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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)

Use ‘Em Up Tomatoes au Gratin

30 Aug

We were supposed to go to a party on Saturday–a baby shower for my husband’s cousin who is very happily expecting. Baby showers make me happy, and I gleefully shopped for the perfect gift and then the perfect dish to contribute to the event. It was to be my tomato-cucumber salad, as produce is at its amazing height where I live and I have a big mess o’ basil growing in a box on my deck.

Mother nature apparently shares not my love of showers. While I was wrapping up a little something to welcome the new person to the world, she was wrapping up a hurricane. And then she flung it right up the east coast to my house. When Saturday morning arrived, I sadly put my perfect outfit back on its hanger, called the party-giver to offer my regrets, and stowed my basil and other herbs in the garage to wait it out with our lawn furniture, toys, and random bits of outside life we didn’t want blown away.

That, my dear friends, left me with a mess of tomatoes to use up. And what do we do when we have veggies and need a little pick-me-up?

We toss carbs on top. Carbs and olive oil and garlic, and we toast it up under the broiler to make the most amazing, simple side dish (my lunch today, but who’s really counting?) you can imagine. Your house will smell like Italy and your mouth will be delighted.

This is so good that I’m going to stop rambling on and tell you how to make it, and then you should, right now, while the little red fruits are still at their peak. Go on. You need:

Tomatoes, cut into quarter-inch slices

Italian-style bread crumbs–I used about a third of a cup

Garlic powder–I used about a teaspoon

Grated Parmesan cheese–I used about two tablespoons.

Olive oil


Pre-heat your broiler, to low if you have a choice. Spray a small casserole dish with olive oil or nonstick spray. Layer your tomatoes in the dish, in a single layer as much as possible, overlapping where necessary. Sprinkle them with a touch of salt and a drizzle of oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the bread crumbs, cheese, and garlic powder. Lay that mixture on top of your tomatoes until they’re just peeking out. Drizzle a bit more olive oil on top and put the dish under the broiler until the crumbs are brown and toasty. Enjoy.

(My amounts are inexact–it depends on your dish size and the number of tomatoes you use. But this is a perfect playing recipe–you can’t possibly mess it up. Guesstimate, adjust, and have at it.)


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Super Simple Take-Along Asparagus

25 Jul

We spent the weekend at our favorite vacation spot and, as luck would have it, got a call from some very good friends about dinner; they also happened to be in town. Fun! They invited us to dinner and we quite happily accepted, and then I offered to bring a dish and was asked for a side.

No problem, right? Except that, being on vacation, I didn’t have my usual arsenal of pots and pans and Yummy Things in Jars and Bottles. Also, being a working girl, I didn’t want to run out and buy $30 worth of condiments and spices and such for one dinner party, and then haul it all back home where it would sit for awhile (being duplicates of what I already have) until I didn’t want to use it anymore. So I hopped in the car and visited the local market to see what was fresh and in season, and would avoid both one person’s soy allergy and another’s gluten sensitivity.

This was perfect. In-season asparagus, a lemon, a little cheese, and a sprinkling of oil, and I had the perfect side–allergy-friendly, truly delicious, and perfect at room temperature, so there was no pressure to make room in her oven when we got there. It was gobbled up, and I’ll definitely do it again.

You need:

A bunch or two of asparagus (I used a bunch and a half for four adults)

One lemon

A little shaved or shredded Parmesan cheese (ask the deli for a sample, or just buy a hunk and know it’ll last forever)

Olive oil spray

Heat the oven to 425 degrees and spray a baking sheet with the oil.

Snap off the woody ends from the asparagus and lay it in a single layer on the baking sheet. Give it a scant shot of oil on its top side.

Cut the lemon in half, and sprinkle the asparagus with the juice of half  of it.

Put it in the oven and let it roast until it starts to caramelize and is crisp-tender. That was about 10 minutes in my oven, but keep an eye on it.

Pull it out of the oven, sprinkle it with the juice of the rest of the lemon, and sprinkle the cheese on top (it’ll melt just enough to stick to the spears…mmmmm). Let cool, package up, take along, and enjoy.

Grilled Sweet Potato Wedges

13 Jul

Fly-by post, y’all, of something simple and yummy.

I grilled, on an outside grill, for the first time ever the other night. I know, right? It took me a bit to get the flame just right, but dinner of burgers and sweet potato wedges was yummy. And I could have done the ‘taters in the oven, but this gave them a beautiful char that was delicious, without heating up the house.

Easy peasy: Peel two or three sweet potatoes and cut them in half (same way you’d half a lemon–right through the short side, in the middle). Cut the halves into wedges (I got six wedges out of each half). Boil them in water on the stove for 5 minutes, drain in a colander, and let them sit until they’re almost all the way dry.

Heat your grill up. Spray or lightly pat your potato wedges with oil, and put them on the grill. Turn after a few minutes, when they start to char up, until all sides are crispy. Sprinkle with a little salt (brown sugar would also be yummy) and enjoy.

Crockpot Mac n Cheese

12 May

I’m so sorry I haven’t been around much, gang. Rest assured, it is not my smokin’ hot social calendar keeping me from you all and my stove (*snort*). I’m editing a magazine for an association on a long-term contract, and it is kicking my butt. In a good way, mind you. It’s nice to be regularly employed after 12 years of freelancing (which I’m also still doing for my other magazine clients). But time is not exactly available in huge doses, if you know what I mean.

This is my sister-in-law’s recipe, and it is a huge hit. All the time. I made it last weekend for my daughter’s first communion, and it rocked. Four ingredients, y’all. FOUR.

I know, right?

So. Two words of caution: Do not use cheddar jack or any other kind of cheese besides cheddar in this. It won’t hold up. And do not leave this on low more than four hours. It will burn. Burning is bad. Four hours on low and switch to warm, stirring it frequently.

Make this. And thank my sister-in-law, who totally rocks.

1 pound macaroni noodles, cooked to al dente and drained

1/2 stick of butter, cut into small pieces

1 can evaporated milk

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.

Mix everything together in a greased Crockpot. Stir every so often, cooking on low. Enjoy.

Spanish Rice Without the Box

20 Apr

I am embarrassed to tell you all that until the other night, I’d never made my own Spanish rice. Despite our frequent meals of fajitas and tacos and enchiladas, I’d never attempted the side dish. Ours always came out of the box.

Last week, I went to make fish tacos and opened my pantry, and there was no box. We were all out of Spanish rice. I stood there for a minute, drumming my fingers on the cabinet door and chewing on the corner of my mouth, pondering the situation. And then I thought about what I knew was in Spanish rice, figured “how hard could it be?”, shrugged a bit (I have fantastic conversations with myself, gestures included), and pulled a few things out to hit the stove.

It wasn’t hard at all, y’all. Everyone ate, nobody complained (score!!), and I am never buying another box of sodium-packed Spanish rice again. This was faster and easier and healthier, and I already had everything I needed in my cabinet. I bet you do too, and I hope you’ll try this and see how simple it really is. You only need:

1 cup of regular long-grain rice (Uncle Ben’s or something similar)

2 tbsp diced onion (I used a little hunk of onion hanging around in the fridge–measurement is approximate)

1 clove garlic, diced

1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes, undrained

1 1/4 cups of water or chicken/vegetable broth

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground turmeric (leave this out if you don’t have it–it just turns the rice yellow without much flavor)

Salt and pepper

Heat up a small saucepan over medium heat and give it a shot of olive oil to just coat the bottom. Stir together your rice, onion, and garlic, and let it toast for a minute or two. Add in everything else except the salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat to low, put a slightly-askew lid on the pot to let a tiny bit of steam out, and cook until the rice is tender, stirring after about 10 minutes (mine was done in about 20, but your stove’s power and pot thickness may change this). Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Not-From-The-Freezer Garlic Bread

12 Apr

I know. Those frozen garlic bread logs in the freezer at the grocery store are really easy. Lay them on a baking sheet, pop them in the oven, give them 15 minutes, and voila. Buttery, garlicky, carby goodness.

Guess what? Making it yourself is even faster. Pinky swear.

You need a small handful of ingredients and about 10 minutes for this, and the bread is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the best part is that you haven’t ingested tons of preservatives or an astounding amount of fat.

My kids love this. Beg for it. Which leads me to a secret I’ll share with you if you promise not to tell: I make this out of regular sandwich bread when I haven’t had time to grab a loaf of Italian at the store’s bakery. It’s just as good and takes garlic bread from a sometimes-treat to a regular indulgence (and a whole-wheat indulgence if you roll that way).

I use garlic bread seasoning I buy from The Spice Hunter. You can also use plain garlic powder with a sprinkle of Italian seasoning. It’s all good.

Next time you’re cooking Italian, give this a whirl. I promise you won’t go back to the freezer stuff. You only need:

1 loaf of Italian bread, sliced about an inch thick (or whatever bread you have)

Enough butter to lightly cover both sides of the slices

Garlic bread seasoning or garlic powder and Italian seasoning

Shredded Parmesan cheese

Line a baking sheet with foil. Pre-heat your broiler, on low if it has settings, and by just turning it on if not. Put your oven rack in the middle slot of your oven.

Lay your slices of bread on the baking sheet. Butter one side and sprinkle it with the spices. Put that under the broiler for just a few minutes, until it starts to golden-brown up. Take it out.

Flip the slices over. Butter the other side, sprinkle them with the spices, and then sprinkle them with the Parmesan. Put the bread back under the broiler for a minute until you see golden brown. Enjoy.

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