Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Easy Beef Ranch Stroganoff with elbow macaroni and Dill Succotash

I have heard that sometimes the greatest inventions were by accident.  I'll have to agree with that.  I was wondering what to  make for dinner last night with the ground beef I had.  No, to Taco's, hamburgers, hamburger steak, meatballs, and all the other usual ideas.  I wanted something different.  I remember having a delicious ground beef dish with elbow macaroni.  I didn't quite remember the ingredients, but I thought it had cheese in it.  How hard could this be? 
As I was getting the ingredients out, I had a brilliant idea.  Why not use a packet of Ranch Dressing mix?  We love Ranch Dressing, so why not use it to spice up the hamburger?  I had, left over shredded Mozzarella cheese, from pizza night last night.  Ok, it's coming together.  I said a quick prayer that it would taste good and got to cooking. I kind of flew-by-the-seat-of-my-pants on this one.  After the meat was cooked, I added the cheese and ranch dressing mix.  It needed liquid.  I didn't have cream (that would have been amazing I'm sure) so I used whole milk.  I added a little at a time until it was a nice thick consistency.  I tasted it, and Whalah, it tasted just like Beef Stroganoff!! What a wonderful surprise.  I love Hamburger Helper Beef Stroganoff, which was probably what my room mate was making, now that I think of it.  It has a crazy amount of sodium in it, so I don't make it any more. Now, I can make this anytime I want and it's much healthier.  I didn't add one bit of salt to the entire dish.  You can use 2% cheese, and milk, what a great meal.  Quick and easy. 
I always boil my hamburger meat.  I take the lump of ground beef out of the package, add it to a sauce pan or skillet, add water about 1/4 way up the meat and boil.  I also add lots of garlic, onions and pepper.  I think it flavors the meat as it boils.  I learned this little trick in college, from a room mate of mine.  Four of us shared a house, and we alternated weeks for cooking and cleaning the kitchen.  One of my room mates was making something with hamburger meat, and boiled it.  I asked why in the world a person would do this.  I was told, and found to be true, that it makes it easier to drain the grease from the meat.  We all know, from basic science, that oil and water do not mix.  So, by boiling the meat, the grease rises to the top of the water, which can then be easily poured off with the water.  No more paper towels, no more precious meat going into the trash along with the grease, no more greasy yuck tasting meat.  Just cooked hamburger with a very nice flavor. 
After the meat is boiled, I pour off the water and grease, then break it up into small pieces and fry a little bit longer to make sure it's cooked through.  Most times, I'll cut the hamburger in half to make sure it is cooked enough before I pour the water/grease off.  This is such a neat trick, time saving too!  Warning, don't boil too long or you'll end up with a hamburger baseball. 

Beef Ranch Stroganoff

1 lb Ground Beef
2 tsp low sodium soy sauce
1 packet Ranch Dressing mix
2 large cloves of garlic, smashed
1 TB spoon minced onion
2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup shredded 2% mozzarella cheese
whole milk, or cream, or 2% milk
Elbow macaroni

Add ground beef to a large sauce pan, pour in enough water to cover 1/4 way up the meat.  Leave the ground beef whole, do not break it into pieces yet.
Add to the ground beef and water, garlic, minced onion and pepper, bring to a boil
Cook until nearly well done
Pour off water and then break the beef up into smaller pieces
Add the ranch dressing, cheese and stir.
Slowly add milk until it reaches a medium thick consistency
Allow this to simmer together while you make the macaroni

Elbow Macaroni:
Cook as per package instructions, use about 1/2 a box

Dill Succotash:
Frozen Succotash vegetables
1 TB spoon butter
1 tsp dill

Allow the vegetables to cook, add the butter once the veggies are done, then add the dill while the water/butter is boiling.  Take off the heat, drain and serve.

Once the macaroni is cooked, pour off most of the water, then add to the ground beef mixture, stir, serve and enjoy. 

I have some leftover, which means a delicious lunch tomorrow.  It will probably be even better tomorrow once all the flavors blend, or marry.  Ummmm, Yummy, I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Do you know what a Turnip is? Want to know how to cook one and be glad you did?

Long time ago, bacon grease was the "go to" grease to cook with. Then studies showed it was bad for our hearts, and other oils became more popular. I can remember Mom had a bacon keeper on the stove, when I was little. It was a tin container, round, with an insert in the top. The bacon was put on the insert, the grease dripped down into the container to be used for cooking. Mom said that I always smelled like bacon, and she couldn't figure out why. One day, when I was about 3 years old, she came into the kitchen to find me climbing onto the counter top to eat the bacon out of the bacon keeper. I never could figure out why anyone wanted to store perfectly good bacon. It simply must be eaten immediately. I have never seen another "bacon keeper", and when I've mentioned it to people, they look at me like I've sprouted three heads. The horror!! Leaving bacon out, using it's fat to cook with. Why would anyone in their right mind use such a flavorful grease to cook with? Why, not even Paula Deen uses bacon fat! wink wink.

I finally was organizing my loose recipes into a binder with those plastic sleeves, very convenient.  I ran across this recipe from a dear family friend, Justine.  It is her mothers recipe for Boiled Turnips.  This is a very old recipe.  Please don't turn your nose up at it, try it.  You will be surprised and the flavor.  You might just find yourself wanting more turnips in your diet. 

Boiled Turnips
by Ora Wallace

6 medium turnips (cut the root and stem off, wash, then chop into bite size pieces)
2 tbs Bacon drippings  (or just fry 4-5 slices of bacon, remove bacon and crumble, add crumpled bacon to turnips at end)
1 tbs sugar or to taste
salt to taste
Corn meal
Water to about top of turnips
Cook until tender
sprinkle plain corn meal in broth to thicken
eat immediately

Picture credit: http://www.bestinseason.ie/a-z/turnips/

What to do with left over Rotisserie chicken? Comfort Food, Chicken Pot Pie style.

When I was little, I did not like Chicken Pot pies.  I took the stand, if there is a pie crust, it needs to be filled with cherries or apples, not chicken with veggies.  I've slowly given over to accepting the chicken pot pie.  We went to Cracker Barrel to eat dinner on the night they were making chicken pot pies.  I thought I'd try one, it had been years since I ate one.  It was delicious!  I found myself craving a chicken pot pie. 
I wanted to make my own Chicken pie (as my son calls it), but wasn't sure how.  I read in a cook book, several different versions of pot pies and decided to mix them to create my own version.  My mother-in-law happened to be coming to visit the day I made my first attempt at a Chicken pot pie.  My whole family loved, including the little boy.  We ate like pigs, it was so good! 
My son and I have been sick for the last two weeks with chest colds, head colds, all over colds I guess would be the best description.  I haven't felt like cooking, who does when your under the weather?  I have been wanting chicken pot pie.  I decided that once I felt better, we were going to have one.  For the last several days, I have not been able to smell or taste anything.  Probably a good idea not to cook anything new.  My sense of smell and taste are coming back, so tonight was the night. 
I bought a lovely Rachel Ray, enameled, cast iron casserole dish, for my birthday.  I received some birthday money, and I couldn't think of a better way to spend it than on one of her pieces of cookware.  I got a Rachel Ray knife for Christmas.  It is fantastic.  I have several pieces of her cook and bake ware, I like all of them.  Tonight I decided to use my new casserole dish.  I can cook on top of the stove with it, put it in the oven, then cover with the lid and store it in the fridge for leftovers tomorrow.  Score!!

Chicken Pot Pie:

1 deep dish frozen pie crust (thawed)
2.5 cups cubed chicken
2 cups frozen veggies
1 cup celery thinly sliced

1 medium onion
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp parsley finely chopped
1.5 tbsp butter
1.5 tbsp olive oil
fresh ground black pepper
1/3 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350

In a large skillet saute the onions, celery in the butter and oil,
add salt and pepper
when onions & celery are softened, add the parsley and poultry seasoning
add the flour and brown slightly, stir a lot so it doesn't burn
slowly pour in the chicken broth and milk stirring constantly until thickened
add the frozen veggies
heat through
Pour in a casserole dish
Take the pie crust out of the pie plate, careful not to tear it
Put over the casserole dish and pinch the sides to seal. 
Cut slits in the top of the pie crust to vent

Bake in oven 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown and bubbly

I saw another version of pot pie.  Instead of putting the pie crust on, put on cut biscuit dough.  Then you'll have pot pie with biscuits.  Looked yummy too!!