Mexican Rice

Mexican Rice

I used to take the RiceARoni Mexican rice mix and then add tomatoes, peppers and onion, but that mix is full of sodium! One servings has over a thousand milligrams of sodium! Yikes! So today I decided it would be easy to make my own, and you know what? It was! Fresh is always better than boxed anyway. 😉

What You’ll Need:
1 cup of long grain rice
1 – 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes (Or you can use 2 cups of fresh tomatoes, chopped)
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (Most bunches have 8 or 9 scallions in them. You can also use 1 small onion, chopped.)
1 tablespoon of chili powder
1 tablespoon of paprika
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of water

Dump all the ingredients in a covered dish and microwave for 20 minutes. When finished stir and let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Notes: You could vary this by adding 1 cup of frozen corn or a can of black or red beans.

Dianne’s Fresh Salsa

Dianne's Fresh Salsa

I like to make this little “salsa” from time to time when I’m in the mood for something fresh. It’s basically a kicked up pico de gallo, but it always gets raves!

What You’ll Need:
4-6 Roma tomatoes, seeded (4 if they are large, 6 if they are smaller)
1/2 of a green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 of a red or orange bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch of scallions, chopped (There are usually 8 or 9 scallions in a bunch)
The juice of one lime
A pinch of black pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
A pinch of sea salt

First Step:

Seed your tomatoes. (I always freeze the pulp for soup or chili later.)

Seeded Tomatoes

Cut seeded tomatoes into strips.

Tomato Strips

Dice tomato strips and place in a medium sized bowl.

Diced Tomatoes

Second Step:

Cut Bell Pepper Into Strips.

Bell Pepper Strips

Dice pepper and add to the bowl with the tomatoes.

Tomatoes And Peppers

Step Three:

Chop scallions and add to tomato/pepper mixture.

Step Four:

Add lime juice and seasonings. Stir to mix. Chill at least 1 before serving hour.

Notes: This “salsa” breaks down quickly due to the citrus juice. Make it the day you plan on eating it and if you have any left overs you can freeze them and use it in chili or tortilla soup later.

Red onion is a nice addition, as is freshly chopped parsley. Cilantro tastes like soap to me, so I wouldn’t advise it, but if you like the stuff, add away!

Not Your Mama’s Alphabet Soup

Alphabet Soup

As a kid most of us ate alphabet soup, but these days who wants to eat soup with all those preservatives and such a high salt content? Not me! And I certainly wouldn’t feed it to Alexis! So here’s my take on the classic. It’s warm and oh so comforting! It will remind you of your childhood.

What You’ll Need:
Extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup of red onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped into small pieces
1 rib of celery, chopped
2 large button mushrooms, chopped
1 cup of chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup of chopped scallions
1 cup of frozen peas
1 cup of frozen corn
1 1/2 cups of vegetable broth
1 – 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of black pepper
1 pinch of dried oregano
1 pinch of dried basil
ABC noodles

Alphabet Soup

In a medium sized stock pot over medium heat saute garlic through scallions until tender. (Note: Carrots will not be tender. They will continue cooking while the soup cooks.) Add the rest of the ingredients except for ABC noodles and cook for 30 minutes to an hour. Add noodles and cook for 8-10 minutes and serve immediately.

Note: You can put in as few or as many noodles as you like. I like more so I added between 1 cup and 1 1/2 cups.

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

We woke up this morning with snow on the ground and on days like today I want to bake things and I want to make soup! I decided I wanted to make an old stand by of mine Butternut Squash Soup. This soup is creamy, hearty and just perfect for a cold winter day!

What You’ll Need For the Soup:
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1 large sweet potato, cut into cubes
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled and cut into chunks
1 large apple, cored and chopped
1 large stalk of celery, chopped
Coarse ground pepper
Pinch of sea salt
1 container of vegetable broth

Place veggies and apple in a large stock pot and pour in broth. Add water until the veggies and apple are just covered. Add salt and pepper. Bring ingredients to a boil over medium heat and cook until tender. Remove vegetables from broth, reserving the liquid. In a food processor or blender process veggies until smooth adding broth as needed to smooth out the mixture. (Normally no more than 1 cup of broth total).

Serve immediately.

Note: Leave the peels on the potatoes and apples for added vitamins. You can also add 3 or 4 garlic cloves if you like. It’s a healthy, easy soup to play with and it’s delicious!! I usually reserve the left over broth to make lentil soup or something later.

Creamy Tomato Soup

Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

Earlier today when Alexis and I were at the grocery store there was a heavenly smelling tomato basil soup near the salad bar. It was one of those smells that just screamed out “Eat me! Eat me!” So when I got my salad for dinner (which I didn’t end up eating and will eat for lunch tomorrow instead) I got some of the tomato soup for lunch since we were running behind schedule. We bustled home and I couldn’t wait to try the heavenly smelling soup! Unfortunately it smelled much better than it tasted as is often the problem with store bought items.

The first bite of the soup was sickeningly sweet. I was shocked by the sugar content in this soup! Then after you got over the sugar shock you were hit by a secondary spicy heat sensation that was disturbing in that it didn’t hit your tongue in the area that normally senses heat! It was just weird! I tried to eat a little bit of it to see if I could figure out what they had done to the soup, but I just couldn’t get over the weird sweet/hot flavor combination that sort of made you feel as if you had vertigo!

So as always my brain kicked into gear and I started thinking about how easy it would be to make a simple Creamy Tomato Basil Soup and I decided to test my idea and what do you know…It worked! And it was perfect with the No Knead Bread I made yesterday! It’s simple, fast and delicious! You can have Creamy Tomato Basil Soup on the table in under an hour!

What You’ll Need:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 red onion, chopped fine
2 large button mushrooms, chopped fine
2 baby portabella mushrooms, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons of dried basil
1 pinch of sea salt
1 pinch of freshly ground black pepper
2 – 15 ounce cans of tomato sauce
1 – 6 ounce can of tomato paste
1 cup of cream

In a medium sized pot saute onion, mushrooms and garlic with basil, sea salt and black pepper until tender in a little olive oil.

Add tomato paste, tomato sauce and cream and stir until mixed.

Bring to a quick boil and then reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30-minutes to an hour and serve.

Notes and Thoughts: Tomato sauce in and of itself is sort of sweet so I’m not sure why they thought they needed to put so much sugar into the soup. I’m all for letting nature do it’s thing and there was absolutely no need to ruin the entire soup by sugaring it up.

If you wanted you could add some red pepper flakes for a kick if you like that sort of thing.

Vegetable Sushi Rolls

Cut Sushi

When we moved to Maryland I tried sushi for the first time and immediately fell in love! Since Alexis was born I haven’t had much of a chance to actually eat sushi given most sushi restaurants are not kid friendly and Jamison is an extremely picky eater, and sushi is nowhere near to any form of food he would even try, let alone eat. Several times over the years I’ve thought to myself that sushi (though everyone tries to tell you otherwise) would not be that hard to make.

Right after Alexis was born my sister even made me a little “sushi kit” complete with bamboo sushi mat, sushi vinegar and wasabi powder so I could give it a whirl. Today, 3 1/2 years later, I decided to do just that! The was only one problem…I have already packed my bamboo sushi mat (we’re planning to move to a new house sometime this year and I’m packing up things that aren’t essential to get a jump start on the whole situation!) and it never fails the minute you pack something you need it, but luckily I found an article online that suggested using a dish towel instead of a bamboo mat and it worked, though I would wager it would be a bit easier with the bamboo mat, but we’ll revisit that little hunch when the new house materializes.

So my experience with sushi today stuck with veggies as I’m doing a little experiment with no meat for the month of January. I’ll most likely add back in seafood and fish once the month is over, but for now the veggie thing is working out quite well. I really like cucumber rolls or avocado rolls or the like. Today’s incarnation has avocado, carrots and cucumber and I was extremely pleased at how well it turned out!

Over the years the reason I haven’t tried to make sushi up to this point is it’s one of those things that has an aura around it and some people who are good at making sushi like to make it seem harder than it really is. I’m here to tell you that it was EXTREMELY easy! I was shocked at how easy it was and how easily it went together!

Sushi Ingredients

What You’ll Need:
1 cup of sushi rice, cooked according to package directions and cooled to handling temperature (Makes roughly 2+ cups of cooked rice)
2 tablespoons of sushi vinegar (If you can’t find sushi vinegar you can make some yourself. (See step 2). I haven’t tried this method, but I plan to as soon as I run out of the bottle I have.)
1 small carrot, cut into matchsticks 1/4 of an English cucumber, seeded and cut into long strips
1/2 of a small avocado, cut into strips
A bowl of lukewarm tap water with a pinch of sea salt
Soy sauce
Sushi Ingredients

Once the rice is cooked according to package directions remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of sushi vinegar per cup of cooked rice (2 in this case) and stir until incorporated. Let cool.

Once rice is cool to the touch lay a single piece of Nori on a bamboo sushi mat or a clean dish towel. Wet your fingertips in the bowl of lukewarm water and spread sushi rice to the edge of the Nori leaving a 1 inch to 1 1/2 inch edge on the bottom:

Nori and Sushi Rice

Next line your ingredients across the bottom edge of the rice on the end with the edge:

Ready To Roll

Using your sushi mat or dish towel slowly roll the sushi placing the seam side down:

Sushi Rolls and Ingredients

Slice and serve with soy sauce and wasabi. Cut Sushi I personally like my sushi a bit chilled so I put it in the fridge, covered for about 30 minutes prior to eating. You can eat it immediately if you like. This recipe made 2 rolls with just a little rice left over.

Cut Sushi