Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mexican Rice in the Kitchen

I intended that we'd wrap up our Mexican meal tonight but there have been so many e-mails on this that we'll have another recipe next week. If you've forgotten or new to this site, we've made vegetarian enchiladas, seven layer dip, and charro beans. Next week, we'll offer a soup because a lot of you have asked for one. But this week, we're going to go over Mexican Rice.

Mexican Rice Recipe
1 teaspoon of salt

2 small chopped chillies
1 clove chopped garlic
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup uncooked rice
2 cups chicken broth or 2 cups of water
1/2 cup of canned tomatoes or fresh tomato puree

1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1 small chopped onion

In a skillet or pot heat the oil. Add rice and cook until golden. Add chopped garlic, onion and bell pepper. Stir frequently for 1 minute. Add the 2 cups of water/chicken broth and bring to boil. Add tomatoes and reduce to low heat. Cover the skillet or pot and cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat by placing on another burner, uncover and let stand for five minutes. This will allow the rice to absorb the liquid.

Now Tuesday, as Ruth noted today, KPFA and KPFT will be covering the latest Senate hearings on the illegal NSA spying of American citizens. More Pacficia stations may cover it as well. Those two stations are confirmed. It will start in the morning and is expected to continue for half the day. On the east coast, it would begin airing at 9:30 a.m., I believe.

For laughs and strong commentary, read C.I.'s "NYT: SITE gives Dexy translations, he gives them play -- None dare call it reporting." I also suggest you check out Cedric's "THIS JUST IN! CONDI RICE HAS HER OWN SET OF RIDERS" and Wally's "THIS JUST IN! CONDI RICE HAS HER OWN SET OF RIDERS." Same title? It's a joint entry that they wrote together and posted at both of their sites. (I listed them alphabetically in case anyone's wondering about the order.) I also enjoyed my son Mike's "Iraq, Iraq, Iraq" and hearing about the speech he made. (Which I would have loved to have seen but he said he was nervous.) And thanks to Ava and C.I.'s "TV Review: Don't call her Elaine" I did check out The New Old Christine this week and it actually is a funny show. I'm not much for TV watching but I do intend to try to catch it Monday. (My husband enjoyed it even more than I did. I laughed throughout but I might have laughed more if I could have heard more -- my husband laughs loud.) And if, like me, you've often wondered what it's like to take part in those marathon, all night sessions at The Third Estate Sunday Review, please read "Ava's entry."

We had a house party tonight to discuss the war with our friends and I'm tired. My husband, daughter and my son (Mike) helped me clean up and all I want to do is go to sleep so I apologize for two weeks in a row of offering not much in the way of commentary.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Charro Beans in the Kitchen

I hope you did something today to make your voice heard. The war won't stop until we demand that the troops be brought home. I went to a rally with my husband, my son Mike, his girlfreind Nina, my youngest daughter, and my oldest daughter Kelly. I hope you're participating and making your voice heard.

I'm listening to RadioNation with Laura Flanders and you can think Ms. Flanders for energizing me enough to write tonight because I am pretty wiped out. Are you?

We'll pick up up on the planned dish for the Mexican meal next week; however, we'll go over a dish that can be served with that meal. It's a simple dish and you may want to make it by itself or use it in combination with other Mexican dishes we've made. I would suggest you purchase tortillas to eat with this dish.

I'm big on cooking for yourself. However, tortillas require a lot of practice. Fortunately, tortillas, freshly baked, are available in most grocery stores these days. If you're buying them in a plastic bag, several hours after they've been cooked, here's a tip: use the microwave.

There are several ways to heat them and, in fact, there's a tortilla warmer you can purchase. However, you don't need to purchase that. You can put them in a deep dish with a dampened hand towel on top or you can put them on plate with a damped paper towel over them.

When my youngest daughter warms tortillas, she likes to dampen each one before stacking them on a plate so you might try that as well.

Charro beans is the dish you can eat them with and there are numerous recipes for charro beans. This one is a very basic, very simple one.

1 bag of dry pinto beans
6 slices of bacon cut into pieces
4 to 5 serrano peppers

2 garlic cloves; more if you're not using bacon
1/2 onion
4 roma tomatoes or 1 can of diced tomatoes

You need to "sort the beans." Connie wondered why that was a few weeks ago when she was attempting to cook some dried black eyed peas? Because sometimes you may have a pebble or something else in the dried beans. So sort them by emptying the package. I use a collander to do that but some people do it on a counter or table top. After you sort them, you need to soak them. The directions for soaking are on the back of every package of dried beans. Quick soak is fine; however, for people who have gas problems especially, you will want to do the overnight soak or purchase some sort of gas relief product.
After they are soaked, you need to drain them. This is a step a lot of people skip. Don't skip it. Drain them. I use the collander for that as well.
After you drain them, you will begin cooking them (with fresh water).
You are following the basic directions on the bag.
However, these are not pinto beans, these are charro beans, so you'll need additional ingredients.
If you're using the bacon, you need to cook it first. I use a skillet. However, my children love bacon and I would not let them fry anything until they were familiar with the oven/stove and I was sure they were responsible enough to handle frying.
Mike grew tired of waiting. At ten, he was allowed to cook cookies in the oven. One summer day, he decided to cook bacon that way. If I'd known he was doing it, I would've stopped him. He did it on his own. And the bacon turned out great.
So I learned something new. And when his youngest sister was able to use the oven, she was allowed to cook bacon in the oven as well. If you're doing that, you'll need a baking sheet. I'd recommend you line it with foil to make clean up easier. Temperature? Anywhere from 350 degrees to 425. It's a matter of how long you want to cook it and how you like your bacon. (I continue to use the skillet, myself.)
After you've cooked the bacon, let it dry on a paper towel. Once dry (and cooled) you can slice it or crumble it. Add that to the beans. (You can being boiling the water before you add the bacon.) You will also add the sliced tomatoes or can of diced tomatoes, the peppers, the garlic and the onion.
If you're not using bacon, double the garlic (or more if you love garlic). If you're not able to get serrano peppers, any pepper will do. In a pinch, you can use jalepeno peppers in a can or jar, but fresh is better.
If using fresh peppers, have vinegar on hand. Depending on the pepper and yourself, dicing them may make your hands burn. Vinegar will stop the burning. (Water will not.) You could also wear gloves. I've never had a problem with any pepper, even fresh jalepeno, however, I do know people who do end up with burning when handling freshly sliced peppers.
One more time, vinegar is the only thing that will stop the burning. You can pour it over your hands or you can soak your hands in it. Water will stop it for a second but as soon as the water dries, the burn comes back.
Now you can put the beans through a food processor or blender after they're cooked to make them smoother. Or you can serve them as they are.
Some people add the ingredients at later stages to the pot of beans simmering in water. That's your call. With fresh tomatoes, I usually do wait until the last ten minutes. But that's your call and the easiest way is to just add the ingredients as you go along.
This is an easy dish and only one way to make it.
You can also add some chopped cilantro to the dish.

They can be eaten as they are or you can wrap them in tortillas.

I hope you are using your voice this week. It appears that the latest air raid was an attempt by Bully Boy to change the news focus. On the radio tonight, that appears to have been the way things worked out. Regardless, we need to bring the troops home now.

There's an effort to push the conversation into the area of "strategy" on what we should have done. Like C.I., I see this as a revisionist tactic that is being pushed to convince Americans that "we just made a few mistakes, now we can win it." We can't win it. We can't win in an illegal war and we can't win an occupation. It's time to stand up and make your voice counted.

Michael Gordon is one of the people pushing the coulda-woulda-shoulda argument. And Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales refused to play along Friday on Democracy Now! The report can be watched, listened or read online if you missed it: "New York Times Chief Military Correspondent Michael Gordon Defends Pre-War Reporting on WMDs."

You should also check out C.I.'s "NYT: Can't own up to mistakes, be it the paper or Michael Gordon" which ties in Gordon's refusal to admit his mistakes with those of the paper he works for (New York Times). Also, read "And the war drags on (Indymedia Roundup)" for C.I.'s commentary. It is powerful and my husband's here, in the kitchen, asking if I mentioned that yet? That was his favorite thing online this week. There were many wonderful things written by the community this weekend. I'll note my son's "Feingold, crimp in the war on Iran, jealousy and more" because Wally's mother and I really enjoyed it. We also laughed and discussed the topics raised in Wally's "THIS JUST IN! WHITE HOUSE LAP DOG FROTHS AT THE MOUTH!" so let me recommend that. Again, there were many wonderful entries, but I'm just trying to finish this post. I don't know how everyone does the all night marathons for
The Third Estate Sunday Review -- I'm ready to crash and Laura Flanders' show is still on.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Seven Layer Dip in the Kitchen

I'm late in posting tonight because my husband and I had old friends over and it was a long evening, a nice one, but a long one.

The reaction to last week's recipe? The e-mails spoke of being thrilled to have a meal and not just a dish. Connie wrote wondering if we could have another one? We exchanged e-mails all week on this. She likes Mexican dishes. Since we can now serve an Italian meal, a Mexican meal seemed like a good idea. This will be three dishes but don't panic, one of the dishes we've already gone over.

The dish tonight would be the appetizer for the meal. However, it can be served as a stand alone snack or meal. There's no cooking involved so hopefully that will help anyone nervous over "three dishes." It's a dish known as seven layer dip. There are many recipes for it and Connie had two favorites. We're going with one because it uses refried beans. The other used a can of bean dip. For those in a hurry, you can use prepared bean dip. But in terms of nutrients and sodium, you'd be better off going with the recipe below.

1 (16 oz.) can Old El Paso refried beans

1/2 pkg. McCormick taco seasoning mix
1 (6 oz.) carton avocado dip
1 sm. can chopped ripe olives
1 sm. can onion, finely chopped
1 sm. can Old El Paso chopped green chilies
1 (8 oz.) carton sour cream
2 tomatoes, diced
1 1/2 c. shredded Monterey Jack
Mix beans and seasoning mix. Spread bean mix in 8x12x2 inch dish. Layer remaining ingredients in order. Serve with nacho chips.

That's a very simple recipe and it's from I have a recipe that I use which requires a little more work so we'll go with this one and bring up the other one at a later date. You can use low-fat or no-fat sour cream if you prefer them to regular sour cream and you don't have to use McCormick's taco seasoning mix, any taco seasoning mix can be used.

Now this would be the appetizer you'd serve to guests before a meal if you were using it as one dish in a meal. You can combine it with vegetarian enchiladas. Connie's had success with it and those who've e-mailed have as well. You could, in fact, make a meal of just the two but if you're planning to entertain, like Connie is, and wanting various dishes, we'll have a recipe up next week to complete the meal.

What will the recipe be? Connie, Wally's mother and I are trying to figure that out. There are a few simple dishes that can be made. One of which is a wonderful soup but with spring staring down on us and summer quickly to follow, we thought a hot soup would be a recipe better saved for another time of year.

Speaking of time of year, the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is almost here. I hope you talk about the war as much to your friends as you do in the e-mails you send. The only way the war will end is if we use our voices. My husband asked Mike to post the following and I'll assume he's wishing I would as well.

"MediaChannel, UFPJ and Partners Call For National Media Action"
The national day of local media protest announced last week on has received such a positive response that the organizers of United For Peace And Justice, the country's largest anti-war coalition, decided to change the date from March 21st to March 15th. The media protest will now kickoff this years week-long "spring offensive" against the war, just before the third anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.
Organizers were so excited about the prospect of bringing media activists and anti-war activists together, to challenge media outlets to tell the truth about the war and report on the anti-war movement, that they decided it should begin the week and not end it.
"The media helped make the war possible," charges UFPJ National Coordinator Leslie Cagan. "It's time to call for more coverage and better coverage."
The protests will also pay tribute to journalists and media workers killed in the line of fire, kidnapped, or jailed without charges. Most recently, on February 23rd an Al-Arabiya media team was gunned down in Iraq. We have to honor those who have lost their lives to get the story out. is taking the lead in reaching out to media and peace groups to encourage a series of media actions on March 15th.
"All of us are media consumers," says MediaChannel editor Danny Schechter, "The News Dissector." "We can all take part by monitoring media coverage, writing letters and emails to media decision makers, and protesting against a pro-war media tilt in much of the coverage. If you have ever complained about the coverage, now's the time to do something by speaking up."

Hopefully, you've already seen it at the other community websites. If this is your first time seeing it, please consider taking part. If it's not for you, please find some way to make yourself heard that is.

We need to use our voices. Staying silent means giving your consent.

I spoke to Ruth this morning on the phone about her latest Ruth's Public Radio Report which I enjoyed and believe you will as well. While we were speaking, she asked if I'd noticed that I don't really spotlight Mike's writing? I hadn't noticed that. I do try not to mention him all the time because I'm sure everyone would be bored reading me going on about my son. However, I do read his site and am very proud of him. One of his best things was this Friday, so I'll recommend that you read "Guantanamo, Spying and why it's important to get the word out ."

Also let me say thank you to C.I. Everyone's working on the latest edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review right now. Mike came downstairs with his cell phone and handed it to me. C.I. was wondering if I had any problems because I hadn't posted? I was just late in starting tonight; however, since I had C.I. on the phone, I asked for help with some links for the list of suggested sites on the left. I'd been meaning to add Democracy Now! for some time and I also added two other sites as well. I know they're all busy and trying hard to finish as quickly as possible. I also wouldn't dream of asking Mike because I'd feel like I was putting him on the spot. But since C.I. was on the phone and asking about my site, I didn't feel too bad getting a walk through on how to do the links.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Pasta Timbale in the Kitchen

Here's where we put together our knowledge to make a meal. You can all do this and the recipe tonight is a simple one that I've tried to simplify even more.

You'll find that your oven is your friend after this recipe, trust me. But remember that oven temperatures are not always what the dial says they are so please check your oven with a thermomenter and, if that's not possible, keep a close eye on the dish as you cook.

Pasta Timbale
12 ounces string pasta of choice
12 ounces sweet Italian sausage, crumbled (vegetarians may omit this)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 medicum onion, chopped
1 cup cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 ounces monterey jack cheese, shredded (1 cup)
1/4 cup chopped parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a pan (butter, olive oil, spray) an 8 1/2 to 9-inch pan.
Boil water and cook pasta according to package directions. I prefer "string" as opposed to shells. I think it binds the dish better. Angel hair is my preference but you can use whatever is your favorite.
While the spaghetti boils, use a medium skillet to heat the sausage. Stir until the sausage is no longer pink (this step can be dropped if you're going for a meatless dish).
Drop garlic, onion into skillet and stir until onion is tender (approximately 3 minutes).
Remove from heat, drain juices and set aside.
Pasta should be done cooking (or nearly). Turn off the water and drain the pasta.
Now you need to mix the cottage cheese until it's smooth. You can do this by hand. If you have a food processor or blender, you can use that. Add the sour cream, eggs, oregano, nutmeg, salt and pepper. If using you a blender or food processor use the "pulse" button.
You need a big bowl or you can use the skillet that you cooked in. Blend what you cooked (pasta and what you cooked in the skillet) with the cootage cheese & sour cream mixture. Add 1/2 of the cheese and parsely (if you're using parsely) and mix.
Put this mixture into the greased pan and and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 of cheese on top. Cover pan will foil and place in the oven. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 minutes more.
Remove dish from oven and allow to stand for five minutes. (Place it on stove burners but never on a countertop.)

That recipe is from my friend Anna and we've adapted it here. She uses the broiler for one step. We're skipping that because the dish is fine without it and we're using our ovens. We're also not flouring or using a spring foam pan. This is a delicious dish and we've simplified steps to make it more user friendly but we haven't simplified the taste.

All you have to now is slice and serve.

For entertaining, make the Brushetta from last week as appetizers and serve the timbale as the main dish with a green salad on the side.

For those who are worrying about oven space, you can make the Brushetta and put the mixture in the fridge to chill. You can set the (cooked) bread aside. Then begin cooking this dish. Once you have it in the oven, you can pop the bread in the microwave in a bowl with a damp hand towel on top of it. Then you serve the bread and mixture as an appetizer. When the bell goes off letting you know the timbale is done, you're ready to begin the main course.

That's called "putting it all together." A meal doesn't just emerge, you add to it. The big picture.
What was the big picture this week?

I'm afraid that it was while Bully Boy reached new lows in the polls, Democrats still couldn't stand up collectively. They didn't stop the Patriot Act, they didn't do a very good job in the NSA hearing Tuesday.

So what's it going to take for them to put it all together? That's what missing. A vision. They're serving us side dishes and we're craving a meal.

For more on the hearings, see C.I.'s "NYT: Republicans seek a 'bridge' (Brooklyn, so they can sell it to you?)" and let me also encourage you to read Kat's latest music reviews "Kat's Korner: Cat Power's Greatness" and "Kat's Korner: Nina Simone -- Golden"

Next week? I haven't thought that far ahead. I'll probably decide based on the e-mails.