Shrinky-Dink Supper

I’ve gone to the Taste of Home Cooking Schools a couple of times in my life.  In between teaching the audience how to make four dozen kinds of Chex mix in the microwave (which is a sin), sometimes the chefs disperse a little chicken nugget of wisdom.  One such nugget was a charismatic young chef who told us all this: “a lot of people don’t know how to use shrink.  If you can figure out how to use shrink, you can do anything.”

What is shrink?

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See the wrinkles on the green pepper there? That’s shrink. Shrink is basically produce that is almost bad (or parts that are bad) but is still safe and edible.  There’s nothing wrong with it except it looks unappealing and not too pleasant to eat. 

Guess what? Wrinkly produce doesn’t taste any better or worse than regular produce, and it’s a lot cheaper.  Did you know at some grocery stores you can buy ugly produce at a steep discount? It’s a great money-saving option.  

Today, I made shrink chicken fajitas and they were pretty much to die for.  I couldn’t even tell which pieces of my peppers were a bit shrinky and which were fine.

First, cut up four chicken breasts into nice thin strips and put them in a gallon Ziploc bag.  Then, clean the snot out of everything the chicken touched, might have touched, or could have touched by proxy (put on your paranoid cap and think Outbreak or Contagion when cleaning your chicken-prep area).  Add to the bag:

  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 1/4 t. cumin
  • 1/2-3/4 t. crushed red pepper (or 1/4-1/2 t. ground red pepper)
  • Add in 1/4 t. celery salt just for kicks. 

Let the chicken marinate for an hour or a half day, depending on how much time you have. 

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Then, get out the grill basket. 

Put the chicken in the basket on a medium heat grill.

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There are two schools of thought on grilling: you can either obsessively flip, turn, or stir everything you grill, or you can just let it sit and turn your food once or twice.  I’m of the latter school.  Do what you want, but I am telling you: leave your grill alone.  Unless there are flames shooting out of your grill, or it’s been 10 minutes, just. let. it. be. 

So, since you are doing what you want with your grill (but leaving it alone), you have some time to cut up your peppers and onion.  You’ll need two peppers and half an onion for this recipe.  Cut the peppers into this strips and then cut up your onion.

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Since these veggies cook at a slightly different rate, wait until the chicken is *almost* done to your liking, transfer the onion slices to a bowl, drizzle with a touch of olive oil and put some black pepper over them, then add to the chicken.  About five minutes later, stir the chicken/onion mix and add the peppers.  

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Sometimes you can tell your food is going to be delicious before it’s even done.  This is one of those meals.  Stir the peppers once or twice on the grill until they are done to your liking.  

Serve on a tortilla with salsa and cheese (of course).

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Hello, beautiful.

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See? Use your shrink and do anything!  

Leftover Dinner!

Wow it’s been a long time.  WOW.

I feel like I start a lot of posts with that opening sentence lately.  Ahh well, sometimes life happens–you know, finishing up a masters degree, joining roller derby, not cooking–you know how it goes.  But I’m back with a really fast, really awesome recipe.  Leftover dinners are easy and delightful, and this one is no exception.  Plus, it’s so fast, there aren’t even “before” photos.

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Oh heck yeah.

Awesome, right?

The way these came about are all because my ol’ pa was in town this weekend for my graduation and he decided he was going to wow all the attendees at a graduation party with this cowboy caviar recipe.  It was totally delicious, but there was also enough food to feed about 75 people.  There were leftovers.  Enter one of my favorite dishes, stuffed peppers.  They’re versatile, quick, and easy.  Here’s what you’ll need for this rendition:

Appx. 1 cup of each:

Cowboy caviar

Cooked rice

Shredded chicken

1/4 c. salsa

mozzarella cheese, for topping

4 bell peppers

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix the first four ingredients together well and stuff the peppers.  Bake for 30 minutes, top with cheese, bake for another 5-10.

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Here’s a good rule: if explaining the recipe takes two sentences, it’s easy and you should make it right meow.  Plus it’s not too often an easy recipe comes out of the oven this pretty.

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If you’re in a real hurry, you can boil the peppers and fill them with hot filling–then making peppers takes about 15 minutes.

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Om nom nom.  Enjoy!

Here are some other stuffed pepper combos I LOVE (all of these are topped with cheese):

rice, chicken, cream of mushroom soup, rosemary

scrambled eggs, sausage

rice, salsa, sausage

I typically plan on appx. 1 cup filling/pepper, unless they’re really dinky.  Be creative! Anyone have favorite renditions out there?