Wild Rice Salad

When I made the Mushroom and Wild Rice Casserole I wasn’t thinking straight! The recipe called for about 2 cups of cooked wild rice but I didn’t account for the fact that rice nearly triples its size when cooked. I ended up with quite a bit of extra cooked wild rice in my fridge. Not a problem, though, because I LOVE WILD RICE!

There was no way I was going to waste the extra so I did some online searching for a quick and easy wild rice salad recipe and I was immediately drawn to this recipe on Simply Recipes.

Until Kelly mentioned it, I had no idea that Wild Rice is a “Minnesota thing.” When I served this salad to my family, my brother-in-law, who is also from Minnesota, was quite vocal about how much he loved this salad! He had no idea about my infatuation with wild rice and said if he had known, he would have asked his dad to bring some out with him this weekend. Unfortunately, his dad had already departed Minnesota so I won’t be tasting any authentic Minnesota wild rice any time soon!  Next time Ed! 🙂

In my opinion, the quality that makes this salad so great is the texture. There is quite a bit of satisfying crunch.

Remember to chop each component to uniform size so that each bite includes a little bit of each ingredient. You don’t want one bite to contain nothing but a giant chunk of celery and the next bite to contain a giant piece of green onion. (I talk more about the importance of chopping uniformly here.)

Each bite should contain a little bit of everything. Doing so allows for each bite to be a little dance party in your mouth!  The peas pop, the pine nuts snap, the celery crunches (and so on) and they are all united by the chewy grains of wild rice. Oh the fun! 🙂

Wild Rice Salad:

  • 2-3 cups cooked wild rice
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 4 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 4-6 green onions (scallions), finely chopped
  • 1 cup frozen peas*
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2-4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar

In a medium bowl combine rice, dried cranberries, celery, green onions, frozen peas, and pine nuts. Use a wooden spoon to gently combine.

In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, sugar and salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss gently to evenly distribute dressing. Season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

*If you plan to serve this dish immediately, use thawed peas. If you are storing overnight in the fridge, frozen peas will defrost by the time you serve.

Adapted from this recipe found on Simply Recipes.

Yellow Cake with Quick Vanilla Frosting

As I mentioned, my husband ran the Boston Marathon on Monday and I am incredibly proud of him!

This was his first marathon and he ran with the Dana Farber team as part of the Dana Farber Marathon Challenge (DFMC).  He raised more than $5,000 towards Claudia Adams Barr Program in Innovative Basic Cancer Research.

While I didn’t participate in the weekly Dana Farber team runs or the training sessions with 1976 Boston marathon winner (now coach) Jack Fultz, I did meet him and other team members here and there and I did attend the pasta party on Sunday evening prior to the race.

I cannot say enough about this organization. I am incredibly impressed and inspired by what a wonderful group of kind individuals that they are. The pasta party was perfectly touching and inspiring. It felt like we (well, really my husband) and all of the other runners really made an impact and contributed toward the group’s goal of a world without cancer. I left the evening feeling touched, emotional, uplifted, and inspired.

Race day was GORGEOUS! There was such a wonderful BUZZ in the city. My husband did incredibly well and cheering for him was so exhilarating. All of his hard work paid off. I am proud of his accomplishment and feel so lucky to live with someone who inspires me every day.

Now on to the cake!

As you know, I spend quite a bit of time researching new and creative cake recipes/flavors/frosting combinations, sometimes to the point where my head feels like it is going to explode! (Remember how hard it was for me to decide what I should make for my nephew’s birthday cake?  And remember when I could not for the life of me settle on which  fruit-flavored cupcakes I should make?) What’s funny is whenever I ask my husband what kind of cake he wants the answer is always the same: yellow cake with vanilla frosting. I always dismiss it thinking it is too plain and too simple

This time, however, I didn’t even ask. This cake was in honor of his tremendous commitment to fundraising and training and if he likes plain on plain, that is what he should get!

Of course, I didn’t want it to be too plain. So, even though I usually try not to make a habit of eating or serving fluorescent-colored foods, I went out on a limb here and matched the frosting to the Dana Farber team shirts.

This isn't my husband--this photo is taken from the DF site.

Like the race, the cake was successful. It was moist and simple.  The key to the frosting is the perfect balance of milk and sugar. (I think this batch of frosting actually turned out a tad dry–it needed a touch more milk.) 

What a wonderful occasion it was for cake, celebration, and time with family!

Yellow Cake:

  • shortening
  • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1/2  cup  butter
  • 8 oz.  sour cream
  • 1 1/2  cups  granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 3/4  cup buttermilk

 Rub shortening on the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans.  Sprinkle with flour.  Set aside.

Combine 1/2 cup butter and sour cream in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Add sugars and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Beat with a mixer at medium speed 3 minutes or until well blended. Add eggs; beat 2 minutes or until well blended.

Lightly spoon 2 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 2 cups flour, baking soda, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pan. Sharply tap pan once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 F for 27-30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

Quick Vanilla Frosting:

  • 8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 5-6 cups of confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 cup milk (more or less depending on desired texture)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

Whip the butter in a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Slowly add confectioners’ sugar, one cup at a time, while the mixer is on low. Add milk a few splashes at time until desired consistency is achieved. Add vanilla and salt and mix until fully incorporated.

Spring Pasta with Fresh Arugula Walnut Pesto

My husband is running the Boston Marathon on Monday and I could not be more proud! He has worked so hard training over the past several months and as great of a runner he was when he started training he has improved quite a bit and shown serious promise for race day.

I know how important diet is for athletic performance so I was sure to stock up on loads of lean proteins, fresh fruits and fresh vegetables at the grocery store this weekend. For this meal I decided to give him his fill of nutrients (as well as a few carbs!) to keep him healthy for race day.  He loves red peppers, peas, and mushrooms so I created this meal around those. I LOVE arugula and what could be better or more nutritious than combining it with omega-laden walnuts?! 

This meal was very delicious and enjoyable. The freshness of the arugula, vegetables, and chives was what stood out for me. I know it sounds dorky (but I’ll say it anyway): I have been cooking for years, yet still I continue to be amazed by the PUNCH and ZEST of the flavors in fresh vegetables and herbs.  Mother Nature is pretty incredible if you ask me. 🙂

Spring Pasta with Fresh Arugula Walnut Pesto:

  • 12 ounces of fresh pasta (I used Capone Foods Fresh Pasta  Spinach Linguine from the Whole Foods refrigerated section)
  • a few tablespoons of olive oil
  • 6 ounces of sliced portabella mushrooms
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 scallions, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups frozen peas
  • 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • fresh chives, roughly chopped

Pesto

  • 2-3 cups fresh baby arugula
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese (you could use fresh parmesan for a strong flavor, mozzarella for a mild flavor or anything in between)
  • salt to taste

Make the pesto:

In a food processor combine the arugula, garlic, and walnuts. Pulse until combined. Slowly pour in the oil while continuing to pulse. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula if necessary. Add the cheese and continue to pulse until desired texture is reached.  Add salt to taste.  Set aside.

Prepare vegetables:

Add a few tablespoons of olive oil to a medium pan over medium heat. Add the mushroom and a few pinches of salt. Cook stirring frequently until browned. Add the garlic, scallions, and chopped pepper. Continue to cook until peppers are tender but still crunchy.

Meanwhile boil pasta in salted water according to package directions.

Add peas to sauce pan and cook until warmed through. Then add  tomatoes. Stir to combine and let the heat soften the tomatoes, about 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain pasta and return to pot. Add pesto to pasta and toss gently. Then add vegetables and gently toss again to fully disperse vegetables and sauce.  Garnish with fresh chives. Serve immediately.

A Kitchenbelle.com original!

Mushroom and Wild Rice Casserole

I am crazy about wild rice and I always have my eye out for recipes that incorporate it. I was reading this recipe over at 101 Cookbooks where Heidi suggests trying any of your favorite grains in her mushroom casserole recipe. I saw it as great opportunity to use some wild rice! 

This recipe calls for three cups of cooked rice–I replaced that with two cups of cooked wild rice plus one cup of cooked brown rice. (For added flavor cook your rice in chicken or vegetable broth instead of water.) 

One mistake I made that I will warn you against is this: When I was making the rice to use for this recipe I was not thinking straight and I measured out two cups of DRY wild rice plus one cup of DRY brown rice and then cooked them in two separate pans according to their respective package directions.  Well, DUH.   Rice expands while cooking and nearly triples its volume! So, unless you want to have lots of leftover rice, only prepare enough dry rice to yield a total of three cups cooked!  (I see some new wild rice recipes in my immediate future!)

I intended to serve this as an accompaniment to some flank steaks I purchased from Whole Foods, however, as I was about to put the steak onto the grill pan I realized I wasn’t that hungry. My husband wasn’t that hungry either so we decided to eat this as a main dish.  We both really liked it! It is a very lightened-up version of the old school cream of mushroom soup recipes that we all love so much.  (Don’t expect that canned-soup level of moistness, though.)  The flavors were great and I plan to eat the reheated leftovers for lunch this week!

Mushroom and Wild Rice Casserole:

  • 2 cups of cooked wild rice
  • 1 cup of cooked brown rice
  • 8-10 ounces of mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup of grated cheese (you could use Parmesan, mozzarella, or a combination of the two)
  • a few tablespoons of fresh chives, roughly chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Coat a 9 x 13 glass baking dish or casserole with olive oil and set aside.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat saute the mushrooms in a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Sprinkle with some salt. Stir every few minutes and cook until the mushrooms have browned a bit and released their liquid. Add the onions and cook for 4-5 minutes or until they are transluscent.  Add the garlic, cook for another minute then remove from the heat.

Add the brown rice and wild rice to the skillet. Stir until combined.

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream and salt.

Combine in the rice/mushroom mixture with the cottage cheese mixture. Stir until well combined and pour into the prepared 9×13 dish. Sprinkle with 2/3 of the grated cheese. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 more minutes or until bubbly and golden around the edges. Sprinkle with chives, scallions, remaining cheese.  (Add some chicken or vegetable broth if you’d like some additional moisture.)

Adapted from 101 Cookbooks.

Oatmeal Birthday Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Remember last year when I made this cake for the first time for my father-in-law’s birthday? It was a huge hit and has been the most requested cake ever since. My husband’s family especially LOVES this cake! They request it for most occasions and I am always happy to oblige! I love making it!  I made it for my brother-in-law’s 30th birthday, I have made it in cupcake form multiple times and I even demonstrated the recipe for How2Heroes!

My father-in-law’s birthday is this week and for the celebration the family requested that I make this cake again this year and  I was very happy to!  This time I decided to jazz it up by adding some crushed candied pecans to the sides of the cake. As usual, it received the typical moans, “ooos,” and “ahhhs” but there was one new quote by a family member who shall remain nameless:

 “I could SWIM in it!”

Yes, my friends, the frosting is THAT good!

Oatmeal Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Pecans:

  • 1 tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/3  cups  boiling water
  • 1  cup  quick-cooking oats
  • 3/4  cup  granulated sugar
  • 3/4  cup  packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3  cup  vegetable shortening
  • 2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • 3  large eggs
  • 1 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 1/2  cup  buttermilk
  • Cream Cheese Frosting
  • pecans for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Coat bottoms and sides of 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with shortening and dust well with flour.

Combine boiling water and oats in a medium bowl; let stand 20 minutes. Beat granulated sugar, brown sugar, shortening, and vanilla at medium speed of a mixer for 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add oatmeal, beating until blended.

Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Sharply tap pans once on counter to remove air bubbles. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on a wire rack.

Place 1 cake layer on a plate; spread layer with frosting (recipe below), and top with the remaining layer. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of cake.   Decorate with pecan halves. Store the cake loosely covered in refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • Two 8-ounce package of cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter using an electric mixer, until smooth.  Slowly sift the confectioners’ sugar into the butter/cream cheese, about one cup at a time.  Continue to beat until all lumps are gone.  Add the vanilla and mix until fully combined. 

Easy and Light Weeknight Corn and Chicken Chowder

I don’t usually make rich meals on weeknights, however, for some reason this recipe caught my eye.  And, as it turns out, it isn’t actually all that rich! It wasn’t super heavy the way chowders typically are. I used 1 % milk and not an ounce of cream and this was still so wonderfully flavorful and filling.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this meal!  

The original recipe does not call for potatoes but I decided to add them for some texture and color.  (I am really digging red bliss these days!) And rather than use thyme (a spice I am a little iffy about) I garnished the dish with some fresh chives, which are a little more subtle and add a freshness that I have really been seeking these days.  I also bumped up the amount of corn. 

Because of all of my additions, the actual amount of chowder was less than some might like, which was fine with me because I love all things chunky as opposed to liquidy.  If you would like more actual liquid (soup) I suggest bumping up the amount of milk to 4 cups.

 I meant to make some corn muffins to accompany this, but I forgot.  Plus, baking AND cooking on a school night? I think that would shift this from an easy and light weeknight meal to a plan ahead savory Sunday supper. 😉

P.S. I am in the market for a new camera. I would welcome any and all suggestions!  (I cannot sort out how to get the white balance where I need it to be with this little point and shoot!)

Easy and Light Weeknight Corn and Chicken Chowder:

  • 1 pound small red potatoes (red bliss)
  • about 1 pound chicken breast
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk (I used 1%)
  • 2 cups frozen sweet yellow corn kernels
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • a few shakes of red pepper flakes
  • lots of salt and pepper to taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes and cook until tender. When done strain away water and let potatoes cool in a colander.

Meanwhile, cook chicken breast on grill pan or in saute pan.  Once cooked, remove from heat, use two forks to shred and set aside.

In a large Dutch over melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and jalepeno and cook for at least three minutes, or until tender.   Stir frequently. Note: Let these ingredients cook for as much time as you have. This will be the base of the flavor of the chowder so the longer you let these cook the more flavorful the final product will be.  (I try to “melt” the onions and celery as long as possible to hide them from my husband!)

Add flour and cook for one minute, stirring constantly.

Stir in milk, chicken, corn, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil.  Cook until thick, about 5-10 minutes. Stir in potatoes and cook until potatoes are heated through. Serve in bowls and garnish with freshly chopped chives.

Adapted from Quick Chicken-Corn Chowder on MyRecipes.com.

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

After an indulgent holiday weekend, I was flipping through America’s Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2010 in search of something fresh and light to get us back on track.  These Asian Chicken lettuce wraps caught my eye.  A little over a year ago now, I made lettuce wraps using a recipe from the Biggest Loser. They were absolutely delicious and so much fun to eat!  I figured it couldn’t hurt to try a new recipe with a bit of a different spin.  One word for these lettuce wraps: FRESH!  I am in love with the combination of lime juice, fresh basil, scallions, and cilantro! Each bite was bursting with the flavors of nature!   I added some minced carrot for additional color, bulk and nutrition.  I must say this was a very satisfying and filling meal.  And to quote my husband, “I feel full but I don’t feel gross.” Perfectly articulated if you ask me!

*Notes:

  • These can be made gluten free by eliminating the soy sauce or subbing gluten-free soy sauce.
  • I doubled the recipe below and there was enough to feed three for dinner and two for lunch.

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • fresh squeezed juice of one lime
  • fresh grated zest of one lime
  • 1.5 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey (or a combination of both)
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 jalepeno chile, stemmed, seeded and minced
  • 1 carrot peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 4 scallions, sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 12 Boston lettuce leaves (about one head) washed and spun dry

Prepare rice according to package instructions and set aside.

Whisk the soy sauce, lime juice, lime zest, and cornstarch together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat warm oil.  Add carrots and cook a few minutes,  or until soft. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl mash ground meat with the back of a spoon until smooth.   Add the ground meat and jalepeno to the skillet containing carrots. Break up meat with a wooden spoon. Cook until meat is no longer pink.

Add the soy sauce mixture to the skillet and cook stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in basil, scallions, and cilantro.

Transfer meat to a serving bowl and serve with rice and lettuce. To serve, scoop some rice on top of each leaf and top with scoops of meat.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Light & Healthy 2010.