Tag Archives: cooking for one

One Ingredient, Three Ways: Cereal Edition

The only thing better than Saturday Morning cartoons—cartoons plus sugary cereal. Alas, this generation will never know the pleasure of getting hepped up on Booberry while watching the Smurfs cohabitate or that rascally rabbit dodge another anvil. The Practical Cook adores cereal. From the holiday tradition of receiving little boxes of the sugariest of the sugar bombs in her stocking (always trading the Frosted Flakes for her brother’s Cocoa Krispies, which he despised/s) to preschool art projects to life in a college dorm, there’s always been cereal.

Let us pause and celebrate how to get the most from this amazing innovation. Cereal: One Ingredient, Three Ways, including Eat It, Snack It, concluding tomorrow with Bake It.

#1 Eat It: Read It First, Not Just During

The Practical Cook's Cereal Warehouse

The Practical Cook's Cereal Warehouse

How many ways can you eat cereal?

  • With milk, in the traditional fashion.
  • Top a parfait with it. (Or just mix it with yogurt.)
  • Eat it dry, with milk on the side. (My eldest HATES  soggy cereal and will only abide it this way. Perhaps this is true for you, too.)
  • Eat it hot. I have tried this many times, and it’s not my favorite method, but some people swear by Grape-Nuts made that way.

There are lots of cereal options out there, and wide variation between brands of the same type. Look for sugar, fiber, and serving size:calorie ratio. I stock the spectrum, but you should know what you’re eating before you buy it. The Practical Cook does not take a hard line against magically delicious cereals, but prefers to match the cereal to the occasion.

Some favorite types:

  • Whole Wheat Chex
  • The entire Trader Joe’s Cereal Aisle: particularly the “purple” box granola and the Peanut Butter Puffins
  • Grape-Nuts
  • Kashi Autumn Wheat (aka, Hay Bales, as my brother and I named shredded wheat years ago)
  • Kashi Honey Sunshine
  • Gorilla Munch (hello, it’s called Gorilla Munch)
  • Cheerios
  • When no one is looking and there’s time to play “Radar Rat Race” on a Commodore 64 emulator, Froot Loops

#2 Snack It: Trail Mix Recipe

Trail Mix

Trail Mix

So you have 15 extra boxes of cereal around, and no ideas for snack. Hmmm, what to do? Trail Mix time! This is great for big and little people, and you can customize. Every Snack Week, this is a runaway hit. My soggy-cereal-hating eldest daughter treats this snack like gold. Could it be the marshmallow bribe inside?

Here are some tips and tricks:

  • If you’re sending this for a class snack, consider sending separate bags of each ingredient, scoops, and zipper-t0pped plastic bags for a “choose your own flavor adventure” style snack.
  • Salty ideas: Chex or Cheerios, Nuts or Seeds, Goldfish or pretzels or bagel chips
  • Sweet ideas: Chocolate or Cinnamon or Whole Wheat (or a combo) Chex, dried fruit (such as raisins, cranberries, blueberries, banana chips, mango, etc.), graham cracker pieces or teddy grahams, marshmallows or yogurt raisins or chocolate chips
  • Sweet and Salty ideas: Any cereal will do here, pretzels, dried fruit, nuts, marshmallows or yogurt raisins or chocolate chips or peanut butter chips or M & Ms.

Tomorrow,the riveting conclusion with Bake It: Raisin Bran Muffin Recipe.

Until then, what’s your favorite kind of cereal? Post a comment, send an email (practicalcook at gmail dot com) or join us on Twitter for a lively cereal discussion.

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Filed under One Ingredient Three Ways, Recipes

Easy Fish, or How Not to Flounder

For whatever reason, people are afraid to cook fish. Sometimes they don’t like fish, or have had a fishy fish experience. The cursed 10-minute rule seems to linger and prevail where common sense and eyesight should inform. In the spirit of full disclosure, I was once part of a dinner party group we called “Fish Club.” First rule, don’t talk about Fish Club. (I think you can see where this is going . . .)

Fish Club

Fish Club

But I’ll risk the consequences and tell you the secrets of Fish club. We tried 2 or 3 types every time, not too much of anything, and I learned what I liked and was challenged to prepare things in different ways.

(That said, you will not find shellfish recipes here. The Practical Cook is allergic, and it is not practical to prepare something that is guaranteed to make you sick.)

Fish is a great source of protein, and once you find what you like, and buy good quality, the fish fear should dissipate quickly. It’s ideal to serve to one person or ten, just buy what you need. Fish grills well, broils well, and pan sears nicely. Some preparations will stink up your house though, and I recommend being ready to open a window, turn on the fan, or mull some cider afterward.

Buy the fish locally if you can, don’t buy much of a type you don’t know you like, and be sure to experiment to find out what you do like. A fishmonger once told me that truly fresh salmon smells like watermelon, and it is shockingly true. If it smells fishy raw, cooking won’t do that much to change the end product.

For the fish meal I made this week (see Weekly Menus 1/30/11), I had the advantage of locally, family-caught fresh flounder. It was delicious simply broiled with a little lemon juice. However, I made the mistake of not fully defrosting it before cooking. Yes, the Practical Cook still swings and misses, and from it I learn a lesson and live to fight another day.

Fish and Chips

Sunday Night Dinner: Fish and Chips

So you’ve had your pep talk, gentle readers, now it’s game time.

Spicy Mahi-Mahi with Lime Juice

(this recipe goes out to my friend, whom I shall refer to as Dr. Particular to protect her identity)

olive oil
1 6-8 oz fillet of mahi-mahi, fully defrosted if frozen, rinsed and patted dry
1/8-1/4 tsp Cajun-style seasoning mix, or to taste
1 lime

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Heat the olive oil in an oven-safe skillet over medium heat until the oil is hot but not smoking.

3. While the oven and pan are heating, rub the fish with the Cajun seasoning, covering thoroughly (or to taste).

4. Sear the fish in the hot skillet for 1-2 minutes per side, then finish roasting in the oven. Depending on thickness, this should take less than 10 minutes. But I’m not your oven, nor your fish, so use a fork and flake it to check.

5. When right at done, remove from heat, plate and top with a pat of butter and a squeeze of lime juice.

Fish pairs well with potatoes and rice, and the sweeter varietals (like salmon and trout) go very well with sweet potatoes and winter squash. Most green veggies sit nicely alongside, so if you’re in a rush, whip out the frozen peas or green beans.

Coming up next, “Can this supper be saved?”–transforming soup into pot-pie in 2 easy steps.


Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, On the Table, Recipes