My mother-in-law makes a terrific pasta dish with mushrooms and asparagus. Her version contains ham and is a bit more labor-intensive than this vegetarian variant I pulled together one night while trying to use up some asparagus I picked up at the farmer’s market.
1/2 box linguine
1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch fresh asparagus, cut into bite-sized chunks
3 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 stick butter, cut into pats
1/4 c. heavy cream
Half a cup or so of grated Parmesan
Prepare linguine according to package instructions, drain and toss with butter to keep the noodles from sticking together. While pasta cooks, put asparagus and about a tablespoon of water in a casserole dish, cover and nuke for five minutes or so. Ideally, you’ll end up with asparagus that’s bright green, crisp-tender, and not shriveled up. If you don’t live on my in-laws’ farm, you’ll probably have to use some tired old asparagus that’s been sitting around the grocery store for a few days, as I obviously did — hence the slight shriveling you see in the picture. It still tastes OK, but the fresher asparagus is, the better.
Saute mushrooms in olive oil and toss pasta with mushrooms, asparagus, cream and Parmesan.
Makes four reasonable or two ginormous servings.
P.S.: Here are days 8 through 10 of my Lent project:
If you’re thinking of buying Route 66 for Kids for your Kindle, wait a couple of days for me to post the new edition. I couldn’t find the option to upload the new edition, and in the process of looking for it, I republished the current edition under a description that makes it sound as if I’ve updated it. Amazon has to review and approve things before you’re allowed to go back in and edit them, so I have to wait 12 to 48 hours to fix the problem — and then another 12 to 48 hours to get the fix approved. If you accidentally buy a copy that claims to be the fifth edition in the description, but the copyright date isn’t 2015, email me, and I’ll send you the corrected edition as either a Word file or a PDF.
In related news, as soon as I get this crap sorted out, I’ll have a new edition of Route 66 for Kids available on Amazon. I’ll blog and tweet something as soon as the real update goes live.
Vegetarian Friday and my latest Lent items coming shortly. It’s been a week.
Day 7 of my giving-up-random-objects-for-Lent project:
I bought this to heat-set henna after I moved. I used it maybe three times before I discovered my gray was finally coming in at an acceptable rate, whereupon I stopped dyeing my hair, as I’d always promised myself I would do just as soon as I had enough gray to make it worth the effort of growing out a dye job.
I haven’t used this dryer in over a year, and I’m not planning to use it again. It needs a new home, where it will be loved and appreciated, and I think I know just the place. We have a terrific organization here in Cape called Safe House for Women. Safe House provides all kinds of services to victims of domestic violence — including, as the name suggests, temporary housing.
I feel fairly confident that an organization designed to serve women can put a barely used bonnet dryer to good use one way or the other. If the residents don’t need it, they can stick a price tag on it and sell it at the thrift store to raise a few bucks. Either way, it’s a good dryer that isn’t doing any good for anybody on a shelf in the basement, so away it goes.
This project really is a lot of fun. The total randomness of the objects I’m clearing out of here is amazing.
Day 6 of my giving-random-objects-up-for-Lent project:
Ignore the terrible photo quality; my iPhone was having a temper tantrum. Focus instead on the coolness of this find: Four unused CFLs I found under the kitchen sink. I think I bought these on sale several years ago and never used them because LED bulbs got a lot better and a lot cheaper before I had a chance to install the CFLs.
Although they pay for themselves over time, both LEDs and CFLs are still a bit out of reach for a lot of people, so these will go to a food pantry, where someone who can’t afford a $5 lightbulb can install them and see an immediate drop in the power bills.
I think this is my favorite of all the stuff I’ve put in the giveaway box so far.
Here’s Day 5 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:
I bought this hot pot when I worked at the hotel and had an office in a separate building. I have no idea why someone thought a hot pot needed to have Hello Kitty on it, but it was about 10 bucks cheaper than the less embarrassing models, so I took it to the office and used it to boil water for French press coffee, which I think I made about three times before I forgot to clean the press in a timely fashion and ended up with fuzzy white mold growing all over it. I think that was about the same time my boss decided it would be OK for hotel employees to use the coffeemaker in the lobby, so my penicillin-producing French press went into the trash, and my hot pot collected dust. I have no idea why I brought it with me when we moved. I don’t use it here any more than I used it in Tulsa.
Anyway, it’s going into the box with the other stuff.
By the way, I assume we’re all clear on this, but in case you’re just joining the fun: I’m not posting the random objects I’m giving up for Lent to make myself look sweet or generous or whatever. I live in a 730-square-foot house, so getting rid of things I don’t need is a largely self-serving proposition. My motives in posting the stuff I ditch are threefold:
1. To make sure I remember to put something in the giveaway box every day.
2. To give friends and family who live within a reasonable drive a chance to call dibs on anything they want.
3. To give myself a visual record of the diversity and ridiculousness of the largely unnecessary crap I buy — which, hopefully, will discourage me from accumulating more.
If seeing this project happens to inspire somebody else, so much the better; I imagine most of us could benefit from reducing our household inventory once in a while, and this is kind of a fun way to do it.
Last year, I showed you how to recycle Ro-Tel or enchilada sauce cans into planters for starting seeds. I’ve saved cans all year and have about three dozen to start the season — not bad, but not as many as I’d like. (I try to start at least a dozen of each tomato variety I intend to grow so I’ve got a good selection when it’s time to decide which plants go in the garden.)
To make up the slack, I’m recycling newspaper into biodegradable seed-starting cups.
I could do a step-by-step photo tutorial or a series of diagrams or some such, but the video embedded above is way better than anything I’m likely to come up with. What I particularly like is the simplicity of the design — you don’t need a background in origami to turn a sheet of newsprint into a neat little square planter. The size is also good; peat pellets and a lot of the commercially available planting flats are so small that your plants won’t have room to grow, and you’ll end up having to transplant them to keep them from getting leggy and rootbound long before the last frost date. These are big enough that your tomatoes shouldn’t outgrow them before Planting Day.
I’ll probably use two sheets of newsprint rather than one on mine to ensure they’re sturdy enough to hold up until April 15.
And yes, I know there have been some concerns about whether newsprint is safe to use in the garden, but Cornell University reports most newspapers have switched to soy- or water-based inks that won’t hurt your soil, your plants or you. I feel quite confident in saying heirloom tomatoes started in recycled newspaper pages and planted in your backyard are far better for the planet (and you) than Frankenfood grown on a factory farm 1,500 miles away and trucked all over creation.
In other news, here’s Day 4 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:
I love this skirt, but the “one size fits all” label in it is and always has been a lie. That drawstring is purely decorative; a wide elastic band holds up the top, and it’s much too tight for comfort. Too bad, because a solid black broomstick skirt is a handy thing to have. Maybe someday I’ll find one in my size. In the meantime, I’ll toss this one in the thrift-store box for a thinner person to enjoy.
From the “faster and better than McDonald’s” files: I swiped this idea from the late, great Piatto in Tulsa.
This isn’t as nice as Piatto’s version, because they made their pesto from scratch, but as usual, I’m giving you the 15-minute version. If somebody will remind me in June, when I’ve got fresh basil taking over the garden, I’ll make a batch of homemade pesto and post the recipe. In the meantime, the kind you buy in little jars at the grocery store will work just fine for a quick dinner that still tastes better and costs less than whatever you were going to buy from a drive-through.
Box of linguine
Small jar of pesto
Carton of gorgonzola or bleu cheese crumbles
Cook linguine according to package instructions. The big challenge with linguine is to stop cooking it before it turns to mush. I find al dente linguine a bit tricky, as it tends to cook very slowly compared to other pastas, but the line between “not done” and “overcooked” comes down to a matter of seconds, and there’s so much variance from one brand to the next, you really have to start tasting it about 8 minutes in and keep tasting every 30 to 60 seconds until it’s done. (I’ll own the possibility that this is simply lack of experience on my part; if I made linguine as often as I make capellini, I’d probably find it as easy to work with.)
Drain pasta, toss with pesto immediately, divide into bowls and top with cheese. Makes four hefty servings.
In unrelated news, here’s Day 3 of my giving-things-up-for-Lent project:
I love the Blue Swallow. And I love most of my Blue Swallow-themed merchandise. But this particular shirt — which I got several years ago — doesn’t fit quite right, so into the giveaway bin it goes. (I’m always happy to release Swallow merchandise into the world so other people can see it and find out about the coolest motel on Route 66.)