Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sisyphus’s Kitchen – Beef is a Breakfast Food


Nota Bene: Many of my friends and readers have suggested that I share some of my recipes and cooking experiences. While I don’t want to be one of those bloggers with twenty blogs on twenty subjects to a million different audiences, I really want to share what I am learning with my readers. The encouraging response has been wonderful! Therefor, I am starting a new blog segment entitled “Sisyphus’s Kitchen” to share some of my cooking experiences, favorite recipes, one-serving cooking tips and helps for people looking to make great food on a budget. Stay tuned and good eating!

Being a fortunate student who has no early morning classes this semester, I will often wake up and have the urge to cook. Sometimes, it may just be baking some muffins to go with my coffee. I’ve ventured into the exciting realm of pancakes and bacon, breakfast sandwiches, baked oatmeal and even the simplest scrambled eggs and toast with a cup of Caribou Coffee’s Obsidian. I really enjoy starting the day with a solid breakfast, especially when I can eat slowly, savor my food and watch the sun rise… or just get higher in the sky.

The other night, I was getting ready for bed and felt the familiar prodding in the back of my brain. Hey Hannah, said Brain, you haven’t broken fast in a fancy fashion in a while. How about we do something traditional, like a scramble or sausage and eggs?

Brain was on to something. Early rising sounded like a plan! Only problem with this delicious decision – I had no sausage.

One thing that cooking on my own on a budget has taught me is how to be creative with the resources available to me. So, I started searching for recipe ideas online. I knew I had three pounds of ground beef in the freezer and, thus far, no ideas for their use. My inquiries led me to Allrecpies.com where a user had submitted a recipe for Beef Breakfast sausage.

Beef for breakfast? Beef is traditionally thought of as picnic-and-burly-American-man dinner fare. Steak, hamburgers, sloppy joe’s, spaghetti and chili are where beef belongs, but not at the breakfast table. Thanks to creative substitutions, beef can  be a wonderful, flavorful alternative to pork as a breakfast meat, and it can be enjoyed by those who are unable for whatever reason to eat pork with their morning noshing.  Since beef was what I had, I gave it a try.

In order to let the flavors blend, this may end up being as long as a two-day process or maybe just overnight. For the sake of time, I defrosted one pound of ground beef the night before and mixed in my seasonings so everything was ready for the morning. An alternative method would be to let the beef thaw one night in the fridge and then put the mixture together and let it rest for another 24 hours.

Homemade Beef Breakfast Sausage
adapted from papadooka’s recipe

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (originally marjoram)
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)

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Stir the brown sugar, sage, salt, basil, black pepper, onion powder, oregano*, and red pepper flakes together in a small bowl. Place the ground beef in a large bowl; Drizzle with maple syrup and add spice mixture. Mix beef and seasonings thoroughly with your hands until well mixed and seasonings are evenly integrated. Depending on when you’re making the mixture, refrigerate up to 24 hours to allow flavors to blend.

Divide the ground beef mixture into balls and shape into patties. Depending on how much beef you use and the size of patty you prefer, the number may vary from 6-10. The beef will shrink up as it cooks, so if you like thinner patties, flatten them more as you shape them and press on them gently with a spatula as they cook.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the patties until firm, hot, and cooked in the center, 5 to 7 minutes per side. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). If you don’t have a thermometer, check one patty to make sure the inside is fully cooked and no longer raw and pink. Be careful of overcooking as these can get dry. Serve warm.

—-

I really enjoyed this recipe. Served with a poached egg and homemade wheat toast with jam, it was a good morning indeed. I made about eight patties and I ended up freezing the extras (one disadvantage to living alone – I’m often freezing my many leftovers so that they won’t go to waste). A few notes to consider:

  • If you don’t like spicy sausage, either cut the red pepper down significantly or remove it. I do suggest you replace it with another seasoning for some flavor and heat as the patties have the potential to be bland without it. I did notice a lot of spiciness in mine,  so for personal preference, adjust as you see fit. It’s a savory sausage more than it is sweet. If you like it sweeter, add more brown sugar.
  •  Adapt this recipe for a maple sausage – reviewers recommended adding some imitation maple flavoring or more syrup to enhance the maple flavor – something to try and experiment with. Do NOT use pancake syrup – it’s not the same as real maple syrup.
  • *Spice is nice – I had no marjoram, which I’m sure would be delicious in this recipe. Instead, I used oregano and doubled the amount (from 1/4 tsp to 1/2) to make up for the intensity of flavor.

Finally, don’t be afraid to try a few small batches to see what you like best. The difficulty with raw meat/egg recipes is that it’s not recommended that you add spice to taste before you cook – yuck. This is one of those times where you can add and subtract and find the perfect combination of ingredients to suit your tastes, but you’ll only know it worked after cooking – it may just take some time to get it just right!

Eat well and read on!

For Weight Watchers Points Plus, each patty is 2 points.

Note – I will also be changing my WordPress username to SisyphusFalls. It’s my username for most other sites that I am part of. Nothing about the blog will change, just the name you see with my account 🙂

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A World of Pure Culination


I refuse to be a starving college student. College gets played up as being the place where penniless kids escape from home with only drier lint and gum wrappers to line their pockets. Ramen is a food group, sleep is non-existent, and food sent from home and Chinese take-out leftovers stolen from friends are the only reasons half the campus is still alive and semi-conscious. The college diet should properly consist of coffee, toast, noodles, cookies and canned soup. If an entire daily serving of vegetables is not cut into perfect cubes and soaked in watery chicken stock, life as we know it has jerked to a halt.

Those aren’t vegetables – they’re tiny little salty cubic lies.
 Bruised café apples are a luxury. Daily vitamins are a must.

Call me crazy, but I like making waves. I have never wanted to be that college kid.

I was spoiled rotten growing up with a mother who was such a fine chef. “Cook” seems to imply occupation and mediocre skill, but “chef” has an air of authority and respect. My sister and I occasionally wanted to go to McDonald’s or eat Lucky Charms, but it was never a first choice or a last resort. Mom always had food (and good food, mind you) on the table, hot and flavorful and ready to eat right when Dad got home. With a mom who can cook, really cook, you stop believing that fast food is actually edible. Sure, I sometimes enjoy going out to eat cheap grease-trap fare, but with a mother like my mother… let’s just say any other culinary offering is a step down from the best.

If we're going to be honest, Mom and I do enjoy the rare lunch of sweaty, overweight champions (aka White Castle). Shame.

Despite my well-fed upbringing, I had the impression that college was all learning and friends and had nothing to do with food. Living in the dorms, as I did my first three years, I did some dabbling in cookery in my spare time – the occasional ramen stir fry with my roommate or dressing up cafeteria leftovers (they looked great in little ties and hats). This was a step ahead of most of my friends.

Is it roast beef or shoe leather? Dressed up with mushrooms, onions and some soggy broccoli, it's edible. That's all that matters.

However, with work and a meal plan and itty-bitty kitchens with smoky electric stoves, as well as a lack of proper cookware, I refrained from doing much culinary exploration through junior year. The most adventurous I got was hand-kneaded homemade bread, and that was on Tuesdays when the only class I had was Philharmonia. Overall, I was content to eat bland cafeteria dinners and occasionally go out on the town to China Star or Subway. This pattern broke a little during summers at home when I would offer to help with dinner.

Form follows function follows an empty plate.

I also love to bake. The problem at Houghton is that, just like all the guys seem to play guitar masterfully, all the women bake. The ones who bake the most are praised and adored, and I just got tired of trying to fight them for attention even though I was confident that we were matched in skill. Baking was mostly set aside. I suppose I was a “typical” college student, but something inside me sang like Belle and plucked dandelions on hillsides and yearned for something more than this non-glamorous diet of carbs and processed cheese-flavored substances. Then, one day, it walked into my life. Rather, I walked through the front door.

My apartment was waiting.

In the frantic rush to escape from screaming girls and bipolar plumbing, I applied and was accepted for a Campus Living Option apartment (CLO) for the 2011-2012 school year. I had no roommate and was thrilled to be situated in a third-floor house apartment overlooking the woods behind campus. I have my own deck and back entrance, a spacious bedroom and bathroom, comfortable living and entertaining space. And then, there’s the piece de resistance; a medium-sized kitchen with wrap-around counter, cupboards, walk-in pantry, full-sized fridge, oven, 4-burner stovetop and sink. It also has a table for four. Compared to the card table and mini-fridge that had once been my entire cooking space, this kitchen is like a Grecian temple. On a college budget with a college mindset, this is a place of extreme luxury and ridiculous amounts of space. In reality, it’s a modified kitchen with the exact model stove from the dorms. But it’s my kitchen, full of my dishes and spices and ambition. This is my five-star experience.

Best seat in the house - having only seen a little of the house below me, I shouldn't judge. But I will anyway.

I have made more full meals in this kitchen that in my own kitchen at home. I have hosted many different guests for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. I’ve baked and sautéed and fried and boiled and chopped and mixed and folded and kneaded in this kitchen. I’ve made soup and stews and bread and casseroles and salads and desserts and three-course meals. Out of all of my cooking adventures, I’ve only ever had one clear failure of method – Brethren Cider Pie. The flavor was outstanding, but it’s just too hard to fold egg whites into cider that has not yet been reduced to syrup. Despite this one occasion, I have carried on with determination and, according to my enthusiastic fiancé, resounding success.

Beef "Stewp" - I wanted to call it "Stoop" but it looks too close to "oops", which this meal certainly was not. Don't forget the homemade rosemary garlic bread.

One of the greatest successes that I have had while living here was not solely being able to cook “real” food. It’s the fact that I’ve been able to cook and eat healthy, balanced meals. I started Weight Watchers in May of 2011. In three months, I lost approximately thirty pounds, shedding all of the weight I had gained in the previous school year and more. It’s possible to be living as a full-time college student and still eat well. One of the beautiful things about WW is the ability to eat what you want, but in balanced moderation. I have loved trying new recipes, tweaking old ones and continuing to cook my little heart out.

Like this, for example... From a WW recipe, it's Brazilian Chicken with Lime-Cilantro Black Beans and Rice. Ole!

Especially in this place, full of “typical college students”, I have had plenty of feedback and opportunities to share what I love doing with people I love. I’m prepared to start a home with my better half in less than six months, and ready to test my skills to the max when I have a constant food critic in my house. The beauty of this whole experience is that it’s not just about the cooking – it’s about learning, growing and bringing myself and others joy and a delicious outlook on life.

Honey Wheat Quick Bread. Who knew "sandwich" and "quick bread" could be in the same sentence? I do now.

And everyone keeps asking themselves over for dinner.

Ma’am, Is That Your Arm?


Why must waking up often include startling experiences? 

Ah, a day for out-of-body, in-body experiences. This morning, I experienced the phenomena of arm limpness – something I have only had happen one other time in my life. The last time it happened, I panicked. Who wouldn’t? I’m moving my arm and it’s not convinced that I really want it to go anywhere. I’m making a fist and waving and panicking and it just flops there like blubbery seal on the beach.

Round two of limp arm syndrome –  I was taking a nap on my couch and my arm (somehow reaching the state of jello) flopped off my chest where it had been resting and my hand hit the floor. My eyes snapped open.

By goodness, someone has stolen my limb. *glance off the couch* No, never mind, it’s over there. Crisis averted.

I knew immediately what had happened simply because it doesn’t take a person long to realize their arm is possessed (or dispossessed, as the case may be) and no longer 100% connected to the rest of the body.  What was spooky was that I could simultaneously feel the weight of my arm off the couch, hanging into space like a useless twig and straining my shoulder, as well as still felling my arm weighing down on my chest. As if it had never fallen asleep.

I tapped the fingers of the ghost arm – my fingers on the floor wiggled. I tried to move the “arm” from my chest to where it physically rested near the carpet in an attempt to reconnect the mental and physical feelings. Rather than connect them, my limp arm just moved up toward my head, as if I was stretching. After a couple minutes of making myself into an awkward puppet of a sleepy college student, I reached over with my left arm and pulled the limp right back onto the couch and “matched” it with where the feeling of the chest arm was laying. Feeling flooded back, first in tingling and then in a wave of icy trickling. And now I’m writing with it, as if it had never been gone in the first place.

So strange to think that while in my head everything felt normal, anyone with eyes could have said “Um, Ma’am, is that your arm?”  

And I’m assuming I’d tell them well, yes, but I just really can’t control it.

I understand a little more about “phantom feelings” of amputees. The brain is trying to hard to compensate for something missing that it tries to make everything normal, still connected, despite the obvious fact that things are not all as they should be. But when in the right place, parts become functioning again, and the brain is able to stop trying so hard to make those missing connections and continue to function as it had been.

What amazing creations we are.

And how very nice it is to be awake.