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Monday, August 18, 2014

Rice Pudding

Life has been interesting, if not exciting.  Let's see...  Some guy cut in front of Connie, causing Connie to slam on his brakes and the airbag sensor to go cattywampus.  That was two days in the shop.  Then, on our trip to the airport, we took a side trip through Crown Hill cemetery to visit Dad's grave and show my sister-in-law the highest point in the city. 

Just as we were leaving, it started to rain

I was riding in the backseat and had the window down to take photos.  The window wouldn't go up.  My chivalrous husband put the car in park and ran around and pulled the window up as far as it'd go.  (Two more days in the shop...)  We then went home and traded cars for the trip to take Barb to the airport.  She was here visiting for five days.  We got in loads of fun things like a trip to the State Fair with the whole crew.  And, dinner with Mom at The Friendly.  I had some fabulous fried catfish there... 

During Barb's visit, Annie the dog conned her into loads of treats.  Wee Mac the cat got in the grove too, showing Auntie Barbara he knows how to high five!

And, Barbs overfed her by more than a bit.  So, starting the day Barbs left and lasting for four days, Annie had diarrhea.  Lots of diarrhea.  My living room carpet looks like someone had a mudball fight in there.  Fortunately, once she picked a room, she pretty much stuck with it.  Then, she figured out at least one human would actually wake up and take her out in the middle of the night.  A human who forgot to turn off the alarm system and woke up the immediate neighborhood with the wailing of the sirens.  Ok, then.  A trip to see Doc was in order.  A VERY undignified examination of the doggie woggie ensued.  Meds were prescribed.  Excessive passing of gas followed.  That's fine except she was laying between my office and Connie's.  Both of us were ready for gas masks!  Now, Annie is starting to feel a bit better.  And, I'm thinking a good carpet cleaning will be happening - soon!

Midst all the fun and excitement, I barely cooked.  A barbecue for the kids.  Pork chops with peach glaze for Barb.  Pork fried rice with the leftover pork chops.  Not much exciting.  Totally forgot that Secret Recipe Club was sneaking up on me.  I'd perused my assigned blog and printed a few recipes.  I'd even put harissa on the grocery list thinking I'd make a soup that sounded good.  But, I kept going back to the rice pudding with dates and pistachios.  One, I've never made rice pudding.  Two, we both adore dates and pistachios.  Now, I had no business making a dessert after all the goodies we had while Barb was here.  But, rice pudding it was.  My assigned blog, is by Nayna who lives in the UK and is a recipe author for City Connect Cambridge.  Her blog is vegetarian and measurements are given in grams etc.  I've copied her measurements here since I used the by guess and by gosh method of measuring...  And, I left out the saffron that Nayna called for.  That is one spice I really can't stand.  Guess if I had to choose one, choosing the most expensive one was the best idea!!  I was really pleased with this dessert.  The dates and nuts added just the right amount of crunchy/chewy/interesting topping.  And, the cardamom in the recipe was perfect.  I'd have included a link to the recipe but nowhere on the blog could I find an index...

Rice Pudding


60 g short grain rice
250 ml water
400 ml cream
60 g sugar
1 t cardamom powder
4 almonds
6 pistachios
6 medjool dates
60 ml boiling water


In a small saucepan, start simmering the cream and cardamom.  You don't want it to boil but you do want it to reduce.  In another saucepan, start water for your rice.  Cook the rice according to the package directions but add 5-10 minutes so it is VERY soft.  Drain the rice.  Add the sugar to the cream and stir until it's dissolved.  Add the drained rice.  Refrigerate so you're serving it cool.  An hour or so before serving the pudding, chop the dates and add them to the boiling water.  Remove them from the heat and allow them to sit for half an hour.  Mash them into the water.  Serve the pudding garnished with the date compote and the nuts.  As you can see, I chose to use sliced almonds that I'd toasted instead of plain almonds...

Thank you Nayna from Simply Sensational Food!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Green Bean Casserole

Well, if you read my last post, you know my sister-in-law, Barb, was here visiting.  Her first evening here, we took her to Chef Joseph's.  She finally got to meet our dear friend who is such an incredible chef.  She loved her chicken parmesan.  And, Connie and I loved our lamb confit tacos!!! 

The next evening we headed to Mom's and from there went out to Zionsville for dinner at the Friendly.  That evening there was a drag race on Main Street to raise money for Alzheimers.  I wish I'd gotten photos of the guys in drag coming in the bar to collect donations.  They were wonderful! 

Saturday, it was State Fair time!  David and Kara and Bradley and Rosie came over from Columbus to see Auntie Barbs.  The kids got to feed the sheep, eat enough sugar to last a month (or more) and just generally have a great time.  One of the highlights for me was getting to see the sculpture that won my friend, Kathy Cunningham, first place in the professional division.  Then, I turned around and said, "Oh, look at that cool piece!"  Turned out it was another by Kathy...  

The fair was followed by a run through the sprinkler at home.  Picking flowers for Momma.  Playing with Annie.  PIcking tomatoes.  Climbing the tree.  Then, it was time for dinner - and helping Grammie.  Barbecued chicken on the Big Green Egg, corn on the cob, homemade green bean casserole and two pies - one chocolate, bourbon pecan and the other mince walnut. 

Our friends Barb and Tom had been in the office and brought us three bags of goodies.  Corn on the cob, green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans...  Connie took one look at the green beans and asked if I'd make green bean casserole.  He meant the stuff with the cream of mushroom soup topped by the store-bought fried onions.  I had other ideas.  Shocking, I know.  I set out to create REAL green bean casserole.  Now, I did not write down official measurements as I went...  so, these are estimates!

Green Bean Casserole


for the casserole:

2 lbs green beans, trimmed and halved
1 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 T butter
4 T butter
4 T flour
1 1/2-2 c milk (I use 2%)
1/4 - 1/2 c dry sherry
salt and pepper

for the onion rings:

one small red onion, peeled and halved
Cajun seasoning (we make our own Emeril's)
vegetable oil


You're going to feel like a three ring circus while making this...  In a large, heavy pot, pour about an inch of vegetable oil.  That's for frying the onions...  It needs to heat slowly and you need to stay with it.

In a medium skillet, melt the two tablespoons of butter and sauté the mushrooms and shallots.  As they cook, they will give off moisture.  You want to sauté them until the pan is almost dry.  Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside. 

Start the roux for the sauce by melting the butter in a medium saucepan.  While it's melting, cook the green beans in a small amount of salted water.  Because I want the beans relatively soft, I cover the saucepan and leave the beans to steam a bit.  Once the butter is melted, add the flour and stir for a few minutes.  You want the flour to cook but you don't want it to color much if at all.  Next, add the milk slowly, stirring constantly.  Once you've added the milk, add the sherry.  Now, you can stir the sauce occasionally while you fry the onions.    

Slice the onion VERY thinly.  Pour about an inch of milk into one shallow bowl.  Put flour and Cajun seasoning in another.  One the oil is hot enough to sizzle when you put an onion ring in it, you're ready to go.  Put a handful of the rings in the milk, then into the flour.  Toss them with the flour until they're well coated.  Put them in the hot oil and cook for about 5 minutes a side.  They need to be nicely browned.  Drain them on paper towels or a paper bag.  

Now, it's time to put the casserole together.  Drain the beans.  Mix them with the mushrooms, shallots and sauce and pour them into a baking dish.  Top with the fried onions and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes.  

Yes, it's considerably more trouble than canned soup and canned fried onions.  It's also about 1000% better :-)      

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Tomatoes Three Ways

It is finally tomato season at our house.  The best ones aren't ripe yet.  And, I'm not terribly fond of the one plant that's already producing.  The tomatoes are just a bit mealy for my taste.  My favorites of all time are still Black Brandywines.  All of that aside, I'm just happy to have real tomatoes and not the canned kind.  My Black Brandywines will be ripe soon enough and I'll just eat those with a bit of salt and pepper. 

A few days ago I picked the first ripe zucchini.  And, I had a handful of cherry tomatoes.  And, a container of buratta.  I was thinking a riff on caprese salad would be good.  Was it ever.  We've now made the salad twice in a week.  It's super simple and very flavorful.

Then, we had BLT's.  Of course.  That's summer food.  The only BLT I eat otherwise is the special one at the Barking Dog Café.  There they have home cured Bark Lard, tomato jam, basil mayo and lettuce on BLT's.  They're heavenly. 

Last, but not least, we had Boudro's Guacamole.  Boudro's is on the Riverwalk in SanAntonio.  They make this killer tableside guac.  Did I mention how well it went with the killer prickly pear margaritas?  Oh, yeah!!!

I had to try it for myself!  I've got to say that the real thing prepared tableside is better...  But, this is pretty darned good :-)

Zucchini Tomato Salad


1 small zucchini
12 cherry or grape tomatoes
1 buratta
6 large basil leaves
extra virgin olive oil (I used blood orange olive oil)
balsamic vinegar (I used Sicilian lemon balsamic)


Shave the zucchini lengthwise.  Because this was a really fresh zucchini from our yard, I didn't peel it.  I did, however, avoid the seeds.  Pile the shavings in the center of two salad plates.  Surround with halved cherry tomatoes.  Chop the buratta.  Divide it between the salad plates.  Chop the basil and scatter it on top of the buratta.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.