Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Garlic and Mushroom Beef Roast with Sun-dried Tomatoes

The Mission: Use the beef tip roast that I bought on sale at the grocery store.

The Recipe: I *heart* this recipe. It's so easy, it's so tasty, it's so comforting. I found it in one of those little recipe booklets you can find at the grocery store check-out lines. This one happens to be from the Sept 2004 Betty Crocker simple slow cooker one. 2004 - yeah, that's old! I tested it out originally on my parents years ago and they both adored it. It became one of our favorite crockpot roast meals.
The Ingredients:
3 to 4 lb. beef boneless rump or tip roast
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8 oz. small whole fresh mushrooms
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatioes in oil, drained and chopped
1/2 cup light Italian dressing

The Instructions: Spray a 12" nonstick skillet with cooking spray. If beef roast comes in netting or is tied, do not remove. Sprinkle beef with salt and garlic. Cook beef in skillet over medium-high heat 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally, until brown on all sides. Spray a 4-5 quart crockpot with cooking spray. Place mushrooms in pot. Place beef on mushrooms. Spread tomatoes over beef, then pour dressing over the mixture in the pot. Cover and cook on Low heat setting for 9-11 hours. Place beef on cutting board; remove netting or strings if necessary. Slice beef and serve with mushrooms and juices. Makes 6 servings.

The Results: Fabulous. End of story. Even if I take the lazy way out and skip the "browning meat" stage, it turns out wonderful. If I'm ill-prepared for this recipe and forgot to buy fresh mushrooms, I'll add a can of sliced mushrooms an hour before eating. They're not quite as good, but they still get the job done.

The Reviews: As previously stated, Mom and Dad love this recipe. My sister likes it as well, though she usually doesn't eat the mushrooms. My husband on the other hand isn't as thrilled with this roast as the rest of my family. Which is extremely disappointing, since I'd probably make it every week if he was up for it. Instead, I indulge in this yummy beefy goodness about once a month through the winter months. He can just deal with it.

Venison (or Beef) Chili

The Mission: Make delicious crockpot chili using Mom's recipe only substitute ground venison, since the husband's friend shared his poor Bambi's Daddy with us.

The Recipe: I love my Mom's chili. This is the recipe that she's been using ever since I was a small child. I'm not quite sure where she got it from, I think she said she adapted it from a couple of different recipes she found in the red-checkered Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks. Oh how I love those red-checkered bibles of goodness.

The Ingredients:
1 lb. ground beef (substitue venison or turkey if you wish)
2 cloves minced garlic
4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
15 1/2 oz. can of dark red kidney beans, drained
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
16 oz can of diced tomatoes
10 oz can of diced tomatoes with green chilis
8 oz tomato juice (I use canned sauce instead)
6 oz can of tomato paste
1/4 tsp. salt

The Instructions: In a large pot, brown the ground meat with onion and garlic. Drain any fat and add the rest of the ingredients. Let simmer for 2 hours. Enjoy.

The Result: Delicious as always. This time we shared the dinner with my parents, so I doubled the recipe. I also put it in the crockpot so it would be ready to eat. This is easily accomplished by browning the meat on the stove, and then assembling all of the ingredients in the crockpot. You'll want to cook it on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 3-4. I usually assemble everything the night before, so the chili has time to meld all the flavors in the fridge overnight, then I leave it on Low alllll day long! It's great to have yummy food waiting for you when you get home at night :) I love to eat my chili with cottage cheese. Mom likes to add sour cream. Dad and the husband enjoy adding shredded cheddar cheese. And everyone loves it with cornbread on the side.

The Reviews: Though the husband isn't a big fan of the chopped onions, peppers, or celery, I chop them really small using my food processor. They cook down so much that he doesn't really notice. Apparently if he can't see them, he doesn't know they're there! I've never had any complaints about this recipe. The whole family loves it! I've taken it to quite a few potlucks and have never had to worry about leftovers. I've been asked for the recipe several times as well.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Butternut Squash Cake Roll

The Mission: Since my first butternut squash recipe turned out to be a flop, I decided to try a second recipe. This time instead of making a side-dish, I went for a dessert. mmmmm......dessert...... This is a great way to use up a little bit of extra squash - the recipe only calls for 2/3 cup of mashed squash. So, it's definitely a recipe to use when you're already planning on doing something else with your butternut of goodness.
The Recipe: I was looking through my Taste of Home magazines to find an interesting recipe to make for dinner this week when I stumbled upon a fabulous picture of a cake roll - and to my delight it called for Butternut Squash which just so happens to be the ingredient for the current recipe challenge. Hooray! I hope mine turns out as pretty as the picture in the magazine....

The Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup mashed cooked butternut squash
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 cup finely chopped walnuts (I used pecans)
Confectioners' Sugar
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. butter, softened (I used real butter, not margarine)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Additional confectioners' sugar optional

Instructions: In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs; gradually beat in sugar. Add squash and mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon; add to squash mixture and mix well.
Line a 15" x 10" x 1" baking pan with waxed paper; grease and flour the paper. Spread batter evening into pan. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 375* for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Turn cake onto a kitchen towel that has been dushed with confectioners' sugar. Gently peel off wax paper. Roll up cake in the towl, jelly-roll style, starting with a short side. Cool completely on wire rack.

In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Unroll cake; spread filling evenly over cake to within 1 inch of edges. Roll up again. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Just before serving, dush with confectiners' sugar if desired. Makes 10 servings.

The Result: Wow. The cake turned out fabulous! I have learned that my oven is a bit testy and tends to overbake my baked goods, so I only put the cake in for 11 minutes until it was done. I didn't have quite enough confectioners' sugar dusted onto my kitchen towel, so I ended up with a small bare spot on the cake because it peeled off. Oh well - it turned out alright in the end!
The Reviews: I ended up taking the Roll to a gathering on Sunday night. Everyone who tried it really liked it. (My husband doesn't care for cream cheese stuff, so he didn't eat the filling, but liked the cake part.) I had a few comments on how it was similar to a Pumpkin Roll, but that was to be expected. I was very pleased with the rave reviews it got - I even had one friend chastise my husband for not liking it! Hahaha. This recipe is definitely a keeper :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies!

The Request: Some of my husband's friends (all single) apparently get cravings for homemade food. So they end up at my house for dinner and dessert often. One of their favorite things is the simple yet delicious Chocolate Chip Cookie. I make them every time they have a big cook-out with their car club. I've never had to take leftover cookies home!

The Recipe: Nestle Tollhouse's Original Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter flavored shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips.

Cream the shortening, the sugars, and the eggs. Add vanilla, soda, and salt. Gradually blend in flour. Add chocolate chips (I like to add a bit extra). Drop by rounded Tbsp onto cookie sheets. Bake in a 375* oven for 9-11 minutes. Cool on racks before storing.

The Result: I've never made a bad batch ;) Usually I double the recipe to maximize the yumminess. I love to eat them slightly warm with a nice glass of cold milk.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Carmalized Butternut Squash

So a few of my really good friends and I decided to do a bi-monthly "ingredient challenge." Basically, twice a month we will decide on an ingredient and do something fun with it to see what happens. I'm really looking forward to this. It's just sad that distance won't let us taste each other's creating - we have a chef in NYC, Chicago, and then me in NC. I think the project will be tons of fun and I'm hoping to get a lot of new recipes out of it. Not to mention have a fantastic time adding some variety into my regular cooking routines.

The Challenge: Butternut Squash

The recipe: Carmalized Butternut Squash

2 medium butternut squash (4-5 lbs total)

6-8 Tbsp butter - melted and cooled

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper


Preheat the oven to 400*F. Cut off the ends of each butternut squash and discard. Peel the squash andcut in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, remove the seeds. Cut the squash into 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" cubes (large and uniform is best), and put them in a large bowl. Add the melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper in the bowl. With clean hands toss all of the ingredients together and spred out in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a baking dish. Roast for 45-55 minutes until the squash is tender and the glaze begins to carmalize. Turn the squash while roasting a fe times witha spatula to be sure it browns evenly. Serve hot (makes 6 servings).

The Result: Well. Um. I didn't care too much for it. Not only did I fail to get the glaze to carmalize, I just didn't care for the salt and pepper with my squash. I think I'd rather have it with just the butter and sugar. Maybe all mashed up instead of roasted.

The Reviews: Mom - liked it, but thought there was too much pepper. Dad - isn't a big fan of squash, but ate it all. Husband - tried it, hated it. but he's not a big fan of squash either.

So, I manged to bomb the first recipe challenge. Oh well. Tomorrow I will try out a recipe I found for butternut squash cake roll and see if I can redeem myself!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Black Bean and Corn Salad (Dip)

The mission: Bring a side dish to the 6th annual Greyhound Lifesavers Picnic.

The recipe: Black Bean and Corn Salad (Dip) as found on

Salad ingredients:

  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1 (15 oz) can corn, drained

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced

  • 2 cans of Rotel diced tomatoes with cilantro and lime juice

Dressing ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 2 Tbsps lime juice

  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar

  • 1 clove minced garlic

  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano

  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1/4 tsp sugar

  • 1/8 tsp black pepper


  • In a large bowl, comine salad ingredients

  • In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients

  • Pour dressing over salad and toss until coated.

Notes: What you see above is the revised recipe after I made a few minor changes to the original. First, since fresh tomatos aren't in season, I decided to use a can of Rotel. I figured it would be tasty since it had the cilantro and lime juice, plus would add an extra little kick to the dip. Second, I originally used an entire red onion and I didn't chop it very fine. Consequently, the onion was extremely over-powering. After indulging in my latest concotion, I ended up with horrible "dragon breath." So I adjusted the onion to half and mentioned the finely chopping bit above.

The Result: It was tasty! Sadly, I don't have many reviews. In my excitement to get to the picnic in order to adopt our greyhound, I managed to leave the dip in the fridge and didn't realize it until I had already driven the 2 hours to Columbia. Ooops. So I brought it into work the following week and my coworker and I made a fabulous lunch, devouring an entire bag of tortilla chips loaded with my creation. (At least I wasn't the only one with dragon breath in the office!)

Review: I'd highly recommend taking this to picnics, barbeques, and potlucks. It was simple to make, has easy-to-find ingredients, and is colorfully attractive! Next time I'll probably add a diced green bell pepper to add a bit more color. It'd be easy to increase the quantities and spicy-ness to whatever you desire.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Almost Romantic - London Broil

Last night's dinner was a tried and true staple. And since I served it at the table instead of plunking it down in front of the TV, it almost felt like a romantic dinner.

The menu:
*London Broil
*Rice from a box (Chicken & Broccoli flavor by Knorr's)
*Green Beans (canned for the husband, frozen for me)

What I found interesting was the conversation the husband and I had over dinner. Apparently he'd never had London Broil before he married me. I was baffled and astonished. I grew up eating London Broil. It was a popular menu item for my family and I learned how to make it when I was 10. It's quick to make, and doesn't involve many ingredients.

London Broil: Marinate top round steak in Italian dressing for 2-3 days. Broil in the oven 6" away from heat source for 7-8 minutes. Flip meat. Broil for another 6-7 minutes. Meat is done when it has reached an internal temperature of 130. Slice thinly and serve.

Simple. Easy. Tasty.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


In an effort to expand my weekly menus, get my husband to eat more interesting foods, and enjoy experimenting in the kitchen I realized that I need some motivation. With blogging becoming more and more popular, I decided it was time for me to join the crowd and share my kitchen concoctions. The goal: to try out and post at least one new recipe a week. Hopefully I'll manage to keep up ;)