Monday, September 29, 2008

Taco Night! Good bye pre-packaged seasoning mix!

Tonight I made tacos using my own blend of seasonings. I decided to stop and measure/record each ingredient just in case it came out great and I wanted to blog about it. Now I am so glad I did! I highly recommend everyone try making your own seasoning. The flavor is much more rich and authentic. You can taste and appreciate each spice rather then just tasting a lot of salt. :)

In addition to our tacos, we had our "staple mexican side dish". Anytime we have mexican at home we include our house version of Chipotle's rice. Yum! Tonight I was lazy...but this recipe is even better with Basmati or a medium grain rice (rather then minute rice).

Homemade Taco Seasoning

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

For the tacos:

Set saute pan over medium heat and add oil. Once hot, place a finely diced onion (I use 1/2 onion) in the pan and saute until translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add meat (works great with ground beef, chicken, or pork) to the pan and cook, breaking the pieces up as they cook, until the meat is browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with homemade taco seasoning (about 2 tablespoons per 1 lb of meat). Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup beef broth to the pan and bring to a simmer. Cook the meat, stirring occasionally until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes.

*You can also add a couple tablespoons of tomato paste when adding the liquid (but Chris doesn’t like tomatoes)

Serve with your favorite taco fixings :)

Our House Chipotle Rice

1 cup packed cilantro leaves, chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cups quick cooking (instant) white rice
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Lemon juice (a good “squeeze”)

Combine all ingredients in sauce pan and cook rice as directed. Squeeze lemon over rice. Fluff with fork and serve!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Housewarming Gift....All the way from Alaska! And the "Homemade Boxed Cake Mix"

My wondeful friend, Deb, sent me a cake all the way from Alaska! Well...actually she sent me a beautiful, hand-painted mixing bowl by Pamela's Cottage. The bowl contained a cake mix, container of frosting, and a wooden spoon. This was such a cute gift! (Thanks, Deb!)

I decided to use this gift as an opportunity to share a "secret" I have been using for about a year to doctor up store-bought cake mix and frosting to make them taste more homemade. Once you try it you will never follow the directions on the back of the box again!

The More Homemade Tasting Boxed Cake Mix

1 box cake mix
2 eggs
1 stick butter
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (*or I substitute 1 1/4 cup milk + 1 tablespoon lemon juice)

Combine butter, eggs, and milk in bowl and mix well 1-2 minutes. Add cake mix and mix to combine. Pre-heat and bake cake as directed on box.

The More Homemade Tasting Store-Bought Frosting
1 container favorite frosting
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Mix frosting and sugar using a hand or stand mixer until frosting doubles in size.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Beef Stroganoff Pockets

Rice two nights ago....pasta last night....what's a girl to do when she has beef defrosting for straganoff?!

Chris and I eat A LOT of pasta and rice (which is fine by me :)) but tonight I decided to try something new. Inspired by my husband's love for crescent rolls...I decided to make a homemade "hot pocket" version of beef stroganoff. It turned out to be pretty good! This is my grandma's stroganoff recipe. I HIGHLY recommend it. We typically serve this over egg noodles. YUM!

Beef Stroganoff Pockets

1 pound beef chuck roast
1/3 cup white or red wine

2 ounces butter
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced (less if you wish)

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (10.5 ounce) can condensed beef broth
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 of a block (2 ounces) cream cheese
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

Directions for preparing filling:

Marinade beef in wine for 1-2 hours before cooking. Discard marinade.
Place butter, garlic, and onion in a skillet. Saute 3-4 minutes or until onion is transparent. Add beef and cook until brown. Combine flour, beef broth, and mustard in a small bowl. Add broth mixture to skillet and bring to just a boil. Turn heat to low and cook 40-45 minutes (to allow meat to tenderize and sauce to thicken). Stir in sour cream and cream cheese the last 5 minutes of cooking. Salt and pepper to taste.

Directions for filling and baking pockets:

If using right away, allow mixture to cool for 15-20 minutes before filling dough. If making mixture ahead of time, allow to cool 10 minutes then refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350. *Separate crescent dough into four rectangles. Firmly press perforations to seal. Spoon 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture onto the center of each rectangle. Pull 4 corners of dough to center of chicken mixture and pinch edges together firmly to seal.

Place sandwiches on an ungreased waxed paper lined cookie sheet (for easy clean up). Brush tops of sandwiches with 1 tablespoon of melted butter or margarine. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

*Keep dough refrigerated until ready to use. Work quickly to avoid dough becoming too soft.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hershey's Best Brownies: An oldie....always a goodie. :)

I recently made Hershey's Best Brownies for a co-worker's birthday. I did not make the frosting, but added 2 cups of Hershey's chocolate chips for some extra chocolaty goodness :)She loved much she took the photo for me (photography is a hobby of hers--great job, Jen!)

Best Brownies
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, melted
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350. Grease 9-inch square baking pan.

2. Stir together butter, sugar and vanilla in bowl. Add eggs; beat well with spoon. Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually add to egg mixture, beating until well blended. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Stir in chocolate chips (I gently stir, keeping most of chips near the top of the batter to prevent them from falling to the bottom or coat with flour)

3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares. About 16 brownies.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The "This is MUCH better then Filet Mignon!" Burger

These burgers were pretty good, but I'm not so sure I would agree with "better then filet mignon". This was my husbands reaction to these tasty burgers I made last night. Chris was unable to attend a Drug Rep dinner at a local 4 star steakhouse so I decided to make him one of his favorite meals....burgers nad fries :) And while I was at it I decided to continue to try and use up the left-over party food.

These burgers had an amazing taste and texture! No ketchup required :) And this is coming from someone who loves condiments and doesn't typically enjoy ground beef (me)!

1 lb. ground chuck or sirloin (I used 85/15)
12 Fire Roasted Tomato and Olive Oil Triscuits, crushed to a pulp :)
1/2 onion, divided
2 tablespoons worcestershire sauce
4 hamburger buns

Place meat in a bowl. Grate 2 to 3 tablespoons of onion into it—use a fairly fine grater so you get just the juice and very finely grated raw onion. Now mix in about 2 tablespoons of worcestershire sauce and some black pepper, to taste. Mix using hands (I wear rubber gloves because I hate touching raw meat) until combined- but don’t over mix/handle meat. It ruins the final texture of your burger.

Form into patties--Preheat a grill or a griddle. Divide the ground beef to 4 (4-ounce) patties. Each portion of the beef should be hand patted. Cook on the grill or griddle until the meat is done to your liking. Season with garlic salt and black pepper. Toast the bun on the grill or griddle

If desired, top with remaining onion and other fixin’s

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Our NEW Home and All the Fun!

It has been way too long since my last post. Life has been busy. :) At the end of June, Chris and I bought our first home :) This summer has been spent moving, organizing, painting and making the house our own. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun.

Last weekend was perhaps the most fun had in our new home so far. Chris and I hosted a Housewarming Party with 50 family and friends. It was a blast! Over a dozen kids running around certainly helps break in a new home! :)

Keeping with the theme of the are a few very simple appetizer recipes I made that everyone seemed to really enjoy. I look forward to posting many more delicious dishes created in my NEW, very own kitchen! :)

Buffalo Chicken Dip My Way...The Make Ahead Way

4 frozen boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper (to taste)

1 8 oz. block cream cheese
8 oz. Hot Sauce
1 green onion, diced
shredded cheese blend (if desired)

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Season frozen chicken breasts with garlic, salt and pepper. Wrap chicken in foil and place on baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour 45 minutes (or until chicken is no longer pink). Remove from oven and unwrap foil. Allow chicken to cool inside foil packet (leaving chicken in all of its juices). Shred chicken with a fork.

Place chicken (and broth from foil), cream cheese, hot sauce, and green onion in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Two hours before party begins, place mix in a slow cooker and warm. Stir occasionally. Sprinkle with shredded chese if desired.

This recipe is so easy since it can be made the day before and you don't need to thaw the chicken. You can easily make this the day you plan to enjoy it and place the mix directly in a slow cooker to heat. Serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Bacon Blue Cheese Ball

10 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
10 ounces sour cream
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2 green onions, diced
1/2 cup pecans

Combine crumbled bacon, sour cream, blue cheese, and onion in a bowl and mix to combine. Spoon mixture on to a piece of wax paper and form into a ball. Refrigerate until ready to serve, at least 2 hours (I refrigerated mine overnight). Just before serving, roll cheese ball in pecans to coat. Serve with assorted crackers and veggies.

*This was great with the new Roast Tomato Triscuits. But just as yummy when I ate the left over with Ritz crackers the next day ;)

Strawberry Cream Cheese Fruit Dip (By Grandma Ruby)

1 8 ounce block cream cheese, softened
1 single serving container Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk (a little less-to get desired consistency)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix with hand mixer. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. Serve with assorted fruit. Great with apples, bananas, cantaloupe, strawberries, and grapes.

*I've found adding a splash of lemon juice makes the flavor more intense. Yum!