Category Archives: Use What You Have

Salmon Frittata

Quiche without crust. Frittata.

Sometimes you just don’t feel like leaving the house and you end up mentally going through your kitchen inventory to figure out what to make for dinner. Can you relate? Well, one of the ingredients we always have in our refrigerator (or are making a trip to Costco for) is eggs. I love eggs! They are light, delicious, and so versatile.

We also have this wonderful salmon that Mike caught in Sausalito a couple months ago. There was so much, we froze most of it. It was nice not having to buy salmon since it is one of the food we have regularly stocked in our kitchen.

So today was one of those days when I really wasn’t feeling like going to the store. Eggs for dinner and how-to-make-eggs-for-dinner on the brain, I remembered the quiche my host mother in France had made the first night I was there. So good, I wanted to try and duplicate it after I got home to the States.

I made one attempt in college before this one, semi-successfully. Just like then, my skillet is pretty wide, so the frittata is spread out over this area and comes out thin. If you like a fluffier frittata, you can use more eggs; just be sure to season them properly and be prepared for a longer oven bake, probably closer to an hour. You also have to be careful not to overcook the salmon or toughen the eggs.

6oz fresh salmon

4 oz cream cheese, cubed, set aside in bowl

8 eggs

5 oz baby spinach

One shallot, chopped

1t dried dill

salt and pepper

Olive oil and/or cooking spray

In a large skillet, heated to medium-high, add 1-2 T olive oil. Add shallots and heat until a nice golden brown begins to show. Add spinach, salt and pepper. Cook until wilted. Add to bowl of cream cheese. Spray skillet with cooking oil, whisk dill into eggs, add eggs to skillet. Distribute spinach, cream cheese, and salmon evenly.

Bake 350F for 30 minutes.



Slow Cooker Pot Pie

2 large chicken breasts, roasted and chopped

4 cups water

4 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Chicken

12 oz bag frozen peas and carrots

½-1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

One large shallot, chopped

Lb bacon cooked, extra crispy and crumbled

One cup of heavy cream

2 T flour, for thickening (can substitute or leave out)

Salt and pepper


Biscuits: (optional)

1 ½ cups Bisquick

½-1 cup milk, start with ½ c and add a little at a time until all flour is moistened

Don’t let the photos make you dizzy! They do look sideways because they are; that was the best angle for optimum lighting. I had food on my hand and used my iPhone camera. This recipe went quick!

Starting with frozen chicken breast I had cooking in the Crock-Pot on High for two hours, I used tongs to remove and chop them on a cutting board and transfer them to my second Crock-Pot. Side note: I absolutely love having two! The frozen chicken releases a bunch of goo. If I remember correctly, it’s protein which makes a mess in the pot. Instead of removing the chicken and having to clean the pot before continuing, I just use the second pot when I’m in a hurry.

Add the chopped shallots, sliced mushrooms, bag of frozen veggies, water, and Better Than Bouillon, and then salt and pepper everything. Cook on High for two hours.

I waited to add the bacon with the cream and flour to keep it as crispy as possible. Stir the flour into the cream to save from dirtying another dish and add it 30 minutes before serving as well as dollops of the biscuit mix.

Bacon and cream stirred in.


Result after two hours. I added a tab of butter to my bowl of goodness. So yummy!

I noticed the result was better after I turned off the heat and let the leftovers cool for storage. This is common when making recipes with gravy (flour). The leftovers, I suspected, would be ever more delicious!

Notice the biscuits cooked this way are not crispy, but more like dumplings or pancakes without the browning on the outside. That’s the give for this method. The Crock-Pot steams the dough rather than baking it, and I actually added foil under the lid of the pot during the last 30 minutes to make sure the dough cooked through. You would have to use the conventional oven for crispy biscuits which I love, but they take more time, dishes, and effort. Also, using the oven warms up the kitchen which I like to avoid.

Cajun Chicken and Sausage Pasta

Photo by M. Sandoval
One-Pot Cajun Chicken and Sausage Alfredo Pasta. That’s a mouthful!

This recipe was at the end of a blog post that I neither had the time nor patience to read. The photos are beautiful and show most, if not all, of the ingredients. I love that. What happens with me is: I already have chicken going in the slow-cooker where I know it will be cooked to perfection. My dilemma is getting a recipe together in time for dinner. Why don’t I plan better? I can’t. Literally. Chicken in the pot is a good sign! So, I skim over the recipe and check to see if I need anything from the store. Here, I only needed the sausage and more cream. This would be easy; fresh parsley in the backyard, bulk garlic from Costco, as well as pasta, spices, and my favorite chicken “stock” Better Than Bouillon are all always on hand.

Sometimes I’ll grab the few ingredients I need for several recipes, but I really do need to get out of the house everyday. Today, was a quick-stop day.


A package of quality Andouille sausage, slice the links on a bias, brown in a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Add minced garlic, stock, and then cream. Here is where not reading all the directions ahead of time (or at least, thoroughly, became a problem…or a bump in the process). I had a pot of water going in which I planned on cooking the pasta. Looking at the pan with the sausages and stock, I realized I missed something because the cream was not going to fit. I could blame the stock; Better Than Bouillon is added to water to make as much as you need and maybe I wasn’t paying attention to the quantity of liquid I would be using. I could also blame pan use. Stock pots were not made for browning meat, but this recipe clearly states in the name that it’s a “one-pot” dish.

Anyway, I caught it at the right time (really, this is just not a one-pot dish–the chefs will tell you!); after adding the stock to the pan with the sausages which “deglazes” the pan getting all the “yummy bits”, as my chef friend calls it, off the bottom of the pan from browning the meat, and before adding the cream which potentially could stick to the pan. Everybody into the stock pot. Continuing from there, it worked out perfectly.


Cajun Spice:

1½ T sea salt

1½ T cayenne

1½ T paprika

1½ T garlic powder

1½ T fresh ground black pepper

T dried chopped onion

T dried oregano

Optional: T dried thyme


I had cooked the chicken separately and so chopped it and added it with the cream, pasta, and parmesan cheese (where the author used fresh grated parmesan which I didn’t know until looking up the website to cite–I use what I have unless I know it will compromise the integrity of the recipe).


What’s left of our backyard parsley after last month’s heat wave. Sprinkled on top!

Amazing flavor, just the right amount of heat (which is variable)! This one’s a keeper!

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Sourdough Blueberry French Toast

Here you have an irresistible loaf of French bread which happens to be sourdough from Boudin in San Francisco. Can you resist fresh bread? I certainly can’t! Even if I can resist eating it, I cannot resist buying it to have and sniff in my kitchen. You, too?

So, we bought the bread. What to do with it as not to waste it. Crock-Pot French Toast! Easy prep before bed; ready to go out the door in the morning!

We usually have frozen blueberries in the house to make smoothies or to mix into yogurt or, my favorite, to make waffle syrup! Okay, so if it’s fruit, it’s called compote. Here’s a quick and easy recipe:

Coat the inside of the pot with cooking spray and then layer the ingredients. Be sure all of the bread is moisten by the milk mixture so that you don’t have any crispy, scratchy pieces in the end result. Pouring the milk mixture slowly over the bread usually will ensure this.

It should look something like this. Continue with the eggs. I added a tab of butter to each stack to ensure that richness that you expect from this kind of dish.

Set the slow-cooker and go to bed! When you get up, scoop some out, add a drizzle of syrup, and go!

This is essentially the same as a previous post.

Homemade Pizza

Dough made in the bread machine with Italian herbs? Can you imagine the aroma that fills the house? For the toppings, we started with sweet Italian sausage pinched out of the casings and browned in a skillet with a little olive oil.

The dough from the bread machine looks speckled from the Italian herbs. Mike spun it out like back in his Pizza Hut days and stretched it out to the edges of the pizza pan.

Add your favorite toppings. There’s really no right or wrong here; just try and stick with a theme if you want to make sure the flavors will go together or try to replicate an old favorite. For example, cheeseburger–what do you like on your cheeseburger? Put it on the dough! *Meats, unless precooked, need browned beforehand. You’re really just cooking the dough in the oven. Anything else as toppings need to be safe eaten uncooked or without further cooking. Don’t forget your sauce: red, white, pesto, olive oil would work, too!

We topped it with marinara sauce, Italian sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, and of course, mozzarella cheese!

In the oven at 375°F for 20 minutes-ish. I suggest you check on it after ten minutes depending on what you packed on it and how thick your crust is. Watch the crust for a golden brown, and the cheese in the center should be melted. Voilà! You’re a cook!

Taco Ring

A friend of mine who is also a chef, sent me a similar recipe she had done at home with her kids. Naturally, I have to attempt to recreate it. She challenges me that way. The good thing about that is…she never holds back on the kuddos!

She went to culinary school while I was studying Dietetics and the intricacies of food science and human nutrition, so in working out substitutions and proportions, I get validation from her in what I’ve created thanks to that prior knowledge (along with my 30+ years of cooking/experimenting). I actually have two best friends who are chefs, but I digress.

The Taco seasoning, of course, I make at home saving from added preservatives or inexplicable additives you can’t pronounce incorporated during processing. I love these little Ball jars with shaker tops! They’re great for the extra spice mix or making bulk for multiple recipes!














Taco Seasoning:

2 T (tablespoons) chili powder

T ground cumin

½ t (teaspoons) garlic powder

½ t onion powder

½ t dried oregano

t paprika

2 t each sea salt and ground black pepper

Optional– ½ t crushed red pepper


Brown 1-1/4 lb ground turkey, drain fat. Sprinkle 3 to 5 tablespoons, depending on how spicy you like your Mexican food, over turkey meat. Allow to warm and release the oils (smells) of the spices. Remove from heat. Allow to cool so it doesn’t cook the pastry while you’re filling it.

Separate two tubes of refrigerator croissants. Overlap triangles into a ring. You may have to adjust it, but it will be okay as long as the dough stays cold. Stir cheese into meat and spoon onto overlapping sections of the croissant dough.

Gently wrap opposite end of dough over the meat and tuck the point under the inside of the ring. Cook according to croissant baking instructions.

Taco Ring ingredients:

2 tubes refrigerator croissants

1-1/4 lb ground turkey

3 to 5 T taco seasoning or one packet

2 cups of Mexican or Fiesta blend cheese, cheddar also works well

Sour cream, chopped fresh tomatoes, salsa, and cilantro to garnish

Classic Fried Rice

Childhood favorite, versatile, personalize-able, simple, quick, filling, tasty…so many words to describe this dish. It’s quick if you have rice ready or a rice cooker. I like to think of fried rice as the Asian equivalent to lasagna; it’s all your leftovers thrown together, or at least, that’s how I figure lasagna was first made, but layered! For lasagna, you need pasta and cheese; everything else is by selection. For fried rice, you need rice and egg. You can virtually put whatever else in it you choose. My mom had several versions of fried rice: hamburger fried rice, SPAM fried rice (like you see here), spicy fried rice…

SPAM is easily a kid-favorite food because it’s salty. It balances well with these light-flavored vegetables, peas and carrots. I like to use frozen vegetables for this because they keep their shape (don’t get mushy while being tossed around in this mix), are inexpensive but have similar nutritional integrity as fresh vegetables, and they’re ready to cook (no chopping, cleaning, etc).

I’m basically defrosting them in about 1/4 cup of water or chicken stock in a pan on medium-high while I chop the SPAM.

Probably shouldn’t have the kids chop this up…they like to sneak tastes!


I’ve added the SPAM to the veggies to warm it up. I just think it tastes better this way. Once that’s done, add three scrambled eggs, salt and pepper. I’ve opened up a space in the center of the mix to cook the egg as you will see any Asian cooking fried rice will do. Drop some olive oil in there before the eggs. You could cook the eggs first and set them aside; this will also save from dirtying another pan.

Rice is done. Add it when everything else is done cooking. Don’t forget your sauce! Soy sauce, fish sauce, hoisin…whatever you like. You really have to experiment. Most Asians don’t use recipes.

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.

It doesn’t have the exact same flavor as my mom’s cooking it myself, but I’m able to leave out the ingredients I didn’t like, especially onions, and replace them with shallots while choosing other vegetables I like.

This time I used Napa cabbage, shredded carrots, and shallots…

Also, rice noodles and frozen shrimp whereas traditionally, you use dried shrimp.

Having a variety of colors adds to the culinary experience.

Here’s some of the prep: soaking the noodles, chopping the shallots, washing/drying the cabbage. Similarly to , you make sure everything that needs to be cooked is cooked and then combine everything, including sauce, to heat through. Very simple.


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.

 The result? It was that melt-in-your-mouth goodness that you get from fresh, savory ingredients. I don’t know how to describe it exactly, but it was like comfort food…and fusion…delicious!




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.