My friend Kate had a vegan taco night at her house. There are a number of delicious vegan foods – like salsa or guacamole – that I could have made to take that night. Instead, I decided that it was the perfect time for me to make Horchata.
That’s right – horchata is dairy-free. Really. The beverage is basically a rice-almond milk.
Happy Lunar New Year! There are a variety of foods that one is supposed to eat for the lunar new year, but unfortunately, in spite of having spent a year in Japan, I don’t know enough about what those should be. I apparently should have studied food a little more while I was there.
I made sure we ate some noodles for longevity (don’t bite or break them!). For dinner for the new year, I made Hainan Chicken and Rice, because it sounded delicious and had a simple ingredient list.
In spite of the simple ingredient list, I made a mess of my kitchen making this. First you poach a chicken. You set aside the chicken, and use the rendered chicken fat and stock in the rice. You also make dipping sauce(s) for the chicken. None of these steps are particularly difficult, but it does mean you’ll mess up a few dishes in the process. Or at least, that’s how I felt.
Ever since I made vanilla pudding a few weeks ago, I’ve wanted more pudding.
I finally decided that I was going to take the time to make more. Smitten Kitchen had a few different (and easy) recipes for pudding that I wanted to try, but I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to make. I didn’t want to make rice pudding, but as I read recipes, it grew on me.
And that’s why I decided to make Almond-Vanilla Rice Pudding (or Arborio Rice Pudding, as it’s alternatively called). I had a light dinner, and figured that rice pudding for dessert would be an excellent way to make up for it.
Recipe was simple, but as always, there’s a trick to pudding. I thought that this would be more of a hands-off pudding; not so. I had trouble figuring out what temperature I wanted to cook this at. I found that it did best at a medium for heating it, and a medium-to-medium-low for simmering it. If I left it for more than a minute, the top developed a milk skin that I hate. When I didn’t scrape the bottom for a few minutes, the rice didn’t stick, but the milk solids stuck and turned brown. Once I saw brown flecks floating in my pudding after scraping the bottom, I simply decided not to scrape the bottom very hard; gently grazing the bottom with the wooden spoon was enough to move the rice around to keep it from sticking.
Ingredient list was simple, which I liked. 1/2 cup Arborio rice; 4 cups milk (I used 1%); 1/4 cup sugar (I added a dash of my vanilla sugar to this); 1 bay leaf (I added a few flecks of crushed bay leaf); 1 teaspoon vanilla; and 3/4 teaspoon almond extract. The extracts were added after the pudding was cooked, which took about 40-50 minutes from start to finish. The rice was cooked through well before the pudding was thickened.
I ate this both warm and cold, and it was pretty good. It wasn’t too sweet, which I appreciated. I’m not sure if I’ve made rice pudding before, but the Arborio rice worked wonderfully. The rice was tender, and the pudding was very creamy. The pudding thickened up as it cooled. The almond flavor was very, very strong, although I didn’t notice it as much the second time I had pudding. If I wasn’t a huge fan of almond, I would probably find the almond flavor to be overwhelming (although I probably wouldn’t have added the almond extract in the first place). I found the bay leaf to be strange as I heated the milk, because it was the only thing I could smell; the bay leaf reminded me of dinner rather than dessert. I think that it added background taste, though. The pudding was good cold as well, although I think my preference is to eat it immediately when it’s warm.
I particularly liked the Arborio rice in it. and I liked the level of sweetness. I’ll have to give this another try, now that I know what temperature I want to cook it at, and that I need to stir more-or-less constantly.
It’s finally cold, so I wanted comfort food on Thursday night. I decided to make Cooking Light’sChicken and Rice, with a few changes.
I used boneless chicken breasts and cut them in half so that they’d be roughly the size of chicken thighs. I chopped one large onion, rather than measure out 2 cups of onion, since Alex has been complaining about onion recently. I hadn’t planned ahead to make this, so I didn’t have mushrooms. That was perhaps the biggest change of all. I added more carrots to add a little more bulk to it since it was missing mushrooms. I sauteed the chicken, and then the vegetables and rice, on the stove before adding it to the baking dish. I was in a hurry, so I turned up the heat on the vegetables to saute them for less time. I forgot to mix together the water, broth, and cream before I poured it into the rice mixture. I baked this about 35 minutes because I was busy doing other things.
This was okay. I overcooked the chicken, which I knew was going to happen and should have prevented. Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed with this with the changes I made. Overcooking the chicken was my own fault, but it was bland otherwise; perhaps I didn’t season or saute it long enough. The rice needed salt and other seasonings. I expect it would have been much more flavorful with the mushrooms, and I wish I had them. The rice probably would have been better if I’d used chicken thighs, too, since they have more flavor which would have dripped into the rice mixture. Alex thought it was okay, although he could tell that I would find it bland.
As I made this recipe, it was just okay. I think it probably would have been better with chicken thighs and mushrooms. I’m not sure that would help the problem with seasonings, though. I want to give this another chance sometime in the future.
I happened across the recipe for Portuguese-Style Rice with Rosemary when I already wanted to cook some bacon that I had. This was pretty simple to make. I didn’t measure how much bacon grease I sauteed the onion and spices in; I just used however much was left after I fried 3 slices. I don’t have garlic salt, so I used 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt, leaving out some of the salt even though garlic salt is usually pretty salty. I used about 1 1/3 cups jasmine rice, since I don’t have regular long-grain rice. The jasmine rice cooked up more quickly than the recipe called for.
We both really enjoyed this. Alex thought it tasted like Spanish rice even though it wasn’t colored red. I wouldn’t go that far, but I did enjoy the tomatoes in it paired with the rosemary, chicken broth, and bacon. The bacon drippings in particular gave the rice a good flavor. This was a pretty easy recipe overall, and I’d definitely make it again.
The Meat Salesroom makes their own sausages, including andouille sausage, so I was inspired to finally make Slow-Cooker Jambalaya.
This was pretty easy to make. I cut most of the food up and put it in the crock the night before. I used frozen minced green bell peppers because the fresh ones at the store were not any good. I added the broth, the tomatoes, and the spices in the morning, and then put the crock in the slow cooker. I used my smaller slow cooker, so I didn’t actually have enough room to put all the shrimp in the crockpot. I also hadn’t thawed them completely, so I cooked it a little longer to make sure they warmed through. This was served over rice.
I don’t think I’ve ever really had jambalaya before, and some people might still say that I haven’t. This was just okay. I’ve decided that I don’t like sausage in soup, and this was definitely soupy. Generally, I think the rice is cooked in jambalaya, and the finished dish is like a paella (according to Wikipedia). This was more a soup than a rice dish.
Alex enjoyed it and happily ate our leftovers. I thought it was okay, but more like a Cajun/Creole-style soup. I won’t make this again.
I have a bad habit of not getting my skillets hot enough, which was the case when I seared the shrimp. They turned out just fine, though. Although I was halving the recipe, I used the full amount of shrimp for the recipe because it wasn’t worth it to try to only thaw half of them.
I used onion instead of shallots. This time, I actually bought some Arborio rice instead of trying to use my sushi rice. I used vegetable stock that I made and kept in the fridge, and I omitted cheese because I don’t like cheese. I don’t think this hurt the recipe at all. I can’t remember if I added the butter at the end or not.
I enjoyed this. It was light and refreshing. We did have double the shrimp than the recipe called for, which was also nice. I may have had a little much spinach in it, since the frozen spinach was probably already lightly cooked (which would have reduced the arugula in the original recipe). I would make this again.
Cinco de Mayo seems like a good excuse to make a complete Mexican meal. We took this outside last year (chips and salsa, chicken burritos, black beans, margaritas, and fresh air), and I loved it! I decided that we’d take our folding table and chairs outside this year too and have a private fiesta in the back yard.
The menu for this year (all from Eating Well magazine):
I made almost all of this the night before. I was actually cooking at about 10pm so that it would be easy to finish everything up and take it outside to eat in the fresh air while we still had plenty of sunlight.
The salsa was the easiest, and actually the last thing I made. It said I could use 28 ounces of fire-roasted canned tomatoes, but the ones I found all had seasonings added, and I wasn’t sure that would be appropriate for the salsa. So, I drained a 28oz can of tomatoes, put them in a broiler pan with the jalapeno, and broiled them for about 10 minutes. After this cooled, I seeded the jalapeno, put it on top of the tomatoes in a blender cup, added the garlic and salt, and blended until I thought the jalapeno was minced small enough. Salsa was ready.
I used brown rice instead of white rice in this recipe. First I cooked the rice in a little oil. Next went in onion, then garlic and salt, and then an 8oz can of tomato sauce. After that, I added the broth and turned down the heat to let the rice simmer. Once it was cooked, I put it in a container, topped it with frozen vegetables, and put it in the fridge so I could reheat it the next day. When I reheated it, I stirred it gently so that I wouldn’t make the rice mushy. This worked out pretty well.
Carnitas: I was pretty excited about this recipe. You start by rendering a small amount of pork fat that you trim from the pork shoulder as you cut it into one inch pieces. You then saute 2 cups of onion, 4 diced poblano peppers, and some garlic, salt, and pepper. After the onion is soft, you add the pork and continue to cook until liquid covers the meat. You reduce the heat for about 10 or 15 minutes, and then you increase the heat to reduce the liquid.
As you can tell, this is a labor-intensive recipe. As I’m reviewing it, I’m getting frustrated with the different temperature changes and additions that you have to do to follow the recipe. I’m also remembering how late it was as I was cooking it.
This is where I (purposefully) departed from recipe procedure a little bit. I knew I wanted to eat this around 6pm the next day, but it was already late and the recipe would need to cook another hour. I’d already thought about putting it in the slow cooker, so I turned off the heat and transferred the mixture to the crockpot. I put it in the refrigerator overnight, and the next morning I added the large can of tomatoes, 1 cup tequila, and 2 bottles of dark beer, and set the machine to low.
There was lots of liquid left when I got home, so I transferred the pork and juices to a large pot on the stove. I cooked and stirred it until the liquid had thickened up, reaching the consistency necessary to put the meat on tortillas.
The salsa was a little spicy, but was fine otherwise. I prefer my salsa with cilantro, but I’d probably make something like this recipe again.
The Mexican rice was pretty much just like what comes with my entrees at Mexican restaurants. If you enjoy that, this is the recipe for you. I generally prefer rice to either stand out on its own, or to be unseasoned so that I can eat other flavorful foods with it. I’m not a huge fan of rice like this -with just enough flavor that it distracts me from what I pair it with, yet not so much that I want to eat it by itself – so I will choose a different recipe to make next time.
Alex thought the carnitas were okay. He didn’t like the beer flavor in them. I originally thought that 4 poblano peppers in the carnitas would be excessive, but it cooked long enough that it wasn’t particularly spicy, even though the peppers were spicy when I cut them. I wonder if the length of time that I cooked it changed the flavor. I enjoyed the recipe, but I wonder if it would have been spicier if I had cooked it all on the stove as the recipe had called for.
I liked the carnitas, but after having leftovers, I’m not a big enough fan of the recipe to eat it too much. I might try the recipe again, without slow-cooking, and without the beer, but it’s just as likely that I’d find a different carnitas recipe to try.
On Tuesday I decided to make Shrimp and Okra Gumbo. I had some okra left in my freezer, and this sounded like it would have lots of vegetables. This also gave me a chance to use up a little more of the ham I had put in the freezer.
This was actually a relatively quick recipe to make. There was a lot of cutting up vegetables and ham, but I was able to do much of the chopping while the food cooked. We served it over rice.
We liked this. I thought it was a little spicy, but we didn’t mind that. I liked that it cooked up so fast. I don’t make shrimp very often, but I’d think about making this again.
One day Alex told me that his friends were having an argument about risotto. One argued that it was over-cooked rice; the other said that it wasn’t. I’ve had mushy, over-cooked rice before, and it’s definitely not risotto – it’s unpalatable. As Alex said, it’s not as if you just add a little extra water to rice, cook it a little extra, and you have risotto – if you did that, you’d have something much more like porridge.
Weeks later (on Friday, to be exact), the topic came up again because I was planning to make risotto for dinner. The over-cooked side decided to call it a matter of semantics. Both of them agreed that starch from the rice leaches out into the water in the risotto. (I guess that normally, if you have too much of the food leach into a liquid, it’s over-cooked – like mushy broccoli, definitely bad.) The degree to which this happens depends on the kind of rice you have. Long-grain rice doesn’t leach the starch quite like this. You need short-grained rice, with more starch, to make risotto. Just stirring rice after it’s cooked doesn’t make risotto, either – if you stir glutinous rice too much, the rice will stick together, break down, and you’ll be at the beginning of a road to making mochi.
Risottos usually require constant (or very frequent) attention – you stir frequently so that the starch separates from the rice to make the dish creamy. Most recipes I’ve seen call for the addition of cheese at the end, which melts and also makes the dish creamy. At least, that’s what I assume – because I don’t like cheese and don’t use it when I cook. So I was very excited when I found a recipe for risotto that didn’t use cheese… because it was a beet risotto!
Beets are one of my favorite foods that I discovered in the past few years. I never ate them growing up, so I skipped the time of life where I don’t like them. I’m lucky in that I’ve only ever had freshly cooked beets. I got to miss out on them… out of a can? Is that how they normally are? They’re a pretty strong, earthy flavor when I’ve had them, but I’d never made them before now.
I found a recipe for Beet Risotto with Kale. I actually couldn’t find regular red beets for this, so I ended up buying some organic (orange? golden?) beets which were only a few cents more. Roasting them was going to take so long that I did that in the oven the night before I made this dish so that we wouldn’t wait forever for dinner. I skinned them the next day and blended them with the vinegar, tarragon, and oil on the day of, and then proceeded with the rest of the risotto instructions.
I used Japanese rice, which I always have around and usually use when I make risotto, instead of Arborio rice. I didn’t heat the liquid before I made the risotto. I didn’t need the entire 4 cups of liquid – I used about 2 cups of vegetable broth (rather than chicken broth) that I had in the fridge, and another cup and a half of water. Aside from that, I don’t think I changed anything else. We had it with steaks (cooked under the broiler).
The risotto was much prettier in person than in the picture. Better yet, it was delicious! I really enjoyed this dish. The flavor of the beets really came through, complimented by the red wine vinegar. I probably could have done without the kale in this, but I also chopped it too coarsely, so that we had big mouthfuls of kale. The full recipe yielded a lot of risotto – definitely a full 4 servings. We still have leftover risotto in the fridge, and I’m looking forward to eating it. Even though it took a little work, I’ll definitely make this recipe again.