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Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Beef-Stretching Meal

As you may have noticed in prior posts, one of the ways that I like to keep food costs under control is by reducing the amount of meat in recipes. In addition to the positive effects on the budget, these kinds of adjustments can often make the dish much healthier as well.

The following recipe served almost 20 people with only three pounds of a very inexpensive cut of beef, resulting in almost seven servings from each pound of the roast. At least three things worked to make the final dish seem full of meat:
  • The meat was cut into a relatively small dice, so each forkful was likely to have at least one piece.
  • The browning of the meat and then using the drippings from that step to flavor the vegetables extended the meaty flavor throughout the entire dish.
  • Finally, adding barley gave an overall meatier mouth feel; combined with a good mix of hearty vegetables, the dish satisfied even the most confirmed carnivores among the group. No one was asking "where's the beef" after this meal.

This dish reheats well, so it is a good one to prepare on a weekend and then freeze in meal-sized portions for quick reheating on busy weekday evenings.

Inspired-by-Mexican-Cooking Beef and Vegetable Stew

Canola oil
3 lb boneless chuck roast, cut in 1/2 inch cubes (see NOTE)
4 c onion, chopped—about 3 medium
3 c diced or thinly sliced carrots (about 3 large carrots)
1 to 2 c diced celery
1 c pearl barley
6 large garlic cloves, minced
4 c finely shredded cabbage
2 15 oz cans diced tomatoes and chiles
1 4 oz can diced green chiles
8 to 12 oz frozen corn
1 to 2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T sugar
2 T mixed dried herbs (my usual mix of basil, thyme, rosemary, and marjoram)
2 t cumin
1/4 c dried parsley (optional)
2 T chopped cilantro or to taste
salt and black pepper to taste

1. Heat the oil to almost smoking in a cast iron or other heavy pan. Brown the beef cubes on all sides. You don't want to crowd the pan, so you may need to do this in batches.
2. Remove the meat from the pan, turn the heat to medium, and add the onion, celery and carrots. Cover and stir occasionally until the onions are golden and the onions are beginning to get tender. Return the meat to the pan.
3. Stir in the garlic and cabbage, cover, and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Stir in the barley, the tomatoes and green chiles and about 3 to 4 cups of water. Add the seasonings and turn heat to low. Cover and simmer for 25 to 35 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more water as needed (you will probably end up using a total of at least 6 cups of water). Continue cooking until the barley is softened, perhaps another 30 to 45 minutes.
5. Taste again for seasonings. Some adjustments you may want to make could include adding more salt or dried herbs, more Worcestershire sauce, a little sugar, maybe even a little more onion or another can of chiles. More cumin or even hot sauce might be additions that will suit your own tastes too.
6. About 15 to 20 minutes before serving, stir in the corn.

Provide grated cheese, chopped cilantro, diced onions, and hot sauce as desired for toppings.

NOTE: To cut the meat into even pieces, use a frozen roast. Remove it from the freezer an hour or so before starting to cook, long enough for it to begin to still be quite firm but not so hard that it can't be cut. Then just slice it in half inch or so slices, turn each on the side and dice.

And to go with the stew, serve lots of rice. Here is an easy method to follow when you are planning to cook a large quantity and don't have a rice cooker.

Brown Rice for a Crowd

Brown rice (I used 2 pounds for 20 people and had about 3 cups left over)
Salt- about 1 to 2 teaspoons per pound of rice; if you will be serving the rice with a highly seasoned dish (for example, some Chinese dishes with a lot of soy sauce), you may omit the salt or reduce it substantially)
Water to cover (you will need two to two and a half times as much water by volume as rice)
  1. Put the rice and salt in a large pot and cover with the water. Cover and let it sit for about 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put the rice in the oven. Bake for about 30 minutes. Check for doneness and fluff lightly with a fork. Add a little more water if necessary to be sure rice is not too dry. Return to oven if needed for another 10 to 20 minutes.

(For white rice, just put the rice and salt in the pot, measure out about twice as much boiling water as rice, cover, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, checking about halfway through to be sure there is enough moisture.)

"Taste and Dump"--The "professional" way to cook

This stew is a good recipe for the "taste and dump" approach that will help you become known for your wonderful cooking! As noted in step 5, your own preferences may guide you into all kinds of adjustments to the original recipe. Some days you may find yourself choosing a little more of the herbs, another day craving even more garlic. Never be afraid to taste your recipes like this after the ingredients have had a chance to begin cooking together. Better to do the checking at the stove than getting the dish to the table and then discovering that you really would have liked just one more dash of Worcestershire in the mix.

Friday, May 8, 2009

More Soups--With Carrots This Time

Soups have been made since antiquity, most often by people without cookbooks, measuring cups, or modern markets. Still, many people seem to be intimidated by the thought of preparing a pot of homemade soup, so they continue to reach for an overpriced can of some variety or another when the urge for a warming bowl hits them.

Many years ago, when my children were still very small and our budget was, as usual, very tight, I set a goal of making soup at least once a week. Though I didn't always achieve this, I have had lots of opportunities to discover how easy—and enjoyable—soup making can be.

Do you really need a recipe to make a good soup? No. Are recipes helpful? Yes, especially when you are new to the process or when you are looking for a new idea or two to spark your menus. To help for anyone in either of these categories, here are a few variations of carrot soup that I have made—and written down—over the years.

Carrot Soup I

1 T olive or canola oil
4 to 5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 to 2 c chopped onions
1 to 1 1/2 c chopped celery
2 to 3 c finely diced (or grated) carrots—the more carrots, the brighter the soup will be
3 bouillon cubes or seasoning packets
1 to 2 c shredded cabbage
1 ca rich chicken broth
1 to 2 T tomato puree or paste
1 T chopped fresh basil
1 t Italian seasoning
black pepper to taste

  1. Saute the garlic and onions in the oil until browned. Stir in the carrots, celery, and cabbage and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.
  2. Add the broth and about a cup of water along with the other ingredients. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are quite soft.
  3. Add 4 to 6 cups more water, depending on thickness desired, taste for seasoning, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or more to develop the flavors.

Carrot Soup II
2 c concentrated chicken broth
2 medium to large onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped (opt)
4 to 6 medium carrots, thinly sliced (or grated)
4 c water
1 c super sweet corn, fresh or frozen
garlic powder, salt, cumin, and Italian seasoning to taste
chopped parsley

  1. Simmer all but parsley until vegetables are very tender, adding a bit more water if too thick.
  2. Puree in blender and serve with parsley sprinkled over the top.
Serve with sour cream if desired. This soup has a beautiful bright color and is great in the fall when fresh corn is available and the nights are cool and just right for soup.

Carrot Soup III
1 lb. carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
salt, to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 c. chicken stock
Salt—optional, depending on how much salt is in the stock
1/4 c. yogurt, for garnish (optional)

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, place carrots, onion, and potato with enough water to cover. Simmer gently until the vegetables are very soft. (This may also be done in the microwave instead—use less water and start out at about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The exact length of time will depend on the microwave.)
  2. Purée vegetables in a blender or food processor. Return to saucepan and stir in chicken stock. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. (Be sure to wait to taste until after adding the stock, as there is a wide variation in the saltiness of both purchased and homemade stock!)
  3. Place over medium heat; heat through.
  4. Serve immediately, garnished with a dollop of yogurt. Add a sprig of fresh oregano or dill if desired.

Dairy variation: None of these recipe uses any milk or cream, but all could be made creamier with a can of evaporated milk added near the end of cooking or with the addition of dry milk powder stirred in late in the simmering process.

Vegan variation:  Simply substitute vegetable stock or bouillon cubes and water for the broth in any of the recipes above. 

As you can see, just a basic "carrot soup" can mean all kinds of dishes. The recipe with "super sweet" corn uses ingredients more likely to be less expensive at summer's end when gardeners are harvesting their bounty and the farmers' markets are full of sweet corn and peppers and fresh herbs. The recipe with cabbage is more likely to be a "frugal" choice in the winter (especially after the St. Patrick Day cabbage sales!), as is the potato and carrot choice.

The choice is yours; check out what's in your refrigerator and what's on sale in the stores or farmers market and develop your very own recipe.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Soups for Spring

Soup is a wonderful food on a cloudy, snowy day in winter, but it can be an equally welcome choice when the sun is shining on an early spring day. As part of my experiment to see how many good meals I could get from one four pound chicken, I had some wonderfully concentrated broth (stock) to work with. Add in some showy bright bunches of broccoli on special and this was the ideal time for cream of broccoli soup.

Cream of Broccoli Soup

Canola oil
2 c chopped onion
1/2 c sliced celery
1 c peeled and diced potatoes (may use more if a thicker soup is desired)
6 c water
1 c rich chicken broth
1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 t mixed dried herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram, or your own mixture)
Seasoning salt and black pepper to taste
Broccoli stems—I used 11 1/2 oz, about 3 cups chopped
1/2 c flour
1 c water
Approximately 1 1/2 c dry milk powder
Broccoli flowerets—I used 9 1/2 oz, about 4 cups, cut into bite-sized pieces

1. In a large soup pot, sauté the onions and celery in the oil until golden brown. Stir in the potatoes and continue simmering for a few minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add the broth and 6 cups of water along with the seasonings. When the mixture has returned to a slow boil, add the broccoli stems, cover, and let simmer about 35 to 35 minutes, until the broccoli is very tender.
2. Working in batches, process the soup in a blender or food processor until it is a smooth puree. Return all the soup to the pan.
3. Combine the flour, water, and dry milk powder to make a smooth paste (add a little more water if the mixture is very thick) and stir into the soup. Continue stirring until the soup is thickened.
4. Steam the broccoli flowerets in the microwave for about 3 minutes or until just barely tender.
5. About 15 to 20 minutes prior to serving, stir the flowerets into the soup and taste for seasoning.
This recipe makes about a gallon of soup, enough for at least 8 servings.

Variations: if you prefer, the soup does not need to be pureed. Carrots, squash, or even sweet potatoes may be added in this version—I suggest eliminating them in the pureed version, as they will cause the puree to be a rather unattractive brown.
Two cups of grated cheddar or other sharp cheese may be stirred in with the flowerets.

Serve with crusty garlic bread rounds or plain saltine crackers and baby carrots for color contrast.

(The bread rounds? Just day old rolls that are sliced into rounds, brushed with a mixture of butter, olive oil, and crushed garlic and then toasted in the oven until light golden brown.)

Another spring soup that is especially good if you have a ham bone in the freezer from your Easter ham is Fresh Pea Soup. While I will save the full recipe for another time, you can use any basic split pea soup recipe but substitute frozen peas for the split peas, adding them near the end of the soup making process instead of at the beginning.

Hospitality on a Budget

So our small group from church was going to be meeting for our biweekly shared meal, and I was in the middle of an experiment: I was trying a series of menus to see how many meals I could get from one four pound ($3.21 on sale) chicken. I had used some of the stock to make broccoli soup for eight the night before and now would be serving nine children and six adults.

The following dish was enough for everyone to enjoy with seconds and at least two servings left over for the next day's lunch. And still in the freezer: 12 ounces of boneless breast meat and almost 3 cups of stock.

Budget Chicken Cacciatore

1 to 1 1/2 c chopped onion—one medium
1 c celery, sliced
1/2 large green pepper, diced
Canola oil and/or chicken fat (see NOTE)
2 26 to 28 oz cans or jars spaghetti sauce
1 lb whole-wheat spaghetti
Mixed herb seasoning
Approximately 1 T Worcestershire sauce
2 c coarsely cut cooked, boned chicken
1 to 2 15 oz cans garbanzo beans, including liquid
Seasoning salt, to taste

Sauté the onion, celery, and pepper very slowly, over medium low heat, in a little bit of canola oil or chicken fat.
Meanwhile, break the spaghetti into 3 to 4 inch pieces and cook until just barely tender. Drain, reserving liquid.
Combine the pasta with all remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend. Add some of the reserved pasta water if the mixture is too dry. Taste for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Serve with grated Parmesan or mozzarella cheese and freshly ground black pepper.
NOTE: If you have cooked the chicken ahead of time and chilled or frozen it, there may well be some fat that has hardened on it. Use this instead of oil for browning the vegetables for a little more chicken flavor.

You may have seen some attempts to stretch the meat in main dishes that end up saving very little money because of the cost of other ingredients. However, for only $6.50, I had enough food to serve 15 people with leftovers. Even if we divided the "little people" into half servings, this would have been enough for 12 or so adults for barely 50 cents a serving.

Obviously, prices change continuously and will not be the same in different parts of the country, but the ingredients in this dish all can be budget friendly with only a little effort. For example:
  • Watch for grocery store specials on onions and stock up. That hearty country kitchen look in decorator magazines, with a crock or basket of onions piled next to one with oranges or other fruits? That's not just for looks; it's the best way to store these; they will usually last far longer on the counter than in the refrigerator and should never be kept in plastic, where they will quickly get soft and moldy.
  • Spaghetti sauce—again, watch for sales and stock up. And don't feel you have to buy the pricey name brands for dishes like this one. Adding a few fresh ingredients like the onions, celery, and pepper here will make the final outcome as tasty with the 79 cent can of sauce as with the $2.98 gourmet brand jar.
  • Garbanzos—another stock up item; I used canned beans, but you can save even a little more money by cooking up some dry beans.
  • Whole-wheat spaghetti—if your budget is really tight, you can use plain spaghetti, but I have been finding the whole grain varieties on sale almost as often as the other. For this dish, I probably spent 30 cents more for the whole-wheat option, and that seemed worth the price.
For more details, here are my costs to prepare the dish in Minnesota in May 2009:

Onion $.18
Celery $.20
Pepper $.35
Spaghetti sauce $1.58
Spaghetti $.99
Garbanzo beans $1.00
Chicken $2.00 (I am going to assume about 2/3 of the $3.21 chicken went into this dish)
Seasonings $.20 (this is probably far more than the actual cost, but I buy the dried herbs and Worcestershire sauce in large quantities so am going to guess on the high side)
Total: $6.50

But of course, the main dish needs some sides. For this shared meal, I prepared fresh string beans in a light cheese sauce. The sauce was especially for the kids, since I have discovered that almost any vegetable has a better chance of being eaten if it comes sitting in a cheesy base that reminds them of macaroni and cheese. Then one of our group made a light salad of lettuce and some of the strawberries that have been on sale for a few weeks. A loaf of good whole wheat bread topped off the main course. The budgetary theme continued here too, as the lettuce, green beans, strawberries, and bread were all featured sale items for the week, and cheese continues to drop in price in our area.

For dessert, another group member brought her own experiment: a chocolate two-layer cake with butter cream frosting and fondant decorations. She wanted to "practice" before using the fondant for a graduation cake she will be making for her niece in two weeks. Her own particular budget secret is that she uses cake mixes for her cakes, buying them when on sale, and then adds her artistic expression to the decorations themselves.

Perhaps you shudder when you think of inviting others for a meal when your budget is already tight, especially if you feel you must spend a lot of money on these company dinners. But our group of friends ended the meal feeling as if we had feasted luxuriously—as we had, compared to so many in the world.

And so we sat for an hour or more, watching the kids playing on the lawn made bright with an afternoon rain, enjoying coffee and conversation—and after all, isn't that what you really want your shared meals to accomplish?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Raspberry Coffee Cakes

I seem to be stuck in the breakfast mode these days, but now a couple of sweet breads to balance yesterday's savory recipes.

The first is a coffee cake I've been making for 30 years or more, and the inspiration at that time came from a decades old cookbook. This is one of those lovely recipes that stand up to all manner of tinkering, my favorite kind. Today's version has raspberries, but it can be made with lots of other fruits or without any fruit at all. The nicest part of it is that, if you have a food processor, it takes about five minutes to stir up. Even without that great appliance, this is a very quick bread that looks like it took a lot longer.

Crumb Coffee Cake

3 c flour
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 c sugar—may use all white sugar or a mixture of white and brown sugars
1 to 2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 c butter, cut in thin slices
3 large eggs
1 c milk
1 t vanilla
1/2 c almonds—see preparation comment below
1 c fresh or frozen raspberries—do not thaw

To prepare almonds: If using a food processor, put whole almonds in and chop coarsely. Set aside in a 2 cup measure. If you do not have a food processor, use sliced or chopped almonds for this recipe.

Combine dry ingredients in the bowl of the processor (or in a large mixing bowl). Cut in the butter until the mixture has the consistency of coarse meal. Remove some of the crumb mixture to the measuring cup with the almonds so that you have a total of 1 1/2 cups of crumbs and almonds. Set this aside.

Put the three eggs around the top of the dry ingredients and pour the milk and vanilla over. Process or beat by hand just until smooth. The batter will be quite thin.

Spray a 9 X 13 pan with cooking spray and pour the batter into the pan. Sprinkle the raspberries evenly over the top and then spread with the nut/crumb mixture, covering all the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes or until done. (If using frozen berries, you may need to add a few minutes of baking time.)

Some other variations to consider: Any berries can be substituted for the raspberries, as can finely diced apple, raisins or other dried fruit. The nuts can be omitted or walnuts or pecans used instead. Applesauce can be substituted for the milk; with this variation, add 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and reduce the baking powder to 2 1/2 teaspoons. Add more or less cinnamon or substitute almond for the vanilla.

Now for a coffee cake that will require only a little more time but more preplanning. I recently stirred up enough sweet dough for two loaves of bread and made it into two raspberry filled coffee cakes. The shaping was amazingly easy, but the results were really very attractive.

Raspberry Filled Yeast Coffee Cake

1 batch sweet yeast dough, enough for 2 loaves of bread
Raspberry filling
Powdered sugar frosting

When the dough has risen and is ready to be shaped, divide in half. Roll each one into a square about 12 inches or so on each side. It should be no more than one half inch thick. Transfer the square to a well-oiled baking sheet.
A couple of hints:
  • Be sure you transfer the dough before filling and cutting! If you don't, you will have a lot of difficulty getting the coffee cake onto the baking sheet without a mess!
  • Do not use an insulated baking sheet for this recipe. These are large loaves and the bottom will not brown adequately with insulated sheets. In fact, if you have a pizza stone, put the pan directly on the stone when you are baking these loaves for the best crust.

Now for the final shaping. Imagine the square as being divided in thirds. The center third is where you will place the filling, while the two thirds on the sides will be slashed and folded over the center.

Spread half the filling down the center of the dough, stopping just before the ends of the dough.

With kitchen scissors or a very sharp knife, make cuts on each side, about 1 inch apart and ending just before the filling.

Beginning at one end, fold the cut strips over the filling, alternating from the left and right sides. Allow the strips to overlap slightly and let a little bit of the filling peek through as you go. Pinch and fold the dough at both ends to keep the filling form leaking out. Repeat with the second half of the dough and filling.

Cover lightly with a towel and let rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees about 25 to 30 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter. When cooled, drizzle thick powdered sugar icing over the coffee cakes, allowing the filling to peek through between the squiggles of icing.

Raspberry Filling

12 ounces frozen raspberries, thawed; reserve juice
1/2 to 3/4 c sugar, according to your tastes
2 T cornstarch

Place the drained juice from the raspberries in a measuring cup and add enough water to make 1 cup.
In a large microwave-safe bowl, stir the sugar and cornstarch together until well blended. Gradually add the water and raspberry juice mixture and stir. Microwave at low to medium power for about 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once or twice. The mixture should bubble and become clear and thick.
Remove from microwave and stir in the berries. Set aside until cool.

Powdered Sugar Icing

2 T butter, softened or melted
approximately 1 pound powdered sugar
1 t vanilla

Gradually stir some powdered sugar into the butter until it is creamy. Add the vanilla and a very little milk and then some more powdered sugar. Continue beating together, alternating powdered sugar and a few drops of milk until the powdered sugar is used up.

If you have never made this kind of icing before, be VERY careful! It takes only a few drops of milk to turn the icing from "just a little too stiff" to a soupy mix that will run right off of whatever it is you want to ice. Slow and steady is the rule here. The good news is that you can correct icing that is too thin by just adding more powdered sugar. The bad news of course is that you either have no more powdered sugar to add or you will end up with enough icing for half a dozen cakes! (If the latter occurs, cover the icing tightly and refrigerate; it will keep for a week or more, until your next baking session.)

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Savory Breakfasts

In my last post, I included both a sweet and a savory brunch dish. While my usual quick morning start is a bowl of mixed cereals topped with fresh or dried fruits and a quarter cup or so of rolled oats, a special breakfast for me always leans toward the savory rather than sweet side. When I go out for breakfast or want something out of the ordinary on a weekend or when guests are present, I don't crave pancakes or French toast or lots of pastries. Instead, give me real hash browns (not those grease-soaked patties from the fast food places), moderately spicy salsa and maybe an egg or two. Another alternative is a vegetable-heavy frittata with more salsa and a sprinkling of cheese.

A package of purchased sweet rolls, a couple of cereal boxes set out with a carton of milk--it's hard to beat the ease of these options, but here are a couple of ideas for foods that really don't take too much more time or effort, especially after you have made them a few times. They are casual mixtures that don't require lots of measuring, and they are a good way to use up some leftover vegetables or even meats that aren't quite enough for a full meal on their own. Best of all, the cost can be quite low for the amount of nutrition provided. Feel free to experiment using whatever is at hand and in season.

Basic ingredients:

Eggs—probably about two per serving, with an extra one added in for each two or three people
Oil for the pan (or bacon or ham fat if you want added flavor)
  • Herbs—I like to use a little basil, thyme, and rosemary mixed together
  • Minced garlic—a little or a lot, depending on your family's preference
  • Black pepper
  • Salt (optional)
Onions—about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of chopped onion per person
Vegetables: any (or all?) of the following. These may be fresh, frozen, or (pre-cooked) leftovers:
  • Bell peppers, chopped
  • Celery
  • Green chilis, diced
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Broccoli flowerets
  • Diced carrots
  • Cauliflower flowerets
  • Peas
  • Sugar peas
  • Corn
  • Zucchini
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Shredded cabbage
How many vegetables? For a really veggie dish, you may want as much as a cup of vegetables for every two eggs; for a dish that is more like an omelet, the amount of vegetable may be less.

Optional ingredients could include:
• Cheese—mozzarella, cheddar, Monterrey jack, etc.
• Leftover ham, bacon, chicken, etc.
• Black olives

1. Slowly saute the onion in the oil in a large skillet. Add whatever vegetables you will be using, starting with those that will need the longest time to cook (raw carrots, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower), then adding others with shorter cooking time (shredded cabbage, grated or diced zucchini, etc.). Turn the heat down and cover the pan, letting the vegetables simmer until just tender. If you are using frozen or pre-cooked vegetables, add them just before stirring in the eggs.

2. While the vegetables are cooking, beat the eggs until the yolks and whites are well mixed. Add whatever seasonings you plan to use.

3. Stir the eggs into the vegetables and mix well. Fold in the meat and cheese.

4. Microwave instructions: Turn the mixture into a well-oiled microwave safe casserole dish. (To be sure that the mixture will cook evenly, the eggs should probably not be more than 2 inches deep in whatever dish you use.) Cover loosely and microwave on medium heat for about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir the mixture with a fork and continue cooking. The total length of time will depend on the amount you are making. Four to six eggs will probably not take much more than another minute or so, while a dozen eggs with a lot of vegetables could take 10 or 11 minutes. The key is to be sure not to use too high power and to stir frequently so that the mixture cooks evenly.
Oven instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle the top of the frittata with additional grated cheese if desired. . If the skillet that was used for the vegetables is oven-safe, simply slip the pan into the oven. Otherwise, turn the mixture into a well-oiled casserole dish, and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes, until set in the center.

Veggie Hash Browns with Eggs
Canola oil, enough to coat the bottom of the pan well
Chopped onions
Sliced potatoes (see NOTE)
Thinly sliced carrots or sweet potatoes
Diced bell pepper (optional)
Diced celery (optional)
Seasoning salt or seasoning blend
1 egg per person

1. Prepare the vegetables, allowing one medium potato, about 1/2 cup sliced carrot or sweet potato and 2 to 4 tablespoons of onion per serving.

2. Heat the oil on medium high in a large skillet. Saute the onions and carrots or sweet potatoes, stirring often, until the onions are golden and the carrots are just starting to become tender. Stir in the potatoes (and peppers and celery if used), sprinkle lightly with seasoning salt and turn heat down to medium. Cover lightly and cook about five minutes, until the bottom is well-browned. Turn the mixture and continue cooking until the second side is browned and crispy.

3. Push the vegetables to the edge of the pan. If necessary, add a little more oil to the open center and then add the eggs, one at a time. Cover the pan and turn the heat down (for eggs with a firm yolk) or off (for eggs with a soft yolk). Allow about five minutes for the eggs to be cooked. Grated cheese may be sprinkled over the top just before serving.

NOTE: "Southern style hash browns" in the frozen food section are simply grated potatoes, usually without any added fat, and can be substituted for the potatoes in this recipe.