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The following is a list of all entries from the Rice category.

Almost like my mama

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What do you know? I’m back again already! That’s because I cook in phases. This has been a very good weekend for cooking. Unfortunately, I don’t have detailed pictures for this recipe, but that’s okay. I’ll probably revisit this again in the future.

Once I boasted that I my diet consists largely of chicken dishes and Italian food. With an Italian father who also happens to be a chef, that’s what we ate. That’s what I love. That’s some of my favorite comfort food. But Italian is not the only thing in the blood. I come from a Southern family. Fried chicken, cornbread, barbecue, and (my absolute favorite!) fried cauliflower are also classic comfort foods in my kitchen, especially if you serve it all with a heaping bowl of mac n cheese. However, with the holidays approaching and the weather crisping up, I’ve been feeling awfully Polish of late. That’s right. I got some of that going on as well.

When I was dating the sous chef, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that his family serves pierogies with their holiday meals. And they are so good! Pierogies and kielbasa. I really hope to feast on them again this year, too. My family eats Gołąbki. For those of you that aren’t familiar with the term, golabki is also referred to as cabbage rolls or stuffed cabbage. Now this wasn’t a holiday meal for us as more of a I’m-in-a-golabki-mood kind of meal. I remember the first time my mom made it. I was not excited about the idea of having stuffed cabbage for dinner. Keep in mind I was a picky child. Thank goodness I grew out of that! But let me tell you, one bite and I was hooked. Tender cabbage, seasoned meat, homemade tomato sauce if you have the time and produce (my mama always bought it in a jar, but I’m a scratch kinda girl). Delicious!

This time I did not make my own tomato sauce, and this is not my mama’s recipe. I’ve made modifications of my own that seem to have worked out better than I expected.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup or so of prepared quinoa (rice is used traditionally; be my guest)
  • 1 egg
  • Salt, pepper, and parsley
  • 3/4 cabbage water
  • 1/4 cup + another 1/2 cup tomato sauce plus more for serving

The first thing you need to do is set a large pot of water to boiling for your cabbage. While you wait for that to happen, remove the core of the cabbage. This has never been my forte, in fact I’ll admit that I sent the core shooting across the kitchen and knocked a glass off the counter. If you don’t know how to core a cabbage, I recommend YouTube. We are boiling/blanching our cabbage whole, so don’t go butchering the poor thing. I’m pretty sure my mom did not boil it whole but removed the leaves to boil. Don’t ask how she managed that. In my opinion, you get less tears if you boil the thing whole. Less work, too.

Once you’ve cored the cabbage and your water begins to boil, place the cabbage in the pot core side down and cover with a lid. If your pot isn’t large enough to really submerge the whole head, you can flip it over halfway through. Don’t forget to salt your water.

Meanwhile, shop your onion and bell pepper, and mince the garlic. Get out a saute pan and set it on medium, drizzle it with some oil, and let your veggies sizzle. Cook them down for about ten minutes until tender. Make sure to salt and pepper them to your liking. When they are done, set aside in a mixing bowl.

Check your cabbage. At this point it might be ready. Sometimes you just have to start removing some of the outer leaves and put the heart of the cabbage back to boil. I prefer doing this on a cookie sheet for easy clean up. Using one fork, spear your cabbage core. Use another fork to peel back as many of the tender outer leaves as you can and set them aside. Maybe you’ll gt lucky and the whole thing is tender, but I doubt it. Place the rest of the cabbage back into the pot and continue boiling.

Now, I really wish i had a picture for this part. If you’ve worked with cabbage before, you know that each leaf has a little rib in it. This makes for difficult rolling. Take a paring knife and peel off the thickest portion of the rib. You don’t want to cut all the way through the leaf. Just remove as much as the rib as you can while leaving your cabbage leaf in one piece. It’s not as hard as it sounds, though your cabbage may still be rather warm so don’t burn yourself with hot water that may be collected in the leaves. Once the cabbage is all set, we can work on the filling.

As I mentioned, traditionally rice is used for the filling. I decided to give quinoa a try because I’ve never really had it before and was told it’s a lovely rice substitute. The verdict is still out, but it still left me with a great dish. If you don’t want to use quinoa, stick with rice. White rice, brown rice, it’s up to you. I used to save those little cartons of rice that came with my Chinese food. Works great!

Anyway, take your mixing bowl with the onion mixture and add the meat, the egg, the quinoa, 1/2 cup of tomato sauce, and salt, pepper, and parsley to taste. Mix it all up with your hands. Really get in there! That’s it! Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and start rolling.

You may think the idea of assembling your cabbage rolls is hard work, but it’s not. I’ve been doing it since I was 11. You can too. Of course, there aren’t precise measurements here. You have to go a little on instinct. If you’re nervous about running out of filling, you can count up your leaves then roughly divide your filling within the bowl. I just separate it into quarters and go from there. If you run out of filling, that’s okay because we want to save a few of the cabbage leaves anyway for baking.

To roll your cabbage, take a leaf and place it in front of you so that it looks like a little cup. The thickest part of the rib should be facing you. Take a spoonful of filling and plop it onto the end of the leaf where that thick rib used to be. Roll the leaf over the filling once, keeping it tight. Once you get over that first roll, fold the sides in then continue rolling. Someone once told me it was similar to rolling an eggroll. I’ve never rolled an eggroll so I’ll have to take their word on that. If you don’t get how to do it, YouTube is your friend. There are plenty of videos on how to make golabki. Some of them are in Polish, but that doesn’t matter. Just watch the technique. I promise it’s easy. Of course, the bigger your leaf, the more filling you’re going to use. The smaller the leaf, the less filling. Just feel it out!

Line a baking dish with your rolls. Some people cook their golabki on the stove. I prefer baking. I only got 11 out of my cabbage, but I’ve been known to get as many as 16. It depends on the head. It’s only me, so I didn’t want to make all that many. However, these taste even better the next day so they make great leftovers. Yum!

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Once you have all your rolls lined in the dish, take about 3/4 cup of your cabbage water and mix it with about 1/4 of a cup of your tomato sauce. My mom just doused the whole thing in tomato sauce. You can do that if you like. Next, cover the rolls with a few of the leftover cabbage leaves. Now cover the whole thing with foil and stick it in the oven.

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Bake for an hour and 15 minutes. Then turn off the oven and leave it in for another 15 minutes. You basically just steamed your rolls, so wait a bit before you remove the foil and cabbage rolls, anywhere between another 15 minutes up to half an hour.

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My preferred way of serving is with more tomato sauce. So heat some up and spread over your rolls. Maybe you have some pierogies on hand to serve with them as well.

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Fenway

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The first time I ever tried kimbap was in a hair salon. No joke. Sure, this isn’t the usual place one may expect to chow down on this Korean rice dish, but to be fair we were expecting to be at the salon for several hours and beauty requires energy. You see, when my cousin and I were in high school we went through this period of getting out naturally curly hair straightened. I can’t remember why. I guess it was hip or something, which was a shame really because curls run in the family and now that I’m an adult I better appreciate their beauty. But we were kids and our mothers may have had something to do with it. Her own mother being Korean, we always made a long drive a few towns over to get to the Korean salon (and honestly they do hair the best; I’ve tried the Brazilian treatments and would go Korean/Japanese in a heartbeat). Anyway, so that’s how I came to discover the magnificence that is kimbap, sitting on a leather couch in the middle of a Korean run salon while I watched my cousin’s thick curls be flattened out to straight perfection. It was love at first bite.

Now kimbap isn’t as easy to come by as one might think. Korean doesn’t seem quite as popular as Chinese takeout, but I’ve managed to find a few holes in the wall. Even better is making friends with someone that can make kimbap. I’ve attempted to make it myself a few times, following recipes quite miserably. But Friday night all that changed when I went over to a coworker’s apartment for lessons. And you know what? It really is not that hard.

Since it was a lesson and I was at a friend’s place, I didn’t document the process as well as I could have, but hopefully you find what I do have to be helpful.

Ingredients:

Seaweed sheets
Sticky rice
Cucumber
Spam (I usually eat it with imitation crab strips)
Egg
Daikon (pickled radish)

Really, you can put whatever you like in your kimbap, but I think the usual ingredients include daikon, egg, spam/crab, bulgogi, cucumber, carrot, maybe some spinach. We didn’t use all these things in my lesson.

Make up some sticky rice. I’m not 100 % sure how to do this, but my friend said it was better than using sushi rice.

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Fry your egg and spam, then slice them into long strips. Slice your veggies into long strips as well.

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If you’re not a professional sushi or kimbap roller, a recommend using a bamboo mat to make your rolls. Spread the rice out thinly over a seaweed sheet, rough side up.

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Line the end closest to you with your fillings. Using the bamboo mat as a guide,  roll everything together. This may be awkward at first but you’ll get the hang of it!

And that’s it. Keep rolling them slice it up into bite size pieces. Yumm

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Share with the dog if you feel so obliged

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Tida

Tonight, since we were out and about anyway, the boyfriend and I decided to stop somewhere and grab some grub. The shopping center we parked in boasted Italian, Thai, and Mexican cuisine. I could’ve really gone for a good sub at the Italian place. I’m a big- and I mean BIG- sandwich person and, frankly, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a good sandwich. But we decided to go Thai instead…which was good since I’ve never had Thai food before. I remember once in high school going to a Thai restaurant with a friend, but as strange as it sounds, I don’t remember eating a bite. Perhaps I was just meeting them there for later shenanigans. And once, another friend came over after lunch and offered me a taste of some rice. Not exactly a full Thai experience, though.

So I was quite intrigued when we walked through the door and were led off to a quiet corner all to ourselves. The menu baffled me. I had no idea what to order. I wanted to be adventurous, but at the same time felt I should experience some basics first. What to do! In the end, the boyfriend, who didn’t seem quite as perplexed as I, ordered the Thai Fried rice and I followed suit, ordering the Thai Spicy fried rice. Both with chicken. We also got some Crispy Wontons and shared a bowl of Wonton Soup to tie us over. The Wontons were good, though not quite as big as their Chinese counterparts. The sweet chili sauce made the whole thing, I’m telling you. The soup was pretty good too, the broth flavorful and swimming with cabbage and shrimp. There was only one downfall: cilantro.

Is there any kind of food on this planet that you just cannot tolerate? Even the thought alone makes you cringe and turn your nose up. For me, that food is cilantro. I can’t stand cilantro. Not the smell. Not the taste. Not the look of the stuff. After only one sip of the Wonton Soup, I knew exactly what was wrong. Sure enough, there they were, little green specs floating around in the broth, mingling in with the cabbage and dumplings. I was oh so disappointed and politely pushed the bowl across the table toward the boyfriend. I could wait for my fried rice, thank you. Of course, I did eventually help the boyfriend finish off the soup, carefully picking out the pieces of cilantro. We were meant to share it after all and the soup itself was really tasty. Was I really going to give up on an entire dish for a tiny part of the whole? No, ma’am. It’s just not in my nature. Shortly thereafter, my rice was served and I enjoyed the rest of the evening with my nose dripping. Talk about cleared sinuses!

But the whole episode did get me to thinking about other foods I don’t enjoy. Granted, there aren’t many. But that’s not to say there aren’t occasions where I’m prone to decline an offered meal (or in the very least make it look like I’m eating the food when I’m really shuffling it around my plate. Here’s a list of my top five most hated foods

5. Green beans. I’ve never liked green beans and don’t think I will ever truly appreciate them. Especially the stuff from a can. A green bean casserole has been known to make me momentarily forget my distaste. Sometimes I’ll even eat them willingly if fresh and prepared well. But you won’t find them in my house.

4. Black Eyed Peas. We had to eat them once on New Years. Supposedly for prosperity and good luck for the following year. I was still sitting at the table long after everyone else had suffered the awful stuff down. Eventually, I spooned the peas into my napkin, stuffed them into my pocket, and flushed them down the toilet. Problem solved. I think I was 17 or 18.

3. Grapefruit. I was a kid and we were having a big family breakfast at either Golden Corral or Shoney’s. I’m leaning toward Golden Corral. I ordered grape juice. The waitress accidentally brought my grapefruit juice. Do you know how bitter grapefruit juice is especially when compared to sweet sweet grape juice? I think I spit it right back into my cup. Gross!

2. Blueberries. I remember the very moment I discovered I didn’t like blueberries. I was young, mayhaps seven or so, and my grandmother on a whim decided to make blueberry pancakes. Sounded good to me! I loved pancakes and adding blueberries seemed like an exotic yet fun idea. So she made the batter and began frying up her cakes. The thing I remember most vividly is the smell. The smell of those blueberries cooking in the pancake batter filled the entire house. Some people may find this smell mouthwatering. I found it gag-worthy and actually did make my way toward the bathroom to expel the contents from my stomach. I’ve never looked at a blueberry the same since, though thankfully my opinion has not changed about pancakes (except for the fact I can’t cook them without burning half the batter to pieces)

1. Cilantro. I never had a bad experience with cilantro. I just plain don’t like it. I’ve heard tale, however, that it’s a genetic thing that causes one to despise cilantro. I don’t know if there’s any truth in that. Maybe one day I’ll investigate.

Well, there you go! What are your top 5 no-no’s?

Tijuana


Ahhhhhhh would be the appropriate response

There are many occasions in life that require a little comfort food. I mean, come on! Is there anything that comfort food can’t cheer away for a bit? I think not! It’s good for a rainy day, a sucky day, a remembering day- you get the picture. Comfort food is also AMAZING at calming nerves. It’s like going out for ice cream because you scraped your knee only ten times better.

Today I’m in need of something comforting in my belly because right now my belly is full of nerves. I’m so stressed and distraught, I keep pacing the house like a lunatic. In a minute I’ll be cleaning. That’s the kind of serious I’m feeling right about now. See, I’m quitting my job. Yup, saying good-bye to income. It’s only a little restaurant job that helped me get through college, but I’ve been there so long I feel like my soul is slowly being sucked out. In other words, I’m miserable. I’m beyond miserable. I’m so unhappy there, just thinking about going back in makes my stomach churn. Not exactly a good sign. When life puts you in a situation like this, the only thing to do is follow your gut and remove yourself from that situation. Your gut knows more than you would think.

So I’m taking the bulls by the horn, taking some risks, and am leaving. What’s my next move? TEACHING! I have a degree in Spanish Language and Literature. There is absolutely no reason for me to hold on to a job that is unappreciative. Life isn’t about holding on to safe fall-backs. It’s about challenging yourself, seeing what you can accomplish, and throwing safe out the window! It’s about living, and right now that is not what I’m doing. Today I submitted my application to two school districts. Tomorrow I might do a third as well. No more being afraid to take a chance and see what happens. Plus, I really do love Spanish (and really enjoy grammar)! Why not put my degree to use and share my knowledge. It makes total sense. Who would’ve thought…

Which brings us back to comfort food. What I’m doing right now is seriously risky for me. Between paying back my student loans and other life occurrences that pop up, I can’t afford to go without a job. But I’d rather bet all my ducks and be happy, then feel the way I have been feeling over the past month. It’s not worth it. Besides, I feel pretty confident about my applications. Stay positive! And that’s why I’m making rice and beans for dinner. I love rice. No matter what style, it’s at the top of my list of foods I wouldn’t want to live without. The first time I had rice and beans, I thought I was in heaven, which is rather appropriate since I was at a potluck at my dad’s church. There was definitely some divine intervention at play.

I’ve never made rice and beans before. And today I cheated by buying store bought sofrito (which inspired me to make rice and beans as my comfort food in the first place). I didn’t use beans either, but substituted frozen peas. Next time, I would also like to cook the rice with chicken broth/stock instead of water. I think it will give it a richer flavor. You know what? The dish I came ended up with probably should even be called rice and beans? But it wasn’t too bad. Room for improvement, but a keeper nonetheless. I really can’t wait to make it better though. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE rice and beans…

Ingredients:

1 cup rice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sofrito
1 package sazon
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup frozen peas

Spoon the sofrito into a sauce pan. I kept mine on medium heat. If a certain someone broke your measuring spoon the other day, just eyeball it with a regular spoon

Add the tomato sauce

And the sazon (perhaps some chicken bouillon would be good here too if you don’t have any broth on hand)

As the sauce begins to bubble, hurry up and toss in your peas. Give everything a good stir

Finally, mix in your rice and water (or chicken broth if you choose to follow my sound advice)

Wow, so easy! Bring your rice mixture to a boil. Then turn the heat down to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID! There’s no need to stir. Just let everything cook together. Have some faith. When your boyfriend walks in and lift the lid quicker then you can shout STOP, hit him out of the kitchen with a wooden spoon. Amateurs…always needing to stir and shake things that don’t need shaking or stirring. Hmph!

After 20 minutes, your arroz con gandules will be nice and fluffy. Some of it might stick to the bottom a little bit. That’s okay. Give it a big turn with your wooden spoon and serve

I cooked up some chicken marinaded in mojo, too. And some corn on the cob. Mmmm. Have I told you the secret of boiled corn on the cob yet? Adding sugar to your water. Like my mama taught me, ha!


Crazy curls

Guess who just went grocery shopping for only 80 bucks! Uh huh, that’s right! Way to shop on a budget.

Also, check out my mini harvest. My garden  may not be doing so hot this year, but it sure is exciting to go out there and pick a few things from the yard

Also, yesterday my dad took me to a Puerto Rican restaurant called La Palmera. Funny story is we’ve been meaning to go for nearly ten years now. Better late than never I guess.  We ordered the Pollo Frito, which came with rice and beans. Oh, how I love Puerto Rican rice and beans. My dad gave me a recipe sent from a friend of his and I’m determined to master it. I also tried their beef and cheese empanadas, which was pretty good. Dad order me a pastel to take home and try to. I can’t say I was the biggest fan of the pastel, but it wasn’t too bad.

I wasn’t expecting actual fried chicken when the menu said pollo frito, but I probably should have. It was still pretty good. The beans weren’t too shabby either

I think my dad said you could eat the banana leaf wrapping, buuuuut I didn’t really care for it. Anyway, now that there’s food in the house, I’m going to have to get creative with some recipes these next couple weeks. I bought mostly meat. I love my veggies, but I LOVE my meat. Maybe I’ll become a butcher one day. Could you imagine it? I’ll call my shop Hot Chops and paint the sign bright pink! I’m sure it would be a hit.Tonight my friends are coming over and cooking some curry. I think I might pull some fish out for tomorrow. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried my hand at fish. I wish I had some mussels! I just discovered not too long ago how much I like mussels. Clams not so much…