It's time for this month's Secret Recipe Club! I was assigned Cookin' Mimi - a blog full of comfort food and home cooking with lots of influences like Southern, Southwestern, and some International. The author is a Southern Californian with a Southern family - which explains the variety of influences! She doesn't remember a time when she wasn't cooking.
I was in crunch mode when I chose a recipe, on the search for an easy dinner. Mimi is a big fan of casseroles, like me, so I looked at this Cheesy Broccoli Chicken and Rice Casserole and this traditional Chicken and Rice Casserole, but decided on this Cheesy Green Chile Chicken and Rice Casserole.
But back to the casserole! It is really straightforward and simple - combine chicken, green chiles, rice, and a sour cream sauce; top with cheese; bake; the end. But something in the recipe jumped out at me as unfamiliar - it called for par-boiled or converted rice. What the heck is that? I turned to the internet and found out that by par-boiling the rice, the nutrients of the outer parts are forced into the grain before they are removed - making it something in between brown and white rice. In fact, it supposedly has most of the nutrients of brown rice, an even lower glycemic index, and the soft texture of white rice, without getting as mushy. How had I never heard of this before?! It is perfect to use in casseroles and slow cookers because the texture holds up. It's awesome!
But, there is a downside - unless you are ordering it from Asia, most brands are grown in the Southern US and have high levels of inorganic arsenic, which is toxic. So, you know, don't eat a ton of it all the time.
I've joined a group called Improv Cooking Challenge, where each month 2 ingredients are chosen for us to make dishes with. This month was peaches and cream - yum! I scrolled through my saved recipes on Pinterest and found this Peach Cobbler Trifle that looked perfect for the challenge!
Pound cake is layered with a pudding mixture, peaches, and a crumble topping. My trifle dish is actually a punch bowl, so I only made 2 layers. But with a taller, narrower dish - you could make 3 layers.
I really liked that the pudding mixture used orange zest and sour cream to take it out of too sweet territory. I added a pinch of salt to the crumble mixture and the peaches to help in this regard, too.
I love Spring. I love the flowers, and the weather (sometimes), and the resurgence of vegetables. Spring vegetables are here and gone so quickly (if you are buying seasonally, that is), so take advantage of them while you can! Melissa (Smells Like Brownies) and I decided to make this Spring vegetable dish because it uses spaetzle, which is a bit more fun than your standard pasta, and gruyere, which pairs so well with these veggies.
Spaetzle is a chewy German egg noodle. Melissa is familiar with it because she studied German. I've eaten it in restaurants many times, but only made it once before this past fall. And by made it, I mean that my friend made it with her Grandmother's (I think) recipe and her spaetzle press. Meanwhile, I made a vegetarian ragu with mushrooms, butter, onion, thyme, and oregano and poached some duck eggs (thank you, gorgeous Portland farmer's market).
You know what is very summery? Tacos. Especially fish tacos. Melissa and I were looking for something light and fresh, with a lot of flavor and texture. So we cobbled together a bunch of different ideas and came up with these gorgeous tacos!
We started out by marinating mahi-mahi with tequila, lime juice, garlic, red onion, and cumin. Yum, yum, yum! We chose mahi-mahi because it is a mild white fish that will take on a marinade and stand up to searing.
We wanted a good sear on the outside, so we sauteed it at high heat for a short time, let it rest, and then flaked it into big pieces with forks.
We also wanted to make our own condiments, and came up with a lime and crema (Mexican sour cream with tons of flavor) coleslaw and a chipotle mayo, along with avocado, pickled onions, cotija cheese, and cilantro (or parsley for me).
When I first bought my bundt cake pan from Williams Sonoma, I kept the recipe from the back of the box - a big square of cardboard hanging around in my cabinets for years. I was rearranging my bakeware the other day and decided it was finally time to try the recipe, if only so that I could get rid of that piece of cardboard.
But holy moly, you guys, this thing was awesome! It is crazy rich and moist and dense and intensely chocolaty - even my cake obsessed husband could only eat a little slice at a time. This is definitely a cake for sharing with friends, trust me, you cannot handle this cake alone.
Part of what makes this cake so awesome is that it has multiple kinds of chocolate in it, the first being bars of semi-sweet baking chocolate. I choose Ghirardelli because it seemed fancy to me and I was feeling fancy. You will combine the baking chocolate with cocoa powder for double the chocolaty awesomeness and melt with hot water.
I grew a monster dill plant - I'm talking like 3 feet tall with stems as thick as pencils. So I went to Melissa and begged her to help me use up a ton of dill. We brainstormed for a bit and came up with this salmon recipe. I mean, what goes better with dill than salmon?
This recipe couldn't be easier - pour melted butter over a flank (or filet) of salmon, spread on minced garlic, top with dill, lemon slices, salt, and pepper. Then just pop into the oven for 10 minutes, for a regular sized fish. I picked up salmon from my favorite fish shop (MediterraFish at Mosaic, if you are a local), because their Norwegian salmon is healthy, sustainable, fatty, and HUGE. Like really, really thick. So it was more of a 15 minute fish (though I cut off a piece for me a bit early because I like my salmon medium - not quite opaque in the center, but still able to flake).
The house smelled Ah. Maze. Ing. while this was cooking, and just a few ingredients imparted a lot of flavor. It would have been just fine on it's own, but we also made a sauce with sour cream, horseradish, lemon, shallot, and dill that took it to the next level. So good, simple, and summery - get on it, people, and make this! Stay tuned for the side dish recipe - Greek style zucchini salad.
A friend of mine asked if I could put together a week of meals that are healthy, easy, and cost effective for a single working mother. I thought that sounded like a great idea! But I definitely underestimated how much work it would be. It's hard to make food for just two people without having a ton of leftovers - so to get a different meal in each night, I had to figure out how to use ingredients in multiple dishes. And I wanted to make sure that they were healthy, had a bit of variety, and took 30 minutes or less to put together. It's a tall order, but I think I managed. Each recipe is sized for two adults, and there is a shopping list included at the bottom of the post.
First up - Broiled Salmon with Mustard Butter and Boiled Potatoes and Green Beans. This meal is healthy, easy, and comes together in under 30 minutes. I am so in love with this mustard butter (that I discovered making this recipe), I make it all the time now. There are no grains in this dinner, and as far as starchy potatoes go, baby red-skinned are relatively low on the glycemic index. Plus - by cooking more salmon and vegetables than you need, you will already have the ingredients you need for dinner the next night. This meal comes first because fish needs to be cooked the same night that it is purchased for best quality.
The salmon is going to be one of the more expensive proteins for the week, but it is worth it because it is so good for you (not to mention delicious). Gotta get those Omega-3's! However, I do not recommend buying farm-raised Atlantic salmon as it is full of chemicals and pollutants. Instead, I recommend buying wild Alaskan or farmed Norwegian. The Norwegian salmon is pretty great and I can get it here in NoVA for around $15/lb, and coho goes for $13/lb (versus $29/lb for king salmon, yikes!). If you absolutely cannot swing Alaskan or Norwegian salmon, buy another type of fish instead (cod, halibut, or tilapia would be good).
For our second dinner, we use the extra ingredients from the previous night, plus a few more, to make Salmon Nicoise Salad. The only thing you have to cook for this dinner is hard boiled eggs, and you can do those in advance if you like. Boil more than you need, because we will use some in another dish. Like the previous night, this meal is grain-free and loaded with healthy fats. You can see how big one serving is in this photo - I ate the whole thing, Jasper only ate half of his. So if this is too much food for you, plan to set aside half of it for lunch the next day. It should travel well, just keep the dressing separate.
This is actually the most expensive meal of the week (if it is making 2 servings, and not 4), so the kind of greens you use will matter. I used mache or lamb's lettuce, which I think is really delicious. But there are definitely cheaper lettuces/greens out there. A note on olives - nicoise olives are traditional, but expensive, so feel free to sub kalamatas, which taste very similar. You could even buy jarred kalamatas to save even more.
As promised in my last post, today we are talking about Rhubarb Sour Cream Pie. Oh yeah, baby. I have a bonafide obsession with fruit and sour cream pies. That tang to balance out sweetness, and the creaminess - yum.
Just a few ingredients are all that is required - flour, sugar, sour cream, and an egg for the custard; and chopped rhubarb.
We already talked about crust this week, so you know that is going to be good. I like the idea of a crumble topping with this, especially to add sweetness since rhubarb is so tart.
Everybody knows that peaches and cream go well together, so it makes sense to think that peaches would also pair perfectly with creme fraiche. I recently discovered that you can make creme friache at home with just heavy cream and buttermilk - which is way cheaper than buying it! I used the thick, creamy, and tart product in not one, not two, not three, but FOUR peach recipes. So let's dig in!
First up is a pie that I have blogged about before, but am bringing up again because it is just so freaking good. Peaches, creme fraiche, and streusel - layered into tender, flaky pie crust. Definitely one of my favorite pies ever.
Next up we have muffins made moist with the help of creme fraiche, packed with chunks of juicy peach, and with a little kick from both fresh and candied ginger. My husband LOVED these - we went through all 24 muffins in 2 weeks!
What is better in the summer than a lovely bowl of ice cream? This peach sherbet gets it's tart creaminess from (you guessed it!) homemade creme fraiche.
It's pretty easy to make, too, as far as ice cream goes. You do have to cook the peaches first, and then chill them. But after that it is just blend and freeze!
Last, but not least, is a white peach and lemon thyme galette served with sweetened creme fraiche. I, foolishly, did not notice that my peaches weren't ripe before I peeled them and had to get a bit creative, poaching them in honey, lemon thyme, and white wine in order to soften them before baking.
There are many recipes to choose from here, all of them delicious. Enjoy those peaches while they last!
I have been dying to make this pie ever since I discovered the recipe last summer, sadly too late for strawberry season. I love the combination of sour cream and fruit - really, REALLY love it. One of my favorite pies ever is this creme fraiche and peach pie that you know I will be making as soon as peaches are in season.
The filling is so easy it's almost silly, but before we get to that I want to talk about this crust. This crust! First of all, can we acknowledge that that is the prettiest crust I have ever made? She's improving, ladies and gentlemen! Part of that is due to how easy this crust is to work with. I had thought I discovered the secret to good crust two years ago with Martha Stewart's half butter, half shortening pate brisee - BUT, then I discovered this recipe with butter and lard. Lard, folks, is the bomb. Why have I never used it before?! After all, shortening is just pretending to be lard - so why not go with the real stuff? The texture, the taste, the ease of rolling it out even when it's cold - *sigh*. Please tell me you will make this. Seriously, go make it right now.