Friday, September 30, 2016

Quick & Easy Asian Beef

I don't know about you, but I'm in over my head this fall. I need to get dinner on the table fast. And it needs to be easy. Bonus if it tastes good and at least one kid will eat it.

So I've been searching this here ol' blog for my favorite super easy meals. We've got six years (SIX YEARS!!) worth of recipes here on Hot Dinner Happy Home, and sometimes I need to turn back to the classics.

This Quick & Easy Asian Beef is a definite family favorite. The salty goodness of soy sauce, bite of ginger, and smokey sweet flavor of dark brown sugar make this dish kid- and grown-up-approved. Steam some edamame in the microwave and open a package of frozen, pre-cooked rice, and you can have dinner on the table in 15 minutes.

With Quick & Easy Asian Beef, hot dinner is within reach!

Let's get cooking!

Quick & Easy Asian Beef
This recipe was originally posted in December 2013.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Pinch crushed red pepper
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Hot cooked rice for serving

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up the beef into bite-sized pieces with a spatula, until beef is browned and cooked through, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds. Stir in dark brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and crushed red pepper. Allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes until the sauce is thickened and all the beef is evenly coated. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve over rice.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pumpkin Brownies

It might still be 90 degrees in Charlotte, but it's Fall, that time of year when everything comes up pumpkin. For example, while reading my People magazine (guilty pleasure) the other day, I found a recipe for The Cake Boss Buddy Valastro's "Pumpkin Chocolate Brownies."

I decided to try them out — minus the chocolate sauce, because my kids don't like frosting or icing. Plus, nine eggs, one and a half cups of butter and four cups of sugar make these brownies plenty sweet. In fact, the recipe called for four and a third cups of sugar and two and two thirds cups of butter, so I trimmed a bit. I also added a generous pinch of cloves, because you can't have pumpkin spices without the cloves.

The verdict: Pumpkin brownies deserve their place next to pumpkin lattes, pumpkin bread and pumpkin beer. Yum!

Happy Fall, y'all!


Pumpkin Brownies
Adapted from The Cake Boss Buddy Valastro's recipe in the Sept. 26 issue of People magazine

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon table salt
Generous pinch of ground cloves
9 large eggs
2 (15 ounce) cans plain pumpkin puree
4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Equipment note: This recipe makes two 9X12 pans of brownies! The batter barely fit in the bowl of my KitchenAid blender and some of it was sloshing out. Next time I will use a hand mixer and my largest bowl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and next five ingredients. Set flour mixture aside.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs and pumpkin on medium speed until combined. Beat in sugar.

With mixer running, add in the melted butter in a steady stream. Next, gradually add in the flour mixture, stopping now and then to scrape the sides of the bowl. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Lightly grease two 9X12 baking pans and divide the batter between the two. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle of the brownies comes out clean.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Cranberry Pot Roast

Happy autumn, guys! It's always a bummer when summer comes to a close, but the cozy days of fall are some of my favorites. Sweater weather, apple picking, and comfort food? Yes, please!

Growing up, one of my favorite fall meals was Cranberry Pot Roast. My mom used cranberry juice in place of chicken broth. (Knowing my mom, she was out of broth one day and made an on-the-fly substitution. Way to get dinner on the table, Mom!) It's been years since I've had Cranberry Pot Roast, and when the crisp weather rolled in, I decided it was time to give it a whirl. Instead of cranberry juice, I used cranberry sauce. Just the canned stuff, people. But if you have leftover homemade cranberry sauce, by all means, use that.

In addition to being delicious and make-ahead friendly, I love Cranberry Pot Roast because it's forgiving. After adding the veggies and popping the roast back in the oven for the final 45 minutes of cooking time, I decided to take the kids to the park. "Oh, we'll be back in time to turn off the oven. No prob!" So an hour later when we were flying down the slide, and I finally looked at my watch...whoops! We hustled back to rescue the roast, and this baby was no worse for wear. It was perfectly tender. Now this is the kind of meal that fits with my lifestyle.

Let's get cooking!

Cranberry Pot Roast
Adapted from Pot Roast with Bacon and inspired by my mom

2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 pound beef bottom round roast
Salt and pepper
1 rib of celery, diced
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 1/2 pounds carrots, divided - dice 2 carrots, and cut the rest into 1" chunks
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (14 ounce) can whole cranberry sauce (or use homemade)
1-2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1" chunks
8 ounces whole cremini mushrooms
Cooked egg noodles or mashed potatoes for serving
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high. Season beef generously with salt and pepper. Add beef to pan and cook, turning as needed, until all sides are browned, about 8-10 minutes total. (You'll know it's time to turn the beef when it's easy to flip. If it's sticking to the pot, it's not ready. Give it another minute to cook then try again.) If the browned bits on the bottom of the pan start to burn, turn the heat down to medium. When the roast is browned, remove to a plate and set aside.

Add diced carrot (set aside the carrots cut into 1" chunks until later), celery, and onion to the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Stir in garlic, sugar, and thyme until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in cranberry sauce, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Return meat to pan. Pour in enough chicken broth so the liquid reaches about halfway up the side of the roast. (For me, this was about 1.5 cups of broth.) Add bay leaf to the pan. Bring liquid to a boil. Cover, turn off the stove, and put the covered pot in the oven.

Allow the beef to cook for 3 hours, turning the meat over a few times while it cooks. Add the remaining carrots and parsnips to the pot, making sure they're submerged in liquid. Re-cover the pot, and cook for an additional 45 minutes to 1.25 hours (if you're at the park), until meat and vegetables are tender.

Remove meat and vegetables to the serving dish and cover with foil to keep warm. Skim any fat from the liquid remaining in the pot. (If you have one, you can use a fat separator to remove the fat and then return the liquid to the pot.) Bring the cooking liquid to a boil over medium-high heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour cooking liquid over meat and veggies and serve over buttered egg noodles. Garnish with parsley if you're feeling fancy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Oatmeal Chip Squares

Say hello to a stand-by afternoon snack at our house. Crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, these bar cookies are packed with enough fiber and sweetness to fill those empty after-school bellies.

(These squares hold up well inside the lunch box, too.)

I like to add dried cherries or cranberries or raisins to these, depending on what my boys will tolerate.

The ease of getting bar cookies into the oven makes me a big fan, but you can easily use this recipe to make drop cookies if you prefer.

My son Sam says the only bad thing about these oatmeal chippers is that he wants to eat them all day long. (Love that kid!)

Mangia! Mangia!

Oatmeal Chip Squares
(Inspired by recipes from Quaker Oats and Ocean Spray)

3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 stick plus 6 tablespoons softened butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc.)
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment paper so that paper hang over each end.

With an electric or stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Add flour, baking soda and cinnamon and mix well.

Add oats and mix. Add dried fruit and mix with a wooden spoon. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate all dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Transfer cookie dough to baking pan. Use a spatula to evenly spread dough in pan. Smooth the top and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely.

Use edges of parchment paper to lift bar cookie out of pan. Set on cutting board and cut into squares.

Goes well with a cold glass of milk!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Easy Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Casserole

My husband loves my Easy Crockpot Mexican Lasagna and even counts it among my top five dinners. What I like most about it is that it's so easy to make. Recently, I was craving another easy dinner and decided to experiment. Enter Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Casserole.

The verdict Chez George: Jeff liked this dish as much as Mexican lasagna and the kids liked it more because it wasn't as "spicy" — due to green enchilada sauce vs. red — and didn't contain any cilantro, which they don't like at all. We all decided I couldn't call it Chicken-Mex Lasagna as I'd intended, because the chicken is too chunky and not at all like ground meat and so not very lasagna-y.

Bottom line: An easy family dinner that was a hit with all.

Sometimes you just need dinner to be easy, so I hope you enjoy my Easy Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Casserole.


Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Casserole

2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Ground pepper
1 small onion, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
1-2 cups salsa
20 ounces of green enchilada sauce (I have seen this in 10 and 20 ounce cans)
2 cups shredded Monterey Jack or Colby Jack cheese
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas
Cilantro for garnishing, optional
Sour cream for serving, optional
Sliced black olives for serving, optional

Place chicken in glass dish, sprinkle with ground pepper. Place onions and peppers around chicken and top everything with salsa. Bake at 350 until chicken is cooked through.

Using two forks, shred cooked chicken and cut up the onions and peppers into smaller pieces. Stir in one cup enchilada sauce and 1 cup of cheese.

Line your slow cooker with an aluminum foil collar and spray with vegetable oil spray. (The purpose of the foil collar is to put a layer between your food and the heating element of the slow cooker. Without a foil collar or sling – the latter involves lining the bottom of your slow cooker – some dishes, like this one, and fish, will overcook and dry out. To make a foil collar, simply fold two pieces of aluminum foil to fit around the inside of your slow cooker.)

Spread 1/4 cup enchilada sauce at bottom of crockpot.

Arrange 3 tortillas at the bottom, breaking the third tortilla in pieces so that it will fit to fully cover the bottom. Top with a third of the chicken mixture and 3 more tortillas; repeat layering two more times until all 12 tortillas have been used. Cover the top layer of tortillas with enchilada sauce and cheese. (For more photos on the process, refer to Easy Crockpot Mexican Lasagna.)

Cook for 3 hours on low, until casserole is heated through.

Remove foil collar. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired. Top each serving with sour cream and black olives, if desired. Enjoy.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Shepherd's Pie II (The Remix)

Several people (including Mo. Hey, Mo!) have told me that Shepherd's Pie II is their favorite recipe here on HDHH. This is the perfect simple, make-ahead meal to get through the insanity that is September. And true confession: I usually don't make my own mashed potatoes. As I mentioned in my original post, I hate making mashed potatoes. So I buy the pre-made ones. No shame here, people. Sometimes I need to make my life easier, ya feel me?

It was high time I took some new, better pics of Shepherd's Pie II, but you know what I discovered? It's dang hard to take a good pic of Shepherd's Pie! So I gave it my best shot. Better than the originals.

Shepherd's Pie II (The Remix)

Adapted from Real Simple
Serves: 8

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 cup peeled and sliced carrots
Salt and pepper
1.5 pounds ground beef (I used ground sirloin.)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1.5 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup flour
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1.5 cups frozen peas
1 cup corn kernels (optional, but delicious)
5 cups mashed potatoes*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a 10" oven-safe skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high. Add onion and carrots. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes, until vegetables are beginning to soften. Transfer to a separate bowl.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet. Add the beef and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring often to break up the beef, about 8 minutes, until meat is no longer pink. Drain the grease from the skillet. Stir in tomato paste and Worcestershire sauce. Sprinkle in flour and cook, stirring, for one minute to cook off the raw taste of the flour.

Stir in broth, scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate the flavor bits that have accumulated there into the sauce. Add peas, corn, and cooked onions and carrots. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat.

Spoon mashed potatoes on top of the meat and vegetable mixture in your skillet. Bake 40-45 minutes, until filling is bubbling and potatoes are lightly browned. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

* If you're a better person than me and decide to mash your own potatoes, Real Simple suggests the following:
3 pounds potatoes (I like to use Yukon Gold when I do mash my own.)
Salt and pepper
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter

Place the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and add 1 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-18 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Drain and return potatoes to the warm pot. Add milk, butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash potatoes.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Fresh Corn & Rosemary Basil Pesto

I'm lucky to receive a steady supply of fresh rosemary from my friend Robin, who loves to cook as much as I do.

I decided to try making a pesto with my latest bundle of this fragrant herb. A recipe for herbed corn salsa in a recent issue of Good Housekeeping magazine inspired me. I just knew the pungent sauce would go well with some sweet, crisp corn.

This side dish goes well with grilled meats such as chicken or steak.

A little rosemary goes a long way, so to preserve what remained, I minced the rosemary leaves, blended them with a little olive oil and filled up an ice cube tray (which Robin also supplied). After freezing overnight, I removed the squares from the tray and put them into a zip-top freezer bag. Now I have perfectly sized cubes of rosemary ready to pop into all kinds of dishes.

Mangia! Mangia!

Fresh Corn & Rosemary Basil Pesto

3 large ears of corn, grilled or cooked in the microwave
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Grill the ears of corn, shucked, until some kernels start to brown — or follow these directions for cooking the corn in the microwave.

Using a food processor, blend the basil, rosemary, Parmesan, garlic and salt until finely chopped. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and pulse until just combined.

Cut the kernels off the corn cobs (try this trick) and place the corn into a medium bowl. Add the pesto and mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Roasted & Stuffed Baby Eggplants

The cutest baby eggplants have been making regular appearances in my weekly haul from the farmer's market and I found an easy and delicious way to cook them, thanks to Real Simple.

You all know I'm an eggplant devotee, as I noted in this post about Eggplant with Chimichurri Sauce.

This latest take combines creamy eggplant with just the right savory flavors. It holds up well as leftovers, too. We served it as a side dish.

I mostly stuck to the original recipe, cutting back on the oil and sprinkling the cheese on top instead of serving it on the side. Hope you like it as much as we did.

Mangia! Mangia!

Roasted & Stuffed Baby Eggplants
Inspired by this recipe from Real Simple.

6 baby eggplants
3 lemons
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
12 sprigs of fresh oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
8 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Slice each eggplant lengthwise, leaving the tops of the eggplants intact. Arrange eggplants in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

Thinly slice one lemon. Squeeze the juice from the other 2 lemons and set aside.

Place lemon slices into the cut eggplants. Then insert 2 oregano sprigs and a few garlic slices into each eggplant.

Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil.

Cover with foil and roast for about 45 minutes or until eggplants are soft. Baste with pan juices about every 15 minutes.

Remove foil and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer to individual plates and top with pan juices (if desired) and crumbled feta.

Note: Remove oregano sprigs before eating. The lemons become very soft and can be eaten in their entirety or discarded.