Israeli Couscous

Even though it’s been rain off and on, flooding in various areas, and muddy shoes galore, we found some time to get to the store to do our weekly shopping this week.

2015 rainntx

I’ve always wanted to try out a recipe with Israeli Couscous… and why not in a celebratory way of kicking off a hopefully scorching summer?  This was easy, quick, and full of wonderful aroma and taste, amazing if you’re in any kind of rut emotionally or sensually.

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First, find a good, economical brand of Israeli Couscous.  They typically aren’t expensive by any means, and the minute extra price is a good bargain for adding different flavors and experiences to your children’s repertoire of foods at the dinner table.  My son was wide-eyed to see the pearlescent balls of noodle-like flavor!  Eating can be exciting!

The littlest tomato came from our garden!  Ha!  We were proud :)

The littlest tomato came from our garden! Ha! We were proud 🙂  It’s flavor was more intense!

Dice about 1/2 or 3/4 of a cucumber, and about 3-4 Roma tomatoes.

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I save the extra cucumber slices for sandwiches or quick salad options, putting them a separate ziplock bag from the diced

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From our garden!!! Basil, Thyme, Oregano leaves

From our garden!!! Basil, Thyme, Oregano leaves

It was fun to stop the cooking, run outside to our garden and pick the necessary herbs, it reminded me of living in the country.  Cooking with fresh grown spices and herbs or vegetables is a different experience, the flavor of the herbs, the sheer aroma is overwhelming while your cooking.  It is incredible for the senses, and the taste is wholesome.

Cilantro from our garden... be sure to plant it in an area where it only gets partial sun.  Cilantro is tender and fragile, I've mistakenly had it scorch when it was planted in full sunlight.

Cilantro from our garden… be sure to plant it in an area where it only gets partial sun. Cilantro is tender and fragile, I’ve mistakenly had it scorch to a burnt crisp when it was planted in full sunlight.

Next, saute in Olive Oil, some chopped onions (I keep some handy in the fridge or freezer for quick need like this), add garlic, and your garden herbs to taste.  Cook on low heat, and enjoy the breathtaking aromas that fill your kitchen.

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The couscous should be done by now, add in the cooked & fluffed couscous, the diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and the torn cilantro leaves.

Bring to boil 2 cups of water, add 1 cup of Israeli couscous, turn OFF the heat, COVER the pot, and allow to sit for 10 minutes

Bring to boil 2 cups of water, add 1 cup of Israeli couscous, turn OFF the heat, COVER the pot, and allow to sit for 10 minutes

Mix it all together off the heat

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And it is incredible!  Eat hot or cold, by itself or in a lettuce leaf.  I chose for us simple pita pockets

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Mexican Chili Rellenos – Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Beef & Cheese

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Last week was our city’s Fiesta week, a time where hundreds of thousands flock to our city from all over, to enjoy the parties, the music, the Mexican food, parades, and carnivals.  It’s a little not unlike California’s Coachella, except with a very Mexican twist and with the focus not being solely on music, but instead being a celebration of Texas’ unique history commemorating the Battles of San Jacinto & the Alamo.  Last year, my husband and I got to experience the night parade, but ended up instead escaping the drunken crowds and going under the streets to be near the romantic, quiet river.

Even though we tried to get out to experience it again this year, the rain kept us from staying for longer than a quick drive around before we headed back.  But there’s always next year to try.

Last night I decided to make a traditional Mexican dish called Chili Rellenos, poblano peppers that are stuffed and fried in a creamy batter.  We don’t usually eat fried stuff, and the last time I made fried chicken we had to eat it outside because the oil (never use Extra Virgin Olive Oil to fry) smoked so badly it filled the whole house!

I was surprised to find that most Chili Relleno recipes only call for cheese to be the ingredient in the stuffing, every plate of Chili Relleno I’ve eaten in our area of Texas has always had hearty ground beef inside, so I’ve moderated the recipe to include beef and cheese.  It’s fairly healthy for “fried food,” with the beef adding an element of protein.  Ground turkey would also work great as a healthy substitute.

First, start the meat cooking, I used about 2 lbs lean ground beef.  Season it with a tablespoon of each: Cumin, Garlic powder, and Chili powder.  You can also add chopped onions for more flavor if you wish!

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Broil and really watch the peppers, they burn very easily.  You want them to have just enough char on them so that they are easy to peel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beef should be done around the time the peppers are done if not before, set it aside and wait to stuff the peppers with it.

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Watch the video below if you aren’t sure on how to peel the peppers, once they’re charred well, you’ll find the skin comes off quite easily.  You also want to make a slit or cut inside the pepper in order to cut out the seed pulp and remove any left over seeds.  You don’t need to get all of them, but in general, you don’t want many left over inside.

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Next is to fill or stuff the peppers.  The skins rips easily, as you can tell, don’t worry if they split all the way down, they’re still salvageable if you “glue” them together with the batter when frying them.  Stuff with cheese and beef – Mexican Oaxaca cheese is the traditional cheese, but any cheese you have on hand is ok and adds to create a wonderful flavor with each bite.

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Use 4 eggs to create the creamy batter from scratch.  Separate the whites from the yolks, keeping the whites in a large mixing bowl.  Beat with a mixer (or if you really want to… by hand) until it gets to “soft peak” formation.

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I should have gotten a pic of when the egg whites are really done… it looks much different from the above photo as it turns into a thicker, creamier batter.  Watch the video to get the full effect of what you’re aiming for with this.

Once it’s at soft peak, mix in the egg yolks gently until they’re incorporated.

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Use a bit of flour (not necessary if you’re trying to keep this gluten free) just if you want to make the batter stick a little easier.  It will stick anyway so don’t feel like you’re missing much if you skip this step for your health.

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Then pat the batter over each side, closing any slits that may have opened while you were stuffing the peppers.  Fry until each side is nice and golden.

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Flip!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd done!  I underestimated how much I would be able to make, this recipe was enough to make 8 stuffed peppers!  So delicious and so hearty.

!Viva Fiesta!

Candy Shop Adventures

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found a beautiful little candy shop at our mall last week called Lolli & Pops (website found here).  Exploring and finding new places is one of our favorite things – and this shop was pretty amazing!

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Surrounded by wood on the floors and the beautiful, high-ceiling shelves, it reminded me a little of Willy Wonka’s shop.  The chocolate assortment they had would make you think that too 😉

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They had trays of delicious looking fudge & in the back had a room entirely dedicated to CHOCOLATE.  It was like a dream come true!

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My son tried one of their signature big, spiral lolli pops… while I headed for the chocolate room ❤

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They had various eclectic kinds of candy such as Japanese, Hispanic, & European – a great place to get candy that is typically very hard to find.

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I fell in love with their soda collection – they sell them by the bottle or by the case.  We will definitely be coming back to try a flavor or two.

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We totally agreed with this sign 🙂

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And of course… showing off your lolli pop & blue tongue.  Boys….

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I ate some country-style tacos from home (Egg & Sausage) & we went home to enjoy lunch & our treats.

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Totally sweet fun!

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Sneaky Mommy (St. Patrick’s Day Pasta)

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Spinach & Kale Fettucine

I’m a sneaky Mommy, and I don’t play by the rules.  Always one to look for ways to sneak vegetables into dishes so that my son will unknowingly devour something tasty and yet get some vitamins in him at the same time.  This last week I wrote the post on how to make your own pasta from scratch, with a promise to provide my journey through making Spinach or Kale pasta.  I’m so proud of how it turned out – it was so temptingly good that the moment I snapped the last pictures and mixed it in with the Alfredo Sauce, I ate some!

This recipe makes about 3 lbs of cooked pasta!  It called for 10 oz of spinach, but I didn’t want to use all the spinach we had (which was conveniently, 10 ounces… ), so I did about 3 to 5 oz spinach with some left over frozen kale I had from a couple of weeks ago that we never used up.

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Part of the Kale (this is not representative of the total amount)

 

The recipe is the same as when you make normal Fresh Pasta except for the addition of the spinach/kale.  Things you’ll need:

  • Rolling pin or Pasta Machine (you really do need one of these, otherwise the dough won’t get that satiny texture)
  • Large pot
  • 2 cups Flour (you can use All-Purpose or use other non-gluten mixes & flours *see bottom of post)
  • 3 eggs
  • Sea Salt or Kosher salt for the water
  • 10 oz of either Spinach or Kale or a mix of both

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For specific directions on how to make the dough for the noodles, click here (videos available that I used also in the post).  The only difference is that you mix the spinach & kale in with the eggs during the volcano phase of the recipe.

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You swirl from the middle-outward, constantly drawing in more flour

Tips I learned this time around making pasta:

  • Cut the pasta noodles with a pizza cutter that rolls!  It saves so much time, and is dramatically easier to use.
  • You do have to chop the kale and spinach pretty thin, but don’t stress over it.  Some cookbooks say it needs to be super fine, mine obviously wasn’t, and it still was chopped enough to incorporate easily.
  • This pasta tastes amazing!  You really can’t taste the kale or spinach too strongly, but somehow, it’s still there making a great overall flavor.  It was INCREDIBLE with the Alfredo Sauce, and made me so glad it was healthy and had a load of Vitamin A!

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Alfredo Sauce Recipe:

  • 6 tbs butter (3/4 stick or 1/3 cup)
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or water is fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk or half & half (to make it richer/creamier, add 1/2 heavy cream with 1 cup milk)
  • 5 oz Parmesan cheese (or to taste)

Cook butter until softened into a liquid. Stir in until well blended the flour (it will make a sticky doughy mess).  Remove from heat.

Add the chicken broth (or water) and milk/cream, put the pan back on heat and WHISK it thoroughly to incorporate the flour mixture into the sauce.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook until the sauce is thickened and beautiful smooth and white, about 5 minutes.  Add the parmesan at the end, tasting to make sure the sauce has enough.

 

Enjoy your healthy St. Patrick’s Day-Green fettucine!!!  I know we will. 🙂