Thursday, December 31, 2009

Mongolian Beef

I love my crock pot. I love it even more when using it yields such fantastic results! Next time I make this, I'll throw in some cooked broccoli at the very end. The sweet and spicy combination of the sauce was perfect.

1 lb
beef flank steak, sliced thinly across the grain
1 medium white onion or
yellow onion, sliced thinly (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup soy sauce or Braggs liquid aminos
1/2 cup dry sherry (I used 1/4 cup vinegar, 1/4 cup water, and 1 Tbsp sugar)
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon minced
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/4 cup
brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2-1 teaspoon
red pepper flakes, to taste (I used 1/2 and it was plenty spicy)
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup
scallions, cut in 1 inch pieces
1/3 cup fruity
white wine

Slice the flank steak thinly across the grain - the strips should be 2 to 3 inches long each; set aside.
Combine the onion, soy sauce, sherry, broth, garlic, hoisin, brown sugar, ginger, and pepper flakes, then put the mixture into the crock pot.
Put the cornstarch in a large Ziploc bag; add the sliced beef and toss well to coat.Add the coated beef into the crock pot, gently pushing it into the liquid to cover; pour the white wine over - do NOT stir.
Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours; an hour before you're going to serve, turn the crock pot to high, add the cut scallions, stir, and cook for an additional hour. Stir, and serve over rice or noodles.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Spiced Nuts

I gave bags of these as gifts this Christmas. I wasn't so sure about making nuts in a crock pot, but they turned out great - and talk about easy!

1 cup raw, unsalted pecans
1 cup raw, unsalted almonds

1 cup raw, unsalted pistachios (no shells, just the meat)

1/2 cup raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds
1 1/2 T maple syrup

1 tsp curry
1 tsp rosemary (I used Thyme)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
cooking spray

This makes enough nuts to feed 12 people as a snack; about 3-4 gift containers.
Spray the inside of your crockpot with cooking spray. Put in your nuts/seeds, then add all of the spices and the maple syrup. Toss well to coat. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes, and then 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. The nuts will burn if you don't stir (a few of mine burnt anyway!). Spread the nuts out on a layer of foil or wax paper to completely cool, and store in an air-tight container.

Chicken, Lemon, and Dill with Orzo

I would rate this five stars for a good combination of ease, taste, and price. My husband thought it was a little boring, but he's not as much of a pasta guy. I thought of this as a sophisticated version of the traditional chicken and rice.

4 c. chicken broth
3/4 c. water
1 tbsp. butter
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 lb. orzo
1 lb. chicken tenderloins, cut into one-inch cubes
1/4 c. chopped fresh dill (I used about 2 Tbsp. dried dill)
2 c. crumbled feta cheese
2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 c. shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400.
In a saucepan, bring broth, 3/4 cup water, butter, salt and pepper to a boil.
Meanwhile, combine chicken, orzo, feta, dill, lemon zest and juice in a 3-quart baking dish. Once broth mixture has boiled, pour over orzo/chicken and stir once to incorporate. Bake until orzo is tender and cooking liquid is creamy, about 40 minutes.
Sprinkle Parmesan on top and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Christmas Wreaths

We got together with some neighbors to make this festive, fun, holiday treat (remember these, Mom?!). The kids had a great time - get ready for a mess!

1/3 cup margarine or butter
1 package (10 oz. about 40) regular marshmallows, OR 4 cups miniature marshmallows
1 teaspoon green food coloring
6 cups Corn Flakes
Red cinnamon candies
vanilla frosting

On the stove: Melt margarine in large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat. Stir in food coloring.
In the microwave: Microwave margarine and marshmallows at HIGH 2 minutes in microwave-safe bowl. Stir to combine. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute longer. Stir until smooth, then add food coloring.

Add corn flakes cereal. Stir until well coated.

Portion warm cereal mixture evenly by using a 1/4 cup dry measure coated with cooking spray. Using sprayed fingers, quickly shape into individual wreaths. Dot with cinnamon candies, using prepared frosting to hold candies in place. Store in single layer in airtight container.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


In preparation for our daughter's arrival, I made another batch of burritos to stick in the freezer. This is one of the easiest and pleasingest (for my husband) foods I can have on hand. I've tried several different variations. The possibilities are endless (corn, cooked and shredded chicken, black beans, cilantro, ground beef . . .), but this is the way my family likes them best:

2 cans refried beans
1 jar store-bought chunky salsa (my homemade salsa isn't chunky and makes the filling too runny)
3-4 cups fresh spinach leaves, torn
1-2 cups shredded cheese
10 burrito-size flour tortillas

Mix the first four ingredients together in a large bowl. Heap two large spoonfuls of filling on one tortilla. Fold in sides of tortillas and then carefully keep sides tucked to roll up, starting from the bottom end. Place rolled up burritos on a large cooking sheet. Freeze until solid. Individually wrap in shrink-wrap, or put them all in ziploc baggies.

You can have a warm burrito after just 5-7 minutes in the microwave, but we like ours a little toasted, so this is our formula:
Heat oven to 350. Defrost one burrito for three minutes in the microwave. Bake in oven for 15 minutes. Turn burrito over. Bake another 15 minutes. Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stuffed Sausage Shells

Ooooh - this was delicious! (not my picture - the camera battery was dead) It wasn't as much work as I thought it would be just from reading the recipe, and was so yummy! I'd say lasagna and manicotti got together and this is what they made.

1 12-ounce package jumbo pasta shells
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 large egg
16-ounces ricotta cheese
10-ounces chopped frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed dry, chopped further (or 10 ounces chopped fresh spinach)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 28-ounce can tomatoes with herbs, including the liquid, tomatoes broken up (or your favorite tomato or pasta sauce)

2 9x13 shallow baking dishes

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil (1 teaspoon salt per quart of water). Cook the pasta shells according to the instructions on the package. Drain, rinse in cold water, and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage to the pan, breaking up the sausage into smaller bits. Cook sausage until cooked through, and no pink remains, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute more. Remove pan from heat.

Beat the egg lightly in a large bowl. Mix in the ricotta, chopped spinach, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese, basil, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and sausage mixture. Fill each cooked pasta shell with some of the ricotta, spinach, sausage mixture. FYI - I filled my shells too full and ran out of mixture at the end.

Spread 1/2 cup chopped canned tomatoes over the bottom of each of the baking dishes. Arrange the stuffed pasta shells in the dishes. Spread the remaining tomatoes over the top of the pasta shells.

At this point you can make ahead, to freeze (up to four months) or refrigerate before cooking. (If freezing, cover with foil, then wrap with plastic wrap.)

Heat oven to 375°F. Cover the pans with foil and bake for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbling. Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese, bake uncovered for 10 more minutes.

Serves 8.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oldies, but Goodies

For the past week, I haven't used one single recipe that is new. What?! While this realization is strange and very unlike me, we have enjoyed feasting on some of our favorites:

Thai Beef with Coconut Rice

Chicken Enchiladas

Thai Green Chicken Curry

Italian Cous Cous

Pumpkin Chocolate-chip Muffins

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Pasta with Butternut Parmesan Sauce

This was a simple-to-make sauce that didn't take long (minus the time spent baking the squash, but how hard is that?!) and was tasty on the pasta and chicken.

1 butternut squash weighing about 2 1/2 pounds
8 ounces of bow-tie pasta
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/3 cup of chopped shallots
1/2 cup of packed, freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup of heavy cream (I used whole milk)
1/8 teaspoon of grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
2 teaspoons of lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Water as needed to thin the sauce

Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the butternut squash lengthwise in half and scoop out the guts and seeds and discard them. Pour 1/4 cup of water into a pyrex or ceramic baking dish and place the butternut squash halves cut side down. Bake for 40 minutes or until a fork easily pierces the squash. Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Scoop out the squash flesh from the skins and purée with a blender. Discard the skins.

Fill a pot with water and salt (1 tablespoon of salt for every 2 quarts of water). Set over high heat to bring to a hard boil. Add the pasta and cook at a hard boil, uncovered until al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, pour the olive oil into a wide skillet on medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the butternut squash purée and cook for about a minute, mixing it in with the shallots. Add the cream, a tablespoon at a time, slowly stirring it in to incorporate and to avoid lumps. Stir in the Parmesan. Add the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Add water (or chicken stock) to thin to the consistency you want. Take off heat and add the parsley and lemon juice. Cover the pan to keep warm.

Check pasta. When ready (al dente) drain and plate. Pour the sauce over the pasta. Garnish with a little extra parsley and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Serves 4.

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