Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sauteed Peas with Mushrooms

The other day I made a pretty decent dinner. But these peas? Yeah. They totally stole the show.

In about 10 minutes, you can have a steaming bowl of Sauteed Peas with Mushrooms on your dinner table. Sure it's a tiny bit more effort than my usual pea routine, which involves throwing a bag into the microwave, but, oh, is it worth it.

Sauteed Peas with Mushrooms
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen

2 teaspoons olive oil
6 ounces sliced button mushrooms
1 small glove garlic, peeled and minced
3 cups frozen peas (No need to thaw!)
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until mushrooms are golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in peas, chicken broth, and Herbes de Provence. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until peas are heated through and the sauce has thickened, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Apricot Mustard Glazed Ham

I don't know about you, but I'm still recovering from Thanksgiving. I ate so much stuffing. And so much cranberry sauce. And SO MUCH pecan pie. Good gracious, the pie.

But since I'm in the holiday mode, I'll keep on with the holiday food. Sound good?

Today we're making ham. Every time I smell ham roasting in the oven, I'm immediately transported to Christmas Eve at my parents' house in Buffalo. Ham, cheesy potatoes, five or six feet of snow. Those were good times. 

I've made ham on several occasions, and Apricot Mustard Glazed Ham is both the simplest and tastiest in my humble opinion. Sweet, salty, and just a tiny bit tangy thanks to a dollop of grainy mustard, it's the perfect centerpiece for your holiday table. 

Apricot Mustard Glazed Ham

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
5 pound semi-boneless ham

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, stir together brown sugar, mustard, preserves, garlic powder, and onion powder. Set aside. Line a baking dish large enough to fit the ham with foil. Place ham cut-side down in the prepared baking dish. Pour glaze over the ham. Bake until ham is heated through, about 1 hour and 15 minutes, basting with pan juices several times. Thinly slice and serve. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Mexican Lasagna

I wasn't in the mood to cook, but I had some ground turkey in the fridge that was about to get funky. I also wasn't in the mood to go to the store, so it was time to get creative with my pantry.

I pulled some flour tortillas and corn out of the freezer, a can of enchilada sauce off the pantry shelf. Let's make this as easy as possible. I thought to myself. No need to chop onion and garlic; I just used spices from the cupboard to add pizzazz to the turkey browning on the stove. Then I started layering. Zippy sauce + flour tortillas + spicy filling + creamy cheese. Repeat. Bake. Stuff face. Mmmm.

What's that they say about necessity being the mother of invention? Well, it's also the mother of dinner. Delicious dinner.

Mexican Lasagna
Serves: 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound ground turkey or ground beef
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 tablespoon taco seasoning*
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
Salt and pepper
1 (14 ounce) can red enchilada sauce
5-6 flour tortillas, halved to fit in the baking dish
1 2/3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Sour cream, for serving
Salsa, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add turkey and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, about 8 minutes. If there is lots of liquid or fat in the pan, drain it off. Stir in corn, taco seasoning, and onion powder. Allow the spices to toast for 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour about 1/3 cup enchilada sauce into a 9" baking dish and spread it around so it covers the bottom. Arrange tortillas in the baking dish to cover the sauce. Top tortillas with half of the turkey mixture and 1/2 cup cheese. Cover cheese with another layer of tortillas. Pour another 1/2 cup enchilada sauce over the tortillas and layer on remaining turkey mixture and another 1/2 cup cheese. Top with a final layer of tortillas, remaining enchilada sauce (about 1/2 cup), and remaining 2/3 cup cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes. Allow Mexican Lasagna to rest for 10 minutes before serving with sour cream and salsa.

*I used Penzey's Fajita Seasoning. If you don't have taco seasoning, I think a mixture of chili powder and cumin would do the job quite nicely.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Curry Spiced Pecans

Halloween is over, and Christmas has officially taken over Target. That's my signal to get ready for holiday fun.

Before the busyness overwhelms us, let's whip up a batch of Curry Spiced Pecans, and we'll be ready for whatever life brings. Appetizer for girls' night? Done. Crunchy snack for the football game? Done. Make-ahead hors d'oeuvre for Thanksgiving. Done. Thoughtful hostess gift? Oh, now you've outdone yourself.

Curry Spiced Pecans
Adapted from these Spiced Nuts

1 egg white
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound pecans (about 4 cups)
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg white, water, and salt until frothy. Add pecans and stir until coated. Drain pecans in a colander for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine sugar, curry powder, paprika, and cumin. Toss spices with the drained pecans and evenly divide them between prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the pecans are dry and crisp. A couple times throughout baking, stir the pecans and rotate the baking sheets so they cook evenly. Allow pecans to cool completely on the baking sheets, about 30 minutes. Break up the nuts and serve. Pecans can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.

P.S. Here's an idea for you. I didn't use cayenne in today's recipe, but I bet these pecans would be delicious with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne added with the other spices. Let me know if you give it a try!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Honey Curry Chicken

How do you feel about sidewalk chalk?

My boy is into it. Big time. Sometimes he colors himself, but most of the time he places requests so I can test out my artistic prowess. Or, as the case may be, my lack thereof. "Mama," he says, forcing chalk into my hand and guiding it to the sidewalk. "Draw NASCAR."

Yep. He's a car guy.

Now, along with many NASCARs in hues of pink, yellow, and blue, our back patio is littered with renditions of Indycars, fences, and air conditioners. Because I am realistic about my capabilities, I say in all honesty...they look terrible. I can't draw worth a lick.

I mention this because I took pictures of today's recipe on my back patio. That was the only place I could find decent lighting at dinner time. So I plunked my casserole dish on top of the chicken scratch and snapped away.

Honey Curry Chicken is simple and delicious. A marinade of pantry staples doubles as a rich sauce. Bonus points because it looks fancy when you top it with vibrant green cilantro.

And I think you'll's a good thing I can cook better than I draw.

Honey Curry Chicken
Adapted from Baked Bree
Serves: 4

1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup grainy mustard (or substitute Dijon)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon curry powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

In a gallon-sized Ziploc baggie, combine honey, mustard, soy sauce, and curry powder. Mush the bag together until everything is combined. Add chicken breasts and mush the bag around again until they're evenly coated. Refrigerate the chicken overnight.

When you're ready to cook dinner, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish with cooking spray. Dump the marinated chicken and the sauce into the prepared dish and cover with foil. Bake covered for 20 minutes. Uncover and use tongs to flip the chicken over. Continue to bake until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve chicken with additional sauce poured over top.

P.S. In case you're looking for a complete meal idea, I served Honey Curry Chicken with Coconut Rice, Sauteed Broccoli, and Pineapple.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins

I loved experimenting with pumpkin in a savory recipe when I made Pumpkin Black Bean Chili, but I had to return to my first pumpkin love: pumpkin muffins. Scented with warm spices and studded with mini chocolate chips, these muffins will brighten up even the dreariest fall morning.

And if you haven't reached pumpkin overload yet, check out these pumpkin recipes, too:

Aren't you glad it's pumpkin season?

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins
Makes 48 mini muffins
Adapted from this pumpkin bread recipe

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour*
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
4 egg whites
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt**
2/3 cup water
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini muffin tin*** and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, stir together sugar, brown sugar, eggs, egg whites, oil, yogurt, water, and pumpkin. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips.

Fill prepared mini muffin tins so each cup is full to the top. Bake for about 14 minutes, until the muffins spring back when you gently press down the top or a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely

*If you don't have whole wheat pastry flour, don't let that stop you from making this recipe! You can absolutely substitute all-purpose flour. (Use 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour.)
**I used non-fat vanilla Greek yogurt because that's what I found in my fridge. Feel free to use regular (non-Greek) yogurt or plain yogurt in place of the vanilla Greek yogurt.
***Not in the mood for mini-muffins? This recipe makes 24 standard muffins or two loaves of bread if you prefer. Bake standard muffins for 23-25 minutes and bread for about 1 hour.

P.S. This recipe is linked on the Archives Friday link party!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Bacon Cheeseburger Rice

I was in search of dinner inspiration last week, and I went old school. People, I busted out the church cookbook from 2001.

These are the recipes of my youth. The casseroles, the jello salads, the cakes eaten off Styrofoam plates in the church basement. Comfort food made by people who love you. The smile on my face grew wider as I flipped through each page. Yes, I was thinking about how good Bonnie's Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole is, but more than that, I was thinking about how good the people are.

The recipe I landed on was contributed by Amy, our fearless babysitter back in the 90's. She took us to the county fair and let us swim until we were pruney. We spent summers cruising in the backseat of her giant whale of a car, listening to Billy Joel's Greatest Hits. I could hear the opening strains of Piano Man whispering through my subconscious as I made Amy's Bacon Cheeseburger Rice.

This is fall-is-here comfort food at its finest. Quick, easy, and delicious, The husband and I couldn't stop eating it. I kept sneaking bites as I was cleaning up the dinner dishes. Truth. Bacon Cheeseburger Rice will be a regular on the menu rotation around here.

Thanks for a divine hot dinner, Amy. And thanks for being such a great babysitter.

Bacon Cheeseburger Rice
Serves: 4-6
Gently adapted from the Randall Memorial Baptist Church Cookbook

6 strips bacon
1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
Salt and pepper
1 3/4 cups water
2/3 cup barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon onion powder
2 cups uncooked instant rice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Once the bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble and set aside. Drain all but 1 tablespoon bacon grease from the pan and return to medium heat.

Add ground beef or turkey to reserved bacon grease and cook, stirring, until cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add water, barbecue sauce, mustard, and onion powder. Bring to a boil and stir in rice. Sprinkle with cheese. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with reserved bacon before serving.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pumpkin Black Bean Chili

According to both the calendar and the weather, fall is officially here. This means it's time to break out the cozy sweaters, the flannel sheets, and, perhaps most importantly, the crock pot.

The slow cooker totally makes me feel like Wonder Woman. Why, yes, I can pick up the dry cleaning, grocery shop, clean the bathroom, and defeat crime while dinner cooks away on my kitchen counter. No cape necessary, thank-you-very-much.

To help you channel your inner super hero, the folks at Red Gold Tomatoes are having a slow cooker bonanza over on their Facebook page. They are giving away two Crock-Pots each day until October 8. (That's a lot of slow cookers, people.) They're also featuring some tasty-looking recipes in case you're lacking dinner inspiration.

Speaking of dinner inspiration, puh-lease check out this Pumpkin Black Bean Chili. We usually consider pumpkin for sweets: pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake. But don't put baby pumpkin in a corner. Try it out in a savory recipe, too. It adds delicious richness and depth.

Without further ado, let's get slow cooking. The world needs a few more super heroes.

Black Bean & Pumpkin Chili
Adapted from Red Gold Tomatoes
Serves: 10

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
1 pound ground turkey or chicken
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
2-3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5 ounce) can Red Gold Petite Diced Tomatoes with Lime Juice and Cilantro
1 (15 ounce) can solid-pack pumpkin
For serving: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped avocado, tortilla chips (optional)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and ground turkey. Cook, stirring occasionally, until turkey is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chili powder, cumin, and coriander and cook for 1 minute to toast the spices. Stir in 2 cups chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pan to incorporate any browned bits.

Transfer mixture to slow cooker. Add beans, tomatoes, and pumpkin and stir to combine. If the mixture looks too thick, stir in additional cup of chicken broth. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours.

Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with your favorite chili toppings.

P.S. The kind people at Red Gold Tomatoes provided me with tomatoes to test this recipe, but the opinions are all mine. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bread & Butter Pickles

Do you have a favorite type of pickle? I don't think I could choose just one. I love dill pickles on a burger or Cuban sandwich. Gherkins chopped up in my mother-in-law's potato salad. But the zesty cucs I eat most often are bread and butter. I pile those babies sky high on every sandwich that crosses my lunch plate. Turkey, ham, tuna; I don't discriminate. As long as every.single.bite includes the sweet crunch of bread and butter pickles, I'm happy.

Since I consume my body weight in pickles, I thought it might be wise—or at least fun—to try my hand at making my own. I wasn't about to bust out my canning equipment for this project, so I started reading recipes for refrigerator pickles. Here's the gist: Salt the cucumbers, cover them with a hot vinegar-sugar brine, let them sit in the fridge. Boom.

I waited the requisite 24 hours before taking my first bite. And I must admit, I was nervous. Even though these pickles were easy (seriously...really easy), I felt invested. I waited 24 hours to eat my creation. That's a lot of delayed gratification!

But, you guys, these things are delicious. Crunchy, tangy, sweet...good gracious. It is absolutely worth the minimal effort and 24 hours of patience to make your own pickles. Give it a whirl and let me know what you think.

Bread & Butter Pickles

4 pickling cucumbers*, sliced 1/4" thick
1/2 sweet onion, very thinly sliced (optional)
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 cup water
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon celery seeds
1/8 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric

Toss together sliced cucumbers, onion, and salt. Cover and refrigerate for an hour and a half. Rinse thoroughly and drain. Place cucumbers and onion into canning jars or a non-reactive bowl.

Combine water, white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, sugar, bay leaf, and spices in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Pour hot liquid over cucumbers and onions. Let stand at room temperature for an hour. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours before serving. You can store the pickles in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

*Pickling cucumbers are also known as Kirby cucumbers. They're smaller than the standard cucs you slice up for salads, usually less than 6". If you can't find Kirby cucumbers, just use whatever kind you can track down at the grocery store.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Chicken

Is it just me or is the hour leading up to dinner the most insane part of the day? This is how it looks at my house:

I paw frantically through the cupboards while I wait for a genius meal idea to dawn on me. So far, the front runners are Eggos, Lucky Charms, and ice cream. I'm leaning toward ice cream. Danny decides that although he is 2 years old, he needs to be held while I make dinner. Either I acquiesce and cook (pull out cereal bowls) one-handed or drag him around the kitchen while he hangs on my leg and howls. I pray fervently that the husband will be home early from work. (He won't be.)

Danny is tired, hungry, and cranky. The husband is tired, hungry, and cranky. I am very tired, very hungry, and very cranky.

This is not the time to slay dragons. This is the time to pull a casserole out of the fridge and pop it in the oven. Then you can snuggle with your kid while he watches Thomas the Train. Or read In Touch Weekly. Or have a glass of wine. Or all of the above.

That's why we're making Creamy Baked Pasta with Chicken. Sure it's delicious and cheesy and even healthy, but my favorite part? You can make it ahead of time.

Now about that glass of wine...

Cheesy Baked Pasta with Chicken
Adapted from Gimme Some Oven and this Bacon Mac & Cheese
Serves: 4-6

8 ounces whole wheat penne (or your favorite short pasta)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup milk
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Big pinch nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" square baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute to get rid of the raw taste. Very slowly whisk in broth and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens a bit, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in mozzarella and 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Stir cooked pasta and chicken into sauce. Pour into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until pasta and cheese are golden.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

It has been too long. WAY too long.

I have no good or even interesting explanation for why I haven't posted a recipe for six months. Six long, long months. We moved from Milwaukee to North Carolina and in the midst of packing and unpacking every piece of junk we had acquired in our ten years in the great middle west, I just didn't feel like cooking.

So I didn't.

But I'm back in the kitchen now! And I'm baking zucchini bread. In my humble opinion, this is the best way to use up a bumper crop of zucchini. Don't have a green thumb? Well, you're in good company. Just pick some up at the farmer's market, swing by the grocery store, or, if you're feeling sneaky, slip into your neighbor's backyard under the cover of darkness and pilfer some of theirs. Your secret's safe with me.

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread
Makes 2 loaves

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 egg whites
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9" x 5" loaf pans and set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, wheat flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together egg, egg whites, brown sugar, granulated sugar, oil, applesauce, and vanilla. Stir in zucchini. Stir in dry ingredients and chocolate chips.

Evenly divide batter between prepared loaf pans. Bake in preheated oven for about 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Shallots

I tend to go through cooking phases. For instance, there was my stir fry phase. I'd make stir fry at least once a week. Pork, chicken, beef... No protein was safe from my skillet. I'd saute slivers of meat with whatever veggies I had on hand and pile it over rice. Et voila. Dinner was served. My stir fry kick went on for too long. One day at dinner I noticed the husband pushing beef & broccoli around his plate. "What's wrong, hon? Don't you like the stir fry?" Always one to be frank, the husband laid it out for me. "It's good, but..." Here he paused, searching for the right words. "I think we've been having a bit too much stir fry."

Apparently weekly stir fry isn't for everyone.

Same situation with pork tenderloin. Since it's delicious, lean, and quick-cooking, I went through a serious pork tenderloin phase. After another honest talk with the husband, I realized I overdid it. So I cut back. And when I made Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Shallots, my judiciousness paid off.

"This is so good!" the husband exclaimed with enthusiasm. "Pork tenderloin is delicious. I really like this."

Is this a sign that I can commence Pork Tenderloin Phase II? I can only hope.

Pork Tenderloin with Apples and Shallots
Adapted from The Chew
Serves: 4

1 (1.25 pound) pork tenderloin
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provence, divided
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
1 shallot peeled and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/3 cup apple juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season pork with salt and pepper and 1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Sear pork until it's browned on all sides, about 10 minutes total. Remove pork to a plate and cover to keep warm.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to skillet and return to medium-high heat. Add apples, shallot, garlic, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence. Cook, stirring, until apples and shallot begin to soften and caramelize, about 3 minutes. Add apple juice and cook for 1 minute, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Place reserved pork on top of apples. Roast in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until pork reaches an internal temperature of 135-140 degrees. Remove from oven, tent with foil, and allow pork to rest for 10 minutes, until it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Slice pork into medallions and serve with apples and shallots.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Orange Scented Sweet Potatoes with Pecans

I realize that it is March. That I should be posting recipes about lamb and peas and whatever-all-else is seasonally appropriate right now. But you know what? Sweet potatoes were on sale, so that's what we're eating, folks.

Plus it's a whopping 27 degrees as I type this. Spring? I think it's still sweet potato season around here.

This is another throwback recipe. The crunch of pecans elevates these spuds from becoming a boring side dish. And adding a touch of orange zest makes them taste fresh and (dare I say it?) appropriate for Spring.

Orange Scented Sweet Potatoes with Pecans
Originally posted in February 2011

1 large sweet potato
1 teaspoon butter
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
Pinch ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans

Poke a few holes in the skin of the sweet potato, then microwave on high power for 8-10 minutes, until it's tender when pierced with a knife. (Flip over halfway through cooking to make sure it cooks evenly.) Allow sweet potato to rest until it's cool enough to handle. Remove peel and mash flesh with a fork. Stir in butter, zest, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste. Top with pecans.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

My dad tries to avoid tomatoes because they give him headaches. When I was a kid, if my dad was away for dinner, we would have spaghetti smothered with sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese that my mom would melt in the oven. It was special occasion food, and it was so, so good.

Since I grew up and married a wonderful man who also gets headaches from tomatoes, spaghetti continues to be a special occasion meal. Recently my mom came to visit without my dad. And the husband was out of town, too. So us girls got crazy...and we made spaghetti with homemade meat sauce.

It was indeed a special occasion.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman and

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds ground beef
Salt and pepper
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1/2 cup red wine
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes*
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
Parmesan cheese rind (optional)
Cooked spaghetti, for serving
Shredded Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high. Add ground beef and cook, stirring, until browned, about 6-7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove ground beef and set aside. Drain grease from the pot and return to medium-high.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty pot. Add onion and salt and pepper to taste. Saute until onion begins to soften, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook, stirring, until slightly reduced, 1-2 minutes.

Stir in crushed tomatoes, sugar, basil, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, Parmesan cheese rind, and reserved cooked ground beef. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and allow sauce to simmer about 2 hours. Remove Parmesan cheese rind and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve over spaghetti and top with plenty of Parmesan cheese.

*I bet you could use tomato sauce if you wanted to avoid any chunks of tomatoes.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Overnight Oats with Chia Seeds

My mom came to visit, and in addition to helping me wrangle my little man, she introduced me to Kefir. She drinks it every day and expounds on how good it makes her feel. In fact, she likes it so much that she buys it even when she doesn't have a coupon. She says they sell it at Aldi, too. A place where bargains abound.

So we tried Kefir. And it's tasty! It's like liquid-y yogurt, which sounds gross, but tastes good. The website for Lifeway (those are the people that make Kefir) describes it as "a creamy and delicious yogurt-like smoothie the whole family will enjoy." Now that's marketing at its finest.

Kefir made me think about overnight oats. Since it's like yogurt-y milk, I figured it could take the place of the yogurt + milk combination I use to make overnight oats. I stirred in some chia seeds to help thicken everything up and add a healthy punch of omega-3's, and we were in business.

I think my mom and I have solved all of your breakfast dilemmas. Your welcome.

P.S. The makers of Kefir have not in any way sponsored this post. In fact, they have no clue who I am. However, if they chose to send me a lifetime supply of Kefir, I wouldn't turn it away.

P.P.S. Want more Overnight Oats? Check them out here and here (with frozen berries as Bill recommends).

Overnight Oats with Chia Seeds
Serves: 1

1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1 cup strawberry* Kefir (or substitute 1/2 cup yogurt + 1/2 cup milk)
2 teaspoons chia seeds
Maple syrup or honey, to taste
Chopped strawberries, for serving (optional)

Stir together oats, Kefir, chia seeds, and maple syrup. Stir in the fridge overnight. Serve topped with strawberries.

*Feel free to substitute your favorite flavor.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Chicken and Orzo Stew with Lemon

It's a full week into March and there are piles—tall piles—of snow outside my house. It's below freezing and I heard rumors of a "wintry mix" in the weather forecast. I'm ready for Spring. Like, really ready already.

Since the weather's not cooperating, I thought I could at least trick my taste buds into thinking Winter is almost over. This hearty stew warmed my soul on the chilliest of March days, and the bright flavor of lemon added a citrus sparkle that I needed. Although the original recipe called for adding lemon juice straight to the pot, I like the idea of doling out sunny lemon wedges so that each person can add as much as he wants. Plus there's just something so friendly about a bowl of lemon wedges on the table.

I hope you enjoy this stew as much as we did. I also hope Spring comes soon, but I'm not getting my hopes up on that one.

Chicken and Orzo Stew with Lemon
Gently adapted from Foodie Crush
Serves: 6-8

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed and cut into 1/2" pieces
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
6 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/8" thick
2 celery ribs, chopped small
1 small onion, peeled and chopped small
1 leek, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 cup orzo
1 lemon, sliced into wedges for serving

Season chicken generously with salt and pepper, then dredge in flour, shaking to remove excess. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add half of chicken and cook until it's golden brown, about 5 minutes, stirring halfway through so it browns evenly. Remove chicken to a plate and repeat with 1 additional tablespoon oil and remaining chicken. Remove the second batch of chicken to the plate and set aside.

And final 1 tablespoon of oil to the now-empty skillet and return to medium heat. Add carrot, celery, and onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 4 minutes, until the vegetables are just starting to soften. Add leek, garlic, and tarragon and cook for another 2 minutes.

Stir in chicken broth and water and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to medium-low and allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in reserved chicken and orzo and cook for an additional 10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the orzo is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Freezer Food

Did I tell you that we're moving? Yep, we're blowing town in June and heading down south to Charlotte, North Carolina. The husband has a job there for a year. We're thrilled about the new adventure, but I get all misty when I think about leaving Milwaukee. I'll miss our little house and my favorite grocery store. I'll miss butterburgers and frozen custard. But mostly I'll miss the people. Milwaukee is full of good people.

I better not go on about the move or I might start sniffling, and that won't do us any good. The point is this: we've been busy bees getting our house ready to sell, and I don't have a new recipe for you today because I haven't been cooking much. But even though I haven't been busy in the kitchen, we have been eating home-cooked meals.

You're probably asking yourself, "How in tarnation are you eating homemade dinners if you're not cooking?"

Quite simple, my friends. I'm raiding my freezer stash. Now pardon me while I sit back and smile at my own genius for having a freezer stash.

Today I'm sharing my favorite freezer-friendly recipes. So when you're selling your house—or fighting off a cold, snuggling a newborn, or just don't feel like cookin'—you'll be prepared with a stockpile of dinners that just need reheating. Get ready to marvel at your own ingenuity.

Sloppy Joes: Man, I love these sloppy joes! The sweet and tangy sauce knocks my socks off. Make a double batch and pop an extra meal's worth in your freezer. Do yourself a favor and serve them with tater tots. You'll have a delicious flashback to the school cafeteria.

Slow Cooker Thai Peanut Pork: This is one of the most popular recipes here on HDHH. It's also one of my favorites to bring when a friend needs a meal because it reheats so well. Serve it over rice or in leaves of butter lettuce for a take on Asian lettuce wraps.

Roasted Sweet Potato & Carrot Soup: Soup freezes beautifully. This creamy-without-the-cream soup makes a perfect lunch. Pair it with a sandwich (Pear & Brie Panini, perhaps?) or salad for a husband-approved hot dinner.

Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken Breasts: Shred Barbecue Chicken and separate into one- or two-serving portions in freezer baggies. Pile the chicken on rolls and top with coleslaw for a delicious sandwich. Or spread a pita with barbecue sauce and mozzarella cheese, then top with Barbecue Chicken for a mini BBQ chicken pizza.

Beef & Beer Chili: I always save a couple servings of chili in the freezer and use it to top baked potatoes for an instant baked potato bar. Piled with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream, it's especially perfect for our still-frigid March temperatures. (Moving to Charlotte is sounding pretty darn good right now!)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Crispy Parmesan Asparagus Fries

The husband asked what I was making for dinner. "Crispy Parmesan Asparagus Fries. Wait, wait, wait!! They're not real fries; they're baked. They're not actually fried at all. I'm just making Crispy Parmesan Asparagus. That's it. Not fries."

I was afraid of over-promising and under-delivering on the "fries" aspect of the asparagus. The husband loves fried food. If he was expecting the asparagus to taste like french fries, I worried that he'd be sorely disappointed.

Well, I had no reason to be concerned. The man went back for seconds. On baked Crispy Parmesan Asparagus Fries. I'd call that a success.

Crispy Parmesan Asparagus Fries
Adapted from Closet Cooking
Serves: 4

1 pound asparagus, ends trimmed
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon paprika, divided
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Get out three shallow bowls. Place flour in the first bowl. In the second bowl, whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water. In the third bowl, stir together breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. Evenly divide the paprika between flour and breadcrumbs and season both generously with salt and pepper. Mix to ensure the seasonings are evenly distributed.

Dredge a few spears of asparagus in flour, then dip in egg, allowing excess to drip off. Roll in breadcrumbs, pressing to help them adhere. Place asparagus on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining asparagus. If there are any breadcrumbs left in the bowl, sprinkle them on top of the asparagus. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until breadcrumbs are golden and asparagus is crisp-tender.

Monday, February 24, 2014

No-Stir Granola

You guys. I can't stop eating this granola. It's becoming a problem. I sneak a handful while I'm making breakfast (usually yogurt...with granola), and another as I make my PB&J for lunch. When the mid-afternoon munchies hit, you bet I'm back in the granola jar. Then maybe another scoop before dinner. And after dinner. And, while I'm at it, before bed, too.

I think I have a granola problem. But, really, is that a bad thing?

No-Stir Granola
Adapted from The Frugal Girl

1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup light brown sugar
4 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a large, rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl mix together maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, and vegetable oil. Stir in oats, almonds, and pecans until everything is evenly coated. Press mixture into prepared baking sheet. Bake for 25-35 minutes, until granola is golden brown and smells toasted. (Start checking around the 25 minute mark to make sure it didn't burn.) Allow granola to cool on the baking sheet for 1 hour. Break into clusters and stir in dried cranberries, if using. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

Serve over yogurt, topped with milk, or sprinkled on a banana hot fudge sundae.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Beef Stew

Beef Stew. It's so simple and unassuming, but, man, is it good. I've been meaning to make Beef Stew for a while now. Now that I tried it—now that I know how delicious it is—I can't help but wonder, what the heck took me so long? In case you're wavering, let me tell you why you should make Beef Stew post haste.

First, as I mentioned about fourteen times already, Beef Stew is delicious. Tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce create complex flavor and red wine adds richness. And after a couple hours of slow cooking, the beef is tender and falling apart.

Second...leftovers!! If I can cook once and eat twice, I'm all for it. Beef Stew reheats beautifully. And you can even add a twist to your leftovers by turning them into pot pie. Load your leftover Beef Stew into a casserole dish. Top with your favorite mashed potatoes. (Homemade or from a box...I don't judge. Mine were absolutely from a box.) Then let's gild the lily and sprinkle the mashed potatoes with shredded cheddar cheese. Yes, let's do that. Bake at 400 until the stew is bubbly, the cheese is melted, and the potatoes are golden around the edges.

Beef Stew
Adapted from epicurious
Serves 6-8

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
Salt and pepper
2 onions, peeled and chopped fine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground thyme
2 bay leaves
6 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Mashed potatoes or biscuits, for serving

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Generously season beef with salt and pepper. Add half the beef to the pan and cook until all sides are deep brown, turning as needed, 7-10 minutes total. Set browned beef aside on a plate and repeat with an additional 1 tablespoon oil and remaining beef.

Add final 1 tablespoon oil to now empty pan and add chopped onion. Cook onion, stirring regularly, until it's soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add tomato paste and garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.

Stir in wine and use a spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, bay leaves, and reserved browned beef. Bring to a simmer, cover, and place in oven for 1 hour.

Stir in carrots and return stew to the oven to cook for 1 more hour, until carrots and beef are tender. Place the pot on a burner over medium-low heat. Stir in peas and allow the stew to cook until the peas are heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve over mashed potatoes or biscuits, sprinkled with parsley.

P.S. Here's a cell phone pic of my leftover Beef Stew turned Shepherd's Pie. Tastes better than it looks, but I thought I'd share.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Asian Lettuce Wraps

Two throwback posts in a row! I just can't get enough of these Hot Dinner favorites, you guys. It's been so fun to go back through old posts. Good memories and good food.  

Today we're making Asian Lettuce Wraps. Thanks to P.F. Chang's, Asian Lettuce Wraps are universally loved. It's easy to see why: Crunchy and refreshing lettuce envelops a savory filling drizzled with sweet and tangy sauce. Plus they're fun—albeit a bit messy—to eat.  

Next time you're looking for an appetizer or a light meal, give these babies a whirl. I think you'll see why they ended up on my favorites list.

Asian Lettuce Wraps
Adapted from
Original post here.

For Wraps:
16 leaves of butter lettuce (or iceberg or Romaine, just use something crunchy)
1 pound ground turkey
1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons pickled ginger, minced
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Asian chile pepper sauce
8 ounces water chestnuts, drained and chopped
5 green onions, white and light green parts only, chopped
2 teaspoons dark sesame oil

For Dipping Sauce:
1/4 cup plum sauce
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
1 tablespoon teriyaki sauce

In a skillet over high heat, brown the ground turkey and onion in 1 tablespoon oil. Add garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chile pepper sauce into the skillet and stir. Stir in the chopped water chestnuts, white and light green parts of the onion, and sesame oil. Continue cooking until the onions begin to wilt, about 2 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the dipping sauce. Whisk together plum sauce, orange juice, corn starch, and teriyaki sauce in a small saucepan. Boil for 1 minute. 

Arrange lettuce leaves on a platter and add the meat in a big pile. Serve with the sauce, letting everybody make his or her own lettuce wraps. And make sure you have plenty of napkins.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sweet Potato Soup with Chipotle

Today I have another flashback recipe for you. I originally wrote this in February 2011 as a guest post for the blog Cheap, Healthy, Good. It's one of my favorite posts (Go ahead. Just take a moment and read it.) and it's one of my favorite soups. The rich sweetness of the sweet potato is perfectly balanced with just enough smokey heat from the chipotle chile to warm your soul. It is absolutely February food.

This recipe makes a big enough batch to feed a crowd or pack for lunches for the week. Wouldn't a thermos of Sweet Potato Soup with Chipotle brighten up your brown bag?

Sweet Potato Soup with Chipotle
Adapted from Everyday Food
Original recipe here
Serves: 8

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
4 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds total), peeled and chopped into 1" pieces
1 chipotle chile in adobo, chopped; plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce (or to taste)
Approximately 7 cups* low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
Sour cream, for serving

Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high. Add onion and season with salt and pepper. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden-brown around the edges, about 7 minutes. Add cumin and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in sweet potatoes, chipotle chile, adobo sauce, and 6 cups chicken broth. Bring liquid to a boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and allow soup to simmer until sweet potatoes are very tender, about 25 minutes.

Allow soup to cool slightly. Transfer soup to blender in batches, being cautious not to fill blender to the top, and, holding lid on tightly, puree until smooth. Return pureed soup to Dutch oven. (Alternatively, puree soup using an immersion blender.) If the soup is too thick, add remaining 1 cup chicken broth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. At medium-low temperature, heat soup until it is warmed through. Serve with a dollop of sour cream.

*Feel free to use more or less broth until the soup reaches your desired consistency.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Honey Roasted Carrots & Parsnips with Herbes de Provence

Roasted vegetables, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Seriously. Let me count the ways...
  1. Roasted vegetables are crazy easy. You all know that I'm lazy. I take the easy way out so I can watch more TV. And that's real life.
  2. Roasted vegetables are ridiculously delicious. High heat caramelizes the natural sugars, and you might just be able to trick your taste buds into thinking you're eating candy. Healthy candy. 
  3. Roasted vegetables are versatile. I've roasted green beans, potatoes, broccoli, brussels sprouts, carrotszucchini, asparagus, snap peas, and squash. There might be more, but you get my drift. You can roast pretty much any vegetable and expect delicious results. 
Today we're roasting carrots and parsnips, drizzled with honey and sprinkled with Herbes de Provence for a subtle floral sweetness. Crazy easy and ridiculously delicious. 

Honey Roasted Carrots & Parsnips with Herbes de Provence
Serves: 4

1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1 pound carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place parsnips and carrots on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and honey and sprinkle with Herbes de Provence and salt and pepper to taste. Use your hands to toss everything together so the vegetables are evenly coated. Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring halfway through, until the vegetables are golden and tender. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

Creme de Menthe Brownies

My mother-in-law is one of the best cooks I know. I'm always learning something new from her. When I told her I needed to bring a treat to my Bible study, her eyes lit up. Immediately, she knew the perfect recipe to please a crowd. "Creme de Menthe Brownies!"

She was right on the money with this one. Decadent and delicious, these tender brownies are topped with a layer of mint buttercream and crowned with rich chocolate glaze.

Next time you need a sweet treat—for the Super Bowl, perhaps?—give Creme de Menthe Brownies a try.

Creme de Menthe Brownies
From my mother-in-law Cheryl

Brownie Layer:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup flour
1 (16 ounce) can Hershey's chocolate syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 eggs, beaten

Mint Buttercream:
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
3 drops green food coloring (optional)

Chocolate Glaze:
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" x 13" baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Brownie Layer: Cream together 1/2 cup butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add flour, chocolate syrup, vanilla, and eggs and beat until thoroughly combined. Pour into greased baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. Allow brownies to cool.

Mint Buttercream: Whisk together powdered sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 2 tablespoons milk, peppermint extract, and food coloring. If buttercream is a bit stiff, add up to an additional 1 tablespoon milk, until the buttercream is fluffy. (I used a total of 2 1/2 tablespoons of milk.) Frost cooled brownie layer with mint buttercream.

Chocolate Glaze: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt together chocolate chips and 6 tablespoons butter, stirring very often. Gently pour glaze over the mint buttercream and use a spatula or the back of a spoon to carefully spread the glaze to the edges. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Parmesan Crash Potatoes

I'm usually ambivalent when it comes to potatoes. But these potatoes...good gravy. They will steal the show. The fluffy interior is offset by an exterior made crisp by a stint in a hot oven. An avalanche of Parmesan cheese adds a delicious buttery richness. They pair perfectly with Slow Roated Beef, but I was just as happy nibbling bites straight off the baking sheet. Many, many bites.

Also, feel free to make extra because these spuds reheat beautifully. Heat leftovers at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. The potatoes will be a bit crispier than the first time around, but still unbelievably delicious.

Parmesan Crash Potatoes
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman and Picky Cook
Serves: 4

8 small red potatoes or small Yukon gold potatoes
3-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I won't judge if you use more.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Meanwhile place whole potatoes in a pot of salted water. Bring to a boil and allow potatoes to cook until they're fork-tender, about 15 minutes.

Drizzle a generous amount of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Place cooked potatoes on the baking sheet. Using a potato masher, gently but firmly press down one or two times to smash each potato. Brush 1-2 tablespoons olive oil over the crushed potatoes. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Bake for 20 minutes, until potatoes are golden and crunchy around the edges. Evenly sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top of potatoes and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Beef & Beer Chili

You might have heard that there's a football game coming up next week. They call it "The Superbowl." According to some, it's kind of a big deal. If you haven't watched The Superbowl before, allow me to describe it for you.

There will be three types of people watching The Superbowl: 1.) Football Fans, 2.) Fans of a team playing in The Superbowl (Let's call them "Invested Fans."), and 3.) Everybody Else. As people gather around the TV and the kick-off nears, Invested Fans will begin to pace nervously and exhibit other symptoms of general anxiety. They may giggle inappropriately or hush the crowd so they can hear every.single.thing. happening on TV. Invested Fans will need food—lots of food. And beers—lots of beers. Football Fans will get rowdy and excited. They will hoot and holler during big plays. There will be cheering, jeering, hissing, and dissing. Football Fans will need food—lots of food. And beers—lots of beers. Everybody Else will hover around the snack table until a commercial break, at which point they will hightail it to the TV and tell all the Fans to shut up so they can decide for themselves if Budweiser or Miller has better ads. Everybody Else will need food—lots of food. And beers—lots of beers.

Today I have a recipe to take care of all the hungry masses watching The Superbowl: Beef & Beer Chili. Richly flavored, but not too spicy, this meal is a crowd-pleaser. It re-heats beautifully and stays warm on the stove until you're ready to stuff your face, so feel free to make it ahead. My mom always serves Beef & Beer Chili over elbow noodles just the way she ordered it at the Steak N Shake as a kid, but it's also delicious straight up, over a baked potato, or scooped up with tortilla chips.

Whether you're watching the game or the commercials, I hope Beef & Beer chili makes your Superbowl viewing experience extra special.

Oh, and, for the record...Go, Seahawks!

Beef & Beer Chili
Adapted from Wegmans
Serves: A TON of people

1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds ground beef
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
7 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 (12-ounce) bottle beer (Truth: I usually use the cheapest kind we have.)
1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 (12-ounce) bottles chili sauce (If you haven't used chili's this stuff.)
For serving (optional):
Cooked elbow noodles
Sour cream
Shredded cheddar cheese
Chopped raw onion

In a large Dutch oven heat oil on medium-high. Add half of the ground beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until beef is cooked through, about 7 minutes. Remove to a separate plate and repeat with the remaining ground beef, removing it to the plate once it's cooked through. (Cooking the ground beef in two batches allows it to brown and sear instead of steaming it in an over-crowded pan.)

If the pan is dry and an additional 1 tablespoon oil. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, 4-5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add Worcestershire sauce; cook for 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and oregano and cook for 5 minutes to allow the spices to toast. Stir in the beer and cook for 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low. Return cooked beef to the pan. Stir in kidney beans, cannellini beans, and chili sauce. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over cooked noodles and top with shredded cheese, sour cream, and/or onions.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Slow Roasted Beef

As we approach the end of January, I'm wondering...are you still keeping your New Year's resolutions?

According to the U.S. Government (seriously), some of the more popular resolutions are to eat healthy foods and save money. Since I shared a recipe for Kale Chips last week, let's talk about saving a few bucks today, shall we?

I don't claim to be super budget savvy, but when I'm planning my meals for the week, I always start with the grocery store circular. Since protein is usually the most expensive part of my menu, I flip to that page first. What's on sale? Well, that's what we're eating. Last week, there was a special on sirloin tip roast. I had no idea what that was. So I Googled "Sirloin Tip Roast Recipes." I read a few. Then I consulted one of my cookbooks on the subject. Then I made hot dinner.

I guess the moral of the story is this: check out what's on sale and let that inspire your meal. If you're looking for recipes, check out Pinterest or, if I may provide a shameless plug, the Recipes section right here on Hot Dinner Happy Home. Next thing you know, your piggy bank will be running over.

A few notes about today's recipe:

  1. I can't overstate how delicious Slow Roasted Beef is. Don't be fooled by the short ingredient list; this roast is tender, juicy, and ridiculously flavorful. 
  2. This recipe requires a bit of planning ahead. You need to salt the beef the day before you want to cook it. This allows the flavor to permeate the entire roast. It's worth the extra (hands-off!) time.
  3. Using up leftovers is another way to save some cash. Pile thinly sliced leftover beef on crusty rolls and top with a slice of Havarti cheese. Wrap the sandwiches in foil and bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Dunk sandwiches in au jus. (I use the au jus mix from an envelope. No shame.) Et voila! French Dip Sandwiches. 

Slow Roasted Beef
Adapted from America's Test Kitchen and BS in the Kitchen

3 pounds sirloin tip roast
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil

The day before you're planning to make slow roasted beef, pat the roast dry and season very generously with salt. Wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove beef from the fridge about 30 minutes to 1 hour before you're ready to start cooking.

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Pat beef dry one more time and season generously with pepper. Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over high heat. Sear beef on all sides until it's deeply caramelized and brown, about 4 minutes per side.

Place beef on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast in preheated oven until beef reaches 115-120 degrees for medium rare, about an hour and fifteen minutes to an hour and a half. (Mine took and hour and fifteen minutes.) Tent with foil and let it rest for 20-30 minutes, until beef reaches a temperature of 125-130 degrees. Thinly slice and serve.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Kale Chips

I have to admit something. It's embarrassing, really, but I can't deny it any longer. So here it goes...

I don't like kale.

Let me pause while the internet lets out a collective gasp. "How can it be?" you ask yourself. "Kale was one of the top food trends of 2013! How can you claim to know anything about about food and not like kale?"

Believe me when I say that I've given kale the old college try. I've ordered kale salads at several restaurants and even made one myself. I can understand how some people like the stuff, but I just don't enjoy it. It's a bit too fibrous and bitter for my taste. But I like Kraft macaroni and cheese, so maybe I'm just lowbrow.

Since everyone who's anyone talks about kale chips, though, I thought I should give kale one last chance before I swore off the curly greens forever.

Well I'm glad I did, because it turns out I like kale chips! Roasting mellows out the flavor and turns the fibrous chew into a crackling crunch. A sprinkle of salt enhances the flavor perfectly.

This former kale hater has been reformed.

Kale Chips
Inspired by everywhere on the internet (I mean, who hasn't written a recipe for kale chips?)
Serves: 4-6

One large bunch of kale
1 tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Remove woody stems from the kale and tear leaves into bite-sized pieces. Spread kale on a large rimmed baking sheet (or two smaller ones) and drizzle with olive oil. Use your hands to massage the oil into the kale for a minute or so. Spread kale into a single layer and bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with salt to taste and serve.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes

The husband and I were planning some meals over the holidays, and he had a grand plan, "Why don't we make some of the classics?" He suggested.

My mind is always moving on to the next thing, and I forget about those crazy-good things that I've already made. It's high time that I remind myself just how delicious a few of my favorites really are. So over the next few months, I'm going to sprinkle in a few of the classics with the new stuff. I'll take new pictures and bring these recipes up front and center where they belong.

I started with my Mom's Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes.

This is ultimate comfort food. If you turn up your nose at cream of chicken soup from a can, stop now. But I'm telling you, these Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes are the stuff dreams are made of. Savory, salty, delicious dreams.

My original post for this recipe was January 11, 2011—almost exactly three years ago. Back then I was bemoaning the frigid 16 degree temperatures we'd been experiencing.

Well, Past Self, this week you survived temperatures of -15...with a wind chill of -40. Positive 16 degrees? Heck, that's balmy.

Hope you enjoy this blast from the past as much as I did!

Mom's Cheesy Hash Brown Potatoes
Originally posted January 11, 2011
Serves: 8

1 can cream of chicken soup
16 ounces sour cream
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper
32 ounce bag of frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed (Mom uses the cubed hash browns.)
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 stick butter, melted
2 cups Grape Nuts Flakes cereal*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. In a large bowl, whisk together soup, sour cream, onion powder, and garlic powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in potatoes and cheese. Pour mixture into the baking dish. 

In a separate bowl, stir together butter and Grape Nuts Flakes. Spread on top of the potatoes. 

Bake the cheesy potatoes for one hour. (If you check partway through the cook time and the topping is getting too brown, cover with foil and continue baking.)

*Make sure you get Grape Nuts FLAKES and not regular Grape Nuts. I don't know why Mom started using Grape Nuts Flakes, but they have a subtle malty sweetness that makes her cheesy potatoes ridiculously good.  

Monday, January 6, 2014

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Chicken and Goat Cheese

A while back I picked up a killer salad at Trader Joe's. I liked it so much, I thought I'd try to replicate it at home. And since it's the New Year—with the overindulgence of the holidays in the past—now seemed like the appropriate time.

Or maybe I'm just looking for an excuse to chase my dinner with an extra-large ice cream sundae. Decide for yourself.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Goat Cheese and Salad
Serves: 2 (generously) as a main dish
Important Note: You will only need about a quarter of the roasted butternut squash for this salad. Meaning this is perfect leftover food! Make butternut squash on day 1 and serve it with rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. On day 2, make this delicious salad to use up both the chicken and the squash. Genius.

Roasted Butternut Squash:
1 medium butternut squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
1/2 teaspoon grainy mustard
1/2 teaspoon pure maple syrup
Salt and pepper

6 cups torn lettuce
2/3 cup chopped cooked chicken
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 cup roasted butternut squash
2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Pierce squash with a knife in a few places. Microwave on high for 5 minutes to soften the squash and make it easier to cut. When the squash is cool enough to handle, peel it, cut it in half, and scoop out the seeds. Then cut the squash into 1/2" cubes. Place squash on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake squash in preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until tender and golden brown, stirring halfway through so it cooks evenly. Once the squash is cooked, set it aside until you're ready to serve the salad. It's delicious either warm or cold.

To make the dressing, combine vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, mustard, and maple syrup in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Evenly divide lettuce, chicken, pecans, roasted squash, goat cheese, and cranberries between two plates. Drizzle with dressing just before serving.

*If you prefer a less tangy vinaigrette, increase the amount of olive oil to 3 tablespoons.