When I was asked to do a class on easy cooking, I came up with some meals in a mug.
I ended up using some of them for my Standard-Examiner column, because they’re such a great idea.
When you’re cooking for just yourself, you don’t want to go to the trouble of dirtying a lot of pots and pans for just one or two servings. And yet, when you make a big pot of something, it might take two or three days to polish off. And some dishes don’t freeze very well for later eating.
Meals in a mug, zapped in the microwave for a few minutes, are a good solution. You don’t have to wash a cooking pot, and they’re ideal for portion control. They also lend themselves to creativity, depending on what you have in your fridge. Readers may recall that a couple of years ago I gave recipes for microwaving brownies in a mug. Internet food sites and blogs have many different mug recipes for for things like mac ‘n’cheese and French toast.
Mug meals would also be a boon to empty nesters who don’t want to break out the pots and pans every night for dinner. They could be a fun experience for families, too, because each person can mix their choice of ingredients into the mug.
Frozen hash browns O’Brien are the staple of these two recipes. They come diced just the right size, and they contain chopped onions and bell peppers. Hence, no peeling and chopping is necessary — just pulled the bag from the freezer and shake out a portion into the mug. Pre-cooked, crumbled bacon is another easy ingredient — no mess of frying bacon to worry about. You can usually find it on the grocery aisle with salad dressings and croutons.
The Mountain Man Mug makes a quick breakfast, but it would also be fine for lunch or dinner. The Potato & Corn Chowder can be switched up with other veggies, depending on what you have in your fridge or freezer.
Some tips for mug-meal making:
• Use a mug that says “microwave safe” on the bottom, so that it won’t crack, chip or melt with use.
• The mug should be at least 16 ounces. You need to allow room for sauces to bubble and eggs to puff up, otherwise it will overflow in the microwave.
• When you remove your meal from the microwave, let it sit for at least a minute. There is usually some “carryover” cooking, where the hot mixture continues to cook. And you’ll want to leave some time for it to cool down a bit, so that you don’t scald your mouth.
• If you’re cooking eggs in the mug, you may want to spray with nonstick cooking spray. After eating, fill the mug with water to help soak off the egg before cleaning. Dried egg is tough to clean!
MOUNTAIN MAN MUG
If you’ve ever been out camping and had Mountain Main Breakfast in a Dutch oven, you’ll recognize these ingredients. The differences? You’re making it in a mug in a microwave, and it takes a few minutes instead of a few hours.
3/4 cup frozen diced hash browns O’Brien (with onion and peppers)
2 tablespoons water
2 to 3 tablespoons ready-cooked, crumbled bacon
1 egg (2 eggs if you want a heartier meal)
2 tablespoons shredded Cheddar or other cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Place the hash browns and water in a large (16-ounce or more) mug. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, or until the hash browns are cooked and tender.
2. Stir in the bacon, egg, and cheese, and a shake of salt and a grind of pepper. Microwave on high for 1 minute, or until egg is barely set.
4. Remove from the microwave and allow the mug to sit for another minute or two to finish cooking. Serve with salsa, hot sauce, ketchup, etc. to taste.
Options: Omit the hash browns and add other chopped veggies such as onions, bell pepper, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, etc.
— Valerie Phillips, Chewandchat.com
POTATO & CORN CHOWDER IN A MUG
1/2 cup frozen diced hash browns (can be hash browns O’Brien)
1/3 cup frozen or canned corn
2 tablespoons ready-cooked crumbled bacon (found in the salad dressing aisle)
1 chicken bouillon cube
3/4 cup milk
1 to 2 ounces lite cream cheese
Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons cheddar cheese
1. Mix together the hash browns, corn, bacon, bouillon cube, and 1/2 cup of the milk.
2. Microwave on high for 2 minutes.
3. Stir well, and taste one of the hash browns to see if it’s tender. If not, microwave 30 more seconds and check again.
4. Add the cream cheese. Microwave 30 more seconds. Stir until cream cheese is blended.
5. Stir in several grinds of pepper and the cheddar. If desired, add another 1/4 cup of milk.
Options: Add different veggies such as chopped broccoli, carrots, spinach or peas. Just don’t fill the mug more than 2/3 full, to avoid boiling over.