Sunday, July 31, 2011

Creamed Corn Pudding, Day 64, 7/31/11

If you're looking for the easiest and most delicious side dish you could ever possibly make, here you go:

Baked Bree and I are facebook friends, and when she posted the recipe Val's Corn Pudding, the other day, I had just returned home from the grocery store with a few ears of corn.  I read through the recipe and was shocked that I already had all of the ingredients.  (There are only a few.)   I decided I was definitely going to make this in the next couple of days.

I modified this recipe ever so slightly and was pretty much dumbfounded by how creamy and flavorful this turned out to be.  I like corn a lot and figured I would like this, but I had no idea that corn could be THIS wonderful.  I followed her recipe pretty closely except I added 2 diced scallions and a little bit of chili powder.  Take my word for it, you're gonna want to try this one at home! 

Bree's recipe says to start by melting 3 Tablespoons of butter in a pan, but I cut it back to 2.  To that, I added about 3 cups of corn and two diced scallions to the melted butter.  In this instance, I actually used a combination of fresh and frozen corn.  I had 3 ears of corn in the fridge that I wanted to use, but after I boiled it briefly and cut the kernels off the cob, I decided I had less than 2 cups of corn.  So I thawed some frozen corn by running it under cold water, then patted it dry and added it to the fresh for a total of about 3 cups.  I think the results would probably be most delicious if fresh corn was used, but if you buy a good quality frozen corn, it'll turn out just fine.

Season your corn and scallions with a little salt and pepper and some cayenne pepper- maybe 1/2 teaspoon.  If you don't like spicy food, you can completely omit the cayenne and it will still be super tasty.  Then add just enough half and half to cover the corn.  Bree mentioned that using cream instead of half and half makes it even better.  But my opinion was that is was SO good having used half and half, that I'm not going to bother wasting the extra calories and fat on cream.  If you want to give the cream a try, go ahead.

Now you'll let the half and half reduce for about 25 minutes over medium low heat.  Stir occasionally.  Bree says that when the half and half coats the back of a spoon, it has reduced sufficiently.  Honestly, I didn't even try that, but right about 25 minutes later the cream was suddenly a lot thicker and I called it good.

Remove it from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese.

Pour the mixture into a casserole pan and top it with a little bit more parmesan.  At this point I also sprinkled a little bit of chili powder on top because I knew that I was serving it with Mexican Stuffed Peppers and I wanted to tie the flavors together a little bit.  You don't need to add the chili powder if that doesn't go with whatever you're serving.  Bree topped hers with some paprika, Paula Deen style.

Add it to a preheated 350 degree oven and cook for 25 minutes.  When you pull it out of the oven it will be all bubbly and delicous looking, but let it sit for a few minutes before jumping it so that it can set up a little more.  After you've eaten this once, and know exactly how fantastic it is, that wait time will be very difficult for you.  Sorry about that.

Don't let "pudding" in the name confuse you.  This isn't a dessert, it's a side that can be served with absolutely anything.  It's like a thick creamed corn, so I'm calling it Creamed Corn Pudding.  I know that is kind of boring name, but this isn't a boring dish.  You'll be shocked how delicious this combination of a few simple ingredients turns out.

You won't have to put much thought into this since it can easily be served with whatever your favorite meal is.  Go ahead and give it a try.  I'm pretty sure you won't make it just once.  And you'll have to let me know if you love it as much as I do.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Parsnip and Mushroom Risotto, Day 61, 7/28/11

After a yummy lunch with Beth at Granite City the other day, I decided I'd to go the Super Target right there and see if they had any varieties of soy sausage.  Well, they didn't.  But I did find a bag of parsnips.  I don't think I've seen parsnips at my Price Chopper.  I used to eat them at my grandma Elliott's when I was little.  My mom loves them and I remember liking them, too.  They look like a white carrot, but their flavor isn't similar to that of a carrot at all.  They're often compared to potatoes, but I wouldn't say they really taste like potatoes either though.  If I had to compare them to a more common ingredient, I would say they're like a sweet potato with a bite??  Ya know how radishes have a bite to them, kind of a "hot" flavor...  I think parsnips have a bite to them too.

I decided since it's been years since I had a parsnip, I'd buy the bag and try to figure out something to do with them. 

Many of the cooking shows that I watch feature Parsnip Purees, but again, I just like a little more texture than that.  I used to roast them when the Price Chopper near my house (10 years ago) used to carry them and they weren't too bad that way.  Now, my grandma used to pan fry them.  First she'd boil them and then I think she dusted them with flour before frying them.  I don't have a clue whether she did it in oil or butter but they were really good.

Last night I started to search for parsnip recipes to see if there was something else I could do with them.  I found a Parsnip Risotto Recipe and knew that I had arborio rice and veggie broth in the pantry so I decided to give it a try.  I'd never made risotto before, because it requires so much babysitting, and I'm usually trying to make 2 or 3 things at once.  But I've been wanting to give it a try, so I decided now was the time.

I usually don't follow a recipe at all, I just scan it for the process and go from there.  But since I'd never made risotto before, I didn't know what kind of a rice to broth ratio I would need, so I did follow that exactly.  The recipe that I used called for 1 1/2 cups of rice and 8 cups of broth.  Now, 8 cups is exactly 2 of these 32 oz boxes of veggie broth that I buy, but another cup or 2 on hand wouldn't have hurt.

To start, get your 8-10 cups of veggie broth in a pot on the stove.  You're going to want to bring it to a boil and then, turn it down to low and keep a lid on it.

While your broth is heating, dice (large dice) one medium-large onion and add it to a pan over medium heat with a butter and olive oil mixture in it.  Let that soften for about 6 minutes and then add your parsnips.  The parsnips will need to be peeled first and then sliced.  You could dice them or slice them into rounds, it's up to you.  I used 3 parsnips, but in reflecting upon the finished product, I think 2 parsnips would yield a more appropriate ratio.  Also, with 3 parsnips, I ended up with my pan being a little crowded and I didn't get everything browned like I would have liked.  You'll want to let this mixture cook another 5 minutes or so, so that the parsnips can begin to soften.

Finally, add an 8 oz carton of sliced mushrooms and two teaspoons of fresh rosemary.  I didn't have any fresh rosemary so I used dried, which is why you can't see it in the picture, but I really prefer fresh.  If you use dried, you'll add much less, use about 1/2 teaspoon.  It's very strong dried.

After all of your veggies have browned to your liking, you'll stir in the arborio rice.  With other rices, you should "wash" them before using, but when making risotto, you don't wash the arborio rice.  Get the rice coated with the oil in the pan and let it "toast" for a few minutes before you add any broth.

The process for making risotto is to have a pot of hot broth that you add, a little at a time, to rice that is cooking in an uncovered pan.  You stir in the broth and when the rice has absorbed it, then you add more broth (about a cup.)  You stir that in and continue the process.  You have to be careful not to let it go dry or the rice will burn and stick to the pot (this is the babysitting that I referred to earlier.)  And you have to keep the pan hot enough that when you add the hot broth, everything continues to simmer.  You don't have to stir it constantly, but you do have to stay on it. 

Just keep adding broth and stirring it in until the rice is cooked to the right consistency.  This is a process.  I would guess from when I first added broth until the time it was finished was 20-30 minutes.  I tasted mine probably 6 times before it was done.  That's okay, just keep tasting.  Crunchy rice equals not done yet.

In addition to the measurements for the rice and broth, the recipe I was referring to suggested two other things that I did.  The first is to stir in a teaspoon of butter at the end.  Chefs often do this with dishes to make things appear "glossy" and more appetizing.  And who am I to say no to a little butter?

And the second suggestion I followed was to top the risotto with a little balsamic vinegar.  I drizzled a little bit of balsamic over it and then I added a few goat cheese crumbles on top.  A little sprig of fresh rosemary would be beautiful for serving too if you have it.

Last night I enjoyed this very much.  The risotto was creamy and flavorful and the parsnips and mushrooms added a nice rich comforting taste.  Also, this is a very satisfying meal.  I've always thought of risotto as a side, but if you add a couple of heartier veggies like this, it really can stand alone as a meal.  The balsamic and goat cheese were a nice salty addition, but you could always use the more traditional parmesan or some feta on top.  Whatever your preference is would be fine.

I wondered what my mom, the real parsnip lover, would think, so I called her and invited her over for lunch tomorrow (today) to try my Parsnip and Mushroom Risotto.  She did come over for lunch.  And she ate two bowls full and took the rest of the leftovers with her.  Yes, we can label this one a success!

One word to the wise on this.  Risotto requires you to stand in front of the stove with two burners on (one for broth and one for the rice) for like 30 minutes straight.  Perhaps making it on a day when it's over 100 degrees outside and the a/c is fighting to keep up isn't the best idea.  I'm thinking you might want to file this recipe under "winter."  :-)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Grilled Polenta with Kale and Mushrooms, Day 57, 7/24/11

Here's a recipe that I am so excited to share:  Grilled Polenta with Kale and Mushrooms.

I have to thank the other "Amy I," again, for introducing me to polenta.  After discovering how much I like it the other day while making her Polenta Lasagna recipe, I've been wanting to use it again.  This week, my Door to Door Organics order included a bunch of kale and I started searching for a way to combine the two.  I've never eaten or cooked with kale so I wasn't sure how difficult it would be incorporate both of these ingredients into one meal.

Most of the recipes that I found for polenta use it kind of like rice.  It's either cooked with a few other ingredients like corn and cheese or topped with a variety of veggies.  I was pretty sure that I'd seen polenta grilled before on some of the many cooking shows I watch and decided to go that route using the precooked polenta that comes in the tube.  My grocery store carries the Melissa's Organic Polenta and I used the original flavor.  I highly recommend it!

And most of the recipes including kale had it sauteed with a few other veggies.  I had some mushrooms in the fridge that I needed to use and I decided that's what I'd do- saute the kale and mushrooms.

Then I'd combine the two ideas and top my grilled polenta cakes with the kale and mushroom mixture.  As this was only the second time I've cooked with polenta and I've never even tasted kale, I was was kind of going out on a limb here making up a recipe with the two.  But I felt confident.

First I had to clean the kale.  I had read that I needed to cut out the tough stem that runs though the middle of it.  So I did that first, then I tore it into bite-sized pieces and added it to the basket of my lettuce spinner.  As I was cutting out the stem I noticed how dirty the kale was, so gave it a nice long vigorous rinse while tossing the pieces with my hands.  Then I gave it a couple of whirls in lettuce spinner and left it to continue drying.

For the Sauteed Kale and Mushrooms, start by grating 2 cloves of garlic into a med-low heat pan with 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and a pat of butter.  Let that cook for a minute or 2 and add some diced onion.  I used about 1/4 of a large onion.  After another couple of minutes add 14 large mushrooms that have been quartered.  Here, a combination of white button and cremini mushrooms were used.

Let that cook several minutes.  When the mushrooms are almost browned, pour in about 1/3 cup of beer and add the kale.  At this point, you can add your seasonings.  I useded some of that seasoning blend that I love from Aldi and a little extra sea salt.  Then stir everything together and put a lid on it so that the beer can steam the kale for about 4 minutes.

Remove the lid and allow it to continue cooking until the beer has cooked off. 

I have to tell you that in the finished product, you can really taste the beer- which I love.  But if you're a not a beer lover you might want to use a wine you enjoy, some veggie broth or water to steam the kale instead.

For the delicious grilled polenta, start by spraying a little olive oil on your grill pan and heat it on medium-high.  Cut the polenta into slices that are about 1/3 of an inch thick.  When your grill pan is nice and hot, add the polenta cakes.

Lightly brush the side facing you with a little more olive oil and season to your liking.  Again, I used the Aldi pizza and pasta seasoning.

After 3 minutes or so, give the polenta a check by seeing if it will easily release from the pan.  If it does and it's got some dark grill marks on it, go ahead and give it a flip.

The polenta will only need another few minutes to cook on that second side and it'll be finished.

While it was still nice and hot, I sprinkled a bit of shredded parmesan cheese on the grilled polenta.

Then I topped it with the kale mixture and added a little more parm.

Kale tastes very similar to cooked spinach- just a slightly stronger flavor.  It has that nice earthy taste that you'd expect from a leafy green.  If you've been brave enough, as an adult, to try cooked spinach again, and discover that it's not the devil that you thought it was, I think you'll find kale to be an easy comparison.  Because bags of spinach are so easily found in my grocery store and come, conveniently, already triple washed, I'll probably use spinach instead of kale in the future.  You can do that too if you have a difficult time finding kale.  I'm sure it'll be just as delicious.

Grilled polenta is SO tasty and hearty, yet kind of creamy and luscious.  And, it's just ridiculously easy to make when you start with the precooked stuff.  So even if you're not sure if you are daring enough for kale or you think that cooked spinach is the devil, you have to find a way to work grilled polenta into a meal.  You won't regret it.

The plum tomatoes made their way onto the plate because they were sitting in a strainer in one of my sinks.  They were also just delivered by Door to Door Organics.  I thought they'd be a nice contrasting color on the plate with the kale and polenta so I just halved them and seasoned them with salt and pepper.  But as it turns out, they were THE most perfect sweet and acidic accompaniment to the dish that I just couldn't have planned anything better.  A serendipitous homerun of a meal!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Polenta Lasagna, Day 54, 7/21/11

The other "Amy I" and I went to high school together.  And she has been a vegetarian for like 20 years now.  Since I started this adventure 54 days ago, she has been a great source of information and encouragement.  A couple of weeks ago, she sent me a recipe for Polenta Lasagna.  I made it and haven't had a chance to sit down and write about it until now.

The following is the recipe that she sent, with my pictures added in.  It's important to note that her recipe uses marinara sauce, but since I don't care for marinara, I substituted with a jarred Roasted Garlic Parmesan sauce.  So the words are going to say "marinara," but the pictures will have a white sauce.  Use your imagination.  :-)

Polenta Lasagna
1 (26 oz) jar marinara sauce, divided
1 tsp EVOO
1 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. chopped red pepper
1 c. meatless sausage crumbles (Lightlife Gimme Lean, in a tube, was recommended by Amy and it's what I used in this recipe.)
1 c. chopped mushrooms
1/2 c. chopped zucchini
2 garlic cloves
1 (16 oz) tube of polenta, cut in to 18 slices
1/2 c. mozzarella cheese

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2.  Cover bottom on 8" square pan with 1/2 c. marinara
3.  In EVOO, saute onion and bell pepper (I used a mixture of red and green bell peppers) on med-high for about 4 minutes

4.  Stir in "sausage" and cook another 2 min.
5.  Add mushrooms, zucchini and garlic.  Saute another 2 min. or so

6.  Add remaining marinara, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes

7.  Arrange polenta slices over marinara in baking dish 

8.  Top evenly with half of veggie mixture and sprinkle with cheese.  (No, this is not chicken, it's slices of fresh mozzarella.)

9.  Repeat layers

10.  Cover and bake at 350 for 30 min.  Uncover and bake an additional 15 min.

This, unfortunately, from my palate's point of view, is not what I would call one of my culinary successes.  But, I don't think it's Amy's recipe's fault, so I wanted to share it with you anyway.  In fact, my dad loved the version I made.  Yes, I disliked it so much that I took the whole thing over to my parents.

I thought about not writing about this lasagna because it wasn't a "success," but then I thought about it.  I'm not a chef, I'm not a real food blogger, I'm a school counselor that's off for the summer and is experimenting with food...  I'm allowed to make a few missteps.  And I learned from this one that I LOVE polenta.  This newly acquired knowledge makes this a success in my eyes and it's the reason I wanted to share this recipe with you. 

I had a few little pieces of the polenta left after building the layers of lasagna and I just ate them plain.  I'm not sure if I've ever really eaten polenta before, and I know I've never cooked with it.  I had no idea that corn meal cooked in water could be so flavorful.  It has a shockingly deep almost meaty flavor to it like nothing I've ever eaten before.  And at the same time, it's a little bit buttery.  I'm so excited to have made this discovery.  Polenta is something I'm going to add to my cooking arsenal.  I'm looking forward to trying it many different ways.  If it's not something you're very familiar with, you should check it out.

So, why didn't I like the lasagna?  First of all, I used too much sauce in mine.  And I think as you cook marinara it thickens, but as I cooked this roasted garlic sauce it seemed to get thinner.  What you see in that picture of the top of the finished lasagna isn't melted cheese, it's a lot of soupy sauce. 

But for me, the BIG reason that I didn't like this lasagna was the meatless sausage.  At first I loved the stuff.  It has a texture very similar to bulk sausage made with meat and actually browned up like sausage would.  Unluckily for me, it is made with a lot of the same herb or spice that is the reason why I don't like marinara...  I've never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is, but this sausage was FULL of it!  Maybe it tasted like Italian sausage??  I don't like that either.  Whatever it is, it ruined the whole meal for me.  :-(

But if you like marinara, and most of the world does, I'm betting you would love this Polenta Lasagna.  Give it a try.  It might help you "discover" polenta, like it did me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mom's Tomato and Avocado Salad, Day 53, 7/20/11

When my parents bought new appliances 4 years ago, we joked that we could put my mom's stove in the driveway with a sign that reads, "20 years old and barely used.  Free." and it would be gone by day's end.  In my family we often tease my mom about her lack of cooking.  It's not that she's a bad cook.  Truth be told, she makes really good stuff.  She just doesn't enjoy cooking and so she probably doesn't do it as often as some other people do.

One of the really good things she makes is her Tomato and Avocado Salad.  And there are only a few other ingredients so it's a super simple, tasty salad that is perfect for summer.

When I made it a few days ago I used 2 medium tomatoes and 1 beautifully ripe avocado.  I diced the tomatoes first, and added some salt so that they would start to break down a bit and release some of their juice. 

Depending upon what's in the house at the time my mom usually adds either diced red or green onion and a cheese.  I think she usually uses a fresh mozzarella, but feta is great too.  I didn't have either of those in the house, but surprise, surprise, I did have blue cheese.  :-)  So I added some green onion and blue cheese crumbles.

Finally I diced the avocado and added it to the mixture along with some of the Aldi's seasoning that I love (pictured above.)  You want to add the avocado right before it's going to be served so that it doesn't sit around getting brown.  That's not appetizing... 

You could mix together a vinaigrette to pour over it, but for me that makes it a little heavy.  The juice from the tomatoes and seasoning that's added make a vinaigrette unnecessary and keep the dish fairly healthy.

I really think this Tomato and Avocado Salad is one of the most simple and delicious things I've made all summer.  Way to go, Mom!

Friday, July 15, 2011

CRISPY Roasted Potatoes, Day 48, 7/15/11

People that know me, know that I LOVE potatoes.  They are just delicious in all of their wonderful forms.  What else tastes fantastic whether you, bake, fry, boil, roast, sauté, etc, it?  I mean, seriously.  And the genius that invented kettle chips deserves some very high ranking award, like a Pulitzer Peace Prize or something.  Potato slices + peanut oil?  Absolute culinary genius.

I love to roast potatoes (and lots of other veggies) but I've noticed that sometimes they're wonderfully crispy and other times, not so much.  Still delicious, of course, it's a potato, but not so crispy...  So I did a little research online.  I looked for recipes for roasted potatoes with the word "crispy" in the title.  Then I read through them looking for commonalities.  And this is how I will make my roasted potatoes from now on.

I feel like I've always had the best luck when I used red potatoes, but during my research, it didn't seem to matter what kind of potatoes are used.  I love Yukon Gold Potatoes- their flavor is deliciously buttery, but they also have incredibly thin skins.  So, as long as you give them a nice scrub, and cut off the few little yucky spots you find, you never have to peel Yukon Gold Potatoes.  Bonus!  So I'm going to go with Yukon Golds this time

And, the Yukon Golds that I found at Aldi this week were tiny little guys, so I just quartered them and they were ready to go.  Bonus, again!

One of the commonalities I read that will yield crispy potatoes is to parboil them first, drain them, and then beat them up a little bit by shaking them around in the pan. 

So after you have them cut to the size you like, throw them in a larger pot than you would think you would need, cover them with water, add a sufficient amount of salt and bring them to a boil.  Make sure the pot you use is one that you have a lid for- you'll need that lid a little later.  You don't want to overcook them during this boiling process because they're going to cook more in the oven too, it's just a parboil.  So, as soon as you can easily insert a knife or fork without feeling them crunch back at you, they're good. 

Drain them and return them to the pot you cooked them in.  Now, put the lid on it and using potholders to hold everything together, you're going to give the potatoes a nice vigorous shake.  Open the lid and check them.  If they still look pretty much intact, put the lid back on and give them another vigorous shake.  But if you see several little edges of potato broken off, it's perfect.  Yes, I know this isn't the best picture, but I think you can see some of the broken edges.

Now, I like to get as few dishes dirty when I cook as possible, so I just leave the potatoes in the pot I cooked them in to get them all seasoned up and ready for the roasting process.  But you are welcome to put them into a smaller bowl for this if you prefer.  Another thing that was mentioned a few times was to use a mixture of canola and olive oil.  I used to always just use olive oil, but if a little canola oil will help with the crisping, I can do that.  So add enough oil to just coat the potatoes when stirred.  Then add some minced garlic, some onion powder, diced rosemary, pepper and a little cayenne powder.  But DO NOT salt them at this point.  Salt with pull the moisture out of the potatoes and work against us in our goal of crispy potatoes.  You'll salt them when you take them out of the oven.

I also learned from several sources that using a metal pan to roast in, rather than glass pan or any other material will help you achieve crispy potatoes.  So, when you've got everything stirred together and nicely coated, you're going to transfer the potatoes to a metal pan for roasting.  I like to do this using a slotted spoon or a spatula with holes in it to do the transfer because, even though I didn't read this anywhere, from experience, I think having too much oil in the pan, keeps the potatoes from crisping.  So I try to leave as much excess olive oil in the pot as possible.  Don't get me wrong, they need to be coated, I'm only talking excess oil.  Also, do NOT overcrowd the pan.  Your potatoes need to be in a single layer.  They can't be stacked on top of each other if you want to end up with a crispy end product.  I guess all that hot oven air needs to get all around them in order to do it's thing.

Add the pan to a preheated 425 degree oven.  You'll have a total cooking time of about 50 minutes.  But you'll need to pull them out and give them a good flip, scraping them off the bottom of the pan when necessary, at 15, 30 and 40 minutes.  Based on how large your potato pieces are, you may need to adjust your cooking to time to slightly less or slightly longer, but you should be able to tell that based on their appearance.

When you pull them out of the oven for that last time, give them a nice grind of sea salt over the top.

Aside from the fact that they are just delicious on their own, what's really great about roasted potatoes is how versatile they are.  You can dress them up an infinite number of ways.  Here are a few of my favorites.

Now, you know I love blue cheese.  These potatoes are topped with blue cheese and sour cream (Greek yogurt, actually.)  I was going to add a little bit of avocado, but my avocado was bad.  :-(

Some restaurants serve "nachos" that they use a potato base for rather than tortilla chips.  I think Granite City uses waffle fries and calls them Idaho Nachos...  You can do the same thing.  Start with the Crispy Roasted Potatoes and add all of your favorite nacho toppings.  Here, I added some mashed black beans, Greek yogurt, salsa, jalapeño slices, black olive, green onions and cheddar cheese.  Doesn't that sound like tasty nachos??

This one is the most simple, but it's also probably my favorite.  Just a sprinkling of the finely grated parmesan cheese and a few green onions.  You still get the nice flavor of the potatoes because it isn't overpowered by either of the other ingredients, they all just work together perfectly.

Whether you eat them naked as a delicious side dish or top them with everything in your pantry and call it a meal, trust me, you'll LOVE these Crispy Roasted Potatoes.  You might want to start having them every night.  And it's okay.  Potatoes are vegetables and vegetables are good for you.  ;-)  Just like if you eat ice cream in another state, it doesn't have any calories...  Go for it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Brown Rice and Broccoli Casserole with Chili Lime Corn on the Cob, Day 41, 7/8/11

Today I noticed that I can improve my blog by starting with a picture of the finished product first.  Then, that's the pic that accompanies the new post notification on Facebook, enticing you to want to read my blog, rather than a picture of some cut up produce.  Did it work?

Anyway, with my last Door to Door Organics order I received lots of broccoli.  And I've been trying to decide what I wanted to do with it. 

Today when I opened the pantry and saw a bag of brown rice laying there, it occurred to me.  I have ALWAYS loved a cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole.  And I've been wanting to try brown rice.  I had never made it until today.  I've always eaten white rice, but as I get older, I hear more and more people rave about brown rice.  And it's supposed to be so much healthier for you, so I've decided to try to convert.

I cooked 1 cup of brown rice according to the directions on the package.  Then I added to that 1 can of cream of mushroom soup, about 3/4 of a can of milk (I used the soup can to measure,) 1/4 cup diced fresh mushrooms, and 1/4 cup green onion slices.  Then I seasoned it with onion powder, some dehydrated garlic, a little cayenne powder and some of this great seasoning mix I buy at Aldi.  It says it's for pizza and pasta, but I use that stuff on everything.

And finally, I mixed in about a cup of fresh broccoli, 1/2 cup Swiss cheese and 1/2 cup cheddar cheese.  Then I poured it into a glass dish, covered it with foil and baked it at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.  I removed the foil for the last 10 minutes. 

I cooked it, covered with foil, because I used fresh raw broccoli and covering it will keep the heat in and help the cook the broccoli.  It came out perfectly for me this way.  The broccoli still had just a little crunch to it, so if you don't like it that way, you'll want to parboil it first.  I also didn't top it with cheese because I decided that the cup of cheese in it would be more than sufficient.  If you prefer cheese on top, just cut back a little bit on the amount you put inside and throw a little on top.

This was truly one of the best cheesy broccoli rice casseroles I've ever had.  I don't know if it was the brown rice or the cup of cheese.  Is a cup too much?  Wait, we're talking about cheese, no, it's not too much.  Just call me Paula Deen... you could consider using less if you'd like.  Whatever it was, it was honestly delicious!

While trying to decide what to make with my Brown Rice and Broccoli Casserole, I remembered seeing a Chili Lime Corn made a couple of different ways on some of the cooking shows I watch.  I always thought it looked tasty, but I had never made it myself- until tonight.  My Door to Door Organics delivery this week included 2 ears of sweet corn and I since I had a lime in the fridge too, I decided I would finally give Chili Lime Corn a try.  And "tasty" is an understatement.  This stuff is SO good.  Warning:  after you try this, you might never make corn any other way.

After I cleaned up the ears of corn, I spread a little butter on them, and sprinkled them with salt, pepper and chili powder.  Then I wrapped them up in foil like you do when you're going to grill corn.

But, I didn't grill this corn.  It's Kansas, in July and it's approximately 739 degrees outside.  The last thing I want to do is stand outside, in front of something putting off even more heat, to grill.  I love my air conditioner.  So instead, I cooked it in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes.  I turned it about a quarter of a turn every 10 minutes.

When I removed the corn from the oven and unwrapped it, I squeezed a little lime juice on it.  I took 3 or 4 passes with my lime wedge rotating the ear of corn a little each time.  You really can taste the lime and the chili powder, but neither one overpowers the corn.  It's a perfect combination.

Tonight I enjoyed a really flavorful meal of comfort foods.  I think if you give either one a try, you'll agree with me when I say, "Umm, umm, good!"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spinach Burritos, Yum!, Day 40, 7/7/11

I haven't posted anything lately because I was in Wichita visiting my BFF, Jamie and her husband, Doug.  But I made it home now.  And after unpacking and visiting the grocery store, I'm ready to get back at this!

The evening that I arrived in Wichita, Jamie and I went to a Mexican restaurant called Las Palmas.  I couldn't decide between 3 items on the menu and asked the advice of our often-absent waiter.  Although I was leaning toward the Chili Relleños, previous experiences have taught me that Chili Relleños seem to be hit or miss at different places and our waiter's recommendation was their Spinach Burritos.  So I went for the burritos.  Now, had he told me that they were going to be packed with deliciously flavorful mushrooms, it would've been a much easier decision.  But when I asked him what was in the burritos besides spinach, he didn't even mention mushrooms.  Anyway, I was very pleased with my decision.  I probably told Jamie 6 times during the meal how good they were.  She decided to take my word for it; she does not enjoy mushrooms and elected not to try my Spinach Burritos.

So the minute we got back to Jamie's house I jotted down the things that were in my burrito with the plan of trying to replicate it at home.  And here is the rather successful result.

I started by sauteing one 8 oz carton of sliced Cremini (also sold as "Baby Bella") mushrooms in a butter and olive oil mixture.  Now upon reflection of the finished dish, if you're like me, and you really like mushrooms, I'd suggest using 2 cartons.

When the mushrooms just starting to get a nice brown on them, add 1/2 of a medium Vidalia onion, 1/2 of a green pepper and 1/2 of a red pepper- all chopped into strips. 

Let that cook for a few minutes so that things can soften a bit and then add some salt and pepper to the mixture.  Rachael Ray always says not to salt your mushrooms until they've browned or the moisture that is pulled out by the salt will keep them from browning.  So, just in case that claim holds water, I always wait.  At this point, you can also add some garlic powder, cumin and cayenne powder. 

Now add a can of drained Original Rotel and two packages of frozen spinach that you have allowed to thaw and then rung the moisture out of.  Let this cook until the onion and peppers are done to the texture that you prefer.  I like for things to have a bit of a bite to them still, but it's up to you.

At Las Palmas, my burritos were served with a simple white cheese sauce on them.  Not the white cheese espinaca dip that we all enjoy so much with tortilla chips, because there weren't any veggies in it.  But it wasn't just melted cheese either- it didn't harden back up.  I was going to have to think about this one for a little while...

While I was waiting on Jamie to get her nails done one day, I was looking through one of my cookbooks and I ran across an interesting cheese sauce that was made with an envelope of Hollandaise sauce mix as the base.  I decided to adapt this and give it a try.  Although it definitely wasn't the cheese sauce I received at the restaurant, it was good.  My brother, who didn't have a preconceived idea of what it should taste like, gave it a thumbs up also.

Add 2 Tablespoons of butter to a small sauce pan and when it's melted, add the sauce mix and 1 cup of milk or water (whatever the package says) and whisk everything together.  Bring it to a boil and then turn the heat down and stir 2 cups of shredded pepper jack cheese into the mixture a little bit at a time.  The package will tell you to use more butter, but with the addition of the cheese, you don't need it.  I also stirred in about a teaspoon of finely diced serrano pepper because the cheese I bought didn't appear to have too much pepper added to the jack cheese, and I like spicy.  Make sure you are stirring/whisking this mixture frequently.

Just warm your tortillas in the microwave for 15 or 20 seconds between some wet paper towels and you're ready to assemble.  Spoon the mixture into the middle of your tortilla, give both sides a little fold and top it with the cheese sauce.  I garnished with a little bit of Greek yogurt, of course you can use sour cream if you prefer, and some green onions.

At some point during the day, I remembered this wonderfully refreshing beer punch mixture that I had enjoyed at Aly's a few weeks earlier, at their annual yard Olympics and decided it would be an exciting accompaniment to the Spinach Burritos. 

Aly's sister calls the concoction Beer-ade, but Sandra Lee actually featured this recipe on an episode of Semi-Homemade under the name Lime Beer Cocktail.  And, I choose the name, Aly's Summer Brew, for this delicious beverage.  But you can call it whatever you want to. 

And it's SO easy to make.  It's just 6 beers and 1 can of frozen limeade concentrate.  Stir together and be amazed at the deliciousness before you!

Oh, yes, it's officially my beverage of choice for Spinach Burritos!

I thought the burritos were really good and Aly's Summer Brew was delightful.  Because there wasn't any bacon or pudding involved, it wasn't Nathan's favorite meal ever, but he definitely enjoyed it.  (Please disregard the fact that he's wearing a K-State shirt.  In most other areas, he has good taste.)  :-)