Rice Pilaf

Did you know that you can make rice pilaf at home without a box of Rice a Roni? Yep, it’s actually very easy. I had never made it before but had an idea of what the process would be. I was very pleased with how it turned out and it was a hit with my husband who is a pilaf fan!

Homemade Rice Pilaf

That’s one more prepackaged food gone from my pantry! I’ve already done away with pancake and biscuit mixes. I try not to use boxed cake mix unless I’m in a real time crunch. I’m finding that keeping a well stocked pantry makes it easy to make most everything from scratch.


1 cup long grain white rice (I used Basmati)

3 TBSP  orzo pasta

1 TBSP butter

1 TBSP vegetable oil

1/4 cup minced onion

1 bay leaf

2 cups water

1 TBSP chicken bouillon paste

1 TBSP dried parsley flakes


  1. Heat butter and oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add rice and orzo and cook until lightly browned.
  2. Add onion and bay leaf, stir until onion is translucent.
  3. Add water, bouillon and parsley; stir until well combined.
  4. Allow to come to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cover.
  5. Cook for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.


  • I think I will add a little minced fresh garlic next time, when adding the onion.
  • If you don’t have Better Than Bouillon paste, a cube of bouillon would work fine.
  • You could use chicken broth instead of water for a stronger chicken flavor.

Spicy Quinoa Salad with Garbanzos, Bell Peppers and Parsley

spicy quinoa salad from www.lesserhomesandgardens.com

This is the third quinoa recipe I’ve made. I like quinoa for it’s high protein and quick cooking. I’ve found that the taste is much improved if I thoroughly rinse it prior to cooking. My husband, however, has not been impressed. In an effort to find a quinoa recipe that would tickle his taste buds I tried this spicy version.

This is by far the best quinoa recipe I’ve tried so far. I served it warm the evening I cooked it, but ate it cold as leftovers the next day. I think it’s actually better chilled!


2 cups quinoa, thoroghly rinsed

3 TBSP lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne

1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained and rinsed

1 jar fire roasted red bell pepper, chopped

1 bunch fresh parsley (about 3/4 cup chopped leaves)

Salt to taste (approx 1/2 tsp)


  1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
  2. Add all other ingredients and mix well.

Tips and Tricks

  • This dish is high in protein and is great as a vegetarian meal.
  • This makes a large batch, enough for 3-4 people as a main dish or 6 as a side dish.
  • The cayenne pepper gives this quinoa a nice kick of heat, but is not overpowering for the volume here. For a milder dish, reduce to 1/4 tsp.


Quinoa with Tomato & Basil

Do you know quinoa? It’s a grain from South America that is becoming popular in the US. It can be used in place of rice or couscous for added protein. In fact, it contains all nine essential amino acids which makes it a complete protein. It cooks quickly, usually in 10-15 minutes and has a mild, slightly nutty flavor. Quinoa can be seasoned simply with olive oil or butter and salt, or mixed with a variety of vegetables and herbs for fun flavors.

The photo at left is a quinoa dish my mom prepared for us when I was visiting. She made it as a side for some beautiful grilled salmon. She cooked it in water until tender, then added chopped fresh tomato and basil, and seasoned lightly with salt. It was simple and tasty!

If you haven’t tried quinoa yet, go for it! Quinoa is available at many grocery stores, Target and Costco. For more recipe ideas check out the Top 20 most popular recipes for quinoa on allrecipes.com.

Fried Rice

I never made it to the store today, so it was time to search the freezer for some inspiration.  I had a bag of ham left over from a big roast I did a month ago, some frozen vegetables and a package of pot stickers. Sounded like the perfect time to make fried rice!

I’m sure there are a lot of ways to make fried rice, but this is how I do it:

1. Cook rice.

2. Heat some butter and oil in a skillet.

3. Add small diced carrots, frozen peas, fresh garlic, diced ham and sliced green onions.

4. Saute until vegetables are tender. Add fresh grated ginger (I had to substitute ground ginger powder since I didn’t have any on hand. Still good, but not as aromatic).

5. Add rice. Cook until slightly browned.

6. Push rice to the side and crack two eggs into the skillet. Beat with a fork and cook until firm, then mix into the rice.


7. Add soy sauce to taste.

I sever with some pot stickers, but with the veggies and ham it could be a complete meal on its own.

Mushroom Risotto

Add hot broth and stir until absorbed. And repeat. And repeat.

I bought a box of arborio rice a few years ago at a specialty food shop. I wanted to try making risotto, but never got around to it. Until last night. To begin, I selected a recipe from Food Network. I looked over a few and decided to go with one from Emeril.  It seemed easy enough (and was rated as such) so I gave it a shot. It turned out great!

Instead of writing out the long recipe I carried my laptop to the kitchen and placed it on the counter.  What an easy way to cook! I could refer to the recipe without printing it out or writing it onto an index card – who wants to waste all that time if it doesn’t work?

Finished Risotto with shaved parmasean cheese on top.

The recipe called for a few things that I didn’t have on hand, but I improvised.  I used dried thyme instead of fresh, and skipped the fresh parsley entirely. Emeril also suggested using some proccuito as a garnish.  I didn’t have any on hand so I cut some very thin julienne strips of ham to sprinkle on top.  I served some steamed broccoli on the side to complete the meal.

I am pleased with how well it turned out. Risotto seems to be a dish a lot of cooks have trouble with, but if you follow the directions it is really easy to make.  If you’ve never made risotto before, try it, you will like it!

Chili Relleno Casserole

This is what I took for my contribution to Easter dinner.  It’s a super easy casserole that can work with a variety of meals, especially BBQ.  Try this one and be a hit at your next potluck!

What you need:

1 lb shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb shredded jack cheese
2 (7 oz.) cans whole green chilies
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
3 TBSP flour
1 cup beaten eggs (about 5 large)

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Drain the chilies, remove membranes.  Spray a 9 x13″ casserole pan with non-stick spray. Place a layer of chilies in a 9×13″ casserole pan.  Cover with half of the shredded cheeses.  Layer with remaining chilies, and cover with remaining cheese. In a bowl beat the eggs, add flour gradually, alternating with the milk and mix well. Pour liquid mixture evenly over chili & cheese the layers. Bake uncovered for 30-35 minutes or until set.