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.)

 

TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY: Filling, Flavorful, & Low In Calories!!!

tofu veg curry1 text

I love vegetarian curry dishes! The warm spices wake up your mouth, it fills you up, and – best of all – they’re low in calories! Without the rice, TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY is about 200 calories per cup. Yay!

TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY also has the benefit of being easy and fairly quick to prepare – about 40 minutes total (and the last 15 minutes are hands off simmering).

If you’ve already glanced at the recipe below, you may be leery of making it due to the long list of ingredients. Fear not! Notice that most of them are spices. If you’ve been cooking for awhile then you may already have many, if not all – they’re very common in cooking.

Note:  If you prefer, you can substitute 2 T garam masala spice blend for the first 10 ingredients.  Then start with the chili powder.

Additional Note: Don’t skip the cream – it truly makes all the difference in the world. (There’s only 1/4 cup in the whole batch anyway.)

TOFU VEGETABLE CURRY – makes about 8 cups

  • 1 T coriander
  • 1¼ tsp cumin
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • 1/2 tsp dried mustard
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 4 T vegetable oil, divided
  • 2 cups  onions, chopped
  • 1 cup red potatoes (or Yukon gold), unpeeled and cubed into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1 serrano chili, minced
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 14 oz canned whole tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • 15 oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 6 oz extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ cup green peas
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Have all ingredients prepped, in order to speed things up.

Place a small bowl near the stove. Into a dry Dutch oven add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, ginger, mustard, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, cayenne, and chili powder. Turn flame on to medium/high. Stir constantly for 1 minute – you’re toasting the spices. You’ll notice a puff of smoke at about the 1 minute mark. Immediately empty the spices into the bowl and set aside.

Into the now empty Dutch oven add 3 T oil, onions, and potatoes. Sauté over medium/high until browned – about 10 minutes. Turn off heat.

Shove the onions and potatoes to the edge of the pot. Into the center place the remaining 1 T oil, garlic, serrano, and tomato paste. Over medium flame stir just the tomato paste mixture for 1 minute to bloom them. Then stir the onions/potatoes and tomato paste mixture together, cooking an additional 2 minutes.

Add in the cauliflower and spices (from bowl),  and cook 2 more minutes, stirring often.

Pour in the canned tomatoes, water, chickpeas, sugar, tofu, and salt. Bring to boil, cover, then turn down heat to keep a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes.

Stir in the peas and cream. Serve as is, or over rice with NAAN BREAD (which I prefer!).

OATMEAL BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES: Thick And Chewy!

oatmeal butterscotch cookie textOnce I fine-tune a recipe to my liking, I move on. However, I’m not a gal so set in her ways that I’m not willing to be flexible about revisiting a recipe. (This does NOT apply to household activities in which I’m constantly suggesting (okay, nagging) that my husband put his keys and wallet in the same spot so he doesn’t have to spend 15 minutes daily looking for them.)

Three years ago I created an OATMEAL CHIP COOKIE which I loved. So when I recently saw a chewy oatmeal cookie recipe in Cook’s Illustrated magazine, I nearly gave it a miss. But, I like to learn about the science of cooking, so I read it. One thing lead to another and I decided to make them, adding butterscotch chips…just because.

They were chewy, moist, and the butterscotch was a perfect additional to the bland oatmeal. I’m a convert!

QUEEN OF FREEZE TIP:  Cookies (both baked and the batter) freeze well. Surprisingly, they don’t loose moisture when thawed. Just set the frozen cookies on a plate for a couple of hours and, presto – dessert!

OATMEAL BUTTERSCOTCH COOKIES – makes about 22-23

  • 5 oz (1 cup + 2 T) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 4 T butter (salted)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 5¼ oz (3/4 cup + 2 T) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg, whole
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats (not the quick cooking kind)
  • 2/3 cup butterscotch chips

NOTE:  It’s best to weight ingredients like flour and brown sugar. This gives you an exact amount, which is important in baking. Even 1 tablespoon too much or little makes a difference. I included cup amounts, just in case. But, if you don’t have a scale, put it on your birthday wish list!flour on scaleIn a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

Put butter in a light colored (such as silver) small skillet or saucepan. Over medium/high heat, melt and brown butter until it’s amber. There will be a lovely fragrance! This will take 2-3 minutes, so DON’T LEAVE UNATTENDED! Immediately pour into large mixing bowl.browning butter textStir in cinnamon until blended. Then, using a large spoon, add in brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, and vanilla, mixing until smooth.oatmeal cookie mixing1Lightly beat together the whole egg and yolk, then mix into batter. (Don’t add this with the sugars – the butter is still warm and you don’t want to cook the eggs.)egg beatenStir in the flour mixture until most of flour is incorporated.oatmeal cookie mixing2Finally, stir in oats and butterscotch chips.oatmeal cookie mixing3Preheat oven to 375º Fahrenheit.

Note: Don’t make smaller cookies or you’ll loose the chewiness.

Place about 2½ – 3 T dough blobs on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Smoosh together to form cookie. Don’t crowd them – they’ll spread. You can get about nine per sheet.oatmeal cookie unbaked Bake at 375º F for 9-10 minutes. The key is to look at the edges, not the center. The edge should start to look baked, but the center should not be browned. Because the cookies will continue to cook on the hot sheet out of the oven, if you wait to remove them from the oven until they look baked, they’ll be overcooked.oatmeal cookie bakedLet cookies cool on cookie sheet before removing them to a wire rack.

 

ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD – A New Favorite In Our Home!

Israeli coucous salad textI’m always interested in new salads – one can only eat so many lettuce and tomato dinner salads. My ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD combines Israeli couscous (aka pearl couscous) with arugula, mint, dried cranberries, pistachio nuts, and feta cheese with a tasty vinaigrette.

It makes a delicious addition to a meal or, in larger portions, it’s filling enough to be a meal itself.

While preparing ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD is fairly quick, the marinated shallots need 30 minutes to steep – so plan ahead.

Note:  After the couscous is boiled, the instructions say to spread it out on a cookie sheet to cool and dry. DON’T do as I did the first few times and use paper towels or waxed paper (unless you double layer it). The towels and paper will tear, and the couscous will stick – it will be a mess!!!!  Pour the couscous straight on the sheet.

ISRAELI COUSCOUS SALAD – makes about 10 cups

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 sliced shallots
  • 3/4 tsp salt, divided
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 5T extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2½ cups water
  • 1/2 cup salted pistachio nuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup peas (if using frozen, thaw before using)
  • 3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 4 oz arugula, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup mint, chopped
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries

In a small saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar, shallots, and a pinch of salt. Bring to simmer, cover, and turn off burner. Let sit for 30 minutes to marinate and slightly cook shallots.

In a medium sized saucepan, put 1T olive oil and couscous. Using a medium/high flame toast couscous until it starts to brown (about 5 minutes), stirring often to cook evenly and  prevent burning. Add in the water and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to boil, lower heat to keep a simmer, cover, and cook 9 minutes – until most of water has been absorbed. Turn off heat and let pot sit covered for another 3-4 minutes to allow the rest of water to absorb. Pour onto a large rimmed cookie sheet, spreading couscous out to cool and dry for at least 15 minutes.

Whisk together remaining 4 T olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, 1/4 tsp salt, and red pepper flakes. Set aside.

After shallots are done steeping pour into a strainer, discarding liquid.

Into a very large bowl, place the shallots, couscous, arugula, mint, peas, feta, and cranberries. Pour in the vinaigrette and blend. When ready to serve, add in pistachios and toss.

 

 

TAPENADE – A Little Something To Tide You Over!

tapenade2 textIt’s tricky business when you have guests for dinner. I usually gear my meal to be ready half an hour after the designated arrival time. But there’s the rub. Sometimes people are late, or worse, early. They’re hungry, but you don’t want them to fill up on weighty appetizers.

I’ve recently discovered tapenade, a spread consisting of olives, capers and olive oil. (Carnivores will add anchovies, too.) It’s just enough to keep the hunger pangs at bay, but doesn’t ruin your appetite.

I’ve found that a hearty white bread, such as a French baguette or Italian loaf perfectly complements the saltiness of the spread.

Naturally, I make my own baguette (for my recipe click on French Bread Baguette – it’s très simple). But, of course, you can purchase it.

Tapenade is made in a flash via the food processor (hopefully, you have one!).

TAPANADE – makes about 2 cups

  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, raw
  • 1½ cups Kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1/2 cup salt cured green olives, pitted
  • 3 T capers
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put pine nuts in food processor and whirl until they form a paste. Pulse in olives, capers, garlic, and mustard.

Pour olive mixture into a bowl and stir in the olive oil. (Don’t be tempted to pour the oil in the food processor with the other ingredients – it will emulsify.)

Serve with white bread.