Tag Archives: rice

Grill Thrill

5 Aug

For years I have said to my dining partners “If you want lamb, make reservations.”  I am not a huge lamb fan.  I usually had it at wine dinners, restaurants, and even in Scotland. But it was not something that I ever cooked or prepared. Having lamb paired with the appropriate wine is, like most food, amazing. Other than that, it’s just not on my radar.

Then one afternoon  I was out wine shopping.  I just happened to get an outstanding bottle of wine at a bargain price.  Red wine.  And it was begging to be paired with lamb.  So the adventure began.

Never having cooked lamb before, I had some homework to do. Finding a good butcher for top of the line lamb chops was a must. I found a local mediterranean market, and lucky me…they had a butcher. Not only did they have fresh lamb, they cut the chops to order. Score!

I decided to cook the chops outside on the grill. Like steak, I learned that lamb is delicious grilled.I also discovered that rosemary was perfect to flavor the chops.  I have a friend that grows rosemary in her yard in abundance, so I zipped over there and nabbed a handful!  I wanted to keep it simple.  Rosemary, salt, pepper, and some flavorful high quality olive oil is what I used to prepare the chops.

I started by letting the chops sit for a couple of minutes to come to room temperature, then I rubbed them with olive oil and sprinkled on the rosemary. Salt and pepper too. I placed the chops on a hot grill at about 400 degrees.  A quick flip after 4 minutes, and in another 4 minutes they were done.

I pulled them off the grill, put a pat of butter on each chop, and tented them with tin foil. Meat is at its best after resting for a few minutes. After letting the wine breath a bit, it was poured and the lamb plated. Roasted asparagus accompanied the chops, as did wild rice.  The bold full bodied wine paired with the meal was a show stopper.  Yum!

The outcome was incredible!  The chops were savory, the wine delish! It was a meal to enjoy at a leisurely pace to fully enjoy the food, wine, and dinner companions. The outcome of my adventure into cooking lamb was a success.  The discovery of a new mediterranean market which I will now frequent was an added bonus.  And exploring the savory taste sensation of well paired food and wine is always a win in my book!

 

Advertisements

When in Rome…or Houston

1 Nov

I like to eat regionally.  I am always up for a culinary adventure.  My blog on the Witch Doctor recounts such an adventure.  Find it here: https://busymomswellness.com/2014/07/31/when-in-rome/  Luckily, another adventure came along, and it was a blast!

I was in Houston Texas recently for a professional healthcare conference.  Regional food, ingredients, and influences are experiences I gravitate toward, even when a trip is work related.  Lucky for me that this trip across country was allowing such a culinary outing.

With its geographical proximity to Mexico, Houston cuisine is inspired by hispanic flavors.  With that, tex-mex emerged as a culinary theme in this area of Texas.  I couldn’t wait to dig in!

I have been to Mexico and had authentic food there.  I am talking middle of the jungle freshly caught and prepared armadillo, to name one memorable meal in that country.   Unfortunately many Mexican  local restaurants in the United States just don’t thrill me.  So naturally I was excited to be going to Houston where authentic mexican flavors inspire the food.  Many folks in my office that had been to Houston were happy to offer me the name a local favorite-Pappasitos.  It was a place that had 2 thumbs up from folks not only in our east coast office, but the Houston office as well.  Say no more…I was all in.

When we arrived at the renowned restaurant, I warned my dining companions that I would be taking pictures of the food.  (The dork in me always comes out when I dine with beautiful and authentic food). The place was busy, and it took a minute or two for us to get a table.  When we did, I was ready to follow tradition.

It is de rigueur at this place to begin with a margarita.  Being a midwestern girl, margaritas I was familiar with were typically a sweet bottled mass produced mix with tequila splashed in, and I was not a big fan.  But what the heck..when in Rome…

The margarita that I had in Houston was like nothing I had tasted before, much to my delight.  Obviously it was a drink made from scratch, not a bottled mix.  The margarita was loaded with refreshing ice, tangy citrus flavors, and a good size piece of lime.  It had a wonderful balance of sweet, tart, and tequila.  Wow!  Delicious!

Oh yeah.  Mandatory at a tex mex place in Houston!

Oh yeah. Mandatory at a tex mex place in Houston!

Moving on to the chips that are always on the table at mexican restaurants in this country, Pappasitos did not disappoint.  The chips were warm and had very little salt on them. They were thin and pleasantly crispy.   Several small dishes of salsa were placed on the table for us to enjoy.  And enjoy we did!  The salsa assortment was also fresh and fabulous.

Our dinner included flavorful rice that had flecks of chopped vegetables.  It was firm to the bite and one of many accoutrements to the meal.  We also had creamy delicious beans. Also offered were warm fresh tortillas, and tender juicy chicken.  The food was piping hot and laden with spices that imparted Mexican essence, and a pleasant heat.  The guacamole was chunky. It was fantastic.  Dining regionally rocks!

Sauces, or salsas, placed on our table at Pappasitos.  YUM!!

Sauces, or salsas, placed on our table at Pappasitos. YUM!!

An amazing plate of food with Mexican inspired ingredients and flavors.

An amazing plate of food with Mexican inspired ingredients and flavors.

No Labels Please.

22 Jun

Labels. I loathe and reject them! They are so limiting. The smart one. The athletic one. The workaholic. The baby of the family. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner. That’s right. I hate labeling everything including meals. Boring! And limiting!

Breakfast does not have to be oatmeal. eggs, toast, bagel, or cold cereal. These foods can be eaten any time of the day. And if it’s last night’s leftovers for breakfast who cares? There is nothing wrong with chicken, rice, and broccoli for breakfast. If that is what sounds good, go for it.  Dinner has to be a big hunk of meat and a couple of side dishes?  Nope.  Not in my book.  Sometimes a bowl of cereal is perfect for dinner. Sometimes eggs and toast work. My youngest son’s favorite dinner is breakfast! For many years his special birthday dinner request was breakfast, or what some would label as breakfast food.

I am going to tell a story through pictures. It is the story of a meal. But I will not label it. And I will not reveal what time of day I enjoyed this meal (which, by the way, features several servings. I only had one!). I will toss a caveat in saying that it is not a story for the faint of heart. It is of adult nature….it features…dare I say it….bacon and bacon fat. Totally obscene! Outrageous! But it is moderation in the use of the fat that allows my conscience to let this dirty little secret out.

Fresh!  Beautiful!

Fresh! Beautiful!

Lucky for me I have friends who have what I lack…namely a green thumb. This bowl is full of fresh peppers and tomatoes. I was the lucky recipient of this lovely fresh bounty, and I let it inspire me. It took me to a very unexpected place.

Bacon.  Decadent!

Bacon. Decadent!

I began my homage to these fresh ingredients by frying up some bacon in my beloved old cast iron skillet. While the bacon was crisping, I started cutting up the peppers and tomatoes.  When it was done, I scooped out the bacon to drain on  paper towels and disposed of most of the bacon fat in the skillet.  I  left a bit of the grease in my skillet though. The aromas in my kitchen started deepening, layering. Man, was I hungry now!

Pepper mania!  yes!!

Pepper mania! yes!!

I tossed those fresh peppers and tomatoes into that bacon fat. Yes, that’s what I said. Right into the fat. Well here is where I kind of compounded the naughty factor. While the peppers were frying up I went to the fridge and hung on the door. Hunting. Digging. Then I popped to the pantry. Nope…nothing there…went back to the fridge. Here comes more of the naughty…I was seriously misbehaving with that bacon grease!

Peppers to the side...eggs in front!

Peppers to the side…eggs in front!

I pushed the veggies aside and tossed in eggs. Frying eggs in bacon fat. Yup…I warned you! Totally obscene! And completely delish! But my conscience would not allow this dish to be totally devoid of some sort of nutrition. So I made some whole grain toast. No butter.  Next I just  tossed eggs, peppers and tomatoes on the toast. The bacon was on the side.  Fabulous!

YUM!

YUM!

I will not label this meal, nor will I reveal the time of day that this meal was consumed. Let me just say that it was amazing! I cook with bacon grease maybe once or twice a year. I love great food cooked in different ways. And in moderation, I think that everything can be enjoyed. As I said, I only cook with bacon fat occasionally. This dish was certainly worth the wait..and totally label free.

 

Crock pot tacos

15 Oct

I have been of the mindset that crock pot meals are:

a) SO 70’s, and not in a good way

b) SO boring

c)  SO bland, like beige food

d) decidedly and completely unsexy food

In other words, no F-U-N!

But…..I was short on time the other morning (as usual), and wanted to get a fairly decent meal on the table for my family that night.  So I took a minute before leaving for work and grabbed a couple of things to toss into the (time for true confessions…) crock pot.  My intention was to have flavorful and somewhat healthy tacos by suppertime.  So this is what i tossed into the crock pot:

4 frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can corn, drained

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 can diced tomatoes, with juice

1 can diced green chilis

4 ounces salsa

4 ounces salsa verde (green salsa)

1 envelope of low sodium taco seasoning

1 T. chili powder

1 T. cumin

salt and pepper to taste (you can always adjust this upward, so be conservative to begin with)

I put the chicken in the bottom, then just dumped everything else on top.  I was in a hurry,  the chicken breasts were individual, not in a big block, but still frozen solid.  The seasonings went on the top.  I didn’t even stir it.  I just threw it together, covered the crock pot, turned it on and ran out the door.

When I came home in the late afternoon, I opened the lid of the crock pot and gave the mixture a good stir.  I used two forks to shred the chicken while it was still in the crock pot, which was so tender it easily broke apart.  I had a quick taste, adjusted my seasonings a bit, then put the lid back on.

When dinner time came, I made some spanish rice, shredded some lettuce and cheese, pulled the tortillas out, and dinner was served!  The tacos were kind of an all in one because of the vegetables  added to the mixture.  The dinner was nutritious and relatively low in fat.

This recipe really stretched my ingredients so it was budget friendly, and it served a crowd.  It was an easy weeknight dinner.  True it wasn’t sexy, but it wasn’t boring either.  With all of the added vegetables, it was colorful, flavorful, and quite satisfying.  What will you add to your crock pot tacos?

What’s for dinner? (the next night!)

6 Aug

Think you don’t have time to cook?  Think again.  I truly believe that a well planned nutritious meal can be on the table in less time than going to the drive thru.  Sure it takes some planning, but running a good meeting, a good press conference, a well run home takes planning.  If I can do it, anyone can!

As most of you know, meals made from my fridge are among my most creative, flavorful, and easy.  I am a busy working mother, so time is my most precious commodity these days.  I need to use every moment to my best advantage to get things done.  Spending 5 minutes digging things out of the pantry, fridge and freezer, and another couple of minutes cooking is a great way to bring a budget friendly meal to the table.

This morning as I was getting ready for work, I took a minute and grabbed a pork tenderloin out of the freezer.  I put it on a plate, popped it into the microwave, and started defrosting it.  When I left for work, I took it out of the microwave and put it in the fridge to finish defrosting.  It was going to sit in there all day, so it had plenty of time to finish defrosting.  It was ready to use when I got home.

Fast forward to 6:00.  I came in from work and started to oven, setting the temperature to 400.  While chatting with my children, I grabbed an oven safe  skillet, sprayed a little non stick spray in it, and turned the burner onto medium high.  I took the tenderloin, drizzled it with olive oil, salt and pepper, then quickly browned it up in the skillet.  I sprinkled it with a little herb de Provence as it browned.  Then I popped it into the hot oven.  It would only need about 20-25 minutes to cook.  Next,  I poured a glass of wine and changed into comfortable clothes.

Now relaxing, it was back to the kitchen to start some wild rice.  I added 2 cups of vegetable broth, 1 cup of wild rice, and a little pepper to a sauce pan.  I put it on  a high heat until it started boiling.  Down to a low simmer, lid on, that would be ready in about 15 minutes.  Now for the vegetable.

I like to keep frozen and canned vegetables handy to use when time is short.  This was such an occasion.  I got a family size bag of frozen broccoli/cauliflower out of the freezer and put it in the microwave to begin cooking.  The tenderloin came out of the oven.  I put in on a plate and tented it with foil.  It is critical to tent meat and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.  The juices flow back into the meat, assuring it will be juicy.

The rice was ready, the tenderloin had rested, and the veggies were good and hot.   The children had set the table while dinner was cooking, so onto the table it went.  We were having a wonderful family dinner in no time!  Simple, fun, and delicious!