Guest Blog – Lazy Man Cooks

Screen Shot 2018-03-13 at 3.59.06 PM

 

Today’s Guest Blogger is MountainWestBob!

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 1.08.52 PM

We couldn’t agree more with the “Old’s Cool!”

Andy’s Introduction to Bob:

Ann and I met Bob and his wife Gayle when I was in grad school back in the dark ages,  i.e., when research was done with Fortran and punch cards.  Our connection actually goes beyond being grad school buddies. It turns out that Gayle was the OB nurse on duty at Poudre Valley Hospital when our daughter Sara was born; Gayle introduced Ann to the world of newborn babies… something we really needed at that time.   Bob left grad school for Pinkerton, and because stage coach robberies were only in movies by then, his work was largely in industrial security.   The great stories he shared with me about uncovering employee theft in various industries provided wonderful examples over the years for my deviant behavior and criminology courses.  So after all of these years it was very special that Bob agreed to be a guest blogger  (following some arm twisting I must admit).

Now here’s Bob’s Introduction:

We’ve just marked 15 years of retirement. Some know more of the details, such as how we met 52 winters ago because we’d both cut the same class at the U of MN due to extreme cold (minus 30 or more) on a Monday, and how 6 weeks later, on a Saturday afternoon, I observed that “Since we do this so well together, we should get married” and Gayle responded, “OK.”

Screen Shot 2018-06-18 at 7.06.27 AM

Bob & Gayle – still together more than 50 years after that bitter cold Minnesota day

I failed in grad school due to an acquired inability to understand articles in sociology journals. Joined the old Pinkerton’s, Inc. folks and made a career out of industrial security. Everything from the home and offices of a Cabinet official, corporate headquarters, and colleges, to major slaughterhouses received the benefit of my steely gaze and wisdom.

james_pinkerton_2.jpg__400x507_q85_crop_subsampling-2_upscale

Allan Pinkerton’s steely gaze circa 1850.

New Mexico is our 7th state since marriage. Gayle followed along as school and work took me on a trek from Minnesota to Colorado, Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, and New Jersey. That made the retirement location hers to determine. We bought a motor home and visited (or at least drove through) 40 states before discovering the moderate climate, captivating culture, and enchanting geology of New Mexico; living in a minority Anglo state is good! And, good for us.

Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 6.16.36 AM

The New Mexico flag salutation: “I salute….the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures.”

Gayle is mostly-retired as a critical care nurse, having first earned a nursing diploma, and later her BSN and MA degrees.

We’ve traveled during these years, volunteered a bunch, and use the local Y to good effect.

[We asked Bob to tell us a little about how and why he got into cooking]

What drives my cooking, besides thinking that often it’s the only way I’m going to get fed?

In my natal family, we each had to learn how to do everything. Laundry, sewing to repair clothes (darning socks, securing rips and tears, replacing buttons), cleaning house, and… cooking. Plus, of course, house repair, some plumbing, electrical repairs, construction, and basic gardening. It was a broad “domestic education.”

waffle iron

By second grade, I was coming home to an empty house at lunch time and had to fend for myself. My most dramatic lunch involved a decision to make waffles… I found the waffle-iron and plugged it in, got the recipe book and ingredients out and was ready. Except that I had a question. So, I dialed 411 for information, explained my predicament to the operator and asked whether I was to use a teaspoon or a tablespoon of one ingredient. She responded by explaining that if the instruction used a capital letter “T” it required a tablespoon. I thanked her, made excellent waffles, cleaned everything up and returned to school on time! We had little money, and – if memory serves – I made a batch of mapleine syrup (from a powder, mixed with water and heated on the stove – Log Cabin was a sometime-luxury.)

Screen Shot 2018-05-30 at 1.45.25 PM.jpg

By the time I was 14 or 15 my parents had moved us to another house and we were renting the first place out to students. Girls. I was often there doing chores, and heard the girls kvetching about their poor cooking skills and resulting lackluster dinners. I offered to make them something nice. They accepted, and we chose a day. I prepared a nice baked chicken dish similar to a cacciatore, except it was baked with milk and or cream, probably half-and-half – my memory is a bit faded. The five girls were delighted.

Screen Shot 2018-05-31 at 4.10.39 PM

Bob back when he met Gayle

Gayle and I share nearly all chores, though we each have specialties (I do any necessary trimming and spraying outdoors, she does everything connected with potted plants). We share cooking and cleaning up. Both of us have a plate-full of volunteer, exercise, and reading activities, and neither one of us wants to make the kitchen a focus of our energies. Here, too, we share, but with specialties. I do very nearly everything concerning the grill (almost all meat and many veggies are grilled), and Gayle does the same regarding our functional salads*. We focus on the goal of tasty and nutritious dishes, with easy preparation and clean-up.

*A functional salad involves real veggies and little lettuce (Editor’s note: see our blog about holding back on lettuce here).  Spinach, onion, sweet peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes combine with others as may be available, and often obviate any “need” for a separate cooked veggie on the plate. Throw chunks of grilled chicken atop one of these salads and a healthy and hearty one-dish meal is created.

Lazy Man Cooks…Easy Crockpot Chili, Easy Chicken Parmesan, and Super Simple Salmon on the Grill

Easy Crockpot Chili

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 11.54.03 AM

Components for the Chili (not including 3 garlic cloves).

The ingredients for this dish may vary, depending on our mood and availability of components.  I have included some pictures that show how I made the chili.   This is not a gourmet meal, but is a satisfying and nutritious taste treat.

For the first time, I bought ‘minced beef’ which was great… like stewing beef but maybe 1/4 the size.  I often use chicken or maybe even “beefless beef” from Trader Joe’s, but I’d spotted the minced stuff and decided on that. I lightly floured the beef adding just a couple pinches of salt and then browned it in a pan with olive oil.  The beef was quite lean so there was no oil left after the beef was browned.

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 11.54.48 AM
Ready to mix the tomato mixture with the fried ground beef

Another first: I mixed the ingredients in a bowl! I usually just dump it all in the pot, but decided to try pre-mixing it. I added coarsely chopped garlic and onion to the tomato puree, tomato paste, and fire-roasted tomato and finally added the beef and onion.

Next up was rinsing off the canned beans. We are of that “always rinse the beans” tribe. We almost never start with dried beans, as we can never get them to the peak of prep that the canned product offers. I only used two cans of beans today… there was room in the crock pot for a can of black beans, but I neglected to buy any. Then I threw in a can of corn (frozen fire-roasted corn works fine, but I decided on the canned variety this time).

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 11.55.14 AM

A Crock-Pot finish

Cooking! Heating! For about 8 hours… had other activities today: did laundry, cleaned the oven, cleaned the patio (after the wind-storms of this past week), and typed the notes from our HOA board meeting. Gayle was busy, too, and she is the one that scrubbed the racks from the oven! Yea! Gayle!

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 11.55.25 AM

Chili and flour tortillas on the patio.  What fun!

Finally, it was din-din time. We ate our first al fresco meal of the season in very comfortable 75 degree weather. Served it with local flour tortillas.

We had about 4 servings left-over. which we stored in a Pyrex container (we’ve converted from plastic).

MountainWestBob's Easy Crockpot Chili

  • 1 lb minced or ground beef or ground chicken
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 2 T olive oil
  • kosher salt (1 tsp per pound of meat is about right)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 8 oz can Hatch green chili (mild, unless you’re wild and crazy)
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 T red chile flakes
  • 1 can (about 15 oz) corn or 1 bag frozen corn or frozen fire-roasted corn
  • 2 cans (about 15 oz) diced and fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 can pinto beans, (about 15 oz) drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (about 15 oz) red beans or kidney beans, drained an rinsed
  • 1 can (about 15 oz) black beans (optional), drained and rinsed
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste

Mix the beef with the flour (clean hands work well); heat the olive oil in a pan over medium high heat.  Add the meat and stir occasionally until it’s nicely browned.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Mix the remaining ingredients together and add that mixture and the browned meat to the crockpot.  Cook for 8 hours on low heat.

Serve with flour or corn tortillas and some Cholula Hot Pepper Sauce for flavor.

Any leftovers will be great reheated in a pan or the microwave – and the chili will freeze well too.

Recipe brought to you by MountainWestBob and BigLittleMeals.com.

Easy Chicken Parmesan ala MountainWestBob

Recently, for company, I made Chicken Parmesan ala Bob. Remember, I’m not in competition any longer… it’s been agreed I’m one of the laziest men on earth! My cooking reflects this. This was my third try with Chix Parm and it worked.

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 11.34.29 AM

Main ingredients: flour with some salt and pepper, an egg, panko mixed with a little parmesan, olive oil, Newmans Own Sockarooni, and 5 boneless, skinless, thighs.

Above is a picture of the basic ingredients.  For the sauce I chose Newman’s Own Sockarooni! I tried other stuff the first time, but it was totally wimpy and without flavor, so switched to our preferred s’getti sauce.

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 9.29.25 AM

I used two bottles tonight for 4 people, anticipating left-overs… and there are some. What to do with the extra? Add a can of sliced mushrooms and boil up some more whole grain spaghetti noodles.

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 12.19.09 PM

Crucial: Do not beat anything, but use a wire whip liberally with the egg! Especially: don’t beat the thighs! I prepped the thighs before the company arrived: dipping them in flour, then egg, then panko, and setting them on a platter and covering them with plastic wrap until ready to actually cook.

When the door bell rang I turned on the oven to 425 and started the spaghetti water to heat while we chatted and enjoyed some hot brie with crackers, sliced pears and apples and Melba Toast.

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 12.20.40 PM

Breaded thighs browning in olive oil.

Back in the kitchen, I started heating the second bottle of Sockarooni and put on a skillet with some olive oil for the thighs. When hot, I dropped the thighs in for 4 minutes per side, removed them from the skillet, added about a half bottle of the Sockarooni, put the thighs back in, and carefully added the rest of the sauce.  I popped this into the hot oven for 22 minutes. When 8 minutes were left on the thighs, I put 8 ounces of whole grain thin spaghetti into the water (editor’s note: read up on the value of whole grain pasta in this Washington Post article). Everything finished at the same time, and I brought out the platter of thighs with sauce, and a bowl of the noodles and a second bowl of the extra sauce.

Screen Shot 2018-05-23 at 12.21.02 PM

Note: we just cleaned the oven this past weekend and didn’t want a lot of spatters all over, so we covered the skillet with a wire mesh spatter-guard from Ikea… and it was perfect. It’s entirely made of metal, so there’s no fear of putting it in the oven.

Gayle made a nice field-greens salad with a few ripe olives and tomato slices as a garnish for the dinner and a wonderful lime panna cotta for desert, and served that with some mixed berries up top. Yum.

Our guests brought a bottle of white wine, and a loaf of local Italian-style bread that were both great!

Footnote:  It’s important to me – from my childhood training – that every “cooked” element be ready at the same time, and that it be served hot… So, while Gayle and our guests were enjoying the last of the cheese/crackers/fruit in the L.R. I went to the kitchen to fry the prepared chicken thighs and get them into the oven… and set the timer and watch for the right moment to start the pasta.

We are lookin’ forward to using the leftover thighs with some freshly prepared pasta and sauce enhanced with ‘shrooms this weekend.

Easy Chicken Parmesan ala MountainWestBob

  • 5 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 5 slices of mozzarella cheese, one for each thigh (about 5 oz total)
  • 1/2 c flour
  • kosher salt
  • pepper
  • 1 egg, lightly whipped
  • 1 c panko – or fine dried bread crumbs
  • 1/3 c parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 bottles Newman’s Own Sockarooni
  • 8 oz whole grain thin spaghetti pasta

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Season the flour with a pinch of salt and pepper.  Add the parmesan cheese to the panko.

Fold each thigh around about a 1 oz piece of mozzarella.  Then, holding the thigh so the cheese doesn’t fall out, dip it first in the flour, then the egg and then in the panko, being sure it is well coated on all sides.   Do this with all of the thighs.  At this point you can cover the breaded thighs and let them sit for a bit (if you’re enjoying a cocktail before dinner).

Heat a skillet large enough to hold the thighs over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the thighs and fry for about 4 minutes on each side, turning with a fork and spatula to help hold them together.

Remove the thighs from the skillet and add about 1/2 of a jar of the Sockarooni.  Put the thighs back in the skillet and add the rest of the jar.  Place the skillet in the hot oven and roast for 22 minutes.

While the thighs are roasting, bring a large pan of water to a boil.  About 8 minutes before the thighs are done, add the spaghetti pasta to the water and boil until done.  Drain.

Serve the thighs on a platter along with a serving bowl with the pasta and another bowl with the extra bottle of warmed Sockarooni sauce (optional).

If there are leftovers, add mushrooms to the sauce and boil more pasta for a 2nd (smaller) meal.

Recipe brought to you by MountainWestBob in Albuquerque and BigLittleMeals.com.

On to the Super Simple Salmon on the Grill

salmon package

Costco frozen wild-caught skin-on salmon (about 5 oz)

I purchased frozen salmon from Costco (above photo) which comes in about 5 ounce partions.  We take the number of packs we need out by noon, and they are thawed by dinner. If I’m late and need to speed the process, I sometimes place the frozen packets on an inverted heavy aluminum griddle… if I recall my high school physics, the aluminum quickly works to balance the temperature between room and fillet, and the inverted griddle allows the colder air to drop away from the underside of the griddle.

Do not go to the next step unless you are really ready for dinner (or if there’s a little wait, you can cover the prepped fillets with Saran wrap).

salmon on striped plate

Salmon on a platter with condiments: olive oil, “Jamaica Me Crazy” spice mix, and capers.

The above photo shows the salmon on the platter with the condiments we use: Olive Oil (never heard of it as a kid in Minnesota, but use it almost daily in New Mexico), Jamaica Me Crazy (pepper-based spice mix – which has now been replaced with Johnny’s Seasoned Pepper), and capers. Note: capers have salt, so we add none during cooking although I add a bit to my portion at the table.

Salmon on grill

I use a steel fork to lift the salmon a bit, and a steel spatula to slide the fillet onto the pre-heated grill (set to medium). Eight minutes to cook! Please, no more! You don’t want them dried out.  When white material is coming out of the salmon, it’s done.  Of course, the time may vary some depending on your grill.   I’ve done a whole multi-pound fillet and left it on 9 to maybe 10 minutes. No turning or fussing! Let it cook, skin side down.

Remove to platter and thence to the plate.

Super Simple Salmon on the Grill

  • 2 pieces of wild salmon, about 5 oz each, skin on; if frozen, be sure they’re totally defrosted
  • capers, about 1 T per filet
  • 2 T olive oil
  • Seasoned Pepper (such as Johnny’s Seasoned Pepper)
  • kosher salt (optional, since capers are salty)

Brush top and bottom of the filets with the olive oil, sprinkle the top with seasoned pepper, and add the capers.

Preheat the (gas) grill to a medium setting and put on the salmon filets, skin side down and cover.  Try not to peek until 8 minutes have passed.

When white material is coming out of the salmon, it’s done – 8 – 9 minutes. No turning or fussing! Put on a platter – and serve.

Recipe brought to you by MountainWestBob in Albuquerque and BigLittleMeals.com.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: