Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Crock Pot Italian Beef

Just in time for the Super Bowl, let me present to you some of the best crock pot meat you will ever have: Italian Beef -- made only the way an American from the Midwest can make it! Having been raised in Wisconsin and having lived in Minnesota for nearly twenty years doesn’t exactly make me an expert on Italian food. Heck—I’d wager a bet that they don’t even know of a recipe like this over in Italy (I’m sure my friend, Michele, from My Italian Grandmother will set me straight, Ha Ha). In the mean time, put aside those preconceived notions, haul out your crock pot and put together this simple, but very tasty, meaty treat.

I got this recipe from a co-worker about 3 or 4 years ago and I’m sure it has made its way around the potluck circuit, but whenever I make it at home, it elicits many satisfactory groans. Even my vegetarian, Taylor, admitted that it smelled sooo good!

Crock Pot Italian Beef

1 3-4 lb. rump roast
1 small jar of beef gravy
1 jar of water
1 envelope Au Jus mix
1 envelope Italian dressing mix

Place all ingredients in a crock pot and set to medium-low heat.

Egads--I don't want to think about the sodium content!

Not the most appetizing gets better, I promise...

Allow meat to cook for 12-18 hours. Pull the meat from the crock pot and shred or thinly slice and place back in the gravy. Serve on crusty rolls or soft hoagy rolls and top with banana peppers or spicy pickle slices. Alternately, pile some of it on white bread, serve it with mashed potatoes and smother it with the gravy. Or stand over the crock pot with a fork and shovel it your mouth.

Seriously, does it get any better?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Veggie Burgers and Crunchy Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

Everything in moderation….

I’m trying to lose a few pounds. But, I like to eat. So, instead of going on a diet, I’ve decided to cut back a smidge. Trim a little here and a little there—it’s bound to make a difference, right? I think it’s called a lifestyle change. Yeah—I’ve done it before and lost 50 pounds in the process, but I’m thinking it won’t be quite as easy this time. Since I can’t (or should I say won’t) give up everything that I like to eat. My new motto: everything in moderation.

It helps that the other members of my family are hell bent on healthy eating. We been hanging out in the natural foods section of the grocery store and finding out that food that is good for you actually tastes pretty good (for the most part). I have found, for instance, that I really like hummus. Who knew chick peas could be so tasty? More on that later…

Tonight Pete was craving a hamburger. After much perusing in the grocery store, we decided on a veggie burger instead. The one we chose was a Morning Star brand “Turkey” burger. Hmmm…a veggie burger pretending to be a turkey burger? It didn’t make much sense, but it was made out of tomatoes and avocados---yum! I ended up buying just one hamburger bun since Pete didn’t want one and I didn’t want a whole bag to go to waste. Luckily, there was just one lonely bun left in the bin and it looked really good. A little crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, sesame seeds, whole wheat—it was perfect!

Once I got home and commenced to making our burgers, I decided we needed something to go with them. Pete really wanted potatoes of some kind so I ended up quartering a few russet potatoes, boiling them until they were just fork tender and smashing them on a cookie sheet with just a little olive oil (if this looks familiar, I got the idea from The Pioneer Woman's Crash Hot Potatoes-- I just used russet potatoes instead of red potatoes and I topped mine with onions) In the mean time, I cut up two large onions (I heart onions) sprinkled them with a tiny bit of sugar and sautéed them in a little olive oil for about 20 minutes. Then I topped the potatoes with the onions (saving some for the burgers), some parmesan cheese and some steak seasoning (it’s mostly pepper, garlic and salt).

I baked them in a 450 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until the tops of the potatoes were crunchy and the onions browned. I actually have a “speed bake” option on my oven that I used---it blows hot air over the food while it’s baking.

Now, you have to admit that the crunchy bits of parmesan cheese and onions baked on the bottom of the pan are the best part of this...

Then, I put my burger together. Pete was on his own at this point---that bun was mine! Actually, the bun kind of dwarfed the burger, so I had to top it with a few things to even it out.  A little cheese, some more of the caramelized onions, some catsup, mustard and pickles....I'm getting hungry again, just thinking about it!

And there you have it. Craving solved in a most delicious and somewhat healthier way. Now if only I could motivate myself into dusting off  the elliptical.....

And before I forget...check out my new header! Isn't easier to read? A big thank you to my new friend and fellow Bake-Off® Finalist, Laura Stanke for fixing it up for me. You can find Laura at her very cute blog  Ohmydoodle.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Million Dollar Peanut Butter Cookies

Since the Pillsbury Bake-Off® has been such a big part of my life lately, I’ve decided to make a few of the finalist’s recipes. Before I do that, though, we are going to go back to the last Bake-Off®, in 2008, and get a little inspiration from the winning recipe, Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies.

Now I remember when this cookie won, it got a lot of flack. A million dollars for a peanut butter cookie? How could that be? Well, I am here to tell you that that cookie is worth every dime. It is genius---a crunchy peanut butter cookie with a creamy filling, rolled in cinnamon sugar. The only problem is that I can’t always find the refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough at the store. So leave it to me to make an easy recipe more complicated. Here is my version of Carolyn Gurtz’s Double-Delight Peanut Butter Cookies:

Million Dollar Peanut Butter Cookies
Printable Recipe
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375º F.  In small bowl mix sugar and cinnamon; set aside (The original recipe has chopped peanuts--I omitted those.)

In another small bowl, stir peanut butter and powdered sugar until completely blended. Shape mixture into a log. Cut log into 24 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball; set aside.

Forming a "log" and cutting it into 24 pieces makes it easier to end up with the right amount.

It looks a little like peanut butter fudge, doesn't it?

Cream together the shortening, peanut butter and sugars. Beat in egg. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; gradually stir into the peanut butter mixture. Roll dough into a log (like the refrigerated dough--it works, I'm telling ya).

You can refrigerate the "log" if you want the dough to be a little more firm. I find that this recipe isn't real sticky, so I don't.

Cut the roll of cookie dough into 12 pieces, then cut each piece in half. Shape 1 cookie dough piece around 1 peanut butter ball, covering completely. Repeat with remaining dough and balls.

Carefully shape the dough around the peanut butter filling. Don't squish it too much or you won't get the nice creamy center.

Roll each covered ball in cinnamon/sugar mixture, covering completely. On ungreased large cookie sheets, place balls 2 inches apart. Using a drinking glass, flatten each ball to 1/2 inch thickness with bottom of the glass. Sprinkle any remaining cinnamon/sugar over the tops of cookies.

Again, don't press down too hard or the center will become one with the dough--you won't get the creaminess.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack. Store tightly covered.

Whether you make these from scratch or with the refrigerated dough, be prepared to hand out copies of the recipe---people love 'em!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Fishwich Friday

My husband thinks I’m crazy to call my fish sandwiches fishwiches. He doesn’t believe me when I tell him that that’s what they were called when I was growing up in Wisconsin. I’ll bet if we go back there now we could find a place with a fishwich on the menu…..

At any rate, Friday night is usually pizza night around here, but being that I am from Wisconsin, I really crave a good fish fry on a Friday night. The best ones always had breaded Lake Perch, rye bread and coleslaw----but since I can’t duplicate that, I just did my own thing. The recipe I’m using here was actually one that I entered in one of the Pillsbury Monthly Challenges back in September. It didn’t win, but it is a recipe that we use quite often. The big difference in the way I prepared it this time is that I replaced the breaded frozen fish fillets with some fresh tilapia.

Crunchy Biscuit Fishwiches with Spicy Chile Mayo

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt-free lemon-pepper seasoning
1 can (16.3 oz) Pillsbury® Grands!® Flaky Layers refrigerated buttermilk biscuits (8 biscuits)
8 breaded frozen fish fillets 4 large, fresh tilapia fillets
1/4 cup flour (season with salt and pepper or some Southwest seasoning)
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons hot picanté sauce (I use Pace® Picanté Sauce)
1 teaspoon chili powder or Southwest seasoning
1 can (4.5 oz) chopped green chiles, drained (I didn’t drain it—it still works)
1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage or coleslaw mix

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper. (I use a Silpat)

If the biscuits are dry and the cheese isn't sticking, try wetting the biscuit just a little with water.

2. In small bowl, combine Parmesan cheese and lemon-pepper seasoning. Roll each biscuit in Parmesan mixture to completely coat. Place 1-inch apart on cookie sheet. Sprinkle any remaining cheese mixture over tops of biscuits. Bake 14 to 17 minutes or until golden.

The best part of these are the crunchy bits of Parmesan on the biscuits.

3. Place fish fillets on cookie sheet. Bake as directed on package.
 In a shallow bowl, combine the beaten egg with salt and pepper. Place the panko bread crumbs in another shallow bowl. Dredge each fish fillet first in the egg mixture and then in the panko bread crumbs, making sure to coat each side completely.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter in large skillet until hot, but not smoking. Reduce heat to medium and place 2 fish fillets in the hot skillet. Fry fish for about 3 minutes on each side or until the fillets are brown and the fish flakes easily. Repeat for the remaining 2 fillets.

I like to use a Southwestern seasoning that I got as gift from my friend Jan. It's delicious!

5. In small bowl, stir together sour cream, mayonnaise, picanté sauce, chili powder and green chiles. To assemble sandwiches, slice each biscuit in half crosswise. Place 1 fish fillet on bottom half of each biscuit. Top each fish fillet with about 3 tablespoons cabbage and about 2 tablespoons sour cream mixture. Top with remaining biscuit half. Serve immediately.

Ok--go ahead and throw some avocados, tomatoes and shredded cheese on there. I know you want to!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

White Chicken Chili

My second chili day in a row….this time with some meat! With the weather at a minus 20 degree wind chill factor, it doesn’t hurt to turn up the heat with a little more of this warm comfort food. The nice thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t skimp on being good for you. I will have to admit that I took the recipe right off of the back of the Great Northern bean bag, but if it works, it works!

White Chicken Chili

1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast, cubed
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ pound Great Northern Beans, soaked, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped onions
2 (4 oz) cans diced green chiles, undrained
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (oops, I was out….I used parsley)

Just throw it all in a slow cooker--what could be easier?

In medium bowl, combine chicken, garlic, cumin, salt, chili powder and cayenne pepper; toss to coat chicken. Add seasoned chicken, beans, chicken broth, onions and chiles to a slow cooker. Cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours or LOW for 8-10 hours. Serve with cilantro, sour cream and shredded cheese, if desired.

Easy comfort food, but next time I may have to double the recipe....I had no leftovers for lunch!

Update: September 23, 2012--I made this again, partly because I wanted to write a new post, updating this recipe. The only changes I ended up making, however, were to cut up the chicken into smaller pieces and to increase the chicken broth to 4 cups. No real improvements necessary. :)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Vegetarian Chili

I think that I mentioned a few posts ago, that my daughter has discovered vegetarianism. This is not altogether a bad thing, especially since I am in dire need to drop a few pounds. Of course, cookies and pie don’t necessarily contain meat, but the whole thought of cooking with vegetables just seems to take on a very healthy image. Today, I thought to re-do my chili recipe. In place of meat, I have chosen to use two kinds of beans and some shredded carrots.

Cathy’s Revamped Chili

1/4 pound kidney beans, washed and soaked*
1/4 pound great northern beans, washed and soaked*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup chopped green peppers
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon southwest seasoning, optional
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup hot picanté sauce (you can also use spicy bloody mary mix)
2 cups water

*You can sub these beans with canned ones if you wish. I like cooking my own because of the high salt content found in most canned beans.

Start by sorting through your beans….you want to make sure there are no little stones for anyone to lose a tooth on!

Then follow the directions for soaking and cooking them. Generally, this means putting the sorted beans in a large saucepan, covering them with water, and bringing the whole thing to a boil.

Then, simply cover the pot and let the beans soak in the hot water for at least an hour, drain and set aside.

Put the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium/high heat. Add the onions, garlic, carrots and green pepper and sauté them for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Add the tomatoes, the spices, the picanté sauce, the water and the beans (wait until after the chili has cooked if you are using canned beans). At this point, you can add some salt, but I believe there is plenty of salt in the canned tomatoes. Bring it all to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer, cover and let it cook for 60 to 90 minutes.

Finally, top it with a dollop of light sour cream, a sprinkle of sharp cheddar cheese, and enjoy!