Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lazy-Ass Cooking: Chicken Corn Chowder

Today I'm preparing Campbell's Chunky Chicken Corn Chowder. There are two kinds: Original and Healthy Request. Original = good, Healthy request = not so much. Now this preparation should be the simplest of all; Open can, heat soup. But not really. I have a real challenge getting enough protein into “the diabetic” that way.

Always start with a marginally clean electric frypan—which means it's now time to wash it from the last time we made random-sh*t-from-the-freezer.

Having cooked a lot of random-sh*t-from-the-freezer on a previous date, I could see what I had left in there more easily. I found a frozen-solid chicken breast that wasn't dated back to the last ice age. It was raw, but frozen, and fairly recent too. I kind of make it a point to not thaw raw meats in the same manner as an Uncrustable, this I can usually microwave, or more fun, fry/steam/boil from the solid state to a mushy-thawed state—don't forget to add some water, oh, and maybe some salt—or maybe a lot of salt if all you have is that gawdawful unsalted Healthy Request Chicken Corn Chowder. It only takes a few minutes to thaw completely.

The chicken breast doesn't need to be cooked through, just well-thawed. Grab it with kitchen tongs (caution: chicken breast is HOT) and cut it into small bite-size pieces about the same size as a compressed slice of Wonder Bread…or a sugar cube. At this point the chicken pieces can be browned to your liking. I would have added frozen corn kernels at this point, but I found that I was fresh/frozen/canned out of corn. Thought about substituting corned beef.

Chicken browned? Now open can, dump in soup, and a can of corn, which I desired but did not have. Let it heat through before serving it up with the serving spoon that you should have washed at the same time as the electric frypan earlier. Put the serving spoon and frypan aside to cool for washing—on another day.

Lazy Ass Serving Suggestion: This is a cream-style soup, which means it's always better with shredded cheese! Everyone puts the shredded cheese on top of the soup, but then it just doesn't seem to melt. I'm a Lazy Ass, so while I'm waiting for the soup to heat through I put shredded cheese in the bottom of each paper serving bowl. When the soup is hot I spoon it right onto the cheese. This is great in two ways: 1) the cheese gets thoroughly melted, and 2) the hot bottom of the soup bowl is not hard to handle because the cold cheese cools it. Oh, and bonus protein for the diabetic.

Now a little dialogue about the chicken breast:

The diabetic: “Did you add chicken?”
Me: “Yes.”
The diabetic: “Did you get it from the freezer?”
Me: “Um, well, there's plenty more where that came from…and, oh, we don't have to buy cat food any more.”

In hindsight, that would have gone a whole lot better as a punch line if the cat hadn't been sitting right there in his lap very much alive.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lazy-Ass Cooking: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

Can't get more Lazy-Ass than this. I present The Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich!

No, I'm not going to tell you how it’s made. That's a secret—a secret that even the frequent users of certain recreational “herbal” products can figure that one out—or so they tell me.

The Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich—known from here on as the “PB & J” because, after all, I am a Lazy-ass—can be nostalgic, controversial, or just a means of survival.

And how genius is “Whole Grain White” Wonder Bread? It's the same air (or bubble) bread that we have always known, one slice compacted is roughly the size of a sugar cube and with about the same number grams of carbohydrates. I don't care what they call it. It's delishus! The Wonder Bread also tends to hold it's “just-bought-freshness” for an infinite amount of time, except in the dead of summer heat. I'm not sure science knows the half-life of a piece of Wonder Bread and I can't say for certain I have ever seen it go moldy over time.

Side note on bread: PB & J sandwiches are not the same made on 3/$1.00 store brand bread, whole wheat bread, or that loofa-tough-and-scratchy 7-grain type bread. Never skimp on the bread!

Peanut butter, crunchy, chewy, creamy, stripes-of-jelly included…it's a personal choice…well, except for the stripes-of-jelly kind, that's just wrong, especially when the jar is half-gone and the stripes are no longer stripes but more of a brownish-purple goo. Crunchy peanut butter gives much needed to texture to the otherwise soft-and-squishy Wonder Bread and Jelly, but it's a choice. Some peanut butters are harder to spread than others, some have different flavors, it's all a matter of experimenting on which combinations are right for your temperature and climate.

Jelly, jam, fruit spread (I'm not sure why they came up with a separate class for that one, implying that jellies and jams may not be “fruit” at all) should be chosen to compliment both the peanut butter and the bread. It might also be interesting to note that if you become accustomed to berry jellies like strawberry or raspberry, switching to grape tastes weird! I like to go for the fruit spread. You would think that a Lazy-Ass like me would be all over the squeeze jelly, but I wasn't. I don't use a lot of jelly/jam/fruit spread on my sandwiches and couldn't use the squeeze bottle fast enough. That, I can vouch for certain, does go moldy! Fruit spread comes in small bottles and is available with the seeds already removed. How cool is that?

A PB & J sandwich can be assembled almost anywhere and the ingredients are so incredibly portable and, oh my, inexpensive, and that's important because, remember, I'm also a Cheap-Ass.

I'm sure you're thinking, “You're a Lazy-Ass, why not just buy Uncrustables?”
I will admit that I have a box or two of these little gems in the freezer, but they do have some disadvantages:
  • They need to be frozen until almost-ready-to-eat. For best flavor and Wonder Bread-like texture, the Uncrustable must be eaten immediately after thawing and near room temperature. Don't wait too long—they dry out right in the package.
  • Maybe they're still frozen and you're hungry now! A big problem. Microwaving really isn't recommended, trust me. However, they are the perfect shape so you can stuff one into each side of your bra cup and inconspicuous enough so that nobody knows you're actually making lunch. For guys, go for the shirt or jacket pockets. They're flat enough so as not to draw attention as “man-boobs”. When you can no longer feel the chill of the frozen Uncrustable, it's ready!
  • They're only made with creamy peanut butter. This leaves a lot lacking in texture. Smooth bread, smooth jelly (I'm sure it's jelly and not spread), and smooth peanut butter. I'm glad they're so small because one could fall asleep from boredom trying to finish one.
  • There is an imbalance in the peanut-butter-to-jelly-to-bread-ratio. The amount of jelly appears to be twice the necessary amount. It will squeeze out onto whatever you're trying to keep clean and sticky-free, like your keyboard.
  • Eat Two, they're small. Seriously, they're small! Don't let the package fool you. They're small.
  • They're small because the crust and a good portion of the good-bread-part has been removed by the cookie-cutter-ravioli-press type machinery they put those poor sandwiches through just to remove the crust. You didn't think the crusts were cut off by hand by an assembly line of caring motherly figures did you? C'mon…seriously! And crust is important. Everyone knows that all of the vitamins are contained in the skin. Cut it off and you're losing two-thirds of the vitamins and nutrients—just throwing them away…

Ah, but kids love 'em! I noticed that kids love Uncrustables so much that Ikea has created a kid's meal around them. You get one Uncrustables sandwich, chocolate milk, and a chocolate-chip cookie for, like two bucks. Please, mothers, feed your children on your way out of the store…thanks!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lazy-Ass Cooking: Beef Stroganoff

stro•gan•off |ˈstrôgəˌnôf; ˈstrō-|
a dish in which the central ingredient, typically strips of beef, is cooked in a sauce containing sour cream.

For clarity's sake, the “beef” included in the Campbell's soup is in chunks and not in strips. Beef is beef, at least the kind I'm talking about here.

So what I'm going to put here is a quasi-recipe, more of a menu suggestion, if you will.

Start out by pouring some water into the bottom of an electric frypan. I just sort of eyeball it as I hoist the unwieldy 2.5-gallon container of bottled water and let 'er splash. Just enough, not too much. I'm a Lazy-Ass and I don't want to have to drain the noodles/macaroni/pasta when it's done.

When I get what I think is a good amount of water in the bottom of the electric frypan I throw in an unspecified amount of salt. I just shake some into my palm and dump it in. It always works out. The right amount comes naturally when you've spent years as a Lazy-Ass Cook.

When the water finally boils, drag yourself away from Facebook, Twitter, or reading entertaining blogs and add the noodles/macaroni/pasta, whatever you want to call it, and whatever shape you want; elbows, shells, fusilli, bowties, spaghetti, you get the point. Purists may use wide flat noodles as with traditional stroganoff. But I must warn the stroganoff purist right now that the next step might just make you throw away a whole pan of noodles so do read ahead. Specific amount? Riiiiight. Again, I just sort of eyeball it. Years of being a Lasy-Ass has paid off in knowing just the right amount to add. It's no big deal, add too much pasta, add more water. Add too little pasta, cook uncovered, dip water out, or drain it when it's cooked. If it were that exact of a science, I wouldn't be cooking it.

Go back to your Facebook, Twitter, or whatever because the pasta will take anywhere from 6-12 minutes to fully cook. Just don't forget you're cooking something. Pasta should never set off the smoke alarm. You might as well do something to entertain yourself while it cooks because it will never cook if you stare at it.

I like to put the lid on while the pasta cooks, mostly because I don't use a lot of water and I'm trying to keep some of that in, also, I don't want to add any humidity to the ambient air that might make my tortilla chips (not used in this recipe) go soggy.

Pasta/macaroni/noodles cooked to your liking? Great. That's the hard part—unless you're a purist and I'm getting to that. Get yourself a can of steak & potato soup. Campbell's makes it, but you might just come across an equivalent store brand of the same flavor that works just as well (not only am I a Lazy-Ass, I'm a Cheap-Ass too). I say steak & potato because it's just that; steak, potatoes, and the Campbell's even has bonus mushroom slices which also belong in stroganoff dishes! Also the savory beef broth/sauce is already in there. It's all good.

Okay, purists, listen up. I just mentioned potatoes. Everyone knows that potatoes don't really belong in stroganoff. At this point you can just pick them all out. I don't care what you do with them because I prefer to ignore tradition and leave them in. They add texture and I‘m a Lazy-Ass.

Open the can of soup and dump it in over the noodles. This is also a good time to add cooked hamburger, leftover beef strips, extra mushrooms, etc. Poke around in your freezer you never know what you'll find once you brush the frost off.

Let this good stuff simmer together for a few moments, stir it around and enjoy the aroma of a hearty meal. The next thing you'll add is sour cream. Regular, lite, fat-free (well, I'm not sure about the fat-free). Use about 1/2 cup. No, I don't measure a half-cup, I eyeball it and give it my best guesstimate. Stir this around as well. Don't get too overambitious because you'll slosh it out onto the counter and you'll have to clean that up too.

When it's heated through, serve it up in paper bowls with plastic spoons gathered from Wendy's the night before when the Lazy-Ass wasn't into cooking at all.


Up Next: Make a meal with random sh*t from your freezer…

Sunday, February 14, 2010