story by Nicci Carnaggio
photography by Lizabeth Nieves
What’s a gal to do when all that hustle and bustle subsides and the intensive holiday planning comes to an end? The house is quiet and, if you’re like me, you wait until the very last day you can possibly leave that damned, almost combustable, Christmas tree up and the thing is dying..slowly. You first rejoice because you remember the value of the dollar and realize your now empty bank account will become whole soon enough. While claiming bankruptcy, one thing in particular always puts a smile on my face, that there is a cozy dimly lit neighborhood dive bar and a bar stool with your name on it waiting for your non threatening beverage order.
Living in Astoria, our bar and restaurant scene has grown in an astronomical way. Our authentic dive bars are becoming extinct. There is one however that has managed to shine in Astoria for almost 100 years “Kelly’s Bar & Grill”.
Newly married (insert applause) and having had the wedding of my dreams naturally I am newly broke-so I indeed found my much needed bar stool. It was a true night cap! I ordered a Caucasian made with Tia Maria, and followed with a well whiskey neat (classy gal). When I visit Kelly’s I imagine I am at a dive bar in the late seventies. Signed Manilow glossy on the wall, Saturday night fever’s on the juke box and there will be karaoke in the near future. Oh and you may or may not make a plethora of bad decisions. That’s how your neighborhood dive bar should feel. Urban Dictionary says, “these bars may be disreputable, sinister, or even a detriment to the community.” But that’s just how we like them!
While on this money saving track I’m going to list some of my favorite winter cost-savvy comfort foods that make great week long leftovers. They even get better with age!
A good old pot of chili, as long as chopped avocado is involved.
The baked pasta dishes I can’t make better then my Grandmas or Aunts..I still try.
Pretty much any casserole…
Double Cheese & Squash Casserole (this started as a Southern Living recipe but I made it better, really.)
4lbs. Yellow squash sliced in half moons
4 tbsp. un salted butter
1 large Spanish onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves minced
2 1/2 cups plain breadcrumbs, split in half
1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan, also split in half
1 cup good quality cheddar cheese shredded
1/2 cup fresh chopped chives
1/2 cup fresh chopped Italian flat parsley
1 eight oz. container sour cream
2 large eggs beaten lightly
1/4 garlic salt
1/4 cayenne pepper
S/P to taste
Cook squash in covered large skillet or sauce pan in boiling water until tender about 10 min. Drain well and pat dry with paper towels to release any excess water.
Melt 2 tbsp. butter in skillet over med high heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until onion is translucent. Remove from heat and add in squash, 1 cup of the breadcrumbs, 3/4 cup parm and the following 8 ingredients.
After a good stir pour into a greased 13X9ish inch baking dish.
Melt the remaining 2 tbsp. butter. Stir melted butter the remaining breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup remaining parm. S/P to taste. Pour mixture evenly over casserole. Bake this Little treasure at 350 for about 35/40 minutes or until set and browned.
Note to self: there is absolutely nothing healthy about this recipe. Just No.