Packaged Seasonings

I feel like Hamburger Helper gets a bad rep. I’ve been giving it some thought since it’s a lot of what we’ve been eating the past couple weeks – that and the Campbell’s skillet dinners things. They’re high-sodium, but instant dinner, just add protein is pretty awesome. The seasonings are all there, so no futzing or thinking, just cook your protein and, if you’re ambitious, throw in some frozen veggies.

Generally, if you’re including frozen veggies, you want to add them five-ish minutes before you take whatever it is off heat. Peas and carrots go well in pretty much everything, and they actually sell bags of mixed peas and sliced carrots to make acquiring vegetables even easier. I’m fond of the mix, because it takes even more thinking out of dinner.

Thinking is for research papers, convenience is for dinner.

Peanut Chicken

Ingredients:

  • soy sauce
  • lime juice
  • ginger
  • garlic
  • chili
  • brown sugar
  • water
  • chicken
  • peanut butter

So, step one of this is a sealable plastic bag. You stick in a fair amount of soy sauce, double that of lime juice, chili powder or paste, either fresh or ground ginger, whatever you have on hand, minced or powdered garlic, and brown sugar. Squish that together until it’s some better value of mixed.

Skip my next step, which was checking on a different thing and spilling half the marinade and swearing and then adding stuff again.

Add a whole bunch of chicken! I added something like five boneless skinless thighs. Add whatever fits comfortably, then add some water on top of that so everything’s comfortably covered but the marinade is still dark and concentrated. Seal it up and stick it somewhere to marinate – I threw it in the freezer because there are a bunch of leftovers in the fridge currently.

When you’re ready to make it, cut the chicken into a saucepan with your kitchen shears and let that cook on medium for a couple minutes while you set up your rice cooker. I was making enough for dinner for both of us plus lunch for a week, so I used a cup and a half of rice with three cups of water.

Add the rest of the marinade to the chicken, plus a couple great big spoonfuls of peanut butter. Like, a lot of peanut butter. Let that simmer until it’s all combined and the chicken is done, adding more chili to taste. Serve over rice!

Butterscotch Fudge

IMG_1157 Fudge continues to be one of my go-tos when I’m stressed or want to take food to when I’m asking people to do things. This is wonderfully simple, too.

Ingredients:

  • 24oz bag of butterscotch flavored chips
  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • salt

Optional:

  • vanilla
  • powdered sugar
  • mini marshmallows

Put your whole bag of chips and both your cans of sweetened condensed milk on the stove on low. If you are very fancy, you can use a double boiler. Sprinkle a little bit of salt on top, because salt makes all sweets better. Let that go for a while.

Get out a 9×13 pan and line it with parchment paper – it makes for way easier extraction and cleanup.

When the stuff on the stove starts to get melty, stir it, making sure to get the stuff at the bottom. No one likes charred sugar bits. Or maybe you do, I don’t judge. But when it’s all melted and smooth, remove from heat. If you want, this is when you’d add a little bit of vanilla and mix it in. The powdered sugar is more for texture than taste. This stuff ends up pretty soft out of the freezer, but beating in powdered sugar means it’ll be stiffer on its own as soon as it’s cooled. It does need to be beaten, though, either with a whisk and a great deal of enthusiasm or a mixer.

Then pour the fudge in your pan! Spread it out so it’s all more or less level. If marshmallows are your thing, this is when you’d drop them on top. If you have ended up with sugar bits or small pockets of powdered sugar that weren’t quite integrated, marshmallows on top are a way to pretend you totally meant it to have a non-uniform texture.

Stick the whole pan in the freezer for a couple hours, then take it out, lift the whole slab of fudge out on the parchment paper, and cut it into bits. Running the knife under hot water before you cut will make it easier, but either way, it makes tons, and stores well in the freezer.

‘Omelette’ for a given value thereof

IMG_1074Did you know that you can buy completely precooked bacon and not deal with the problem of discarding bacon grease ever again? Yes. It is, indeed, a thing one can do.

For when one is perpetually out of bagels, this is useful information. This is also prepared with my own preferences in mind: I can’t abide runny egg white, but I love when the yolk is still gooey.

Ingredients:

  • bacon
  • shredded cheese
  • egg

Crack a couple eggs in a nonstick pan that is over medium heat. Go stare at your caffeinated beverage of choice to try to make it ready faster. When the eggs are showing completely white on the bottom and starting to firm up a bit, put your bacon and cheese and chives or veggies or whatever if you want them in the middle.

Use a flat spatula to flip part of the eggs over so the fillings are contained in egg. If you do it softly, you won’t break the yolk. Cook it another couple minutes to let cook through, and serve. Feeds one.

It is vaguely omelette-like! Not necessarily as pretty, but it is delicious eggs that taste like bacon, so who cares?

Pasta Alla Puttanesca

This whole thing is really densely flavorful without being heavy, which is awesome.

Ingredients:

  • pasta
  • water
  • olive oil
  • minced garlicĀ *
  • sundried tomatoes (a whole bag of the ones you can find in the produce section as, like, salad toppers)
  • can of black olives – preferably sliced into rings
  • capers

I had E doing all the slicing of the sundried tomatoes while I did other stuff, but if you don’t have an assistant, probably do that first.

Start the pasta water!

Start heating some olive oil in a large skillet on medium – I had some leftover sausage grease, but not quite enough. Add minced garlic and let that go for a minute or two while you do other complicated things like getting the goddamn caper jar open and opening and draining the can of olives. Add the capers! You want them in first because the goal for them is ‘crispy.’ Which, whatever, who cares if they actually get there? It’s delicious anyway.

The pasta water should go off at some point, so add your pasta to that.

After you add the pasta to the water, add the olives and sundried tomatoes to your skillet. Add some more olive oil if you need it: you don’t want it, like, dripping oil, but oil is the transfer medium to make everything taste like everything else and also transfer flavor to the pasta, so definitely make sure it’s some kind of liquid presence.

When the pasta is al dente, add to the sauce and serve.

*I am not even going to pretend that my garlic comes from anywhere but a jar. Yours should, too, if you cook more than once a week, because it reduces a ton of effort and makes it easy to add flavor.