Candidates for Mayo

I have mentioned the fact that I worry about forgotten items accumulating in the refrigerator or pantry. I am revisiting that category of cooking this week. There was a reprieve from the pressure to use up fresh produce because my farm share drop-off day fell on July 4, and therefore was not distributed. And I actually managed to use up most of last week’s bounty within a few days!

The particular item on my mind was a jar of mayonnaise. I have been known to have mayonnaise reach its expiration date before it is used up. Neither Matt nor I are big cold cut sandwich eaters, I don’t especially like coleslaw, and I prefer vinegar-based dressings for my pasta and potato salads. As for this current jar, I have a confession to make- somehow the expiration date became illegible, so I don’t know when I am supposed to retire it. I planned to “chance” it for a few more recipes, and then no more.
I almost forgot to mention that around this same time I learned that mayonnaise turned 100 this year. Who knew?

For the first application, I used the mayonnaise in a chocolate cake recipe I found on the website that seems to be a sister site in England. I made it MUCH harder for myself by going back and forth between internet searches to convert the grams to ounces when apparently I could have switched the units on my kitchen scale. Dang it. I was a little concerned about how the cake would turn out, particularly its texture, when I noticed that my mayonnaise was eggless. And clearly eggs are one of the common cake ingredients that the mayonnaise was supposed to fill in for!

Fortunately, it turned out fine. (And it didn’t make anyone sick. Woo hoo!). Even my pastry chef friend liked it. And the frosting, with the coffee flavor added (I used espresso powder), was killer.

The next mayonnaise application would be oven fried chicken. Again, a random internet search taught me that mayonnaise could be an important player in making moist meat. What is great about this recipe is that you can make the coating out of pretty much anything you have hanging out in your pantry! I used melba toasts that somehow sat in my pantry for 9 months, and crispy rice cereal left over from marshmallow treats I had made to bring to a July 4th barbecue.

Oven Fried Chicken
adapted from Everyday Maven
Servings: It depends! This makes enough coating for at least 6 bone-in skinless chicken thighs, or at least 2 pounds of skinless chicken parts you are using. Most people would need two thicken thighs for a serving.

Approximately 2 pounds chicken pieces, skin removed (thighs, legs, breast, whole)
1 Cup Melba Toast, from 3 sub-packages
3/4 Cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 Cup mayo
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
cooking spray or oil mister

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. (The original recipe said 400 degrees, and a very similar recipe said 350. I went with 350 because, honestly, I had time to kill. My thought was that the different temperature meant a different cook time but may not affect the chicken’s tenderness. It might be better to keep the temperature lower in case the breading gets too brown before the chicken reaches temperature.) Arrange a metal cooling rack over a jelly roll pan.

Crush the Melba toast in the packages, and then add to food processor to grind further. You want there to be some slightly larger pebbles after pulsing. Add any other, smaller crumbs, like crispy rice cereal, along with the rest of the spices. Pulse again.

In a separate bowl, combine mayo and Dijon mustard.

At this point, you have two options: 1) use two bowls and coat each chicken piece individually by going from the mayo mixture to the crumbs, or 2) Use a zip lock bag and the “shake and bake” method.
Place on rack on pan and spray with cooking spray.

See how much leftover breading I had?

See how much leftover breading I had?

Cook until chicken is done (juices run clear and temperature reaches 165 degrees – 40 minutes for my thighs) rotating the pan about halfway through. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. The resulting chicken is amazingly juicy and delicious.
See how much leftover breading I had?
While prepping the chicken, I came to my senses about the fact that I couldn’t serve chicken alone for dinner. I should have planned to offer a vegetable, but I hadn’t thought about that. Canned beans didn’t appeal to me, and the only appropriate vegetable in my freezer was peas. Here is a rare glimpse at my nearly empty refrigerator crisper drawer!

What could I serve with this fried chicken? Well, waffles of course!

I still had leftover waffle mix from a Christmas gift box. I added a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the recipe on the can, because sugar wasn’t on the ingredients list and I like a touch of sweetness in my waffles, even for dinner. Then I drew on the information gained from a friend—who became obsessed with replicating the flavor and texture of European-style waffles, Belgian waffles like they serve from the Wafels and Dinges truck in NYC, and learned that one of the secrets to crispy waffles is an abundance of butter—and doubled the recommended amount of butter. The waffles came out great.
A little hot sauce, a little maple syrup, and we had a “complete” meal.

A perfect complement

As you can imagine, sometimes my quest for using up food makes for an unusual diet.

For example, I started last Sunday’s dinner with a kale and fruit smoothie, followed by grilled steak with chimichurri sauce, and topped off with bacon peanut butter cookies for dessert. Yep, you read that correctly.

Of course, I can explain:  Awhile back I had preserved leftover kale by freezing it in an ice cube tray, and I still hadn’t used it up. I added frozen berries, banana, nonfat greek yogurt, and honey for my appetizer drink. I made chimichurri again because I had made cubes of leftover parsley and cilantro leaves in olive oil also saved in the freezer.
As for the cookies….well, somehow my package of bacon wasn’t being used enough. And I had come across the recipe again from Joy the Baker. I was curious. How were they? All I can say is WOW.

Let’s talk about something that makes sense together: eggs and greens.


This is what fresh collard greens look like!

I’ll be experiencing an influx of greens in the coming weeks, so I’ll be sneaking them in wherever I can. This is a good thing, because it adds nutrition that I have probably been lacking lately.  Can we agree for a minute that bacon, in moderation, fits into a healthy lifestyle too? This is another easy and adaptable recipe.


Baked Eggs with Southern-Style Greens and Polenta
adapted from a Whole Foods online recipe
Serves: 2

1/4 cup uncooked grits or polenta (coarse cornmeal)
3/4 cup water
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 tablespoon butter
2 slices bacon
1 bunch collard greens
, stemmed and roughly chopped
2 eggs

Stemming the greens is probably the most tedious part of this process. Here’s a quick hint to save time: fold the leaf in half over the stem so you only need to make one slice to remove it!
Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange 2 large ramekins (at least 5 ounces) on a baking sheet, grease, and set aside.

I used the remains of a package of instant polenta, which requires only five minutes of stirring. If using packaged polenta, follow the package directions. All methods start with boiling the water and salt, whisking in the grains, and reducing the heat to low. If using cornmeal or grits, you’ll be stirring often for 10-15 minutes until thick and creamy.
Remove pan from stovetop. Stir in butter and season with salt and pepper. This is the step where I could definitely see something like shredded cheddar cheese added, if you’re into that sort of thing 🙂

Divide grits among prepared ramekins.

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until just crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and cool. Roughly chop.

Pour most of the bacon grease out of the pan, leaving about 1 tablespoon. Add greens to skillet and cook, tossing often, until wilted and just tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in bacon and season with salt and pepper. Arrange greens on top of grits in ramekins.

Crack an egg into the center of each ramekin and bake until whites are almost set, 15-20 minutes. Keep an eye on them or you’ll be sad like me and miss out on a runny yolk! Set aside to let cool briefly then serve.

Not quite how it was supposed to turn out, with a set egg. That is what happens when you run upstairs to change your clothes toward the end of the cook time!

Not quite how it was supposed to turn out, with a set egg. That is what happens when you run upstairs to change your clothes toward the end of the cook time!

Still enjoyable.

Still enjoyable.

Bready Goodness

I am very lucky to have a husband who likes to bake breads, pizzas, rolls, etc. I bought him some sourdough starter a couple of years ago, and ever since, as he has kept it alive with regular “feedings,” and remained fairly committed to using it often. Since we are a family of two, and we liked to vary our diets, this habit keeps our freezer well stocked with pre-made pizza dough, or leftover bread which I have sliced or cubed. (That is one thing he doesn’t do — put away the leftovers. After all the work he puts into the risings and the kneadings, once it comes out the oven, he would have it left out on the counter going stale for hours or days if it wasn’t for me! I suppose we make a good team.)

The reason I mention this is because I had some wheat sourdough bread cubes in the freezer that really needed to be used. Bread pudding is such a flexible recipe, someday perhaps one day I’ll even be able to make it up as I go along without reference. This time I found a recipe from the Tillamook County Creamery that matched up with ingredients I had on hand, plus some greens I had been craving. Perhaps my version will similarly inspire you, but you may feel confident enough to make it your own!
Savory Bread Pudding
from Tillamook
Serves: 4 (Original recipe served 6-8, but I halved)

2 egg yolks
3 eggs
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
13 oz (~1.5 C) milk
8 oz (1 C) heavy cream
4 oz (1/2 C) plain greek yogurt
(crème fraiche, sour cream, or buttermilk are all great substitutions)

1/2 Tablespoon butter, to butter casserole dishes
10 oz stale bread cut into 1 inch cubes (some bread pudding recipes insist on weak white bread, but for this recipe you can use hearty bread like my wheat sourdough, whole wheat, French, Italian, or rye. If your bread doesn’t feel stale, dry it out in a hot 350°F oven on a sheet pan for 7 minutes)
5 oz cooked bacon (smoked turkey, ham, or sautéed mushrooms, for vegetarians, can be substituted. I ended up making two smaller dishes that incorporated the bacon and one that simply left it out for a vegetarian version)
1 teaspoon minced fresh sage (thyme, rosemary, or parsley can all be substituted)
3 oz caramelized onions*
4 oz kale, briefly sautéed in
olive oil, with
1/2 Tablespoon garlic
3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2-1 teaspoon ground black pepper
I highly recommend planning your schedule to make this recipe the day before you want to bake it. As you can see, you need to cook bacon, toast bread, and sauté greens before you can even assemble the dish to go in the oven. *Having a batch of caramelized onions done in advance will be helpful. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting way too long for dinner to be ready, like I was. I was starving by the time I was caramelizing the onions via two different shortcuts (they worked fine for the purposes of this recipe, but the onions were definitely more of a weird mushy texture I wouldn’t have wanted to use for anything else).
DSC_4320        DSC_4321

DSC_4324So I made extra kale with garlic and put it on sourdough pizza crust that had been sprinkled with olive oil and parmesan cheese and topped it off with some crumbles of goat cheese.
DSC_4329    DSC_4331

But I digress. Here are the instructions:

To make the egg mixture, whisk together egg yolks, whole eggs, salt and garlic powder until well blended. Add milk, cream, and yogurt and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

Butter a casserole dish (at least 1.5 quart capacity) or multiple smaller baking dishes. Take half the bread and layer among the bottom of the dishes, then half of the bacon, half of the sage, half of the caramelized onions, half of the greens, and half of the cheese. Sprinkle with ~1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Repeat with remaining half of ingredients, sprinkling cheese and then remaining 1/4 teaspoon black pepper on last. Carefully pour custard over filled dishes, soaking evenly. You want all of the bread to be wet, so push down into custard if necessary.
Cover dish and refrigerate at least one hour and preferably overnight. Uncover and bake in an oven pre-heated to 325°F for approximately 40-50 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 157°F or until gently puffed and lightly browned. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop into bowls to serve; serve warm.

Pictures–especially ones taken with my cell phone camera because I am too hungry and excited the next day to get a real camera–don’t do this kind of comfort food justice. Eat up!