Tag Archives: rice

A Couple of Meat-Free Meals

Yesterday was our meat-free meal day, and we actually had two ideas for the meal, one I had planned, and then one my sister-in-law had suggested that sounded really good as well. My idea was Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions. it’s a great one pot meal, completely vegetarian if that’s what you are looking for, and very filling and satisfying.

Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped, plus 1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and sliced

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups lentils, washed and picked over

6 cups water, vegetable, chicken or beef stock (your preference), warmed

1 cup long-grain rice

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Put 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped onion and cook until it begins to become tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, and some salt and pepper and cook for 3 minutes more. Add the lentils, stir, and add 4 cups of liquid. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils begin to soften, about 20 minutes. Add enough of the stock or water so that the lentils are covered by about an inch of liquid. Stir in the rice. Cover and turn the heat to low.

Meanwhile, put the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, cook the onion slices, stirring frequently, until they are dark brown but not burned, about 15 minutes. Scoop out the onions and let them drain on paper towels while you finish cooking the lentils and rice.

Check the rice and lentils after 20 minutes. When both are tender and the liquid is absorbed, the dish is ready. If the lentils and rice are not tender, add more liquid, cover, and cook for a few more minutes. If the rice and lentils are soft and there is much liquid remaining, raise the heat a bit and cook, uncovered, stirring, until it evaporates. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary and serve, garnished with the caramelized onions and parsley.

The lentils and rice make for a very hearty meal. The second meal for meat-free night is Browned Cabbage and Noodles. Michelle loved the sound of this one so we thought we would give it a try.

Browned Cabbage and Noodles

3 pounds cabbage

1 tablespoon salt

1 1/2 sticks butter

3 tablespoons grated onion

2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 pound broad noodles, cooked and drained

Wash the cabbage and grate very fine. Mix in the salt and let stand for 2 hours. Rinse, drain and dry the cabbage (you could skip this step if you wanted and just go straight to cooking).

Melt half the butter in a deep large skillet or Dutch oven. Mix in the cabbage, onions, sugar and pepper. Cook over low heat for 1 1/4 hours, stirring frequently. Add the remaining butter after 1 hour. Toss in the cooked noodles until thoroughly mixed with the cabbage. Cook over low heat for 5 minutes.

This recipe serves 6 to 8, so you can adjust the recipe down a bot if you are cooking for a smaller crowd, like I do. There’s not many ingredients in this one, but it does take some time to make it. It’s also a great one pot dish, and I really like those as it cuts down on the clean up afterwards.

So that was Wednesday’s meal, nice and easy. Check back later today for tonight’s meal of Sesame Chicken Stir Fry with Fried Rice and Steamed Vegetables. It promises to be quite tasty. See you later!

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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Rice, Vegetables, Vegetarian


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Serving Up Some Shrimp Stir Fry

Today will be the last meal of the Sean choices for the week. I was a little surprised he opted to go for this one, but he knows that one meal has to be a seafood meal, and he likes shrimp, so he opted to go for this one. Today’s dinner will be Shrimp with Hoisin Sauce and we’ll be having Fried Rice again, but will just be using the leftovers from last night’s stir fry dinner (which was delicious by the way, not much left in the way of leftovers for Michelle’s lunch today. I try to use fresh shrimp as often as I can. You can usually find a sale on it somewhere during the week, so buy it the day of cooking or the day before at the most. If you want to buy frozen, which I do on occasion, buy shrimp that are already deveined and shell split, it will make your life a lot easier as far as cleaning.

Shrimp With Hoisin Sauce

1 pound medium-sized fresh shrimp, shelled and deveined

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon cornstarch

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 cup hoisin sauce

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 thin slices of fresh ginger root, peeled and minced

1 clove garlic, crushed 3 scallions,

cut into 1-inch pieces

Mix the water, cornstarch, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce in a bowl and set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger root and garlic and stir continuously until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn the heat up to high, add the shrimp and stir-fry until they turn pink, about 5 minutes. Add the scallions and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add the sauce mixture and coat the shrimp, stirring and mixing; cook for about 2 minutes and serve over rice.

The cooking time for this meal is only about 10 minutes. Remember, don’t cook the shrimp too long (or any fish for that matter) or they will get tough and rubbery. if you’ve never deveined a shrimp before, take the time to do it. Starting at the head of the shrimp, make a shallow cut with a knife all the way down the middle of the back. Hold the shrimp under cold running water to rinse out the dark vein, or just pull it out yourself and rinse the shrimp off when you are all done. if you don’t want to use shrimp, you could scallops or another fleshy fish, or I think chicken would work nicely in this dish as well.

We’ll be using the same fried rice as we had last night, so if you want to check yesterday’s blog recipe for it, please do so, or you can use plain white rice instead. I think either will work well here. While I won’t be making these tonight, Sean came across a recipe for Fortune Cookies that we are going to try one night when we have a group over for dinner. It will be more fun to do the fortunes with other people around, but here is the recipe if anyone wants to try it out.

Fortune Cookies

1 cup margarine, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Combine margarine, sugar, egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the flour and baking powder and stir everything together to form a ball of dough. Lightly flour a wooden cutting board or flat counter surface. With a rolling pin, roll half of the dough very thin. Use a circle-shaped cookie cutter or the top of a large glass (about 2 1/2 inches wide) to cut circles in the dough. Put a fortune in each circle, off to one side. Fold the circle in half, and then in half again. Pinch the edges to seal the dough. Re-roll leftover scraps of dough to make more cookies out of them. Then roll and make cookies from the other half of the dough. Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes on a baking sheet in the oven until they are lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Part of the fun of this, of course, is being creative in making up the fortunes for each cookie. They can be predictions, lottery numbers, old sayings, or just fun, goofy things. You can print out 25 or so fortunes on a piece of printer paper and cut them into strips to use for the cookies. i would suggest about 2 inches long, at the most, so they fit nicely in the cookie.

More easy recipes for the day and that wraps up Sean’s week of dinners. We had a lot fun choosing and cooking everything and they were all quick, easy and tasty meals with little clean up. We haven’t picked next week’s meal plan yet, but that will be tonight’s chore after dinner, so I will post it tomorrow. If you want to print your own meal planner, here’s the document:family_meal_planner We are off to Saranac Lake tomorrow for Winter Carnival, so I won’t be cooking for Friday and Saturday, and most likely Sunday as well since we’ll be getting home Sunday, but i do plan to post some things. I’ll be bringing Chicken Corn Chowder up to Saranac Lake with us, so I will post that recipe on Saturday. if you have any questions, comments or just want to say hello, feel free to leave a comment and I will reply as soon as I can. Enjoy your day today (it actually feels like winter here in New York for a change today) and enjoy your dinner!

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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Rice, Seafood


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Pork, Peppers and Pineapple- Positively Pleasant

It’s day three of the Sean dinner choice week, and so far so good. Sean liked the soup last night, which was very tasty and flavorful. I really think the homemade broth made a difference in this one, so if you can make it yourself, you should. One thing I did notice this morning when I was packing the leftovers for Michelle’s lunch today is that the polenta really set once it was chilled, so if you want to re-heat the leftovers, you may want to add some extra stock or water to it before you heat it up. Anyway, the next to days are 2 more stir fry meals that Sean wanted to try. The first one is Pork, Peppers and Pineapple and we are having fried rice with this one. Actually, I am going to make enough fried rice so we can have it again tomorrow night when we make the next stir fry, saving me some work tomorrow (sometimes it pays to think ahead). Tonight is another good night to make the fried rice since we are using pork in the main dish. We can take some of that pork and re-purpose it into the fried rice as well. Both recipes are very simple and not at all time-consuming. You could easily have both dishes done in 20 minutes if you make the white rice ahead of time or are using extra rice leftover from another night (One good thing about getting Chinese takeout is you often have a little container of white rice leftover. Just add a little warm water to it to loosen it up and it’s good to go for your fried rice recipe).

Pork with Peppers and Pineapple

1 1/3 pounds lean pork (I am using pork loin that could be used for a roast. You could use tenderloin here too)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup pineapple juice (you can use the juice drained from the pineapple chunks, or pineapple juice on its own)

3-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup chopped peppers (mix up the colors if you like, I am)

1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots

1 cup pineapple chunks

Slice the pork thinly (it’s easier to do if the meat is a little frozen). Combine the soy sauce and 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a bowl. Add the pork to this mixture, stir, and set aside. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining cornstarch with the sugar and 1/2 cup of pineapple juice. Set aside.

heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pork to the skillet and stir fry for 4 to 7 minutes, or until the pork is white all the way through. Remove 1/3 of the pork from the skillet and set aside (we’re going to use this for the fried rice). Add the pineapple juice mixture to the remaining meat and blend thoroughly. Remove the pork from the skillet and set aside.

If necessary, add up to 2 tablespoons of additional oil to the skillet. Stir fry the peppers, carrots and pineapple chunks for about 3 minutes, until crisp-tender. Add the pork back into the skillet and blend thoroughly for 1 minute. Serve.

If you wanted to use this as a meat-free dish, you can easily adapt it by eliminating the pork and increasing the amounts of peppers, carrots and pineapple, and maybe throwing in some extra vegetables as well. Either way, I think it will go nicely with the fried rice.

Here’s the thing about fried rice. I’ve tried a bunch of recipes, and most of them seem to use either way too much soy sauce, or not enough soy sauce. It’s kind of a personal thing as to which you prefer. This recipe seems to use just the right amount, but I still use low-sodium soy sauce and I think you could probably cut it down a little if you think it’s too much. Also, if you are making this meat-free, simply eliminate the pork from the recipe.

Simple Fried Rice

2 cups white rice, cooked and chilled

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 eggs, beaten

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 inches fresh ginger, minced or grated

1/3 pound cooked pork, diced

1/2 cup shredded carrots

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup frozen peas

1/3 cup soy sauce

Heat a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and swirl. Add the eggs to the hot oil and break into small pieces as it scrambles. When the eggs are scrambled, remove the eggs from the pan and set aside. Wipe the skillet clean, return the skillet to the stove over medium-high heat and add the remainder of the oil. Add the garlic and ginger to the skillet and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pork to the pan and heat through, about 2 minutes. Add the carrots and scallion and quick stir-fry, about 2 minutes. Add the rice to the skillet and combine with the pork and vegetables, mixing thoroughly. Fry the rice for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the peas to the rice mixture and stir fry 1 minute. Add the soy sauce and stir into the rice for 1 minute. Add the eggs back to the skillet with the rice and mix in thoroughly and heat through, about 1 minute, then serve.

AS is true with just about all stir fries, you can add or subtract whatever you like to either the pork recipe or the fried rice recipe. Using shrimp instead of the pork in the fried rice will make that a meal on its own. if you like. You could easily do the same with chicken or beef, or just use all vegetables, the choice is yours.

Tomorrow’s recipe is another Sean pick, and it is our seafood meal for the week. We’ll be making Shrimp in Hoisin Sauce, and we’ll be having leftover fried rice with it as well. I am hoping we can start picking out meals for next week’s meal plan tonight as well, so I may have that ready to add to the blog tomorrow as well. If you want to start your own meal plan, you can always follow along on the planner I use here:family_meal_planner. As always, any questions, comments, additions or recipes are always welcome and appreciated. You can leave a comment here or send me an email at Hopefully you all have a pleasant and wonderful day and enjoy whatever your meal is tonight!


Posted by on February 8, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Pork, Rice, Vegetables


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A Mexican Dinner Monday

Time really got a hold of me today and I ended having more work than I thought to do, so today’s post is actually after I have already cooked dinner. Like the meals we have cooked over the last couple of weeks, this one is quick, easy and has a fast clean-up. Sean chose today’s dinner as it is one of his favorites. Today was Chicken Fajitas, Mexican Rice and Guacamole. None of them take long to make, and it’s easily a dinner you can do at the last minute and tastes great.

Chicken Fajitas

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 red, orange, yellow or green peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced thin

1 onion, halved and sliced thin

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

2 to 4 tablespoons water

1 teaspoon Tabasco

10 (6-inch) flour tortillas

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then slice it into 1/2-inch wide strips. Season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken and cook through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and toss with the lime juice.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and return to medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the peppers, onion, chili powder,cumin, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons of water. Cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes (Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of water as needed to prevent the pan from scorching).

Return the chicken with any accumulated juices to the skillet. Stir in the Tabasco and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the mixture to a serving bowl.

Stack the tortillas on a microwave-safe plate, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high for 40 to 60 seconds (or you can warm the tortillas individually in a small skillet, turning after about 15 seconds). Place the chicken mixture, the warm tortillas and any accompaniments on the table and let everyone assemble their own fajitas.

We always have some chopped tomatoes, sour cream, shredded cheese and guacamole to use to add to the fajitas, but you could add whatever you would like to your own. As for the guacamole, I always like to make my own instead of buying the pre-made stuff from the store. It may not last as long (no preservatives) but it tastes much, much better. If you’re planning to make the guacamole the same day you but the avocados, get really soft ones to use. If you are planning your menu a few days ahead, buy harder ones and let them soften on the counter or in a paper bag.


3 Haas avocados, pitted and cut into slices

1 small shallot, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

Mash the avocados to a relatively smooth puree using a fork (I actually use a potato masher) in a medium bowl. Fold the remaining ingredients into the mashed avocados until mixed thoroughly.

The guacamole can be refrigerated, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 24 hours. Make sure that the plastic wrap is touching the surface of the guacamole (I also put the pits in the guacamole if I am refrigerating it. it does seem to help preserve it). Bring to room temperature and season with additional fresh lime juice and salt before serving. I also sometimes throw a few diced cherry tomatoes into the mix for some extra flavor.

The last piece of today’s meal was actually the most time-consuming part of it. The Mexican rice takes about 40 minutes to prepare and cook, so leave yourself some extra time to do this one. I think it’s worth adding to the dish as it brings a nice flavor. Michelle likes to put some of the rice right on her fajitas when she eats them.

Mexican Rice

2 medium tomatoes, cored and quartered

1 onion, quartered, peeled and trimmed

1/3 cup vegetable oil

2 cups long grain rice

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 jalapeno chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced (optional)

2 cups chicken broth

1 tablespoon tomato paste


1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro


Lime Wedges (for serving)

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Puree the tomatoes and onion in the food processor until the smooth (You should have 2 cups of puree). Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the rice and saute, stirring frequently, until light golden, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic, and two-thirds of the minced jalapenos. Cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Stir in the pureed tomato mixture, broth, tomato paste and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and bake in the oven until the rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring well after 15 minutes.

Fluff the rice with a fork. Fold in the cilantro and remaining jalapenos. Season with salt and pepper to taste, Serve, passing the lime wedges separately.

It’s not a tough dish at all to make and you’ll likely have some leftovers to use for another meal later in the week. Even the post is late today, it’s still a good menu to try for any weeknight. Have an ice cold beer with it, and you’re all set (or a margarita, if you are so inclined). I will try to post tomorrow’s recipes earlier in the day tomorrow, but it’s a pretty simple one anyway. Tomorrow is also Sean’s choice, and he chose Hamburgers with Fries and a salad. It’s definitely not a tough menu, and even though I won’t be making homemade fries tomorrow (Sean wants tater tots), I will post a recipe for making your own fries if you ever feel like doing it. They taste really good if you have the time to put into them. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email at Thanks for following along and I’ll see you tomorrow!


Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pepper Steak

It was a beautiful day here in New York, much warmer and nicer than a January usually is around here. It was so nice, I almost don’t feel like cooking dinner tonight, but since I already have the meat thawed and ready to go, we’re going to plow through and go for it. Today’s dinner selections was Michelle’s and we’re making Pepper Steak with Rice and Glazed Carrots. Pepper steak is a very simple dish, so you could add this one to our quick and easy, dinner in a jiffy list. It’s ready in about 30 minutes and that includes all the prep work and cooking, leaving you to enjoy the rest of your evening.

Pepper Steak

1 pound boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into strips (I am actually using a London broil myself, but you could use almost any type of steak for this)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2-3 large peppers, thinly sliced (I use red, yellow and orange for a nice color)

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 cup beef broth

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the vegetable oil and meat, searing on both sides, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, salt and pepper; cook 1 minute. Remove meat to a plate and loosely cover with foil. Reduce heat on pan to medium. Add peppers and onions and saute for 5 minutes, until tender. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Whisk in broth, soy sauce, water and sugar until well blended. Add meat  back into the pan and coat with sauce. Cook and stir until mixture boils. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over rice.

We haven’t had too many meals easier than this one. I like to use orange, yellow or red peppers instead of the green. It’s a personal preference, but I find the green ones a bit more acidic and don’t have the same flavors as the other colors, but if you like the green ones better, than go ahead and use them. For the rice, well we’ve cooked rice a few times in the last few weeks so you can get my method of cooking the rice right here. This is a good dish for plain white rice since it will absorb some of the tasty sauce that comes with the meal.

You probably don’t need to add another vegetable to this dish if you don’t want to, but we came across a nice recipe for some glazed carrots that sounded yummy, so we wanted to try it. It’s very simple and you can use the baby carrots for this. We usually have the baby carrots around since they are a good snack food, but you could also just use your every day carrots and cut them into pieces if you like. Just a side not: this recipe calls for bourbon, but you could leave that out if you want, but I think it will add a nice flavor to the carrots.

Honey Glazed Baby Carrots

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 pound baby carrots

1/2 a piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup orange juice

3 tablespoons bourbon

Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots and saute until they are beginning to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the ginger and the honey. Cook for two minutes. Remove the skillet from heat; stir in the orange juice and the bourbon. Return the skillet to the heat and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are fork-tender, about 5-7 minutes. Uncover and cook until all the liquid has been reduced to a syrupy consistency and the carrots are nicely glazed, about 6 minutes. Discard the ginger. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The honey glaze and the ginger taste will add some excellent flavor to the carrots and the bourbon gives a nice kick of flavor of its own. As i said, you could omit the bourbon all together and I think the dish will turn out just fine.

Simple, simple, simple. I think the whole week has been pretty easy for meals, which is great if you don’t have a lot of time to put into meals during the week. Tomorrow will be a little more labor intensive, but not much. I like to make a little more elaborate meal on Sundays, so tomorrow we are having Pan-Seared Steaks with a Red Wine Pan Sauce, Shrimp Scampi, Mashed Potatoes, Sautéed Mushrooms and Asparagus. It sounds like a lot, but we are having guests over too, so it’s not too bad and none of the recipes are difficult to make. Tune in tomorrow and see for yourself how easy it all really is to do. As always, your suggestions and input is welcome and encouraged. Feel free to ask questions, let me know how you made out if you tried a recipe, or let me know how you improved upon it. You can post a comment here or send me an email at Thanks for reading today and I hope you enjoyed this beautiful day. See you tomorrow!



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Posted by on January 28, 2012 in Beef, Cooking, Dinner, Rice, Vegetables


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And the Mystery Fish is…

I finally did get to buy some fish today. I took a ride over to Adams Farms in Newburgh today and bought some fish and some produce. I wish they were a little closer because I would shop there all the time instead of every couple of weeks like I do now. Anyway, I did pick up some fish tonight and some for the freezer to use next week. Tonight, I decided we are going to have Fish Cakes, rice and mixed vegetables. The fish cakes seem like a good thing to make, are pretty easy to do, and take no time at all to cook. Like many of the meals we have made this week, they can also be customized to add flavors that you prefer over others. If you have a food processor, take it out for this one. It makes your life a lot easier.

Fish Cakes

4 slices firm white bread, torn into pieces (about 1 cup; you can just use store breadcrumbs if you prefer)

1 celery stalk, cut into chunks

1 pound boneless cod, haddock, halibut or other white fish fillets, cut into chunks

1 large egg, beaten

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 pepper, cut diced (color is your choice. I prefer red, yellow or orange over the green)

2 teaspoons chopped parsley

2 to 4 tablespoons butter

Lemon wedges

Tartar Sauce ( I use store-bought myself [Gold’s is really good] but you could make your own)

Place the white bread in a food processor. Using on/off turns, process until very coarse crumbs form. Transfer the breadcrumbs to a large bowl. Using on/off turns, finely chop celery; add it to the bowl with the breadcrumbs. Using on/off turns, coarsely puree the fish; add it to the bowl. Add the egg, salt, pepper, diced pepper and parsley to the bowl. Mix gently but thoroughly. Transfer fish mixture to a work surface and shape into 4-6 fish cakes (use your best judgement on size, whatever thickness is reasonable to you). Place the cakes on a plate and refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow them to set.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the fish cakes and cook until brown on the bottom, about 5 minutes. Using a large spatula, carefully turn the fish cakes over and cook until the second side is brown and the center looks opaque, about 5 minutes longer. Serve with lemon wedges and tartar sauce.

The prep time for this dish is more than the cooking time, but it’s worth it. Your own fish cakes will taste better than anything you’ll find in the freezer section of the supermarket. As I said, you can really add whatever you would like to this recipe as far as spices and flavors. Try adding green onion, shallot, dill, cayenne pepper, garlic powder or whatever else you might like. I don’t like a lot of breading in cakes like this myself; I would rather taste the fish more than the breadcrumbs, so adjust the amount as you would like it. I am serving the fish with plain white rice, but you can use any type of rice that you would prefer. I think Jasmine rice might go nicely with this dish. You could also go with pasta if you would like, or even some egg noodles as a side dish.

For tonight’s vegetables, I am just steaming some mixed vegetables. I am using carrots, broccoli and cauliflower tonight and just steaming them in my steamer basket. Some sautéed spinach might go very nicely with this dish if you’re looking to make something different. Just rinse your spinach, toss it into a hot pan with some oil, maybe some minced garlic and some red pepper flakes, and saute just until the spinach is wilted, and you are all done.

So we’ve had an entire week of very easy meals, if I must say. The family laid out the menu for next week last night, so here’s a sneak preview of what we’ll be cooking next week.

Sunday – Ribeye Steaks with Mashed Potatoes and Asparagus (my pick)

Monday – Chicken Fajitas with Mexican Rice and Guacamole (Sean’s pick)

Tuesday – Hamburgers, French Fries and salad (also Sean’s pick)

Wednesday – Breakfast for Dinner (Michelle’s pick, this will also be our meatless night)

Thursday – We are leaving open as a leftovers day

Friday – Fish and Chips, and I haven’t picked a vegetable yet (my pick)

Saturday – Roast Chicken, Roasted Potatoes and Green Beans

We decided to work next week solely out of things we had in the freezer, so the only thing I had to shop for was the fish for the fish and chips, which will save us a lot of money on shopping next week. The cod for the dinner cost $7.00, and that’s all I have to buy for the week, with the exception of fresh veggies. Using what you have on hand can make things a lot easier on you as far as time for cooking and for your budget.

That’s all I have for today’s blog. I know I am glad it’s Friday and am looking forward to the weekend, even if it means doing some chores around the house. As always, if you have any questions, comments or just want to say hello, feel free to leave a comment or send me an email at Thanks for reading today and happy cooking!



Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Rice, Seafood, Uncategorized, Vegetables


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Under the Sea (Scallops)

After a morning at the dentist, it’s time to get down to some writing. Today’s dinner is an easy recipe and a very tasty one. Today I am making pan-seared sea scallops with lemon and shallots, roasted broccoli and carrots, and white rice. It’s nothing difficult to make and the whole meal itself only takes about 35 minutes total, so it’s easy to do during the week,

In my opinion, there is really only one type of scallop worth buying, and that is sea scallops. Bay scallops or Calico scallops are much smaller and tend to be rubbery, so I opt for the sea scallops. They do cost more, and many of them are dipped in preservatives to help extend their shelf life. These are generally called wet scallops. If you can find dry scallops, or scallops labeled chemical-free, opt for those. You’ll be able to tell the difference even if they aren’t labeled, as wet scallops are bright white in color and, well, they’re wet with a milky liquid. Dry scallops range from an ivory color to a pale pinkish orange, and look dry. Most places will label them, and dry scallops in this area tend to be quite expensive, around $18 a pound. They do taste better and are worth the splurge. We only cook them about every 6 weeks or so and it is a seafood the whole family enjoys.

Now on to the recipe. This one is pretty easy and shouldn’t take long at all. i would recommend using the largest skillet you have for this, or do the scallops in batches so they aren’t bunched together and end up steaming instead of getting the nice pan sear on them. Also, you could add capers into this recipe if you like. Capers are basically unripened flower buds that are often pickled and are about the size of a small pea to a small olive. They can be rather salty, but also can add a nice flavor to meats, sauces, dressings and vegetables. My family doesn’t really like them, so I eliminate them, but if you like them, go for it.

Pan-Seared Scallops With Lemon and Shallots

1 1/2 pounds large sea scallops

Salt and pepper

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons butter

1 shallot, minced

1 cup dry white wine or vermouth (or just use water if you don’t want the alcohol)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and minced (optional)

Pat the scallops dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Gently lay the scallops in the pan and cook until well browned, about 2 1/2 minutes. Flip the scallops over and cook until the sides of the scallop are firm but the center remains very soft, about 30 seconds. Transfer the scallops to a plate and tent with foil.

Pour off all the fat left in the skillet. Add 1 tablespoon of butter and melt over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the wine (or vermouth, or water) and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened and reduced, about 5 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining butter, the parsley, lemon juice, capers (if using) and any accumulated scallop juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Add the scallops to the sauce and let warm through before serving, about 1 minute.

Pretty easy, huh? The thing with seafood and shellfish is that it generally doesn’t need a long time to cook, just minutes at the most, unless you’re steaming shellfish like lobster, crab or clams, or cooking thick flesh seafood steaks, and even then seafood steaks don’t take too long. A lot of people tend to overcook seafood, leaving it unflavored, tough and rubbery. Just a few minutes is all it takes for some really tasty seafood.

For tonight’s vegetable, I decided to roast broccoli and carrots. Broccoli and carrots are both favorites in our house (I can’t think of a vegetable we won’t eat actually, even Sean is really good about veggies). In this recipe, if you want a little bit of a spicy kick, add some crushed red pepper flakes towards the end. I love roasted vegetables; they tend to taste sweeter than steamed and the flavor is more concentrated.

Roasted Broccoli and Carrots

1 1/2 pound broccoli, cut into 1-inch florets

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Zest of 1 lemon (I use whatever I didn’t from the scallops recipe)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional, Michelle and Sean do like it on their portions)

Position 1 rack in the middle and 1 rack in the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F (you’re roasting, it should be very hot). Divide the broccoli and carrots evenly among 2 baking sheets. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil a 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Toss well, then spread the vegetables out in an even layer. Transfer to the oven and roast until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the vegetables evenly with the garlic, red pepper flakes(if using), lemon zest and cheese (if using). Continue roasting for 2 minutes more. Transfer the vegetables to a serving bowl and serve.

Another easy side dish done. Lastly, for this meal is the rice. I personally prefer long-grain white rice, just a personal preference of mine. Use whatever rice you like the best. Cooking rice on the stovetop is very easy and pretty foolproof. I use a 2 to 1 ratio in cooking, so if I make 1 cup of rice, I use 2 cups of water. One cup is more than enough for the three of us and we generally have leftovers that can be used for other meals. Just bring the water up to a boil on the stove, add in the rice and a teaspoon or two of salt (or not, if you’re cutting back) and return the pot to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender, generally about 12 to 15 minutes for 1 cup of rice.

Brown rice and wild rice tend to take longer. Long grain brown rice takes about 25-30 minutes, while wild rice can take about 35-40 minutes, so if you want to use those, budget your time accordingly. I like both of those, but for a quick, weeknight meal the white rice fits better.

So that’s another day down in this week’s meal plan. If you have suggestions, questions, or any input at all, please feel free to leave a comment here. I am willing to respond, good, bad or indifferent. Tomorrow’s dinner is also my choice, and we will be having pork chops with butternut squash and apple stuffing, roasted potatoes,and Swiss chard with garlic and shallots. Until then, enjoy your day and your time in the kitchen!




Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Rice, Seafood, Vegetables


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Garam Masala? Isn’t He a Jazz Musician?

No, he’s not a jazz musician, but I hope it got your attention. You probably don’t need to have garam masala in your pantry (unless of course you make a lot of Indian or Asian food, in which case you might), but there are lots of other things that I think would go very well in your pantry. I am going to name a few things that I use on a regular basis that help me tremendously in the kitchen. Most of them you probably have around all the time, and if you do, it can help you create a meal on the fly for a quick weeknight dinner when you don’t want to put a lot of effort in, or for when you have unexpected guests drop by and need something quick to throw together. When it comes to items in your pantry, brand is a personal choice. Use what you and your family like best and has the best flavor for you. There are a few brands I will recommend that I really like using, but do what fits your taste and budget the best.

Everyone has their own list of things they like to keep around in the pantry based on what their family likes best. There are basics like flour, salt, sugar, pepper, butter and milk that most people have around in one variation or another, depending on what you like and what your dietary restrictions may be.These are a few things I always have in the house:

Rice – I always have whole grain rice, sometimes brown rice, but always whole grain. It doesn’t take long to cook and to me tastes better than any quick rice or minute rice.

Eggs – We always have a dozen eggs on head and use them for baking, breakfast, hard boiling to have for lunches or appetizers, or when we have “breakfast for dinner.”

Pasta – While I personally don’t eat it, we always have it in the house, usually in a couple of varieties. If I had the counter space, I would like to make my own, but since our kitchen is the size of a closet, we make do. If you have pasta around, you always have a meal. There are dozens of quick sauces to throw together, or just saute or roast some vegetables to go with it, and you’re done.

Oil – I always have vegetable oil on hand as well as olive oil. I probably use the vegetable oil more, but the olive oil is good for making dressings and sauces. I also keep some cooking spray on hand to use to keep things from sticking.

Vinegar – again, it’s good to have on hand for dressings for salad, and I usually keep white, red wine, balsamic and apple cider vinegar to use with various recipes.

Herbs & Spices – There are hundreds of different herbs and spices you could get (like garam masala), but I have found that I really only use about ten or so regularly. I try to use fresh parsley, thyme and basil, as there is a real taste difference over the dried versions. For dried spices, I use oregano, bay leaves, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, chili powder and cumin. I have others, but rarely use them. Check you dried spices after about 6 months because they tend to lose their potency by then.

Tomatoes – Sadly, fresh tomatoes available in stores here in New York have been bad, to say the least. Unless you grow your own around here, I have found that the canned tomatoes are better. I buy diced tomatoes often to use for things like chili, and keep a couple of jars of crushed tomatoes around for sauce. I do love fresh tomatoes, and ripe ones give great flavor, we just haven’t had good ones in a while.

Broth – I make my own broths now.It may sound like a lot of work, but it really isn’t and it is so worth it. Homemade chicken stock tastes 100 times better than anything in a box or can and is very easy to make. The same goes for beef, fish or vegetable broth and you can freeze them to use whenever you need them (I plan to use a day of blogging to talk about stocks). If you don’t have the time to make your own, I have found that Swanson’s seems to taste the best among the chicken and beef broths available.

Beans – We always have some kind of beans on hand, either dried or canned. They are a great source of protein and can be used in a lot of side dishes, soups, stews and chili. I almost always have red kidney beans, white beans or black beans around to use.

Produce- If you are going to have produce around, you should always have carrots, celery and onions. Use those three and you can pretty much make anything. They are a great base for most sauces, soups, and stews or great for roasting with meat or poultry.I also regularly have white potatoes and garlic on hand to use as well. I try to use fresh produce for our vegetables every day, and when I can’t I do buy some frozen items to have on hand. I am not a fan of canned vegetables – they have a metallic taste to me, usually have too much salt in them to preserve them, and don’t seem to taste as good once cooked. I also always have some kind of fresh fruit on hand, depending on the season. Fresh fruit can be a simple and quick dessert anytime, a nice addition to breakfast, or a great afterschool snack.

Beyond that, there are things I buy from week to week, varying on what our meal plan for that week is going to be. I’ll get more into the meal plan itself tomorrow when I start writing about what’s cooking for the week, but the plan itself basically maps out my shopping list for the week so I know what I am going to buy. I try not to stray beyond that list, with the exceptions of items that may be household necessities that week (i.e. toilet paper, garbage bags, paper towels, Sean’s lunch snacks, etc.). It helps me budget our food shopping for the week and keeps me from buying empty calorie foods we don’t need or shouldn’t have.

So tomorrow we get started on the meal plan. I can tell you, tomorrow’s dinner is nothing fancy, it’s pretty straightforward and easy, but I think that works for a lot of weeknight meals. We don’t often have time for an elaborate meal during the week, so I do try to keep things simple. Get your equipment ready and your pantry set, and we’ll hit the kitchen tomorrow!

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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, Pasta, Produce, Soups & Stews, Spices


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