Friday, July 12, 2013

Pineapple-Coconut Rice in the Rice Cooker

There are some foods that we taste that instantly transport the mind to a different time or place, or awaken a certain emotion or feeling within us. For me, pineapple is one of those foods—when I taste pineapple, it automatically brings SUMMER to mind!  And summer means warmth, freedom, beaches, pools, kids, playtime, and relaxation.  At least, ideally.  It at least means freedom from alarm clocks!

But, back to the pineapple.  I absolutely love the flavor of this strange, prickly giant fruit. This summer, instead of just cutting the pineapple up and eating it plain (which is definitely delicious!!), I've decided to try and incorporate it into dinner dishes more often.  Pineapple lends itself so well to being heated—whether it's cooked, grilled, or boiled, it's a fabulous burst of sweet flavor that everyone will savor! (And yes, I rhymed that on purpose!)  Pineapple pairs well with another summery, tropical flavor—coconut.  I experimented with basic coconut rice recipes and added all sorts of colors to the rice until I achieved what I am terming "summer deliciousness". Yum!  Just a warning though: many of the measurements in this recipe are vague and "to taste".  You can't really go wrong, so just experiment!

Pineapple-Coconut Rice

Since I use a rice cooker, the liquid ingredients are vague and should be adjusted according to your preference and/or method of cooking.

2 or 3 cups dry Jasmine rice
1 (13.5 oz.) can of coconut milk
2-3 TBSP shredded unsweetened coconut
½ tsp coconut oil
pinch of salt
1 (or more, if desired) cups of pineapple, cut into small cubes
½ cup (or to taste) peas (frozen is okay)
½ cup (or to taste) red bell pepper, cut into small cubes

Rinse the rice in the rice cooker and add the coconut milk.  Add enough water to cook the rice properly (this will vary depending on how much rice you are making. A good tip for a rice cooker is the "pinky rule": the liquid should reach to about one segment of your pinky finger above the rice. If you are cooking the rice on the stovetop, stick to a 1:2 ratio of rice to liquid).  Stir in the shredded coconut (to taste), coconut oil, and the pinch of salt. Start the rice cooker.

About halfway through the cooking (approximately 10 minutes), add the peas, pineapple, and bell pepper to the rice cooker and stir gently.  When the rice cooker is done, fluff and stir the rice gently again or transfer to serving dish. Enjoy!

The pineapple and coconut flavors pair really well with curries or seafood dishes (if you eat fish/shellfish).

Check out this simple recipe for basic coconut rice and create your own version! Share your ideas with me!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Quick Poppin' Post

This is just a quick post to tell you about the popcorn pin I saw on Pinterest that really works and you should try! I only tried this because my kids were begging for a different snack for their lunch boxes, and they suggested popcorn.  Now, they meant the super-ultra-buttery kind you pop in a red-and-white bag, of course, but I was willing to meet them halfway and give this post from One Good Thing By Jillee a try. All you need are a bowl (glass or ceramic), a plate (again, glass or ceramic), and some popcorn kernels.  No oil, no butter, no nothin'.  Oh, maybe a microwave, sorry.  My friend told me today that she learned in Kindergarten that inside each kernel of popcorn is a drop of moisture, which makes the kernel explode when it gets heated.  So why "They" try to sell us popped corn doused in butter, oils, and salt when none of those are needed to pop the corn is a mystery to me.
Microwaved popcorn ingredients: bowl, plate; kernels.
Here is all you need: a bowl, some popcorn kernels, and a plate that fits snugly on top of the bowl.  Cover the bottom of the bowl with a layer of kernels (some people try to give you a specific measurement—don't bother.  My microwave is tiny, so I used a small bowl.  Yours may be huge, and you may use a very large bowl.  Just experiment; it isn't difficult). Fit the plate on top (snugly).
Fit plate snugly on top of bowl
Set the timer on your microwave anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes.  Since my bowl was rather small, I worked in 2-minute increments.  Jillee says to microwave the kernels for 2 minutes, 45 seconds.  Since there isn't any oil in there, the kernels won't burn as quickly—although they WILL burn if left to go too long.  The end result is a nice bowl of tasty popcorn, sans oil, butter, salt, or fats. Yum!
VoilĂ ! Popped corn!!
Easy, tasty, and totally possible to drizzle melted butter over if the mood strikes.  A bag of popcorn kernels is cheap ($2.50-ish for a 28-oz bag of organic kernels at Trader Joe's), takes up very little space, and will pop LOADS of popcorn.  Excellent snack for in kids' lunch boxes—especially if you keep it free of butters and salts.  Excellent snack for your own lunch box too!

So there you have it… my quick post about POPCORN.  Dirty microwave and all. =)
I have two more posts to write (but not tonight)—one about last night's dinner (slow cooker quinoa-red lentil soup), which was a big hit, and another one about tonight's dinner (goat cheese and leek pie) which was a HUGE hit.  However, you'll have to wait a while… I broke my arm/wrist and typing is laborious, especially at night (although I did get a pretty funky purple sparkly cast out of it).  It makes the blood rush into my hand, which is unpleasant. Sorry!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Moroccan Potato, Carrot, and Chickpea Stew

*Disclaimer*: I am NOT a food photographer.  I take decent pictures of landscapes, but I'm finding that I'm a total failure at taking good pictures of food.  Maybe one day I'll figure out how to set up a good composition on my own table, but for now my focus is the food. =)

Tonight I made a Moroccan stew.  I loved it, but I must warn you that it was not a big hit with the kids.  I think the raisins turned them off and they just couldn't get past that.  It was delicious, so I'm ignoring their opinions tonight.

I got this recipe from my very first issue of Vegetarian Times in 8 years.  I don't really know why I quit getting it, but this year I decided that I had always loved the inspiration it gave me and I needed it back. So glad I did it—there is something so much more satisfying about thumbing through a magazine than clicking through websites…

Moroccan Potato, Carrot, and Chickpea Stew
Serves 4; takes 30 minutes or fewer

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large russet potato, peeled and cubed
8 oz. peeled baby carrots **(I used 2-3 medium "adult" carrots, sliced. Worked fine)
2 large shallots, diced (1 cup)
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground black pepper
1 15.5-oz. can chickpeas, drained with liquid reserved, divided
⅓ cup dark raisins
1 ¼ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for garnish **(I used almost an entire lemon; I had zested one and needed to use it. It tasted great!)
4 oz. fresh spinach leaves (2 cups)

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add potato, carrots, shallots, salt and pepper; sautĂ© 3 minutes.  Add chickpea liquid, raisins, cumin, and pumpkin pie spice. Toss to blend, and bring to a simmer.  Cover; simmer over medium-low heat for 8 minutes.  Mix in 1 cup of chickpeas. Cover, and simmer 2-4 minutes more, or until potato and carrots are just tender.
2. Place remaining chickpeas on a plate and mash coarsely with a fork. Mix crushed chickpeas and lemon juice into stew.  Mound spinach on top.  Toss gently 1 to 2 minutes, or until spinach is reduced in volume, adding more water, salt, and pepper if desired. Divide stew among shallow bowls. Serve with lemon wedges.

Per 1-cup serving: 343 cal; 11 g protein; 8 g total fat (1 g sat. fat); 60 g carb; 0 mg cholesterol; 381 mg sodium; 8 g fiber; 15 g sugars.

This recipe is Vegan and Gluten Free

Lemon-Thyme Bruschetta

I served lemon-thyme bruschetta as an appetizer on Christmas Eve, and it was gone pretty quickly—definitely a big hit!  I made it tonight again because I had bought way too much ricotta, and this is so delicious, quick, and easy to make that it just seemed like a good idea. Oh, and our taste buds were screaming for it. ;-)
This is a really simple recipe that doesn't require any exotic ingredients, but comes out tasting very fancy and exotic. It's got a fresh yet sweet flavor that goes well before any meal.  The original recipe came from a blog called the Kitchn and for once, I stayed pretty true to it. I would recommend using a regular ricotta—not the ricotta salata I seem to see everywhere nowadays (they add salt, which dehydrates it and makes it crumbly—but for this recipe you'll want a creamy texture, so you'd just end up re-hydrating the cheese).

Lemon-Thyme Bruschetta
1 baguette, thinly sliced
8 ounces ricotta cheese
1 lemon, zested
freshly cracked black pepper
8 or so sprigs of fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Toast baguette slices in the oven for about 5-7 minutes until slightly browned and warm.

Mix together the ricotta and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spread the cheese mixture liberally onto the toasted baguette slices. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with thyme. Serve warm.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Holiday Magic

Happy Holidays!  In my family, the winter holidays are a time of celebration with and about Family, Togetherness, and Love.  We are a tight-knit bunch, and we spend all holidays and birthdays together. It creates a bit of a scheduling headache, and not everything is celebrated on the exact right day, but that isn't important.  Being together is what's important.  The Christmas holidays are no different; we all gather together and spend a few days together—laughing, crying, joking, criticising—it's all par for the course. And I, for one, wouldn't change a thing about it.

As a family, we have certain traditions that have been in place for decades.  Fondue for dinner at Mom's house is probably the most famous and favorite one.  Brunch with Mom and taking the dogs to the beach is another. But in the last few years, some things have started to change… Some out of necessity; some out of desire.  For instance, we no longer go for a swim in the pool after the beach walk—the house with the pool is in the past.  But new traditions have been forming as well: I now host a Christmas Eve dinner party at my house for the family. I love sharing my culinary finds with others!  But food isn't the only thing I serve… When I first started having these dinner parties, I felt that I should have some sort of "signature drink".  I searched and searched and experimented and adjusted, until I came up with exactly that: a Signature Drink. Q's Candy Cane Martini was born, and over the years has been repeated and perfected and become synonymous with Christmas Eve at my house.

And yes, I'll share my recipe with you.

Q's Candy Cane Martini
¼ oz. peppermint schnapps
¾ oz. vodka
1 oz. Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur
1 oz. half and half
1 eyedropper Rose's Grenadine
1 mini Candy Cane for garnish

Mix the schnapps, vodka, chocolate liqueur, and half and half together with some ice in a drink mixer.  Strain into martini glass.  Use the eyedropper to squeeze drops of Rose's Grenadine around the side of the glass to create red stripes.  Garnish with a mini candy cane.


P.S.: in case you were wondering, a typical shot is 1½ oz.  It is actually quite important to be precise with the measurements in this particular recipe—otherwise you will run the risk of ending up with a "toothpaste martini" instead!