Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Beef Stew

Here we are, in the middle of the summer season. Temperatures have been hovering in the 90's for several weeks now. It's been warm and wonderful! But, out of nowhere this weekend, we had a 30-degree drop in temperatures. Sunday there were gloomy storm clouds, strong winds & even a little drizzle! And it put me in a baking/comfort food mood. (Thus the french bread you saw a couple of days ago!) To go with it, I made a big pot of beef stew! Comfort heaven!!

For this we'll need:

Stew meat, carrots, potatoes, onion, stewed tomatoes, beef broth & Italian dressing (not pictured).

Start out by putting the meat in a zip-lock baggie with 3/4 cup of the Italian dressing.

Close up the bag, massage the dressing around all the meat & then stick it back in the fridge to marinate for about 1/2 an hour.

While that is soaking get your veggies all peeled and chunked up.

Now get out your stock pot, drizzle a little oil into the bottom, set it to medium heat & throw in your onions. Stir them around to get some color on them & soften them up - about 10 minutes.

Once they look good to you add in everything else! Get the meat out of the marinade & toss the dressing out. Add the meat, veggies and canned stuff to the pot.

Now bring it to a boil, cover & reduce heat to low. Simmer it for an hour & 15 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. After that time is up, take off the lid & let it go for about 15 more minutes. Once it's done you can thicken it up, if you like more of a gravy. If you like a broth you're done.

To thicken it: Pull some of the broth out into a separate dish. Add in a couple forkfuls of corn starch. Whisk it around to combine, then slowly stir it back into the pot. Viola! Gravy!

Now just serve it up & enjoy! This is a very kid-friendly stew. For me, I ad a couple of shakes of salt and a LOT of black pepper. It's also good with some hot sauce stirred in!

Comfort food at its best!

Beef Stew:

3/4 cups Italian dressing
2 lbs stew meat
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups of carrots, peeled & sliced
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled & chunked
1 14.5-oz can stewed tomatoes, undrained
1 14.5-oz can beef broth

Place dressing and beef into a large zip-lock bag. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cook onions in a stock pot over medium-high heat, with a little oil, for about 10 minutes. Remove beef from marinade; discard marinade. Add beef, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes with their liquid and broth to the pot.

Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour & 15 minutes. Uncover and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

**To thicken: Remove a small amount of the broth into a small bowl. Add a few tablespoons of flour or cornstarch & whisk together with a fork until well combined. Add mixture back to the stew pot & stir until incorporated into stew.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

French Bread

Is there anything better than the smell of fresh-from-the-oven bread? Or that moment when you get that first bite of warm bread in your mouth? Mmmmm...... Tonight I'd like to share with you my french bread! It is SOOOOOO easy - maybe even fool proof! And equally delicious.

Here are our ingredients:

Flour, oil, salt, sugar & yeast. Pretty simple stuff, huh!?

For the flour, any will do - I just happen to have the "Better For Bread" kind today. And for the yeast, use active dry yeast - not the quick rising stuff.

Ready!!?? First step - bloom the yeast. To do that put 1/2 a cup of very warm water in a cup - not scalding - just really, really warm. Add in 2 TBS of yeast & a pinch of sugar. Yeast feeds off of sugar so that will just help wake it up. Gently stir it with a fork & then set it aside to do its magic.

After about 5-7 minutes it should look like this - tan foam:

While this is going grab a large mixing bowl - or a Kitchen Aid if you have one! I *LOVE* my Kitchen Aid mixer. Mix together 2 cups of warm water, 3 Tbsp of sugar, 1 Tbsp salt and 1/2 cup of oil - like canola or vegetable. Give it a good mix then add your bloomed yeast.

Now start adding in the flour - first add 3 cups, all at once.

Once those 3 cups are blended in add 3 more cups of flour, but do these one at a time.

Then check your dough - is it too sticky? It should NOT do this:

If it does you should add a little more flour. Bread is pretty finicky. The temperature, humidity & altitude can all affect the way bread come out. Sometime I have to add more flour, sometimes I don't. Today I added in another 1/4 cup. You know it's right when it pulls away from the side of the bowl & keeps itself in a ball. Like this:

Now you need to let it take a little nap so it can rise! Grab a fork & stab it into the middle of the dough ball, then cover it with a towel & set it in a warm place. Why a fork? I have no idea. It's the way this recipe was taught to me & it comes out perfectly every time - and I'm afraid to question perfection!

Let it sit for 10 minutes then use the fork to stab it down & stir it well. Don't be afraid to use your knuckles a bit, too. Do this a total of 5 times - for 50 minutes. After the 5th time do NOT punch it down. Instead, dump it out onto a floured surface & split it into 2 dough balls.

Work with one at a time. Roll it out into a rectangle (don't forget to flour your rolling pin!) at least 8x12. If you go a little bigger don't worry about it.

Now roll it up, dusting the excess flour off as you go.

Set each rolled loaf, seam side down, on a parchment line baking sheet (or just spritz one with PAM), tuck the ends under and slash 3 slits across the tops to give them room to grow.

(Jocelyn really wanted her hand in this picture!)

Now let it sit (again, in a warm spot) for 25 minutes.

I usually put it in my microwave to rise. It's an over-the-stove one & if I turn the stovet op light on (you know, the one that's actually attached to the bottom of the microwave) it gives off just enough heat to keep the rising bread cozy inside the m'wave.

On a nice day, though, your counter tops should be warm enough to not have to bother with the finicky nonsense!

After rising:

Now pop it into an oven - at 350 - for 22-24 minutes. To check if it's done, give the top & bottom both a thump. If they sound the same call it good!

Cool for a little while on the pan and then move to a rack to cool completely before wrapping it for storage. You don't want to wrap it with any heat still on it because it will sweat & make itself soggy!

Mmmmm...... GOOD STUFF!!

This is great sliced thick with butter &/or jam, or sliced thin & used for sandwiches. Enjoy!

Friday, August 27, 2010

My Favorite Salsa

Salsa is the new ketchup. It makes everything wonderful & extra tasty - from a dinner that needs a little bite to just a plain old tortilla chip. I'm not much of a chunky salsa lover, though - to me it needs to be a nice mostly-pureed blend that marries all the flavors together without leaving you a big hunk of onion to chomp down on & overpower the entire bite. So here you go... MY favorite salsa!

Here's what you need:

A large can of whole, peeled tomatoes, 2 cans of Rotel - 1 Original & 1 Mild, an onion, a bunch of cilantro, garlic, lime & a jalapeno. Not pictured: salt, sugar & cumin.

Start out by dicing up the onion, mincing the garlic, and the quarter & slice the jalapeno. The heat of the jalapeno comes from it's seeds & ribs, so depending on your preference, you can cut some of that out, leave it all in or go for something in between. I went half way - I have commitment issues. I couldn't decide which side to lean toward today so I sat happily in the middle! Be SO careful when you cut your jalapeno, please! I put a sandwich baggie on my hand when I cut them because the oils stay on your fingers - even after you wash your hands. And if you rub your eye or, even worse, your kid's eye... WOWZA! You will be in pain.

Now open up your cans & throw all the tomato into the cup of a blender. Add in your diced produce, salt, sugar & cumin. Then throw in the leaves of a bunch of your cilantro. Again - this is where your preferences come into play. Cilantro seems to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it herbs so go with what you feel comfortable with. If I had to guess I'd say I put in a solid cup (at least) of loosely packed leaves. If you're a minimalist go less - I just wouldn't go less than 1/2 cup.

Pop your lime into the microwave for 15 seconds to get the juices flowing. Then roll it on the counter to get things a little looser. Cut it in half & squeeze one half of the lime's juice it into the blender with everything else.

Your blender should be full to the top by now! Add on the lid & pulse it about 15-20 quick pulses & call her done! Maybe give the sides a scrape after about 10 just to get all the cilantro down.

Here she is!

Now pour it all into a tupperware with a lid & stick it in the fridge for at least an hour before you eat it. Overnight is even better!


Michelle's Salsa:

1 large can of whole, peeled tomatoes (28 oz)
2 cans of Rotel - 1 Original, 1 Mild
1/4 cup of diced onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, quartered & sliced
1/4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 - 1 cup cilantro
1/2 a lime, juiced

Prep everything as directed in the ingredients list, add it onto the blender & give 15-20 pulses to blend. Refrigerate for at least an hour - overnight is best!

(Got this recipe from The Pioneer Woman!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Brown Sugar Meatloaf

I hate meatloaf. I really do. I'm not sure what it is - maybe it's the texture, maybe it's the flavor. I just don't know - I've just never liked it. But that's because I'd never had this one until 8 or 9 years ago. It's yummy. Really yummy. It's sweet, not just savory. And I am a lover of all things sweet! And a bonus? The kids love it, too!


Brown sugar, ketchup, ground beef, onion, milk, eggs, salt, pepper & saltines.

Start out by spraying a loaf pan with Pam. Then pack in 1/2 a cup of brown sugar and top it with 1/2 a cup of ketchup.

Set that aside & grab a bowl. Crush up all the crackers - whatever method works for you. I just throw them in a zipped baggie & mash them up with a rolling pin.

Dice up your onion, too. Then throw it all in a bowl together & mash away!

Time for some honesty.... I have meat issues. You may remember me talking about it in the Pulled Pork recipe I posted a few months back. I cannot touch it. And that's a bit of an issue when you're making a meatloaf! So my secrets? 1.) Bribe my neighbor with a plate of cookies & have her mash it for me! (Thank you, Shelley!) 2.) Invite my mom & dad over for dinner & have them get here an hour early so my mom can mash it for me. (Thank you, Mom!) 3.) when I have no other options I use a potato masher. Then I dump it onto a sheet of wax paper, roll it tightly and use the paper to plop it into the pan. Whatever you do, just mash it together well, shape it into a loaf and put it in the prepared pan, right on top of the ketchup.

Throw it in a 350 oven for an hour.

Let it sit for about 10 minutes to cool the sauce & set up a little bit. Then slice it/transfer to a plate & pour all the sticky, gooey sweetness over the top of it.

So..... after all this I plated it up for the kids & then Zac & I went on a date! LOL So I don't have a grown up plate picture to show you. But here's a quick glance at what it looks like on the inside!!

YUMMY! This is a great, kid-friendly dish that all the grown-ups love, too!

Brown Sugar Meatloaf:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup of ketchup
1-1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup of milk (less if you're only using 1 pound of beef)
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 cup finely crushed saltine crackers
1 small onion, diced (anywhere between 1/2 the onion to the whole thing, depending on your taste)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 5x9 loaf pan with PAM. Pack the brown sugar into the loaf pan & spread ketchup on top.

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly mix all remaining ingredients. Shape it into a loaf & place on top of ketchup.

Bake for 1 hour, remove from the oven & let sit for about 10 minutes to set up. Slice it up, transfer to a serving plate & pour all the sauce out of the pan, over the top of the meatloaf.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Murphy's Law

It's been a week & half since I've posted a recipe. As I explained in my menu post things have been busy. BUT! I was totally looking forward to being back in the swing of things. Had everything ready to cook dinner tonight & then post it after the kids were in bed. Well.... I *thought* I had everything. One little ingredient is missing. But it's one ultra-necessary ingredient. I forgot to buy salsa. Dang it. Chicken corn & black bean tacos MUST HAVE THE SALSA! The chicken cooks in it. So now Zac is in the kitchen turning my thawed chicken into seasoned grilled chicken, and I'm sitting here sulking and making a post about a *failed* post. Oh well - tomorrow will make it on here for sure! Brown Sugar Meatloaf. Mmmmmmm. See you then!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Weekly Menu, 8/23 - 8/29

Sorry I've taken the past 2 weeks off from posting my menu! We went camping the first week & the second week was spent recovering from that trip & getting ready for school to start! Woo hoo!

Monday: Chicken Yakatori with Jasmine rice (Dream Dinners), peas, peaches

Tuesday: Taking the fam out for pizza! (Hubby's request)

Wednesday: Chicken/corn/black bean tacos, carrot sticks, peaches

Thursday: Brown sugar meatloaf, green bean fries, pasta-roni

Friday: (Zac @ work) Fried ham, applesauce, broccoli

Saturday: (Zac @ work) Pancakes, bacon, fruit kabobs

Sunday: Beef stew, french bread, salad

Monday, August 16, 2010

Macaroni Salad

There are as many different recipes for macaroni salad as there are people making it! You can change it up in so many different ways by adding one thing or another. Of course I'm totally biased, but this is my favorite macaroni salad. Ever. Whenever I make it for a get together I am always asked for the recipe. Even my mom says it's way better than hers! LOL I hope you think it's delicious, too!

I forgot to put the memory card in my camera when I took the *ingredients* picture & I can't find the cable to get it straight off the camera. If I find it I'll add the picture, but for now you just get boring old black letters. Sorry! You'll need:

Macaroni, green bell pepper, celery, onion, apple cider vinegar, sugar, mayonnaise, mustard, salt & pepper.

First step? Boil up your macaroni according to the package directions. When it's done just drain it, run some cold water over it to stop the cooking & then set it aside.

While that is going we'll work on the rest of the stuff. Dice up your veggies! This takes a bit of time. We're not making a CHUNKY macaroni salad - we're just going for CRUNCH! So dice them up on the finer side. I'd say max out at 1/4".

There's your crunch! Now we'll make the dressing. Pour the mustard, mayo, vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper in a bowl & then whisk it up!

Now you have your diced veggies, mixed up dressing & cooked macaroni... the magic's about to happen!

You know what's coming next..... Toss it all together!

Now, ideally, you'd chill this in the fridge overnight. And I did... but the next day we had the mad rush of packing for our camping trip so I just threw it into a gallon ziplock bag & put it in the cooler. So I didn't get a picture of it all set up. As it sits in the fridge the macaroni soaks up all the dressing so it's not as runny as it looks in this picture.

THIS IS SOOOOOO GOOD! Seriously. So good. Even if you think you don't like bell peppers or onions, they are so finely diced that you don't just taste it on it's own. You taste it all together. And it's fantastic!

Macaroni Salad

4 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2/3 cups white sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 small onion
3 stalks of celery
1 green bell pepper

Boil up your pasta according to package directions. After it's done drain & rinse with cold water. While that's going finely dice your veggies.

In a large bowl whisk together mayo, mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper.

Stir in the cooked macaroni & diced veggies then stick it in the fridge for at least 4 hours - preferably overnight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Irresponsibly Large Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't make these often. Because they're terrible. And by terrible I mean wonderful. So wonderful that I eat them. Too many of them. And they're really big, so even just 2 of them is too many! But they are delicious & definitely worthy of special occasion baking! I made these back on the 4th of July to take to the fireworks (with my caramel corn!) and again this past week to take camping with us. **Funny story** - we only got to eat about half of them. A bear climbed into our Suburban and ate the rest. *sigh* It was probably for the best.

Here's today's line up:

Peanut butter, butter, white sugar, brown sugar, light Karo, butter, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt, vanilla, water (not pictured) & mini chocolate chips. Yes, another recipe with the mini chips. They are supreme.

Now mix up your butters & your sugars until smooth.

Then beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Then add in your karo, water & vanilla.

Now combine the flour, salt & soda in a separate bowl & then add it to the creamed mixture.

Now fold in your chocolate chips.

Ready for the Irresponsible part? Put away your teaspoons and tablespoons & get out your measuring cups. Specifically the 1/4 cup one. Drop this batter by the 1/4 cup-full. You read that right. 1/4 cup, Baby!!

Pop them into a 375 oven for 12-15 minutes.

OK. Brace yourself... here they come.






Want a closer look?

I'm speechless. Really - what do you say about something as blissful as this?


Irresponsibly Large Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 Tbsp light Karo syrup
2 Tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375.

In a large bowl combine the butters & sugars until smooth. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in Karo, water & vanilla. Combine flour, soda & salt; stir into peanut butter mixture. Fold in chocolate.

Drop by 1/4 cupfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until edges are golden. Allow to cool for a minute on the cookie sheet then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Banana Apple Pecan Bread

This is a recipe I got from a friend, Kim. It's become a favorite among several of our friends & three of them mentioned making it in the past couple of days so I decided to join the crowd. I'm such a sheep! I'm a follower. I should feel ashamed - but I don't! C'mon... join the herd and try this out! I've tweeked it a little bit because I'm a tinkering kind of a girl... and it's good. Dang good. I don't even remember what I changed about it - I think I added the diced apple, the pecans & the sugar/cinnamon topping, but other than that, I think it's what she gave me!! And a bonus? EGG FREE! So, if you're allergic, sensitive or have a special diet you can indulge in this great, moist, sweet treat of a bread!


Ripe bananas, Granny Smith apple, applesauce, pecans, sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, vanilla & cinnamon.

Start out by mashing up 3 ripe bananas and peeling/dicing up 1 Granny Smith apple. Make sure it's a Granny Smith, too - I've tried it with a Red Delicious (because that's what I had in the fridge) and it just wasn't that good. Go get the Granny. Throw them in the bowl with the applesauce and sugars & mix them up well. Then let them sit for about 10-15 minutes. I'm not sure why - Kim told me to do that!

Now just add in all the rest of the ingredients & mix, mix, mix!

Now, from here you can just pour it into a greased single loaf pan & bake it at 350 for about 40-45 minutes. But I can't. I have to over achieve. It's the Type-A in me. So I put it into 8 individual loafs .....

..... and then sprinkle the tops with some brown sugar & cinnamon.

And if you go this route you'll only bake them for about 25 minutes.

Mmmmmm..... breathe it in, Baby! It smells fantastic! You can either dive in while it's warm or let it cool a bit. If I'm being honest, I think it's better when it's a day old! It's cool & the apples have firmed back up a bit. SO GOOD! Go make this. Baaaaaaaa. Be a sheep. Everybody's doing it.

Banana Apple Pecan Bread:

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled & diced
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix first 4 ingredients & let it sit for 15 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients & pour into greased loaf pan. Sprinkle top with brown sugar & cinnamon. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.