We’re raiding the pantry a lot these days (I can’t help but giggle at “pantry raid”). In that way, this pandemic has been helpful in getting us to save money by “shopping” our freezer and cupboards. The other day, I found a can of garbanzo beans and some frozen shrimp. A slightly unlikely combo, I created an absolutely delicious and totally easy main dish Mediterranean Shrimp and Garbanzo Bean Salad.
Chilled Shrimp and Garbanzo Bean Salad
1 can garbanzo beans, drained 1 lb. frozen shrimp, shells off 1 cucumber (preferably an English cucumber because it has fewer seeds, diced 1 pint cherry tomatoes or 1 large tomato, diced.
6 TBS olive oil 3 TBS fresh lemon juice (could sub lime juice, red wine vinegar, or rice wine vinegar) 2 TBS (approximately) fresh parsley, diced up (see trick below) 1 TBS fresh cilantro (optional), diced
Place the garbanzo beans, tomatoes and cucumbers in a serving bowl.
Saute the shrimp in a little olive oil until they turn pink. Remove from the pan and add to the salad bowl.
Mix the dressing and pour SOME over the salad. Toss the mixture to coat. Serve the dressing on the table in case someone wants to add more. Serve with salt and pepper for people to add as they wish.
The unused dressing will keep in the fridge for a few days.
Variations: 1. Add other vegetables like diced onion, shredded carrot, diced celery, red/yellow/or orange peppers, or spinach. You can certainly add salad greens too. You can also switch out white beans for garbanzos, or even use both for extra protein.
2. Add a little Feta cheese or Goat cheese to amp up the Mediterranean flavor. If you aren’t sure your fellow diners would enjoy either one, serve it at the table for them to add. If you add either one before serving, the acid in the juice or vinegar will start to break down the cheese a little, helping it “spread” around a little, becoming part of the dressing which can be wonderful.
3. Serve without salad greens but spoon the mixture over a bed of rice, couscous, bulgar wheat, yellow lentils or any other grain or legume you like. The salad is also good served with skillet-warmed pita bread.
Tip for chopping herbs: I learned this from Martha Stewart – put the herbs in a cup, like a measuring cup or even just a drinking cup. Point your kitchen sheers in the cup and start snipping away. This way, everything gets cut but you don’t have any flying, or fleeing bits of herb to chase down as you chop.
“Worst Cook in America.” Now, THAT’s a loaded title! Even if you win, do you lose? Take a look at this exclusive interview our sister blog did with a Colorado woman. Why did she go on the show? Have her cooking abilities changed since she was on? Let’s find out.
What must it be like to go on TV, in front of the world, and compete as one of the “worst cooks in America”? We found out when we interviewed Bridget Praytor, from Colorado Springs, who is a contestant on the 2020 season of Food Network’s Worst Cooks in America. Bridget is a volley ball coach and single mom of five kids, ages 6-13 (including identical twins). It’s one thing to know, among family and friends, that you don’t cook well, but to go on TV about it? Let’s find out why Bridget did it and what the experience has been like.
InGoodTasteDenver: What made you want to enter this competition? Bridget Praytor: I went on a date with a man who loved cooking and told me how his daughter and him loved to watch a show called Worst Cooks in America together on the Food Network. I came home and told my 13 year old daughter that there was a show called Worst Cooks. She laughed and said, “maybe you can learn how to cook.”
IGTD: What was the process for entering the competition? BP: I applied last January with a cooking demonstration and then got a call a week before filming in New York asking if I was still interested. Then got the call I was definitely invited on the show two days before flying out.
IGTD: How long ago did you start filming? BP: The show was filmed in March 2019.
IGTD: Not many people want to own up to being a really bad cook – in what ways do you think you are one?
BP: One of the things I learned while being on the show is that there are a lot of home cooks that can make a meal, but have never really learned how to make food that is restaurant quality. Going into this show, my kids just wanted me to make it past the first week because they have never seen me cook other than using the microwave – except for eggs and frozen cookies. Also, I learned real fast that I was clueless when it came to flavor profiles or pairing flavors.
IGTD: Would you say you lack the skills but really want to cook better? Or you just don’t really have the interest? BP: In my life, I have always being so busy focusing on school, which I graduated with a BS in Business Management at 19 from Utah State, traveling around the US climbing the ranks in corporate America, competing in sports or raising 5 kids as a single parent, that I have never felt that I could add one more thing to my life. I would love to learn how to cook family budget-friendly meals in a supportive, fun, engaging way.
IGTD: What was your cooking background, i.e., did you cook with a relative growing up who was great or terrible? BP: Growing up I was a year-round athlete and took classes. I was able to move out at 15, graduate high school early and lived off the dollar menu, ramen or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
IGTD: How have you gotten through life so far without being a good cook? BP: I’m so proud of my kids for all contributing to our family meals. My kids are involved with so many sports, school and community events, that we are constantly busy. On weekends we go to Sams Club or Costco and buy lots of fruits and vegetables as well as prepped meals for the week.
IGTD: What’s the worst thing or biggest disaster that ever happened to you in the kitchen? BP: Going into the show, I wouldn’t say I was the worst cook. But just with moving out at such a young age and trying to balance life, being a single parent of five amazing kids, and having always been on such a tight budget, when it comes to different types of food or preparing it, I am clueless.
IGTD: What’s it like being in a competition overseen by Anne Burrell and Alton Brown who really, really know what they are doing? Is it intimidating to be a “bad cook” being judged by these really good cooks? BP: The first episode was really stressful because no one wants to go home first. When I was in the bottom two, the moment that cameras stopped rolling, a wave of emotion came over me. The producers had to remind me this was just food and a comedy because I felt so guilty leaving my kids and being judged at something I knew so little about. After that I made up my mind to focus and just be grateful instead of feeling like it was a competition.
IGTD: How do you think you compared in “badness,” to the other contestants at the start of the show? BP: So, walking into the show, I was intimidated because I felt like the other contestants had exposure to a lot of different foods through going out, their partners or parents cooking for them. However, I’m so thankful for Mike Jones and Ryan Grovey who, I believe, were just as clueless as me.
IGTD: Do you feel like you learned a lot on the show, and will this knowledge make you want to keep improving and keep cooking? BP: I am incredibly grateful for what Alton Brown and Chef Anne taught me on the show. However, since everything was so new, I felt like every cook – I was focused on retaining the knowledge to just stay out of the bottom two.
IGTD: With more knowledge under your belt, what’s your favorite thing to cook successfully now? BP: Since I have been home in the last nine months, other than the microwave, I have cooked scrambled eggs three times.
IGTD: Obviously you know the outcome of the show but we don’t – yet. So, win or lose, what does it mean to you to have been on a Food Network show? BP: I am incredibly grateful that Food Network selected me for an experience of a lifetime. I met so many great personalities on the show that I would love to cook with again. As a mom I think it would be incredible to have a show where amazing kid chefs come and teach me and past recruits family-friendly, quick meals starting with the basics and having a lot of fun in the kitchen.
IGTD: A lack of ability in one area usually means you’re really good in other areas. What are some things you think you’re really good at, since cooking isn’t one of them? BP: I would say that I am really great at living out my personal mission statement. Everyday is a successful day if I am around someone I love (including my friends or family), do something that makes me feel alive, make an association that makes me laugh and create a memory with a family member, friend or stranger.
Back in 2014, we interviewed another Colorado contestant from a different Food Network Show, David Bondarchuck, of the Holiday Baking Championship. Find out what it was like for him. Colorado also had a contestant on Chopped. Listen to the podcast interview with Chef Shahin on our sister site, RealFoodTraveler.com. And read our interview with Daphne Brogdon, one of the most popular posts on E.A.T.!
Whenever bananas start to get a little brown in our house, my husband always says, “Looks like we need to make banana bread.” Which means, I need to make banana bread. My Mom used to make fantastic banana bread but she always made it by hand which was kind of an ordeal – all that banana mashing and mixing. I found an easier way to make it, putting my own spin on it. My family loved it so we dubbed it Mama’s Best Banana Bread.
Mama’s Best Banana Bread
Makes two loaves (halve recipe if you only have 3 ripe bananas)
6 ripe bananas (brown spotted on the peel and soft on the inside but still edible)* 3/4 cup sugar 1 cup safflower oil or coconut oil 4 eggs Pinch of salt 2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp baking powder 1 3/4 cup unbleached white flour 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional) or you can sub chocolate chips or do half walnuts and half chips
*If you don’t want to have to hop to it and make banana bread every time a few start to go brown, you can freeze them in a plastic zipper bag in sets of three (to make one loaf, cutting this recipe in half). But the trick is to freeze them when they are still rather firm. Go too far into overripeness and, when you go to thaw them, they turn to brown goo in the bag. So. Gross. There’s a fine line between perfect to freeze and too old so try to catch them at the point at which you’d still eat them.
Method: 1. Put the bananas in a Cuisineart and blend them until they are mush.
2. Add all of the other in order. You can pour all but the two flours through the feed tube, keeping the machine running.
3. Take the lid off to pour in the flours. The only reason I don’t pour them through the feed tube is that they tend to overflow the small cylinder. But if you’re more talented than I am and can make it happen, go for it!
4. Keep the motor running until everything is blended, stopping to scrape down the edges if you need to, with a spatula.
5. Also using the spatula, add the nuts and/or chocolate chips at this point just to mix them in. The Cuisineart might chop them up which you don’t want.
6. Pour the batter into two bread loaf pans that you’ve sprayed with nonstick spray.
7. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Then rotate the pans around and bake for another 30 minutes. Check for doneness by sticking a table knife in the center and pulling it out. If it comes out clean, you’re done! If it comes out with batter on it, cook it two minutes more and check again. It will continue baking a little more for a few minutes after taking it out.
8. Remove the baking pans from the oven and let them cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then turn them over and shake them a little. The loaves should come right out. Turn them right side up and let them cool completely before cutting into them. But when you do, use a serrated bread knife which will result in tidy slices that aren’t falling apart.
9. If you can resist the urge, the banana bread will taste even better the next day.
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My daughter asked if I’d make chicken enchiladas for her. Sure, I said, except that I only had white flour tortillas (not the traditional corn), and I wanted to add beans for a little more protein and bulk. They were going to be something of an enchilada and something of a burrito. Thus, Chicken Enchiritos were born – and were delicious!
Chicken Enchiritos all baked and melty, ready to serve up.
Everyone Around the Table Chicken Enchiritos
Approximately 1 cup cooked chicken, diced * 1 can refried beans (could be black refries too, per your preference) Approximately 2 cups shredded Mexican Blend cheese or just cheddar or Monterrey Jack 1 can Enchilada Sauce Small flour tortillas
Mix the diced chicken and refried beans together in a bowl.
Place a tortilla on a cutting board and place a large spoonful of the chicken and beans mixture lengthwise, toward one end of the tortilla. Note, this is not the typical enchilada method which has one heating the sauce in a skillet and dipping the corn tortilla in on both sides before filling.
Sprinkle a little cheese over the mixture.
Roll the tortilla starting at the chicken/beans/cheese end and place it seam side down in the pan.
Continue filling and rolling the tortillas, placing them right next to each other in the pan. It’s okay to squish them in a little bit. And you may have to put a couple going the other direction depending on the size of your tortillas.
When the pan is filled, slowly drizzle the can of Enchilada sauce over the rolls, trying to cover them completely. If they didn’t get covered evenly, chances are, there’s some pooled between the rolls. Spoon that out and drizzle it over any bare parts.
Sprinkle cheese over the whole thing. Cover it loosely with aluminum foil.
Sprinkle the Chicken Enchiritos with cheese just before baking.
Bake with foil on for 20 minutes. Then remove the foil and rotate the pan, baking for another 20 minutes. The cheese on top should be melted and the Enchiritos should be heated through.
Serve them with sour cream and avocado. Do it up even more with diced tomatoes and red onion and cilantro.
*We’d made two baked chickens one Sunday and froze one, after taking it apart.
Serve Chicken Enchiritos with guacamole and sour cream.
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Bacon. Onion. Garlic. Pinon nuts. Eggs. Pasta. Parmesan cheese. OMG, what a divine collection of wonderfulness! And they all combine together quickly and easily into my version of Pasta Carbonara which I’m going to share with you right now. And bonus, I’m passing on a great way to make bacon! I know, right? Let’s get started!
Finished and delicious Pasta Carbonara.
Here’s a great bacon trick for cooking it with a minimum of shrinkage and grease splatter:
I wish I could take credit for this but I heard about this method on America’s Test Kitchen and it’s brilliant –
Put bacon in a cold skillet and add enough water to just cover the bacon.
Turn the heat on to Medium-High and cook until the water has evaporated. This helps prevent the bacon from shrinking and has the majority of the cooking happening “under water,” with no splattering.
Here, I’m making a second batch of bacon which I cut up with a scissors, with water over it, starting to cook the bacon.
Once the water is gone, let the bacon start to brown a little and then turn it over to brown the other side. Remove the bacon from the heat when it’s done and let it drain on paper towels.
Now this part, I WILL take credit for – take a clean kitchen scissors and cut the bacon into little bite-size pieces and then follow the method above. This makes it easier to turn, means all the bacon fits in the pan, and leftover bacon will be ready for adding to scrambled eggs, salads, chicken dishes, or just sprinkling directly into your mouth, my personal favorite.
The water is cooking off at this point and the bacon pieces are starting to brown. This is when you would want to put a splatter guard over your pan. Although, I guarantee you, you won’t have nearly the mess you would have if you’d been frying it without the water first!
Just wait until you try the method above. You’re going to thank me. In advance, you’re so welcome! Now, onto the recipe…
Easy Pasta Carbonara:
1 lb bacon in bite-size pieces (see an easy way to do that, above)
1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 lb spaghetti pasta
1/4 cup pinon nuts
3 eggs, whisked with a fork
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
Put a big pot of salted water on the stove so the water can start coming to a boil while you prepare the meal.
Brown the bacon according to the method above. Remove the cooked bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Brown the onion in the same pan. As soon as it starts to look translucent, add the garlic, watching it very carefully so neither brown, especially the garlic which will get very bitter if overcooked. With a slotted spoon, remove the onion and garlic to another bowl.
Lightly brown the pinon nuts in the same pan (do we hear one-pan meal?!). Keep stirring them around so they brown evenly. Quickly remove them to the dish with garlic and onion.
By now, the pasta water has probably started boiling. Add the pasta and give it a good stir right off the bat to get those noodles separated and cooking.
Once the pasta is done, scoop out about 1/2 cup of pasta water. Drain the pasta but don’t fret too much about getting every last drop of water off the pasta because it’s going to be part of the sauce. Return the cooked pasta to the pot.
Add 1/2 of the Parmesan choose to the egg mixture and quickly pour it over the pot of noodles, stirring and lifting (use tongs or a pasta server) it quickly so that the egg/cheese mixture gets distributed over the pasta as much as possible. The heat from the pasta is cooking the egg.
Add just a little pasta water (too much and you’ll ruin it and disaster will strike) to take advantage of the starchy water mixing with the pasta, egg and cheese to help distribute everything.
Next, add the onion/garlic/pinon nut mixture and the bacon and toss everything around until it’s pretty evenly distributed.
Serve up the pasta and sprinkle the remaining Parmesan cheese over the top.
IF there’s any Pasta Carbonara left over (not likely, so better make extra), it’s delicious the next day (or two) for leftovers with just a drizzle of olive oil mixed in. Just sayin’.
The egg/parmesan mixture “cooks” in the heat of the pasta and adheres to the noodles. Delicious!
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Warning, what you’re about to see below, isn’t pretty. And it isn’t even appetizing. But believe me, in 7 hours or so, you’re going to be serving up something delicious (see above) and a lot better looking than when it started.
This dish started out as a version of beef stroganoff and was headed in the right direction. What I forgot was the important, very last step of removing the sauce from the heat and then whisking in sour cream. Instead of incorporating nicely and making the sauce creamy, the sour cream broke down under the heat and didn’t break up well without the help of a whisk. Still, the flavor was really good. So out with the stroganoff recipe I was going to give you and in with:
Beef and Noodles with Mushroom-Onion Sauce!
Serves up to 10 (serve one batch and freeze the other for tough day when you don’t want to cook)
2 chuck roasts (I get mine at Sam’s Club where they are packaged in two and when they are on sale)
1 can Campbell’s golden mushroom soup or cream of mushroom soup
1 can Campbell’s onion soup
1 can of water from the onion soup can
1 14-ounce container of full-fat sour cream
1 white or yellow onion, sliced
1 pound white button mushrooms, sliced or mix and match white button mushrooms with baby bellas
1 bag wide egg noodles
Place half the onion slices in the bottom of a crockpot.
Place one FROZEN roast on top. Pour half of each of the soups on top.
Place the other FROZEN roast on top of the other one, a slightly different direction as your crockpot will allow so they aren’t completely stacked on top of each other. You read right, I use frozen, rock solid hunks of meat because I found that it comes out beautifully tender, more so than if it was thawed.
Put the rest of the onions and the rest of the soup on top. Note, with the cream of mushroom soup, you may need to take a rubber spatula to loosen it and glop it on, spreading it a little bit. It will make a funny sound coming out.
Fill the onion soup can with water and pour it AROUND the two roasts, not over the top.
Put the lid on the crockpot and cook it on HIGH about 7 hours. If you’re home to do so, at around 3-4 hours, carefully turn the meat over and switch their positions if you can, without splashing everywhere. This also helps with tenderness.
Check the meat by sticking a fork in it at around 6-7 hours. It should be very tender.
Carefully remove the roasts and put them in a large bowl. After a few minutes, take two forks and shred the meat, removing any chunks of fat. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Pour or ladle the remaining juice and onion into a pot over high heat. Stir periodically as it boils, cooking down and getting thicker.
Turn off the heat and add the sour cream, a little at a time, stirring to blend it.
Meanwhile, be cooking your noodles. If they get done early, drain them and drizzle with olive oil, mixing to coat them so they don’t stick so much.
In a DRY, heated skillet such as a cast iron one, start cooking the mushrooms. This can actually be done in advance. Turn them periodically until they are brown and a little wrinkly. I learned a long time ago to cook mushrooms dry because they release their own liquid and will have a more intense flavor without the help of butter or oil. Add them to the sauce.
Serve by spooning noodles in the dish, placing some shredded beef on top and then a good ladle or two of the sauce that has the onions and mushrooms in it. Sprinkle with some parsley, preferably fresh, for a dash of color.
I ended up using orange and yellow peppers because they were on sale and I love the flavor. This would have been super-colorful with red peppers in there too. As you know, I cook like a real person and am not into “plating” food beautifully for the family. This is likely what your meal will look like when you, a real person like me, serves it up!
My grandmother was the queen of figuring out better ways to do things. The dishes of her youth required women to be in the kitchen all day. But after decades of making these dishes the way her mother had and her grandmother, she found little shortcuts that saved time but tasted just as great.
With her as inspiration, I found a better way to make the traditional stuffed pepper casserole by merely slicing up the peppers in my Cuisinart in about 2 seconds or by hand in about 2 minutes. This step means you no longer have to blanch the peppers to pre-cook them a bit. I take advantage of times when my produce department bags up peppers that are just past their prime (wrinkly but not moldy!) for a little budget move.
Here’s the recipe:
Unstuffed Pepper Casserole
4-5 medium-size peppers of your choice (green, red, yellow, orange or a combination)
1 onion, diced
2 15-ounce cans tomato sauce
1 lb ground beef (or ground turkey, pork or sausage to your liking) – or omit for a vegetarian dish
2 cups uncooked rice
4 cups water
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar + 1/4 cup more to sprinkle over top
2 tsp. garlic powder
Salt and Pepper
Make the rice by boiling the 4 cups of water, then adding the 2 cups of rice. You can use vegetable or chicken stock to enhance the flavor, which I highly recommend. Cook the rice according to package directions and remove from heat.
At the same time, brown the ground beef and onion, adding salt and pepper to taste plus the garlic powder. Add more of the seasonings at the end if needed. You want the meat to have a lot of flavor.
In a really big bowl, combine the rice and meat/onion mixture until well-blended.
Bit by bit, add the cheese, stirring to incorporate before adding more, otherwise, you’ll just end up with a big cheese lump.
Add the tomato sauce. It should not be soupy, just wet, kind of like oatmeal. If you don’t need all of the sauce, save it to pour over the top of the casserole once it is assembled.
Slice the peppers – your food processor will do the trick but if you want to slice by hand, first, I recommend using a serrated knife because the peppers can be slippery. Slice to about 1/4 of an inch thin. You can remove the seeds and core after slicing, very easily.
Assemble the casserole by first spraying an oblong pan like a Pyrex dish, with Pam or another nonstick spray. Then, spoon in a layer of the rice mixture, spreading it evenly along the bottom. But don’t press it down. Next, add a layer of the peppers. If you’ve used different colors, mix up the colors as you place them in to distribute the difference in flavors. Do another layer of meat/rice mixture and another layer of peppers, and so on, until you run out of both. That will probably amount to about 2 layers. IF you have any tomato sauce left over, you can drizzle it over the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top too.
Put aluminum foil over the top, sealing the edges and bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven. When the timer goes off, turn the pan around and bake for another 15 minutes because most ovens have hot spots so this provides an even baking. Everything in this dish is cooked, except for the pepper slices so baking just heats it through, melts the cheese and cooks down the peppers a little.
Remove the foil and bake 8 minutes more, then serve, using a spatula to “cut” portion sizes.
This dish is even better the next day and it freezes well too. Enjoy!
If you have room in your freezer, this meal is easy enough to double. Just let it cool completely before putting it in the freezer. The house smelled SO good as I was cooking it!