Archive for March 29, 2012

Spanish Rice

The other day I was in the mood for comfort food.  One of hubby’s favorite comfort foods is the Spanish Rice that his Grandma Rose used to make.  It’s an easy recipe, and one that I know by heart.

I set about making it, not thinking too hard.  Cooked the bacon, removed it, sauteed the onions, peppers and garlic, browned the ground beef with Worcestershire sauce and chili powder.  Then I added rice, canned tomatoes, water and oregano.  Brought it to a boil, reduced to a simmer, covered and waited.

About 15 minutes in I checked it (I like to make sure the tomatoes aren’t scorching) and when I lifted the lid I knew immediately something was wrong.  It looked DRY.  I checked my measuring cup,  yes, I’d dumped the water in.  The tomatoes, too.  What had I done?  Went to my trusty MasterCook program and looked up the recipe and realized immediately what I had done.  I’d added 2 cups of rice instead of 1.  Oops.

I quickly dug around my cupboard for another can of tomatoes, added more water and seasonings.  Brought it back up to a boil, back down to a simmer and let it cook for awhile, hoping I hadn’t ruined it.  About 15 minutes later I checked it and, whew, it was ok.  The rice was a bit mushy and it didn’t have quite the flavor oomph it usually does, but it was still a good dinner!  I served it with corn muffins and refried beans.

Spanish Rice

And it was a good thing, too.  Someone hubby works with had seen my FaceBook post about Spanish Rice for dinner and he was sure looking forward to it when he came home.

SPANISH RICE

Serves: 6

    Ingredients

  • 1/2 Pound Ground Beef
  • 1/2 Pound Bacon (cut into 1 inch pieces)
  • 1 Bell Pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Medium Onion (sliced thinly)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon Ancho Chili Powder
  • 1 15 Ounce Can Stewed Tomatoes
  • Salt And Peppper (to taste)
  • 2 Cups Water
  • 1 Cup Long-Grain Rice
  • 1/2 Cup Cheddar Cheese, Shredded

Directions:

In a skillet brown meat with green pepper, onion, and garlic in a bit of water until tender. Stir in seasoning, rice, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and water. Bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Cover, turn heat to low, and cook for about 30 minutes or until rice is done. Top with cheese, allowing time to melt.

Spring has Sprung

lilacs

I’m sitting here waiting for Billy from the local Air Conditioning company to come by. He’s going to service and start up our swamp cooler so that we’ll be ready as the warm weather is here and getting warmer. We need to be ready!

When we first moved into our house it was one of the coldest and wettest winters ever. We actually had snow in the desert.

Snow!

We did not realize what the little bush was just off to the side of the driveway. Not until spring rolled around and it bloomed these amazing purple blooms. It was a lilac bush! I hadn’t seen one up close since leaving Iowa 20 years earlier.
And it is blooming nicely this year, even after a very mild winter and just in time for Easter.

lilacs

Lilacs in bloom

Speaking of Easter, check out what I found at Wold Market last week:

Easter Pasta

Easter Pasta

This will go perfectly with our traditional Bunny Pizza Easter Dinner (details to follow).

Frickleburgers

Frickleburgers, the first burger joint on our Best Burgers in Palm Springs list, was definitely a hit. Another couple joined us on the quest and we headed down the hill to enjoy a Friday evening on the town. We fed the dogs an early dinner and headed to Yucca Valley to meet up and carpool the remaining hour of the drive.

As we drove along Hwy 111 in Cathedral City we looked for the sign. We had the address but when the vehicle is driving 40 mph you have to look hard to find it. Hubby spotted the sign first and there it was, tucked away in a strip mall, between a Dollar Tree and a taco shop.

A wonderful young man, Geff, greeted us at the door and then made sure we understood how the checklist menu works and made us feel right at home. We had pre-printed our checklists, but he showed us that there were plenty of checklists and pencils at the tables for our use if we needed them. Geff was the definition of customer service and made our experience that much better. We found a table and perused the check list and and began choosing which burgers we would try. And the best part, share. When you have good friends to enjoy the quest with you get to sample more items on the menu without looking like a pig.

The menfolk contemplated The Big Nasty and who would order it.

Menfolk...contemplating The Big Nasty

After ordering they brought us complimentary glasses of cucumber and lemon flavored water. Wow, was that a nice treat! Lightly flavored and very refreshing to sip while we waited for our dinner.

The sides came out first, each with a container of their homemade blue cheese dressing. I don’t much care for blue cheese, but it was light and good.

Finally, our burgers came out one by one.

These were heavy duty, old world burgers. I customized the Fricklburger with cheese, jalapenos, lettuce and chopped bacon. Hubby had the Big Nasty, no bun and a brat and a burger, chilli and cheese. The Giddy Gunter was a chicken schnitzel with a fried egg and mushrooms. The Country Comfort burger included melted cheddar, BBQ sauce, red onion, tomato, shredded iceberg, and an onion ring.

Sectioned off and ready for sharing.

After dividing them up, we decided all were very good, very heavy and we were waddling when we left. After we had to walk around a few stores to walk off some of the food before the long drive home, but definitely worth it. Probably a good thing it is so far away.

We’ll definitely go back. But not until after we try the rest of the places on our list. Be sure to stay tuned!!!

Burger Quest

Several weeks ago hubby and I were driving along and listening to the radio. The Palm Springs DJ was asking listeners to call in and advise on the best burgers in the area. Palm Springs is just about an hour “down the hill” (actually, down two mountain grades) from us. We are considered “high desert” as we are in the mountains and being at sea level they are “low desert”.

Whenever we are down there we debate over where to eat. There are tons of options from $ to $$$$, but not living there we don’t usually hear the good or bad. Now we have a list of places from Palm Springs to La Quinta, which covers the entire “low desert” area.

Hubby shoots xrays at the local hospital and was on call last week. This meant lots of overtime. With all that overtime a flex day was in order, so he unexpectedly has today off. That means a trip down the hill is in order to check out one of the places on our list, Frickleburgers. Maybe a movie after.

I need to print out the checklist so we will be ready to order. Updates to follow :)

St Patrick’s Day, FINALLY

DSC02700

I love St. Patrick’s Day. I may have mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. Corned beef is one of my all time favorite meals, but it is not necessarily a healthy meal, so we limit it to once a year. This year, as I posted previously, I attempted corning it myself. We also wanted to celebrate with friends so we thru a small dinner party for 20. To make it easier I told everyone that, if they wanted to, they were welcome to bring something Irish or green.

The evening started with a Dubliner and Guinness dip.

Dubliner and Guinness Dip

Since this was a new dish I made it ahead of time, tested it out on hubby during a NASCAR race, and made quite a few tweaks, ending up with this recipe:

8 oz cream cheese, softened
3 oz Guinness® Extra Stout Beer (leaves enough in the bottle for the cook to enjoy)
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
7 ounce package Dubliner Irish cheese

Place the Dubliner into the bowl of a food processor and chop until well grated. Add cream cheese and pulse until well mixed. Add remaining ingredients, process until smooth. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Let set at room temp about 20 minutes before serving. Serve with pretzels and crackers.

As an appetizer or side, these Colcannon Stuffed Potatoes went very well.

Colcannon Stuffed Taters

No official recipe, but I baked the small, red potatoes for 45 minutes at 350. (Larger potatoes would take longer.) Meanwhile I chopped half of a small cabbage and small onion, sauteeing them in butter. Split the potatoes in half, scooping the potato into the pan with the cabbage and onion. Sprinkle salt, pepper to taste, add cream cheese. Mash. (This does not need to be smooth.) Fill potato halves, back into the oven at 375 for 10 to 15 minutes until the tops start to brown. Voila.

Finally, it was on to the star of the show. Corned beef is always cooked in a slow cooker (still called a crock pot by some of us) and simmered in there all day on low. My mother made it this way and so it just is.

First, a layer of thickly sliced onions.

Layer of onion slices.

Then the meat, topped with several garlic cloves, bay leaf, cracked peppercorns and then Guinness Extra Stout poured about halfway up the meat. (Don’t over do this…slow cookers don’t release the steam and will end up drowning in liquid if you pour in too much. I’m sure you can figure out how to finish off, er, use that extra beer that was opened.)

Add seasonings and beer.

Finally, top with a layer of cut potatoes.

Potatoes!

About 20 minutes before pulling from the slow cooker top everything wedges of green cabbage if desired. This steams them rather than cooking them to mush.

Since the corned beef was home corned and didn’t have any nitrates in it, it came out looking like pot roast rather than the normal bright pink. When I pulled that first tender, falling apart chunk out of the slow cooker to taste test and saw the brown, pot roast looking meat I was devastated. I thought for sure it would taste like it looked and all of the time and work of the last 4 weeks would be for nothing. Then I tasted it. It was amazing. It tasted like corned beef but without the chemical, almost pickled, tastes. And it melted in the mouth.

Unfortunately, in the picture everything looks, well, brown. I stuck a bit of parsley on there just to brighten it up.

Dinner

And finally, for dessert, we had Chocolate Stout Cake from Epicurious. I’ve been making this for several years and it is always a hit. A deep chocolate flavor, similar to mocha but without the coffee aftertaste. Chocolate Ganache icing tops it off to complete the decadence.

Chocolate Stout Cake

Gino’s for dinner…wait, it’s WHERE?

Last Friday we went out to dinner with friends. We’d heard about a new Italian place and, typical of any small town with limited choices, we couldn’t wait to try it out. I texted the directions to the other couple so we could meet there: Just east of Four Corners, it’s in the back of the gas station on the right hand side.

Don't judge a book by its cover.

Their response? “Let’s meet at your house and we’ll follow you to the restaurant.” Seems they were a bit confused by the directions and thought I was pulling their leg. But follow us they did. To heaven.

We headed to the back of the Beacon liquor store/gas station, past the display for Kinky Liquor and behind a t-shirt rack. Nestled between beer coolers, there it was. A small, 3-table restaurant.

Ambiance isn't everything.

Hubby liked this view, tho.

The menu wasn’t large, but it had the classics. I’d rather a smaller menu with food done right than a large menu with 30 dishes all using the same sauce. We quickly ordered three dishes off the menu, priced at give or take $10. The fourth choice, the salmon special of the day, was a little higher at $14.95. Its a one man show right now, complete with the requisite authentic Italian accent. Everything is all cooked to order, so plan to wait about 20 minutes for your main course. Don’t worry, tho, there is plenty of crusty bread to nosh on while waiting or you can order an appetizer to enjoy.

Special of the day: Salmon

Pasta Carbonara

Chicken Parmigiana

Spaghettini and Meatballs

We had to try a dessert and the consensus was to try a group favorite, the Tiramisu. It was a piece of heaven. I think I make a pretty good Tiramisu, but mine is nothing compared to this. The ladyfingers were liquor soaked nirvana, the mascarpone filling was light. Coffee was in the background, not overpowering.

The best Tiramisu. EVER.

Gino’s also offers take-out and delivery.

I couldn’t help take advantage of the liquor store while we were there and snagged a bottle of White Chocolate Godiva. I’ve been hunting everywhere for this necessary ingredient in White Chocolate Martinis. (I’ll post about it at a later time.)

And for a special treat...

Guinness Marinated Steak Sandwich

I’m really enjoying the St Patrick’s Day season this year. When I stumbled across this recipe I just couldn’t resist, not really Irish but it does use Guinness so it still fits into the season.

2 lb flank steak
1 lg red onion, sliced in 1/4″ slices
12 oz Extra Stout Guinness Beer
4 oz garlicky cream cheese spread (see note)
6 crusty rolls, sliced in half

Marinate flank steak and red onion in the beer in a large ziploc type bag for 1 to 2 hours.

Grill steak and onions over direct heat for 5 minutes first side, 3 after flipping. Let it set for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute, under tented foil.

Thinly slice steak across the grain. Spread cream cheese on top half of a roll. Layer meat and onions on the bottom half. And a sandwich is born!

NOTE: Although a store bought garlicky cream cheese spread can be used, I make my own: 8 oz softened cream cheese, 1 minced garlic clove, salt, pepper, minced parsley and a pinch of oregano. Mix well and let flavors meld at least an hour.