What’s Cooking This Week

It’s all about old and new favorites this week: one dish that is super easy to put together that we tried for the first time, and another that takes more time for the flavors to develop but is worth the time.

First the old favorite that takes some time: chicken curry with kale and sweet potatoes. About four months into the first wave of the pandemic, our public broadcasting station offered an online culinary experience. For a donation and event “ticket”, you got a box of ingredients delivered to cook along with Marcus Samuelsson. Ummm, yes please! I signed up as fast as my fingers could navigate that keyboard. I totally nerded out cooking along during the Zoom session and hearing his stories. I also realized I’d never make it as a professional chef because I certainly move at a more glacial pace in my kitchen! And I’ll confess, I wasn’t really sure how a culinary adventure would play out at my dining room table. Suffice it to say, it was an absolute hit! One thing I took from the cook-along was the importance of developing layers of flavors (like the heat of the poblanos working with sweetness of the coconut milk) which got me thinking of building profiles while I cook in a way I never had before.

The quicker, and newest favorite, brings me back to our favorite appliance: the air fryer! I try to be really good before going to the grocery store to plan meals for the week. But inevitably there comes a day where I just don’t feel like cooking what I planned (usually because I’ve gotten distracted and waited too long to start dinner). I was gifted the Skinny Taste Air Fryer Dinner cookbook once I fell in love with the appliance and had to try the kielbasa, veggie and pierogis. Seriously friends, this could not be easier: as the title implies it’s really just peppers, onions, turkey kielbasa, and frozen pierogis (I used four cheese because that’s what was in my freezer). Working in a couple batches, I had dinner ready to go in about twenty minutes. It was incredibly delicious. You are supposed to add fresh asparagus as well but we aren’t fans (not to mention I didn’t have any on hand).

So here’s to old favorites and new ones! What’s cooking in your kitchen?

Skillet Tater Tot Bake

Here’s another one of those recipes that’s been a family favorite forever (to the point where whenever I ask “what do we want for dinner this week?” the answer is always Tater Tot Bake). Honestly, it doesn’t make a weekly appearance, but when I make it, it’s a hit. The original recipe called for canned cream of mushroom soup – I’ve messed around over the years to replace that with fresh mushrooms.

1 lb lean ground beef (ground turkey works well too!)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 cup white mushrooms (cleaned & sliced)
1 shallot (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (minced)
3 tbsp flour
1 1/2 c beef stock (or chicken if you’re using ground turkey)
1 c milk
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Smoked paprika to taste
1/2 of a 32 ounce package of tater tots

Optional:
1 cup shredded cheese (sharp cheddar or pepper jack)
6 oz. French Fried Onions

Brown meat in a cast iron skillet. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and remove from pan.

Melt the butter then add the mushrooms & shallots. Cook until the mushrooms soften. Add the garlic (so it doesn’t burn). Add the flour to the vegetables and cook for a minute. Slowly stream the milk and stock into the pan, whisking constantly (and making sure you get any of the brown bits up off the bottom of the skillet). As the mixture starts to thicken, add the Worcestershire and smoked paprika. Keep simmering until it thickens. Add the meat back into the pan and give it a stir.

Arrange the tater tots on top of the meat. Tip: if you like the potatoes a little crispier, bake them for 400 degrees for 20 minutes while you’re getting everything else together.

Bake 15-20 minutes (if you don’t bake the tots ahead, you may have to add another 10 minutes to get them fully cooked). When the tots are cooked and the mixture is bubbly, you can top with the shredded cheese and return to the oven for 5 minutes to let it melt. Same with the French Fried Onions – layer them on top of the tots (and cheese, if you added) and give it another five minutes till they’re crispy and golden brown.

Nice green salad on the side makes it a perfect dinner!

What’s Cooking This Week

When the pandemic wiped out so many things that we all loved & enjoyed, I vowed I would never gripe about getting busy again. I guess it’s the old you don’t appreciate what you have until you don’t have it! So as things are busy again, I’ve had to up my game on hearty and quick meals.

Am I the only one who ends up with vegetable remnants that are perfectly good but not enough to make a complete side dish? I l especially love having some leftover carrots so I can make beef stew. Once you brown some stew beef, add carrots, potatoes, peas, and (a family must), white pearl onions to 8 ounces of beef gravy, a can of French onion soup, and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. If it’s too think, just add a bit of water. Just let everything simmer till the veggies are tender. Bonus: if you have some refrigerated French loaves, it’s an awesome treat to make bread bowls to serve the stew in. Just cut each loaf in half, shape into a ball, bake 18-20 minutes until they’re golden brown. To serve, slice the top off each round, use an ice cream scoop to form it, and fill it with stew. The tops can be (dare I say should be?) used for dipping.

My other on-the-run meal is any kind of stir fry. Beef was on sale when I went grocery shopping this week (plus I got snow peas in my Misfits order), so away we went. I sliced the beef thinly then tossed it in a quick marinade of 1/2 cup of low sodium soy sauce, a couple tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce, a couple tablespoons of brown sugar and about an inch piece of freshly grated ginger (a trick I discovered quite by accident: cut your fresh ginger into one inch pieces and freeze. It grates so easily, it’s magical). While that’s marinating, cook as much basmati rice as you want. Then heat some oil in a large frying pan and give the snow peas a quick sauté. Set them aside. Cook the beef in shifts so the pan doesn’t get over crowded (otherwise the meat gets gunky – that’s probably not a proper cooking term). The hotter the pan, the quicker this takes! Once the meat is brown, add everything back into the pan and heat with the leftover marinade. If the sauce is too thin, just slowly add a bit of cornstarch/water mix to thicken it it. Plate over the rice, top with crushed red pepper and sliced scallions!

What’s your favorite, go-to quick meal?

Eat well!

The Easiest Biscuits Ever

I have a confession: I don’t have a lot of patience or tolerance for baking bread. I seriously intend to change that, but for now, that’s who I am! But I DO enjoy a nice biscuit that I can make while dinner is in the oven and have a few minutes. This fits the bill. And as a bonus, it tastes like a lot like a version served at a popular seafood chain. It is pretty garlicky though so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Biscuit Dough:
2 1/2 cup baking mix (I use Bisquick Heart Smart)
4 tbsp butter, chilled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup milk
2 tsp garlic powder

Topping:
4 tbsp butter
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut butter into making mix until the mix looks like course crumbs. Add milk, cheese and garlic. Mix to incorporate.

Shape dough into 12 biscuits (you can go bigger for less or smaller for more). Bake 15-17 minutes until golden brown.

Melt butter. Stir in garlic powder, parsley, and a pinch of salt if you want. Brush all over the top of the warm biscuits.

Streuselkuchen

My mom, God bless her soul, was known for her epic sweet tooth and her complete lack of skills in the baking department. And no, I’m not telling tales out of school because she was always the first to admit it. It did not, however, stop her from always finding suggestions for what I should bake to satisfy said sweet tooth! Especially if it was any German dessert she spoke so fondly of my grandmother making. So I was thinking of her yesterday when I had a couple apples left over from our weekly Misfits order and I decided to make one of her favorite cakes. Streuselkuchen is the fun German name for crumb cake, but this one takes it up a notch by adding of apples between the cake batter and the streusel topping.

1/2 unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp Almond extract
1 tbsp grated lemon peel
1/2 cup milk
2 cups of flour

2-3 apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Streusel:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter (chilled)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 13×9 pan with cooking spray.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, baking powder, almond extract, lemon peel and milk. Mix well. Add flour into the batter one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup.

Spread batter in greased pan. Add apples over the top of the batter to completely cover.

To make the streusel topping: use a pastry cutter to combine the flour, brown sugar and butter until the mixture looks like course crumbs. Sprinkle (liberally!) over the apples.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Enjoy warm or cooled. Pro tip: a dash of whipped cream is the perfect topping!

What’s Cooking This Week

It was a bit of a crazy week here. With Lent starting, the kitchen theme became Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday (I wish I could claim that I planned it that way, but alas it was pretty coincidental, yet delicious)

Our Tuesday meal was sheet pan porkchops, potatoes and green beans. You guessed it: the potatoes and green beans came from our weekly Misfits box. And I love sheet pan meals, especially when things are chaotic – you want a hearty meal everyone will enjoy, but you just don’t want to fuss around with a bunch of different dishes. This one is epically easy with a great ranch flavor. I use the Pioneer Woman’s recipe as a starting point. But a couple things I’ve learned while making this recipe: heat the oven to 425 degrees instead of the higher temp, depending on the cut of your potatoes (I love using fingerlings when I have them), give them a 10 minute start before adding the pork chops, and I find that the ranch dressing means you don’t have to add any extra salt. When I made it this week, we wanted a little more crunch on the potatoes but were afraid of drying out the pork chops, so I just tossed them in the air fryer for about 5 minutes while I was plating everything else!

Wednesday, I brought the world’s easiest tomato soup back into the rotation. (I don’t know why I only make it during Lent, but that seems to be how things go!) Start with half a cup of diced onion and carrots. Sautee them in a little olive oil till soft. Add one 28oz can of crushed tomatoes, two 5 ounce cans of tomato juice and heat to simmer. If you like your soup smooth, use an immersion blender to get things all nicely blended. Add your favorite spices – my go to’s are garlic powder, oregano, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add 1 – 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock until the soup is the consistency you like (one cup will be on the thicker side, so I lean toward two). Simmer for about 15 minutes to let all the flavors combine and enjoy! If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with a little shredded parmesan and fresh basil.

As I’m thinking about planning this week’s menu, what was your kitchen success of the week?

Eat well!

Pizza Epiphany?

We love pizza (ok, who doesn’t really?). Plus I love simple, so I started using garlic naan for the grill and just kept on using them in the oven the majority of time I make pizza. But as I started experimenting with grilling pizza, I kept running into problems with getting the cheese melted before the crust burned when I layered the cheese on top. That continued when we moved to putting the pizza in the oven. One day I realized I was doing this all wrong and tried to put the toppings on top of the cheese. Perfection!

Here’s how it’s been going down in the kitchen:

  • Top naan (or traditional crust, or flatbread…) with the sauce of your choice. One advantage of the individual sizes is that we can choose our own adventure (traditional tomato, white pizza sauce, or my latest go-to, spicy tomato oil)
  • Top with a layer of cheese (we like a mozzarella/provolone blend, but it’s a great way to use up fresh mozzarella too)
  • Layer on toppings. I was worried when I started experimenting that things would dry out, but I’ve experimented with cooked sausage, pepperoni, pepper, onion and mushrooms and haven’t hit an issue yet.
  • Keep an eye on it in the oven. My oven takes about 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
  • If you like spinach or arugula on your pizza (and as you see, I certainly do), I just sprinkle it on top when I take it out of the oven. The heat wilts it just enough to be perfect!

Such a simple hack has been a game changer! What’s your must-have on top of your pizza?