the evolution of supper: quail eggs, freekeh, DIY tomato sauce, and mac and cheese

wpid-20140708_171515.jpgSummer schedules have yet to make any more sense to me than they did last time we visited. And I’d bet I’m not alone. Parents everywhere are shuttling their kiddos here, there, and everywhere, while also scrambling to keep up with everything else. And if you’re like me, suppertime takes a hit.

Some folks combat time-crunched evenings with advance preparation: Slow cooker meals, making meals on weekends to freeze for busy weeknights, etc. And while I applaud these approaches–and even use them on occasion–my usual method to get a meal on the table when everyone is running everywhere is to punt. Taking stock of leftovers and what’s already on hand and turning it into a meal is a call to arms and I love a good challenge.

To illustrate: One of the “to-dos” on my list is make lasagna for a friend having a baby. I’d promised to deliver it Wednesday evening, which meant I needed to get things in place by Tuesday. My shelves held the noodles and ground beef and a quick trip to the store added the cottage and mozzarella cheeses. Rather than buy pasta sauce, I wanted to make one. Besides DIY tasting better, it gave me an excuse to clean out the freezer from last year’s garden tomatoes. (My mother-in-law’s, not my own. A gardener I am not.)

A quick-fix recipe from Alana Chernila’s The Homemade Pantry seemed the ticket, though I ended up doubling the tomatoes and adding a few glugs of merlot and a splash of honey to get the flavor I was looking for.

DIY tomato sauce with a favorite dried oregano.

DIY tomato sauce with a favorite dried oregano.

wpid-harmonian-oregano.jpg.jpegA side note about the oregano: After learning about Mary’s Secret Ingredients from a fellow WordPress blogger (hi, Suzanne!), I quickly signed on to receive my own quarterly surprise foodie packages. If you love food and you love snailmail, you need to click over to Mary’s site now (er, I mean, please finish reading my post, THEN click over to Mary πŸ˜‰ ). Your purchase helps fund Feed The Children and you’ll have the pleasure of receiving seasonal culinary grab bags (though in reality, they’re beautifully packed boxes). Which is how I came upon this amazingly fragrant dried oregano from Harmonian. It’s fantastico.

So here’s where the supper part comes in. While I was making this sauce, it occurred to me that I had to get a meal on the table stat as I needed to run my youngest to t-ball. As well, I wanted to leave a decent meal for my husband and older daughter, as they were off to her lacrosse game within the hour.

I had clearly not made enough progress on the lasagna (was making one for our family as well) to serve it up for the evening meal. A quick inventory of the pantry turned up freekah, which seemed a good base for tomato sauce. And the quail eggs I’d found at the farmers’ market had been on my mind since their purchase.

freekah al dente

freekeh al dente

I heart quail eggs.

I heart quail eggs.

My meal, then:


surprisingly delish

surprisingly delish

A pile of freekeh, topped with tomato sauce and two quail eggs. The eggs cooked with a quick spin in the microwave, then a turn with a fork tossed it all together. It was amazing, in part because it had come together without a grand plan, but also because the varied textures and flavors complemented each other so well. I gave myself a pat on the back for a “win” in the What’s For Dinner game that night.

That said, I suspected my kids would not be on board with the quail eggs, so had quickly made up a box of their favorite mac and cheese. And while my husband is good about trying new foods and has yet to complain about my cooking (though he often has suggestions along the lines of, “this would taste better if you added ground beef”), I wanted to burn through more of the leftovers in our refrigerator, so I heated up a plate of pulled pork and potato wedges from another meal for him.

Our “family supper,” then, consisted of my youngest enjoying her mac and cheese solo while I stirred my freekeh concoction together. My husband and daughter ate after we left for the game. Togetherness? Sort of. But we all ate decently and without fast food. True, an already-prepped meal or enough forethought to assemble a slow-cooked meal that morning or even the night before would have brought more sanity to mealtime. But sanity has never appealed as much as the rush of throwing stuff together last-minute. It’s not always a win, but at least I know now that I’ll have a frozen lasagna on hand to save me when things go wrong.

With that, I wish you as much sanity as you desire–along with many good meals–as we move through July.

61 thoughts on “the evolution of supper: quail eggs, freekeh, DIY tomato sauce, and mac and cheese

    • Thank you, Kerry. Kind of you to say! I’ve had my share of fumbles as well, but even then it’s easy enough to scramble eggs and call it supper. Dealing with mealtime is all about having a pantry full of foods enjoyed by those in the house. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, haha.

    • Thanks, Joan. You would have been so proud of me! And the quail eggs were exquisite. Hard-cooked a few for lunch today and am head over heels in love.

  1. Hi Liz!!! That tomato sauce looks so good, thick and rich and will make a fantastic lasagna. Great that you have one frozen for a weekday meal. Your freekeh quail egg tomato sauce combo is fantastic, I just love saying freekeh, had to say that. I love quick fly by the seat of your pants kind of meals and when they turn out to be really delicious it’s even better. Summers are so busy, but then aren’t we busy all the time. Never seems to stop but looks like you have a plan. Quail eggs are so pretty.

    • Thanks, Suzanne. Yes, the quail eggs are pretty–that was their main draw, I think. And lol, the first time I bought freekah it was all about the name. Was pleasantly surprised to find it was slightly sweet and my kids would also eat it. But what a funny name. Get your freekah on, haha. And the plan? It’s a moving target but as long as we keep going, yes? Appreciate your comments very much πŸ™‚

  2. I am a fish out of water here – for I a) have never eaten quail eggs and b) don’t know what freekeh is – though I am now determined to try it…And this from someone who loves to cook, yet is increasingly aware that I’m not even close to being where I want to be. Thank you for yet another yummy introduction…

    • Hey, Mimi. Great new picture πŸ™‚ Loving your glasses. The quail eggs were new to me in my kitchen. I’d had them before in restaurants and couldn’t believe my luck in finding them at a local farmers’ market. Not even spendy, so that was a bonus. Best as I can tell, they taste like chicken eggs, but they’re so derned cute and cute little foods seems to be the latest Big Thing.

      And au contraire, mon frère (sorry, really makes no sense in this situation but fun to say) but you have heard of freekah. Remember this? You were there!

  3. Geez Liz you are amazing to put together 5 suppers in one kitchen session! Seriously. Two lasagna’s, a fantastic sounding freekah dish, mac and cheese AND left-over pulled pork and potato wedges! I’m super impressed. I really love how this freekah and quail egg dish came together. Sounds delicious.

    • ha, thanks, Seana but you give me way too much credit. Even as of right now, I don’t have the two lasagnas made, so that takes me down to three meals last night. Heating up a container of leftovers doesn’t count, nor does making a processed box of mac and cheese. so now we’re down to one, and that was such a slapdash affair I hardly count it as cooking. I didn’t cook at all last night πŸ˜‰ But still managed a blog post out of it, so will give myself some credit haha. Love that you’re so supportive. Wish you could’ve taken a picture of the quail egg-freekah dish. You would have made it so pretty πŸ™‚

  4. This looks and sound absolutely fabulous to me! I love freekeh but have only cooked with it a couple of times. Great idea mixing it with the tomatoes sauce and topping it with eggs! I am definitely going to try this out. Do you think it would be good with spinach?

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ I’m a big freekah fan so need to make it more often. Even my girls eat it, which thrills me as it’s hard to get good nutrition in kids who thing potato chips, candy bar, and pop should be dietary mainstays. (And these are MY kids–I don’t get it.) Yes to the spinach!! The dark green color would rock and the extra earthiness would make it an even richer dish. Yes, yes, yes.

      Hoping you read the response to your comment last week. Want to connect about our trip your way this summer. We have dates picked, so would like to visit about restaurant recommendations, etc. Would you please shoot me an email @ ?

    • Thank you πŸ™‚ Funny that I would be introducing new ingredients as I’m not overly adventurous. I’ll try anything for sure, but try to stick to the basics since that’s what my family will eat. But I couldn’t believe my luck when I saw those eggs at the market. So cute, for one, and also fun to see how they worked in a home kitchen. Highly recommend if you ever find them.

  5. You are so outside the box, you can’t even see the box. And it’s not nearsightedness. Your brain got an extra dose of creativity when you were born. Freekeh–you are always teaching me new words. And quail eggs? I’ve had ostrich, but never quail. I think if you owned a restaurant, there would be so many interesting options on your menu, I wouldn’t be able to choose.

    • Aw, Kerbey, you say the nicest things πŸ˜€ My creativity is strongest in the kitchen. Definitely not an arty person. And also not a glutton for punishment so you will never find a restaurant owned by moi. I prefer my hard work to be of the pen and paper (or finger and keyboard) variety.

      Quail eggs became a favorite food quickly (they’re so cute!), though I was lucky to find them. Maybe they are becoming more common? Up until I bought them, I’d only had them in fancy-pants restaurants.

      Have fun saying freekah. πŸ™‚

    • I’m back! Those quail eggs are so pretty! Their purchase would have been on my mind, too. I’m so glad you found a good meal for them! I’ve only been putting eggs on pasta for a few years (something good my cheffy ex left behind) and I just love how the textures all come together. Decadent but good for me! (sort of). πŸ™‚

      • Hey, thanks, amb. Highly recommending quail eggs, especially for you as they are (wait for it…) POCKET-SIZED!!!! Have become enamored of the runny egg on hot pasta thing lately, too, which is exactly where I wanted to go with the quail eggs. Have eaten 7 of the 18 I bought, so there’s more fun to be had. For sure good for you as those eggs are teeny tiny. And freekah is a whole grain, tomato sauce is veggie. Plenty of room for a marshmallow pb treat when you’re done.

  6. Hi Liz, you did awesome for a last minute dinner! I love quail eggs, too, and can’t wait to try them with the freekah, though I have never tried to cook them in the microwave. I do leftovers for dinner often, too, especially summer nights when we want to just sit outside or take a walk. By Friday evening, we are usually eating bits of leftovers from the previous week’s worth of meals. It’s the best! Thanks for the tip for Mary’s Secret Ingredients, too. I’m going to check it out now.

    • Thanks, Ngan. If only this was a one-time thing, haha. Happens more often than not. Leftovers are good, yes. I was hooked on the Secret Ingredient offer as it’s not even that spendy considering what you get in each box. Win-win-win! Let me know if you sign on.

  7. wow, you really pulled through and i have never had the freekah or quail eggs i must say, though it sounds like such and interesting combo, liz )

    • I’ve quickly become a quail egg’s biggest fan, though once farmers’ market season is over, I doubt I’ll spend the big bucks it would take to buy them at the gourmet grocers. Thinking they’d be a big hit with kindergarteners. Hope you are enjoying a summer off. Need to circle back to your place. Been too long!

  8. I can’t believe this is a last minute dinner! You went from yummy, to classy to gourmet, all in one night! The quail eggs with mac and cheese? Never would have even imagined! It all looks fantastic of course πŸ˜€

    Choc Chip Uru

    • haha, thanks CCU. Note that the mac and cheese and quail eggs did NOT go into the dish. Though I’d be willing to try πŸ™‚ Was thinking that the classy quail eggs were a bit of an odd partner for the rustic freekah, but sometimes opposites attract. I would never have imagined either, but was running on auto and not stopping to think. It worked!

  9. This is what we all must do at times!! What a busy schedule. I complain about mine, but at least the boys are in the same sport, on the same team so it less complicated. Luckily we only have two more weeks of swim, then life returns to “normal” until school begins. Those quail eggs looks spectacular! My husband has though about getting quails for the eggs since our HOA doesn’t allow chickens. Trying to decide if we can sneak quails by them! I am dealing with my tomatoes now, just made 4 pints of a spicy tomato jam. Tomorrow I need to go in the garden again and see what I can find!

    • more often than not, this is how it works in the kitchen for us. The kids get crazy busy as they get older and since you have three, you could possibly be running in three different directions πŸ˜‰ I don’t know anything other than busy-ness and I don’t know any other moms who have it less busy. Just where we are right now. Looking forward to the return of sanity eventually, but as long as it’s here to stay I try to enjoy.

      Spicy tomato jam sounds delish. And lol you’ll be trying to sneak quails by your HOA. We were told no chickens, too, but hadn’t considered quails. The eggs are amazing, though that may be more because they’re adorable than that they taste any different.

      • I am so hoping to avoid three different activities with the boys! Luckily swim is almost over. That is the only activity we do so far, I certainly am not pushing for any more! Once school begins I hope to plan meals better. Summer really messes things up. Quail eggs are indeed so cute! Good luck surviving the craziness, just think some day they will go to college and move out! Right now I dream of that day!!!

  10. This looks so good! I recently made something kind of similar only with regular eggs because I too am running around and wanted to keep it interesting but simple. Lovely, Liz!

    • You’ve captured it perfectly, Amanda–“interesting but simple.” That’s where I was going with it! Love that you’re thinking along the same lines.

  11. It’s marvelous when dinner just comes together like this. But I guess it’s a little easier to come up with something last minute when you have ingredients like those beautiful quail eggs on hand πŸ™‚ It looks rustic and delicious.

    Thanks so much for the shout-out about Mary’s Secret Ingredients! I hope you enjoyed your box!

    • Thanks, Mary πŸ™‚ I love your boxes and am grateful to have learned about them from Suzanne. Just love how much care you put into packing them–they take my breath away and I almost hate to disturb the contents.

      My soap box (besides going on about cooking at home instead of buying substandard fast-food, etc) is all about having a well-stocked pantry. And my well-stocked will look different than yours, but if we have the foods we love on our shelves, making a meal becomes that much easier! And now I have some lovely oregano and honey, etc. Though that ginger ale is long gone–I made the dark & stormy in its product brochure. Yum πŸ™‚

  12. So glad to find I’m in good company regarding the insanity and rushed-ness of my summer. πŸ™‚ I’ve never tried quail eggs, but they look lovely! Love when things come together last minute. Because of my husband’s work schedule, lunch is our big meal so I’m usually scrambling to pull something together about 11:30. Thanks for sharing your wonderful food with us!

    • the quail eggs are too cute not to try, but before I found them at the farmers’ market, I’d only seen them at Japanese restaurants. ??

      Mealtime is a scramble for sure, so it’s a good trait to enjoy not knowing exactly how things will turn out. Metaphor for life, really. If you start with good stuff and pay attention to what you’re doing, you can trust it’ll be a-ok. And if not, there’s always pizza delivery.

      Thanks for coming over, Kaela, and YES to the google cocktail shindig. How can we do that? Or we could even throw a cocktail party here, couldn’t we? I had a lovely margarita the other night–it’s on my deLiz facebook wall from Sunday eve. It came in a shaker ($17!!!!!!!) and I could only get down half as things were starting to spin and I had to drive home. Wish I could’ve had a to-go cup πŸ˜‰

  13. I’ve always wanted to try freekah. Even my local health food store doesn’t have it and they carry EVERYTHING imaginable—which surprises me. They may start carrying it in the future though.

  14. Love what you have done here. The freekeh dish looks hearty and satisfying. Will have to check out Mary’s site and try to see if I can get in on the next box.

    • Thanks, Shanna! Am going for survival right now, but enjoying would be good, too πŸ˜‰ Right back at ya’, dear friend. You would like this meal very much.

  15. Yummo! (ok never thought I’d use that word… lol) anyway… love the post, freekah, quail eggs and all. And you’re so on the ball with how busy summer can be… nuts I say! looking forward to seeing you sometime this summer πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Shamin. Yes, nuts. August will slow down for us as the kids don’t have as many activities. We’ll need to make our own and am hoping they involve you and yours πŸ˜€

  16. I don’t have kids to worry about but wow! My summer schedule is still kicking my butt. In fact I started this comment the day you wrote this post and just realized I never finished it. Which is *exactly* how I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks — totally distracted by the sunshine, blue sky and ten million things to do! What I wanted to say is you’ve really been enticing me with your use of freekah – I really need to buy some the next time I see it. I love the idea of mixing it with tomato sauce and an egg — healthy, filling and easy — perfect for the month of July!

    • It’s been fun to slowly use the rest of the freekeh–easy way to turn lunch healthy. Adding an egg–quail or otherwise makes it all the better. Summer is fun, but crazy, yes. You nailed it by saying that it kicks butt. Definitely.

  17. Loved this post, including the husband’s suggestion for improving a dish with ground beef. Mine throws in the daily suggestion about having pizza week, lol. The dinner sounds fabulous with home made tomato sauce and quail eggs, as does Mary’s packages.

    • Thanks, Saucy πŸ™‚ It was a meal to remember, though I haven’t been able to find the quail eggs at the market again 😦 Hoping they become more available and less of a niche purchase. We’ll have to get our husband’s together for ground beef pizza week πŸ˜‰ Though my guess is that you’d rock a pizza!

      • Ground beef pizza week would be hilarious! And blog worthy: 100 views of ground beef pizza.
        I just realised I never replied to your suggestions for another cocktail / travel photo party, oops! It sounds like a great idea, let’s do it! I could make either the gluttony cake or a watermelon strawberry cake from my favourite patisserie (people queue up for it every weekend, it’s like a cult), as well as more Myanmar photos?
        If you like the idea, we can start emailing ideas/scripts!

        • Let’s do it! Can you please resend your email to my biz email? ( I’ve managed to do another “delete everything” trick and no longer have your messages in history files.

          • Sure, will do. Emails can be such pains can’t they, I’m forever asking colleagues to forward stuff to me because I accidentally deleted something…


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