Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Swiss Steak

Swiss Steak.  Yet another one of my favorite meals back in my carnivorous days, yet I've never made it for Jason.  He'd never had it before so it was a first for him to eat and a first for me to make.  I remember this meal as a child and it was something that I loved leftover too (that's hard to come by for me!).  It's great warmed up with some melted cheese as a sandwich!
So, after a quick lesson from my mom on the basics of how to make it, I put it on the weekly menu and ta-da!  Here it is! 
Oh, and Jason loved it too :)
Swiss Steak
Serves 4-6
2-3 lbs round steak, pounded and tenderized (your butcher can do this if you ask nicely)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Salt & Pepper
1 cup red wine or beef stock
1 large onion, sliced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp cornstarch
1.  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large pan until near smoking.  Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a large plate and dredge half of your round steak and place in the hot oil.  Sear on both sides until nice and brown, 3-5 minutes per side.  Repeat with remaining oil and steaks.  Place browned steaks in a large crockpot.  Place the mushrooms and onions on top of the meat.

2.  Add the beef stock or wine to the pan to deglaze - scrape all of the bits off of the bottom and bring the liquid to a gentle simmer.  Once all the bits have been scraped up and the liquid is hot, pour over the beef, mushrooms and onions.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or until the meat is tender.

3.  Thirty minutes before you're ready to serve, ladle out about 1/4 cup of the liquid from the crock pot.  In a small bowl whisk in the cornstarch to the hot broth to form a slurry.  Pour the slurry into the crock pot, turn it to high and angle the lid so that it's not on tight.  This will give the gravy the ability to evaporate and thicken up.  Serve and enjoy!

 Happy Eating!
~ Sara :)

Taco Seasoning

I've been making my own taco seasoning for a couple years now.  But, for some reason, I've never posted the recipe!

Have you ever looked at the ingredients on a taco seasoning packet?  You should.  It's absurd!  Something as simple as a seasoning should not be filled with things that you can't pronounce.  And don't even get me started on the salt content! 

Tacos have become a weekly staple in our house - all of us love them.  Don't just stop at ground beef either.  I season my black beans and refried beans with it too.  I always double or triple the recipe because I know it won't be long until it's Taco night again!

I use about one tablespoon per pound of ground beef, which seems to suit my family just right - but you may prefer a little more.  And, you can always adjust any of the ingredients to make it spicier, saltier, etc.  Play around with it and see what works best for you!

Taco Seasoning
Makes approx. 2 1/2 tbsp

1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp dried red pepper
1/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

1.  Combine all the ingredients.  Store in a jar or use immediately.  Enjoy!

Happy Eating!
~ Sara :)

Refried Beans

Confession time: this is not my first go at refried beans.  I've tried them before and they were runny, watery, and just, well, gross.

But this time?  This time they were really good.  Like, good enough that I ate them leftover.  Yeah, that's kind of a big deal.

They are simply seasoned - just taco seasoning and a little S&P.  Plus, they are very low maintenance too.  They cook for a few hours, but you don't have to do much besides blend them up at the end.  And, depending on how chunky or smooth you like yours, might not take much time at all. 

We had these on tostada shells for dinner - it was a great meal!

Refried Beans
Makes 8 servings

16 oz dried Pinto beans, rinsed and picked through (remove any 'ugly' beans or stones that may have snuck inside the bag)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 tbsp taco seasoning
Water or veggie/chicken/beef stock
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

1.  Place the beans, taco seasoning, onions, garlic and enough water (or stock) to cover the beans by about 1 inch and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the beans are tender - between 2 and 3 hours.  Open the lid to stir every 30 minutes or so and add more liquid if it gets low.

2.  Remove the beans from the heat and get to mashing/pureeing!  I used my immersion blender, but a potato masher and some elbow grease would work great too.

3.  Once the beans have reached the consistency you like, taste and season with salt and pepper (and more taco seasoning if desired), turn the burner back up to medium and add in the butter.  Stir the beans to melt the butter and warm back up.  Serve and enjoy!


 Happy Eating!
~ Sara :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Easiest (and most delicious) Drop Biscuits

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I can't.  This is from America's Test Kitchen - I love that show. 
These biscuits are amazing.  Like, whoa.  They're so delicious and are great as-is or as a pot pie topper.  They take no time at all to whip up and pop in the oven.  The best part?  None of that boxed "baking mix" stuff in sight.  Trust me - you need to try these!
(Please excuse the photos - I didn't have my camera handy and had to use my phone :)
The Easiest Drop Biscuits
Makes approximately 1 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder 
1 tsp sugar 
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda 
1 cup cold buttermilk 
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tbsp melted butter (optional)
1.  Preheat the oven to 375.  In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.  Set aside.  In a smaller bowl, combine the buttermilk and melted and cooled butter and mix until the butter begins to coagulate.  
2.  Add the buttermilk/butter mixture to the flour and mix until it all comes together to form a slightly lumpy dough.  Place large scoops of the dough onto parchment paper/silpat lined baking sheets or on top of a pot pie. 
3.  Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown (they may take up to 20 minutes as a pot pie topper).  Remove from oven and brush with melted butter if desired.  Enjoy!

 Happy Eating!
~ Sara :)


Move over, Mrs. T.!!
I grew up on frozen pierogis - they're one of the few items that I will still occasionally buy frozen and cook.  But, that may all change now that I've made them from scratch.  These are one of those meals that you never make because you think they'll take too long....but in reality, they don't.
Another plus?  You can make a whole lot of them and freeze them.  Just one batch makes a ton.  If you were to double it - well, then you'd be set for many meals!
I tried two different fillings for these - the classic mashed potato and cheddar and some with my fermented sauerkraut.  I was pleasantly surprised with the sauerkraut.  I may have even liked those a bit more than the potato.
Sure, these take time, but the nice thing is that you can do a lot of the work ahead of time.  The dough and filling and even the pierogis can be made in advance and cooked when needed.
These are traditionally served with sour cream and/or applesauce.  I like to serve mine with sautéed peppers, onions and garlic.
Homemade Pierogis
Makes approx. 4 dozen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup prepared mashed potatoes combined with 1 cup shredded cheese
1 cup sauerkraut, well drained
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp butter


1.  For the Dough: In a large bowl, whisk the flour and salt together.  Add in the egg, sour cream and room temperature butter until the dough forms a slightly sticky ball.  Use your fingertips and knead the dough until it becomes less sticky, but is still moist (no additional flour should be necessary).  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, but up to 24 hours.


2.  Once the dough has been chilled, remove it from the fridge and cut it in half.  On a well floured surface, roll the dough out to approximately 1/8" thick.  Using a 2"-3" cutter (I used a 2.75" biscuit cutter), cut the dough into circles.  Repeat until all dough (or at least most) has been used.

3.  Fill each dough circle with 1-2 tsp of mashed potato or sauerkraut filling.  Fold the dough over and, using a fork, seal the edges of each pierogi.  Now, these can be cooked immediately, refrigerated for 24 hours or frozen for 2 months.

4.  To prepare:  Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet.  Sauté the peppers and onions until nice and golden, adding in the garlic for the last 2 minutes of sautéing.  While the peppers and onions are sautéing, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Boil the pierogis in batches until they float to the top of the water.  Remove, place them on a paper towel to drain and repeat until all pierogis have been boiled.

5.  Remove the peppers, onions, and garlic from the pan and place on a serving plate.  Melt 2 tbsp of butter in the pan and nestle the pierogis in the pan.  Cook on each side until golden brown, approximately 3-5 minutes per side.  Serve the pierogis atop the peppers and onions.  Enjoy!


Happy Eating!
~ Sara :)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hot Pepper Jelly

This is a great, versatile recipe that you can make as hot and sweet as you'd like.  As long as you have between 1 1/2 and 2 cups of peppers, you'll have success.  You can use any combination of peppers that you'd like.  For this particular recipe I used 1 small green bell pepper, 1/2 red bell pepper, 2 small jalapenos, 4 habaneros and 1 7-pot chili pepper.  I seeded and removed the ribs of all peppers.  And please wear rubber gloves when dealing with hot peppers.  Don't try to be a hero.  You'll regret it.  Trust me.

Two of my favorite ways to eat pepper jelly is in Baked Brie with a fresh baguette or simply drizzled over a block of cream cheese and served with crackers. 

Hot Pepper Jelly
Makes approximately 6 1/2 half-pints

1 cup bell pepper, chopped small
1/2 - 1 cup hot peppers, minced
1 1/2 cup white vinegar
5 cups granulated sugar
3 oz liquid pectin


1.  In a large pot, combine the peppers, vinegar and sugar.  Dissolve the sugar and bring mixture to a full boil.  Boil 5-6 minutes, stirring often.

2.  Remove from heat, add pectin and combine.  Transfer jelly to warm canning jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove, wait for the 'ping' and cool.

Baked Brie

This is one of my go-to appetizers - it's a staple at our annual White Elephant Party.  It's simple, classy and delicious.  Plus, you can leave it plain or, add fruit, nuts, jams, or jellies.

My favorite way to prepare it is with Hot Pepper Jelly in between the brie before it's wrapped and baked.  The brie is creamy and mild and the little bite of the hot pepper is a perfect match.

Be sure to serve this immediately.  Brie gets quite hard as it cools so enjoy it while it's hot!  If you have a hot plate, it works great for keeping it warm.

Baked Brie


1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
1 wheel of brie
1 tbsp jam or jelly, if desired
1 baguette, sliced and toasted


1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Carefully slice the brie in half (skip this step if you are not filling your brie).

2.  Cut the puff pastry so that it is a large square, just slightly larger than the brie.  Using a rolling pin, roll the square out so that there is 2-3 inches of pastry on all sides of the brie.

3.  Place one side of the brie on the puff pastry and place your filling in the center.  Spread it so that it comes within a 1/4 inch of the edge.  Place the top of the brie on top and, starting with a corner, carefully encase the brie with the puff pastry.  Dip your finger in water and place it on the pastry as you seal.  This will help the pastry stick to itself and ensure a better seal.

4.  Carefully flip the brie over and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until the brie is golden brown.  Serve with slices of toasted baguette or crackers.  Enjoy!

~ Sara :)