Traditional Texas Food
Articles about Texas' most famous foods
by John Raven, Ph.B.
Quick Home Cooking
by John Raven, Ph. B.
There comes a time in every cook's life when a quick snack or even a complete meal is needed in a hurry. The quick pace of today's lifestyle has brought countless "fast meals" to our supermarket shelves. These foods are as advertised -- quick and easy -- and most of them are not dangerous to your health and well being. They do lack the one essential ingredient that makes for a good meal: Home Cooking.
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Pork and Beans
I've always got a few cans of pork and beans around the house. You can have a bowl of them ready to serve in three minutes via the microwave. I like to add a few drops of Tabasco for a little "zip". The outdoors person can savor them cold from the can. To get fancy with them, put them in a baking dish, add about three tablespoons of ketchup, a teaspoon of Worcestershire, a tablespoon of brown sugar, and a dash or two of onion powder. Mix it all up and zap it in the microwave for a couple of minutes for a real treat at any meal. Except maybe breakfast.
What's so special about opening a can of soup, you ask? Well, it's what you do with it after you open it that counts. You will find cream of mushroom, cream of celery and cream of chicken soup in my larder. Drain a can of vegetables and mix with an undiluted can of any of the above, heat and you have something really special. I prefer the cream of celery with a can of mixed vegetables.
For sauce for your fried steaks, pour off most of the grease from the skillet, dump in a can of cream of mushroom soup and stir. You can add a little water to get the texture you prefer.
Dilute the cream of celery or cream of chicken soup to your specifications (use some poultry stock if you have it), add a chopped boiled egg or two and chopped giblets, and you have nearly instant giblet gravy. Mighty good on those mashed potatoes and dressing.
Try a can or two of undiluted vegetable soup in your next meatloaf instead of the customary tomatoes. Presto! Your meat dish becomes a one-dish meal.
One of my favorite evening meals is a bowl of vegetable soup with a handful of Fritos crumbled in it. A great combination.
Low-fat Instant Dry Milk
Here's something that is very handy to keep around. Properly stored, it will last forever. I use it as a substitute for milk or cream when making creamed dishes. I use about fifty percent more than the milk mixing recipe calls for. It's as good as the real thing, but minus a bunch of calories. You can also make very good hot chocolate with the instant milk. Just use a little more of the powder than the recipe calls for. Great on these chilly evenings. Add just a few grains of salt and a pinch of cinnamon for a real tasty treat.
Blended with a few ice cubes, some ripe strawberries and some sugar or the substitute, the double strength instant milk becomes a great milk shake. You can also flavor with cocoa, or a few drops of vanilla.
The instant milk also works well with the no sugar, no fat puddings on the market. Mix up a batch and pour it in a store bought graham cracker crust and you have instant ice box pie.
What's that you say? Don't have time to labor over a pot of chili for the cold evenings? Here's how to do it in the crockpot.
It's all in how you put the ingredients in the crockpot. First of all, use your favorite recipe. Put the meat in the bottom of the pot. Next mix and sprinkle the spices on the meat. Cover this with your onions, if you use them. Add your tomato sauce or tomatoes, if you use them. Finish up with only about a half cup of water. You can thin it later if needed. Put it on when you leave for work in the morning. Use the "Low" setting. When you get home all that is needed is a good stirring. Your kitchen will smell really good when you get home.
Do you have company coming and the only roast in the house is frozen as hard as granite? Season the roast to your liking. Wrap it tightly in heavy-duty foil. Place it in baking pan because it's going to leak. Pop it in a 350 degree oven. When you can smell it, it's done. If you don't trust your nose and want to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer, just poke a hole in the foil to insert the thermometer. When you unwrap this morsel, be careful, there will be lots of very hot steam and juices. This is the fastest way I've found to handle frozen meats.
Nachos are a great treat that everyone enjoys. Everyone should have on hand a bag of tortilla chips, cheese and pickled jalapenos. Arrange the chips on a microwave-safe platter, top each with a bit of cheese and a slice of the jalapeno. Pop 'em in the microwave until the cheese melts. Time will vary with the wattage of your machine. It should not take over a minute in any of them.
Everyone should know that, if your loaf of bread is just a little past its prime, it can be revived with a few seconds in the microwave. About fifteen seconds will make it oven fresh. Works on muffins and cornbread, too. Just don't overdo it or the bread will get tough.
So there we have it. Quick and Easy. Make a list of a few of the above items and pick them up on your next grocery run. The family and friends will thank you for it.
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