Friday, April 24, 2009

Easy Beef Enchiladas

This post has been in the archives for a while waiting for a good time to be published.  I did make enchiladas today, but not beef.  I actually made sour cream chicken and cheese enchiladas, but I didn't take any pictures, so they will not be blogged about this time.

Enchiladas are a great food to make if they are going to be reheated.  They make for a perfect Fun Friday Feast.  They also make tons of leftovers.   What's also great about enchiladas is you can pretty much put anything you want in them.  Here is how I made mine a few weeks ago.

Easy Beef Enchiladas

1 lb ground beef
2 cans enchilada sauce
16 oz. shredded cheddar cheese (any flavor will work)
small can diced green chiles
small can sliced black olives
10-20 sliced jalapenos, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
5-6 green onions, chopped
dash of cumin
dash of ground chili pepper
8 medium-sized flour tortillas

Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan.

Brown ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Drain fat.  Add in 3/4 cup enchilada sauce, green chiles, olive, jalapenos, black beans, cumin and chili pepper.  Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Spoon filling into tortillas, about 1/2 cup per tortilla.  Sprinkle a little cheese into each tortilla.  Only use about half the cheese to sprinkle in the tortillas.  Place enchiladas into a lightly greased 9x13 baking dish.  Pour the rest of the enchilada sauce on top and top with remaining cheese and chopped green onions.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, until heated through.  Garnish with salsa and sour cream.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Horseradish Beef Strudel

This is another recipe from the Rachael Ray magazine.  I love her (and her recipes)!  This was another first use of an ingredient for me- puff pastry.  I had always ignored recipes with puff pastry in them because I was intimidated (there was absolutely no reason behind this), but not too long ago my friend Shanon tried it out on baked brie and she told me it was super easy to work with, so I was excited to try this recipe.  Again, Rachael Ray gave me a great Fun Friday Feast recipe.  I'll have to try stuffing the puff pastry with all kinds of different ingredients.

Horseradish Beef Strudel

1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 pound ground beef
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, drained
Salt and pepper
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, beaten with a splash of water

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a large saucepan, add the potatoes and enough salted water to cover.  Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.  Drain, then mash in a large bowl.
2.  Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 7 minutes; transfer to the mashed potatoes.  Add the beef to the skillet and cook, breaking it up, over medium-high heat until barely pink, about 5 minutes.  Stir the beef, sour cream and horseradish into the mashed potatoes and onion; season with salt and pepper.
3.  On a floured sheet of parchment paper, roll out one sheet puff pastry into an 11-by-15-inch rectangle.  Spread half the meat mixture in the center, covering two-thirds of the surface and leaving a 1-inch border along the long ends.  Fold in the borders on the long ends and, beginning from a short end, roll up to enclose.  Transfer seam side down to a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet; brush with the beaten egg.  Repeat with the remaining ingredients.  Bake until golden-brown, about 30 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Baked Nestled Eggs

This came from the Rachael Ray magazine, and it turned out really well.  I was a little skeptical at first for two reasons, the first being that it was meatless (unless you count the chicken egg), and the second being that the recipe called for half a fennel bulb.  Fennel has a very distinct flavor and aroma (smells just like licorice) and it is one of the main ingredients in absinthe, so I was curious how this dish would end up tasting.

Suprisingly the fennel really didn't overpower the dish at all, it just imparted a little sweetness which countered the onion flavor.  Overall the dish was very good and I will be making it again.

Baked Nestled Eggs

2 large red bell peppers, halved and seeded
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 cup long-grain rice
1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 large eggs

1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the bell peppers skin side down in a 9-inch casserole dish.  Add 1 1/2 cups water to the dish, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes; drain.
2.  Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, fennel and rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.  Add the squash, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and 2 cups water; bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover and simmer until the rice is almost tender, 15 minutes.  Stir in the heavy cream.
3.  Spoon 1/4 cup of the rice mixture into each pepper half.  Transfer the remaining mixture to the baking dish and nestle the stuffed peppers into the rice.  Using a spoon, make an indentation in the center of each stuffed pepper.  Crack an egg into each indentation; season with salt and pepper.  Bake until the eggs are just set, about 15 minutes.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Tomato, Cucumber and (Red) Onion Salad

This is my all-time favorite salad to eat in the summer.  It is so cool and refreshing; perfect for a dinner out on the patio.

I have been itching for this salad all winter, so I went ahead and made it before these veggies were truly in season.  It was still excellent.

I don't really have a recipe for this, so here is my best guess at what I do.

Tomato, Cucumber and Red Onion Salad with Dill Sour Cream Sauce

One large tomato, roughly chopped
One cucumber, peeled and sliced
Half a red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 to 1/2 cup sour cream (add as much or as little as you like depending on the amount of veggies, this also works well with light sour cream)
3 to 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar (taste it after 3 T to see if you need more)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced (you can use dried dill, just use about half as much)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine tomato, cucumber and red onion in a large bowl.  Stir in sour cream and red wine vinegar.  Stir in sugar, dill, salt and pepper.  Taste and add more seasonings as necessary.  Allow to chill in the refrigerator at least 15 minutes to allow flavors to combine; the longer the better.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

This past weekend our friends Stephen and Becky came up to hang out, have dinner, listen to music and play Yahtzee and Uno Attack.  For dinner we smoked a chicken (Brian will have to post about that recipe because it was awesome!), made mac and cheese and cherry-pineapple cobbler for dessert.  Stephen and Becky brought over plenty of snacks and a side of veggies that we cooked on the grill.  Their roasted veggie recipe can be found on their blog  All the food was great and so was the company.

Here is the recipe for the mac and cheese.  I thought the recipe was good, and I will probably make it again, but I may switch it up and use half white cheddar and half yellow cheddar.  I think the white cheddar is good, but it is almost too creamy, so adding the yellow cheddar in will probably give it a better texture in my opinion.  I will let you know when I try it.  This recipe came from Martha Stewart's website.

Perfect Macaroni and Cheese

6 slices good quality white bread
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
5 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 1/2 cups (18 ounces) grated sharp white cheddar
2 cups (8 ounces) grated Gruyere or 1 1/4 cups (5 ounces) grated pecorino Romano
1 pound elbow macaroni

1.  Heat the oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.  Place bread pieces in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 T butter.  Pour butter into the bowl with the bread and toss.  Set the breadcrumbs aside.  In a medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk.  Melt remaining 6 T butter in a high-sided skillet over medium heat.  When butter bubbles, add flour.  Cook, stirring 1 minute.

2.  Slowly pour hot milk into flour-butter mixture while whisking.  Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

3.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar, and 1 1/2 cups Gruyere or 1 cup pecorino Romano.  Set cheese sauce aside.

4.  Fill a large saucepan with water.  Bring to a boil.  Add macaroni; cook 2 to 3 minutes fewer than manufacturer's directions, until outside of the pasta is cooked and inside is underdone.  Transfer the macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold water, and drain well.  Stir macaroni into the reserved cheese sauce.

5.  Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar and 1/2 cup Gruyere or 1/4 cup pecorino Romano; scatter breadcrumbs over the top.  Bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes.  Transfer dish to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes; serve.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sunset Orzo with Spanish Shrimp

I got this recipe out of the Rachael Ray magazine (which is awesome by the way!).  It was good, it was something different than we normally have, I love chorizo, and it's always fun to use a new spice (saffron).

This is how much saffron $10 will get you:

Cool huh?  I don't really know why it's so expensive.  I think it's hand picked or something.

But anyways, here's the recipe:

Sunset Orzo with Spanish Shrimp

1/2 pound orzo pasta
2 pinches saffron threads
1 cup chicken broth
3 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 pound Spanish chorizo, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/3 cup green peas
1 pound medium shelled and deveined shrimp
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
Juice of 1/3 lemon

 1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the orzo and cook until just al dente.  Drain and cover.
2.  While the pasta is working, in a small saucepan, steep the saffron in the chicken broth over low heat.
3.  In a medium skillet, heat 1 T EVOO, 1 turn of the pan, over medium heat.  Add the chorizo and cook until browned, 2 minutes.  Add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and tumeric and cook for 5 minutes.  Stir in the peas.
4.  In another medium skillet, heat the remaining 2 T of EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat.  Add the shrimp and cook until pink and firm, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in the parsley, paprika and lemon juice; season with salt.  Remove from the heat.
5.  Pour the saffron broth over the chorizo and vegetables.  Add the orzo and toss for 2 minutes.  To serve, top the orzo with the shrimp.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Talladega Preparation

Brand New Deck!

Since we had a nice weather day on Saturday we decided to strip the old stain off the deck.  It had only been on the deck for about two years, but for some reason the stain was starting to wear off in spots, which leaves the wood unprotected and ugly.

The before:

Removing the stain wasn't as bad of a project as we thought it would be.  It was a little time consuming (we went non-stop from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M.), but not really difficult or back breaking.  One word of advice- this stuff is very toxic and harmful to your skin.  Protect every inch of  yourself because if it gets on you it immediately causes burning and blistering (my torn up hands can prove this).

These are the simple steps for deck stain removal:

1)Apply deck stain remover (we used Jomax Zinsser from Lowes- good stuff) with brushes or rollers to a small section of the deck.

2)Wait 15 minutes for stain remover to penetrate the stain and do it's job.  Reapply stripper as needed to keep the area from drying out as you wait 15 minutes (this is very important).

3)Use a power washer to wash away stripper.  I had read that you may need to scrub the area before using a power washer, but in our case this was not necessary.

4) Repeat steps 1 through 3 until the whole deck has been stripped.

5) Use a deck brightener/cleaner to neutralize the acidic component of the stripper and prepare the wood for stain or sealant.  We haven't done this yet.  We were going to wait until it was closer to when we were going to put sealant down.

Here is the deck after:

We are not going to use a tinted stain ever again; instead we are going to use a clear wood sealant and give the deck a good cleaning every year or two.  We have to wait until the weather warms up and dries out to get everything completely finished.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies were amazing!  They have the perfect texture- a little soft in the middle, a little crunchy on the outside.  And the chocolate chips are a perfect addition to this great peanut butter cookie.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (I used crunchy for added texture)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet)

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular (I used a lot more that one tablespoon).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the flour, the baking soda, and the salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy.  Add the sugars and beat until smooth.  Add the egg and mix well.  Add the milk and the vanilla extract.  Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly.  Stir in the peanut butter and chocolate chips.  Place sprinkling sugar- the remaining tablespoon- on a plate.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion.  Using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten the cookies.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.  Do not overbake  Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cajun Meatloaf

This meatloaf, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman, was the best meatloaf I have ever made.  The flavor of it was amazing!  This recipe makes a really huge meatloaf, so I recommend cutting it in half, unless you are going to be feeding a very large number of people.  I will also add that meatloaf leftovers make awesome meatloaf sandwiches (which is really why I like to make meatloaf in the first place).


2 lbs. lean ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
3 bell peppers
2 medium onions
1 bunch of celery (5-6 ribs)
8-10 cloves of garlic
3 eggs
6 Tbs. butter
1-2 cups breadcrumbs
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1/2 cup milk (whole)
2 cups ketchup
2 T honey
optional: few shakes of hot sauce


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Chop all of the fresh vegetables (peppers, onion, celery) into a small dice and mince the garlic.  Over medium-high heat, melt the 6 Tbsp. butter.  Once the butter begins to start browning, add the diced vegetables and garlic.   Add about 1 Tbsp. salt.  After these have cooked for a few minutes, add 1 Tbsp Worcestershire, 1 tsp. black pepper, 1 tsp. cayenne pepper, and 1 tsp. nutmeg.  If you like it hot, add a couple of shakes of your favorite hot sauce.  Next add 1/2 cup ketchup.  Continue cooking and stirring for a few more minutes.  Remove from heat.

After allowing the mixture to cool for a few minutes, add a 1/2 cup of milk.  Stir until combined.  Next add at least one cup of bread crumbs.  Continue adding bread crumbs and stirring until the mixture is a nice, thick paste.  In a large mixing bowl, place the ground beef and pork.  Whisk 3 eggs and add to the meat.  After allowing the pasty vegetable mixture to cool down for a few minutes, begin incorporating it into the meat.  Keep working all of the Cajun-veg mixture into the meat until all is well blended.

Spray a sheet pan with some non-stick cooking spray.  Next, using your hands, form the meat mixture into a loaf on the sheet pan.  Make the loaf around 6-8 inches wide and about 1 1/2 inches thick.  In a small bowl or measuring cup mix together 3/4 cup ketchup with 2 Tbsp. honey.  Slather the sauce over the top of the whole meatloaf.

Place in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes.