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Something From Nothing ~ Week 17

If you love something.....RIP IT OUT OF THE GROUND, AND EAT IT! Seriously though, my lovely arugula lettuce simply cannot take the heat, and is bolting and going to seed rapidly, see?

I have been enjoying it's nutty, unique flavor in salads all Spring long...but, alas....it is past it's useful production time frame. What to use all this arugula in? Snap! Pesto! So, in the house it comes in a giant bowl...

And many, many washings and rinsings later...here it is, ready to use.

I did want to add some basil of course, so I asked my lovely Kitchen Angels to help me pick some from the kitchen window plant...

They were happy to help. I also got out the rest of a bag of walnuts, about a quarter cup of olive oil, salt and pepper, and three cloves of garlic...

A few quick pulses to turn it into a paste......

A few quick pulses to turn it into a paste......

Then, I taste-tested it, and it needed more basil, and even more salt...

After blending with the olive oil, I scraped the mixture into a bowl...

And this, my friends, was when things first began to go horribly wrong. I forgot the Parmesan! No problem, I quickly grated some on top, and mixed it into the pesto....

Now was my chance to use a new, whole-grain pasta that I was dying to try.

When the pasta was cooked, I mixed it with about 4 Tablespoons of the pesto, a little of the starchy cooking water from the pasta, and about a half Tablespoon of butter, just to give the sauce some body, and mellow out the assertive nature of the arugula. The results?

It.........was.......HORRIBLE! Yes, that's right - I'm admitting a dish of mine turned out badly. Why? Well, because cooking is an experiment in flavor, and when something does not turn out right, you must find out why, to better your skills for the next time! The arugula was simply too bitter for pesto....next time I'm sticking with spinach or basil pesto. Seriously, it was so bad I threw the whole batch out, and rinsed the pasta to be rescued, and used in something else.

What to do? Well, obviously from the great pesto disaster, I was in need of some comfort. I cannot even remember the last time I made something "unworthy"! Then, it struck me, every kids' favorite comfort food - Mac and cheese! After all, I had all of this in the house....

I had a bunch of tail-ends of cheddar, that were rapidly approaching their demise (corners getting hard, darker, you know the sort of thing), and the rest is simply butter, flour, salt & pepper, dry mustard, cayenne pepper, and milk. The two-two-two rule is in effect, so I melted 2 Tablespoons butter, and whisked in 2 Tablespoons flour....

Then when it became all incorporated.....I whisked in the two cups of milk..

I shredded all that glorious cheddar thusly...

Then got out some turkey bacon....(we are trying to eat healthier, here...have you SEEN what pork fat does to arteries?)...

Take your kitchen shears, and snip three slices in half...then sizzle away in a skillet with a little vegetable oil, as turkey bacon is very lean....and needs a little something to get it going...

Your milk mixture should be thickened by now, so whisk in your cheddar, about 1/4 teaspoon each cayenne pepper and dry mustard, and salt & pepper to taste....

You really cannot taste the cayenne and dry mustard in the final product....it's more of a background note. Voila! You have a cheese sauce...

Now, as much as I advocate for less processed, more wholesome food, I am also a realist.....and have also had children. So yes, if you want to add a few drops of red food coloring to approximate the color of that horrendous mac and cheese in a box...go for it. I did it this time, only for this post. I will also state, just for the record, that I did not add the food coloring to my mac and cheese when my children were growing up....however, they had not gotten used to the unnatural glow of the macaroni and cheese from a box, either. Here is the sauce with approximately 3 drops of red food coloring added...

It definitely looks a little more orange....now, we assemble the dish. I placed the rescued pasta (from the un-tasty arugula pesto) into a bowl, and topped with some frozen peas. If your children are dead set against anything green, go ahead and leave them out. However, some kids actually do love the little "pop" of the frozen peas, and you are getting a vegetable in them! And of course, you can use elbow macaroni, or wagon wheels, or any other shape your children like...I just had to use the lovely whole grain spaghetti, so that it would not go to waste...

Then, break up your bacon-of-choice into manageable chunks, and toss it in there..

Now, pour over enough sauce to thoroughly mix in with the dish, and enjoy! My results?

Really, really good! AND I felt better about the whole arugula pesto disaster. So you see, that even expert-level, or gourmet cooks DO have the occasional dish that comes out all kinds of wrong....it can be turned into something quite good!

A note about the garden here in Pixie-land. I cannot talk about my desire to grow corn without mentioning this story.....when Lovely Daughter S was a toddler, I would occasionally play a movie of combined cartoon features, to let her relax, and enable Mom to collapse in a corner um, prepare supper or do chores....and we happened to love this "Silly Symphony" from Disney in particular....click here to see what I mean...

I know, but it's just quirky enough to make us giggle still, all these years later. Of course, the morality lesson in the cartoon, is that you should be unselfish and giving of your time and energy....and not just when it is time to eat the corn! So, as I love fresh corn with a passion, I set aside two large blocks in the Pixie-Patch for planting. The first block was planted a few weeks ago.....and this is what I got.

A few, ....very few corn seedlings. I think the seed I used was dated, and no longer viable...so, armed with a new, larger (more dangerous....since now I will plant the stuff everywhere) packet...

It was time for me to re-address the problem. I made new furrows in the soil, carefully trying to avoid the corn that did sprout....

And painstakingly placed the seeds a good four inches apart....

Then, I covered each row with two inches of good, organic bagged soil....

We're going to be singing "Can you help me eat my corn" before you know it! I WILL conquer the corn patches this year! Oh, and in case you think it is all doom and gloom in Pixie-land today....get a load of how healthy the broccoli plants are...

What failure in the kitchen or garden did you turn into a victory?

Eat well, my friends, and stay tuned for a new "Something From Nothing" post....and, what I am clearly going to have to call....THE CORN REPORT!

Love and kindness to all,

Pixie

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