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March 18, 2014

Recipe for chicken and spaghetti squash casserole with bell peppers, olives and cheese {gluten-free}

Chicken and spaghetti squash casserole with bell peppers, olives and cheese #glutenfree.

When spaghetti squash made its first appearance on the home cooking scene, I tried hard to believe it could, would and should replace pasta in my favorite dishes. Yes, it looks all stringy and strandy, but no, it is not spaghetti, no matter how many meatballs you pile on top. Because it fell short of my expectations, I cast it aside, and for years did not serve spaghetti squash at all. Now, two things have made me take a fresh look: the slow cooker, and the pressure cooker. Both of these machines make cooking spaghetti squash so easy that I simply had to give it another chance. I'll just say this: I made this chicken and spaghetti squash casserole twice in one week, in order to get any photos at all, because my husband Ted and I practically inhaled the first one. The squash cooked perfectly in both the slow cooker and the "fast" (pressure) cooker, and the combination of chicken, vegetables and two cheeses put an Italian spin on the dish that made it every bit as good as spaghetti. I've included instructions for cooking the squash in the oven, as well, because no matter what's in your kitchen, I want you to make this dish.

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March 13, 2014

Dry beans (Recipe: everything-from-the-pantry bean soup) {vegetarian}

Originally published in December 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe, which I now like to make meatless. You can add some chicken or sausage for your omnivorous eaters.

Everything-from-the-pantry bean soup #vegetarian.

By nature and by habit, I am a decanter.

Not the kind with an hourglass figure (don't I wish?) and a cork stopper.

No, I am a person who decants almost everything in my pantry into clear jars so I can see how much of each item I have on hand. I've never been able to divine, just by looking at a box on the shelf, exactly how much sugar, or rice, or bulgur wheat, is left in the box. The smaller jars, mostly one-quart canning size, hold the things I use in smaller quantities: lentils, cocoa powder, arrowroot, table salt for baking. In medium jars, I keep various kinds of rice, and breakfast cereals. The large jars hold the basics: sugars, kosher salt, flours.

My favorite jars are what I call the amalgamators: the jar that holds leftover odds and ends of dry pasta, and the one that gathers dry beans. I only allow like-minded beans — those that cook in approximately the same time, or have the same texture or color — to cohabit. Today, my bean jar contains red kidneys and Anasazi beans, and a few navy beans hiding at the bottom. At other times, it might have cranberry beans, if I'm lucky enough to find them, or pink pintos.

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February 27, 2014

Recipe for Mediterranean beef brisket (pressure cooker, slow cooker or stovetop)

Mediterranean beef brisket, made fast (in the pressure cooker) or slow.

When I was a little girl, I witnessed a pressure cooker explosion in my grandmother's kitchen. I can't remember exactly what it was that ended up on her ceiling, but the impression that experience left on me remains, to this day, one of my kitchen nightmares. In a million years, I never expected to be in close promixity to a pressure cooker again, yet thanks to my friend Kalyn, I not only own an electric pressure cooker, but I'm kind of falling in love with it. The first time I pulled the machine out of the box, I made a batch of black beans, without presoaking, in less than an hour. They were perfect, and my kitchen did not blow up. As I learn more about this machine and how to make it work for me, I'm trying a few more recipes. Some have worked, and some have not, but one I really love (and made several times to get the timing right) is this beef brisket with Provencal-style seasoning. Cook it fast, in the pressure cooker, or cook it slow. Like all brisket, it's better on the second day. Now, tell me: do you use a pressure cooker?

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February 18, 2014

Tofu and Brussels sprouts fried rice recipe {vegan}

Tofu and Brussels sprouts fried rice (#vegan), from The Perfect Pantry.

To be honest, if it weren't for my occasional complete and utter laziness in the kitchen, I might never have considered Brussels sprouts for any stir-fry dish. Yes, it's easy to trim the woody bottoms of a few sprouts and thinly slice them for this recipe, but it's even easier to grab a package of shaved Brussels sprouts from the grocery store shelf. I'm not a huge fan of cruciferous vegetables, so to get them into my diet, I cook them with seasonings I know I will like. There are a dozen fried rice recipes on The Perfect Pantry, and now a baker's dozen, as this tofu and Brussels sprouts fried rice is going into permanent rotation in my kitchen. With a quick stir-fry, the sprouts turn bright green and sweet, making them irresistible, even to me. If you don't like tofu, you can swap in any other protein (shrimp, pork, even leftover rotisserie chicken). Remember to cook your rice ahead of time, so it can cool; you can make it days ahead, and store it in the refrigerator. If your rice is pre-cooked, and you sneak into the grocery store for a package of shaved Brussels sprouts, this dish comes together in minutes.

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About The Perfect Pantry®

  • My name is Lydia Walshin. From my log house kitchen in rural northwest Rhode Island, I share recipes that use what we keep in our pantries, the usual and not-so-usual ingredients that spice up our lives.

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