Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mom's Beef Stew

The Mission:

Make beef stew. Because it's tasty and I like it. Also, beef was on sale a few weeks ago, and I have a lovely amount of stew beef all cut up and ready to go in the freezer. Mom's been using this recipe my whole life, so I find it to be extremely comforting. It can be made on the stove, or in a crockpot - which is nice! It makes a fabulous addition to my winter menus, since it's such a warm and invitingly aromatic comfort food. It's also great using venison.
The Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs stew beef
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • few dashes allspice or cloves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 medium onion - roughly chopped
  • 3 medium potatoes - chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 5-6 carrot sticks - chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 1 bag of frozen green beans

The Instructions:

Stovetop directions: Brown meat in batches in hot oil. Add boiling water, seasonings, and onion (if you like your onion less mushy, add onion when you add other veggies). Simmer for 2 hours. Add sliced carrots and potatoes, then stir in the frozen green beans. Cook for 20-30 minutes until vegetables are done. Thicken stew gravy by adding flour to cold water and whisking until all lumps are gone, stir flour mixture into stew and cook at least five minutes more. Crockpot directions: brown meat and then assemble all ingredients except beans into the crockpot. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. Microwave green beans until they're done and add to stew in crockpot. Add flour mixture and cook on high for 20 minutes.

The Result: Let's see. Next time I will add more carrots. It just wasn't quite enough for me. My husband liked the stew and ate it happily. I served it with pillsbury crescent rolls this time. Not exactly the most healthy side dish, but yummy nonetheless. I obviously assembled this one in the crock pot. I actually prefer the stew on the stove, but for week-night meals, it's just easier to put it in the crockpot so it's ready when you get home.

The Reviews: Not much to say here. Obviously I love this recipe. My whole family likes it and looks forward to eating it whenever the weather turns colder. I've made it for a few friends before and they all go back for seconds :)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cream Cheese Pound Cake

The Mission: Ingredient Challenge #4 - CREAM CHEESE!

This one was actually my suggestion. I didn't even have a recipe in mind, but I figured it was an extremely versatile ingredient that could be used in a ton of recipes for any course. After the ingredient was agreed upon I realized that I'd have to post my cream cheese pound cake. Gramma gave me the recipe, she's been using it for years and years. It is soooo amazing. It's extremely rich, so it goes a long way. I'm always amazed at how much batter actually makes it into the pan, because this is the kind of recipe that makes you want to stick your face in the bowl and never come up for air!

The Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups of butter (REAL butter, no substitutes!), softened
  • 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

The Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300*F. Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, beating well between each egg. Don't forget to scrape the sides of the mixing bowl. Add in the vanilla and then slowly add the flour. I like to add one cup at a time, mixing thoroughly and scraping the bowl between each cup. Spoon the batter into a tube or bundt pan (it will be thick). Bake for approximately 1.5 hours. I usually set the timer for 1 hr 15 minutes and then test the cake for doneness. My oven is kinda touchy. Cake is done when an inserted knife comes out clean. Do NOT try and rush this cake by cooking faster in a hotter oven. Gramma says so.

The Result:

Ahhhh - this recipe never fails to put a smile on my face. Though I usually just serve it plain (that's how my husband likes it), I'm considering making a cream cheese glaze to top it with when I serve it to company. I may also add some fruit or something. Who knows. Oh - and you can switch out the extract to get different flavors. I have used almond extract before, and maple. Both are completely delicious. I'm hoping to branch out to try some other flavors soon.

The Reviews: This cake has never gotten a bad review. The first time I made it for my husband, I thought he was going to start attacking me. He absolutely loves it - which is ironic for a guy who "hates" cream cheese. hahaha. I usually don't tell him what's in a recipe until after he's tried it and reviewed it. ::insert evil laugh here:: All of our friends who have sampled this dessert have given rave reviews, and I always save a few portions for my parents - because if they found out I made it and didn't share, they'd be a bit peeved. My sister is always sad that she's out of town when I make it. I hope to surprise her with it at her bridal shower in April :)

Roasted Pork Loin

The Mission: Dinner

It's that time again. Dinner time. I've been doing really well with having a weekly menu so I know what the plan is. You can't imagine how awesome it is to not have any stress where dinner is involved. So tonight's menu is Roasted Pork Loin, Mashed Potatoes (covered in cheddar cheese) and Steamed Broccoli and Cauliflower. Sounds good, right? I hope so!

The Ingredients:
  • a pork loin (as big or small as you want it)
  • rubbed sage (amount depends on pork loin size)
  • mashed potatoes
  • grated cheddar cheese
  • frozen broccoli/cauliflower

The Instructions:

Place a thawed pork loin in a baking dish fat side up. Sprinkle with rubbed sage - I used about 3 tsps. tonight for a 2.5 lb piece of pork. Rub the sage into the top of the pork loin. Place uncovered in a preheated 325*F oven for 1 to 1.5 hours. Using a meat thermometer, check the pork loin for doneness. When the internal temperature is 155*F, the pork loin is ready. You want it to be nice and golden on the top, too. Let sit for 10 minutes before carving. Remove to a cutting board and slice into 1/2 to 3/4" slices or whatever you prefer. Serve with mashed potatoes and veggies (or whatever sides you desire).

The Result: Very good. I love to serve this meal often - and it's nice because pork loin often goes on sale at the grocery store. The Husband and I will usually pick up 2 or 3 when they're 50% off at our local market. I'll then cut them each in half (they're usually 6 lbs or so) and wrap them up in freezer paper to freeze for later use. Roasted Pork Loin is tasty. The key is to not overcook it. As long as you heat it to the proper temperature, you don't need to worry about bacteria. I've noticed that a lot of people tend to overcook their pork and it's dry and not as flavorful. By cooking just until the proper temp, you'll have a moist, juicy, and flavorful loin that's perfectly safe to eat. Unless of course you're allergic to pork. Sorry Friend Mark!

The Reviews: The Husband is very happy with this meal.... which is nice, since I love it, too. He can't believe that the only thing I do to this pork is just rub some sage on top! It sounds ridiculously easy, right? haha - I keep tellin him that the trick is in the temperature. Just don't overcook it and it'll turn out fine. My parents, my sister, and most of my friends love this as well. I've never had any complaints.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Garlic Ricotta Stuffed Mushrooms

The Mission: Ingredient Challenge #3 - MUSHROOMS
I don't usually care for mushrooms. I don't mind them in somethings, but as a general rule, they just aren't my favorite. Something must be wrong with me. But I'm learning. So when mushrooms were suggested as our third ingredient challenge, I knew I'd have to turn somewhere for help. And what better place to turn than recipezaar? So I looked up mushroom recipes by the highest rating and came across this yummy looking appetizer. It just so happened that I had some left over ricotta cheese that needed to be used up. So it was perfect. The only thing I actually needed to purchase was the mushrooms.

The Ingredients:

  • 7 large white mushrooms, stems removed
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3-4 Tbsp part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese - divided

The Instructions:
Preheat your oven to 350*F. Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems. Chop the stems. Heat olive oil in a small saute pan, add chopped mushroom stems and saute for 3 minutes. Add the crushed garlic, salt, and pepper and saute for another 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly in a small mixing bowl. After the mushroom mixture has cooled, add ricotta cheese and 2 Tbsp of the grated parmesan. Mix well and then fill the mushroom caps with the cheese mixture. Place mushrooms on a greased cookie sheet. (I greased up some aluminum foil on a cookie sheet so I'd have less mess to clean up.) Sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese on the stuffed mushrooms and then bake for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm.

The Result:

Oh.My.God. I am soooo glad I doubled this recipe, because these mushrooms are to die for. Seriously. And I don't even like mushrooms. I served them to my husband and Friend Mark. My husband loves mushrooms and I think he ate most of them. Mark isn't a big fan of mushrooms, but I think he managed to eat at least three before the disappeared. I had a little bit of extra filling left over and I just baked it in a glass dish. It was so tasty. I would HIGHLY recommend making at least a double batch.

The Reviews:

Well - my husband loved them. I loved them. Mark loved them. This recipe is fantastic. They will be on the menu for my sister's bridal shower and I'm trying to come up with an excuse to host another party where appetizers will be needed. Definitely give these a try!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chocolate Chip Muffins

The Mission:
Make something yummy for a "Christmas Brunch" at work. I wanted to do something easy, something cheap (I had all the ingredients already), yet something a little bit different. Chocolate Chip muffins are slightly more unique than blueberry. Right??

The Ingredients:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar - packed
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - melted, then cooled
  • 2 eggs - lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 (11.5 oz) package of chocolate chips

The Instructions: Preheat the oven to 400*F. Arrange 12 muffin cup papers in muffin tin. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, blend together the milk, eggs, butter, and vanilla. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add milk mixture and stir until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and spoon batter into the muffin cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove muffin tin to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from tin to finish cooling. Serve warm or cool. The Result: They turned out really well. They were heavier than I expected them to be, but that worked out nicely. In my oven (which tends to be a bit weird) they took the full 20 minutes. I ended up doubling the recipe so I'd have 2 dozen muffins. We were expecting about 20 people at the brunch.

The Reviews: My muffins got rave reviews. Hooray. One coworker commented on how nice it was that I used regular sized chocolate chips instead of the mini ones. It had never crossed my mind to use minis, so I'm glad I didn't think of it. The muffins were devoured by hungry coworkers so I didn't have a single one left over to get any family reviews. I'd say that this recipe is a keeper!

Falling Behind

I was trying so hard to be super organized this past holiday season. Obviously that didn't work out so well - at least as far as my kitchen blog was concerned. So I'll try better for 2009! I hope to get my act together and post at least one yummy recipe a week. I have so many new foods that I want to try out and a ton of "tried and true" recipes that I'd love to share.

Happy New Year!