If you can make cookies in the car, why can’t you make lasagna in the mailbox?
This was the thought that propelled me forward on my next wild experiment. If global warming is going to get worse, I can only get weirder in response.
Why Lasagna In A Mailbox?
Many news stations like to offer this tantalizing idea as a quirky way to lighten the mood when oppressive summer heat sets in. The earliest reference I can find to it is from 2019, attributing it to the Nation Weather Service, but I can’t find that original reference. What’s more alarming is that despite being re-posted and shared thousands of times, I couldn’t find evidence that anyone had actually tried it. That’s where I come in.
The idea is that by prepping your meal in advance, stuffing it in a hot mailbox all day, it would bake though pure solar power, keeping the kitchen cool and saving electricity. I’m dubious that the actual cost savings would add up to a full cent, but given how prone my state is to rolling blackouts, I’ll do everything I can to conserve.
How To Make Mailbox Lasagna
The procedure is pretty much as you’d imagine, starting with your favorite lasagna recipe.
- Use any lasagna recipe you prefer, scaled down accordingly to fit your pan. Use only fully cooked components (no raw proteins) to prevent potential food poisoning. While unlikely, it’s better to be safe than sick.
- Make sure you use no-boil noodles, no matter what the recipe originally calls for.
- Cover with foil to seal in the heat before placing it in the mailbox. Close the door and lock it if possible. This is to keep both nosy neighbors and hungry critters out.
- Go about your day and let the lasagna “bake” for 6 to 10 hours.
- Handle carefully, with potholders, because it will be hot! Remove the foil to check that the cheese has melted and your pasta is al dente. It won’t brown due to the lack of intense direct heat. The Maillard reaction only occurs at 149°C/300°F and higher.
Tips and Tricks
There are a lot more variables to contend with when using a mailbox instead of an actual oven. Bear in mind these factors before writing it into your dinner menu:
- Ideally, plan this experiment for a Sunday or federal holiday so there’s no mail delivery that might end up in your meal.
- Start by cleaning out your mailbox. If it’s anything like mine, it’s also full of dust, dirt, and the occasional spiderweb. None of those are great seasonings, so you’ll want to give the interior a good rinse before adding food.
- Select a metal pan to better conduct heat, and make sure it fits inside your mailbox. I’d recommend a loaf pan in most cases, unless you have a giant mailbox equal in size to a conventional oven.
- Start around late morning (10 or 11am) when the mailbox is in direct sunlight. There needs to be a high of at least 105℉ (40°C) outside to attempt this with any level of success. Sorry if it’s not as brutally hot in your neck of the woods; it simply won’t work otherwise.
What Does Lasagna Cooked In A Mailbox Taste Like?
Here’s the thing: It’s fine. Edible, for sure. The cheese comes out melt-y-ish if not fully melted (though your mileage may vary depending on your brand), the pasta is soft enough after sitting and soaking in sauce for a few hours, and if you started with flavorful sauce and filling ingredients, it tastes as good as those did to begin with.
It’s not as good as lasagna baked in the oven because it lacks the textural contrast of crispy edges, the caramelized bits and browned surfaces. It’s a novelty that can amuse your friends and scare your neighbors, not a culinary treasure.
Honest Thoughts On Mailbox Lasagna
Is it the best lasagna you’ve ever eaten? No.
Is it the easiest lasagna you’ve ever made? Also no.
But is it the silliest and most fun lasagna you’ve ever tried? Absolutely a strong contender. I’d love to hear if you’ve come up with something wackier, because that would be a must-make for me.
Kalua pork isn’t just an entree; it’s a whole lifestyle. One of the earliest native Hawaiian foods recorded in the annals of history, it’s been a staple of the culture for thousands of years. It was, and still is, a dish of celebration, a momentous event in and of itself, to be reserved for only the most joyous occasions. Since the traditional approach could easily take all day, it’s not an undertaking for last-minute parties or spur of the moment cravings.
Vegan kalua pork is a whole different story.
What Is Traditional Kalua Pork?
The term kālua in Hawaiian means “to cook in an underground oven.” This is a complicated and time-consuming process, which begins by starting a fire at the bottom of a large pit using koa or kiawe wood. Porous lava rocks are then added like coals and heated for several hours. The hot rocks are then spread out at the base of the pit and covered with banana leaves and ti leaves. A whole pig is then placed on top, covered with additional leaves to trap the steam inside, and finally covered in dirt to seal the entire pit. After 6 to 12 hours, the meat will emerge fully cooked and infused with smoky flavor.
What Makes Vegan Kalua Pork Better
Most recipes for plant-based kalua pork start with jackfruit, given its uniquely fibrous texture that shreds beautifully. Not knocking it, but jackfruit itself is pretty bland, and can be downright woody when not cooked properly. Start with Sugimoto shiitake that are guaranteed to give you a tender, meaty bite and an incredible depth of flavor, every single time.
- Ready in minutes. Bad at planning ahead? Me too! This recipe is so easy that you can whip it up in 15 minutes, from start to finish, if you have soaked shiitake ready to go.
- Hearty and healthy. High in fiber, potassium, and Vitamin D. Sugimoto Shiitake in particular have the most natural Vitamin D of any dried mushrooms on the market.
- Meatless. Naturally, by omitting the pork, you get a cholesterol-free, low-fat treat that’s still rich in Guanylate, which enhances flavors and creates a much more intense overall umami flavor.
Tips For Success
No matter what, you can’t go wrong with this brilliantly simple, quick recipe. To get the maximum enjoyment out of the process and best result, here’s what you need to know.
- Start with Sugimoto Koshin Shiitake. These particular shiitake have larger, flatter caps, which makes for a much finer shredded texture, just like pulled pork.
- Save any excess mushroom soaking water and stems for another recipe. These are great in all sorts of soups and stews!
- Use a sharp knife to make fine shredded ribbons. Take your time; this step is key for getting the right mouthfeel.
What To Serve With Meatless Kalua Pork
All you really need to enjoy this entree is a fork, but like any other simple dish, it only gets better with accompaniments and garnishes.
- Slap some vegan kalua pork on a soft slider bun or vegan Hawaiian roll and top it off with a crisp, crunchy slaw. This is the ultimate backyard BBQ or potluck offering, sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike.
- Dress it up as a typical Hawaiian plate lunch, with a generous scoop of hot white rice and creamy mac salad. Use your favorite pasta salad recipe or toss together cooked macaroni noodles and vegan mayo with a pinch of shredded carrots, minced onion, and relish, to taste.
- To drink, you can’t go wrong with pure coconut water, or go all-out with a cherimoya lava flow.
For a proper luau, you can go all-out and serve an abundant spread of other Hawaiian staples, such as poke, chicken long rice, and lomi lomi. Don’t forget the mochi brownies for dessert!
Q: Can I make this vegan kalua pork recipe oil-free?
A: While the oil contributes critical richness to mimic the naturally fatty pork and is very strongly recommended, you can omit it if necessary. Simply cook the shredded mushrooms with the marinade until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Q: How can I add more protein?
A: Believe it or not, Sugimoto Shiitake actually do contain protein, to the tune of 1 gram per serving, or 14 grams per package. If you’d still like to add more to your meal, consider incorporating up to one cup of shredded seitan or soy curls.
Get a taste of the Hawaiian islands from the comfort of your own home any day of the week. Create an incredible depth of savory flavor with minimal ingredients and just minutes on the clock. You’ll want to save this recipe as your new all-purpose entree for parties, weeknight dinners, or midnight munchies.
The longer I live in Texas, the more recipes I’ll have for queso. A party doesn’t start without liquid cheese on the table, and who says you can only have one?
Though chili is the official state dish of Texas, I think queso should have its own distinction as the state’s official dip. While we’re on the subject, pecan trees are the official trees of Texas and naturally, pecans the official nut. While cashews are the standard base for vegan queso, there’s no reason why we can’t take a more Texan approach to this savory staple.
What Makes This The Best Vegan Queso Recipe
Buttery, subtly sweet, and robustly nutty, pecans add a whole new level of decadence to everyone’s favorite Tex-Mex appetizer. Creamy and thick enough to generously coat chips, it’s rich enough to satisfy any craving. Plus, it’s ready in mere minutes, so you can always have queso on hand for gatherings big or small.
Uses For Plant-Based Queso
Naturally, queso was made for dipping tortilla chips, but that’s just the start. Save some for breakfast, lunch, or dinner in all sorts of other dishes.
- Drizzled over tacos
- Mixed into tofu scramble
- Stuffed into burritos
- Used as filling for quesadillas
- Tossed with pasta
Forget processed dairy products. There’s a whole world of queso with bolder flavor and better nutrition, and I promise, it’s not a tough nut to crack.
Of all the foods I crave, hot and sour soup is most commonly out of reach. Ubiquitous across Chinese restaurant menus big and small, often given away for free with a lunch combo, it’s a cruel joke that there’s no soup for me.
Traditionally a Sichuan staple, standard recipes include all the usual non-vegan pitfalls: chicken broth, beaten eggs, and sometimes thinly sliced pork. In rare instances, you may luck out and find a vegetarian option without meat, but completely vegan versions are true unicorns.
Hot and sour soup is a snap to make at home, but not without mild controversy. Truth be told, I’ve been making some version of this recipe for years on the down-low. It’s one of those everyday staples that doesn’t feel special enough to share in the spotlight, and moreover, it would undoubtedly raise the ire of culinary perfectionists for all its obvious flaws.
Authenticity be damned; no one should gatekeep good food. When I’m too tired or busy to travel to the Asian specialty store for the conventional ingredients, when I’m just trying to scrape together pantry staples to feed myself, or when I’ve simply run out of fucks to give, this is the soup I turn to.
How To Make Hot And Sour Soup More “Authentic”
- Use bamboo shoots instead of shredded carrots
- Swap the balsamic vinegar for black vinegar
- Replace the shiitake mushrooms with wood ear mushrooms
- Add dried lily buds
How To Make Hot And Sour Soup Less “Authentic” But More Accessible
- Use vegetable stock instead of vegan chicken broth
- Omit the plant-based egg component
- Add green peas, diced tomatoes, or corn kernels
- Finish with sriracha or chili oil, to taste
If you find this recipe offensive, categorically distasteful, or personally upsetting, guess what? It’s not meant for you. For everyone else trying to get a hot and sour fix with limited means: Welcome. Grab a bowl and a spoon, there’s plenty to go around.