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Cook Happy Project Week Five

Hey! Jumping right in: This week I’d like to offer something a little different than previous entries, in the spirit of bare-bones cooking for bone-chilling weather. Below you will find my bare-bones grocery list (approximately $40 worth of food, and likely less if you don’t need to replace expired condiments, as I did) accompanied by bare-bones variations on some of my favorite, already simple recipes.

The theme here is potatoes + eggs + dark and bitter greens (I happen to really enjoy kale, raw and cooked, but you could opt for an alternative if it isn’t your thing.) The inspiration, once again, is staying within a budget (a pattern emerges …) but also the kind of easy, no-fuss, no-fluff kind of cooking conducive to whipping together a simple yet satisfying lunch in 40 minutes, if you’re privileged to work from home, and also making one stress-free trip to the grocery store for a week’s worth of variations on the potato/egg/green melody without having to venture out more than once in these frigid temperatures. This meal plan is designed for a party of one, but could rather effortlessly be expanded for a family of five or more by simply buying and making more of the stuff. 

I jumped on this particular bandwagon this week when I found myself pining for something filling but wholesome, starchy but clean. I realized I had leftover Yukon Golds in the fridge and decided to prepare myself a midday meal of these potato latkes. As a former classroom teacher, I can tell you I will always count it a luxury to step away for lunch, much less prepare a homemade meal in the middle of a workday. I highly recommend the homemade lunch practice inasmuch as this project is about happiness. Such a great reset. Shout-out to my cousin Virginia, author of The Civilized Lunch Project.

Moving forward as the day or week progresses … And you’re so stuffed from those potato latkes that you really just want something green. Cue this super easy kale Caesar salad recipe from Deb Perelman’s second cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites. Her recipe for Caesar dressing is a cinch–simply whisk together mayo, minced garlic, Worcestershire, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Forget anchovies. In lieu of croutons, it calls for toasting panko bread crumbs with a little garlic and lemon zest. Top it with soft-boiled eggs and you’re set.

Stay away from the grocery store (or in my case, the Walgreens candy aisle) with a hearty breakfast of roasted Yukon Gold potatoes. I’m a sucker for foolproof recipes that yield tender-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside potatoes. These instructions from Bon Appetit definitely did the trick, however, make sure you pour out ALL the water from the sheet pan when you get to step five or you risk setting off your smoke alarms and freaking your sweet pup out. Oops.

Finally, make use of what remains with pared-down versions (recipes below) of Ina Garten’s Country French Omelet, Smitten Kitchen’s Huevos Rancheros, and Food Network’s Soft-Scrambled Eggs with Kale.

Congrats. You’ve made it through the week on your own home cooking. With the dollars you’ve saved, treat yourself to some carry out or, better yet, a nice loaf of artisan bread that you can toast with cinnamon sugar for supper. And thank you for reading. This project motivates me to try new recipes and make a true habit of rolling up my sleeves and creating something new in the kitchen, even if it’s scrambled eggs.

Grocery List
5 lb bag of Yukon Gold potatoes
Tortillas
Eggs (large)
Kale (one bunch)
Lemons (2-3)
Parmesan cheese (pre-grated, if possible) 
Fresh ginger root 

Pantry Items
Olive oil
Vegetable oil
Ghee
Salt and pepper 
Mayo (I use Hellman’s)
Ketchup (I use Heinz) 
Panko bread crumbs
Worcestershire sauce
Milk

Easy Kale Caesar Salad
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant & Unfussy New Favorites

Salad Ingredients
Kale
2 large eggs
Grated Parmesan

Breadcrumb Crouton Ingredients
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, minced
Zest from ½ a lemon
⅓ cup panko bread crumbs 

Dressing Ingredients
2 tablespoons mayo
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice 
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Tear off the kale leaves and rinse clean, using a salad spinner.
  2. Whisk all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or glass liquid measuring cup. (Tip: Microwave the lemon for 10 minutes prior to juicing to get more bang for your buck.) 
  3. Make the breadcrumbs: Measure out the panko, mince the garlic clove, zest the lemon. Heat a small frying pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, and then the garlic. Saute for about 30 seconds, stirring regularly. Add the lemon zest and breadcrumbs and saute, stirring, for another 2 to 3 minutes. Set aside, possibly in Tupperware if you are prepping this for later. 
  4. Cook the eggs: Bring a saucepan of water to boil. Use a slotted spoon to gently lower the eggs into the pot and lower the heat to simmer. Cook for 7 minutes, then place then in a bowl of cold water for 1 to 2 minutes. (Tip: Carefully following these instructions as written is worth it. The soft-boiled eggs, as opposed to hard-boiled, are scrumptious with the garlic breadcrumbs, bitter kale, and tangy dressing.) 
  5. Assemble everything when you’re ready to enjoy and top with as much grated Parmesan as you like.

Perfect Oven-Roasted Potatoes
Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes 
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Set aside 2 pounds of the potatoes and rinse and dry them (if needed). Cut them in half crosswise, but go ahead and quarter any larger ones. You want them to be as close to uniform size as possible. 
  2. Arrange the potatoes cut-side down on a large rimmed baking sheet. Pour 2 cups of water over them to cover in an even layer. Then cover with aluminum foil.
  3. Bake covered until a fork easily slides through the middle of the potatoes. Check after 25 minutes and then add 5-10 minutes of cooking time as needed. 
  4. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and tip out all the water in the sink. Let potatoes cool on the pan for 5 minutes and crank the oven up to 500 degrees F.
  5. Remove foil and generously coat potatoes with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Toss with your hands for an even coating. Place them cut-side down again. 
  6. Return the sheet pan to the oven, uncovered, and roast for an additional 20 to 25 minutes. 

Bare-Bones Country Omelet
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Country French Omelet

Ingredients
Ghee
1 medium-sized Yukon Gold potato, peel on, cut into small chunks
Salt and pepper
5 large eggs
3 tablespoons milk 
Parmesan cheese, grated 

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Heat a generous spoonful of ghee in a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. Place the cubed potatoes in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until browned and tender. While potatoes are cooking, beat eggs with 3 tablespoons of milk, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and a generous heap of grated Parmesan.
  3. Remove potatoes to a separate bowl or plate. Don’t wipe out the skillet. Pour egg mixture into the skillet and pour semi-cooked potatoes back over the mixture. Place in the oven for approximately 8 minutes, until the omelet is set. Top with some additional Parmesan, if desired.

Bare-Bones Huevos Rancheros
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients
Vegetable oil 
1 medium to large flour tortilla
1 large egg
Parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper 

Instructions

  1. Heat a generous glug of vegetable oil (say, a heaping tablespoon) over medium heat in a large skillet.
  2. Add the tortilla and allow it to warm and firm up for approximately one minute before flipping it to the other side. 
  3. Having flipped the tortilla, sprinkle some grated Parmesan, salt, and pepper over the second side. Crack the egg on the side of the skillet so it lands in the middle of the tortilla. Let the egg cook for a few minutes, turning down the heat to medium-low if needed. 
  4. Using two spatulas, do your best to flip the tortilla and egg to the opposite side and continue cooking until the egg is set as firmly as desired. (Don’t worry if it’s a mess. Still tastes delicious). 
  5. Eat plain jane, or visit Smitten Kitchen for additional topping ideas.

Soft-Scrambled Eggs with Kale 
Adapted from Food Network

Ingredients
¼ teaspoon freshly grated ginger root 
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kale (enough to fill one large dinner plate)
Salt and pepper
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon milk
Parmesan, grated 

Instructions 

  1. Whisk together eggs, milk, and Parmesan cheese (however much cheese suits your personal taste). Set aside. 
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a generous glug of olive oil and warm until shimmering. Add the freshly grated ginger, and cook until fragrant, approximately 15 seconds. 
  3. Add the kale, season with salt and pepper, and cook until wilted, 1-3 minutes. Add a splash of water if needed to aid the wilting process. 
  4. Remove cooked kale and ginger to a separate plate, then wipe out the skillet and reduce heat to medium-low. Add egg mixture and cook until soft curds form, or until the consistency suits your taste.

Have a delicious week!

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