Monday, November 21, 2016

No Peek Beef Tips

It's no secret that I hate winter, mainly because I really dislike being cold. If I had unlimited resources, I'd keep my house at a balmy 73 degrees all season long. In fact, I have fond memories of the apartment we had before we bought our house. Our rent included heat and air conditioning and since the buildings were old they required us to keep the heat at 72 or higher in the winter so the pipes didn't freeze. We used to walk around the apartment in shorts and t-shirts. It was glorious.

But I digress.

This recipe for No Peek Beef Tips has been on my radar for a while now, but I kept putting off making it due to the ingredients. Yes, I'm a bit of an ingredient snob and the various powders and cream of soup didn't sound appealing. The weather finally took a nosedive this weekend and the cold and wind had me craving comfort food. I also needed something easy for Sunday dinner with my parents.

No-peek beef tips

I didn't tell them what was in this until after they'd tried it. It was raves all around the table before I came clean about the powders and cream of soup. We all agreed that it didn't taste processed at all, nor did we feel like it was overly salty. In fact, if I hadn't said anything they would have believed it was all from scratch. Score!

The recipe couldn't be simpler. I chose to buy a chuck roast and cut it myself, partially because it was cheaper and partially because the butcher at the supermarket told me the roast would be more tender. I replaced the canned mushrooms in the original recipe with sliced white mushrooms and the rest is just mixing and baking. The house smelled glorious as this cooked and we couldn't wait to eat. I served the beef and gravy over buttered egg noodles with some garlicky broccoli rabe on the side.

Even if you have an aversion to these convenience items, I urge you to give this recipe a try. I was pleasantly surprised and I know you will be, too.

No Peek Beef Tips
As seen on Mommy's Kitchen

2 1/2-3 lb beef chuck roast or chuck eye, trimmed of fat and cubed
12 ounces white button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 10.5 oz can cream of mushroom soup
1 0.87 oz packet brown gravy mix
1 1.25 oz packet Lipton dry onion soup mix
1 cup water

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Place cubed meat and mushrooms in a 9 x 13 baking dish.

In a large bowl mix the soup, gravy mix, onion soup mix and water together. Pour over the meat and toss to combine. Cover the dish tightly with foil. Bake for 3 hours. Remember, no peeking!

Serve with buttered egg noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes.
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Thursday, November 03, 2016

Three Cheese Risotto

I've been on a serious risotto kick lately. I've always loved it, but for some reason I'm finding rice so comforting these days. Like pasta, risotto is incredibly versatile. You can add so many different ingredients, serve it with meat or make it meat-free, whatever floats your boat.

I recently printed off this recipe for Four Cheese Spaghetti, but what I really wanted was risotto. So I figured I'd combine the cheeses and fresh herbs from the pasta recipe with my standard risotto recipe. The result was, in a word, outstanding.

Three cheese risotto

This time of year I can't take a good food picture to save my life, so forgive me for the less-than-stellar photo that accompanies this post. Just close your eyes and imagine if creamy, dreamy risotto had a love child with mac and cheese. That's basically what you've got here. We couldn't get enough of this one. Katie took the leftovers to school for lunch and practically licked the Thermos clean.

Three Cheese Risotto
Inspired by Damn Delicious

6-8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large shallot, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Bring chicken broth to a boil in a saucepan then turn down the heat and keep at a simmer.

In a deep, heavy skillet, melt the oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallot, garlic and Italian seasoning. Saute for about 2 minutes or until the shallot is tender. Add the rice and cook for another 2-3 minutes to toast the rice, stirring frequently.

Add the white wine and bring to a boil. Once the rice has absorbed the wine, add 1 ladle (approx. 1 cup) of the simmering stock. Stir the rice every so often, making sure to push down any rice stuck to the edges of the pans. Once the liquid is nearly absorbed, add another ladle of stock. Continue to do this until the rice is cooked but still slightly chewy. Taste the rice after about 20 minutes to check the consistency. If you notice you're running low on broth, add more to the saucepan so you don't run out.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cheeses. Season with salt and pepper, if needed. Add in the chopped herbs, stir to combine, then serve.
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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Restaurant Knockoff: Chick-Fil-A Chicken Tortilla Soup

I don't know when or how it happened, but I think it's time to admit that the concept of soup has grown on me. I used to claim that I wasn't a big fan of soup, but at some point I decided it wasn't so bad. The right recipes are not only tasty, they're also easy to make. I love a good one-pot meal as much as the next busy working mom, so there's something wonderful about throwing a bunch of ingredients together in one pot and having it turn into a delicious dinner.

Take this Chick-Fil-A Chicken Tortilla Soup. Katie's blog is a staple for me, so when I saw this recipe I immediately printed it off despite not really reading the directions. I decided to make it for Halloween dinner and figured I would need to chop up the chicken, saute it, etc. NOPE! You literally put everything into the pot, bring to a boil, simmer, shred the chicken and serve. What?! Yup!

Chicken tortilla soup

And the result was positively sensational. There's a mild heat from the Rotel and a silky creaminess from the flour and the half-and-half. I served plain ol' cheese quesadillas on the side and we all enjoyed dipping them into the soup. Such a great, simple weeknight meal that's chock-full of flavor. Thanks for an awesome recipe, Katie!

Restaurant Knockoff: Chick-Fil-A Chicken Tortilla Soup
As seen on So Tasty, So Yummy

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (10 ounce) can Rotel tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
1 cup frozen corn
2 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup half and half

In a large Dutch oven, combine the chicken through the oregano. Stir to combine. Whisk together the flour and water to make a slurry, then stir it into the soup. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the soup. Shred with two forks, then return the chicken to the pot and stir in the half-and-half.

MAKE IT IN A SLOW COOKER: Add all the ingredients (except the half-and-half) as outlined above to a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Stir in the half and half 20 minutes before you're ready to serve.

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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Pineapple Pulled Pork Tacos

I've mentioned this many times but my slow cooker and I do not get along. Thankfully, I work from home so I can still make delicious, slow-cooked meals like these Pineapple Pulled Pork Tacos. You prepare the recipe like you would in a slow cooker, but the meal cooks low and slow in the oven. The results are just as delicious, although perhaps not as convenient.

Pork pineapple tacos

The one downside to cooking dinner all day was the smell. Holy moly, did my house smell AMAZING. I was positively ravenous imagining how good these would taste. What drew me to the recipe in the first place was how totally different it was from regular tacos. We all love these flavors and the end result did not disappoint.

Pork pineapple tacos

The only change I'm suggesting below is to use a piece of pork with more fat. Steve was questioning why I'd cook a lean piece of meat like a tenderloin all day. I thought the pork was still tender, but it was a little dry. Otherwise we all loved these tacos. The subtle pineapple and soy flavor in the pork, the delicious BBQ sauce, the tangy, creamy goat cheese and the bright flavor of the cilantro and scallions. It all works.

The good news is, this makes a ton of food so leftovers are a given. I squirreled away the leftover pork and I'm planning to turn it into a pizza sometime soon - dough, pork and mozzarella cheese baked until golden, topped with scallions, cilantro and goat cheese. I. Can't. Wait!

{Slow Cooker} Pineapple Pulled Pork Tacos
As seen on PreventionRD

3 lbs pork loin/shoulder/butt
1 28-oz can pineapple chunks with juice
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Pineapple BBQ Sauce:
1/2 cup ketchup
3/4 cup reserved pineapple chunks
2 tablespoons apricot preserves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
juice of 1 lime

To serve:
6-inch taco size tortillas
cilantro, chopped
goat cheese, crumbled
scallions, chopped

If using a slow cooker, place the pork in the slow cooker. If using the oven, preheat to 225 degrees and place the pork in a Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the juice from the canned pineapple, the soy sauce, apricot preserves, garlic powder, and black pepper. Whisk to combine and pour over the pork. Reserve 3/4 cup of the pineapple chunks to use in the BBQ sauce. You can place the rest in the slow cooker/Dutch oven with the pork or save in the fridge to serve with the tacos. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Remove pork from the oven and shred the meat. Discard all the liquid and return pork to the crock pot/Dutch oven. Cover until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, combine all of the ingredients for the BBQ sauce in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth. Pour over the pork and gently mix to coat.

Serve the pork with the tortillas. Top with cilantro, goat cheese, and scallions.
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Warm Mexican Corn Salad {Esquites}

This is probably the fourth or fifth time I've made this Warm Mexican Corn Salad {Esquites} this summer, but I'm only just sharing it now because I never remembered to take a photo. Oops.


This is my new go-to side dish whenever I make tacos and for good reason - it's a very simple recipe to make. The hardest part is getting all that darn silk off the corn cobs (I HATE that stuff - so annoying). I've been using fresh corn, but I imagine frozen would work, too. We're getting to the tail end of corn season here in PA, so I'm sure I'll find out soon enough.

I made quite a few changes and omissions to the original recipe to fit our preferences and to use what I had on hand the first time made this. This is one of those side dishes we can't stop eating and always end up fighting over the leftovers. This is enough for the three of us, which means if I ever decide to share I'll need to double or even triple the recipe.

Warm Mexican Corn Salad {Esquites}
Adapted from The Barbee Housewife

2 tablespoons butter
3 cups corn, cut from the cob {about 4 ears}
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons minced red onion
handful of cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Chili powder, to taste
1 avocado, removed from the peel and diced
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn. Let it sit, without stirring, so the corn starts to brown. Stir every so often until the corn is brown in spots, about 6-10 minutes.

Let the corn cool slightly, then add it to a bowl along with the mayonnaise, red onion, cilantro, lemon juice, and chili powder. Gently stir in the avocado, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve warm or keep refrigerated until ready to eat.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Crazy (but delicious) Pasta Salad

I'll warn you now - the ingredients in this pasta salad are WEIRD.

Pasta salad

I'm always up for trying new things, but when I ran this one by Steve he looked at me like I had three heads. I suggested we try it out for Sunday dinner with my parents (they're such troopers, always being my tasters for new recipes). And then I remembered I had an appointment early Sunday morning so he'd be the one actually making it. I figured it was easy - the only cooking you have to do is boiling the pasta - and it would be a chance for Katie to help out in the kitchen. They were just getting started mixing up the sauce when I left and by the time I got home the salad was done and chilling in the fridge. And Steve admitted it was delicious.

Pasta salad

Later, when we served it to my parents, we all kept going back for another spoonful. I won't pretend to know why but trust me, it works. And it couldn't be simpler. This is definitely one of those side dishes I'm going to make again and again.

Allison's Best Pasta Salad
As seen on Taste and Tell

2 cups dry farfalle (bowtie) pasta
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups diced, cooked ham
1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
6 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cubed
1/2 cup sliced green onions

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve.

While the pasta is cooking, stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream/Greek yogurt, cider vinegar, mustard, sugar, pepper, dill and salt in a small bowl.

Once the pasta is finished cooking, combine the drained pasta, ham, grapes, cheese and green onions. Pour the dressing over the top and stir to coat. Cover and chill for at least 6 hours, preferably overnight.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks

A few months ago I came to the realization that I only like fried eggplant. Well, that's partially true because I also like Chinese eggplant with garlic sauce. Anyway, I've tried cooking eggplant in pasta sauces or grilling it, but I'm just not a fan.

Recently I was thinking about a recipe I'd seen years ago for fried eggplant stacked together with prosciutto and mozzarella cheese. I got it in my head to try recreating it, preparing the eggplant the same way I do my eggplant rollatini.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

The results were outstanding. Despite being fried, the eggplant is light without being greasy. The prosciutto crisps up nicely in the oven and the melty mozzarella is perfection. Steve (and Katie, for that matter, but she was away when I made this meal) like everything I cook. But it's rare for Steve to actually rave about a meal. But this one he could not stop talking about. I texted him the next day to ask whether the eggplant stacks reheated well and he said they did and that he was in love with them.

Eggplant garlic caper pasta

As you saw in yesterday's post, I served this alongside spaghetti in a light, flavorful sauce made simply with butter, chicken broth, lemon juice and capers. It was the perfect side dish for this meal. I had two small-ish eggplants and they yielded 14 stacks, which was the perfect amount for me and Steve. If Katie had been home we'd have been in trouble, so keep that in mind if you're cooking for a larger crowd.

And speaking of crowds, these were great warm or room temperature, making them perfect for a party. I ate mine with my hands when cutting into the prosciutto proved challenging. So, so good.

Eggplant, Prosciutto and Mozzarella Stacks

1 large or 2 small eggplants
3 eggs
1 cup flour
vegetable oil, for frying
extra virgin olive oil
1 slice prosciutto per stack (approximately 14 slices)
1-lb fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
Pecorino cheese, grated

Cut both ends off the eggplant, the peel the skin. Slice each eggplant into thin rounds (make sure you have an even number of slices). Place a clean kitchen towel on a baking sheet. Lay the eggplant slices on top, then sprinkle with salt. Flip over and salt the other side. Top with another clean kitchen towel and let sit for at least an hour. When ready to cook, pat the eggplant slices dry with the top towel.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pour 1/2" of vegetable oil into a medium skillet and heat over medium-high heat.

While the oil is heating, whisk the eggs in a wide, shallow bowl or pie plate. Spread the flour in an even layer in a separate wide, shallow bowl or pie plate. Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour, shaking the excess off. Dip the floured eggplant into the egg mixture, turning well to coat both sides evenly.

Add as many of the coated eggplant slices to the pan as will fit without touching. Cook, turning once, until golden on both sides. Drain on a rack set over the same baking sheet you used to salt the eggplant. Repeat the process until all the eggplant is cooked.

Remove the rack from the baking sheet. Lightly oil the baking sheet with the extra virgin olive oil. Place half the eggplant slices on the sheet. Top each slice with one piece of prosciutto and one slice of mozzarella. Top with another eggplant slice.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until cheese is melted. Top with some grated cheese. These can be served warm or at room temperature.

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