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29 April 2008 @ 12:54 am
Midnight cooking adventures are always either amazing, or monstrous. Tonight's bite of hunger was fairly fortunate, though the meal took a full half-hour to prepare. Still, it was easy, filling, cheap, and delicious.

I thank my girlfriend for the inspiration - she has a multitude of frozen chicken breasts, and only two weeks in which to eat them. I was trying to come up with an easy way she could combine them with the other foods she has without having to buy anything else from the grocery store. When I went to visit two weeks ago, we made a chili soup by boiling a chicken breast for home-made stock, and that was the final spark for tonight's project.

Two-Ingredient Chicken Ramen Soup

1 chicken breast of any cut or style, frozen or unfrozen
1 packet ramen

Optional Foods:
Frozen broccoli

1 medium pot
1 ladle or serving spoon
A fork
A plate
A stove

Place the chicken breast in your pot, and fill the pot with enough water to cover the chicken twice over; i.e. if it's two cups to cover it, put four cups total in the pot. Put either the ramen seasoning packet or your own spice mix into the pot. (I used a pinch each of basil and cumen and a tablespoon or so seasoned salt; experiment if you feel comfortable) Put the pot on the stove on medium-high heat, with a lid on.
Let the water boil gently for twenty to thirty minutes. Essentially, you don't want your water threatening to boil out of the pot, and you don't want the water to evaporate too quickly. Just keep an eye on it, and if the water goes low enough that it's not covering the chicken anymore, just add more water.
After twenty to thirty minutes, the chicken should be cooked through. Turn the heat down to low and fish the chicken out, and put it on a plate or cutting board. If the chicken had skin, remove it and throw it away. It'll be gross. Shred or chop the chicken into little pieces, and return it to the pot. Add your brick of ramen. Boil the water again until the ramen is cooked.
Serve, and enjoy.

Optional: Throw in some frozen broccoli when you add the ramen, and cook the whole thing covered until the ramen is done. The broccoli will steam/boil to a nice consistency while the ramen is cooking.

Serves: One
Cost: 1.50$-3$, depending on the cost of chicken
Difficulty: Easy
Ingredient Complexity: Piece of Cake
Variations: Add vegetables and spices to your liking. Drip scrambled egg in while the ramen is boiling to make egg drop soup. Try this with egg noodles or tortellini instead of ramen. Add dumplings. Go wild.
15 April 2008 @ 10:08 pm
I'm a busy student. Between work, writing, and free time, I occasionally forget to cook. If it gets too late and I haven't cooked dinner, I'll sometimes opt for expensive and generally unhealthy before-bed delivery, because I'm feeling too tired and unmotivated to turn on the stove.

Tonight was one of those nights. I work the opening shift on Wednesdays, so I have to turn in pretty early on Tuesdays - but it was 9:30 before I realized I was both 1) hungry and 2) in need of a shower. So I told my girlfriend I'd be right back and headed for the bathroom to cleanse my smelly self, and on the way there took a single thin-sliced pork chop from the freezer. I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but I reasoned that if I took it out of the freezer, I'd have to cook it somehow for dinner. Mind you, I didn't really know what I was going to do with it yet.

Inspiration struck mid hair-washing.

A pork ramen omelet (or pork romlet) is both filling and more nutritious than my delivery fallback, which usually consists of a sandwich made of chicken fingers and processed cheese. I also managed to both shower and cook dinner between 9:37pm and 10:07pm - exactly thirty minutes. I also used a total of four dishes for the entire meal.

This is what you'll need:
Thin cut of pork
1 pack ramen, any flavor/brand
2 eggs

Chili powder
Garlic powder or pre-diced/mashed garlic in a jar
Vegetable oil

Medium frying pan
Microwave-safe bowl

Smash up the noodles in the ramen packet so they're nice and small, then dump them in your microwave safe bowl. Fill the bowl with water until the ramen is submerged (or you can push the floating bits down and completely cover them; ramen floats, and not all of it will stay under, but most of it should). Microwave this for about five minutes, or until the noodles are soft. Do not add the seasoning packet! Remove it and set it aside for future cooking adventures - you will not need it for this recipe.
While the ramen is microwaving, slice the pork chop into small cubes, about half an inch square. They don't have to be exact, but the smaller they are the faster they'll cook, and the better they'll integrate with the rest of the ingredients later. Pour about a tablespoon and a half of vegetable oil into the pan, or enough to thoroughly coat the pan bottom, and heat the oil up over medium heat. Dump in the pork cubes and distribute evenly in the pan. Sprinkle a pinch each of your salt, pepper, chili powder, and garlic over them; there should be a liberal amount covering all the cubes. A quarter to half a teaspoon should do. Cook the pork until all of it is cooked all the way through, but be careful not to burn it - don't be afraid to add a little more oil if you have to.
By now, your ramen should be done microwaving. If it isn't, take the pork off the heat until it is to avoid setting your fire alarm off. When the ramen is done, take it out and drain all the water from the bowl, and add the noodles in with the pork cubes. Mix them until the ramen is evenly coated in the oil from the pan bottom. While heating the whole thing over medium heat, crack your eggs one at a time and add them in. Make sure to scramble the yolk with the end of the spatula as soon as you drop the egg in, or you'll get weird white lumps.
Mix and fold and scramble the pork, eggs, and noodles together until the egg is fully cooked (the consistency of regular scrambled eggs) and the whole thing begins to resemble a weird stringy omelet.
Serve it up in the bowl you originally microwaved the ramen in. Add salt and pepper as desired.

The entire recipe took me about fifteen minutes. The result may not look beautiful, but it's hearty, cheap, and tasty.

Serves: One
Cost: 1.50$
Difficulty: Easy
Ingredient Complexity: Easy/Intermediate
Variations: Add veggies for more vitamins (broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers, corn, etc); use different types of meat or tofu, but be sure to chop it up fine for quick and even cooking. Try pasta sauce for a bit more flavor.
18 November 2007 @ 09:37 pm
I'm attempting a partial Thanksgiving this year.

My friend naughtyflamingo is holding 'un-Thanksgiving' at her place the day before the Big Day, and since this is the first year I'm having Thanksgiving away from home, I thought I'd try and cook some of my family's traditional fare for my friends.

Keep in mind I've never done anything more involved than beef stew. My skill level in cooking is 'beginner'.

I'll be doing two pies (pecan and pumpkin), my mom's cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts in a bechamel cream sauce, and a turkey. I'm not concerned about the pies, sprouts, or cranberries, but I'm terribly nervous about the turkey.

On my mother's advice, I'm using this recipe: The Ultimate Turkey, according to the LA Times

Right now I have a 12-pound bird sitting in my fridge in a bag of salt and spices. As tradition dictates, I've named the bird. She's a turkey hen, and her name is Henrietta.

I often feel my family fails at having traditions, because we lack any sort of cultural heritage. We're white and American through and through. But in working on my very own first Thanksgiving, I'm realizing that we have more traditions than I first thought, and that I'm subconsciously passing them on. The sprouts are one - naming the turkey is another. This is more than just an adventure in cooking to me. This is one of the first opportunities I have to replicate some aspects of one of my family's most important rituals: food.

I will fret over Henrietta's wellbeing for the next three days, right up until that first cut is made. Will the skin be crisp but not burnt? Will she be cooked all the way through? Did I choose the right mix of spices? Did I salt her enough? Will she be too dry, too raw, too salty?

My mother cooked a turkey in an oven without a proper heat regulator, using a fork to prop the door open to obtain the correct temperature. Hopefully I can manage just as well as she did - and I have the benefit of a working oven!
27 October 2007 @ 09:40 pm
It's been a while since my last update, but things have been a tad hectic around here, so good cooking hasn't happened. But today, I saw something that I simply had to rant about.

Sunflower Market, our neighborhood Moral Grocery, now sells all-natural ice cubes. That's right: everyday supermarket ice isn't good enough anymore. We need ice we can feel good about. We need ice from all-natural spring water, free of impurities! We need... organic ice cubes.

This concept is ludicrous to me. If you're that obsessed with water quality, buy some ice cube trays and a brita filter. I suppose if you're having a big party of vegan art students and hippies, you might need organic ice, but that's a stretch.

If your friends insist that you have organic ice at your party, find new friends.

I'll buy into the whole 'organic is good for the environment' thing, and I do buy local produce and free-range/all-natural/whatever meat when I have the financial resources. I find that local, organic vegetables and fruits really do taste better in most situations. But... all-natural ice? What on earth does that have to do with anything? Seems a perfectly good waste of 'spring water' to me.

It's possible to take a good thing way too far.
17 September 2007 @ 11:43 pm
So, Skybus. Cheap airfare, and convenient for crossing the country for those of us who, like me, go to school on the opposite coast from their families. I've flown Skybus four times now, and I have to say as an airline it does relatively well - it does what it's supposed to. Its in-flight magazine is riddled with grammatical atrocities, and its crew and staff is skeletal at best, but the seats have plenty of leg room and only one of four of the flights I've been on (all of which were from LA to Columbus and back again) were crowded. All in all, I enjoy flying Skybus. It's cheap, but it's decent for how much the tickets cost.

The food, on the other hand, makes the baby Jesus weep. Granted, I haven't had time to sample their full menu, but I've had the breakfast sandwich and the chicken plate, and neither tasted any better than typical airplane food. When you're playing 8$-10$ a pop, you expect something a little better. When you screw up chicken and a breakfast sandwich, you know you have problems.

The cheese plate is decent. The types of cheese involved vary somewhat, but there's always a cheddar of some sort and a swiss, along with two other randomly selected types. Sometimes you get strawberries and grapes, and sometimes you just get grapes, but either way it's decently fresh fruit. I'm inclined to believe that the fruit platter is in the same realm as 'tolerable'. Both of these cost 8$, which is steep, but they're filling and they don't taste of death.

In other news, I visited Surfas while I was home. I think I might've died a little. I have a weakness for stores full of cooking implements, and Surfas doesn't just serve up the usual high-end merchandise - they provide commercial equipment as well. I acquired a giant aluminum pan for my own kitchen. Since I hope to be in Japan this time next year, I opted against investing in something expensive.

I also stole my mother's Wok. And by 'stole', I mean she gave it to me and I pretended to be sneaky about putting it in my suitcase.
03 September 2007 @ 01:47 am
Letting my room-mate loose to do his thing in the kitchen at 1:00am might be the best idea ever.

I admit, I've been just a touch skeptical about some of her culinary ideas, but she's never been wrong yet. Take tonight, for example: what started out as simple poor-man's cream puffs became what essentially amounted to oral seduction.

There was a cream sauce involved, and it had Kamora in it.

Juicy Details Behind the CutCollapse )

I have a little something-something in the oven as well. We had an acorn squash sitting around for a while, and I finally decided it needed to be baked tonight before it went bad. I couldn't find any recipes on the internet that looked enough like my mother's to suit my purposes, so I made my own. It's sort of a throw-stuff-in-a-bowl-and-hope-it-turns-out deal, but... it works for me.

It's flying by the seat of our pants time!Collapse )
26 August 2007 @ 12:31 am
My room-mate and I were screwing around in the kitchen this evening, trying to come up with something dessert-flavored we could cook. We have a distinct lack of stuff in the kitchen right now (we're moving at the end of the month), so improvisation happened.

We had chocolate. We had milk. We had couscous.

And this is where it gets GOOD.Collapse )
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