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My name is Keith Michaud and this is “Letters From Away,” a blog written by a Mainer living outside the comfortable and sane confines of New England. The blog is intended for Mainers, whether they live in the Pine Tree State or beyond, and for anyone who has loved ’em, been baffled by ’em or both. Ayuh, I am “from away.” Worse still, I live on the Left Coast – in California. Enjoy! Or not. Your choice.
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- How Maine Became a Laboratory for the Future of Public Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Angus King Urges Interior Department To Reconsider Offshore Drilling Proposal | Mainepublic.org
- Maine Voices: Higher education, employers must work together for bright future | Portland Press Herald
- Stunning reversal: McDaniels turns down Colts’ job to stay with Patriots | The Associated Press via the Portland Press Herald
- Kennebec River water levels could stay high into next week | Bangor Daily News
Tag Archives: Trader Joe’s
[I’ve never had a religious experience quite like those repressed in this food column in the Portland Press Herald, but I very much am a Trader Joe’s fan and am happy that Portland appears to be getting its first TJ’s. I visit the local Trader Joe’s here in Stockton, Calif., at least once a week — dry and hot cereal, bread, Indian dishes, cheese, hummus, crackers, spices, pasta and pasta sauce, olive oil, eggs, milk, booze and much more. I do stay away from some of the bagged produce because it doesn’t stay fresh very long; part of that may be that much of it is organic so you have to use it pretty quickly anyway. The store here even carries Tom of Maine products. Overall, Trader Joe’s is a good thing. Here’s a link to the Trader Joe’s website for a small idea of what they carry. — KM]
I rarely follow directions to the letter when cooking. Recipes to me are merely suggestions.
It may come from the way my father cooked. There were times he simply threw things together in a pot and it came out tasting great.
Last night I did a bit of that.
I started out with Trader Joe’s mushroom and herb risotto. But I had a few items in the frig that needed to be used or chucked. That’s the way it goes when you live alone, because food comes packaged for families and there always seems to be extra.
First, I browned some chopped Hillshire Farms Italian turkey sausage in olive oil, approximately the same amount as the suggestion on the risotto package for sautéing the rice. The sausage fell into that category of being used or chucked. Chopped onions went into the pan and the chicken broth (again, Trader Joe’s) went into a second pan to be warmed – and this is what makes this a “nearly one-dish” meal, because I needed a pan to warm up the broth.
As the chicken broth neared “hot” and the sausage and onions were sautéed nicely, I threw in the rice and I sautéed that for a couple of minutes before pouring in the hot chicken broth. The mushroom and herb seasoning packet also went in. I followed the directions for sautéing the rice, reduced the heat and covered it.
More hot broth was needed, because the rice wasn’t quite tender enough after the first three cups were cooked off. It was a hassle, but not a huge one, and I think the effort was well worth it. Again, heat any additional liquid that has to go into the pan or the cooking will be interrupted.
Near the end, I added about a quarter bag of baby spinach (again, Trader Joe’s) and let the steam from the remaining liquid soften the leaves.
The deep green of the cooked spinach was a pleasant visual contrast to the tan of the risotto.
If spinach isn’t your vegetable, pick another. I considered throwing in a handful of baby carrots, which also would have added a visual contrast and a different flavor.
I served the risotto in a bowl topped with grated asaigo cheese (yep, from Trader Joe’s), but I think a nice, bold parmesan might have been better. Instead of a visual contrast, it would have been a flavor contrast.
There you go, a nearly one-dish dish.
I hate – just HATE – throwing out leftovers.
It is such a waste. Food was not grown to be wasted. And there are simply too many hungry people in this country and in the world for any of us to be throwing out food.
There is plenty a person can do to best use the food you have. First, don’t let gluttony get the better of you. Exercise proper portion control and simply do not make more food than you reasonable want or need for a particular meal. That alone will help the obesity problem in this country.
Second, take a page from the environmental/conservation movement and recycle or reuse leftovers into another meal. As a child, I used to love it when we had spaghetti because there was always extra pasta. Usually, there wasn’t extra sauce, but plenty of noodles. The next day I’d take the pasta, add ketchup and dig in. I haven’t done that since my college days, but I always thought it was pretty tasted. And cold pizza leftover from the night before is a fine breakfast. Sort of.
So you have steamed veggies from the night before? Simply warm them in a pan before adding beaten eggs for a spin on scrambled eggs. Or come up with a lunchtime sandwich using something that was dinner the night before – chicken, roast, eggplant. Or combine leftovers from a couple of meals for a quick casserole or hash. All it takes is a touch of imagination.
And if you need help coming up with ideas, there are plenty of websites out there with suggestions on how to recycle and reuse leftovers. I did a quick web search and found plenty right away:
That’s three links and good enough for a start. To be clear, I am not endorsing any of these sites, simply pointing out that they are out there and there should be plenty to get you started on avoiding wasting food.
Going too far?
I have to admit that I may have carried reused leftovers a little too far last night. It was early evening and I had not had anything to eat since I purchased a large cookie at the coffeehouse in the afternoon. The cookie was not sustaining me into the early evening so I peered into the frig and found very little – a jug of water, a carton of milk, tortillas, cheese, baby spinach and some leftover linguine mixed with a Trader Joe’s sausage sauce.
I closed the frig door, walked back into the living room, sat down, and took a sip from a can of Simpler Times lager. (Remember, I’ve been out of work since March so Simpler Times is what I can afford to drink. Get beyond it. I am.)
Within moments, I was back at the frig. I had to eat something and I was not about to head out to the store. I fished out the tortillas, cheese, baby spinach and the leftover pasta and placed the various items on the counter and stood back a moment, fists on hips.
“Well, what am I going to do?” (I sometimes talk to myself, usually not loud enough for anyone to hear. … Usually.)
“I suppose I could have a plain quesadilla.” (That’s me still talking to myself. It usually doesn’t get ugly unless I get in an argument with myself … and lose.)
“But I have the leftover pasta. But I don’t want to heat that up. And I am not in the mood for cold pasta. Hmm. What to do?” (Really, this is a process and we are getting near the end of it. Really.)
“OK, then, I could meld the cultures – linguine quesadilla.” (Trust me, I’m a much better conversationalist when I have someone with whom to, well, actually have a conversation. Other than myself, that is. … Really.)
International relations through food
I put a tortilla on a plate, put down a layer of pasta, sliced up cheese and layered that over the pasta. (I’ll use the baby spinach for something else.) I put a top tortilla and popped it in the microwave for about a minute and took it out and quartered it. The cheese had melted to form a bond between the ingredients and the tortillas, which made it much easier to eat than you might expect. And it was taster than you might expect, but I’m not convinced the Simipler Times didn’t help it go down.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you put your pasta in your quesadilla. I’m just saying that you can if you want to. Or you can come up with your own leftover quesadilla.