Category Archives: Rice

2010 World Cup South Africa – Bobotie

This Friday, June 11, 2010, marks the opening day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup games, held in South Africa. Soccer is the most widely played and enjoyed sport around the world, and it’s certainly the most popular sport in our household. My husband has played nearly his entire life, growing up in city leagues, playing for school, and enjoying adult amateur soccer, both indoors and out. He introduced me to indoor soccer – I started playing about 9 years ago (my previous experience was only a single season as a kindergartner – many years ago!), and while I’m not likely to be called up to the WPS anytime soon, it’s a great way to stay in shape, challenge myself, enjoy time with friends, and blow off steam. At home, we subscribe to a lot of specialty cable TV stations, just so my husband can watch as many of his beloved Chelsea games as he can. Of course, when we tune in this Saturday to watch the United States play England, we’ll be cheering our Team USA the whole way.

In anticipation of the upcoming games, I realized I knew next to nothing about South African cuisine. So I worked to educate myself. Turns out, South African cuisine is a “rainbow of cuisines” (as described by Wikipedia), as it is comprised of a variety of sources and cultures, including the cuisines of the indigenous people of South Africa, such as the Khoisan and Xhosa, Zulu and Sotho-speaking people, Indian and British immigrants and their cuisines, the cuisines of the Cape Malay people, and cultures such as Portuguese Mozambique. This makes for a wide variety of dishes and tastes. I was unsure of where to start, so I found one of the most popular dishes in South Africa – bobotie.

Bobotie is a meat dish consisting of ground/minced beef or lamb topped with an egg “custard”. The spices remind me of Indian and Malaysian cuisine, with the use of curry and turmeric, but the inclusion of nuts and fruit reminds me of other African dishes. While it takes a bit of time to make, the dish is relatively straightforward. I sifted through recipes, and decided upon a Martha Stewart recipe that looked tasty. I served it with a cinnamon basmati rice, also a variation on her recipe, which was full of flavor and enticing aromas. It was a tasty meal, and a perfect introduction into South African cuisine. I certainly plan to make another dish or two soon – does anyone have recommendations?

If you wish to browse other South African recipes, check out Meeta’s Monthly Mingle – South Africa Roundup over at What’s For Lunch, Honey? Those dishes all look inviting!

Gluten-Free Bobotie, adapted from Martha Stewart

3 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, chopped finely

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and chopped coarsely

2 T minced fresh ginger

Salt and pepper

1 t ground turmeric

1 1/2 T Madras curry powder

2 lbs ground beef or lamb (I used lean ground bison)

1/2 c (1 oz) slivered almonds, toasted

4 slices gluten-free bread, crusts removed (I used Udi’s whole grain sandwich bread)

1 3/4 c whole milk

2 T mango chutney (or apricot preserves)

2 T fresh lemon juice

4 large eggs

1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg

1 t finely grated lemon zest

4 dry bay leaves

Cilantro and mango chutney as accompaniments (Martha also suggests lemon or lime wedges and unsweetened coconut)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add oil. Add onions, apple, and ginger, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes or until soft and golden brown. Add turmeric and curry powder and stir to combine. Add the ground meat, breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook for 10 minutes or until cooked through. Stir in almonds and cook for 2 more minutes.

Tear the bread into large pieces and place in a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup of milk and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let stand until the milk is absorbed. Add the bread mixture to the ground meat and cook, stirring frequently, for 1-2 minutes. Stir in mango chutney and lemon juice, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat, and taste. Adjust seasoning as needed, adding salt and pepper.

Spoon ground meat mixture into a 6 to 8-cup shallow baking dish. Whisk eggs, nutmeg, lemon zest, and remaining milk in a medium bowl. Pour over ground meat mixture. Place bay leaves in dish, pressing into filling just a bit. Bake until set around edges and center is no longer runny, about 35 minutes. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with accompaniments and cinnamon basmati rice.

Serves 6.

Cinnamon Basmati Rice, adapted from Martha Stewart

1 T unsalted butter

1 c raw basmati rice, rinsed

1 whole bay leaf

1 cinnamon stick

1 crushed green cardamom pod

2/3 c raisins

2 c water

salt and pepper

Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and saute until each grain is shiny and coated with butter mixture. Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod, and raisins to saucepan. Add water and increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Allow to cook, covered, until rice is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes more. Fluff and remove bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cardamom pod. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4-6.

Kids in the Kitchen: Cajun ‘Gator Tail and Dirty Rice

Yes, you read that right. ‘Gator tail. Brandan reaches for the stars when it comes to creative choices for dinner. I thought I had a source for ‘gator tail too – I saw a vendor at the Firewheel Four Seasons Farmers Market a few weeks ago selling all sorts of Gulf seafood, including alligator tail. However, when we arrived this morning, that vendor was nowhere to be found. Brandan and I made plans to come up with an alternative solution – we planned to visit a fish market and find some sort of seafood.

Later in the day, Brandan, my husband, and I visited Captain Dave’s Seafood Market in Plano and looked around. We had nearly decided on crab legs when lo and behold, my husband noticed that ‘gator tail was on their board. I inquired, and they had some in stock! We happily purchased it and hurried home to start our meal, which also included grilled corn and dirty rice.

Just for a bit of background, alligator tail, or ‘gator, is an exotic meat/seafood enjoyed around the Gulf coast of North America, in states such as Louisiana and Florida. Its flavor is mild (as that saying goes, it tastes kind of like chicken), and its texture is somewhat firmer and chewier than chicken or fish. It’s not something you’ll find an a regular grocery, although I’ve seen a few places where you can order it online. Before we cooked it tonight, I’d only eaten it in restaurants, and only deep-fried. (Way back in my pre-gluten-free days, of course) This was an adventure for all of us.

To keep with our Cajun theme, we opted for dirty rice. Dirty rice is a Cajun rice dish, somewhat similar to a pilaf, that traditionally has chicken livers or giblets cooked with it, giving it a dark or “dirty” appearance. While I love chicken livers, I didn’t have any on hand, so we opted to make a simpler version that still was packed with Cajun spices and flavor. I found some lovely pork sausage from Truth Hill Farm, a local farm with grass-fed beef, pork, dairy, and free range chickens laying healthy, farm-fresh eggs. It was a perfect ingredient for our rice.

When contemplating Cajun or Creole spices, who better to use as a reference than Emeril? It had been a long while since I made any of his Essence, so we took this opportunity to make some. It’s a great go-to spice mix, perfect for seasoning everything from chicken to seafood to gumbos or rice dishes. We used it for both our dirty rice and for the ‘gator - it was a great way to streamline the cooking process. When you’re cooking with a very energetic child, this is definitely a plus.  

The gator was simply seasoned with the Essence and grilled – much simpler than going through the process of frying, and Brandan and I both love to use the grill any opportunity we get. Since we had the grill going, we also wrapped some fresh corn on the cob in foil, seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and a pat of butter. With the dirty rice, this rounded out a great meal that everyone enjoyed. Only Matt wasn’t fond of the ‘gator tail – the rest of us thought it was pretty tasty. And the dirty rice was a winner with everyone – it might have to become something we make on a regular basis. (My only thought for improvement would be to swap out the white rice for brown, just because I love the texture of brown rice, and of course, it’s heartier and healthier.) Another adventure with Brandan in the kitchen was a success!

 

Dirty Rice 

1 c yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped

1 small bell pepper, coarsely chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled

½ lb loose pork sausage

1 T Essence

2 c long-grain white rice

3 c chicken stock or water

2 bay leaves

 Place the onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor and process until no large chunks remain. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, brown and crumble the pork sausage over medium heat. When browned, add the mixture from the food processor and sauté for another minute or two. Add the Essence and rice and stir. Add the chicken stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and allow to cook for 20 minutes or until rice is cooked through. Remove bay leaves. Fluff, adjust seasonings to taste, and serve.

Serves 4-6.

 

Grilled Alligator Tail

 3 lbs alligator tail, cut into 3 oz pieces

1/4-1/2 c Essence

Season ‘gator tail pieces with Essence. Preheat grill to medium heat. Place ‘gator tail on oiled grates and grill 2-3 minutes per side, or until gator tail is firm and opaque.

 Serves 6.

Daring Cooks: Risotto and Homemade Chicken Stock

When I read that Eleanor of Melbourne Food Geek and Jess of Jess The Baker chose risotto as the Daring Cooks’ challenge this month, I was excited. I love risotto – I’ve made a lot of variations, including a squash risotto I’ve made many times since this posting. Risotto is a definite family pleaser around here – and why not? It’s creamy, luscious, filling - the ultimate comfort food! But it’s only fairly recently that I discovered what can really make such a difference in the finished risotto, taking it from already-quite-delicious to oh-my-this-is-amazing. No, it’s not a fancy, expensive, hard-to-find secret ingredient.

It’s homemade chicken stock.

Yep, an unassuming, almost free ingredient (if you plan correctly) makes a key difference in your risotto – or any recipe calling for stock, for that matter. Why? Well, canned stock, while satisfactory in a pinch, is insipid and lacking in the robust flavor that homemade stock can provide. When I make stock, I rarely follow a regimented recipe. Over time, I freeze leftover vegetables – carrots, celery, onions, etc., roasted leftover chicken bones, backs and wing tips from breaking down whole chickens. (I also buy chicken feet just for stock – they add a luscious gelatin, giving the stock more body.) I simply dump approximate amounts of vegetables, chicken bones, and parmesan rinds if I have them, and simmer, simmer, simmer until the stock has taken on a wonderful golden brown color and bursts with flavor. The wonderful thing about this is that it takes little effort on my part. It’s a great thing to make when I’m busy around the house, tending to other duties.

Anyway, back to risotto. For the challenge, I opted to make two risottos – one savory, one sweet. The savory risotto was straightforward – nothing fancy, just quality ingredients throughout. I was glad I kept it minimalistic, as I think this was the best risotto we’ve had to date. Sometimes, simplicity wins.

As for the sweet risotto, I would like to try again at tweaking the recipe further. In spite of the combination of flavors, the resulting risotto was rather one-note. I think adding the lemon zest towards the end of cooking would have made a difference in the brightness of flavors, and I may try for that next time. I also would love to try to add cardamom to the spices for additional depth of flavor. Still working on it, so if I come up with an amazing version, I’ll definitely share it with you!

Chicken Stock

1 lb chicken feet

1-2 lb chicken bones (leftover roasted bones are even better than raw)

1 onion, cut in half (don’t bother to peel)

2 carrots, chopped roughly (don’t bother to peel)

2 celery stalks, chopped roughly

1/4 c parsley (you can even use stems)

2 rinds from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (if you have them)

Place all items in a large stockpot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 4-5 hours, or until reduced nearly by half. Strain to remove bones and vegetables. Pour in glass jars and allow to cool. Refrigerate overnight. Scoop fat that has solidified on the top of the stock. The stock should be nice and gelled. You can freeze for months, or use within a week if refrigerated.

Risotto

5-6 cups chicken stock

2 T olive oil

2 T butter, divided

2 T minced onion or shallot

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 c Arborio rice

½ c white wine

¼ c parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ c fresh Italian parsley, chopped

Warm stock in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep warm.

In a large, shallow pan, heat olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. When melted and starting to bubble, add onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes and add garlic. Saute an additional minute. Add Arborio rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until grains are turning white. Add white wine and stir through rice, cooking until nearly dry. Add 1 ladle of warmed stock and stir often, cooking until nearly dry. Repeat this process until the grains of rice are plump and start to give off a creamy texture (this should take about 20-30 minutes). You won’t have to stir continuously, but you should be stirring the rice at least every minute or so. When grains are just shy of al dente, add just a bit more stock, the remaining tablespoon of butter, and the parmesan cheese. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed. Serve when rice grains are al dente, but not mushy, garnished with a bit of parsley.

Serves 4.

Sweet Risotto

1-2 T butter

1 c Arborio rice

1/4 c marsala

2-3 c milk plus 2 c water, warmed

1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped

1 cinnamon stick

1/2 c golden raisins

1/4 c currants

zest of 1 lemon

3-4 T agave nectar

3 T mascarpone cheese

1 T amaretto liqueur

1/4 c chopped almonds

In a large, shallow pan, heat butter over medium heat. When melted and starting to bubble, add rice and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring, until grains are turning white. Add marsala wine and stir through rice, cooking until nearly dry. Add 1 ladle of warmed milk/water mixture, vanilla bean, cinnamon, raisins, currants, agave nectar and lemon zest and stir often, cooking until nearly dry. Add another ladle of milk/water mixture, and repeat this process until the grains of rice are plump and start to give off a creamy texture (this should take about 20-30 minutes). You won’t have to stir continuously, but you should be stirring the rice at least every minute or so. When grains are just shy of al dente, add just a bit more milk/water and the mascarpone cheese. Taste and season with additional agave nectar as needed. Serve when rice grains are al dente, but not mushy, garnished with chopped almonds.

Serves 4.

Turkey Congee (Jook) with Brown Rice

I love a good deal. I clip coupons. I shop clearance bins. I buy clothes at the end of the season so that I can take advantage of reduced prices. I even subscribe to blogs that alert me of great deals. So when I can make meals that are so cheap, they’re almost free, I feel virtuous.

Free? Well, not entirely. But with a few frugal actions, a few inexpensive pantry ingredients, and a bit of mostly unattended time, a meal (or several) for the family is served. While it’s not the most elegant of meals, to be sure, it’s certainly not lacking in flavor or nutrition. As far as I’m concerned, it ranks right up there in terms of most craveable comfort meals. And it feeds the family easily for well under $10.

What is this magical meal? Congee. Or jook, as it is sometimes called. Congee is a rice porridge eaten in many Asian countries, many times, for breakfast. (A practice of which I am quite fond.) At its simplest, congee is rice simmered with water until the rice breaks down and the porridge becomes thick. Of course, there are a lot of variations – including adding meat, fish, salted eggs, spring onions, or soy sauce. Regardless of how it’s eaten, it’s a humble, comforting meal, and a great way to stretch a dollar.

I first learned of congee from Jaden at Steamy Kitchen. She posted congee as a great way to use up the leftover turkey bones from Thanksgiving. Following her example, I made congee for the first time after this past Thanksgiving, loosely following her steps, and improvising a bit on my own. I was in love. I ate the congee for several days, and froze the rest to bring for lunch during the week. It was such a delicious, belly-warming delight to eat.

A few weeks back, after I found some free-range, naturally-raised turkey on sale for $0.99/lb, I immediately knew I would be making congee again. After I’d roasted the turkey, (I used the meat to fill enchiladas, top salads, and fill sandwich wraps) I placed the bones in a few large ziploc bags and froze them. (I do this with chicken carcasses as well to use later for stock.) This weekend, I pulled out the turkey carcass, threw it along with some veggies in a large stockpot, and walked away to do other things. You see, while congee takes some time to prepare, most of that time is hands-off. It’s great for a weekend when you have other tasks around the house – it just sits there, happily simmering away, while you go about your business.

Just how is this dish nearly free? First of all, most of us simply throw away turkey (or chicken) bones when we’ve finished roasting and eating. This makes these bones almost like they’re a free ingredient, as you’ve put something that was previously “garbage” to use! As for the remaining ingredients, the rice used in this dish might cost $0.75, and the onion, carrots, and celery, another $2-3. (If you also save carrot ends, peelings, and celery tops for stock – you can simply throw these all together in a ziploc whenever you have them, and place in the freezer - then these can be considered “free” too and can be used here.) The dried shrimp might be an additional cost, but they’re relatively inexpensive, as are the rest of the pantry ingredients. For me, these are all items that I keep on hand, so I spent next to nothing to throw this dish together. I’d estimate the cost for the ingredients at around $6 for the entire recipe, which means each serving is less than $1. Definitely a good deal!

This time around, I opted to include dried shrimp, which enhanced the “umami” flavor of the porridge, and I used brown rice to boost the nutritional value of the dish, allowing me to enjoy it for breakfast guilt-free. You certainly can change up or omit these types of ingredients as you see fit – congee is a dish that begs to be personalized. After my congee simmered for a good long while, a taste test confirmed my hopes – this porridge, while humble, was viscous, creamy, and warmly satisfying. After eating a few more spoonfuls (I had to double and triple-check the flavor, after all!), I packed the rest away for breakfast and/or lunches. I can imagine it already, with a squirt of Sriracha and a preserved duck egg. Yum. It’s gonna be a good week!

You don’t have to wait until turkey “season” to make this – if you roast chickens (or even if you buy rotisserie chickens), simply save up a few of the carcasses. I would imagine 3 leftover chicken carcasses would work perfectly here.

Turkey Congee, adapted from Steamy Kitchen

Turkey bones from a 15-20 lb turkey, with 95% of the meat removed (or the bones from 3 roasted chickens)

3 celery stalks, sliced

2 carrots, sliced (don’t even bother peeling)

1 large chopped onion (don’t even bother peeling)

5 quarter-inch slices of fresh ginger (don’t even bother peeling)

3 cloves garlic, smashed

9-10 cups water

½ c dried shitake mushrooms

¼ c dried scallops or shrimp (optional)

½ c shaoxing wine or dry sherry

2 c short-grain brown rice

1 T fish sauce

1 T sesame oil

2-3 T gluten-free soy sauce

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

Cilantro, for garnish

Put the carcass in a large stockpot. (You may have to break it up a little to make it fit) Add the next 6 ingredients and bring to a boil. (It’s okay if the water doesn’t completely cover everything.) Reduce to a simmer and allow to cook, covered with a tight-fitting lid, for 2 hours. Strain into a bowl to remove bones and solids, and pick the meat from the bones. Add meat back into the strained stock, along with the mushrooms, dried scallops/shrimp, wine, rice, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, and carrots. Bring to a boil again and reduce to a simmer, partially covered. Allow to cook for 2 hours or more, until the rice breaks down and the entire dish becomes thick. Adjust fish sauce and soy sauce to taste, and garnish with cilantro as desired. Serves 8.

Stir-Fried Brown Rice with Sirloin and Broccoli

Some up-front honesty before we get started: I debated whether to post this. Not because it wasn’t delicious – it most certainly was. No doubt about that. I just felt that the photo doesn’t do the dish justice. This is a dish that is bursting with flavor, demanded that I take seconds, and was indeed greater than the sum of its parts. In my opinion, this photo just didn’t convey those attributes enough. Unfortunately, it was also so well-enjoyed that by the time I downloaded the photos from my camera and came upon this realization, the opportunity to retake the pictures was long gone. All that remained were a few stray rice grains in the pan. Has this ever happened to you?

After some serious consideration, I decided to go forward with it. After all, why should I make you wait until next time (and there will be a next time!)? You should be able to enjoy a dish like this today. I’m a firm believer in immediate gratification when it comes to food.

The inspiration for this recipe came from the latest edition of Food and Wine magazine, amid other healthy, delicious recipes. (Yes, Food and Wine published a lot of healthy recipes this month! I was pretty darned excited, if I do say so.) Su-Mei Yu was the creator of a delectable Stir-Fried Red Rice with Sliced Sirloin Steak and Peas dish. Unfortunately, I didn’t have red rice on hand, and I knew it would require a bit of searching to locate. While I fully intend on tracking down some red rice, just to try it out, I wanted to make this dish now. (You know, that while immediate gratification thing.) So I substituted short-grain brown rice, changed up the vegetables a bit, and basically took a large number of liberties to suit my needs. Not sure that in the end, I’m actually following the original recipe at all, but regardless, I was definitely inspired.

The verdict? As you saw in the first paragraph, this was a hit. Who says healthy has to be bland or boring? I loved the slight heat the chile oil gave, loved the brightness of the cilantro and lime, and practically licked my plate clean. Even the husband was pleasantly surprised. (He’s not much for Asian cuisine, especially when it comes to a bunch of vegetables stir-fried together.) This recipe will definitely appear on the Tasty Eats menu again in the future.

Stir-Fried Brown Rice with Sirloin and Broccoli, adapted from Su-Mei Yu – Food and Wine magazine

1 large head broccoli, cut into florets

2 T olive oil (not extra-virgin)

8 oz sirloin steak, sliced thinly into strips

Salt and pepper

½ large sweet onion, diced

1 ½ T grated fresh ginger

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 carrots, peeled and julienned

1 c frozen peas, thawed

2 c short-grain brown rice, cooked (either follow your rice cooker’s instructions, or follow Nicole’s super-cool instructions for perfect brown rice) and cooled to room temperature

2 T gluten-free soy sauce (La Choy and Tan-J sell gluten-free varieties)

1 T fish sauce

1 t sesame oil

½ t chile oil (optional – can be found in the Asian section of most supermarkets)

½ c chopped cilantro

1 lime, sliced into wedges

Fill a medium saucepan with enough water to cover the broccoli, and bring to a boil. Prepare a bowl with ice water and set aside. When water is boiling, add broccoli and submerge. Boil for 1 minute and drain, and quickly dunk broccoli into ice water to stop cooking. When cool, drain broccoli and set aside.

In a skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil at medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the steak strips, season with a bit of salt and pepper, and spread out into a single layer. Brown for about 1 minute. Remove and set aside.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet. Add the onion and sauté for about 3-4 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, and carrots and sauté for another minute or two. Add the broccoli, peas, and rice and stir. Let sit untouched for about a minute, until you hear everything sizzle. Add the soy sauce and fish sauce and stir. Add the steak, sesame oil, and chile oil and stir again. Remove from heat and serve garnished with cilantro and lime wedges.

Serves 4.

Masala-Spiced Adzuki Beans and Brown Rice

 

You might think, judging by my last two posts, that I have been chowing down on nothing but sweets. Not so – not lately, anyway. Truth be told, I made both of those desserts – the Nanaimo bars and the banana pudding – weeks ago. (Besides, the Daring Bakers challenge made me do it!) Lately, I have been working on healthier, cleaner eating – for a variety of reasons. First, to see if I can alleviate some lingering symptoms that I’d hoped would disappear after going gluten-free, but haven’t. Secondly, to restore balance. As I become more in tune with my body, I realize that those sugary treats, while delicious, can be the death of me sometimes. At night, they call me from the kitchen, begging me to indulge in their sweet delights. So if/when I fall into their trap, I have to take a bit of time to step back and show the sugar who’s boss. For the past week, I’ve been following a clean detox diet. No, not starving myself with only lemon water to sustain me. (Don’t worry, Mom!) Just eating very simply and lightly, incorporating a lot of raw produce (hello, green smoothies!), and removing a lot of potential “trigger” foods from my diet temporarily to observe how my body reacts. So far, so good. The hardest part was cutting out the caffeine, honestly. I don’t drink a great deal, but boy, those 2 cups of coffee in the morning were badly missed for the first few days!

Anyway, this dish is likely the most complex recipe I’ve made in the past week, just because of the myriad of spices, but don’t let that deter you. Once you throw everything together to simmer, it’s a pretty simple dish. (After all, beans and rice is just about as humble as it gets.)  You could use a variety of beans for this recipe (although you might have to alter soaking and cooking times), but I like adzuki beans because they cook up relatively quickly and are very easy to digest. They’re slightly sweet, (and so are often used in sweet treats in Asian cuisine) which pairs well with the garam masala and cayenne. And of course, this dish packs a good amount of fiber and protein. It just also happens to be vegan and gluten, dairy, and corn-free. Most of all, for a chilly, dreary winter day, this is a comforting dish that won’t weigh you down.

A quick word about kombu. Kombu is a variety of dried seaweed often used to make dashi, and can be found in the Asian section of groceries or at a specialty store, or online. What I love about kombu is that when simmered with beans, it improves their digestibility and lessens the (ahem) side effects. It also works as a flavor enhancer, adding a bit of umami to the dish. If you haven’t had the chance to cook with it, give it a try. Same with this twist on the good ‘ol standby – beans and rice. You might be pleasantly surprised on how delicious healthy can taste!

Masala-Spiced Adzuki Beans and Brown Rice

1 t garam masala

1 t cumin seeds

1/8 t cayenne

2 T olive oil

½ medium yellow onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

4 carrots, peeled and diced

1 inch piece of ginger, minced

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ t fresh turmeric, minced (can substitute dried)

2 c butternut squash, cubed

1 c adzuki beans, soaked for 2 hours, drained and rinsed

1 piece kombu

3 c water

Salt to taste

¼ c cilantro, chopped

1 c brown rice, rinsed and steamed

Place garam masala, cumin seeds, and cayenne in dry skillet and toast over medium heat until fragrant. (Be careful not to burn!) Remove and crush/grind with a mortar and pestle.

Add olive oil to a large saucepan or dutch oven and bring to medium heat. Add onions, celery, and carrots and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes. Add toasted spices, ginger and garlic and sauté for another minute. Add squash, beans, kombu, and water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover, and cook for 1 hour or until beans are tender. Season with salt generously to taste. Serve with brown rice and garnished with cilantro.

Serves 3-4.

Kids in the Kitchen: Spanish Almond Meatballs and Saffron Chorizo Rice

matt - spanish meatballsMatt prepared Spanish food for the family today. We discussed various dishes to make, thumbing through my copy of Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World, but he was drawn once again to meatballs. Not that I can say I blame him - what kid doesn’t like meatballs? (His favorite dish in the world is spaghetti and meatballs, as evidenced by one of his earlier turns in the kitchen.) In addition to the meatballs, we settled on a Spanish saffron chorizo rice, and some simply steamed green beans.

The meatball recipe was modified to be gluten-free, of course. This is a rather easy change to make. I made gluten-free breadcrumbs by toasting slices of old gluten-free bread I made, and then processing them into crumbs in the food processor. Of course, you could use any gluten-free bread or rolls to do the same. In Mark Bittman’s recipe, he called for dusting the meatballs with flour – I simply omitted this step. I also baked them instead of pan-frying, just to make things easier. Matt, of course, enjoyed forming the meatballs, and again attempted to create “the biggest meatball ever.”

matt - biggest meatball ever

The saffron chorizo rice was based on a Mark Bittman recipe as well. This dish has flavors similar to that of a paella, only it’s a bit simpler and does not have that characteristic paella “crust.” It did, however, have the wonderful aroma of saffron and that pleasant saltiness of the chorizo.

matt - spanish yellow chorizo rice

The verdict? The meatballs were okay, but lacked a depth of flavor, and were a bit dry. I used a lean ground beef, and perhaps next time should make them with a fattier meat. I also would prefer to add an herb in the meatballs to boost flavor – whether that would make them less “Spanish”, I’m not sure. As for the rice, it did have a wonderful blend of flavors. Mark Bittman’s recipe did call for a diced tomato, which I omitted. I think next time I’d leave that tomato in, to further balance the flavors and add a bit of acidity to the dish. But regardless, Matt was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the rice was (the part of the dish he was most skeptical about), and in addition, he had a great time – which, to me, is what being in the kitchen is all about.

matt - spanish meatballs - full plate

Almond Meatballs, adapted from Mark Bittman:

2 lbs ground beef or pork

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 c gluten-free bread crumbs

2 T minced garlic

1/2 c blanched almonds, roughly chopped

salt and black pepper to taste

canola spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine the meat in a bowl with the egg, bread crumbs, garlic, almonds, and salt and pepper. Mix well but don’t knead. Form into balls of any size you like (we made them about 1 1/2 inch in diameter).

Spray two baking pans with canola spray, and place meatballs on the pans. Place baking pans in the upper 1/3 and lower 1/3 racks in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Switch the pans, and bake for another 10 minutes or until cooked through. Makes about 48 1 1/2 inch meatballs.

Saffron Chorizo Rice, adapted from Mark Bittman:

2 1/2 c vegetable stock

large pinch of saffron threads

6 oz Spanish chorizo, sliced

1 T minced garlic

2 t Spanish smoked paprika

1 1/2 c Arborio or other short-grain rice

salt and pepper to taste

chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Warm the stock gently in a saucepan with the saffron. Heat a deep skillet to medium heat. Add the chorizo, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, smoked paprika, and rice and continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is glossy, just a minute or two.

Add the stock, along with pepper (and salt if you think you need it – I didn’t.) Cover and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers gently. Cook until the rice is done, about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish with the parsley, and serve. Makes about 4-5 servings.

Tahitian Squash Risotto and Foodbuzz Blog Awards

risotto 011When fall nears, I start to get excited. Not only because of the cool, crisp air (which I love), but because of the delicious fall produce. As much as I’ll miss my fresh tomatoes, (and here in a month or two, you may here me complain about the lack of good tomatoes…fair warning.) now it’s nearing time for one of my most favorite fall vegetables – winter squash. Most winter squashes are subtly sweet, creamy, and marry so well with a lot of comfort dishes. I love them all – pumpkins, butternut, acorn, spaghetti, and Tahitian. That’s right, Tahitian squash. I’d never heard of it, until a few weeks ago, when I was visiting the McKinney farmer’s market, and I visited my friend at Good Earth Organic Farm. He was selling not only butternut squashes, but he also had a large Tahitian squash available. I asked about it, mistaking it for a butternut. (they look VERY similar in color and shape) He described it to me as a nice, sweet squash that I could prepare in a similar manner to butternut. Needless to say, I was sold – and took that baby home with me.

What’s wonderful about winter squashes is that you don’t have to eat them right away. They can be stored for a long while. My Tahitian squash sat on my counter for a few weeks while I enjoyed my bounty of zucchini, okra, tomatoes, pears, and other summery produce, patiently waiting for its turn in the spotlight. On Sunday night, it was time for the Tahitian squash to shine. (Yes, Sunday…I know, it’s taken me a few days to get this to you!) A creamy risotto was just the right dish to highlight this sweet squash.

Contrary to what Hell’s Kitchen would portray, a risotto is not all that difficult to make. The big key here is to be stirring the risotto nearly constantly. (Perhaps one should plan to make it on a night when they are not the only one watching the kids…) But since you will be standing over the dish, you can “fiddle” with the dish as much as you like (something I have a desire to do with all dishes, whether they’re in need of “fiddling” or not). You also will be at the ready to test the doneness of the rice. Other than that, there’s nothing tricky about risotto – promise!

Tahitian (or butternut, or acorn, or pumpkin) Squash Risotto

2 T olive oil

5-6 lbs squash, such as butternut or acorn, peeled and diced

Salt and pepper

4-5 c chicken broth (can substitute vegetable broth to make vegetarian)

1 T olive oil

1 T butter

1 shallot, minced

1 ½ c Arborio rice

½ c white wine

½ c Parmesan, grated

2 T butter

¼ c parsley, chopped

Bring a heavy, large sauté pan to medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once oil is hot, add squash in a single layer. (you may have to do this in batches – I did.) Saute squash for 5-6 minutes or until tender. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from pan and set aside.

Reserving ½ c of the diced squash, puree the remainder in a food processor or blender.

Bring chicken broth to a simmer in a large saucepan, and hold at a simmer.

Either wipe clean the sauté pan, or bring another large, wide sauté pan to medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter. Swirl until butter melts. Add shallots and rice and stir until shallots start to soften, about 2 minutes. Add white wine and stir, deglazing the pan. Once wine is nearly evaporated, add 1 ladle of chicken broth and stir into rice. Stir almost constantly to ensure that each grain of rice is cooked evenly. Once broth is nearly evaporated, add another ladle of broth. Continue adding broth, a ladle at a time, as the broth evaporates from the pan, and stirring continuously, until the rice is nearly done, just shy of al dente.

Add the pureed squash, and add more broth as necessary. (Your finished risotto should not be sticky/gluey and clumpy, nor should it be thin. You’re striving for a creamy consistency here.) Stir until the rice is al dente. Add remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and parmesan. Stir until butter melts and cheese is incorporated. Taste and add salt and pepper as necessary. Remove from heat, and top with reserved diced squash and sprinkle with parsley for garnish.

Serves 6.

Wait, there’s more – Foodbuzz Blog Awards

I’m sure you have heard about Foodbuzz.com several times by now. I am a Featured Publisher on their site, the advertisements on this blog are from Foodbuzz, and I’ve participated in their 24,24,24 events (see Exploring Texas BBQ and Bringing the Bayou to the ‘Burbs). Well, Foodbuzz has officially announced the Foodbuzz Blog Awards. The Foodbuzz Blog Awards aim to recognize talent in the blog community through nominations and voting. So please, if you enjoy my blog, nominate me! (yes, this is my shameless plug) Nominations are open from September 14 – 30. The categories for nomination are:

Best Overall Blog
Best New Blog
Best Wine Blog
Best Cocktail/Spirits Blog
Best Baking Blog
Best Food Photography Blog
Best Visual Blog (graphic design)
Best Writing Voice
Best Healthy Living Blog
Best Green/Sustainable blog
Best Family Blog
Best Recipe Blog
Best Blogger Humanitarian Effort
Best Community Blog Effort (recognizing blogging groups/challenges/etc)
Most Humorous Food Blog

Blogger you’d most want to:
-Take to dinner
-Cook a meal for you
-Be your personal Sommelier
-Create you a cocktail
-Watch on Food Network
-Watch on Iron Chef
-See open up their own restaurant
-See their blog made into a movie

So please, take a moment and nominate as many blogs as you feel deserve recognition! And thank you!

My First Blogiversary and Surprise #7

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Tasty Eats At Home turns 1 year old today! I cannot believe how much my blog has changed in the past year. When I decided to start this blog in 2008, it was a rather impulsive decision. I was rapidly becoming passionate about food and cooking at the time, reading anything and everything “food-related” that I could. I recently had become aware of Elise’s blog at Simply Recipes (the only food blog I was aware of at the time), and was impressed by her vast collection of recipes, mostly from her family. I thought to myself “What a great idea. I could share my recipes with my family and friends!” And with that, Tasty Eats At Home was born. Little did I know of the vast food blogging community that existed!

Since Tasty Eats At Home’s birth, I have created 84 posts (this will be #85). But more than mere numbers, these posts represent a lot of things to me. I debated a few weeks ago on whether or not to keep all of my posts. Some of the earliest recipes I am no longer terribly fond of, and some are without photos. Of those early posts that do have photos, they are not exceptional by any stretch. But after some consideration, (and some tweeting about it on Twitter!) I have decided to keep them all. Each post represents a moment in my life, and together, they represent the growth in my cooking abilities, my photography, and most of all, my writing. As frustrated as I can be at times when the photography just won’t work for me, or the right words just won’t come, I can look back and realize that Tasty Eats At Home is in a continual state of growth, and for that, I am proud.

Of course, Tasty Eats At Home would not be what it is, if it weren’t for the amazing support I have received. My husband constantly brags about Tasty Eats At Home to everyone he encounters, and that warms my heart. He is also my #1 critic of the dishes I prepare, helping me to grow and stay focused. My family is more than happy to help eat the dishes whenever they can as well, and critique accordingly! And to all of my fellow food bloggers – I can’t thank you enough for all the advice, recipes, and ideas we’ve shared!

But lest you all think I’ve gotten a big head, I wanted to share with you a recipe that in my mind and heart, brings everything back down to earth and close to home. Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you: Surprise #7.

What is Surprise #7?

From what I can recall, there was a time when I was a child when we didn’t have much. My parents had to figure out how to feed three kids on a very limited budget. In addition, there were times my Mom was unavailable to make dinner, so the responsibility fell to my Dad. Dad was trying out various creations, only to have several of them fail to impress the kids. Determined, he created yet another budget-friendly dish: a concoction of rice, beans, ground beef, tomatoes and spices. This dish unanimously passed the “kid approval” test. We pondered what to call it…and after settling on “Surprise #7″, it was written down, and appeared on the menu on a regular basis. (Why Surprise #7? I don’t really know. I don’t recall Surprises #1-6…maybe they were the bad ones?)

Last night, I re-created this dish for our family. It is a very adaptable recipe. My version added frozen corn, and I used tomato puree rather than Dad’s choice of chopped tomatoes (I have some picky eaters in my household that will not eat tomato chunks). I also substituted brown rice for Dad’s white rice. It’s a tasty, no-frills, comforting dish that is quite kid-friendly, and with a few pantry staples on hand, can be thrown together in very little time. Perfect for feeding a hungry family on a budget – no wonder Dad created it!

Sometimes, re-visiting a dish from your childhood can invoke a lot of thoughts and feelings. Surprise #7 caused me to really think about Tasty Eats At Home and what cooking and food means to me, and so many of us. Cooking is an art, an expression, if you will. We all need food to nourish our bodies, but cooking allows food to become more than just a requirement – it morphs into an enjoyable, pleasureable experience. So we share the joy of cooking with others, with our friends, with our families, and it becomes a form of togetherness, and a way of connecting with one another. Creating Tasty Eats At Home has given me a way to more deeply connect with the joy that cooking brings to me and my family.

 Surprise #7 (adapted from my Dad)

1 T olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb lean ground beef

14-oz can tomato puree (I used El Pato Tomato Sauce – it’s a tomato sauce with chiles, garlic and onion)

2 T chili powder

1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained

1 c frozen corn

2 T pickle juice

3 c steamed brown rice

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large, heavy skillet to medium-high heat and add olive oil. When oil is hot, add onions, and saute for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add garlic and saute for another minute. Add ground beef, breaking into small crumbles with your spoon or spatula, and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Add tomato sauce and chili powder, and stir. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, and add beans and corn. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes more or until everything is hot and your corn is cooked through. Add pickle juice and rice, and stir to incorporate. Salt and pepper to your liking. Optional: serve with cheddar cheese sprinkled on top.

Serves 5-6, or maybe only 4 if you have hungry teenage boys.

This post has been linked to The W.H.O.L.E. Gang’s “Hamburger Helper” recipes.

Chicken Curry

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In the middle of the day last Thursday, I realized that the dinner I had planned to make was not going to work without a trip to the store. I had already used some of the key ingredients to make it earlier in the week. (I hate when this happens. I write down “cilantro” on the grocery list, not remembering that I need to purchase enough for two dishes, and then I come home with just a single bunch, screwing myself out of the second dish. I only had a smidgen left. So much for planning meals out for the week.) I did not have the desire to go to the store, and I didn’t have the time or the creativity to consider creating something out of the available pantry ingredients at home. I was headed down the road towards a) frozen gluten-free pizza, or b) take-out. Neither of which sounded like a winner.

And then I receive an email. Actually, two emails, from my wonderful grandmother. (Yes, that grandmother.) She was looking through a magazine and found two recipes she thought I would like to try. One was a flourless almond torte, (which I will have to make soon!) and the other? A chicken curry. I looked through the recipe, and realized I had all of the ingredients on hand. It looked as though it was a quick dish to throw together too…an added bonus on a weeknight.

This recipe just goes to show you that you don’t always have to spend hours in the kitchen, or have a long list of ingredients and complicated steps to make a delicious dish. This curry was bright, with a good amount of heat to it (but not too much!). The flavors of the masala made this dish feel as though it was a comfort dish I’d turn to time and time again, without the heavy, calorie-laden sauces that accompany most “comfort dishes.”

A big thanks to Grandma, as she saved the day!

Adapted from Guideposts:

2 lbs chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 t masala (recipe follows)

1 t fresh ginger, grated

2 t fresh garlic, grated

1 small onion, diced

4 T olive oil

salt, to taste

1 small tomato, chopped

1 c frozen peas

A few sprigs of cilantro leaves

Combine chicken, masala, ginger, garlic, and onion in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add salt. Mix well, making sure chicken is fully coated. Set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.

Over medium heat, warm the remaining oil in a large skillet. Add the marinated chicken and cover skillet. After about 10 minutes, stir chicken, and add tomato and peas. Allow ingredients to simmer over medium heat until fully cooked, 5-10 minutes more (depends on the size of your chicken pieces).

Serve over steamed Basmati rice and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serves 4.

For the masala:

1 1/2 t cayenne pepper

1 T paprika

1/4 t cumin

1/4 t ground coriander

1/4 fennel seed, crushed or ground

1/4 t garam masala

1/4 t turmeric

Combine all spices thoroughly. Store in a jar for up to three months.