Spanish Rice

spanish rice 3I haven’t posted in over a week, which isn’t like me! But, as you hopefully read a little while back, our new little venture, Hanky Planky, has been keeping us super busy. And that’s a good thing. But between that, my daily transcription job, a three week cold that turned into bronchitis, my three kids and one of them starting softball (I’m team mom, again!), I’ve been a tad bit occupied. Aside from that though, here’s a good one for you.

You all know my love for Mexican food runs deep. It’s a craving that can never truly be satisfied because I could literally eat Mexican food every day. And with this rice recipe, your international meal will be complete!

My mom has made this recipe for as far back as I can remember. She’s always called it Spanish Rice, but since it’s always served with Mexican food, maybe it’s actually Mexican rice? Whatever it is, it’s so, so good! But, and I haven’t told her this yet (Hi Mom!), I changed her recipe. Just slightly though! And it was out of convenience that turned into a blessing in disguise. That change is the carrots. Our favorite Mexican restaurant serves their rice with carrots in it, and they’ve got some pretty good rice. So since the original recipe called for tomatoes and I didn’t have any, I opted to add in carrots in their place instead. And yep, this is the way I’ll make it from now on. Try it Mom!!!

Spanish Rice

  • 1 tbsp. bacon drippings or canola/vegetable oil
  • 1 c. white rice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 1/4 c. tomato sauce
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 c. carrots, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. each cumin & ground black pepper

In a small to medium pot, heat on medium low. Add the bacon drippings or oil. Once melted, add in the white rice. Stir to coat the rice with the oil. Continue to stir the rice occasionally to keep it from burning. Make sure to keep heat on low, and do this for about 5 minutes.

Add in the garlic and salt. Stir together. Then add in the rest of the ingredients. Stir and turn heat up to medium/medium-high. Once it comes to a boil, put a lid on it and reduce heat to low (simmer). Cook for 22 minutes. Stir and serve.

spanish ricespanish rice 2Now that you have this recipe and my refried bean one too, what’s stopping you from making an authentic Mexican meal at home? Nothing, so get in that kitchen!

Simple Tomato Soup

tomato soup 5Winter in Southern California doesn’t exist. To attest to that, I’m currently wearing a tank top and sandals. I have jeans on too, in case you thought I was pantsless. But seriously, this just isn’t right. I saw on Instagram yesterday that it was snowing in New Jersey. I know you East Coast people are probably sick of the cold and can’t believe that I’d complain about the 80 degree weather we’re having today but still…. I’d like to experience a mild winter for once. Since “winter” in California isn’t really happening, I thought now was as good a time as any to share my simple tomato soup with you. This is great for lunch on a cold day (I don’t know much about cold days) or a quick dinner. And this must be served with a grilled cheese. It’s a requirement. At least with my soup. This makes a medium sized pot and is supposed to be an accompaniment soup. Yes, I’m very fancy that way.

Simple Tomato Soup

  • 2 c. chicken broth
  • 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (or crushed)
  • 1/2 small white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning (or 1 frozen basil cube)
  • 1/2 c. half & half
  • ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

In a medium sized pot, heat olive oil on medium. Once heated, add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Then add in the tomatoes (juice too) chicken broth, sugar, salt, pepper, bay leaf and the rest of the seasonings. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and then with an immersion blender, pulse soup a few times to thin it out to a smoother consistency. Turn off the heat and add the half & half. Stir and taste and add more pepper or more sugar if necessary. Serve immediately.

tomato souptomato soup 3tomato soup 2tomato soup 4tomato soup 6tomato soup 7I’m still holding out hope that a little bit of winter will arrive soon. That snow on New Year’s Eve was a total fluke and won’t happen again for at least another 10 years but I’m still wanting to get some use out of my boots. But for now, sandals it is.

Easy Cinnamon Apples

cinnapp 5Fall is here. But where I live, it really hasn’t felt like fall at all. Part of my weekend included wearing a tank top and shorts, wishing for a cool breeze as I sat watching my daughter’s softball game. It was downright hot in the sun! But a gloomy morning came to be the following day and desperately craving fall comfort food, I decided to whip up these apples. Hopefully to speed along the fall weather as well. Although it’s just wishful thinking, since the weather forecast shows 90’s midweek. This just doesn’t seem right for late October. But these apples tricked me a little into feeling like fall was in the air.

Easy Cinnamon Apples

  • 2 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced in thin slices (any variety apple will do)
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. chopped nuts of your choice (I used almonds)
  • 2 tbsp. whiskey, optional (I used Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey)*

Heat a pan over medium heat. Add butter and let melt. Add in apples and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 5 minutes or until tender. *Now here’s the optional part if you choose to do so. Remove the pan from the heat. Like away from the stove. Pour in the whiskey. Place pan back on heat. It will most likely flame up so stand back and BE CAREFUL. If it doesn’t flame up, slightly tip the pan towards the flame and it will then catch and flame up. The flames will die off very quickly.  But please make sure you NEVER EVER pour hard alcohol straight from the bottle into a pan that is sitting on the heat. You can very easily catch the entire bottle AND yourself on fire. If you don’t want to use the alcohol or are afraid of setting yourself on fire, just skip this entire step.

Then at this point, add in the brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir. Then add in the nuts and stir to combine.

This recipe makes a smaller serving so if you’re wanting extra, you can easily double it.

cinnappcinnapp 2cinnapp 3cinnapp 4Now you have these delicious, incredibly simple cinnamon apples to do with what you will! I used them on top of a shortcake to make my very own Cinnamon Apple Shortcake. But a few other suggestions to put these apples up on top of:

  • Vanilla bean ice cream
  • Pancakes
  • Waffles
  • Pork chops

They’d also be great used in an apple crisp. But I will definitely be trying them in a Cinnamon Apple Cobbler. Look for that upcoming blog post soon!

Macaroni & Cheese

mac n cheeseThere are so many mac and cheese recipes out there! So why make this one? Simply put, it’s GOOD! Very creamy, easy to make, and it doesn’t require baking time in the oven. Plus, it doesn’t call for any special fancy ingredients. Look in your pantry and fridge and I’m sure you’ll have everything you need to make this side dish. Annnndddd…. no heavy cream. Yet, it’s delectably creamy. Yes, it’s possible to have that consistency WITHOUT all that fat. Your thighs just thanked me!

P.S. If you’re having a BBQ this holiday weekend, this is the side dish to make!

Macaroni & Cheese

  • 10 ounces elbow macaroni noodles
  • 2 1/2 tbsp. butter
  • 2 tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups of milk (I use 1 %)
  • 1 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Dash of cayenne powder
  • Dash of ground nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper to taste (I used an 1/8 tsp.- 1/4 tsp. each)

Heat a pot full of water to boiling. Cook noodles according to package directions and drain. In the same pot, add butter over medium heat. Melt the butter and then add in the garlic, as well as the rest of the seasonings. Saute for a few minutes and then add in the flour. Stir using a whisk and let cook for about 1 minute. Add in milk, whisking as you pour. As the sauce heats up, it will start to thicken and bubble. Make sure to stir occasionally during this. When the mixture just comes to a bubble, add in the cheeses, stirring until the cheese melts. Add the noodles back into the pot and stir together. Turn off heat and taste, adding more salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately.

mac n cheese 8mac n cheese 7mac n cheese 6mac n cheese 5mac n cheese 9mac n cheese 4mac n cheese 3mac n cheese 2This stuff also reheats pretty well, so if you have leftovers, don’t throw them away!

I Can’t Believe That’s Not Butter!

Quick tip of the day: To save time and drastically cut back on calories, I use cooking spray instead of butter on grilled sandwiches. *GASP* No butter? Yes I say! And I don’t even miss it. I’ve been using this trick for so long now that although my love of butter runs deep, I don’t miss it at all on grilled samiches.

I always use canola oil cooking spray but I think coconut oil spray is a great choice too. Here’s the kicker though. When you look at the nutritional info on the can of canola cooking spray, it’s zeros all the way down baby! When you look at the nutritional info on butter, you’ll see some zeros there too. Just at the end of a three digit number! Plus, with cooking spray, the bread still gets golden, brown and toasty.

Just spray your bread (same as you would spread butter on it) and cook away. That easy. That fast. And that simple.

grilled cheese 3grilled cheese 2grilled cheeseTry it once and after your first bite, you’ll be saying “I can’t believe that’s not butter!”

Cabbage Salad with Peanut & Sesame Dressing

dressing and cabbage salad 2

This is so good that I could eat it everyday. Actually last week, I did eat it everyday with my lunch. I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s delicious, and it’s that good! This would make a great accompaniment to any Asian type of dish (i.e. me love you long time house special chicken!) or teriyaki chicken, katsu, chow mein…. you get my drift.

The star of this dish is the dressing. It is incredibly flavorful. It’s pretty much the perfect dressing. Remember how I mentioned in a previous post that dressing tastes better when it’s homemade? Example, RIGHT HERE!!!! This is so delectable and the possibilities for this dressing are endless. It would be great on grilled chicken, or as the dressing for a Chinese chicken salad, or you can just grab the bottle and squirt it straight in your mouth. Whatever floats your boat. And it’s so simple to make.

Peanut & Sesame Dressing (adapted from Jamie Cooks It Up)

Roll out the red carpet, the star has arrived!

Roll out the red carpet, the star has arrived!

  • 3/4 c. mayo
  • 1/3 c. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. soy sauce
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic (or 2 garlic cloves)
  • 1/2 c. dry roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • pinch of red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients except the peanuts to a blender and blend on high. Then add the peanuts and blend until smooth. Makes approximately 2 cups.

*If you do not have peanuts, peanut butter would be a great alternative. Out of sesame oil and sesame seeds? Use tahini! I’m all about making adjustments and substitutions. Use what you’ve got. Who likes running to the grocery store for one or two items anyways?!?!

Like that bottle up there? Only $.98 at Walmart and they are absolutely perfect for dressings and sauces.

Now onto the cabbage salad. It’s super simple and very affordable. This is a perfect dish to serve to a crowd. I usually only do cabbage and carrots but this time added julienned red bell peppers. cabbage salad

Cabbage Salad

  • 1 head of green cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienned

Great additions to this salad would also be sliced green onions and cilantro, which also adds great color. Wonton strips would also add additional crunch. Customize it to your tastes!

Now who likes a soggy salad? Not me! So I scoop out individual portions and then squirt the dressing over the top and mix on my plate/bowl. It’s a salad, not a coleslaw, so no dressing it beforehand.

Eat up, and I hope you love it as much as I do!