Quick and Simple Pork Rice Bowl

rice bowl recipe

A rice bowl is a quick and simple dish that should take no more than 30 minutes to prepare on a busy weeknight and can be made with common ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator.

Today’s version of the rice bowl uses yellow rice and pork as the main ingredients, but it’s easy to substitute any meat and toppings of your choosing with similar results.

Enjoy:

What You’ll Need for your Rice Bowl

These quantities will make enough for about 4-6 people:

  • 1 pound Vigo yellow rice
  • 8 tbsp butter for yellow rice
  • 2 pounds pork loin backribs or your choice of pork, trimmed and cubed into 1/2″ cubes
  • 15.25 oz can of sweet corn
  • head of lettuce of choice, cut into strips
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 bunch cilantro, finely diced
  • 1-2 cups of shredded motzarella or your cheese of choice
  • 1 pound of tomatoes, diced
  • vegetable oil

Preparing Your Rice Bowl

  1. Cook the rice according to the directions on the package (I use 8 tbsp of butter but you can also add oil or margarine).
  2. While the rice is cooking, heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and cook the onions for 5 minutes. Add the pork and stir every minute or so until the onions and pork are cooked through.
  3. While the other two items are cooking, prepare the remaining toppings and lay them out on a serving platter.

That’s it! The resulting dish is a delicious and filling mix of starch, meat and vegetables that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser for most families.

Suggested substitutions for the pork include beef and chicken (I would use stir-fry chunks and white breast meat, respectively). You can also used different parts of the pig to make a pulled pork, rather than the cubes I chose to make today.

On the toppings, you can really go wild, but popular others include sauteed peppers, mushrooms, other types of cheeses, parsley, and more.

(Photo credit)

Potato and Cheese Pierogi

If you’re a fan of Polish cooking, or even remotely familiar with the culture, you’ve probably heard of pierogies.

Oddly enough, they were missing from my Poland roundup, since they seemed to be consumed at inopportune times, like when the camera was charging.

Pierogi are not complex creatures–they are essentially in the same family as the dumpling and sometimes called a ravioli because of the “stuffed” resemblance. They are widely popular in Eastern Europe, and migrated to the States with the immigrant population.

Today, the butchered version can be found in any supermarket freezer, but I’m going to show you a tried-and-true recipe that’s tough to mess up and has superior taste.

What You’ll Need

These amounts make about 40-50 pierogies. I typically figure 4-5 of these per person.

Dough:

  • 6 cups of flour
  • 3 whole eggs
  • 2 and 1/4 cups milk (I use Almond milk)
  • Pinch of salt

Filling:

The filling is a place of adventure and experimentation, but this one is among my favorites:

  • 7-8 large potatoes
  • 2 packets of farmer’s cheese (it only ever comes in one size at the store, a brick about 2″ by 6″)
  • One bunch of green onion/scallion/chives
  • Two regular onions
  • 1/2 pound of sliced bacon
  • Salt & pepper

Making the Magic

Prepare the filling first:

  1. Peel the potatoes and boil in salted water until done (stick with a knife–if the potato slides off, it’s ready). Mash the potatoes well.
  2. Slice the bacon in tiny strips cross-wise, then in half. Dice the onions. Heat a skillet over medium-high to high heat, add the bacon for about 1-2 minutes, then the remaining onions. Fry for about 10 minutes until the bacon is done and the onions are brown and well-caramelized. Take off heat and add to the potatoes; let both cool.
  3. Slice the green onion into small pieces and add to the above, once it’s had a chance to cool. Add both packets of the cheese and salt/pepper as well, then mix vigorously (I find a large fork to work best) for a few minutes until you get a nice, pasty filling.

Set the filling aside and work on the dough:

  1. Clean and prepare a large working surface on your counter, pouring some flour over it.
  2. Combine the flour, egg and salt in a bowl first, then add the milk.
  3. Mix the dough well with your hands until you get a very sticky dough.
  4. Transfer onto your counter; the flour will help to create a ball of dough you can start working with. Knead for a few minutes, then set aside.
  5. Take about one-third of the dough and use a roller to work into a very thin layer, replenishing flour as needed to prevent sticking. You should get a layer of dough roughly the size of a large pizza.
  6. Use a glass cup or some other round object to cut circular dough pieces, about 2-1/2″ in size. Incorporate the dough between pieces back into your “master ball” of dough.
  7. Get a tall pot of water boiling on the stove.
  8. Load a tall spoon of filling into one-half of each circle, about as much as you can fit into the pierogi.
  9. Moisten your finger and run it around the edge of one pierogi. Fold over and work the perimeter of the pierogi, squeezing it shut with your fingers as you go.
  10. Make about 10 of these at a time, then boil them for 5 minutes or so until they float to the surface. While the first batch boils, cut out and stuff subsequent batches.

Once all the pierogies are done, eat as-is or with sour cream, my favorite topping. You can also pan-fry them in some butter to develop a delicious golden-brown color. Some people also add onions and bacon to this last step, but I included both ingredients in the filling.

Other popular fillings include sauerkraut and mushrooms (another personal favorite), and fruits (blueberries and cherries work well).

Enjoy!

(Photo credit)

How to Cut Onions Without Crying

cutting onions

You know the drill–the sharp pain, the crying, sniffling, cursing, and frequent breaks. All because you want to (or need to) put an onion in your dish.

Yes, it could be better. But how?

Today, I’m going to show you a few simple strategies for cutting onions without all the fuss.

Why You Cry

If it’s not already evident, you cry when cutting onions because of the chemicals an onion releases into the air when it’s cut. These react with your eyes and cause pain.

All of today’s strategies look at two mitigation angles: reducing how much is released from the onion (or at what strength), and reducing access to your eyes.

Let’s go:

Good: Chill the Onions

The simplest and most readily available strategy is cooling the onion before it’s cut, either by putting it in the refrigerator or freezer for a period of time before dinner prep.

For whatever reason, a cooler onion releases less reactive material into the air than one that’s sat around for a while at room temperature. Just don’t forget your onions in the freezer for too long, or you’ll end up with a block of ice!

Better: Soak the Onion

Another strategy, and one that’s a bit more time-intensive, is to soak the onion in water or a water/vinegar solution for a few minutes before starting to cut.

The water/vinegar will start to pull out and neutralize the chemicals in the onion that are responsible for crying. To provide better access for the water to enter the onion, cut it in half before placing it in the solution.

Soaked onions will also be milder in taste, which is desirable for many people when using raw onions in salads or other dishes.

Best: Goggles

While this is the method that looks the funniest (if anyone is around), I’ve also found it to be the most effective. It involves the use of any air-tight mask or goggles, like those worn for swimming or diving.

The goggles create a boundary between the onion and your eyes that can’t be penetrated by the pain-causing chemicals. They can get uncomfortable if worn for too long, and they can fog up if not fit to your face properly, so use your own pair if possible.

Other Strategies

Any number of other strategies that prevent the transfer of chemicals from the onion to the eye can also help, like using a fast-moving fan in the kitchen to circulate clean air between you and the onion.

While I don’t recommend it for safety reasons, a lot of people also have success cutting onions under running water or while completely submerged.

Your Best Tip

How do you deal with onion tears? Share your best tips in the comments!

(Photo credit)

Tips on Cooking for Upset Stomachs

Over the last few months, a member of my family has experienced the typical symptoms of the first trimester of pregnancy. If you have never witnessed this, it basically involves a lot of vomiting, dry heaving, smell and food aversions, an upset stomach and the general feeling of illness. Fun.

If you happen to the be the person primarily in charge of cooking in your household when something like this comes along (or perhaps it’s another gastrointestinal illness), you’re in for a shock. Quite suddenly, foods that this particular lady in your life found delicious and irresistible just weeks ago will end up being left on the plate, left off the menu, or at worst–flushed down the toilet. What’s an aspiring chef to do but cry?

Thankfully, I’ve gone through the experience twice now, and will offer you some tips to shorten your learning curve and help you regain control of the kitchen. They are:

Ginger.

Ginger is the wonder-drug of upset stomachs, and can be tolerated by most people, depending on the form of delivery. Some stores sell natural ginger-ale (it must use actual ginger) as a drink. Others, such as Trader Joe’s, offer ginger-infused cookie-snacks with over-the-top amounts of ginger.

Another simple way to add ginger is using the dried spice form, which is typically a fine powder that can be added to almost any dish. For particularly bad days, I can sprinkle this in some chicken broth, add noodles and call it a stomach-settling soup.

Of course, no form is as pure as the real stuff, which is readily available from most grocery stores. Be forewarned: real ginger is very potent, and many cooks recommend wearing gloves to handle the peeling and break-down process. The two methods I use are either a simple, fine-toothed cheese grater or a food processor. No one wants ginger chunks in their food.

Lay off the spices.

Avoid any kind of hot spices, and even mild spices when the aversion to smells or tastes is particularly strong. Salt and pepper can be a blessing (making otherwise bland food taste okay), or a curse (too much salt can cause further problems), so judge situationally and based on past experience.

Eat small, simple, and often.

Munching on saltine crackers, ginger cookies or some other simple and low-calorie snack throughout the day can have a calming effect on the stomach and fight off feelings of nausea for many pregnant women.

Cook the basics.

Avoid a lot of show & flare when it comes time to just getting nutrients into your loved one’s stomach. My favorite go-to meal for any kind of sickness is soup, and it can be one of almost any variety, though I specifically avoid anything containing milk products. Whether it’s the classic chicken noodle soup, or a barley and potato soup, or perhaps something creamy like butternut squash, it’s hard to go wrong.

If cooking meats, stick to salt and pepper (if at all) and choose cooking methods like grilling, baking, or broiling that don’t add oil and other scents to the dish.

Prepare vegetables by boiling or steaming, or present them raw. Over-cooking vegetables can turn them into a mess that feels like mush on the palate and has encouraged more nausea in my experience.

Experiment & stay flexible.

Unfortunately, your first attempts may not be successful, and especially in the case of pregnancy, the likes and dislikes of the stomach can change over time. At least initially, the best idea is to offer a wide variety of foods where something…anything, is bound to be edible.

Beyond that, just stay flexible and remember that this temporary state of being is not a vote of impeachment on your food.

(Photo credit)

Least Favorite Food Chains

In May, I shared my favorite lunch places with you in the hopes that you give them a chance. Today, I’m going to turn my attention to the bottom of the list and include some plain-old restaurants and fast-food places.

Watching Where I Eat

In no particular order, these are my least-favorite national and regional chains:

  1. Applebee’s: You may have heard recent rumors that Applebee’s doesn’t actually cook much of its food in-house, but instead microwaves pre-packaged, frozen items on a regular basis. Whether or not these are founded in truth, my anti-love-affair with Applebee’s reaches back further than these developments. I find the food there unappetizing, poorly seasoned, and honestly–a bit like it came out of the microwave.
  2. Subway: I can honestly say that Subway makes the institution of the sandwich look bad. First, there’s the distinct smell that seems to permeate everything inside a Subway restaurant. Second, there’s the odd look about everything, as if it came out of a sealed plastic package just minutes ago (which in many cases, it did). Subway’s only redeemable quality is the toaster oven, which at least makes the bread and some of the chicken sandwiches okay, once in a while.
  3. McDonald’s: 20 years ago, as well as I can remember, McDonald’s used to serve decent food that kids were excited to eat as a treat and parents could stomach. A recent trip to the Mac (I haven’t been back in a while) revealed that the food is not only fast but also inedible. The fries are small, soggy, and tasteless. The burgers are thin, oddly colored, and have the obligatory pickle or two thrown in for flavor. The only thing I could possibly stomach would be the milk shakes, but then I gave up sugar, didn’t I?
  4. Hooters: I would say I go to Hooters for the wings, but I dislike chicken wings with a passion. No, I actually go because my wife likes it (the wings), but I’m always less-than-impressed at the quality of the food. It’s a nice…atmosphere…for watching sports and other things, but beyond that I find very little appeal in this restaurant.
  5. Cracker Barrel: A lot of people I know really enjoy the food at this “Southern breakfast” chain, but I never quite understood what all the fuss what about. The breakfast selections are similar to what you can get at any other breakfast chain, and I don’t really care for any of the typical Southern sides. Maybe it’s just my personal taste, but this is another chain I only go to with company.
  6. Taco Bell: Ugh, where do I start? In the interest of full disclosure, I have only been to Taco Bell three times in my life, and all of the occasions were memorable for all the wrong reasons. And that’s all I’m going to say about that…

Those six top my list–what’s on yours?

(Photo credit)