Corn and Rice Stuffed Peppers

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Let this be known as the summer that I went corn crazy.

I have always loved fresh corn off the cob, but the corn here in the midwest tastes so much fresher and sweeter than my corn from Texas that I can’t help but make dinner after dinner with corn. Originally, these stuffed peppers came out of necessity when I was cleaning out the fridge and pantry before we moved here, and they turned out to be better than I even expected and have been repeated multiple times.

These area  great vegetarian main dish for dinner, and serve as great leftovers for lunch the next day. And they keep my cravings for corn temporarily at bay. So this dish is a winner all around.

CORN AND RICE STUFFED PEPPERS

INGREDIENTS

4-5 poblano peppers
Salt and pepper
1 cup dried brown rice
1 tablespoon butter
4 green onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 ears of corn
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1/3 cup and 3 tablespoons grated parmesan

DIRECTIONS

Heat grill to medium-high heat. Place poblano peppers on grill and cook until blackened and charred, about 4-5 minutes per side. Place poblanos immediately into a ziploc bag and seal. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Remove peppers and peel skin off. Make a cut into on side of the pepper length wise. Remove seeds and membranes. Set aside.

Preheat broiler.

Cook rice according to instructions. Heat butter in a large skillet. Sauté green onions and garlic over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in rice and corn. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and season with salt and pepper. Spoon filling into peppers. Place in baking pan.

Stir bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and brush with olive oil. Put into oven for 5 minutes (watch carefully so it does not burn).

Recipe from Cinnamon Freud.

Lemon Couscous with Avocado, Currants, and Almonds

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Earlier this semester I had a food challenge to meet: I needed a quiet dinner food.

Once a week I have a night class that is during and far past dinner, and the professor’s one request is that we bring in quiet food as to not disturb our classmates as we ate.  The first few classes I brought in salads, figuring there would be a little crunch, but I had cut my food into small pieces and used soft toppings- and my lettuce was often old and limp so quieter than it could have been.

Well, salad was deemed a little bit too loud, so I went back to the drawing board.  I sat down and took a moment to ponder: “what foods are quiet foods?”.  After some deep reflection, it came to me: avocado. Avocado: the ultimate quiet, delicious, and filling food.  Thus, this salad was born out of a desperation for solitude and has been eaten once a week during class ever since.

Although I often leave the almonds off because of the crunch factor.

LEMON COUSCOUS WITH AVOCADO, CURRANTS, AND ALMONDS
Adapted from Erin’s Food Files

INGREDIENTS

1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup currants
1/3 cup warm water
1 cup dried couscous
1 teaspoon aloppa pepper (or cumin as alternative spice)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 small avocados, diced
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add butter and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium to medium low heat until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, soak currants in the water. Pour currants and water with onions and cook until liquid is evaporated. Set onion mixture aside.

Cook couscous according instructions. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in onion mixture, aloppa pepper, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Cook for an additional 1-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in avocado (salt avocado if needed).

Serves 3-4.

Cheddar Broccoli Rice Casserole

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I know it’s been a be quiet round these parts recently.  I have been trying to get back into cooking more, and I have actually been cooking dinner much more often.  But sometimes the recipes are only okay, sometimes the photos are not my favorite, and sometimes I just forget. It’s not you, it’s me.  I am hoping to get back into the swing of things more.  Lots has been going on around here though- I have officially gotten my Masters degree (and thus will now only respond to “Master Karen”), went on a vacation to San Antonio with my boyfriend, and am gearing up.  So lots of school but no cooking- something which I hope to fix very soon.

One way I have tried to inspire myself more is by meal planning (also helps me not waste food).  So one week I was planning out my meals and had a huge craving for some kind of warm casserole.  Knowing that I still had my month’s Secret Recipe Club meal to make, I went searching through   Turnips 2 Tangerines, and I found this lovely casserole.  Creamy, warm, and cheesy- just want the doctor ordered. Warm, comforting, and completely inappropriate for this flipping hot summer.  Perfect.

CHEDDAR BROCCOLI RICE CASSEROLE
Adapted from Turnips 2 Tangerines

INGREDIENTS

1 cup dried jasmati rice
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup chicken stock
Celery salt
3-4 heads broccoli, chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cheddar cheese, shredded

DIRECTIONS

Cook rice according to instructions. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Place broccoli on baking sheets in a single layer. Sprinkle olive oil on top and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 10-14 minutes, until broccoli is tender and beginning to brown. Set aside

In a saucepan, melt butter and stir in flour. Whisk in milk and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and reduce heat to simmer. Continue to stir until sauce is thickened. Combine rice, broccoli, and sauce. Prepare a pie pan for baking and spread mixture inside. Top with shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake until cheese is bubbly and melted, 5-10 minutes. Let cool slightly and serve.

Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Congee (Chinese Rice Porridge)

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So there is this big sporting, widely televised event that is slowly approaching.

And I will not be watching.  Nope.  Just not a fan.  Not even the commercials or half time show peak my interest.  Instead I will actually be at a department function that night and determinedly ignoring all Super Bowl conversation.  But this means I actually have something to do Super Bowl night rather than sit at home, bitter at football and the world.

But today I am not talking any more about the Super Bowl.  Just soup.

I know “rice porridge” may not be a huge attraction, but Congee is a very special soup.  I first tried it when my aunt hosted Chinese New Year many years ago, and it has been true love since.  Congee is a basic, hearty rice soup, but the real appeal is all the stuff you get to put on top of it.

Or the fried bread that is a traditionally served with it.  Insert drooling emoji here.

For a long time, I always relied on going to Chinese restaurants for my congee fix when I was back in Houston.  Mom tried making it at home once, and it turned out less than desirable.  But with determination in my heart, I tried again.  And I was happily surprised that my congee at home was just as good as anywhere else.  So I piled up a bunch of toppings and tucked in.

And I suppose you could eat this while watching the S**** B***.

CONGEE: CHINESE RICE PORRIDGE
Adapted from Serious Eats

INGREDIENTS

6 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup long grain rice
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2-2 cups water
White pepper, to taste
8 links Chinese sausage or 1/2 pound ground pork
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced

For Toppings:
French fried onions
Chopped green onions
Sriracha
Soy sauce

DIRECTIONS

In a large sauce pan combine chicken broth, ginger, rice, and salt. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 1- 1 1/2 hours, stirring and mashing as it cooks. You will need to stir often to avoid rice burning on the bottom of the pan. As it cooks, add water as need to reach desired consistency (I used the full 2 cups).

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Brown sausage/pork. Remove from pan, leaving some drippings. Fry shallots in pan, using any olive oil as needed. Stir meat and shallots into congee.

Season with taste with sriracha and soy sauce. Top with green onions and French fried onions.

Orange Moroccan Couscous: Secret Recipe Club

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A little break from holiday food for this month’s Improv Challenge.  Because we all need to fuel ourselves while we prep those turkeys and shop for everyone’s gifts.

We have all gotten those life lessons from our moms, the ones that we have heard multiple times and replied to with “Yesssss mommmmm” with a groan. One of my mom’s personal favorite stories has the moral not to judge how clothes on the hanger look before trying them on. “Just try the dress on. It could look completely different on!”. I have heard a tale of an ugly bridesmaid dress on the hanger that magically transformed into a gorgeous gown in the dressing room many times.

My life lesson for you all is that you shouldn’t judge a dish before you eat it. Recently I had a surplus of oranges in my fridge that needed to be eaten. I enjoyed eating them plain as a snack, but it was getting a little old. Luckily this month’s Improv Challenge was to make a dish using oranges and cardamon.  I saw this dish while procrastinating doing my work and thought “Okay, I guess I will make this just to use up some oranges”. I wasn’t very excited, but I was oh so wrong.

I loved this dish and have eaten it at least five times in the past two weeks. I am considering buying a another huge bag of oranges just to be able to make this more. This is just the right combination of warm spices, juicy oranges, sweet currants, and yummy chickpeas. This is a great side dish for pork chops or chicken, or it is great as a main dish if you just eat a big bowl of it.

So, this is for you mom: don’t judge how a recipe looks until you’ve tried the dish. You’ll never know what it tastes like until you eat it.

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ORANGE MOROCCAN COUSCOUS
Adapted from A Farm Girl Dabbles

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamon
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon saffron
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup golden raisins
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chickpeas
1 1/2 teaspoons orange zest
1 1/2 cups dried couscous
4 clementines, torn into slices
Fresh mint, optional
Toasted almonds, for topping

DIRECTIONS

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Stir together cumin, cloves, cardamon, cinnamon, and saffron. Toast in pan until fragrant 1-3 minutes (be careful not to burn). Add oil, onion, and garlic. Cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.

Stir in raisins, salt, chickpeas, and orange zest. Stir in couscous and 1 1/2 cups water. Cover pan with lid and let cook until water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Mix in clementine slices, almonds, and mint.

Serves 3-4.

Thanks to Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker for hosting!  Make sure to check out what everyone else made this month!

Fig and Almond Rice Pilaf

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I am in love.  Jasmati rice has been a revelation.

I have recently been having huge rice problems.  The main culprit? Brown rice.  I would cook it using many different methods, but every time it turned out real al dente AKA crunchy.  Frustration galore. But thsi jasmati rice pilaf turned out perfectly.  I have reached a new rice chapter in my life, and there is no looking back now.

I got the inspiration from this dish from a Turkish cooking class I have been going to here in Lubbock.  It is so much fun to find little cultural niches in this otherwise small, mainstream town.  There is lots of talking and lots of delicious Turkish food (hello baklava).  For our first class one dish they showed us was rice.

Just rice.  Simple, buttery perfection.  Rice is such a difficult dish, but after eating their rice inspired me to give rice another go in the kitchen.  So off to the grocery store I went, and Jasmati rice found a new home in my pantry.

In this rice pilaf I added a simple base of red onion and garlic topped with some figs, inspired by Middle Eastern usage of dried fruit.  A little sweet with my savory. Yum.  A great side dish to go with any type of meat.

There may be some more Turkish foods around these parts in the upcoming months, so brace yourself.  If you have never had Turkish food before, I high recommend it.  It’s delicious!

RICE PILAF WITH FIGS
From Cinnamon Freud

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon butter, divided
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, divided
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups dried Jasmati rice (or any other long grain rice)
4 cups boiling water
1 1/2 cup dried figs
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS

Soak figs in warm water for at least 10 minutes.  Chop up figs.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Add red onion and cook until tender, 5-7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes.  Pour into bowl.

In the same pan over medium high heat add remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil.  Add rice and saute until toasted and golden brown, about 2-4 minutes.  Pour in boiling water.  Cover pan with lid and reduce heat to medium/medium-low.  Cook until all water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Fluff with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Stir in onions, garlic, and figs.

Serves 5-7 as a side dish.

Vegetarian Paella: Improv Challenge

I may just be in love.  I have eaten this paella almost once a week for the past two months, and I am now a firm believer of the magic of saffron.  When I saw this month’s challenge for Improv, I realized that my vegetarian version of paella fit perfectly, and I needed to share this great recipe ASAP (I blame poor winter lighting on the delay). This paella combines different veggies, chickpeas, and rice that absorb a tomato saffron sauce.  It is a wonderful dish for the end of winter and beginning of spring.  I ate this dish last night with my balcony door open to let in the cool spring breeze.  I am definitely ready for the new, warmer season.  I dream of not having to wear double or triple layers when I leave in the mornings.
This may not be the most traditional paella, but it is wonderful.   If you aren’t vegetarian or love seafood, adding some shrimp or using a seafood stock would be a wonderful idea to have a more traditional paella.  Living further inland now has somewhat limited my seafood consumption (and led to a night spent on the bathroom floor due to a crab cake from a Tex Mex restaurant but that is another story for another day), but I promise this vegetarian paella lives up to its traditional counterpart.
Make sure to check out what everyone else made for this month’s challenge!

VEGETARIAN PAELLA
Adapted from A Couple Cooks
INGREDIENTS

1/2 tablespoon butter
1 leek, thinly sliced and washed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dried rice
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped
2 cups chickpeas
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 large pinch saffron threads
1 teaspoon salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, to taste
3 cups chicken broth
4 carrots, chopped
1 1/3 cup frozen peas

DIRECTIONS

In a large skillet or saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add leek and cook until softened slightly, 4-5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant.  Stir in rice, tomatoes, eggplant, and chickpeas.  Season with smoked paprika, saffron, salt, and pepper.

Add chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer.  After 20 minutes, stir in carrots and frozen peas.  Cover and resume cooking for 10-15 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.  Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

Thanks to our host, Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker– make sure to check out her website!

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Mushroom and Wild Rice Casserole

 

Dinner for a food blogger is often a race against time.  I start cooking feeling very calm and serene, confident that I can finish everything according to plan, with everything timed to finish together.  But then something always happens, and I begin to realize that once again I severely underestimated the time it would take.  Taking too long means I loose the natural light and will eat late if I don’t starve before (I grew up eating dinner at 5:00 people, I can’t make it too late into the night without food).  Then I begin to rush and inevitably forgot an ingredient, drop food on the floor, become super messy, or all of the above.  My new nightly routine is rushing around the kitchen like with a chicken with its head cut off,quickly try to snap a semi-decent photo.

Casseroles are one of the foods that are notoriously hard to photograph, and this mushroom and wild rice casserole is no exception.  This picture is my fourth or fifth attempt to capture a decent photo.  This casserole may not be as cute as a cupcake, but I promise this casserole delivers.  It’s deliciously cheesy, eggy, and mushroom-y (I like to add a y to the end of words to describe food if you can’t tell).

Casseroles have a bad rap and are often not the favorite dinner item on the menu.  For years my family have talked about the horror when our mom dared to serve us what we deemed a “healthy casserole”.  It had noodles, chicken, and…vegetables.  How dare she. In hindsight, the casserole she served back then is pretty similar to dinners I make for myself now (but don’t tell her that, we still love to joke about that casserole).

Every family needs a casserole to talk about.  Make this casserole your family’s healthy casserole.

On a side note, this week is only a 4 day week for me (!!!) since I am going back to Houston Friday for a friend’s wedding.  Why is the week so much better when you have one less day (and get to go to Trader Joe’s over the weekend)?

MUSHROOM AND WHILE RICE CASSEROLE
Slightly Adapted from Annie’s Eats
 
INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups wild rice mix
1 tablespoon olive oil
20 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 red onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 1/3 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 ounce Romano cheese, grated
2 scallions, sliced

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Prepare rice according to instructions. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Coat pan in olive oil and heat for 1 minute. Add onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes. Add Worcestershire and cook until mushrooms and onions are cooked through and all cooking liquid has evaporated. Refrigerate until ready to use.

In a large bowl, whisk cottage cheese, sour cream, eggs, and nutmeg together. Season with a generous pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper. Fold in rice, mushrooms, and onions (make sure these ingredients have cooled). Fold in 3/4 of the Romano cheese, reserving the rest for topping.

Grease a large baking dish. Pour casserole mixture into pan. Top with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminium foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown on top. Top with green onions and serve immediately.

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side dish.