Jinxed on Cooking

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Apparently it is just not my week to cook. The grocery store didn't have eggplant for ratatouille, I was sick and couldn't cook on Monday and tonight I planned on making steak...but well, something didn't go so well.

I put the steak in the oven, came back 8 minutes later to check it and it was completely done. That was pretty strange in itself, but I managed to ignore that until I put the steak on my plate and there was a strange smell. Like a piece of meat you left in the back seat of your car in the middle of summer type smell. So I sniffed the steak, and then even stuck my finger to it and tasted it. It smelled okay, but the taste was just off.

So, Tom and C are making SPAM (EWWWWWWWWWWWW!) and I opted for a rather healthy meal of Ramen noodles.

I guess its just not my week to cook.

Ever had one of those weeks?

Cheesy Garlic Risotto

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So if you read the weekly meals you'd know that I was supposed to make chicken ratatouille and chile salmon with baked potatoes.

Well, I'm sick again so Monday was fend for yourself day. Tuesday I planned on making the ratatouille but the grocery store still didn't have any eggplant and Tom really isn't a big fan, so I seasoned the chicken with chicken seasoning, garlic and pepper and it was fend for yourself sides night. Since baked chicken isn't all that interesting I figured there was no need to blog about it.

Today I did make the salmon, but I wasn't happy with the recipe at all. It just tasted like fishy fish. So before I blog about it, I'm going to make it again with an all day marinade to see if it improves the taste. The thin pieces of the fish had the marinade and weren't bad, but the thicker parts were just crappy. However, it is in the picture because risotto in a pan doesn't look quite as well as risotto on a plate.

I also realized tonight that there weren't enough baked potatoes to make them tonight and tomorrow and Tom suggested risotto. Since I didn't have any mushrooms for the mushroom risotto that I always make, I figured I'd create my own cheesy risotto.










Cheesy Garlic Risotto
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 3/4 cup arborio rice
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
    • 1 green onion stalk, diced
    • 1 tsp. olive oil
    • 1/4 cup white wine
    • 2 cups chicken broth
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
    • 1/4 cup Mozzarella cheese
    • 1 tsp. cream cheese
    • 1 tsp. butter
Directions:
1. Warm the chicken broth over low heat.
2. Add the oil to a pan over medium heat and cook the garlic, onion, and green onion for 5 minutes.
3. Add the rice and stir until the rice is coated with the oil and takes on a pale beige color, about 1 minute.
4. Add the white wine and cook until the rice absorbs the wine. Add in the chicken broth in parts, no more than 1 cup at a time and stir occasionally until its absorbed into the rice.
5. Once all of the chicken broth is absorbed, add in the cheeses and butter. Stir occasionally until everything is melted. Season with salt and pepper if necessary.

And by the way, I realize that I'm a crazy risotto making lady. But I'm okay with that because risotto is damn good!

Shrimp Bisque

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When I first found this recipe, I was really excited to try it out. I'm from Maryland and if you know anything about Maryland, its that we sure love our seafood. First in line is steamed crabs followed closely by steamed shrimp.

If you're not from Maryland and you've never visited here, then you have never had a Maryland crab cake. I don't care if they called it a Maryland crab cake on the menu, I'm telling you, there is no way you had a Maryland crab cake. Just believe me! While steamed crabs is what Maryland is known for, you absolutely can NOT have steamed crabs without their awesome seasoning, Old Bay.

A former Maryland knottie friend once said that people from Maryland just like to put Old Bay on stuff, and well, its true. Seafood, french fries, in mashed potatoes or potato salad, on chicken...basically whatever you can think of. I don't believe I could live in a state that didn't sell Old Bay, but luckily, with the invention of the internet, I'd at least be able to order it.

So, what in the world is Old Bay is what you non-Maryland natives are thinking right? Well its this awesome zero calorie seasoning that makes seafood, well, seafood. The ingredients list is celery salt, spices (including red pepper and black pepper) and paprika. Yeah if I was McCormick, I wouldn't allude too much to the ingredients either. But let me just tell you, its great. Really great!

Ooo, can I tell you a funny story about crabs? I swear, I really am getting to the recipe, but you just need to hear this first. So, my friend Cassidy is from here and she moved to Virginia Beach for a while and was dating a guy from New York. He came and visited her family during the summer while they had steamed crabs. His response when they pulled one out "Don't you wash that thing off first?" I laughed so hard I almost cried when she told me that story. I'm sure its not quite as amusing if you're not from here, but just imagine this crab, covered in clumps of Old Bay spices, resembling dirt and this poor boy thinking that you actually ate the shell and legs of the crab. Not funny? Oh well, I'll try again later.

Here's proof that I am by no means a perfect cook. We purchased cooked shrimp in a two pound bag from the grocery store last week because they were ridiculously cheap. Now all day I've known I was going to cook the shrimp bisque. But for whatever reason, I didn't bother to look at the bag and I didn't bother to take them out to dethaw either. So, after I had my veggies chopped, I pulled out the shrimp and realized not only were they frozen together, but they still had their tails on. Sigh. So, with the use of a really sharp chef's knife I managed to chop off their tails, cut them into bite sized pieces and toss them in the microwave for a minute and a half to get some of the freeze off. However, I don't suggest that you do this.

When you go to make this recipe, you either need raw shrimp that you are going to steam, or frozen shrimp that have been dethawed and their tails removed.

If you plan on steaming them yourself, follow the directions on a can of Old Bay. Honestly, I'd have no idea how else to steam said shrimp. So, do that. Or, if you live in the middle of nowhere and only have Emeril's Essence, its a pretty close taste that you could use.

Oh yeah, to make this you will need some form of a blender. Preferably one that can really chop things up and make them smooth. It creates a better texture for the soup.










Shrimp Bisque
Adapted from: www.allrecipes.com
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
    • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
    • 1 onion, roughly chopped
    • 1/2 lb. shrimp
    • 2 cups fat free half-and-half
    • 1 cup no-salt-added tomato sauce (ex. Hunts)
    • 1/4 tsp. hot sauce
    • 1 tsp. Old Bay
    • 1 tsp butter
    • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • parsley, for garnish

Directions:
1. In a large pot, add oil, red peppers and onion and saute for 15-20 minutes over low heat, or until soft. Stir occasionally. Add in the shrimp, tomato sauce, half-and-half, hot sauce, Old Bay, and salt and pepper.
2. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the butter and stir until melted.
3. Pour the mixture into a blender and switch it to pulse. Let it run for 15-20 seconds or until no large pieces remain.
4. Transfer the soup into bowls and sprinkle Parmesan  over the soup and garnish with parsley.

Another note: If you want the soup to be thicker, I recommend a blender. If you don't mind some shrimp chunks and a thinner broth, the stick blender works perfectly fine.

Its also a pretty versatile meal. You could serve it as a first course, a main course, or even in shot glasses as shooter soup.

Weekly Meal Breakdown #4

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Four weeks in a row! Look at me go!

Sunday - Shrimp Bisque
1 red pepper, $1.31
1 onion, $0.25
1 lb. shrimp $6.50
2 c. half & half, $1.25
1 c. tomato sauce, $0.40
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, $0.45
Total: $10.16

Monday  - Chicken Ratatouille
3 chicken breasts, $7.08 (I ran out of the bulk package)
can of diced tomatoes $0.50
bag of frozen zucchini and squash, $2.29
1 eggplant, $0.65
1/2 box penne pasta, $1.00
Total: $11.52

Tuesday - Salmon w/ Baked Potato and Cheesy Broccoli
3 salmon filets, $7.99
broccoli, $0.85
3 potatoes, $1.00
Velveeta cheese $.75
Total: $10.59

Wednesday - Steak w/ Baked Potato and corn
3 steaks, $5.12
3 potatoes, $1.00
canned corn, $1.00
Total: $7.12

Thursday - chicken noodle soup
leftover from a week or so ago
Total: $0.00

Friday - Tacos
1 lb. ground beef, $5.12
whole wheat taco shells, $1.75
lettuce, $0.15
tomato, $0.15
cheese, $0.45
sour cream $0.50
Total: $8.12

And the total for the week is:  $47.51.

This is also the first time that we've spent under $100 at the grocery store. In addition to most of the items above, I managed to buy two half gallons of diet green tea, a half gallon of skim milk, baby carrots, two boxes of low fat waffles, unsalted stick butter, 1 lb. of low fat turkey breast, two boxes of Cheerios, 1 box of Kashi cereal, a loaf of potato bread, a loaf of rye bread, a large container of vanilla yogurt, strawberries, a lime, and ranch dressing. Total cost at the grocery store: $87.41 and the lovely receipt from Giant even tells me that I saved $9.31 on these purchases. Yay!!

Moving

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Warning: This post is kind of pointless.

Tom and I have talked about moving for a while, but now its really becoming a reality. The apartment we live in now is just okay.

Pros:
3 bedrooms
ridiculous amounts of closet space
separate visitor parking so we always have somewhere to park
close to my friends
20 minutes for work for me
2 bathrooms
free utilities

Cons:
loud and annoying neighbors
washer and dryer aren't in the apartment
centipedes everywhere because of bushes and shrubs in front of building
over an hour drive to work for Tom
tiny kitchen

Aside from the free utilities, the cons really outweigh the pros. I hate bugs, like really hate bugs with a serious passion. They're disgusting and nothing with more than 4 legs is ever allowed in my house. I hate spending $600 a year to wash clothes, share a washer and dryer with people that I don't know and deal with the fact that they are just rude and will leave their clothes in there for as long as they feel like. The kitchen drives me crazy because I can't cook if someone else is in there. The only place to prepare meals means that no one can access the glasses or any utensils. I can't put anything into the pantry if I'm loading the dishwasher. The pots and pans are currently above my head because its the only cabinet big enough for them. I also have approximately 1 foot of usable counter space.

Obviously, it makes sense to move. This apartment doesn't really work for us, aside from having more closet space than some houses do. And while the closets are nice, they definitely don't make up for the bugs and kitchen annoyances.

Apartment Option 1: Havre de Grace MD

Pros: 
3 bedroom
gigantic kitchen with island/bar
washer and dryer in the apartment
amazing waterfront views
pretty equal closet space
large bedrooms
25 minutes to work for me
40 minutes to work for Tom
adorable and cute town
no monthly pet fee
water & trash removal included

Cons:
no pool (how am I not going to be pasty in the wedding dress if I don't have a pool)
old building
small parking lots
security deposit is the same as the first months rent
no idea what the neighbors are like
on-the-water = bugs galore
kitchen cabinets start at 5 foot high, I'm 5'1

I looked at this apartment with my mom after picking up my wedding dress. Its 100 times better than the one that we live in. Honestly, I could move into the kitchen and probably never leave. Its approximately $200 less than our current apartment, but we would need to add approximately $100 to cover electricity. I love that there is a 3rd bedroom, we could put our desk, Gidget's litter box and all of the stuff I've collected for the wedding in that room and still have storage space throughout the entire apartment. What worries me is that there are no reviews on the apartments at all. They are owned by a real estate company thats local to the area and again, no reviews. I think they offer specials to people who work at a local base, but I don't know if thats a good or bad thing. I'm pretty sure we would never be able to use the balcony in the summer because its literally 50 feet from the water. Well, we could use the balcony but we'd be covered in mosquito bites in a minute. Having worked at a restoration company for 2 years, I also wonder what condition the buildings are really in. One that we went in smelled like mold. Mold is not okay in my book. Also, with an older building, the utility costs are going to increase unless the windows are brand new...I'm pretty sure they weren't. And there could be waterbugs. Waterbugs come in 2nd on my list (right after centipedes) of something that I'll completely flip the F out if I see in my house. Its a relative of a roach and thats just NOT okay with me.

I haven't told the water bug story, have I? It's nothing fantastic, but it proves the point on how much I don't do bugs. Tom and C leave for work and I'm in the kitchen getting my lunch together before I leave. I notice that we have run out of paper towels so I walk down the hall to get more. And directly in front of the closet holding the paper towels is a 3 inch long water bug. I manage not to scream, but my eyes get huge and my heart starts pounding because I'm all alone and have no way to get rid of this disgustingly large vermin in my house. I refuse to step on it, mostly because I can't handle the crunching noise, but also because I don't want bug guts squirted all over my carpet. Finally, a small amount of sense clicks in and I remember a can of bug spray in the kitchen. I back away slowly from the bug, I don't want to scare it and make it run into my bedroom or I would stay at a hotel that night (No, I'm seriously not joking!) and finally make it to the kitchen and grab the bug spray. Which was ant spray, but I didn't have any other choice. I sneak down the hall and back up on it and start spraying like a mad woman. I refuse to get close enough to it for it to die immediately so it starts moving which results in me squealing and then yelling 'DIE FUCKER!!!' and going full blast with the can of bug spray. Finally, it stops moving and starts quivering so I'm assuming the bug spray is killing the bastard but I can't give up yet. I keep spraying and spraying until I'm sure that its completely dead. Now, being the sissy girl that I am, there is no way in hell I'm going to pick that fucker up. But I realize that I can't just leave its bug spray coated self in the middle of the hallway in case the cat had any interest in removing it for me. I also refuse to get too close to it, so I've completely given up on getting paper towels at this point. I back down the hallway, watching for any signs of reoccuring life and grab a napkin. I get about a foot away from it and toss the napkin on top of it and cross my fingers that Gidget won't find it. Then I called Tom and proceeded to inform him just how disgusted and grossed out I was and that it needed to be removed from the hallway prior to me returning home from work that day. I also managed to shiver incessantly for the next hour thinking about how disgusting it was.

Okay, finally onto apartment option 2.

Apartment Option 2: North East, MD

Pros: 
newly built
resort style swimming pool
grilling area
completely modern
car wash facility
24 hour fitness center
balcony
gorgeous kitchen
bigger bathroom
washer and dryer
walk in master closet
15 minutes to work for Tom
15 minutes to Tom's brothers house

Cons:
40 minutes to work for me
no 3rd bedroom
I'd have to pay a toll to get to and from work
Gidget's litter box would have to go in the master bedroom closet
no coat closet for vacuum cleaner and board games
guarantee that my friends will never visit because of said toll

I like this place, I really do. It's completely gorgeous, modern and doesn't even look like it could be in our price range. I know that my neighbors aren't going to be crack heads because you have to make a minimum amount to even live there. The kitchen is awesome, it has double sinks!!! and more counter and cabinet space than I could probably ever fill. The bedroom is a bit smaller than ours now, and it sucks that we'd have to put our desk in there too, but we could still move around quite well. The closet is every woman's dream. Its humongous. There are shelves and racks to hang clothes and more than enough room for tons of shoes. But, it would also need to house my wedding dress and if Gidget's litter box is going to be in there, that makes me nervous. Very nervous. The bathroom has a linen closet. I could actually have my towels, bath stuff and extra toilet paper in the room I would need it in! Its really strange to me, but there is no hall closet for coats. We could use the extra linen closet in C's room to hold the vacuum and board games, but there still wouldn't be anywhere for coats. I guess we could buy a coat hanger though.

So I guess what it comes down to is potential bugs and no pool vs. less closet space + pool + fitness center + car wash.

Now that I've babbled on about this long enough, I think it actually helped me make a decision. Option 2 it is.

Pan Seared Scallops

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Pan Seared Scallops
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation
Servings: 2-4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 lb. bay scallops
    • sea salt
    • 1 tbsp. unsalted butter
    • 1 tsp. olive oil
Directions:
1. Rinse the scallops in cold water and pat dry. 
2. Season both sides of the scallops with salt.
4. Add olive oil and butter to a pan over medium-high heat. Wait until the pan just begins to smoke.
5. Add the scallops to the pan and cook for 2 minutes per side. Use tongs to flip the scallops over. There should be some slight resistance when you flip the scallop over and each side should be a caramelized-brown color.

A scallop is cooked through when its still squishy to the touch. If its firm, you've overcooked it.

Chile Peppered Steak

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I was supposed to make this recipe last night, but the meat didn't dethaw in time, so we gave up and ate McDonald's. Yeah, healthy, I know. So, today started day 1 of eating healthy and Tom's family weight loss challenge. They are all weighing themselves in weekly and exercising for the next 10 weeks. Whoever loses the most amount of weight wins the money that they put in at the beginning of the challenge.

I didn't join the challenge mostly because of money reasons, but I figured I would just end up disappointed if I didn't win and that would un-motivate me to keep exercising.

So, onto the recipe.










Chile Peppered Steak
Adapted from: The Abs Diet book
Servings: 4
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Ingredients:
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • 2 carrots, sliced
    • 1 cup chopped broccoli
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
    • 1 green chile pepper, seeded and diced
    • 1 lb. flank steak, cut into strips
    • 1/3 cup stir fry sauce
    • 2 cups cooked brown rice

Directions:
1. Heat the oil in skillet over medium high heat. Add in broccoli and carrots and cook until tender, about 5-8 minutes.
2. Then add the peppers and steak to the vegetables. Cook 5-7 minutes more, or until the meat is cooked through. Stir in the stir-fry sauce. Serve over prepared rice.

This recipe tastes like Chinese food, but its way healthier because it doesn't include any MSG. Honestly, the recipe reminds me of Hunan or Schezuan beef. The original recipe calls for 2 jalapenos and two cayenne peppers, but I definitely don't recommend it unless you're really stuffy and have a tongue of steel. This was just spicy enough to have some kick to it but not be overpowering. So, simple, quick and healthy! Not bad at all!

Weekly Meal Breakdown #3

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Look, two weeks in a row! Aren't you impressed with me? I AM!

Sunday - Chili Peppered Steak over Rice
london broil $5.00
broccoli $0.35 (It was on sale for $0.80 per lb.)
2 carrots $0.28
2 jalapenos $0.20
boil-in-a-bag brown rice $0.75
Total: $6.58

Monday - Grilled Chicken with Roasted Red Potatoes and Corn
3 chicken breasts - $3.48
4 red potatoes $0.65
canned corn $1.00
Total: $5.13

Tuesday - Rotini Noodle Casserole
1/2 box rotini - $0.50
1/2 can diced tomatoes $0.50
1/2 lg. can tomato paste $0.35
1/2 package mushrooms $0.99
ground beef $5.12
Total: $7.46 (I used 1/2 cans because I made this last week and froze the leftovers)

Wednesday - Pan Seared Scallops with Mushroom Risotto and Spicy Green Beans
1 lb. scallops - $6.99
1 package mushrooms $1.99
1 cup arborio rice $0.30
1 lb. green beans $0.75
3 slices bacon $0.33
1 onion $0.25
Total: $10.61

Thursday - Italian Baked Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes and Corn
3 pork chops $5.12
6 potatoes $0.80
canned corn $1.00
Total: $6.92

Friday - Steak with Baked Potato and Cheesy Broccoli
3 steaks $5.12
3 potatoes $0.40
broccoli $0.35
cheese - $0.58
Total: $6.45

Total cost of dinners for the week: $43.15!

Weekly Meal Breakdown #2

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I've tried to do this post for the past few weeks, but it just hasn't worked out for whatever reason. This isn't the best week, but its better than the others have been. So, lets see how cheap I can get dinner this week:

Sunday - Chicken Noodle Soup
Oven Roasted Rotisserie Chicken $6.99
4 carrots $0.56
2 stalks celery $0.33
1 onion $0.25
1 box chicken stock $2
1 box chicken broth $2
1 bag egg noodles $1
Total: $13.13

Monday - leftovers of Chicken Noodle Soup
Total: $0.00

Tuesday - Beef Fajitas
London Broil Steak $5.12
5 flour tortillas $1.50
1 red pepper $0.88
1 green pepper $1.54
1 onion $0.25
Total: $9.29

Wednesday - Chicken with lemon, mushroom and chive noodles
3 chicken breasts $3.48
mushrooms $1.79
2 lemons $1.00
fettuccine noodles $1.00
chives $0.69
Total: $6.86

Thursday - Spaghetti w/ Garlic Bread and Salad
ground beef - $5.12
sauce $2.00
noodles $1.25
mushrooms $1.79
onion $0.25
6 slices bread $0.66
lettuce $0.28
carrot $0.14
cucumber $0.10
tomatoes $0.56
salad dressing $0.25
Total: $12.40

Now you're probably wondering how I get these calculations, right? Go back about 2 pages and you can see my meat breakdown when I go and stock the freezer with different types of meats. I start there.

Vegetables: typically I'll divide the cost by how many there are and then multiply that by how many I need. Obviously, I'm not going to count green beans or carrots, I'm just going to estimate. So, in the case of the carrots this week, we purchased a 2 lb. bag of carrots for $1.69. Its, a gigantic bag and looks to be about 12 carrots. So, $1.69/12 = 0.14 x 4 = .56. With lettuce, cucumber, and tomatoes, I divide it by how many salads I can make with them. Typically its 7. We buy mushrooms prepackaged so they are priced by how many meals they can make. I buy onions in a bag and usually there are 8 of them. I divide the onions by 10 because there are always at least 2 gigantic onions in the bag that I only use half each time.

Bread: I estimate 18 slices of bread to a loaf. $2/18 = 0.11 per slice

Condiments: Typically I avoid including these into pricing because it really depends on how much you use. A jumbo squeeze bottle of ketchup could last us 6 months if we didn't eat a lot of french fries and cheeseburgers. For the salad dressing, I guessed the large $4.99 bottle would provide 20 servings, so $0.25 each, which is how much those individual salad dressings at the salad bar cost.

Spices: I don't even bother counting these. Mostly because I don't even measure spices when I cook. I just eyeball it and make it taste right. 

So, lets see how we did for 5 days worth of meals... $41.68.

Not too bad! The soup honestly makes more than just 2 dinners. There will be enough left overs for me to take some into work for lunch one or two days too.

Apple Chicken & Rice

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So I had intended to make Caramel Apple Pork Chops but I accidentally pulled out chicken instead. I didn't realize this until I had already sliced two apples, so I was stuck. Instead I decided I would just create a recipe. Here's what happened:










Apple Chicken
Source: A Cookaholic Wife Creation 
Servings: 3
Printer Friendly

Ingredients:
    • 2 Red Delicious apples 
    • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
    • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
    • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
    • 1 cup apple juice
    • 1 package boil-in-a-bag rice
    • 1 tbsp. olive oil
    • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1. Core and slice the apples into thin slices.  
2. Fill a pot with water and boil-in-a-bag rice and put over high heat.
3. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Season the chicken.
4. Put oil or butter in a medium sized pan over medium-high heat. Add the apples to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes.
5. Add the seasoned chicken to the pan with the apples and brown on each side, about 3-4 minutes per side.
6. Add the apple juice and cook for 12-15 minutes more, or until chicken is done and apples are softened.
7. Serve apples and chicken over rice. Add salt and pepper to taste.

The chicken ends up staying pretty moist by cooking it in the apple juice. You can definitely add more apple juice to make more of a sauce to go over the rice. I was just throwing stuff together and had no idea how it was going to turn out.

Happy Eating!
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