Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Easy Recipes: Breakfast sandwich and chocolate

Just because the sun is up
does not mean my brain is, too!
I confess to two morning cravings:  something chocolate, and a hot something which contains meat.  Since I have a McDonald's across the street from work, that means a Sausage McMuffin (370 calories) and a Chocolate Chip Frappe (size depending upon the kind of day I'm expecting--760 calories for the large) for a daily cost of about $5.  My pocketbook and my waistline demand that I do something to reduce both cost and calories.

Let me say that I will NOT get up and cook breakfast.  I might warm it up, but even scrambling eggs is too much for my mental capacity at that hour.  So, I'm going back to an old strategy:  home-made fast food.

The sausage muffin is easy enough.  

Baking sausage allows the grease to drain.
I bake Odom's Tennessee Pride mild sausage patties until done, then pop them into the freezer in an appropriate container.  While the cost of making English muffins is minimal, I usually just buy Thomas' English Muffins on sale for about $0.50 each.

In the morning, I pop the muffin in the toaster, and the sausage in the microwave.  Instead of cheese, I add a dollop of home-made preserves (usually peach) to the toasted muffin before wrapping the warm sandwich to eat on the trip to work.

My chocolate fix

Instead of the frappe, I fill my Thermos travel tumbler with Swiss Miss hot chocolate and it stays HOT until mid-morning.

While the cost of the muffin sandwich is about the same, the cost of the drink is the real savings:  $2-$3 per day.  Over the course of a year, that's a savings of about $720 for 20 workdays per month average.

Calorie-wise, the muffin, sausage, and preserves are about 320 calories, and the chocolate is 220 calories.  That's a saving of 590 calories per day or 1.5 hours of weeding!

A savory start to the day!

Saving time, money, and calories is a great start to any day!  Enjoy your favorite fast food flavors without the fast food cost.

What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Great Gadgets: Getting the Cook into Hot Water

New life for an old appliance!
My name is Nancy and I am a chocoholic.  I enjoy it at all times of the day, but, especially, at the beginning.  Because I'm just not up to heating up a pot in the morning, I've reconciled myself to instant which means 

I'm in need of hot water.  

  • I tried tap water, but that did not dissolve the powdered milk in the mix.  

  • I tried the microwave, which heated the water, but made the cup hotter than shuttle heat shield tiles during re-entry.  Ouch.

  • I considered having a hot tap installed, but they are expensive.

  • I could pick one up at a fast food place, but then I'd feel obligated to order a biscuit, which can become expensive.

  • I really got myself into a stew about the hot water until the light bulb in my mind began to glimmer dimly.

What appliance is tailor-made to heat water?  

The coffeemaker!

So, I dragged out our Black & Decker Versabrew, which has only been used for company since neither the Resident Dragon nor I really drink coffee.  It seemed happy to escape from its remote cabinet prison.  Without even installing a filter, I plugged it in, filled the carafe, and poured it into the reservoir.  In seconds, it began hissing at me, and steamy water streamed (okay, dribbled) into the carafe.  I grabbed a mug, a spoon, and the cocoa mix, and, within minutes, was enjoying a satisfying cup of hot chocolate.

Since its hot chocolate-making utility had given it some claim to valuable kitchen-counter real estate.  I began looking for other uses for the coffeemaker.  The first that presented itself was upon the demise of the iced-tea maker.  (Yes, I know, but I got it for Christmas.)  The death of the gadget did not end the dragon's desire for iced tea.  After a few instances of steeping tea leaves in a boiling pot on the stove, the coffeemaker finally got my attention.

Why not?  

It does make hot water . . .

So, I filled the carafe and dumped it into the reservoir.  Then I took 4 family-size tea bags and (don't tell the Resident Dragon!!!) two green tea bags and knotted the strings together before dropping them into the carafe.  The knot prevented the strings from slipping through the lid into the carafe.  I placed the carafe (and tea) under the coffeemaker basket (sans filter) and walked away.  When I returned, I had perfected steeped tea concentrate--enough to make a gallon!

(Don't forget to compost the used tea bags!)

So, the long-neglected coffeemaker earns its claim on the kitchen counter by making hot chocolate, tea, instant soups, instant oatmeal, anything that requires hot water.  And, sometimes, we even use it to make coffee.

What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

TMN Turtle Burgers

Assembling the turtles!
Today's recipe is from our guest blogger, James.  As a child, he really, really liked Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  He even dressed as Donatello (his favorite turtle) for one Halloween.  He has long since outgrown his devotion to the turtles, but recently created this fun recipe for all of those adult (secret) TMNT lovers!

Delicious Turtle Burgers

1.5 lbs. lean ground beef 12 hot dogs 1 small block of sharp cheddar 32 bacon slices medium thickness, not thin sliced, not thick sliced 1 cup Worcestershire sauce 2 tbsp. Montreal-type seasoning 1. Mix ground beef in a bowl with Montreal seasoning and Worcestershire sauce. Salt and pepper to taste; I used 1 tsp. and 1 tsp., respectively. 2. Mix thoroughly and let sit. You don't want a dry, tasteless burger.
3. Lay out 4 pieces of bacon side by side on a piece of parchment. Trim any excess fat, you want the slices to be fairly straight. Push together any holes.  Be as compulsive as you like, you have to open holes for the "turtle appendages, anyway.
A finished turtle!

4. Weave in 4 more trimmed pieces perpendicular to the first 4. You should have a fairly solid square with fringe on all sides.  This will be the crunchy and delicious shell.

5. Repeat this 3 more times to make 4 bacon lattices.  <Lattices, not just for gardening or microscopic steel composition anymore.>
6. Heat the oven to 450F.  Do it now, it will be ready just about the time your turtles are complete.
7. Take the ground beef and make 8 patties. 3" in diameter and 3/8" thick.  They need to be thin enough to cook through, but thick enough to hold the heavenly center.
8. Put a slice of cheddar between 4 patties and top the cheddar with the other 4 patties.  Now this is a bunless burger!
9. Make sure the ground beef encapsulates the cheese fully. Set aside.  You can't let all that ambrosia go to waste burning on the pan.
Which one is Donatello?

10. Cut all the hot dogs in half making 24 pieces. Take 16 of the pieces and cut toes in the rounded end. Take 4 pieces and make a pointy tail.  I made 2 slices in the rounded end. If you want to get technical, it is 3 fingers and 2 toes, Cowabunga!
11. Put one burger on one lattice and wrap it up.  The bacon will curl, so you can flip them over if you want a flat shell.  I left them belly up!
Our guest blogger!
12. Push the hot dogs through holes in the lattice. All turtles have only 4 legs, 1 head, and 1 tail.  Be sure to not break the cheddar seal. Toothpick them in place if you like.

13. Repeat steps 11 and 12  to make the other 3 turtles.

14. Transfer the turtles to a cookie sheet and place them in the oven for 30 minutes.  Watch an old episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on VHS or run around the house like Shredder.

15. Check to make sure the bacon is not burned. If it is NOT, then give them 5 
more minutes to think about what they have done, or run around the house like shredder some more. It helps if you have a sweet cape and helmet. Limber up before you try any kicks.

16.Pull them out and make sure the ground beef is done. If it is, enjoy!

Bacon is the half shell, TURTLE POWER!

Cowabunga!  I hope you've enjoyed our little turtle celebration.   

What's cooking in your Savory kitchen?


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Easy New Year Recipe: Cuban Sandwiches with Leftovers!

Happy New Year!
New Year's is a really low-key event in our household.  We no longer have any interest in joining mobs of loud people to ring in the new year, so, usually, it's just a quiet evening at home with family and a few friends and a super simple menu.  After the rich, luscious food and the requisite endless cooking from Thanksgiving through Christmas, New Year's Cuban Sandwiches are a welcome respite for the cook.

Here on the farm, the Resident Dragon usually mans the griddle, taking custom orders from each celebrant.  Options include type of bread/bun, types of leftover meats (usually turkey and ham or pork), and types of cheeses.

New Year's Cubana Sandwiches

  • Bun or leftover large roll
  • 2 types of leftover meat
  • 3 types of sliced cheese
  • Favorite mustard
  • Favorite pickle

Here's a great opportunity to
enjoy your summer's pickles!
The basic sandwich:  Slice the bun in half length-wise and smear with favorite mustard and apply a pickle.  On top, layer cheese, meat, cheese, meat, cheese, pickle, and bun top smeared with mustard.  Smash until bread is slightly flattened, then grill on both sides until bread is toasted, cheese is melting, and meat is warm.  Slice in half and serve with chips or fries, and your favorite beverage.  The combinations are endless, but here are a few we like:

Bread and butter pickles
add a little sweetness!

  • The Resident Dragon:  French roll with spicy brown mustard, dill pickles, turkey, pork shoulder, cheddar, muenster, and swiss.

  • The Dragon's Lady:  Onion roll with sweet mustard (recipe below), sweet pickles, turkey, ham, muenster, muenster, and muenster.

Sweet mustard:  To taste, add brown sugar to prepared mustard and allow to blend for 24 hours.

What a tasty way to clean up those leftovers from the old year and begin the new on a creative note!

From our kitchen to yours--

Happy New Year!