BELIZEAN RICE AND BEANS: A One-Pot Wonder!

Belezian rice and beans textThis is probably the easiest meal you’ll ever make. Simply chop the onion, cilantro, and red pepper, then throw everything into the pot and cook for 30 minutes.

This recipe is a lovely combination of subtle flavors. Try not to leave out any of the spices – I know most are only 1/8 tsp, but they’re important for the overall effect.

NOTE: Belizean Rice & Beans is super good topped with Avocado Sauce!

BELIZEAN RICE AND BEANS – makes about 5 cups

  • 1  15-oz can pinto beans, including liquid
  • 1 cup onions, chopped
  • 2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 4 T butter
  • 1  15-oz can coconut milk (or 1/2 cup powdered coconut milk plus enough water to make 15 oz)
  • 1 cup uncooked long-grain white rice
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder
  • 1/8 tsp celery seed
  • 1/8 tsp coriander
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder

Mix all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Belezian rice and beans3Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover and cook over low heat for a total of 30 minutes. At first, stir now and then – until it’s been cooking for about 20 minutes. At this point most of the liquid will have been absorbed into the rice. Stir more often now to prevent burning. If all the liquid has been incorporated before the 30 minutes is up, turn off the heat and let the covered pot sit on the hot burner. This is to make sure the rice is completely cooked. belezian rice and beans2Eat as is, or do something crazy (like I do) and serve as an open faced sandwich on a homemade English Muffin or arepa, topped with avocado. Yummmm!

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SPICY MACARONI SALAD: Nothing Bland About This!

spicy mac & cheese textWhen asked to attend a potluck, my Spicy Macaroni Salad is often specifically requested. Unlike the usual bland pasta salads, this recipe will wake up your mouth…in a good way!

It’s super easy to make and does well with being made in advance so the flavors have time to blend.

SPICY MACARONI SALAD

  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp garlic, pressed or minced
  • 3/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp Tabasco (or other hot sauce)
  • 8 oz small elbow macaroni
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/2 cup chopped radishes
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/4 cup scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 T dried dill (or 3 T fresh)

In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt, Dijon, garlic, pepper, and Tabasco. spicy mac & cheese1Stir the carrots, radishes, cucumber, scallions, parsley, and dill into the dressing. Mix well and chill.spicy mac & cheese2Cook pasta in salted water until just tender. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking (don’t worry, it will continue to soften when mixed with the dressing) and drain. Mix into the dressing. Chill at least an hour to allow the flavors to penetrate the pasta.spicy mac & cheese3

 

AVOCADO SAUCE: Add A Creamy Tang To…Well, Everything!

AVOCADO SAUCE textAvocado Sauce is a quick and easy topping for tacos, salads, quesadillas, or anything else you want. As opposed to guacamole, which is usually chunkier, it’s meant to pour – thus covering more territory.

Queen of Freeze Bonus:  This sauce can be successfully frozen!!! So take advantage of avocados when they’re at bargain prices in the market (or if you’re lucky enough to have your own tree). Make up large batches (make sure you try the recipe first) and freeze in portion sized containers.

AVOCADO SAUCE

  • 8 oz tomatillos
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1 tsp garlic, pressed
  • 3/4 tsp salt

Remove and discard papery wrap from tomatillos. Wash thoroughly and cut into quarters. Place all ingredients in food processor.avocado sauce4Pulse until creamy – scraping down sides as needed.avocado sauce3 Adjust seasoning to your preference.

SWEET POTATO CORNBREAD – A New Tradition!

sweet potato cornbread textSWEET POTATO CORNBREAD

  • 1½ lbs sweet potato (either 1 big one or 2 smaller ones)
  • 7½ oz (1½ cups) fine grind cornmeal
  • 2½ oz (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
  • 1¾ oz (1/4 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1¾ tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (whole milk is best, but I’ve used nonfat)
  • 8 T + 1 T butter, divided

Preheat oven to 425º Fahrenheit.

Cook the sweet potato – either in the microwave or oven – until it’s easily pierced with a knife. (Don’t boil it – it’ll take on too much water.) Let cool enough to handle.sweet potato cornbread7 Split in half lengthwise. sweet potato cornbread6Scoop out the insides, measuring out 1½ to 1¾ cups, and mash. sweet potato cornbread8The skin and remaining insides are not going to be used.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in the milk and mashed sweet potatoes. Melt 8 T butter, then whisk into the sweet potato batter. sweet potato cornbread1In a separate bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. sweet potato cornbread9Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and gently mix together just until the flour is incorporated. (Don’t over-mix.) Over medium-high heat, melt remaining 1 T butter in a 10″ non-stick or cast iron skillet until bubbling. sweet potato cornbread2Pour in batter, spreading out evenly. Sweet potato cornbread3Bake at 425º F 25-30 minutes – until toothpick comes out clean.sweet potato cornbread4You can eat it plain, or top with butter, maple syrup, honey, etc.

 

AJOBLANCO (ALMOND GAZPACHO): A Refreshing Change!

almond gazpacho textOne, generally, associates ‘gazpacho’ with the red, tomato based chilled soup. But there are other types, including ajoblanco – an almond based gazpacho.

As is typical with these chilled soups, they are easy to prepare. But for maximum flavor, they need to be refrigerated for several hours before serving…so plan ahead!

NOTE: This is a delicious soup, but a little is quite enough. It’s a very rich soup and not meant to be an entire meal.

AJOBLANCO – (ALMOND GAZPACHO) – makes 5½ cups

  • 3 slices good quality white sandwich bread
  • 2 cups water
  • 1¼ cups + 3 T blanched slivered almonds, divided
  • 1½ T sherry vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cups green grapes, sliced in half

Remove and discard crusts from bread. Place bread in medium sized bowl and cover with the 2 cups of water. Let soak for 5 minutes. almond gazpacho6While the bread is soaking, grind 1¼ cups almonds in a blender until they become a fine powder – about 30 seconds. almond gazpacho7Gently squeeze water out of bread back into the bowl (you’re going to use this water). almond gazpacho8Place the bread into the blender with the almonds. Set aside 1½ cups of the bread water for later. Into the blender, add the remaining water in bowl (NOT the 1½ cups you set aside), the vinegar, garlic, salt, and cayenne. Blend for 30 seconds. almond gazpacho9With blender running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil.almond gazpacho2 Pour in the 1½ cups bread water and run blender to mix.almond gazpacho3 Strain soup into a serving bowl. almond gazpacho4Into a small bowl combine 1 T of the strained soup with the almond extract. Then pour 1/2 tsp of this mixture into the soup (it enhances the almond flavor) and discard the rest (a little goes a long way). almond gazpacho5Correct for seasoning, if needed (I usually need more salt). Chill, at least, 3 hours – more is better. Toast remaining 3 T almonds in a dry skillet or toaster-oven.

To serve, ladle soup into small bowls and top with toasted almonds and grapes. If you like, you can drizzle on more olive oil – but I think that’s a bit too much richness.

GREEK POTATOES -A Lemony Wake Up Call!

GREEK POTATOES textOne of my favorite flavor combinations is lemon and garlic, so it’s no surprise that Greek Potatoes are a go-to side dish in our house. Not only is it delicious, but it’s super fast and easy to prepare. (It does take about 40 minutes to bake, but that’s hands-off.)

I highly recommend using a firm potato such as Yukon Gold or a red potato – the pieces will retain their shape. I’ve made this dish with russets, and they tend to kind of mash.

GREEK POTATOES – makes about 5 cups

  • 1½ lbs Yukon Gold or red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2½ T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 T olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1-3 cloves garlic, pressed (I use 2)
  • 1½ cups boiling water
  • about 2 T chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 475º Fahrenheit.

Chop unpeeled potatoes into chunks that are no smaller than 3/4″. (If they’re too small, you’ll lose the balance of a firm outside and creamy inside of each piece.)

Into a flat bottomed, high sided casserole dish combine the potatoes, lemon juice, vegetable oil, olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic, and boiling water.GREEK POTATOES3 Place in 475º F oven uncovered. Bake, stirring gently every 20 minutes, until almost all the water is evaporated. This will take about 40-60 minutes. There will still be oil remaining on the bottom.GREEK POTATOES2 Remove from oven and sprinkle on parsley. Serve while hot.

 

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES – Chewy Goodness!!!

chocolate chip cookies textThere are easily hundreds of chocolate chip cookie recipes. For years my go-to recipe was the one on the Nestle’s chocolate chip bag. While it’s absolutely delicious, I decided to see if I could improve on it.

Let me just say, there really is no such thing as a bad chocolate chip cookie. BUT, some are definitely better than others. As usual, I started with an America’s Test Kitchen recipe, tweaking it to suit my taste.

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES  – makes about 21, depending on size

  • 6 T butter, divided, cut into 1 T pieces
  • 2 + 3/4 oz (1/2 cup) shortening (I use Crisco)
  • 4 + 1/4 oz (3/4 cup) dark brown sugar
  • 3 + 1/4 oz (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 yolk
  • 8 + 3/8 oz (1¾ cup + 2 T) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 + 3/4 oz (1 cup) bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% bittersweet)
  • 2 + 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Nestle’s)
  • 2 + 1/2 oz (3/4 cup) pecans, chopped and lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

In a small light colored skillet (so you can see the color change – I used an aluminium pan), melt 4 T of the butter over medium/high heat. It will begin bubbling.chocolate chip cookies2Start swirling pan until butter is browned (turns reddish/amber) – it happens fast, so don’t leave unattended! (You may need to turn down the heat a bit or raise the pan off the flame.)chocolate chip cookies1 Immediately pour into large mixing bowl of your electric mixer. Add in the remaining  2 T butter and stir until melted. (This will cool down the butter.)chocolate chip cookies13 Let melted butter cool at least 15 minutes. (You don’t want to melt the shortening.)

Add in Crisco and, on low speed, beat until shortening is incorporated. (It can be a little lumpy – don’t worry, it will become creamy soon.) chocolate chip cookies6Add in the brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat on medium 2 minutes. Don’t shortchange the 2 minutes – it aerates the batter.chocolate chip cookies5 Add in whole egg and yolk and beat on low for 30 seconds. Let rest 3 minutes. USE A TIMER! (You’ll be doing this for a total of 3 times.) Beat on low for 30 seconds, then let rest another 3 minutes. Finally, beat on low for 30 seconds (this is the LAST time, I promise!) and let set 3 minutes.

Add in the flour and baking soda. Mix on low until flour is almost incorporated (don’t overmix). chocolate chip cookies3Add in the chips and pecans, and mix on low until they are evenly disbursed and all the flour is incorporated.chocolate chip cookies11 Line cookie sheets with parchment or grease. Use a 3 T ice cream scoop or a 1/4 cup measuring cup filling it 3/4 full. Drop dough onto cookie sheet, spacing them far apart – you should get no more than 9 per sheet.chocolate chip cookies10 Bake in a preheated 375º F oven 8-11 minutes. (Check at the 8 minute mark – they cook faster on a dark sheet.) You want the edges to look done, but not the center (unless you like crispier cookies). The cookies will continue to bake on the hot sheet.chocolate chip cookies9 Remove from oven and let set on the hot cookie sheet for 10 minutes. Slide onto a wire rack to finish cooling.chocolate chip cookies8It’s tempting to eat them right away, but try and resist. The flavor improves as they cool and firm up.