A little thing called rice.

It is one of the most common foods in the world.  Many cultures consider it a staple.  But as I stared at the wall of different kinds of rice at the grocery store last night, I felt lost.  I don't know anything about it other than some is white, some is brown, and some is fancy.  Then there was the wide range of price differences.  Why was one small bag of Arborio white rice twice as much as a bag of basic white rice?  Frustrated by my own inadequacy, I did what any good foodie would do, I looked it up!  I mean, what if I were at a dinner table some time, and we were discussing rice, and someone were to note that I have a food blog, and then I can't even begin to discuss the different kinds of rice!!!!  Ok, that was a far fetched.  On to the facts!

The most commonly used rice in the US is called, well, American rice.  Of course, like most things Americans produce now, this rice is grown with very little human interaction.  The rice fields in the US are operated mostly by machines and people in aeroplanes.  I suppose this explains the price difference between this variety and the Abrorio variety I mentioned above and below.

The Abrorio variety comes from the Po Valley in Italy.  It is a short grain rice with a high starch content so it gets soft and sticky, a quality that American rice does not typically posses.  Abrorio rice is good for absorbing flavor and therefore is frequently used in risottos.  This little tid-bit has helped me understand why, when I try to make a risotto with American rice, it just doesn't taste the same.  Apparently this is also the type of rice that is used in sushi.

My personal favorite is basic Brown rice.  Brown rice is rice that has not had the bran or germ removed, which is the process white rice goes through to make it white.  Removing these two layers also removes a good deal of the nutrients and fiber rice contains.  The flavor of Brown rice is a bit richer and it's better for you, so if you're in pinch eat brown rice.

Aromatic rice is a variety with many sub-varieties.  They all have a rich, nutty flavor.  Think Basmati or Jasmine.  Yummy.

Wild rice, as it turns out, is not rice at all.  While it comes from the same family, it is a distant cousin of rice.  It is an aquatic plant that, like rice, also grows in shallow water.  As the name suggests, it grow in the wild and not on farms.

As it turns out, some rice is white, some rice is brown, and some rice is fancy.While there are about 1000 types of rice (this is not a real number just an exaggeration), I feel this basic knowledge will help me use rice to create better meals.  Are there any questions?


Mamma makes Anne's Crab Cakes

Oh yes, Christmas food rocks my world!  So does my mom, who is always willing to try something new.  Our holiday traditional food typically consists of stuffed shells (pasta shells stuffed with ricotta and spinach and covered in homemade sauce), lobster tails, and steak...jealous?  This year my dear mother wanted to try something new, so instead of lobster she made crab cakes from scratch.  She used her friend Anne's recipe.  Anne is a Maryland native and bonafide crab connoisseur, so the fact that she would give us her recipe is both and honor and very intimidating all at the same time.

Now, I'm going to give you the recipe as we interpreted it (feel free to not tell Anne that we altered the recipe, should you ever run into her).  My mom thinks every recipe calls for too much seasoning, so we used less than the recipe called for, so if you love salt, take it up a notch.

Maryland Crab Cakes
Makes 9 appetizer size cakes


5-7 Saltine Crackers
1 tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 lb of chunked crab meat
1/6 cup of mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon of Tabasco
1 tablespoon of fresh Italian parsley


Begin by chopping the crackers in a food processor until the texture of bread crumbs and out in a large mixing bowl.  Add the Old Bay Seasoning and the crab meat and gently mix with a fork.  Put in the fridge to chill while preparing the wet ingredients.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the mayo, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon, Tabasco and parsley. 

Gradually (and gently) add just enough of the wet ingredients to the crab mixture that you are able to form small cakes.  Form the cakes and set aside.

To cook the crab cakes, melt about a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan and cook the cakes until golden brown on each side.

Serve with a tepenade, tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, chutney, or really anything else that suits your fancy.


If you are feeling industrious, you can use a fresh crab, boil that baby, and then break it open and dig out your own crab meat.  However, I can tell you that this is a lot of work.  So unless you are looking for the experience of cracking open a crab, just by chunked meat at the grocery store.  Drain out any liquid before using.

Be careful not to apply too much pressure to the crab by squeezing it.  You want to handle the crab meat gently and pull it apart with a fork if necessary, rather than your fingers.  This will keep the meat light and unbruised.

Any cracker will do.  Anne would die if she knew that we used Saltines, but the crab cakes still tasted great!

You can prepare the crab cakes the day before and then store them in the fridge until you are ready to cook them.  I wouldn't keep them uncooked in the fridge for more than a day.


All food is NOT created equal!

I am a huge fan of Whole Foods, mostly because I am kind of a food quality snob.  I really like to eat real food, and not food-like substances...yeah, I'm talking to you Yoplait Yogurt.  High fructose corn sryup and healthy do not belong in the same sentance.  A friend sent this link about shopping at Whole Foods and doing it in a budget friendly way. I really liked it so I thought I would share...


Birthday Goulash

I got older this week.  Hit a milestone, you could say.  I'm now a full-fledged adult, not only can I vote, drink, and buy dirty magazines, I can now rent a car!  That's right folks, I'm 25!

And oh man, did I celebrate.  My amazing friends and family celebrated my birthday for two weeks.  There was a dinner with my friends at one of my favorite restaurants, Pinocchio's Bar & Grill, dinner at my mom's house, and dinner at my dad's house.

For the big day, I had absolutely nothing planned.  Literally, my plan was to do nothing.  Around 9ish I dragged myself out of bed and promptly made a pot of coffee, transferred a pile of blankets and pillows from my bed to my couch, and snuggled in with a book to waste away in the sunlight streaming in from the window behind the couch.  It was perfect.  My amazing friend and (lucky me) roommate was able to spend the day with me, and in between naps she fixed breakfast and an amazing lunch.  She makes a mean quesadilla!  One was chicken with tomatoes, red peppers, and a ton of sharp cheddar cheese.  The other was steak with mushrooms, onions, and again a ton of sharp cheddar cheese.  They were slow cooked to perfection!

Around 4 o'clock, I finally peeled myself off the couch to frost about 1000 cookies I had made earlier in the week.  Finally, I was ready to begin preparation of my birthday dinner.  Everyone kind of scoffed when I said I wanted to cook my own birthday dinner.  But I was excited, it was the perfect culmination of a stellar day.  "What did you make?", you ask.  Well, if the title didn't give it away, I made a goulash!

I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  I had watched someone make a goulash before, but really wasn't paying attention.  I also didn't want to look up a recipe.  I know this seems a bit idealistic, but I figure those who make goulash as a staple probably learn their recipe from their parents, grandparents, or just trial and error.  The best I ever has was in Prague, and it was amazing.  Nothing like the one I ended up making, but definitely something to strive for!

Not wanting to look up a recipe, I started with Wikipedia.  I figured this way I would know what comprises a goulash without actually seeing a recipe.  Turns out, I was right!

Goulash is simply onions, meat, and a lot of paprika.  That is it.  According to my Internet resource, you can add all sorts of stuff to make regional varieties, but I wanted to start with the basics.  So, here it is, my recipe for...

Birthday Goulash!


1 large yellow or white onion
1-2 cloves of garlic (I can't help myself, I love garlic)
1.5 lbs of beef
1-2 tablespoons of flour
Lots of paprika
Olive oil


I began by defrosting my beef.  If this is your first time checking out my blog, I tend to freeze all of the meat I purchase so that I always have some on hand.  See my recipe for Summer Meatloaf for tips on defrosting meat.  Next I coated the beef with a light layer of flour to help seal in the juices and tossed it all into hot olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan over medium high heat to brown the meat on all sides.  Remove the beef from the pan.

Use this same pan with the remaining fat and oil from the beef to sautee the roughly chopped onion over medium-low heat.  Add a pinch of salt to help the onions begin to breakdown.  When the onions begin to become translucent, add the minced garlic and sautee for another minute. 

When there is a good bit of liquid in the bottom of the pan, remove it from the heat.  Add hot, smoked, or mild paprika (or a combination of all three) bit by bit.  I would say I added about 6 tablespoons, although honestly, I was measuring it out in the palm of my hand.  I would not add anymore than 1/2 cup of paprika.  Stir the onion paprika mixture together until well blended, adding a bit more olive oil if needed.  Return to medium-low heat and add the browned beef, mixing well.  Cover and let the slow cooking begin, checking in on your goulash every so often and give it a stir so the bottom doesn't burn.  Give it 2 hours if you can to allow for extra tender meat.  That's it, that is all there is to it, trust me. 


When you are thinking about a cut of beef for your goulash, or really any stew, you want to look for meat with a higher percentage of fat.  Also, your meat does not need to be the most tender cut.  The meat will become gradually more tender as it slow cooks.

Note that when you are browning meat, you are not cooking the meat.  You are using a really hot pan to quickly cook the surface layers, while leaving the middle relatively uncooked.

I think in the future, I would either dice the beef smaller (I used 1 in. cubes) or after it had cooked for a while with the onions and such, I might try and shred it a bit in the pot. 

I served mine with pasta, it was tasty.


Oh my gad! Breakfast pizza is amazing!

Well for the 3rd blog entry in a row.  Let me apologize for being a huge slacker!  I'm done with school for a good 6 weeks now, so it's back on!

I would like to begin with an amazing meal I was introduced to while visiting my beloved friends in Seattle.  My friend and her husband came up with this little ditty and then shared it with me.  Needless to say, now I'm obsessed and I believe you will be too!  Breakfast pizza is the shiz...

Breakfast Pizza


1 package of Trader Joe's pre-made pizza dough (or if you have the time, your own pizza dough)
2-4 oz of Crimini mushrooms
2-4 oz of thinly sliced prosciutto
Fresh mozzarella cheese
4 free-range, hormone-free eggs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Pre-heat the oven to 475 degrees.

Begin by slicing the mushrooms and prosciutto.  Sautee in a skillet with some olive oil until the mushrooms are cooked and the prosciutto is crispy.

Next start rolling, pulling, throwing the dough...whatever gets the job done.  I must admit, I still suck at this part but I think it will get better with time.  The one package of dough from TJ's makes a large pizza, so if yours is small, keep stretching it.  Use lots of flour on your hands, the rolling pin, the surface your are rolling on, and the surface that you will be baking the pizza on in the oven.  The dough is really, really sticky.

Once you have the pizza dough at your desired size, transfer it to the baking sheet or pizza stone you will be cooking it on.  If you have a pizza stone, well then good for you.  Seriously, they are awesome!  Drizzle some olive oil on the surface of the pizza and spread around with a spoon.  Next, spread the mushrooms and prosciutto over the the pizza, break the mozzarella up and spread over the pizza as well.  The final touch is the four eggs.  Crack them over the pizza and then leave them there to cook sunny side up!  Place the whole pizza in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and the eggs are cooked to your preference (easy, medium, or hard).  Slice and enjoy!

This amazing breakfast is super easy, crazy delicious, and good for you to-boot.  So there!