Sopa seca…or…what do I do with this leftover hamburger??

I have been in Denver the past week, which means I left my three kiddos home with Dad. It was an awesome week,  but I am so glad to be home. Before I left, I stocked the fridge and cabinets and made a meal plan for them to follow in my absence. On Taco Tuesday, I got a weird message from my husband that apparently was a question about where the taco meat was. It was weird; he is weird…so I ignored the message. Wah wah wah…lo and behold, the family was in dire need of hamburger (which was in the freezer), so they went out and bought more. With now thrice the required amount of hamburger, what is a husband to do with one packet of taco seasoning? He cooked one pound with the seasoning, and one pound with no seasonings. He used the seasoned stuff for tacos and the bland, gray crumbles for me to deal with when I got home.

Challenge accepted.

Have you heard of Sopa Seca? It’s the perfect dish for leftover hamburger, no doubt. Translated into English, it means dry soup. Have you ever cracked open a box of Rice-A-Roni? Or fussed over a pot of risotto? Sopa Seca has qualities shared by both. The first step to sopa seca is to brown your vermicelli noodles in some oil until nice and toasty. You can add veggies to saute as well, or bland, cooked hamburger, like I had on hand. Once the veggies are soft, vermicelli is toasted, add spices. I added Mexican Oregano, cumin, chili powder, salt, pepper, and garlic.

Next step is to add some liquid. I chose a smallish can of tomato sauce, mixed with some beef broth. The key is to add a bit of liquid at a time, let it boil and bubble, stir it around, add more liquid, boil, stir…until the pasta is the right texture. So it’s fussy in a way, like risotto, but you really don’t have to stir it as much as the rice dish. Just make sure it doesn’t burn or stick, because tomato sauce has quite a bit of natural sugar that loves to stick and burn.

To finish it off? Cilantro and feta cheese. Not fancy, not difficult. Delicious.

Easy Mac and Cheese,  not from the blue box

I always have blue boxes on hand for easy meals. We don’t resort to them much, but I am not afraid to break them out. Boxed macaroni and cheese tastes…fine. It tastes like what it is. It’s dependable.  But I wouldn’t say it tastes…good.

So over the past several years, I have toyed with homemade mac and cheese. Sometimes the sauce breaks. Sometimes it’s bland.  Or gritty.  And if I get too crazy with the cheese variety,  the kids won’t like it. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon some shortcuts that I was able to make a version that was fool proof and kid proof.

Shortcut 1: Use canned condensed cheese soup. I use Campbell’s.

Shortcut 2: Use a couple ounces of Velveeta. Just go with it. Just enough to give the sauce viscosity without giving it that overwhelming, delicious salty plastic flavor.

With these two ingredients,  I can use whatever other cheeses I want. Smoked gouda? Fontina? Pepper jack? Yeah, use them all. Shred it, add it, melt it, taste it, add milk…work with the consistency and flavors that your family loves.

Sorry for the lack of recipe.  Once you get the process down,  it’s not really necessary.  And it’s about adding the type of cheese you like and fussing with it until you get the cheese sauce of your dreams.

To make our meal tonight, I will include diced ham, and a Caesar salad.

Do you have any mac and cheese secrets?

P.S. This version of macaroni and cheese is purely for the kids. I have learned over the past few years that I must invent kids versions and adult versions of the same dish. If I was having a dinner party, my m&c would include a roux…bacon…and a delicious mixture of “adult” cheeses. “Adult” cheese sounds dirty. I’ll just leave you with that.

 Swedish Meatballs

My almost 2 year old won’t stop asking for meatballs for breakfast. Imagine it: 7:30 am. Not a sip of coffee has been had. I hear my daughter calling for me from her room: Mama…MAMAAAA. I open her door: “Hi, Mama! I awake! You awake! I want meatballs! Where’s Daddy? I hungry? I awake! Oh, Mama, you nice! I hungry!”

Uh…

So today, just to shut up her cute little face, we are having meatballs.

I am using this recipe just for the simple fact that Pinterest said it was the “best.” It had better be, damn it.

Changes made:

No panko. I tore up two pieces of bread and soaked them in a splash of milk. Makes for a more tender meatball.

Used minced garlic and powdered onion instead of powdered garlic and minced onion.

The perfect teriyaki chicken 

That’s quite a claim, I know. But I have stumbled upon an easy and delicious method that you will use over and over again.

Ingredients.

  • Boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • Onion powder
  • Chinese 5 spice
  • Salt
  • Your favorite teriyaki sauce…ours is from Soy Vay.

Method.

Liberally season chicken with salt, onion powder, and 5 spice. Grill. I use an electric tabletop one. Chop up and douse in your favorite sauce. Seem too simple? The key is in the 5 spice,  which is a combination of fennel, ginger, cinnamon,  cloves, and anise. The grill chars those spices and makes this meal easy and something quite special.

Doritos Taco Pizza

This is 100% for the kids. Before having them, there is no way on George Clooney’s green earth that I would make this for myself. It’s ridiculous. It’s sacrilegious to even call it taco anything. But oh, well.

Ingredients

  • 2 premade pizza crusts
  • 1 pound of ground beef, browned with taco seasoning, pepper, and Mexican Oregano
  • Some shredded cheese
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • 1 can of Enchilada sauce (el pato is life)
  • Lime
  • Cilantro
  • Crushed Doritos

Method

Brown meat with seasonings. Shred cheese. Layer thusly: first spoon on enchilada sauce. Then beans. Then a drizzle of more sauce. Then meat. Then cheese. Bake. Then add Doritos, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.


Satay-esque Peanut and Chicken Noodle Salad

I do not love peanut butter. Cookies, cake, brownies…sandwiches…crackers…not a fan. I’ll eat it if I am starving, but 9 times out of 10, I will move on without a look behind me.

But. Several years ago, I discovered that peanut butter in a savory application is pretty damned delicious. So that summer, the summer of discovery if you will, we ate peanut noodles at least once a week. At the time, I was a new step mom to a 4 year old and a 2 year old…and they were used to eating mac and cheese. And more mac and cheese. And more mac and cheese. But they loved peanut butter sandwiches, and obviously noodles, so this wasn’t a hard sell.

Time travel to the present: Remember when I said I often will make an awesome recipe only to forget I ever cooked it? Well, 2012 was the year of the peanut noodle and I think it is reemerging in 2017.

I found this recipe on Pinterest, and I am thinking I will make a few changes to it.

Change #1: I am going to cook the cabbage instead of leaving it raw. I might even scorch it some. I LOVE caramelized cabbage. The recipe calls this dish a salad, but I am going to push it over into the entree realm by cooking the cabbage.

Change #2: I don’t love curry powder. I think it’s the turmeric. Instead of seasoning the chicken with it, I will use Chinese 5 spice.

Change #3: Will not garnish with peanuts. Let’s not get crazy, ok?

Change #4: Honey instead of brown sugar

Change #5: Totes using bagged coleslaw instead of shredding my own cabbage.

Change #6: Garnish with cilantro.  Use fish sauce next time. 



Jenn’s “I don’t know what the hell I am doing quiche”

…or as I have to call it for my husband to eat it: Manly egg, bacon, and potato pie. He walked into the kitchen as I was making it, looking dubiously at me as I cooked.

“Coffee?” he asked.

“Nope,” I answered. “It’s not personal…I just got sidetracked by this *gestures*.”

“No coffee is always personal. What are you making?”

“A manly egg, bacon, and potato pie.”

He nodded and left the kitchen.

The only quiche I have eaten in my life came from a grocery store, and it was way better than it had any right being. The kids even loved it. So, as I was sitting on the couch this morning with my girl, watching the 239th Sesame Street of the morning, I had a flash of inspiration: I have a pie crust in the freezer! It might be a little freezer burnt, but I like to live dangerously.

So I have no idea if this will work…let’s be adventurous.

Ingredients

  • five eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk + 1/4 cup sour cream
  • some grated cheese
  • salt and pepper
  • blind baked pie crust
  • 3 strips of pepper bacon
  • whatever was leftover in the bag of frozen hashbrowns, browned in a skillet
  • half of a diced onion, sauteed in bacon fat

Method

Blind bake pie crust. Mix eggs, sour cream, and milk, and throw whatever cheese you have in there, too. Salt and pepper.

Brown bacon. Crumble. Saute onion. Set aside. Brown hashbrowns.

Throw everything into pie crust. Bake at 400 for 15 and at 350 for 30. Hope for the best.

In the meantime, tell her to get out of my onions!

raw onion.jpg