Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes


1 pound ground beef (we use 93% lean, but anything 80% or better should be fine)  
1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 small celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained (we used no salt added)
1 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (we used no salt added)
 ½ c. ketchup
 ½ c. water
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon chili powder
 ½ teaspoon dry mustard
 2 tablespoons cornstarch  (flour would probably also work but I haven’t tried it)
 Sprinkle of red pepper flakes (adjust to taste)
Healthy splash of Worcestershire
Salt to taste
½ tsp. ground black pepper
8 hamburger buns or crusty Kaiser rolls (we prefer Martin’s potato rolls)


Finely chop the bell pepper, onion, celery and carrots.  Combine in a bowl and set aside.  My husband objected to the size of the carrots – you may want to use a food processor if you have picky vegetable eaters.  The ratio of vegetables to meat is approximately 1:1.  The flavor is delicious, but to the extent you want a more traditional sloppy joe, reduce the amount of vegetables by half.

Peel, smash and mince the garlic; set aside.

Brown the ground beef in a large high-sided skillet over medium-high heat (I used a 4 quart braiser).  A dutch oven would also work (and may help contain the splatter).  If using beef with a higher fat content, drain the fat.

Once the ground beef is brown and crumbled, add in the bell pepper, onion, celery and carrots.  Add the drained can of diced tomatoes.  Stir to mix, and cook approximately 5 minutes.

Add the can of tomato sauce, ketchup, water and garlic, stirring until combined and an even consistency has been reached.

 Add brown sugar, chili powder, dry mustard, red pepper flakes, Worcestershire, cornstarch, pepper and salt to taste.  Stir to combine, and simmer over medium heat uncovered until thickened, about 30 minutes.

If you’re feeling patient, you can coat the inside of the hamburger buns with a little butter and brown on a griddle or in a skillet, but I was too hungry to try that.  

Place approximately ¾ c. of meat mixture on each sandwich roll and serve (with lots of napkins).  We served with a green salad, roasted potatoes and coleslaw for dinner.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Avocado Gruyère Wrap

I don't know that this deserves to be on a cooking blog, since there isn't any cooking involved. However, I get easily bored with sandwiches, and I'm never quite sure what flavor combinations will work well together. And, to be honest, by the time I usually get around to making a sandwich, I am too hungry to want to experiment with flavor combinations that might turn out to be horrific. So, it seemed like a good idea to share with you one of my favorite sandwiches.

There is no meat on this wrap. I went for years in school where my mother used to pack me soups, salads, or pasta for lunch because I really didn't like sandwiches or wraps. I am not intellectually opposed to lunch meat, but once I start reading the nutrition labels (the salt content!) and peeling it out of the package (it gets slimy!), I am pretty grossed out in practice. I do however think that this wrap would be delicious with some extra lunch meat added, or diced pieces of grilled chicken tossed in.

In the summer, I find that heat generally makes me not hungry. If I am hungry, I tend not to want to cook; I want what I'm eating to be quick, easy, light, and chilled, if possible. In this triple digit heat with air you could probably slice, plate, and serve, the less my oven and stove are on the better. This wrap has been one of my staples over the past few weeks. It meets all of the above criteria, transports well, and is not hard to do. 

Avocado Gruyère Wrap

1/2 small avocado
2 Tbsp. sweet onion, diced
2 oz. Gruyère, diced
1 tsp. ranch dressing
1 whole wheat flour tortilla, fajita size

Place the tortilla on the plate.  Scoop out the flesh of one half of an avocado onto the tortilla, using the knife to mash it up a bit.  Add in the onion, cheese, and ranch dressing.  Use a spoon to mash/stir until everything is well blended.  Wrap up the tortilla; slicing is optional.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

As you can see, these are not your every-day breakfast, but they are good for the occasional decadently indulgent weekend, even if I forgot to snap photos of them glazed.  I LOVE cinnamon rolls.  Unfortunately, it's surprisingly hard to find a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth basic recipe that is feasible to do.  I don't know if it's just because people buy cinnamon rolls now-a-days, or if it's because coffee cake has occupied the field, or what, but I finally settled on a recipe that is both practical and feasible. 

The trick to these cinnamon rolls is that you make them the night before.  They still have to rise in the morning, but the timing is such that it is not impractical.  I first made these the night before my graduation from law school.  My mother spent the night, naturally grumbling about how she could just run to the store and pick up a can of them so I wouldn't have to be using the stand mixer at 11:00 p.m. when she was trying to sleep.  My father and sisters were coming up no later than 7:30 a.m. the next morning, and if I were them, I would want coffee and hot delicious breakfast waiting, not from a refrigerated can.  They got such pampering.  Unfortunately, due to a dress snafu (who knew bloating could cause one to go up an entire dress-size?), I only got one bite before I had to run out the door to make it to the Lawn.  While standing around waiting for the ceremony to begin, I probably should have been reflecting on how far I'd come.  Instead, all I could think about was the deliciousness my family was enjoying without me. 

I was determined to make these again, so that I might actually get to eat them.  Fortunately, while house and dog sitting for my mother last month, I scheduled a puppy play date with a friend.  I came bearing cinnamon rolls, she made coffee cake, and we had a lovely brunch while the dogs played in her backyard. 

The recipe is originally borrowed from Our Best Bites.  I changed a few of the proportions for both ease of cooking and taste.  Her dental floss trick for cutting them proved to be invaluable.

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls

1 package active dry yeast (about 1 Tbsp.)
1/2 c. warm water (105 F)
4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. Kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, softened
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

1 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

In the bowl of the stand mixer, pour the water and sprinkle the yeast over it.  Let it stand for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is bubbly and foamy.  Whisk (by hand) until smooth, and whisk in 1/2 cup flour.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let the mixture stand in a warm, draft-free place for about 30 minutes.  I usually set a pan of hot water on the counter, place a wire cooling rack perpendicular to the 9x13 pan, and place the bowl on top of the rack. 

Attach the mixer bowl to the stand mixer. Add the sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla, and stick of softened butter.  Add the remaining 4 cups of flour.  With the dough hook, knead the dough until it is smooth, for about 10-12 minutes.  Set a timer.  You will want to stop mixing before that because the dough briefly comes together.  Then you will think it will never come together as it starts sticking to the sides of the bowl again.  But somewhere around 11 minutes and 30 seconds, the dough magically stops sticking to the sides of the bowl and comes together in a smooth, supple ball that you can tell even by looking at it is going to produce tender and airy rolls. 

Grease (or Pam) a large glass bowl.  Pull and tuck the dough into a ball, place it upside-down in the bowl, and then flip the dough so that the top is now greased.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap (you may want to give the underside of the plastic wrap a quick spray too), and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.  I use the same wire rack over a pan of hot water trick as above, occasionally replacing the water when it cools. 

When the dough is nearly doubled, start making your filling.  In a bowl, beat on medium speed the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon until fluffy and combined, about 1 minute.  You will find that it is the consistency of a thick (and grainy) paste. 

Next, butter your pan.  I have used a 9x13, a 9 inch tart pan combined with a 9x9 pan, and several oval casserole dishes.  Use whatever you think will best hold 10-15 cinnamon rolls in the way you want to serve them. 

Punch down your dough, and put it on a large floured work surface.  I frequently use a floured silicone mat or the back of a placement.  Roll the dough out (I found that a French-style silicone rolling pin is most effective) into a 10x15 rectangle.  Using a spatula, glop the filling onto the dough and spread it out to the edges.  Tightly roll the dough up lengthwise. 

Using the dental floss tip from Our Best Bites here, slice your rolls into appropriate sizes, depending on your audience and the number you intend to bake.  Arrange the slices in your pan (or pans, as the case may be).  Brush the tops with the melted butter.  You may want to sprinkle a little extra cinnamon over the top (personal preference).  Cover your pans with plastic wrap (grease the underside first) and let rise in the fridge overnight. 

In the morning, take the pans out of the fridge and let rise in a warm spot (the back of the preheating oven, or the wire rack over your pan of warm water) for about an hour.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.  While they are cooling in the pan, mix the glaze ingredients in a small bowl and then pour over your rolls.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Barbeque Blue Potatoes

So, I don't have a photo for you because my latest obsession really would not photograph well.  I, frankly, make it a point not to look too hard at the bowl when I eat these, because the result is not aesthetically pleasing.  If I shared a photograph, you might be too unenthused to ever try these, and that, my friend, would be a serious mistake.  However unappealing the aesthetics, the taste is phenomenal.

The first time these came into being was a happy accident; I like barbeque sauce on my potatoes anyways, and a little bit of the gorgonzola from my steak had toppled onto the potatoes.   The second time, it was intentional.  And, well, we won't go into how many times after that because, really, you don't need to know.

Barbeque Blue Oven Potatoes

2 large baking potatoes
1 medium sweet onion
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt & pepper
Barbeque sauce
Gorgonzola crumbles

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  You can peel or not peel the potatoes; for me that depends on how thick/eye-ridden the skins are and how hungry I am (peeling takes time).  Chop the potatoes into about 1/2 inch chunks.  Place in a single layer in a jellyroll pan.  Mince your onion.  Spread it on top of the potatoes.  Drizzle the olive oil and sprinkle the salt and pepper over the top, and then give everything a good mix with your hands.  Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until fork-tender, stirring once about halfway through.  Top with barbeque sauce and gorgonzola crumbles then stir.  Close your eyes (barbeque sauce over potatoes and onions isn't the prettiest thing), take a bite, and realize that it's totally worth not looking at for those flavors to melt together on your tongue.

Creamy Ravioli

I can't believe it has almost been a month since I made these.  The sheet of paper I jotted the recipe down on has practically been crumpled beyond recognition after a month in the behemoth I like to call a purse.  That's just the way life has been these days.

Most people, after finishing up a grueling final year of law school (and yes, I'm aware I did something wrong somewhere because it was not supposed to be that way), would go out drinking, or, more likely, pass out for a week-long nap.  I decides I wanted real food.  Real food, as in something other than peanut butter on a honey wheat english muffin, crackers and cheese, or cereal (my I'm too tired to care what I eat staples). 

Starving, I dug around in my kitchen to find that I hadn't purchased real food in weeks.  But, in the back of my freezer, underneath the soup I didn't really want either, I found a package of Asparagus & Gruyere Ravioli I had picked up from Costco back when my subconscious knew there would come a day that I needed a delectable meal of minimum fuss.  Those sound really heavenly, right? 

Any sane, rational person would have tossed the ravioli in some butter or olive oil, probably with a sprinkle of parmesan, and called it delicious.  I was not so lucky.  Instead, I made this delectable sauce that turned delicious into heavenly.  The sauce makes the ravioli melt into your mouth, and adds that extra punch of flavor that pushed these over the edge. 

Creamy Ravioli

1 package ravioli, ~ 9 oz.
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
2 c. 2% milk
1/2 c. grated parmesan
salt & pepper

Cook the ravioli as the package directs.  In a small saute pan, heat the oil until it is shimmery and a drop of water skitters and pops across the pan.  Add the onion and garlic, and saute until translucent and softened, approximately 20 minutes. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.  Once it is melted and hot, whisk in the flour, and cook, continuing to whisk, until the mixture is bubbly and lightly brown, approximately 2-3 minutes.  While whisking, slowly and evenly pour the milk into the roux, so that the roux is fully incorporated into the milk rather than becoming chunky.  Add the onion and garlic to the milk.  Continue to cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened and begins to boil, approximately 5-7 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, and whisk in the parmesan.  Add salt and pepper to taste; pour over the ravioli.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Nutty Goat Cheese Penne

I had this recipe saved for a long time in one of my many "recipes to try" collections. At first, it sounds kind of crazy: who puts nuts in pasta? I mean, I suppose pine nuts go in pesto, and sometimes you'll find them in pasta primavera mixes, but who puts walnuts in pasta?  Then I thought about how much I love cashews on my salads.  Seriously, if you've never tried it, swap the bag of croutons for two tablespoons of cashews and finely mince them on a cutting board before topping your salad with them. Delicious.  You may never eat croutons again.  So, a few weeks ago (perhaps several months at this point), I decided to give this recipe a try.

Nutty Goat Cheese Pasta (from Good Housekeeping)

1 box pasta (~14.5 oz.)*
1 pound frozen peas
1 tsp. garlic salt
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
6 oz. goat cheese, softened
1 c. reserved pasta water (since I frequently forget if it's not in the ingredients list)
Salt and pepper

*I used penne, because that's what I keep in my house (if you hadn't already figured that out). The original recipe called for shells. I really like this with the Barilla Plus pasta, because it has a slightly nutty flavor to it that really melds with the walnuts.

Fill a saucepan or stockpot with water and heat to boiling. Add a teaspoon of garlic salt to the water once it is boiling. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Add the peas when there are two minutes left so that they cook in the water with the pasta. Remember to reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized skillet, heat the olive oil until it is shimmery and a droplet of water skitters across the pan.  Saute the garlic and walnuts until toasted and golden. They should smell delicious. Stir in a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

Remember to reserve your pasta water (are you sensing a theme?). Return the drained pasta and peas to the pot.  Stir in the cup of pasta water, the goat cheese, salt, and pepper. I find that the goat cheese melts more easily if you stir it in as chunks or dollops rather than the entire log. Top with the garlic and walnut mixture. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Slutty Brownies

I first ran across these brownies on Pinterest, and ultimately asked my sister to try making Gaby Dalkin's iteration from her blog What's gaby Cooking for our Easter dessert.  This is what our version (really my sister's, I was busy cooking other things, or studying, one of the two) of Gaby's looked like:

They were, in a word, to-die-for (hyphens totally make it one word).  For interested parties, the platter is a hand-crafted piece from Hawksbill Pottery

A few notes on Gaby's recipe.  My sister forgot that you only needed half the cookie dough.  As stand alone chocolate chip cookies, I didn't find them terribly appetizing (by which I mean when I only have so many calories to blow on sweets, I want every bite to be out-of-this-world, and that they were not), so I would suggest only making half of the chocolate chip cookie dough recipe she includes.  My sister also used double-stuffed Oreos, which I only realized after making my version below, and I think double-stuffed is the better choice.  Finally, Gaby's recipe only makes a 9x9 pan.  These are very rich, but they are very popular, so you may need more than that if you are feeding even a moderately sized crowd.  

Loving these so much, but wanting to shave some time off of them, I decided to substitute boxed brownie mix for the brownies and my Nestle Toll House recipe for the cookie dough, since I know that one by heart and could probably do it while half asleep.  These are what mine looked like when I made them a few weeks ago before finals (note that I only used regular Oreos; I won't be repeating such a mistake in the future):

All in all, if you have the time, I would go ahead and make Gaby's.  If you're looking for something still pretty awesomely tasty but just a little easier, try mine below.

Easier Slutty Brownies (makes one 9x9 and one 9-inch pie pan*)

Brownie Mix
1 box Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie Mix**
1/4 c. water
2/3 c. vegetable oil
2 eggs

2 pkg. Double-Stuffed Oreos

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (Nestle Toll House but with more chips)
1 c. (two sticks) butter, softened
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 c. chocolate chips

* You could probably do both of them in a 9x13 pan.  However, I intended to freeze one of my pans, and I find that splitting the recipe into two pans so that one goes immediately into the freezer once they're cooled leaves me a happier (and skinnier) person. 

** This is my favorite brownie mix of all time.  My mother is vaguely concerned that I can taste the differences between brownie mixes, but there you have it.  Also, I bet these would be amazing if you used the Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie (my second favorite mix) and dark chocolate chips.

Preheat the oven to 350F.  First things first, do yourself a favor.  Line your two pans with heavy duty aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray.  This will accomplish two things: (1) it makes it easier to cut them when they're done and (2) it makes it easy to freeze them without having to freeze your pan.

Start with the chocolate chip cookie dough.  Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Stir in the vanilla.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.  In a small separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture (I usually do it in thirds or quarters), beating well after each addition.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Spread your dough in the bottom of your two pans, using your fingers to flatten it out and press it into the edges.

Next, layer your Oreos over the cookie dough, edges slightly touching, and lightly press them into the dough.

Using a fork (or an awesome batter whisk), mix together the brownie mix, water, oil, and eggs until smooth and free of lumps.  Pour over the Oreos in both pans until they are covered.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.   

To Freeze: Let cool in pan until both the brownies and the pan are cool.  Place the pan with the brownies in it in the freezer (uncovered is fine) for about 1 hour, just to get the brownies nice and firm.  Lift the foil-wrapped block of brownies out of the pan.  Securely wrap in plastic wrap, followed by another layer of foil, and place in a gallon-sized Ziploc freezer bag.  Freeze until you finish the first pan (or longer if you're a better person than me).