Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Junk Omeletts

I'm not really sure where this came from in my life.  I remember it as something my brother brought home from boy scout camp, but maybe it is something we ate before then.  It was definitely something we ate afterwards, and not only when camping.

I think the idea is that you use whatever leftovers you have from the night before, mix in some eggs, cook it all together and... Junk Omelettes!  Now I'm not really sure I've done it the right way.  Camping as a family of 5 (or 4) generally left no leftovers.  Add to that one begging family dog, and anything leftover went to her.  So a junk omelette to me has always been chopped up veggies, meat if its in the fridge, and eggs.

First, the chopped up veggies.  Some baby shallots with the green tops chopped too, and bell pepper:
Saute the veggies a bit in your fat of choice.  I used a bit of the bacon fat leftover from cooking up bacon for another meal but you could use butter or olive oil or skip it altogether if you have a nonstick pan.  Be careful not to cook the veggies too long, leave them a bit crispy since they will cook a little longer with the eggs.

Next, add the eggs.  I seasoned mine with some celery salt.  I only used 3 since it was only Doug and I eating.  He usually wants 2, 1 egg is enough for me.  Mix up the eggs in a bowl, add some milk if you've got it (not necessary, but it does make the eggs fluffier).
Hopefully your heat isn't too high (I rarely use heat over 4 on my stove, unless I'm boiling water).  This will let the eggs cook slowly instead of burning to the bottom.  Eggs cooking too quickly also seems to kill their fluffiness.

Since I only used about a teaspoon of fat for the veggies my eggs were way to healthy to be considered a proper Sunday breakfast.  A problem easily fixed though: add some cheese!  Sharp cheddar is my favorite.  If you are trying to be healthy, a little sharp cheddar goes much further in flavor than mild or medium, so a smaller amount is more satisfying.  Or skip the cheese altogether.  Just expect it to be offered if you are invited for breakfast.

And there you have it.  A junk omelette.  Doug put his in a tortilla with leftover refried beans.  I skipped the tortilla, but still had the beans on the side.  You are limited to additions by what you have in your fridge and what you think sounds good.  In addition to what I used for this meal, I've used bacon (in those rare instances when only one or two pieces remained), spam, onions, mushrooms, spinach, and tomatoes.  I thought the spinach and tomato left too much moisture, but it all comes down to personal preference with this.  As a general rule though, make sure meat is cooked all the way through before adding anything else to the pan. Veggies go in second (or first if you skipped meat) and are cooked only slightly unless you want soggy, overcooked bits of veg.  I cook my eggs all the way, I think leaving any part of the egg runny is disgusting.  But that is me and my fear of salmonella (and partly a texture thing).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Rice-A-Roni to the Rescue

When I made Roast Chicken I had considered a potpie to use the leftovers. Then one night about a week later I needed something quick to make for dinner, and I needed to get the rest of the chicken used before it went bad.  Enter a box of Rice-A-Roni, chicken flavor.

Being a huge fan of bacon, I started by snipping two slices of bacon into a non-stick skillet (BTW: this is always easier than cooking bacon and then crumbling it).  Then I cooked up the bits, letting them get good and crispy.  Once they had cooked to my liking, I drained off some of the grease, but not all.  It seemed that the bacon grease could stand it for the 2 tablespoons of butter called for by the box of rice.  Why not?  They are both animal fats, and the stuff in the pan tastes like bacon.

Once the excess bacon grease was drained, in went the rice for the browning called for by the box.  When the rice mixture looked like the box said it would, I threw in the chicken I had pulled from the carcass (about 2 cups worth of shredded meat), then mixed in the water and seasoning packet.  Let it cook according to the package directions for the rice and ended up with this:
Paired with some veggies it made a tasty meal.  Just enough bacon to get the flavorful taste without adding too much fat, and the chicken was just as juicy and tender as the first day I cooked it.

On another note, last time I went grocery shopping I passed up the Manicotti and Lasagna noodles because I had no pan to make either in.  But since I had to buy baking pans for the Cookie Dough Brownies, I now have new dinner options!

A Worthy Mix

During one stressful week of college a few years back, a friend came over to help me unwind. At the time I had a comfort food dilemma: should I make cookies or brownies? The helpful friend let me in on a secret: Ben and Jerry's makes Half-Baked ice cream. A yummy mix of chocolate and vanilla ice creams with cookie dough and brownie bits mixed in. It was awesome, and quickly became my go-to flavor of Ben and Jerry's.

Fast forward a few years, and I was eating a fantastic dessert made by a friend. Not really sure what it was, but I went back for seconds (yes, I am a dessert monster). Later that night she let me in on the secret: it was brownies and cookies in the same pan!

Here is a look at the tasty dessert:

Turns out they are super easy. The recipe is even on the back of the cookie package. All one needs is a box of brownie mix for a 9X13 pan and a pouch of cookie dough mix. Make both according to package directions, put the brownie batter in the pan first followed by the cookie dough and bake. Good thing this makes a 9X13 pan. Anything smaller just wouldn't do. And now when I can't decide between cookies and brownies, I have a recipe that lets me make both.

(Just in case you were wondering - I finally acquired a 9X13 baking pan for my kitchen)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tomato Sauce

This was a little time involved, but I wasn't doing anything with my afternoon, so it seemed a good time to make a lot of tomato sauce. In the end I had a very full 4-qt pot of sauce, but no dinner plans. It was a make-it-up-as-I-go meal.

Started with 4 onions, roughly chopped:
Cooked them slowly in a little olive oil, until they had softened and caramelized.  Then, added a head of chopped garlic:
After the garlic in went 4 carrots, shredded with my cheese grater:
One minor accident: my knuckle got a little too friendly with the grater. No worries though, Buzz Lightyear and Woody to the rescue!
Once the carrots had cooked through and gotten soft I added one GIANT can of crushed tomatoes. This filled the stockpot to the brim.
Before I started on the sauce, I thought I would make spaghetti for dinner, since it would be easy to turn a portion of the sauce into spaghetti sauce. With the sauce simmering on the stove I realized that I had no spaghetti noodles.

I did have a box of elbow noodles though. So I cooked a pound of ground turkey, added basil and oregano, and a zucchini. Cooked the box of noodles, then mixed it all together adding enough sauce to give everything a good coating. Put that into casserole dishes, put shredded mozzarella on top, and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Makes good food, and a ton of it:

A 3-qt casserole dish,

and two small single-serving casserole dishes. We ate this for 3 meals. Next time I will consider only using half the box of noodles, the entire box is way too much for just two of us.  But it will be good to keep in mind if I ever need a quick, easy meal for company!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Roast Chicken

I actually made this a few nights ago, but haven't gotten around to it until now.  I had been craving roast chicken for a long time, and had been talking about it for weeks.  Finally I gave in and bought a chicken.  It was called a young fryer, but since that's all they had that's what I bought.  I thought maybe it was meant for frying, but it turns out a "young fryer" is just a young, small chicken.  Between 7-13 weeks old and up to 4 pounds.  I think mine was about 3 pounds.  Not very big, but there are only two of us to eat it.

It sat in the fridge for a couple of days because once I got it home I realized I had roasting pan.  I thought about getting one, and even looked at a couple of stores, but really didn't want to buy a giant pan since I only had a little chicken.  Once a couple of days had passed I realized I needed to cook the chicken now, and decided a springform pan would do the job.  Terrible idea.  While there were no juices when I put the bird in, it created tons of juices which then leaked out of the pan and all over the oven.  Talk about having a lasting chicken smell.

The chicken turned out great though, despite having leaked all over my oven.  I even managed to catch enough juices for gravy.  I didn't even do anything really special to the bird.  I separated the skin from the breast, sprinkled in some Krazy Salt, rubbed it underneath the skin, sprinkled some more in the cavity, then tied the legs shut making sure the skin of the breast was pulled all the way over the meat.  Baked at 375 for an hour and a half.  To go along with the chicken I made mashed potatoes with cheese, and grilled peppers and zucchini:

No gravy for me, but Doug said it was good.  Also, we both like the potato skins, so I don't peel my potatoes before dicing them to boil.

The day after my leaking chicken I did some quick online searching for the manual for the oven in our apartment.  Part of my discovery was that the oven is 24 inches across, measuring the widest part on top.  Yep, teeny tiny oven for the teeny tiny kitchen.  But the best part was that it has a self-cleaning function.  Sure, it makes the apartment stink like you wouldn't believe, but wiping up a few ashes is much easer than properly scrubbing an oven.

Already we have had leftovers from this bird: my altered version of Souper Chicken Tetrazzini.  I used more chicken (closer to 2.5 cups), more spaghetti (an entire 1 lb box), a can of cream of chicken soup instead of cream of mushroom, more cheese, and 1 can of milk instead of given measurements for milk and sour cream.  I also needed a 2.5qt dish instead of a 1.5qt dish.  That means even more leftovers!  Plus, I still have a carcass in the fridge with enough meat for pot pie.  I think I'll be buying more chickens.  And a roasting pan.