Category Archives: Use What You Have

Mee Hoon

You may know this dish as pancit. Depends on what kind of restaurant you visit or where you’re from. It’s difficult memorizing the names of all the foreign dishes you like unless you eat out a lot…or you cook them yourself. I honestly didn’t even know the name of this dish until I was an adult trying to duplicate something my mom had cooked on occasion while I was growing up. I had to ask her, describing it as best I could not knowing the name of mushrooms she used but only how they crunched in my mouth; the noodles by how she prepped them before cooking.

Ground Turkey Eggplant Lasagna

Mixing favorite veggies in an attempt to make a one-pot dinner resulting in our new favorite lasagna; although, I have to wonder if the new marinara sauce is to blame.

Ground Turkey and Veggie Lasagna


8 0z Lasagna (half a box) noodles

One eggplant, 3/4 skin removed (potato peeler works nicely) and cubed

8 oz sliced mushrooms

Handful (about 4 oz) of spinach, roughly chopped

One jar (40 oz) of Victoria White Linen Marinara Sauce

One shallot, chopped

4 cups mozzarella cheese, divided

8 oz cottage cheese

3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

Leftover chopped tomatoes (about 7 oz canned)

3 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

Cooking spray

Layer in Crock-Pot on High for 3 ½ hours. 

I began with browning the ground turkey in olive oil on medium-high heat with salt and pepper 1/4-½ teaspoon of each. After draining the excess fat, add chopped shallots to the pan, stir in. Add eggplant, salt and pepper (1/4-½ teaspoon). Sauté until the eggplant is translucent. 

Coat inside of Crock-Pot with cooking spray. Add ingredients from pan to pot.



Oops, forgot to sauté the mushrooms! Into the pan they go with a little olive oil and salt and pepper until translucent!


I almost forgot garlic, too! Right on top of the cooked mix worked out perfectly. (photo below)


Minced garlic, then chopped tomatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and marinara sauce. Generally when you do lasagna, you layer it three times, but I was running out of time. I needed to get the cooking time going on the Crock-Pot for this meal to be ready for dinner. I did two layers with the mushrooms and tomatoes only in the bottom layer and spinach only in the top layer.

The first layer is always sauce, so since I had half of the meat and veggies already in the pot, I added the tomatoes and half of the sauce over it. Then all of the mushrooms, a layer of pasta, 4 oz cottage cheese, 2 c mozzarella, ½ c Parmesan. Repeat meat mixture, sauce, add spinach, continue with remaining cheese. Cover and cook.





Mahi Mahi with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Spinach

In an effort to change things up a little, I made mahi instead of chicken; instead of rice, I made quinoa. I thought I’d try to cheat with quinoa, and cook it on the rice cooker. It worked! So easy, so delicious!

Three frozen fillets into the pot with salt and pepper (half a teaspoon or so of each). Fresh mushrooms on top.

Add some olive oil and red pepper flakes (about a teaspoon per fillet).

I waited until the last hour to add the spinach. It wilts quickly and will continue to wilt from the steam and heat if you don’t plate it once the dish is done.

Oh yes! Perfectly cooked mahi every time! Do you see how the fish flakes (I used a fork to break a piece in half)?

Beautiful, too!

Quinoa in the rice cooker? It came out perfectly! It may not have much flavor unless you use some kind of stock. I always have Better Than Bouillon in my fridge, so in it went. Two parts liquid per part quinoa. For rice, I always make three cups dry to four cups water (I’ve been doing that since I was 10 years old, so…).

I was surprised with how flavorful this meal was with so little seasoning.

Cincinnati Chili

Did somebody say chocolate?! Until I saw this recipe, I had only heard of chocolate added to mole in a savory dish. This was surprisingly fantastic! I’m not sure if it was the cocoa or if it was the right balance of spices, but this may be may favorite chili yet.

Begin, of course, with sautéing the shallots and browning the and ground turkey.

Add the spices and seasoning, tomatoes…

Toss in the cooked ground turkey and shallots.

Mmm…can’t wait!

All those spices and seasoning, yes!

Crock-Pot Slow Cooker Recipes binder, p.120

Garlic Parmesan Chicken

Too easy! The chicken was already perfectly cooked in the Crock-Pot but with only salt and pepper as seasoning, and I wanted to add a sauce or additional seasoning so that we weren’t just having “roast chicken” again. I put it in the fry pan with some olive oil to brown both side, but as I was browsing recipes for chicken, I found this quick and minimal recipe. All I had to do was add thyme and Parmesan cheese!

I made a mess with how quickly this was done. I could have used a lower heat and waited a little longer before flipping the chicken; then I wouldn’t have the little pieces tear away and stick to the pan, but the resulting flavor was delicious! The thyme infused olive oil and chicken, and the Parmesan cheese gave it a little crust and a little salty taste, but just the right amount. Yum!

Steam some green beans in a bag quickly in the microwave (about three minutes) with some salt and pepper. You could add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese to tie it all together, as they say in cooking, et voila!

Crock-Pot French Toast

Here it is with a couple tabs of butter!

You know how the grocery store makes fresh baked bread usually French bread which they put out at the end of the day or the next day on a Reduced Price rack? That bread is perfect for French Toast!…or croutons, depending on what your cooking.

This is too complicated for me. Leave it in the fridge overnight? French Toast is very simple once you get the jist of it. The bread needs to be relatively saturated in the egg-milk wash, and the wash should be seasoned with cinnamon at the very least. I never add sugar to my French toast but I highly recommend it for compote, so…I’m forgoing the recipe’s overnight soak and adding half of the listed sugar.

I made sure to drizzle milk over each piece of bread and then did my best with that following with the eggs.

In an effort not to make extra work for myself by dirtying more dishes, I measured the milk in a measuring cup, added the vanilla extract to that, swirled it around and poured it over the bread. I added the eggs separately using the same measuring cup, cracking the eggs into it and then whisking them with the salt. I don’t like to crack open eggs into that much liquid I may not be able to replace in the case of finding a bad egg. I made that mistake a long time ago, 20 years maybe. Not something you forget!

Crock Pot Blueberry French Toast

Crock-Pot Loaded Potatoes

Beautiful potatoes, I agree. You have extra because you bought the ten pound bag at a discount, right? They won’t go to waste with this recipe!

Yeah, for real! Loaded potatoes, easily done in the Crock-Pot. Delicious, perfectly cooked, and a crowd-pleaser.

Wash and scrub them. Chop them into bite size pieces or cubes. The foil didn’t save from any mess that cooking spray could prevent, so save your foil. It’s easier to stir this goodness together which I recommend at least halfway through the cooking time to make sure all of the potatoes cook evenly.

I used chives from my backyard! I hate onions, but these are light enough to season dishes without any strong flavor from it.

Beautiful, right? Are you drooling yet?

I used the following recipe as a guide.

More Sweet Bread Sliders

Take your pick. Mushroom Swiss Turkey Burger or Chicken Parmesan. Either way, a nice variety to add to your collection of fun, yet fancy, finger foods.

Mushroom Swiss Turkey Burger with Potato Salad. Photo by M. Sandoval
Chicken Parmesan

For Chicken Parmesan

Two chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

Marinara Sauce to coat (about 1/3 cup)

Fresh mozzarella to cover chicken, fresh basil

Top buns.

Add 3 cloves minced garlic, 4 tablespoons melted butter, 2 tablespoons basil, 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese mix…

Bake 350°F for 20 minutes.

This reminded me of a caprese salad with the fresh mozzarella, basil, and marinara; yet it was very Chicken Parmesan with the roasted chicken, crispy, buttery sweet rolls, melty mozzarella, Parmesan, and marinara. My tastebuds teetered with the flavors but were very much pleased. The fresh ingredients lent to the overall sandwich having a very mild flavor, very appropriate for kids, but with the garlic giving it a kick (you could just pour the garlic mix over half of the rolls but be sure to brush all of them with butter). This definitely satiates a craving for Italian food. We will be making this again!

There was video where I saw these recipes (link at bottom). One of the ones on the video was for a classic cheeseburger. Right away, I already knew I would be substituting ground turkey for ground beef, but I also thought about what we like on our burgers. When I get a gourmet burger at restaurant, I hope they have something new and innovative for me to taste and eventually attempt at home. For example, Broderick’s has a burger they add mac ‘n cheese to called the Gold Rush. It seems simple enough, but there’s also bacon and garlic aioli added it…flavor explosion in your mouth!

Trying to tune it down a little, though, keeping the calories down but not just having the old lettuce and tomato, I figured mushrooms and what goes great with mushrooms—Swiss cheese. I added chopped shallots for another layer of flavor. It kinda went along the lines of a cheesesteak (if you’ve ever added mushrooms to your cheesesteak). Well, in Las Vegas anyway, there was a Philly cheesesteak shop called Pop’s that served cheesesteaks with whatever veggies you wanted on them; peppers, onions, mushrooms, other. I just remember the meat being so tender whereas previously, I had been turned off by cheesesteaks, the meat being too chewy or having to much fat chunks. Pop’s was the only place I would eat cheesesteaks. I digress.

For Mushroom Swiss

8 oz sliced mushrooms, one chopped shallots

One pound ground turkey shaped to match sweet bread package, bake 350°F for 20 minutes, drain

Assemble burgers, ending with 4 tablespoons melted butter drizzled over top.

More cheese next time or add an aioli! The turkey meat dried out slightly from going back into the oven, but the bread, butter, shallot, mushroom, swiss combo was delicious!


Sweet Bread Sliders

Philly Cheesesteak Sweet Bread Sliders
Sweet bread was something I ate at nearly every potluck back home in Hawai’i. It was usually part of the build-your-own Kalua Pork sandwich. Packages of Kings Hawaiian Sweet Rolls piled up beside large trays full of Kalua Pork for you to load onto your plate and stuff into sweet bread, or if you preferred just eating it with rice, that was available, too.

Cuban-style Sweet Bread Sliders

I rediscovered it in France as Brioche. It tasted the same to me anyway, but it was definitely fresher in France. It was available for breakfast to spread the butter and confiture on; one of the many parts to my breakfast. I looked for it everywhere when I returned to the States and left Hawai’i. That was nearly 20 years ago; now, sweet bread is everywhere. Thank God!


I couldn’t find any strip streak or cut beef you might use in stir-fry, so I picked up this chopped beef, no slicing required!

I browned it together with the chopped shallots.

Using the same pan to help de-glaze it, I cooked the chopped peppers and then added them to the mix.

From the fridge to the microwave, the butter took only 30 seconds to melt.

The butter seeped nicely in between the rolls.

I couldn’t wait to try this!

Photo by M. Sandoval


I picked a “deli ham” without nitrates and junk.

And same with the cheese!

The pickles were a little trickier. Cuban food calls for dill pickles, from what I read, but since I wasn’t going to be using the entire jar, I picked some I knew my kids would snack on. These are large sandwich chips (meant for burgers) and the couple of slices that were leftover from a previously opened jar of pickles. The space without pickles is for me to taste this sandwich! I’ve been having a reaction to foods high in acid.

Top buns…

Butter, garlic, mustard mix.

I really liked how these came out! I never before had pickles on a hot sandwich that I could remember (except burgers). These were unexpectedly good! I would make these for a potluck! Crowd-pleaser, for sure.

Photo by M. Sandoval


Philly Cheesesteak:

Cuban Sliders:

For next time!

Sausage and Peppers Hoagies

Photo by M. Sandoval

What goes great with leftover potato salad? These do! Sausage and Peppers…

Photo by M. Sandoval

I almost forgot shallots so no before photo, but you can see them in the pan. The peppers cooked on medium-high with some olive oil until I got the shallots in there, then I turned it down to medium and let it all mingle while I sliced the sausages on a bias (diagonally).

So good! These chicken sausages are from Walmart, if you can believe that! This recipe calls for 3/4 pound of spicy sausage and 3/4 pound of sweet sausage. On the left is Sam’s Choice brand Cajun Style Andouille Sausage, and on the right is Sam’s Choice Chicken Apple Sausage. These are great alternative to traditional refrigerated sausage; no crap added. I browned the casings on as many sides as would sit in the pan and not roll around while I sliced the peppers and chopped the shallots. They browned nicely, a little more than I would allow normally, but I thought it turned out like a barbecue sausage would. These had great flavor!

I’ve made this recipe before using fresh turkey sausages. They were also good. I may prefer these chicken sausages but really, I use whatever is available without putting crap (added ingredients meant to bulk it up, preservatives, etc.) into my and my family’s bodies.

Cook veggies until softened, sausages until golden brown all over. Then, toss it all together.


I’m already drooling at this point and may sneak a piece of sausage…nah, it’s not really sneaking because you’re supposed to taste at each level of cooking and adjust seasoning as necessary, i.e. when the veggies are ready, when the meat is ready, when the broth is ready, etc.

I prefer these soft French rolls for this recipe. They toast nicely in the skillet and don’t shred your gums while you’re trying to bite and chew through this sandwich!

Butter the cut side of all halves of bread. Coat with garlic powder, a lot. Not enough that it’s avalanching off, but just before that! Then sprinkle with Italian seasoning. Heat in pan coated with olive oil so the butter doesn’t burn but the bread gets a nice golden toasted brown to it. Load the veggie and sausage mixture onto this. Done and delicious! Can I get some new words for delicious?!