Entries Tagged 'Cooking' ↓

Egg? Rolls

For the better part of two decades we have enjoyed a food referred to as ‘egg rolls’. We get them as a side when we buy a oriental dinner. Comes with the take out just like the fortune cookie.

Turns out that what they call ‘egg roll’ is actually just a deep fried cabbage roll. We have discovered that you can make your own without too much effort.

All it takes is cabbage, spices, some canola oil, a large frying pan and soft flour tortillas.

Start by cutting the cabbage in half through the core stalk. Then cut the cabbage off the stalk a bit at at time until you have a pile of shredded cabbage.

Pour a little oil into the large frying pan and bring up to temperature on low heat. Drop the shredded cabbage into the pan. Fill it all the way to the top and more. It will look like a lost cause but the cabbage cooks down considerably. Put a lid on the pan while it is cooking.

Add salt and pepper. Maybe some chili powder, cumin, sage, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, curry powder and anything else you think might make it taste better. Or just do the salt and pepper. Once cooked the cabbage taste pretty well overpowers all other seasoning anyway.

Let the cabbage cook for about ten minutes or so, then turn it. Use a spatula to bring the oil soaked cooked cabbage up to the top and let the uncooked cabbage contact the hot frying pans surface. It should take about twenty minutes or less to cook the cabbage. Do not let it scorch or burn. Let is simmer on low or medium heat. When the cabbage is no longer crunchy, it is done.

After the cabbage is cooked transfer it to a convenient container and let it cool. It is easier to make these rolls with cabbage that is cool.

Clean the frying pan and add fresh cannola oil to the pan to a depth of about 1/8 inch or less. Let the oil heat with the burner adjusted to medium heat. While the oil is heating, take a tortilla round and load about three tablespoonfuls of cooked cabbage onto the tortilla. Bring up one edge of the tortilla to capture the cabbage and roll it as you might a cigar or cigarette. Push in the ends of the tortilla to keep the cabbage from falling out. Insert a tooth pick to keep the roll from unrolling. Place the roll into the pan of hot oil.

If the oil is hot enough the roll will bubble in the oil and start to cook. Watch it carefully. We are looking for a golden or dark golden brown, not charcoal black. If it burns to black, throw it out and start over.

Carefully turn the roll so that it can cook fairly evenly all the way around. Once it is a golden brown, remove it from the pan and let it cool on a plate.

If you have a deep fat fryer, use it. We have a deep fat fryer too but we prefer to cook this in a pan with a thin layer of oil because we do not want to use all the oil needed by the deep fryer.

One 10 inch tortilla makes a ten inch long roll. That is about twice the length of what we get at the take out so we cut it in half. If you do cut it in half, wait until it is fully cool or the cabbage might fall out.

A hot cabbage roll seems to taste better than a cold one. You can reheat it in a microwave. Just set the microwave on high and timer for 30 seconds. If that does not get it hot enough, do it again for another 30 seconds.

Or you can go to the oriental take out and buy them ready made. The last time I checked they were asking a buck each for ‘egg rolls’. If you need more than a couple, you could save some coin by making them yourself.

Tasty Vegetables

We should eat more fruit and vegetables, so say the nutritionists.
We probably would eat more fruit and vegetables if they were prepared in a tasty way. Fruit is usually not a problem, but vegetables need help.

This vegetable salad has a sweet sour taste that is fresh and clean and very easy to make.

Start with a quarter cup of vinegar in a large bowl. Add three tablespoons of Splenda or sugar, a teaspoon of salt, and a teaspoon of pepper. Mix using a whisk.

Add three tablespoons of olive oil or salad oil and whisk the mixture until it is well combined. The oil is optional. You can leave it out without effecting the taste all that much.

Add a can or corn, a can of peas, a finely chopped onion, half a bell pepper (chopped), A finely chopped tomato, and a can of green beans. Mix everything with a spatula. Set aside in a refrigerator for an hour or two before serving.

Makes about 8 servings.

Most of the vegetables used here are soft vegetables. No carrots, turnips, or radishes. There is no reason why those other vegetables could not be used if you like them. Other possibilities are mushrooms, olives, squash, cherry tomatoes, lettuce, and cabbage. The lettuce and cabbage should be shredded fine to mix better with the other vegetables.

You can also spice it up a bit by adding red pepper, chili powder, and other spices. The additional spices should be added to the dressing before adding the vegetables. That way the spices get more evenly distributed.

Fish Dish

If you like fish, you might like this dish. It is a very economical talapia and vegetable dish. Fish, potato, and carrots all garnished with dill and garlic. Lots of garlic.

I used to think that talapia fillets were super thin. I guess the ones I bought were. Recently we bought some talapia loins at sam’s. These were about half an inch thick. More like the whitefish I like at a talapia price.

The prices were good on carrots and potatoes too. Dill is an herb and you are going to be out two or more bucks for a bit of dill. We splurged and got on the those large containers of dill.

The vegetables are baked. Line a pan with aluminum foil. Drizzle in some oil to cover the bottom of the foil. Cannola is fine. Olive is better. Slice up some garlic cloves. I know everyone says to crush them. I find slicing them thin works too. Peel one large russet potato and cut in half lengthwise. Cut one half in half lengthwise again and cut quarter inch thick slices from it. Save the other half of the potato for some other time.

Peel some carrots. Four medium sized carrots will do. Cut them into sections about two inches long. If the carrots are bigger than an inch in diameter cut them in half lengthwise.

Now put all the vegetables in the pan. You should have as many carrots as potatoes. Cover the vegetables with the thinly sliced garlic. Sprinkle everything with dill and bake in the oven at 350 degrees F for half an hour. Cover the pan with aluminum foil.

Pour a small quantity of oil into a large skillet and heat it on low. Add some thinly sliced garlic to the oil and let it heat until the garlic starts to fry. Now add the fish. Give it about five minutes per side and cook it with a lid on the skillet. Season the fish lightly with salt and pepper. Both sides. When the fish is turned over in the skillet sprinkle it with dill. One side only.

The fish could have been baked along with the vegetables. The only problem is that the vegetables need thirty minutes and the fish only takes ten minutes. I don’t care for over cooked food.

Fish and vegetables are quick and easy to fix. Everything tastes better with dill on it. This recipe serves two. Cost is about three dollars a serving and the food is every bit as good as what you would expect at a fancy thirty dollar a plate dinner.

Pizza Dough

I have always been partial to thin and crisp when it comes to pizza crust. This weekend I added about six tablespoons of olive oil to the dough. The result was a much finer and smoother texture. More like cake dough and much more suitable for thick crust pizza than the usual thin crust we have made in the past.

A couple of loaves of bread were made from the excess dough. They seemed softer and more like cake too.

Rice and Pork

We normally have pork chops with mashed potatoes and a green vegetable. This weekend I discovered a new way to prepare the dish using rice.

Although we say pork chops we are actually using medalions of pork loin. There is nothing magic about pork. You could just as easily substitute beef loin or chicken breasts without changing anything else. I bet it would even work with thicker fillets of fish.

The meat is first fried in a skillet. Set the burners to low, add a little canola oil, roasted and mashed garlic, let it come up to temperature, then add the meat. The meat should be cut into sections approximately half an inch thick. In the case of chicken breasts, use them as is.

While the meat is browning, open a can of Campbell’s condensed mushroom soup. Empty the can into a small sauce pan and add one can of water. Mix thoroughly. No need to heat we just want the condensed soup to be more of a sauce so that it will not burn when added to the meat in the skillet.

Check the meat and brown on both sides. Remove the meat from the skillet and add the mushroom soup to the skillet. Stir to reclaim all the browning drippings from the meat. Combine them with the mushroom soup to form a light brown gravy.

Notice we have not added any seasoning. There is plenty of salt in the mushroom soup. No need to add anything.

Cut the meat into half inch wide strips. Then cut the strips into half inch square chunks. Add the meat back into the sauce in the skillet and let it simmer for an hour or two on low heat. Stir every so often to make sure the mixture does not stick to the bottom of the skillet and burn.

The rice can be prepared normally with water. We use plain rice and avoid the instant stuff. Use about two to three cups of water per cup of rice. You can also use chicken broth in place of water. We make our own chicken broth and store it in the refrigerator in salvaged Prego jars. The chicken broth already contains seasonings. Salt, pepper, sage, and rosemary are added to the chicken carcass as it is boiled to make the broth. One chicken makes three to four jars of broth. One jar of broth is enough to cook one cup of dry rice.

Bring the water or broth to a boil in a large saucepan. Pour in the cup of dry rice and stir. Keep the burner on high for a few minutes and let the rice and liquid boil. As the rice cooks it will swell and absorb the liquid. When it appears that is what is happening, turn the burner to low and put a lid on the pan. Let it sit and steam. Check on it periodically to make sure it is not burning. The idea is for the rice to absorb all the liquid so that at the end we have very little liquid in the pan. If there is too much liquid, turn up the heat and boil it off but be careful not to scorch the rice. Scorched rice has a very bad taste even if it has been carefully seasoned.

Serve the meal in a medium sized bowl. Three to four large spoonfuls of rice followed by three large spoonfuls of meat and gravy.

It should be obvious that this is a very versatile dish. In place of the rice, you could use mashed potatoes, or noodles. In place of the meat you could use fish or shrimp. I have not tried this using canned tuna or salmon but I bet it would work that way too.

Store Brands

Certain grocery items can be purchased as store brands. For instance, in the case of a can of peas, the store brand may have Kroger on the label instead of Libby’s.

Store brands are generally less expensive offering five to ten percent savings. Unfortunately, when you open that can of peas, you may discover what was done to offer you the savings over the brand name.

If the item is to be used as an ingredient in a recipe and is just one of many with most of the many being herbs and spices which are mainly responsible for the ultimate flavor of the dish, you may never realize that a store brand was used.

If, however, the store brand item is it, meaning it is the dish itself, there may be greater potential for disappointment.

Some store brand items that have been disappointing have been mustard, pre-cooked sausage patties, some condensed soups, and canned vegetables.

The store brand mustard was thinner, more acidic, and had a funny taste when compared to French’s.

The store brand sausage patties had more fat content and a decidedly gamey taste when compared to Jimmy Dean patties.

The store brand condensed mushroom soup did not seem to be as condensed as the Campbell brand.

Lastly, the store brand canned peas were decidedly inferior to LeSueur brand peas. That may be an unfair comparison. LeSueur peas are the caviar of canned vegetables.

Shrimp Sauce

I have been putting off posting this because I don’t have the pictures ready yet, but this stuff is so good I decided not to wait any longer.

First off, you have to like shrimp. If not, forget it.

The sauce is thick and full of shrimp, both whole and cut up. It is intended to be used as a topping for noodles but works on rice too.

Start off by cooking up some shrimp. I buy a big bag of 30-40 medium sized raw, in the shell, shrimp. They have been de-vained and cleaned but are still in the shell. Dump them all into a big pot of boiling water. No need to thaw. Let them cook until they turn pink. Don’t over cook.

Pour off the water and save it. Strain the water to remove any shells and other unwanted debris. Then save the water and use it to cook rice or noodles. You will be surpised at how shrimpy the rice and noodles taste when they are cooked in shrimp water.

In a large sauce pan, prepare the soup stock for the sauce. One can of condensed mushroom soup, two cans of water, half an onion (diced), and six to twelve garlic cloves, fresh and minced or finely diced. Stir well to mix all that stuff together and let it simmer while the shrimp are shelled.

Shell the shrimp. There should be about three to four dozen shrimp. Take half the shrimp and cut them into smaller pieces and add them to the sauce. Add the rest of the shrimp later but leave them whole.

Season the sauce with salt for taste, pepper, and basil (if you like it). Add some more water if the sauce is too thick. You don’t want the sauce to stick and burn, so add water if needed. Simmer the sauce on low to medium heat for a one to two hours or until the onion and garlic is cooked into the sauce.

If the sauce is too thin at the end, add some flour to thicken it. Don’t just dump in the flour. Mix a tablespoon of flour at a time in a cup with water. Then add the mixture to the sauce. The sauce should be hot and close to the boiling point as you add the flour. The heat will cook the flour and thicken the sauce. Mixing the flour with water before adding prevents clumping.

This recipe makes enough sauce for four to six generous servings. Use it immediately or pour it off into jars for later use. I find that two salvaged Prego jars are enough to hold and save one recipe.

Philly Cheese Steak

I have never been to Pennsylvania to have a cheese steak, so I cannot comment on how good they are. I have had the IHOP style of cheese steak sandwich and I have to admit it is very good.

Not being one to eat out on a regular basis I decided to see if I could duplicate the IHOP sandwich.

I started off by baking some bread. I needed a couple of fairly soft rolls formed into submarine sandwich buns. The trick to making them soft is to bake them at high heat (400 degrees F) for a short amount of time. Just long enough to get them done. Stick them with a toothpick or fork to check doneness. If the toothpick or fork comes out without dough sticking to it, the baking is done. Also, I found that using two packets of yeast makes for a lighter dough. More bubbles in the mixture and it rises faster and farther. Use a couple of tablespoons of sugar when blooming the yeast in warm water. Let it bloom until it has a well established head before adding flour. The sugar allows the yeast to make alcohol and adds flavor to the bread.

Once cool, split the bun lengthwise and dig out shallow troughs in both halves. Butter both halves and broil them in the oven, buttered side up to get just barely toasty. I like to use a mixture of olive oil and roasted garlic instead of butter. The roasted garlic is homemade, and mashed to a paste before it is mixed with the oil. I like lots of roasted garlic. Your tastes might differ.

Keep an eye on the toasting buns. You want them just barely toasted. Golden brown is too dark. We are looking for a golden yellow.

Now sautee some onion in a skillet. The sandwich is just fine without the onion but if you like onion this is how to do it. Sautee in butter or oil until the onion is soft. We are not making onion rings here. Just soften so they won’t fall out of the sandwich. Onion cut into rings is fine. I like white onion but red onion works fine too. Pile the onion into both troughs in both halves of the bun but leave enough room for the steak.

You don’t need to use steak to make this sandwich. Good quality roasting meat will also work. Once the meat is roasted to your liking, cut it into thin strips (like you might get on an Arby’s sandwich) and pile it onto the bun. The thinner you can cut the meat, the lesser quality of meat you can use, while still making it edible. Brisket is a little greasy, but flank steak and roast work well. Of course there is nothing preventing you from using real steak.

Now pile the meat into both troughs of both halves of one bun. Use at least enough to fill the troughs. It does not have to look like an overstuffed Quiznos as shown on the TV ad.

Slice some swiss cheese into strips that are as wide as the bun. Lay these strips onto the meat on one of the bun halves. A single layer of cheese is fine. Use more if you like cheese or are shy on the meat.

Put the two bun halves together, put on a microwave safe plate, and set it in a microwave. Microwave on high for about one minute. Maybe less. We do not want to toast the cheese or have it melt to the point of running down the sides. We just want the cheese to melt and glue the two bun halves together.

Steak sauce can be added as a side. This sandwich is consumed with knife and fork as though it were a real steak. You may find it is too good to doctor with steak sauce.

The IHOP version I had came with a side of home fried potatoes. You can make home fried potatoes very easily at home. Cut a large (or small) potato into strips about one-quarter inch thick, one inch wide and three inches long. cover the bottom of a baking pan with a thin layer of oil (cannola or olive) and add the potato strips. Move the strips around so each has a full coating of oil. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are half way cooked. Leave the oven at 350 but shift it to broil and let the potatoes cook for another 15 minutes or until they turn a light golden brown. No need to turn them over to broil the bottom side. They will be sufficiently brown all over if they are done. These are not french fries, so don’t try to turn them into fries. Light golden brown is fine. If they end up crunchy, they are overcooked. Remove from oven and lightly salt.

Spaghetti Sauce

We used to use Prego or Ragu. Now we use tomato paste. Why? Because a can of tomato paste costs about 20 cents while a jar of Prego or Ragu is more that 2 dollars.

You save about 1.50 per jar. Say you have spaghetti or pizza once a week and use one jar of sauce a week. Fifty-two weeks in a year times 1.50 is $78.00 saved over a years time. Not much right? Okay, then send me a check for that amount and see if you miss it.
The savings is not the only reason to make your own sauce. If we make it ourselves, we can control the amount of salt in the sauce.

The actual cost of turning a can of tomato paste into a jar of spaghetti sauce is a little more than 20 cents. You have to add basil, onion, garlic, and sugar or splenda. The actual amounts as follows.

One can of tomato paste

Three cans of water.

Two healthy pinches of basil

Two healthy pinches of minced garlic

Two table spoons sugar or splenda

One quarter medium sized onion minced.

Heat in a sauce pan after all has been added and combined. Heat it at a simmer until the onion cooks into the sauce. Add some chopped green bell pepper at the end for taste. Same for pepper, and other seasonings you might consider appropriate.
Takes about an hour or two to finish cooking. Then let cool and pour into an empty Prego or Ragu jar. Refrigerate.

Potato Chips

pchips05.jpg

Want to make some potato chips? I guess the million dollar question is why? So much easier to buy them. True, but if you don’t want or can’t go to the store right now, here is a way to get your chips without leaving the house.

Of course you will need to already have at least one potato and some cooking oil. Might help to have a deep fat fryer too.

I first hit upon this idea while peeling some potatoes. The potato peeler I use is a popular one. It cuts very thin slices. Thin slices prefect for making crispy potato chips.

pchips011.jpg

Pictured here is one potato reduced to chips with the potato peeler.

pchips021.jpg

Cook them a few at a time. I put enough in to just cover the bottom of the basket.

pchips03.jpg

Bubbling away as they cook. Don’t leave them unattended. Takes about 3 mins or so to get them crispy. Stir them with a fork or spoon while they are frying to keep them from sticking together .

I used one potato. Took three batches to cook the entire potato.

Doneness was judged by color. Black is crispy too but golden brown tastes better. They stay white for a long time before turning brown, but when they turn, they do so very quickly and need to be removed from the oil immediately.

I don’t use a thermometer. I don’t have one. I just heat the oil on high heat to the point where the food fries with vigerous bubbles as it cooks.

It turned out pretty well. They stayed crispy until supper. They probably would have stayed crispy longer but we ate them all at supper time.