Category Archives: pasta

Almost free Skillet Meal: Penne Hodgepodge

"Hodgepodge" is a jumbled mixture. Find stuff in the fridge, cook it in a skillet and you have a free hodgepodge meal.

“Hodgepodge” is a jumbled mixture. Find stuff in the fridge, cook it in a skillet and you have a free hodgepodge meal.

I liked cleaning out the fridge and freezer so much, I checked the fridge again this week. Yes, it was difficult to decide which older food be sent to the compost pile, but I erred on the safe side because it is “Better safe than sick.” On the bright side, I found more stuff to eat: 3 cups of cooked penne whole wheat pasta, wilting celery, older mushrooms and 1 Roma tomato.  Perfect!

So I placed my “free” hodgepodge of leftovers on the counter, added a can of Cream Of Celery Soup, 2 green onions from the garden and 1/2 pound of range-fed lean ground beef. and proceeded to assemble a hodgepodge penne noodle skillet meal. 

Hodgepodge was defined eons ago as a thick European stew. Now it has a broader meaning like “jumbled mixture” “mixed bag,” or ” assortment”. I think this skillet meal qualifies as being hodgepodge.

To make the one skillet meal:

  1. Heat 3 T oil in a large skillet and brown the ground beef. Remove the fatty drippings.
  2. Add 1 1/2 C chopped celery, 1/2 C sliced mushrooms and chopped green onions to the hamburger.
  3. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and 2 T powdered onion and garlic
  4. Reduce heat, cover, and let it simmer for 20 min until celery is tender-crisp.
  5. In a bowl, mix the chopped tomato and its juice, celery soup, and 1./2 C water and add it to the skillet.
  6. Rinse the penne noodles with hot water and add it to the skillet.
  7. Simmer until the mixture reached 160 degrees F and serve with salad and fruit.

Note: A home-made white sauce is better than a can of soup but I  wanted to speed this up.





Spice Mix or Not: Italian

Italian Spice Mix,  or not

Grow your own basil so it is fresh for Italian recipes.

Grow your own basil so it is fresh for Italian recipes.

Long ago I was told “Italians take pride in their food, wine and opera. Bad tenors and boring  sauces get the loudest whistles (boos) yet they’ll still drink the wine.” Fresh herbs and spices are the rule around the northern Mediterranean seaboard mostly because many herbs grow naturally in the area. Since Italian cuisine relies upon simplicity, the use of mixes and garlic is frowned upon.  Actually more than frowned upon; there is an anti-garlic revolt going on now in Italy. Garlic and potent mixes could overpower the flavor and hide a chef’s shortcomings. Continue reading

Healthier Mac & Cheese



Macaroni and cheese: one of America’s favorite comfort foods.

 A link from eating popped up on my email today about 32 comfort foods for fall. On the list was macaroni and cheese: the ultimate comfort food.  Their video clip underscores some of the FMP “Tips & Tricks.”

  • Use a full-flavored sharp cheese in the recipe. Reduce the amount.
  • Use whole wheat macaroni or mix with semolina.
  • Add steamed veggies to pasta meals.
  • Make your own white sauce and add spices.
  • Comfort foods are ok when used sparingly. has recipes and articles for flexitarians like many of us. Follow this link to their site and the Mac & Cheese recipe. One of their goals is to offer recipes with reduced fats and sugars without sacrificing taste.