When I buy a new cookbook or receive one to review, I cook my way through several recipes and tell my guys to give me their honest opinions. Hit me with your best shot and don’t hold back. I want to hear what they have to say about the recipes and why they like or don’t like how a dish turns out. I always give fair warning that we are trying something new, just so the boys are prepared. They’ll hang around, nosing in the pot or peeking in the oven, checking out what’s for dinner and giving early opinions on appearance and aromas. And I love that they are learning to identify ingredients and explain why they like or dislike something, not just say “Yum!” or “Gross.”…
My guys love chili so much that they could eat it every week, even on a hot summer day. When we have a pot cooking on the stove, the boys ask me to take off the lid so they can see it cooking and stick their noses a little closer to soak in the aroma. Inevitably, Hockey Guy will ask, “Is this the chili I like?” And I always say “yes” because that boy has never met a chili he didn’t like….
My guys love a good, hearty bowl of pasta, especially if there is some meat or meatballs to go with it. We start our sauce early and let it simmer all day, checking occasionally to see how it’s going, and waiting until all the flavors have bloomed to add salt or pepper near the end. Then we ladle it over a bed of noodles and sprinkle a little Parmesan over it. I have to make large batches so there is enough for lunch leftovers, which I put in the boys’ thermoses, and they check to make sure I add enough sauce and sprinkle in the Parmesan before closing the thermos lid. Italian meat sauce (ragù) is the stuff of dreams for this family of sauce lovers.
Life is crazy enough during the holidays without adding complicated meals on top of the craziness. I try to keep weeknight meals easy any time of the year, but especially during December. This recipe for steak tips with mushroom pepper gravy from Cooking Light is an easy favorite, one that Hockey Guy requests regularly. It’s one of those recipes that makes tasty leftovers, too. I usually double the steak and gravy, and save the rest for another meal. Then I only have to make a fresh batch of noodles for a quick dinner. My guys also like to pack it in a thermos for lunch….
So far our garden is doing very well. The tomato plants are hanging heavy with fruit, the basil plants are bushy, and some of the peppers have started turning yellow, purple, and red. With all the vegetables coming in from the garden now, we are busy harvesting each day, and cooking and putting up what we have. There’s something about sautéed peppers and onions when they get soft and blackened a little around the edges, they make any dish better, including fajitas. I eat fajitas as much for the peppers and onions as anything else, about the only thing better to have with fajitas is guacamole….
About a month ago Michael saw an episode of Food Wars on Travel Channel that featured the Juicy Lucy/Jucy Lucy burger, a Minneapolis creation with a devout following, and he knew instantly that he had to make it. I enjoy seeing him get over the moon about trying something new, and it was fun to watch him apply his engineering talents to building the perfect stuffed burger. He likes the mounded look of the Juicy Lucy/Jucy Lucy burger rather than a flat burger, so he piles the fillings high before sealing the edges….
While I don’t want to sound trite, I must say the first of May caught me off guard. I can’t believe it’s May, the school year is almost over and the kids will be out for almost three months, it’s time to register Top Gun for kindergarten, and summer is almost here. But that also means it’s grilling time around our house, actually more grilling time since we like to grill year round, we just happen to do it more often in the warm months. Really, I like grilled food in January but I don’t like freezing my fingers while making it!
Burgers are one of Builder Guy’s favorite foods, so we grill up a batch every once in a while. Some times I just want a slice of sharp cheddar and good barbecue sauce on top, but other times I like to play with the toppings: guacamole with caramelized onions, chimichurri, chipotle salsa, roasted red peppers with some kind of gooey cheese. The sloppier the better. And I happen to like tzatziki on my burgers, especially with arugula or an arugula pesto….
Beef stew is one of my favorite comfort foods, both for the wonderful flavor and the ease of preparation. I saw this Irish beef stew recipe at Epicurious a couple years ago and then saw Elise’s notes on how they used some red wine and Guinness Stout in place of some of the beef stock, an idea that definitely appealed to me. For my own touches, I added a pound of beef soup bones for extra flavor, used Yukon Gold potatoes instead of russet, and of course used fresh thyme from our garden. Though it’s not strictly traditional, this recipe has become a St. Patrick’s Day tradition for our family, a stew we look forward to every year….
Most of our evening meals are simple, often pulling from the freezer any leftovers from my weekend cooking marathons. We spend our energy taking care of the boys, coaxing them to eat their dinner and use good manners, and conversation centers around the day and what the boys did in school or any new milestones. We try to minimize the chaos, but I’ll tell you we’ve heard it all during dinner….
On Super Bowl Sunday I attempted to fulfill one of Michael’s foodie wishes. He has been craving Chicago Italian beef sandwiches, and I decided to do some research and make some for him. He got to relive some good memories, and I learned that making Italian beef is pretty easy and well worth it!
Italian beef is a Chicago institution, and a number of restaurants around town serve up this dripping wet sandwich, which is best eaten over a trough. The meat is roasted to medium rare, sliced thin, then simmered in an au jus made from the meat drippings, stock, lots of oregano, and other seasonings. To eat it, you fill a sub roll full of meat and then dip the whole sandwich into the au jus. No dainty dipping of the ends, you plunge the whole sandwich in! Then you top it with bell peppers and giardineria (pickled vegetables). It is sloppy and good!…
I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t like meatloaf and haven’t fixed it in years. We’re just not a meatloaf family, so when I announced one day last week that we would be having meatloaf for dinner I got a very strange look from Michael.
“I found a recipe that I think might be pretty good.”
“Hmmm.” He was not convinced, and truthfully I wasn’t sure that I was either, but I was willing to try.
The recipe comes from Cooking Light and the loaf has sun-dried tomatoes and lots of fresh basil….
As I have written in previous posts, I did not grow up with Asian food, and it wasn’t until I moved to Saipan for my first overseas teaching job in 1989 that I had any exposure to the real thing. The island was (and still is) populated with a mix of nationalities and there were a handful of Asian grocery stores around the island. The one closest to my house was in Chalan Piao right on Beach Road, and I remember going shopping there for the first time and feeling utterly bewildered when I looked at the food products. I was looking for a particular kind of Chinese noodles and some Chinese cooking sauces, but I couldn’t seem to figure out what products were Japanese vs Chinese vs Korean, so when I finally stumbled across a shelf that had Lee Kum Kee products with English labels, I was relieved and bought my first jar of Lee Kum Kee Black Bean Sauce.
That experience is how my Asian cooking and condiments love affair got started. I didn’t have a clue about any of the other ingredients in the store, I just knew that I had tasted a delicious beef and black bean sauce with noodles dish at Diamond Chinese Restaurant in Garapan and I wanted to learn how to make it myself. I still enjoy making the dish, and I was able to make it recently with the last of this year’s bell peppers from our garden….
When I was growing up, baked beans were a delicious part of all our cook outs and potlucks. Cans of pork and beans were mixed with ketchup, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and onions, then baked in the oven. Sometimes strips of bacon were laid on top, creating a smoky aroma and flavor that reminds me of many summers spent playing outdoors all day long and outdoor meals enjoyed with family and friends.
I haven’t made baked beans in a long time and this summer I was looking for an excuse to make some. Our neighbors hosted a potluck cookout over the weekend, and I jumped at the chance to try out a slow-cooker variation of my favorite baked beans recipe. This version is made with four kinds of beans, ground beef, and bacon and then slow-cooked for five or six hours. They smelled wonderful as they cooked, and they were a hit at the potluck. The flavor is a little sweet, a little smoky, and a little tangy; a nice combination….
It’s official—we’re moving. Over the Christmas holiday we learned that Michael has a new job in the DC metro area, and now we’re in the midst of selling a home and looking for another. I’m excited about returning to that area and I think it will be very good for our family, but right now it is a *lot of work* and I don’t see that changing much in the next few months. Frankly cooking is not very high on the priority list at the moment, not when the house has to be kept immaculate for potential buyers to come visit. Oh, and our three little boys need some attention every now and then (every two or three minutes)….
I used to order this dish at China House Restaurant in Saipan, and the combination of flavors grabbed me. Admittedly this is an Americanized version of Chinese broccoli beef, but I like the extra layer of flavor the tomatoes add. Don’t add them too soon or cook them for too long; otherwise, they will turn to mush.
The key to making this dish successfully is to prep everything ahead of time. You’ll feel like you are on a cooking show with all the bowls of measured ingredients beside you, but it will help immensely because once you start stir-frying things move very quickly.
Preparation time depends on how long you want to marinate the beef, which can sit for 30 minutes or up to 3 hours. Freezing the beef for about 20 minutes prior to cutting will make it much easier to achieve very thin slices….
We usually have some kind of pasta for Sunday dinner, and this is my husband’s favorite. He takes over the kitchen and makes the sauce and the meatballs. His philosophy is always to err on the side of more flavor, so he piles on the garlic and onions. He makes his meatballs using a pan saute method, and then drops them into the sauce while it cooks so that the character of the sauce is infused into the meatballs. The sauce is a chunky garden-style, with plenty of mushrooms, onions, peppers, and olives. We use fresh ingredients in season and canned or dried out of season. We often double the recipe and then freeze the sauce and meatballs in 32 ounce containers to pull out for quick meals.
3-5 qt mixing bowl
6 qt stock pot…
This recipe is almost a family legend. Mom got the recipe from a friend of hers, and she has passed it on to many, many people who enjoyed the dish when visiting my parents. Since my father is a hunter, my family makes this with venison instead of beef.
- 1 pound (454 g) beef or venison stew meat, cut into 1 inch chunks
- flour for dusting
- 5 cans french onion soup
- 8 ounces (227 g) fresh sliced mushrooms
- 1 pint sour cream
- 3-4 tablespoons flour
- SERVE WITH
- cooked noodles
- Dredge the meat chunks lightly in flour and stir in pan over medium heat until browned, but not cooked all the way through. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the meat from the pan, and drain on a paper towel. Move the meat into large crock pot, and add the onion soup. Cook on High for about four hours, then reduce temperature to Low.
- If you are using fresh mushroom, add to pot at the midpoint of cooking time. If using canned mushrooms, add 1 hour before serving.
- About 15 minutes before serving, stir sour cream and 3-4 tablespoons of flour together. Mix well. Whisk the sour cream a little at a time into the pot and allow to cook another 15 minutes.
large frying pan
6 quart crock pot
You can use venison instead of beef. Just soak meat chunks in milk or salt water overnight in the refrigerator. First thing in the morning, take meat out of the refrigerator and allow it to sit for about 15 minutes.
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We’re still perfecting this recipe, but so far we like the results. My husband spent a number of years in Ohio, and he thinks this is pretty darn good. The first time I tasted a Cincinnati style chili, I was ecstatic. It tasted exactly like the hot dog chili we used to get at the Roanoke Market when I was a little girl. I guess that hot dog vendor must have spent some time in Ohio.
You need to allow 3-1/2 to 4 hours to make the chili. If possible, make it the day before and then warm it up (it’s even better that way). Or if you are absolutely craving a 5-Way, use a very lean beef and make it the same day, just make sure you start early.
Ways to eat the chili
- Remember, the cheese always goes on top, unless you want to have it inverted with the cheese on the bottom and the spaghetti on top.
- 3-Way: On top of spaghetti smothered with cheese.
- 4-Way: On top of spaghetti smothered with onions or beans and cheese.
- 5-Way: On top of spaghetti smothered with onions, beans, and cheese.
- On hot dogs, topped with cheese and onions.
We use very lean beef and think that it works well. It produces very little fat in the chili, and is good for those times that you can’t plan ahead and want the chili on the day you make it. If you use 80% or 85% lean beef, then make the chili a day ahead and refrigerate overnight so that you can easily skim the fat off the top before reheating.
There are many, many variations on Cincinnati Style Chili. We’ve seen versions that use cardammom instead of chocolate, no Worcestershire sauce, more or less cinnamon, no bay leaf, and even some that brown the meat first. So if you use a different variant and want to share your ideas on Cincinnati Style Chili, feel free!
[Updated January 5, 2011.]
- 2 pounds (900 g) beef, ground, 90% lean or leaner
- 32 ounces (~1 litre) water
- 2 medium onions, finely grated
- 2 (8 ounce) cans (480 mil) tomato sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red peppers
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground
- 4 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 large bay leaf, whole
- 5 whole cloves
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- SERVE WITH
- hot dogs on the bun
- mild cheddar cheese, shredded
- onions, finely chopped
- kidney beans, well-drained and rinsed
- In a 4 quart sauce pot, add ground beef and water. Cook and stir until beef separates to a fine texture. Use a potato masher to mash the beef to a fine texture. Boil slowly for 30 minutes.
- Add all other ingredients. Stir to blend, bringing to a boil; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 3 hours. You want the chili to cook down, but not too much.
- If the chili starts to gets too thick, you may want to cover it during the last hour to bring up the liquid content.
- During the last 30 minutes cook the spaghetti, the hot dogs, and the kidney beans.
4 quart pot
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