Work Food Hacks

So I eat lunch at work quite often (most days). And I bring leftovers because I don’t care for cold sandwiches with one amazing exception*. So what to do to make it interesting and different and using the limited equipment we have at the office to make it work. In my case, that’s a microwave, a toaster, and a toaster oven, so it really is somewhat limited.

So this will be a recurring post with my terrible iPhone camera pictures. 

First up – Mushroom Fontina Toasts which is a play on Mushroom & Fontina Crostini 

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Yes, this picture is pretty much awful. But it was my lunch and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

So I brought some Italian bread into the office with some of the leftover mushroom shallot garlic mixture. Then I went to the Publix and got some thick sliced Fontina from the deli. So I heat the toaster oven while I toast the Italian bread in the toaster. Meanwhile I heated the mushroom mixture in the microwave just a bit. Not too much though.

So this is how you put it all together: with the toaster oven heated, on broil, top the toasted bread with the warm mushroom mixture, and then top with the thick sliced Fontina. Broil until the desired gooey-ness factor is achieved.

Then put it on your ugly paper plate and have a great lunch at work. 

Now here are some extra tips – have some lemons available, even at the office, oh and it never hurts to have a small bottle of Worcestershire sauce for they both are fresh flavors. 

* cheddar, mayonnaise, and homemade hummus, on Italian bread. Oh yes, this is now in my brain and I have to make it again. 

 

Chex Mix or something like it – round 1

My mom, (here we go again), always made chex mix for Christmas Eve. No idea why really. Actually that is kind of strange – Christmas was always banana nut bread, magic bars, M&M cookies, vanilla taffy, and chex mix, oh, and then the very strange cheese ball that I always made. Once again I mention that. Strange.

Take away story: yes, do let your eleven year-old run Christmas Eve. It makes for some great stories. But not necessarily great cheese balls. Just saying.

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This is so not my mom’s recipe, but mine since I decided to make it for Christmas Eve this year. That said, this is an experiment and I want to see what I like and what I want to change. I think my “part 2” will be for the Super Bowl. Yep.

4 cups Crispix Cereal
8 ozs lightly salted cashews
1 cup pretzels twists
1 cups of bagel chips and/or pita chips
8 Tbs unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, bruised – not too mashed
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
4 sprigs thyme
1/4 tsp ground garlic
1/2 tsp Herbs de Provence
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
good pinch kosher salt

In a heavy bottomed pot over low heat, melt butter with garlic, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, ground garlic, Herbs de Provence. Let simmer super low while preheating oven to 250 degrees.

Remove thyme and garlic clove. Add Crispix, cashews, pretzels, and bagel chips to a heavy-duty foil lined baking pan. Pour butter mixture over cereal mixture and mix well to combine and let soak in just a bit, 2 – 3 minutes. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes and if you are like me adding just a bit more Worcestershire sauce each time. Spread on paper towels to cool and then store in an zip top bag. I plan to make it dinner several times this week. I mean it is cereal for dinner, right?

Modified from : www.halfbakedharvest.com/moms-secret-Christmas-eve-Chex-mix

Guess I’m not the only person who had a mom that made this for Christmas Eve. Cool.

 

Crunchy Roasted Chickpeas

Chickpeas are so slightly amazing. Think hummus, think salads, and now roasted chickpeas.  I had being seeing recipes for this for a while, but this is the first time I tried it. But as usual, had to make a modification or two. D&D_1489

So this is …

2 cans of chickpeas, rinsed  – yes, that is a must – rinse them. Not kidding.
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
pinch cayenne
1 tsp dried chipotle chili pepper – do love this stuff for the smokey thing going on.
juice of half a lemon
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a roasting pan with foil, for easy clean up.

In a bowl, combine chickpeas, olive oil, salt, cayenne, chipotle pepper, lemon juice and Worcestershire. Mix to coat. Arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, mixing the pan and rotating half way through. The chickpeas should be lightly browned. Allow to cool completely.

These were pretty amazing in my opinion. I think they might be good on a salad and they also might pretty good hummus too. Just a thought.

Baked Beans

I do realize that I have (probably – mostly) posted about this before. It is one of those not-recipe recipes. This is a mix of my mom’s baked beans and my former mother-in-law’s baked beans. But it really is something special. I am glad to be the one who mixed these two recipes together.  And I am really glad that that had a great mom and one of the best mother-in-laws. And for many years I have had another mother-in-law that I love like a mom.  D&D_1442

It is kind of stupid, but also ironic, that I use Bush’s* vegetarian beans but top them lots and lots (and lots) of bacon. I do kind of like that the vegetarian beans are kind of neutral so I get to flavor them the the way I want. That means lots of brown sugar, mustard (yellow = more vinegar), yellow onion,  Worcestershire sauce, and baking it slow and easy. That is how baked beans work. This is not something you can rush at all. Nope.

When the Boy and I had a Wednesday Night Cooking Class about this, the most important thing I could tell him about this is test the flavors before you put this in the oven. Figure out the balance – do you need more of something to balance this out. Because if you cannot figure that out before putting it in the oven, you will not be happy. Baking only concentrates the flavors. But when you top the whole thing with lots of bacon, that somehow fixes everything.

* My favorite brand of beans. Dog not withstanding. He’s cute, but …

 

Spiced Pecans

I have many (many!) recipes for spiced nuts (more than I have ever used but I guess I need to D&D_1183remedy that situation). One of my favorite’s is my adapted version of Union Square Cafe’s Best Bar Nuts, but if a nut recipe has fresh minced rosemary I’m pretty much all in.  But, that said, I’m not a fan of nuts that use egg whites to coat. It’s not so much the taste, though that is a bit odd, but largely a texture issue.  I’m kind of a butter, sugar, and bake girl.

4 Tbs unsalted butter
2 cups pecan halves
2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary leaves
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs Worcestershire
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp Tabasco
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
One wedge of fresh lime or more if it makes you happy

Heat butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium low heat. Add pecans and cook, swirling pan constantly until pecans are toasted, 5 minutes or so. Add the chopped rosemary and swirl because it smells so good.

Add remaining ingredients except lime and stir to coat pecans. Continue cooking and keep stirring for 1 – 2 minutes. Add lime juice and stir for a bit. Transfer pecans to parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure they are in a single layer and let cool. Break up any large pieces.

Note: This is not in the original recipe, but I let the pecans sit in a low oven for about ten minutes. They are still sticky, but the humidity here is a bit of a hot mess (not much if a surprise really).

All that said, the flavor is fantastic or amazing. Might just be a new favorite – yep it is.

www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Jessicas-Spiced-Pecans

Super Bowl 50

A Year Ago – Salted Butterscotch Pecan Cookies

Baked Beans – not a recipe at all.

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My cobbled together baked bean

This is not a recipe. Consider it a guide line of sorts because that’s really all it is. This is a comforting food to me. It reminds me of many things all at once. This started largely on my mom’s recipe, but modified into more of my former mother-in-law’s recipe. Loura used to serve it as part of Thanksgiving in her special bean pot. The bean pot was kind of a robin’s egg blue – really pretty. I had never knew anyone who made baked beans for Thanksgiving, but it totally works. I mean it. Really.

These beans are tangy, sweet, mustardy, oniony, and smokey with bacon. But for many years I did a vegetarian version and still do when I don’t happen to have bacon in the fridge. I buy Bush’s vegetarian baked beans to start because they are blank canvas-ish (they were on sale this week, buy one get one – yeah!) and then doctor it up with the favors I like best.

So here are the ingredients:
28 ozs can Bush’s vegetarian baked beans (a pantry staple)
Small to medium yellow onion, minced – I happen to like lots of onion in my baked beans
Worcestershire sauce – required – well, pretty much everything here is required. It is.
Brown sugar
Mustard, yellow or Dijon – I prefer Dijon now, but either will do.
Bacon – not necessary, but really good.

Set oven to 350 degrees. Bake the mac n cheese first. Oh yeah these two things go together well. Anyway. That’s another recipe for another time. Another family recipe.

In a baking dish – I use a blue ceramic baking dish from Portugal that’s about 10″ by 7″ that I purchased in a Stein Mart in Durham, NC, and one can of beans works perfectly. I just mix everything else in there, but not the bacon – that’s for the top – again not a recipe. Here’s the thing though – you really have to taste it after mixing the beans, Worcestershire, brown sugar, onion, and mustard together and decide if you like the flavor  – is it well balanced? If you don’t like it then – well, you won’t like it any better when it’s become more intense after baking. So taste and adjust. It’s pretty important.

I wish I could give you an exact recipe, but sometimes you just can’t and that means you’re just making food you love. Is there anything wrong with that? I think not.  Thanks to Becky and Loura. Great inspirations.

Sloppy Joes

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Sloppy Joes

I know this was originally a Rachel Ray recipe (30 minute meals, I think), from at least ten years ago, probably more, but I’ve messed with it so much that it is not recognizable as such. This is what The Boy will inevitably request when I ask what he wants for dinner and for leftovers. He makes good use of leftovers after he gets home from work or from hanging out with his friends. I honestly have to hide some if I want leftovers for lunch myself.

1 pound ground chuck (easy to scale up)
1 yellow onion, diced
4 Tbs cider vinegar
1 Tbs Macormick “Montreal” seasoning
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
14 oz can tomato sauce

In a large skillet, heat a couple Tbs olive oil, add onion and sauté until it begins to soften. Add ground chuck and break up as the meat cooks until it is no longer pink and onions are soft.
Add vinegar, seasoning, brown sugar, and Worcestershire sauce to beef. Season with salt to taste. Let this simmer for a few minutes and taste for balance. This is key and I still do it every time.  It’s important to do that now before adding the tomato sauce because all those flavors intensify and if you like them now, you’ll like them better later. Then just let is simmer for about an half an hour.

I tend to make this a day ahead, because like spaghetti sauce or chili, it’s so much better the next day. Some times I make cole slaw with this, sort of the BBQ/cole slaw sandwich thing going on and it really works. But I guess you have to be raised with the BBQ/cole slaw thing as part of your life to get it. I was raised on Eastern NC (vinegar-based) BBQ because both my parents are from there. And every summer when we went to NC, we would come home with a cooler of Revels BBQ. Damn – that was amazing stuff and I still think about it – probably too often.