Cooking on the Go
By Janet Groene, F47166
A simple topping can make all the difference between a plain-Jane meal or dessert or a tasty, eye-appealing dish. Cut circles from sheets of puff pastry, bake them on a cookie sheet to a golden brown, and float them atop steaming bowls of soup or stew. Make a tin roof sundae by covering a bowl of instant vanilla pudding with chocolate sauce and topping it with roasted peanuts. Try toasting slabs of Italian bread, sprinkling them with grated Parmesan cheese, and placing them over bowls of onion soup.
Here are some recipes that come with their own “lids.”
All the spice and pizzazz in this recipe are supplied by the gingerbread; thus, it doesn’t call for any other seasonings.
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon oil
1 can chicken broth
1 15-ounce or 16-ounce can sliced peaches (save the juice)
1 package gingerbread mix
In a 10-inch skillet, brown the chicken on both sides in the hot oil. Add the chicken broth; cover; and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Drain the peaches and save the juice. Make the gingerbread mix according to package directions, using the juice from the peaches as part of the liquid measure. Arrange the peaches around the chicken; cover; and heat for 1 to 2 minutes, then pour the gingerbread batter evenly over the chicken and peaches. Cover and cook over low heat until the gingerbread sets and is spongy to the touch. Spoon onto plates and complete the meal with a green vegetable.
1 medium onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
Half a green bell pepper, finely diced
28-ounce can Italian-style stewed tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
10-ounce package chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
12 ounces cheese-filled tortellini, fresh or frozen
4 slices provolone cheese
In a saucepan, sizzle the onion and garlic in hot olive oil, gradually stirring in the green pepper until all vegetables are limp. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar; heat; cover; and simmer. Stir in the spinach and heat thoroughly. Cook the tortellini according to package directions; drain; and spoon equal portions into four soup plates. Divide the tomato sauce among the plates and place a slice of provolone atop each. Let stand for a minute or two until the cheese melts. Serve at once with crusty bread and a salad of torn lettuce, grated carrots, halved cherry tomatoes, and Italian dressing.
Lace-Lidded Apple Sass
Choose your favorite applesauce “” plain, chunky, flavored, fruited, or no-sugar-added. This dessert is best when made several hours before serving, so the crackers have time to soften in the applesauce.
1 package graham crackers
Large jar applesauce (48 to 64 ounces)
1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons cream or canned milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla or butter rum flavoring
In a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan, cover the bottom with a layer of graham crackers, breaking the crackers to fit, if necessary. Top with half the applesauce; another layer of graham crackers; and the rest of the applesauce. Set aside. In a saucepan, mix the brown sugar, cream, butter, and salt over medium heat, stirring constantly. When the mixture boils, turn off the burner and stir in the flavoring. While still hot, drizzle the topping over the applesauce mixture in a thin stream to create a lacy pattern. Let the dessert stand at room temperature or chill before spooning it onto serving plates.
Make life easier by assembling this recipe ahead of time. Place the ham and yam slices on a sprayed cookie sheet and refrigerate them until you’re ready to pop them into the oven. I use slices from a round, canned ham, but you also can used baked ham sliced to order at the deli. Depending on your family’s appetites, you’ll need slices that weigh between 3 ounces and 6 ounces each.
4 slices fully cooked, boneless ham
1 large can (approximately 2 pounds) sweet potatoes, drained
1 small can (approximately 8 ounces) crushed pineapple
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Approximately 1 cup crushed cornflakes
Place the ham on a sprayed cookie sheet. In a large bowl, mash the sweet potatoes and mix in the crushed pineapple with its juice. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Spread the mashed sweet potato mixture over the ham slices in an even, flat layer. Sprinkle evenly with the crushed cornflakes, pressing them gently into the sweet potatoes. Drizzle very lightly with liquid margarine and sprinkle very lightly with cinnamon sugar. Cover and refrigerate. To proceed, bake in a 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until everything is heated through and the cornflakes are lightly browned.
Snow-Capped Pork Peaks
Prepare your favorite mashed potatoes from scratch, a mix, or a ready-to-eat package. It’s best to serve the potatoes with an ice cream scoop to make a perfect mound. You’ll need four dice-sized cubes of cream cheese cut from a 3-ounce or 8-ounce package. If you can’t get fresh spinach (or young Swiss chard), forget this recipe for now.
1 bag washed, ready-to-use spinach leaves
4 lean, meaty, boneless pork chops
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon thyme
1/4-cup white wine or water
4 servings hot, mashed potatoes
4 dice-sized cubes cream cheese
Lay out the spinach and remove the coarse stems. Make four stacks of spinach, overlapping the leaves in piles that are approximately the same diameter as the chops. Brown the pork chops in the hot oil, seasoning them with the salt, pepper, and thyme. Add the wine or water; cover; and simmer over low heat until the chops are cooked through.
Then, working quickly, remove the lid and place a pile of spinach leaves over each chop. The spinach layer should be about an inch thick “” more if you can manage it. Sprinkle with a little salt if you like; cover; and cook over low heat for only 30 to 60 seconds, until the spinach becomes limp and drapes over the chops.
Remove each chop carefully to serving plates and top with a mound of hot mashed potatoes. Push a cube of the cream cheese into the top of each mound. Bring the liquids left in the pan to a boil, scraping up any brown bits, and spoon the juice over the potato toppings. Complete the plate with a salad of fresh orange slices and rings of sweet onion, lightly drizzled with French dressing. Serve at once.
Kraut On The Roof, Toad In The Hole
4 slices beefsteak rye bread
4 slices Swiss cheese
1 small can sauerkraut, rinsed and well drained
Butter the bread on both sides and, using the top of a juice glass, cut out a 3-inch circle from each piece. Arrange the remaining bread “” and circles “” in a sprayed skillet. Brown the bread on one side, turn it over, and break an egg into each hole. Cover and cook over low heat until the eggs are set. Top each piece of bread with a slice of cheese and a tuft of sauerkraut. Cover and continue cooking over low heat for one minute to melt the cheese and heat the kraut. Place on serving plates and top with the toasted bread circles. This recipe makes a light supper with canned peaches and macadamia nut cookies for dessert.
Crushed bits of candy bars can turn instant pudding into a crunchy dessert. Serve this treat in disposable plastic cups to keep from washing extra dishes.
4-serving packet instant butterscotch pudding mix
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon butter rum flavoring
2 chocolate-covered, crunchy candy bars (e.g. Heath, Butterfinger, KitKat), coarsely chopped
Whisk together the pudding, milk, and flavoring and pour into individual dessert dishes. Top with the candy bits and whipped cream.
This layered dessert is especially handsome when piled into clear plastic glasses.
9-ounce package thin chocolate wafers
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon almond flavoring
4-serving packet instant vanilla pudding
6-ounce package chocolate chips
1 cup miniature marshmallows
Save four of the cookies for toppers and crush the rest in a food processor or in a plastic bag to make coarse crumbs. Place a layer of the crumbs in each of four glasses or dessert dishes. Put the milk in a small bowl and whisk in the almond flavoring. Add the pudding mix and whisk just until it begins to thicken. Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows. Spoon the pudding mixture into the dessert dishes, alternating with layers of chocolate crumbs, and ending with the pudding mixture. Refrigerate the individual desserts. Just before serving, stick one chocolate wafer jauntily into the top of each dessert.
More topnotch ideas
Here are a few more simple ways to top your recipes with pizzazz.
- Buy or make a pie crust, cut it into wedges, and bake it on a cookie sheet. Place one or two of the wedges on top of plain fruit or pudding.
- Broil pineapple rings and place each one atop turkey burgers.
- Top small steaks or hamburgers with eggs fried over-easy.
- Make stir-fry vegetables to heap atop lean, braised pork steaks, then cover with crisp Chinese noodles.
- Economize by making crusty fish cakes, then top each with a couple of shavings of the best lox money can buy.
- Cut the tops off big navel oranges and take just a tiny slice off the bottom so they stand upright. Scoop out the orange, cut it up, and combine with other well-drained fruit and whipped topping to make a fruit salad. Put the mixture back into the oranges, replace the lids, and serve.
Books for cooks
Mom’s Best Desserts ($10.95, Storey Books) is a collection of classic treats that Mom and Grandmother cooked from scratch. Authors Andrea Chesman and Fran Raboff offer few shortcuts for the cook on the go, but make up for it with plenty of flavor and authenticity “” and the historic notes are fun to read.
For instance, did you know that in pioneer times, every guest brought a cake layer to a wedding? The layers, in all different flavors, were then stacked up and held together by applesauce. Perhaps this would be a good idea for your next campground potluck and result in some interesting combinations. Apparently, the pioneers tried to see how high a stack they could build. However, I’d stop at three layers per cake for easier serving.
The book can be purchased from bookstores, through online booksellers, or from the publisher by calling (800) 441-5700 or visiting www.storeybooks.com.
The most amusing, practical cookbook I’ve found in years is The Accidental Gourmet: Weeknights by Sally Sondheim and Suzannah Sloan ($22, Fireside). In writing for rushed cooks with families and jobs, the authors handed a lifesaver to people who cook in motorhomes. The book promises enough menus to feed four people for five days a week all year. The authors tell you what equipment you’ll need; provide a weekly shopping list and an inventory of staples needed for each week; and guide you through a minute-by-minute schedule for putting together the three or four courses provided for each night. If you need help planning, provisioning, and preparing meals, this book hits a triple play. It can be purchased at bookstores or through online booksellers.
Thrill of the grill
I hadn’t heard about infrared gas grilling before Solaire, a company known for big, top-of-the-line backyard grills, introduced a nifty portable that is tailor-made for motor coach cooks. The Solaire Anywhere! portable infrared grill is small enough to keep in the basement storage compartment (in its own carrying case) and to tote around the campsite. It works with either a small propane cylinder or it can be hooked to a full-size tank. And it’s constructed of stainless steel, assuring a long life. As a grill, it’s amazing.
My beef with most grills is that it’s difficult (and sometimes impossible) to achieve the quick, blast-furnace heat needed to sear a steak on the outside and leave it pink on the inside. Solaire’s infrared technology is the answer.
The new grill is different from any I’ve tried before. First, it should be pre-heated for five minutes until the ceramic element is glowing. It sears meat faster than you can say, “Make mine medium-rare,” so it’s the best grill yet for steaks that are roasted on the outside and juicy and pink inside. Leave the grill on another five minutes after removing the meat, and much of the mess burns away. The lid is used just for storing and carrying; all cooking must be done with the top open, so it isn’t suitable for covered cooking. Nor did it work well for large, bone-in chicken breasts. Even at its lowest setting, the grill cooked so quickly that the outside of the chicken charred before the inside was done.
Still, I’m hooked. This is the grill for quick-cooking steaks, lamb chops, vegetables, cooked sausages, and kabobs. I also will use it for chicken, turkey, and pork, but I’ll parboil these meats first, then grill them for flavor. For information on the Solaire Anywhere! portable infrared grill, contact Rasmussen Iron Works Inc., (562) 696-8718, or visit www.riwinc.com.