>Breakfast for Dinner Series – Part 1

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Senor is a hungry man. Really, pretty much all the time. He’s not a pig or anything, he’s just sort of gigantic. He’s 6’1″ and he lifts weights. I’m pretty sure lifting weights is his favorite thing to do besides maybe playing with fuzzy animals. I’m always trying to cook food that’s healthy (obvi) and tasty and cheap. Oh, and interesting. Interesting food is always a priority for me. And finally, it has to be filling for the man who spends his time lifting barbells that are so big they don’t even look real over his head. This week, I ended up making this:

It’s really a breakfast scramble but for dinner. This whole, huge, plate consisted of three baby potatoes, a quarter of a red onion, 3 oz of chopped bacon, a quarter cup of black beans, half a tomato, two eggs, and one ounce of shredded cheese. To be fair, I think this giant plate is actually enough for two average people or one very active, very hungry person.

I love making dinners like this because they are fast and you really only need one pan, one plate and one cutting board. The potatoes take the longest to cook but I like to ‘cheat’ and give them a head start. I chop the potatoes first, put them on a plate and stick them in the microwave for a few minutes. Usually just when they start to shrivel a bit means they’re pretty much soft. Toss them in the pan and they’ll start to brown quickly and you don’t have to wait forever for your potatoes to be soft. While they’re in the ‘wave you can chop up everything else you need. I have a really large cutting board that I love because I can chop everything, make a pile of each ingredient, and still have room to keep chopping!

I use a cast iron skillet for pretty much everything now. I can even manage a decent omelet in my skillet despite the lack of Teflon now that I’ve been using it for several months. Cast iron is awesome because using it won’t kill you. I really like that kind of feature in my bakeware. As a side note, we watched Julie and Julia last night and I am completely lusting after some nice copper saute pans. Stainless still sans coating would suffice as well. Cast iron is also really great at browning meats and potatoes. I just use a bit of non-stick spray to coat the potatoes and toss them in. Once they’re browning, I tossed in the onions and chopped bacon. Once those were mostly ready, I added the black beans and tomatoes and seasoned it all with garlic and pepper and a little bit of chipotle tabasco. When everything was sizzling nicely, I turned off the heat, dumped it all into a pasta bowl, topped it with cheese and threw it in the microwave for 2 minutes to melt the cheese. Cast iron retains heat really well so I cooked two eggs, over easy in just a few minutes int he skillet to top the scramble. A touch of cilantro and we were ready to go.

All of this took me less than 15 minutes. This is the sort of meal that is really convenient and probably pretty easy to fall back on. All of the ingredients are pretty much a staple. If you’re out of beans, no big deal. No tomatoes? Oh well. No potatoes? Add extra beans. It was also really, really delicious. I love having breakfast for dinner but eggs and bacon and toast can get pretty boring. This felt more like we were at one of our favorite diners.

And one of my favorite things about this dinner? It was CHEAP! All of the produce came from the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market so it was really, really cheap. 10 baby potatoes for a dollar. 5 giant large onions for two dollars. Three enormous tomatoes for five dollars. Considering I used 3 potatoes and less than a quarter of one onion and one tomato, that’s about a dollar for those three items. We buy dry black beans and soak and cook them in large batches, then freeze them so we can use them on short notice. A giant bag of black beans is 99 cents. I think this probably had two cents worth of beans. The bacon was from the co-op and we paid six dollars for a two-pound package of uncured ends. This means I did a bit of trimming so we were only getting the lean part of the meat but still, it was probably about a dollar’s worth of food. The most expensive things were the eggs. We buy our eggs at the market as well from a free-range organic farmer with pastured hens. They are delicious and you can find out why here. We pay $4.50 for a dozen eggs, so each egg is about 38 cents. If you’ve ever watched Food Inc., read the Omnivore’s Dilemma, or seen a picture of a laying hen with no feathers because the cage she’s in has rubbed her skin off, you agree that 38 cents per egg for chickens who can see the sunshine and eat grass and bugs is a really, really good price.

All in all, I think this dinner was a hit and we’ll make it again especially because it contained a lot of fresh produce, food that doesn’t come in a can, and it was less than $3 per plate! A definite win.

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