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Freshly diced yellow onion

How to chop and julienne an onion safely without tears

QuickTips4csMuch as they like to help out in the kitchen, every last one of my grandchildren–except the wee babe, of course–leaves the moment I break out the onions. “Eeee-ewww!” The smell! The tears!

Well, I’ve got a tip to help with that, but safety comes first, and with it the best way I’ve found to dice or julienne an onion. I don’t have the tools to make a decent video yet. Some day! Chef Brian from Dominick’s To Go does. Here he shows us how to chop an onion quickly and safely, as well as how to make those Read More

Sauteed broccoli with toasted almonds over Bulgar wheat

Quick broccoli skillet supper with toasted almonds

Got a head of pre-washed broccoli and some leftover rice or ferro in your fridge? You can slap this eye-catching, palate-pleasing broccoli skillet meal on the table in fifteen minutes. Even if you need to prep your broccoli and cook the grain, you can sit down to this nutritious, scrump-dilly-icious meal in thirty minutes. Who knew a low-fat, vegan dish could be so fast and taste so good?

It’s quick, colorful and full of vibrant vegetables and goodies that leave us here at Chez Grace satisfied and, well, a little proud of ourselves for treating our bodies to such healthy fare and our palates to the simple pleasures of fresh vegetables cooked just enough to let their flavors shine. Read More

It takes only minutes to make a cup of coconut butter in the food processor

Making coconut butter and finding hope in a sharing world

QuickTips4cs

One of my favorite YayYay’s Kitchen Facebook page Recipes of the Day is Andrea’s totally scrumptious script for Cranberry Almond Snack Bars on Cooking with a Wallflower. I made them, and they were delightful! Andrea’s recipe calls for a tablespoon of coconut butter, which I do not buy or keep on hand, so at first, I thought I might have to sub in butter. Read More

Child's sidewalk version of a labyrinth with LOVE at the center

Reeling in chaos, seeking answers

Normally, you’d see the latest Friday 5 post in this spot today. I’ve had it ready to go since Wednesday, but this morning it seemed obscene to post a cheery recipe share, in the wake of three recent murders-by-cop (Dylan Noble, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile)  and the apparent retaliation by what is now described by Dallas police as a lone sniper picking off white officers.

This afternoon I posted the following on YayYay’s Kitchen’s Facebook page. I’m re-publishing it here and asking for your feedback. Together, perhaps we can begin, in some small way, to solve these seemingly intractable problems. Read More

Stone ground all-organic Mexicali corn bread

Simple fare: Make this bright, colorful Mexicali skillet bread

So often the two of us here at Chez Grace thrill to the simplest supper fare: A bowl of homemade vegetarian chili, some crudites and a crust of bread. Plenty of times, we’re happy with a ramekin filled with freshly cooked pintos or black beans, plain and simple. Usually, when I’m cooking beans, I’ll stir up a quick cornbread. We have a couple of fave recipes, equally easy to make with stone ground, organic corn meal we keep in the freezer for freshness.

Mexicali cornbread with black bean chili

Mexicali cornbread with black bean chili

A while back someone mentioned Mexican corn bread. I’d forgotten all about that fatty, cheesy, hamburgery, sausagy dish. Goodness! Years past, I noshed Mexican cornbread with pleasure. Seconds please! Thirds! Those days are long gone. Now we’re eating for health and longevity as much as pleasure and taste. Can I make a cornbread with those southwest flavors we love, one that won’t clog our arteries and raise our blood sugar to dangerous levels?

You bet I can.

A lighter, brighter Mexicali cornbread recipe

Read More

Friday 5 with YayYay's Kitchen Facebook banner

The Friday 5: Real food recipes #21

Welcome to this twenty-first Friday 5, a roundup of Recipes of the Day featured on YayYay’s Kitchen Facebook page in the last week.

Spring into summer with both cool- and warm-weather recipes

With gardens beginning to produce now, and farmer’s markets bringing us zucchini, I couldn’t resist the zucchini “meatballs” recipe on Friday. On Saturday, I shared my own basic pasta and veggie recipe, along with three companion recipes that let you change it up for quick meals all week long–four for the price of one! Read More

Zucchini matchstick garnish with fresh thyme on veggie pasta salad

How to julienne vegetables to make fun, colorful garnishes

Don’t the professional chefs know how to make a plate pretty? Quite often, when we’re in a one of our local haunts, our plates arrive with little haystacks of julienned vegetables garnishing the dish. Those tiny matchstick-sized pieces dress the food and taste delicious too.

Broccoli stems, colorful carrots and zucchini, all make terrific julienne fodder

Broccoli stems, colorful carrots and zucchini, all make terrific julienne fodder

I always thought julienning vegetables too much trouble to try, until I ran across this video. Who knew slicing vegetables into teeny, tiny rectangles could be so easy, or so fun? Take a look.


Looks super easy, doesn’t it? Zip, cut, cut, cut, and voila! Beautiful piles of julienned carrots, zucchinis, what-have-you. These were what I had handy today, but imagine the color of red, orange and green bell peppers, or the crunch and flavor of a jicama, a rutabaga or a turnip?

My first thought on viewing that video was, yeah, I need to get one of those mandolins. But then folks in the comments section mentioned cutting their fingers, so yuk, I’d have to get the glove too! Where would I store the new gadget and its companion glove? Then, slap-the-forehead-moment: I have a mandolin slicer on my grater. Would it work?

Slicing zucchini on the mandolin blade of my flat grater doesn't work too well

Slicing zucchini on the mandolin blade of my flat grater doesn’t work too well

Not so much. The blade made a mess of my zucchini. Wait! Wait! My food processor has a mandolin blade I almost never use. Let’s try that.

Testing the food processor mandolin blade by carefully making one slice by hand--nice and thin!

Testing the food processor mandolin blade by carefully making one slice by hand–nice and thin!

Yes, that slices the zucchini nicely. Now all I have to do is make the match sticks.

The food processor makes mostly long, thin slices

The food processor makes mostly long, thin slices

Nice, huh? Pretty easy to pile those wedges up the way the chef did in the video and quickly make matchstick size pieces.

In just a minute, using the video chef's method of stacking the weddges, I had a pile of matchstick-sized pieces

In just a minute, using the video chef’s method of stacking the weddges, I had a pile of matchstick-sized pieces

This could come in handy next time we have a dinner party. Um, but when am I going to need that many match stick vegetables for just the two of us? Wouldn’t it be fun to julienne vegetables now and then for us, or for a small party? What if I just cut the vegetables up by hand? How long will it take?

Oops. I sliced the zuke on the round, making tiny quarter-sized pieces

Oops. I sliced the zuke on the round, making tiny quarter-sized pieces

Too long, if I slice them on the round, as I did at first. All I could get from these were little one-inch matchsticks. Quickly wising up, I sliced the zuke on the straight and soon had a nice pile of julienned zucchini almost as even as the ones from the food processor.

Front: Julienned zukes cut by hand; Rear: julienned zukes sliced by food processor mandolin, then cut by hand;

Front: Julienned zukes cut by hand; Rear: julienned zukes sliced by food processor mandolin, then cut by hand;

Next time, I’ll remember to slice them on the diagonal, so I get those pretty ends and don’t end up with some all white pieces and some with a long, green side. Both methods work well for julienning carrots and broccoli stems too.

Quick work with the knife produces colorful carrot and broccoli matchsticks

Quick work with the knife produces colorful carrot and broccoli matchsticks

It took less than two minutes for a little stack of carrots or broccoli. Have to say, I’m relieved. Now I have a new trick up my sleeve for adding a little extra punch to my serving plates, and I don’t have to find room in my kitchen for that mandolin that looked so appealing in the video. Got it covered already. Whew!

Whether it’s a new gadget or a bold new idea, sometimes it pays to take a breath and step away before committing, doesn’t it? Get a little perspective. Look at what you have, or are doing, that already works.

For lunch today I prettied up my veggie pasta bowl with a stack of the julienned zucchini and some fresh thyme leaves from my windowsill garden. Total yum.

My lunchtime veggie pasta bowl with zucchini strips and fresh thyme leaves for garnish

My lunchtime veggie pasta bowl with zucchini strips and fresh thyme leaves for garnish

But what to do with all those vegetables I cut into little strips while I experimented with this idea?

Snap! Coleslaw. I’ll just grate up the rest of those broccoli stems and make a nice coleslaw to go with our supper tonight. I’m thinking black bean, red pepper and cheese quesadillas on organic, stone ground tortillas with a side of coleslaw in a light vinaigrette. Quick and easy supper. Sound good?

♥  ♥  ♥

This post is shared at Real Food Fridays #144 – Sharing a Healthier Lifestyle.

The Gay Pride flag, overlaid with a heart of love in the mourning colors of black and gray, with the word "Orlando" in pink in memory of the shooting victims there and all victims within the pink triangle of hatred for LGBTQ people

Living with love in a world scarred with hate

My darling grandchildren,

Less than forty-eight hours ago, a man sick in his heart, a heart scarred and torn with hatred, walked into a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, with a gun designed to kill dozens, perhaps hundreds of people with just the pull of a trigger. Before the police, likewise armed with guns designed to kill dozens, perhaps hundreds of people with the pull of a Read More

5-Minute pasta supper, a homemade one-dish meal complete with veggies

One pasta pot, three quicker-than-fast-food organic meals

Whether you’re on the run between soccer games or just too tired after a long work day to cook your usual fabulous dinner, you can feed your family a wholesome, organic, mostly fresh meal in twenty minutes or less with these three easy vegetarian/vegan meals you can prepare in 5, 10 or 20 minutes from one pot of pasta with veggies.

Keep your pantry and fridge stocked with a few ready-to-use items and you’ll throw supper (or lunch) together faster than waiting in line at the local drive-through! The best news: Your meal is more nutritious, and I’d wager, tastier too than drive-up fast food, and not nearly so fat-laden.

Plus, these meals easily translate to vegan with a few minor substitutions, all included in the recipes.

Spoiler alert: Gourmands and Italians may need to avert their eyes. This page is for busy families on the run who want to eat wholesome, organic, whole foods and need it fast.

Start by boiling the pasta just to al dente stage

Make it vegan!
You can make any of these recipes vegan with the vegan substitutions in each recipe.

Start with a pasta pot, plenty of water, and a one pound bag of organic whole wheat pasta of your choice. We like fusilli best, but we have used plain macaroni, small and large, and almost any of the smaller fun-shaped pastas.

When the pasta is nearly al dente, add the frozen vegetables and cook barely tender, till colors are bright and vibrant

When the pasta is nearly al dente, add the frozen vegetables and cook barely tender, till colors are bright and vibrant

Add two one pound bags of frozen organic vegetables. For our family, petite peas with grated carrots work best, since our littlest grandchild, who loves pasta, isn’t ready to chew big chunky vegetables yet. Bigger kids can enjoy a wider range of vegetables, so experiment with your faves. Stir-fry blends are especially tasty.

That’s the Basic Pasta Mix you can store in the fridge for up to a week. With this basic mix in your fridge, you’ve got three (or more, depending on your imagination) home-cooked fast-food meals at your fingertips, starting with a cheese-topped pasta with veggies and marinara sauce.

Too hot to cook? Try the super quick pasta salad with crunch–a favorite at our house any time, but especially in the summer when heat blazes off the sidewalk. Lastly, on a cold, wet night when the wind is blowing, nothing beats a steaming bowl of homemade soup, this one with veggies and beans. You’re limited only by what’s on hand and your imagination.

Here’s how the plan works.

Basic Pasta Mix Recipe

In this photo, you see the Basic Pasta Mix in the cooking pot, right after I added the peas and carrots. The pasta has absorbed moisture, but is not quite al dente.

Veggies and pasta, ready to drain (Save the cooking liquid in a freezer bowl for making soup stock!)

Veggies and pasta, ready to drain (Save the cooking liquid in a freezer bowl for making soup stock!)

I’ll bring the water back to simmer and heat the veggies through. By then, the pasta will be perfect, not over-cooked, still firm enough to hold up in a salad, under sauce or in soup.

Quick tip

Pour the cooking water into a large bowl or pitcher and let cool. Save this nutrient-rich water in jars and use to make soups and stews when you have more time to cook. Add a dated label so you never need guess how old it is.

Tonight, as soon as it’s ready, I’ll drain all into a colander and serve a one-cup portion to each person at that table with an herby marinara sauce, topped with our favorite grated cheese. That step-by-step recipe follows this one.

A crusty artisan bread on the side is nice, but not necessary when we’re all bone tired after a long day. It’s not a gourmet meal, but it covers all the bases: Vegetables, proteins and carbohydrates, without adding a lot of fat to our diet.

Basic pasta and veggie recipe for fast-food, home-cooked meals

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Take this basic mix from your fridge in any portion you need and stir up savory, super fast one-dish meals in five, ten or twenty minutes. Serve them simple, or doctor them up as much as time and energy allow.

Ingredients

  • 1 1-lb pkg. organic whole wheat fusilli or similar pasta
  • 2 1-1b. pkgs. frozen organic peas and carrots, or vegetables of your choice

Instructions

  1. In pasta pot, cook pasta according to package instructions.
  2. In last four minutes, add the frozen veggies and continue cooking. Cook only until pasta is al dente and vegetables are nearly tender and still brightly colored.
  3. Drain the pasta and serve portions immediately with one of the following recipes or your own. Refrigerate leftovers in a sealed container and store for up to one week.

Throughout the rest of the week, when you need a quick luncheon salad or a hot meal, doll this basic mix up or keep it pretty much as is, depending on how much time you have. To reheat the pasta and veggies without over-cooking, place them in a strainer and dip in scalding hot water for five or ten seconds, drain and serve.
A YayYay's Kitchen Recipe

This is a YayYay’s Kitchen original recipe. Please link back to this page if you base a recipe of your own on this one.

5-Minute pasta with veggies and marinara sauce

We usually dish this 5-minute pasta supper up as soon as we make the Basic Pasta Mix, but it’s an easy lunch or supper any time, especially when the grandkids are on deck. You will save even more time with a microwave, if you have one. We don’t, so I do everything on top of the stove or in the oven.

Cheese-topped pasta with veggies and marinara sauce

  • Servings: Varies, depending on how many you need
  • Difficulty: Easy
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5-minute pasta supper with veggies and cheddar cheese

5-minute pasta supper with veggies and cheddar cheese

Out of grated Italian cheese? Don’t let that stop you! When your family is hungry, use what you have on hand. It’s all good. It’s just not Italian. The day we made this batch, we were out of our favorite hard cheese, so I used the sharp cheddar I almost always have in the cheese bin. The toddler loved it, and I was hungry enough that I didn’t miss the Italian too much.


About the cheese
We do enjoy cheeses at our house, but you can easily make this vegan with a vegan cheese substitute. Lately, we’ve enjoyed this Vegan Parma on our quick-supper pasta.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 C Basic Pasta Mix per person, depending on appetites
  • 2-4 T Classico Organic Tomato with Herbs and Spices Spaghetti Sauce, per person, or your favorite bottled sauce
  • 1-2 T per person grated organic Parmesan, Reggiano, or vegan cheese, per person

Instructions

  1. Ladle out one cup pasta mix per plate for hearty eaters, less for small children.
  2. If pasta is plenty hot, and you are in a big hurry, you may not need to heat the spaghetti sauce. Just spoon it over the pasta, and the hot pasta will warm it enough to eat.
  3. Top with grated cheese.
  4. If pasta has been refrigerated and you are completely out of energy and time, heat the sauce and pour over the cold pasta. It will heat it nearly through, then top with the grated cheese.

Serve alone or with a crunchy salad or crudités and baguette chunks.

A YayYay's Kitchen Recipe

This is a YayYay’s Kitchen original recipe. Please link back to this page if you base a recipe of your own on this one.

Next up, this super quick pasta salad

Some nights we get home and neither one of us wants to do anything but change into our comfy clothes and nosh whatever is handy. This salad fills that bill. If we’re both too tired to chop veggies, we throw a little dressing on the Basic Pasta Mix and call it good. It still beats fast food out or ordering in. What’s more, it saves our waistlines for the delectable delights we love to indulge in from time to time.

Pasta salad, ready to toss with the dressing

Pasta salad, ready to toss with the dressing

Super quick pasta salad with crunch

  • Servings: Varies, depending on how many you need
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

This salad requires no cooking and is especially handy when you don’t want to heat the kitchen, even for five or ten minutes. If this is a side dish, you may not need the extra protein in cheese or beans, but if it is your lunch or supper, add one or the other or both.

In the image, you can see I’ve added red onion, celery and red bell pepper to the basic mix. I’m out of fresh herbs today, but I have some excellent dried parsley, which I will bruise and throw over the top before I toss it all with Mom’s Milky Vinegar and Sugar Dressing.

This is good from the get-go, but if you make enough for leftovers, the flavors of the spices and onion work their way through the pasta, and it gets better and better. Grab and go for an on-the-run lunch next day.

Ingredients

  • 1-2 C Basic Pasta Mix per person, depending on appetites
  • 1 T Chopped onion (we prefer red) per person
  • 1/4 C Chopped celery per person
  • 1/4 C Chopped fresh veggies per person (optional)
  • 1/4 C Drained canned or cooked garbanzo, kidney or black beans per person (optional)
  • 1/4 C Diced sharp cheddar or vegan cheese per person (optional)
  • Sprinkling of any fresh savory herbs you may have on hand
  • 1-2 T Bottled or homemade salad dressing of your choice, per person

Instructions

  1. In large mixing bowl, ladle out one cup pasta mix per person.
  2. Add onions and celery.
  3. Add any additional chopped crunchy veggies you have on hand, such as bell peppers of any color, zuccini, broccoli, or cauliflower.
  4. Add drained garbanzo, black or kidney beans, if using.
  5. Toss in fresh herbs, if you have them, and a tablespoon of bottled or homemade dressing per cup of pasta mix.
  6. Alternatively, bruise a little dried parsley or basil in your hand and sprinkle over.
  7. Add the dressing and mix well.

Serve with baguettes or fresh fruit.

A YayYay's Kitchen Recipe

This is a YayYay’s Kitchen original recipe. Please link back to this page if you base a recipe of your own on this one.

Staples to keep on hand for super quick meals

Along with frozen organic veggies in our freezer, and several varieties of cheese in our fridge, we keep organic whole grain dry pasta and glass jars of organic pasta sauce in our pantry for those times we are too busy or too tired to cook but want to stay within the range of healthier foods.

Add a baguette from your local bakery and a handful of fresh berries or sliced pears for dessert, and you have a fairly good meal.

Pasta, Veggies and Bean Soup – Serve up a hot bowl or two or three any time

Hearty veggies and bean soup

  • Servings: Varies depending on how much basic recipe you start with
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Hearty pasta, bean and veggie soup, ready in 5-10 minutes

Hearty pasta, bean and veggie soup, ready in 5-10 minutes

This amazingly fast soup is refreshing as well as comforting on a cold night when you want something quick and easy.

Don’t want to wait ten minutes for the flavors to simmer together? Go ahead. Serve as soon as it’s warm. It’s still so much better than canned.The pasta sauce brings in most of the flavor you get cooking soup from scratch.

We like a bit of ground chipotle chilis to give it a little heat. I sometimes throw in a dash of fresh or dried oregano, basil and thyme for added seasoning punch. I also add a few of any chopped or steamed vegetables I have on hand, such as broccoli, cauliflower or kale. It’s a good way to use up leftover veggies.

Ingredients

  • 1 C vegetable broth or reserved pasta cooking water per person
  • 1/2 C Classico Organic Tomato Basil and Herbs Spaghetti Sauce per person
  • Pinch salt per person
  • Dash Organic Chili Chipotle Ground (optional)
  • 2 T Coarsely chopped yellow onion per person
  • 1/4 C Coarsely chopped celery per person
  • 1/2 C Cooked or canned pinto, black or kidney beans per person
  • 1 C Basic Pasta Mix per person
  • Grind pepper to taste per person
  • 1 T Freshly grated cheese or vegan substitute

Instructions

  1. In stock pot, bring to easy boil one to two cups vegetable broth or pasta cooking water per person.
  2. Stir in salt and spaghetti sauce.
  3. Toss in coarsely chopped onion and celery.
  4. Add cooked or canned dried pinto, black or kidney beans.
  5. Stir in pasta mix.
  6. Simmer 5-10 minutes.

Ladle into bowls, grate pepper over each to taste, garnish with grated cheese (optional) and serve with torn baguette wedges, butter (vegan or regular) and jam. So good!

A YayYay's Kitchen Recipe

This is a YayYay’s Kitchen original recipe. Please link back to this page if you base a recipe of your own on this one.

How many people can you feed this way?

How many quick meals can you get from one pot of pasta?

Last time I made this I counted up the number of servings we got from the basic recipe. Here’s how many meals we got from that one pot of pasta, using the recipes on this page.

  • Basic pasta mix with marinara sauce and cheese: 4 adult & 1 child servings
  • Pasta salad: 4 adult servings
  • Veggie bean and pasta soup: 4 adult servings
  • Total servings: 12 adult and 1 child servings

That is a lot of flavor, and a lot of value for our organic food dollar, let me tell you, each meal prepared in twenty minutes or less, quite often less than ten minutes.

Thank you for visiting this page

I’d love to know what you think of these dishes and whether you will try them. More importantly, I’d love to hear about your favorite home-cooked, better-than-fast-food meal. Please share it in the comments below.

♥  ♥  ♥

Dear Readers: If you think you’ve seen these recipes before, you may well have. In December 2013, as a writer on the now-defunct site Squidoo, I first published this collection under the user name graceonline. In August 2014, HubPages, where I am known as ecogranny, bought Squidoo. I opted to have my Squidoo pages, including this recipe, transferred to the new site. Now, in June 2016, I’ve brought it home–to YayYay’s Kitchen.

♥  ♥  ♥

This post is shared at Real Food Fridays #144 – Sharing a Healthier Lifestyle.

Friday 5 with YayYay's Kitchen Facebook banner

The Friday 5: Real food recipes #20

Welcome to this twentieth Friday 5, a roundup of Recipes of the Day featured on YayYay’s Kitchen Facebook page in the last week.

Two desserts top this week’s list

Sometimes I just can’t help myself. First it was the mini lime tarts from the French blogger, Madamcadamia, then my own accidental strawberry rhubarb custard pie–a takeoff from another recent Recipe of the Day. I’m still looking forward to trying Karen Raye’s spicy chipotle chilaquiles–all three ways, and planning on taking advantage of the hydrating properties of Katie’s switchel when we spend some time in the desert this summer. Finally, there’s an East Indian dish from Asiya of Yummy Indian Kitchen where we learn to make aloo fry (a vegetable dish) with potatoes and green chilies.
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