Saturday, May 31, 2014

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Goulash

Have you ever noticed how comfort foods are always southern foods?  You don't see someone asking for lobster rolls or clam chowder or some sort of salad with green goddess dressing.  No.  They want fried chicken, chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes, or your grandma's vegetable soup.  My definition of comfort food is my mom's spaghetti and my late grandmother's boiled potatoes.  I know it sounds strange to say some plain boiled potatoes are a comfort food.  But I'll tell you, nobody, and I mean NOBODY, could make boiled potatoes like my grandma. When I was little and we would visit my mom's parents on Sundays, we always had a big spread of food and it was pretty much a rule that my grandma would make boiled potatoes.  They were my favorite things EVER.  It didn't matter what else was on the table, I was diving in to the potatoes.  And they had usually just come out of the ground only a matter of hours beforehand.  I can plainly remember walking out to the garden with my grandpa, saying "hello" to his dog, Prince, and pulling potatoes straight from the ground for lunch.  My grandmother has since passed away, and with her, the way to make those potatoes.  My mom and my aunt have tried to replicate her recipe but they've never come close.  So, grandma, if you're reading this, I expect a giant pot of boiled potatoes waiting for me whenever I pass through those Pearly Gates!!

To me, this recipe is one of those foods that can be considered a comfort food - tomatoes, beef, and noodles all coming together in a large pot.  Top it with cheese and you've got yourself a meal that will make you feel good when you're sick or better when you've had a bad day.  The other nice thing about this?  If you are a family of two (like me and the husband), this recipe will last you for a dinner and a couple of lunches too.  Its easily doubled for a family of four!

Note:  Because the beef is cooked and not drained, I really recommend that you use 93/7 ground beef so that you can keep the grease to a minimum.

adapted slightly from Y'all Come Eat

1 1/2 lb. Ground Beef (93/7 preferred)
1 Large Onion, finely chopped
14.5 oz. can Petite Diced Tomatoes
15 oz. can Tomato Sauce
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
2 tsp. Italian Seasoning
1 tsp. Garlic Powder
1 c. Elbow Macaroni

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, cook your onion and ground beef together over medium-high heat until the beef is no longer pink and the onions are soft.
Add in all of your other ingredients except for the macaroni.
Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
Stir in the macaroni and cook for an additional 20 minutes.
Let the goulash stand for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
(We like to top it with some cheddar cheese!)

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Strawberry Icebox Dessert

Let's talk about strawberries for a moment.  Just a minute.  Could there possibly be anything bad about a strawberry?  They are sweet no matter how you eat them.  They're special - the only fruit to have its seeds on the outside.  (Didn't know that, did ya?)  Dogs can eat them.  Speaking of dogs.....

This is Bella.  She belongs to my best friend.  And she loves fruit better than any dog I have ever seen.  So when I was cutting up the strawberries for this dessert, this is the look I got.
If anyone has a Dachshund, you will understand what this stare is.  It's constant and unblinking (almost).  You feel the tingles along the back of your neck and you know, you just KNOW, that when you turn around, those big brown eyes are going to be on you.  The entire time I was cutting up those strawberries for this dessert, I felt her eyes on me.  The ENTIRE time.  And Bella knows I'm a pushover when it comes to dogs.  Always have been, always will be.  If you're a pushover for a dog, they will know it and they will exploit it.  So it should come as no surprise to anyone that this dog totally got to be the taste tester for the strawberries we had.

This recipe is absolutely PERFECT for a summertime get-together.  There is no baking involved so no need to make your kitchen even hotter in the summertime. The combination of the cold whipped cream cheese with the fresh strawberries is utter perfection.  However, that being said, this recipe only lasts for around two days in the fridge before the graham crackers start becoming... well, not-so-good. They turn to mush and that's just not appealing to anyone.  So if you're having a picnic or family reunion and want to show off a dessert that looks and tastes like you put a lot more effort into it than you actual did, this is the recipe for you!

Strawberry Icebox Dessert
adapted slightly from Taste of the South magazine

8 oz. block Cream Cheese, softened (full fat
3/4 c. Powdered/Confectioners' Sugar
2 1/2 c. Heavy Whipping Cream
1 tsp. Vanilla
15 sheets Honey Graham Crackers
4 c. Fresh Strawberries, sliced

Beat cream cheese and powdered sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth.
Add in your cream and vanilla.
Beat a high speed until stiff peaks form.  (What are stiff peaks?  Stiff peaks happen when you lift your mixer's beaters out of the cream mixture and it forms a peak that doesn't fall over.  Need a visual?  Here ya go.)
In the bottom of an 11x7 inch baking dish, spread 1/2 cup of the whipping cream blend.
Place 5 of the graham cracker sheets along the bottom of the baking dish (you'll have four go the long way and then you'll break up the final one to fit along the tops).
Take one-third of the REMAINING cream mixture and spread along the graham crackers.
Top with 1 1/3 c. strawberries.
Repeat with the final two layers of graham crackers - whipped cream - strawberries.
NOTE:  Press gently after placing the graham crackers on the strawberries.  It will help fit the whole thing in your 11x7 pan because you won't believe three layers will fit!
Refrigerate for one to six hours.
Eat and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Budget Friendly Dinner Series - Easy Cottage Pie

It's been quite some time since I've posted on this blog :(  Bad Jamie.  Things on the homefront got a bit stressful and chaotic since my last post and I just couldn't get around to it.  I'll try to do better in the future.

I'm a big fan of pretty much anything British.  I love British television (it's just so much better quality - I mean, have you SEEN Downton Abbey?) and I love, LOVE British accents.  (I've always told my husband that he'd never have a problem with me staying married to him unless we went to England because the accents would probably make me want to run off with the first British bloke I came across... or Scottish.  I have a soft spot for David Tennant a.k.a. the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who.)  I also love their history and sense of duty.  Their countryside is to die for.  And let's not forget about the Royal Family.  (Prince George is just too adorable for words.)

One of the things I also have a love for is recipes from other countries.  I have a British bread baking book and I love exploring food blogs where they talk about how this recipe came from their Danish grandmother or how a food helped a family make it through the Great Depression.  Food history is just amazing to me!  So needless to say, me finding some British recipes to try at home was not a big stretch.  This recipe is often referred to as Shepherd's Pie because it is traditionally made using lamb.  Well, anyone who knows me knows that I don't eat lamb (or veal for that matter) so I make mine using hamburger.  According to the Brits, what I make has a name - Cottage Pie.  And this recipe?  You can bet its a staple in Hoad Cottage :)

Cottage Pie
adapted from Kraft Food and Family

1 lb. Ground Beef (I use 93/7)
2 c. Mashed Potatoes*
1/2 c. Cheddar Cheese
Frozen Vegetables (I use corn and green peas but feel free to use a preselect frozen vegetable mixture.  If using a mixture with carrots, thaw first.)
12 oz. jar Beef Gravy (I use Heinz)

* - I usually whip up a 4 portion serving of mashed potatoes using instant potato flakes in my microwave.  It makes the perfect amount for the topping.

Preheat the oven to 375.
Brown and drain the hamburger.
Make the mashed potatoes in your microwave, according the package directions.
Wipe out the remaining grease from your pan and return your drained beef to it.
Add in your frozen vegetables - use as much or as little as you like but don't exceed four cups of veggies!
Now mix in the gravy.
Pour the beef mixture into an 8x8 pan.
Cover the beef with mashed potatoes.  (Don't worry about making it look pretty.  Rustic is good!)
Top your potatoes with shredded cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes.

okay, it's not pretty but it sure does taste good!