January traditionally is the time to put the prefix "re" in front of words: Reorganize, rethink, rework.
For this food editor, it has meant a thorough cleaning out of recipe files that, for whatever reason, have been hanging around for far too long. My excuses: Innumerable! For example: This is a quirky recipe, but I like the photo that goes along with it. This one might work if I do a story strictly on fruit salads with jalapenos in them. I've never used jicama in a recipe, but there might come a day.
This is why they ended up forgotten in the nether reaches of my food world.
Here's how I wish cleaning out recipe files went last week: Me sitting in my kitchen with a cup a coffee and a homemade cinnamon roll, ignoring the blizzard outside and spending the day sorting file cards, slips of paper and making notes.
Here's how it really went: Me looking like a Siberian refugee slogging through snow and ice to get to the office to sit, admittedly with a hot cup of coffee (but no cinnamon roll, dang it), and open my computer. There, in too many files to name, sat hundreds of recipe; many of which were of no use to me -- as explained above.
But, I did discover a small gold mine I had completely forgotten about: Recipe files labeled simply "SHORT." Actually, there was SHORT1, SHORT2 AND SHORT3. Somehow they had been misrouted in my computer system, but popped up when I started doing some deep cleaning.
I like the word SHORT. Readers like that word, too. It implies less work when in a hurry. Food on the table in no time. Recipes with a limited number of ingredients.
I sighed. Here was the next idea for the food section, coming at a time when my brain was doing a bit of a wobble: It's January and what do I write about?
I worked my way through the three files, looking for some themes I might use. It's possible you'll recognized some. I decided to order them by purpose or food type.
This is by no means all of the recipe; it's a sampling!
A CHICKEN IN EVERY POT
CROCKPOT CHICKEN AND RICE CASSEROLE
4 chicken breasts
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
2 stalks celery, diced
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Minute Rice
16 oz bag frozen broccoli, thawed, optional
Mix the cans of soup with the rice at the bottom of the crockpot. You may substitute the type of soup you use in any combination (for example: 2 cans cream of chicken soup and 1 can celery soup).
Add the diced celery, onion and garlic and stir. Submerge the chicken in the soup.
Turn heat to high for 10 minutes, then reduce to medium and cook for 4-5 hours. Or cook on high for 3-4 hours. During the last hour, stir in thawed broccoli.
Variation: Leave out the rice and serve over cooked wide noodles.
Note: Use temperature setting recommended by your owner's manual for cooking.
QUICK CHICKEN LO MEIN DINNER
1 (8 ounce) package spaghetti
1 pound chicken breast filets, sliced into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 pound sliced mushrooms
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced or shredded
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Prepare spaghetti (al dente) -- firm; drain and keep warm. Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, heat vegetable oil and saute chicken until browned, about 5 minutes. Add sliced mushrooms, green onion and carrots and cook until vegetables are tender and crisp, about another 5-10 minutes. Chicken should be no longer be pink and juices should run clear.
Spoon spaghetti into saucepan. Add soy sauce, sugar and red pepper flakes with spatula, toss gently to mix all ingredients well. Serves 6.
Recipe adapted from Cooks.com
2 1/2 cup shredded or chopped cooked chicken
2/3 cup picante sauce
1/3 cup green onion slices
1/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 flour tortillas (7 to 8 inch)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Spray a 13-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine chicken, picante sauce, onion, cumin, oregano and salt in saucepan; simmer 5 minutes or until most of liquid has evaporated.
While simmering, brush one side of tortillas with butter.
Spoon about 1/3 cup chicken mixture onto center of unbuttered sides; top with 2 tablespoons cheese. Fold two sides over filling; fold ends down.
Place seam-side down in dish. Bake about 13 minutes, or until crisp and golden brown.
Top with guacamole and additional picante sauce to serve. Makes 4 servings.
Yes, this sounds like an odd recipe, but the combination makes a tasty dessert with just 1 gram fat and 98 calories per brownie slice.
1 package brownie mix
1 tablespoon cinnamon, optional
1 (15-ounce) can unseasoned black beans, undrained
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-by-8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Puree black beans with liquid and cinnamon in a food processor or blender until smooth (it's OK if you see skins; they'll disappear during baking). Add mixture to brownie mix and blend well by hand. Add no other ingredients.
Pour batter into pan and bake 30-35 minutes or until firm. Brownies will be fudgy, moist and cakelike. Cut into 16 slices.
Crushed pineapple and oats are the secret ingredients to these bars that add texture and crunch.
1 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup light-brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening or butter/margarine
1 cup oats (quick or regular; not instant)
2/3 cup crushed pineapple, drained and reserved
1 tablespoon pineapple juice
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Sift together flour, soda and salt. Add remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth.
Spread mixture in greased square pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes. Cool.
Prepare topping and spread on bars before cutting.
OUT TO SEA
Pick your favorite white fish for this recipe; just watch the baking time so it doesn't dry out. The cheese mixture will add not only flavor but moisture to the fish.
BAKED FLOUNDER WITH CHEESE
2 pound flounder filets
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoon finely chopped onion
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place flounder on greased foil on a cookie sheet. Turn up edges all around so juices do not run over. Pour lemon juice over fish.
Combine rest of ingredients; set aside.
Bake fish 6 to 8 minutes, until fish flakes with a fork. Remove from oven.
Switch oven from bake to broil.
Gently spread cheese mixture on top of fish. Put back in oven and broil just until cheese has melted and topping is golden brown.
Makes 5-6 servings.
Just remember to not marinate the fish more than one hour.
EASY GRILLED FISH WITH LEMON-SOY MARINADE
1 to 1 1/2 pounds fish fillets or steaks
Vegetable cooking spray
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
Marinade: Combine first 5 ingredients in blender; process 10 seconds. With motor running, gradually add olive oil in a slow, steady stream.
Combine fish and marinade in a shallow dish. Cover and place in refrigerator for 1 hour.
Place fish in basket coated with cooking spray. Place on grill and close cover of grill. Cook over medium heat. Turn once and brush with marinade. Grill approximately 7 to 8 minutes per side depending on thickness of fish.
BREAKFAST FOR DINNER
The combination of the eggs and the Bisquick make a fluffy pielike quiche. You pick the filling.
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup Bisquick mix
6 tablespoons soft butter
Salt and pepper
1 cup meat (sausage, chicken, ham, beef)
1 cup mushrooms, broccoli, chopped green or red peppers
1 cup shredded cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine first five ingredients in blender and blend well. Add meat and/or vegetable filling.
Pour into a greased 10-inch pie plate or small casserole dish.
Bake 45-50 minutes until top is golden.
Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
If you've ever run out of syrup when you most need it, here is a simple solution for making your own.
HOMEMADE PANCAKE SYRUP
1 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
Mix brown sugar, water, butter and salt in saucepan. Heat to boiling over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in maple flavoring. Serve warm.
BEEF IT UP
CREAMY SLOW-COOKER SWISS STEAK
1 1/2 pounds round steak
2 tablespoons flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 carrot, chopped
1 can cream of mushroom soup
Cut meat into serving pieces. Dredge meat in flour mixed with salt and pepper.
Place onions in bottom of crock pot, add meat and spread soup over meat.
Cover and cook on low 8-10 hours, or on high 3-5 hours.
Bourbon-marinated flank steak
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon cayenne
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 flank steak, 1 1/2 to 2 pounds
1. Whisk together the hoisin sauce, honey, cayenne, garlic and bourbon in a small bowl.
Place the flank steak in a glass baking dish large enough to hold it in a single layer or in a large, resealable freezer bag. Add the marinade; turn the steak over several times to coat it.
2. Cover if using a glass dish; refrigerate at least 2 hours, or marinate at room temperature for no more than 1 hour.
3. Heat a gas grill or prepare a charcoal fire for direct grilling. Remove the flank steak from the marinade; grill, 10-15 minutes per side, depending on thickness. (When you poke the thickest part with your finger, it should feel like it's beginning to get firm.)
4. Remove from the grill; let stand, 10 minutes. Slice diagonally across the grain; season with salt to taste. Servings: 6, each with 174 calories, 8 grams fat, 68 mg cholesterol, 1 gram carbohydrates, 23 grams protein, 62 mg sodium.
"Bourbon" by Kathleen Purvis, food editor, Charlotte Observer (University of North Carolina Press, $18)
EAT YOUR VEGETABLES
BAKED SQUASH CASSEROLE
2 pounds zucchini or yellow summer
3 tablespoons chopped onion
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 cup melted butter
2 teaspoon parsley flakes
Salt and pepper
2 cup cracker crumbs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 1-quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.
Slice squash in 1/2 inch pieces. Boil until just tender; drain.
Add onion, eggs and seasonings. Mix well. Put in casserole dish.
Mix crumbs and butter; sprinkle over squash. Bake 35-45 minutes or until brown.
Microwave Vegetable Pie
2 tablespoon butter
1 onion, chopped
16-ounce package frozen broccoli and cauliflower
1 cup dry bread crumbs
1-1/4 cups shredded Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup sour cream
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs
Combine butter and onion in microwave safe 9-inch pie pan. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes until onions are tender. Add frozen vegetables and cover with microwave safe plastic wrap. Microwave on high power for 4-5 minutes until vegetables are thawed, stirring once.
Vegetables will still be cold. Drain well, if necessary, and set aside.
In large bowl combine 1 cup bread crumbs, 1 cup cheese, basil, seasonings, sour cream and eggs. Beat well to combine. Stir in vegetable mixture and mix well.
Spread mixture evenly in 9" pie pan. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs. Microwave on high power for 10-12 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean, rotating pan once during cooking. Let stand on solid surface 5 minutes before serving. 8 servings