Cheesy Artichoke Rice

I hate the way when you look up “cheesy rice” and you get “minute rice” and non-cheese cheese slices. Ugh. That is just not right. And that is also not cheese either.  Who does this?  I ran out of orzo and thought to make a rice recipe that would work for my lunches at work. I prefer home-made lunch to restaurants, with some exceptions.  You know, things I just don’t make (Indian food) and that I know other people do a much better job than me. But pasta dishes, rice dishes, when lots of cheese or mushrooms are involved – I think I got this. No, I know I do. D&D_2081

So my thoughts on this are:

I need lunch for tomorrow.
I have no vegetable or chicken stock (unreal!) and I’m not going to the grocery store at 8:30pm. Nope.
I have lots of rice.
I have quite the variety of cheeses.
I have scallions that are mostly okay.~
Always have onions and garlic.
Lemon zest

With all that in mind, I’m going to figure out what to make tonight and here is what I did.
2 cups H2O
1 cup long grain rice
lots of salt

Cook like you always make rice – if you need a tutorial this is how it goes: Thank you The Kitchn.

Once you remove it from the heat, add 3 Tbs of unsalted butter while it steams on the back burner — important: lid on, heat off.

Unsalted butter
Olive oil
Small yellow onion, diced
3 good sized cloves of garlic, minced
artichoke hearts, drained & quartered (not marinated)
~ the scallions were past there “best buy” date at this point – too bad. But the onions and garlic made up for it.

In a saute pan, melt 2 Tbs unsalted butter and one small yellow onion diced and a good pinch of kosher salt. Saute on low-ish heat until soft. Then add three cloves (less or more as you prefer) minced and let them sit on the top of the onions  – you don’t want them to burn. Stir them in a bit and then remove from heat.

Now, here is where things get interesting – I opened a can of artichoke hearts and quartered them and added them to the onion mixture with a little glug of olive oil and let everything simmer until it was a cohesive mix of veg that was soft – that seems to be key.

D&D_iPhone_image1As mentioned – I have cheese options – so I pulled out all the cheese that had already been opened. Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, Manchego  – so the decision is which one or which combination to use. I used some Manchego because it is melty but it grates like a cheddar, but just a little softer and the Dog (Hood) really likes it. And then the Pecorino – for that salty flavor – a great sheep’s milk hard cheese. Not too different, really from Parmigiano, but not the same either. Manchego is another sheeps’ milk cheese from Spain – from the La Mancha region. So I guess this is the Spanish sheep milk cheese recipe.

I have to say cheese, for me, matters not if it from a cow, a goat, or a sheep. I just love cheese in a stupid sort of way. That is probably obvious by now.

But when I do it again, I will put some sharp cheddar in the mix. This time I added lemon zest at home and took that lemon to work for the juice for my lunch leftover hacks. Excellent.

I think that just might be the key to a great lunch hack at work. I always have a fresh lemon and a bit of grated Pecorino or Parmigiano in the fridge there – it really makes all the difference in the world. From boring leftovers to something special.

My refrigerator… and ham salad.

So I didn’t go to the grocery store like I should have today, and now I feel like making something but I have to make do with what’s in my refrigerator. And here is what I have to work with: Boursin, chutney (not homemade, boo), puff pastry, dates, bleu cheese dressing, a lemon, eggs, butter, bleu cheese, Parmesan, Pecorino, Brie, Kerry Gold Reserve Cheddar, and Hormel ham steak.

What should I make? What can I make? It is a weekend and I will get to the Publix at some point and then I have a whole other list of things to make for my work week lunches.

So here is what we are going to try and make work – we shall see how it goes. I feel confident that it will not be a disappointment. At least I hope not. We shall see.

Another no recipe recipe. That is not a bad thing when you get right down to it. D&D_2093

8 oz smoked ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge (what is that?), and cube it. Into the food processor it goes for 8-10 pulses.

3 Tbs sweet relish, drained like you would do for deviled eggs.  Totally subjective – add more or less to your taste, but do make sure you drain it. I like relish in my ham salad.

Yellow or Vidalia Onion – yikes there are lots of options here, but I think I will start simply. Yellow onion grated on the large holes of a box grater and make sure you get all the onion juice – that is really important. Or if you are like me, you can use the food processor for this too – no need to clean it since the ham and onions are going in together.

Freshly ground black pepper. A great spice in my opinion. But it must be freshly ground – I think that goes without saying.

Duke’s Mayo* – just enough to hold it together, but not go overboard. This might be subjective but as my mom would say, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Guess that’s why I will add this last. 2-3 Tbs seems to work, though to be honest, I don’t measure, I just wing it.

This must site for at least a day or two. Same thing with chicken salad – do not try to eat it the day you make it – it just do not work. ~

*No substitutions, I mean, if you live in the South anyways. Not sure what the rest of you do for Mayo – sad to say.

~The same thing can be said for hummus too. The flavors need to come together to really work.

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato & Cantal

Another no-recipe recipe – some night cooking, which is something I do quite often, for work lunches for the week. I would have liked to have some cream for this, but to be honest, I managed pretty well with out it. Although, some mascarpone might have been excellent. D&D_2073

I was just trying to make something that I would like with what I had on hand and here is how it went. Again not going to the grocery store at this point in the evening – which was about 11pm, or so.

8 ozs penne pasta – one of my favorite pasta shapes – always use this for mac n cheese*
4 Tbs unsalted butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced (or a shallot?)
8.5 ozs sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, but drained (save the oil!)
8 ozs Cantal cheese, grated on the large holes of a box grated
zest of lemon
Parmesan, finely grated

In a big pot, heat water to boiling with a really big handful of kosher salt. Cook penne until al dente.

In a sauce pan, heat butter over medium heat and add onions and saute until soft, but not browned in any way.  Add the sun-dried tomatoes and simmer for a bit, just to make sure they are really soft – this is key.

Add the cooked pasta and blend together. Remove from heat and add the Cantal, a semi-hard cheese from France that is slightly similar to a Cheddar. Specifically from Auvergne region of central France. Fancy French Cheese – always good.

Once the cheese is all melty, serve in a bowl with a bit of lemon zest (always a good thing with a cheesy pasta in my opinion) and a little bit of fresh Parmesan for that salty goodness.  The ratios are yours to decide.

This made great leftover lunches for about a week. And the Boy made a strange version of it for dinner one night – with eggs. I’m still not sure I understand that at all.

*no elbows for me.

Ham Salad – here I am attempting again … ugh, am I destined for failure?

I know I say my favorite (only) ham salad is from the Apple Market, but it is true. And then I look at the list of ingredients and see this: chopped ham. sweet relish, mayonnaise, onions, and black pepper.

D&D_2041And that really kind of makes me grumpy. Why can I not make a great ham salad out of simple ingredients. I do it with chicken salad, so what is the difference?? Makes me slightly crazy.

I do know I am going to have a ham salad sandwich for breakfast tomorrow. Yes, I eat all kind of random things for breakfast – cold tofu pad thai, pasta, cold pizza – and then some traditional things – peanut butter toast, toast with really good salted butter and apple jelly, toast with really good salted butter and local honey. Yes, toast seems to be a thing. Pop Tarts – specifically blueberry or brown sugar.

Okay, after wondering far afield, let us get back to ham salad.

1st – what kind of ham to buy and what to do with it. In the Apple Market version is seems more than just chopped as I know it. Almost minced. Maybe run through a food mill, or pulsed a few times in a food processor?  Wonder who at Apple Market I can bribe to find out the answer?

So what I did was buy an 8oz ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge, and cube it. Then I put it in the food processor for 8-10 pulses, until it looked like what I thought would work best. 

2nd – The sweet relish always made sense to me, but you should not go overboard, nor should you make it to liquidy – drain that relish for the most part, just like you do with deviled eggs.

This ended up to be about 3 Tbs, but that is a subjective thing – more or less if you would like.

3rd – Mayonnaise, Duke’s specifically, needs to be just enough to hold it together, but not go overboard. This might be subjective but as my mom would say, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Guess that’s why I will add this last.

It was only 2 Tbs and that was almost too much, but in the end, it worked out well.

4th – Onion – yikes there are lots of options here, but I think I will start simply. Yellow onion grated on the large holes of a box grater.  Again, it’s the – how much – that’s the issue.

Tasting as I go along will be key. I took a small onion and instead of grating on a box grated, used the food processor to pulse it to very small pieces and kept the juice and used it too – about 3 Tbs total when it came down to it. I’d say 3/4 of a small yellow onion.

5th – Seasoning with black pepper should not be a problem. I love black pepper.

Now the question is do I just make it or do I have some Apple Market ham salad to compare. Is that wise? Perhaps or perhaps not.

Also, I must let this sit for at least a day or two. It tasted okay as I was going along, but I know I won’t really have a good idea for how it will work until it has sat in the fridge for at least, I’m thinking, two days.

It did make a difference. I had been worried I put too much mayonnaise , but after a days rest in the fridge, it worked well. Actually might have needed a bit more.

It is a rant … Dressing vs. Stuffing

It is that time of year … the time when people seem to be very confused by two terms. Stuffing & Dressing. Come, come people! This is not that frigging difficult.
Stuffing – seasoned bread (onion, celery, etc.), used to stuff a bird of some sort and then roasted.
Dressing – seasoned bread (onion, celery, etc.), esp. cornbread in the South, baked in a casseroles dish – read: not inside a bird.
Please do not use these terms interchangeably. They may have, mostly, the same ingredients, but the methodology makes them very different.

Hamburger Steak with mushrooms and onion gravy

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Hamburger Steak with mushroom and onion gravy

My mom (here it is again) used to make hamburger steaks for us when I was young and I really enjoyed them.  She would heat a cast iron skillet to just about blazing and put salt in the bottom, then add the ground beef patty.  The layer of salt seasoned and kept it from sticking. Kind of like cornmeal on a pizza crust.  But for a blog, this is just more brown food. Thank goodness the MotH has a way with a camera and for that I am ever grateful.

I think this came to mind when one of my favorite places (Shaggy’s) had it on the special board a few weeks ago. Didn’t order it, but thought about all the things I like about this really simple meal. I mean, mushrooms and onions are involved. What’s not to love? Got me. I looked up several recipes, but decided to put together a version that would work for me. A bit of meatloaf idea, but not quite really.

1 pound ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (one piece sandwich bread)
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp McCormick Montreal Seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
8 ozs mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbs flour
1 cup beef broth

Process bread in food processor until finely ground. Mix, by hand, ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, black pepper, Montreal seasoning, salt, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Form into 4 patties.
Heat olive oil in skillet in medium heat. Add patties to the pan, do not crowd. Sear on both sides 3-4 minutes each. Add sliced onions to the pan and cover pan cooking for 4 minutes more. Remove patties to plate and keep warm.
Add mushrooms and cook until the release juices and start to dry out a bit. Spread flour over pan, and cook for 3 minutes. Slowly add broth.
Once gravy thickens, return patties and turn heat down to low simmer. Cover and cook for 8 minutes. Uncover and let simmer 7 minutes more. Serve warm.

Squash Relish

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Squash Relish

So after the last batch of squash pickles (Oct 2014), I decided I needed to work on the texture of them. Following the Man of the House declaring he liked the flavor, but not the texture. The texture was, how shall I put this, um, squeeky when you chewed them. So they weren’t really like a pickle at all which caused me to look at the method of making them.

First, considering the squash: using smaller, less ripe squash would help. Smaller would also lead to less interior seed space which gets softer faster. Removing the seeds entirely would help too, especially in larger squash.

Second, taking a lead from cucumber pickles, weigh the squash/onions down while salting/draining them. And consider chilling them with ice while doing this as well.

Then …

I went back to the original recipe and read it again. It appears I had been doing this wrong the whole time – for 10 years! I had always sliced the squash in rounds like, well, pickles. But the recipe is squash relish, not squash pickles, and if you read it, which I apparently didn’t, the squash and onions are chopped, not sliced. Duh.

So I actually did the recipe as it was supposed to – finally. I still think I want to come up with a way to deal w/the pickle idea. I was half way there without really trying.

10 cups squash, chopped
4 cups onions, chopped
5 Tbs salt

4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp black pepper

Mix squash and onions with salt and let sit overnight

Drain, mix all ingredients together and boil for thirty minutes.
Put in jars and seal. Can be hot water canned or refrigerated.

  • 5 June 2004. First adventure in canning
  • 12 June 2004
  • 4 September 2004 using turmeric is important, give pickles a honey color
  • 22 June 2008 made w/squash from Patton/Jeanette. Vg crunchy sweet/spicy

This vinegar / spice blend is pretty amazing. I have done this recipe with all sorts of variations  – but keep the ratio the same. Squash to onions to vinegar to sugar.