Friday, July 13, 2018

Summer Squash Lasagna

This is my latest version of summer squash lasagna. It is creamy and filling and a perfect way to make use of in season squash. You can feed a crowd or freeze individual portions for later. The ingredient list follows and to see how it's put together just watch the short video above. Of course I added some of my own music to keep you entertained!

For the sauce:
3 lbs. fresh summer squash (any variety)
3 Tbs flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt
Black pepper

For the cheese filling:
1 24oz small curd cottage cheese
1 16oz whole milk ricotta
1 medium carrot
1 celery rib
1/2 medium white onion
1 large can sliced black olives
2 large eggs
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley

To assemble you'll also need:
1 16oz package lasagna noodles (cooked to package directions)
2 lbs. shredded mozzarella
1 cup grated Parmesan

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Introduction to pressure canning, beets

I consider gardening just an extension of cooking. Like wise, canning is an extension of both, So here is an example of pressure canning, useful to the home gardener as well as those wishing to preserve in season produce when it's at it's seasonal peak. If you think this is something you want to do, I suggest you purchase Ball's "Big Blue Book" as a first step. It contains everything you need to know to explore home food preservation. And for your listening pleasure, I've included two tracks with the most ridiculous number of vocal parts I've ever recorded. It's not likely to happen again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Hard Scrabble Gourmet Pickles some Peppers

Pickling is a great way to preserve summer vegetables. Just about any vegetable can be pickled with the exception of eggplant. Think outside the dill pickle box and try other flavors. Onion, garlic, carrots and herbs like basil or tarragon make great flavor add ins. Below is my basic brine which can be used to pickle an array of vegetables, even fruit!

Makes one quart or two pints
1 3/4 cups water
3/4 cup vinegar
2 Tbs pickling salt

Adjust the recipe for the number of jars your planning to use. If you really want to dive deep into canning I highly recommend Balls "Big Blue Book". It's the bible for food preservation.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Chicken Enchiladas with Green Chili Buttermilk Sauce and Three Cheeses

Welcome back scrabblers! I know I haven't posted much lately but it's been a long summer growing and canning. I'm planning some more videos once the weather cools down. It's hard to get good audio when the window AC is roaring away in the kitchen, trying to beat the Texas heat! It'll be time to process hogs soon, so I may try to make a sausage video. But for now let me share something else. This is a recipe I've been perfecting over the summer that I think you'll really like. It's a little labor intensive, but the flavor depth of this dish makes it worth it. So before we get cooking, lets get the ingredient list.


1/2 cup mild green chilies roasted and peeled and chopped(store bought will do, fresh is better)
3 TBS flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup reserved stock

1 small can tomato sauce
1 clove garlic minced
1 lb boneless chicken breast
remaining reserved stock

1/2 medium white onion chopped
yellow corn tortillas
Cotilla cheese
Oaxaca cheese
Sharp chedder cheese

butter and oil

Just a note on the chilies. I used Hatch chilies this time because they were in season but I've also used Poblano and Anaheim. Canned are okay too, especially in the winter when fresh chilies are overpriced. This is the Hardscrabble Gourmet and cost matters. On the chicken, dark meat works just as well if you want to go cheaper and frankly taste better. I just used white meat to give the fataphobes something they'd like. No judgement here! Use tofu for all I care. Anyway, lets cook!

First place the chicken in a medium sauce pan and add just enough water to cover. Add a teaspoon of salt and bring the pot up almost to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about an hour. Remove chicken and set aside to cool. Measure out 1 cup of cooking water for the sauce and reserve the rest for the filling.

To make the enchilada filling, first shred the cool chicken and put aside. Then in a large skillet brown the garlic at medium high in a little bit of oil. Add the reserved cooking liquid(stock in chef speak) and the tomato sauce. Bring to a boil and reduce to about half, stirring constantly. Turn down the heat and add the chicken. Continue stirring and reducing the liquid until barely wet. Test for saltiness and add more if it needs it. It should look something like this:
Next we need to flash fry our tortillas. You can watch one of my videos demonstrating the technique here. It starts 7min 20s in. I did a partial tray of 12 enchiladas but you'll have enough filling and sauce to do a full tray if you wish. Also, the left over filling makes great chicken tacos. Once the tortillas have cooled place some meat and chopped onions in the tortilla like so,
roll them up and place them in the tray.
There's no hard fast rules for how to lay them out. Use what ever works best with the shape of the pan your using. Now we make the sauce. In a sauce pan on medium melt two tablespoons of butter then wisk the flour into the butter. Wisk in one cup of stock and one cup of buttermilk. Bring heat up to medium high. Stir in the chopped peppers and continue stirring until it becomes thick and bubbly. Remove from heat and pour over the enchiladas like so:
Now we want to grate our cheese onto the enchiladas. Start with a thin layer of queso Cotilla, a generous amount of chedder, and a good layer of queso Oaxaca. It should look like this:
(A little party planning tip. You can prep the enchiladas to this point the day before and pop the tray in the fridge overnite. Then pop them in the oven when your ready.) Next place the tray in the center of an oven preheated to 350 degrees for twenty to thirty minutes until the cheese is hot and bubbly.
Serve with your favorite Tex-Mex sides and some good hot sauce and chow down. Them's good little doggies. Until next time, keep on scrabbling! And I don't mean the stupid word game.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Pasta shells stuffed with cheese and spaghetti squash

Today on the Hard Scrabble Gourmet we're making pasta shells stuffed with cheese and spaghetti squash. It's a large make ahead recipe that you can freeze for multiple quick week day meals. You'll need sauce for the shells so I'm including my super simple, super cheap, super fast Marinara recipe. Ditch the jar with the added sugar once and for all!

Ben's basic Marinara

2-3 Tbs olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
2 14oz cans tomatoes, crushed or diced(or one of each)

Heat oil on medium high in a large skillet. Add garlic and pepper flakes and saute until garlic begins to turn brown. Add tomatoes and oregano and allow to come to slow bubble. Reduce heat to medium and cook for fifteen more minutes. Your done! See, wasn't that easy? Makes enough to sauce 1 lb of pasta.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Kat's Favorite Pea and Lentil Soup

 This recipe is my wife Kat's all time favorite soup. This is actually strange since my wife hates peas in their normal form including when she comes across one in vegetable soup. I've never been able to wrap my head around this since, to me, pea soup tastes like, well, peas! I will say this, it might because I avoid the traditionally mushy aspect of pea soup by adding lentils and course chopped onions. This recipe is also a good example of my Hardscrabble cooking philosophy. When ever I cook a large piece of meat or a whole bird I always try to squeeze as many different meals out of it as possible without repeating the same meal twice. So ham dinner, then ham sandwiches, ham and cheese omelettes, jambalaya, butter cheese pasta with ham, frittatas, and then finally when we're down to the bone, soup! This is a perfect hearty winter soup so try a hot bowl with some good bread and a salad. I ga-run-tee you'll come back for more.


1 meaty ham bone or two cups diced ham
2 cups split peas
1 cup lentils
1 medium onion coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery sliced
3 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground thyme
2 bay leaves


Place the ham bone in a large sauce pan or stock pot and add enough water to cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium and continue cooking with the pot covered until the meat pulls away from the bone. About two hours. If using diced ham you can skip this step. When the ham bone is done, pull it out of the pot and set it aside to cool. Add the peas, lentils, onion, celery, and garlic to the pot. If your using diced ham instead of a ham bone, add them now. Add water to cover well if needed. Bring back to a boil and then reduce to medium. Add the remaining ingredients. Continue cooking uncovered, stirring occasionally, and adding water as needed. As soon as the ham bone is cool enough to handle, remove the meat and dice it into 1/2 inch chunks and add back into the soup. Continue cooking until the peas are almost completely broken down but the lentils are still whole. About two to three hours. Remember, when cooking dried legumes, cooking times can vary depending on cooking altitude, water hardness, and how long your dried legumes have been stored. Always trust your senses and sample often! Add salt to taste and remove bay leaves before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Aunt Mary's Jambalaya

The next recipe in my family collection is my Aunt Mary's Jambalaya. I'm pretty sure all the Clark sisters have this recipe but no one owned it like Aunt Mary. It's s a yearly holiday tradition in the Polk household, usually on New Years, to have Jambalaya and tamales. We always felt fortunate to be invited to this final meal of the holiday cycle over the years. This Jambalaya isn't as spicy as the stuff they serve in Catahoula Parrish but that's a feature not a defect. It's perfect for large gatherings where the tolerances for spicy food vary widely. Besides there is always some Tabasco in the cupboard to spice things up, even if it's there just to mix bloody marys. I've taken the liberty of updating measurements and ingredients to more accurately reflect what's on the grocery store shelves these days and for changes in modern cooking techniques.

Mary Polk's Jambalaya


2 Tbs Olive oil or your preferred fat of choice
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cooked chicken, diced
1 cup cooked ham, diced
12 small pork sausages(little smokies) cut in pieces(1/4 inch)
1 20oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup uncooked rice (cooks note: parboiled rice such as Zatarains works best)
2 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp ground thyme (cooks note: for fresh thyme use one or two sprigs. Remove before serving)
1 tsp dried parsley (cooks note: double or triple for fresh chopped parsley)
1/4 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add oil to a large dutch oven or saucepan and bring heat to medium high. Add onion, bell pepper, garlic, and saute till onions start to become translucent. Add the ham, sausage, and chicken. Continue sauteing for another five minutes. Add tomatoes, rice, chicken stock and spices. Stir well. Transfer the covered dutch oven to the oven or place the mixture in a covered casserole and place that in the oven. Bake for 50 minutes, stirring several times, as it cooks. Towards the end of the cooking time, check to make sure most of the cooking liquid has been absorbed. If it looks too wet leave the lid off and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes.