Monday, March 26, 2012

Wild Rice Soup

I live in Georgia.

My best friend lives in California.

No, it wasn't always that way- we grew up together in Northern MN.

We have had a lot of Skype dates in our time. (Skype is an online video chat service) We have introduced our spouses and fur babies (they have three cats, we have our furry walrus) via our video chats. We have shared ups and downs, tears, laughter and pure silliness together, in real time even though we are 2,521 miles apart.

We have had many a dinner date this way as well. In recent history, Alan has been stuck on a cheesy wild rice soup. He insisted I make it and share a bowl with him one night via skype.

So, he sent me the recipe. I of course, had to make it my own.... It was scrumptious! I asked Jon's opinion, but he was too busy trying to get every last drop out of his bowl to give me a response. :)

I used a country brown rice blend from Whole Foods Market. It had brown rice, wild rice, a black rice of some sort, and a few other rices.


If you have a whole foods market within um, anywhere of you. Go. Bring your cooler. Fill it up with all the amazing finds you are bound to acquire. I found Gluten Free waffles by Van's. (My oh my, the blueberry flavor- out of this world) gluten free panko bread crumbs, some fun gluten free flours by Bob's Red Mill, Tinkyada vegetable spiral pasta, Synders Gluten Free pretzels, quinoa, and some fun cheese samples from around the world.

A note about the waffles and the pretzels. These two products are made by companies who have perfected the wheat based versions. Snyders does pretzels right- all the time, and the gluten free version is no exception. Same goes for Van's. They make frozen waffles and french toast sticks they way they should be done. That care and dedication shines through with the gluten free version as well.

Tangent over. Back to the soup.

I made the soup. It was a hit, and the leftovers were divine. Shout out to my best friend for the great recipe idea!

I am so excited to tell you that in 14 1/2 days I get to share a meal with my best friend. In person. I look forward to our adventures!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Cheesy Wild Rice Soup

1 cup wild rice blend or country brown rice blend*
1 cup water
1 cup chicken broth
season with garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and adobo seasoning to taste

1 tsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp dry Italian herbs
1/2 cup milk
2-3 cups chicken broth
6 oz velvetta cheese
1/2 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese
2 TBS corn starch

Prepare the rice first. 

Simmer the rice blend in water, broth, and seasoning for 50 minutes, covered.

In a large pot, add the oil. Saute the chicken until no longer pink. Remove from pot. Add veggies. Saute until slightly softened. Return the chicken to the pot. Add cooked rice.

Add herbs, milk, broth, and cheese.  Bring to a simmer. 

Mix the corn starch with a little cold water to make a thin, running paste. Stir into the simmering soup. Allow to thicken to desired consistency. If the soup becomes too thick, simply add additional broth to thin.

*The rice blend I used called for 1 cup dry rice and two cups liquid. Follow your rice blend directions to fully cook the rice.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Adobo Pork & Potato Packets

I'm going to keep this short and sweet today-

With spring in full swing here in the south, we've been using our grill far more frequently.

I really like this meal because it's super easy and it's a complete meal. I don't have to worry about finding a side dish or turning on the stove top.

We enjoyed this dish out on our patio earlier this week. The cat stretched out on the warm concrete slab, the vegetable garden growing in cute little pots, and an al fresco dinner with my sweet hubby. It was a great evening.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Adobo Pork & Potato Packets
Serves 4

3 TBS olive oil
2 TBS red wine vinegar
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Adobo seasoning- optional
pepper to taste
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick*
1 yellow or white potato, peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick*
1 sweet or red onion, halved and sliced 1/8 inch thick*
4 bone-in pork chops, trimmed of excess fat

Preheat grill to high.

Combine oil, vinegar, paprika, garlic, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and adobo seasoning in a container with a tight fitting lid. Shake to combine well.

 Place sweet potato, potato and onion in a medium bowl. Add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 3 TBS of the sauce; toss well to coat.

Rub both sides of pork chops with the remaining sauce.

To make a packet, lay two 24-inch sheets of foil on top of each other (the double layers will help protect the contents from burning); generously coat the top piece with cooking spray.

Spread half the potato mixture in the center of the foil in a thin layer. Bring the short ends of foil together, fold over and pinch to seal. Pinch the seams together along the sides to seal the packet. Make a second packet in the same fashion with the remaining potato mixture.

Place the packets on the hottest part of the grill and the pork chops in the front or back. (I have a large grill with four independent burners. I set two of them to high for the packets, and two of them to medium for the chops.)

Cook the pork for 4-5 minutes per side and the packets for 6-7 minutes per side. (Transfer the chops to plates and let rest while the packets finish cooking.)

Open the packets (be careful of steam) and serve the pork chops with the vegetables.

*A mandoline makes this job super easy. 

Note- Adobo Seasoning can be found in the ethnic foods section or the spice section of your local grocery store. It wasn't originally called for in this recipe, but Jon and I really like the flavor with pork.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mustard Maple Pork Chops

I worked bright and early last Friday- 5am early. Typically I come home from work and take a nice little siesta on the couch. But this particular Friday was BEAUTIFUL. The sun was bright, the sky was blue with fluffy clouds scattered here and there, and the breeze wasn't too hot or too cold.

I skipped my nap, politely excitedly (I may or may not have gotten a running start from the doorway and launched myself into the bed like a small child on Christmas morning trying to wake up Mom & Dad...) woke up Jon and  requested a trip to the beach.

We had a little picnic at our favorite beach spot. We had some cute company too.

Cute little squirrel eating  Nacho flavored Bugels
This was number two of three- He enjoyed some of the bread from Jon's sandwich.

The maple trees are heavy with red buds. Some of the other trees have already unfurled their new bright green leaves. It's one of my favorite colors- but it's so fleeting. (And, it always reminds me of my mom, it's one of her favs too.)

Who remembers this sign? The one Jon and I never believe....

Well, it turns out....

Well, huh. I guess there are gators in the pond....

No swimming in the pond please!  

Gators weren't the only thing in the little pond. There were at least 4 different species of turtles swimming around and sunning themselves.

After our picnic and wild life adventure, we finally made our way down the ocean. Jon prefers to hang in his beach chair up in the sand. As for me, I like to go mingle with the water.

Spending some very important time healing and chatting with my Creator.
Diggin' a hole
After about an hour of playing in the water, I decided to go gather up my beach chair and sit at the edge of the water line. The tide was creeping back in so I would sit a few feet from the waves, dig a hole with my foot and wait for the tide to fill the hole with water. Then, I would back up a few feet and do it again. Yes, it's the simple things in life. :)

While I was digging holes, Jon was making friends with seagulls-

Seagull! Jon gave them names, they had a back story. It was all very entertaining.
After our fun day of sun and surf we were hungry! Lucky for us, I make a menu for the week so we had options that didn't include a bad fast food decision.

We had mustard maple pork chops and twice baked potatoes. The pork chops were just the right amount of tang and sweet. And the potatoes were the perfect accompaniment. I made them according to the recipe but omitted the ground beef since we were having them as a side.

We had a delightful day and a lovely dinner. I love having spur of the moment days with the love of my life.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friends. Cheers!

Mustard Maple Pork Chops
Makes 4 servings

3 TBS coarse ground mustard, divided
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 pound boneless pork chops
2 tsp canola oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 TBS maple syrup*

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Combine 1 TBS mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl; rub all over pork.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and brown on all sides, about 3-4 minutes.

Line a sheet pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Transfer to oven and roast the meat until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers 145°F, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest for 5 minutes.

Place the skillet over medium-high heat, add vinegar, and boil, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon, about 30 seconds. Whisk in maple syrup and the remaining 2 TBS mustard; bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until the sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes.

Add chops and any accumulated juices to the sauce. Serve the pork topped with the sauce.

* If you use pancake syrup instead of pure maple syrup, you will need closer to 1/4 cup of syrup to achieve a good balance of tang and sweet.