This season, we're taking on some ingredients that suit these chilly months (not to mention our holiday-drained wallets). Some might be familiar — and if you have variations, we'd love to hear them! Others might be new to you. But, we've tested, tweaked, and enjoyed them all. Dig it!
The Potato Hack
Once upon a time, we believed a potato could be stuffed only with cheese, sour cream, and maybe some chili if you wanted to get really crazy. When we began to research this story, we discovered just how wrong we were. Welcome to The Potato Hack.
You can stuff a potato with anything. Brie and ham for a fancy-pants potato. Grilled chicken and artichokes for a Mediterranean spud. Bacon and a fried egg for the sickest breakfast potato ever. When we found this out, we started putting everything in a potato. By doing this "stuffing" method (you can really scoop out or leave in as much of the actual potato as you want), you're creating natural portion control. Since the potato itself provides the carbohydrate energy to power you through the rest of the day, we recommend adding some protein and veggies to the mix, creating a complete meal. Bring your "stuffing" of choice to work, along with a potato, and enjoy a lovely, hot meal while everyone else glares at you over their cups of office cereal. Here's one of our favorite potato hacks:
Lime-Chicken Potato Hack
1 small chicken fillet
Zest of 1 lime
1 tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup black beans, cooked or canned
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Cook chicken fillet in a lightly oiled pan over a medium heat until done (about two minutes each side). Remove from pan, and allow to cool.
Zest lime into sour cream, and mix. Add cilantro, and mix again.
Combine beans and tomato in a small bowl. Dice the cooled chicken fillet into small pieces, and add to the bowl. Pour lime juice over, and mix again.
At this point, you can either add the sour cream to the chicken mixture or keep in separate containers until serving. Adding the sour cream now will keep the chicken even more tender, but you may have to remix a bit before plating. If you prefer your flavors separate, simply use the sour cream as a topping.
When you're ready to eat, wash and dry the potato. Prick the potato all over with a fork. Place on a plate in the microwave, and heat for eight to 12 minutes, turning over midway to evenly cook, until it feels tender and done.
Split the potato open either down the middle or into quarters, making sure not to cut all the way through. If you want to, scoop out as much potato as you like. Fill with chicken, sour cream, and serve YOURSELF.
The Jam Jar Method
Take a lesson from your Mason Jar Salad, and get to know the Jam Jar Method. A jam jar, whether screw top or latched, as you see here, is one of the easiest ways to make and transport a single-serving meal. With canning jars, which are built to withstand high heat, you can toss in your ingredients and pop 'em directly in the oven.
Very important note: You can do this with cake, too. Cake in a jar, people. Who even needs lunch?
The Jam Jar Method can be applied to just about anything you'd bake. Think: shepherd's pie, quiche, and casseroles galore. Of course, a hearty no-bake meal works just as well. We may or may not have used this method to make personal-sized seven-layer dip, like, five days in a row. Check out this recipe for teeny-tiny lasagna, and become a believer:
Jam Jar Lasagna
1/2 cup wide egg noodles, cooked and drained
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tbsp mozzarella cheese
Optional: 1/4 cup chopped mushrooms, sauteed onions, or spinach
Layer a few noodles across the bottom of a canning jar. Top with some ricotta, a little sauce, and vegetables (if using). Repeat until the jar is nearly full, then top with mozzarella.
Place jam jar onto a baking sheet, and place in the oven. Turn the oven to 325 degrees. Though these jars are made to withstand high temperatures, you want to heat it up with the oven — just in case it has a crack or flaw that may cause breakage.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the cheese is browning and bubbly and the lasagna has begun to rise out of the jar. Allow it to cool completely before placing it on a cold surface or in the fridge.
Bring to the office, and simply reheat in the microwave until it's nice and bubbly again (obviously, for recipes you'll reheat, use a jar with a removable lid — unlike the metal-latched one in the photo!). Or, just eat it now. Whatever.
Beans On Toast
Yes, we're stealing from the British. What else is new? Beans on toast is too good an idea not to copy. We'll just call this involuntary sharing. It may seem a little strange at first, but once you have experienced the strange alchemy that occurs when these two food groups combine, you'll be ready to renounce your U.S. citizenship. We are definitely not being sarcastic here.
The original "recipe" involves two slices of white bread and a can of Heinz baked beans, and there's nothing wrong with a classic. But, beans on toast has come a long way since then. For as many kinds of bread and as many legume varieties that exist, there are myriad beans-on-toast recipes. We've seen iterations twice-toasted with cheese, toast with beans pressed into a spread, even French lentils and lardon spooned over a baguette. The simplicity of the rules — 1) beans and 2) toast — makes this one of our favorite ways to experiment in the kitchen and a godsend when it comes to office cooking. Here's one of our favorites:
Cannellini Beans With Tomato and Basil (On Toast):
2 slices hearty bread (sourdough, crusty baguette, or simple whole wheat all work well)
1 can cannellini beans (you can cook your own ahead of time if you prefer)
1 small bunch fresh basil (think 2 tbsp when chopped)
1 small tomato
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional: Parmesan cheese for topping
Note: If you can, prepare everything but the toast ahead of time. Letting the bean mixture absorb the flavors for a while will make for an even more delicious meal when you serve.
Wash, dry, and roughly chop (or tear) basil. Dice tomato, and combine in a small bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Rinse beans, and add to the mixture. At this point, you can either heat in the microwave or serve it at room temperature.
Toast the bread, ladle the beans on top, add cheese if you want, and grab a knife and fork. (That's how you eat toast over there.)