Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Slow Cooker Beef Burgundy

I have an incredible beef burgundy recipe from my mom that involves all kind of work, at least four kinds of booze, and baking in a Dutch oven for hours.  It is truly unbelievable - four-star restaurant quality.  But it IS work.  So I've found some shortcuts when I'm craving a TASTE but am not willing to spend the TIME. (And I serve the boeuf bourguignon on really special occasions.)

Easy Crock Pot Beef Burgundy 

1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided
1 teaspoon steak seasoning
2 pounds cubed beef for stew
4-5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion
1 cup Burgundy {or red} wine
2 tablespoons minced garlic {or mince two garlic cloves}
4 ounces sliced baby Portabello mushrooms
1 tsp salt
3 bay leaves
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup warm water
1 – 2 tablespoons chopped parsley {optional}

Combine flour, 1 tablespoon cornstarch and steak seasoning in a ziploc bag and shake to mix.

Add stew meat to the bag and seal - Shake to coat and set aside.

Add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium high heat.

Once the oil is hot, add the beef mixture and cook 5-6 minutes, turning often to brown meat on all sides. Don't try to crowd the beef - you want a good sear.

While the beef is browning, peel and slice the onion in half and chop into 1/2-inch pieces.

Add the onion and the wine to the pan and cook for 2 minutes.

Stir in garlic, mushrooms, bay leaves, and beef broth, and bring to a boil.

While that comes to a boil, add 1 tablespoon cornstarch and the warm water to a small bowl and stir until dissolved.

Pour the cornstarch mixture into meat and stir for 1-2 minutes.  (You can do all this the night before, refrigerate and then put it in the crock to cook the next morning.  Don't refrigerate the crock and then put it in the cooker - it will crack!!)

Remove from heat and pour the stew into the crock pot.

Cook on LOW for 8 hours or on HIGH for 4 hours.

Discard bay leaves before serving and add salt & pepper to taste.

Garnish with chopped parsley if desired.

Preparation time: 10 – 15 minutes

Cooking time: 4-8 hours, depending on temperature

Number of servings: 6

Source:  A Little Clarification

Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup

Something about the weather turning colder turns me into a BEAR - I just want to stock up on calories and hibernate!!!  This a great soup for fall or winter, especially with some good peasant bread.

Slow Cooker Loaded Potato Soup

3 to 3 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and diced small (about 7 medium potatoes)
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
3 (14.5 oz) cans low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup evaporated milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (6 oz)
9 oz bacon, cooked and diced or crumbled
4 green onions, diced

To a 6 or 7-quart slow cooker, add potatoes, onion, chicken broth, evaporated milk and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on HIGH heat for 4 hours or LOW heat for 8 hours (check to be sure potatoes are done - I cut my potatoes really small).

Set aside 2 cups liquid from soup mixture in crock pot.

In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. While whisking, slowly pour in the 2 cups liquid you set aside into the butter mixture (it will thicken quickly). Pour butter mixture into slow cooker and stir to blend. If desired, mash potatoes with a potato masher to break down into smaller pieces or use an emulsion blender to puree - depends how to like the texture of your soup - I like to remove half from the crock and puree what's inside the crock, then stir the non-pureed back in.

Cover and cook on HIGH heat until thickened, about 10 minutes. Turn heat to warm, stir in sour cream (don't ever boil sour cream - it will curdle).

Serve warm topped with cheese, bacon and green onions (you can just mix in those three remaining ingredients into slow cooker or top individual servings).

Recipe Source: Cooking Classy

Sweet and Savory Meatballs

My mom started making these back in the 50s.  I've served them with little meatballs as "cocktail" nibbles and with larger meatballs as dinner.  Kids, in particular, really like these.  (This is a good recipe for the babysitter when s/he is also expected to put dinner together for the kids!!!)

Sweet and Savory Meatballs

1 bag frozen meatballs
1 12 oz jar grape jelly
1 12 oz bottle barbecue sauce

Dump ingredients into slow cooker and heat on low for 3-4 hours.

Good over rice.

Slow Cooker TexMex Chicken

Fast and kid-friendly Mexican! Use mild salsa if you have little ones (you can jack yours up on your plate with some jalapenos or hot salsa) and increase the heat for us older kids.  A bag of frozen pepper strips saves prep time.

Slow Cooker TexMex Chicken

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch-wide strips 
2 Tbsp. Taco Seasoning Mix
2 Tbsp. flour
1 each: green and red pepper, cut into 1-inch-wide strips
1 cup frozen corn
1 1/2 cups salsa
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Optional- crushed tortilla chips and sour cream to top

Toss chicken with seasoning and flour in slow cooker.

Stir in all remaining ingredients except the shredded cheese; cover.

Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours.

Stir just before serving. Serve over rice. Top each serving with shredded cheese, crushed tortilla chips and a dollop of sour cream.

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

Fall.  Soup.  Italian.  Easy.  I'm in!!!  This one is scary-easy and so good!!!  Splurge on some garlic bread.  And a couple of cannolis, if you can find them.

Sausage and Tortellini Soup

1 lb. mild Italian sausage 
1 bag frozen green beans
1 can petite diced tomatoes
1 medium onion, diced
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 32 oz. chicken stock
1 9 oz refrigerator Cheese Tortellini
fresh, shredded Parmesan Cheese

Crumble sausage and place in slow cooker. *(no casings)
Add tomatoes, diced onions, frozen green beans and seasoning.
Cook on high for 4 hours.
Add chicken stock and cook on high for 1 hour.
Add cheese tortellini and cook for an additional 1/2 hour.
Serve topped with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese.

Yield: About 6 servings

Monday, September 21, 2015

Three Risottos!!!!

How did I NOT know about risotto until I was 50???  Where WAS I?  Why was this kept from me???  Once you learn to make a basic risotto, fast, yummy food is right there in your grasp!  SO let's start with basic and move out from there:

Parmesan Cheese Risotto

Serves 4

2 t chives, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 small onion, diced
28 oz chicken or vegetable broth - heated
1/2 pound arborio rice (it has to be arborio)
2 t olive oil
2 t butter
1/2 heavy cream
1 c freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oil and butter over med-low heat (yup, medium low - this one cooks SLOWLY)

Add the garlic and onion and saute until the onion is translucent

Dump in the rice and stir until the grains are coated

Add a cup of broth and keep sirring gently until the rice has absorbed the liquid.

Add another cup and keep stirring

Do it again

Add the last helf cup and keep stirring  (the whole process takes about 20 minutes - you'll have a nice creamy looking rice at the end.  You may need to add a little more broth if the rice has a hard "bite" to it.  It should be puffy, but still al dente - not mushy!!!

Add the cream.  Keep stirring for a minute while the cream heats.

Add the cheese.

Keep stirring.

Add some black pepper, salt to taste and add the chives.

Serve with a glass of white wine.  Oh, yum!!

Tomato, Arugala and Mozzarella Risotto

1 cup arborio rice
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
½ cup dry white wine
3 cups hot vegetable stock (plus 1 just in case)
2 Tbsp cold butter
2 cups arugula, washed and dried
1 cup little vine tomatoes (or cherry tomatoes), quartered
¾ cup fresh mozzarella, diced
Parmigiano Reggiano to serve
Salt to taste

Same procedure:
Saute the shallots in the olive oil over med heat

Once the shallots are translucent, add the arborio rice and fry it so all the grains get coated in the fat.
Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Add the white wine and cook until it evaporates completely.

Add the first cup of vegetable stock and cook, stirring occasionally (and gently) until it is absorbed by the rice.

Repeat the process with the other 2 cups of stock, one at a time. If at the end, you think your rice is still too hard, add 1/2 - 1 more cup of stock and cook until it's al dente.

Turn the heat off and add the butter, stirring vigorously but being careful to not break the grains.

Once the butter has been added and stirred, add the tomatoes and the arugula and stir until everything is incorporated.

Add the fresh mozzarella and stir gently.

Taste to check seasoning and add salt if necessary.

Serve immediately, with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Mushroom, Onion, and Bacon Risotto

Ingredients:2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
5 slices bacon chopped
6 ounces baby bella mushroom sliced thin
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup Marsala wine
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
5 1/2 cups chicken broth, heated
1 1/2 ounces gratedparmesan or romano cheese
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

Same Procedure:
Heat a large skillet over medium heat with oil. Add onion and bacon and cook until bacon is almost crisp and onion is tender (about 5-6 minutes)

Stir in mushrooms and 1/4 tsp salt and cook for 5 minutes until mushrooms are tender.

Add 1/2 of the wine and stir until liquid is absorbed (about 3-4 minutes)

Add rice and stir until rice is light brown (about 4-5 minutes) then stir in remaining wine stirring until all liquid is absorbed

Add 1 cup of hot broth to rice mixture; stirring constantly until liquid is completely absorbed.

Keep adding in 1 cup increments until broth is absorbed each time - this process should take about 25 minutes.

Stir in cheese and butter then season will additional salt and pepper to your liking

Chicken and Champagne
Pepper and Sausage
Scallop and Lemon
Tomato and Basil.....

hundreds more!!!   Have fun - you're only limted by your imagination!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Chicken Salad with Grapes and Pecans

I love chicken salad - in a sandwich, scooped onto a lettuce leaf, or just a scoop on a plate.  When I occasionally get myself organized (yes, it actually DOES happen) and when I see chicken on sale at the grocer's, I'll poach a ton of chicken in my really big slow cooker overnight, strain the broth and freeze in 1/2 cup portions, shred some of the chicken to use in Mexican dishes, and cube the rest for pot pies and chicken salads.  This is one of my favorite chicken salads - I like all the different textures in this one:

 Chicken, Grape and Pecan Salad
3 pounds , skinless chicken breasts, well rinsed and patted dry
3 cups of water
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 pound of seedless green grapes ( or red. Whatever.)
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1 cup diced celery
chopped fresh dill, to taste
1 - 1 1/2 cups sour cream
1 - 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Salad greens, spinach, or watercress or arugala

Serves 8
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange the chicken breasts in a single layer in a shallow pan.
  2.  Bring the water to a boil and add the bouillon cube.  Stir to dissolve.  Pour enough bouillon in the baking pan to just cover the chicken breasts.  Lay a sheet of cooking parchment or aluminum foil over the chicken to cool in the liquid; then discard the liquid.
  3. Shred the chicken into bite-size pieces and place them in a large bowl.  Add the grapes, pecans, celery, and chopped dill, and toss well.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix the sour cream and mayonnaise together.
  5. Toss this into the chicken salad.  Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  6. Serve on a bed watercress or other salad green, garnished with dill sprigs.

I served this at a party for friends in little "boats" of endive leaves so it could be picked up and eaten as a finger food appetizer.

I've also done this where I carmelized the pecans by cooking them with sugar and just a little bit of salt in a non-stick pan - keep stirring so the sugar doesn't burn.  You can also just toast the pecans quickly in the oven - watch them as the oil in them will go to a burn very quickly.


Thank you, Nedra!  Was just thinking about making apple butter this fall.  Perfect timing, my friend!


Time-Saving Hints, Freezer version

Things to keep in the freezer 

(besides precooked chicken and ground beef):

  • Parmesan cheese - fine grate or coarse shred - just keep it in a ziploc bag.  Take out what you need when you need it.
  • leftover pancakes or waffles - pop into the toaster for a quick breakfast or snack
  • a bag of fruit for smoothies
  • cooked rice - cook it, spread it out on a cookie sheet, freeze for 30 minutes, then plop into a ziploc.  Use in casseroles and soup or Mexican dishes
  • tomatoes: before they go bad, roast them in a barely-on oven (225°) with a spritz of EVOO for 4 hrs.  Cool, then freeze.  Use in sauce and chili.
  • pasta
  • grains (especially from the barrels where you scoop the quantity you want.)  Double wrap and freeze for 3 days - any little critters riding along will perish.  
  • pesto - freeze pesto in ice trays in 2T portions.  
  • herbs - wash and then immerse 1 t portions of herbs in water or broth in ice trays.
  • cookie dough - scoop portions onto cookie sheet and flash-freeze, then store in ziplocs so you can bake 1, 2, or more at a time.  If you're going to bake in large quantities, consider slice and bake rolls of cookie dough.
  • homemade broth or stock - freeze in 1/2 c portions
  • milk - freeze in 1 c portions - thaw and shake before using
  • buttermilk - freeze in 1/2 c portions - thaw and shake before using
  • juice - if you're freezing large containers of juice, remember to take some out as liquid expands when frozen
  • bread, baked goods (as a single, I can still take advantage of those BOGO offers.  Hurray for my freezer!)
  • tomato paste - open a 6 oz can and only use 2 T?  Freeze the rest!
  • dough - I buy real pizza dough from my favorite pizza place, then make my own pizzas
  • eggs - crack into ice cube trays.  Freeze 3 hours, then pop them out and wrap well in those ziplocs. (A little oil rubbed around the ice tray helps the eggs pop out easily)
  • fresh lemon/line/orange juice and zest - when a recipe calls for "half a lemon, juiced" - first ZEST, then juice the lemon.  Use what you need and freeze the rest.  Throw the rest of the peels and lemon into your disposal to clean and freshen the blades

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monterrey Chicken

I'm never good about getting enough vegetables in my diet.  To cook several veggies along with a meat and starch is a lot of pans for ONE person!!  So any meal that INCLUDES the veggies means I'm at least getting some of my nutrients from a direct source.  This dish is pretty with all the different colors and the flavor is really fresh.  It's a great way to use some of that zucchini that takes over your life, if you garden.  It's also a nice recipe to brighten up a dreary winter day if you can get your hands on a zuke from your grocer in the off-season.  (And it reheats well for lunches the next couple of days if you are "one" and have four servings to contend with...)

Monterrey Chicken

serves 4

5 T olive oil
4 half chicken breasts (I use boneless thighs)
1 cup onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced fine
1 c chicken broth
1/2 c orange juice
1/2 can crushed tomatoes
1 T rosemary
1 red pepper, julienned
1/2 lg. zucchini, sliced diagonally
1/3 c flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 orange, zested


Heat half the oil in a large skillet and cook the chicken, sprinkled with S/P for five minutes. 

Turn the pieces, season again and cook another 5 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the skillet.

Add the onions, garlic, and carrots and cook, covered, on medium low heat until tender - about 10-15 minutes. 

Add the stock, juice, tomatoes and rosemary and some S/P and simmer 10-15 minutes.

Return the chicken to the pan and simmer 20-25 minutes until the chicken is done and the sauce has reduced somewhat.

(Up to this point can be done ahead if your time to prepared dinner is limited.  
Just reheat this mixture and do the peppers and zucchini below right before serving,)

In another pan, heat the remaining oil and saute the red pepper strips for 5 minutes.  Add the squash, some S/P and stir-fry until the vegetables are tender (but still firm - zucchini is better this way then all mushed out!!)

Transfer the veggies to the big skillet and simmer the whole thing another 5 minutes.  Sprinkle with the parsley and orange zest.

Good with rice pilaf (which can also be made ahead and reheated.)

If your sauce is too soupy, you can thicken it by stirring in a slurry of water and flour or water and cornstarch and letting it simmer for a few minutes more.

This week's Recipe Detective is TinaS_SoCal !!

BONUS Recipe for Busy Nights: Fast Pasta Bake

Everything in one casserole - perfect for the nights when you have to work late and are starved!  Meat, grain, dairy, several veggies, more veggies if you serve with a salad, and a fruit, if you have wine (that's my story and I'm sticking with it!)

Fast Pasta Bake

1 pkg spiral pasta - I like the whole wheat or extra-fiber pastas
1 lb Italian turkey sausage (if you bought links, remove the casing)
1 med. onion, chopped (or 1/2 pkg frozen chopped onion)
5 garlic cloves, minced (or 2 T pre-minced garlic in oil
1 28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes
1 t oregano
1 t basil
1/8 t pepper
1 pgk frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
12 c half and half
2 c mozzarella cheese
1/2 c Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350
Cook pasta according to directions
Cook turkey and onion over med heat until the meat is no longer pink.
Add garlic and cook another minute
Stir in tomatoes, spices - bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes
Drain pasta
Stir into meat sauce mixture
Add spinach and cream
Transfer to 13x9 baking dish that's been sprayed with cooking spray
Sprinkle the cheese over
Bake 25-30 minutes (just enough time to dump some premade salad mixture into a bowl, uncork a bottle of wine, grab a quick shower and put your pj's on!!!)

(This one freezes well so you're not eating endless leftovers!)  or it serves 8-10

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bonus! Emergency Microwave Meal - Beef and Rice Espagnole

For some reason, I keep thinking about my dad today.  And how proud I was of him after my mom died.  For a man who had gone from his mother's house to the Army to fight in the Pacific during WW II to his own home with a new wife, he had never HAD to take care of himself in the kitchen.

After we lost Mom, he really made huge attempts to learn how to cook.  He struggled for a bit,  especially getting everything done at the same time (we sometimes ate in "courses" - the corn course, the potatoes course, the coffee course, the beef course, the gravy course...), but he eventually became QUITE adept in the kitchen and even turned into a world-class bread baker!

I used to find easy recipes for him to try out that went beyond grill a steak and bake a potato - he was my cooking "beta tester"!!! This was one of his favorite "I don't feel like cooking" dinners - fast and easy in the MICROWAVE.  I think everyone who visited his house ate this at some point!!  And the leftovers are great for lunch the next day, too.

Beef and Rice Espagnole

1 pound ground beef
1/2 c chopped onion
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup quick-cook rice
1/2 c water
1/3 sliced, pitted black olives
1 small can green chili pepers, rinsed and chopped
1/2 t garlic salt
1/8 t pepper
1 t hot pepper sauce (or as he liked to put it "one repetitive teaspoon" - I think he used about 1/4 CUP!!! The man's tastebuds were seriously inept!!)
1 cup American cheese (like Velveeta), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Procedure Microwave:
Brown the meat and the onions together on HIGH 6-8 min.  Stir once or twice to break up the meat. (Cover cooking dish with wax paper or a microwave splatter shield)
Drain off the fat.
Stir in everything else EXCEPT the cheese.
Cook on HIGH 10-12 min, stirring after 4 minutes.
Add the cheese cubes and stir until they are distributed.
Cover and let stand 5 minutes.

note:  Be sure you use MINUTE RICE when preparing in the microwave.

Procedure: Conventional Oven:
Brown the meat and onion.
Drain the fat.
Stir in everything else and turn into 1 1/2 qt casserole
Cover.  Bake at 350° for 46-40 minutes.
Add the cheese cubes and stir until they are distributed.
Cover and let stand 5 minutes.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Mom's Sausage Grinders

My mom used to stretch her meat budget with "fillers" like breads, biscuits, and lots of potatoes. Growing up on a farm during the Depression and being the cook for the family as well as the traveling workers, she learned to make big meals out of few ingredients!  Mom took the country fair classic and turned them into a filling scrumptious dinner for us.  To this day, these sandwiches don't taste right to me unless they have the potatoes in them! 

Be sure to NOT eat these over your lap unless you are wearing a drop cloth.  They are delightfully drippy and messy!!

Mom's Sausage Grinders

Hoagie/Grinder rolls
2 1/2 lb. Italian-style sausage - either pork or turkey / mild or hot - your choice!
2-3 green peppers - or whatever color pepper you like!
2 med. onions
            (or completely "laze out" and get 2 bags of sliced peppers and onions)
3-4 Yukon gold potatoes, diced
olive oil
1  t oregano
1  t basil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 12 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 c. Parmesan
1/2 T sugar

(opt.: crushed red pepper)

Cook the sausages the Italian way:  Place them in a skillet and cover them halfway with water. Put a lid on the skillet and let them simmer away about 15 min. Flip them over and let them cook away, lid off, at a quick simmer until the water is ALMOST gone - listen for them - they'll start to sizzle.  If you want to finish them on the grill, go for it.  But doing them this way keeps the sausages from drying out, they are thoroughly cooked, and they're not burned!  (I learned THIS trick from Sophia Loren and Anthony Quinn in a movie!!!)

In the meantime, wash the potatoes and cut into small chunks. (Or peel them first, if you must.)

Slice the peppers and onions.

Dump all the veggies in a large skillet with olive oil, S/P and fry away about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until you start to get a little caramelization on the veggies.

Cut the sausages into bite sized pieces.

Put the meat, the veggies and the rest of the ingredients (except the bread) into the skillet and simmer away until the sauce has been reduced to really thick OR place into your slow cooker and cook on low for 4-6 hours (open the lid vent OR place a fork under the edge of the lid so the liquid cooks down).

Place the sausages and veggie mixture into rolls that have been split and brushed with a little butter and fast-grilled to toast.  For those who like them spicier, pass the crushed peppers around.

Best served with an icy-cold beer (and followed with a fresh fruit pie!)

Dumpsterkitty is this week's Recipe Detective!

with an able assist from It'sOnlyPuppyLove(NY)!!!