Mediterranean Fried Rice

This recipe is from womansday.com, but it is tried and true in the Crank household. I avoid meat these days, but this smelled so good that I gave in and ate it for lunch on the balcony today with Tim.

Yields 4 servings; total time 25 minutes

Ingredients: 1 lemon, 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, 1 lb. lean ground beef or lamb, 2 cloves garlic – finely chopped, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, 4 c. cooked long-grain rice (cold leftover rice is best for frying!), 1 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander, 1 pt. grape or cherry tomatoes – halved, 1/2 seedless cucumber – cut into 1/4″ pieces, 2 scallions – sliced, 1/4 c. fresh mint – roughly chopped (I always leave this out.), crumbled feta cheese, for serving

Directions:

  1. Zest the lemon, then cut lemon in half. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until browned, 4 to 5 minutes (spoon off and discard any excess fat). Add the garlic (jar is fine) and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute; toss with the lemon zest. Transfer the beef to a bowl and squeeze the juice of half a lemon on top.
  2. Wash and dry the skillet, then heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and season with the cumin, coriander, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the rice begins to crisp at the edges, about 5 minutes. Fold in the beef mixture and remove from heat.
  3. Meanwhile, squeeze the juice of the remaining lemon half into a medium bow. Toss with the tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Fold in the mint (if using) and top with crumbled feta, if desired.

Crispy Veggie Tacos

Well, these were surprisingly delicious! I hardly ever use ground beef anymore, and I am so tired of chicken that I put these on the menu this week. Teenager said “Carrots in tacos are just weird” but ate them with gusto anyway! The black bean, onion, chili pepper mixture was TO DIE FOR yummy. I didn’t have a poblano pepper, but a can of green chilies worked just fine! Enjoy!

http://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/recipes/a39363/carrot-and-black-bean-crispy-tacos-recipe/

Carrot-and-Black Bean Crispy Tacos Recipe

Garden Vegetable Soup

I NEED soup in the winter, and I make a pot at least weekly. So I get tired of my recipes. Here’s a vegetable soup from Alton Brown that’s a little different. Because it has green beans in it, and my daughter claims to not like potatoes in soup, I didn’t think she’d like it, but I was happily wrong. It’s delicious. I used the french haricot vert thin green beans and little golden potatoes cubed small. Definitely a keeper. . .

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/garden-vegetable-soup-recipe.html

Garden Vegetable Soup

Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Pasta

Truly delicious and also meat-free. I’m not too big on preparing fish, so this will be a great “Friday in Lent” recipe for my family.

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Martha Stewart Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Pasta recipe

Roasted Zucchini and Tomato Pasta

Roasting the zucchini and tomatoes rather than sauteing them intensifies their flavor.

PREP: 35 MINS TOTAL TIME: 35 MINS SERVINGS: 4 INGREDIENTS 2

 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/2 ­inch pieces

1 1/2 pounds plum tomatoes, cut into 3/4 ­inch chunks (I just dump a container of grape tomatoes on the pan! They don’t even have to be super-fresh.)

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (or jar if you hate chopping garlic)

5 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons coarse salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 pound long fusilli or linquine (or whatever you have; I used angel hair today.)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

DIRECTIONS

1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. On rimmed baking sheet, toss zucchini, tomatoes, and garlic with 5 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper. Spread into single layer; roast until zucchini is lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes.

2. In large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta until al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Return pasta to pot. Toss with remaining tablespoon oil; cover.

3. Pour reserved pasta water onto baking sheet of cooked vegetables; scrape with a wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Stir vegetables and juices into pasta. Add parsley and Parmesan; toss to combine. Serve with more Parmesan.

Truly Yummy Cauliflower that I Wish Everyone Would Eat

My children tell me that I “push” my food too hard to their friends. I guess I always want to “sell” whatever I am making. My girls already like it and are perfectly willing to let their friends “take it or leave it,” but, for some reason, I want them all to TAKE IT! I mean, it’s good. Why wouldn’t you want to eat something that’s GOOD?

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I found this recipe for “Cauliflower Saute” while paging through magazines in my sister-in-law Mary’s lovely sitting room many years ago. We had been teaching together for a year or two, and she had introduced me to her husband’s brother, whom I decided almost immediately to marry. Sometimes Mary and I rode to school together, and after school we stopped in at her charming house to have tea. When I found this promising recipe, Mary copied it out for me on a little recipe card. Now it is a treasure as Mary died from cancer a few years after serving as a bridesmaid at my wedding.

Cauliflower Saute (I promise your kids will like it if THEY JUST TRY IT!)

  • 2 medium head cauliflower
  • salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • chopped parsley (optional)
  1. Remove outer leaves & stalks from cauliflower. Trim off any blemishes. Separate flowerets into small bunches & put into enough boinling water to cover.
  2. Cook cauliflower 15 to 20 min. or til just tender. Drain thoroughly.
  3. Melt butter in lge. skillet. Saute cauliflower until lightly browned. Arrange in serving dish. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

It’s sauteed in butter, people. It’s best when it gets a little browned. My kids gobble it up. So do I. Mmmmmmmm.

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Best Christmas Cookies

Here it is — my best Christmas cooky recipe. (I prefer to spell cooky with a -y rather than an -ie. Hope you don’t mind!). I’m calling this my best because it will make your house smell like Christmas, and the cookies are magic. They come out perfect every time — well, as long as you follow the instructions to a “T!” 🙂 They aren’t super easy (no cake mixes!) — you have to sift the flour with the cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. But even that smells like Christmas.

The recipe came to me several years ago via my best friend’s boss. I’m pretty sure she was Mrs. Claus in disguise. Enjoy!

Winter’s Best Gingersnaps

3/4 cup butter

3/4 cup Crisco

2 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided (2 c. for dough; 3/4 c. to roll in)

2 eggs

1/2 cup light molasses

4 cups sifted all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground ginger

Using an electric mixer (I use Big Red, the KitchenAid standing mixer; it basically bakes the cookies for you.), work butter and shortening until creamy.

Gradually work in 2 cups sugar. Continue creaming until light. Beat in eggs and molasses thoroughly.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Gradually beat flour mixture into creamed mixture. Beat hard. Mixture will be soft. Can chill dough for about an hour for easier handling.

Roll pieces of dough the size of a walnut (Why do old recipes always say this? Were they written from walnut farms? I really don’t know how big a walnut in the shell is. I either roll 1-inch or 2-inch balls depending on how big I want the cookies to be.) Roll balls in remaining 3/4 c. sugar. Place balls on greased cooky sheet (I used parchment paper; came off beautifully!), approximately 2 inches apart. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven about 10 minutes or until brown.

Store in airtight tins or freeze.

Yield: 5 1/2 to 6 dozen cookies. Great for cookie exchanges.

Christmas Cards

minted

I just had to share this awesome find: This lovely company addressed all 110 of my Christmas cards for me! For FREE! You can just upload your spreadsheet of addresses (well, I had to copy and paste my columns into their spreadsheet; still, it only took a minute.). I don’t know why, and I bet they’ll charge me once they’ve got me hooked, but I see that they are still doing it free + 15% off your order. Hurry! 🙂 The company is Minted. And the paper quality is also better than you usually get from photo card companies. I am just so pleased (guess they should be paying me to promote them!). 😉

Decorating for Christmas?

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As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thinking about how to handle the weekend that follows. Usually it sounds like fun to start decorating for Christmas. I love Christmas decorations and lights, but this year I feel a little overwhelmed knowing that I will be the one loading and unloading the bins from storage, putting up most of it, dusting around all of it, and then repacking it all neatly and delivering it back to storage. Is it time to simplify?

The mantel is a no-brainer — a lit garland, stockings, and a banner — easy. And I am excited to put up the white MIZZOU tree I started last year. It goes in the front room window and gives me so much pleasure that I considered putting it up when football season started!

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Some years I have put up another THREE trees: a PINK one upstairs for the girls (fortunately the stand broke and it’s long gone), the 12-footer in the front hall, and our “family” tree in the family room. But as much as I wanted a 12-foot tree for the two-story front hall, it takes up so much space that I get tired of walking around it! I just can’t decide if I’m going to do it this year. Kristin says ‘yes.” I am leaning toward “no.” I love the jewel-toned ornaments, but I could just put a bowl of them on the front hall table. 😉 What do you think?

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I don’t think it will be Christmas without the family tree in the family room. Some years it’s real (Tim loves them), though last year it wasn’t. I can usually round up some help for that one. Still, they all disappear when it’s time to wrap those treasured ornaments back up. Sigh.

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I am pretty sure the Christmas spirit will find me in time for Christmas this year. I’ll let you know if it does.

Cooking in a Barn

Hmmm. . . not a headline I ever envisioned writing. And yet there I was, cooking in a barn.

Last week my younger daughter was invited to ride a horse she loves at the Pinto World Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We only live about two hours from Tulsa, and after much deliberation, we decided to let her have this adventure.

As we drove down the Oklahoma turnpike with hardly another car in sight, we wondered what the “Worlds” experience would be like. Truthfully, we couldn’t even picture the scene we would encounter. The event is held on the grounds of Tulsa’s Expo Square, their fairgrounds, and there are several huge barns, all named after Chevy trucks.  In addition to the giant pavilions filled with stalls for horses (and humans, but I’m getting to that), there are three performance arenas, which hold competitions from 7:30 am to 5 pm every day for two weeks!

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Caroline and I pulled into the first “gate” we saw and somehow got past the security booths to wander from pavilion to pavilion looking for the familiar faces of her trainers or horse. It took a while, but we finally found them . . . happily ensconced in stalls with all the comforts of home.

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They showed us around “our stall area” — the food stall — full size refrigerator, microwave, drinks, and snacks. The tack stall (it’s a double-wide), the dressing rooms, waiting area, and the horse stalls. I didn’t realize that we would be in this area from sun-up to midnight most days. No wonder they rent furniture and electronics! Caroline immediately scooted off to bathe a horse, and I settled in to one of the leather couches. Our riders, trainers, and horses came and went as they were called to compete in a variety of classes, both Western and English. Costume changes were de rigeur for horses and humans. I watched Analisa polish the silver trim on a $30,000 saddle for most of a day. Tack was used, wiped down, and hung in its proper spot. One night Caroline washed Zipper and his tail extension at 11:30 pm! No one had time to run out for food. As I know nothing about horse care, I realized that I could best help by stocking the fridge with cold drinks and providing food to the busy riders.  Our new best friend and trainer from Louisiana, Stoney, got a crockpot from his horse trailer, and I ran to the market. That’s how I found myself cooking in a barn. We had barbequed chicken, Italian Beef sandwiches, soft chicken tacos, and pulled pork. The tricky part was cleaning up. Sweet Penny usually hosed out the crock at the end of the stalls at night. The kids were happy to have some hot food to go with the usual fare of cheese sticks, potato chips, veggie trays, and other snack foods. One day I cut up a watermelon and was delighted to see that the horses thought the leftover rinds were a tasty treat!

The downside: our stalls were right next to a practice arena which meant that everything was constantly coated in a thick layer of dust. And I’m pretty sure there was “fly spray” in most of what we ingested. But finding a way to be part of the horse team at Pinto Worlds was priceless, and I’d do it again, dust and all.

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Tortilla Soup!

Monday night suppers have to be easy because I volunteer from 4:15-6:45. Mexican chicken in the slow cooker has become a staple. Place a few boneless, skinless breasts in there with a jar of your favorite salsa and some (homemade, please!) taco seasoning, and it will shred beautifully in a few short hours. It can be used for quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, nachos, or this easy and delicious tortilla soup! I was quite amazed that 30 min. after merely dumping all of the ingredients in a pot at the same time, the soup looked restaurant quality! Cook’s tip: Enlist someone to open all those cans while you chop the onion and cilantro, and you’ll be done in half the time!

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2 cups of shredded chicken

1 32 oz box of chicken broth

1 can corn or Mexicorn (drained)

2 handfuls chopped cilantro

1 squeezed lime

1 can diced tomatoes (I like petite diced.)

1 can diced tomatoes with chiles (Rotel original)

1/2 large yellow onion, chopped

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2-3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons chile powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

Dump everything in a pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Garnish with cheese and crispy tortilla strips if desired.

Recipe from Tasty Kitchen.