Athena Magazine

Fashion, lifestyle, passions

Yeah! Easy Rice Pudding February 26, 2009

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 2:57 am
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Rice pudding for company

Rice pudding for company

By Julia Pantoga

 

 

Here’s something easy to do with leftover rice—it works with the rice leftover from your Chinese take-out order, or the rice you have left over from last night’s dinner. Rice pudding can be dressed up in cups with some fresh berries and nuts for guests or spooned right out of the casserole dish into a bowl for breakfast (which is what I do). It’s mostly eggs, rice and milk—doesn’t that sound breakfast-y?

 

 

 

 

Easy Rice Pudding

2 eggs
2 cups milk (I use whole milk)
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups cooked rice
½ cup raisins
ground nutmeg

1. Heat oven to 325°.

2. In an ungreased (music to my ears) 1.5 quart casserole dish, beat eggs.

3. Add next five ingredients in the order listed, beating lightly after each addition.

4. Add raisins. Don’t stir, they will sink.

5. Sprinkle nutmeg on top.

6. Bake for 60 min. or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Rachel Ray Never Has These Problems.  I had a friend coming over for lunch in 1 hour and I was planning to serve rice pudding for dessert. Since I had yet to mix the ingredients, you can do the math and figure that I was already running late. I really love rice pudding, so all morning I was thinking about the rice pudding and looking forward to eating it. I followed steps 1-3 above (you’ll note that the rice is the last item on the list). Committed to rice pudding now, I took my leftover rice out of the fridge (which I remembered as only a few days old, but I obviously remembered wrong) and it was moldy. I had no choice but to throw it out and make a new pot of rice. My garbage can was full, so I had to take out the garbage before I could throw out the moldy rice. I’m sure that when Rachel Ray makes those 30-minute meals, she never pulls moldy rice out of her refrigerator, leading to more dishes to wash and trash to take out.  I love RR, but even she would have to admit that she and I live in completely different worlds.

Everyone makes rice differently. Here’s how I make 3 cups of rice: In your pot dump 1 cup of rice, 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of oil (Any oil will do. For main dishes I usually use olive oil; for desserts, I usually use sesame oil). Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and cook until the rice is done, about 30 minutes.

Making rice is easy

Making rice is easy

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Best ever BBQ December 30, 2008

Filed under: Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 2:59 am
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melvins_pages_02Now that I’m back up north, I just can’t stop thinking about Melvin’s, an out-of-this-world barbeque joint in Charleston, S.C. I wish I would have gone there more than just once, but perhaps it’s for the best. Melvin’s, open since the ’60s, used to be called Piggie Park, and they have a least four distinct sauces. Being from Missouri, I have high standards for the sauce, and this was like nothing I’ve ever tasted. Fortunately, neither you nor I have to be a yearround resident of genteel Charleston to enjoy Melvin’s all year long. Just watch out; their tagline is “Pig Out,” and they mean it.  Order Melvin’s online here.

 

The most important ingredient November 20, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 3:03 am
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heartThe Domestic Goddess wishes to remind you that the most important ingredient you add to all of your cooking and baking is LOVE.

 

Giving away baked goods October 11, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 4:49 am
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By Julia Pantoga

I know you think it is early, but there are things you can do now to make your life easier in December…

I always give baked goods as gifts. The hardest (and usually most expensive) part of giving away baking goods is packaging them. You can come up with something more festive than baggies.

Suppose you know that you are going to give away cookies.  Start thinking now about how you are going to present those precious treasures. You need containers that are big enough to hold at least one dozen cookies, but not so big that you have to bake a double batch for each gift.  Containers will probably be cheaper if you stay away from holiday merchandise. To wit:  one year I was at the hardware store and ammunition boxes were on sale for some crazy-low price, like 50 cents each. I bought ten of them and fake pebble spray-paint, laid them out on my garage floor, painted them, then filled each with bags of cookies. I hope that these ammunition boxes were useful to my friends and family after the cookies are eaten—for storing sand paper, for example.

Some things that you will give away (like spiced nuts or homemade candy) need smaller containers. My favorite small container is a coffee mug. I begin shopping in October for inexpensive coffee mugs (my local Goodwill sells brand new coffee mugs for $1 each. Department stores donate them when they don’t sell at $6-10 each.)

You will find small gift bags in the candy-making section of a craft store. I must warn you though that going into a craft store is risky business—financially, at least. These stores have so many adorable gift containers that you may forget that one of the reasons you are giving away baked goods is to save money on holiday gifts and spend way more than you ever thought you would on containers.

Another tip for buying containers is to shop for them all year around. I often find great plain red, silver and gold containers on sale right after Valentine’s Day.

Finally, you will need is ribbon. I find that if I combine a red or green ribbon with a gold or silver ribbon, I can tie a simple bow and the result is quite elegant. If you are trying to save money, buy your ribbon at the craft store and don’t tempt yourself to do more spending in the fabric store.

Here’s how it all works together:
1.    Throw a handful of nuts (or homemade candy) into a small plastic bag
2.    Secure the bag with two ribbons that you hold together
3.    Put one little bag in each coffee mug.

I make a dozen of these early in December and keep a paper grocery bag of them in the back seat of my car, so I always have little gifts ready for people who help me all the time, like the clerk at the post office.

Another category of baked goods to give away are those that need to be baked in pans. A great discovery I made last year was the Paper Gift Bakers from The Baker’s Catalogue. These, combined with the medium size Clear Gift Bags that they sell also, have made my gift-giving-life a lot easier. I bake my gift cakes right in the pan.  Once frosted, I pop them in the gift bags. I secure the bags with a silver twist tie, then stick a bow on top of the package. Voila! A beautiful gift!

I make six gift cakes at a time and store them in the freezer once they are completely wrapped. One of the tricks to baking with disposable pans is to place all the pans on a pre-heated cookie sheet before you bake them. That way, there is only one thing to put into the hot oven and one thing to take to the porch to cool.

Usually, I don’t start baking for the holidays until mid-November (although this year I did some early to get photographs for you). October is really best spent starting to accumulate packaging materials.  In early November I’ll give you the recipes for foods that I like best for giving as gifts.

 

Cooking 101: Getting Started September 27, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 2:22 am
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By Julia Pantoga

Except for grating, I love everything about preparing food: from looking for recipes in my cookbooks to setting the table. Hopefully, I’ll be a good teacher for you because I relish every step—although I do run the risk of nauseating you with my enthusiasm. And because I am so detailed about it, I also run the risk of making cooking sound much more complicated than it is.

Many steps
Contrary to what you see on cooking shows, where all they do is cook, there are many steps to preparing a meal. There’s planning, researching, shopping,  getting the kitchen ready, prep cooking, cleaning up after prep cooking, cooking, cleaning up after cooking, serving the meal and cleaning up after the meal. Although not always possible, cooking is at its most “magic” when you can isolate that one step from the others.


Planning

The more you serve meals, the better you will be at this. I am sure that those of you who prepare meals several times a week for a family are better at this than I am; and I am sure that I am better at this than an 18-year-old living in a college dorm. Make a puzzle game of it.

First, think about the general composition of the meal in terms of nutrition.  Also, if one dish you are serving is particularly high in fat, try to have raw fruits or vegetables as a balance. Usually color is a good guide for nutrition. If you serve several different colors or foods in your meal, you will likely have a nutritionally balanced meal (isn’t that cool?).

Another thing to consider is what ingredients you have on hand. Be sure that you use those green beans that are about to go bad. One more thing to consider is preparation. Think through which pans you’ll use for each dish and try to avoid having to wash a pan in the middle of cooking. These are the things that take time. You’re buzzing along in the kitchen and you realize that you need the pan you just used to make a sauce for the vegetables to make the rice. You have to stop what you are doing, find a container to store the sauce in and wash and dry the pan, before you can start the rice.

Another component of planning is to never plan more than one dish that you’ve never made in a given meal. You really never know where the trouble of a certain dish is going to show up until you make it.  Finally, plan no more than one item that has to be cooked precisely right before it is served. Cooking shows make it look easy to talk while you are cooking and do several things in the kitchen at once. It is not.  The people on those shows are either professional cooks or professional actors or both. What they do is highly scripted. Don’t hold yourself to that unrealistic standard.

Researching
To many, the mark of a “good” cook is that he or she doesn’t use recipes. I’ll agree that the Italian grandmother who has been cooking for her extended family for fifty years probably doesn’t use recipes. But the truth of the matter is that, in America, at least, most of us just aren’t that good at cooking. We don’t have the same “feel” for food that the Italian grandmother does.

Also, we are used to a much wider variety than you would expect in an Italian kitchen. We expect to make an Indian feast one week and a pasta casserole the next. I use recipes for such common foods as deviled eggs, sloppy joes and chicken salad because I don’t have an instinctive feel for how to make them. The only reason I don’t use a recipe for vinaigrette salad dressing is that I memorized it a long time ago.  The really good cooks in America, the ones who really have a “feel” for food, are mostly found in professional cooking jobs, like cookbook writing.  By tapping into that expertise, my sloppy joes that taste the way I expect sloppy joes to taste.

Something else that is great about using recipes from cookbooks is that, usually, the recipes have been tested and are consistently notated. One method that is popular for finding recipes these days is to search the internet. Be careful about this, as the recipe may or may not be accurately recorded. The internet is a great source for ideas, but not a reliable source for precise recipes. The major exception I make to this is when I see preparation of a dish demonstrated on a cooking show and I go to the website of that cooking show to get that recipe. I print it out; make notes on it while I cook; and if it works well, I put it in my “recipes that work” file.

Getting the Kitchen Ready
I assume that you’ve been doing your daily housework tasks, so your kitchen is reasonably clean and your counters are clear. The first thing to do is get all the recipes you intend to use in the kitchen. Read them over and over again. Think about what utensils you are going to use and make sure that they are all clean. Like many people, I have favorite knives. When I am about to cook, the first thing I check is that I know where those knives are and that they are clean.

The next step I learned from Rachel Ray. (By the way, what she (supposedly) can do in 30 minutes, takes me at least an hour—she never has to wash vegetables!) Put a bowl for garbage on the counter where you will be working. If you go to stores that stock Rachel Ray cookware, there will be large plastic bowls for sale called, “garbage bowls.” That’s crazy. You don’t need to buy a special bowl for your garbage! Any large lightweight bowl will do. In my kitchen, the garbage pail is less than two steps away from the counter where I do most of my food prep work. You would not think it would make much of a difference for me to have a garbage bowl on my counter, but I was shocked at what a HUGE difference it made. I use my garbage bowl for all of my garbage, including packaging. If you compost, you will probably want two bowls: one for compostables and one for other garbage.

Next week we will talk about prep cooking, which includes chopping and preparing ingredients.  But there is one last step to getting your kitchen ready, and that is getting out the containers where you will store the things you chop until you are ready to use them. That way you can really get a rhythm going when you start to chop. Chop, chop, chop. Throw the ends in the garbage bowl. Put the chopped celery in the plastic container to use later.