Archives for category: Cooking

I could call this dish Vegetable Paella since that was the original intent, but it’s really so different now, I hesitate to do so. Hence the name given — Vegetable rice with soup. It came into existence unintentionally. I started out making Vegetable Paella from the cookbook Slow Cooker Bible from Crock Pot, but I left out the saffron (because I didn’t have any and didn’t foresee using it much in the future) and accidentally left out all seasonings (I remembered as soon as we spooned the mixture onto our plates). And having some left over split pea soup, I figured I’d serve it on the side. The soup was so thick that Wing plopped his serving onto the plate. Well, I guess it wasn’t as thick as he’d expected because it soon mixed with his rice dish. However, he was pleasantly surprised with the taste after the accidental mixing and told me I had to try it. So I did. I have to say, together they were really good. Separately, meh. Crazy but true. I urge you to try it this way (minus my mistake of forgetting to add seasonings to the paella of course) to see how you like it. Maybe we’re just strange, but if you’re like us, you may just find it to your liking! (Pictures are pre-soup discovery.)

Split Pea Soup with Rice and Vegetables

Vegetable Rice with Soup

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • 2 cans vegetable broth (14.5 oz ea)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • Smoked paprika, ground turmeric
  • Salt
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 package (11 oz) frozen artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • Pre-made vegetarian split pea soup

Heat oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion softens. Transfer to slow cooker. Add rice, broth, wine, and seasonings. Stir. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours.

Add garbanzo beans, artichoke hearts, and peas to slow cooker. Cover and cook on high about 30 minutes until rice is tender and frozen vegetables are heated through. Mix in split pea soup. Serve hot.

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Searching for Wow is back! We took a long break because Wing and I just bought a house! So we’ve been incredibly busy moving and working on it to make it ours. We’ve finally come to a point where we can relax some, so that means better meals and blogging about them again.

During our move, Wing and I made the decision to start eating healthier. That means I’m planning to incorporate one vegetarian meal a week and reducing the amount of red meat. I had started putting this plan into action, but I hadn’t really thought about the blogging side of it until recently when I went onto Paul McCartney’s official site to check out concert information. I was clicking around and discovered Meatless Mondays

(Side note: Paul McCartney’s coming to San Diego for the first time in over 30 years! Woot! Too bad I won’t be going since I just bought a house and am now too poor. Oh well. Mars and I saw him live in Vegas so I’ll survive.)

Granted, I’m not becoming vegetarian. I’m simply too picky of an eater. Those so-called “replacements” for meat – eggplant parmesan, tofu “chicken,” Portobello mushroom burgers – all disgusting to me. Give me the meat over the vegetables. I may die earlier from the fat content, but I’m pretty sure the horrible taste factor would shave days off my life too, so I think I’m about even there. Anyway, in an attempt to be healthier, I’ve decided to jump on the band wagon with this “Meatless Monday” thing. And I’ll post my attempts on the blog as a recurring Monday theme.

This week’s “Meatless Monday” recipe is vegetarian stuffed bell peppers. These stuffed bells are reminiscent of Southern California’s love for Mexican cuisine. They’re delicious as the recipe is written, but they’re also incredibly versatile. Next time, I plan to try different cheeses such as cotija, maybe add some Mexican spices such as cumin, chipotle chile powder, or as a garnish cilantro. Mix and match according to your own taste!

Vegetarian Stuffed Bells

Vegetarian Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 2 Large bell peppers (we used orange, but you can use your favorite)
  • 1 cup Mexican rice (we purchased ours pre-made, but watch out if you’re a true vegetarian. You might want to make your own to ensure that it’s not made with chicken broth)
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup chunky salsa
  • 1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed (I only used about half the can and saved the rest)
  • 1 (15-oz) can green enchilada sauce, divided
  • 1/2 cup water

Cut off the tops of the bell peppers. Remove the seeds and membranes. In a bowl, stir together the rice, cheese, salsa, and beans. Stuff each pepper with the mixture. Place in a slow cooker. Add 1/2 the can of enchilada sauce and the water to the slow cooker, so the bells are sitting in about an inch of liquid (depending on the size of your slow cooker, you may need to adjust the amount of sauce and water you use). Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

After the bell peppers are tender, cover the peppers with the remaining enchilada sauce. Cover and cook for another 10-20 minutes.

Who doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? Especially when you’re a kid and it’s from that wonderful blue box, right? Well, not if you’re Wing. Wing claims he’s always disliked macaroni and cheese and it makes me very sad because I personally love the stuff whether it’s from the ever-famous blue box or homemade. Even though Wing doesn’t eat it, I always keep a box or two of Kraft macaroni and cheese because I grew up eating it and will still get the hankering for it nowadays.

Thankfully that little blue box was in the cupboard one day when Wing and I had no plans for dinner. The box seemed to jump from its shelf and say, “eat me.” We also wanted to use up some frozen meatballs, and I then remembered that I have a recipe that calls for ground beef and macaroni and cheese. So we used that recipe as a base but enhanced it by using the meatballs instead of the beef and adding a few ingredients of our own.

After one bite of this recipe, Wing was a new macaroni and cheese convert. He loved it! He even went so far as to ask me why macaroni and cheese hadn’t been in his life when he was a kid. I can’t exactly help him with his deprived past, but I can help his future become enriched with the cheesy goodness. And so we have had a few macaroni and cheese dinners since then, all rather non-conventional, but very tasty and Wing was impressed that he was actually loving the mac and cheese.

So for this Themed Thursday, I present to you the Wing-approved macaroni and cheese recipes. But we are far from finished with experimenting in the kitchen. Oh, and these recipes are beyond easy to make!

Mac_and_cheese

Macaroni and cheese with meatballs

  • 1 package macaroni and cheese dinner
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 5-6 store-bought meatballs, diced  (I used Aidells)
  • 1 can (roughly 4 oz) tomato sauce
  • Dash of salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder

Prepare dinner as directed. Lightly sauté pepper and onion. Add meatballs. Stir in remaining ingredients. Add macaroni and cheese. Simmer 5-10 minutes.

Southwestern macaroni and cheese

  • 1 package macaroni and cheese dinner
  • 1 cup cooked pollo asado (I used Del Real)
  • 1 can (4 oz) diced green chiles
  • 1/2 cup pepper jack cheese

Prepare dinner as directed. Heat chicken as directed. Mix all ingredients together until cheese melts.

Buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese

  • 1 package macaroni and cheese dinner
  • 1 cup cooked chicken
  • 1 cup buffalo wing sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped celery (optional)

Prepare dinner as directed. Heat chicken. Mix all ingredients together.

 

Every so often, I like to indulge in a bit of artisan bread. My favorite is jalapeño cheese. Well, Wing and I bought a loaf of the jalapeño cheese, but we weren’t able to finish it before it became stale. My solution was to bake it in a strata. We now needed flavors to complement the jalapeños. After digging around in our cupboards, I pulled out a can of green chiles, some tomato sauce (thinking that it could make our strata reminiscent of chilaquiles), onion and garlic powders, and an almost forgotten seasoning blend by Desert Gardens that we bought when we’d visited Arizona last. This particular seasoning blend’s main ingredient is habanero. It claims it’s “Hot! Hot!! Hot!!!” but we like spice and we don’t think that it’s really that hot. (Since most people probably don’t have the habanero seasoning, chipotle or cayenne powders will work, too.) The strata tasted good straight out of the oven, but heated up the next day, it was even better!

Southwestern Strata

Southwestern Strata

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • Salt & black pepper
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Habanero seasoning (or chipotle powder or cayenne)
  • 1 can (5 oz) green chiles
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • Cooking spray
  • ½  loaf jalapeño cheese bread, sliced
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Jack cheese

In a medium bowl, beat eggs. Add milk, all seasonings, green chiles, and tomato sauce. Grease a medium casserole dish with cooking spray. Lay half of the bread slices in bottom of dish. Top with half the egg mixture. Sprinkle with cheeses. Repeat layers. Cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Uncover and bake for 40-50 minutes or until eggs are set and golden brown. Top with salsa if desired.

To know me is to know that I have many random questions in my brain. Some of those questions I research, some I leave as questions in my brain because I don’t feel like doing the research. Well, one day I had the question: Is there a difference between a pancake and a flapjack? After doing some Internet research, I discovered that in the US, the words are synonymous with only a bit of argument here and there about how thick one is supposed to be compared the other. But that makes no difference to me. More than likely it’s regional.

However, according to the Internet, a flapjack in Britain is a lot different than a flapjack in the US. Apparently a flapjack to the British is like a granola bar in the US. I’m not usually a granola bar person, but the recipes looked so easy and so appealing that I decided to give it a try. And my first and only attempt at making a British-style flapjack was a hit! I have no idea how authentic my flapjacks are, but I don’t care because my family and I loved them. Authenticity can fly out the window.

Then, of course, my little brain started to think. What other British foods are there that didn’t quite come over to the US in the same form or even at all? Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t decided on a theme for this month’s Themed Thursday. Now I had one – British food! So I found a book at a local library called Cooking the English Way by Barbara W. Hill.

Believe it or not, the recipes seemed pretty normal to a person from the US – roast beef, roasted potatoes, shepherd’s pie, scones, gingerbread, etc. The only recipes in the book that the US didn’t adopt for the most part were “mushrooms on toast” for breakfast and Yorkshire pudding. But I hate mushrooms and the Yorkshire pudding seemed like too much work and I was feeling lazy. So I gave up for the day.

I hadn’t given up completely on my British food idea, but I was no longer sure what to do. Then I watched A Grammy Salute – The Beatles 50th Anniversary: The Night That Changed America.

Man, I have to stop here to say how much I love The Beatles. Yes, I’m technically too young for them, but that’s the beauty of the Fab Four – they’re timeless. After watching the tribute, my little heart swelled in adoration, and I had a new plan. I would honor The Beatles in my own way by creating recipes based on foods mentioned in their songs. Of course, the first song I thought of suited my purposes the best – George Harrison’s “Savoy Truffle.” What better song for a person with a sweet tooth? Mmmmm! (I choose to ignore its warnings and focus on the deliciousness.) And it just so happens that February is George’s birthday month. Perfect!

Taken from the song, I chose to create a coffee dessert (this one has endless possibilities!) and a nice apple tart to accompany the British flapjacks. Let me tell you, this month’s theme was so tasty and so much fun, that I might have to honor The Beatles (and George Harrison) another time!

Beatles theme

British-Style Flapjacks

  • ¼ cup butter or margarine
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 ½ cup quick-cooking oats
  • ¼ cup frozen blueberries (or use your favorite berry or raisins)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter and sugar have melted. Stir in oats and berries until coated. Pour into bread pan or small square baking pan. Mixture should be about 1-in thick. Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden. Cut into squares, then leave to cool completely before removing from the pan.

 Coffee Dessert

(based off recipe “Christmas Morning Coffee” from The Best of Christmas at Home Cookbook)

  • 1 pot (10 cups) brewed coffee
  • 1/3 cup water
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • Milk or whipped cream, optional

Prepare coffee. While coffee is brewing, in a small saucepan, heat water to a low boil over medium heat. Stir in sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bring back to a low boil, stirring occasionally. Combine coffee with cocoa mixture. Pour into mugs and serve with milk or whipped cream, if desired.

 Easy Apple Tart

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 package refrigerated pie crust
  • 1 can apple pie filling
  • ¼ cup sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup honey

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray mini pie tins (or tart pans) with cooking spray. Cut and fit crust into each tin. Place tins in oven and bake 12-15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix pie filling, milk, and honey in a bowl. When crusts are golden brown, remove and let cool. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees F. Fill each crust with apple pie mix. Cover each pie with foil and poke holes in the foil to let breathe. Bake pies in oven for 20 minutes. Store in refrigerator.

Welcome to Themed Thursday — every third Thursday of the month, I post a themed blog. This month, it’s all about Alfredo sauce. I made a batch of it and there was a lot left over! I don’t like to waste food, so I  had to figure out how to use it all. Below are the recipes I came up with using the sauce.

What are your favorite dishes using Alfredo sauce?

Alfredo sauce (from allrecipes.com. Click here to view original)

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 (8 oz) package cream cheese
  • 2 tsp garlic powder (I sometimes use fresh, minced)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 6 oz grated Parmesan cheese
  • Ground black pepper, to taste

Melt butter in a medium, non-stick saucepan over medium heat. Add cream cheese and garlic powder, stirring until smooth. Add milk, a little at a time, stirring to smooth out lumps. Stir in Parmesan and pepper. Remove from heat when sauce reaches desired consistency. Sauce will thicken rapidly. Thin with milk if cooked too long.

alfredo sauce

Cajun style pasta

  • Your favorite type of pasta such as spaghetti, angel hair, macaroni, or spiral (I used spaghetti)
  • Alfredo sauce
  • Cajun seasoning
  • Red bell pepper, diced
  • Tomato, diced
  • Spinach
  • Pre-cooked, Cajun-seasoned chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces

Cook pasta according to package directions. Heat Alfredo sauce, adding Cajun seasoning to taste. When pasta is cooked, toss all ingredients together. Add extra Cajun seasoning to taste.

Alfredo pizza This is based on the ingredients I had on hand that day. Feel free to add your favorite pizza ingredients.

  • Alfredo sauce
  • Your favorite pizza crust (I used Boboli)
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Spinach
  • Red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
  • Store-bought meatballs, diced (I used Aidells)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread Alfredo sauce on the crust. Layer with cheese and top with remaining ingredients. Bake in oven 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Alfredo and meatballs

  • Your favorite type of pasta such as spaghetti, angel hair, vermicelli, or fettuccine (I used spaghetti)
  • Alfredo sauce
  • Store-bought meatballs (I used Aidells)
  • Broccoli, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions. Heat Alfredo sauce. Over med-low heat, in a small non-stick pan, heat meatballs, turning to evenly brown. When pasta is cooked and meatballs are heated through, toss all ingredients together.

Every once in a while, I’ll go through my collection of cookbooks that are gathering dust on my bookshelves and pull some out that I haven’t really used since purchasing. Just a bit ago, I decided to do this again. I found a ton of magazines that were awaiting their turns to be recognized and used. The chicken recipe comes from one of those. It’s a “Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publications” magazine called 5-Ingredient Meals from 2008. I changed the recipe up a bit, mainly using fewer shallots, which this blog reflects, so feel free to add more depending on your taste. As a side, I made couscous using a recipe (click here for original recipe) I found on allrecipes.com. Each dish was bursting with flavor and they tasted great together.

Chicken Couscous

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Shallots

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 3 large shallots, coarsely chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4-in slices
  • Parsley

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over med-high heat. Reduce to med. Add chicken. Brown on both sides. Add shallots to skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook covered for 8-10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink, stirring shallots occasionally. Transfer chicken and shallots to a serving platter. Cover to keep warm. Add zucchini to skillet. Saute for 3-5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add to platter with chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

Company Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1 pinch dried basil
  • 1 pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 dash balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (we didn’t have Parmesan so I used Mozzarella)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir couscous into boiling water and return water to a boil. Cover and remove pot from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

While couscous is cooking, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Stir in garlic, green onions, and peppers. Saute briefly. Stir in tomatoes, basil, cooked couscous, and salt and pepper. Mix together and transfer to a 1 1/2-qt casserole dish. Splash some balsamic vinegar on top.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese while still warm.