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Dinner Menu: Enchilada Pie and Black Bean Confetti

We are expecting snow tonight, I’m hoping it be a quick, brief storm and spring will soon be in full swing and the green up will begin. I’m tired of brown everywhere. I should go out and grab some forsythia branches and force them indoors. If you’ve never done it, it can be a treat and it’s very easy. You cut a few branches, bring them indoors, submerge them in warm water. Under water, cut about an inch off the stems and they’ll bloom in a day or two. It helps if you cut the stems once or twice more, under water, to keep them soaking up the water. Now you’ll have a little bit of spring in your house. You can do this will pussy willows, too.

For this week’s dinner menu, this is one of my recipes from my kid-friendly series. It’s quick, easy and full of flavor. And I finish it off with banana sundaes, one of my favorite things, it takes hot fudge sundaes up a notch when you add sliced bananas.

On the board tonight:

  1. Enchilada Pie
  2. Vegetable Tray
  3. Black Bean Confetti
  4. Banana Sundaes

Enchilada Pie

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • 20 oz. enchilada sauce
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, grated

skillet & 8×8 glass baking dish, lightly oiled

Add beef and onion to skillet and cook until beef is browned and onions are translucent. Add spices and sauces; let simmer while you prep tortillas. Tear tortillas into strips and use some to cover the bottom of a well-oiled casserole dish. Layer a portion of the beef mixture and cheese on top, then repeat (tortillas, beef, cheese) to fill up casserole; finish with layer of cheese. Bake 30 minutes at 350°

Black Bean Confetti

  • 14 oz can black beans
  • ½ green pepper, chopped
  • ½ red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ to 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • Dash of limejuice

saucepans & large serving bowl or platter

In saucepan, add ingredients (except limejuice) and heat on medium. Toss with limejuice and serve.

Banana Sundaes

  • Half gallon vanilla ice cream
  • 2 bananas
  • Favorite chocolate sauce (I prefer Hershey’s but some prefer the thicker hot fudge sauce)
  • Walnuts, chopped into large pieces
  • Whipped cream (opt, and if you’re going to do it, it’s most fun using the spray can cream)

4 dessert bowls

Scoop ice cream into bowls. Peel and cut bananas in half, then quarter each half, lengthwise. Place four slices around the sides of the bowl, tucking down into the ice cream to help them stand. Pour a generous amount of chocolate on the ice cream and top with walnuts and whip cream.

Shopping List:

  • Vegetable tray fixins
  • Vegetable dips & dressings
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • ½ large onion
  • 20 oz. enchilada sauce
  • 8 oz. tomato sauce
  • 10 corn tortillas
  • 8 oz grated cheddar cheese
  • 14 oz can black beans
  • ½ green pepper
  • ½ red pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 stalk celery
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Half gallon vanilla ice cream
  • 2 bananas
  • Favorite chocolate sauce (I prefer Hershey’s but some prefer the thicker hot fudge sauce)
  • 8 oz Walnuts, chopped into large pieces
  • Whipped cream
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Dinner Menu: Tuscan Cod and Bruschetta

Melted Bruscetta copyright

When I was in Ventura County, just north of Los Angeles, we went out to dinner to a cute little fish diner, right on the water. The fish was amazingly fresh and I realized how much I miss it when I’m not on either coast. With that in mind, I went looking for one of my fish recipes. This one popped up and I thought it sounded spring like, so that’s how we got here.

When picking fish, make sure it doesn’t smell fishy, just fresh and like clean water.  It should be firm to the touch and any liquid should be clear, not milky. It helps to know your butcher, they’ll usually direct you to the freshest fillets. You should plan on using it the day you purchase it. You can substitute any firm white fish in this recipe.

  1. Tuscan Cod
  2. Bruschetta
  3. Broccoli
  4. Grapes

Tuscan Cod

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ diced red pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • ¼ tsp ground cumin
  • ¼ tsp crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 4-6 oz cod fillets

skillet

Heat 1 tbsp oil in the skillet, over medium-high heat. Sauté onion and pepper for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, cumin and crushed pepper, and sauté for 5 minutes. Remove from skillet and add remaining oil. Once heated, add fish fillets and cook 5 minutes, turn over, spoon sauce on top, cover and cook additional 5 minutes over medium heat. Fish should flake easily with a fork.

Bruschetta

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 French baguette, sliced in half, lengthwise
  • 3 roma tomatoes, sliced
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves
  • 8 oz grated mozzarella

baking sheet

Mix oil and garlic together. Lay baguette halves on baking sheet, cut side up and brush with oil mixture. Broil for 3-5 minutes until golden brown (watch carefully). Remove and top evenly with tomato slices, basil and mozzarella. Broil for 2 more minutes until cheese is melted. Slice and serve.

Shopping List:

  • 1 red onion
  • ½ red pepper
  • 1 tomato
  • 4-6 oz cod fillets
  • 1 French baguette
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 2 oz fresh basil leaves
  • 8 oz grated mozzarella
  • 1 bunch of grapes
  • 1 head of broccoli or 16 oz frozen

Also: cumin, garlic, red pepper flakes, olive oil,

Friday Recipe Exchange: Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

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Tonight is a bit hodgepodge. While I was away, faithful contributor, Joshua D (Yutsano) sent me two tasty recipes to share. I was grateful, because lately I feel like I’m walking on ice and cannot get my feet under me long enough to cook, much less blog about cooking. I’m sitting on a folder full of great vacation pictures and some fun food stories that I can’t seem to find the time to blog about. I struggled with tonight’s featured recipe, finally settling on lamb, but not sure where I wanted to go from there and then I remembered that JeffreyW has been working for quite a while on perfecting his gyros.

And there it was, I knew what I’d feature tonight. What’s on your menu this weekend? Anything new and fun cooking in your kitchen? Be kind and share your inspiration, so I can find mine.

Moving on to tonight’s recipes, starting with Joshua D and Cilantro Lime Hummus, recipe here.

From Ruemara, thoughtfully shared by Joshua D, Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese Soup, recipe here.

And if making a gyro loaf seems a bit too labor intensive, this Spicy Lamb Burger (click here) would work as well with pita and Tzatziki sauce.

Now the featured recipe, inspired by JeffreyW (pictured above):

Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp dried marjoram
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Food processor, loaf pan, baking dish

Ok, these are the general directions, but JeffreyW has been playing with perfecting the preparation, so click here and here for lots of step-by-step photos and his tweaks to make the perfect loaf.

In a large bowl, combine ingredients until well mixed and refrigerate 1 hour or overnight. Remove to food processor and process until a fine paste. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F

Place meat mixture into a loaf pan, pressing down on all sides. Place the loaf pan in the baking dish and add water to the baking dish to create a water bath. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove and rest covered with foil for 30 minutes. Slice and serve

Serve with:

  • Tzatziki Sauce (recipe below)
  • 4 to 6 pieces soft pita (not pocket pita)
  • Chopped fresh tomato
  • Finely sliced onion
  • Cubed peeled seeded cucumber
  • Mint sprigs

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 16 ounces plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
  • salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

Can I just say, thank goodness for Men Who Cook here at What’s 4 Dinner Solutions, I don’t know what I’d do without you  - TaMara

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Friday Night Recipe Exchange: Taste of New Orleans

Saturday Night On Bourbon Street

Saturday Night In New Orleans (October 2010)

I’m back from my most excellent week in Los Angeles and Ventura County. I have some great photos and fun food stories to share, but work has been non-stop since I returned, so I haven’t even unpacked my camera from its bag to download the photos. I will do that this weekend.

I was mulling over what to post tonight and realized Mardi Gras is coming up soon and I have a stash of recipes that would fit that theme.

My fall back recipe when I want a touch of creole is Washday Beans and Rice (recipe here)

A trip to New Orleans a few years ago gave me my first taste of authentic Beignets at Cafe Du Monde and Po’boys at Johnny’s, I liked the sandwiches so much, I hunted down some recipes, (click here).

Dinner was fancier, Trout Amandine with Creole Meuniere Sauce (recipe here).

I flew home in time to miss the rain, but managed to drive home in white out conditions. I am so over winter, how about you? What’s on the menu for the weekend? Any favorite Fat Tuesday recipes? Hit the comments.

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The featured recipe (pictured above) is from JeffrewW tonight:

Shrimp and Andouille in a Creole Mustard Sauce

  • 1 pound uncooked peeled deveined large shrimp
  • 1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning (recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 pound andouille sausage, cut crosswise on diagonal into 3/4-inch-thick pieces
  • 1 large onion, halved, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/3-inch-wide strips
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 5 tablespoons Creole mustard
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Toss shrimp with Creole seasoning in medium bowl to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add sausage pieces, cut side down. Cook until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer sausage to bowl. Add shrimp to skillet; cook until browned and just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Transfer to bowl with sausage. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, onion, bell pepper, and thyme to skillet. Sauté until vegetables are beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add broth, mustard, and vinegar. Stir until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Return sausage and shrimp to skillet. Simmer until heated through, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.

Creole Seasoning

  • 1/3 Cup Paprika
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Garlic
  • 4 Tbsp Onion Powder
  • 1/3 Cup Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 3 Tbsp White Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Dried Thyme
  • 2 Tbsp Dried Basil
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Oregano

Combine all ingredients and place in an airtight container.

Makes about 10 oz.

That’s it for this week. Until next week…. – TaMara

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Dinner Menu: Crispy Potato Chicken and Banana Foster Ice Cream

Shredded Potato Packet Final A while back I played around with Potato Encrusted Chicken and Fish. It is fairly easy to prepare, tastes great and looks very pretty on a plate. But it can be challenging and tonight’s menu offers a simpler version of the same style of chicken.  Perfect for a quick week night dinner. On the board tonight:

  1. Crispy Potato Chicken
  2. Steamed Carrots in butter
  3. Banana Foster Ice Cream

This recipe originally called for Dijon mustard, I am not a fan, so I always omit it, but I kept it in for this incarnation.  You can also add grated Parmesan or shredded cheddar to the potato mixture if you want to change things up a bit. Crispy Potato Chicken

  • 2-3 large potatoes, peeled
  • 4 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard (opt)
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • ¼ tsp ea. salt & pepper
  • ½ tsp fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ice water

2 bowls & baking dish (8×8), lightly oiled Shred potato, transfer to bowl of ice water. Rinse & dry breasts, place in baking dish and spread with garlic and optional Dijon mustard. Drain potatoes, pat dry and mix with oil & seasoning in bowl. Spread mixture over the top of the chicken pieces. Bake at 425° for 35-40 minutes, until potatoes are golden brown and chicken’s internal temperature is 185° This is a quick and alcohol-free banana foster, if you want the real deal, try this Alton Brown recipe Banana Foster Ice Cream

  • 2 large,firm bananas, sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp orange peel
  • dash cinnamon & nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp orange juice or pineapple juice
  • 6 oz sliced almonds
  • 4 cups vanilla ice cream

skillet and 4 dessert bowls Melt butter in saucepan, add bananas, sauté quickly until lightly brown. Add sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange peel and juice. Boil until syrupy, stirring constantly to keep from burning. Add ice cream to dishes, top with ¼ of banana mixture each and garnish with almonds. Shopping List:

  • 1 lb carrots
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 large, firm bananas
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp orange juice or pineapple juice
  • 6 oz sliced almonds
  • 1 quart premium vanilla ice cream

Also: butter, garlic, salt & pepper, fresh parsley, dried rosemary, olive oil, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg, optional: Dijon mustard, Parmesan or cheddar cheese

Cream of Chicken Soup, Now with Recipe

Cream of Chicken Soup2

I have a pot of this simmering on the stove as I write this. I wanted to make it a second time to see if I could make the recipe a bit simpler. Really couldn’t, so I wrote it as I went, to make sure I didn’t miss a step. I really like this soup, it has a very rich flavor, like chicken and biscuits. Mmmm….

Because I have a vita-mix,  most of the soups I make start with a thick vegetable broth. It gives a great depth of flavor. It’s chocked full of nutrients and anyone who knows me well, knows I don’t eat enough vegetables, so I do what I can to up my daily veggies. But you may not want to go to that trouble, so you can substitute 4 cups of chicken broth for the vegetable broth in the recipe below.

Cream of Chicken Soup

  • 1/4 tsp rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/4 tsp basil
  • 2 stalks celery (with leaves), rough chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, rough chopped
  • 1 cup cut green beans (I use frozen)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 chicken breasts (bone-in or boneless, doesn’t matter it will be shredded)

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  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups milk

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  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

saucepan, dutch oven or large saucepan, blender

In the blender, add rough chopped carrots, celery and green beans, spices, 2 cups of water and blend until smooth. Add to dutch oven along with chicken breasts and 2 additional cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Add diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper to the liquid and cover. Cook until vegetables are tender crisp.

While the chicken is cooking, melt butter in the saucepan, add onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent. Whisk in flour and cook about 2 minutes or more. Turn the heat up to medium-high, slowly stir in milk and bring to a low boil, whisking until thickened. Reduce heat to low. Cover and let simmer, stirring occasionally.

While the vegetables are cooking, shred the chicken. The easiest way to do this is to use two forks and pull across the grain of the meat in different directions. You can then use your fingers to break apart any large pieces.

Once the vegetables are tender crisp, whisk in the white sauce and then stir in the chicken. Cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve with parsley garnish.

Makes about 6 cups.

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Pastas and Sauces

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Last year I did a recipe exchange on meatballs (here) but was surprised to see I had never done one specifically on sauces. Now sauces can be risky and start a great debate, because every family has their version. So hit the comments with your favorite pasta sauce recipe, and for that matter, pastas, because there are so many choices. Like many things, I’m not all that concerned about the right pasta for the right sauce, I say, use what you enjoy and ignore the purists.

Food should be fun. For that matter, so should wine, beer and scotch.

So let’s start out with JeffreyW’s Awesome Sauce (here) because, well, it’s awesome.

Want something a little simpler and quicker? How about his San Marzano Sauce, here.

And his Shrimp & Pasta Formaggio (here) is quick and easy, also.

When everything is in season, I like to make my sauce with fresh ingredients, so I have a Garden Fresh Pasta Sauce (recipe here) that’s lighter and fresher than tonight’s featured recipe.

When it comes to pastas, I favor two options, a nice spiral (fusilli or rotini) or a quick cooking Angel Hair (capellini), but if I can get it fresh from the farmer’s market, I’ll take what I can get, which is usually a linguine. It’s all tasty.

For the featured recipe, I went with my traditional family sauce, the one I grew up with, but with a few tweaks. Now, even in my family, half of which are Italian, even the most basic sauce has as many different variations as there are cooks, so this is just a place to start, add your own touches to make it your family tradition. This is a hearty sauce and my go-to in the colder months when fresh ingredients are not readily available. I always double this and freeze half for a later dinner.

Spaghetti w/Meat Sauce

  • 9 – 12 oz pasta of choice (I like angel hair for this recipe)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp. crushed garlic
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (or 1/2 beef and 1/2 spicy Italian sausage)
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced (or 14 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tsp dried basil, crushed*
  • 2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp rosemary, crushed
  • 1 carrot, finely grated or 1/2 tsp sugar (these reduce the acidity of the sauce and bring out the spices – trust me on this one – I prefer the carrot, myself.)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • red pepper flakes (opt) to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese

2 saucepans and large skillet

In skillet, heat oil, sauté pepper, onion, garlic.  Add hamburger and cook thoroughly.  Add tomato paste and 1 tsp ea of crushed basil, oregano and rosemary, mix well.   In saucepan, add remaining ingredients and bring to a low boil, reduce heat, add meat mixture and let simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Cook pasta according to directions, drain well and serve with sauce and Parmesan cheese.

*CRUSHING Spices – when using dry spices, to get the best flavor, you should crush them, either by rubbing them in your hand or using a mortar and pestle before adding them to a recipe.

That’s it for this week. I know I still owe you a recipe to go with this delicious looking Cream of Chicken Soup I made this week. And if you missed it, here is the Dinner Menu and Shopping list for the week, Pasticcio and Salata Meze. - TaMara

Dinner Menu: Pasticcio and Salata Meze

I’m planning on making a cream of chicken soup today. I wanted a rich, creamy soup and that is where I settled. I haven’t made it before, so if it turns out, I’ll post recipe and photos. If not, you’ll never know it happened. LOL.

For this week’s dinner menu, I went with a recipe that was completely out of my experience when I first tried it. Cinnamon and nutmeg in macaroni and cheese? Never!  It soon became one of my favorite recipes because the flavors are so rich, layered and exotic. Paired with an equally flavorful salad, this menu adds a little Greek to the week.

On the board tonight:

  1. Pasticcio
  2. Salata Meze
  3. Chopped Apples w/honey & walnuts over ice cream

Pasticcio

  • 7 oz dry ziti
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp salt
  • 6 oz grated parmesan/Romano mix
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

saucepan & skillet

8×8 glass baking dish, greased

Cook ziti according to package directions, drain well. Sauté onions, add beef and cook until beef is browned. Stir in tomatoes & salt. Layer 1/2 ziti in baking dish; add beef mixture and then 1/2 of the cheese, sprinkle cinnamon over cheese. Add remaining ziti. Beat eggs, milk & butter together. Pour over ziti mixture, top with remaining cheese. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes, until center is set. Sprinkle with nutmeg.

Salata Meze

  • 8 oz green beans
  • 2 small zucchini sliced
  • 8 oz cauliflower crowns
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 red onion, sliced in rings
  • 6-12 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • lettuce leaves
  • 2 oz whole black olives
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese

saucepan & serving bowl

Add beans, cauliflower and zucchini to water in saucepan, bring to a boil. Simmer on med-low for 3-5 minutes until vegetables are tender-crisp. Rinse with ice water & drain well. Mix oil, lemon, honey & spices and toss with vegetables, including onions & tomatoes. Layer lettuce leaves in serving bowl, top with vegetable mixture. Garnish with olives and feta.

Chopped Apples w/honey & walnuts

  • 2 apples, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup honey (more as needed)
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • Dash of lemon juice

Add chopped apples, honey, lemon juice and walnuts to saucepan and heat until honey is melted and coats everything. Let simmer until apples are tender. Serve warm over ice cream.

Shopping List:

  • 7 oz ziti
  • 3/4 lb lean ground beef
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 6 oz fresh grated parmesan/Romano mix
  • 1 ¼ cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 oz green beans
  • 2 small zucchini
  • 8 oz cauliflower crowns
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 6-12 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small head bib lettuce
  • 2 oz whole black olives
  • 2 oz crumbled feta cheese
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • 2 apples
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Also: cinnamon, nutmeg, butter, salt

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Slow-Cooker Recipes for Busy Days

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JeffreyW’s Slowcooker Italian Pork

This has been a busy holiday week, so this is a quick and dirty recipe exchange. But first, I want to take a moment and thank all of you for the outpouring of love on the loss of my cat. They’re tiny, they’re furry and they really work their way into your heart. I cannot believe how much your comments and emails helped. You rock.

Now back to our scheduled recipe exchange:

This time of year I’m always looking for recipes I can have in the slow-cooker and everyone can serve themselves. My favorite is the featured recipe this week, Portuguese Beef and Pasta, which I usually only make when the extended family gets together.

Slow-cookers are one of the most versatile appliances in the kitchen, you can make a nice pot roast dinner, or recipes as simple as soups and stews. The best part is coming home from work or a day of holiday events and know dinner is ready to go and the house smells wonderful.

For recipes, let’s start with JeffreyW’s Italian Pork, pictured above and the recipe here.

Then something different, and a childhood favorite meal, Brunswick Stew, recipe here. (Posting this makes me smile, because the last time I posted the recipe, commenters informed me that REAL Brunswick Stew is made with squirrel. You’re welcome to substitute as needed).

And finally, a Chunky Vegetable Soup,  recipe found here.

What’s on your menu this weekend? Any fun holiday plans? I have a couple of things I’d like to do – Zoo Lights or Blossom Lights (at the botanical gardens) and the Christmas parade.  What are some of your favorite meals around the holidays? Do you have go-to recipes when the family descends?

I really like tonight’s featured recipe because it is very simple, but so very tasty. If I make it when the family gathers, I always double it. The recipe below serves 4.  This is a great recipe to make and let everyone help themselves when they are hungry. I toss the pasta with olive oil and put it in the refrigerator and leave the beef simmering in the slow-cooker on low for the entire day. They mix the two when they are hungry. I must say, the longer the beef cooks, the better it gets. It’s always a hit with everyone.

Portuguese Beef & Pasta

  • 1 lb round steak, cut into thin strips, remove excess fat
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced (reserve ¼ for beans)
  • 1 green pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 2-14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf (remove before serving)
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 8 oz dry macaroni**

Slow-Cooker and saucepan

Add beef, salt, pepper, onion, green pepper, garlic, paste, diced tomatoes, water, bay leaf & red pepper to Slow-Cooker. Cook according to manufacturer’s directions (usually 8-10 hours on low) until beef tears easily with a fork. In saucepan, cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain well (you don’t want any water in your beef mixture) and mix beef and pasta in serving bowl.

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Full Dinner Menu:Cream of Potato Soup, Orange-Walnut Spinach Salad and Pear and Sour Cherry Crisp

The deep chill set in last week and shows no sign of leaving, so it had to be soup tonight. I just made a big pot of potato soup from leftover mashed potatoes and a few whole potatoes I sliced on my new mandolin to help get me through the big freeze. I thought it should then be the theme for tonight’s menu.

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I’ve been eyeing mandolins for a while and settled on one that would be useful for how seldom I would use it. So far I really liked it. I did invest in a glove to prevent adding my fingertips to any meal prep. So between that and the new camera, I’m hoping to wow you with some pretty plates in the coming weeks.

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But until then, here is tonight’s full menu and shopping list:

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There’s nothing better on a cold night than Creamy Potato Cheese Soup.  I rarely peel potatoes, I scrub the skins thoroughly and that’s good enough for me. It also saves a lot of time and potato skins are full of good things. Yes, there is cheese, but milk instead of cream, and you can even use non-fat milk without noticing any loss. I threw the Pear and Sour Cherry Crisp in at the last minute, because to me, fall is all about fruit crisps.

On the board tonight:

  1. Cream of Potato Cheese Soup
  2. Orange-Walnut Spinach Salad
  3. Pear and Sour Cherry Crisp

Cream of Potato Cheese Soup

  • 6 large potatoes, cubed (peeling opt)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp ea: sage, rosemary, basil
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 8 oz cheddar cheese, shredded
  • salt & pepper to taste

Lg. saucepan (2 to 4 qt)

In saucepan or Dutch oven, cover potatoes with water and boil until fork tender, drain all but 2 cups water. Add onions, garlic and spices to potatoes*. In a bowl mix together  milk, flour, salt & pepper. Mix well, no lumps, add melted butter. Add to potatoes and mix well.  Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly, add cheese, reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

*A great trick is to remove about ½ cup of the cooked potatoes and mash, then add back into soup, this gives you an extra creamy texture.

Orange-Walnut Spinach Salad

  • 10 oz spinach, washed
  • 2 oranges, peeled, remove white skin & cut into chunks (you can substitute equivalent canned mandarin orange slices)
  • ½ red onion, sliced in rings
  • 1 oz bleu cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • Raspberry-walnut dressing

large salad bowl

Tear spinach leaves. Layer in a large salad bowl. Top with orange chunks, onion, sprinkle blue cheese and walnuts. Add dressing & toss before serving.

Pears & Sour Cherry Crisp

Topping:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)

Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture is crumbly

Filling:

  • 4 large fresh pears, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 1 ½ cups frozen pitted cherries, thawed
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¼ cup sugar

8×8 baking dish, greased

Combine pears, cherries, sugar, & cornstarch. Spread in baking dish. Top fruit mixture with flour topping. Bake at 375° for 25 to 34 minutes, topping should be golden & pears tender.

Shopping List:

  • 6 large potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 cups milk
  • 8 oz shredded cheddar cheese
  • 10 oz spinach
  • 2 oranges
  • 1 oz bleu cheese,
  • 4 oz chopped walnuts
  • Raspberry-walnut dressing
  • 1 stick + 3 tbsp butter
  • 4 large fresh pears
  • 12 oz frozen pitted cherries

Also: cornstarch, sugar, brown sugar, flour, oatmeal, cinnamon, sage, rosemary, basil, garlic

Originally posted November 2009

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