Thursday, April 30, 2009

Spanish Rice

Spanish rice or Mexican rice?

What's the difference?
IS there a difference?

After spending 15 minutes on Google, I gave up. Everyone has a different opinion. The most educated-sounding answer was that true Spanish rice contains saffron and Mexican rice contains cumin.

That came from Yahoo! Answers, so don't quote me on that.

But it sounded smart.

Anyways, here's some great Spanish rice.
Or should it be Mexican rice?

Cost: Home
Convenience: Store
Taste: Home
Health: Home
Homemade wins again. Browning the rice keeps it from becoming a mushy mess. Chicken broth adds SO much flavor. This is such a quick and easy recipe. I'm a Rice-A-Roni lover, but I think I have to concede to the homemade side. Aside from chopping the onion and pepper, it takes the same amount of time as it's minus all the random ingredients like MSG in Rice-A-Roni. Two thumbs up here. (Andy won't touch any form of rice, crazy man.)

Spanish Rice (4 LARGE servings, 30 minutes)

2 TB oil
1 c uncooked white rice
1 onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
2 c chicken broth or stock
1 10 oz can diced tomatoes and green chilis (do not drain)
1 tsp chili powder, to taste
1/2 tsp salt
Dash cumin, to taste

1. Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute rice, onion, and pepper until rice is brown.
2. Stir in broth and tomatoes. Add chili powder, salt, and cumin.
3. Cover and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
*You can replace the broth with water, but I view the broth as the "magic ingredient".
*Rumor is that brown rice or minute rice can be used. Just adjust the cooking time.
*I keep chopped green pepper frozen, so I just toss in a handful.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Flour Tortillas

I love tortillas. I use them to make tacos, quesadillas, fajitas, and the occasional experiment. I hide them behind the flour at home.

No one in my family would eat them plain, so I'm not sure why I hide them, but I do.

How often do I eat them plain?

Never, until today.

I'm not big on recipes that require time to rise or "rest". Having two kids means nothing ever gets done as planned. So I need kid-proof recipes if I'm going to make it more than once. This recipe fits the bill.

Don't worry too much about the timing. I messed it up. The first rest was too short, the second one too long.

Anna spilled apple juice on my kneading surface. And I didn't realize it till I was half done kneading. And they still turned out good.

(Note: These are slightly thicker tortillas. From what I can tell, true Mexican tortillas are thin and true Texan tortillas are thicker.)

Cost: Home
Convenience: Store
Taste: Home
Health: Home
Homemade wins. They tasted so much more "authentic" and enhanced the flavor of the rest of the food. However, these tortillas are best used for Mexican meals like tacos. They did not work as well for quesadillas since they are thicker and seemed to burn before the contents fully melted. The first time I made these tortillas it took me awhile. After a few more tries, I think I could do it quite quickly. I'll definitely be making these regularly - if I remember to start them an hour before the meal.

Texan Flour Tortillas (makes 8, 50 min)

2 c all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp oil
3/4 c warm milk

1. Combine dry ingredients. Add oil. Mix.
2. Add warm milk slowly and mix until ball forms.
3. Knead for 2 minutes on floured surface.
4. Place dough in bowl, cover with damp towel or plastic wrap, and let rest for 20 min.
5. Break dough off and roll into 8 balls. Place balls on a plate, not touching. Cover with damp towel or plastic wrap for 10 min.
6. One at a time, place balls on floured surface. Press into 4-inch circles with your fingers. Then use a rolling pin to roll into 8 inch circles. Keep tortillas covered until ready to cook.
7. Heat iron skillet on high. Cook tortilla about 30 seconds on each side. It should start to puff when it's done.
Keep tortillas wrapped in napkins or in ziploc bag until ready to eat.

*You can heat milk on the stove. Or to save time, money, and dishes, just add warm water to powdered milk.
*If your dough is too elastic, you didn't let it rest long enough. I left my balls rest for 45 minutes instead of 10 while we went outside. They turned out just fine.
*Can be stored in refrigerator for a couple days

Whole wheat tortillas soon to come...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Granola Bars

Aaah, granola bars. The magical treat. Perfect for church, in the car, shopping, or any other time I need Anna to be quiet.

For awhile we were going through 2 boxes each week.

I guess I needed a lot of quiet.

So then I tried making my own.

And I discovered the power of sprinkles. Anything gets eaten if I put sprinkles on it.

Cost: Home
Convenience: Store
Taste: Not really comparable, as they're quite different
Health: Home
We only go through one box a week now. Andy still prefers storemade chocolate chip bars, but Anna and I love these ones. They are softer and more "cakey" than store-made granola bars, so you're not going to find the same texture. But for the ease and nutrition, I'll eat them any day. And the recipe is idiot-proof. I've modified it almost every time I've used it. Seriously, you can't mess it up. They taste best made as written, but whole wheat flour and applesauce make it more nutritious.
However, when nostalgia hits, there's nothing like a classic Quaker granola bar to bring me back to freshman year of high school.
But don't forget to add the sprinkles.
Leftover Christmas ones are best.

Granola Bars (about 12 bars, 30 min)
2 c quick oats
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/2 c wheat germ
1 c all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c honey
1 egg, beaten
1/2 c vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease 9x13 pan.
2. Mix dry ingredients.
3. Make a well in the center. Pour in remaining ingredients. Mix well.
4. Pat mixture into pan. Use about 3/4 of the pan. The mix won't expand, so you don't want it too thin.
5. Bake 18-22 minutes or until edges turn golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Cut while still warm.
** 5/22 Update: Bake these in a glass pan. They take about 25 min to cook, but are softer. They are also perfect for a 8X11 pan.

Optional Substitutions
Whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour
Applesauce for oil
Rolled oats for quick oats
Add raisins, chocolate chips, craisins, sprinkles, etc.

My inspiration

Monday, April 27, 2009

White Bread

Trying to be cheap, I've been buying the cheapest loaves of bread at the store. What I've learned? Store-bought bread doesn't taste good unless it costs at least $2 a loaf.

Then Mom handed over her breadmaker.

I'm hooked.

My biggest hangup about making bread was that the bread wouldn't be usable for anything except that - plain bread.

Oh was I wrong.

It made the most delicious grilled cheese sandwiches. Ever. My 2 year old and I just sat here eating, not saying a word. I'd make breadmaker bread just for the grilled cheese sandwiches.

Cost: Homemade (.83 to .98)
Convenience: Storemade (5 seconds to 3 1/2 hours!)
Taste: Homemade (3 thumbs up)
Health: Homemade
Homemade bread wins by a mile. The crust was a too crispy for me, so I'll experiment more. However, it was so easy and perfect for sandwiches. I'm going to try to make a loaf every Sunday.

Wheat bread soon to come...

Traditional White Bread - 2 lb loaf

1 + 1/3 c water
4 tsp softened butter or margarine
4 c bread flour
2 TB sugar
4 tsp dry milk
2 tsp salt
2 tsp active dry yeast

1. Pour water into the bread pan.
2. Add butter.
3. Pour flour into the pan. Follow with sugar, dry milk, and salt.
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients. Pour yeast into the well. Yeast should NEVER touch liquids.
5. Snap pan into breadmaker and start it up!