Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rice Pilaf

You never have to settle for plain rice again.  Use this recipe as a starting point and experiment with your own variations.

Rice Pilaf
Adapted from "The Language of Baklava" by Dianna Abu-Jaber

4 - 6 tablespoons butter (can substitute/blend with olive oil)
4 ounces spaghetti noodles, crumbled (can substitute any tiny pasta - orzo, pastina, etc.)
2 cups long-grain rice
4 cups water (or homemade/low-sodium chicken broth)
1 teaspoon salt (leave out if using broth)
1/2 cup pine nuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pepper to taste

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in bottom of large heavy saucepan with lid.  Crumble uncooked spaghetti into warmed butter, stir until spaghetti just begins to "toast".  Add rice, and if needed additional butter.  Continue to stir until rice is coated and spaghetti begins to smell nutty.  Add liquid and salt and turn up heat to bring to a boil.  Once water is boiling, cover with lid and lower fire to simmer, approx. 20 minutes.  Turn off heat and let stand 10 minutes.
Melt remaining butter in small sautee' pan and toast pine nuts until golden.

Sprinkle butter and pine nuts over rice and dust with cinnamon.  Add pepper to taste.

  • Add or substitute almonds or pecans for the pine nuts and/or add dried cranberries, golden raisins, dried cherries.
  • To make a rice dressing or to make this dish a main course, add cooked crumbled sausage or ground beef/turkey.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding (edited)

In New Orleans, everyone has a favorite bread pudding recipe:  some with pineapple, some with raisins and apples, many with "hard" sauce (see below).  I tried a new variation on my mother's bread pudding recipe.  DS and I LOVE pumpkin, so as an alternative to Krispy Kreme's Pumpkin Spice Cake Donuts, I thought I would make a special Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding.

(If you have never had bread pudding, it is like a big baked pan of french toast.)

Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding

4 cups stale bread cubes (french bread and brioche are best, but any bread will work - even stale cake doughnuts, remember to adjust the sugar accordingly)
3 cups milk (I used 2 cups milk and 1 cup almond milk)
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 can pumpkin (approx. 1 cup)
1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (adjust to your taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar (you can adjust to your taste - you can also add sauce)
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon orange zest (optional)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
2 tablespoons Steen's Cane Syrup (optional)

If you do not have stale bread, place sliced/cubed bread on a sheet pan with sides and "toast" in a very low oven, just enough to dry out the bread.

Place bread cubes in a buttered baking dish.  In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients, except pecans, making sure to fully beat eggs.  Slowly, pour custard mixture over the bread.  Allow bread to absorb the custard mixture.  Sprinkle pecans over the top, and gently stir into mixture.  Allow mixture to sit about 5 minutes to allow custard mixture to soak into bread.

Set baking dish into a larger dish, filling the larger dish with water (bain-marie).  Bake in 350 degree oven for approx. 1 hour or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and custard is cooked.

Delicious warm, or at room temperature (I will even eat it straight from the fridge).  If desired, top with sauce (see below), or you may also use whipped cream, melted jelly, or dust with powdered sugar.

Pumpkin Spice Sauce
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Mix ingredients until sugar is dissolved.  Add more water or sugar to desired consistency.

For a "hard" sauce, add 1 jigger of bourbon, rum, Cointreau or your favorite liquour.

Slow-Cooked Lentils

This is a great quick and economical meal.  It is not the most beautiful dish (especially if you let the lentils become over-done), but it is delicious.  This makes about 7 one cup servings.

16 ounces lentils (approx. 2 heaping cups)
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chopped carrots
1 can diced tomatoes (I like the fire roasted)
3 cups chicken broth (can substitute water or beef broth)
1 cup diced sausage (can substitute ham or leave out for vegetarian meal)
salt and pepper to taste (if using broth and sausage or ham, do not add additional salt)

Combine all ingredients in slow cooker, cover.
Cook on high for 4 - 5 hours.
At 4 hours check for doneness and, if necessary, add additional liquid if it has been absorbed by lentils.

Serving suggestions:
  • Serve with a chunk of good quality bread.
  • To make a complete protein, serve over rice (white or brown).
  • Add a few teaspoons of chili powder to make lentil chili.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Apple and Sage Pork Chops

My guys love pork chops and (since I can take them or leave them) I am always looking for new recipes.
DS actually suggested this recipe when he saw a McCormick's Recipe Inspirations spice mix at the grocery store.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention, so I made several changes from the original recipe:
  • used a  thinner 1/2 -inch chop in place of 1-inch
  • substituted chicken broth and teaspoon of honey for apple juice
  • added pepper and Tabasco
  • reduced the amount of sage and thyme
  • increased the garlic (just a little)

While prepping my ingredients, I had pictures of Peter Brady saying "pork chops and applesauce" running through my head.   The sauce was wonderfully thick and rich with the right balance of sweet and savoryI hope you enjoy this fall-inspired dish as much as we did.

Apple and Sage Pork Chops

1 1/4 pounds boneless pork chops (1/2 - 1 inch thick - based on your preference)
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 1/2 teaspoons dehydrated minced garlic (if you use fresh garlic, add it to the pan with the apples)
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 red apples, thinly sliced
1/2 cup apple juice (or chicken broth)
1 teaspoon Tabasco (or other hot sauce)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
  • Rinse and pat dry pork chops.
  • Season flour with spices, salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle both sides of pork chops with seasoned flour.
  • Heat olive oil in large skillet and brown pork chops on both sides over medium-high heat.
  • Remove pork chops from skillet and put in warm oven.
  • Add onion, cook and stir for 3 minutes.  Add extra olive oil or a little butter, if needed.
  • Add apples, cook and stir for 2 minutes.  Add extra olive oil or a little butter, if needed.  Add fresh garlic, if using.
  • Stir in juice, Tabasco, sugar, honey and any remaining seasoned flour until well mixed.
  • Return pork chops to skillet, bring to boil and reduce heat to low.
  • Cover and simmer 5 minutes or until desired doneness.
Serve with buttered egg noodles and steamed green beans.