Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Easy Spanish-style Sausage and Rice

My best friend has her abuela’s pot for making Arroz con Pollo, but my family is much less discerning of that level of authenticity. Instead, we get close with this flavorful sausage and rice dish.

You’ll need

  • 1 family size package of Vigo Spanish Rice (with seasonings included in the package)
  • 2 lbs cooked link sausage, such as kielbasa, turkey sausage, venison sausage, etc.
  • 1-2 packages of frozen peppers and onions (roughly 1-2 cups of chopped frozen or cooked peppers and onions)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup whole green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (optional)

Cook the rice according to package instructions.

While the rice cooks, slice cooked sausage into coins and brown in skillet.

Note: Vigo seasoned Spanish rice is not corn-free. Use unseasoned white or yellow rice and Sazon with Saffron seasoning.

Thaw/steam frozen peppers and onions (with poblano pepper if using) in the microwave. Or, if using fresh veggies, sautee in skillet after sausage is all browned.

Spanish_Sausage_and_Rice.jpgWhen rice is finished, mix in browned sausage, warmed peppers and onions, and olives. I leave my olives whole because all of my peeps like them; feel free to slice or chop yours up if you need to hide them ;-).

Serve directly from the rice pot, accompanied by fresh fruit salad or seasonal marinated vegetables.

Tip: maintain healthy overnight blood sugar by skipping the “bread on the side” with dinner when you already have rice, pasta, or potatoes. Even non-diabetics can experience unhealthy blood glucose levels when consuming extra complex carbohydrates.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

1-pan Dinner: Chicken Marbella with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

IMG_1859For a family of 2-4, this meal can be made using 1 cutting board, 1 chef’s or chopping knife, 1 mixing bowl, and 1 large baking sheet. You can make clean up even easier by lining your baking sheet with foil.

For this dinner, you’ll need

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or comparable chicken strips or chicken thighs)
  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced (Yukon gold, red, russet – whatever kind you like)
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
  • 1 Vidalia or sweet onion, large diced (optional)
  • 2-4 T good oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut)

For the Marbella marinade, you’ll need

  • 4 prunes, chopped roughly
  • 6-8 green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos, chopped roughly
  • 1 T capers, chopped roughly
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup good oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut)
  • 1/4 apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper

The night before you’ll be cooking this dinner, combine all of the Marbella marinade ingredients and whisk to mix well. Pour over the raw chicken (yep, it can even be frozen still); make sure the chicken is one layer when you put it in the fridge. It is super important that you marinate the chicken overnight.

For baking, prehead the oven to 375°F, line your baking sheet with foil and spray it down well with cooking spray.

Toss your diced potatoes and halved Brussels sprouts in good oil and salt and pepper. You can certainly add any other spices you like at this time; for pairing with the Marbella flavors, I recommend lemon pepper or dijon, something with a strong, tart flavor to contrast with the salty and sweet of the Marbella.

Lay out the chicken in a row across one end of the pan, layer the potatoes in the middle in one layer, and layer the Brussels sprouts and onions on the other end of the pan. Pour any remaining Marbella marinate over the chicken.

Place the pan on the upper rack in the center of the oven, and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, nut free, soy free

My Mom’s Mother’s Day Special: Salmon Croquettes, Charleston Macaroni Pie, Marinated Cucumbers and Onions

According to my blog, it’s been more than five years since I last made salmon croquettes. These have always been a super special occasion food, mostly because salmon is so expensive. So when I told my mom that I was thinking of making salmon croquettes for dinner on Mother’s Day 2017, she immediately rounded out the meal with Macaroni Pie a la Charleston Receipts and marinated cucumbers and onions.

Marinated Cucumbers and Onions

Start at least 1 day ahead by peeling and slicing kirby pickling cucumbers and Vidalia sweet onions into a container with a lid. Add 1.5 T salt and 1.5 T black pepper. Fill with apple cider vinegar halfway up the pile of veggies. Add water until veggies are just covered. Put the lid on and refrigerate. And if you’re like me, put a sticky note on the lid warning away the snackers lest you find the container empty before dinner.

Macaroni Pie a la Charleston Receipts

Charleston has a side dish variation on macaroni and cheese that we call “pie” because it uses an egg-milk custard to firm up into nice, cheesy, cuttable squares. You can make this ahead and heat it up for 30 minutes at 350°F, but it’s better to make it fresh, especially for special occasions.

Salmon Croquettes

Make the salmon croquettes fresh using canned salmon, being sure to remove all of the skin and bones (especially the spine) and breaking up the salmon well. These pan-fried salmon patties rival crab cakes as the best seafood “pattie” food on the coast, even though salmon isn’t native to our waters. Check out how to make them here.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Teriyaki Pork, Fried Rice, and Hibachi Veggies

18237847_10155296972689116_6937488602022063762_oI LOVE the show and the flavor of a great Japanese hibachi meal, but I don’t have one of those amazing, huge hotplates for making everything at the same time. So I turned to what I know of cooking rice casseroles and oven steaming veggies to see how I could make this dinner easier and faster. Here’s how it goes:

  • Time at Counter: 30-45 minutes
  • Time Food is Cooking: 60 minutes

Sorry – I didn’t think I’d be blogging this whole meal, so I didn’t take pics along the way. I’ll add some next time I do this dinner…which should be soon based on my family’s reviews!

Prep the Fried Rice for the Oven

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In your 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish, pour all of the ingredient:

  • 1 cup uncooked white or brown rice (regular, not instant or frozen)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (or use my soy-free soy sauce)
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots mix (get the store brand on sale some time)

Stir to combine the liquids and put in the oven for 1 hour.

NOTE: you can use any combination of veggies you like; just keep the total amount to no more than 1.5 cups or you’ll overwhelm your rice.

Prep the Hibachi Veggies for the Oven

Chop, dice, slice, or whatever cut you like up to 4 cups of raw or frozen veggies. Keep in mind that frozen veggies will not be crisp when cooked. I like to use

  • 3 fresh zucchinis, quartered lengthwise and then copped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 fresh large carrots, cut into coins or half moons (for the fatter end of the carrot)
  • 1-2 sweet Vidalia onions, thick sliced and quartered
  • 1/4 soy sauce
  • 4 T butter or margarine

When I have them or think of them, I’ve been known to add sliced water chestnuts, baby corn (chopped in 1/2-inch pieces), bamboo shoots, mung bean sprouts.

Toss veggies with soy sauce and top with 5-6 pats of butter (4 T butter or margarine). Cover with foil and put in the oven for 20 minutes with foil on and 20 minutes with foil off. Stir veggies when you remove the foil.

NOTE: by this time, you’ve been at the counter for about 15-25 minutes, depending on how efficient (faster and maybe messy) versus perfectionist (slower and cleaning as you go) you are in the kitchen. You’ve got anywhere from 15-25 minutes to go, depending on your style.

Prep the Teriyaki Glazed Pork Loin

Put a large skillet, preferable cast iron, over medium heat with 2 T of your favorite cooking oil; do NOT use butter or margarine for this step. You’ll need the equivalent of 2 boneless pork chops worth of cubed pork per person. For my family of 4, roughly 1/4 of a large pork loin renders generous portions.

  • for 2 adults: use a package of 4 boneless pork chops
  • for 4 adults: use 1/4 (about 8 inches) of a large pork loin
  • for 6 adults: use 1/2 of a large pork loin

TIP: don’t buy cut boneless pork chops; they are nothing more than that huge pork loin on the bottom shelf sliced up. Watch for the pork loin to be on sale or BOGO. You can save TONS of money slicing your own pork chops – thin for skillet frying or oven cooking and thick for grilling.

While that skillet is heating up with the oil, get cubing and drop your cubed pork in the skillet as you cut it. No need to wait to add it all at once.

As long as you really do have your skillet on medium and not higher, you won’t have to worry about burning, or even stir for about 10 minutes. Give it a quick stir every 2-3 minutes, checking to get the pink sides down. After about 20 minutes, even if you still see a little bit of pink, pour in a bottle of teriyaki glaze – I use Kikkoman – or roughly 1.5 cups of my soy-free teriyaki sauce reduced (assume you’ll need to do this before starting this dinner). Drop the burner down to low, stir to coat every piece, and let it simmer and thicken further while the rice and veggies finish in the oven.

Now is a great time to pour yourself a glass of Japanese plum wine or a nice Riesling or Late Chardonnay or Moscato for a little sip of sweetness against the slightly salty hibachi dinner. Sit down and rest until the timer goes off.

BONUS: you’ve only got 3 cooking dishes, a cutting board and maybe a couple of measuring cups for clean up. No collections of mixing dishes to try and fit into the dishwasher or on the drying rack.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (aka cleaning out the cupboard)

As I was sorting and re-organizing the cupboards and the freezers the past few days, I’ve come across several ingredients I rarely use: leftovers from some Tasty.com experiment or a houseguest. Luckily, I’m able to use most of them in some delicious Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

The two main ingredients I wanted to use up are whole wheat flour and steel cut oats. Neither are part of my regular pantry, but I appreciate the earthy, nutty flavor they bring to anything cooked with them. And my budget this week was a little too short for anything sweet in grocery shopping. Yep, you interpreted that correctly. No ingredients were purchased to make these cookies happen!

Betty Crocker's Cookbook and Oatmeal Raisin CookiesFor such a classic cookie, I always start with my Mom’s use-worn Betty Crocker cookbook, where butter is always listed as “shortening.” But I made a few adjustments to let me use up as much of these random ingredients as possible.

Wet Ingredients

  • 1.5 sticks (3/4 cup) of softened butter (vegan: 3/4 cup coconut oil, peanut butter or other soft or liquid vegetable fat)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 regular sugar
  • 2 eggs (vegan and gluten free: 2 egg blend of The Vegg or other vegan baking substitute)
  • 1/2 cup water (don’t skip this because the oats need it)

Dry Ingredients

  • 1.75 cups whole wheat flour (gluten free: use same amount of GF all purpose flour)
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t baking soda (omit for a flatter, chewier cookie)
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground cloves
  • 1 t salt

Add Ins

  • 2 cups steel cut oats (or rolled oats)
  • 1 cup chopped dried fruit: raisins, craisins, cherries, apricot, prunes
  • 1 cup chopped nuts: pecans, almonds, walnuts (nut-free: try toasted hemp seeds or sesame seeds in place of nuts)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Blend the wet ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and blend well. Add your chosen add-ins and mix well.

IMG_1825Drop by teaspoon-fuls onto a silpat or a greased cookie sheet; for this step, I use one of my few Pampered Chef tools: a teaspoon ice cream (or cookie) scoop. It really helps to make quick and not-messy work of this step.

IMG_1826When I use all three of my baking sheets at once, I can get nearly all of the dough in at the same time. I had about 1 dozen left for the second round. That’s another great strategy for making cookie baking easier and faster. Works when you’re doing cut out and decorate cookies too!

Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes. Be sure to preheat all the way before putting your cookies in.

Transfer to a cooling rack immediately. These will cool to eat quickly!

Makes 5-6 dozen.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Cheddar Potato Soup

IMG_1755Sure. It’s just regular Potato Soup with cheddar cheese added, but I just learned that my younger cousins never learned our Nannie’s Potato Soup recipe. I did because it’s my mom’s “sick soup.”

Ingredients

  • 2-4 cups of chicken stock (or veggie if you’re looking for a veg version)
  • 3-4 cups of cubed potatoes – any kind or mixed, but our favorite are Yukon gold potatoes – cube them about the size of a standard set of dice
  • 1 medium onion, diced small
  • 1-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1T pepper
  • 1t salt (you can always add more, but start small)
  • 1t nutmeg
  • 2 cups heavy cream (or unsweetened, unflavored almond or soy milk for a veg version)
  • 2 cups of your favorite cheddar cheese – any cheddar, muenster, manchego are all good choices!

IMG_1753This is one of my favorite soups to do in the crock pot, mainly because my chicken and veggie stock are made ahead and frozen, and I can’t ever remember to thaw them out. Using the crock pot, I can put all but the heavy cream and cheese in at once and set it on Low for 6-8 hours. It takes a little more than an hour for the frozen stock to thaw and cover the potatoes and onions and cook.

Add the cream and cheddar and let cook for about 30 more minutes. Viola – you’re ready to serve!

Posted in Cooking, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Easy Baked Empanadas

IMG_1754Sometimes you can find empanada wraps in the grocery store, already cut into circles of the right size. And sometimes you have to make them yourself. That’s what I did today, using supportive guidance from MyColumbianRecipes.com. Pay particular attention to the filling suggestions…YUM!

Empanada dough is pastry dough, so if you have a basic cookbook with a non-sugar pie crust, you’ve already got an empanada dough recipe. Use it! What I found in this recipe post was a good feel for the actual assembly as well as some fantastic ideas for fillings for a future dinner! #ChickenBrieApricot

The dough is naturally soy and nut free, easily gluten free using any AP gluten free flour, and easily vegan using Crisco (in place of butter) and The Vegg baking mix in place of egg (yep, the egg wash too!).