Better-than-Mario’s Frugal Pasta

My husband and I love to cook. We watch as many cooking shows as possible, especially the competitions. We rarely copy recipes, however. It’s all about learning techniques we can adapt to our own lifestyle and culinary tastes. And, I have to admit, I have pretty much mastered this pasta technique that we learned from watching Mario Batali, among others. This frugal pasta dish was just about the best pasta dish I have ever tasted, and it was made entirely of bits from my pantry, fridge and garden.

Zesty Linguini with a Creamy Vegetable Sauce
  • 1/3# whole grain linguini (for 2 servings)
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 small zucchinis, diced
  • approx. 6-8 small heirloom tomatoes, diced
  • approx. 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 c. Chardonnay
  • 2 Tbl butter
  • Parmesan cheese
  • approx. 2 tsp red pepper flakes (I used 2 small packets, from takeout)
  • dried oregano, 1-2 tsp
  • Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

While the pasta was cooking, I diced the bacon and cooked it until the fat was rendered, just short of crisp. I removed it from the pan to cook the zucchini and garlic in the remaining bacon fat, seasoning the zucchini lightly with the salt, pepper and some of the oregano. I removed the zucchini from the pan and deglazed it with the white wine.  When most of the wine was reduced, I added the tomatoes to the pan, seasoned them with salt, pepper and the rest of the oregano, and cooked them on high heat to reduce any excessive water. I then added a ladle of the pasta cooking water to the tomatoes, and cooked until the sauce began to thicken. It was still a bit thin, so I added 2 Tbl of butter, which thickened it nicely!

I drained the pasta and put it into the sauce. I then added the cream and, once the sauce came together, I turned off the heat and added a bit of Parmesan cheese. I served the dish with more cheese on top.



Potato Skins with Corn Salsa

This recipe featured several garden-fresh ingredients, but it is a perfect choice for a Frugal Friday, because it can be adapted to whatever ingredients you have on hand.  I usually always have potatoes, and frozen corn (but today I had a single leftover ear of fresh corn).  I really love this meal, as I used the separate parts of the baked potato for two different dishes, which I tied together with an avocado aoili (which took care of an avocado in my fridge that was at the ‘use me now!’ stage).  This meal was so fresh tasting and quick to make!  I think I will be using many variations of this dish for many Frugal Fridays to come.  Continue reading “Potato Skins with Corn Salsa”

Heirloom Tomatoes with Creamed Corn

My husband suffers from Corn Rage.  There’s no sugar-coating it.  He is OBSESSED with the fact that he can only find white corn here in S. Calif. No yellow sweet corn!  We have inquired around the local Farmer’s Markets, and in the local stores, and all claim that the white corn is more popular, because it is sweeter, so that’s what everyone grows around here.  Bah!

Thinking that we should give it an honest try, I bought some local corn and found an interesting recipe on the Brentwood Grower’s website.  I was especially intrigued that the sweetness of the corn might balance well with the fresh heirloom tomatoes, which are in great supply in this year’s garden.  I paired the dish with a zucchini dish I used to make quite often.  The results?  I think we would both have to say, albeit somewhat grudgingly, “Delicious!” Continue reading “Heirloom Tomatoes with Creamed Corn”

Black Bean Veggie Burger w/ Chipotle Honey Mustard

This recipe is not too far removed from Melissa d’Arabian’s black bean burger.  They both are somewhat spicy, which is a good thing, and do not use any rice, — which is a great thing!  Melissa uses crushed corn chips as a binder, which was a nice change.  But, this one uses oatmeal, — which happens to be one of my favorite ingredients!

I’m sorry to say that I cannot recall where I found it.  The original called for grated zucchini, which I did not have, so I substituted chopped mushrooms.  I’ll need to keep this in mind, however, when my zucchini crop comes in this summer.

Oh!  I should mention that this Chipotle Honey Mustard is a killer! Continue reading “Black Bean Veggie Burger w/ Chipotle Honey Mustard”

Black Bean “Nacho” Burgers

I really like Melissa d’Arabian.  She has great dinner ideas for people with limited budgets (like me), that appeal to everyone.  Her recipes are well tested by her three adorable daughters and a sexy French husband — all who must bring different criteria to the table.  So, when I came across her recipe for a black bean burger, I decided to give it a try.  She did not disappoint me.  This is a delicious burger.  “¡Olé!” Continue reading “Black Bean “Nacho” Burgers”

Tomato Jam

“Yes, that’s it! Said the Hatter with a sigh, it’s always tea time.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland




I have a crazy wonderful group of friends, who happen to love themed parties.  We typically hold two each year; one at Yule and another in the middle of the summer.  This past summer, we borrowed a bit from the Mad Hatter, and held our own potluck “mad” tea party.

There were many tasty offerings, both savory and sweet.  But, my favorite, by far, I nearly overlooked as I attempted to sample from each tea table.  You may be able to see it, — there, on the top two green plates in the photo on the right — tiny bits of a deep, luscious red, nearly covered by small squares of white cheddar cheese.

I’m talking about tomato jam.  I never had it before, and I will never let a summer go by without making some from my own homegrown tomatoes. I just might cry with joy some cold, rainy day this coming winter, when I open a jar and chase those blues away. Continue reading “Tomato Jam”

Zucchini and Carrot Muffins

Yes, you’re seeing it right.  You have to look close to see the zucchinis peeking out from under the cucumbers, but they’re there!  I forgot to take a picture of this dish, but it was a nice, very light tasting zucchini muffin. I think it freezes well, too.  The problem is, my friends ate the whole batch and there was nothing left to freeze! Continue reading “Zucchini and Carrot Muffins”

Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Spread

I hosted a brunch meeting recently, and this was the perfect dish to round out the menu:

Mini Bagels with Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Spread
Deviled Eggs
Tomato Tartlets
Fresh Strawberries
White Wine and Grapefruit Spritzers

The recipe couldn’t be simpler, and was okay to make a day ahead!
Continue reading “Smoked Salmon and Cucumber Spread”

Tomato Tart

‘The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts,
All on a summer day:
The Knave of Hearts, he stole those tarts,
And took them quite away!’

— Lewis Carroll


I love parties.  One of the best things about entertaining is all the wonderful leftovers!  When I was a young girl, my favorite time of year was when it was my parents’ turn to host their monthly card club, because the special treats prepared for their 9:00 p.m. “lunch” were made exclusively for this occasion.  We children, of course, had to wait until the following day to enjoy them, but it was always worth the wait!

My husband and I host several big parties a year, and I have never grown out of the thrill of discovering all the delicious leftover treats in my refrigerator the next day.  This year, I also discovered something I rarely use — a single sheet of thawed puff pastry — so off I went to the internet to see what to do with it!

I had already used the other sheet to make simple tomato tartlets for the party brunch (I think it was à la Martha Stewart: rounds of puff pastry, pricked, brushed with olive oil, topped with 1/4″ Heirloom tomato slice, salt and pepper; after baking about 30 minutes, garnish with fresh basil and allow to cool to room temperature) — which were simply delicious!  I found several similar tomato tart recipes on different sites, so I thought it would make perfect sense to adapt the tartlet recipe to a larger version.

Most of the recipes I found required some type of cheese mixture to be spread on the puff pastry, under the tomato slices, most commonly a combination of goat cheese and ricotta.  But, cheese is cheese, in my book, and I had confidence that my juicy Heirloom tomato slices would carry any cheese right to the top.  And, I was right!  This was a wonderful, tasty and frugal dish! Continue reading “Tomato Tart”

Bread & Butter Pickle Slices

We love growing Persian cucumbers, usually enjoying them as a cold and crunchy snack or sliced in a tabbouleh salad.  I came across a recipe for bread and butter pickles that used Persian cucumbers and I thought I would try and make my own.  I had a half a dozen jars in no time at all! Continue reading “Bread & Butter Pickle Slices”