Pasta Night with Trader Joe’s ingredients

SeafoodPasta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Usually I go to my Italian market for pasta night, but I decided to try getting all my major ingredients at Trader Joe’s.

TJ Ingredients: Egg Pappardelle Pasta, Arrabiata Sauce, Seafood Blend (shrimp, calamari, bay scallops).

Other ingredients: Red chili pepper flakes, olive oil, garlic, herbs, salt & pepper

Added red chili pepper flakes and garlic to the pasta sauce and let it simmer while my water boiled for the pasta. Boiled the pasta for a few minutes while adding the seafood to a hot pan of olive oil.

When pasta was ready, mixed in pasta sauce. When seafood was thoroughly cooked, added that to the mix. Salt and peppered pasta. Chopped up some herbs and sprinkled on top… voila!

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Great with red wine ūüôā

Strawberry French Macarons

I never saw myself as a baker. The most interested I’ve ever been in baking was pouring a pre-made brownie mix or spoonfuls of ready made cookie dough onto a pan. ¬†However, I found myself with free time and trying to come up with special treats for my godson’s baptism. ¬†French macarons came to mind!

This was quite the jump from a box of brownie mix to home made French macarons, but in order for me to want to put the time into making something, I have to be highly interested in it.  French macarons happen to be one of the few sweets that intrigued me.  I have always loved the look of  a French macaron, and the variety of flavors and colors they come in.

What’s great, is that there aren’t a lot of steps and they are all easy. ¬†What’s not so great, is that doing any of theses steps slightly off, will mess up your chances of making the perfect macaron.

I found a great youtube video on making French macarons, and then tweaked a few things to get my successful batches of macarons.

The video is Beth’s Foolproof French Macaron Recipe –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJ636Y8N6E8

Her ingredients:

INGREDIENTS
3 Egg Whites
¬ľ cup white sugar (50 g)
2 cups confectioners sugar (200 g)
1 cup almond flour (120 g) (SEE NOTE BELOW)
pinch of salt
¬ľ tsp cream of tartar (2 ml)¬† * You can omit if needed, just may take a bit longer to reach stiff peaks but the recipe will still work)

NOTE: If you cannot find almond flour where you live, check out this great video from my new friend Dzung at Honeysuckle Catering and she’ll show you a great easy way to make it yourself!

RASPBERRY BUTTER CREAM  (I DID STRAWBERRY! SEE BELOW)
1/4 cup salted butter (60g)
3/4 cup powdered sugar (75 g)
1 cup (150 g) fresh raspberries, worked through a sieve to extract 3 tbsp of juice

 

For my fist attempt, I did a light blue coloring on my shells and buttercream since blue was the color theme for the party, with earl grey tea powder as the flavoring in the shells.

BAKING PROBLEMS:

1st Batch- I followed the steps to the best of my ability, and the two problems I encountered were very hollow and tall shells, and then the shells stuck to the pan after the suggested time.  I began to look at the comments below the video for people who had complained about similar outcomes and did what  Ms. Beth suggested.

French Macarons Blue
My 1st attempt with the issue of hollow shells and raw bottoms

2nd Batch- Beth said a hollow shell means the temperature is too hot, so I lowered my oven temperature. BETTER SHELLS! STILL STICKY BOTTOMS!

3rd Batch- I then read to place the pan on a lower rack…still sticky. ¬†I had to spray water underneath the parchment paper to get the macarons to peel off the sheet.

4th Batch- I left the macarons in the oven longer so the bottoms can cook more…yellowish burnt tops.

5th Batch-I raised the temperature back up and baked for less time…sticky bottoms.

5th Batch- I heard to prop the oven door open so the tops won’t brown as you extend the baking time for the bottoms to cook more…still sticky and my kitchen was uncomfortably hot.

 

 

A few weeks later, the baptism was two days away and it was time to try again.

2nd Attempt

1st Batch- I heard about leaving the macarons out longer before popping them into the oven. ¬†I waited an hour. ¬†Success!! ¬†However, the tops didn’t smooth out, and I realized I under mixed my batter. ¬†If the tops don’t smooth out within 10 seconds of piping, it needs a few more folds.

2nd Batch- I DON’T KNOW WHAT IN GOD’S NAME I DID WRONG. ¬†After piping, they never felt like they were drying, even after an hour! ¬†Usually, the tops start to dry out after 20 minutes. ¬†I popped them in anyway and they just came out like cookies. ¬†No “feet,” no smooth tops, no sense of accomplishment.

3rd Batch- Did everything the same and they came out like the first batch.  There were still a bit of a swirly top on the macarons, but decent.

People were actually really pleased with them and they were gone by the end of the night. My cousin was left wanting more, so I told him I would make more later on in the week. Tired of making blue macarons, I wanted to do a completely different color and flavor. ¬†I had leftover strawberries from the baptism party, and I thought I could replace the raspberry in Beth’s recipe with strawberry juice. ¬†Now, I don’t know if it’s the practice or lack of pressure, but WOW!!

3rd Attempt

This is what I did…

From 3 room temperature eggs, I separated the egg whites, and mixed until they were foamy.

Added my cream of tartar, salt, and sugar

Pouring Egg Whites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the my egg whites were mixing, I sifted my almond meal into my powdered sugar.

Sifting Almond Meal/Flour into the Powdered Sugar
Sifting Almond Meal/Flour into the Powdered Sugar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When my egg whites were starting to thicken, I added my food coloring (4 drops of red for the strawberry theme)

Food Coloring for the French Macarons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mixed until the peak of my egg whites stood up

PinkEggFoam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poured the Almond/Sugar Mix into the Egg WhitesFlour Pour into Egg Mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

Folded until the “lava flow”

French Macaron Mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Placed the mix into a pastry bag…

French Macaron Pastry Bag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piped out the desired shape of the French macarons and banged the pan 4 good times to let the air bubbles out.

I left them to dry out for 45 minutes, when the tops felt completely dry.

Macaron Mold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Popped them into the oven at 285 degrees for 15 minutes on the lower rack

Strawberry Macaron Shells

These shells easily popped off the sheet…

Macaron Shell Bottoms

You could see that the bottoms fully cooked ūüôā ¬†However, browning was starting to occur, so I will bake it for 12 minutes next time.

While I let these macarons cool and placed my second pan of macarons in the oven, I began the buttercream.

I mixed up the butter until it was pale and fluffy.  Then came the strawberries!

I took my sieve and pressed out the juice of strawberries with a spoon.  I am guessing I made about 3 tablespoons of juice.  Then I mixed again!

Strawberry Puree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Started getting that nice pink color from the strawberries
Started getting that nice pink color from the strawberries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Placed it in a pastry bag and started filling the macaron shells. ¬†To achieve a smoother look, I’m going to mix longer and with fewer juice next time.

However, the strawberry buttercream tastes amazing! Lots of strawberry flavor meshed with the sweetness of the sugar and creaminess of butter.

Strawvberry Buttercream Filling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Macarons Dish

 

 

 

Strawberry French Macarons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

….

 

National Ceviche Day! Perfect snack for the World Cup games!

 

CevicheBowl

Ceviche has to be one of my favorite dishes to eat and make. ¬†It’s a good way for me to consume some veggies and cool the mouth on a hot day. There are many variations on ceviche. ¬†It typically consists of raw shrimp or a type of shredded fish as the main protein marinated in lime or lemon, mixed with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, and chilis. ¬†As long as the raw seafood is fresh, this is a pretty healthy recipe that can be filling and fun to eat while watching a soccer game or hanging in the backyard with some saltine crackers or tostadas.

There are some different stories of where the ceviche dish originated from. ¬†Many say Peru is credited for the birth of the dish while others say it was the Spanish who introduced ceviche to Peru from Granada. ¬†The Spanish have also been credited for bringing over citrus trees that included limes, a main ingredient for the dish. Central America has been argued to be responsible for the origin. ¬†The Polynesians have ¬†been known to make a dish very similar to ceviche. ¬†There is evidence that ceviche has been around for over 2,000 years. ¬†This is now very popular in most coastal regions around the world. ¬†Mexico, the United States, and the Caribbean Islands are now places where ceviche is easily found and becoming more popular. ¬†What’s great about so many parts of the world making this dish, is that you will see interesting takes such as using conch or mackerel as the seafood or adding olives and corn. ¬†Some other variations from places like Mexico, include having a mixed seafood of chopped fish, crab, shrimp, and cooked octopus. ¬†Their toppings have included cooked cactus and coriander, or have orange juice as part of the marinade.

Typically you use raw shrimp or fish that then gets cured sitting in citrus juices. ¬†It is not technically cooked, so there is always the risk of not killing the bacteria that can cause illness. ¬†It is advised to use the freshest seafood you can for this dish for this reason (it also tastes better). ¬†You can also just throw in pre-cooked seafood that has been chilled. ¬†The acidity breaks down the protein of the shrimp and that’s when you start seeing the color change to a cooked color.

 

So, in honor of the Central and South America teams playing today in the World Cup, ceviche will be served!

Ingredients for the ceviche I make:

2 lbs. Raw Shrimp

3 Tomatoes

1/2 White Onion

1 jalapeno (de-seed half for spicy, de-seed completely for mild)

1/2 bunch of Cilantro

6 Limes

2 Avocados

Salt

Box of Saltine Cracker, Tortilla Chips, or Tostadas

 

Recipe:

Wash your veggies

Vegetable

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peel shrimp and chop:

 

Get seafood at its freshest for Ceviche
Get seafood at its freshest for Ceviche

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chop Shrimp
Chop Shrimp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point, you can choose to soak shrimp in lime juice or any other citrus juice of your choosing. ¬†I just marinate for the time it takes me to prepare the other ingredients, you of course, can marinade longer to ensure more curing. ¬†I also sometimes let it cure at the end with all the ingredients so that the onion has time to “cook” down as well.

 

Chop Tomatoes and pour into mixing bowl:

Tomatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chop Cilantro and pile into bowl:

Cilantro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chop Onions and Jalapenos.  With Jalapenos, de-seed according to your heat tolerance.  I actually like it spicy, so I keep the majority of seeds

>:-)

Jalapenos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I save the avocado until the end because they tend to brown quickly.  Lemon or lime juice can actually help prevent the browning, so I add it right before I add the lime juice to the bowl.

I do criss cross slices on the halves of avocados, then scoop it out with a spoon
I do criss cross slices on the halves of avocados, then scoop it out with a spoon

 

 

 

You can also scoop out the avocado halves first, then chop the avocado up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, squeeze 3 limes or more if you like over the ingredients in the bowl

LimeJuice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add your shrimp wether it has been curing or not, and MIX gently until the lime juice coats it all.  Season with Salt & Pepper.

CevicheBowl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set your Crackers or Tostadas out and place some Lime wedges and Salt with the plates.

Salt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ENJOY!

Shrimp Ceviche Tostadas!
Shrimp Ceviche Tostadas!

 

Quick meal plan

Ran out of time for dinner, so I used the cooked shrimp that was left over from last night’s dinner, put it aside while I cooked pasta in one pot, cooked bacon in a pan, and saut√©ed chopped garlic and red crushed pepper flakes in another pan of olive oil. Once the garlic was translucent, I poured in the shrimp, added salt and pepper, chopped up bacon and placed that in, and mixed over low heat. Mixed in spaghetti and voila!

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Shrinking Avocados!!

My poor avocado tree has been growing tremendously well, however, it has not produced any avocados ūüė¶ I have had many bees hanging around and ¬†have fertilized it well, but no cigar. ¬†I also have noticed different proportioned avocados in the market, and then this article caught me eye…

 

Incredibly Shrinking Avocados: Why This Year’s Fruit Are So Tiny

by ALASTAIR BLAND

August 19, 2013 3:43 PM
We found lots of avocados being sold six or 10 to a $1 bag in the San Francisco area. Some weighed less than 3 ounces.

We found lots of avocados being sold six or 10 to a $1 bag in the San Francisco area. Some weighed less than 3 ounces.

Alastair Bland for NPR

What’s thick-skinned and leathery, about the size of an egg, essential for guacamole and sold eight for a dollar?

No, not limes. Hass avocados. This year, anyway. These pear-sized fruits usually weigh half a pound or more. In the summer of 2013, though, hundreds of thousands of trees in Southern California are sagging with the tiniest Hass avocados in local memory ‚ÄĒ some just the size of a golf ball.

The main reason for the lemon-sized fruits, sources say, is a very unusual growing year that consisted of low winter rainfall in early 2012 (avocados spend more than a full year developing on the tree), erratic bee activity during the late spring bloom period, and lots of unseasonably cool and cloudy weather in the year since.

“I can’t ever remember a season when all the avocados were this small, and that’s over 30 years in the business,” says¬†Charley Wolk, a farmer with orchards in San Diego and Riverside counties. He cites a lack of rain and late pollination back in the spring of 2012 as main factors in the little avocados.

By most accounts, the fruits are about 30 percent smaller than usual. “That means less per pound wholesale,” Wolk says.

Avocados larger or smaller than what is considered normal are generally less attractive to consumers, he says, and, therefore, command less money per pound. He says about 8 ounces is the optimal ‚ÄĒ and average ‚ÄĒ weight of a California Hass. A 25-pound case of such fruits usually draws $1.20 per pound, according to Wolk. With each ounce less in average fruit size, the per-pound rate can drop by 30 cents, he says.

But the positive trade-off is that this year’s crop consists of more individual fruits than usual and, in fact, will probably weigh in at more than usual. Wolk says a half-billion pounds of fruit are expected by the end of October. Most years, the California avocado harvest ‚ÄĒ 95 percent of which is of the Hass variety ‚ÄĒ tips the scales at around 400 million pounds.

Gary Bender, a University of California avocado specialist and farm adviser in San Diego County, says that most years, several months after pollination, high July temperatures cause many fruits to drop off the branches. That didn’t occur in the summer of 2012. The resulting abundance of individual fruits on each tree, combined with low rainfall, cool temperatures and sluggish photosynthesizing, has likely caused the stunting. Bender says that in 29 years on the job he has not seen such tiny avocados as those being picked this year.

Several growers told The Salt that 2013’s avocados are weighing mostly 5 to 6 ounces ‚ÄĒ but that could be a generous overestimate. We collected avocados at several randomly selected grocery stores in San Francisco, and at each location ‚ÄĒ all independent, Asian-American owned shops ‚ÄĒ we found numerous avocados, being sold six or 10 to a $1 bag, that weighed in at less than 3 ounces, and several less than 2.

“That’s just ridiculous,” Bender notes.

This season's avocados are the smallest in memory. We found some that were as tiny as 47 grams.

This season’s avocados are the smallest in memory. We found some that were as tiny as 47 grams.

Alastair Bland/for NPR

Jim Donovan, with the Mission Produce Company, a fruit wholesaler in Oxnard, says that harvesting 2-ounce fruits is likeliest to occur toward the end of the picking season, which wraps up in the fall.

Some growers, he explains, may selectively harvest bigger avocados all season and meanwhile wait for the smaller ones to grow larger. Avocados, unlike other fruits, can continue to gain size for months until they are picked.

“But eventually the farmer can’t wait any longer because the tree will drop the fruit, so they do what we call a ‘strip-pick,’ and take every avocado left hanging,” Donovan says. These tiny fruits may draw less than half the wholesale price of normal-sized avocados. Cases of exceptionally large avocados ‚ÄĒ sometimes 14 or 16 ounces each ‚ÄĒ can also draw less per pound, he says.

Elisabeth Silva, San Diego County’s agricultural crime prosecutor who deals every year in a number of avocado theft cases, says there could be foul play behind the sudden flood of tiny avos. She describes a sly method of insider theft by which harvesting crews sometimes receive orders to pick only fruits larger than a certain size.

“So, sometimes they’ll put those bigger fruits in the bins and they’ll skim off the undersized fruits for themselves and sell them on the side,” Silva says. These, she adds, can get “laundered into legitimate commerce.” She says that while tiny avocados, sold in unmarked bags, could very well be stolen, grocers generally have no role in, or knowledge of, such illicit activity.

Farmers and other fans of bigger avocados may get relief next year when industry experts expect this spring’s relatively low number of newly set fruits to result in fewer but larger avocados. Meanwhile, the little avocados of 2013 won’t hurt you a bit. Donovan at Mission Produce points out that size and price may be down, but that quality is just fine.

“If you’re willing to cut 10 pieces instead of two to make your guacamole, then you’ve got a bargain,” he says.

 

Mom teaches me to cook Pollo in Tomatillo Sauce with Spanish Rice!

 

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! ¬†Thank you for all the wonderful dinners you have made over the years. ¬†Thank you for starting to pass on the recipes on some of my favorite dishes growing up.

 

One of my favorite dishes that my mom cooks is pollo in tomatillo sauce, paired with Spanish rice. I LOVE the tart and juicy taste of tomatillos.  It is a popular ingredient that originated in Mexico and is also used in other latin countries.  You can boil, steam, or fry them.  Blended or ground in a molcajete, they can also make great salsas as well as sauces for entrees.  In this dish, one of the best parts is mixing some of the tomatillos juices up with the rice as you go through this dish.  The juice makes the rice taste creamy and brothy.

 

Ingredients:

Tomatillos- About 20-25

Onion- a quarter sliced

Garlic- 2 cloves

Thyme- 5-6 sprigs

Jalapeno or Serrano pepper- 1

Bay Leaves- 3-4

One whole chicken

 

 

First we ¬†gather a lot of tomatillos and break them free out of their husks…

Ripe green tomatillos

 

 

 

For the green tomatillos, which is the more commonly seen, a bright green color and firm texture indicates ripeness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a deep pot, cover the base with  a thin layer of vegetable oil over low-medium heat.

Add the white onion and the 2 cloves of garlic.  Gently saute.

Sauteing onions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you buy a whole chicken, go ahead and cut your sections up.  For a safer and convenient way, feel free to buy your chicken already divided.  My mom is just used to do doing the work and likes saving by buying the chicken whole.  Make sure to pat down chicken with a paper towel to remove excess water if you rinsed the chicken.

Cutting up chicken

 

There is a whole debate wether it’s better to rinse your chicken or not. ¬†Many argue that rinsing chicken makes it more probable that you will splash bacteria onto the counter and any little flying micro bugs will just jump ship and onto you. ¬†No matter what you do, the most important thing is to cook the chicken thoroughly and wipe down your work area to help reduce the risk of illness. ¬†Amen.

Let’s get back to business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Start laying out the chicken pieces in the pot.  Raise heat to medium-high.  Use your judgement to determine if it needs to be turned down or higher.  It should sizzle, but not to the point where it starts to burn.  A little oil spitting as you place them in is normal.  This is why my mom lays down the foil paper to limit the amount of oil she has to clean up later.

Saute the Chicken Pieces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While the chicken cooks, go back to your washed tomatillos and start chopping all of them!

Chopped tomatillos

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going back to the pot of chicken, add a sliced up jalapeno or serrano chili.

 

Prepping the chicken for tomatillo sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the chopped tomatillos and bay leaves.  Lower heat.  Add salt.  Mix gently.

Chicken and tomatillos cooking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the sprigs of thyme. ¬†My mom grows some of her own, so I ran out back and harvested ūüôā

Thyme in the garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add the thyme and raise heat until it comes to a light bubble. ¬†Notice the beautiful greenery that’s coming more vibrant as it start heat up. ¬†Green is probably my favorite color on a dish, just looks earthy.

Cover and let simmer.

Chicken cooking in tomatillo

 

 

 

 

 

In a few minutes, add sugar and gently mix.

 

Also, as you start to get the juices coming out of the tomatillos, taste to see if you need to add more salt.

Continue to cook, gently mixing occasionally, being careful not to start shredding the chicken as it starts to soften.

For Spanish Rice:

Ingredients:

White Rice

Onion – A couple outer layers of your quartered onion

Jalapeno – 1

Garlic- 2 cloves

Cilantro- a few strands

Plain smooth tomato sauce- one regular can

Chicken broth- 2 cubes

Vegetable Oil- About 2 tablespoons

 

First, in a deep sauce pan, cover the base with a then layer of oil over low-medium heat.

Place a few outer layers of the remaining onion, a jalapeno, and garlic into the pan.  Cook until translucent.

prepping for spanish rice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While that is cooking, start rinsing your white rice in a colander.

Rinsing Rice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take out the jalapeno.  Pour rice into the pan.  Raise heat to medium.  Stir and cook uncovered until the rice is slightly toasted and has absorbed the oil.

Cooking rice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Add 2 cubes of chicken broth or the equivalent in liquid broth.

Pour the can of tomato sauce and stir.

Add 4 cups of water and bring to a simmer.

This is where we add a jalapeno and cilantro to start cooking with the rice, it will excrete a very subtle flavor into the rice.

Cover and let cook until rice is tender.

 

GOING BACK TO THE CHICKEN….

You should now have a soupy look to your pot. ¬†You can keep simmering as long as your chicken isn’t falling apart. ¬†If you are not going to eat this right away, you can just let this cool and store it in the refrigerator until ready to warm up.

Chicken cooking in tomatillo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spoon the chicken onto a plate, and ladle the tomatillo sauce over the chicken. ¬†In this picture, I dumped the jalapeno onto the plate just because I like some spice to smoosh into my rice. ¬†I barely started pouring the sauce over my chicken, so the chicken might look bare, but up close you’ll see a light glaze from the juices. ¬†It’s probably good that you don’t have too much tomatillo sauce sticking to the chicken as too much tomatillo can cause a lot of puckering. ¬†Once you bite into the chicken, you will taste the tomatillos and herbs that have been absorbed.

 

Chicken in Tomatillo w/ Spanish Rice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Spanish rice helps absorb the leftover tomatillo sauce and add some more flavor to the rice.  It reminds me when I used to eat spanish rice out of my chicken soup growing up.