ORANGE RICE SALAD – A Savory Salad With A Touch Of Sweetness!

orange rice salad textThere are certain kitchen appliances I can’t live without – such as my food processor. But one-trick pony gadgets – like a rice maker – have literally no place in my kitchen.

For ORANGE RICE SALAD, the rice is cooked like pasta – in lots of water, then drained. So easy, and no need to worry about burning the rice. (Been there, done that!)

Even though there are oranges and dried cranberries involved, this is actually a savory salad. For the most part, this is a very easy to prepare salad. The only slight issue is removing the skin around each orange segment.

ORANGE RICE SALAD – makes about 8 cups

  • 1½ cups basmati rice, raw
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1¼ tsp salt, divided
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 1½ T sherry vinegar
  • 2½ T orange juice
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp orange zest, packed
  • 3/4 tsp garlic, pressed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 T fresh)
  • 2 oranges
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Place just the rice in a large pot on medium/high flame. Stir often for 3 minutes to toast the kernels – this will give the salad a toastier flavor. orange rice salad prep4Add in the 2 quarts of water and bring to boil. Cook for 15 minutes – until rice still has a little chew. orange rice salad prep2Immediately drain in a sieve and spread out onto a parchment lined, rimmed cookie sheet to dry and cool.orange rice salad prep3In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, orange juice, black pepper, zest, garlic, and oregano. Set aside. (Yes, I know it’s not pretty – but, it’s delicious!)orange rice salad prep5Now it’s time to peel the oranges. TAKE YOUR TIME WITH THIS SO YOU DON’T CUT YOURSELF! Slice off the tops and bottoms of oranges – this will stabilize the orange so it doesn’t roll. Using a sharp knife, remove peel down past the wedge skin. Try to remove all the bitter white parts. orange rice salad prep6 Hold the orange in one hand or lay it on a cutting board, and carefully slice along the inside of the skin that encases each segment down to the core. Do this on both sides of each segment. Removing the skin will allow the juice to blend into the rice. Cut segments in half widthwise, and set aside.orange rice salad prep9 To assemble, put rice into a large serving bowl. I would suggest transferring the bulk of the rice via a spatula – the parchment will be wet and may tear if you lift it with all of the rice. Add in the oranges, feta, cranberries, and dressing. orange rice salad prep1Gently mix well. Let set for, at least, 20 minutes to blend flavors. Add in almonds at serving time to keep them crunchy.

CHEESE LASAGNA – So Good, It’s Hard To Stop!!!

lasagna1 textLasagna is one of those dishes that’s good on many levels: it’s easy to put together, it’s a potluck favorite, it can be made ahead of time, and it’s fabulous leftover.

Queen Of Freeze Tip #1 – I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t mention the marinara sauce can be doubled, tripled, or more, then frozen in portions for future use. I was recently able to extra-quickly make Cheese Lasagna because I already had some marinara in the freezer. However, try the sauce first before increasing the amount – to be sure you like it.

Queen Of Freeze Tip #2 – Save the extra tomato paste in mounds of 1 tablespoons on waxed paper, and place in freezer.  When frozen, store in freezer container for future use.

CHEESE LASAGNA – makes one 9″x13″ casserole

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1 onion (about 1½ cups), chopped
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 42 oz canned whole tomatoes (1 28 oz can, & 1  14 oz can)
  • 6 oz Pecorino Romano cheese, shredded, divided
  • 8 oz whole milk cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/8 tsp cornstarch, divided
  • 14 curly edged dried lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups Italian Fontina cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

To make the marinara, put the olive oil, sugar, onion, red pepper flakes, oregano, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large saucepan (so it doesn’t splatter).  Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.lasagna prep8Remove and discard the stem ends, peels, and any imperfections from canned tomatoes. Pulse in food processor or chop by hand. Add to onion mixture along with tomato paste, and 1/2 cup Pecorino (1 1/4 oz). Bring to boil, then lower flame to keep a simmer for 20 minutes UNcovered.lasagna prep15Boil at least 4 cups of water. Place dried noodles in 9″x13″ casserole dish. When water is boiling, pour over noodles so they’re immersed. Gyrate them so they don’t stick. Let set 15 minutes to parcook.lasagna prep10While the noodles are softening and the sauce is cooking, mix together cottage cheese, 4 oz (1½ cups) Pecorino, cream, garlic, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, pepper, and 1 tsp cornstarch. Set aside.lasagna prep16When 15 minutes for the noodles is up, place them on tea towels in a single layer. Pat tops to dry. Cut 2 of them in half widthwise (so they’re each about 5″ long).  Empty and dry casserole dish.lasagna prep11Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

To assemble lasagna:

LAYER ONE: Spread 1½ cups marinara sauce on bottom. lasagna prep4Lay 3 long noodles, all touching the same short side of casserole. Take one of the short noodles and lay it along the opposite short side. (This will fill in the gap.) lasagna prep5Carefully spread half of the cottage cheese mixture over noodles. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup Fontina.lasagna prep6LAYER TWO: Place 3 long noodles on top, this time touching the opposite short side. Take 1 short noodle and place it along the other short side of casserole. lasagna prep3Pour and spread 1½ cups sauce. Sprinkle on 1/2 cup Fontina.lasagna prep13LAYER THREE: Place 3 long noodles on top, touching the same side as layer one, followed by (you guessed it) 1 short noodle on the opposite side. lasagna prep14Spread on the remaining cottage cheese mixture and sprinkle with 1/2 cup Fontina.lasagna prep2TOP LAYER: Place 3 long noodles touching the same side as layer two, and the remaining short piece on opposite side. lasagna prep7Pour on remaining marinara sauce. With your fingers, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup Fontina with 1/8 tsp cornstarch. Sprinkle on top of sauce. Finally, sprinkle on remaining Pecorino.lasagna prep17Cover with foil and bake at 375ºF for 35 minutes. Increase oven to 500ºF and remove foil. Bake 10 minutes more. Remove from oven and let lasagna rest on stovetop at least 20 minutes to set. Sprinkle on basil.lasagna prep1

 

BORSCHT – Pretty In Pink!

borscht2 textWith the weather heating up and bulky clothes coming off, I’m always looking for ways to appease my hunger but shred the pounds. Soups are generally my go-to diet food since they fill you up without a lot of calories. But hot soup in hot weather doesn’t really appeal to me, so I look to chilled soups.

For some reason I’ve always been leery of beets. It’s not that I didn’t like them – I’d never even eaten one. When they came in a salad, I let these deep red strips remain untouched…until my husband inevitably asked if he could have them.

I’ve been hearing about how nutritious beets are so I finally decided it was time to face my fear and actually try them. Since my husband mentioned recently that he loved borscht (beet soup),  I figured I’d start there. Not only was the soup super easy, but superb (I’m in an alliterative mood).

Note: Beets stain, so take care handling them. I got a drop on some fabric, but used OxyClean immediately and it came right out.

BORSCHT – makes 5 cups

  • 1½ lbs beets with 1″ of stem remaining
  • 4 2/3 cups water
  • 1 small onion
  • 3 T + 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 T + 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 3/4 tsp dried dill or 2 T fresh

Scrub beets clean and leave unpeeled. Into a saucepan place the whole beets, 4 2/3 cups water, onion, sugar, vinegar, and salt. Bring to boil, cover, lower flame, and let simmer until beets are easily pierced with a skewer (about 45 minutes). Remove beets to a cutting board to cool enough to handle.

Line a strainer with a paper towel and place over a bowl. Remove and discard onion from saucepan, then carefully (so you don’t splatter) pour liquid into strainer (DON’T FORGET THE BOWL UNDERNEATH TO CATCH THE LIQUID!). Set bowl aside.

Using the wet paper towel, rub the beets to remove skin. Remove and discard the top and bottom of beet. Take half the beets and shred them (a food processor makes quick and clean work of this). Place in a small bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Take the remainder of the beets and cut into 1/2″ chunks (exact size doesn’t matter). Place in a blender and top with some of the saved beet liquid so that they’re submerged about 1″. Blend until pureed – at least 1 minute. Add in remainder of the liquid and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Into a serving bowl place the shredded beets, pureed beets, lemon juice, and dill. Combine the sour cream and heavy cream. Whisk into the soup. Season as needed. (I added a little more lemon juice.)