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.