Tag Archives: tomatoes

Mexican Rice

Oh my goodness. This RICE! Normally, rice is Ben’s obsession, but this time, it’s mine. This Mexican Rice is seriously amazing. It’s the closest restaurant-style replica recipe that I have ever successfully made. Ben agreed, and thought this was better than something you could get at a restaurant. And for a guy who likes to eat out, that’s saying something!! So many recipes online or in cookbooks claim to be restaurant-worthy, but most of the time, they’re lying. Well this one? Not so much. It’s just like the rice you’d get at your favorite local hole in the wall Mexican place.

Mexican Rice | The Pajama Chef

When I first saw that the recipe called for three jalapenos, I have to admit that I was a little nervous [even considering my recent love of spice]. But really, I needn’t have been afraid–this rice had the perfect amount of kick. Not too spicy, not too bland. Stirring in cilantro at the end and adding a squeeze of lime juice to each serving definitely balanced out the flavors and gave the rice a little something special.

Mexican Rice | The Pajama Chef

At first glance, this Mexican Rice recipe might look a bit intimidating. Even if it has good flavor, isn’t it a bit overkill to go through all these steps of rinsing and sautéing the rice, then cooking it on the stove and in the oven? NO! Not at all. Don’t skip a step–each is necessary to make this light and fluffy without a bit of gloopy, gloppiness that can all too easily happen when a bunch of stuff is added to rice. The texture isn’t sticky or mushy. It’s just perfect. And when paired with homemade tacos and refried beans, well, it’s just like eating at a restaurant  But at home, for a fraction of the cost… and with all the leftovers you could want. :) I know I’ll be making this rice over and over again for many tacos nights in our future, and I hope you will too. Enjoy!

Mexican Rice | The Pajama Chef

Mexican Rice [from Food.com]
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Ingredients:

  • 1 can diced tomatoes [15 ounces]
  • 1 medium onion [yellow or white]
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 medium jalapenos, minced and divided [deseed as desired--I deseeded two]
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lime, wedged

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor or blender, combine tomatoes and onion. Puree until smooth, then pour into a measuring cup and reserve 2 cups. Discard excess [or save for something else, like salsa, or eat with a spoon...].

Add oil to a large [10-12 inch] straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven [with a tight fitting lid] and set over medium-high heat. While oil is heating up, place rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for about 2 minutes or until water runs clear. This is similar to rinsing quinoa–it removes the starch from the rice to make it nice and fluffy. Do not omit this step! Shake rice to remove excess water.

Next, drop a few grains of rice in the oil. If they sizzle it is ready. Add rice to oil and cook for 6-8 minutes, constantly stirring, until rice is lightly golden and translucent. Reduce heat a little if the oil starts to splatter, and add up to another 2 tablespoons of oil if it seems too dry.

Reduce heat to medium, then add 2 jalapenos and garlic and cook for 1 minute until fragrant.

Stir in pureed tomatoes and onions and chicken broth and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat, cover, and transfer to oven. Cook for 15 minutes, then remove and stir well.  Return to oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed. Remove from oven and stir in remaining jalapeno and cilantro. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with a wedge of lime to squeeze on each serving before enjoying.

Time: 55 minutes [20 minutes active].

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Notes: You can use 12 ounces fresh ripe tomatoes but since I made this before tomato season, I opted for canned. If you use fresh tomatoes, the recipe recommends supplementing with salsa if you need to get up to 2 cups AND to add 1 tablespoon tomato paste to the mix as well.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

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Taco Pizza

Some people are pizza purists, and some people are me. I like trying the most ridiculous and random types of pizza ever. My most recent favorite at a local pizza place? Pecans, sweet onion marmalade, gorgonzola and fresh rosemary. So, so good. That is definitely a combo I will be ordering again and maybe even recreating at home! And I am sure it’ll be nothing but good. But for now, this Taco Pizza I made from Budget Bytes is my favoritest homemade pizza of all time. A high honor, and for good reason.

Taco Pizza | The Pajama Chef

Tacos and pizza are amazing on their own, and together in one dish is a party you don’t want to miss! Each bite has layers of hot and cold ingredients and is just so flavorful!

Taco Pizza | The Pajama Chef

When thinking about this pizza, it’s hard to tell what the best part is–the refried bean/salsa sauce? The crunchy corn? The cheese? [oooh cause you can't have pizza without cheese!] Or the fresh, cold pico, cilantro, and sour cream on top of it all? I’m not sure, but you pretty much can’t go wrong with this idea because it’s so versatile. Any taco filling would be fabulous on this pizza. I think next time I might add some shredded chicken and sauteed peppers and onions for a fajita-type pizza. Oooh! And chunks of avocado and a drizzle of guacamole salsa. That’s what I’m talking about!!

Taco Pizza | The Pajama Chef

Even without meat though, this veggie pizza is super filling, and your family will be fighting over the leftovers. Ben and I sure were! Haha. Just kidding. I think.

It’s a good thing I didn’t make this yesterday on our fourth anniversary! :) Instead, we spent the day picnicking at a local winery and enjoying each other’s company. Better than squabbling over a delicious pizza, methinks. Teeheehee. Hope you all have a great Memorial Day weekend!

Taco Pizza [from Budget Bytes]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch pizza dough
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, minced + more for sprinkling
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 [15 ounce] can refried beans
  • 1 cup salsa
  • 1 tablespoon taco seasoning
  • 1 1/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 cup corn
  • 1/4 cup sour cream

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together tomatoes, onion, and cilantro for pico de gallo. Add black pepper to taste, set aside.

Add oil to a small saucepan over medium heat, add garlic and cook until soft, about 2 minutes.  Then stir in beans, salsa, and taco seasoning and cook until heated and smooth. Remove from heat.

Roll out pizza dough on pizza pan, par-baking crust if desired for 5-7 minutes. Then remove from oven and top with bean mixture, cheese, and corn. Bake for another 10-12 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Top with pico de gallo, cilantro, and a drizzle of sour cream [spoon into ziploc bag, cut off the corner, and squeeze over pizza]. You can also add a dash of hot sauce if that’s your thing. Enjoy!

Time: 40 minutes [15 minutes active].

Yield: 4 servings.

P.S. SHAMELESS PLUG! Please check out and like my new blog Facebook page… thanks!

Neely’s Lemon Pasta Salad

So this pasta salad. I’ve made it twice already–on Saturday with my mom for dinner, then again on Monday night so I could enjoy it for lunch all week long. Recipe repeats aren’t my style so this is how you know that it’s pretty darn incredible. It’s basically spring in a bowl. YUM! Those Neelys sure know what they’re doing–I hardly changed a thing! :)

Neely's Lemon Pasta Salad | The Pajama Chef

It’s a lovely combination of light, fresh veggies–asparagus, tomatoes, and peas–mixed with a lemony mustard dressed pasta and a punch of feta cheese.

Neely's Lemon Pasta Salad | The Pajama Chef

I seriously can’t get enough of this salad, and suspect I’ll be making it weekly for the rest of asparagus season. Even Ben, who isn’t such an asparagus lover, thinks this pasta salad is pretty fabulous thanks to the bright flavors in the dressing and the satisfying crunch of the veggies. I can definitely see adding some shrimp or grilled chicken to make for a more filling meal. However, that’s completely not necessary–this is a great vegetarian dish or side dish. Perfect for a BBQ or a family dinner, like with these sloppy joes. Just a warning though–it’s addicting, so be prepared for the deliciousness!

Neely’s Lemon Pasta Salad [from The Neelys]
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces whole wheat rotini 
  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. When there are 3 minutes left of cook time, add the asparagus to let it blanche until slightly tender. Drain and rinse pasta and asparagus, then remove asparagus to a cutting board.

Cut off ends of asparagus, then slice into bite-sized pieces.

In a small jar, combine mustard, garlic, lemon juice, oil, and dill. Cover and shake well.

In a large bowl, combine pasta and asparagus, then add tomatoes, peas, and feta. Pour dressing over and toss to coat. Season with pepper as desired.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Linked with: Weekend Potluck.

Baked Pizza Pasta

So, when I made this awesome Baked Pizza Pasta on Sunday, this was my view outside:

Snowy Day | The Pajama Chef

Snowy Day | The Pajama Chef

So, so gross. I don’t like this second winter thing. But it certainly was a great backdrop for this comfy, cozy baked pasta dish, don’t ya think? And even now, when the forecast for today is in the 50s, I’d still eat this. It just might even be my lunch!

Baked Pizza Pasta | The Pajama Chef

I know there are a million recipes out there for pizza pastas, but since I really think it’s the sauce that makes a pizza, I decided to concentrate on the sauce and let the rest come to me. Instead of using a bottled spaghetti sauce, I whipped up a quick and easy pantry pasta sauce out of canned crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and load of herbs and seasonings. Feel free to add and subtract from my choices as you see fit–this is very adaptable. I’ve made many homemade pasta and pizza sauces, and find that we like using dried herbs instead of fresh here, but again, do what suits you. Then, I tossed in some hot Italian sausage, salty pepperoni [Ben's fav!], some bell peppers [that I LOVE!], and a little onion. Add in curly rotini pasta and lots of mozzarella cheese, and you have yourself one heck of a pasta dinner! Very adaptable, very forgiving, very delicious.

Baked Pizza Pasta | The Pajama Chef

We’ve been eating this all week long, so I can testify to the fact that it heats up beautifully and even tastes better the next [and the next next next next] day. Yum-o! Next time I make this, I might increase the amount of sauce [or use a little less pasta], so keep that in mind if you wanna make this saucier, but really, we thought this was perfect as is. Fresh and flavorful like pizza, just in a more comfort food friendly form. Enjoy!

P.S. You have my permission to serve this at Easter dinner. I totally think that would be great. :)

Baked Pizza Pasta [TPC original]
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Ingredients:

  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried onion
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 pound rotini
  • 8 ounces hot Italian sausage
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 4 ounces pepperoni [reserve 5-10 slices for topping]
  • 1 cup diced bell peppers [I used red, yellow, and orange]
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded [reserve about 2 ounces for topping]

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, then begin by bringing a large pot of water to boil to cook the pasta.

In a saucepan set over medium heat, combine crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, and oil with all dried herbs and seasonings. Stir sauce occasionally and heat thoroughly.

Meanwhile, begin browning the sausage in a small skillet, breaking up with a wooden spoon as it cooks. When sausage is fully cooked, remove to a plate and use a paper towel to blot up some of the grease from the pan. Add onions to the hot skillet and cook over medium-low heat about 7 minutes or until soft.

When pasta water is boiling, add rotini and cook to al dente. Drain and return to pan, then add sauce, sausage, onion, pepperoni [minus reserved pepperoni], peppers, and about 6 ounces shredded cheese. Stir together then transfer to a 9×13 baking dish. Top with reserved cheese and pepperoni.

Bake for 20 minutes or until hot.

Time: 50 minutes.

Yield: 10-12 servings.

Linked up with: Weekend Potluck.

Pumpkin, Kale, & Black Bean Stew

I’ve definitely been slacking on the pumpkin front this fall. I’ve made several batches of my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip muffins…. a few breakfasts of pumpkin pie baked oatmeal… and a few other treats that I’ll share about soon. But all in all, I’m not sure what my deal is: I still love pumpkin and still have been using it in recipes, but I just haven’t been blogging about it. How weird!

Well, that’s going to change. This week. Right now, in fact.

Pumpkin, Kale, & Black Bean Stew | The Pajama Chef

A couple weeks ago, I didn’t feel like the dinner I had planned on my weekly menu plan [this happens semi-often...], so I just started pulling things out of the fridge and pantry and put together this quick Pumpkin, Kale, & Black Bean Stew. I wasn’t sure if it would be blog-worthy, but once I took a bite, I was smitten!

Pumpkin, Kale, & Black Bean Stew | The Pajama Chef

This thick stew’s pumpkin base is the perfect canvas for flavorful, healthy black beans, stewed tomatoes, and kale. For non-pumpkin lovers, the pumpkin flavor simply serves as a base for hearty ingredients. But for pumpkin lovers, just a pinch of pumpkin pie spice[!!!] is the secret ingredient to lasting pumpkin love! And boy, do I love pumpkin. This stew comes together in a flash, and is so flavorful that it doesn’t need any typical soup toppings [cheese, sour cream, etc.]. However, to make it a little more indulgent, I stirred in a bit of half and half at the very end. Great decision! And an even better decision on my part [and yours!] would be to make this stew again asap. It is that good. :) Enjoy!!

Pumpkin, Kale, & Black Bean Stew
click to print

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 [15 ounce] can stewed tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 leaves kale, chopped [about 2 loosely packed cups]
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage, minced
  • 2 tablespoons half and half

Directions:

In a stock pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and season with black pepper. Saute for about 5-6 minutes or until soft and translucent. Next, add chicken broth, pumpkin, black beans, tomatoes, and pumpkin pie spice. Stir until combined, then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Lastly, add kale and sage, and cook for another minute or two. Stir in half and half and serve immediately.

Time: 30 minutes.

Yield: 4-6 servings.