It’s not pretty, but it’s a pretty tasty condiment
Every good food establishment has it’s special sauce.
Some go as far as to call them “secret” which sounds even more special, but in truth, most of the mainstream ones (or the one’s with cult followings) have their recipes appear in copycat versions on various websites.
Until recently, I’ve been pretty content to put bottled barbecue sauce on my veggie burgers. Mr SuzerSpace is a fan of Worcestershire.
But a few weeks ago, Mr. SuzerSpace and I were browsing in a high end kitchen store and stumbled upon an “artisan” hamburger condiment. They wanted $14.95 for 8 ounces, and the ingredient list was right on the back (has to – it’s the law). There was nothing special in the list.
After laughing ourselves to tears in the aisle, Mr. SuzerSpace remembered a burger place he really enjoyed in Wisconsin, known for it’s secret sauce recipe.
And I recalled a totally different burger place from my high school years in Texas, which sadly appears to have closed this past January.
And then we went home to make dinner. After all the story telling, it had to be burgers. And we definitely needed our own sauce.
Heaping Tablespoons Mayonnaise
sliced pickled Jalapeños, diced
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
In a small bowl (preferably one with a lid) combine all ingredients.
Spread on bun for hamburger, or use as a spread for sandwiches
Leftovers keep refrigerated for weeks - stir before using.
A super easy method for cooking a main dish staple
I’m not sure if this is a recipe or a teeny tiny tip, so I’ll categorize it as both.
Making rice always seems more difficult than it should be. There’s that magic formula of water vs. rice and cooking time with the lid on that generally didn’t really work out that well for me. So I bought a rice cooker, and for about 10 years never gave rice a second thought.
Then last summer, a co-worker gifted me a box from one of the meal subscription services, and it contained a stuffed pepper recipe that featured a new-to-me method of rice cooking. And I’ve never gone back to the rice cooker – in fact, it has moved from the kitchen to the basement, along with other one-trick appliances that aren’t earning their keep.
The technique is ridiculously simple – you just prepare rice as if it were pasta.
Bring a pot of water to boil, add rice, continue to boil uncovered until the rice is cooked to your desired finish. Drain and serve.
Never too crunchy or too soggy. The only caveat on this method is to make sure the holes in your colander are small enough to catch the rice and not let it all go down the drain.
- Bring a medium to large pot of water to a rolling boil.
- Add rice to pot, reduce heat slightly so it doesn’t boil over and stir.
- Keep rice cooking at a boil, stirring occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Test occasionally beginning at about the 15 minute mark (longer if you are using brown rice).
- Remove from heat when rice is cooked to your desired finish. Drain and serve. Don’t forget to freeze the leftovers.
A cool trick that doesn’t require a 500 word essay
I’m a big fan of kitchen gadget stores. I love to browse the catalogs, websites and the actual aisles, looking at tools, appliances and decorator items.
But I rarely buy anything. I like to be resourceful and use what I have. Sometimes you just have to think outside the box.
Take microwave splatter shields. Really good idea. I hate, hate, hate to clean the microwave (true fact: more than once I’ve thought about just buying a new one instead of scrubbing something off the ceiling of the existing one). But they seem really expensive for what they are.
Last winter, in a fit of organizing, I threw away or gave away all my mismatched plastic food storage containers and switched over to glass. At the last second, I snatched two very sturdy lids back from the pile.
Why? Because they were the perfect size to use as splatter shields for my bowls. They cover almost all of the top of the bowl, but let a little space exist on the corners for steam to escape.
And they are sturdy enough to use as a placemat/trivet for the hot item to be carried from the microwave to the coffee table.
You do eat all your meals on your coffee table, right? 🙂
Adding healthy ingredients takes a snack to a meal
Lunch on Sundays at SuzerSpace is just about always nachos. Good on rainy days, good on sunny days. They pair well with sports, or crafts, or even chores.
You can’t really go wrong with melty cheese and chips, and anything else you add is bonus.
Because I top these with arugula and southwestern salad dressing, I call them “Salad Nachos” and then I feel less guilty about them. Although as long as you keep the fatty items off, and be tight on portion control, nachos don’t necessarily have to be on the bad list anyway.
A quick word about my feature photo – this isn’t a food blog, so I’m showing them exactly how we eat them. I lift them off the baking sheet by the foil, and then wrap that foil around the serving plate.
Classy? Not really. Easy cleanup? You betcha 🙂
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
1/4 - 1/2
rinsed and drained
Southwestern Style Ranch Salad Dressing
Line a small baking pan with foil
Place a single layer of chips on the foil, keeping them close together so very little foil shows through.
Add a light layer of black beans, and top that with salsa.
Sprinkle with shredded cheese evenly so everything gets a little.
Place this dish in a cold oven, and turn oven to Bake, 350 degrees. *See first note below
Bake until oven hits preheated temperature, switch to broil. *See second note below.
Remove from oven when cheese and chips are browned and crispy.
Top generously with arugula, sparingly with Southwestern style ranch dressing.
- I call this cooking method "Two-Stage" cooking, which is I'm using the pre-heating of the oven to warm all the ingredients and then switching over to broil to blast them at the last second. I find if I just broil the nachos, the tops are good, but the beans are cold.
- When the nachos are in the first stage of cooking, you've got freedom to do something else, since the oven will beep (or in our case play a song) when it's at 350 degrees. However, when you switch to broil, DO NOT LEAVE the oven, not even for a second. These go from "almost there" to carbon in as long as it takes you to look up that just one more thing on the computer.
Layers of flavor for an easy meal
The trick to eating with a focus on good nutrition and a tight budget is to think like a restaurant.
Besides frying everything, and using a lot of salt to make everything taste good, restaurants know that layers of flavor are the key to a good dish.
If you take a flatbread wrap, throw on some cheese and black beans and nuke it in the microwave, it’s a little bit soggy and sad.
But if you heat the beans first, and then layer the wrap with cheese, the beans, arugula and top with chunks of bleu cheese, suddenly you have something special.
Black Beans and Bleu Cheese Wrap
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Total Time 6 minutes
Flatbread (we use low-carb)
Rinsed and Drained
Washed and Patted Dry
Bleu Cheese Chunks* (see note)
In a microwave safe bowl, heat beans in the microwave for about 30 seconds, until really warm but not dried out.
On flatbread, sprinkle cheese in center
Layer on black beans, arugula and black beans. Add salsa on top if desired.
*Note: I don't actually like Bleu Cheese - Mr. SuzerSpace does. I make my version with Feta, but we still call them Black and Bleu Wraps. Sounds fancier that way 🙂
A meal made from leftovers
Technically, I’m not sure if this is a crustless quiche that doesn’t have milk, or a frittata that doesn’t start on the stove. We tend to make it heavier on the veggies and lighter on the eggs, but you can vary your ratios to suit your taste.
Either way, it’s a favorite lunch meal at SuzerSpace.
I usually make this on a Sunday afternoon to clean up the leftovers languishing in the fridge.
Couple of eggs? Check.
Some wilty veggies leftover from salads during the week? Check.
Some spinach or arugula that is getting past it’s prime? Check.
Cheese? Are you kidding me? We always have cheese 🙂
This is great slightly cooled from the oven, or cool it completely and refrigerate it and reheat it during the week. Even though it’s already loaded with veggies, I usually serve it with a salad.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
1/4 to 1/2
spinach or arugula
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a medium bowl, mix the eggs thoroughly. Add water or milk if desired.
Line a small baking dish (mine is 7 x 10) with parchment paper.
Distribute the veggies and spinach or arugula in the dish.
Sprinkle half of the cheese on top of the veggies.
Pour the eggs over the veggie and cheese mixture. Stir lightly with a fork to make sure the eggs get evenly distributed.
Top with remaining cheese.
Bake for approximately an hour, or until the quiche appears set and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Allow to cool and then cut into slices.
- Use whatever veggies you have the fridge. I usually go with green peppers, mushrooms and broccoli. Cut everything up bite size so you don't end up with big hunks of something on your fork.
- I more than just line my baking dish with parchment - I make sure the sides are protected and I fold up the corners before I add in the veggies so I have a barrier all around. It makes removing the quiche easier when it is baked - you can just lift up the sides of the paper and everything comes up all at once.
Soup and a sandwich is a classic meal.
But who really wants to take all that time to make soup? And soup from a can is always a little iffy – many of them are full of sugar (seriously?) or are weirdly oily when you open them.
Enter the magic of salsa soup.
Yup, that’s pretty much the entire recipe right there. A couple of spoonfuls of good salsa, any leftovers you want, and some water. (Jacques Pepin calls water “Chateau Faucet” in his great French accent which makes it sound so much more upscale!
Microwave until really hot, top with crushed tortilla chips and cheese if you like, and serve with a half sandwich of your choosing. It might not be pretty, but it is super (soup-er?) tasty.
This also travels really well for lunch. Put all the ingredients except the water into a microwave safe bowl that has a tight fitting cover. Refrigerate until lunch time, and then add water and stir just before microwaving. Every time I make this at work at least one person comments on how good it smells.
- 3 Tablespoons Chunky Salsa
- 1/4 to 1/3 cup leftover veggies of your choice.
- 1 1/4 cup water
- Dash of Trader Joe’s 21 Salute (or seasoning blend of your choice)
- Dash of Red Chili Flake (optional
- Crushed Tortilla chips and shredded cheese for topping if desired
- In a medium microwave safe bowl bowl combine salsa, veggies and spices
- Add water. More water makes a thinner soup. Less makes it thicker
- Stir together.
- Microwave until nearly boiling. Adjust microwave cooking time if using frozen vegetables
- Top with shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips if desired.
Our version of the snack mix known as “Chex Mix”
I’ve previously admitted to my weakness for onion chip dip. The quick review – I love that stuff so much I have to put it on lock down and only eat it from Thanksgiving through New Year’s (with two exceptions – Super Bowl and Daytona 500 weekends).
I have a similar control issue with the snack mix that is universally called Chex Mix, whether or not it actually uses the brand name cereals.
Last year, we took a look at what we were actually eating in that mix, and changed up the recipe. I can’t realistically call it healthier, but I’d be willing to call it “betterfied.” And because it now packs more nutrition and way more fiber than most snacks, I’ve removed it from the quarantine calendar system.
Continue reading “Couch Mix”
A quick meal from just a few ingredients
For this dish I like to use veggie pasta (not spiralized veggie noodles – I do love those but here I’m referring to a dry pasta that contains vegetables in the ingredients.
I boil a two-serving size amount of the noodles. We actually use a scale and match the nutrition information on the back of the package for this. Pasta, even with veggies in it, is high in carbs and that is a number with work diligently around for meals since we are a Type 2 Diabetes family. I’ve learned that if I make a whole box of spaghetti, we will eat a whole box of spaghetti, no matter what the suggested serving size is.
When the noodles are close to being done, I add in about a half package of frozen mixed vegetables to the pot and cook until they are tender (usually doesn’t take very long).
I use a measuring cup to remove about a cup of pasta water and then drain the rest of the water from the pasta and veggies, and return the pot to the stove. Turn the burner off – we are just using the residiual heat here (if you somehow have a stove that is instantaneously cool to the touch after turning it off, you might need low heat).
I add about 1/3 cup of good peanut butter to the noodle and vegetable mixture. By “good” I mean not full of sugar. By “about” I mean measuring peanut butter is ridiculously messy, so I just use a knife and carve out a blob that appears to be around 1/3 cup. Add about a tablespoon of soy sauce (we use low sodium) and half that amount of cider vinegar. Stir pretty vigorously to get the peanut butter melting and then add in that reserved pasta water to create a sauce. I like to add a good dash of red chili flake at this point because we like it spicy.
Keep stirring until the sauce is the correct consistency. If it’s too thick, you can add a little more water. If it’s too thin, you might consider being OK with it as the pasta will absorb some sauce as it sits. And it’s slurpy good fun to eat with a thin sauce, and next time you’ll be able to guess better on how much water to put back in.
I dish this out into bowls and add a sprinkle of peanuts on top before serving.
This dish is best served fresh – it kind of keeps, but the noodles nearly completely absorb the sauce so it will be dry if served as leftovers.
One Pot Peanut Sauce Noodles
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
two servings according to package directions
mixed frozen vegetables
Dried Red Chili Flakes
Dry Roasted Peanuts
In a large pot, cook pasta according to package directions.
Add frozen vegetables to boiling pasta when pasta is nearly cooked.
Continuing cooking pasta until veggies are cooked through.
Reserve 1 cup of pasta water, drain pasta and veggies.
Return pasta and veggies to pot, add peanut butter, soy sauce, cider vinegar. Stir to combine.
Add reserved pasta water as needed to thin sauce to desired consistency
Make a quick weekend breakfast
This is a quick, light breakfast we like to make on weekends, especially when eggs are on sale.
For two servings:
Split a whole wheat muffin in half and toast. I’d say “English Muffin” but our favorite is the Whole Wheat British Muffin at Trader Joe’s.
While that’s toasting, I scramble two eggs in a microwave-safe glass measuring cup. To stretch the eggs without adding calories/carbs, I add in water. You already know from reading my previous recipes that I’m an eye-ball cook. I’d guess it’s somewhere in the ¼ to 1/3 cup range. Mix this water in really, really, really well with a fork so that it won’t separate when cooked.
Microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring between each one until the eggs are scrambled to the consistency you like. I do not like runny eggs, so I cook mine fairly dry. Don’t be tempted to just turn the microwave on for 2 minutes straight, as this will cause the eggs to explode across the top of the microwave oven.
Ask me how I know 🙂
The toaster usually pops before the eggs are done – I sprinkle shredded cheese onto each muffin immediately so it gets a little melty from the muffin heat.
When the eggs are done I distribute them somewhat evenly between the two muffins. Their heat will further melt the cheese. Top with a spoonful of really good salsa.
We eat these with forks and knives, usually with some fruit on the side. And coffee. Definitely coffee.