Posts filed under ‘food’

Slowly Overcoming Recipe Dependence

Confession: I am recipe dependent. I have an incredibly hard time coming up with meal ideas without step-by-step instructions. Inspiration just doesn’t come to me like that. As a result, I’ll probably never make it to Top Chef. Oh well.

Anyway, this picture kept catching my eye when I flipped through my recipe binder:

photo © Rachael Ray

I read the recipe for Sausage-and-Zucchini Rice but I thought it seemed a little bland…and I didn’t want to be stuck with another boring Rachael dish. Then I did something unthinkable (for me): I altered it before I even made it! Basically, I cut down on the butter and chicken broth and added a lot more vegetables. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

The result was this delicious beauty (if I could hire Rach’s photographers, it’d be even prettier):

zucchini rice

Veggie and Sausage Rice (serves about 6)

Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
1-1/2 cups rice
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 pound hot Italian sausage, casings discarded
2 zucchini, cut into small cubes
1 carrot, cut into small cubes
1 celery stalk, cut into small cubes
2 mushrooms, cut into small cubes
1 cup frozen corn, defrosted

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and rice. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

While the rice cooks, grab a large skillet. Over medium heat, cook and break up the sausage into small pieces until it is cooked through. With a slotted spoon, move the sausage to a paper towel lined plate.

Add the zucchini, carrots and celery to the skillet and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. Return the sausage to the skillet and add the corn and mushrooms. Cook until heated through.

If you skillet is big enough, you can mix the rice with the vegetables right in the skillet. Otherwise, serve the rice in bowls and then serve the vegetables and sausage on top.

Enjoy! Hopefully there are many more “recipe independent” meals in my future.

This recipe could easily be made vegetarian by omitting the sausage, using vegetable broth instead of chicken and cooking the vegetables in vegetable oil. However, I had sausage in my freezer…and felt like cooking meat :)

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September 24, 2009 at 9:51 am 1 comment

Recipe Rundown

Somehow, despite the fact that I’m still not working, life got kinda crazy last week.  Also, I’m sometimes a really lazy blogger.  I could write a whole post about that.  But I won’t.

Even when I’m not posting, I am cooking.  Here’s a brief look at what went down in my kitchen last week.

Snickerdoodles

I never used to be a big fan of baking.  Yes, I frequently made cookies and brownies and such, often from a mix, for my debate team kids, but I was often unhappy with the way they turned out.  Suddenly I’m very into baking, which is fun but less than helpful when I really should be focusing on dinner.  It would’ve been all okay last week if Smitten Kitchen hadn’t posted an incredibly tempting recipe for snickerdoodles.  They looked too good.  I had to make them.  I’ve never even made snickerdoodles before…but I had to make these.  (Poor Brian…he has to come home after work to hear my ramblings about why I *had* to make cookies…not that he’s complaining)

snickerdoodles

They were “totally awesome” (if you’re my sister, you’ll get that. Otherwise, I’m sorry).  I would make more this week, but I have other plans for my oven.  Highly, highly recommended.

Spicy Bean and Cheese Burritos

Another Rachael Ray recipe, I made some substitutions to her Spicy Bean and Cheese Burritos.  I subbed vegetable broth for beer, because I’m too cheap to go buy beer just for one recipe.  I also used canned chopped chilies instead of pickled jalapeños.  The resulting burrito filling was this:

burrito filling

Definitely not bad, though not very spicy.  We put the filling and cheese into whole wheat tortillas and attempted cooking them on my George Foreman grill.

burritos

Final analysis: The burritos were fine, though would’ve benefited from a bit more spice and crunchier tortillas.  The lack of crunch was probably my fault and next time I’ll try cooking them in a skillet.  However, Brian and I were fans of the whole wheat tortillas, which we’d never had before, so those will definitely reappear on a future shopping list.

This week, be prepared for recipes that involve baking and apples.  Brian and I went apple picking on Saturday :)

September 22, 2009 at 12:23 pm 3 comments

Step by Step: Tortellini, Tomato and Spinach Soup

My mother-in-law is a really good cook.  I’m not just saying that because I know she’s reading this, it’s true.  She’s also extremely willing to pass along recipes, which is great for my Rachael Ray filled recipe binder.  Plus, it always works in my favor to cook something from Brian’s days at home once in a while, especially since we know it’s been well tested.  One of the recipes she’s given me that I’ve made several times is a soup of tortellini, tomato and spinach.

Fortunately, to make this  soup, you don’t really have to be a good cook.  You also don’t have to have a lot of time, or a lot of ingredients.  It’s that easy.  Who could ask for more?

Tortellini, Tomato and Spinach Soup

adapted from my mother-in-law, serves about 4.

You’ll need:
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
3.5 cups vegetable broth
8 oz fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed
14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes, undrained and cut up
grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan. Add 2 cloves crushed (or poorly chopped, in my case) garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes.

garlic

2. Add vegetable broth and tortellini.

tortellini
Heat until boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

3. Add spinach and tomatoes.

soup
Simmer for 5 more minutes.

4. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

tortellini soup

Could it be any easier than that?
One of the best things about this recipe is that all the ingredients can be kept on hand to use for those times when you don’t know what to make for dinner.
Enjoy!

September 14, 2009 at 9:28 am 2 comments

My New Kitchen (and Curried Brown Rice)

As I’ve mentioned about a million times, Brian and I recently moved to a new apartment.  I’d just like to share with you my old kitchen:

old kitchen It was a shared kitchen/dining area, but as far as the kitchen’s concerned, that was it.  All our appliances, dishes, bakeware, glasses, mugs, pots, pans AND food were kept in these cabinets.  It was a little cozy.

This is my new kitchen:
new kitchen

More cabinets (though the perspective on this picture is a little difficult).  Definitely more drawers.  Lots more counter space.  What’s that behind the door in the lower right corner?

IMG_1596
Oh, it’s a pantry! A whole closet in which to store food (and my reusable shopping bags and apron collection)! Imagine that!

Needless to say, Brian and I (probably mostly me) are greatly enjoying our new kitchen.  It’s nice to not have to empty out an entire cabinet to access what we need.

If you’re looking for something to cook in your kitchen, I highly recommend Curried Brown Rice with Tomatoes and Peas, as recently seen on Cheap Healthy Good.  The dish was cheap and healthy and good, as expected, plus you can read about her worst date ever.   I’d never made anything with brown rice before, but since it’s baked in the oven it’s pretty impossible to mess up.  I used regular curry powder, since I’m too cheap to buy anything I don’t have to, and it still tasted great…though now I really want to try it with Madras curry.  Brian and I don’t like peas, so I subsituted assorted frozen veggies for the peas.

curry

September 3, 2009 at 7:34 am

Chilled Tomato Soup with Tarragon Sour Cream

Question: What’s vegetarian, easy and fast to make, apparently better than my gazpacho, only takes 2 steps and only needs 10 basic ingredients?

Answer: Food & Wine’s Chilled Tomato Soup with Tarragon Crème Fraîche”.

tomato soup

I’m really ready for fall, and thankfully it’s starting to feel like it around here.  Nevertheless, it still seems a little early to be making soup (Brian and I have grand plans to spend the entire winter making and eating soups).  Luckily, my free September 2009 issue of Food & Wine contained the perfect solution:  Chilled Tomato Soup with Tarragon Crème Fraîche”.  The ingredient list is really simple: tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine vinegar, vegetable broth, olive oil, sugar, salt, pepper, crème fraîche and tarragon. Chances are, you already have almost all of those ingredients.

Ultimately, I halved the recipe (which then ended up only getting us through last night because Brian and I both had two servings), omitted the salt and pepper (I like to leave out salt whenever possible, especially since my broth wasn’t low sodium) and substituted sour cream for crème fraîche, because my supermarkets don’t appear to carry it.  And what was I going to do with leftover crème fraîche?

Brian and I both loved the soup, possibly even more than the gazpacho I made a few months ago.  The flavor is really fresh and I’ll eat anything with tarragon in it.  It’s a summer soup and not particularly hearty so I would recommend serving it as a side or getting a good loaf of bread to go with it.

My soup craving is satisfied for the moment…but I’m still looking forward to making “real soup” in the near future.

September 1, 2009 at 12:15 pm

Barbecue Hit: Giada’s Mediterranean Salad

I spent too much of yesterday agonizing over a barbecue.  It was my church’s women’s fellowship barbecue and, being new to the area and all, I really wanted to go.  Attendees were supposed to bring their own meat to grill and something to share.  First issue: I thought it was pretty silly to go to the store to buy meat and, more than likely, a roll, for a single person.  I don’t have hamburgers (or turkey burgers, or veggie burgers, or hot dogs) in my freezer waiting for occasions like this.  Nor do I want to.  So I agonized over whether to go to the store so I would have something for the grill.  Second issue: Then I debated over what to get-should I get meat? Veggie burgers? Vegetables to grill?  When possible, I don’t like to introduce myself as “Emily the not-quite-but-almost-vegetarian”.  If the conversation gets there then fine, but it’s not the point of my existence.  So, really the whole debate was about what first impression I wanted to make.

In the end, I brought nothing but Mediterranean Salad (and I am getting to the part with the recipe).  I hoped that no one would notice that I hadn’t brought anything for the grill.  Know what?  No one did.  There were so many pasta salads and bean salads and fruit salads and Mexican dips that no one noticed that my full plate didn’t have anything from the grill or any meat.  I had a really good time spending the evening conversing about things other than my eating habits.

What to bring to share was much easier for me to figure out.  I knew right away what I wanted to make.  Last year, before I was really into cooking, I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this Mediterranean Salad on Everyday Italian.  It was a big hit at last night’s get together.

mediterrean salad

The dish contains Israeli/Mediterranean couscous, which I’ve found at food co-ops and Whole Foods  It’s a small pasta, different from “normal” couscous.  The recipe says any small pasta will work, but I’ve been so happy with the couscous that I’ve never tried it.  Add in some broth,* garlic, lemon juice and zest, fresh mint, fresh basil and dried cranberries and it’s a delicious side salad (or meal, if I have my way).  Check it out.

*Switch out the chicken broth for vegetable broth and this dish is vegetarian.

August 29, 2009 at 7:13 am

Needs Work:Rach’s Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Fried Capers

Last night for dinner I tried out another Rachael Ray recipe (seems like there’s been a lot of her, sorry).  Creamy Pasta with Spinach and Fried Capers is a fine dish, but it needs some work.

pasta

The dish was, as promised, easy to make.  The taste is pretty bland overall, though the capers add a nice kick when you get one.  Next time I might add more capers and sauce (it’s creamy, but there’s not a lot to go around).  Today, while heating up the leftovers it occurred to me what would really make this meal good:  Sausage.  Guess it’s a good thing I haven’t gone vegetarian yet.

August 27, 2009 at 6:38 pm

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