Saturday, August 6, 2011

it's been awhile; some old favorites and a new creation

Where to even begin?

It's been nearly three long months since I last hit the publish button on this site and shared my thoughts about food with the masses.  Why the neglect?  I have a million excuses jumbling around in my head for my lack of motivation and follow-through, and I've had to bust them out pretty often lately when interested friends have inquired about this blog.

Well, no, not lately, you see, because, umm... (insert lame excuse here and feel guilty for lacking ambition)... 

Some of the excuses were viable, I suppose.  For a little while, anyway.  I did move into a new place a couple of months ago and am getting used to yet another new kitchen and new housemate situation.  My long-term relationship did also end kinda recently, so that's been a huge adjustment.  Plus I had the two job/50 hour work week thing going on for a few months, so I wasn't necessarily looking forward to  labor in the kitchen and epic photo shoots of my dinner plate in my limited free time.
So basically, I've been feeling tired and ungrounded.

But recently, my inspiration for food has been showing up more regularly at my doorstep, begging for my attention and succeeding in dredging up my excitement for dinner.  Suddenly I have a laundry-list of ideas and recipes that I'm dying to try...  

I'm starting to feel like myself again.

And even though I took a little time off from experimentation with my meals, it wasn't like I didn't cook at all.  I fell back on some favorite, reliable recipes that I've made so many times I could easily whip them up blind-folded, with my arms tied behind my back, in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.  

OK, so maybe the arms-tied-behind-back thing is stretching it a bit, but you get my drift.

For instance, I've been wooing friends with loaves of my Gluten-Free Banana Bread.  I decided to tweak it and take a more traditional approach, so I left out the chocolate and shredded coconut.  No less amazing, I assure you.

My White Beans with Italian Sausage and Chard has been a gem when I've been interested in deliciousness and leftovers for lunches.  Unlike most of the rest of the country, Seattle hasn't been ablaze with fire and brimstone so far this summer, so making a hot soup hasn't been out of the question. 

On days when I haven't felt like actually cooking (umm, that would be most of them, lately) my Salmon Salad has been a go-to recipe.  It only takes about ten minutes to make and can go on sandwiches, on top of salads, or just eaten straight. No heat required. Love it.

Like I said, though, as of late the tide has been turning (what the hell does that really mean, anyway?  Ahh, English idioms.), and I've been trying out some new ideas.  And some of them haven't ended up in the trashcan amidst fist shaking and cries of anger and self-loathing.  Most of them haven't, actually.

A friend of mine recently suggested the idea of jerked chicken thighs for dinner.  Uh, yum, thank you.  He also suggested that he would take care of the chicken if I would make a side dish.  Well, of course I will. That would be lovely.

But what was I gonna make?  I've learned in my thirty one years on this planet that I suck at making decisions when the options are more numerous than about three.  In other words, I rock the eye exam but fail miserably at the video store.

Luckily, this time we sort of jointly decided that a rice dish might be happenin' with some jerked chicken thighs.  Got it.  Peppers, onions, tomatoes, white rice... it would be like a Spanish rice thing.  It would be spicy and flavorful enough to compete with the mouth party that jerk seasoning invokes.  It would be slammin'.

There are few things that give me the same satisfaction as winging a new recipe and having it turn out as good as I wanted it to.  This Spanish rice was one of those dishes.  

Spanish Rice
serves 4-6

1 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium, red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, diced, with seeds
1.5 C. white rice (long grain if you've got it)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15oz. can diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 C. low-sodium chicken broth
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1 C. loosely packed cilantro leaves and stems, chopped
2 tsp. lime zest (or to taste)
  • Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium.  Add the onions, bell peppers, and jalapeno and saute for a couple of minutes.  Add the rice, and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions are translucent and the rice beginning to brown (not burn!), about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and tomatoes to the pan, stir and simmer for a few more minutes.
  • Stir the chicken broth into the rice mixture.  Raise the heat to high until the liquid reaches boiling, then lower the heat, cover the skillet and simmer slowly.  Continue to cook, stirring once or twice, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and stir in the cilantro and lime zest.
  • Serve it up.

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