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Smoky potato and beef soup

Okay, I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I apologize.  If you follow me on facebook, you’ll know that I announced I had been dealing with some personal issues, and I have been.  Between uncertainty of when my husband is returning, and whether we will be moving, and with having to put one of our pets down right before Christmas, I was definitely down and dealing with other things.  I hope no one was left in the lurch.

With the new year and doubtless new resolutions on everyone’s plates, I’ve concocted a new recipe utilizing more vegetables than meat.  And, if you have any on hand, soup bones!  (I asked at the butcher counter at the grocery store, turns out they generally package them up and have them frozen!  Now I know!)  Keep in mind that I am cooking for one adult and one toddler, so this is a significantly pared down portion size – and since I chop everything super small for toddler bite size, it takes less of each ingredient.  To make this for adults, simply double this recipe

1/2 pound stew meat, diced
1 Tbsp. oil
1/3 c. parsnips,diced (about one small)
1/3 c. carrots, diced (about one small)
1/4 c. celery, diced
half a soft-ball sized onion, diced
2 Tbsp. cognac (optional)
2 c. cold water
2 qt. water or broth from boiled soup bones
2 Tbsp. beef soup base
3 small bay leaves or 1 large
2 garlic cloves, smashed (let sit for at least 10 minutes after smashing before adding to recipe)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 large russet potato, diced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste

In a dutch oven, heat one tablespoon oil on medium to medium high heat until it begins to shimmer, 2-3 minutes.  Dump in your meat (one layer please!) and allow to brown – meat will release from pan after seared.  Turn and allow to brown on all sides, remove from pan (note – it is NOT cooked yet!).  Add parsnips, carrots, celery, and onion to pan drippings and oil and allow to brown well, don’t worry if some of them stick a bit.  Carefully add cognac and stir vegetables.  Allow to cook off a bit and then add the cold water – using a stiff, flat-edged utensil, scrape all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan (easier time doing dishes, adding awesome flavor to food!).  Allow the water to come to a boil, then add the meat back to the pan, along with all juices from plate.  Add in additional water or bone broth, soup base, bay leaves, garlic cloves, cumin, basil, thyme, salt, pepper, and mustard.  Allow to come to a boil and then reduce to simmer and cover.  Cook for one hour.  Add potato and tomato paste and allow to cook for at least 1 hour more.  Fish out bay leaves and serve.

This can easily be adapted to a crockpot – low for 6 hours, high for 4 hours.  Also, if you don’t have cognac or don’t want to use it, try using instead 6 oz. of red wine or a heavy white wine, 3 oz. coffee/3 oz. red wine, or one of your favorite beers.  You really can’t beat the background flavors these ingredients add.  And the alcohol will cook off, don’t worry.

Breakfast cookies

I created this recipe in order to have something healthy and easy on hand for those hectic mornings.

1 c. (old fashioned) oats, pulsed into fine powder in blender or processor
3/4 c. oats
1/4 c. wheat germ (optional)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 c. pumpkin purée
1 medium banana, sliced
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. honey
2 eggs
Pinch salt
1/4-1/2 c. water
1/3 c. butterscotch chips (optional)

In blender, pulse 1 c. oats into fine powder. Transfer to mixing bowl; add remaining oats, wheat germ, and pumpkin pie spice. In blender add banana slices, vanilla, eggs, pumpkin purée, and salt. Pulse until banana is incorporated. Add a little bit of water and blend until smooth- you want the liquid to be about the consistency of a runny pudding. Add wet to dry and stir to combine. Drop dollops of batter about 3 Tbsp in size, and press with back of spoon to spread out in a cookie shape (these cookies don’t rise and spread like traditional cookies). Bake about 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Let cool 10 minutes before eating or cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

For an even healthier option, replace the two eggs with 2 Tbsp. of unsweetened applesauce.

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Twice-baked potatoes

My last post of twice-baked sweet potatoes had me thinking about twice-baked potatoes.  I love twice-baked potatoes – and aside from the amount of time they take, they are really very easy.  You can mix anything into the middle that you want – I usually keep it pretty simple.  What follows is my basic recipe.

4 mid-sized potatoes
1/3 c. sour cream
1/2 c. shredded cheese, plus extra for topping
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4 small onion, minced
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt

Wash and prick potatoes and then bake in the oven or in the microwave (I have a potato setting on my microwave, but it is usually about 15 minutes, or almost an hour in the oven).  Slice the tops off and scoop out the potato flesh, leaving about a 1/4 inch so your potato boats are sturdy.  Place the potato flesh into a bowl with the sour cream, 1/2 c. of cheese, butter, onion, salt and pepper; mash well and spoon back into potato boats.  Top with cheese and bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven (or until cheese is melted, bubbly, and brown).  Serve hot.

Twice-baked sweet potatoes

This is a recipe inspired by some of my favorite flavors and one of my favorite ways to prepare regular potatoes – twice baked.  Since the sweet potato packs the biggest nutritional punch for your money in the produce department, this is another great way to get them into your meal rotation.  It does take some planning ahead, since they take a while, but they are well worth it.

4 small to mid-sized sweet potatoes
1/2 a stick of butter (4 Tbsp.), sliced
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
miniature marshmallows

Wash and poke potatoes with a fork to pierce the skin.  Either bake in the oven for 45-60 minutes or microwave until cooked through (I have a potatoes setting on mine, but it’s about 15 minutes).  Remove and slice off the top of each and scoop out most of the innards, leaving a boat (with about 1/4 inch of the flesh so your skins don’t fall apart).  Place scooped out potato into a mixing bowl with butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and salt.  Mash well so ingredients are well mixed and butter is melted.  Scoop back into potato boats (it will be heaping full).  Carefully press marshmallows into the top of the refilled potatoes and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until marshmallows are browned and form a delicious, gooey crust on top.  Dig in and eat!

Hot ham and cheese party sandwiches

I made these for my son’s second birthday party and they were a huge hit – everyone was asking me for the recipe.  Hint: make extra – they are a bazillion times more delicious as leftovers!

1 stick butter
2 tsp. Worchestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1-12 oz. package of King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls
1/2 lb. black forest ham, finely sliced
4 oz. Monterey Jack cheese
2 tsp. poppy seeds
raspberry preserves

In a microwave safe dish, cube butter and add Worchestershire sauce, sugar, and mustard.  Microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring often, until melted and well combined.  Leave rolls connected and slice through entire “loaf” to create a sheet of tops and bottoms.  Generously baste both sides of the rolls with the mustard glaze; layer with ham and cheese.  Place top sheet of rolls on top and baste tops with glaze.  Sprinkle with poppy seeds.  Bake in 350 degree oven, tightly covered, for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, carefully slice, and serve hot!  Serve with warmed raspberry preserves on the side.

Oven stew

This is one of my favorite recipes from when I was growing up.  It is simple and tastes phenomenal.  I usually serve it over cooked egg noodles.  It does take some planning ahead as it has to cook for 3 hours.

1 lb. stew meat, trimmed
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 packet Lipton’s beefy onion soup mix
2 c. water

In a 2-quart greased covered-casserole dish, whisk together cream of mushroom soup, beefy onion soup mix, and water.  When thoroughly combined, add in stew meat, making sure to break up into individual pieces.  Cover with foil and then casserole lid.  Bake at 350 for 3 hours.  Serve hot.

Note: I don’t like cream of mushroom soup, so I always make this with cream of chicken soup.  It doesn’t taste weird, I promise, lol.

Empanadas

Most of you are probably familiar at least with what an empanada is – it is a folded pastry pocket with either a savory or sweet filling.  I discovered these while I was studying in Argentina and I love them.  Unfortunately, the only empanadas I have been able to find stateside here are nothing like the ones I grew to love while in Argentina.  Therefore, I was left to come up with my own.  I totally cheat and use crescent rolls.  Sue me.  Also, this recipe uses chicken, but these are equally delicious with ground beef.  The recipe originally calls for sliced green olives, but I omit those.  If they tickle your fancy, feel free to use them.

2 tubes crescent rolls
1 (rotisserie) chicken breast (from the deli), cooked and shredded
2 hard boiled eggs, diced
1 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, slightly beaten with 1 tsp. water (egg wash)

In a saute pan, melt butter; add onion and cook over medium-low heat until translucent and season with salt and pepper.  Add in chicken and stir to heat through.  Remove from heat and stir in paprika, cumin, cinnamon, and hardboiled eggs.  Spoon 1-2 tsp. of mixture into center of crescent roll triangle; fold over to create a pocket and press with a fork to seal the edges.  When all pockets have been formed, brush lightly with egg wash mixture.  Bake at 375 for roughly 20 minutes, until crusts are golden brown.  Serve hot.