I Think Where There Is Fried Rice There Is Love

So you mean to tell me that a chicken fried this rice? -Someone hilarious

My fried rice recipe is one of my favorites. And my kids love it!  I have perfected the recipe and it’s healthy which means that I am, once again, WINNING! I adapted my recipe from one published in The Joy Of Cooking. My most beloved cookbook….worn out, tattered and stained from Lord knows what I splattered on it. I am a messy cook but I think the bigger the mess the better the dish. Right?

If you read different recipes they will tell you to make the rice the day before and start with cold rice. Do I do that? No. Am I telling you not to make it the day before? No. Feel free to plan ahead and use cold cooked rice. I am just not good at planning that far ahead. I just cook the rice and set it aside. I have found the key is to get the oil in the skillet very hot. And when you add the eggs, make a little well in the middle of the rice and scramble it right there in that little spot before stirring it throughout the rice. OK?

We like our fried rice simple. If I make ham fried rice then I don’t add anything else. Sometimes mushrooms but my kids don’t like that. So truly just ham and rice. Anytime I bake a ham I make fried rice with the leftovers. Ham seasoned with cloves is amazing in fried rice. Coriander is the star in this dish so add that to your grocery list! Coriander makes many recipes delicious. You can use cardamom in place of it if you have that instead. Other uses for coriander include roasted potatoes, vegetable soup, roasted eggplant, and any Indian or Asian rice dish.

If I make chicken fried rice, I like to toss in some broccoli. That’s it. We do not like cabbage or onion but you knock yourselves out adding the veggies you like. And I use brown rice sometimes, but we really prefer white rice.

Here’s the recipe:

¼ cup olive oil – heat in a skillet

3 cups cooked rice – toss it in the hot oil

Once hot throughout and golden add:

Salt and pepper to taste

Cooked chicken (I like sautéed chicken), ham or shrimp

Mix well and and hollow out a center in the rice and add:

2 eggs – scramble the eggs and then stir into the rice

Add:

1 tablespoon of low sodium soy sauce – or more if you like

1 teaspoon coriander

Toast sesame seeds in a small skillet – about 1 tablespoon and sprinkle on top of the fried rice

Variations:  Add mushrooms, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, onion, peas or whatever you like!

It’s not pretty…..but how it tastes is what matters and it’s really good! Let me know how you like it and how you prepare your fried rice.

Ham fried rice with coriander and toasted sesame seeds

Shepherd’s Pie. It’s What’s For Dinner During The Great Casserole Comeback!

“Where’d you get the shepherd?” – My boyfriend Kevin

“This looks so bad but it tastes so good!” – My Kids

Cooking has been challenging to say the least being at the mercy of what is available at the grocery store and my own pantry. I  never know what will be out of stock next at the grocery store. I was shocked to see that hot dogs and sausages were totally wiped out with a sign that said people could only purchase one. Hot dogs? Is that because they will last until the end of time? That is all I can think of. Anyway, as a result I have tried to buy things that will last and that I can stretch through the week.  I fondly refer to this time as the The Great Casserole Comeback. Oh what I can do with a roast chicken, rice, carrots, potatoes, 5 pounds of ground beef……endless possibilities! My kids look scared to death when they see a 9×13 dish come out of the oven.

Well, much to their chagrin they loved my shepherd’s pie. They ate it all. Only one little bit left for lunch the next day.  It’s not pretty…nooooooo it’s not. But what it lacks in presentation it more than makes up for in taste. And that is why I share it with you here today. The best part…..it’s healthy and very easy to make from scratch.  Use the vegetables you have and don’t worry if you’re missing any. Don’t have fresh veggies but plenty of frozen? Throw them in! It calls for mushrooms but they were sold out like the hot dogs. My kids were thrilled. Don’t eat meat or it’s not stocked? Leave it out – the gravy is so good with the vegetables and mashed potatoes alone. You can make it with ground beef or turkey.

Recipe is as follows – it’s easier than it looks!

1 lb lean ground beef or turkey

1 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth

1 tsp pepper

1 tsp salt

2 bay leaves

3 whole cloves

1 tsp thyme

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced onion

1 cup quartered mushrooms

1 cup diced celery

1 cup frozen corn

1 tablespoon, plus ¾ tablespoon all purpose flour

½ cup low sodium beef broth

3-4 chopped, cooked, mashed potatoes

½ cup milk – low fat

1 tablespoon butter

1 -2 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded

Brown beef in a large skillet and drain when done. Wipe the skillet clean. Return beef to skillet and stir in 1 cup broth, pepper, salt, bay leaves, cloves and thyme. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

While that cooks chop the potatoes and cover in a pan with cold water. Boil the potatoes until tender for 10-12 minutes. Drain in a colander and return to pan. Add butter, milk, and salt and pepper to taste. I have been known to add a spoonful of sour cream. Mash or mix until fluffy in a mixing bowl and set aside.

Add carrots, onions, mushrooms, celery and corn to the skillet with the beef. Add 1/2 cup or so of more broth if it’s low to cook the veggies. Simmer and cook covered for 7 minutes until vegetables are tender.

Preheat oven to 375. Put flour in a small bowl and slowly whisk in broth. Stir until smooth and blended. Add to beef mixture. Simmer for 5-7 minutes until slightly thickened. Transfer mixture to a lightly greased casserole dish. Spread the mashed potatoes on top and cover with mozzarella cheese. Bake uncovered for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted.

I hope your family loves it! I find that cooking for family is psychologically and spiritually nourishing. Food is love!

Proof that my kids loved it:

This Too Shall Pass. Until Then……

“We fall into despair when the terrible gangs up on us and we forget the world can also be wonderful. We just see terrible everywhere we look. So what you do for your friend is you bring up the wonderful, so both are side by side. The world is terrible and wonderful at the same time. One doesn’t negate the other, but the wonderful keeps us in the game.”   – Catherine Ryan Hyde, Have You Seen Luis Velez?

How cute is this? Two little girls in my mom’s neighborhood painted and placed these on everyone’s driveway with a different word of hope for each family.

Keep making lemonade! I keep reading posts and articles right now about making lemonade out of the lemons being thrown at us right now. There is so much that is positive out there and people coming together….six feet apart and separated by phone screens and monitors of course. I do feel so much closer to people from so far away. Do you? All the references to lemons make me smile right now. Lemons are a symbol of well-being and positive surroundings. I don’t know about you but I could really use that right now! The stock market is down and the number on my bathroom scale is up. Shelter in place is in effect for the county in which I live. Oh, and the governor in the fine state of Georgia closed school for the rest of the year. It’s necessary I know. My kids miss their classes, teachers and friends. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone. The number on my bathroom scale is up. Did I mention that already? I think I did.

I have so many questions. Such as…..

  1. Can I get pulled over just driving to the grocery store? I don’t think I would have a problem if I did. One look at my crazed eyes, an ungroomed dirty dog in the back seat and two kids with home given haircuts should get us waved right on.

2. Are other people changing out of daytime pajamas to put on nighttime pajamas when it gets kind of dark? Asking for a friend.

3. Who is staying awake at night worried sick about loved ones getting sick? And keeping jobs and finances intact? Anyone else? I think I already know the answer.

Worries will continue but so will so many good things and lessons we take away from all of this. I see on Facebook and hear from so many about how it’s brought their families back to the kitchen table for dinner each night. I have always insisted on family dinner at the table but sometimes it was a snack at 9:30 after lacrosse practice and we were too tired to really talk. Now we have dinner every night together and talk, walk the dog around the neighborhood (not a rushed somebody please take that poor dog out right now plea), play tennis, cards (we are trying to learn to play poker – $1 buy-in), or just sit and watch television. Together.  It’s not perfect….we bicker, I try to cheat at cards, ghastly inappropriate things are expelled from both kids at the dinner table, I get mad and then laugh. Because I don’t care what anyone says – a fart is funny. And they work so hard at it and we should celebrate everyone’s God given talents during this difficult time.

I have friends making masks, inspirational jewelry with sweet messages to send to those who need it, dropping off desserts, cards, anything to help lift spirits. There was a drive-by birthday celebration for a neighbor in my neighborhood. Singing happy birthday out of the windows of cars. It brought joy to the entire street! My daughter and I went to a very large parking lot, sat six feet apart from dear friends and celebrated a 16th birthday. There were less than 10 people congregating. It was simple – balloons, bubbles, and singing happy birthday. It was awesome! I received this beautiful package on my doorstep. Lemons of course! With lemon macarons – I’ll share the recipe.

We are all in it together! I read this on LinkedIn from businesses, Facebook from friends, and tell my kids that. We will get through this together. From six feet apart, through FaceTime, Zoom, prayer, texts, funny memes, etc…. The memes! Hilarious videos and memes that I love sending to friends. We all need a laugh! Anyone have a favorite? Here’s a few of mine. Share yours in comments. Please!!!

So stand on that blue tape in the grocery store, wash your hands, stay home and I hope you all feel more connected than ever before. Life is precious and I don’t know many who aren’t waking up each day grateful for what they have right now. Our time with our children and loved ones is precious too. We will look back and remember when we had to stay home, play games, and just come together. That’s what I’ll remember about this when it’s over. How we all got through it together.

I can’t sew masks and I don’t make jewelry. I have never been a crafty person. But I love telling stories, writing and cooking. So that’s what I’m going to do! I have made delicious dinners that my kids have actually liked and I’m trying to compile recipes. I have to take time to write them down because I cook without them and I’ll share them soon. I think we all could use easy recipes right now and I hear people are running out of dinner inspiration. I’ll share mine!

I hope you’ll check back for stories, recipes and whatever else I come up with. It’s the least I can do to help us all get through this…..together!

Sea, Sand, Books, and Beach Shrimp

Smell the sea and feel the sky, let your soul and spirit fly. – Van Morrison

I just returned home from another great beach vacation. We celebrated my mom’s 70th birthday at her favorite place – the beach on 30-A in Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. If you haven’t been let me tell you it’s one of the most beautiful beaches I have been to and I’ve been to many coast to coast. Pristine natural beauty and the color of the water is truly gorgeous. The Watercolor community in Santa Rosa on 30-A is so aptly named for the aqua and turquoise crystal clear sea water. The gorgeous water color combined with sugar white sand is breathtaking. We stayed a few miles from Watercolor in the charming Blue Mountain Beach area and loved it.

Typically, we pack in activities such as snorkeling, boating, shopping and enjoying as many restaurants as possible. This time, my kids let me know they wanted to relax vs. being dragged everywhere. Dragged everywhere? Poor children. That was music to my ears. I read two books and lounged on the beach everyday all day. Heaven on earth. I read Educated by Tara Westover and Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Read them! Even if you don’t like to read. Read them! They will change you for good.

When I did pull myself out of my chair it was to figure out dinner. There was a fantastic fresh seafood market next door and I bought tons of fresh shrimp. Old Bay, lemons, boiling water and in minutes I announced that dinner was served. Fresh watermelon, a salad, and crusty French bread accompanied. Lunch the next day was shrimp tossed in a little mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon juice, avocado, salt and pepper. So fresh and healthy! I call it Beach Shrimp. Yes, it’s on a paper plate. I barely washed my hair much less styled dinner.

I’m back home and it’s hot. I’m craving this perfect meal as it is cold, light and healthy. The best part – it just takes a little time to prepare!

Here’s the recipe if you can call it that:

Shrimp – only fresh. Please. I bought a little over 2 lbs.

Old Bay – ¼ of a cup or 2 heaping tablespoons per pound I’d say

Lemon – a big one – cut into quarters

Add water to a large pot – a little over half way to the top. Squeeze juice from a lemon into the water and toss it in – I quarter it and add it to the water. Add Old Bay and stir. Bring to a boil. Add shrimp and boil 3 minutes for medium and 4 minutes for large shrimp.

Beach Shrimp:

1 lb of cooked, chilled shrimp – peeled and deveined

Tablespoon of mayonnaise

Tablespoon of sour cream

Juice of half of a lemon

One avocado, coarsely chopped

Coarsely ground salt and pepper.  I like Himelayan pink salt.

Toss it all together. I like it alone or over a spring mix salad. It’s also good in French bread served po-boy style.

This will definitely be a recipe made at the beach each summer and enjoyed at home when the mood strikes.  I hope you like it! Comment if you feel like it if you have any beach recipes you enjoy.

Birthday Girl!
My Sea Urchins!

My Friend Mary’s Basil Lemon Yogurt Cake

Bakers gonna bake, bake, bake, bake, bake! – A baker I don’t know said or sang this

Have lots of basil and lemons lying around? If you do, you should make this for breakfast this weekend. And if you don’t just run to the store and get some. My friend Mary made this for her daughter, Ava, for breakfast on a Sunday morning. She found Meyer lemons at the store and decided to make it and serve with fresh lemonade and fruit. I can’t wait for my daughter, Sarah Kate, to make it for me. Ha! I am a terrible baker. I don’t even like baking. I have ruined brownies out of the box. Yes, it is possible.

I love the story behind the recipe. Mary and her daughter volunteer at an assisted living facility – which sometimes my daughter and I will volunteer also playing bingo with the ladies. It is such a gratifying experience! I always think I am going there to help brighten their day but I think I leave a little better than when I walked in. I love their stories, advice and company.

Mary likes to go on Wednesdays because that’s when they bake. She said they might not remember what day it is but put a recipe in their hand, let them boss you around, and they are off to the races! So that’s where she scored this delicious recipe. From one of the sweet residents in assisted living. She hand wrote the recipe for her. I love that. This led to a discussion about our grandmothers and their handwritten recipes we still have. My grandmother Ann didn’t have recipes. I learned to cook from her and so I don’t have a lot of recipes either. I just learned. My other grandmother, Maxine, typed all of her recipes on a typewriter of course and then made notes on the cards. One handwritten comment says, “Extra good!”. I have them! Here is her beautiful recipe box she gave to me with her typed recipes – along with the name of the person who gave it to her.

Mary found this gorgous box recently and it holds her recipes. It’s so pretty!

Here’s the sweet handwritten recipe for the cake. So sweet. I love that Mary’s hand and phone casts a shadow over the page. Lol!

Sarah Kate! Are you reading this? I have all the ingredients you need to whip this up! Can’t wait. Love, mom.

Basil Lemon Yogurt Cake

3 cups of flour

5 tsp baking powder

1.5 cups sugar

Zest of 4 lemons

1.5 cups of plain yogurt

2 tbspn lemon juice

1 cup oil

4 large eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2/3 cup chopped basil

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour cake pan. Whisk flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, mix sugar and lemon zest. Add yogurt and lemon juice and mix well. Add oil, eggs and vanilla. Add basil and mix well. Fold in flour mix just until it crumbles. Pour in bundt pan or cake pans and bake 45 minutes.

Glaze: 1 cup of powdered sugar, 4 tsp lemon juice, and 1 tsp milk. Pour over cooled cake.

Cocktails That Taste Like Summer

When life gives you lemons, mint, basil, and thyme add some vodka and hurry to the porch.

-Shannon Hunter (that’s me)

Summertime brings about the most delicious herbs. Whether you grow them yourself, go to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, now is a great time to enjoy fresh basil, thyme and mint. My neighbor, Elizabeth, brought over an entire bouquet of basil and a craving for a lemon, basil and vodka cocktail. So I made her one. I always have lemons and vodka just in case.

I like to grow basil and mint in containers on the porch near the kitchen door. That way I can run out with my kitchen shears and cut some to add to whatever is on the stove or muddle in a drink. Basil and mint together is so good in sweet iced tea with lime. Love it!

So far this summer I have three delicious cocktails that are my favorites! I will say a gin and tonic is my absolute favorite in the summer, but I decided to make use of overflowing pots of basil and mint. I am not growing thyme so I have to get that from the farmer’s market or the grocery store when they have it.

They are so easy to make but you must have two things on hand…simple syrup and good quality tonic and soda. I highly recommend Fever-Tree. It truly is the best brand of tonic and soda I have ever had. Indian, Mediterranean and Elderflower are my favorite flavors. Here is a picture in case you aren’t familiar:

The best bargain for Fever Tree is to order it by the case on Amazon – otherwise it is between $5 – $6 for four bottles. Here are the links to my favorites:

Indian Tonic Water:

Elderflower Tonic Water:

Meditarranean Tonic Water:

To get started on porch sitting and sipping, you must have chilled simple syrup.

Simple Syrup:

1 cup of sugar – I also squeeze in a little honey. Especially if I add a sprig of thyme to the water.

1 cup of water

Bring water to a boil and stir in the sugar and honey. Turn heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk. Pour into a Pyrex cup or heat resistant container and let it cool. I keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Thyme infused simple syrup – add a sprig or two to the simmering water.

Basil, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Muddle 2-3 leaves of fresh basil in a glass – leave them in the glass

Fill glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add a shot of vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1 tablespoon of simple syrup or more to taste

Top with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic

Garnish with a lemon slice and basil leaf

Stir and Serve!

Thyme, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Fill a glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add one shot of Vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1-2 tablespoons of thyme infused simple syrup or more to taste

Add Fever-Tree tonic or soda to top – I prefer tonic but others prefer soda – make two and decide!

Stir and garnish with lemons and a sprig of fresh thyme.

Mint Juleps aren’t just for The Kentucky Derby ya’ll. It’s a great drink that is so refreshing during the summer. And helps with what to do with all that overflowing mint.

Mint Julep:

5 fresh mint leaves, muddled

2 ounces of simple syrup

2 ounces of bourbon – Woodford Reserve is my favorite mixing bourbon

Muddle 5 mint leaves in a glass. Fill the glass to the top with ice. Add simple syrup and bourbon. Garnish with mint sprigs.

What is your favorite summer cocktail? You know I’d love to hear!