Sharing recipes that are good for the body, soul, and budget!
I was hanging out at the ranch by myself last night (not because of Captain Trips, it’s just who I am). Anyway, I got a bit peckish and decided I should probably take in some grains in a non-liquid form for a change. So I decided to put on my chef hat and think, if you can imagine me thinking (or wearing a chef hat for that matter).
If you’ve read this food section of our blog before, you might be familiar with my incredible skills making delicious food while not wanting to work too hard or get a knife dirty. And this recipe is the same, though you could slice some cheese or aromatics if you aren’t so drunk you might hack your finger off. Unless you’re one of those lazy people who buy their cheese already grated (SWIDT?).
Before you start, you’ll need some quality ingredients on hand. The base ones you can probably get from Whole Foods or some other intentionally expensive boutique outlet if you’re silly. I recommend Amazon Prime for the grits (buying in bulk is amazingly cheap) and your local grocery purveyor (Walmart, perhaps) for the protein.
Quaker Instant Grits packets
Frozen shrimp cocktail tray, thawed
Other stuff, as and if
See the back of the grits packet for cooking directions and then add the truffles and caviar once the porridge starts to simmer or after it’s cooked in the microwave (which, being a purist, is my preferred device for this dish). And by ‘truffles and caviar,’ I mean shrimp and cheese and / or whatever you think you can keep down. I’m not saying it will get a Michelin star. I’m saying you can eat it.
I write these things up as attempts at humor, but I never write about something I tried and did not like. For whatever that might be worth.
I hope I’ve brightened your day inside your house a little and given you a reason to go to the kitchen and get ‘cooking.’ It isn’t a Nautilus machine, but at least you will walk a few more steps. That’s exercise in my book.
Join us next time on ‘Rex Gets Drunk and Thinks Up Stuff to Eat!’
Eat the world,
The following is an actual recipe as I emailed it to a good friend several years ago. I’m sure I didn’t invent this thing, but I first thought it up in late 2005 while reading about crab cakes (I was looking up something to do with Phillip’s Lump Crab Meat, which I had just discovered at the Commissary). Living in England at the time, I had access to both fresh and frozen seafood of all varieties. I must say though, that Phillip’s stuff in tins is really quite good. As I say, this started as an email (actually, two emails, one quoting the other at length). I’ve adapted the text as necessary to make it a bit more… presentable, but left the original as much as possible for giggles. And no, I’m not British. Between “Recipe:” and “---Start new part---,” I was writing an email to a British colleague in my best Dick van Dyke accent. My wife is British. She’s my technical advisor.
With that, dear reader, let us get to the meat of the matter.
Alright, dude. I found it. I really didn't want to write it again, but I ended up adding a bunch of stuff anyway. Here, then, are the best fried seafood patties I have ever eaten. Anywhere. I know it's my recipe but that’s OK: I'm really good. Because I cannot say I've ever had a better "croquet."
Crab cakes my way (Rex's Seafood Cakes is probably a better name):
Makes four medium-sized patties:
- Crab meat, maybe 250 grams (1/2 pound-ish)...more or less, depending on amounts of other ingredients...amount not critical, mainly for consistency, plus the flavour, of course. Get quality lump meat if you can.
- Prawns, about 12 medium. Maybe around 5cm (2 inches) long. Take the digestive tract out and cut into chunks (the prawns, not the digestive tracts - throw those out). I cut them into three or four chunks because I like the meaty texture. Work with it to figure out how you like it best.
- Bread crumbs. I use fresh (vice stale) white, take off the crusts. It needs two slices usually, but depends on various factors...thickness of bread, amount of other ingredients. Once you figure out the consistency and degree of wetness needed, you'll know whether to add more crumbs.
- Spring (green) onion - 1 or 2, depends how much you like onion. Chop finely (or not finely, depends how you want it). Finely is good because this allows better control of the texture so the cakes will not fall apart when cooking. Could also use a shallot, I suppose. Or you could leave it off altogether, up to you. Garlic might even work, if you like garlic (we do, but I haven't tried it in this dish because the cakes don't cook long enough to make the garlic very mild, and semi-cooked garlic would be too strong for the other flavours, in my opinion).
- Cilantro - don't really know the amount. I just use some, normally quite a lot, maybe two or three tablespoons (fresh). If you don't like cilantro, don't use it. Or use parsley. Or nothing green, whatever. I don't recommend going to basil or anything, as this is more Asian than Italian...I stick to non-Italian things for these.
- An egg - just, well, smash it in there with your hands. May need more or less, depending.
---Start new part---
Make up the mixture in a large bowl, then refrigerate for a bit to… you probably know all this. It needs to be stiff to get it shaped. So you need to get it cold again after working it. I tend to shape the cakes after that, then chill the finished product yet again for 5 or 10 minutes while I get some flour down to fry them and heat the oil. Season the flour, lightly coat the cakes, shake off excess flour, then fry those babies in whatever fat you like. I use canola because I always have it around. I have used olive oil but it costs more, and apart from the health aspect I don't notice a difference. I mean, it tastes the same. Oh, I fry these over medium flame, maybe a little hotter. And not in deep oil, just a little more than coating the pan. If you make this exactly as written, the cakes will be pretty thick (or really wide - crab pancakes?). Time is needed to cook the shrimp inside, so too hot will burn the flour.
I always make a sweet chili jam for this. 2 TBLS water, 2 TBLS mirin (I just use any old rice vinegar), and 100 grams of sugar (3.5 ounces - it looks like a lot of sugar when you first put it in; don’t worry). Get the sugar integrated over medium heat, then add some chopped red chili (or green, whatever you like). I like Thai chilis. Sometime I add a habanero or two for color. You decide how many and how hot. I normally use 5-6 medium-sized hot ones. Just dice the chilis, throw them in the saucepan, and cook it until it looks good for dipping. Oh, turn the heat down after you put in the chilis. If you leave it high (er, medium), be prepared to take it off the heat and eat immediately. As a lollipop. It will turn to hard candy if you leave it too long. Hot, spicy, gooey candy. Seriously, drop the heat to medium low and let the chilis cook that way. And pay attention to it. But you understand simple syrup, so I'm wasting words here. You will know when it's ready. One note: I recommend decanting from the cooking vessel into a glass bowl or some such before it actually reaches the consistency you want. It'll thicken a little after that. And don't let it cool too much before serving.
OK, the cake recipe itself I wrote for a British colleague of mine at the time. She wasn't a good cook (according to her, at least - and she never brought food to the unit functions), but she was trying to improve. She saw me eating one of my leftover crab cakes at work one day and asked where I had gotten it. So, I ended up telling her the recipe via email.
That's why the wording at the top might come off as over-simplified. The mixing it part and the chili jam part I just wrote. I hope it didn't seem as condescending.
This is my riff on crab cakes. I googled them (because I had some crab and other seafood), and just did some thinking and changing, came up with this. I don't know that I've ever made crab cakes another way. I suppose if I were in Maryland I might just use all crab (so the purists wouldn't lynch me). But I'm not in Maryland (the Brits pronounce it Mary Land - really. All of them do. Mary was their queen, you see). I figured if crab cakes are good (and they are), then crab cakes with chunks of shrimp in them would be better. In my view, I was right. Your mileage may vary. But if you want to see a rabbit slap a hound dog, give the rabbit one of these. They're that good. If I do say so myself.
As I said at the beginning, I am pretty sure some other person has done this. I didn’t see it when I was searching for crab cake recipes so as far as you and I know, I invented the damn thing. (h/t Mr. Scott for the phrasing suggestion)
Just go on Altavista (or whatever the kids are doing these days to find stuff on the internet) and search crab cakes and let your mind take you places your stomach wants to go. This was my biggest success ever at trying a new food idea. At risk of sounding my own horn too loudly: These cakes are truly brilliant. I’m not asking for money or recognition. Just trying to help you enjoy life.
I couldn’t find a photograph I’ve taken of these lightly fried wonders of the sea. Some will suggest using the oven for part of the cooking. Balderdash, I say! You need to keep eyes on this so you know exactly when they are Golf, Bravo, and Delta. Enjoy!
File photo (from here because this is where I found the image. I didn’t read this recipe and do not vouch for it):
It isn’t as complicated as I wrote it. Give it a try. These things are absolutely delicious.
Yours in truly delectable fried foods,
P.S. Crab cakes for lunch at work: Yes, I’m the guy who nuked fish products at the office. - The Master Sergeant
I’m going to tell you a story now, but that’s mostly just fluff. If you don’t care about my discursive and verbose meanderings, skip to the end. It’s going to blow your mind.
If you know me, you know I’m shy and don’t like talking about myself very much. Be that as it may, I will share this part of my greatness with you all. I am nothing if not a humanitarian. And an outstanding cook, of course.
I am not unversed in fine dining. I’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants in the world (opinions vary), I’ve had tons of mediocre stuff (as have we all), and I’ve eaten things that even I question whether they are actually food. Oo, pare.
I have been known to reach for and attain success at some pretty high-class dishes myself. I once made cutlets of a pork tenderloin, topped them with two different compound butter discs I made, shaped, and froze. I then cooked them in a really hot, terrifying oven for some interminable amount of time (they were lovely).
I also make crab cakes that people beg me to do again (and to tell them the recipe for). And I will, every time. I love food, and I think everyone should. And ask me about my monkfish tails stuffed with shrimp and wrapped in prosciutto then baked until it makes sex seem unimportant (at least for a few minutes). Or fresh figs split and stuffed with buffalo mozzarella then wrapped with prosciutto, drizzled with extra virgin oil, and baked for a few minutes. Look it up on your favorite search engine if need be, but that is the basic idea. It’s easy enough that I figured it out.
You know what isn’t easy? Gumbo. But I can make Cajuns wonder what they’ve been doing wrong. I’m from round here, y’all.
And if you want a properly cooked duck breast or an egg-yolk raviolo? OK, let’s talk terms. Anyway, let’s move on to the reason I’m writing this (other than just bragging about some excellent stuff I’ve cooked and ignoring all my mistakes)...
I don’t pretend to be a Mexican food expert. I’m not even all that much of a Mexican food lover (yeah, yeah - don’t @ me). But one thing I always keep on hand is 6-inch flour tortillas. Hear me out.
When I moved to this place I live now (the only house I’ve ever co-owned (with a bank)), I knew there was an electric hob / cooktop (I call it a hob, so that’s what it will be from here out) here, so I arranged for a new cooker to be installed here. I also had to get the gas company to come connect the line. That was expensive ‘butt’ amusing (*nods toward Dawn*). And totally worth it.
If you have a gas hob and a small flour tortilla (and you really should), you have options far beyond a grilled cheese or a cold cut sammich. You still have those options, of course. This is America; eat whatever you like. But my view of sammich snack-food nirvana is a flour tortilla roasted over a flame, preferably on my hob. Because my hob has cast iron grates and makes for lovely heat distribution on a flatbread. And that char cannot be beat.
I do savory ones sometimes with just cold cuts and / or slices of cheese (not that ‘American cheese food’ stuff, laws no). I use catfish I thawed and baked, leftover roast beef sliced thin… all sorts.
But one of my favorite uses of flour tortillas is to make a dessert. A particular gem is fig preserves and jalapeño cream cheese spread inside a really toasty tortilla. It doesn’t look much, but that’s down to my crap phone camera skills. It’s delicious:
Something about the fire and the softness of the flour tortillas means the bread just browns / blackens exactly how I want it to be. And once I flip it and let it singe for a bit on the B side, I just let it sit there on the hot cast iron grate while I put on whatever topping I’m using at the time.
If you gotten this far, you’ve realized this whole piece was about telling you to get a gas hob. Oh, and to always keep small flour tortillas on hand. I forgot to mention I am a pretty good cook. But that’s for another time.
This recipe is straight out of the finest of culinary collections...my elementary school cookbook! All the moms would submit their favorite recipes (some of them must have burned off all their tastebuds) and then copies were sold as a fundraiser. My mom reworked this recipe for our tastes long ago, but in any case I'll hat tip Vickie Smith in Bakersfield, CA! Whoever you are and wherever you may be now!
The original name was "Chinese Chicken Salad." That seemed problematic after about 1990 so it was then referred to as "Oriental Chicken Salad." Some people think saying Oriental-anything isn't appropriate either and I don't know all the rules when it concerns the PC labels for foods, so we'll just go with Asian Chicken Salad! It's a little old school on some of the ingredients, but I promise it is easy and delicious!
5-6 chicken breasts
1 head cabbage, shredded
4 tbsp diced almonds
2 pkg Top Ramen chicken flavor
4 tbsp sugar
6tbsp red wine vinegar
3/4 cup oil (we use vegetable or canola oil)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp Accent
And that's it! Easy peasy. Serve immediately or chill if preferred. I particularly love this the day after, as the ingredients have really soaked up all the dressing.
Don't be deterred if you don't think you like cabbage! I honestly didn't think I liked it either if it wasn't wrapped in a crispy fried egg roll. For years my mom didn't tell us it was cabbage! She let us assume it was crisp lettuce because that's what it tastes like. Moms can be so sneaky!
Hope y'all are having a great summer, enjoy!
*TIP* Splurge for smoked almonds for extra yumminess!
Kayla may be a born and raised Pacific Northwesterner, but we have long suspected that she is really a Southerner at heart. And what more proof of that could we find than this insanely delicious, creamy, cheesy bucket of down home comfort food!
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (I sauteed them on the stovetop in a bit of olive oil)
1 can cream of mushroom/cream of chicken soup (either works)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup milk
Veggies of your choice (sautéed onions, peas, broccoli if you're into that crap)
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces
(For the biscuits)
2 1/4 cup Bisquick
2/3 cup Milk
Preheat oven to 400°
Mix soup, milk, cheese, pepper and salt and pour into an 8x8 baking pan. Bake until the mixture is hot and bubbling (5 minutes or so).
While that is baking, mix Bisquick and milk in a separate bowl.
Remove pan from oven, add the chicken and veggies and stir it all together. Sprinkle butter pieces over top.
Drop Bisquick mixture on top in rounded spoonfuls, making about 9 biscuits. Bake for about 15 minutes (until biscuits are slightly browned and center isn't gooey).
Let the pan cool 5 minutes and enjoy!
Mmmm...creamy pasta. Who doesn't love a creamy pasta dish? This is one of my favorite types of recipes. Relatively inexpensive, you can substitute ingredients with things you like or have on hand, it makes a large amount, and other than the pasta, it is all made in one pan! Limited clean up is always a plus for this busy toddler mom.
I'll list the ingredients I used this time around below, but I often change them up depending on what's in my fridge or what my taste buds are in the mood for. Sometimes I use chicken thighs, though I prefer breasts for this. I often add broccoli or zucchini right into the dish. Even bell pepper or carrots. I might use cherry tomatoes I have on hand instead of Romas. Or I'll substitute kale or any other greens for the spinach. You can really make this however you like and when you sub veggies you already have and need to use up, it is very budget friendly!
As always with my concoctions, I don't really measure much of anything. I use how much looks "right" and smells or tastes "right." Super scientific. However, for this specific recipe, I do stick to the measured amounts on the half and half and cheese to get to the right consistency. Everything else can be eye-balled, but for the love of Bobby Flay, don't under season!
First thing I do is get everything out and somewhat organized and prep anything that needs prepping. Really helps make this an even quicker dish to whip up!
Let's get cookin!
**Sidenote: If you're not adept at mincing garlic, you can use a microplane grater or invest in one of these cute garlic grating sets that I highly recommend!**
That's it! Taste and season as necessary. When it is to your desired thickness, plate up! Top with some extra parmesan and enjoy!
Last night I was wanting some chili and decided to have it Cincinnati style, with spaghetti and cheddar. Why, you ask? I like pasta. I like chili. I like cheese.
This is the easiest ‘recipe’ you will ever make. I left out cooking instructions because if you have difficulty figuring those out, you’re probably better off at your local Burger Emporium or Neighborhood Grill.
Without further ado, here it is:
1. Boil spaghetti noodles.
2. Open can of Hormel Hot, No Beans Chili. Put contents in microwave-safe bowl. Cover unless you like cleaning goop out of your appliances.
3. Shred cheddar cheese.
4. Dice or chop or bludgeon (your call) an onion (optional, unless you don't have a fucking onion, like my dumb ass).
5. Put all that shit together in a cutesy pasta bowl you got cheap from some street vendor and eat it. It's good.
In case you might have wondered, I can actually cook. Many people say I’m quite good at it. Many, many people. But if I can create this stunning and delicious masterpiece in half an hour and for under four dollars, why wouldn’t I?
That’s it for this one, fellow foodies. Join us next time on ‘Rex Gets Drunk and Thinks Up Stuff to Eat!’ Perhaps I’ll share my secrets to Steak Tartare. If I can remember to get a damn onion.
Eat the world,
The holidays are here and with that means lots delicious food! One of my favorite things about this time of year are the family recipes that only make an appearance during the season. Right on cue, I received a bag full of my grandma’s Texas Trash (though some Yanks I know call this stuff Scrabble). It seemed like a perfect time to share my favorite snack mix EVER. Many versions exist, but I wanted to share the ones I grew up eating by the handful! My grandma has been making this since Truman was in office and none are quite like hers.
Recipe by Grandma Holmsted
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
10 cups dry stuff: any combination of Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Wheat Chex, Cheerios, pretzels, mixed nuts, pecans, and Goldfish crackers. Be sure to use at least 3 cups cereal or mixture will be too greasy. Place in aluminum foil roasting pan (17 x 12 1/2) or baking pan (17 x 12).
Mix and microwave in a small bowl:
Mix thoroughly and pour over dry stuff in bowl. Stir carefully to coat uniformly. Spread onto pan and sprinkle lightly with garlic powder.
Bake on middle rack for 15 minutes. Stir and bake 15 minutes. Then stir and bake 15 minutes more. Lay out paper towels on counter and turn over onto them to cool.
Here are the favorite combinations of my family:
Like many of my family recipes, you really can't mess this up. Mix, match, and enjoy all holiday season long! These make great goodie bags for parties, coworkers, neighbors, and even the super moms you dodge in the carpool line! Give ‘em all a bag of Trash!
Merry Christmas, y'all!
Guest Contributor Michael Ring - @Loricatus_Lupus
Say you’ve ditched the kids and are looking for some nonseasonal adult food. This is a quick scratch recipe and these days most of the ingredients people have on hand and can be gotten from the salad bar precut. Dry pasta is a fine substitute and boils in about the time it takes to get to the point it’s needed in the main dish.
Serves: 2. Preparation time: 30 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes.
2 cup homemade fettuccine pasta
1/2 cup roasted sweet peppers
1/4 cup sliced black or Kalamata olives (or mooched from the salad bar)
12 thin slices pepperoni or similar sausage
4 artichoke hearts, quartered
8 chicken tenderloins or 8 oz. chicken breast
1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes (or mooched from the salad bar)
2 tbs. basil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Parmesan cheese (Not Kraft for God’s sake)
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Prep is mostly just cutting everything down to a size that mixes well with the pasta. If you wish to cut back the prep time, skip roasting the peppers; artichoke hearts these days are commonly found in oil in most stores, as is fresh fettuccine pasta. Since store pasta is dryer than homemade, a few minutes in boiling water is advised. Skip the salt.
Heat olive oil in large skillet and add: peppers, olives, pepperoni, artichoke hearts, chicken and seasonings. Stir every minute or so until chicken is browning. Add fettuccine pasta, tomatoes, and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Toss until heated through and top with 1/2 cup more Parmesan.
Serve with wine, candles, and some fine Italian music.
The Misfits are passionate about food. We are forever argu--umm--discussing it. Sometimes we take our opinions to the Twitter masses and often find various food topics to be more divisive that politics. Pineapple on pizza, dressing vs. stuffing, raisins on salads, Mayo or Miracle Whip? There are few things we love more than laughing at people's obviously wrong opinions and ridiculing those with terrible taste buds.
So not long ago, Ray brought up writing a food series. (He often makes us drool with pictures of his meal creations.) Dan came up with an idea that takes it one step further. Have a portion of the website devoted to recipes, many of which would be good for busy families and their budget. Thus the Mess Hall was born and we think it only fitting it launches the week of Thanksgiving!
The introductory recipe is perfect for a post-holiday meal. If your family is like mine, you often have leftover turkey. You can only eat so many turkey sandwiches, amirite? What's the answer to reinventing turkey leftovers? Why, it doesn't get much more American than an easy, throw-it-all-in-one-pan casserole!
Turkey (or Chicken!) Casserole
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees*
That's it! Seriously, you cannot mess up this recipe. Measurements are very loose, so don't take any of them to heart. Adjust as needed and add as much meat as you prefer! My family enjoys this casserole year round with shredded chicken. Sometimes I bake it or cook with broth in a Crock-Pot. When I need to make dinner on the fly, I grab a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken. Works great!
Hope you enjoy and check back soon for more yummy recipes!
The Misfits wish everyone and their families a wonderful Thanksgiving. We hope you eat too much, laugh too loud, and remember that we are blessed to live in this great country!