Food & Recipes

Friendship Pasta

I’m not really good with naming things, so when Chris asked me to write out this recipe, I went with the first thing I could think of. All the delicious vegetables we used were given to us by friends, and eating them in this dinner make me think of the nice times we had with them, thus the name Friendship Pasta. Kinda dorky, I know, but there you go.

Friendship Pasta at The Weed Patch

I made this up as I went along, so I’m sorry that my directions and ingredients aren’t very exact. Every time I ask my mom how she cooks something, she says you just do it until it looks right, which always frustrated me as a notice cook. How do I know it looks right if I’ve never done it? This recipe is kind of like that, and I apologize, but if you are using really good fresh ingredients, they will speak for themselves, and you can’t really mess them up.

Here’s what you need:

  • Veggies from wonderful friends or a farmer’s market – I used maybe 4 cups worth of cut up veggies - a mixture of sliced young spring onions, baby patty pan squashed cut in half, an orange bell pepper cut to 1 inch pieces, and a handful of halved grape tomatoes.
  • Pasta – anything that looks good, like tubes, cork screws, or even fettuccini would work. I used three big handfuls of dried Fusilli pasta (really skinny curled tubes)
  • Herbs – most preferably fresh, but dried will do in a pinch. Just pick one flavor that sounds good to you – basil or thyme are good.
  • Fresh garlic, 4-5 cloves, minced
  • Olive oil, 1 tb or so
  • Balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp
  • Honey, ½ tsp
  • Whole milk, cream, or half/half – about a cup
  • Salt & freshly ground pepper
  • Cream Cheese – about 2 ounces (1/4 of a regular sized block)
  • Flour – about 1 tb
  • Parmesan – about ½ cup, plus more for garnish. Be sure you have the good stuff here. It is worth the $$, and will keep forever in the fridge if loosely wrapped and put in the cheese drawer
  • Fresh lemon juice and/or zest (optional)


This is vegetarian pasta, but if you prefer something with meat, you can serve this alongside some grilled pork or chicken, or you could roast chunks of a good quality sausage in with the veggies.

Friendship Pasta at The Weed Patch

Here’s what you do:

  1. Cut up your veggies into fairly large pieces. Soft things that will take less time to cook should be larger, and firm things that take longer to cook should be cut smaller. Place in a shallow roasting pan, drizzle on the olive oil, balsamic vinegar (or any other kind of vinegar), and the honey. Sprinkle on some salt and freshly ground pepper, about 3 minced garlic cloves, then the dried herbs to taste, or just lay in full pieces of fresh herbs. Stir if all up and roast in the oven at 350 for a half hour, stirring once halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water according to the directions on the package. Drain, but reserve about 2 cups of the cooking liquid. Set pasta aside.
  3. Place the reserved water with the milk or cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the flour, bring to a boil, and stir constantly for about 2 minutes, or until it starts to thicken. Stir in the garlic, cheeses, salt, and pepper, all to taste, cooking for about another 2 minutes. I added just a little bit of fresh lemon at this point for some zing, but it would have tasted just fine without it.
  4. Place the pasta in a large serving bowl, like a shallow wide pasta bowl. Toss with about half the sauce. Top with the roasted veggies, then drizzle with the remaining sauce. Top with some extra shredded parmesan and minced herbs.
This would have easily fed four of us. For an extra treat, slice up some garlic bread, and dip it in the garlicy, herby olive left in the veggie roasting pan. Yum!


Friendship Pasta at The Weed Patch

Tonnemaker Farms CSA

Tonnemaker Certified Organic CSA

Here at The Weed Patch we are SO excited to be able to be a drop site for Tonnemaker Farm's CSA program for 2012!  

Before we get into everything, you can check out Tonnemaker Farm's website, as well as the CSA program details. Their blog features tons of great information as well as some very tasty looking recipes... 

So who is Tonnemaker Farms, and what is a CSA? Tonnemaker Farms is a certified organic family farm located in Royal City, Washington.

From their website:

"The Tonnemaker brothers, Kole and Kurt, currently farm 126 acres on the north slope of the Frenchman Hills in Royal City, WA, and grow over 400 cultivars of organic fruits and vegetables.

Mission & Philosophy:
Our mission is to provide fresh, great tasting fruit and produce in a sustainable way at affordable prices.

We want to develop a direct relationship with those who eat our food. Customers have the opportunity to know the farm and the farmer.

We feel the responsibility to use the resources we have in such a way that the land can continue to produce healthy food for generations to come. In a sense we do not own the land but instead have borrowed it from our grandchildren.

Our family strongly believes that organic food should not be priced beyond the reach of the average consumer."

Some apples

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Essentially, a CSA is a way to both a) support a local farm, and b) get your produce slightly less expensively even than a farmers market. When you join a CSA, you buy into a program where fresh produce is delivered to you directly; some programs will deliver to your door, some have a community drop site. You can check out the full Wikipedia CSA article here, if you're so inclined for a more in-depth answer.

Tonnemaker Farms has participated in the Bothell Farmer's Market (facebook page) here at Country Village (where our shop is) for the last several years. We have tasted the fruits of their labor (get it???) and we are proud to participate in their CSA program. We have no hesitation to recommend them to any of our wonderful customers. In part, that's because we have known some of their key people for years and years; we trust them, and we know their passion for sustainable, organic produce. Win-win!

Some veggies

If you're a local and you're interested in more information, we encourage you to visit the Tonnemaker Farm's website (facebook) and check out the CSA fliers. We would also highly encourage you to come visit the Bothell Farmer's Market and say hello to them in person! If you can't make the Bothell market, check their website for other markets they are involved in!<

White bean, Sausage, and Kale Soup

White Bean, Sausage, and Kale Soup

White Bean, Sausage, and Kale Soup

I’ve made a rendition of this soup a few times, and keep forgetting to write it down, so this is just the most recent version I made. You can experiment a bit with the type of beans to use, sausage flavors, different greens, etc. Whether you use dried beans or not is up to you – canned are just fine, but if you have the time to use the dried, they really do taste so much better. I may never use canned beans again! Other than the beans, the whole thing comes together fairly quickly. It is also gluten free, if that is important to you (though check your sausage, to be sure). Typically I would put carrots in here, but cooked carrots are a no no for two people in our family, so I used mushrooms here instead. Do whatever sounds good to you!


  • 1 bag dried Great Northern Beans (small white beans are OK, but we find them to be the kind that gives you a gassy tummy. I’ve used garbanzo too)
  • 3-4 links sausage – pick out a really good quality tasty sausage. My favorite have been with a turkey sausage, like Adele’s, but I did a pork/beef blend once and it was fine. I like my soup to be more veggie heavy and found 3 links to be plenty, but feel free to use all 4 if you want.
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, medium sized – chop it somewhat finely
  • 1 lb Button Mushrooms – halve then slice them
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ - 1 tsp kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ - 1 tsp dried sage (or 2-3 tsp fresh)
  • ½ - 1 tsp dried thyme (or 2-3 tsp fresh)
  • 1 small bunch of Kale (or whatever your favorite dark green is – you may have to cook more/less, depending on the green) – pull the leaves off the thick ribs and tear them up. You’ll have 4-5 cups worth
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (optional)



  1. If you elected to try out dried beans, yay you! You won’t be sorry. Not only are they cheaper, they taste better, and you won’t have all that extra sodium. I follow the directions on the back of the bag, only I don’t dump out the soaking water – it is full of flavor and nutrition from the beans. Basically, rinse and sort your beans, put them in a large pot and cover with water (at least 2 inches above the beans). Bring them to a boil, then remove from heat and let them soak for an hour. Put them back on the heat and bring to a simmer. They’ll soak up a bunch of the water, and so you’ll have to add more. Simmer them for 1.5-2 hours, or until they are tender. Don’t overcook them, as they’ll get cooked a tad bit more in the soup. When you’re done, drain the beans, reserving the soaking liquid. (if you’re using canned beans, just skip this part)
  2. Cut sausage links in half lengthwise, then cut into half moons (however thick you’d like). Brown them for a few minute in a large soup pot over medium to medium high heat. Some people cook sausage in a tad bit of oil, but I think sausage is fatty enough – if you need a little something to keep it from browning too much, just add a bit of water. When it is browned, remove it and set aside.
  3. Add 2 or so teaspoons olive oil to the pot and add onion. Saute 3-4 minutes, or until it starts to soften. Add garlic, and stir constantly for 30 seconds (don’t let it burn!). Add mushrooms, and sauté another 5-6 minutes, or until they give up their liquid and are starting to brown a little.
  4. Add the sausage back in, along with 4 cups of the beans (or 2 cans of rinsed and drained canned beans), the sage and thyme, and about 6 cups of water. Stir in salt and pepper to taste – I use kosher salt, and as the grains are larger, I sometimes seem to need a bit more than if measuring out table salt. My rule of thumb is to start with half and taste it, cuz you can always add more. So, put in ½ tsp salt, and maybe ¼ tsp worth of ground pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on medium low heat.
  5. At this point, all the ingredients are cooked, so you can simmer about as long or as little as you want. Try to give it a good 10-20 minutes for the flavors to mix and mingle and get all yummy. Taste it again, and add another ¼ go ½ tsp of salt, if needed.
  6. When you get to about 5-10 minutes out from wanting to sit down to dinner, stir in the kale. Let it cook 5-10 minutes, depending on whether you like it green with a little bite to it, or dark and soft.
  7. Grate some fresh Parmigiano Reggiano over each serving. It isn’t required, but it is like icing on the cake. Parmigiano Reggiano sounds extra fancy, but I just get it in the “fancy” cheese section of safeway. It is obviously pricier than your basic cheddar, but it keeps forever loosely wrapped in the fridge, has incredible flavor, and a little bit goes a long way. I find that just a tad bit of it is what makes a good dish great.

Enjoy (we sure did!)

White Bean, Sausage, and Kale Soup - empty bowl!

Summer Squash Puree - Back to the Basics!

I can't believe I'm writing this in October... but having just picked what seems likely to be the last of the summer squash - yellow zebra and yellow crookneck - we decided to puree it and freeze it to give us some good, healthy (and free!) baby food for Savannah to eat once she's at that point.  We thought that a "Back to the Basics" blog might be kinda fun, so here we go!  

Summer Squash Puree is incredibly simple to make.  This works for everything from zucchini to yellow crookneck - basically any summer squash.  It's fantastic to put up for use later in all kinds of yummy treats; it's also perfect when you have a little one who will in the relatively near future transition to solid foods.... :)

Start with some squash.  The more the better.  

Summer Squash Puree!

Slice it all up. I prefer to cut all the squash up at once, but if you have a LOT you can do this in stages...

Summer Squash Puree!

Catch your spouse in a really good and dorky mood posing with the sliced squash.

Summer Squash Puree!

Steam the squash for 5-8 minutes, until it's a little soft.

Summer Squash Puree!

Using a food processor blend until it's smooth. It reaches the consistency of applesauce.

Summer Squash Puree!

Let it all cool down, and then prep it for freezer storage; we used baggies this time, but some people prefer jars.

Summer Squash Puree!

That's all there is to it! Happy harvesting and pureeing (is that even a word?)

Back to the Basics at The Weed Patch!

Tuna or Chicken Noodle Casserole

Simple Chicken Casserole from The Weed Patch

A simple and homey meal, this casserole is kind of a follow-up to our last casserole recipe (View Post Here).  The same principles apply – carbs + goo + meat + veggie = casserole.  Although a really boringly easy recipe, everyone needs one of those country-cooking, just-like-grandma’s fall-back recipes for busy nights.  Again, you can jazz up however you want – add peas, blanched asparagus or broccoli, experiment with cheeses, etc.  Last night we were very very basic.  Here’s what we did:

Egg Noodles (we used about ¾ package, of the whole wheat variety)
Cream of Mushroom Soup, 1 can undiluted (we used a lower sodium kind)
Sour Cream or Mayonnaise (as needed – we needed about 1/3 cup)
Cheddar Cheese, shredded (maybe 2 cups?)
Leftover cooked rotisserie chicken, chopped or torn into pieces (about 1.5 cups)
 *NOTE:  You can also use tuna (usually 1 can, drained), or a can of chicken (drained)
A can of water chestnuts, drained and chopped a little smaller
Salt, Pepper, and a favorite seasoning blend of some kind
*Another good option that we didn’t do this time but have others is one can drained mushrooms (pieces and stems)


  1.  Cook the noodles according to package directions.  Be careful not to overcook, because they’ll cook more in the oven and absorb more liquid, and you don’t want them to turn to mush
  2. Mix together the drained noodles, mushroom soup, about a cup of cheese, the chicken, the chestnuts, and add some pepper, a dash of salt, and a dash of seasoning (ours was Mrs. Dash Garlic & herb).
  3. You want a nice creamy consistency.  We found it was a little dry with one can of soup, as we had quite a few noodles there, so we added about 1/3 cup of sour cream.  Perfect.
  4. Pour into a casserole dish.  Ours fit perfectly into a deep  7 x 10 dish.  The size you use depends on how much  you made – sometimes mine fits fine into a 9 x 9 glass dish (almost to the top), and other times we use a 9 x 13 (for larger batches, and it doesn’t usually go to the top).  Whatever you use will be just fine – just remember that if the casserole is thinner, it may take less time in the oven.
  5. Sprinkle the top with cheese, so you have a nice thin even layer on top.  It will melt and fill in all the holes.  No need to cover your casserole, because of the cheese.
  6. Bake at 350 until heated through, cheese melted, and maybe even a little browned on top.  I check after 20 minutes, then it is usually 5 – 10 minutes after that.  Yum!

Do you like casseroles?  What's your favorite recipe?

Potato Corn Chowder

One of our longtime favorite comfort food meals is Potato Corn Chowder.  It's easy, tasty, filling, and perfect for a cold rainy evening!  

Simple Chicken Stir Fry from The Weed Patch


  • 6-8 strips bacon (more or less depending on what sounds good to you)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (we like sweet yellow)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or run through a garlic press (or, if you're like Chris, use the whole head of garlic)
  • 2-3 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut to 1/2" pieces
  • 1 carton good-quality chicken broth (32 oz)
  • 1 bag of frozen petite sweet yellow corn (depending on the size of the batch, you may not use a whole bag)
  • Dried Thyme, to taste (start with 1/2 tsp)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup cream (you can use light or heavy cream, half and half, or even whole milk if you prefer)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Extra flavor options - a favorite poultry seasoning blend, a tablespoon of butter, freshly grated parmesan cheese, sour cream, etc.



  • In a large soup pot or dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crispy.  Drain on paper towels, crumble, and set aside.  Remove most of the fat from the pan.  (You can drain the fat completely and do the next step in a little olive oil, but we like the flavor the little bit of bacon fat adds)
  • With the pot still over medium heat, add the minced garlic.  Saute for about 30 seconds, stirring constantly, taking care not to burn or brown it.  Add onion and stir well.  Cover, and allow to steam for about 5 minutes, or until the potatoes look like they are starting to soften.
  • Raise heat to medium high, and stir in the broth.  Potatoes should be pretty much submerged in the liquid - you can add a little water, if necessary.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer (meaning, some small bubbles, but not a hard boil) for about 15 minutes.
  • Stir in the corn (we use about half the package, but add what looks good to you), bacon,and thyme. Simmer for another 10 minutes or so, until the potatoes are soft.  At this point, you may leave the soup on low heat, if you're waiting for someone to get home for dinner, etc.  It does not hurt anything to let this sit in the pot for a while, as it just allows the flavors to deliciously blend.  But if you're starving and ready to eat now, the by all means, move on as soon as the potatoes are soft!
  • Mash up soup with a potato masher, until you acheive a nice chunky, mashy texture.  
  • Stir in the cream or milk - this will thin the soup down a bit more, and add wonderful flavor.  Add as little or as much as you'd like.  The chowder will be relatively thick. If it's TOO thick for you, you can add a little more broth, water, or cream.  If it's too thin, let it simmer uncovered for a few minutes (do not boil once you've added the cream).
  • Season to taste with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.  At this point, we often find the soup needs just a little something extra.  In the past, we've added a little fresh parmesan cheese, or a nice herb chicken seasoning blend.  I imagine sour cream might be good too, like on a baked potato, though I've never tried it.  The last time, I simply stirred in about a tablespoon of butter, and it was perfect.
  • Toast your toast or muffins, grab a bowl and fill 'er up, and enjoy!

There are several variations on this chowder.  For example, you can cut the butter out, if you like. Use more or less of all the ingredients. Make it more brothy if you prefer that texture.  Play with this recipe until you like it, and then tell us what you did differently! 

Quick and Easy Chicken Stir Fry

Simple Chicken Stir Fry from The Weed Patch

If you've got a few basics on hand, this yummy dish doesn't take much work, and doesn't take all that long to put together! While it's a very basic recipe, that simply leaves room for exploration and experimentation - let us know what you did differently so we can try it!


  • Boneless / Skinless Chicken Breasts (we were feeding 3 people tonight, so we used 5 "thin sliced" pieces, which are what was on a smokin' sale at Safeway a little bit ago...)
  • Peppers: 1 Red, 1 Yellow, 1 Orange
  • Snow Peas (we just had a good handful on hand)
  • Handful or two of mushrooms (we could have used more, but we used them in an omelet the other day...)
  • 1 Medium Onion (we used a yellow sweet, but whatever you have on hand will work great)
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • Yoshida's teriyaki sauce, or your sauce of choice.
  • Sticky Rice, or whatever you're going to serve it over.

Simple Chicken Stir Fry from The Weed Patch Simple Chicken Stir Fry from The Weed Patch


  • Firstly, cut the onion into strips.  Put it in some butter in a pan and turn the heat on low to medium-low.  The onions take the longest, because we're going to slightly caramelize them.  As they heat, stir them occasionally, so that they don't burn.
  • Cut each pepper into chunks, and put 'em in a bowl for later.
  • Cut the mushrooms into pieces, and put them in a bowl for later.
  • Wash the snow peas and set them aside.
  • Cut the chicken into bit sized chunks.
  • Peel and crush the garlic into a separate pan, in a little pool of melted butter or olive oil.
  • Turn the burner on for the garlic, and let the garlic start to cook. Once it starts to cook, dump the chicken chunks in.  Let the chicken cook over a medium heat.
  • Don't forget to stir the onions.  We'll cook them until they start to caramelize - they'll turn translucent and start to brown.  You don't need them totally caramelized, but you do want them to have a bit of a sweet flavor.
  • Once the chicken is cooking nicely, add some sauce and stir it all up, so that it's all covered.  Turn the heat down to low.
  • Get the rice started, since it takes 20 minutes.
  • Once the onion is done, dump it into the chicken.
  • Put the mushrooms into the now empty onion pan, and cook 'em nicely.  Once they're done, add that to the chicken mix, and stir well.
  • Now repeat with the snow peas - these only take a moment or two, as you don't want the mushy but just cooked a bit.
  • Finally, repeat with the peppers; again, these only take a moment.  You want them to cook, but to still crunch when you bit into them.
  • Mix those into the rest of the dinner, add some more sauce if necessary, and give it a solid stir.
  • Pull the finished rice off the burner, and dish yourself up!

Simple Chicken Stir Fry from The Weed Patch Simple Chicken Stir Fry from The Weed Patch

Do you have a great recipe that you wouldn't mind us sharing?  
Email it to us, and we'll share it! (Please Note: This email address doesn't handle sales questions, just newsletter and blog content!)

A Hearty Steak Stew...

Hearty Steak Stew at The Weed Patch

The other day Janene and I were both feeling gross.  Not really sure why, but it was definitely a lazy, blah day.  We made a new steak stew.  With all the cold weather around the country, this is the perfect time to try new things.  We hope you like it!


  • Steak - we just find the stuff on sale at the store.  This time we used about 1.5lbs - you can add more or less depending on your taste.
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp salt (we used Kosher Salt)
  • .5 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 potatoes, cubed.
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 1 can dark red kidney beans
  • 1 10oz can mushroom pieces and stems
  • 1 large onion; half cut into wedges, the other sliced (simply for variety)
  • 10oz Beef or Chicken Broth
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 can tomatos, whatever strikes your fancy (I used Fire Roasted with Garlic)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • At the end, add 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water

Variations (we didn't but it would be good!):

  • Add frozen peas, corn, or other veggies
  • Add chopped celery during the last 30 minutes


  • Cut the steak into cubes and drop it into the crock pot with the flour, salt, and pepper.  Stir it up well.
  • Add the onions, carrots, and potatoes, kidney beans, and mushrooms.  Stir well again.
  • Add 1/2 cup water, brown sugar and chicken broth.  
  • Add tomatoes, and stir it all up well.
  • Cook on Low for 10 - 14 hrs, or High for 4 - 5.5 hrs
  • With one hour left, add 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water.  Stir well.

Serve with fresh bread (we just made a simple white bread in the bread machine... easy and yummy!)


What are some of your favorite cozy night meals?

Dinner Tonight - Weird Casserole


Like I'd mentioned on Facebook, this is one of those casseroles where you throw half your pantry in a casserole dish, put in the oven, and hope it tastes good.  Although I love love love to cook, I really got out of the habit of it, between the busy 4th quarter at the store and not having fridge for a month.

This casserole came together because we needed dinner, and this is what we had for ingredients, so it is definitely one of those that could have a lot of different substitutions, depending on what you like or what you have on hand.  The basic elements of The Casserole are the meat, the starch, the veggies, the cheese, and the "goo" that holds it together and makes it creamy. 

For meat, I tend to go with chicken, because I usually have leftover rotisserie.  Canned chicken or tuna work in a pinch.  The starch is either cooked egg noodles or rice, and the veggies are obviously whatever I have that sounds good together.  I like a little crunch in my casserole, so you could use water chesnuts, celery (though careful, it has strong flavor), or even slivered almonds.  Plus, cutting them up nice and small is a sneaky way to get more veggies into your kids' diet - you hardly notice the texture, and the flavor isn't as strong, and you have the bonus of the added veggies.  Cheese for me is usually cheddar, but in this case, swiss fit better and needed to be used up. 

The "goo" typically starts with a can of good 'ol Cambell's Cream of Something Soup, then you can do a little bit of mayo, some sour cream, even plain yogurt.  A great way to reduce the fat and calories of your casserole is to use lighter fat versions of these things, as well as the cheese.  Just don't use fat free, for goodness sake - the texture and flavor just end up tasting flat.

Anyway, enough blabbing, let's make dinner!

Weird Casserole

Egg noodles, 3 big handfuls (about 1/2 a package or so)
Onion, about 1/4 cup minced
Garlic, 1 crushed clove (you can also use a shallot in place of the onion and garlic, as that's what a shallot tastes like!)
Mushrooms, about a cup, diced up
Frozen Spinach, about 1/2 cup chopped finely (I buy loose bagged spinach and grab what I need)
Water Chesnuts, 1 can, chopped up (unless you want large chunks)
Cooked Chicken, about 2 cups chopped
Cream of Mushroom Soup, 1 can (other flavors would be fine too)
Plain Yogurt, about 1/4 cup
Cottage cheese, about 1/4 cup
Swiss Cheese, about 2 or so cups shredded
Salt and Pepper to taste, 1/4 tsp each or so (if you have one of those salt-free seasoning blends, like Mrs. Dash or something, adding 1/4 tsp of that would also be tasty)
Ritz Crackers, crushed (use as many as you need to cover the top of the casserole with a light coating, which was about 10 for me)

1.  Cook and drain the egg noodles.
2.  While the water is boiling, and the noodles are cooking, chop up all the veggies as desired.  Saute the onions, mushrooms, and garlic in about a tablespoon of butter over medium high heat until soft and yummy looking, about 5 minutes or so.
3.  Combine everything together - the cooked noodles, cooked veggies, spinach, water chestnuts, chicken, soup, yogurt, cottage cheese, and about HALF the swiss cheese.  Add the salt, pepper, and a seasoning blend if desired.  I used 1/4 tsp of regular Mrs. Dash, and a dash (no pun in tended, that's just what it was!) of Tobasco sauce.  If you have too many noodles, just add some more veggies.  If you don't have enough noodles, don't worry, it'll taste great.  The key is to have enough "goo" for your casserole to be nice and creamy.  Chris' casseroles always taste better than mine, and I think it is because he puts more goo in his than I do.
4.  Pour into a casserole dish.  Mine fit into a deep dish 7 x 11 inch dish, but a 9 x 13 looked like it would have been right too.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, then sprinkle on the cracker crumbs.
5. Cover with foil, then bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  Then take the cover off and bake for another 10 minutes, or until the casserole is heated through, the cheese is melted, and the crackers have toasted a bit.

Serve with a tossed salad or steamed veggies.  Seems like it would serve about 6, with some leftovers.

I guess this casserole isn't that weird.  It was just weird to me - I've never used yogurt or cottage cheese in a chicken casserole before, nor do I typically use swiss or sprinkle with crackers.  It felt funny to me to keep opening the fridge, freezer, and pantry, take something out and throw it in.  The flavor didn't turn out weird, though, so maybe I'd better think up a different name...


Janene's Chipotle Beef Stew

I don’t know if I mentioned before, but we have sort of adopted a…well, I don’t know what to call it, perhaps a philosophy, or way of living, or whatever.  Anyway, we call it Cleaning Out the Freezer.  We realized we have this tendency, like many people I think, to purchase bulk packages of food at reduced rates, use one portion of it, store the rest in the freezer, and sort of forget about it.  When it is time to figure out the next dinner, instead of rummaging in the freezer to see what we already have on hand, we purchase all new groceries at the store.  I decided to start planning dinner based upon what we already had in the freezer.  But then I got to thinking, and realized that honestly, we do this with most everything in our house, not just with cooking.  Our cleaning supplies, organizing, clothing, art and crafting – we so often think we can’t do what we want without going out and buying something, rather than taking a second look at what we already have.  We have a house and garage cram packed full of stuff, and yet when we need something, we go to the store to buy it.  Not that buying things is bad, but if I’m going to spend our hard-earned money, I’d rather not buy things I already own.  So, we’re trying to look at things differently.  I could go on and on explaining this, but I’ll leave it at that for now, because really this post was just supposed to be a recipe, not a soliloquy on what led to me using the beef out of my freezer.

Anyway, opening up the freezer this morning to look for dinner, the first thing I pulled out was a package of meat containing three chunks of what was simply labeled as “beef for BBQ.”  Having no idea what this vague term meant, I figured when it doubt, slow and low cooking always does the trick.  This is one of those dinners in which I was very limited to what was on hand.  Had I the ingredients, I would have made this differently, such as adding some chopped onion or bell pepper, or squeezing on some lime juice and topping with chopped green onions.  However, this is what I had, and it turned out pretty tasty as is, which always makes me happy.  This means you can feel free to experiment yourself!  But here’s what I did:

Chipotle Beef Stew

  • 1 lb Steak or Stew Beef, cut to 1 inch pieces
  • ¼ cup flour
  • Salt & pepper 
  • 2 tsp ground cumin, divided 
  • 4-5 cloves fresh garlic, minced 
  • 1 (16 oz) can stewed tomatoes, with onions and peppers, undrained 
  • 1-2 tb red wine vinegar 
  • 1 (16 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 (4 oz) can mild chopped green chiles 
  • 1 can chipotle chiles with adobo sauce – remove one chile from can, seed it, and mince it up (reserve the rest for another use) 
  • 1 tsp adobo sauce from the chipotle chile can 
  • 1 cup beef broth 
  • Hot cooked rice

(Unfortunately, I used absolutely no measurements when preparing this dish, so I’ll do my best to guess).

1.      Prepare the meat:  If it isn’t already cut, slice the meat into ½ - 1 inch chunks.  Mix some salt and pepper into the flour, along with about a teaspoon of ground cumin.  Toss the meat in the flour mixture so that it is well coated.

2.      Brown the meat:  Heat about ½ to 1 T of Canola oil in a large Dutch oven type pot, over medium high heat.  Once the pan is hot enough, remove the beef from the flour using a slotted spoon, and brown it in the oil, occasionally turning pieces to brown on all sides.  If necessary, do in batches so you aren’t overcrowding the pan.  Remove beef and set aside.

3.      Add the tasty flavor:  add another tsp or two of oil to the pan, and reduce heat a little to prevent burning, and add all the minced garlic.  Stirring constantly, cook garlic until it start to smell very nice, about 30 seconds.  Add 1 tsp cumin, a dash or two of ground cardamom, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Stir for another 30 seconds or so, then add the red wine vinegar.  It should really bubble up nicely, and this is where you stir up all those tasty brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Add the meat back to the pan, and stir in the tomatoes, chiles, chipotle pepper, and adobo sauce.  Bring to a simmer, then turn heat to low.  Cover and cook for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4.      Take a little sip, and season as necessary with salt and pepper.  Stir in the beef broth (which really I only added because there just wasn’t as much liquid as I wanted – I supposed I could have added it with the meat, but whatever!) and the beans, cover and cook for about another half hour.


That’s it!  The meat should be absolutely falling apart and yummy.  I think you could definitely cook it for a shorter time period, but I think this gave it the best flavor and consistency.


Serve over rice to sop up all those juices, with some corn on the cob and slices of fresh mango as side dishes.  If I knew how, I would have made seasoned “Mexican rice,” but I didn’t know how, so we actually just used hot sticky rice, and it was just fine! 


Take care when adding the chipotle chile and sauce – it always adds more heat than I think it will.  You can always add more if it isn’t hot enough, but you can’t take it away!  I like to mince up the remainder of the can and sauce, and freeze it in ice cube trays for future use, as I never seem to need more than about 1 chile per recipe, and there’s like 8 or 10 per can.


It is especially good with some crumbled Queso Fresco cheese on top.  If you don’t know what that is, and you enjoy preparing Mexican or Spanish type dishes, I highly recommend it.  It’s pretty inexpensive and adds a great touch to these kinds of dishes.


In my imagination, I’d had some green onions, avocado, and cilantro on hand – I would have chopped all that up, stirred in some queso fresco, and garnished the stew with it.  Yum!  That was only in my head, though – if you have those ingredients, give it a try and tell me how it was!


Yield:  Looks like it would serve about 4 hungry people. (*updated - maybe three VERY hungry people...)