Basic Economics of the Freezer or What is that and how long has it been in there?
The other day I was reading some of the comments that we received on our Facebook Page and I came across a link from a very interesting Facebook Page called On The Homefront. On her page she issued a Pantry Challenge. I thought it sounded interesting, so I spoke to Yes!Chef! about it and he was on board. Here’s the challenge: See how long you can go with just making meals out of your pantry and freezer. Go to the store only to buy necessary perishables like veggies, fruit, dairy.
So, since April 1, we have been scouring our freezer and pantry for long forgotten items to see how creative we can be. Unfortunately, we have also discovered things that are of unknown origin and they look too scary to eat. (Here’s a public service reminder to label and date things when you stick them in your freezer.) But, mostly things have been labeled pretty well.
Just last night he pulled out some ground pork that he had ground and frozen and turned it into a great pork sausage (no casings) to go with a spaghetti sauce that he whipped up using canned tomatoes, tomato paste and some herbs and spices. He usually makes more sauce than he needs and keeps some aside or freezes it for future use. He also usually makes enough dinner for two nights if there are just two of us or one night for three of us plus lunch the next day for him. Here’s the sausage recipe he used…very easy.
I really think you should try this recipe. The pork is tender, not like the kind of sausage that you buy in the market that is a little chewy. Yes!Chef! grinds his own meat because he likes to choose how much fat to allow into the grind and it’s a lot cheaper (plus he knows what’s in it.) The sausage is quite flavorful, but you can adjust the flavors to your own taste.
What did we need for this dish? The ground pork (in our freezer), canned tomatoes and canned tomato paste (in our pantry), spaghetti noodles (in our pantry), various spices and herbs for sausage and sauce (pantry). We bought the asparagus and the basil. Two night’s worth of meals for pennies and Yes!Chef! did not slave over the stove bringing it all together. In fact, I probably slaved more over the dishes and clean-up than he did with the making of the meal. (The deal at the Schmautzhaus is: whoever cooks doesn’t have to clean up. It was a great deal when I was cooking for the family and now it’s a great deal because I don’t have to worry myself about dinner.)
Now, I must say that we purchase much of our pantry, meat and vegetables at Costco, so we get large quantities to store away. But, if your pantry/freezer is anything like ours, there are many forgotten things in the recesses of those places. The goal was to find those items and use them. The challenge was to use them creatively so as not to purchase anything (aside from veggies or dairy) to make the meal. I did find a frozen loaf of bread dough that I baked up, but mostly we buy our bread already baked, so we had several frozen loaves of bread that we were able to use without going to the store for sandwich material.
What else have we made?
How’s about Spaghetti & Cheese Snack Pie? Sound good to you? I was inspired by something I saw on “The Best Thing I Ever Made” and then I embellished upon it. It sounded good to my youngest son, so I decided to try it. He is big into macaroni & cheese, but doesn’t like the mess nor the time it takes to make it.
You don’t have to use spaghetti. I did because we had it in the pantry and we didn’t have elbow macaroni, but other pasta would probably work as well.
My inspiration recipe can be found here at Food Network.
After I made this pie, no offense, but I thought it was rather bland. I know! Who am I? Just a photographer that wants to help the hubster show off his skills in the kitchen. But, I do know what I like and I thought the pie needed a little somethin’ somethin’. So, I made the pie again (after the first batch was eaten up by my youngest and he begged for more. He also commented that it was a bit bland and needed salt. Ouch! Obviously watches too much “Chopped”.)
My son also suggested that I cook it a little longer to make it a little crispier on the outside.
So, here’s my updated recipe, which makes two pies instead of one:
- 1 pound cooked spaghetti, cooked in salty water and cooled
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese (or any other cheese that you think might be tasty and that you have in your pantry/refrigerator. Think Macaroni and Cheese)
- 4 eggs
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper (or Chipotle Chile Pepper if you like a little smoky flavor)
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme (optional)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 10 slices American cheese
- Mix the cooled spaghetti, grated cheeses, spices and herbs and eggs together in a large bowl. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Divide mixture in half and place half the mixture in another bowl for the second pie.
- Add 2 TB. oil to a medium nonstick saute pan (I use the smaller Magefesa frittata pans because it makes it very easy to flip and covering the pie with the other pan helps the cheese to melt) and heat to medium heat. Once hot, add half of one bowl of the spaghetti mixture to the pan and flatten it out to the edges.
- Lay 5 pieces American cheese on top and then add the rest of the first bowl of spaghetti mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes and flip, cooking for another 5 minutes on the other side until golden brown. (I covered the one pan with the other while the pie was cooking to make the cheese melty and then flipped the pans upside down. If you do cover the pans, turn down the heat to low-medium low and cook a little longer than 5 minutes on each side.)
- Turn out onto a cutting board, let rest for about 4-5 minutes and slice as you would a pizza and serve with additional grated cheese, if you like.
- Make another one just like the one above.
Go here for print version: Spaghetti & Cheese Snack Pie
I would encourage you to play around with the herbs and spices to suit your family’s taste. For example you can switch out the cheeses to ones that you like better. If you use mozzarella, the cheese will get stringy when it is hot. Or add chili powder or even Sriracha instead of red pepper flakes. Add chopped basil or thyme along with the oregano.
I added some chopped basil, red pepper flakes, grated Parmesan and a little finishing salt to the final snack. Although, I’ve pictured this snack with a fork, it’s easier just to pick it up with your hands and eat like a sandwich.
It’s quite tasty, if I do say so myself (turns around in circles trying to pat herself on the back.)
The reason I split the recipe in half was that I found that the larger one-pie amount was a little unwieldy and was hard to turn over. Also, I didn’t think it cooked all the way through as well as the smaller pies. Also, I cooked the pies a bit longer than 5 minutes on each side to get the top and bottom crispy. (These omelet pans are great, btw. We use them all the time. They easily unhook from each other so that you can use them separately.)
I will try to keep you posted as to how our challenge is going, but Yes!Chef! thinks that it will be easy to continue making things out of our pantry/freezer without going to the store for any major items other than perishables. (He did stop by Costco a few days ago to get some veggies and he spent only $23.00! I’m impressed.)
One more thing that you can usually make out of your pantry is oatmeal cookies or chocolate chip cookies or oatmeal, chocolate chip, coconut and pecan cookies, or Oatmeal and Throw-in-everything-that-looks-tasty cookie. Another great snack, especially if you have children around. One or two of these after school or work will usually tide them over until dinner without ruining the appetite.
Click on name of cookies for links to recipes.