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  • Kara Kimbrough

Kara's Sights and Bites: Worried about the economy? Make your own fast food/takeout favorites

By Kara Kimbrough


Kara's Sights and Bites: Worried about the economy? Make your own fast food/takeout favorites
Homemade pepperoni pizza can be prepared and baked in minutes.

Disclaimer: I’m a big supporter of restaurants. I enjoy visiting and writing about them, especially family-owned ones. And on occasion, I frequent fast food places. But as you’ve likely heard from news reports on the state of the economy, fast food and some restaurant prices have risen along with most other food items. While I’m not advocating a boycott of any business that's struggling to survive, I can offer a temporary solution to the problem...


   Until the economy stabilizes, make your own fast-food and restaurant takeout favorites.


   No judgement, please: Hardee’s, Raising Cane’s and Krystal are the primary places I frequent when time is short and I need to eat something NOW. This is especially true when I’m on the road and in a hurry. Hardee’s burgers are usually hot, thick and juicy and are served on buns that don’t fall apart. Raising Cane’s combo of fried chicken tenders, fries and bread, along with its famous Cane’s sauce, is probably not the healthiest choice, but I defy anyone who says it's not absolutely delicious.  


    And Krystal’s iconic burgers need no explanation or justification…they’re simply addictive. I stand firm on that statement.


     I haven’t figured out a way to replicate my favorites, but have collected a few fast-food and takeout copycat recipes that actually taste better and are probably healthier when made at home. Until prices level off (we can dream, right?), I’ll periodically share a few of my favorite copycat recipes. 


    To get things started, here are three classics that are easy to throw together, require minimal cooking time in a hot kitchen and if I do say so myself, taste as good (in some cases, better) than the take-out version.


Two Varieties of the BEST Homemade Pizza

Pizza crust mix (can be found in a box or package at most supermarkets in the baking aisle or in the dairy case next to canned biscuits) OR you can use premade pizza crust

1 pound of mozzarella (can use either fresh or packaged/grated variety

Olive oil

Toppings: Pizza sauce (homemade or store bought), pepperoni slices, sliced ham, pesto (homemade or store bought), sundried tomatoes


    Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray round pizza pan with cooking spray (I like Cuisinart’s pizza pan instead of a stone). Make pizza crust according to the variety you’re using. If using a mix, most require time to rise. To make the crust extra crispy, roll dough ball in a little olive oil before rolling out. Roll out dough and place on pan, extending to edges. I brush olive oil around the edges to make it extra crispy. If the package directions say dough needs prebaking, bake accordingly. I usually don’t prebake crusts when using a mix.


    Pepperoni: Spread pizza sauce over top of crust, followed by mozzarella (use as much or little as you’d like). Cover top thoroughly with pepperoni, then bake at 450 degrees for 12-15 minutes, watching carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn.


   Ham and pesto: Spread pesto over crust, followed by mozzarella. Bake in oven for a few minutes, then remove and add sliced ham pieces and sun-dried tomatoes. Return to oven and bake for remainder of time.


Easy Takeout-Style Beef and Broccoli

1 pound flank steak

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

3-4 cups broccoli florets, defrosted if using frozen

Sauce ingredients:

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/2 cup water

1/2 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

Cooked rice (prepare beforehand, as the dish itself cooks quickly)

Seasonings to taste: crushed red pepper flakes, ground black pepper or your favorites


     To prep the steak, trim off any fat and slice across the grain into thin bite-size pieces. Add sauce ingredients to a bowl and whisk together thoroughly.


     Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a large skillet over high heat. Let the pan heat up for a few minutes.


Add the broccoli and cook for 4-5 minutes, tossing/stirring often. Transfer to a plate.


    Add the remaining tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet. Add the beef in a single layer and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Stir/flip it with cooking tongs and cook for a couple more minutes or until cooked to desired doneness. Due to its thinness, meat will cook fast and will easily overcook.


     Add broccoli back to the pan and pour the sauce in. Stir/toss until coated and the sauce has thickened (about 1-3 minutes). Take the skillet off the heat and serve immediately over cooked rice.


Homemade Chicken Fried Rice and Vegetables

3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce divided, plus additional to taste

2 tablespoons canola oil or peanut oil, divided

1-pound boneless, skinless chicken breast (bite-sized 1-inch pieces)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

3 cups chopped fresh vegetables of choice (if using frozen Asian-style, thaw completely)

12- ounces frozen peas and carrots, thawed

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 1/2 cups COLD cooked brown rice (make ahead and refrigerate) 

4 medium green onions, chopped

Seasonings: crushed pepper flakes, hot sauce of choice (optional)


   Heat 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot, about 2 minutes. Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and swirl to coat bottom of pan. Add eggs, cook without stirring, about 20 seconds. Using spatula, scramble and break the eggs into small, bite-sized pieces. Continue to cook, stirring constantly now, until eggs are just cooked through. Transfer eggs to a bowl and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean.


     Return skillet to the heat and increase the heat to high. Let the skillet warm, about 1 minute. Add 1 tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat. Add chicken and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is fully cooked through, about 4 minutes. Remove to the bowl with the eggs.


    Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet. Add the fresh vegetables and cook until they are crisp-tender, 4-5 minutes. Add the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter and peas and carrots. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds (do not let garlic burn!). Add the brown rice and the soy sauce. Continue cooking, stirring constantly and breaking up any rice clumps, until the mixture is heated through, about 2 minutes. Add the reserved eggs/chicken and green onions. Cook and stir until the mixture is completely heated through, about 1 minute more. Season with red pepper flakes or dash of hot sauce (optional) and additional soy sauce as desired.


 Kara Kimbrough is a syndicated food and travel writer and travel agent from Mississippi. Email her at kkprco@yahoo.com.


 






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