Bucatini and sausage casserole

bucatini casserole

One of the dangers of cooking the way my mom does is that using up leftovers sometimes makes more leftovers, in an endless cycle. Over the years, I have had to break myself of some of her habits. There are things I don’t do that my mother does. Some of them are:

  • saving a small amount of vegetables from a dinner
  • savingĀ any amount of food that we don’t like or won’t want as leftovers (most fish, for instance, just doesn’t keep well, in my view)
  • saving any leftovers in the fridge that don’t get eaten within three days

Don’t tell my mom that, okay? (Mom, you didn’t hear that, okay?)

One thing I do that mom does, and I have to keep it in check, is make a new dish out of the leftovers from something else. This casserole is a good example. A night or two ago, I made bucatini with a simple sauce of Italian sausage, mushrooms, and a jar of good tomato sauce. Contrary to my habit (and completely in line with my mom’s principles), I made more than we would eat, on purpose, because my kid was coming over to dinner, and I wanted her to have plenty of yummy food (and even to take some home if she wanted). What that ended up meaning was way too many leftovers.

bucatini casserole

We could easily have eaten that same pasta, just heated up, but I was in the mood to cook, so I tossed the pasta in a baking dish, mixed in some green olives (stuffed with anchovies, but any olives would have worked), topped it with some French-fried onions (bought at Ikea) and a shake of grated Parmesan cheese, and baked at 350F until the top was brown and the pasta was heated through (I’d say about 30-45 minutes). Essentially the same dish, but the crunchy topping made it feel like a new thing. Fortunately, we were hungry, and there’s none of this dish to try to figure out what to do with tomorrow.

Administrivia: New things are coming

Changes are coming at The Mom Food Project!

New stuff is on its way, but I won’t bore you with a long post about it. Let’s just say that this blog, after three years (!) could use a facelift. Beginning September 1st, here’s a little taste of what will be new around here:

1) Daily, themed posts (Meatless Monday, Family Dinner Sunday, etc.)

2) A visual redesign

3) Free e-cookbooks and a preview of the book I’m working on (named, surprisingly, “The Mom Food Project”)

4) A new store where you can buy my favorite cookbooks and kitchen oddities

What won’t change:

1) We’ll still be ad-free

2) We’ll still be kind of eclectic and all over the place

3) We’ll still occasionally curse like sailors

Day three and a promise

Day 3 of the cleanse brings a promise from me.

I promise to post about something else as soon as:

1) This cleanse thing is over; OR

2) I have a day where I forget to take photos; OR

3) I have a day in which I eat all stuff I’ve already posted about.

But in the meanwhile, here’s the food for day 3 of the cleanse.

Breakfast: Fried O’Brien potatoes, homemade ketchup, watermelon, and V-8


Lunch: Big salad with homemade sesame dressing (mixed up sesame oil, rice vinegar, agave nectar, grated fresh ginger, wheat-free tamari, and grated garlic to taste), topped with sesame salt; fresh cherries

Salad and cherries

Snacks: Nuts, seasoned seaweed, and Oh, so much fruit. More than I can show you here, but among the bounty was more watermelon. Also, white peaches so ripe it’s making my mouth water to tell you about them. And more cherries. And so on. Plus a latte made with decaf espresso and homemade soymilk. (The soymilk maker is still in the testing phase. I’m working on it.)

peaches, watermelon, and soy latte

Dinner: Tamale pie. The plan was for chili, but I was waffling on finding a good vegan, gluten-free cornbread, and James suggested I just make some more polenta, add olives to the chili, and make tamale pie. Those of you who’ve been around a while know that James is big on suggesting yummy and time-consuming things for me to make, so I was happy to oblige with this relatively quick and easy dish.

Tamale pie

I also added some olive oil and a fair bit of garlic and nutritional yeast to the polenta before pouring it over the chili (which I dished into the baking dish with a slotted spoon so it wouldn’t be too soupy). The chili is based on the Moosewood recipe that Susan V. adapts here, but I left out the bulgur and used some olive oil in the preparation.

So there it is. There’ll be more Mom Food when this is over. I promise!

21-day “Cleanse” menus

21 days of menus without gluten, animal products, alcohol, caffeine, or refined sugar

I’m doing a “cleanse” with some friends — really, just a few weeks of vegan (and gluten-free, in this case) eating, which is not unusual for me, but it usually makes me feel better, and I’ve been feeling a little puny lately. Anyway, I thought I’d write down the menus I’m using, for my reference, and others’. On this particular challenge, there are no animal products, gluten, alcohol (which I don’t drink), caffeine (which I rarely drink), or refined ugar. Not too tough for me, but it’ll be fun to be in a group with people new to this way of eating, so here goes:

The menus


Breakfasts will be one of the following, with lots of repeats. I’m boring at breakfast.

  • O’Brien potatoes, fried in olive oil or “fried” in water
  • Oatmeal with raisins, with or without agave syrup (I know not everyone counts honey as an animal product, but I do)
  • Cold cereal with homemade (unsweetened) soymilk or rice milk or nut milk (for rice/nut milk: 1 cup cooked brown rice or raw nuts or soaked nuts, 4 cups water; blend and strain if desired. Vanilla and sweeteners and salt are all optional; I skip them. Mom just gave me a soymilk maker, so I will see how that goes and let you know.)
  • Leftovers from another meal


Lunch will be a huge salad every day. Easiest for me to just plan it that way. I have tons of good salad dressing recipes that I will try to collect if anyone’s interested.


Dinners will come from this list, or from improvisation. I’m unlikely to do them in this order. I’m on furlough for the month of July, so I have all the time in the world to cook and shop for fresh produce. I may shoot from the hip more often than this, but I like being prepared. I also always add some kind of cooked or raw non-starchy vegetable with each meal, but I decide that based on what’s good at the market, so I mostly didn’t specify.

  1. Stir-fried tofu and veggies over brown rice
  2. Polenta with wild mushroom sauce
  3. Red, Gold, Black and Green chili (with TVP instead of bulgur)
  4. Curried chickpeas and kale with brown rice
  5. Thai black pepper and garlic tofu
  6. Vegan taco salad
  7. Split pea soup
  8. Black bean burgers with homemade salsa and guacamole
  9. Falafel, hummus, baba ganouj, and quinoa tabbouli (sub quinoa for bulgur wheat). I confess I always fry my falafel, not bake them.
  10. Stuffed grape leaves (no recipe here; I just stuff them with brown rice, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onions, salt, and whatever else strikes my fancy, then cook them in a pot)
  11. Roasted ratatouille over polenta
  12. Farmer’s pie (vegan shepherd’s pie), using chickpea gravy thickened with cornstarch instead of flour
  13. Thai red curry rice noodles with veggies and either tofu or chickpeas
  14. Red beans and rice
  15. Black bean tostadas
  16. Mashed potatoes and chickpea gravy thickened with cornstarch instead of flour
  17. What we call ‘summer feast’ around here: Good tomatoes with olive oil, fresh garlic, fresh basil, and salt; whatever fruit is in season (watermelon, peaches, whatever), and corn on the cob.
  18. Veggie and/or TVP tacos
  19. Corn and potato chowder (using homemade non-dairy milk)
  20. Barbecued tofu (homemade no-sugar barbecue sauce — tomato paste, a little mustard, onion sweated in a little oil, some water, some smoked paprika, and optional natural sweetener — frozen apple juice concentrate works well); poppyseed cole slaw; corn on the cob and/or baked potatoes
  21. Fried rice