Sunday, April 27, 2008

San Diego 'Mexican' Rice

I love Mexican food. And really, living close to the Mexican border, it's not so much a cultural food in our town, but a way of life, and part of our normal eating regime.  'Mexican' food here, is simply FOOD. And, it's very different than in other parts of the country, where it's not quite as authentic. My kids clamber for quesadillas, tacos, taquitos, beans and rice; just as often as they do for hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries. Taco Tuesday is a common local special, and we do our own in-house version weekly (although not always on Tuesdays).

One of my favorite go-to sides, is Mexican rice. Mine uses local influences, along with my kids' taste preferences, but is a solid representation non-the-less.


Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 of a sweet yellow onion, diced
1 cup chopped carrots
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups of short grain, white rice
2 T tomato paste
1 box of chicken stock (4 cups)
1 c fresh peas
2 ears of corn, kernels removed
2-4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and sliced (depending on their size, you want about 1 1/2 cups)
1 can green chilies (can be omitted if your guests don't like spicy... I tend to use only a 1/2 can or non at all when cooking for just the kids)
1/2 can of tomato sauce (I prefer San Marzano)


Coat the bottom of a large, rounded-bottom, sauce pan with olive oil. Heat oil until slightly smoking. Add onions and carrots, stirring frequently, and cook until onions are translucent (about 5 minutes). Add garlic, salt, cumin, and chili powder. Once the spices have been incorporated add rice, continuing to stir frequently. When rice has started to brown and stick to the bottom of the pan a little bit, add in the tomato paste. Stir for an additional 3 minutes. Add fresh tomatoes and chicken stock. Cover. Turn heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, occasionally lifting the lid to stir and check the broth level. When about 3/4 of the broth has been absorbed add in peas, corn, chilies and tomato sauce. Cover and cook for 5-10 more minutes, until broth is completely absorbed. Add additional salt and cracked black pepper to taste. 

* You can, and I have on occasion, substitute frozen peas and corn for fresh, if neither is in season.

Vanilla Bean Pancakes

When my eldest were little, they were diagnosed with severe milk and egg allergies. We went completely milk and egg free for the better part of two years... until they were retested, and had aged out of the allergies (very common where milk and egg are concerned). But for two years, I cooked and used all types of substitutes, and recipe variations. Most have been abandoned as we introduced milk and egg back in our diets, many were resurrected when my youngest two faced the same issue... and a select few made it into our cooking arsenal for good.

This pancake recipe I developed is one of those I still prefer to use today. Although we cook with actual milk and real eggs these days, I prefer the batter consistency that the recipe gives by using rice milk.  I will use real eggs, but only because it's easier. Weird I know... but oh so good! If you want, you can use real milk and/or the eggs substitute... but really, try it this way once, and you just might not go back.

4 c. flour
5 T sugar
1 t kosher salt
2 1/2 T baking powder
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1 box Rice Dream (or 4 cups of whole milk)
1 t vanilla
1/2 vanilla bean, split and seeded
(if you don't have vanilla bean, or you want to make your life easier- substitute 1 t vanilla paste in lieu of both vanillas)
2 eggs (Substitute:  3 T veg. oil, 3 T oil, 2 t baking powder, whisk before adding)


Preheat griddle over medium heat.

Whisk together flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a separate bowl whisk rice milk, vanilla, vanilla bean seeds, oil, and egg. Whisk until blended.

Turn griddle to medium low. Using a 1/8 measuring scoop up mixture drop on ungreased griddle. Flip when top is completely bubbly.

*If you use real eggs, increase the amount of baking powder from 2 1/2 to 3 T. No other changes are necessary.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Just for the Halibut

4 4oz halibut fillets
1 1/2 cups panko
4 cups plain rice milk (remember I'm cooking for people with allergies)
vegetable oil (can be brought to a higher temp, than olive oil)
4 tomatoes, chopped (there were some beautiful varieties at the store so I chose different colors)
handful of basil leaves, chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, diced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
olive oil

Soak halibut fillets in rice milk for 30 minutes. Season panko with salt and pepper - be generous.
While soaking, prepare tomato salad. Combine tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Add a dash of olive oil over top and pinch of salt. Stir through and refrigerate. Toast pine nuts in small skillet over medium heat until golden brown, stirring occasionally - cool.

Heat vegetable oil (enough to fully coat bottom of a nonstick pan) over medium-high heat. Dip soaked halibut in panko, and cover with the breadcrumbs. Gently place in skillet, flipping halfway through, about 6 minutes a side.
Add pine nuts to tomato mixture. Cover halibut with tomato salad. Serve with steamed zucchini.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lemon Garlic Roast Chicken

Lemon Thyme


4-5 lb whole chicken

8 whole cloves of garlic, smashed

5 fresh thyme stems

2 lemons, quartered

Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Preheat oven to 400.

Rinse chicken and pat dry. Stuff cavity with garlic, thyme, and lemons. Rub outside with olive oil, sprinkle with generous amounts of salt and pepper. Set on rack, in roasting pan. Cook until internal temp reaches 165 (approximately 1 1/2 hours).


Instead of rack, roast over red potatoes and 1 inch sliced zucchini rounds. Toss zucchini and potatoes with olive oil, the leaves of two additional sprigs of thyme and 1/2 cup of chicken stock in bottom of roasting dish. Place chicken on top - roast as above.