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Mom's Chicken and Rice Casserole

A month of recipes from others just would not be complete without one of mom's! I've been making this dish ever since I first left the nest and it's still one of our favorites. A blend of simple ingredients, this casserole is surprisingly tasty. Plus, it can go from a 45min casserole to a 10min meal if you use pre-cooked or left-over ingredients!

[Prep: 5min / Cook: 40min]

- 2 chicken breasts
- 2 cups rice
- 1 can cream of chicken and mushroom or cream of chicken and herb soup
- 1 cup water
- black pepper

1. Boil the rice.
2. Meanwhile, either grill or boil the chicken. Boiling is best for chicken that shreds easily, but takes longer.
3. Preheat the oven to 350/400F.
4. Cut up the chicken and mix together with the rice, soup, water and a hefty dose of black pepper.
5. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and pour the mixture in.  Cook for 10-15 minutes or until bubbly.
6. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]

  • If you want to add a bit more umph to this dish, you can add some veggies like onions and mushrooms or peas and carrots.
  • This also comes out quite nicely on the stove-top. Instead of baking, mix all of the ingredients together in a big bowl and stir for a few minutes until it reaches the consistency you prefer.
  • And, if you're like me and stuck in a place where you have to travel for an hour and pay €3 for a can of Campbell's Cream of Chicken & Mushroom, you can easily whip up your own. Just substitute 1 cup of chicken broth for the water or dissolving a chicken stock/bullion cube in the cup of water. Then just mix it with a cup of typical mushroom soup.


Erin's Chickpea Salad

I've been holding on to this recipe for awhile and I am so glad that Erin shared it with me. This is a fresh and very healthy side dish that could jazz up any number of simple entrées. And aside from a bit of chopping, it's incredibly easy to whip up.

[Cook: -- / Prep: 15-20min]


- 1 onion
- 1 cucumber
- 2 tomatoes
- 1/2 large red, orange or yellow bell pepper
- 1 can chickpeas (about 8-10oz)
- dash each of salt and pepper
- 1 Tbs olive oil

  1. Rinse and drain the chickpeas.
  2. Chop the onion, cucumber, tomatoes and bell pepper.
  3. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until evenly mixed and coated with the olive oil.
  4. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]

  • For this sort of dish, the proportions are completely up to you. Plus, with vegetables always varying in size, the proportions listed above are just a really rough guide.
  • Similarly, you need not stop at these veggies alone. Especially for the vegetarians out there, you can expand this dish into a small meal with the addition of other classic Greek ingredients like feta cheese and olives.
  • This recipe yields quite a bit of food, so I served it as both the meal's carbohydrate and veggie portion...and the whole amount disappeared.  

Suggested Entrées
  • Grilled chicken with lemon juice and oregano yogurt sauce.
  • Spicy or curried chicken, fish, lamb or mutton.
  • Rani's Greek Chicken Kabobs


Rani's Greek Chicken Kabobs

Here's another great Greek chicken recipe to add to our collection, compliments of Rani (you may recall his veggie soup in February).

[Prep: 15min + overnight / Cook: 10-15min]


- 2 chicken breasts
- about 1-1.5 Tbs olive oil
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
- 1.5 Tbs fresh chopped oregano (and he means fresh)
- 1 Tbs fresh chopped basil
- 1 Tbs chopped parsley
- dash of salt and pepper
- stack of metal or wooden skewers

  1. Cut chicken into 1 inch cubes.
  2. Mix all other ingredients in a large plastic bag.
  3. Add the cubed chicken to the bag and toss to coat. Let marinade in the refrigerator as long as possible (overnight is best).
  4. Skewer the cubes and grill over high heat. You'll need to cook them for about 3 minutes on each side, turning 1/4 turn 4 times.
  5. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]

  • Rani recommends using a cast-iron pan to pan-fry/grill the skewers. Cast-iron pans get really hot and yield really juicy kabobs.
  • Be cautious when using wooden skewers because they will scorch and burn. It's always a good idea to let wooden skewers soak in water before cooking.

Suggested Sides
  • Pita bread with hummus dip
  • Couscous 
  • Spinach salad with feta cheese, tomatoes and olives


Rachel's Stove-top Mac and Cheese

It's no secret how much I love the good ole' blue box mac and cheese, but when I saw this recipe of Rachel's the other day, I just had to try it.

Rachel runs her own recipe blog called Homemade Today based on her belief that all food tastes better when you make it from scratch yourself. But what I love best about Rachel's blog is how easy some of these homemade recipes can really be- especially if you pay attention to her tips on speed and preparation! Her stove-top mac and cheese is an excellent place to start.

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 20min]


- 1/4 pound short pasta (elbow macaroni, shells, spirals or bow-tie)
- 2 Tbs butter
- 1 egg
- 3 oz evaporated milk
- 1/4 tsp hot sauce
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground/dry mustard
-  5oz (140 grams) shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Remove from heat, drain the pasta and return to the pot. Throw in the butter and toss until butter is melted and coats the pasta.
  3. Whisk together the egg, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper and mustard. Stir into the pasta.
  4. Add the cheese and turn the heat back on. Stir over low heat for a couple minutes until cheese is melted and creamy.
  5. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]

  • The egg is pretty crucial to the flavor of the sauce, but sometimes (especially after it has set for awhile) it can make the texture a little lumpy. Maybe Rachel can shed some light on how best to avoid this, but if you really don't like the egg texture, I have made many decent cheese sauces in the past without the egg.
  • Rachel advises that a lot of pre-shredded cheeses have preservatives that hinder the melting process. I don't have pre-shredded cheddar here, nor do I have a cheese grater anymore, so I had to buy a block and cut it into slices. Don't be worried if you have to do this too. Cheddar melts very well, even in big slices.
  • Unfortunately, I didn't have all of the ingredients available here in Holland, so I had to skip the ground mustard entirely and make my own evaporated milk (Rach'd be so proud!). Ground mustard is one of those odd ingredients that you may not keep stocked, and although it's not the end of the world if you don't get it, I did notice a little lack of 'kick' in my mac and cheese. Also, evaporated milk comes out a bit creamier than regular milk, so it is also worth picking up, but using regular milk will still give you a decent cheese sauce. If you're crazy enough to try to make your own, you can find instructions here.


April: Showers of Recipes

photo originally uploaded to dreamstime by mafoto
So, today's post is just going to be a little updating on what's been developing in the OntheFly world.

First, it was never my vision for OntheFly to be an "ode to Megan's recipes". As much as I love banging about in the kitchen myself, my aim has always been to inspire the urge to cook in all of those who may otherwise suffer from culinary anxiety. Cooking for yourself is probably one of the single best and healthiest things you can do, and there's no reason for it to be overly-complicated or take up too much of  your evening!

Many of you out there have already started sending me your recipes to publish and I couldn't be any happier. Though I don't have forum capabilities, I would really love for OntheFly to be a platform for sharing fun and easy recipes. That's why I've set up to receive all your favorite kitchen concoctions. And to kick-off this initiative, I've decided to devote the entire month of April to "recipes from others." Want your own recipe to be featured this month? Send it my way!

Next, after months of anticipation, the upgraded website is finally nearly ready to launch! Thanks to Rachel's hubby, the final kinks have been worked out and now all I have to do is transfer content (phew!). The new site will have a new banner, more advanced sharing buttons, a couple pages of useful information and overall a much more professional design. I've given myself until the end of the month to transfer the archives and set-up the new pages, so keep an eye out for it!

I will also be making a bit of a "marketing" push with the new site launch, which means there'll be some sort of treat in store for all of you when I do ...

So, exciting developments are on the horizon for OntheFly, and in the meantime, don't forget to shower me with your recipes!

Happy Cooking!

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs


Greek Chicken Wraps

I got this recipe from Jorge Cruise's 3-Hour Diet Cookbook. Back when I was first on my own and just learning how to cook, this was the only cookbook I ever used. Though it's a book designed to guide you through a dieting routine, the recipes are a great way to learn basic, tasty ingredient combinations. They are also all incredibly quick- some take only minutes and none will have you slaving over a stove for an hour.

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 0-10min]


- 2 chicken breasts
- 4 flour tortillas
- 1/2 cup cooked white/brown rice
- about 1/4 cup (2oz) crumbled feta cheese
- 8 (or more) leaves of big-leafy lettuce (bib, butterhead, romaine, iceburg etc)
- 1 tomato
- about 1/4 cucumber
- 1/2 an onion
- 1/4 cup Ranch dressing

  1. Slice chicken breast into thin strips and pan-fry over medium-high heat for 5-7 minutes, until cooked through.
  2. Rinse and shake dry the lettuce leaves then layer a couple on each of the tortillas.
  3. Simply slice the tomato, onion and cucumber. Also layer and distribute across tortillas.
  4. Top-off the tortillas with a line of chicken, feta cheese, rice and Ranch dressing down the center.
  5. Roll-up and ready to eat!
[Serves 2]
Recipe based on the 3-Hour Diet Cookbook
Greek Chicken Wrap

  • The speed of this dish varies depending on your stock of pre-prepared items. A great opportunity to use pre-cooked/left-over chicken and rice, this all-in-one meal can be thrown together in 10 minutes with no cooking time at all.
  • If you don't have pre-cooked rice ready, a small amount like this goes quite quickly and easily in the microwave. Put about 1/4 cup in a microwavable bowl with 1/2 cup water and a dash of salt. Microwave for 5 minutes on 75% power. Stir a bit and repeat. If not finished after the second go, heat at full power for 1 minute intervals. *Note that microwave power/cook times vary and the final yield of cooked rice may be more than 1/2 a cup depending on the type of rice. Also, use real rice- not that boil-in-bag stuff.
  • Personally, I don't consider Ranch dressing very Greek, so I actually substitute yogurt mixed with a hefty dash of mint or coriander instead.
  • Also, the original version called for no rice, smaller portions and only 1 wrap each...but that version is diet and this one is one is a meal. That being said, I made the diet portion-sized ones the other night and as you can tell by the pictures, it's all a bit too much filling for just one tortilla each.


Avocado Melt

A simple avocado sauce gives a little gourmet edge to this otherwise ordinary sandwich. Load it up with plenty of veggies and this quick and simple burger is practically a meal!

And, as if to make up for last week, this sandwich turned out nice and ugly...

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 15min]


- 1/2 lb (250 grams) ground turkey or chicken
- 4 slices whole wheat or rye toast
- 1 small/medium avocado
- half a 3oz box of cream cheese (75 grams)
- a hefty dash of garlic powder (about 1tsp)
- leafy lettuce (butterhead, romaine, etc)
- 1 tomato
- 1/4-1/2 an onion
- slice of swiss cheese
- olive oil

  1. Separate the meat into two balls and flatten in out into round patties, as thin as possible.
  2. Put a touch of olive oil in a frying pan and grill the patties over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on each side. Add a slice of cheese to each when nearly finished cooking.
  3. While the meat cooks, slice the tomato and onion. Separate a few leaves from the lettuce, rinse and shake dry.
  4. Cut the avocado in half, seed and peal. Mash the avocado in a small bowl with the cream cheese and garlic powder.
  5. When the meat is finished, stack the patties on the bread with a good serving of lettuce, onion and tomato and top off with the avocado mixture.
  6. Rinse and dry the frying pan. Return the complete sandwiches to the pan, grill for a few minutes on each side and squish with a spatula.
  7. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]
Sauce inspired by Taste of Home: Simple & Delicious 
Zesty Garlic-Avocado Sandwiches

  • Once upon a time when I still lived in the US, we had a George Forman Grill. This would be a great little sandwich for a George Forman or a sandwich maker.
  • Like with guacamole, a very ripe, squishy avocado works best to make this sauce. My avocado was not so squishy, but the combination mixed up quite well when I microwaved it at 10 second intervals to soften it up.
  • Though this sandwich is loaded, you may hesitate to call it a full meal. I refuse to serve more carbs with a sandwich, so I served mine with raw, quickly sliced carrots...which I was able to work into the cooking time specified.

  • Those with a keen eye probably noticed that the sandwich pictured was made with beef. Ideally this would be made with ground turkey or chicken, but I had neither at the grocery store this week. For the record, it still tasted lovely with beef.
  • I did, however, want to add bacon and mushrooms after I tasted it. Mushrooms would be a cinch, but bacon obviously would add a lot of cooking time (and not be very healthy...). I have seen bacon cooked in a microwave, though...
  • For the vegetarians out there, this sandwich was originally made the same way, minus the meat. But I say, add a big 'ole portobello mushroom in place of the meat. Yummy.


Ham Pockets

I could not wait to try this recipe and it definitely lived up to expectations! Simple ingredients and a neat trick with refrigerated crescent rolls are the secret behind this speedy all-in-one dinner. No one will ever know you whipped it up in less than half an hour...

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 15min]


- 1 tube of large refrigerated croissant/crescent roll dough (usually 6 or 8 rolls)
- 1 1/2 cups of cubed, cooked ham (about 200-300 grams)
- 3-5 oz plain cream cheese (1 package)
- 1 Tbs mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup shredded cheese of choice
- 1 small can (4 oz) of mixed peas and corn
[or 1/2 of a 4oz can of each]

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F (190C) and unroll the croissant dough. Separate the dough into rectangles (do not split into individual triangles) and place on a baking sheet.
  2. Soften the cream cheese if necessary and mix in a large bowl with the mayonnaise and cheese. Add the ham, peas and corn and stir until evenly coated with the cheese mixture.
  3. Spoon the mixture evenly into the center of each rectangle of dough.
  4. Fold the edges of the dough into the center and seal. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home: Simple and Delicious
Corny Ham Bundles

  • Don't worry about how you fold up the dough, just generally close them up. It looks ugly going in the oven, but quite presentable coming out. I was really pleasantly surprised by how pretty mine turned out...almost too pretty for my ugly/messy food blog!

  • The original recipe called for a bit of ground mustard and celery seed to be stirred in with the cheese mixture. These are somewhat "odd" spices for me, so I skipped them. I'm sure they add a bit of punch, but we didn't miss them at my dinner table.
  • The original recipe also only used corn for veggies, but I really wanted this to be a meal, so I added peas and carrots. The peas helped in adding flavor in place of the spices I skipped, but the carrots added a somewhat unpleasant texture since they didn't cook much. If you want to add some chopped carrots, I recommend quickly cooking them (boil, pan-fry or even microwave) so that they're nice and soft. Note this will add quite a bit of cooking time, though.
  • Finally, the original version topped the dough with a bit of melted butter and crushed corn chips. Really not fond of unnecessary carbs, so I substituted grated parmesan cheese instead. Neither are actually necessary.


Ramen Noodle Stir Fry

I know I give ramen noodles a hard time, but I secretly love them. Like many people, they helped get me through college, and since then I've learned to put them to use as the secret ingredient behind many a quick and easy meal.

She doesn't know it, but I first learned the secret of "pumping up" ramen back when we were 18 and I watched one of my very best friends crack an egg in her instant noodles, sprinkle it with nutmeg and call it a meal. There's no rule that says you have to eat your ramen or cup noodles pure and out-of-the-package. Add some meat, or vegetables or even just an egg and suddenly you've nearly got yourself through dinner- or at least a quite decent lunch.

Of course, the best thing about ramen is the speed. Next to heat-and-eat udon, I don't think there's any other noodles out there that are ready to eat after only 3 minutes of boiling. So next time you're unsure what to throw together for dinner and you're reaching for that ramen packet, think about what quick and easy ingredients you have around that you can throw in to pump it up. You might be surprised what you come up with...

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 10min]


- 1/2 lb (250 grams) beef steak, any cut
- 2 packets beef ramen instant noodles (with seasoning packets)
- handful of baby carrots (about a cup)
- handful of snow or snap peas (about a cup)
- 1/2 can (about 4 oz) of water chestnuts
- dash pepper
- dash chili powder
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 1 Tbs olive oil

  1. Put a couple cups of water in a pot and set to boil.
  2. Meanwhile, slice the beef into thin-ish strips.
  3. Heat a large saucepan or wok. Once heated, add the oil, followed by the beef.
  4. Add the ramen noodles to the water which should be boiling. Put the seasoning packets aside. If your ramen comes with chili powder, sprinkle it on the beef. Otherwise, add your own pepper and chili powder to the beef.
  5. While the beef browns, rinse the baby carrots and cut them in half lengthwise, then cut them in half lengthwise again. Rinse the peas and throw them in with the beef whole, along with the sliced carrots.
  6. Slice the water chestnuts however you please and add to the pan as well. Stir fry the meat and veggies for a few minutes until the veggies become crisp-tender (about 5 minutes).
  7. Strain the water from the noodles and add them to the stir-fry. Drizzle the soy sauce and the seasonings from the ramen packet on top. Give it a good stir to mix everything up, then turn off the heat.
  8. Ready to eat!

[Serves 2]

Recipe adapted from Simple One Dish
Easy Asian Skillet and Quick 'n' Tangy Beef Stir-Fry

  • Obviously, you can make this with an assortment of meats. Though if you decide to use pork or chicken instead, I recommend using the pork or chicken ramen packets.
  • Part of what makes this recipe so quick and easy is the careful selection of easy-to-handle veggies. When using other veggies (particularly the popular broccoli), keep in mind that it will probably add to the prep time. Using a frozen variety will certainly help, but you may want to nuke the frozen veggies shortly in the microwave first, 'less you will need to stir-fry a bit longer. Alternatively, the original recipe says to use frozen veggies, but to boil them with the ramen before adding it all to the meat. Quite efficient, but boiled vegetables are icky.
  • As mentioned, probably the only thing faster than ramen noodles are udon noodles- yummy, thick [also] Japanese noodles that are easy to find pre-cooked. Udon is most often eaten in soup, but I've used them in a similar manner in stir-frys with great results.  


March Meals in Minutes

miniature fast food
miniature fast food uploaded by shimelle
Naturally, people often come to me and OntheFly in search of quick recipes. Though, I will be the first to admit that my recipes are not always fast. Easy, yes. Fast, ehhhh, sometimes.

Everyone [or, at least, many many people out there] want to whip up their meals as quick as possible. But here's the truth, as you'll never hear it from one of the hundreds of "fast recipe" cookbooks out there: cooking is just not a fast process. Unless you're vegetarian, no matter how simple your dish or ingredients are, the meat still has to be cooked...and if you are vegetarian, odds are you've got to chop a whole lot of vegetables.

I've used a lot of cookbooks, most of them quick-fixes, and after an hour of slaving over the stove, I often wonder how any of these books got published. Turns out I'm not alone in this thinking and even the queen of 30-minute meals, Rachel Ray, gets a bad rap for her meals not actually taking 30 minutes. Turns out you have to read the introduction where she carefully specifies that you "remember to chop up your vegetables" as soon as you get home from the store. Not only does that sound a bit excruciating, but a lot of veggies just are not going to last all week chopped up.

another hobby
another hobby uploaded by havankevin
The other major pitfall of quick-fix cookbooks is that they don't account for side dishes. Sure the main entree may take 20 minutes, but the side salad takes another 20 and the potatoes need to bake for an hour. Oops. So then it turns out that the truly quick recipe books make brilliant use of pre-cooked meat, pre-packaged rice-a-roni and all sorts of other pre-canned, pre-mixed, pre-packaged sauces and flavorings. To each their own, but with today's new age standards of healthy eating, even I'm afraid of overly-prepared and pre-processed foods. Most importantly, many of these things aren't even available outside of big bad USA.

Thus, I have come to the conclusion that quick cooking is a lifestyle. You're going to have to plan a little bit, and be a bit clever in re-using and maneuvering through your meals, but 30 minutes of planning on Sunday afternoon can help make your cooking a breeze all week long. If you can't bear to plan, then just remember to K.I.S.S. Grill a piece of meat (5min each side is a pretty standard bet) with some seasonings or pour on a simple sauce (soup bases are a great start), chop and grill some simple vegetables on the side while the meat cooks and throw a slice or two of toast in the oven. Done in no more than 20 minutes.

In the meantime, if you are willing to plan a bit, here are some tips to get you started cooking real, well-rounded meals fast:

1.  Manage Your Vegetables
Chopping vegetables is probably the single most time-consuming process of cooking. Conquer your veggies, and the rest of the meal is quite painless.
Farts, Eyes, Something
uploaded by trekkyandy
  • For the fastest vegetables, use frozen mixes. Unlike nearly everything else pre-packaged out there, frozen vegetables are actually good for you because they are usually frozen while the veggies are fresh- locking in the nutrients. The downsides are that frozen veggies won't have the nice, crisp texture that fresh do and pound for pound, they're more expensive.
  • Canned vegetables are the worst for you nutrient-wise, but most health experts will tell you that just eating your greens is good for you. My favorite veggies to get out of a can are peas, sliced mushrooms, french-cut green beans, water chestnuts and corn (if you consider it a vegetable).
  • Pre-prepare yourself. Every now and then I do take the Rachel Ray route and chop up a bunch of vegetables in one go-- usually when I notice something (like broccoli) is about to turn or if I'm already chopping a carrot, I may just finish the whole batch while I'm already at it. However, I freeze them when I'm done. Some things should probably never be done this way, though, like tomatoes, cucumbers or onions, but that's subject to opinion.
  • One of the most valuable lessons I learned from my mother was to make (ie: rinse and rip apart) enough salad greens as you'll eat in a week and put it in a salad-keeper. You'll still need to add things like tomatoes and onions the day of, but it saves a good chunk of time.
  • Befriend the easy-to-handle vegetables. Baby carrots are brilliant- just rinse and cook. Snow and snap peas can be just as easy, though you may want to quickly chop off the pointy tips. Baby spinach also just needs a good rinsing- usually no need to tear up. Tomatoes and mushrooms are quick and easy to slice and fresh green beans can be a breeze if you just master chopping off the tips in bulk.

2.  Make-ahead
This is where the planning comes in. If you're less picky about eating the same meal multiple times in a week, this can really help.

Getting Along Like Lemons and Oranges
Getting Along uploaded by Orin Zebest
  • Since most meals take roughly the same amount of time to cook no matter how many portions you make, make twice as much and doggy-bag half for another day. Meals usually last for three days in the refrigerator and weeks to months in the freezer. If you're really not fond of eating the same meal on Monday and Wednesday, then invest in some decent freezer tupperware and stock-pile a whole inventory of your own microwavable meals for future use.
  • You can also make-ahead individual elements. You've probably noticed that I like to say "dump in a serving of rice" in a lot of my recipes. When I make rice, I make as much as the rice-cooker will handle (the size of decent saucepan or about 2-3 bags worth of boil-in-bag rice). Then I either use it all week long, freeze it in meal-sized portions or both. You can do this with pasta, potatoes or vegetables as well.
  • I also like to prepare basic meats in bulk. E.g.: if I'm boiling and shredding chicken for use in one recipe, I'll make two meals worth and pack away the second half for another recipe later. This is most useful for unseasoned/generically seasoned meats that can later go into a casserole, pasta or a stir-fry.
  • Don't forget some of the most useful store-bought "made-ahead" meats: ham and sausage. Though sausage may have some questionable mix-ins, pre-cooked ham is a very reliable meat that need only be reheated.

3.  Make all-in-one meals.
One of my first and favorite cookbooks was Simple One Dish. Though the majority of the meals are not fast and use a lot of pre-packaged goods, the book taught me the highly useful art of turning one entree into a full and balanced meal.
Mmm...ham fried rice
ham fried rice uploaded by jeffryw
  • Sliced, seasoned meat cooks quickly and easily in a pan. Cook with some of the easy-to-chop vegetables and add rice, noodles or pasta for your carbohydrates and your major food groups are nicely packaged and ready to eat.
  • Take some of the pre-cooked meat you've been making from lesson 2 and layer it in a casserole dish with potatoes or rice and a can of soup of your choice. Bake for 20 minutes and you have a nearly instant casserole.
  • Other classic all-in-one meals are stir-frys, fried rice, pasta with meat and veggies (like spinach), soups and big, meaty sandwiches.

Happy Cooking!


Green Pea Soup

This is not quite the easiest soup I could post, but OH MY GOSH is it good. Split pea soup is my absolute favorite Dutch food- even more than cheese and baked goods. There is something just so brilliant about the blend of peas and pork. Plus its nickname is 'Snert' and what could be better and more appealing than a green blob called Snert?

Dutch split pea soup-- its full Dutch name being Erwtensoep --is a slightly tricky little delicacy to make. It involves boiling split peas with various cuts of pork (namely a big piece of bone-in ham or pork shoulder), taking out the pork, putting in vegetables, possibly pureeing and then putting the meat back in again. Certainly worth it, but I've simplified the process a bit and was very, very happy with the results. Unfortunately, though, I've just ruined Snert out-of-a-can (quite decent as it is) for myself probably for life now.

Anyway, the biggest change I've made is substituting real peas for split peas. I've researched this quite intently and while dried split peas are by far the most popular way to make soup, there's really just a few simple pros and cons to each...and for me real peas seemed easiest.

The biggest advantage to dried split peas is texture. Apparently they don't have skins and are a bit more starchy, and so more easily cook down into the appealing consistency of the soup. However, split peas should be soaked for a few hours (not necessary, but helps) and give off a frothy 'scum' in the soup that needs to be skimmed off early on in the boiling process. I'm also uncertain as to their availability outside of Holland.

Canned/frozen peas are just a bit more speedy and I didn't see any scum that needed skimming. The biggest issue is their shells which don't break off or let the peas break down easily during cooking. There are a couple ways to combat this (which I'll discuss later), but mine tasted just fine lumpy, ugly shells and all.

[Prep: 20min / Cook: 1.5 - 2hrs]


- 15oz can of green peas (400 grams)
- 2 1/2 cups / 500mL water
- 1/4 lb (125 grams) thick-cut bacon
- 1 pork chop [optional]
- 1/4 of a celeriac (celery root)
- 1 leek
- 1/2 white onion
- 2-3 carrots
- 2 small/medium white or yellow potatoes
- smoked country sausage (kielbasa, rookworst, etc)

  1. Briefly strain the peas and bring them to a boil in the water.
  2. Meanwhile, chop up the bacon and pork chop and throw it in with the peas.
  3. Chop up about 1/4 of a celery root. It'll be about a cup's worth once chopped. Slice the leek all the way down to the white base and slice half an onion. Add all to the soup.
  4. Let the soup cook for about an hour, stirring fairly frequently (about every 10 min). Crush the peas a bit with the spoon if you'd like.
  5. Slice the carrots, cube the potatoes and slice as much smoked sausage as you'd please. Add all to the pot and cook for about 30min - 1hr more, stirring every 10 min until the soup reaches your desired thickness/consistency.
  6. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2 for dinner or 2 twice as a side]
  • All the ingredients-- including dried split peas if I had been interested --are quite easy for me to find this time of year in Holland but may or may not be difficult elsewhere. If you can't find a celery root, you can use celery shoots, the flavor just won't be as strong. Make an effort to look for the root, though. Not only is it awesomely big, but it smells lovely.
  • Traditional split pea soup gets its great flavor from ham/pork with the bone in. Using bacon instead really helps with the flavor, but its worth trying with a bone. Since it's a winter soup, keep an eye out for the big family ham around the Holidays and instead of letting anyone throw the bone away, package it up and freeze it. Later you can throw it in this soup and just discard the bone when you're read to eat!
  • As mentioned, the biggest issue with using real peas and not dried split peas is that they don't break down as well in the soup. It tastes just fine but maybe doesn't look as appealing (b/c green goo looks appealing to begin with...). If you really want your real pea soup smoother, you can try one of these methods

    • Puree the peas in a blender/food processor either before you start, or after that first hour of cooking, before you add in the veggies & sausage (the meats, celeriac and leek will have cooked down quite a bit). 
    • OR you could pan-fry the peas and bacon first. Peas really squish down when you pan-fry them and it could actually cut down on your cooking time as well. Because the meat & pea flavors will have already melded, you can cut straight to the veggie & sausage hour after pan-frying.
  • They say this soup tastes better after sitting overnight in the fridge. Apparently it thickens and the flavors meld more. I can't know for sure-- my entire batch seemed to miraculously disappear last night --but I'd believe the Dutch!


OntheFly Hot and Sour Soup

When you see one of my recipes specifically labelled with "OntheFly" then you know that it is a true Megan Danna original on-the-fly creation. In this instance, I do this not to pat myself on the back for inventiveness in the kitchen but rather to distinguish that though this recipe mimics, it does not compare to the wonderfulness that is a true Schezwan hot and sour soup.

Real hot and sour soup is basically vegetarian (if you take egg) with tofu, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts or can be seafood-based with shrimp/prawns. It also uses cornstarch to thicken the broth, which- after a year of experimenting with it -I've decided is just too much trouble to even keep in my kitchen. If you've never had the pleasure of real hot and sour soup, take this recipe as a homemade introduction, but definitely keep an eye out for it next time you have Chinese!

What was so fun about this recipe was that on an otherwise distressful night where I had somehow managed to forget to plan dinner and found myself with just two pork chops and a dare by my boyfriend to turn them into soup, I was struck by inspiration and was somehow able to throw this together entirely with staple ingredients in my kitchen. Which makes this awesome spicy soup entirely within anyone's grasp!

[Prep: 10min / Cook: 30min]


- 2 pork chops
- 2 1/2 cups (500mL) chicken broth / water with stock cube
- 1 Tbs soy sauce
- 1 Tbs white vinegar
- a hefty dose of chili powder (abt 1 Tbs)
- black pepper (abt 1 tsp)
- 1 tsp Sambal chili paste OR chili flakes (the pizza topping) 
- 2-3 medium carrots
- 2-3 white mushrooms
- 1/2 an onion
- 2 eggs
- a tiny chunk of ginger (abt 1/2 inch of the root)
- 2 servings cooked rice
- a dash of coriander

  1. Bring the broth, soy sauce, vinegar, chili powder, pepper and chili to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the pork chops into thin slices and add to the broth.
  3. Cut the carrots and mushrooms into long, thin-ish slices (julienne if you will) and chop the onions and ginger as much as possible.
  4. Add the veggies to the pot, turn down the heat and let simmer for about half an hour.
  5. When the half hour is finished, crack the eggs in a small bowl and scramble. Turn the heat off the soup, drop in the egg and lightly swirl it around a bit. Serve over rice or with the rice on the side and garnish with a dash of coriander.
  6. Ready to eat!
[Serves 2]
  • You don't have to use pork, of course. You could go without meat or substitute shrimp instead. If you do use pork, though, try to get have it as thin as possible. Here they have great thin "schnitzel" cuts of pork that all I have to do is quickly chop into a few pieces. Otherwise, you can get a couple thick pork chops and cut it into thin strips.
  • My proportions are a bit on the spicy side. You may want to start lighter.
  • I realize ginger is probably not a "staple" for most people. It's not really essential, but it lends a good balance to the soup. Ginger is cheap and lasts for weeks, have fun and grab a root!


Veggie Soup à la Rani

In the first of what I hope are many submissions by friends and OntheFly readers, I'm happy to present my dear friend Rani's veggie soup. Rani is a far better cook than I am, so I am very grateful that he sent this recipe my way for soup month. He's also a bit of a 'closet chef', so if you like this recipe, do take a second to show your appreciation in the comments or on Facebook so that I may have more ammunition when encouraging him to go to culinary school.

And if you would like to send me easy, flying recipes of your own, I'm happy to announce that this week I've activated a new email account to receive your submissions:

[Prep: 10-20min* / Cook: 15min-2hrs**]
*depends on your chopping skills
**all veggie, so edible when boiled, but flavors improve with prolonged cooking

- 4 cups (1L) beef broth
- 4 zucchinis
- 4 celery stalks
- 3 carrots
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 butternut squash
- 1/2 cup of bean sprouts
- 3 tsp each pepper, cumin, coriander, ginger root
- 2 tsp each salt, garlic powder, oregano,
- 1 tsp chili powder

- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 Tbsp each cilantro and parsley
- 1 Tbsp sage
- 3 tsp basil

1.  Get the broth boiling (or dissolve a beef bouillon cube in water to make beef broth) and start chopping the veggies. Discard bell pepper seeds and thoroughly rinse the bean sprouts.  Set the onion aside.
2.  Dump the veggies into the top with all the beautiful spices.
3.  As that all gently boils, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onions with the herbs from the second portion of the ingredients list until the onion turns clear. Dump in the pot with all the rest.
4.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook until veggies reach desired softness and broth is flavorful.
5.  Ready to eat!
[Serves 2, twice]

  • This isn't quite vegetarian because of the use of beef broth, but if vegetarian is what you desire, you can- of course -swap out veggie broth for the beef.
  • If you're like me- not a vegetarian and want your soup to be as much of a full meal as possible -I would add cubed beef tips (or any other decent stewing beef) in the beginning. Add some toast and you're meal is done!
  • OR really make it a meal and add cubed potatoes, orzo or rice and have a hearty stew.


ABC Soup

It's funny. When I look up this soup, every entry I find starts the exact same way it was initially described to me: "I don't know why it's called ABC Soup, and there really aren't any rules on what to put in it...".

So here's my official prognosis: ABC Soup is just an easy soup of left-over veggies and a bit of meat. If you have vegetable scraps and a piece of chicken breast sitting around in your fridge, you can make this soup. It really is a fantastic solution for when you just need to eat.

This is also [make note because this may not happen again] my boyfriend's recipe-- sort of. He taught it to me about a year or so ago when he wanted to make dinner one night, and I gradually tweaked the recipe until it reached its current state. Sometimes the vegetables change depending on what's in my fridge, and I've been using rice a lot more than potatoes, but here's the general idea:

[Prep: 5-20min* / Cook: 30min - 4hrs**]
*depending on your vegetable chopping skills and desired level of "choppiness"
**cooked in 30, but broth tastes best the longer you go

- 500 mL (about 2 cups) chicken broth or water with a chicken bullion/stock cube
- 2 chicken breasts or 1/2lb+ other chicken parts
- 1 tsp of cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp of black pepper
- 1/2 tsp coriander/cilantro

An array of veggies:
- 1 onion, quartered
- 2-3 white or champanion mushrooms, sliced
- 2-3 carrots, cut into big chunks
- 2 small/medium tomatoes cut into quarters or eights
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced/chopped
- a few slices of ginger
- a couple small yellow/white potatoes, cut into big chunks

1.  Bring the broth to a boil over high heat and chop your veggies. Dump veggies into the pot.
2.  Cut chicken breast down to manageable sizes if desirable. [I completely skip this step if I'm cooking the soup for an hour or more]
3.  Add the chicken to the pot. Wait for the soup to return to a rolling boil, reduce the heat to medium or medium low, cover and let simmer for 30min to several hours, depending on your preference.
4.  Ready to eat!

  • A couple recipes make this with pork ribs or tips. I was taught with chicken, so mine is chicken-based.
  • The broth tastes better when you use the dark meat and pieces on the bone...the trade-off is having to pick bones out of your soup.
  • This soup is already an all-in-one meal with the meat and veggies and potatoes, but if you want to add more carbs, or just swap out rice for potatoes, you can stir in cooked white/brown rice right before serving. You could cook the rice right in with the soup, but this would require a bit more care and water.


Soothing Soups

Ginger Chicken Soup
Ginger Chicken uploaded by satakieli
With snow almost coming down on my home town last week, it seems like no one can escape winter this year. And with February usually making me shiver (musical reference intended), it's probably the perfect time to explore some nice warm soups and stews.

Fact: drinking a bowl of chicken soup will help you overcome a little winter cold. Actually, most soups will probably help you battle that cold-- not for any magical ingredients in the broth, but the extra dose of liquid goes a long way in helping your body when you're sick. Sometimes there's really something to those old home-remedies.

Now how does something that has to sit on the stove for hours end up on OntheFly? Well...

They're Quick and Easy

A soup can cook in as little as 30 minutes ... or even less if your meat is pre-cooked or you're going vegetarian. And even if you opt to really simmer away your soup for a couple hours or more, it doesn't get much simpler than throwing everything in a pot and walking away for a few hours of television or Facebooking.

I just love to make a big 'ole pot of something on Monday night, seal up the left-overs and eat it again for lunch or dinner later on in the week. If you don't like eating the same thing more than once in a week, one easy way to mix things up is to add in rice or pasta on the second night or even add new vegetables or seasonings.

They Can be All-in-One Meals

What I really like best about soups is that you can really turn them into a whole meal. Once you've put in rice/pasta, meat and veggies, you're set! And if you really want to go low-impact, you can cheat and use a pre-made soup base like tomato, cheese, cream of chicken/celery/mushroom and just add to it. Remember the tomato soup stew?

Tomato & Basil Soup with Tortellini
Tomato & Basil Soup with Tortellini uploaded by nettsu
Make Quick Fixes with Basic 
Soup Mixes

Similarly, here are some ways to work with pre-made condensed soups or instant soups:
  • tomato soup +  spiral pasta, peperoni and mozzarella cheese
  • cheese/cream of broccoli soup + broccoli, onions, cubed chicken/ham, potatoes
  • cream of mushroom soup + frozen peas & carrots, cubed chicken, bacon bits
  • vegetable soup + potatoes or rice, cubed beef/pork, even more veggies

Embrace Ramen

Ramen uploaded by barron
I know I give ramen noodles a lot of crap, but they can be quite useful. Take your basic ramen and throw in shredded lettuce & cabbage and cooked chicken, then top it all off by cracking an egg into it. Suddenly the dorm room staple is actually dinner! You can do other cool things with ramen like turning it into a stir-fry, but that's a recipe for another day...

Go Homemade All-the-Way

And finally, once you become thoroughly convinced with the ease of jazzing up Campbell's and Ramen,  try your hand at making the entire soup, broth and all from scratch. Check out my best bud Rachel's very timely post this week on making homemade chicken broth using chicken and vegetable scraps that you pack away in your freezer and then put to good use making a yummy soup base.

Happy Cooking!
Alphabet Soup


Smoothie Madness!

Is it just me, or are smoothies very "in" these days? At any rate, while it may be a little too cold this winter to be thinking about smoothies, a month of breakfast just would not be complete without them.

Now I know I spend a lot of time here mentioning ways to add more vegetables to your meals, but I will be the first to admit that I fall quite behind on my fruit promotions. That's why MY New Year's resolution was to eat more fruit...and have a bowl of seaweed every day (but more on that later.) So aside from having a banana every morning and an orange with my lunch, I've been smoothie-loading every weekend this year ("year"- hah).

Another thing I know I say a lot is "you can put almost anything in this...blah blah blah". Well, here I go: you can put anything, ANYTHING in a smoothie. Even your iPhone, as one of the most popular internet videos of all time has demonstrated here. Ok, but seriously, depending on what kind of mood you're in, you can put a lot of crazy *stuff in a smoothie. Fruits, of course, are the most popular, but you can also get kinky and creative. My boyfriend's even been trying to sneak oatmeal into one of our weekend concoctions all month...which can be done, I just don't like oatmeal.

So however you feel like experimenting, just keep in mind that a smoothie usually needs a few key parts: something creamy, something frozen, something liquid and all the crazy *stuff you want to flavor it with. "Creamy" can be yogurt, ice cream or even milk; though this is the part that's the most optional.  2nd most optional is the "frozen". LOTS of recipes call for ice cubes. I don't like ice cubes (they don't "add" anything and can water it down) so instead I freeze pieces of fruit. You can buy frozen fruit, of course-- and even smoothie-ready packs nowadays --I just find both needlessly expensive. And you can go completely un-frozen...just a different texture. Liquid you can't skip out on, however, 'less your smoothie won't blend. Try to go for fruit juices that complement your selected flavors, and when in doubt, use apple juice.

Finally, there are two key questions that everyone always asks about smoothies: 1- How do you know how much *stuff to put in? and 2- Can you make them ahead of time and store them? Well...
  1. At some point you'll get a natural feel for it, but when I need help, I take the glass I'm going to use and fill it about 1/2-2/3 full with stuff (ie: fruit). Your "creamy" and liquid portions can then be added directly to the blender as necessary to blend. You may be surprised how much this adds to the size of your smoothie.
  2. Not really, but yes. Refrigerating gets you nothing-- depending on how long it's in there, it will gradually melt and separate. Freezing will give you a solid mess which can then only be salvaged by very quick 10sec microwaving and then eating with a spoon. Not ideal. One fun idea may be to stick a popsicle stick in your glass before freezing and then eat it like a popsicle. Yes, embrace your inner child. 

Given the vast array of smoothie concoctions imaginable, the following are a cross-sectioning of different smoothie types that I've been working on that can hopefully be used as inspiration.  Note that based on the two points above, the "recipes" below stray from my usual method and made for ONE. Multiply as necessary.

Very Berry
The Classic Smoothie

The most popular and probably the prettiest, everyone wants to take Very Berry to the prom. Lots of recipes call for mixing multiple berries in this one, but since only blueberries seem to be in season for me, here's my adaptation. Also, beware of frozen blueberries- some blenders can't handle 'em.

- 1/2 an apple
- 1/2 an orange
- ~1/4 cup of blueberries (frozen/fresh)
- 1/2 cup of cranberry juice
- 2 heaping Tbs of yogurt (plain or vanilla)

Peanut Butter Cup
The Body-Builder Smoothie

The recipe I based this one on called for yogurt, but I wasn't a big fan of that flavor. I used milk as the liquid base and that turned out well, so next time I'm looking forward to no yogurt or substituting ice cream instead (hey, this is meant to be eaten after you work out, right...) And if you're not into protein powder, drizzle chocolate sauce or honey instead.

- 1/2 a banana (frozen/fresh)
- 2 heaping Tbs of smooth peanut butter
- 1 Tbs chocolate-flavored protein powder
- 1/2 cup milk/soy milk
- 1-2 Tbs yogurt (plain or vanilla)

Orange Creamsicle
The Dessert Smoothie

One of my all-time favorite flavors...just had to develop it. You can take this a few directions: Substituting yogurt for the ice cream will give you more health, less dessert, and while with the family this Christmas, I discovered that substituting a Boost drink for the ice cream or yogurt was quite good. I also used to make these in my cafe with orange soda instead of orange dessert mode there, but oh so yummy. And finally, I used apple juice the other day 'cause I didn't have any orange around, and it gave the drink a nice "fizzy" flavor.

- 1 orange (preferably frozen)
- 1/2 a mango
- 1/2 cup orange juice (or orange soda or milk or wtv...)
- a couple scoops of ice cream

[okay, may end up being more than one serving...]

Green Meanie
The Bizzaro Health-Food Smoothie

OK, this may sound and look and smell funny, but if you like seaweed (which I do...) this is actually an interesting & decent drink. Also, seaweed is supposed to be incredibly good for keeping your skin youthful and rumor has it Posh Spice used to drink something similar before concerts. There are lots of other green smoothies out there (I'm not entirely crazy) that use spinach, kale, avocado and, of course, wheatgrass... so don't be afraid to throw in some veggies and get your green on...

- 1/4 cup re-hydrated wakame seaweed (it comes dried and needs to be soaked-- use only a tiny bit 'cause it plumps up A LOT)
- 1/4 cup cubed cucumber (frozen)
- 1/2 an apple
- 1/2 cup apple juice
- 1 Tbs yogurt (plain or vanilla)