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Super easy: Sungold Omelet and Pork Fried Rice

I made a couple of tasty and healthy dishes this past weekend that I wanted to share with you all.

Chef JimFirst, since we had two pints of sungold cherry tomatoes from our CSA, as well as a wealth of basil, I had an idea. I heated some olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, threw in a handful of the sungolds, shook the pan a few times and let them roast for a minute or two. Then I scrambled 3-4 eggs with salt and pepper and poured those into the pan. I swirled the pan around a bit and once the eggs were just about set, threw in a couple tablespoons of feta cheese, and a sprinkling of chopped basil. I cooked for another 30 seconds or so and then transferred to a plate, cutting the omelet into two servings (you can also use more eggs and cut into four wedges).

Chef JimThe other thing I had a taste for was fried rice. I like to make mine with pork, but it’s always difficult or next to impossible to make the kind of red-tinged barbecued pork you see in Chinese restaurants. So I did the sensible thing and picked up a container of roast pork at our local Chinese takeout joint. They call it “boneless spare ribs,” but it’s basically strips of barbecued roast pork (and it’s freaking delicious). So here is how I made my fried rice–I took a bag of frozen bag brown rice from Trader Joe’s (this is the best tasting quick brown rice you will find anywhere–I guarantee it), nuked it for three minutes and set the bag aside. I heated a couple tablespoons of canola oil in a large nonstick skillet with a splash of sesame oil. I threw in some finely chopped onion, carrots, sweet pepper, shelled edamame, and a small bit of minced fresh ginger — and stir fried that for 3-4 minutes. Then I dumped in the cooked rice and maybe 1/2 cup of diced roast pork and stir fried for another minute. Then I added a few sprinkles of Kosher salt, some shakes of black pepper; and a sprinkling each of teriyaki sauce, soy sauce, and Korean barbecue sauce, stirring for about a minute. Meanwhile, at about the same time I added the sauces, I heated a small nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray, and dumped in one scrambled egg. Instead of stirring, I just let that set, and slid onto a plate, cutting into small pieces and adding to the fried rice, stirring another 30 seconds and then sprinkling with chopped cilantro. After dividing among two plates, I sprinkled mine with a few drizzles of chili oil.

You can make this rice with whatever you have on hand. Green onions are typical but I don’t like them and they don’t like me. You can also use peas, corn, bok choy or whatever you can find. It’s fun to try different combinations, but trust me — the pork is what makes it. My wife says it’s better than takeout, and who am I to disagree? So maybe you should try it and see if you like it too. But I already know you will.

Corn

Oh yeah. that photo says it all, doesn’t it? It’s prime time for corn. I guess, as the farmers call it, it’s sweet corn….if you just say “corn on the cob,” you also mean corn that is used for feed for pigs and cows on farms.

Where I live in Wisconsin, sweet corn is available from local farms from late July until early September or so. The first crop is super sweet and tender, and as the season wears on, the kernels get bigger and thicker and more dense, and less sweet and less tender. But for now, it’s prime time for corn and that means we eat it in our house pretty much every day for six or so weeks. There is no good reason not to!

Jenny’s chalkboard: Mexican breakfast for dinner

With an assist from food TV–including a new show on Travel Channel called Feed the Beast, which I’ll be previewing before it premieres on Wednesday; and then an hour of Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins & Dives yesterday, and after my wife (i.e. Jenny) and I both had this sluggish, head-achy thing going on, we decided we needed to eat something fatty and greasy. We were not hung over, but that’s what it felt like, and we needed a Sunday morning hangover remedy on Sunday evening. Those shows made me crave eggs and fat and salt, and when I saw we had chorizo in the fridge, I knew what had to be done–we had to make Mexican breakfast for dinner. Jenny agreed and put that on her chalkboard.

So what you’re seeing in the photo and that went happily into our bellies last night is this…..first, I took a leftover baked potato and cut that up, and stir fried it in a bit of canola oil. Meanwhile, as the potato was cooking, I took a link of chorizo (by link I mean it was maybe a foot long), removed the meat from the “fake” casing, and fried that up in a pan for about 10 minutes until it was cooked through and crispy, draining on paper towels. I wiped out the pan, and fried four eggs in it. Jenny shredded some cheddar cheese (full fat kickass Wisconsin cheddar), and I cubed an avocado while the eggs were cooking. I also opened up a can of refried black beans, and chopped some cilantro. As the eggs were set, it was time to assemble this creation in a big bowl–

First, the potatoes, which were nice and crispy. Then a dollop of refried beans and the chorizo. We topped that with two eggs in each bowl, followed by the avocado chunks, cheese and cilantro. Oh, and some Mexican hot sauce for good measure. Suffice to say we both felt so much better after eating this dinner. It was one of those food nirvana moments when you feed your body what it’s craving, and then some. And hey, now I know what to make next time we are hung over….and we hope you try it too.

Bacon and egg torpedo

Sometimes you just gotta eat a pile of bacon. I didn’t know what I wanted for breakfast this morning, and pulled out some bacon. I took four thick slices out and cut them in half, and put them on the bacon tray. So that meant 8 short slices of delicious bacon. Now what? I spotted some hot dog rolls, and then it came to me–a little sub of sorts…..a torpedo. Of course, sometimes you have to accent the bacon with a scrambled egg, and you have to then accent that with cheese. So I stacked the bacon on the bun, put the egg on top and the cheese on top of that, and closed it up.

Bam–the bacon and egg torpedo. If I would have thought about it, and if I wasn’t so hungry that I didn’t have time to look for them, I would have thinly sliced up some jalapeno too for some good, clean heat. But hey, it was still pretty good.

Spicy dogs and chili and mustard and olives

I’ve talked probably more than I’d care to admit that I’m trying to lose a few pounds. Aren’t we all this time of year?

Anyway, and maybe fortunately or unfortunately, I find loopholes in Weight Watchers’ point system. Maybe they are not loopholes, but they are ideas of healthy deliciousness. In the case of one of my favorite foods, the hot dog, I made this kickass lunch the other day–two fat free white meat turkey franks (thank you Ballpark) on Brownberry white Italian bread, and made two kinds. One had a Kosciusko spicy brown mustard and a small amount of Tony Packo’s Hot Dog Sauce (this stuff is remarkable and by that I mean tasty as hell); and the other had a (literally) kickass Beaver Brand jalapeno mustard and some spicy That Pickle Guy muffalatta style olive salad.

First of all, these hot dogs are fantastic. They do not taste fat free in the least, they are delicious, and they are mild enough to let the other toppings shine. And since I’m eating these dogs like two or three times a week, I’ve become more interested in trying different mustards. Which makes it convenient that we have the National Mustard Museum here in Madison.

And hey, it’s almost lunch time and this post is making me hungry. And I think I know what I want for lunch!

Mikey gives props to…..

Cooking Light Magazine–I’ve mentioned on here before that I am on Weight Watchers. Yes, it sometimes affects and stifles my creativity as a home cook, but it also opens up possibilities and challenges me. Well, I recently started subscribing to Cooking Light Magazine. And of all of the food magazine recipes I’ve made lately, almost everything we’ve tried the past two weeks from their 25th anniversary edition have been phenomenal. Here are a few you can try that we did:

Chef JimCreamy Four-cheese Macaroni & Cheese–You will not believe how few calories this is per serving. I defy anyone to find me a full-fat recipe that is as good as this one.

Chef JimCheesy Meat Loaf Minis–Some of the best meat loaf we have ever had. It helps that you can use full-fat cheddar, and being in Wisconsin, we have some good cheddar.

Chef JimTop Chef: Seattle–I need to be honest. I am a fan of the Top Chef brand, but have found Curtis Stone hosting Top Chef Masters to be grating. And their new Life After Top Chef is kind of so-so. But the original, which now is in Season 10 for Top Chef Seattle, remains one of the best shows on television, cooking show or otherwise. Bravo to Bravo and to Magical Elves production. I mean, I’d rather look at and listen to Padma Lakshmi than Curtis, and Tom Colicchio is like the Godfather of the show, but every season they do not disappoint with the collection of chefs, and with the episodes and challenges. It’s just a fun show to watch and guaranteed to make home chefs inspired.

Chef JimHome Run Inn Frozen Pizza–This is hands down the best frozen pizza on the planet. It comes from Chicago, so I’m not sure if they ship beyond the proximity of the Midwest, but my goodness. The crust is ridiculous–it tastes like fresh bakery bread. The sauce is perfectly simple with no garlic whatsoever, unlike many sauces on other frozen brands that ruin the pizza that way. The cheese is just mozzarella. And now they have thin crust varieties that are Weight Watchers friendly–for real.

Product review: Planters NUTrition peanut butters

I’ve always loved peanut butter, but for whatever reason it’s the type of food that I eat for a while, and then take a break from it. So I hadn’t eaten any peanut butter in a few weeks when a food publicist I work with sent me the new Planters NUTrition peanut butters to try. There are three varieties–Banana Granola Nut, Berry Nut, and Cinnamon Raisin Granola Nut.

These aren’t just peanut butters, they are like mix-ins. If you like spreading peanut butter on, say, a granola bar, then this stuff is for you. The Cinnamon Raisin Granola Nut is the best one–it’s like cinnamon toast spread with peanut butter. It just works, has great flavor, and the crunch is an added bonus. The Berry Nut (with dried cranberries) is pretty good and a good one to spread on an apple. The Banana Granola Nut, however, I was not a fan of. It had the strong taste of a very ripe banana–which may appeal to some of you, but not to me.

As for the nutrition part, each serving has 6-7 grams of protein and at least 5 vitamins and minerals, and it’s a healthy snack when paired with fruit, whole grain crackers or breads such as bagels or English muffins, or in recipes. Or there is one of my other favorite ways–with a big spoon right out of the jar. Of course, you could be like George Costanza and use your “disgusting index finger.”

If you like peanut butter, you will love this stuff!

Color your plate–hot dog edition

Have you heard about coloring your plate for maximum health benefits? That is, if you have bright colors like green (leafy vegetables/broccoli) and yellow/red (peppers) and white (potatoes/protein), you will have a healthy plate with lots of vitamins and minerals. That’s not always easy or optimal, but today I took a photo of my lunch, which, since I’m dieting, consisted of two fat free turkey hot dogs on white bread with varying condiments.

And after loading up on the colorful condiments, I thought, as my wife would say, that it was a “beautiful plate.” But of course, the colors were funky–neon green sweet relish, like the kind you get in Chicago; light green (sport peppers); red (hot pepper sandwich relish); yellow (chow chow); and dull yellow (spicy horseradish mustard); and light reddish/brown (hot dog); and white (bread). These were healthy versions of Chicago dogs, and while not as healthy as broccoli and sweet peppers, the lunch was not exactly unhealthy either.

So while dieting kind of sucks, it doesn’t have to. And it doesn’t have to have look boring either.

Five things I crave every so often

You know you have them–call them vices, foods you love and have to have every so often, or just items you are just a slave to. I could probably list 50 things here, but I’m going to start with five and maybe do another one of these soon. Here are five food items I crave either weekly, monthly, or a few times a year.

1. Buffalo chicken wings–It’s probably the sauce more than anything, but it’s also the fried. The crispy fried skin of chicken wings soaked with buttery, tangy hot sauce. You may as well inject this stuff, but then you wouldn’t get to taste it. I have gotten by of late by ordering those fried chicken tenders (or even grilled if I’m on a diet) at Buffalo Wild Wings (sorry, nobody does it better….it’s just true), but the real deal is sometimes the only way to kill the craving.

2. Green curry–an amazing combination of spices, hot peppers, coconut milk, fish sauce and other stuff that makes up a thick, spicy and addictive sauce that is cooked with meat and/or vegetables, and served over sticky rice. Sometimes you have to find the best green curry where you live, and that’s not always easy. But once you find it, you are golden. Or at least that’s the case with me.

3. Steak–I’ve tried to eat little or no meat before, but I’m just not wired for that. I love beef, and I especially love a great grilled steak. I also make a killer steak sauce, but if the steak is good enough I don’t like to drown it in anything extra-curricular.

4. Fried chicken–We have a diner here in Madison called Hubbard Avenue Diner. They have fried chicken every Thursday and Saturday, and sometimes on Saturdays I have to practically beg my wife to let me take us there. Their chicken is just phenomenal.

5. Donuts–I can’t always walk past them, but I really can’t walk past Dunkin’ Donuts or Krispy Kreme without buying a donut or twelve. Yum. Nothing like fatty, doughy, fried sweetness. Sadly, there are not many donut shops in Madison–only grocery store and gas station donuts.

What are your cravings? Let me know in the space below, or e-mail me at mikeyskitchen@gmail.com and I’ll post your replies soon!

Easy chicken barley soup

Chef JimFinally things are starting to cool down, and when “soup weather” is upper 70′s, you know we have a problem. But hey, this blog is about the food, right? And it felt good to make some soup last night and eat some for lunch today. Not the open a can type of soup, but the real, from-scratch kind. And as with most of my recipes for this blog, I try to keep things simple, so here is how I made it…..

Ingredients
1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast half, diced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
Salt and pepper
1 carton (32 oz.) chicken broth
1/2 cup quick cooking barley
1/2 tsp. each–dried basil, oregano, thyme
Pinch of garlic powder
Pinch of onion powder

Directions
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken, and stir until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add carrots, celery and onion and stir/cook for about 3-4 minutes, adding a generous pinch of both salt and pepper. Add chicken broth, barley and spices, and bring to a boil. Turn down heat, cover loosely and simmer for about 15 minutes. You can add more broth or water if the soup is too thick. Serves 4, or 2 really hungry people.

That’s it–simple and it tastes really good! I should add that I really like Trader Joe’s Free Range Chicken Broth. It really makes the soup.

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