An Idea for Leftovers

I don’t know if you all end up with lots of leftovers in the fridge. With just the two of us, our fridge is usually packed with stuff we ate a week ago. I am always trying to make new meals out of leftovers, without constantly being subjected to casserole. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good casserole (emphasis on the “good”) but I don’t want one every week.

This week I made a pork roast. The roast is amazing, but with only two people eating it, a three pound roast goes a long way. Usually I make sandwiches with this leftover roast, but since it was just me for dinner (and those sandwiches are amazing; The Renaissance Man would not have forgiven me) I decided to really mix it up.

Leftover Pizza

Yup, I made pizza. I always have pizza crust ingredients on hand, and I had a half jar of sauce that needed to be used. So; pizza was on the menu.

I rolled the pizza dough out on my baking stone and spread a thin layer of sauce on it.

Then I shredded some of the leftover pork and put that on the sauce.

Then I sprinkled some mozzarella on top, and popped the pizza in the oven for 15 minutes.

Ta Da! That’s all it took for a slightly spicy, pulled pork pizza.

The only downside: I have leftovers.

The Wife

Something to Serve with Those Burgers on the Grill

Summer is here! In SE TX, it has been summer for about three weeks now. I have permanently donned my shorts, and the air conditioning in my car no longer feels “too cold” after five minutes.

We have also dusted off the grill. The Renaissance Man makes the best burgers I’ve ever tasted (sorry, dad, it’s true) and we load them up with everything: cheese, bacon, lettuce, onion, and tomato for TRM.

But what to serve with those burgers? Pasta salad is always nice (find that recipe here) or you could always go with fries. Or maybe…macaroni and cheese?

Sure! Mac and cheese makes a great side dish for pork chops, fried chicken, and even burgers. This recipe for baked mac and cheese has been tweaked over the years, until I think it’s so perfect I’m hesitant to add anything new. Try it (despite a few odd ingredients). It’s definitely worth it.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 4 C. milk
  • 5 Tbsp. butter
  • 5 Tbsp. flour
  • 3-4 C. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 Lb. macaroni
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step 1: Boil a large pot of water. Cook the macaroni for about 7 minutes (don’t overcook. If anything, they need to be slightly under done.)

Step 2: Melt butter in a saucepan. Whisk in flour. Once the flour is completely incorporated, slowly whisk in milk. Add mustard, nutmeg, and pepper.

Trust me on the nutmeg. It sounds weird, but it really compliments the cheddar well. It’s not just for pies, folks!

Step 3: Stir until the milk just begins to thicken. Add 1/2 the cheese.

Stir until cheese is melted. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Step 4: Once the pasta is done, drain it and pour it into a baking dish. Pour the sauce over the top. Sprinkle the other 1/2 of the cheese over everything.

Step 5: Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Is there anything in the world that screams “comfort food” like this?

Enjoy your Memorial Day festivities, your day off work, and the kickoff of Summer!

The Wife

We’re Gonna “Shake it Up” This Summer!

So, I have slowly (over  the past year or so) come to the realization that I am not as…skinny as I used to be. Not by a long shot. When I first met The Renaissance Man, I was 90 pounds soaking wet. And while I refuse to reveal my current weight here (I am a lady, after all) let’s just say it’s significantly over 90 pounds. Disclaimer: I am only 5’2″. 100 pounds would be perfectly healthy for me. These are the rantings of a tiny person, remember.

In an effort to regain at least some of my former thinness, while not punishing myself unnecessarily (I mean, really, what is there to live for if I can’t have an onion ring every once in a while?) I am entering the world of protein shakes. I am drinking one for breakfast, and if I get super starving at lunch time I either shake up some protein powder in water, or grab some carrot sticks. Then dinner is whatever I want. We’ll see how this goes, ladies and gentlemen.

I am not buying pre-made shakes. That would go against my very essence. So I am using protein powder blended up into a shake with different ingredients. I am going to share the combinations that I think are good. And in a diet drink “tasty” is hard to come buy.

The Wake Up Shake

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 C. coffee (not hot; I use coffee from the morning before)
  • 1/2 C. almond milk
  • 2 Tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 1-2 scoops chocolate protein powder
  • 1 Tbsp. flax seed
  • 1 Tbsp. wheat germ

Step 1: Throw everything in a blender. You can use an unfrozen banana, but the frozen one thickens up the shake. It’s your call.

Step 2: Blend the living daylights out of it.

Step 3: Pour it into a glass. Enjoy!

I can’t go without coffee in the morning. It is simply not an option. So for this first shake, I used it as an ingredient. This way, I can drink it in the morning, get my caffeine fix, and be full all day!

I’ve got chocolate protein powder right now, so all my shake recipes for the next few weeks either include chocolate, or have flavors that go well with chocolate. This shake tastes mostly of coffee, with a little banana and peanut butter thrown in. All the ingredients are designed to add fiber and nutrients without adding a lot of calories. If you omit something, just be aware of what you’ll be missing without it. (this goes for all homemade diet shakes).

If you have any protein shake recipes, share them! And let me know if you’re going to shake it up with me!

The Wife

What do you memorialize?

To our family,

Today we observe the federal holiday of Memorial Day. What do you memorialize?

The wife and I thought it may be appropriate for the veteran in our home to write the post today. While I will always be proud to have served, was my service worthy of remembrance? I “suffered” through the awesome health care, free travel, and unmatched food service (not kidding) to return home physically and mentally unscathed. Well, mostly…

Traditionally this day is intended to honor the fallen, not the extant. I have relatives that served and have since passed, but were not killed in combat. Would a focus on their commitment to our country fulfill mine to the occasion?

Like many other holidays, this one has come to mean so much more. It is the beginning of summer, the weekend the pool opens, or the next family potluck after Easter. It’s 3 days on the water, in front of the grill, or just off the grid.

I would greatly appreciate it if every person reading this blog does three things:

1.) Remember the men and women who have died protecting freedom and justice. Now, I am fully aware of how clichéd that may sound. Let’s try something. Imagine the person you like least in this world. Now imagine him/her pulling you from a burning building, being injured in the process, and subsequently dying a painful death. Does that conjure strange feelings? Most men and women in uniform today did not sign up solely to “do their duty”; many just need a steady paycheck. Yet they earn their keep by defending others. I am by no means helpless, but I thank them all for keeping the fight off my doorstep.

2.) Please view the pictures that follow AND POST A COMMENT. My grandfather was in Pearl Harbor and witnessed the 7Dec41 attack by the Empire of Japan. He and his two friends were ordered to protect a journalist and his cameras. The films documenting the assault were split equally between the four of them in an attempt to insure the images made it out of the area. My grandfather and his pictures were the only ones to survive the day. (The last picture was taken earlier in 1941 by a different photographer; my grandfather is in the center.)

3.) Please enjoy this day as you see fit, just make the most of it!

TRM

 

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

What to do With Your Cast Iron When it gets…Messed Up

Yes, it is next to impossible to ruin cast iron permanently. It is, however, pretty easy to really screw up that perfect seasoning you’ve spent months building up.

Unlike traditional nonstick pans, however, you don’t need to toss it. Just grab a few tools and clean it up!

I started out with a cordless drill with a steel brush attachment (shown below) but after two days of power-scrubbing with that thing my arms were sore, so I reverted to chemical “warfare”.

Things you’ll need:

  • a cordless drill with a steel brush bit (if you’re He-Man) or
  • Easy-Off or an equivalent spray on oven cleaner
  • a messed up cast iron pan that needs reseasoning
  • rubber gloves
  • steel wool
  • flax seed oil, or Crisco
  • a well-ventilated room

Step 1: First take a good look at the mess I made of my favorite cast iron pan.

Or not, because you can’t really see the burned on mess and scraped off places in any of the pictures I took. Trust me, it wasn’t good.

Step 2: Charge up your cordless drill and use the steel brush to scrape the pan down to bare iron. If you’re going that route which I don’t recommend unless you have Popeye’s forearms (disclaimer: The Renaissance Man did offer to do this for me. I, however am impatient and didn’t want to wait for him to get home from work.)

If you don’t go for the feat-of-strength method, put the pan in the sink (or outside; this is gonna get smelly).  Put on a pair of these babies:

spray liberally with oven cleaner. Let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour. If the pan is really awful, put the whole thing in a plastic trash bag and let it sit overnight.

Step 3: Scrub the pan with steel wool (keep the gloves on). Rinse and repeat if necessary. I got my pan stripped down this far before the fumes (and the gloves) started to get to me:

Step 4: Wash the pan with soap and water. Dry, then put in the oven while it heats to 450 degrees. After it is totally dry, remove it from the oven. It is possible your pan developed flash rust while drying. If so, just scrub with steel wool while it’s hot, then wipe it out.

Note: The pan is hot during much of this process. Please don’t burn yourself, it hurts.

Step 5: Shake the bottle of flax seed oil. I use flax seed oil because I like the base seasoning it gives the best. You can use Crisco, or vegetable oil. In which case, you won’t need to shake it.

Pour a small amount onto the hot pan. Rub it around quickly with a paper towel, making sure to coat everything with a super-thin layer of oil. Put it back in the oven for 45 minutes.

Step 6: After 45 minutes, take it out and do it again. This is what It looked like after 1 coat:

You can do as many layers this way as you’d like. I usually do three, and then I fry something (bacon, ground beef, anything fatty).

After the second coat you can already tell how much darker it’s gotten. It will only get better as you cook with it.

Voila! A newly resurrected pan. And you didn’t have to throw it out, which is the best part.

The Wife

A Cake for Summer: Lemon Pudding Cake

I don’t know about you, but I hate eating heavy, hot foods in the summer. In the summer, things like pot roast and chili, things that in the winter make me feel comfy and cuddly, just make me feel lethargic and gross when the thermometer climbs above 80.

The unfortunate bit of this story is, I excel at making comfort foods, most of which are in the heavy and hot categories. It is a struggle for me to produce meals that are light in flavor, in temperature, and in weight for the summer months. I have a pasta salad in my rotation, a lemon-sage pasta, and chicken tacos, which can still make you sweat.

This recipe came about when my mom started talking about the lemon pudding cake mix she used to buy when she was young. Apparently citrus pudding cakes were all the rage back then. But my brain heard “lemon” and thought (because it’s my brain, that’s what it does best): lemons are light and flavorful; I bet that would be a great summer dessert!

Well, the prepared mix for this cake is a thing of the past, but several recipes are still floating around out there. I culled techniques from a few and came up with this: a light, intensely lemony cake with a light custard-like pudding at the bottom.

Lemon Pudding Cake

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 3 lemons, juiced (about 1/2 C.)
  • 2 tsp. lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 1/2 C. milk
  • 1/2 C. flour
  • 1 1/2 C. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt

If you have never made pudding cake before, it’s good to know: pudding is not one of the ingredients. The cake batter produces a pudding at the bottom of the pan as it bakes.

Step 1: beat egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and butter until combined and thick.

Step 2: combine sugar, flour, and salt in a bowl. Alternate adding this mixture and the milk to the egg yolk mixture.

Step 3: Beat egg whites until thick (to do this, I poured the lemon liquid into a separate bowl, washed my mixer bowl, and used the whisk attachment to beat the egg whites. You can do it by hand, but it will make your arms tired). Before you beat them, they look like this:

Once they are done, they look like this:

Step 4: Once the egg whites are stiff, pour the lemon liquid into the egg whites while beating on low speed. The batter will have a fluffy, soft-yellow look.

Step 5: Pour batter into an 8×8 square baking pan. Or, if you’re me (and your 8×8 pan rusted out a few months ago) use a round cake pan.

Place it in a shallow pan of hot water in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. Make sure to check the water periodically. If too much evaporates, just replace it as the cake is baking. DO NOT let all  the water evaporate.

Step 6: While the cake is baking, slice another lemon into extremely thin slices. Place the slices in a small dish.

Pour enough sugar into the dish to cover the lemons. Place it in the fridge and use for garnish.

Step 7: Remove the cake from the oven once it’s done. When you cut into it you can see the cake and pudding layers.

Serve in a bowl with sugared lemons as a garnish.

Sit out on the patio with a glass of iced tea and enjoy your summer!

The Wife

Breakfast Tacos: The Most popular breakfast in SE Texas

I had heard of breakfast tacos in St. Louis. They were a vague idea I knew existed, but never materialized in my reality.

Then we moved to Texas. There are roadside stands for breakfast tacos. They sell them in restaurants. I could throw a stone from my living room and hit at least three trucks with a hand-drawn “breakfast tacos” sign leaned up against the back tire.

In short, breakfast tacos are a staple here. Plus, as it turns out, The Renaissance Man loves them. Who knew? So I quickly learned to love (and make) these weird little tortilla-wrapped breakfast foods.

I’m not going to make an ingredients list here, because you can put whatever you want in a breakfast taco. Usually they have eggs, cheese, and hot sauce wrapped in a tortilla. They sometimes have potatoes or shredded pork. These I made with potatoes and a little cilantro.

Breakfast Tacos

I melted some butter in olive oil in a pan. Then I baked some new potatoes (it’s what we had) and chopped them up. I threw them in the skillet.

I let them brown then flipped them over and sprinkled salt and pepper on them. Once they were browned on both sides, I removed them from the skillet.

Then I spent the next five minutes trying not to eat them off the plate. Browned potatoes are good. Just trust me on that one.

I threw some eggs in the same pan, and scrambled them around. Then I added some hot sauce. Then I added a little more.

I put some cheese and cilantro in there, too. Just for kicks.

I put some potatoes on a tortilla, then put some of the egg mixture on top.

Some people like salsa on their breakfast tacos. I prefer putting enough hot sauce in the eggs that it is unnecessary. Whatever sounds good to you.

Next time you make scrambled eggs, consider wrapping them in a tortilla.

The Wife