Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Tale of Six Bushels

They were the best of tomatoes. They were the worst of tomatoes.
They were big, round and shiny. They were small, misshapen and blemished.

They were from the South. They were from south of the border.

They were sliced, diced and boiled. They were placed in jars, preserved for years to come.

from A Tale of Six Bushels

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Grilled Hot Dogs and Mac & Cheese -- Did I Say it Was a "Side Dish"?

My son has friends over, and they're still young enough that they can enjoy a side serving of mac & cheese along with whatever I've got on the grill -- which is usually hamburgers or hot dogs.

Well, they were involved in their videogames and then into the pool and the food is ready. I can't let it go to waste (or is that "waist"?).

First off, the homemade macaroni and cheese is a family recipe going back at least ... a decade or two. It had to start somewhere. Basically, it's a box of pasta, the sliced cheese from Costco (not the Kraft singles, ick!) and some milk. Single servings can be made using any leftover plain pasta, some cheese, milk and the microwave. That's just as good, if not better, because it's individualized.

Today, I made the full box, filling a sauce pot with elbows and cheese. I added in a couple of ounces of shredded cheddar cheese to give it a little more flavor. That was for them.

For me, I took a serving in a bowl, took a hot dog and sliced it, added a couple of tablespoons of salsa (I'm liking salsa). Mixed it and nuked it for 22 seconds. (The M&C had cooled off although the hot dog was right off the grill.)

Nice. This is comfort food. I need the comforting. They're hogging the pool.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Chocolate Pudding Parfaits

I blame this one on my friend's wife, who is addicted to the Food Network. Something simple enough for someone simple like me to make.

1 box of Chocolate pudding, milk, graham crackers, and mini-marshmallows. That's it.

Make the pudding like it says on the box. While it's sitting for five minutes, put half the box of graham crackers into a ziplock bag and use a rolling pin to break it up into crumbs and tiny bits. Put some pudding in the bottom of each of four glasses. Top with graham crackers. Top with mini-marshmallows. Repeat. That's it. Cover them, and put them in the fridge until after dinner.

The package made 2 cups of pudding, so that was 1/2 cup per cup, divided into two 1/4-cup layers.

Reviews: everyone likes the graham crackers, one person didn't really like chocolate pudding, and one wanted more layers for better mixing (and without marshmallows). Everyone's a critic.

Note: that's an actual photo that I took myself. Please don't reuse it without asking (and waiting for a reply). Thank you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Fried Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwich

Instead of plain ol' PB&J, so plain that it has an acronym that I've used for the first time in my life ever, I made a peanut sandwich with honey, which I've done before, but not for a long time.

To make it different, instead of toasting the bread, I fried the sandwich. A little oil in the cast-iron skillet, heat it up for a few minutes per side, and voila! Comfort food.

Not that I need a lot of comforting when I have so much time on my hands that I'm playing around in the kitchen and writing about it on the Internet.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two Egg Omelettes on a Bagel, No Hyphen

I didn't have a two-egg omelette on a bagel. I had two omelettes on a bagel.

Yes, I eat a lot of bagels, especially when I bought one dozen fresh and they didn't get eaten last weekend, so I had to freeze them. Sue me.

Anyway, not in the mood for cheese, which usually works well, because it covers the hole, but I was in the mood for salsa (like Frank, from "Everybody Loves Raymond"), which could make a mess.

Here's how I handled it. Toasted a bagel. Scrambled one egg. Buttered the bagel. Put the one cooked egg on the hot bagel to keep warm. Poured a second egg into the pan. Spooned the salsa on the first egg. Finished cooking the second. Put in on top of the salsa. Voila! Salsa sandwich with the egg as bread. Well, not exactly. That was inside a toasted bagel.

Nice. And it didn't squirt salsa all over, either.

Double-Stuffed-Double-Cheese-Double Burger

(This entry should have been made on Monday following Breadless Breakfast Burrito.)

I had a burger and a half left over after breakfast, and I needed two burgers, so I re-rolled them into two patties.

Sprinkled both with onion powder, garlic powder (gotta buy the real stuff -- soon) and chili powder. On top of one patty, shred (or peel) some jack cheese and sharp cheddar (and anything else for that matter).

Tricky part: Flip the second burger on top of the first, seasoned side down. Smush the edges together to erase as much of the seam between the two patties so that now it's one six-ounce patty, plus stuffing.

Put it on the grill, allowing extra time because it's extra thick.
Serve on a toasted onion bagel.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Breadless Breakfast Burrito

Okay, let me start with terminology. You may think it's incorrect, but it isn't to me. That's why it's "terminology" and not "vocabulary".

Basically, any time you crack an egg into a frying pan, it's a "fried" egg. I don't care what you do with it afterward, I'm calling it fried, even if it manages to become "sunny-side-up", too.

If you crack it (or them) into a bowl and scramble them, then they are "scrambled", regardless of whether or not you keep scrambling them once they are in the pan so that they look like the scrambled eggs at the breakfast buffets (but, hopefully, yours taste better). So, yes, much of what I call "scrambled eggs" are "omelettes" to others, whether or not they have something in them.

Also, when I put something into an omelet, I tend to start cooking that in the pan first. When everything is ready, I pour the eggs in last (unless I'm adding cheese, because that's almost always last). This is in contrast to buffet that have cooks that make a blank egg and then just throw everything in the middle and fold it up. I hate that, but what are you going to do.

Well, I did that this morning.

Rather than make a breakfast burrito, I made eggs in the shape of a tortilla, and in another pan cooked up half a hamburger patty (crumbled) with a little salsa. I was careful not to get too much juice. Then I peeled some Monterey Jack cheese. Yeah, I used a potato peeler because the grater breaks up the block. I guess because it's too soft.

After flipping the egg, which was easier than I expected in the bigger pan, I flipped it onto a plate, added the contents, topped with a little more salsa and cheese, and then rolled the egg almost (but not quite) like a burrito.

Lessons Learned: First, sometimes you just have to dirty (and wash) a second pan, as much as I'm loathe to do that.
Second, next time try a bigger pan. The omelette was too thick for use as a tortilla.
Third, this was a really silly idea because the egg was too frickin' hot to roll and wrap!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ginger Ale and Fruit Punch

No orange juice in the house. No problem. There was some Juicy Juice Fruit Punch in the fridge and a can of ginger ale. Mixed the can with 4-6 ounces of juice and ice. Not bad. Needed ice cream, but not for breakfast.

Actually, I bought some cream soda yesterday, and I need to use that with ice cream.
And syrup. Maple or corn. Light or dark. Gotta figure that one out.

Eggless McMuffin-ish

I've had this idea for a comic strip, which I'd use if I get stuck and can't come up with something more geeky to do. The woman confronts the man, upset because she found a package of bacon in the freezer when he's supposed to be eating healthier food. He tells her to relax, he bought it for a recipe. She suspiciously eyes him and asks what recipe. He mumbles, "bacon and eggs".

This comes to mind because I wound up using the Canadian bacon I bought to use in other recipes as the main part of the meal this morning.

My Generic breakfast starts as a toasted, buttered bagel and depending upon time, hunger and how inclined I'm feeling about cleaning up, add cheese, eggs (fried or scrambled) or both. I wasn't in the mood to clean a pan and spatula and definitely not a mixing bowl and whisk on top of that. Remember the old jingle about "eggs, Canadian bacon, cheese and [English] muffin are the makin' of your morning"? Probably not. You have to be old and lived in front of the TV that month.

So I had no egg, and substituted a bagel for the English muffin. Whatever.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Ground Pork and Potato Pancake

This was a case of naming what I made after I figured out what it was I was making.
There might've been more chicken broth and less mashed potatoes had it not been too hot for soup for lunch.

Raiding the fridge (and freezer) for ingredients gave me some ground pork (which was in the package with the ground beef from yesterday), mashed potatoes, Monterey jack cheese, and chicken broth.

Heated a pan with some olive oil and added the ground pork. Now would've been a great time to add some onions and garlic (see below). When the pork was browned, I drained most of the liquid, and then mixed in an ample serving of mashed potatoes. After a few minutes of playing Richard Dreyfus in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I made a little volcano, into which I placed an ounce or two of cheese, and closed it up. Topped it with garlic powder and chili powder.

Then I probably made a mistake. Fearing that it would be dry like yesterday dish, I added in some chicken broth. Granted, I still wasn't sure what I was making at the moment. It didn't hurt the flavor, but it affected the overall presentation. It didn't get firm like a pancake or giant hash brown, or get crispy and golden on either side.

I have to remember when I'm cooking for myself that I can go to town with the spices. Everyone else has a problem with black pepper and chili powder. (Hey, I used to hate pepper as a kid.)

Lessons Learned: Just because you always have onions and garlic in the house doesn't mean that you actually have onions and garlic in the house. Check before starting.

Dinner was almost a repeat. Last night, the wife made pasta with broccoli and other veggies (because we didn't have plain broccoli in the freezer), using rigatoni. I took a serving of that, sliced up a grilled chicken cutlet, shredded a Cabot cheddar cheese snack and chopped up some mushrooms (probably time to dump the rest of that gravy). Sprinkled in some soy sauce and nuked it for a minute and a half.

The soy sauce didn't add much flavor -- I must not have added enough.
On the other hand, the cheese made all the difference, even more than adding chicken.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lunch and Snack for Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I was out at breakfast time and resisted the temptation to get cheap, stinky fast food or even expensive, a little better for a little longer waiting time food.

But I did a little shopping and picked up some whole wheat tortillas, monterey jack cheese (thought about getting pepper jack, but passed -- this time), packaged canadian bacon and some ground beef. I had eggs at home. Mixed it all up with some salsa and ... Well, had I put in six eggs instead of two, my proportions might've been okay. I like beef, and overdid it just a little. But I had two wraps that were heftier than any breakfast burrito I've had before.

Lesson learned: Don't overdo it, especially when it's supposed to be a meal for one, and it isn't something you want left over.

Snack in the afternoon was microwave mac-n-cheese using leftover penne from yesterday, american cheeses (the brick from Costco, not the icky wrapped singles from Kraft) and some milk. It was a light snack, so I resisted the urge to add more. Plus I remembered the burritos. Didn't overdo it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Drinks with Maple Syrup

Yesterday I a warm bottle of soda that I put in the freezer for a half hour.
This morning, I had a frozen bottle of soda that I'd forgotten to take out of the freezer.

It thawed in the fridge for an hour and then on the counter in the heat for a while. When I opened it ... okay, that was a little messy. It was also a little flat. And still a little frozen. What to do? Make an ice cream soda.

A scoop of vanilla bean in a tall glass and then the soda and stirred with a straw. Not quite there. Wasn't sweet enough. So I added a little maple syrup from the fridge and that did the trick. Hit the spot on a hot day.

This afternoon, I had a plain, hot coffee from Starbucks. Not something I usually (read: "ever") do. I put five ice cubes in a glass, added some milk, and poured the coffee. I was about to add some sugar when I remembered the maple syrup. Nice.
Homemade iced coffee. Almost homemade. Well, it was cheaper than if I'd had Starbucks do it.

Long live maple syrup.

Meals for Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mushroom omelette, BBQ chicken pizza bagel, Chicken pasta salad.

Breakfast was an omelette with mushrooms. The mushrooms were part of the gravy for the roast beef for a past last weekend. I heated them in a pan with a little olive oil, cut them up a little (probably should've done that first, but then there would've been something else to wash), poured in a scrambled egg on top it.

Lesson Learned: Check the house for bread before starting this. There were bagels in the freezer, but I wanted one for lunch. The choices were burger and hot dog buns or taking a walk to the bakery for a decent roll. I had already started cooking and it was already 85 degrees outside and climbing. When the egg and flipped and done, I cut it into three long slices with the spatula and nestled it on a hot dog bun. Egg was good, but overall a little bit of letdown. Also, it could've used some cheese, but I thought of that too late.

Lunch was a bagel pizza. Thanks to the heat, the bagel thawed on the counter in about 15 minutes. (By the way, the bagels were bought fresh, not frozen. We freeze the extras.) Sliced it open and squeezed some Famous Dave's BBQ Sauce on both halves, spreading it with a knife, and toasted the bagel for a minute or two. Back to the fridge for the leftover grilled chicken from last night and a couple of string cheeses, shredding both. After removing the bagels from the toaster oven, I lined the rack with foil, put the bagels back and added the chicken, topped with cheese (and a little more BBQ sauce, why not?). Set the toaster oven to bake at 350 and let it heat up for about 5-6 minutes. Not bad. I could've added some mushrooms, but I didn't know how the gravy and the BBQ sauce would interact.

I'd try this again, fiddling with the ingredients.
By the way, I like fresh mozzerella for sandwiches, but I've learned that it's too watery for stuff like this.

Dinner preparation started early. I boiled half a box of mini-penne just so there would be some pasta in the fridge in case anyone wanted to make microwave mac-n-cheese. Then I glanced at the back of the box and saw the pasta salad. Since I knew we were having the leftover chicken for dinner (did I mention the heat outside? I wasn't going to the grill again), I changed what I would've had, which was grilled chicken salad (lettuce, tomato, chick peas and chicken, with Caesar dressing) to pasta salad. Heated up some generic (but small) frozen veggies. When we were ready to eat (in the A/C'ed living room with a tape-delay of the game on), I threw some pasta in the bowl with sliced chicken and a couple of scoops of veggies. I added in some olive oil and a splash of milk. (The box called for heavy cream. I made do.) Thirty seconds nuking later, I was having dinner.

Verdict: A little on the dry side. I like sauce. Maybe it needed more oil. Maybe it needed the cream. But it's something that could be improved upon rather than thrown out.

Another Blog on Cooking?

I guess it is. So what's my deal?

I like to eat. That doesn't always mean that I eat good food. And by "good", I mean tastes good, not is healthy for you. If I'm gagging and spitting it in the trash, it won't do any good for my heart or arteries.

My typical summer diet consists of fresh or toasted bagels, cold cuts, burgers and hot dogs and other grilled items for dinner. The more complicated stuff is made by my wife, who is not off from work for the summer. (I'll save all tangential material on that topic for another blog.)

So I'm breaking out of a rut and trying something a little different each day. It might not be radically different, and it might not even turn out to be good, but I'll try something. Who knows? Maybe I'll learn something along the way.