About food

By Alan Koenigsberg, M.D.

Many years ago, before children, before marriage, I was single, as many of us were. It’s been a while and I have mostly vague memories of that time, but a piece of that era in my life was rekindled recently during our cold spell.

Cold weather reminds me of my youth. As I recall these recipes, I thought I would share them. Hopefully some of them trigger good memories for you, too.

We wanted simple, hot, filling meals to warm and feed us; memories returned of making grilled cheese sandwiches, hot soup and hot bologna sandwiches.

I fondly remember my mother making those easy meals when my brother and I were young and they did indeed fill us. With the advent of a microwave, I believe I have upped the ease and flavor of these time-tested foods.

For grilled cheese, I take two slices of reasonably fresh white bread and pile on several slices of Swiss cheese, provolone or cheddar between them. On rare occasions, when I feel adventurous, I’ll combine a few varieties of those cheeses. I then put the sandwich into the microwave to melt the cheese. While I’m melting the cheese, I melt some butter in a frying pan. When the cheese is thoroughly melted, I then grill the sandwich in the pan.

When we used to heat the sandwich only in the frying pan, the bread would burn before the cheese would melt. By melting the cheese first, we wind up with amazing grilled cheese sandwiches.

Using a similar strategy, I put the bologna or salami sandwich in the microwave and melt butter or margarine in the pan. I grill the sandwich in much the same way and enjoy a flavorful sandwich. Since I like my bologna sandwich with mustard, I put that on the sandwich before I heat it.

To round out the meal, I have found that either a salad or soup works perfectly for me and my family.

Robust, filling salads are easy to make. Cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, red peppers, black olives, avocado, sliced hard-boiled egg, topped with some olive oil and vinegar, are simple and tasty.

We also use various kinds of prepared soups in cans that can be opened and heated up in a small pot in minutes.

Another simple food I learned to cook was chicken breasts. I buy a large package of chicken breasts, even the thick ones, heat up my stainless steel pan, put olive oil in it and let it heat up. I add general amounts of onion powder, garlic powder, fresh ground pepper and salt and fry the breasts. 

I carefully watch over them, since they can burn easily. I use tongs to turn them over every few minutes and in about five or six minutes, they are thoroughly cooked throughout and are delicious.

With steamed rice and a salad, you have a complete, tasty meal.

Those chicken breasts are the one food my boys actually ask me to make, as they tell me they taste really good.

Keeping some staples on hand makes life a lot easier. I boil six eggs every Sunday, make a pot of rice and keep the ingredients for salads.

Most mass-produced bread will last a while if refrigerated.

For older bread, I make French toast, which the French actually call “pain perdu,” which means “lost bread.”

I use a glass Pyrex, crack in six whole eggs, milk, cream, maple syrup and vanilla. I stir it up for a bit, while I’m heating two nonstick skillets with ample butter. I dunk the bread in the mixture and fry up the bread.

Since I like fruit with this, I cut up apples, pears, oranges, strawberries and whatever is in season, beforehand.

Another breakfast for a happy family!

Alan Koenigsberg, M.D., is a practicing psychiatrist and clinical professor of psychiatry at UTSW Medical School in Dallas. He can be reached at akoenigsberg@mac.com.

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