Dirty Rice

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I’m fascinated with Louisiana. Maybe it’s because I’m from California and our cuisine has no history. In my opinion, Californian food means locally grown and fresh, which is great and all, but I don’t find any culture in it. It’s too new. I’m sure I’m taking it for granted. I love living here and would never move (except to Hawaii and I LOVE their food, but that’s for another day). Southern food has a history to it that California doesn’t.

In high school, I read The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Her book was my introduction to Louisianian culture. The part that interested me the most were the Creoles, a people of mixed colonial French, African American and Native American descent, and Cajuns, or Acadians, who are also from French descent, but distinctly their own with a full rich history.

I went to New Orleans in high school and fell in love with the food: gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice, blackened fish, beignets, and the list goes on. I remember eating the most amazing chocolate pecan pie in New Orleans that ruined me for life. No other pie can live up to it.

Louisiana made such an impression that I wanted to make the food, but I have never made Dirty Rice until now. You’re probably wondering why one would want to eat something with the word “dirty” in it. That doesn’t sound very good. But it’s easy to make, delicious, inexpensive, and filling. Can it get any better than that? Dirty Rice is a Creole dish made from rice that turns “dirty” from being cooked with meat, cayenne, and black pepper. Today, Dirty Rice commonly contains pork, beef, or chicken. Historically, the meats were organ meats, which were the cheapest cuts that the slaves could afford. The meat would be cooked and finely chopped, creating a broth that colored the rice. After the slaves were freed, this dish remained popular with the poorer people of Louisiana, both black and white, both Creole and Cajun.

The recipe I used came from the kitchn. I didn’t modify the recipe at all, but it would be easy to. I used 12 ounces of andouille sausage, but you can substitute it with another type of sausage, ground beef, chopped up chicken thighs, or even ground turkey.

First gather your ingredients.

Dirty Rice

Next, dice up your meat and veggies, and measure out the rice and seasonings. Open up a can of chicken broth unless you’re fancy and have homemade broth on hand. Not me.

Grab a dutch oven or other large pot, fry up the sausage in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil, and remove when browned. Next, add the holy trinity, which consists of chopped onion, celery, and bell peppers, and is common in Creole and Cajun dishes. Cook for several minutes until soft. Add rice, garlic, and your seasonings. The recipe says to cook this until the rice crackles, but that sounds scary and my rice merely sizzled. Maybe that’s the same thing. Who knows?

Dirty Rice

Add broth, water, and sausage, and simmer it on low.

Dirty Rice

Half way through, stir it so everything is well mixed.

Dirty Rice

When the rice is tender, take it off the burner and let it rest, covered, for another 5 minutes. Scoop a portion onto a plate and throw some green onions on top. Now it’s time to eat!

Dirty Rice

Although it has plenty of black pepper and cayenne, it isn’t too spicy. I love the caramelized sausage, which gives it smoky and sweet notes. Don’t skip the garnish. The green onions add a nice crunch. The boys approved of this meal, particularly because the younger boy could easily pick out the Holy Trinity. He also didn’t get any green onions. Definitely try this. Everyone will love and it’s super simple to cook. It also makes great leftovers!

Dirty Rice

Dirty Rice

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces cooked andouille sausage diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion diced
  • 2 medium celery stalks diced
  • 1 medium green bell pepper seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 medium green onions sliced

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the sausage and cook until browned, about 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage to a plate and set aside.
  • Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the rice, garlic, bay leaf, salt, oregano, thyme, black pepper, and cayenne. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice makes a crackling/sizzling sound, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the broth, water, and reserved sausage. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil. Stir the rice and spread into an even layer. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir the rice, cover again, and cook undisturbed until the rice is tender, 5 to 10 minutes more. All the liquid should be absorbed.
  • Remove from the heat and let it sit covered for 5 minutes for the rice to steam. Fluff the rice with a fork and season with more salt and pepper as needed. Sprinkle with the green onions and serve.

Spicy Thai Red Curry Chicken Casserole

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I continued my search for casseroles that are easy and delicious. I wanted something with a little Asian influence so when I came across Spicy Thai Red Curry Chicken Casserole from the Food Network, I was pleased. It looked easy to make and promising enough. Alas, this casserole became my nemesis. The first two attempts were complete failures, but I was determined to get it right. The third time was a charm and I’m here to give you my version of this dish. It’s really simple once you figure out that you need to layer, not “evenly scatter” the ingredients, add enough liquid, and cook it long enough. I have no idea how the original could ever work.

Gather your ingredients: rice, veggies, chicken., light coconut milk, broth, red curry paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, lime, peanuts, and cilantro. I stuck to the same ingredients that were in the recipe. Nothing to change there.

In a casserole pan, add a layer of rice. The original recipe wants you to mix the rice with the veggies and chicken, but this was a bad idea and caused failures to attempts #1 and #2. Who likes crunchy rice? Not me. You need the rice completely submerged in the liquid so it’ll cook.

Next, slice up your peppers and onions. Cut the broccoli florets into bite-sized pieces. Layer over your rice. Do not mix it!

Spicy Thai Red Curry Chicken Casserole

Slice your chicken. I like to slice the chicken last to avoid cross contamination with the veggies. It probably doesn’t matter in this case because we’re cooking the veggies, but it’s a habit I like to practice.

Layer your chicken over the veggies. Do not mix it! (Note my general theme.)

Spicy Thai Red Curry Chicken Casserole

Looks good. Now you need your liquid that will cook the rice. In my first attempt, I used the amounts listed in the recipe. It turned out not to be enough liquid so after 50 minutes, I kept adding cups of water every 10 minutes while I tried to wash the rice off the veggies and chicken to get the rice to cook. After 80 minutes, it was edible enough to eat, but I was extremely disappointed. I hate when dinner is late and we were all very hangry at this point.

In my second attempt, I used more broth, but because I followed the recipe and mixed the ingredients, once again I was smushing the rice down after it had been cooking for 50 minutes to get the rice to cook properly. I almost had crunchy rice on my hands, but I managed to rescue it.

Still frustrated but confident that my third attempt would work, I mixed the wet ingredients and poured it over the casserole. I checked that the rice was fully submerged. It was. I was good to go! I popped it in the oven and prayed to the cooking gods that all would go well. Meanwhile, I chopped up some salted peanuts and fresh cilantro for a garnish. I had plenty of time while the casserole cooked so I sneaked in a couple of episodes of HGTV while making the boy’s lunch.

I checked on the casserole after 45 minutes. Not ready so I continued to babysit it, checking the rice every five minutes. After 60 minutes, it was done! I cautiously took a bite of rice. Delicious. I could taste the spice of the curry paste, the saltiness of the fish sauce, the sweetness of the brown sugar, and the acidity of the lime. The flavors were perfect and so were the veggies, cooked yet still firm. Adding the peanuts added an extra crunch and reminded me of pad Thai.

With my changes, I completely recommend this casserole. Did I mention not to mix the rice?

Spicy Thai Red Curry Chicken Casserole
Spicy Thai Red Curry Chicken Casserole

Spicy Thai Red Curry Chicken Casserole

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
  • 2 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 medium red pepper sliced
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion sliced
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs sliced
  • salt and pepper
  • 14 ounces canned light coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray.
  • Add a layer of rice to the bottom of the pan. Evenly scatter a layer of broccoli, red pepper, and onion. Top with chicken slices. Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, broth, curry paste, fish sauce, brown sugar, and lime juice. Pour the mixture over the ingredients in the pan, making sure the lquid covers the rice. Bake until the rice is cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed, 60 minutes. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and cilantro before serving.

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

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The rain is really coming down today, which in many ways is good for drought-ridden Northern California. The trees are whipping, water is pounding on the windows, and the sky is dark. The house is shaking a bit, which I’m not a big fan of. I really hope we don’t lose power because we’ll all go out of our minds. I know this is nothing compared to the snow storms of the East, but when it rains here, people freak out like it’s the apocalypse or something. What’s that wet stuff falling from the sky?! Everyone, run for your lives!

My point? It’s definitely soup weather.

Today’s recipe is from Delish, Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup. It’s so amazing that you definitely need to make this now. It’s even easier than last week’s Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone. I made a few changes according to my preferences, but otherwise, it’s pretty much perfect.

Prep your ingredients. Cube chicken thighs into bite sized pieces. Juice and zest a lemon. Mince up a garlic clove. Chop up an onion. Slice a few carrots and celery stalks. Grab the chicken stock from the pantry. And please, when a recipe says stock, use stock, not broth. Broth and stock are not the same. You need the stock to provide that intense flavor as if you’ve been simmering this soup for hours. Don’t forget to cook a cup of rice and slice up a few green onions.

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

Heat some olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven and throw you chicken in. Be sure to season it with salt and pepper, and throw in the lemon zest. The recipe calls for half the zest now and then use the rest for a garnish, but I think it’s better to use it all now for that distinct lemony flavor. I don’t want some half-ass lemon flavored soup. Pardon my French.

Cook the chicken until it’s no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

Taste it to make sure it has enough salt and pepper, and add more if necessary. Next, add your garlic and veggies. I went for sliced veggies instead of diced because I like my veggies to be in larger pieces. It’s really up to you.

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

Cook all that until the veggies are slightly soft, about 7 minutes. Next, throw in your stock, lemon juice, cooked rice, and some of the green onions. Save the rest for garnish. The recipe calls for 1 cup of cooked rice, but I added 2 cups. It makes for a more substantial soup.

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

Bring it to a boil and then let this simmer away for about 5 minutes. You won’t have time to do much else so don’t wander off. When it’s ready, ladle it into some bowls and garnish with the rest of the green onions.

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

And that’s it. I told you it was easy. There’s hardly any clean up because it was all made in a single pot. It’s lemony goodness with a touch of garlic. The soup is full of delicious chunks of chicken and veggies, and just the right amount of rice so you won’t go hungry an hour later. Comfort food at its best. Next time, I’m going to experiment with dill, which would complement the lemon nicely. Enjoy!

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

Lemon Chicken and Rice Soup

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon zested and juiced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 2 carrots sliced
  • 2 celery stalks sliced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 4 green onions sliced

Instructions
 

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat oil. Add chicken to pot. Season with salt, pepper, and add the lemon zest. Cook chicken on all sides, 5 minutes. Add garlic, onion, carrots, celery. Season with salt. Cook until softened, about 7 minutes.
  • Add chicken stock, lemon juice, cooked rice, and half of the green onions, reserving the rest for garnish. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Garnish with the rest of the green onions and serve.

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

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It’s finally soup season! Making homemade soup instead of cracking open a can is a cooking investment worth your time. One of my favorite soups is minestrone. I love the simplicity of it. It’s basically a tomato-based broth with a few veggies, some pasta, and maybe some ground meat. So, when I came across this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis from The Food Network, I had to try it. She makes awesome Italian dishes so I knew this one would not fail me. I was intrigued that instead of pasta she uses canned white cannellini beans. No pasta?! Most of the time you want to use dried beans for the most flavor so I was a little skeptical whether this soup would be tasty enough, but this soup recipe did not disappoint. Because the beans are canned, making this soup was super fast for a comforting homemade weeknight soup. No need to soak your beans over night.

Prep your ingredients. Dice up an onion, carrot, and celery. I like my celery and carrots in heartier pieces, so I sliced mine. If you want more veggies, feel free to add more. This is a very flexible soup. Next, mince some garlic. Measure out some tomato paste. Gather your canned ingredients. Have some grated Parmesan nearby.

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

Take a large saucepan or Dutch oven and saute your veggies. Be sure to add salt and pepper.

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

After the veggies are soft, throw in your ground beef and cook until there’s no more pink. The ground beef below needs more cooking time.

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

Add your tomato paste and then the rest of your ingredients.

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

It’s starting to look like soup! And it really smells good too. Here it is bubbling away.

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

Let it simmer for about 30 minutes while you go do something fun. Not that cooking isn’t fun, but maybe there’s an episode of House Hunters you’ve been meaning to watch. So I hear.

When it’s ready, ladle it into soup bowls and sprinkle some Parmesan cheese on top.

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

And that’s it. Super simple, and economical too. It makes great leftovers plus it freezes well. It’s so much better than what you’d find in a can and is worth the slight amount of effort that goes into it. It tasted like I spent hours on it. It’s a win-win!

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion finely diced
  • 1 large carrot peeled and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 celery rib trimmed and diced into 1/4-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces lean ground beef
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 28 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 15 ounces canned cannellini beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions
 

  • In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, add the oil and heat over medium heat. Stir in the onion, carrot and celery and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
  • Increase the heat to high and add the ground beef and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the beef is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato paste and mix to combine. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, and bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced by half, about 30 minutes.
  • Remove the bay leaf and discard. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Ginger Garlic Sesame Shrimp

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I’m sort of picky about the meat and seafood I buy. You won’t find me buying the $1.99 pound of “ground beef” (is that a thing?!). But I do look at the relative prices to see what is more affordable than others. Right now, it seems that shrimp is cheaper than most fish and because we are trying to incorporate more seafood in our diet, I’ve been trending towards shrimp. Unfortunately, I’m allergic to shrimp so I can’t eat it, but that doesn’t mean I can make it.

I found a tasty recipe on Simply Recipes that would not be offensive to my picky eater. The only thing he’d have to surgically remove from his plate are the tiny bits of green onion. Someday he’ll eat them.

You will probably have most of the ingredients on hand: soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, olive oil, sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. First prepare the marinade. I’m happy to say you don’t have to do this hours ahead of time. It’s quick.

Mix together all those ingredients I mentioned above and marinate it while you make some rice.

Ginger Garlic Sesame Shrimp

I marinaded the shrimp for about 15 minutes. That seemed to work. Grabbed my wok to feel fancy, but any skillet or saute pan will work. Heat the oil and then use a slotted spoon to remove the shrimp from the bowl and into your hot pan. This will make a mess, but such is life. Cook it for about a minute.

Ginger Garlic Sesame Shrimp

Add half of those onions the younger boy will pick out and keep cooking this until the shrimp are pink and no longer raw. This really goes fast, about 2 minutes. You might want to flip them over half way through.

Ginger Garlic Sesame Shrimp

Set the shrimp aside on a plate and then throw in the marinade from the bowl to make your sauce. Cook it up until it’s thick and syrupy. Pour over your shrimp and coat it all up. Scoop some onto a bed of hot rice and sprinkle some green onions on it to make it pretty. And that’s it. Super fast and not so hard to make. A really good week night dish.

Ginger Garlic Sesame Shrimp

Because I couldn’t taste it myself, I interrogated the boys like their life depended on it. They said it was good. Seriously. Tell me more. They liked how it was sweet, but not too spicy (from the ginger, I suppose). The sesame flavor was not too overpowering. The younger boy admired the lack of vegetables (and that I served this meal with a side of berries). Sounds like a win-win make again!

Ginger Garlic Sesame Shrimp

Ginger Garlic Sesame Shrimp

Servings 3

Ingredients
  

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 pound 16-20 count shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3 green onions sliced on the diagonal
  • cooked rice

Instructions
 

  • In a medium bowl, whisk together soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar, and brown sugar until the sugar has dissolved. Then, whisk in the olive oil, sesame oil, minced garlic, and grated ginger. Place the shrimp in the bowl with the marinade. Toss to coat with the marinade and chill for about 15 minutes.
  • Cook rice to your preferred method.
  • Heat cooking oil in a large wok or skillet on high heat. When the oil is shimmering hot, almost smoking, use a slotted spoon to move the shrimp from the marinade into the hot pan. It will splatter so be careful. Stir fry for a minute.
  • Add half of the sliced green onions. Continue to stir fry. Turn the shrimp over after a minute. Cook for another minute until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through.
  • Remove shrimp from pan and transfer to a serving bowl. Place the remaining marinade in the hot wok or pan. Simmer until it has reduced to a syrup.
  • Pour the sauce over the shrimp. Toss to coat. Sprinkle the shrimp with remaining green onions. Serve over hot rice.

Chipotle Steak Rice Bowls

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I’ll get to the point. We love tacos and fajitas. So much so that I came to the conclusion that we needed another Taco Tuesday, but let’s say on a Friday. I decided mix it up a bit and make these tasty fajita steak rice bowls, which feature juicy slices of homemade fajita-seasoned skirt steak along side sliced onions and peppers over rice. I promise the effort is worth the reward. What am I saying?! You’ll find this recipe is a quick and satisfying meal. This recipe comes from The Recipe Critic and will not disappoint.

First, bring out all your ingredients, which are your seasonings, olive oil, limes, soy sauce, skirt steak (try to pull it out an hour ahead of time because meat cooks more evenly when it’s at room temperature), peppers (any color you want), some butter, and rice (brown or white, your choice).

Go cook some rice.

Next, make the fajita seasoning. A lot of stuff (seven!) goes into this, but that’s where all the flavor. Please do that skip the chipotle chili pepper powder, which you can find among all the other spices at the grocery store. I hate buying spices that I never use again, but you can use this instead of your regular chili powder. It’s worth the purchase.

Chipotle Steak Rice Bowls

Mix it up, spoon out some for your veggies, and put the rest aside for the marinade.

Time for the marinade. You don’t have to marinate the meat for hours. Love it. If you’re like me, you usually forget to marinate ahead of time. Not a problem here. In a gallon size zip-top bag, add olive oil, lime juice, soy sauce, and the fajita seasoning. Throw your steak in the mag, close the bag, and squish the bag around to coat the steak. Let it hang out on your counter while you slice and cook up the peppers and onion. BTW, you can use any color of bell pepper. Any type of onion too. I used yellow and red peppers with red onions.

Now you’re going to cook your onions. I used an iron cast skillet because it makes a nice crust on the steak and it makes me feel fancy (which is super important when cooking as it boosts your confidence level), but any skillet works. After you’ve softened the onion a bit, add your peppers and reserved fajita seasoning. Give it a stir. I don’t like overcooked, soft peppers so I only cooked them for about 4 minutes. These are perfect.

Chipotle Steak Rice Bowls

Transfer them to a plate and set them aside.

Next is the steak. I did sort of make a mess, but that’s okay. Melt some butter in the skillet and gently place it in the pan so you don’t splatter the butter like I did.

Chipotle Steak Rice Bowls

Sear the steak for about 4 minutes on each side. When you think it’s ready, take our your trusty instant thermometer. Wait, you don’t have one? You need to buy one (and no, I’m not making any money from this recommendation). It’s perfect when making sure your meat isn’t raw. Ick. I like mine around medium rare, which is about 145F. If you want it medium, cook until 160F. Let’s not discuss any other acceptable level of rareness.

Chipotle Steak Rice Bowls

When the steak is cooked, transfer it to a cutting board and slice it as thin as you like. Fill a bowl up with hot, cooked rice. Throw on your steak and veggies. Add any toppings you like. Cilantro is a must in our family. We also added spicy pickled carrots and avocado. Yum.

Chipotle Steak Rice Bowls

This is a make again. Two thumbs up. This meal pleases everyone because it’s both adult and kid friendly. The perfectly seasoned steak is flavorful without being too spicy. You can customize the bowl to however you want. My picky eater skipped everything but the rice and steak while throwing some cheese on top. Perfect! There’s no wrong way to make your bowl. Because I tend to low carb it, I skipped the rice and put it on a bed of kale (yes, I’m weird that way), but cabbage would have worked too.

Go make this. Please and thank you.

Chipotle Steak Rice Bowls

Chipotle Steak Rice Bowls

Servings 4

Ingredients
  

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chili pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil divided
  • 2 limes juiced
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds skirt steak
  • 2 medium bell peppers any color
  • 1 medium onion any type
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups rice
  • your favorite toppings

Instructions
 

  • About an hour before cooking, place the steak on the counter so it comes up to room temperature.
  • In a small bowl, combine the chipotle chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt, and pepper. Reserve 1 1/2 teaspoons for the vegetables.
  • In a large zip-top bag, combine 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lime juice, soy sauce, and the remainder of the fajita seasonings. Add the steak, seal the bag, and press the bag to coat the marinade onto steak. Set it aside on the counter while you prepare the vegetables.
  • Remove the onion skin and slice into thin strips. Core the bell peppers to remove the seeds and thinly slice.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 12" cast iron or non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and allow to cook for 4-5 minutes, or until softened. Add the bell peppers and sprinkle with the reserved 1 1/2 teaspoons of fajita seasoning. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. Transfer and set aside on a plate.
  • Melt butter on the same skillet and sear the steak. Allow to sear for 3 to 4 minutes (or more depending on how done you like your steak) on each side. Internal steak temperature should be 145F for medium rare or 160F for medium. Transfer steak to a cutting board and allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing into thin strips.
  • Fill bowls with rice. Top with steak, onions, peppers, and your favorite toppings.

Cuban Baked Chicken with Sweet Peppers and Yellow Rice

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I recently read an amazing book called Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton. It’s a beautiful story told from the perspectives of two women. There’s also a lot of discussion of food. On the first night, Marisal, one of the women, eats lechón asado, which is pork marinated in a mojo sauce (sour oranges with seasonings such as oregano, garlic, and cumin), served with black beans, rice, and maduros (fried sweet plantains). It sounds amazing. I would love to make it some day, but I heard that the authentic way is to roast a whole pig all day. I think I’ll find an easier recipe.

Cuban Baked Chicken has Cuban influences, but is not traditionally Cuban. It’s a variation of pollo con arroz and includes peppers, cumin, turmeric, and peas, ingredients you’d find in many Cuban dishes. I changed up the recipe found on Food Network because I’m just that way. More important, this dish cures the recent casserole cravings going through my household.

Pull all your ingredients together: chicken, salt/pepper, olive oil, an onion, yellow and red bell peppers, turmeric, cumin, rice, chicken broth, and peas. I like to measure everything out so all I have to do is dump it into a dutch oven or skillet.

Cuban Chicken

The original recipe calls for a whole chicken cut in 8 pieces, but I find that using my favorite cut of meat, boneless, skinless chicken thighs, tastier. Cook the chicken for about 8 minutes each side. Mine fell apart, which I think made it better. Just be sure it’s nicely browned before you set it aside.

Cook in stages: first the onion for a few minutes, add garlic for another minute, add the peppers for a few minutes, and then add your spices and rice. Stir until well coated. Pour in the broth and bring it to a boil. Throw in your browned chicken and transfer the whole thing to the oven at 375F for about 25 minutes.

Cuban Chicken

Because everything is cooking all by itself and is a complete meal, go do something fun in the meantime.

When it’s done, pull it out of the oven (of course), fluff up the rice, and add some peas.

Cuban Chicken

Scoop it onto a plate and top with cilantro to make it look pretty. Dinner is served!

Cuban Chicken

This is comfort food at its best. Pieces of juicy chicken with seasoned rice that is perfectly tender. Just enough veggies as not to distract. The cumin really comes through and I love the color of turmeric. This is definitely a make again.

Cuban Chicken

Cuban Baked Chicken with Sweet Peppers and Yellow Rice

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper seeded, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper seeded, cored, and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup white rice
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • cilantro for granish

Instructions
 

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pat the chicken dry. Season with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large oven-proof dutch oven pan or deep skillet, with a lid, over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until well browned, about 8 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a plate.
  • Add the onion to the pan and cook, stirring often, until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute longer. Add the peppers and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the turmeric, cumin, rice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir until the rice is coated. Pour in the broth, and stir to distribute the rice evenly. Increase the heat to high and boil until liquid begins to be absorbed into the rice, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken to the rice. Cover and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake until the rice is tender and chicken cooks through, about 25 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and uncover. Fluff the rice and stir in the peas. Cover and let sit to warm the peas, about 5 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro and serve.

Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

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Where do I begin? Recently, one particular boy says I never make casseroles. He’s right, but I was surprised because casseroles are sort of old school. Then again, there’s nothing wrong with that. I started searching for an easy casserole recipe when I stumbled on this one from the Kitchn. Easy it is, but it wasn’t exactly what I expected. This casserole is more of a stew that I ended up serving over rice, not something the original recipe suggests to do. In the end, I think that I’ll need to make a real casserole another day. In the meantime, you’ll enjoy this meal because it’s really easy to prepare, makes plenty of leftovers, and tastes even better the next day.

I changed a few things. I cooked my own chicken thighs and chopped them up rather than buy a rotisserie chicken to shred. I also dumped everything into the casserole pan rather than use a bowl. Saves you from washing yet another item.

Season your chicken thighs with salt and pepper, and cook it up in a heated skillet for about 6 minutes each side. Set it aside and let it cool before you chop it up into bite-sized pieces. You don’t want to burn your hands. In the meantime, dump chopped onion, black beans, canned corn, diced tomatoes, and green chiles in your casserole pan. Throw in a bunch of seasonings: chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, cumin, and salt. Chop up your cooled chicken and add it to the pan.

Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Mix it all up and pour a cup of chicken broth over it. Pop it in the oven for 40 minutes until it’s thickened. Yeah, right. This is where the recipe went south. It NEVER thickened. Not even a bit. I suppose the idea was for the liquid to condense, but that didn’t happen. Once I realized this, I quickly made some rice. You can get these quick rice packages that cook in 2 minutes in the microwave. It’s not instant rice! You’re just heating up fully cooked rice. I always have a few on hand for times like these.

While zapping your rice in the microwave, sprinkle a ton of shredded cheese and stick it back in the oven for 5 minutes (not the 10 minutes the recipe states). Let it cool for 15 minutes. Maybe now it’ll thicken? Nope. I think it’s so you don’t burn your tongue.

Serve it over rice garnished with green onions and cilantro.

Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Not what I expected and frankly, I was disappointed. This wasn’t a casserole at all. It’s a stew! It tasted good, but not fantastic. Whatever. I wasn’t going to let it go to waste so I covered the pan with foil and stuck it in the fridge for another day.

The next day we had salmon for dinner, but the day after that, I pulled out the “casserole” and exclaimed that it was leftovers night. And guess what? It tasted amazing. The flavors infused into something quite special, almost like enchiladas. Not sure if it’s a make again for us, but I think you’ll enjoy it.

Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Cheesy Southwestern Chicken Casserole

Servings 8

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/2 large white onion diced
  • 14.5 ounces canned black beans drained and rinsed
  • 14.5 ounces canned corn kernels drained
  • 15 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 4 ounces diced green chiles
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese
  • cooked rice

Instructions
 

  • Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425F.
  • In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook in the skillet for about 6 minutes on each side, until it's browned and cooked through. Set aside to cool.
  • In a 9×13-inch baking dish add white onion, black beans, corn kernels, diced tomatoes and their juices, and diced green chiles (do not drain). Next add chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, ground cumin, and kosher salt.
  • Chop cooled chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the baking dish. Stir to combine. Pour in chicken broth.
  • Bake until the mixture is heated through, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, thinly slice scallions and coarsely chop fresh cilantro.
  • Sprinkle the casserole with 2 cups shredded Mexican blend cheese and bake until melted, about 5 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the scallions and cilantro before serving. Serve over rice.

Pressure Cooker Mongolian Beef (and Stuff)

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Hi everyone! I took a little break from blogging for various reasons. Cooking dinner relaxes me and is something I do nearly every day, but sometimes I get in a rut, which is what happened in July. I started making the standard “I don’t feel like trying,” meals, which are still really good. For example:

Spaghetti with “homemade” sauce. Saute a pound of ground beef with chopped onions and garlic, pepper and salt, and dried herbs (oregano, basil, and a tiny bit of mint…secret ingredient alert!). Add two jars of spaghetti sauce and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer the better. And there you have at least 3-4 servings of sauce that you can use for any pasta, ravioli, or tortellini.

Tried and true recipes, many that our featured on my blog. I make make Stroganoff at least once a month. Super easy dishes like Ham and Cheese Pie. Delicious comfort food like Meatloaf.

Taco Tuesday. Sometimes I get creative, like Slow Cooker Carnitas, which makes a ton of leftovers that are good to freeze. Lately I’ve been lazy. Grab a pound of ground beef and a taco seasoning packet. Beef tacos without any effort. It’s totally cheating and I don’t care.

My grocery store has marinated chicken, beef, and pork. I love the idea of convenient food that is not frozen or processed. These marinated packages are super easy and tasty. It’s also easy to make your own marinade. Just mix up a few ingredients and marinate for a couple of hours. One of my favorites is Balsamic Chicken.

I also made this really easy Pressure Cooker Mongolian Beef from Pressure Cooking Today. It’s just as good, if not better, than takeout, and simple to make. And for some strange reason, we rarely have leftovers.

Grab your ingredients.

Mongolian Beef

Season a couple pounds of flank steak that you’d sliced up with salt and pepper. Brown it in your Instant Pot (go buy one if you haven’t already). Make sure you don’t put all of it in at once or you’ll end up with a lot of liquid and the meat isn’t browned at all. Make this in batches! When the beef is browned, set aside.

Throw in some garlic and saute. Throw in some more goodies: soy sauce, water, brown sugar, and ginger. You can’t go wrong with these ingredients. They are magical to anything they touch. Cook that for a bit.

Add your beef and pressure cook everything for 12 minutes. You’re almost done.

Mongolian Beef

You want to make sure there’s a yummy sauce so you’ll combine cornstarch and a little water, and add that to everything in the pot. Stir it up until it’s boiling and thickened. Add some sliced green onions too.

Mongolian Beef

Done. Oh, make sure you have some rice handy. Can it get any easier than that? No.

Mongolian Beef
Mongolian Beef

Pressure Cooker Mongolian Beef

Servings 6

Ingredients
  

  • 2 pounds flank steak cut into 1/4" strips
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 green onions sliced into 1" pieces

Instructions
 

  • Season beef with salt and pepper. Put oil in the cooking pot and select saute. When oil begins to sizzle, brown meat in batches until all meat is browned – do not crowd. Transfer meat to a plate when browned.
  • Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add soy sauce, water, brown sugar, and ginger. Stir to combine.
  • Add browned beef and any accumulated juices. Select High Pressure. Set timer for 12 minutes.
  • When beep sounds turn pressure cooker off and use a quick pressure release. When valve drops carefully remove the lid.
  • Combine the cornstarch and 3 tablespoons water, whisking until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to the sauce in the pot stirring constantly. Select Simmer and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sauce thickens. Stir in green onions.

Shrimp, White Bean, and Feta Skillet

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Shrimp is a really quick protein to cook so it’s ideal when you want to make a fast weekday meal for dinner. Although not as inexpensive as ground beef or chicken thighs, it’s cheaper than beef right now and a fresh alternative when you want to change it up.

I found this recipe on the Food Network and is guaranteed not to fail. Just don’t step away from the skillet. First off, gather your ingredients. I purchased shrimp that were already peeled and deveined, without the tails. I hate cleaning shrimp and frankly, I do a terrible job at it so I buy them ready to go. Worth every penny. Thinly slice up an onion. Drain and rinse your canned beans. Measure out the rest of your ingredients.

Shrimp, White Bean, and Feta Skillet

Start out by cooking your onions until they are soft and a little brown.

Shrimp, White Bean, and Feta Skillet

Stir in your seasonings and garlic. Cook until the garlic is soft and fragrant, just about a minute.

Add the tomatoes and boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for a couple minutes. You’ll notice that the sauce is a bit thicker, which is what you want.

Shrimp, White Bean, and Feta Skillet

Add the shrimp and beans.

Shrimp, White Bean, and Feta Skillet

Watch your shrimp! It’ll take only about 2-3 minutes until they start to turn pink. You don’t want them fully cooked yet. You’re not done. Stir in your spinach (which your kid will pick out with the deftness of a surgeon, but hey, you tried!). Cook for another couple of minutes. Your spinach will be wilted, but a bit green, and your shrimp are completely cooked.

Shrimp, White Bean, and Feta Skillet

Remove the pan from the heat, pile on some feta on top, and cover the skillet for another couple of minutes while the cheese is warm. Now you’re done!

Shrimp, White Bean, and Feta Skillet

Your family will be impressed at how fancy this looks. Ooh! Shrimp! But what they will really like is how tasty it is. This recipe uses only a half a pound of shrimp so another opportunity for you to stretch your dollars by using beans, which add a creaminess that is out of this world. The salty feta on top finishes it off. Enjoy!

Shrimp, White Bean, and Feta Skillet

Shrimp, White Bean, and Feta Skillet

Servings 3

Ingredients
  

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasonings
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 14 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 8 ounces large shrimp peeled and deveined, tails removed
  • 14 ounces cannellini beans drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups baby spinach packed, about 2 1/2 ounces
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions
 

  • Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and just starting to turn brown in some spots, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, Italian seasoning, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir until the garlic is softened, about 1 minute.
  • Pour in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shrimp and beans and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp just start to turn orange, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the spinach and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the spinach is just wilted and bright green, and the shrimp are cooked through and opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and sprinkle the feta over top. Cover until the cheese is warmed through, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately.