Friday, January 15, 2010

Stori~ poor planning is the true mother of invention

Since we raise, butcher, and process our own meat, I am required to take out and plan for supper several days in advance. I fully admit, I am not good at this. I rarely know what I'll be in the mood to fix or eat till the day of. Within a year's time, we have usually butchered at least one if not two full sized sow pig, one moose, and maybe a beef cow. That much meat takes up a ton of freezer space, so my mom and dad keep the moose over in their freezer, I have claim to the pork and beef. Because my dad is an expert planner, we are never without moose thawed out. I really wish I had inherited that gene. Now, I say all that, just to say this.

Yesterday I woke up with a plan in my hand and hankering for spaghetti for supper. I make my meat sauce out of pretty much any burger (beef, moose, pork, caribou). About 3 days ago I took out some pork to thaw for the week, thinking I was grabbing a roast and a package of burger. My spaghetti supper ingredients (so I thought) were taken care. So there I go to the fridge to grab my burger out around 3 in the afternoon only to find no burger package. Pork chops. What? Pork chops? But I didn't wanna make pork chops! I didn't have enough potatoes over at my house for mashed. They were still in cold storage over at Papa's. Besides the fact I really wanted pasta! There I was, time to get supper going, nothing thawed out, my pasta plans dashed. So I go to my pantry and do like any good cook does, I stare at the shelves and cuss at myself. To be honest, I felt a little iron cheffy at that point. The clock is ticking, 6 hungry people to feed, no meat thawed out, one craving for pasta....GO! I notice a can of artichoke hearts..hmmm, oooh then fire roasted diced tomatoes, ok, oh! penne pasta~ Colt's favorite! Things are starting to come together. What about the protein for my carnivorous family? Canned chicken breast! Yes! So, by guessing, and tinkering, tasting, and guessing, I accidentally came up with a dish that Marc has requested to be put in the supper rotation!

Unlike Debi, I do not have at my disposal several fresh and raw food markets to choose from. Alaska winters are not friendly to fresh produce, and a "quick" trip to the grocery store would take about 2 hours. If you could look into my pantry you would find row after row, shelf after shelf of canned goods. These may not be as tasty as fresh, but they work great for my family. Besides canning our own home grown, I always keep a fully stocked pantry filled with canned food. And, they don't go bad! So out of the basic staples I have on hand at all times, I was able to come up with a very heart warming, belly filling, taste pleasing meal.

Penne pasta bake with artichokes and red sauce
(feeds family of 7 with leftovers!)

3 large cans white chicken breast, drained and broken up
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
3 cans tomato sauce (not spaghetti sauce, just plain tomato sauce)
1 can v-8 juice
2 1lb. boxes penne pasta
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
kosher salt, pepper, sage, oregano, thyme

In a large heavy pan, saute onions and garlic in about 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add drained chicken and brown, stirring constantly. Add undrained tomatoes and chopped artichokes. Brown just a tiny bit more. Season with a couple pinches of kosher salt, some pepper, about a tsp. ground sage, and 1/2 tsp both oregano and thyme (pre-made italian seasoning would work too). Pour in tomato sauces and v-8 juice. Stir, turn to low, cover and let simmer. Can slowly simmer for several hours if you like. Cook pasta in salted boiling water, but only for about 7 minutes. You don't want it all the way done. Drain cooked pasta and mix with the sauce. Transfer mixture to a big casserole dish, I used a 9x13 stoneware and that wasn't quite big enough. Top with mozzarella cheese and bake at *350 for around 30 minutes.

Note to Debi ~ this sauce would be great meatless too!

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