28 May 2008

Grilled Veggie and Bread Salad

I had some squash and zucchini left over from Uncle Reed's and my tomato plant is producing fruit, so veggies for dinner was the only logical answer. So I busted out the grill pan and decided to have a go. Nothing can beat fresh veggies on the grill! This is what I included in my salad but you can use what you have on hand. (This is a horrible picture, but it will give you the idea.)

1 yellow squash, cut on the bias
1 zucchini, cut on the bias
2 tomatoes, thickly sliced
2 slices bread
Leftover corn

Toss in oil, salt and pepper. Grill veggies on grill or grill pan until soft but still firm. Toast bread throughly on grill. Peel tomatoes, place in bowl with squash, zucchini and corn. Tear up bread and stir throughly. Serve while warm.

23 May 2008

Garden Goodness

Today I traveled to Midway with my grandparents and our first stop was my Uncle Reed's. Two summer ago, my Aunt Beth passed away and Uncle Reed invited my grandfather and me back to his place for dinner. That night, we went into his garden and picked our dinner. He has an EXTENSIVE garden and whatever I said I wanted was what we picked and then my Aunt Betty Ann cooked it. Since then, Uncle Reed and I have had a common bond over his garden. Last summer, I canned pickles, salsa and jelly for the first time on my own with only ingredients from his garden. This winter, Uncle Reed came to my house and saw my own garden and he was mighty impressed. So, back around to Friday, we went to Uncle Reed's and the first thing he asked was if we were having dinner there. OF COURSE! I exclaimed knowing what was ahead. So we went out in his garden and he
showed me what all he was growing this year. We ended up picking fresh pinto beans, potato, cucumbers, zucchini, squash, peppers, onions, cilantro, dill and garlic. We had bought 9 chicken breasts at the store because we were expecting nine people for dinner. Once we start cooking, Uncle Reed decided to only cook three chicken breasts and I was for sure it wasn't gonna be enough. Once we started filling up the table, I realized that we had MORE than enough food. Everything was simple and SO fresh, it was amazing. Hands down, my two best meals I've ever eaten have been at my Uncle Reed's. Here's what was on the menu:

Ice Cold Cucumber Salad

Slice cucumbers into 1/2" rounds. French a large white onion. Add lots of fresh dill. Pour equal parts of white vinegar and red wine vinegar over cucumbers (for about 4 cups cucumbers, use about 1 cup). Add ice cubes and chill in refrigerator. Taste mixture once ice melts, it should have a twang but not too much of a bite. Add either more water or more vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. This will get better the longer it sits!

Boiled Potatoes w/ Dill and Butter

I quartered red potatoes and put in boiling water til fork tender. Drain, add butter, and fresh dill.

Fresh Pinto Beans
Shell beans and place in pot with four cloves chopped garlic. Boil until tender. Serve with onion, cilantro, and pepper garnish.

Grilled Chicken, Zucchini, Squash and Onions
Slice onions, zucchini, squash and cut chicken into bite size pieces. Cook on the grill with olive oil, salt, pepper and grub rub (my new favorite seasoning!). Cook until chicken is done and vegetables are soft.

Serve with good company and nothing can beat this meal!!!

20 May 2008

Leftovers Galore

Both my pantry and my freezer are getting rather full. Since I live an hour away from a real grocery store (not an over-price store that barely carries anything), I tend to stock on everything in the chance that I *might* need it someday to cook something. However, my readiness to be prepared for anything has left little room for things I actually need, like freezer space to put my ice trays in so I can have ice! To make matters worse, this weekend I went to a banquet that had lots of leftover Chinese food that I was graciously sent home with. One of the items was white rice. I'm not a rice person but I didn't want it to go to waste. After looking over my pantry, I had a brilliant idea to reuse and reinvent the rice. My thought process was a tropical rice using fruit in my freezer and pantry to serve with the grilled pork chops I (also) had in the freezer. Below is my recipe which I must say I am very proud because this is the first time I have created a recipe from scratch with no outside inspiration. It came just from my pantry! It's almost like the German version of sweet rice, but not as sweet or as milky. Make sure to add the red pepper, it adds a nice little kick every now and then. Enjoy!

Tropical Rice

4 c. leftover cooked white rice
1 can coconut milk, unsweetened
1 sm. can mandarin oranges, drained and reserve juice
1 sm. can pineapple chunks, drained and reserve juice
3/4 cranberry sauce*
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. cinnamon
2 t. red pepper
heavy pinch salt

Place rice in large saucepan over medium low heat. Begin by adding enough milk to almost cover rice, about 1 in from top of rice (I used 3/4 of the can, but it will vary depending on how moist your leftover rice is), cranberry sauce, oranges and pineapple. Stir until mixed. Added 1/4 c. of desired juice to add flavor. Once rice is moist and fruit is throughly mixed in, add sugar and seasonings. Bring rice mixture to a simmer, then drop heat to low and let simmer for 5 minutes. Turn heat off and let sit for an additional 5 minutes. Serve with grilled pork chops for a delicious and easy dinner!

*My cranberry sauce was actually what I had made at Christmas using fresh cranberries, water, sugar and orange juice brought to a boil until the berries began to pop. If you don't have any lying around, try using fresh cranberries and add a little more sugar or you might try it out the can, or just add more orange and pineapples!

**I'm also working on my food pictures so bear with me.

07 May 2008

Quick and Easy Pasta

It's been a busy week and tonight was the first night I've had the opportunity to cook. However, referring back to the previous sentence, it's been a long and hard past 7 days and I was not in the mood to cook anything complicated or even go to the store for that matter. Yes, a pantry raid was in store. I pulled a package of Knorr "Sides Plus Veggies" off the shelf. It was the roasted garlic, olive oil and broccoli rotini version. I had originally planned to add a can of cannellini beans and a handful of frozen spinach, however when the pasta got dry, I decided to add a can of stewed Italian tomatoes. I cooked the beans separately because I can't stand undercooked beans and overcooked pasta. Maybe one day I'll try cooking them together. It turned out EXCELLENT and very easy. So think of it Semi-Homemade, Amanda Style.

1 pkg. Knorr Sides Plus Veggies, Roasted garlic, Olive oil, and Broccoli Rotini
1 can stewed tomatoes, Italian style
Handful frozen spinach
1 can cannellini beans
Italian seasoning, Roasted Garlic and Rosemary seasoning

Begin cooking Knorr sides pasta as directed on the package. While the pasta is cooking, begin cooking beans in a separate pot. Bring beans to boil and let simmer. About three minutes before pasta is done per package directions, add tomatoes and additional seasonings and let simmer 3-5 minutes, or until pasta is done. When pasta is done stir in beans, do not drain. Serve warm with bread.