by Terrance Mc Arthur
Our roving food critic Terrance Mc Arthur continues his search for great food in Sanger and the surrounding communities. Check out more Great Food Search here!
I’m sheltering in place…sort-of. I went back to work for three days at the beginning of April, but I decided to take four weeks of leave (I have plenty of hours). I thought I could be productive during my time off, but…I have cooked. Let me tell you about the latest dishes to come out of Casa de Mc Arthur….
Chicken Noodle Vegetable Soup—It may sound simple, but we in the Mc Arthur household have a way of complicating things (Bear Creek Noodle Soup Mix from Dollar Tree, canned chicken from Costco, baby carrots and spinach from Wal-Mart, and eggs). Raiding a kitchen cupboard, I found canned chicken and an envelope of the soup mix, a brand that used to be found at Costco in plastic tubs that made excellent containers for nuts and bolts and craft supplies. The carrots and spinach made a good addition, and the eggs were stirred into the pan during the last minute of cooking. It was warming, comforting, and hearty. The warmed leftovers made a lovely lunch the next day.Turkey Loaf—Sometimes, mystery meat can be a kitchen lifesaver (Frozen ground turkey*, egg, Hunt’s Italian Stewed Tomatoes*, Mozzarella Cheese from Costco). I’m not sure where some of the asterisked (*) things were originally bought; those answers are lost in antiquity. The zippered plastic bag of meat was found in the freezer, and we weren’t sure what it was until we defrosted it (“Oh, look! I think it’s turkey!”). The lightly-spiced tomatoes went into the meat-egg mixture, while the more liquid parts kept me from dragging out the ketchup to pour over it. The cheese was that soft Mozzarella in sliced chunks that don’t always emerge from the package in one piece, and the ovals went on top. My wife wasn’t too sure what my daughter and I were doing in the kitchen, but she enjoyed the results. Indian Beef & Berry Soup—If you have the recipe and the ingredients, why not! (Thin steaks from Winco, raisins, Craisins (dried cranberries), beef bouillon concentrate, onions). My daughter, Phoenix, found this recipe on the Internet years ago, and we needed to use the meat, so we put it together on a chilly evening. We like soups, and this is one of our favorites. The broth’s saltiness and the fruit-and-berry sweetness play well with each other. The leftovers age nicely, the flavors maturing overnight. Corned Beef and Cabbage Plus—We missed celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, so we created our own Shelter-In-Place holiday (Corned beef from Winco, carrots, half a cabbage, red potatoes). I love slow-cookers. I haven’t become an Instant Pot-head, yet. I enjoy the convenience of doing meal-prep, punching a few buttons, and ignoring the kitchen for the rest of the day. After chunking the potatoes and tossing the veggies and meat into the cooker, I spent a fulfilling Sunday. When we ate, the Corned Beef was tender and tasty, the veggies were dewy-soft, and it was a cabbage fit for your dreams. We were a happy family. Pork Steaks, Potatoes, and Asparagus—Early-morning lines are interesting. At Costco, a line I did not get into stretched to at least three sides of the big-box building, while a Winco line barely reached a first corner of the store (Center-Cut Pork Chops, red potatoes, asparagus—all from Winco). I braised the pork with water in the frying pan, nuked the asparagus and potatoes in the microwave, and it looked like a home-cooked dinner is supposed to look (except for the paper plates).
The Easter Feast I Bought—My favorite Sanger restaurant (Uncle George Kabab) had an Easter Family special, and how could I turn it down? Chicken Kabab-style, pilaf, a chicken-based soup (instead of salad), pita bread, and sauces. Grab it and go home. Oh, so good!
Sha Naan Naan—My favorite late-night snack—or—Why I am not losing weight while in isolation (Naan bread, Pesto sauce, packaged rotisserie chicken white meat, Mozzarella cheese—all Costco). I added chicken to what I’d seen demonstrated at Costco. I probably used too much Pesto…but I like Pesto. A quick run through the microwave to get the right meltage, and…Oh, my, my!Carpetbagger Burgers—My mother used to make a version of this with Kraft American Cheese slices (Lean ground beef—Winco, egg and Mozzarella—Costco, and white potatoes). Smoosh the egg into the ground beef, divide it into paired patties, lay on a slice of the Mozzarella, top with the other patty, and fry briskly. The baked potatoes were buttered, topped with fiesta blend cheese and ranch dressing (my substitute for sour cream). It reminded me of Mom, but I did it…My Way.
For What It’s Worth—I’m not Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri, or Julia Child (Catch Dishing with Julia Child on PBS—It’s a Hoot!), but it’s my kitchen (shared with my daughter and with my wife’s requests), so that’s what I do. If you have to get take-out, look for local, independent restaurants—they need all the help we can give them. Don’t give up…and don’t give in. Stay strong. Be safe.