Spanish Rice and Beans

Growing up, I had a hispanic stepmother who taught me how to make this recipe. She used a spice, called sofrito, in many of her recipes.  It is a wonderful mixture of vegetables and herbs all chopped up in a blender or food processor.  As far as I’m concerned, the star of this mixture is the cilantro, although my father would have disagreed.

Sofrito is made with cilantro, onions, peppers, hot peppers, and other ingredients, so when you blend them all together, it is very aromatic to say the least.  My german-blooded, meat and potato, father always hated when she made this, but to me it is oh-so-good.

Luckily, I live in an area which has a high number of hispanics, so I can by the sofrito in the freezer section of my local grocery store.  If I get brave enough to try making it from scratch, I will be sure to post the recipe.

In my teens, 20s, and 30s, I was blessed with good metabolism.  That, and I smoked. (A stimulant.)  Not so much in my 40s.  So, as a teen and young woman, I read all the fashion magazines, with all the teeny, tiny models.  I was constantly trying to stay skinny.  One of things that I read was that you shouldn’t rinse rice or pasta because you would be washing away the nutrients.

So when my stepmother showed me how to make the rice, and she rinsed it before cooking it, I argued with her that it was not the right way to do it.  She replied, “My grandmother rinsed the rice, my mother rinsed the rice, I rinse the rice, and you’re going to rinse the rice.” To this day this still makes me laugh 🙂 Enter the rice cooker!

My husband is filipino and his mother had given him this rice cooker, so we brought it to our new house.  I had no idea how to use it until one day a hispanic friend of my husbands was over, and he told me what to do.  The best part is, you really don’t have to rinse the rice!

The Rice

1 c. white rice

1 1/2 c. water

2 t. olive oil

Put all the ingredients into the rice cooker, cover, and turn it on.  This one just turns off when the rice is done.  If you don’t have a rice cooker, you can make it over the stove.  The directions usually call for twice the amount of water to rice, but that usually makes mush.  Try starting with a little less water, you can always add more at the end if you need to.

The Beans

2-3 T. of sofrito

1 T. Olive oil

1 15.5 oz. can of beans (any kind)

2/3 of a 8 oz. can of tomato sauce

1/2 packet of Sazon (Goya section)

I cooked the sofrito in the oil for a few minutes, then added the beans, with its liquid, which is why I try to use the lower sodium versions now available.  I add the tomato sauce and Sazon, bring to boil, cover and simmer over low heat until the rice is done.  The Sazon adds a lot of flavor, but the reason I only use 1/2 of the packet is because there is MSG in it and I try to avoid using too much of it.

This recipe makes about 3-4 servings, depending on portion size.  You can serve it separately or all mixed together, which is how I like it.

Enjoy! ~Nancy

Grilled Potatoes

My Dad died in July of 2001, just 2 months before 9/11.  Since he was a WWII veteran, having fought for his country, I was happy that he did not get to witness this atrocity.

As a young man, he was a Boy Scout Leader, and liked to hike and cook out, either on the mountain or by the river.  (Life was way simpler then!  No computers, handhelds, iPads, you get it.)  He would make these potatoes for me and my sister and whatever friends we drug along with us.

I don’t have amounts of ingredients, you can make as much or as little as you like, and adjust spices to your own taste.  I’m sure my Dad’s version was all butter, but I used only olive oil this time, and they were still yummy!

The Ingredients

Potatoes, I prefer red because they are so creamy

Carrots

Sweet Onion

Olive Oil or Canola Oil

Parsley

Salt

Pepper

I started by peeling the potatoes, quartering them, and slicing them very thin.  I grated some baby carrots, so they would cook fast.  I also grated the onion, (thank you, Racheal Ray) which turned out all brown and crunchy, adding a really nice flavor.

I mixed all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl, coating with olive oil, then adding the parsley, salt, and pepper.  I then transferred the potato mixture to a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil, then sealed the foil into little pouches.

I cooked them at about 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, then turned off the flame when I started the other two to make my meat and veggies, which in this case were turkey burgers and grilled zucchini.  Total cooking time was about 40 minutes.  Enjoy!

Health and Fitness

For the most part, I haven’t had to worry about weight for most of my life.  Go ahead and hate me if you must 😦  With the exception of a few years in retail, I have worked in health care for most of my life, so I have always had an eye on my diet and weight.

I also smoked, which some people feel relaxes them, but in fact, it is a stimulant. So when I finally quit smoking about 6 years ago in my 40’s, I gained 30 lbs and 3 pant sizes.  I no longer had the stimulant, nicotine on board, and I no longer had the metabolism of a 20 or 30 someone.

I have never believed in fad diets, so for me it always goes back to diet and exercise.  Bottom line, the only way you are going to lose weight and keep it off is to change your lifestyle, get active, learn how to read labels, and recognize what a portion size really looks like.  I will try to give more information along the way.

One thing I have found that helps in controlling portion size is to weigh my food. That helped me to recognize what a portion size was.  This particularly works well for me for pasta portions.  A serving of pasta is 2 oz.  In the past, I was probably eating the equivalent of 2 servings and twice the calories.  I bought this scale on Amazon for about $20.

After moving to a new area, getting a new house in order, and planning a wedding, I’ve put on a few pounds.  Now that I am adjusting to my new life, I need to get back to the gym, back to running, and work on getting my FIT body back.  If you would have told me, a former smoker of 23 years, that I would ever run a 5K (3.1 miles), I would have never believed it.

It took an entire year, but I finally ran the entire race without walking.

My first 5K!!!

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

As I mentioned, I recently married and there is a cultural difference between me and my husband.  We are both Americans, but I am of German decent, and he is of Filipino decent.  He did not know what the term “comfort food” meant.

Being of German decent, I am all too familiar with that term.  Growing up, I would eat mashed potatoes with bread, kinda of like the Polish Pierogie.  The starchier the better.  Anyway, in this recipe, I am using less butter and substituting low-sodium chicken broth for the milk.

The Recipe

6 medium potatoes, diced

1 T. butter

1 garlic clove, pressed

2/3 c. low sodium chicken broth

1 t. dried parsley

Salt and Pepper to taste

I have discovered a line of freeze dried herbs made by a company called Litehouse.  They are the closest in taste to fresh herbs, and they are so convenient.  Having high blood pressure, I try to use as little salt as I can without making the food taste too bland.  This is why I have  turned to herbs and spices to add flavor to my foods.

So, for this recipe, I started by peeling and dicing the potatoes.  I cooked them in water for about 20 minutes, drained them and set them aside.

In the same pot, I added the butter, sauteed the pressed garlic and added the parsley.

I added the potatoes, chicken broth, salt, and pepper, and mashed the potatoes with a hand masher.  I don’t mind lumps, and John ate 2/3 of it!

Enjoy!  ~Nancy

Summer Salsa

Of course, this recipe is for all year long, but there is nothing better than fresh salsa, and it is the perfect time of the year for it.  Even if you don’t have access to fresh tomatoes, you can get these gorgeous vine ripened tomatoes pretty much all year long at the grocery store.  This recipe is adapted from my good friend, Donna, whom I lovingly call, Ma Donna.  She is an awesome cook.

The Recipe

3 medium tomatoes, diced

1/2 bell pepper, diced

1 jalapeno, diced

1/4 c. finely diced onion

Juice of 1  lime

1/4 bunch of cilantro, chopped

1 t. ground cumin

Salt & Pepper to taste

Hot sauce to taste, I prefer Frank’s Red Hot

I start out dicing the tomatoes, peppers, and onion.  I prefer to use red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, because I don’t like the green ones, and it adds another element of color.

Tomato and Orange Bell Pepper

Onion and Jalapeno

I remove the seeds from the jalapeno, before dicing, since that is were most of the heat lives, and I don’t like my salsa too hot.  Next I use the leaves of the cilantro and chop them finely.  I am combining the ingredients in a bowl as I work.

Cilantro

Lastly, I add the lime juice, cumin, salt, pepper, and Red Hot.  I used about 10 shakes of the hot sauce.  You can adjust the spices to your taste.

The finished product

To save on fat and calories, I use Tostito’s baked scoops.  You can get a lot of salsa in the scoops, and I love that!

Enjoy! ~Nancy