Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Red Beans and Rice With Vegetarian Chorizo.

Tonight, LeeLee and I were in a bit of a time crunch – he had to rush off to a meeting about 40 minutes after we arrived home, and I had a laundry list (which included real laundry!) of things to accomplish before my head hit the pillow (which still has not happened).  With that in mind, red beans and rice came to the rescue with rapid speed!

Within three minutes after arriving home, I’d managed to feed the cat, put the rice into the rice cooker (using an oversized shot glass as a measuring cup, I might add, because all of my other measuring cups were in the dishwasher and I was too lazy to hand-wash them – I know, I know), and open a can of red beans into a saucepan.  As everything cooked, I knocked off a couple of chores, and when the rice cooker turned off, I heated up a package of Lightlife chorizo in the microwave.  No, I didn’t use a sauté pan, because who had the time?  We were on a deadline, people!

And the end result was as tasty as usual.  Red beans and rice is our Other Old Faithful, our go-to when schedules are tight.  It’s filling, it’s hearty, it’s tasty, it’s healthy – what’s not to love?

No leftovers, but that’s OK.  We’ve still got some Easter dishes to finish!


Monday, April 21, 2014

Lemon-Basil Pasta.

Could it be? Is spring finally here?

I’m afraid to say that too loudly, in case there’s another snowstorm just waiting to blow in from wherever.  But I think maybe, possibly, we’ve turned the corner – maybe, possibly, we’re homing in on spring!

And what better way to celebrate the change of the season (if not in calendar, then in weather) than a hearty bowl of lemon-basil pasta?  This is one of those dishes we find ourselves turning to quite often in the spring and summer months – but the first tasting of the season is always the most special!

Now, when I added this dinner to the menu plan, I confess I’d expected to have a hearty crop of basil from which to harvest at this point.  Ma Nature had other plans, so a harvest from the Safeway had to suffice.  No matter – the taste was spot-on regardless!

This dinner couldn’t be easier to make.  Boil a pot of penne pasta (or ziti, or rigatoni, or whatever you like – we always tend to gravitate toward penne in this meal for some reason).  While it’s heating up, in a large serving bowl mix one-quarter cup of olive oil with two tablespoons of white wine vinegar, then add salt and pepper to taste (but add more pepper than you think you’ll need).  Then add the juice of two to three lemons (we always like a little extra lemon juice in ours, so we go with three), and then add a container’s worth of halved cherry or grape tomatoes.  Tonight, we actually used a container and a half, because we had half a container left over from another meal and what’s the use in that?

Finally, I pulled out the aforementioned package of basil from the refrigerator and washed it, then chopped the whole handful up, down to the stems.  I added the chopped leaves to the serving bowl, mixed everything together, and waited for the penne to be ready.

Once it was al dente (actually, we like ours a little softer than al dente – I know, I know, such commoners we are), LeeLee helped me drain the big pot full of water and then I poured the penne into the serving bowl, stirring throughout to mix everything together.  Once we’d spooned hearty helpings onto our plates, we sprinkled some Daiya mozzarella on top of the penne, added a little extra pepper (for old time’s sake), and voila!  Dinner in a matter of minutes.

And in true Recessionista fashion, we’ve got plenty of leftovers to last us for several lunches.  But the pasta will have to wait its turn – we’ve still got the remainder of our Easter feast to get through first!


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

 (Clockwise from top: Asparagus, crescent rolls, champagne, broccoli casserole, Quorn turk'y, potato salad, gravy, Watergate salad.)


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vegan Pad Thai.

On the heels of my adventures in Pad Thai Soup a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try out the more traditional version of the dish tonight.  And so, armed with a recipe from the great Robin Robertson’s Vegan Planet, I got home and went straight to work in the kitchen.

Thai and Asian dishes are always very daunting for me – they have a ton of preparation steps – but once you get right down to the cooking, they’re really not difficult at all.  The same was true for this Pad Thai recipe!  Once I got through the prep work, I was home-free.

As the rice noodles cooked, I sautéed the tofu in peanut oil, and then stir-fried some bell pepper, garlic, and scallion.  Then I added a diced tomato along with some seasonings – soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, and the like – and tossed the tofu back in.  By this point, the rice noodles were also finished, so I added them in and tossed everything around, dousing the pan with a little more peanut oil for good measure.

The end result was good, but “just” good – it lacked a bit of the peanutty taste I’ve come to know and love about restaurant-style Pad Thai.  I’m certain I read the directions properly and followed suit in my cooking; the peanut oil just didn’t add enough of that nutty flavor for my liking.  But LeeLee and I solved that tableside!  We just went into the cabinet, pulled out a jar of peanut butter, and added a spoonful to each of our plates, blending it in with the hot noodles.  Voila!  Extra peanut flavor in no time.

Even with our dinnertime hack, though, this wasn’t the best dish I’ve ever made.  I was glad to try it – and I love Robin Robertson! – but this just wasn’t my favorite.  It was edible, it was even enjoyable, but it wasn’t quite up to par.  Oh, well.  Not every recipe can win the Michelin Five Stars! ;)


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Old Faithful.

Tonight was Animal Shelter Night, and by the time I got home, LeeLee and I were both hungry and had neither the time nor the taste for tomfoolery.  The ingredients for black beans and rice – or, as longtime readers of this blog know it, Old Faithful – were close at hand, and a half-hour later the finished product was sitting on the table, ready for consumption.

I think one of the things I love most about Old Faithful – other than the taste, of course – is the versatility of the dish.  For instance, tonight we had some leftover lettuce, onion, and tomato on hand from Sunday night’s cookout, and so I diced everything up to add as garnish (or, perhaps more accurately, as a side dish – we tend to be a bit heavy-handed with the garnish around here!).  I pulled out a new bag of Daiya pepperjack cheese to add atop the meal, and we still had a wonderful jarred salsa from last week’s tostadas, plus some little spicy pickled peppers from a cocktail party this weekend.  And last but not least, I always keep several cans of black olives on hand for salads and suchlike – they fit in just beautifully with tonight’s dinner, as ever.

I’ve gone over and over the actual making of black beans and rice, so I won’t go into a long dissertation again here.  Suffice it to say, the rice blended nicely with a packet of Goya seasoning during its stint in the rice cooker, and I spruced up a plain can of black beans with some adobo seasoning during the cooking process.  We were both in need of a little extra protein, so I added a chik’n patty to each plate – instead of baking them, I microwaved them, because again, who had the time for tomfoolery?

And the final result was, as ever, delicious and spicy.  The salsa and pickled peppers added a little extra kick, which we both really enjoyed, and the vegetables gave us some much-needed greenery in today’s diet.  :)  Once again, Old Faithful came through for us – it always does in a pinch!


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Veggie Burgers With Peas and Tater Tots.

First of all, let us just take a moment to breathe in the long-awaited spring air (pollen optional) and thank the Powers That Be for finally making it out of winter and into our very first cookout of the season.

Yes!  You heard me right!  Finally, finally, after several false starts over the last month, I fired up our trusty Aussie grill, complete with a showroom-new grill grate and ash dump, and got to work.  First up was an aluminum grill pan teeming with English peas (seasoned with black pepper), which I covered with foil and cooked for half an hour or so.  As it cooked, I baked a sheet of tater tots in the oven indoors (because I still can’t figure out how to make them nice and crispy on the open flame – but give me time!).

While the peas and tots warmed up, I opened up a beer and sat down to leaf through the latest Real Simple.  But not just any beer – a Double Take from a six-pack that LeeLee and I picked up today while at the Safeway.  Why am I mentioning this?  Because said six-packs were on sale for 50% off – on top of a pre-existing sale!  So a $7.99 sixer cost us $3.  Which, as LeeLee pointed out over dinner, means each bottle is precisely $0.50.  Fifty cents!  Now that’s what I call spring fever.

When I was about 10 minutes from dinnertime, I put four veggie burgers onto the grill to warm up, and before long they were sizzling and juicy.  As I took them up, I put two buns on to toast.  I like to cook with a wide-open heat (if it can’t be grilled at full steam ahead, what’s the point?), so they were nearly too brown in no time. ;)

The results were springtime personified.  Everything tastes better after being grilled, and tonight’s meal was no different.  The first cookout of the season always adds extra flair – the newness of the year’s Sunday cookouts hasn’t work off yet!  After the winter we’ve had, I doubt we’ll settle into complacency any time soon.  Veggie burgers, 50-cent beers – what’s not to love?