Delicata Squash Frittata

This weekend I had seven delicata squash in my fridge. I love roasting them and topping them with brown butter and sage, but we can only eat that so much. I needed another option, so I started brainstorming: How can I use this for breakfast?

When I started thinking about the other things we have in the fridge, it hit me: Make a frittata! We have bacon, eggs, greens (a mixture of two kinds of kale and rainbow chard), and peppers. If I roast the squash first, it will be nice and soft instead of crunchy.

Delicata is a pain to peel because of the ridges and the skin is completely edible, so I decided to slice it into rings, cut out the seeds, and roast them with olive oil for 20 minutes at 400F before putting them on top of the frittata just after I pour the eggs in the pan. Finish off with some pecorino at the very end and you are good to go.

Fast Breakfast Option: Fried Eggs with Pancetta, Kale, and Pecorino

I’ve been skipping breakfast recently, but I got up unusually early a few days ago and wanted to eat something before I started working. I wanted something fast, tasty, and low carb, so I started scouring my fridge.

This is a delicious breakfast option that I usually have the ingredients in the fridge to make. It took me under 10 minutes from pulling out a skillet to sitting down to eat.

Fried Eggs with pancetta, kale, and pecorino

  • 1/3 pack of pancetta
  • 3 dinosaur kale leaves
  • 2 eggs
  • Butter
  • Pecorino
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Rip up the kale into small pieces. I use my hands for this. I quickly strip the leaves from the stem with my hand and then tear up the leaves directly into the pan.
  2. Crisp up the pancetta with the kale in the pan over medium high heat. Remove the pancetta and kale from the pan when the pancetta is crisp.
  3. Drop some butter in the pan, let it get hot and start to bubble, and then crack the two eggs in the pan and fry them for about a minute on each side (I like my eggs runny.)
  4. Dump the pancetta and kale back in the pan for a moment, and then plate everything, season it with salt and pepper, and grate some pecorino on top.

I know this isn’t a groundbreaking new dish. It is pretty simple and the flavors are a well-known combination: salty pork, a hearty green, savory eggs, and a nutty cheese. I write about these things to get ideas flowing. My hope is that even if you don’t have these specific items in your fridge, it sparks an idea of a quick, tasty breakfast that you can make with what you do have. Or, if you haven’t considered this combination of flavors before, “if you don’t know, now you know.

This breakfast is just a specific instance of something I do all the time: Throwing together quick meals from things I have in my pantry or fridge. These meals won’t win any awards or show up in cookbooks, but they are generally tasty, save time, and are practical.

One of the best things you can do for your cooking is break out of the rigid recipe mindset. Start thinking about recipes as flexible templates of interchangeable options. This lets you use what is on sale, what you have on hand, and what you like instead of following a recipe to a T.

That is what Cook Like Chuck is all about: What can I make with what I have?

Whole 30 Breakfast Bowls

During our Whole 30, one of our go-to breakfast options on weekends were bowls of delicious veggies, meat, and eggs. We usually only eat two big meals on weekend days, so this is larger and more filling than a breakfast we’d eat during the week. It fills us up and keeps us going until dinner.

The Basic Formula

Vegetable and/or Starch Base + Meat + Eggs + Avocado + Toppings. This simple formula yields a lot of variation:

  • Vegetables: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots, kale, cauliflower,  onions, peppers, and fresh beets all make great veggie bases for breakfast. We love buying some of each of these, chopping them up, and mixing them together. If you have a grating attachment for your food processor, that makes it easy. Also check if your grocery store sells these items pre-chopped. It might be just a little more expensive, but it makes healthy breakfasts a breeze. Sautee these items in your the skillet with a little olive oil for 5-10 minutes over medium high heat.
  • Starch: About half of our breakfast bowls have either sweet potatoes or regular potatoes in them. We either shred them with our mandolin, grate with the food processor attachment, or finely dice them before cooking them in the skillet with a little fat over medium high heat for 20 minutes. You can also roast them in the oven at 400F for 20 minutes if you prefer that.
  • Meat: Bacon or sausage. We chop it up finely, throw it in a skillet, and cook it until it is crispy. Make sure your bacon and sausage doesn’t have sugar if you want to stay Whole 30 compliant. Sometimes we use leftover carnitas, ham, or turkey. Use what you have!
  • Eggs: I like my eggs either soft-scrambled or fried. I use Gordon Ramsay’s scrambling method and J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s frying method.
  • Avocado: We prefer Hass over Florida avocados.
  • Toppings: Toppings vary: Sprouts, homemade mayo, cheese (only if you aren’t doing a Whole 30!), radishes, cilantro, scallions, hot sauce, etc. Put on whatever you like!

Here are some examples of breakfast bowls we’ve consumed over the past month:


This is really just another variation on the weekend special, but it has been a go-to for us during and after our Whole 30. We even made it for dinner once.

Soylent Coffiest Review

Soylent (Rosa Labs) released a new product last week: Coffiest. I bought a case a few hours after the announcement and I made it my breakfast the past few mornings.

This is the fourth, and best, type of Soylent I’ve tried. Here are my notes on the other ones I’ve tried:

  • 1.4 (powder, no longer available) was thick, clumpy, and tasted like pancake batter. I added a lot of cocoa powder to it.
  • 1.5 (also powder, different formula, no longer available) was thinner and had a more neutral taste. Not bad, but I thought the carb-to-fat content was a little too high.
  • 2.0 (original pre-mixed version, still available) is pretty good. I really liked the convenience of not having to mix powder with water and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before I drank it. My main use-case for Soylent is a quick breakfast or lunch when I have a lot going on and no time to make something. Drinking a bottle of 2.0 keeps me going until dinner time. It is thinner and even more neutrally flavored than 1.5. It has a slight cereal milk taste. I didn’t dislike the flavor, but I found it to be a whole lot better when I added in some of my iced coffee.

Coffiest is the latest addition to their line. It contains the nutrients of one meal and some caffeine to get you going. I’ll admit that I was a little nervous about what the flavor of Coffiest would be. I’m happy to say that Rosa Labs nailed it. Coffiest has a good balanced coffee flavor and just a little bit of the cereal milk base flavor peaking through. In fact, it tastes pretty close to what I mixed together myself with Soylent 2.0 and my iced coffee. Some people say there are chocolately overtones in there, but they don’t really come through for me. It isn’t too sweet and doesn’t leave a weird film in your mouth like coffee+milk. It tastes just like a balanced coffee drink should.

It is easy to forget that this is a meal replacement drink because it is so thin. Remember that this is packed with the nutrition of a full meal, so consume it wisely!

Be aware of the amount of caffeine you usually drink and how it compares to Coffiest. 150mg is roughly 1 large strong cup of coffee or 2 cups of weaker office coffee. I’m a caffeine addict, so Coffiest doesn’t replace my caffeine intake for the day. I usually follow it up 2-3 hours later with a cup of coffee or shot of espresso. If you arent a coffee drinker though, 150mg might be a lot for you.

You might feel a little different after drinking Coffiest. It has 150mg of caffeine and 75mg of l-theanine, an amino acid in green tea that has been found to smooth out the effects of caffeine. In short, it helps keep you from getting jittery. I’ve taken l-theanine before and gives me a somewhat dazed feeling, even when combined with caffeine. If you aren’t used to it, it can be a little strange.

I’ve had no problems so far consuming it on an empty stomach, unlike some of the early powdered versions. I’ve been taking it with me on my morning walks (see the photo at the top of this article), so by the time I get back home, I’ve had a walk, something to “eat”, and coffee. I’m pretty pleased with this version and I think it will become a regular breakfast item for me.

Rethinking Cheese on Tacos

Cheese on tacos is usually boring and bland, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Cheese has some pretty cool properties: It can be melted and crisped.

I regularly tweak my taco meat recipe, so last week I was searching for inspiration while I probably should have been working. I stumbled across an article from Serious Eats where Josh Bousel argues that we are going about cheese on our tacos all wrong. Instead of  just sprinkling cheese on our tacos like n00bs, we ought to melt our cheese directly to the tortilla. You should read his article.

I tried it and I don’t think I can ever go back.?????

Breifly, you melt the cheese in a non-stick pan and then throw down a tortilla (corn works best) over half of it. Once the cheese starts to crisp and the tortilla is warm, remove the pan from heat and carefully slide a spatula under the tortilla and cheese to remove your new creation.

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It works on breakfast tacos and regular tacos alike, as well as with a variety of cheeses. The cheese is crispy and crunchy around the edges, still a little gooey on the tortilla, and has a deep, rich flavor.

Read Josh’s recipe on Serious Eats, then run to the nearest kitchen and give it a try!


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The Best Way to Make Iced Coffee

Forget cold brew and forget pouring your coffee over ice. The best iced coffee is brewed hot and concentrated with an Aeropress, slowly cooled down, then served like a cocktail.

First, let me answer a few questions:

Why do you hate cold brew?
I don’t hate it, in fact I even drink it from time to time. It is just this method is better. Cold brew takes more beans, takes much longer to brew (12 hours!), and is messier to clean up. I always have to strain mine because I don’t like sludge. The taste is a bit off, too. Brewing coffee with hot water releases oils and compounds that you won’t get by brewing it at lower temperatures. This means that cold-brewed coffee is missing part of its essential flavor profile. Why would you settle for that when you can have better?

Why can’t I just pour my hot coffee over ice or brew my V60 over ice?
Well, you can. I won’t stop you. I probably won’t drink the result, either. Pouring hot liquids over ice melts the ice and dilutes the liquid. Unless you have exceptionally great ice, it will also change the favor even if you start out with a concentrate. Let ice melt in a glass and then drink it. It probably doesn’t taste nearly as good as the water you made the ice with. It picks up flavors in your freezer, and not the kind of flavors you want in your coffee.

So what can we do?
The answer is to make legitimately good, hot coffee and then cool it down without diluting it.

I was first introduced to this method on Marco Arment’s blog. He gets the credit for coming up with the idea.

If you don’t have an AeroPress yet, get one. It is only $30 and makes one of the best cups of coffee you can possibly make at home. Here is what the contraption looks like:

 

Instructions

  1. Measure out 40g of coffee beans on your kitchen scale. (For reference, this is quite a bit. It will look comical. I use between 15 and 25g of coffee for a normal cup. The goal is to make it concentrated here.)
    IMG_4044
  2.  

  3. Grind the beans like you normally would for an AeroPress (about as fine as table salt). Consult Google for the correct grind setting on whichever grinder you use.
  4.  

  5. Put the grounds into the AeroPress and brew it as your normally would. Here are regular instructions and here are instructions for the inverted method that I use.
  6.  

  7. Pop out the puck/clear out the grounds from the Aeropress, then repeat steps 1-3 until the your container is full. I use this 16oz glass jug that fits the AeroPress perfectly and will hold 3 full brews. That is 16oz of liquid from 120oz of beans. Quite the caffeine jolt!
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  8.  

  9. Cover and refrigerate this container until it is chilled. I like to make it before I go to bed and let it chill overnight.

Serving

While I prefer my hot coffee unadulterated by dairy and sugar, I almost always put dairy and sugar into my cold coffee. No matter how you brew it, coffee will always have some compounds that don’t taste very good when they are cold.

This coffee concentrate is very strong. It was made from 120g of ground coffee beans. For reference, for a pour over I use the same amount of liquid (~16oz) but only 30-35g of coffee beans. Go easy on this stuff. If you overdo it, you’ll be jittery (and you’ll be sorry.) I treat it like liquor.

I make this the same way I would a cocktail. In fact, I usually make it in a rocks glass. Bonus points if you use a gorgeous Mazama glass. Here is what I mix up:

 
With two coffee drinkers in the house (one a full-blown caffeine addict and one who enjoys coffee but doesn’t always need it), we go through a full batch approximately every three days.

I typically make a batch of this after dinner and put it in the fridge. It is fully chilled and ready to go in the morning.

Tips

  1. If you don’t plan ahead and need to cool it down quickly, you can get it down to ~40-45F in about 30 minutes with an ice bath:
    IMG_4423
  2. This is a great way to use up leftover beans. Taste still matters here, but it matters less than in a pour over because you are mixing sugar and dairy with it. So those beans you’ve had for two months but never used can make up a third of a batch.
  3. This stuff is great poured into Soylent 2.0.

Frittatas

You can make thousands of frittata recipes just by changing the fillings, but the base always remains the same: Eggs, veggies, and meat (if you are partial to that sort of thing; I am.) I’m going to give you a specific recipe for the frittata I made this morning, generalize a formula for making any frittata, then pull some suggestions out of my Instagram archives for good combinations.

Frittatas are great for brunch with your family or friends, but they are still worth making for 1-2 people. I like eating the leftovers for breakfast during the week like a cold pizza. Delicious.

Bacon, Potato, and Brussels Sprouts Frittata

Necessary Tools

  • Large (12-14in) non-stick skillet that is oven- and broiler-safe
  • Non-metal or coated spatula (so you don’t scratch your non-stick coating)
  • Knife and cutting board suitable for chopping
  • Stove with burners and an oven
  • Fine cheese grater (for grating the chunk of parmesan)
  • Oven mitt

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup brussels sprouts, cleaned and chopped if they are large
  • 1 large potato, scrubbed and diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 6-8 eggs, whisked with an ounce of half & half or milk for fluffiness.
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Start browning the chopped bacon in a skillet over medium high heat and add the cup of water to it. Cook down until the water is gone, stirring occasionally. Continue letting the bacon brown, stirring more frequently so it doesn’t burn, until it is crisped to your liking.
  2. You may need to pour off some of the bacon grease during this process. If you do, pour about 1/4 cup of it into a non-stick skillet. We will use this to fry the potatoes, brussels sprouts, and onions.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  4. Heat the excess bacon grease (or olive oil if you aren’t using bacon) over medium-high heat in a large, non-stick skillet that is oven safe. Choose the skillet wisely; the size of the skillet determines the size of the frittata. Carefully put the diced potatoes into the grease to start browning them. Stir occasionally to keep them from burning.
  5. As the potatoes are starting to turn golden brown (5-7 minutes), add in the brussels sprouts. The sprouts we had were tiny, so I didn’t bother chopping them. If you have larger sprouts, definitely chop them. Continue stirring occasionally.
  6. After the sprouts have been in for 5 minutes and are starting to get crisp on the sides, toss in the diced onion. Continue stirring occasionally.
  7. When the onions are starting to get soft (about 5 minutes), turn the heat down to medium.
  8. Pour in the whisked eggs & milk and stir everything to make sure the fillings are evenly distributed.
  9. Cook over medium heat until the sides start to pull away from the edges of the pan and start to bubble. Don’t stir, just let it set up. The center should still be runny.
  10. Take the whole pan and put it on the center rack in the oven for 10 minutes.
  11. After the 10 minutes are up, pull the pan out and grate the parmesan cheese and grind some black pepper over the top.
  12. Turn on the broiler, pop the pan (if it is broiler safe, i.e. your handles won’t melt) back in the oven under the broiler until the cheese melts and crisps up the top. This takes 3-5 minutes. Watch it attentively so it doesn’t burn.
  13. Pull it out of the oven and let the pan cool on the stovetop for 5 minutes, then carefully release the frittata from the pan by working a non-metal spatula around the edges. The frittata should then easily slide out on the cutting board.
  14. Cut like a pizza and sprinkle each slice with a little sea salt and serve.

 

 

Basic Frittata Formula

Ingredients

  • Choose 1 meat, three vegetables, and 1 cheese. If you are a vegetarian or don’t want meat in it, that is okay. Make it to your tastes.
    • Crumbly cheeses like feta are good for mixing into the frittata. Hard cheeses are better for grating on top of it.
    • Veggies like spinach and cherry tomatoes should be mixed in with the eggs instead of cooked beforehand.
  • For a 1 inch thick frittata, use 6-8 eggs in a large pan or 4-5 eggs in a medium sized pan. If you want a thicker frittata, add more eggs. If you want a thinner one, use fewer eggs.
  • Salt and pepper are good general seasonings, but sometimes oregano, garlic, thyme, and others work well with your ingredients.

Instructions

  1. Cook and brown the meat you are using (if you are using it.)
  2. Clean and chop all of your veggies.
  3. Cook your veggies in stages so nothing gets overcooked. In my recipe above, you’ll notice that I cooked potatoes first, then added brussels sprouts, then added the onions so that by the time the onions were done, everything else was, too. If I had added the onions at the beginning, they would have burned by the time the potatoes were done.
  4. Whisk the eggs with an ounce of half & half or milk. The added liquid and protein makes the final product more fluffy. If you add salt, let it sit for at least 15 minutes.
  5. Add the eggs, stir so the ingredients are evenly distributed, then cook over medium heat until the sides start to pull away from the edges of the pan and start to bubble. Don’t stir, just let it set up. The center should still be runny.
  6. Take the whole pan and put it on the center rack in the oven for 10 minutes at 375F.
  7. Turn on the broiler for the 3-5 minutes to brown and crisp the top. If you want to grate cheese on it, do this before broiling. Watch it attentively so it doesn’t burn.
  8. Pull it out of the oven and let the pan cool on the stovetop for 5 minutes, then carefully release the frittata from the pan by working a non-metal spatula around the edges. The frittata should then easily slide out on the cutting board.
  9. Cut like a pizza and sprinkle each slice with a little sea salt and serve.

 

Ideas for good ingredients combinations

  • Ground turkey, spinach, broccoli, onions, and basil
  • Mushrooms, shallots, thyme, and soft cheese like camembert
  • Broccoli, sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, and green onions
  • Spicy Italian sausage, brussels sprouts, jalapeños, and asiago cheese
  • Mexican chorizo, potatoes, and onions
  • Ham, kale, green peppers, and goat cheese
  • Ham, broccoli, and cheddar

 

Here are a few frittatas I pulled from my Instagram feed:

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