Monday, May 30, 2011

One Pot Rice and Vegetables

If you like rice and vegetables cooked as a one pot dish, this recipe is for you. If you like it a little spicy and don't mind taking some help from packaged foods, then you're really going to be happy. I have never been a successful brown rice cooker, but somehow between Uncle Ben and Thai Kitchen, I've figured this baby out. My Thai inspired rice and veggies first come together with the help of Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste.

This little 4 ounce jar is packed with flavor and has all the exotic spices you've come to expect when making curried Thai food. But all the work is done. There's no chopping or grinding or figuring out measurements. Sit back and check out this simple recipe.

Thai Inspired Rice and Vegetables

1 T canola oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 T Thai Red Curry Paste
3 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 tsp ground cayenne pepper (use less if you're not familiar with the heat)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup lite coconut milk
1 14.5 oz can of low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
2 T fish sauce (available in the International aisle of your supermarket)
1-1/2 T brown sugar- this sounds like a lot of sugar, but it adds so much to the dish, that I wouldn't cut back on it)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 red pepper sliced
4 oz fresh sugar snap peas
1 can 4 oz baby corn sliced
juice of half a lemon
2 bags Uncle Ben's Boil n Bag brown rice

Heat oil in large pot over medium/low heat. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes until onions are soft and translucent. Add garlic, curry paste, cayenne pepper and salt. Stir to combine and cook about 1 minute. Add coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, brown sugar and black pepper. Stir again until all ingredients seem to be incorporated. Bring liquid to a boil. Add vegetables and 2 packages of rice (remove the rice from the boil-n-bags). Cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook 10 minutes. Remove cover, add another pinch or 2 of salt, stir and cook uncovered 2 or 3 minutes more. Turn off heat and squeeze lemon juice into the rice mixture. Stir again and serve.

I love this dish. It's delicious served hot, cold or at room temp. And it can be made with different vegetables, or none at all. But what I like most about it, is that it is pretty much fool proof and in 20 minutes you've got a tasty dish to bring to the table. I consider this a lower calorie version of vegetable fried rice and would serve with an egg roll, fried shrimp or chicken fingers from the local take out and call it a meal. A delicious meal!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cilantro Burgers

Since this weekend is the unofficial start of summer and barbeque season, I thought it would be appropriate to share a new burger recipe I came up with. It's not a burger for everyone- it's for those who can't get enough cilantro in their lives. Cilantro is the plant (herb) that grows from the coriander seed. It's amazing how the population is so split on this herb. It seems you either like it or hate it. So for you cilantro lovers, this burger's for you.

Cilantro Burgers

1 T finely chopped scallions (whites only)

1/2 cup bread crumbs- I used 1 slice Italian bread ground in my spice mill

1T Gourmet Garden Cilantro Herb Blend

2 tsp Sambal Olek (Chinese Chili Paste)

2 pinches curry powder (optional)

4 pinches paprika

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 egg slightly beaten

1 pound ground beef

Combine all ingredients (except beef) in a large bowl. Now add ground beef, and with fingertips mix gently until incorporated. Don't over mix. Make 4 patties . **TIP**When making the patties, indent your thumb in the center of each patty to make a small well. This will ensure the burgers will cook flat and not puff up.

Prepare grill. I cook my burgers on a stove top grill and heat it to high, then lower the temp to medium. Spray grill with PAM or lightly grease with canola oil. Add burgers. Cook 5 minutes on the first side, then 4 minutes on the second. Your burgers will be medium to well done.

These burgers are ever-so moist and tender, with the fresh flavor of cilantro and hint of heat from the Sambal. The texture is perfect. You won't be disappointed. I served this batch with a dollop of mayo and Dijon mustard, with Bibb lettuce on grilled Italian bread. As with all burgers, add the condiments that YOU like. Anything goes.

Happy Grilling!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Peanut Butter and Sea Salt Cookies

I've had this recipe tucked away in one of my files for years. I think Paula Deen was the first one to turn me on to it. But today on the TV Foodnetwork, Claire Robinson added a little something, something that had me waiting for a break in my day to make these cookies again- the addition of sea salt. I think there's nothing better than the combination of sweet and salty. And this cookie (gluten free I might add) hits the mark, and then some. It has only 4 ingredients and if you make it with Splenda as I did, it's the perfect snack, treat, or dessert for anyone who has diabetic issues as well. And it couldn't be simpler.

Gluten Free Peanut Butter and Sea Salt Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Smart Beat)

1 cup Splenda no calorie sweetner (you can use granulated sugar if you like)

1 large egg

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Coarse sea salt (easy to find these days in the regular supermarket)

Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In medium bowl, mix the peanut butter, Splenda, egg and vanilla until incorporated. I used a hand mixer. It was quick. To form the cookies, take about 1 tablespoon of mixture and roll with your hands to form a one inch ball. Continue rolling and place 9 balls on parchment lined cookie sheet. Slightly flatten balls with the tines of a fork, making a criss cross pattern on the cookies. Sprinkle coarse salt on top of the cookies, just don't add too much. Bake 10 minutes or until golden around the edges. Repeat rolling and baking process with the rest of the mixture.

Remove from oven, let cool on rack and you're ready to enjoy.
I'm bringing these to Fran's pool tomorrow. I know they'll all be gone by the end of the day (or within the hour), because this recipe made only 18 cookies. Next time I'll double the recipe and maybe add in some mini chocolate chips.

Ahh. Summer is finally here!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thanks for the Memories

This post is for you Lori, because every minute I spend with you becomes a glorious memory for me.

I'm just back from a whirlwind week celebrating Mother's Day with Lori and exploring a part of California I've always wanted to see- Palm Springs.

The adventure began in Santa Monica at Lori's new digs just 2 blocks from the beach. Yes! Two blocks from the Pacific Ocean.

After a morning at the beach and a fabulous outdoor lunch at The Library, a restaurant in Santa Monica, we loaded up the car, hit the 111 and dealt with the Friday afternoon traffic. And then we came across the wind farms. I've heard of these humongous towers of energy, but never in my wildest dreams did I expect to see so many whirling alien-like silhouettes performing their energy dance for miles and miles along the highway. These pictures do not do these towering work-horses justice.

Shortly after the wind farms, the beauty of the desert became evident. Purple mountains and palm trees were everywhere. An east coast girl's dream.

We finally arrived at the Indian Wells Hotel, a few miles east of Palm Springs. This hotel has a lot of history (as does the whole Palm Springs area). The hotel was conceived by 2 of my favorites- Lucy and Desi, who built this desert retreat so their friends could get together, play golf and escape the Hollywood madness. Here are some of the folks we saw hanging out:

Robert Wagner and Natalie

Lucielle Ball

Lucy and Desi

Bob Hope (anyone know who the other handsome gentleman is?)

When we arrived at Indian Wells it was 106 degrees outside. No problem. Huge pool. Great scenery.

And happy hour at the bar was in progress. The free food was mostly chips, dips and veggies, so we opted for a 1/2 price Margarita Pita Pizza. Very light and just what we needed with our 1/2 price glasses of wine.

Our days were spent lounging by the pool, swimming and basking in the sun. But we had to explore some of the local eateries. At the Yard House I had some yummy crab cakes with a boringly mild mango salsa. But the cakes were fab.

For our Mother's Day brunch at Normas at Parker, I had a scrambled egg, guacamole and cheese quesadilla that was rich and decadent. The tortilla was fried in sweet butter. Oh, sweet butter, not your typical quesadilla. I couldn't eat it all but brought it back to the hotel to munch on at happy hour.

Lori ordered a fluffy egg white omelet with baby roasted potatoes. Unfortunately this dish never got photographed because I kept stealing the delightful little potatoes off her plate and ruined any chance of an appetizing picture. Check out this restaurant and their menu. There's also a Normas in New York.

The trip is coming to an end and we're tanned, relaxed, sated and ready for the ride back to Santa Monica. Instead of eating another meal in a restaurant, we picked up some ingredients at a local grocery store and decided to treat ourselves to a home-cooked dinner of Chicken Parmesan with Assorted Baby Greens, Avocado Slices and Grape Tomatoes. Simple to make. Great to eat. Here's the recipe:

To make the salad:
1 avocado, halved and sliced into 1/4 inch strips
1/2 package of grape tomatoes
3/4 bag baby greens

To make the dressing:
Juice of one lemon
2 cloves of finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 T white balsamic vinegar
1/3 to 1/2 cup extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard (we didn't have any so I omitted it and it was still delicious)

Whisk all ingredients together and gently pour on salad. Toss and serve cold.

To make the chicken:

4 chicken breasts, boned and skinned

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese combined with 1/2 cup seasoned Italian bread crumbs

2 eggs lightly beaten

salt and pepper

Olive or canola oil

1 jar Paul Newman's Tomato Basil spaghetti sauce

1/2 bag Sorento 4 cheese Italian blend

Wash chicken, pat dry and pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Dip breasts in egg and dredge in bread/cheese mixture that has been seasoned with salt and pepper. Set aside. On stove top, heat a large skillet on medium heat and add oil to pan. When the oil begins to shimmer, add the chicken breasts and sear for about 2 minutes per side. You're not cooking the chicken, just toasting the crumb/cheese mixture. Remove to plate and prepare baking sheet. Pour about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce in the bottom of baking dish, add breasts and top with additional sauce.

Add cheese to the top of the breasts and cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover and cook another 15 minutes. Your dinner is ready.

I didn't have the opportunity to hang around for any leftovers but I was told they're delicious microwaved or even cold out of the fridge.
I'm back home now reflecting on a fabulous trip and a very special gal who made my Mother's Day a week to remember. Thanks Lor.

And if you're as corny as I am, you might want to check out Bob Hope and Shirley Ross singing Bob Hope's theme song, "Thanks for the Memory".