Archive | October, 2011

Spanish or Italian Rice

6 Oct

Once a year, DH heads to Long Island to go ocean fishing with a client. I like this for two reasons: first, DH really likes his client and they have a great time together, so there are many smiles when he comes back home. And second, the person who really hits the jackpot from these trips is me, because I end up with a freezer full of rockfish.

These, my friends, are some gorgeous pieces of fish. They come home in a cooler as massive sides, unlike the wafer-thin filets I can buy at the market. I cut them into steaks (and they really are–a good two or three inches thick), wrap them individually, bag them, and store them in their portions in my freezer, ready to be pulled out for whatever deliciousness I have in mind that night. I usually make fish tacos because everyone will eat them, but last night, I felt like Italian.

Which leads me to today’s recipe for rice. I envisioned a yummy tomato-and-garlic basted fish over rice last night, but plain old white rice wasn’t going to cut it, and something out of a box wasn’t in the cards either. I wanted that same yummy tomato-ness in my starch, and put my grade school math to the test.

Flavoring rice is pretty simple. Two cups of liquid to one cup of rice (except water or broth–if you’re only using those, subtract a quarter cup of liquid). That holds true for tomato sauce, the juice in cans of tomatoes, or any other liquid that goes into the pot. Two to one.

I did the measurements last night so you can skip it, and honestly, I’d have eaten a big bowl of this on its own. My kids gobbled it up (boo-ya!). DH ate without comment, which is a score unto itself. And it was delicious with my rockfish, which we’ll talk about next week.

Onward. Ditch your box, gang. Try this. Trust me. You need:

1 tbsp olive oil

8 oz (1 cup) chicken or vegetable broth

One 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained

1 15 oz can of tomato sauce

3/4 cup water

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup diced onion

1 tsp Italian seasoning

2 cups of white rice

In a large flat pan (I used my Every Day pan by Calphalon) or stockpot, stir together all of the ingredients. Turn your stove to medium (start with everything cold and heat it up together–you’ll get fluffier rice), bring it to a boil, give it a good stir, cover it, and lower the heat to low.

Cook for about 20-25 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until the liquid is almost absorbed. Take the lid off for the last few minutes of cooking. When you don’t see any excess liquid in the pot. turn the burner off and let it all sit for a few minutes.

(To make this more Spanish, add a little saffron, cumin, and/or chili powder to the mix)

Autumn Veggie and Sausage Soup

4 Oct

We’re a month or so into the school year and the whole lunch thing is dragging me down.

Not the kids’ lunches. We’re set there. It’s my lunch that’s the issue. I am sandwiched and salad-ed out, completely over frozen entrees, and too busy (and cheap) to run out to eat every day or cook myself something new at 11 each morning.

Yesterday was rainy and cold and generally disgusting around here (again! paging Noah…), and it felt like a great day to break out the soup pot for a simple recipe that would last all week.

I started thinking I’d make a bean and sausage soup recipe I found online, but reviews of it said it needed more ingredients and was pretty blah as written. I went to the grocery store and started picking out things that looked good, and before I knew it, the original recipe was right out the window and a new one was born, filled with fresh, seasonal ingredients. Which is really the ideal way to cook and eat, saving yourself from older produce that’s been hauled cross-country, maximizing flavor, and keeping a little cash in your pocket.

This calls for a parmesan rind. I always keep a hunk of fresh parmesan in the house for grating over pasta and veggies. It seems expensive, I know, but you only use a little bit at a time and it’ll last almost forever wrapped tightly in plastic and stored in the fridge. For this recipe, you cut off the (inedible) rind and toss it into the pot, and then fish it out at the end. It adds a wonderful, subtle nutty flavor to the soup and is well worth the step. If you don’t have one, no worries. Go ahead without it.

I used smoked turkey sausage in this because that’s what I like. You can use whatever you enjoy, or substitute ham or bacon for a similar smoky flavor in the soup. Non-meat eaters can add extra beans to beef up the soup and toss in a little liquid smoke (a LITTLE–that stuff is potent) or smoked chipotle Tabasco for a similar effect.

This was warm and creamy (from the beans–neat trick, eh?) and smoky and comforting, and perfectly perfect for yet another cold, rainy day. I’m looking forward to my second bowl today and would love to hear what you think if you try it. You need:

Olive oil

4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth

1/2 a sweet onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 a butternut squash, peeled and diced (about a cup and a half of diced squash)

7 oz smoked sausage (I used turkey; mine comes in 14 oz packages, so I used half and froze the other half for another time), chopped into bites

1 15-oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well

1 zucchini, diced

The rind of a hunk of Parmesan cheese (I always have a hunk around. Add a little salt if you don’t have this)

A dried bay leaf

About 2 cups of chopped fresh kale (use spinach if you can’t find kale)



About 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning

Half a lemon

Heat your soup pot over medium heat. Coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Saute the onion and sausage until the sausage just starts to brown a bit. Stir in the garlic and keep it moving for about a minute.

Pour in the chicken broth and add all of the rest of the ingredients except the kale and lemon. Stir, cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the butternut squash softens, stirring every so often.

Stir in the kale, cook 10 more minutes, and fish out the Parmesan rind and the bay leaf. Squeeze the lemon over the pot, stir in the juice, and enjoy. Makes about four servings.

The Short-Order Cook Thing

3 Oct

Happy Monday, y’all.

So we talked a few weeks back about kids and pickyness and not being a short-order cook just because some short, income-less person decides they “don’t like” whatever you’ve worked to make for dinner. Yes? And how we all love, love, love our kids to pieces and wouldn’t know what to do without them, really and truly, but man would you just eat dinner one night without so much commentary?

Last night was one of those nights. We had an unseasonably cold, wet weekend and yesterday being Sunday and a football day for both of the teams our family follows (some wisely and some extremely misguidedly, but I digress), it was without question a chili day. I made a recipe very similar to this one, but with beef and on the stovetop–I’ll share it this week, promise.

My kids don’t like chili.

This one is an honest dislike. They’ve tried it more than once and they really don’t like it. Especially all spicy-like, which is how I made the batch yesterday. I try to get them to try foods honestly, but if they truly don’t like something, I don’t shove it down their throats. Nobody needs lifelong food issues.

The solution? Actually remarkably simple. Instead of buying a one-pound piece of steak for the chili, I bought a piece that was about 1 1/3 pounds. I diced up most of it for the chili pot, but kept that last third-pound whole, marinated it in some ginger-soy dressing, popped my cast-iron grill pan onto the stove, and grilled it up for the kids. They enjoyed their steak with broccoli and rice while DH and I had our chili and the same sides. Yeah, I had one more pan to clean, but it was much easier than listening to the complaining, wasting food, resorting to McNastiness, or making a whole different meal.

That’s my take on this one. I’d love to hear yours–if you’re making a meal you love but the kids don’t, how do you handle it? Comment below!

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