Archive for the ‘Cooking’ category

Egg? Rolls

August 17, 2007

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.

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Tasty Vegetables

July 6, 2007

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

June 23, 2007

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

June 5, 2007

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

June 3, 2007

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

April 13, 2007

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

April 6, 2007

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.