Flexibility. I think more people need to rally behind this underrated concept. The world would be a happier place, don’t you think, if everyone maybe just took it down a notch and stopped getting so upset when things don’t go according to plan.
Flight delayed? Sit down, put your feet up and read a smutty novel. Take it easy, stop answering work emails because you’re supposed to be mid-flight anyway, and eat a three dollar candy bar as an I’m-allowed-because-I’m-super-irritated treat. Maybe stop yelling at the person behind the desk like the snowstorm in Chicago that is preventing you from getting to Atlanta is all her fault.
Unexpected traffic jam? Turn up your favorite angry 90s girl power jam and belt it like its 1997 and you’re 15 again.* Ugly cry and tear up a picture of your crush if you have to, but remember there are others stuck in traffic too and they *may* quietly judge you. Or film you on their phone and take you viral. Just do whatever you have to keep from obnoxiously honking at nothing or getting out of the car and punching out someone’s driver side window.
*Not that I’ve ever done this or anything. Alanis’ Hand in My Pocket is totally NOT my personal anthem. Uh, yeah…totally not. 😉
So, I guess what I’m saying, in a round about way, is maybe we wouldn’t all have our undies in such a bunch if we just read more smut and sang more 90s pop.
Um. Actually, maybe a few cliches will communicate my thoughts better. Go with the flow. Relax. Chill out. The glass is half full.
See, this is why I love cooking. Cooking is insanely flexible. Cooking and I get along like two laid-back roommates. Peppers don’t holler when you decide to add tomatoes to a recipe that didn’t actually call for them. The peppers are chill, yo! Look to the pepper, people! See the light. 🙂
Here’s a really fast and flexible meal. Not too mention very good! I took some liberties, decided I didn’t *love* my liberties, but posting it anyway because I will definitely make this again. Hey, I’m flexible like that.
This Mexican-style, one skillet meal starts with an interesting technique – toasting dried pasta in a bit of oil in the pan before cooking. The noodles get all golden brown and nutty. It really infuses the pasta with a different and fun taste.
Now, I really, really wanted to add chorizo to this dish per a suggestion in the recipe. I’ve never actually had it, but given my fondness for the encased spiced meats, I just know I’ll love it. I’ve never been able find it at my regular grocery stores, but now that I’m in a new (and bigger!) city, I’ll being scoping out the various specialty and ethnic stores which I’m sure are plentiful and chock full of exotic goodies to rock my country bumpkin world. I know there is chorizo in this town. I can just feel it!
I should have just gone veg and added black beans, another suggestion offered by the recipe but I wanted to give my loving husband his precious meat after rescuing him from nearly wasting away in bachelorhood for the last three months. (tee hee.) Since I didn’t have the chorizo, I added…breakfast sausage.
Erm. So yeah, that was probably a mistake. I mean, it wasn’t AWFUL (or maple-flavored), but if I had to do it over again, I would leave the breakfast sausage to the pancakes and egg casseroles. A shredded spiced chicken would have been a much better addition. Also the original recipe calls for cilantro, and we all know how I feel about that mess, so I garnished with scallions instead. Next time, I’ll use my go-to cilantro sub – parsley. A bit of freshness and brightness from a fresh herb would be a welcome addition here. If you are a cilantro fan, absolutely go for it.
Overall, I loved the spicy, toasty, smokey flavor of this dish. The sauce coats the noodles without being too loose and the chipotle peppers add just the right amount of kick. Add a sprinkling a smooth, creamy Monterey Jack and it’s a great mix of flavors and textures. This dish is satisfying, comforting and makes excellent leftovers. I need to make a couple changes for next time, but that’s okay. I’m flexible.
MEXICAN-STYLE SKILLET PASTA (Recipe adapted from: America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, pg. 244)
- 8 oz. vermicelli pasta, broken in half
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion, minced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted, I really like the flavor)
- 8 oz. diced chorizo sausage OR shredded cooked chicken OR 1 15.5 oz. can black beans (optional – you could leave all these out if you want!)
- 1-1/2 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 to 2 chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
- 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
- 1/2 cup sour cream, for serving (optional – I omitted)
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch skillet and add vermicelli. Toast the pasta until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to cool.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and heat over medium until just shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, your protein (if using), the broth and chipotle pepper(s). Bring mixture to a boil.
- Stir in the toasted pasta. Reduce heat to low, cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid is absorbed and the pasta is tender, about 15 minutes.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among 4 serving bowls, top with cheese and cilantro or parsley. Pass the sour cream separately. Makes 4 servings.
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