Beef Fajita Dip

Back when I first started watching the Food Network, no matter who the cook was, they would always tell the audience to “ask your butcher”.  I’d sit in my living room and wonder what those of us who didn’t have a butcher to call their own did.  Then, I discovered Mary Anne and fell in love.   So now, I get to join those people who have people; people in their life who are just really good at things we aren’t.  One of the things I love about going to the same people every week for my meat is that they know me.  They know how I like my ground beef packaged and how I get the sirloin sliced for stroganoff.  They get why I love to cook and they always know just the right cut of meat for my recipe.  Another benefit is that the other people who are standing on my side of the counter are always friendly; we ask what they are making and swap ideas.  This recipe is the result of just that.  Saturday, I was ordering all the meat for 10 pounds of sloppy joes for Liam’s birthday party and the meat for our weekly menu when I started listening to what the lady next to me was going to do with her steak.  Her idea sounded so good, I got one too and made my own version of the meal had planned.  This meal fed us well.  It’s been 2 hours since I ate and I’m not even peckish.  Half of the meat went into the dip and the rest went into baked fajitas which I froze.  There’s a tiny bit of the dip left over… I hid it in the fridge; I can share at meals, but have no desire to share for a snack!
Beef Fajita Dip:
  • 2 1/2 pounds of sirloin steak
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 red and 1 green bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 can of refried beans
  • 1 Tbsp. Adobo paste
  • 1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 cup corn
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips
I seasoned the meat with salt and pepper and the cooked it on high in my crock pot for 4 hours.  The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender without heating up the kitchen all day.  Once the meat about done, I sliced up my onions and peppers and sauteed them in oil until tender.  Then, I added in the adobo paste, paprika and a touch of salt and pepper.  I shredded the beef up and added in enough to balance out the peppers and onions so everything was about even.  Then, I layered the refried beans on the bottom of a small casserole dish (I use canned beads still because I cannot make them myself to my taste just yet.), corn and meat/onion/pepper mix.  Finally, I topped the dish with the cheese, making sure that everything inch was covered.  I then put the dish in the oven at 350 degrees until the cheese had melted was starting to brown (I personally would have left it in longer, but when toddlers are hungry, they are hungry and they don’t understand the aesthetic aspects of cheese melting.), about 15 minutes.  I did top the dip with a little bit of sour cream and sliced olives.  It was excellent dipped onto blue corn tortilla chips.

This dish could be used as either an appetizer or a main meal.  It could be served as a dip or rolled into tortillas and baked.  No matter how you serve it, it’s a winner!

Lord of the Beans

 

Oh man!  Do I ever love baked beans!  In my early vegetarian days whenever I would attend a family picnic, the only thing to eat was generally the beans and the potato salad.  I would take a bun and generous helping of the beans and make a sandwich.  I’m drooling thinking of this.  Despite my love for the bean that is baked, I’ve never been able to quite get it right in my own kitchen.  Bush’s has made out quite well from me as I would purchase whatever was on sale and eat it straight out of the can.  Anyway, imagine my devastation when after the birth of Liam if I even thought of beans he would have horrible gas.  Horrible.  In these days of no longer breastfeeding and working toward introducing more and more solids to his diet, we’ve gotten reacquainted with the bean.  For the record, he hates hummus, but will tolerate a bean or two in it’s whole form.
As I type this out, a serious summer storm is bearing down on my home.  I’m planning dinner and it’s occurred to me that I still have beans in my fridge from Memorial Day.  The original recipe said that it would feed 18 people and she wasn’t kidding!  What makes this recipe so special is that they are slow-cooked for almost 3 hours, allowing for the sauce the thicken and the bacon to flavor.  You could easily leave out the bacon, but I can’t imagine why.  I chose to use different beans than the recipe called for to cook the bacon until crispy.  I’ve had this recipe both ways and both times I made a fool of myself going back for 14ths.  We’ll be feasting on the leftovers tonight with potatoes and my first attempt at homemade chicken nuggets.  Let it rain, I’ll have a picnic indoors!
Baked Beans (adapted from the Pioneer Woman Cooks) 
  • 8 slices of bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4-5 cans (15 oz) white beans
  • 3/4 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce (I still haven’t found a recipe I like, so we used a honey barbecue from the store.)
  • 1/3 brown sugar
  • 2 heaping Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup vinegar (she called for distilled or apple, but I could only find my champagne vinegar.  I couldn’t tell a difference.)
Fry up the bacon in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.  When the bacon is about 3/4 cooked, add in the onion and the pepper and fry until they are tender.  Drain the grease from the pan (if you like).  In a separate bowl mix together the sauce, sugar, mustard and vinegar until well combined.  Add the beans into the skillet and mix with the onions, pepper and bacon.  Then, pour the sauce over and stir.  Heat the bean through and then transfer to a large baking dish.  (I used my lasagna pan so that I didn’t slop 325 degree beans all over myself on my way out to the deck.)  Bake the beans, uncovered, in a 325 degree oven for 2 and a half to 3 hours, or until the sauce is like molasses in consistency.    
 
For your budding foodie: I only give my son a few beans at a time.  He’s now almost 11 months, so he can mash them up just fine, but I don’t like the results in his diaper if left to his own devices with the serving spoon.  That’s just me, though.

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Happy Mother’s Day to ME!

When I was a little girl, we always went to Skyway East for special dinners. Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Anniversaries, Promotions; you get the picture. Because I am such a creature of habit, I always (even now at 28 years old) would order the same meal. Deep fried shrimp with the salad bar and a twice baked potato. Skyway was one of those places when I was little where my brother and I were sure to be the only children in the dining room and we always had to dress up. I loved that they would have your name engraved on the matchboxes at your table and there was a cheese ball on the salad bar. But all that was nothing compared to the anticipation I felt upon ordering my twice-baked potato. I love the way the filling is creamy and cheesy and sometimes even piped in a nifty pattern. Over the years, I’ve made some fairly pathetic attempts at making twice baked potatoes or even purchased them from the (gasp!) freezer case, but nothing has compared to that memory. When Matt and I first started dating, I thought it would be fun to take him out to eat at Skyway. Not only was I disappointed to see that people now wear jeans there, but the waitress was rather snotty when telling me that they had “never” served twice baked potatoes in her 20 years of service. She’s wrong. I haven’t been back since. For Mother’s Day, I wanted beef brisket and potatoes. I got them. I made 8 potatoes, which is equal to 16 servings… all that is left from these potatoes are the 2 halves I put in the freezer last night. I might just hide them… they’re that good.

Twice Baked Potatoes

4 medium baking potatoes, scrubbed thoroughly and poked with a fork
3 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 c. minced chives
1 1/2 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
1 c. sour cream
2 Tbsp. butter
salt and pepper

Bake the potatoes for about an hour (or until a fork easily pokes into the flesh) at 400 degrees. When they are done cooking, allow them to cool to a comfortable temperature before slicing them in half lengthwise. Scoop out the inner flesh of the potato and mix it with the butter, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add in the sour cream, cheese, chives and bacon. You can either mix the filling together with a sturdy spoon or use a hand mixer on a lower setting until the potatoes are fairly smooth and all the ingredients are incorporated. Using a large spoon, scoop the filling back into the potato skins, mounding it nicely. (If you have time and a large enough piping tip, you can pipe the filling as a fancier option.) Once all the potatoes are filled, bake them at 500 degrees for 15 minutes. This recipe makes enough to serve 8 people.

I made mine the night before and refrigerated them over night, putting them in a oven for a full half hour before we ate. I made a double recipe and ate more of the potatoes than I ate the brisket. And that adorable baby? He ate a potato, brisket, asparagus, and his first taste of watermelon. All that and a few hours later, he demolished another potato. It’s a winner!
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Soft Sugar Cookies

This isn’t so much a new recipe as a revelation.  I love sugar cookies, but sometimes, I don’t want a crisp, iced disk.  I want something that is soft and a little on the fluffy side.  So off I went in search of that.  I’ve been fighting with recipes and eating far too many cookies, when it occurred to me last week while I was weeding.  What if I tweaked my Snickerdoodle recipe?!  I’m such an over thinker!  Good grief, here I’ve been wanting a cookie that is the snickerdoodle, just without the dusting.  Although, now that I’ve typed that out, I don’t know why on earth anyone would want snickerdoodle with out the dusting… Anyway.  Here’s another cookie recipe for you to enjoy!

 

  • 2/3 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Cream together the butter and the sugar.  Add in the egg, followed by the vanilla.  Mix together the dry ingredients and incorporate them thoroughly.  Lay out some plastic wrap on the counter and put the dough on it.  Form the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap the dough up and chill for 30-45 minutes in the fridge.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Slice the chilled dough into 1/4 inch thick disks and arrange them on a lined baking sheet so that they are not touching.  This cookie doesn’t really spread, so you don’t have to keep them too far apart on the pan.  Bake for 9-11 minutes.  Enjoy with a cold glass of milk.

Comforting Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Was your mom a cookie baker?  Did she perfect pies?  Or was she the go-to lady for cakes?  One would have thought based on the huge cookie jar on our counter that my mother was a cookie lady.  She was not.  She liked cakes.  Now, given that she baked them in a home with 2 teenagers, it worked out ok.  My husband works all day and really isn’t into cake… so it sits on the counter and taunts me all day.  I don’t bake cake all that often.  And when I do, I give as much away as possible.  However, cookies are not only safer, but you can hide them in the freezer adn forget about them.  I have always envisioned myself as the type of mom who would pack an awesome brown bag lunch with a neat treat inside.  Or the mom who always had cookies available for when friends came over.  Those cookies would cause my children and their friends to feel loved and safe in my home.  Our home would become a refuge and everyone would know where they could go, no matter what happened that day.  This is all beautiful and idyllic, but I do not have the innate ability to be that mom.  Mainly because cookies are out of my scope of culinary skills.  Matt loves chocolate chip cookies, but for the entirety of our marriage, I’ve made them mostly from bagged mixes or those horrible tubes of dough in the freezer case at the grocery.

I’ve been testing cookie recipes for months… the waistband on my pants condemns me on a daily basis.  If I am going to eat a cookie, I want it to be soft and chewy in the center and crisp around the edges.  I want it to be a comfortable size and not too sweet.  Matt doesn’t quite agree, but I’m the one doing the baking, so he can just eat the experiments and hope I decide to make the monstrosity he considers to be a serving size with the left over batter.  Also, in the case where there are bits of chocolate, I don’t want chips, I want chunks.  There is something about a rugged hunk of chocolate that melts in your mouth compared to a bit of uniformly shaped chocolate.  If I were the type to drink milk with my cookies, I think it would be perfect with these.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies:

  • 2 cups flour (you can use half white and half whole wheat)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 c. Chocolate chunks

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with either parchment paper or a silpat.  Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Slowly add in the eggs and vanilla.  Mix thoroughly.  Add in the dry ingredients until there are no streaks and everything is fully incorporated.  Then mix in the chocolate by hand.  Chill the dough for at least 30 minutes before forming the cookies.  Using a small ice cream scoop, take 2 scoops of the dough and form it into a ball.  Place each of the balls of dough about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets and pat down gently.  Bake for 15-17 minutes.  Makes about 2 dozen medium sized cookies.

Grandma’s Beef Stroganoff

As far as I am concerned, Beef Stroganoff is the ultiamate comfort food.  I never get tired of it and am currently drooling as I think of the rich, velvety sauce that accompanies this dish.  To be quite honest, I do not care what cut of meat you choose to use in your dish, I am here for the sauce.  Rich and fattening, I like it best smothering a bed of egg noodles.  

My grandmother made this dish regularly when I was growing up, but when my parents became vegetarians in the 90s, my father altered the recipe to contain only the mushrooms so that we could still use it as a staple dish in our home.  Grandma served it over buttered egg noodles, Dad over brown rice.  I always considered this dish something that was out of my reach until I tasted the aberration that Hamburger helper considers “stroganoff”.  I’ve made my own ever since.  I’ve made a few tweaks to the original recipe, but those are only to taste.  No matter how much I love what comes out of my kitchen, it will never hold a candle to that dish served by Grandma!

Beef Stroganoff:

– 2 Tbsp. flour

– 1 tsp. salt

– 2 lbs. beef sirloin cut into 1/4 inch wide strips

– 4 Tbsp. butter

– 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms (optional)

– 1 cup sliced onion

– 2 cloves garlic, minced– 4 Tbsp. butter

– 6 Tbs. flour

– 1 tsp. oregano

– 1 tsp. thyme

– 1 Tbsp. paprika

– 2 Tbsp. tomato paste

– 2 cans beef broth

– 2 cups sour cream

– 4 Tbsp. Port wine

Combine flour and salt. Dredge meat in the flour mixture. Heat the skillet, add the butter and melt it. Add in the meat and brown on all sides. Add in the onions, garlic and mushrooms. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the onions are tender. When they are soft, remove the contents of the pan to a plate and start the sauce. Add in the next 4 Tbsp of butter, melt and then blend in the flour and herbs. Add in the tomato paste. The sauce will be a coppery gold, thick and bubbly. Slowly stream in the broth and cook slowly until the sauce thickens again. Return the meat mixture to the sauce. Stir in the sour cream and sherry and heat through. Serve over egg noodles or rice. Serves 8 to 10 people.