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Meal Magic

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By Gini Raineycookbook_junkie[1]

I think that one of the challenges in the kitchen these days is to be more productively efficient.  I’m not sure if that is a bona fide descriptive phrase – but it should be.  Without a doubt, as busy as most of us are, the time we spend cooking should be able to produce not just one, but perhaps two or more yummy meals.  I have friends who swear their family will not eat leftovers – I nearly cry when I see them scraping out good food, or walking out of a restaurant with food on their plates.  As far as I’m concerned, some dishes are even better the second or third day after they are prepared.  Soup is an excellent example.  It seems like robinthe flavors meld together even more the longer they live together in the pot.

So, naturally the cookbook I’m letting you all in on today will help you find new ways to become the efficient producer of great meals that you’ve all dreamed about.  “Robin to the Rescue,” by Robin Miller, the host of the Food Network’s show Quick Fix Meals, is a 314 page book was published by The Taunton Press in 2008.  Filled with great ideas for quick and simple recipes for great home cooked meals, this book includes helpful hints that follow every recipe like “make it a meal kit,” “bank a batch,” “morph it,” and “have it your way.”

For example, if your family doesn’t run to the table for the second night of leftover soup, why not make a double batch of “Sweet Potato Soup with Smoked Cheddar & Chives,” put half of it into a sealable container and freeze for up to 3 months.  Sometime during those 3 months, I bet you would love to pull that container out of the freezer, heat up the thawed soup in the microwave, make some garlic toast, and serve a yummy, easy-peasy meal in less time than it takes to set the table.

Robin scores major points with me with her “have it your way” suggestions.  For instance, she suggests  in the recipe for “Hazelnut-Crusted Pork Chops with Cherry-Port Sauce,” that if you would prefer to make it with chicken, it will make an excellent substitution for the pork chops.  Or, if you are making the Warm Chicken-Cherry Waldorf in Romaine, which calls for poached chicken breasts, you can poach a double batch of chicken and store the extra in the freezer for up to 3 months.  After all, you’ve already got the pot going, why not maximize the boiling water and get a jump on something for dinner like Chicken with Pistachio-Parsley Pesto?

Her “make it a meal kit” ideas are excellent ways to maximize your free time one day and parlay it into a great meal a couple days down the road when there’s a time crunch.  A great, make ahead idea would be her recipe for Roasted Broccoli with Red Onion & Walnuts.  Her plan is to cut up the broccoli and onions and retain in the fridge for up to 5 days.  Then you can combine the walnuts, vinegar, honey and thyme and refrigerate until you’re ready to complete the dish.  With only a 10 minute roasting time for the broccoli and onions, your dish will be ready to serve in just minutes and will taste amazing.

Making excellent use of pantry staples, here’s a great dish, 5 Ingredient Sweet-n-Sour Chicken, that cooks up fast and tastes great.  In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown in oil, 1-1/4 pounds of skinless chicken breasts that have been cut into 1 inch pieces.  Add one 11-ounce can of crushed pineapple in juice, 1/4 cup apricot preserves and 1/4 cup hoisin sauce and bring to a simmer.  Simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the sauces thickens and reduces – about 5 minutes.  Serve over rice.  This is a recipe that you can bank a meal by cooking double and freezing half!  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

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Books

Day Two of Our Stay At Home Order

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By Gini Rainey

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and I’m so glad I have nearly five hundred cookbooks in my arsenal, although most of them won’t do me any good a time like this, which is why I’m so glad that I picked up this little cookbook about a month ago. Yes, Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars might just make a difference in my life (or not) when our food supplies begin to run out.  Fortunately, our household has plenty of toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant, and food (if you think I’m going to tell you my address – think again), but should we run short, it’s good to know that, not only do I have about a week’s supply of ramen to fall back on, but also a cookbook with some fairly awful recipes and in-mates stories to fall back on. 

Written by Clifton Collins Jr. (Capote, Star Trek, and West World, among others) and Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez (inmate extraordinaire) and printed in 2015 by Workman Publishing, this off-beat cookbook attempts to elevate the lowly ramen noodle to a higher level.  I never knew there were so many ways to “cook” ramen, although a lot of times, the recipes mostly call for just soaking in tepid tap water, depending on the availability of water temperature in the chef’s cell. 

Not the least bit tongue-in-cheek, the recipes, along with accompanying stories that have been included, are contributed by various inmates (past and present) of jails/prisons in the California penal system and show a lot of creative imagination on the part of the inmates.  Using whatever commissary items available, they have been able to create everything from a PB&J and a ramen tamale to Hit Man Burritos and Trejo’s Machete Ramen.  You remember Danny Trejo, don’t you? Before he became known for playing the anti-hero in dozens of movies and TV series, he was a drug counselor. Seems he also served a little bit of time. 

Trejo isn’t the only “celebrity” who contributed. Tarryn Manning (Orange is the New Black), Shia Labeouf (Man Down), David Anthony Fausino (Married…with Children), Clancy Brown (The Shawshank Redemption), and Slash (Guns and Roses) also shared their recipes and stories in this book. 

I can hear all of you now, shouting at your screen “But, what about a recipe?” Let me tell you, right now, we should all be thankful that we aren’t really incarcerated and hopefully these mandated, life-saving orders aren’t life sentences, because I’m pretty sure we really won’t need to fall back on any desperate measures for food. However, if you insist, one of the least stomach challenging recipes is for “Butt-Naked Ramen Soup,” which is pretty much your basic ramen.  If you should choose to be a bit more adventuresome, you could always up your game and make “Frankie’s Soup in the Hole,” which adds one chopped Slim Jim to “Butt-Naked Ramen Soup.” 

So, let me leave you this thought: we’re all in this together and we will survive.  Be thankful for your family, be thankful for the health care professionals and be thankful you live in America. Stay healthy and happy and appreciate the smaller things in life, like sun shining, birds singing and life living. 

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Books

Give the Girl a Sammich!

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By Gini Rainey

Right now, considering all that is going on in our world, the KISS method would seem to be the best way to go with everything.  You know, Keep It Simple Silly!  I bought some new and weird cookbooks recently on ebay and I thought this might be a good time to share one of them with any of you out there that might still check periodically to see if I’m still around. Which, by the way, is probably an excellent thing for all of us to be doing right now. Give a call to some of the folks (or all of the folks) in your life who are important to you today. Our lives have all change dramatically in the past few weeks and it’s never too late to let people you love know you care. 

I was chatting with my sister a little bit ago and I reminded her of the time that I had the Asian Flu.  I checked with Google earlier to determine when that pandemic made its way around and discovered it was in 1957 – when I was nine years old. I was sick with it around Halloween time and what’s the worst possible thing that can happen to a kid when they’re nine and sick around Halloween?  Right! They can’t go Trick or Treating! My sister, who is eight years older than I and was in high school, offered to take a grocery sack around the neighborhood to collect candy for her poor little sister who was stuck at home, bedded down on the couch, with a raging fever. 

My dad, whose creativity knew no bounds, drug a six-foot ladder up out of the basement and dressed it in his overcoat.  He put our jack o lantern on the very top of the ladder, ran a string through the sleeve of the coat, and over to me on the couch.  When the doorbell rang, some poor unsuspecting, candy-hungry kid was greeted by the door slowly being opened by a ghoulish giant of a pumpkin-headed man swinging his arm maniacally at them. 

I’m sure mom made sandwiches that evening, just to keep things simple. (nice segue, huh!?!) It’s too bad she didn’t have had a copy of Scanwiches in her cookbook arsenal. This book, written by Jon Chonda and published by PowerHouse Books in 2011, is definitely one of a kind. It features amazing cross-section scans of sandwiches, along with the ingredients, place of origin, and bits of trivia. The range of sandwiches go from the super simple and humble grilled cheese sandwich all the way to a seven-layer Dagwood. From the strictly home-grown Elvis favorite of peanut butter and banana to the French Pan Bagnat and the Chinese Rou Jia Mo.  We’ve all eaten sandwiches, but the beautifully high definition scanned cross section photos of the sandwiches included in this book puts a whole new spin on the humble sandwich. Speaking of dinner, just looking through this book will give you a king-sized hunger for something yummy to eat! 

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Food

Patriot Delivery: You Seriously Do Not Have to Cook

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Tyler: Posado’s, Happy Fish, Corner Bakery, WhatSub Bahn Mi, Rounders Pizza, Newks Eatery, Starbucks, Say Cheese, Taco Shop, King Torta’s, Slim Chickens, Poke Bop, Fuzion Express #2, Donut Palace, Dickey’s BBQ Pit, Firehouse Subs, McAlisters, The Porch at ETX Bew, Mama’s Restaurant, Five Guys, Margarita’s Mexican Cafe, Smallcakes Cupcakery, Topp’s Pizza, The Diner, JT2 Gourmet Burgers, Janie’s Cakes, Yami Buffet, Chiangmai Thai Sushi, Mario’s Italian Restaurant, Texas Roadhouse, Taj Mahal

Bullard: Ribmasters, Legends Burger Co.

Lindale: Starbucks, Eastern Buffet, Leo’s Asian Bistro, Brisket Love BBQ, Smokey Mike’s BBQ

Jacksonville: LaFrontera, Legends, Rancho Grande, Ritual, The Patio Seafood, Sadler’s, Commerce St. Drafthouse

Whitehouse: Ribmasters, Mr. Taco Jr.

If you need anything at all from Patriot or have any questions, please email them at customerservice@prdtyler.com.  They will usually respond within a few minutes.  If needed, give them a call, (or a text), at (903)508-3833.

Corporate accounts can be set up where your business can receive a bill at the end of each billing cycle, too.

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