Any Kitchen Will Do

Give me a kitchen and I will cook.

Multi Minute Burger Buns

burbun1

I have seen a bunch of recipes all over the web for one minute muffins, cooked quickly in the microwave. Some are sweet, some are savory. Big D was smoking up some nice, thick burgers for dinner one night and we did not have any of our low carb bread anywhere nearby for them. The delish bread takes hours to make, bake and cool/set, so there was not enough time to make it. One minute is pretty quick, so I decided to try some savory ‘muffins’. I liked the recipe shared by DJFoodie. Not much happens around here in the microwave, sitting quietly above the stove staring at me all the time asking to be used. Here was its big chance for it to actually cook something! I tweaked DJ’s version a little bit to fit the contents of my pantry and our microwave performance (our oven took much longer to do the cooking), and they came out great! The one batch made plenty of bun pairs (four) for our meal, with leftovers. The buns can also be used for non-burger activities, like sandwiches and even eggs benedict, but what I can attest to here is they make for some satisfying, filling burger buns! 

Multi Minute Burger Buns

1 1/2 cups golden flaxseed meal
1 Tbsp baking powder
6 large whole eggs
1 Tbsp plus 1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup cheddar/colby jack cheese blend, shredded
2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ground thyme
Salt, fresh cracked pepper and chili flakes, to taste
Butter or other fat to grease dishes

Optional Burger Toppings
Hamburger patties, cooked to desired doneness
Red or white onion, thinly sliced
Dill pickles, thinly sliced
Ripe red tomatoes, thinly sliced
Mustard
Mayonnaise (we used chipotle flavored, but plain works, too)
Cheese, slices or finely grated

Grease eight (or four used twice) individual microwaveable dishes – I used four salad bowls, each about five inches in diameter. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until well combined. Divide the dough into eight equal parts. Place 1/8 of the dough into each bowl, spreading the top evenly, for the shape will not change much during the cooking process. Microwave on high for 90 seconds to three minutes, depending on the microwave – the middle should be spongy like the outer edges, not mushy. Cook in additional 45 second increments if not done. Remove from the oven after letting them sit in the closed oven for about two minutes after the last cooking time. With a knife gently pull the bun away from the bowl edges. Flip out the bread on a grate to cool and dry out. If using four bowls repeat the process. If you want thin buns slice one piece in half. If you want thicker buns (like in the picture) use two of the eight buns for each sandwich. Add your burger with toppings and eat up!

Spinach Soup

spinach soup

I like green veggies. Ever since I was a kid I especially liked spinach when the other kids thought ‘yech’! My mom once told me a story about spinach, my brother and I. We went to daycare when we were little, and one day when we came home we would not eat our spinach. Apparently we were told by other kids we were not supposed to like it, so we did not eat it. Talk about peer pressure! We eventually succumbed and joyfully continued to eat it, but we did have the blip. It is still my favorite vegetable, so here is a great soup that includes spinach and made with bits and pieces from the fridge. It turned out savory and filling, which is a wonderful thing. The soup freezes and reheats well, so is a great lunch addition. Another way the soup is helpful is as a supplement. There is a little cafeteria in the building where I work. They don’t have very exciting food, but they make a decent salad. I like the salad but sometimes find it lacking, so I like to bring along some soup to go with the salad. I get to sit in the cafeteria, nuke my soup and slurp it down, along with gnawing on salad, while watching the wind blow or rain fall outside. Simple and relaxing addition to the middle of a hectic day.

Spinach Soup

3 Tbsp butter
4 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ sweet onion, finely chopped
6 cups fresh baby spinach
1 cup chicken stock
3 ounces cream cheese
3 ounces beer, suggest an IPA
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Nuts as garnish (we used spiced nuts we always make and have on hand, but raw or roasted would work, too)

In large sauce pot melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and  onion, cooking until garlic and onions begin to brown. Add spinach and toss until it wilts and begins to darken, about five minutes. Add beer and simmer until soup is hot. Add cream cheese, heavy cream and Parmesan cheese and stir. Continue cooking until the cheese is melted. Use a hand blender and puree until spinach is macerated and soup is smooth. Simmer on low for about five minutes. Sprinkle individual servings with nuts and serve immediately.

Meaty Squash Bake

meaty squash bake

This dish was purely delish and purely a result of leftovers. We had spaghetti squash left over from serving as a side dish with the rolled chicken, and a lovely brisket our friends brought over was still calling to us from the fridge. Knowing we would have leftovers from the leftovers, I wanted to make sure it would be something that would freeze and reheat well. I think we hit the jackpot! I don’t know of many savory leftovers that can’t be combined and topped with cheese, do you? The nice thing about it is you can also cook up some fresh spaghetti squash, and maybe some ground beef for it if you don’t have leftovers to manipulate. It freezes well too! As you see, I made this in my mom’s kitchen, and while I was visiting her I definitely cooked more than we and our visitors could possibly consume, so freezer friendly is a good thing.

Meaty Squash Bake

1 pound chopped meat (leftover brisket, chicken, pork, etc)
2 1/2 cups cooked spaghetti squash
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 eggs
2 cups Colby jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl stir together squash, garlic powder and salt. Add meat and stir again. In small bowl whisk together eggs and cream. Add cream mixture to squash and meat. Fold until everything is coated with cream mixture.  Pour mixture into 9×12 baking dish. Sprinkle top with cheese. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes until outer edge of cheese begins to brown. Remove from oven and let sit for about ten minutes before serving.

Rolled Chicken Breasts

stuffed chicken rolls

Big D does not prefer fowl white meat. Whether it is turkey or chicken or other, more exotic birds, he goes for the dark meat as much as possible. He will eat the white stuff, but only out of necessity. When he has to resort to a chicken topped salad when dining out he will eat it, but begrudgingly and with thoughts of thighs dancing in his head.  I have similar preferences, but they do not run as deep, so when I was visiting my mom I took advantage of white fowl connoisseurs and made a recipe I have long pondered. Besides the satisfaction of pounding flesh into oblivion, the balance of flavors was supreme, with the mildness of white chicken meat and kick of the stuffing. Since the chicken was thin, the cooking time was kept short and the dish was moist, in a good way. Never hesitate to pound the meat just a little bit more, for it won’t hurt the chicken, and it can’t help but release anything lingering and seething in you. I almost called this recipe ‘stuffed’, but since I did such a good job of pounding the ‘rolled’ version of the name seemed appropriate. I served the rolls with some baked spaghetti squash and viola! Dinner!

Rolled Chicken Breasts

6 boneless chicken breasts
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 pieces bacon, cooked crisp
1 tsp dried basil leaves
2 cups mozzarella, shredded
4 ounces tomato sauce
12.5 ounces diced tomatoes
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pound chicken breasts with kitchen mallet until no thicker than 1/4 inch. Chop spinach finely, crumble bacon and combine them with feta and basil in medium bowl. Season both sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Lay a breast flat on your work surface with the longest section going left to right. Place 1/4 to 1/3 cup (divided equally among the breasts) of filling in the middle of the flat meat. Starting from the left or right carefully roll the breast until it overlaps with the chicken on the opposite side of the filling. Place stuffed breast in a 9×9 (snugly) or 10x 10 (close but not so snug) or similar sized baking dish. Repeat with the other five breasts and place them in the dish. Place in preheated oven, covered. Bake for about 20 minutes. While chicken is baking combine tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic powder and onion powder in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. When the mixture begins to bubble turn the heat down and summer uncovered for about 15 minutes. Add salt to sauce if needed. When chicken finishes cooking for 20 minutes remove it from the oven. Sprinkle half the cheese on the chicken, top with the tomato sauce and then the rest of the cheese. Return the pan to the oven uncovered and cook for 15 – 20 more minutes, until the edges begin to brown. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Peruvian-ish Posole

posole

Posole. A basic, comforting soup I have enjoyed at restaurants across America that touted Central and South American cuisine. Not having made it before, I dug around to try and identify the when and where of it’s origin. To no avail, I might add. I have most often found it in Mexican and Peruvian restaurants, so then my goal was to figure out the differences between the two versions. I also recently watched a documentary about it being a dish prepared and served in New Mexico hundreds of years ago. Was there a difference? Not much. Peruvian leans more towards tomatillos and green or serrano chiles to give it depth and spice, while the Mexican versions rely on the red chile. New Mexico, of course, relied on their extra special (read Hatch) chiles and local meats. Other variations I discovered switched between the use of pork and chicken. Finally, I decided to come up with my own, since everyone else seems to be doing the very same thing. My goal was to make it similar to the bowl of posole I had in a little, Peruvian restaurant we stumbled upon in a Las Vegas strip mall. No, not on The Strip, but in a mall that is strip like where multiple business share a parking lot. The place was decorated very basically, with varnished plywood walls, folding tables and beat up stackable banquet chairs. The decor accommodated large crowds to watch soccer games or have big parties. We were surrounded by bright posters advertising Peruvian beer, and inundated with loud, quick-paced dance music. The food was amazing and I could only imagine a pre-Colombian Incan family cooking something similar over a fire, in the shadow of Machu Picchu. They may have used alpaca instead of pig, but I am not going there, except in the wearing of a sweater. One thing I love about all my posole experiences is the fresh, raw toppings traditionally served on the side. They give a spark to the otherwise flavorful, yet basic soup. Since I was making the soup for a dinner party I wanted to make sure it was good (duh), and that the topping variety accommodated all the eating habits of guests. I love my friends dearly, but if their diet evolution is anything similar to mine, there is a need for variety in meal preparation. Here is what I came up with, and I must say it was delicious. My dear friends enjoyed it, including Little B. As you can see from the picture, the toppings were many and everyone got to make their own special soup. As usual, the leftovers got better and better a few days later. And as usual, the fun and memories of the people involved in the evening will last even longer.
Peruvian Posole
1 1/2 – 2 pounds pork shoulder
2 Tbsp high heat fat (lard or coconut oil recommended)
2 cups roughly chopped white onion
1 cup roughly chopped carrot
1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp dried oregano leaves
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups pork broth (if there is not enough from cooking the pork, add water)
1 cup dark beer (suggest Negro Modelo or a porter)
4 – 6 cups hominy, canned or prepared fresh (simmered in water for two hours, drained)
1 pound tomatillos, shucked, rinsed and roughly chopped
4 large green chiles, roughly chopped
2 limes, juiced with meat included
Salt to taste
Toppings

1 small red onion, chopped
2 avocados, chopped
2 limes, cut into 1/8 wedges
1 bunch radish, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 head cabbage, shredded
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup cotija cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup pico de gallo or salsa

In 8 – 10 quart stock pot place pork shoulder over high heat. Turn shoulder as each side browns, until all sides have color. Add water and scrape bottom of pan to release browning tidbits.  Cook pork over medium heat until pork easily shreds, about two hours. Remove pork and liquid from pot and set aside, retaining the liquid separately. When meat is cool enough to handle, shred it into bite-sized pieces. Set heat under the now empty stock pot to medium high and add lard or coconut oil. When it is melted add the onions and garlic. When they start to sweat add the carrots. Add paprika, coriander, oregano and cumin. Stir and cook longer until you can smell the spices. Add broth and beer. Cook until it begins to boil softly. Add pork, hominy, tomatillos and chiles. Stir and cook until a soft boil begins. Taste test to see if you can taste the flavors. If not, sprinkle liberally with salt and stir, then taste again. There should be a difference. if not, add more salt. Turn heat down to simmer, making sure there is still a very soft boil. Cook for an additional two hours. Place toppings in separate bowls with spoons right before serving. Serve spoon in large soup bowls and pass around the toppings!

 

Unholy King Cake

unholy king cake_edited-1

For the past few years, since moving away from N’Awlins, we’ve made our own King Cakes as part of our Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday celebration. We party on Fat Tuesday wherever we are, regardless of the location. This year I was hard pressed to find acceptable decorations in our Alaska town, having to resort to mail order for beads and masks and shiny purple/gold/green curtains for out doorways. Our little place looks cheery and ready for fun. Again this year I made a King Cake, and again it is a version different from previous years. I seem to experiment with a new recipe each year instead of just going with what I did the previous year. One reason for the annual variation is because I like trying new things, and another is because of our evolving diet – from sugar and wheat and carbs to less or none of all three. The first cake was traditional, made with wheat flour, another was gluten free version but with sugar and not much nutritional value. A third version was a concoction of low carb sugar free cinnamony cakelettes, with a very sticky icing. This year it is an unholy cake, absent the traditional hole in the middle, as well as absent of sugar and wheat. I guess I could have made it holy, but then where would all the frosting go?!  I guess if you want to cut a hole in the middle you could, but I am not as holy as I used to be, so don’t miss the ring-ness of this cake. It looks very different from a traditional rolled cake, but I think it definitely carries the spirit of the original, and we can eat it without worry of allergic reactions or sugar buzzes. It was fun to make and everybody helped splatter the frosting, although the first batch of purple turned too gray to use. Try, try again I say. Now I wonder who will find the baby this year? Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Cake
1 cup finely chopped coconut
1 cup almond meal
6 eggs
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp Stevita
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp vanilla extract

Topping
1 cup raw pecans
1 cup raw walnuts
2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp Stevita
½ cup butter, melted
¼ tsp sea salt

Frosting
4 ounces cream cheese
3 ounces butter
1 Tbsp Stevita
Food coloring (green, yellow, purple – made with one part blue and three parts red)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor grind the coconut into very small pieces, about the same size as the almond meal. In a medium bowl combine coconut, almond meal, nutmeg, cinnamon, Stevita, salt and baking powder. Add eggs, whipping cream, vanilla and lime juice. When well combined, pour mixture into 9” round cake pan lined with parchment paper. In a food processor combine pecans, walnuts, cinnamon, Stevita, butter and salt. Pulse until combined and nuts are a uniform size. Drop the nut mixture by spoonfuls until mixture is covering most of cake batter in pan. If you want to give the impression of a hole in the middle, drop the spoonfuls so batter in the middle of the cake is not covered with nut mixture. Place in preheated oven and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until middle is firm and edges are pulling away from pan. When cake is cooled, flip out of baking dish onto cooling rack, removing parchment paper. Flip over again so cinnamon/nut filling is face up. In microwave safe dish warm the cream cheese and butter until softened, but not completely melted. Add sweetener and whisk together until smooth. Divide frosting into three separate bowls. Add yellow food coloring to one, green coloring to another, then 3 parts red and 1 part blue to the third to make purple. Add more coloring as desired so they are bright and a similar tone. With small spoons drop the frosting with a slashing motion until the top of the cake is covered with spatters. Store in the fridge until about an hour before serving, allowing it to soften and come to room temperature.

 

Chocolate Coconut No Bake Goodies

coconut treats 

When I was growing up my mom made what she called tangos – heat up sugar, chocolate, oatmeal and peanut butter in a pan, drop the hot stuff on wax paper, let it cool and you have instant treats. I have made them a lot myself – the chocolate and peanut butter with the chewiness of the oatmeal made for a great snack and had a richness that appeased the nibbling and snacking craving I get of an afternoon. I have been craving them lately and sought out a version that does not have sugar or oatmeal. I found what looked like a really close version with coconut. I relied on the traditional peanut butter instead of almond, and a few other tweaks, but the recipe made a great healthy snack for my family. Tall P really liked them to appease his sweet tooth cravings, too, but the guy that dips his strawberries in sugar said they were too sweet. Silly boy. Little B liked them so much she took them to her Valentine’s Day party to share with friends. Score!

Chocolate Coconut No Bake Goodies

3.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/3 cup coconut oil
2 Tbsp smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
2 Tbsp Stevita spoonable stevia
4 cups finely shredded coconut

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat combine the dark chocolate, butter and peanut butter. Cook until melted and thoroughly combine. Add the coconut milk, vanilla, salt, and sweetener and stir to combine. The heated mixture will thicken quickly, then needs to be taken off the heat. If it begins to separate it is okay, just keep stirring when off the heat. In a large bowl pour the chocolate mixture over the coconut. Stir to incorporate. Using a cookie scoop, scoop out the mixture onto a piece of parchment paper. Refrigerate until hardened.

Simple Chopped Cabbage Bake

baked cauliflourThe other day we had a busy stove top. Three of the four burners had things simmering or sauteing or boiling. I wanted to make cabbage, but the last, small burner was hidden among the pots and pans, willing to do the job, but just not roomy enough. I still wanted cabbage, so I looked around and spotted the oven. Of course! Usually I cook up cabbage on the stove top because the oven is busy, so I got a little chuckle about the reverse happening. Okay, so it is not funny, like a gag in a movie or a stand up comedian, but when I think of, say, Thanksgiving when four things need to be baked at once, including the turkey, there is always a wish to have a dish that can be done on the stove top. Okay, not actually chuckle worthy. It was so good I was surprised I had not thought of doing it sooner. Silly. Maybe it is silly. I will stop, because it actually does not matter. This dish is so simple I am not even doing an ingredients list.

Just take half a head of cabbage and chop it into one inch pieces. On a large cookie sheet toss the cabbage with 2 Tbsp of bacon grease or extra virgin olive oil (add some salt of you use olive oil). Tossing it is most effective with your hands. Place pan in unheated oven. Turn oven to 350 degrees. After about ten minutes toss the cabbage and bake for ten more. Some cabbage will be darker, beginning to caramelize, and the rest should be soft enough to eat. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Mac Bake

cauli mac bake

Our foster son Tall P makes really good cheesy scrambled eggs. Somehow he cooks the eggs just right and puts in just enough cheese right at the end to make it taste like baked macaroni and cheese. I won’t try to duplicate it, for it is something he does for us, so why try? He is the master! I had a hankering for them the other day when he was busy at school, so I decided to try a baked cauliflower version of mac n cheese. I think I found a great way to do a veggie version, although I bet he would not agree. I have to reveal here that Tall P is not a vegetable lover. He likes corn on the cob and vegetables in soup, and only if they are an unrecognizable puree added as a thickener and he does not know they were added. Yes, Paul, you now know the veggie soup secret! This dish was inspired by the cheesy eggs, created with cheesy veggies.  Go figure. It definitely appeased my craving for baked mac and cheese (not so much the Kraft version I grew up eating, but the baked stuff I discovered later in life). The dish was easy to prepare and bake, allowing me to time it perfectly with the smoked pork Big D made. Add some chimichurri to the pork and what a meal!

Cauliflower Mac Bake

1 large head cauliflower
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
1 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground mustard
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1/4 pound sharp white cheddar cheese, sliced into thin pieces
3 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop cauliflower head into bite-sized pieces, making sure stem pieces are a little smaller. Place white cheddar cheeses slices in the bottom of a 9×9 or 9-11 baking dish. Spread cauliflower evenly over cheese. In a medium bowl combine cream, eggs, garlic, salt, mustard and chile flakes. Whisk until well combined. Add cheese and stir until well coated. Pour cheese mixture over cauliflower, spreading it evenly. Make thin slices over butter and place them on top of cheese mixture. Place in preheated oven for 60 – 75 minutes. The thicker the cauliflower the longer the baking time to make sure the middle is baked soft. Remove from oven and let sit for five minutes before serving. Slice into six or nine pieces for side dishes – it should come out intact, but if it doesn’t, it will still taste awesome.

Chicken Faux Fried Rice

faux fried rice

Chopsticks are fun. Whenever there is bite-sized food I like using them. Little B likes using them, too, and is still working on mastering their use. I do use a bit of rolled paper and a rubber band to connect them on tip, then she can practice the squeezing and picking up of food, knowing that free range chop stick use is in her near future. I don’t eat rice anymore, which makes ordering in Chinese restaurants a little challenging, but I enjoy the flavors and textures of the dishes, including fried rice. As I continue to explore the many and varied uses of cauliflower, I did some research about using it instead of rice. In the end, using it as a rice substitute, especially in a fried rice type dish, is a lot faster than using traditional rice. The saute part of this one-dish wonder is just enough time to cook it and keep it at a firmness similar to rice. The cauliflower, combined with using gluten free soy sauce made it fun to make and eat. I’m thinking next time I will make a beef and broccoli concoction on top of some faux rice. I bet it will turn out great!

Chicken Faux Fried Rice

1 large head cauliflower
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground mustard
3/4 cup gluten free soy sauce
1 Tbsp coconut oil
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 medium white onion, finely chopped
1 stalk celery
3 eggs, whisked
2 cups mini portabello mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped
1 cup mixed vegetables (peas, corn, carrots), optional
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut chicken into small, bite-sized pieces. In a medium bowl place 1/2 cup soy sauce, ground mustard and ground ginger. Whisk together, then add half the mixture to the chicken, making sure it is coated. Place in refrigerator to marinate for about 30 minutes. Cut cauliflower into pieces small enough to fit in food processor. Fill processor with cauliflower and pulse until at least 3/4 of it is the size of rice grains – having some slightly larger pieces remaining is fine, for they will break down a bit during the cooking process. When all the cauliflower is chopped set it aside. Cut celery into rough pieces and pulse in processor until very fine, almost a paste. Pull the chicken from the fridge and separate the chicken from the marinade, discarding the liquid. Add the chicken to the pan and toss until cooked through, about five minutes for small pieces. In a large skillet or wok over medium high heat add the coconut oil. When hot add the celery, garlic and onion. Toss in the oil until it all begins to brown. Add the cauliflower to the pan, turning up the heat slightly to make sure the cauliflower sears. Toss the whole mixture every minute for five minutes. Add mixed vegetables if you are including them. In a bowl stir together the egg and remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce. Make a ‘bowl’ in the middle of the skillet/wok, all the way to the bottom. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet and let it cook for a few seconds. Start stirring it with the chicken and cauliflower mixture until it is all coated. Continue tossing the pan contents until the egg is no longer runny. Add the spinach and toss, letting everything cook for another minute until the spinach starts to wilt. Serve immediately with salt, pepper and more soy sauce as desired.

 

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