Ah, bliss. (Pantry Cooking Project, Day 5)

First weekend post-graduation. So nice to just putter around my house and relax!

It’s my first weekend as a college graduate, and it’s off to a wonderful start. Slept in a little bit (until 8am! yay!) and then delighted in a gorgeous breakfast James made us: morel omelettes, potatoes, V-8, and tea. Later, scarfed an entire pint of raspberries all by myself. Life is good.

Today’s food:

The aforementioned breakfast.


Lunch was veggie burgers with homemade mayo (you may recall we ran out of store-bought pretty early) and oven fries. James made lunch, as well. He’s a really useful guy to have around.


(I made the mayo from this recipe from the Frugal Farm Wife, Elise New.)


For dinner, I thought I’d try my hand at making flour tortillas using my friend Koko’s instructions, but I ended up feeling less ambitious than that, so I just made “Spanish rice” instead, and served it with refried beans and a tomato-and-avocado salad.


(I haven’t been mentioning snacks. Today’s snacks were the aforementioned raspberries, some milk and cookies, and a couple of white peaches. Ah, summer!)

Money spent on groceries today: $0 (project total $39.61)
Money spent in restaurants today: $0 (project total $37.76)
Food gifts received today: $0 (project total $17)
Things we’ve run out of: Mayonnaise, ice cream, hamburger patties, pork chops

Easy Spanish rice
Recipe type: Side dish
Cuisine: Pseudo-Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 small bell pepper (any color), finely diced
  • 1½ cups medium- or long-grained white rice
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 2½ cups stock or water (I used a knorr beef tub in hot water)
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes (or tomato sauce, or diced tomatoes with the liquid)
  1. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, for a couple of minutes, until softened. Add pepper and rice and cook and stir 5-8 minutes, until rice starts to turn light brown. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
  2. Add in broth and tomatoes. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer 20 minutes, then remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.


Orange-glazed tofu

Orange-glazed tofu is the first in a 21-day series of vegan dinners. Come along, if you like. I don’t promise they’ll all be great, but you’ll get to see the variety of things available!

Super-easy, tasty dinner to start the cleanse thingy. I’ve been at my mom’s for a week, and we ate out almost every day. I’m home now, and it was actually kind of nice to make this simple, healthful meal for our first dinner of the cleanse.

orange tofu

5.0 from 1 reviews
Orange-glazed tofu
Recipe type: Main dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 6-7 oz. (1/2 package) firm tofu, cut into bite-sized pieces (no need to press)
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 2-4 tablespoons agave nectar or honey
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • ½ red onion, sliced thinly on the vertical
  • 1 cup chopped fresh broccoli
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet.
  2. Add tofu, orange juice, agave nectar, salt, and rice vinegar. Stir gently to coat tofu with glaze, then cook on medium, stirring occasionally, until tofu begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Set tofu aside and rinse out the skillet.
  3. In the same skillet, heat remaining oil. Add onions and broccoli and cook until onion is browned and broccoli is crisp-tender. Add tofu back in; cook and stir until heated through.
  4. Serve over rice.


Chicken and Rice and Flexibility

Making my brother’s childhood favorite — and mine — gluten-free so he can pass it on.

Way back in the beginning of this project, I said:

As you’re doing this, don’t forget the tag line: Food is not love. Feeding people is love.

Food is not love. 

Feeding people is love.

The emotions this stuff invokes aren’t actually in the food itself. Those cinnamon rolls aren’t Grandpa Food because of the cinnamon—they make you feel the way they do because Grandpa saved you the end piece with less icing, because he knew that’s what you wanted. The chicken soup your mother made when you were sick still makes you feel better because she cared enough to make it, not because of the soup itself. The food is a talisman of sorts, a way to bring to mind the memories of lovingkindness inherent in the act of giving sustenance to a child. If you don’t eat chicken any more, you’re not excluded from the exercise of passing that love on to those around you. You just get to do it with different foods.

We can’t bring back the days of childhood, not really. But let’s bring them to mind and honor them, shall we?

Why do I bring this up now? Because I had the great joy today of helping my brother to find a way to feed his own Mom Food — my mother’s chicken and rice casserole — to his son, who has a severe gluten allergy.

After Rick saw my recent posts about him and his family, my mom took him a pan of chicken and rice. When we were kids, my mom found this on a Campbell’s soup can, and she made it a lot. We all loved it. My brothers were like Jack Sprat and his wife — one loved the chicken part and eschewed the rice, and the other ate the rice part and gave his chicken to his brother. I honestly never remember which was which. I was a rice girl, myself, and can still eat the stuff until I’m packed as full as a house on Hoarders. Anyway, Rick got to wondering if he could make it gluten-free so that his son could eat it, and when mom mentioned it to me, I just knew it would be an easy fix.

Big pan of chicken and rice

If you’ve been around a while, you’ve seen me experiment with gluten-free cooking — heck, I even made a whole gluten-free Thanksgiving last year, as part of a Gluten-free Girl project, but none of that gave me quite the joy of making mom’s chicken and rice gluten-free today and having James tell me he wouldn’t have known the difference if I hadn’t told him.

Plate of chicken and rice, green beans on the side
The old way

See, Rick can’t pass on his Mom Foods to his ever-adorable son if they’ve got gluten in them. And nowadays, you can make just about everything gluten-free, so hey, why not give it a shot, I figure?

I’m going to give you both recipes: mom’s original, trashy, delicious version; and the homemade, gluten-free version, which is equally delicious.  The only gluten-containing ingredient in mom’s version is the Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup, so really, all I had to do was make a homemade mushroom soup with cornstarch as a thickener instead of flour. You can do this, too. Easy peasy. Sure, it takes more time, but it’s really easy and worth it, especially if you have someone in your life who misses eating that particular condensed soup trashiness comfort food.

[Note: I usually make the big batch you see above, not the amount in the recipe below, but this makes a LOT, so I’ll leave it at this in the printable recipe and tell you that for the bigger batch, I use 2 cups of rice, a total of about 10 cups of liquid (3 cans of soup, 3 cans milk, 3 cans water), and two large onions. The rest is the same, including the cooking time, because it goes into a larger pan than the 13×9 in the recipe.]

Plate of gluten-free chicken and rice, side of green beans
The gluten-free version

I’m testing a new recipe software on the blog, and this is a good test recipe to use, because it’s fairly involved. Don’t let that worry you, though — it’s an easy recipe, and you can have it on the table in an hour and a half, tops.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chicken and Rice, with or without gluten
Recipe type: Casserole, Entree, Soup
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6-8
If you're fine with canned soup, feel free to use it. The homemade soup is better, though, and has no garbage in it.
  • 1 pound mushrooms, finely chopped (I use whatever's cheapest, usually button mushrooms, but use any kind you like)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 6 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste, optional
  • 3 cans Campbell's Cream of Mushroom condensed soup, or any combination of cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, and cream of celery
  • 3 cans (approximately 3¼ cups) milk
  • 1 can (approximately 1 cup) water
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 6-8 chicken thighs, or a cut-up chicken
  • granulated garlic
  • 1 large onion, sliced into rings
  • paprika
  1. Place the mushrooms, butter, salt, and pepper into a 3-quart or larger soup pot and cook on medium-high heat 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  2. Add milk and tomato paste, if using.
  3. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  4. Stir the cornstarch slurry and add to the soup.
  5. Return the soup to a boil, then take off the heat and set aside. At this point, the soup can be refrigerated for up to 2 days before using in the recipe.
  1. Whisk the stuff up. It's not brain surgery, folks. :-)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. If the soup is cold, you can either heat it, or use it cold and cook the casserole an extra 30 minutes.
  2. Take a 13x9x2 casserole dish and butter it if you want, or skip it. I remember about half the time.
  3. Pour a cup of rice into the dish and spread it around roughly evenly.
  4. If you want, skin the chicken thighs. My mom keeps the skin on, but I don't like the wet texture it gets, so I skin it and save the skin for schmaltz. Place the chicken atop the rice and sprinkle with garlic to taste.
  5. Arrange the onion rings over the chicken.
  6. Carefully pour the soup on top to cover everything.
  7. Sprinkle the top of the casserole liberally with paprika.
  8. Bake 30-45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed, the top is browned and bubbly, and the chicken is cooked through (doesn't bleed when you pierce it). Add 30 minutes to this cooking time if you're using cold soup.


Pantry Cooking Month: Nana’s Fried Rice

Nana’s fried rice.

I’m away at FOGcon, so this’ll be brief.

Recently, the kid asked me to make “fried rice, but not the kind like you usually make—NANA’s fried rice.”

It’s funny how Mom Food can morph to fit the needs of the particular kid involved. For instance, my mom’s fried rice HAS to have bean sprouts in it for it to really hit my Mom Food spot, but the kid doesn’t like bean sprouts, so my mom has made it for her all her life without them. We both remember the creaminess of the Mom Food fried rice, but it’s different for us both, too. Mine mixes the creaminess of the egg (mom doesn’t scramble hers before adding to the mixture; they cook in the rice, almost like carbonara) with the crunch of bean sprouts. This, however, is more a kid thing, and I can trust you not to mention how yellow it is, right? (My camera is dying; I will keep it until it gives up the ghost.)

fried rice

See you Monday; enjoy your weekend, as I’m sure I’ll enjoy mine.