Thursday, May 21, 2015

Goulash

This recipe is from the Serious Eats website and was created by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt.  He calls it American Chop Suey, but I've always known it as goulash.  In all honesty, it's never been one of my favorite foods, though I do have fond memories of my grandmother making it.  My husband requested something with macaroni, tomatoes, and ground beef, though, and I immediately thought of this recipe that I had bookmarked months ago!
 
This recipe does not disappoint.  It is by far the best goulash I have ever had and I don't really see bothering with any other version of the recipe.  How could it not be good with all the pockets of melted mozzarella?  Cheese aside, it's just an awesome recipe with lots of well balanced flavor, especially for a recipe that takes less than an hour to make.  My husband and I both rated it 9 out of 10, which is of course very good!
I mostly stuck to the original recipe, but it calls for letting the macaroni soak in hot water before draining it and adding it to the skillet.  A lot of recipe reviewers said this made the macaroni very mushy, which I of course wanted to avoid.  I compensated by just adding the uncooked noodles right to the skillet and letting it cook for a bit longer.  Perfect!  I also used one can of whole tomatoes and one crushed, but that was an accident, apparently the crushed tomatoes were hiding behind the whole ones on the grocery store shelf.  This probably didn't make a huge difference in the outcome, but crushed tomatoes are definitely thicker/richer than pureed whole tomatoes.  Next time I'll try using all whole tomatoes, but I have zero complaints about how it turned out!
 
 
Goulash

2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 large onion, finely diced
1 bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C fresh parsley, minced
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 lb ground beef
2 28 oz cans whole tomatoes, blended until smooth (I used 1 whole, 1 crushed)
1 C chicken broth
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 lb dry macaroni noodles
salt and pepper to taste (I used 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper)
1 lb mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 oz grated parmesan
Heat olive oil and butter in a very large skillet over medium-high until butter is melted.  Add onion and bell pepper and saute until onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic, 1/2 of the parsley, the oregano, and red pepper flakes, and saute 1 minute. 

Raise heat to high and crumble in ground beef.  Saute until meat is cooked through.  Add tomatoes, broth, and Worcestershire sauce, and bring to a boil.  Stir in macaroni, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and let cook 7 minutes. 

Stir, add salt and pepper to paste, then quickly stir in half of the mozzarella cubes, just enough to evenly disperse the cheese.  Evenly top with the rest of the mozzarella and half of the parmesan.  Cover the skillet, reduce heat to the lowest setting, and cook 3 minutes without stirring.  Remove skillet from heat and let sit 5 minutes more. 

Remove lid, sprinkle with remaining parmesan and parsley, and serve with Worcestershire sauce.
Yield: About 10 servings

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken

This recipe is a little exciting for us because it's the first one I cooked on our grill this year, and the first time I've used the grill since we bought our house late last summer!  It did not disappoint.  If you like honey mustard at all, you will enjoy this.  Neither my husband nor I are particularly crazy about honey mustard, and we really enjoyed it.  My husband said it was excellent and I liked it, too.  It's one I'll make again for sure and I'd like to try baking it.  The extra dipping sauce would also probably be really good on chicken nuggets.

I found this recipe on AllRecipes.  My only changes were to sprinkle some salt on the chicken, use Worcestershire sauce instead of steak sauce, and I made more of the sauce so we could have some for dipping.

Quick Note:  If your chicken breasts are very thick, you may want to cut them down the middle so they're thinner and will cook through without the outside getting too done.  I know my chicken in the picture is a little more done on the outside than is preferable, I've only grilled chicken a couple of times in the past and am still getting used to our rather lousy grill!


Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (see note above)
salt to taste
1/2 C dijon mustard
1/4 C plus 2 Tbsp honey (this is 6 Tbsp altogether)
1/2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
3 Tbsp mayo
 
Lightly sprinkle both sides of chicken breasts with salt and place in a gallon sized zipper plastic bag.  Whisk together remaining ingredients until smooth.  Pour 1/2 C into a small bowl to use for basting later, and 1/3 C into another bowl to use as a dipping sauce when serving.  Pour the remaining sauce into the bag with the chicken, seal the bag, and squish the chicken around so it's evenly coated in the sauce.  Refrigerate the chicken until you're ready to cook it (about 8 hours is good) and periodically squish the chicken around in the bag to make sure it's all coated well.

When you're ready to cook, preheat the grill to medium and oil the grate.  Arrange chicken pieces on grill, let cook for a few minutes without touching them, then turn the chicken and grill on the other side for a few minutes.  After the chicken is opaque on the outside, you can begin to baste it periodically with the reserved basting sauce.  Continue to grill and turn chicken pieces until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of one of the pieces registers 165 degrees.  Remove chicken from the grill and let it rest for a couple of minutes, then serve with the reserved dipping sauce.

Yield: 6 servings

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pecan Chewies

I'm not usually very fond of chopped up nuts in my desserts, unless we're talking about crunchy peanut butter in cookies.  I like nuts just fine in savory dishes, and love peanut butter in desserts, but for some reason pieces of nuts in sweet things just do not appeal to me.  The texture is distracting and even the flavor can be.  Weird, I know! 
 
So it's kind of a mystery why I was so fascinated by the recipe for Pecan Chewies over at Southern Bite.  I came upon the recipe the first time I visited the blog and made them a couple of days later with the excuse of giving them to my neighbors.  Let me tell you, my interest in the recipe was well founded!  Pecan Chewies are so good, outstanding really!  They definitely deserve to have the word "chewy" in their name and were still delicious almost a week later.  I think they'd even be good without the pecans at all, though I did enjoy them.  After I had the pan in the oven, I realized that I was supposed to use pecan halves instead of chopped pecans, oops!  Next time I will do the pecan halves, but they were very good chopped, too.  This may be a big no-no in the south, but I'd love to try the chewies with chopped cashews or maybe even mini chocolate chips.
 
Also, something kind of funny:  I have made countless recipes from Southern Plate and it's probably my favorite cooking blog.  It's definitely the one I've cooked from the most!  After I made these (at the same time I realized I was supposed to use pecan halves instead of chopped), I discovered that the recipe had been guest posted on Southern Plate a couple of years ago.  Figures!

 
Pecan Chewies

2 sticks butter, melted
1 C sugar
1 C brown sugar, packed (I used dark brown sugar)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 C self rising flour (I used 2 C flour, 1 Tbsp baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt)
1 C pecans (halves or chopped)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and grease a 9 by 13 baking dish.

In a large bowl, stir together melted butter and sugars until smooth.  Stir in eggs and vanilla until well incorporated, then flour until no lumps remain.  Stir in pecans and spread mixture evenly in the baking dish.

Bake until just turning golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.  Don't overbake!
 
Let cool completely before cutting into squares.

Yield:  About 16 servings

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bacon Ranch Breakfast Pizza

On the weekends, I like to make us nice breakfasts.  Usually I don't get too creative and stick with old favorites like pancakes, yeast waffles, regular waffles, oven pancake, baked oatmeal, muffins with omelets, or beggagels.  Yesterday was pancakes and bacon, but I didn't have anything planned for this morning so I asked my husband what he wanted.  He half jokingly suggested breakfast pizza (this guy loves pizza of any variety!), then wandered off while talking to his parents on the phone.  He came back 45 minutes later and was very pleased to find this breakfast pizza emerging from the oven! 

It's not the prettiest thing, but quite yummy and he gave it 10/10 points, which is high praise.  I really enjoyed it as well and it will probably get added to our list of frequent breakfasts.  I just used what I had on hand to make the pizza, and everything worked out great.  The crust is made from homemade Bisquick mix (this is the recipe I use), so it has a definite biscuit quality that is of course perfect for a breakfast pizza.
 
 
Bacon Ranch Breakfast Pizza

1 1/2 C Bisquick
about 1/2 C hot water
3-4 Tbsp ranch dressing
1/2 C shredded cheddar
2 cooked scrambled eggs
2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 Tbsp grated parmesan
 
Preheat oven to 350 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
 
Mix together Bisquick and hot water until a soft, but not too wet, dough forms.  You'll need about 1/2 C water for this.  Pat and squish the dough into a 10 inch circle on the baking sheet.  If it sticks to your hands, just get your hands wet and continue patting.
 
Spread ranch evenly on top of the dough.  Sprinkle with grated cheese.  Top evenly with scrambled egg and bacon, then parmesan.
 
Bake pizza until cooked through and dough around the edge starts to turn golden brown, about 17-20 minutes.
 
Yield: 2-3 servings, more if you serve it with fresh fruit and yogurt or other side dishes.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Baked Cinnamon Pear Oatmeal

This recipe is from Southern Plate and is called Baked Peach Oatmeal Pudding over there.  The first time I made it, I followed the directions exactly, and we really liked it, but it tended to leak a bit of clear liquid that was a little unappealing.  Adding just a little bit of flour this time solved it!  I also used pears just to try something different, but the peaches are just as good.  In the future I plan to try blueberries and maybe even canned pineapple.
 
I'm not a big oatmeal fan, but this is something different.  It's kind of cakey and custardlike, and just really yummy.  Definitely worth a try if you're looking for something a little special for breakfast!
 

 
Baked Cinnamon Pear Oatmeal

2 C old fashioned oats
1/2 C brown sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 C milk
2 eggs, beaten
29 oz can pears, drained and chopped roughly

Preheat oven to 350 and grease an 8 by 8 baking dish.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.  Stir in melted butter, milk, and eggs until well combined, then stir in chopped pears. 

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.  Serve warm.

Yield: About 6 servings

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Secret Recipe Club: Peanut Slaw

For this month's Secret Recipe Club, I was assigned the amazing blog, Cupcake Muffin!  I knew I'd find a lot to like here because I'm sort of cupcake and muffin crazy.  Sara's blog did not disappoint!  She has all kinds of super yummy looking recipes on her blog, and let me tell ya, it was hard to pick.  When I first pulled up her blog, Giant Cheddar-Cornmeal Biscuit was the most recent recipe she'd posted, and it's an instant winner in my book.  I didn't end up actually making it, but plan to soon.  Other wonderful looking choices include Enchilada Pasta, Snow Day Marble Cake, Korean Chicken Lettuce Wraps, and Frenchie Mac.  I will for sure try the Enchilada Pasta and Snow Day Marble Cake!

When push came to shove, I ended up choosing Sara's Peanut Slaw.  My husband and I were having an impromptu dinner of turkey sandwiches (with good bread and deli turkey, yum!) and fruit salad, and I thought coleslaw would go with it really well.  I was right!  Usually I prefer mayo based coleslaw dressings, but the peanut version is really good.  I think it would go really well with a main dish that has an Asian flair, I guess peanuts in savory dishes make me think of Thai food.  Seems like a perfect side dish with all the grilling I hope to do this summer.
 
My only changes were to toast the chopped nuts, I left out the onion (don't like raw onion), and used a package of pre-shredded cabbage and carrots because shredding cabbage myself makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out.

 
Peanut Slaw
 
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp boiling water
1 lb bag pre-shredded cabbage and carrots that's packaged for coleslaw
1/2 C chopped peanuts

In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar, peanut butter, garlic, vinegar, and salt until smooth.  Whisk in boiling water, using enough to make a salad dressing consistency (I used the full 3 Tbsp).  Place shredded cabbage and carrots in a large bowl and pour dressing over top, toss gently to combine.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate for a couple of hours.

Place chopped peanuts in a small skillet and toast over medium-low heat until they turn golden, about 3-5 minutes.  Stir constantly so they don't burn and then immediately pour the toasted nuts into a bowl so they don't burn in the skillet while it cools down.

When you're ready to serve the coleslaw, toss it again and stir in the toasted peanuts.

Yield:  About 6 servings

Friday, May 1, 2015

Tickled Pink Lemonade Cookies

This is another cookie recipe from Joanne Fluke's murder mystery series and comes from the book The Red Velvet Cupcake Murder.  Winter is finally, slowly, leaving Interior Alaska, and that's always very exciting.  Before I moved here, I never thought a bare patch of ground would be such cause for celebration!  It's hardly summer yet, but when everything started melting, I immediately thought of this happy, summery cookie from a book I read in the dead of winter. 

It was a good choice, too, because these cookies are quite good!  They have a definite lemonade flavor without making your mouth pucker up, and the pink is rather charming.  The cookies themselves are thick and cake-like, which is a nice change.  They're good on their own, but the frosting definitely adds to the appeal.  My only change for next time will be to make a double batch because I only got 24 cookies.  I gave half of them to a neighbor (my entire excuse for making cookies to start with) and the two of us plowed through the remaining cookies in short order.
 
The only changes I made to Joanne's recipe were to use less red food coloring and more milk and pink lemonade concentrate and frosting.  More milk because the frosting was very stiff, and more concentrate so the lemonade flavor would be apparent.
 
 
Tickled Pink Lemonade Cookies
 
for cookies:
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 egg
1/3 C frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
red food coloring, as desired
1 3/4 C flour
 
for frosting:
2 Tbsp butter, softened
2 C powdered sugar
5 tsp milk
4 tsp frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed
red food coloring, as desired
 
For Cookies:
 
Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
 
Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Mix in baking powder, and baking soda, then egg and lemonade concentrate.  Beat until thoroughly mixed.  It will look curdled, don't worry!  Stir in red food coloring to make the dough as pink as you'd like.  Stir in flour until well combined, but don't over mix.

At this point, you can refrigerate the dough for half an hour if it's too soft to work with, but mine was fine.  Use two spoons or a small cookie scoop to scoop small walnut sized blobs of dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, 2 inches apart.  Bake until the cookies are set and just barely beginning to turn very light golden in some spots, about 10-12 minutes.  Let cookies cool completely, then frost with the frosting.

For Frosting:
 
Place butter and powdered sugar into a mixing bowl and beat until the butter is dispersed, it will look very dry.  Add milk and lemonade concentrate, and beat until smooth.  You can add more milk or more powdered sugar if it's too thick or too wet.  You want a smooth, spreadable consistency.  When you've reached that, stir in red food coloring so it's as pink as you'd like.  I didn't use any for the frosting because the pink lemonade concentrate made it ever so slightly pink on its own.

Frost cookies with frosting, let them sit out until the frosting is dry to the touch, then store them in an airtight container.  I can say they stay good for 3 days, maybe longer, but that's as long as they lasted here!

Yield:  About 24 cookies