Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Baked Cheesy Rice

How about a super easy side dish that everyone loves?  I first had this cheesy rice at a friend's house for dinner and didn't think it would be such common ingredients.  Once I got her recipe, I've made a bunch of variations.  The other night, I just made 2 portions in a small ramekin with gruyere cheese and thyme (no chiles) to go with some steaks my husband grilled - yummy.  My daughter is like her daddy and doesn't really like potatoes so those cheesy potato casseroles are wasted on her but she'll eat this!  You can also easily make large quantities (Easter dinner?  Potluck?).  Sometimes I decrease the sour cream and leave the cheese off the top to make it a little healthier (not much, but a little).

Chile Cheese Rice 

1 cup long grain white rice
1 4oz can diced green chiles
1 1/3 c. sour cream
2 c. shredded jack cheese
Lawry's seasoned salt

Cook rice according to package directions.  Combine cooked rice, chiles, sour cream, 1 1/2 c. of the cheese, and seasoned salt.  Scrape into a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Don't overcook or it'll dry out!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Rainbow Cupcakes

Gotta love the bedhead and PJs for our Saturday morning baking project!

For our friend's annual St. Patrick's Day party, I wanted to bring something that would be fun for big sister to help me make.  I found  a recipe for rainbow cupcakes (get it?  leprechauns and gold at the end of the rainbow?) on the same blog as the lasagna stacks.  The process was fun, colorful, and big sister had a good time mixing the colors.

A couple of downsides:  I only got 1 dozen regular sized cupcakes and 5 mini cupcakes and the layering part was tedious (too hard for big sister to help and she didn't like that).  When I layered the colors, I'm not sure what I did wrong but mine looked more like they were tie dyed and the red sank down through the middle.  Look at her photos for perfect ones!

I also feel like I should give a disclaimer:  I am not endorsing consuming this much food coloring on a regular basis and it will make for interesting, um, okay . . . what's a delicate way to say this?  Poop.  There, I said it on a food blog.  Sorry.

Before the recipe, just for fun, a picture of the bluest eyed baby ever . . .

Rainbow Cupcakes (makes about 1 dozen)

1 box of white cake mix, batter prepared as per the box
food coloring
frosting of your choosing

After you prepare the batter, divide it into 6 bowls.  Add food coloring to make one bowl each of red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  I did it like this:

red: 18 drops
orange: 12 yellow drops and 4 red
yellow: 12 drops
green: 12 drops
blue: 12 drops
purple: 9 red drops and 6 blue drops

Then, layer the colors in muffin liners in a muffin tin in reverse order (start with purple on the bottom and end with red on the top).  Bake as per the box, frost, and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lasagna Stacks

Have I mentioned that I'm loving my new kitchen?  It's inspiring me to make some new recipes and we haven't eaten out much since we've moved.  A couple nights a week if my husband works late, we've been having sandwiches, soup, or frozen pizza but I've been trying to be creative on the nights that we all eat together.  

When I was browsing some cooking blogs, I came across this great riff on lasagna.  You don't make it in a big pan, it's a vegetarian recipe, and doesn't have a red sauce.  I really liked the technique, it came together quickly, and I will be making it again soon.  You can read the original recipe here (she has lots of photos).  

Since I don't have a microwave, I made a couple of changes to the arugula part and I added mushrooms and onions to the recipe to make it a little heartier.  I also made some changes for my daughter's portion by mixing some browned ground turkey, ricotta, and red sauce instead of the pesto/arugula filling.  I think that baby spinach would work just fine in place of the arugula and I'd add some red pepper flakes to the filling next time.  Other sauteed green vegetables would probably be just fine in the filling (zucchini or broccoli?).

Here's what it looked like before going into the oven:

And my daughter's piece:

Lasagna Stacks (adapted from Baked Bree) 4 servings

12 no boil lasagna noodles
cooking spray or vegetable oil
6 oz baby arugula
2 c. sliced mushrooms
1/2 onion, diced
15 oz container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, divided
1 tsp lemon zest
1 egg
7 oz container of prepared pesto
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Cover a cookie sheet (or jelly roll pan) with cooking spray or brush with vegetable oil and set aside.  Put the lasagna noodles in a 9x13 pan and pour boiling water over them to cover them.  Let them soak for 10 minutes.

While the noodles are soaking, saute the onion and mushrooms in a little olive oil until soft.  Coarsely chop the arugula, add it to the pan with the onion and mushroom, and put a lid on the pan.  Let it steam until the arugula is wilted, about 3-5 minutes.

Mix together the ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup of the parmesan cheese, pesto, egg, and lemon zest.  Add a little salt and pepper (not too much salt - the pesto & cheese make it salty already).  Add the vegetables (arugula, mushroom, onion mixture).

Take the noodles out of the water and drain on a kitchen towel.  Lay 4 sheets of pasta on the baking sheet.  Spread 1/4 c. of the ricotta cheese mixture on each piece of pasta and top with a bit of the mozzarella cheese.  Add another layer of pasta and repeat.  Top with the rest of the parmesan cheese and a little fresh pepper.  

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are beginning to brown and the cheese is bubbly.  Slice the stacks in half and serve on top of each other. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Green Stuff

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Today is the birthday of my dear sister-in-law.  She and my brother have only been married 6 years but it feels like she's been part of our family forever.  In addition to being a great mom to my adorable niece and nephew, a very giving and supportive friend, she's a fantastic cook.  She has thrown herself some birthday parties where the invitation was a menu for a crepe party . . . and the year after her first baby was born and she was battling candida, she made an amazing Irish feast (that she couldn't even eat) for about 30 people.  Happy birthday to you, Sonia!

Let's talk green . . . some exciting green stuff is poking up out of big sister's garden.  She went out there this morning to take pictures.  Hers are a little blurry but here's one I took of a squash plant:
Spring has sprung . . . 

And, although these aren't green, we made a St. Patrick's Day treat called "Irish Potatoes."  They're really homemade candies (think truffles or Mounds) rolled in cinnamon to look like little potatoes.  Big sister was a great help making these but she and I have ingested WAY too much sugar.  I'm already planning to try rolling them around a whole almond and dipping them in dark chocolate to make my own Almond Joys.

Here's the recipe.

And, the green stuff that's healthy for you.  I found a sad looking fennel bulb all by itself on a table at farmer's market last week and came up with this soup idea.  The end result was a little brownish (from the brown vegetable stock I used) but the green vegetables were beautiful while I was sauteing them.  I liked the end result - hope you do too!

Fennel & Zucchini Soup (about 4 cups)

1/2 fennel bulb, chopped
1 zucchini, sliced
1 leek, sliced (white parts and some of the green)
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 T olive oil
4 c. vegetable broth
salt and pepper

Make sure you wash the leek well and separate the slices into rings.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the fennel, zucchini, leek, and fennel seeds.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Saute for about 5 minutes.   Add the vegetable broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until everything is really soft (about 15 minutes).

Blend up the soup (you can just puree the soft vegetables with a little broth and return to the pot or use a hand blender).  Taste, season with salt and pepper, and add a little lemon juice, sherry, or vinegar if you'd like.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lemon Meringue Pie

When big sister got her very first library card and our new local library, she checked out Amelia Bedelia.  I was wondering if she would get the humor or not but with a little help and explanation, she was laughing and enjoying the jokes.  I had forgotten how funny the first one was.  Not all books in the series are as good (and I prefer the original illustration to the later books where the illustrator was changed) but this is a classic.  

After a few reads, big sister asked if we could make a lemon meringue pie.  She had me read the pages where Amelia Bedelia makes it a few times for the directions but I needed a better recipe than good ol' Peggy Parish provides (a little of this, a pinch of that, and mix it all together). Big sis put some muscle into juicing the lemons and liked to lick the rinds after she was done juicing.

The process was true to the Amelia Bedelia books . . . I cooked the yolks when trying to temper them although I've tempered eggs successfully dozens of times before!  

My first pie crust (premade TJs) totally flopped.  So, 8 yolks and 2 crusts later, we had a pie.  It got good reviews at family dinner!

Lemon Meringue Pie (makes one 9 inch pie)

  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 c. cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 lemons, juiced and zested
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten

  • 1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked

4 egg whites
  • 6 tablespoons white sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

  • To Make Lemon Filling: In a medium saucepan, whisk together 1 cup sugar, flour, cornstarch, and salt. Stir in water, lemon juice and lemon zest. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to a boil. Stir in butter. Place egg yolks in a small bowl and gradually whisk in 1/2 cup of hot sugar mixture. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into remaining sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and continue to cook while stirring constantly until thick. Remove from heat. Pour filling into baked pastry shell.

  • To Make Meringue: In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until foamy. Add sugar gradually, and continue to whip until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over pie, sealing the edges at the crust.

  • Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until meringue is golden brown.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Beautiful at Farmer's Market yesterday morning, a little mushy today and relegated to top our oatmeal.  Even though it rained outside, the morning was cheerful here!  Happy Monday to all of you.

Big sister took this picture of her breakfast this morning . . . wonder where she picked up the habit of photographing her food?

Friday, March 4, 2011

New house!

Today we've been living in our new house for one week.  Although it's "new," we bought it 15 months ago and my husband has been working like crazy on an addition and complete remodel including some beautiful landscaping.  We've been so excited about our home and it feels amazing to finally live here.  

I'll spare you the details of my eye infection, 60 ungraded essays, and the unpacked boxes to announce that I have had 3 great nights of sleep this week (thank you baby sister!) and I'll give you some of the food-related highlights of our move so far.  

On our first night in the new house, I took the girls out to buy some ingredients and I made our first meal here:  Chicken breasts baked in a wine herb sauce with the Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend and some asparagus.  We have a Sprouts really close and a Trader Joe's, but our nearest Whole Foods is back in Pasadena.  A few months ago, someone in town asked me, "Why would you move here from Pasadena?  They have a 2 story Whole Foods!"  The answer: there are TWO 21 Choices in this city . . . what more could you want??

To help us feel at home, we baked cookies on our second night.  Chocolate chip with oatmeal!  Look who was licking the batter (before it was even done).

I've never had double ovens before and I could bake a lasagna and our cookies at the same time.  The lights in the oven are especially fun for big sister - she can keep an eye on the baking progress.

Next up, on Monday morning, was some granola.  I haven't made it in about a month and big sister and husband keep asking for it.  I didn't have agave, apple juice concentrate, or some of my normal ingredients so I improvised with this stuff that I found.  My pantry still needs some adjustments so I haven't unpacked all my pantry foods yet.  Verdict:  regular apple juice doesn't work as well as the concentrate, maple syrup made it sweeter than usual but I liked the sesame seeds.  The unsweetened coconut I finally found doesn't stay very moist so it's probably best in granola.

One of the things big sister is most excited about is her own garden.  She didn't want little seedlings ("It's not really planting because they are already planted") so we bought packages of seeds.  So far, she's planted sweet peas, summer squash, carrots, and basil.  I hope for her sake these seeds sprout!

 So, that's the news from Claremont this week!  Call me and invite yourself over - we love to have friends visit.