Home-made Flatbread

How does that old curse go? “May you live in interesting times.”

And the times, they are interesting! With the advent of Covid-19, panic buying has emptied the grocery stores of products like toilet paper, paper towels, bottled water, eggs, milk….and bread.

Well, here’s a recipe for making your own bread. It’s pretty easy, even for inexperienced bakers. And since many of us are on furlough from work, why not use that extra time by getting creative in the kitchen?

HOME-MADE FLATBREAD (Makes 6)


Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1-1 1/4 cup of lukewarm water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon oil/butter/shortening

Directions:

  • Mix dry ingredients together and add 1 cup water. Mix.
  • Add additional water until it has the consistency of tacky pizza dough.
  • Knead for five minutes.
  • Let rest in covered greased bowl for 30-60 minutes.
  • Divide into six pieces and roll out on floured surface thin (tortilla thickness).
  • Heat griddle to 350F.
  • Cook until golden brown spots appear (1-2 minutes). Flip and cook for a couple more minutes.

The flatbread can be frozen for later use. It can be used as an accompaniment for soup or stew. It is also delicious spread with mashed pinto/black beans, shredded cheese, and salsa.

Cooking with Bone Broth: Minestrone Soup

Minestrone, made with Trader Joe’s Chicken Bone broth

Bone broth is a nutritious product made by simmering poultry or beef bones for several hours, either in a slow cooker or on a conventional stovetop burner. Because so much of the nutrient in the bones and meat leeches out into the cooking liquid, bone broth contains significantly more protein than regular soup broth.

For those of us who do not have a lot of time to cook, many markets now offer both chicken and beef bone broth. I decided to try out a recipe using Trader Joe’s Chicken Bone broth, along with other prepared foods that can be stored indefinitely and used as needed. I should note that the Trader Joe’s bone broth contains 10 grams of protein per one cup serving.

This meal takes about 30 minutes to prep and cook.

MINESTRONE SOUP (4-6 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 of a sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jarred minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon powdered oregano
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 pint carton of Trader Joe’s Organic Chicken Bone Broth
  • 1 15 oz. can drained cannelli beans
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen Italian-style vegetables (I used the Signature brand Tuscan vegetables, found at Albertson’s)
  • 1 tablespoon dried celery flakes
  • 1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt

Cooking directions:

  • Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan.
  • Add the onions and saute for 4 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and oregano and saute for 1 minute more.
  • Add the tomatoes and simmer for one minute.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.

Delicious with crispy French bread.

Smoked Sausage and Tortellini

One of the great things about most pasta dishes is that they freeze and reheat well for leftover lunches. With that in mind, here is a delicious dish from the Hillshire Farms website, under https://www.hillshirefarm.com/recipes/dinner/smoked-sausage-and-tortellini-skillet/

SMOKED SAUSAGE AND TORTELLINI SKILLET (6 servings)

Ingredients:

  • 1 package Hillshire Farm Smoked Turkey Sausage, diagonally cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, 1/2 inch diced
  • 1 package Fresh Cheese Tortellini, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 jar marinara sauce
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Heat a large 12-inch oven-safe skillet* over medium-high heat and add smoked sausage, cook until brown. Add garlic, onion and bell pepper. Lower heat to medium and stir until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in cooked tortellini, oregano, marinara sauce and one cup of cheese. Top with remaining cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

*If you don’t have an oven-safe skillet, you can cook the sausage, garlic, onion and bell pepper on top of the stove, then pour all ingredients into a greased 9″x9″ inch casserole dish and bake per instructions.

My husband made this dish last week, and it was just delicious! I vacuum-bagged individual left-over portions and froze them. Although the pasta can be microwaved, my own preference is to reheat using my Hot Logic thermal mini bag. (See https://myhotlogic.com for further information about this amazing device.) I placed the frozen pasta and a vegetable side dish into the thermal bag and plugged it in. In two hours, the food was hot and ready to eat.

Smoked Turkey Sausage and Tortellini with a side dish of Trader Joe’s Frozen Rainbow Cauliflower

A Classic with a Twist….Lox, Bagels, and Avocado

Lox (smoked salmon), onion, and mashed avocado on a “Dave’s Killer Everything” bagel

For me, lox (smoked salmon) and bagels are comfort food. I love this dish with cream cheese and lots of sweet onion.

As with everything else, I’m always looking for ways to make my favorite dishes healthier, while maintaining flavor. So here’s another take on lox and bagels: Substitute avocado for the cream cheese.

Avocados are rich in flavor and full of nutrition. They are a source of potassium, folate (a B vitamin necessary for health), thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3), vitamin E, and vitamin K. And I find them to be a great substitute for cream cheese.

My favorite bagels these days are “Dave’s Killer” brand. Like most bagel products, these are rather high in calories (260 per one bagel). But they also contain substantially more fiber and protein than other brands (Dave’s “Everything” Bagel includes 13 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber).

This dish is nice with coleslaw, olives, and a few slices of tomato.

Down-Home Leftovers for Lunch

Leftover spare ribs, corn on the cob wrapped in foil, frozen collard greens

My husband made some crockpot spare ribs the other day. I begged him for just one leftover rib so that I could bring it to lunch this past Tuesday.

Fortunately, I had a couple of additional items in the freezer: Frozen collard greens and frozen corn on the cob. I put a dab of butter on the corn and wrapped it in foil. Then, I added a 1/4 teaspoon onion powder and a 1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke to the collards. * I lidded the containers, closed the bag, plugged it in, and let it work its magic for two hours. I had a half hour drive to my senior’s lunch group/German class at Cal State Fullerton. The hot plate in the Hot Logic continued to keep my food warm during the trip. Everything was perfectly cooked and delicious! **

If you are interested in finding out more about the Hot Logic Mini thermal bag, check out “Equipment and Gadgets” under the “Menu” section of this blog. Otherwise, check out https://www.myhotlogic.com.

* I would recommend adding a couple of tablespoons water to the collards if you need to leave the bag plugged in longer than two hours. The additional moisture will keep the vegetables from drying out from the heat.

**Cooking spare ribs in a crock pot is quite simple, and it can easily be done during the weekend. Go the packaged foods section of the store where they stock gravies and sauces. Look for either Shillings or McCormick BBQ Slow Cookers Pulled Pork Sauce, and just follow the directions using spare ribs. My husband recommends the following: It will take about eight hours to cook the meat. After six hours, use a basting syringe to suck out the fat that has accumulated in the crock pot. Then cover and continue to cook.

I would like to add that the corn and collards would be excellent with warmed up fried or baked chicken.

When There’s No Time to Cook….

We’re all been in that situation. Stuff stacks up on us, we can’t get to the market for our groceries during the weekend, and now Monday morning is here. So, are we stuck with McDonalds for lunch?

It doesn’t have to be that way. Get into the habit of maintaining staples for those times that you can’t go grocery shopping. Here are a couple of items I always have in my pantry:

Canned soups. I tend towards hearty, main-course items. My favorite products are Progresso Lentil Soup, Amy’s Curried Lentil Soup, and Trader Joe’s Organic Chili. I like legume soups because they are full of protein and fiber and make a complete meal.

Energy bars. I keep Atkins bars on hand when it’s not convenient to cook or pack breakfast or lunch. I like Atkins especially because the meal bars contain a lot of protein and fiber. Of course, I would not recommend a steady diet of processed foods like Atkins. But they’re helpful in a pinch.

Hard-boiled eggs. I like to keep them on hand when I don’t have time to prepare a complete breakfast.

Cheese. I always have cheese on hand. My favorite is Trader Joe’s Lite Cheddar. One slice is only 80 calories, with 4 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein. After I’ve opened a package, I wrap it using my vacuum bagger. When stored in this way, cheese is good for two to three weeks after purchase.

Food saver vacuum bagger

Frozen foods. I much prefer to fix my own meals, but I also store frozen dinners in case I haven’t gotten to the market. My favorite brands are Amy’s frozen meals, Saffron Road, and Cederlane. Because I own a Hot Logic thermal bag, I can pack frozen vegetables, legumes, and meats for cooking during the workday. If you do not have access to an office microwave and are curious about how the Hot Logic works, please check out the “Equipment and Gadgets” section of this blog’s “Menu.” You can also access http://www.myhotlogic.com regarding information about the device.

Flavorings. When I prepare foods with my Hot Logic thermal bag, I like to have sauces and other items for adding flavor to pre-cooked dishes. For example, I use powdered onion and powdered garlic (found in the spice/baking section of the supermarket) to enhance the taste of frozen vegetables. When I cook fish in the thermal bag, my favorite flavoring is Lawry’s Lemon Pepper sauce (found in the sauce aisle of the supermarket). I love collard greens, and I usually spice up this vegetable with Liquid Smoke (found in the sauce aisle of the supermarket.)

******

This week, I was somewhat at a loss for what to bring to my regular Tuesday lunchgroup. (We usually meet right before German class for seniors at Cal State Fullerton.) I looked in my cupboards and noted some chili I had purchased at Trader Joe’s.

I packed this item in my Hot Logic thermal bag, along with some corn tortillas I had purchased at Sprout’s. I made sure to wrap the tortillas loosely in foil so that they did not come in direct contact with the hot plate in the thermal bag. Otherwise, they would have hardened.

I also added some Trader Joe’s Lite Cheddar to the chili. I heated everything for a couple of hours. Here are the results…a nice, hot meal!

Chicken Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Chicken Soup

As mentioned in a previous article, January is National Soup Day. Therefore, I’m posting one last soup recipe: Chicken Pumpkin Soup. This is a reprint from 2018, but the dish is so tasty I think it’s worth another look.

CHICKEN PUMPKIN SOUP (2-3 servings)

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrot, chopped
  • 1 pound cubed uncooked skinless and boneless chicken breast, cut into 1″ cubes. *
  • 1 cup (3 stalks) chopped celery, chopped
  • 1/2 cup medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1   15 ounce can of solid packed pumpkin
  • 1   15 ounce can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup sour cream, warmed to room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Juice of one lemon

1. In a large saucepan, heat the vegetable oil.

2.Add the next five ingredients and saute for five minutes.

3.Add everything else, except for the lemon juice, and mix well.

4.Heat until the mixture is bubbling. Lower to simmer, and cook for 20 minutes.

This dish is good with cornbread. It reheats well using the heating devices I have previously mentioned. (See “Equipment and Gadgets” under “Menu” section.)

*You can also use cubed pre-cooked chicken or turkey. Do not saute as in Step 2. Instead, add the meat at Step 4.