“Since hunger is the most primitive and permanent of human wants, men always want to eat, but since their wish not to be a mere animal is also profound, they have always attended with special care to the manners which conceal the fact that at the table we are animals feeding.” - John Erskine

17 October 2012

corn chow-dah

One of my favorite “fall” pictures ~ Oldest at his aunt’s pumpkin patch ~ and not just because it’s punny.
Mmm, fall.  Don’t you just love fall?  The cooler weather, the beautiful colors, the rain, kids back in school... Did I mention the cooler weather?  And what is better when the weather cools down than a lovely soup that cooks itself in the crock pot?  Ok, maybe a lovely crock soup with a fresh batch of rolls, but I didn’t get around to those.  Still, I didn’t hear anyone complaining.  Oldest’s yummy sounds were too loud to hear over.  (Ok, I must share this, even though it was almost a complaint, because it was so cute.  The rule in our house is that you don't have to eat what mom makes for dinner, but you DO have to taste it before you decide.  And you don’t get anything else.  Yep, I’m mean that way.  So we finally got Littlest to taste the chowder and he says that it’s good enough... just not good enough to eat.  Sigh.  Can’t please ‘em all I guess.)

I saw this recipe for corn chowder (I can’t help it, I always want to say it the Bostonian way: CHOW- dah) on Pinterest and knew that I had to make it right away.  Luckily for me I had some Southern hash browns waiting patiently in the freezer as there was no way I was going to be able to peel and cube potatoes in time, let alone make those delicious rolls from scratch that I had envisioned.  It was Sunday morning and in the rush to get everyone dressed, combed and shod in something other than flip flops I was lucky all I had to to make my chowder (chow-dah) do was dump a few things in the crock pot and remember to plug it in.  And after a lovely meeting we all came home to a delicious hot meal.  Mmm, chow-dah.
By the time I got around to taking a picture, this is all that was left.
M’s Version of Nicole’s Corn Chowder
adapted from crockingirls.com
serves about 12
2 pounds frozen Southern hash browns or potatoes of choice, peeled and diced
2 cans creamed corn and 2 cans whole kernel corn or 4 cans whole kernel corn and ½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound diced ham (I used one of these)
1 tablespoon onion powder or 2 cups diced onions
½ (1 cube) cup butter
4 cups half and half or 2 cups milk, 2 cups heavy whipping cream

Place potatoes, both cans of corn, chicken broth, ham, and onions into the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours or high 4-5 hours.

Mash the mixture to your desired consistency (I didn’t have to do this, as my potatoes had pretty much disintegrated by the time the soup had cooked) and then add the butter and half and half.  Cook for an additional 30 minutes on high.

Scraping the bottom of the barrel pot.

03 October 2012

silly cheesesteaks

Yes, it’s a silly name (haha) for a recipe.  It’s supposed to be a pun on Philly cheesesteaks, only these aren’t really made the way they do them in Philly, so I had to come up with a different name for them.  And yes, I HAVE had a Philly cheesesteak.  In Philly.  Although I prefer the ones I had in South Jersey better.

See, when I was 19 I moved to a tiny hamlet in New Jersey called Haddonfield, not too far from Camden, which is right across the river from Philadelphia.  I loved the area, very beautiful, and I loved hopping the commuter train into Philly and just walking around.  Anyway, on my first day in Haddonfield, my bosss son (with whom I shared a third floor landing and bathroom) was totally aghast that I had never partaken of white pizza.  (Nevermind the fact that I had never heard of white pizza! ~ For those others of you who have also never heard of it, its a pizza crust covered in alfredo sauce, Montery jack, provolone... uh, white stuff.  And it’s heavenly.  If you haven’t tried one, you really should at least once.)  He also decided to make it his mission to make sure that I tasted a real, honest cheesesteak.  (No one I ever encountered in the year I was there called them Philly cheesesteaks.  That nomenclature is strictly for us idiots who can’t differentiate them from other... uh... cheesesteaks... ?)  Wonder if that’s because South Jersey was just as proud of (and for good reason in my opinion) their cheesesteaks as the ones made across the river.  Anyway, it’s a taste to die for when you get a good one.  And I came across a recipe that made me hungry for one that I thought I’d try out.  But since mine aren’t Philly (or Jersey) cheesesteaks, I had to come up with some other name for them.  They’re not quite the same as the ones I remember, but still yum.  And a big hit.  Here’s the recipe I came up with:

Silly Cheesesteak Subs
adapted from Cheesesteak Subs – Quick and Tasty! at Mel's Kitchen Cafe
(printable recipe below)
makes 4-6 (depending on how full you want them)
1 stick butter
1 onion, halved and sliced into thin half moons – or onion powder to taste
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
12 ounces thin sliced Hormel Di Lusso Rare Black Angus Seasoned Roast Beef (or other thin sliced roast beef, preferably from the deli)
12 slices provolone
1 can sliced mushrooms (or sliced fresh equivalent), optional
4-6 sub rolls, split partially open lengthwise
 (I used Wal-Mart bakery’s whole wheat 6” sub rolls)

Melt the butter in a large skillet.  (Yes, I’m aware that this is a LOT of butter.  I was not using a non-stick pan and I found my meat and cheese were sticking, so I followed my favorite “advise” from the movie Julie & Julia: “Think it over, any time you taste something that’s delicious beyond imagining and you say ‘what’s in this?’ the answer is always going to be butter. ... Here is my final word on the subject, you can never have too much butter.”  Feel free to use olive oil, or less butter and a non-stick pan.  But I am not going to vouch for the end result if you choose to go this route.  After all, if you’re making 6 servings, that’s only a little more than 1 tablespoon of butter per person.  So live a little, and use the butter.)  If using onion (we’ve established that I almost never use actual onions, so I’m not sure how it will turn out this way, but probably pretty good, especially if a) you actually like onions and b) you’ve decided to use the whole stinking stick of butter)  add it to the butter and cook until softened and golden, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute, until it smells fragrant.  If not using onions, add onion powder to taste (about 2 teaspoons will equal a small onion) to the butter on low heat and stir thoroughly or whisk.  (I have to admit, I was going to add real garlic to mine, but I just did the monthly grocery shopping and my freakishly tiny refrigerator ~ by American standards, Barn, if you’re reading ~ was so full I was too overwhelmed to actually find my garlic, so I used powder for that too.  Go ahead, judge me.  I can take it.)  If you’re using raw mushrooms, you probably want to add them before the garlic.  It won’t hurt the onions to cook a bit longer if they need to, but garlic can become bitter if you cook it too long.

Add the beef to the pan, stirring well to coat it with butter, onions and garlic.  While stirring, use the end of your spoon or a spatula to break up the beef a bit.  Add the (canned) mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms and meat are heated through.  Season with salt and pepper if you want.  Turn the heat down to low and turn on your broiler (high), with a rack in the upper-middle position.
buttery, onion-powdery meat and mushrooms
Place the sliced rolls opened on a rimmed baking sheet.  Divide the beef mixture among the rolls.  Top with the cheese and broil until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.  (If your broiler is like mine, you want to turn on the oven light and huddle in front of the window ~ hopefully you have one! ~ until you see that cheese start to bubble.  You really don’t want to burn these luscious babies.)  Serve warm with a side salad.
ready to go under the broiler
out from under the broiler, somewhat melty...
If you look at that picture you can see that I could only fit 4 rolls on my baking sheet.  After I pulled them out of the oven, I decided I didn’t like the way my cheese (wasn’t really) melted and maybe I should try it the way I watched those guys in Jersey cook cheesesteaks on their grill.  So for the last two sandwiches, I put the cheese right there in the pan with my meat and mushrooms and stirred like a whirling dervish (actually, I don’t know if I stirred like a whirling dervish or not ~ I’ve never actually seen a whirling dervish and didn’t even know what they were until I Googled it just now) until the cheese has melted into the meat.

No need to broil, just pop that gooey succulent-ish goodness onto your rolls and you’re good to go.  If you want to be even more authentic, you can use a little more butter (hey, what’s more butter at this point, right?) to butter the cut (in)sides of your rolls and toast them in another pan (about medium heat, sort of like the outsides of grilled cheese sandwiches) until they’re lightly golden before putting on the cheesy meat and ‘shrooms.  You can also add green peppers or other stuff that sounds good, although in South Jersey, even the onions and mushrooms were optional.  It was all about the meat and melty cheese baby.
grill-melted, cheesy meat and shrooms
 A delicious (if buttery) quick weeknight dinner.
Silly Cheesesteak Subs
(adapted from Cheesesteak Subs – Quick and Tasty! at Mel's Kitchen Cafe)
makes 4-6 (depending on how full you want them)
1 stick butter
1 onion, halved and sliced into thin half moons – or onion powder to taste
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
12 ounces thin sliced Hormel Di Lusso Rare Black Angus Seasoned Roast Beef (or other thin sliced roast beef, preferably from the deli)
12 slices provolone
1 can sliced mushrooms (or sliced fresh equivalent), optional
4-6 sub rolls, split partially open lengthwise

Melt the butter in a large skillet.  If using onion add it to the butter and cook until softened and golden, about 8 minutes.  Add raw mushrooms (if using) and cook until they reach desired done-ness.  Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute, until it smells fragrant.  If not using onions, add onion powder to taste (about 2 teaspoons will equal a small onion) to the butter on low heat and stir thoroughly or whisk.

Add the beef to the pan, stirring well to coat it with butter, onions and garlic.  While stirring, use the end of your spoon or a spatula to break up the beef a bit.  Add the canned mushrooms, if using, and cook until mushrooms and meat are heated through.  Season with salt and pepper if you want.  Turn the heat down to low and turn on your broiler (high), with a rack in the upper-middle position.

Place the sliced rolls opened on a rimmed baking sheet.  Divide the beef mixture among the rolls.  Top with the cheese and broil until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.  Serve warm with a side salad.

15 April 2012

easter dinner

Yes, I’m late with this post, but only by a week.  I thought it was still appropriate, since most of these foods are still great for this time of year.

I love Easter dinner.  It is seriously one of my favorite meals all year.  I adore ham, love the cheesy potatoes, and there are so many lovely Easter “fixin’s”.  Plus my chocolate needs are completely satisfied.  That being said, I hate that seemingly everyone cooks ham with pineapple and brown sugar.  Yes, it’s true that I have 28 teeth and all of them are sweet, but strangely enough my sweet tooth (teeth) doesn’t extend to meat.  I’m one of those freaks of nature who believes that the foods on my plate should never touch, that it’s always best to save your favorite food for last (hey, that’s the taste that lingers on your tongue after the meal, right?), and that sweet and meat should never, never, ever be combined.  (I even go so far as to dislike sweet and sour, and even ~ gasp! ~ barbecue sauce, except in extreme circumstances.)

So now that we have that out of the way you might understand why I spent about an hour searching the web for an alternative to this crock pot ham recipes sauce of fruit chutney, dried apricots and onions.  Once that was done, I realized that I had to find an alternative to my crock pot too, since I was using that for the potatoes.  All in all I think I did quite well.  And judging by the way the food disappeared, so did my domestic animals.  Not to mention the extended barnyard family...  Here’s what our Easter meal(s) consisted of:

Garlicky Slow Cooker (or Oven Cooked) Ham
serves 8
(see the original recipe here)
one 3-4 pound fully-cooked black forest ham
2 teaspoons butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons white vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons parsley

Turn crock pot on low and place ham inside.  Or heat oven to 180°-200° and place ham in a roasting pan.

Melt butter in a small saucepan.  Whisk in flour until mixture is dark brown, about 4 minutes.  Add chicken broth and vinegar, bring to a boil.  Add garlic and parsley.

Keep boiling until mixture is thickened, about 3 minutes.  Pour over meat.  Cover and cook 6 to 8 hours.
Lightened-Up Slow Cooker Scalloped Potatoes
serves 12
(see the original recipe here)
1 cup plain yogurt or kefir (I used my home-grown kefir)
¼ cup flour
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon Chef Tess All purpose seasoning (or a Mrs. Dash of your choice)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
milk if needed
2 pounds potatoes (I used yukon gold, the original recipe called for red)
1½-2 cups shredded lower-fat cheese of choice (I used ½ cup cheddar and 1¼ cups mozzarella ~ I think I’ll try a little parmesan mixed in if I make this again)
½ teaspoon paprika and 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives for topping (optional)

Wash and thinly slice potatoes and set aside.  To keep them from browning, I sliced them into a large bowl of cold water and white vinegar (about ½ cup vinegar to 1 cup water).

Mix flour, bouillon, onion powder and seasoning.  Slowly stir or whisk in yogurt or kefir.  Add Worcestershire sauce.  Stir in just enough milk to reach a thick, condensed soup-ish consistency.

Drain potatoes and rinse well.  Pat dry.  Add the yogurt mixture and mix until all potatoes are well coated.

Spoon half of the potato mixture into a crock pot sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with ½ the cheese.  Repeat layer with remaining potatoes and cheese.  Slide the bay leaf down the side until it’s nestled into the sauce.

Cook on HIGH for 3½-4½ hours or on LOW 7 to 8 hours.  Serve topped with a sprinkle of paprika and chives.
Spring Vegetable Orzo Pasta Salad
serves 12-15

1 bunch asparagus, about 3 cups diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots, minced (I used a generous sprinkle of onion powder)
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces orzo pasta, cooked to al dente and cooled (I used 16 ounces)
15-ounce can artichoke hearts
1½ cups sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil (I used a drained can of diced tomatoes)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
¼ cup white wine vinegar (I used white rice vinegar)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil

Bring a medium saucepan full of water to a boil.  Turn off the burner, add in asparagus pieces and blanch for 2-3 minutes.  While the asparagus is in the water, heat one tablespoon olive oil in a small sauté pan.  Add shallots and garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, just until tender.  (I used this garlic, and onion powder, so I skipped this step.)

Drain the asparagus and rinse with cool water.

In a large bowl add cooked orzo pasta, asparagus pieces, shallots and garlic.  Drain artichoke hearts and quarter them, adding them to the bowl.  Add in tomatoes (with oil) and lemon zest.  Stir to combine.

In a small bowl or container, whisk together lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper.  While continuously whisking, slowly pour olive oil into the vinegar.  Once emulsified, stir the dressing into the salad.  Move to the refrigerator for at least 5 hours for flavors to combine.  Serve cold.
Lemonade Cupcakes with Raspberry Frosting
makes 2 dozen
source: babble.com
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
grated zest and juice of a lemon
1 cup milk, divided

Preheat oven to 375° and line 24 muffin tins with paper liners.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar and lemon zest with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to the butter mixture a third at a time, alternating with half the milk and half the lemon juice after each of the first 2 additions of flour.  Beat until just combined.

Fill the prepared tins and bake for 20 minutes, until springy to the touch.  Tip the cupcakes in their tins to help them cool.  Let cool completely before frosting.
Fresh Raspberry Frosting
1 cup fresh raspberries (or thawed from frozen) (I used about ½ cup of this)
1 cup butter, at room temperature
3 cups confectioners’ sugar

In the bowl of a food processor, puree the raspberries until smooth.  If you like, press the mixture through a sieve to get rid of the seeds.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter and half the sugar until smooth. Add the raspberry puree, then more sugar until you have a fluffy, spreadable consistency. Add a splash of water, too (a tablespoon or two) if it needs it.    If you like, sprinkle with colored sugar.

The ham was a big hit.  Middlest doesn’t much care for ham (how does anyone not like ham?  I just don’t get it) and so wouldn’t even try it, but everyone else gobbled it down.  Littlest especially loves “that pink stuff”.  (Pink just happens to be his favorite color, and he loves eating anything pink.  And yes, he knows he’s a boy.  He just loves pink.)  We used some of the leftovers last night for my mother-in-law’s famous ham and cheese croissants (one of my husband’s favorites, which his mother served at our wedding breakfast.  I’m definitely going to have to post that recipe.)  The potatoes tasted a little sweet to me, and although my husband and Middlest liked them (somewhat strangely, since Middlest isn’t usually a potato fan), Oldest didn’t.  I wonder if I got too much Worcestershire sauce in there... Anyway, I’ll still be looking for a great potato recipe. 

And that brings us to the pièce de résistance: the salad.  If you look at the picture at the top of my post, you’ll see neither the salad nor the cupcakes included in our Easter feast.  We had an extended family egg hunt to which we were asked to bring a salad and dessert.  Lucky me, a couple of days before Easter my husband’s sister just happened to bring us a bunch of fresh-picked asparagus from her farm.  Oooo baby!  Can I just say, if you’ve never had farm-fresh asparagus, you don’t know what you’re missing!  I cut up what I needed for the salad, blanched it, and couldn’t stop picking at it.  So I blanched the rest for our personal Easter dinner.  Added a little salt (which it probably didn’t need) and a little butter (to which Im admittedly addicted) and everyone ~ Littlest, my vegetable hater, included ~ enjoyed every last bite and went sniffing around for more.  Once we got to the party, everyone who tried it commented on how good the salad was.  I’m a big pasta salad fan.  I make it quite regularly in the spring and summer, and eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner.  I was hoping for leftovers, but there was only about a spoonful to take home.  My husband even said this was his favorite of all the pasta salads I have yet created.  Wonder if it tastes as good without the farm-fresh asparagus?  Hope I never have to find out!

06 April 2012

easy peasy creamy crock pot chicken lite

If you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that I’ve been crazy busy lately.  And on top of that I’ve been trying to lighten up our diet.  On that note, I decided to try lightening up one of our family’s favorite recipes that I call creamy crock pot chicken.  I just found out that (one of) its real name(s) is Cream Cheese Crockpot Chicken.  At least on the website I nabbed the picture from.  (Crazy busy, remember?  Didn’t even take the time to take a photo.)  I originally got the recipe from a church function, and my family really likes it, but with cream cheese and cream of chicken soup it was swimming in fat.  So I decided to try to lighten it up a bit by using Chef Tess’s  wonderful homemade cream of... soup recipe again, and here’s what I came up with.  Mmm.  Family didn’t even notice that the fat was missing.

easy peasy creamy crock pot chicken lite
8 ounces cream cheese (I used the real, original, Philadelphia, but if you want to go lighter you could try a low-fat version, or Neufantel)
1 package dry Italian dressing mix (I used this)
½ cup flour
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules (I used this - they have low-sodium, non-MSG varieties too)
2 tablespoons dry onion flakes (I used a little less onion powder)
2 teaspoons Chef Tess All purpose seasoning (or a Mrs. Dash of your choice)
4 cups low or non-fat milk
2 bay leaves
4-6 frozen chicken breasts

Turn crock pot on high and dump in the cream cheese so it can start to soften.  Mix the dry Italian, flour, bouillon, onion flakes (or powder) and seasoning.  Pour onto cream cheese and stir to mix.  Slowly whisk in milk.  Add the frozen chicken, and carefully place 2 bay leaves into the sauce.

Cook on high 4-5 hours or low 6 to 8 hours.  Serve over rice or noodles.

We ate it with brown rice (this is my brown rice of choice, but I can’t find it anywhere anymore, so I used this, and it wasnt a bad alternative) and broccoli.  (If you use brown rice, keep in mind that it takes a lot longer to cook ~ ours took an hour on the stove top ~ so plan your time accordingly.)  Everyone snarffed it up.  I doubled the recipe, planning on freezing the leftovers, but my husband ~ who hates leftovers ~ asked if we could eat the rest the next day.  Some days its not so bad being the cook.

05 April 2012

lightened up chicken divan

Yes, yes I do intend to keep blogging.  It’s been so long since my last post that I was starting to wonder myself.  I’ve been a little crazy, what with Oldest’s 11th birthday and then my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.  But I have to say I was pleased with how they both turned out.

This is Oldest’s cake.  He is obsessed with everything Titanic, and in honor of the one-hundreth anniversary of its sinking, he asked for a Titanic cake.  Needless to say my little heart fell.  I had no idea how I was going to pull it off!  But if you ignore the fact that the window gel ran (they were supposed to look like portholes, since I was too tired to make little yellow squares) I think I didn’t do too awfully bad a job.  He loved it and said it was the best birthday ever.  Yay mom!
And this is the table and one of the centerpieces from my parents’ party.  Due to a schedule conflict with the party planner I was going to hire, I ended up doing all the decorations myself.  So grateful to my brother and his wife for doing the food, the music and the video presentation.  I think they had fun.

Needless to say, with all the partying (not to mention the clean-up, put away and recovery) blogging just hasn’t been much of a priority.  To be honest, dinner hasn’t either.  But I found myself seriously craving my mom’s chicken divan.  Since my husband is trying hard to eat healthier ~ and the rest of us could seriously use some of that too ~ I looked up a couple of lighter recipes on the internet.  None of them were even close to my mom’s version, and not what I was craving.  Must have been the curry.  So I pulled my mom’s recipe out and tried to figure out how I could lighten it up a bit.  Thanks so Chef Tess’s wonderful homemade cream of... soup recipe this tasted... well, divine.

Lightened-Up Chicken Divan
20 ounces frozen broccoli
2 cups cooked diced chicken (I used this)
½ cup flour
2 tablespoons chicken boullion granules (I used these)
2 tablespoons dry onion flakes (I used 1 tablespoon of onion powder)
1 teaspoon Chef Tess All purpose seasoning (or a Mrs. Dash of your choice)
½ teaspoon curry powder
1 cup light or better for you mayonnaise (I used this)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
low-fat milk (I used 2%)
1 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella
½ cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cook broccoli; layer in bottom of casserole pan.  Mix flour, boullion, onion flakes (or powder), seasoning and curry powder in a medium-sized bowl.  Stir in mayonnaise and lemon juice.  Add enough milk to reach desired consistency.  Stir in chicken and layer over broccoli.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Mix butter and bread crumbs and sprinkle over top.  Bake for 30 minutes.

10 March 2012

pizza bites

I had to use the website photo ~ mine were gone before I could snap one!
Remember me mentioning that I was going to try out freezer meals this month?  Well, here’s the first installment.  The recipe says it makes 48, so I thought I’d have some leftovers to freeze.  Nope.  These were snarffed up so fast I barely managed to grab a couple for my own dinner.  I’m going to have to make a quadruple batch next time ~ while I’m home alone ~ so I can get some into the freezer!  Here’s the recipe:

Pizza Bites
makes 48

2 recipes pizza dough (or 2 cans refrigerated pizza dough)
8 ounces block mozzarella cheese
4 ounces thin sliced pepperoni
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning (combine oregano, basil, parsley, and garlic)
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
pizza or marinara sauce

Prepare pizza dough and roughly chop pepperoni.  Cut block of mozzarella into 48 cubes.

If you are going to bake some (or all!) right away preheat oven to 400°.  Grease 3 pie pans.

If using refrigerated pizza dough: roll one dough out into a large rectangle and cut into 24 pieces.  Repeat with 2nd pizza dough.  If using homemade dough just pinch off walnut sized pieces as you go.

In each dough piece place a couple pieces of chopped pepperoni and a cube of cheese.  Seal dough around meat and cheese and place seam side down in pie pan.  Repeat, placing approximately 16 dough balls in each pie plate.

Once assembled, combine oil and spices and brush over the dough.  Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Now you can cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze or you can bake right away.

When ready to bake: bake at 400° for 16-20 minutes.  Serve with warm pizza or marinara sauce.
This was all I managed to snap a photo of...
I thought about making my own pizza dough, but it was an “I’m in a hurry” day, so I used Pillsbury dough instead.  And although the recipe says to roll it out and cut it, I just “pinched” off pieces instead.  My bites didn’t turn out exactly all the same size, but no one seemed to mind.  I also used mini pepperoni rather than chop it up, and they turned out to be the perfect size.  And I used shredded mozzarella/provolone.  Next time I’m definitely going to use slices though, it was rather difficult to get enough cheese in, trying to stuff the little sticky-out bits into the dough.  Still, no one seemed to mind.  Mmm, pizza bites!

08 March 2012

skillet beef, veggies and brown rice

Steak!  I need steak!

From time to time my husband drags himself around the house like a man in the desert begging for water.  Only he’s not begging for water, he’s begging for steak.  I hold with the theory that most men are carnivores and chicken, or even ground beef, just doesn’t cut it after a while.  But my poor carnivore very rarely gets steak.  I almost never cook it.  Ok, ok, I never cook steak.  In my opinion, steak is something you eat at Sizzler.  It’s cheaper there than in the grocery store, and they do a much better job at cooking it than I do.  On the rare occasion that I find a good buy on steak, it must be cooked outside on the grill.  By someone other than myself.

That being the case, when my husband started begging for steak I had no idea how I was going to appease him.  We already spent our monthly eating out budget (and then some) so a trip to Sizzler was out of the question.  Then I happened on this lovely recipe.  I was saved, the steak monster was appeased (for the time being) and the little animals were satisfied.  This is definitely going into our family favorites recipe file.

Skillet Beef, Veggies and Brown Rice
serves 4
2 cups beef broth
1½ cups uncooked instant brown rice
2 medium carrots, sliced (1 cup)
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
½ pound beef top round steak, trimmed of fat and cut into thin strips
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup fresh snap pea pods, strings removed
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Heat broth to boiling in 2-quart saucepan.  Stir in rice and carrots.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer 6 to 8 minutes or until carrots are crisp-tender; remove from heat.  Let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook beef and onion in oil about 8 minutes, stirring frequently, until beef is brown and onion is tender.  Stir in cooked rice mixture, pea pods, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, just until pea pods are tender.  (Add a small amount of water to mixture if it becomes dry before pea pods are tender.)
Of course I doubled the recipe.  Should have tripled it ~ there was not a nibble left on plate or pan.  I also used white rice (jasmine to be specific).  I would have happily used brown rice only a) I was in a hurry (brown rice takes longer to cook), and b) I used up almost all of my Texmati and am reluctant to try “ordinary” brown rice.  Didn’t have anything to do with the fact that I love jasmine rice.  Really.  Nothing at all.

So, jasmine rice cooked in the beef broth with the chopped up carrots.  Seemed a little weird to cook the carrots with the rice, but they came out quite nicely.  And you know I didn’t use the onions.  Didn’t even use onion powder for this one.  Since I knew I wasn’t going to want to slice up steak I cheated and used some beef fajita meat.  Saved a lot of time.  And they come seasoned, so I didn’t want to overwhelm my family with flavor (hehe) so I didn’t add any of the seasonings either.  Just stirred the meat around in my pan until it was warm, threw in some frozen (yep, frozen) sugar snaps with the hot rice, warmed it all up again and we were good to go.  Gotta love convenience home cooking!  It tasted so good, and I didn’t have to worry about side vegetables ~ everything’s in there.