A Couple of Tricks Help Make for a Delicious Sunday Breakfast

Here's Sunday Breakfast!  An easy omelet made with leftover Mexican rice and crunchy wheat tortillas.

Here’s Sunday Breakfast! An easy omelet made with leftover Mexican rice and crunchy wheat tortillas.

Heloise I ain’t.  But along the way, I’ve learned a number of tricks that help make cooking faster and easier.

The weekend is the only time I can make a real breakfast.  On most weekdays, the first meal of the day is a couple of toaster waffles snarfed down on the main road between my neighborhood streets and the freeway.

On Saturday and Sunday, when I finally rouse myself enough to want something to eat, I’ve already drowsily completed a few other tasks such as pulling out chunks of chickweed from the garden, or like this morning, repotting a couple of African violets.

I rarely disappoint myself with home-cooked breakfast; this morning it was an omelet made with bacon and Mexican rice left over from yesterday’s takeout.  Alongside came a couple of wheat tortillas.

If you re-package bacon and store in the freezer, it won't spoil and go to waste.

If you re-package bacon and store in the freezer, it won’t spoil and go to waste.

Trick 1:  I used to never be able to finish a package of bacon before it began to spoil in the refrigerator, but from my sister, I learned how to keep ready-to-cook bacon on hand.  Just freeze it!  After you get the bacon home from the store, open the package.  Separate the slices of bacon and lay the individual slices on sheets of non-stick aluminum foil (or wax paper).  Layer the foil sheets, being sure to cover the bacon on the top with another sheet of foil.  Put the foil layers of bacon in a freezer bag, folding the foil to fit into the bag, if necessary.  Then whenever you want bacon, just take the bag out of the freezer and easily pull off as many slices as you want.  No more spoiled bacon!

Trick 2:  Heat up wheat tortillas in a regular toaster.  Just fold the tortilla in half and ease one end into the bread slot of the toaster.  Gently  push it down while you push the toaster lever down.  Set it for about medium time.  When it pops up, turn the folded tortilla around and do the same to the other end.  To me, the resulting crunchy tortilla tastes much better than one heated in the microwave.  It’s just perfect for filling with scrambled eggs!

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Nothing Like Mom’s Noodle Recipe and Old Breadboard To Warm Up a Chilly Day and Evoke Memories

Cut homemade noodles sprinkled out on Mom's old breadboard to dry--though because of the humidity, they never really dried, once cooked they were no less delicious.

Cut homemade noodles sprinkled out on Mom’s old breadboard to dry–though because of the humidity, they never really dried, once cooked they were no less delicious.

A whole chicken slow cooks with onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to produce the broth for the chicken noodle soup.

A whole chicken slow cooks with onion, carrots, celery, and garlic to produce the broth for the chicken noodle soup.

(This is my first blog post in a long time and the first one that I’ve written on my MacBook Air.  It wasn’t as much of a problem as I had anticipated.  Actually, it was no problem at all.  Photos load from my camera to the Air easily and working with the WordPress template was very intuitive.  I can’t say the same about trying to post from my Acer netbook.)

Cool, grey days with dampness that demands fuzzy slippers–this is about as wintery as it gets here in southeast Texas, but it’s just the weather to cozy up the house with the smell of homemade soup.

To make the broth, I chopped up onion, celery, carrots, and garlic and dumped it all in the bottom of a crockpot.  Then I placed a whole chicken in on top of the veggies, sprinkled on some poultry seasoning, finally pouring about half a cup of brine from the jar of Greek olives (no other salt), and set the pot to slow cook.

Later in the day, I dug out my mom’s noodle recipe.  I remember watching my mom roll out the wide, thin circles of noodle dough, then hanging them over the tea-towel covered backs of the kitchen chairs to dry for awhile.  Then she’d layer the noodle circles, roll them into a tight cylinder, and begin slicing off the noodles with a big knife.  After the noodles were all cut, Mom would sprinkle them loosely all over the breadboard, which she had already used to roll out and slice off the noodles.

One of the treasures that made it to my house after my mom passed away was that breadboard.  It had set in my sister’s garage for some time, and nobody else wanted it.  I dig it out every time I make bread or roll out pie dough even though the counter would work just as well.  Thus, the breadboard is just the thing to bring together memories and the aroma of cooking chicken.

Probably because of the Houston humidity (unlike dry Kansas air), even with hanging them over chairbacks, my noodles never dried very much.  Consequently, once rolled up, they were difficult to slice very thinly, so after I put them in the bubbling broth, they swelled much wider than those my mom always made, which was usually just about a quarter-inch wide.  Nevertheless, the resulting tasty chicken noodle soup brings both warmth and memories to the kitchen and more than satisfies my tongue and tummy.

Noodles (Mom’s recipe)

4 egg yolks

1 whole egg

1 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. water

1 tbsp. oil

1 3/4 cup flour

Knead & let stand 20 to 30 minutes.  Roll on floured board. Cut into strips. 

The World Keeps On Turning, But Step Back and Enjoy a Great Springtime Dish–Wilted Lettuce

Freshly made wilted lettuce, ready to be placed in the salad bowls

With the time change adding an extra hour of sunlight after I get home on work days and all the tending to yard and garden on the weekend, posting on here hasn’t been something that I’ve had much time for recently.

There have been topics, on which I might have commented:  the tragedy of the tsunami and subsequent nuclear disaster in Japan, the Middle East protests and struggles, the Republican-majority legislatures in a number of states trying to take away workers’ rights and block gay rights even more, and also the sad death of  Elizabeth Taylor, whom I respected and thought of as my favorite actor, (but I did comment here in a previous post).  However, there’s a therapeutic effect that comes from working in the dirt and cutting tree limbs and grass that has seemed to assuage the necessity to voice much of my opinion on these topics.

With spring leaf lettuce abundant in the garden, I cut enough for a salad every day.  Usually, I add store-bought cucumber, tomotoes, or peppers to the daily pickings to the freshly washed green leaves, but when I have a bit more time, I like to make wilted lettuce.

We often had wilted lettuce in the spring and early summer when I was growing up on the farm.  I learned to make it “Mom’s way”, which still is quite tasty, but always the one to experiment in the kitchen, I’ve changed it, I’d never say improved it.

Wilted Lettuce

  • 1/2 slice bacon cut into 3/8 inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon finely slivered or diced onion
  • 1/4 cup red or white wine
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • leaf lettuce or fresh spinach, about a good handful or two for each person (you’ll have a better idea about the amount of lettuce needed after you’ve made this one time)

(Mom’s version uses just the lettuce, bacon, water, sugar and vinegar)

Heat a medium-sized non-still skillet, and add the bacon and onion, frying until not the pieces are cooked, but not quite crispy.  Add the wine and stir to de-glaze the skillet.  When the liquid it almost cooked away, stir in the sugar.  Add the water and let cook until the liquid is once again almost cooked away.  Then add the vinegar, and turn off the heat.

At this point, there are two choices of ways to dress the lettuce.  One way is to already have the lettuce leaves placed in a bowl (on the farm making wilted lettuce in the wooden bowl was obligatory), and then pour the hot dressing over the lettuce and toss quickly to wilt the leaves.  If the lettuce doesn’t wilt enough, strain off the liquid and reheat in the skillet and add to the lettuce a second time.

If you are making this salad for just one or two people and are not using so much lettuce, you can do the wilting right in the skillet.  Just add the greens into the hot dressing and toss right in the skillet.  I like this method the best because the lettuce gets very wilted.  Use tongs to put the lettuce into salad bowls and pour the remaining dressing over the top.

Breezy Sunday–Time for a Home-cooked Dinner Including Fresh Green Beans

The only thing that would make these home-cooked green beans better would be if they were also home-grown.

Blustery breezes and an uncertain sky haven’t put a damper on this penultimate day of February.  For the first time in a couple of weeks, I’m back in my groove.  (I’ll try to add another post about what’s been happening later.) 

The back door is open, with the screen on the storm door pulled down to let in some of the breeze.  What’s more, I’m making a real Sunday dinner.  (Isn’t it a bit confusing that we have Sunday dinners at lunchtime?)

So here’s what’s cooking:  a ham glazed with a mixture of jam, brown sugar, brown mustard, peanut sauce, and wasabi sauce, and simple scalloped potatoes with bits of onion and butter, layered with about 3 tablespoons of flour, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and a cup of half-and-half poured over the top before going into the oven.  Already cooked and resting on the cooktop is a kettle of fresh green beans.

Fresh green beans are one of my favorite vegetables.  In comparison, the frozen ones are almost inedible, and green beans from a can aren’t a lot better.

Making  fresh, home-cooked green beans isn’t very difficult.  Some people think getting them ready is too much work.  I just dump them into a colander and wash them several times, then take a kitchen scissors and nip off the stem, then rinse them off again a time or two.

Home-cooked Green Beans

  • 1 pound fresh green beans washed and stemmed
  • 3 slices of bacon cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 green onions including most of the tops loosely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 or 2 “splashes” of white wine
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic salad dressing
  • 3 to 4 cups of water
  • pepper and salt to taste

Put a heavy kettle on the stove and turn the burner to medium high.  When the kettle is hot, add the oil, then the bacon and onion.  Cook until the bacon begins to brown; then add the onions  and cook until they become translucent.  Keep the bacon and onion moving with a spoon or silicon spatula so they don’t burn.  If the bacon cooks off quite a bit of fat, remove the excess with a spoon.  (I find that most bacon these days contains a lot of water and not a lot of fat cooks out; that’s why it will stick to the pan and may burn.) 

Add a splash or two of white wine and a couple of tablespoons of water to de-glaze the bottom of the kettle.  Use a silicon spatula to help get all the “goodies” off the bottom of the pan.  Add the balsamic dressing (or balsamic vinegar) and about 1/2 cup of water and stir in.  Let the liquid cook until it bubbles. 

Put the fresh green beans into the kettle and add enough water so that there is an inch or two of liquid in the kettle.  About two-thirds of the beans will not be covered.  Put a lid on the kettle and leave on medium-high heat until the liquid boils, then turn down to medium-low and cook for 20-25 minutes or until the beans are cooked to your liking.  (Some like beans cooked less and other liked them cooked until they are limp.)

This recipe will make 6-8 servings.  You can make this recipe a day ahead of time, and just re-heat.  I think these beans are even better the second day because they absorb  more of the bacon flavor.