Food 4 Thought

An eZine for People Who Eat

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August 7, 2020

 

Start your day strong with spinach in your brunch. Spinach is great morning, noon, or night. Here's a breakfast version in the Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook spirit. It's easy. It  uses readily available ingredients—like all the recipes in the book. And it tastes great. Pick up some spinach—freash or frozen—and give surprise everyone with this different take on breakfast.

1 bunch of raw spinach or 1 package of frozen spinach

Cooking spray

3 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp butter or margarine

¼ onion chopped

1 clove garlic minced

2 strips bacon diced

5 eggs

3 tbsp heavy cream

black pepper

¼ cup Parmesan cheese grated

 

Preheat the oven to 350”F. Lubricate a baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.

If starting from raw spinach, bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil. Add the spinach. Return the water to a rapid boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain into a colander and squeeze excess water out of it. Chop the cooked spinach.

Or prepare the frozen spinach according to package directions. Drain the cooked spinach into a colander and squeeze excess water out of it. Chop the cooked spinach if necessary.

Spread the prepared spinach over the bottom of the baking dish.

Heat the butter or margarine and the olive oil in a frying pan. When the butter or margarine has melted, add the onion, the garlic and the bacon. Cook over medium low heat until the onion is light brown. Stir the onion/bacon blend into the spinach in a baking dish.

Beat the eggs and the cream together in a small bowl. Add a pinch of black pepper. Pour the egg mixture over the spinach layer. Do not stir. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the top and bake 30 minutes.

July 31, 2020

 

What does your lockdown body look like? Restaurants are closed. Grocery store shelves have been picked over. Some of us have resorted to processed foods, and outgrown our fat jeans. Others are making do with what's left, and have discovered a scrawny body within.  Those who cooked with what was available maintained a happy medium through it all.

Healthy eating needn't be challenging. There is life beyond Top Ramen. The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook offers a selection of easy tasty recipes made from easy to find ingredients. Dinners turn out great even when kids prepare them. No need to mask up and scour a half dozen stores for some of-the-wall ingredient. (Putting my mask on always makes me feel like I'm getting ready to knock over a 7-11. How about you?)

Buy yourself a copy of The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook and return to nutritious eating. The light and humorous presentation makes the book a pleasant alternative to the drudgery of watching the news. It presents affordable recipes—most of them are easy to prepare. There are a few more challenging ones for those days when lockdown loneliness is driving you up the wall.

 

July 24, 2020

 

Ready to celebrate the end of this lockdown fiasco? Here's a greaty Mexican crowd pleaser. Many Mexican meals are tasty, easy, and affordable. They're in the spirit of The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook. This  dish has gotten rave reviews at my dinner table time after time. It will be back by popular demand. Treat your crew to this imitation crab delicacy at your first festival.

1 large onion

2 tbsp oil

1 lb imitation crabmeat

1 can refried beans

1 cup pico de gallo style salsa

1 tbsp garlic salt

12 8" flour tortillas or 6 12" flour tortillas

shredded cheddar or cheddar jack cheese

 

Preheat the oven to 350”F.

Dice the onion and fry the pieces in a little oil until softened. Chop the crabmeat into small pieces, and stir them into the onions. Cook the mixture until it is warmed through. Set aside.

Mix the salsa and garlic salt into the refried beans. Set aside.

Lay a tortilla flat. Add a heaping tablespoon of the crab/onion mixture in the middle. Top with a heaping tablespoon of the beans. Sprinkle with shredded cheese. (Double these for the larger tortillas.) Tuck the top and bottom of the tortilla over the filling and roll it up. Lay the burrito seam side down in a glass baking dish. Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Bake 30 minutes at 350”F. Serve with salsa.

July 17, 2020

 

In development, Two-Paws-Up Brussels sprouts dish had one of those long descriptive names, shorthand for the starring ingredients. Then one day, a pint of left overs fell on the floor. By the time I got back with the broom and the dustpan, they were gone. The dog had leapt on them and devoured all of them. This is my dogÕs favorite Brussels sprouts recipe. His review: two paws up. The name stuck. Two-Paws-Up Brussels sprouts is typical of the recipes you'll treasure from The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook. It's tasty. It's fun. It's affordable,

Cook a batch of Two-Paws-Up Brussels sprouts. YouÕll have the dogÕs undivided attention in the second paragraph, and accolades from the rest of the crowd in the third.

 

1 lb Brussels sprouts—quartered

Salt

3 slices bacon—cut into 1" pieces

1 tbsp olive oil

½ onion—diced

4 cloves of garlic—sliced

2 tsp thyme

1 tsp salt—kosher if you have it

½ tsp pepper

1½ tsp balsamic vinegar

 

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the Brussels sprouts. Cook covered for 5 minutes. Drain them and set aside.

Meanwhile stir-fry the bacon 3 to 6 minutes over medium heat until brown. Drain on a paper towel. Pour off any excess bacon fat. Add olive oil plus the onion and garlic. Stir-fry the mixture until the onion is soft—about 4 minutes. Stir in the thyme, the salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium high. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook, stirring occasionally about 3 minutes. The sprouts should be warm and tender.

Remove from the heat. Toss with the bacon and the balsamic vinegar.

 

July 10,2020

 

Looking forward to the first potluck after the lockdown ends.  I'll share my favorite bean dish, and get life back on track. The three-bean pot from The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook never fails. Bacon, sausage and three kinds of beans—what's not to love in there?

I used to make this three-bean pot with canned beans, but I could never find canned white lima beans. The dry beans are available. As long as I was going to cook those up, might as well do the kidney beans right along with them. The homemade beans are better. And making them at home avoids the problem of the ever-shrinking one-pound can.

Use baked beans from the can. They have to be baked 24 hours. That was practical when the stove stayed on 24 hours a day to heat the house. Running your oven for 24 hours for one batch of beans is impractical. Leave bean baking to the pros.

Canned or from scratch, you can do it either way.

1 cup dry lima beans or 2 1 lb cans of white lima beans

1 cup dry kidney beans or 2 1 lb cans of kidney beans

1 lb bacon

1 large onion chopped

1 large kielbasa sausage link—sliced

1 2 lb can baked beans

⅔ cup catsup

⅔ cup brown sugar

1 tsp dry mustard

 

If making the beans from scratch, place the lima beans and the kidney beans in a large bowl and cover with at least 6 cups of water. Let stand overnight. Drain and wash the beans in a colander.

IÕve read thereÕs a faster way to soak the beans. Put them in water to cover them. Bring to a boil and boil to two minutes. Let sit in that water for 2 hours, then drain and rinse the beans before proceeding. IÕve never tried that method, but if youÕre short on time, you might give it a try.

Place the soaked beans in your soup pot and cover with salted water. Cook 1 hour.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon and drain it well. Chop the onion and slice the kielbasa while you are waiting. A mandoline works well for this. Pour off excess drippings, and then stir-fry the onion and kielbasa until lightly browned.

Put all three kinds of beans, the catsup, brown sugar and mustard in a large pot. Add the fried onion and the sausage. (Crumble the bacon and add it now or hold it until the end.) Bring the mixture to a boil on high, then turn down to low and simmer for 1 hour.

Serve with crumbled bacon on top if not added earlier.

 

July 3, 2020

 

Braising opens another dimension in chicken cooking. Try this braised chicken with garlic dish before your kitchen gets too hot to cook indoors. Slow cooking with tasty vegetables flavors the ingredients in new ways. Consider this variation on the French classic dish "Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic" Cooking in garlic lends flavor to the chicken. Cooked garlic turns soft and delicious. ItÕs mild enough to serve for a first date.

Squeeze a few cloves of the cooked garlic onto a slice of French or Italian bread. ItÕs a great change from butter. (An acquaintance with a heart condition thanked me for introducing him to this alternative spread.) Save some cloves to liven up other dishes. Roast garlic is a favorite secret ingredient.

No need to cook a whole chicken. Pick up a package of your favorite parts, or a cut up chicken. The recipe presented works for about half a chicken. A whole chicken needs a larger pan.

1 or 2 lb of your favorite chicken parts, bone in, skin on

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp olive oil

2 heads of garlic separated into cloves

2 tbsp dried parsley

½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ cup white wine or chicken bouillon

 

Season the chicken pieces generously with salt and pepper. Heat the oil over medium high in a 10 or 11-inch sautŽ pan with a lid. Add the chicken parts, skin side down and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook until second side is deeply browned, another 3 to 5 minutes.

When the chicken has browned, add the garlic, parsley, and cinnamon. Pour the wine or bouillon over the mixture and stir to blend. Bring to a boil. Then cover, drop the heat to low and cook for 30 minutes turning once.

Serve with crusty French or Italian bread.

June 26, 2020

 

Stuff a steak for something different from your grill. Green onions and garlic make a tangy addition to a grilled sirloin. This is just one of dozens of fascinating tastes you can prepare from The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook. I happened on a proper piece of meat the other day, and my mouth watered at the memory of garlic stuffed sirloin on the grill. I fired my Komodo cooker and served this delicious alternative. Find yourself a thick steak and try this on your grill.

¼ cup garlic chopped fine

1 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup green onions sliced thin

¼ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

3 lb. boneless top sirloin, cut 2" thick

 

Prepare the stuffing: SautŽ the garlic in olive oil over low heat 5 minutes. Add the onions and increase heat to medium low. Continue cooking 5 more minutes. Stir in the salt and pepper, remove the mixture from heat and allow it to cool.

Clean the grill and prepare a charcoal fire for direct grilling.

Meanwhile, trim any excess fat from the meat and cut a pocket through the center of the steak. (Cut parallel to the surface of the meat about 1" from each side. Cut to, but not through, to the other side.) Spoon the cooled stuffing into the pocket and spread it evenly. Secure the opening with wooden toothpicks.

Place the stuffed steak on the grill over medium coals. Cover and grill 26 to 32 minutes turning once. (Eighteen to 20 minutes on the first side and the rest on the second.)

Let the meat rest for five minutes. Remove the toothpicks and carve into ½" strips. 

 

June 19, 2020

 

Starting out is the hardest part. Millions of young couples will take that first step on the longest journey of their lives together this June. They'll return from their honeymoon to a treasure trove of great gifts—lacking only the everyday essentials. Oh sure, got have fancy china for entertaining the in-laws, a dozen champagne flutes, and a crystal party bowl. But how about some flatware, a skillet, and a coffee pot? They'll have to acquire the basics to build their new life together. Then they'll have to learn how to use them.

 

Their relationship's focus shifts to the kitchen. Mom's home cooking and restaurant food become special events. Meals don't cook themselves. Somebody has to make them. It ain't as easy as Mom made it look, and nobody's taste buds went to sleep. Dinners need to be easy but tasty. Blew the budget on the wedding; the honeymoon ate any leftovers? Dinners need to be affordable too.  The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook has the answers. Easy fun recipes using common ingredients create restaurant quality meals without quality restaurant prices. 

 

Include the cookbook in a gift basket of practical items—the ones they'll use every day. They'll remember you long after they've forgotten which aunt gave them that garish platter.

 

 

June 12, 2020

 

What's a burger without fries? Everybody loves French fries. They're the great American got-with dish. French fries arenÕt French. TheyÕre an American invention. Thomas Jefferson is supposed to have served them at diplomatic receptions before potatoes became popular in Europe. Enjoy French fries; theyÕre as American as apple pie.

Homemade fries are even better than restaurant French fries. Fry a batch up in a deep pot of boiling oil. When you taste your own French fries, you will want to serve them again and again. Invest in an electric fry cooker if you plan to make French fries at home often.

4 to 6 medium potatoes

Canola oil

Heat the oil to boiling, about 325”F in a deep straight-sided pan. Better yet heat the oil in fry cooker designed for the process. Either way, be careful because splashing oil gives nasty burns.

Peel the potatoes if you like. Wash them, and then cut them into ¼" x ¼" sticks. Let them dry on a paper towel. Immerse them in the hot oil and cook for 17 minutes. Drain, salt and serve.

June 5, 2020

 

The extras make the omelet. There are probably few things someone hasn't tried at some time. Most turn out good. The classics turn out great.

 

Try free-style omelet making one morning. Blend a few favorite ingredients in, and create your own taste sensation. Here's a combination that worked well for me.

 

2 tbsp butter or margarine

6 mushrooms sliced

2 green onions sliced

½ lb imitation crab diced

1 tbsp sherry

6 eggs

3 tbsp heavy cream

 

Melt the butter or margarine over medium heat in a nonstick frying pan. Add the mushrooms and the onions. SautŽ until light brown before adding the diced crabmeat. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove and reserve half the crab mixture.

 

Blend the eggs and the cream together. Pour it over the crab blend still in the frying pan. Cook without stirring until it sets. Fold the omelet and sprinkle the reserved crab mixture on top.

 

Serve hot.

 

May 29, 2020

 

Let's have a big barbecue the day they let us out of this lockdown. Here's an old favorite that's welcomed at every potluck I attend. It's just one of my favorites from The Champagne Taste.Beer Budget Cookbook. I used to make this three-bean pot with canned beans, but I could never find canned white lima beans. The dry beans are available. As long as I was going to cook those up, might as well do the kidney beans right along with them. The homemade beans are better. And making them at home avoids the problem of the ever-shrinking one-pound can

Use baked beans from the can. They have to be baked 24 hours. That was practical when the stove stayed on 24 hours a day to heat the house. Running your oven for 24 hours for one batch of beans is impractical. Leave bean baking to the pros.

Canned or from scratch, you can do it either way.

1 cup dry lima beans or 2 1 lb cans of white lima beans

1 cup dry kidney beans or 2 1 lb cans of kidney beans

1 lb bacon

1 large onion chopped

1 large kielbasa sausage link—sliced

1 2 lb can baked beans

⅔ cup catsup

⅔ cup brown sugar

1 tsp dry mustard

 

If making the beans from scratch, place the lima beans and the kidney beans in a large bowl and cover with at least 6 cups of water. Let stand overnight. Drain and wash the beans in a colander.

IÕve read thereÕs a faster way to soak the beans. Put them in water to cover them. Bring to a boil and boil to two minutes. Let sit in that water for 2 hours, then drain and rinse the beans before proceeding. IÕve never tried that method, but if youÕre short on time, you might give it a try.

Place the soaked beans in your soup pot and cover with salted water. Cook 1 hour.

Meanwhile, fry the bacon and drain it well. Chop the onion and slice the kielbasa while you are waiting. A mandoline works well for this. Pour off excess drippings, and then stir-fry the onion and kielbasa until lightly browned.

Put all three kinds of beans, the catsup, brown sugar and mustard in a large pot. Add the fried onion and the sausage. (Crumble the bacon and add it now or hold it until the end.) Bring the mixture to a boil on high, then turn down to low and simmer for 1 hour.

Serve with crumbled bacon on top if not added earlier.

 

 

May 22, 2020

 

Only an overdose of garlic could dress shrimp up like this. Shrimp is delicious any way you cook it, but add six cloves of garlic É wow. Here's a fast and easy shrimp dish you'll want to serve again and again.

All good shrimp recipes are fast. The secret to cooking shrimp is cooking it hot and quick. Overcooked shrimp gets rubbery like pencil erasures. To avoid turning a delight into a disappointment, prepare all the ingredients first. Do all the cleaning, slicing and dicing before heating the pan. Then watch dinner fall together before your eyes as the aroma of heaven fills the kitchen.

1 lb large shrimp raw

1 bunch spinach

6 cloves garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tsp paprika

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp parsley

 

Peel and devein the shrimp. Pat them dry and set them aside. Wash the spinach leaves and remove their stems. Cut them into salad-size pieces or leave them whole. Set them aside too. Slice the garlic cloves thin and separate the pieces.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the garlic slices and cook until they begin to brown. Remove the toasted garlic slices with a slotted spoon and set them aside.

Add the shrimp, the paprika, and the red pepper flakes to the hot oil. Cook with stirring 3-4 minutes. The shrimp should be underdone at this point. Toss a handful of spinach in and stir until it wilts. Continue adding batches of spinach until the whole bunch is used up.

Stir the garlic in. Remove the dish from the heat and stir in the lemon juice and parsley.

 

May 15, 2020

 

Salmon who smoke grow up to be lox. There are at least a hundred ways to prepare salmon, each one better than the other. Salmon is right at home on the grill. Smoking makes it extra special. With a little preparation, you can prepare the finest lox to ever grace a bagel. These faux lox made Mother's Day brunch special at my house this year.

1 lb salmon filet

½ cup rum

½ cup brown sugar

¼ cup kosher salt

½ tbsp black pepper

 

Skin the filet with your sharpest knife. Remove any little bones with pliers or tweezers. Rinse the filet under running water and pat it dry. Lay the filet flat in a dish just large enough to hold it. Pour the rum over it and marinate it for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients, Set the mixture aside. Remove the filet from the rum and pat it dry. Wipe the dish and lay a third of the mixture in the bottom. Place the filet cut-side down on top of it. Spread the rest of the mixture over the filet. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for four hours. Remove the filet and rinse it when thatÕs complete.

Presoak a generous handful of wood chips for half an hour. Set the grill up for indirect cooking. Preheat the grill and oil the grate. Put the wood chips on top of the coals. Place the filet over a drip pan away from the heat. Cover and smoke until done—about 20 minutes. Remove the fish and let it cool on a rack.

May 8, 2020

 

Need something different to chase away the locked-in blues? Your slow cooker can fill the air with a refreshing change from that same-old same-old aroma of home. It can put a taste you've been longing for on your plate tonight.

 

Whip up a batch of this quarantine stew before the kitchen gets too hot to cook. It combines lots of ingredients that are easy to find and most should still be left in your locked-down kitchen. Don't worry if you're missing one or two. If the grocery store is out of them, leave them out. Your stew will still be a great antidote for quarantine monotony.

 

1 lb potatoes

6 carrots

3 stalks celery

½ lb mushrooms

1½ lb chuck roast or comparable lean beef

½ envelope dry onion soup

2 bay leaves

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

½ tsp thyme

¼ tsp black pepper

2 cups beef broth

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can diced tomatoes

¼ cup frozen peas

3 tbsp cornstarch

 

Wash the potatoes. Peel them if you prefer. Cut them into ½" cubes and spread them over the bottom of your slow cooker. Peel the carrots and cut them into bit-size piece. Scatter them over the potatoes. Chop the celery into small pieces and add them. Slice the mushrooms, and place them in the pot. Cut the chuck steak into 1" cubes and put those on top of the vegetables. Lay the next seven items on top. Don't stir the stew yet. The potatoes and carrots need to be on the bottom to cook through. (Potato sushi doesn't sound appetizing.)

 

Cover the pot and cook it on low for 8 to 10 hours. Defrost the peas and stir them into the stew. Mix the cornstarch with 3 tbsp of water and blend half or more of it into the stew. Quarantine stew is ready for a change from your everyday table.

 

 

May 1, 2020

 

Ran out of pepperoni so I made a great vegetarian pizza the other day. I was out of pepperoni and not in the mood for a grocery store run. Thin slices of tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms made great toppings for a cauliflower crust pizza. Try adding your favorite toppings—or whatever you have in your refrigerator—on this crust.

Same great taste without all the carbs. Make your next crust with cauliflower instead of wheat flower. This is another healthy food—not health food—in the spirit of The Champagne Taste/Beer Budget Cookbook. No need to go to some overpriced health food store for exotic ingredients; bags of riced cauliflower are available at your regular grocery store. You can rice your own cauliflower if you prefer. One head makes almost enough to prepare this recipe twice.

2 cups riced cauliflower

cooking spray

2 eggs

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup grated Mozzarella cheese

2 tsp Italian seasoning

1 tsp crushed garlic

1 tsp salt

Microwave the riced cauliflower for 5 minutes. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking oil. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 450”F.

Drain in the cauliflower in a colander. Squeeze it as dry as you can.

While the oven is warming, beat the eggs in a bowl, and then stir the prepared cauliflower in. Add the cheeses and the seasonings. Mix thoroughly to form cauliflower pizza dough.

Put the finished dough onto the oiled cookie sheet and spread it with a fork. The recipe makes two 9" crusts or one 12" pizzas. Work the dough to avoid holes. Tamp it hard enough that it won't fall apart when you remove it from the pan later.

Bake 15 minutes at 450”F.  Remove it from the oven, add your favorite toppings, and broil for a minute or two.