Miniature frittatas

After last night’s party, I really, really needed some protein and water in my life. My poor liver hates me and needs a vacation. I woke up just four hours after going to sleep to get to the barn in time to meet the horse chiropractor. My off-the-track Thoroughbred’s shoulders and hip are out…again. I knew I couldn’t let him suffer, even if I totally didn’t want to go stand in the 30-degree weather at the barn after a long night of drinking and dancing. I slept as long as I could, skipped breakfast, and took off.

When I got home, I didn’t feel like cooking one bit. Beyond that, nearly every single dish I own is dirty and stacked precariously on pretty much every surface in the kitchen. Why can’t there be a dishes fairy that comes while I sleep? I feel like I spend my life doing dishes, now. I have a new appreciation for the lowest-paid guy in the kitchen, now. That shit sucks. And at least he gets a sprayer and a heated mechanical dishwasher. I’m too feral for this eating-in thing, sometimes.

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Guess what wasn’t dirty? My muffin pan! It made my breakfast decision easy. I’d seen the idea online “somewhere at some point” and figured it couldn’t be too hard to just wing it. It’s like scrambled eggs in a muffin tin, right? This was such an easy creation, I can’t believe I haven’t lazily made it before. It took me 5 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to bake.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Since I live alone, I only made three of these and the recipe reflects that.

Dice desired vegetables and/or fungi. I used about two lady-sized handfuls total of onion, yellow pepper, and portobella mushroom. That’s two handfuls including all three ingredients, not two of each ingredient. Eyeball it. While I sauteed those in some olive oil (mushrooms last, remember — they cook fast), I whisked together three eggs, three tablespoons or so of almond milk (your milk of choice goes here), salt, pepper, a pinch of garlic powder, and about a half cup or more of shredded cheese in a separate bowl. When the veggies were soft, I stirred them into the eggs/cheese, too.

I filled each of my muffin cups (no paper liners) to about two-thirds full, and I used one of those gigantic muffin tins. I let them bake for 20 minutes total, but started checking after about 15 minutes to make sure they weren’t overdone. No one likes crappy eggs, and this was my very last clean cooking pan. When the knife came out clean, they were done.

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On the side: cottage cheese and tomato slices; frittata topped with cilantro. Every once in awhile, I have a meal that just “feels” fresh, light, filling, tasty, and good for me, and today, that was this meal. I could feel my stomach just sucking the nutrients out of my food, gulping and gasping for more vitamins and minerals. Now that I’ve eaten, it’s time for a nap!

Sweet chicken and savory sweet potato

I didn’t feel like cooking one bit after having been at the barn and dealing with the really, really cold weather on Thursday late at night. Baking feels like cooking, except it takes far less time to accomplish a great meal and allows for multitasking. I had a package of on-sale chicken thighs, and stumbled on this recipe for savory sweet potatoes. In my never-ending accidental quest to eat only Latino-inspired food and sweet potatoes one hundred ways, this recipe fit perfectly and I halved it to serve one.

I’m always one to drown my mashed sweet potatoes in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and agave. It’s like vegetable candy! Using thyme and garlic seemed new and unknown to my sweet potato palate, but turned out well. Except…the oil on my hands smelled awful. I’d never used fresh thyme before — only the ground spice-jar stuff — and hadn’t expected it. I love the oils of rosemary and basil on my fingers that linger long after my meal, but thyme just smelled like animal piss. It nearly ruined the dish for me, and next time I think I’ll substitute rosemary. Rosemary is still quite the savory and fragrant herb, and would be a nice substitute. It took me several hand-washings in grease-cutting dish soap to rid my hands of the thyme oils. Stubborn little suckers.

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The chicken was too easy: I threw it in the oven for 25 minutes, about halfway through cooking the foil-wrapped sweet potato. A couple squirts of my favorite gluten-free barbecue sauce, flip (so it doesn’t stick to the glass dish), and a couple more squirts. While I did this on three of the chicken thighs, on the other half of the pan, I roasted the chicken plain with a light coating of olive oil to be used the next day in making green chile enchiladas. I flipped the chicken halfway through cooking, and voila — easy, juicy, baked chicken. No slaving over a stove required.

While I let the chicken and the sweet potato cool off just a bit, I whipped up a jar of pickled onions to be used over the next few weeks in salads and as a topper to entrees and quick tacos. I used a very basic, ingrained recipe for pickling with no variations:

In an old spaghetti jar (recycling!), mix one cup water, 1 tbsp white sugar, 1.5 tbsp salt, and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar. Put the lid on and shake a bunch. Cut up an entire red onion, usually done in thin slices, and shove as many of them as you can into the jar. Shake again to get the liquid into the smaller spaces, and leave it in the fridge for at least a half day before using, but no longer than 10-15 days.

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Pumpkin alfredo, caprese, peanut butter cookies

After a terrifying brush with death in a blizzard yesterday, I was understandably interested in some comfort food. I was on my way back from my road trip, and I knew some snow was coming. Being a hearty, life-long Midwesterner, I brushed the meteorological reports off as getting some snow and unnecessary panic. Those of us who have lived through many cold, snowy winters shrug at the snow reports. Winter. That’s just winter. Anyway, I slid past a 20-car pile-up without hitting anything, barely, and continued on my way — to the grocery store. Again. I have a feeling I’ll have to find a second home at the grocery store this year, as real food spoils fast.

I’ve made this recipe for pumpkin fettuccine alfredo before, and remembered just how simple and quickly the comfort food hit my table. What I should have done was follow the recipe, but instead, I forgot the parmesan and the sage at the store and wandered around there like a blind moron during a “snowpocalypse” grocery store run. I miss autumn.

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Sometimes, the mistakes are a part of the learning process, right? Well, I was hell-bent on making the pumpkin alfredo after I’d dumped my heavy cream and pumpkin into the saucepan, so I went ahead with it. When I realized I’d forgotten the parmesan cheese, I dumped the leftover ricotta in the sauce, thereby giving it what little cheese flavor that ricotta does have. This is definitely a dish that needs an earthy, salty, hard, punch-y cheese. I figured I’d add some protein and use the ground turkey I’d made on the first before I had to throw it out, and tossed that in the sauce. I didn’t toss in the garlic, or follow the recipe much at all. I was living outside the box! Making it up! And feeling awfully cocky after some cooking success in the previous days.

I dumped in salt, too much thyme because it came out of the jar too fast, not enough oregano, black pepper, and ground sage to save the earthy flavor a little. Ground sage, pals, is nothing like the real thing. In a separate pan, I sauteed mushrooms, broccoli, and garlic in butter. I added those to top it off.

Honestly? Follow that recipe link above. It’s great, it’s fast, and it’s so easy. I had much better luck with it before. If it were me, I’d even grate the parmesan fresh off the block instead of buying packaged shaved pieces, like I’m always tempted to do instead of cleaning a cheese grater by hand. To really go for the gold on this one, use organic pureed pumpkin if you can find it (better flavor), or cook and puree your own and add a little more pumpkin than cream — maybe a cup and a third instead of just one cup.

On the side, I made a favorite: caprese salad. Caprese is only about as hard as chopping the things you need: fresh mozzarella slices, a big tomato, fresh basil, and balsamic vinegar salad dressing. When I’m feeling frisky, I even add pickled red onions, which I could eat all day straight from the jar I pickle them in.

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After screwing up and eating my mistake (which wasn’t that bad, it just lacked in the amount of flavor I expected and loved from it before), I had to shovel the driveway. I hate shoveling. I really, really fucking hate shoveling. I have two herniated discs in my back, and wonky hip ligaments that like to throw me for a loop once in awhile. After coming inside, I thought I’d make some cookies for the kids next door, since they helped and did a great job. I casually flipped through a Better Homes and Gardens special Gluten-Free magazine issue that my mother gave to me, and out of nowhere appeared this recipe:

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I mean, how much easier could a cookie recipe be? It didn’t even include any fancy flours I don’t have, and I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand. I chose to roll mine in sugar at the end, as the recipe suggests, but instead of using parchment paper (who has parchment paper laying around?) I just slid a tiny bit of olive oil around a nonstick cookie sheet. A few notes for the cooking challenged like me, though: by “set in the center” they actually mean, “bake for 11-12 minutes and take the fragile things out of the oven, duh.” I carefully tried not to break them as I transferred them to a cool plate (who has wire racks?), and let them harden. They were great while they were still warm, and worth reheating in the microwave the next morning for a lazy snack in bed.

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