Monday, January 30, 2012

Spanish Style Brown Rice

No regrets, right?

Well, sometimes it's hard not to have a few.  I've been thinking about that more lately as my junior year of college is reaching the half-way point.  It's amazing/scary/exciting/mind-boggling to think that I only have a year and a half left in college...and maybe in any school.  Ever.

One regret I have is not studying abroad this year.  When the time came to apply to go abroad, I simply wasn't ready.  I was just warming up to the idea of moving into an apartment and out of the dorms for Pete's sake.  Another country?  I don't think so!

I probably should have gone though.  I'll make it overseas at some point.  I owe it to myself to get there after all the years I've sat in class conjugating French verbs.

Until then, I can be transported by my taste buds.  So, this week they take me somewhere warm, somewhere next to the Mediterranean, somewhere where they speak Spanish.  Buen provecho :)

As we're on the subject of dreams, what's your dream destination?

Spanish Style Brown Rice

Yields: 4-6 servings


1 cup long grain brown rice
1 and 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 tsp to 1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp to 3/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup corn niblets


Combine uncooked rice in a pot with water, diced tomatoes, and salt.  Bring to a boil.

Turn heat down low to a simmer and cover with a lid.  Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add remaining spices and stir.  Allow rice to continue simmering until all moisture has been absorbed (about 5 to 10 minutes more).  

Stir in corn niblets.  

Serve as is, or with a squeeze of lime, or with fresh cilantro.

*Note: for softer rice use more water.  The recipe listed above yields a somewhat firmer texture.  
**Also, use as much or as little of the spices above as you wish.  I tend to go heavy on the paprika because it's my favorite, but if you like heat, consider adding a little cayenne, or more chili powder.  The possibilities are endless!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Court's Clicks: 1/27/12

It rained this week.  The last time this happened, I was soaked to my torso because I had decided to ride my bike to school, not thinking that the wind draft created by my pedaling would blow my poncho up over my legs, exposing me to the cold and merciless falling drops and splashing puddles.

This time, I walked in my trusty, water resistant boots.  I enjoyed standing in the middle of lakes of rain drops that formed within the valleys of uneven pavement.  Students rushed around me while I stood as an island, enjoying the scent of fresh rainwater absorbed by concrete.

So, what's the point to all these flowery musings?  Well, cold weather makes me want decadent food, namely, chocolate and peanut butter.  Also, since National Peanut Butter Day fell during this week, it only seems proper to show reverence to one of the foremost food gods in the pantheon of American cupboard staples.  Indulge:

This Peanut Butter and Milk Chocolate Cookie Pie is everything a dessert should be: rich, gooey, and rich.

Everyone knows the saying, "Life's short, eat dessert first." Well, I suggest starting your day off  with dessert: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Lastly, dangerously armed with all of the ingredients for this recipe, I very well may be making this Single-Girl Melty Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake sometime this weekend.

OK.  It's time to be honest with you...wanting to eat decadent chocolate and peanut butter food has nothing to do with cold weather.  The sun returned by Wednesday.  Today is Friday.

 Well, maybe I will just celebrate its reappearance with a little special occasion sweetness.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baked Sweet Dumpling Squash

Seeing is believing.  This has become somewhat of a cliched expression.  In most cases, I would agree with the sentiment.  If I saw a pig fly, then I would believe that pigs fly.  However, in the case of this recipe, the cliche does not hold true.

That roasted squash in the picture looks tasty.  Warm, soft, sweet, buttery, and laced with cinnamon.  Did it taste like that?  No.

However, it is time that my blog lives up to its tag line: "A chronicle of the cooking and baking successes (and disasters) of a very, very amateur chef.

The other title I considered for this post was "Don't Eat Your Thanksgiving Centerpiece."  Yet, when I returned from winter break and saw that little squash still sitting upon my dining table accumulating dust, I felt sorry for it, and decided I would give it new life by baking it to death in my oven. 

I mean, really, how can something so intricate and colorful--beautiful, even--taste so bad?  

Nevertheless, I have decided to share the recipe with you.  Perhaps it is a matter of perception.  I thought that this squash would taste better than it actually did.  For example, if this squash were something disgusting to eat--say, a dirt clod, I wouldn't expect its flavor to be mind-blowing delicious, and so wouldn't be disappointed when it turned out to taste disgusting.

Give the sweet dumpling squash a chance if you dare.  Maybe you will like it if you are fond of squash in general, and are used to the woody texture that  turned me off of this autumn table decoration.

At any rate, squash for breakfast was somewhat better (although, that may have been because of the tastier adornments of yogurt, raisins, walnuts, and maple syrup).

Baked Sweet Dumpling Squash

Yields: 2 servings


1 sweet dumpling squash
1 tsp butter
1 heaping TB brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 deg. F.

Rinse squash in water.  Slice squash evenly in half.  Prick skin of squash several times with a fork.  Place squash halves flesh side up in a baking dish filled with 1 inch of water.

Dab flesh of squash with butter.  Sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar.

Bake squash for about 45 minutes, or until flesh easily pulls away from squash skin with a fork.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Court's Clicks: 1/20/12

With a mere twenty minutes walk, I can have a view like this.  Inspiring, isn't it?

Believe it or not, even when I seem to be surrounded by a world of muses, this week I have been feeling less than inspired.  Maybe its the French paper on Descartes that is looming over my head, or the apartment hunt and find (among other things) that has been sapping me of my artsy flair (HA! As if).

Because, even when I have tried to do something creative this past week, it just hasn't turned out all that well (as my upcoming post on turning your Thanksgiving centerpiece into a meal will show).

Yet, even if I may be experiencing the creativity blahs, that doesn't mean I can't share some truly inspirational finds on the web:

This Avocado, Cream Cheese, and Salsa Stuffed Puff Pastry recipe is pretty much the inspiration for this post. I haven't seen such an original recipe as this in a while.  Wow, and yum!

I love creamy soups, but let's be honest, no one loves all of the fat (although I do like butter...)  Anyway, this white bean soup is a mark of pure genius: creamy texture, lots of taste, but no cream.

A pizza made with a cauliflower crust that doesn't taste like cauliflower? Now, that's innovative, and happily deceptive.

Finally, we need to talk about something very important to getting out of this creativity funk: Pinterest.  I've been on this site for a while, but was definitely under-utilizing it.  If you like what you see, be my friend by clicking here and we can share pins and be inspired.  This is where a dream of an OCD person like me has become a reality.  Happy pinning!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Country Potatoes

Just a short post today.

Because sometimes all you eat during a crazy week are lunch meat sandwiches and left over mini chicken pot pies (which re-heat really well in the oven, by the way!)

These potatoes are the invention of a moment where I am stuck with half of a peeled potato from a different recipe that is quickly starting to rust and needs to be cooked, ASAP.

Chop, chop, chop into uniform chunks.  Toss in your favorite spices.  Saute in butter.  And, voila: you're good to go.  Just add ketchup and a side of pancakes, scrambled eggs, and bacon.  Perfect for breakfast, brunch or, my personal favorite, breakfast-for-dinner.

Country Potatoes

Yields: 1 serving


1/2 peeled baking potato, cubed
1 tsp dried chives
1/4 tsp Lawry's seasoning salt
Pepper to taste
1 tsp butter and/or cooking spray.


Spray pan lightly with cooking spray and/or melt 1 tsp butter over medium heat (I added butter more for flavor, than for crisping the potatoes).

Place cubed potato in buttered pan and season with spices.  Cook for about 5 minutes or until lightly golden, stirring once or twice.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Court's Clicks: 1/13/2011

Rubber ducky found near the lagoon of my university on Monday.
All I really want to do right now is whine about how much I want to be back on vacation.  To save you that, I will entertain myself with sharing these links instead.

Just reading this Creamy Avocado Pasta recipe makes me feel healthy.  I love avocados on chips, in salads, on sandwiches, and I don't see why it wouldn't taste good make into a creamy yet cream-less sauce for pasta.

Living in a place where it is sunny most days of the year (today it was 76 January!), I try to wear sunscreen a lot.  Please take a few minutes to watch this life-saving video to learn why you should too.

Wanting to end this post on a more positive note, I bring you the cake of all cakes: Chocolate Cheesecake Cake.  

Hope you are having a LUCKY Friday the 13th.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Comfort food.  Sometimes a spoonful of  food can work miracles upon the soul.

That's why this week I decided to make these Mini Chicken Pot Pies using the adorable set of ramekins I received for Christmas.

Why do I need comforting?

Well, I'm back to school now, and the quarter doesn't promise to be easy.  More than that, though, the long vacation home made it just that much harder to leave.  Home in itself isn't that significant, but rather the people there.  Mom, that means you.

Not only is comfort food therapeutic to eat, but it is therapeutic to make.  The aromatics of sauteing vegetables instantly puts the mind at ease.  The gentle stirring of a cream sauce erases anxiety.  The rolling out of pie dough smooths out the cracks of a broken heart just as it does for those of the delicate pastry.

Indulge and let go.  Be at peace and eat.  

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Yields: 4 small (3-4 inch) ramekins


For Filling:
1/3 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, sliced
1 celery stalk, sliced
1-2 tsp olive oil
1 Tb butter
1/2 potato, peeled and diced
1 and 3/4 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup milk
2-3 Tb flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breast, diced

For Pastry:
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup shortening, chilled and cut up
1/3 cup ice water, added by tablespoons


For Filling:

Season chicken breast lightly with salt and pepper.  Cook all the way through and until the outside is nicely browned.  Dice and set aside. 

Saute onion, carrot, and celery in olive oil.  Set aside.

Saute diced potato in 1 Tb butter for about five minutes.  Add chicken stock to potatoes and cook until potatoes are tender.  Stir in milk and add flour by tablespoons until desired thickness is reached.   Note: adding all the flour at once will result in a sauce with chunks of flour in it.  Stir in spices.  Add chicken and peas.

Fill four ramekins with filling mixture.


Preheat oven to 400 deg. F.  

Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a bowl.  Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut shortening into flour mixture until pieces are the size of peas.

Sprinkle ice water over dough 1 tablespoon at a time and toss it lightly with a fork or knife.  Move wet pastry to the edges of the bowl, and continue moistening until the majority of flour has been incorporated.  Knead mixture lightly into a ball.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured board or counter until about 1/8" thick.  Cut out pastry circles to the desired diameter (about 1/8" larger than the ramekins).

Gently lay pastry across the top of the ramekins and push down on sides to secure pastry to the rim of the dish.  Slice an X in the center of the pastry to allow steam to escape while baking.  Brush tops with milk.

Bake on a baking sheet for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Court's Clicks: 1/6/12

My view yesterday.

I am going to miss vacation so much.  But, it had to come to an end at some point.  I'm going to miss being with my family, staying in pajamas until 11am, reading and writing for fun, cooking in a kitchen with a dishwasher, and so much  more.

But, enough about me.  Here are some great things I found this week that I want to share with you:

Remember those big and fat grocery store bakery soft sugar cookies with the neon icing you used to eat as a kid?  Well these are those.

After eating those cookies, erase your guilt by finishing with these healthy Chicken Gyros.  Oh, how I wish I were Greek.

Keeping with that Greek theme, let's clash cultures with Mexican food and eat some Greek Quesadillas.

See what I did there?  I went from childhood sweets to Greek food to Mexican food.  Link success!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Broccoli and Bacon Strata

At the beginning of the year everyone starts eating salads.  Vegetables.  Green stuff.  

You will be bored of that by the end of the month, trust me.

I love salads, but I also love convenience.  In fact, as I enter my fourth and final week of winter vacation, I have reached the peak of laziness.  So, give me something to eat that is easy to make, wholesome, and tasty.  

Give me this strata.

Don't toss out that bread getting stale in the cupboard, cut it up and mix it with ingredients you probably already have on hand.  Bake, eat, and enjoy the leftovers.

Broccoli and Bacon Strata

Yield: 4-6 servings


4-5 slices of dry bread 
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1 large crown of broccoli
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 strips of bacon, crumbled
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dry ground mustard
1/4 tsp garlic powder
a few drops of hot sauce


Grease a 9"x9" baking pan.  

Chop broccoli into small pieces.  Cook by steaming until tender.  Drain well and set aside.

Slice bread into cubes and place in pan.  Sprinkle half of cheese over bread.  Next, layer crumbled bacon, green onions and broccoli over bread.  

Whisk eggs, milk, and spices.  Pour mixture over bread in pan.  Top with remaining cheese.

Allow pan to sit in refrigerator covered for 3 hours or overnight.  Remove from fridge and allow pan to air for 30 minutes before baking.  

Bake at 350 deg. F for 50 to 55 minutes, until a knife inserted near center comes out clean.

*This reheats well!  Pop a portion in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes. Great for breakfast the next morning.