Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Swiss Steak

Swiss Steak and Mashed Potatoes

Inexpensive steak + onions + time in the oven = one tasty meal. My mom used to make Swiss steak every so often, and even though I was a picky no-onion eater at the time, I still loved it. She really only used salt, pepper, and onions, but today I adapted Alton Brown's recipe from FoodNetwork.com and added a little more flavor. My husband enjoyed this meal so much he told me about three times what a great meal it was. He's usually complimentary, but not this complimentary. 
Besides tender beefiness, one of the beautiful things about this recipe is that it creates its own gravy as it cooks in the oven. The gravy is thick and beefy with lots of flavorful onions and celery cooked down to melt-in-your mouth excellence. I may have added a little too much salt to mine, but when it was paired with the mashed potatoes, the beef and gravy tasted perfectly seasoned. 
This may not be a super quick meal, but it is easy, delicious, and satisfying.

Swiss Steak
    --adapted from FoodNetwork.com

  • 2 pounds beef bottom round steak
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 (approx) teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/3 cup flour (I used Better Batter Gluten Free AP Flour)
  • 3-5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion or 2 small onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth (I used 1 1/2 teaspoons beef base in 1 1/2 cups warm water)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare the onions, celery and garlic. Set aside. 
Cut the steak into smaller steaks about 5-6 inches across. Place steak pieces on a cutting mat or surface you use for raw meat. Salt and pepper both sides and then using a meat tenderizing mallet pound each piece to about 1/2 an inch thickness. Be sure to pound on both sides of each piece of steak. Dredge each piece of steak on both sides in the flour.
Heat about 3 tablespoons of oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat. When oil is hot, carefully place steak into the pan taking care not to crowd. You will probably need to brown the steak in two batches, adding oil between batches. When each steak is browned on each side, move to a plate to wait. 
When all meat has been browned, add the onions, celery and garlic to the pan (Dutch oven). Stir veggies and cook just long enough until they start to wilt. Add paprika and oregano and stir. Pour in the beef broth and stir. Add the meat back into the Dutch oven, making sure you cover the meat with the veggies and liquid.
Place cover on Dutch oven and place in the oven. Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until meat is very tender. 
Serve with mashed potatoes.
Makes about 5-6 servings

Monday, August 10, 2015

Oatmeal Cookies (no cinnamon)

Simple Oatmeal Cookie

Every summer when my family and I go back to California to visit my parents, we also get to see my Aunt Tee and Uncle John. Almost every year, Aunt Tee, at some time during our visit, will bring over a bag of Kelley's Kookies. All of them are absolutely delicious, and I've been able to replicate at least one of my favorites, Chocolate-Dipped Refrigerator Cookies. This year, I'm trying to replicate the Krispy Oatmeal Cookies. I have not done it yet, but these cookies are really good anyway. These are buttery and chewy right out of the oven, with just a bit of crunch around the edge. The next day they firm up a bit, but I wouldn't describe them as "crisp." 
Since the list of ingredients on Kelley's Kookies says they have margarine as opposed to butter, I did start there, but they were nowhere near crispy, so I tried butter. Next time I'm going back to margarine, but I'll use something different, not the Land O' Lakes Margarine I used before. Plus, I think I'll go with dark brown sugar next time.
At any rate, these oatmeal cookies are sweet and satisfying. There are only a few raisins, so if you're a raisin lover, I say add more. Heck, add chocolate chips or M & M's if you'd like because I think these cookies can take it. Have fun and enjoy your cookies.

Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup crisp rice cereal
  • 1/3 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and then line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, mix the butter, egg and vanilla until creamy (this may take a little while). 
In a separate bowl, mix the sugars, flour and baking soda with a wire wisk. If there are lumps of brown sugar, you may need to use your fingers to break them up.
Add the sugar/flour/baking soda mixture to the wet ingredients and mixt just until combined. Add the oats, rice cereal, and raisins. Mix to incorporate.
Place tablespoon sized portions of dough onto prepared baking sheet, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart.
Bake at 325 degrees for 15-16 minutes or until golden brown all over.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on pan for a few minutes before moving cookies to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Easy Enchilada Sauce

Super Easy Enchilada Sauce
Chile Colorado Burrito with homemade Easy Enchilada Sauce

So, the Chile Colorado Burrito recipe remains my top post, with over 2,000,000 page views. One of the main themes in the many comments I've received is about the fact that I use canned enchilada sauce. That's what I use, so that's what I posted--detractors have always been welcome to make their own sauce. I only write recipes as I do them. I have considered making a homemade enchilada sauce before, but I honestly just never felt like it.
Well, my hand has been forced, as I am starting to think about and prep recipes for this year's food competition at the Iowa State Fair. The Tone's spice company has a huge competition, and one of them is titled "Favorite Tones Everyday Family Recipe," and first prize is $2,000. So, obviously, now is the time to make a homemade sauce using Tone's spices. I had to use my favorite (non-Tone's) chile powder, though, because, well, it's my favorite, and nothing can compare.
So far the sauce is really delicious, and I have some stew meat cooking in my practice batch right now. (Pics to follow.) It really was extrememly easy to make, sooo...good news all you critics! I plan to make my own enchilada sauce from now on for my Chile Colorado Burritos. I'm still going to leave the recipe as-is in my blog post, though, since most people who like the recipe enjoy it for the ease. They throw it in the crock pot, go to work, and they have a fabulous hot meal at the end of the day. I'm not going to mess with that. 

Easy Enchilada Sauce
     --Adapted from Allrecipes.com

  • ·       1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • ·       1/4 cup all purpose flour (I used Better Batter Gluten Free AP Flour)
  • ·       1/2 cup New Mexico red chile powder (I like Bueno Special Reserve)
  • ·       1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ·       1 teaspoon  garlic powder
  • ·       1 teaspoon onion salt
  • ·       1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
  • ·       3 cups water
  • ·       3 teaspoons beef base (or 3 beef bullion cubes)
In a large heavy bottomed pot or in a Dutch oven, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the flour and chile powder. Stir, and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, garlic powder, and onion salt. Then stir in the tomato sauce and water. Add the beef base and stir to incorporate. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 5-10 minutes.

Now the sauce is ready for you to use in any recipe calling for enchilada sauce.
Makes about 5 cups of sauce.
Recipe can be halved.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Potatoes: Boiled, Smashed, and Roasted

Crispy pan roasted potatoes
I placed my pan directly on my baking stone
to get the bottoms really brown and crisp.

This is one of those recipes I've seen pics of on Pinterest, but I don't really make very often. Baked potatoes are a lot simpler than this, with a lot less clean-up, but these turn out so buttery, crispy and delicious that sometimes it's worth the extra effort. This recipe calls for yellow potatoes, but I think you could use red-skinned potatoes too--any thin-skinned potato will do. If your potatoes are on the large side, boil them longer, and if they're smaller, of course, boil them for less time.
So if you're looking to mix up your side potato repertoire just a little bit, then give these a try. Anyone who likes potatoes is definitely going to love these.

Potatoes: Boiled, Smashed, and Roasted

  • 7-8 medium small yellow potatoes (about 3 inches in length)
  • salt for boiling
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place potatoes in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and add about 2 teaspoons salt. Bring potatoes to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until a knife is easily inserted in the center of a potato, about 20 minutes. 
Place the butter and oil in a large cast iron skillet. Place the skillet in the oven for about 3-5 minutes to melt the butter. Remove from oven and set aside.
When potatoes are done boiling, use tongs to remove one at a time from the hot water. Dab it dry, place it on a clean dinner plate, and then use the bottom of a flat-bottomed bowl to smash the potato, making sure not to pulverize the potato. You just want to break it into large chunks while remaining mostly intact. If the potato does not smash easily and just slips around, return it to the hot water and continue to boil potatoes for another 5-10 minutes.
After smashing a potato, use a spatula to carefully move it to the cast iron skillet. Repeat with remaining potatoes, one at a time. When all of the potatoes are in the pan, tilt the pan slightly to scoop up some melted butter with a spoon and then drizzle the tops of potatoes with the melted butter. If you feel like you'd really want more butter on your potatoes, add another little dab of butter to each one at this time. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
Place the skillet in the oven and roast potatoes for about 30-40 minutes, or until they are a deep golden brown and crispy. (If you happen to have a baking stone in your oven, make sure your skillet spends some time sitting directly on that in order to ensure crispy potato bottoms.)
Serve hot.
Makes about 4 servings

My smashing and transferring tools

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Spicy Creamed Corn

Spicy Creamed Corn

Last weekend our friends got married and had their reception catered by Woody's Smoke Shack here in Des Moines. All of it was absolutely delicious, from the brisket to the cornbread. In the middle (of the buffet table) was this amazing creamed corn. (Not THIS cream corn here--sorry.) It had actual cream in it and what looked like little pools of butter. There was a bit of an orange-ish tinge to it and it was subtly spicy, so I think they put in cayenne pepper. 
At any rate, it made me want more. For some reason I'm yet unaware of, most BBQ places out here in the Midwest are closed on Sunday. We figured that out the hard way when we drove to Kansas City one Sunday afternoon for BBQ, and found that almost all of the awesome places we went for were closed. Sigh. So, in order to get my spicy creamed corn, I had to make it myself today. I really just made this up and will have to try again once I have Woody's again, but for now, this satisfied my craving.
I added probably too much spice to mine, so if you're not a fan of spicy, back off of the cayenne and jalepeno. If you decide to omit both of those completely, I suggest you at least add a little black pepper to it. This creamed corn is sweet, salty, spicy, and creamy. Lots of good textures and flavors going on here. Come sweet corn season next month, I will try a fresh sweet creamed corn. Stay tuned.

Spicy Creamed Corn

  • 2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped with a few seeds
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 cups frozen sweet corn kernels
  • 1 small can cream style corn (8.25 oz.)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons jalepeno, finely chopped (depending on desired level of heat)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on desired level of heat)
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons water
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter and add the chopped onions. Saute onions for a few minutes until translucent. Add the frozen corn, canned cream corn, jalepeno, cayenne, paprika, salt, sugar, and cream. Mix and bring to a boil over medium heat. When mixture is boiling, add the cornstarch and water mixture while stirring corn mixture. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
Makes about 4 servings

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Texas Sheet Cake Cookies

Texas Sheet Cake Cookies---Recipe from Cookies and Cups

This cookie recipe comes to you courtesy of Cookies and Cups, a blog I just found on Pinterest when I searched for "cookies and bars" this morning. Shelly over at Cookies and Cups is a genius for coming up with this recipe. It really does taste like Texas sheet cake, only a little more dense. I decided to go a little rogue with this recipe and add nuts and sprinkles to the tops of some of them. I know Texas sheet cake sometimes has nuts in the icing, but I was afraid the nuts would all slide off if I mixed them with the icing. I also had these cute chocolate sprinkles needing to be used, so there you go. The plain ones taste just fine too, if you must know.
I love the texture of these cookies, and I think they may actually have the chocolate cookie texture I've been searching for for years. They are not chewy at all--they are dense, but tender, and ever-so-slighlty salty. The texture is a mixture of cake, fudge, and cookie. They are very sweet, by the way, thanks to the icing. So if you're not a person who likes your sweets to be super sweet, this may not be the recipe for you.
So there you go. Texas Sheet Cake Cookies. Thanks, Shelly at Cookies and Cups for a fun new recipe.

Texas Sheet Cake Cookies
    --adapted from Cookies and Cups

Cookie Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour

Icing Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped toasted pecans (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon chocolate sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper and set aside.
Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl (about 55 seconds to 1.5 minutes at 70% power) and allow to cool so you can't feel the heat when you touch the bowl.
In a medium mixing bowl, cream the butter with the 1/3 cup sugar. Then add the cooled melted chocolate and mix until combined. Scrape the bottom and sides of the mixing bowl and mix again to make sure there are no white streaks.
Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated and fluffy. Add the salt and baking powder and mix to incorporate. Add the flour and mix on low until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix again briefly to incorporate any remaining flour.
Place 1-tablespoon scoops of dough onto parchment lined baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between balls of dough (I used my small Pampered Chef cookie scoop). With your fingertips, gently pat out any stray bumps or spikes in the dough balls.
Bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 8 minutes, or until cookies are just set and the center is not wet. Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack (if you have 2 cooling racks), allow cookies to cool for a few minutes, and then using a spatula, move the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. (You will also be icing the cooking on the cooling rack.)
After cookies have all baked and cooled, prepare the icing. In a small or medium saucepan on low heat, melt the butter. Add the cocoa powder, milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Whisk until icing is smooth.
Place cooling rack with the cookies over a baking sheet or a sheet of wax or parchment paper, in order to catch the drippings from the icing. Using a small cereal spoon, scoop about 2 tablespoons of the icing and pour it over a cookie. Use the back of the spoon to gently spread frosting over as much of the cookie as possible, allowing the exess to drip and ooze all over. Sprinkle with chopped pecans or chocolate sprinkles, if desired--but do it before the icing sets, or they won't stick.
Allow icing to set, about 30 minutes, and then serve.
Makes about 35 cookies

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sticky Caramel Croissant Chrysanthemum (Sticky Mums)

After spying a super clever bread dough baked into a flower on Pinterest yesterday, I decided I had to make a sweet version--with croissant dough--and caramel. This is the result. I have to say that although this was a delicious success, having all of the yummy brown sugar and butter flaky goodness of my Croissant Caramel Sticky Buns, the middle ended up too underdone for my liking. Some people enjoy that nearly raw texture of their baked goods, but I do not. So next time I'll be using two slightly smaller pans, and I anticipate Sticky Mum perfection. 
Here's the recipe as I executed it today. When and if I actually make it again, I'll make some revisons. For now, I know I ate way too much of this today as my tummy is telling me so.

Sticky Caramel Croissant Chrysanthemum (Sticky Mums)
     --inspired by Country Mom (blog is in Russian)



  • 3/4 cup lightly toasted pecans, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened

Carmel Goo

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
The Dough
1.  Whisk 3 cups flour together with the yeast, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl.  Place the milk in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook.  Add the flour mixture and kneed at low speed until a ball of dough forms.  Cut the 2 tablespoons butter into small pieces and add to the dough.  Continue to knead until the butter becomes fully incorporated and the dough becomes smooth, begins to form a ball, and clears the sides of the bowl.  Add up to ¼ cup more flour, one tablespoon at a time if the dough is too sticky.  Place dough in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for one hour.
2. Place the 2 ½ sticks of butter and 1 tablespoon flour into the bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment.  Beat until butter is uniformly smooth and creamy. 
3. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface.  Roll dough into 10 x 14-inch rectangle.  Spread butter evenly over the bottom 2/3 of the rectangle.  Fold unbuttered third onto the middle third.  Brush away excess flour with a clean pastry brush. Then fold that onto the bottom third.  Seal edges with side of your hand. (You have 3 layers.)
4.  Using a rolling pin, gently whack the dough, starting at the center of the dough and go outward.  Then gently roll the dough into about a 7 x 12-inch rectangle, and fold into thirds again.  Make sure that the butter doesn’t break through.  IF it does, sprinkle with flour. Wrap in wax paper and then place in an unsealed gallon size plastic bag. Refrigerate for about 30-45 minutes. (This makes 27 layers now.)
5.  Remove dough from refrigerator and remove from bag/wrap, and on a floured surface, gently whack and roll into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle.  As in step four, fold dough into thirds (81 layers now) and then fold in half one last time. (Now there are 162 layers.) Wrap and refrigerate again for 2 hours to overnight.

The Filling and Goo
While the dough is refrigerating for the last time, prepare the caramel goo and the filling.
For the goo: in a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When butter is nearly melted, add the brown sugar and light corn syrup. Stir to incorporate ingredients. Stir almost continually while the goo heats. Once it is really bubbling around the edges of the pan, and bubbles start popping up in the middle, set your timer for one minute and stir and boil goo for one minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
For the filling, place the chopped pecans, brown sugar and butter in a medium sized bowl. Mix with your fingers until you have a uniform crumbly mixture. Set aside.
Forming the Crysanthemum
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 
Prepare a 10" spring form pan by cutting a parchment paper circle to fit in the bottom. Spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray and place the parchment snugly in the bottom of the pan. Set aside. (Note: I think my center came out too underdone and the outside too done, so next time I will use two 8" round cake pans for this recipe. I'll need to bake them for about 18-24 minutes, I think.)
On a lightly floured surface, roll out your croissant dough to about 1/8 inch thickness or and 18"x18" square. Using a sharp biscuit cutter that is about 2 3/4 to 3 inches in diameter, cut as many circles as you can in the sheet of dough. (I ended up with 36 circles and used 32 in my 10" spring form pan.) Place the dough scraps, covered, in the refigerator for later. * 
Working with one circle at a time, place about 1 teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the circle and sort of spread it out to within 1/4 inch of the edge. Fold the circle almost in half, so that the top edge is about 1/4 inch below the edge of the bottom edge (see pic below). Carefully fold the half circle in half again, sort of pinching the inside tips where they meet (see pic below), and place in the pan with the back to the side of the pan. Repeat with remaining circles. Don't pack them too tightly because they will rise and grow larger when baked--plus you need to have some space for the caramel goo.
For the very center of the flower, just put the filling in the center of a circle and make a little cup with the filled circle and place it in the very middle.
Cover and allow to rise in a cool place (not the fridge though) for about 40 minutes, or until dough is puffed and leaves an indentation when you poke it with your finger.
Right before putting it in the oven, place the caramel goo in a sturdy zip top container (I used a quart size), snip about 1/4 inch off one corner, and squeeze the goo into the nooks and crannies of the flower.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 27-30 minutes, or until the buns are well browned, but not singed.
Makes about 32-36 three-bite buns

*After baking your Chysanthemum, use the scraps of dough and any leftover filling and caramel to bake up little taste testers in non-stick muffin tins. Or you can just bake the scraps of dough on a parchment lined baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes and enjoy the buttery croissant goodness.

Look at all the fun scraps you can play with later...
Pecan, brown sugar and butter filling

Such a pretty sight
This video shows the point at which you start
your timer for one minute.
Caramel in a makshift pastry bag
I think the caramel bag helps get the caramel in the right places.
Right out of the oven the caramel is still bubbly on top.
Three bites of sweet buttery goodness
Filled yummy sweet pecans

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fresh Margaritas

Margarita on the rocks in a canning jar
I'm not a big drinker. I'm such a small drinker, in fact, that I can count on one hand how many times I drink each year and still have some fingers to spare. I've never actually gotten drunk either, and neither has my friend Christie, who gave me this recipe. A month or so ago we decided maybe we should set aside some time to try getting drunk for the first time. Well, once our date came around, neither of us really felt like getting drunk. From what we've seen of others' drunkenness, it was going to render us sick and not very useful for the day or so following the drunkenness, so we decided to just make some margaritas and drink them responsibly, enjoy one another's company, and continue with our lives of sobriety. 
Can you tell why my husband would just love for me to drink a little more? Yeah, I'm wound pretty tightly, but it works for me, and 22 years into marriage, I think it's safe to say it's working just fine for him too. 
Now, even though I didn't get drunk on these margaritas, I did make myself a little sick last night because in addition to ingesting about 1/3 of this recipe of margaritas, I also had a few brownies (see previous post from yesterday), and some homemade tortilla chips. I felt awful when I went to bed last night, and I have to say that I'm glad I didn't really go for the drunk thing because I think I'd still be feeling awful today. No, thank you. And the next time I make these margaritas, you can bet I will NOT be eating any brownies with them. These are the ways I make myself sick. Someday I'll learn.
So, thanks, Cook's Illustrated, and friend Christie, for a fabulous margaritas recipe. Cheers!

Fresh Margaritas
      --adapted from Cook's Illustrated

  • 4 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (from 3 medium limes)
  • 4 teaspoons lemon zest 
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (from 3 medium lemons)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 pinch table salt
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 cup 100% agave tequila
  • 1 cup Triple Sec
  • Cubed ice for serving

About 4 to 24 hours before serving, place lime and lemon zest and juices in a glass container with 1/4 sugar and salt. Cover and refrigerate.
When ready to mix up the margaritas, Strain the juice into a pitcher that will hold at least 1 quart (I opted for the Kerr canning jar and it worked beautifully--had a lid and everything). Add the additional 1 tablespoon sugar, orange juice, crushed ice, tequila, and Triple Sec. Stir or cover tightly and shake gently until ingredients are mixed.
Pour into serving glasses half-full of ice cubes.
Makes 4-6 servings

Lime and lemon zest
Zests, juices, sugar and a pinch of salt
After straining
Looks like this mixed margarita could easily travel in this thing.

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