Sunday, April 28, 2013

Leftover Power: Eggs Simmered in Tomato Sauce

Yes, I overcooked my eggs by a small amount! Please don't judge...too harshly.

After creating Mexican Casserole with diced tomatoes, I tried a variation with tomato sauce. I purposefully kept some of the sauce to the side to see if I could do something interesting with the leftovers.

I have to admit this isn't quite a full recipe yet. I used leftovers because I wasn't convinced that going to all the trouble of creating tomato sauce just to cook some eggs in would be worth the time. Read on to uncover my verdict.

One recipe that I had never tried before was eggs baked in tomato sauce. I cooked my in the skillet since I was just cooking for one. Since I couldn't stir the sauce while the eggs were cooking, the eggs of the sauce did get a little brown. Maybe I had the heat a little too high?

This was still a great meal! I had previously thought that eggs and tomatoes would not really go to together. Turns out, all those recipes for eggs and tomato sauce that I have seen in tons of cookbooks are there for a reason.

My tomato sauce had lots of onions and garlic. The other vegetables were jalapeno, bell pepper, corn, and black beans. I spiced this version with smoked paprika and cumin.

I put the sauce in a small non-stick skillet, heated it up over medium until bubbling, stirring occasionally. Once bubbling, I cracked two eggs over the top and placed a lid on the pan. I have no idea how long the eggs cooked. I cooked them until they looked how I like them. For someone who has tried again and again to poach eggs unsuccessfully, this technique is a great alternative to poaching.

This is what I started with.

If you feel like you need some proportions or would like to see some recipes, here are a few that I found that I thought looked yummy:

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Mexican Casserole

What to do with all those leftover corn tortillas?

This was a serious topic of conversation between Z. and I recently. Our corn tortillas come in a package of 72 because it's the best deal. We used to divide the package and individually freeze portions of six tortillas. Once they are reheated for fajitas, they are rather dry and fall apart easily. We are no longer inclined to freezing our tortillas; we need a new solution where semi-stale tortillas no longer matter (I knew I had you at "semi-stale").

I certainly enjoy my Tortilla Strips (which I enjoy the most on their own as a warm, salt snack) but I am looking for something that we could have for dinner. My version of Mexican Casserole is my first attempt at getting creative with corn tortillas. Z. and I love this meal! I already have one variation under my belt and have more planned as more spring produce comes into season.

This meal was great! Z. and I each had a huge dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day. With this first attempt, I wanted to see how innovative I could be with some Cheap not Frugal Eats staples. Enjoy!

Mexican Casserole

by Ace Nation
Keywords: entree vegetarian tortilla vegetables Mexican
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced finely
  • 1 can corn, drained and rinsed (or 2 cups frozen corn, thawed)
  • 1 can beans (red, black, pinto, or a combination), drained and rinsed (or 1 1/2 cups precooked dried beans)
  • 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds or ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 tomato-chicken bouillon cube, if desired
  • 6-8 corn tortillas
  • 1/4-1/2 cup shredded cheese
For the filling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut tortillas in half. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and spray each side with non-stick cooking spray. Toast until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large high-sided skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat.
Add onion, cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to develop some color, 8-10 minutes.
Add garlic and cumin to the pan, cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is cooked through, about 5 minutes.
Add cumin, chili powder, and smoked paprika to the pan. Toast about 1 minute.
Add corn, beans, diced tomatoes, and bouillon cube to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all ingredients are heated through, 5-8 minutes.
To assemble and complete
Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. I used my 6-cup glass Pyrex dish.
Spoon about 1/2 cup of the vegetable and tomato mixture into the bottom of the dish and spread evenly.
Layer tortillas over the mixture. You can have a single layer of tortillas and there might be filling exposed or you can overlap tortillas to create a more dense dish.
Spoon another layer of vegetables over the tortillas, enough so that the tortillas are covered by a thin layer, and spread evenly.
Continue the tortilla and vegetable mixture layers until the vegetables are gone.
Spread the cheese evenly over the top layer. Bake 10-15 minutes, until the whole dish is heated through.
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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Recent Meals and Experiments

My work schedule has changed in the last few months. I am working later into the evening or have a short break between jobs then go back to work. Z. and I mix up having dinner together when I finally get home or I cook a quick meal for myself before leaving. Fajitas are a staple. I use whatever vegetables are in my fridge. The picture above shows an experiment: onion, corn, black beans, corn, acorn squash, cauliflower, thinly sliced brussel sprouts, radish, and fresh green beans.

Then, the leftover corn and black beans become a marinated salad for my lunch the next day. Imagine my Marinated Chickpea Salad with corn and black beans. I love Trader Joe's white balsamic vinegar with corn and black beans. It's bright, light, and makes a great vinaigrette.

Z. suggested I try adding edamame. I really enjoyed this variation: onion, corn, black beans, bell peppers - red and green, and edamame. What other fajita variations do you enjoy? 

I love how my soba noodle salad looks but I haven't quite gotten the dressing right. I tried an orange-miso vinaigrette. I enjoyed the orange with the noodles and the vegetables but I think it was too much for the miso. Soba noodles are one those pantry essentials that make for quick meals for Z. and myself.

Even though I didn't make this last meal I want to share, I had to brag.  Z. was the chef and I had the privilege of cutting the carrots and asparagus for his Asparagus Risotto. Z. makes amazing risotto. There's no cream and no butter but the risotto is still rich and creamy. Maybe someday he will let me share his secrets.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Bessara or Middle Eastern Split Pea Soup

I can’t tell you how many times I have stared at the bins of split peas longingly in my favorite bulk sections. They are easily stored and a great bargain for the nutrition they provide. I just didn’t have any recipes.

The first time, I bought split peas, I tried cooking a couple of cups in my slow cooker. I had no idea how to season them. I ended up with a crock-pot full of mushy, tasteless peas. Needless to say, those didn’t stick around. That was the end of my split pea buying sprees.

Now, my cupboards and shelves of are full of different varieties of legumes and peas. Z. and I enjoy red lentils, mung dal, and yellow split peas, just to name a few. I decided to take the plunge with green split peas. I bought a pound, figuring I would be more inclined to figure out something tasty to do with these things if I owned them.

I don’t like ham unless it’s cured and has an Italian name so traditional split pea soup is out of the question. I did a little more research and discovered bessara. 

Here are the reasons why you should try my variation of bessara:
  • It tastes great! The earthy peas are balanced by smoky paprika and fragrant cumin.
  • This isn’t a heavy, gloppy soup despite. I find the bessara has a pleasant, silky texture.
  • It’s easy to make. I cook and create a lot of fussy recipes. This is not one of them.

Bessara or Middle Eastern Green Split Pea Soup

by Ace Nation
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for garnish
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Serrano chile, seeds removed and minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, plus more for garnish
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • 8-10 cups broth, stock, water, or a combination
Heat oil over medium heat.
Add onion, cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.
Add garlic and Serrano, cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is cooked, about 5 minutes.
Add cumin and smoked paprika. Toast about 1 minute.
Add broth/water and split peas. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until peas are tender and falling apart.
The soup may served as is. If you would like a smoother soup, carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender or a stand-up blender. If soup is too thick, add a small amount of water or broth, about 1/8 cup at a time, until soup is desired consistency.
Serve soup garnished with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkled with smoked paprika.
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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Recipe Review: Breakfast Cookies

Source: Kumquat

Just take a look at these cookies. They can be as inexpensive or luxurious as you want, breakfast cookies are delicious either way. Gretchen's recipe over at Kumquat uses flax meal, pecans, and dried blueberries. Delicious ingredients, just not in my pantry. So I made the breakfast cookies just with the following:

Z. doesn't care for bananas. Let me put that more accurately: my wonderful boyfriend won't knowingly try anything that has bananas in it. So I substituted apple sauce, about 1/4 cup, maybe more, maybe less. I used just enough to bind the ingredients together. A wetter, gloppier mixture did not result in a better cookie. After making three batches of these, I tried a few different ratios.

Since this household  has become breakfast cookie connoisseurs, we suggest you do not try getting fancy with the seasonings. Just use salt and vanilla. I thought I was being clever (mostly feeling sorry for myself that I didn't have all the yummy-sounding ingredients) and added cinnamon. I love cinnamon with my oats! Just because cinnamon and coconut may grow in the same parts of the world, does not mean they are meant to go together in a recipe. Lesson learned. Enjoy these cookies as they were meant to be: simple.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Eggs, Part 3: Scramble Variations

I have tried many variations of scrambles, using what is fresh in my refrigerator. Some versions have been more successful than others. For instance, turnip is delicious in stir-fry but not so great in a scramble. Butternut squash is another veggie I wouldn't suggest.

In Eggs, Part 2: Scramble, I promised that I would reveal my favorite scramble ingredient. Fresh green beans have become one of my favorite scramble ingredients. There is just something between the fresh, crispness of the green bean that goes really well with the flavor of eggs.

Here are a few variations I have made:

A take on my standard with the addition of kale.

Green scramble: onion, green beans, and spinach

Truly using what is in the refrigerator: onion, peppers, green beans, acorn squash, radish

Onion, green bean, and broccoli
What are your favorite variations of the scramble or omelet?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Eggs, Part 2: Scramble

Scramble or omelet. Call it what you may. When I'm being dainty, I have the correct vegetable to egg ratio to keep the eggs together. The rest of the time, I have too much stuff in the pan and I end up with a scramble.

There is still a possibility of an omelet!
The omelet holds a dear place in my heart. It was the first dish I ever learned how to cook and my daddy taught it to me. My favorite version (and the recipe I have included) is still pretty similar to those first omelets I learned how to make.

I hate slimy eggs so I cook both sides. Guess I will just enjoy a scramble.
Scrambles have become a favorite dinner. Z. and I are the masters of meals that take an hour so to cook, so I appreciate this meal for its quick cooking time. What takes the most time is cutting vegetables and cooking the onions. Chopping vegetables is meditation for me, so I don't mind that part. Onions take awhile to cook, about 10 minutes just to get translucent onions on medium-low to medium heat. If you want a really quick meal, don't add onions. In this one instance, my feelings won't be hurt.

I have so many different variations of the scramble to share with you that I am going to give the scramble variations their very own post. Check back to see what my favorite ingredient is in a scramble. You just might be surprised!

Ace's Favorite Scramble

by Ace Nation
Ingredients (serves 1)
  • 1-2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup crimini mushrooms, stems included, diced
  • 1/4 cup summer squash (yellow squash or zucchini), chopped
  • 1/2 cup peppers, such as bell pepper or Italian sweet peppers, seeds removed and diced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-2 teaspoons milk or 1/2 & 1/2
  • 3-4 fresh basil leaves, if available, torn into pieces
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
In a bowl, beat the eggs and milk or 1/2 & 1/2. Season with salt, pepper, and basil if using. Set aside.
In a non-stick skillet, heat oil over medium heat.
Add onion and garlic, stirring occasionally, cook until onion becomes translucent, 5-7 minutes.
Add remaining vegetables, stirring occasionally, cook until peppers are tender, about 5 minutes.
Add egg mixture to pan. Very gently, stir when the eggs have begun to set up. Cook until eggs are desired consistency. Serve immediately.
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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Eggs, Part 1: Provencal-Inspired Veggie and Egg Gratin


Eggs require little introduction. Eggs are an essential in the cheap household's refrigerator. They taste great, are versatile, and reasonably cheap (when on sale). I eat eggs probably twice a week, if not more. Fried eggs make a quick breakfast, scrambles or omelets are a favorite dinner, and a baked egg dish, like the following provides a nice variation.

My version is adapted from a recipe I found in Martha Rose Shulman's Mediterranean Harvest. I'm going to invent a word: cheapskating. Omitting the cheese is my first step in cheapskating a recipe.It means doing something that takes away pleasure from your life in order to save some money. I also changed the recipe by including some of my favorite vegetables like kale, Italian sweet peppers, and summer squash. Don't forget the bread crumbs! I've heard buttery bread crumbs referred to as the poor (wo)man's Parmesan. I would have to agree. Enjoy!

Provencale-Inspired Veggie and Egg Gratin

by Ace Nation
Keywords: entree vegetarian eggs vegetables
Ingredients (serves 2-4)
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
  • 2 cups kale, chopped
  • 2 Italian sweet peppers, seeds removed, chopped or 1/2 cup red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup summer squash, such as zucchini or yellow squash, diced
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup cooked white rice
  • 1/4 chopped parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside. I use a 6 cup Pyrex baking dish.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter, if desired, in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add onion and garlic to the pan, stirring occasionally, cook until onion begins to soften, about 5-7 minutes.
Add kale, peppers, and summer squash. Stirring occasionally, cook until kale is wilted, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Season with black pepper and kosher salt. Add cooled vegetables, rice, and milk. Mix until combined.
Pour into prepared baking dish.
To make the bread crumbs, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When warm, add the breadcrumbs, season with salt and pepper, and toast until lightly golden, about 2 minutes.
Evenly spread the bread crumbs over the top of the egg and vegetable mixture.
Bake gratin between 30-45 minutes. To make sure the gratin is completely cooked, a knife inserted into the middle should come out clean but the center should still be rather soft. Let cool about 5 minutes before serving.
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