cooking

Kale’s Opposite: In Praise of Pigs in Blankets

ImageI live in a community where, at any given potluck, you can count on finding no less than three varieties of quinoa salad along with several dishes that feature kale. We take our kale seriously, and did so even before it was fashionable. We know the difference between Lacinato Kale, Red Russian Kale, and the more common Curly Kale; we know which kind works best for a kale salad, and can identify on sight whether our kale has been locally grown or shipped from California. Though I am always happy to pile my plate with these healthy offerings, I will sheepishly admit that, for me, part of the fun of a potluck is trying to get away with something. I prepare for a potluck with two goals in mind: 1. To bring something my kids might actually eat. 2. To put less effort into the potluck dish than I would into a regular evening’s dinner.

As it turns out, my favorite solution is an hors d’oeuvre that is as far from kale as possible: pigs in blankets. Though this food seems to make many adults wax nostalgic, they were not a feature of my childhood. We were deviled egg people. I didn’t discover pigs in blankets until a few years ago when a friend of mine brought them to a party and all of the guests wolfed them down before they’d even had a chance to cool properly. I will share with you now her method.

1. Mix some mustard with some honey.

2. You will need two packages of crescent roll dough and one package of refrigerator mini-sausages. My friend uses li’l smokies. Those are good. I like Aidell’s chicken sausages, mainly because when I say “pigs in blankets” I want my “pigs” to be figurative, not literal.

3. Lay out the dough and cut each triangle in half. Each piece of dough gets a nice little spot of honey mustard and one mini sausage. Toddlers and preschoolers are really good at rolling them up.

4. Bake them before you leave, or, if you can cook them off at the potluck that adds to the dramatic effect and anticipation.

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As an example of how ubiquitously loved they are, I offer you this: I have a good friend who swears by her organic whole foods diet. Her skin is radiant. She bikes everywhere and drinks kale smoothies. She’s fifty-two, but if you just met her you’d probably guess she’s thirty-six. In general, if anyone offers her food, she wants to know what’s in it and where it came from. More than half of the time, she’ll politely decline. But let me tell you something: she will eat my pigs in blankets. She does not ask me what is in them. The reason is pretty obvious, I think. Who knows what’s in those crescent rolls? She knows that if she knew, she would not eat them and they are too good not to eat.

So it goes with the rest of my community. My pigs-in-blankets offering sits happily on nearly every plate between the quinoa, the kale, and the beets. No one asks me what’s in them or looks at me askance. I like to think they’re all secretly happy to eat something with zero grams of dietary fiber. Oh, and one more thing: by the end of the evening, the pigs are always gone.

Image credit, actual pig in blanket: cutepicturesite.com

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Like Christmas in January: Four Day Enchiladas

When I was a pre-teen, my mother once suggested that we should celebrate Christmas in early January. We could grab a tree from someone’s trash and buy all of our gifts on sale. At the time I must have given her a look like she was deranged, but as an adult, I think she was onto something.

One of my favorite things in the world is when I am rewarded for my own laziness, like when a friend returns my favorite scarf a week after I left it at her house. I may have had vague notions that it was missing but hadn’t taken the trouble to look for it yet, and now here it is, returned before I’ve bothered to worry. This is so much better than the alternative, which is also possible in my world: tearing apart my entire house looking for the scarf, driving myself crazy and checking every place multiple times.

My laziness was again rewarded this week when I planned to make enchiladas but wound up, due to my own lack of motivation, with a series of dinners that progressively led to enchiladas and fed my family for three nights, with enchiladas to spare for future lunches.

Day 1: Soaked beans. Went shopping for chicken thighs, tortillas, and canned enchilada sauce. Ate sandwiches for dinner.

Day 2: Put beans in slow cooker in the morning. By afternoon, decided I was too tired to deal with chicken—all that rinsing and dealing with a wet and stinky package. Resorted to standby meal: beans wrapped in a flour tortilla with sour cream. Bonus: the five-year-old was willing to eat that.

Day 3: Put off dealing with chicken until the end of the day. At 5:30 pm, realized that we could just eat chicken for dinner. Threw a few pre-cut veggies in the pan for good measure and made some white rice.

Day 4: Finally, enchiladas. Assembly took twenty minutes because all ingredients were ready. Remembered a lazy and useful trick: layer tortillas with the other ingredients rather than rolling them into individual enchiladas. Voila: enchilada casserole.

ImageIf I were ever to write a cookbook, I would title it “Put an Egg on it” because that’s pretty much my cooking philosophy. Most dishes are improved when topped with a fried egg.

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In the case of this enchilada casserole, once it comes out of the oven you’ve got ten minutes to kill and if you’re like me you’re antsy, so you might as well fry an egg.

ImageTo be honest, these weren’t the best enchiladas ever. But consider how disappointing that would have been if I had slaved away on them for an entire day. By now, the enchilada casserole had become a fancy way of serving leftovers, and on those terms it was a success.