When Elias and I were first married, I learned very quickly that he didn’t consider a meal a full meal unless there’s rice. We eat rice in our home every single day. While I learned the secrets of making rice and it’s not hard, I did wonder out loud (on Facebook) awhile ago if I should get a rice cooker. The response was pretty one sided “Yes! Get one! I love mine!” People seemed to be passionate about their rice cookers. One friend was the lone dissenter “I don’t really use mine. Wish I could trade it for one of your books.” It sounded like a great deal to me, and so we made the swap.
The verdict? I love the rice cooker. I really do! What’s easier than making rice? Nothing… except making it in a rice cooker. I think the thing I like about it is that it frees up mental space. I just throw it in there and turn it on and then I’m back to the business of making the “fun” food.
Because of my over zealousness with the new rice cooker, I had a big pot of white rice sitting in the fridge. After a few days it gets a little dried out and not so exciting, so I decided to make chicken fried rice. It seriously cooks up in 15 minutes, and it was so tasty. In addition to being absolutely no trouble to throw together and really tasty, it’s cheap and uses up whatever’s in the fridge (within reason).
Take Out Chicken Fried Rice
3 cups of leftover rice
1 and 1/2 cups cooked cubed (or shredded) chicken
1 cup frozen peas and carrots (total = 1 cup. 1/2 cup of each)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T neutral flavored oil (vegetable or sesame, if you have it)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. ginger paste (optional)
- Heat oil in a large pan on medium-heat
- Add vegetables (onion, peas, carrots) and fry for 3-5 minutes, or until tender
- Crack eggs into pan, and scramble them in to the vegetables
- Add, chicken, rice, and ginger paste to the pan and stir to combine for two minutes
- Finish by adding in soy sauce
Source: Adapted from Rachel Schultz
Finally, finally, it’s cold enough in San Antonio for soup. (Not that being cold is a requirement in our house for soup, we eat soup in the summer, too, because we love soup.) Still, there’s nothing better than cozying up to a nice steamy bowl of soup on a cool day, and this soup is perfect snuggle up comfort food. I’m in the mood for a top five list, so here we go. Top five reasons to love this soup:
1. Comforting, filling and cheap! (three reasons in one)
2. The balsamic vinegar at the end gives it a little bit of a “hmm… yum… what’s in this soup?!” quality.
3. Super easy and quick to make
4. If you use extra lean ground beef, it’s pretty good for you.
5. (Should be #1) It’s lick-the-bowl delicious.
I adapted this soup to make it a few less steps than the original recipe calls for.
Ground Beef and Lentil Soup with Rice
1 lb. ground beef
2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 T minced garlic
1 T dried parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme or 3 fresh sprigs of fresh time
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
4 c. low sodium beef stock
2 c. low sodium chicken stock
2 cups water
plus more as needed
2/3 cup brown lentils
1/2 cup rice
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 T balsamic vinegar
1. Heat 2tsp. olive oil in a frying pan and cook the ground beef until it’s well browned. Break up into small pieces and transfer to a large pot.
2. Add another tsp. of olive oil to the pan and add carrots, onions and celery. Saute until the veggies are starting to soften (about 5 minutes). Add the garlic, thyme, cumin, and parsley and saute for another 2 minutes.
3. Transfer the veggies to the pot. Add the 2 cups of water to the frying pan to swish out the bits of veggies and garlic stuck to the pan and add that water to the soup pot as well.
4. Add beef broth, chicken broth and lentils and rice to the soup pot and simmer on low for about an hour.
5. Taste the soup, if the flavor seems too salty or concentrated, add a bit of water, if it seems underseasoned, add salt.
My birthday was last Tuesday…. Happy Birthday to me! I offered to make my own birthday meal because I enjoy cooking and knew it would take some stress off of E to not have to do it. I knew I would make something lemon or lime flavored. While I certainly enjoy chocolate. (See here, here, and here) I love lemon and lime desserts even more. (case in point: here, here and here). I’m the one at the dessert buffet happily loading up my plate with lime tartlets and lemon bars while my friends are devouring the chocolate cake with chocolate ganache and a side of chocolate. In our house, birthday cakes are always gluten free so husband/dad can enjoy them too.
I will confess that I was hoping to make a more elaborate key lime dessert for my birthday, but (insert standard disclaimer about good intentions, being too busy, blah blah blah).
This dessert doesn’t take much time to whip up, and the results are very satisfying. Limey and creamy! The gingersnap crust gives it a little extra something, but it still has that graham cracker crust feel that we all associate with key lime pie.
This cheesecake can easily be made as one large cheesecake, just increase the baking time. Also, to further simplify, pour the filling into a pre-made pie crust.
Happy 35 to me!
Individual Key Lime Cheesecakes
1. 8 oz gluten-free gingersnap cookies
2. 1/2 stick butter
3. 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
4. 1/2 cup sugar
5. Two large eggs
6. 1/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice
7. 1 T. grated key lime zest
8. 1 T vanilla
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Prepare muffin tin with 12 paper liners
3. Make crust
i. pulse the gingersnaps in a food processor until they are the consistency of sand, and transfer to a bowl.
ii. add the melted butter and stir. The mixture will not be very wet but will hold together loosely.
iii. spoon the crust in to the muffin liners and press down to form the crust. (Note: I wanted a fairly thin crust on mine, so I used about 2 T of crust per cheesecake which resulted in some leftover crumbs. We’ve been sprinkling the leftover crumbs on pancakes and yogurt to use them up. Alternatively, you could make a thicker crust.)
4. Make the filling
i. with a stand mixer, mix the cream cheese, sugar, lime juice, zest, and vanilla until thoroughly combined
ii. add eggs one at a time and mix until just combined
5. Divide filling equally among the prepared muffin tins.
6. Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes or until the filling is just set (it’s ok if it wobbles a tiny bit in the center)
7. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before enjoying.
Source: Filling adapted from Kraft Recipes
This weekend, in honor of our Colombian visitor, I wanted to make a few Colombian treats for him and Elias to share at one of the speaking opportunities. I made three different Colombian sweets, none of which I’ve made before.
Behind door number one was a dish called enyucado. My version was a disaster. Complete and utter fail. Sweet Elias hemmed and hawed before I got it out of him that “No, this tastes nothing like what it should.” Don’t know what went wrong, but I’ll be doing some research.
Behind door number two: edible, but not what I was hoping for. Dulce de leche cookies. They tasted fine, but looked sloppy. I’ve double and triple checked the recipe, but something was definitely not right there. More research…
Behind door number three: these mini coconut cakes. Win! They are sweet and full of coconut flavor and go really well with a cup of coffee. I made them in mini muffin tins which made them just the right size for a taste. Unlike the disastrous enyucado and the cookies, these also store really well in an airtight container. Another advantage to these? One bowl.
Torticas de coco – Makes 36 mini torticas
4 cups of shredded, sweetened coconut
1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
generous pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line molds with paper liners
2. Mix all ingredients together until well combined. The mixture will be rather stiff and firm. (not soupy)
3. Fill paper lined cups to heaping. (These rise, but not much)
4. Bake until set and golden brown, 12-18 minutes
Source: Adapted from My Colombian Recipes
This week Elias and I celebrated our fifth anniversary (yay!) and in that time, I’ve come to learn the code for his rating system for foods. Simply asking “what do you think of this?” will get you nowhere. He’s a polite man, a sweetheart. His answer is always “Delicious!” However, if the “delicious” is also accompanied by a “MMMMMMM hmmmmmm” well, that’s a four star plate right there. If there is an “MMMMMMM hmmmmmmm” AND a “What’s in this?!” the dish is four and a half stars. If there is the MMMMM hmmmmm, a “What’s in this?” and a suggestion that the dish be made for company sometime, then I know the dish is a five star, home run, must make again dish, which is the rating this lemongrass coconut chicken with vegetables received.
Not only that, but it’s easy and quick to prepare, and healthy. I will be making this again, and I will probably play around with some of the proportions adding more veggies and/or swapping out some of the chicken for extra firm tofu. When I do, I’ll try to remember to post it in the comments.
I found this dish after eating the Kashi frozen meal and loving it. The homemade version so much better because it has real lemongrass, and more sauce. I served this with my cilantro-lime rice and thought they complimented each other beautifully. Buen Provecho!
Lemongrass Coconut Chicken and Vegetables
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs, cut into bite sized chunks
- 2 pieces of lemongrass (each about 6 inches long) – bruise the lemongrass first by crushing it under a knife to release its flavor
- 1 cup of lite canned coconut milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 heaping cup (about 4 medium) sliced carrots
- 2 heaping cups broccoli florets
- 1 heaping cup of snow peas
- zest of one lime
- shredded coconut
- lime wedges
- cooked rice or quinoa
- chopped cilantro
1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Pan fry the chicken pieces until they are no longer pink (about 6 minutes).
2. Add the lemongrass, coconut milk, broth, ginger, and lime zest, to the pan and bring to a boil.
3. Add the vegetables if they are fresh. If they are frozen, wait until the last 5 minutes of cooking time so they don’t become mushy.
4. Reduce to medium, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the veggies are tender, and the broth has absorbed the lemongrass flavor.
5. Serve over rice. Top with a sprinkle of shredded coconut, cilantro, and additional splash of lime juice, if desired.
Source: Adapted from Once a Month Meals
If you’re going to come back to a cooking blog after more than six weeks away, come back with cake, I say. I’ve been away finishing the manuscript on my book (no, not a cookbook… ha!). I’m glad to have a little more leisure time to dedicate to the blogs.
When our dinner hosts the other night asked me to bring dessert, I was thrilled. Not only does making a dessert for a party provide an opportunity to do something special, but I know I can make something gluten-free for Elias to enjoy as well. I had a cake in mind I wanted to try but at the last minute realized it called for an eight inch pan. No can do. I am sort of a minimalist when It comes to baking: If I don’t have the proper pan, I don’t make the recipe. The internet is full of recipes to try, and I’m not the type to run right out for a pan just to make one recipe. So, it was back to square one. I knew I wanted some sort of chocolate gluten-free cake. My old standby is fantastic and easy to make, but I’ve made it a lot recently, and I was up for something new. I passed by a lot of gluten free chocolate cakes for being too high maintenance and taking time I simply didn’t have on Saturday. Many involved whipping up egg whites separately from the yolks, delicate folding in, blah blah blah. It’s the truth: sometimes you’re interested in whipping up eggwhites and gently folding them into a batter, and sometimes you’re not. Gotta roll with it. I digress.
This cake not only uses whole eggs, it uses one bowl for the cake and one bowl for the cream. Not only that, but the cake part requires only a whisk, not a mixer.
Before I get to the recipe, a few little helpful pointers in case you’re thinking about making this cake:
- Don’t expect it to taste cakey. There’s no flour (of any kind) in it. It tastes dense and fudgy, kind of like an undercooked brownie. Very intense chocolate flavor. If that’s not sounding tasty, move right along.
- Because of the aforementioned super duper fudgy and intense chocolate flavor, just a very small sliver will be satisfying, thus, I’d say this cake easily serves 8, and possibly 12 people.
- The recipe called for a tangy whipped cream to go alongside it. When I was making the cream, I realized how much it resembled this cream. In retrospect, I wish I had made that cream instead of the cream that goes with it. Not only is that cream a little more interesting with the orange zest, but it also doesn’t require a mixer, and I could have made the whole darn dessert with no mixer. Give it a try and let me know how it goes. That’s the cream I’ll be making if I make this cake again.
- Also, re: the cream — the addition of the sour cream makes it less stable and less fluffy. This caused me all kinds of worry when transporting it. (It was fine, but as I said, next time, I’ll do the other one.)
- I made the mistake of trying to transfer this cake from the springform pan base to a serving platter. It ended up cracking and breaking and I had to smoosh it together on the plate. I wouldn’t say this cake can’t be transferred, but it should be transferred with a lot more care and grace than I displayed.
Okay! Without further ado… here it goes!
For the cake:
- 2 sticks (1 C) butter, cut into pieces plus more for the pan
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for the pan
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- 8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- 5 large eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1-2 T confectioner’s sugar (for dusting)
For the vanilla cream
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream (or creme fraiche if you’re fancy)
- 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
- 1 t. vanilla
Make the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9 inch springform pan and dust with the cocoa powder. (I buttered only and did not dust with cocoa powder. It was fine.)
2. Melt butter, cream (1/4 cup of cream) over medium low heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the chocolate and keep stirring until chocolate is just melted. Be careful not to scorch or burn the chocolate. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool a bit.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder. Stir in the cooled chocolate mixture.
4. Transfer the batter to the pan and bake for 35-40 minutes until the batter is puffed and set and cracked on top.
5. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 1 hour before removing
6. Transfer to a plate (carefully!) and dust with the sugar.
MAKE THE CREAM
1. Beat the heavy cream with the sour cream and sour cream until soft peaks form. (It helps to have the bowl of the mixer and the beater very cold). Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and continue to beat for 10 seconds more.
2. Serve the cake with the fresh cream and berries, if desired.
Recipe adapted from: Real Simple