin and into your lungs.

But also, just the fact that you’d want more fragrance in your laundry — what is that about? Is this for people who continually let their laundry sit in the washer and get smelly? Because there’s a solution for that that doesn’t cost money…

I was equally perplexed when they came out with “Unstopables”. The product doesn’t do anything but add more fragrance to your laundry as far as I can determine. Not to mention, why would you market a product with an inexplicable misspelling in the name? Usually brand name misspellings are to take advantage of a pun. I see no pun here, unless we are supposed to notice that there is less P in it. LOL

Maybe I’ll go back to foil balls in the dryer to prevent static cling and give up using dryer foil1sheets. I have tried it before and it does quite well. Better living through physics! The great thing is after they’ve been through a few cycles, they become shiny smooth little balls!

Adding a bit of white vinegar to the rinse water reportedly does a good job softening and eliminating soap residue. I have used vinegar to get rid of odors many times in the laundry rinse, so I know that works, but if you like some fragrance in your laundry, you can try a few drops of your favorite essential oil in with the vinegar.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with these products, pro or con.



Photo from

Tomato Yoghurt Dressing

Quick and easy dressing for sandwiches or greens

I had some leftover crushed tomatoes and needed a thick dressing for a sandwich. This was really tasty, so I thought I’d share.

Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper (to taste)
Crushed Tomatoes (canned)
Plain Yoghurt

In a small bowl or cup, mix a tablespoon of oil with salt and pepper using a fork. Go easy on the salt as there is some in the tomatoes. Add 2 tablespoons crushed tomatoes and 1 tablespoon yoghurt. Mix well with fork. Adjust seasoning if needed.

Makes enough for a couple of sandwiches or salads.

Just what I needed

Ever since I replaced my cordless Dremel tool with a great corded one, I’ve been trying to figure out where to store it and what to do with the old case. The new tool doesn’t fit in the old case; it’s too big for the inserts. But that case is full of attachments and accessories that do fit in it. The new one didn’t come with a case, but did come with a small clear plastic box of accessories.

What I really wanted to do was to convert the case somehow so that everything will fit. I searched all over the internet for either a new case – apparently they don’t sell them separately, a used case – those on ebay don’t tell you what came in them so it’s hard to know if they would work, or some way to remake the old one.

After numerous rewordings (“remake tool case”, “make over tool case”, “modify tool case” — not one of those searches worked), I finally found the answer. It’s really not complicated and I think I’ll be able to repurpose (yes, that’s the word!) the old case. Here’s the link I liked:

Now. Would anyone like a cordless Dremel tool that won’t recharge?

Microwave Cheapcorn

My lovely (ex) mother-in-law inspired this idea. She would never dream of buying microwave popcorn, and had probably gotten sick of the mess and cleanup associated with making popcorn on the stove, so she started making her own microwave popcorn.

Her method is to use a paper sandwich bag (not waxed). Pour popcorn kernels into the bag until the bottom is about covered, toss in some butter if you want, and fold down the top of the bag 2 or 3 times. Then microwave it for 1-2 minutes or so until the popping slows to a few seconds between pops. Salt and eat!

I tried this and had pretty good luck with it. It sure is a whole lot cheaper than purchased microwave popcorn and the result has much fresher and better flavor as well. The biggest drawback is that it often burns badly before you can pull it out of the microwave. I tried pouring a little oil in the bag, but this made the burning worse.

I did some research online and the best result comes with adding nothing — no butter or oil — except some salt if desired, using a third of a cup of popcorn, and taping the bag closed with a piece of masking tape. Hardly ever burns unless you leave it in too long, pops up a nice full bag and tastes great with some melted butter (which you have earned by popping the corn without a single added calorie!)

Take that, Orville!