Friday, April 29, 2016

Pasta primavera with asparagus, peas, mushrooms, and bacon

Pasta primavera with asparagus, peas, mushrooms, and bacon | Homesick Texan

Sometimes an unexpected trip can yield delicious results. Take this creamy springtime pasta loaded with asparagus, peas, mushrooms, and bacon. It wasn’t my original intent to make a dish with those ingredients together; I had other plans. But when I decided at the last minute to go to Houston to help my mom settle into her temporary home while they rebuild her flooded house, a hearty pasta dish seemed like the best way to use up a lot of things at once.

Actually, it wasn’t a total fluke. Fettuccine Alfredo had been on my mind since a few weeks ago some friends were chatting about how it had gone out of style. While you would think that pasta tossed with butter, cream, and cheese would always be popular, I realized it had been a while since I’d made it myself. So I whipped up a batch, but sadly after a few bites I was bored. Perhaps my friends had a point.

While the Alfredo sauce was decadent enough, it left me craving more texture and flavor. Fortunately, to the rescue came my refrigerator filled with perishable ingredients that needed to be used before I left town. I decided to make pasta primavera instead.

Pasta primavera, a close relative to fettuccine Alfredo, is also pasta tossed with a creamy sauce, but springtime vegetables are added to the mix, hence the primavera in the name, which means spring. Faced with my deadline and a bounty of fresh asparagus along with mushrooms, and peas, I felt inspired to toss them with the pasta. And indeed, they provided plenty of seasonal snap.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Strawberry oatmeal scones

Strawberry oatmeal scones | Homesick Texan

It’s never good news when you wake up to a message that reads: “Kayaked out at 4am. May have lost everything.”

Such was the text I received from my mom in the early hours of Tuesday morning. While on Monday she had kept in touch about the heavy rains in Houston, I will confess I wasn’t terribly concerned. It often floods in Houston in the spring, and I assumed the water would fill the streets of her neighborhood and then recede a day later as it has done in the past.

This time, however, was different and the water came into her house. Some are calling this a 100-year flood while others are comparing the damage to Hurricane Allison, which happened in 2001. Either way, the destruction is far and wide. When looking at images of the city, it appears that most of it is soaked in water with many of the Northwest suburbs particularly hit hard. Houses and buildings rise out of the water like islands with the tops of stalled, sunken cars skimming the surface like rocks.

Of course, I was grateful she was safe and in good spirits. But as we talked I began thinking about her house. While I know that life is more important than stuff, I couldn’t help wondering about her kitchen table, a beautiful wooden piece that had once belonged to my great-grandma Blanche. My mom inherited that table when I was little, and it practically glows from all the lovingly cooked meals and good conversation that has graced its presence for almost a century. It is my family’s table.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Ham and cheese croissant casserole

Ham and cheese croissant casserole | Homesick Texan

When I was a senior in high school, I worked in a clothing store. (If you’re curious, it was a Laura Ashley shop. Yes, I realize this dates me.) For a part-time job it was hard to beat as my co-workers were fun and I got a clothing discount. I have to admit, however, that while creating window displays, ringing cash registers, and hanging up clothes was all well and good, the best part of the day was my lunch break. During this time, I would head to a café in the mall, grab a table, and enjoy a ham and cheese croissant.

The café wasn’t fancy, but since it was away from the main food court it was a quiet spot, which was heaven to me after working with people all morning. There were also large black and white pictures of Paris hanging on the walls, which made it feel very sophisticated. As I ate my ham and cheese croissant, I would look at those pictures and dream about life after high school.

Even though I still have a soft spot for ham and cheese croissants, for some reason I seldom eat them anymore. I’m not sure why. Then, the other day when researching ways to use up leftover ham, I came across Nigella Lawson’s ham and cheese croissant casserole, something she calls “French Lasagne.” It appeared to be a casserole dish made up of croissants, ham and cheese, with a savory egg custard holding everything together. Making it became my top priority.

Ham and cheese croissant casserole | Homesick Texan

The casserole is very simple. You take day-old croissants and slice them into smaller pieces so they will fit into your preferred baking vessel. (I used a cast-iron skillet, but any two-quart baking dish will do.) You add layers of smoky ham and sharp cheese such as white cheddar and Swiss, then pour over everything an egg and milk mixture seasoned with fresh chives.

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