Grow Your Own Spaghetti

IMG_2274One of the things we try to do at Patty Cake’s Pantry is to provide healthy and nutritious meals for our family.  This may not always be apparent when you look at the recipes that I post.  There have been several banana bread variations, and cookies.  There was even a recipe for some chocolate cookies with caramel centers.  There are also many recipes for dishes containing pasta.  This might lead one to believe that all of us at Patty Cake’s Pantry suffer from carbohydrate addiction or at the very lease carb overload.  In spite of all these recipes, this isn’t the case.   This blog represents only a portion of what we eat and cook.  Sometimes, as any regular visitor knows, I forget to take pictures even when I’m making a recipe specifically for my blog.

In this post, I want to talk about one of the things we do to cut back on carbs during our meals.  It’s a pasta substitute that will cut calories as well as carbohydrates.  This substitute is none other than the humble spaghetti squash.  A pasta substitute that can be grown in your own back yard.

Spaghetti squash are winter squashes.  That means that, unlike zucchini, you can’t harvest them when they are small.  They need to mature on the vines and require a very long growing season to accomplish this, about 100 days.  Also, unlike zucchini which will produce squash all summer long, the spaghetti squash only produces 4-6 squash per plant.  (I have personally never had my spaghetti squash plants produce more than 2-3 squash per plant, but we have very poor soil that we continually amend to improve growing conditions. )  The good thing about spaghetti squash is that they have a fairly long shelf life, about two months, if they are mature when picked and stored in a cool, dry environment.  This is a good thing.

If you’re not a gardener, don’t worry.  Spaghetti squash can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores.  It’s also very easy to cook.  Spaghetti squash doesn’t taste like spaghetti, but it has a texture similar to capellini, or angel hair pasta.  Unlike many squashes, it has a very delicate flavor which is a great accompaniment to a variety flavors.  It can be topped with garlic and herb infused oil and parmesan cheese, mixed with a cheesy sauce,  topped with a bolognese sauce, pesto, or even turned into a curry dish.  It takes a bit longer to cook than spaghetti, but I usually start cooking the spaghetti squash in the oven and then start on whatever sauce I’m serving it with.  This way, the squash is cooked and I have time to shred it before pairing it with whatever kind of sauce I’m using.   Spaghetti squash really is  amazingly versatile, but how do you cook it?

Preparation is really very simple.

seeds and strings are removed from spaghetti squash prior to cooking.

First, cut the squash in half and remove the seeds and stringy things from the middle, being careful not to scrape away too much of the flesh.

Spaghetti squash in pan with water

Place the spaghetti squash in a pan, cut side down and add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan. Usually, this is between 3/4 and 1 1/2 cups.

When you can stab a spaghetti squash with a fork, it's done.

Place the pan containing the spaghetti squash into a 350 degree oven and bake for 30 minutes or until it is easy to stick a fork through the skin on the squash and into the flesh.

begin to loose the strands from the squash

Remove the squash from the oven and flip it over so that the cut side is up. Use a fork to loosen the strands of squash. Be careful. The squash will be very hot at this time, and if you’re not careful, you can get burned.

The strands grow horizontally

Once the strands of squash are loose, carefully draw your fork horizontally across the squash to ensure that you have longer strands.

There's a lot of spaghetti in a spaghetti squash.

After several minutes of scraping, you will have quite a pile of spaghetti squash strands stacked inside the squash peel. These can either be removed to a plate and topped, or stirred into whatever sauce you’re using. If you want to highlight that you’re eating squash, serving the strands of squash, and the chosen sauce, inside of the skin makes for an attractive plate.

I mentioned the calories that can be saved by using spaghetti squash instead of noodles.  One cup of spaghetti squash has only 31 calories.  This is significantly lower than the 200 calories found in a cup of cooked angel hair pasta.  Spaghetti squash is low in carbohydrates making it a good choice for people with diabetes or on carb restricted diets.  Also, unlike spaghetti or capellini, spaghetti squash contains higher concentrations of vitamins and minerals.  All in all, spaghetti squash is a good choice.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.  Please leave me a comment and tell me your favorite way to serve spaghetti squash.

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  This is my favorite way to prepare spaghetti squash.  There are many other methods mentioned on the web.  A google search will present several–baking dry, microwaving, baking whole, and others.  The one thing I had never heard of was boiling spaghetti squash.  I should say that I had never heard of it until I read this post at Kitchen Hospitality.    Knowing that I can prepare the squash by boiling it means that I might be more willing to prepare spaghetti squash during the warm day of summer when I don’t want to turn on my oven.  (I don’t know why I never cook it in the microwave.)

The Perfect Steak

Preparing the perfect steak is easy with this techniqueWhen I was growing up, we didn’t eat steak very often. When we did, it wasn’t something that I enjoyed. My mother liked her steak well done. She didn’t like any pink to show. Unfortunately, frying tender and juicy steaks that met this criteria was not a skill my mother possessed. Even attempts to cook high end cuts of steak resulted in something that more closely resembled shoe leather than a piece of meat.

Don’t get me wrong. My mom was generally a good cook. She made great Swiss steaks, but most of the meats she cooked were either roasted or boiled. In all honesty, I never really liked steaks, and since they were expensive, I considered my dislike of them to be good for my budget.  I was fortunate when I married Baker’s Man because he wasn’t really a steak and potatoes kind of guy.

Back in our starving college student days, one of our employers took Baker’s Man and me out for a steak dinner. Honestly, we weren’t very excited about it, but when the steak was served, it was tender and delicious. It possessed none of the shoe leather qualities that I had come to expect from steaks. We actually enjoyed it. Unfortunately, due to our starving student status, we were unable to afford steaks as part of our grocery budget.

Fast forward several years. We had enough money to afford steaks, but unfortunately I didn’t possess the skill required to prepare anything that wasn’t reminiscent of my mother’s shoe leather. I tried several techniques over the years, but was never successful until a friend shared a secret that one of his friends had shared with him.

The secret to a perfect steak, he told me, is a very hot cooking surface. The cooking surface must be heated to 500 degrees F. (I usually use cast iron for this because I don’t think that other surfaces can tolerate such a high temperature, and I know that Teflon coated pans heated to those temperatures have been reported to release toxic fumes.

So here are the steps to make the perfect steak.

Heat your grill or skillet to 500 degrees F while you prepare your steak. In this case, I was using 1 1/4″ thick ribeye steaks that were on sale at my local grocer.ribeye steak are easy to prepare

Brush the surface with a light coating of olive oil.brush steak with olive oil before seasoning

Sprinkle the oiled surface of the steak with your favorite seasoning.  I prefer a combination of garlic and onion, but sometimes switch things up depending upon what I’m planning to serve as side dishes.perfect seasoning for the perfect steak

The oiled and seasoned steak is then placed oil side down into the preheated skillet where it is seared for two minutes. (I have a cast iron grill pan, and I like the look of crisscross grill marks, so I wait one minute then rotate the steak 45 – 90 degrees horizontally then allow it to sear for another minute on the same side, but I’m weird.)The prepared steak is placed in the heated pan abd seared for 2 minutes

While the first side sears, brush the other side with olive oil. The second side of the steak is brushed with olive oil while the first side sears.

Apply your seasoning blend on top of the olive oil coating the second side of the steak.  Seasoning blend is applied to the second side of the steak

At the end of two minutes, the steak is flipped and the other side seared.After two minutes searing on one side, the steak is flipped so the other side can be seared for two minutesAt the end of the next two minutes, You can do one of two things. Remove the steak and place it into a different pan, or  remove the skillet containing the steak from the stove and place it into a 350 degree oven for 10 to 20 minutes depending upon the thickness of your steaks and how you like them.  Obviously, you want to use an oven safe skillet if you do this.  Since I use cast iron, it’s not a problem to put the whole thing into the oven.The skillet containing the seared steaks is placed in a 350 degree oven and allowed to finish cooking

Twenty minutes in the oven produced a tender and juicy, well done, steak with no pink showing, just the way my mother liked it but without the shoe leather consistency.Preparing the perfect steak is easy with this technique

A few years ago, I prepared a steak this way for my mom.   She loved it.  For days, she raved about what a tender cut of meat I purchased.  It wasn’t the cut of meat.  It was the technique used to prepare it, but I didn’t tell her that.

I have used this technique with sirloin, filet mignon, and rib eye. No matter what the cut of meat, it always comes out perfect. The only down side to doing this in the house is that sometimes, the hot skillet sets off my smoke alarm as the steak sears if I don’t remember to turn on the exhaust fan over my stove.  If I grilled it outside, that would never happen.

Please give my friend’s secret to a perfect steak a try and post a comment to let me know how you like it. If you have a technique that works better, please share that, too.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Retro Dining–Chop Suey

Chop suey served over riceI previously posted a recipe for Chicken Chop Suey that included an assortment of fresh vegetables, but today’s recipe is a little bit different.  It’s a recipe that I got from an older friend.  She says that this is how they made “Chinese food” when her children were growing up.  Neither of us is Chinese, so this recipe is not authentic in any way.  Unless you consider it to be authentic to what home cooks were making in the 1960’s.  She says told me that she read the recipe in a women’s magazine when her children were little and she tried it out.  Since the children liked it, she would make it for them from time to time.

Her recipe is unhealthy by today’s standards since it calls for regular ground beef, but it does contain some fresh vegetables, and “it was a way to make them some Chinese food at home without buying those expensive cans of chow mein and chop suey from the store. Those were too expensive to buy and feed all my children”  Many of you are probably wondering about the reference to cans of Chinese food.  They still exist, and can be found in most grocery stores as well as on Amazon(As of the date of this post’s publication, I am not an Amazon Affiliate.)

I took home her recipe, and bought some canned bean sprouts. (Imagine me shuddering as I say this.)   I also noticed that there were canned chop suey vegetables that you just needed to drain, heat, mixed with some strips of meat, and season with soy sauce.  I picked up a can of those to try, too.In the middle of the 20th century, many Americans only ate canned bean sprouts

I’ll probably blog about chop suey from canned chop suey vegetables when I get around to using them.

I asked my friend about the canned bean sprouts. Why not use fresh ones?  She told me that back when her children were little, it wasn’t like it is now.  She lived out in the country and they ate a lot of canned vegetables.  Fresh stuff was only eaten in it’s season.  Most grocery stores in her part of Louisiana didn’t sell fresh bean sprouts.  The only bean sprouts she ever ate, back then,  were the ones that came from a can.

The world she describes is very different from the one where I live.  A trip to my local  Costco found me buying bell peppers grown in Israel and grapes grown in Chile.  When I read these labels, I think about two things.

1. The world really is getting smaller since my food is from three continents.  It’s amazing that food can travel halfway around the world and arrive fresh at my table.

2.  It’s really scary that my food had to come from three continents.  Why can’t my food come from where I live?

Sorry, I’ve digressed.

The retro style chow mein was surprisingly good.  I forgot to grab my camera while I whipped up dinner and didn’t remember to take photos until all that was left were dirty dishes, so the picture above is from the previous chop suey post.    If I make it again, I will add some new, and hopefully better photos.

Here’s my friend’s recipe.  Give it a try and leave a comment to let us know what you think.  If you want to leave me a picture of your recipe, that’s okay, too.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Retro Dining--Chop Suey
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Chinese
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 servings
This is an inexpensive retro meal that when served over rice will feed a family of 6.
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced/sliced celery
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can bean sprouts, drained and rinsed.
  • ⅓ cup cold water
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  1. Brown ground beef and onion
  2. Add celery, hot water, pepper, and (optional) salt
  3. Cover and cook for 5 minutes
  4. Add bean sprouts and bring to boil.
  5. Mix together cornstarch ⅓ cup cold water, soy sauce, and sugar.
  6. Add to mixture in skillet and stir.
  7. Continue to cook for 5 minutes until thickened.
  8. Serve with or over steamed rice.



Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce

In my last post, I reviewed the popular recipe for  pepperoni pizza pull apart bread.   I mentioned that we served the bread with home made pizza sauce and a green salad.  Today, I’m going to give you my top secret recipe for quick and easy home made pizza sauce.  It’s so easy, and tastes so good, that you may never buy pizza sauce again.  This is especially true, when you consider that the cost of the homemade sauce is  under 50 cents per cup to make.

If you like light sauce on your pizza, this recipe makes enough for two home made pizzas about 14″” in diameter.  A family friend insists that she can cover 3 pizzas with this recipe, but two is the most we have done.  If you like the sauce on your pizza very thick, this is still probably more sauce than you’ll need for one pizza. Unless, of course,  you’re making a mammoth three foot diameter pizza.

My family loves this sauce.  We use it to dip home made calzones, fried mozzarella, cheesy bread sticks, and of course, pizza pull apart bread.   We have even been known to dip fried chicken strips into it, and if you’re in a pinch, it works well on pasta, but lacks the depth of flavor that you get from a slow cooked pasta sauce.  When my children were hungry and clamored for spaghetti, I would whip up this sauce and toss it with some  macaroni.  They ate it greedily and  never complained.

Here’s a real top secret tip about this sauce.  You don’t even have to cook it if  you’re using it on a regular pizza.  All you need to do is just mix it up cold and spread it on the crust.  No pre-cooking required.  If you’re using it as a dipping sauce, you will need to simmer it for a few minutes to ensure the dried herbs and spices have been reconstituted and the flavors are evenly distributed.

Money Saving Tip:  Cans of tomato sauce routinely go on sale at the grocery store for anywhere from 3 for $1 to 5 for $1.  Whenever I see them on sale, I  stock up.  Tomato sauce is a very versatile ingredient  to keep on hand in your pantry.

Give our Quick and Easy Pizza Sauce a try and let us know what you think.  Remember, you can always adjust the seasonings and add other flavors like onion powder to make it your own .   Thanks for visiting Patty Cakes Pantry.

Quick and Easy Three Ingredient Pizza Sauce
Recipe type: Sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 cup
No need to buy expensive jars of pizza sauce. All you need is tomato sauce and some herbs and spices to create the perfect dipping sauce for pizza pull apart bread, cheesy bread, or to put on your homemade pizza.
  • 1 (8oz) can of tomato sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning mix
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  1. Pour tomato sauce into a small sauce pan
  2. Rinse can with 1-2 tablespoons of water to get all of the tomatoes out of the pan and dump this water into the saucepan with the tomato sauce
  3. Add Italian seasoning and garlic powder.
  4. Mix well. At this point, you can either heat sauce (if you're using it as a dipping sauce for pizza pull apart bread, cheese bread, or fried mozzarella sticks) or just spread it onto the uncooked crust if you're making a pizza.


Pizza Pull Apart Bread

3 ingredient 50 cent pizza sauce goes great with pizza pull apart breadThis all started with a Facebook post, but before I tell you anything more, I have a confession to make.  I don’t have a Facebook page.  I don’t have a Pinterest account.  I don’t tweet or Instagram, either.  My use of social media is pretty much non-existent.  It’s a sad thing, and I know that I could attract more people to my blog if I used social media, but I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  I will probably set up at least a Facebook account before the end of the year, but as of today, I’m am without social media.  As a result, I might have completely missed this recipe if a co-worker hadn’t passed around her phone at lunch to share the recipe that someone had shared on her page.  The recipe was for pepperoni and cheese pizza pull apart bread, and I was intrigued by the idea.

When I got home, I tried to find the exact recipe that she had used, but couldn’t remember which site had been linked to her page.  I found a recipe at  I read it and realized that I already had everything in the house that I needed to prepare the recipe for dinner.  I decided that pull apart pizza bread sounded like a fun and family friendly dinner for a Friday night .    My oldest son and I worked together to get it into the oven.  After we chopped the pepperoni, mixed herbs and spices into olive oil and shredded cheese, we cut up the biscuits and mixed everything together.  We put it all into a well oiled bundt pan and placed it into the oven to bake.

pizza pull apart bread assembled and ready to go into the ovenThe recipe took longer to bake than indicated in the recipe on Stockpiling Mom’s, but since our only side dish was a green salad and some homemade pizza sauce, the extra 10 minutes didn’t really matter.  When the bread was ready, there was a great deal of grease in and around the bread in the pan.  I wanted to invert it onto a plate, but I didn’t want to be burned by hot grease.  The grease from the oil, cheese, and pepperoni also boiled over in my oven during the baking process, so I strongly recommend that you put another pan or foil under your bundt pan so you won’t have to clean your oven after dinner.   I allowed it to sit for about 5 minutes until the grease was reabsorbed.   Those 5, very long, minutes were pure torture because the pull apart  looked and smelled delicious.

pepperoni pizza pull apart bread after it comes out of the oven.  When the grease was largely reabsorbed,  I attempted to invert the pan onto a plate, but the bread was stuck.  I tried to release it by running a knife around the edges.  The bread was still stuck, and the pan was still extremely hot.  I inverted it over a plate again.  It was still stuck.  In frustration, I began to bang the plate and pan up and down on the counter, trying to bounce the bread free of the pan without burning myself while my son laughed hysterically.  Finally, it released and settled onto the plate.  Unfortunately, a full third of the bread was still stuck in the pan.  Pullapart pizza bread stuck to the pan during bakingCarefully, I pulled the remaining pieces of the bread from the pan and attempted to reassemble the bread prior to serving.  It was still very hot.  It kept steaming up my lens while I tried to take photos.  the pepperoni pull apart pizza bread steamed up the cameraI did my best to reassemble the bread on the serving plate and delivered it to the table with an apology about its appearance.  My family was gracious and accepted their disfigured dinner and devoured it completely.  The taste of the dish was a complete success, but the presentation needed some work.  pizza pull apart bread sticks to bundt panI wondered if sticking to the pan was the result of something I had done wrong while preparing the pizza bread.  I tried again, but this time, I used salami instead of pepperoni, and I sprayed the pan with a non-stick cooking spray instead of rubbing it with oil.  Once again, it took 40 minutes instead of 30, and it boiled over in my oven again.  I forgot to put foil under the pan which meant that I had to clean the bottom of the oven again.    Do you want to guess what else happened again?  It’s OK.  I’ll tell you.  It stuck.  The pizza pull apart bread stuck to the pan againThis time it came out of the pan a little bit better, but I still had to pull the stuck pieces out of the bottom of the pan.  I also had to clean up the spilled grease from the kitchen.  I didn’t wait for it to be reabsorbed before plating this time. pull the pieces of pizza bread out of the bottom of the pan

Then, I had to reassemble it on the serving plate.

The pizza pull apart bread was easier to reassemble on the plate this time, but I spilled grease all over my kitchen.It looked better this time, and it tasted just as delicious with the salami instead of pepperoni.

As I ate, dipping pieces of pizza bread into my home made pizza sauce, I considered my failure.  I realized that it might not really be a failure when I remembered that I had never seen a picture of the pizza bread inverted onto a plate.  Every blog that posted the recipe showed it from the top after it baked.  Of course, it makes a prettier picture from the top, but it made me wonder if anyone has managed to remove the pizza pull apart from the bundt pan and place it onto a plate without the entire thing falling apart.  I began my search.

Finally, I found a version of the recipe at  I noticed that, on her site, she also had a picture of the bread inverted onto a plate outside of the baking pan.    Do you know what that means?  It means that I have to keep making this until I figure out what I’m doing wrong.    Of course, I may make a few more changes to the next batch and offer up a different type of pizza pull apart bread.  If it taste’s good, I’ll post the recipe.   I’m thinking that maybe it will come out of a smooth sided tube pan, like the one used for an Angel Food cake, easier than it does from the bundt pan.   Ultimately, if I can’t make it work in a tube pan, I may just bake it in a 9X13 or a cast iron skillet like used.  I could also pile it into a bread pan or two.  However I bake it,  this recipe is a keeper and will find itself on my rotating menu plan.  I strongly encourage you to visit one of the pages I have linked above  and try it for yourself.  You’ll be glad you did.

If you  try the pull apart pizza bread, please comment and share your results.  I’m particularly interested in knowing how people successfully get it out of the pan in one piece.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cakes Pantry.

Solving A Perplexing Photo Problem

This post is about a perplexing problem that I have noticed.  It all started about a year ago when I was assisting my friend with a post on her site.  We made a batch of fudge, trying out a new recipe for the first time.  We were so excited about how well the recipe turned out that we devoured the fudge before taking any photos.  This was a major oversight.  We used a photo of someone else’s fudge until the following weekend when we whipped up another batch of fudge and took some pictures.  My friend was still struggling to master the basics of WordPress, so she asked me to switch the photos.  I added the photo to the site and used the on-line editor to rotate the fudge picture to the correct position.  Our photo was not the same quality as the previous one, but it was ours.  I was pleased with the result.

A couple of days later, I received a phone call from my friend who told me that the fudge photo was sideways on the website.  I was perplexed.  I was trying to figure out what I had done as I walked across the room to log onto the computer and fix the problem.  When I opened her site, however, I didn’t see a problem with the photo.  The photo on the site was correctly oriented on my computer screen, and I told her so.   The following conversation included some friendly bickering that sounded a lot like this.

“I’m telling your that I’m looking at it right now, and it’s sideways.”

“Well, I’m looking at it right now, and it’s straight.”

This went on for several minutes before we agreed to meet at a neutral location with free internet so we could figure out what was going on.  Honestly, both of us thought that the other person was crazy.    When we met, this is what we each saw.

The fudge picture on my computer looked like may look right on a windows operating system, but not on apple

On her computer, the fudge picture looked like this.  OSX may not respond to online editing like what is in wordpress media

We didn’t know what the problem was, but obviously, any editing would have to be done on her computer so that we could get the photo correctly oriented.    After several minutes we had downloaded the photo onto her computer, rotated it, saved it, and uploaded it to the site again.  Finally, we re-inserted into her blog post, and voila, we both saw the same photo with the same orientation.

There is one piece of information that I didn’t share with you.   My friend is an Apple person, and I am a Windows person.  For most things, this doesn’t have much of an impact, but when it comes to using the online editing software that is part of WordPress and other blogging software, everyone needs to be aware that when they rotate a photo for the correct orientation, it may not appear correctly oriented to Apple iPhone and iPad users.  A couple of months ago, I tried to explain this to another blogging friend of mine who was adamant that all of her photos looked fine on her iPhone.  A couple of weeks ago, she commented that she didn’t know why her photos were sideways on her blog.  She was viewing her page from her  iPhone.  I explained to her that it was because of the use of online photo editing.  This time, she heard what I was saying.

If you want to see a real life example, go to my post on Retro Dining–Chop Suey.  Half way down you will find the image of a can of chop suey vegetables.  It will look correct on a newer mac, an Android device, or any computer running windows, but will be lying on its side if viewed with an iPhone.  I left it like this on purpose just in case there are any non-believers viewing my site.

When I got home, I did some research.  I found several sites that discussed the problem.  Instructables had a discussion about this problem a few years ago.  A year ago, there was a discussion on about this problem.  My friend has a new Apple computer which shows all of my photos correctly oriented regardless of how I rotate them, but she also has an iPad and an iPhone. The iPhone consistently shows images in a sideways position if they are rotated using the WordPress photo editing.  The iPad does it some of the time, and I can’t figure out what makes the difference.

The bottom line here is that if you want your  iPhone carrying friends to stop calling you and telling you that your photos are sideways on your blog, you have two choices.  Stop hanging around with them, or edit your photo in Photoshop on the computer, and save it in the correct position,  before uploading it to your web site.  I recommend the latter.  Good friends are hard to find.

If you’re an iPhone user and are visiting my page and notice that some of my photos are sideways, I’m sorry.  I’m trying, but like the example above, I can’t fix what looks right from my perspective.  It’s actually rather frustrating.  I hope you find this information useful.  There’s a post at Mandolin Cafe that discusses this same problem if you’re looking for more information.

As always, thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Sake It To Me Garlic Shrimp

Garlic Sake it to me shrimpThis recipe began on a family vacation when my family wandered into a Hot N Juicy Crawfish Restaurant.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this franchise, they serve crab or seafood boils which allow you to select from a variety of  different seafood as well as flavors such as Garlic Butter, Cajun Style, and Lemon Pepper.   In addition to selecting the flavor, or flavors, the intensity of the spice is available from mild to extra spicy. In the tradition of a low country boil, the entire thing is served up on paper topped tables and you eat with your hands.  It’s a messy, but delicious, experience.

One evening while I was driving home from work, I was thinking about what would be good, easy, and quick to make for dinner.  I try to plan ahead, but sometimes, life gets very hectic.  I mentally  inventoried the contents of my fridge and freezer.  I realized that I had some leftover cooked rice, some frozen edamame, and about a pound of medium to large shrimp.  The downside to the shrimp was that they weren’t peeled, and I was very hungry.  Peeling the shrimp would take a lot of time.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of prep time before I was able to serve dinner.  That was when I remembered Hot N Juicy Crawfish.  I didn’t have to peel the shrimp.

When I got home, I filled a pot with salted water and put it on the stove to boil for the edamame.  I retrieved the still frozen shrimp,  in their shells, and placed them in a colander balanced in a bowl filled with cold water to speed thawing.   While I chopped the onions and other things  that I would need for  fried rice,  I contemplated what would be the best flavors for my shrimp.    I wanted something Asian inspired, but I wasn’t sure what.  I considered terkiyaki shrimp, but I imagined the dark and sticky fingers everyone would have after peeling them.  I also imagined dark and sticky finger smears on the wall between the dining room and the sink.  I didn’t want to wipe down the walls, so I dismissed the idea.

I have a confession to make.  I really love the choreography of getting a meal on the table all at once.  It’s really like a well planned dance. It’s my play time after a long day at work.  I can shed the day’s frustrations as I chop and slice.   For me, preparing a meal isn’t frustrating or difficult.    I love to experiment, and I don’t really worry about the outcome being perfect.  As long as my family eats without too many complaints, I consider the meal a success.  There have been a couple of times when a meal experiment has been such a disaster that we had to call for a pizza, but that hasn’t happened for a few years.  The last disaster was so bad, though, that I am forever leery of trying any recipe that calls for peanut sauce.  When your little one takes a bite and begins to cry, you know it’s bad.

So while I was meditatively chopping food, and considering options that might work well on my shrimp, I remembered an Asian Stir-Fry that my brother had told me about.  It contained chicken, sliced onions, and sake.  If you’ve never heard of sake, (pronounced Sock-Ay),  it is an alcoholic beverage from Japan that is brewed from fermented rice.   I even had an open bottle of sake on hand.   I considered my options as I  thought about a simple dish that I often make called Camarones al Mojo de Ajo.   What if I switched up the flavors and combined the two dishes?

I consulted Baker’s Man.  His response: “Sake it to me, Baby” in his best  imitation of Austin Powers.  Thus, the name for our Sake It To Me Garlic Shrimp.  The entire dish, including chopping the garlic, came together in under 15 minutes.  The shrimp sauteed in garlic butter and then steamed in the sake vapors.  I still wanted to create a teriyaki type of flavor, but didn’t want to tint everyone’s fingers with soy sauce.  I substituted salt for soy sauce, and just before turning off the stove,  dressed the shrimp with a mixture of  salt, sugar, and green onions.  The resulting shrimp were tender and flavorful.  Served up with a bowl of  fried rice and the edamame, it made for a delicious meal.  A little messy, as we peeled the shrimp with our fingertips and popped edamame out of their shells, but completely worth the mess.

glazed with salt sugar, garlic butter, and sake, sake it to me shrimp is a delicious and easy recipe

Give the recipe a try and let me know what you think.

As always, thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Sake It To Me Garlic Shrimp
Recipe type: Entree or Appetizer
Cuisine: Asian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4-5 servings
Shrimp are sauteed in garlic butter, steamed in sake, and then dressed with salt, sugar, and green onions before serving.
  • 1 pound medium- large shrimp (25 or so shrimp per pound) heads and veins removed, but still in their shell.
  • ¼ cup butter or olive oil (or a combination of the two)
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped (normal sized cloves, not elephant garlic)
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • 2-3 green onions finely chopped (I used the green and the white parts)
  1. In a large skillet that has a lid, melt butter or heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute or until it begins to soften. Be careful not to burn the garlic or it will become bitter.
  3. Add shrimp and stir fry for 1 minute.
  4. Add Sake, stir, and cover pan.
  5. Allow shrimp to steam for 1 minute or until shrimp are cooked. They will change from gray to pink.
  6. Remove lid, sprinkle with salt, sugar, and green onions. Toss together and serve.


Old Rotten Potatoes

AuGratin Potatoes straight from the ovenPotatoes in my house often go through three phases.  This is especially true during the warmer months.  Because I buy  potatoes in bulk, sometimes we get tired of eating them, and they sit around longer than anticipated.  The first stage my potatoes have is the picture perfect potato that can be baked or steamed and served whole.  The second stages occur simultaneously as some potatoes become wrinkled and other have small eyes sprout.   Once potatoes have reached this point,  they are too ugly to bake.  In order to use them, they must first be peeled and any eyes cut off.  Of course, there is a fourth phase when the potatoes are rotten and inedible.   We try to avoid that phase altogether.  When they’re rotten, the only thing that can be done with them is to throw them into the trash.

Almost everyone agrees that it’s OK to eat potatoes that have sprouted as long as you remove the sprouts and the eyes.  There are many mixed opinions about the safety of eating wrinkled potatoes.   You will have to make your own decisions.  Personally, I wash them, cut them in half and if they look and smell okay, I peel them, cook them, and we eat them.  I learned this from watching my mother who began her married life living out in the country and living off of the land.  They had a root cellar where they stored root crops and all of the things they canned.  Most of their food came from crops they grew and animals they raised.  Anything else they needed, my parents bartered for with their surplus.  It was hard work, but they found it fulfilling.

I recently found myself staring at a bag of potatoes that had begun to sprout.  I realized that I would have to come up with a use for them quickly, or we would be throwing them out.  After carefully considering these potatoes, I decided that I would make some Old Rotten Potatoes.  Old Rotten Potatoes is what my youngest  heard whenever we said we were having Au Gratin Potatoes.  As a result, that’s what we have called them for years.  WE DO NOT EAT POTATOES THAT ARE ROTTEN.  This dish is made from potatoes that are edible, rotten potatoes have to be thrown out.  It’s really sad, but  this must be said.

My recipe is very straight forward and fairly simple as long as you know how to make a white sauce.  It’s really easiest if you have someone to help with washing and peeling the potatoes while you make the white sauce.  Children armed with peelers sometimes make wonderful kitchen helpers.

russet potatoes, washed and peeledI began by washing and peeling my potatoes.

thinly sliced potatoesThe potatoes were then thinly sliced.

thinly sliced raw potatoespotatoes layered in pan for au gratin, old rotten, potatoesI sprayed a 9X13″ pan with non-stick spray and arranged 1/2 of my potatoes on the bottom and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

chopped onionI chopped an onion.

potatoes topped with chopped onionI sprinkled chopped onion on top of  the layer of potatoes.

The remainder of the sliced potatoes are placed into the panI added the remainder of the sliced potatoes and sprinkled them with salt and pepper.

cheese shredded for the cheese sauceI shredded 2 cups of cheese.  Jack and Cheddar were my choices, but this can be made with your favorite.

finely chopped garlicTwo cloves of garlic were chopped. (I confess, I chopped three, but we really like garlic)

melting butter with freshly chopped garlicThe white sauce was prepared by melting butter with some crushed garlic  in a sauce pan.  An equal amount of flour was stirred in to make a paste.

flour and butter cooking together to make the roux The flour and butter mixture, also called a roux, was cooked for a few minutes but not allowed to brown.

milk was added to the roux and whisked until it was thickenedMilk was added to the pan. This was stirred over medium heat until the sauce thickened.

finished cheese sauce is ready to be poured over the sliced potatoes and onions.Shredded cheese was added along with more salt and pepper and stirred until the cheese was melted and the sauce smooth.

The au gratin potatoes are covered with sauce and put into the ovenThe entire pan of sauce was poured over top of the potatoes and onions that were layered in the pan, and it was placed in a 350 degree oven.  (My oven is level; my camera was not.)

au gratin potatoes are done when the potatoes are tender and the dish is browned on topThe potatoes were baked for 1 hour until the potatoes were tender and the entire casserole was lightly browned.

The scalloped potatoes were devoured by my family.  I served these with ham steaks and green beans.  They were delicious.  My family of 4 devoured nearly everything.  There was enough left for me to take a serving for lunch the next day.

Here’s the recipe.  Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.

Old Rotten Potatoes
Recipe type: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
Potatoes and onions are layered and covered with a cheese sauce before baking in a moderate oven until golden brown and bubbly.
  • 8-10 medium sized potatoes. peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups cheese, shredded--I used cheddar and jack, but you can use your favorite
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Wash and peel potatoes and thinly slice
  2. Arrange half of the potatoes in the bottom of a 9X13 inch pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.
  3. Sprinkle salt and pepper on top of potatoes
  4. Sprinkle chopped onion evenly on top of potatoes
  5. Add another layer of potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper
  6. In a 2 quart sauce pan, melt butter with minced garlic.
  7. When butter is melted, add flour and stir to make a paste.
  8. Add milk, whisking until flour and butter mixture is incorporated and there are no lumps.
  9. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and the sauce thickens slightly.
  10. Add shredded cheese and stir until the mixture is smooth. If it gets too thick, you many need to add a little bit more milk. The sauce needs to be thin enough to run between the layers of the potatoes, but thick enough that the final dish won't be runny. Keep in mind that it will thicken more during the baking process.
  11. Add salt and pepper to the sauce.
  12. Pour over layered potatoes and onions in the baking dish
  13. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until potatoes are tender and the top is lightly browned.


Shrimp Florentine

shrimp cooked with garlic, scallions, tomatoes, and spinach makes a delicious mealEveryone knows that I love simple recipes that come together quickly and easily from things that are already on hand in my pantry.  Pasta dishes are always a big hit with everyone in our house and almost everyone in our family loves shrimp.  This recipe came together one day as I was scouring the refrigerator looking for likely candidates to go into the evening meal.  I had purchased some medium/large shrimp on sale a few days earlier and knew they were going to become part of this meal, but I wasn’t sure what else would go into the mix.

First, I filled my pasta pot with salted water and put it on the stove to boil.  Once the water was hot, I started making my sauce.  Because of the shrimp in this recipe, you can’t leave the sauce on the stove to simmer for hours.  Shrimp cook quickly, and over cooked shrimp quickly become tough.

If you’ve visited my site very often, you have probably noticed that I like to use a lot of garlic when I cook, so this recipe started out, like many of my dishes, with garlic cooking in some olive oil along with some shallots.  When the shallots were cooked, I poured in some broth, added 2 cups of chopped tomatoes, and waited until everything began to boil.  When everything was cooked to my satisfaction, I added the spinach and allowed it to wilt.  Finally, I added the shrimp and waited about two minutes until they had turned pink.

I tossed the cooked pasta with the shrimp and vegetable mixture and served it up in bowls with some crusty bread and parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top.  Baker’s Man complained that it was a little too wet for him.  He would have preferred a thicker sauce, but gave it a thumbs up for flavor.

Dollar Stretching Tip:  If you peel your own shrimp, toss the shells into a pot and cover them with water.  Bring the mixture to a boil and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  The flavor from the shells creates a delicious shrimp broth that can be added to other dishes.  Strain the shells from the broth and discard them.  Put the reserved broth in a container, label it, and stick in in the freezer until you need some extra flavor for soup, pasta, or whatever you’re making.

Disclaimer:  I named this dish Shrimp Florentine because I added spinach.  I have since learned that you’re supposed to serve things on a bed of spinach to call them Florentine.  I apologize if I have offended anyone by my misuse of the term. 

Shrimp with spinach, tomatoes, wine, garlic, and pasta.  Disclaimer #2:  You may notice that some of the shrimp in the photo still have their tails on them.  This was an oversite while peeling the shrimp.  It didn’t really hurt anything.  We  just had to do a little bit more work when we ate.  I strongly recommend that you remove the shell including the tails when you make this dish. 

Here’s your recipe.  Give it  a try.

Shrimp Florentine
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
Fast and easy, this shrimp and vegetable pasta dish makes a tasty dinner.
  • i pound of uncooked pasta, I used Penne
  • 1 pound medium sized raw shrimp, shelled and de-veined.
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 shallots, chopped
  • ½ cup chicken or vegetable broth or wine
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 10 oz raw spinach
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup parmesan cheese
  1. Bring salted water to a boil
  2. While you're waiting for the water to boil, chop the vegetables and peel the shrimp if necessary.
  3. Once the water is boiling, add pasta so it can cook while you make the sauce.
  4. Heat oil in the bottom of a large sauce pan
  5. Add shallots and garlic and saute briefly until they become translucent. Be careful not to let the garlic burn, it will taste bitter.
  6. Add broth and stir to combine
  7. Add chopped tomatoes and stir to combine
  8. Allow to come to a simmer, stirring frequently.
  9. Add spinach and allow to wilt. Stir to incorporate.
  10. Add salt and pepper to your taste
  11. Add shrimp and heat through until the shrimp are cooked and turn light pink. This should take only about two minutes.
  12. Drain cooked pasta and stir it into the sauce with the shrimp.
  13. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.
  14. Some warm crusty bread goes great with this.

A Few Recipes From Other Blogs That I Tried AND Loved in 2014

I love visiting other peoples food blogs.  I love to see what they’re doing.  I love trying their recipes.  As 2014 came to an end, I was looking back through some of the recipes that I tried this year and thinking about which ones were my favorites.  This list is my family’s top 5.


First up is what I considered to be a very weird combination, but it was actually quite tasty.  I didn’t actually cook this one for myself.  My friend prepared it one night while I was hanging out at her house waiting for feral cats to wander into a trap, so we could take  them to a local shelter.  She lives out in an area where apparently people love to abandon cats.  Since my friend has a kind heart, she feeds the poor pregnant moms who come to her house with their babies.  As a result, she had at least 10 feral cats living on her property at one time.  One evening, she invited me over to trap cats and eat dinner.  No, we didn’t kill and eat cats, but a funny thing did happen one night that I will have to blog about.

What she served up was a combination of lentils, greens, and chicken-apple sausage cooked up in a sauce that contained a sweet red wine.  I can’t adequately describe how well the sweetness of the apple in the sausage and the wine contrasting with the earthiness of the lentils and the verdant taste of the spinach came together in this one pot meal.   It was so good, and the dishes she served it in made an even prettier picture than the photo on the blog.  (My photo doesn’t do it justice.  I really need to improve my photography skills. )  The recipe can be found at  Give it a try.

Next up is a really strange sounding recipe that I found over at  The recipe is a raw food chocolate pudding that’s made from avocado and coconut.  The picture looked so enticing, but the recipe sounded too weird to be good.  I had to try it.  It was a bit harder to put together than instant chocolate pudding from a box, but really it was only a little bit harder and this was made from real, raw food.  The resulting chocolate pudding was surprisingly good.   I’m very skeptical about “healthy treats”  The healthy ingredients took away any guilt I experienced from eating chocolate pudding.  It’s so healthy, you can probably eat  it for breakfast.  What’s not to love about that?

In stark contrast to the last item on my list, I really liked the recipe for Marboro Man’s Sandwich over at  (Sorry, no photo…no one got back to me with permission before I published this post.)  My husband was actually concerned when he entered our kitchen and saw so much butter softening on the counter next to packages of cube steak while I cut sliced onions.    He thought I had lost my mind.  The resultant sandwich convinced him that I wasn’t insane.  He really enjoyed it.  It was tender, and delicious, and though it won’t win any awards for being diet friendly, it got a big thumbs up from everyone who tried it.  Of course, what would you expect from a woman who has a show on  Food Network?

I kept hearing about Holy Yum Chicken.  People were pinning the recipe on Pinterest, other’s were mentioning it in their YouTube videos.  I  found the recipe over at  After reading through the ingredient list and realizing that the chicken was glazed similarly to a london broil that we had served for Christmas dinner several years ago, I decided that I would make Christmas dinner super easy this year and we would have Holy Yum Chicken with rice, or potatoes depending upon what my family chose.  This was such a simpled entree to prepare.  It came out perfectly, and it lived up to all of it’s hype.   The combination of the sweeness of the maple syrup, paired with the piquant taste of the mustard and the tanginess of the rice vinegar made our tastebuds do a happy dance.   Everyone loved our Christmas Dinner.  I’ve even added Holy Yum Chicken  into my rotating menus, so we will be eating it again in the next couple of weeks.  As Sue Chef likes to say, it makes my mouth happy.

Lastly, we have a healthy and gluten free soup.  No one in our household has gluten sensitivity, but several of the women from my church and one friend at work have had some serious health problems that were diagnosed as celiac disease.  This means no gluten.  I love to cook and break bread with my friends and co-workers, so their health issues have become my kitchen challenges.  I was so glad when I found this delicious Gluten Free Minestrone recipe.  This recipe is almost exactly like the one served at a local Italian restaurant.  It’s chock full of healthy vegetables and has beans for protein.  It makes a great meal on its own and is great when paired with a salad.  It goes together quickly and like most soups, it tastes even better when you’re having the leftover soup the next day.  This is gluten free comfort food at it’s best.

There you have it.  Some of my favorite recipes from other blogs.  Please comment and share a link to your favorite recipe.  I’d love to hear from you.    Thanks for visiting Patty Cake’s Pantry.