Mug Meals

Mug meals. Make your meal, in a mug. In the microwave. What could be easier?

I was approached by Robert Rose Inc. a publisher of cookbooks and given a choice selection of cookbooks to review. One of the choices, and I’ll admit the least appealing of my selections, was one titled, “250 Best Meals in a Mug“. My initial thoughts were negative because I felt an individual meal for one, in a mug, is not very helpful when there are two people living together in happy harmony. I also thought the meals would be unappetizing, made with processed pre-made foods, and not very pretty to look at.

However, in the spirit of my Twitter account tag line @walshcooks, “Everything. At least once”, I thought I better give it a try. So I did. Am I ever glad I did.

The first recipe I tried was poaching an egg. In a mug of water.  With a bit of vinegar. In the microwave. Because of special laws and regulations I cannot share the method with you because that would be WRONG in the eyes of the publisher and the author. But I can tell you this. It was as simple as putting a bit of water in a mug adding a drop of vinegar and adding a cracked egg. Then putting it in the microwave. The result of my first attempt was PERFECT, providing you like a hard egg yolk. My second attempt had a softer yolk, which is my preference. Poached eggs are vexing, and I’m more than happy to continue my quest for the perfect poached egg. Here’s a picture of my first poached egg attempt using the instructions in the “250 Best Meals in a Mug” cookbook:

P1020484P1020487P1020488The thing of it is though, even if you aren’t a fan of a hard-cooked egg, but ARE a fan of egg salad sandwiches and want to make an egg sandwich for your own lunch, you could purposely hard-cook your poached egg, and in more than minute and less than two minutes, you could have the perfect cooked egg for the sandwich, without the bother of listening to Julia Child by boiling up a bunch of eggs, take them off the heat, cover, and let them sit for 17 minutes, and then peel and peel and peel the eggs.  You couldn’t use this meal in a mug method for a church lunch of egg salad sandwiches. Nope. But for YOUR lunch, at work that day, you could.

And this is where I get really excited. The recipes in this cookbook are perfect for taking to lunch at work, especially when you have to worry only about your own lunch because you have an independent spouse who can forage the wilds for his own lunch. If he actually decides to eat lunch that is. My hubby is able to survive on a single banana and cups of tea until supper time. AND he remains civil, fun-loving and humourous. I’m grouchy five seconds after breakfast and counting the seconds to my morning snack. I digress.

The next recipe I tried from this cookbook was “Spiced Lentils with Yogurt, Almonds & Mint”. Here’s a professional photo:

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

And here is the official recipe, I got permission you see. So let me hand you off to the author, Camilla V. Saulsbury:

Spiced Lentils with Yogurt, Almonds & Mint, page 164, Meatless Mains

Zesty tomatoes and chiles, warm spices and earthy lentils are the stars of this lively vegetarian mug. A trio of toppings − yogurt, almonds and fresh mint − heightens the wow factor.

16-oz (500 mL) mug
1 cup rinsed drained canned lentils 250 mL
1⁄2 can (10 oz/285 mL) diced 1⁄2 tomatoes with green chiles, with juice
1⁄2 tsp ground cumin 2 mL
1⁄4 tsp ground ginger 1 mL
1⁄8 tsp hot pepper sauce 0.5 mL
1 tbsp plain Greek yogurt 15 mL
1 tbsp chopped roasted salted almonds 15 mL
2 tsp chopped fresh mint 10 mL

Suggested Accompaniment
Warm naan, pita or flour tortilla

In the mug, combine lentils, tomatoes, cumin, ginger and hot pepper sauce.

Microwave on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes or until hot. Top with yogurt and sprinkle with almonds and mint. Serve with a suggested accompaniment, if desired.

If available, you can use vacuum-packed lentils in place of canned ones. They are typically found in the produce section, near the tofu products.

Canned black beans or pinto beans can be used in place of the lentils.

An equal amount of chopped fresh parsley or cilantro, or minced fresh chives, can be used in place of the mint.

Freeze the remaining tomatoes in a small sealable freezer bag for future use. Be sure to label the bag with the contents. Store for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or microwave before using.

Prep Ahead Option
Combine the lentils, tomatoes, cumin, ginger and hot pepper sauce in the mug; cover and refrigerate. Measure the yogurt, almonds and mint into a small airtight container; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back. I feel so… pure…. giving credit where credit is due. Now. The moment you all are waiting to see. How did MY version work out? Here’s the real life version pre-cooked:

P1020492 I need to explain that I don’t have a mug (16 oz) big enough to make these meals in. But I do have a 2 cup Pyrex that works beautifully. I also couldn’t find diced tomatoes with chilies. Instead, I used one of the many abundant cans of plain diced tomatoes I have in our storage cupboard sort of in Mormon fashion, “just in case” of alien invasion, end of man-kind, Revelations sort of action. I mean, a girl has to be prepared, and nothing says prepared more than a storage cupboard full of canned diced tomatoes. Anyway… as I have many cans of diced tomatoes, I didn’t really try that hard to find diced tomatoes with chilies. Instead, I picked up a small tin of jalapeno peppers in the Mexican section of the grocery store. I diced these up and added it to the diced toms. I mixed the stuff up, stuck it in the microwave and cooked it. Here’s the end result (without the yogurt… I’m on a dairy free kick right now):

P1020493And this is where I got really excited. I mean REALLY EXCITED. I’m always looking for satisfying healthy options to eat at lunch. I’m not a fan of left overs. But here, after trying this recipe, I had my lunch. As you can see in the picture above, I dumped the lentils into a Glad-ware container, and took it to work for my lunch that day. It was perfect! Not as pretty as the professional photo, but it was delicious, satisfying and super-easy to make.

This is going to be a long blog. I hope you stay with me. Because I am honestly super-excited about this whole prospect of meals in a 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup and taking it to work for your lunch!!

The next recipe I tried, and was even MORE impressed with was…. Pesto Chicken Couscous… (and I now hand it over officially to the publisher/author):

PestoChickenCouscousMealsMug 2
Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Pesto Chicken Couscous, page 46, Fast & Easy 4-Ingredients or Less

Keep a jar of basil pesto in the refrigerator − it will guarantee a multitude of tasty meals in minutes, 24/7. Need proof? Try this delicious couscous and chicken mug.

16-oz (375 to 500 mL) mug
1⁄2 cup water 125 mL
1⁄2 cup couscous 125 mL
1⁄2 can (5 oz/142 g) or 45 mL water-packed 1⁄2 chunk chicken, drained and flaked
3 tbsp basil pesto
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese 15 mL

In the mug, microwave water on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes or until water is boiling. Stir in couscous. Cover with a plate and let stand for 5 minutes.

Fluff couscous with a fork. Stir in chicken and pesto. Microwave on High for 1 to 11⁄2 minutes or until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Pesto Chickpea Couscous: Replace the chicken with 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) drained rinsed canned chickpeas.

Red Pepper and Pesto Chicken Couscous: Add 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) chopped drained roasted red bell peppers (from a jar) with the chicken.

Either regular or whole wheat couscous can be used.

Freeze the remaining chicken in a small sealable freezer bag. Be sure to label the bag with the contents. Store for up to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator or microwave before using.

You can replace the canned chicken with 1⁄2 cup (125 mL) diced cooked or deli chicken or turkey.

Prep Ahead Option
Measure the couscous into a small airtight container; store at room temperature. Measure the chicken and pesto into a small airtight container; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back….. canned chicken creates too much of a negative visceral reaction, so I opted instead to buy one of those pre-cooked chickens you see/smell at the entrance to Safeway. To you, mass cooked Safeway chickens might cause an unpleasant visceral reaction, so IF you have the time and money, cook up your own free-range, hormone free, angel kissed chicken, and use the left overs for this recipe.

I loved this recipe, and didn’t tire of it. I made if for three lunches in a row, and can’t wait to make this recipe again. Here’s how it looked in my reality:

The couscous
The chopped pre-roasted Safeway chicken
The best Pesto I could find in Safeway. Of course, the BEST pesto ever is the pesto you make yourself, or buy from Strathcona’s Farmers Market.
Quite pleased with my 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup. This is pre-warmed.
This is post-warmed, with fresh Parmesan cheese in the handy Glad-ware tub to take to work for lunch.

Now…. best for last. This probably isn’t the best idea to take to lunch at work, but say you are excited because you have a Sunday brunch planned with your spouse, friend, secret lover and suddenly it’s cancelled! SHOCK. And all morning you have been anticipating something rich and delicious which is typically brunch-ish. Well. Here’s what you do….. back to Camila:

FrenchToastMealsMug 2
Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

French Toast, page 85, Breakfast

I’m a firm believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, not just for the usual reasons, but also simply because the offerings − from bacon to cheesy eggs to cinnamon rolls − are so scrumptious. French toast proves my point. With the help of a mug and the microwave, it’s now an any-day option, even on the busiest mornings. Don’t forget the syrup!

16-oz (500 mL) mug
1 tbsp granulated sugar 15 mL
1⁄8 tsp salt 0.5 mL
1⁄8 tsp ground cinnamon 0.5 mL
1 large egg
1⁄2 cup milk 125 mL
1⁄4 tsp vanilla extract (optional) 1 mL
11⁄4 cups bread cubes (preferably stale) or small plain croutons 300 mL

Suggested Accompaniments
Confectioners’ (icing) sugar; pure maple syrup; butter

In the mug, use a fork to whisk sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg, milk and vanilla (if using) until very well blended. Add bread cubes, stirring and pressing them down into the custard to absorb the liquid. Let stand for at least 15 minutes (so the bread absorbs the liquid). Press bread down with a fork to compact.

Microwave on High for 11⁄2 to 21⁄2 minutes (checking at 11⁄2) or until firm to the touch and liquid is absorbed. Serve with any of the suggested accompaniments, as desired.

Orange Marmalade French Toast: Replace the sugar with an equal amount of orange marmalade.

Buttermilk French Toast: Replace the milk with buttermilk, and replace the cinnamon with a pinch of ground nutmeg.

Banana French Toast: Reduce the milk to 1⁄4 cup (60 mL) and add 1⁄3 cup (75 mL) mashed very ripe banana. Replace the sugar with packed brown sugar.

Add up to 2 tbsp (30 mL) raisins or chopped dried fruit, or 1 tbsp (15 mL) miniature semisweet chocolate chips with the bread.

Prep Ahead Option
Whisk the sugar, salt, cinnamon, egg, milk and vanilla (if using) in the mug, then add the bread cubes; cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Courtesy of 250 Best Meals in a Mug by Camilla V. Saulsbury © 2014 Reprinted with publisher permission.

Cathy back….. O.M.G. this works so well. Now…. my pictures just don’t do it justice at all, but O.M.G….. PMSing? Craving richness? Sweetness? Butteryness? I can’t tell you how perfect this is, how easy it is to make, and how yummy and satisfying it tastes. Here’s my pictures:

Pre-cooked mush
Post-cooked mush on presentation plate.
Split for sharing, buttered and maple-syruped to sooth the most ornery of dispositions.

I tried something new by following the recipes in “250 Best Meals in a Mug”, and am deeply satisfied and thrilled to have learned how to make instant meals (for one). I hope you will give these recipes a try as well.

One Comment Add yours

  1. debrashewhoseeks says:

    You have persuaded me. I simply MUST obtain a copy of this book. Thanks!

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