Mexican Rice

I love, love, love this Mexican Rice Recipe.  I eat this rice by itself, topped with cheese & sour cream, in burritos, with tacos, with beans, or any other way I can imagine.  I figure it’s got to be somewhat healthy, since it’s got a minimum of fat and it has lycopene.  I’m a carb junkie, so I’m not surprised that I can’t stop eating it.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups rice
  • up to 1 onion
  • up to 3 tomatoes, depending on size
  • 3-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 3 jalapeño peppers, minced or pureed, divided
  • 2 cups broth – either chicken or vegetable
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ bunch cilantro, chopped fine

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Heat oil in an oven-safe 12″ saute pan over medium heat.  Once oil shimmers, add rice and toss to coat.
  3. Cook rice until it begins to turn golden, 5-10 minutes
  4. Meanwhile, puree onion and tomatoes.  You’ll want just 2 cups of puree, which is why my ingredient list is so vague.  I estimate how much puree I’ll get based on the size of the produce.  If you end up with more or less than the 2 cups needed, just adjust how much broth you use to equal 4 cups total liquid.
  5. Once rice is golden, add garlic and two of the jalapeños and saute until fragrant (about 30 seconds).  If you’re sensitive to pepper spray, keep your face away from the steam here.
  6. Add puree, broth, and tomato paste and stir to combine.  Cover and bring to a boil.
  7. Transfer pan into the oven and bake for 30 minutes total.  After the first 15 minutes, you need to stir the mixture to re-incorporate the tomato mixture (it all works its way to the top while baking)
  8. Meanwhile, mix remaining jalapeños and chopped cilantro together.
  9. After 30 minutes, taste rice for consistency.  If it’s a little al dente for your taste, put it back in the oven until done.
  10. Sprinkle cilantro mixture over the top of the rice and fold to incorporate.
  11. Enjoy!

Pizza Sauce

Since I make pizza dough all the time, I try to have pizza sauce on hand as well.  Pizza sauce is somewhat different from pasta sauce, because it’s important for your pizza sauce to be smooth enough to spread.  I’ve mastered my own quick sauce that can be made with items I always have on hand.  Even so, it took me a week of sauceless pizza before I got around to making it this week.  Some housewives are just lazy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups (or so) canned crushed tomatoes
  • fresh basil leaves, chopped (about ¼ cup)

Preparation:

  1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat
  2. Add garlic and saute until fragrant and golden (3-5 minutes)
  3. Turn the temperature down to medium or medium-low and pour in your crushed tomatoes.  If you’re using 15-ounce cans or a 28-ounce can, go ahead and add a bit of water to the can and slosh it around to get the last bits of tomato out.  You’ll be cooking the sauce down to whatever thickness you prefer, so it doesn’t really matter how much water you add.
  4. Once your tomatoes heat through, add the chopped basil.  Cook, just under a simmer, until the sauce has reached the thickness you desire.

Notes:

  • You can use more or less of the garlic and basil; just find a mix your family likes
  • If I want to make pasta sauce instead of pizza sauce, I soften diced onions before adding the garlic and I add some chunkier bits (diced tomatoes and mushrooms, most often) to add some texture to the sauce.
  • I usually buy the 10# can of crushed tomatoes at Costco.  They cost about $3, and that’s enough for multiple recipes.  To avoid letting the sauce mold before it get used, I pour it into quart or gallon sized freezer bags and freeze whatever I’m not using that day.  When it’s time to make the next batch of sauce, I don’t bother to defrost the sauce.  I add the sauce in at the normal point, and cover with a lid that fits the skillet well.  The trapped heat under the lid and the condensed steam that drops on top of the frozen sauce thaw it quickly, but you’ll need to add an extra 5-10 minutes to your overall cooking plan if you’re going with this route.

Blue Cheese Dressing

This is strongly based on the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook recipe, and we make it enough that I’ve stopped measuring.  This is something I always like to have on hand during the early season of the CSA (when we have lettuce every week and there’s always something I enjoy raw, dipped in dressing).  This week, I enjoyed this as a dip for kohlrabi, snap peas, celery, and even as salad dressing (on salad – crazy, I know)!

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces (or so) blue chees
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic
  • generous ¼ cup buttermilk
  • generous ¼ cup sour cream
  • scant ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • pinch sugar
  • splash vinegar (white wine vinegar is recommended, but as long as you don’t mind a brown tint or red tint to your dressing, balsamic or red wine vinegar will both work as well).
  • salt & ground black pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Mince garlic or put through a garlic press.
  2. In a small bowl, combine blue cheese, garlic, and buttermilk.  Mash together with a fork until the mixture has a cottage cheese-like consistency.
  3. Add remaining ingredients and mix together.
  4. Use as a dip or to top salad.

The Verdict:

What I love about this recipe is the extra bite that comes from the fresh garlic as well as the tang from the buttermilk.  Although many grocery store brands of blue cheese dressing are overly heavy on the mayonnaise taste, this recipe includes both buttermilk & sour cream to round out the flavor.  I really dislike being able to taste the mayonnaise, so I go easy on that part and then increase the sour cream.  I love this recipe, and I’ve even added buttermilk to our milk delivery schedule so that I never have to run to the grocery store for buttermilk to make this recipe happen.  I do have to figure out how to make buttermilk pancakes or biscuits or something though, since I don’t like the taste of buttermilk by itself and I don’t ever use up the whole carton before it goes bad.

Slow Rise Pizza Dough

It’s so easy to turn most things into a meal just by cooking them on top of a pizza crust.  Plus, if we’ve eaten creative pizzas for a couple of days, I usually only have plates and cutting boards to wash (instead of piles of pots and pans and prep bowls).  I think I’ve fully converted to this slow-rising recipe; the first time we tried it, I thought I might go crazy because the dough just wouldn’t change shape as I tossed it.  It took 5 minutes to get a dough ball ready for the oven instead of 2.  I was hungry and this was slowing up my dinner!  However, I soon realized that the crust shapes we were making were much better than normal.  The dough wasn’t getting brittle and thin in the middle, even after many minutes of tossing.  And then the flavor was lovely as well.  I read somewhere that recipes using less yeast with a longer rising time develop a more complex flavor.  Add to that the fact that the dough rises for 6-8 hours on the counter and can rest in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours before that.  This means that I can start the dough up to 24 hours before I’m ready to make pizza!

Ingredients:

  • ½  cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • ½  teaspoon yeast
  • 1¼  cups water, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for oiling the bowl and brushing the top)
  • 4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting the work surface and hands
  • 1½  teaspoons salt

Preparation:

  1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measure.  Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes.  Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.
  2. Process the flour and salt in an 11-Cup Food Processor, pulsing to combine.  Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube.  If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms.  Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.
  3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball.  Put the dough in an 8-cup measure and cover with plastic wrap.
  4. At this point, you can put your dough in the refrigerator for up to 16 hours.  When you’re ready to proceed, continue with step 5.
  5. Leave covered dough on the counter and let rise until doubled in size, 6 to 8 hours.  I use the 8-cup measuring cup because it’s really easy for me to see when the dough is done rising.  Press the dough to deflate.
  6. Place a pizza stone on a rack in the lower third of the oven.  Heat the oven to 475 degrees for at least 30 minutes.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Use a chef’s knife or dough scraper to divide the dough into four pieces.  From each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth.  Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.
  7. Spread a large piece of parchment paper on the counter for shaping and transporting the crust.  Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, flatten the dough ball into a disk (thicker at the center) using the palms of your hands.  Using a combination of stretching the dough on the counter and tossing the dough, shape each of your dough rounds into a flattened pizza shape (more detailed instructions here).  Prick the dough in several places with a dinner fork.
  8. Lightly brush the dough round with olive oil.  Slide the dough onto the heated stone.  Bake the pizza for 2 minutes.  Remove the pizza from the oven, cool on the counter for 30 minutes or so, and wrap with plastic wrap to store.  While the first pizza crust is cooking, you can shape the second crust (with practice).
  9. Par-baked crusts will last for up to a day on the counter, up to a week in the refrigerator, or for up to two months in the freezer (wrapped in plastic wrap AND foil).  When you are ready to prepare a pizza, make the sauce.  Since the pizza will already be par-baked, you’ll put the sauce, pepperoni, and cheese on all at the same time, and bake until the cheese is bubbling and starting to brown.

Limey Cabbage

We get cabbage quite often in the CSA, and I didn’t used to be a cabbage person.  I never understood why folks wanted cabbage instead of lettuce on their fish tacos.  I don’t like coleslaw.  I don’t like cooked cabbage – blech!  Limey Cabbage is pretty much the only way I really like to eat cabbage. Now, this is where Hubby and I differ.  He loves cabbage.  He’ll eat it raw, he’ll eat it steamed.  He told me once that he almost ate the cabbage from our CSA share on the way home from picking it up, like an apple.  The only thing that stopped him was the fact that he needed to take a photo for this blog.  One day, in a huge display of matrimonial support, I will actually prepare corned beef and cabbage for him.  Then he will die of shock and surprise.  But he will have died happy.

The thing about how much Hubby loves the cabbage is this:  unless I’ve told him that he has to fend for himself for a meal, he won’t think of making anything.  And even if I’ve told him he needs to feed himself, it’s far more likely to be cereal than anything that requires preparation.  Even the day that he was tempted to eat the cabbage on the way home, he then put it into the refrigerator and forgot about it until I pulled it out to make this recipe.

So this Limey Cabbage recipe is what I’ve found to use cabbage in a way that I’ll actually eat it.  One day, I came across this recipe on Epicurious, and I’ve developed it into the wonder you see below.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  •  cabbage – this can be red, green, Chinese, whatever you want (or happen to have on hand).
  • leaves from ½ bunch of fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Slice your cabbage into a nest of thin, squiggly bits and combine with cilantro leaves in medium bowl.
  2. Zest your lime (directly into the same bowl) and make it all cool and stripey looking.
  3. Juice your lime into the same bowl and add olive oil and salt & pepper.
  4. Toss your limey cabbage and it’s ready to serve as a component in tacos or burritos, or as a side salad.

The Verdict:

We’ve made several variations on this recipe; when we’re out of cilantro, it’s just cabbage in a lime/olive oil dressing.  When we have bell peppers that need to be used, we throw them in.  It’s a pretty forgiving base for getting some tasty veggies into your tacos.  We’ve always used it as a taco topping, but my cousin’s son loves it on its own, just as salad.  I guess that’s not surprising, since both her children ask if they can eat the lime pulp after I’ve squeezed the juice for the recipe…

Frozen Pizza

“Frozen Pizza?  What’s that doing on your blog?”  Yes, yes – I can hear you now.  Don’t worry; this is not grocery store frozen pizza.  This is a how-to for making frozen pizza kits for your own self.  And then how to use them also.  Check it out – you might even like it…

Ingredients (per kit):

  • 1 parbaked pizza crust
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 1-2 oz. sliced pepperoni
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4-1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

Kit Preparation:

  1. Wrap your pizza crust in plastic wrap and then in foil (this is my tried-and-true method of keeping the consistency of the crust as close to fresh as possible).  Freeze.
  2. Pour your pizza sauce into muffin tins (I have one tin that has ½ cup slots and one that’s smaller.  I use the ½ cup version on this one). Freeze.
  3. Weigh out a couple of ounces of pepperoni on your kitchen scale (or just grab a handful) and seal into a sandwich bag.
  4. Combine your cheeses in a second sandwich bag.
  5. Put both sandwich bags into a quart-sized freezer bag.  Freeze.
  6. Once your pizza sauce is thoroughly frozen, you can put 1-cup servings into additional sandwich bags and add them to the freezer bag you already have going.

Pizza Preparation:

  1. Place pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 475°.
  2. Take all ingredients out of the freezer and place on work surface.
  3. Put frozen sauce into a prep bowl and microwave for 2 minutes, pausing to stir and break up semi-thawed chunks after the first minute.
  4. Meanwhile, unwrap foil and plastic wrap from pizza crust and break up any large chunks of frozen cheese by smashing them against the counter.
  5. Once sauce is thawed, spread it evenly on frozen crust, avoiding the outside 1/2″ to make it easier to hold while eating.  Add the pepperoni, slightly overlapping, until the pizza is covered.  Sprinkle mozzarella and Parmesan to cover pepperoni.
  6. Cook pizza until cheese has thoroughly melted and begins to brown in spots (begin checking after 5 minutes).
  7. Remove pizza from oven and allow it to rest for 3-5 minutes (this is the best way ever to avoid burning the top of your mouth with the first bite).
  8. Slice and serve (enjoy)!

Notes:

  • You can test how much your own muffin tin holds by filling a liquid measure with exactly 1 cup of water.  Pour the water into one spot on your muffin tin until just full.  Subtract what’s left in the measuring cup from one, and you’ll know what kind of servings you’ll get out of your muffin tin.
  • Frozen pepperoni works ridiculously well on pizza.  I actually buy a huge bag of pepperoni at Costco for like $8 and then keep it in the freezer.  When we want to make a pizza, we just grab a handful out.  Spreading frozen pepperoni does make your hands a little cold, but it lasts so much longer, it’s totally worth it.  I don’t like to think about the fact that frozen pepperoni has enough fat to easily peel slices away when things like, say, bacon, stick together when thoroughly frozen.  Just eat your pizza.

Hubby’s Fried Rice

We both love fried rice, but we both hate eggs.  I don’t know how many folks know this, but every Asian restaurant in Tacoma includes eggs in their fried rice.  Fortunately, my husband does a fabulous rendition of fried rice.  Therefore, it’s time for a guest post from The Hubby!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice
  • water
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 cups frozen stir-fry vegetables
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2-3 Tablespoons hoisin sauce

Preparation:

  1. Cook rice in rice cooker, following manufacturer’s instructions (or cook it on a stovetop, however you would normally cook white rice)
  2. Once rice is done, heat oil in large frying pan over high heat until shimmering.
  3. Carefully add frozen vegetables (the oil will splash when the ice hits it) and sauté until they begin to thaw.
  4. Add steamed rice and both sauces.  Stir periodically until cooked through.

The Verdict:

I ALWAYS love Hubby’s rice, and tonight was no different!  Sometimes he gets these awesome crunchy bits to it, but he said tonight that he doesn’t think our current stove gets hot enough for that.  I know that crunchy rice sounds weird, but it adds a great texture when some of the rice has been browned to a crisp finish.  Let us know what you think!

Roasted Carrots

This recipe is my version of America’s Test Kitchen’s New Best Recipe roasted carrots.  They actually call for baby carrots in the recipe (yeah, those already-peeled nubs that you buy in a bag), but since we’re using CSA veggies, I just peeled and sliced some of our fresh-from-the-farm carrots instead!

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1″-2″ lengths
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Preparation:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 475°.  Toss the carrots, oil, and salt in the broiler pan bottom.  Spread the carrots in a single layer and roast for 12 minutes.  Shake the pan to toss the carrots.  Continue roasting, shaking the pan twice more, until the carrots are browned and tender, about 8 minutes longer.  Serve immediately.

The Verdict:

You would really think, with a recipe this simple, that I could get my act together and get some side dishes on the table, right?  You’d think.  Maybe it’s because I only have one oven.  Maybe that’s it.  Maybe if I had two ovens, I could cook multiple things for dinner.  Maybe it’s because I have a firm belief that one-dish meals are the only way to go, regardless of whether they have more than one food group in them.  I don’t know.  Maybe you’ll be reading this blog a year from now and I suddenly will have figured out how to do the whole side-dish thing.  Please don’t hold your breath.  I wouldn’t want you to turn blue.

Twice-Baked Potatoes

I found my inspiration in America’s Test Kitchen’s New Best Recipe, and made a few changes, based on what I had on hand.  Here’s the note that they include in the recipe book:

To vary the flavor a bit, try substituting other types of cheese, such as Gruyere, fontina, or feta, for the cheddar.  Yukon Gold potatoes, though slightly more moist than our ideal, gave our twice-baked potatoes a buttery flavor and mouthfeel that everyone liked, so we recommend them as a substitution for the russets.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed, dried, and rubbed lightly with vegetable oil
  • 4 total ounces sharp white cheddar, swiss, and regular medium cheddar cheeses, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 medium scallions, sliced thin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper

Preparation:

  1. Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the potatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet until the skin is crisp and deep brown and a skewer easily pierces the flesh, about 1 hour.  Setting the baking sheet aside, transfer the potatoes to a wire rack and let cool slightly, about 10 minutes.
  2. Using an oven mitt or a folded kitchen towel to handle the hot potatoes, cut each potato in half so that the long, blunt sides rest on a work surface.  Using a small spoon, scoop the flesh from each half into a medium bowl, leaving 1/8 to 1/4 inch of the flesh in each shell.  Arrange the shells on the lined baking sheet and return them to the oven until dry and slightly crisped, about 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, mash the potato flesh with a fork until smooth.  Stir in the remaining ingredients, including pepper to taste, until well combined.
  3. Remove the shells from the oven and increase the oven setting to broil.  Holding the shells steady on the baking sheet with an oven mitt or towel-protected hand, spoon the mixture into the crisped shells, mounding it slightly at the center, and return the potatoes to the oven.  Broil until spotty brown and crisp on top, 10 to 15 minutes.  Cool for 10 minutes.  Serve warm.

Hamburgers

Hubby & I have been making hamburgers together for years, so we’ve got it down to a science at this point!

Ingredients:

  • ½ pound lean ground beef
  • 1 slice sandwich bread, crusts removed, torn into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons milk, or more as needed
  • ground black pepper
  • finely chopped onion and garlic (optional)
  • cheese (cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack; whatever you like)
  • Dijon mustard
  • sprouts
  • thinly sliced onion
  • Hamburger buns (our favorites are the onion flavor)
  • Optional: avocado, pickles, tomatoes

Preparation:

  1. Place bread and milk in medium bowl and mash with fork.  Let it sit for a few minutes, and mash again, adding milk as necessary until a paste forms.  Add hamburger, pepper, and onion/garlic (if using) and mix by hand until thoroughly combined
  2. Form hamburger mixture into two to four patties and place on Cuisinart Griddler fitted with grill plates. (If you don’t have this awesome accessory, you can also fry the patties in a large frying pan over medium heat, flipping halfway through cooking.)
  3. Add cheese just before patties finish cooking, and prop top of Griddler up so that it is not touching the cheese (alternate method: add cheese after you’ve flipped the patties, and cover frying pan with lid to melt the cheese).
  4. Meanwhile, spread mustard on the bottom half of each bun.  When patties are finished, place one patty on each bun and top with onion slices, sprouts, and any other toppings you wish.

The Verdict:

Hubby has put up reasonably well with the mostly vegetarian diet we’ve been on recently.  He does see how much cheaper it is to not buy meat, but he is not sold on the concept of vegetarianism.  (For that matter, I’m not actually sold on it; I just would rather have our food budget last for an entire week than only make 2 meals with it).  We’re splurging a bit this week (and last), to reward ourselves for not getting drive-through when we’ve craved it.  We’re trying to adjust our lifestyle even more towards the “eat at home” model, and making sure that we’re still addressing our cravings and serving our favorite foods goes a long way towards that goal!

We love these burgers.  They’re always moist (from the panade) and flavorful (from the onion & garlic inside the patties).  They have a juiciness that you just don’t find with most fast-food options, and they end up being cheaper for all the ingredients than it is to go to the drive-through once.  Not to mention the fact that we have some idea what goes into the burgers we make at home!