When’s the last time you had a Sloppy Joe? I know, right?! It’s been quite some time since I feasted on that time-honored union of saucy meat and toasted buns. Honestly, having eaten more than my share of them during my childhood, I vowed never to have one again — or at least not for a long, long time. But feeling a bit nostalgic, I decided to give the Joes a go.
One of the Mexican dishes I had yet to prepare from scratch was fajitas. That all changed yesterday. With some pre-seasoned (frozen) carne asada, fresh onions and bell peppers, flour tortillas and seasoning, I set off on this kitchen adventure. See the finished plate after the jump.
This recipe was a long time coming. I had long wished to make a chili but was put off by all the ingredients, and debates over what kind tastes best. Tomatoes or nah? Ground beef or chuck roast? And don’t get me wrong, Hormel chili will do the trick, but there’s something about slicing up your own fresh ingredients, seasoning the concoction to perfection, and ultimately savoring the works of your hands. Thankfully, I found a fairly easy Slow Cooker Chili recipe from allrecipes.com, and I was quite pleased with the results.
1 pound ground beef
3/4 cup diced onion
3/4 cup diced celery
3/4 cup diced green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (10.75 ounce) cans tomato puree
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans with liquid
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15 ounce) can cannellini beans with liquid
1/2 tablespoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Place the beef in a skillet over medium heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain grease.
Place the beef in a slow cooker, and mix in onion, celery, green bell pepper, garlic, tomato puree, kidney beans and cannellini beans. Season with chili powder, parsley, salt, basil, oregano, black pepper and hot pepper sauce.
Cover and cook 8 hours on Low.
I topped my bowl of chili with a dollop of sour cream, a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese and a sprinkle of diced green onion.
Variations: There really is no hard and fast rule for chili, which makes it so great. You can personalize it and improvise it as you wish. For example, I didn’t have chili powder so I used some paprika instead. I’m a fan of a little heat, so I sliced up a large jalapeño pepper and threw a whole one in the crock pot. It gave a much needed kick. Also, I’d never heard of cannellini beans before, but was surprised to quickly spot them in the canned food section at the grocery store. If you’re not as lucky as me, you can substitute them for navy beans.
Lessons learned: After reading some of the reviews, I decided to drain most of the liquid from the beans so it wasn’t as soupy. I checked on my chili at about 7 hours in, and sure enough it was very liquidy. However, I let the mixture cook overnight, and it had drastically thickened, plus it’s super flavorful.
Last night was one of those situations where I had a scant amount of ingredients (I desperately need to go grocery shopping), but I craved a hearty meal. That was when I remembered about how I’d been meaning to make these simple mini chicken pot pies, from Pillsbury. When I say “simple,” I mean so easy my 4-year-old nephew could make them. And the beauty of it all is it only requires four ingredients.
2 cups mixed vegetables
1 cup diced, cooked chicken
1 can (10 3/4 oz) condensed cream of chicken soup
1 can (16.3 oz) Pillsbury Grands! refrigerated biscuits
Heat oven to 375°F. In a medium bowl, combine vegetables, chicken and soup; mix well. I took the easy way out and used already-cooked rotisserie chicken breast meat.
Press each biscuit into 5 1/2-inch round. I didn’t have a rolling pin so I opted to use a clean drinking glass to flatten the biscuits. Place one round in each of the eight greased regular-size muffin cups. Firmly press in the bottom and up the side, forming 3/4-inch rim. Spoon a generous 1/3 cup chicken mixture into each. Pull edges of dough over the filling toward center; pleat and pinch dough gently to hold in place.
Bake at 375°F for 20 to 22 minutes or until the biscuits are golden brown. Cool one minute; remove from pan.
Lessons learned: Next time I’ll stretch the biscuits out even more. I was hoping to have more overlap on top so I could make a nice pleated design on each, but I had to settle for just pinching the remaining dough. Also, some of the pot pies, as you can see, are darker than others. I think they cooked unevenly because I placed the muffin tin on top of a cookie sheet in case the pies spilled over. That didn’t happen, so next time I’ll just put the pan directly into the oven. Perhaps that will give all the pies a nice even color.
As of late, I’ve been sticking with my tried and true recipes, and haven’t gotten too adventurous. But before I get on a new-dish-finding kick, I must highlight one of my favorite dishes to prepare: spaghetti! It’s so simple to make and easy to improvise and enhance. I kicked my most recent batch up with some pan-seared sausage and diced bell pepper, which we all know by now is my jam. Oh, and I decided to throw in the remaining fettuccine noodles that were looking lonely in my cabinet, in addition to the usual spaghetti variety, making for a lovely smattering of large and small bites.
Hands down, my mother makes THE best macaroni and cheese. Without a doubt, nothing else compares. During holidays and special occasions, my family can always count on this delicious dish to fill our bellies. Today was no different, and I demanded Mom allow me to help her make this glorious concoction. And she did. Yay! See below for this life-altering recipe.
2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
5 cans evaporated milk
24 Kraft cheese singles
1 lb mild cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese (shredded)
2 lb small elbow macaroni noodles
Boil water for the macaroni noodles and follow the cook time instructions on the package. Set macaroni aside.
In a large saucepan, melt two tablespoons of butter. Add a tablespoon of all purpose flour and stir until it forms a rue-like consistency.
Pour in all the evaporated milk. Slowly add the Kraft cheese slices, stirring often on low heat for about 30 minutes until the liquid thickens. Season with pepper.
Put noodles in a large baking pan. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add a half pound of mild cheddar cheese and a half pound of sharp cheddar. Then pour cheese rue over the noodles and mix in the remaining cheese. Leave some shredded cheese to sprinkle on top.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook for 30 minutes, until the top is brown.
This is a family-sized serving. However, you can cut the ingredients in half to make a smaller batch.
Special thanks to my mom for this wonderful recipe. And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Yes, it’s exactly what you think it is: taco toppings on a pizza crust. And it was simply delightful (and a great way to polish off the leftovers from the tacos I made last week).
With a ready-made 7-inch pizza crust, I spread on a layer of refried beans with jalapeño. Next, I added small scoops of salsa, a layer of cheddar and Monterey jack cheese blend and seasoned ground beef, and then another layer of cheese. I then baked the pizza for eight minutes. As it cooled, I cut it into quarter slices, and added a pinch of shredded lettuce and a generous dollop of sour cream.
I thought it was a nice change of pace from the dull of regular soft tacos, and much easier to eat than a Mexican pizza. Give it a try and let me know how it goes!