Posts Tagged ‘beef’

Creamy Shepherd’s Pie Bowls

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

I have always liked the idea of shepherd’s pie.

I really like ground beef, and casseroles of any kind tend to appeal to me (even though that’s the opposite of how I was raised–very few casseroles show up in my parents’ kitchen). I also like mashed potatoes, and can’t seem to make them without having a bunch of leftovers.

Leftover potatoes is what lead me to shepherd’s pie this time. I read through a bunch of different shepherd’s pie recipes, before deciding how I would make mine.

I really liked the flavor of the dish, but I’ve got to say–the pictures leave something to be desired. Once it came out of the baking dish, it did not look like something you would want to eat, which is why I have no plans to post pictures. If everyone really wants to see, and leaves comments to that effect, I might be persuaded.

That being said, even though it wasn’t pretty, it was very, very tasty.

Creamy Shepherd’s Pie Bowls

For filling:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 can beef consumme
  • 1 can mixed vegetables, drained
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon mild curry powder

For potato topping:

    • about 4 potatoes, mashed (I used leftovers)
    • 1 cup shredded cheese (we had Gouda on hand, but Parmesan would be good, or anything you like, really)
    • 1/2 cup sour cream

    1. Brown ground beef in a large skillet, with garlic powder, salt & pepper, and curry powder. Do not drain the drippings (they will be used to build the sauce).

    2. When the meat is cooked through, add the can of vegetables.  Sprinkle with the flour and stir until everything is evenly coated. Continue cooking for one or two minutes so that the flour is browned, to remove that chalky raw-flour taste.

    3. Add the can of consumme, Worcestershire sauce, and balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook over medium-high heat until sauce thickens. Pour into a baking dish. (I used a Corningware casserole dish, 2 1/2 quarts. Pyrex would probably work fine here as well.)

    4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees while you prepare the potato topping.

    5. In a medium mixing bowl, combine mashed potatoes, 3/4 cup of the shredded cheese, and sour cream.

    6. Carefully spread the mashed potato mixture over the top of the meat filling. Spread to the edge of the dish to avoid the sauce leaking out of the dish. Use a fork to add texture to the top of the mashed potatoes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes, until heated all the way through. The mashed potatoes should be brown and crispy at the top and edges.

    Note: I’m calling this a shepherd’s pie bowl (and this is part of the problem with the pictures) because the mashed potatoes kind of ran together with the filling once you scooped it out of the pan. It was delicious, but not really the two separate textures that you expect from a true Shepherd’s Pie. I do have some ideas to correct that, and will try them next time. One is simply more mashed potatoes. A thicker layer of potatoes would have browned better and held up more easily I think. My other idea was to treat the mashed potatoes like a potato pancake batter, adding an egg and a little bit of flour along with the cheese and sour cream. I actually would have done that this time, but we were out of eggs. I’ll definitely be making this again, but I do hope to get the potato crust better next time.

    Meatloaf Muffins

    Sunday, May 10th, 2009

    You’d think for Mother’s Day I’d post about something that my mom at least likes, but nope, not me. I’ve got a schedule around here—I try to write about things in the order we make them, and today, it’s time to talk about Meatloaf. Sorry, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day, though!

    Crazy thing? This is one of those recipes that came off of the Weight Watchers message boards, where it’s been floating around for ever, as far as I can tell. And despite the fact that it starts as a healthy “lightened up” version of meatloaf…in spite of how basic and simple this recipe is, it’s also my favorite meatloaf. It’s moist, and flavorful, with an absolute minimal amount of work.

    The meatloaf mix itself takes some real shortcuts. This is a four ingredient recipe. While I enjoy shortcuts, especially on a weeknight, I usually recognize the trade-off I’m making. Not so, in this case. The ingredients are simple, the assembly couldn’t be easier, and using muffin tins in place of a loaf pan not only shortens the cook time, but builds in portion control (if you’re into that sort of thing).

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    Meatloaf Muffins

    • 1 lb ground beef, turkey, pork, or a combination. (I used ground beef, because that’s what we keep on hand).
    • 1 box stove top stuffing, prepared without fat
    • 1 egg (If you want to make this as light as possible, feel free to use 2 egg whites in place of a whole egg)
    • 1/2 cup ketchup

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 6 muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.

    2. Prepare stuffing mix according to package directions, omitting the butter or margarine (using only water). Set a side.

    3. In a medium bowl, use your fingers to combine ground beef, egg, and box of stuffing. Mix until everything is combined, but do not over mix. Shape into six muffin size patties, and place into prepared muffin tins.

    4. Top each muffin with 1-2 tablespoons of ketchup. Bake in 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked all the way through.

    Cinco De Mayo Fajitas & Guacamole

    Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

    In honor of cinco de mayo, David and I had steak fajitas for dinner. Fajitas have long been one of David’s very favorite foods, especially when we were eating out. These days, I think he prefers the ones we make at home. As we do so often, we borrowed this fajita recipe from Alton Brown. We’ve used this recipe many times without fail.

    fajitas

    Alton Brown’s Skirt Steak Recipe (Steak Fajitas)
    Adapted from the Good Eats Episode “Raising The Steaks

    • 1/2 cup olive oil
    • 1/3 cup soy sauce
    • 4 scallions, washed and cut in 1/2
    • 2 large cloves garlic
    • 1/4 cup lime juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar or Mexican brown sugar
    • 2 pounds inside skirt steak, cut into 3 equal pieces
    • 1 medium onion, sliced
    • 2 green peppers, sliced

    1. In a blender, put in oil, soy sauce, scallions, garlic, lime juice, red pepper, cumin, and sugar and puree. In a large heavy duty, zip top bag, put pieces of skirt steak and pour in marinade. Seal bag, removing as much air as possible. Allow steak to marinate for 1 hour in refrigerator.

    steak2_11

    2. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium high heat. Add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil to the bottom of the pan. Remove steak from bag and pat dry with paper towels. Cook the steak pieces for about 3-4 minutes per side, until cooked to desired doneness. Remove from the pan to a cutting board and tent loosely with foil while the meat is allowed to rest for at least 10 minutes.

    3. While meat is resting, add sliced onions and green peppers to the skillet and cook until tender.

    4. When steak has rested for at least 10 minutes, slice thinly across the grain of the meat.  Serve with grilled peppers and onions, tortillas, beans, cheese, sour cream–whatever you like.

    Note: We also had chips and guacamole. You will not be surprised to learn that we often use Alton Brown’s recipe for guacamole. I know you will not be surprised to hear that. We’ve made it many times, and it always turns out delicious–and much better than anything you’ll find pre-made at your grocery store. Definitely worth the extra trouble. I’ve included the recipe below, because if you want to make guacamole 100% from scratch, this is an excellent place to start.

    Alton Brown’s Guacamole

    • 3 Haas avocados, halved, seeded and peeled
    • 1 lime, juiced
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    • 1/2 medium onion, diced
    • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
    • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
    • 1 clove garlic, minced

    In a large bowl place the scooped avocado pulp and lime juice, toss to coat. Drain, and reserve the lime juice, after all of the avocados have been coated. Using a potato masher add the salt, cumin, and cayenne and mash. Then, fold in the onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and garlic. Add 1 tablespoon of the reserved lime juice. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour and then serve.

    That being said…

    I also want to mention our favorite substitute for “from scratch” guacamole, because it’s another excellent alternative to the pre-made tubs at your grocery store: Frontera Grill Guacamole Mix. This blend of tomatillos, tomatoes, chiles, garlic, and spices comes in a jar, and it couldn’t be easier to turn it into tasty guacamole—just mash 3 avocados with the contents of the jar. It’s a nice work-around if you find yourself in a hurry to make fresh guacamole. We’ve bought three packs of the mix at Costco, but you can also buy individual jars at your grocery store.

    guacamolemix

    Ravioli Lasagna Fake Out

    Friday, March 6th, 2009

    I like lasagna. And who doesn’t? What I don’t like about lasagna is all of the work involved. I just don’t have the patience for all the layers, etc., especially after working all day. But rather than relegate the whole lasagna concept to the weekends, when I have the time and energy to bother, I started making this quick lasagna casserole dish. Affectionately, we call this “Fake Lasagna,” and it’s really quite good. All the flavor and none of the fuss!

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    Ravioli Lasagna Fake-Out (Fake Lasagna)

    • 16 ounce package of cheese ravioli, frozen. (We use the Kirkland brand from Costco)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 regular sized jar of spaghetti sauce
    • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
    • 1 pound ground beef (or 1/2 pound ground beef, 1/2 pound Italian sausage)
    • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
    • salt & pepper
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bring a large pot full of salted water to a boil. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and the frozen ravioli. Boil for 3-4 minutes, until the ravioli float to the top. Drain and reserve.

    2. In a large skillet, season the ground beef with Italian seasoning, salt & pepper, and garlic. Brown and drain. Return to skillet. Stir in the jar of spaghetti sauce.

    3. Spray a 2 or 2 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Add a spoonful of the spaghetti sauce mixture and spread across the bottom of the dish in a thin layer. (This keeps the pasta from sticking to the dish when you scoop it out later).

    4. Place a single layer of ravioli on top of the sauce. Cover the ravioli with a ladle of the sauce/meat mixture. Sprinkle with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Begin a new layer of ravioli, top with sauce and cheese. Continue in this way until the casserole dish is full. I usually end up with at least 4 layers, but this will depend on how thick your ravioli are. You should end with a final layer of mozzarella cheese.

    5. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese over the mozzarella cheese. You like cheese, right?

    David’s Variable Hotness Chili

    Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

    This post isn’t really about making chili. I mean, I’ll tell you how we make chili, and you can choose to follow our recipe. The chili we make around here is good, but not a whole lot better or worse than most other homemade chili, in my experience. (Of course, that could because I grew up in a home that had excellent chili). It’s hard to say.

    This post is about making chili for everyone.

    You see, I am a whimp. No, really, I am. In just about every way possible. I’ll whine about working too much, or being tired, or doing laundry, or doing the dishes. I get hurt when I trip, when I stumble, when I bang my hand on the corner of the kitchen counters, when I hit my head, when I break a nail, when I stub my toe, and when I wear high heels. And of course, when I cut my finger with scissors, a knife, or sheets of paper. I’m clumsy, and I’m whiny, and everything hurts me.

    In related news, I don’t get along well with spicy, spicy foods. I can handle “medium” spiciness on most things, especially if there are mitigating factors like crackers, and cheese, and sour cream. David, on the other hand, prefers spicy, spicy foods. What to do?

    When David first started making chili at his old apartment, he made a large pot of chili and pulled aside a tiny amount for me before he really flavored the batch he and his friends would eat. The good thing was that the chili wasn’t too spicy for me. The bad thing was that my tiny pot of chili was actually pretty bland, even by my standards. The other bad thing was that I never got in on any of the leftovers–one of the best parts of a big pot of chili!

    So David thought and he thought and he finally came up with the solution. Put the hot “on the side.” So that’s what we do. David dices up every kind of chile imaginable (at least every kind that our grocery store can imagine) and lets them stew in their own small crockpot all day long. The result is a very spicy blend of delicious chile flavor that can be added to the larger pot of chili as you like. I usually skip it entirely, but David includes a couple of large spoonfuls per bowl of chili. Saner people might add just a spoonful.

    This whole method is especially awesome for having people over for chili. It’s hard to please everyone, right? This makes it easier.

    img_1646

    David’s “Variable Hotness” Chili

    For the Chili:

    • 1 pound ground beef
    • 1 pound of other ground meat (we usually use 1/2 pound of ground pork and 1/2 pound of ground buffalo meat, for a total of 2 pounds of meat)
    • 1 large can of “hot” chili beans
    • 1 large can of “mild” chili beans
    • 1 large can of tomato juice (divided)
    • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
    • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
    • salt and pepper, to taste
    • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
    • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
    • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder

    1. In a large stock pot, brown the ground meat together. When browned, drain the fat from the skillet.

    2. Add the next 4 ingredients to the pot and heat over medium heat. There is no need to drain the beans or tomatoes. I usually start with about half a can of tomato juice at this point. You may want to add more later, but remember to save some for the chile peppers.

    3. Add the spices one at a time, stirring after each ingredient. This usually involves David and I both standing at the stove, adding and tasting, adding and tasting.

    4. Transfer to a crockpot and let simmer on low until it’s time to eat. If your crockpot runs on the hotter side, you may want to start on low and then flip it to warm, since everything has been cooked through.

    For the Chiles (The “Variable Hotness” part):

    • 3-4 jalapeno peppers
    • 2 poblano peppers
    • 1 cubanelle pepper
    • 3 habanero peppers
    • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice (from the large can above)

    1. Clean, seed, and dice all of the peppers. If you’ve never worked with these kinds of peppers before, I suggest wearing disposable latex gloves. It keeps the dangerous spicy chemicals off of your hands completely. Once you get that much heat on your hands, it can be really hard to wash off completely. If you use disposable gloves, you don’t have to worry about accidentally touching your eyes or something. That would suck.

    2. Put the peppers and tomato juice in the bowl of a small crockpot. The baby ones, used for keeping dips warm, work well here. Simmer on low until the peppers are soft. We usually let this stew all day.

    When you serve the chili, let everyone add their own level of heat by mixing in the warm, spicy pepper sauce.

    Note: I don’t serve chili without plenty of sour cream, grated cheese, and oyster crackers, but do what you like. The last time we made chili, I also made those delicious corn muffins, which was a perfect compliment.

    New York Strip Steaks with Blue Cheese Butter Crust

    Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

    We don’t make steaks very often around here, though I’m not entirely sure why. I don’t think it’s the cost, because we’re happy to spend too much money for a fancy cheese or a quality wine. I don’t mind though, because when we do make steak, it’s usually a treat, and this Valentine’s Day was no exception. The meal we threw together was pretty spectacular, actually. I teased you with it in my Valentine’s Day post…here’s our recipe for fabulous New York Strip Steaks with a Blue Cheese Butter Crust.

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    New York Strip Steaks with a Blue Cheese Butter Crust
    Adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe for Pan Seared Steaks

    For the crumb topping:

    • 3 tablespoons salted butter
    • 2 ounces blue cheese (Something good quality and creamy, like a maytag or gorgonzola–not the dry crumbles sold for salad)
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • freshly cracked black pepper
    • 1/2 cup panko Japanese style bread crumbs

    For the steaks:

    • 4 new york strip steaks, 1 1/2-inch thick
    • Canola oil to coat
    • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

    Directions

    Place 10 to 12-inch cast iron skillet in oven and heat oven to 500 degrees. Bring steak(s) to room temperature.

    To prepare the crumb topping, combine butter, garlic, and blue cheese in a small microwave safe bowl and microwave on high at 15 second intervals until the cheese and butter are melted completely. Season with fresh cracked black pepper to taste. Stir in bread crumbs and set aside.

    When oven reaches temperature, remove pan and place on range over high heat. Coat steak lightly with oil and season both sides with a generous pinch of salt. Grind on black pepper to taste.

    Immediately place steak in the middle of hot, dry pan. Cook 30 seconds without moving. Turn with tongs and cook another 30 seconds, then put the pan straight into the oven for 2 minutes. Flip steak, top with bread crumbs and cook for another 2 minutes. (This time is for medium rare steaks. If you prefer medium, add a minute to both of the oven turns.)

    Remove steak from pan, cover loosely with foil, and rest for 2 minutes before serving.

    Note: This tasted amazing, though the bread crumbs didn’t get as crispy as I would have liked. The flavor was spot-on, though, and elevated a good steak to something great. Next time, we plan to incorporate a minute under the broiler to crisp up the topping a little bit. Otherwise, I wouldn’t do anything differently.

    As an added bit of cuteness, David and I went to Wildfire the night we got engaged, and this steak was a surprisingly good recreation of the filet medallions with blue cheese crust that I had for dinner that night. A nice touch for Valentine’s dinner, I think.


    Pot Roast Pot Pie

    Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

    This beef pot pie is my favorite way to use up leftovers from a roast. The process is the same as the Chicken Pot Pie, and the results are just as good. I made this with the leftovers from the Company Pot Roast, which added a tangy flavor to the pot pie (from the red wine in the sauce) that wasn’t there when I made this dish with a more traditional pot roast.

    Pot Roast Pot Pie

    For the filling

    • 1/2 to 1 lb leftover pot roast, cut into 1 inch cubes
    • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 can of beef gravy
    • 1 can of mixed vegetables (like Veg-All) or if you prefer, a can of peas and carrots
    • 1 can of sliced new potatoes
    • 1 small can of mushrooms (optional–if you’re a regular around here, you know that we always skip the mushrooms, but they’d be good!)

    For the crust:

    • 1 box 9-inch ready-made refrigerated pie crust (such as Pillsbury; you’ll need both crusts in the box for a bottom and top crust) at room temperature.
    • 1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp water
    • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds

    1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place one half of pie crust in the bottom of a thick pie plate (we have this awesome stoneware one) or an oven-safe skillet. You just want it to be deep enough to hold all of the filling. Dock the pie crust by poking it several times with a fork and bake for about 10 minutes, until light brown. This helps to keep the bottom crust crispy.

    2. While the crust is baking, heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat, until it the surface begins to shimmer. Add the pot roast pieces and cook until heated through, about 3-4 minutes. The edges should begin to brown.

    3. Once the pot roast is heated all the way through, add the gravy, vegetables, and mushrooms and continue to cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges. Pour into the prepared bottom pie crust. Carefully cover with the second pie crust to form the top.

    4. Tuck the edges of the pie crust so that the bottom and top crust meet, and cut four slits in the top to allow steam to escape as the pie cooks.

    5. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Bake the pie for 30-40 minutes, or until crust is crisp and golden brown. Allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into the pie.

    Note: I have made this before using only canned gravy, and it turns out well. In this case, I had a delicious gravy from the Company Pot Roast recipe, so I used half a can of gravy and half a cup of the Pot Roast sauce. As I said, it was very good. Plus, I love being able to use leftovers in a second meal. It makes the second meal extra easy to prepare, and nothing goes to waste!

    Company Pot Roast

    Monday, February 16th, 2009

    As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we had a big family dinner at our place a couple of weekends ago. The centerpiece of that meal was Ina Garten’s Company Pot Roast from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook. I am obsessed with this cookbook. I want to make everything I see–it just can’t be helped. The pictures are literally mouth-watering, and everything I’ve made so far has turned out picture perfect and delicious. (Well, except the fish, but that was our fault. We don’t like fish. The fish eater among us liked it a lot).

    This pot roast recipe was more of the same. A tasty, elegant spin on a classic dish, with simple instructions and awesome results. The only change I made was that I used my slow-cooker, instead of hogging my oven all day. What can I say? I had cakes to bake, and rolls to make, and I needed my oven. The slow cooker worked well, and I don’t think it took anything away from the dish.

    Company Pot Roast
    Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook.

    • 1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, tied
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • All-purpose flour
    • Olive Oil
    • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
    • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
    • 2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
    • 2 cups chopped leeks (2 to 4 leeks)
    • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
    • 2 cups good red wine, such as Burgundy (I used 1 1/2 cups of Cotes de Rhone and 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar)
    • 2 T. Cognac or brandy
    • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
    • 1 cup chicken stock
    • 1 chicken bouillon cube
    • 3 branches fresh thyme
    • 2 branches fresh rosemary
    • 1 T. butter, room temp.

    Pat beef dry and season all over with 1 T. salt and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper. Dredge entire roast in flour, including ends. In large, deep skillet (or dutch oven), heat 2 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add roast and sear for 4-5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn and sear other side and then sear the ends. This should take 4-5 minutes for each side. Remove roast to large plate.

    Add 2 T. olive oil to the skillet. Add carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 T. salt and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the wine and Cognac and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Tie thyme and rosemary together with kitchen string and add to pot. Put roast back into pot, bring to boil and cover. Transfer to slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours until meat is fork tender or about 160 degrees internally.

    Remove roast to cutting board. Remove the herb bundle and discard. Skim off as much fat as possible from the sauce. Transfer half the sauce and vegetables to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (I used my immersion blender). Pour the puree back into the pot, place on stove top over low heat, and return to a simmer. Place 2 T. flour and the butter in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork. Stir into sauce and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring until thickened. Taste for seasonings. Remove strings from roast and slice meat. Serve warm with the sauce spooned over it.

    Note: One of the best things about doing this in the slow cooker (aside from freeing up my oven for other ventures) was that I was also able to make the sauce ahead of time. We made the sauce as listed above, and then put the roast and the sauce back into the crockpot until it was time for dinner. Gravy/Sauce making is always a little bit stressful, and at Thanksgiving, was the part that everyone ended up waiting for, so I was glad to have that task done and out of the way. I served this pot roast with mashed potatoes, using the tasty sauce as gravy. It would probably be just as good served over noodles–just comes down to personal preference, I think.

    Italian Stuffed Peppers

    Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

    Bell peppers are not my favorite vegetable. I’ve gone most of my life avoiding them completely. No peppers, no onions was a kind of motto of mine.

    Then, while visiting David’s family in Wisconsin, I was tricked (TRICKED!!!) into eating bell peppers on a salad. They were red peppers, and they were diced like tomatoes, and I didn’t realize my mistake until it was too late. Only…I kind of liked them! Go figure.

    Roasted red peppers followed, first in a dish at the Olive Garden, then in the form of hummus. And once in this roasted red pepper aioli I made, but I guess that’s another story. Even though I’ve eaten Pepper Steak for a long time, I’ve picked around the peppers themselves for as long as I can remember. But as it turns out, David likes peppers a lot, and sometimes, you learn to like things for someone you love. I guess.

    Stuffed Peppers seemed like something David would really like, and that’s ultimately why I started making them. I mean, I’m happy with the insides, and when it’s a whole pepper, it’s easy enough to pick around the pepper. Even Leah, who shares my general dislike of all things pepper has become a fan of these. I find myself liking the peppers a little more each time, though, so I suppose eventually, I’ll eat the pepper themselves, instead of treating them like a bowl or wrapper. Probably not just yet, though.

    Italian Stuffed Peppers

    • 4 large bell peppers, cleaned, with the tops cut off and the seed pod removed. (We usually use green, but red was on sale this time around)
    • 3 Tbsp sugar
    • 1 cup of rice, prepared according to package directions (Brown rice is what I prefer, but use what you like, even if that’s instant)
    • 1 lb of ground beef
    • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce
    • 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained
    • 1/4 tsp Italian seasoning
    • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
    • 6-8 ounces of cheese, either shredded or thinly sliced (think white, Italian, and melty, like provolone, mozzarella, or fontina. Again, use what you like.)

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add sugar and bell peppers and cook until peppers soften at the very edges but are still firm and crisp throughout, about 3 minutes. Remove from water and place into a baking dish with deep sides.

    2. In a large skillet, brown ground beef over medium high heat. Drain beef and return to skillet. Add spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, italian seasoning, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until mixture begins to bubble.

    3. Turn heat to low and add prepared rice. Stir to combine. Scoop the beef & rice mixture into the bell peppers, filling them completely. When we have extra of the filling, I put it into the baking dish around the stuffed peppers, but the amount left over depends on the size of the peppers I use.

    4. Once in the baking dish, cover the peppers and any remaining filling with the cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes, until the filling is hot all the way through.

    Note: I like the cheese to get crispy, but if you don’t, you can bake the peppers without cheese, and add the cheese for just the last 10 minutes. If you want to go crazy with the cheese, you can sprinkle parmesan over the top as well. I call these Italian Stuffed Peppers, because those are clearly the flavors I use, but I’ve heard of Stuffed Peppers being made more like meatloaf (think breadcrumbs and ketchup) or with cheddar cheese. All I can say is I like them this way, and so do David and Leah. If you like green peppers on your pizza, I’m sure you’d like this dish as well.

    Spicy Taco Burgers with Pico de Gallo

    Saturday, January 31st, 2009

    The idea for this burger came to me during a discussion about Mexican Risotto and Chorizo. Aside from the Mexican Risotto, my family uses Chorizo as the basis for our taco meat, and has for years. It adds a heat and a flavor that you won’t find in any spice packet. I was trying to think of something new I could make, and that’s when the idea of the taco burger came to me. The burger is made with a combination of Chorizo and ground beef. We topped these burgers with homemade pico de gallo, cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce, and a little bit of sour cream in place of the traditional ketchup/mustard/pickles. And the results were pretty tasty.

    Taco Burgers

    For burgers:

    • 1 lb ground beef
    • 1 lb mexican Chorizo
    • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
    • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
    • salt and pepper
    • 8 1/2 inch chunks of sharp cheddar cheese.

    For toppings:

    1. In a medium sized mixing bowl, combine the first four ingredients and then season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until the ground beef and chorizo have thoroughly mixed. Let rest for about 15 minutes, to let the flavors meld. (I used this time to prepare the pico de gallo and other toppings)

    2. Cut a portion of the cheese into 1/2 inch thick chunks, about the size of two postage stamps across.

    3. Begin to form patties from the hamburger mixture, pressing a chunk of cheese into the center of each patty and then molding the patty around it so that the cheese forms the center of the burger.

    4. Divide the meat mixture into 8 equal sized patties and cook the burgers. These could be grilled, if you use clean, oiled grill grates to avoid sticking, but here in Chicago, in January, I cooked these on the stove, using our grill pan. (Similar to the one you see here). It took about 8 minutes on each side to cook these burgers thoroughly. I lightly oiled the grill pan, to avoid sticking. Remember, the Chorizo is pork, and needs to be cooked through completely–longer than you might cook your burgers normally. You won’t overcook the beef, though. The spicy pork sausage brings plenty of moisture to the burger.

    5. Serve on toasted buns with pico de gallo or salsa, shredded lettuce, cheese, and sour cream.

    Note: These flavors were really, really good. I had a little bit of a problem with the burgers holding together in the cooking process. I believe I could fix that next time by using something to bind them–right now, I’m imagining a little bit of egg and tortilla chips crushed to crumbs in the food processor instead of bread crumbs. Even with the burgers threatening to crumble at the edges, they were still delicious and pretty simple to make. I’ll definitely be trying these again.

    P.S. I know I’ve used it here before, but remember, Chorizo is a spicy mexican sausage. You can get it in most regular grocery stores, usually in the meat case with other sausages. It brings a salty flavor to the dish, so go easy on the salt. Spanish style chorizo is also available at some stores, but for this, you want the mexican style. The Spanish Chorizo is cured and smoked, and has a pepperoni-like texture. Mexican Chorizo is an entirely different thing.

    “Recipe” for Pico de Gallo

    The word “recipe” is in quotes because this is more of a method than a true recipe. Pico is one of those things that can be “right” twelve different ways, and is really dependent on how you want it to taste. So here’s what I did, and feel free to make adjustments to the amount of ingredients as you go.

    • 4 roma tomatoes, diced and seeded
    • 1 small onion, diced
    • 1 small jalapeno, finely diced
    • 1-2 Tbsp lime juice
    • 1-2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Combine tomatoes, onion, and 1/2 of the jalapeno in a small mixing bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of lime juice and fresh cilantro. Mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let sit for about 3-5 minutes to let the flavors meld, and then taste again. Add more lime juice, cilantro, or jalapeno, as desired. Sometimes, a pinch of sugar (1/4 teaspoon) can help to tone down the acidity of winter tomatoes.

    Note: I skipped the jalapeno. If you like spicy, add as much as you like.